- P. C. Vandall, Scrambled
- Kevin Cooley, Simone and Sartre
- Marc Swan, Summer Days, Cluck Cluck
- Kristine Ong Muslim, The Cold Room, The Solarium
- Michaela Stephen, Quiet
- Kenneth Pobo, Missing Each Other
The Impressment Gang 1:3
© Copyright remains with the writers. 02 2015.
P. C. Vandall
He’s there before morning breaks, before light
spills out golden and slick over a farm
floor. How easy it is for him to crack
open eggs from mother’s breakfast basket,
let yellow yolks slide and ooze in his mouth.
Ribbons of runny embryonic slime
thread down his throat like strips of slippery
sea kelp. Mucous weeds drizzle from his chin
and he casts devil’s eyes on me. I wince,
turn away, try not to gag. I can’t bear
to see him swallow. “Just like a woman,”
he says, then gulps translucent fluid down.
One day he tiptoes in, brings soft boiled eggs.
He tells me to slip one within my mouth
and hold it. It’s squishy, moist and sits poised
on the flat of my tongue. He says my mouth
is the henhouse and I should keep the egg
safely tucked in cushioned cheeks. I grasp it
like a secret, ridged and firm inside.
I am careful not to jiggle or scrape
the smooth polished surface, not to jostle
or bite but to suck its fleshy tissue.
It is warm and snug nestled in the dark
hollows of my mouth. He said I become
angelic with a milk white egg between
rose lips. It is swollen and soft, pitless
as plums in my belly. He says raw eggs
are for men and soft boiled are for women.
What about the children, I ask? Beaten
until scrambled if you tell anyone.
Simone and Sartre
We came together, like hummingbirds, windbridled
on invisible currents and somersaulting scents at each
other like sweet little lice in the lake’s hair, drawing
nourishment forth in a scalp harvest like blackrich oil,
straight to the supermarket gas station; God is oil and
water in a blender and we are God, a hummingbird
—elongated bills and nectar cups that would cost you
four bucks more than freedom from the barkeep’s sad
side of a plankrotted bar, his face beaded with sweat
bulbs like the grassborne dew perforated through athletic
shoes I birthed with the grinding of my fingerprints in
Drummer Hodge precision and limit-sweet revision; I
knew those grass blades, convinced by wind like skins
on skins to arc its earthrooted spine in persuasion frothed
forth from third kinds of genitals and lyrics I wrote before
I climbed in your childhood treehouse and read your
scratched like hieroglyphs in liquid pasty pastoral paint on
the actually bone-white insides of your skull. It was all burning,
fire arrows into thatched targets; I watched inky words of
former selves dissipate into the air where only hummingbirds
might find them; I learned in between egg yolks and roots
of roadside oaks, roots of you, suckling forth your soilborne
stew—I learned how to light water on fire with an eyedropper
full of oil. We were better gods, incubating life in hot patches
of cold swimming pools, swelling up swimshorts with jets of
warm water and hot tubs and belly laughing, muscles contracting,
as the swelling of balloons like pockets emptied back into the
brick walls of the stuff of existence and my balloons popped and
soared again, but groundward this time. You are the freckles of
the universe, the neon stars on your treehouse ceiling and I was
purchased at Party City—an elastic contraption of rubbery complexion,
stuffed with the alchemy of helium, the chariot of Helios—soaring
starward, beyond time’s cellular membrane, beyond the invisible walls
in a video game, into the coding, into the code, into nothing but space and
tealeaf, hot-familiar foam.
When days of summer meant
sleeping under starlight beside
the giant oak in the field above
our house with a quick run
through goldenrod down the hill
to the backyard where he kept
the archery target and later
when he walked home
from his day at the office
we’d load up the .38, the .45
and bang off a few rounds
behind the house, cans placed
on a small wooden balustrade
in the field beyond the archery
target. I learned how to shoot,
how to break down the weapon,
clean the parts, how to heat the lead,
pour it into the mould to create bullets,
cool the lead then crimp the wadcutters
into casings already primed. It seemed
easy to me, unsure of why we needed
all those cartridges, but he always
had a smile when I was done. Later
on a windy day in July, it was arrows
not bullets in the backyard. I pulled
the string taut and let fly unaware
he was up ahead in the tall grass.
The steel-tipped arrow flew easily
into the soft part of his left thigh.
I never used that bow again
or the pistols and on my 12th birthday
I walked into his gunroom, handed
him my twelve gauge. No smile.
I looked at a dead man tonight.
He was wearing a red and white flowered
Hawaiian shirt, his hands crossed, his face,
well, his face
looked like he was sleeping, serenely sleeping. I didn’t
want to speak too loudly for fear
of waking him.
The room was filled with blue—
firefighters, state troopers, retired and active,
in full dress blues.
Except for a few, who also wore
Hawaiian shirts, and at the door
a basket filled with colorful leis
for us, the folks gathered
of the blue world, gathered
to say a final good-bye. In my case,
a different path. When I reached my friend,
his wife, she said my name
so softly, I knew I’d become a respite
in this brotherhood game.
I held her close and then we spoke
briefly of tomorrow, the funeral and all that held.
I asked of the chickens. Would she keep the chickens?
She smiled and seemed to settle, “You bring
the cartons, I’ll bring the eggs.”
Kristine Ong Muslim
The Cold Room
Only cold storage can rein in the wild things
straining inside your ribcage, inside your belly,
inside the small hollow of your cheekbones.
When your room becomes warm enough,
they will pour out of your mouth. They will smell
of bile, will reek of the years spent in captivity
just to keep you looking like everyone else you know.
Runoffs from your last ice age, they thaw in the open air,
split along the spine, bilaterally symmetrical in all their
soft, vulnerable places, because they are alive, because they
are like you in many ways, because they, too, purport balance.
The war is over. The bombardiers have stowed away their wares, dropping pallets that smash the glass of your skylight. The citizens are all here. What’s left of them, anyway. Or what remains after everything that can be let go has been allowed to come out of the body’s exit wounds. To rebuild the colony, you tell them to leave behind what cannot be carried — the bright noise that can be mistaken for a song, the water drained from the pool, the cracked eggshells one wishes to hold once again the runny yolks, the translucent whites, the interrupted afterlives. You ask them where they hurt, and they say everywhere. You ask them if they still feel threatened but they are not sure how to answer that, so you ask them again the next day after the war is over and everything appears ordinary.
Only the sound
of my own voice
will make me older.
In airy silence,
I will achieve
Missing Each Other
Jerry slops around in sweatpants
and a tee. Jeff fishes in Wisconsin
by himself, a trip he makes
once a year despite mosquitoes.
Jerry uses their parting for movies.
He’s already watched
eight Barbara Stanwyck films,
topping them off with Double
Indemnity. Now it’s time for
The Kingfisher Illustrated
Horse & Pony Encyclopedia,
not that he likes horses much,
but any encyclopedia is a salmon
dahlia almost open when
you’re alone. He learns
how to soak a haynet, what exercises
to do in the saddle. He’s never
even been on a pony. When Jeff returns,
Jerry will explain the ways
of horses. Jeff will harrumph
that the fish weren’t biting,
a conversation speeding
in opposite directions,
canter and bait.