A.J. Rathbun has had work published in Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Poetry Miscellany, Sonora Review, Southeast Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Sulphur River Literary Review, Taint, Third Coast, Tin House, and other such magazines. His book of poems, WANT, was published by ZYZZVA. His pie, Totally Tofu Coconut Kareem Pie, won "Most Creative" at Amazon.com's ETK-Edit Pro-Am Pie-Off (or, EEPAPO) and his book of drinks, PARTY DRINKS: 50 CLASSIC COCKTAILS AND LIVELY LIBATIONS, came out in October 2004. Rathbun edits and publishes LitRag, a Seattle-based literary magazine that has an online component at www.litrag.com.
What Desire forgets defines us. I cant ampersand myself out of its room. On its wall, is the cloud eating the mountain or the mountain embracing the cloud? Im alone, in a gray truck, in upper Kansas. Figure that out, that Desire. Its a small fracture, a small mouth on the small tattoo on the small of the back. Theyre just lakes and meadows. The stars fake as a plastic moustache worn to court Desire during an open-all-night night. Its a redeemable jackpot, realizing Desire's prize is guaranteed only between appled fifteen minute breaks. Whats with all the asterisks in Desires dress? Like little confusing nails visibly behind each sentence that Desire speaks with tongue tickled into ear. Words spoken by Desire are a contingent language. Thank god for the air conditioning coming on like a god when in a hotel years ago with Desire and someone in a ritzy haircut and not much else. The window's brown and blue and brown as the train takes and gives sky and no sky. Its a short window, and not a great train I no longer believe I can believe in. Everyone has a ride on Desires iron horse. Everyone wears a beard. Its enough to make clean-shaven men feel alone, leaving a town where Desire masquerades among poets discussing desirelesss poetry. At least, their jeans arent tight enough for Desire. But forgive, forgive, Im talking through desire, and Desire and I smell like a gin harvest. All I can handle this late is Desire mixed lousy with seconds of lousy love, florid heat and hand, poise, locomotive. Its every truck away from your rail of red tails. Its not the getting there, but the leaving here. Its not the reverie, but the smell of despair and urgency, burnt tomatoes in lunatic garlic, Desire serving the planets spiciest cocoa, bought tart in Kansas, posted from Mexico. Desire travels like tomorrow night. Its good. But not as good as her finger placed light like snow on my wrist, my knee. Desire gets the picture. Impermanent, cold, unforgettable. The only gesture thats ever mattered when driving unequivocal. Desires face turning alone into aftermath. Anything beyond is gravy. Ah, whats beyond? Cmon in the cab with Desire. It springs the door with an oath. Of course, it forgets even a promise. Today, the promise is a flightless bird. A slightly different engineer. Ruthless, unfair, inescapable. Tits large as horizon and ass that won't quit applying, miles away from lips like a thin fire. Desire thrusts away the sweet talk version. Every second with Desire is a second without. Desires a rental, like night. Desires dark, Desire and I are alone on a two-lane year forgotten, a highway on the make ever since I scooped hitchhiking Desire up. Desire, Desire, Desire. Never forget me. I cant ask Desire, O, angel, let me loose.
My hand is born as I span stomach, angular beneath anothers Egyptian cotton, an escapade where the hand bequeaths nothing but skin after our earlier embrace the 83 Omega cornering 12th and Freemonts corner, nervously dependent on the hands fugitive desires and Big Star simmering the stereo. Trust opens the hand, the wet mouth, the fingers spread in four directions, the scherzo finishing Beethovens tenth symphony, the main object observed by Hubbles telescope, the soft road leading me to forget the hand is younger brother to fist, discarding war with socks and shame and knuckles attendant. Reeling water past warm, your hand reaches for soap, a soft washcloth, my hand. This is after the wave but before the drunken kiss, a shhh at the lips, a bursting of applause, the aces dealt, the ships helper, the possession of a necks nape, the leisured deployment of my hands melancholy and maple scent.
Before arriving in Ithaca, pass the whatever river, whatevering around the dusty credit spring loans summer, where men off ante meridian to relieve water of any but the wiliest trout. Sweat drips as simple syrup down gawky morning chins of lost tourist, invited visitor alike as they amble past the poetic Wendys, sing of how five gorges cater breeze over hot May noons. 1942s Comprehensive Pictorial Encyclopedia in the public bathroom on Seneca says scenic beauty expands out of nightingales and bees and a picture of John Wayne. Lunch is orange and sweet. Porches restrain sheep, become kernels of early Iranian cinema dialogues for the burled tri-state area. In Ithaca, no one calls Ithaca the Switzerland of America. Deer multiply into stars, stars replace deer, but evening light, nostalgically golden brown, is hard for me to remember, once borders are crossed. The Cayuga dreams of Tioga, from a distance, and, as an heiress to an empty estate, State Street woos New Jersey state while iced Italian Soda served under fans at Home Dairy want savoring, if the flavor is Kiwi, the tropical component of 4:30, here, in Ithaca, where astronomical observations reveal to even jaded passers-by a street, a city, a moon, an ocean papier-mached with glacial confetti from a million legendary parades.
More, you say, over breakfast, more people have died today, here are two couples that died in car crashes, another 10 from natural causes, 10 from causes that seem natural, except for stopping someone so young, another just a kid falling off a tall cement ledge without knowing he was about to fall. It almost makes the fact that youre going home without me not a fact at all, going home over trees and lakes made of salt and tar, going home to walk a dog without me, going home dry and kept, going hawk-high and precious, precious as any hour spent together. You see the difficulty in even waking up. Theres love like a wire and regret like a wire and the appalling self-loathing wanting you brings like a wire wrapped around my thick ankles, realization that its selfish to even breath the air as the world turns and turns and hardens into a ball of flames, ball of coal, with no idea of this sour sound Im making to drown out all your rescinding sweetness.