On Christmas Eve, Please Bring Me My Wine, And Please Bring Me the Stars in the Sky

by Serge Bielanko

Wait a while eternity
Old Mother Nature's got nothin' on me
Come to me, run to me, come to me now
I'm rollin' my sweetheart
I'm flowin' by God

-John Prine, 'Christmas in Prison'


When I was a boy, 7/8/9, I'd sit in the slippery wood pew on Christmas Eve holding my candle like everyone else. My mom to my left, my little brother to my right, the choir singing their hearts out, Joy to the World, Silent Night, I'd feel my soul shifting around down in my bone cage. God was too much of an idea for me to wrap my head around back then. But still, in that church in Conshy behind the gas station where my Pop-Pop gassed up his Matador and where my brother would one day change tires and work the pumps, I'd feel a thing moving me. 

I still don't know what it was. 

Neither do you, trust me.


You hold a candle and hear those songs, the warbly collision of people in your world- kids who ride your bus/moms who bake Betty Crocker cupcakes you eat at roller rink birthday parties/old ladies who only exist clunking down the stairwells of the church rectory, clutching their 8am service programs tight to their chest, my fresh eyes zooming in on a wad of blue vein lotion knuckle pinkness/Little League coaches wearing their Sears suit/one or two people from far off lands (me watching them sing, wondering if they were happy or sad to be a long long way from home, me not knowing that they were home)/housewives who spent their lives in a different galaxy two blocks from where I spent mine/old men with upside down forests of nose hair pouring out of their heads like dragon fire, glistening scalps housing the thoughts that once trudged across damp French fields behind tanks/kids from down my street/kids from my gym class/kids I had never said a word to and never would in this lifetime/everyone from everywhere/oh holy night/never my dad, home by himself, wine, beer, Gruyere from the special cooler at the Acme that no one ever hit 'til Christmas/my Mom-Mom, standing, singing, smiling at me, sticking her tongue out at me and making her crazy eyes face at me over the flame of her candle/the collection plates all gold and red velvet/plumbers kneeling/housewives looking at the high arched wood of the church ceiling like it was the floor of Heaven above us all/the Pastor talking wise men and Mary and manger and birth and love and Christ and spirit and this and that and me getting itchy/this battle between the known and the unknown raging inside of my body/blowing me up gas fire/- you hold a candle and hear those songs, the warbly collision of people in your world, and for a fleeting moment/single spark dancing down the solar winds/tiny spark skipping cross the eternal dark prairie/you know damn right well that you are feeling a thing in your chest/a Constellation Fist wrapping round your bloody meat heart/squeezing/lifting you up by your aorta/hurling you across all space and time/through shimmering walls of dinosaurs and Plague and heresy and war and screams spilling down some hillside and out over the Roman Walls and Japanese children melting in the street and volcanos erupting and sunsets like you would not believe slipping down behind herds of buffalo that went on for miles, great warriors weeping on high rocks, and temples going up in the deep jungle and round-the-clock trains to Buchenwald and fingers drawing fire and love on cave walls and a trillion first kisses and more coming and wolves unseen running so hard and fast after deer unseen in a wild unseen and quiet snow falling on so many nights never to be lived again/it all comes heaving up out of your small soul or whatever you wanna call it and it shoots out of your face like happy puke, like when you were born, your mama so sweaty and crying and overjoyed with the pain that you brung to the moment that changed everything forfuckingever,  you hold a candle and hear those songs, the warbly collision of people in your world, and you, and when I say you I really mean me, because at the end of the day/let's face it/what's the difference.


There I am.

My skull crashing into the church rafters. 

The candle dripping wax down on the paper catcher.

Christmas Eve.

Santa somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. Santa and his reindeer. A twinkling twitch somewhere high above heaving clouds of cod. Thrusting cold dark. IceRain slamming into his face, all caught up in his whipping beard. 


Coming for us. For my brother Dave. For my Mom. For my Dad asleep in the chair by the tree when got home. 

Coming for you. 

Coming/I must admit/terrified as I am/for me.


I don't know what I believe in.

It's okay to admit that. I love a thing I cannot see. I always have. I can't see shit. Fascination Street. Vascillation Street. I sneak around God in my mouse paw shoes, circling the cheese. I want to believe that I will not die if I eat this. And I want to believe that I will not die if I don't.

That too much to ask?


I guess maybe it might be, huh?

But you know what?  

I know one thing for certain. I know I believe in the memory of my life, in the complicated Sunday Gravy street drift garlicky ghost essence of it all. Of it meaning more than I give myself credit for. You have to survive, dude. Your life depends on it. My heart demands it.

And long long ago, out front a church in Conshy, on a cold clear Christmas Eve, I stood on the sidewalk with all the other people wishing each other peace and happiness and meaning it.

And I ignored them all.

I looked over at Dave and he looked over at me and we were two kids in a movie as we both looked up at the stars at once, up into in the Fifth Layer of Deep Back Space that you can only manage to glimpse if you believe in a thing for real for real, and I shit you not: something was red-light-blipping across the dark sky. Everything fell away from our world.

All truth will be revealed. 

"We gotta get home," I hissed. "We gotta get in bed. Holy crap. HOLY SHIT!!! That's him!"

Dave looked at me; I could feel his eyes; brothers have that; our hearts exploding in our chests. What luck we were having. What terror. What a life we would live the rest of our days from that moment on.

"That's them." 

People next to us talking so much happy holiday horseshit.

"Oh my God,...that's Him."


Everything keeps making me feel like I will never ever die.

I wonder if that's true.

Who are you to say? Think about it. It could happen.

I just keep on keepin' on.

I just keep on eating pizza and staring at birds and watching Netflix by myself on the couch and laughing in the mirror and kissing beery lips out back the bars and mircowaving my oatmeal a minute ten in the morning and decorating all crazy for Halloween, for Christmas, and stopping on the bridge on summer evenings to see if a trout rises right at that exact second, and cleaning the cobwebs off the grill at the start of every May-like clockwork. Me, y'all, rolling my fingers through my kid's hair for the next 55 gillion years until the stars pop off, until the red blip stops.


I know, I know.


I'm here now though, right? Right. Christmas Eve. Tonight. Again. One more time. Heart racing. I'm so confused. I'm so predictable. I'll be looking at the sky wondering if you are too. 

Everything keeps messing with my mind. 

It's kind of fucking lovely. 

Merry Christmas. 

Night Ghosts Riding Down the Pilgrim Wind

by Serge Bielanko

“Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other's world entire.” 
Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Henry is a blur.

He shoots out of the doors behind a couple of other kids in his class and he's running like there's a beast at his heels. 

Pharrell's 'Happy' kicks out across the gym. There's just me and about eight or ten other parents and grandparents scattered in these vast bleachers as the music slaps off the cinder block walls and spins all up into the high lights.

I try and imagine what it's like for my boy in that moment.

It must be Pamplona.

Shuttled down darker corridors, walking single file/doubling up/tapping up against each other, young hearts pounding at the mystery of what lies ahead. The antiseptic waft of school halls, a whiff of cafeteria mac-n-cheese or meatloaf. A long drag of impatience when you're 5 and you know you're about to be given the green light to just do it, to be set free to bolt. That isn't a feeling all that common in elementary school.

It can't be.

No one would get behind it.


This is a fundraiser thing; Rams on the Run; raising money for the PTO. Collect pledges and every class runs around the gym for 15 minutes. Nothing fancy. Foolproof. We were supposed to go door-to-door, I guess, show up at dinner time and smile and ask for loot, me reminding him and his sister to say 'Thank you,' while people ducked back inside to get their pocketbooks or wallets, but it didn't work out. I fell behind with work and chaos and I let it slide.

I tucked a twenty in the envelope instead and sent it back with the names of family members as donors. 

No one cares. No one cares where the money comes from.

The history of a five-dollar bill is not something people give a shit about. It's in your hands, that's all that matters.

And then it ain't anymore and you'll never cross paths again. 


Henry runs hard, his hair flapping in his own breeze. He gives high fives to some dad standing down in the corner of the orange cone course every time he passes him. The high five dude. I wonder who he is. I won't ask him though, so I'll never know. 

I can't help myself in situations like this, man. My eyes get all fucked up. I feel my face twitching and I pinch my thigh through my pants. 

"Stop it, you fucking Emo idiot!," I tell myself.

Look at that grandfather over there, the one with the Korean War ball cap. He probably fought with a bayonet. He probably stuck his bayonet into dudes' faces on hellishly cold mornings along the frozen roads of another planet. He's probably a farm boy who had to hold his friend's guts in his hands as he tried to shove them back into a nineteen year old body.

He's looking at me, I know it.

He knows I'm on the verge of crying and for what? For what!? He knows I know he knows too, that's what so torturous here. He knows that I know that he knows that he's not tearing up watching his grandson or granddaughter run around a gym on a Tuesday afternoon even though he has eaten War with a pie fork and has all the reasons in the world to cry at freedom and love and blood hurling itself at him from his grandkid's smiling face down on the court, but here I am, Emo Dad, and he doesn't want to hear it. 

I think he wants to wrestle me.

There's heat coming off of his soldier skull, lasers beaming into the side of my fat face.



I bite my lip and wave at Henry who, so far, has not looked at me even once. I know he knows I'm here. I'm impossible to miss. But he's doing his thing and there's a certain kind of pride that comes along with not waving at your dad every time you pass him by.

It's Old Testament. Shakespeare. Hemingway. Punk rock. It hurts. It's wonderful.


I can feel the old man trying to lift me up with his stare now and things are getting out of hand. The more he glares at me the more I feel this crying trying to get out of my head. I'm overcome by something moving me and I have no clue what it is. I've been a certain kind of mess lately. I've been down on myself and scared as hell, trying to feel my legs under all this rubble of debt I'm trapped in. 


A thing I should note:

I've been reading The Road, Cormac McCarthy's tale of the deepest love between a dad and his son wandering around post-apocalyptic Tennessee. 


The old veteran is growling something at me as I try and see him out of the corner of my eye but I can't because I'm also trying to watch Henry and catch his eye at least once. What does this guy want with me? Why is he messing with me of all people? Because I'm crying a little bit? Doesn't he get it at all?

Maybe I'm a sensitive dude.

Maybe I'm blown away at how big my boy is getting.

Maybe I'm fighting tears of pride, you ever think of that you cold-blooded bayonet-thrusting grenade-chucking ancient marauder?!?!

Fuck you, I mumble under my breath. I'm still too scared to look at him though. I wish his wife would tell him to knock it off.

What's he saying anyway? I can barely make it out?

I open my ear.

"Stop crying, little baby. Be a man for once instead of a goddamn baby bunny rabbit jacking himself off to the beat of his own baby bunny rabbit heart." That's what I think I hear him rumble at me, low and slow, I swear to god. 

He's trying to hurl my body out onto the gym floor with his eyes. I know that now. I can feel myself moving, raising up a little bit and then falling back down on my ass. His powers aren't up to snuff.

But he's trying.

And that's enough to rattle me for the rest of my life.


This past week, Violet on one side of me in her purple kitten pjs, Henry on the other in his Dino Snore ones, falling asleep/thumping hearts I helped make/inches from mine/I have no answers/I need fucking answers/Korean War bayonets of action/forward motion/making shit happen/but I've been so scared and quiet and agitated until my guts double up on themselves and I'm not even a human being anymore except a little bit at night, lying here for an hour or so/watching them fall to sleep beside me. 

I read The Road as my son drifts off, his head on my legs heavy like a stone. 

I watch the words float by me and it's all breath-taking and moving and horrifying at once. Like me. Like my life. The dad in the book watches his son sleep in the very real cold dark woods while I lay here watching my son fall asleep in the very real cold dark woods of my blues.

It's entirely different, but it's exactly the same.

McCarthy knew that, I figure. He still knows it. He can't unknow it either and he tells me that in his soft southern drawl.

I run my fingers across Henry's head, feel his warm scalp, a scalp I would die to let live. I am so much more than I let myself believe.

We all are. 

Someone is trying to throw me across a gymnasium with telepathy. 


'Hit the Road Jack' starts playing. The Ray Charles version. I connect the dots. The session is over and Henry's teacher holds her hands up in the air and flaps them around and the kids stop running and line up behind her out there in the middle of the cones. 

Henry looks at me finally and he's panting from running his tiny ass off. But he smiles at me too. 

I wave at him from the bleachers while his class moves as a snake. They exit the gym. "Anddontchacomebacknomorenomorenomorenomore!" He waves the last wave, my son does.

Then he's gone.

They're all gone.

Back into their meatloaf halls. 


Fuck it.

I look at the guy.

He ain't looking at me. 

He's old. He's smiling, waving at his granddaughter. She's waving back and I watch them connect. No words. Smiles. Gestures.

His hat isn't Korean War Vet either. 

It's woodland camo with an eight-point buck leaping across the front of it. 

He and his wife stand up and move down the bleachers slow, holding onto one another for balance. 

I get up so I can beat them to the door/so I can be first/so I can hold it open for them/and I do/and they thank me/ two casual smiles/three if you include mine/the three of us moving together from the artificial gym out into the bright freezing sunshine of the world. 

I light a smoke on the school grounds because fuck it.

I might have misread the entire situation.

The wind bayonets my face as it dawns on me that I might have misread everything up until now. 


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and what do you want me to say? You want me to tell you to be thankful for what you've got? You want me to tell you that it all goes by so quick so, listen man, try and dig through the muck and see yourself clearly for a second or two every now and then, okay? 

I can't do that. That's not my job. I can't remind you to remind yourself of certain enlightening higher-consciousness shit, dude. 

I'm dying as I write this. So are you. You're dying too. We all are. 



Okay, whatever. It's Thanksgiving. 

Remind yourself. 

There, I said it.


I built a Fat Lego castle with Henry last night. It was just me and him, one of those rare nights when we're together alone. Me and him/him and me. I put on the Sinatra Christmas record on the YouTube and made him this chicken that he likes for dinner and the whole house smelled like mashed potatoes and gravy and chicken and the pumpkin pie candle I got at Walmart as we built this castle from the ground up, the whole thing teetering on the edge of collapse but never collapsing out of mercy. Or respect. For me. For him. For our night together, I guess.

Later I let him play computer games on my laptop up on the bed. I went downstairs to eat my salad and watch a little bit of The Crown on Netflix and the whole time I'm down there I keep getting blindsided by the money thing and my stomach rolls around and I ended up putting the salad in some Tupperware and fridging it for tomorrow. 

Upstairs I peek into the room at my boy and he's  all animated and talking to himself as he plays a game. Animal Jam. That's the game. I don't know what happens in it. There's no cursing from what I can tell, or bad killing or horrible shit, so I let him play it. I'm in the dark hall and I watch him for a minute or two and I swear to god I feel it all welling up inside me again.

I don't get it. But there you go. I wanna cry looking in on the kid who has no idea I'm looking in on him. 

I hear a noise behind me and I spin around and it's the old man from the gym, from the school earlier. He doesn't say a word, he just comes at me fast down the hall and before I can holler or hit him upside his old man head with my bottle of seltzer water he shoves me through the door and I forget about the tears and my heart is racing. I'm Pamplona bull before the run.  

Henry hears me/senses me, says, "Hi Dad!" without peeling his eyes from his game.

"Time for bed, dude," I tell him. 

"Awwwww! Just five more minutes! Please?! I need to finish this!"

I don't answer him as I plop my bottle down on my nightstand and throw some more blankets on the bed. Sometimes no answer is the answer. He plays on.

So I just stand there above him, like an angel, like a cloud.

Like the moon in the dark cold sky. 


“The frailty of everything revealed at last. Old and troubling issues resolved into nothingness and night. The last instance of a thing takes the class with it. Turns out the light and is gone. Look around you. Ever is a long time. But the boy knew what he knew. That ever is no time at all.”

― Cormac McCarthy, The Road


I see The Road sitting there on the nightstand waiting for me to pick it back up. I see the box fan by the bed. I see the beat up comforter from the old married days. I see my phone charger waiting for my phone. I see the big rainbow trout pillow flopped along my son's ribs. I see my middle boy making his way down through some easygoing computer jungle, happy music bopping along. 

I see his back rise slightly with the air in his lungs. 

I see my old Vans kicking off my feet.

I see the empty crib over by the wall where Charlie still sleeps when he's here.

I see Violet's owl plushy on the floor by the wall.

I see the old man from the gym peering at me from the crack in the door.

I see the barn wood headboard I made once upon a time.

I see the bills downstairs haunting me through the ceiling.

I see the shadow of a man cast upon my wall.

I see everything.

I see all of it.

I hear the wind blasting at the panes outside.

And I smile my tired smile as the long day winds on down. 

Strollin' Struttin' Out the Ass-End of a Freakout

by Serge Bielanko

I smoke a cigarette in the parking lot behind the therapy joint.

I'm sliding-scale fucked up.

I smile as I think up that line, blow a beam of smoke up at the thunderstorm hanging tight to the sky. 

I look around and wonder which car might be my therapists' car. I've never met her. I don't know who she is or what she drives. I don't know anything about her at all.

Jetta, I figure. Maybe a newer Pilot, came with the satellite radio. Heated seats. Heated fucking seats. Whatever. She has no idea. She's gonna ask me the same stuff they always ask you at the start, the things I guess they have to ask you. How do you start it all out, you know? How do you get to know a person who desperately needs you to get to know them as quickly as possible.

"Do you ever have thoughts of hurting yourself or others?"

I stand out there in all that college town humidity and I drag so much smoke down into my lungs that a year falls away from my life just like that. I get cancer right then and there. One drag/boom/done deal/I can feel it kicking in. I exhale and this time I let the smoke come out of my face all astronaut puke. It falls out of my nose and my mouth and rises up slow, gravity free. For a second there I think to myself that I should have taken a selfie. That would have been a cool catch, me and all that smoke in my eyes. 

I've got three minutes. I'm a little early for the first visit paperwork. That one question keeps popping off though. 

"Do you ever have thoughts of hurting yourself or others?"

Christ, what a zinger. What an M-80 lit up in my hands. No one answers that the right way. It's impossible. You say no, you're lying. You tell the truth, you're messing everything up before you even kick it off. There are levels of truth in this world, and most of them are way beyond standard human capability. We talk mostly jive. We don't say anything to each other for years on end, until the mere idea of saying something honest or real, of revealing ourself in a moment of raw truth is enough to make us crazy in the eyes of someone else forever.

"Yeah, I do," I should tell her. "Sometimes I crawl up into the warmest blankets of a shotgun blast to my skull. I know that sounds a little wonky and all, but c'mon. You know how it is! You hear the damage. You listen to the honest lies for a living. People talking, blah blah blah, getting off on their own voices and the kick of release."

She'll just sit there, twirling a pen, straight face covering up the loudest OMG in the history of the world.

"This guy is fucking CRAY CRAY!" That's what she's screaming back behind her Master's smile. And I get it. My God, that's the whole point, isn't it? The money is exchanged/the deal is done. There will be no straight-up telling you you're nuts. It will be so much more subtle than that. There is a dance to be danced and it will never end. 

"Sometimes," I'll tell her/my eyes boring into her nose bridge, "Sometimes the most relaxing beautiful thought in the world to me is the embrace of the out. I think long and hard about the crossover point. A shotgun shell. My childhood memories. The little bass I caught. The baseball I used to keep in my glove to form a pocket. Looking down from my Huffy/looking down at the street flying by underneath my body/I remember everything/the swish and the whir/blind rider racing down the 9th Avenue hill/the brief cool of my sweat in reverse/the heart in my chest/my heart/my young awesome heart/pounding/free/pounding/free/no one would ever understand/forward/into the mystic/into the biscuit/me kissing this girl/me kissing that girl/the money I spent on the internet/the moment I saw her crown/my little baby being born/my promise to stop smoking on the day she arrived/me smoking a week after she arrived/I'm headed towards the curb in a flash of pale evening chrome/I have no friends/my body is so gross/I wanted so much more/how could you leave me/where is my father/why am I doing this/why have I waited so long/why now/why not/I remember the deer in the spotlight cornfield many years before you ever saw a deer's eyes like that, motherfucker/I was young and wonderful/I am older now/and wonderful in all the wrong ways/I raise my head and I slam my brakes/and I'm 11 again and I'm swerving the curb and the air is so clean and clear, so much oxygen slamming up into my brain as the buckshot moves at the speed of light and I scatter myself like autumn leaves across the interior of my dumbass CRV/everything at once/Jackson Pollack/stop calling this number/he can't pay off your credit card, dude/he took the easy way out/he took the hard way in/he is gone gone gone/so fuck you/stop calling/he is out riding his bike until the sun burns out/at least that's what he told us/so we gotta go with that, I guess."

Then I'll take a big old autumn morning out on the deck fuck you sip of my Starbucks and smile at her gently. 

Your ball.

I might even light up a smoke right there in the office.

Because, like, honesty- real honest to God honesty- it cancels out all the other rules. No smoking means no smoking until you're really speaking the truth. At which point, let's be honest, it means:



I don't trust my own heart.

Do you trust yours? 

I can't hear your answer because I'm not listening. But if I could I know what you would say. You would smirk at the question. 

Or you would change the subject. 

Or you would tell me you do. Or you don't.

And none of it would make any sense to me. 


At Macy's I buy a couple shirts for the fall. They're cheap enough and my old shit has holes, stretched out necks. I need new duds. I take that plunge.

The girl at the counter is young, 20's, and right away we're flirting. This comes as a surprise, but you have to roll with this stuff when it comes your way. You can live for years sucking on the tit of a moment in time. I recognize that as soon as she starts asking me stuff. We talk about Philly. We laugh and we smile. 

I decline the offer to open up a Macy's credit card account which would give me 20% off my purchase today. She gives me the discount anyway. She could get fired, I figure. She's a good person. I imagine spending my life with her. But we'd crash that plane in a matter of weeks and we both know it. 

This is all we've got. This right here, right now. Some shirts and all this super-charged electricity and my discount and her brown eyes that hold each look for that extra second or two. 

I walk out of there feeling sick about spending the dough. I can't escape that one, man. But I also have this feeling of invincibility for a few minutes. 

Crossing the parking lot, I am many miles away from anything sad or mean. 

I light a smoke and smoke it by my open car door. I stare up at the green summer mountains and I understand that I am going to be fine. 

You'll be fine, FuckFace.

You're so alive it's scary. 

Now what?


The four of us are out in the sunshine of the yard. Charlie wraps his two-year-old paws around his broken green watering can and he dumps the water I gave him to dump on the flowers all over his grubby sneaks. He doesn't give a damn. He's fluid/I meant to do that/he misses no beats/and he looks up at me and smiles.

"More water! More water, Dad!"

He thrusts his can my way and I slam some more water down in there from my Hawaiian Punch jug. Charlie wastes no time. He has no regard for plants or flowers. He tips the water all over his kicks and is back asking for more. 

I light a smoke and sit down on my block of wood. Henry and Violet are doing the swings, using their feet to launch them, using their feet to drag them down. We are in a pool of light right now. It's a little after 5 and I'm killing time because I'm kind of tired and it's too early for dinner. 

Mowers buzz in the distance. There are vultures floating out past the woods behind the crick. I'll probably microwave some potpies. Pretty soon, I think to myself, I'm gonna be done with all this microwave bullshit. I want to feed them better stuff. I need to make them casseroles or bake a damn chicken in the oven or something. The tired will go away, I tell myself. But it could be more lies, me saying that.

I don't know if the tired ever goes away. Once it starts, I have no idea if it ever stops. People probably tell themselves what they need to tell themselves just to survive. Who knows. Who cares.

The sun is shining down. 

The sun is making us all look so perfect out here in the yard. I don't know what I'd do without them. 

The sun is always lighting up their faces, you know? They've got smears of ice cream down their cheeks. They've got dust from the car doors war-painted down their noses. In the crooks of their lips: Cheez-It crumbs: tiny boats/hidden coves. 

I take a drag. Holy shit. My smoke forms a word as I blow it out my nose.



Okay, two words. 


I don't say any of that crazy crap I was talking about before to the therapist. I don't need to. It's gone by the time I hit the AC of the lobby and start filling out my paperwork. Everything is clean and cool in here and I roll with it. I'm here because of love. I'm here to be better for them, for the kids. And for me. So I can step outside my self a little bit, maybe take the edge off of some lingering blues.

She's great. I'm great. I'm sliding scale great, anyways. But whatever. I'll take it. I'm happy to swing low. I'm happy to swing at all.

We laugh.

We have to. It's me in here, you know? 

There's a lot to laugh at. 


The kids are gone, over at their mom's. 

I sit on my block of wood after I water the flowers by myself. I kick it solo. I light a smoke, lean back against the wall, and in the darkness of my squeeze-shut eyes I can smell the dinners rolling out of all the houses I blow by. I never touch the pedals, remember. I don't have to. The hill is all you need.

The rush and the buzz. 

I smell pork chops. Corn nibs. I smell salisbury steak. I smell pizza from Tony and Joe's. I smell big plastic cups of Pepsi/I hear them fizzing in their final moments/the ice cubes cracking and popping/the TV set to the news.

I slam through the shimmering walls of long ago meals and I can feel my handlebars wobbling at the edge of safe. Even an old spark pug or some fat stone, even some rough and tumble dog piss stain in the street would probably hurl me to my death.

But I don't care. 

I am speeding towards the park at the bottom of 9th Avenue. And I have been here before. And I will be here again. Even if that's not really true at all. 

Look at me go!

Look at me! 

Look at me taking that hill!

Through spaghetti steam, I fly with the quickness!

Through burnt lasagne smoke, I'm blind but I smile!

Down through cheeseburger grease/through fried chicken heat/through ten thousand miles of scalloped potatoes/I whizz past the doors of strangers/some long dead/some still out there/hurling myself at the curb that could kill me/just for one last chance to swerve it one last time at the very last second possible!

And I do. 

I kill it.

I swoop back in a slow circle, the cheap Huffy in flames under my ass as I open my eyes and look out at the park, look back up at the hill, look down at my Nikes resting on the pedals, look at the birds in the sky, look at my brother on his bike behind me, look at the years to come/the mad and beautiful years that will try and wreck me as I try and wreck myself, and once again, in my slow, loose arc, I am a kid on his dirt bike, and I am heading for home with a satisfied mind.

Whatever that means. 

Whatever that means. 

Whatever that means, through the steam of green beans.