Poetry

The Five-Second Delay

Today life is live

With a five-

second delay.

Second delay

of the day:

The coffee pot beeped at me and I just

Stared back at it

As though I expected it to say

more.

More

of a sludge than a haze,

though there have been days

when a cloud seems to

surround sound.

Surround sound,

vibrations from every direction.

But today sound takes time to arise from noise

And more time still to become words.

For words to gain meaning, more

time still.

Time still,

world keeps spinning, says report just published

today.

Today

life is live with a five-second delay.

When that happens in broadcasts,

it’s so editors can censor nipple slips or

profanity with pixels or a

Beep

Beep

at me again, coffee pot.

It will take me longer today

But beep!

Beep for your servant is listening!

Beep!

Beep you piece of

Beep!

 

 

 

Prose Fiction

A Refined Palette

X: I’m pretty positive I downloaded a virus.

Y: You downloaded a virus?

X: I mean, yeah, not on download-a-virus.com or anything. I don’t go looking for these things.

Y: What were you looking for?

X: The old version of MS Paint.

Y: Why?

X: The new version’s too flashy.

Y: MS Paint? Flashy?

X: I liked the garishness of the old Paint, the kind on Windows XP. The brush strokes didn’t fade or blend.

Y: Um…

X: So you could just make these bold, solid, ugly lines. And as long as you closed your loops correctly, you could fill your wild shapes completely with any color you wanted.

Y: I’m not sure I…

X: If you wanted more nuance, you could always zoom in and edit the shapes with more detail. I used to make crude Paint edits of my friends’ photos for fun. They always looked cartoony, but I enjoyed using the eyedropper and pencil to blend in smaller patches of colors, pixel by pixel sometimes. The clicking got really tedious, but I found myself attracted to it, this idea that, with enough patience, I could theoretically construct the Mona Lisa. It felt like I was interacting with the smallest possible unit of art.

Y: Why were you on Paint so much?

X: I had a computer in middle school, but no internet.

Y: So you spent all your time on Paint?

X: Yeah. I learned all the tricks. See?

Y: Wait, you’re on it right now?!

X: Don’t you like it?

Y: Huh. It’s actually pretty good. But don’t you have a paper to finish tonight?

X: I’m doing research in another window. Waiting for the page to load.

Y: Dang, that’s some slow internet.

X: I think it’s from the virus.

Y: You downloaded a virus?

X: Yeah.

Poetry

Suspended

He slips his long arms into the black sleeves

of his machine-washed, machine-washable

Nike jacket.

 

Alerts household members of his immediate leave,

Keeping eyes down and out,

out and away.

 

A windbreaker…it’s windy, after all.

Turns the knob so the door shuts fully.

 

Once outside,

Walks in strides.

A cadence.

Long legs minimally exposed in the

Rhythmic twin gaps between his jeans

and ankle socks.

Earlier today he heard a song.

 

He looks at the moon,

Near-full.

It’s autumn.

 

The song.

Something pop, he remembers.

 

(“But what does “Panic! At the Disco” even mean?”)

He wonders.

(“Is it a warning

of some ongoing disco panic?

Or a command…

To conserve my panic

for an upcoming disco?

So that above the loud noise,

music and clamor,

And behind the bright lights

overhead and swinging, surrounding,

You can’t see or hear me.

Even, even though you’re near me

As I interlock my fingers up and around my neck

And slowly crouch down in the crowd,

My head tilted toward your leg

Chest heaving, dry eyes weeping,

With all the pain of waking life,

The still of fitful sleeping…”).

 

He stops at the overlook…

Looks over.

 

Coming down the tracks, a locomotive,

Its engine a clamorous roar.

 

It whistles, letting off its steam.

He breathes in.

He prepares to scream.

Poetry

Mingled Down

My grandfather (a forester)

Once bet my grandma (a birdwatcher)

That “mourning dove” wasn’t spelled MORNING like dawn,

But MOURNING like someone had died.

She ended up owing him a workday in the woods.

But when these two lovers gamble,

The house rarely collects.

 

This story makes me smile,

Every time I hear a dove moan.

 

And there is a comfort in it:

That I’m not the first to sunrise or to grief.

They are, as most things, older than myself.

 

So when death’s scent

Wafts up musty from youth’s fabric,

–and I’m wearing

a dead friend’s dead friend’s

coat

to the school dance–

I will hum the dove’s song,

Make it my own as I sway.

As grass bows to the wind,

I will submit to grief only to rise again.

 

The sun will warm me,

as sorrow and love

flow mingled down.

Poetry

To Langston

To Langston:

 

I have darker brothers.

 

They eat in the kitchen,

But only because it’s also the dining room.

 

I eat there too,

White mom,

White dad,

Two white sisters,

And two beautiful black brothers.

 

If you were in our kitchen,

Langston,

You might passively peek

Out the window,

Past the birdfeeder,

And catch the edges of a Confederate flag

Hanging over the neighbor’s’ porch.

 

Flapping proud.

 

Recently we had to talk with my brothers

About how no one,

No one,

Is allowed to call them the

three-words-that-mean-one-word

 

THE-N-WORD

(not “neighbor”)

 

Langston,

I’ve written you to strike a deal:

 

If I take a class on your poetry,

If I learn all I can

And cram for this test called “diversity” that I thought I could

Pass without trouble but actually contains a lot of surprise sections

And an essay on the back….

 

Will you teach my brothers how to be black men?

 

I tell them they’re beautiful,

Langston,

But it’s easy for me to say,

So it’s hard for them to hear.

 

My words may warm them,

But they will not save them.

Replace blankets, maybe,

But not stop bullets.

 

Please speak to them.

For I would pale to Hughes.