by Leah Mueller
Artist: Tom Quigley
Your town along the Clark Fork River
overflows with homeless tents,
cluttering the bucolic landscape
at a similar ratio to Los Angeles
or San Francisco: cardboard scraps,
ripped tarpaulins, discarded REI tents
resuscitated from dumpsters
and repurposed into homes.
I remember your extended
vagabond stint in 1980s Madison—
sleeping on heated parking ramps
in the depths of a Wisconsin winter,
disguising your tattered backpack
as a tree stump, then stashing it
in the woods behind the Memorial Union,
while students drank two-dollar pitchers of Point
and complained about their classes.
Now, you and your embittered wife
live in a spacious house downtown.
You probably complain about the mess
as you drive your minivans to Safeway,
but I wouldn’t know about it,
since you no longer speak to me.
I was good enough when you had nothing,
but comfort renders me useless.
I hope I creep into your dreams
with offers of food, sex, and clothing,
and you’re forced to remember
your days of poverty, but
I am sure your sleep is empty,
and you have forgotten everything.
Old Too Late
After six decades,
how did I know so little?
I catch myself in
cheek jowls still firm,
teeth bared, grinning
into the camera,
like my problems were
Behind me, a backdrop
of rivers and trees,
endless spider web
of mountain trails
my spine could still navigate.
Meanwhile, a sky dome
hovered above, witnessing
everything I failed to see:
I wouldn’t have listened,
anyway. Eyes and ears
tuned to unconsciousness,
I walk the path, turn
my head and pose,
while motion continues:
relentless, erasing my body,
blurring its lines like water.
Leah Mueller’s work appears in Rattle, NonBinary Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Citron Review, The Spectacle, New Flash Fiction Review, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, etc. She is a 2022 nominee for both Pushcart and Best of the Net. Leah’s flash piece, “Land of Eternal Thirst” appears in the 2022 edition of Best Small Fictions. Her two newest books are “The Failure of Photography” (Garden Party Press, 2023) and “Widow’s Fire” (Alien Buddha Press, 2023).