Erin Jade Mullikin
Late at night when the world is a curled cochlea,
I reach back into my years, sift through old pockets.
Sitting in my grandmother’s polyester chair,
I find I can remember more years than I knew I had.
On the TV, JFK is waving to his country
in his last parade.
We all know how his story unfolds.
I leave the chair, cross the carpet to the TV
where I adjust aluminium foil antennae.
Static pushed through, then all is gone.
My years are like this:
a clear picture, then blaring static.
It’s numbing to recall
the dying of sound
as well as the sound of dying.
In the morning,
I find my crucifix is growing from the kitchen table.
Black crows have started to nest on the arms.
I’ve considered writing a song to the rhythm of striking matches,
but matches burn quickly, and my song would be far too fast.
So I fill the sink with cold water,
climb in wearing my mother’s wedding dress.
This time sleep will find me counting shivers.
Ross Hamilton Hill
The Eyeless Girls
The eyeless girls,
powdered with glow.
Black upon black,
flames into snow.
Pulse between seconds,
life flashes by.
Lapse into silence
after a sigh.
The canned laughter was well past its best-by date.
When I ripped off its harlequin lid, complete with silver tinkles,
it produced only a feeble giggle, more an aural smirk, apologetic,
than a side-bursting but low cholesterol screech
or an avuncular Pickwickian belly chuckleback.
(Chuckleback being a laugh thrown back into time,
a fat carp of humour, gaping mouth and heaving breath,
refracted from the crackling fire, the roasted chestnuts
and the sweet pink marshmallow gut of good cheer,
and bouncing into the present, as eager to be served
as a tennis ball, or an American at table, God bless them all.)
Disgusted, I threw the can away, dunked it, a real three pointer.
Now whimpering is leaking from the white bin named Recycle.
Sniffling at first, decorous, suffocated in paper, probably that puff
for pizza, topping the news of unheeded Heralds with broken horns.
But the lament is getting louder. Gusting grief is getting me down,
ill cyclonic wind following me round and round, a rotating world
of spinning sadness, keening, epicentred on the solemn silence
of the disappointed discarder of Liten-up Laff-a-Lot,
the growing depression of a blank sound-eye called Me.
Last Rites Of Brunch
Brunch was long since over, third and fourth cups had been drained. Our lively fellowship of french toast and cajun omelets, is now reduced to a gruel of generic drivel.
Every platter, fork and glass has made its’ clattering exit and now enjoy sudsy rebirth. One final fallen player remains. Wrapped within Goblin magic spells of invisibility which deceive all but me is the check. To my companions eyes it appears as road-kill squirrel. The unrecognizable front half is smeared in a ring of condensation that emulates spent body fluids. The nether end flutters like a tail, buffeted in the wake of passing waiters.
“And now we must reverently honor the dead!” I finally proclaim. And gently place the corpse in one hand and my Visa Card in the other. A poor cortege we three from, marching with sorrowful single step cadence to my quietly hummed requiem. Duties discharged at the register, I exit, as the busboy serves up a hearty “have a nice day!”, without so much as a crumb of sincerity.
The bastards are killing the two things
I love most in New York:
Shea Stadium and Coney Island .
So what if both are falling down wrecks
wrecking us in bad hearts and worse love?
They are alive
the concrete ashtray
and the splintered boardwalk.
They lived and now they die
like the great samurais
who wrote poems with their gut blood
in the middle of it
or the best death scene ever in the movies
Lizabeth Scott in the Bogart film
dying after shooting the tough guy
and wrecking the car
closing her eyes and dissolve
to a parachute opening
and the last word:
After The Storm
The new President steps up to the podium while cameras flash, recording the historic moment. When the clamour dies down he looks into the audience and begins his speech.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. Today we begin a new era, once of peace and goodwill. For this reason I am shutting down the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, effective immediately.”
A handful of reporters in the crowd shout approval, but most lean toward colleagues and whisper among themselves. With public pressure building, most saw this coming. But no one in the crowd, or the world for that matter, sensed what was coming next.
“So,” the President continues, “There remains the difficult task of temporarily housing the inmates until they can be properly repatriated. Given the dismal conditions these men have lived in, my administration is committed to providing the most spacious, comfortable environment possible.”
The President pauses to let the reporters finish scribbling. A moment later he looks into the crowd and says, “For this reason I have chosen to place the inmates at…” He breaks into a huge grin and says, “The Bush ranch in Crawford.”
* * * *
Bush knocks over his O’Douls reaching frantically for his cell. Phone in hand, he stabs the number 6 three times and jams the receiver against his ear, swearing into the mouthpiece.
Cheney answers the phone on the third ring and says “You’ve got dick.” He snickers and then says “Sorry junior, just a little post-presidency ribbing.”
Bush ignores the joke and drops into a tirade, drowning out the heavy breathing coming across the line.
“Can you believe this crap? Those guys’ll eat me alive. I need to saddle up and get the buckaroo out of dodge, pronto. Can I stay at your place for a while?”
“No can do,” Cheney replies, “Lynne’s trying to keep the friends she has left.”
Bush stares at the wall in disbelief. This isn’t the man he knows, his loyal dark shadow, but then again things have changed. He rubs his forehead and tries a new tack.
“Okay, fine, let’s go to Mexico for a while.”
Cheney looks around the room and realizes that he doesn’t have anything better to do. For two weeks now he’s been sitting on the couch, doing crosswords and fantasizing about torture. Maybe it’s time for some fun.
“Let’s do it.”
* * * *
The duo reclines beneath a tiki umbrella under a hot, equatorial sun. Sweating like a pig, Cheney dabs his forehead with a handkerchief while Bush reminisces about the good old days. A five piece mariachi band plays off to the side while two secret service agents in Tommy Bahama shorts and polo shirts stand guard at the next table over. They sit perfectly focused, surveying a raucous bachelor party through tinted blade shades. The party appears to be getting out of hand, with three drunken gringos in huge sombreros laughing wildly the groom. The agents bristle when the groom throws back a shot and misses his mouth, sending liquor flying.
Lost in thought, Bush ignores the tumult and chomps away on a nacho. Through a mouthful of food he says, “You know, maybe this is the spot for the Freedom Institute … sunny and calm, protesters fear the police…”
Cheney finishes adjusting his Speedo and says, “Can’t beat the tax advantages, that’s for sure.”
Bush is just breaking into a lament about Ted Stevens when the lead singer steps forward and golf-swings his guitar. An agent’s shades fly off his head as his body sails backwards over the top of the chair. The trumpet player spins his horn and launches it like a spear at the second agent. The mouthpiece crashes into his ear, driving the phone bud deep into his shaved skull. Two waiters drop their trays and clamp rags across Bush and Cheney’s faces. The two stare into each others eyes before dropping into a deep slumber.
The bachelor party doesn’t notice a thing.
* * * *
Cheney wakes up first, stirring to consciousness through a nauseating fog. He finds himself gazing into a wall of blue and sees his breath rising in the frigid air. His body is gyrating madly, shaking side to side and bouncing up and down. The speedo chafes with each jarring movement. Struggling to see his hands, he feels the straps, which cinch his arms to something warm and hairy. He rolls his head to the side, searching for clues. Two feet away a one-eyed man is whipping a pack horse with a stick. Each time a blow lands, the beast below Cheney lurches forward with an angry, wet snarl.
Cheney hears a voice to the right and looks over. Back-dropped by a range of treeless mountains, Bush is bouncing along atop a mangy, famished mule. He makes eye contact with Cheney and says, “Tell ya one thing Dicky-boy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Bush works up a weak grin and says, “I think this little Garden of Evil is actually Khyber Pass and these towel boys are…”
A hand appears from behind the mule and hovers over Bush’s head, clutching a dirty sock. The fabric plunges into Bush’s mouth, converting the conversation to a grunt.
The mule team shuffles into single find and wends its way across a narrow ledge with a precipitous drop-off. At the end of the ledge someone spews a line of gibberish and the pack team grinds to a halt. A grizzled man with a foot-long beard appears at Cheney’s side clutching a humongous sword. The man raises the sword over his head and wails through a mouth containing two rotten teeth. Cheney blinks his beady eyes, convinced the end is at hand, as the man swings the weapon down at him. The restraints snap away like broken bungee cords, sending Cheney to the ground with an ugly thud.
The captives are hustled up a narrow, rocky trail and shoved into a cave. Stumbling into the dank, dimly lit enclosure they see a thin man sitting cross-legged on the floor next to a small fire. The flames illuminate his grey-black hair, which is knotted into tight cornrows. His short beard has been wound into a set of strands that resemble a mini bead curtain. The bottom of the strands are smudged with soot and oil, creating the look of a Snoop Dogg impersonator with a comic, middle-eastern flair. The only other thing visible in the cave is a rusty IV stand with a tube running into the man’s armpit.
The sad eyes, seen around the world, reveal the host’s true identity. Bin Laden stops nibbling on a piece of reddish meat and reaches for a powdered wig. He dons the judicial garb and picks up a gavel fashioned from an animal bone. He taps the gavel on a flat rock, wordlessly calling the trial to order.
Bin Laden’s cracked lips are just starting to part when a fierce noise roars into the cave. A blast of hot air and dust extinguishes the fire, plunging the cave into darkness. The walls crack and rumble. In a split second the roof collapses. A moment later it’s silent.
The horse and mule alone survive the blast. Plodding through the rubble they start heading for lower ground. They’re weary of these people. They only want to graze in peace.