About the Writer
Nicholas Reading is the author of the chapbook The Party In Question (Burnside Review Press, 2007). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Bat City Review, jubilat, Nimrod, Painted Bride Quarterly, and San Pedro River Review. He also serves as the Managing Editor for Sport Literate.
BEVERLEY HILLS SUPPER CLUB FIRE
- Southgate, KY 1977
As families arrive comics rehearse bits. As
bar-backs fold towels. As napkins and bottles
are checked and emptied. As another ticket
is sold. Tables are filled. Waitresses, line-cooks,
and busboys working the Labor Day shift.
As bands warm up. As aluminum wiring
and John Davidson catch again. As if
there was a neat way that it could end. Calm
announcements suggested evacuation.
As on-lookers shrugged. As flames slipped through
the kitchen onto the stage. As chairs became hazards.
As though doors would open to hundreds as stairs
began to sag, smoke running down to the river.
As our feet stepped over bodies left underneath
feet slipping outdoors. As names were called.
As my name was called over smoke
smelling like Ohio. As sirens.
As around the corner. As a mother.
As if everybody was lucky. As more bodies.
As the Fort Thomas Armory morgue.
As a historical marker. As we remember it.
AN ACCOUNT OF EXTREME WEATHER
It reached three-hundred-fifty degrees
that day, warping trash-can lids,
melting tricycles’ tires. Road kill cooked
like hams and the river got heatstroke.
Around The Neighborhood
All of the dog catchers went on strike. The dogs,
for their part, found shade in the junkyard until
crows descended and picked them clean. There was
no difference between the bones and the metal.
When one doctor caught fire from the shine
off one syringe every nurse followed suit.
Ambulances were renovated into ice boxes
for the survivors and rivers began to fill.
The Children’s Lesson
The front door blocked the afternoon’s
entrance into the house. To their delight, the heat
broke every family’s lawn mower. And at night
the kids still around kicked a can in the woods.
Around Every Dinner Table
Husbands and wives listed the bills
that hadn’t been paid. They rationed stamps
and gin. Boiled pasta and a sauce with no garlic.
Not a scent of spice to cover the spoilt flesh.
Work was cancelled. Schools let out and churches
took down their steeples. One boy tried
to fly away from his bedroom window. A girl
with wishes in her hair followed him to the cliffs.
THE FATE OF POINT PLEASANT
Days put you to sleep. Walking errands you wake
And they’re all out when you arrive. Details recalled:
it was overcast.
The joke is so many people stayed in line. Boys held hats
like offering plates.
I imagine none of us had been to church for years
for a reason.
Once in a grocery, somewhere in West Virginia
I was in line with beer
when all the lights flashed off. It was mid-afternoon.
No one flinched
but me. We bought our macaroni and beef stew
Evening and its wings soon enveloped us all
and I didn’t know
I was a part. Now it seems there isn’t a town
that I don’t
try to leave behind. Driving over the bridge
every morning I think this will be the last time.
Pass a livestock trailer.
Blur solid lines as youth become cashiers
at the corner gas
saying over and over, go back the way you came.
Turn at the light.
You’ll pass the inn or stay forever. You can’t miss it.