West Advertising
Ken Poyner

The advertising in the east packs a wallop. Arrayed against the sky like a ten thousand bird army, it sucks you right in and leaves a hollow ring in your mouth that no amount of crystal can erase. You feel driven. You feel compelled. You feel necessary. So long as you can participate, you are a piece of the action, something which drives the advertising into new nooks and crannies and derives new advertising from the old. And this in turn inspires others.

You did not originally start on this path. Yours was the mundane. Your life was full of Siberian tigers and polar bears and you expected to be happy until the day that peanut butter revolted. Needs change. The paradox in life is that you do not know what you need until someone else tells you what you need, and then you need it with a passion that sets bedspreads on fire, that turns hanging laundry on a line out back into act of defiance, that makes confirming the count of your teeth imperative.

And so you gather your penguins and act. Heading languorously east with the penguins in the back seat you have even gotten used to the smell of their fish. You welcome the sense of community. Yours is a stiletto mission: there is advertising in the east and you do not want to simply heed it, you want to be a part of it. You want to enter it and make your point. You want it to exude from your pores like the lime of indecision atop a middle class beer. You expect the wax-like envy of others, their horrid goblins arrayed like showgirls on the stage of your masterful plan. This is no mere intersection of collaboration. You have this mission staked out , your defining fish curing in the sun. You gather the muffled penguins from their quizzical open desert bathroom break, and drive on.

The sun tracks ever higher and the pain of it in your eyes lessens from that of aging icebergs to mere fingernails of grief and the driving is not so much cleaning out the refrigerator any longer, but more greasing the wheels. The penguins have settled down. The advertising has risen in the sky, a function of you reducing angles with speed. Your heart has slowed and passion is replaced with resolve, the exponential with the arithmetic. There is a thump, thump, thump like the flat tire of a man with a mission going round and round merely ceaselessly no matter the cost to the rim.

You have been tracking the sun as it rows itself ever higher. Originally, all that was in the field of vision was the advertising, but the sun is having its way with the small principalities around it. It is smaller, but stronger now, and something in its path indicates a will that could by some be admired. It affects the eyes and skin and yet remains aloof, seemingly unaware of anything around it: one distant shore on a dry sea certain it is a shore despite the absence of water or even fish for your penguins.

Perhaps it is a form of advertising. Perhaps it has a different mission than the advertising in the east. Perhaps its method has been honed on the rocks of fiber and it knows something the advertising in the east does not know: it speaks to different congregations; perhaps even congregations cloaked in ignorance; unaware of their soft spoken economics; their collection of small, ferocious animals; blind to their abilities to square the lives of penguins with your journey east.

And so you begin with your eyes to follow the sun. Yes, there is still advertising in the east, and it is still your mission, and you are still driving east with a backseat awash with penguins. But the sun is tracking against you, running over you like water past a spawning salmon. In no time at all, it will be behind you.

Maybe it will frame you against the advertising in the east, maybe it is your foil. Then again, maybe it is flanking you.

In no time at all, it will be behind you.

And so you look around, twist to peer out the back window, to look past the lilting heads of all the penguins stuffed there heedless of geometry. You frame all that is behind you in the narrow window of the car’s rear glass, a rectangle of recovery. The penguins do not mind. You strain your neck like a watch spring.

And then you stop fair and glossy and slaughter the penguins. You know you have been deceived. Oh, you have been made a stuffed bear of! But what could you have done? The advertising in the east was such a spread of curious bellwether. The expansive illumination and dull mica ring. The flashing canines and that heroic march of frantic insects. And you did not know. You could not know.

Ken Poyner has published many poems over the last forty years, and is doing a bit of short fiction these days. Most recently, his work has appeared in Eclectica, Frigg, Blue Collar Review, Adirondack Review, Medulla Review, Dogzplot and elsewhere, and his latest chapbook is called Sciences, Social. He lives with his world class power lifter wife and a collection of rescue cats in the bottom far right hand stretch of Virginia.