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Cumberland ii

you kept 

the styrofoam

cup stuffed

with crumpled 

napkins out

of my reach


your secret

that your mouth

salivates molasses 

its ocher lacquer

you knew would

embalm me young

Cumberland iii

hair on 

hair suddenly

in your palm

an obedient

graying rabbit

safe in your 

finger fields


your magic

takes time

to learn

and you will

be going soon

tough times

So tough that the man famous

for replacing the witnesses’ voice

with his own warped, distorted

baritone is serving chicken parm


and tortellini to us on a Wednesday night.

He is much younger than I expected,

maybe a teenager, with a mop of black

hair netted up.  He has a certain eager


engagement, maybe aware some guests

shift nervously when hearing him

the first time, place bets on what’s about

to go down.  It’s not like we’ve caught


all the criminals—or stopped making them

for that matter—but maybe there’s less stress

refilling water glasses than looking

over your shoulder for some vengeful


getaway driver oblivious to the fact

that you were just reading a script

from someone else’s life.  In the corner,

CNN stops scrolling through the same six


stock photos, cuts to another family ready

for their 15 minutes.  I catch him glimpsing

at the screen after he returns our bill.

He must be wondering when everyone


decided to share their story, how they

can be anonymous under such bright light.  

Jason Fraley is a native West Virginian residing in Columbus, OH.  After taking a break for 10+ years, he has decided to start writing again.  He has work forthcoming in Word For/Word and Quarter After Eight.  Prior publications include DIAGRAM, Caketrain, Copper Nickel, and Forklift OH.  He writes most poetry headbanging to death metal, so please forgive any typos. 

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