Robert Walicki’s work has appeared in and is forthcoming in a number of publications including, Chiron Review, The City Paper, Fourth River, Signal Mountain Review, Red River Review, and others. A Pushcart and a Best of The Net nominee, Robert currently has two chapbooks published: A Room Full of Trees (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and The Almost Sound of Snow Falling (Night Ballet Press, 2015). His first full length collection of poems, “Black Angels” is currently available from Six Gallery Press, and his most recent collection. “Fountain” is now available at Main Street Rag Press
I didn’t know what was happening, only that the drive to school was a little quieter, and Chrissy Cortez’s seat was empty. Rob Reed said it would take three days and she’d be back. Everyone knew who the boy was. But we changed the subject, asking who was going to the Aerosmith concert and who they could get to buy them beer. I stared out the window of the bus at the Allegheny, half froze and almost motionless, the driver marveling at it, asking me if I knew how cold it had to be, and how long it would take to get like that.
Two quick grunts and a shove, stares at the silver blur of the elevator doors closing in to another fluorescent morning, to Dan, huffing into the walls for air, shirt stretched to the point of bursting, his confidence he calls it. But we are here automatic and instantaneous as breathing, gears in the machine. I learn in a week of snaking drains that my partner’s a Miller Light man, tells me every Monday he has a case ready for Friday, but this is Thursday, and the sky over river road is an unforgettable red, and I’m driving through this burning in the quiet of work’s departure, but lit up by the story he told us at break, how he met BB King last week in the men’s room. Some huge dude, he said, standing next to me at the pisser, that guy who names his guitars after women he said, I can’t remember his name. I once thought that what we did had nothing to do with music, straddled across a ladder while a 4 inch pipe vomits up a hospital full of psych meds and chemo, the shit of the dying thickening into arteries of rock, and closure. But today, the river is holding back, nothing is letting loose in my face and I’m rolling the window down, thinking of the first time my body melted to sound, of the king, cradling a steel neck in his arms as if it were a lover, his molten voice deep growling it down low in boozy rooms, Lucille’s slow note undulating and bursting out the blues like the bruise on my leg when the roof snake comes whipping down. I’m holding it in like the heart attacks my father never told us about. like the letter my mother opened from the department store Mr. Walicki, thank you for your 30 years of service, but… I didn’t know I was hearing it again out of the buck I plowed into, spinning down the turnpike at 5 am blood, dented fender, crushed body at the edge of the road. Or even the deer I missed this morning, this autumn of little rain, red maple, the leaf, not the tree down, wind howled, power lines sparking. A half mile down the highway at the intersection of Lincoln rd. and nowhere, past abandoned St Mark’s and the rock quarry, trains are screaming the rust off acres of gutted rails in the downpour pounding me hard enough to name it like sex, sliding hands over a neck and frets of a guitar, the king’s jacket stretched to the point of bursting all that light pouring out, holding everything else in.
For Kenny Blake At the Wilmerding Fest, we sit like royalty, our ripped lawn chairs smashing down grass, The confetti of hoagie buns breaking on our chests. I watch the clouds transform into the people of our day, My clueless coworker, hawk nosed and gossiping, I wish I could use words like gossamer or cirrus but her sprayed down eighties hair is cotton candy big, and she floats by, keeping people on hold with questions on their bingo orders and if Bounty paper towels really make a difference But we have come here for transformation, for Kenny Blake to slip into scheherazades of jazz from his sax .Brassy cries of Misty over dilapidated lean-to’s , Drifting like sweet weed past Dollar General’s security cams, the We Sell Lotto sign, flashing from a tobacco shop. Strangers close their eyes as if it were sunlight flashing over them, and not Earth Wind and Fire, covers of September and Boogie Wonderland to coax the kids up high on sugar and junk food chips. How could we know the night would end with that group of bored teens they let raise the Chinese lanterns, a bag of lit flames rising into a sky the shade of midnight in Paris Some escaping their hands, passing into the slow air of summer, others getting as far as a tree, locked in its frozen arms, still burning