The window in mid-summer raised, and where the screen intersects with the frame, a web of circular tensile silks radiating outward from the central lair where a yellow spiny-backed spider waits, its six thorn spurs protruding rose-like from its abdomen, its casing imprinted with a wax seal ring. Attached to the foundation lines, clusters of white cottony tufts, lures, I suppose, for insects, and suspended from a single thread, a much smaller egg-shaped spider (the male?) swaying imperceptibly in the air: an image from childhood that reminds me of "childhood," a word that so often crosses my mind that it long ago ceased to mean anything other than a period of time when things occurred not to me so much as him, and all of them linked only by AND. As in the span of a single moment, the afternoon after the all-clear when the sun rose on a bloated, fly-stung pygmy goat in a gravel slough he crossed to wave to a woman with a Red Cross band on her arm. AND: the red pinball bumper cap ("5000 when lit") in a tented arcade on Brighton Pier when he was twelve.
Copyright © 2012 by Sherod Santos. Used with permission of the author.
—Inspired by Rocco Morabito’s photo from the book Moments: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs
I. The Arthouse
It has nothing to do with desire
although the act of pushing air
from one set of lungs to another
suggests an intimacy between people.
They weren’t supposed to meet;
they were always meant to be.
I watch each man on the street
the way dust swirls in the light—
the focus of gold endorphins.
The premise: two lovers in danger.
II. The American Epic
If anything, it starts with lust.
She watches from the porch.
He does his best to scale the pole.
She sweeps her hair, auburn and damp,
over one shoulder. She enjoys his arms,
they flex when the leather belt catches
and slaps the pole. He wants to wink
from under his hat. A print of tulips
covers her dress, petals and stems
in complete disarray. There’s lipstick
on her teeth. Such details from so far away,
but it’s like that sometimes.
He sweats continents down his back,
dark shapes rounding the shoulders,
narrow pike along the spine. She loves the image
so much, he’s disconnected: two biceps and an arched back.
Up among the elms, the tools from his belt
shine diamonds. This charms her in some childish way.
His lean body out in the clouds. The sky numb blue
like her husband’s eyes. He’s near the top—
where the overhead lines are reported all dead.
He nods, she nods, a whiff of perfume floats up to him.
Soft, like her wide rear end. She is wonderfully exotic
among Fords and Buicks. He watches her sit on the stoop
and smooth her skirt before the livewire finds him,
changing the seconds between thinking I want and I don’t
and I want. He dangles unconscious
to the rocking of her breasts. As she runs,
the fury of the tulips explode into air.
III. On the Cutting Room Floor
For once there are no calls, no letters, just sun driving neighbors onto porches. 1968: heat like a long whistle, dry
leaves scratching the curb, flip-flops sticking to swollen feet, the soft thump of plums falling to grass. It was a
graveyard without bodies, each man arriving in the form of a letter. But some days, no one dies. I wish my father were
here, Sam’s father too. It could happen—at any moment. Mom screams when the worker’s legs collapse and he
hangs from a strap, bent at the knees like a purse emptied out of all its belongings. His hardhat cracks on the
concrete. Mom races down to the street. Another man belts the pole in a frantic game of vertical leapfrog. He knows
how a charge can blaze through a body—leave holes where the electricity burns out. He steadies his friend, cradles
the head from hanging, places his mouth over the listless mouth and breaths sour air into the lungs. It’s the slowest
kiss that was never a kiss that I’ve ever seen. Mom’s fingers brush over her lips, she blushes a necklace of welts.
Pink flares along her cleavage and we both want this: to be kissed like that, to be jolted out and coaxed back. To stop
and live again.
Copyright © 2015 by Sjohnna McCray. Used with permission of the author.