Image: Sam Beck

Gary’s Bop

Your bedroom door bolted, Trav took out the dope.
Still in cellophane, he pestled it flour-fine
with his Zippo and asked, Two or three?
You were s’posed to with me. He cut two. Trav
spoon-cooked it down. The bubbles white-brown.
I bit the tail of my belt, and cinched my arm.

Doors click open, close. Doors open, click closed.

You and Trav gave me déjà vu at my wake.
Heads swaying on the limp springs of your necks,
white-brown memories rushing, in time
with the cusp of each swing, dry-gulping.
You even tried to dam up your eyes,
just like me, when I kneeled on the tile,
looped my belt round my neck and hung
from the knob like a Do Not Disturb sign.

Doors click open, close. Doors open, click closed.

You think you’re the only one I haunt, Clay?
Teachers ask sis how I’m doing. Mom
brushes her fingers across my junk mail,
still piling in heaps. My room is a shrine.
My stray white-brown sock turns up in a wash. You
get only doorknobs, belt buckles, this poem.

Doors click open, close. Doors open, click closed.


“The materials are here for the deepest mutuality
and the most painful estrangement.”

Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born


My parents are trying but mom
is thinking about the paintings
she can’t find time to finish
or start. Bubblegum-tough,
she tucks this feeling into her belly,
where my twin and I tadpole race.

Doctors deem the pregnancy high risk.

While dad struts around the law firm, mom
waddles around, checking homework, zipping
coats for my already-brother and already-sister,
listening to her body, our bodies, lying down
only when we, her not-yet-sons, force her to.

Her voids are mine, her hunger, my twin’s.
Halfway through, she has two halves
swelling with her longing for art.
In utero, we twin-telepath about the blue
lines in our shared membrane, the trio
of mom’s bass drum with our snares,
the stories dad reads to us. Arguing.
The one thing our family does well together.


A few weeks before we are born,
my would-have-been-aunt loses her quick-tongue:
blood balloon squelching, sponging
another word from her with each pump,
until it sops. Another relative
I will never meet.

Not knowing what to do with this, mom
tucks her grief down with her longing
and it is the last thing I taste
through my belly button.

The doctor pulls Jack out first
and for five minutes, without him
for the first time, I think I know
what it is to lose someone.


Clay Shields

Clay Shields received an M.A. from the University of Kentucky and now all he wants to do is deface it. His writing has appeared in STORY Magazine and Rabbit Catastrophe Review. He has crooked middle fingers and is allergic to bee stings.

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