In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Book of Acts, and: Based on a True Story, and: Scale, and: “Fire Destroys Beloved Chicago Bakery”*
  • Nathan McClain (bio)


    began with a group of grown men,the disciples (whose bodies I cannot helpbut picture slim as street signs), huddled

in that upper room awaiting the return of another man,who promised to never leave them, who said he’d come back.And they waited. Believing he would keep his word.

I spent god-knows how many days outside,plinking nickels off a fire hydrant near the curb,where a man, who was not my father, parked his raggedy

pick-up, and blazed by me up the apartment steps. [End Page 299]


From China the long and suppleOne-winged peehees that fly in couples                 —Guillaume Apollinaire, “Zone” (trans. Samuel Beckett)

I want to explain how peehees braid their necks,but you probably won’t believe me—so instead, I’ll tell you of two men

who sit across from each otherin the coffee shop, each craning the lampof his body over the newspaper, the crossword section,

one chewing the tip of his eraser beforepassing his pencil to the other; they search for words,these men who, for all I know, may be brothers

(that said, they could easilymean anything or nothing to one another).And if they are brothers,

I want to believe that when they get stuck,one picks up his phone and dialstheir father; their father who, I hope,

is a man with answers but, more than likely,is a man trying to call back a word himself.Who isn’t trying to call a word

back into meaning, into use?Like “father” for instance. Dear father. I havemultitudes of crossword puzzles. I need your help. [End Page 298]


At the Griffith Observatory,which you mostly like to visit

alone, there is a seismograph,and beneath it a plaque that reads:

“When two plates grindagainst each other, tensions

build. Eventually, somethinghas to give.” You jump

on the seismograph; itsneedle, which has scratched

in red the weight of everyonewho’s come before you, doesn’t

register your weight. There is no oneto tell you it’s broken;

you’d always wished it to be broken.If this Earth is your home,

if it’s crumbling under you,how saddening to know

how little you matter.Not that this is news to you. [End Page 300]


How is it that you misread “fire”as “father”—your father—come back from the dead,

to sweep, like hard wind, through the building,to smash, with a Louisville Slugger,every pastry with which you’d pack

your sweet little mouth, thenflick a lit match into the trash bin?The entire building

will have to be demolishedbecause the father took hoursfinally to be put out;

it was a stubborn father. Your fatherwho once, outside a grocery store,warned you against asking

for anything inside, so you have learnedto keep your appetites a secret.And how good you are: refusing,

in the drive thru, the hot apple pie(two for a dollar), choosingthe house salad over french fries.

But maybe this is whythey all leave you, why you can’tlet him rest in peace. The real question is

not why your father would do such a thing,but why you smell him in every ruin, everysmoldering heap of ash and brick? [End Page 301]

Nathan McClain

NATHAN MCCLAIN is author of Scale (Four Way Books, 2017), a recipient of scholarships from The Frost Place and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. A Cave Canem fellow, his poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Iron Horse Literary Review, Sou’wester, Southern Humanities Review, and New Haven Review. He lives in Brooklyn.


* Originally published in Quarterly West (Fall 2012).