- The Good
Come every 4:00 am, the confrontation with a door,the grocer's bag crooked in one arm, and keys somewhereto reach the final stairs in a night made of stairwellsand halls. I'm always two fingers of whiskey awayfrom sleep, whiskey or most of a beer and also theoranges zested, olives pitted and quartered, thenthe strata of seven spices laid in a small glass bowl.I've got no mind for the sacred left by the time I cutto cubes the flesh of the cow who gave its life for this,the meal I'll set to cook all day and which my familywill eat when I'm gone. Once, I spent such morningswatching hawks above the marsh carry nestingand carry sparrows to the height of the eastern cypress.How luxurious were the violences in my life, then,theoretical, plumed with metaphor. Now, my children,when they see me, ask when they'll see me again.I think of them when a squatter on my third patrol asks,Hey, what's good? When he shows me his tow hook,three links of chain, and heavy block. When he tells me,Better not. Nothing says it has to be good, I want towarn my daughters. Just look at these nights I count offa private company's circuit of demands, harry humansfrom one spot to wherever else, carry a tiny bookto record the threats against me. My daughters waketo find me in their mother's bed, wearing soft clothesagainst custom, my foul mouth venting alcohol.They climb atop me to quell with their weight the dreamsin which I'm savaged. I wake long enough to watch themdisappear in bright coats and daylight, too-far grown forthe hours I've known them. I once spent such mornings as this [End Page 49] upright and perhaps of no more good to anyone,watching sunlight scourge the frost above terrified micein the grass. The violence of my place was nothing to me then—as I diced roots, dropped minuscule spoons of paprika, cumin,cayenne, as I reduced red wine—yet doesn't escape me nowwhen I leave a house empty but for splendid smell,as I render the sacrificial cow sweet and unrecognizable. [End Page 50]
stephen lackaye's debut collection, Self-Portrait in Dystopian Landscape, was the winner of the Unicorn Press First Book Competition. He lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with his wife and daughters.