Curtis Hayes

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Kosher Meat                                                                                                          
before the lumber mill
Larry had worked in a
not the kind that we
had to endure every day,
a real, pig-sticking
killing floor.
I had read somewhere that those crews
were mostly made-up
of ex-cons and vegetarians.
he said that he had to get out,
that everyone there were
out of their minds.
“The pigs knew what was happening.
We did cows over on the other side.
There was a separate kosher line
and that was worse.”
a horn blew
signaling the end of morning break.
“Was there a rabbi in there to bless it all?”
he laughed
“Fuck no. They had a reel-to-reel tape
next to the conveyer.
We had to listen to a loop
of the bastard droning his prayers.
All day long.”
I nodded, unsurprised.
“That doesn’t seem honest.”
he looked out across the yard
into miles of concrete and asphalt.
“It was worse than the animals.
Fucking lunatic asylum.”

we went in
took our places behind the saws,
the planers.
we started to feed them,
listened to the scream
as they bit into the wood
and there was no one there
to bless any of us.


Krista was an art student
razor-cut hair
dog collar choker.
she walked into Lit101
took the desk next to mine
and we hung out after class
on that very first day.

German Expressionism
Punk Rock and David Lynch
connected us.
she talked about a film called Eraserhead.
I had read about it in an underground ‘zine,
it was enigmatic,
hard to find.
we made a pact to see it together.
the video stores were stale
row after epicene row
of teenage angst and Rambo.
surrealist meditations about dying societies
were unknown outside of film schools
and scattered midnight screenings.

it was inauguration day
and after work I took an hour
for a beer and what the TV dinner box
called a Salisbury steak.
my old Sony was a hand-me-down   
with a blue tint on every channel.
the cowboy had been re-elected
and he stood tall and hollow
a blue B-movie actor
with his hand on the bible
hitting his mark
saying his lines.
the phone, thankfully,
cut him off.
I picked up and before I could say a word
she said
What are you doing?
Drinking a beer. Watching the end of the world-
Yeah, me too. Fuck him. But listen, I got it.
Got what?
You should come over here-
Eraserhead. On Video. Come over.
it took me three minutes
to wrap up, twist the choke
and hit the starter.

she pressed play
then cut the lights
and moved in close.
she ran a hand through her crop
her bony fingers looking
like they’d been clawing in dirt
but I knew it was
caked-in paint
from digging into the oils
spread thick on her canvases.
we waited for what would come
with only the glowing tube
for illumination.

a new-born
diseased, deformed
and wrapped in swaddle.
and a layer of white noise
humming from beginning to end.
a woman with pasty bulging cheeks
singing in high pitch-
”In Heaven, everything is fine…
In Heaven…everything is fine…”
and we were on top of each other
for most of what had to be
the least romantic movie ever made.
at the end
there was transformation and mystery.
she wiggled away from me
flicked on the lights.
we sat in silence,
the hum gone but
the room had become claustrophobic.
Let’s get out of this place.

we rode south on the coast highway
through Sunset Beach.
she wore a thick motorcycle jacket
just like mine.
the January air was crisp
we could taste salt on our lips.
offshore, the lights of the oil rigs
twinkled in the mist.
she pulled her arms tightly around my waist.
I could feel her small breasts
hard against my back,
her head resting between
my shoulder blades,
her cheek
digging deep into the leather


Curtis Hayes has worked as a grip, gaffer, and set builder in the film industry. He’s been a truck driver, a boat rigger, a print journalist and a screenwriter. His first poetry collection, Bottleneck Slide, has recently been published by Vainglory Press, and his work has been featured in numerous anthologies and small press journals.