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The Sandwich That Bites Back

by James Cihlar

  • At sixteen I spun on the map outside Lincoln, Nebraska,
  • my sister driving the thoroughfares we had trusted Roman Hruska
  • and Ed Zorinsky to lay out in green fields for us. They had our needs in mind
  • when they legislated the six interchanges to the city, or so we thought.
  • We didn’t know that years down the road the car would drive off the map,
  • not once, but over and over—so often it seemed part of the trip. My sister gave me
  • Diving Into the Wreck. Back then, words were made for use,
  • books were made to be annotated, poems were made to gloss.
  • Right now I am living on the page with you, not knowing what comes next.
  • Two years after my mother passed, my cat of eighteen years
  • died on her birthday. What he knew of sustenance came from me.
  • When his kidneys stopped putting water into his bloodstream
  • he looked at me as if I had created thirst. He looked at me as if
  • I had created cold. I wrapped him in his blanket
  • and clasped him to my chest. On his last day I held my hand out
  • and he snapped as if to pierce the web of skin
  • between my thumb and forefinger. Instead I gave him my fingertip
  • to bite, which he did, again and again, until he tired.
  • You gave me Averno and Elegy. I can see where I’m at in the volumes,
  • and I can turn the pages, but I can’t change the endings.
  • The boss would place his take-out order with his secretary, meticulously describing
  • the contents of a sandwich as if its maker were a master chef and not a street vendor.
  • He dictated whole grain bread and artisan cheese, savory herbs and spiced meat,
  • so crisp that when he took a bite the sandwich would bite back.
  • This summer a colleague I admired for ten years had a heart attack and died
  • months before he reached retirement. I picked up Chronic and Tea. D.A. Powell asks,
  • if two events occur at the same time, is one a metaphor for the other?
  • We are the sandwich. Because this is what we get. Because the good die young.
  • Because middle age is full of cares. Because we are not our jobs.
  • Because we love the ones around us. Because we need to put it down on paper.
  • Because there is something better.


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