Poetry & Prose From the 940: Summer in Denton

Though technically not over just yet, anyone in Denton can tell by the influx of people crowding the crosswalks and the peacefulness in the air that has somewhat ceased to exist that summer in Denton is basically over as people head back to UNT and TWU.

We took submissions of poetry and prose over the past few months about what summer in Denton means to different people. Whether it is the disgust with the Texas heat or the calmness of the square, hopefully we all made some memories and moments these past few months. With this second installment of Poetry & Prose from the 940, we are also kicking off a new collaboration with the amazing people over at Spiderweb Salon. When we publish another installment, Spiderweb will allow me (Tori Falcon) to be a guest editor to feature one of the pieces and writers that we publish here. This month, I have chosen Nicole Lefteau. Lefteau is a poet, a filmmaker, and artistic spirit in Denton, and I'm very excited to explore her art with Spiderweb, which will publish Sept. 4.

Additionally, the next theme for Poetry & Prose from the 940 will be about Hispanic (Latinx) Heritage Month in honor of September. Starting now until Sept. 19 you can send all your poems and prose about your Latinx experience (we know Hispanic and Latinx aren't interchangeable but we would like to widen that scope to include non-spanish speaking people form Latin countries!) to tori@thedentonite.com.  And finally, without further ado, here are the summer writings of some sweaty writers in town.

Incompleteness by Claire Cadena

Every summer felt like years
Filled up with things undone, feelings unresolved
But I finally wake up and don’t miss you or us or them
I’m glad we parted ways, because the summer sun embraces me like you never did
Never will
Not even now
Or then

Summer in Denton by Nicole Lefteau

Summer in Denton It’s hot out. The thick, wet hot that fills your throat and hangs in the air. My bangs are sticking to my forehead and the ice cubes in my drink boil over. And we’re talking about everything And we’re talking about nothing. And it really doesn’t matter what we’re talking about at this point in the night but rather, that we’re with people who will listen. Tony sits to my left, and waits eagerly for his next punchline. Not the kind that he tells on makeshift stages on Sunday nights or comedy clubs for the rest of the week, but the kind that sparks instantaneously off his tongue the way sparks fly from the lighter I always fidget with. To my right, Kenny and Peyton bounce off each other like twin toddlers speaking their own secret language until they finally tire themselves out from accents and bits. Until all of our minds drift off half sentence, and I think back on the all times we’ve danced together. All on our own beat, off beat, half a beat behind from the real lyrics. Swirling onto each other, bouncing and swaying and reaching our hands high above our heads and up to the sky. We snap back into ourselves. Someone cracks a joke and then we pick up right where we left off. We fill the air with thoughts we never thought we’d say out loud, dark humor wit, and dry clouds of Marlboro smoke.

The bar’s closing soon but I don’t dare look the bartender stacking chairs because that would make reality welcome in this perfect fever dream I don’t want to end.

Even though we’ll be sitting in the exact same seats, sweating and swearing tomorrow night.

Some Things I am Tired of Explaining to White People by Anjelica Fraga

"Denton is full of white people. A lot of them are great allies, but this summer I wrote a list of things I’m tired of explaining to them."

  1. One. I likely haven’t seen the movie or watched the “classic” TV show you just referenced because I am not white. My family is not white. Our household watched other shit.

  2. Two. My name is not difficult. Please do not try to give me a nickname. Stop asking people whose names aren’t Europeanized to allow you to call them something that’s not their name simply because learning something new is an inconvenience to you.

  3. Three. Immigration policy is not the only political issue the Latinx community cares about. If you work on a campaign and encounter a Latinx person, feel free to discuss things your candidate is actually passionate about.

  4. Four. I don’t know or care what is in menudo. It’s tasty as hell, and food is not weird or gross just because it’s different from what you’re used to eating.

  5. Five. Dia de los Muertos is not Mexican Halloween. It’s a day to honor our dead relatives with prayer, reflection, and offerings. Stop fucking painting your face like a “sugar skull” and going to coffin races on Hickory St; it’s disrespectful.

  6. Six. Latinas are not spicy, we are not your “mamis,” It’s not cute or funny to  be fetishized when I’m trying to drink away my existential dread like everybody else here at East Side on a Monday night.  

  7. Seven. Latinx is an ethnicity, not a race. Colonization, slavery,  rape, and assimilation have made our identities complicated. We come in varying skin tones, some of us speak Spanish, some of us speak indigenous languages, and some of us are Black. We are not a monolith.

  8. Eight. It’s okay for you to see color.  It doesn’t make you racist to acknowledge that we come from different cultures. Saying you “don’t see color” tells me you need to pretend someone is white to treat them with dignity and respect.

  9. Nine. On issues such as our government separating immigrant families seeking asylum, please stop saying things like “This is not who we are.” Committing atrocities against people of color is as American as baseball. To deny that is erasure.

  10. Ten. It makes you uncomfortable and defensive when I use the term “White people” because you are all used to just being people. You are used to being the default. Please don't center your hurt feelings in conversations about systemic racism. Allyship is about listening.

In the Car by Emma Randall

in the car
speeding down the highway
wind rustling my hair
no traffic
clear dark blue sky
with bits of bright matter
you singing my favorite song
along my side
admiring the presence of you
i want to conquer the night with you
only You
i want to conquer the world with you
only You
i want to conquer life with you
and only You
my love
the one I admire
the one I cherish
but with night comes day
and with day comes fresh wounds
the light reveals all emotion and chaos
i’ve heard all good things must end
i wonder
are people afraid of being happy?
i know i wasn’t
i know that in that car
I felt as if
as if I could drive forever
i go back to that night
those nights
music and stars and you
but all things die. 
and so did I.

Monday. July 23, 2018. 1:19am.

Refuge by Stuart Grey Heath

Stepping out of the Texas sun and into the quiet comfort of a narrow corridor occupied by only a staircase and a doorman positioned half way to its peak, I climb to my point of interest. I make my way directly to the bar, side stepping that same table, continuing my trek in spite of the tunnel vision gained once a single goal begins to mix into a destination. There are two women sitting at the bar. I don’t look at them, but they sound like they’re in their late thirties and they talk of mutual friends in excited spirits as if they haven’t met in ages.

The bartender is one I’ve never seen before.

We exchange pleasantries. “I’m well.” “It’s been good.” “Thanks for asking.” When I ask if Cameron isn’t working, she notices I’m no stranger and speaks to me in a more familiar flavor.

“An English major.” I respond. So is she. The conversation is lovely but feels too long and
embarrassingly empty on my part. We’re both shocked we’ve never seen one another, we’re both sure we will someday, and our discussion is concluded comfortably and accompanied by an interior sigh of relief followed by a closed tab and a signature as a garnish.

Retreating to my corner, I’m greeted by the dim light of translucent blinds feeding the room just as much luster as the space requires. I take my seat of sentry on the torn dark leather placed in the corner simply so I can have proper proof of the fact that I’m alone. The dart boards, the bookshelves, the hanging lights. People filter in and out in small numbers, and all I can think of is that today is my birthday.

We went looking for red buds by Adam Mahout

We went looking         for red buds
past the tarred     and stapled        telephone poles
down the glass-littered streets,
and tangled trash bags            sighing
stuck on a stick.

When        we turned the bend
the purple classes of wisteria        were still
in their religious aromas,
but the cotton woods sneezed and chuckled
above the foam crumbs, 
where the cardinals fraternize
and the briars moan.

the trees heaved in their wisteria chains,
each branch        an arm in full unison
laboring in the revolutions of wind.

But again, all exhausts and slouches
as the airplanes tear through the sky,
and the trains, with their peculiar cargo, bellow...
for the industry of two-thirds-man
looms on the outskirts
and in the treasured hearts of men...

Walking back the way we left, we never saw a red bud tree,
but the multitude of lawns coated
in white poisons blowing

into the cracked that define the street. 

And the garage door drapes and shuts behind us

every breaking-light. 

In summer there are acrid feelings by M.M.

in summer there are acrid feelings
bleach, hot chemical perfumes in the air
my pores bloated and slick with their chemistry
sweat beads on my chest plastic beads in the closet
beads of litter on my kitten’s paws
and ants in the cat food
always ants in the cat food, and bleach
grit and grime and grit my teeth
the stairs could never be clean enough
and now is the nausea in my head
or food poisoning? shrimp omelette jack cheese late night
stomach churning
slow breeze, coconut paleta
in the trees are pet sounds, new trees, old trees
same stars same stars
the whole world on one popsicle stick

Mid April by Tilly McAllister

he comes home
early empty, he must occupy himself
before she gets home
with the kids
he opens the fridge
rests for a moment, cooling off and grabs a beer
she gets home with the kids
he saunters through the backyard
moving the lawnmower
they run off to their homework with the promise to play with the culdesac kids
she lifts his t-shirt off the dining table and holds it to her jaw
and gazes out back
his old, beaten up earbuds
trail down his chest into his worn jeans blades of grass stick to his chest, inviting, condensing
a fresh tan a few freckles
he wipes his brow
her in the window she undoes the top button her blouse
he releases the handle
the lawnmower stops
she smirks he grins, bends over
to restart it she stays to watch
his back stretch pulse, when he yanks back the cord
she pulls out a glass
and turns on the faucet
they come running around,
chanting, clambering to get their shoes tied they freeze in the doorframe
hold up, her voice calls them back
they hand her their papers
she eyes them down
her perfect brow arched, smiling
they’re fine, but she can feel them
she okays it. they sprint she sets the sheets next to his shirt
the door slams the door opens
he walks in, holding his back
           straight his shoulders pronouncing towards her
                                   he grabs his shirt off the table and mops his forehead he picks up the glass
and eyes all around her
he downs it
a show
she retreats,
            her feet so gently hurrying she reaches behind
and locks the door
she rushes out of his view

Header image design by Tori Falcon.