Mel Louse as a Peripheral Character in the Story of Minnie’s Death

by Nicholas Reading

     Past the switch post there
will be a woman tied with twine waiting
     for the train chugging

right on schedule. Mel just acts natural.
     The conductor, one
dastardly man mustached & singing good

     ship lollypop, has
worked this gig for years. Mel cocks his hat
     to appear dreadfully

alarmed as if this woman is his friend.
     Or his sister. Or
his mother when she was still a virgin.

     Now he watches it unfold.
The prairie is dust & canaries. Clouds
     are torn from the set.

He loosens his tie & pulls the shade down
     as the women’s cue
to whimper. Gentlemen lead the way

     to the Smoker to
sip scotch & listen. From the pit the horns
     sound a lovely fever.

Mel is flat when Minnie whines I hate you
     though he winces
later. Minnie who, he says, I’m fine.

Formerly the fiction editor for Sycamore Review, Nicholas Reading is now an MFA poetry candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he works on the on-line literary journal Blackbird. His poetry is forthcoming in the New Orleans Review and Zone 3.