Hello Reckoning

Jeremy Schmall

With the dim sky out of sight I can almost—finally—be just a dude under tree branches. But I can't stop. Twigs cracking underfoot, backpack filled with clean water and soda crackers. I want to thank someone. Bulging pulse up my neck and I keep the rifle in both hands. To be just outside the circumference of fear, that loosening. I remember sitting down to eat a peanut butter sandwich years earlier, sunlight on my shoes. Water sloshes the plastic. The map is useless to me. I know I'm headed basically north, sour vomit taste in my mouth. So what good is a man's handshake and signature? What's the point of all these formalities? You give someone a ticket to punch so you can ride the goddamn train. It makes sense. But then what? The next thing you know the doctor scalpels a crunchy mole off your neck, the daughters never visit. It's tricky. It's nothing. It's trivia, but it's not. I stop at the edge of a clearing and look through my riflescope for any movement. It's like, the man who turns animals into meat goes home and eats meat. The president, even when alone, is working to impress someone. Look at a man's face and think what the fuck do you know?

Jeremy Schmall is the founder and co-editor of the Agriculture Reader, and the author of the forthcoming book of poems, "Jeremy Schmall & the Cult of Comfort" (X-ing). His work has been published in PEN America, Laurel Review, Washington Square, and Forklift Ohio. He lives in New York City.