Six Rising Prose Poems

The beginning of the alphabet says we are supposed to stay hungry and not say a word. When this is true, checkered flowers grow on the foreheads of the ones we love. When this is false, we have nothing to say and are buried with our shoes on. The spoken tongue was forgotten when we grew up and learned to love computers. The buzzards circled without being able to plug into our memory banks. The spoken tongue became a religion we were trained not to question, only recite until faith was a fading monument to unhappy kings. This idea was taught to young boys until they earned their medals by bringing home startled, dead deer. This way of survival was taught to young girls until they kept the house clean of spiders, worms, and fingerprints from strangers who visited when the boys were away reloading their guns.

A man and a woman exchange phone numbers but never call each other because they each meet someone else, the piece of papers with those numbers staying in their possession. One day, four years after their meeting at a party, the man finds the note with the woman’s name. He dials the number and an old priest at one of the largest churches in the city answers in a sleepy voice. When the man asks for the woman on the slip, the priest hesitates, then says “She died four years ago.”

A man and a man exchange wallets and get away with it. They are enemies but do not know it because their driver’s licenses do not show a trace of their past history, how they organized groups of men to enter the night streets and cause harm, wearing different colored uniforms to tell each other apart. A man and a man exchange wallets and never explain to anyone why they would do such a thing, this act committed before the greater powers slap handcuffs on both and lead them into the heart of the machine where bodies of earlier men lay as skeletal sculptures, as murals, the white bones dwarfed by huge mountains of brown and black wallets piled against sweating walls.

A woman and a boy were mother and child and were forgiven by the husband and father. He had to forgive them in order to keep his sanity, his blue socks frozen to his thin, pale legs, his tired body coming home from selling used cars until late at night, his tired breathing leading him to the unmade bed where he fell every night, his silence and wisdom hanging in the night air for the woman and boy to stare at when they stood in the doorway and wondered if it was safe to call out his name.

The road was painted purple and railroad engineer caps hung from the trees. I knew the barrio was a golden opportunity, so I could not believe what I saw. The peppermint ice cream cone cost three cents. The orchard was washed in silver shade and the trees produced Christmas ornaments sold at Halloween. I pulled the beetle out of my arm and laughed at its sting. My shoelaces were green, the sneakers orange, and the socks light blue. The arch over the road was made of branches stripped of their railroad engineer caps. I assumed the rusting cars in the woods had dead bodies rotting inside. When I approached the first one, a football came flying out of it, but I missed the catch and it bounced into the stream. The fence surrounded the entire world and the purple road was no longer that color, but a deep, fleshy line toward someone’s beating heart. I wanted the striped candy, but got the onion flavored chewing gum instead. At the road’s end, there was a house made of baby diapers sewn together, fresh, clean material untouched by baby life, the white walls of this house waiting for someone to admit “This is a house made of baby diapers.”

He stopped on the corner and saw his lover float by as a naked angel, her wings waving to him as she passed him several feet off the ground, the baby blue dress she wore something he recalled from the first day they met. He looked both ways and started to cross the empty street when a fast car came skidding around the corner, followed by a police car with red lights, no siren. He was caught in the middle of the street and his angel reached down and plucked him from harm, the bad and good guys speeding by too fast to notice he hung on in terror as his angel lover whisked him into the clouds. As they flew toward heaven, his life was real, her life done, but his memories of a broken heart were intact miles above the earth, making no difference in how he felt or lived. Suddenly, his lovely angel changed her mind and let go of his hand.

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