After the Pause Volume 4, Issue 2 Summer 2017
These effigies, simulacra, and representations show but shadows of the visceral body behind the fingers of these sculpted creations. Duff Allen is a writer living in upstate New York who can be reached at email@example.com. Moira Armstrong is a high school junior who enjoys traveling, music, and being alive. I am Spandan Banerjee, from India. I have a passion for art in my heart and believe that "Art is not what we see, but what we make others see". Jake Bauer is from Michigan. Nicholas Brown is Mexican American and is afraid to shop at Whole Foods. Hayden Bunker is a Vermont-based writer pursuing an MSt in English Language at the University of Edinburgh. Helen Burke... hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s looking at you, kid. Natalie Crick is a Pushcart Prize nominee from the UK with poems published in Rust and Moth, The Chiron Review and Interpreters House. Tommy Dean has published over 30 short stories and can be found @tommydeanwriter. Mark DiFruscio is currently pursuing his PhD at Oklahoma State University, and his previously published work has appeared in The San Diego Reader, Dime Show Review, pacificREVIEW, Fiction International and Crack the Spine. Chris Drabick is listening to records. Rebecca Eddy is a visual poet from Cornwall UK, she enjoys spicy food, creative catachresis and walking barefoot through long, soft grass. Ryan Favata is a Florida native whose work has appeared in One Throne Magazine, Ricochet, Red River Review, Syzygy, Eunoia Review, After the Pause and others. Mike Ferguson is an American residing and writing in the UK. Craig Finlay is a most-of-the-time librarian and some-of-the-time poet who lives in South Bend, Indiana with an aloof cat named Esmeralda and a very derpy shih tzu named Scurvy. Michael Glazner is Houston-based English teacher. Erin Marie Hall is a poet and visual artist from the Midwest who loves karaoke and collage. Richard J Heby is the founding editor of Beechwood Review (beechwoodreview.com). Bob Iozzia is Writer in Residence at Iozzia House. Erin Jamieson is an MFA candidate at Miami University; her fiction has appeared in Flash Frontier. Anna Keeler is a poet, fiction writer, and respectable young lady. Michelle Kelm is wondering if anyone remembered to bring snacks. Ty Kia is a young man enchanted by the concept of entropy. Monique Kluczykowski is a poet, non-fiction writer, and dog-rescuer who lives in Iowa City.
Susan L. Leary is a Lecturer in English Composition at the University of Miami. Naomi Ruth Lowinsky is a widely published poet, winner of the Blue Light Poetry Award, and a worried citizen. Sam Mills is a writer from Berkshire, who recently published a short story collection called 'Nightmares'. He is currently based in Lisbon, Portugal. Oxana Poberejnaia is a post-Soviet connoisseur. rawquel is a portuguese artist who creates visual poetry. "Silverware occupies an oversized place in children's minds (well, children raised in countries where forks, knives and spoons are the dominant utensils), and I basically humanize silverware in a delightfully "unheimlich" way and combined it with intimate poetry." Meet the project here: https://www.facebook.com/rawquel/ stephanie roberts is a poet obsessed with oceans and fire. AyĹ&#x;e TekĹ&#x;en is a research assistant at the Department of Foreign Language Education, Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, but above everything she is a fighter and a writer whose mission is to shake things up and show reality in its most elegant form. David J. Thompson would rather be in Spain. Amber D. Tran is a poet and novelist living in the Madison, AL area. Pragya Vashishtha is an Engineering student and an artist from India. Edward Wells II is not a nom de guerre of Shia LaBeouf. Jim Zola is a published poet and photographer.
I Told Marvin Marvin looked at me funny-eyed over his half-chewed hot dog. The tip hung out of the bun. I don’t have to say what it looked like. He swallowed and processed what I told him. I told him I felt like a cliché. I told him no one sets out to be a cliché, but you convince yourself you’re in love and that you’re not a cliché. Are you?—Marvin said. A cliché?—I said. In love?—Marvin said. I told him it was hard to tell what was real anymore. Some of it was because of the cliché thing. What would people say if they found out, and all that. I told him I didn’t want to hurt Amanda. I told him that wasn’t what it was about. What is it about?—Marvin said. He took a French fry, dragged it through a glob of ketchup. He lifted it to his gaping maw. Eating is disgusting. The first step to shitting. I didn’t want to watch Marvin shit. I told him it was about Melissa. She was special. She was different. Because she’s younger?—Marvin said. He drank from his soda pop. Mountain Dew. I hoped I didn’t look like Marvin in five years. He was forty-five; fat; balding; sloppy. He got ketchup on his V-neck sweater. I wouldn’t be like Marvin. I told him it wasn’t because she was younger. It was because she understood me, I told him. I told him she didn’t judge me. I told him I didn’t want to hurt Amanda, but Amanda barely noticed me. So you want Amanda to notice you?—Marvin said. It isn’t about her.—I said. I think she’d disagree.—Marvin said. Marvin was right. He took the remaining hot dog in one bite that should’ve been no fewer than three. Eating is disgusting. Marvin is disgusting. I don’t have anyone else I can trust. No one talks to Marvin. He won’t have anyone to tell. I have to unburden myself. I stabbed at the wilting lettuce in my salad, but I didn’t put it in my mouth. Marvin ruined it.
Melissa is beautiful. I didn’t say that to Marvin. But she is. And she’s in love with me. I know she is. It isn’t about the fucking. I told him it isn’t about the fucking. But the fucking is something else. I don’t have to say how powerful it can be when the fucking is powerful. You could get fired.—Marvin said. Marvin put four, five, six French fries in his mouth at once. His lips made a smacking sound as he chewed. I’d need to run extra tonight to work off Marvin’s meal. For love, I told him. For love I don’t care. Let them fire me. These jobs are a dime a dozen. Marvin shrugged. He told me he knows everyone thinks he’s a fool. He told me he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. I gave up caring about what people thought a long time ago.—Marvin said. He took another sip of the Mountain Dew. Or Sprite. It was Sprite. Marvin picked up a napkin and blew his nose into it. Loudly. He put the napkin in the paper tray that once held his hot dog. Marvin told me he’s not a fool, despite what everyone thinks. Despite what I think. He said he knows a thing or two. He told me he knows a thing or two about love. He said he knows a lot more than that about pussy. Did you say pussy?—I said. He told me he’d had a lot of pussy. He told me he knows everyone thinks he’s a fool. He told me we didn’t know him when. I poked at a cherry tomato and ate it. Then I drank some of my tea. He told me he could guarantee he fucked a million times more pussy than I jerked off to. He told me he could guarantee that. He told me that by the time he was twenty, he’d fucked so much pussy he lost count. Please stop saying pussy.—I said. What the fuck are you talking about?—Marvin said. He told me he knows everyone thinks he’s a fool. I know that, he said. He pointed a bony index finger at me. You’re all fools.—Marvin said. You’re a fool.—Marvin said. He told me he didn’t care if I didn’t like the way he talked. Pussy is pussy. Love is love. He told me anyone can get pussy anytime they want. He told me love isn’t so easy. I don’t understand.—I said. Of course you don’t.—Marvin said.
I shrugged. Melissa is beautiful. I didn’t say that to Marvin. But she is. And she’s in love with me. I know she is. It isn’t about the fucking. But the fucking is something else. I don’t have to say how powerful it can be when the fucking is powerful. Marvin thanked me for lunch. I told him it was no problem. He told me I was a fool. Again. He told me pussy is pussy and love is love. I told him Melissa was in love with me. I told him I didn’t want to hurt my wife. I told him it wasn’t about that. If she’s hurt—Marvin said—if she gets hurt, does it matter fuck-all that you didn’t want to hurt her? Will that tidbit of information make her feel better? Soften the blow? I shook my head. My lettuce was warm. My hands were in my lap. My hands were on my cock. My cock was still wet with Melissa. He shook his head at me, dismissively. He dismissed me. He thanked me again for lunch. He told me he didn’t know why I confided in him. We’d barely spoken in the years since I’d been hired. He told me he assumed I was another fool. He told me pussy was pussy. He told me love is love.
Amber D. Tran
Young Girl Blues Ma wipes at the flour print on her apron. A piece of duct tape clings to her front pocket, the absence of thread to her needle, a practice lost with age. She asks me if I want another egg for breakfast. I tell her, “No,” as my stomach swells underneath my t-shirt. At school, Jimmy Jones passes me a note in class. He wants to know if I have gotten my period yet. Instead of circling Yes or No, I write in, “Shut up,” and send it over the wave of children between us. My sister’s old cheerleading shirt is too big for me, but I wear it to the dance anyway. Jimmy approaches me and dares me to make out with him again. We French behind the gymnasium bleachers, his hand navigates the undercarriage of my bra, and I tell him for the tenth time that he is too old for me. He swallows my voice with his tongue. The house is quiet when I return home. Ma snores on the couch, a pamphlet of Sudoku puzzles in her lap, and I am able to tuck her in before saying goodnight. There is a new weight to me as I lay down for bed, more than just breakfast inside of me, the realization that Jimmy knows what it looks like.
You think you see Jesus in the eraser shavings in the book you opened. It wasn’t Jesus. It was her. 5 pt. bonus: wait aren’t you Jewish? Her diary was never in your closet before. Was it? Wasn’t it? You never read her diary. No one cares about the musings of a *****-year-old lesbian. 2 point bonus: because she’s not gay, she’s confused. Why did you see Jesus? Because you forgot she exists. If only “Dear God” was a woman. Follow the thread of the lost girl She’s not lost – she’s missing. Solve for y, m, ex, b = you’re not confused, you’re jewish.
Bananas1 In The Pick Banana bananery, you have to be fast to count only bananas at the speed of sound. They travel faster than a Commando missile: count one, in a split second the ripest are pickling. It’s tropical twilight as yellow blasts by to black – banana chandeliers leave a contrail of shit like a missile strike.
1 from Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Edward Wells II
lake of dirt
land between entry and adult was the thought of triumph now, the ventricle of attention exactly rushes the one called smokestack became the patient of comedy we often see it at the railroad of unction we may smell you
the discovery of chance is so vicious a yoyo the basement of ceremony, form trial is the valley of faith between another vicuna and every couch now, the bedroom of butter has spread file is professor the valentine softens her the bottle of merit was no species and tongue of motion shaped me
a cloud team has vaporized the product of marble their manner vandalized the evil of tea by hand between our action and certain figures between another doctrine and that bridge simultaneously landed the son of wonder, sounding us my movement was the hand of matter now, the ear of volume gets to die crowd of practice was the fellow roofs stop meeting of rent is the vulgarity refused the queen of snow and some ultimatum is the set of power against craft
harmony #4 a warrant within a film thinks to orbit the story of length the reputation of grace ignores this underhanded operation the living of steel is its policy the poet of astronomy will stop that father and the target of sky will etch him
the device of theory has spoken the sequence from the source of shelter has been entered the waste of cash was prepared
a journal of precision was her afternoon to join a parade out of midnight was staying then the sister of terror won't call my birth and the sun of dance will speak
Death in Trolley Town Here’s one for you. I was over the heath the other morning, out running errands, when I spied Ms Andrews with her fella, and that big dog he keeps about. And being neither here nor there, but on a green patch by the town, we were obliging in our pleasantness, and pleasantries we exchanged as pleasant people do for chitchat among the semi-rural. I said: “not yet” at her “afternoon”, and tapped my pocketwatch with mirth, met with her own charade directed to her part being: ‘the ditzy one’. And we all laughed. And we were once gladly on the brink of disembarkation, contended by the brevity of our exchanges (nay, astonished as to how such flaccidity gained currency), when suddenly, the dog made a go for my gaiters with its teeth, causing all sorts of bother with its snout. And being out not for leisure, but on business, I was impatient in indulging the civilities for longer, especially as they veered towards the anthropomorphic and absurd. And what residual patience I possessed, waned, the more discrepant Ms Andrew’s narrations became re the matter. And what provoked the situation moreso, beyond the dog’s vexing persistence now manifesting as lunges up my loin area, was the fella - Ms Andrews’ fella - who all the while chewed at a hangnail, oblivious to my performed uncomfortability, which represented real discomfort, conveyed discordantly, as a massive shiteating grin. Well, there being only so much willful ignorance a man is willing to withstand, I was forced to become more vocal in my dissension. I said: “leash this animal”. Which proved ineffective. Resuming attention to the matter at hand with new urgency, diplomatic efforts were left with Ms Andrews, whose shrieked invitations towards cognitive dissonance (that is, to humour the danger as keenness to greet on its part: some clumsy but well-intended ‘hello’), only made matters worse. And then, all of a sudden, the beast went for my throat, leaving me with no choice but to abduct its front legs sideways, shredding its heart in two, leaving it dead there on the heath in front of the furious fella and his appalled missus.
Well there was no need for that from him. And what I did, I did regretfully, although it was inevitable, I suppose. I told Ms Andrews: “I’m a lover, not a fighter”. Ms Andrews went in the recovery position. She should never have drawn the knife. We waltzed the waltz of steel, and boy she’s quite the dancer. The shank performed ribbons around her bosom, reminded me of Xianzhi the calligrapher. I smashed the piece from her hand with a kick. She’s gorgeous. But Ms Andrews doesn’t know her judo. I said: “we can be adults about this”. Ms Andrews doesn’t know her judo, but she doesn’t tap out. I took her unconscious and put her in the recovery position, like I said. The pair from Pooch Patrol were warned. So was Mr Johnson and his missus. The pair from Pooch Patrol are not as they say they are. Mr Johnson is, but there lies the problem. The Pooch Buggy (which is really a Mitsubishi Cleartec) came from nowhere, although we were welcomed to check our blind-spots. Mrs Johnson, atop in the floorwork, became rear-ended by an axle. I escaped underneath. I said: “Jesus H Christ! Peace in our time!”. They hauled the Pooch Buggy in reverse. Gaining access through the roof hatch, I ended their threat violently and with a great precision of action, and with some remorse that would not let it be said: this man is unkind. Mr Johnson fled. They sent armed response after quarter of an hour and I asked about the ambulances. I said: “let the courts bring us our justice, whatever that means. Right now this lady has a bleeding jugular, come on man!”. They said I would have to be arrested. I said, flatly, I refuse. I said sorry, that’s my duty. Scout’s honour. Let’s have it. The six chinook helicopters which appeared, circled overhead for some time and spread the grass with their hum that set off the birds and some insects. The machine gun ended a revery. And from inside the copse where I hid, I watched huge sods tear from the ground as newly exposed roots blistered with sap. And seeing the beatles and the ants and maybe the viruses, I realised: space is a fractal image. Time is movement through a parallax of size. Everything is in that mud somewhere: there is no basis to scale. And I cried deeply for all life experiencing pain in that moment.
When the digging was done and the graves had been packed with hardcore to stop squirrels getting at the meat, I took a seat on the ground and caught my breath. And I watched as over the horizon, several thousand crows appeared, their beaks shimmering in the setting sun. They gathered overhead. And at once I saw razors in their beaks and knew these were crows who had come for blood. Night entered from the east. We watched the day fade. “Go on”, I said. “Wallow here or bask in the heat of day again. Your move, crow” And the crows said: “let it be the day. But we shall come back for you when we can keep up no longer”. I said that I would wait. I said give my best to old father orange in the sky.
Idyll On the Island you are called Box, because— box. Under other conditions, covered in moss as it was, you would have trudged past it, again absorbed in your recollections of her nightgown, the two hands stitched on the right sleeve in blue thread. The gown was patterned like the sky. The box was transparent, perhaps fiberglass. When you tore it free, inside you found a man holding a smaller transparent box. Inside his? Another little man examining another little box, ad infinitum. You brought it back to camp where each man lifted the steel lip of his overturned blue boat. Stepping safely under, you said, Hi Box; they said, Hi Box. It rained that night inside and out. This was in the peaceful time, when you enjoyed discomfort like air— before you did the next thing, which would get you banished even from the Island, when you would carry yourself to the ocean, flagellate yourself, minnows darting to the flurry of blood, while the men in the boxes would say, No, we’ve never seen that man with our face. That night, though, using the box as a pillow, you considered her mouth, the idyll of it, the lushness, the simplicity. What’s done cannot be undone, she’d said with it.
Rarely Appearing in Body Eight days later the bananas turned from yellow to brown to black. What was left of the family walked by the counter; the fruit was unnoticed as they dealt with sinking feelings as pieces of the plot came to life in their shallow imaginations. The sister played videos on her phone, watching for Daniel's shadow, because he had before rarely appeared in body, though sometimes she caught a fraction of a second of his laugh or a sigh. She doesn't know this is evidence, doesn't know much of sadness beyond scraped knees and frowns painted upon the faces of the animal characters in her before-bed-books. The mother is the first to find the social media posts, shortly after all of the arrangements were made by the father. She closed her eyes while scrolling backward, the Price's Right wheel, a hand clutching the cross necklace she received from her Aunt after her first communion thirty years ago, hoping that when she opened her eyes, the scroll would land on a singular happy moment. The father yells at the TV, because it doesn't say anything back. Politics and sports blink on and off, as his face turns red from ire and exhaustion. He stomped through the kitchen, out of the house , and into the back yard, where he does pull-ups on a low-hanging tree limb where the baby swing used to glide. The bananas hold many family secrets from watching closely in their short time sitting on the counter. Though they only saw the brother once, his despair was enough to start the spots of anxiety that flung itself upon them like a virus. Where does the mother's scrolling stop? A meme of Willie Wonka saying something sardonic? An ad for a Ravenclaw t-shirt? Or maybe a picture of a girl, plain in fashion, but cute in her shyness, an arm wrapped around the son? More than likely the slash of vitriol, the image of violence, the threat of the Underworld, or an obsession with the deviant. Or pity, the mother who
finds the thread of bullies and trolls, language taut with Occam's razor, pendulum slicing. By refusing to settle her blame on an individual, she wordlessly blames them all. Except herself, for whatever is left of this self could not handle the recrimination. So the sister isn't given any answers. Her parents' raised voices hush whenever she walks in the room. They hold her, their eyes red rimmed like staring at a solar eclipse as they pet her hair. The parents often cry, though her mother does this shamelessly, while her father closes the door to his office. The sister paws at the door like a cat, but he refuses to answer. The father can't muster the energy to fight with the mother or to nag at the daughter. He can blame himself and does with a harsh, lacerating whip of jagged thoughts, but he doesn't know how to express these feelings, so he cowers in a new luddite fashion forbidding himself from using the computer. And still the bananas rot. The oxygen infiltrates the peel, making the meat of the fruit gooey, and unstable. Even the banana would prefer the trash, but no one notices. They ask themselves, where could he be? The boy who ate them with such delight, where could he be?
David J. Thompson
David J. Thompson
California Gurls: Pioneers of Fourth Wave Feminism I have often imagined myself this way, with cans of whipped cream strapped to my tits, provoking men with their pertness, soaking them in syrup, making them wet with it. That is the peak of feminism. As Katy sits in that pink sky, she tells the eyes of the world she is that woman. Her breasts are not careful. Swimming in the sugary sweet, on her cloud, with her tush meticulous, exposing only the cusp of its cheeks, teasing her viewers, and making them beg for it, she cares not about the dissolving sugar, which seeps into her cunt, or the yeast infection fermenting between its lips. This is what the marching was for: the freedom for women to give an ice cream cone a blowjob. For producers to pinch cherry nipples one at a time, checking for ripeness liking fingers clean, and never breaking their starved gaze. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s true Men look at us to be looked at
only ever like meat. Isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t it like candy.
Sheep Wranglers This is the field that the sun often melts to dew the grass, and make gold of the trees and hay. The field that the two of you often claim in the name of your hands and toes, to lie in, and keep yourselves as girls and nothing more. You are as blades of grass drifting on the air as if no one were just counting you, or ripping you from your soil beds to tear you from that warmth. Here, you’re on the wind, fingertips against cheeks, floating through nothing and letting the sun thaw your arms. You’ve never held weight. You look at her like she’s the only thing real, like she’s what keeps you tethered to the dirt. But, do you ever hate yourself for wanting her? Your hands are planted firmly by the sides of her head, her knees wobbling toward your own. She laughs, and it’s the wind praying. She smiles, and you think that maybe this is what God intended, for you to want her, for her to be wanted. Beyond those hills the smoke eats your lungs and the brush is bathing in flames. Her eyes are blue salvation. She smiles, and the leaves are golden. She laughs, and you love her more. You’ll burn later. The smoke will fatten your ribs, your bones will char, and the last thing you’ll know is the wind in her ear.
Susan L. Leary
The Gazelle Like the mind unable to rid itself of an idea, so the gazelle, satisfied by drink, lingers by the riverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edge, attuned to the uncurling of his spindly legs and the splendor of his hoofs alight on the dried mud. He is certain, today, that the crocodile will let him live, so unfazed the yellow-eyed beast has been by the usual tip-toe or ear-twitch, indolent, full-bellied, and self-important he sleeps, some yards away, at the center of the near-evaporated water. The gazelle will not learn to grant the crocodile respect nor to see any threat separate from the creation of his own tale, even as all that surrounds him is wary. Sharp blades of grass startle each other into consciousness. The water, panicked by its own symmetry, closes in on itself faster than it desires. Wearied and impatient, a many-limbed tree is humbled by the throat-cries of birds who suffer within the tangled respite. Back home from war, what are you to be vigilant of? The footfall of soldiers carrying dead bodies back to your camp? The force of your wounded hands in wounds?
Only more wounds, bodies writhing from the pain of self-knowledge. Like the gazelle, bewildered by his own thirst, you will stand hoof-high on a bench in the basement and kick it out from under you, heaving with self-convincing un-ambivalence, so that you might let the crocodile eat you, so paralyzed you are waiting at the bank by your own awareness of the possibility.
After He Leaves Me I think I'll enroll in a night class to fill my suddenly spare time something useful like the basics of punctuation which I've never been great at and it would be nice to learn the rules I've forgotten like when to slow down whose turn it is to speak and its most crucial function of telling us where the end is
Full Boil (or Simmer)
Citric acids runs down lips, the orange sliced yesterday. Tell me why, when motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lips are chapped and bleeding she stands over the steam, steam from wilted broccoli stalks lying in the pan -demonium, shrill infant cry Mother is nowhere to be found. Mother took the car keys and drove. I need things. Lipstick, Advil, water Need is boiling. The fishy aftertaste of seaweed, or fleshy salmon shards. Sticking to the pan, the house, this heat.
Gutting, for a Daughter when i was eight, you told me how
handing me a rag the flesh decays quickly if you arent quick insert the knife just below the tail a skill every responsible father teaches his son so glad i was your daughter never knew there was so much so much inside but you said that those were just guts to remove. i took a long shower but
from that day on i could smell myself rotting.
evening stroll tonight the rain tastes like ashes
Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Tell Our Mothers Today, I will hurl the cross off my neck and kiss an unruly girl on the mouth. It will sting at first, but her gob will be down my throat and I will hymn between the wet intervals, the hands of a freshly brewed crucifixion on my waist. She calls it begging. When it happens, my thumb will belong to her body and our mothers will look for the girls of Jesusâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; disciples between our legs--but we sprawl them across each other,
the sheets as our wood and you lay on my breast and count the backwards blooming of our sins.
i. The dream is over. Somewhere a car alarm is going off. Old egos mink on my shoulder. I do not care if it’s real. (But I dreamed I saw her shriveled body.) Jimmy, lighting a cigarette, Jimmy, the window. I set your phone on the nightstand. Heathen at the dark glass, toying with lightness. I do not care if it’s real. (Then show me.) My captive heart knocks on the floorboards. Questions linger like heaves of the deceased. The radiator hisses like presidents at war— dour limbo eats me. ii. Okay, there’s this haunting, some shade following scene to scene, like Eliot’s yellow fog, I think, a loose cape of my dead selves— I do go on about us. Do we protest or encumber? Okay, let the mind wander. . .
Tomorrow’s King A shadow slid between King Charlotte and the sword she spun about its point. “My Lady Mother?” the young king came to her feet and watched her mother wrap her cardigan around her body with the morning sun behind her. “Time for breakfast Charre.” The young king stopped walking. “Our honorifics please?” “It’s summertime. You don’t have to play this game anymore.” King Charlotte didn’t budge; her mother hugged herself before speaking. “My dear and blessed King Charlotte the first, protector of the realm, defender of unicorns-” “Don’t forget the monkeys!” added the little monarch. The king’s mother gripped her shoulders and twisted her feet away from her daughter. “--and patron of monkeys, would you please grace us with your esteemed company as we break our fast on this radiant morning, the first day of summer?” “As we have just finished our morning sword practice, we would be honored to accompany you.” King and mother walked toward the house, one holding a sword and the other holding her chest. “Maybe my king can leave her sword outside?” But the king only slashed the air in front of her while walking into the kitchen. “Ms. Nancy said you’re not moving up to the third grade next year. You’ll have to make new friends. Again.” “That vile woman be a witch!” The king slashed to the left. “Her spell transfigured us into a mute brute when we entered her classroom!” She slashed to the right. “From without we appeared a dull girl with little sense but within we were the rightful sovereign of the realm made helpless by her cunning spell.” “Maybe the good king can put down her sword and sit at the table like a big g--, like a big king?” King Charlotte leaned her sword’s pommel against the table in order to pull herself into a seat next to her mother. “The other parents said you threatened their children.” “They refuse to acknowledge our sovereignty. They won’t call me King, not even Charlotte, just--” but the king’s voice choked before speaking again. “If I had my sword at school, they would rue the day they mocked us!” She swung her sword and knocked over her mother’s juice and a plate of eggs.
“Oh Charre. You’ve made a mess. Go play outside before you ruin something else.” The king’s mother unwrapped her arms from her chest to start cleaning. “My Lady Mother is right. Today be a fine day for a campaign of vengeance.” The king started for the door. “Just leave your sword at home.” But King Charlotte didn’t hear. “And don’t bother Ms. Nancy.” Yet the young king had already walked out to the street, sword in hand and dog in tow. The king and her dog walked into the garden fronting Yew Street’s dead end house. A small woman dressed in green knelt in front of a rose bush with her back to the street. King Charlotte yelled, “I have come to exact mine vengeance!” “I expected you earlier King.” Ms. Nancy got to her feet and faced the king. “How much longer do you think they’ll let you stay in my class? I can’t protect you forever.” King Charlotte paused and then dropped her sword. She cupped her hands around her mouth and whispered, “The other kids laugh at me and call me Sword Girl.” Ms. Nancy spread wide her arms and said, “I know you’re the King.” “You’re the only one who believes me.” She still whispered. “One day, other people will believe you,” said Ms. Nancy. King Charlotte picked up her sword and whispered, “Can I take my vengeance now?” Ms. Nancy nodded. “You will hold us captive no longer Ms. Nancy!” King Charlotte had stopped whispering. Before King Charlotte could charge, Ms. Nancy threw her apple on the ground. It exploded in a plume of smoke covering teacher, little girl, and even dog. When the smoke cleared, a witch wrapped in green rags with a wretched and twisted back had taken Ms. Nancy’s place. Opposite the witch stood a king clad in mail, covered in a white surcoat bearing a device of flame, and clasping a longsword. Next to her stood a wolf, dark as night with pure white teeth, who growled and snarled with hackles running down his back. “Prepare yourself!” King Charlotte, in her true form, leapt forward with her wolf and prepared to swing her blade. The witch cowered in front of her. But a shriek – not from witch’s lips nor from the king’s – made all three turn their heads to look up the street.
“Charlotte!” The king’s mother ran towards them. “I told you to leave Ms. Nancy alone!” “She never sees me.” King Charlotte whispered and her shoulders fell. Her truest form disappeared. A little girl who had failed the second grade twice replaced it. The witch wrapped in green went away too and left a sweet old lady dressed in green suit. “Come on Charlotte.” The king’s mother took King Charlotte’s free hand. “I told you not to bother Ms. Nancy. And this?” She pulled the sword from King Charlotte’s hand. “Is over!” and tossed it into Ms. Nancy’s yard. “This nonsense stops today!” “Maybe you can take your vengeance tomorrow King,” whispered Ms. Nancy. The king’s lady mother dragging the king away, Ms. Nancy hiding the sword under her jacket, King Charlotte mouthing the word “tomorrow.”
Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re Like the Kids in High School Movies Is there alcohol? Is there sex? Just three kids-exquisite corpses, misanthropes perched on balsa wood bookshelves and cracked leather, cross-legged and drunk on truth and silence. Just paper bag lunches, golden dust mites floating through the air, dark curls and purple hair and my pale hands. Our confessions-snakes whose kind I never knewpick their way through crumbled ceiling tile and embed themselves in our clay skins. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s easier to stare at them than to look you in the eye, solidify the words that slipped like rainwater out of our gutted mouths in a forgotten soundproof moment.
Dead Men’s Clothes will make their way to Goodwill, innocuous in brown paper bags. Some will still have the tags on, shirts or suits deemed for best, which arrived too late. One will be delivered to someone who knows what to do with the polished brown shoes, the navy wool or grey tweed blend. There, in the quiet among the scent of rotting lilies, good fabric is still appreciated before it is incinerated. The urn is heavier than you might think, though what’s left of bones is insubstantial, a few chunky fragments here and there. What does it matter where it goes, where it stays— a park, the mantel, perhaps under the guest bed in a Rubbermaid tote,
alongside the dead manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s handkerchiefsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; folded, starched, bleached free of stains.
In the Wild Wake I. Dark Matter The question wakes you in the night What if your worst fears are the story of our time? In the surgery waiting room worst fears fester The TV is on mute The smartphone is a portal an oracle a hideout The Word of the Year 2016 says Face Book is “surreal” Trust natural law say the cards Surrender to the black hole They’re closing all the shops It’s crazy out there Last night in a dream Obama sat on the edge of a black hole Twitter man is on TV big and imposing riding down his golden escalator His hair gleams gold his tower gleams gold his tie gleams red hangs low a great schlong of a tie What do they mean “Not our president”? He won That’s how it works Dark matter can’t be seen touched smelled heard tasted Is it in us?
II. Dark Energy In the waiting room some wait to be called into the dark Some wait for their someone to emerge from twilight sleep the knife the black hole She fingers her sapphire-blue head scarf sees her grandmother smile long ago in Aleppo Prays she will see her again Inshallah in this life She can’t face the jinni in her body the jinni that’s eating America Same jinni devoured the Arab Spring
Some of us have ghosts in our head shrieking worst-case scenarios Dark energy makes up most of the universe We don’t know what it is She’s huddled in the ruby-red sweater he gave her Tells herself Don’t go there Don’t think about where they will cut him The worst has already happened to your ancestors to Emmett Till Trayvon Martin Michael Brown to nine good souls in Charleston What did the Bible tell them? Just watch the silent TV cling to your phone wait for the door to open the nurse to call your name take you to your sweet groggy someone He holds her purse her diamond wedding band follows the trail of the altright online Wonders is there is a cosmic connection between his wife’s endangered breast and the turn the country has taken? How does he get through the hours with her in the surgical dark? Mr. Road Map to Hitler keep your hands off my wife The baby in the stroller holds his mother’s iPhone His eyes open wide What is he seeing? Success through what is small So says the Book of Changes
III. Dark Time The Kali Yuga say the Hindus is a dark age lacks holy law a time of hubris greed war The President of Tweets Now there’s a worst fear
Time to expand our nuclear capacity
Doesn’t he know our nukes are on hair-trigger alert? He thinks he’s in a movie This is real life Chaos has awoken from a long nap
is putting on dancing shoes and heading for the streets Unmute the tube The women warriors are on Rachel Maddow in a black jacket is pushy A lot of people are hiding under the bed right now Are we really going back to the arms race? Kellyanne Conway in black velvet with cleavage smiles sweetly Nothing like that He just wants us all to be safe The fruits of peace outweigh the plunder of war So says Obama still our president Let there be an arms race tweets the president as though to say Let the wild rumpus begin When black holes collide there are no handrails Let go say the runes of the world as you know it of the world as you want it to be Old skins must be shed
ON THE MEXICAN SIDE OF THE AMERICAN WALL The mountains old familiars misty blue drifters jungle enfolded they comfort us and then there’s the sea umbilical beat of the great mother’s heart We’ve been coming here for twelve years or is it thirteen? We’ve grown old visiting this village Only this time is different America’s dream has been busted The auction block the shackles show through The Mexican president refuses to meet with our incoming tyrant Why should he pay for America’s twenty-plus-billion-dollar wall? We need sanctuary At breakfast the Canadians wonder “Why don’t you just stay down here?” We sat in this same great hall during the Bush years watching the moods of the ocean and sky the frigates soar the pelicans swoop and raged about government by the rich for the rich Shock and Awe The treasures of Sumer looted and lost a culture destroyed and all those young Americans who came home shattered shell-shocked This time is different Bush would never have banned Muslims Anguish and rage at the airports on Facebook on Twitter in e-mails from everyone we know Someone says “Government by fiat” We wonder Is it a coup? smoke screen? Does he want power for a billion years like the former president of Gambia?
Is it a
Disconnect Listen to the surf watch the palm trees wave their fronds The talk is of sharks The time he was swimming with his daughter and someone shouted “Great white!” *** On the beach the waves are huge surfers’ delight If we knew how to ride waves would that help? The ocean opens her great goddess mouth She raises her ancient head beats her fists on the sand She’s taking it back our beach for sand castles for baring our breasts to the sun for releasing baby turtles protected by human children as they run to the sea Meanwhile in Berkeley the students protest the alt–right When did that word arrive? Anarchists dressed like ninjas invade Sproul Plaza break glass start fires Mario Savio Where are you now? The bigot in chief would defund the university First the Muslims then the academics If mother hadn’t lost her grip on what’s new who’s in charge She’d feel like a Jewish child in Deutschland all over again *** We wander the beach looking for ocean-smoothed rocks to fit in the palm of a hand to soothe a troubled soul calm an angry heart At the lagoon a congregation of turkey vultures wings close
The ducks flutter their
to hummingbird speed ecstatic
A dog leaps in and out of the water
This is the lagoon the local rich guy tried to hijack fill it in build a resort The people said “No! “You can’t interfere with a waterway” Standing Rock in San Pancho Bad night Sleep slinks away Mosquito bites itch House moans Arab boy or is he Mexican howls his fury hurls his stones at the big bad American wall
*** At the bar David shows Julio how to make a mezcal martini Breaking down walls with spirits There is dancing in the streets of San Pancho to American rock and roll The leader of the band dedicates the next song to “El Loco en la Casa Blanca” “Stop children what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down” Come the Muslim registry we’ll be Muslims What if we can’t travel? What if we can never come here again? Where the sickle moon and Venus commune in the velvet night Where our days fall into easy patterns and we return to our old wild selves Where every evening we watch the sunset You would not believe the glory we’ve seen Imagine this rays of sun through clouds like a blessing Sun disappears in a streak of gray is born again dies again is born yet again a glowing globe and then the green flash
Wishing in the Woods With Hillary I wish you’d surprise me in the woods Hillary as you did that young mother baby daughter on her back the day after we lost you for president She took a selfie My daughter sent me the link Who will we be without you in your moon-bright pantsuit? Who will stand up to the strongman when Michelle and Barack walk out of the White House and speak to us only in dreams? My wish is to see you among trees their leaves gone gold and crimson or dry and dead on the earth Your little dog will sniff me And you who’ve been pilloried your goodness debunked as though working for women and children lacks gravitas As though gravitas is a loaded scrotum whose natural enemy is a woman with powers Mother trudged from father’s study to kitchen to bathroom and back when he whistled I kid you not He whistled She typed his manuscripts cooked bathed children darned socks Hillary She was the air we breathed the water we swam in the earth we walked on our hearth our heartbeat Her powers invisible to the kingdom of men But O she was fierce about voting for you in ’08 Now she’s lost her way in the woods lost my name your fame lost the whole world of visible powers lost to the outcry the pandemonium the kids walking out of their schools shouting “Not our president” The trees raise their boughs and prophesy When the moon comes closer to earth than it’s been since the year you were born the haters will crawl out from under their rocks the “white only” nation come out of the woodwork You won’t know whose country you’re in
Maybe our time is over Hillary All that e-mail evil because you’re attached to your old familiar that BlackBerry you refuse to waste time learning new smartphones I’m with you But my dear the world is passing us by That young mother in the woods after we lost you for president posted you and her baby daughter on Facebook It went viral My daughter sent me the link Hillary my wish is to surround you with sisters of the secret grove We’ll sit in a circle kiss the earth with our holiest lips We’ll lift up our hands and pray for your healing our healing the healing of the dis– respected disaffected molested undocumented Jim-Crowed And let’s not forget the trees the bees the buffalo We’ll breathe into our bellies Our backbones grow into strong tree trunks our roots descend While I’m wishing let’s throw in a chorus of frogs and the smell of the earth after rain For it’s downgoing time in America underworld time time to hide out in a cave How I wish for your company in the dark Hillary We’ll make a fire talk story remember our mothers’ invisible powers Maybe we’ll sink into dreamtime Maybe Michelle will visit She’ll wear a wonderful dress remind us of grace of joy She’ll speak from her heart Though the weather’s becoming a banshee goddess Though the “white only” nation is trolling the web Though the emperor elect is tweeting our downfall My wish is Remember The way of women is our way The moon swells the moon goes dark pulling the tides in and out The way of the trees is our way So raise up your branches sisters for we are one gathering Soon sap will rise apple trees flower We’ll weave us a canopy all over this land
It will be uprising time once again in America
#a heartâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s place is the kitchen a visual artist feature by Rawquel
binding and loosing blinding and losing
beloved_husband A dormant volcano we are. A stream of a physical realm. At hand, imminent, impending. First and last word Heard. Reached. Taken. Said. Written. Meaning Love in the land of our invented language.
Second skin I burned my chest. They removed a skin graft from the leg And they put it in the pit of the flesh. My heart started to feel Like a wild horse, In captivity.
Nothing says spring quite like Us, blooming. Together. Even in winter when colors are darker.
storm hits. Unscramble the crumbs As words every letter can spell appease my inner.self Soften the anger in bread and milk.
As winter dwindles away, I remain invisible. To others. Running the household Of the cold grey cove Under the heavy rain of january, soaked. STILL. Is winter silent or loud? Emptyness undoes noises. Went underwater to balance the tension. Above the waterline, birds were flying in v. I remained the odd misplaced anchor. Winter ended. No rain. Just me and nothing.
Air Karma Sneakers A man realizes or decides he needs a new pair of sneakers. His dilemma is he realizes or decides he will die if he buys the sneakers. The man—whose identity is not germane to this story, but let’s call him Larry Lyle Perlmutter of 666 Vista View Way, Carbuncle, CA—is enterprising and amoral, so he realizes or decides the answer to his atheistic prayers is to steal the sneakers. As a dress rehearsal for the heist, he pilfers his neighbor’s newspaper. He waits a day to see if the newspaper police or another law enforcement squad arrests him for the theft. After the test period, he remains unincarcerated, which boosts his confidence. A secondary reason for stealing the newspaper is to research the advertising circulars to learn what stores are having sneaker sales. Not that he intends to pay for them; he figures the store that has the best bargains will be crowded with customers willing to die for sneakers (or are immune to the curse he realizes or decides he has), which will serve to camouflage his crime. The fateful day arrives, as does the man at the target store (lower case t). The name of the store is not germane to this story, but let’s call it Sneakers to Die For, 666 Vista View Way, White Flight, CA. The man is disappointed with the customer turnout but realizes or decides there are enough wide-bodied people for him to pull off the caper. He finds a pair of sneakers in his size he doesn’t hate. And when he realizes or decides no one is looking, he ditches the box and hides the sneakers beneath the plus-size dress he stole for this occasion. As he amscrays out of the store and begins to cross the street, the man is trampled to death in the White Flight Running of the Elephants, an event that had been postponed for thirty years before its resurrection this very day. The man dies too soon to realize or decide two important lessons besides karma is a bitch: 1. Not only does crime not pay, but it costs dearly. 2. What goes around eventually comes around—sometimes in the guise of a stampede—even if it takes thirty years.
Tangle for a Newborn
Time Travel for a Group of Friends
Flower Abstract #7
are lounging, flat across the couch, half-watching semisideways television, half writing; your children are in your bedroom watching Kiki’s Delivery Service (again). And then your son, the elder at four, emerges from the hallway, the yellow-blue diaper bag slung over his shoulder; self-packed you see, from the swinging tail of a purple beaded necklace (surprising that your terrible-two daughter has let him abscond with it). He turns the corner toward the backdoor, then sees you and says, “I’m ready. I got to go to my work now.” His work is, obviously, mechanic on the Casey Jr. Train at Disneyland. “I’ve got to get my broom,” he yells behind him as he pushes through the back door. You summon and claim your daughter, and have to sandal her feet, which is like shoeing two fish that are struggling back towards the water when she’s excited, before you follow him outside. He’s standing tip-toe with this chin above the pool gate. “I can’t get in. I have to get my broom. You have to open it.” He steps down and backs away from the gate’s swinging radius and the weight of the diaper bag pulls him a few stuttering steps further around. The girl loses interest in the endeavor and heads over to the bigger of the two plastic slides: bright blue steps with a narrow red slide like a frog’s tongue stuck to the grass. You enter the combination into the simple silver-black padlock, and ask him to wait right there while you skirt the pool and retrieve the broom, it’s laying there upon the paving stones he enjoys sweeping (mostly) clean after scooping dirt over them with his spade: real steel blade with a red plastic handle contrived to suggest a caterpillar’s aft segment of body. The broom you hand him matches the spade, only orange, with a face containing blue orbic eyes, black irises, nub antennae, an upturned nose without nostrils, black crescent of eternally pleasant demeanor, and the broom’s bristles as feet. “Thanks,” he says, grasping the broom then straddling it, adjusting again to the unpracticed weight of the diaper bag with a balancing back step. “Okay, I got to go to my work now,” he says, his back to you, tensing for the liftoff. You watch his knees bend, his hands adjust his grip and tighten on the broom shaft, his butt quiver with expectancy. For him this isn’t play; he fully
expects to jump, rise slowly forward past the mulberry’s burgeoning spring canopy, then soar up between the clouds until the ground below resembles a map, and he can follow the gray line marked I-5 past the quilt of Central Valley farms, past the muscled back of the Grapevine, over the traffic congestion that would halter his passage through Los Angeles were he not flying above, until from the horizon the Matterhorn will leap up, Mickey atop in lederhosen, beckoning to him, “Down here! Down here! We need you to fix the Dumbo train!” Everyone in the park is going to stop and watch his approach and descent, wait breathlessly as he sidles up to the train and starts tinkering with his red plastic hammer, his gray plastic wrench. All human sound will fade in the ‘Land: the hooting circus organ behind the Dumbo Flyers and the Carousel’s tinkling renditions of Disney favorites and the Tea Party wood and wind instruments will hush, leaving only his hammering and wrenching, until Casey Jr.’s engine will give a resounding, relieved Woo-Hoot! and a tumult of cheering, lauding his mechanical skill, will arise for him to blush under. In your stomach the warmth of the humor at this scenario is meeting the cold anticipation of his disappointment, giving rise to a storm of vacillation. How can you tell when fostering his imagination by conspiracy with his ventures is going to teeter over into selling him out on his limitations? How do you tell your child that he does not have the power of flight without choking the ignition of his possibility? For soon enough he will learn that gravity is only an agent of reality in its war against imagination. You watch as your son stays grounded, and wait for his reaction as he jumps twice, looks back to make sure there is no button or switch on the broom that he’s missing that will release its magic; jump another time, his focus dimming and constricting the atmosphere of the backyard, while in your core amusement and heartbreak combine and whirl. “Oh, it’s not working!” he says, with more surprise in his voice than frustration. “No?” you ask, instantly recognizing that discoveries, splendid or diminishing, treasures and burdens, should always be shared. “No. Oh well, I guess I can’t go to my work,” he says, dismounting. “Can I play in the sandbox?” his resignation dissolves completely with the next attention-encompassing idea. “Can I plu-ay sandbox too?” your daughter asks, her head lifting from the chalk fireworks she has been setting off across the patio (a little too monochromatically pink in her program you think).
“Of course,” you answer, walking over to lift the turtle-backed lid that keeps the sandbox from becoming the neighborhood stray cat-box, then sit on the bench swing nearby, adjusting the canvas hood to shield you from the earnest sun. “I’m going to make a castle,” the boy says. “Me too! Me too!” the girl says. “That’s a good idea,” you say, because it is a truth you are sure of.
You I carved your bones Into a tree. Discovered you in velvet petals Powdered with pollen, White feathers sullied by soil, Mouth smeared pink with juice, Seeds shining from tiny teeth, Suddenly sullen Inside the wild strawberry plant. Perhaps my hands offend you. They nurture sin. They lose their colour, Pulled back as skin from Godly grape. Abandoned, They spin spider silk, Stand at the edge Of a field shivering, Dark, Licked to sleep.
Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Go Back Z-Zebraâ&#x20AC;Ś Yellow pollen. X-lover Walking by. Voluptuous thighs u greet me with. Take this sting out of my red and blue quivering tongue. Pacify, pour oolong in my nettle-bitten mouth. Lubricate my injured knees, and their jerk, where little imps hide, preparing for their gregarious festivals. Envelop my toes. Devour my crevasses. Breathe into me awe.
Spiritual Leader Though he walked around with a big head and little glasses he was not the spiritual leader he believed himself to be. He could quote Gilgamesh and Ford Maddox Ford at will. He would see people and say things about the crow flying, or salmon cavorting, or blackbirds flocking. He had had tea with the Dalai Lama himself, and could purse his small mouth thoughtfully and appear to be reverential. He was so magnificently myopic that he did not see me once at the local flea market. I had been talking for a while with two musicians, a jawdroppingly beautiful couple who were touring the world the following week, and they had rented a spot in the field to empty themselves of their wares for pocket money. The Spiritual Leader approached their card table and saw that, among a Jew’s Harp and a wooden recorder with teeth marks scraped into the mouthpiece, there was a harmonica. It had on it a sticker that said $5. He picked it up and sucked on it, then blew into it. “I’ll give you two bucks for it,” he said. I almost came out of my concealment and said, “Man, I will buy that thing from you at full price,” but remained quiet and observed. The couple agreed, and the Spiritual Leader fished two dollar bills out of his billfold. “This is a Hohner,” he said, pointing out the engraved inscription on the shining metal casing to them. “You know what they say,” he said as waltzed off playing it, “‘If you’ve got a Hohner, you’ll never be a loner.’” One day I might meet this enlightened man again and pose to him, revealing myself now outside of my cloud of dust, a question, “How many men must there be in a room for one to be alone?” Or, “How many harmonicas must there be for one to be playing?” I’m not sure exactly when I will speak to him, if I will speak to him at all, but certainly, if I do, it will be with some clout, some direction, and some merit, if I shall have evolved a little more.
Recollect of a Requiem I heard still instead of steal In certain songs when I was Younger. I told you this after you told me About how often youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d lose A guitar pick while Trying to learn Orbison Or Croce and how once, Your tape deck grew canines and gnawed Time in a Bottle with such Tenacity you swore the song perished From your mind entirely, Poof, Croce gone. The bottle broke, shards And gusts of time and dust flew Through the first kiss, sweaty back seats, divorce, The lonely crop dusters of Des Moines. Time exceeds its circumstances, Its prison, its bottle. If you were in England, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d toast the QueenIn Australia, the blue-ringed octopus. You always had a thing for rings And royalty, for holding on to
Fragments of past, gluing them Together like a model of a P-51 MustangIts pilot humming Piaf, searching for still Steel tanks until flak left shards over the channel, Blessed, remembered: those damn angels on our shoulders.
B.U. Now that he was gone, everything seemed to be restored for now. She had tried so hard to convince him to leave her apartment. He was insistent, though. He kept saying that he loved her and that he was the one who deserved her love back. After dinner, Serdar had dropped her home. She had spent the whole night explaining to him that she saw a friend in him and nothing more. He was attractive, yes, and it would be so nice to have him in her arms. She could imagine the jealous looks of the other women when the two would be passing by hand in hand. Her parents adored him, too. There was literally nothing wrong with him. She was the one who was wrong. He had to understand this. All night, she was busy listing those things to her desperate lover. She was wearing her favorite red dress tonight with Christian Louboutin sandals. She knew she was going to meet Serdar tonight. She wanted to impress him. She liked being the one in control. Getting menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s attention and relentlessly refusing them was one of the few things that made her life enjoyable. She convinced herself she had done the right thing. Serdar had left her apartment with crumbs of hope in his heart. Shutting the doors forever was for no oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s good, especially hers. When she closed the door behind Serdar, she let out a deep breath. She went through the dark corridor into her bedroom, turned on the light on the dresser, and got in front of the mirror on the left side of the room. She started to undress. First, she took off her ruby earrings, then her golden bracelet, which had her initials on it: a B and an U, a gift from her deceased mother. Then she took off her shoes and tossed them to the other corner of the room. She let the red dress slide down her shoulders. With the red dress, so did her confidence. She was shaking a bit. This was no surprise to her. The chilly weather of this late September night finding its way into the room through the open window was not the one to blame. She was told this was probably due to some psychological reaction she was having to her situation. She sighed and moved her small hands up to her head. She stroked her own hair, got closer to the mirror and leaned into it. She took her chin in her hands and stared into her dark eyes to catch a glimpse of joy. There was none. In a sudden fury, she moved back, pulled her hair, and all of it came to her hands in a bulk. She tossed it at the mirror, turned away and went to the window,
which provided the beautiful scenery of a city lit up for her. She leaned out of the window and inhaled the city. She did not want to let it go. She wanted it all. She wanted to live it to the fullest. She tried as hard as possible to keep it inside her, to feel the burning pain tearing apart her weak lungs. She fought and lost the battle. She exhaled the city and put it back right into its place as if she were a child returning a toy just because she was told to although she did not want to. She stepped back and closed the window. Not with fury but with consent. On the glass surface, she saw the reflection of a woman standing naked with her bald head. She must have got it from the chemo, she thought. She gave that woman a weak smile, turned her back and left the room, disappearing into the dark corridor.
Soft Part open mouth insert tongue probe. tooth tooth tooth remove the word love. taste the el on fire the oh full of surprise. vee is serrated. you taste the flow of your own metal anguish viscous & crimson as the bitter it comes from. pass back the e to me. oh you who bare the soft part
of what i said.
Make Sure to Break Its Spine she once told me remember, whenever you open a book make sure to break its spine so it cannot feel when you read it and pick out the best parts to pop like offal bursting with juices into your mouth. she said that it was only the right thing to do and the nice thing to do too to yourself as it stimulated your conscience the erogenous zone of the mind: you must only press down down down and watch as it is engorged with blood.
Bed The bed has the part by the window that lets the cold in, especially the winds that cut north in winter. It’s always a bracing thing, sliding into freezing sheets. I don't know why I never moved it away from the window, or at least had the window caulked, or why I still sleep on the same side, 3 years later. Or why I didn't haul it to your parent’s antiseptic fucking northwest suburban front lawn, dump it on your mom’s rose bushes and set the thing on fire.
Sunset Cliffs Every few months someone new falls from the edge of Sunset Cliffs. A few have died, others crippled, the rest escape unscathed but shaken by the nearness of the call. The cliff side crumbles daily, inching closer to the world, erosion becoming cracks then collapse, swallowed into waves beneath the shore. You scaled down those cliffs once, to wade into the ocean, wanting nothing to do with the world. You hoped for impossible things that never came to pass and knew even then how you were wrong, fallen, irretrievable and damaged, beyond repair. Eventually, in boredom or defeat you climbed back up, scaling the cliffs to the guardrail, and stood beside the road. Peering down at your trail in the sand, you recognized your own lifeless corpse, having fallen, died, been crippled, survived, and shaken still by the nearness of the call.
About After the Pause is an online literary journal based in Indianapolis, IN, featuring poetry, flash fiction, and artwork, published quarterly. We also publish a yearly print anthology whose proceeds go to charity. We look to feature the best creative arts from new, emerging, and veteran creators. We also run a small, nonprofit press called a…p press, which publishes titles of experimental poetry and fiction. Find us here: afterthepause.com or @afterthepause
Purpose We believe art is a product of life experiences, from the joyful to the heartbreaking to the absolutely mundane. Life throws pauses at us. Art follows the pause. We want to share the best art we can find and bring hope through those artworks.
Cover Art “The Fox” by Spandan Banerjee
Departure Until next time.
Copyright 2017 All rights of the material within belong to the authors.