“The Island” (After Chase Twitchell’s “Road Tar”) As a boy, I once caught a snake in the backyard and discovered, to my horror, that their bellies open up in a slit to shit. You wouldn’t believe how prodigiously that small creature filled my hands with its excrement, which I dropped with the snake like so much coiled play-doh, before running to my father. Later, he told me about a childhood bully who lived down the street from him, and how this bully enjoyed catching garter snakes, which he’d pin down, head and tail, with stones, and fetching gasoline from the garage he’d douse them, strike a match, and kick off the stones to watch it, the snake, take off like a ribbon furied by wind. This was something he did, on weekends, maybe, and often, so long as he had an audience, and maybe even that didn’t matter. Meanwhile, my father avoided him, but he admitted to having once pulled a chair out from under a classmate, who fell, like I fell, into the sharp underbrush on that hot summer day so long ago, when a friend’s family brought me with them to the lake, where he and his little sister and I paddled out to an offshore island. It was wild and uncultivated except for a few short stretches of overgrown paths, which we split up and exhausted, quickly, and reconvening in the middle agreed that the island, indeed, was small. But when it came time to leave and the three of us sat in the car, waiting for their mom, who’d left something behind in the steaming sand, this friend of mine pulled down his trunks and made his sister kiss him there. I let the phone ring, from then on, and didn’t see him again, not until our rec league soccer teams faced off a year later, when after the game our teams lined up to shake hands and he chose, instead, to punch me in the mouth, and so raised the thunder of a father. Editor's Note: Here's a link to Chase Twitchell’s “Road Tar”.
“Self-Portrait” The operative word is laden, these eyes mine especially in the morning hush and at dusk with their patchy fortitude, with the winterberries pinned up like paint splashed into harsh attendance against the white. I have only ever been a young man at best stretched supine and star-like along the floor, swollen with dumb analysis where each rumble’s an epoch. Once again, I do not know what to say, how to say, but stare long enough at the flock overhead and its barbed formation will turn into that rosy strip and vanish, a point not gone maybe but far— oh Lord, take this fear from me.
“Youth” In the hot pressure of summer, of slow but perceptible growth of vine, it was rare that we ever searched for the tennis balls hammered into those woods, the borderland against left field that marked, in its awesome difference, that side’s domain of the irretrievable. In time, we stopped looking altogether, brought back-ups instead, knowing autumn would reduce that green riot, leaf by trembling leaf, to withering groundstuff, an earthy mutedness returning those pale little suns, tributes ripe for harvesting to replenish our stores. We never found them, even after November chilled the neighborhood into its hearth, stripped those woods so fully, so carefully, as almost to humiliate, leaving nothing below its naked boughs but that silent bed, sacreligious in its dim uniformity, its refusal to yield the tokens of our past, somehow gone and left undiscussed in the mirrored speechlessness of winter.
Evan Vandermeer is an emerging writer with published poems in Analecta and Kingfisher, and he has a haiku in the forthcoming issue of Modern Haiku. He is a graduate student in the MA English program at Indiana University South Bend, where he lives with his fiancé, Megan, and their two pet bunnies, Roosevelt and Pantalaimon.