John, Lyndon, John

Callie Collins


When John talks, his mouth is the top of a mountain in winter, and his words come out a devastating avalanche—but lovely too, all white and powder and delicate crushing.

When John talks, the people in the room are too entranced to move out of the way, and they are buried unceremoniously, though maybe it feels ceremonious. Maybe not. When John talks, there is no room for anything but his northern voice to be ceremonious. No room for the burying.

When John talks, out comes a Texas storm. John doesn't know Texas well, but it doesn't matter. When John talks, out comes sweet rain in Dallas, and the grass paws at the shower, stretches up at him, curling.

When John talks, his face expands and contracts, and the downpour strengthens and weakens. John's got a strong face, a chin that could take you in any fight, surface-level eyes like a murky Atlantic, and oh, John's got teeth, and they part in varying degrees and looking into them leaves a stain on your retinas.

We look into them, you and I, our feet in a soft puddle on the ground.


When Lyndon talks, his mouth is the mouth of a river. His mouth is the mouth of the Colorado River, where it flows strongest and gushes over rock and carves canyons fast. When Lyndon talks, most of the time he talks, Lyndon's mouth is the mouth of a cold, cold river.

When Lyndon talks hard, loud, his mouth is the mouth of a lava flow, unsafe. Magma, fiery hell. This lava pushes everyone else out of the way, or otherwise it disintegrates, erodes things into new things, and neither is a very appealing option, when Lyndon talks.  

When Lyndon raises his right hand and puts his left hand on a missal, the lava is dominating, domineering, smoothes over a whole room of people, and his own suit. The hot lava glows and gushes like it's spilling out of Lyndon's face of its own accord—it's almost impossible to believe that Lyndon's mouth is a mouth at all, until you see it curve in the middle of all of the gushing.

Out of Lyndon's mouth flows crystalline fire, and on top of the fire rides a Harley, dark green and all muscle, and on top of the Harley rides us, me sober, unyielding, barely even bending with the curves, your hands around my expanding waist.


When John talks, his mouth is the round opening of a bottle of molasses. The molasses rolls out delicately, like it's traveled up from his strong gut through his strong esophagus and over and through his strong pharynx, like it's been simmered. Probably it coats his tongue and slows his jaw as it emerges, probably he feels it.

When John talks in the living room, Jackie and his babies watch it, the molasses, but they feel it too. And when it rolls out of him, it rolls into them‚ warm and fluid and coating their tongues with the same delicacy, slow strength, sickening sweetness. Their bellies ache, when John talks, but it feels good to feel what he feels. Probably the molasses makes John ache most of the time.

So we're going to do it, too. You climb up onto the counter to reach into the back of the cabinet while I work very hard with my face to look like I'm enjoying something. I work on the corners of my lips and I force them up, and I work on the folds under my eyes and push them together, squint. I focus on the dark space, the blackness where they come together, these folds. You pull out a bottle, but you say you think it's been in there too long or frozen or something. Even when we turn it upside down, it's like a rock. Impenetrable, this molasses. Our mouths are dry as ever.

It was a kind thing, though, to try.