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Poem by Z.H. Gill

Zuma Beach (That Face When, That Feel When)

HEY! It’s me again, your old sestina’d friend, electric still as always, me that

Was the first to find the map to lead me out your eyes, your eyes that never seem to find my face

(Which isn’t much to look at, anyways). When

You asked me if I still went sailing, me boating like I used to, drinking, dancing the Electric Slide on hardwood, the mast shaking from our stomping, you fearing for your life. That

Time we went to Zuma Beach and tried to ride out the brain-zaps, rubbing against our heads the magnets we were told would help in a Newport Beach industrial park the Washington Post once called unremarkable. You didn’t feel

A thing after the procedure and that’s what worried me more than anything else. The FDA has yet to approve, the LA Times told you during lunch. When


The papers start preaching you probably should be paying attention, right? You asked, although I’d hardly call that a question. I have no idea when

MediCal will help me magnetize my brain. Butterflies and spiders, they fight for the inside of my skull. I hope the butterflies come out ahead and flap passionately enough to unglue themselves from the webs that

Keep me from not frowning. Sometimes the butterflies migrate south into my stomach, sometimes the spiders follow those sometimes-es and these are the biggest fights. I like to think of the wings down there as metal, and that’s why magnets make me feel

Like a million bucks and keep the black widows from bursting out my belly, like that scary story in that book of scary stories we always read when we were younger, you know the one, about the girl with the boil on her face

That

One day bursts, revealing it as a hiding place for spider eggs, and all the baby spiders glide away on the wind, thanking the girl for helping them, mistaking her for SOME PIG. On Zuma Beach, when


We’d finally spent enough time there to get the locals to leave us alone, they thought we were locals, too, when

We’d spent enough time that you read aloud the entire Tommyknockers and when

You moved onto Salem’s Lot and you asked me to bite your neck and I thought it was a joke and it was. Do you think that

If we’d planned things a little better — you maybe buying bug spray, me turning down the electrodes my mom requested I fasten to my face —

Do you think that maybe we would’ve had ourselves a moment, one in which we could actually feel,

Feel that


The waves could wash over us instead of our merely riding through the tube with such deliberate detachment? Even so, the locals would go crazy watching me pretend to feel

Like I was one of them, because we were just that convincing. The first time when

I finally could stand and catch a wave, Angel Rodriguez from the Times sports page shoved a microphone before my face

And asked me if I knew what I’d do next. I supposed we’ll start The Stand, is what I said, off the record. (On the record, you told him that we didn’t talk to reporters.) Zuma Beach has never been known for its aquatic spiders, but they’re there, and when

The Times finally wrote up our exploits, they described me as somebody who’d be down for being eaten by their lover after a night where nothing ever — to which I took great offense — we just stayed up for hours talking until we fell asleep in our arms. The midday wind woke me up but you’d left the house before The View began to tape. That

Made me seem like I’d become more moth than monarch, like I’d finally accepted that


I’d be trapped in this trunk eating wedding dresses for the rest of my life like they were wedding cakes. You told me your mother read in USA Today that

In Cuba they don’t make you pay for the magnets we’d been selling our bodies to afford, so we could run them down our temples. MediCal pays for a ship we can sail from Key West onward to Havana and I’d no longer have to swap platelets for bread and you’d finally feel

Semi-productive. I know that

This might seem a bit uncouth or even callous of me to say out loud or in print, but when

You figured out the sand of Zuma Beach was made of broken butterfly eggs that split apart when

All the locals stomped their feet dancing the Electric Slide, I was so fucking drunk and I thought you were saying something awful about the scar the boil cratered onto my face


This is why I drove away. Let’s face

The facts and only meet up when we need another dose of magnet, when you need a ride down to that

Industrial park, and when

You get a car you could just drive yourself down to Newport Beach (and maybe even sometimes I could go with you). Feel

The transmission shaking when

You shift, and please consider teaching me just how to drive a stick. That


Face you make fun of me for making when I feel

The transmission shake in my hands like the floor does as the butterflies dance to communicate with their queen, when

The van breaks down at the side of the road and we hear the ocean and get as close as we can before realizing we’ve reached the wrong beach. Bonfires on the sand, and on the hill bove a preserve for the El Segundo blue butterfly, which ended up endangered after Getting sucked too many times into the engines of the 747 that flies over this beach at Least ten times each week. But you… you were okay with that.

Z.H. Gill

Twitter: @blckpllplsrbch

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