Pablo Piñero Stillmann

Contempt for Indianapolis

It was May something-or-other, 
the year of our Lord whatever, when 
you arrived with an overnight bag & a joint 
copped from a Music Education 
Ph.D. dropout. Could only visit for 24-hours,
you said, had more important 
food on your plate. Not me. I was 
depleted, my fields canned-soup salty.
It was clear from the first puff this was not
just weed: something in how it rattled 
metallic against the walls of my chest. 
Long gone was that impish campus 
weed that had so many times made our bodies
rub against each other before long walks
in the woods. No woods in Indianapolis. 
Just Great Recession hangover empty 
lots in Indianapolis. Claustrophobia made me
say, “Let’s go out to Indianapolis.” You hated
that my building was next to a school 
& that day couldn’t swallow that actual 
students were actually playing so close
to us. It would be the last time we walked 
hand-in-hand. It’s your brilliance I miss 
the most. You were a fool. That night
was Chinese food & a bad movie.
You’d made up your mind when 
the credits rolled. Later I’d go crazy
in Indianapolis. I guess now 
you know. All I knew was you. 

Contempt for Philadelphia

You apologized first thing 
that morning as I put on jeans & left for coffee. 
But Philadelphia 

hadn't yet risen ‘cause it’s not really
a city. A town? Sure. A village. You could hold
Philadelphia in your hand 

but why? When the coffee shop finally 
opened I took a corner table to count the hours I had left
in Philadelphia.

Pretty couples & strollers & chatter
flooded the place as I glared at a map on my phone leading me
to Old Philadelphia. 

Yes, I stood at Franklin’s grave.
Of course I visited the Arch Street Quaker Meeting House. 
“In Philadelphia settled 

non-conformist Christians,” said the tour guide. 
“They were abolitionists & had no clergy.” Sitting at a pew 
in total Philadelphia silence 

helped somewhat. There were 20,000 bodies
buried below. Maybe all I need, I thought, is to be alone in
an empty Philadelphia. Or

would that make things worse? A beer 
at a bar, then a phone call: “We need to talk about so much 
before leaving Philadelphia.”

Pablo Piñero Stillmann has been the recipient of Mexico’s two top grants for young writers: The Foundation for Mexican Literature (f,l,m) and The
National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA). His work has appeared in, among other places, Bennington Review, Gettysburg Review, Mississippi Review &
Blackbird. His book of short stories Our Brains and the Brains of Miniature Sharks won the Moon City Short Fiction Award and was published in 2020 by Moon City Press.