Students argue at the table nearest mine.
You should vote for that guy or that guy,
or maybe a woman, they say in turn.
The one decked out in camouflage tells
the one wearing a Vikings hat that
Candidate A is an asshole, & Candidate B
too dumb to suck a mint & live.
The second guy’s date, a small brunette
who smells like weed, suggests C
for his stance on depriving the wealthy
of Guatemalan coffee. No one mentions D,
E, or F, because their poll numbers slipped.
I try to tune out, sipping my caramel latte &
doing pleasant things like staring at the sun.
Talk of politics circles, stalking prey.
I hear familiar labels: communist, fascist,
flake. I wait for someone to break out
freedom this & freedom that.
It’s all a drinking game involving
smashing rubber heads with wooden hammers.
Arrive too early, so the two of you walk along a bank
of the Ohio, sunlight salting water with quartz.
Nothing grotesque or alien to commence the sightseeing
day of folk tales, conspiracies, & kitsch,
of funnel cakes & memorial prayers for those
that fell when the bridge collapsed. Your first time
in Point Pleasant, except passing through to other states.
She fills you in on its history—an early battle,
bloody, during the Revolutionary War—then shows you
a mural depicting natives & colonials:
it brightens the back of the floodwall & goes on
for many city blocks. You find fascination in her words
as if eavesdropping on a story she tells to someone else
over the phone. Meanwhile, costumed revelers
act out scenes from the B movie of their beliefs:
massive bird/human/demigod they either blame
for their catastrophe or worship as sublime
harbinger of fate. As for you, what do you believe?
That question you ask yourself often, split
between feeling & reason. No mystery beasts exist
in your life, no pareidolia drawing a face on Rorschach
window blinds. You keep hope kindled, you say
to the woman at your side eating a green, mutant cupcake.
She smiles &, for an instant of seemingly infinite pause,
you are happiest seeing no disasters in the curve.
Ace Boggess is an ex-con, ex-husband, ex-reporter, and completely exhausted by all the things he isn’t anymore. He is author of two books of poetry: The Prisoners (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014) and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled (Highwire Press, 2003). Forthcoming are his novel, A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing), and a third poetry collection, Ultra-Deep Field (Brick Road). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.