Four friends and co-workers, Jenny, Elissa, Mira, and Fran, are supposed to attend an important conference, which takes place in a town roughly a three-hour driving distance from where they live. To save on gas money, they naturally decide to ride together. The route they must take is made up primarily of one long stretch of highway. At 5:00 AM, they pile into an old, mustard-colored station wagon
Eddie sat down first. He had his legs straight out and his elbows down. He lowered the rest of his body and felt the moisture from the grass through the back of his shirt. A box of cigarettes was passed around. I didn’t take one. Voices approached and we couldn’t tell who it was until they reached the atmosphere of light our collected phone screens produced. We opened our circle for the newcomers
A young father returns from the yard. He has planted two new pepper bushes, to replace the ones wasted by floodwaters. His spade unearthed a bone, a dirty thing that resembled a knuckle. With his living bones, he handles the tiny exhumation, inspects it, wonders briefly about it, throws it in the trash. He muses, privately, about his own jawbone—where will it be after he can no longer say, this
I yearn for a scrap of good news
Like the city longs for tulips
To finally raise their magnificent faces to the sun,
Shining and twirling like beauty queens
With blinding, conceited smiles.
They know how much we need them.
They can see the detritus cluttering
Our city sidewalks and our lives.
They know March teases us
With its cruel, whipping winds
While we eagerly wait for tulips to bloom.
The Bastard and the Bishop
Most of the city is underground—that’s how cold it is here, great galleries, complex, reinforced earthen walls, apartments tiered four levels down, sometimes five—the underground river bisecting the city, lit blue or yellow or green to denote neighborhoods, help drunken passengers ferrying the river find their way home. The buildings that do rise from the surface
We shared DNA on a vegetable pork roll in the Metropolitan museum café. I washed it down with two Prelief. He inquired what was up with the pills. I didn’t bother to explain; he doesn’t have empathy for the sick. I’d seen a violet bump toe in a display case of mummies. It seemed odd and happenstance. I imagined fanciful stories—perhaps the curate had forgotten it in his rush. Perhaps he
Tired from shopping at the mall, my purse getting heavy, I took a rest on a new sofa near the up escalator. A woman engaged with her smartphone sat at the other end, speaking loud enough that I couldn’t ignore her side of the conversation. She and her husband had been taken to dinner by a man who’d spent the evening asking about them but saying little about himself. They had “an inkling”
His first Volkswagen was very beachy, its paint job faded blue almost to white, the interior stripped to bones. We had sex in the middle of the night in the fallow lot between ranch houses. I was always underneath on the weedy ground. I dated a physicist who smoked marijuana to trudge through weeks of programming about subatomic particles. There is no alternative medicine. There are only
So you ask, “How could anyone so drop-dead gorgeous be afraid of mirrors?”
I was like, I’m only seventeen and my face is a minefield of pimples (well, maybe only one big one) and my cheeks are this sucky red, almost like a rash. All I could think of was this girl named Rose, who all the boys called “Rosacea,” and who Alex Youngblood said had lip herpes from going down on guys.
I was telling
On the way home from the pharmacy, we drive through the shadow of the legendary college football stadium. Our son twists in his car seat for a better view of the massive bronze statues of players—glorious, muscular, helmetless young men, running or throwing. It’s just past five in the evening, late November, a few days after a big home loss, another season’s championship hopes dashed.
after Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Conjurer”
Useless glasses perched on his nose,
The thief gazes skyward in false supplication
As he grabs the dangling purse.
The globe window above
His head seems to tilt in a seasonal nod
To what’s at stake in this entertaining scene,
Which is a window into being.
Distracted by the trick,
By the magician’s sleight of hand and all trinkets
Of this magic
She watches him remove her clothes from hooks, fold them into a suitcase. The tapioca he brought from the galley, same beige as the plastic bowl, same as the paint on the dorm walls, still untouched on the sill of the window she now looks out. Below, powdery snow sweeps over volcanic grit, over tri-wall bins full of food waste, aluminum cans, glass, things brought then removed from this continent.
The flies have invaded our country. They move, through the sky, as a mob, bunched together like plump dark grapes, black buzzing clouds so large they block the sun. Some masses are balloon size, but more often larger, the size of buildings. They gather on windows, obscuring the daylight, the outside. Their buzzing’s so loud, prolonged exposure provokes headaches and, for the unfortunate ones,
GREATNESS AT TWO IN THE MORNING
Writing a poem in the bathroom
of an exceptionally small Paris apartment,
so as not to wake my wife who’s sleeping
well enough for us both.
A poem of no general or particular
significance—which means it has a great chance
of being a poem of general and particular significance.
About a man who’s looking for his pants
and a woman dressed as a clown fainting