The Slow-Cooked Sentence

A lesson with fire or how words ignite

Rachael Conlin Levy

Courtesy of Daniel Y. Go.

I’ve kissed one Indian in my life, a bartender named Ray who served me shots of tequila and pitchers of cheap beer when I was a younger, single and (often foolishly drunk) woman living in Idaho.

One night Ray ended up at my apartment, which was a stumble up the hill from a favorite bar. Did we walk there together? Did he show up at my door? All I remember is us in my living room, me sitting on top of the furnace, him standing between my thighs, and his brown face and black hair smelling of alcohol and cigarette smoke.

I wanted his kiss to crackle like a forest fire: pine trees bursting into hot, bright torches, while the forest floor’s carpet of dry needles smoked. Instead of burning ember, my lips touched powdery ash and I pushed him away, tired, annoyed that he was there, that he was keeping me awake when my boyfriend would be calling soon. My boyfriend, a penniless intern, and I had an agreement: He’d call collect, I’d refuse the charge, and then call the payphone back so we could talk for an hour or more on my dime. What we never talked about were the flames I stoked.

It was my dance, first with fidelity, then freedom, that sprang to mind when I read a poem from Sherman Alexie‘s newest book. “War Dances” is an excellent collection of short stories and poems that refract on the stories’ themes of race, religion, sexuality and family, and it won the PEN/Faulkner Award this spring. But with this poem my memory shifted like a kaleidoscope and the pieces rearranged themselves and seared me. Here’s an excerpt:

… I was working the night

Shift at a pizza joint and you were away at college. You dated a series of inconsequential boys. Well, each boy meant little on his

Own, but their cumulative effect devastated my brain and balls. I wanted you to stop kissing relative strangers, so I called you at midnight as often as I could afford. If I talked to you that late, I knew

(Or hoped) you couldn’t rush into anybody’s bed. But, O, I still recall the misery of hearing the ring, ring, ring, ring

Of your unanswered phone. These days, I’d text you to find you, but where’s the delicious pain

In that? …

4 responses to “A lesson with fire or how words ignite”

  1. boatx2 says:

    mmm, what a heavy ending.

  2. Nice play with words. So, Rachael, what's up with the strange, comment deleted person?!

  3. Rachael Levy says:

    Oh, Kyndale, I'm getting a lot of comments that are nothing but links to porn sites, so keep deleting them.

    How have you (or any other bloggers out there, for that matter) handled this?


  4. I haven't had that problem. But, I know that some people can approve of comments before they're posted. Do you have that option with blogger?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe: rss | email | twitter