Because, Because, Because

Not many interruptions.  Not too many words.  He is a list, so he lists.  She tells this story to her son.  In the hope he will learn how to read.  She holds the book open but all he sees are the pictures and her hands.  Her fingers.  The bulbs that are her knuckles.  The story was about a man who kept a list and planted knucklebones.  Some turned into diamonds, others grew into men with eyes that gleamed.  Does the kid laugh or wonder?  Will that child grow up into me?  It feels comfortable to hold my hands like this and scheme like the man in the story.  The one who kept a list of stories and planted knuckle bones by the thousands, all in vain she tells her son, because, because, because.

The Book, the Only Book There Is

In time’s sentence men take their place like commas.  Of course we are short pauses, a means to parse each phrase.  Remember how you headed west?  Through the book as though it was an atlas, a collection of charts.  A representation of the world, one which could be held in your hand.  That could kidnap you though you do not live with your parents and you no longer are a kid.  That feels like happiness, both things.  You know you are good, that you started out good.  What will you do to change this?  A blueprint for the house where they’ll find your body with yourself still inside it.  Don’t lose your place.  Follow it with your finger.  The one connected to your hand.

Little Dent

The bus wound through flatland.  Not like a snake.  More like a child who is determined but easily distracted.  As he packs up his house he can look through the open ladder.  See the outline where the shelves used to be.  A lattice of dust.  One last picture left hanging.  Paper clips.  There was momentum in the way the smaller piles coalesced into larger piles.  Now his shoulders ache.  The driver says the world is round only because you have to return to the exact spot you just left behind.  If you get lost you might get there faster.  I think the world is a dent he told the driver.  We make a little dent in its image.  He fills another box with more books he will never read.

Black and Red Birds

Make it happen.  Like a window.  It might be a curving body.  It might be owned by a cruel and indifferent master.  A story or sex.  A body in a thicket.  A lonely body.  A red bird explains fire.  A black bird argues about breath.  How do you explain?  How it turns out.  Like fire.  Branches on fire.  It was curved.  The red bird wants to be a plot where nothing happens.  A body that leans out a window.  The black bird says all acts go back to burning.  Where you used to live.  Where you want to stay.  The inside of a story.  What is most missed.  It is sad and permanent like sorrow.  All of the birds were keeping their secrets.  But the body gives them away.  Like a window.

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hugh steinberg has had work published in Can We Have Our Ball Back?, Volt, Spork, and American Poetry Review, among others. He is past recipient of an NEA creative writing fellowship, teaches writing at California College of the Arts, and is the editor of Freehand, a new journal devoted to handwritten work.