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wild years

i can see san cristóbal
through candles pleasing
phosphor match broomsticks
and clouds of champa,
clear as blackboard shadows.
   whoa horsie, can’t you read?
it says no smoking
right here in the lease,
lest we forget the great
fire of 97 when a boy
was thrown on a friday
into his least favorite suit.
   he protested for a minute
or two, wouldn’t breathe,
but thought he’d rather
wear that shoulderpad style
than stay naked forever.
   so he traded that first
newborn breath in fer
some five a clock shadow,
unfiltered cigarettes uh huh,
& piano bars that only play
carousel organ tunes.
   usurped kings kneel and tithe,
put to penance for deflowering
themselves in exchange for chemicals
cheaper than dirt, stronger than scag.
   he scored em in your neighborhood,
every town’s got a dealer selling
used crowns, barely worn.
   the stubby keno pencils
etch and scratch out simple addition
along the squiggling lines of his brain,
trying to figure out how much it’d be:
a year of bubbly happy tablets vs.
a year of sir walter raleigh slims.
   if only the milkman’d come
and bring him a carton,
but he don’t come round here no more.
   he was born in the wrong time
so he gladly settles for the eight-bit tape
won at some village thrift store.
   plays it on a handheld
he calls spanish frankie.
   fastest friend he’s ever had.

fairy tale

i was a girl last night. sawing wood. après-xy.
i embodied elegance—more harp, less banjo.
less celluloid, more silver screen.
felt like i was slipping into some delicate,
provocative satin number.
cascading rivers of black piano keys rested easy
on my graceful shoulders. plucked a handful,
put it behind my ears.
an honest smile arrived. crossed my legs,
looked at my countenance, and blushed.
my face was moleskin-soft, but had sort of a
red delicious hue. a bit of pink lady, too.
freckles vaulted across my nose. forming a
peace bridge, a peace arch—a ceasefire adopted.
been at war with myself for too long.
my jawline became more forgiving, extra
supple. i lost all my godforsaken chin stubble,
forgetting all about that beesting aftershave.
i was a tender, powerful dropout.
welling, deep, doe eyes glistened in the light.
they had the spark of life in there, couldn’t be
extinguished by anything.
not some raggedy ann facsimile. not a centerfold
either. simply, purely, woman.
juster, fairer, paler. no adam’s apple to be seen.
i was a hopeful, longing, amorous ingénue.
so imagine my devastation. picture my let-down,
my disappointment, when the alarm crowed out
cock-a-doodle-doo.

Nicholas Barnes

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