Thomas Patrick Levy Excerpt
from I Don’t Mind if You’re Feeling Alone
Have you lacked power?
When you were in the mall, I was drunk, looking for the toilet, photocopies following me everywhere. When you were brushing my teeth, I was in the Oldsmobile, the cold water flushed over my face like a flash of light in the woods.
I could see you there, watching me with your ugly lens, my body bent into the ice chest like a baseball bat. The baseball bat wrapped out of a tree into the angles of my body.
At 4 am we’re crossing the street as if it were a river. Your eyes watching me like the eyes of a water beetle. I turn around twice, tabs of mint against my cheek.
I tell you how precise I am. I touch the neck of the steering column. I laugh to myself, folded like a gerbil. I touch your thigh which trembles with your bones. I’m trying to sand this down, dropping each telescope into a glass, carrying a small bag between my fingertips.
Did you ever wonder if you were crazy?
I walked and walked to understand blood oranges and avocados. I walked until perhaps I thought to keep walking north until I became a mountain. And when I became a mountain you looked at me in the morning, I was obscured by clouds, but you saw me beautifully—my new hair style, a pair of pants, my tie perfectly knotted.
Did this seem normal?
Feels like a film. Mostly rock stars, stairs, boots, coats. Shadows covering the street. Cold like a walk-in. I am saving the milk, breaking a box apart. Smiling at you. A leather strap across your chest, a melon beneath your arm.
Have you experienced any cravings?
Once, I’m like a twenty-dollar bill. I can’t find you anywhere. I go around and around. At the store I see a girl with striped arms looking into the glass at a bottle of seltzer. I go back to your house and find her drinking alone. You’re there too, smoking, staring through a kind of enlightenment, looking like a peachy finger, brush strokes of smoke crushed against your forehead.
What is an allergy?
Or once, I am in your car driving through the woods, hot air kicking in at us through the windows, we have dust in our mouths, I cannot see but watch the ghosts jogging on the roadside.
Your lover turns to me, her hair like the discarded shell of snake skin, and she tells me that I am small, that I am inside her box.
I close my eyes and watch soccer players silhouetted against a wall. I feel like a rapist. Maybe my throat closes up and I can’t breathe, maybe my heart rate increases, maybe I see the morning in her chest, coming at me like headlights through the trees.
Are you convinced that your life can hardly be successful?
Please understand, I tried to find the perfect place to sit.
I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I sat on the floor, folded back the cover of a coloring book. Your tongue came later, after it was in Charlie’s mouth, after it licked the gummy insides of a shot glass.
I still worry about my breath.
I sat under the pool table, then on a rock in the yard. You might have found me like that, your hands running across my shoulders and down my thighs while I thought of my grandmother with her hands of crucifix wood.
Later, with the crucifix in my mind, I would remember that I was wearing fishnets and high heels, that you were moving not like a whore but like a drapery. I buried myself in you, a game of hide and seek.
I went upstairs to sit in the folding chair, tried the recliner, walked home, frustrated.
I furiously wiped the surfaces in our kitchen. You came home late and found me strangling around the apartment like a weed, a muted cooking show on the television.
Are you on your way?
It was late. You had spent all day like this. I cut a lemon, put it down the drain. I wanted to break you like an axle. I went outside, drove my fingers through the bark of a tree as if my eyes were made of trees.
I thought you only cry at night. I felt like breath, I took off my sunglasses. I thought you will never change and drove into the mountain hoping for a truck to come between us.
Do you understand that self-knowledge is insufficient?
I was worried I wouldn’t wake before the fish started swimming. We had been around your yard all night, started in the grass and went through the cellar door as we began to hear them waking.
One day, you said, the fungus just started going away at your brain, saw them coming up from the ground each week, watched the gardeners hack them down.
One day, with your eyes flushed like the burn of a cigarette, you said you woke and couldn’t get your feet down on the world.
They came down later and called us fucking freaks.
I was on the couch in a trench coat, my heavy boots dug into the cushions. I rocked back a little bit, thought about walking outside across the street, into the stream near the train tracks, into their pink sky.
A native of New Jersey, Thomas Patrick Levy now resides in Southern California. His work has appeared widely across the internet and in select print journals. For more information visit him at www.enumerations.org.
Joe Hall Poem
In the mother fucking sound and the mother fucking light, in
The iterations of thunder, the bass so high
It hurls you into the grass, all these bitches lying
On their beds, touching themselves, waiting for me
An algorithm of trees exploding in your face, shaved from soap
In a prison cell, in a pair of yellow finches
Alighting from the high power line, all these dudes
Lying on their beds, stroking their cocks, waiting for me
Leached from the circuits in a baroque array of evolving graphical
Representations of a black economy, a cancer, a subverting process, O Christ!
Only imminent, you cannot be found, waiting to subsume, fuck up
Them cities, bring murder into the bridal chamber
And armies copulating in the killing field mud
Delete all images of yourself, crash
This party, sink this continent
To petrify latitudes of soy and corn—
To perform plastic surgery on everyone—
Make us wear our guts like streamers
A clarity scouring the berserk horizon
Murdering the letter ‘B’ from the alphabet
No name for you ever had it
I will not break down my tent
You are a lamb
Joe Hall is the founder and co-organizer (with Wade Fletcher) of the Washington, DC area reading series Cheryl’s Gone. His first book, Pigafetta Is My Wife, will be published April 2010 by Black Ocean Press. He is also an avid collector of bloody noses.
Danika Stegeman Poem
We live with glass flowers instead of flowers
that wilt light. Dinosaurs once owned the scene.
I hardly need to mention them to catalog
their numbered bones. A clock flashes on.
I’ll tell you how it will work. Nothing
is more likely to lead to an H-bomb
than the specter. We live in the air death has—
a tightened belt. The individual is some thing
we share until it hurts. I’ll tell you
how it will work. I would leave with you.
The path of life is strewn with bones
and the question is stirring. Nothing recounted
could assure intent hangs a lantern
or hope finds a horse.
Danika Stegeman graduated from George Mason University’s Creative Writing MFA program in May 2009 and co-edits the journal Rooms Outlast Us. She currently lives and works as a librarian, text editor and researcher in Bethesda, MD. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Juked and Noö Journal.