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Other notable work by Cindy Stewart-Rinier.
Gunner and Chuck Ride
After drinking all day, a drive-in movie
was dullsville, man, so we blew the joint
in my Volkswagen, swigged from the Buds
in the open case. Chuck said
let’s get the Harley, put the wind in our hair.
Far out, man, I said. Just the thing,
and I swung the bug down Strange Street
and stepped on it. Didn’t see the thick,
white-painted posts at the end of the road,
drove right between and swept
like an albatross down the steep,
wooded gut, blacked out, and stopped
at the trunk of a California oak.
When I came to, blood ran down
Chuck’s sleeping face. I touched the handle
and the door thumped the dirt and I fell out,
face up in the cool, soft soil and I dreamed
I was at sea, calm and slow in the dark
under stars and the swells whispered
like angels. I heard Chuck’s voice.
Glass still breaking.
One front tire wobbled cattywampus.
The black windshield gasket dangled
from a branch like a giant rubber band.
Then Chuck stood over me like a bloody vision
of mercy under heaven’s dark trees,
his face blood red and his lips moving.
I crawled on hands and knees
toward the white angels whispering
hymns from the top of the hill
until they grew silent and still,
but I could see them above me in white robes
not singing, looking down at me
crawling up toward them, but when I
reached them they had turned to wood,
flakes of white paint broken loose and falling.
I could still hear them, their many voices
thick and heavy, louder and louder.
Lights flashed, my hands disappeared
and the angels, now wearing black
with guns on their hips, put their hands on my head
and blessed me into the open seat
of the black and white car.
Chuck stood by a huge red truck. An angel
in white anointed his forehead. Lights
filled the forest, brilliant and splashing.
My throat burned, my head throbbed,
my stomach felt hard and sharp and I thought
I was going to be sick but only words came out
Swollen and thick: It’s alright, man,
I told them. You guys are doing your job.
I’m a drunk, and we’re all brothers.
I sat all night on a concrete floor,
gambled with cigarettes.
Released at dawn on my own recognizance,
an aimless boat, I floated to the shore of the first open bar.
Gunner’s Go-Go Girl Dream
She turns on the bar top,
face lifted to strobe-lit heaven,
eyes closed, the little hills
of her ankles fluid as the surf,
the mounds of her hips twin
atolls that narrow
to the peninsula of her bare
waist under spare dim
moons. She is a human
island in a long dark world
of spilled beer and glitter.
Her moon face up in lights,
tropical as sand.
Does she, her face like a moon
over the ocean, desire?
My heart is at sea, my rudder
shifts port to starboard,
rises and falls in the body.
The stars of her own island
planet blink. She dances
on the bar top long
as a dock, a harbor break
in the darkness, and we,
her supplicants like little gigs
at the toes of her pointed shoes
bob in her wind. The door
to the bar opens onto
Broadway, San Diego.
Horns crash, engines
throttle and light from headlamps
and streetlights reveal the bouncer,
bored, sober, slumped
on his stool, checking IDs
with a flashlight. I could leave,
unmoor from this dock. But the beer
is cold and all there is
on the street are the hawks
selling gilt-edged Bibles.
Here the light softens
on her skin, her hips
drift in the rhythmic tide,
and her long, dark, curled
hair falls on the swells
of her breasts and gleams like the moon
and stars on the surface
of a black sea on a clear night.
She dances in front of me,
looks down at me from the glory
of her painted face,
into my adoration,
and dawns into a smile
meant for me alone.
and I dream my hands on the wheel
of a red Stingray top down
and bound for Tijuana
her fingers in my hair,
adrift in the familiar wind.
Gunner Sweats The Small Stuff
The Secretary of the Navy flies into the Tonkin Gulf
by helicopter to inspect the USS King. I shine
the 50 mm machine gun, fool with the belt of casings
until the shells curve sweetly from the breach to the box
and paint the bulkheads until the insulation shines.
The Secretary strolls the deck and passageways smiling.
Disembarks in the helicopter his elbow like a swell
as he waves at the USS King, a bellyful of steel workings
and we desire nothing but a story with an end
when we gather, paint-spattered, on the messdecks for the movie:
Ride Beyond Vengeance, starring Chuck Connors. Absent
five years without a word to his woman, he squares his jaw
when he finds she’s married someone else. What now? He asks himself,
hand flat on his six-gun, hatches latched open, the Gulf
like new paint to the horizon and the moon a bright
running light on the dark bow of the sky. The projector stops.
Chuck’s lantern jaw twists sideways as the film dissolves.
Lights die out. Fresh paint in the passageways, executed
yesterday, bubbles, melts and stinks in the hot smoke
when the after fire room erupts in flame and the messdecks
flood in black and roiling clouds. We shout and beat it
drum the deck and rattle the ladders in our pounding run.
The USS King, dead in the water, groans like a man.
Burned mates stumble forward choking to their knees.
Gerald McFarland’s work has appeared in Berkeley Poetry Review, Crucible, Zyzzyva, Limestone, Bayou, and many others. One poem, “Skipping Stones,” was published on the Washington State Poet Laureate website last year. McFarland is an editor at Floating Bridge Press in Seattle, graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Rainier Writers’ Workshop in 2011, and teaches writing at University of Phoenix.
To study Jackson Pollock with four-year-olds we say Action
Jackson then play Action Jackson our only instruction:
Today make your brush into a bird that cannot land.
All over the room tail feathers begin to dip and lift
dribble and flick paper recording twenty paths of exuberant
flight. Small paint balls and trailed lines confetti the air
then fall and cross and weave themselves into flattened
nests. All but two children know when to stop. One by one
they rise and drift off to the sink where they remove paint smocks
and wash their spattered hands. But Matthew whose lines
are tangled dense as bramble asks for more black.
All his favorite animals have sharp teeth and some mornings
he presses his face into his mother’s legs as if he might be
inching back inside her. And Amelia the girl who used to pool
white glue so deep the edges of her paper oyster shelled
around it as it dried can’t get enough color or resist
touching down. She wheels her bristles leaving scuff marks
of beating wings in poppy geranium red lime streaked with black.
When it’s time to clean up Matthew sulks himself into a corner
and Amelia sucks in her bottom lip refusing to hear.
And I wonder is it what we pursue or what pursues us that resists
ending? Or are passion and darkness simply twin engines
that drive the restless bird?
*This poem first appeared in Crab Creek Review, 2011, v. 2.
and was awarded their Editor’s Prize for that year.
Summer, When Green Turns
for Candy Rogers, 1950-1959
Hot enough to fry an egg in dirt,
the grown-ups say, their weeping
cocktail glasses in hand.
Craving glamour, my parents dance
through the summer of ‘64
at Nat Park where Tommy Dorsey plays,
Dad in his sports coat, Mom in her strapless
blue dress and matching stiletto shoes,
while we teeter on the fence, stay outside
past dusk, five kids playing barefoot
Kick the Can, one eye out for whoever’s it,
the other for the scary neighbor boy,
then piling into the living room just in time
to see Hitchcock’s shadow step into
his nine-line silhouette, his dead-pan intros
to steamy episodes served up with a violent
twist, the blue light of black and white
fictions we preferred over the real suspense
of not knowing whether Dad’s drunk
would be jolly or wake us from dreams
with his threats and Mom’s screams.
Then another morning, outside again,
squatting at the end of the driveway, stirring
puddles of oil spewed onto Assembly Street
by road crews, our heads filled with volatile
formulas, sex and violence fused,
the woods across the street giving us the creeps,
ponderosas dropping needles and cones, tear-shaped
pitch seeping in summer heat, where,
four years earlier, police finally found the body
of the missing Camp Fire Girl at the bottom
of the old quarry under a blanket
of pine duff, as if asleep.
*A slightly different version of “Summer, When Green Turns” first appeared in the 2014 Summer Issue of VoiceCatcher: a Journal of Women’s Voices and Visions.
After Three Angels Come to You in a Dream
Wingless, middle-aged, wearing winter
coats, the three of them have come to grant
one last embrace to the newly departed
husband of a friend, you, the apparent witness.
But before they exit, stage up, one angel turns,
breaks frame, and facing the lenses of your wide
eyes full on, speaks directly into them: You,
she says, I’ll see a year from now. A dissolve
to waking life, the breathing landscape
of your love’s soft, freckled shoulder now
resolving into focus. You finger the time
frame in the dark: if one last revolution
of earth around sun is all that remains,
what then, what? After breakfast and coffee
that morning, you find yourself suddenly stuffing
handfuls of millet into the pockets of your robe,
walking to the round, glass table in your backyard.
There, you lay out an orbital ellipse in yellow seed,
then retreat to a bench to watch the winged ones
swoop in, descend. You listen to them consume
those small representations of a year’s moments,
their tapping beaks sounding like a typewriter,
like rain, until, full enough, they rise to the ash
tree and convert it all into shit and song.
*A slightly altered version of “After Three Angels Come to You in a Dream” first appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of the Naugatuck River Review.
Cindy Stewart-Rinier holds an MFA in Creative Writing from PLU’s Rainier Writing Workshop. Her work has appeared in such journals as Calyx, The Smoking Poet, Crab Creek Review, Ascent, Naugatuck River Review, and VoiceCatcher. She teaches Pre-Kindergarten and poetry writing workshops for the Mountain Writers Series in Portland, Oregon.