Inversion of the Prodigal Son

by Jake Bailey


Dobermen snarl in inner

ear, snatch up fleeing

soundbites sounding some sort

of reprieve,

               it’s okay,

                             you’re okay, but

it persists like downed power lines

sizzling in a bed of blackening rain pools,

don’t touch,

never touch


back of a grocery shelf

sitting in silence, no,

aisle twelve has what you’re looking for


               I didn’t put that there, did you see him?

Sometimes he hangs out in the strip joint

at North and Bloomingdale, watches

women grind the pole into nothing,

silver dust glistening in neon hues,

he said he was coming

but I didn’t believe him,

always here, never

left, he’s just outside the periphery

calling signals for a game I didn’t sign up for,

sign post says three miles

but I’m less inclined to believe it,

don’t know if I’ll make it with that racket,

same dogs waiting in the wings,

             turn it off,

                          turn it off, turn

down the last street that you see,

just here, right

here, I told him I didn’t want to

but he insisted, can’t tell

if it’s my hand or his guiding scalpel

over surgical incision, spills

fire ants down the sides of the sink,

I can hear them marching in by twos, see

them scuttle while he smirks in tune,

did you see that, that little wink?

Maybe I missed a dose, not sure

about whether I blew through that stop sign,

not sure if it was him or me that flattened

the boy on the bike, leg twitching

from splinter-bone sinew splayed

out in three dimensions,

             not sure,

                          not sure,

take a left here,

that’s right,

don’t let them know which way

you’ll go when they’ve been following you

for the last ten blocks, try and lose

them around this corner, no,

I don’t want to do that

but he’s insisting, insistent,

throw the car in reverse and smash

the shit out of papier-mâché plywood,

guess the whole thing’s a ruse

when I’m on the run,

guess the whole thing’s a joke

when he’s riding shotgun,

finger on the trigger,

do you see him?


              Can you see him?


                             Would you pull it yet?

Jake is a first-year graduate student in Antioch University’s MFA in Creative Writing. He has forthcoming work in The Laurel Review and has been published in Prairie Light Review. He lives in Chicago with his girlfriend and three dogs.


August 2018

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