#CampFire: What became ash by Jan Haag

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For Alma, who escaped the Camp Fire with her life but not her home.

Porches, steps and all, except some concrete ones
left blackened, broken off like old teeth,
not to mention flower pots and the last gasp
of roses settling in for winter, garden hoses
crinkled like charred snakes on what used to be lawn,
door frames and window frames,
front doors painted in a particular shade,
windows blasted into shards,
easy chairs, TVs, refrigerators and the art
magneted on them made by childrengrandchildren
niecesnephewsthatcutekiddownthestreet,
their toy firetrucks and dolls incinerated, their
bike frames and swingsets rendered skeletal.

How many photographs, cherished memories,
diplomas, licenses, bills, tax documents,
check stubs, notebooks, journals, novels, poems,
screenplays, love letters lie in the cinders?

How many toothbrushes and dentures, housecoats
and sport coats, bridal gowns and work boots,
bathing suits and raincoats, baseball caps and
wool scarves?

An open-mouthed deer with fire-puckered skin
pressed into the ash, along with uncountable
burrowing creatures, rabbits that could not hop
fast enough, birds, singed, then downed,
not to mention those with eyelashes and lips,
crying their last, consumed by what they could
see coming at them.

Paradise, Magalia, Nimshew, North Pines,
Morgan Ridge, Concow, Yankee Hill, Coutelenc,
South Pines, Mesilla Valley, Fir Haven, Berry Creek.

Under it all:
bones and bones and bones and bones.

And finally, after the flames did their job
consuming everything in their path—
the 85 counted and the still-uncountable souls
of the formerly two-legged and four-legged,
the winged and those that crawled and slithered—
the much-prayed for rain arrived, the day before the day
of gratitude, quenching the last of the hot spots,
muddying the ravaged earth, further entombing
the dead, clearing the air for hundreds of miles.

Those of us left downwind took deep gulps,
raised our faces to the blesséd drops, grateful
to no longer inhale the particulate of people,
their towns, their possessions, their lives,
those we may not have known but whose
molecules circulate in our bloodstreams,
who lie embedded in us.

They are ours now, we who breathe under
fresh, blue skies.

 

 

Jan Haag teaches journalism and creative writing at Sacramento City College where she advises campus publications. Jan is the author of a book of poems, Companion Spirit, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads weekly creative writing workshops in Sacramento, has written two novels and had work published in many journals and anthologies. She is also the co-publisher of River Rock Books in Sacramento.

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.

That Mother by Roberta Beary

John_Collier_-_Reclining_Woman that mother roberta beary

My daughter is watching Frozen with friend.
I am cleaning out the linen closet.
Here is my stash of perfume samples from Bloomingdales.
I put them in a little basket.

I want to be another kind of mother.
Who comes home and climbs into bed.
Wearing nothing but sample perfume from Bloomingdales.
I want to be that mother in the Long Bar at Raffles.
Sipping the perfect Singapore Sling.

Frozen is almost over.
I take my Singapore Sling and sit near my daughter and her friend.
They open all the packets of perfume.
My daughter gets to keep the little basket.

 

 

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, 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/co-editor of the haiku anthologies Wishbone Moon (Jacar Press, 2018) 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.

 

Painting Reclining Woman by John Collier. 

#Mountains: Root of Beech by Xe M. Sánchez

Root of Beech Xe M Sanchez Hedwig Storch

Root of Beech, translated from Asturian by the author:

I am a lucky man.
My roots are nailed
in the mountains,
as the roots
of the oaks,
of the beeches
and the roots
of my ancestors.
That’s why all my poems
are made
in fog’s melancholy.
I am a lucky man.

 

Original text:

 

Raigañu de Carbayu

Ero un home afortunáu.
Los mios raigaños
tan espitaos
nes montañes,
comu los raigaños
del carbayu,
de les fayes,
y los raigaños
de los mios antepasaos.
Poro tolos mios poemes
tan fechos cola señaldá
de la borrina.
Ero un home afortunáu.

 

 

Xe M. Sánchez was born in 1970 in Grau (Asturies, Spain). He received his Ph.D degree in History from the University of Oviedo in 2016, he is an anthropologist, and he also studied Tourism and three masters (History / Protocol / Philately and Numismatic). He has published  Escorzobeyos (2002), Les fueyes tresmanaes d’Enol Xivares (2003), Toponimia de la parroquia de Sobrefoz. Ponga (2006), Llue, esi mundu paralelu (2007), Les Erbíes del Diañu (E-book: 2013, Paperback: 2015), Cróniques de la Gandaya (E-book, 2013), El Cuadernu Prietu (2015) in Asturian the language, and several publications in journals and reviews in Asturies, USA, Portugal, France, Sweden, Scotland, Australia, South Africa, India, Italy, England and Canada.

 

Photograph by Hedwig Storch. 

White Out Three Times by Don Krieger

Charlottesville torches Don Krieger White Out

After the wedding I puked,
then slept in the bushes. At first light
I drove east, no good bye, the sun
bright as a bomb. By eight

it was snowing. By ten
I was alone running sixty
in the left lane, the others
behind slow trucks or on the shoulder.

This weekend a white boy
drove into the crowd
and killed somebody. Other boys
with credit cards, K-Mart torches,
mommy’s clean muscle shirts, chanted,

You … won’t … erase … us.

First published in Vox Poetica.

 

Don Krieger is a biomedical researcher living in Pittsburgh, PA. His poetry has appeared online at Tuck Magazine, Uppagus Magazine, VerseWrights, and others, in print in Hanging Loose, Neurology, and in English and Farsi in Persian Sugar in English Tea.

Leaving Atlanta by Beth Gordon

Leaving Atlanta Beth Gordon

You want me to consider the rain, I hate
it here. I want sorghum syrup coating
everything. Gin-soaked orange peels glued
inside your mouth. It is sweltering
in this airport you are wading in,
metal detectors at the opposite gate and scraping
at peony scars on your arms. You peel back
your skin every night like mud
soaked book pages. I hate it here, this year.
Your father will die still
believing his home has vanished,
replaced with old hotel walls and strangers who feed him
cake. With unfamiliar ghosts. With
hands. I hate it here, this year
your mother will bake three-layer
buttercream cakes from her wheelchair.
Bones replaced by dust. It is pouring. Dust. I hate it here.
This year he will leave without looking
back, and you will build funerals
and sanctuaries from pouring more gin,
and the sudden dispersements of your heart.

 

 

Beth Gordon received her MFA from American University a long time ago and was not heard from again until 2017 when her poems began to appear in numerous online and print journals including Into the Void, Outlook Springs, Verity La and After Happy Hour Review. Landlocked in St. Louis for 17 years, Beth has taught several local writing workshops, and is co-founder of a poetry reading series in Grafton, IL. She is also co-editor of Gone Lawn, a journal of poetry and progressive fiction.

 

Original photograph by Josh Hallett.