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Another Story About the Body

            after Robert Hass

The child keeps screaming in its highchair. The mother has examined its fingers, its fingernails, just beginning to form into something that can be called nails, the lips, mouth, tongue, back of the tongue, pink nub of tonsil, the child’s breath split pea soup and infant rage, or fear, the father thinks it’s fear, has looked around the kitchen for any sign of danger, black cat under the table, bear in the window, boogey man peek-a-booing from the pantry, but there’s nothing but the half-empty cupboards, the mostly empty refrigerator, the paint-peeled window frame looking out not onto some fairy tale wilderness but a city, deindustrialized, 1977, where a man can have his hours on the docks cut in half, can have his ear grazed by an eighty-pound iron hook as he hoists another box of freight and still, still the child screams, the mother’s fingers are under the child’s armpits, as if to make it laugh, are in the crooks of its elbows, its knees, her fingers coming up empty, the infant’s mouth an O of O make it stop, O mommy, O daddy, but the baby can only scream a scream until, finally, the noise stops, the mouth still open, the eyes still open and wet and white as if blind. The mother begins to cry. What is it? she says. The father, by the open window, turns, and in his son’s left ear he sees it: a single yellowjacket. And before he restores their three lives to one, he covets that bee, which, now dead, quiets half the world with its unbuzzing.



            for Erin

We name the new feral “Tomatillo,” after the color of her eyes. Despite her lithe, Greyhound-like frame, she is just a kitten. During her first feeding, dry food from my hand, her nose wet like the grass we sit in, she suddenly gallops toward a grasshopper, maybe a bumblebee. My father once told me bumblebees don’t sting, which is not true, at least for me on the day we hiked along the Housatonic River, grilling hot dogs over twigs, throwing a knife over and over into a tree. I remember my thumb swelling like a grape, green with poison, the pain coming only after, when my father told me what had happened. Already, I love this cat. And Bodega and Luce, our older ferals. Almost as much as our two indoor cats. My wife says Tomatillo has a better shot outside, sleeping under the abandoned house behind ours, than in a shelter. They’d kill it, she says. Too many cats. An American dilemma, I say. A Japanese dilemma, too, she says, sipping decaf. She is pregnant with our first child. A whole island of cats, she says, a feral kingdom in the Pacific. A national nuisance, quarantined. But, I don’t say, why love a thing less when there is more of it? Why find it less beautiful? This summer, as an experiment, we have let our backyard bloom into wildness. Grass, weeds, flowers, bushes, garden, an abundance uncut. In the mornings, in slippers and flannel, with a bag of kibble, I stand in the cold mountain air and look. I breathe it in. Then, when it moves, I wade, up to my calves, my thighs, my waist, my ribs, and I bend searching for the bowls.


The Good Life

            after Jon Davis

Learn yourself a trade. Plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, butchering, doesn’t matter. That’s what my father said. Learn yourself a trade then get a job. 9-5, 8-5, 7-3, 7-5, don’t matter. Take the hours, as many as they’ll give you. The hours aren’t for you. They’re for your wife and kids. Of course, he said, find yourself a wife. Not these harlots in the colleges. Good girl, girl you meet at church, girl who makes her own apple butter, knits little caps to keep the kids warm in winter. Pay your gas bill. Pay your electric bill. If you have a chimney and fireplace, chop your own wood. Shovel your own snow. You’re making enough money to hire a kid to shovel your snow, you’re making too much money. Give it to the church. Give it to the bums. You got extra give it to a man who will shine your shoes on a box he made by hand. Polish your work boots. Carry a briefcase. Man don’t need a hoity-toity job to carry a briefcase. Put your tools in it, your lunch. Other guys at the plant make fun, let them. Carry a briefcase and give anything extra to the shoeshiners and the bums. Jesus Christ was a bum. Don’t mind me saying. A wandering holy bum, with no wife, no kids. Some say he had a harlot, but they had no colleges back then. Back then a man learned on his own. How to live the good life. A trade, a wife and kids, biscuits and homemade apple butter, and unless you were the son of God himself, only as much snow as you could shovel.  


Justin Bigos is the author of the poetry chapbook Twenty Thousand Pigeons (iO Books, 2014). His poems, stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as New England ReviewPloughsharesIndiana ReviewMcSweeney’s, The Collagist, and The Best American Short Stories 2015. Justin co-founded and co-edits the literary magazine Waxwing. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he teaches creative writing at Northern Arizona University.