Alex Stolis

Still Life with Bullets

Part One [1978 & 2009]


Kansas would know when the moment was appropriate; know 
it as if it were a learned fact. It was a bird with wings, it was dark. 
She wanted the lights off. She was never ashamed of her body 
and always liked shadows; likes to watch the angled lines of light 
hit the sheets and imagines the ocean or the moon or some other
obvious cliché. She wants un-boring, she wants to be an origami
a signature a message in a bottle floating on the crest of a wave.
He enters her and she gasps. It’s what he expects. 

                              She gets dressed [pulls her jeans up] brushes
             her hand through her hair [reason #3 to have it cut off]  
             slings her bag over her shoulder, smiles [as if she enjoyed 
             every second [thirty seconds total] walks out the door into
             a coma. 
She has a husband. Lake of the Isles is a light buzz of people and cars and children
waiting for busses. She shivers as she waits, it’s easier to love by subscription; lines
become straight in auto-response, nothing to read between or beyond.          


Paradise was doing 70 mph on the road outside New- Duluth 
barreling down  the hill to Fond du Lac. Tom was too drunk 
to drive, Pat was on the floor of the big Ford boat. Tom, rolled 
in the bench seat laughing so hard he could barely even talk. 
Pat was stoned, head back, hands pounding on the backseat 
whooping. Paradise was a kite caught in a tree. Val accused 
him of cheating;  he couldn’t tell her he wanted to die in his 
sleep, within reach of all his mistakes. 

                              Once, he practiced suicide with an unloaded gun
            then took off to NYC, wind whipped and born again. It didn’t 
            stick right. He came back tattooed and infinite; flat broke, 
            not quite ready to live.

He remembers too easily for comfort, recalls reasons and alibis; knee length skirts
and fingers hooked through belt loops. He has a bullet, give him a gun he’ll shoot
the moon. 


The day before the earthquake Kansas was drinking red wine, 
remembering the first time, knowing how easy it is to confuse
wine for blood, blood for love, love for suffering. She knows 
redemption is simple knows what she cannot see, makes a toast; 
to the flit of wings and the buzz of leaves in an autumn wind. 
She remembers everything, how the world became rock and sky; 
quartz and pyrite, how her name, on his lips, became weightless.

                                 She undresses, thinks out loud, how the simple 
            act of being told it's time to go to bed, time to go to sleep
            always nearly makes her cum in her knickers. 

Today she decides to paint. She wraps her body in darkness, shifts with the air
until she is bare as the winter trees. The canvas remains blank, she is untitled 
undocumented unreported.


It’s 2 AM or close enough to last call it didn’t matter. Her name was Felicia
or Melissa or doesn’t matter. She was the Periodic Table of Elements; argon, 
oxygen and nitrogen. She was combustible, flammable; the wrong turn with
the right amount of regret. Paradise bought her another drink as she rolled 
a joint. Told him Joe Strummer would die for their sins. Knew that angels
were a myth and the only way to be saved was to pretend. Paradise took 
a hit, held the smoke in his lungs until it burned raw. She kissed the crucifix 
around his neck, he felt the weight of heaven, felt himself get hard.

                             He drove her home. She took him to her room, shushed 
            him when he unhooked her bra.  He slid his hand down her pants, 
            her friend’s phone number in his back pocket. 

He imagines she is in an attic studio. Imagines there is a dog. Imagines two kids
getting dressed for school. Imagines the paper in his hand is a letter, one small
page that contains her voice, her skin, her cunt when she’s wet for him.

Alex Stolis lives in Minneapolis.
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