“Satan’s Gravy” – Poetry by A.S. Coomer & Juliet Cook

Hell - Herrad of Landsberg, circa 1170
Hell – Herrad of Landsberg, circa 1170

Cheerleaders, screeching butterflies, and other assorted oddities inhabit “Satan’s Gravy,”  a spectacularly unique vision of hell by A.S. Coomer & Juliet Cook, straight out of our extra-weird Summer 2016 issue.

{ X }

1.

I FELT HIM STARING AT ME FIRST,
then he bumped his scuffed cafeteria tray into mine.
The demon slopping out potatoes snickered
and drowned everything in an extra ladleful
of the Devil’s own gravy, a torture recent arrivals
and longtimers alike get to experience
–in all nine circles of Hell–on Thursdays.
Each and every Thursday. Forever.

At first I was turned on by how direct he was,
but then I needed insect repellent.
Me and my tendency to turn people into piss ants
and bee sting their tiny heads by telling them
all they seem to do is buzz in front of the tube
that someone else created,
as if they’ve lost all desire
to create their own shape.

He puppydogged me
all the way to the corner where I always sit.
There’s a nice little peephole and sometimes
you can just make out
the slow freefall of a newbie. I think of myself
as something akin to the welcome mat,
(telepathically) sending out:
Welcome to Hell
at the flaming, discombobulated wretches
as they fall.

“Get lost,” I told him.
“Already am,” he smiled back
then started in on the potatoes.
Satan’s gravy snaked out of the corner of his lips.
We ate in silence. Nobody new fell so I let him stay.

2.

I watched the poison potato juice drool out of his maw
and hit the floor. Splat-Splat. Splat-splat.
Would it sink down under the board
and grow new parasitic life forms? Hell’s a funny environ.

If it grew anything, the cheerleaders would stab it
with their pitchforks, in the middle of another ritualistic
hip stomp. Rah rah rah cyst bubbling and popping out
red-eyed rats. Cheerleaders. Couldn’t escape ‘em in breathing-life,
can’t escape ‘em now. That’s how Hell works.
What ate you up up there, really eats you up down here.

I look up and this guy is talking butterflies.
“They’re actually cold-blooded, bet you didn’t know that?
And they taste with receptors on their feet instead
of tongues like we do.”
Just as I was opening my mouth to respond, they came.
Bright, gigantic butterflies the size of minivans
sprouted up from the bubbling gravy.
“I’ve been terrified of them since I was a kid,” he said,
bucking up from the table as more butterflies burst into existence.
That’s another thing about Hell
you don’t hear about before you get here:
you really have to choose your compatriots wisely,
because the punishments of those around you
can easily inflict themselves onto you.
Often do.

3.

The beautiful winged monsters took on a myriad of color mutations:
purple, black, white, yellow, chrome. One even appeared to be
completely translucent, you could only really see it when the light
refracted off the scales of its wings just right. Another seemed to be
nothing but a scuttling, sucking advertisement for L’Oreal Kids Shampoo,
its wings claiming to be of the “No Tears! No Knots!” variety.

There were sixteen of them when it was all said and done,
kicking their feet around, tasting anything and everything,
telephone pole thick proboscises slurping up those too slow to react,
the preoccupied and the uncaring, alike.
They stopped growing just shy of the cracked and stained drop tile ceiling,
then they started birthing discolored baby butterflies,
already hungry, screeching for blood.

“He’s really outdone himself this time,” I said, “with the gravy, I mean.”
The so-called gravy had globbed itself all over my new friend’s body,
like gooey quicksand in scary beach land. Only his head stuck out
for the baby butterflies to devour.
The translucent baby was geared toward
his right eye, aiming to turn itself red by jamming its proboscis into
his Conjunctiva, then his Cornea, then his Pupil. Just before it dove in,
it screamed out in the shrill voice of an insane substitute teacher,
“You’re my pupil now!
You’re my pupil FOREVER!”

4.

That’s some shit, right? And the craziest part is:
I could’ve helped. It’s not like I hadn’t been here for all of eternity.
I knew that the crusty, rust-covered lemon wedges
–cutworms and all–
lapping around in the weak piss-warm tea
would’ve gone a long way in clearing up the gravy growth
(it’s one of the first of the lunchtime rituals you pick up, if you want to eat)
and a little piss and vinegar, spit and cum, hustle and cuss fighting
would do for whatever there was that would’ve been left over.
But, of course, I didn’t do anything but pick up my tray
and find another table, a little further away from the action.
I mean, hey, that’s probably why I’m here anyway, right?
This place isn’t exactly full of do-righters.

Why feel sorry for him and his sucked-out eye holes?
If you stop focusing on the gush of his blood in this present,
then maybe you could backtrack to the past.  Remember when
he ripped out and flushed tons of butterfly wings down the toilet.
Remember when his mother was tight in a bright colorful dress
that reminded him of all those butterfly wings, and then
his mother was made less tight,
as loose as butchered goose,
with his inimical butterfly knife.

No, I just retreated to a new table and watched
the Third Circle cheerleaders approach,
their frantic pompoms replaced with dancing butterfly knives.

{ X }

A.S. Coomer author photoA.S. COOMER is an avid reader, writer and taco eater. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in issues of Red Fez, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Literary Orphans, The Quill, Blotterature, GFT Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, Oxford Magazine,Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Heater, The Broadkill Review, Degenerate Literature, The Merida Review, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, Moonglasses Magazine, Thirteen Myna Birds,Full Of Crow, Intrinsick Magazine and Serving House Journal, to name a few. He’s got a handful of novels written (hint, hint all you publishers). You can find him at www.ascoomer.wordpress.com. He also runs a “record label” for poetry: www.lostlonggoneforgottenrecords.wordpress.com.

IMG_1359 - Copy (2)JULIET  COOK is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, & red explosions. Her poetry has appeared in Ghost Proposal, H_NGM_N, ILK, and Menacing Hedge. She is the author of more than 13 poetry chapbooks, including POISONOUS BEAUTYSKULL LOLLIPOP (Grey Book Press, 2013), RED DEMOLITION (Shirt Pocket Press, 2014) and a collaboration with Robert Cole, MUTANT NEURON CODEX SWARM (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015), and a collaboration with j/j hastain, Dive Back Down (Dancing Girl Press 2015). Her first full-length poetry book was Horrific Confection (BlazeVOX, 2008). Her second, Malformed Confetti, is forthcoming from Crisis Chronicles Press. www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

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