Bio: CL Bledsoe is the author of a dozen books, most recently the poetry collection Riceland and the novel Man of Clay. He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.
Learning to Play Politics
The anarchists never got
anything done. They just sat
around arguing theory.
Sometimes, a few would splinter
off and march on the mall to
show how mad they were about
malls. Afterward, they’d all bitch
that no one was arrested
so it didn’t really count.
The communists had the best
rallies because they ordered
enough pizza for all to share,
so I joined them. We played
May Day each year in the amphitheater
where the Greeks liked to drink.
I didn’t trust the smiles on
the republicans’ faces
or the democrats’ soft hands.
They could afford bands people
knew for their shows, anyway.
He Never Bothered Me Again
Cece Frankenstein was the oldest girl
on the bus. My sister’s friend, every day
she’d say hi, but embarrassed by her blond
hair and pretty smile, I’d mumble nothing
as she walked away. Bobby Parsons and some boys
cornered me when she’d disappeared down
the long walk to her house on the edge of my family’s
land. “What are you doing talking to Cece?” Bobby
asked. He challenged me to a fight and didn’t
show but told the other kids on the bus it was me
who wimped out. Every day, when Cece was out
of sight, they’d follow me, shoving and picking,
until one afternoon I finally turned, kicked Bobby hard
between the legs. He went down, and the others
scattered. His eyes closed and he didn’t even moan.
I cut and ran for the Fish Shack, in tears, thinking
I’d killed him. My brother asked if I’d been
in a fight, and all I could say was, “Sort of.”
Nights Were Long
You drove gravel roads, barely paved single lanes, long
forgotten highways that were more pothole than asphalt,
drinking double-deuces, smoking whatever you could
find. Prescription meds stolen from geriatric relatives
could be crushed and snorted. If you could afford meth,
you could smoke it off aluminum foil if you remembered
to burn the coating off first. Booze and weed
were usually available. If nothing else, you could steal
half-a-dozen cans of potpourri from Wal Mart and huff
them through a towel. Otherwise, it was church eight
days a week, dropping out of high school to farm
or work a factory that would close in a couple years
anyway. You weren’t wasting your time; you were
looking for love at the end of an emptied-out pen,
the bottom of a beer can with holes punched through
the side and a carburetor poked in the bottom so you
could smoke when you didn’t have papers.