Tufik Y. Shayeb

Seven Years for the Well to Drain

There’s no such thing as oil, she tells him.
Unbuttoning his shirt cuff, he is a startled fish.

There is only blood, she says, and a big drill
grinding under the shadows of loose jetsam.

Down the hall, an infant discovers, sucker-in-
hand, the wasp-like touch of a proud doctor.

First, the puncture. He curls the fabric back.
The jelly fish begin to shake like wet pudding.

He trembles, sleeve rolled up, a rubbery strap
stretched around his arm like a gear’s belt.

The sharks believe the surface is all machine,
The sea weeds agree, but the coral does not.

On the wall, they’ve hung up a vampire cutout.
He has a blood martini and looks very pleased.

They think the surface is stone, she continues,
coral has always been self-absorbed and vain.

One prehistoric butterfly lands on his arm
and pricks his skin; she ignores the flinching.

The starfish are ready to pack up their bags
and return to the solitude of a nighttime sky.

And what about the mermaids, she asks, that
rust-colored muck and spew curdling in hair?

They must also be ready to throw down their gills
and grow a pair of legs… It is white fire for him.

The crabs and shrimp must be happy though.
Her slick tone coats each grimy word, slowly.

It is always lava erupting from a hole in the skin.
She wants him to relax and forget the burning.

For once, they don’t have to worry about traps;
the fishermen have all moved on with their lives.

The difference between phlebotomy and drilling,
she tells him, is that phlebotomists rarely spill.

There is a red stain on her coat. The latex snaps.
He touches his arm, trying to rub it back to normal.


some nights,
there were dogs barking
and de sterrennacht streets

monstrous, a whale-black
sky swallowed unlit houses
like a school of tiny fish

arrogant palm trees
welcomed each other
with the longest handshakes

proud for having pelted
disheveled pigeons below
with discarded fronds

and there was thumping,
the sound of two sneakers
making love on the pavement

each day was spent
bullshitting professors
and the office manager

about the fragile state
of grandmother’s condition

dead for over two years
not doing too well
only half-lying, only half

my fingers were close
to being permanently crossed

some nights,
there were no dogs barking
and the fences stilled

college was a mesh bag
filled with useless seeds,
going home was a pebble

the streets were close
to being permanently crossed

wait for the light
and continue skimming
on the surface of asphalt

in school, they taught us
that nothing good ever grows
on the surface of asphalt

each stranger—
the sound of a straw,
scraping with the last drop
of cola

the rumble of mucous
in a hospital patient

avoid strangers at night
is good advice for students
on their way home from class

each car looked tired
and the drivers were resting
in their scaly houses

Author Portrait

Tufik Y. Shayeb’s poetry has been presented in numerous publications, including Muzzle Magazine, Pedestal Magazine, Restless Anthology, The November 3rd Club, Lifelines, and The Good Things about America. To date, Shayeb has published three chapbooks and one full-length collection titled, I'll Love You to Smithereens. In 2010, his latest manuscript, titled All Janked Up Zombie Suit?, was chosen as finalist for in the Write Bloody Publishing annual submission call. Currently, Shayeb works as a full time attorney and studies law, genomics, and biotechnology at Arizona State University.