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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 13: May 2022
Poem: 678 words
By Jonathan Yungkans

Hence It Ends Up With a Scenario
of Them All Getting Paid1


—After La Culture des Idées (ca. 1961) by René Magritte*
 

La culture des Idees: Painting (ca. 1961) by Rene Magritte


1.

All the polished, gleaming pipes 
seem lies as they lie about, 
seeking in their poison whom 
in leonine tawniness 
they may well devour. Ceci 

n’est pas une pipe. Long mint-green 
bird-of-paradise leaves and 
those pipes of bird’s heads. As if 
heaven really were what you 
put in a pipe and inhaled 

deep as the mahogany 
brown vase, glazed and glistening 
in what Magritte suggests is 
cool morning light, with its haze 
of not-quite-realized truth—

pretense of a pretense to 
one, gospel to another. 
As if that second person 
had walked the Tuesday last on 
water not frozen, smoking 

as hell froze over, gained an 
ice-skate conglomerate which 
boomed, a marketing campaign 
that Satan had changed his name 
to Santa. Amazing what 

transposing notions can make. 
A public relations coup 
and thaw amid a deep freeze—
a promise made in poison, 
whatever your opioid. 


2.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe—
the eternal feminine 
to hold, to damn, to cherish 
in language that insists on 
petticoats and petit fours 

in black-and-blue derisions. 
Skirts in their volume and length 
hiding swollen ankles, white 
plaster casts and elastic 
bandages from all the trips 

and falls, attempting to climb 
whatever staircase you choose. 
There are so many. You’d think 
age makes a cliché. But there’s 
such good sport being sexist—

like Seurat’s scene at the Seine, 
all dots and poised figures, hats 
and parasols included. 
A decent French mise-en-scène. 
To which Magritte, much like his 

fellow countryman Poirot, 
might respond, “It is very 
charming. But I am Belgian. 
Do you have a light? I have 
misplaced my propriety.” 


3. 

Perhaps it really does come 
down to what wafting sky-blue 
smoke gets in your vision—I 
was going to say “eyes” but 
that’s a song and there’s so much 

more than that to this matter, 
which is itself not matter 
and fully material. 
Looting the bank to get gas,  
pay the grocer at check-out—

oh, what a pun for the time, 
“check-out.” Putting in and 
smoking what no bird of 
paradise takes into its 
incredulity. “Are my 

eyes really brown?” Rick asked in 
Casablanca, reading the 
little tan Nazi notebook 
that was his personal file. 
Yes, that was a movie but 

polished and reminiscent 
of thick pipe smoke and good wars, 
before the rocket’s scarlet 
got too liquid, so glaring, 
and toilet paper went scarce. 


4. 

“They’re on a table, you know,” 
those pipes of paradise, not 
on a white tile window-sill 
but displayed nonetheless for 
hundreds of container ships 

floating in respective baths 
and the Teamsters said we don’t 
tread water, not if Jesus 
really were Jimmy Hoffa—
the long sheen and oily touch 

in the night’s cry, good as twin-
ply currency in the last-
minute distribution thing, 
leaving store shelves gaping, all 
those wide-open wounds to feed—

good as the sea releasing 
its dead to the check-out line, 
flooding the supermarkets 
while the pipes leaf out and stretch 
toward heaven. So many 

serpents or eagle-looking  
vultures gleaming ceramic 
in marble obstinacy. 
A sole red tulip shares room 
with clashing philosophies. 


5. 

That flower. Exhibited 
for matinees and late nights. 
Shows Death, on his pale Harley, 
likes to see something pretty 
and carmine when he rolls in, 

past the hedge on the other 
side of the bomb-blasted mall, 
having picked up a bargain. 
Got to love the water marks 
under that vase, the blotter—

all that red deepened to black. 
Old blood soaked into bandage? 
Hemorrhaging ledger? All 
that is read and isn’t red—
ceci n’est pas rouge? Long leaves 

rustle. Hint of pipe smoke or 
wormwood in the corner back 
of my eyes. Wafts of sage, thyme, 
rosemary. Wormwood bites, though. 
Hits the tongue and doesn’t stop. 

 

 

1. Poet’s Note:

Title is a line from the poem “Added Poignancy” by John Ashbery, in his collection Wakefulness (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998).

 

 

* Publisher’s Note:

La culture des idées (gouache on paper, circa 1961) by Belgian Surrealist painter René Magritte (1898-1967) resides in a private Swiss collection.

Jonathan Yungkans
Issue 13, May 2022

is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, Gleam: Journal of the Cadralor, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published in February 2021 by Tebor Bach.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Le Grand Matin by Jonathan Yungkans, a Finalist in MacQ’s Triple-Q Writing Challenge (Issue 11, January 2022)

La Porte by Yungkans in MacQ’s special Christmas Eve issue (10X, December 2021)

Two Duplex Poems, plus author’s notes on the poems and on the form, by Yungkans in Issue 10 of MacQ (October 2021)

Lawful and Proper, poem in Rise Up Review (Fall 2020)

Cadralor in the Key of F-Sharp as It Cuts into My Spine, in the inaugural issue of Gleam (Fall 2020)

I’d Love to Cook Like Hannibal Lecter [video], read by the poet at an event sponsored by Moon Tide Press (10 October 2019) celebrating the anthology Dark Ink: A Poetry Anthology Inspired by Horror

Saving the Patient, poem in The Voices Project (18 January 2018)

 
 
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