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CL Bledsoe

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.

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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.