Ann Arbor Review


Chris Lord
Joseph McNair
Karyn M. Wolven
Geoffrey Philp
Paul B. Roth
Duane Locke
Silvia Scheibli
Shutta Crum
Felino Soriano
Steve Beaulieu
Donald Hewlett
Alan Britt
Joanie Freeman
Mervyn M. Solomon
Jerry Blanton
Marilyn Churchill
Running Cub
Mukul Dahal
Alice Paris

Helen Losse
Fred Wolven



There's a reason most things I do are done wrong.  For one, I never speak
to myself in the proper way.  I have names for myself under each situation. They
are for selves given me long ago after that first dissonant bell began grammar
school.  It was there I was sorted by height and alphabetized by teachers while
my peers sized me up by athletic cunning and/or intellectual loquacity.  I learned fast that I only functioned in my teacher's eyes in accordance with her perception of what would be, for me, a productive life.  There was little room for anyone's thoughts to be following the patterns and activities of winged ants half the day, swimming against the whoosh a mallard's webbed feet pushed off a sandy shore, or clinging to those long green streamers of slippery weeds trailing off a once invisible pond water.  If my teachers had known me this way, my oddness would have no doubt been evaluated as a handicap and along with being classified as unteachable I'd have been quarantined for being a resistant strain of humanity.  Ultimately, I'd be labeled a dreamer, lost in the ambitionless haze of a masked creativity.  Which is why I never let on I was anything but attentive and somehow survived in spite of convincing myself, to this day, the secret I once was still existed.


Snow fallen on a log across Chittenango Creek reflects underwater in full
moonlight.  I pull my car off the side of the road and on foot trek back to a
walking bridge and cross.  The hollow crunch of my footsteps in the snow sounds loud and alone.  It's that early.  The creek runs full and fast after rapid thawing before last night's surprise snowfall.  I reach the log stretching across the creek I'd noticed from the car.  Spruce branches dropping clumps of snow overhead pock its own fresh white coat.  In each little crater a darkness grows the way seeds in a halved apple resemble shadows just under its sliced flesh.  Through this transparency that's no longer a darkness, I notice my own hands hide nothing. Stone, feather, seed, bud, kiss, bloom all are suddenly revealed.  My skin no longer covers their faces.  Up from under dark creek water I watch as light snow fluoresces the fallen log a greenish-blue.  From the creek's slightest ripples, come the wrinkles my body carries to its end, taking on the fullness of their own empty shape.


         I carry the wind on my shoulders until a back-handed slap breaks my focus
and drops me to the bottom of a paper cup containing healthy globs of spit
extinguishing a cigarette left smoldering in its midst.  A fly I am.  A Fayetteville
fly.  An upstate New York fly.   A golden eyed, bristle bodied, green-winged fly
with an Erie Canal likeness criss-crossing my back and abdomen.  A fly fluent in
shit and all it delectable dialects.  A fly reading languages marked in cracks along
dry creekbeds and confiding them through the filtered light of its rainbow flecked
wings.  A fly resembling eyelashes fluttering from the face that's hidden in back of
what was left out all night when no blood remained.  And just whose hidden face
is this?  A human one?  Is it one in a mirror I might remember?  Were tomorrow
right in front of me, would I be able to see it beyond what I already know?  Would I remember who I was or where the private parts of my gravitational
body became scattered?  I hear them yelling back to me in languages lacking
vocabularies.  If I could only know how warm my thin wings were going to be
inside their deep breaths of sky.


         We go by different names.  We stretch ourselves out across the country-
side on picnic blankets, on tour buses or adrift on river boats.  No longer do we
wear masks, hats or dusty bandanas.  Those who recognize us, flee only what
they don't know.  Those who do come close to touching us, say things in languages we understand, but about things we're not ready to imagine.  With
all that said, it's clear there's no longer any fear.  Voices are cracking into awkward smiles.  Songs buried under centuries of phlegm rise from unclear
throats scraped with gravel and rock to help make them sing.  When they do emerge, others recognize them by joining in.  Children learn these songs quickly, repeating them in the new dreams of their easy sleep.  Never before heard, these
songs appear one after another, emptying the mouths of every person we know.
People chewing them like horse bits kiss with them in place of the earth, and
then later on sing them in songs long hidden for safe-keeping in changing spaces
that divide buried rock.  A microphone crackles from an empty podium.  Finally
it's no one's turn to speak.


         I am the way I am.  I make no excuse.  I surround myself with dead shapes from every civilization.  I do it to please myself.  I undertake it as a ritual.  I cover lights, mirrors, chrome, glass and every reflective object in my home until all this new darkness exhausts me.  I've never been so lost in what I know.  When my eyes close and sleep, centuries flutter under my eyelids where the dust of one fallen civilization after another is weighed down by its own bloody foot and sword. When I awake, I'm nowhere I've ever been before.  I'm in love with the freckled skin of green olives, with the unpierced earlobe of a littleneck clam, with the filleted leg of wind served glazed in a blackened moon sauce of blue point oysters.  Their pit, shell and water fill those places in my body where my bones, blood and organs used to rest and flow.  Now the interchange between sea salt and shore foam is all there is to say.  Intonations of sand following cadences of plankton open new doors to the end of the world.  I listen to what those waves with red lips are suggesting against deep night backdrops and swim my way out from there.

Paul B. Roth, Fayetteville, New York 


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