Issue 21: Burgess Needle


the qum rug in my parents home in Newton Centre

was for admiring not touching or twisting

as for the chess pieces set in place

from the last game between my father and dead brother

the less said about moving them the better

I was the survivor the one child who escaped

the emotional flames and when I first learned

the word irony I knew it applied to the chilled air

between my parents that supplanted all that heat

still they saw my gift in math and all the awards that adorned

the walls of the unadorned so when a distant program  beckoned

we managed hugs and I was gone swimming

the realms of math and physics better than

fresh water in arid heat which applies

here in Tucson more than anyone will ever know

who has not visited this valentine state of insanely

beautiful sunsets  and neanderthal politics again as i said i

was satisfied smug and even a little happy but not enough

so after a while bored with my neighborhood and the placid men

who pursued me I strolled out toward the university searching

for something else beneath  a half moon’s hazy glow something

I missed and did not could not identify which is when a whistle

blew out at me from the shadows behind Arizona stadium and I ask

now why they call it freebasing when it is anything but free

hey just a joke where I’m coming from all my lab experiences

taught me a freebase is created by dissolving it in water then heat

with baking soda until the water boils off

i was someone who also knew how slow atoms became at absolute zero

but sucking in meth smoke turned me into a static-charged bolt

of light that brushed the hip of my man slikjax with my skin saying

sub-atomic is so charming

but he didn’t get it and by then I didn’t give a shit anyway

because my fortune had been ripped away past and present

vaporized links to the clickety clack world

severed all because I followed that whistle and party sounds

into darkness and the arms of slikjax who couldn’t even multiply

perhaps not even count but knew what I needed more than I did

hooking me up to that ecstatic smoke from a glass ball

and then endless pleasure on top of the local strata used condoms

broken needles burnt spoons pigeon guano glass pipettes

and all the rest that was it for physics never mind

dr. roth’s promise of  a lab where I would have worked

with matter at absolute zero

now I radiate heat and speak a different tongue devolved

as mine’s become synonymous with his it became a truth

now all I wanted was molten skin with slikjax more smoke

from the glass orb a few more judicious inhales

no they’re hits so good and fine I never returned to the familiar

discarding cool logic no dropped logic like a snakeskin

and as a reptile I slithered here and there with whomever

had an  8-ball when loverboy wasn’t around

to hand off just 3.5 grams for a few hundred bills or in my case

several go-arounds for the pleasures of my skinny behind

until the black and whites scooped me up like a stiff turd in winter

and by the time i returned to this all dried out

I remained addled burdened disconnected unhinged unemployable

bringing these words up to the present and me on parole

in dunkin’ donuts because halo’d Nicki who hired me

without a pause tats and all just wear long sleeves she said

with a whisper and a hug still I never stopped seeing that the curve

of the store’s croissants followed the same fibonacci sequence

as a snail’s even though not a thing mattered anymore except

for slikjax’s return because when I ride with him I watch

the realm of physics being stretched by speed

saguaros become emerald water color with blue cactus wrens

peeking out blurs bowing and bending then I take another hit

to keep it all going that’s what he did he kept me in the thrall

of getting off showing me that biting revved sex when he was riding

me and that was cool if a little sad

but still okay until that Indian boy with the scar on his cheek

appeared  and ruined my balance forever

or saved me                        I forget which

Burgess Needle’s poems have appeared in Blackbox Manifold, Concho River Review, Raving Dove, Boston Literary Magazine, Decanto, Centrifugal Eye, Iodine,  Kritya, Prism Review,  Blue Lake Review, Minotaur, Nutshell Magazine and DeComp Magazine among others. Diminuendo Press published his poetry collection Every Crow In The Blue Sky in 2009. His second collection, Thai Comic Books was published in 2013 by Big Table Press.

He taught English for two years in Nang Rong, a small village in northeast Thailand for the Peace Corps, been a co-director of the Southern Arizona Writing Project and was a school librarian for thirty years. He now lives in Ripton, Vt with a hazel-eyed woman of great charm and wit. Find out more about Burgess

Copyright © 2018 by Burgess Needle, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.