By Steven Cramer
In Jamaica, if you live in the mountains, the slim, hairpin turns are relentless as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You honk so much the mechanic replaces your car’s horn along with its brakes. Everywhere, people smell the sea in the air. Not the ocean, the sea. They keep watch on the horizon as it might be listening.
In Jamaica, it’s good to write good poems, better to be a good poet. So thought my dear dead friend, Wayne—whose name doesn’t mean “invisible giant” but does to me; whom I loved but couldn’t tell I loved. He wouldn’t hear of it. He’d rather sail. A thermos of rum and coke in one hand—Is there anything more sacred than a child reading a book?—in the other, his cap he’ll set on my young son’s head, whose name all afternoon will be First Mate.
Two Roma boys stuck tulips in the front pockets of my jeans. A Roma girl tried to lift my wallet, but I swatted the scrubbed little urchins away. If they’ve grown up, maybe they’ve matured into a trio of neurobiologists. You and I had been visiting our favorite passion: Brunelleschi’s crucifixion in the Santa Maria Novella. The sun shone on the street thieves’ faces, olive-skinned as Christ’s mortified flesh. The third time our train was announced and you hadn’t returned from the newsstand, I briefly lost my lifelong craving to be in a headline. For the time being, this memory curls up, searches for a safe enclosure, like a dog that’s learned to trust its crate. Then you touched my shoulder. For the rest of our honeymoon, I kept staring at you, as if a band of kidnappers had just set you free.
Written During a Depression
There once was a man with no imagination. He never even dreamed.
Neuroscientists claim that when you wake convinced you haven’t dreamed, you’ve actually forgotten four to six excursions into a mailbox the size of a covered bridge, where a family of scorpions affix price tags to paperweights.
In this way, you’re like the man—call him Man II—who forgets to tip his daughter for Thanksgiving dinner.
As for Man I, nothing: no keel-billed toucan on his shoulder when he looks in the mirror; no sonic puns on fatigued and graffiti; no grandmothers, in the guise of cats wearing Balinese masks, performing shadow dances to The Funeral March of the Marionettes.
Man II, as a boy, had fantasies of eloping with a trapeze artist.
There she is now, swinging back and forth between the Niagara and Victoria Falls. Just try calling her a dream.
About the Author:
Steven Cramer is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Clangings (Sarabande). His work has appeared in AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Field, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New England Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. Recent poems have appeared in American Journal of Poetry, Barrow Street, Carolina Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, and Plume. He founded and teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University.
About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:
CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.