Dispatches from Urbanity by Cole Norum

Cliffhanger

He’s colored cool and I’m flying high,
Flicking robins like I don’t hear
Ten-year-ago Mom crying over broken eggs.

I land somewhere next to him,
Out of breath and wheezing,
And my ears go red then deaf
When the train shouts across the river.

Ten minutes and an American Spirit later
I’m buzzing like the branches
And feel my fingernails wake.

We’re on the right side of long days
And dead skin don’t matter
When there’s dirt to be dealt
And rocks to be kicked.

I wonder if he tastes like the way
I think I taste like—
Poprocks + coke
And metallic pangs of adrenaline.

He hasn’t said a word and I’ve said less—
Teeth marks for taste buds.

It’s the kind of day when nature speaks up.
Flutterbees nudge limbs locked in laconic stalemates.

The kind of day when think you can fathom
That which you could not seven sleepless nights earlier.
When you’re not bullshitting this time, guys,
You really can see our marble’s blue bends
As you crane your neck something awful.

My neck burns to the tune of the Sun’s bursts.
But I don’t worry myself with distance no more.

Blue jays rock in trees higher than their octaves,
A humming habberdash He mimicks
With a perfunctory grace.

My mockingbird is better than your mockingbird.
But he’ll never know.
And that’s OK.


On Trees and After-School Snacks.

We bunked in trees after saying
“screw it” to my forgotten flashlight.
The canopy circumvented any vernacular
left breathing after occupied tongues.

The minute hand yawned and kicked rocks
at the moment we decided to stay forever.

Someone fucked up, because the sun rose before it set.
We knew it, too, when the
mourning doves were already out and
it was the worst kind of irony.

Upper-level management pardoned the lunar absence,
so we backseated tomorrow’s duties
and left schedules under the seatbelt holster,
buried next to grade-school cheese puffs.

A tree bed to get our feet wet.
Support group
for rejects who hadn’t
had the chance to bleed yet.

A pear tree bellowed during evenings of one-syllable months.
Hometown cicadas cheered while I snooped for fruit
that would hold together for longer
than I knew how to count.

Memories scrapbooked on four floors. A field trip.
There were many trees once, we were asked to believe.
Older than you. Than me. Here, this one!
All you had to do was count its rings.

Industry is vital to market progression.
Eagerly stretched hands for a chance to demonstrate.
A pair of us to push and pull the dulled saw
along the guided path.

I hadn’t noticed my outstretched arm.

We pushed and pulled, and it wasn’t as hard as we thought.
Cheers from the homeroom faithful and then
we patted ourselves on the back.

The hum of pistons ceased—the final stop
on the car ride home. Only then did I understand
the muffled edges and predetermined motions.

There were no cicadas in the offseason.
Trampoline leaves since cradled in brown paper gowns.
From the tinted window, I saw our stump.
Crumpled plastic cut the silence. I finished my snack.

Even then I knew the rings weren’t going anywhere.

The Wettest Season on Record

The way that summer rained –
The whispered mentions —
The hardy guffaws + rolling thunder?
The way it came down from late
May to maybe early July —

Wasn’t even funny.

We packed into Ida.
Into that dutiful, loyal
cantankerous wagon.

We were weeks
into the Wetness.

Conditioned to conditions
consistently confounding.

Prolonged periods of precipitation,
once foreign to our anticipations.
To aspirations.

Still, that evening as we
unloaded from Ida, the wagon, and onto the skilleted asphalt,
I saw the sky turn tricks
the likes of which
This town had never seen.
No one. No how.
Never.

I saw—
she didn’t, for the asphalt
was enough
to hold her tired eyes—
the air stretch and run
marathons beyond the 
Pharmacy’s waterlogged marquee.

The Wettest Season on Record churned.
The Wettest Season on Record wailed.
The Wettest Season on Record swirled like distracted doodles during day school.

The Wettest Season on Record
marched on without much thought,
carrying a back-pocket match book,
the Other-town girl’s number long worn off.

We were still yards from drug-lined halls.
Novice, bladeless skaters on warm, terraformed prairie.
Ant hills crushed, but only after permits
said Ida, the wagon, could take their spot.

She grew tired
of the asphalt below
so we looked to the pond above
Our sleepless heads.

The county carnival used to have a man.
He ran dazzlingly small, invisible needles
through his back.
He would hang from small, invisible wires until someone
turned the lights off.

The pond hung like that.
Skin wrought precariously,
just follicles from collapsing,

And it stayed like that as
the three of us walked in.

They used to sell sarsaparilla in
opaque brown bottles, the glass heavy like the snapping cold
of the spices when they fell into our bodies.
No more.
Not since I stopped buying them.

The ceiling lurched to life and drowned the white coat in its humming whir.
My mouth swelled dry.

In the shadow of the marquee, she tossed away the empty package.
I wondered if she kept the instructions, but I never asked.

Ida, he wagon, creaked as
the two of us crawled in.

She started crying before the door closed.
They were little tears, nearly silent sprockets of salty translucence.

It was the only rain we had that day.


Cole_Norum_PhotoCole Norum is a film school dropout. A Midwesterner born and raised, he’s now a journalism student with a penchant for hip-hop videography and Pilot G-2 .38 pens. Cole has received awards for his photography on Human Trafficking for Drake Magazine. His writing has been published by Paste Magazine and the Huffington Post. He actively avoids long walks on beaches.

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