portion of the artwork for Sierra DeMulder's fiction

The Genius: Five Poems
Sierra DeMulder

“The Romans did not actually think that a genius was a particularly clever individual. They believed that a genius was this sort of magical divine entity who [lived] in the walls of an artist’s studio [and] would come out and invisibly assist the artist with their work.” —Elizabeth Gilbert

The Genius Goes to the Barber

He was planning on growing his beard all summer.
He was planning on taking a bus to the Redwoods

and getting I Am So Small tattooed across his chest
in Gothic font like a banner or a For Sale sign,

but his beard started catching things. At first,
it was just your typical crumbs, dribbles of soup.

One day, he woke up and found an entire angel
food cake entangled in his whiskers while

brushing his teeth. Then, darker things began
finding their home closer and closer to his mouth.

A nasty word someone called the garbage man.
The look a mother gave her child for spilling his juice.

A nightmare in which his entire life was a sitcom
and he kept forgetting his lines and the laugh track

kept rolling and rolling. It all clung to his chin
like icicles. They became so heavy,

he had no choice but to use them.
He didn’t tip the server. He stopped cleaning

his fish tank. It wasn’t until he found himself
screaming at a senior citizen WHY DON’T YOU

when the barber rushed him into the shop, forced him

into the chair. We only carry what we think we need,
he said as he turned on the razor.

* * *

The Genius Visits the Psychic

He went to see her not because he really needed to
know something but because he once sat next to her
in a bar and drunkenly put his hand on the counter
next to her hand and she did not slap it away

or stab him. He also heard a rumor she worked
part-time downtown as a stripper. She charged him double
and smoked vinegary cigarettes in the walk-in closet
where she read tabloids of the future. YOU

A GARBAGE CAN OF MONEY was one she was
known for. She dug her acrylic nails into the meat
of his palm as if scratching the face for copper. SHE
WILL FIND LOVE. Good one, very original. SHE
I know. Now get to the good stuff.

I wanna know about heartbreak.
Show me the lies. Tell me
the tears are coming, those wet
necklaces, those pretty little thorns.

* * *

The Genius Leads the Congregation in Prayer

Let us call the White House.

Let us lay down in the middle of a crowded
dance floor with our ears to the concrete.

Let us ask the dealer to Hit Me. Let us ask the dealer

to heal our mothers, to deliver unto us better jobs,
to crown us fertile enough to have a baby.

Let us beg for a better hand.

* * *

The Genius Discusses Suicide

To carve your name onto the trophy
of the floorless. To spit-shine it for eternity.

To become not why your father drinks, but what

brings him on a chariot of tremors
to drink again. To sign up for the obituary

circus: Come see the magical, the ones

who do what others cannot.
See the Exhaust Swallower.

The Dangling Acrobat. The Blue-Finned Mermaid

who floats face down in a tank
with gills on her wrists. To stare and be stared at

forever. The unsaid word. The forgotten

dream. The poem she will
always write, and never finish.

* * *

The Genius Goes to Church

As the preacher spoke, he waited for the warmth of God to draw itself over him like a bath. He even sang, loudly, hoping to catch some of Him in his mouth. The stained glass reminded him of the colorful cereal he ate as a child. The tops of the ladies’ hats made him feel as if he was sitting in the middle of an English garden. He closed his eyes and dreamed he was a butterfly. He was flying in the Garden of Eden. God was posing for the Sistine Chapel and let him land on His pointer finger and said, “You are the prettiest butterfly I’ve ever seen.” His voice was higher than he had expected and he noticed He had long blond hair and breasts and, suddenly, She was guiding him away from the garden, away from the pews, into a field of blueish grass. She stopped in front of a low-hanging cloud. “Kneel,” She said, and he bent his four knees, because he was no longer a butterfly but a centaur and She placed the cloud on his head like a wreath of pillow stuffing. She kissed his forehead. A flower grew from the lipstick smudge. She held his cheeks as She said, “There are no gates to heaven. There are no doors to happiness. Go forth and love like a choir of mirrors. There is no collar on the beast of sadness, but it does not hunt for you. My darling, wake up. Wake up. It’s morning.”

Sierra DeMulder’s Comments

The Romans believed that an artist’s inspiration came from a spirit, called a genius, that lived in the walls of the artist’s home. For me, creating my “genius” character was both empowering and exciting. It gave me a whole new perspective to explore, while using his voice to examine my creative process, relationships, and personal struggles. I felt because I was writing from a fictional character that I could take a lot more risks. I became less and less scared of sounding weird, and found myself embracing the bizarre in me. In the end, it was those pieces I loved the most. These poems are a part of a larger series that can be found in my book, New Shoes on a Dead Horse, released by Write Bloody Publishing.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 35 | Winter 2012