Darrell Petska’s writing has appeared in Whirlwind, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Plainsongs, The Missing Slate, HEArt Online, frequently in The New Verse News, and elsewhere. Communications editor for many years with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Darrell left academia to be the arbiter of his own words. He lives in Middleton, Wisconsin.
Fried okra, recalling his grandma. Hominy grits, though none like his mama’s. Pepperoni pizza—that once-a-week drive to town with his boy. Sugar tea, his wife’s lips that sweet. Apple pie he’d tell them to put aside for “later”. Setting him free to live it one more time: their cabin in pine-raked sunlight, women’s capable hands, scents rising from the old wood stove, evenings cool and fragrant setting in, mama humming while grandma strings tales on the porch and stars pop out of the sky. God damn. He’ll eat every crumb, not the pie. Knowing he’ll shit himself in the morning. Amused they’ll have to clean it up. Because nothing will matter then, not good or evil, life or death, murder or revenge, not even okra frying in cornmeal-batter he could smell halfway down the hollow, taste in the air, see mounded on a platter as he raced through the trees and startled chickens on his way to the table. It was so good, all so damn good he would take in everything he could, then just drift off to sleep.
The Law of Perpetual Motion
Move, so he moves, a roulette-wheel marble never allowed to land. The library steps. Move. The fountain in the square. Move. The bench by McDonald’s. Move along. With his ball and chain. Carving a groove in his concrete circuit. His ghost teetering on every corner. Occupying space until the authorities come along. Grab your pack. Go where you won’t be seen. So he moves. Time heavy on his back. Mind uncertain how he came here, where he might go. Just move. There’s an ordinance says those who do nothing deserve nothing. Are nothing. Move. To the warehouse district where security says move. To the mall where the mall cops say move. To the train yard where the trains say it. And strollers in the park. And dogs and bugs and gulls. Only the graves at the cemetery show him some mercy. Stay, they sigh. Rest. But there’s always some gravedigger who won’t let him settle. So he goes.