Nebraska Center for Writers

by William Trowbridge

"Frrriend," pronounces Karloff amid the scent
and burble of lamb stew, leaning forward
in the wooden chair, shaping his mouth
to match the old man's. The growl subsides

and the stitched-on felon's hands unclench

as he turns the word over like a shiny stone
he's just discovered in a river bed, turns us
back toward whatever first blind hand

drew us from the forest to the little hearth

and softened our heart with fiddle and cigar. The music
warmed us and the smoke teased our throat till we
made a grin, stomped our boot, puffed

like the train from Nuremberg. "Friend GOOOD!"

we growled, shaking the floor, reaching for the fire.

Reprinted with permission from Flickers
Copyright © 2000 by William Trowbridge
U of Arkansas Press

by William Trowbridge

In Shane, when Jack Palance first appears,
a stray cur takes one look and slinks away
on tiptoes, able, we understand, to recognize
something truly dark. So it seems
when we appear, crunching through the woods.
A robin cocks her head, then hops off,
ready to fly like hell and leave us the worm.
A chipmunk, peering out from his hole
beneath a maple root, crash dives
when he hears our step. The alarm spreads in a skittering
of squirrels, finches, millipedes. Imagine
a snail picking up the hems of his shell
and hauling ass for cover. He's studied carnivores,
seen the menu, noticed the escargots.

But forget Palance, who would have murdered Alabama
just for fun. Think of Karloff's monster,
full of lonely love but too hideous
to bear; or Kong, bereft with Fay Wray
shrieking in his hand: the flies circle our heads
like angry biplanes, and the ants hoist pitchforks
to march on our ankles as we watch the burgher's daughter
bob downstream in a ring of daisies.

Reprinted with permission from Enter Dark Stranger
Copyright © 1989 by William Trowbridge
U of ArkansasPress

by William Trowbridge

I sat behind the man in the motorcycle pants
and the woman with hair like a shocked sombrero.
All of us would be blown away in the vast concussion
of Tony's art, which was good. So said the leader,
a tube-shaped woman who made hand washing
motions while recounting Tony's terrible struggle
to get where he was, which was by the cheese plate,
and apologized about the projector's having too little
power for such a large piece of art, though somehow
adjustments were made. And so commenced a mighty
flickering. "FEED ME!" screamed an angry severed
head (Tony's). "CLOTHE ME!" "There is still
PREJUDICE!" Much activity followed this: a person
stood there, another looked aside, another
scratched his foot (all Tony, but with different
earrings each time). Then window curtains parted
to reveal an atomic bomb, Rudy Vallee, and the last
five minutes of someone else's art,
entitled Easy Rider. After the applause,
the lights came on, and Tony himself stood
to tell us what to think, though he didn't think
anyone could say anything about what his pictures
meant. "Like meaning," he said, "always means
like the same thing anyway: Bourgeois
Capitalism and Phallocentricity," which I'm
almost sure was that Belgian dance act
I followed at the Roxy. Finally the man
in the pants asked Tony if he didn't think
that the treatment of artists was like the Holocaust
and where did he buy his boots, to which Tony
replied that questions about art were fascist and Gucci's
basement. Before leaving, I tried to drink
some carrot juice out of the little plastic cup.

Reprinted with permission from O Paradise
Copyright © 1995 by William Trowbridge
U of Arkansas Press

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