Monday May 27

SCOTT BUGHER Author J. Scott Bugher is a writer and session musician living in Indianapolis, IN. His poetry and memoir can be found in Atticus Review, Literary Orphans, Embodied Effigies and elsewhere. He is the founder of Split Lip Magazine and his professional world is summed up here.

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.