The Wild Frontier

in Culture by

8:00 am. I start my day by reading a short story, 
a good one by J. H. Bond called, “Roses and Begonias;
Or, Things That Can Crush You”— about a down and out
English teacher reduced to working parties at McDonalds.
Dressed like Ronald. Red wig, red nose, big
red shoes and yellow jumpsuit.

Then I read two poems, “Wading Pool” by George Bilgere
and a Bob Hicok poem. Most days,
after I read a story and two poems,
I’m all fired up to work on whatever it is I’m working,
which today would be a story that’s going nowhere, 
which makes it impossible to get all fired up
despite the warm-ups. So instead,
I fool around on Facebook, liking this,
liking that, unfriending a guy who says the red 
in the Confederate flag represents the blood of Christ, 
then punching the Find Friends app on my phone.

The only Find Friends friend I have is my wife, 
who I find at Barnes and Noble, where the odds 
are pretty good she’s looking for a book.

                 It’s in the next aisle over,
I text.


In “The Wading Pool,” it only takes three short stanzas for 

            The toddlers in their tadpole bodies,
            with their squirt guns and snorkels,
            their beautiful mommies and inflatable whales

to be 

            lined up on lawn chairs,
            dozing in the noonday sun
            with their stretch marks and beer bellies,
            their Wall Street Journals and SPF 50

or in my case, no time at all to go 
from my Davy Crockett-themed birthday party, 
me with my faux, coon skin cap and air rifle
surrounded by seven buddies (I have a picture)
dressed in similar king of the wild frontier getup,
to sitting in my chair with nothing better to do
than unfriend “friends” and send prank texts to my wife
when the world is going to Hell in an Ivanka Trump handbag.


Somewhere in my life’s three short stanzas 
I’ve figured out that finding friends is not the hard part.
It’s the keeping them that is. Take my ex-mailman, Mitch.
In the ten or so years that Mitch delivered our mail,
we became friends, I think it’s fair to say. Then
one Sunday afternoon Mitch and I found ourselves 
at a mutual friend’s daughter’s graduation party.
High school, I think. Mitch and I were at a picnic table laughing 
about how our dogs used to rip the mail from his hand
as he poked it through our door slot, when suddenly
he started talking about all the guns he was buying.
Words like Ruger, Glock and Savage 
were bouncing around all over the place when
(and keep in mind I’m someone who second-guessed
even mentioning air rifle) Mitch said to me,
You know they’re coming after your guns, don’t you?
And though I had a pretty good idea who they
in Mitch’s mind were, this being 2009 or so, I said, 
Who are they, Mitch? And Mitch said, Obama,
as if Obama were more than one person, which,
when you see how things have turned out, I wish he’d been—
that he could have succeeded himself, somehow.

Science magazine reported a study that showed families
spent about 40 minutes less time together last Thanksgiving 
than families spent together at Thanksgivings past—
there being, these days, the privileged, old white uncle 
at the end of the table who can’t help but say,

I like the guy. Pass the corn.


In J. H. Bond’s story, faux Ronald McDonald 
has Saturday visitation privileges with his young son,
but Ronald has a birthday party that day. 
Turns out, the party is for a kid no one likes. Only one
kid shows up for the party, plus the uninvited son
who knows the birthday boy but doesn’t like him either,
not to mention the birthday boy’s unlikeable mother.
She’s there, too, I mean. But she doesn’t seem
all that crazy about her unlikeable son.
Then the birthday boy’s older brother shows up.
He had Ronald McDonald as a teacher in high school. 
The older brother thinks Ronald is a pathetic loser 
and Ronald thinks the older brother is a pathetic loser.
So with the exception of the father and son,
who have to like each other even though
the son hates that his dad is Ronald McDonald,
basically nobody likes anybody.

               Make America Great Again.


By now you’re probably expecting me to say something 
about Bob Hicok’s poem. But given the fact 
I’ve never tried opium or been to Spain
and I’m expecting my wife any minute (wouldn’t it be something
if she found the book one aisle over?) I’ll end by saying
that the only thing that pertains to me in Bob Hicok’s poem
is the title, “I Am Wanting,” 
                                               as all of us currently are.


Mark Williams‘s writing has appeared in “The Hudson Review,” “Indiana Review,” “Rattle,” “Nimrod,” and the anthologies, “New Poetry From the Midwest” and “American Fiction.”  His poems can be found online at “The American Journal of Poetry” and “New Ohio Review.”  Finishing Line Press published his poem, “Happiness,” as a chapbook in 2015.  And his poem, “Carrying On,” will appear in “The Southern Review” this fall.  He carries on in Evansville, Indiana.

Sections of “Wading Pool” by George Bilgere reprinted with permission from the poet.


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