Zack Strait


Zack Strait







I rushed down the wet stairs
with my briefcase

trying to catch the E 

and got over to the platform 
just in time

to watch its lights 
disappear around the corner

some kid on the other
side of the tracks 

was rattling a can of Krylon 
paint and spraying

big Jungle Green curls 
into the hair 

of Judy Garland
who kept smiling at us both 

from her Wizard of Oz
movie poster 

he was a punk 
but I’d done my fair share of  

graffiti too 
back when I was his age

so I kept quiet 

I thought he was pretty good 

he set the Scarecrow 
on fire 

with a can of Chrome Yellow  

then started to rust out 
the Tin Man 

with Sunset Orange 
before we heard the next train 

he threw the cans 
into his messenger bag 

and turned to look 
my direction 

his face masked by the black 
hood of his jacket 

he pointed at the tracks

but I couldn’t see
anything but a dirty sewer rat 

pushing its whiskers
into a fry cup

I shrugged and he pulled back 
his hood 

he was looking down 
at his Chucks

but I recognized him in a flash 

it was me
from when I was living 

on the streets and panhandling 
for meals 

he stretched out his arms
and tried to fly   

in front of the oncoming train 

I reached for him 
while he sprayed my suit 

with one long streak 
of my own Banner Red blood 






Dad left me 
at Mr. Wilson’s Soda Shop 


it was the beginning 
of Spring and the magnolia 

blossoms opened 

like origami 
fortune tellers with nothing 

written in their folds

I could see Jimmy
in the red stenciled window

bouncing up the street
and whistling 

with his reflection

he always kept both hands 
in his pockets 

like he was still cold 
from the winter 

the other girls looked at me 
and giggled

then looked back 
his direction 

a little brass bell rang when 
he opened the door 

I felt bad smiling 
at him 

but luckily Mr. Wilson came 
right over 

to take our orders

we got two strawberry malts 
with whipped cream 

and cherries 

Jimmy saw what was coming
and I watched 

as his nose slipped off  
into his malt 

he looked like an illustration 

from our anatomy 

I reached out to take his hand

but he’d dropped both
on the tiled floor  

all his blood had drained into 
his boat shoes 

I grabbed his hair 
and pulled his forehead

back over his skull 

and then I kissed his pale lips
one last time 

Mr. Wilson asked me
if I needed a mop 

and I nodded 

Jimmy’s shoes squished as he 
wobbled out the door

leaving me there 
to clean up our mess





Zack Strait is on the black-and-white side of the rainbow, completing his MFA at Wichita State University.  He was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of wonderful journals, including POETRY, and Pleiades. Beyond writing, his interests include Crash Dummies, Z-Bots, and other relics of his bygone childhood. Twitter: @zackstrait