HYDROGEN AND HELIUM by Peter Krumbach

I misspell people’s faces. Cup them in my palms, kiss some, give a playful tug on the jowls of others. Good evening. Never better. Burghers of landfills and oak-lined boardrooms, white-collar criminals and donors of kidneys. Calculated together, they equal a mean designed to obscure the edges. I apologize, parties do this to me. The low ceiling track lights, the shag underfoot, the heads bobbing like olives in brine. I could have sworn it was Frank. Dressed as Biff. I bend to greet the elders collapsed in mid-century chairs. Boredom, meet urgency. I bend to your aunt Wilma, who turns out to be your stepfather’s 94-year-old cousin Lou. Forgive me. To regard the room is to learn constellations. The ochre in the white of certain eyes. I’m not the only one bending. Notice Larry–or is it Barry–how he bows to smell the toothpick-pierced prosciutto rolls. Do I need air? Out on the deck, two PhDs and an Anglican dean lighting a blunt. Why did the universe start off with hydrogen and helium? The PhDs chuckle. Way too young for their degrees. The dean holds his breath, then exhales fine haze. Pardon my bladder. On the bathroom mirror, someone wrote N = R × fp × ne × fl × fi × fc × L in coral rouge. Stepping out, I hear someone suggest a duel by the pool. A reenactment of Pushkin versus d’Anthès. A thousand dreams that never were. For you, I play Pushkin. It works. I come to supine, you kneeling in the grass, hand on my head. I point at the leaves. Red, white, red, white, the ambulance strobe-lights salsa with the trees.


Peter Krumbach was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia. His most recent work has been published in Okay Donkey, Quarter After Eight, Salamander and Wigleaf. He lives in California.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

Read Next: HOOKS by Troy James Weaver