Tuesday, April 2, 2019

How the World was Made 2

Over the next few months

I’ll be posting many prose-poems from the manuscript

How the World was Made.

The first three can be found 

Here's two more.


Bodies, Waiting 

I work in the medical records department at St. Ignatius. White corridors, no windows. Every morning, on my way across the parking lot to the employee entrance, I pass a row of bio-hazard barrels, and every morning I have the same thought: are those the same barrels that were here last week, the week before, last month – since the day I started this job? I can’t tell.

On my lunch break, dirty snow clings to junipers, chamisa shrubs dot the distant hill. I eat almond butter and jelly sandwiches on rye. I’m allergic to peanut butter and wheat. Sand blows across the parking lot from the west. On my way to the file storage room, hunting down some old record for an insurance claim, I sometimes see the bodies, waiting on gurneys outside the morgue door.

A hospital is about bodies – living or dead – waiting. Bodies wait in the emergency room. Bodies wait for their records in the records department waiting room.


Records always tell the story: how a girl was raped, over and over, tearing her apart. How she was sewn back together, became addicted to painkillers. The records reveal a junkie, body broken, who keeps returning to the hospital, again and again. They open her up, take things out, put things in, give her more drugs. The drugs mingle and mix.

She’s on the phone with me right now, demanding her records. She’s searching for clues. She’s slurring, drunk. The phone slips from her fingers a few times, drops to the floor. “They’re tearing me apart,” she whispers. It’s her secret. I’ve seen the records. I know what they’ve done. They have cut more and more of her away, replaced her body with something else. She is on the phone, looking for her body. Her body is waiting for her, somewhere. I want to tell her it’s not here, that she must find it somewhere else. But I don’t. I can’t. I’m a professional. I am bound by law to her secret.

The phone rings the moment I hang up – an insurance company. The phone rings again – a law firm. Claims, checks, HIPAA law, almond butter and jelly sandwiches, bio-waste. When I finish with the asshole ambulance-chasing lawyer (who wants his request expedited RIGHT NOW), I begin to process the request of the woman-who-has-lost-her-body, copying her records for her, knowing she won’t remember our conversation, will stare at the package on her doorstep for hours when it’s finally delivered, immobile, wondering what it could possibly be. 

(Previously published in Gargoyle Magazine)


The Woman Who Mistook the Sun for the Moon

Figures inside the factory lift seventy-pound squares of butter onto a conveyor belt. A machine of whirling blades cuts the butter into sticks. Every hour the machines are shut-down so the operators can change wrappers. Same butter, different brands. 

First smoke-break: a parking lot full of cars; curled barbed wire; the black husks of old milkweed pods next to green ones; no one speaks.

Second smoke-break: Natalie talks about the eyes of a deer she almost hit on her way to work. The cliché: caught in the headlights, unable to move. Years ago, someone at a party told me that gravity was the origin of love – particles speeding across the cosmos towards each other. I don’t know about the origin of love, but I think I may have found the origin of gravity. 

Third smoke-break: Dolly points at the rising sun – a gray ball through gray haze – and says: “I didn’t know the moon was full.” I tell her it’s the sun. “No, silly” she says, “that’s the moon.” And for a split second I can’t tell whether it’s sun or moon.

(Previously published in Hanging Loose Magazine and in a 2River chapbook)

There's a new tab on the banner above called "Interviews." 
Inside, along with two short interviews online (one for my fiction, the other for poetry), there is an edited version of a long interview with Paul B. Roth that previously appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of The Bitter Oleander.


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