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Scott Whitaker

Published in: PifMagazine, Fresh Ground, The MacGuffin, Niedergnasse Review, The Emerson Review, Gangsters in Concrete
Awards: Emerson Review Prize for Poetry, Boston University Poetry Fellowship Award
Other: Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Boston University, currently teaches English and Creative Writing


Under the bowed legs of curtains
fans drone in bedroom windows
and lift the building into space
as far as blue
can go.

Itís almost impossible to make out the woman I call Debra
from all the white fans,
from all the promiscuous bleats and conversation
that leak through the walls

like greasy understains.
Itís so much that I often forget Debra! I often
forget that she is more
than interference.

The quality of her voice is like onion skin paper,
so thin her lips could be traced
as they form fricatives,
her teeth as they bite the bottom

of her kiss. The smell of her
perfume braids with smoke
before the line
goes dead.

It will be minutes before she will make the phone call again.

Buildings with old heating vents are buildings
with roots because
air vents reach from the tarpaper scalp
and tick off
through each floor
before sinking into the soil line.

Disembodied voices float through bedrooms,
radio spam, crossed transmissions.

Debra has a throaty voice
she speaks through vodka
and smoke.

She and Walter will be late
so donít forget to give Katie her meds
or her heart will ache
and the flutter might shake her senseless.

Disembodied voices crawl through pipes and out onto the floor,
out of a hole under
the radiator.

Stories come from a hole in the ground.
Is this dreamland? What station is this?
Itís hard to tell what bounce is real
and which one is the box.

A childís swinging spoon
wails against his motherís pot. Sheís bruised
so tenderly
below the nape of her neck. Sheís known,
at times, to be stationed at the sink,
her murky portrait visible
from every unit.
Spends her nights brewing tea
and nursing her ears
with a hot bath.

TV noise creeps along the floor
and settles about the radiatorís feet
clicking like some black scuttle pest.

And above the stomping
and the back, back,
back of the throat,
other languages spoken above

shoot across the length of the room,
and dissolve into static.

One morning there was a dollop of blue
paint in the middle of the hallway floor.

A drop the size of a quarter,
or a nipple,

an unhitched thought.

All afternoon comments clocked in
at fifty miles an hour.

Whatís that blue thing? Fucking blue bug. Donít step in that! Blue, Fuck
You! (laughter),
Only the blue survive. The lead underneath will poison us all (And) Why
doesnít someone
call the building manager?

Have you ever been in a field
and felt nothing but the wind
and heard nothing but the wind?
Perhaps the wind coming across
the winter grass, through the dogwoods.
The whine the wind makes! The rumors
the grass spreads. The ruckus.

Once there was the sound of a dragging heel
scraping across the back

like a wounded animal.
The drag trail was an inch wide
through the trash
from the top
of the alley
to where it stopped
at the back door.

As the sound scraped by
the beast could not be seen
but the faint odor
of unwashed flesh

floated out in a lilly aura around the window.

What if there is nothing but dust and flame
and radio waste? Broken lines
like so many pieces of broken glass.

Living in this world is like living in an apartment building
where all the walls are thin
and Squeaky Morse Code transmits
by the squawk of pipe
as sinks fizz

and fill with water.

Itís easy to awaken and believe that radio transmissions unscrew
themselves out of iron filled teeth
because next door

Spanish girls make a circus
of dishes and bounce
their radio out into the alley.

From the back itís easy to see
how everyone shares in junking
the place up.
Rooms so close together that all signals
traveling the root
must eventually cross
and feedback.

Debra is having a problem
with her little girl.

I really must get out more often.

Thereís only the thin scrim between which can be popped
by something as sharp as the onion shrill of a worried mother.

Itís a wonder the tenants donít up and kill each other.

This is probably for the best.