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BRANDON LOPEZ

Brandon Lopez is a Chicano writer, living and working in Portland, Oregon. He grew up in Maine. He often writes about the spaces between cultures, or the parts that more often go unseen. This is his first publication.



HUNGER

Tattoo stood in the cold autumn air

ink stained his skin like inflamed claw marks

 

Deer grazed crab apples in the pasture 

beyond the squatted tract of farmland

 

The thick pungent taste of venison 

taunted his desire

 

Felonies and the courts forbid him 

firearms

 

With a salt lick stuck under the tree, he climbed 

lumbering his bulk through the lower branches

 

The day, slate gray like jail walls 

 

Poised, he gripped a thick handled knife, 

blade bright under the pallid sky,  

smooth edge sneering violently

 

Deer emerged from the brush

cloven hooves touched lightly on 

the crisp fallen leaves

 

A buck crowned in furry antlers 

paused at the lick

 

Knife held high, Tattoo dropped 

stabbed hard into the shoulder

striking heart

 

Blood pumped thick from the wound 

as it kicked in spasm

 

Tattoo hugged the buck closely, like it was

his to possess, and it was 



TIME SERVED


We drove the backways of Maine

 

Down rural country roads littered with repair shops

that spilled rusted parts onto unmowed lawns

 

Forgotten churches, with white paint chipped onto

the ground below like fallen angels gathered in death

 

Her body sat nestled in the passenger seat

head turned to scan for deer in the open fields

hands tucked tight under her thighs like a little girl

 

The towns we passed, unchanged by the years

what looked like poverty was a simple approach to life

the libraries, post offices and churches

all looked like churches

 

Lakes, rivers and streams passed on both sides

as we meandered through the thick deer woods

 

Abandoned cemeteries sprinkled the shoulders of the road

small plots framed by mossy wrought iron fences

family plots of a few dozen headstones

forgotten names rubbed smooth by countless winters

 

Arriving at our destination, we stepped into the cold

hats pulled low, collars up, backs stiff against the wind

a simple nod of agreement put us back in the car

 

That was pretty

Yes it was

 

We drove the old highways back to town

past the lakes, rivers, cemeteries, spilled guts of repair shops

variety stores and churches

 

The silence cleaved us like the rivers that scarred the land



EXHALE


Harry drove down a pockmarked dirt road

headlights pitched as if at sea

 

Arm rested in the open window

cigarette pinched between fingers


The cool air chilled his feverish face

he drove until the road ran out

then pulled onto an overgrown shoulder

and tore a can from its plastic ring

 

His jaw set tight with despair

the can clanked against the floorboard at his feet

 

He didn’t look up at the stars he couldn’t name

or all the plants cataloged by dead men

 

Crickets ebbed and flowed

as if tugged by the moon

a bullfrog groaned for a mate

 

The smell of hay, light and sweet like his beer

mixed with his cigarette

 

A horse whinnied in the distance

Harry listened for the first time that night

 

The can fell with the others

cigarette clamped between clenched teeth

he reached for another beer and

grabbed the rifle racked behind his head


Two steps through tall grass bridged a shallow gully


Eyes adjusted to the dark

the rifle cracked as the horse dropped where it stood

the clamor in Harry’s head cleared

 

He scanned for another

nothing

 

Face rubbed with cold hands, thirst quenched

he drove home through the crisp night air




LONG RANGE


Men gathered in a stark garage to 

drink and take pills

 

Dale arrived late, having spent the day 

in the rushed cold of the north

with hopes to fill a freezer 

with venison

 

Inside the men relaxed against the 

violence of their daily lives

bottles passed between hands

scarred from work and fist fights 

pills swallowed whole or crushed 

and snorted with a delicate touch

 

A bare bulb cast ugly shadows as 

Dale sloshed like dirty bath water 

the room pulsed as he paused for footing 


His boots crunched the hard packed snow 


At his truck, the knife-sharp

air sobered him momentarily

 

Inside, rifle across his lap

Dale turned the gun in his hands 

showed the men his new toy

 

With a careless caress the rifle slipped

stock first against the floor

recoiling on impact

the bullet ripped through his jaw

 

Bone, cartilage, and flesh

scattered like deer in a field

Dale pressed his hands against 

the remnants of his face

 

A lone tooth sat perched on a shelf

as if placed carefully, like 

a trinket from a summer trip

 

The paramedics arrived as 

Dale scratched a note they 

didn’t bother to read






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