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The radio says today is the birthday of Jasper Johns,
born in Augusta, Georgia in 1930.
He was famous for paintings of flags and maps.
Who cares says my daughter,
I don’t know.
I writhe in bed with fever, chills,
chatters and shivers.
The near becomes far as the far comes close.
It is an auspicious day for Jasper in the past century,
but this century illness booked my day.
A daughter who usually doesn’t care
talks at bedside without pause.
Something is different.
Never go hunting on an empty stomach, says my daughter.
I stare at the cap backwards on her head.
We are diverted by the cat hacking up a hairball.
How hard, my daughter asks,
would it be to paint a flag, anyway.
I’m mean, it’s just a picture of a symbol of something else.
What pretentious bad taste to push that.
Then we listen to a history program.
Napoleon leads 500,000 soldiers into Russia
all the way to Moscow, which the Russians burn.
The soldiers try to leave as winter comes.
Only 20,000 return to France.
Damn, I miss the summers.
My daughter wants to decorate my plain room
with quaint rock star posters,
then as a rejected stage set from Star Trek.
She is angry about Napoleon’s army,
angry with the bare wall.
She twists her cap back.
Put a map on the wall, I say.
Put flags where my life ventured once,
symbols of whatever those events mean,
before it leaves this tiny country.



J. Alan Nelson has poetry and stories published or forthcoming in numerous journals, including New York Quarterly, Main Street Rag, The Texas Observer, and Whale Road Review. He was the lead in the viral video “Does This Cake Make Me Look Gay?” and was “Silent Al” in the Emmy-winning “SXSWestworld.”
Current Issue
26 Feb 2024

I can’t say any of this to the man next to me because he is wearing a tie
Language blasts through the malicious intentions and blows them to ash. Language rises triumphant over fangs and claws. Language, in other words, is presented as something more than a medium for communication. Language, regardless of how it is purposed, must be recognized as a weapon.
verb 4 [C] to constantly be at war, spill your blood and drink. to faint and revive yourself. to brag of your scars.
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