Issue 6 I
CREDO ESPOIR Letter from the Editor Thank you to everyone who submitted their work to Credo Espoir and to those of you who opened our magazine to read something new. I think I have taken for granted the mixture of experiences which converge in this collection. I can only imagine the lives that each you might live, the experiences which inspired you to write, to make art, and then what motivated you to share that with us. As I read through the submissions, there were many hopeful ones, continuing the theme with which we launched Credo Espoir. However, many of them lacked that light tone. They were dark, hopeless, jarring. I lingered on these pieces. I considered myself an optimistic person, but I am losing that buoyancy, now replaced by a dense pessimism that startles me. As you peruse this collection, I hope you can connect with the works and to the people behind them. I wish everyone safety and good health. Sincerely, Demira
We Are Each by Edward Lee
Table of Contents Upon August’s Slumped Back ...........................................................................1 Lockdown I ............................................................................................................3 Panic Attack in the Shower .................................................................................7 Upon, Above, Among, Under ..........................................................................10 The Bitterest Farewell ........................................................................................12 A Proper Burial ...................................................................................................13 This New Shore...................................................................................................15 Ripe-old apple-trees ...........................................................................................16 Chiromancy, a poem on gestures ....................................................................17 Blossom’s Bosom ................................................................................................19 Noon .....................................................................................................................23 The Drunk Me .....................................................................................................24 The Park Above the City ...................................................................................25 A Gray Day ..........................................................................................................26 Creatures Divine .................................................................................................27 Tangerine Strands ..............................................................................................28 Such a Day ...........................................................................................................35 Hear Us Out ........................................................................................................36 When Truth Makes Us Smile ............................................................................37
Table of Contents Silly Clock Faces ................................................................................................. 38 Beautiful Day for a Riot .................................................................................... 39 Nocturnal Winds ................................................................................................ 41 What-I’ve-Learnt ................................................................................................ 43 All the Better, Dear Wolf .................................................................................. 45 The Earth Was Round ....................................................................................... 48 She’d Say ............................................................................................................. 50 Live ....................................................................................................................... 53 There are Times .................................................................................................. 54 Pure Altruism (One Man’s Journey) ............................................................... 55 Idiot ...................................................................................................................... 57 Knocks on the Door ........................................................................................... 58 In Your Garden................................................................................................... 59 The Bells of Truth ............................................................................................... 60 The Least You Could Do for Your Poor Old Mother ................................... 61 Pink: A Poem on Death ..................................................................................... 67 Unkind Place....................................................................................................... 69 Contributors ........................................................................................................ 71 Staff ...................................................................................................................... 79
Upon August’s Slumped Back Michael Smith Upon August’s slumped back the weight of the previous year bends his crooked spine with tender years. And with this timely scoliosis, his abject form welcomes the wind unassuming, a midnight guest wandering like a mischievous child, who comes to steal what it wills as the household goes off to bed, windows open, with a peace of being from nature’s massage; and as in a bag, my thoughts westward go, like this fickle air, to the drawn map’s end; nobody knows of the wind wrapped round
my pinky finger. I hold it so tightly, but now let it go, never to linger, ever to dance with Astraeus, as with a stranger sans affection. For in this season, the coffers are packed to the brim
with rare objects and predictions grim, such are conversations with my friend, my mind, in these confines the size of a mumble, spanking the new-born hours into a cry
to wake the turn of Seasons, who die. The nightâ€™s cold has passing silent escaped like wards of a jail for familial violence; seasons, like the rejected bit of a song, kill the following strain -with strain in strain and by strain.
Itâ€™s a pledge to the darkness of time fallen outside our doors.
লক ডাউন ১ গুণ মৰাণ বিপদবিাবৰ ককৱল বিপদবে নকবৰ জীৱনক বদ যায় ভালকক এবিকবন মো বিপদ এই ভাইৰাবে কেবে সঁোকক বদবলবন জীৱবেষ্ঠক এবিকবন? লক ডাউনৰ এই বেো লগা দীঘলীয়া কালে ঘৰবে কসামাই আবম বয কমৌন প্ৰাৰ্থনা কবৰব া কসই প্ৰাৰ্থনাে আব
জগেৰ উপকাৰৰ দৃঢ় পণ
ঘৰবে কসামাই কসামাই পূৱা-গধূবল কিবলৰ লগবে বয কৰ্া পাবেবলাঁ কসই কবৰ্াপকৰ্বন বিকাবলবন আমাক কয আনৰ েবক বনবজ জ্ববল জ্ববল কপােৰ বদয়া কিবলব া আবম ে'ি কনাৱাবৰাঁ অৰ্ে কিবলৰ পৰা বিক্ষা লল আবমও আনৰ সোয়ক ে'ি পাবৰাঁ লক ডাউনৰ এই অসেয দীঘথ সময়ে মানুেৰ িাবদ প্ৰকৃ বেৰ সকবলা জীৱ আৰু উবিবদ আবপানমবন িবেথ আব মোমাবৰ কৰ'নাই বসেঁ েৰ কনাম এডাবলা ল'ৰাি পৰা নাই অৰ্ে পৃবৰ্ৱীৰ সিথবেষ্ঠ জীৱ নাবমবৰ পবৰবেে মানুবে পৰস্পবৰ পৰস্পৰৰ পৰা আঁেবৰ আব জীৱন মৰণৰ কালে অেৰংগ মুেূেথ এ াও পাৰ কবৰিকল ভয় কবৰব
LOCKDOWN 1 Guna Moran The dangers do not just bring forth perils It leaves for us a good lesson This virus that is so much threatening Did it actually give the best of beasts a lesson? In this long span of bitter lockdown What silent prayers we have been offering In that prayer there is firm resolve to do good of the world The conversation that we made with the sun staying indoors every morning and evening Did that teach us that we can never turn into the Sun that burns itself out to provide light to others Still we can be of help to others by taking lessons from it In this unbearable long duration of lockdown All other plants and animals are surviving on their own The pandemic corona did not have any effect on them at all But human beings known as the best of beast
are staying away from each other They are afraid to spend even a passionate moment in this juncture of life and death
উপকাৰীবয় মৃেুযকল ককবেয়াও ভয় নকবৰ সকবলাবে সেবজ বিেৰণ কবৰি পাবৰ কাৰণ উপকাৰীক সকবলাবৱ েদ্ধা কবৰ মৃেুযৰ পা ে েদ্ধািীলক কাবল অমৰবে কবৰ লক ডাউনৰ এই মো সংক ৰ সময়ে আবম দজথা- বিবৰবক িন্ধ কবৰ গৃে- িন্দী লে আব া অৰ্ে প্ৰকৃ বেৰ আন আন প্ৰাণীকুবল প্ৰবেক্ষবণ কমথ ময় লে আব এই সমস্ত প্ৰাণীকুবল অেেীন কমথ িযস্তোবৰ আমাকল এিন সবেজ আৰু কসউজ পৃবৰ্ৱীৰ বনমাণথ কবৰ আব লক ডাউনৰ কিষে প্ৰকৃ বেৰ এই অননয কসউজ উপোৰটি উপবভাগ কবৰিকল আবম সঁোকক অবেংস আৰু নযায়পৰায়ণৰ নীবেবিক্ষা ল'বলাঁবল এই মোবিপদৰ পৰা? বিপদ এিাবৰই নাবে পুনৰ বিপদে নপবৰিকল ইয়ােকক ভয়ংকৰ বদন নোকক নাৰ্াবক
যবদবে কলাৱা নে'ল বিপদৰ কালে সময়ৰ পাঠ
Benevolent are not afraid of death They can move around everywhere easily Because everyone respects the benefactor Time bestows immortality to the good souls At this moment of great crisis of lockdown We are staying imprisoned in our homes Shutting the doors and windows While the entire animal kingdom are building a fresh and green earth for us With nonstop busyness To enjoy this unique green present of nature At the end of lockdown have we actually taken lessons of non-violence and justice from this great crisis Danger do not strike just once
If we do not take the lesson from time During this juncture of crisis More perilous days than these would strike us
Translation : Bibekananda Choudhury
Panic Attack in the Shower Jason Hockaday I. I learned to turn the lights off. So dark, you can’t see. Hot. So hot it transports you to an era of red. So hot you can feel it
suckling the pains out of your skin. and your pores open their mouths and scream that it’s too fucking hot.
Like you need to be told because you can’t feel when you breathe. Swells in your stomach, pull the pain out at your roots because it lives in your hair.
and if you could just rip it out just yank it out Hands clasped asking why Why me? What did I do
to deserve this? Iâ€™ll do anything. Just to make it stop. Please.
II. But all the anger
has released its toxins into your system and the poison of it all makes you ill, physically ill. Tears mixed with gasoline the most sacred of anointments and turn to your ancestors and beg Why me?
Why me? III. I can hear them reply, No more, anamahiich. No more Indian tears
and I see through the dark as the children are taken my great grandmother is taken and every araaras’ tears and they say we have already cried for you, see? We have shed all our tears.
IV. But nani’xuupsas, I have messed up so much. How can you still care for me? And I realize the humor of my body’s reactions for the first time
They gave me laughter, because laughter cures. My ears fill with water, my nose and mouth fill with water. my space fills with water my eyes and lungs fill with water (ishaha uum ikrii)
I am warm and unseeing and calm V. I am clean.
Upon, Above, Among, Under Linda Imbler Hear the crescendo at the peak of increasingly vibrant waves, from restless surge to thunderous breakers, and back to calm. See life rise and descend. Experience the scent of salt. Touch the tide with bare feet. Taste the salinity that comes from shallow or deep. See the purple haze, or a sky gray and leaden with rain, or a sky hanging blue and cloudless. Feel thunder rumble and light, cool breezes blow, smell ozone, count stars in the dark. Within the woods, from tall ancients to thin babes, listen to the soft whisper of leaves trembling on the wind, or the crunchy fallen ones.
Witness the grand ballet of shadows from swaying branches. View green hues atop brown on bark, bark felt as rough and coarse. Collect crushed willow bark used for medicine. Taste maple drawn from inside the trunk. Smell the fragrance of resin and sap.
The seas and forests, awake and sleep, breathe some aspects from the wide open skies. Prizes we should continue to treasure and cherish, until we end up peacefully under all three.
The Bitterest Farewell Maryam Bahrami Nejad Like the breathless summer Desperately rummaging for the autumn breeze in her dreams Was the taste of your farewell You hugged me And a river was dripping It was bracing And smelled like home I nested there naively You evaporated I was left On a lonely branch The trunk was already in the deep valley I was gazing at you As you were ecstatically sinking into the darkness A broken branch, orphan eggs, and a handful of soft and pink words Dancing with the floating orchestra of my eyes Passionately playing of the familiar forgotten song of a daughter Missed the promised embrace of a father Like the intimacy of rain and soil Was the taste of your embrace
Like their swift kiss Was abrupt your farewell All those promised starry beauties Melted under the jealous sunâ€™s eyes And I woke up.
A PROPER BURIAL Anindita Sarkar She read that message again – “We are very sorry to inform you, Ma'am but Sir has left us”- Bertram Avenue COVID Hospital. The message was received two hours after her husband’s death. He left her, left her forever to decay like the daisies, the lilies and the roses she left at his gravestone every Saturday in the makeshift graveyard inhabited by the defaced and defeated. The crisp winter had departed leaving in its wake a harvest of spring. As she smoothly extended a bouquet of lush red roses on his tombstone the tangerine rays of the sun gently kissed her, almost like a gesture of consolation. Few yards away she saw a man in a well-groomed black suit, kneeling down on his knees between two graves, with a wreath made up of variegated flowers: lilies, gladiolus, lavender. His eyes were closed, his lips bemused in a prayer. Perhaps he too had lost his family. The thought that he was there, just like her exploring the vicissitudes of loss and eventually learning about the continuum of the universe, eased the heaviness of her heart. He hoisted himself up and gently willed himself towards the exit. There was a couple in the adjacent plot, standing under a funerary tree with arched branches. They were old and decrepit engrossed in a moment of silence, tenderly holding each other’s hands. A clump of cinnamon-scented wildflowers caught her eye. Soft, amethyst hued flowers tinged with swirls of blue thriving near her husband’s headstone. The fragrance was enchanting. She suddenly sensed an unnatural warmth curling around her. She imagined it to be him. A grim place for a romantic date, she thought, thousands of vagrant souls could be eyeing on them. Her mind returned to the flowers again, they were blooming vividly as if they were nourished by a defiant flare. She paused briefly and pondered if it was he who had initiated the phenomena, encouraging the survival of nature. Flowers, they spoke to him of happiness, when he was alive. He adored them. Their propitiously gorgeous garden at their apartment used to be a haven for sibyl-like butterflies. “The graveyard never looked so plush before”, she told herself. Life had
bizarrely found a home in the generous plot of death. The breeze wafted a dreamy essence, while a group of forager bees strolled past her, sniffing the perfumed air with their pollen stained antennas. A string of ants were busy with their siloed events. Mourners in the graveyard were absorbed in a raspy tune of silence. For a moment she beamed with satisfaction. It was after a long time, that one or two fine smile-lines creased the skin on her pallid cheeks. In a matter of seconds, the fleet-footed satisfaction was lost, lost for sempiternity. She regretted that he couldnâ€™t receive a dignified burial. The picture of her husband cloaked in a ghastly body-bag drifted through her head.
This New Shore Edward Lee
Ripe-old apple-trees Mark Andrew Heathcote I want to write a poem about ripe old apple trees And poets in their armchairs with arthritic knees, Carving out words into windblown dandelion seeds Circling trunks and boughs where a snake precedes To hiss and talk in serpent tongues of ancient-times I want to write a poem that reaches starry climbs, Lower-shadows in the grass than an adder That gives-off a whiff-taste of a sour-thereafter. Again, I want to write a poem about Adam and Eve, How Adam rolled up his sleeves, but couldn’t please Eve. How Eve jealously guarded a secret; How it tipped the world into self-revilement Such white-blossoms inked, flail into the sky, Like snake scales outgrown all-too-often-left awry. I want to write a poem about ripe-old apple-trees And poets in their armchairs with arthritic knees, But sadly I haven’t the time to-do-so child, I’m becoming all-too-old and now sleep beguiled.
Chiromancy, a poem on gestures Michael Smith Saw you across the room, curlicue -- my hand waves to you, till you saw me, and vis-Ă -vis your hand to mine you drew. Across the room, purely planetary, our hands in syzygy swung orbiting in a gestural prosody. Until, for a handshake, a wreck we make nonplus, a constant movement of disconnect, more cubist than direct -to comâ€™pone by tittering, my fingers shaking from the meet. I think it was your thumb then that winked.
Now, each other enclose, a Mobius strip of anxious flow, but not as if the first time, rather as if caresses had a memory.
Tremors of a micro kind do disclose what we both feel in a loquacious act, but as if inebriated. Our fingers this conversation makes: first one sign, and then a whole line,
attempting to speak what we canâ€™t, Which shyly they do, from those somersaults through the air to us enclosing our hands two: guess this means I love you.
Blossom’s Bosom Tiffany Lindfield Translated by Susanna Martin Short in 1690. Dear Big People, When you’re a fairy, the world is huge—bigger than if you were not a fairy. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. We are taller than ants, unless they stand on their hind legs—and then they tower over us. Small enough to ride the backs of honeybees, clasp the anther of flowers with our whole bodies, and snuggle into the center of Lantana Camaras. A lake or a river, or a stream is to us what the ocean would be to you: vast, nearly inscrutable; a leaf like a tree. Our hearts—our minds, like yours, though, see past the clouds, to the universe, under the skin, to the blood chugging in our veins; we speak. Hummingbirds are enormous, the flutter of their wings powerful enough to blow us like the seeds of dandelions, to float on light breezes; but like the hummingbird, we are agile. Like butterflies, our wings are oversized, the lady bugs teasing us, “you’re all wings,” in their French accents—and our wings gossamer like spider’s webs, carrying us Godspeed— but not far. Every fairies’ wings are unique, mine radiating soft and sharp blues, pinks and white, each fiber shimmering a blend of kaleidoscopic hues. Though we are quick, we have little endurance for our frames are frail and brittle. Life crafting us for a brief while. Therefore, unlike the body you have, strong with a network of sturdy muscles, bones, and joints, we are mostly made of hollowed bones and fascia. Our skin is nearly translucent, shimmering with the many emotions we experience, our skin bare, wearing nothing on our bodies except for what exists in the world, naturally. Our hair, long and thin like silk—mine the color of lavender— touching the ground when we walk. We have eyes such as yours, only more exceptional in sight, seeing wavelengths of all colors in majesty. Our ears are small though, pointed and
pointless leaving us nearly deaf. The world around us, bountiful in sound, is but a whisper to my people. It is the crickets that warn us of danger, using their legs as screeching violins. Our sense of smell, taste and touch is the same as yours. We spend our days asleep, buried where the sun cannot burn our diaphanous skin. Just as all life though, we require the touch of the sun. We stand to the sun as it rises, relishing in the kiss of its many rays, every single sunrise. We call this Birthe. After which, we scurry away, sleeping under leaves, twigs, in the cusp of flowers, among worms that slide over us, under us. The peak of the moon stirs us, energy filling our bodies, shaking us to aliveness. We spend the beginning of our night gathering food from Earth in an enthusiastic rage. Gathering, then eating in dyadic groups, then we summon ourselves for Gonosh; dancing, singing, and lovemaking. No one in our world claims power. We have no religion but that of our Mother Earth, represent no gender— expressing our sexuality freely, open, possessing not ourselves, nor another. Some among us have the power to birth children. They are celebrated and the children they bare raised among us all. There is little violence among us, those causing intentional harm embraced with the strength of love. We do not hurry for rewards, nor store treasures for tomorrow and this is where my lesson begins. A lesson of the circle of life; we call this Uine. We stood for Birthe, relishing the sun as it rose, letting slides of light graze our noses with our eyes closed in reverence; this was my first Birthe. Before that day, I was too young to partake in the ritual, spending all my days and nights attached to different people, wrapped, tenderly in their arms, given sweet nectar to drink, nourishment from giving hands, prompted from sleep with high whistles. Time moves, dragging along, and as such, I grew too big to travel on the backs of my people. I began to stand on two legs, still much to learn, the eagerness of youth yanking me to a sprint. On my first standing sunrise, Lilikia, an ancient fairy took my hand after Birthe, telling me in a sing-song voice that I must follow. Ancient in our world is the passing of four seasons, our lives short. Lilikia took me to the edge of the river. I saw the sun’s reflection on the water’s top, soft glass, like I could—if I wanted—to walk or slide or dance across it. It captivated my senses, wholly. Lilikia watched with me, knowing my eyes were drawn and stood.
There was something else I was meant to see, however and Lilikia took my hand. It was with the pointing of Lilikia’s hands that my eyes were summoned by the small bud of a flower not yet bloomed. “Today, you see the bud, tomorrow the bloom,” Lilikia said, the look of the river in big eyes, silky and wet. As prophesized, the next sunrise, Lilikia took my hand leading me to the little bud. It was now an extravaganza, blooms of beautiful yellows, oranges and blues had been brought forth from the stalk of the plant. I was in awe of the full bloom, nestling against it, pleasuring myself in the softness and alluring scent. Lilikia joined me in this appraisal, admiring the flower’s beauty. Lilikia said to me, “Today we see the bloom. Tomorrow, we see the seed.” The next sunrise, Lilikia took my hand, leading me to the blossom. It was overflowing, bursting, now, with ripe seeds. We ate many of the them, to our bellies delight, again enchanted by the bloom’s beauty and now, in awe of its power to give life. After this, Lilikia said to me, “Today we see the seeds of life, tomorrow we see Uine.” I had no knowledge of the word, but contained my ignorance, with silence, understanding this was also a lesson in patience. Another sunrise and I learned the meaning of Uine. It looked like death, for the bloom was no longer at its peak, nor abundant in seed. “Death,” I whimpered to Lilikia. “No, Lilikia said touching the tip of my nose with a bent finger “life— Uine is life.” I looked at the bloom as Lilikia’s words made meaning in my mind. It was but a wilted resemblance of a past gone too quickly, I thought. Looking at Lilikia, feeling as if my heart weighed more than the whole Earth, I touched the stalk of the plant with one hand. Lilikia gathered the branches, leaves and blooms, dry to the touch, fashioning a crown for our heads. Afterwards, Lilikia, said to me, “Just as a bud blooms and dies, so you will bloom and die, to be reborn into something else.” “Something else?” I asked, the crown feeling heavy on my head. Lilikia continued, “Look around you and see. Some life is new, some is old, but all is still here, churning and turning over again. You see?” Walking back, I saw Uine everywhere. As I lay that morning entangled in leaves, cozy against the ground of the earth, I sensed Uine all around me, running fingers in the dirt, relishing microscopic pieces of old blooms, a snail’s
shell, dinosaur bones and thought, one day, my body, too. Dreams came to my eyes with these thoughts, as I snuggled my body closely to those near me, feeling the beating in their hearts; in rhythm with mine, the oceans, the tides— the whole Earth herself. Uine, I whimpered— whispered, nesting my nose in the crook of a flower’s bloom.
Noon Gary Beck Lunchtime in the city and the employed leave their warrens, a few to posh restaurants most to ready-made, or sandwiches, some go to the nearest park enjoying the illusion of urban outdoors offering relief, however brief from encroaching concrete.
The Drunk Me Maryam Bahrami Nejad My shameful joy in life The brightest sin in the darkest nights The hackneyed lover of the arrogant sun Is the passionate beloved of moonly nights Scratching my vulnerable soul The King of the sun Is the docile slave of the nights The cursed king And the humble master of nightly joys Darkness penetrated into holes Floats on it like a soulless boat My lonely body Shines like a diamond in the mud Under the playboy moon The curse of the night Has blown the burning eyes The pleasant smell of shame Is wafting through The drunk me Waiting breathlessly
For the lying sun To rise again from the mud To act out The indomitable king Again.
THE PARK ABOVE THE CITY John Grey Warm late Autumn day,
everything so expensive
in the clogged streets,
the last fruit falling –
so cheap here –
in the city,
I take a deep breath
and the bill comes to nothing.
through streaming pedestrians, an island provides the only respite – stone steps to a higher place, the best view of all that’s down below – how much does it all cost, the smoke, the noise, the businesses that take but don’t give back – a trifle of lawn,
enough for me and the old guy with the grinning, gleaming gold teeth –
A Gray Day Ann Privateer In olive green fatigues Eating macaroni and cheese Beneath a Pacific blue sky Near purple mountains That bite Grannie Smith Chew the Caribbean Watch the orange sunset Turn cerulean blue Then roll by like a raw Sienna tumbleweed.
Creatures divine Mark Andrew Heathcote There’s a bridge between beauty and vanity. And beneath it, bitter troubled waters flow, And on either side Banks of wild static flowers grow. But their-geniality is not the same. One has advanced into wily forest vegetation, Vines and ferns aching to be young again Searching for flawlessness—bent on perfection. The other—triviality of youth melting like snow, A little insecure overtly demure Frothing at the mouth, warming to the end of spring; Under a magical spell …yearning to mature. But both are summonedFrom the same ancient river source And in truth, both are intertwined, And in truth ego is theirs, yours and mine, And we are all beautiful creatures divine.
TANGERINE STRANDS Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi The little girl and boy were screaming. Not the bad screaming. Not Mia’s screaming. Lucretia stood in the outer schoolyard, looking through the fence that separated her from the scene of the crime she had created two months prior. Of all the kids packed into the limited pen designated for kindergarten students, her eyes and ears couldn’t help but track the running, laughing—For now, she thought—screaming little girl and boy, engaged in the age-old interplay: the fluttering of the little girl’s long hair; the little boy’s outstretched hand; the former barely outrunning the latter, whether by choice or biology, laughing, screaming, most times out of exhilaration, sometimes because a primitive thought told her she was in genuine danger; the way the invisibly tethered pair navigated the other children, who were merely sitting ducks oblivious to the fast-paced game of tandem sparrows; the little boy finding a latent gear, accelerating, reaching with a clawed hand, closer, closer, closer; the little girl abruptly turning to avoid his fingers; the chase slowing down— this time—to recover for an encore, or dying altogether, the dangerous game saved for something as distant as another day, or as close as the next recess. And outside of this customary exchange, outside of this playground within a playground, Lucretia felt relief, for the little girl and boy had yet again successfully avoided recreating the history that had taken place in there. She and Mia's history. A history she had forgotten until last week. Lucretia had looked forward to the first day of school. Her mother had dropped her off at the side of the building, wished her good luck on her first day of school, and drove away to the job that paid their rent. Mia's mother, on the other hand... well, if she had work, she had clearly called in sick so as to protect her daughter from Lucretia. It was in the gymnasium, where the buzzing student body waited to be assigned their new teachers, that Lucretia had felt the summer's sunburns in
her gut, the summer's scraped knees all over her body, for she had seen for the first time how and in what condition Mia had spent her summer—thanks to that single moment in June. Thanks to Lucretia. The little girl and boy were screaming again. Not the bad screaming. Not Mia's screaming. Not yet, Lucretia thought. She looked away from the potential violence, and focused on the one obstacle she would need to overcome if now was indeed the time to do what she hadn't any real courage to do. But when the obsidian eyes of Ms. Jackson, perched atop the steps leading to Lucretia's assigned door, met hers, she panicked, resorting to blindly surveying the vast schoolyard available to her. She knew her new world by heart: the field that was home to two continental versions of football, haloed by quintuplet tracks; faded baseball diamond; fully-loaded play area—just some of the perks of becoming a full-day student in the first grade. The perks, however, did nothing to perk her up. Everyone was out here, relishing their twenty minutes outside the stifling classrooms, trying to capture as much of the lingering dog days as possible. Everyone who stole glances of Mia, who never saw, but must have felt the judging eyes. Everyone who gossiped, but pretended otherwise, as if the school was ripe with other Mia's. Everyone was out here. Except Mia. Lucretia could bear the Mia-less vista no longer. Heavy guilt shepherded her heavy legs toward Ms. Jackson. She could have claimed to have felt ill— she was, after all, sick with nerves—but opted for a watered-down lie that the hateful teacher would likely deny. “Can I get a drink, Ms. Jackson?” Her voice cracked, supporting her cause. Ms. Jackson smiled, opened the door, and held it for the stunned Lucretia. She eyed the teacher as she crossed the threshold. The woman indeed appeared to be the same Ms. Jackson who had cradled and cooed the wailing Mia on that day in June; the same Ms. Jackson who glared and yelled at the culpable Lucretia. Doesn't she remember me? Lucretia mused. Doesn't she re-
member what I did? The hard handrail felt like a slippery serpent of electric nerves. With legs of quicksand, she began the long ascent. She caught up to her pounding heart upon reaching the second-floor landing. There, the pair of heavy doors guarded against her, protecting whom she sought. But they were no match for a mousy thumb pressing the latch. The click of the stairwell door did nothing to interrupt the hushed voices wafting over to her from the opposite side of the hallway. While the volume of the conversation rose with every step toward the only open door, specific words refused to clarify themselves. Still, Lucretia discerned two voices: one she knew, but scarcely heard during class; the other could have belonged to either relief or dread, for Mia's mother was prone to classroom visits between the usual drop-offs and pick-ups—which contributed to the list of gossip topics. Please be Mrs. Atwood, she thought. Lucretia reached the door, and listened for whether or not she would abort her mission. When her heart, thudding in her ears, skipped a beat, she heard not dread, but relief—Mrs. Atwood!—and turned the corner just as another thought occurred to her: Mia's mother could still be in there, not talking.
Two pairs of eyes looked up at her from their respective desks. One pair looked back down just as quickly. The other pair held her gaze. “Hey, Lucretia.” There was a tinge of surprise in Mrs. Atwood's voice. Surprise turned to concern. “You okay?” Lucretia knew she looked as dishevelled and antsy and nauseous as she felt. “Yeah,” she croaked. “Just...” She couldn't lie about needing a drink; she had passed the fountains on her way over. “Too hot outside?” Mrs. Atwood offered. “Yeah,” Lucretia exhaled, relieved for the out. “Well, you can take your seat if you like. Recess is almost over, anyway. Speaking of...” Mrs. Atwood rose from her desk. “Girls, I'll be right back. Gotta use the ladies' room.” She turned to the damaged thing at the far end of the second-last row, peeling a tangerine. “We'll talk some more about it later, okay, Mia?” Lucretia wondered if Mrs. Atwood saw the pain, suffering, and sadness that animated Mia's barely nodding head. She wondered if Mrs. Atwood knew that she was responsible for those emotions. Of course, she does, Lucretia re-
minded herself. Mia and her mother and Ms. Jackson for sure told her what I did. Mrs. Atwood flashed Lucretia a smile on her way out. Victim and criminal were alone. Lucretia remained at the door. Staring at Mia, like the other kids. Talking about her, like the other kids, except her conscience was the mouth, tongue-tied, inarticulate. Her meagre vocabulary boiled down to a single thought: Just do it, chicken! Paring herself from the linoleum, Lucretia shuffled toward the row of desks in a wide arc, simultaneously avoiding and gravitating toward the back row. Her eyes never left Mia, who busied herself with her tangerine. As she drew reluctantly closer, Lucretia was afforded a profile view of the baseball cap—a major topic of gossip—that never left Mia's head. Having reached the beginning of the back row, she then trudged the never-ending trudge toward her ill-placed desk at the very end. Each timid step brought her closer to Mia. Each fearful step brought her closer to the damned baseball cap... and what it hid. Each outright terrified step packed more and more of Mia's citrusy snack into her nose. Standing behind her chair, which sat behind her desk, which sat behind Mia, Lucretia wondered why Mia's mother—who had witnessed the unfortunate seating plan during several of her visits—allowed the criminal so close to her daughter. Lucretia heard Mia's chewing slow, saw her back stiffen, growing uncomfortably aware of Lucretia's presence, and the lack of chair legs scraping against the floor. Chicken! Chicken! CHICKEN! She collapsed, rather than sat in, her poorly-assigned seat, and couldn't help but fall into the week-long habit of studying the bit of naked scalp visible under the rim of Mia's baseball cap. She memorized the bony ridges, the shallow pockets, the pronounced point where the skull met the spine, the precise number of pink and red bumps. She knew each of Mia's five beauty-marks intimately, and no matter how many times her eyes played with them, she couldn't settle upon a shape, pattern, or design. She believed that if the school day were longer, she would finally be able to count each terribly short bristle
of thin hair. A fresh burst of tangerine invaded Lucretia's nose. The odour divided itself: southbound, to her stomach, where it mixed with and churned breakfast; northbound, to the mysterious region of the brain where scent converted to imagery. There, she saw that bright June day, not too dissimilar from the little girl and boy outside. Did he catch her? she wondered. Is she crying? Chicken! that other part of her taunted. What if she doesn't believe me? Chicken!
What if she screams and cries again? Chicken! What if she hits me? CHICKEN! Another burst of tangerine perspiration. This time Lucretia didn't see the little girl and boy, but another film entirely: the claustrophobic kindergarten playground; Mia clutching the back of her head, bawling in Ms. Jackson's arms; Lucretia trying her best not to join in on the bawling, but failing, trying to give back the long brunette strands of hair wrapped around her stubby fingers; Mia blaring her refusal; Lucretia covering her blubbering face, her snotty nose detecting something flowery, something fruity. Yet another surge of Mia's tangerine, and Lucretia realized that Mia's envied, rope-like hair had been washed in tangerine-scented shampoo that day in June. “I'm sorry.” Lucretia craved to be heard, perhaps even to be forgiven, and yet she didn't understand why Mia was turning to face her. “For what?” Mia asked. Lucretia couldn't believe the question more than the fact Mia was actually talking to her. Did she forget, too? Like Ms. Jackson? Does her mom remember? Mia started to turn away. The tangerine had completely assimilated with Lucretia's stomach contents, and out came a vomit of sorts: “I'm sorry for pulling your hair and for making you cry and for making all your hair fall out of your head and eyebrows and everyone talking about you and looking at you and not playing with you and making you not want to go outside and play...” As she purged, she
saw the most peculiar thing: a smile. Mia had never looked so pretty. Lucretia thought Mia had been pretty on their last day as kindergartners, when she had asked if she'd like to play tag, but this was… ...beauty. Lucretia sealed her spewing. She noted a sliver of pale orange flesh stuck between Mia's big teeth, somehow enhancing her beautiful smile. “You didn't pull all my hair out, Luke,” Mia said, her voice tickled by a suppressed laugh. Lucretia—“Luke” to her only friend, Mia—saw two of the girl before her. Both Mia's lost their beautiful smiles as they took Lucretia's hand, and asked her why she was crying. “I thought I...” Tears drowned the thought. “I thought I pulled out all your hair when we played tag that time.” “No,” Mia said, beautiful smile nowhere on her lips. “I was sick.” “Sick? Like a cold?” Lucretia sniffled as if she bore the illness. “I got leukemia,” Mia said, the word somewhat shaky on her tongue. Lucretia tasted the foreign word. “Lu-Luke-Mia?” She beamed. “LukeMia? Like our names?”
Mia smiled another one of her rainbows, tangerine pulp and all. “I never thought of that.” “What's Lu-Luke-” “Leukemia,” Mia corrected. “It's a bad sickness, but I don't got it anymore because the doctor gave me medicine, but the medicine makes your hair fall out. My mom is going to come to class one day soon, and help me and Mrs. Atwood tell everyone about it.” On the one hand, Lucretia was relieved to be off the hook. On the other, she now wished she had been the cause of Mia's hair loss. “Is that why you don't want to go outside?” The regret of the inquiry came as swiftly as Mia's radiant smile faded. “I want to, but I can't do too much stuff, like running. I don't like the way the other kids look at me, and stuff.” Now it was Lucretia's turn to wipe her duplicate self from Mia's brimming eyes. The school bell rang, setting off an uproar outside. Mrs. Atwood returned as if on cue. “You girls okay?” She hadn't noticed the swollen eyes. They smiled. “Mia, all good?” An extra smile from Mia.
Once again, Lucretia was gifted with the back of Mia's baseball-capped head, the way she would remain until the glancing and gossiping kids were summoned outside for more for-granted play. She leaned forward, and whispered each word louder than the next, for the rowdiness was racing up the steps. “If you want, I can play with you outside next recess.” She saw the beauty-marks closest to each of Mia's ears rise ever so slightly, and she knew her friend was smiling. And though the children were screaming in the hallway—not the bad kind of screaming; not Mia's screaming—Lucretia caught Mia's whisper: “Maybe we can play tag.”
Such A Day Edward Lee
HEAR US OUT John Grey You’re lying in your crib with not the least idea what responsibility comes with simply breathing. Now and then, you giggle. Like an invisible puppy kissed your cheek. Or a real parent. We peer down at you, searching for that first sign of your intentions. You raise your right arm in our direction. So your grasp is in place. But what of your reach? This is love we surround you with but it’s also motive. It’s caring but in a two-way mirror. Yes, we want you to be happy. But a good part of your future job is to extend our lives. And please, don’t be as selfish as we intend to be.
When Truth Makes Us Smile Linda Imbler Send good sight and laughter to me. Real love is brave, and its expression is not icy. Let me feel that each day the victory, the triumph of all your adoration encloses my breath in my chest. Let us want, to trust the future, carry our inner light, reveling in radiant truth. Letâ€™s help the sun rise, bringing all honor to shine on the world, purging grief from our voices, and shed only golden tears when truth makes us smile.
Silly Clock Faces Michael Smith Imagine a clock face marked with things besides numbers, and you may go far in life: Instead of the number “4,” its hands might point to “Soon.” And at the stroke o’ midnight, We see a disembodied smile, and down south is that marker of all maturity. And as they wind along the set path, passing “run,” “coup,” and “lee,” those feeble hands soon proceed past the empty hole at ten’s old hut. And so jump follows fall like cause follows effect As it winds around in an unwritten story, past “The Middle” where Nine had before proudly sat, for the time now is not measured, except by the pictographic sun at former five. And only with this clock in mind, watch its hands with a beggar’s drool. Read the expression On its silly face, Knowing that time goes nowhere But in a circle, stuck in its predictable pace.
Beautiful Day for a Riot Brandon Marlon Sunshine beckons and against a backdrop of birdsong we unleash and lash out on account of corrosive grievances too long suppressed, giving voice to a chorus of dissent prompting the semi-spontaneous choreography of chaos, a sight to behold and revel in. How riveting to witness the delightful arbitrariness of anarchy, its tempo and momentum, seriatim surprises upending social norms so that anything goes and everyone does what seems right in his or her eyes. What loveliness in the whir of beer bottles soaring airborne, arcing into rows of uniformed fiends in tactical gear, their visors perfect targets for projectiles whose percussion tickles the eardrum with its euphony. With the utmost gracefulness and agility
we crowbar our way into department stores and set ablaze banks abandoned by cowards; as the stone hurled from the sling, we propel each other to summits of edifying bedlam while the breeze caresses and cools.
For those of you who remain nonplussed, Iâ€™ll let you in on a little secret: we crave catharsis, not healing; relief, not rapprochement. You must concede that bottling things up indefinitely is neither salutary nor advisable. Perhaps we deserved to be cudgeled
and carted away as sirens blared. I praise the governor for his timidity; I laud the mayor for her reluctance and hesitation. Bless your hearts, we couldnâ€™t have done it without you. May rowdy crowds ever eschew the stolidity of order in favor of the ebullition of lawlessness, so that civilization unconditionally surrenders and the powers that be understand at last
that justice comes in many different flavors, that vengeance is one of them, and that Plunder and Vandalism Matter.
Nocturnal Winds Diane Payne During the night when some couples were wrapping themselves closer together to get warm & others were kicking their lovers away to cool off, the cats burrowed beneath blankets while dogs rolled over here & there engaged in strange dreams & the dry Christmas trees resting by the curbs were lifted into the air by unexpected strong winds & swirled over houses, scraped roofs of cars, & every now & then, there were trees that landed upright & skated down the icy roads twirling here & there. Determined trees repositioned themselves so they’d move farther & farther away from the curb, sliding & gliding down icy roads until they landed by Lake Michigan & lined themselves along the shoreline to serve as a protective barrier to the dunes, while other trees deliberately skid their way to smaller lakes & fell deep into the frigid, though not yet frozen water, graciously greeted by swarms of fish.
Those late-night deliveries left by the front doors tumbled across yards, shuffling boxes of food for tomorrow’s dinner & hemorrhoid creams people are too embarrassed to buy at the store that created a rhythmic drum beat in the mostly empty box as it bumped across the lawns. Insomniacs walking their dogs ducked to avoid the boxes. Then walked a few more steps, & picked up the boxes, muttering about waste & humans, because those with insomnia have so much time to ponder these matters, & they started leaving the boxes by free libraries, thrift shops, & the boxes marked with fancy food for premade dinners were left at the homes where it seemed their neighbors may not have much food in their cupboards. In the darkness of early morning, people crawled out of beds & noticed old Christmas trees in their back lawns covered with squirrels pulling off cookies, birds pecking at dinner rolls & tubes of pimple & wrinkle creams wedged between the branches. Neighbors walked to school & jobs carrying steaming cups of coffee & noticed boxes on their front steps & assumed they were sent as gifts. Even though they knew they’d be late, they carried the boxes into the
house to open, then they wondered why someone sent them bunion care kits, sex toys, & dryer balls as they once again left for their walks to work & school, burrowing beneath their scarves as they carried on with their icy morning commute deep in thought about these mysterious gifts.
What-I’ve-learnt Mark Andrew Heathcote What-I’ve-learnt about writing Is it’s all about learning It’s all about control-over-ego It’s all about inner growth, Facing your internal dark demons Facing all your shadowy inadequacies With renewed vigour and an unwavering belief It’s all about commitment to the pointWhere it becomes self-destructive As much as it does productive What-I’ve-learnt about writing Is it’s all about learning It’s all about control-over-ego It’s all about self-sacrifice With-few or no real rewards So, if you want to be a writer; A servant of endless toil and labour, Become a writer a poet and write, write A poem that reverberates on my tongue; Its reward enough for me if truth be told.
What-I’ve-learnt about writing No matter how productive you are You are never-certain of your worth, “Is what I’ve written even worth reading? Will I go down in history?” Sure it will leave creases and a frown. At times I wish I could just drown, But I salute all these other stars,
That takes their rightful constellation, Having, learnt truly-how-to shine.
ALL THE BETTER, DEAR WOLF John Grey Look, I know Iâ€™m a predator. I'm five years of age, in my prime, hairy all over, with teeth six inches long and sharp as rapiers. Do you think I'm really going to spend my days munching on berries the size of a titmouse eye? I'm a quadruped of course but, for the sake of a fairy tale, I'm willing to stand. And speak as well though in a deep gruff tone in keeping with my native growl. Some young thing comes hopping and skipping through my home territory dressed redder than a whore's lipstick and waving a basket of goodies of course I'm going to drop everything and accost her with my tried and true, "Where are you going, little girl?"
I could just grab her there and then but I'm willing to go along with the plot even if it means swallowing a bony and tough old grandmother, cross-dressing and having to listen to all that "What big teeth you have" etc etc. just so some little kid in a farmhouse in the middle of Nebraska
can near wet herself with tension as her mother reads to her at bedtime. What I'm saying is that I play by the rules, both of my own nature and the story as it was explained to me. Which brings me to the total unfairness of a poor defenseless beast like myself
being slit open by a huntsman's axe just so that tasteless biddy can go tree. Look, I'm a wolf. We're on the verge of extinction. And the world's overrun with silly little girls in red and grandmothers. That I come out of this whole affair
fatally wounded is a public disgrace. A change of attitude is sorely needed/
So poet, what big words you have. What a big emotive, evocative medium you have. What a big bully pulpit you have. What a big audience you have. Okay, not so much.
The Earth Was Round Maryam Bahrami Nejad The earth was round With no blinking edges But deceitfully revolving I could never fathom the pace. Something churlishly dazzling rose everyday, Then sank like a surrendered Cyrus Into a humble candle kept changing each day As it was flickering to death, Flaringly born again. Everything steady was round People weren't round Edges popped out, hideously charming, And elegantly punched every particle of yours, Skillfully, either the flesh or the bone. Some punched my soul, so soft. Nothing grew out of the holes. Stones weren't round either, Warm and coy though. The earth was round The birds were soft and blue
Water was flirty and sophisticated Soil was the mother Velvetily green Never frowned People sang everyday The same song
Sky blackened with boredom once, Grumbled, The last day that I departed, I touched his whitely daughters, No edges, no punches, And I whispered, "sorry!" People shivered and ran They sang again the next day,
The same song. I heard them, Everyday. The earth is round again today White daughters are still raining.
She’d Say Tiffany Lindfield “Buttercup, get up now, Grandma done cooked us a big breakfast,” she’d say. I would wiggle, pretending to wake up, rubbing my eyes, and sitting up to see her warm face beaming. A face I loved beyond the moon. In truth, the patter of her old feet had already woken me, but I would lay in bed, lingering, listening to all the sounds of breakfast cooking. Eggs being cracked against the steel of a gas stove, bacon sizzling and popping in a hot pan, the rolling of dough for biscuits. Grandma made real biscuits, not the kind from cans. With my face flat on one of her worn pillows, I’d envision her with a cigarette in mouth, rolling the wet dough with her hands, and then taking a cup and using the open end of it to cut small circles for biscuits. She would pick the circles out, sitting them on a pan buttered and ready, then roll the excess dough flat again, starting over. Sort-a like life, starting over, and over again.
After breakfast we’d take to the front porch and sit. Being that her red house sat on acres of land, wildlife was abundant. We’d sit side by side on rocking chairs sipping iced tea from thick rimmed glasses with the faces of sunflowers on them, watching the birds, squirrels, rabbits, and deer romp around the yard. I was eager in my chair, being only a child, maybe eight or so, while Grandmother rocked more slowly, dragging the life of cigarettes, talking about her own life, of living with mental illness. She talked a lot about being a young girl. She would point at an old picture of herself, saying, “I was a beautiful girl, before I had a litter of kids.” I would stare at the photo. Staring back at me was a young woman I didn’t recognize as my grandmother. She wore a cotton white shirt, and shorts, her eyes squinting in the sunlight. “I had a perfect hourglass shape,” she’d say as I wondered what she meant. I thought about the hourglass timer she had sitting on the stove. I would watch the sand fall through. One day, I found a small baby bird. Grandma said, “Leave it outside. It will die
if you go messin’ wit’ it.” I protested, thinking that the bird would die without me, already believing in the myth of human ability; too young to understand the fragility of all life, even my own. Days followed as I took to carrying the bird around, squashing worms between fingers and stuffing them inside a mouth wide open. Mites crawled from the bird and over me, up from my hands, and along my arms, but I rubbed them off. They itched like hell, but I meandered on my righteous mission, determined to save the tiny being bellowing before me with closed eyes. At night I held the baby to my chest to keep her warm. One morning I awoke with the tiny creature dead in the bend of my bony arm like paper crinkled. I cried for her, and for myself. My grandmother consoled me, never saying, “I told you so,” but we both knew. At bath time, I pretended to be Grandma, soaking in all her fancy bubbles and oils. She had a large glass jar stuffed with small balls that had an outer rubbery membrane, a shell that would melt in hot water letting oil escape to float on the top of the bathwater. Sometimes I would squeeze the balls in my fingers, watching the oil burst out. Getting out of the tub with dimpled skin, I would cover myself in the white powder she kept behind her toilet in a pink bowl with a swan on top. And then, of course, I would douse myself in her cheap perfumes. There were so many bottles to choose from, each a scent to be unlocked and embraced. Seeing me she would say, “you smell like a little doll.” And I felt like her princess, from the storybooks we read together. After the baby bird, came a rabbit. He wasn’t caught wild like the bird, but store bought. My grandma’s sister had bought him for me as an Easter present. She came to the house with the bunny, its cage, and a bag of bunny food. She was slim, driving a new BMW. My grandmother saying, “she married well. Just like the rich, they think everythin’ supposed to be contained and prim.” She called the cage cruel and made me a long leash for the rabbit. We watched as he bounced in sweet smelling clover, ripping and chewing the blooms in his mouth. His eyes told me he was wild, and he bit me several times. One day, I woke up to find that he had chewed through the leash, and his way to real freedom. Grandmother said, “he’s out doin’ what rabbits do.” I pictured him chewing clover in other yards. At night, we would crawl into her big bed. I would fall asleep cozy, feeling the comfort of her body against mine. Oftentimes, I would toss awake though to
find her gone, a small light on in the living room, and her sitting in the big blue chair. “I can’t sleep honey,” she’d say, as I’d crawl under her feet, cold with a moan. Chain-smoking with the bible opened in her hands, she would say, “go on and go back to sleep,” but I wouldn’t unless she came too. She would talk about the hurts in her life. She’d say she too had many troubles to count, and that God kept her going. I would sit with her, pray with her, and imagine God was holding us both in large, loving hands. One day my cousin Chris came on the bus to spend the rest of the summer with us. He was sneaky, but adults never knew it. He would twist the fat on my leg one minute and then turn around to smile the next. One night, after falling asleep—Grandma and me in the bed, and Chris sleeping on a big blanket pallet on the floor—a big storm came in and part of the roof fell in on him. I laughed hard, thinking he finally got what he deserved. I thought God did it to teach him a lesson. My grandma said, “Buttercup, don’t you ever laugh at someone’s misfortune.” He was crying and I still didn’t feel bad, only pretended to care to please Grandma and God. We helped him up, and the next day he went home with a few cuts and bangs. The days got hotter, as summer dragged on, and Grandma began to run out of food from feeding me and Chris when she barely had enough to feed herself. One day, I was crying from the hunger. “My check comes tomorrow, baby, you’ll make it,” she said, as I held my stomach in hunger pains. “You want a donut hole?” She asked, breaking my moans of want. “Yes,” I said, sitting up in relief. I then realized a donut hole meant there was still nothing to eat. Feeling sorry for me, she gave me one of her Zoloft pills so that I could sleep. “This will put you to sleep, and when you wake up, we will have food again.” I took the pill. And for the next several hours laid in her bed, in a daze, forgetting I was hungry. When I regained myself, we ate a big meal of fried chicken and gravy and drank sweet tea. I miss Grandma and all the things she’d say.
Live Edward Lee
There are times Mark Andrew Heathcote There are times I want to climb mountains And walk through mauve flowering heather bells Times I canâ€™t find any happy outcomes; A ghost walks beside me nothing repels. There are times I want to rise, soar-like a-hawk And assent the heavens alone to find A dappled cloud that never lightning forks Never rains, freezes-over drifts malign. I want to plummet in the heart of a-stone And catch fire, disintegrate into a song. A vision of eternal emptiness a cyclone I want to centre baptismal fall aplomb! Like a kingfisher on his piercing sword Die like a cradled spider spinning for stars Swinging 360 degree angles up untoward Some lantern home, beyond all other, facades
Times I just want to be here/there whizz-bang, There are times I want a homestead made out of Wattle and daub guess-you-know clay and dung Is what made my heart to sing superfluous?
Pure Altruism (One Manâ€™s Journey) Linda Imbler A once lonely old man told me his old discontent and ruin had been displaced by something more grand once he discovered selflessness and benevolence, along with true concern for well-being of others. He decided one day while staring within a looking glass, that the picture seen should be one which does not reflect human distress. but instead shows the only truth that matters, a reflection of one being performing only actions for which there would be no eternal remorse. The looking glass became his Dorian Gray meter. He traveled with the mirror, using it as his guide in the pursuit of performing deeds of: Humanitarianism, Philanthropy, Magnanimity, and each day that passed he was able to see himself in the glass
looking more content and happy.
Finding magnificent evidence of each extantsâ€™ greatness through the miles as he roamed, wide miles for which he yearned, since he had already lost so much time. And he found along those paths an appreciation of asking for nothing, and speaking without lies,
and each time he was able to look in that mirror with grateful eyes. In the end, his protected bones passed the test given to each of us. And, to honor him, the sun never fell and the moon never went dark
as his last deed was painted across the heavens.
Idiot (Or, I know why the clipped bird sings) Michael Smith Bow down to your own feet:
the driver came and watched the homestead burn. You didn't trust the spring, but autumn changed your mind in due time. The false prophets don't even know they are false nowadays. I could be your fan but what you did disgusts me (the world too). In my mind society is in “anarchy” -but only in the lowercase.
The wind from your mouth was a breeze yesterday but turned into some raging storm. And your flat head makes no sense: the harmonics of your lies only make hatred seem shy, such that your ruins are more beautiful than the mask you put on. It’s your goodness that scares me, being the sinner of stardom. Because giving a human pride is like giving an infant a gun. Hence, Imitators paint their lips on the grease of yours. And now you indent your eyebrows, looking at me, but forget the one who set you free. "How could I say this?" -is a statement without the slightest weight, airy like the syntactic cross you bear.
Knocks on the Door Diana Elizondo Three knocks on the door, I asked, “Who’s there?” but no one replied. more knocks I asked again still no reply. Three taps on glass I looked out the window no one’s there. A thump was heard I ran to the kitchen, a chair fell over, no culprit around. My lungs tightened and my heart struggled to escape from my chest.
I went to the living room and found a young girl with a knife and a grin.
In your garden Mark Andrew Heathcote I find myself, in your garden a gorging fat caterpillar Lord with leniency and pardon Lord allows me to climb a pillar. Step forth on a blue pergola and, examine-all-of heaven from a flower buds corolla, yes with a little discretion. I might find my fantasy wings and go loop-de-loop in the skies. Catch me, some permanent-fixings I-can truly re-energise.
The Bells of Truth Maryam Bahrami Nejad It's a nice day, The crows are singing, These spiritual bells Announce the truth three times a day. It's a nice day, The smell of paper is wafting through, Just like the freshly baked bread. Maybe a man or a woman, Nearby, is reading a book. It's a nice day, The raging ocean of my mind Is roaring in my ear. The sky is painting the yellow sickly sun, And I'm whipping the smile. Today the roles will be changed, I may become You, And You may become Me. Maybe, this time there will be no tournament Between "You" and "I", Just like the previous time
That they had sent us to a life-time living camp on earth.
The Least You Can Do For Your Poor Old Mother Ernie Brill So when are you coming to pick me up already? I’ve been waiting two weeks. I’m much more comfortable after the cremation. I don’t have to lay in that horrible nursing home bed with that endless pain in every cell in my body yelling my lungs out. You could drop dead before someone helps. When your father died, it was like the last light went out. Oh, I could see you but you know it wasn’t the same. You seldom came. When you did, I could tell you couldn’t wait to leave. I can’t blame you. I was no barrel of laughs. Who wants to be with a ninety year old woman who’s deaf, barely talks and when she does it’s whining mumbles. Morphine made it impossible to move my mouth. My lips felt so parched. Are we in the Sahara desert? That’s how they dole out the water there. No wonder I kept screaming “HELP HELP “- how else could I get anyone’s attention? Come get my ashes. When you can grab a minute, take them to the ocean. Walk along the beach. Scatter them in the water, sand and shells. I love the ocean.. I could swim in the ocean for hours. If I believed in reincarnation, I was once a whale. Your father would have said well you‘re big enough or some other puerile comment befitting his hostility, but he was always denigrating everyone to cover up his own stifled emotions with wise-guy cracks. The only time he wasn’t covering emotions was when he was chewing my ear off when you and your sister were asleep or not around or in California where you fled to avoid us. But as my father said, “Everyone make their own way”. So we supported you and your sister until you were on your own feet despite how long it took you to get a respectable job. What were you- forty? Ok you were a writer all those years but you barely made enough to scrape by. You can’t say I didn’t warn you. I recall I said “Get a trade.” Come get me. I’m not comfortable here. Death surrounds me. Every-
thing at the funeral home’s so tastefully mournful; it’s enough to freeze every hair on your body. They have this fake Louis the Fourteenth furniture - call it skeletal silver- with fake gold gilded edges. Do they think when loved ones pass away, relatives expect to walk into some tawdry imitation of royalty, the hushed atmosphere, the soft music. I expect to see Boris Karloff serving tea any minute now. Get me out of here. I don’t care what you do with anything else - the pictures, furniturenone of it’s important. As for where to put the ashes, don’t get anything too expensive. I never gave it a thought. I’ll trust your judgment. Just make sure you don’t lose me. And, for God’s sake, don’t leave me in this mausoleum. Bring me home. When I had my own life, I seldom had a minute to myself. Now I have eternity. So talk to me. Tell me all the stories you never had a chance to tell me. How are you? How are the kids? Tell me the stories you made up to help me pass the time. I liked those. At least you put me in the front seat, not like in the trunk like your poor father who you drove around for two weeks before taking him out. If that’s not hostile, I don’t know what is. I know you’re very busy with work and kids and our bills and obligations, but try to think sometimes of how other people feel, in this case, your own father! Admit it’s peculiar. You rode around with him in your trunk for six weeks and you didn’t pick me up for almost an entire month. There’s a message there, not a particularly nice one. A therapist might have a field day with that one. Your sister claims we neglected you. More to the point: I neglected both of you. So typical: her wonderful father never bears the brunt of her disgruntlement. I, terrible mother, the awful mother who only took care of you for your entire childhoods while your poor father worked two jobs and came home at ten o’clock every night or later while I worked, rushed to school, made sure you had hot meals and clean clothes in that horrible apartment in those godawful projects where most people had never read a book (unless it was a comic book) and whose idea of a good time was mahjong or throwing a football around and whose level of discourse was if the Dodgers had won or if a Chevrolet was more desirable than a Plymouth.
And what about all those days I stayed home when you were sick. You seemed to have tonsillitis or strep throat or the flu your entire childhood. Nobody asked me how I felt staying home, making pots of soup and doing arts and crafts projects you seldom appreciated. You only wanted to sleep and read. And fussy! Wouldn’t eat this. Wouldn’t eat that. Scared of the veins in the chicken. OK, maybe I did over-boil it on occasion. You were timorous about eggs- the yolk and whites “too gooey”. And yes they were undercooked a few times. I had so much on my mind, but why fuss and whine so much? I had too much in my mind and was sick at heart after the war with the horrors revealed, the soldiers coming home, the Nuremberg Trials, and when we realized the entire European side of our family had been slaughtered. It’s unspeakable. Then that maniac McCarthy, the poor Rosenbergs. To this day who can answer my question: Why were two Jews the only ones electrocuted? Your sister feels I neglected you, but does she ever consider my feelings? Does she try to understand I didn’t have a second to myself ? With working, studying for this exam that exam, running for the bus to the train when I went to finish my Social Work degree so the two of you could have a better life, planning meals, buying food, trying to do laundry on top of everything else in those so-called bargain days like that washing machine and dryer your father brought – the “great deal” that threatened to break down any minute and flood that rat-hole that they had the nerve to call an apartment. I felt bad leaving you at home alone by yourselves, but I knew you had food to eat and books to read. Then we got the television. I didn’t want you to watch it too much but what could I do? I had to work then fly off to school and most of the time I couldn’t find a babysitter you wouldn’t take advantage of, like poor Ms Hensley whom you told your sister had a rare blood disease and needed extra sugar so she was allowed to eat- for every supper, with your assistance – most of a box of Lorna Doones or Oreos. How you pulled the wool over that woman’s eyes I’ll never know. Well, you always loved stories so it was inevitable you’d use them for your own nefarious purposes. Let’s try not to dwell in the past . You finally picked up my ashes: now what? Do what I asked. Spread my ashes in the ocean. I understand that you are planning to go out to Cape Cod this summer to that beach you like. Fine. I want most of myself to go into the ocean. Some handfuls on shore are ok, but don’t overdo it.
People might get upset. Here they are, walking along the beach. They’ve spent their hard-earned money on their measly vacation. Suddenly on the gorgeous sand replete with beautiful shells and occasional creamsicle colored crab shells bleaching in the sun there’s strangely smelling bits of peculiar grey material not like the sleek grey of a seagull feather. They might get suspicious. So be careful; keep your wits about you. I don’t care what you do with the urn. I like it, by the way. It’s not ostentatious. For once in your life, you’ve shown good taste choosing mahogony - a bit pricey, what they’re charging these days is ridiculous. Maybe you could use it for a vase. Put flowers in it. Yes, you can remember me by the flowers you never seemed to manage to send unless your sister signed your name to the ones for my birthday or our anniversaries. I know what you are going to say - she sent the flowers with our own money since we’ve supported her most of her life which you reminded us incessantly for YOUR whole lifetime, but you must admit she’s had her problems so we have helped her out some - not always as you claim, but it’s our money, our child, and even if she is your sister in a way it’s none of your business. My question now is: how long will you plotz around before you take me to Cape Cod and fulfill your final responsibility? I’m sitting on this shelf in your living room with your father and your wife’s mother - and you haven’t even had the courtesy to introduce us. Manners, what are those? I understand your sister will receive your father’s ashes. Some things never change, do they? For once in your father’s life he’s keeping his mouth shut and not telling me what I’ve done wrong this time or which relatives or best friends have betrayed him so thank God for small favors. I don’t mind sitting on the shelf for a while, but have some consideration for your poor old mother and realize it’s February. Although you leave home to go to work and turn down your heat to save money - and I understand the heating costs are outrageous - I’m the one stuck here and it is quite cold. I could, despite my current condition, use a little warmth. And just because I’ve changed my corporeal form, doesn’t mean I still don’t have emotions. I’m here. I’m interested. I’m a woman of the world. I’m not a person who just goes off and drops dead, and that’s that. Obviously, there’s always been a lot more to me! It’s bad enough in life I seldom got what I wanted, too busy pleasing my
parents or trying to show that I could be better than what most of my generation thought women could be or do. I wanted to be more than a housewife or a secretary. And don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against secretaries. Their work is more important than most people realize. They are one of the most maligned groups in the world, grossly underpaid, and if there is a God in heaven, he should be forgiven for making secretaries work in those horrible high heels that no human should ever have to wear, and while we’re at it throw the girdles in too, or, rather, throw them out! After I ‘d finished pleasing my parents- did I ever finish - it was your father, a fulltime job with all his lunacy, reassuring him, editing his papers, his “talks” at all his important conferences, helping him - God in heaven- with his lunatic family. A collection of certifiable psychopaths if ever there was one. You might have wondered why I never visited them when your father took you and your sister. His mother loathed me; she would have despised anyone he married. She still clutched her umbilical chord, and I spent a good part of my life cutting it away. Some philosophers claim we are never free of The Mother. There may be some truth there. But I spent so much time advising the mothers of our family to be more than they thought they could or should be. Yes, your sister claims I was always on the phone, to my sisters, my inlaws, always giving advice, lending a helping hand, the Social Worker of The Century your sister once called me. Yes, I helped people. Who else would do it? I’ll tell you: no one – that’s who. But who was ever on the phone to me? Five years ago, you asked me about the drawers in the desk in the basement. Deep in the drawers, under old high school pictures and college yearbooks, in the dusty mustiness, you found my old sketchpads and pictures: the unfinished horses, hundreds. Yes, I drew them. I drew since I was a little girl. Horses and elephants. But my parents were too busy raising five of us in the depths of the Depression and then the Holocaust to really look. And how do you look at pictures of horses and elephants when thousands are murdered or starving or walking the streets with no jobs, no food and no shelter? Who looks at pictures of the poor when you discover your people are annihilated? Later, I picked it up again. Here, there. But who had the time? So we tried to give you, your sister, your generation the time. You wouldn’t have it as hard as we did. So, tell me, honestly, did you have it as hard as we did?
On that note, if it’s not too much to ask, take me soon. Don’t make me wait too long. Do what I ask for once, like the years I asked you to clean your room, and you okayed me to death. Be kind to your old mother. Take me where the water meets the sun. You know how much I loved the ocean. You know I love to swim out way way out, let my worries float away to the horizon. An illusion surely, but the sun’s bright, the water’s warm, and I can’t hear a soul save breeze-carried far -off voices of volleyball joy, kids wanting ice cream, laughter. I’d feel so refreshed, cool and calm, serenely watching the horizon.
So have a heart for the woman who brought you into the world. Take me to the ocean, and give me to the waves.
Pink: A poem on death Michael Smith To the architect of empty spaces, who tears a lung saying “there must be more than this” while platitudes collect like old friends standing in the center of two opinions, Hear not what we say, but only what we meant to say -- those dead words buried in the dirt mound of repression, upon which no tombstone can be placed, A sacrifice to the false idols of the past, such that we may live, such that -[here, a stopped breath] – we don’t even have to think about saying what we want. Instead, speaking with voices on loan, we know the world can only spin in one direction. And that “don’t” is but a word of perspective, which all of us get on our knees to hear.
For in this temple to nihilism, we are each of us heathens, who would preach what we practice, only if to practice what we preach.
O, Goddess of Anonymity, hear us now, speak a theme about being open with oneself. We have stretch marks on the pregnancy of a thought, but what does it all matter if thereâ€™s nothing more.
Unkind Place Tiffany Lindfield In unkind places, Words stick, like splinters, hard to remove. Dust storms, drowned cows, And cowboys. Leaving only hats behind. ‘We’re social animals,’ I heard someone say, Animals, I thought. Baby mice have claws; Have you seen the teeth of bunnies? ‘Look to the helpers,’ The book said, The ones with a hand here, an extra tangerine, Tambourine. Cue the piano; Scooting over on the bus, saying, “you can sit here,” Iced tea—sweet with plain ole’ sugar. Holding their tongues in church, though they really know— The Spirit.
Take a string, connect them, until you near the end: The cashier who smiles, and says, “have a good one,” And means it. To the friend who says, warmly, “I’ll go where you go.” To the other who walks Sunday mornings, Pouring down rain, pointing out birds, Streaking colors in the wind,
Like paint smudging on canvas. To the one who puts a silver bracelet on your arm; ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down,’ It reads, And to the other one, and the other, and the other. Breathe as you unite them, Because helpers are everywhere. And you might get too busy—forget to exhale, As you connect,
Those kind faces.
Contributors Edward Lee
Edward Lee is an artist and writer from Ireland. His paintings and photography have been exhibited widely, while his poetry, short stories, non-fiction have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. He is currently working on two photography collections: 'Lying Down With The Dead' and 'There Is A Beauty In Broken Things'. He believes that any hope for a future for humanity lies in humanity itself.
Michael T. Smith is an Assistant Professor of English who teaches both writing and film courses. He has published over 150 pieces (poetry and prose) in over 80 different journals. He loves to travel.
Guna Moran is an Assamese poet and critic. He lives in Assam, India. He deeply believes in God & Mother.
Contributors Jason Hockaday
Ayukîi, nanithvuy uum Jason Hockaday. Naa Karuk’áraar, káru athithúfvuunupma ni’áramsiprivtih. Hi, my name is Jason. I'm from the Karuk Tribe and Happy Camp is my village. I am currently a graduate student in Native American Studies (NAS) at UC Davis and am teaching NAS 5 'Native American Literatures'. I have also taught for the University Writing Program: UWP 1 'Academic Literacies'. I am an Indigenous language reclamation activist and aim to employ Indigenous rhetorical devices in my writing. I believe in family, community, service, and love, and I believe in Indigenous languages, stories, and people.
Linda Imbler’s poetry collections include five published paperbacks: “Big Questions, Little Sleep,” “Lost and Found,” “Red Is The Sunrise,” “Bus Lights, Travel Sights,” and the Second Edition of “Big Questions, Little Sleep." Soma Publishing has published her three e-book collections, “The Sea’s Secret Song,” “Pairings,” which is a a hybrid of short fiction and poetry, and “That Fifth Element.” She is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Examples of Linda’s poetry and a listing of publications can be found at lindaspoetryblog.blogspot.com. In addition to writing, she helps her husband, a Luthier, build acoustic guitars. Linda Imbler believes that poetry has the potential to add to the beauty of the world. We must be strong and fearless in showing humility and kindness. One thing many fear a lot, but shouldn’t, is being kind and having it seen as a sign of weakness. It is quite the opposite.
Contributors Maryam Bahrami Nejad I have MA in English Literature and work as a staff writer in Siirden and Threshold Journals. I am also an English and a drama instructor. I write poems and short stories in English, Persian and Turkish. My stories appeared in eFiction Magazine and Threshold Journal. My Turkish poems have appeared in Siirden Dergi, Lacivert and Gece Journals. Some of my English poems were included in Gone Lawn Journal. I have a collection of Persian poetry. I’m keen on writing critical articles. One of my articles on Cormac McCarthy and Nietzsche has recently been published by Threshold Journal and was nominated for the best article in the Annual Festival of Student Journals in 2019. My belief statement: "Life is a dream. Don't trust the dazzling lights. Enjoy the performance of visible shadows, and don't forget to touch the invisible real particle which is always there for you at the end of the night."
Anindita Sarkar is a Research Scholar from India. She is a student of Literature. Her works have appeared in Indolent Books, Flora fiction, 433 mag, The Heritage Review, Door is ajar among others.
Mark Andrew Heathcote
Mark Andrew Heathcote is adult learning difficulties support worker, his poetry has been published in many journals, magazines and anthologies, he resides in the UK, from Manchester, he is the author of “In Perpetuity” and “Back on Earth” two books of poems published by a CTU publishing group ~ Creative Talents Unleashed that can be found on Amazon. Mark’s belief statement: I believe in giving everyone a fair go in the hope to find some common ground. I sincerely believe we all possess a core of decency and purity, a childlike innocence inside every one of us. And, therefore, each deserves the other’s forbearance and forgiveness and a chance to grow and mature.
Contributors Tiffany Lindfield
Tiffany Lindfield is a social worker by trade, and in heart working as an advocate for climate justice, and animal rights. By night, she is a prolific reader of anything decent, and a writer. Tiffany’s belief statement: I believe that until we (humans) do right by the companions we share Mother Earth with, we cannot have peace. I also believe that justice without mercy is simply vengeance, and vengeance does not heal; so let us be merciful.
Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 26 poetry collections, 10 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 1 collection of his one-act plays. He lives in New York City. Gary’s belief statement: I deeply believe in the inherent goodness of most people.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Sin Fronteras, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Plainsongs, Willard and Maple and Connecticut River Review. John’s belief statement: I deeply believe in poetry and truth.
Contributors Ann Privateer
Ann Privateer is a poet, artist, and photographer. She has won awards in photography. Some of her work has appeared in Third Wednesday. Poetry is her secret love. She has been writing poetry since her college days. Her Poetry has appeared in Manzanita, and Entering to name a few. She believes in the Arts and in equality for all.
Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi
Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi has spent a decade penning award-winning short- and feature-length screenplays, while working as a full-time artisan baker. His prose work explores the trials and tribulations of ordinary people embedded in ordinary and extraordinary environments and conflicts. His short stories have appeared in over 40 literary journals worldwide, and was a finalist in the Blood Orange Review Literary Contest. In addition to several short pieces, he is currently working on his debut novel. He believes in providing forums in multiple disciplines for voices unheard.
Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 300+ publications in 32 countries. www.brandonmarlon.com. He believes liberals are necessary to keep ideals alive, conservatives are necessary to keep liberals alive, and moderates are necessary to make things happen and get things done.
Contributors Diane Payne
Diane’s most recent publications include: Ellipsis, Bending Genres, New York Times, Unlikely Stories, Blue Nib, Hot Flash Fiction, The Blue Nib, anti-heroin chic, X-ray Literary Magazine, Oyster Review, Novus, Notre Dame Review, Obra/Artiface, Reservoir, Southern Fugitives, Spry Literary Review, Watershed Review, Superstition Review, Windmill Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Quarterly, Fourth River, Lunch Ticket, Split Lip Review, The Offing, Elke: A little Journal, Punctuate, Outpost 19, McNeese Review, The Meadow, Burnt Pine, Story South ,and Five to One. Diane believes that waving to people on the other side of the road, slowing down to pet someone’s dog, to share a positive greeting with those you pass while on a walk, these little gestures brighten the entire day for all involved.
Diana Elizondo was born in Laredo Texas, and now resides in McAllen. She is the author of the book, Smoked Blood and Lavender, that was released in 2017. She earned her Master’s degree in English at University of Texas Pan-American, and her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Diana believes in the organic truth and freewill.
Contributors Ernie Brill
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Ernie writes about people of all ages in big cities. He is the author of I Looked Over Jordan and Other Stories (Boston:South End Press 1980 which was optioned for media promotion by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis for their PBS Series " With Ruby and Ossie"; Ms Davis later starred in one of the stories " Crazy Hattie Enters the Ice Age" which was later anthologized in the Oxford University Anthology American Working Class Literature (Cole and Zandy, 2007). Mr. Brill has a BA and MA in English from San Francisco State University. He has published his fiction, poems, and essays widely and blogs at Paging The World.
Aliquis | Website Manager & Prose Editor A pencil breaker, book hoarder, and midnight thinker, she mindlessly plays with equations in corners and recreates her life on paper. Her unbreakable habits include nibbling dark chocolate, testing the limits of her telescope, and torturing her punching bag. She has won district and state awards for her writing and cannot imagine life without words or numbers. She believes in equality and education for all.
Demira | Poetry Editor Currently a writer, artist, dreamer, and introvert. She constantly scribbles words onto tattered pages woven from big dreams. She spends her time on her laptop, loves snow, and enjoys learning about philosophy and news ways of looking at the world. She has won various national level writing awards. She believes in a life lived in serving others.
Shehzad | Blog Manager A revolutionary stuck in the body of an engineer. When he’s not writing code or learning about the newest discoveries in astronomy, he’s busy pondering current events, trying to find solutions to the hardest political problems and wondering why there’s so much hatred in the world. He is a devout Muslim who strongly opposes any type of inequality or prejudice.
Maddie | Art Editor Along with exploring nature, Maddie loves exploring new, often absurd, ideas. Her free time consists mainly of creating art and music, being active, gaming, and volunteering, but her true passion lies in learning about and interacting with different animals. She has won numerous awards for art and music, both of which have greatly strengthened her creativity. She believes in working together to reverse mankind’s destruction on the environment.
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