Let it breathe, he says. You have to volatize
the memorites. My brow furrows. It’s my
first time in an upscale nostalgia bar.
Particles of memory, he says.
To experience the fullness of the sequence,
you need to let it sit in the open
for a while, or give it a swirl. Try it now.

by Jason Polan

by Jason Polan

My father wedges a dime into the bark
of an evergreen. My first at-bat
in little-league is moments off. Now swing
your bat into that dime, he says, over
and over and over. And I do, I thwack
my aluminum Louisville slugger
against that tree, thwack, thwack, against that dime,
ping, ping, thwack, ping, I swing the bat, searing
the motion into my musculature.

That’s great, I say. But that wasn’t my father.
It was for a moment, he says. That one goes well
with a bit of this. It’s pasteurized upstate, then aged
five years in the cellar. Should accentuate
the satisfaction of that practice swing.

Mud slop all over me, the wind, I’m whipping
through it, the football tucked under my arm,
my legs jackhammering me towards the endzone,
near the swingsets, where Mother is smoking
next to some man I don’t recognize,
a scrape, a scratch, the lick of hands at my back,
but I can’t be stopped, no one can catch me.

That pairs so well, I say. Where does it come from,
before it’s pasteurized and aged and all that?
The purest sources age better, he says.
I think you’ll like this next varietal.

Friction of plastic on asphalt. Stick swipes puck,
body check, crunch of wheels, my roller blades
swivel to a stop. I look my enemy
in the eye, then I pick up the puck. It’s mine,
I say, I’m taking it with me. Everyone knows
your mom’s a slut, he says. And the sky darkens
and a light rain pocks our suburban street and before
anyone realizes it, we’re old
and lonely, drinking black coffee, staring
out the window with the blackest malice
at children, at squirrels, at passing cars,
at anything, and then we’re all dead.

I nearly puke. My God, I say. He takes
a draught, recoils as well. It’s turned, he says.
What happened? I ask. It’s a long and complicated
process, he says. It’s basically controlled
spoilage. You’re dealing with bacteria,
the slow accumulation of mold, of
rot.  Any number of things can go wrong.



It was just for one summer,
when I was fifteen. The Director
of the Oak Springs Retirement Community
would pay me in advance
for some resident’s 85th, or even 95th.
Those were a challenge. But I was good.
They’d bring out the cake, some dry,
sugared, store-bought thing, plumed
with dozens of pastel birthday candles,
and as Gerald, or John-Ray, or Betty leaned in 
to spray some spittle from his or her feeble lungs,
I’d dash in, just behind, blow
every candle out at once, then disappear
before anyone noticed. I never
found it degrading. For them
or me. They got to feel young again, strong.
I got a little pocket money.
And sometimes, when the back door
had swung closed, I’d creep around
to the window near the rosebushes
and peek in to see their faces, firm
with blood, their eyes, milky white,
filled with life and its departure—
a moment that could not be shared
with someone as airy and blithe as I.



You can write suicide notes,
              dear john letters, pink slips,
                            violent manifestos, blasphemies,

you can do all kinds of things with it
               and none of it matters,
                          because none of it’s real.

It doesn’t actually write.
              It’s meant for kids, obviously;  
                       they see mom holding a pen

and they want one too.
              But it can be a great therapeutic tool
                         for adults. Watch. I’ll write something with it.

How about…I’m going to kill
              the President of the United States
                        On July 4th, with an automatic rifle.

Or I could write, Honey, I’ve been fucking
            your sister. Dad, I always resented you
                       for dying. God, I actually do believe in you,

but I’m too cowardly to admit it,
            and it makes me supremely lonely.
                      You can say anything. It’s all pretend.

Give it a try. Write about that time
             you did something very, very bad
                       to someone who loved you and still does.



is a writer, teacher and translator currently living in the wind. He earned his MA in poetry from Boston University and his MFA from Hunter College. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Alaska Quarterly Review, Night Train, Kenyon Review, Nimrod, Branch Magazine, Chiron Review, Umbrella Factory, McSweeney’s Online, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Sante Fe Art Institute, the Lanesboro Arts Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He has been a finalist for numerous prizes, including the Ruth Lilly Fellowship and the Yale Younger Poets Prize.