"Thank You . . . The Management" - Pearse Anderson
Aunt Crane Hums Lee Ann Womack while Working at the Super D Drug Store
Lord, if these walls could talk, they’d pray.
All day the people come in, all day leaving
with their bags of orange tubes of comfort,
their instructions and warnings: take
with food, keep out of reach, habit-forming.
All day coming in to get their refill early.
Once or twice I saw a man leave the store
to a car of waiting friends, open the bottle
and pass them out to waiting mouths,
right there, in front of our window.
The pharmacist calls them deadbeats. Asshole.
I’ve been in those homes where love
never lived. A man in St. Louis fed me
a piece of paper and the world turned
inside-out. I could see the mounting sadness
in every one I loved. What are we supposed to do
with all of this pain? When do we get
to the part where all the monsters inside us
say, Enough, pack their things, and get out?
The lady at the counter says she lost her
last bottle, she needs a call-in refill. Maybe
she lost it, maybe she didn’t. Her eyes
are so full of want. The valley outside of town,
on my way home from work, is choked
with kudzu. It feeds and feeds, smothering
the trees. Some grass seed from spring planting
fell in a driveway crack, and taking advantage
of that little space, broke it open.
Aunt Crane Works for the Hot Air Balloon Company
Someone has to stay behind
and sit in the truck, find
the balloon when it lands.
Someone has to wave
to the people in the basket—
families, lovers and brides-to-be—
as they lift from the ground
to survey the desert from above.
There are moments when it goes so high
it’s less than a speck, such
a small disturbance in the sky’s sea.
I’ve heard the saguaro keeps water
in its trunk in case of drought,
but not the way you can get
syrup from a maple,
or the way in cartoons you can
punch a hole in its side
and a river pours out.
In those moments, what becomes
of them—do they ride the wind
or become the wind itself?
Once, I let a little javelina
eat an apple slice from
my open hand. It wasn’t afraid.
It appeared behind me, rutting
around an acacia, and approached
me carefully, carefully. Through
the radio, the pilot signals
they’re coming down, and I search
the sky to find their growing
presence. Someone has to stay behind
to find the balloon and load the basket
in to the bed of the truck,
to set up the table for lunch
or a snack, whatever they paid for,
and pop open a bottle
of something fizzy to celebrate.
Being alone, all those moments,
make it worth it.
Apology with Burning Mountainside
The road is a black snake curving
through the hills, my hands gripping
the wheel, driving west. On the radio
reporters describe an especially dry season,
how the trees thirsted for that spark,
the flame that spread through the curling
leaves and tendrils, the stumps and trees
as quickly as a secret in the mouth
of someone untrustworthy. It is September
and dad should be seventy.
When he died I wasn’t there,
and I drove this same route
through the low hills and mountains
to get to my mother. We stood
in the driveway, held each other
and cried. I was so unacquainted
with loss. But here, held in the highway’s
curve, trucks and lights surround
a burning hotel, firemen by this point
unable to do more than keep the fire
from spreading. Father, if you can hear me,
I have some things I’d like to say. I lay
at night thinking of the times
I could have shown compassion
but did not, out of fear or something else,
I don’t know. When I couldn’t understand
what it meant to be a son,
I ran. A bird flies before my headlights,
like a child’s ghost.
I’ll get where I’m going,
a place you know, far from the burning
hills. I’ll sit like a man
too tired to do much else.
Fed by the fire, smoke fills the valley.
It will hang there for days.
Jim Whiteside is a graduate of the creative writing MFA program at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellow, and the recipient of a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers' Conference. His recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Kenyon Review Online, Poetry Northwest, and Salt Hill, as winner of the Philip Booth Poetry Prize. Originally from Cookeville, Tennessee, he works as a barista in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Pearse Anderson is a photography and writer who has a particular love for words and objects like windowsill, trestle, hushpuppy, greyhound, and hamlet. He has a particular affinity to heterotopic spaces: environments where people pass through and relationships form and skew. Places like orphanages, prisons, ferries, colleges, and gas stations. Each of these photographs was shot in or around a heterotopia. When taking photographs or listening to Grouper, Pearse reads JSTOR articles for fun and updates a document where he lists every mention of food in all of his fiction. He is currently studying Creative Writing and Food Studies in Ohio under the helm of Dan Chaon. More of his photographs and writings can be found on his website pearseanderson.com, or on his @pearseanderson Instagram.