Monthly Archives: September 2021


At twelve he was already taller than some boys in high school, with his stringy arms and long hair that made him look old­er until you saw his freck­les and his bangs. He was so thin his shoul­der blades poked under his t‑shirt like dinosaur wings. He usu­al­ly walked home with his friends, but this morn­ing he was jumped in the bath­room by some kids who kicked him in the balls, repeat­ed­ly, until he puked. He wait­ed until they left then washed out his mouth and splashed water on his face, and since this was the days when a boy could leave school any­time he want­ed, he went out the front gate. 

He loped around a park­ing lot and an alley near the school, wast­ing time until he could go home with­out his moth­er ask­ing ques­tions. When he thought it was noon, he ate his lunch on a bench under an oak out­side a head shop. He could hear a pin­ball machine get­ting slapped and banged inside. He looked through the the screen door and rec­og­nized a kid his own age with no shirt play­ing the table and smok­ing a cig­a­rette. He stepped away and head­ed home through the yuc­ca and stuc­co and cicadas. 

The orchard was too dan­ger­ous to cut across alone. Full of cre­osote and poi­son oak and an old man with a gun. He’d have to climb Mul­ber­ry. At the bot­tom, there was a girl with a red mouth sit­ting on a cin­derblock wall. She twirled a mus­tard flower in her hand, and crushed mus­tard and ice plant lay around her feet. 

Hey, can you car­ry me?” 


I can’t walk so good today. I need a ride.” He walked toward her with­out know­ing why. Her lips were open like a robe. She was wasn’t a girl. She was a woman, and when she told him her name, he didn’t believe her. He’d nev­er met any­one else with it. 

That’s my mother’s name.” 

She’s got taste.” When she hopped off the wall he saw her spine was curved and her back twist­ed into a large hump. She took half steps toward him. “Usu­al­ly I can get up okay, but the sun’s too hot or something.” 

That’s why it’s called Sun­land.” “No shit. Bend down.” He did as she said, and she climbed on his back. He teetered in a fog of per­fume and warm breath. Her breasts heaved against his back. 

You wan­na job ? I can’t pay you, but I can sing.” 

She didn’t sing. There was no sound on Mul­ber­ry Dri­ve. It was hard enough to climb alone, and it got steep­er as it went. He stum­bled and squeezed her thighs to keep her from slip­ping. She clamped her hands around his neck. He couldn’t breathe, but he didn’t didn’t want her to fall. He want­ed her not to fall. Already a few hous­es up the hill and he could feel sweat run down his sides. He want­ed her to not fall. 

Mul­ber­ry was a wall. Above it only sky. His Achilles’ felt like they might snap. He stepped off the side­walk to walk in the street. Her voice vibrat­ed in his jaw. 

Smart move. I knew I picked the right guy.” 

It didn’t feel like they were get­ting any clos­er to the top. Her weight shift­ed, and she start­ed to slide out of his hands. He leaned over, his head a few inch­es from the road, to keep her on his back, and when he saw their reflec­tion in the chrome wheel of a VW, it looked like her body had swal­lowed him whole. 

Should I com­pare you to a moon­less night ?
The poor night doesn’t have a chance.
The dark­est sky still fades to white
and blots the stars with morning’s con­se­quence.

And those stars ? It takes all day to dri­ve
above the haze and lights just to see some.
And if it’s cloudy, what then ? Nice try,
no cig­ar, turn around and go home.

But your shim­mer just nev­er quits —
like mer­cury flung across a vel­vet cloak,
like the sun in my eye after it sets — 
You’re bright­est in a world gone dark.

As long as I still have my wits about me
I’ll take your flame and keep you with me.