fiction, poetry & more


by Mark Belair

at the end of a dark day / at my mother’s wake / i experienced a discordant hallucination / for by the funeral home door / guests streaming by him / stood the short / grinning / gum-snapping drum teacher of my teenage years / chick chicolus

of course it wasn’t him / if alive he’d be a creaky antique / not this sure-footed / hands-on-hips / crowd-parting visage / born of my exhaustion and grief

but the ghost kept staring at me / reveling as i wrestled with rising confusion / so finally / admitting derangement / i spoke to it

mr chicolus?

and i should have known / considering the theatrical / spot-lit entrance he’d just made / that it actually was him

ninety-four years old / it turned out / and looking no different / i swear / than when i biked to his house for lessons on his ancient drums / his bass drum big as a washing machine tub / museum pieces / really / from his youthful career as a vaudeville-style drummer

chick strode up and shook my hand / without a word about our loss / as he was too pumped by his effect on me for such formalities / a condition i stoked by stepping away from the receiving line / calling over my two grown sons / and chirping to them / like a distractible thirteen-year-old/ an introduction

to this expanded audience / chick talked about his teaching days / how he’d take four drum students to residential homes for children / with special needs / who would clap along / with perfection / to our purely rhythmic routine / then he talked of the acts he played for way back when / the singers / dancers / jugglers / and comedians he’d get laughs for / with his bottomless bag of sound effects / i remembered their signed / glossy head shots / mounted in his basement drum studio / photos hopelessly dated and corny / to a youngster yearning to inhabit the cool precincts of jazz

then even my dad and my sister / as they couldn’t help but notice / came over / the wake a temporary house party / with chick at the center / acting out a stream of jokes and stories / while snapping his ever-present gum then at the top of his game / he shook our hands and headed out / we all but breaking into applause on his waving exit / he never having paid his respects to my mother / who would have smiled like the fan of his she was / and approved / for she knew his only seemingly / cruel code

the show must go on


Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East, and The South Carolina Review. His new collection, Watching Ourselves, will be published February 2017 by Unsolicited Press. Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015), Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013), While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013) and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times. Please visit

November 2016