After Tammy Faye Bakker's Last Television
across America dreamed of wingless Tinkerbells illumed by the lustrous sheen of fervent
prayers. They dreamed of ancient cats
swaying in the warmth of heater vents and Michelangelo painting his fallen face
into the grip of Saint Bartholomew's hand.
They dreamed until at last through the open square of their dreaming, a
green lawn dotted with grey stones appeared, and on the crest of a distant hill
a backhoe sputtered to life.
dictation one dead cell at a time
fuzzy flats of ceiling fans
snowy crests of shelved books.
fiber, spore—these are what dust records,
if I leave open a window or door,
from pines, African sands.
sea bean in the bathroom has a stubbly beard.
its brown belly with the edge of my thumb.
A cat, a
child, a former self. Animate to
after-matter. Even a bean can tell you
a granite countertop,
petrified to the hardness of rock.
On Learning of the Death of a Former Student
remembered the space where he sat but not him.
a desk with a beauty who did not know
beautiful. In front of him was the
nystagmus. Then the guitar-playing
blond whose world was wound with worry.
heard the news I went back to my grade book
his name: C plus, B minus, D, zero.
failed. No face. No image.
beneath my desk, in a stack of old essays, I found his.
Something Important. His was a fishing story.
the lagoon, the sky spreading pink and orange
shrimp-stained hands rank with praise.
learned from his grandfather how high pressure systems
catch, how the sky bears down against the water,
smooths it, smothers it, until every finny creature
scrambling to the bottom of the world.
It came to
me then, the conversation we'd had
lagoon when dawn is on the water
realize the hiss you hear isn't jacks
bait fish or rain or wind, but simply the sound
ocean breaking through the trees.
remembered him then: a stocky kid, timid smile,
gaze. And I remembered what I told him.
"That's it!" I said. "That's important. Write about that."
Mule Skinner's Blues
both drunk, thigh to thigh.
to 4/4 time, my fingers planted
signals an explosion of sound so loud
bugs outside go silent.
calls it almost dead cats.
drunk, she calls him
a half man. The arm, gone
Fallujah, makes him, to my eyes,
of that matters now.
Now we are
both full bodied and limitless.
he sings, and no one
fault him for the beat of his strum.
Mark McBride's work appears in The Southeast Review (winner, World's Best Short Short Story Contest), Subtropics, The Yale Review, and other journals.