Sunday Jul 14

ShaheenGlenn Glenn Shaheen lives in Houston, where he edits the journal NANO Fiction and teaches at Prairie View A&M University.  His work has appeared in Subtropics, /nor, Barrelhouse, and Gulf Coast.  His collection of poems Predatory is forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press in fall of 2011.

There won’t be a story. Nobody
would tell it right. At least we can say we know ash. The way
it floats, the way it settles. I feel like a real animal. That gurgle
in the throat. It wants to become a guttural
shout. Nobody would tell the story right. The details
would be muddied up, all distorted. I can look
as cool as anybody with a gun in my hand. With my thumb
on a detonator. I’m talking a real swath
of fire. Oh, just because I admit a fascination with ruin,
I’m the bad guy?
Where do your loyalties lay, anyway?
Answer quickly. Hesitation will cost you.
A snare drum. A gun shot.
A group of us all in a dance, animal heat around us, weaving
between us. Dear History,
I would like a new bike, and a new face.
You know me. You know me,
you think you know me.
Ha! To have a wave tear us
like construction paper. Ha! To see
a fearful face. American,
you think you are out of the water, but there was never
any land. There will be no land.
I am without a country. Without an idea. Without that new
such and such. My bank account’s ceiling
raises every day. Or is that the floor collapsing? There’s a lot of air
in here. Too much for both of us. I can’t believe
you would say something
like that, they told me. That swath of words rolling across
our everywhere. I just want to tell you
the story of all the love that’s gone wrong
for me. It’s a reenactment. I never knew she could be
so cruel. That’s part one.
Part two is mainly about
heartbeats and the regular circulation of blood. By now
I thought you would have left. You have to appreciate
the way the word “American” sounds yelled
above a panicked crowd.
I lit the fuse, but I’ll admit
I don’t know what it’s even connected to. Let’s not cut
the line just yet. The silence in here
feels like it could pull us right in. Crush us
together. I never knew how easy it would be to find love in this country
so full of rubble that people don’t even notice it.


At 1:30 in the morning somebody bangs on your back door. A woman wails outside in
the distance. Her sobbing gets closer.
You wake to sirens and the power is out.
On a clear day, one lightning bolt cuts the sky.
Somebody has smashed the window of your car and taken nothing.
The cellar light is busted and there is a groan in the farthest corner.
You have 10 unanswered messages from your father and 3 from your ex-girlfriend left on            
          your machine.
Tanks are on the news, slowly rolling down an emptied city street.
The grocery store out of water, gas impossible to find.
The eyes of the dead have been painted over in the old photographs to make them appear living.
Who was that begging at your door? "Please, please, it's so cold, I'm sorry, he meant         
You drive by three black men beating a fourth on the ground. You don't stop.
In the cemetery, graverobbers have struck your father's tomb again. This time, the body    
         remains unfound.
Picking up the phone to dial you hear somebody's faint, panicked breathing.
You pass the body of an old man on the side of the darkest country road.
O, gods of fear! Are we arrogant to believe the world will end in our lifetimes, as if we in            
         all of history were so important to pull a chair up to the big exeunt?
Your family left you to face all of this mottled dark alone.
The knives have been removed from the table settings.
Somewhere, A-10 Tank Killers are photographed for a magazine cover. This is only meant to
         impress, darling. They are loaded with the most colorful blanks.

Longest Day of the Year

Now there is one less person who loves you in the world.
A scratching in the wall when you try to sleep.
When a plant in the nature video brushes gently against another on wind you mistake it for real
human emotion.
From here things only get worse. Your friends divorce. Your family dies. Disease.            
        Crumbling ground over a deep chasm. You aren't able to run anymore.
There are those who still believe in the ultimate power of the lightbulb over sun. There are those
who still believe in Christmas miracles. Bank errors in your favor. A mistaken notice of
        death. Sudden reversals. Celebration.
In the forties millions of dollars were sunk into a program that could make a destroyer
        vanish before our eyes. Ultimately it was a failure.
Love as a shield. Love as a cracking armor. Love as a crack legal defense squad that blocks court
ordered injunctions and seizures for you by using the most arcane   and hidden laws still
on the books. Love as thin blanket.
Driving up the street, the incline gives you vertigo. You're certain if you looked out
through the back window you would start to slide backward and not even the emergency
brake could stop you.
Sun too early. Dusk too late. The rare lunar eclipse turns the moon dark red.
What tendrils could you have placed? What tendrils have you refused?
The animals smell blood and they go crazy. If its belly is empty, even the robin will feast   on
blood. Even the timid mealworm is vicious to dying skin.
And love? Love will tear us apart, again.