Gerald Fleming

Overheard: School Supplies

Shopping center. A boy of about six trailing his parents—skinny kid with tousled hair, three of them heading toward their car.

            “If we weren’t in this parking lot I’d slap the shit out of you,” the mother says to the boy. “Do you realize how much I’ve spent on gas driving around this town for your stuff?” The mother opens the door of the big car, tosses in some shopping bags, closes the door, the alarm tweets, the three head toward another store.

            Slap the shit out of you, the boy thinks. He’s young, knows there’s blood under the skin but wonders if shit is in there, too, wonders if he were hit hard enough he’d bleed shit, how awful that would be, how embarrassing.

            Something in him wants to say something, but doesn’t know what it is, so the boy lowers his head and again walks behind his parents, who are talking of other things now, walking more slowly than the boy would, if he were on his own, if he were older.

Two Thousand

One Sunday morning thirty years into their marriage, they made love. Soon one of them would get up & make coffee, but first they’d rest, and as was their habit, stare toward the ceiling quietly.

            He mumbled something, and she couldn’t make it out.

            “What’d you say?”

            “Oh, nothing.”

            “I thought I heard you say two thousand.

            “Nah—just mumbling.”

            “You said two thousand, didn’t you.”

            “I guess I did. Two thousand.”

            “Two thousand what?”

            “That’s two thousand times we’ve made love since we got married.”

            “What? You’ve been counting?

            “Well, yeah. Sort of informally.”

            “There’s no such thing as informal counting. Oh, my god.”

            Naked beside him, she went silent, and wondered what exactly constituted his one and what did not. And what else he’d been counting.

            “What else have you been counting?”

            “Don’t ask,” he said.

            She thought their love was an elm with innumerable leaves, she thought their love was lilacs & a tangle of thorny roses, she thought their love a long bask in the complex sunlight of language, she thought their love difficult & brilliant, a spiral staircase, a thatched hut, a high window, a gesture, a lucky error, a mad, unexpected wind.


Hostile bastard he was. First suicide note said, Find ten more, they’re in the house somewhere—just have to search for ’em.

            She never did search, but within six years she’d come across them all, each giving another reason to add to the ones that went before. All of them about her. On the back of each she’d write a response, take the strip of paper to the kitchen sink, light it on fire, wash the black ash down the drain.

            She wished her father were alive. He would have found them all on the first day, taken them away.

GERALD FLEMING’s most recent book is The Bastard and the Bishop, (Hanging Loose Press, Brooklyn). Other titles are One (an experiment in monosyllabic prose poems, also Hanging Loose), The Choreographer (Sixteen Rivers Press, San Francisco), Night of Pure Breathing (Hanging Loose), Swimmer Climbing onto Shore (Sixteen Rivers), and others. In the late 20th century he edited and published Barnabe Mountain Review, and since has edited the limited-edition vitreous magazine One (More) Glass and The Collected Poetry and Prose of Lawrence Fixel (Sixteen Rivers, 2020). Fleming lives most of the year in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read more by Gerald Fleming

Gerald Fleming reading with Julia B. Levine
Poem at Poetry Foundation
Poems at Voetica