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"Cheap Beer, Madden and Hold 'em", "Active Shooter 101"... by Matt McGuirk

CW: references to violence

Cheap Beer, Madden and Hold ‘em

How would I have known there was so much more,

just a kid with a 30 rack of Keystone

or maybe some Bud Lights on a good night?

Too many hours singing the wrong lyrics to Counting Crows

or Nickelback.

“Pass me a bottle, Mr. Welling” wasn’t quite Mr. Jones,

but we were always “down with hanging out those afternoons”

nights, or whenever for that matter.

English papers by an English major busted out in an hour

behind locked doors

as we alternated games on a Madden franchise.

Back in ’09,

who would have thought the Browns could have been so good?

Online poker with fake money

and funky avatars and

overdrawn bank accounts

at Best Western tables

across from architects and lawyers who wouldn’t miss

the money anyways.

How would I have known there was so much more?

Trading cheap beer,

endless hours of video games

and half remembered hold ‘em hands


promises slid onto fingers in glowing afternoon light,

endless giggles and smiles through dirty diapers,

big moments and small ones;

photos carefully placed in an album

to look at again and again.

Active Shooter 101

They always tell teachers to leave room for silence-time to think-but what happens when the silence is brought on by the buzz of bullets, shattering time? Writing utensils and classroom tools normally used for learning and creating turn to weapons: is that pencil sharp enough or can we throw that chair hard enough to make the violence stop? What if the only thing a student learned in school today is what blood smells like or what shells falling to the ground sound like? When did attendance at school put you on the front lines of war?

One Too Many Cocktails

After one too many cocktails,

my mind drifts not minutes or hours away,

but days and weeks-buried in a fog

or swirling like the churning ocean after a storm.

One moment bleeding into the next,

a dizzying suggestion, prompt from my gut to move, push forward,

searching and galloping

to find the porcelain shrine to submit my offering.

When in an instant it bursts from me like confetti

across clothes, furniture and the room,

nothing untouched

and I want to fade

as far away as my mind in that moment,

sink into the furniture and disappear

like the rainbow of dinner and drink was already doing.

Matt McGuirk teaches and lives with his family in New Hampshire. BOTN 2021 nominee with words in 50+ lit mags, 100+ accepted pieces and a debut collection with Alien Buddha Press called Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities available on Amazon and linked on his website Twitter: @McguirkMatthew Instagram: @mcguirk_matthew.

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