Small Talk (The American Way)
In a conversational pinch, one could always turn
to talk of family, local weather or sport,
holiday on the calendar’s horizon. But best to spurn
the tragedy of national news, shock of Fort
Hood, even if tempered with equal measures of grief
and pathos. In the presence of a stranger,
if stumped, if anxiety had wrested away the belief
in a common ground, or one was mired in anger,
these subjects considered a safe play. But talk is cheap
in a country that mirrors a neurosis it engenders. Flat
comments surely hide troubled thinking. Political creed
best kept off the street. If you feel taken back,
heap shame online, make innocence your bitch or goat.
Everybody knows value of a soul is measured by its vote.
Ancestry.com Informs of Relation to Huck Finn
By now you know you can’t have it all,
but along the way nobody told
me what that meant or looked like. To be
honest, I was never explained much of anything.
And by the time logic, good senses took hold,
it was too late. So far behind the eight-ball,
I decided scruples didn’t apply. Bold
meant LIVING, no matter if you’re “pissing”
it away. “Obeyance” meant you had no gall,
and that was no fun coming from a household
that shirked parental roles like the plague. On an atoll,
marooned, we never looked for help. Latch-key
kids are clever, vagrant, little Tom Sawyers with balls
bigger than hearts. Life a cinch no matter how crappy.
Royal Dux maiden, 18th century figurine holding
bucket and jug; simple model of European peasantry
meant to emphasize the notion of living freely
tenable only in a world that embraces hard work
and thrift. Though that’s not what male guests mention
when they inquire after her, their laser eyes focused
solely on her stiffened nipples set in half-dollar
aureoles several shades darker than her lampshade
blouse where suddenly the metaphor for living
hand-to-mouth takes on new meaning until I explain
her history, how for generations she’s been referred to
simply as, The Girl. how she is a genuine article
of reparation, confiscated and returned by German hands
twice—Pickelhelms, jagged lightening of the—heritage
taken and given, only to be taken and given again.
To have survived immigration’s putrid hull, its onset
of scurvy and thievery, the bone-cleaned desolation of
the Dust Bowl, two house fires and an F5 that flattened
Marysville like the advancing wall of an atomic wave—
for godsakes it even survived my nineteen-year-old’s
three-year-opiod-addiction where anything of value
could be found in the bay-window of Solar’s Pawn & Loan.
Against these odds she made it—porcelain smile
that glistened for a while as it became part of my wife’s
precious treasure trove—small posse of figurines,
some rarer than sunken gold assembled on her
dressing table like a photo I remember from
Grace Kelly’s boudoir in Monaco. But only days after
plucking it from her great aunt’s estate, she stares
dumbly into its cobbled pieces, a mistake of nerves flung
across the floor. It will be months until she can begin
to talk, bring herself to begin to explain how quickly
she’d become engrossed—it’s exquisite craftsmanship,
improbable course of provenance, shadow-play of color—
how she wondered if she represented more than just an idea.
At first my wife’s despair was inconsolable. How could
the hand’s reflexive twitch undo centuries of survival?
Something as simple as an approaching outlier of thunder
cause devastation to a thing come so far? Regardless
of impulse to sooth or touch, to help a person along
in a moment like that, best to let them be, to absorb heartache,
to let them feel the weight of their own misery.
But then she gathered the macabre of its broken parts
and did her best to glue The Girl back together.
Tony Tracy is the author of three poetry collections: The Christening, Without Notice and his newly released book overseas, Welcome To Your Life. He is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, Burningword, Jelly Bucket, Poetry East, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Hotel Amerika, Painted Bride Quarterly, Potomac Review, Briar Cliff Review, and various other magazines and journals.
Edward Michael Supranowicz is the grandson of Irish and Russian/Ukrainian immigrants and he grew up on a small farm in Appalachia. He has a graduate background in painting and printmaking. Some of his artwork has recently or will soon appear in Fish Food, Streetlight, Straylight, Gravel, The Phoenix, and other journals. Edward is also a published poet. His other works featured in ACM are Lego Legs 1, Bitter Sweet Melody, and Intersecting Intersections.