Visiting the Skull Tower of Niš

by Jake Sheff

Proscriptive, fair and balanced bosom buddies
stacked in rows and columns all sporadically
identical. Maybe some were midgets though,
considering “Capiche” a Kaddish too far, and
after one too many “Bugger offs” an officer of
midlevel rank decided that Medieval was more
like it. “So it goes,” I’ve heard search engines
say, a kind of “Easy does it” like an offering of
caviar for antipasto; something up the alley
these guys never heard of. Boffo, kind of silly;
like the crocodile’s mouth complete with
leeches daring birds to dine. This tower of skulls
insists, “I, too, live dangerously”; philandering
galore: “Your needless schadenfreude,” it says,
“becomes the needles in our dying deity’s
internal acupuncture.” If their laughter is
a lighthouse in the current state of things, I’m
game for their prestigious jokes, this sort of
orange-ish oracle and parent-teacher
conference with the horror. This vertigo and
racketeering is its raison d’être, one could
argue: seems more obvious than arrows in
a rock; a hammerhead conclusion, swimming
in the ancient, cloudy koi pond of tomorrow.
Kumbaya got girdled in a centipede. You’d think
somebody’d tell them, all these O.G.s in the
contrapposto air like sad emojis, that success
is counted sweetest by the apron sprinkled
fine with cinnamon, or butlers sworn to secrecy
by Cincinnatus. Time consuming, really; under-
estimating annus mirabilis for some oversexed,
autumnal grace. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” the pansies
say to Goldilocks (with manly intuition). Maybe
glibly is the way to gloat, I mean, at least you had
an ethos! Chic, and less Draconian than nausea.
No wasted years replete with roentgens in
their recollection, not for you guys! Collective
bargaining with imitations of mortality, like you,
intimidates my dreams. Although, last night I dreamt
that all the teeth fell out of your indifference; a sexy
freebie, and preferable to showing up undressed
and unprepared today for your prehensile test and
strong maternal instinct. Your expensive song is,
in a sense, “Who rubbed God’s back when He
was little, and took out His appendix? Who
pitied God, and forged His middle, like His for
Jimi Hendrix?” Sweet. Or maybe it’s, “In
twenty good vibrations Death is born
like fallen nations from their green and
golden stations in the parlance of vacations
often spoke by gray carnations.” Skulls
together look like rhymes, for no apparent
reason; mural of amoral prose, much like
the world, this semblance of a hawkish
foresight’s unanticipated guilt! A guilt as
affable and striped as zebras or a prisoner
in his cell. I guess I need to fill the potholes in
my thoughts, and days with shorter sentences,
as you do, in your way. And truth be told,
you troll the internet that wouldn’t exist
without you and Matt Lauer; phalanxes
of dirges with an anti-Facebook clause.
That guilt, now come to think of it, was not
so unanticipated as this guild you cut—
a breathless homage to the co-ops that
exonerate the breaking bad. And yet this
weather, sauntering with lipstick on its
collar and a Viking-blue forgiveness in
its eye. It’s got that secret sauce so any
accusation hurled is fixed in time. A lyric
in abeyance turns to lye: Beyoncé underscores
it’s best to not be sure; and Stevan Sinđelić
recalled “Those glowing hills whose glowing
fills the mind with purpose, greed and
style can be seen for half a mile,” and he lit
Čegar for Ottomans too close. I’d rather pop
the hood of yesterday than babysit my
terror tomorrow, its tuchus spanked in
utero by God-knows-who. This talking tower,
muted by “Hellos”; a thumbs-up to Hadean
love and transportation. Me, I’m talking like
a chicken with its head cut off. So do I love
you, or just parody the padres back at home?
This poor, multiparous pore of yours, it
pours such muslin gratitude and purring,
purulent portrayals floating in a sea of
thieves and thirsty wrath while direly
inconsequential as the G-men’s jinx and
Kraken; I suppose the Welsh have said it
better, and there is no more. But Hurshid
Pasha (Turkish vizier) studied Ozymandias,
and wasn’t even sure how to react until
his work was done: a diner for the duende
and the Tao for drive-thru; Neapolitan
mirage of moods. And Sinđelić, I shrink
from mentioning, mourned before his pinup
courage signed the pre-nup. Grief defeated
Truman, Dewey and the powder magazine:
outrageous asphodel in Bates Motel; a Pyrrhic
bloom, it was. Now light, with its asphyxiated
beam, is hard as asphalt, on account of this
imperial catatonia. Plan B for this rebellious
glamour: smirk into the fist defaced; another
skirmish with the law, inverted pride and
Holy Ghost subdued. So fight and flight are
famous puke. A fit of functional, amorphic
faith and touch of blue are all it’d take. Menagerie
of mystics here; a viewpoint crystallized, but
not yet in its dotage, under house arrest
and starving for attention. So as anchors
reckon with the sea, we lie to get along with
time and other sidewalks. Or as Les Paul
told his luthier friends, “Well, even truth
has upscale neighborhoods, I guess.”
Red-throated loons in smithereens do not
a sofa make, not even in the soul without
a sitter on long, polychromatic nights.
I mean it’s where those ships come in,
like “prego” (as de facto boots will grant
you) or RSVPs by George McClellan,
martyrdom and reggae with opinionated
verve; a most surprising incident! I mean
the gods—no likenesses of “maybe” in a
conflict with the void—Svetovid’s clavicle
and hustle cashing winter’s checks; Perun—
his lips tattooed with “No New Axes”—
cold as the Dinaric Alps when Veles creeps
through Zlatibor with Reese’s Pieces,
lowliness and hourglass machinery (in
a gentleman’s apparel); Dažbog’s speech:
a medley of medallions in the vein; a dynasty
of standards; snowflakes on the window
to a garden of forget-me-nots and nothing
else. It’s all to just astonish me, as when a
Homer streaks—like Griffey, Groening, or
the ancient Greeks, whose poet blindly shot
us nascent peeks—so no one here is dead.


About the Author

Jake Sheff is a major and pediatrician in the U.S. Air Force, married with a daughter and three pets. Currently home is the Mojave Desert. Poems of Jake’s are in Marathon Literary Review, Jet Fuel Review, The Cossack Review and elsewhere. His chapbook is Looting Versailles (Alabaster Leaves Publishing). He considers life an impossible sit-up, but plausible.