On his hospital visit, Joaquin’s throat throbbed while he stared at the archaic surgical tools in a glass display on the waiting room wall. His dread spiked as hot as his fever as he examined the tonsil guillotine—metal forceps for squeezing, blades for slicing.
After his tonsillectomy, Joaquin skipped the car, stumbled to a bench. Under the shade, he thought he saw a double shadow of Evelyn’s face among the elms. The serrated leaves clapping like the continent away surf of their youth, rattling even faster inside him.
Joaquin imagined a parallel world with Evelyn alive, holding his hand, while his tonsils floated in a sunlit-ricocheting jar. He wished until the elms changed to palm trees on a beach, gulls gliding by, and Evelyn stood on a closing blue boat to carry them home.
With Your Shadow Crawling Across The Wall
Outside, everything is icy, shattered glass. Snow steps down from the sky, and your shadow, naked, crawls across the white wall, slowly toward the bed, until smothered in blankets. You close your eyes, and your eyelids surge, fold with dreams.
After years, our entwined footprints are plodding, like driving in a white out, so that even the sheerest wind chill cannot sear us apart. So, why not build a fire in our ice palace to fire and smoke the swaying effigies of those who would hang us.
Unable to sleep, I wonder how long can we live in the kingdom of winter. Wake up! Are we like the paired strings over the parched throat of the old mandolin set aside until spring, waiting for spring green hands to strum resonating chords?
From a swaying elm branch, an owl gazes down, staring at a rabbit padding down my street. She flies down, vast silent wings, talons out to tear flesh. I look away, tap the steering wheel to the purring of the engine, hum to the sound of wheels on pavement, shiver at the air-conditioning blasting its foggy breath, and turn off the radio, a lovesick song.
All around me, the colossal night strides right beside me. I careen down the twists and turns of the streets and avenues nearly pinball down an on-ramp onto Interstate 80. Above, the pasty-faced stars sputter while glowing-eyed semi-trucks corner the lanes, spewing gray exhaust and cars zigzag pass until they slip into shadowy blurs, recede to nothing.
Less than an hour later, I roll into the World’s Biggest Truck stop. I take note of truck weighting scales, a barbershop, a chiropractor, a dentist, a convenience store, a gift shop, a custom truck shop, a truck museum, a truck wash, and a dog wash, a library, a movie theater and a lounge but I shuffle off to the food court, and have a hot chocolate, insomnia.
A few hopped-up truckers and unshaven travelers milled about. Some admire the sales items: a turquoise bracelet, a feather headdress, and chrome truck fenders. My eyes are itchy as if a tiny man was backstroking on the film of my eyes. I locate the rest room, I gaze in the mirror, but there is no one swimming there, only a tiny tree, red veined tributaries.
I sit at the table and think about my mother. On my last visit to the nursing home, I saw her through a window, and talked to her by phone. She was blue. Her roommate had died. I raised my hands to the pane, she did too, and her eyes, are like my eyes, worried.
When I roll into the oily cavern of my garage, I switch the ignition off, the engine sputters out, a long sigh. My legs, like the first primordial creatures to crawl on the land, like them I must learn how to walk. Winds splits my perspiring hair, while my clammy thighs quiver. Like an ancient tortoise, I drag to the door, plop, and swim to bed, to the bottom.
Mario Duarte is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His poems and short stories have appeared in aaduna, Bilingual/Borderless, Chicago Literati, Huizache, Rigorous, Lunch Ticket, Pank, Pilgrimage, RavensPerch, Sky Island Journal, Storyscape, 2 River, Write Launch and Typishly.