By Shane Lake
Featured Art: Fifth Avenue Nocturne by Childe Hassam
A Red Cross bus gets hit by a truck
and lands on its side, the driver unconscious.
Blood spills from the broken glass,
coats the pavement in bubbling rust.
It is 1977 and the theme for summer is .44 caliber.
It is one hundred fifteen degrees.
A crowd forms in the contagious heat,
pulls back as the red pool expands.
I watch from the ailing shade of a palm tree,
the sweet taste of blood in the air, on my tongue.
Someone tries to rescue the driver
but the mix is slippery. He lands on his back.
His impact speckles the closest few,
who scream and cover their mouths with their hands.
Sirens sound, and soon the fire trucks are here,
hosing donations into the street drain.
Secretly, we all enjoy this,
being here at the scene of the crash
where news vans make stars of us all.
We want our trauma to trump everyone else’s.
We want to be able to say:
“You weren’t there. You wouldn’t understand.”
We give the cameras what they want.
They talk to the lucky, spattered ones first.
I leave the show, walk past my apartment
into the delirium of afternoon heat,
walk the day dark with a full-on blood buzz,
stop where the bar lights neon the sidewalk.
Inside, it’s a party for hopeless love.
A girl licks her quarters before putting them in the jukebox.
A guy playing pool holds his cue like a spear.
On TV, another shooting in New York.
Written on a five I get back for change:
I will no longer do the devil’s wishes.
I study the lines in Lincoln’s face,
and with each slug of beer his beard thickens.
The room begins to lose its shape
and an argument spills into the parking lot
where, under royal blue stardust,
two men curse and push at each other.
We leave the bar. The night is pulsing through us all
as we form a circle around the men.
Shane Lake is the author of The Bone Trees, a digital chapbook from BOAAT Press. His work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Indiana Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He lives in Oklahoma City where he teaches 6th-grade English and coaches girls basketball.
Originally published in NOR 18: Fall 2015