Culture  Inkwell: Old Shakes


I read today that the better a man dresses the more badly he can behave. I was fourteen and standing by the water the first time I touched a girl’s breasts and I don’t remember what I was wearing but she ungloved my hands one finger at a time and I behaved badly as she stood with her back against the lake holding my wrists. The second to last time I kissed her was four years ago in the shade of a white brick wall and her shoulders smelled of salt through her t-shirt and we sipped warm beers until I had to leave and as she stood up she spilled a beer and started crying. I remember now her bra and the shade of its blue and the red polka dots on it but most clearly the soft shake of her breasts. I roll up the sleeves of my shirt to just under the elbows in bars sometimes and the waitress thinks my forearms are handsome and remind her of a boy who had stood next to her and held the metal railing between wagons on the California Zephyr between Denver and Chicago as they dropped beer bottles under the train’s wheels and their muscles shook.


You’ve already been written and sung by Justin Vernon twice. He used to call you Re: Stacks and now he calls you Calgary. If you listen well you’ll hear yourself change. You’re the way he pronounces the very first ‘everything’. You’re the silence forty-five seconds in and the breath taken in between ‘two’ and ‘hundred at a time’. He smiles just like you when he sings ‘fakes a toss’. And when we said goodbye I heard the sound of the unlocking and the lift away. Now he sings about the prairies of Alberta but I know he means you and the syllables of your hips. I recognize the hurry of the ‘storming on the lake’ and the stretch of the ‘south’. And he sums us up well when he sings about all the rope being untied.


She was born in August, forty-six years after the Enola Gay released its hundred and thirty pounds of uranium-235 over Japan. It traveled 11.5 miles away before the shock waves caught up. Hers are still catching up with me. Radio-Tokyo was speechless at first but I’ve learned to broadcast the damage.