Post Road Magazine #24

A Rocket to Venus

Greg Nicholl

The kid at the table across from us
tosses Brussels sprouts into the candle
to see if they will catch fire,

her parents intent upon her trying
just one bite of the jambalaya or salted sea beans
they find so satisfying.

She's performing, converting boredom
into defiance, hoping to enthrall me
so that I might liberate her from an evening

that has become solely about sustenance.
My first encounter with slimy greens
not unlike the scene unfolding next to us,

only I pretended I was from a different planet
where we spoke in nothing but clicks and whistles
and survived on ice cream alone.

My own meal incomprehensible to a child:
strips of Korean-style beef and fried rice ball,
the kimchi filled pierogi nothing more

than foreign discs dropped onto a plate.
I want to tell her about this restaurant,
the origin of its name, the three friends who

attempted to launch a rocket to Venus in 1928.
But the father has already called for the check
and the mother has pulled the girl outside

into a street baking in 100 degree heat.
And that is the last I will see of her
like all the kids who stared at me on the subway

or waved from a bus on the highway,
disappointed as they looked into our back seat
and saw that it was empty.

Walk Through

Greg Nicholl

After learning the last of the newborn rabbits had disappeared.
After morning. After flash floods. After hearing

that our neighbors count nights they haven't slept
with hash marks on the back of a closet door

surfacing only for emergency diaper runs to the store.
After realizing with each year a child

seems more unlikely.
After moving across the country for the fourth time

and acknowledging in retrospect
just how easy it is to uproot a life, to arrange

all that we own in boxes then haul them away.
Only then do I appreciate empty rooms.

The nail that releases its weight. Sockets
both impotent and barren. Locks that turn once

then are forgotten.

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