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Greg Bachar

Five From Werther's 47





Tonight Werther felt like loving, like clapping his thigh-hands against her thigh-hands, like seeing curves see themselves as illusions into which they bend and refract without breaking, like ripping grass from the earth to become chattle, to chattle and prattle until dawn.

He must have hallucinated the day, its beaded-damp hairs, its denial of yesterday, its unforgiving rejection of headless mops.  Werther spoke with no one, saw many, but none revealed themselves to be searching for any core.  A volcano smolders inside while it waits to explode, one day becoming an island people pay to see, but in the meantime…

She comes to unsettle his universe with gravel.  She whispers bicycle tires rubbing against spoke legs.  His knees are ripped, though, when the stick is thrown in to make him fall.  She is the dust of a dirt road, the speed of the highway, the plunge into a bridgeless ravine, and he goes crashing willingly into her machine.

“I can go home now,” he thinks, “the night is done like a cake that must wait until morning to be frosted.”  Last night lifted the veil, found them shy but unblinking.  Still drunk on her sweet wine, Werther waited for the headache.  What had his whiskey done?  A taste made her want more.

A Jim Beam and Coke dusted the bartop.  Droplets were sucked through straws by penniless nightcrawlers, not carrion, but carrying on, or attempting to at least keep things going.  A jukebox neon glow bathed the willing in light the color of mercy, if mercy was a living scarf.

Spotted dogs waited near the door, scratching claws against pavement, waiting to follow the stranger home, waiting to surprise the drunk's reverie while navigating firefly roads.  Stone is a constant.  So is whiskey once arrived at.  The night's walk to nowhere goes cemetery-wise.  One more drink would have made the eyes forget to see.

Drunk Werther wandered amongst moon gray headstones, respectful but diligently insisting, "I'm alive. You're not."  Finger pointing to moon, star, and sky—dog howl's howl to crawl and cry—a  craving for morning, welcome and light, warming the mind to the idea of life.

Two new ghosts on grave's hill, locked arm in arm, fighting for one more spell of sense, one more marriage of felt and fern, grass blades bent to make the cut.  The happy drunk becomes a sad drunk, and seeing ghosts Werther ran home, to weep, to sleep, to wake again and find his own.




Two stone lions wrapped in plastic framed the door.  Golfers begged for sunset's zen. Hills beckoned behind the red flag's floor.  The big double-barreled tree reached for becomes a lecture none of whose words ring true to the uninspired. Their clubstrokes went astray.  All appeared to be lost, so they stopped keeping score and began to explore pure form.  Werther hit two balls into the water.  Coin gave up after seven.

“The mind freed from world is the world of mine,” Werther said before thwacking his ball into the forest.  Later, the golfers toted bottled beer & snack foods forth.  White doves descended to the green for crumbs, and the sun began to sag.  Coin pointed and said, "Don't you want the little red flag, don't you want it?"  Werther thought of his hot-blooded Mediterranean woman standing next to the flag, waving him on.

At waited elsewhere, in wings far from the green, further still from any green-induced calm.  Where she wanted to be she wasn't being, and where she was she wasted days without trying.  No use fetching eggs you'll never fry.  The farmer and golfer live day to day.  She, though, failed to see the light at the end of the fairway.

The golfers slept between each bad shot.  Walking their clubs to the next disaster, they dreamed of satisfactory outcomes, unmissed chances to par, to eagle—the next green, always the next green.  At, in her sleep, dreamed of other places putters couldn't take her to slake the thirst, the hungry thirst for an end that does not hurt.


Werther’s nursery rhyme opened beer can-like, a popped top shed to bare its yellow sea-foam lake.  He smiled to feel the amber glow burrow into his bones and raise his hopes level with the shore.  He desired change, not another long summer, not sand-filled shoes emptied on the kitchen floor, not pondering with glass his magnified handful world, finding rock after rock, all different inside.

In May, everything bloomed into green light and pink, promising to warm the winter's scarred heart, scared away from living by icicle daggers, heated to blast-furnace degrees, burning sacred books unshirting all possibility.

Fortune cookies, the first sled of truth, keyed into the Ching his I squinted through, hoping the words received were dishes of fruitful knowledge ripening into full-whispered flowers, lips glistening with beads of whiskey, vodka, and gin, numbed by kiss's rub, lip to lip, cheek to cheek, and vice versa.

The moth train rounded its curve, sounds its three a.m. arrival with chant of horn and track trundle.  Sneaking past some nights seven cars short without stopping, it hurried elsewhere since no one seemed to be hurrying away, just digging in deeper for the big blow to come, some of them convinced they were in heaven, others in hell, while Werther thought most would agree that where we are doesn't matter—we’re all going nowhere, eventually, fast.


No use flogging the rice paper wall with your mute, Werther thought.  The sentries at the gate will prevent your escape.  But so what, you never wanted to leave the frenzy of the beehive, you only wanted to get some air and perspective on the size of your box’s bees.  So many before you made the mistake of accepting too soon the false security offered by a fearful mate.

Their cowardice will keep you down:  you'll go nowhere while the world tosses in its quantum foam, a blue and white tomato, an ocean of black lettuce. The sun is acres away, but you are always thinking of its heat, its potential to devour even the most giant of its companions, if only given the chance.  Like the young who seem old, the sun wrinkles and winks.

Your flight is marred by constant turbulence. You were never far from your seat for long. The sun wore you down—those who called you poet were liars, and those who called you liar were cheats.  What difference did it make?  You were alive, untamed and free: they couldn't tie you down to kill you.  All at once there was little all at once left.

Werther’s lips smacked their bits of bad honey. He thirsted for vinegar rather than suffering the uncharmed lips of attempted sweetness. Love, like everything else, was a construct of the senses, and learning to kick and scream was all that kept him sane.  A tribe of mad monks and poets swarmed around his boat.  They were not cannibals and he had no fear when he fell into their jungle.


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