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by jesse s mitchell
illustrated by rhoda penmarq
In the floor of his car, Ephraim watched a magazine with a rolled up front cover slide back and forth over the pristine mat. His car rocked to a stop. A cloud of steam and smoke swooshed up and obscured the front window. He had made it to the edge of the road. He laid his head gently on the steering wheel and let his eyes fall on the issue of “The New York Times review of Books”. He had never actually opened the magazine with any real intend nor had he ever actually read an article.
For ten years now, he had been getting issue after issue and never had it meant a thing to him. Ephraim was a pretend man but not a patient one. His head started to sweat on the leather steering wheel and lifted up and beat his fist on the seats and dashboard and window and his thighs…everywhere…he screamed and kicked…knocked things around and threw open the door. The smoke had started to fade but it was still there in wisps and bits.
Ephraim kicked the back of the car. The car shook. It began to roll off the edge of road and started to dive down the tall embankment…picking up speed.
Ephraim took off his dark blue suit jacket and tossed it on the gravel dust and random grease and shredded tire side road and started to run down the hill after the car.
With a terrific bang and shutter the car slammed into a tree and the engine clunked and everything on Earth rocked…Ephraim fell down and yelled, tore his pant leg and stained up his clothes. He threw a fit…a mad fit.
For a second he thought he saw the reflection of a face in the back glass of the car and he walked up to the wreck with apprehension…much the same as the rainbow shine moves up and down the side of a sudsy bubble. He moved the way a thick bubble floats in the barely there air.
He knew he could breathe but he was afraid to…he looked and looked but he could not see the face…but he knew it had been there…he is not a crazy man or a superstitious one…merely selfish and impatient but neither of those things cause hallucinations. He was an intelligent man and he knows his own faculties. He looked behind himself…over his shoulder. He peered in the trees to see if someone had ran off into the weeds and trees.
It is cold. The car shook and rattled again…its dying breath. He kicked the dirt. He walked over open the door and grabbed the magazine and slammed the door. He felt strangely poetic.
He started walking down the road composing in his head.
Behind the thick blue-green light
The white blue-green light,
In front of the window
Build in the seams,
sown up tight in the corners
On the red-yellow gold of glass stained into the window
Where the sun peered in coldly
Was the image of the devil,
The devil as a dragon
But that dragon as a star
And that star in the sky
But a sky not just dark night
Crowned and crowded
With blank starlight
But a sky of heaven.
The star all heavy and falling down the
Lead paint stain of red down the front
Of the cracked window
A star failing in orbit
Ruined but not exploded and wasted from age
But simply faded…
I took the fire from heaven
Back from where it had departed.
I took the fire from heaven
And carried down
Down the mountain side
But more Maimonides,
It was a heavy load.
In the last suicidal moments in the desperate day
I moved with the monster-fiends
I danced with them too long
With the sharp knife legs
And growling bony bony skin.
I stayed too long,
And singed my flesh
And scorched my limbs
And broke my bones
And bruised my hands.
I carried down the fire
Back out of heaven
Those are the words that filled Ephraim’s mind. Spirits were out there in those open plains where the trees even stopped growing…spirits out there, Ephraim could feel them.