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What was unclear, surrendered, fallow,
this morning when you woke with
the thick taste of cheap brandy and
menthol cigarettes in your mouth?
The sidewalk shifts beneath your feet in
staggering patterns of blurry gray
honeycombs. The thin sky hangs as
blue as you've ever seen it, the tomato
sun seeming more of a trespasser than
master of its house. What have you left?
What stifled sounds are lonely there?
They were sleeping in troubled innocence
when you left them to night's receding shadows,
morning's sound of pigeons beginning
their early, endless hunt for food,
garbage men banging aluminum trashcans,
the hollow, shrill sound, reminding you of
every no you'd ever heard. You pick up
the receiver from the graffitied phone
booth at the corner grocery, kicking aside
paper restaurant cups, flattened cardboard
six-packs, twisted, empty cigarette boxes.
The phone is answered on the seventh
ring. You tell him that you have money,
there's a pause, then a muffled "waiting on
you." Back on the sidewalk, you thumb
through the bills, stepping quicker, your
breath slamming your lungs. He promised
not to do it, again, to them, if you got your
ass back to the apartment in a hurry.
A moment later you think you hear
your daughter screaming in your head. For
an instant, you stand as still as death.

Not Yet Written
As I heard you drive away for work, I
thought of sex, love as well, but
last night it was sex, while walking
through the still house, into the
backyard, through the fence where
the dead pine forced several of the
wooden rails to the ground last
winter. I stood among old oaks
stripped bare of leaves, grey-purple
mountains eclipsing my western
sight, bare feet trying to negotiate
the new snow in numbing, quick,
sucking gasps. The December
crispness exaggerated my breath,
cigarette in one hand, squirming
words in the other. I took those
words from a poem not yet written,
and crumpled them, tossed them
into the cold, charcoal-grey air,
watched as each one descended,
making mental notes as to how
they tumbled, any eager sounds
that escaped, which leaves they
grazed as they touched the frozen
ground, amber, yellow, mauve
with a hint of teal. How they rested
upon the earth, edges up and sharp,
or flat and square, keeping an eye
open for those that existed softer,
though once on the ground, grew
legs, repositioned themselves,
began to confess their sins in
whispers within tiny rooms of
twig and stone. these I scooped up,
allowing the others to drift away in
search of sequined greens. I walked
back to the house through transparent
curtains of winter-mist, breathing you
as much as the thick crystal air.

Her Sky
How many times did her
screams mean nothing
to them? Mean as little
as the shards of stone
and glass that bored
into the flesh of her
face, chest, the thick
blood running away from
her thighs, to them,
them, through their
hyena laughter and rough
hands grasping? She
plead silently, how, why,
strip and consume a life,
scattering pieces of a
soul? They dismembered
her sky. To them it was
fascination and greed, a
nervous game of growling
joy. She looked at the
garbage cans filled with
yesterday's coffee, old
clothing, tabloids covered
with spaghetti sauce,
telling herself she was
somewhere else, said
this to the small
rectangle of pale blue
streaked with white atop
three cold walls of
chipped alley-stone
above her. Then they
were gone, and she
was left to remain.

(c) 2002 Michael Ladanyi
Michael Ladanyi
lives in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains with his wife and two daughters. Widely published online and in magazines. His favorite poets are Dylan Thomas and Virgil Suarez.