“Cards” by Jonathan K. Rice

 

Cards
           circa 1965

It’s time for the monthly bridge club
my parents host with couples
from other neighborhoods
and it’s our turn. My role is minimal.

I’m told to stay in my room,
but to first greet everyone and say goodnight,
just not be seen and not play my records.
Preferably not make any noise at all.

I decide to read The Island of Dr. Moreau
I bought at the school book fair that morning,
maybe play around with the crystal radio I built from a kit.

Before long I can hear people laughing,
ice clinking. I can smell the vermouth, gin,
the occasional cigarette.

I open the window, take off the screen
and climb out behind the tall hibiscus,
dodging palmetto bugs and lizards,

steal away into the night down the block
where older kids hang by the street light.
The newspaper boy has a zip gun he made
with some pipe from a nearby construction site.

He says it will shoot .22 bullets
and he has a pocketful. I can see the cars
in the driveway and along the street
in front of my house.

The kid shoots his zip gun. It sounds like a
firecracker, and we hear broken glass. He loads
it again. More fireworks. More broken glass.
And it’s all in front of my house.

We run in different directions.
I run toward a neighbor’s backyard
around to my window.

I hear the needle scratch vinyl, screeching
through my dad’s bossa nova record
while men cuss. This is not what Bridge
usually sounds like.

I hear poker chips being thrown and stacked,
the hardness of bottles and glasses on the table,
doors opening and closing, people coming and going.
footsteps down the hallway.

The screen and window back in place,
I pick up my book. Mom comes in,
finds me reading H.G.Wells.

 

About the Author: Jonathan K. Rice edited Iodine Poetry Journal for seventeen years. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Killing Time (2015), Ukulele and Other Poems (2006) and a chapbook, Shooting Pool with a Cellist (2003), all published by Main Street Rag Publishing. He is also a visual artist. His poetry and art have appeared in numerous publications, including Cold Mountain Review, Comstock Review, Diaphanous, Empty Mirror, Gargoyle, Inflectionist Review, Levure Litteraire, The Main Street Rag, Wild Goose Poetry Review and the anthologies, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race and The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina.

 

More by Jonathan K. Rice

“Springmaid Pier”

 

Image Credit: “Detroit, Michigan. Poker hand and hands of girl players” (1941) Arthur S. Siegel. from The Library of Congress

Springmaid Pier

photo by Chase Dimock

 

Springmaid Pier

By Jonathan K. Rice

 

Springmaid Pier

Cigarettes glow orange on cheeks
of patient ruddy faces.
The odor of strip bait and shrimp fills the air.
Tackle boxes, buckets and coolers
line weathered planks.

Lights on fishing boats dot the ocean
as darkness falls. Lanterns and flashlights
on the pier give shadowy shapes
to anglers casting their lines upon the water.

Drag of spinning reels set silent
ready for the tug, pull and fight
of a good-size fish.

Some fishermen armed with heavy line
and oversized lures try for tarpon or barracuda,
while some use chunks of meat, hoping for a shark,
ignoring “No Shark Fishing” signs.

Sea gulls wait on the beach like onlookers
as the tide eases out. Before long I got one!
is heard down the pier. A man pulls in a croaker.
His friend grabs it with a gloved hand,
freeing the hook and dropping it in a bucket.

Another man spits tobacco at the water,
yanking up a blowfish. He cusses, laughs,
throws it back. I quietly wait for a tug on my line
as an old man beside me whispers I think I got something.

He’s slowly reels it in, lifts it from the water,
says what the hell is that?
I tell him it’s an octopus.
He doesn’t know what to do.
I reach for his catch.

I gently take the octopus in one hand.
Its body is about as big as my fist.
Tentacles wrap around my arm,
suction cups hug my wrist.

I carefully try to remove the hook,
its beak mouthing my palm,
when unexpectedly a tentacle comes off.
The old man groans at its loss.

I assure him one will grow back.
He says he’s had enough
and packs up his gear.

I loosen the tentacles.
A squirt of ink runs down my arm,
as I release the octopus
to the water below.

.

About the Author: Jonathan K. Rice edited Iodine Poetry Journal for seventeen years. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Killing Time (2015), Ukulele and Other Poems (2006) and a chapbook, Shooting Pool with a Cellist (2003), all published by Main Street Rag Publishing. He is also a visual artist. His poetry and art have appeared in numerous publications, including Cold Mountain Review, Comstock Review, Diaphanous, Empty Mirror, Gargoyle, Inflectionist Review, Levure Litteraire, The Main Street Rag, Wild Goose Poetry Review and the anthologies, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race and The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina.