Ted Jonathan

Straight Lines

My mother said I should be afraid of my own shadow. My father said I should ram my
fist deep down a big wet red dog’s throat. A dignified old lady neighbor said I was a nice
boy. Go fuck yourself, I replied. Hot shit Petey Cooney said I was real shit because I
dropped a pop fly. Miss Pakula said I was smart in school. The palmist took one long
look at my palm, said nothing. Stared sadly at me, and split. My grandmother said I was a
doppelganger. My grandfather, who escaped the Nazis, said I was a Nazi. Mike Gucci at 7
Santini Bros. Moving & Storage Co. said I couldn’t do anything right. The white detective
with the yellow eyes said the many teeth marks on the dead girl’s broken body were mine.
My Uncle Saul said I should flee to Israel. My Uncle Jerry said I should go to law
school and get married. A state appointed Pakistani psychiatrist said I was a paranoid
schizophrenic. Alison Katz said my dick was too small. Alison Katz said my dick was too
big. A Korean hooker said I had a nice dick. The most guarded person I’ve ever met said
I was the most guarded person he’s ever met. Lucy Reyes said I was talented, had a full
head of hair, and knew how to treat a lady. Helen Bannister said I was the most horrible
man she’d ever met. An old friend said I had nothing to die or live for. Said my poetry
was old and tired. That I need to bathe regularly and get a girlfriend. Whatever you say.

First published in New York Quarterly


Ted Jonathan is a poet and short story writer. Born and raised in the Bronx, he currently lives in New Jersey. His poems and stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, most recently: Rattle, Paterson Literary Review, and Chiron Review. His collection of poems and short stories, Bones & Jokes, was published by NYQ Books (2009). His poetry collection Run was published by NYQ Books (2016).