Peter Jay Shippy ~ Three Prose Poems


Parades always made her tired, so it wasn’t sur­pris­ing that the assas­sin fell asleep on the roof.

As she napped, the roof became quite crowded.

A fam­i­ly of six had a pic­nic, fried chick­en and pota­to sal­ad. Their baby gummed lime gelato.

The super pre­tend­ed to repair the cool­ing duct. His tool­box was full of ale.

An octo­ge­nar­i­an who had learned to swim in the Baltic Sea leaped into the wood­en water tow­er for her dai­ly laps.

A boy wear­ing an aviator’s hat fed his pigeons. One of the birds, Charles, was wor­ried about Amelia, his mate. She hadn’t returned from their after­noon flight. The boy under­stood, so he stroked Charles’ head and whis­tled, “Volière.”

The octo­ge­nar­i­an climbed out of the tow­er only to dis­cov­er that she had for­got­ten her tow­el. The fam­i­ly cleared their pic­nic and after apol­o­giz­ing for the crumbs and green stains, wrapped her in their plaid blan­ket. She invit­ed the fam­i­ly, the boy, and Charles to her apart­ment for choco­late cov­ered prunes.

The Super emp­tied his last bot­tle, closed his tool­box, walked toward the rail­ing to take in the view and almost stepped on the assas­sin. He noticed her rifle. Italian. A Marinetti. He picked it up and looked through the scope. There was an old hen cir­cling the build­ing. The sky was melt­ing like a Creamsicle. He clicked off the gun’s safe­ty and tucked it under the assassin’s arm.

The assas­sin dreamed that she was a girl in her bed­room hav­ing a pil­low fight with her sister.

Feathers fell through the air, tick­ing their cheeks.


My doc­tor rec­om­mend­ed that I rent one of those birds trained to whis­tle lullabies.

I was dubi­ous, but desperate.

On the dri­ve from the rental place, Polly per­formed a beau­ti­ful ren­di­tion of “Scenes from Childhood” fol­lowed by Satie.

I was hopeful.

Once home, I broke her neck, plucked, cut, brined, bast­ed and a few hours lat­er: Perroquet au Vin! Lovely.

And you know what—it worked! I slept like the dead.

Of course, the rental place charged me a late fee.

Que sera, sera.

An Eel Soup Digression

Because the nav­i­ga­tor did­n’t under­stand that the crease in the map depict­ed a crease in the sea, the ship had to weigh anchor. The cap­tain forced the nav­i­ga­tor to row a dinghy through the line, to reck­on its effects.

Meanwhile, in the gal­ley, the cook was cre­at­ing a bouillabaisse—conger eel, sea robins, fen­nel, cod bones, bou­quet gar­ni, saf­fron, mus­sels, olive oil, gar­lic, white wine, smoke of the after­life, French bread, cayenne pep­per, lit­tle neck clams, toma­to paste, and Thibault, the very lob­ster that was con­duct­ed through the streets of Paris by Gérard de Nerval.

Concurrently, the nav­i­ga­tor was remem­ber­ing a poem about a boy who thought the cres­cent moon was a bro­ken moon and the stars were its pieces. He could smell the soup. At least, he thought, as the water began to churn, I’ll have some­thing good to eat tonight.


Peter Jay Shippy is the author of Thieves’ Latin, Alphaville, How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic, and A Spell of Songs. His 5th book, Kaputniks, will be pub­lished by Saturnalia Books in 2021. About A Spell of Songs, John Yau wrote: “One day, not long ago, Meret Oppenheim walked past Edward Hopper in Paris, and an elec­tric cur­rent passed between, and from that cur­rent was born Peter Jay Shippy.…” Shippy has received fel­low­ships in dra­ma and poet­ry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2002 he won the Iowa Poetry Prize and in 2005 he received a Gertrude Stein award for inno­v­a­tive poet­ry. In 2009 Shippy received the Governor’s Citation for Outstanding Artistic Achievement. He has pub­lished wide­ly, includ­ing The American Poetry Review, The Boston Globe, Iowa Review and Ploughshares. Shippy teach­es lit­er­a­ture and writ­ing at Emerson College in Boston.