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
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
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.