Louis Jenkins

Home | The Last Issue | Submissions | Achieve: 2004-2009 | Essays

His books include An Almost Human Gesture (Eighties Press and Ally Press, 1987), All Tangled Up With the Living (Nineties Press, 1991), Nice Fish: New and Selected Prose Poems (Holy Cow! Press, 1995), Just Above Water (Holy Cow! Press, 1997) The Winter Road (Holy Cow! Pess, 2000) and Sea Smoke (Holy Cow! Press, 2004).

Old Man Winter
Old man Winter doesn't like anything. He doesn't like dogs or cats or squirrels or birds, especially seagulls, or children or smart-ass college students. He doesn't like loggers or environmentalists or snowmobilers or skiers in their stupid lycra outfits. He doesn't like Christmas or television. He doesn't like bureaucrats, lawyers or politicians. There is a thing or two he could say to the host of the local talk-radio show but he knows for a fact that the son-of-a-bitch does the broadcast from his condo in Florida. He's pissed off about the OPEC oil conspiracy and the conspiracy of gas station owners to raise prices. He doesn't like foreigners and he doesn't like his neighbors (not that he has many); when they finally die they just leave their junk all over the yard. He doesn't like that. He doesn't like the look of the sky right now, either, overcast, a kind of jaundice color. He hates that. And that stand of spruce trees behind the house turning black in the dusk...The way it gets dark earlier every day. He doesn't like that.
--From The Winter Road

Finally, no amount
of kindness or
generosity will help.
In May the song sparrow
returns. Hidden
in the spring green
his only gift is his song,
all the sweeter because
it isn't meant for you.
-From The Winter Road

Marlene Norlund
She's packed the kids off to spend the weekend with their father. At last she has the place to herself, a rented farmhouse, a couple dozen chickens, a pickup that works part-time and a child support check she finally managed to get from her exhusband. His problem was that he didn't want anything much. He was happy being a bricklayer or being in the army, happy just hanging around the house. She puts on her best dress and stands in front of the mirror brushing her hair. She looks good, a little big in the chest maybe, but good for being the mother of two. It's midafternoon and the whole weekend is ahead. The summer wind nags at the house and flaps the blind at the window behind  her so that it sounds like someone impatiently turning the pages of a newspaper. She imagines a man there, lying on the bed, glancing up occasionally to hurry her along, jingling the change in his pocket. It makes her nervous and angry. She fidgets with the dress, extracts a pair of earrings from the clutter of perfume and baby bottles on the bureau, smears her makeup. She hurries. It isn't what she wants. 
-From An Almost Human Gesture and Nice Fish  

The Fishing Lure
I've spent a great deal of my life fretting over things that most people wouldn't waste their time on. Trying to explain something I haven't a clue about. It's given me that worried look, that wide-eyed, staring look. The look that wild animals sometimes have, deer for instance, trying to make sense of the situation: "What is that?" Motionless, fransfixed. The same look that's on the face of the fishing lure. Stupidity? Terror? What is the right bait for these conditions? High cirrus clouds, cold front moving in. It'sall a trick anyway. What is this thing supposed to be? A minnow? A bug? Gaudy paint and hooks all over. It's like bleached blond hair and bright red lipstick. Nobody really believes it. There isn't a way in the world I'd bite on that thing. But I might swim in just a little closer
-From Just Above Water 

Steady or Slowly Falling
Around this time every year, the gloom swallows up someone unexpectedly, at random, it seems. We try to find reasons: He was depressed. He ate too much sugar. It seems hopeless, trying to figure things out. And yet, someone figured out the lever and the inclined plane. Someone invented glue and learned which mushrooms were good to eat. Thank god it wasn't all left to you, you can't even boil water. But there's no use whining that your parents didn't leave you proper instructions or adequate tools, you simply have to make do. A stick to dig roots and grubs for the soup, and you have learned, by now, that it takes only a light tap with the same stick to put the baby down for his nap. Now, with the snow falling outside, the soup bubbling in the pot, the baby sleeping soundly in his crib, there's time for a moment of reflection...Then the phone rings, and the baby starts crying just as the pot on the stove boils over, and, between one thing and another, your feet get tangled in the phone line. Which is a length of string tied to a couple of tin cans.
-From Sea Smoke 

The time has come to say goodbye, our plates empty except for our greasy napkins. Comrades, you on my left, balding, middle-aged guy with a ponytail, and you, Lefty there on my right, though we barely spoke I feel our kinship. You were steadfast in passing the ketchup, the salt and pepper, no man could ask for better companions. Lunch is over, the cheeseburgers and fries, the Denver sandwich, the counter nearly empty. Now we must go our separate ways. Not a fond embrace, but perhaps a hearty handshake. No? Well then, farewell. It is unlikely I'll pass this way again. Unlikely we will ever meet again on this earth, to sit together beneath the neon and fluorescent calmly sipping our coffee, like the sages sipping their tea underneath the willow, sitting quietly, saying nothing
-From Sea Smoke