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.