Avenida de Las Santas by John Jenkinson
In the City Book Store by Mark Martin
Those Bayes Girls by Pamela Gemin
The Everly Brothers (Tet, 1968) by Bill Sweeney
My Sweetest Piece by Lisa Glatt
Avenida de Las Santas
By John Jenkinson
Haunting the Avenida at dusk
I light the glands of beggar girls.
How can an old man, tripped on lawís lip,
his shadow a long sprawl down the sidewalk,
praise thee and keep his way pure?
Who will honor the harlotís door,
the mode of her speech, the paired horsemen
gnawing at her silk pyjamas?
Crones in rags, burning the rich spice
of my broken cords like fever, cry out,
wave their tapeworm flags from the gutter
and garble their thick green prayers.
Their small, hard hands flutter
like moths at a childís quiet mouth.
They have a pact with my circumcision
to wash me in milk,
to bury me with a rotting ass,
cut off from my tribe, branded and spit
out like God spit the worthless stars.
For now, I root like a trained sow
in these broad-faced black-browed truffles,
one from Tehuantepec, one from Peoria.
Their black and crumbling teeth salute me,
declare me the yellow wishing ghost.
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In the City Book Store
By Mark Martin
Frankenstein is coming up the aisle,
arms stiff at his side. All our exceptional customers
get names and itís because of ones like this
with the Herculean shoulders and thick veins squirming
across temples that I wish we kept a gun
under the register. Fuck, fuck, fuck,
he chants, which is odd because Iím thinking
exactly the same thing the closer he gets
to my world, coming here now almost every day to grunt
at the books and clomp his orthopedic shoes
up and down the aisle-ways.
For some the names come easy: Lust Lady,
who every week waddles red-cheeked
to the check-out with a fresh load of romance
books in the crook of her arm, spills
them across the counter, sighs
with the weight of her needing, or Hand-on-Rye
who canít get enough true crime, is infatuated
with all the ways a person can die, and
Benny Bonkers, who canít keep his head from jerking
backwards, was born that way,
forever receiving invisible jabs to the face, who,
on the day before Christmas,
wanted to know what I thought of his Santa Claus hat,
that wouldnít stay on, wouldnít stay
straight, and I wasnít lying when I told him
it suits him. It does; he has the heart
for it, has more heart than brains
but for others I canít find a name,
donít want to, like this one
Iíve been stepping over for a week, everything he owns
stuffed inside a lumpy army bag he uses like a pillow,
so quiet sometimes I think Iím alone,
never sticks to one section, but drifts
from fiction to finance, the Bible one day, The Womanly Art
of Breastfeeding the next. The boss wants only classical music
to be played during working hours
but is too hungover to leave
his bed today so I holler choices at the drifter: Led Zeppelin? Barry White?
America? Van Morrison? Yesterday Marie
told him this wasnít a fucking library,
but today heís smiling back at me from the aisle,
his thumb book-marking the page
Whatever you want. No, no, you decide, I say
back and forth like this while the cars and busses whoosh past the window,
the same sound coming and going until, eventually, he picks
America and I let it play.
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Those Bayes Girls
By Pamela Gemin
gleamed, like Ultra Brite choppers
by a TV wand,
dazzled all the boys witless,
squinting in their high beams,
their minty fresh breath,
their perfect bangs,
their Bonnie Doon knee socks
rolled down once
beneath their hairless knees.
All of our moms said:
would never tease
or dye her hair!
be caught dead
come home drunk!
Those Bayes girls
didnít have dark sides, so
they married dark-sided men
who stained sheets and driveways
and bath tiles and jungle floors
with menís dark blood,
and the Bayes girls
emptied their pale blue
nightgowns upon them,
fit peppermint lips
to the menís dark mouths,
emptied the menís dark caves
of pain and filled them
with ice blue stars.
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The Everly Brothers (Tet, 1968)
By Bill Sweeney
In the man-made moonscape we wailed away,
bobbing to a wicked duet of Dream.
Crouched in a crater
he didnít know me, I didnít know him
flares fell already
around his harmony, his new boots; my
melody, going home two months from now.
Shellbursts! Faces gleaming,
eyes glinting now,
teeth pallid as a bone, we sang away
the blackened hole, the length of our tours, my gut fear; just like
Phil and Don: Dream,
dream, dream. The only trouble is ...;
already close and southern and brothers, him and me.
The Bronx, six years later: he looked at me
from the pages of a paper, defunct now;
an old picture, eyes dying already,
the text read: VET BLOWS WIFE, CHILD, SELF AWAY.
But that night we tipped our heads back and (dream)
held those last six syllables. Held them.
My eyes watered, a star shone, the night breathed, my
for hours it seemed
him and me,
while a Huey shot up a hillside; (dream)
while tracer rounds fingered the jungle. Now,
reluctantly, silent, we crawled away;
out of our hole into the night; all ready
to kill in the dark. We were all ready.
Unsheathed our weapons; sat back to back; my
back felt it first
his sobs shaking away;
silent but deep. At last, he turned to me
and shuddering he wept his terror now;
dreading his first night in this waking dream.
In ten years I came apart in a dream
called a mall outside Portland, already
dying from within; first stunned, silent, now
sobbing into my hands. But that night my
hands held him, fingers, palms, arms, chest to me,
held him like a high
He whispered in my ear
I hear it now
his boyís voice already slipping from me
in the dark;
Iím dreaming my life away.
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My Sweetest Piece
By Lisa Glatt
My stepfather stood at the picnic table
in our backyard, balancing a watermelon
on its side. It was a Sunday in June
and he threatened the melon with a large knife.
My mother stood beside him in a floral dress
and white sandals. She nibbled at a hard boiled egg.
Every now and then she lifted the salt shaker
above her egg, then took a little bite.
It was the first day Iíd worn a bra,
and I remember my mother teasing me,
saying, Look at her new breasts
perky like mine. My stepfather looked
from the watermelon to my new breasts
and nodded. He sliced it into pieces.
When I was a boy in Jordan, my stepfather
began, slicing while he talked, I was special,
and my parents knew it, and they had...
and then he looked at my mother, searching
for a word. My mother shrugged, popped
the last of the egg in her mouth. Well,
he continued, they had a tool, it was a knife
in that it was very sharp,
but it was long and round and hollow, sharp
what do you say?
He scratched his beard and looked
at us, his two dumb girls. He groaned.
Cylinder, thatís it, he said. My mother
would hold the watermelon up on its eye,
lengthwise, balance it for my father,
who would use the cylinder to extract
the middle, that long, sweet piece
for me the boy.
But he wasnít a boy that first night,
he was a man, and he wasnít in Jordan,
but in a California suburb. It was 1975.
It was the early a.m. and I was walking
toward the bathroom. When he found me
in the hall, he muttered something
to my new body, then rubbed
his swollen tongue over my lips.
I understood I was red.
I understood I was juicy.
My stepfather took a cylinder from his pocket.
He drilled and drilled, until he had it all
that he was so entitled to, all of me
that was sweet.
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