TRUNCATE
Sheika A.

Autumn should have arrived ten days ago
but the days are mystifyingly clear
and with a cool breeze today – 
we are probably receiving the residual
monsoon winds from across borders.

This stray monsoon doesn’t know it can
never initiate rain on my ground – 
we live under a despot sun.

My skin hasn’t started to flake,
darken and wrinkle like autumn-inflicted trees,
but has turned a shade lighter – 
an unwelcome unexpected 

Spring never arrived; summer hasn’t left;
autumn is late; the months are shedding
days faster than the leaves in flight
to desiccation.

The days carry themselves with eccentric
precision – eight years have seen no change.

Winter will be its nonage burgundy self;
the nights crusting with sadness,
the hours condensing with slowness.

___

 

TATTOO MAN, Chapter 1
Shirley Cannon

You never saw cars on the road on Sunday mornings.  Hardly ever.  I liked the quiet breath of the air.  I could see crows as they flew down from trees and landed nearby.  They say that when you start noticing crows and counting them, more and more show up.  Everybody said different things about what they meant.  I heard four of them meant good luck.  Two, death.  Eight, pain and sorrow.  There were quite a few that morning.  I lost count.  Nine, I think.  Maybe.  I couldn’t remember what nine’s supposed to stand for.  I loved looking at the crows.  The glistening black of their feathers made me think of peacock coal, that hard anthracite kind, not bituminous coal like we have.  Peacock coal is jet black and streaked with hot pink, Indian yellow, and stripes of acid green like you see sometimes on the back of a beetle.  As I neared the mine, I could hear the low hum of generators, pumps and high tension lines that kept the mine alive six days a week, and then sounded like some kind of slumbering beast on Sundays.  

I’d been walking barefoot on the newly tarred road, just heading up toward the coal mine, like I did every Sunday morning.  When my feet got too hot on the fiery surface, I hopped onto shady patches when I could, cool patches created by the thick, overhanging trees.  Sometimes my toes would sink down into sun-softened spots of tar that covered deep potholes.  It felt good the way the tar would sink in when I poked it with my big toe, and then slowly return to the way it was, like some thick licorice cushion in a hot, hard place.

At twelve years old, I was drawn to the mine like I was a spirit who walked through ghost towns.  Rusted coal cars lay like skeletons on abandoned rail lines.  The mine office, a once whitewashed cement block building, was now charcoal gray, like it’d been picked up and fondled by grimy hands, then plopped down onto that hard piece of earth.

There was no grass or green of any kind to be seen, except when I looked up.  Up was where the trees were.  Up was where the hills were which held the trees.  Up was pure green coolness.  That dark hooker green spotted with sunlight which somehow managed to slip past the hulking mountains that surrounded the black tar road and black coal-covered ground, and the mine with its rusted metal doors and blackened coal tipple, the rusted brown wires and creosote-covered telephone poles.  Up was green.  Down was dark.  All my life, green had been where freedom lay.  My place to play and hide in spots no one else knew about.  But, that black and rust and tar?  That’s where my heart lived.

I followed the coal car tracks toward the tipple and found myself in front of the rusted doors that blocked the entrance to the mine.  I picked up a rock and knocked a few times.  It made a loud, hollow sound.  I dropped the rock and picked up a rusted railroad spike.  It was a good one, and I thought I’d take it home for my collection.  As I walked back toward the road, the tiny rocks covering the mine yard hurt my feet, so I scrunched up my toes to put some space between the soles of my feet and the hot pebbles.

Back at the road, I crossed over to the memorial, a large, three-paneled wood sign that reminded me of Italian paintings on a calendar at Joey Matteo’s house, with one big dirty panel in the middle and one skinny panel on each side.  I’m sure it must have been white when it was new, but it had turned grimy gray, the same color as the mine office.  It was hard to see some of the names, but I liked to read about the men who’d died in the mine.  Charlie Foster, crushed between a coal car and a support timber.  Leonard Ackerby, a ceiling gave way.  Harold Barthlow, slag fall.  Paul Rapach, Gabriel Blackmore, Carl Brady, black damp explosion.  There were almost fifty names in all.  Most of them had died of white damp poisoning.  Some drowned when water flooded through.

From where I was standing, I had a good view of the mine office, so first I heard the car coming, then I saw it pull up and park in front of the office.  Dr. Morris got out and unlocked the door and went inside.  He came out right away and began loading cardboard boxes into his trunk.  Suitcases were piled up in the back seat of the little sports car.  I held my breath as I watched my mother.  She was sitting in the car and wearing big sunglasses.  The top was down and she had her head laid back with her face turned up toward the blue sky and green trees.  She looked like a movie star in that white convertible.  Her hair sparkled like it was filled with orange diamonds.  When he came out with another box, he put it in the trunk, then touched her hair and smiled at her.  Bent down and kissed her on the lips.

I waited for him to go back inside and then walked over to the car.  I was trying to figure out what to say, but my brain wouldn’t let me keep track.  At first she looked surprised, then like she was mad at me for something.

“What are you doing up here by yourself?  You should have stayed home and not be running all over the place.”  She checked over her shoulder then looked me up and down like she was in a store.  “Where’s your daddy?”  She checked over her shoulder again.

“He’s at home, sleeping.” I said.  She seemed to calm down.

“You going to Pittsburgh to live?”  I wanted to add “with him,” but I didn’t.  “When you coming back?”  She probably wouldn’t have answered me anyhow.  She just looked at me through her big glasses.   

“Mrs. Fortley will see to you if you need anything.  You should be in church instead of running up and down this road like some wild thing.”

I could feel my bare feet burning on the hot pebbles as I stood there, but I didn’t move them.  Instead, I reached down to my calf with a fingernail and cut a deep “X” through a mosquito bite that had been driving me crazy.  I rubbed my thumb back and forth on the rough surface of the railroad spike and wished she’d just take off those glasses.  She didn’t.

“I don’t want you to go,” I said toward my leg, and bent down again to scratch the bite.  “I could help out more if you didn’t go.”  

When I straightened up, she looked at my dirty blouse and jeans and said, “How often do you change your underpants, girl?”

I didn’t know what the answer should be.  I was afraid all of a sudden that it would be too often or maybe too long and then I’d lose her forever.  I couldn’t remember what I did.  Or what I was supposed to do.  My mind felt like a jukebox she could see into, big and visible, with hundreds of choices and only one dime.  I remembered how we used to clean up to go up to the doctor’s office every week, so I finally said, “Once a week.”

“Once a week!  What’s wrong with you, girl.  You know better than that!”

Just then Dr. Morris came out of his office with the last box.  He locked the door and dropped the key in the mail slot.  When he turned around and saw me, his eyes got wide and sad for a minute.  Just as he was starting to smile at me, I took the railroad spike and raked it across my mother’s side of the car.  Then I raked it again, harder.

“You’re gonna be sorry some day.”  I whispered it low, but I knew she heard me.  Then I told myself when I headed back home, “From now on, I’m doin’ what I please.  And I’ll change my underpants when I damn well feel like it!” 

…………………

Every Sunday after that, I walked up to the mine as usual, except I kept hoping she’d be there.  I didn’t know how life was gonna happen without her.  One Sunday I picked Johnny Jump Ups.  I put them on the window sill and made myself take a bath and wash my hair.  Most Sunday mornings Mrs. Fortley came down to see how I was.  That particular morning, she knocked gently on the screen door and poked her head into the kitchen.

“Addie, darling,” she said in a long, exaggerated drawl, “Why, Addie, look at you.  So cleaned up and pretty.  And the kitchen fixed up so nice!  Where’d you get those Jump Ups?”  Her huge body made the kitchen seem smaller than it was.  She stood with her hands on her hips and pretended to look jealous, but I knew she had Jump Ups growing all over her yard.  Violets were her favorite flower.  Except maybe for white roses.

“You walk up to the mine again?”  She didn’t wait for me to answer.  She knew I walked up there every Sunday morning mostly.  She just helped herself to a cup of coffee, put milk and three heaping sugars in it, then set it on the kitchen sink.  She stood as close as she could to the sun that was coming through the window so her heavy, wet hair could dry.  Mrs. Fortley washed her hair with Tide every Sunday to keep the shine in it.

Everything about her seemed heavy and wet as she shifted her weight like a wave of fat from one foot to the other and took sips of the hot coffee.  She was close to 300 pounds.  That’s how she’d say it.  “Lordy, I’m close to 300 pounds!”  She always got weighed by a doctor in Morgantown when she went to see about her diabetes.  Her damp hair was the deep golden color of the sulfur creek that ran past the mine and through Flaggy.  It was thick, healthy hair, streaked through with silver.  It was hanging in loose, natural curls that framed her smiling, plate-sized face, freshly creamed and shiny from some mysterious beauty treatment she concocted from her garden.  Her aqua-blue eyes, a little milky from cataracts, were two pools of kindness.

“Better to take a Sunday walk than go to that church, sweetheart.”  She shook her head and rolled her eyes a little then blew gently on her coffee.  “Not one flower growing in that churchyard.  Not one!  That should tell you something.”  She raised a knowing eyebrow.  “Especially no Jump Ups.  Even if there was, those people would never let you pick them anyhow.  Might give you a little too much pleasure to have them on your window sill like that.”  She smiled slyly, and then shifted her big body around a bit to catch more sun on her hair.  She sipped her coffee, and then tilted her head slightly to the right so she could see the flowers.  And me.

“I don’t go to the church anymore,” I told her, even though I knew she knew it.  

I’d tried the church after my mother left and had prayed really hard.  My friend Joey nicknamed it the Holy Roller since it was a Pentecostal church.  I only went there to ask God to bring her back, and I even asked him to bring my sister Marion back, too.  Even before my mother left, Marion had already run off to Cleveland with Baker Hutchins to get married.  Baker got a job in the Ford plant up there and we never really ever heard from them except through Baker’s mother.  But, mostly, I prayed that my father would give up the whiskey and the morphine.  People at the church would pump me about my mother, but I wouldn’t answer them.  I heard what they said when they thought I couldn’t, about how my mother had pulled the wool over the mine doctor’s eyes.  All I could think of was how Jeannie Lucas was right about her being a slut.

Nobody at the church had ever liked my mother.  She never went.  She was a lapsed Catholic.  The only thing worse, I guess, would have been a good Catholic, or maybe a Jew.  But nobody really knew any Jews, just the ones who owned some of the stores in Morgantown, and nobody actually knew them except to buy from them.

The slate dump caught on fire not long after my mother left, and Jeannie’s family saw it as a sign of God’s wrath.  Everybody knew it’d burn for years.  Just pump out black smoke that would eventually kill every leaf on the trees if it got really bad before it finally burned itself out.  Then Flaggy would look like Everettsville at night.  Pitch black everywhere except for the deep pockets of fiery red, glowing out from deep within the burning dump, a giant, over-baked biscuit that never gets removed from the hot smoking oven until it finally becomes a cinder, cooked down, I guess, to some tiny, dried up version of itself until it’s too far gone to even burn or stink anymore.  I can’t believe I was only twelve years old then.  Still, from that time until now, I’m twenty-six now, that’s how I felt, just like that cinder, every time I thought about her leaving us.  I thought about her all the time.  I didn’t know what I was to do without a mother.

So, one Sunday when Mrs. Fortley came to visit, I watched her finish her coffee and wondered if I should tell her what had happened when I took my walk up to the mine the morning my mother left, and maybe tell her how I saw her leave.  Part of me wanted to keep it hidden away, though, to have it be like an open sore in some dark part of myself so I could bring it out at night maybe to lick it.  Then put it away again before it had time to heal.

“I need to talk to your daddy for a minute, honey.  Is he around?”  I told her he was in the living room.

I listened from the kitchen as she talked to my father.  “You mean she didn’t even leave a note?”  I couldn’t hear what all my father said, but Mrs. Fortley sounded mad when she said, “Just left like a snake in the night.”  She’d brought us a pot full of homemade chicken and dumplings.  I put them in the refrigerator and kept on listening.

“Dallas, you should call up Marion in Cleveland and tell her to come home and take care of her sister, or at least come and get her and take her back with her.”

My heart squeezed up into my throat or I would have screamed, “No!  I want my mother back!  I hate Marion.  I just want my mother to come home!”

My father must have said no or shook his head, because Mrs. Fortley kept on and sounded worried about how I was gonna do and who was gonna do for me.  But she didn’t get anywhere.  I could tell.  She looked mad when she came back out to the kitchen.  I figured I should tell her about scratching that car with the spike and that I saw them, but the look on her face said maybe I better not.

“Have some more coffee,” I said.  I picked up the pot to pour her some more. “Thanks again, Addie, but I better not.”  She glanced back toward the living room where my father was, and started to leave.  When I thought about how my mother had talked to me that day, my heart started pounding like that rock on the mine door, so I just said it loud and fast before I lost my nerve, “You think you could start teaching me how to cook?  I need to learn things.”

Mrs. Fortley’s face lost some of its anger as she looked at me.  I looked back real steady, hoping that she’d say yes.  All she said, though, was “Okay, I think I might be able to do that.  Why don’t you come up to see me later today, or when you get the chance.”   She looked once more toward the living room, and then left.  

___

 

SAN FRAN CHANT
Jessica Baker

Back in the city of angels but with a little more madness in my skin,

a little more beat to the rhythm pumping through my veins,

a glitter-bombed, Tibetan peach pie-eyed mermaid.

 

Wish I could bottle up the way the sunshine pierced the redwood treetops,

preserve the feeling of rose rewards, of roadside raspberries devoured crab-watching on unnamed coastal cliffs,

savor the succulent visions of the hysterical in Tenderloin, the rambling hippies praising the universe,

whose bodies operate grungy against the pastel paradise of painted ladies, asymmetrical,

whose ravaged hands hammer out drum-circle psychedelia while strangers spin in sacred spirals,

inspired by Haight Street temples, enshrined in endless crystals,

rhapsodizing god in all names and forms.

 

Abducted by an unceasing out-of-body experience, my spirit is still

choking down fernet between beetle-adorned bar walls,

stumbling, intoxicated by exultation, up and down tie-dyed hills,

singing infinite gratitude to our angel-headed hipsters.

___

 

3 POEMS
Robert Beveridge

CRANBERRIES ON ICE

 

This could be

the only hotel in Wales

where live lobsters are served

to unsuspecting customers

 

they must paint them

that peculiar shade of red

only achieved

in boiled lobsters

and the eyes of hardcore drunks

 

one man, drunk, itinerant,

gets fingers pinched

by a mischievous lobster

 

undaunted

he pries it open

and starts to eat

*

 

DOING LUNCH WITH JESUS

 

They thought

about ordering sandwiches,

but He kept dripping

on the rye,

 

so they settled for pizza,

where the stains

wouldn't show as much.

 

They're sitting 

out on the porch

in a little cafe

in New Hope, Pennsylvania,

 

just across the bridge

from that great big glow-in-the-dark

garden Golgotha
He now calls home.

 

He's been incognito these last two thousand years,

shaved his head

and moved to Libya

after the ascension trick,

then emigrated

to America

at the outburst

of World War I.

 

The interviewer, swallowing

a bite of pepperoni,

notes that He

looks like Willem Dafoe

in the epic film

about his life,

except He, in the flesh,

is wearing jeans and sneakers.

 

He did let the mustache

grow back, at least.

 

The two sit

in a momentary lull in conversation

and sip Pernod,

staring out

at West Mechanic St.

 

He speaks

before the interviewer

can grab a pen:

 

“There was a hit and run

at this corner

some years back.

 

The poets

had a field day with it.”

 

Flustered, the interviewer

scribbles a few words:

“Hit and run—W. Mechanic—

poets field,”

 

but his subject

is already talking

about life in Persia

in the 13th century.

 

*

 

SANCTUARY

For Allison Beveridge

 

It is a common door, the same 

as the other twenty-five on the hallway.

Brown, handle, peephole in the knocker,

a place to run a fob. It’s the payoff

for the caress of plastic on plastic,

the blink of the green light,

that sets this door apart.

                                        Beyond,

the place itself is small, functional.

A kitchen just big enough to cook

for two, a space for a child to play,

love seat to curl up and watch movies,

comforting and comfortable bed

with two sets of pillows. An escape

from a world full of errands that must

be done just so, endless paperwork

and too many storage boxes. I’ve put

two steaks on the grill, potatoes 

in the oven. All that is required of you

is to pick up a fork, talk about nothing.

___

 

"He didn’t know who he was…"
Pablo Capra

He didn’t know who he was, he was too young,

but he liked white walls and seeing things in front of them,

and most of all he just liked to see.

He liked the wider awareness brought about by extra gazing

as it clarified and cast a light on a deeper reality.

 

There are many colors in white: 

there’s a catoptric surface, a plum-scented wind, wild ducks chime in….

He could never find the bottom.

As the touch perfectly hollows the place where it lands,

his wonder made everything blossom.

 

His paintings were substantial hard-fought battles,

taking up too much time, removed.

“I paint, I look, I erase,”

he gasped, identifying his facture.

“I didn’t do this to become a crusader.”

He liked when things that were normally never still paused:

a bird, a dog, an unplayed guitar.

 

When the bird looked up, it saw its short life:

a small gaze to a gold puff tethered.

When the dog looked up, it saw its intelligence,

and wanted to strike out—which it would never.

When the guitar was leaned against the wall, its haptic seduction grew, 

calling to the player who stroked his chin with haptic pleasure.

 

Childhood had been a game, the birds flying by,

searching for a castle to call home;

making faces fish-like, goat-like

at the limits of what was accepted or what was known;

a minstrel with a poem always in his hand,

and an independence that left him trembling,

chasing maidens on dirt roads to swimming holes,

dusted skirts and wind-blown hair by wind-blown grains yellowing.

 

He was pale from the moon, from staying up until the curtains turned orange,

watching sunlight pirouette down upon the vespertilian skyline of the city.

He marveled as, with the noise of hammers, people began to stir,

making the world flower again with their activity.

His espiègle fellows tried to bring him out on the town.

They put figs in his mouth.

“A life well-lived needs to be celebrated!” they exclaimed.

But they left him alone when he insisted, “I’m working this summer.”

People sympathize with someone trying to live their own way.

 

July was a lizard, asleep in the heat. 

The colors dried on his hands.

He wore them like jewelry.

When he felt lost, he stood very still.

Sometimes he’d stare at his impassioned reflection,

 

wondering, “What can I say about me?”

___

 

SITUATION IMPOSSIBLE
Romaine Colthurst

One fine day at Buckingham Palace

Prince Charles honoured a transvestite

Who wore midnight blue silk and ostrich feathers

Nothing like Adam, the man I nearly married

Who, twenty odd years ago, told me he had a secret

Not a huge surprise as what ex-Etonian isn’t partial to a spot of Rocky Horror

And what harm could it do if he preferred bonking in suspenders?

After all I adored him

Stockings proved to be fiddly as they caught on the hairs on his legs

And at six foot three even extra large only reached up to his knees

It took the two of us to fasten the suspender belt around his waist

And there was no way we were going to be able to attach the dangly bits

But he seemed more than satisfied

Even though we had to remove the suspender belt half way through proceedings

As it was cutting off his circulation

But he kept the stockings on

Next he wore a basque, a gift allegedly bought for me

But the strain proved to be too much and it burst apart

Just as we were getting down to business.

But there was a progression. 

He found a shop in Soho and stopped buying gifts for me

That pretense was discarded along with his boxer shorts

And soon his collection of underwear exceeded my own.

Extra large Jewel encrusted basques, long black gloves, frothy garters,

Thigh high boots, dog collars, crotchless panties all snuck into our lives

Though I did manage to dissuade him from too much rubber

But it was the makeup that proved to be too much

The sight of those huge sticky red lips coming down to kiss me

Then it was intimate dinners for just us two girls and what he fondly imagined as small talk.

“But you’ve known me since I was eight, I’m the girl you climbed trees with

What on earth makes you think I want to discuss hem lines?”

As our wedding day loomed and I grappled with guest lists and bridesmaid dresses

Adam declared that he needed to dabble with the love that dare not speak its name

It would be a one time thing after which he was confident that he’d have no problem committing to me

The plan was to find a male whore to do the deed

So I said yes it was best he did this before sanding up in church

And plighting his troth to me

And prayed he’d change his mind

He made his plans but chickened out ,

But I ended it anyway

Adam is now Misti, with an ‘I’

He looks nothing like the tranny at Buckingham Palace, all elegant and smooth

He’s fluffy and fuzzy, with purple tops and plucked eyebrows

A sad, sad man who once was my starts and moon

___

 

 

FRIENDS
Josh Kravitz

“I’m starting to worry about something,” Billy said, a bit hesitantly.  The seven-year-old was lying on a grassy hill, looking at the sky.

“What are you worried about?” said Grontarr, the twelve-foot creature lying next to him.  

“I’m worried that you’re not…that you’re not real.”

Grontarr furrowed his brow, or at least his version of it.  His furry purple face had only one, very large eye that left little room for a forehead.  The eye glared at Billy a long moment before Grontarr finally broke out laughing.

“Hahaha.  Not real!  That’s hilarious!”

Grontarr’s laughs revealed the expanse of his cartoonishly frightening mouth.  Sharp, oversized teeth struggling for space.  A wide maw that seemed built on an endless swivel.  And then there were the two tongues that gave his gravelly voice a lilting tint.

“It’s not that funny,” sniffed Billy.  Grontarr’s guffaws finally ran their course.

“So, what, I’m like, your imaginary friend?”

“I guess.”

Grontarr grew a bit concerned.  He nervously pressed his finger against his own chest, dozens of small horns peeking through his patchwork tunic.

“But…I feel real.  I have a mother.  And a father.”

“But how do I know I didn’t just imagine them too?”

Grontarr looked stumped a moment.

“I guess you’re right.”

“We look so different.  Like we’re not from the same planet.”

Grontarr looked back and forth, comparing his gargantuan Velosian frame with that of the four-foot human.  Tri-fingered hands bigger than Billy’s head.  The small feet of the boy dwarfed by Grontarr’s metal hoofs.

“It’s possible.”

The two friends turned their attention back to the sky, worried as to where the conversation was headed.  Grontarr finally broke the silence.

“Billy…”

“Yes, Grontarr.”

“We’ve had so much fun playing together.  I don’t want it to end.”

Billy turned his head quizzically, as if doing a math equation in his mind.

“Why would it end?”

“Well, if I’m not real, you’ll eventually leave me to play with someone who is.”

Billy’s face quickly grew angry.

“I would never do that to you Grontarr!  Never.  We are friends for life.”

“Really?”

“Yes.  Friends for life.  Say it with me.”

“Friends for life!” the pair shouted, smiling.  Grontarr started tickling Billy, who began laughing hysterically.

“Hahaha!  Stop!”

The merriment dying down, Billy and Grontarr laid back and turned to the sky.  Billy smiled and sighed.

“I love you, Grontarr.”

“I love you too, Billy.”

Just then, the pair heard the sound of footsteps approaching.  A shadow appeared over them.  A scraggly voice boomed out.

“Dinner’s almost ready.  Wash your hands.”

“Okay, mom!” the pair yelled in unison before cracking up with giggles.

“It never gets old,” remarked Billy.

“Are you playing with your imaginary friend again?” asked Mom.

“Who’s to say what’s imaginary?” replied Grontarr.  “Who truly knows what’s real and what isn’t?”

Grontarr and Billy shared a knowing smile.

“I guess you’ve got me there, Grontarr,” replied Mom, shaking the furry purple head that sat atop her nineteen-foot frame.  “But you still need to wash your hands.”

___

 

THE MERCHANT OF PEARL
Mani Leyb
Trans. by Marvin Zuckerman

The horses they fly, in the sleigh they are spanned,
The whip, it cracks in the merchant's right hand,
Happily tinkle the bells.

--Girl, go open the door wide for me,
Let me go into your courtyard to see,
I am a merchant of pearl.

Young merchant you come from so far, far away,
But you've come to some poor people who never can pay,
What you ask for your pearls.

--Girl I have journeyed expressly to you,
For your parents are certainly rich people too,
To have such a pearl of a daughter.

O clever young merchant, you come from the world,
But you will not be able to buy me with pearl,
Away from my mother and father.

--Girl, go open the door wide for me,
Let me go into your courtyard to see,
There to talk to your parents.

Good little merchant, speak so no more,
Into this court I'll not open the door,
I am the bride of another.

The horses walk, in the sleigh they are spanned,
The whip, it hangs slack in the merchant's right hand,
Mournfully tinkle the bells.

___

 

BLOOD SISTERS
Mattilyn Rochester

“I know! I know!”  Becky screeched.  She pulled out a shiny Swiss Army pocket knife from her stone washed cut offs and proudly showed it to Melody.

“What the heck is that for, Girl Scouts?”  Melody said and fired a quick look at the front door.  No mean moms in sight.  Melody was all out of options and was certain bud Becky could not come up with anything that could or would change her own mother’s mind.  She refused to look directly at her best bud for fear of the lump in her throat.  She knew if she looked at Becky’s eyes, as brown as her own, with shoulder length greasy brown hair to match, that lump would turn into tears and drown her sherbet.  So, she licked her sweet treat instead.  She handed Becky what was left of the soggy cone.  Becky slurped away oblivious to the imminent threat at hand.  Becky’s idea had not worked and were part of the reason they were in this mess in the first place.  

Last week, Becky told Melody to reason with her mother.  “Just tell her!” Melody knew better.  Her mom was stubborn as a bull.  Melody had, in the past, tried a few of the tactics she witnessed her play mates make to sway their parents and it had not ended well for Melody.  When Mrs. Pinter put her foot down, it was a Looney Tunes “That’s All Folks!”  kind of thing.  

The short reign of Becky Wheatly and Melody Pinter as best friends had come to a swift finale, just 2 and a half short years.  They met in kindergarten and became fast friends.  They played together almost all day every Saturday and in the Summer they were together daily.  For hours they explored the deep woods behind the high school playing Swiss Family Robinson,  they dragged buckets of crawfish from the creek near the cemetery that stunk up the garage, and they played house mostly at Melody’s because Mrs. Pinter hadn’t met Becky’s parents.  Why couldn’t Becky just play at her house?  But no she had to suggest to Mrs. Pinter that she meet her big brothers instead.   Besides they were the ones who were home most of the time anyway.  Melody had never heard about or seen Becky’s parents and Becky only talked about her big brothers.  That was the meeting marked the beginning of the end.  The last time Melody played at Becky’s.  And the last time Becky was allowed in Melody’s house.  

 After the said meeting, her mother’s rampage had been seismically proportional to the end of the world.  Only this time, Melody was happy that her mother’s rage was not directed at her.  “Who the hell do those poor, bunch a good for nothin, low down, triflin bunch a nothin’sthink they are?  Gonna have the nerve, the gaul, the audacity to open they not past a 3rd grade education, West Virginia hillbilly, trailer park, feeding Mountain Dew soda pop to newborn babies mouths to say my baby can’t play with their little beat up sister in they little, dirty, stankin beat up house?  Just because you black? Paleeaze!”  Mrs. Pinter paused the rant to catch her breath.   She didn’t rinse the dishes before putting them in the dish washer.  This was a no no.  But Melody thought better of reminding her mother who glared at her like she had, “You betta not go back over there.  They should be honored to have a Pinter grace that muck they call a house.  You betta not go back over there.  You hear me?”  She didn’t give Melody time to answer.  “Hell will freeze over and heaven will be one big burning bush before you EVER take yo black self over to they dirty white house!  You hear me?  Answer me when I am talking to you young lady.”  Melody obeyed, “Yes, Ma’a-”  She didn’t wait for Melody to finish,  “I didn’t come all the way to NJ from the red dirt,stinking outhouse, backward, bloody handed cotton picking country for this.  No sireee!  And where are her parents anyway? Them boys couldn’t put together a sentence if their lives depended on it.”  She wanted to tell her mother that their house was pretty clean except for that flea infestation.  But she wasn’t supposed to be there when no one was home in the first place.   Melody had been there when Becky was home alone a few times.  She wasn’t sure what their being white had to do with anything but that was the cat’s fleas not theirs.  Melody thought the flea thing, besides the red itchy bumps all over Becky, was pretty cool.  The big plastic tent that was over their entire 4 bedroom Rancher house for a day looked like a super special flying saucer.  

Melody cleared the table but opted to pass the dinner dishes to her mom across the white island countertop that separated them instead of walking directly into the kitchen.  It was usually Melody’s chore to do the dinner dishes but she didn’t say a peep.  She thought she could probably leave and go upstairs to her room and her mom would be none the wiser.    

“Humph!  They got some nerve!  Listening to the one who got all the money, all the power and control and too dumb to realize they are pawns of their own white stupidity.  I know that kind.  I grew up wit that kind.  Keep them dumb and poor quicker than me.  Dumb is the real definition of a nigga, not black my dear.  Dumb and white is worse than dumb and any kind of black in my book.  Because the white man gets them to think that they better than me or you, just because they white?  Paleaeze!   They relax into their limitation.  Lazy.  Our limitations are imposed.”  She mindlessly slung Melody a soaking, soapy dishcloth and without skipping a beat continued, “Systematic sins against humanity.  They ain’t got no damn excuse as far as I’m concerned.  No excuse!  You better not go over there!  You hear me?  You better not!  And she bette not step her licey head in my house again.”  Melody wanted to ask what systematic meant and a whole bunch of words but once she opened her mouth only,“Okay mommy” came out.  

Melody quietly wiped the table down and passed the rag back to her mother.  Melody also wanted to tell her that the lice thing was fixed in Becky’s hair and that she had fixed it herself with some V05.  Even though she was scared to spook her mom with words and even though her heart raced a little each time her mother moved somehow this tirade made Melody feel close to her mom.  

After dinner they even drove to Sunnyside Farms for homemade ice cream.   Mrs. Pinter got her favorite, butter pecan.  Her mother always ate butter pecan when she was upset.  Well, she ate it when she was happy too but she ate a little more when she was upset.   Melody even got to get a cone and whole container of her favorite, rainbow sherbet to take home for later.  She was planning to hide it in the freezer behind liver or something so her brother wouldn’t see it.  

Melody had forgotten about the Becky pact her mother instituted by the time their red and brown station wagon pulled up the driveway.  Becky was sitting on the red bench on the front porch.  Melody jumped out of the car and ran to greet Becky.  “Want some Sherbet?”  

“Sure!  Hey Mrs. Pinter!”  

“Hay?”  Mrs. Pinter said in her teacher voice.   Melody wanted to whisper to Becky, hay is for horses but picked a red berry off the bush and squashed it in between her fingers instead.  Mrs. Pinter didn’t smile but addressed her politely, “Hello Becky.  Does your family know you are here?”  Becky dug her hands deep into her pockets and looked down.  “They aren’t, like, um home.”  Mrs. Pinter towered over them and reality bore down on the two girls like the sun had moved just above their heads to incinerate them to smithereens.  They were done.  There friendship cooked.

“Well I don’t want you disobeying your parents.”  Mrs. Pinter looked at Becky then at Melody.  It seemed like she was going to say something but instead said, “Melody 10 minutes.  Then you have to practice the piano.  You have things to do.  An idol mind is the devils playground.”  The screen door screeched and the iron knocker to the door made a loud singular BANG.  Mrs. Pinter was gone.  But somehow she wasn’t.

The two stood across from each other and said nothing for a while.  Melody looked at the sherbet stain on her shirt and hoped it would come out in the wash.  It was her favorite.  A pink t-shirt with a roller-skate and shoe strings hanging that you could actually tie.    Becky dug deeper into her pockets and smiled.  “I know I know!”  Melody looked at the front door, then at the knife.  

“What the heck is that for, Girl Scouts?” 

“I figured out how we can still be friends!”

“How?”

The door opened.  Mrs. Pinter nodded for Melody to come to the door.  Becky quickly shoved the knife back in her pocket.  Melody opened the screen door and Mrs. Pinter handed her two bowls of sherbet.  Through the screen her mother said, “After you finish you are going to have to use your words and tell your friends you have things to do.”

“Yes mommy.”  Melody smiled.  “Thank’s, I mean thank you Mrs. P.” Becky said.  There was still hope.

The girls slurped and gobbled in silence.  Their good times were being threatened by the grown ups.  Melody swirled the remaining colors of the melting sherbet together with her spoon.  She put the bowl to her mouth and drank the rest.  Becky licked any remaining sticky drippings from her hands, wiped them on her shirt and brandished her pocket knife.  “Look it.”  Becky opened the blade and placed the pointy head of the knife into her tender skin.  

“That your girl scout knife?”

“Yup!”  Becky’s tongue always protruded out of one side of her mouth when she was concentrating.  She gently pushed the sharp blade into her forearm.  A bright red stream of blood stained Becky’s freckly arm.  She looked up at Melody and winked.  Melody wrinkled her forehead.  She could hear her mother in her head, you keep making that face it will stay that way.  But she couldn’t help it.  Becky took the tip of the blade and lifted the thin layer of her skin that protected her muscles and blood vessels.  “Ewww.  Don’t that hurt?”  Melody screamed. 

“A little.  But its worth it.”

“Huh?”

“What do you see?”

“Blood!”

“No silly after that.”

“Skin.  Ew.  It looks like meat.  Like chicken.”

“Now you go.”  Becky passed the knife to Melody but Melody let go of the knife and it fell on the ground.

“Nuh uh! I can’t have no marks on my body unless my mommy puts them their.  And besides.  Why?”

“Cuz underneath we the same silly.  You not black.”

“I’m not?”  

“Nope!  You just got a tan is all!  You not black and I’m not white.  We like are like, chicken!  We can play together.  Here I’ll do you so you can see.”  Melody jumped back.  

“That’s gonna hurt.” 

Becky picked up the knife and wiped her blood on her jeans.  “You wanna be friends or not?  Just trust me.”  Melody looked at the front door.  There were no signs of life. 

“Okay.  But after I gotta practice the piano.”  Melody extended her left arm.  

“No the other arm so we can be twins.”  Becky was concentrating.  “Gotta not cut too deep.”  She placed the blade flat against Melody’s forearm.  The sun caught a glimmer on the silver that reflected a gleaming light from the knife.  “One, two, three.”  She cut into Melody’s skin.  Melody barely flinched.  Her lips disappeared and her teeth bore into them.  But the lifting of Melody’s top layer of skin was a different story.  They both looked at the blood pouring from Melody’s arm.  “Why is mine bleeding more?”  

Becky shrugged her shoulders.  “Maybe black people got more blood.  What do you see?”

“I thought I wasn’t black?”

“You know what I mean.  What do you see?”

“Blood.  Okay blood and skin.”  A broad smile took over Becky’s face.  

“And!  What color is it?”  

“The meat? Ohhh!  It looks like chicken too!  Squawk!”  

“See?  I told you!  Now we can be friends!  You not black I’m not white!  Underneath we the same!”  

“Wow!!!  The chicken sisterhood!”

“Best buds forever! Squawk!”

The two friends from Kindergarten danced and jumped around the porch.  They made a song of the words.  You’re not black, I’m not white.  Deep inside we are the same.  They danced and chased each other around the porch screaming, “We’re the same! We’re the same!”  Becky stopped.  “Lets seal it with blood!”

“Okay!  Blood sisters!”

“Yeah that’s even better than best friends Melly!”  

“Yeah and you got freckles.   They the same color as me!”

“Yeah! God just didn’t finish coloring me in!”  Brown arm and freckly peach arm merged into one bloody mess.  They sealed their friendship with blood.  A few minutes later.  Melody was passed out on the front lawn and Becky was meekly but urgently banging on the front door.

___

 

 

 

 

THE ANGELBIRD
Elizabeth Yochim

The Angelbird is a multi-layered journey for me to remember my own wings and to fly. Following a long held dream to become a street performer in Europe.  -- Elizabeth Yochim

There is also more information available on the website .

 

The attached gallery was photographed by Michele Mattei.

All rights reserved. 

___

 

3 POEMS
Gerry Fabian

JUST LIKE STREETCARS

 

It hasn’t been good spring.

His press is going broke.

Hisbaseball team is rebuilding.

The regular job

he uses to support both

is about to end.

 

The paint on his car

is chipping away

and whenever he looks

for anything;

it's missing.

 

Only the music

stays the same.

"Thank God

for the Glimmer Twins",

he says out loud.

 

Outside, the cat

get in a fight.

one of his children

falls out of bed

 

and his wife still isn't home.

 

*

 

SOURCE ORIGINS

 

The stuttering child

still cannot explain

    the source of his fright.

His rapid word-groups

tangle on the tongue.

You quickly pull him

into your warm arms

to show that the source

of adult power

will now protect him.

 

Much later that night

while he is asleep,

you sit and wonder

about the sleepless nights

when your brain stutters

and 

who

will be there

 

to hold you?

 

*

 

MOURNING NEWS

 

I stumble upon your obituary

accidentally

while searching for part two 

of a local news article.

 

I gasp

and quickly read the obit.

Memories come flashing

in segments and bursts.

 

You were the first one

that I ever loved.

You taught me so much

in that kind gentle aura

as we explored

the forbidden sides of life.

 

 

No one has ever kissed me

with the passion you gave.

I have never truly recovered

from the way that you left me.

 

And now,

you've done it

 

again.

___

 

AFTERLAND
Marina Muhlfriedel

Dress me, my love,

in organza and satin

Clasp the diamond sparrow

‘round my neck

Slip on those silvery bracelets

I want to look my best

 

Make sure, if you would,

my eyeliner is even

Lips full, and perfectly drawn

Sweep on these cheeks, a measure of pink

Lashes mascaraed full and long

 

On my dresser

You’ll find Shalimar

Dab it on my neck and inner thighs

I need it all to be perfect,

when I turn up on the other side

 

Lay me down in style,

But lay me not to rest

that mahogany limo

will be waiting

And I’ll be on my way at last

 

I’ll step out

when I hear the band play

And enter those pearly doors

To finally dance with all the men

I secretly adored

 

It’s true I seem soft and well-mannered

At peace with my age and place

But I’m just waiting

for afterland

to kick it back up a pace

 

I’ll be shakin’ it on the dance floor

Flirting up a storm

Cackling as loudly

as I desire

Without a glimmer of remorse

 

Here I am an old woman

With crackly lips

and creaking knees

Dying to feel that magnetic pull of

men who can’t resist me

 

Make sure my hair is styled,

Shiny, red and teased just right

I hope to look a bit wicked

When I show up there that night

 

Don’t be offended

if I flash some leg

Distressed by coquettish smiles

Indulge my craving for affection

If only for awhile

 

It will all

be out of my system

before you step through that same door

I’ll have grown tired of the attention

And ready for something more

 

Then we’ll swing each other wild

Leap and twirl

with all our hearts

If we want we’ll dance on forever

And never be apart

 

And if none of it happens?

The door slams shut for good

Then I won’t know the difference

So humor me, if you would

 

___

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AZURE BLUE
BC Petrakos

When Alice got the divorce papers, when she saw his name, a list of assets, a list of agreements written down on white sheets of paper separating her from the life she knew, she took a deep breath. 

Alice watched herself being erased from what she was, what she thought, from all that was important before and all that meant nothing now. She sat down slowly on the couch and stayed there.  For a year.

She was blue.

Alice only got up from the couch to go to the kitchen or to the bathroom. The man who signed the paper dismissing her existence paid the rent, the utilities and some other things. But she knew, in truth, he didn’t do anything personally, he was never personal. Someone at his office sent the checks and paid the bills.

He was now just a signature on paper, a source of confusion and a reason for Alice to be on the couch and to be blue.

That year, she did not leave the house, ate only what was in the cupboards, did not turn on the TV, or radio or computer. That year, she was so blue that she cried and took a lot of baths. She couldn’t bring herself to go into the bedroom or look at the bedroom so she kept the door closed. Mail stacked up by the front door. Her grass turned brown, her car stayed in the garage. Nothing was done. No one visited. 

Alice was blue.

After a year, Alice decided to take her last bath. She had run out of food and had very little soap left so she decided it was time. In order to take the last bath, she had to go to the bedroom. She had to open the door and walk to her closet. She knew it would be the last time she would do it and it took her three days to complete this task. The only reason she had to go into the bedroom was to get a swimming suit. She reasoned that someone would find her after the last bath and she did not want to be naked. Her only choice was to go into the bedroom and get a swimming suit from the closet. She stood, walked to the door that had been shut for so many days, and opened it. The sight of that huge bed made a sharp pain shoot across her flesh as if it were yesterday, as if she just saw the notes, heard the conversations. It felt as if she was cut in her guts as she stood in the room, took a deep breath and tried to focus. She decided to walk to the closet and get a swimming suit as planned. She recognized this was the last of her decisions. In the walk-in closet, she saw half the clothes missing, taken out more than a year ago.  The other halfof the closet was full of clothes, neat and organized

the way she used to make her maid organize it, all hangers and clothes facing the same direction, everything

pressed, hanging color coordinated and perfect.  She remembered scolding that maid for mixing beige with taupe and being in a rage that she did not understand the difference. The maid was right. There was not much of a difference. She saw dresses from big corporate parties, remembered arguments, and drinking, and shopping sprees that meant nothing. She saw cute outfits and designer shoes that when they were purchased made her happy, or what she thought was happy. She saw half a closet with nothing and half a closet with neat, lifeless, once expensive clothes, clothes which have become like her, no longer valid, valuable, or necessary. She smiled at this thought and went to the custom dresser ‘they’ were not happy with. The little dresser ‘they’ discussed and she whined about. The little dresser in the closet conversation that drove the poor ‘Closet

Lady’ insane. The dresser ‘they’ laughed about, the dresser that was so important, so wrong, so not perfect. It

was the last time they laughed . It was the last time he talked to her, it was their last decision together.

He like a king extending pardon, gavethe ‘Closet Lady’ her check for the balance , even though the thing was not right.  Together they smirked and watched the ‘Closet Lady’ cry. Poor thing, they were royalty in that moment, they held the fate of the Closet lady,  holding back her pay her till the last second, how arrogant they were together?   

 

She realized the swimming suit was a good idea as it was her last bath and who knows what someone would find her. She thought whoever would find her after her last bath would be unsettled anyway?  Whoever would find her would not, at the very least, find her naked.

 

 

 

 

Before the divorce, when on a trip to San Francisco, she went into a Chinese market and found an old fashioned straight razor. It was new and the blade was steel, it interested her. So she bought it. It was just before the end of that other life of hers, before the papers, the arguments, the betrayal, the discoveries, before the couch,  the silence, the tears. Before the year of being blue. She remembered standing at the counter and looking at the strange straight razor, in that moment,  it reminded her of

something she could not put her finger on.  She remembered trying to find a reason to buy it and the man showing her how sharp it was by cutting his finger with a swift touch. “Very sharp,” he warned. There was a part of her that knew exactly what it was for, she realized that now. 

When she got home, she put it in her dresser in the little black box it came in as if it was jewelry, right

next to the diamond earrings he gave her for the first anniversary.

She went into the bathroom turned on the water, as hot as she could stand it and then…she settled into the tub.

After a year on the couch, looking at the papers, sleeping, thinking, and crying. She heard herself speak out loud, her voice was dry and scratchy from not talking. She said in a low steady tone “Today, today, today”

She said the word ‘Today’ like it was a chant or a prayer. “Today,” she repeated.

 

It was interesting to open the razor. It took a bit of work, it was long and heavy. The blade was still surprisingly sharp and the first cut went deep and was a shock. It hurt with a burning sting and poured her blood into the bath water. She cut again on the other arm, deep and after a moment she cut again, deep. It was a burning cut, water being mixed with blood, hot and surrounding her. After a moment she couldn’t feel anything, she got light-headed and her eyes focused on the circle of teardrops at the end of the tub. The part of the fixture that drained the excess water was sucking excess tub water into its teardrop slits.

Then a strange thing happened. The water turned blue. The mixture of blood and water turned azure blue, it was the last words that she said… “Azure…it’s Azure Blue,” and she felt herself pour through the teardrop slits at the end of the tub, and pass quickly through tubes and steel and then she was forced into the sea,  the swirling life of the sea. Around and up and down, fast and suddenly slow. She moved and she was no longer she, the body was no longer her, now the azure turned to gold and green and nothing and everything and all that there is. She was living in every molecule, she was moving and touching and not touching everything. No more memory, regret, no more thoughts of love, no more couch and paperwork, now she was not anything but azure, and gold, everything and nothing, touching and cold, warm and for the first time filled with life!

___

3 POEMS
Audri Phillips

HEART OF STARS

Darkness has its place Nestling the firmaments The combusting stars Creators of life 

Giving each the courtesy of a separate space 

Darkness has its job
Nestling each heart within its cavity Together yet alone
Woven 

One pin pricked black cushion Bleeding
The heart of darkness Resides within each 

The engine in a cave
Each heart a star beating A light bathed in darkness 

*

DIRECTIONS

There are masters who draw bamboo with sure quick curving strokes 

I drive on a street that runs flat from dawn to sunset
A city planners grid east to west for the workers
Blinded by the sun in the morning and again on return at night 

Progress is a direction
Driving Sightless west into the sunset 

Forward even if it seems we go back and forth I call it bad road design 

You need those curves to preserve your vision A big ball of twine is what I want
A tangle of sheltering lines
A still spot in the shade 

*

COURAGE

A breeze begins where 

Courage whispers to the waves 

Caressing jagged rocks

___

 

UNTITLED
Drew Vandiver

My mother rarely gave voice to her feelings but I never once questioned how she felt about me. When I spent the night with her parents, I never saw either one of them come out of their bedroom without pajamas buttoned at the neck, a robe and slippers. 

Her way was to do things that she thought would make you happy. She made food you liked or bought snacks you craved. She never said a word about it, she just did it. On Sunday mornings, she made breakfast for us and whoever might be around. Friends of my brothers who were sleeping off Saturday night on our couch or any relative who might show up. It was an enormous feast. Dozens of eggs, a pot of gravy, plates of sausage, bacon and ham and pan after pan of biscuits. She made gravy from the grease of the meat and she made the biscuits from scratch. But I did not like them. I liked the flaky biscuits that came in the long cylinder can. In truth, I think I like unwrapping that can more than eating them. You pulled the tab and it unraveled along until the can popped open. My mother bought a can of those every week and made them just for me. She waited on me to get up and open the can. 

I don’t remember how old I was the first time we went on our first family vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My brothers were teenagers and could drive, so I must have been around 6 or 7. We shared a large condo with Uncle Hoyal and Aunt Judy and their daughter Shanna, who, as an only child and to my great envy over the years, always got to bring a friend along. We arrived on a Saturday and left the next. We stopped at the grocery store on our way into town and shopped. My mother made breakfast for everyone as they got up; lunch was catch as catch can and dinner was usually out at a restaurant. At the store, Aunt Judy bought 

a block of sharp cheddar cheese. I had never seen cheese like that. I thought cheese only came in slices inside plastic. She gave me a wedge of it. My face crinkled up and my eyes shut. It tasted sour at first, but then as I chewed, I liked it more and more. Every day, I would come in from the beach and make a cheese sandwich. White bread with the crust cut off, mayonnaise and a slice of cheese. We ran out one day, so I asked Judy for some of her cheese. 

“Sure, darlin’.” She always called me darlin’ and Uncle Hoyal always called me Sport. 

She had macular degeneration and had begun to go blind in high school. At that time, she could still see movement and tell light from dark. She did not yet have a Seeing Eye dog. She got her loaf of bread down for me. Wheat bread. She laid out the two pieces and I lathered them with mayo. She got a very sharp, little knife out of the drawer. A knife for adults. She sliced thick pieces off the end of the cheese block and I stacked them carefully on the bread so that I didn’t leave any empty space. I placed the second slice of bread on top and asked her if she would cut the ends off for me. 

“Oh, no, darlin’, that’s the best part. That’s where all the nutrients are.” 

I took my sandwich on a small saucer over to the table. The bread was thick and course and had pieces of nuts in it. I didn’t have the heart to tell Aunt Judy that she had picked up a loaf of bad bread. There were so many textures and tastes in that sandwich that I had not yet grown the taste buds to appreciate. I did not like the rough texture of the crusts, but I chewed along because this felt like how grown ups eat sandwiches and that felt too good to stop. 

My mother could make a ham last an entire week. She would cook it in the oven as the corner piece of a Sunday meal. Then she would slice it off the bone and put it in a zip lock bag for us to make sandwiches out of. Finally, she would boil the ham bone and use it to make soup. Again, I was not impressed. I wanted the sliced ham from the Piggly Wiggly that came in a rectangular plastic pouch of water, so she kept that in the fridge just for me. 

On my second day at Oxford, I felt lost and alone and thoroughly out of my depth. I had a break and wandered into a pub. It was Friday, so on the end of the bar was a ham and a loaf of bread for everyone. I sawed off two slices of bread and a wedge of ham and sat over my Guinness and ate. I tasted my mother’s ham and I felt my mother’s love. I felt her protection and support. I was firmly aware of how much she believed in me. Fridays at the pub became a very special place to me. I had a calling card that I used to call mama every day. The first minute was free, so I tried to rush through all that was going on and get off. I told her that there was a little pub where I eat on Fridays and everyone was so nice and they even made her ham for me. In eighth grade, I developed a tremendous crush on a tall, lanky brunette who sat in front of me in math class. One day, as I was walking out to mom’s car after school, I passed her and she smiled at me and said ‘see you tomorrow.’ I got in the car and we drove away. 

“Mama, how do you know when you love somebody?”


“Well, how do you think you know?”


“I guess it’s just something you feel.”


“True. But it’s also something you do. Real love is a verb as well as a noun.” 

Any time I came for a visit after I moved away from home, I took it as a given that there would be a block of sharp cheddar and a zip lock bag of ham in the fridge. 

I wasn’t sure whether I should unpack or wait in the kitchen for dad. I knew he was in the bathroom, reclaiming his energy for the next part of his lecture. And, suddenly, I felt my hunger. I had a pack of pretzels on the plane. I opened the cupboards that used to be stocked with cereals and vanilla wafers and crackers. They were mostly bare. No one had lived here in quite some time. I opened the refrigerator. I smelled the Arm & Hammer baking soda first. It was completely empty. Except for the middle shelf. There sat a loaf of white bread, a rectangular package of ham in water and Kraft American cheese slices. 

___

 

2 POEMS
Michelle Seabreeze

HOME

 

This is home

 

And we've been breathing in tandem

For over a year now 

 

With the sun kissing our shoulders, 

these blankets become a jar, or ajar, 

and simultaneously, we are fireflies

 

Our hands flutter like wings 

across every inch of bare skin 

Our lips are swimming through the soft

until we are reaching the undiscovered parts 

and making mental maps of each freckle and pore

Because we are devouring and storing 

this new information like honey 

in our own personal hive of intimate excess

 

And then we camp here 

raise our flags, and leave marks 

because we are coming back

to this place where there is 

no space between us

 

Because in this room with him 

my heart is in the right place 

in his hands 

on my sleeve

beating fast

 

And who knew that this superhero 

with the Christmas eyes would be the one 

to save me from a world of orderly chaos 

With constant calm, and easy gaze

he holds my hand

kisses my face 

and tells me he knows me

and because he knows me

he loves me

 

Between us 

We are not afraid of secrets, 

and a beautiful bubble 

wraps itself around our four walls, 

because we are acutely and insanely 

protective of the space between us 

 

Because this space is home, 

but only when we're together

*

VOODOO CHILD

 

A child’s hand reaches out

From beneath the brick and dust

tiny fingers flickering in the wind

Like dried leaves

 

The blood dripping from her mouth

Consecrates concrete like holy water

Freezing into the shape of a birthstone 

at the base of her feet

 

While full fat faces 

watch from faraway 

on flat screens

A broken people 

Framed by fire and ash

 

There never was

A clearer picture

Ofanguish 

Than the one broadcast

On HD screens 

 

They tune in to see

The liberated kin of Toussaint L’Overture’s

Ancient bloodline of ready lips  

make the shape of Oh No

Before God

 

While we watched in safe havens,

Mothers collect

pieces of their children like keepsakes

spinning Creole into cocoons

of goodbye for now

 

Before this

we were looking in every direction

waiting for a disaster that wasn’t our own

until we found it

shaking us to the core

 

But when tears flow

Like mud slides down bellies

We search for a resolution

That would expand 

diminishing waistlines 

and fill the empty nets 

in this land of

Fishermen, religion, and cane fields

 

While bone and flesh pile high

Like wood and steel

Lovers lay broken 

under blood-stained sheets

and mouths that once housed smiles 

that were the pride of a nation

are now bent, and torn, and burned away

 

These descendents of rebels 

that were born with closed fists

who fought wild, with angry hearts

who once danced in their freedom

on the mountain’s edge

Are now taking their places

In this dark spotlight

 

When the cameras roll 

You can almost see 

the souls pass on 

Before being buried by midnight

 

As puffy pigtails peek through

Mounds of dirt like stillborn flowers 

In graves floating on fields 

Likes boats to an afterlife

 

This new concrete jungle

Can’t muffle cries of anguish

That carry across horizons 

And spill into oceans

Like a plague of epic proportions

 

This is the horror of 

global warming

After an earthquake of forgetting

What won’t cater to our fantasies

 

One day

 It might be our turn

to keep our hands out 

and wait 

until we can hold onto to someone

We’ve never met before

and tell them, like we are telling ourself

to hold on to what you love, 

like you are possessed 

By a voodoo curse that forces 

you to care 

about every child 

Like they were the world 

before it came crumbling down

___