Mudlark Flash No. 82 (2013)

Four Suburbans by Christopher Cessac

Me and the Devil Blues
    at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon

It takes the faith of a stripper and the bravado
of a monk to build a civilization, so civilization
is not the goal. We can do better. Love 
may be the most obvious but wisdom is another:

most of our needs will not be met by commerce 
or anger. And if our first poets determined Eros

was first among the gods—before all things 
save chaos and a world—who wants experience 

or science enough to disagree? Pick some garish
jungle flower, loud as a train, petals thick

as tongues, and let that fragile, impractical bloom
serve as your role model: beautiful, absurd,

harmless. To long for more and to disregard 
the beautiful before you are not the same.

Beyond Good and Evil
    on date night

It is the newest suburb of an ancient city
and what your ex-husband’s ex calls “romance”

is scarce. The neon was wrong: no Piano 
and what little there is of a Bar is closing

too soon. In the corner sit Good and Evil—
beerbreathed, bifocaled, pearshaped as the rest of us—

reworking the same tales of youth and conquest 
they’ve heard too often. Too little time for what 

we want—bartenders and our tiny lives are too much 
alike: a damn hurry to get home and no idea where 

that is. Even the sitter is certain she has someplace 
better to be. Or not to be, right? The wrong 

questions have always been our problem.
The answers we had down from the get go.

Midsummer-Night’s Dream
    in baggage claim

And why not ridicule the tourists? Careful 
to conceal our desire to be tourists too, anywhere 

lush and loose and elsewhere. Arrivals, departures, 
delays—knowledge can get you precisely how far 

and how fast, begs thy snot-dripping toddler 
between fits of rage and genius. Peter Quince, “truth 

makes all things plain,” but isn’t that the problem? 
The relatives will turn up eventually; the drive home

as familiar as any plot twist. A blend of monotony 
and terror, we call it “home” but mean something 

like “test market.” Centuries ago, you and I 
were already too old for this. Three years in this town: 

drought, flood, drought. Knowledge gets you how far? 
And why not ridicule the tourists? Careful.

Ars Amatoria
    in the express checkout lane

Everything—love, lust, even our alphabet— 
was young once. If only to amuse death

we should have paused more for photographs.  
Or less. Having reduced their immediate desire

to ten items or less, the young lovers before us
in line remind us of blameless lives our mothers 

and doctors dreamt for us before these small crimes 
that we call a career—the romance of life 

in this provincial outpost is no romance. Eros, 
that deathless, heartless god of hearts, taught us 

to make our own sweet trouble by abandoning
us as he abandons all in time. Our time alone

together: a lucky marriage of sweat and song, 
life held close, with purpose, if only to amuse death.

Christopher Cessac has published two collections of his poems, Eros Among the Americans (Main Street Rag 2010) and Republic Sublime (Zoo Press 2003), which won the Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry. His poetry has also appeared in Antioch Review, Black Warrior Review, Cimarron Review, Kenyon Review, Sycamore Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. His website can be found at

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