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Rafael Alfonzo Sep 2015
After he caught his wife in bed with another man**, it took much discipline not to **** him. He gave his wife a look and then left the house. He got back into his truck and drove to the school and parked. He waited there, calmly, controlled, the anger channeled into a blank sadness that glazed over his eyes. He saw his daughter coming out of the school doors with a group of other girls her age. The bell was still ringing and children poured out of the doors and climbed into busses and were taken away by their parents. His daughter stopped and talked with her friends. Her hair was soft and golden and the sunshine played in their strands. She looked at the ground while listening to her friend and lifted her head to laugh. She held the straps of her back pack. It seemed the girls were drawn to her, the way they circled her and told their stories and laughed. She didn’t speak much except to respond and to offer them her smile but she looked happy. He noticed a boy walking away from her wave her direction and she waved back and blushed before he stepped onto a yellow bus. He turned the keys and started the engine and listened to it purr. The crowd of girls dispersed now, each to their respective busses or to their parents waiting impatiently, telling them to come. His daughter said goodbye to each and began to walk, a curl in her lips, the trace of a grin still there around her mouth. She looked at her shoes.
She was not expecting her father to pick her up from school; it would have been odd for him to do so, for normally he would be off at work and she wouldn’t see him until the morning and he would give her a ride to school then. Her mother at this time of the day would be preparing a meal because she couldn’t drive. Sometimes her mother would walk to meet her but not often. She would walk the three miles home with no complaint. She enjoyed the walks. She enjoyed the streets of the neighborhoods and the grass and the trees and waving at Mrs. Greta as she passed her place on Fremont and always talking for a while with Mr. Jobs, whom allowed her to call him by his first name, Jason. She liked walking the railroad tracks that lead to the country roads that let her know she only had a mile to go and would then be home.
So today, when she lifted her head and began to leave the school, as the busses peeled away and her friends shouted and laughed at her and waved from the half-drawn windows, she thought she had seen her father’s truck drive off but the truck slipped too quickly from sight for her to tell who had been driving. She ran up the sidewalk and stepped off onto the street and looked again. She saw the silhouette of her father’s straw cowboy hat before it fell from sight down a ***** and over the hill and that was all she saw. She still could hardly believe it and hadn’t had the time to verify the license plate. But it looked like the broad shoulders, the tough neck and the straw hat of her fathers.
That would be the last time he would see his daughter for twenty years. He wouldn’t cry. He narrowed his eyes and squinted at the road before him as if the sun was too bright but the visor was pulled down to shield his eyes and the light only touched from his nose down. He had none of his belongings save some ***** clothes on the floor of the passenger’s side and his guitar lay across the bench seat.  There was one hundred and thirty dollars in pesos coins in his wallet. He wasn’t sure where he’d go. He had an old friend in Denver. He stepped on the clutch and put her in gear and thought of Denver as good a place to start as any. Russell would be happy to see him.
The crops of corn stood strong and tall in their fields, cattle grazed on other farms and chickens roosted and horses swung their tails and looked around at the land. The hills of the open plains rolled like an ocean and the shadows of the tree’s branches played on the roads as he drove. The wind blew at his steady seventy mile an hour drive and hummed and brushed against his face. A cigarette hung from his mouth and he looked straight from under his straw hat and tried to rid the image of the man naked ploughing his wife who knelt on the edge of his bed, straddling for him and moaning. He was unsuccessful in all of his attempts. It haunted him. He made it through Illinois. He drove through Missouri. He had stopped at Topeka to eat at a small diner and five miles out of town pulled to the shoulder of the road and bent over and vomited the meal on the ground. His eyes watered from the coughing his stomach felt sore and empty again and his mouth was covered with spit and leftovers. He stood and drew the back of his hand across his lips and wiped it on his jeans. When he raised his head he saw the sun was setting on another day. A Hank Williams song was playing softly on the radio from his truck. He sang, I’ll sail my ship alone with all the dreams I own, and when it starts a sinkin’ I’ll blame you...
Rafael Alfonzo Sep 2015
I was down on my luck** and had not returned to my job nor had any notion of returning again. I had a plane ticket for Boston that would fly me to Minnesota that was scheduled to depart in twenty days. I had still not yet bought the bus ticket to Boston. I had one hundred dollars to my name. My friend Billy had owed me one hundred dollars as well and gave me one hundred and thirty dollars in 1988 pesos coins as repayment. Knowing that it might be difficult to find a place who would honestly convert them and that their worth fluctuated, I would have much rather he paid me in US dollars but I took them in thanks and didn’t mention it. He knew what I was thinking and told me that if I couldn’t get a fair price that I could mail them to him when he got to Missouri and he would mail me what he owed in cash but until then all of his money was ******* in his trip home and even that was barely enough but that he had checked on their worth and said it should cover the one-hundred he owed. I smiled and we warmly shook hands to seal the deal.  We spent the day riding around in his wrangler and running some final errands for him before he would be gone.
The three years we had known each other might as well have been a lifetime and had felt just as full as one and had gone by just as fast. We ‘d drunk coffee and smoked cigarettes outside of Elizabeth’s bookstore. We’d watched in silence the beautiful women that would walk passed without much attention given to us. We, however, gave great attention to every ***** and bounce and shimmy. There were some gorgeous women that came to the bookstore those years. We shot pool with Bernie, who had the keys to the Mason Lodge and had many great conversations on the fire escape. We played games of chess in the bookstore. We drove around listening to the blues. Sometimes we got together, the three of us, at Billy’s and we’d make a fire and they’d drink coffee because they were old men and had had to stop drinking years before and I would drink some bourbon or wine after a cup or two of coffee and then we’d share a pack of cigarettes between us and we’d feel the warmth of the fire and have some good laughs. Bernie was diagnosed with a rare and terrible cancer in North Carolina on a trip to see his son in the Air force and had been brought back home a few months later and beside his wife and daughter and son fell silently to sleep and never woke up again. I hadn’t gone to see him but Billy said that when he saw him he didn’t mention his condition once and that he even got out of bed and sat with him on the back porch that looked out upon the open land and sky and they talked like nothing was wrong and laughed and said they’d see each other again. Bernie died a week later.
I hadn’t planned it this way but the opening to this story is very much dedicated to Bernie, and Billy, I hope you get safely back to Missouri and that your pesos will help me make it through the fall.
I had not told my mother or my love, Rosalie, that I had left my job. So I made fake work schedules and left the house and returned home at all the appropriate times with a lanyard I had kept from work hanging from my neck and hung it on the doorknob when I got home. During the day there were several options to occupy the eight-hour shifts. The town ran very much so due to the college and I would go up there and browse around the old books called the stacks and take a few with me out onto the grass of the quad and read them. I would read for hours. I got restless every now and then and would even read while I walked in circles up and down and back and forth the crisscrossing paths under the trees of the quad. This was great until I got caught for taking these books from the school at my own leisure and soon it was revealed that I was not a student there and they told me not to come back. Some days I would run along the riverside. I enjoyed long walks on the train tracks around the city with my headphones on and taking pictures. I always had my backpack on, even if nothing was in it, but usually there was a book and a pair of Rosalie’s ******* and on occasion I would take this out and close my eyes to smell them and I would miss her very much. We lived with a few towns between us and she was a very busy and dedicated young woman. She was working in nursing homes and taking care of home patients and going to school full time on top of it and doing clinicals and taking care of her little brother because it takes a lot sometimes for a man to be cured from his drinking habits, which was very much true in their fathers case and her mother was a wild and paranoid woman who refused to believe that her boyfriend was beating Rosalie’s little brother while she was away at work. So Rosalie took great care and love for her brother and also custody.
I, however, had not been so responsible with my life. When I came back from the Army it was not as a hero but I could tell a great hero’s story because I’d known them all but mostly they were characters in stories I’d read in the barracks, or secondhand tales given in extravagant detail during chow and none of them were true but they sounded quite exciting. It made the time at bars when I had gotten home less lonely because I could tell a tale in first person convincingly enough that many an old vet, with his own made up fantasies, would act like they believed me and would share their stories and we didn’t have to sit there thinking about the buddies we lost or the women whom had fallen out of love with us one time or another or the families we were avoiding. I liked going to the bars, but I wouldn’t have had anything to say if it weren’t for those stories.
I met Rosalie a month after having been discharged. She sat in Elizabeth’s bookstore and was studying for a class. I was with Billy at the time and we were outside smoking cigarettes when we saw her walk in.
“Did you see that?” Billy said. I saw her all right. She had gone inside and we were still sipping our coffees and smoking and I was still seeing her, no matter what else walked by or how pretty the sky was or the warmth of the sun.
“That’s a good girl right there,” Billy said, “not like most of these others we see out here, kid.” It annoyed me a little that Billy was still talking about her, egging me on a little. As I had said, I had seen her and he was disrupting my fantasizing and I had known she was a kind girl and I wanted to save my dream of her for a little while longer before I brought it to her.
“I know,” I said.
“Well, go and see about her then!”
“I’ll go”
I had no intention of letting her pass by but there was thunder rumbling in my chest and butterflies in my stomach and I had suddenly become cold even though it was sixty-five degrees out on the sidewalk and something was keeping me from standing. “I’ll have one more smoke and then I’ll go in for more coffee and see her then.”
“Tonto’s nervous! Ha ha ha!” Billy got a kick out of the thought and patted me on the back. “If you want,” He said, “I’ll go say hello for you.” He was still amused.
“You’re twice her age Bill,” I said, “she’d probably call the cops on your old ugly mug”
“The cops may be called because of how well endowed I am and she’ll be screaming and the neighbors will worry about her and call the cops on us”
Billy was always talking about his manhood and I never knew any good rebuttals because I was honest with myself and so I never had a response. I let him brag. All I knew is I had one and I knew it wasn’t large but none of the women I ever slept with ever said it was too small and they all enjoyed lying with me afterwards and talking quite a while before falling to sleep and sometimes the *** had been wild.
The cigarette was finished and I was still nervous but I didn’t want to hesitate any longer. I don’t even think she’d even seen me when she walked into the store.
I went inside and ordered a coffee and looked over to her. She was on a laptop and had a pile of books beside her and some papers and she looked up and our eyes met. I held the glance with her for a little longer than a moment. I was a little embarrassed and she was beautiful and I was wondering what my face looked like to her and if my eyes had been creepy but she lifted a corner of her lips and smiled before looking back to her work and then my shoulders relaxed and I realized I had held my breath. I laughed to myself at my own ridiculousness and let it go and then walked up to her and extended my hand and she took it with a smile and I looked dead into her beautiful hazel eyes again with confidence and we’ve been in love ever since.

The reason for my trip to Minnesota was to see my old friends from the Army: Grady and Hank. We hadn’t seen each other since I was discharged eight years ago and they reached out to me when they could but I wasn’t very good at keeping in touch with them. After I left the Army it was hard for me to talk to them. I felt I was missing out on something and I didn’t want to think of them dying without me and I didn’t like those feelings so I tried to pretend they didn’t exist but they kept me in the loop of things and always asked how I was doing no matter how well I stayed in touch with them or not. It meant much more than they’ll ever know that they did. So when they said they had both gotten out nothing was going to stop me from reconnecting with them. They said they were going to drive east to see me. I called them back.
“Let’s not hang around here in Maine,” I said, “it’ll be the middle of fall and there’s nothing to do around here. Instead of you guys coming all the way out here and then staying for a week let’s make the whole trip a seven-day adventure and you ******* can drop me off home when it’s over?”
“That sounds all well and good Russ but how the hell are you getting out here?”
“I bought a ticket, I’ll be there on the twenty-second of October at eleven.”
“That’s what I like hearing old pal!” Grady said through the phone, “Now that sounds more like the Russ I know. You’ll find me at the airport at eleven. I’ll bring a limousine with a bar and buy a couple of hookers for us”
“No hookers, Grady”
“Yes, hookers!” Grady said, “do you still do blow?”
“Good. Me neither. Honestly, I don’t do hookers anymore also. But it sounded like a proper celebration didn’t it?”
“It did.”
“Well, then its settled Russ. I’ll see you on the twenty-second of October at eleven PM sharp in a long white limo and I’ll bring the *****, the blow and the ****** and it’ll be like old times.”
“Sounds perfect Grady, I can’t wait.”
We hung up.

The plan was I would spend the night at Grady’s and the next morning we’d get Hank and we’d head for Chicago as soon as we could. One of their friends, Lemon, would be making the trip with us and would be there at Hanks when we got there in the morning. Lemon was an excellent shot with the rifle and a better guitarist and Grady told me I’d get right along with him. He told me he was at the range and the Sergeant was yelling in this black boys ear that he couldn’t shoot worth a ****.
The Sergeant, Grady said, went on and on at the top of his lungs yelling at this black guy and we all stopped and stared at him.
“As the Sarg kept hollering the kids rifle kept popping off shots at the target and you’d hear him grab another clip when the other ran out and reload it and then keep shooting but none of us could tell where the shots were going. The Sarg was so loud and the shots had such a rhythm all of us at the range stopped and looked over. There wasn’t a single bullet hole anywhere on the target except directly in the center where every bullet he had shot had gone through and nowhere else.
“Finally Lemon ran out of bullets and the Sarg quit hollering and he called him to attention.”
“Where did you learn to shoot a rifle Jefferson,” The Sergeant inquired.
“Sergeant, I have never shot a rifle before in my life”
“Do you think it’s funny to lie to your Sergeant?”
“No, Sergeant”
“So why are you lying?”
“I’m not lying Sergeant”
“What did you do before you enlisted, Private?”
“I worked on the farm for my father, Sergeant”
“At ease soldier, Staff Sergeant Dominguez would like to have a word with you.”
And that’s how Lemon went to training to become a ****** but he broke his leg in training and got sent home.
“Well ****,” I said, “He must be one helluva guitarist.”

We were to spend a day in Chicago and camp at the Indiana Dunes and then drive to Detroit and spend a day and camp there and then head to Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia if we had the time and then go to Boston and they’d drop me off at the train the following morning and I’d go home from there. But all of that was still twenty days away and I was down on my luck and had to save every cent I possibly could for the trip. Rosalie was excited for me. She knew how much I hated being home and that I stayed around to be with her even as much as she said that I shouldn’t let her stop me from doing what I wanted with my life but I really had no clue but I did know that she was the love of my life. She was happy to hear of this adventure and supported me but she didn’t know how broke I was and I hid it well by cooking all of our meals with things at my mothers apartment or my fathers house depending on where she came during her once-a-week sleepovers. She was proud of me for how well I had been with managing my money. There’s nothing to it, I told her.
The summer had been one of the best summers I’d ever had. Rosalie and I got to spend a lot of time together in-between our own lives and every moment had been cherished. I worked often and hard for twelve bucks an hour for more than forty hours a week but had nothing to show for it now. I’d gotten in trouble with the law and the lawyer was costly and so were the fines and the bail, even though I got the bail back I had to dump it into my beautiful old truck and then some because I hadn’t taken the best of care of it. I also spent most of my money on dinners out with Rosalie and I liked buying her little brother things every now and then and I had a terrible habit of buying books. Also, I had a habit of going to the bars on weekends and I wasn’t a modest drinker.
The last paycheck I got was for five hundred dollars and I spent it on a room for a long weekend at an Inn by the ocean for Rosalie and I to end such a good summer properly. Money is for having a good time and is for others. That’s how I’ve always thought it should be spent. When you’re broke, it’s easy to find lots of good times in the simple endeavors and I enjoyed those but I also enjoyed getting away with Rosalie. So when I say I was down on my luck do not think I was unhappy about it, I had lots of good luck before I’d gotten down on it and Rosalie is possibly the best luck a young man could ever come across. Still, I only had one hundred dollars to my name and three 1988 pesos coins that I’m not sure will be worth the other hundred and with twenty days to go. It’s going to be pretty tight.

I want to talk about our time by the ocean now...

(c) 2015
Draft. Possible other parts. Story in works.
Rafael Alfonzo Sep 2015
Last night we shared a rock in the sand. We sat close, sipping off a large bottle of red wine. Watching the silver silhouette of the waves and the dance of the moonshine in the current, we passed the bottle back and forth and drank. In silence we were mesmerized. The moons reflection played there in the surf from someplace beyond the water, within it, vanishing and re-lighting and then vanishing again, like a game of sparks, of white hot fireworks, winking for us between each rise and fall of the waves. She was lost in the beauty of it and I was beside her lost all the same in its beauty and the beauty of the moment. The wine warmed my cheeks from the cool autumn breeze riding in onto the shore. She rested her head on my shoulder. All night long as we held the nakedness of one another, our figures tessellated beneath the sheets, I dreamt of the waves and the moonshine-sparks and her hair on the ***** of my neck. I dreamt of it all the next day. I write these words with the dream still fresh in my imagination. I am still dreaming of it; of her and the moonshine in the waves and the shape of her body flush against mine in the sheets and the softness of her skin and I cannot remember the moment before I fell asleep there but I can remember awakening and she was in my arms in the morning. My hands felt every curve of her flesh. I held the kiss, like one holds back tears, and then I kissed her. She moaned and squeezed my hand in hers and slightly lifted a corner of her lips. I fell back asleep. Now, for eternity, I shall be cleansed each time this dream returns, and left wondering at a curious emptiness when it falls away, until it washes over me again. Such is the way she comes and goes – a dazzling display of hot white flames and sparks – more magical than the light of the sun.

(c) Rafael Alfonzo
Rafael Alfonzo Sep 2015
The moon's a dying ember
This evening in late September

A ***** copper coin
Resting on her porcelain ****

A mosaic of Ancient Corinth
As the soldiers passed
In blood-red rags
And orange

(c) Rafael Alfonzo
Rafael Alfonzo Sep 2015
There’s a second side of the plastic white fence. Maybe it’s wooden. It’s too dark to tell which and it’s been too long since the last time I’ve been near it, couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve even touched it to see. It divides the lawns of my neighbors and my own and I can tell you which side has the greener grass but you’ll know soon enough.
What I’ll tell you is that the last time I saw my neighbor’s ex-boyfriend was in prison. The last time I saw my neighbor was when she bailed me out and the last time I saw her son was at the corner store. I don’t know what he was there for. He was there with three other people. I was there for cigarettes. It’s wild to think how long you’ve seen someone, it could be years over years and still, at the slightest side glance, you know it’s them who stands before you. It took me less than a second to know who he was. I acknowledged him with his name and he tossed a wise look at me and tipped his chin and then left the store. I have only two memories of him. I remember him forcing me to eat ants when I was a kid at his mother’s daycare and I remember him yelling from the other side of the fence, threatening my father’s life. Since then all I’ve known is that he’s just been in and out of prison. He’s out now. I leave my truck unlocked with the windows rolled down and I’m surprised he hasn’t robbed it yet. Then there is the fact that all there is inside are a few books and some empty packs of cigarettes and water bottles. Who would want those?
I’d ordered a drink at a bar downtown and I drank it and paid for it and then left. I’m trying to slow my drinking down, especially on bail conditions. I was out of smokes. I’ve been trying to knock those, too but I was on the edge so I caved and drove to the store to pick some up and there he was. It was an insignificant encounter as I reflect on it but then again; what encounter is ever insignificant completely?
I’m on my porch now smoking and waiting for a woman, who is probably upset with me because I’m not always polite, and I’m looking at the fence and thinking about that saying and about the grass and about my life and about his and about all lives in general and you know what, who cares?
But it is true. There is a second side to the fence. One side has greener grass than the other but the soil is all the same. Even if there is no grass and its desert sand or its pavement or it’s just dirt over there and where you stand. Its quality is all in how you care for it. Maybe I haven’t cared for my life any more or less than my neighbor has, even if it may appear so, but appearances are deceiving. What you always know, instinctively, is how well someone has cared, to what level, how they’ve tended and kept their side and your own as well. In five years my lawn could be overgrown and full of patches and weeds and dog **** and anthills. My neighbors could be fresh and green and mowed. It won’t be so but it could be.
I remember one other memory now. He’d got a new dog. It was a pit-bull. The dog looked scared for some reason. It looked a bit shaken but also defensive. My neighbor’s son kept kicking and punching the cage, poking it with sticks. He got a kick out of watching the animal’s reactions. I can’t say I didn’t either but I stuck my tiny hand in to pet it and the dog licked my fingers and that’s all I can remember. I was knelt down by the cage. Josh was standing above me, watching his pit-bull, laughing. He was always laughing at something.
Rafael Alfonzo Mar 2015
Love is a kiss you cannot betray
A fitting of the lips in such a way
And all the mistakes that have been made
And the ones inevitable in all our days
Cannot contend the kiss

Love is a look you cannot dissuade
A force between eyes in such a way
And all the battles that have taken place
And all the falls from grace
Do not impend, cannot contend

Love is a wild thing by the way
Not the wise words that I wish I could say
And as much as at times it tries to be safe
And as much as at times it escapes
It’s found us at this

This kiss in which I will not betray
This fit of our lips in such a way
A force between eyes with all our limbs tied
The craving for you to be by my side
And dive into your kiss

(c) 2015
Rafael Alfonzo Mar 2015
The brass leaves fall tai chi from trees
Crooked skeleton sheds its skin on the street
The black veins of a hand froze in mid-reach
Trynna touch the sky but the roots run too deep
This that muted autumn trumpet to a fore-shade horizon
The riverbed a frame for the sunset inside it
I smoke away the poetry and rob it of its wildness

(c) 2015
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