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Bryan D. Price

Toward virtue

In our third year we took the car
up to Mendocino. Bitterly hot
July or August. Houses near
Santa Rosa and Healdsburg
all burnt to slag. Ash and other
filth climbing upward. The dog
sunning herself on the backseat.

At some point closer to water
the road bends through a cave of old
growth as cool and dark as a wave.
Having just gotten the dog,
we are learning she is defective.
Crammed with dangerous emotions.
Breaks the leash and chases
two poodle mixes into a trailer
where a man cooks eggs. He looks
as if he is going to kill me. His child
screaming at the dog in my arms.
This was before the fluoxetine.

Time begins to spread across other
hopeless projects. We explore
the contours of the very small town.
Sometimes me and you together
surprised by the cherry trees and
sometimes me and the dog through
cemeteries as wild and ramshackle
as I have had the pleasure to watch
an animal sunbathe in—
returning in the morning to two
markers without death dates.
Jill (b. 1950) and Bonnie (b. 1937)
hoping to repose together for good
in this beautiful place protected
from absorption into the ocean by
cliffs where serious attempts at
suicide have been made.

The Bystander

Walking in the kind of twilight
where the sun is still exacting in
spots, I watch a person prone to
drink overdo it and spill themselves
as if through a funnel. The sharp
smell of wine-red vomit, familiar
to those who have spent a lifetime
among alcoholics sneaking across
decay, sours the air indefinitely.
All of the old uncles had problems
with emphysema. Four gone now.
It was either that or cancer. Throat,
lungs, bladder, etc. Without stomachs
no one could eat anymore and we
would still go out to the same wooded
cemetery to hunt after unlikely deer.
Careful amongst natives still pasturing
their own sheep. These are the last days.
There are no more oceans to speak of.
No means of full immersion in the
baptismal font. That code of being was
unconsciously dictated like genetics
or, more likely, communicated through
mimicry. Problems with kidneys and
livers exacerbated by fine blood and
querulous rages. The funerary aspect
of such a temperament hangs heavy
over all affairs. The apartment as dry
and airy now as desert land stretching
out into a matrilineal gravesite
archipelago the shape of a new moon.

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