notnostrums

Jack Christian

Jack Christian

MARIE

Jim was a marksman, same as most. His son Jimmy 
Was a marksman. They believed. They pursued. Karin’s parents
Sent a couple Nice wishes, and off they went around the bend,
On a Jonathan, where the road can’t Siobhan. Tom was from Homer,
Alaska – Tuesday born, fathered by nonesuch, raised by Julia.
Graham did everything for a reason, was math proficient. Norm
Did it for Eleanor. Aunt Jay did it with J.P., thereby upsetting
Many people. This made the newsletter. Did you catch it?
The guy we call “Japes.” They printed it “John Patrick.”
Marybeth conferenced with Lawson; Angela copied Creech
And cleared the changes through Jana. Michelle told the boys
To hit the presses. John threw his clothing. Ryan flew to Pasture.
This meant Par 3 with Sterling, executive ombuds. Andrew
Was impossible to locate. Terence, like the dog will do.
With Ray, there were goals, which Ruth interpreted biblically.
If she bore a child she would name it Ruth. If it was a boy
She would name its basket, but still feel reprehensible. This was
Saturday, Year of Manuals. Jamie was to wed Alan then,
At the site decided by Mary Lyons, who planned for violet;
Expected Meredith. God Love Stonewall Jackson and Men
Of Vacation. Tabitha reneged on account of charm school. Clay,
Gone to Maui. Junior Chism, somewhat racist, still invited.
Cal was what Meg was bringing to the picnic. Katie preferred
“Bar-B-Q.” Garvey was modulated through potato salad.
There were “reasons.” Put two “reasons” together, they make
A “foot.” This, according to Jack’s brother’s thesis, entitled,
Warren’s Wonderful World of Made-Up Facts. Which aren’t
Necessarily untrue – thanks Different Dave, for pointing that out.
Tulley is sorry to hear of your arms and your legs. Nothing
Is impossible. Last Bob saw, Jeffrey was starring in a movie
Called Boy of the Incongruous Response, or was that pertinent
Only to Judy’s online community? Liz was consoling the girl
The tennis team dubbed “Ice Boobs.” What about The Flash?
What of Warm Roderick? All Mrs. Kent Choate wanted
Was a word in the cube of the Poor Man’s Bill Sandman. All Tim
Wanted were more curls. Saul told himself he could tolerate
the moniker “Fat Taco,” so long as no one said it to his brother.
Rann was Israeli, besides. It wasn’t a hoax. The field had not
Released anything. This, with apologies to Angela, who was
starstruck. Peter’s friends did and did not resemble characters
On sitcoms. They were and were not scattered about the country.
None were flyover people, nor were they reincarnations, nor stories
With beginnings, muddles, and James, who was strangely present,
Emma or not, and accepted in that time and place. Vanessa.
They never began at his Wainwrights. They were Allison, clever
As a promo. Kelly as Dana. Her father, Talbot, the lost pastor.
Existed Marsha, photographer of record, divorcee, the one
The raft guide crooned toward. Doris was alive in the North.
She called herself “Da” when speaking with herself. Lucy’s pet
Answered to “Tater Tots.” They bonded over mutual recognition
Of impermanence. And Curt Evers was a basketball hero, easily
From Appalachia, usually excited. He was a fireball. Becky
Keyed piano well. Melinda walked in the image of her mother,
Mamie Faye, who carried a bundle of favorite things, known as memories.
And Scott was how Bonnie’s Sue met a molecular Gary, and Anne
That Miss Dot was referred into the company of Edmund Gadaire
Who was Darrell George and, for the most part, Ronald Worthington.

PARADOX TRAINING SCHOOL

Although there aren’t rules, 
you are against them. You bring curfew
and we break it. You bring contraband, and strange light
marks the sky, again. We travel back to our barn;
the one we lived in for a month,
but say it was five years; say its splinters
rule our blood. We lose ourselves
looking for some farm-part. That’s what happens.
We tie knots in the other’s throat, become people
we’re glad not to know. Once, we were locked
in the stem of a flower that bloomed
only at night. We lived that moment
until it turned on us in a curve
some other energy pulled it toward. You followed me out.
I was an owl that swooped low
in front of the car. You were the song you sang
until your stomach hurt. The both of us were framed
by what we called ‘The Moon.’ Our dashboard conversation
focused on the cross hidden on the shoulders
of every donkey. When all the tent sites were full,
we drove back to the Paradox Training School.
There, we found a baseball game. Hits happened
but the batters never moved. Their uniforms were made
from shadows; they wore them like skin.
The score was kept in road flares and flashlights.
Each inning brought with it ‘The Rain.’ A good snag,
and more rain. Already, we had a grandpa
who promised to help with a tree fort. We made plans
for an illegal campfire. We weren’t sleeping again.
We wanted to market charcoal as the best thing
since pens and pencils. You became ready
for more travel. You made a map from a barbed-wire.
You put on a shoe over a shoe over a shoe, and then
you were ‘A River,’ and then you were a bend.
I went back to the Paradox Training School.
Each of the masters was waiting for me. Each was fat
with possibility. The cafeteria was lined
with bowls of applesauce. They told me
I’d better eat until the hungry world believed in us.
They said mine was a likely story; they thought it was quaint.
They said I was dreaming and wasn’t it sweet?
In the dreams it was you and me. We dressed like pioneers
in tassels and in leather. We didn’t settle but spun
‘The Earth’ beneath us. We stood close and didn’t touch.
It was enough to gaze at the uneven land
until we were sewn in it like trails.
We put out our hands and started to seep
back toward a satellite campus of the Paradox Training School.

RURAL MANAGEMENT

I managed a grocery 40 minutes west of town. 
It was a warehouse. It was a place you could direct
a letter toward. I had an office where I read,
and my office was also full of food. On the outside,
the bottom half of the building was painted.
The top half was a natural white. It resembled
a two-dimensional swimming pool. When our shifts ended,
the staff and I would look back at it and consider it
a thing that could be broken effectively, or folded right.
Then, the union came in and insisted: vests or aprons
over blue jeans. “Or” was policy. They wrote it in the aisles
in a script that approximated my handwriting.
It was summer, and both parties moved in a direction
of interconnectedness. The soup display was allowed to occur
in the dairy section. A narrative ambiguity arose,
and through debate, I was permitted to drop another “I” inside.
I did so, and named her my cousin, Allison.
With the market running so well, we coached each other
in child-rearing because we were self-assured experts
on many things. She would say, “the cheese aisle,”
and I would find a manner in which “the cheese aisle”
could repeat. She was sunburned. She sat long sessions
on the curb waiting for her ride. Together, we pushed
a shopping cart into the cattails at the edge of the lot.
We pushed it on the half-path and on the footbridge
across the Mill River. Ice clung in the eddies
and the current curved the ice. It was a bright summer,
and we were working through it.

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