blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




There it was, 1950-something, his right lung a little weak, verging
          on exhaustion in the evening high
school class, in the middle of a history exam, fluttering uncertainly
as he imagined Roosevelt leaning over at Yalta, Stalin smirking because
          he could see FDR fading in the blown-back

smoke of Churchill's cigar. But there was an hour to go and other essays
          to write. Africa. The American
Constitution. The lung went suddenly limp as an empty pajama sleeve
spread out on the bed. He looked up at the smeared blackboard
          and remembered Chekhov at Yalta

spitting up blood, looking like Paul Muni playing Emile Zola, ogling
          women. In present time,
the lung just couldn't get any attention, swelling now like a sigh trying
to escape from a book. It began to curl like a manta ray riffling the ends
          of its body as it slid deeper into the bottom

currents of a tropical sea. No question it was hiding. He was breathing
          hard, heart pounding, two jobs taking a toll—
at home a father drinking up a storm. The lung fluttered and went sailing
into the ribs of an eerie white wreck. He gasped. Africa, 500 words.
          The lung tried so hard not to flatten like drapes

pulled shut to block the air, not to shrink from the glare of Mau Maus,
          the stink of wiped machetes, the stiff gaze
of the teacher. Not to find itself beneath a sterterous father rolling over
in bed every night onto a wife, where all it wanted to do was just collapse.
          Or step out into the star-struck night for a little breeze.  

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