Back to Issue Nineteen.

maps with scribbled lines (III)



In trance, my tongue wraps around

you in ways I’m not allowed

to. I let you forget about the river

and the wetlands and our waiting fire.

There’s a boy

crouched beneath the kitchen

counter, monks dousing themselves

in gasoline to burn for peace. Bleach

scours the sink on principle.

This all happens

at the same time we aren’t at war,

we evaporate

into a choir of stars, their noisy light.






Dad was standing by the shaking. I opened
my eyes, but he shook like a fence post
and he was testing it in the ground. All my life
that’s the way he’d offer to set a glass
of water by the mornings and wake me up.
I shook my foot too. Sometimes,
if he was thirsty, he’d drink the water.
“You’re big enough to sleep past daylight,”
he said. Down in the pasture, one
of the scrawny heifers might have calved,
so off he went, as usual. Dad was the only
reason I’d let the ax slip and cut my foot
nearly off. Every morning, by the time
I could get the horses and milking done,
he’d be back without so much as a memory.
Dad and my sly friend Johnny worked
on government time. That’s how the subsides
went to purpose. The truck rusted in the drive
gathering noise. There was the sun to account
for, and only sometimes the rain. Johnny
handled the tools. He called himself
the Great User. But that’s not the only thing.
Johnny took me behind the toolshed and told
me my pants were to account for giving me
the sweats. Johnny could always touch
the shaking in that just-right way that nobody
else could. That’s why we let him. One night,
sneaking through the barn where he slept,
I heard him sobbing nearly everything,
his nowhere home, that everyone he charmed
loved him without inquiry, all that he’d already
unforgotten. Johnny had joined us during
one hailstorm or another. Dad took a shine
to him book-in-pages. That’s how they got
to be their kind of glue. After the night comes
the morning, and sure as water Johnny was up
and gone, a hungry note stuck to Dad’s door.
Dad held his arm to hard angles before breakfast
and said did I sneak a read and if I snuck a read
he’d shoot me, not that it’d matter, he said.
That’s how much he loved Johnny. Well,
I didn’t read it. I wasn’t the kind to hunt
down the hurt. That’s what Johnny said he liked
so much about me. And Mother, too.

Jesse Damiani is Series Editor for Best American Experimental Writing (Wesleyan University Press). He was the 2013-2014 Halls Emerging Artist Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and has received awards from the Academy of American Poets and the Fulbright Commission. Recent work has appeared in Barrow Street, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, North American Review, and Verse Daily. He lives in Los Angeles, where he works as an entertainment and motion picture copywriter, runs a film and television review series for The Huffington Post, and is a contributing writer for Indiewire.

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