BY MAX MCDONOUGH
Bright against the tiki bar’s dark wood, a tiny ocean sloshes inside. Technically a summation of all sounds perpetrated in the bar scrambles to a wash of echoes intimating waves—a wide lonely pressed to one’s ear, the finely furred tunnel twisting into the brain. Among the stuff the conch hears and, by hearing, erases: I bet you still on Mommy’s credit card, the man says to him. Sucklin’ them fat teats. Can’t even help yourself she taste so good... Compartments. Rooms inside rooms. Inside his chest thrums the dumbest song. The song is tequila. He was feeling on edge. He was drinking not at all because of what the man makes him remember— a basement bedroom. He is lying in bed. It’s dark except for the blacklight in which glows, tacked to the wall, a felt poster of a black panther, yellow eyes, open jaw. Bamboo beads for a door trickle like rain as they split. His mother, wasted, her nightgown halfway down her shoulders, her chest. Her nipple, the shape, the dim color in the doorway, the beads behind. She does not come closer. She says something he can’t decipher. He stares at the panther’s teeth. She speaks. The world gets trapped inside. In the bar, he smashes the conch across the man’s unbearable mouth.
Python with a Dog Inside It
BY MAX MCDONOUGH
Poor dog. Chained to the pine behind the camper RV where else could it go but in? White barb. Placental speckle unwriggling. & the elastic ligament that walks the skull, unhinged, over the dog’s tufty head, neck, torso, tail. There could be Heaven in there. Pleasure in adrenaline, pleasure in uncoiling the grip. Pulsed bristles, halogen leaking from the vacant bocce courts... But the chain yanks back—tangled around the dog already in the throat’s long slink. & because the dog, wet, fetal, slides head-first in, the python with no mechanism for revision is tethered to what it did, & to the pine whose fan of roots anchors it to ground, the dog to it. Everything wears its consequence, extending beyond itself the visible. This is what we see. Pattered mud. Metal bowl, tipped over. Film of water glinting white. Crisscrossing spike-like shadows darkening toward morning’s old man, the machete he’ll bring, not yet. All night— the other world chained to this world by its stuff: a dog, a chain, a pine, a python.