Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

Daniel Parsons


"Global Warming"
 

 

            Like most problems, the problem at hand is a problem both of poetry and not of poetry:

            Or, really, of poetry and of notpoetry:

 

            A wall up ahead, and we’re fast coming to the point we’ll press against it. All that’s left is to hope the stone is cool. By then, I think, our cheeks will be raw and hot and will want the cool stone of the wall. It’s a high wall, I know that. A high wall well made. Tight, I mean. Only the sun, which is sharp and sure of being sun, will pass through the stone, I mean the gaps of stone. But not even air. I mean, not even air will pass. And below the wall, the world of red clay and low yellow gas and crawling with lizards. Nothing but lizards, not even we who press our cheeks will be real, but the lizards, their scurry nauseating, nauseous, the lizards will be real, what’s left, these lizards chirping and crawling over each other to form this larger lizard, an unending lizard, clumps of one-lizard clucking, tongues hissing hissing and the mass of it building a new lizard world under the high high and tight wall letting not in the sun, at last. 

 

smith and jones forever

 

          Before the wall, on a blue day on a boardwalk in Miami, Smith and Jones walk side-by-side, while behind them, a hot-air balloon looms and then rises out of frame. They eat fried wholebelly clams from a cardboard bowl Smith holds. They chew wetly, spit bits of flaky crisp as they talk. Here’s what they talk about:

          Smith says, “Something must be done about it all. I mean the lizards.”

          Jones says, “The lizards?”

          Smith says, “And the wall, of course. We can’t talk about the lizards, we don’t talk about the wall.”

          Jones says, “I’m not sure what you mean. Something must be done about the wall?”

          Smith says, “Are you taking the piss?”

          Jones says, “Something must be done about what wall?”

          Smith says, “If you don’t know what I mean, I mean something must be done about you.”

          Jones says, “Well, sure. I’ve been saying that for years. Something must be done about me.”

          Smith says, “Look, don’t point at me.”

          Jones says, “Was I pointing?”

          Smith says, Must [pointing]. Done [pointing].”

          Jones says, “Christ.”

          Smith says, “Listen, my family has been here for generations. Generations and generations. We were the first to carve our name on the bathroom wall. The first to sue our tenants for rent. We were the first to insist upon traffic lights, on strategically laid out grocery stores, the first — ”

          Jones says, “Get on with it, Christ.”

          Smith says, “Don’t tell me who’s been saying what for years. If it’s been said, I know about it.”

          Jones says, “Well, I’m saying it now that I’ve been saying it for years and what of it? Something must be done about me and what I don’t know about whatever it is you’re talking about. Something really must be done, and it’s a goddamn — a goddamn— shame nothing’s been done yet. I mean, what have you been doing with your time?”

          Smith says, “Goddamn [pointing]. Do-ing [pointing-pointing].”

          Jones says, “Awwww…”

          Smith says, “Jones!”

          Jones says, “Smith!” 

 

the people vs. jones

 

           All of the lustful anticipation turns to sadness, to anxious sadness or wistful sadness, when the Jury considers the careful knot in Jones’ tie. What care went into its tying! What earnest, boyish care! Could a man of great unfeeling take such time with a tie?

           “Listen,” the Lawyer for The People says, leaning an elbow on the witness stand, raising his brow conspiratorially to Jones, who is just now blowing kisses across the courtfloor to Juror #12 in the far upper-corner of the the Jurybox; Jones who now, on hearing the Lawyer’s voice, turns with still-pursed lips to face the Lawyer; the Lawyer who’s saying now: “Did you tie the tie yourself? Jones?”

           The hanging kiss.

           “Tell us, Jones.”

            Jones depurses his lips and sighs. He holds up the fat end of the tie and squints at it. “Well, I…” Looking up: “Weren’t we talking about the wall?” The Lawyer sighs. The Judge sighs. The Jury sighs (near all exasperated; #12 still lustful). The Lawyer says, “Very good, very good,” and nods towards the People’s Table to his associate, who nods and then makes a mark on a legal pad on the Table in front of him, crooking a protective arm around the pad as he does so. At Jones’ Table, Jones’ Lawyer leans nearly out of his seat, licking his lips, trying to see the pad. The Lawyer for The People says, “Very good. Tell us what you know about the wall, then.”

            “What I know now.”

            “What?”

            “You mean, tell you what I now know.”

            “What you now know.”

            “Well, to talk about it, I think we start before when I was talking to Smith about it. Whatever I can say about it has to do with that there. And what we should learn there is, I’m incorrigible. That’s the only thing to walk away with. Really, I am. My nature is to be just as I am. Do you see what that makes me? I have no choice but to be what I am. It’s a terrible habit of mine. I shouldn’t say habit. That doesn’t get at it.” He bites his nail. #12 sighs. “My nature is to be just as I am. What a burden! All of my successes — do you see? They aren’t mine. Mine? No, never. All of my wealth… My beautiful wife…” Let the record show that here he holds out one upturned palm (the sleeve of his blue jacket sliding back over his wrist, revealing golden downy hair here) towards the crowd, where a woman with her own golden cove of hair and puckered skin stretched tight from neck to collar stands now and the Jury sighs (all lustful now, save #12, suddenly exasperated). The big sigh shushes on the woman’s blue dress, a judicial wind rustling the dress. The woman smiles toothy, composed. Jones: “All of it, it’s the way of things. I mean, the way of things. Do you know what it’s like, to not be able to help it? I demand control. No. I am demanded upon to demand control, but I won’t have it, will I?”

            “No,” the Lawyer clucks.

            “What a thing, to be a man in the world today.”

             Mrs. Jones spins slowly in front of her seat, waving one hand, the other on her hip. The crowd seated all around her watch her, this pillar, this beacon. Ah.

             Jones says, “So say what you want about me, so I don’t know about this wall. As if everybody all knows about the wall [the Lawyer, the Judge, the Jury, the crowd, Mrs. Jones spinning — all nod]. Well, not me. And come on. Come on! Sure, I’ve learned a thing or two in my day, but you have to see, at least, that what I know of the wall or of anything has so little room to operate in the vast scheme of what it is to be Jones…”

             The courtroom waits.

             “Well, don’t you see that even by asking me about it, you put yourselves on trial? Are you willing to look at yourselves, my fellow friends, my Americans? My family has been for generations saying that something must be done. So I ask you.”

             The courtroom waits.

             Jones waits. He drops the end of his tie and it poompfs against the plateau of his belly.

             “And what is it to be Jones. I mean, you say. The vast scheme of being Jones. And tell us, Jones, what is Jones?”

             Jones blinks at the Lawyer.

             The Lawyer blinks. The Judge blinks. The Jury… and so on. Mrs. Jones spins, a blond lighthouse in the middle of the courtfloor. The Lawyer says, “Who is — ”

             “We were talking about the tie.” Jones shrugs at the Jury. “Weren’t we talking about my tie?” The Judge, the Jury, the crowd in the courtroom (save Mrs. Jones still spinning in her blue taffeta) flops back in their chairs as one does when one hears news one may have been expecting, but which still surprises one. All flop back so definitely, definitively, so succinctly and in sync that the courthouse shifts a bit on its foundation. Any more Jonesian left-turns like that, the courthouse might very well shift right off the foundation to fall beside its own foundation to sit on the courtlawn, maybe a geyser of sewer water spewing from a severed pipe, a lumpy little courtworker on a toilet with his pants around his ankles, blinking from behind a newspaper at his suddenly disappeared stall. Oh, Jones.

 

backstroking
 

            Meanwhile, in Bangladesh:

            A newspaper floats across a street. What is the headline? It’s a bit tough to read, but what else is to be expected? 

 

windsor (inter.)
 

             If you have a minute, Jones would like to describe for you the various differences — aesthetic, procedural, culturalbetween the Windsor and the Balthus knots. 

 

backstroking (cont'd)
 

             A curious trick of the sky to lower its limits always to whatever horizon, to meet whatever rising or lowering height of the earth below, so you can say, my oh my the earth is full today, look how it comes right up to the clouds.

             Take the ocean in Bangladesh, for instance, which has crested the lip of the shores and come gushing through the cities. Water fills the avenues. The buildings seem to rise up from the surface, the lapping little waves against the lower windows, and the cities seem now like the great trees which rise from a hidden root system. A dog floats by on a treelimb. Two women, grinning guiltily, splash each other from two plastic rafts, bouncing off each other down deeper to the city. The sun boils. And coming around the corner of a far brick building, the round belly of a man floating through his own plinking system of ripples, his head cradled in the palms of his hands and his toes pointed into the sun. He floats by a closed window. His reflection floats across the window. A newspaper floating in from uptown bounces off the fat belly and the man reaches down and lifts the paper up above him.

             The headline, I may as well tell you, once read SMITH JONES SUMMIT CORRUPTED, and the picture below, most of the paperspace above the fold, this picture, a diptych, Jones on the right one step from the bottom of long, civic stairs, holding his jacket closed tight from the wind, Mrs. Jones just behind, hand raised (hailing a cab?); Smith on the left, standing in a low doorway, looking grumpy. But the wet paper is wet such that our floating man only really clearly sees the men’s legs on either side. He squints into the running print, concentrated so hard on calling the rest of the page to reveal itself that he tears the wet paper down the center. He sighs. He tosses the split papers on either side and they float off into the eastern and western rivers of the city. He folds his hands on his belly. He turns and gathers water in his mouth and spits it geyser-like into the slats of the bright slanting sun. 

 

balloonists
 

             The two balloonists enjoyed stems of champagne and gazed down over the brown farms below, the brown patches of farm fields and thin ribbons of road.

             The first balloonist said, “What do you think it is about balloon travel? It certainly agrees with my sense of.”

             The second balloonist said, “Yes?”

             The first balloonist said, “My sense of belonging, but my sense of grandeur as well. I am inside of something and I am above something.”

             The second balloonist said, “Well, I’ve thought about this. I can tell you.”

             The first balloonist said, “Yes.”

             The second balloonist said, “We in this balloon,” and here he swept an open palm over the edge of the basket and his gesture included the balloon and the earth below and also the sky. “We are not of the earth,” they looked down, “but there’s more sky above us. We are not of the sky. We are more of the ground than the sky.”

             The first balloonist said, “Hm.”

             The second balloonist said, “We have left, but not entered. Destroyed the illusion that the pieces fit comfortably. We are in a state of separation. A state of suspension.”

             The first balloonist said, “My dear. I’ve been in a airplane, you know. Which is much the same thing, but none of the same feeling.”

             The second balloonist said, “An airplane makes so much noise, though. It’s very distracting. That’s the difference.”

             The first balloonist leaned over the edge. The satyrical point of his long beard caught in the high wind. He held on to his tall hat, though. “A thinking man might argue, you know, that we aren’t very much on the ground at all.”

             The second balloonist said, “And another might argue, darling, that you allow semantics to interfere with truth to a troubling extent.”

             The first balloonist said, “Hm. Well, the first might argue in response that truth is but a matter of semantics, after all.”

             The second balloonist said, “Hm. Leaving the second to ask, is it not the other way around?”

             The first balloonist said, “Hm.”

             The second balloonist said, “Yes. Hm.”

             They listened to the quiet then, the floating and the sky and the ground and all of it then. They wondered what part of the world they floated through just then. And then the wind changed a touch. 

 

w hotel, miami beach, fla
 

             In their bed, Smith asks Mrs. Jones to put her tongue in his ear. “Just the tip. Not the whole tongue, just the tip. Like, think of the tip of the tongue and the tongue being two different things and then don’t put your tongue in.” She crawls up on all 4s, a position far more dedicated to the moment than her expression, which is flat, all the angles lazy, the corners of the lips drooping to the chin, the eyelids sagged to the cheek. She clears her throat and sticks out her tongue. “Not the whole…” She retracts the tongue to its tip jutting blunt from between her teeth. “And hiss, too. Just a little hiss.”

             “Hiss?”

             Sssss. A hiss.” He wags his tongue. The dry edges glump along the corners of his lips. The meat is a minefield of white lesions.

             Mrs. Jones scrunches her nose. She presses in, the tip of her tongue slotting in the dry sockets, his white hair tickling around her nose. He squirms. She rolls her eyes. He leans back into his pillow (dragging her along by the tip of the tongue) and folds his hands across his belly. Outside and across the balcony, the Miami ocean licks itself, a gentle lap, a watery rhythm. “No, no. You’re using the fat of it.” Mrs. Jones snorts and Smith’s white hair goes. Later, they stand on the balcony and sip coffee with brandy. “Ah,” says Smith. “They probably should’ve sent a poet.” The ocean is too much for him to talk about is what he means. Mrs. Jones spits over the rail, watches the soft arc of her spit coursing to the road below. She imagines she hears the wet smack, but she can’t, of course. She scrapes her tongue along her teeth. 

 

bangladesh
 

              The poet shouldn’t be here.

              Two years ago, when he’d arrived here, the need to be here (what felt like the need) had been enough — enough to motivate him through the quotidians of a day, enough to fuel his work, enough to convince him of his own basic integrity. Now, that same need felt voyeuristic. (…an added layer of self-disgust, too, to consider how he had maintained his alienness enough to remain the voyeur in the first place, or in other words, how he hadn’t become the thing to be seen, rather than still the thing seeing.) He felt perverted as the ocean rose.

              The ocean rose to halfway up the poet’s window in his garden apartment. He pulled the window down halfway and reached out and dipped his finger in the water, which was surprisingly warm — although as he twirled his finger, he felt more surprised at his own surprise than at the water. Why wouldn’t the water be warm? He pulled his finger out and sucked the salt from under his nail.

              It’s him standing there with his finger in his mouth; this moment is the moment he gives up on everything. The giving-up maybe felt like a decision, a moment after which nothing felt as it had felt before, but in truth it had been building (with each inch of the ocean rising?). “We’ll have to be satisfied with Dante now,” he said, tongue working around his salty finger. He laughed a little, but felt sad. Was he sad about laughing or about Dante? Hard to tell. He sat down to think about it. While he sat there thinking, the ocean rose and dribbled in around the corners of the window. He bent down and pressed his finger against the puddle there. He was horrified to realize then that the laugh had been hollow, the sadness hollower. “A red herring!” He was further horrified to realize that he didn’t care about Dante at all. He sucked on his wet finger; it tasted more of floor than salt. The ocean leaked and leaked into his small apartment.

              It was the poet who first pictured the ball, although in its first image, the ball was a golden ball and glowing. Watching his apartment fill with ocean, sucking on his salty fingertip, the poet pictured the golden ball [which Joseph Campbell claims suggests menstruation, as the poet well knew], but I mean he pictured it rolling down a long hill towards the wall, or but I mean, the poet began the long process of picturing that ended finally with him thinking of the golden ball rolling and glowing. The image of the ball arrived as like the exhaust of a poem beginning itself. It went like this, sort of: The ocean suggested a poem and in thinking of the poem, the poet thought of a great debate. Of orators exclaiming to the high vaulted ceilings of a washed white hall. The story of a nation. The birth of a nation. Of an empire. The dribbling ocean. Bangladesh. From all of these crowded images, the image of a golden ball rolling. Which nation? He didn’t know, but he had the feeling that — and this nagged him for weeks, as the ocean rose through his window and he floated bobbing in his armchair — it didn’t matter which. Of course, it didn’t matter at all; the poem would never be written. But there were myriad reasons for the not-mattering, reasons beyond the not-mattering of its unwrittenness, and it was these not-matterings together, all of the not-matterings at once, and it was the pressure of every image, each image striving for realization, for a life in the poem that would never be written which began him thinking about the golden ball, which rolled down the hill and was then just a ball, not golden, a ball, and the ball suggested at last the problem of the wall. The wall had good reason then to become itself, to step into the very figure of its issue, which, in Bangladesh, all of this felt vain. 

 

sm!th 4 fla

 

             The slap of Smith’s palm on his podium echoes sharply like a gunshot through the rec hall, rippling through the beards and collars and dress hems of the folks in the folding chairs. If you weigh a man’s character by the purity of his podium-slapping capabilities (and a certain number of these folks do, certainly), the room turns suddenly Smith-ward in the quiet moment, the resettling on the end of this slap’s echo. Hell, even Smith’s surprised; he steps back and adjusts his tie. Stepping forward, clearing his throat, leaning in towards the mic, “Listen, I want you to picture — can I take a minute?” turning his whole body here toward offstage (an obvious move, thinks his critics scribbling on notepads in the back of the rec hall, an obvious supplication to the Moderator, who they hear, from the back, mumble back to Smith who says, “Yes.” The mumble. “No. Agreed,” and then Smith steps back to the podium).

             Smith says, “Listen, I want you to picture a ball and it’s rolling down a hill.” The folks in the folding chairs shimmy their butts into their seats, close their eyes and picture the ball. “What keeps it going? Gravity, ok. And it’s not thinking about it, the ball I mean isn’t thinking about the gravity. But pretend it gets now to the bottom of this hill where,” the clap of his chalky hands and the folks open their eyes.

             The folks close their eyes again.  

             “Where it hits a wall. Let me ask you now,” and here he holds up one finger wagging, which the folks don’t see, of course, their eyes being closed, but which the critics with the pads in the back notice, take note of. “When you think back on the ball now, what you’ll think about is the ball and the wall, but not the gravity. Remember the gravity pulling the ball along? You’ll only really think of the wall, which, even as the ball rolled along, the wall down below was just waiting. I’m saying that every moment redefines the moments before it. You know this already, don’t you? Well, you’ll think so again.” He points around the room. “You know, you all know, you’ll think so again.” And the folks in the seat smack their lips sleepily, open their eyes to see Smith leaning over the podium, one long white finger pointing at them.

             Mrs. Jones in in the crowd in her taffeta blue dress (now over the left breast wearing a red sticker reading SMITH FOR FLA, though with an ! for the I and a 4 for the for). She rises now, a blue pillar, a towering monument to the very folks from which she rises (oh! Mrs. Jones!)… She extends her arms, palms up and rises on a toe, readying to spin, but Smith harrumphs and holds up his palm. She stops, unsure. Smith shakes his head. Mrs. Jones still smiling, but with a quivering uncertainty. Smith flips his palm, lowers it slowly towards his podium. Sit down, Mrs. Jones, which she sees, but having already stood, she’ll be damned if she’ll suffer the whole embarrassment of sitting on command now, too; she crosses her arm, arches a brow.

           Smith arches his own brow and turns back to the rest of the seated crowd. “Friends, I ask you. I want you to look outside,” and the folks in the folding chairs do, why not, look outside the window just off Smith’s stage. "The sun is shining, friends, It’s a goooood day. The birds are singing. Children are learning. People have jobs. Industry, secure. But I want you to picture it. Picture yourself in the sun. Ah, yes. It’s good in the sun. But can you picture yourself now with a total different understanding of that sun? Can you imagine feeling a pain in the sun? The sensation of the sun is no different than ever, but you take it different. Do you have the power of imagination to change even your love of sunshine?” Smith sweeps an open palm over the crowd and to the window, as if ushering along the folks’ imagination. And outside, under the hard yellow summer sun, the urban sun, the people in the avenues as if corn stalks swaying in the summer breeze, the tarmarked summer wind. The vast rows of people, their long indifferent faces. Follow the sweep of Smith’s hand further to the collapsed patterns of the stars, the cloudy cosmos hidden now by the twilight sun, the warm palette of pinks, ambers, oranges, etc. The et ceteras peel away. The layers peel away, Smith’s hand says. There is always another layer beneath, waiting to reveal to you some mystery of this layer above. The earth never ends, but soon enough it becomes space, which really, it has always been. Smith closes slowly his hand, holds forth his chalky fist.

              Just then!

              Jones! Against the window, Jones! The face of Jones! rising in the window against the burnt autumn sky behind him, a dark profile on the pinkness of the sky, like the portraiture on a penny. The folks in the rec hall gasp, everyone gasping and rising now, rising, except for Smith — who, at the podium, is already risen — and Mrs. Jones — who, having already stood prior, takes the opportunity to sit. Jones bangs on the window. Bangs! Bangs! His jowls shake, red-veined, and his eyes are on fire, too and he’s shouting now, “Smith! You, you sonofabitch, you win. Let’s talk all about it. Let’s talk all about it, Smith!” Nearly foaming now around his baconstrip lips, two fists up bang-banging on the glass and then it’s like he’s grabbing the frame, trying to shake the glass from the figure of the window. The glass rattling. Jones screaming.

              As if gone rabid, the folks erupt, hollering.

              Smith, clearing his throat, crosses the stage and calmly lowers the shade over the Jones face as it froths and yells, nearly spitting; Jones raises up one accusing finger, pointing, but the shade drops over him. Smith turns back to the folks in the folding chairs, who are now in mid-crawl en-masse over the folding chairs rabbling at the window. After a moment, one by one, the folks notice Smith there at the window and the mob stops, blinking, and Smith blinks back. The critics scribble away. The papers will be alive with it tomorrow, oh boy. Behind the shade, still you can hear Jones’ cry, “Let’s talk aaaaaaaaaaall about it, Smith, let’s talk aaaaaaaaa — ” but now Smith’s calling out overtop, he wants to know, folks, “Can you accept, when the time comes to accept, the cool high wall against your wild cheeks? Your wild hot cheeks?” 

 

bangladesh (cont'd)

 

              That’s not how the story of the ball and the wall really went.

              The backstroker floated just outside the poet’s window, his belly a fat island, arms crossed comfortably over his head. The ocean sloshed about just at the height of the window only open an inch or three. The poet leaned against the windowframe, smoking on a long cigarette, puffing, and passing now to our floating man, who took it with two fingers extended up over the water. The floating man smoked a cloud of gray steam over the fat island. It was now, to the floating man, that the poet talked about the ball. The problem, the poetic problem of the ball and the wall was really a problem of image more than anything else. So the poet took the cigarette back through the window and asked the floating man to close his eyes, which the floating man did. And the poet described finding the ball along the base of the wall. Picking up the ball.

              “Study it for a moment. Think of what you’re holding in your hand now. The incredible significance of the ball simply for having been conjured. You, too. Hold yourself a moment. Stay with yourself. You’ll find, without thinking, you’ve leaned back and you’ve thrown the ball over the wall. You’ll find it was in you all the time; this moment, your moment with the ball had always been bound to end thusly, the ball thrown. Watch the arc of it, cresting the wall and disappearing down the other side. Listen. Lean in. Listen. Are you listening for the thunk of the ball on the other side? The lizards tongue at you. Only then, with the lizards licking at you, gathering at your feet, tongues hissing on your ankles, climbing your calves and consuming you in lizards, consuming you wholly, drawing you down into their lizardly nothingness, only then do you think now about how your very presence is impossible here. Hadn’t that been a part of the parameters? This won’t do; there can’t be any more of you here. And the issue of the ball now comes to full figure, the essential poetic issue being, once the ball disappears in its long arc over the wall, what does it matter about the hill, about the rolling? What does it matter, your essential unbeing, your impossible being? Your unbeing won’t matter to the disappeared ball. What does the ball matter to the thrower, or the thrower to the ball, once the wall performs its separative function? Old stories. Old legends. Creation myths and comings-of-age. That’s all really," said the poet, puffing. "Such an interesting thing, and nobody to share it with. Open your eyes, now. Take this smoke. You can try and think of the whole thing as a victory, of course, the ball going over, but it’s an empty win, the whole ecstasy of winning manufactured somehow for you, and anyway, the rowdy come-on of history relies on constancy, if not consistency. A history won’t suffer interruptions. We’re talking the ball’s history here. You are the interruption, which is true no matter how you feel or how you take it. Some things are out of our hands. We can only do so much, if you know what I mean.

              The floating man did know. He nodded, splashing in the ocean, which had risen and risen.

              And the ocean slowly rose more and rose more and carried the floating man up Bangladesh to the rings of higher apartments, finally past to the roofs and then the sky, finally just that belly pressing to the sky. And the poet laid down in the warm water and rose, but only to his ceiling. This was several months later, of course, several months after the poet and the floating man shared a cigarette. Before that, before the ocean rose past the window, there was a period of general happiness, the weeks, which were all sunny, at least, and happy in the sense that the ocean hadn’t finished rising even yet, and so there was always time, it seemed. 

 

smith

 

              He slumps over the railing on the boardwalk in low wet air and thinks about the lapping water down below the fog. He scruffs the low mist with the tip of his shoe and the mist dissolves up in the air like weather. Oh Smith, as a hot-air balloon settles into frame behind in the sky, lowering through the dark to some hidden ground beside the Miami water.

              Smith spits. He listens for the splash. He’s still listening. 

 

the wall
 

              The Joneses face each other across a nakedwood table.

              In front of Jones, two fingers of bourbon in a short glass, no rocks. Also, a bottle of bourbon.

              In front of Mrs., a short glass with no bourbon, two ice cubes.

              Jones says, “I’ve always thought it funny in our marriage, how a thing can simply overtake the other things around it.” He pours the bourbon into his wife’s glass. One finger. “What say you, my dear?”

              “More.”

              Two fingers.

              “More.”

              Four. Mrs. Jones picks up the glass. She holds the rim to her lips, the cubes cracking in the whiskey. She extends one finger, pointing at her husband. He blinks. She says, “We never seem, you son of a bitch,” drinks, closes her eyes, opens them, sniffs at the bourbon, looks at her husband. “Never seem to talk about a damn thing, do we?”

              Jones blinks. He loosens his tie.

              Mrs. Jones sighs, exasperated, and turns to look out the window at the gray sky, which holds its breath, bare but for gray ashy clouds hung like still balloons against the evening as if holding the place for the next morning’s sun, which would rise.


 


Daniel Parsons earned his MFA from the Writer's Foundry at St. Joseph's College, where he now works teaching composition to students who speak English as a non-primary language. He lives with his wife and young son in Brooklyn, NY. His poetry and fiction have appeared recently in Manhattan Magazine, Eunoia Review, and drDoctor. He was a featured poet in River Styx's Hungry Young Poets reading series.