Marty Cain lives in Marlboro, Vermont, and he is an undergraduate at
Hamilton College. His work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Welter,
Breadcrumb Scabs, and This Zine Will Change Your Life.
Chained at Fifteen
My living room is a breathing
cave of sweat and medication. I
see his dark outline on the couch, head
stuffed in pillow, body wrapped in
a fleece blanket, shriveled cocoon,
stomach lifting, falling, sleeping off
a seizure. My pulse echoes the
mantle clock, and I sink deeper
in the armchair. The dog lies dormant by
his side, downy fur risinghe's been
whining soft all afternoon. I desire
the nose of my golden retriever
who smells seizures, & wish I did more
than fester in beating sun each time
my brother falls unconscious: Body
in a parking lot with broken glass. Body
sunk in a public pool. Body once in
the back seat, me gripping his shoulder as
we scream through red lights. We
fought for the window, then he froze.
Waking dream. A beady-eyed creature of
guilt sits on my chest, desperate limbs
paralyzed. And chained to my armchair in
this cave, I see only my brother's shadows.
What's in this firestorm behind his silky
armor? Which languages burn
in his mind's hollow pit? When the sun hangs him
in the morning, how will he emerge?
Half-asleep in a Greyhound terminal, head throbs,
I shiver, plant feet on shining linoleum. I wash down
vending machine peanuts with a sickly
can of soda and consider Warhol's optimism,
the glory of Coca-Cola: chosen drink of the president,
myself, and the man who slumbers in the arcade
to my right, drooling on the wheel of Cruisin' USA.
In the cold metal seats, I've seen my compatriots.
We are quite the nest of maggot eggs, cocooned
in blankets, not quite dead but not yet children,
coughing pilgrims in the first winter, lips & fingers blue
like a John Wayne sky. The moon was a beacon
all the way here. I got lost in craters while
I gazed out the windowthe oldies station
whispered in my ear on the bus, I just don't know
what to do with myself.
I hold on tight to my bag. Let us give thanks
to the McDonalds opening up at five,
to cheap bitter coffee, to the USA Today
I will buy with four gleaming quarters.
Let us give thanks to the cracked urinals flooding
sparkling floors at dawn; thanks to clean light
from the overhead screens, roaring
Bowflex infomercials. For we are one
nation under rippling muscles.
I Am Home
Finally, I have arrived. Locked out
of my own house, observing my life
through the picture window. I see myself
in the dark, staring at branches
bending in November wind. I stumble
and remove my clothing. Yes,
I'm half-drunk at an early hour, awake
& thinking of reasons to live:
the sun won't burn out in my lifetime.
My sheets are sweaty, but won't catch fire.
Somewhere, it is someone's birthday.
Through the window, I see
your naked frame next to mine,
and I step out of my vision. I leave my
skin altogether, until I'm purely bone, nothing
but reasons to live and a single request:
let me take you to the cornfield behind
the supermarket, where we'll lose
our voices and religion, sleep to sounds
of traffic and rustling husks, a long cough
from a parched throat. Reasons to live!
A lament like this, made with the ink
and alphabet. Through the window
I see myself taking notes on light:
your skin under street lamps, walking home
barefoot, white toenails over concrete,
swinging your shoes in each hand, as if
swimming through an ocean of ink.
This dark sky. I can nearly see beyond it.
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