Five Billion Rutabagas

by | Oct 10, 2023 | Issue Thirty-Five, Poetry

Somewhere I read
that if you want
to stifle a yawn
you press the web of flesh
between your thumb and forefinger to kill
the impulse. I tried it four or five

times before I gave up. I was in a five-
star restaurant, trying to read
the menu, thinking, I would kill
for a coffee, I just want
to stay awake. But the flesh
was weak, as they say. A yawn

escaped. And then another yawn
across the room, then another, until five
people had succumbed—again, “the flesh”
and all. Somewhere I read
that if you want
to stop a yawn you have to kill

the cycle, hold your breath to kill
the need for more air. A yawn
is just a need. Lungs want
more air, forcing you to inhale five
times the usual amount. I read
somewhere that flesh

was weak. That your own flesh
and blood would kill
you to inherit your earth. I read
somewhere that astronomists found the yawn
of the universe is really the sound of five
billion mouths that want

the same thing at the same time. They might want
money or rutabagas or flesh
or krill. They might want five
million more years to live. Or to be allowed kill.
Or they might simply want to stifle a yawn.
Somewhere I read

on a scale from one to five, all most of us want
is more time to read. Not sins of the flesh,
or money, or to kill. Just a book’s fluttering yawn.

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