Richard Garcia

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

Richard Garcia is the author of Rancho Notorious and The Persistence of Objects from BOA Editions. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, American Poetry Journal, the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Poetry.





The Page of Feathers proffered a feather while the judge pretended to read from the page as he pronounced his sentence.


The defense lawyer, having heard it all before, turned off his hearing aid.  The defendant, fearing the worst, turned off his pager.


There was a little girl sitting in the corner; her name was Page, and her hair was cut in a pageboy.


The defendant, who felt guilty even though he had done nothing wrong, felt as if a page had been torn out of his life.  He heard that faraway, diminishing sound, which he knew was the new sentence, and already his understanding of it was passť; he would not even catch a glimpse of the new period as it vanished into itself like a collapsing star. 


Or did it vanish more like the pages of that book he threw into the air-well of a twelve-storey hotel where he recalled he had been the only guest, if you did not count the ladies of the night who sat in the lobby turning the pages of a book that explained every dream in the world?


Under the topic of Pages the book said, If you dream of a page being turned by an unseen hand, something small you said a long time ago will one day come back to change everything.





The Pencil of Transubstantiation



The Pencil of Transubstantiation slides across the page like a figure skater dressed as an undertaker.  An undertaker with an expression of fake concern.  But let us praise the faults of the writer guiding The Pencil of Transubstantiation across the frozen pond of the page.  Fault number one: praise to him for stealing a pumpkin pie and claiming he was bringing it to the children at the hospital.  Fault number two: praise to him for remaining in bed while his apartment was on fire, refusing to show undue excitement.  Fault number three: praise to him for making his girlfriend stay in bed with him and read from the Sunday comics while the firemen climbed in their window. Fault number four: praise to him for wielding the Pencil of Transubstantiation.  Fault number five: praise to him for failing to mention to the students in his living room that he had just stepped over a corpse in his backyard. The Pencil of Transubstantiation. It is made of a fusion of hyper-nanos with atomized neurotransgenesis.   Also known as part A and part B.  The finger bone connecka to the hand bone.  Amen.





Hemlock 1-7563



H is a piece of ladder.  Or a short kid afraid he won’t grow.  He gets his friends to pull on his arms and legs.  There is a popping sound.  It seems to him that after that, he begins to grow.


The E is another piece of broken ladder.


1 is a stick.  Never very many toys, but plenty of sticks.  A rifle, a bow, a sword, a cane if he is wounded in the war.


7 rides his bike, coasting downhill with his feet off the pedals— Look at me, he yells,  One hand!  Wakes up in a hospital.  His buddies, a 5, a 6 and a 3, all standing around the bed.  Who are they?  He does not remember their names.  The smartass kid with his cap on backwards.  The chubby one.  The boy with the small waist and curves who looks like a girl.


In his room he plays detective. He can poke a skeleton key out of a keyhole; it falls on the newspaper he has placed under the door.


Someone is dialing. He listens to the clicks of the dial, counting.  H is four clicks.  E is three.  One click.  Seven clicks.  Night comes striding, dark, starless, cold.  And he remembers the cry of the peacocks.








Every night I have a dream.  A pickup blonde.  An ice-pick.  I need one of those croakers you tell dreams to.  Every night I have a dream.  A pickup truck.  A blonde.  A deadly game of pickup sticks.  Every night the house I grew up in.  The clean sneak.  The shiv.  The clip-joint.  Every night the showdown in the mirrored room.  An ice-pick in the ear looks like a brain hemorrhage.  I kill somebody.  Or somebody kills me.  I’m not sure.  Morning hits me like a blackjack.  I can’t crab the dream.  I’m such a daisy; my feet are rooted in the sheets.  You tell your dream, you don’t have to dream it anymore.  If you don’t believe in dreams you won’t die in your sleep.  Thursday, Friday, Saturday, the last slice of the moon’s decapitation.  Now you can put someone else’s face over your own.





Dollar Theatre



Sometimes I feel like Heidi coming home to her village.  All along the valley there are cries, Heidi is coming home, Heidi is coming home, church bells are ringing, even the brook is ringing.


The bag lady stops rustling through her bag.  The man under the huge overcoat stops snoring.


Sometimes I feel like Bogart.  Sitting with my drink, an Egyptian cigarette dangling from my lips.  I’m cursing my luck at seeing you again.  It’s like that dream where you walk into the room and I wake up.  Then I fall asleep and you’re putting the flowers you brought into a vase, then I wake up.


Sometimes I feel like Frankenstein.  I’m staring at my strange hand, my strange leg, I’m all made up of different people and I’m wondering if they ever knew each other.





The Poker-Playing Dog Poetry Workshop



I was leading the poetry workshop that was famous for being like the French Revolution happening in reverse.  My wit flowed like a child riding a tricycle in the calm eye of a hurricane.


But the students stared at me, as if I were a slow-motion film of a murder-suicide.  The light and shadows of an entire week of Venetian blinds dragged its prison bars across my face.


All weapons and cash on the table, I declared.  Soon the poetry workshop looked like a mobsters’ poker game in the back room of a casino.  We brought out the Havanas.


Then we became poker-playing dogs.  I was a Collie.  Most of the students were mutts; one, Jock, had one ear up and one down.  But Basil, a poet in the epic mode, was a borzoi.  He wore a monocle.


We decided to pose for a photo in a tableau of famous poets.  As a collie, and leader of the Poker Playing Dog Poetry Workshop, I got to be Walt Whitman.  Mo, a pug-faced Chihuahua-bulldog mix, was Emily Dickinson.