John Franklin Dandridge

reflective thought wave

She whispers, “Timber… timber… timber, timberrr.”
Though it’s not clear if I’m the axe or the tree until the metaphor
is over and I’ve fallen through a bottomless pit under her pillow. 
But my hands are tied to strings, strings that are tied to her fingers. 
And I’ve mapped out a trail back to my thought wave
from the reflection of her cheek bending in the glass on the night stand
to the heat from her flesh coasting off her forehead. 
Her hair is tethered to her ancestors who
were born into tiny computers. And they’re sending us
warnings to retreat beneath the sheets until the human
race is ready to start over from scratch. 
I can’t make the blanket of what happens next. 
One minute, I’m clinging to a patch of naked mattress, 
attaching booby traps to our hearts, so if we ever tear apart, 
we’ll really tear apart. And in the next, she leads
me to the bed’s edge, where she swears there’s a rift
in between what’s real and what’s really real. If
we act quickly, we can access the precious data that’s hidden
on microchips between our teeth. She grits hers, 
then whispers, “Timber.” 
Though this time, the tree happens to be
every tree in America. And it’ll take the lot of them to build
a labyrinth intricate enough to hide it. Cuz you know. Once one calls
it the truth, the truth gets out. It gets sold. Pretty soon it becomes a lie. 
And then folks really begin to believe it, when it’s best
not to refer it as anything at all. Knowing that, I guess it’s the difference between being woke and being awake. Shit, knowing that, it’s perhaps best to pretend
to be asleep. So I’m wrapping these strings
around my neck, not the lumberjack, nor the axe, tying these strings to
a branch of the tree. But she gets me hip to her secret tunnel that digs
from her pajama bottoms up the through the doghouse. This
only gets us as far as the mailbox, but her mailbox has transcended
to the other side of town. Now, anonymous in the midst of yesterday’s
people who pray to the same god devils pray to, who watch some clock that sits
in between the most photographed tits in the city, this is only the beginning. 
My pocket protector’s getting all political about tossing
all these soft bullets. But I’m not so much a good, honest man who’ll keep lies
to himself, or tell children it’s too late for ice cream. 
Perhaps I’ll be more strict with our descendants. So, “Oh baby, please
don’t go on that picnic.” Never mind. “Oh baby, please take me with you on that picnic. 
I promise not to cuss in public. I’m gonna tie our wrists to that comet. 
Just tell me where to leave my toothbrush.”


John Franklin Dandridge received his M.F.A. in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago. His chapbook, Further Down Rd., was published in 2010 by Fast Geek Press. He has poems published in past issues of Callaloo Journal and Former People among others. Franklin lives and writes near the North Pond in Chicago.