“Smelled like…victory.”— Major Kilgore, Apocalypse Now (1979)
I burned GI Joes with my buddy Jake. We were ten; it was the end of summer. The flame to plastic wouldn’t always take, I’d hold the lighter hard, singe my thumb, fake manliness, squash the pain. I remember, when burning Joes with my buddy Jake, my uncle OD’d on his couch; he looked awake, Mom said, the war in his belly like embers. The flame to plastic wouldn’t always take, you’d have to be thorough, you’d have to wait out the tedium in each plastic member. We burned GI Joes, me and Jake, after the silence of my uncle’s wake which took something like forever. The flame to plastic wouldn’t always take, we grew impatient; we’d simulate our best napalm efforts: gas and fire. I burned GI Joes with my buddy Jake; The flame to plastic wouldn’t always take.
When my daughter was born she looked bewildered, as one does, I guess. The doctor cupped her head with his palm like an oracle; her eyes flinched like a liar’s.
I thought she’d look as Fitzgerald’s Dutch sailors looked: on a fresh, green breast of the new world. The room’s light sharpened, the machines buzzed, the haste
deepened. I thought of Alien, how Ridley Scott rendered birth—all pulsation and blood and panic. When I was born my mother bled; I looked at the world and hissed.
Before they stitched her up I scurried to the cold and the steel and the fluorescence.
-- Matt LaFreniere lives with his wife and daughter in Baltimore City. He teaches English at the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland. His work has appeared in Pilgrimage Magazine, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Spry Literary Magazine, Utter, and others.