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STONING THE BIRDS /Michael Waters How can any bird-hunting boy know the low passages through the thorned and knotted brambles tul he veers off the horse-trail to startle some couple love-making among the pines, her yessing head haloed with gnats as his back sweeps their splintery bed of brown needles, tongues looping their vague script upon sky? I swayed near the thicket, fingering pocketsful of stones, till she stopped oaring the air to glance at me, register my familiar, acned face, then shrug back to her sleepy summer pleasure. What did I matter, one goofy teenager dumb-struck in khaki shorts, as he bucked and she bounced, then unglued herself from his gUstening, slug-sUck stump? I finaUy jolted awake enough to sneaker back the path to Twin Mountains Manor where my bent father swept long-legged spiders off the shuffleboard court and my mother staggered the stiff-backed Adirondock chairs into rows for spectators. I dawdled tul the sinners sidled among us, staring hard for any sign of dark compUcity, tick-ridden consdences, ash streaked on her temple or sulphur sUtting his eyes, as he chalked his name, Benny, onto the scoreboard, then toed the Une. What did I know about the faU of sunhght and shade that slow June afternoon as my skinny buddies cannonbaUed from the low board, as Benny 172 - The Missouri Review skimmed the puck toward the inverted pyramid and aU his proud sisters squealed? I clumped up the knoU to the kiddie-loud pool and dove, wishing I could remain under water tiU summer was over, hold my breath till the planet stopped whirUng long enough for me to grasp it with cupped hands, press it against my cheek to measure the snared pulse—poor stunned jay—then shovel it back into blue air and watch it flicker away. Michael Waters The Missouri Review · 273 THE '66 METS / Michael Waters The el rattled past the Unisphere, skeletal, the gristly webbing of some sea-creature left to bleach in the industrial rain of Queens. The World's Fair was over. The game caUed, we were thrown together hip-to-hip to convey the deep disinterest of commuters in one another's Uves, staring hard into the abandoned thoroughfares of the future, not speaking. But breathing. And one fan sidled up to nestle his mouth in my hair, his beery breath swabbing one ear, stiff prick pressed into the damp hoUow of my back, passengers packed around us, yet distant, a crowd in a photograph, the couplings not clear. Until a small commotion broke out, a man with two boys in basebaU gear clinging to his belt warning, Back off, bud, his palm against the breather's chest, the onlookers tense but making room as the express drummed into Queens Plaza and the amateur molester ghosted off into the gray, steel anonymity of the girders. Fifteen, I was too dumbstruck to murmur thanks, stiU too simple to grasp how desire can buUy the body, any body, that father ashen too, knuclding his boys' bristly scalps beneath their blue caps as the doors hissed shut and the train jerked away from the station into the spattering April drizzle, an outcry of sparks bursting from under blunt wheels, the long, frustrating season just begun. 174 · The Missouri Review CHRIST AT THE APOLLO, 1962 /Michael Waters for Andrew Hudgins "Even in religious fervor there is a touch of animal heat." —Walt Whitman Despite the grisly wounds portrayed in prints, the ropy prongs of blood stapling His eyes or holes Uke burnt haU-doUars in His feet, the purple gash a coked teenybopper's Upsticked mouth in His side, Christ's suffering seemed less divine than the doubling-over pain possessing "the hardest working man." I stiU don't know whose wounds were worse: Christ's brow thumb-tacked with thorns, humped crowns of feet spike-spUt— or James Brown's shattered knees. It's blasphemy to equate such ravers in their lonesome afflictions, but when James collapsed on stage and whispered please please please, I rocked with cold, forsaken Jesus in Gethsemane and, for the first time, grasped His agony. Both rose, Christ in His unbleached...


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