A NIGHT JUST SO

A Poem by John Grey

A rough road rose just west of Landsborough,
through dairy country,
past an emu breeding farm,
a hermit’s shack with a rusty tireless truck out front,
into wooded uplands.

One summer night, we drove up there,
a couple of friends, our girls,
windows down so wind blew sticky air through air
as the dust we raised
left a trail of frenzied clouds.

With headlights that glowed
like possum eyes,
we bumped and bruised our way
to the abandoned dam
half way up a hill,
probably snake-infested
but we were young
and already bitten by lust.

In the distance,
I could hear my buddies
going at it open-mouthed
but Katie and I merely
sat for hours talking movies.
She had a crush on Robert Redford.
I was a Clint Eastwood kind of guy
in thought though hardly in deed.

We held hands.
I kissed her once or twice
but was far too uncertain to go on with it.
Even when her hair dropped on my shoulder,
I left it there, like a gift under a tree
to be opened who knows when.

Yet, I felt elated, inspirited, just sitting with her
and staring toward the east.
The coast resorts were a distant pinkish glow
then all went dark
before sunrise restored the horizon’s coral sheen.
It was the first time in my life
I could describe a night just so.

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No-No Bear

A Short Story by IV Olokita

It’s been a while since you and I met on our first date. This time I promised myself I’d try a little harder. I always need to remind myself to tell you how beautiful you are, or at least, let you know how much of a perfect match you are for me. And as of this moment to come, I hope everything will be simple: you will say, yes, and I will breathe again.

What if you’ll say no?

Suddenly I remember why I called you ‘No-No bear’ on our first dates. I put this name on you as an amusing nickname, but only in my thoughts so you wouldn’t be mad at me. Now I’m pressured by your possible reaction, and my eyes are fixed deep in yours. I guess this is what happens when you start a new romantic relationship with someone you like. Maybe I’ll just keep things as they are now imagining you smiling at me and not saying a word, painting my life with you as if we’ll never live them. In the next moment, after you protested in the car that it was all wrong and asked me to quit smiling, I took my eyes off your face and drove. You scowl like you always do, this time over God and his brazen rainbow, the one that stretched out at you. Then you asked me to brake, got out of the car and went to the center of the road angrily; confronting it once and for all.

“No-No Bear,” I called out to you. The windows of the car were closed, and the engine was running, yet I was still afraid that you might have heard me laughing too loudly. I looked to the other side of the road, but I knew, you never gave up on anyone — not even God’s colorful smile. You were mad. You raged on the rainbow that stood there in the middle of the road, stretching out into the nearby field. I heard you yell at her to move and clear your way; it was a juicy curse, something about her mother. Poor rainbow tried to explain, then moved a little and asked if that was all right. Suddenly you smiled, you said thank you words, and everyone in the traffic jam behind us applauded you, in fact, they hugged the both of you.

You sat down to the car, sat by my side and said nothing. Maybe you asked me to change the radio station. I turned it off and smiled back as you leaned back and closed your eyes.

‘No-No Bear,’ the words almost out of my mouth, but you didn’t notice, even though I hoped you would. I quickly drove on, you panicked, opened your eyes.

“Do you want us both to die?” a growl in the shape of a question and I blushed a little and slowed down.

“So what do you really like?” I asked quietly, a question of defeat.

“What did you just ask?” .

“What is it that you like if you’re mad at all the things in the world?” Then I hesitated almost ready to give up.

You leaned back a little longer and smiled. At the end of it was a tear. Then you answered with a false cough, “I love my mother, my father, and certainly, I you.”

Józef Czapski

In 1917, Józef Czapski told his commanding officer that he couldn’t kill his fellow man. He had trained to fight against the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. He thought for sure he would be court-martialed or shot. Instead, his commanding officer told him, “When I was young, I also wanted to change the world. Go. Try.”

And for the next seventy years, he did.

See also: Józef Czapski: A Life in Translation
by Keith Botsford