I am as unmated as a stray, liberated by flight and put to bad use—floating beyond the back of beyond. This is not unlike the outer space that follows good breathing. It has been a year without a recognizable kitchen, without the gurgle of the cat fountain, without the wet sound of the radiator interrupting all good sleep, without the steep drop from the bedroom window, without crosstalk in bed. Unmoored, I am trapped without your night voice. The half kitchen with electric griddle is no travesty, but it reinforces bad habits: hardly standing, drinking too much, eating from the cold cases at the liquor store. Against all good advice I take to the streets for air. I go to buy cigarettes. Flags pop in the wind. I sit against a chair fastened with a bicycle lock to a parking meter. She tells me I am saying Angela Merkel’s name wrong. She is laughing. She does not want to talk about politics. The look is one of remorse. We are silent before the sound of a fistfight moves like a storm across the asphalt. We are in its path.
Bryan Price’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Manhattanville Review, Menacing Hedge, Portland Review (online), and Posit. He lives and teaches in the suburbs of southern California where he writes about time, memory, utopia, and its opposite.Continue reading →
For a week I sit by your bedside
while nurses come and go, medicine
to clear the alcohol from your blood,
your bones, rising and falling,
your thin finger, now bony, sheathed
at the tip in a steady red beat
to monitor how well you breathe during sleep.
Mostly, you sleep. Hardly touch
any food I try bringing while your wife,
moved south with all of your things,
feigns concern on the phone, while women
you dated, sexted, who knows what
after she left, text you as I hold your hand
until I block them all for my peace,
my family thinking I am such a good friend
to never leave your side while we fight
on and off about your indiscretions
but never about your drinking.
As you sleep your way to sobriety
I cry into tuna salad in the cafeteria downstairs,
a larger scoop given to me each day
by the man behind the counter who wants to know
if I need a punch card, I’ve been there so long.
I try to pray my Catholic prayers into
your Buddhist heart—
we both carry around a lot of beads—
but the hospital chapel sits closed for repairs,
a leaking roof, the worst storm in years
I drive day and night and day through
just to watch you sleep.
Suzanne Burns writes both poetry and prose. This poem is in her full-length collection, Look At All the Colors Hidden Here.
You sit cross-legged on your bed
like nothing ever happened the day
Your roommate, back in town,
hands me money to buy beer at the store
when he hears I am going shopping.
I buy blueberries you will never eat,
salmon you will place in your freezer and forget,
organic peanut butter, a bag of Mandarin oranges.
Mandarin oranges, we both know, will not cure you,
the nurses and doctors letting you go
once the alcohol is gone, knowing
it will find its way back to you in a month or two
of being left alone while I go back
to my husband and watch him drink,
the pendulum I will swing on for months
before leaving, many fights, many drinks,
guilt, bargaining, apologies,
but this afternoon we pretend
you are healed and everything
will be like it is in an Afterschool Special
we both grew up watching,
the handsome, troubled boy
sitting on the edge of the bed peeling
an orange the neighbor girl brought him.
Look, they marvel, it is so juicy.
Look, they exclaim, like it’s the single most important revelation,
there aren’t even any seeds.
Suzanne Burns writes both poetry and prose. This poem is from her full-length collection, Look At All the Colors Hidden Here.Continue reading →
You’re dead today I learned before the meeting at noon
where I watched a white spider travel from the room to the hall
spitting and stringing a new home the janitor
will tear down when he returns from lunch
for it’s a clean church that does much good
and will always slaughter the spiders and they will still come.
My seat—it was a pew—was soft and provided
me a place to watch the spider work away.
I swear he never stopped to take a sip
from the shiny, clean fountain waiting below,
was never tempted to turn from learning to sew
and try to escape a relentless, soundless fear.
His head will never be seized by the despair
that could make a slight girl fall into my old arms
as we stood in the middle of a similar big room.
I had learned not long before that day
there was no talking any of us from wanting to dive
off the highest point, much higher than the spider worked,
and you slowly stopped crying and thanked me, smiling nervously.
Over the few months left you would poke my ample belly
and tell me I should lose that gut
because you wanted me to stick around
for the next time you needed an old guy to hold you up.
I’d like you to know I stayed, gone child, though some days
I too want to turn and walk into the dark
toward that tower but I know it’s an illusion,
there is no point so high we forget we are alive.
John Riley has published poetry in Mojave River Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Connotation Press, Dead Mule, Better Than Starbucks and many other journals and anthologies. He works in educational publishing part-time and is a full-time nanny to his beautiful granddaughter Byl. Continue reading →