Jeff Burt: “Parisian Exhibition of Impressionist Grotesque”

Parisian Exhibition of Impressionist Grotesque

Shamefaced at fainting
in the Musée de l’Orangerie, triaged
at Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou,
I lay on a gurney in the hall of triage
within view of twenty patients.
One sung a lung out,
one had a lover’s liver
holed by alcohol,
one had a chamber of a heart
gone blank like an empty
space in a fanned revolver,
one pissed a kidney
with a stone, one
gave all his neo-cortex
to strangers in mumble
and mutter, and one
lost the heat from his toes
to the frost that bit
and wouldn’t let go.
One sat up and screamed
at her mother who like a sudden rain
poured soothing words over her.
One borrowed rosary beads
to rub in superstition.
One formed a consensus of doctors
that like a merle of blackbirds
jawed and yawed and then left
all-at-once to another perch.
One lost color, neither
brown nor black nor yellow
nor bronze nor white,
but transparent, cheeks
sucked to teeth and orbitals
that had forgotten to go round.
I itched, had hives
of imaginary bees buzzing
on my chest and back,
quarter-sized landing spots
puffing red on my cheeks,
bolt-sized bumps on the sides
of my head, reaction
to the contrast dye that showed
no damage from my wild collapse,
Frankenstein among his fellows.


Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife amid the redwoods. He works in mental health. He has work in The Watershed Review, Spry, Atticus Review, and The Monarch Review. He was the featured 2015 summer issue poet of Clerestory, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review narrative poetry prize.

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