White Bird
Jeff Friedman

for Gail Birkenmeier

At the Clark Station, Gail pumps a dollar of gas into White Bird and takes off. In the front seat, her boyfriends jockey for position, an architect who loves Corinthian columns, a bald Vet on disability, a blond jock eating a large pizza with sausage and pepperoni, a hairy dentist who offers to pull strings for her, a black belt chopping up the upholstery with the striking edge of his hand. How does she do it, I wonder, juggle all these guys? In the back seat, I complain about cash flow and the cost of weed. Lois pulls a mouse out of her hair and screams, flinging it away. Bonnie vomits in a paper bag. Carolyn catches the signals of a radio station from Little Rock in her huge metal rollers. The fat pigeons waddling at our feet eat crumbs from burgers, fries, onion rings, off the floor. The ape next to me downs banana after banana, peel and all, spitting challenges at the guys in front. Juwana in her yellow halter dissolves into a neon mist. Tommy tunes his electric guitar, flashing metal teeth. Jamaica mixes Singapore Slings and hands one to each of us. Gail's lovers transform into balloons, each swelling with air and popping. "Oops, there goes another…" Soon, we're all a little drunk and singing, "Cause she's buying a stairway to heaven…" and Gail presses the pedal to the floor. She blasts forward at such a speed the wind cracks, and White Bird hits the wall. "Out of gas," Gail shouts and everyone spills out at the Clark Station, racing for the john.

Jeff Friedman has published six poetry collections, five with Carnegie Mellon University Press, including Pretenders (2014), Working in Flour (2011), and Black Threads (2008). His poems, mini stories, and translations have appeared in American Poetry ReviewPoetry, New England ReviewThe Antioch ReviewPoetry International, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, Plume, Agni Online, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Storyscape, Smokelong Quarterly, The Vestal Review, 100-Word Story, The New Republic, and many other literary magazines. Dzvinia Orlowsky's and his translation of Memorials by Polish poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. Friedman and Orlowsky were awarded an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship in 2016.

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Family Spell