TWO FLASH PIECES
by Marc Harshman
Time passes, and little by little everything that we have spoken in falsehood becomes true.
— Marcel Proust
Al walks under an onyx set of moons whose one good eye blinks like the cherry top called to that last day in his old life. Yesterday, the warden warned the leaky faucet would not be tolerated, and so it became the last domino to topple—and how true they all fell. Al draws on his jeans under a mirror of clouds. It was time to set his watch, the cheap Timex from Aunt Alice, set it to a more auspicious hour—perhaps Twelfth Night off Dame Street in a drawing room where they were dancing in quadrilles and pansy skirts. Or to an hour of privacy where the fairy tale poet still searches vodka in the closed garage that tilts to Africa. Himself, he will make do and go his own way, hoarding every second like chocolate and fresh air. The ghosts of a million regrets follow him through the prairie’s parking lot. He will find a hole in a wall and erect a door, a few windows open to the birds. Relieved of all the undeserved responsibilities he’s carried, he’ll sing each word of his silence with patience. He’s clever enough to be wary of freedom and trusts only the grunge music of adolescent basements where sex blossoms and a single toad watches from the ledge. Every lie he ever told draws close to be excised lovingly with memory and ink. He is counting the scars, and dividing with forbearance the good luck from the bad. Figures he’s due.
She Didn’t Think of Herself as Religious
One evening she observed Truth standing off in a corner by the tall Chinese urn upon which was worked a pattern of leaping salmon, watched him stand there smug and translucent, mostly unnoticed. The kitten circled and circled that urn, mesmerized by the predictable, yet elusive fish. An “unexpected quandary” her father is saying, and she has no idea to whom he is speaking, nor what he might mean. Her father is corpulent like Edward the Seventh, though without the mistresses, and to blame beer, burgers, and fries seems unfair unless America counts for more than she heretofore believed. But it is true. America is so busy being imperial—very much like the good king in his later days—that it doesn’t take time to consider this evening’s metaphors loosed by a boy on his bike whose name was Andrew and who’d stopped earlier to ask about a kitten. This was a definition of “quandary,” as well as “unexpected.” To have anchoring words redefined by someone who was not even part of the family—how does this happen? And yet this boy clearly knew this feline creature, seemed to care, was disappointed when we were too busy to conduct a proper search. He was so intent, a real soldier of devotion, and now what if he’s gone missing, too? It’s a rough neighborhood between here and there, and if he gets lost, what chance is there of any one innocent ever finding their way home? Someone tell me, tell us, tell someone.
You were just over there a moment ago, so silent and aloof. Behind the “quandary,” wasn’t it? And what is that? Is it a “quandary” of salmon, or will you call them a school? We need teaching. Remember that urn? A question and a number. Fifty-four comes to mind, and the other is beggared so she must leave them to it, shift the urn, face it away from the clouds where the others will soon be eating from her hand. It is she, isn’t it, who holds the metaphor, trumps every time? The kitten is mewing at the door, the urn leaning towards ambivalence, truth putting on its sunglasses, ready to slip away, slippery as a fish in the silken waters of China. Herself, she has a ticket for Roanoke, a kitty box under her arms, and the boy’s hand in hers. Salvation has less to do with truth than belief. Watch those salmon lift their wings, see the poor, first in line, at the only door that matters, and not “unexpected.”
Marc Harshman’s second full-length collection, Believe What You Can, is out from West Virginia University. Periodical publications include The Georgia Review, Emerson Review, Salamander, and Poetry Salzburg Review. His poems have been anthologized by Kent State University, the University of Iowa, University of Georgia, and University of Arizona. His thirteen children’s books include The Storm, a Smithsonian Notable Book. He was an invited reader at the 2016 Greenwich Book Festival in London. His monthly show for West Virginia Public Radio, The Poetry Break, began airing in January, 2016. He is the poet laureate of West Virginia.
Hear Marc’s piece and more virtual poetry from Cleaver on our SoundCloud podcast On The Edge.
Image credit: Pacto Visual on Unsplash