Andy Bodinger


          Eli’s former surname
                   was a bulk of pumice 
          pierced with double vowels. Long after its retirement, 
                   it remained beached in my memory;
          voicing it is like tossing stones across a pond
where each cathartic skip
                                   lands with a clench.

          Once, at a crowded townie bar I took a shot 
as Eli elbowed through the crowd with the prodding delicacy 
                    of an aging dog, I introduced him parceled with his old last name. 
          His addled expression 
                    stung like dry rain and sunk 
                           into a pool of wrinkles.  

I learned to adjust to his mom’s maiden name promoted from
          its perch on the seesawing hyphen, 
to hide the old one within my tongue’s maze
          of umami receptors and canker sores. 	But, this replacement:
it was overly concise—all summer in a syllable. 

I am guilty of lavishing the other name in secret, its swift tang
	 to the beat of a wrinkled gong. I am guilty of 
                 plucking the jagged thing, dredging a man 
from his second life with a linguistic 
          sleight of hand. The geyser-like serrations

grip my tongue, follow its swivel around my mouth,
and fling from my lips—before breaching

	 into the swollen patchwork of a gone bald man.

Andy Bodinger is a fiction writer and graduate student at Oklahoma State University. He is a former ESL teacher and a current associate editor at the Cimarron Review, and his work has been published in Lunch Ticket and The Stockholm Review of Literature, among other places.