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Mitch James

Mitch James is a Professor of Composition and Literature at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, OH and the Managing Editor at Great Lakes Review. His first novel Seldom Seen is forthcoming with Sunbury Press in the fall of 2022. You can find his latest short fiction in Made of Rust and Glass: Midwest Literary Fiction Vol. 2, Red Branch Review, and Bull, poetry at Watershed Journal, I Thought I Heard a Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices, and Southern Florida Poetry Journal, and scholarship at Journal of Creative Writing Studies. Find more at and on Twitter @mrjames5527.

Bourbon or Rye

It’s hard to be proud of being from stock
that believes all dogs are outside dogs
You put ‘em on chains
kibble eaten from mud
because the stupid fuckin’ dog tipped its bowl again
stupid fuckin’ dog don’t get water if it’s just gonna spill it
stupid fuckin’ dog can drink the rain

It’s hard to be proud of being from stock
that’ll give ya somethin’ to cry about
whose mantra is that there’s always someone better
feelin’ froggy just jump
stock who believes if you’d quit with those fuckin’ stories
you’d get better grades

It’s hard to be proud of being from stock
that swaps pills like trading cards
that bleeds to death what it loves
and believes it’s only other people’s kids who die

It’s hard to be proud of being from stock
whose dreams are on cinder blocks
and always have been
first because of money
then the fuckin’ kids
and now because the dreams are haunted by ghosts

It’s hard to be proud of being from stock
who see the death of their dreams
in the children they made
and who share that fact with them
so all know who is to shoulder the guilt

It’s hard to sleep through a night
It’s hard to tell a wife what’s wrong when she asks

How does one say
that as I child I let animals freeze to death
that I’m always waiting for you to find someone better
that I know how my brother died and nobody wants to hear it
that an old mustang can be the site of dead promises and that dead promises are dead dreams
that if you were never born, your parents would reach their full potential for somebody else, who
is better, smarter, and tougher, who doesn’t write fucking stories and gets real good grades.

Instead of saying these things
one says,

I’m tired
I have a headache
Work was shitty
I don’t think this is working

One asks
bourbon or rye

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