Quadriptych, Petersen Events Center

Curious Men

That brown coat, bushy-haired man who strayed away,
        A paint flake peeling in a curl from the standing crowd,

How his straight back and cocked head told of bold fonts,

        As he strolled back to the control booth like he owned it.

May as well have been scraping a tree branch along white

	Pickets, analyzing the flashing switches, buttons, slides,

And screens from one corner of the black plastic barricade

        to the other, hard-boiled and clue fishing, then deftly 

dissolving elsewhere, tension of his outline an after-image 

	melted smooth seconds later, like a ripple of molasses,

Returning to the flock, the herd of which he once departed,

        As if he got what he came for, then uncurled, unflaked.

Sent back to 2012, when the world was meant to end,

        And those who came to see Nolan’s new direction—

another Batman film—were shot, I think of popcorn

        spilling, bags of trundling blood-speckled tumbleweeds,

meeting old, unswept M&Ms stuck under the seats,

        The trivial thrills that suddenly end and make death 

Feel silly and ill-timed. Innocence in curiosity no longer

        Strikes so innocently for a great time afterward—my first

Post-shooting theatre experience a movie I can’t recall,

        Absent, needing to miss no beat: audience filtering in,

I graded their bags and coats in the dark to calculate risk,

        Danger, watching the green-lit Exit signs for an escape,

Or the icy, opening breeze of the end to be forced upon me. 

Skipping the tail of his path, she’s an ochre cardigan and skirt,
        Arm laced with her man in a brightness taking our attitude

By shoulders until it blisters. Unclear from my seat, I imagine

	Her to be wearing wing-tipped shoes, which she’ll certainly 

Remove before the show starts and dance, an old sock hop 

	Showing through, layered transparency sheets two-toned,

Projecting paradox—time passed folded over time as occurs,

	The universe sends its people what it needs, sun rays thrown

From hope and innocence. The pottery wheel in our hearts

	A birthright from God to center clay from the Earth, spinning

Aged, weathered rock beneath our fingertips and palms, red

        Iron grit abrading identity engraved in the soles of our hands,

Not be ignored, not to be confused with immaturity, or a law

	Irresponsibly broken, but an opportunity to mend, manifest

From mask-mottled dirt and rubble a two or three-tiered vase,

	A glazed and fired trophy for our lost era to reclaim selves,

Show our faces on stage before the sapphire curtain even rises,

	And welcome this girl to the present by the legwork of our own new dance.
While My Fiancé s in the Restroom

The back right tire slams into the curb

As I turn too sharply—I briefly shrink,

Picturing swollen pressure bubbles or

A hairy mouth exposing the insides, 

Awaiting the redundant asphalt flop,

clown shoes on the road. She scolds me,

applying mascara, foundation, brows

in the overhead mirror. Not a month ago

Two tires were replaced, potholes due

To winter plowings and lazy craft, roads

Left in disrepair—our government could

not care less—When I lay on the brakes,

swing across the road for a parking space, 

I remind her that I didn’t want to drive 

And she could have done her face up

Before leaving the house. I sit here, plastic

Stadium chairs daydreaming, a tough talk

we had earlier: the realness of our love

and the prospect of our wedding in the fall,

laughing at how quickly a new fight ensued.

Standing in line, wind whipping our cradled

backs, escalator lifting us higher, I recite words: 

time does not exist, and everything is always

okay, isn’t it? Nostalgia sets in, revolting

fragrances of bad coffee, flavored syrups,

sour milk on our green aprons, our fingers

sticking together. We surreptitiously slept

in the same bed, supervisor and barista

falling into thick moss, the synchronicity—

Our silver platter of brick, first home

floating down to us one month prior

to lockdown. Saying goodbye for twenty

minutes, I squeezed her hip bones to mine

tighter, she said, ever than anyone else,

outside my old building, her mouth punking

out lyrics to a Jack White song. He’ll play it

tonight, but not until encore, even better,

and we will return to the beginning, singing

in each other’s faces, our spirits running hard

reset somehow, over sixteen saltine crackers. 
Sitting Audience

They just sat there like fish on ice

Listening to a sapless sermon

When the overdriven grind, Jack’s

Guitar in silhouette, began to scream.

As the curtain rose, I went with it,

Noticing the melted ice shift around

The sea meat, a necrotic head sliding

To see around me, cracked marbles,

Still, foggy, watching more like waiting,

Or old expired milk cartons, holes 

Where there were eyes, empty, nobody

Incorporated, surrendered to the silk

Of a cream-writing ball-point pen

For narration, sponsored by ibuprofen 

And plugging your ears to cure loneliness

And lack of integrity. We left the nest

For a higher plane and stuck to our feet,

One or two others followed—Crowds

Are like packed snow, trillions of unique

Flakes coexisting, dormant until scooped,

Then either crumbling off to the ground

Or, knowing they belong elsewhere, sticking

to the warm threads of winter gloves.
A Moon in Any Moment

If you’re awake, go look at the moon

As the sky bleeds in from one corner,

Wrung pink from an evening storm,

And chases the night away.

Tiptoeing on the plywood sandbox,

Dawn horizon peers back over the roofs,

As the first robin, a shadow in half-light,

Swoops, singing a kiss-whistle theme song 

To this moment when we see two skies,

Different from each other’s back yard—

One with moon, and one without, like 

Alternate realities, or simply witnessing 

The significance of a few short minutes.

Our world is a mason jar being shaken,

Contents whirled up, coating the panes,

Surfing along the flat of the lid, mixed

Well under pressure of a vacuum seal.

Maybe wait, watch the yolky maple-

Mustard drip behind the cursive Ball, until

Once more transparent, wall through wall.

Maybe run a spatula along the sides

To scrape and rush the heady, glass clouds

Back into their superfluous reservoir,

A waxed, finger-polished sky turning day.

In depurated heavens bright as klieg lights

It can still be found—in proper phase—

Sharing blue space with our great star:

a reflection of sun’s shine into our eyes.


Bryce Johle is from Williamsport, PA and earned his B.A. in Professional Writing from Kutztown University. His stories and poems have appeared in The Writing Disorder, Shoofly Literary Magazine, Essence Art and Literary Magazine, draft Literary Magazine, platform Zine, and Nebo: A Literary Journal. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife and stepdaughter.