Steve Langan

Twenty-two Bedtime Stories


        It’s not that I don’t like nature
        It’s just that it’s everywhere
        The ruins and sarcophagi
        Natives with machetes making minimum wage
        Truckers misspelling the names of states

        I went out for a walk with grandpa that didn’t end
        I fell in the lake again
        By the fire he warmed my clothes
        He was a stern man but kind to me
        Believe me when I say I’m not going to make up anything

        The day before wavered and the day before that
        We were fireflies in a bottle
        When one of us was hungry
        The others prayed more determinedly
        When one of us was tired, another started to sing

        It was nice to have such good friends
        But giving up the faith still felt necessary
        Standing alone one day I realized
        What had occurred and how far we had come
        And how long it had been

        I want to report back
        From what you have called my special orbit
        Some long overnourished missive about interdependence
        A manifesto minus the seriousness
        If there is safety in numbers, count me in

        Just then a quiet desperation as predicted arrived
        Footprints in the mud
        Shoulders heaving
        Natives leaving
        Big bonfires

        I’ve gotten so old I can hardly fantasize
        You never think these things will happen
        That car sure has a funny alignment
        I’m just getting a tune up then I’ll pick up the bread and milk

        Oftentimes he sits amid the crowd
        At the park and on holiday whistles
        As he looks in the windows
        Of the trusty little boutiques

        Yet a harsh feeling burns through this innocent scene
        Let me provide an example
        The neophyte who wages a private battle
        His enemies are a shroud, a banner
        The power structure, countless and legion

        Resting my hand beneath her purple blouse
        She was nippleless in the sunny afternoon
        We were poor kids together
        Until her father’s company went public

        And the almighty epigraph is dead
        Dogma is nearly dead
        The beautiful is alive and well
        Let’s refuse to retreat
        Let’s refuse to say no to beauty

        Are you for or against beauty
        Sure, beauty is overrated, but still
        We’re talking about beauty here
        In the butterfly’s freedom, represented by silence, I felt peace
        Then she flew away

        Hurry up please it’s time
        In synch, in purposeful rhythm
        One of those days today
        But as soon as the ease was acknowledged
        It was the frenzy again descendant

        Bags of birdseed from May 14 to June 20
        Are on sale
        Hitch to a star your wagon Justin
        Unless I was drunk I could never talk
        To that girl Jasmine
        In such plain spectral language
        All I can survey is this billionaire of corn and wheat
        Even the prices of the spices have gone up
        A little candy for you and a little for me
        Holiday traffic to contend with dammit

        We walked while we talked about the history of the town
        To me it’s the dullest part of any journey
        I’ve been trying to register the exclamations
        Feathers from all kinds of common birds
        True and sure and willing to lead and be led

        But as she moved clockwise then counterclockwise
        And we were all supposed to stay seated
        That was the longest forty-five minutes of my life since parochial school
        Prayer in the morning try to do this every day
        I’m just writing in my notebook thinking of you

        They say embrace reality then they go away
        An eternal conversation two squad cars backed up
        Two cops talking to one another windows unrolled
        Baby toys, Lawn-Boys™
        Happy times, sucking thumbs

        This is the chain of command
        Jim Julie Ed Heidi and Desiree
        If Jim is out of the office, call Julie
        Prayer in the morning do this every day
        Passing the sleepers on the way to XYZ Gymnasium

        In the dull origination the pamphlets and manifestos
        Secure in their little pouches
        Darling neighbor girls in their ponchos
        It really wasn’t much of a challenge
        Because that’s how we do things around here

        His soul as rotten as a tomato with a memory
        He stops in every tavern on the avenue
        Detective-like among all the robbers
        Finally giving up reading even the good clues
        The last good man in the neighborhood left behind for him

        A story that ends even if we knew where to find it
        Even if we knew where to look
        In examinations, in MRIs, one finds
        All sorts of things the patient thought might be there
        Substantial blemishes, for instance, and little gravestones