BY BILL GLOSE
Take up a hobby they all suggest,
something to fill his mind, shift
its focus from never-ending wars
and all they’ve taken. Stamps, coins,
baseball cards—none do the trick.
All that gathering and preserving
in museums never open to visitors.
But out in the junkyard, amidst
pestering flies and pecking gulls,
he swims within that blessed swirl
of white noise, rooting mounds
and rescuing broken discards
that a bit of care might mend.
Each piece replanted on his lawn,
up to the boundary of his
frowning neighbor’s yard,
range of rising peaks
something a mountaineer
might gaze upon with lust.
Sell your junk they all implore,
but how to choose what has value,
what does not? Black pit
of that question yawns
with hunger so strong
it could devour the hand
that feeds it, swallowing
every little thing he thought
he could somehow save.
BY BRADLEY HARPER
Once upon a staff call dreary
While I pondered, weak and weary
Upon many issues rediscussed
Which had been resolved of yore
While I sat there, nearly napping
Suddenly there came some clapping
Like the sound of sea waves lapping
Or echo of the Ocean’s roar
“Tis the ending of this meeting,
That for which I’ve so longed for!”
But twas just the third of thirty briefers
Sitting down, and nothing more
Onward, ever on we labored
Like swimmers towards some distant shore
Every time we thought we’d progressed
The tide would take us out, once more
Like the Red Queen, ever sprinting,
No matter how quickly on we bore
At the end of all our struggle
No more finished, than before
Can this tedium be unending?
Must this time be such a bore?
Is my sentence so unbending,
That I am not allowed to snore?
Like the air to one a-drowning
When the end at last was sure
I grabbed my coat, and quickly gowning
Rushing headlong out the door
But my freedom so sweet tasting
Is but the fleeting joy Du Jour
For the bitter truth ‘oerhangs me
I’ll be back next week, for more
BY ALLAN COBERLY
What should I tell you about first? The worst things or the best things?
Maybe the worst thing about riding the bus is having to pass through the security checkpoints. They are just like what you see in the airport, only slightly smaller. You wouldn’t think that a metal detector and X-ray gate would fit into a bus, but they do. The bus itself is much larger on the inside than it is on the outside, which is a good thing because the streets here are narrow and the passengers here are not.
Really, the worst thing about the on-board security checkpoint is what happens when a busload of sweaty grown-ups take turns removing their shoes in an enclosed space. But you get used to that and it’s only for a couple months of the summer that it gets really bad. So that isn’t the worst thing about the bus.
You can go barefoot if you want to, but the last time I did, I stepped in gum. So consider yourself warned about going barefoot on the bus.
Most of the things about the bus aren’t the best things or the worst things. They are just bus things. Things like the grey plastic handles hanging from the long silver bars running the length of the bus. The handles are there for standing people to hold on to but I never use them.
If I have to stand on the bus, I pretend that I’m standing on a skateboard and keep my balance by shifting my weight slightly back and forth as the bus moves. Sometimes I will pretend like I am getting ready to fall but I never really fall. One time I ran into an old lady and she fell down but I didn’t. So when I say I never fell down on the bus I’m not being a liar.
Once when I was younger, I put the head of my favorite doll through the noose formed by one of those handles and let it dangle. I told my cousin that my doll had killed itself on account of how ugly my cousin was. I thought it was funny but I wound up riding a different bus for a couple of years after that and I didn’t think that that was funny at all because I really didn’t like the places where that bus went.
By the time I started riding this bus again I was too old to play with dolls.
Maybe the worst thing about the bus is the passengers. Well, not all of them, really. Just one in particular. I call him Pinky because he always wears a pink shirt and his fat face is always pink and plus I don’t know his real name. One time he asked me if I had a boyfriend and then he tried to tell me his name a bunch of times and now whenever he talks to me all I can hear is the sound of me screaming. Only I’m not really screaming out loud where other people can hear, I’m just screaming into my own ears. Like yelling in reverse.
I try not to talk to Pinky but sometimes when the bus is crowded I wind up sitting next to him and then sometimes he talks and I start having trouble hearing anything except the sound of my ears screaming. I bet I’d hate his voice if I could hear it, I bet he talks to me the same way he talks to pets and babies, all soft and stupid-like.
I know that I could get Pinky in trouble if I lied and told the driver that Pinky touched me, but that would mean getting back on the other bus, the one where an endless parade of grown-ups asks you to repeat the same horrible things over and over again and asks you if you are sure about what you just said until the only thing that you are really sure about is that you will say anything at all if it will get them to stop asking you if you are sure about what you are saying. I really don’t want to go back on that bus.
Really, if Pinky knew about the other bus he’d be afraid of me. He wouldn’t talk to me like he talks to pets and babies if he knew about the bus I used to ride. But I haven’t told him about it. Or anyone else.
There used to be an old lady passenger that I called the Book Lady because she always had a book with her. The Book Lady was nice to me and I liked her. She didn’t act surprised the way most grown-ups do when I told her how many books I’ve read and she didn’t keep asking me if I’m sure about it when I told her how old I was. I especially liked the Book Lady because she never made me repeat what I said the way a lot of other grown-ups did. The Book Lady is the best thing about riding the bus except for that she doesn’t ride it anymore so maybe she isn’t the best thing anymore. I miss her a lot.
Another best thing about the bus is the music. Sometimes when there aren’t many people on the bus, someone will be wearing headphones and I can hear the song they are listening to. If I try real hard I can even hear the words of the song and try to sing along inside my head where no one can hear. But when it is crowded and lots of people are wearing headphones, all of the different songs get all mixed up with each other and with all of the other noises going in and out of people’s heads until it all gets into a giant roar that is sort of like the screaming that Pinky gives me, but not as bad somehow.
My cousin thinks the worst thing about riding the bus are the bars on the outside of the windows. He says there’s no reason we need to be in a cage and that being in a cage is the worst thing that can happen to a free man. Whenever he says that, I remind him that he isn’t old enough to be a man and that we’d be free as soon as the bus arrives. Arrives where? he will ask. Whenever he asks me this, I tell him I don’t know. Because I don’t know.
That’s the worst thing about riding the bus.
I CUSSED OUT THE ANGEL THEY SENT ME AND BEGGED A HOLLYWOOD CEMETERY GHOST TO BE MY GUARDIAN, TO WHICH SHE REPLIED
BY H. SAMUEL MOYLER
I’d be but a pale imitation
of those seraphs on high
with the wings in their backs
and the fruits in their eyes.
And I couldn’t lamp your path
in the valley of death
or save your soul from Sheol
when you’ve heaved your last breath—”
I cut her off there.
enough of that.
bozhe moi. keep up the meter rhyme
and they’ll sign you as a contributor
to the next edition of Cherub’s First Hymnal.
not the sort of thing I’m seeking
in a spiritual vanguard, dig?
but hers was a valid question,
one I felt the urge to answer
holistically. so I drove her to church
in my cherry hyundai, me almost
remembering to remind her
to buckle her seatbelt. and we
haunted the pews
until we found a good seat, where I
could rather comfortably
put up my feet and spin
my yarn about why I
told Gabriel’s little
goon to buzz off. well,
that’s not really what
I said. but antebellum women
aren’t remembered well
for their toleration of slurs. or much else.
still I told her of the heresies,
drenched in dread, that inched
through the (y)ears
as though tentative tendrils
into my head, and coiled
here, knowledge of good and evil.
and I said I couldn’t abide by
deities who allow
the dropping of bombs on gilead
and let us split adams open for
far more bellicose reasons
And I told her of all the perks
that there’d be, were my
soul entrusted to an ex-
person, who like me,
had fallen from heaven.
backslidden. And she
slapped me in the face.
stung like that itch you get
when your foot’s asleep,
which my left one was.
consequently. she began to float
away. “You’re but a fool and a braggart
if you expect me to be
an accomplice to your spiritual
and she left me there, boundless.
and not for the last time in
church, I was lost and found
myself in song again:
“This doubt is gonna be
the death of me.
Doubt is gonna be the death of me.”
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PREVIOUS: MAY, 2019