Blawnox and The Fortress by Charlie Brice



Thirteen winters past birth, our son answered my question, 

What do you want for Christmas, with one word, Bongos

And where could those bongos be purchased? “At Drum World 

in Blawnox,” the joy of my loins replied. 

Was Blawnox some primitive bovine monster, a horrendous 

flying cow, that could terrorize Tokyo like in those old Japanese 

horror films? Not to worry. Ariel assured me that he knew 

the exact location of Drum World and how to get to Blawnox.

A drummer myself, I’d studied the kick-beats of everyone from

Max Roach and Joe Morello to Ringo. This papa was proud that 

his little drumstick had struck so close to his paternal snare drum. 

I donned a skimpy jacket on this sunny, but cold, December day in Pittsburgh

certain that my budding percussionist knew exactly where we were going. He

expertly got us to Blawnox—had me park two or three blocks from the store. 

After five frosty blocks I asked if we were close. Only a block to go, he said. 

Five blocks later I was pissed. I spied a business’s door and said, 

through chattering teeth, “Get in there and ask for directions!” 

Ari entered the store and immediately walked out. I got so hot I could have 

nuked him. “Get back in there and ask for directions,” I bellowed. “Daaaad!” 

Ari said, and pointed to the storefront window. Still simmering and shivering, 

I looked. A manikin stood in the window dressed in women’s underwear.

Something was amiss. There were holes in the bra where a woman’s nipples 

belonged. I glanced at the sign on the storefront. Exotica, it read, Attire 

and Sex Toys for The Discriminating Adult.

It’s fascinating how fast shame can regulate body temperature. I smelled burnt

ego, blushed the color of humble, felt the fever of remorse. 

“I’m sorry,” I said, and my little drummer boy broke into ferocious guffaws. 

We laughed and shivered for two more blocks until we found Drum World.

Those bongos live in memory now, along with the thrum of shame 

and fun—the cadence of father and son.

The Fortress

Surround yourself with books,

a fortress of paper and bindings.

Turn the pages—

Madame Bovary, Vanity Fair,

even The Fall of Giants by Ken Follett.

Live in those gone worlds.

Avoid mortality’s stealthy creep,

its footprint lodged in your nightscape.

Your pounding, angry, heart

wakes you up, tries to escape

the dungeon of your chest,

its arrhythmic declaration:

Everyone must die;

you are no exception.

There’s never a right time.

Turn the page.

Charlie Brice won the 2020 Field Guide Poetry Magazine Poetry Contest and placed third in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. His sixth full-length poetry collection is Pinnacles of Hope (Impspired Books, 2022). His poetry has been nominated three times for the Best of Net Anthology and the Pushcart Prize.

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