Portrait of the Artist as a Starfish in Coffee

What if the primary colors on your spectrum
were mud, muddled, and muddliest?
Benjamin Franklin invented the Internet
so that I could talk to folk but not face to face
and I know what purple-tailed hawk of thought
just perched on your extended wrist
but try to fit your average feet in my size 17s.
Fact: the average reader processes 300 wpm
and maybe they can read other people’s faces
like a vegan interrogating a list of ingredients
but what if every face was written in Braille
and you had only catcher’s mitts below your wrists,
or IKEA bookcases with reams of instructions
ciphered in tiny print with disappearing ink,
imagine being so literal that when told
to let sleeping dogs lie, you asked
how a Doberman could be dishonest,
imagine every smiling hint a girl ever sent your way
was in a prescription bottle with a You­proof cap
or a personal pizza delivered 30 minutes late
to the door of a boarded-up summer bungalow
then top that double dose of pepperoni
by having even the most casual conversation
served with Denali-sized asides of organic skew.
Fact: the US has 95,000 miles of shoreline,
but on this dinner plate the border between the Country
of Carrots and the Province of Peas can never meet,
say your brain is a slinky bullet-headed train
but your mouth is a horse-drawn Amish wagon
and what rockets across the endless gray rails
of your origamied cranium is ever projected
onto your grinning scrim of skin,
and maybe Ben Franklin didn’t
invent the Internet, but the Internet
has plenty pictures of him inventing electricity
which is almost the same thing,
say your friend Cynthia R. claims it will storm later
and you hear Oran Juice Jones singing
“I saw you (and him) walking in the rain”
and you beam a lighthouse smile,
only Cynthia says, “Seriously, I saw it on the news,”
while all you smell is full-length fur coats
matted by a downpour in MacArthur Park and
now Cynthia R. wants to know what’s so funny
but who can say Oran Juice Jones
without a concentrated face so you try
to collect the loose nickels and pennies
of thought spilling from your front pocket
but Cynthia fires up her smartphone
to show you the seven-day forecast
and now the foil-covered pots on the back
of her electric range are beginning to boil
and you say, “No, I believe you,”
but she believes in tone of voice the way Crayola
once believed in a peach crayon called “Flesh”
or the way banks believe in daily deposits
left by a river’s most assiduous visits.
Fact: the city of Pittsburgh has over 400 bridges,
let’s say you arch quick when softly pricked as
if any foreign finger were a cattle prod
and maybe Ben Franklin didn’t invent
electricity but he certainly earned a shiny penny
by cutting out the lights during thunderstorms,
only your steady tone is mono as a Sinatra single
on the platter of a hand-cranked Victrola,
and Cynthia cocks her head like a small dog
that is not boarding your single­-storied boat
and now you’re a wind-whipped antenna
on an empty dinghy bobbing dockside
as she steams out of range of your radio’s befuddled dial.

More Poems by Joel Dias-Porter