from MISSION STREET CYCLE
DVDs. Yet something remains, something
Laura has just been named assistant
carries fifty bobbing-head deerhounds. The dogs
Though most shops along Mission don't have names,
backpacks, lined-up, creating the fourth wall
and/or Jesus, looking peaceful,
to Mary, though I found her reassuring.
Sometimes after dark I come to watch
I said the words "low-grade lymphoma" to
they complicate. I went to Bluegrass Night
unopened. Sometimes instead I open
SUMMER OF THE PTERODACTYL
In 1981, Midway Games hired John, a man who knew nothing
about video games.
far smaller than one of those floppy disks that didn't
in the summer before I started high school, when everyone
I knew was invisible
A buzzard speared my ostrich and I yelled out, "You
playing Ms. Pac-Man. Five seconds later he was out
trying not to think, leaving her to deal with the ghosts
the next in a series.
what happens? The town gave up,
drove cars, filed reports, walked along Capitol Lake
When it began, there were counselors brought into the
about grief. In five months
after girls' basketball and before chicken fried steak.
the spiritual revival, teachers allowing us to retake
the town had found a cure. "We need to quit messing
"We need to go down to the Middle School and tell
them to cut it out
who has run out of ideas and only anger remains
The voice of a boy who went to all his younger sister's
field hockey games
a boy who sweats profusely from his forehead when he's
and other things.
and sitting on the curb outside watching a stray dog
yap at everyone walk by
The thing about Joust is that you can't kill the buzzards;
carries an egg that will hatch into
All we knew was loneliness.
was always listed just under mine,
about teenage depression, this is the corner
You're listening to an announcer
listening to Sean explain
That's what the instructions call it: Unbeatable?
and the bird will fly right into your sword, and you
can play forever.
its path crosses one point, so you wait there for it
to come to you
When John learned about the problem, he was embarrassed,
a weak match for the persistence
By his own admission, he's an obsessive creator.
at Midway, taking naps on the lobby couch,
long after the Galaga designers have given up and gone
to bed and can you imagine him
and can you imagine me learning that the guy who beat
One wanted to go listening to his new Marilyn Manson
CD on headphones,
in the newspaper story, the way that only newspapers can mistake the background music
outside the arcade not saying anything. Someone would
hold up a newspaper,
How many times, we wondered, could the word "sickness"
And then it ended.
Today is my twenty-fourth birthday
The drawing is shaded obsessively, but with obsessive
while the knight looks up at the pterodactyl—frightened,
a question. "Where the hell did you get this?"
I ask in awe.
I prop it on the windowsill—it's early evening
and everything is glowing.
on MISSION STREET CYCLE:
Mission Street Cycle was like line-writing boot camp for me. Collect all 13. They're dedicated to my mom.
on SUMMER OF THE PTERODACTYL:
This poem is about the town where I grew up, but some details are changed. I got the biographical details about John Newcomer from the interviews in Midway Arcade Classics.