John Sierpinski

11pm

11p.m.—the Dream

“What the hell is this, again?” Jim is back
in that sleazy beer barn, tangled, and Heather
is there, too. In the dream her hair has gone
from red to brown. Jim wakes up, but drifts
back to the memory of Blonde on Blonde,
rock/poetry’s first double album. “Most
Likely You’ll Go Your Way, & I’ll Go Mine.”
Then they are in Goldman’s department store.

Muzak plays, “The Poor Side of Town”. Heather
makes the comment, “There’s going to be more
to my life than small shacks and pink flamingos.”
She is temporarily, but not fully, Jim’s girlfriend
although they are picking out dishtowels. It wasn’t
as if Jim didn’t know she wanted out. After all,
she still wrote letters to her soldier boyfriend,
Scott, in Vietnam. Debra Riersgord (Jim’s secret

flame from high school) shows up. It seems she
has suddenly taken an interest. Heather steers him
like a bus, away, to the potholders, the flowered
tablecloths. Heather had already told Jim that
she was mindful of what she should do. Her
parents were already having dinner with Scott’s
parents. Jim was a scruffy philosophy major…
little money, driving a clunker of a car. Sex

was not enough, emotions were not enough,
and poetry was not enough. Jim was a kind
of Cyclops in an underworld. Heather fashioned
herself as a kind of Aphrodite up above. She
flirted with a stranger in the beer barn, Jim walked
off with someone else. Heather had run after
and dragged him back, but then said, “I only cry
once for a person.” Soon, Scott would be home.

Soon the wedding would be on, soon Heather
would go away, soon the bad soap opera would
stop. In January, Jim’s car died. He went, one
last time, to Heather’s factory house. Her mother
looked down her nose, her father was half drunk.
Heather walked Jim to the bus stop, snow falling.
They held on to each other, but then the bus rolled
up. She nudged him to the opening door. He
looked out the window, her footsteps quickly filled
with snow. The driver, in his olive green sweater,
watched him pay the fare. A bus full of strangers—
blank looks. Six months later Jim would receive
a wedding invitation in his mail. He went with
his pregnant girlfriend. Heather kissed him (too long)
in the receiving line. Jim ended the evening drunk
and confused. In the dream Heather’s mouth is

a perfect circle. She looks like she did, then.
“Why not?” he asks. It’s only been forty fucking
years. He looks at the red digits on the alarm. He
falls back asleep, and has a parallel dream. It is all
different, it’s now, but it’s still then. Awake. Asleep.
It merges. The last time Jim wakes up, he finally
knows, realizes that it’s the old story. It’s the aging
man’s last grasp or is it last gasp? He looks, again,

the clock. It’s 11p.m. He closes
his eyes, but still, can’t let her go.


 

John Sierpinski has studied poetry at the Universities of Wisconsin, Marquette, Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and the Vest Conservatory for Writers. His poetry has recently appeared in Backstreet Quarterly, Beginnings, California Quarterly, Crucible, Icon, North Coast Review, Pegasus, Snake Nation Review, Stoneboat, Wisconsin People and Ideas as well as others. His work is also in two anthologies: Echoes and Waves, and Come Be a Memoirist from Baksun Books/Woodland Pattern. He was nominated for the 2013 Pushcart Prize.

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