Category Archives: Nathan Alling Long

Alignment by Nathan Alling Long

They lived in the same neighborhood, biked the same streets, went to potlucks at the same collective houses. What they remember of summer nights is drinking beer on front porches as joints floated through the air like fireflies, kissing each person’s lips. Talking of Rilke and Descartes until dawn. Walking home in the rain.

Then autumn came. They pulled out old gray sweaters from their closets. They biked with coats and scarves. Evenings became large bottles of wine and steaming kitchens. Fresh bread from the oven. Everyone sitting on the floor, mismatched plates in their laps, the house dog circling the crowd like a shark, looking for scraps.

One night, near solstice, a few stayed up, improvising an epic poem in rhyme. One by one, they fell asleep, on the sofa, curled up on the rug, against each others’ bodies. The candles burned out, the night grew dark.

Then the moon snuck in. It brushed across three faces, the way a moth might glide past your arm. Each woke to the light, and without a word, they began to kiss one another. They had never seen each other in this light before. They kissed and kissed, as the moon trailed across their faces. It was like drinking milk from a distant planet.

Then their portion of the room drew dark, they grew tired, and, with fingers interlocked, they fell asleep. Later, when the moonlight slid across the dog’s tail, it awoke and sighed, then fell back asleep.


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Firewood by Nathan Alling Long

One day I slammed my bedroom door after a fight with my parents, and there I stood alone in my room, the sound of anger echoing off the walls. Ugly, ugly, I thought, and I vowed–tenacious and absolute like all teenagers–to never show anger again.

And like that, I stopped. I transformed into ice calm, a person unflusterable.

For years, I was a monastery, a fortress made of bones. I sat cramped for hours in a pick-up, an October wind spinning up straw dust into my eyes. There were snowstorms with bare hands, fasting through spring, the hot summer on a bus that smell of chemicals and urine. I let old aches burn without salve.

Things were once distinct like that, certain, discrete. Now things morph into other things: the days, feelings, the songs I like and hate. Red lights have a hint of orange, the sky is never a perfect blue. What happened was this: the human touch.

We were talking in a field, the fire of night above us. The cold wet dew was settling into the grass, and all our words took us to mountains. Then his hand brushed against my arm. The monastery dissolved and became a playground. As we touched, the space between the world and my body wriggled and slid away. Then we fell into a well of warm liquid. Afterward, I smelled like his body. The doors, once softly shut, were now unhinged, dismantled, offered to the fire.


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