Avatar Review

Brent A. Fisk

Book Sale in the Rain

Strange desire, to purchase snow-flaked ink,
the dead-hand scrawl of inscriptions bleeding out
in the downpour. To slip broken-spined
books beneath my flannel shirt and run
for cover. A woman hips one sale table
beneath the safety of an awning. The rain hisses
at villains on the street. The shop owner’s too late to change
what the weather has done to his books --
their leaves like the homely feathers of drenched birds.

At an outdoor table beneath a large umbrella,
a young woman sits across from me,
her blouse, opalescent and wet, shows the color of her bra.
On a power line two birds huddle
where yesterday a tangle of sneakers hung.

In the coffee shop window, our pale reflections
mingle as the glass vibrates with traffic noise,
the shoosh of water on the move. I daydream
of stars and dandelions gone shaggy. My head is cottoned
with slow thought, old towels that keep out the draft.
I am all yellow traffic light, sputtering candle,
wet wool, old dog that can’t lie down.
I would strike up a conversation,
but my tongue is a damp book of matches.
The young woman is beautiful.
The cold puts end stops on her flesh. A whole story,
periods the only punctuation, periods the only narrative.
The young woman is the word for gone,
a sentence fragment dashing between yellow taxis,
a gray newspaper above her head.
Lipstick on a napkin, coffee grounds in a white cup.
All the words I’ve ever known float by on scraps of paper,
dry cleaning receipts that contain love letters,
fortune cookie aphorisms with all my lucky numbers.
Somewhere her name is hidden in the neon of a sign,
a curled S of smoke slipping from beneath an umbrella.

Because in dreams

bad men always enter through doors,
I take a ball peen hammer to the knobs
damaging badly what will not break.

As for the keys, the small ones I’ve swallowed,
the large ones I've dropped through the cracks of the floor.
This is my disguise:  a look of disgust, a wig of cobwebs,
a dress of burning paper, on the arm of the couch I wait for another
of mother’s haggard beaus to enter bright-fisted and drunk,
hands balled and swinging like light bulbs loose on their cords.

I’d give them toasters in the bath tub if I could,
extension cords for this electric hate.
Come into the kitchen where knives and gas stoves wait.
I will look out from this nest, mouse-small, bare
toes bleeding in the broken glass,
another knock-down drag-out aftermath.

They do what they do while they are awake.
I take my cue from rats, nocturnal movement masked
by the wash of drunken snores. The ER is too good for you, you goof.
I’ll mail you off piece by bloody piece, send you to the dead
letter office, no return address. Touch my mother
in anger again. Sneer at me behind my tepid milk, go on believing
there are only calm fish swimming through my glass bowl thoughts.
I give this face to you so you will sleep.
From behind the clouds I rise, not like the milk-fed moon,
but like a burning sea. Mother with her temples wet,
the last and latest beast lies still, my father’s
hand-me-down nightshirt newly torn.
I cut paper dolls from the bed sheets,
become a bloody ghost.

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