Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), and An Accident of Blood (2019), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Main Street Rag, Chiron Review, Permafrost, The Paterson Literary Review, and elsewhere. To buy An Accident of Blood
The Truth About Sunshine
In high school money changed hands
on whether the nuns were bald under
their form fitting coifs and tight
bandeaux. We found out, thanks to
Vatican II, when they lost their
communities and habits, donned modest
dresses—flimsy veils atop their heads.
They had short hair! We bet on whether
it had been crushed flat for so long that
growth was permanently stunted.
We never asked one of them directly. After
they removed Latin from the mass, we still
craved mystery. There was no ambiguity
as to their views about our hair. We wanted
to look like George, Paul, John, and Ringo.
The nuns, like metrical crusaders, roamed
our halls with rulers, rosaries, and clippers
ready to grab, drop, and measure—subject us
to their golden rule: our hair shouldn’t touch
our collars or eyebrows. Girls, enthralled with
Mary Quant’s mini-dresses, whose hems rose
more than an inch above their knees, felt the nuns’
measured wrath, while hair-sprayed coifs earned
a scrub-down in the girl’s bathroom that
created a veil, if not a trail, of tears.
Years later I watch a performance of Hair,
the scene where the cast stands naked
on stage, lets the sunshine in. The Age
of Aquarius sans Aquinas. So much
hair and not a nun in sight.
The Truth About True North
I never know where I am, ease through
life in a drowsy mist. My wife Judy,
on our first trip to Oxford, navigated
labyrinthine streets easily without a map.
Judy finds her way in Pittsburgh, where
we live—a city I claim was designed by
drunkards on a tear. There’s even a tunnel,
The Wabash, that runs for 3,300 feet
through Mt. Washington and ends on a cliff
high above the Monongahela River. Oldtimers
call it the Tunnel to Nowhere, a tunnel
I travel whenever challenged to find
my way home. Only last week, while
driving with Judy, I was accosted by saliva-
slurping images of slow-smoked beef brisket,
smoked Gouda cheese, crispy onions,
barbecue sauce, and mayo on a crispy bun.
“Which way to Arby’s?” I asked my sweet wife.
“Turn right,” she said. Why she must have lost
her mind, I thought, certain that we should
continue straight ahead. Still, I obeyed.
After a few blocks Judy said, “Turn left.”
Surely, the flange that girded her to reality
had rusted and fallen off. “That can’t be
right,” I insisted. Judy remained steadfast,
“Left,” she bellowed and I turned, and there
appeared, despite my clouded consciousness,
the lovely abstract rendering of a ten-gallon
cowboy hat—Arby’s logo. Soon my portly
countenance was slathered in brisket, blessed
by an abundance of curly fries, and beholden
to the lovely woman next to me, the lady who
insists that, during my autopsy, bats will fly
out of my right hemisphere, the part of the
brain that knows the way home.