[Table of Contents]



Josh Gaydos



the screech of the dryer
resounded through the cracks
waving the webs
of brown spiders hanging upside down
beneath the kitchen windowsill,
grabbing palmetto bugs 
in silk lie-detector scrawl

the dryer shrieked
like the sharpening of a knife,
like a knee against gravel
falling off a tire swing

the scrape hummed at a heartbeat's pace
that I muffled, dirty clothes lined
against the bottom of the bedroom door,
the webs in the kitchen
resembled a bomb
firing streams of smoke

the bugs were shrapnel,
chunks of earth suspended

at times the kid
across the street would catch me before
I reached the car, to tell me that
his cousins have to live with them now,
that they could really use some help

so could I, fishing a five out
like a mercury seasoned bowfin

one house over
Ms. Clarke would feed the cats
from aluminum trays,
she talked to them by names
only they shared

my next door neighbor
lived with his mom,
she grappled with a white octopus
of oxygen and feeding tubes,
propped up by a mechanical bed
covered in rubber catheters 
while the son was lip locked 
with a Barbadian nurse's assistant

they caressed against the trunk 
of his beat-up burgundy Pontiac,
the hum of reggaeton and calypso
paired with the dryer
on those oven afternoons

it would end with him
hiding in an abandoned house
shooting himself as the cops broke in,
flinging metal and wood into
the empty

it would begin with 
his dog chasing one of Ms. Clarke's cats
and her kicking it,
after he went to have words
she called social services
who carted the entangled mother away

mother was payday for the son,
paid time off for the assistant
which lead to a drawn gun
shooting Ms. Clarke in front of her family
5 days before Christmas, 2019

both houses sit as
tombs of broken glass strewn
along the medical supplies and floral dishes,
pink flowers mass produced, 
pink paper on the dark brown door,
the yard overgrown to dirt caked knees
of kids playing hide and seek,
the cats squabble amongst the rubble
with some saint occasionally feeding them
from tin plates

this house has three rooms, mostly empty,
but the birds fill it with cymbals and whistles,
the sun, a struck gong, shines through
the window during morning showers
dousing the tiles in gold

out of the living room you can see
rims glinting,
worth more than the cars they're attached to,
two grocery store workers at the bus stop
on the first of the month

the dryer shrills, the daffodils and raccoons
poke up from the long grass,
the recluse is reclining in the kitchen where
the gap under the door keeps her well fed




glinting mint Swisher Sweet wrapper flipping
in the winter wind sent a shiver through
the rattling chrome, edges worn to slate,
the taut ribcage of the Cadillac once shone
where many quivering hoods now huddle
beside the blue canopy of the bus stop,
the timid December showing face

there is a couple on their daily walk,
he has a staff from a fallen oak
and wears all black winged out shades
carrying a bagged up case of Milwaukee's Best,
she walks with a worn olive JanSport  
carrying a locket of her daughter
and a tattered wool blanket

they go down the hill to the park
barren aside from a tan slab fountain
where they make love

a strained calf marionettes
across the asphalt, a cat call caught between
the blaring of cars, a bench slouch,
a ration of gas station roller meats,
the therapy of wide berth bottles
caught by slumbered mouths
in need of escape, the stampede of grills,
chrome eroding with the widening,
the slow cook and quick flip
of this opportunity zone

glinting mint Swisher Sweet wrapper flipping
in the winter wind,
renters gaunt, pushing tender knots,
ragged beards graying through the glass
begging a hazel-eyed approach to a metal hinge,
gas station walls like
petals of purple before the freeze,
prattling for change unabated,
the stained shirts,
two sizes too large,
hung as sails for those landlocked
sanding down livers whole, swollen,
wishing for rest

on brittle benches sat shivering men
well shy of contentment, that cardboard catchphrase,
two dogs wrapped in blankets in a grocery cart,
some lasting heat to greet the noon
with the dye in dollar food

glinting mint Swisher Sweet wrapper flipping
on North Main, a scorched vein of asphalt,
a catchall of colliers digging for a hit,
venison and ham-hock defrosted a winter
thrifting coats from gospel missions,
alms and tupelo branches
not given by the pressed uniforms
of lawmen that come to wake them
above steam grates
these frost capped mornings





like a rented martyr with teeth kicked in,
we return uninsured,
a piss-poor portrayal in local op-eds,
postmortem on dining room maple
idly spinning quarters, adjusting maroon ties
before we are flipped on our heads,
noses filling, raising our dukes
to determine kid or king, we bareknuckle,
we pitch our venture to pinstripe barons,
we parade our pariah wrongfully slain,
passing a hat, singing hymns,
lighting mahogany candles,
we sit alone dreaming in dim lofts
with only one bottle left in the fridge

adipose and collagen
some can buy back, but upon returning,
something's missing, not whole;
loose leaf flyers stapled to phone poles
half sunk in Columbia's sidewalk crust,
the limestone cracked,
tracing the sinkhole with our hands
to stay current and talk the water cooler,
our chipboard practice for the pinebox

as if it was only centuries old metal
we'd struck in the swamp,
spat up, self-serving ice cream
in the Golden Corral,
to have seen acrylic teeth sewn in the decay,
to have seen eyes like emeralds
then lose them in the neighborhood pool

even the monk
half wanting to leave,
half wanting to chase
the infant cast off into the Congaree,
bundled in white print t-shirts,
bound in headphone wires,
the infant to be adored by an heiress
who could not miss the allusion,
the frail bobbing, the coo and cry,
the surrender of extended arms
admitted to
not knowing who was being raised


from the basket
man has arrived
to a celebratory champagne toast off a loan
after days dumpster diving for doubloons
and nights sleeping cold,
his stomach is now warm
rocking on the world's arc,
this hyacinth house, this golden age

like a landlocked sailor after Sunday mass
he's lying in lathered baths
in this overrun empty field,
threadbare, drunk in an antique tub
reaching for a clothesline,
practicing knots in a super bloom,
forget me, know color in stead
slowly up the valley, violet and scarlet
cratered in porcelain

like a banker on weekend crank
he's in the back office off an old pay stub
folded into a flailing swan,
credit cards cracking lines of flamingo
dusting off the snub nose
dusting off the pantyhose
he's reminiscing on how
carnations lined the smoking
side of the diner,
on how
he reached out to her hands

like a syrupy and drunken ex
he's texting, hoping that she calls
to say "I haven't forgotten you"

it was wildflowers in the desert
this pained excuse to have,
to hold and water,
it was Molly Pitcher
denying a dry soldier's throat




and as we pass another,
our toe tags signed by the coroner
carried by straight ticket votes,
here's a toast

coasting on formaldehyde
ageless and obscured by a sheet,
this faceless feeling drink
beneath northbound clouds,
whole chapters of rain
condensed in the frosted algae necklace
you had to burrow before
walking out of the apartment,
that will return again, in a way,
beneath your high cheek bones

I ride in this shotgun seat home
while you're at the wheel
and the firewater doesn't phase us
and we don't need much sleep
between hands clasped together
holding the e-brake, the Erlenmeyer flask

the glass dropped on asphalt
to be crushed by my bare feet,
it crystalized
and congealed as a shield
and we kept on floating
our indiscernible direction home,
you said I'm brave
to test a bowknot of sinew

who'll bring you
as the unanswered voicemail
of a flight risk, a protagonist
that would not prevail,
a screened call
called promise

from cracked barrel bottom
unoxidized bits of the hoop
catch light from a quiet
that made us inside hallucinate
to the sound of organs
not wholly ours

and we emerge to a bright
humming separation,
and again, we're soon to be crawling,
soon to be the misguided sign waver
in an endless summer job




         maybe I don't get a soliloquy
and the desire for one
         is the antagonist
within me without a stage

                   here I am left
           courting cording rope
            no gazes or ghazal lines spoke
           a just cause, just sea sip
                 back on the brine,
a flightless gull

pining stage light
         the arsonist was uncovered
in the rubble, faulty wires,
captured without posing
courting cording rope

         maybe I don't get a soliloquy
because it's undeserved
              under earth hell springs trees
now blooming, a spoonful of decongestants
packed in a planet
taken with porridge while
                  poring over chapters
in a pocket of rain,
              the domain levying
our dance in the drought
that allowed for stage and the spout
where the finest words now lay
well worn then erased

so do I give you a show
in a stitched up letterman,
or mold my own
among the clay and the tungsten?




"A House on Stabler" and "NoMa" were inspired by Columbia, South Carolina. "Every City Named After Columbus Floods the Same" is about a misguided Moses in the desert of the self. "Toast" is a poem about purgatory after a car crash. "Cording Rope" is a question of purpose.