Ethan, Or the First Time I Laid Eyes on You

By Shane Allison

A summer Saturday night at 926 Bar & Grill was the first night I laid eyes on you.
I was sipping a whiskey sour
As you sat there bald and baby-faced watching Futurama on the HD TV
That hung above Hillary’s big hair & even bigger tits.
The edge of your moustache baptized in dark beer,
Cherry red lips kissing the glass.
You’re the laid back type unlike the boys
I’m used to, who prance about in search of toxic masculinity.
Lawrence, who is much older than you was on the hunt for young twink meat,
Looking as if you’re something good to eat.
He made advances, but you’re immune to the stink of his romance.
I watched his ways, left with the lesson
That his approach is not the way to penetrate your armor.
I was five whiskey sours in, faded,
And the size of your dick has never entered my mind.
Only thoughts of kissing you in this sanctuary,
Caressing that creamy Irish skin.
I don’t come on strong.
I take it easy with you, Ethan.
You feel easy around me.
We talked of cell phones,
The lifespan of laptops until you walk away bored and beer-filled,
Into a haze of absolution.

Artwork by Shane Allison

A True War Story

Up in the mountains, we found a baby VC water buffalo. It had no reason to be there, but then neither did we, if you sat and thought hard about it. A few of us chased the thing down, Rat Kiley and Timmy and Sanders and me, and took it with us to camp. I’d just finished my beans when I saw Rat go over to the creature. He touched it. Actually, he petted it. Even opened up some cans of food and waved it under its nose. But the thing just looked at him. Seemed like it didn’t move a muscle. Rat shrugged. I saw his face, so white like paper, almost shining.

It was just a thing, you know. Just a thing. Who cares?

Who the fuck cares?

Someone was shot. I saw the buffalo sink and Rat Kiley holding the gun. The silence rang, more piercing than any sound. I heard my breath, struggling. I heard Sanders’ breath next to me. Everything frantic and slamming but not making a sound. I looked back at the buffalo – still up. Still. Not moving. My eyes were fixed there, looking at everything but also at nothing. How was the buffalo up? There was no sound at all, the thing didn’t even whimper. I wanted to speak. I didn’t stop Rat but I wanted to puncture that goddamn silence, shoot it up, bomb it, drown it, just make it cry.

Another shot. Had Rat stepped back or forward this time? It didn’t matter. For a second, the silence was gone and it filled our eyes. It was even beautiful. How sharply Rat had attacked that silence, aimed his gun right for once. The buffalo lost an ear. Was it the ear? How lucky. How lucky and Rat realised it too so he shot it in the hindquarters and in the hump. I could feel Sanders’ heart and my heart beating in agreement.

He shot the thing twice, right in its middle. Yes. Yes. He shot it in the mouth, got real close and clean took it all off. We stood there and watched like some fucking day out at the movies. And the buffalo swallowed it all up. Who the fuck cares. Lemon was gone. Rat shot the tail off. Lemon and Kiley were best friends. Brothers. You come here and nobody gets to choose who you love, who’s your friend, who gets hurt. Kiley didn’t get to choose. He’s no God.

He shoots the thing in its chest, pieces of flesh falling to the ground. The air smells like it always does – green, smoke, hot, death. It isn’t new, just fresh so we take it, all dirty desperate greedy. Lemon is dead. Who the fuck cares?

Nobody cared. Rat switched to automatic. The gun kept going, killing that silence. This was important. This was the whole war and nobody said anything. It was wondrous that the buffalo was not dead after all those bullets. Rat kept shooting as if he was unpacking a suitcase, one shirt out after the other. Yes. Yes. Yes. He knelt down and carefully shot the thing’s knee. It fell. It couldn’t get up. Just lay there on its side. How the fuck could it give up like that? Pathetic. Can’t even be a damn hero for yourself. Can’t even matter.

Rat shot its nose. He swooped forward and whispered to it, putting it to sleep and all, I guess, and then he shot it in the throat. It was beautiful. Like a real Hollywood picture. Sending off your lover slowly because you love them but you also really hate them and none of it even matters. And it’s funny but right now, I remembered this girl I once had but now I don’t.

Maybe the baby buffalo was really braver than us. It could take the silence. It made the silence. It could lie there, it could just be, while we shot everything up. We couldn’t even take ourselves, the existence of our bodies, and how they ran but didn’t make a sound. Nobody’s a fucking hero and I saw it in the buffalo’s eyes, the only thing that had any bit of life ever in it.
Who cares?

Rat was crying. I put my hand to my cheek and it was wet too and was it tears or sweat or blood, who ever knows here? He tried to speak but the silence got the better of him so he hugged his gun and went off because he probably didn’t know what else to do. We didn’t either. We had no name or feeling or thing to shoot. Just silence.

This piece is a retelling of a scene from Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story”, from the perspective of another soldier.

Image taken from the film “Full Metal Jacket”, dir. by Stanley Kubrick

Home(town) Boys

I hate those
backwards snapback
hockey jersey toting
wide grin
“what’s up, fag?”
boys.

“yo, reach the basement”
for beer pong and
everything is supreme and
“elite bro”
boys.

they’ll spit sunflower seeds in
the parking lot,
and they’ll pee on people’s cars
when they’re drunk.

listening to their conversations –
like watching a rhino fight a giraffe
in slow motion
with pool noodle necks
and boulder bodies rumbling.

they find the worst moment
to offer you
their cigarette or beer
and you take it,
laughing at them with
your eyes while
their eyes
undress you.

and just when they            couldn’t
be                     worse
they uncurl one of their fists to reveal
some soft thing
there
a tiny little-

“I think about dying sometimes,
but I couldn’t do that to my Mom”
He looks at me sideways
and I remember him in kindergarten
acting like a puppy.

Artwork by Francois Bard

Barefoot

Black rocks peppered over the rich
lowland soil: budding wildflowers, murky puddles,
all kinds of earthly offerings.

The boy clings tightly onto his father like
a newborn ape: legs around waist, limbs
girding neck, body cradled on the side.

Something about being barefoot turns
the boy, unaccustomed to the rough faces of
nature, into an invalid, unable to walk
straight: every pebble so prickly they might
bruise his skin.

Strong men stand on their bare feet, the father says,
stomping on the mush, splashing dirt on his
parched adult ankles. He points to their
dog, paws softer than nectarines—Look!
Look at her chasing after the bird!

The son wiggles his legs, his
naked toes missing the warmth of
parquet, of socks and slippers.
Let us go back home, Papa!
Let us continue playing the
video games!

The dog sprints across the lowland; the father—
drawn to the mirage of a ragged child in
a vast green field: ashy knees, untucked uniforms,
a school by the hill—he sprints across, stepping
on a bed of twigs, crying, blood dripping
From his brown soles, wishing
his parents
had bought him shoes.

You are right, son, the father says.
Only poor men stand on their bare feet,
the prosperous, O the prosperous—
They walk on marble and rose petals,
places reserved
for those with soles
as soft and pink as yours.

Artwork by Jiwoon Pak

Wild Jungle Boy

Syahbandi Samat, Hidup, 2015

These screens are too piercing for the
Wild jungle boy’s eyes that dart
From void to matter and see things
That don’t matter
He digs for worms and photosynthesizes
Like a self-sufficient walking farm bleating out
Prophecies largely ignored by the general population too
Mesmerized by the spectacle his appearance narrates
Those dreadlocks are thick long pipes hollowed out
By organic disintegration and his teeth
Uneven and filthy and reeking of unseen lives
And him, crouching and moving like a slow old ape
In the noisy busy streets that sustain the imaginary
Of a city where hopefuls come with sacks of goods
And hope like formal documents that refused to be thrown but
Chucked useless into a dusty folder
The jungle wild boy sees but never interprets
He lurks under bridges and runs on grass
At night when drunkards bawl behind wheels and cat eyes illuminate in shadows
And when the roads cool completely and dawn threatens to expose
Herself he returns to the elements and
Howls in the honks of traffic jams and adopts the curve of bent necks
Hanging over screens and pages or sometimes
Beeping to the tune of overworked billboards
Knowing nothing of the past and future.

 

Artwork by Syahbandi Samat, “Hidup”, 2015

Prince Charming Has a Little Fat Horse

My voice has an edge I hope you will accommodate with your lips
And swallow like the man you are
Show me your masculinity under my heel
Or dare to reach for my insides to feel the warm blood pulsing
Beyond above and through you

This is not your home. I am not a savior
With a rose tattoo or perfect nails
I am a priestess waiting for the next sacrifice
I am bold enough for myself. I am enough for
Myself. I am word of mouth. I am words too much for your mouth.

You are scaly skin and no tail. You say there is
Substance underneath your skin. Oh yes,
Just a typical layer of crust. You say there was a bloody accident? She didn’t sew you up?
I see stitches coming undone. I see gold underneath
I collect expensive things.

Word has it you move worlds with your tongue
Give me speech. Make yourself whole
Are you a seashell washed ashore?
Because damn, boy, you’re just another broken one
Amongst thousands of broken ones

And so we square up. Show me your will to
Battle it to death. I am creamy cake batter, better than you will
Ever be, cheap sprinkles. Make my toes curl or go—
This is North Pole and you are the small brown bear
I have glaciers. I have spears.

I am too woman to be yet another woman you
Barge into. Surprise surprise. I have removed the welcome mat and replaced it with
A bed of knives and flowers. I am surrealist art I am
Dora Maar.
You are Princess Diana.

But say, if you can hold yourself steady in my stormy weather
And you don’t mind all my edges and clouds and bald patches
You can wear my stockings and we can bake sometime
I’ll buy you a spare toothbrush to keep at mine and
We can sail away on Sunday afternoons on checkered picnic blankets.

 

Artwork by Valerie Belin, “Ballroom Dancers 1” 2008

Boys Your Age

Boys your age
Still have wet dreams and need for immediate gratification
They will wring you dry and then make you doubt yourself about this thing you said over dinner or
This text you sent him like was it too much was I too clingy did I say the L word too early?
Before they could afford a car they had already
Driven you insane

Boys your age
Sleep with ease with cum stains on their freshly changed sheets by their mothers or sisters who
Watch them fuck around in packs from afar and sigh
Boys will be boys
These not quite men but men will grow beards but still be uncertain about this
Throb in their heart
Ba dum dum TSSSSSS—
It fizzles out
Because he doesn’t believe in labels

Boys your age
Wreck broken hearts and maybe theirs was broken once but they think their hurt trumps all
So they walk like kings on your body and
Suckle your nipple like they own it or refuse to
Go down on you
Unless you shave clean like a baby girl
And even so he laps your pussy like he’s
Eating oatmeal

Boys your age
Are not equipped to catch your tears although
You were taught that your hands weren’t enough and your sisters’ are somewhat
Less emotionally satisfying
These scholars, scientists, aspiring lawyers, future bad fathers
Are so used to sweeping things under carpets that their mothers have to vacuum after
Even when their best friend says something
Remotely vulnerable
They can only say
“That’s fucked up, bro.”

 

Artwork by Yeo Tze Yang, “Fucking Dead Ah Chang”, 2017