Hard Times, Arkansas
They weren't all bad, those angry years.
I've mostly forgotten the taste of sawdust
meant to keep the belly from swelling too
noticeably, though the smell of want
on my own skin never quite washes away.
There was laughter, not all at my own
expense, though I was a dancing monkey
when I smelled change, I admit. There
were days when she smiled and danced
in her panties when no one could see
but me. There was fire in the veins
and the gut. Genius spat into camp
fires. Drugs were cheap and plentiful
and none of us had obligations in the morning.
There was no tomorrow, in Hard Times,
so why bother? All of our fathers hated
the sight of us the same, so no one felt
slighted. All of us would've helped bury
a body for the others, though none of us
owned a shovel. Still, we were used
to stealing from hardware stores.
CL Bledsoe is the author of five novels including the young adult novel Sunlight, the novels Last Stand in Zombietown and $7.50/hr + Curses; four poetry collections: Riceland, _____(Want/Need), Anthem, and Leap Year; and a short story collection called Naming the Animals. A poetry chapbook, Goodbye to Noise, is available online here. Another, The Man Who Killed Himself in My Bathroom, is available here. He's been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 8 times, had 2 stories selected as Notable Stories by Story South's Million Writers Award and 2 others nominated, and has been nominated for Best of the Net twice. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings. Bledsoe reviews regularly for Rain Taxi, Coal Hill Review, Prick of the Spindle, Monkey Bicycle, Book Slut, The Hollins Critic, The Arkansas Review, American Book Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Bledsoe lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland.