Issue #10 June 2019
Detail from Thirty-third (The View Is So Very Nice) by Tim Frisch

Steve Langan

The Sandbox

Peace and joy to you, mosquito brother who lived through
evolution and the so-called Period of Disgusting Radiance.
You gave us trouble around the dining room table,
and we swatted you away from our jewels like fits
of lightning, which was really all in the abbreviations,
because we were living like a household of cultural critics.
It was tempestuous. My lover hid a machete in a cardboard tower.
It was cacophonous as war sometimes, and there was a baby bottle
and an old t-shirt in the sandbox that was never altered.
Day and night, these objects in the sand never moved.

Twenty Years, Same House, Same Name

If you look at me, neighbor, I will look at you, but only briefly, as any animal must before he scurries.

Freedom, because I looked around, at all the pails and cans, and I said to someone, one of the kids, go get a shovel, daddy has an idea!

A project that began in earnest; everyone, from the largest to the smallest, forgot his worries and sins for a while and we worked.

I love the dark extended stares of the busy crew. Which is one way to determine there’s a devil in each of us.

That’s what I want my friends to know; that’s what I’ve spent these last few months studying.

A little flare shot over a house…and the debris seems to land in the bushes of another.

I would like you to read my notes. I want to share a copy of the plan.

Wake up, wake up, get moving. Even though we have lived here, twenty years, same house, same name, we’re not dead yet.

I have another project in the works. It’s called “Salvation (and Beyond).”

When I said, “Please help me name my project—it’s ambitious—I’m not sure what to call it”—to my dear cousin Don, now dead, that’s what he insisted I must name it.

My work is cut out for me now.

I dedicate the rest of my life to the project called Salvation (and Beyond).

Other scribes at your little desks, stand, join me.

Or forget it. In this endeavor I must go it alone.

When I was nobody, nothing, sitting at the library of piss and shit, looking out the cracked window, one piece of human wreckage after another walking through the stacks, yards of uncombed hair, I was mostly happy.

I even read some Heidegger. I read Sentimental Education.

Let me pause to call this the human wreckage poem, now, if only for a second.

And maybe I do think too much about the girl in the front row. Her dancing—or is swaying?—could ruin a nation.

There are other impediments to salvation (and beyond).

Let us have a moment of silence, during which we will reflect on all the ways we can destroy ourselves and be destroyed.

For me it’s vodka and elegance all summer, bourbon over ice every day since!

Barkeep, I want to put those lines to music: Vodka and Elegance, a duet.

Barkeep, I would like to buy a round for the house.

Now, people come in to our lives. I am sorry to say I’m just noticing.

They ask for help with their misery. Then they move on.

The best of them believe at first in nothing—never ever. Sometimes they sit on their shaky hands to make them stop shaking. Right in front of me this happens and it seems normal.

Smoking Cigarettes and Drinking Bourbon

When I see you next time, we should discuss this more,
but until then, maybe we should agree to disagree?

Life has been so leisurely lately, a nice little routine.
But not so much when pa was still around.

The caregiver stopped by in the morning and we all
scurried away for a couple hours to do our thing;

then we returned home and sat around
just staring at each other and watching pa breathe.

He died in his sleep. He was only sixty.
He didn’t have jaundice, not quite, but that’s how you look

when you spend your life smoking cigarettes and drinking bourbon.
I don’t mean to judge the man; we’re all going to die.

There are some interesting papers in the box he left.
I won’t bore you right now with the details.

Let’s just say he knew some people and he was known.
Down the chute and in to the fire, page by page,

I cannot remember even a moment
of being with pa when he was well and right.


         Sometimes, if I simulate some gloominess,
         I can write a little, maybe even a poem.

         For every atom belonging to me as good
         belongs to the bank that gave me
         the loan to buy all these atoms.

Another fucker just sitting there in his chair breathing air. He reminds me of myself, how I sat for a decade, maybe longer, in my little chair. When someone would ask a question—a teacher, the boss—I would look away in rage. Once you dedicate yourself, at each occurrence, to looking away, enraged, there comes a day you cannot not look away in rage. Except one time, when the floor was open for questions. What is the plan for your administration? I asked the new president. We were salespersons, selling an electronic database. He was our new boss. It was the end of the dot-com boom. Administration. I did not expect that word to fall out of my stupid head.

Future Tense

  1. Life has been costly.
  2. It’s about image control.
  3. Nobody lies well anymore.
  4. Truth-telling is our fear.
  5. The fashions evade me.
  6. The gentle season flows.
  7. Will solutions be discovered?
  8. Wounded people try anything.
  9. Line the wounded up.
  10. The perimeter, our watchfulness.
  11. And monitor the onlookers.
  12. You cannot trust strangers.
  13. Immeasurable events crowd in.
  14. One after another, spasmodically.
  15. I loved them all.
  16. Inform them, will you?
  17. All my family members.
  18. And my beautiful friends.
  19. I was always afraid.
  20. Putting on the uniform.
  21. Strolling to the vehicle.
  22. Envisioning the possible scenarios.
  23. Switching the lights on.
  24. Clicking my safety belt.
  25. Be bland, always, son.
  26. That’s what father said.
  27. A good corporate job.
  28. Smile, work hard, climb.
  29. I let him down.
  30. Him, and many others.
  31. I know I did.
  32. I loved the rush.
  33. I wanted to save.
  34. To help save everyone.
  35. Tell them I’m honored.
  36. It is over now.
  37. There’s no going back.
  38. Tell them all this.