“I'M NOT REALLY AFRAID OF ANYTHING—
not anymore," he said against sueded first light
of what I didn't know was our last day
together; he said in the alley after he lit
our third fire of the night with dirt-spackled hands
& fingernails chewed too far; he said,
peeling one thin strip of burgundy paint
from the brick back alley wall behind the gallery
where his photographs once hung; he said
nine hours—ten, tops—before he disappeared
from my side; he said eight months before
he OD’ed for the last time; he said
in the same soft timbre he would speak in
when he talked to the voice in his head
(he called it Rot, he told me once);
he said in a whisper I might have missed
if I hadn't looked at him when he said it
(& what if I ignored it?); he said the moment
he finally let go of that crinkled strip of paint
& watched it curl like birch bark as it fell;
he said, then drew one deep breath
that was really a sigh but I believed
for months he just needed that breath;
he sighed & said, “except I'm afraid
that means I'm living for nothing.”
A PERSONAL HISTORY OF BOYER CHUTE
We took off all our clothes one day,
down by the dry river.
A year later I went back,
took off my clothes & spread his ashes.
I’m tired of the told-you-so’s who say
not to draw hearts in the flood plain.
Author's Note: This poem is loosely based on the sijo form.
TO SURVIVE THIS NUCLEAR BLAST
A gas station bathroom
(If you have a building as a shelter,
isn't in the cards today.
expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours.)
He finds instead a less secret sanctuary:
If you're caught outside,
this dumpster he crouches behind,
do not look at the flash or fireball—
cars passing 20 feet away.
it can blind you.
How the sun lights sparks in his eyes.
Lie flat on the ground & cover your head—
How metal maneuvers into vein.
it could take 30 seconds or more
The depressed plunger.
for the shock wave to hit.
The surge of peace it brings.
Shower with lots of soap & water.
How he licks the puncture would clean.
to remove radioactive contamination.
How the taste of blood thrills him.
Do not scrub or scratch the skin.
Author's Note: The italicized lines are adapted from the US Department of Homeland Security’s webpage for nuclear blast readiness.
S. R. Aichinger has an MFA in creative writing from Creighton University and lives in Omaha, NE. His work appears or is forthcoming in |tap| lit mag, Into the Void Magazine, Gyroscope Review, The Paragon Journal, Ghost City Review, and Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, among others.