In the novelty museum, a woman and her son browse
instruments of torture. Most are fashioned
of iron—they are cocoa and cinnamon colored—
flaking and mottled either with rust or with blood.
One instrument favors a vintage wind-up toy.
The bottom half is divided into spoon-like segments
that open with the turn of a screw. This was used to
gag women. They called it a “Choke Pear.”
The woman repeats, choke pear, choke pear, choke pear,
and she loves the way it feels in her mouth.
They walk by the severed heads floating slack-jawed in jars—
the woman and her son like the wood reproductions you can take pictures in best. The Mongolian Starvation Crate is a wooden chest with a hole cut in the side. The museum has two crates stacked. The bottom one has a skeleton half thrust out the hole, extending its bone-arm
towards a rotten bowl of rice just out of reach. She asks her son
to climb in the top crate and stick his head out like the skeleton. He does it, but he wears a blank face.
She tells him,
No, reach for the bowl of rice like you’re
starving! Spread your fingers until the skin between
them splits and your hand cramps like your stomach.
Scream while you have the will to.
Press your face against the splintered
wood grain inside the crate as you reach so hard you
dislocate shoulder from socket—your arm falling
limp like hope.
Cry for your family; no,
without tears—there’s no water left your body will spare.
Now, let your pupils fix and dilate on the rice bowl,
so it’s the last thing you see.
She laughs, because he does a good job of dying.
There is a long line forming behind them but before they move on, she says,
Okay, now this time—smile.