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Coming tomorrow:


  It starts with advice, a fatherly
Back in my Day
and the rambling story
of killing flies on hot afternoons,
doing a body count, collecting them in jars.

What you need is a Fly Gun.
And I begin to describe how we'd fasten a clothespin to one end of a ruler,
then fit an elastic band into the mouth of the pin and pull it tight
to the other end of the ruler.
Aim, fire.
One more fly snatched from mid life with deadly accuracy
a little gut smudge on the wall or table,
legs curled into insect fetus.

There was the summer when I was twelve,
up at a friend's cottage, when we jarred hundreds of them
from the kitchen alone,
keeping them from the boiling chicken,
until we got bored.
Still they kept coming,
with far superior attacks
than anything humans could dream up
the irritating tickle on fine hair, the ingenious torture
of lighting on dog shit outside and then inside
onto our food.

I go on to explain how the weapon
did not require perfect accuracy really.
The trick was in the free floating whip-like nature of the elastic,
wide in its embrace of death
just like a bowling alley sweeper sweeping down pins.
Jake points out that nowadays
that would be considered dangerous-
flying elastics, eyes.
Which is true.
Which is why I don't make him one.

I give him instructions instead on handling a regular swatter.
Hold it at the very end of the handle
to give it a wispy flex,
take into account the hundred prisms
on their geodesic eye-domes
that perceive pre-light pre-movement pre-shadow.
Let them land, let them walk, let them rub their legs.
Just sidle up close nonchalant but careful
not to hit too soft,
the tendency being to strike as light as you sneak.
Barely breathe.

So he practices on the table and watches up
on the walls and ceilings,
by the stove. He wheels his chair as silent as possible,
his face a mirror of the tangerine sunset,
and quietly stores the small count in his head.

I watch from the other room,
holding back the other knowledge:
about how our death will be much like theirs
arbitrary, maybe a malicious violence,
maybe quite natural, but surely
as insignificant,
lost in the numbers in a jar,
never having quite made out the shadow
whispering in great speed towards us.

from The Wind is a Tall Man Striding
Copyright © Jim Slominski