Literary Orphans

Two Poems by Nathaniel Sverlow

untiltled_487_by_Joel Hohner

across the desert

somewhere between

Riverside and

Needles

they stop

at a diner

she wants a booth

for her son

to watch

the tumbleweeds

blow

across the desert

 

the father sits

at the bar

she follows

puts her son

on the stool

between them

 

the kitchen is loud

sweaty, steaming

bodies over burners

and aprons

bouncing around

with silverware

 

one apron

stops

takes their order

the father first

then the mother

and the son

startles

no longer dreaming

of moonlit mesas,

white wastelands

warm and infinite

in the night

 

“Breakfast sampler.”

the son says

 

“And to drink?”

 

“Diet coke.”

the mother says

 

“Water.”

the father says

 

and the apron leaves

knowing which one

to bring

 

on the way

out

the father pays

then walks

to the car

while the mother waits

for her son

to finish

in the stall

in the ladies room

 

“Let’s go.”

she says

“Your father’s outside.”

 

as they leave

together,

a long haul

trucker

holds the door

he’s all fat

and hair

and grease

with a hat bent

and snapped

at the bill

 

he looks down

at the son

at the mother

nearly falls over

 

“You’ve got a

special boy

there, Miss.”

 

“Thank you.”

she says

 

“He’ll be better

than all of us.

You’ll see.”

 

then the car starts

 

she knows

he’s waiting

she knows

that it’s time

to go

 

one last trip

across the desert

O Typekey Divider

I Remember

There were three times

she got mad

three times

I remember

 

The first,

I was twelve

and we were

on our way

to school

 

I had a stick up my ass

about something

and said something

that really got her

going

 

I can’t remember

the words

but I still see

her frown

hanging there

from the overcast

like a burnt out

bulb

 

The second,

I was twenty-one

and she made turkey

and it took hours

and I took Christina

to a steakhouse

by the freeway

 

I wanted to get laid

 

She was yelling

yelling YELLING

I’LL JUST MAKE SANDWICHES!

FUCK IT!

I’LL MAKE SOUP!

 

I got her a card

and balloons

I love you

they all said

and

FUCK IT!

I FINISHED THE SOUP!

 

The third

was the morning after,

that horrible morning after,

when Dad locked himself

in the study

and she

was at the table

 

I was twenty-five

rusty-knuckled

and shaking

 

Don’t you ever

do that

again

she said

It’s none

of your business

what

HE

does

 

I got mad

after that

 

it was the first

time

 

I remember

O Typekey Divider

Nathaniel Sverlow is a freelance writer of poetry and prose. He was born in 1983 in San Diego, California and moved to Northern California at the age of three. Since then, he has graduated from Sacramento State University and spends most of his time hunched over his computer hunting the Word. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beyond Reality Zine, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and Map Literary. He currently resides in the Sacramento area with four roommates, three cats, and one incredibly supportive girlfriend.

nsverlow

O Typekey Divider

–Art by Jan Rockar

–Art by Plamen Stoev

–Art by Joel Hohner