SCENE ONE Continue reading
Show me how you pray.
I would bring you peppered
Avocados, and baking-powder-
Biscuits every morning.
Thank you for this opportunity. If you look at my resume, you’ll see I have the experience to manage the Burger World Cash Register, in a way you have never seen. I will massacre errors, just as William Henry Harrison massacred Tecumseh in the Battle of the Thames in 1813.
You’re unfamiliar with Tecumseh, well, if you have time…
Let’s just say I know how to use a cash register and defend myself in a massacre.
What is your time off policy? I know you haven’t offered me the job yet, but if you look at page six of my resume, you’ll see that I am a Presidential impersonator – oh, I have a thought. I could man the cashier in my full Presidential costume. “Would you like some information about America’s history with those fries,” I’d say. No?
What about on President’s Day?
Anyway, unplanned time off is critical because I never know when the call will come to appear as William Henry Harrison — an Ocean Liner launch, a children’s birthday party, a lung transplant operation. You’d be surprised at the last minute calls I get because party planners have forgotten to book the William Henry Harrison impersonator.
Well, I have performed at a children’s birthday party.
It went well, except for the accident.
What if I distribute notecards like this one, “William Henry Harrison was responsible for the massacre of the Shawnee tribe at the battle of the Thames in 1813.” If you have repeat business I can write a second card.
What do you mean, who’s William Henry Harrison? He’s the ninth president of the United states you ignorant Jackanape!
Oh, no, we’re not done! I’ll tell you when we’re done!
That wasn’t me talking. That was me channeling William Henry Harrison. I am certain you would love my show. Unless you’re related to any Native Americans, in which case it might not go so well.
Do I start now?
Well, when will you let me know? Time is short. William Harrison died 31 days into his Presidential term.
Really. I had no idea that Burger Land was that interested in American history. But aren’t they a competitor to you? Well, you are most generous sir. Your loss will be Burger Land’s gain.
If a couple gets married
and one commits suicide on February 11th,
is it anyone’s fault?
Feminists can blame all they want.
Husbands can lament and take lashes
while they rewrite poetry.
Like a blinking eye that opens then closes-
what is-is. Unless it isn’t.
Depression was a black lung hung off
a rat’s tail on the tree by her window or-
asbestos pilled on plumbing pipes-unwrapped
and falling like snow-long before they said, ‘I DO.’
Long before, Sylvia swallowed 48 pills, slept
beneath her house, woke to try again.
Marriage is hard, poets complex,
Poetry is hard, marriage complex.
Like pulled threads in a sweater, they unraveled.
Depression created a triangle.
Factor in children and the figure converted
to a love pentagon-where two people wanted winged
poems sailing space and three sides were left hanging.
Pentagon then add a lover? That’s a hexagon.
The shape shifted, lost all sides, became thread-a heart,
became a pneumatic noose around a head roast.
Sylvia gasped air and faltered, fell asleep.
She wrote every day in the dark before a baby
banged pots on the floor, uttered, ‘ma-ma,’
while Ted left to write, wrangle crows.
Rejection lassoes perfection.
How romantic-two poets in the same house-
unparalleled love letters, mirrored muses:
in truth, for them, it was murder-
no, it was a contest-
no, it was academia-
publish, perish, publish, Pulitzer-no
noose was wide enough to capture
the universe of words that broke them-
Instead of a valentine,
the noose became a knot.
This is the wall of his memory
A photo to his disappearance
Pale, washed out with years
Yet, still, there he must be found.
His laughter haunts the echoes;
Not too far, she too remains;
A moment so long ago, outside
Of the time they both knew.
There, I will stay, searching
The nooks, the crannies, the seams,
For a signature has been apposed
Perhaps only a sketch of a life.
Palimpsest, the scientist
Will uncover every layer
Of the story finished too soon;
Unshroud a death only in rumors.
His skin reddened by the attacker
Weather of all seasons,
A shirt wearing spots of inks
And many chapters untold.
He laughs into the thickness
Of an unfathomable fortress,
Only from time to time, to
Emerge and wink at finitude.
It is his wall, the cover he built
Upon which his portrait lasts
Author of his biography.
She found words running loose in the Strand,
fit them for goofy hats
corralled them into a corner
and conducted them into photographs.
She knew how to assemble them.
You kiss like you are,
as I sat stumped on eight across,
Then you’re not.
Drift out the window
Land in a puddle of silk
Float skyward, unbound.
I wish that my jealousy
Would stagnate like a dammed river.
Jealousy rages on—swelling, overcoming.
While the only damned thing
Late weeknight phone calls throw me into a panic — fearing news of car accidents, mangled kids, suddenly dead parents. I staggered across my bedroom to the dresser and fumbled to unplug my ringing phone. “Hello?”
“Jenny?” The voice of Nancy, my ex-mother-in-law, one of the few people who called me by the childish name I no longer used. Nancy called me frequently – sometimes too frequently – and always started her phone calls with my name as a question, as if she weren’t sure who would answer at the number she seemed to have on speed dial.
“Yeah,” I responded, relieved but annoyed, assuming I was awoken for something inconsequential.
“Joe’s dead,” she said. Just like that – two and a half syllables forming a sentence akin to being stabbed with a paring knife. She continued speaking calmly, as if she were giving me directions to her house instead of telling me that her son – my ex-husband and the father of my teenage sons – was dead at forty. I couldn’t hear her words any longer, just the murmur of her voice. My mind drifted to the last time Joe and I had spoken. He sounded happy. I should’ve known something was wrong. Continue reading
Diane Arrelle is one of our Halloween contest finalists.
It had been a cold, windy October and the trees shed their leaves a few weeks earlier than usual. But today the wind was still and the crisp bite in the air tasted like Halloween. It promised to be the perfect evening for trick-or-treaters, the sun would set by late afternoon and as it grew darker I imagined the clouds would skitter across the crescent moon, casting eerie shadows that would cause the costumed youngsters to both shiver in terror and giggle with false bravado along with their friends.
As I sat at my desk and looked out the window, seeing at my reflection, I wished I were a kid again so I too could travel door to door, with my identity hidden and my greedy lust for sweets worn proudly like a badge. But I am an adult, almost 30 years old, so the most I can do is open my door to those junior ghouls brave enough to ring my bell and then share in their fun vicariously.
I guess it was about three thirty when I had the urge to leave work a little early. I decided I wanted to go to the store for Halloween candy, just in case some kids showed up before I had to go out to dinner. I know I romanticize trick or treating and Halloween but I live alone in the gray duplex at the end of Downy Street, the last house right next to the woods so I almost never get anyone to ever come to my door. I don’t blame them, not a lot of kids will brave a spooky street for some cheap candy, so while I was out I stopped by the party supply store because I decided to get some Halloween decorations too. I thought maybe plastic pumpkins lit with eerie colored glow sticks would attract more trick-or-treaters.
Click here to read Sojourn No More, a short play by Eric Duhon.
The curved lip at the bottom of the
Coffee pot saves the white tablecloth
From a tiny drop traveling down the
Body of the pot with malicious intent.
Nothing saves the waitress or the meal
As food tumbles from the tray to the floor
In a violent crash of humiliation.
Cry for the poor fish sandwich, cut down
Before its prime, and decide not to tip.
Jon Bredeson is a gay poet, fiction writer, and English major at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is an MFA applicant, and currently at work on his first chapbook. He is likely to be found reading poetry, fiction, and/or comic books at any given time of day, and has no plans to seek treatment for his literary addiction.