#FlattenTheCurve: Two Flashes by Geula Geurts

MERS-CoV particles on camel epithelial cells

STOCKPILE

Lockdown was looming and this was bad for business.

Corona knew it was time to act.

Supermarkets were filling with anxious people stockpiling on toilet paper, canned beans in tomato sauce, frozen broccoli, boxed milk.

Long lines of people standing shoulder to shoulder, waiting to rush home and cook up a storm, then freeze it for the near future.

People were buying as if the world had reached its brim. Like a credit card nearing its limit, the world too would have to answer to the bank, the ultimate collection of intangible numbers.

And who maintains this bank? C thought.

In the meantime, her own numbers were increasing exponentially. From one day to the next she doubled in size, then doubled again. She divided herself like a fertilized egg, the start of all human life.

Governments were saying, stay at home, this might take a few weeks, maybe months. So, people were consuming madly, which in fact means to destroy by use, as by burning or eating.

Corona thought, that is what I do too. So, she found her way into the supermarkets.

She picked up some apples, lemons, sniffed them, then lay them down again. She leaned over the glass cheese-counter, asked for grated cheddar, then changed her mind. Dizzy, she stood amongst all the people moving through the aisles like frantic ants.

The checkout counter seemed the ants’ headquarters, the epicenter of the consuming colony. I like this species, C thought. Ants are known to have colonized every landmass on Earth. An example to follow, she thought.

She joined the busy line, and watched the chain of superorganisms carry their produce, pass it on from the one link to the next. She lightly touched the oil of the machine, joining its collective juices, the saliva that made it all run smooth. Like a gun, she clicked into place.

And when it was her turn to check out, she saw what made this species great. Some ants took one for the team, and in a final act of altruistic sacrifice, sneezed their mandibles off their heads, spraying a deathly phlegm onto the intruder. Onto Corona.

Lucky for her, she wasn’t alone anymore. The chain had been infected, and it would be impossible to trace every source. The contaminated ants would have to be isolated. And who ever heard of a quarantined ant?

 

 

POT PLANT

And here it was, the expected lockdown.

Corona had no real recollection of her single days. She had been addicted to social interaction from the start. Foreign bodies were infatuations to her, contagious, she effortlessly switched from one crush to the next, always hungry for more, never alone, never committing.

How would she cope in isolation? Her mind began to wander.

There was one host who remained memorable. He had been more than a passing crush, she remembered. Had it been the beginning of something new? Still now she saw his dark eyes in front of her, how they pierced right through her when she’d first made him cough. He was asthmatic. She liked the sound of his deep, croaky breath. She stayed with him for eight weeks. Till his dry cough became wet, then disappeared altogether. Perhaps she remembered him because he’d survived her, even when she thought this one would truly give in.

He’d left her with a pot plant. A gift he himself had received from his colleagues while he recovered, halfway through the affair.

Now she sat alone, on her balcony, staring at the plant, a light pink cyclamen. Should she water it? Move it to a larger pot? How pathetic, she thought, she had no idea how to take care of an organism other than herself.

Google told her that each leaf of the cyclamen grows on its own stem. There are leaf stems and flower stems, and unlike other plants, these stems never intersect.

This tidbit made her sigh. She had never grown on her own stem, as a singular leaf or flower. She had always been a part of the larger Covid family, that branched out its leaves from the same stem as many tentacles. Some of her aunts said they are descendants of bats, and her cousins believed the Russians had plotted their beginning. But the uncles said their origin was the undoing of human greed.

Corona thought, I know about this greed, this desire to move from one locus to the next. In these past months she had traveled all over the globe. She had seen the temples of the East, the elaborate malls of the West, theaters, restaurants, skyscrapers and subways. She had followed in their steps; all the places humans had conquered.

How would she now cope in isolation?

She decided to move the cyclamen to a larger pot. She watched the flowers fall off, one by one, day by day, while the plant’s roots extended further in the dark soil, broadening its scope, its movement. Soon the flowers would return, she thought, blooming bigger and fuller than before.

 

 

Geula Geurts is a Dutch born poet and essayist living in Jerusalem. She is a graduate of the Shaindy Rudolph Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar Ilan University. Her mini-chap, Like Any Good Daughter, was published by Platypus Press. Her chapbook, Where the Sea is Quenched of Thirst, was a finalist in the 2018 Autumn House Chapbook Contest. Her work has been anthologized and has recently appeared or is forthcoming in On the Seawall, Tinderbox Editions, Blood Orange, New South, Persephone’s Daughters, Counterclock, Jellyfish Review, Rogue Agent and The Boiler, among others. She works as a literary agent at the Deborah Harris Agency.

#FlattenTheCurve: The World as She Knew It by Jean Varda

507px-Natan_Szpigel_Woman_knitting

She sat at a window musing about how it used to be apple blossoms in Spring, the call of a Robin, her mother calling her to the kitchen for home made ginger cookies and tea. She thought of her husband how they met at the Veterans Hall and danced a waltz in slow harmony and of her days as a nurse serving overseas. The terror in the eyes of her coworkers when the London hospital was bombed, how relieved she felt that they were in the Silhouette being served tea and scones when they heard the news. She thought of the look in the soldier’s eyes when he died in her arms and then she couldn’t think anymore. She could only look out the window and rock, her knitting comforting her hands, she wasn’t allowed to go out as the virus had spread to her neighborhood and all her friends were dead; granted they were an elderly group, but still… Now the sky was never clear a haze of smoke and fog hung over it at all times, meals on wheels brought her food and Pepper her kind nurse would visit once a week and take her blood pressure, but still she was so very lonely. It relaxed her to go over her memories as she knit and crocheted like colorful beads or seashells on the sand they comforted her and her cat, Angel Boy, he purred so loudly while kneading her lap. She didn’t even go outside anymore, the air was unhealthy to breathe these days, once in a great while it would rain and she would put on her slicker and go outside to garden and inhale the sweet perfume of fresh air. Sometimes at night she had to wear oxygen because she had been diagnosed with emphysema ten years before and she’d never smoked, she knew her life was mostly over and that was OK with her, she had lived such a wonderful life. She just ached inside when she thought of her little granddaughter just turning twenty eight and already with health problems and the stress of an older woman, God Bless and keep her she thought as she nodded over her knitting and heard a robin’s sing.

 

 

Jean Varda gave her first poetry reading in 1971 at the Stone Soup gallery in Boston. This was followed by performances on street corners prisons and churches with her mentor, storyteller Brother Blue. She led her first creative writing group through Boston’s Free College in the 70s then went on to lead such groups for the next thirty years. In 1980 she attended Boston poet Elizabeth McKim’s poetry therapy training at Lesley College in Cambridge, MA. She has published six chapbooks of poetry, establishing Sacred Feather Press. She has been published in numerous poetry journals.

 

Art by Nathan Szpigel.

 

 

Who’s Keeping Track of our Dreams by Beth Gordon

Todd Klassy

You are chopping hard boiled eggs on Friday night while we discuss our certain sudden extinction, the vanishing whippoorwill and his mournful morning chant, our clocks blinking midnight because tornadoes serenaded our flooded streets. You sold gilt-edged bibles in North Carolina in 1973 when I was just a child listening to The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia and Playground in My Mind, unable to separate those revolutionary messages.You prop up your broken laptop with a syrupy bottle of Southern Comfort retrieved from basement waters, still sticky with mold and spider webs, while we try to mix the ancient recipes: Comfort Colada, Comfort-On-The Rocks. Our ears popping from the journey, landing your least favorite part, we haven’t been in Kentucky for twenty-five years, but you never forgot the flies that laid their eggs on mash, how you waved them off, wings as black as Mississippi dirt, as green as Irish grass.

 

 

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Into the Void, Noble/Gas, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.

 

Photograph by Todd Klassy. 

Dear Mrs. Brown, Your Husband Whimpers When He Comes…by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Mrs. Brown Alexis Rhone Fancher painting by Heinrich Uhl

1. “I want my wife to know all about us,” he says. We’re close together on the couch, but not yet touching. She needn’t worry. “What is there to know? Just tell her I don’t fuck married men.” I see his sad face crumble. Mr. Brown hates the truth almost as much as he hates bad language. Sometimes I curse to rile him, but tonight it just comes out. We’re back from dinner at Micelli’s on Melrose, that lonely table in the back in the dark and so far from San Pedro no one he knows will find him. I suddenly want more out of life.

Mr. Brown pulls me to him. His tweed sports coat scratches my bare arms. I breathe in his Amphora pipe tobacco and English Leather. He smells like my dad, who never held me like this. Unused to kissing, Mr. Brown’s tentative lips brush mine. I push my tongue past his teeth. His erection, a pup tent of unrequited love. Against my better judgement, I let him dry hump my thigh.

Afterward, I fix my hair at the hallway mirror while Mr. Brown fastens a locket around my neck. I can make out an “L” in bright diamonds. It is not my initial. “L?” my eyes catch his in the reflection. “For Lust,” he smiles. (Or maybe L for his wife, Lucia, or L for Leaving her, I don’t say.) L for Lonely. Looney. Lost, I think as Mr. Brown’s hands roam my body, the shiny locket the price of admission. I stare at our mismatched reflections, the almost incestuous nature of our non-romance. I finger the Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso watch he gave me last fall (that rough patch when he left his wife for all of a week until she threatened suicide, again). Mr. Brown showed me the texts. Before he went home, he gave me Lucia’s watch. “She’ll never miss it,” he said as he fastened it on my wrist. She has excellent taste.

2. When I visit Mr. Brown’s bedside after the quadruple bypass, I put the extravagant blue iris bouquet in a vase, perch on his hospital bed and fill him in about my fucked-up life, the flood in the kitchen, my crappy new boss. He complains about the hospital food and remarks how a heart attack can truly mess up your day. I confess how lonely I am without him. “I’m thinking of leaving my wife,” he tells me. I let him feel me up. “My heart attack is a wake up call,” he says. “Carpe Diem.”

On a hunch, I ask him when he’s buying the red Corvette. “Blue,” Mr. Brown says. “I ordered it in blue.” Like the irises. Like the hospital walls. “Like the way I am without you,” I admit. I’m about to ask him to take me along to pick up the new wheels, when Lucia and her friends waltz into the room. They see him, all over me, on his bed, her lost locket around my neck, her fancy watch on my wrist; Mrs. Brown’s face darkens. Her friends gather her close, circle the wagons until I depart. Out of the corner of my eye I see her grab the blue irises from their vase, hurl them across the room.

3. By the time I find out, Mr. Brown has been dead a year. I haven’t seen him in a decade. I was not going to put out; he would not divorce Lucia. I never did ride in that blue Corvette. Soon I found myself a French photographer with a large dick and no wedding ring. I don’t know if Mr. Brown ever found anyone. His obituary read, Stand up guy, great husband, dad. Married sixty-six years. Pillar of the community. Charitable. A churchgoer. He once swore to me I was his church.

I have the offerings to prove it.

 

First published in ENTER HERE, 2017 KYSO Flash Press.

 

 

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Plume, Rattle, Diode, Rust & Moth, Nashville Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems,(2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), and Enter Here (2017). A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly.
http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com

 

Painting by Heinrich Uhl.

#Mountains: The Appalachian by Karen Silverstrim

The Appalachian by Karen Silverstrim

The hikers are tied, tight enough for stability, lose enough not to cut.

They have only ever known asphalt and city parks, breaking them in, breaking herself in. “I’ve always wanted to . . . “ is now reality. The practice with the weighted pack, the flint, the filters, the course on primitive survival and first aid. Trying to get ready, knowing preparation can only take you just so far.

This is not a journey of proof, there is no one to prove anything to anymore. It’s not a self-affirmation journey, she is already self-affirmed. This is truly just the desire to go, to climb, to be alone, people were never her forte. Nature is her salve, organized, manicured nature. Will the wild be too much, too real?

This is a journey of solitude, an attempt to get lost inside herself, inside the world, much like she would do at dinner parties, only this time for real. “You could die out there!” She is warned. She is dying in here, she thinks to herself. “If I die,” she says, “let it be on my own terms, in the arms of the trees. Grandma Gatewood did it, why can’t I?”

 

 

Karen Silverstrim lives in western New York, spending her time hiking around the Niagara Gorge and teaching history. Karen has been writing for 47 years, with publications in newspapers and literary journals in New York, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Canada.

#GunViolence: Inside Every Story by Alicia Elkort

inside every story

I’m telling Paul about the devil look in my pacifist father’s eyes the moment he tells me he wishes he could go back in time & shoot the motherfucker who hurt me, even if he ended up in jail for the rest of his life. Paul tells me he never could understand why Joe, the smartest kid in high school with aspirations for medicine, became a police officer. Until, twenty years later, Joe tells him about sitting in the hallway as a kid holding a shotgun, trying to work up the nerve to shoot his father who’s in his sister’s bedroom, raping her. I’m watching Paul at a quiet joint in Montgomery sipping whiskey, sitting next to Joe drinking soda. The wooden bar is uneven & the stools have no backs, but the air is warm & smooth music drifts through the sound system. Paul is watching Joe in the hallway where the carpet is shab green, the wallpaper peels & the sister’s cries are muffled. There’s some kind of dusty moon leaking light across the back shed & the mother is passed out, an empty bottle of vodka on the floor. Joe is watching his father, night after night, same dark hallway, same shotgun. There’s no redemption in this story. In a few years the sister kills herself & Joe continues to arrest people doing bad shit, hoping one day the story ends with him standing up, opening the door.

 

 

Alicia Elkort edited and contributed to the chapbook Creekside, published under the Berkeley Poetry Review where she also served as an editor. Her poetry has been published in AGNI, Arsenic Lobster, Georgia Review, Heron Tree, Menacing Hedge, Rogue Agent, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and many others and is forthcoming in Black Lawrence Press. Alicia’s poems have been nominated for the Orisons Anthology (2016) and the Pushcart (2017). She lives in California and will go to great lengths for an honest cup of black tea and a cool breeze.

 

First published in The Hunger.

Mother’s Day Poems, Clutch One

Bougainvillea by Tamara Madison

She is brown like her shadow on hot ground
at high noon. Her hair, a dark bush, bounces
on top of her busy torso as she steps out — snap snap —
in rubber thongs in the pummeling sun
of a desert afternoon. Her arms are sinewy-thin,
muscular, she jokes, from beating children, and when
the baby sobs as Mommy leaves for wood shop class
or a meeting, she springs to the crib and shakes
the wailing child: “If you don’t stop that right now
I’ll beat you to a bloody pulp!” Her sunglasses flare out
toward her temples like the sly, outspoken fins on the powder-
blue Mercury that she steers with the same hand that holds
the Reader’s Digest while the other applies Bougainvillea
lipstick; a billowing fan of dust rises behind the speeding car
where the children rest on sticky vinyl seats, secure
in their mother’s love. Sometimes at night she fastens
rhinestones to her ears and poufs on pungent green perfume,
sets the cummerbund on Dad’s tuxedo so he looks
like a movie star with all the crop dust washed off him.
We watch them drive off toward a lurid sunset of blazing
orange and pink as night grows around the purple
shoulders of the mountains, and everything around us
smells of dirt and work and farm chemicals.

First published in The Belly Remembers by Pearl Editions

 

 

At Eighteen by Alexis Rhone Fancher

When I wanted to be seen
When I danced out to the edge
When I was so afraid to love

When I longed to be a Marilyn
When I slept my way to the top
When I opened my legs but not my heart

When I shouted at my mother over dinner:
“When I grow up I’ll be somebody,
not like you.”

When I took a lover twice my age
When I told him I wanted photos
wearing only my grandmother’s

ruby necklace
When he shot me, butt-naked on
my mother’s oriental rug

When I went home to flaunt the affair
When I fluttered a cache of the photos
onto her bed

When she walked to her closet and opened
the bottom drawer
When she handed me a large, blue envelop

When I looked at photos of my mother, naked,
her young face wicked, movie-star dreamy,
When I recognized the girl who wore only a ruby necklace

and looked like she had plans even bigger than mine

When she said, “I was only sixteen. He was forty.”

First published in Poets & Artists Magazine.

 

 

Infested Fruit By Ravitte Kentwortz

Mother had bitter orange
hair and breasts larger
than other moms in my boarding school.

She didn’t use them
to breastfeed. In her
kitchen, when I visited,

poppy seed rolls she rolled,
dropping condensed milk
into dough’s opened mouth.

Now in her seventies, she
bears on my table, heaving

to devour
peaches, a bushel
of wet peanuts.

Kale in the heat —
the ground lamb weeps.
Then sizzles.

Nana comes too. Time
her cellar filled with food
before the war, she says,

a good year for pears.
When grandfather was taken,
Nana hid. Torn

bags of grain
under her house. Halved frozen peaches
in the cellar.

When he returned, imagine
with what hunger
they had my mother — she says, time

she was tiny and blond, like
an infested fruit,

strapped
to his chest, mouth stuffed
with cloth.

Night
they packed her and rooted
for roots under brittle sugar.

Nana says, your mother
was held
by your father.

Her teeth cut teeth in his flesh.
She did not tell
of my roots,

that strapped her in so many veins,
taking her food. My father still
stands there —

as she batters her
belly with me in her
right hand, blue

blue stains of shriek,
stuffed blue, on
strawberry lips.

 

 

Mother by Mary McCarthy

I dreamed her wicked
with shining eyes
and long fingernails
that poked and pinched
an unexpected ambush
in a dark room
the sudden flash of teeth
erupting
from what was not
a smile-
another nightmare
with too many wrong turns
to take me anywhere new
She couldn’t really afford
long nails
with so much work to do
no time for any such
foolishness
for rage or spite
or the simple need
of a woman starving
out of sight
hidden behind
her many children
feeding them
feeding them
keeping nothing
for her own hunger

 

 

I Love You, Catherine, but I Don’t Like You by Catherine Zickgraf

Mother,
your words sounded fair at the time—
but they hung like ghosts in the air,
like Dad’s work shirts filed headless
on the basement line.

I’d watch for larks out the window at lunch
after buttoning all those shoulders onto hangers
in the breezeless dark.

 

 

Fallout by Carolyn McAuliffe

Fuchsia blooms flirt from thorny clusters of cacti to passersby, taproots plunge valley-deep chapped with thirst below the still, open road. The jointed cane cholla boasts petals in shocks of crimson, creamy white, and yellow like the billowy collars of a circus clown. Saguaros stand tall, fixed amongst the creosote, agave and shade of the nurse-mother mesquite. In communion and praise the elders bear their naked ribs and reach toward the open, sleepy sky.

I see you tug at the stretch of belt across your swollen midsection. I see your mind click and check and click again. So tired. Too many fitful nights tangled in damp sheets, pillows tucked between your thighs and wedged at the small of your back. You defend and you resist. You shift from supine to prone, roll left and right, while I dig my bony knees so hard from the inside out. Stretch and reach and push. I see you carry the weight of me for miles.

He flicks a cigarette butt out the window while a mournful tale of promises broken plays on the radio. You smile like a schoolgirl and imagine him singing it to you. You shake your head and watch him tap his fingers to the drum beat on the dashboard. You feel a kick and now you’re glad you had that second slice of pie at the diner 20 miles back. I see you peel back the flaky crust layer by layer, until the prongs of your tinny fork sink into the brown-sugared apple insides.

A sliver of light rips the sky wide open. A thunderclap sounds. A million tiny pieces of glass rain down on you, and him and her. You hold close the ink-eyed beasts circling from above. You embrace the barbed pads of the prickly-pear, ripping the fleshy skin until the juices erupt into a deep swell of grace. I split your belly in two and I am forcibly plucked from your core. Wings flap wildly as frayed feathers fall from the half-light sky.

With the tip of your finger you trace the fallout. Below your navel a thick, raised pinch of skin trails south. I see a razorback formed by the dry sweeps of wind, scorpions, and serpents of the sand. Did we quench our mouths on the well-spring? I see you push back the dry brush and brambles. On arid dust you choke with palms raised to the sky. You whisper, Lorraine. A pretty name, Mama. Very pretty.

 

8Mother_and_Child_II_by Graham Crumb

Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac and other publications. She is thrilled to have just retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school.

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Verse Daily, Plume, Rattle, The American Journal of Poetry, Diode, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. She’s the author of four poetry collections, including State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here, (2017), and Junkie Wife, (2018). Her photos are published worldwide, including River Styx, and the covers of Witness, Heyday, The Chiron Review, and Nerve Cowboy. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. She lives in Los Angeles. www.alexisrhonefancher.com

Ravitte Kentwortz is an immigrant to the US. She studies philosophy in Colorado. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Posit, Portland Review, Caliban, MARY and others.

Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had work published in many print and online journals, including Gnarled Oak, Praxis, Third Wednesday, The Ekhprastic Review and Earth’s Daughters. Her electronic chapbook Things I Was Told Not to Think About is available as a free download from Praxis Magazine.

Catherine Zickgraf has performed her poetry in Madrid, San Juan and three dozen other cities. But she’s differently-abled now—walking with a cane and flying in her sleep—so her main jobs are to hang out with her family and write more poetry. Watch/read her at caththegreat.blogspot.com and run/jump while you are able.

Carolyn McAuliffe resides in Southern California with her husband Mike and son Michael. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. Carolyn’s work has appeared in a Wising-Up Press Anthology and The Motherhood Muse.

 

 

Lion mother photograph by David Dennis. Human mother photograph by Graham Crumb.

#GunViolence: Two Poems by Lennart Lundh

June 2015, and Others

Gunshots don’t ring out.
Freedom rings. Coronets.
The voices of Sabbath choirs,
table graces, children at play:
These, I will agree, ring out.

Gunshots explode. Thunder.
Sunder flesh from blood.
Echo down the halls of ages
as they remind us of loss
in every firecracker overheard.

Gunshots salute. Pay semi-holy
tribute to Our victory over Them,
to more of Them dying than Us,
whether the war is institutional,
or against our individual targets.

12 June 2016: Again We Get It Wrong

Yesterday’s heat has given way to moderation, and I’m out front, down on my old, stiff hands and thick, aching knees, tending the varied wealth of our flower beds. Last year’s rose of Sharon volunteers need cleaning out, before they root so deep I’ll need a spade and back brace. Or maybe dynamite. There are days I’m almost frustrated enough to blow the place up and down and start over. Don’t worry. Ain’t gonna’ happen. I know better than to do that. But I swear this process will take forever. Meanwhile, it’s five days before the first anniversary of Charleston, and down in Orlando the clean-up crews aren’t even starting to get ready. The crime scene will take a week of forevers to process. A score dead, two score wounded, somebody with a score to settle. When they get fed up enough with whatever they’re personally, self-righteously fed up with, some folks just want the sound of gunfire to start over, to raise their spirits up and strike the others down. Why does the wrongness of this take forever for us to process?

Hopscotch_in_schoolyard author Jeremy Tarling

 

Lennart Lundh is a poet, short-fictionist, historian, and photographer. His work has appeared internationally since 1965.

 

Photographs: Students folding flag at end of the day, Central High School in Little Rock by Adam Jones; Hopscotch in school yard by Jeremy Tarling. 

facing opposition, comfortable death, anxiety and the news by Jess Kangas

the red and white stitching on my worn in broken wool is like a globe, but when i look at it i also see the shape of my sapphire ring, and i love the way its clarity forms in light, but to go from coat of lamb to stolen jewelry, i pass by red lines on ghost skin that are harsh like railroad tracks, but some seem crazed, not formed, like black lines in a wassily composition, or comets passing through, and they symbolize everything, maybe in ten years each line will be worth ten dollars, but the bills are up and i’m coming down, if only there was money left, but what’s of money when you worry of planets aligned in black vapor, gravity pulling our bodies apart, the fatter ones will take longer to have each piece pulled into nothing, but only by flashes of time, and then of course there are the books on my slanted shelf gathered in lime feather boa that need to be packed so i can recover in buffalo or watch you from above.

 

 

Jess Kangas is a strawberry siren poet located in Buffalo, NY. Her poetry is rich in sound, structure and secrets.

 

 

Wheatfield under Thunderclouds, 1890, Vincent van Gogh.

House Hunters by Mary Ellen Saughan

We looked at house after house and though you would have been happy with several we found none to my liking, this one too large, that one too small, this one too new, that one too old, one too near the neighbors, the next too isolated, one with too many walls, another too few, who wants a bathroom without a door? I asked and no one answered and then we came to this house, perfect in every way, not too big, not too small, not too close or too far, not too many walls or too few, though with the condition that we never remove the wallpaper from the master bath, the black wallpaper with pink flamingos scattered across the landscape as it was the sole surviving reminder of the owner’s honeymoon 30 years earlier and she believed that to remove or conceal this wallpaper would put a curse on both herself and the buyer, so we were required to sign a contract swearing never to tamper with the existing wallpaper, not ever, which we did – sign I mean – not looking at each other, the paint chart secreted away in my pants’ pocket, the bold new color bleeding into the gabardine of my best trousers and indelibly staining my leg, a constant reminder of the day you took your bags and drove away leaving me in a house perfect but for the wallpaper, your parting words staining the air blue, the color of a curse, I’m pretty sure.

 

 

Mary Ellen Shaughan is a native Iowan and a late-blooming poet. She now lives in a hotbed of poetry in Western Massachusetts. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Foliate Oak, Blue Moon, 2River View, A Quiet Courage, and in a recent volume of poetry entitled Home Grown.

#MeToo: Irish Twins (haibun) by Roberta Beary

attic rain
the backyard swing
off kilter

We share an attic room. In the corner is an old double bed that smells and sags on one side. My side. Late at night I hear my heart beat. Loud. So loud he will hear it. He will think my heart is calling him up the attic stairs. His footsteps are heavy. He smells of old spice and cherry tobacco. My eyes shut tight. I know he is there. I feel his weight. Never on my side. Always on the side she sleeps. When the bed-springs sing their sad song I fly away. Up to the ceiling. My sister is already there. Together we hold hands. Looking down we see our bodies. We are not moving. We are as still as the dead.

 

 

First published in Contemporary Haibun Online.

 

 

Roberta Beary identifies as gender-expansive, and writes to connect with the disenfranchised, to let them know they are not alone. She is the author of three books of poems: Deflection (Accents Publishing, 2015), nothing left to say (King’s Road Press, 2009) and The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 2007, 5th ed. 2017) which was a finalist in the Poetry Society of America annual book awards. Beary is the editor of the haiku anthologies fresh paint (Red Moon Press, 2014), 7 (Jacar Press, 2013), dandelion clocks (Haiku Society of America, 2008) and fish in love (Haiku Society of America, 2006). Her work appears in Rattle, KYSO Flash, Beltway Quarterly Review and Haiku In English The First Hundred Years (Norton, 2013). Beary’s work has been nominated for Best of the Net and multiple Pushcart Prizes. She lives in County Mayo, Ireland.

 

 

Haibun (俳文, literally, haikai writings) is a prosimetric literary form originating in Japan, combining prose and haiku. –Wikipedia

 

Twin Sisters by Ruth Zarfati. White cement.

Day after Christmas (haibun) by Roberta Beary

We are at the mother of all sales, scrunched up against the hats, the no-good, the bad and the downright ugly. Try this one, she orders, and this, and this. There is no room to move, let alone try something on. With stone face, I lift my hands and obey. She is, after all, my big sister. Buy the red one, she points, yelling for all to hear, it makes your nose look less big.

snow-mush
my neighbor’s tree kicked
to the curb

 

 

First published in Shamrock Journal #6.

 

 

Roberta Beary identifies as gender-expansive, and writes to connect with the disenfranchised, to let them know they are not alone. She is the author of three books of poems: Deflection (Accents Publishing, 2015), nothing left to say (King’s Road Press, 2009) and The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 2007, 5th ed. 2017) which was a finalist in the Poetry Society of America annual book awards. Beary is the editor of the haiku anthologies fresh paint (Red Moon Press, 2014), 7 (Jacar Press, 2013), dandelion clocks (Haiku Society of America, 2008) and fish in love (Haiku Society of America, 2006). Her work appears in Rattle, KYSO Flash, Beltway Quarterly Review and Haiku In English The First Hundred Years (Norton, 2013). Beary’s work has been nominated for Best of the Net and multiple Pushcart Prizes. She lives in County Mayo, Ireland.

 

 

Haibun (俳文, literally, haikai writings) is a prosimetric literary form originating in Japan, combining prose and haiku. –Wikipedia

Those Two Spiders Died Loving Each Other by Anthony DiPietro

The poets go to bed like nuns to their cells: narrow rooms in the boarding school dorm: some, like me, awake, playing with sediment left after workshop: suddenly through the deep-woods facing window: a primal scream: a man’s: then deep shrieks of pain: like an animal’s: poets scatter to the four directions: then return to the middle: I join them: tell them Nathan’s missing: my dorm-mate: he’s gone to stalk the dark before: to feel damp dirt on his feet: to wound wind with a frightened face: he went at sunset while we sat for the reading: we listened: the voice of an eight-year-old girl: her innocence stolen by the neighbor-boy: listened: the song of a countertenor nuzzled in the hollow left by a lover: dead of a vicious disease: that first night, Nathan and I took turns asking each other questions: What was your worst sex: Give me grotesque: nastier than politics: Who on this flailing blue orb are you closest to: he’s thirteen years younger: we spoke of my fear of thirteen: Judas phobia: he draws Tarot cards each morning: today, for me, the Empress: tonight small schools of poets shine flashlights: murmur his name: Nathan creeps in shadow: now emerges to his bed: arms crossed over his chest like a saint in the making: he assures the seminar director he’s found a stay for what caused the scream: I won’t hurt myself again tonight: we agree I’ll keep watch: alone again, Nathan and I declare the light too brutal: Why don’t we remove some bulbs: we climb two chairs: unscrew the platter-like fixture: inside, a spider the size of my thumbnail entombed: only Nathan looks closer to count: sixteen legs, copulation: and he says: Those two spiders died loving each other.

 

 

Anthony DiPietro is a Rhode Island native who worked for 12 years in community-based organizations that addressed issues such as violence, abuse, and income inequality. In 2016, he moved to New York to join Stony Brook University as a candidate for a creative writing MFA and now teaches undergraduate courses. A graduate of Brown University with honors in creative writing, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Anomaly, Assaracus, The Good Men Project, Helen, Rogue Agent, The Southampton Review, Talking River, and The Woman Inc. His website is AnthonyWriter.com.

Image by Comfreak. 

Distance Traveled by Michael Chin

We watched Brent Barry at face value. Asking who was this white kid who dunked form the foul line to win the Slam Dunk Contest. We were abstractly aware of his pedigree. That his daddy was an NBA legend, his older brother a respected two-guard, but put that aside in favor what Brent represented. That the way he cruised to the basket, he looked like he could have started from farther back than the free throw line. I said the first guy to dunk from the three-point line would win the Dunk Contest for sure, and Vinnie nodded along, because we didn’t yet have a sense of the limitations of anatomy. We believed in three-point dunking not as wild speculation and fantasy, but as real possibility, maybe even an inevitability of our lifetimes.

And Vinnie, he took Brent Barry’s dunk and applied it to taunts from the boys at school who called him short and called him pudgy. The boys who laughed when he couldn’t catch net when we all ran and leapt, seeing how high we could reach on a basketball hoop.

“I’m going to dunk,” Vinnie said.

I didn’t believe him. No one did. The difference was I wanted it to be true, and thought maybe he could pull it off. We’d grown up on Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant, Daniel Larusso crane kicking Johnny into next week, Luke Skywalker bullseyeing womprats in his T-16. We learned to believe in the power of hard work and the reality of chosen ones.

In the years to follow, I sat on the steps outside Vinnie’s house while he did calf raises. Calf raises while we debated the finer points of who was the hottest girl in our junior high. Calf raises while I read chapters of To Kill A Mockingbird aloud so we could both know what happened, calf raises while we sipped not Mountain Dew, but Diet Mountain Dew.

Body squats while we watched NBA Inside Stuff and The Knicks play the The Lakers.

Then he stopped.

Vinnie introduced a new philosophy over a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips. “It’s the ability to do something that matters,” he said. He referenced the scientific system he’d set up on his bedroom wall alongside the plastic basketball hoop. A strip of masking tape he’d applied at his highest jump before he started working toward dunking, a foot from the ceiling. Another from the week later, an inch higher. “If I keep going, I’d be dunking by summer. Easy. I just don’t want to.”

There was an impeccable quality to the argument, or perhaps just to the confidence with which he made it, and yet infuriatingly imperfect about the logic. The logic he’d apply to not trying out for the JV, let alone varsity squads in high school. To the colleges he didn’t apply to and the women he didn’t ask for digits from at our college bar.

We didn’t re-watch video of Brent Barry for long, after it was clear he wouldn’t become a superstar, least of all after Vince Carter went three-sixty into a windmill jam, went between his legs, started from behind the backboard. Not sheer distance traveled, but acts of athletic ingenuity. Imagination.

The truth is, Vinnie stopped watching basketball much a couple years later. Got stuck in time on his basketball knowledge, and when we caught a Warriors game one Christmas, was quicker to recognize Steve Kerr, one time point guard, now one the sidelines as coach, rather than Steph Curry, top-five player of his day, budding superstar, world champ and world beater.

We didn’t talk about Brent Barry, but he brought up Vince Carter, frozen in his rookie year, all potential and power. “He may have been the best dunker of all time.”

 

 

 

Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and his hybrid chapbook, The Leo Burke Finish, is available now from Gimmick Press. He won Bayou Magazine’s Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize for fiction and has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North and Hobart. He works as a contributing editor for Moss. Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin.

Taken by the Wind by Howie Good

There was an explosion so loud that it shook our insides. When police arrived, we heard them yelling, “Hands up” before more shots rang out. They think they’re better than us. They say we’re created different from them. They even brag about cutting up bodies and throwing them in the river. We shut the lights and sneaked out. The stop sign on the corner was missing. People were fighting in the streets for what was left. The wind sounded terrible. There wasn’t one tree still standing. You asked, “Oh why can’t they get that baby out of the ground?” After all we’d been through, that seemed irrelevant. The next day I’m sitting on the park bench with my dog and I see my mother in the window of the plane waving. We have a strange way of repeating history. I say “holy fuck” about 1,400 times a day.

 

 

Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize for Poetry from Thoughtcrime Press. He co-edits White Knuckle Press with Dale Wisely.

 

Photo by The All-Nite Images.

Restless by Sergio A. Ortiz

Youth carries with it the demanding, relentless need to relate everything to love. Martin, I sat on the doorsteps of your house. I saw flowers with leaves like swords. They looked like soldiers. You were a soldier. You marched into my life. I came to say, I love you but you were not here, so I wrote it down on a notepad. Martin, I stopped writing to let my arms hang uselessly over my body.

I always sat down and waited, even as a child I bided my time. All women wait for a future life, their images forged in solitude. We see bridesmaids walking towards us, a promise, a man, a pomegranate that opens and displays its red, shiny grains, a pomegranate like a thousand mouths. Oh, my love, we are all so full of inner portraits, so full of unappreciated landscapes.

 

 

Sergio A. Ortiz is a poet, a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Loch Raven Review, Drunk Monkeys, Algebra of Owls, Free State Review, and The Paragon Journal.

 

Editor’s Note: Sergio A. Ortiz is our featured writer for August. Click on his tag (his name at the bottom of his poems) to find all his Califragile work as it is published! Watch Califragile‘s Facebook page for announcements of his upcoming book of poems.