Grady Chambers was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, where he currently
lives, works, and writes. Previous work of his can be found at The Nervous
, Blood Lotus Journal, and The Rumpus.

Thoughts at Night on Independence Day

Firecrackers fuse and I cross
the intersection. These days my starry

nights are backlit cellulars lighting legs
crossed stories below me, the tilt

of the earth only apparent when staring
from a balcony at the lake's penciled

horizon line. Where is that girl in her
cardigan sweaters, my howler

in empty North American stadiums?
We woke on sticky tar rooftops feeling layered

fabric wrapped around our heads, lobbed
water balloons at nothing and skittered

rocks from rooftop to parking lot
gravel; drank into bottles until we were found

crying at night in fields of bugs
blinking careless light, rush

of highway. Mornings we still cried,
stuck to each-other and leather

seats of an El Dorado on the way to the
liquor store. Those bags opened paper-

clipped evenings hung
onto long enough to be reminded

in pictures. Something keep me:
blood on a doorframe, throwing

up in a garden, shoeless on a high-
way, head in a cloud of flowers.

We were there long enough to
say I love you before the sky

moved with its map of bad news.
Once she told me something

of things feeling so unbroken
that she didn't know how to fix them.

We had such white teeth, nights
sheathed beneath pink and black video-

light, faces buttered with ash we could
still laugh at and wipe away, our soft hands

such easy hammers on flesh. It was years
before I woke hearing a question

and had no answer, not even
to answer late.

Before the Fires

there were
carcasses of fowl,

and we drew
murals in dust
with our fingers.

What we wanted was for others
to have, but still we prayed
at night, begging

for the flood
to come and carry
us elsewhere.

Alone in our beds,
we dreamed
of breathing out endless piles

of earth, filling our homes
until weight overcame
and we sunk

back into dust. Mornings
we rose again to the tap's
glum leach

of water, grate
of kitchen chairs,
the slow circle

of buzzards dragging
us into the day. Jealousy
obsessed us. We imagined

tree roots groping water
deep below our
feet; our murals traced

their paths. Sometimes
we knelt and dug,
clawed until nail-beds

ached with gravel.
We filed together
into pews like

beads, whispered printed words:
In your love, all the paths
of my life shall be

illumined by the light
of grace.
We had hands
but no shovels.

Each night the sky
looked like the day
before redemption,

and we believed
it would come.
We lay pinned

to the ground, watching
God fling himself
to earth at funny

angles. Huge lights
lined the roadway
firing beams

of dust into the sky.
They were exactly
where they needed to be.

Dead Friends

Night sky shut, sleep-
less. Birdsong & trains
passing. Another, another
hour. When they close
my eyes see power lines glow.

My friends burned
in a house just like this.
Two of them did.

After, black paint, orange tape
ribboned on trees, burnt out
rafters, cubed sky, day, work
required. Teeth
like mints in boxes.

One more swallowed
14 Phenobarbital & clutched
at drapes thinking they were
his mother. Bathroom closet
passed-out dead.

I miss them. I miss them
all. Closed my eyes
see power lines glow.
I say their names in prayers.

My dead friends.
Death &
Death &
Death. What a stunt.
What a wing-tipped hustler
high-stepping wire
'round your neck.
Paper fucking face, eyes
the color of highways
& bone, slender bone.

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