Pterodactyls Soar Again

Reb Livingston



For Chris: Thanks for not hightailing it.








5AM: "Inquiry" and "Muse Vs. Law"

Ducky:  “Sink the Girl”

Esther Press:  “What We Say”

Good Foot: "Comfortable Ass Clicking Garments"

LIT: "Color of Ass" and "Meditations on Heritage"

Mipoesias & Best American Poetry 2006:  “That’s Not Butter”

Pip Lit:  “Delicious Marriage”



Background design by Charles Orr

Background photograph by Shanna Compton





What Of

What of daisies dying in a woman’s hair?
Why distress for nature’s minute cycles?
On the windowsill the
Cantaloupe over-ripens
Unused sexuality
Excessive waste of resources.
Tick, tock, tick tonka truck,
A big spill down cellar stairs.
Men call it womanish, please hush
Rather talk of traffic and stereos.
I hear, tick tock, tick
Walk me down the aisle.
Tick tock, tick-never-a-knock,
What of daises, crumbling at
My toes?




If the spine is crooked, does that count
as disfigurement and does the contract still stand?
He’s no flower, but contends he was her finest hour.
Beautiful man, lucky wife –
second to none, even with two sprained thumbs,
shivering in a ski lodge, afraid of the lift.
There was a time when smoking pine needle
seemed a good idea.
There was always a time.



If You Have Nothing Nice to Say


There was one good man in that steel town
but he was no Oppenheimer.
If he subscribed to Vogue,
he would have said,
You can put Mama in Prada,
but she’s still Mama.

Women come and gather catalogs
ordering nine colors of matching clogs.

And the children of divorce go:
Sugar gooey hostess cake
We love Mama’s Shake ‘N Bake.

If Mama read poetry,
she still would have drank
divorced and drank and drove,
crunched the puppy under her wheel,
buried it beneath her azaleas,
six short inches under.

Women come and sprinkle fertilizer
mocking and mooing the Pulitzer.

And the children of divorce go:
The front of a boy’s butt
is a wiener and a nut.


The daughter expected a better life
but motors grew to monsters
and were still handled by untrained puppet masters
ravaging her pristine roads.
What of the bumpless death of squirrels?
Does every rodent deem a conversation pause
on the way to Grandma’s?

Women come and take meth
expecting a better death.

And the children of divorce go:
Mama, Mama, what do you do?
I go to the store and buy a shoe.

Lost in her instruments,
she switched to vibrate and hum.
Her appliances.
Her children.
Her garage-locked dog.

Women come and taunt harm
ignoring their car alarm.

And the children of divorce go:
Mama, Mama a shoe for what?
A shoe to shove up Father’s butt.


Her sun room, her three zones of temperature control,
her cousins crammed in a trailer
sharing a bed with Grandpa.
Jell-O cooling in the icebox.
Who was Mama?

Women come and answer cell phones
sucking canines from their bones.

And the children of divorce go:
Mama, Mama why our dear dad?

Because he’s made me very mad.



What We Say

You are destined for misery, my husband said to me,
you’re a rigid, unyielding woman
with the taste of demons lurking on your stiff tongue.

You eat this can of corn, I said to my son,
or you’ll be this can of corn.
You need to follow directions.

My son swallowed the kernels, I told my therapist,
and chewed the label and aluminum.
He’s almost perfect.

You should write humor, mother said to me,
you should write for children.
You should clip your nails and stop scratching elbows.

It’s not right, I said to God,
being the one cursed with sanity.

I – wretched, consumed by song.



Color of Ass

          for Amy Gerstler

Aren’t I just the cat’s ass
calling the monkey’s back bushy?
Electric blue locks, simply
not appropriate.
Who dyes his hair to shock a friend
who never wakes?
Who wears his hair like a veil, morbid blue,
funeral blue, bluer than a wine-soaked tongue?
Aren’t there more appropriate ways
to mourn?  I lost a friend too.
We didn’t speak for years, I read
about his death in the obituaries.
I was appropriate, put in a surprise
funeral appearance, tasteful gray slacks,
not daring the black envelope.
Penned a letter to the mourning mother,
blue ink.
Who writes in black these days?
At home I cried,
green in my proper life,
the Queen
squatting in the Field of Asses.



Sink the Girl

Water not only can keep a ship afloat
          but can also sink it.
                   Chinese Fortune Cookie


Underwater I see dolls without feet.
I chopped them off so the dolls

cannot paddle away while I sleep. 
Remember the water and the ship.

There is salvation in transportation.
Parakeets play hopscotch and rats shoot marbles

while children are inside chatting online.
Don’t blame their parents they were overcome by television

and the grandparents were penetrated
by undetectable radio waves.

Everyone has an excuse and a solution.
I drink water with high lead content

like fish it makes me smart. 
Scientists make studies say whatever they want.

I cannot really say what I want, but I do know destitute women
who live together are destined to sling bacon.


An escaped convict hides underneath my bed
and all the pistols are locked away from my reach.

Someday I will have big boobs to distract him
and finally get in a good shot or two.

My destiny is to collect guns of all sizes and power
as many as I can fit in my purse.

The girl with the knife should do hard time
because if she can get away with making a man a little girl

he can get away with making her a creature without a soul.
Big cities are not suitable places for little girls.

All the rats in New York learn to swim 
so they can paddle upstairs when basements flood.


I am thankful for ambulances
honor electricity

worship glass and wary of anything I can see through.
Sometimes creeks are just open sewers.

Sometimes pornography hides
in bushes next to creeks.

Whatever we find we put in the Convent’s mailbox.
The Sisters know what to do.

This is a confession
about water

and where we travel
and what we believe.

And some people
do not understand that.

I am told that there is a seat
in hell for me which is fine

because I hate to stand
and I have forgotten how to swim.



Comfortable Ass Clicking Garments

Our daughters are simps
sniveling over cigarettes,
their slim green legs plump

in cubicles, spread underneath desks.
Lines must be broken.
The world can’t be a vampire forever,

and the winged monkeys
aren’t working for bananas
and diapers.  Our mothers told us so

and stuck us with mirrors
that wouldn’t stop staring.
No one heeded the reflection.

We need paychecks,
not more banana wraps
peeling our skin.

Familiar lice
comfortably infesting.
Comfortable arguments.

We only have our daughters
in cotton slacks
and steel-enforced heels to blame.



Pretty Ugly


To no one’s chagrin,
the blonde skeleton
had her lips laminated again
and that’s how it
goes when tit lifts

and implants are sent
the university route.


It hurts as much as waxing
your mother’s mustache,
the sense’s hide tough
as a dog’s turd crusted paw.


Our imperfections awake
in a stranger’s guest room
sharing bed sheets
with excessive masturbators
discovering ourselves,
pumping air with lint.


What a handsome
couple we are,
twiddle dick
and twiddle twat.



Supper Song

As the evening strikes the thirteenth grooming,
the cat beautician develops severe dander allergies,
her career rinsing down her fingertips
making its way to a puddle of fur and phlegm. 
Not understanding, the lawyer’s feline passes the bath wailing tunes. 
Cats can’t dance, but how they steal songs, ingesting the sources.  
Every good lawyer keeps one
in case a canary sings on the stand.  There’s so much we can’t stand
allergies only compound the issue.
Hives and snot should not be regular occupational hazards,
even in America, where a cat beautician is a lot less beautiful
than the creatures she tends
and much more agitated. 
Whom to shake the swollen fist towards? 
The cat who sprouts propellers, busting through, escaping her bath?  
Or the cat tucked away in a briefcase,
starved for melody?



Love, Creation and Carnage

Mother always warned about whores who climbed
all the way to demise,
girls more concerned with genital crabs than pregnancy.

Father always cautioned about the steel straw
used to suck marrow
from gleeful hard-working fools who love their employment. 

But I knew more than my steel-working father
(who never went to college),
and more than my mother (who never finished high school).

I not so subconsciously shoved my anxious chest
through the heaving doorway,
made a good show with entry-level gusto. 

Nodded my head on cue, smiled and memorized
the company credo;
valued more than years of seniority and service.

I was pants suits and ambition. Created from passion,
giving management
a perfect baby to show off at corporate meets. 

Love dwindled from glances in the office gym
to men offering
left over desserts so they could leave my lunch table.

My manager became a pimp, but to my horror,
I was not the whore,
it was my child, whom I adored.  She was too costly.

I had to rent her out, make her sexy to clients,
stop giving her
what was best, turning her profitable and cheap. 

My title was Assistant Pimp and I followed all
the Senior Pimp’s demands, 
until I realized:  better the creator be the destroyer. 

When all that was left was an empty tin can,
with a shiny label
I ended her suffering.

A confident mother drowning her babe in the river
moments before
enemy troops marched into town. 



Meditations on Heritage


Wide awake next to
my unconscious mother.
Dickless, spineless, neckless.
My manager denied
my vacation. 
The ding on my car door.


Unable to tell if my arm
rested in my drool
or hers.  My manager
approved a bonus
of six bananas and a diaper.


When one is quiet
one can hear the lucky sperm,
so powerful, fertilizing
the sleeping egg. 


Possibilities endless
at dusk’s close.
Employee, now the hunter,
cornering him at the
post office, near the scale
taping him shut.
Stamping to dust.


My mother’s drool, indistinguishable
from my own and I am left
celebrating in my cubicle.
The car detailer noted
“You can paint a turd, but
it’s still a turd.”



Muse Vs. Law

But I don’t want to be a prosecutor
          sharpening my tight wit
          for bludgeoning the rapists and arsonists.

Oh, I want them to die
          choke on bloody aspirins
          that were once their front teeth.

Invite me to the execution!
          I’ll attend, paint a sign,
          start the wave.

But I object!
          Send someone else to paddle criminals.
          I have cats to scold,
my husband’s four inch toe-nails.

Maybe you think he should
administer his own pedicure?

Just because one can, does not
mean one should.



Little Buddies


Timid crutch, Anxiety,
which god placed you with me?

Vomit festering bucket
feeding trolls beneath the bed.

Clasping our guts, we chuckle.

They understand me, my stubby
sisters, my brooding brothers.

Ravenous, they plead for more.




Tales of the Smaller Self


His Last Effort

Force-boarded onto a crowded bus
by my husband
in the cruel night cackle,
I cried for my pillow.
A warm puddle of piss seeped through
my slippers, I cried for sleep.
“If you want to be the mother of my children
you need to take responsibility,” he insisted.

To my disgust, his midget version introduced himself,
gosh-darn-happy-to-meet-me and offered
a bite of his banana.
I don’t want to know this much about you!
I pleaded to my husband.

“You’re the only one fighting it.”
Keeping silent,
the rest of the bus occupants groomed
themselves under the sharp eyes
of their matching commanders.
“Not so close!”
yelled an elderly man’s midget
carefully cutting away his overgrown cuticles.
A teenage girl methodically flossed each tooth,
her midget massaged her gums.

My husband shook me straight
flipping me upside down
until my hands steadied
and mouth squatted like a vagina. 
Covered in saliva and stomach acid my midget
emerged head-first from my throat.

Jezebel toweled her frame, climbed on a seat, 
pulled the stop wire.
“Say goodbye to your husband,
it’s time for finishing school.”
Off the bus, Jezebel waved goodbye for me.
“Next time you’ll do it on your own.”


My First Discovery

I caught up as Jezebel
paused and pointed towards
two sisters sitting on opposite sides of a ball. 
Both had one eye on the ball
and one eye on the other.
Greed left them permanently cross-eyed.

“Ask the question”
said Jezebel.
Why do you let such a worthless object split you apart?
“It has value, a certificate of appraisal and a correlating luxury tax”
replied the blonde sister.
“It has a practical use.  When it is mine
I will use it to smooth
over the grotesque faces of snapper-heads,”
replied the ebony sister.
Half of the blonde’s mouth snapped at the remark.

“How would you solve this dispute?”
Jezebel asked.
I would cut the ball down the middle and give each sister a half.
“Why punish the ball?  Why not the sisters?”

I considered cutting the sisters right down their middles
separating their menacing cross-eyed skulls. 
Jezebel head-butted me in the gut,
“To graduate you’re going to have to demonstrate critical thinking!”
and took off down an alley.


Holy Transaction

Straddling a crate of pork rinds, she introduced me
to a man missing one leg.
“This man is a prophet. 
Give him all the change in your slippers
and he’ll share his wisdom.”

Clink, clank the cup bottom cackled.
“Someone peed on these pennies”
clucked the prophet.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you not
to put money in your mouth?”
replied Jezebel and to me,
“Now ask your question.”

Please, wise urchin guru, what direction should I take?
What is my value? 
He thought for a moment and began to recite
“Unnecessary details slow the plot
Confused readers demand you stop.
You don’t know, you have no right
It’s not yours, they own this plight.
Read Foucault, shun stadiums
Learn to play the deep dark oboe.”
I don’t understand what that means.
“Scram, you’re scaring away my patrons,
you stinking tart.”

“What did you learn from this?”
asked Jezebel.
All poetry is quite useless.
“Funny, your husband thinks the same of you.”


My First Venture Alone

Useless, words were useless so I walked
opposite of Jezebel’s direction.
I can find home by myself, I just need directions.
I asked a teenage boy mending
a large net in front of a shack,
Where is the nearest bus stop?

“Why do you ask? 
Are you hunting crocodile?
If I had a crocodile, I would let it sleep in my bathtub
and spend its days in my swimming pool.
I would feed it snails and puppy dog tails
until it grew fat and tender.
Then I would chop off its head
and cook it with sugar and spice. 
Don’t you think that would taste nice?”
I don’t see any swimming pools, in fact I don’t even
see a bathtub in your shack, just a sink.

The boy’s eyes watered,
“Alas, my crocodile isn’t even a rat,
it’s a mouse and it has outsmarted me again.
Tonight I eat grass and dandelions
Every night is grass and dandelions.”


Finding My Gingerbread House

I followed the sound,
the trail of steam.
“Choo choo, you useless slut” cracked the train.
I ate bread crumbs from the ground.
“Choo choo, you’ll never survive on your own.”
I found home,
never realizing the tracks were so close.
“Choo choo, go back to your husband.”
I hope you derail and all your passengers die! I cried.



The Ease of Sucking

Predictable as a woman’s shadow, he smirked.
Indeed, my ass, dear Lucifer,
dear man-child, teacher’s precious pet,
one who finds love in the cell block
as others get shanked.
How like the zoo-caged monkey
handed a lit cigarette through the bars.

Poor monkey, he thought he knew
what women, their slim fingers and
clatter of bracelets, were all about.
No idea what the shadow hid inside her brassiere.
Scientists debated on whether he even
understood the concept of undergarments.
All his life he observed those outside the cage
so easy, breathe in, breathe out, vogue pose.




That’s Not Butter

Once upon a time there was a house full of divorced women who did not sew.
No beautiful little red coats or beautiful little blue trousers.
The children’s clothes, purchased at Sears,
mass produced, not very unique, but good enough.

Every month the fathers would visit and take the children to fun places,
like the amusement parks, Chuck E. Cheese and church bazaars.
No beautiful green umbrellas or lovely little purple shoes
with crimson soles and crimson linings.
Only flammable stuffed monkeys and glow sticks.

Most of them time, the children were on their own and passed
time shoplifting glue and smoking skinny cigars in the woods. 
One day Little Pink Brittany found a jungle and suggested they explore.
“That jungle smells funny,” warned Little Peach Paulie.
“Not as funny as your mom,” laughed Little Taupe Tabitha,
“Let’s investigate, maybe ganja grows wild there.”
Little Mauve Melvin’s eyes twisted left, “We could cultivate
the ganja, become gangsta farmers, start our own syndicate!”

The children proceeded, they proceeded to get lost in the jungle.
The jungle owls were warming up, one by one the children cried.
By and by they met a tiger, “Aren’t you all adorable in your
matching little yellow sweats and little yellow hoodies.
I could eat every single one of you right up!”
“Who are you?” asked Little Amber Ambrosia. 
“Why I’m the grandest tiger in the jungle!”
Up above in the treetops the leopards laughed, “Not in those stripes!”
The tiger shook his paw in the air, “Haters!”

“It’s almost night, you kids shouldn’t be here.  It’s not safe. 
Climb on my back and I’ll take you home to your mothers.”
“We’re not leaving without the ganja!” protested Little Beige Timmy.
The tiger sighed, “There’s no ganja in this jungle, only coconuts.”

But the children knew this was a lie for they could smell the ganja,
the tiger smelled as if he had been soaking in it from birth.
Little Auburn Emily pulled out her sharpened toothbrush and demanded
“The ganja or your hide!  You’re not the boss of me!”
That tiger somehow seemed to know how to think like a tiger,
like a paranoid tiger stoned out of his whiskers.  Instead of gobbling up
the little children, he ran, round and round a tree,
faster and faster until he was whirling round so fast his legs
could not be seen, it was more that just a blur, he was melting,
melting away until there was nothing left
except a great pool of melted butter.

“Can we smoke that?” inquired Little Speckled Sarah.
“I don’t think so, but I bet we could cook with it.” said Little Freckled Furman.
So the children scooped up the butter in their sneakers
and found their way home after torturing a turtle for directions.

When the mothers saw the melted butter, they were pleased!
“Now we’ll all have pancakes for supper!” and the whole family
sat around a huge big plate of most lovely
pancakes, yellow and brown as little tigers.  The mothers each ate
twenty-seven pancakes, the fathers came over and each ate fifty-five
and the children each ate a hundred and sixty-nine
because they were so hungry.



Delicious Marriage

And it's true you had a wife.
And you couldn't keep her,
couldn't stick your weapon up
the bell tower, you pumpkin eater.

And all the King's horses, roared wildly,
and not with you, you pumpkin cheater.

Such a screw-up, tried and true.

You had a wife, so you had to beat her.
Then her belly grew, so you had to eat her.



Evolution From the Other

You grasp for our elegant necks,
lounging on brontosaurus spines
like a drunk orangutan slinging shrimps
at Charleston Heston behind bamboo bars.
You observe my element: buck toothed,
cloaked by smoke signals.

Conceive the metaphor, hump your dinosaur.
Note each chalked crack misstep.
Think you’re intellectual?
Think your science valid?
Am I talking about class?
Are we arguing over sex?

You note: In an attempt to pass time,
subject plays hopscotch and puffs
ultra light Pall Malls,
waiting for the 79A.

The statue of liberty
rebuilt six times.
Pterodactyls soar again.


Reb Livingston ( is the editor of the online poetry journal No Tell Motel ( She and Molly Arden edited the anthology The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel. Reb’s poems have recently appeared in MiPOesias, SOFTBLOW, Coconut, Kulture Vulture, The Carolina Quarterly, and 42opus. A native of Pittsburgh, PA, she lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and son.