Slipstream Issue 23    Slipstream 23

Home Page     New Releases     Poetry Chapbook Contest     Back Issues     Video
by Charlee Brodsky
American Young, American Darling, by Charlee Brodsky, copyright 2003 Angel in Sunglasses, by Charlee Brodsky, copyright 2003


Cinema Verite´  by Paul Agostino
Punch the Clock   by Michael Thomas Martin
Great Grandfather: Separation of Time   by Blake A. Hoena
Sixteen   by Marie Kazalia


Cinema Verite´
By Paul Agostino

At the movies
they charge 10 bucks for a ticket,
another 10 bucks for a Coke and a bag of popcorn,
popcorn made from a handful of kernels
that can’t cost more than a dime,
and then,
after you pay
and are grousing,
the pimply-faced kid
behind the register asks
"Would you like to give your change
to children who are fighting cancer?"

The voice is unaffected
and robotic;
it carries with it
no sense of embarrassment
at having posed such a question.

I mean, what are my options?
"No, I’d like to keep my change;
let the children die."

I think of the huge chain of corporate-owned theaters,
and of movie stars and producers and vice presidents of
distributing companies
laughing around their pools,
and I think of the 10-cent kernels turned into a 10-dollar snack,
and I think of my change,
and the children with cancer,
and the dead face of the minimum-wage employee,
who doesn’t even bother to lift his voice at the end of his sentence
to indicate that he even knows that he’s asking a question,
and I think of the kid’s same zombified response
repeated to every single person he has ever handed a ticket to
regardless of whether they chose to help the children with cancer
or not:

"Thank you for coming,
and enjoy the show."

Back to top

Punch the Clock
By Michael Thomas Martin

He broke the ring and middle
fingers of his right hand.
Smashed on the job by a full
acetylene canister when it fell,
the impulse to save stronger
than the instinct for survival.
He went on workman’s comp for three weeks.
After two the foreman called him back,
said it was time,
it wasn’t a choice.
Be here Monday.
The fingers were still bent, still sore,
still cast with the faintest tinge of blue.
He hated the job, hated the grime,
hated welding, hated working afternoons
for eight bucks an hour.
He wished he’d never blown his time-study
job at Dodge Main, the good pay, the long lunches.
But he had four kids and a wife to feed,
as little as he had to feed them with,
and he wasn’t about to let the Knights
of Columbus bring leftovers from a banquet again.
It wasn’t a choice.

Friday night, after everyone was asleep,
he went down to the basement,
to the old, wooden console black and white TV,
a wedding present from his mom.
The set the kids watched.
He crouched at the console’s hefty
corner, lifted with his left hand,
and let its deadness drop on the bent
digits of his right.
Then he did it again.
For the rest of the weekend he lived on
generic aspirin, Altes and shots
of Mohawk vodka while his fingers throbbed,
turned the purple of Italian plums.
Monday he reported for his shift.
He let a box of welding rods fall near his
hand and went to see the foreman.
Filled out the proper forms.
Four more weeks.

Back to top

Great Grandfather: Separation of Time
By Blake A. Hoena

My words, spoken slow, are trapped
in the spider hair of his ears, saved
for when he opens their cocoon.

He calls at five in the morning—
that’s when the army woke him
for hikes in full packs—thinking
I should be up and at ’em too.

He’ll ask about school, work,
if I have a new lady friend, and fall
asleep before I answer him.

My great grandfather lived in a time
before machinery. He was a logger
after the army, wrestled trees to the ground,
barrel-chested them out of the woods.

As I look at him now, I search
for that man in the pile of kindling
stretching out on his foot rest,
in the trunk of his bare-barked chest,

and in the twigs that shake under the weight
of a half-empty cup of coffee. He hates
his hearing aid, turns the sound off
on the TV, and reads the captions.

He tells me my dad was a good man,
loved my mother, my sister, and me,
but this is a memory we can not share,
my father having died before I could write,

before I could write. He says the Packers
were good under Lombardi, mentions Hornung
and Starr. Even the team we root for
is separated by thirty lost seasons.

Back to top

By Marie Kazalia

older teenage boys with cars
pick me & my girlfriends up at the Dairy Freeze
end of our shift
giving us a ride home, they say
but instead drive along back country roads
they have beer but I don’t drink any
park near some old abandoned buildings
near grassy railroad tracks
I don’t know where the other girls have gone
with the other boys in the pouring rainstorm
I stand under the overhang
above an old wooden loading dock
rain funneling the force of water
through a big overhead drain pipe
step under it—wash away summer heat and sweat
unceasing gush rinses the chocolate syrup stains
from the front of my white Dairy Freeze uniform
soaking wet—hair clinging to my head
uniform presses teenage breasts in wet bra
soaking panties visible through synthetic white—
I’m so virginally desire-less
not understanding how sexy
—yet somehow knowing and embarrassed—
the teenage boy watching from the ground below
frozen mouth gaping for several moments
as I scream laughing in the cool gushing rain water

Back to top