Freshwater Literary Journal 2020
Freshwater Literary Journal, 2020 2020 Editorial Board Audrey Eckhart Mia Frare Brandon L. Kroll Shianna Jackson Deanna Theodore Editor and Faculty Advisor: John Sheirer Cover Photo: John (Mason) Beiter Freshwater Literary Journal is published annually by Asnuntuck Community College. We consider poetry and prose. The upcoming reading period will be August 15, 2020, to February 15, 2021. Acceptances and rejections will be sent on a rolling basis, no later than the end of March 2021. Poetry: Three poems maximum, up to 40 lines each. Prose (prose poetry, short stories, flash/micro fiction, creative nonfiction, personal essay, memoir): One or multiple pieces up to 1,500 words total. No previously published material. Simultaneous submissions considered with proper notification. Email submissions as a Word attachment to Freshwater@acc.commnet.edu with a brief, third-per-son biographical note. No postal submissions, please. The 2020-21 Freshwater Student Writing Contest will focus on memoir essays up to 1,500 words. The contest will be open to fulland part-time undergraduate students enrolled during the 2019-20 academic year at Connecticutâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s community colleges and public universities. The entry deadline of January 31, 2021. More information will be available by September 2020 at https:// asnuntuck.edu/about/community-engagement/freshwater-literaryjournal/ We can be reached at Freshwater@acc.commnet.edu. Please follow Freshwater on Facebook: FreshwaterACC.
Dedication For Maritza Garcia Poet, Friend, and Fellow Student April 4, 1952 – September 14, 2019
True Love My cat is lying on my chest. He nuzzles ‘gainst my cheek. He’s saying that he loves me, Even though he doesn’t speak. His cold wet nose against my face Along with his loud purr, Feels like a tender, warm embrace Enveloped in soft fur. And as we lie, chest to chest, I feel his beating heart, A faster complement to mine, Says, “Let us never part.” (From the book, Purretry: Cat Poems, by Maritza Garcia, 2019)
Contents 1 - Information 2 - Dedication 6 - Freshwater Student Writing Contest 9 - Kathleen Roy: 2037 12 - Brandon L. Kroll: Terminal 16 - Sarah Martin: Letter From War 20 - Deanna Theodore: The Lost Bond 25 - Michelle Lowther: Never Free 29 - Makenzie Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Kanos: The Old Silas House 32 - Bud R. Berkich: Under a Blue Sky 35 - Robert Beveridge: Sap 36 - Dmitry Blizniuk: A Crystal of Impression 37 - Ace Boggess: Joining the Somber Quartet 38 - John Brantingham: Standing Beneath the Tree of Knowledge 39 - Katley Demetria Brown: Tales from the Nursing Home 40 - Katley Demetria Brown: Why Appalachian Trail Hikers are Crazy 42 - Lorena Caputo: Sandlot Samurai 43 - Luisa Caycedo-Kimura: Lulu Caramelo 44 - Yuan Changming: Loss, Lost, Losing 45 - Corey D. Cook: Donald Hall Estate Sale 47 - Pat Daneman: The Cherry Festival 49 - Pat Daneman: Everything 51 - Barbara Daniels: How Is the Body? 52 - Barbara Daniels: Watching the Roofer 53 - Holly Day: What Keeps Me Awake 54 - Holly Day: Foresight 55 - Holly Day: The Spider 56 - Mary E. Delabruere: The Thin Girl 57 - Timothy B. Dodd: Family 58 - Michael Estabrook: Indecision 59 - Jean G. Esteve: Procedure 60 - Mia Frare: After All These Years 62 - Kara Goughnour: Home Filled with Lights 63 - John Grey: A Daughter Stays Out Overnight 64 - Carly Heider: #MeToo 65 - Carly Heider: Haunted 4
66 - Roger D. Hicks: There is Always Belize 70 - Paul Holler: A Song to Fill the Sky 72 - Juleigh Howard-Hobson: The Scarlet Ocean of You 73 - Katharyn Howd Machan: Stitches 74 - Katharyn Howd Machan: After War 75 - Katharyn Howd Machan: Starving 76 - Zebulon Huset: Just Torched Silica 77 - M.J. Iuppa: What Will Be Left, in Leaving? 78 - James Croal Jackson: Pneumonia 79 - Beth Ann Jedziniak: Gratitude Project, Day 1,563 80 - Theric Jepson: The Squirrel that Sits Atop Our Bookshelf 82 - John P. Kristofco: A Distant Constellation Dying in a Corner of the Sky 83 - John P. Kristofco: Fire at the Cathedral Notre Dame, April 2019 84 - John P. Kristofco: Old Men at the Food Court 85 - John P. Kristofco: The Tree 90 - Brandon L. Kroll: Another Volley Roar 92 - Brandon L. Kroll: Flicker in the Light 93 - Brandon L. Kroll: Who is the Poet? 94 - Tom Lagasse: Bear 95 - Richard LeDue: This Was Supposed to be a Love Poem 96 - Richard LeDue: Celestial 97 - Brian Lozier: Escape 98 - Richard Luftig: Ten P.M. News 100 - Jeffrey H. MacLachlan: Dead Mall Love List 101 - Joan McNerney: How Trouble Grows 102 - JB Mulligan: At the Rest Home for Retired Circus Animals 103 - Marzelle Robertson: A Haunt of Jackals 104 - Terry Sanville: Two at the Zoo 107 - Edythe Haendel Schwartz: Terrain 108 - Edythe Haendel Schwartz: The Puddle 109 - Jacalyn Shelley: Do You Know You Have Six Grandchildren? 110 - Harvey Silverman: Little Runaway 114 - Richard Smith: Writing It Out 116 - Matthew J. Spireng: Dam Builder 117 - Matthew J. Spireng: Windy Night 118 - Matthew J. Spireng: Robocall 119 - Geo. Staley: Space 120 - Steve Straight: Downsizing 5
121 - Steve Straight: The Next Life 122 - Steve Straight: Elixir 123 - Robin Stratton: Last Night I Dreamed 124 - John Tustin: Sifting Through the Sand 125 - Charles R. Vermilyea Jr.: Pvt. Hendries Wants a Mother 129 - Vivian Wagner: Flight Duty 130 - Lynn White: Spider 131 - Diane Woodcock: Roaring Fork 133 - James K. Zimmerman: The Neophyte Dreams of Being Famous 134 - Contributors
Freshwater Student Writing Contest Our 28th annual contest was open to full- and part-time undergraduate students enrolled during the 2019-20 academic year at Connecticut’s community colleges and/or public universities. This year’s contest focused on short fiction. As we do each year, Freshwater hired a judge who is not affiliated with any Connecticut colleges or universities to ensure fairness. Special thanks to the Asnuntuck Community College Foundation for providing prize funding through the Nadia Kober Writing Scholarship. Our judge this year was Kate Senacal, a publishing fiction writer and assistant director of the Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop. Judge’s commentary on the winning stories: First Place: Kathleen Roy, “2037” I thought the concept of this story was a smart way to thematically address the undercurrent of dread and fear of apocalyptic events that is omnipresent in modern times due to unstable political environments and the threat of climate change. The choice to use the year 2037—a time far enough away to allow the story to maintain a futuristic feel but seemingly close enough to feel predictive and realistic and therefore riveting and relatable. I loved the voice here; the omniscient narrator’s sterile tone paired with the present tense was reminiscent of an archetypical cautionary tale, but also felt rich and poignant. It reminded me some of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. The story is also deft in covering a lot of territory—we learn the world is in shambles because of a nuclear war, but having the center of the remaining intelligent people’s debate be about whether humanity should be allowed to procreate anymore because they create so much damage is a smart way of covering a lot of ground in examining human concerns such as gun control and the human tendency to not act out of kindness but rather to respond to fear. The story feels tight, engaging, and heartfelt. Well done!
Second Place: Brandon L. Kroll, “Terminal” This story is loaded with many wonderful metaphors. I particularly loved the comparison between Laura’s apartment and her memories. Laura’s motivations are well defined, and the close third-person narrator feels relatable and complicated, which works well as the action in this piece is subtle. This makes it clear to the reader that this story is more about Laura’s observations about herself and the world than it is about a plot, and I really love contemplative stories like this. The dialogue between Laura and Joe was really realistic. The last line was so wonderful. I loved how it tied back to Laura’s observations about the girl, her envy of her, and the wistful feelings she evoked from her without ever interacting with her. Third Place: Sarah Martin, “Letter From War” I think writing about War in the epistolary form is a smart idea. This story allows the reader to get to the heart of the character, to really feel the trauma and feelings of loss and suffering connected to Healy’s injury. I found this to be exhilarating, in no small part because of the beautiful descriptive language. First Honorable Mention: Deanna Theodore, “The Lost Bond” This story was a gut-wrencher! I loved how it handled the delicacy of family dynamics after there is a tragedy—in this case, the death of Benjamin’s father. It does a wonderful job of rendering what happens when people who love each other are unable to communicate about something that is really painful. The use of video games as a way for Janice and Benjamin to bond was a really smart plot device, and the ending was very uplifting!
Second Honorable Mention: Michelle Lowther, “Never Free” What a wonderful story about the power of an unusual friendship and overcoming adversity when people are cruel. I thought the description of the setting and of Linda herself was great. I loved picturing Linda wrapping her giant belly around each stilt before she performed. It also had a satisfying ending. Third Honorable Mention: Makenzie O’Kanos, “The Old Silas House” This was so creepy in the best ways and was also so funny. I loved that Kyra makes fun of Abby for calling Dave “ass-butt,” and I think the idea of a middle schooler rescuing a family of ghosts is awesome. Had me on the edge of my seat!
Kathleen Roy 2037 In the year 2037, nuclear war decimates the earth’s population. The few surviving humans are adults who possess the brightest minds. This fortunate group is skilled and talented, comprised of craftsmen, professors, chemists, physicists, doctors, and, of course, some poets. Not even one child survives. These brilliant survivors confer and form The New Government Order. They hold forums to debate whether the human species should continue. They hear testimonies from several of their members who had witnessed intolerable acts of cruelty upon children. It is the task of the members to come to a consensus, followed by a unanimous vote on whether to continue the human race. Considering the heavy tolls that past and recent wars have taken on children, each New Order member has secretly come to his or her own decision. Second grade teacher Lila Lang speaks first: “I saw the fright in the eyes of my first graders.” Her speech falters. “He, I mean th-the shooter, ju-just came into our school. Randomly killed their classmates. Yes, he did, and I held them while th-they trembled and wept. Some of them were so fr-frightened that they defecated right then and there. I don’t want to see another random massacre. People, I implore you. Let’s develop a different plan. Let’s start fresh—not allow children to be frightened or traumatized ever again.” Miss Lang weeps quietly as she returns to her seat. The next speaker is Dr. Edward Webster. He clears his throat. “Ahem, excuse me.” He glances around the room before he begins to speak. “My good people, we literally have the fate of the future in our hands. I’m confident we’ll make the necessary decisions, even if it means we give up life as we’ve always known it. During my career as chief county coroner, I spent many nights unable to sleep whenever I performed an autopsy on a juvenile. Going forward, radioactive fallout will cause birth defects. Our environment is now incompatible with fetal growth development. There will be deformities and unspeakable suffering if we don’t make changes right now. Uh, it’s just not feasible to repeat our past way of life. 10
Therefore, I concur with what Miss Lang said. Yes, we should do the right thing this time. Let us make changes. It’s all up to us now. Let’s not allow children to suffer diseases, famines, kidnappings, and murders.” The members listen, nodding their heads as the doctor concludes, “It’s all up to us now. For the first time we control mankind’s destiny. Thank you.” Tragic story after story is related by surviving members. A woman faints and needs to be revived while telling how her loving nine-year-old daughter was stabbed to death during a sidewalk fair by a maniac with a hunting knife. Next, a man named John chokes up as he tells the members how his six-year-old son was kidnapped from a department store and was later found headless, his body dumped in a bayou. John begs the council for a change. A poet, standing up in the back of the room, scornfully quotes a bible passage in a sneering tone” “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” The members reply, “That’s not good enough.” By a unanimous vote, the members’ decision to ban human procreation becomes law, and an edict is sent out to any and all survivors of the nuclear bombings. There will be immediate cessation of sexual relations between humans of child bearing ages and/or capabilities. Mandatory sterilization becomes law. The people agree. “This is the epitome of caution.” Any person wishing to have a child is required to place an order with the new government by simply filling out a form. After a wait of nine months, a crate will arrive containing a precisely molded, artfully crafted, perfect child. Their painted features are pristine. They are manufactured to exact specifications in a combined image of the parents. He or she performs and functions like a human being. The artisans, the chemists, and even the poets create these children for a newer and safer world. They proclaim, never again will another human child walk on earth with the likely chance to suffer, and how it was a mistake in the first place, back in the age of Genesis when God had it all wrong. Humans cause enormous, tragic consequences. Everyone exclaims, “These new plans are righteous!”
While designing these children, certain emotional components are purposely left out: hate, fear, sorrow, and prejudice. Their remotes are programmed for kindness and wisdom. The parent is provided with a written warranty: their child will never become ill and cannot be damaged. Moreover, the child will be unable to fall prey to evil. They come equipped with an unspecified, built-in date of expiration. This is optional. The creators say, â&#x20AC;&#x153;It is good.â&#x20AC;? They high-five each other as they pack up their tools and blueprints, and, on the seventh day, they rest.
Brandon L. Kroll Terminal Laura couldn’t help speculating about the life of the young lady who sat across from her. She could not have been more than twentyone years of age. There was definitely an air of innocence and naivety in the girl, her look of wonderment about the terminal suggesting as much. Her dress was diagonally striped, pink followed by white, with just a touch of black outlying the pink. Stylish as it was, it seemed to be humbly worn; her ballet shoes were grey and without a doubt, her favorite pair. Evidence of this was shown through smudges of dirt and signs of wear outlined by the scuffs of the well-loved shoes. The girl had placed her bag beneath the chair and crossed her left leg over her right, jiggling it up and down. Aimlessly. “Oh, to be young again,” Laura muttered to herself. It seemed that every individual she ever sketched bore a certain characteristic about them. Laura’s fondest hobby was sketching people and playing, “guess their story.” Shortly, her pen resumed from where she had left off, and she turned her attention back to the pad sitting in her lap. Laura began to reminisce about the days she had been in college, now, years and years ago. Back in the day, turtlenecks and miniskirts were all the rage. What golden years! Her father was hardly a fan of her choices in fashion or the boys she chose to hang around. She recalled times when a date would take her to a drive-in movie, or a wild night at a high school dance, the excitement, and the thrill of young love. What a time it had been to be alive! Looking back, Laura admitted she had been a bit of the wild child, as she reflected on those mischievous moments of her youth. Her memories resembled the interior of her apartment back home: full of things but now absent from any form of life. Laura began to envy this girl. Beautiful and fair, and innocent with nothing that reflected a negative persona. Enough to draw in a suitors’ curiosity, teasing him, then when the moment was right, smiting him with a finishing kiss. “Poor girl.” Laura imagined herself once more in this girl’s youthful state, the things she could do, the places she could go. This 13
other girl’s whole life was ahead of her, the things she could do with it. To live those years again! “Excuse me?” asked a voice beside Laura. “Is this seat taken?” Laura looked up to the man who was inquiring. “Yes,” she said hesitantly. “It’s free.” She spoke the truth, but her mind raced for several excuses to deny the stranger’s request for invading her space. The young man was casually well dressed. A navy-blue buttondown shirt complimented his darker blue tie. The belt, which held up his khakis, was a dark walnut brown as were his shoes. The man’s face featured a well-kept stubble beard, aging him to be around his thirties to an untrained eye. Laura, however, gauged the youth to be in his late twenties at best. After gracefully accepting his seat, he slid his duffle bag down beside the chair. Barely seated for a moment, he soon discovered a sandwich shop nearby. “Hey, I really need to grab something to eat. Would you mind watching my bag?” “Sure.” Laura nodded. The stranger walked off towards the shop. Very trusting, she thought, glancing down at the leather duffle bag the stranger had left behind. Well off too, it would seem. Laura looked back at the girl, then down to her pad. She frowned at her work. Something was missing in this sketch, but what? Now, the girl was jiggling the other foot up and down. Laura noticed the subject’s gaze was directed toward the sandwich shop. It seemed everyone was suddenly hungry, but Laura quickly deduced that the menu was not what was drawing the girl’s attention. Her eyes darted back and forth, eyeing the girl and the young man whose bags she was attending. The man was busy scanning the menu options, and his head was tilted, as he contemplated the selections. Laura laughed quietly to herself, noting how the girl’s foot had suddenly ceased from jiggling. For twenty minutes she had been shaking her feet, but now the sight of the stranger cured her jitters. The man began to converse with the lady behind the counter. He must have been quite witty, for the clerk giggled as she punched his order into the register. Laura observed Miss Jigglefoot give a perplexed look of confusion, followed with a frown.
“Aw, poor dear.” Laura looked back at the sandwich shop, seriously assessing her acquaintance’s naivety. Several minutes passed and the girl resumed with jiggling with her foot. The stranger studiously scanned the screen of his phone while he waited. Shortly, he received his order and strode back to his seat beside Laura. Laura cringed at the enthusiasm which the man devoured his wrap. He was animated beyond belief. He munched loudly as well. Perhaps, it was the lettuce or just bad manners, but the whole ordeal of watching him made Laura’s stomach churn. “Is it just me?” asked the stranger. “Or do they sell extremely overpriced food at airports?” Laura agreed, “It’s called fast food for a reason.” “Fair enough,” nodded the young man. “By the way, my name’s Joe.” In her attempt to be polite, Laura winced a smile back. “Laura.” “Nice, old-fashioned name.” Joe paused to swig from his water bottle. “So, where are you destined for?” Chatterboxes. Laura despised individuals who defined their sense of worth by being casual tongue waggers. She intentionally kept her replies short, hoping to deter further inquiries. “Boston,” she replied reluctantly. “Nice!” Joe exclaimed. “Was there for New Year’s last year. Got to see those annual ice sculptures they do.” Regardless of how she felt about his intrusive presence, Laura grudgingly acknowledged him as a fellow appraiser of the arts, despite his personal shortcomings. “Yes,” she answered. “They are quite lovely exhibits to see.” “Wait!” Joe glanced down at Laura’s pad. “Did you draw that?” Laura looked at her sketch of the girl on her lap. She smiled and nodded. “Yes, been sketching her near an hour now.” Realizing she had secured his full attention, Laura flipped the page of the sketch around. She spoke softly as she wrote down a few words. “You know for me, what makes a picture of art is the magic being born the moment a pen touches a paper. With each intentional scribble of a pen, it brings a moment to life. It is an artists’ prerogative to illustrate the small details they think are of
importance.” Laura paused. Sheepishly she looked at Joe and noted his fixed attention on her words. The airport intercom buzzed overhead announcing the first class was allowed to board. “That’s me, but before I go, I want to share something with you.” Laura swallowed. “Perhaps, if I had learned to slow down more, there might have been a few precious moments still left to this day.” She rose to her feet and readied her suitcase. A faint wisp of a smile crossed Laura’s lips as she tore out the paper that held her recent sketch and handed it to Joe. Laura paused taking in a deep sigh. “I was recently diagnosed with cancer. Why I’m bothering to tell you any of this is beyond me. You’re a complete stranger. Right now, I need to see my daughter and grandson one last time ...” Laura’s voice trailed off, wiping a faint tear from her eyes. “Something’s missing from this girl’s sketch. Call it an artist’s prerogative, but I think you two could make a cute picture.” Joe was stunned. He stared at Laura as she strolled away to her gate, his mind reeling for answers. No one had ever been so unabashedly candid with him. Slowly, he rose to his feet, and gradually shifted his legs toward the girl, who had resumed jiggling her other foot. He stopped himself shortly after a few steps, as it occurred to him that he was at a complete loss for words. He stopped, then turned, calling out to Laura, who stood standing in line for her gate. “What should I say to her?” Laura looked back and smiled. She pointed to her notebook in her other hand and indicated for him to view the back of the sketch she had handed him. There she had written the words, Ask her if she likes to dance.
Sarah Martin Letter From War Sgt. John A. Martin United States Army Air Corps July 18th, 1944 Dear Florence, We are back in our base camp in Manduria, Italy, today. I never thought that I would be happy to be back in this dustbowl of a camp again, but I am. Honestly Florence, I am just lucky to be alive after yesterday’s mission. I’ve never been in a place that resembled Hell quite like Ploiesti, Romania. The thought of never seeing you, Frank, Bill, Joe, Kathleen, or little Bob again weighed heavily on my mind. All I’ve ever wanted was for Mom and Dad to feel proud of me, but pride is dampened in a state of perpetual war. There is so much death around me, tearing away at every fiber of my being. I’m regretfully becoming numb to the sight of blood and carnage. The sounds of my wounded and whimpering men, gasping for their last breaths echo unceasingly inside my head. At twenty years old, I should be finding a swell gal to go steady with, getting hitched at Sacred Heart Church on Castleton Ave, and creating a family of my own back in Staten Island. But I am here, on the other side of the world, in Hell. The sky last night in Ploiesti was particularly sinister as if it was an omen of what was to follow. Every inch of my surroundings seemed as if it was glazed in a black, consuming ink, suffocating any chance of comforting light. The temperature at 20,000 feet was mind-numbingly cold, and our heavy clothes and flak jackets seemed like thin crepe paper against the conditions. Even the smallest portion of exposed skin felt as if it would freeze into a solid mass and crumble to the bottom of our B-24. Despite the conditions, we were focused on our mission, bombing the hell out of the Jerrys (Germans). As we hovered over our target, the Ploiesti oil refineries, the Jerrys began unleashing a relentless fury of bullets with unwavering accuracy. Bullets ricocheted off the exterior of our B-24, slicing 17
through the thin aluminum skin. The damage completely obliterated engine number three, and engines one and two were not far behind. We were losing altitude fast and starting to fall vastly behind the rest of the formation. My heart sank, knowing that it could end in two ways: we die on impact or we survive and become POWs. The thought of death never sounded so sweet. As we approached our target, our bombardier Healy took over flying the ship. He flawlessly leveled out our position and we dropped our bombs on target. As a belly gunner, I repetitiously fired my turret guns at full force, fending off intercepting units the best I could. Although our execution was impeccable, we were still losing altitude at a discouragingly fast rate. “It’s about time we get a move on boys,” our pilot Mulhollan said, taking flight control back from Healy. We knew in that moment, the only chance we had of survival was to abandon ship and pray to God we parachute down into allied territory. Before we could finish readying our parachutes for descent, we were directly hit by heavy flak. A symphony of screams flooded the B-24, each of my men rhythmically in sync with physical torment. Healy bellowed out the loudest, clutching what was left of his right arm. A raging river of blood relentlessly flowed from his gaping wound, puddling in crevasses of his seat. The life from his piercing blue eyes started to fade and sink into his nearly lifeless face. I instantly abandoned my post to put forth my best effort of keeping Healy alive. Adrenaline coursed through my veins as I immediately tended to Healy, grabbing a tourniquet and fastening it right below his shoulder. I could see the unimaginable hopelessness in his eyes, a feeling that was inevitably mutual. To ease his pain, I swiftly rummaged through our medical kit, extracting a morphine syrette. I pulled the wire loop-pin out of the syrette and broke the seal, exposing the needle below. I gently pierced through Healy’s pale skin and steadily squeezed the syrette tube, injecting the liquid relief into his single intact arm. The morphine seemed to alleviate a portion of his pain, but his breaths were still heavy and irregular. I searched for the extra oxygen tanks to help with his breathing, but, to my dismay, the tanks were another casualty of the attack. Healy looked at me with a heavy heart and pointed in Mulhollan’s direction. His eyes urged me to move along, but I 18
resisted. He was my very best friend in the 450th Bomb Group. He was my teammate in the 720th squadron baseball league, my partner in crime, the only true friend I have here. As I continued to try and pack his wounds, he mumbled in the strongest voice he could muster, “Martin, go!” Knowing he only ever calls me by my nickname Jack, I knew the severity of his intentions. I obliged, hoping I wouldn’t later regret my decision to leave him. Our engineer Tony had already moved Mulhollan to the floor when I returned to the cockpit. His arms were littered with small wounds, and dark blood seeped through his flak jacket. Luckily, Mulhollan’s injuries weren’t as severe as Healy’s. The pupils of his eyes overtook the majority of his irises; terror engulfed his entire face. We quickly realized he was suffering from shock more than anything, so I reassured him that he would be all right. In that moment, though, I was even doubting myself, and my words felt like stabbing lies in my stomach. All I knew was that I needed to persevere and to get my men home safe. After leaving Mulhollan to rest, Tony and I began throwing nonessential items out the ship. The lighter the plane, the longer we could stay airborne. Luckily, Tony was the strongest airman in the squadron; his biceps were the circumference of truck tires. Together we effortlessly tossed out ammo, guns, flak suits, and a bomb sight. The only items remaining were the guns in the ball turret. The lightened load kept us in the air, thankfully, and by the time we finished, Mulhollan was demanding that we help him back to his seat. We readied our positions in the nick of time; the Jerrys were on the verge of striking again. We could hear their rumbling presence around us as we braced ourselves for their strike. They came in at five o’clock, just before they were in range, and I remember feeling a numbness come over me. I had succumbed to the fact that this could have been my last day on Earth. I closed my eyes briefly and counted my breaths slowly. Each counted breath indicated that I was very much still alive, in my living hell. I glanced over to Healy, still stricken with inconceivable agony. I wished at that moment that I could have traded places with him, taken on his pain even for a second. Just last week we were playing catch in the makeshift baseball field on base. He had the best arm in the 450th Bomb Group and now, it’s barely recognizable. I tried 19
cracking a joke about taking his place as starting pitcher, but inside I was screaming in anger, in fear, in desperation. Before I could hear Healy’s rebuttal, a roar of a P-38 engine flooded the ship. Our detail crew had arrived. Our detail crew intercepted the Jerrys, obliterating their first two enemy fighters in a firework display of retaliatory carnage. Four more Nazi ships plunged to the ground as Healy screamed in excitement despite his weakened state. His grimace morphed into a smile, the first I had seen in what seemed like an eternity. Two of our P-38s escorted us out of enemy territory, as Gerner, our navigator, impressively reconfigured our formation. Our co-pilot Holler took control in Mulhollan’s absence, somehow landing us safely despite engine number two dying just as we reached our base. As soon as we landed, ambulances rushed in to help with our wounded. I am most worried about Healy. They are telling us that they might have to amputate his arm. The very arm that threw a no-hitter last week, the arm that used to cradle his newborn daughter Helen, the arm that saluted the flag, swearing him into this hell. I wonder who will be next to die or lose limbs. I just pray if it’s me, I go instantly. I’m not meant for life as a prisoner or, even worse, a cripple. They are putting us in for the Distinguished Flying Cross honor for this raid, but a fancy medal won’t bring back our lost and wounded, or the bloodbath I witnessed. Please tell everyone back home that I miss them more than words can express and to try their best not to worry about my wellbeing. Sincerely, Your loving brother, Jack
Deanna Theodore The Lost Bond The sound of a machine gun went off as Benjamin hit the X button on his controller. The ten-year-old sat cross-legged on the shaggy tan carpet in front of the nineteen-inch TV screen in the living room. The apartment was only a two-bedroom room that forced the dining area and living room to be together, because of this Benjamin had to live with a tiny tv that sat on a stand across from the only couch in the living room and be adjacent to the dining room table. “Benjamin, why don’t you help set the table,” a woman said as she came into the living room holding plates in her hand. Benjamin paused his game and got up. The woman smiled and blew a strand of bright orange hair from her face that hit her green eyes. She looked nothing like Benjamin other than having the same petite nose. His brown eyes were cold compared to her bright green ones, and while his body seemed healthy and with a slight tan, her body was as thin as a twig with pale skin that always made her look sick. “I’ve got them, mom,” Benjamin said as he held the plates. She smiled and ruffled his brown hair that matched his eyes. “Thank you, dinner will be ready in a couple of minutes so why don’t you turn off your game and go wash your hands?” she said. The boy nodded and went to shut off the game and headed to the bathroom. The woman watched her son with sadness until the home phone rang loudly. She quickly picked it up. “Hello?” “Janice? Where are the records I asked you to email me?” A rough voice said through the line. “They should be under the title ‘Newman,’ Mr. Rachet,” Janice said and lightly sweated at her boss’s displeased voice. There was a paused that lasted only a moment but seemed like forever to her. “I found it. Next time send it from your new work email. I don’t have the time to go hunting for this information,” he huffed. “I will, sir. I’m sorry,” she said quickly.
A heavy sigh was heard on the other end. “I know this is a rough time for you but we can’t afford any slip-ups” With that, he hung up. Janice cursed under her breathe as Benjamin came in. “Who was that?” he asked. “Just my boss from work.” Benjamin stiffened for a moment before nodding and walking away from her. He was clearly no longer interested with the topic and Janice felt like crying. Though they were only a few feet away from one another, the distance between them was much greater. There were moments when she wished she had fights with her son because they at least would be on a simple topic, but Benjamin never pushed anything onto her, and so she couldn’t complain. He would seem like the perfect son to any mother. He did as he was told and never complained, never wanted anything he couldn’t get himself, and did well in school. He was the perfect boy who did nothing wrong, and that left Janice alone. Dinner was always awkward for them both. The sounds of silverware scraping against the plates were the loudest sounds ever, but tonight would be different. She was determined it would be. “So how was school?” she asked. Benjamin paused from eating his soup. “All right,” “Anything new happen?” He was quiet for a moment and picked at his noodles. “Benjamin?” she asked with concern. “Jade wasn’t in school today,” he admitted. “Oh?” she said, implying the question of where his best friend was if she wasn’t in school. “It was take your kid to work day. She went to the tailor shop with her dad,” he answered. “Oh,” was now all she could say as she looked at the wall calendar. “I’m sorry Benjamin, I didn’t remember it was take your kid to work day.” “It’s okay, I’m sure you were busy doing something important since your boss called you off the clock,” he replied. “Nothing is as important as you. I’ll make it up to you. How about tomorrow we skip work and school and get some ice cream,” Janice said. Benjamin smiled. “It’s okay really. I probably would have been bored sitting in your office anyway.” 22
She bit her lip and looked across from her at a wall unit. A picture of her, Benjamin, and a man that looked like Benjamin in his late thirties stood. The man, Benjamin’s father, would know what to do. He would know what to say or what not to. “Mom?” “Sorry, I was—” “Thinking about what dad would say,” Benjamin cut her off as he dropped his spoon. “He always did have the perfect answers,” she said with a light giggle in hopes of lightening the mood. It did not. “Well, he isn’t here to give those answers.” “Benjamin—” “Staring at his picture won’t bring him back,” Benjamin said coldly as he got up from the table. He grabbed his plate and washed it before the sound of running footsteps and a door slamming shut could be heard. Janice sighed and looked at the picture once more. “David help me,” she whispered and ran her hands through her hair. She not only lost her husband to that car accident but her joyful son as well. Her hands fidgeted as she needed to do something, anything. She looked up at the ceiling and saw the attic door. Cleaning was better than doing nothing. Janice cleaned her plate and went to find the latter and some old clothes. *** The next day, Benjamin got up and went into the living room to see a ladder in the center of it. A door on the ceiling, which he never noticed before, was opened. He slowly climbed to the top to see his mother wearing dirty jeans and an old t-shirt covered in dust. “What are you doing?” “Oh. Jesus, Benjamin, don’t sneak up on me!” Janice yelped and held a hand over her chest. “Sorry,” he said. She sighed and moved a box. “I’m cleaning up the attic. It has been forever since I got up here and did anything with this junk,” she stated and looked at him. “Benjamin, about last night. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed you like I did.” Benjamin ignored the apology and walked around the dusty boxes and occasionally peaked in one. For the most part, there were 23
just broken tools, mirrors, and decorations. Janice let out a heavy sigh and went back to organizing the old Christmas decorations. Benjamin walked around until he spotted a purple box in the corner. “Mom, what’s this?” he asked as he pulled the Game Cube from the box. She smiled as she looked at the old game station. “Oh, that. It’s just something your father and I used to play back when we were little.” It was a moment too late before she realized she brought him up again. Benjamin looked down at the game. “Can we play it?” Her eyes widened. “If it still works.” She grabbed the box the station came from and went downstairs. Benjamin quickly followed behind her. While she set the game to the TV, Benjamin picked out a racing game for two players. Within an hour, the system was all set up, and the two raced their pixel cars. They both were even, but Benjamin pulled ahead for the win in the first game. “Two out of three?” his mother asked, enjoying the moment she was having with him. “You’re on,” he said and pressed the restart. The counter went down and the two quickly took off. “You know, I like when you talk about him,” Benjamin said. “Who?” “Dad.” She paused the game and looked at her son. “You didn’t seem to last night,” she said. “That’s because you were forced to talk about him. Ever since the accident, you act like he was never in our lives. I don’t want to forget him.” She gently pulled Benjamin into her lap. “I’m sorry, sweetie. You know I have never been good with my words.” “I know mom, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid it.” “You’re right. I’ve been keeping things locked up in hopes of not hurting you, but in doing that, I did hurt you. I don’t want us to be so distant like we have been.” “Then let’s start over, okay?” Benjamin asked. “Okay,” Janice agreed and they hugged one another. “How come you never said anything before?” “Dad was the only one in the house who was good with words.”
She kissed her son’s head. “Well, if anything bothers you, please come talk to me.” “Okay, mom.” “Good. Now I am totally going to beat you,” she said and clicked to un-pause the game. Benjamin’s eyes shined as the race continued.
Michelle Lowther Never Free I was the rejected child out of five siblings. Perhaps itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s because I was the youngest child. My sisters were tall and thin, and so were my brothers. The only thing pretty on me is my feet and hands. They are smooth, without hair, marks, and blemishes. However, the rest of my body is hairy, and of course, it did not help that I have a belly that drags on the floor like a metal anchor attached to the bottom of a boat. The only way I can put clothes on is to use straps and chains to tie this tumorous, oversized food compartment down. In addition, sometimes that does not work. In any case, I was so ugly and monstrous-looking, although my mother has always told me I was born this way. Thus, it made sense for me to join the circus and live in the dungeon on my off days. I was happy living there. It was cold, dark, and gloomy, just like me. Light of any sort was not needed, considering the last time I looked at myself in the mirror made me feel sick and nauseous. My left eye was yellow like puke, and the other was clear without any color. I could see all the ventricles and brain lobes that made my brain function. With that said, I did not eat for days after that experience. I often wondered how and why I was so ugly and different from my other family members. Although my mother was an ape, and my father was human. Besides, people really did not want to be around me anyway, and I could not blame them. The words echoed through my mind like an empty hallway. I was not in the type of circus that has animals and clowns. All the children that were half-human and half-ape were shipped to Pennsylvania by their parents so that they could be a spectacle in the circus environment. We all looked the same, except I was the only one with the big, hideous, oversized belly. This move was all okay because I did not mind leaving home, and I preferred it this way. At least I was around people that looked like me and born from parents that were like mine. This connection gave me a sense of belonging because I never had friends or went to school. My mother shipped me off to be a part of the freak show circus act when I was ten. Now I am twenty, and I am still doing the same thing. As I wake up to the sounds of the chains wrapped around my body in the cold, dreary 26
dungeon, I began to wonder about the way things could have been if I had a flat stomach, an average home, and a husband to love as my sisters have. My manager made sure I performed first. I was known as Linda, the monster. He liked the way I bounced on the trampoline and walked on the stilts. I did spins and swirls in the air while I continuously jumped up and down. Moreover, as part of the extravaganza, I would tie my big belly around each stilt, which made the performance unique and odd. No one else could seem to do the tricks that I did. The crowd liked my belly, and they were amazed by my performance. Especially the little kids. Although, the group did not react the same toward the other performers. I thought it was because they were older than I was, and most of them were ready to retire since they lost their limbs from doing dangerous acrobatic stunts. Not to mention, they were a part of the circus act for years. The crowd was looking for fresh young talent, and that I was. The more eccentric I looked guaranteed me to be a hit. Of course, I was overwhelmed with the attention I received from the audience. But I also wanted to make sure my friend Casey was not mad at me because I got all of the attention from the onlookers that liked to see us freaks perform. Casey was quiet and fun to be around. I met her after I started working at the circus. She taught me what I needed to know to perform. In fact, some of my best tricks and stunts came from her. I remember she was the life of the party, and everyone in the circus loved to be around her. However, I often felt sorry for her because she could barely move or walk because another worker in the circus bit off her foot, and her left arm was missing because it was caught on the balancing bar that we used for the stunts. “Linda, should I quit this job?” said Casey. “No, I think you should hang in there for a little,” I replied with admiration. “Okay, I will. Even though I am not happy with this Godforsaken place,” said Casey. My friend Casey wondered why the people in the audience stopped laughing at her performances. That’s what all of us horrid people did for a living. We entertained hundreds of people throughout the day. They laughed, poked fun, and spit on us
anytime they wanted to. Henry Slater was the manager; he never said a word because he did the same thing. “Linda, why do you think Henry is making me sit on the bench, while the other ladies are performing?” said Casey. “I guess he is giving you a break,” I replied with shrugged shoulders. “Go on over there, Linda and make the crowd happy,” said Henry. “I can’t, the chains and straps are not working today to hold my stomach down, so Casey can take my place,” I said, gesturing to my grotesque, abundant belly. “I can’t work Casey because she is not funny and the crowd demands me to give them a refund every time she does a stunt. Even though she looks like a disfigured hairy ape that is part human, the crowd is not entertained. Her acts are washed up, and she needs to retire,” Henry said. Casey felt sad and bothered. I assured her that she has always been a hard and loyal worker for many years, and she probably will be better off working elsewhere, even though I previously told her not to quit. Without hesitation, Casey thanked me. Henry was not the best person to work for; he was rude and insensitive. Casey later retired and found work at another freak show. We were down a person, so I had to work extra hard to please the crowd. “How many stunts can I think of to keep them happy?” I muttered aloud while I trained all day as I learned new things to do. The group of people enjoyed seeing how I would oil down my big belly so I could slide up and down a slick ramp while the flabby skin on my stomach flocked all around the stage. The audience cheered me on by chanting “more” over-and-over until my stomach starting bleeding from continuously dragging on the floor. However, my skin was not durable to withstand trauma, considering I had human genes, and I often felt like the ape genetic factor assumed my body. My physical structure began to get tired from the stress of taking over Casey’s show time. Working at the circus had been my only job. After continuously looking in the newspaper, I could not find anyone that hired unattractive gruesome people like me. Therefore, I decided to work from home. Furthermore, this is where I spent my free time when I was not working. Surely, it made sense to make money without leaving my comfort zone. My hours of operation are 28
from nine to five. Tourists and people from around town love to see me. I was a scary, distorted, monstrous-looking thing that amused people until my left eye eventually started losing that puke color, and it became transparent. Now everyone had a visual image of my soul and what made me tick. My thoughts were exposed to everyone. Secrets could no longer be held from the freaks that loved to look at me. Of course, I never liked any of them. My true feelings were out in the open. People could see right through me. There was no holding back the pain and insecurities about myself that I had lived with for many years. My emotions and feelings were on the surface for people to see. Disguising the real me was no longer an option. My eyes were a window to my soul, and they started failing me like Caseyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s body parts. It was time to retire the freak show and stay locked away in this dreary dungeon that I called home. I was free to live the way I wanted to behind closed doors without the worry of amusing, unusual people that thought I was entertaining.
Makenzie O’Kanos The Old Silas House Kyra was walking home from her first day of eighth grade at her new school when something caught her attention. She noticed a little boy in the top left window of the condemned brown house next to her then he faded away—like a ghost!! She stared at the window for a few more seconds. There’s no way I just saw that, she tried to convince herself. “That’s the Old Silas Place. It’s haunted you know,” a sweet voice said, frightening Kyra. She turned around to see a familiar face. “Sorry to frighten you. My name is Abby. You must be Kyra. We have some classes together.” The girls shook each other’s hands. “You looked like you saw a ghost,” Abby said. Kyra looked at Abby with wide eyes, surprised that her guess was right. “Oh, you did?” Abby said, raising her eyebrows in shock. “I swear I’m not crazy. I saw a boy and then he just faded away,” Kyra said in a surprised tone. Abby looked at Kyra and said “I believe you. Last Halloween I went in there with two of my friends. We kept hearing strange noises. A man’s voice screamed at us to get out or he would kill us then we saw a black figure. That’s when we ran out. I never told anybody up until now, but since you just saw something ...” Kyra looked at Abby with her mouth wide open. The two girls exchanged phone numbers and then talked some more about the house. Kyra learned that over a hundred years ago, a man named Dave Silas shot his wife, ten-year-old son, and eightyear-old daughter. He then shot himself in the head. That night, Kyra struggled to go to sleep. She couldn’t stop thinking about the little boy ghost and she couldn’t understand why she began to obsess over what she saw. Were his mom and sister trapped in that house too? Was Dave keeping them there? Kyra couldn’t help but wonder what other secrets, if any, were beyond the brown, rotted exterior of that haunted house. The next day after school, Kyra walked by the Silas house again. She looked at it closely, waiting to see if any ghost would appear
again. All of a sudden, Abby ran up behind her, “Hey girl, what’s up?” She said, half out of breath. Kyra looked at her and said, “Nothing really, other than the fact I cannot stop obsessing over that house.” She gestured toward the house. “Well,” Abby began, “I mean … you did see a ghost. That isn’t something that can just be forgotten about.” “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Kyra said. The girls walked together and talked some more about the Old Silas house, school, weekend plans, and other random things. That night, Kyra had a dream. In it, she kept hearing voices of the Silas kids and their mom begging for help. Her dream took her to the basement where she saw an old denim hat that belonged to Dave. Desperate voices begged Kyra to burn it. She then heard an evil voice scream, “Get out!” The dream ended and Kyra woke up sweating and out of breath. She checked her alarm and it read 12:00 a.m. Immediately, she grabbed her phone and texted Abby about her dream and told her to meet her at the Old Silas house if she wanted to. Without a second thought, she put on some warm clothes, grabbed her zippo lighter, and quietly rushed downstairs and out the front door. Kyra walked swiftly through the quiet dark night. When she arrived at the Old Silas House, Abby was not there. Kyra looked at her phone and there was no text back from her friend. She was nervous, scared, and alone. She looked up at the old, brown, and ugly house. Most of the windows were cracked and the front screen door was hanging halfway off its hinges. She looked around to make sure no one was watching her, then quickly ran up to the door. Kyra walked up the front steps and turned the knob to the door as it slowly creaked open. She dug in her pant pocket for her phone and turned on the flashlight as she slowly walked in. The ghost of a little girl appeared. Kyra wasn’t scared of the innocent ghost though. They smiled at each other. The little girl had brown, messy hair. She wore a blue, old fashioned, button-up nightgown. Soon, her mom and older brother appeared next to her. They too had brown, messy hair and wore blue, old-fashioned pajamas. “Please help free us.” The mother said in a panicked voice. Kyra remembered her dream, “The hat!” she blurted.
The mother nodded her head. “We can’t move on until Dave’s hat is burned. That’s the only thing keeping him here. Once it’s gone, he’ll be gone. Then we can leave too,” the mother said. All of a sudden growls and loud bangs sounded through the house. The children started to panic and the mother cried out in a terrified voice, “You must hurry. Be careful though, he’ll try to stop you.” The ghosts soon vanished. Kyra ran to the basement door, but someone yanked her coat. She screamed as she fell to the ground. She knew it was Dave. She panicked as she dragged herself to her feet, opened the basement door and ran down. “Get out!” An evil, deep voice screamed in her ear. She tripped down the last three steps and fell on a piece of glass, cutting the left side of her face open. She spotted the denim blue hat under a shelf and tried to crawl over to it. She was then pushed hard to the floor. Terrified and her face bleeding, she persisted and quickly darted over to grab the hat. The angry ghost of Dave appeared in front of her. She reached into her pocket to grab her lighter but realized it was missing and her pocket was torn from when Dave yanked it. He laughed hard and evilly as he tried to reach for her and the hat. All of a sudden, a familiar voice shouted, “Hey ass-butt! Leave my friend alone!” Kyra and Dave turned to see Abby standing at the bottom of the basement stairs. “Kyra! Catch!” She yelled as she threw Kyra her lighter. Kyra caught it and quickly flipped it open. The hat went up in flames. Dave began to scream in agony as he too lit up in flames and was soon gone. Abby ran over to Kyra. The ghosts of the little boy, little girl, and their mom appeared in front of the girls. They were happy and smiling now. “Thank you so much. We’re free now.” The mom said. The little boy said goodbye as the little girl waved and they soon vanished. “Dude,” Abby said in shock. She helped Kyra to her feet and together they walked out of the house. “I just have to say one thing,” Kyra began as she looked at Abby. “Ass-butt? Really? Of all insulting names?” The two friends laughed as they walked together in the night and discussed the terrifying events of what just happened.
Bud R. Berkich Under a Blue Sky Ignorance ... bliss? Kenneth Shippe was my grandmother Rita’s first cousin. Kenneth’s wife Olivia and he lived in a large, one-story, ranch-style house in a small town called Maple Junction. Kenneth and Olivia’s home was situated on a hill below a wooded ridge. There was a long, downward sloping front yard that met the main road some fivehundred feet below. Homes in this area were spread very far apart, and there was a landscape that featured a predominance of upward and downward sloping fields. These fields originated from or gave way to high, wooded ridges as far as the eye could see. “I hope they’re home,” Rita said, as my grandfather Pete turned off of the route. We began our ascent up the winding road that ran parallel to Kenneth and Olivia’s house. “Sure, they’re home,” Pete said with confidence as he hung a right into the Shippe’s gravel driveway. A large German Shepherd known as “Queenie” barked out a loud welcome from behind a high fence opposite the rear of the house. “There’s Kenneth.” Rita smiled and waved to a tall, slender man somewhere in his mid-sixties. He was wearing steel-framed glasses that empowered bright blue eyes. The man sported a head of snow-white, well-kept hair. He had just emerged from somewhere inside the garage and, upon seeing us, returned Rita’s greeting with a grin. Pete pulled in front of the garage door and shut off the engine. “We were wondering if you guys would make it up,” Kenneth said as the three of us got out of the car. “Olivia was just talking the other evening.” “Well, we’re here,” Rita said with a laugh and gave her cousin a big hug. “Talkin’ about us again, are you?” “Of course. And all of it good talk.” Kenneth answered with a chuckle and turned to my grandfather. “Hey, Pete.” “Hey, Kenneth,” Pete said as the two shook hands. “Put ‘er there, Rob,” Kenneth said with an outstretched hand towards me. I accepted. “Boy, you’ll be as big as Pete pretty soon, if you keep growing.”
I nodded. This got a collective chuckle out of the three grownups. “Yeah, he’s shooting up straight as a weed.” “A good one, I hope.” “As good as they get.” “Come on inside,” Kenneth gestured towards the garage. He grinned. “Guess where Olivia’s at.” “Her favorite place. The kitchen.” “How’d ya know?” “I know that woman all too well.” Kenneth smiled. “You’re just in time for lunch.” “You could show up at the eleventh hour and still not miss out on an Olivia Shippe meal,” Rita said. “You’re never late for any meal on Olivia’s clock. Her kitchen is always open.” “That’s me,” Pete said. “Always on time. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you name it. And especially when Olivia’s the one doin’ the cookin’.” Olivia Shippe was a short, pleasantly plump woman—much like Rita—with a head of short, curly hair, somewhat thinning out. She was, as Pete had testified, one of the best cooks up home, bar none. If you left her home hungry, it was your own damn fault, not Olivia’s. “Welcome, all,” Olivia said to us as we entered the dining room. “Come into the kitchen and join us for lunch. You’re just in time.” “What’d I tell ya?” Kenneth said, his blue eyes dancing. In truth, the eat-in kitchen was the focal point of the Shippe home. Many enjoyable meals were eaten here, combined with good conversation. When the food was consumed and the dishes were done, the group of us migrated into the living room. I sat near Kenneth and Pete and listened to a healthy dose of “men’s talk.” On the other side of the room, Olivia and Rita provided the female version. After a while, Kenneth turned to me. “How are ya for blocks these days, Rob?” “Well—” “C’mon, then. Let me show you what I got.” “Let’s go,” Pete said with a slap on my lap. “Follow Kenneth.” Kenneth led us out to his workshop, where he kept wooden blocks of all different shapes and sizes—disjecta from his various woodworking projects—for my inspection. He would fill up a brown paper bag with the ones I wanted. These I would spend hours at 34
home with, building and rebuilding various structures of my own design. After I had made my selections and Pete put the bag of blocks in the car, he turned to me. “Why don’t you go and run around the front yard a while? Blow off some steam. See if you can find any golf balls.” “He’s been hittin’ em out there, Rob,” Kenneth said with a grin. “Seen him out there just the other day. The bottom part of the yard is probably filled with ‘em.” “I’ll go see,” I said and ran off. After checking for Praying Mantis among the flowers planted by Olivia in front of the concrete slab porch, I sprinted the several hundred feet down to the lower portion of the front yard. I was greeted by two distinct sounds: the long, sustained cry of the Killdeer in flight, intermingled with the monotonous, low, steady “hum” of the power outlet across the road. Occasionally, a car would also make its presence felt as it traveled past Kenneth and Olivia’s front lawn, perfectly illustrating the Doppler Effect. Kenneth and Olivia’s neighbor’s teenage son, apparently a big baseball fan, was the one responsible for filling up the lower portion of the front yard with golf balls. These he would hit with an aluminum bat, causing them to travel the several hundred feet between houses. On a good day, I could find anywhere from twenty to thirty golf balls, which I got to keep. It was a clear, blue sky day with white, fluffy clouds. A cool, early spring breeze blew tufts of grass in waves. Several crickets and grasshoppers cleared a path for me, as I would spot yet another golf ball and run to scoop it up. And, as I sit here looking back on me standing there, looking out across that road to those rolling slopes and the ridges in the distance, I wish that I had the foresight then in equal proportion to the hindsight I have now. I would have come to the realization that this is life. This is living. This is as good as it gets. It doesn’t get any better than this. It never did.
Robert Beveridge Sap Trapped in the blood of you I float as best I can. Quickness pulls me down, fills my mouth. The copper of this cursed need, the muscle of strain, cheapness. There is no shore on which to wash up, no place to stop, catch a breath of air. I breathe out and hope the process stops.
Dmitry Blizniuk (translated from Russian by Sergey Gerasimov) A Crystal of Impression The frost glitters like a threatening knight in polished armor, and the words said aloud immediately freeze to the waxen cheeks: “yourfurcoatisjustawesome!” Snowflakes waltz through the air like pigeons from the country of Lilliput, where a human soul can fit into a thimble. It’s winter, and the world— a snow-white flea with crystal hairy paws, and jaws of ice— is cruel, and ravenous, but happy to see us. Later in the afternoon, the city will get lacquered all over, and the sky will spill ghostly freckles, but I’m not cold. I welcome winter, a broad-shouldered snow giant who holds me on his hand. Snow walruses hung the tusks of icicles down from the roofs. When we were kids, we used to hung our heads from sofas like this while reading fairy tales from the carpet, or playing with toy soldiers, and the draft pushed the thin spokes of cold air through the window frame, doing acupuncture of January. I breathe deeply, I freeze into the colored ice of memory like a sentient frog to thaw out on a spring day. What do we need to be happy? A bit of attention, a bit of silence deep enough to freeze into it, to turn into a warped crystal of impression and, years later, melt and flow, then turn the computer on and start writing.
Ace Boggess Joining the Somber Quartet Four ex-cons stand smoking outside the Grand Hall at the book festival. One has all the jagged edges of tribal tattoos covering bulbous arms—his tribe the orange-suited, knife-eyed, discarded. Another lurks behind a tie. Three wear lanyards to show they have not been abandoned, whereas the fourth in denim over denim begs cigarettes from the rest, me when I join the group. He says, “You don’t know what the prison system’s like,” shocked when I assure him that I do: don’t look the part—skin pale & clear, body oval. I smile & display my past like an armband— orange, too, or khaki. I never hide it, explain the stack of volumes on my table, spines blocked by a placard with my name. The others begin forgetting right away. Nobody wants to look closely at history— theirs, mine, anyone’s. On the inside, they learned a man’s stories are his own, & seeking them is stealing, fisticuffs to follow, then long isolation of the hole.
John Brantingham Standing Beneath the Tree of Knowledge Andrea regrets wearing hiking sandals today rather than boots when the rattlesnake slides out of the meadow and winds its way to where sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been standing still for the past ten minutes staring out at the blowing grasses. It moves across the path and up over her toes, hugging one of her ankles, and she can feel its scales and muscles. Andrea is just another piece of landscape like a stone or dead deer, the snake gifting her no knowledge except how little she matters to beasts. Andrea laughs. She wishes she had an apple.
Katley Demetria Brown Tales from the Nursing Home We’ve put more effort into helping folks reach old age than into helping them enjoy it. - Frank A Clark The longer I live the more I’m convinced that death is a blessing in disguise. Old age is like a car that slowly breaks down to end up in the Alzheimer’s junkyard. The golden years are rife with disability. Arthritis and stroke take away mobility. Alzheimer’s destroys what’s left of the brain. Cancer spreads and causes great pain. Why would anyone want to live so long to be wrinkled, disfigured, deaf, blind, dependent on others to bathe, clothe and feed them? If it came down to this I’d rather be dead than old. It’s not the quantity of years in your life. It’s the quality of life in your years.
Katley Demetria Brown Why Appalachian Trail Hikers are Crazy I don’t understand why people hike the Appalachian Trail. They plan for months to sleep in mouse infested shelters. They plod the trail in constant fear of bears that can attack at any time if they’ve had a bad day and steal food if it’s not secured in a bear box. Hikers go days, even weeks without showers and the comforts of civilization. They carry their kit and their beds in forty-pound packs. The logistics are complicated. Everything has to be packed a certain way. Why would anyone want to scramble over boulders, climb deadly mountains and sleep outside in inclement weather? Snow, rain, heat, and wind; the torments of the trail are numerous and so are the ticks and mosquitoes. The mountains in New Hampshire can actually kill you if you make one misstep on a rainy day or don’t check the weather forecast. Mt. Washington has the worst reputation. at least 150 people have perished on this killer peak. It has the world’s worst weather and it’s strewn with huge New England boulders that were dropped during the last Ice Age. The trail goes from Georgia to Maine (some people go part way or do it in sections). A few say to hell with it and give up entirely. They hike under endless canopies of trees (boring!) They scramble over boulders that are potential knee and ankle breakers. They deal with the discomforts of blistered feet and constant fatigue. They cross frigid rivers loaded with slippery rocks in the Hundred Mile Wilderness.
They are masochists who walk through the Shadow of Death and talk to bears when no one’s looking. Why won’t I hike the Appalachian Trail? I prefer the comforts of home, central heat and air conditioning. There is only one way I like mountains and that’s from a distance.
Lorena Caputo Sandlot Samurai Clack clack clacking fills the new night beneath a waxing moon clack clack clack Two young boys spar with driftwood swords their t-shirts pulled over their heads like samurai masks clack clack clack The dried palm of a choza mosaics across their dark arms fine sand scurries around their shuffling feet as they parry, as they dodge, their driftwood swords clack clack clacking in this aging night beneath a cloud-shielded moon
Luisa Caycedo-Kimura Lulu Caramelo Her father sprawled on the couch read La Prensa. We were twelve tried not to notice the gape of his boxers. La fea, he called her. Ugly one. Dark as the panela that sweetened mazamorra in our mamás’ kitchens. That summer at Rockaway beach we cut our hands joined wounds like we’d seen in some Western. On days when we wished the knife could pierce deeper we roamed Liberty Avenue singing like Madonna. Shop windows reflected the R train, our voices, the knish vendor yelling “You guys are stoned!”
Yuan Changming Loss, Lost, Losing Last month it was my cellphone Last night, my back head, where was Implanted a wrong chip. & last Moment I found my mind missing Going back along the way, I tried To retrieve it from my rage against A rude fellow driver. Then in a fit Of joy about the first child I had. Followed by a deep regretâ&#x20AC;Ś until I got confused between memory & Imagination, the former stored in The left chamber of my heart, the latter In the right. When it was overWhelmed with joy or bitterness, I Cannot tell which is my true past (Or my possible future) as it overFlows from memory to Imagination; perhaps, with my protobeing The two might be somewhat identical, or Other (than) wise (?)
Corey D. Cook Donald Hall Estate Sale the line formed in front of the long face of the barn, under a latticework of tree limbs, limbs etched into the sky, into memory, limbs giving way to slight leaves, noncommittal on a cold, cloud-filled morning, formed to the left of the ox cart, clumps of manure still waiting to be shoveled, spread in the field â&#x20AC;Ś inside the bookshelves sagged under the weight of his work, my fingers stuttered over their spines until i reached the stairs to the second floor, the stairs with the orange shag carpet, the carpet punctuated with mouse shit, remnants of unrelenting revision, commas and semicolons and periods that anchored what once was, what was unneeded, like the hot air rising from the registers in the floor, despite all the bustling bodies, red-faced as they moved from room to room, picking things up, putting them down, bagging what they wanted, i just wanted him back at his desk, pad of paper within reach, pen in hand, just wanted Jane upstairs in her office, glasses in place, fingers poised above the typewriterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s keys,
so i let myself out, stepped off the porch, followed the line to its unceremonious end
Pat Daneman The Cherry Festival I live alone. The milk goes bad. Cherries, if I buy too many. I don’t like cherries— as much stone as fruit and often not sweet. But every summer my store has what they call a Cherry Festival and sells them very cheap. I bring home a bag, wash them, dump them in the yellow bowl with cherries painted on the rim, the one thing of my mother’s I took from her house before my sister had her pick. I wanted to be fair, but I wanted that bowl. Set in the center of the table, it brightened our dim kitchen, dust at the bottom, coins and bobby pins, what our mother called her church key, some S&H green stamps. In the 1950s, cherries came in jars, candy-red that stained my fingers when I ate a few while I mixed my mother’s drinks. The first one or two she mixed herself, then it was my turn. My sister out with some boyfriend. My father working late. She outlived him. That was a surprise. And I have her bowl. Every July, I fill it with cherries. $1.99 a pound. They glisten on my table. I eat one or two each time I walk by. Cherries are hard work—not generous like peaches, sweet juice and eager flesh. A cherry fights you, always the threat of choking on the pit, always the stem left over. Even one cherry is so much trouble for so little in return—exactly what my mother liked to say about so many things—birthday cakes, combing the tangles out of my hair. I never finish all the cherries. They don’t get sweeter as they sit, even if I pull up a shade to give them sun. They cave in on themselves—mouths open, white mold around the lips. 48
They put out a smell of sinfulness that draws flies. I root down in the bowl for one that might be good, and finding none, I throw them all away.
Pat Daneman Everything He was twenty-nine when you were born, held you on his chest, slept with his heart beneath yours, palm sheltering your head. Now you share him with this young audience, a joke. You say you are going to visit your father when you leave here, try to get him to let you take him for a drive. He will resist, you say. He thinks everyone who comes to his door is selling vitamins. He thinks the TV remote control is the telephone, cannot understand why it goes on ringing after he says hello. You relax in the wave of laughter this gets you. The morning is going well, although across town in the parking lot of the Food City your father has stepped down from a curb and fallen. A crowd has gathered to help. A woman calls 9-1-1. A man folds a towel under his head, offers him water from a plastic bottle. You cough a little. A girl with a pierced lip brings you a bottle of water. Your father has wet his pants. A good story, you say, can never be about only one thing. In fact, the great stories are about everything. As the first drops of a heavy rain hit the windows of the classroom, you ask if anyone has any questions. Thunder.
Lightning. No questions. A circle of strangers tightens to shelter a bleeding old man. You are relieved this dull commitment is done.
Barbara Daniels How Is the Body? The sky darkens. But the winter day withholds the long swing of its heavy clapper. When evening’s color grades between blue and black, a drink is permissible, a small something to eat, slow letting go of what jitters and clutches. The still hour. Dinner. Then after dinner circles of light dim to night sweats, stinging eyes, roar and recession of traffic, morning so far away it’s just a flickering light. In fitful dreams I touch a stranger’s arms, a thorned cat-briar. How is the body, I ask. My heart fists. I’m a clanging pail at an open spout. Cold water leaps and releases.
Barbara Daniels Watching the Roofer Grinding voices of starlings draw me to the window. I see my husband’s secret tenderness as he slides a soft cloth over his car. Every night I dream the bees’ dream. At a hive’s humming center, I feel the deep vibrato. Bees won’t sting what doesn’t move. Sixteen days of heat, then sudden rain like combat. Men stand at opened doors. When it clears, I wait for the roofer across the street. He’s torn off the old tiles and thrown them into the yard. I want to see him cover the ripped parts, see what his bright hammer hits.
Holly Day What Keeps Me Awake He’s not even out of the house yet, and I’m imagining him dying in some sort of post-nuclear firestorm, or struggling against a mugger forgetting to eat. He’s not even stepped out on his own and I’m already imagining he’s discovered heavy drinking or he can’t sleep in his new home because it’s too quiet, or too loud, that he’s afraid to call me because he doesn’t know if I’ll answer even though I told him I will always answer his calls. He’d not even out of the house and I’m imagining the panic in his voice when he calls me to tell me how he’s screwed everything up or how he needs money, right now, or he’s sick and wants me. I imagine myself packing up a basket of groceries and medications to bring over to him, because in my imaginings, he lives just down the street my husband shaking his head in frustration at me as I grab my coat to go take care of a little boy I still can’t let go.
Holly Day Foresight I shop because the end of the world is coming and I want to be ready. Someday the things I know how to do will be valuable and I’m stocking up for the day I’m needed. Skeins of wool yarn for future scarves and warm blankets embroidery thread for small ornamental touches to necessities walls of canned food for my family for trading bags of dry rice sealed off from the rats. I shop because I feel Armageddon in my bones I fill my shopping cart with aspirin, shampoo, tuna fish and sewing needles all the things I’ll need in the dark days ahead.
Holly Day The Spider I see TV shows where people have made costumes for their cats and dogs and I wonder if I put pants on one of the larger spiders in my office if perhaps they would be cute enough to get on TV. There would be conflict in getting the right amount of legs in each trouser leg perhaps two in each pant leg, then two in each arm of a tiny jacket a top hat to finish it, like something from an old cartoon. There would be squirming, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sure, as I try to explain to the spider how much more accepting people would be of a spider who wore a little black suit and hat, how even my mother would stop being scared of spiders if she saw one dressed like Fred Astaire.
Mary E. Delabruere The Thin Girl The thin girl lives lively, thriving on fabulously non-fat fine fortunate feelings. Loved by all, she’s lanky. She’s lithe. She’s lascivious. Her fleshy folds hidden where she buried deep the wicked words of naïve boys packing densely layered taunts, too wise now to be vulnerable. She dodges old fiery barbs when they unexpectedly surface as she drinks glass after glass until she can’t recall what anyone said back before she became the thin girl.
Timothy B. Dodd Family I never met any of my many brothers or sisters, but there were more than I ever knew I had. Born years before me they lived their lives, moving along waterways, over mountains, through woodlands, even crossed an ocean. They grew cassava and beets, potato and barley, picked from cinnamon and nutmeg trees, roasted pumpkin seeds and trapped small mammals to roast over open fires. They drank fresh goat milk and made yogurt under tiny houses with thatched roofs, built boats from teak, smoked scad. Disease and war plagued them too, yes, but they eventually walked to where I emerged, like a ghost, from their wind. Never I met them, only what they left, carried into my blood. That they held out hands, built my home before they had to go away, pushed into forgotten spaces and empty breaths, I now see in fog.
Michael Estabrook Indecision Of everything over the millennia in the history of the Earth I would have loved most to have walked among the dinosaurs or met Abe Lincoln or Albert Einstein or witnessed Jesus raising Lazareth or handed some paints to Michelangelo for his ceiling or heard Cleopatraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s voice or watched Mozart conducting Don Giovanni or acted in the first performance of Hamlet or kissed Marilyn or helped Dante proof a canto or two of his Commedia or shook hands with Julius Caesar or Vincent van Gogh or helped dig the Panama Canal or â&#x20AC;Ś
Jean G. Esteve Procedure I have to be very careful where I step Lest I orphan ants or beetles with my carelessness. So here I go, tippy-tippy-toe And God swathed in his silk cocoon Can sleep with ease for I have done My best.
Mia Frare After All These Years Where do I even begin? I never thought this day would come. Since we met, I believed we would be friends for life. The friendship I had with you was something I cherished more than my grandfather’s necklace. I put you before myself and always wanted to talk to you. For you were there for me in my darkest moments, talking me off the edge. Messaging me until three in the morning, fighting my demons with me. Making promises I thought were unbreakable. How stupid was I? At the time, you and I were the non-criminal version of Bonnie and Clyde. Absolutely inseparable. Our group of friends always picked on us for being so close, asking us when we would quit being in denial and grow into something more. To them, we were already dating minus the label and physical contact. We gave it a try, what’s the harm? Maybe we were destined to become one of those best friends who made it work as a couple. In our minds, it was fine. But the universe disagreed. Just a few weeks into our new label, it fizzled into the disastrous end of a ten-year friendship. To you, it wasn’t that big of a deal. That was proven to be true with the sight of your arm laced with hers just a couple months after we were done. I told everyone around me that I was fine without you. Unsurprisingly, they all believed me. I was drowning. I had no safety net, no light in the overwhelming darkness. You were always there with a lantern in hand, guiding me to just a sliver of happiness. The happiness was gone, light had simmered out. Three years later, you appeared back in my life. But you were no longer the same person I knew before. You were more distant and cold towards me, only expecting one thing. Wanting to salvage the old friendship we once had, I gave you a chance. And another ... and another. I tried to tell myself that this was okay, now that I had you back in my life. But I couldn’t help but flinch every time a notification appeared on my phone. Everyone around me could see the pain in my eyes every time I messaged you. I allowed myself to believe this was how it should be. I should be saying these things to you, wanting to do things I never did before. 61
Until I reached a point where I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take it anymore. I lashed out at you, letting all my frustrations out. I blocked you, then unblocked you. We hit a breaking point, calling what we were toxic. And our conversations faded out of my head. And then, one day, out of the blue â&#x20AC;Ś Quentin added you as a friend! Say hi!
Kara Goughnour Home Filled with Lights You sing a song for her but dance with me, while she hides in the bathroom, lets her kite-line daydreams bleed on tile floor. You have always danced with me closely, even when I didn’t understand you, when I thought us enemies— our first day with the computer, printing gray-grain photo booth photos, me placing stickers of cartoon cats on each like a jeweler inlaying delicate stone, me taking center stage on your chameleon feet and you spinning us round, replacing brown with blue in “Brown Eyed Girl,” or tonight, under these dark bar-lights. You see my mother in me, and I think that’s the worst of it. How many lights do I have to fill a house with before it feels like a home? I am cramming every crevice full of careening streaks of brightness. I am scared to let the dark in. I am scared to see the truth in it.
John Grey A Daughter Stays Out Overnight Sunday dawn and there’s been no word. The night’s anxiety contracts into the morning’s pain. Birds waken long before the telephone. First one, then all. The sparrows in the eaves ring loudest. Sun streaks the floors of all rooms facing it. It doesn’t concern itself with who’s missing, whose needs are greater. Her father looks out the window. A cop car rolls by, slows down but doesn’t stop. Bad news is clever that way.
Carly Heider #MeToo I refuse my right to remain silent. I choose to scream my truth to anyone who will listen. I will scream that I am not what happened to me. I am not a product of damage done, but rather a woman reborn as a warrior with a fury in my eyes, a fire in my soul, and a will to step out of the darkness with weapons exposed. I am ready for battle, ready to dominate over those who once dominated me, ready to spread the ashes of my world that once burned down at the hands of a monster with a cheap smile and a shitty leg tattoo. They say that in 7 years time your skin is replenished. Well it has been 4, and the monster is half gone, And I am marching on despite the remnants of his unwelcomed touch. With steady feet I will walk on and I will scream my truth until my lungs go raw, until people like him are stopped and people like me are listened to.
Carly Heider Haunted I stop dead in my tracks when I see anyone that looks like you. Even if you are miles away, I still glance at the calves and the biceps of men who share your face to check if they have the same marks as you, the same shitty tattoos as the ones you left on my soul. and when they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, I unlock my knees and pick up my feet but the beating in my chest takes a minute to ease and all I can think is I know it is not you but how long will I see your face in the strangers among me? how long will you be my ghost?
Roger D. Hicks There is Always Belize They could have been any couple sitting at any table in any diner in any small town in the country. But they were not in any diner in any small town in the country. They were in the Main Street Eats in Carpenter, a small town in Eastern Kentucky with a small state university. This was their table and they were not any couple. Their backpacks on the chairs beside them identified them as being connected with the university. The woman’s clean-scrubbed, twentysome-year-old beauty and faded jeans identified her as a student. The man’s button-down shirt and khaki pants could have been worn by nearly anyone in Carpenter. He might have been a professor, a farmer in town to do business, or a salesman looking for the next contract. His clothes belied the fact that the man was also a student in spite of his apparent forty or so years. A charitable observer might have said he was nearing forty. One who was less positive might have said he was nearer fifty. Yet, in spite of the age difference, it was obvious that they were accustomed to being together, that the other regulars in the restaurant were also accustomed to them, and that there was a measurable amount of tension at their table. The waitress, who served them regularly, had seen the tension in the air as soon as they entered the room and served them proficiently and unobtrusively. She placed the water glasses and silverware beside them and asked softly, “Do you want your usual?” They both nodded and the waitress spoke as she wrote, “Hot ham and cheese with a diet and the chicken and dumpling special with a diet. I’ll be right back.” They waited until she disappeared through the kitchen door before resuming the tense conversation they had cut short when they entered and took their table. The man spoke first, “What are we going to do? What do you want to do?” His companion waited, breathed in and out slowly and audibly before answering, “I think we need to move on. I don’t think this is working anymore and we both knew all along that it wasn’t going to be permanent when it started.” The man visibly and swiftly stiffened. His face, already tense, became strained and his answer was both a repudiation and a plea, 67
“Rosie, you know I have never said this was temporary. I have never wanted this to be temporary. Why else would I have brought up Belize? I am ready for permanent and I always have been.” Rosie did not snort when she answered. She only seemed to, “Belize, Belize is a dream and it won’t work. Your wife would send lawyers after us. My father would find us and God knows he would kill you. I still don’t know how we let ourselves go on so long, Frank. We’ve always known this couldn’t work forever.” Frank stiffened once more as the waitress passed to another table nearby and used the time to reach within himself for a response he hoped would change the way the conversation was flowing. In the brief space, he suddenly found himself in a vivid memory from thirty years before. He was walking home from school and the rains had flooded the little creek on which he lived. The foot log to home was still above the waterline but wet and slick from the rain and splashing creek below. His feet slipped from the log and suddenly he was in the flooding creek swimming desperately, trying to fight the current until a tree branch leaned within his terrified grasp. Thirty years ago, the willow branch had been there in just the right spot. Today there was no tree branch. He thought “This is going absolutely the wrong way for me. There is no way I can change her mind now.” Yet, just as had known that he must swim that day till a tree branch saved him, he knew today that he must fight to save what he felt was too wonderful to throw away. “Rosie, Belize would work. We both will have our degrees in a month or two. We can teach or work for the government there. I have enough money to buy a house. But I would also go face your family. I will go face my wife. We have invested four years in each other. I love you, Rosie. Please help me find a way to save what we have.” The waitress had paused at the kitchen door with the two plates of food. She waited to be seen because she knew that whatever this conversation was about it was one she did not intend to interrupt. Rosie paused with the waitress and waited for the plates to be served before answering as the kitchen door swung behind the woman. “Frank, I don’t even know what we have. We have had an affair for four years. There have been times when I was sure I loved you. There are times now when I think I must have been crazy to ever get involved with you. People on this campus think we are both crazy. 68
Nobody here understands what they see in us. I don’t understand it either. Frank, we can’t go on.” Frank looked down at his chicken and dumplings, struggling for an answer that would work. He found none and his fork hovered over the food without purpose. Once again he was in the water, his hand slipping down the rain-soaked willow branch, his feet struggling to find the rocky bottom before his grip slipped away. Just as he had fought to live that day before this woman was ever born he fought to keep the relationship alive. “Rosie, we can leave right now. We have time to go to the bank and cash my accounts. We can use my credit line to find a house and put the mortgage in your name before the divorce. Your father will not hurt me. I will go today to his house and tell him. Please listen to me, Rosie. I love you and we can make this work.” The young woman realized in mid bite that what he said was true. He would face his wife and her father. He would marry her and go wherever she wished. With the realization came a sudden need to soften this blow which she had known months ago would come on this day. She wanted to hurt him less somehow. She felt the need to be gentle and yet she had no desire to go on. “Frank, I know you love me. I guess you always have. I just thought for a year or two that we were having a good time in college, eating forbidden fruit, doing the things we wouldn’t be held responsible for later. Frank, I’m sorry, but I’m just not ready to be married to you or anybody else. I’m not ready to see you grow old and weary before my time. Frank, this is over. I’m sorry.” In Frank’s mind, for the first time in his life, the willow branch slipped from his grasp, the rocky bottom never solidified under his feet, the creek bank suddenly became vertical, and the defeated creek of his childhood became a raging and unstoppable river in the little restaurant. He felt himself wash away toward the Big Sandy, down to the Ohio, rolling in a muddy and drowned torrent to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Frank searched a thousand answers while his fork remained motionless. None of them seemed likely to be the one that would work and the fork slowly left his hand to the uneaten dumplings. Both Frank and Rosie knew he would not grovel or beg. Yet they also knew that he could not, would not, stop this effort to salvage the relationship. Rosie waited quietly, not knowing what Frank might 69
say next, not knowing what she could say to let him know that somewhere inside she still cared but would not allow herself to continue the affair. She ate her sandwich in a half-hearted, distracted way while Frank, unable to eat, ignored the plate before him and fought to regain his focus, to find some response that left him with both self-respect and hope. Slowly, quietly, in his memory, he realized there had been no hope. The foot log had been under water before he ever stepped from the bank. The creek of his boyhood had been a Nile, an Amazon, a Zambezi rolling relentlessly to the sea. The willow branch had never existed in this relationship. The creek banks had been vertical and unassailable. And yet, somehow, in the Gulf of Mexico of his memories, he found hope. The warm waters of his imaginary Gulf soothed him as he drifted southward into the ocean. In his mind, Frank found a coral reef, a white beach, a friendly fishing village, and when Rosie finally, softly asked “What are you going to do, Frank”, he was able to respond as he left his seat to pay for the food. “There is always Belize.” The waitress had come from the kitchen to bus the table and realized as she removed the dishes what the conversation had been about. For the first time in four years, Frank had left no tip.
Paul Holler A Song to Fill the Sky The dawn drew the farmers and merchants into the village square like water filling a ladle. Marie smoothed her kerchief and her long linen skirt and lifted her child, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, claiming her bit of ground. ‘Shhh ... shhh ... shhh, Manon.” she said, stroking her daughter’s hair. “Shhh ... shhh ... shhh ...” With her free hand, Marie began sorting cabbages and arranging them by size on the table before her. Monsieur LeClerc came to her side and looked down at the child on her arm. “I had to bring her with me,” she said. “There was no place for her to go.” “Hmmm ...” he said. “See that she doesn’t cause any trouble.” Marie looked around her and saw an empty box behind the table. After Monsieur LeClerc had stepped away, she set Manon on the box. “Stay here, Manon,” she said. “You mustn’t run away.” Marie turned back to her work and Manon crouched atop the box and watched the people passing by. Somewhere in the rush and babbling of the crowd, a trickle of music found its way to Manon. She stood on the box when she heard it. Marie turned her head just as Manon hopped off the box and disappeared into the crowd. “Manon! Come here!” she said, pushing through the crowd. Manon stopped before a circle of people gathered around an open space where a man was playing a vielle a roue. She slipped past the crowd into the open space and began to dance. Someone began to clap. Others began to stomp their feet and whoop and shout and in a moment the crowd became one large and unstoppable drum. The player smiled and Manon, charged by the music and the crowd, danced on. Marie came to the edge of the crowd and opened her arms. Manon ran to her and Marie lifted her up and held her close. Together they watched and listened. The man cranked a drone from the vielle a roue with one hand while his other hand danced a tune on its keys. 71
The tune sounded familiar to Marie and an old memory came back to her of a morning years ago. She was alone in a field cutting cabbages from the ground with a scythe while the sun rose behind her. She had been working for many days and her back ached from stooping and, even though her day was only beginning, her arms and shoulders were already tired and limp. She imagined the cabbage in her hand looked like the world might look if she could have seen it from far away. The song of a Lark in the hedgerows made her look up. She rose like a fledgling and struggled to her feet. She reached for the sky and, for a moment, thought she might touch it. The long notes of the Lark’s tune rode the drone of the wind over the fields. Marie looked around her and felt as large as the fields and as wide as the sky the tune filled up. The sunlight, the shadows they made through the trees and the breeze scented with distant blossoms flowed into her like rain filling a river. The field was as vast as the heavens and, for a moment, it was hers alone. “I want to play that!” said Manon. Marie looked at the man playing the vielle a roue, at his worn linen shirt, his old shoes and his instrument, perfectly kept and more precious than anything she had ever owned. “We ... I ... can’t afford ...” said Marie. Then she glanced at her Monsieur LeClerc and saw that he was busy with his customers. “Come with me,” she said. Marie carried Manon through the crowd toward a field surrounded by trees. Manon looked back at the musician, listening to his tune with all her strength until she was too far away to hear him. “I can’t hear it, Mama,” said Manon. “It’s all right,” said Marie. “He is only a man and his vielle is only a vielle. But I’ll show you a song to fill the sky. And it will be yours alone. Always. And you will never forget it.”
Juleigh Howard-Hobson The Scarlet Ocean of You Okay, let’s pretend scarlet means something, Love or hate or another emotion Equally passionate that I can’t think Of right now. And let’s make believe ocean Stands for deep loss, a well of sorrow, some Vast and cold body of feeling that I Don’t particularly feel. They’ve become More than what they are, they’ve started to lie About themselves, assert truths, because they’re In this poem. Let’s assume they’re right, yes let’s, But let’s assume they mean something unclear Because that works best for me. You can get Something out them that way, enough to Consider this deep. Or not. Up to you.
Katharyn Howd Machan Stitches Cooking now, kitchen steaming spices, I like to remember her fingers in them, these quilted pot holders vibrant with peacocks a queen might keep by a garden gate. She taught me how to measure and pour, beat sweet batter with a wooden spoon, simmer sauces of ripe tomatoes, warm olive oil in good cast iron for cutlets dipped in egg and crumbs. Old enough now to have my own children I think of how sharp winter tore her out of aprons and into a bed too small and white and cold for pride. Turquoise, the color she most loved, taken. Purple, the bruises on her arms.
Katharyn Howd Machan After War Lost in the forest a hundred days the children thought only of mermaids. “Braid my hair!” one begged. “Count the starfish that gleam like my eyes!” another commanded, smiling. They gathered their narrow sticks each night, built fires that raged at the moon. Berries, mushrooms, bark soaked in rain—oh, for the sweetness of apples! In their ears the ocean roared and the taste of salt sent them spinning. Mothers dead, fathers dead, only some with brothers and sisters. “Watch me dance!” one cried. “The sky is a shard of black glass,” another whispered. On the waves a fleet of hearts rocked by, wings instead of sails, and a pelican sang songs of sunlight glinting on green scales. The children walked when they could walk, ran when they could run. Sleep was an owl with blinking stare, a butterfly blue as pine air. “My golden horn draws the dawn from shells unbroken by seahorses’ ride!” one claimed. “Love me,” another tried.
Katharyn Howd Machan Starving Why did I believe her? Why didn’t I see her eyes glint at them, then glow for me? Why did I take them from their beds? Why did I trick them with a branch? Why did I think bread might save them? Why did I let myself touch her again, believe that when we could find food we’d make more children, plenty more children, and I’d forget the boy and girl swallowed whole by the hungry woods?
Zebulon Huset Just Torched Silica Once, I thought I was titanium, marble maybe, but of course I would be at least wood—sturdy pine, or maybe a rare Amazonian tree submerged and petrified in the bog of time immemorial. Even after the smash, the snail’s pace recovery—piecing each sliver back together with super duper glue I tried to convince myself I was not glass but diamond still tippy-tops of hardness, even if it’s no secret my toughness factor was meager behind the façade of cutting edge— all it takes is the wrong kind of pressure. But—were I wood the temperatures would have scorched away all that carbon and no amount of scotch tape could remake a log from that pile of ash.
M.J. Iuppa What Will Be Left, in Leaving? Strands of hair in a hard bristle brush, an untapped bottle of body lotion, three gray pills for headaches—the lack of time, or is it memory? Being in a world’s constant argument. What’s your position, action, reaction? Are you a pigeon or parrot? Certainly, you cluck and coo and squawk in protest of consonants. Living is a strange parade— so much confetti left lying on the floor.
James Croal Jackson Pneumonia My lungs have drowned in fluid— I can’t stop coughing. Who am I to survive in all this death and pollution? Land-dweller, illfitted? The sea regurgitates its dead—whales on white sand shores, fish entwined in kelp. The old organisms—from where we began—return to land, beg us to let them walk.
Beth Ann Jedziniak Gratitude Project, Day 1,563 In my dream, a friend handed me a book he had written. It was an odd shape for a book and had lots of covers that looked like doors and lots of openings that looked like keyholes. On one of the covers it said, “Open anywhere. There is no wrong way.” Still I had to ask how I should open it. My friend laughed a laugh full of joy and compassion and said, “There is no wrong way to read my story.” And so I opened to a page and began reading. When I was done reading, I turned the page and a live production of his life began playing in the room to the right of me. I looked through the window and saw a scene from his life being played out. There was so much love and light and joy that I could not help being caught up in it. I wandered around then ... from page to page, room to room, scene to scene, experiencing the places he had been and meeting those who had been there as he was on his way to becoming. There was music everywhere and laughter and conversation and joy. There were undertones of sadness here and there but they trailed off as family circled round. Children, including my friend when he was younger, were playing under the tables and running between the adults—they were safe and happy and carefree. They knew they were loved. I smiled at my friend then, knowing a bit more of his story made me love him even more. As I closed the book, I opened my eyes and found myself sitting on my favorite rock. I am thankful for dreams and for rocks comfortable enough to nap on.
Theric Jepson The Squirrel that Sits Atop Our Bookshelf Ten or twenty years ago, someone picked up this ceramic squirrel at a hardware store and took it home, painted it lightly with gray fur and pink tongue, and placed it in a kiln to make it shine. Perhaps they were dissatisfied with its drugged eyes. Or perhaps they died. I don’t know. But somehow it ended up at a thrift store where it was picked up for a buck and brought to this brookside Berkeley park where my boys and I wait to join forces and toss sticks as per alleged Viking custom. Our goal: stand, oh, about twenty feet away and knock down more blocks more quickly than those who dare challenge us. We do not falter. Our sticks fly as missiles, tumbling blocks like enemy idols. Our path home is lit by triumph. Our trophies: grass-stained jeans, bellies filled with cold cuts, a gray ceramic squirrel watching us with its black and blurry eyes. Tomorrow, the jeans will get washed and lunch will need to be served again, but perhaps this gray ceramic squirrel will live to gaze down upon their grandchildren who won’t know its story and will find its eyes a bit hollow and creepy so they’ll move it to the garden or just throw it away. In a thousand years may it be found again, unearthed by grad students searching with trowels for trinkets to support their thesis that in the early twenty-first century spirituality was infected with burgeoning animism. A decade or two later, they will bring their own children to the university museum to show them— 81
its ears chipped off and its tail crackedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; a gray ceramic squirrel, the first solid evidence of their theory, a moment that still makes them pause in wonder. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll hold their children close to receive its distant godly gaze for the first time.
John P. Kristofco A Distant Constellation Dying in a Corner of the Sky - Paul Simon happens every day, perhaps every second in an ocean of a hundred trillion stars. A nightlight in Manhattan fades, a drop descends Niagara, one more lonely digit takes its thousandth place beyond the decimal point. And worlds will bloom, and worlds will burn, and when they do, when the gift of fire takes them back, every page of every book will curl; every poem that ever bled a poetâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life and soul will sear into the silent space, the sound between all worlds, infinity, the place from which its life came after all.
John P. Kristofco Fire at the Cathedral Notre Dame, April 2019 light, a thousand years in stained-glass held, prayers trapped in rafters robbed from fields freed to change the day to night, incense for a sacrament of loss, the hands and souls of thousands â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;building a cathedralâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; they would never see, sweat on wood and stone steamed into infinity, and I am changed by this in ways Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll never understand, a gash across the heart at first, a wound, finally a scar, dull yet sure reminder of what the artisan of fate and the patience of a finite sun demand
John P. Kristofco Old Men at the Food Court one Khe Sanh baseball cap, a faded Vegas sweatshirt, glasses halfway down a nose, shards of gray stabbing at the air, half-empty mall where they gathered every week, drawing from the same old deck that always held their fate in the place where they were young fifty years ago, before the la Drang Valley, and kids, times that teemed on weekends, nights they thought would never end now ghosted like the building, forgotten but for stories of the gambles made and wasted, words like cards, frayed at every edge, still waiting for the hands theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d never played
John P. Kristofco The Tree It was fifty years, time enough to fade though it never could have been forgotten. Fifty years, and David Amis was going back to the one place on earth he swore he never wanted to see again. Ever. From the window, he could see the lush green beneath the thin lace of clouds. He had seen that view before, going in and coming out. A wave of dread came over him; he closed his eyes. He was nineteen the first time, in his green uniform like all the others on the noisy plane rattling its way through choppy weather down to the newly-built airfield below. The fear that had gripped him quietly when he received his orders two months before had risen its voice to drown out all other sounds in his soul. His breath shortened as if to only nibble nervously at the edges of the experience that was already dwarfing him. David opened his eyes, leaned back in his seat and thought again about the letter, the phone calls, the arrangements that had somehow been made to make this happen, to put him on this plane. It was a Senator who first had the idea, a man who had served three years in-country there, he and some folks from the Veterans Administration. “Why not have some soldiers from both sides get together and meet” was the simple theme. “Why not have them meet in peace this time.” “Are you crazy!?” was David’s first response. “Why the hell would I go meet with people who were trying their best to kill me, to kill all of us?! Why would I go back to that place … to that hell …!?” But before that day came and went, before he tore the letter up and dismissed the whole idea, another thought entered David Amis’ mind: “but then, why not?” And it took him back to those days before Helen, before the kids, before … He was a grunt; they were gooks, soldiers at two ends of a tangled valley between two dirt roads, a location deemed to be of “strategic importance to supply and communications lines,” at least by those men who put the soldiers there
There to crawl and claw their way like animals in night and day to kill those who had, before all this, never wronged them, whom they had never wronged, enmity conferred by order onto people they might pass by on the sidewalk, bid ‘good morning,’ or just walk by, stand beside at corners. People who would never kill until they came to kill within someone else’s philosophy, someone else’s will. People who would help them push a car, share an umbrella, sit beside them at a ballgame. Instead, they humped through swamps and brush so thick it gave in only by the inch. They patrolled, reconned, set perimeters, sent up flares, called in arty, and in months of push and pull, advance and retreat, had managed to kill two thousand of themselves because the compass of their lives had been moved from its true north by the magnet of some other, awful will. It wasn’t as if he thought these exact things, ideas that grow more out of reflection than immediacy, but by the next day, David Amis found himself agreeable to the idea of going back. “They ask you to bring something with you, a memento of some sort,” Helen said at breakfast, “something to show the other soldier…..” He squinted at his wife. “A present? They want me to bring a goddam present?!” “A memento, Dave; not a present,” the thin blonde woman read from the invitation. “Please bring one item from your service that represents your experience or that took on importance to you as you served.” She took off her glasses and squinted at her husband. “That’s a memento, not a present.” And as his wife read those words, the man knew in an instant what he would bring. He saw it on that first day with his unit, a tall, scrawny tree about four hundred meters out on the right of their position. It stood apart from the other trees, as if watching them, looking down on them, standing aside because it was different, and it knew it. It had fewer leaves than the others, held like carefully balanced plates. Its trunk and branches looked like a line drawing from a great artist, Picasso maybe. In the daytime, it was a marker, a monument. At night a lighthouse, a beacon.
Once, David saw it lit with flares above a skirmish in the weeds along the marshline, and, for a moment, he felt the safest he had felt since he arrived there. He didn’t know why or how, but from that point, he thought of the tall, scrawny tree as his, as if it knew him, understood him somehow. All these years later, he still had a picture of that tree. He kept it in the top drawer of his dresser at home. He didn’t look at it often, but he did from time to time. Now, that picture was in the small canvas bag beside him, along with the letters and contact information for the trip. David placed his right hand on the small bag and drew a deep breath as the plane began its descent to the bustling urban airport now in view off in the distance. There was a ‘welcoming party’ waiting at the airport as the ten invited visitors came in from the plane. There were several reporters and a small crowd forming a semi-circle behind a camera that glared at David and the others. Three men in uniforms like the one he wore fifty years ago stood off to the side smiling; they stepped forward, extending handshakes to the arriving men. Amis moved awkwardly forward to be greeted. The first man, a Colonel with an impressive array of ribbons on his breast, looked down at the nametag David had been given. “Welcome Corporal Amis,” the Colonel smiled. David had not heard himself called that in a very long time. He nodded. “We’ll be taking you out to the hotel and down to the dinner after that, okay?” “Is that where we’re going to meet …” his voice trailed off. “Yes, that’s where you’ll meet the other soldiers.” David felt the dread rising again. “Each of our veterans will meet one of theirs, someone who was involved in the same battle.” Images that David had stored deep away stirred and came forward from their exile, still potent, still ferocious. David closed his eyes. “You’ll be meeting Hoang Nguyen. He was in that valley the same time you were.” 88
David Amis silently repeated that name in his mind: Hoang Nguyen, Hoang Nguyen. Faces he had seen a long time ago appeared before him. He shook his head, placed his right hand on his small canvas bag and moved ahead with the others. The hall was small and not very elaborate, but it was almost filled when the twenty soldiers entered from the two large side doors, David and his fellows from the right, Hoang Nguyen and his from the left. Each man carried his memento in a plain brown bag. They were led to an open area at the center where the colonel David recognized stood beside a senior officer from the other army. Two interpreters stood with them as they introduced the pairs of soldiers. As it happened, David was the tenth man in his line. Across from him, at the end of the opposite line, Hoang Nguyen stood with his own brown bag and his own dread and apprehension. Their names were announced, and the two men walked uneasily toward each other. How old he looks, they both thought. How soft and old. Hoang Nguyen was short and skinny. He walked with a limp. David Amis was tall and a little overweight. Hidden was the scar that ran across his right side to his back. Just as the interpreter joined them, Hoang Nguyen extended his right arm. “Welcome, David Amis,” he said, as if he had rehearsed it a hundred times. “It is good to meet you.” A world of sights and sounds boiled in both men’s minds at once, words pushed and shoved for position. David closed his eyes a moment, then opened them again to find the other eyes that also searched the vacant space between them. “It’s good to meet you, Hoang Nguyen,” he heard himself say. Then he repeated, “it is good to meet you.” The short man smiled and held out his small brown bag to David. “For you to see,” he said. David did the same. “And for you.
Hoang Nguyen withdrew the picture slowly, and as he did, his left hand rose to his mouth. His eyes widened and looked at David. Amis looked up from the memento he now held, mirroring the stunned expression of the man across from him. In his hand was a photograph of the tall, scrawny tree with the leaves like plates and a line-art silhouette, only this time it was on the left of the frame. “My compass point,” Hoang Nguyen said. “My lighthouse,” David Amis muttered just above a whisper. There was a moment of complete silence, and the two former combatants simply stared at each other. And then, all at once, as if there was nothing else in the world they could do, the two men embraced, an embrace neither could have ever imagined before, but that now both believed in absolutely. “Two thousand souls,” Hoang Nguyen said with a voice that came from somewhere he never realized he had. “Two thousand souls,” David Amis said, as if in prayer. And there was silence in the room and a flutter in the trees outside the windows. And the two new friends found a way to smile.
Brandon L Kroll Another Volley Roar It started as a pleasant day for a sail. A scarlet cloaked sky shaded many colors. A bad omen for any decent Merchant. A sound breaks the still silence, a mighty roar. Shiver me timbers! The vessel of a pirate! The deck quakes, a cannonball has struck the ship. “Man, battle stations!” cries the captain of our ship. Men scurry about the deck, some manning the sail. Shots. A sailor smacks the deck—shot by a pirate. Yet nowhere in sight our Merchant. Another sailor jumps ship, aye, he’s shown his true colors. “Brace yourselves!”—Another volley roar! Their guns rage like a mighty lion roar. Of all the ways to die today, why at the hands of a pirate? Outcast sailors, yet the winds be favoring their sail. It seems unlikely that we’ll outrun their ship. Davy Jones’ locker be waiting for the unsuspecting Merchant. Nay! Not this day! We’ll never strike our colors! My friend beside me vomits, I sighted several colors. He fears the infamous cutlass brandished by a pirate. Waves crash, cries can be heard from the other ship. Tossed across deck—Another volley roar! God, preserve us! We’ve gained no speed in our sail! For our troubles, a casket and cross. Thanks to our Merchant! Toils in a harbor, our friend the Merchant. Safe from the harm—Another volley roar! Now can I sight their colors. Devil Holding Anchors, clever for a pirate. Grappling hooks are loosed, captured by the enemy ship. They show no mercy, we have no sail!
We are being boarded! Several more sailors take sail. Perhaps, to bare tales to a certain Merchant. Making quick sense, I learn to indulge a pirate, His cutlass, my saber, we dance about the ship. Last, I now stand, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve struck our colors. Behind me, a pistol cocksâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;another volley roar. It was a lovely day for a sail, A prosperous venture for the pirate. Though such a loss, I pity our Merchant.
Brandon L Kroll Flicker in the Light That night we rolled the dice, he and I amidst a room filled with the gaiety of laughter and song. I learned as the night went on that the game of dice was not this rogue's only claim to success, as he proved to have the inherent talent of playing the game of life. It appeared in many ways that his joyful exuberance cheated his conscience from ever learning of the true meaning of life, and so it was that he would never come to see the truth of his own follies. He seemed though not to care in the slightest as he sat there laughing heartily, his eyes flickering in the light; his fiendish grin winning us an audience who watched us play in our game of chance. The light beheld his youthful attributes in high esteem, gaining him the admiration of the ladies, and the envy of his fellow peers. Yet I, being the ever so critical one gazed further, and saw what everyone else failed to see. Behind those lustful eyes, which beamed to a crowd happiness from within, reflected now the mere remnants of what had once been a soul, which after now knowing his story, knew that it had been robbed from him long ago.
Brandon L Kroll Who is the Poet? An advocate for the lonely, A keeper of the lost. A voice to unsung melodies. A counter of every cost. A bringer of good who writes the wrongs. A musician in twilight who sings 'til morning's mist. A bard who strums a wanderer's lost songs. A scribe who pens loveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first kiss. A whisperer of a shadow, A life beneath a great oakâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bark. A lark singing in a meadows. A light in the dark. The first to have ever spoken, The last to ever speak, The one who is never chosen. The one who is often meek. They mastered the art of a silent laugh. They listen to birds. They cherish their craft. They commune with words. They dine with sorrow, They revel to mourn! They describe your tomorrows, They die the day you are born.
Tom Lagasse Bear Each morning I sit Nursing a cup of coffee I can barely read or write As my attention is pulled Away from paper through the sheets Of streaked glass Into my backyard I hope again To see her That edge of wildness Lumbering between Manicured lawns seeking Refuge or a bite to eat. To see her just one more time While I vacillate between My fear of being Consumed and my longing To follow her Deep into the woods.
Richard LeDue This Was Supposed to be a Love Poem Too many crumbs on the floor to enjoy walking barefoot. Soles cling to discarded bits, the solution found in the sock drawer, a different pair every day, but washed once a week. Laundry less regular than our indigestion. Youth lost between bites, nightly dessert store bought, helps us forget pushing a broom easier than accepting our greatest accomplishments prepaying for funerals, notarizing wills, time measured by teacups, sipped after supper.
Richard LeDue Celestial Brightness named after dead gods turned invisible by human made lights. Sky somehow darker, while we walk in the snow our every footprint illuminated, but no polar bears in sight. Wolves smart enough to stay out on the frozen lake, where the view of the stars would make a fitting final vision for any prey with eyes enough to know better than to venture into blacker night.
Brian Lozier Escape Smoldering in the Middle Eastern sun Sweat cascading down the nape of my neck Scorched air inhaled, lungs seared Gasping for breath, yet utterly breathless Around every corner, perdition Clutching safety in my hand, yet diving into catastrophe Hatred envelopes me with every sight seen I pray the end is near, yet I know no one is listening Virtually every minute lasts an eternity Plummeting into the abyss of psychosis Counting down until repose Prayers are answered, day is done. Exhilaration, relaxation—a wish This time is mine If only for a moment Peace, a button away My fingers shake, I push play Guitar, piano, bass, a voice calling, “Come away with me” Eyes grow weary, the world disappears and I can breathe Deliver me from this place—Home so close yet so far away Elation, the notes transport me from my tomb Another world sets in—“In the night” Peace and happiness, all I feel Away, away, away freedom!
Richard Luftig Ten P.M. News It snowed all day today and the weather guy says it will snow all day tomorrow. He seems so excited when he announces it, like this something new to Indiana in February. This place where snow can fall three inches, melt, then freeze all in the same night. Where the news that people really want is which county roads have not yet been plowed and probably won’t be until at least the end of the week. Where parents need to know the best routes to drive their kids to where the school busses can get through and which shifts in the factory at the edge of town are cancelled or starting late. It’s all gets so old this time of year that even the ground hog didn’t pop out, not because he couldn’t see his shadow but more because he’s so bored he doesn’t give a damn. No, the only ones who still care are the very old, who every late afternoon must risk knee and hip to shuffle and slide down to the mailbox at the end of the drive in the hopes that someone besides the folks at Master Card or Save the Children are interested in their seasonal survival.
They and the sycamores, out by the river, their limbs laden and heavy with ice, exposed to a hawk and whipping wind coming off the water, stretch in supplication for spring, roots sunk into frozen earth, holding on for dear life.
Jeffrey H. MacLachlan Dead Mall Love List I love: Mannequins with discolored mouths like broken yolks. Cobwebbed chairs creaking sinew and giggling at movie screens. Clocks in eternal disagreement with each other. Carpets spritzed with liquid petals. Amateur cat brawls in doorless dressing rooms. Lemon pots of plastic ferns. Water bubbling broccoli soup in mop buckets. Rows of cardboard Santa Mariahs. Overworked disco lights blushing moldy tiles. High Life migraines. Weeds accelerating toward sunlight shaped into a stop sign. Stomping on capitalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rigid corpse.
Joan McNerney How Trouble Grows Trouble is patient hiding around corners. Creeping through shadows entering without a sound. It starts as a seed blown by careless winds and covers your garden with foul brackish weeds. Or sparks from a match spread over fertile ground becoming flames speeding through the long night. Trouble knows where you live. You cannot hide from it. Gaining a foothold, growing fat feeding on your flesh. Watch how trouble grows inch by inch, molecule by molecule coursing through your veins. Trouble begins as a whisper day by day growing louder. Now your heart beat becomes a thumping drum. Soon you will forget there was a time when trouble was not at your side.
JB Mulligan At the Rest Home for Retired Circus Animals Afternoons fill with hesitant roars (“What was I chasing?”), like the creak of bones moving slowly. Eyes glaring at fuzzed horizons refusing to be focused; ears twitching, uncertain; nostrils flared, snorts of disgust and disbelief startling the others. Sometimes the elderly keeper leaves a cage door open; the animal inside paces nervously close, then turns with a snarl and resumes its routine. Cars rumble by, and the drivers smile at the song of nature as if it were on the radio (“Remember that one?”), and check that the window is rolled up securely.
Marzelle Robertson A Haunt of Jackals Crossbreeding occurs in captivity, thus the one less jackal than dog, born gentle without the cruel bite, helping to raise others’ pups, carrying them by their napes as if they were his. Then once after many years, a pup, briefly lost, out of sight—sleeping or hiding, it doesn’t matter—scratched itself on a fence. Catching the scent, the jackals howled and yapped until others took up the cry; the scandalous news glowered in every yellow eye driving the gentle one out. They will tell you this: it was done to protect our pups. In the language of jackals that sounds a lot like: it was done protecting us by laying the blame on the one who won’t fight. Done not without recognition for a life of dedication—a bitter bone much like a gold apple on a plaque to gnaw the rest of his life. May the jackals sleep well in their dens, warm in their desolate places.
Terry Sanville Two at the Zoo Jack and Lauren stared into the compound that held the spider monkeys. “Do you know who that one reminds me of?” Jack pointed to the queen chattering non-stop. Lauren scowled and dug him in the ribs. “My Mother doesn’t talk that much.” “Sure she does. Emma opens her mouth and fills her day with semicolons, colons, and commas … but nary a period.” Lauren folded her arms, her mouth cutting a tight line. “Really? You want to continue berating my Mother? I came here to take a break, to do something fun.” They stared at the cinnamon-colored matriarch who seemed offended by their attention. From her tree branch, the monkey used her thick tail to swing down and drop to the ground. She scooped up a pile of poop and heaved it at them. They quickly turned away and crouched. The wire screening stopped most of it. A chorus of laughter from the Kookaburra birds didn’t help the couple’s mood. Jack straightened. “Here, give me a wipe and I’ll clean your back. Then you do mine.” Lauren dug in her purse. “At least my mother doesn’t do that.” “Not literally. But figuratively, she heaves it my way all the time.” “How would you know? You’re never home, and Mom really helps with the kids. If she hadn’t helped, we wouldn’t be here now, taking this so-called break.” They continued walking. Jack extended a hand toward Lauren but she refused to take it. On that sultry morning, the zoo seemed deserted. From a distance, big cats roared. The couple passed a corral where an impala and her calf cowered against the fence. “See there,” Jack pointed to the quivering calf, “that’s how our kids act after a few hours with your mother. I know Emma means well but she’s such a drama queen. Everything she does becomes a stressful deal. The kids pick that up.” “Look, I’m here because we never get to see these wonderful animals by ourselves and not to get into a snit about our mothers. 105
But if that’s what you want, at least my Mom wants to help. I’m surprised your mother ever had children … since they’re so … messy.” Lauren pointed to a Lady Amherst pheasant preening itself in a cage. “Just look at that thing, every feather in place, clean, colorful, beautiful to look at but never to touch. That’s your mother all right.” Jack grinned. “That bird’s the male, dear. The female is that dull brown one in the corner.” Lauren snorted and quickened her pace, passing the elephants spraying themselves with water, steam rising from their wrinkled backs. Jack caught up to her and tried to take her hand, but she shook him off. They found a shaded bench outside the lion cage. Lauren sat clutching her purse to her chest. The silence between them grew. Jack cleared his throat. “The snack bar is right around the corner. Let me get us something to drink.” “So you’re ditching me already? We haven’t even been here half an hour.” He encircled her with an arm. Her body stiffened. A lone male lion paced the compound, ignoring them. The big cat stopped every few passes and peered through the thick wire mesh. His roar made them jump. “Is that how you want to end up,” Lauren asked, “pacing a room by yourself, calling out to nobody in particular? You spend six days a week editing other peoples’ crap then complain about me asking Mother for help.” “It’s called work, Lauren. It pays the bills.” “Oh don’t give me that. You just don’t like being around us.” “If the us you’re talking about is you and the kids, I miss that. I … I love you guys. But Emma … she puts me on the defensive. And with you on her side, I feel outnumbered in my own home.” Lauren stared at him wide-eyed. She rose and walked into the sunlight, the zoo quiet in the late morning heat. Jack followed. They stood under a towering sycamore and gazed across a fenced-in plot pockmarked with burrow holes. A gang of meerkats scurried about, some resting upright on their hind legs, little faces with black noses staring at the couple. Lauren pointed. “See, it takes a village to raise their young. You and I need that. We can’t do it alone.” 106
Jack sighed. “You’re right, honey. But we gotta find ourselves first. It’s not an either-or thing … it’s a matter of balance. And right now, I feel we’re off balance.” Lauren hurried down the path toward the zoo exit. She slumped onto a bench in front of the tiger cage and covered her face with her hands. Jack sat next to her and waited for her to calm. She wiped her eyes and stared at him. “Look, part of my village is my Mother. How am I supposed to tell her to back off? After her divorce, our children became the center of her life.” “I know, but maybe she should wait for us to ask and not expect to be included in everything.” “So what do we do? You used to work at home sometimes. That really helped … we were closer then.” Jack opened his mouth to say something just as two tigers started growling, hissing, and batting each other with their huge paws. Lauren bounded to her feet and roared at the big cats, “Will you stop that! We’re talking here!” The massive beasts froze in mid-motion. The male wore a guilty what did I do? look, took a feeble swipe at the female, then flopped onto the hot pavement. Lauren sank onto the bench, her lips trembling, eyes ablaze. “Jeez, that felt so good. Now what were you gonna say?” Jack grinned. “You’ll do just fine telling your Mom to cool it.” “But … but how are you going to help?” “I can bring my editing work home, be with you guys more.” “Your bosses will let you do that?” “Yes, but I’ll only do it when it’s just … us.” They came into each other’s arms and kissed. The two tigers lay in the sun, legs stretched out, paws splayed, the female’s head tucked into the male’s soft belly, her eyes closed, purring.
Edythe Haendel Schwartz Terrain I place two fingers in the cave between her ribs. She cries You have to go to Brooklyn, help Oscar sell the house— her brother Oscar dead ten years, the house gone fifty— like a dowser trying to find water with a forked twig, the well, either source or abyss my mother, hip bones stabbing air, practices writing the names of her children, her grandchildren, because she is forgetting the names of her roses—
Edythe Haendel Schwartz The Puddle The small boy backs away, puddle, looking glass no more, water wavy where he stares—his face, his hair—his world turned upside down. Clouds scowl. For Sale flickers yellow in the puddle. Wind twills splayed leaves. The small boy stomps in a neighbor child’s boots. Not our house for sale he whispers, shiver in his shoulder drawing mother nearer. No, she nods. Not our house.
Jacalyn Shelley Do You Know You Have Six Grandchildren? Big Al’s tow truck barrels down the snowy road hauling a boat facing backwards like our children. I remember them huddled together in the flatbed of our pickup truck making faces at strangers. I haven’t thought of you in years. At the intersection of Fire Road and the Black Horse Pike, I pull along the cabin cruiser’s starboard side, survey its hull covered in black mold, vines swaying from the bow rails, the way our boys swung from the shiny railings of our boat. Salt water spraying our bodies, tarps flapping, fish nets and lines out to catch flounder as the evenings deepened into dusk. Somehow, the kids survived floating on their backs. Somewhere, the boat named for me was left in dry dock.
Harvey Silverman Little Runaway The handwriting is juvenile with the fancy cursive capital D’s taught to students years ago but the lines are regular without a slant, the letters clear if a bit uneven, suggesting care taken in the writing despite errors that are crossed out. The brief note is written on the back of a get well card that came from a grandmother; apparently, the writer did not wish to spend time looking for unused writing paper. The message is simple and direct. D Dear Mom and Dad I’v run away. Plea Please don’t try to find me P.S P.S. I love you The note is signed with just a first name. Harvey. My first name. I have no recollection what offense my folks might have committed six decades ago that prompted me to decide to leave a happy and comfortable life and set out on my own. From what might I have thought I was escaping? Whatever the cause, I did not go far. But I was just eight years old. Earlier that summer, my dad had set up a pup tent in our back yard; a World War II surplus tent, the typical small tent drawn in comic strips and cartoons that showed soldiers with their feet sticking out the end, a tent so low that a child might be able to sit up inside but not an adult, a tent the standard army canvas green. It made for a wonderful place for my friends and me to play, fighting off whatever enemy that threatened. Close by the tent was a small vegetable garden that my dad and I had planted together. The crops had grown well—radishes, tomatoes, and the like. My responsibilities included a bit of weeding and moving the sprinkler. Together we would pick ripe vegetables and proudly bring them into the house to present to my mom for her praise and appreciation. A place to stay that first night. Food to eat. And best of all, freedom. I had run away to the back yard. 111
If I had a plan back then I do not know what it was. I took no clothes beyond what I wore, no blanket, no food, no money. Nothing. But when circumstance presents the opportunity for escape one makes do with whatever one has at that moment. My folks gave no sign they noticed me ten yards from the house. There were two evergreens between the tent and the house and I must have thought that I was hidden from their view. I sat crosslegged in the tent waiting for whatever was to happen next. Just what was supposed to happen next, anyhow? I did know that it was getting to be dinner time and I was getting hungry. I went out to the garden. By late summer the radishes were gone. As were the peas. We had picked all the ripe tomatoes just a day or two earlier. There were green beans but I had no way to cook them. Finally, I found a small cucumber. I picked it, wiped it off a bit with my sleeve and took a bite. Sort of a bitter taste, I ate about half and threw the rest onto our compost pile. Back to the tent. I could figure out the food thing in the morning. The sun was going down by now anyhow. Dusk slowly turned to dark. I was alone in that tent, on the hard ground, thinking now was the time to go to sleep, thinking about that small spider web I had noticed in the far corner the day before. The noises of the night began to surround the tent and get louder as it became darker; not just the chirp of crickets but sounds of buzzing all around me. Crawling. Scraping. Chewing. Inside the tent! Maybe sleeping out here this first night was not such a great idea. Now what? Going home was out of the question. My friend’s house was on the next street but his yard backed up to mine. That was where I would go. I crawled out of the tent and wiped imagined predatory insects and arachnids from my body with hurried and jerky motions. Now I was at Mike’s back door. I told him I had run away from home and needed to stay there. He had to ask his mom but that was simply a formality. I can still hear her voice in my mind, whatever neurons that store the memory easily activated to bring up the silent sounds. A voice that combines exasperation, annoyance, ridicule, impatience, softened ever so slightly with amusement and motherly tenderness, “Harvey, just go home to your mother.” 112
But I could not go home. Runaways do not just turn around and go home. What about Phil? Phil lived in the next house down the street from Mike. He was also a friend and the three of us often played together. Not as close a friend as Mike but a friend nevertheless and what are friends for if not to help each other out when the need is there. At Phil’s back door I presented my dilemma to him and his mother. Unlike Mike’s mom, I have no memory whatever of her voice or even of her face. But I do recall her words. “Yes, you can stay here if it’s okay that I call your mother and let her know where you are.” That seemed fair. I agreed and happily and even with a bit of relief went inside. The bedrooms were on the second floor and I had never been up there before. I do not recollect just where I slept. In Phil’s room, or maybe a spare room? I think I slept very soundly. In the morning, I put my dirty clothes back on. Hopefully, my folks had learned whatever lesson they were meant to learn and I could allow them to have me back home with them. As Phil and I went down the stairs I noticed on the stairway wall a set of framed photographs. The photographs were of Phil and his family carefully posed, his folks and his several siblings, dressed in coats and ties for the men, nice blouses and dresses for the women. There were three or four of these portraits with the children at different ages, the parents unchanged. I was seeing for the first time formal family portraits. I lingered just for a moment looking at what was to me a remarkable display. I think I was offered breakfast. But I was anxious to get back home and see my folks. They must have been worried about me and I ought to go right home, straight home, now. Sure enough, they were happy to see me. And I was happy to be home. A bath and some clean clothes and all returned to normal. I apparently had been successful in achieving whatever I had intended by running away from home since I never did it again. The pup tent stayed up through most of the autumn and continued to be a good place to play in daytime. The garden production gradually slowed, then stopped. Mike, Phil, and I remained friends for the next few years. My mom saved my runaway note and presented it to me on my fiftieth birthday. 113
The story should end there but does not. Thirty years after I wrote my runaway note, as a father myself and with that collection I had seen at Philâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s home so long before still clear in my mind, I gathered wife and two sons for a visit to a photo studio for a formal family portrait, an exercise that has been repeated every few years. The most recent portrait includes a third generation. I look at the collection on the wall, celebrate my good fortune, and silently recall the time I ran away to my backyard.
Richard Smith Writing It Out It was only a moment, one horrifying moment we watched it on TV. The moment the plane crashed into the building and exploded, knowing that at that moment, or believing it to be so, one of our own was being devoured in the horrifying deadly consummation of the exploding jet fueled flames. It seems in only a moment the building collapsed, though some said an hour, disintegrating in dust, bodies and glass facade tumbling to the street below. Unknown to us for hours that day, our family member happened not to be there at the time. Now I hate to even think about it. But I have to write about it just to release the heart-rending pain that was so horribly implanted in our minds that day. The day of a disaster and an unbelievable miracle amongst a time of sheer terror. The wept faces of family and friends, the destroyed lives, crushed and burned within the demolition of the buildings. if I could write it out, release it from the depths of my mind, as I have with so many other problems in the past, always better therapy than any medical healing venture could provide. 115
Would I write it with hatred or with compassion if I could write it out?
Matthew J. Spireng Dam Builder Behind the garage as a child I would play in the plowed field, build little dams to block water that flowed from the woods after heavy rains and break them again to watch the water rush out. It was pleasant play, I recall, and though I must have gotten filthy, with all that dirt and water, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t recall being dirty at all, just building and breaking dams. Now, where I played behind the garage decades ago, I keep mowed as a lawn. The plowed field is thirty feet away from where I played because the farmer hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t kept up with the growth at its edge. After heavy rains, water no longer flows where I played, but runs in a shallow ditch filled with weeds at the edge of the field. A tall, broad-limbed pine shades where I played. I could point to the exact spot where I built my last dam. I wonder what shoes I wore. I wonder how I ever got clean, the dirt from beneath my nails. I wonder what my mother said when I came home after.
Matthew J. Spireng Windy Night A leaf skitters across the road like a wild beast in the lights from the car and is gone in the dark as a beast would go, far from the road in moments, mad dash done, back in its element, and the leaf will lie down as a wild beast would, deep in the wood where the only lights to be seen are distant flashes from cars and, farther still, the stars.
Matthew J. Spireng Robocall You know the drill. Your house phone rings. You pick up the receiver and say, “Hello.” There’s a pause and you say, “Hello,” again. Someone with a thick accent says, “Mr. Matthew, this is Senior Health Network. How are you doing today?” You say, “I was doing fine until I got a robocall.” He says, “This is not a robocall.” He must think you’re stupid. He launches into what is obviously the opening of a sales pitch. You hang up. End of story, right? Wrong. Your house phone rings again. You say, “Hello,” even as you’re thinking, It can’t be. But it is. The man with the thick accent tells you you’re very rude for hanging up on someone who is talking to you. Then he hangs up on you before you can respond.
Geo. Staley Space The space you left when you left has no rules, its boundaries nebulous. Sadness slips in now and again but never sorrow. I have grieved in the space though I was never grief-stricken. Some tell me the space you left a gap, a hole in my heart, a bottomless pit a place of loneliness a place of anguish or endless weeping or something to be gotten over. If asked, I share this: The space you left when you left allows me the time and quiet to reflect on us and how we prevail, still.
Steve Straight Downsizing In his new apartment at the Lutheran Retirement Home, down now from two rooms to one, as orderlies come and go under a fluorescent sky, they’ve limited the number of bookshelves my 93-year-old cousin can have, knowing he’d keep ordering book after book until every nook and cranny was filled, so he’s taken instead to clipping magazine articles and sorting them into small file boxes labeled with Magic Marker in a wobbly hand: OLD MILLS, FUSION, GALAPAGOS, ICE HOUSES. Sometimes after culling books for the library sale from the stacks of books in our spare room I lie on the single, monastic bed and imagine this ten by twelve feet is all I have: a chair with lamp, an old bureau, a small closet, small desk, a wall of books. Perhaps I could be content here with its eastern light filtered through the linden. Eventually, I know, one day my brain may declutter, too, tossing the history and science, facts, names, and faces it no longer needs, doors opening to set the wilder thoughts free.
Steve Straight The Next Life - Sanibel Island, Florida Standing on this Florida beach as the day approaches dusk I think of my brother-in-law’s desire to return in the next life as a pelican, and now five glide by, inches above the water, wings perfectly still under the waning sun and one peels off lazily and climbs to dive for menhaden. It’s hard not to mock those devotees of past-life regression who emerge from their sessions of hypnosis convinced they were once a queen of Egypt or dallied at the court of Catherine the Great, not peasants slogging through the muck to their thatched huts and gruel. Pressed for an answer to this eternal question, after our attempts to ask it in different ways, a Zen master I once knew eventually sighed and said, “What if it is more like a cue ball hitting a ten ball, say, passing energy from one to the other?” and then smiled. Still, after visiting the site of a shell mound I am drawn to the humility of the Calusa, who peopled this region for at least 12,000 years and who believed we reincarnated into ever-lower forms until we disappeared— and now I feel all the kings and conquistadors, panthers and peasants, turtles and pinfish and clams, their former souls squishing between my toes. 122
Steve Straight Elixir Among the things I would like to bottle, today, when my friend Jenny and I are catching up between classes at the high school, and she notices a black ant on the yellow tile floor circumambulating our tiny island of connection, and she worries for it so close to our shifting feet, and then we return to our happy chattering, but periodically she looks down again, checking on its progress, or lack thereof, weaving between us and then wandering off and returning, still worried, as if this ant matters to her like one of her students or even her son, a little creature dependent on the rest of us to be caring and aware, and I just want that ant to walk around us forever.
Robin Stratton Last Night I Dreamed Last night I dreamed I was hanging out with two Kerouac-ian characters—one was a poet and one was a musician, and they had this exchange: Musician to Poet: Everything you say is a lie. Poet to Musician: You’re right. The Musician turned to me with a smile, as if pleased with the Poet’s confirmation, but then I reminded him that if everything the Poet said was a lie, then him agreeing that everything he said was a lie was a lie too, and the Musician’s expression turned sour. I woke feeling distinctly intellectual, but then I went back to sleep and dreamed that I accidentally peed on my bathrobe.
John Tustin Sifting Through the Sand Sifting through the sand barehanded and finding only bloody gauze, bent nickels, broken glass and bottles without deposit. Breaking through the waves to find nothing but blue and green on the other side. Reaching for the sun and getting only burned. Sifting through the sand for treasure that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exist.
Charles R. Vermilyea Jr. Pvt. Hendries Wants a Mother Pvt. Wallace has to make a decision. His audiotape is switching to Little Richard, but he was thinking maybe he’d like Sam Cooke. But then, his pal, Pvt. Hendries, had said that Richard was “a genius.” So, better not skip the genius. Hendries, on the other hand, doesn’t have a music choice. But one regarding his eyes, tired from an hour reading “Giovanni’s Room.” Hendries puts down his book and looks up, just as a large man and a woman approach, and the man says, “Anybody got these seats?” “No,” says Hendries, rising, taking a suitcase from the woman and placing it on the floor next to a seat. “Please, take them.” “Well, thank you, private,” says the woman. “You certainly are a gentleman. You must have very fine parents.” This elicits a peculiar look from Hendries, and one in response from the woman. But Hendries smiles and laughs and says, “Thank you,” easing the situation. “Where you soldiers headed?” asks the man. “Jump school at Benning. We just completed the radio mechanic school at Gordon, and we’re going to be paratroopers. We take a train, Augusta to Atlanta, then a bus to Benning.” “Oh, my! What an adventure!” says the woman. “My husband here just retired, after 30 years of service.” “I noticed your jacket,” says Hendries. The Army green windbreaker says, “The Chief,” above the five stripes of a sergeant first class. On the other side is, “Army Signal Corps,” topped with crossed signal flags. “It was a gift from the men in his unit,” says the woman. “One that didn’t come with a two-day headache.” This is offered with a stiff smile and gets a grimace from the sergeant. “I’m Sergeant First Class Alvin Tiller, retired, and this is my wife, Ellie Mae. She’s a teacher, back in Barkville, Georgia, where we’re headed now.”
They shake hands all around, and Hendries cannot help but notice the size of The Chief’s hand, like a catcher’s mitt, and the caress of Mrs. Tiller’s long, slender fingers. “I’m Clark Hendries, and this is Danny Wallace.” “He always like that?” asks Mrs. Tiller. “Eyes closed? Closed to the world? Just him and the music?” “Pretty much. He’s a real music bug. I listen, too, but sometimes read a book.” “Well, as a teacher, I certainly approve, and James Baldwin, at that! You must have attended an excellent school system. Where? If you don’t mind the question.” “Chitown! We’re from Chicago and managed to get through a tech school there. That’s how we got radio mechanic school, on the Buddy Plan.” “Chicago, hey,” says The Chief. “Is he listening to Motown or Sam Cooke?” “Maybe the Sam Cooke sound. We knew Sam Cooke.” “Oh, my!” says Mrs. Tiller. “We would ride our bikes around the city, and sometimes stop at Sam’s house. He was hardly ever there, but his wife would give us simple jobs like raking the lawn, then give us cookies. She was a nice lady.” “Well,” says Mrs. Tiller, “how fortunate you are to have known them.” “Yeah, and Bobby Womack, too.” “I heard’a that guy, ‘Across 110th Street.’ And, you being a Chicago man and all, I got a question: Is it true that Womack wore Sam Cooke’s suit when he married Sam Cooke’s wife after Sam Cooke was killed?” He laughs. “Now, Alvin, that might be an embarrassing question for this young man.” “Not at all. Fact is, I heard’a that, but don’t know. I guess you’d have to ask Bobby.” The Chief laughs. “Sorry. Just funnin’ ya.” “Oh, that’s ok. I get that when the guys find out I’m from Chicago.” Hendries sets his book aside, and says, “I think I’ll try to find a Coke and some chips for me and Danny. Would you like something, Chief?” 127
And, leaning toward Mrs. Tiller, “How about you, Mrs. Tiller? I’d be happy to get you something. Anything you want.” This with a dreamy, expectant expression that brings a suspicious glance from both Tillers as they decline the offer. As Hendries departs, The Chief says to his wife: “I think he likes you.” “Maybe too much.” Danny emerges from his audiotape, takes off the headset, and gives a sideward glance toward his departing friend. “I apologize for Clark.” “No need,” says Mrs. Tiller. “Please understand. He wants you to be his mother.” “His mother?” from both Tillers. “Please don’t be shocked. When he was three, both parents OD’ed on H at the same time in their apartment. He was found after three days, trying to feed Jello to his mother. Neighbors noticed the lights were on day and night, and, of course, the odor.” Mrs. Tiller’s eyes fill with tears. “Oh, my!” Danny jumps to his feet with his hands reaching out in supplication: “I’m sorry Mrs. Tiller. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just wanted you to know his attention to you was not, well, you know, that.” “It’s okay, young soldier. I was in the Army for decades, two wars, and know the world is filled with pain. My wife’s a teacher, in a poor black area of Georgia. We know pain.” “But this, this, poor thing,” says Mrs. Tiller. “No wonder he gave me that funny look when I praised his parents.” “Clark wanted my mother to be his mother, but my father didn’t like that idea. And Sam Cooke’s wife, too. Maybe that’s why Sam would chase us away, but Bobby Womack thought it was all a joke.” “But he’s white,” says The Chief. And we’re black. Your mother is black. Right? And Sam Cooke’s wife must be black.” “We come from a very black section of Chicago,” says Danny. “Even the orphanage where Clark grew up was all black. Except Clark. I think he thinks he’s black.” They look up as Clark approaches with two Cokes and two bags of chips. “Mrs. Tiller, please, don’t look him in the eyes. That just makes him worse,” advises Danny. 128
“Well, I’m back,” says Clark with a smile. “Anything happen while I was gone?” as he hands a Coke and chips to Danny. “Nothing to speak of,” says The Chief. A woman approaches behind Clark, and points to a space next to his. “Is there room for me here?” She’s black, of middle age, slender, and well dressed with an elegant hairdo spotted with silver-grey. “Of course there’s room for you,” says Clark. He gives his Coke and chips to Danny, takes the woman’s suitcase, and places it on the floor next to the seat. “Why, thank you, young man. Your mother raised a gentleman.” Danny, The Chief, and Mrs. Tiller’s eyes open wide like saucers. Mrs. Tiller puts fingertips to her lips. “Oh, my.”
Vivian Wagner Flight Duty Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re called, suddenly, to go to Cincinnati, and then Anchorage, Hong Kong, and Delhi, back and forth across oceans and forests and mountains, the planet spinning beneath you, air rushing past metal, lights flashing, until finally, weeks away, you return here to this small, quiet place on the edge of the Appalachians, speaking of places visited, sights seen, meals eaten, and the various fragments of movement, half-remembered, now lost.
Lynn White Spider She hangs suspended, like a puppet dancing to the tune of the wind. Blown this way, blown that, buffeted, but only briefly before she takes control like the mistress puppeteer she is powerful free to spin her silk to weave her web as she wills. Or so she thinks. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an illusion. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s trapped. Trapped and wrapped by her dna as securely as any fly, her patterns pre-ordained pre-programmed destined to be repeated millennia after millennia in her genes.
Diane Woodcock Roaring Fork Passing through a cove hardwood forest— gloriously diverse deciduous trees— my windows wide open, I inhale deeply the scent of flame azalea, mountain laurel, Frazer magnolia. In this deep-soiled valley grow beech and white ash, white basswood and sweet buckeye, eastern hemlock, oak and butternut hickory, bigleaf magnolia, red and sugar maple, cherry, tulip tree and yellow birch. As if in the sanctuary of a church, I sit for a spell among them, feeling small and insignificant. Entering this magnificent watershed, sacred cathedral, I marvel at Eastern hemlocks, at Minerva Bales with her husband raising nine children in a two-room cabin preserved here. How hard life must have been, but then again how splendid, surrounded by such an understory—ashleaf and sassafras, earleaf magnolia and flowering dogwood, silverbell trees and redbuds. Am I a person dreaming I’m a tree, or a tree dreaming it’s me? Is it I who am writing, or the tree writing me? What I would give to be that hickory over there cradling the Black bear and her two cubs tucked into one crook of it, or to be that bear taking immaculate care of her cubs in this safe place no longer looming with hunters—her only fear now 132
that of cameras pointed at her, her only worry that of tourist jams that interrupt her solitude. And if neither tree nor bear, then at least to be a grass eaterâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;White-tailed deer in the shadow of an Eastern hemlock here in Roaring Fork.
James K. Zimmerman The Neophyte Dreams of Being Famous how it feels to be a star, to be read and read again in bedrooms, classes and Starbucks, in your own or someone else’s tongue, heads nodding sagely, hands to hearts or bearded chins or your music blared in every hipster’s car or in their heads, played on cheap guitars or sung just a little out of tune on the way home from work or school to be cool at a campfire on a beach all of them stoned in any case so they don’t really get it, or your paintings strung up on a wall with everyone staring in awe like a lynching, pencils quickly copying so the guards won’t know, critics claiming you’re the next Dickinson or Whitman, Kerouac or Tolstoy, Lennon or Beyoncé, Monet or Warhol, panning you anyway picking you apart, stabbing at your heart with jealous blades, and then you sit at home or on a bench in the dark or drunk in a funky bar when the doors are closing, wonder when you’ll lose it all when you’ll fuck it up, when you’ll be alone again, no one to care, no one to hate you or love you, no one to pay attention, no one there at all
Contributors John (Mason) Beiter won the cover photo contest for this issue. He is an Asnutnuck Community College alum (Class of 2018) and a communications major at Eastern Connecticut State University (Class of 2020). Mason works as a photographer independently at MasonMedia Photography and also at Main Avent Sports Group in Norwich, Connecticut. Photography has opened up his world and forced him out of his comfort zone. His other passions include playwriting, directing, and acting on stage. Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp. com) and writes poetry in Akron, Ohio. Recent/upcoming appearances in The Virginia Normal, Credo Espoir, and Chiron Review, among others. Dmitry Blizniuk is an author from Kharkov, Ukraine. His most recent poems have appeared in The Pinch Journal, River Poets, Dream Catcher, Magma, Press53, Sheila Na Gig, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and many others. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he is also the author of The Red Fоrest (Fowlpox Press, 2018). Ace Boggess is author of four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road, 2017), as well as two novels. His poems have appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, cream city review, Rattle, River Styx, and other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and also spent five years in a West Virginia prison. Bud R. Berkich is from New Jersey. He writes in all genres, including book and music reviews, literary criticism and screenplays. Bud has been published in a variety of on-line and print journals, including Angry Old Man, Otherwise Engaged, and Verse Of Silence. Bud’s favorite writers are Samuel Beckett, William Carlos Williams, Jorge Luis Borges, Joyce Carol Oates, HP Lovecraft, and VC Andrews. John Brantingham is Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of 135
magazines, Writers Almanac, and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has ten books of poetry and fiction including The L.A. Fiction Anthology (Red Hen Press), Crossing the High Sierra (Cholla Needles Press), and California Continuum: Migrations and Amalgamations (Pelekinesis Press), co-written with Grant Hier. He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College. Katley Demetria Brown is the pen name for Carol Marrone. She was born in New York City and grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx. Since then she has lived in a number of places, including Minot, North Dakota, Kastellaun, Germany, and Springfield, Massachusetts. She enjoys writing about people, places, and nature. Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator, and travel writer. Her works appear in over 180 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa; and 12 chapbooks of poetry—including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017), and On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019). In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada chose her verse as poem of the month. Caputo has done more than two hundred literary readings, from Alaska to the Patagonia. She travels through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her travels at www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer. Luisa Caycedo-Kimura is a Colombian-born writer, translator, and educator. Her honors include a John K. Walsh Residency Fellowship at the Anderson Center at Tower View, an Adrienne Reiner Hochstadt Fellowship at Ragdale, and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry. Her work has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. A former attorney, Luisa left the legal profession to pursue her passion for writing. She holds an MFA from Boston University. Luisa’s poems appear or are forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, Sunken Garden Poetry 1992-2011, RHINO, Mid-American Review, Diode, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. Yuan Changming published monographs on translation before leaving his native country. Currently, Yuan edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include ten Pushcart Prize 136
nominations and publications in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (200817) and BestNewPoemsOnline, among others. Corey D. Cook’s fifth chapbook, The Weight of Shadows, was published by Finishing Line Press in January of 2019. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in the Aurorean, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Chiron Review, Freshwater (2018), The Henniker Review, The Mountain Troubadour, and Northern New England Review. Corey lives in East Thetford, Vermont and edits Red Eft Review. Pat Daneman lives in Lenexa, Kansas. Her poetry is widely published in print and on-line literary magazines. After All (FutureCycle Press 2018), her first full-length poetry collection, was first runner up for the 2019 Thorpe-Menn Award as well as a finalist for the Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award. She is author of a chapbook, Where the World Begins and co-librettist of the oratorio, We, the Unknown, premiered by the Heartland Men’s Chorus in 2018. For more, visit patdaneman.com. Barbara Daniels is the author of Rose Fever, a book of poetry published by WordTech Press. Her second full-length collection, Talk to the Lioness, is forthcoming from Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press, which previously published her chapbooks Black Sails, Quinn & Marie, and Moon Kitchen. Daniels’s poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, and other journals. She has received three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review. Her newest poetry collections are In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing), Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds (Cyberwit.net), Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), and Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), while her newest nonfiction books are Music Theory for Dummies and Tattoo FAQ. Mary E. Delabruere is a mother, poet, and registered nurse who resides in Massachusetts. Foundress of the former monthly series, Sunday Poetry at Esselon, her poems have appeared in online journals 137
including Diverse Voices Quarterly, Three Line Poetry, and in Deep Water Journal. Additionally, she has been published in several anthologies including, Silkworm 5&11, Bullying: Replies, Rebuttals, Confessions, and Catharsis, Perspectives 2, and Paradise Found: A Walking Tour of Northampton Through Poetry and Art. Timothy Dodd is from Mink Shoals, West Virginia. His poetry has appeared in The Literary Review, Modern Poetry Quarterly Review, Roanoke Review, Broad River Review, and elsewhere. His book of short stories, Fissures, and Other Stories, was recently published by Bottom Dog Press as a part of their Contemporary Appalachian Writing series. Also a visual artist, Tim’s most recent solo exhibition, “Come Here, Nervousness,” was held at Art Underground in Manila, Philippines, and his oil paintings can also be sampled on his Instagram page, @timothybdoddartwork. He lives and teaches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Michael Estabrook has been publishing his poetry in the small press since the 1980s. Hopefully, with each passing decade, the poems have become more clear and concise, succinct and precise, more appealing and “universal.” He has published more than twenty collections, a recent one being The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019). Jean Esteve lives on the Oregon Coast with her two spaniels. They all like to walk and swim, and one of them obviously writes. Mia Frare is an Asnuntuck Community College student who has been writing mini-stories for almost seven years. She wrote her first story when she was just thirteen and published it on the website Wattpad. Kara Goughnour is a writer living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They are the author of “Mixed Tapes,” a part of the Ghost City Press Summer 2019 Micro-Chap Series. They are the recipient of the 2018 Gerald Stern Poetry Award and have work published or forthcoming in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Third Point Press, and more than fifty others. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @kara_
goughnour or read their collected and exclusive works at karagoughnour.com. John Grey is an Australian poet, U.S. resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East, and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review, and failbetter. Carly Heider is a city girl at heart, born and raised in Pittsburgh. She packed up her life and moved to the rural Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in 2017 to pursue her career in education. Currently, Carly teaches eighth grade English in Woodstock, Virginia, but has a second passion for writing, which she does in her spare time. She aspires to publish her work as much as possible. Much of Carlyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s writing has to do with healing from trauma and growth. Roger D. Hicks is an Appalachian writer, blogger, and auctioneer living in West Liberty, Kentucky. His work has appeared in Now And Then, Bryant Literary Review, Section 8, True Christmas Stories From The Heart Of Appalachia, Orpheus at Lindsey Wilson College, and numerous other venues. Paul Holler is a writer of short stories, poems, articles, and interviews with noted authors. His work has previously appeared in Freshwater, The MacGuffin, Flash, Eclectica, The Copperfield Review, The Southern Cross Review, Greek Fire, and other journals and anthologies. Juleigh Howard-Hobsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has appeared in many places, including Able Muse, Verse Wisconsin, The Lyric, and The Tishman Review. She has won the ANZAC Award and the Alfred, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Best of the Net and a Rhysling; her fifth and most recent book is Our Otherworld (Red Salon Press 2018). Katharyn Howd Machan, author of 39 collections of poetry (most recently, in 2020, A Slow Bottle of Wine, winner of the Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Competition) has lived in Ithaca, New York, since 1975 and, now as a full professor, has taught Writing at Ithaca College since 1977. After many years of coordinating the Ithaca 139
Community Poets and directing the national Feminist Women’s Writing Workshops, Inc., she was selected to be Tompkins County’s first poet laureate. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, textbooks, and stage productions, and she has edited three thematic anthologies, most recently, with Split Oak Press, a tribute collection celebrating the inspiration of Adrienne Rich. Zebulon Huset is a teacher, writer, and photographer living in San Diego. His writing has recently appeared in The Southern Review, Louisville Review, Fence, Rosebud, Meridian, North American Review, Madison Review, Portland Review, Texas Review, and Fjords Review, among others. He publishes a writing prompt blog, Notebooking Daily. with its print companion, Notebooking Periodically, and is the editor of the fledgling journal Coastal Shelf. M.J. Iuppa is the Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College; and since 2000 to the present, is a part-time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport. Since 1986, she has been a teaching artist, working with students, K-12, in Rochester, New York, and surrounding area. Most recently, she was awarded the New York State Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching, 2017. She has four full-length poetry collections, This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017), Small Worlds Floating (2016) as well as Within Reach (2010) both from Cherry Grove Collections; Night Traveler (Foothills Publishing, 2003); and five chapbooks. She lives on a small farm in Hamlin, New York. James Croal Jackson (he/him) has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and poems in Pacifica, Good Works Review, and indefinite space. He edits The Mantle Poetry (themantlepoetry.com). Currently, he works in the film industry in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (jimjakk.com) Beth Ann Jedziniak has a passion for the written and spoken word. Her speech titled “My VaJourney” was recorded for “Claim the Stage” podcast. “My VaJourney” and two of her other speeches were published in Secrets of the Sisterhood: 50 Stories of Love, Truth and 140
Power. She also had three flash memoir pieces published in an online journal, WriteAngles. Most evenings, you will find her in her loft playing, writing, painting, and drinking copious amounts of tea. Theric Jepson lives in El Cerrito, California, and has for more than a decade. He has also been on Twitter for more than a decade, where it is much cheaper to run him down. John P. (Jack) Kristofco’s poetry and short stories have appeared in more than two hundred different journals and reviews, including Freshwater. Ever since Brandon Kroll was nine years old, he has had a passion for writing fiction. He is currently a student at Asnuntuck Community College and hopes to one day be a history/speech teacher. Tom Lagasse’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Edible Nutmeg, The Feminine Collective, Faith, Hope & Fiction, The Artful Mind, The Sun, Turnstyle, and The Catholic Digest. His poetry can be found in the anthologies We Are Beat and Connecticut Bards and literary websites Wax Poetry & Art: Special Project: 45 Poems for the Revolution, naturewriting.com & iamnotasilentpoet.com. Richard LeDue was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, but currently lives in Norway House, Manitoba, with his wife and son. His poems have appeared in various publications throughout 2019, and more work is forthcoming in 2020, including a chapbook from Kelsey Books. Michelle Lowther has more than fifteen years of experience as a foster parent working with the Child Protective Services of California. She has opened her home to care for children who have been in the foster care system due to living in a dysfunctional environment. Michelle understands the challenges and adversity young children are faced with when they do not have a positive upbringing. After years of extending her love to these children, she has decided to work toward completing her associate’s degree in Human Services at Asnuntuck Community College and will be
transferring to Connecticut State University in the Fall Semester to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Brian Lozier is a U.S. Army Veteran, who served in Bosnia after the September 11 attacks and during the first year in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Inspired by his English Professor, Josephh Finckel, he began writing poetry. Brian is currently a student at Asnuntuck and plans to transfer to Central Connecticut State University. His goal is to become a history teacher and move to Florida in the next few years Richard Luftig is a professor emeritus of educational psychology and special education at Miami University in Ohio who now resides in California. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States (including Freshwater) and internationally in Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Two of his poems have been included in The Ten Best Years of Dos Madres Press. His full-length book of poems, A Grammar for Snow, has recently been published by Unsolicited Press. His poems and news can be viewed at richardluftig.com. Jeffrey H. MacLachlan also has recent work in New Ohio Review, The Minnesota Review, Santa Clara Review, among others. He teaches literature at Georgia College & State University. Sarah Martin is twenty-six years old and a student at Asnuntuck Community College. She grew up in Enfield, Connecticut, but has also lived in Saratoga Springs, New York. She currently resides back in Enfield and is a Communications Journalism major with hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in the future. She enjoys writing, photography, and following Bruins hockey in her free time. Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days. Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work. Her latest title, The Muse In Miniature, is available on Amazon and she has four Best of the Net nominations. 142
JB Mulligan has had more than one thousand poems and stories in various magazines over the past forty years, and has had two chapbooks published: The Stations of the Cross and This Way to the Egress, as well as two e-books, The City of Now and Then, and A Book of Psalms (a loose translation). He has appeared in several anthologies, among them: Inside/Out: A Gathering Of Poets; The Irreal Reader; and multiple volumes of Reflections on a Blue Planet. After a career in teaching and school counseling, Marzelle Robertson writes from her home in East Texas. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Freshwater, and her chapbook titled Listen was published in 2018 by Dancing Girl Press. Makenzie Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Kanos is a full-time college student at Asnuntuck Community College. She is in her fifth semester and is majoring in Early Childhood Education. She is twenty-one years old and lives in Springfield, Massachusetts. In her free time, Makenzie enjoys driving around and spending time with friends and family. Kathleen Roy is a returning student at her alma mater, Manchester Community College. She is now in her fifth year of taking part-time classes in creative writing. Her short stories and poems have been published in Freshwater Literary Journal and Shapes. Now retired from her nursing career, she has time to devote to writing and is currently planning to publish a book of her poems. Terry Sanville lives in San Luis Obispo, California, with his artistpoet wife (his in-house editor) and two plump cats (his in-house critics). He writes full time, producing short stories, essays, poems, and novels. Since 2005, his short stories have been accepted more than 360 times by commercial and academic journals, magazines, and anthologies including The Potomac Review, The Bryant Literary Review, and Shenandoah. He was nominated twice for Pushcart Prizes and once for inclusion in Best of the Net anthology. His stories have been listed among The Most Popular Contemporary Fiction of 2017 by the Saturday Evening Post. Terry is a retired urban planner and an accomplished jazz and blues guitarist who once played with a symphony orchestra backing up jazz legend George Shearing.
Edythe Haendel Schwartz is the author of two poetry collections, A Palette of Leaves (Mayapple Press) and Exposure (Finishing Line Press). Her poems appear widely in journals and anthologies including Faultline, Potomac Review, Cave Wall, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. Harvey Silverman is a retired physician living in New Hampshire. He writes nonfiction primarily for his own enjoyment. Jacalyn Shelley has been published in several journals, including Sugar House Review, Dunes Review, DASH, San Pedro River Review, Barely South, Shot Glass Journal, and Pilgrimage’s Injustice and Protest Issue. In 2018 and 2019, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. To read more of her poems, go to JacalynShelley.com. Richard Smith has been writing poetry since 1985 and did his first four open-mic readings in Las Vegas in 1987. He has read in many bookstores, coffee shops, libraries, and on Pittsfield Community TV for many years, and has been involved with Freshwater since its beginning in 2000. Matthew J. Spireng’s book, What Focus Is, was published in 2011 by WordTech Communications. His book, Out of Body, won the 2004 Bluestem Poetry Award and was published in 2006 by Bluestem Press at Emporia State University. His published chapbooks are: Clear Cut; Young Farmer; Encounters; Inspiration Point, winner of the 2000 Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition; and Just This. Since 1990, his poems have appeared in publications across the United States in such places as North American Review, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Louisiana Literature, Southern Poetry Review, and Poet Lore. He is an eighttime Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of The MacGuffin’s 23rd Annual Poet Hunt Contest in 2018 and the 2015 Common Ground Review poetry contest. Geo. Staley is retired from teaching at Portland Community College. His poetry has appeared in Chest, Four Quarters, Loonfeather, New Mexico Humanities Review, Fireweed, Freshwater, Santa Fe Literary Review, and others. He has a short story in a recent issue of Plainsong.
Steve Straight’s books include The Almanac (Curbstone/ Northwestern University Press, 2012) and The Water Carrier (Curbstone, 2002). He is professor of English and director of the poetry program at Manchester Community College in Connecticut. Robin Stratton is Senior Editor of Boston Literary Magazine, Acquisitions Editor for Big Table Publishing Company, and former Director of the Newton Writing and Publishing Center. She’s the author of four novels, including On Air (Mustang Press, 2011), a National Indie Excellence Book Award finalist, several collections of poetry and short fiction, and a writing guide. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she has been published in Word Riot, 63 Channels, Antithesis Common, Poor Richard’s Almanac(k), Blink-Ink, Pig in a Poke, Chick Flicks, Up the Staircase, Shoots and Vines, and many others. Please visit her at RobinStratton.com. Deanna Theodore has had her poems turned into songs that were sold on CDs and performed live in concerts. She is also author of the novel, Queen’s Judgment. John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the decade since he began to write again. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online. Charles R. Vermilyea Jr. is a retired Hartford Courant news copy editor. B.A. English/history, University of Connecticut (1967). Army veteran; 2/10 Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers (Korea, 1962/63). Son Jon, a California artist. Daughter Elizabeth, a New York City actress. War veteran poet Brian Turner said Vermilyea’s writing shows “a strong sense of voice and that’ll carry your stories a long way and catch (and keep) the reader’s attention.” Vivian Wagner lives in New Concord, Ohio, where she’s an associate professor of English at Muskingum University. Her work has appeared in Slice Magazine, Muse/A Journal, Forage Poetry Journal, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Gone Lawn, The Atlantic, Narratively, The Ilanot Review, Silk Road Review, Zone 3, Bending Genres, and other publications. She’s the author of a memoir, Fiddle: 145
One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (CitadelKensington); a full-length poetry collection, Raising (Clare Songbirds Publishing House); and three poetry chapbooks: The Village (Aldrich Press-Kelsay Books), Making (Origami Poems Project), and Curiosities (Unsolicited Press). Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places, and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud “War Poetry for Today” competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Light Journal, and So It Goes. Find Lynn at https://lynnwhitepoetry. blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry1603675983213077/ Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and three poetry collections, most recently Tread Softly (FutureCycle Press, 2018) and Near the Arctic Circle (Tiger’s Eye Press, 2018). A finalist for the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature, her forthcoming book is Facing Aridity (Homebound Publications). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for her debut collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Her grand prize-winning poem, “Music as Scripture,” was performed live onstage in Lincoln Park, San Francisco, at Artists Embassy International’s 21st Dancing Poetry Festival. Currently teaching in Qatar at Virginia Commonwealth University’s branch campus, she previously worked for nearly eight years in Tibet, Macau, and on the Thai/Cambodian border. Widely published in literary journals and anthologies, she holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where she focused on the role of poetry in the search for an environmental ethic. James K. Zimmerman’s work appears in Pleiades, Chautauqua, American Life in Poetry, Nimrod, Vallum, and Reed, among others. He is the author of Little Miracles (Passager, 2015) and Family Cookou (Comstock, 2016), and winner of the 2015 Jessie Bryce Niles Prize. 146
Notice of Non-discrimination: Asnuntuck Community College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religious creed, age, sex, national origin, marital status, ancestry, present or past history of mental disorder, learning disability or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or genetic information in its programs and activities. In addition, the College does not discriminate in employment on the basis of veteran status or criminal record. The following individuals have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Yhara Zelinka, Title IX Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org (860) 253-3092 and Deborah Kosior, 504/ADA Coordinator, AS-DisabilityServices@ asnuntuck.edu (860) 253-3005, Asnuntuck Community College, 170 Elm Street, Enfield, CT 06082. 147