‘eight funerals’ and ‘y/our valley’ by Adrian Belmes

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eight funerals

moving to the city, i discovered
what becomes of the body when it dies.
it goes into the ground, but it is never buried.
you wear it on your chest, with pride.
you don’t see the dead in small towns.
they’re hidden, like secrets,
in little pockets where the real estate
is bad enough to never dig.
nobody dies in a place like this.
they just grow old inside their home behind the gate
built on the ground where the groves once stood,
up the hill from the high school everybody knows.
we used to hop the fence,
roll spliffs beneath the avocado trees,
talk about the kid who split their face
driving home to the shiny new community.
there’s the telephone pole.
there’s the brick wall.
there’s brendan wu, smashing his ankle hopping back over,
so they scale up the picket to keep the kids away.
the men on the grid put up the new houses,
clean them up and kick the squatters out,
so we get out, or we don’t get out,
grow old in our gated communities,
hash through the same six accidents,
the same three years at prom,
and the one time with the leaking gas,
until we are buried, until we forget.

y/our valley

after the sign blew out and said ICE POT for months,
people couldn’t help but talk:
do happy accidents still happen in a town like this,
or was it the same old shenanigans
as the clint eastwoods in the hills
that someone put up and someone else later took down.
just one of them held out, still standing, watching over the valley,
judging the kids who went up one night
to fire mortars from the nearby hills,
lying why, never getting caught.
some things never change in a place like this.
the night always ends at the burger stop on foothill road,
the only thing open by the time you shudder home
from memorizing the road to a girl’s house
on the power of an erection, climbing a mountain
only to discover at the top that no one
thought to bring a lighter.
with the lights off,
the view makes the car sex worth it.
from the ridge, the town is some dark island
rising from the lights, the six lane streets,
the blinking mile of red that you forgot
was normal since you moved away.
you wouldn’t mind the wait if it wasn’t for
the charming scent of grease, the warm food
growing cold, so you’re grappling
for the tuning knob, just to hear
successive stories of all the brakes that failed one year,
that crashed three cars into the same cheap restaurant
at the bottom of the hill, the one you take
to get to sugarloaf, the one
you scoured for the oakmont monster with your friends,
arguing the morning after new year’s if it’s real.

it’s real because you believe it is.
it’s real because it is.

Adrian Belmes is a Jewish Ukrainian poet and book artist residing currently in San Diego. He is a senior editor for Fiction International, editor in chief of Badlung Press, and vice president of State Zine Collective. He has been previously published in SOFT CARTEL, Philosophical Idiot, and elsewhere. You can find him at adrianbelmes.com or @adrian_belmes.

’19 Toucans’ by Adrian Belmes

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She had been drifting for too long, too languid in the warm, wet air. The roaring of birds just beyond the window had kept her awake most the night, and the morning sun, relentless, rising to its zenith, brought no relief of temperature. Her thin top was soaked through with viscid, guilty sweat, and the covers had pooled in a discarded heap opposite the empty half of their expatriated bed. Richard had gone first into the shower and left her to mold, alone, in the unwelcome moisture.

Rolling from her back onto her side, she thought about Manuelo and his mango-scented fingers. The mattress springs collided with the bones in her hips, and she hummed, shifted. His bed was softer, she recalled. She had not slept there any more than here, but not for fault of birds. They did not watch her in that place, crying at the windows like voyeurs. Only vindictive alligators roamed beyond the walls of that shack in the cool, dark mangroves. Here, in her husband’s loveless bed, she remembered. Her fingers dipped beneath the hug of her elastic thong. She ran a hand down her thigh, thought of feathers, mangoes, mangroves, touched her sex lightly, breathed shallow.

“Honey?”

Her hand retreated, sluggish, interrupted, as she rolled back to her other flank, facing her intruder, creaking with the bedsprings. He only saw the flush in her cheeks and was perturbed.

“What? Is something wrong?”

She regarded his wet, apathetic body and saw scales glistening beneath the clinging dew. Her shallow smile did not reach her eyes.

“Sorry, I mistook you for an alligator.”

He twisted up his face, furrowed his brows, and turned his lips, but amusement came across his features and they twisted back again the other way. Head shaking, smiling, he retreated, dumb.

She considered the mangroves. The mangoes. The alligators.

Adrian Belmes is the editor in chief of Badlung Press and a managing editor for Fiction International. He published a chapbook about infidelity last year and an anthology about finstagrams this year. He doesn’t surf enough and frequently falls asleep to documentaries. His work can be found at adrianbelmes.com or @adrian_belmes on Twitter. He encourages you to bother him, frequently.