The Potomac - Poetry and Politics
July 2007 - THE POTOMAC

News And a Cigarette
   Suzanne Nielson

John Hoppenthaler Tommy’s Earthbound Son Gets to Jump Center on Senior Night Cheerleaders flaunting pleated skirts and the off key high school jazz band mistreating “Sweet Georgia Brown” are much more exciting than the game. I make for the lower parking lot, dark and slightly threatening near the drainage ditch, snaggle of ragged trees and undergrowth, but it’s very quiet, bright stars embedded in the nine o'clock sky. I think I’ll take a spin through my old stomping grounds, maybe click into an unencrypted wireless connection with my laptop. Don’t blame me if I Google a trendy poet’s web site, jealously admire the quality of her links. I’m missing, and Tommy’s certain to notice I’ve vanished. His boy is back on the bench. The home team’s dribbled onto the court; they’re taking out the ball. Second half already, and Tommy probably figured I’d hit the can. By now I’m sure he thinks my suspect heart’s petered out, I’ve keeled over face first into a urinal. But tonight the pouty cheerleaders stay beautiful and more than a short hair slutty. When custodians reveal enormous eight-foot dust mops, as Billy Banfield re-counts concessions stand money, I’ll be prying wishing stars free from their settings–MIA, AWOL, and Where the fuck?– navigating carefully vast nostalgic blocks of Milky Way. When I return, the half-full trophy case glitters the deserted lobby; shower heads still drip in the men’s locker room; nobody’s left sitting on the bench. With an Allen wrench, someone chocks the crash bars; metal doors click and lock. Have you ever been this alone in your Alma Mater, walking down the nearly familiar hallways in darkness? The feeble glow of an exit sign casts a blood-washed spotlight on buffed terrazzo. Have you ever acted out a death scene like mine, soliloquized maybe on this lonely stage? Have you ever babied and bankrolled a dramatic production clear through its standing room only, sold out forever, just one night run? Mary Tabakow Expat at the Equator A shadow at noon - that black dot about your feet - encircles your place at the belly button of the world, but it’s not what you’d wished for, cipher-self, a mere period to end an overreaching passage, you know, one full of lush adjectives before every blessed noun. No, you were dying to be there, in tropic whites, strike a certain pose for a crisp silhouette, true black, sharpened, as if cut anew in a blaze of unrelenting light. Only another country would do. Fat-fingered, trembling, you folded like bargain cottons into freshly lined luggage, creased a careful passport, deleted some of your best work for space. You felt, then, it was best not to think too much about it: night flights, warm water. You knew, back then, what you were out for. Charles Rammelkamp Carved Out of Airwaves “Only after you realize sex is essentially unremarkable can you come to terms with infidelity.” Marla’s a woman who goes for a shirt-sleeves-pushed-up-over-the-elbows look, at once casual but in control, long legs sheathed in nylon, lethal as stilettos. “Well, that’s one way of looking at it. But it seems we spend our whole lives trying to picture what other people look like without their clothing on.” Gregory, on the other hand, goes for that torn blue jeans, run-down sneakers look, the overgrown adolescent. Or at least this is how I imagine them, listening to a talkshow driving home from work. Their voices carve images out of air, solid as marble, smooth as burnished gold. “We really ought to revise the Ten Commandments, re-examine them, throw out the ones that are no longer relevant. Let’s not pretend things don’t change.” Her hand points to heaven, a single finger taking aim. She could be wearing wings. “What would you toss out? The taboos of our ancestors remain potent today,” Sententious as a politician, chest thrust out, Greg’s hands tug the lapels of his frockcoat. Charles Rammelkamp Denial By Any Other Name “I hope you weren’t offended or annoyed when I mentioned your mother's incontinence,” I apologized to my sister-in-law. “It just sort of slipped out.” Clela and I had never gotten along. I hoped I hadn’t sounded like I was making fun of her. Tacitly forgiving my indiscretion at the party, Heather denied she was offended or annoyed, only wanted to protect her mother’s privacy, though the way she avoided me the rest of the evening told me she was upset. That was when it struck me emotions don’t come with words, like crackers with brand names, medicines with labels. Paul Toth Notice of Notice Those car sale balloons were like hitchhikers with a criminal sway, begging to be noticed or not looked away from to the horizon, where drivers were going; it seemed only seeming, but I would remember, half thinking, half dreaming of those balloons, fighting, I swear, for my attention, and I know they strove, making the smallest spectacle, reflecting on me as I drove and thought of their owner, a paint-knuckled dealer with bucket-seat spine knotting the string, the colors ripe on the line for birthday parties or other occasions, but, high strung, they safely sailed, their cause to be found in the given slack, the salesman thinking, "Please," as he never had developed the knack for selling cars or shoes or stocks; he looked up and hoped again, which I saw ahead, though he was behind, he and the balloons, failing, floating, above the highway, in one mind. Andrew Demcak The Rabbit Catcher The spoon mouth alive with poppy oil. A constant sliding of flames, smoke blown like hair of the dead. How we perched up high on a tight wire. The syringe, its clear wall of intent, the dull plug of its tongue, and blood tearing blindly, unreeling to worship that little prick. Feel the thick glass handle hit the vein hollow like fortune, its deep vacancy, a rabbit warren. Joseph Reich Taking A Cat-Nap At The Methadone Clinic In New Bedford, Massachusetts i can hear the long lonesome call of the seagull, as it feels a lot like those lovely holy boxcar diners set back, dug deep into the weeds of jersey. they sit like jack-o-lanterns in the lobby, dazed and dreamy, some of them even precious and pretty, and can't help but to feel a certain amount of affinity of subtle magical mystery, like the ravishing girls from sicily when you wait at dawn at some wind-swept cafe for the ferry, reflective and redeemed, brain-dead and brooding; dead dogs passed out beneath the palm trees, sighing solemnly, and a sea sounding a little something like it seems, so it seems, so it seems, so it seems. Ian Haight Holon A bathroom cut in a hillside has the scent of the ‘50’s. Water smells float in the air from a metal pipe that goes up through the ceiling and down through the floor. How far this pipe runs-- memories of grade-school Exposed corner bathroom pipes, on-post rec-room toilets at a base in Korea, both built near the same time. How satisfying this pipe carrying what it should as it was made to, all the sludge and tissue-thin pulpish paper casually or thankfully discarded along with clean water that carries it. Somehow, through all this service, the pipe never fails-- never succumbs to rust. Gravity-fatigue imperceivably weighs the pipe down; a heavy earth odor rises from below the cobwebs inevitable behind rivet-secured wall clamps-- this bathroom pipe, not much by way of endurance but defined nonetheless by what it is. Kate Hall In the living room My hand blossoms behind your back as I kiss you We are watching “Inside Deep Throat” I think the man in the movie is waving at me My mother calls to remind me I am allergic to bees I think of her pressing down on her husband’s arm until a bruise forms there I wonder if we will be like that Once a woman said you were a man who could tame a hummingbird, that I should invite you into my mouth like a tooth. I want to move into your hips, to house myself in your left ear. I will lie there, a tick or a song, waiting for some sign the universe is sending you toward me like a star. movies and telephone calls “prostitutes are anything but easy” you said we watched “inside deep throat” you made sandwiches which we ate lying down when it was over, you asked me how far I could go it was our second date so I told you I felt uncomfortable we kissed for awhile and you went to the window “the star hangs in the sky like a tooth” you said I stood next to you for as long as I could you called an ex-girlfriend on the telephone when it was time to leave, you stood by the front door the inside of your mouth reminded me we all come from somewhere Events The night they find two women in a man’s trunk I watch “Inside Deep Throat” in my living room At work the next day, I practice relaxing the muscles at the back of my mouth My boss asks me if anything is wrong I picture what I look like in the mirror of the apartment where I have been giving happy endings massages My sister calls to say she found a lump in her right breast The man I am seeing sends me roses They are lined like legs with bruises My next customer pulls out a gun in the shape of a part of the female anatomy I imagine my sister’s husband going over her breasts at night, some song playing on the radio, the men I have loved gathered at the window like moths At work the next day, there are holes in the roses the size of small mouths Hank Kalet THE CRASH This feeling comes daily, the cleaver like a magnet to metal, cold like the gun she carried in the desert, the cleaver used to chop the meat, could maybe slice into her arm. She fights the urge, of course, makes the dinner, blanching peas, stirring sauce, pushes the images – people losing limbs, that kid’s eyes hot with fear like the air, cowering in the dark when she entered the burned-out building ahead of her platoon, the one from where they say the sniper shot – to the recesses of her mind, swallows pills, meditates, but still she finds herself heading south on Route 1 counting utility poles, wondering if she could shift the wheel, aim and drive it hard, car’s front end crumpling like her sanity with the impact.
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