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ADELAIDE Independent Monthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Mensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  

 

 

 

 

 

 

LISP
by Jean-Luc Fontaine 

 

 

 

Ode to the Old Naked Man in the Gym Locker Room

Have you ever seen a throng of half-naked muscled men turn their heads in shame
like little boys during the nude scenes of an r-rated movie?
I have, in a Planet Fitness locker room, when a sweat-glazed old man decided to drop
the towel draped around his naked frame
to the floor as he interrogated the contents of his locker.
He stood there, leathery and micro- waved, shrimp-pink creases forming under
his breasts, and the ripped men, who just minutes before, slaved away in the iron temple of testosterone
—grunting and groaning, Gatorade-sticky,
hoisting weights above their heads like bright ideas— now fumbled with their protein shakes,
quietly spritzed their pits with body spray.
And even I—the newest convert to the church
of crunches and curls—wanted to rush to the indoor rower, paddle away from the thought that my body
might one day look like an overripe banana.
But even as my insecurities slipped into the room, started sticking needles into the weather balloons
of my biceps, I couldn’t help but admire the old man’s shiny strut, the way he bared
his body: unashamed of the graying clump
of kelp dangling from his chest, of his jump rope
arms noodling by his side. And I swear for a second, he looked like a king smiling at all his fearful subjects—
the aluminum light crowning his head,
the blue veins under his skin pulsing like lightning bolts.


 

 

On Finding a Moldy Block of Cheese in my Father’s Fridge

Cleaning out the fridge in silence when my deaf dad finds a block of cheddar with a white fuzz fro and jokes,
Food doesn’t really go off, mold just starts munching on it before we do. Cheese was always a language for us, wasn’t it dad? Before the bloomy rind of brie

or herbaceous zest of Humboldt Fog, we would sit in a room for hours without saying a syllable—your hearing aid
faintly buzzing in your ear, like a dusty vending machine.
We suffered through our quiet until you brought home a soft block of limburger and laughed as I scrunched

my face at the off-sock smell and squinted at the turquoise veins spidering through the goo. You dipped a hand
into the swell of my hair as the cheese melted
into a constellation of flavors, and I rushed for another bite.
As a kid, I felt like Indiana Jones gazing at the golden

idol in Peru when you handed me amber curls of comtè,
and told me how the fresh-damp, barnyard smell reminded you of the poverty you stole away from when you first moved from France to London—how you took refuge in a cramped, one bedroom-apartment. How you would treat yourself

to a hot cheddar and butter baguette as you slogged away in kitchens and dreamed of one day opening up a restaurant all your own. Back then, we devoured so much cheese milky stars stained the pink galaxies of our fingernails.
When I moved to New York, I wrote to you

and told you how I squirreled away what little money
I had so I could scribble poems in my musty-smelling apartment, hoping to one day pen a book all my own. I confessed
to you that sometimes I savored a bag of faux-cheese Cheetos as I took the 2 train to work—imagining

a white avalanche of feta, wet discs of mozzarella. We are so much alike, but as I crouch near the bottom of your fridge, I want to blurt, I’m sorry. I’m sorry
I haven’t come home in over two years. I’m sorry
I don’t write to you more often. I’m sorry for hating

the two hirsute hearing aids that squeak like cheese curds

in your ears and make it nearly impossible to chat with you over the phone. Today is the first time we’ve talked for more than five minutes in nearly six months, but still, you scrape the white fluff off and slice me a wafer-thin piece.

 

 


Lisp

As a child, I didn’t call anyone by their names— afraid my lisp might tangle
my ths like vines,
that my ss
would wake up as zs.

At home, mother made me
practice syllables by reading the grease-
splotched take-out menus she brought home from work—
snapping her spoon against the table

each time the wood chipper of my mouth mangled meatloaf
or worcester.

After she lost her job, we moved onto the addresses
of past-due bills and collection agencies as she raked a comb

into air,

through my hair— dust clouds of dandruff puffing

6s and 7s wrapping around

my tongue like dollar store spaghetti.

Wrong. Again,
she said as she dragged the comb through the loops of my fuzz—
my scalp stinging
from each rough drag.

Eventually, she had the names to call
for food banks and government housing
scribbled on scrap paper,

scattered on our table,
like tarot cards
predicting our future.

Go on, read the names,
she said as she strapped
a can-opener
into a tin can of corn.

St. Nicholas,

St. Celia’s,

Common Pantry,

my tongue flailing in my mouth
like an out-of-control garden hose.

Nearly, darling. Try again,
she said as she pried the round jagged lid
slowly from the can.

 

 

 

About the Author:

Jean-Luc Fontaine  is a Tucson based poet. He enjoys long naps and hot coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

     
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