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NEON JESUS / Betsy Sholl Stone drunk in a ditch, cursing the Red Sox, cursing my lousy hand, my old green junkbox tipped on its side, I look up and hot pink JESUS is scrawled across the sky. Lord, it's the end of the world and only a wrecker could haul me out of this stupor. Every mouth-washed, twittering fool whose fingers never strayed into anyone's cashbox, is probably dancing by now, doing the heavenly twist, no bones, loose as Ught on water. By chew, by swig, they got sorry for what Uttle they done, kneeled down, sang them slobbery hymns, and now, Lord knows, they're up there pissing out tears over me. Which would explain the sudden squawl dumping itself on my trouble. Sweet, neon JESUS—plain as if it said CadiUac Jack's, or Good Eats. Only it don't, and Tm king of cockroaches, waggUng Uke a stuck turtle, trying to find my knees. Pink sizzle of Ught squirting through aU them tubes—JESUS! He could snap fingers, make me clean-necked as a preacher hollering to his flock, words smooth as Uquor going down. Lord, if there's any flock left, if I ain't the last one, fuU of piss, raving like some ignorant hog putting my face in the dirt to snort. Like I been my whole Ufe, crying, O my sweet suffering God, help, help, I'm stuck, and this is the first time there hasn't been folks all around teUing me hush, be quiet, shut up. The Missouri Review · 272 FESTIVAL IN THE PARK / Betsy Sholl Tough times and lots to lose—the singer croons a low-down blues, and the sax almost sears the air. Behind the bandstand, through trees, the sky's a yeUow rippUng Ught, no smoke. Must be sunset's fire that leaves things uncharred, not the hot smelting flames of the steelyards, I stiU remember from the night we stood on a bridge, lovers above those red hot ovens, feeUng spared. We were young, not seeing how it took the whole sweating nightshirt of steelworkers bending at open furnace doors to keep us up there—though surely inside we felt the heat, some free-floating shame, the way we chain-smoked and chattered, those flimsy facades. Not fire, but an accident that forced my teeth up into my jaw finaUy injured my face enough, so a night nurse, sick of the moans, held up a mirror, hoping to shock me sUent, with my own lips curled back, eyes blackened, mouth torn. She didn't know I'd always feared a monster inside, striking matches on my cheekbones, trying to burn her way out, screaming love me, love me, till everyone ran. Now on the stage the singer howls like he's known a monster or two, and the sax finds a way to hold those flames in its brass bowl, let them out a Uttle at a time. It must be carnival lights through the trees, though my eyes wanted to see celestial acetylene, heat with its rage dissolved, as I know can happen because once we had a house restored after it caught the blaze from next door. What I remember of that night, draped in blankets, standing among rough engines, radio squawks, sound of flames rushing our roof and steps—was how in the fire's fierce judgment I just let go 172 · The Missouri Review pages and curtains of our Ufe, old records, photos, letters stacked in the closet. Take them, I hissed, tired of holding back loss, almost excited to see the roar—the same thriU which on those hospital nights became my odd consolation, moving that smaU mirror across my swoUen cheeks and eyes. Now at the foot of the stage, a heavy woman dances alone, jiggUng flesh, shooting arms in stiff thrusts, while the singer growls—"you can do it, girl," as if he means, convert that weight into motion, which is, I think, the power of flames. And maybe I know the moment I saw myself smug on the bridge above those molten steelworks, Td have to go down, ring by ring, till some kind of...


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