Five Prose Poems

We are thirteen -- The day the rabbit -- Our plain faces
Conversation with Beckett -- Our Toy Soldiers

by Terry Spohn

Terry Spohn grew up in Chicago, lives in Wisconsin, and has been publishing short stories and poetry for nearly 25 years. His fiction has appeared in Ascent, Mississippi Review, Grub Street, and North American Review, and his poems and prose poems can be found in Janus, Espresso Poetry (an anthology), Dreams and Secrets (an anthology), Oyster Boy Review, and The Party Train: An Anthology of North American Prose Poetry. He is still trying to find his way to North Carolina.

We are thirteen

It happens like this in Norwood: bodies are found in the forest preserve. Mothers whine and threaten, recite their warnings about perverts sliding through the shadows, their small lengths of rope, their dirty, corrugated thumbnails in the moonlight. People walk in there at night and don't come out, just dropout of sight like beer cans sunk in the creek. We boys line up and throw rocks at the water or make rafts from rotten discarded doors. It's a good day if one of us doesn't go home wet and stinking to the waist. The muck eats shoes. We each imagine the Gailor sisters down there somewhere, just beneath our feet, their ears filled with mud, clothing half stripped off, open eyes as cold as marbles, fingertips clutching at our shoes while their parents whisper novenas to St. Anthony for their safe return.

We are whispering to one another, digging with spoons in the gloom as if these worms belonged to someone else. The woods are dark as black kittens, stitched by secret paths.

Fish wait in the lagoon at the end of the creek with moonlight smeared above them, and the mosquitoes have come down on us like sweat. We are feeling through the soft black soil with our fingers that would rather not touch a woman just yet. We are thirteen, more than willing to chew our own legs off to escape.

The day the rabbit

We once pushed sheets of wet lettuce into the rabbit's cage in the back yard on Williams Street. Then one morning he wasn't there to pull it through the mesh with his cautious mouth. It's no bigger mystery than anything else. When you're two everything flies out from you like light, the way shouts go some other place not here, not ever close again.

"That's what rabbits do sometimes," Mother says. "One day they're just gone. We remember the cage door hanging open, the unbroken wire mesh walls, the small turds on the tray beneath the cage. We used to watch them fall out of the rabbit. We walk back into the kitchen. The screen door bangs twice. We look around to see what there is to hold on to, what belongs in us, and it begins to store up like souvenirs. We'll sort through it later to see what's ours, even after we learn what the rabbit learned, that not even life itself really belongs to us.

Sooner or later it happens, a day we've carried around with us like a new penny. This is the day the rabbit comes back, and everything belongs: the mother made of paper stored in our paper hearts, the stone that falls from the blind man's hand, the echo of the meal next door. The halo around the moon belongs. The fear that rides the great curve back to us belongs. The wood of our umbrella handle, the split tooth, the lost dog all belong. We've kept them all to step on in the dark in the middle of the night. We've just awakened from a terrible dream in which the worst turned out to be true: everyone we loved was gone; the money wasn't ours after all; the neighborhood bully, his face pressed against the screen door, was peering in at us. We are lying awake in bed, our bones too heavy to move, the dream of the paper mother twisting this way and that to escape, stretching its arms outward like a baby.

Our plain faces

The founder of the family was a simple man living in a complicated time -- too much gravel, not enough wind. It was a yellow time, the birds gone astray and the voice coming from another part of the body, the ruins from the last rebellion still smoldering. We wandered about in the gloom, his unborn children. In his dreams lived a monster that devoured everything, and each night it fattened itself on the darkness.

The founder always dreamt of us just before waking in the slanted light, with the crow outside the window slyly calling the monster's name, the fly in the room going round and round the founder's face, the founder's helixes turning splendidly in his inner fire. Mother called, using his full name, the syllables ringing like wind chimes in the window, but the founder slept on for a moment, dreaming of our plain faces up against his as in a train going by in the dark. . . too close -- the wind, the gravel hitting his eyes, the unknowing creature already on its own blind way without him.

Read the rest of Terry Spohn's poems

Previous Page

To TOCE-Mail the AuthorSerendipity Link