Battle Lion: Jamie Grefe
Six pieces by Jamie Grefe
I am back in the marsh—log, rubble, plastic bags—when the boy appears: his horse, cows, hooves. He is the boy from the farm. I stand, itch, must have torn a scar in my sleep.
The boy no longer knows me.
He nods and says, “you ride on the back of one of these cows until we reach town, then you leave for good. If you steal one of these cows, I shoot you.”
We ride day into night, until trail becomes field. Wind shifts, clouds whirr. My cow follows the swish of the cow in front of her. I am glancing eye—the wind, the grey, the words—but the boy knows words. He pulls up beside me.
“We will stop here for the night,” he says. I slide off the cow, dirt-slip and slow to a limp. He tethers the horse. Cows slump, snort dirt. I pull logs to the fire, carry brush in handfuls.
We do not speak.
We listen to the crackle.
No words between us anymore—never were.
The cows swish and bawl, keep bawling as if someone were coming across the field. The boy moves to the fire, nuzzling up, sharp chin leaning in, smoke-breathing. So I raise the ragged lapels of my coat, tuck grey beard to throat, and shiver. I cannot move or run, not with these knees, my bruises; I’m shaking. When I rub hands over scars, skin-grooves and stitch-marks, I watch the boy. We are alone. He sits back, staring through fire, here—only two—sitting fire.
He doesn’t say a word and neither do I when he raises the gun.
THE FIFTH FOLIO: PRODUCTION NOTES
A promenade for open negligee: Tossed sheets stripped to position. A body awake, torn or the tuck of a nub. Rub head. Pinch top of head. The rubbed raw surface. Connect spots and follow the drip-hole. Blood or frozen muck in the filth.
Dear, blood-fire: your bed fidgets in a smudge of slurs and trembling pink sheets. To no avail, no honey in the sap. I’m below the orgone light: flick and a snap, that distant glow of utensils.
Frame it all: skewed peddler, traces, villainous on thigh tweaks; ashtrays scraped raw; lotions or lines, slipped off, tugged-down shorts.
Use rope, rubber bands, oil, slugs, and glue, soap to scrub off the slip, a cloth to dab. But she prefers a groan, flirting dreams over blips. We accept or abstain under certain conditions set forth by the circumstances outlined above. She signs the contract: no brooding or basking, no holographic triangulation, no spasmodic triage and please don't forget to initial here. The ink is a hot smear. It stains.
No more slip in the milk. Nothing but cotton, pearl studded lashes, strands of hair and a dress. Silent gurgles.Lick wounds, love gummy: navel, inner horizon, strawberry, rose, chalky cheeks, nobby, peak of the nose, tickle neck, earlobe, pit, around the waist, knees open, rub forehead, and spine clicks to straight. No part remains.
A dry whimper: sigh of evaporation. Flutter behind a chamber door and cut, bravo, slice the words, the stock film and cue: one to zero. Lights out, a dissolve, our traces lapping at the resonance of a stranger’s skin. No sheets, just a smell and then gone.
Today I will walk onto the ice.
I have heard of a city
where you just might be.
It is a city frozen
where everything between us
is just right
like when the sun
melts the ice into the shape
I will remain in the barn, tongue to hay, until lips become oven: apple pie, crust, ginger, saliva. There are passages. We converge in rooms of hay where you sleep, quilted on tatami, uncurled, draping strawberry hair and quiet on the cement. I stare to make sure you are breathing. I stare to keep you from waking. I paint the tongue as a road to the place in the barn where the beam is too wide to hide my body while you make hay in the oven and use branches to eat sandwiches or tins of rhubarb. I've built a barn of ovens, roads in the barn, mines to crawl into, mouths when they kiss in closets, motels on the hill by the church, where you wreck cars outside windows, drunk on prayer in the dark. I tongue, weep gravel when I squirm to be fed. I've felt heat turn apples to mush: bales of hay, the barn, the field, a river of string. We are walking down a road to the barn that I've built out of apples. The passage through the barn, the one with the door is where I burn the oven, crawl in, use strings as a bed and breathe. I keep staring to make sure you are alive.