by Robert Crowl
©2020  Christoffer Relander                                                                                           "Inner Creatures"
IG:  @chris_relander
Robert Crowl teaches English and Creative Writing at Concordia University of Texas and Austin Community College. He earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso and a BA in English at the University of Alabama. He’s also a consultant & presenter with the Heart of Texas Writing Project at the University of Texas in Austin which is a group of educators in the area committed to intellectualizing and growing the difficult work of empowering diverse readers and writers at all levels through writer’s & reader’s workshop. Currently, he’s writing a memoir that explores the intergenerational effects of substance abuse, toxic masculinity, and infidelity and the ways childhood trauma impacts parent-child relationships. He grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Houston, Texas, but he currently lives in Leander, Texas with his wife and their 5-year-old twins.
A Glow Stick in  His Hand

​On the fourth of July, my son, after running ragged
with cousins through pools bobbing with water balloons,
after sliding into piles of laughter and failing to lick a Sonic
the Hedgehog ice cream faster than the Bridge City humidity
could melt it down his arm and elbow—blue rung mouth and
matching hair paint—after clamoring and bouncing for fireworks
on a rocking utility trailer parked under Spanish moss at dusk
(spinning spaceships, deployed paratroopers, pink whirling
pigs that screeched, paper tanks that inched and coughed
sparks, colored smoke bombs, fountains geysering the St.
Augustine in liquid light, and ear thrumming mortar shells
that bloomed then disappeared), after roasting marshmallows
over orange-black coals, smashing them between graham crackers
and Hershey’s colored red, white, and blue—after spinning
fire in his hands, whipping smoke rings with sparkler’s,
my son fell asleep in my bed holding a glow stick he’d fished
from a complimentary plastic tub at the fireworks stand. Now,

his body was all swallowed in shadow except his shoulder and
the bent arm that held what little light the day hadn’t burned
up. I couldn’t see it until I lowered my head on the mattress
next to his and realized he’d caught a vial of phosphorescent
algae, a rare emerald emitting its own light. Outside our window,

unrelenting celebrants offered their neon payloads over the pond, glassy
water mimicking the sky while his glow stick shone yellow-green under
the pillow like a lantern. I knew it would burn out by morning, but still,
he clutched it—the day’s echo—against his chest in our cool, dark

room. He awoke, and it had dimmed but still glowed with the curtains
thrown wide for the sun. He put two fading sticks together, wore them
like a necklace, even after they’d died. He lugged them, snapping and
unsnapping them and putting the ends in his mouth like he was
trying to drink any trace drops of light still swimming inside.

© 2020 West Trade Review
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