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.