Zeke Jarvis

Las Vegas

The bum approaching the businessman is covered with grime. He’s wearing an awful lot of clothes for this heat, but everyone knows that bums like to layer. The bum smells terrible. It could be sweat or puke or garbage, knowing the bums here. The businessman that the bum’s approaching looks towards this wretch with his eyes only, keeping his face turned towards the other side of the intersection. The bum mumbles something about spare change, and the businessman shoots back, “Get a job!”

The bum straightens himself. “Look Buddy, I’m a Viet Nam vet. I fought for my country and now they fucking spit on me. You all fucking spit on me! Spit on me and shit on me and leave me to die.” The bum whirls around, pointing at nobody in particular. “I can’t get a job, they won’t let me get myself together. What am I supposed to do?” His voice breaks and he falls to the ground.

There’s silence. Then the businessman laughs and a family a little way down the sidewalk applauds. “Shit is a word you shouldn’t say,” the mother says to her son, but she smiles and gives his shoulder a little squeeze.

The bum rises, smiling, and bows to the family. The businessman hands the bum some money and the family sends their child over with a dollar for him. The bum thanks them both and wobbles a little bit for the child. He belches, softly, and the boy laughs.

“That was good,” says the businessman. “Were you really in Viet Nam?”

The bum folds up the money and stuffs it into a pocket of his innermost shirt. “Nah, it was a little before my time, but I did have an uncle who fought there. Terrible business.”

The businessman nods. “You pulled it off well. Do you have any cards?”

“Cards?”

Just then, the mother from the family interrupts. “Excuse me. Do you think our son could get his picture taken with you?”

“Sure,” the bum says, smiling. “Do you want me to look defeated or menacing?”

“I have to go,” says the businessman, “but I enjoyed your work. If you had a card… or a website, even, I could hook you up with some clients or coworkers who are in town at conventions.”

The man smiles again. “Vegas is a wonderful town for that. I don’t have a card, but I generally work around this casino.”

The businessman nods. “Good luck.”

“Thank you, Sir. Now was that menacing or defeated?”

“Oh,” says the mother, “menacing, please.”

The bum leans in over the child and glowers. The child begins to moan and whimper. The bum relaxes a bit. He points to his shoes, from which his big toes stick out. He wiggles the toes and the child smiles. “Sorry,” says the mother, “We’re from Wisconsin; he’s not used to this.”

“That’s fine,” says the bum, looking now only slightly threatening as the mother takes the picture. “That’s just fine.”

Zeke Jarvis is an Associate Professor at Eureka College. His work has appeared in 4 Chambers, Petrichor Machine and Moon City Review, among other places. His books, So Anyway… and In A Family Way were published by Robocup Press and Fomite Press.

Ian Patrick Miller

Andĕl on Praha

We leave at night, follow down the hill of houses, cross the Vltava, and on the other side of the bridge find a mass of angels, or what appear to be a mass of angels, fallen from a great height, and in agony are heaped, quills snapped, eyes blinded, long sinewy arms reaching up for whatever has tossed them down. They’re covered in lime, drippings, in the aging of nickel and stone. It’s snowing, a wet mass, and at the axis a man, an appellant or minor statesman, dressed in a penny coat, a vest, he’s bald, and his eyes burn furiously as if in prescience, as if privy, but to what? We do not like the appellant. Then we do. Or feel like we have to. The statue in the snow and the dark and we are silent. Later, following away from the river, up another hill of houses, we shout in tongues—in lilt of being, lightness of breath. And though we return, we never see it the same. The angels, yes, still fallen. Or maybe something else falling onto them. And they do what they can, spreading out the shattered wings of their parts (marrow, appendage) in what is always, either way, the futility of defense.

Parallax

My wife calls from Kona. She is sick. And immediately I see her fever as a hived, winged thing, not unlike a heart if a heart could slap either side of itself in applause or thunder or rain.

The basin had been a volcano the way words had once been animals, and my daughter goes to sleep inside her lips, the mouth of secrets, where word of her life has not yet been made into word, but breath breathing bluely on the monitor beside the bed.

Her face ghosted, a white gauze. The lens of each eye folded, closed. And I wonder when she’ll wake, stare back blackly, orbs refracted across distance unmeasured, the beginning or end to a world nobody has lived long enough to know.

Raptures

My friend writes to say he is leaving and his absence . . . Well, to be honest, we’re not all that close, but still. He’s leaving and I’m staying and that says as much about my life as anything could.

My father raised me to believe in the rapture. I know how that sounds. My wife thinks it’s crazy, too. I’m not saying we’ll be yanked into space, momentarily suspended as if dropped through the floors of a gallows, or wake to find our lovers missing in a ring of ash, children taken from their beds, the good people of, say, Ohio befuddled because so many were sure they were the ones.

But like today, after my flight was canceled by weather in Chicago, and I was left to wander emptily my house, the wife and daughter away for a wedding I can’t attend because my attendance is moneyed elsewhere, the day vulgarly blue and cold like a pearl. I sat upstairs, on the daybed, watched the playoffs, then went for a jog and saw almost no one except three or four dogs leashed to people.

It’s both difficult and too easy to say. I felt forlorn upon myself, dismayed by my continued presence as if I had failed to read right the cues of the sky, the instruments on the great metaphysical barometer.

I didn’t learn anything else today except that when people disappear in Ciudad Juárez they do not return, not even as one of the dead.

Ian Patrick Miller’s writing has appeared in Devil’s Lake, Ghost Town, Confrontation, War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, and The Massachusetts Review, among others. His work has been recognized with fellowships awarded by the Summer Literary Seminars, residences at the Banff Centre, and a scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Assistant Professor of English at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Ian’s life is severed between Doha and the Pacific Northwest.

Robert Vivian

My Neighbor St. Therese

I am the mouth of the little thing, little way, so small it often goes unnoticed, unseen, and when I speak it is like the miracle of a dust mote lit up by sunlight so bright it becomes brightness itself and no room for darkness, not even the clipped apostrophe of a shadow and lighting the air to float and little thing precious but forgotten thing, jewel box spider dead in a day and hollow wisp of straw that sings what it can of brightness, the least part or veined leaf blowing across a rail yard and the smell of creosote, weeds, or lump of coal, anything left behind or discarded and the love that got away to end up nowhere that is somehow still clings to a button, a piece of torn paper, a note card with a recipe on it or a penny shining in the gutter for the little thing and little way is what mows the grass and takes out the trash and makes sure the dishes are put away along with the forks and spoons, little helpmate, little worker bee, little necessary beggar and cripple with pleading eyes and little thing and little way are not seen or advertised, no cameras or mirrors to strut their stuff in front of, little fish, little minnow and the wake it makes is but a breath beat of water and tendril of water beckoning you to some unseen current and I speak of you now at the edge of a whisper that is almost afraid to speak for little thing, little way, little speck of being how close you are to silence and nothingness, how close to broken slat of windmill who gave its life to gust and breeze and little thing, little way, a hand reaching for a door or a hand lifting a teacup or a diaper with careful fingers the petal of you is a tiny, tiny rose that will never be famous, never be sought after as the love you bear and suffer is so small only the stars believe it though others say oblivion, oblivion, but I know your mouth is my mouth and your voice my voice as together we take care of what we can however brokenly and imperfectly, cleaning a kitchen floor on our hands and knees using our tears for water, the smallest cry in the mouth of the smallest thing, offering even the little we are because there’s nothing left of us to give, not even a flower.

When The Stones Abandoned The World

All at once the stones picked themselves up in the barren field and started walking toward the horizon, silent, solemn march of going elsewhere and rose the thrust and the warbler and the startled robin and I could see that the stones were naked but unashamed and wanted to be washed again and rose the wind and the dust and where was the earth going but to another place not of its keening and to watch the stones I felt abandoned and I did not ask the stones why I was being left behind in a land without them and rose the other birds and still others, rooks and crows and turkey vultures and smoke from a distant fire and if you could see the stones moving, if you could see them turning away you would wonder with me if home was a dream we tell ourselves to keep from dying though death is with us always in the smallest things, a moth on the windowsill with its paper wings full of dust, old, faded pictures of loved ones long since gone into the ground or wind, but the stones wouldn’t say anything as they were moving for they had lain prostrate long enough and the whole earth seemed to tremble and shimmer in the wake of the their passing and it was not without its startling shock of beauty—I mean the way the ground burned after them in variegated fire, I mean the heart and quake of it that had its equivalent somewhere inside me as I knew I was being left behind by the most elemental of forces and there was nothing I could do, nothing, nothing, but watch the stones leaving on their steadfast journey and vault of sky above them, changing itself with every drifting cloud to show them how it was done.

Robert Vivian is the author of The Tall Grass Trilogy, Water And Abandon, and two collections of meditative essays, Cold Snap As Yearning and The Least Cricket Of Evening. He’s currently working on a collection of dervish essays called Mystery My Country.