060.5: The Tuscaloosa Issue:: Oliu & Gray & DeLong & Demaree 060

The Tuscaloosa Issue:: Thursday: We feature writing by Brian Oliu, Samuel Gray, Jesse DeLong, and Darren C. Demaree.

This week, The Offending Adam pauses our usual publication schedule for a specific and important purpose: focusing our attention on the tragedy that just befell the American South, and in particular the state of Alabama. Each day this week, we will present writers who have a connection with Alabama writing on Alabama. Those of us at TOA and the writers participating in this week's issue encourage you to help and support the victims of the tornado by donating to the American Red Cross and to other aid organizations. Tuscaloosa may be broken and Tuscaloosa may be bruised, but Tuscaloosa will recover. And it will recover with our help. The Offending Adam

Tuscaloosa Missed Connection #37: Construct – m4w – Home Depot

by Brian Oliu

Let me build you a house. Here, a nail. Here, a piece of wood. I have told you that this will all be gone soon: the ground is unstable, the ground is not solid. I would rebuild this city for you if I could—I would place long smooth stones into the silt and we would walk on them, your heels digging into the gaps from time to time so you would stumble. My feet are flat—they have no arch, all things structurally flawed. My bones, they are soft. My skin, stretched thin and translucent from years of abuse, years of not building anything, years of not walking. When I build you something, something will be built. When I build you something I will know the meaning of this—to put my back into something, to know what power is and what it might be. The building we are in is taller than both of us together, we cannot touch the lights. When I build you something, I want you to stretch your arms above your head like you are praying, like you are praising. I want you to lay your hands flat on the ceiling, to bend your wrists backwards, to cause your muscles to tense up. I want your hands to feel the acoustics, to rub your fingers over the bumps like when you used to put your hand on my face, cupping my jaw, telling me that you like it when I don’t shave. I will build you this because this will all be gone. We will have a housewarming party—we will tell our friends to bring red wine, to bring candles and cookware, to place oranges in a bowl and cover it with foil. You will wear a dress and I will wear a tie and we will answer the door: we will look through the small square windows—glass I broke into shards with my hands. When we open the door, no one will be standing there. When we open the door, the water will rush in.

Tuscaloosa Missed Connection #13:  Intersection of Bryant and Magnolia Drive

by Brian Oliu

My view of you was blurry—the type of blur evident when all is in motion: mothers moving in quickly to place kisses on the cheek, everyone quickly turning their heads when hearing the word ‘sister’, hearing a song, hearing a name that is similar to their name. This is something that I do not understand while moving, rotation on top of rotation driving me forward yet away. I would spend action on you, but as you know, this whole thing is Greek to me—Hellenistic where there is no Helen, no woman at the end of the sea, no understanding of what these shapes mean: these shapes are not me, these shapes are not my language. I fear you. I fear your handshakes, your dead birds, your coffins, your chairs, your teas, your mixes and mixers, your buttons, your service and services. The gift you bear has no wheels—I am the one moving forward, you are the one still. If I were to cut you open lord knows what I would find: a building, a new city, a torch to burn my city to the ground from whence it came. If the gods deemed it so, I would throw my momentum into a lamppost, into the pillars of your new home, into the river. I would die ingloriously without a struggle with no great thing—nothing that you will remember me by. You will find all of this sad, but your house will move on. I fear you. I fear that this was meant to be. I fear that this is in your god’s will. I fear so I say nothing lest the snakes come out of the ground and swallow me and all I hold dear. In passing, you see me about to speak. Look at the pretty horse I have made for you, you say. Look at the attention we have given to its hooves, its wooden eyes. Please, I beg of you, do not try to contact me. I have no need for horses—I have broken all of them.

15th and Oakwood

by Samuel Gray

Planted all at once forty years ago,
the water oaks along my street
rot from the inside out.

The boom trucks, one after another,
extend their booms,
and as the limbs fall hollow
the air fills with spore.
No sound. The saws
swallow even themselves.

Tracks to Tuscaloosa

by Jesse DeLong


On the Pacific, coastal towns are drowned in salt winds, erosions,
cast glass rounded in the lap, lap, lap
of a tide’s rhythmic motions. The zero of beginnings, the zero of ends.

A seagull sinks in the ocean, unable to blink, to breathe.
Green water darkens to the thickness of centuries tar.
A tempest spills over a fold of waves,
holding under its stenciled pour. Storms roar.

A jellyfish blisters in the bank-washed seaweed.
Beyond the shore, in the tall grass, gnats feed, clouding in swarms.
A woman on the beach, book in lap, squints her eyes
against where charcoal rubs the water’s edge.
Sand erases its glister to a landscape told
in a failure to fold. A failure to forget.

Our woman is thinking, as she turns a page,
not only about what is right, or wrong, but about what is graspable.
Deloria the Known One, and Birdsong.

In the sand, a child’s footprints lift, form drifting to the tide.
Beside his mother, he covers seaweed over a stick,
flicks green threads onto the shore, watching, in the distance, a tempest pour.
Bird songs on the ocean. Birdsong on the beach.


Deloria enters a journey marked in the kerosene
spark of a smoldering skyline. A snowcapped highline.
California to Idaho. Idaho to North Dakota.
North Dakota to Illinois. Chicago to The South.

On the journey,
Deloria will lay his body down, a train spike in San Francisco.
Deloria will lay his body down, a track mark in Sacramento.
Deloria will lay his body down, a train spike in Salem.
Deloria will lay his body down, a track mark in Astoria.

He treks through orange groves, buttes, plateaus, redwood forests.
He sings the leafed chorus of the final grasslands laid before us.

Deloria will lay his body down, a train spike in Spokane.
In the rail yards, his ribcage turns to rebar.
Deloria will lay his body down, a track mark in Sandpoint.
Deloria will lay his body down, a train spike in Post Falls.

Beside men working in sawmills and machine yards.
Beside women working in processing plants and penitentiaries.

Deloria will lay his body down, a track mark in Missoula.
Inside the Bitterroot Valley, his heart scars in battery acid.

From Montana, he carries Birdsong, beat to bone,
to the ends of a west expressed in silos, silt creeks and grains.
In the Dakotas, Birdsong stops, splinter-shinned.
There is no where for him or from here.

Deloria will lay his body down, a flint spark in Bismarck.

Over icicle-thin airs of mountain ridges, tendon-tight heights
of steel bridges, over gravel-scattered plains,
lands where grass blades seldom soak in rain, Deloria continues.

In the higher Rockies, his limbs tatter to static.
He lingers longer in the towns where he can rest his boots,
look over the horizon
and be certain there are still places where smog hasn’t smothered the air.

Clouds bury the skyline and refine to rain.
The horizon could be anywhere. This is the end of the West.

Deloria will lay his body down, a track mark in Pierre.
On the loading dock, his breath emits tailpipe-lit exhaust.
Deloria will lay his body down, a train spike in St Paul.
Deloria will lay his body down, a track mark in Green Bay.

Deloria will lay his body down, a train spike in Chicago.
In the city, his spine knots into the twine of steel bridges.
In the boiler room, his veins harden to sewage pipes, pistons.
Chemicals in a meth lab. Tar roofing, pigeon shit, smoke stacks.
And farther off—pine trees. A lake where weather splinters water.
The roads from where they hustle, brow sweat and muscle

Deloria will lay his body down, a track mark in Indianapolis.
Deloria will lay his body down, a train spike in Nashville.
Deloria will lay his body down, a train spike in Tuscaloosa.
In the heart of dixie, his lungs fill with pavement chunks and he cements.

Water Always Leaves the Knife

by Darren C. Demaree
     For Tuscaloosa

How the chip
& hammer,
so paused in both,

that we live with the carry
& away
of that sun sum

of what fingers do
when it’s char
or the painted red faces

of about, of about
the town. Rats,
lost scorpions,

the full ribs
of such beauty
is blood, is fat, is ship.