Friday Dec 02

Burgess Needle is a Tucson writer whose fiction has appeared in Black Market Review (UK), Connotation Press and 10,000 Tons of Black Ink. His poetry has or will soon appear in Blackbox Manifold (UK), Concho River Review, Raving Dove, Boston Literary Magazine, Istanbul Literary Review [Turkey], Decanto (UK), Centrifugal Eye, Iodine, Prick of the Spindle, The Camel Saloon and Flutter, Diminuendo Press published his poetry collection: EVERY CROW IN THE BLUE SKY in 2009. He taught English for two years in Nang Rong, a small village in northeast Thailand for the Peace Corps, has been a co-director of the Southern Arizona Writing Project, co-published and edited Prickly Pear/Tucson [a poetry quarterly] for five years, and was a school librarian for thirty years. Needle lives in Tucson with his wife Barbara.
His parents worked at home
In the cellar dawn until dusk
So cold the space heater at their feet
Barely kept toes warm as they laid out
Sprinkled kaiser rolls for the
ham and cheese sandwiches
Rolls that came from a bakery
located in a sullied part of town
Especially at four in the morning
He remembered going with his
father to pick up those rolls
A massive hand stayed
On his shoulder guiding him
Across the ruptured asphalt
Of the parking lot the half
Water half ice potholes
To a steel door where the only code
Then a lightly powdered
Baker swung it open with a blast
Of dough rising and pastries cooling
Like a warm, luscious breeze
Into a vast arena of layered metal trays
And men so busy he never heard a word
All men with forearms like Popeye
Great men working the vast ovens
That rotated slowly and only they knew
When to sweep in and draw out the finished
Glistening treasures as the young man’s eyes
swept the white hairy arms
Never quite powdered enough to hide
Pale blue numbers that meant something
to a teenager  just old enough to have heard
The stories of how so many of his people
Ended up as smoke leaving behind
Gold filings, wrinkled clothes, untied shoes
And mountains of passports
Heard about it from relatives
Their late night conversations
About who put those pale blue
Numbers on those mighty arms
And he wondered shuddering
about what they might be
Thinking of before that heat
Did they think of other ovens
Of lost souls
But the workers only smiled at him
Baleful, sad, lingering smiles as if
Remembering some other boys
Who were gone forever
And the white flour fell on all of them
The whiteness of oblivion
And though his father shook his arm
To break his grip he would not let go
He would not let go in a million years
Banana Stand
A banana stand in my Thai village
Had no sign that said:
Banana Stand
There were in fact no bananas
Well there were some bananas growing
On what else banana trees
The stand was superfluous
On occasion a small girl
Stood by and as a courtesy walkers
Purchased some fruit
The banana stand with no bananas
Was a favorite place of mine
When the sun illuminated nearby blooms
Guavas and coconuts one might have
Thought it was a movie set
Except there were no cameras
No lighting crew no microphones
And of course no bananas.