Back to Issue Twenty-Two.

poem with a million dollar budget



We wanted to film financial risk: nothing
domestic, no three-martini business lunches,
no conversations that fractal like snail shells.

Our method would be formal, like one wide
brushstroke of dark acrylic paint—I won’t
even say the color—in a frame. We set up

our cameras to catch the last dregs
of daylight squeezed through an alleyway
like a ruptured membrane or softened vein,

the city angelic in the distance
wavering chalky thighs, secreting
an innocence between the knuckles

like someone dotting umlauts over the o’s
of English words. Like a studio technician
snoozing among an ecosystem of knobs and lights,

we coordinated fraud with the circular saw
of our belief—switched on and slicing fast
through the before & after. What is iron,

but change? What did we catch in the light,
disappointed by how quickly life returns?
Mare Serenitatis, the empty sea of the Moon.


When the cymbals mimic smoke
seeping into the theater, a prolonged

asphyxiation like winter holed-up
in a cottage whose cracked fireplace

emits a shapeless agony, dying
a little more each day from the scent-

less fumes. At what point must we
redirect? We asked for music

to follow the action, seductive, complex
but hopeful. The composer charges us

$2,000 a song. How much does each note
sleep through the set? How much for the death

a soundwave stretches into a horizon
the sun already splashed red then silvered?

I want twelve songs, one for each electric
hour before the clock flips everything around.

I want to embarrass the law into giving you
John Lennon’s voice, free, and all the happy

birthdays not in The Jerk, Sixteen Candles,
and The Birds—where a girl with a white napkin

tied over her eyes plays blind man’s bluff—the song
evaporated from the actors’ mouths into clouds of

psychedelic figure$. The composer who wets
crystal goblets with the tip of her finger and rims

the transparent lips of the glasses into song
might pay off her credit card now, I hear. Well,

what do I know about love other than the pixels
of organ dragged out of the synthesizers throat,

so much warmth and robotics in the conjured
crescendos, how my mother must have sang

to me, half out of habit as she packed her bags
in the night, not knowing her voice would sear

me like the pocked face of a planet, the glimmer
of a last note, all she left behind.


Give me Al Pacino in HEAT, all flab
and satin. Val Kilmer’s pixie-blonde

mane as he fingers the venal riggings
of a bomb. They don’t make heist movies

like they used to. I want to be robbed
sometimes, unaware of what’s been

lifted, to not understand my own wealth
as the ingenue never realizes her beauty

until it’s been siphoned dry. I hired the scam:
pistol at my throat in Venice, my cardigan

knitting my wrists useless. The way swans
attack children in lavender shadows,

I say, Do it again. The motorcycles arrive,
a ladder lifts to my window ledge, and all the men

climb in—isn’t this what the libido
wants, America? All breasts and no

clit? Let’s publish the screen in dollar bills,
act, crazy, and quit. Lights, camera— .


Tyler Mills is the author of Tongue Lyre, winner of the 2011 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award (SIU Press 2013). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Boston Review, Poetry, Kenyon Review, and New England Review, and her creative nonfiction won the Copper Nickel Editor’s Prize in Prose and has appeared in AGNI. She is editor-in-chief of The Account and an Assistant Professor of English & Philosophy at New Mexico Highlands University.

Kendra DeColo is the author of two poetry collections: My Dinner with Ron Jeremy (Third Man Books, 2016) and Thieves in the Afterlife (Saturnalia, 2014), selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the 2013 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, Indiana Review, Copper Nickel, Verse Daily, VIDA, Bitch Media, and elsewhere.

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