I FIRST MET ZAC SMITH IN A BARN by Giacomo Pope

I was 250 miles from the nearest streetlight, and my shoes were covered in horse shit. In the centre of the barn was this dude standing on the stacked hay. He was foaming at the mouth and shouting at overfed livestock.

Zac was watching these chickens try to kill each other and they were making all this noise, but over the top of it, you could still hear the poems crashing against cracked red paint. 

The chickens were the stuntmen from Die Hard, and I was reaching into popcorn between my legs. I was sweating. The bigger chicken was digging its face into the other one (which now wasn’t moving or making a sound). The bigger chicken relentlessly pecking into fleshy feathers, and Zac was doing these little hops on the hay with a Cheshire grin.

It was all red and gore, and the hay was clumping up with chicken blood. The horses eating around it, drool and yellow teeth scraping the dirt for lines of hay. 

I think about this day in the barn with Zac, and I think about how it wasn’t actually a barn, it was at a reading in Brooklyn, and how the cops were called and the bigger guy was dragged out the bar. The other dude melting into the floor with a face full of beer bottle. How fucked up it all was. How Zac and I couldn’t stop watching the grey mop pushing brown glass in puddles around the smaller guy while we waited for an Uber to take him to the hospital.

Okay I lied, we were never in a bar watching someone get murdered.

We were in this barn though, and the chicken was totally fucked. I held the chicken in my arms, my hands getting all sticky. I was feeling pretty anxious. Zac stepped down from the ladder in the middle of the barn and said he’d light up the BBQ. 

I was feeling stressed out about how to pick out all the shards of glass from the meat, and the bar was closing up. The cops were asking us a bunch of dumb questions like “Did either of you know the stuntmen?”, “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” and “My favourite type of open-door building is a barn.”, which isn’t even a fucking question. Cops man, they’re dumb as hell. 

The other writers had left the reading after the guy’s head had cracked open. They had taken all the horses, but we had both forgotten our boots anyway. Zac took a couple dozen copies of the books which were left behind the bar. We burnt them under the stars. The chicken was soft and fell apart in our mouths. I picked Zac’s teeth with hay, and we walked together to the subway. Our feet caked in the beer and blood from the floor, we dragged them through the muck to clean them up. At Zac’s stop, he turned around before the doors shut. The match caught against splintered beams. It was all so warm as the train screeched through the tunnels back home.


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