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Alternative Stories

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    sneakers – threadbare – soak up puddlewater as laces
    lick a long sloppy saliva trail, dragging. the rain patters on a man’s
    open-minded skull, hatless, dirty, ornamented across his neck nape
    with a tattoo scrawl, name of a former mistake. his fingernails were
    at one time painted, at one time poisoned, oftentimes inebriated,
    at one time hidden in the mouth of a girl, one time a pocket, a cigarette
    box, a guitar neck. these fingernails are warped.

    they tucked mother’s
    hair behind her oxygen-tubed ear, they tucked a pencil behind his ear
    at a diner stint, they gripped steering wheel to save his intoxicated life
    one night amid streetlamps, jaywalkers, they flipped off approaching
    sirens, struggled against shivering handcuffs–
    at one time they held the precious, delicate fingers of his daughter,
    now living in Montana under a special conditional clause
    in the contract he signed under stern courtroom eyes,
    an officer shifting his weighty threat from foot to foot –

    this hand once shook the hand attached by arm to Mick Jones,
    the Clash, but this hand is not the hand of a rock star.
    warped with years of cocaine stimulation, frequent spending habits,
    a liking for quickies, and the grip of a spatula.
    these fingernails remember throwing a rock through the window
    of a tech store, triggering the tongue-shaped hammer of a gun,
    pasting macaroni noodles in the letters of his name, jilting the pen
    of his daughter’s birth certificate, curling into the soft cheek
    of his girlfriend, plucking grapes from the stem to dangle
    over open mouth, running affectionately along his dog’s fur,
    these fingers were stuffed into gloves during a winter commute,
    they stroked the auburn strands of his mother’s

    wig, primly lifted the hair from his girlfriend’s neck
    as she crumbled inside-out over a toilet seat.
    they tightened determinedly around the door
    handle of the tech store, pulled his girlfriend’s head until
    her neck resembled a jellyfish tentacle, tugged winter cap over
    exposed forehead to wait another twenty minutes for
    the goddamned bus, coaxed notes one-by-one from the belly
    of a guitar, trembled to place a pipe between cracked clay lips,
    wiped eyes nervously as his car careened down highway.

    these fingers cramped from writing the addresses of seventy thank-you cards,
    black like all funeral things, cramped again during case file paperwork
    signatures, balled into eye sockets alone in bedroom, handed the house key
    to a suited investigator whose scowl etched disapproval on the skin
    of his palm. they fingered the cold bars of a jail cell, pressed
    the razor to his hair, slid the razor against identity and memory and
    all the things that he could not change –
    the two-hundred-ninety-three apologies he wrote, black ink
    on simple lined paper, another funeral,
    for someone too young – these palms are warped.
    in ten thousand minutes, they have sloshed in the rain
    against steering wheel, door glass, soft neck, mother’s coffin.
    shoelaces trail –
    but who gives a fuck about shoelaces? these fingers murdered.