Cold War Springtide
I spent another morning
tugging my beard, jerking my knee,
and standing by for Sarah
in a lobby full of criminal raccoons,
my green screen memory scrambling
ten thousand miles of snapshots,
my amphetamine heart giving
eyeteeth for coffee.
I had to tell her I could
no longer trust my compass,
that my Cold War springtide was still
on its knees beneath a school desk
somewhere in Chicago. I needed to ask her
why tornado drills went out of style after
children were given graffiti souvenirs.
Sarah opened the security door and
I followed to her office, where she offered
Valium tablets and a cup of coffee,
her way of keeping me quiet. She said
I'm going to be well again soon,
that I'll be wearing my best summer smile
once I carry through my pellet gun dress rehearsal.
Mom picked me up later, and we drove
to a flea market, where she browsed
the crafting tables after leaving me
at a Great War memorabilia booth.
I was kneeling, looking through
the display case at ration tickets
for antibiotics and ground coffee
when an old veteran asked,
Young man, how can I help you today?
Small Town Riot
On a dry summer evening I met a pharmacist
at the soccer grounds edged by a fence of Dogwood
trees with children settled on the high branches.
I found her mid-field, standing on a weathered deck
next to four empty gallows. A rope ladder collapsed
at its side and I took hold. With each upward step,
a child would strike a match and let it fall
from the trees. The field began to burn.
With a grip on my elbow, she led me through
a maze of baskets filled with severed hands.
The distinct scent of gasoline and dissection, a hot spell
ambience, cut through the air. I explained my need
for help as I unfolded a script for narcotics,
the drugs doctors have been feeding me
for years. She read the note and cried out:
Small Town Riot! Sheets of kindled matches dropped
from above. I heard quick footsteps barge
across the scraping deck. I looked over the brink
at the pharmacist tearing through the burning grass,
rope ladder limp and dragging to her aft.
The last match fell, and I sat remembering
the candy basket at the city drugstore,
how mom would give me a sucker if I stayed
quiet while we picked up her medicine.