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Poetry by Beth Gilstrap and Jim Warner
Four years since you’ve been home. You don’t know it yet, but your grandma counts the days in bottle caps. One Iron City per day. Sometimes more, but she only saves the one. She only lets the one hit the counter, paying attention to how it lands. Heads you’re dead. Tails you’re on junk. Cultivating a different kind of black lung. Heads you’re dead. Tails you’re locked up. She’s lined the basement windows, blocking the small amount of light with your absence. You don’t know sometimes rather than climb the stairs while her clothes dry, she waits and counts the bottle caps again just to be sure as much time has passed as she thinks. She watches all types of critters scurry when she pulls the overhead light’s string and always leaves them be. She’s saving jars and jars of stewed apples from the tree out back. Just for you. Peaches when she finds good ones. But during the worst snows, when she can’t open her door and hasn’t the strength to shovel, she can’t resist a taste of summer. She melts butter and sugar in the skillet, sprinkles in cinnamon if she has it. A pinch of salt. Lets the peaches simmer until she’s almost drunk with the smell. Once the mixture cools, she spoons them into pastry half-moons, crimping them with a fork, cutting slits on top for the steam. While they bake, she watches the snow fall and fall, and whiten her whole world new again.
bed collects rust
Dischord No. 28
You bury the feeling of his fingernails under the porch where his dog used to sleep. When you tagged along with older friends who hung there, you used to sneak down there to visit him—a sweet enough, but timid fellow—patches of fur missing on his hips since he didn’t move around much. It took a month before he’d come near you. He only exerted the effort to stand for the pulled chicken you brought in a paper bag. You remember his wide tongue poking out, the joy of his lumbering body curling up next to yours. A week later, you forced yourself to think of that moment, focus on the warm fur against your thigh not his owner’s hands sliding up your dress. Those fingernails you never told anyone about. The splitting skin. Twenty years later you still can’t tell your husband. Twenty years later you wonder where it all went wrong. You were just waiting in a room, watching summer light shift into autumn. Twenty years later you go back to the house, pledging to burn it down with aerosol hairspray and a lighter, or at least out the motherfucker with Day-Glo graffiti on the tin roof. This toothless maniac touched me when I was sixteen. But once you’re there, even the red dirt shames you, and all you want is to find the old dog’s bones, hug them to your chest, and vow to never be vulnerable again.
career suicide machine gun club