Zulema brought a Ouija board to 3rd period

Zulema brought a Ouija board to 3rd period. She’d lost her boyfriend to the war. He was shot by friendly fire in Syria. No civilian in America had even known he was there; a ghost before he became one. Zulema set up the board on her desk. She asked the other seniors, who wants to play? Edwardo, Elonganel, Miriam, Alizea and Anna wilted in their chairs, hoping to completely disappear. Zulema dusted the board with a silk bandana. It was a shade of purple I’d never seen. Turn off the lights, she said to me. Turn off the AC, she said to me. She gave me a look to sit down at the desk facing hers. I had no choice but to do as she commanded. I got the feeling she’d done all this before. She asked the board, Jose, can you hear me? Jose said, yes. She asked the board, Jose, can you see me? Jose said, yes. She asked the board, Jose, do you still love me? There was a pause. She asked again, Jose, do you still love me? Jose said, no. She asked the board, why? Outside a roadrunner hopped up to the windowsill—dark clouds closed in behind him. He struck the glass so hard with his beak I thought he might break through. Luis raised his hand, can I go to the bathroom? Zulema’s eyes were brimming with held back tears. She asked again, why? The heavy wooden door to the classroom slammed shut—Jose, quit stalling! A centimeter beneath the tips of our fingers the planchette was still. I got the feeling Jose was having a hard time finding the right words to break a heart. I thought about how easy actions are. I simply lifted my hands away from the board and headed for the door when Zulema said, no, no, no, you can’t go until Jose says you can go.


His Family Lights 293 Luminarias Every Night Until Christmas

for my neighbor Tim 1956–2020

293 luminarias 

line both sides 

of the street.

Parallel stalks 

of star grass glow 

in the smoky haze.

293 luminarias 

tealight the runway 

for a ghost.

A splatter

of soft syllables

upon the walls.

Each one a wobble 

of whatever grace 

their wick contains.


It Was the Day of my Vasectomy

It was the day of my vasectomy.

The nurse wiped me down with iodine.

I was 2 Xanax in—she was too rough.

She left my nuts under a heat lamp.

When the doctor finally arrived, 

he removed my pubes  and made the first incision. 

He said, you know, if you stop having babies the Blacks and the Mexicans 

and the Muslims will sure enough  fill this country up. 

When he’s got you by the insides it’s hard to disregard this type of guy.


Then I’m thinking about the young  van Gogh, a bit shiftless, unable 

to find his place in business  or the exams of the church

so he goes down to the mine to see sunlight through the miner’s eyes,

shrunk to a  pinhead, and the Xanax is wearing off

and I smell him  cauterizing my vas deferens.


Visit Tim Staley’s website to order his stunning sophomore effort: THE PIECES YOU HAVE LEFT.

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