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Jefferson Navicky


My mother must’ve been sweaty that summer day in suburban

Chicago when I popped out. Maybe the infection in her breasts

that stopped her milk, maybe the valve in my tummy that refused 

to set, whatever, I wailed for months unconsoled like only one could 

when ripped from the preworld. What’s it like to walk a small house 

on the late shift, wife trying to sleep a bit, and if you stop moving 

your bundle erupts, so you have your route past the front door, big

window, couch into kitchen for a few spins on the linoleum, peer 

out the back door and back you go in the dark, bouncing lightly, 

pale glow of street lights in at an exhausted angle. Night so long, 

path so short, not exactly boredom, but beyond. And what about 

this baby whose one gear stuck on wail pierces you with a pain 

at some point you can only ignore? A cool breeze finally blows at 

four a.m. and you’re walking wounded wearing grooves into your 

floor, blood shot eyes on bedroom door that doesn’t open – a good 

sign she’s getting sleep but no relief for you in sight, so you stare 

down interminable not quite night, its languid breeze, this little life lightly 

asleep in your arms. Who knew seven pounds could feel so heavy?

Delivery Men

Full of near feral cats, the house way out 

in Old Washington, shadows perched

peripheral, traces of a tail at sideways glances, 

glowing eyes multiplied in a far corner. The smell: 

a mix past some tipped point of hairball, shit 

and death. The woman lived alone and didn’t let on

about any of it, just pointed us to the old washer 

to haul away. We worked in winter’s pre-dinner dark. 

My father, Sears store manager and in these 

later years right before the store closed also 

Delivery man, cinched the canvas strap

around the washer’s waist, turned the crank

that tugged the strap even tighter, pulled it even

closer to the hand truck. Lowering the washer down 

the back stairs plunk after low plunk, he did 

the hard work, let it down gentle, tightness 

across his face like a fake smile for the photo 

that doesn’t exist. My sixteen-year-old self 

had to slow our descent, watch the wheels 

shudder each of the old wooden steps

to their bend’s end, bent but somehow holding.

Djuna’s Line

              “It’s why she wanted to be loved and left alone.”

            -- Nightwood

A friend remembered the day they brought

your body out of Patchen Place,

the last rare glimpse shrouded in white,

no more crackers for dinner, no more books

thrown out windows at Carson McCullers

who was old enough to know better.

The pilgrimages of the young, you were

used to them, you were done with them.

“We need to preserve the neighborhood,

so muggers have a place to ply their trade.”

I’d like to see someone try to take yours

from you; you’d ice them with your eyes

watch them run, and laugh. That kind of burn,

hard won. To escape a father like that,

you not only have to run, when he tries 

to pawn you off, you sting. Go far away

to feast on Paris in that famous photo

half vampire, half victim in a high collar.

I’d barely heard of you when they asked me

to work on your estate. I first came to know you

through the confusion of your copyrights,

doubled and mirrored, yellowed contracts, your

fading lines, typewritered clean, and the surprising 

number of requests to borrow a bit of your shine.

The director with the movie rights

kept putting off the film, not yet, too much

rust, too much rage, too much poetry,

too much hate, too much lust, too much night.

Yes, good luck bringing you to life, your lips,

your acid, your wit, your eyes. I fear

I’ve failed you again here. I’ve tried so many times,

but you cast a long shadow. Your darkness has many

deviations, goes down, rises up white, a lack of air.

In the night of my heart, you come alive at the end,

alive at the beginning, a conqueror, a friend.

Flesh has the texture of plants. Bow down.


The two nails I pound a little too wide into the stump

like old TV antennae, so it takes two tries to catch

her head, her calm glassy eye up at me. “Well done,” 

my father-in-law says. “Clean strike.” Flystrike: who 

would think flies could cause so much damage so fast, 

such a wound for their eggs to hatch, such a bloom 

of maggots like death’s thin white blanket with a tight 

cotton weave. I wonder if her body might try to run away 

like some not-yet but soon to be ghost. Her chicken body 

falls into bag with a thick red splurt across stump and onto 

field grass clumped like paint. Her wings flap a few times 

as I scoop her separate head onto hatchet blade and dump 

it into bag.  Rosie, such a sweet bird, trail of matted blood 

behind her as she stands, body puffed out, head tucked down 

and into wing – if she can’t see what’s happening to her, it’s 

not happening. Her neck cord snapped a sound like clipping 

a plastic zip tie with scissors, the clunk of the hatchet surprisingly 

deep in the stump. Just sharpened; I’m grateful for the right tool.

Jefferson Navicky is the author of the forthcoming Antique Densities, a book of modern parables, as well as the poetic novel, The Book of Transparencies, and the story collection, The Paper Coast. His work has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Electric Literature, Beloit Poetry Journal, Tarpaulin Sky, and Fairy Tale Review. He is the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, and lives on the coast of Maine.

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