To The Mother Of My Enemy
By Scott Woods
Here how he died: looking up at stars.
every constellation winking out
until only eternity left to mourn.
No angel came down for him.
His mouth did not part
with a choir’s remembrance.
He did not call for you.
His peewee football uniform
ain’t fit for years.
Sidewalk was a cooking stone,
even at midnight. Still, you could see
his last breath leaving.
You got nothing left to give:
another electric bill fell out your mouth
this morning while you were callin’ around,
trying to find your boy, sitting
in a kitchen dark with roaches
blotting out the lights in an eclipse
of wings and mortar crumb.
Tell the media whatever you want
about your baby boy; the kind of work
he was looking for ain’t the kind of work
you would have ever agreed to.
He didn’t mention nothin’ about no choir,
no honor rolls, no college.
If he had any dreams they mine now.
I pile them in my pockets until my pants sag.
Boys’ dreams heavy with momma tears,
like pissed-on baby sheets.
Heavy, so heavy my belt just for show,
my pockets a vault of denim and steel
someone gonna’ crack one day,
my dreams crammed in a dime bag
next to yours.
By Scott Woods
If you flash your headlights at a dark car in passing,
it is a gang initiation and they will kill you.
Gangsta rap crawls into your ears while you sleep
and puts black people in your dreams.
The 13th floor of every office building can only be cleaned
by a black janitor with very good luck.
You can still see the smoke from the L.A. riots from space.
A chicken head once found a deep fried politician
in a bag of crack cocaine.
The sewers of New York City are teeming with extras
from The Warriors who got lost on their way to the set.
Storing batteries in your refrigerator will greatly decrease
their chances of coming up missing when your television is stolen
while at a poetry reading.
If you read this email and do not pass it on
to five of your friends, you will still have read more
than three congressmen.
Swimming in less than an hour after you eat cheese grits
will cause you to sink to the bottom and drown, but with a smile.
Over a dozen black morning radio show cruise ships
have gone missing in the Bermuda Triangle.
If you lock a hundred monkeys in a room with typewriters,
a hundred monkeys will type Lil Wayne lyrics.
If you stand in front of a mirror and chant the word “Obama” three times,
a bloody black Republican will appear.
(A cento comprised exclusively from the first lines of Stephen King stories)
By Scott Woods
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I am now a very old man and this is something which happened to me
when I was very young – only nine years old.
It’s a great relief to write this down.
This is what happened.
. . .
Once upon a time, not so long ago, a monster came to the small town of Castle Rock, Maine.
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.
. . .
He looked like the total all-American kid as he pedaled his twenty-six inch Schwinnn with the apehanger handlebars up the residential suburban street, and that’s just what he was: Todd Bowden, thirteen years old, five-feet-eight and a healthy one hundred and forty pounds, hair the color of ripe corn, blue eyes, white even teeth, lightly tanned skin marred by not even the first shadow of adolescent acne.
September 15th was his birthday, and he got exactly what he wanted: a Sun.
When Hal Shelburn saw it, when his son Dennis pulled it out of a mouldering Ralston-Purina carton that had been pushed far back under one attic eave, such a feeling of horror and dismay rose in him that for one moment he thought he would scream.
Denny, what’s that over there? Oh shit.
At first glance it looked like a Wang word processor – it had a Wang keyboard and a Wang casing.
We moved it last year, and quite an operation it was, too, he said as they mounted the stairs.
Todd’s mother went to the door, hesitated there, came back, and tousled his hair.
The old man sat in the barn doorway in the smell of apples, rocking, wanting not to want to smoke not because of the doctor but because now his heart fluttered all the time.
The barbecue was over.
. . .
The guy’s name was Snodgrass and I could see him getting ready to do something crazy.
In previous years, he had always taken pride in his lawn.
I came to you because I want to tell my story, the man on my couch was saying.
The question is: Can he do it?
The most important things are the hardest things to say.
. . .
“I’ve never told anyone this story, and never thought I would – not because I was afraid of being disbelieved, exactly, but because I was ashamed…and because it was mine.
People’s lives – their real lives, as opposed to their simple physical existences – begin at different times.
I’ve got a good job now, and no reason to feel glum.
But Viet Nam was over and the country was getting on.
My friend L.T. hardly ever talks about how his wife disappeared, or how she’s probably dead, just another victim of the Axe Man, but he likes to tell the story of how she walked out on him.
Miss Sidley was her name, and teaching was her game.
I waited and watched for seven years.
She was squinting at the thermometer in the white light coming through the window.
Looking into the display case was like looking through a dirty pane of glass into the middle third of his boyhood, those years from seven to fourteen when he had been fascinated by stuff like this.
“I know what you need.”
The morning I got it on was nice; a nice May morning.
“Oh you cheap son of a bitch!” she cried in the empty hotel room, more in surprise than in anger.
By the time the woman had gone, it was nearly two-thirty in the morning.
They had been predicting a norther all week and along about Thursday we got it, a real screamer that pied up eight inches by four in the afternoon and showed no signs of slowing down.
I only saw the sign because I had to pull over and puke.
My old blue Ford pulled into the guarded parking lot that morning, looking like a small, tired dog after a hard run.
My wife had been waiting for me since two, and when she saw the car pull up in front of our apartment building, she came out to meet me.
I turned the radio on too loud and didn’t turn it down because we were on the verge of another argument and I didn’t want it to happen.
But sometimes the sounds – like the pain – faded, and then there was only the haze.
I tried to scream but shock robbed my voice and I was able to produce only a low, choked whuffing – the sound of a man moaning in his sleep.
When Mary woke up, we were lost.
Considering it was probably the end of the world, I thought she was doing a good job.
The one thing nobody asked in casual conversation, she thought in the days after she found what she found in the garage, was this: How’s your marriage?
Officer Hunton got to the laundry just as the ambulance was leaving – slowly, with no siren or flashing lights.
L.T.’s boy came around the barracks a lot the year after his father died, I mean a lot, but nobody ever told him to get out the way or asked him what in hail he was doing there again.”
. . .
“Go on,” Snodgrass said again. “Look in the bag.”
It’s so dark that for awhile – just how long I don’t know – I think I’m still unconscious.
It was a deathroom.
. . .
The dawn washed slowly down Culver Street.
It was forty miles from Horlicks University in Pittsburg to Cascade Lake, and although dark comes early to this part of the world in October and although they didn’t get going until six o’clock, there was still a little light in the sky when they got there.
Walking to school you ask me
what other schools have grades.
It became our motto, and we couldn’t for the life of us remember which of us started saying it first.
I can’t go out no more.
You’ve been here before.
New England autumn and the thin soil now shows patches through the ragweed and goldenrod, waiting for snow still four weeks distant.
Scott Woods published his first full-length collection of poetry, We Over Here Now, in 2013 (Brick Cave Books) and is working on a second book for a 2014 fall release.