Online Art Gallery // Volume 23

A Man

by Jamie Hammon

Be soft now
like flesh —

you are a man.

you aren’t iron;
you are made of blood
and bones, yes —

but you are mostly water

you aren’t scaffolding, lime, or bricks —
you are in all ways tender and fine

your hardened arches bend
and melt, yes —
but you are warm to the touch

you are not the thunder;
you are not the lightning’s bolt;
you are made of electricity, yes —

but you are not the storm

Be soft now
like whispering—
the ringing of distant bells

Be soft now
like forgiveness —
you are only a man.

Babalaas the Great

by Jamie Hammon

Andrew sat up in bed, slowly. Sunlight streamed through the blinds and stabbed at his eyes. He groaned and shielded them. The slight pressure from his hand was too much. His brain throbbed like a bowling pin had been rammed between his eyes. He gasped and lay back.

Images of the night before flickered in a disjointed montage —angrily wiping the red and white and black off his face in the academy bathroom. Catching his reflection in the rear view mirror as he sped to Blue Mondays. The image of that skin still eerily pasty and his lips stained pink, like a macabre porcelain doll. Slamming empty pint glasses down on the bar again and again. Snapping a pool cue over his knee. Dizzily lifting his face from the pavement as someone shouted FUCK YOU, FREAK. Resting one arm against the wall of a bodega as he pissed on the pasted-over show bills. Fumbling with his keys as the neighbor’s terrier yapped at the window in horror.

At least he was in bed this time. He tenderly touched his cheek. It stung a little but was more bruised than cut up this time. He twisted his neck slightly and saw there was only a little blood on the pillowcase. Good. Won’t have to do laundry.

He reached for the glass of water he always left on the nightstand, but there wasn’t one. He looked over the edge of the bed. It lay shattered in a dark puddle on the rug. Who said he wasn’t consistent?

He noticed his hands were freckled with pen ink, again. He must have left another “DO NOT TOW” note on the Volvo. Hopefully it was legible. If not, the owner would probably recognize it as his car. Maybe that’s worse. Maybe not. She’d taken pity on him before.

Andrew creakily shifted himself to his other side and crawled out of bed. He walked to the medicine chest and met his own ghastly reflection. The purple-ish cheek, the grey tint from the leftover greasepaint, peppered with a little cigarette ash. A corpse, he thought. He opened the cabinet and took out the aspirin bottle. There were only a few left. He tilted his head, emptied them into his mouth, and drank from the faucet.

He closed the mirror. A red makeup crayon lay on the edge of the sink, ready for use. He picked it up crushed the point into the glass. Across his own appalling image, he scrawled “BABALAAS IS DEAD,” then dropped the stick into the trash.

Fuck. What would he do, he wondered. Now that he’d been kicked out of clown college.