A journal of narrative writing.
Leaving the Absolute Local

Witness now the world unrenowned John D.
listening to his radials kissing concrete.
Dusk unrolls its canopy and the first stars
of evening spill out. A prairie son, whose ties
to the dirt died with the father, he pushes
the speed limit home on a busy highway,
trying to think of the last time he kissed

his wife; last time desire’s stillborn bones
clattered to the fire to warm their dust
in a soft cradle of flesh. He groans, rubs
a sore neck with a hand burned in the sparks
of office politics, and switches on the radio.
No sports, just news – of which he knows
to expect nothing. Except people in pain

in far-off places. Never his – absolute local –
and never his son’s painted eyes, locked
shut in the noisy solitude of youth,
dreaming the next fix large enough to fill
a lack he feels, but will never get to tell.
John’s wife will be standing at the stove,
absently humming as a pot boils over.

Nothing comes between her and a song,
not even a hand made tender by loneliness.
He thumbs his wedding ring – no longer
wondering if later she’ll be in the mood.
(Click and flash, the day’s last cigarette.)
She’s singing now, words no more implied,
a hymn learned well and young, back

when love was taught like silence in church:
with folded belt and Jesus forever scared
into the heart. John won’t listen, has heard
it all before: the silence, songs, and emptiness
filling suburban kitchens on quiet streets
where even the pliant heart gets forge-fired,
hard as its furtive rages, lighting cracks

between hastily-laid bricks of secret rooms
where shackles too are staked in stone
and ones such as these are walled in to die.
Up ahead, full moon breaking the horizon,
vaporous city lights. Remembering the father,
him boxed in by fields of corn and sun,
John opens the car window to let the world

blast in, fingers caressing, cupping wind –
tests the weight of the future with his hand:
tender hand, if sometimes hard of touch;
that in childhood, took a cut now snarling
his palm in barbed-wire scar. The house is dark.
He had shocked past pain, amazement, fear,
at soft pink flesh gone radiant with blood.