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Two Poems
by Doug Sutton-Ramspeck

Ontology in Shaker Heights

The first car we torched was a '78 Buick Skylark,
and for weeks afterwards-while injecting horse
into our veins in Nate's gazebo or taking porn
Polaroids of T. J.'s sister in her cotillion dress-
all we could talk about were those gas-driven flames
and the debate between Heraclitus and Parmenides
about whether you can ever step into the same river
twice. T. J. often came back to Plato's assertion
that knowledge is a subset of that which is both true
and believed, but Nate was a pure constructivist
who would sometimes pause while we were shoplifting
to mock Socrates for referring always to every poor slob
in a chiton as a "surprising man." My own interests
tended more toward normative ethics and aesthetic universals,
and sometimes after school when we broke into a house
along the river I would take a sledge hammer to a chandelier
then ponder Greenberg's theory about artistic mediums
purifying themselves into unique form. But in the end
it was the Buick we couldn't forget. The flames had risen
into the sky like an a priori truth, the metaphysical smoke
drifting across the eighth green. And for the first time
in our young lives we rejected Berkeley and even Schopenhauer
and began to believe in the almost mystical possibilities
of panpsychism: everything was sentient, it suddenly seemed,
even a beautiful burning Skylark at the Country Club.

Coleridge Sits at Lunch with the Stoners

The woman spooning these mashed potatoes
onto my plate is an Abyssinian maid,
dressed as always in a silken smock of white,
with a hairnet and plastic baggies covering her hands
as gloves, and she wields her silver instrument
as gently as though plucking a dulcimer.
I know I will dream of her tonight
approaching me by the sacred river or the sunless sea,
and her flashing eyes and floating hair
will weave a circle as my demon lover.
But for now I join my friends at the back table
and we talk about what we've been smoking
of sniffing or huffing or shooting in the bathroom,
and we tell of how we are not slaves
like the rest but have burst our manacles,
how we worship the spirit of divinest liberty,
and how we alone perform this secret ministry.
And that is when I see her. A sophomore hotty
with a voice both faint and sweet,
walking with her tray toward the cheerleaders,
walking so that that I can picture her
right then unbind the cincture from beneath her breast,
can see her silken robe and inner vest drop
to her feet, can imagine how the touch of that bosom
will work on me forever its magic spell.

About the author:
My poetry book,
Black Tupelo Country, was selected for the 2007 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and is published by BkMk Press (University of Missouri-Kansas City). My chapbook, Where We Come From, is published by March Street Press. I direct the Writing Center and teach English at The Ohio State University at Lima.

© 2011 Word Riot

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Midnight Picnic
a novel by
Nick Antosca


The Suburban Swindle

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