- The Sticks, and: As in a Sudden Downpour, When, and: Fair
my mother still mutters whenever
she remembers where we lived, reciting then her one life sentence
of overlush underbrush, neighbor trash, shoddy farms and fallen fences
and filthy Herefords knee deep in barnyard shit. Ugh, she says, it makes
me sick. To have been stuck there, with those hicks in Derision, Wisconsin,
a beer bottle’s throw from the poverty line, her bleary eyes fixed on the stinking
horizon, her candle’s ends weeping hot wax at their wicks. [End Page 74]
As in a Sudden Downpour, When,
out on the town together, men won’t wait until the harder shower’s over, nor cower, nor dodge for cover, awning to awning, as one would certainly do on one’s own, but troop on as before, or slower, as if the weather were warfare, every street a trench, their amble in the drench a marching order—
don’t we too, arm in arm on a foreign city’s cobbles, stumble from welfare into harm on cue, our duty to perform, but in no hurry, drunk on courage, gauging only a faraway worry in the rage? Don’t we too slosh from age to age and curtain to curtain, awash in camaraderie, our eager number our only cover? [End Page 75]
I’m not the only guy who lies, but I’m the only guy whose lies my lover knows. I’d say I have as many as I have charms or dreams or charity, but I have more.
As though she were the shy and lovely girl who carries her quilts every year to the fair and sells them, I pile mine mile high into her arms, both kinds—the lies I take few pains to make, and those whose kilter beauty matches any sincerity sews. She knows to chest the best away from even her closest friends. The least? Ah, those. The fair. She goes and sells and tells them there. [End Page 76]
Todd Boss is the director of external affairs at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. His work appears widely. His first collection, Yellowrocket, will be published by W. W. Norton this year.