O, It’s Manifold

Poems and Flash Fiction

by Natalie Zummer

Illustration by Alana Baer

published April 24, 2020



O, It’s Manifold 



They embalmed all the women in one

Museum. Critics write, What a surfeit


Of hidden beauty! Competence pulses

Through limbs, loins. Exhibit 3b reveals


Quality that derives only from repeated 

Effort. Thin red strokes juxtaposed with


More elliptical hues of purple, blue — 

Expertly placed to jolt you.  




Our skeletons were entombed

By fats and flesh and anything


Brainless. Heaps and heaps of

Adipose tissues made metallic


By one too many sick children 

Masquerading with Chalice in


Hand. Brimmed by reception 

Of touch, language. Swallow. 




A displacement. Cotton, perhaps.

By the centimeter, two milliseconds elapsed.

Fellatio has too many syllables. One. 




Pterodactyl Girl


90 miles per hour romanticize our

Windows, blissful, whisking fistful


By fistful the palette once painted:

Trees and shrubs, pedestrian hugs,


Child shoelaces undone. Time yet

To begin satanic blasphemy upon


The back— shortest distance twixt

Two points: tail bone and tippy top 


Vertebrae. 20 years added, 30 some

Subtracted. Two metal bars collapsing 


Pterodactyl wings. Her brain sings, 

Makes Lysergic Acid Diethylamide 


Worth something.



My God, it’s Skeletal 


Poolside with his mother I reminisce

His pelvic anchor. My buoyant ribs. 


Brains a-whir to keep the meat fresh, 

Our bodies twirl helically, tendrilled.


Somewhere inside are golden bones -- 

Hopelessly stiff as voraciously honed.


Blueprinted. Before long we’ll sicken

Of fleshy gymnastic and resort to the


Skeleton. Exhaust every monomer of

Collagen, neutralize every eighth ion 


Of calcium carbonate, sabotage its

Restriction to the frame. Taste our 


Marrows, nutty, swish it all into our 

Salivas, sit by the pool a while. 






Roo Bas

I’m in line for coffee with a beautiful woman who holds her head in a way I have never held mine, maybe never could hold mine, and there are 62 cents in my bank account. When she orders a tea I have never heard of, something that sounds like Roo Bas, it makes me want to cry, because for a split second I see my chin tilted a little higher and the Roo Bas that I bought is in my hand and I’m okay. 



Her hand and my thigh are doing the thing that hands and thighs do on dates. Maybe we’re on one, because when she tells me something about lemons I find it very very amazing even though it’s not. I can still taste the meringue she fed me across the table, and I’m still blissfully ignorant of the fact that she’s already started to believe—I mean truly believe—that we are creatures of parallel galaxies, condemned to miss each other over and over forever, our love so heartbreakingly close to shattering that parallelism, even though we’ve only been on the one date with the lemons. 


The Hug

He hasn’t slept for weeks because he imagines it in bed: what little circumference he’ll need to envelop you, your 63.5-inch stature perfect to masquerade scalp whiffs. Most nights he gets anxious, because none of it is sure. Every fifth night he forces himself to picture your Don’t touch me body language as a sort of exposure therapy. Otherwise, he likes to think about his hands — the left cradling a shoulder blade (to know your skeleton), the right pressing the small of your back (to know your flesh), the number of seconds (3) he can keep one on your ass before he won’t be able to deny it was ever there. By the time it’s there it’s already not, and he is left, again, to sleepless imaginings. 


An Exhibit

They embalmed all the women in one museum. Now the critics are crying, O, what unfound beauty! O, what an ode to the pulverized raspberry! O, what divine mimicry of this incomprehensible galaxy! Purple! Blue! Red! O, how it roils! 



The neighbor eats onions when he is sad. He’s always chop-chop-chopping, rattling our forks and skewing our paintings. He must think the real tears syncing up with the onion tears will amount to tears in the middle, less sad. The logic isn’t bad. 

Sometimes his misery bleeds through the wall and into our dinner. Last night, we tasted loneliness in the green beans and resentment in the potatoes. His anxiety about the afterlife spiced the entire meal.

Tonight, my kids are crying. The months I nursed their lungs ring in the pitch. I sink into it, the way I sunk into their infant ribs buzzing my nipples with purpose. They cried, so I didn’t. They cry, so I don’t. I think about the neighbor, how he is alone, has no one not to cry for.