6.08 / July 2011

Night Person on a Big Morning Holiday Train

Collect ideas for the morning that won’t let you sleep. Collect ideas for the end of the passage through the porcelain cup. Call it paper. A paper cup. Dirtied with boiled black coffee streamed and sputtered from the coffee beak in the lounge car. Dirty coffee, d d d d d. Walk through the cars, cup to face, cups to faces, the cacophonous eye chorus of mock oxygen mask movements. Paper cups and faces. And people who talk a lot at six in the morning. It’s a windowless tit shack, but they’ve all got their clothes on. All day in the smoker. The length of time you roast meats. Rump roast. Day-old seats. Sex? Meats. Nitrates. Paper cups, squat cups, hot water slosh, your seatmate a sweating paddlewheeler. Monosodium. There’s a button on the side of the seat that might help him out. That? Put your foot on it, rest your feet. Push the chair back. Here’s a little fork, dig out the crabmeat, little prima-fork in his hands, imagine offering it all to him, itty cups of melted butter in metal ramekins, tink-tink seafood, flesh-flower chunks and manhands, snacks instead of meals, hand meat mirage not crabs we’ve got lobsters lobsters lobsters lobsters ok ok ok OK

On record covers sometimes the people look off to somewhere. Sometimes, looking up out of the left corner of the record cover. So look out the window. After all, there are windows. It’s Fourth of July weekend. Seatmate, overheard that He’s Busy. Like a grain-fed hen. Like a hen bathed in butter and herbs and roasted to a sunset color. Meat sun coming round to sit on the earth. It’s a good bet he feels more like dinnerware than the hen, though. That’s the sleeper car trick he’s pulling there. People can practically eat off of you, you’re so passed out. And then they don’t eat you. It’s like increasing your vertical jump.

A Grandma: Where’s my purse? Thirty minutes later, to the conductor, she says: This is the third train trip we’ve taken on my birthday! Where are you going? the conductor asks. Her pupil sets in its iris peel. She’s silent. Backup plans blank blank. Grandma’s grandson stands up. He’s wearing a t-shirt that says “The Third Train Trip for Grandma’s Birthday.” Double grandburger. These are my flowers, Grandma says. What are these flowers called? the conductor asks. No, that’s the back of the arrangement. Turn it around, she says. He says, I can feel the excitement, enjoy your flowers. Then he moves on. Imagine a dead cat with a full stomach. Her seeing is like that. Just try to lift everyone’s skirt at once. Like passing the hem of the war memorial again.

Jenny Gropp Hess lives in Tuscaloosa, in case you ever want to find her. Her writing resides in Colorado Review, Seneca Review, Unsaid, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, American Letters & Commentary, Parcel, The Hat, and others. She attends the University of Alabama, where she recently finished a stint as editor of Black Warrior Review.