Alan McCormick/Jonny Voss
Alan is Writer in Residence with InterAct, a charity providing fiction readings for stroke patients. Jonny is Voss. Find their illustrated work at
The Hemingway bird
without its head.
The Unabomber bird
The bird on my window ledge
has a worm
in its mouth.
The bird across the street
The bird in the cage
can say: Ezra Pound.
The bird in the cat’s mouth
And don’t get me started on the birds
that fly south
Like seasonal Stukas
aiming for the Tower of London.
Ryan Quinn Flanagan has a toothpaste fetish. More will be revealed in his upcoming interview.
waterlines followed the incline
stop signs over white stripes
cracked tar filled cracks
acceleration pushed back into vinyl
bright sight in tinted glass
radio ads chattered
pacified strip malls
pasteurized marquis titles
simple leaves decayed in the gutter side
child sized hips and chipped strollers
car dents and mint paint jobs
black stone roads prone to ripple
no sidewalks, only light curbs
curved with organic limitation
withholding dirt and leafy intrusions
tires rolled on undecided
holding to steering wheels
power lines crisscrossed against gray cotton
mold dust swirled by driveway push brooms
moved to booming sky explosions
cars clustered at the red line
zoomed by the rv monolith
a scuffed Arby’s neon missing the ‘y’
food wrappers, styrofoam bushes
title pawns flashing dollar signs
magnification revealed green faults
designed to crumple under impact
shoulder clicks and bobbing necks
near wrecks by flares and flashing blue
life-sized blow up dolls selling used cars
trips to the far hill on saddles and bar stools
cool breezes after numb winters
telling my why to think when to think it
set pieces, turning points
alarm clocks struck dumb
dioramas divided by ropes and slow drinks
personal vectors intersected fender benders
snapshots cut into inconsequential sequences
words typed in endless parallels
as patterns fell from the sky.
Once known affectionately as The Alley Critic, usually heard in the shadows as we leave work for the day and walk to our cars, Elias Miller will have something to say about this.
I saw the fireworks;
I believed that I was dreaming
Till the neighbors came out screaming…
First off, I love America. I mean,
really, it’s a great country, the greatest
country in the whole goddamn world, that’s what
Daddy says. I never been to one
of them other ones, and don’t want to,
‘cause why? America is the greatest
country on the earth, that’s why. I don’t
need to go no further than the back yard
to tell you that. Daddy says there’s nothin’
but a bunch of hairy women and queers
in them foreign lands, and so I’m good
The other thing is, I love the
Fourth of July, ‘cause I love America,
and that’s America’s birthday. Daddy
says we celebrate the Fourth in honor
of ol’ General Washington and Betsy
Ross and George Jefferson and all the
the patriots who bravely gave their lives
at Pigeon Forge so we wouldn’t have to
listen to no faggoty kings and queens
tellin’ us that we can’t dump our tea
wherever we damn well please. Daddy
says it’s better than Christmas, even,
‘cause you don’t get fireworks on Christmas,
just some dried-out turkey and a lot
of jaw about Jesus.
I really love
fireworks. Daddy and me go to
the fireworks stand down on Beaumont Road
as soon as it opens. Daddy always
knows ‘cause Uncle Jasper runs it every
year, twice a year, for the Fourth and New Year’s.
New Year’s is good, too, but it’s not American
like the Fourth. They do New Year’s everywhere,
so I guess it’s kind of foreign, and
American is better of course.
Uncle Jasper has to stay at the
fireworks stand at all times, due to
the fact that a few years back some assholes
tried to hitch the fireworks trailer
up to their pickup while he was gettin’
cigarettes, and they damn near blew up
the whole damn county, so now he has to
stay put. Daddy and me bring him what he
needs now, so he can keep an eye on things.
He don’t even go outside to smoke,
just leans out of the door most of the way.
He knows how much I love the Fourth and fireworks
and he always tells Daddy that he hopes
that I don’t end up bein’ one of them
yankee doodle dandies, and they both
laugh like hell. I laugh, too.
I like to
get a bunch of ‘em, and Daddy lets
me, ‘cause he likes ‘em, too. This year, I
got cherry bombs, roman candles, bottle
rockets, M-80’s, poppers, snappers,
screechers, zoomers, screamin’ cheetah wheelies,
roarin’ liquid fireballs in red
white and blue, and man, a whole bunch more.
Bobby Stimson down the street likes to
pile all his up and blow ‘em up all
at once, but I like to do ‘em one at
a time, ‘cause that way you can go all night,
or at least until the cops show up.
They look like soldiers, and I asked Daddy
if they was brave patriots like the
ones at Pigeon Forge, but he just laughed
without smilin’ and said “Not hardly.”
A few days after Uncle Jasper closes
up the fireworks stand, he shows up
with a great big plastic bag full of
stuff they like to smoke. I asked Daddy
at the store one time if he needed
any of that stuff while we was there,
and he told me to shut the fuck up,
and boy I did, and quick, too. I could tell
he meant business. I don’t talk about
it no more. But sometimes when he’s gone
I like to open up that bag and smell it.
When I get big I’m gonna smoke that stuff,
too, and if anybody says boo
about it I’m gonna tell ‘em to shut
the fuck up—and they better do it, too,
if they know what’s good for ‘em.
hates the cops almost as much as he
loves America, and Uncle Jasper
does, too. I asked Uncle Jasper one time
why they hate ‘em so much, and he said
that I was too little to understand.
But I hear him and Daddy talk about
it all the time, about life liberty
and the hairsuit of happiness, and how
it was a goddamn cryin’ shame that a
bunch of wetbacks can waltz right in and
do whatever they want but hardworkin’
Americans like them had to sell grass
to spics and niggers just to get by. Daddy
says that a wetback could take a shit on
the White House rug and get a medal, but
if they catch him with just a little bit
of pot he’s gone for twenty-five to life.
“What kinda shit is that?” he says, only
he ain’t askin’, ‘cause he already knows
I been watchin’ that big fat nurse
talkin’ to that scrawny little cop
for awhile now. I guess he likes her or
something, the way he’s cuttin’ up with her
and tryin’ to make her laugh, but it looks like
if she was to hug him he’d get squashed
flat as a flapjack. They keep lookin’ at
me, and I know that they’re gonna tell me
something about Daddy, and I got
a feelin’ that it’s gonna be bad news.
He was bleedin’ real bad after that
scrawny little cop shot him, and he
didn’t answer when I hollered at
him. I didn’t even know he had
a gun like that, but he sure pulled it out
when he saw those red white and blue lights
through the window, and was it loud? Man,
it was like a million M-80’s,
and shot fire like a roman candle.
He told me to get the fuck down, and
I did, too, ‘cause I could tell he meant business.
He opened up that door just as brave as
you please, as brave as those patriots at
Pigeon Forge, and I can tell by the
way that big fat nurse is smilin’ at
me that he must have gave his life for
the greatest country in the goddamn world.
G. Malin Wagnon lives in Charleston, South Carolina. He enjoys writing. He thanks you for your kind attention.