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Volume 13, Issue 3
Fall 2010 - Part 2
Seth Brady Tucker
FALLING IN LOVE DURING WARTIME
I am missing eleven months, nine days, and give or take, fourteen minutes from my life.
A good portion of 1990 is lost, and a large piece of 1991 has disappeared. People talk
to me about Brokaw's War Time America as if I were there, as if these pieces of someone
else’s life could exist. I missed the yellow-ribbon orgy, the flags flying for “the boys
over there,” the night when everyone closed together around their radios and televisions
ready to mourn the fallen, or exult for their heroes. The robbery was complete, crimson,
it was ancient, it was cleansing, it was forever. I’m sure that the beaches in North Carolina
were quiet that year; the water was warm, the sand on the beach yielding, and the girls too—
worried for strangers like only beautiful, uninvolved people can be. Here is what I want:
I want that night, that night when I am twenty-one, when I can buy a bottle of wine legally,
when I can sit in the dark night of the park with the girl I am in love with. I know her well
because she lived with me in the desert, at night rising with the cold roasted moon. She
is fair skinned, almost olive, her hair a light brown, and she is thin and muscular as a fawn.
Oddly, her face is much like the woman from my only pornography in the gulf: the Victoria’s
Secret Fall 1990 issue, which I still own. And she understands me like only I understand
me, and we are leaving the party on campus, we are holding hands like people hold hands
when holding hands is new to them--anxiously, moistly, tightly. We are leaving the party
because we cannot bear to watch this war that is on television. Maybe we are too sensitive
to violence, or maybe we just don’t want to be reminded that there are people just like us
in a desert that has turned cold and hungry and loose, like it is trying to swallow up
everything above it, and we don’t want that on our conscience, we don’t want to think
of men walking into white flashes of light, into red tracer rounds, into the blackest
fortress of sound imaginable, into faces streaked with tears, into faces streaked with blood
and tears, into faces streaking in front of their vision, their fingers tightening around triggers
uncertainly even though those fingers, those hands, have been trained to obey, and these
boys, who are as handsome as they will ever be, wonder if the bullets hitting their chests
will feel like paper cuts or like explosions, if it will be clean or if it will be messy. We
walk out of that party, in love, our eyes linking like bodies copulating, and the bottle
of wine is in my hand. We are both feeling high—we are six beers and a half bottle
of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill into it, drinking while we watch faceless soldiers
push up on an invisible border that was already in flames above the skyline. We had
to leave, our feelings for those soldiers impelling us to rise and escape with our wondrous
love intact. We walk to the park. It is cool out, the grass is cold where the dew
has touched, but the earth still harbors the heat of the day underneath. We are barefoot
and the streets are empty. The static sound of gunfire is far off, pouring from the blue
flickering lights of the houses, and we are walking away, letting the sound fade
until only her breath can be heard, and mine as well, swallowed up in the sound
of our sweet and innocent blood moving through muscle and bone. We sit on a park
bench, I wipe the wet night off before she sits, and we move close—the heat of our bodies
swirls with the cool night as we move, and we drink wine from the bottle and she has
a glistening shade of pink wine above her lip for a split second before she licks it off.
And the look in her eyes right then—like there is a metaphor for that. The darkness
is swallowing us, it is closing around us, pulling the light from the stars away, and the moon,
and there is only reflected light to see by, and her face is pale and sharp, as if the dark
has outlined her face in pastels, and all I can think about is how lucky I am to be this guy,
here with her, and the night agrees; the night takes us and lets the alcohol do its work.
We embrace, and I can feel the soft ripple of her ribcage against mine, and I can feel
the side of her breast with my arm, and her breath is moist against my ear as she whispers
things about love past our hair, which is entwined like the dark grass of the park.
She tells me she will never leave me alone, that we will be together forever,
and I know she is lying, but it feels so good to hear it that I will believe it forever.
Tomorrow will be the same. We will come to this park again. I will feel like the world
is collapsing into itself, that I could reach out through my bedroom walls and touch
Mr. Earnest next door, that I am a part of it all, and I will feel how it feels to be a part
of Blitzer's America At War from the outside, I will wake up with the dreams
of a civilian, I will hold a candle out on an all-night vigil, I will stand in protest
I will hang ribbons I will support our boys over there I will pray even though
there is no god I will remember things that never happened I will fill the space
between the boy on the bench and the boy in the desert and I will always, always
make sure he is with someone, I will maintain that the desert is a fiction, a fiction
of lights and noise, and I will assert to the boy on the park bench that he will
never get to feel like he was a part of something missing, that the years would
be kind, that his sleep would wind like silk, and unlike the boy in the desert,
when he looks up, the white sun will shine upon his face without passing through.
FALLING IN LOVE DURING WARTIME appeared in The North American Review and The God Particle
She lived here 42 years.
Died on beige shag.
Hasn’t been ripped up.
I bought her house a year ago.
A light burns out.
I laugh, swallow, whisper her name.
I forget to water her tulips,
let garden mint grow wild,
pull crab grass,
hope the holes aerate the lawn,
follow runners to the edge of cement,
where mold grows on shelter doors.
She was a large woman
her catalogs tell me,
and she had names for her rooms,
knew what color to paint them,
didn’t stand for cat pee,
or malingering on sunny afternoons.
That was before the aphasia,
the outbursts, the neighbors’ pity,
before the doors were
locked from inside.
At times, I’m told, she wandered
into the humid Oklahoma night,
wind picking up her gown.
Bare feet on concrete,
she shuffled past
the stop sign
while her porch light
swayed in the dark
pregnant with hope.
suspended on the clarity of noon
fixed on its needs — circling the river a raptor
cast two shadows — one under it and the sun
the second off the coherent moving surface
reflecting back to it — shadowing the reflection
of its wings and belly reflected on the fierce
weightlessness of its isolation — a unity of shadows
shadowing — over and over again — over and over
not gaining in the infinity or losing
meeting at every point on the path of air
in their unseen exchange crossing and passing
through themselves — until a thermal thinned and sagged
and the bird — distracted by the seizing
of its concentration — swept out into the glare
previously appeared in Edgz, #15, 2008)
WATCHED BY THE SILVER EYE OF THE MOON
I never knew
the cold rasp of the river heavy with snow
as it rushes down the mountains
and between the trees
What if the naked forest
never watched me sink
beneath ice water churning white
and my feet never knew
the smooth surface of pebbles
shaped by the axe gray river
the rattle of my teeth
the ears of the owl
as its yellow eyes reflected
then shut out the sun
and what if my skin
never knew the mournful gaze
of the forest night
or the texture of brittle branches
and dirt like old velvet
What if I never knew
THE MAN WHO LIVES IN THE GYM
St. Procopius College
after World War II
The man who lives in the gym
sleeps in a nook up the stairs
to the rear. Since Poland
he's slept there, his tools
bright in a box locked
under his bed. At noon bells
call him down to the stones
that weave under oaks to the abbey
where he at long table takes
meals with the others
the monks have let in
for a week, or a month, or a year
or forever, whatever
the need. The others all know
that in Poland his wife
had been skewered, his children
partitioned, that he had escaped
in a freight car of hams.
So when Brother brings in, on a gun
metal tray, orange sherbet for all
in little green dishes,
they blink at his smile,
they join in his laughter.
first published in print in The Davidson Miscellany
Allen M. Weber
(In memory of James Vincent Weber)
Guitar picks (the amber mediums he preferred)
discovered while vacuuming under hook-rugs
and between floral couch cushions,
are considered assurance, tokens
to the faithful for whom he once played.
But I am not known for such
careful cleaning; he visits instead
my sleep. From behind its grief-
tinted windows, he offers flight
in his ’39 Ford
to where the original car still rusts
in higher grass and shatters
of snow. There, aware that I can’t
bleed or suffer the cold, he leads
through snarls of feral blackberries—
risen from the ashes of his childhood home—
to uncover the ring that fell from his hand
the summer before I was born.
Previously published in the Hanging Moss Journal and in the anthology Skipping Stones, 2009
HOW OUR LOVE WILL BE
I'm seldom sure just where you are in this settling house—too big now,
too hollow for two. We share less often our destinations; our wants
direct us to different rooms; and once there we’ll imagine no need
to renew our vows. You’ll think of me as you rearrange your signature
bouquet—rosemary and zinnias; I’ll fall into your nana's chair and
open a book of your poems—fanning its pages, stopping for dog-ears.
As August rain thrums our windows, we’ll meet up in the mud room,
tryst in the tick-tink rhythm of laundered buttons and snaps—always,
there are things to dry and put away—while someone on the radio sings:
This is how our love will be.
THE LINGERING SOUNDS OF SKIPPING STONES
As he sits on the hood of his rented car,
the breezes come remembered, redolent
with tanning lotions and alewife.
Boats retire from the freshwater horizon—
sway, marina bound, down Black River.
His mind follows, past the dancing
sedge and orange silhouettes—legs
scissor, emerge free of a slip-less dress.
As her toes throw the cooling sand—
the sun loses interest in another day;
in descent, its arc briefly flames
the side-armed stone. Flat and tumbled
smooth, it breaks the tension of the surface
again and again and again; winking,
concentric eyes fade into the swells.
As they always have, some lovers weave
between the last fishermen on the pier
while others wade ankle deep.
A younger man holds her shadow
upon his shoulders. The joy of living:
their laughter echoes like bells.
And as they always have, the gulls
mock cries of mirth or sadness
while they navigate the fading heat.
Previously published as the frontispiece for the anthology Skipping Stones, 2007
WE SAW THEM AT THE SAME TIME
red Dorothy shoes
holding my hand
you were awestruck
at the department store
one pair left
never a doubt
you tried them on
short of money
I bought them anyway
whatever they cost
you wore them
PARTS OF DISEASE
I think about you invisible
until fingers pull up ribbon
trace embroidery around pockets, test the length of straps.
“Is this a hint?” Santas heave, torn in her lap.
For a moment pastures hold the weight of cattle
humidity settles around machinery
water takes fruit flies, softens shells.
Cottonwood seeds fly like plucked downy,
catch while measurement lines field rows, fills spoons,
enters steps sprawling from the back of her mind.
In a kitchen worn of acres
she lets music move her, unties her back
partners feet with absence.
It’s here, during the element of imagination your visibility attaches
spirals on a dry leaf and
helicopters into snow.
HART CRANE LIVED HERE
On some London street ,
outside the place
where Hart Crane once lived,
I rival the plaque above the door
for blank stare, chilled skin.
My hands dip deep into my pockets
as my knees knock time together
in the incessant drizzle.
All around are so many town-house fronts,
all once occupied, most more than once,
some by clerks, some by artists,
one or two by mistresses of politicians.
It’s a spurious claim to fame.
Some put up a sign,
cling to celebrity better than others.
I can feel the length and breadth of myself
despite the numbing cold.
The only lodger for all these years
in this flesh, these bones,
though many would dispute that.
As a teenager, I wore a t-shirt
with my name stenciled across the back.
Now, I hope my mouth, my eyes,
will be enough.
Hart Crane’s former dwelling
is no different from its neighbors.
No clue in window sash, cracked brick step,
that here was a poet.
I should remember that
next time the bank teller asks
to see my driver’s license,
or it’s five deep at the lunch-counter
and I’m muscled to the back.
They have no way of knowing
is my out.
It’s the price I pay for
continued residence in me.