VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Don’t Sit in my Hall Closet, Collecting Dust 

Why all the ringers have to be dead ones,

the telephone company has yet to explain,

this facecloth full of ice over my knee

as though a personal ice age is happening,

that cooling off period you feel in your heart long before

you hurt someone waiting to be hurt again;

don’t sit in my hall closet, collecting dust 

or I will think you some over-exposed pictures

of people that no longer exist or perhaps 

that lone expired stick of deodorant that promised

vanilla right on the label;

my yellow-bruised leg thrown up over 

the arm of some sweat-drenched poor boy  

payment plan couch,

another tray of cubes in the failing icebox,

misshapen pillows like an afternoon

of brand-new deformities

Do You Want to Know about the Japanese Yakuza? 

I am sitting in the mall food court 

enjoying the second half of a submarine sandwich.

This table of young guys is having a belching competition 

and throwing food at other patrons.

Families quickly get up 

and lead their children away.

This only spurs the antics on.

I feel a piece of food hit my back.

I say nothing and keep eating.

The lettuce on my sandwich is wilty.

Like the elderly in neglected sun chairs. 

When the table of young guys gets up to leave they linger.

One leans over my table and keeps breathing 

heavily as though he is winded.

Do you mind?

I glare at the kid.

His bigger friend comes over in a muscle shirt

that shows off his hairless nipples.

Those are cute, do they come in an extra-large?

The heavy breather laughs even though 

he knows he is not supposed to.

There a problem, old man?

The muscle shirt stands over me.

If you stare at me any harder with those puppy dog eyes,

I say, people will think that we are together.

Puppy dog eyes does not know what to say.

You gonna let him talk to you like that Trev,

I hear a voice from behind me.

I turn to find four more of them.

Listen to your idiot friend, I say.

He seems like a real keeper.

Maybe I should just knock your ass out,

what do you think about that old man?

I think you should take turns instead of all trying 

to lose your virginity at once.

That so?

Space things out, I say.

Don’t be in such a hurry to fluff 

each other’s pompoms.

Puppy dog eyes seems visibly upset.

His face is red like a stoplight.

Maybe we should go outside old man?

I agree.  You should all go outside.

Fresh air is good for the lungs.

This guy’s crazy Trev,

I hear another voice from behind.

I wipe my mouth with my napkin

and take out my big hunting knife. 

That beautiful slicing noise it makes 

as I slowly remove it from its black leather sheath.

Do you want to know about the Japanese Yakuza?

I ask.

Everyone grows real quiet and steps back.

Put your hand down on the table Slim,

I say to the skinny kid who was breathing heavily.

Stretch your fingers out as far as they go.

One of the ones from behind me raps puppy dog eyes 

on the chest and they walk off.

Not wanting to know about the Japanese Yakuza.

I finish my drink and 

empty the trash into the garbage.

Then I head up the escalator 

to make a dentist’s appointment.

The receptionist has one of those headsets, 

so that I can never tell if she is 

talking to me.

There are three people in the waiting room.

They all have cavities.

I can tell without even looking.

A giant poster of gingivitis 

on the far wall keeps tonguing itself.

Warnings of gum disease everywhere

to keep the fear lobby happy.

Someone has to be afraid. 

It may as well be you.

Bitcoin Bill

Bitcoin Bill

keeps telling me 

about all the money 

he has, but he says

I can’t see it

and he can’t see it either

even when I ask

which seems like magic

to him 

which I guess it is

when you consider the

scale of the hustle 

and the sheer lunacy it takes

to talk about your 

invisible money with 

others  and how rich everyone

could be

Not Guilty

The 

only 

time 

anyone 

should 

be 

able 

to 

investigate 

themselves

is 

during 

breast 

exam.

Everything 

else 

is        

corruption.

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