Amy Blazej

Professors of Madness
They say that cities hum; people
and cars bustle to a rhythm they
can't hear. If you listen, Brattleboro
hums discordant, the last warm night
after the leaf-peepers are gone. Only
the poplars keep their leaves, puffs of yellow
against dead purple-gray hills.

It's a quiet offbeat pulse, playing
beneath birch beer and Peter Gabriel
coming through the speakers of an Impala,
broken pottery on the stone steps of the
People's Building and the man smoking
by the glass door telling us, if we wanted,
he could find us some meth.

The flicker of the storefronts closing
for the night, a lone car with a broken light
sails up Main Street, an intersection bathed
in orange streetglow thrums softly.
The jagged fragments of music and chatter
as people come in and out of
the bar across the street, where
a girl in a hat and eye patch kisses her girlfriend
to the rhythmic ticking of the crossing signal
waiting on the light to change.

His offer declined, the man on the steps
says goodnight, picks up his groceries
and goes inside. My eyes are heavy
and everyone we see is half-familiar,
my best friend from a dream, even the
kilt-clad bouncer, professor of madness,
piercings glinting in the halflight through the window.
As we pass by, the diner guests
dance to music we can't hear.

My breathing slows, blending
into the familiar hum until the theater door shuts
behind us, and silence covers street noise.
It's nothing but our pulses, exhilarated
by the empty leather seats and nothing
on the screen, the glow of the exit signs
and occasional gunfire from the theater next door.
I find rhythm in the way you breathe, in my veins and
our words and in the hum of a generator
somewhere deep in the building until
it's time to go, back to the hum outside.
Closing time, third shift is starting, even
the smallest of towns never really sleeps.

Rock Solid
Mary wears letters on her collarbone
At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.
Blue ink. I think that tattoo
needles must hurt one so skinny as you
Mary. Let down your hair and count the rings,
peroxide and sunshine at the frayed ends
of every long straight strand.

Mary wears her life on her body,
wings on her shoulder, psalms on her wrist
chessmen on her chest.
All the years packed into the four months
separating the days we were born
are here with us in the bright lit kitchen.
Traces of all that time are evident on her wiry frame,
in the rocky Vermont soil.
At first just Mary and her dog
digesting the past, chewing slowly
until they are ready to make room
on their plates for the present.

Mary came in a dress made for warmer days
into the lemon-cream light of my uncle's kitchen
with a black trash bag twice her size.
Do you mind if we do some laundry?
She speaks like sunshine through water
on a clear day
fast and slow all at once,
measuring every word like she measures days
weeks, months, years sober. Rock solid.
Mary tells me with her lovely leisurely voice
hoarse and gravelly,
that Brandon is the best boyfriend
she's ever had, and I wonder who she has to compare to.
He's so ready to run off the rails
with his highs and lows like clockwork tides.
A favorite soft sweater with a huge hole
bound to unravel no matter how
often it's mended.
Anyone but Mary would've kicked my cousin to the curb ages ago.