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  • The Saddest Bid for Immortality Ever Devised, and: Caught, and: A Demonstration of How One Thing Leads to Another, and: An Explanation of How One Thing Leads to Another, and: Blackbirds
  • Charles Rafferty (bio)

The Saddest Bid for Immortality Ever Devised

I used to transcribe my poems on the blank pages of books by famous poets. I imagined they would ride into the future like remoras suckered to the belly of a powerful shark. But the librarian would always find them and black them out. Later, she resorted to excising the vandalized pages with a ruler and a blade. Those stubs at the end of Paradise Lost in the Mount Laurel public library? That's me. [End Page 429]


After we made love in your second-story apartment, I saw the plastic grocery bag caught in the branches outside your bedroom window. Six months later, the bag was still there. You were a clean person—you didn't tolerate dust on the piano or crumbs underneath the toaster. I told you I could grab it with a broom handle without much effort. At the very least, I was sure I could park it in front of somebody else's view. But you said you liked the sound of it in the breeze, that it was an urban wind chime. That bag was the same shade of skin as your belly when you'd been ravished by the sun. It was the color of a cookie you fed me once when I wanted something else. Leave it alone, you reasoned. You never see a tree with two bags in it. Taking it down invites another—possibly more hideous and out of reach. That was the moment. That's when I knew I would never leave. [End Page 430]

A Demonstration of How One Thing Leads to Another

He steps onto the train and realizes he's missed his stop as he wakes at forty thousand feet above the Andes. He tries to ask the stewardess when they'll land, but by the time he's formulated his question using the English-to-Spanish dictionary he must have packed that morning, he finds himself in the back of a taxicab speeding through Buenos Aires. I'd better phone the office, he thinks, but already he is in the lobby of his favorite brothel being handed a glass of whiskey. Just one couldn't hurt, he says to himself, as he closes the door behind him and turns to see a woman with her dress in a bunch above her waist. He feels suddenly like he's kneeling at the fountain of unquenchable desire. His lips crack painfully even as he quaffs her, over and over, until he wakes inside his wife back in Connecticut, atop their heavy sleigh bed—the one he purchased on credit and a whim, and for which he threw his back out as he hustled it up the stairs. [End Page 431]

An Explanation of How One Thing Leads to Another

He has climbed so high he is afraid to shinny back. He calls and calls but it is winter, and the windows of the houses around him are shut. Night has fallen as well, and thus the family next door has no chance of seeing him wave as if their ham dinner were a rescue plane flying just to the north of his desert island, where there is no airfield and the natives would destroy the plane if it landed anyway, because they believe it is the spirit of their ancestors descending from the sky. After all, what good are spirits if they cannot be dismantled into pieces so small they can be cherished and carried home and kept in a special place, until at last they are forgotten and the relics thrown out like so much bric-a-brac? Here's a proof: the only thing I have belonging to my great-grandfather is a large Irish penny worn almost to the point of not being money. [End Page 432]


It was an April morning, full of fog, the sun just heating up. All around him hundreds of blackbirds went crazy in the full...


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pp. 429-433
Launched on MUSE
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