Double Bird
Bud Smith

First warm night, I pry my window open.

Who nailed this shut? 

Room dark. Apartment quiet. Today I took a seven hour bath, but kept the drain slightly open and the hot water dripping.

Hour six of that bath: gained sudden love for this wayward human race.

I remembered a magazine article that said there is a 40 million to 1 chance of ever being born.

After all that struggle, you'd think we'd be kinder to each other once we're here.

Tonight, finally the radiators are silent.

Finally, I've forgiven everyone who's trespassed against me.

There is no traffic outside. The highway wrapping around this city is vacant. Birds have not come back yet.

Ants either. Or the ice cream man. 

But there is the swiss cheese moon, and I wave at it, pushing my duck feather pillow away, rolling over. Maybe I'll never sleep again. Just stay up, make Erfff better. Make grass and dirt better.

City is better.

Heart heart, big building, walls that push out or suck in with the breath of a communal zillion, all lottery winners by getting born.

The dirt road I grew up on had no art, had no magic Chinese herbs or acupuncture, had no ballet, had no police chasing crooks across rooftops, bounding building to building; had no sorcery; had no opera sung in warped hallways; had no weeping in stairwells—had no great heights.

I hope I see some of that soon.

Have gotten bored and have taken it out on my arch nemesis in this neighborhood—lives across the street. I squint at his dark window.

I have every modern convenience, including this zippo lighter. Namaste.

Light a cigarette in bed.

Sigh. Raise screen, hang head out over street.

Goddamn, what is that?

A shriek.

Across the street, a shriek like an eagle falling out of a sky it once owned.

Red hot firework coming at me …


Jump out of way of rocket and sparks kissing my bearded cheek. My cigarette falling in bed.

The Roman Candle bounces off the closet door, ends up in my laundry hamper full of dirty clothes.

I shout, "Fuck! Fuck!"

I spring up. "Fuck. Fuck."

Sprint to kitchen. Stub toe on door jamb. Hamper clothes on fire. Open cabinet door—grab the fire extinguisher and run back into room—fuck fuck—flickering fire light and hurry—remove fire fighting pin! And depress handle! And a putter of wind but no powder comes out of the extinguisher.

Toe broken. Toe bleeding.

I run back into the kitchen and grab the spaghetti pot off the stove—run water over the spaghetti that is left in the pot and toss that on the fire—smoke detector screaming and I'm panting like an animal.

But, great whoooooosh and fire done.

Clothing ruined. Charred.

Popping, spitting, steam and smoke.

Then I'm back at window coughing, looking out.

And now orange light across street.

His bedroom light on.

The kid is sitting in the window.

Bandages wrapped around his skull from where I hit him in the head yesterday with jug of rotten leftover milk.

"Well played you little shit!"

He waves the middle finger at me.

I cross and uncross double birds at him, arms weaving in and out.

"Even?" I shout.

"Fuck no, old man."


Slamming our mutual windows down.

Both smiling.

I see my favorite pillow burning up from the cigarette; I grab the cigarette, stick it in my teeth. Pat the fire out with my palms.

And there on my bed sheet is a single ant, crawling out from whatever winter was.

There on the sheet, the first of many ants crawls out from whatever winter was.

Bud Smith works heavy construction in New Jersey. He is the author of two novels, F 250 and Tollbooth, a short story collection, Or Something Like That, and a poetry collection, Everything Neon. He runs Unknown Press.

Detail of painting on main page by Leah Gilberson.

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