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Gag Gifts I Sell Myself

Pushcart Prize Nominee


I’m about as female as a blood clot or bubblegum.

I always want something bad to happen.

How selfish, I know, but we all think it.

I start watching live camera feeds online. 

I’m interested only in ones from Ukraine 

but I’m scared I’ll see my mother. 

I don’t know why—

why I’m scared

why I think I’ll recognize my mother 

why I’m telling you this.

I find razorblades repulsive but not as much as babies.

If I can convince myself I’m dying, I’m dying

and I’ll go guzzling 

smoke & hyaluronic. 

Coughing hurts the alter ego I left in seventh

grade algebra with up-skirt shots of Kate Moss.

I’ve gone through three rib cages since.

This one is titanium, installed

after my father’s third near-death experience.

I heave like a horse in hopes 

it will spark like flint an argument.

I close my eyes and know exactly

the perimeter of affected tissue.

I’ve a steady hand.

I’ve an unsteady gag reflex.

I could impale myself

with the perfect-diameter tube, serrated and

gouge a floating gap 

between neck and body. 

I’m already dead 

from the neck down—a party

trick for the virtual age. 

I could customize the instrument

like a strap-on too perfect

for a soon-to-be-widowed orifice

or a goblin shark’s jaw—

both easily dislodged. I promise 

you, Reader, I won’t go 

rogue. I have high hopes

for a virtual age installment of rapture.

I like miscellaneous best.

I’d clean outside my windows if it would change your mind.

I’d steady one foot on shelving and another on your chest.

Am I crushing you? 

Do you want me to?

I mistake small dogs for infants in my peripherals.

I’ve already told you how I feel about babies.

I’ve noticed a lot of small dogs on YouTube.

Some dogs are rather ugly—

you can tell when a dog was a clown

in a past life. 

I advise against yearning, specifically

star-yearning. Specifically,

if you’re afraid of kidney stones.

The archive is incomplete but has already recorded

how I wax and wane in front of a floor-

length mirror. It’s the dance I do best

with myself.

I dream a zipper materializes on my back 

but I can’t reach it.

At least I don’t exist

at the intersection of art and technology.

Rachel Stempel is a genderqueer Jewish poet and educator. They were the winner of the 2020 Matt Clark Editors' Choice Prize in fiction from New Delta Review and a finalist in the 2020 Conduit Books & Ephemera Minds on Fire Open Book Prize. Their work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Nasiona, Into the Void, Penn Review, and elsewhere. Born in Ukraine, they currently live on Long Island with their Flemish Giant-mix, Marguerite.

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