Give and Give

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June 22, 2017 by The Citron Review

by Wesley Rhodes


In jail I’d say I was aiming at the hawk, but in church the hawk became elided. The rest of the story stayed pretty much the same.

Your funeral service was quiet. You would’ve been upset by the turnout. You were
always one to talk first, and last.

In year five I paid in pruno for g, i, v, and e. Black ink. Plain font. Knuckles of the right
hand. I had plans for the left. Just needed the word. The one who inked me walked before I could decide.

I knew there’d be no words allowed for me. I kept quiet in the back of the crowd. I gave you my version of your eulogy, only to you. It might’ve been the only part you would’ve liked. If it had been a speech. If they would’ve wanted to hear it. If things were different.

In year six I learned about parole, that I was up for it. I admit I had gotten comfortable
where I was. They couldn’t see me in there. Nor I them.

Your momma didn’t let anyone near enough to touch the casket. Let alone, look.

There wasn’t a year seven. Only one again. And again. It will be like that for all the rest of the years I live. There is no getting used to anything anymore.

Something in the funeral home smelled familiar. Wet dirt, or the souring yogurt you’d
opened up in the heat. The truth is recalling it all never phased me. Why? I haven’t ever been able to decide. Distance, you might say. Survival, you might say.

The light was low on the hill, just starting to peek. It was warm. Too warm for the time of year. You sat on a stump and pried your backpack open. It’s still good, you’d laughed. Pop! went the lid. Your long finger dipped into warm yogurt. I saw the birds spark at the hilltop. I thought, now-!, or get-!, or fire! It was the second time I had ever fired a gun. The trigger pull too soon. The angle all wrong. It was the first time for so many other things. We were seventeen. Me for a few more days. You forever.

In church they listen and wait for me to cry. When I can’t, they look at the ground or at one another and just nod, nod, nod.

Maybe memory has a cost. Maybe the more you remember, the more of some other part of you gets used up in the process. Maybe that’s why I can’t feel it. When I see that image of your face drifting heavenward in red like sunrise behind closed eyes everyday, I can’t find a way to break down like I ought to. Maybe that part of me got taken early on. They made me tell the story so many times.

The Hawk rose; gold as night, black as day. The wind roared by the beat of its wings.
Rising, the sun split upon its talons. Rising, a world stolen in its clutch. Taken to where all mistaken things are doomed to be set adrift and there, forever, remain.

Baptism is like sleep.

I can’t recall a name so well, but a face is easy. In the package store parking lot I saw the guy, flashed the four letters his way. A grin told me that he remembered. This time with real liquor, I bought myself four more letters.

The look on his face, when I told him what I wanted was a mystery. He nodded and set to work. I watched the g take shape on the first knuckle. I just couldn’t think of what else in this life was truer; that we’re meant for one thing, and that bears repeating.

At last, I wept. For us.


Wesley Adam Rhodes remains ever on the move, in search of everything. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in blink-ink and Cartridge Lit.


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