Mississippi Crow Issue 7
Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writerâ€™ss Life
Editor and Publisher Nadia Giordana—RMP Books (763) 433-0270 or (763) 222-3113 Email: MississippiCrow@msn.com Food Artist Chuck Kasun Email: ChuckKasun@msn.com Chimera Ambassador of Humor and Levity Created by Shawn Luke, Vancouver, BC Associate Editor Mary Deal—Author, Writer Website: www.writeanygenre.com
Front Cover: "Crow Bride" by Marie Olofsdotter www.marieolofsdotter.com About the cover artist: Marie Olofsdotter's life is the exploration of artistic voice. Whether taking the form of a picture book, a poem, or a painting, her artwork is a means of communication, a kind of storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, Marie now lives along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. She received formal training in art history and sculpture in Sweden. In addition she studied theatrical clowning and mask theater before moving to the United States in 1981. She has worked as a freelance maskmaker and performer in Stockholm, Paris, Berlin and Minnesota. The author and illustrator of several picture books, including Sofia and the Heartmender. Marie has also created a series of oneof-a-kind Artist's books. She has received a Mid-America Publishers Award and a Midwest Book Achievement Award. Other awards include a Benjamin Franklin Award, a Minnesota Book Award, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation. Marie has been working as a creative consultant and artist-inresidence for over 15 years. She has shared her enthusiasm for creativity and the arts through the Walker Art Center, the Minnesota Opera, The Loft Literary Center, The MacPhail Center for the Arts and schools across the country.
Back Cover: “dirtyworld” by Peter Schwartz www.sitrahahra.com Sitrah Ahra means "the other side" in the Medieval Aramaic language of The Zohar. That other dimension of magic and transcendence is the place where Peter Schwartz works and lives. He is a painter, a poet, and occasional writer, and still strives to express himself in new mediums. His friends and colleagues feel that his creative energy is boundless and are kind enough to remind him of that fact from time to time, which is why this site is dedicated to them. And to everyone who comes here and spends their valuable time looking at his paintings and reading his words.
Are YOU in it?
Contributing Writers/Artists: ALPHABETICAL BY FIRST NAME Adam McGavin Adelle Bradford Adrian Ludens Aldo Amparan Alex Stolis Alicia Hoffman Allura Diez Anthony Gayle Aubrey Hirsch Aung Min Min Becky De Oliveira Bernard Alain Bill James Brent A. Fisk Bruce Brightly Bryon D. Howell Carla Martin-Wood Carol Lynn Grellas Christine Magee Colin Meldrum Corey Mesler Cristopher Rubio Daniel Dominowski Daniel Wilcox Danielle Thorne David MacPherson David Stillwagon Donna Marino Doug Lee Ella Hauschildt Elyze Ennis Eric Vance Walton Erik Estabrook E.W. Richardson F. William Broome Frank A. Gladden Fred Bubbers G. David Schwartz Gary Beck Geordie de Boer Heidi Heimler Holly Day Jan Oskar Hansen Janet Butler Janet Saugstad Jason Ericson Jason Jones Jeff Ensley Jeffrey Warzecha Jennifer Koiter Jessica Jewell Jim Esch Joseph Goosey
Joseph J. Nagarya Julie Shapiro KC Crawford Kasin Hunter Katerina Stoykova-Klemer Keli Stafford Kimmy Van Kooten Lenore Wilson Leo Lichy Lesley C. Weston Leslie Doyle Lisa Veyssiere Luke Maclean Lyn Lifshin M. Blake Marcia Feese Margaret Buckhanon Mark Jackley Mary Deal Mary Lynn Reed Matt Hlinak Matt Ryan Michael Lee Johnson Myrna D. Badgerow Nancy Aldersmith Nicolas Kurdt Noel Sloboda Nzinga Banks Peter Schwartz Rebecca Shafee Rhonda Parrish Richard Fein Richard Huggins R Jay Slais Robert Freeman Robert Sullivan Russ Curtis Sandee Lyles Sara Harris Serena Spinello Shawn Nacona Stroud Simon A. Smith Steve Meador Steve Silkin Sue Midlock Susan K. DeVegter Suvi Mahonen Suzanne Clinton TD Conner Thomas M. McDade Tyler Enfield Valerie Bean Valerie Z. Lewis Vernard Kennedy Wendy Brown-Baez William Dauenhauer William Parsons
To Purchase Issues of Mississippi Crow, go to http://stores.lulu.com/RiverMuse The Mississippi Crow magazine takes its name from its location—near the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow rivers in Dayton Minnesota. We publish artwork, poetry, flash fiction, articles and essays (on a variety of subjects). To see our guidelines, go to: www.MississippiCrow.com. Copyright © 2008 River Muse Press, ISSN 1934-5631. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form—electronic, mechanical or other means without prior consent of the publisher and/or of the authors of the individual works. All rights revert to authors upon publication.
Down to the River…the Leaves
1. tonight demands a few decisions.
It begins with fragrance— not the whole body, just skin arced over clavicle, where the dab has been applied, little key, awakening the afternoon heat as she passes you on Fourth and Allen Streets. Elixir, tropic, remember that glossy dream you had of the island at the backside of the world, water to your knees, scent of coral, or ocean warming in pools. Your body confused now. Petal, nectar, don’t leave it, one molecule at a time, the nodes you cannot collect openly, tangled in her flowering vine.
A pale but warm sun And a cold November rain Play tag through the maples Through fallen And yet fallen leaves.
eat sticks & snow or lose my thread in a teacup like cracks in the bedrooms we assume. 2. some questions are themselves answers should I burn my shoes then throw the ashes in a
mailbox. 3. a little ending to pretend to to help get at the middle 4. so I leave my room like an astronaut and peel a small piece of bark off an old oak near my house and put it on my tongue for communion. 5. for a few minutes I wear this moment like a new shirt after this distraction and I thank each other in our respective tongues.
Grains of Sand
She came for tea and refused the sweet biscuits that used to be her favourites. Then she poured sour cream onto her coffee while I made strained conversation with her silence.
The window panes were clouded by the smoke she looked through and the sun went away and sulked. Though I scoured her face I saw no signs of light and shade and when I searched her eyes, I couldn’t find her soul.
She didn’t stay with me for long and went away without the stain of pink lipstick on her cheek, because I can’t kiss her pain away, not anymore.
On the table, My notebook Lies open… Two blank pages Slowly ruffling And turning In the tides Of air Washing in Through the window… Blank pages…waiting… Perhaps sleeping, The pen in my hand Twitches, Dreaming Of Autumn. Outside, leaves Sometimes alone, Sometimes in groups, Fall is one last dance Upon the wind… Some whirl Their way down To the river. They leave ghosts Of shadow upon The blank pages, Evoking memories, Coloring thoughts, Writing dreams Of the where And when And how Of Who I once was, Who I am today And perhaps, What I am Yet to become. —E.W. Richardson
Before she left to go back into the night, I slipped a few grains of sand into her pocket. They had fallen from between the toes of a wide eyed sun kissed girl, who once ate ice cream on the beach and stayed all day long, just to watch sunbeams dance on the evening tide.
Sapphire blue blending Into clouded horizon Earth and sky collide
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Treading dangerously upon watery sand with deceptive tongue, walking hand-in-hand.
The bedridden woman dying of brain cancer says during one of her good spells her sister says is nothing but a show staged for new visitors that she drives five or ten miles a day. It’s a claim that justifies my practice of memorizing every bump, overpass, exit, entrance, merge of lane, license plate vanity and otherwise and road kill. I place in mind where wisteria and chicory blossom as well as a particular light post a hawk chooses to survey traffic like a cop. I revere the crosses, ribbons, balloons and flowers at crash death shrines as if in my name.
The tomatoes are dying, poison leaking into their roots and stems from a black walnut grown too close. Who would’ve known the rain would drip juglone from the tall leaves, a slight breeze placing yellow ones directly where I want them not to be?
I can’t write a damn thing today but I can tell you all the reasons why I hate weeknights and how the TV bothers me, with its static blowing through every irritating channel when the whole world smells like lemon-grass with its bitterness sprouting like wild weeds and I’m sitting here trying to write a poem while I proceed to estimate the amount of breaths it might take until I reach my last— in other words how many hours of unwritten poems am I away from dying?
Glazed over eyes often failing to seea sudden decrease in stability. WORDS. . . A mere mix of water and claystifling more with each passing day. Sharp grains of sand grinding at youits cold dense grip, you cannot eschew. Losing your ground as the guile grows thickeryielding to fate, you begin to sink quicker. Slipping deeper in desperate despairgagged by your lies and pleading for air. Struggle ensues, in this coarse pool of deathsoon your betrayal shall breathe its last breath. Beguiling words, cryptic deceptionled to your sinking in faulty perception. Slow sinking ships, thwarted schemesswallowed by death beneath sandy streams. Plead now or hold your own peace. Beseech those offended for tender release. Reach out for mercy’s handOR. . . Thrash in the turmoil of self-imposed quicksand. —Donna Marino
—Thomas Michael McDade
I noticed another the other day. A sticky globe of sheltered nut going thump against my leg. For years, these trees stretched upward, burrowed into ground I have walked, raked, plowed.
—Carol Lynn Grellas Unknown till now, these toxins come alive in late August, play the metaphors of cloud, tease the early girls into revealing pretty skirts of yellow blossom only to laugh as they scatter sick with promise, dreaming of more. —Alicia Hoffman Sunday Best
Nancy Aldersmith—Checkered Shade
He never wore a suit before. It wasn't his style. And yet, he seemed content: almost happy. They sprung up like poppies: Baseball caps among the flower hats and little girls with pigtails and pink barrettes carried by women with tattooed breasts. For some, these gatherings are so ordinary, so mundane, so routine that to come dressed in more is to wear a tuxedo to your own kitchen table. —Anthony Gayle
Are YOU in it?
From Your Eyes
Then I Shaved My Legs Up High
I never saw those photographs that your father took. In the
It’s hard to be myself in a world of puppets, No strings attached they say, but we love it. We have to listen carefully; no one wants to yell, It will take months to find you, but take years to find myself. Everyday is a scene, action, suspense, perhaps comedy, We prefer happing endings, not reality. But I’ll cut my own strings, let my self be me, I’ll walk, talk and move on my own, while you hang loosely. Life is my passion, my hobby, my sport, I don’t carry any weapons, words are my fort, So go ahead, throw at me what you will, You’re in a race with time but for me, it’s still.
Silk more than one said. A tongue, my mouth electricity. After night grass up against the table. Now I don’t even want to feel his hands. The kiss that wasn’t a kiss seems like so much these days. I’m under glass going thru a car wash. It looks like I’m close, that you could touch me but I don’t feel a thing
blinding black, I saw how the world gets you down. I wanted to drive to show you how old I was. I knew you were proud of my voice when I heard your voice and I took it to the black. In your French dress. In your curls. That's how I choose to remember. That rock
—Cristopher Becerra Rubio —Lyn Lifshin
sound. That radio. I knew you'd get to see that film, but I never got to see those photographs. Do you remember rock and roll radio? Do you remember
your sister's trip to France? I heard it on the radio. It impressed me,
Whenever the routines of life Shroud my peace And cause me to wander lost
blinding. —Jeff Ensley
I long to be a small fish in a big pond, To lose myself in the bright spot Of the next road’s vanishing And to be born again in foreign eyes
Hot Skin on This Day There Isn’t a Mound of Melting Snow Still Melting my hair ripples, muscles an ocean. The cat’s hypnotized. I’m the forced buds, the plum, the wild cherry unable not to bloom —Lyn Lifshin
Parrot I have a bird that speaks like me, Yet mixes words atrociously; Sometimes it will in English speak Moving its tongue within its beak. But my bird talks with strange syntax And often the wrong word unpacks. That’s why (it should be clear to see) I’ve named my parrot, Parody.
I then awaken in the remembrance That happiness isn’t meant to be rationed Out like thin grey gruel Each day’s dawn is a sweet symphony And as long as I hear the music My dreams will have to die another day. —Eric Vance Walton
Once, while cleaning my apartment, I stepped on a light bulb lying dormant on my Berber carpet. It shattered under my arch and heel, the filament on the exact middle of my foot, the same place my brother had discovered was my most ticklish spot. I’d never felt filament before. It was never supposed to be felt, —but there I was, feeling tungsten spread over my sole. It did not tickle. Glass broke my calloused skin. The light bulb was a weapon now, though the filament was intact—ready to be burnt out with one connection. Delicate, yet stable with the right protection. —Allura Diez
Aung Min Min
Mississippi Crow Magazine
I Would Be So Comfortable
Time flies faster than we can fathom Yet there are still so many questions Left to answer
I feel that my entire M.O. has been scratched upon its delicate surface.
He tells you while you were dozing, he had taken up the opera binoculars, parted the gauzy Chinese curtains, and looked through the kitchen window, over the watered tea roses to watch the doves pecking at the sprinkled seed you had tossed last evening; oh then he draws closer to you on the pillow, as he whispers how he paused and paused, not believing the sight of one small dove gingerly feeding the other; he shows you this with his mouth pursing pursing like kissing, as if he had a tiny kernel between his lips, so that when he does leave, you fold the summer comforter down, and rest there, rest in the sweetness of the hour until his footsteps softly come back -- shuffling, waddling as if cautious of the cat, and the door almost magically opens as he hands you a blue plate of egg whites on rye and ribbons of heavenly bacon, so that you think of the doves again about who will exactly feed whom later, when it comes to that, who in the dawn, before one takes flight.
But in our race to solve each mystery And reduce our world to singularity Let us not be too hasty
We could live by the beach but I would be so comfortable, nothing would be expressed.
And forget to take the time to listen For Divine voices in the wind’s whisper And enjoy the simple pleasures Tucked away into the folds of life The warmth and crackle of a fire, A deep breath of crisp fresh air, A pause in simple silence, The honor of innocence These will be the memories That we will grow to covet In the Autumn of our days.
I hear that introverts usually stick to the mind painting and that the extrovert gets his manuscript sold.
—Eric Vance Walton
A Monet moment splashes in vibrancy-yellow-orangish irises rise from blue and green 130 years after the paint. Below the beauty But the impractical clasping of the momentary irises
The Figurehead For swd
For new eyes down through future landscaped time
Ensconced beneath the bowsprit, salt-stained, weather-battered, blonde mane volant, breasts bared, people assume she plays no role but adornment. Her sea-blue eyes cast a vast vigilance. She guides the ship, avoids the sea surge that swamps, keeps the mortal crew aright. Call her Thea, goddess of sight, who bore dawn, sun and moon and the shining light of bright skies. Not-forcing, At the prow of awareness she watches, prepared to pounce. Salt-spray stings her eyes, and sea-bugs stain her smile. Undaunted, she sees the wave-swell, the porpoise frolic, the fat whale roll as the full moon pearls the phosphorescent sea.
—Geordie de Boer
by impressed paintbrush strokes, Hold scintillating eye glances and shimmering lights up for us to see, saved from the oblivion of another time and place. Likewise a fellow traveler, I clasp words to this sheet, my own flat canvas--irised memories
Are YOU in it?
No I Am Sorry
Like a panel of judges Your six worry dolls are intently spread before you. They are small and mostly male They have legs, but don’t have shoes They have arms, but don’t have hands They have eyes and mouths, but don’t have noses or ears Their bodies are wrapped in threads of different colors Three purple pants, one white and one black Two green shirts, two orange and one red The woman is dressed differently She wears a three-color cloth wrapped as a skirt And blue thread wrapped as a shirt Everybody’s head is covered with dangerous hair You should not strike their heads or rub them together
No, I am sorry I haven’t been doing that I thought I told you way back No No No I did quit In many ways this is it No so I do say it here and now You didn’t are anyhow Slam your face into a pizza pie I promise you that you won’t die And about that sure Yes yes yes I am sorry
Being small does not diminish their power You can tell them anything Pick up the first one and lay it on him Pick up the next one and lay it on him Do not be greedy One worry per doll and no more
—G. David Schwartz
Soft stained glass wings Flutter like the falling leaves Monarch butterfly —Marcia Feese
The six of them will lie quietly under your pillow until you fall asleep After that, they will slither free and will carry away your worries One likes to place them on his back as though he is carrying a wardrobe Another likes to drape them around his neck as though he has captured a large animal The woman carries her entrusted worry like a baby in her arms And when it is too heavy, on her head, like a pot full of water The worry dolls walk as a group Awaiting one another, helping each other get up when someone slips along the way (Keep in mind, it’s dark out, and it’s even darker where they are going) It is a place far away Twice removed from your life There is nothing there, but worries fetched by all the dolls around the world Curious things could be found at this place, if one dared go there —Katerina Stoykova-Klemer
Linus explains love to Charlie Brown Of course the wind can’t change direction-- the last time it stood tall the clouds knocked it down. There are too many excuses left to be used-too drunk, too bored, too sober and not enough courage remains to nail to the sticking place. I’m familiar with the sound of a horizon when it falls to the earth-- it’s a sigh, a broken chord that hangs in the air. She curses me from behind a cigarette, taunts me with visions and a promise to catch a glimpse of the Emerald City. The breeze dies at my feet, I am on a lost highway with a bruised face and numb fingers. She never believed any words that fell out of my mouth unless they broke into pieces as they hit the ground-I watch the sky turn yellow and wait for gravity to bend a fork in the road. —Alex Stolis
Pinochle It’s a curious debacle I’m addicted to pinochle I play and play from dusk until dawn As long as I have points to get on My partner says it’s time to leave Just one more game I beg and plead We’ll win this one, just wait and see Then happier we both will be At midnight, she tried to leave again I almost lost my dearest friend Just one more game and then we’ll go We’ll win this one, for sure I know At breakfast, how she lectured me It’s only just a game you see I said, I’m sorry we didn’t win Next Friday we can play again She drank her coffee hot and black And said, “I won’t be coming back Find someone else to take my place I need some time and lots of space.” I understand what you mean to say But pinochle’s so much fun to play, The cards just didn’t fall our way. I’m sure they will come next Friday —Janet Saugstad
Mississippi Crow Magazine
How to be True to Oneself
How to Cook Wild Swamp Crawfish
At 19 I learned that to sing is a gift that one may enjoy music and singing but never volunteer as a singer and from that day’s discovery as a kindness to mankind I sing alone In my freshman college year for tryouts in the annual musical with no voice training my debut ended after singing two lines Recalling this laughable stunt by a brash over confident fool my contribution to the arts was as memorable as those TV commercials made at home by the advertisers
You must not write about reality; poems are fiction, not true--
You first need a bucketful. Then, small lily pads and twigs
are lies. And you must not write about what you know: you know too much
Of driftwood should be placed inside To steep with the swamp water—
to allow the lie to seem true. Write about what you don't remember.
This manufactured habitat maintaining Their freshness.
About things you've forgot--things that probably didn't happen.
Next, sift the crawfish into a cauldron, And add seasonings—salt, lemon,
Only then is a poem not about you. Only then will the poem be true.
Garlic, bay leaves and cayenne pepper. Then crank up the gas or grow the fire
—Joseph J. Nagarya
With extra wood—the flames Pulsing as the potatoes and sausage Are plunked inside. The shells Will soften, tails will cease flicking
—F. William Broome
When the water comes to a boil And the crustaceans still and redden— Golden orb hovers Balance for a moment Then—oblivion
Melodic waves play as sand pebbles frolic to nature’s symphony
Claws and antennae going finally limp. —Jeffrey Warzecha
The Crape In Late Summer The cardinals have returned to the crape myrtle. Both cling to the branch where he spent hours last spring pinning his scarlet letters to the breeze. cheeeer cheeeer cheeeeeeerwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat.
Getting the Slip
Now the ex-lovers perch, back to back, soundless, as if reading the weather and the color of the leaves, or perhaps pondering the success of a one night stand. A cross-wind blows, she heads north, he cruises south.
From the moment she crossed her legs while waiting to be called by the doctor’s assistant she is a riveting target of my every moment’s staring at a woman impossible to ignore The crossing of legs happens all the time but the way she does it puts grace and slow motion to shame a must-see attraction for male eyes Looking over a magazine page I absorb an almost perfect face her small snub nose not quite fitting but cute in a pixie sort of way Her face a study for Rodin the chin for hands of Michaelangelo I stare discreetly until she looks up knowing I am doing inventory but not objecting to my doing it Her generous smile is positive enough and I arise to exchange names and get on with life for the two of us just as my doctor’s lady calls my name
Another Editor’s slip Pulled success Out from under me-But since scientists Say over 50% of our Genes inhabit bananas— I must be the human Peeling out --As I slip-Laughter Pealing, Tolling time; Foraging In my roots, branching out, Redwooded though fired, Bristleconedness Up growing above Rejections littering Underneath-So much compost.
—F. William Broome
After weeks of hearing him agonize she lit on the mulch underneath, flitted her gray-brown ass feathers, as she scratched for bugs and seeds, and treated him as though he were no more than a red pinecone growing the wrong way in the wrong tree. Her aloofness continued after the pinecone plopped to the ground. She hopped in the opposite direction. He leapfrogged over to roadblock her coyish escape. In the end his crest was too impressive to ignore. Weeks later I heard the faint chip chip chip of three fledglings hidden in the robellini palm. Gruel gurgled from both parent’s beaks for two days, through heavy rain and above the neighbor’s yellow cat. The morning of the third day the three were gone.
Are YOU in it?
Downstream A Flower Floats By
Even the brown bear’s blood hungers for heart as he ravages the bank side briar during his river rush. Field mice scurry under brush, the willow saplings bend some break, the sap ooze their way of bleeding. As the waters crash, a spectral flow of color morphs onto the mist.
A stroll, eyes opened among morning mists that elevate in air
Thorns trace stinging maps onto my arms, the backs of my hands. The berries anoint me with a purple dye that sinks into the whorls of my fingertips, painting the eager curve of my lips as their skins split, shining like the inky bodies of the blackbirds that pepper a neighboring field.
In this violent spree, the salmon ripple blind, channel upstream bear and rock avoidance, their escape is damned, trapped, as four claws slice through sunlight and shadow, fifth to grasp the meal. Back up onto the bank, his prey about to be taken.
Certain as the day will turn to night, this darkness overcome.
On quietude return, into the swirl of rock ledge fall, through a heap of foam dust tinged brown on top, a whorl of flowerets spin, detached from their blossom captured in the babble of river water meander. Eventually, every thing is released yet the flow never ends.
off frost kissed snow. The depth of which is only known through knowing the feel of what lies untouched below.
Nearby, bees sing into the open mouths of blossoms. —Lesley Doyle
Certain as the sun makes its heat, our season will arrive. Winter Night Certain as the wind knows how to carry, the fragrance of flowers.
When I opened the cabin’s door, night and frost entered, the darkness, night brought, was disposed of by switching on a light, the cold, frost brought, lingered a bit, didn’t leave before the wood stove got red hot and threatened to explode
Fields of desire arisen in the mind, the path before us,
Ice roses on windows sparkles moon was full and on the lake trolls and holders (female trolls) skated watched over by tall, stern spruces, dressed in white on this rare occasion, they didn’t know a road was being built and they were next year’s Yule trees.
a soft settle of dew soaked steps taken one at a time. —R Jay Slais
A distant drone, a planeload of old men going south seeking warm sun, sand, tepid sea, and young flesh, they didn’t know that just under them virginal beauty waited. Who struck that match on arctic star? A fiery rent, snow fell off evergreens; then stillness reigned
—R Jay Slais
—Jan Oscar Hansen
Revelations of Winter drowsy eyes drift open, winter yawns and inhales scent of renewal... hitching up hemlines
A Tulip—Mary Deal
of robes grown long and impatient for spring, he paints muted portraits, revelations that
he too is yearning for his reign of blustery to end... he is tired and simply wants to go home —Myrna D. Badgerow
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Dream of a Place
Ghosts of Dawn
I dream of a place where overgrown trees shade the backyard, a rusty old truck waits in disrepair, and the guy down the street sells bootleg CDs at festival concerts.
Fog drifts across water, Wrapping itself around cypress feet, Curling skyward, wispy fingers reaching Bare arms of winter And memory of leaves. The bayou sighs, whispering Softly the secrets known.. Dampness breathing Quietly shivering ripples upon bank.
Marigold blooms over the mount where purity was once left forgotten and innocence raped by the concoction of magical words.
How I wish to paint this Gossamer morning On still-water canvas, Capture stolen moments in time Before the sun warms, melting The ghosts of dawn.
And now she’s no longer a lady, she’ll never feel that way again. And now she hides within lies, like a terrapin hides in its shell.
Your hair grows too long when days run like rain from the rooftop. Two old ladies on bad knees argue meter and rhyme in the garden picking basil and peppers, filling our basket for later. September evenings are brisk as we sit at the table you built with your hands and your tools. We chop and we smile; I feed you a preview, then you kiss me. Under the window sits a desk where you type and you read. Sacred. Snakes own the yard raccoons fill the night and once in awhile you sit and you stare and my fingers brush the back of your neck and it's like we were twelve and never loved before as we run to the lake, toss our clothes on the rock, and jump naked. This place is no dream. It is my heaven. —Mary Lynn Reed
Up Early In the gray-hazed dawn Pale light blossoms Softly explode from a violet tree Rising by a jade-green hedge Birdsong morning —Daniel Wilcox
Are YOU in it?
Perhaps I shall write of it instead... Later...when the ghosts are gone And I am left with only the whispers. —Myrna D. Badgerow
You whispered verses quintessential into the ears of a lady. You spoke them so dispassionately, so untrue.
Ruptured is her soul like your own for the zealot exhibit of her body in your mind. You cannot care for something so divine. And now for her the world seems so unkind. All this is for the words you spoke and the memories of mounts; for the pain of feeling used, of feeling loved and then discarded because everything is ordinary, and everything improper.
Love words in the sand Washed away in the tide Linger in the heart
—Marcia Feese Spring from fertile bed flourish ‘neath summer’s embrace fall by winter’s sting Postmen Who knew they could never be content with their shuffle of sorting and delivering, their holidays, their salaries, their endless gamut of stamps, the security of never running out of work? I have never trusted postmen, those strangers who impose themselves on your home, bringing sealed offerings of electric bills, fast food coupons, the occasional rejection slip. They may smile and wave from their boxcars of bad news, but you can never trust someone in uniformed shorts who could so easily know everything about you. No one worried about their postman before or after son of Sam was arrested, not until Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986. After that, postmen on the rampage became a trend, a means to choose an end to that hangdog life instead of waiting around for cancer. Who knew they needed something more than the Christmas checks we did or did not give? —Taylor Collier
cascades they fall with airy grace veiling hillside harshness the bridal whiteness tumbles clouds and foams the pool below as waters mist in chiffon heaps on a limpid green surface. —Janet Butler
It was that Kind of Hero, Sweetheart “I feel you slipping away….” John Lennon I sat on the porch smoking my last John Lennon. The kids in the neighborhood were playing with their weapons in the sprinkler. They knew things I wanted to know. As the light changed into something less formal I reached for my glass of Kurt Vonnegut. I wanted to drain it to the dregs but temperance ruled the moment. It was the last of him, also. My wife came out later. She stood, legs akimbo, and let the children see her famous shadows. She turned to me with a healthy breast and said, Do you want Leonard Cohen for dinner? I had to scream after her as she left the sunshine: He’s still alive! It’s a dangerous neighborhood, I told the wife over dinner that night. She said, it’s only as bad as the most recent sainthood. I chewed on that, meditatively, as they say. I chewed and chewed because it was one tough poet, a poet whose name escapes me for now. —Corey Mesler
I-90 Eighteen miles over the speed limit how the stars look like world lines is the same way my contacts drying on my eyes let me see light cones in streetlamps. The trick is not to blink until you absolutely have to. But you’re too busy putting CDs on the dashboard. Upside-down, they make rainbows on the windshield that we follow. We don’t know where it’s taking us, but I know this highway well and driving it is just like hearing my favorite song: the high note, the drum fill, the way your reflection makes it look like you’re running beside the car and I keep passing you and you keep coming back.
My Fashioned Fellow It’s not unusual that I find myself lonely, I can only debate proverbs and doctrines with the cat for so long, hence I deem it essential to conceive a companion. I’ve taken quite a liking to Henry. He’s an elderly gentlemen bestowing 84 years of savoir-fairethough he doesn’t look a day over 76. He loves Werther’s candies and his fragrance is that of confections and senescence. He paints his past for me, nostalgic for his rousing youth. At the end of each sentence he tries to bite into the candy. It’s a tricky task, being that he only has 9 teeth. He had numerous abodes as a child. His father was a bootleggersuch a chancy gig compelled the family to relocate regularly. Henry, unlike his mum, revered transition. He reckoned it awakened his inspiration which became latent in parity. His mum loved to do laundry. She would be outside from dawn to dusk, hanging clothes on the line, caressing her frail flame in lavender scented shams. Henry insists that duvets and dust ruffles filled the vacancy in her heart. His father was not one for intimacy or romantic sentiments so she initiated an affaire with her fine linen. Henry took issue with the fling, it left him wearing the same shirt and suspenders, because his mum was seducing all the other garments. Henry fashions splendid things with the silver wrappers that accumulate by his side. The caustic sound of the aluminum mating used to rile me, though I’ve since taken a liking to it. Henry met a charming lass in Surgoinsville Tennessee. He was 23 at the time and she was 17. Sophie was tall and lusty, with terra cotta strands and chartreuse eyes that yenned for adventure. He adored her, they married years later and had a son named Sam. Henry turns irate when I ask about his son, He tenses and his eyes start to grieve. Sheila died while giving birth to him. It’s a shame because I would love to host them both together. Henry likes to watch me clean. The smell of pine sol makes him giddy. He says I look like a Gazelle when I stretch to mop the floors and a Meadowlark when I sip my sweet tea. One time Henry assembled a ring out of his candy wrappers. He slipped it on my pinkie with a deep chuckle. He says the gold in the cover brings out the streaks of my hair that the sun kissed. When Henry starts to hum Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata I become sad. It’s his way of telling me that he has to go. I bid farewell and take a moment to inhale Henry’s nectareous aura. Promptly picking up the remaining wrappers, I inspect the parlour for any traces of dirt that I could have missed. It’s immaculate as usual, so I recommence my parley with the cat, while admiring my ring. Sam should be arriving any minute now.
—Aubrey Hirsch —Serena Spinello 10
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Memories From A Book The fire's glow warmed the room In a soft pallet of amber hues. Shadows dancing on surfaces Countless magical pixies Seemingly bringing life To warmed inanimate objects. Cabin walls shimmering like waterfalls, Breathing waves Of yellow heat washing over them. Wrapped snuggly in the patch quilted cloth She sat, Book in hand. Pages worn from her familiar touch, Filled with Words nearly known by heart. Still the gentle images they held Reached out to caress her heart. His words there. "Poems Of The Heart" embossed On a worn and faded leather cover. His words she once heard, Long before print ever found them. Thoughts and feelings penned so long ago. Moments of private rapture Captured for all time. Her mind drifts to a moment, Weathered hands slip in past Thin wire frames, Wiping away a memory's tear. There before the fire's soft glow, The feeling upon her cheek, A warming that once long ago Could have been a touch, His touch, A soft caress that once upon a time, Gave her soul shelter In the storms of her life. So long ago, Now that are like him Just distant memories. She turns the page, The pains of age cannot stay her hands, Nor stop the smile that finds her. Closing her eyes, She sees him once more. Standing there again, Stepping towards her, His arms extended, So real she can almost feel His arms as wrap around her, The fire's crack breaks the spell, But not the magic. The path of his poems, Treasure map to her very heart and soul. Sighing she places the book down, Like so many things in her life now, It has a place all its own, "Poems Of The Heart" Held there tall and proud Like the soul that year's ago
Are YOU in it?
Your Re-writes Wrote upon pages love's grand tale, A simple book of poems, Embraced in solitude By two sets of marble hands, Who's fingers entwine, Locked in love's eternal embrace. Like the book that holds her heart, Another day has closed, Laying back, Sighing, The weariness of time Lays claim to her frail body. She sets her silver framed glasses down On the nightstand, So close to her special treasure. Yet even in the fading light, With all the years she holds, Among a room of blurred images and shapes, The leather bound story of her heart, Shines as it has for so many years, With the crystal clarity That only the eyes of the soul Can ever truly know. Unblemished, Untarnished, Burning brightly for all time. There with a love That knows no end. —Richard Huggins
Your throw-away lines are my salvation: when your bells ring in my church and ghosts float to the tiled floor, the lines you no longer want trick me to the floorboard in our dream mobile as we drift west, our tinny ears attuned to talk show radio until we turn off for the first exit seeking Mecca, seeking Shangri-la, on a pilgrimage to the center of the poem’s heart. Your re-writes are my pleasure-when I sweat over lines only to silence them with crossed-out flair, I send the remainder to be rejected like old lovers who turn their backs on my aching knees begging them to stay, please just another kiss, please keep my black gloves for the next time I need to slap you. The lines you threw away are now mine, they belong to me and you can’t have them back unless you take the time to enter the poem and ingest it as softly as sweetly as tortillas y tacos on a Mexican beach, as a napkin scrawled with your lines in blue ink. —Wendy Brown-Baez
A Dixie Night Ride riding into a warm night the sunroof opened to air wysteria smells afloating lightening bugs everywhere rebel jasmine blooming cherry blossoms afloat flung along by a swift breeze from some storm still remote the moon a crest upon heavens stars too many to count free as a bird on this highway as springtime virtues amount it's a pleasure to breath in this beauty the South so pretty and proud my heart sings visions of Dixie in a voice sopranoed and loud cresting a hill out of heaven surrounded by God's own display toward midnight her shine is around me breaking her into a new day. —Susan K. DeVegter
Nature’s raging fire spikey leaves dancing like flames Japanese maple —Marcia Feese
Twist My Words I see the spring dance all over your face in green you were arrogant before you viewed my willow tree outside my balcony. Now you wave at me with green fingers and lime smiles. You twist my words, Harvard collegiate style, right where you want them to be— lime green, willow tree, and dark skinned branches. —Michael Lee Johnson 11
And Between My Ears Somebody Screamed
I hear swift ripples as peace washes over me, let out a sigh miles long, cling to crisp air, I smell the river and wish this moment could last forever and ever...
Aurora sways a little as she saunters by and tosses hair
Somehow she looked different. She'd sit in the back, long black hair, bangs almost reaching her dark eyes, the Egyptian we'd often tease. Sometimes she'd cry, but she never told the teacher. Met her again years later, two travelers by chance at the same bus stop. And as the bus came and opened its wheezing doors, my name was called. I turned. There she stood, and she was gorgeous. I blurted Egypt . . . aborting the shun. Too late. For shunned I was. Her wide smile shrunk to a grimace; he soft eyes hardened. She had a bus to catch and caught it. How does one unsay what one just said? And between my ears someone screamed, fool you've missed this bus. A ten minute and lifetime wait for the next.
I close my eyes, take in the sounds, sense the moon's glow on my face, I imagine people on the ferries, listening to jazz, eating crawdads, they laugh, and I feel my lips curl into a semi-circle, I am not lonely, even as I stand on the bank with nobody to my right or left,
she teases and tempts with a Georgia twang and curled lips that sing-song phrases they will fall hard and hearts will shatter a million pieces glittering like fireflies or sparklers her Southern Lights will gleam in their crinkled eyes ~young for a time they'll remember Aurora her sparkles and fireflies sway and twang and the way she fades
God, me, the river... in perfect harmony, and the stars look on, while birds serenade and crickets chime in, in fact, it is crowded here by myself. —Sandee Lyles
Long Weekend My brother helps clear away the scrub, drag the dry brush into huge fallen nests. I wonder how his life has been, how it's shaping up. The sky is washed out, a little gray. His gloves are off, hands on his hips. "Every day's like walking into a diner ten minutes before the kitchen closes." He takes his sentences and snaps them in two, saves the driest words for the heart, syllables like grass that catches fast. When the whole thing goes up, we stand apart, the silence of boys watching fire erupt. --Brent A. Fisk 12
something else. If it hadn't been for sapphire hues crackling above the dusky pine of a northern sky or the soft rush when moonlit caps washed the pebbles of Youghal beach
Lesser And Greater Mercies
this town just might have been
The old pigeon drags useless wings through its own guano, flightless in a world of flight but still strutting, a deluded cock-of-the-rock with disheveled feathers, a pilot in the netherworld between life and death. Yet there is only one final perch left. Breadcrumbs are a charity of torture for the hungry, for no breadbasket is deep enough. And just a few crumbs invite the return of a hundred healthier wings so like Calcutta beggars the weakest will be nudged aside, while across the street ill-mannered cats play with their food. In a world plagued with too many drawn-out endings, a rock to the head is a greater mercy. Do it. Just do it. Do it now.
or the turnabout where old Fords parked some nights
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Girls Foe You
Coming Back from Western State Hospital, Hopkinsville, Kentucky
We are soft placated angels We guard you, and envy you We are killed and duplicated We kill and duplicate We wonder our place as female and gender We wonder our role in not our lives, but others Promise rings and darling farts not too loud Little tarts promising not to stain our darling hands Crazy impulses and disastrous desires in lockets on our necks Golden earrings pierce private parts securing want for normal Breaking the code, is increasing like the tears of many I want to plan my fall, before I do it Is that right to tell you that you are mine But you can’t get it can you, being you are a… boy Listen to me, but don’t replay my words I’m not a sad case, don’t say that You know I’m a girl
The sounds of gasping fish, engines that seize in the roaring heat, the quiet that settles round a deer-smashed car. The inmates rub moonlight into their skin so they can see in the dark. Watch how they pretend to eat, tuna sandwiches wavering before thin lips. See their eyes? The same wild look horses get before they kick a cowboy’s ribs deep into his body. It’s not that the mad see through you or suspect you’re someone else— they sense what you’re capable of, the darker you that stands over your own body in dreams. Even the blackness of their pupils fades. They whisper a future blank as worn limestone, eyes soft with light that comes before dawn, that freezes birds silent in their nests.
--Brent A. Fisk
Second Generation I watch him sleeping and I pray that I’m sane, that I won’t one day do something awful, uncontrollable, to make his smile go away. I close my eyes remember my father’s neatly-typed suicide notes left scattered around the house, rough drafts of an act never actually committed, threats never forgotten—watching my son sleep I can only hope the crazy died a generation before me. love language sounds like always and never but in practice is more fluid as terms change like those on a credit card making statements difficult to interpret when charges for old and untold debts oblige you to pay
Calling Things By Name
if you do not balance carefully nothing will be saved yet a line or two can be quite handy if you keep in mind you must always manage more than interest focus on the principal
Except for crystals nature paints with a smudgy brush and traces with no ruler. Forests and fields edge against each other catch-as-catch-can. Fruit trees try their luck, inching out across open fields till grown tall or struck down by lightning. The border between forest and field is neither clearly etched nor forever fixed. Straight lines of orchard trees at parade rest are cultivated feats. Sharp definitions are alien to the feral, for nature’s discipline is far more subtle. We see a white flower and call it plain, but a bee sees a kaleidoscope of ultraviolets. A lamb sucks a teat, a starved mother rat bites her newborn's neck. Can we call one action good and the other evil? Meaningless questions, pointless answers. We name with great confidence what we think we see.
again and again
Are YOU in it?
The Day Clouds Rolled On
What is it about the blaze of a wood fire sharing quiet with you in the morning? And to think one day this will all end that we will veer into the dark and there is no song for this.
I wasn't quite prepared when the floodgates
I think what I thought when I first heard him read: how measured and male, so now, but now I know his hours, weekends at his office, alone as any of us. How does anyone find rhythm, tapping the pencil in frustration on the page?
Second Reading A stopping short, a longing sharp, then stifled, masculine detachment I would kill for separates the poet and the page. Third Reading Poems are fragile as women, they cannot bear too much. Sorrow sifts into the white space on the page. —Jennifer Koiter
I would like to sing you a song, stand unchanged over you in bed. I love that I know how you would look up at me then. I love the way I know you, not too chilled, not too charged, so perfect in the way I linger over your skin. The cat’s eye in its round fur face, the spring cacti aiming themselves at the sun. I don’t want to think about our ashes gray black dust speckled with bits of bone. I would sooner sing you a soulful blues number. Only for you will I serenade until you rescue me from the condition I’m in. Fires with stacks of wood, flaming embers hissing to ash. This will all end some day. I don’t want us to go on the wind. There will be no song for us to share. There will be no you for me there. —Kelli Stafford
NYC 2023 Abandoned skyscrapers, swamp foxtail raised to sway along the tide-line. We weave out to the Atlantic between you like ants in the shadow of your steel-stems. Sender with a lonely mask Beach sand grains our feet into sandpaper, their crunch muffled as waves zip the water’s edge shut. You creak with the sea’s shove like harbored barges groan their ropes along landing piers.
a fallen flights leap, around the edge it creeps, what is baring? never strange nor unique,
Only the seagulls make use of you now, they roost on your ledges and speckle the toilet of your walls. White streaks of indifference, nobody cares to clean them off.
a glass sender gasps, who is or isn't trapped? reminded by a flash, the remainder of what's left collapses,
Gondoliers punt out among you, steering their courses with fish splashes; relics of the lost city of Venice, they dwindle on the horizon. The torch clad hand they sail to reaches out from the water like a drowning victim.
mask of illusion to oneself, no intrusion, no need for help, to center sender without a plea,
—Shawn Nacona Stroud
opened. I was beginning to think the well had all run dry. It was as if a curse had been lifted once cool met warm. Thunder finally hammered some sense over the river, tacking it like a sheet from one side of the gorge to the other. One word inevitably followed another without a single hitch. With just a little drop in temperature lighting shot from my eyes, animals stood at attention, the blistering sun cut through all my mindless smog, and there wasn't a single adjective in the English language that even looked right next to rainbow. I wasn't quite prepared. —Bryon D. Howell
a gift of lonely for all who see.
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Divorce Decree After all the jawing, all the heated words, it came quietly in the iron stillness of the mailbox whose mouth was hanging open in the April breeze, much like mine.
What You’ll Find on the Back of Road Signs
Sleeping With Lorca
welts, not words, a kind of blank truth, bald admission that no one really knows where he's going though once I saw a nest of sparrows who thought here was okay to be
I imagine it being eyeballed by a carp slowly trolling the bottom of the Rappahannock River, blinking in the cold depths, disbelieving a lure that for some reason no longer shines.
It’s not true, he never chose women. I ought to know. It was Grenada and the sun falling behind the Alhambra was flaming lava. I could say I was too but some things should be left unsaid. But I remember his fingers on the buttons at the back of my neck, my skin burned as he fumbled with rhinestones and pearls. I want you breathed into my neck though perhaps he was whispering Green, green I want you green. How little he needed to impress me with his poems. One English term paper with them and I was naked, taken. It wouldn’t matter if he had a pot belly or stank of garlic. My jeans were a puddle around my knees. I was the gored bull, hypnotized by moves I’d only imagined but never believed would enter me. There’s more you might coax me to say but for enough I can still smell the green wind, that 5 o clock in the afternoon that would never be another time
Mother, we grew in your neglected garden. We survived for eight long years as we choked on the thick thwart of your hate, it sucked the soil nutrients from us. We had barely bloomed the day that you plucked us from the dirt.
Riding soothes the soul Aback a horse, I slip the Bonds of earthly cares —Marcia Feese
—Shawn Nacona Stroud The Buddha By The Waterfall (Storyteller 8) There are, within margins of memory, Locked doors, hidden hallways and secret rooms Which extend beyond the margins, the walls Of accepted reality’s illusions, Places where strange, frightening things take root. But, sometimes they bear surprising fruit it seems.
When we left the falls, as I turned away, I saw it sitting there…old, weathered, smiling… A stone Buddha no more than three feet tall. Otherworldly it seemed in the mist and spray. In its cupped hands, a gold leaf lay gleaming. So serene this scene, the Buddha by the falls. I don’t understand nor can I explain Why this was locked away with darker things, Why the killing is easier to recall… But I remember now and will retain It for the rest of my days…that gleaming Leaf, the stone Buddha and the waterfall. —E.W. Richardson
Are YOU in it?
Marcia Feese—Victorian House (photo art)
In war, when you least expect it, beauty Can come gently, like a lotus in bloom Or overwhelm you…like this waterfall, Whose power and rushing life’s vibrations Rumble low through the ground and combat boot… It’s a sight of baroque richness, like a dream.
Manic Is The Dark Night
Deep into the forest the trees have turned black, and the sun has disappeared in the distance beneath the earth line, leaving the sky a palette of grays sheltering the pine trees with pitch-tar shadows. It is here in this black and sky gray the mind turns psycho tosses norms and pathos into a ground cellar of hell, tosses words out through the teeth. “Don’t smile or act funny, try to be cute with me; how can I help you today out of your depression?” I feel jubilant, I feel over the moon with euphoric gaiety. Damn I just feel happy! Back in the woods of somberness back into the twigs, sedated the psychiatrist scribbles, notes, nonsense on a pad of yellow paper: “mania, oh yes, mania, I prescribe lithium, do I need to call the police?” No sir, back into the dark woods I go. Controlled, to get my meds. I twist and rearrange my smile, crooked, to fit the immediate need. Deep in my forest the trees have turned black again, to satisfy the conveyer— the Lord of the dark wood.
After the cataclysm you .........broke...........away
—Michael Lee Johnson
from me. For years .........the lands..........drifted ........................across ........the cold sea. Fate..............propelled ............................your plate into another, ..................and you ...........................connected as we never could. You called him Asia, and he praised you, Africa. He impressed you with his thick lush forests, and danced on your sunbeaten planes. Together you and he watched the ice form over me, alone in that darkness, you named me ....................Antarctica. —Shawn Nacona Stroud
I have compartments of many shapes and sizes In which I order my life Some are locked; many are neglected. In a dusty old box marked “Unfinished Business” I keep a manuscript, a sibling feud, And all the apologies I owe. In another, marked “Never Finished” I keep loose ends: A child once estranged and now an orphan And the ragged ticket stubs of the trip I am on. An oblong box named “Debts” Contains the curses and slights I’ve inflicted And the hearts I have broken. A wooden box covered in deep purple And sealed under lock and key Is labeled “Quiet Desperation.” The largest of all, the one marked “Un-begun,” Has a stack of books , diets and exercise regimes And all the languages I will someday learn. The one you seek but cannot see Is bound only by Heaven and Earth Surrounding us with Air and Light and Spirit. —Fred Bubbers
Lake Hike—Suzanne Clinton
Making Copies (For my mother) You were a Xerox of him, nine months printed, the flesh colored ink of the womb still drying. I wanted to ball you up and pitch you like trash into the waste-bin, listen as you crinkle out of existence, and then hit the print button again. —Shawn Nacona Stroud
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Whaleshead Have ye not known the tale of The Whaleshead? A black awful time It was – gripped by such a dread fright – When a raging sea, wroth with hunger, stole Near a hunner or two more a sad sorry souls And sent um down, a-feared and a-shriekin, To Davie Jones afore their time. Aye … The bleakest of times it was And it came in of a sudden, This bitter blustering thing, Rumblin low and a-moanin As a fair bonnie woman in moil Stroking all the senses daft, this Portend black of billowing clouds, Bearing down on the shore bitter With a sharp-set iciness that bit Fiercely at the skin like the Teeth of Serpents Oh laws how it roared and Carried on; that perishin cold sleet As sure as death freezin the hair stiff – We were aghast at the shear sight of it, And dinnae know our future near; Nature up in a snuff and the waves Dancin high with windy fingers, Pullin up the bones of wizards And warlocks and things “Save our souls,” was the cry Of those in the way of harm – “Hoot toot,” was the sneer of Those smug at a distance … And a dread sight it was; This loathy tempest; pit-mirk The sea and the ramping waves Oh a prospect compelling the mind Awful with the rumble of destruction; A dire muckle of hopelessness that Held the bones and heart in the Callous fingers of chance “Please help us,” was the cry Of those in the way of harm – “Hoot toot,” the rejoinder was of Those aloof and smug at a distance … There was nary measure of time; Day and night fluxing together in a Black swirl of clouds and thunderous Mayhem, and all the while the tempest Brooding barmy on the hapless town and Outlying vessels; shriekin hell like banshees ‘Most a fortnight it lasted A short fortnight, minus three Tearin the soul outa any strong man; Razing cottages and taverns and busting
Are YOU in it?
The mizzen from many a sea-worthy vessel; Most of um breached or broke up like kindlin, And most all the God fearing townsfolk Begging desperate fur Duns Scotus “God will save us,” was the Cry of those with the strong faith – “Hoot toot,” was the answer from Those at a safe distance … A hideous time it was, one That left pocks on me soul. And now When the clap-o-thunder fits me bereft, And the heart cries out in the blackest of Despair, I can still see all those poor souls Lammin desperate in a shit-mucklety tomb. No …ne’er in my life will I ever forget the Whaleshead, and ne’er, ever, of a surety, Will I forget those souls that passed on …
Machines In Gymnasium Gone centuries since, the torture chambers of superstition, and holy self-tormentors, and narrow judgment of the good; there remains, grotesque, unholy, machines in gymnasium to free the soul from that flabby fleshiness that tells of sloth and gluttony. To be lithe as an archangel, starving saint, lanky martyr is the object of flinching strain of weighty anatomies; the pilgrims, by their volition, endure the rack and press, intent upon the sculptuesque physique portrayed in sacred art.
—Richard Lloyd Cederberg —William Dauenhauer
non-stop red-eye the crossing miles away, somewhere beyond stray pockets of wisteria and ripe blueberry still I could hear the crooning red-eye
Night in the Woods The woods are quiet tonight, but listen: There are whispers wandering through the darkness, liquid night music drifting through branches, rippling softly through the darkness to pool here and there … would you drown in those shadow shallows if you dared venture there?
mingled with the tatted curtains; the moon, the stars the crickets
A breeze dances briefly, fingering leaves, causing them to rustle, shivering and trembling like virgins fearing its touch yet welcoming it. Or perhaps they welcome the playful touches And the susurrus is a greeting…or applause?
there were times at night when I replayed every skipped stone, truant pond, every clack of an old rattrap
The small stream gurgles and burbles to itself whispering little stories of where it has been, what it has tasted in its travels. A small vortex forms opening a swirling mouth, and with a sly little chuckle, it gulps down a floating leaf, and hurries on to other places far from this wooded place.
only ballast left behind
Night animals, eyes large with the need to see, move in the darkness, rustling through the leaf carpet creeping and crawling, sliding and gliding, prowling each after the manner of its kind seeking sustenance. Their small sounds in the ambient air of the cool darkness meld and merge, each playing its own musical part in the quiet symphony of the woods at night.
but the boxcars slip by quietly
Ode to a Flatbed Truck Load of Satellite Toilets
PS, say hello to your shadow for me. I can’t communicate with her now so it would be appreciated if you would relay the message.
A load of Satellite toilets went by today on a flatbed truck. It seemed such a funny sight, an absurd comment on life, and I was struck with the need to write this little ditty about those “johns” on display, minus the John Phillips Sousa marching band, but still, just the same . . . commodes on parade.
A flicker of the fingers in a half-wave should suffice. You see, your shadow and I had our moments when your back was turned. Face gathering freckles for the oncoming winter. We would slow dance in the sunshine and lick icecream under street lights your shadow and I. Once we hopped a freight train to Miami after placing sleeping pills into your cottage cheese. We shared a few inside jokes, some laughs behind your back, if you will. Remember how I used to say that your cowlick was debonair? Or when I said that your down filled jacket didn’t make you look like the Michelin Man. So give her a pat on the back for me, make it a slap on the touche. She likes the cha cha cha and prefers vanilla to chocolate, if you ever get lonely. Of course, you may have to do something about that cowlick. —Luke Maclean
Photo by William Parsons
On hot summer days of too much sun, corn dogs, and grease . . . cotton candy, fairground beer and lemonade, it sits out past the booths and carnival barkers, the screaming kids on the rides, beckoning and shimmering, an oasis in the shade. Through the tall brown grass the and the broken glass, over condoms used and tossed on a well-worn trail of dirt, you hurry now and wonder how, or even if, you’ll make it; the roll of thunder amid a tidal wave; you have to go so bad it hurts. Almost there, just one more curve, before you find relief, like others before, rushing toward that door through the sticky air, only to see, when you round the bend, a snaking, waiting line, a trail of tears, anguish, fidgeting, fear -- in this toilet zone of despair. A desperate place of bitten lips bloody, tightly crossed legs, and white puckered face where fathers cringe and children wail, trying bravely to hold it all in, until, thankful for two-holer havens, they rush in to take their place, rightful, temporary heirs to the throne, sitting hunched in nirvana, cheeks to the rim. To some, a peaceful space, an aromatic place, with an ambiance all its own, where the heat settles down and the sweat trickles down, near the orchestra pit creek where frogs croak and honey bees drone. There’s graffiti on the walls and suspicious looking tissue that didn’t quite make the holes, stuck to ceiling and floor. Evidence of boredom, the tedium of biological necessity, all human issue. If it’s true what they say, that you are what you eat, then cotton candy woman, corn dog boy, sno-cone girl, and mini-donut man have all left their mark here, intestinal debris piled under your seat. If history can be made, then left, then lost, and finally found, what better place to dig, to search, to learn of diets long past than sifting through layers of feculence in this malodorous mound? A detailed and deep pit of human debris, a rare archeological find. Much can be learned by what drops, then smells, and finally dies here, alluring to flies and their offspring, ants, and yes, even snakes— a reeking cauldron of fear, of fangs in the dark and strikes to the rear to the imaginative among us, who hear slithering far down below. Here in the dark, door closed, trapped by our bowels in this slew, fretting, wondering what Lovecraftian horrors have spawned and now grow just below the surface, fetid, wet, and so warm, putrid and worming their way to the top, to tickle our butt with hot fecal breath before pulling us down, submerging and sucking, mewling and squirming through that hole, that gateway to hell, gaping larger the longer we sit. Sweating and straining, puffing and praying, imagination run wild, we beg for release, for redemption, for light, and the relief of a good shit. Sometimes too fast, but now when we need it, agonizingly slow, elimination at last, remedy comes. Shaking and shrunken, we open the door to the line and the sunlight, on legs gelatinous, stumbling, we know freedom at last, for a while, from a biological demon’s humbling control. —Elaine Pederson
Mississippi Crow Magazine
A Ripple in Time
Wednesday— Paying some bills when something odd appears at the window. Distracted, I close the curtains.
A ripple in time flows back in your mind Open the doors of remembering! Oceans are deep Little waves won’t keep and shallow streams are for wading. . .
Thursday— Saw something at the window again tonight. Black or maybe gray? Surprised, I close the curtains.
Hurry Your Pictures are fading! A ripple in time Love is blind! Open your old letters and see, long Lost boys never rush back flush them all down the john!
Friday— The forms were clustered against the glass again. Each with a distinct color. Perplexed, I closed the curtains. Saturday— Wrote this with the forms at the window. Some gave me the creeps. Agitated, I closed the curtains.
. . . then blare the tunes of “Hit the Road Jack!” A ripple in time How life can bind! What were the games we played? Swings and slides A coarse life rides. . . Your sitting on a teeter totter!
Sunday— I don’t like the pink ones. Somehow they are the most horrible of all. Appalled, I close the curtains. Monday— The forms were at my window again. I watched them for a long time. Eventually, I closed the curtains.
. . . by the way My first kiss was spun in a bottle! A ripple in time Wrinkles aren’t kind Have any spare years to lend? Borrow some minutes for, survival of the fittest! Journeys always come to an end.
Tuesday— I know what the forms are now. They still give me the creeps, and yet… Obstinately, I closed the curtains.
So, spend today with a high school friend. . .
Wednesday— Tonight as I stood watching, the forms pattered excitedly against the pane. Understanding, I opened the window
—Kimmy Van Kooten
And began to write. —Adrian Ludens
http:// stores.lulu.com/ HoaiThuongTrang Are YOU in it?
Photo by William Parsons
Poetry and songs written in the Vietnamese language by Hoài Thương Trang. For info go to:
One Fine Day
It is evident that what there is on the other side of our windows, doesn't change, at least, not usually, only by exceptions of public works of which we all fall victim to sooner or later. However, what is displayed to us when we look through the window properly, could be the extremely sad vision of a lonely night, in which everything is more than enough, and in which we are lacking of everything at a time; or the vision of a happy night painted with the summer breeze and the smiles of the stars. It all depends on who is looking, when we look and the feelings we experience whilst doing it. But it is not the views that change, it is not the world outside which feels and moves, it is our hearts, the micro worlds we have lodged inside. Anyway, it doesn’t stop to seem showy to me, the way in which the same window can show me the happiness or the sadness that I usually think it has outside. And there I am, sad or happy, feeling like going out onto the streets to share my smile, or not feeling like putting my head out of that window again. And, it is just a window. A place I always turn to, smiley or tearful, even indifferent sometimes, just hoping that whatever is outside will show me the way I was already walking by...or hoping to show externally the same things, the things that shake me from one emotion to another. Am I still talking about windows? I am not sure. At the beginning, I was thinking about a specific window from which I looked once and felt terribly unhappy, and from which I looked a few weeks later, maybe just days, and thought everything was wonderful (even the noise of this big city). And, right now, I don’t know if I am still talking about that window from which I will never look through again, not that I need it either, or if I am talking about how opposite my emotions were by that time. Windows. It is also funny how many windows we can have to have access to in our whole lives (I think I am talking about windows again), how many different moments in which we get to put our heads out of them, and to think or feel something that goes further than how nice or ugly the view is (maybe I am not talking about windows anymore). Friend’s windows, relative’s widows, our own windows, work place’s windows, remote places… we visit windows. Windows. Each one with its innumerable views and that, which anyway, won’t be the same if we look through them after a while, short or long, it all depends on the viewer and his or her own interior battles. I wasn’t the same person the first time I looked through the window from which I get the light to write right now. I couldn’t even say that I was the same person yesterday, not if being the same person depends on what I feel every morning, afternoon, or night when I'm looking through it. And the simple views I have, haven’t changed a bit during the past three years, even less, yesterday or today, so, then, I wonder, is it possible that it was me who changed? Is it really possible that, when nothing in my life has changed at all since yesterday, the view from my window looks so different today? And, it’s said vision is a reliable sense, but it can’t be if what one day are bright colours can, the next day, turn mournful. Not, if actually, the colours haven’t changed. Not if the views from any window change. Changes. Windows. Different visions of the same panorama. The vision at the service of our feelings. Thousands of visions from the same point, loads of moments for each view, and, only one window...the one from which we see with our hearts..
Here’s a trick. Spread six drink napkins across the bar, stack ‘em two across and three deep. Waitress rubbernecking as you rearrange the past. Half-empty pitcher of beer and warm regret, it almost works. Two across by three down, that’s a full page, doubled and you’ve got enough to tell what happened. Oh, and number each corner with a circle.  See, just kids spending a summer afternoon in an ice cream shop. Nothing tragic. Joel hogged his free sundae, cause we’d all eaten our cones. Air condition shot, I licked a vanilla puddle off the table. Garret stuck a spoon up his nose and Timmy laughed. The register girl, she just smiled, raised her fingers at Joel. That’s the difference between twelve and ten—girls’ll slip you free ice cream when the manager’s in the can.  I stood and kicked back my chair, swiped his sundae off the table. Nuts and cherries splattered the wall. “This, everything, is all wrong. Even it was free, you shoulda fucking said no. Taking that sundae, making us wait—now one of us is gonna die.” Problem is, I never said that. Crumple that napkin into a ball. Flick it rolling down the bar.  My father swirled a glass of gin. “Your mother told me. Listen, of course it’s confusing. Only being ten, but God, it’s always beyond us. Make a choice, nothing, I know, but then that domino tips the next, and then another, and shit, we’re just mortals, clutching in vain as it spills beyond your grasp.” Yeah, that works. Moving that napkin before the third, it all starts making sense.  The sun is a mirror tilting in the blue sky, blinding and scorching the desert valley. Four cousins walk along the sidewalk, each seasons apart. Metal forms blur on the street in a wake of exhaust and rumble. I tightroped the curb behind Garret, matching his footsteps. During a dying sunset I taught him to kneel beside a cactus, slam his cupped fist on the dirt and feel the scaly hide tickling his palm. That’s what cousins did. Just as Joel taught me to start pit fires, and Garret taught Timmy to draw birds, to hold out his hands for communion.  A bright flare beneath a newspaper machine. I step over and kneel, turning the quarter in my fingers. Some things, my mother assured me, God decides.  Here’s another trick. Stare at an empty wall. Envision an eight year old boy, arms outstretched above the curb. Now blink. See a red fender. Blink again. See the boy spinning through the air, a sheet of cardboard smashing into a far light pole. And right here, move this one before six. Lean back and sip the bitter beer, see how they all add up.  No, mom said, things like that are beyond our control. Fuck that. Even at ten, you sense everything was in that quarter, and that quarter would forever be in everything, no matter how many times it slips from your fingers and jangles across the sidewalk. Heads or tails, nothing is the same again.  Stare down at the boy splayed in the gutter, leg bent behind his back, forehead swelling into Chinese eyes. Arm trembling against your shorts, you can’t breath, or sob, or turn away in that vacuum of logic, despite the warm urine running down your leg. Hands finally grasp your shoulders and lead to the backseat of a station wagon. There now, it’s
Mississippi Crow Magazine
gonna be okay. Watch the flashing red lights above the crowd.  The funeral just a week later, followed by a dark winter in which Joel and I stood alone, faces ecstatic in the orange pinball glow, him teaching me the art of nudging the machine before a tilt. A raised eyebrow and we snuck into the back alley, where I coughed on my first joint. Sweet tangy smoke ribboned before a full moon. Back at his house, we giggled over a comic until my Uncle entered the kitchen. His briefcase a gunshot on the table, unsettling the quiet room. Joel never looked up.  “Don’t walk away from me, you piece of shit. Couldn’t get a fucking haircut, like I told you? Something so goddamn simple.” Slumping as my uncle shoved him down the hallway, I seem to remember Joel’s chin drooping, as if in submission to the fist cutting the air and smashing his head into the wall. He crumpled to the carpet. Drywall dent a trophy his brother would never win. In the kitchen doorway I stood frozen. My uncle’s red face turned on me and in that terrible moment, finally, I wasn’t alone. We both knew.  Run into the cold night and you may never stop, because if logic is a defense to horror, it’s not a prison but a straightjacket. Nothing is sane. No choice innocuous. Flip a coin. My father repeatedly cheats on my mother and she storms out with my brother and I in tow, shacking us up with a vicious drug dealer. Sliding the napkin back and forth across the bar so fast the words blur, the past changes and, there, see, we leave the ice cream shop ten minutes earlier. Now blink. The drunk driver swerves up an empty curb, three hundred yards behind us, and it’s all okay.  Flip it again. Joel vanishes at twenty, shooting up in seedy motels and back alleys, two decades now without a phone call to even his mother. Flip it. I spend a year in reform school. Flip. Cradle my baby girl in the delivery room, weeping over her pasty skin and frightened eyes. Flip. Scrawl a final sentence on this damn napkin.
“That so?” “Yeah, boss, that’s so.” Tony glanced around to make sure everyone was busy with their own jobs and conversations before leaning toward Tommy, “How’d you get rid of it?” “You’ll never believe it, Boss, but on my way to the can I saw one, just like yours, sitting on the table – just sitting there. So after I took a leak, I stopped and chatted with the couple sittin’ there.” “It was just sitting there? On the table?” “Yeah, Tony, I swear. And this guy, he didn’t much like me talking to them, so he took his wife out to the dance floor – leavin’ it right there, like it weren’t nothin’.” Tommy laughed, a sound like a concrete block landing on a dead fish, and continued. “So I swapped ‘em.” Tony stared, incredulous. He opened his mouth to speak, but just then the cops escorted a man from the restaurant. The man wore a tailored black suit, but his white shirt, face and hands were splattered with blood. As the police led him, in handcuffs, to one of their cars he screamed, nearly hysterical. “I wasn’t trying to kill her! I love her! It was our 25th anniversary! I swear I was just trying to light her cigarette!” As the cops pushed him into the backseat of their car and slammed the doors Tony looked over at Tommy. “Is that the guy?” “Yeah Tone, yeah it is – how’d you know?” “You stupid schmuck, Tommy,” Tony shook his head in wonder while his shoulders bounced with mirth. “You stupid schmuck.”
Phantom Limbs —Steve Silkin
Swapped —Rhonda Parrish Sirens wailed like banshees, slicing the night with their piercing cries. Lights flashed over the scene, painting the onlookers and emergency workers faces scarlet and blue. Police cars and ambulances took over the street outside the posh Italian restaurant, and crime scene tape separated those who’d come to rubberneck from the witnesses as effectively as a concrete wall. Tommy “The Gun” Tortelleoni, securely ensconced on the 'witness side', leaned toward the scarred man beside him. “Tony, hey Tone.” Tommy raised his voice just loud enough to be heard over the chaos that surrounded them. “In all the excitement I forgot to tell ya.” “Yeah? Tell me what?” Tony pulled the cigarette from his lips and flicked it unceremoniously toward one of the cops milling around the scene. The officer jumped away from the sparking torpedo and shot the mobster a look that spoke volumes. Tony shrugged and feigned innocence, yelling, “Sorry sir, I didn’t see you there.” “Course you didn’t Tony, course you didn’t.” The cop went back to what he was doing and Tony, smirking, repeated himself to Tommy. “Tell me what?” “The solution to our little disposal problem presented itself to me, and I took it. You don’t need to worry no more. The gun is gone.”
Are YOU in it?
I used to have a leg. Played high school football. Odessa, Texas, 1948. Got hit hard running down the sideline, slammed into a bench and my femur snapped. That’s a bad break. They set it, but it got gangrene. They saved it, though. Or did they? Yes. It was so long ago. Sometimes I don’t remember everything. Wait: Stepped on a landmine in Vietnam. That’s how the leg came off. What? No, I’m not too old for that. I was there. Where in Vietnam? It was a long time ago. I don’t remember exactly where. I’m tired. Oh! Leprosy. That’s what was wrong with my leg. I was a leper. I was begging for alms outside the temple. In Bethlehem. I saw them come, the old man and the mother. “No room at the inn,” they told them. There was something about them. I was curious and I followed. They went into the manger. I waited outside and piled up some hay and made myself a bed for the night. Yes, I could see. I was by the door, so I could see into the barn. Is it true, you ask, is the story true? Do you really want to know? Well, I saw everything. I remember that night like it was yesterday. But I’ll never tell. I remember, though. I remember everything. The Civil War. Antietam. A bullet in the thigh. Up close. I could see the soldier who got me. A kid. Baby-faced. I fell over and pretended I was dead. I still feel pain in my knee, even though my leg’s not there anymore. Who cut my leg off? I don’t know. It was a long time ago. I don’t remember everything. I’m so tired.
Brakelights Like Novas —Tyler Enfield Dana whipped into the other lane, flew passed the cab, gave him the finger for going the speed limit and swerved back in front, experiencing a near hysterical satisfaction in having punished a senior with her youthful vitality and speed. Then she slammed on her breaks. Dana’s lane was paralyzed with traffic. “Damn!” She twisted over one shoulder, then the other, gripping her steering wheel as she searched for an escape. Cars on either side drifted past, slowly, mockingly, water floating around a boulder midstream. She saw an opening. She popped the clutch of her Civic lurching halfway into the neighboring lane and then locked the breaks again. A cab crept by, the gold-toothed Russian at the wheel winking in triumph, his hairy arm hanging out the window. Dana screamed. Eight blocks, eight goddamm blocks is all she had left to go and at this rate it would take twenty minutes— she looked at her watch— and then there was parking. And she’d never been to this building, so there was another five minutes, minimum, just to find the office where she was supposed to be interviewed. She glanced at her watch again, saw the fluorescent-tinged minute hand tick, and felt her pulse surge. She made another lunatic attempt into the next lane. HONK! No good. She heard the muffled voice of a driver cursing her through an open window as he floated by and Dana revved her engine in frustration. This was not the life of an artist. This was not what she went to design school for, what she had envisioned when she left home for New York. Since arriving she’d spent the last six months doing odd jobs, temp work, even a stint as a seamstress, trying and failing and trying once again to get a foothold on the intestinal labyrinth of the high-brow art world. This interview was her first real opportunity to get somewhere. Dana leaned out the window. She could the see the skyscraper glinting from here, could close one eye and pinch the window-washers up top. She had less than four minutes to find the underground parking entrance, wait in line for her automatic ticket, park her car, get to the lobby, stuff herself into an elevator and climb to the thirty-first floor before purging herself of all symptoms of haste so she could sit down for a calm discussion of her attributes with a prospective employer. Just then, she saw it. In the lane beside her, a traffic anomaly, a pristine window of gaping emptiness that matched the dimensions of her car. Some fool had failed to close the gap between his vehicle and the next and Dana was about to make him pay. With a blistering screech of tires she cranked on her wheel, shooting javelin-like toward the vacancy, only to slam on her breaks once again. “No!” she shrieked. “No no! No fucking way!” A white Audi, with complete nonchalance, had pulled right in front of her from the furthest lane. The driver didn’t even turn around, refused to acknowledge her. Traffic locked up immediately. Dana slammed the door as she got out. She stamped up to the window of the offending vehicle just as traffic began to move again. The man at the wheel, red-faced and bejowled, had just enough time to note her wrath before inching forward and away. Dana dashed back to her car. As she turned the ignition she now saw there was an accident, not far ahead, as indicated by a whole lane of right-turn blinkers. That nonchalant idiot in front of her casually steered around the parked police car, the tow truck, the Celica with the mashed front end, and Dana kept her eyes on him as she followed suit, everyone bottlenecking into one lane. Then, astonishing as birth, she was squeezed into the open with four lanes of lane-swerving paradise in which to carry out her vendetta on that white-Audied ass. She raced up alongside him, met his eye and released a froth of ear-scorching curses. He cupped a hand to his ear and Dana realized
her window was up. She jerked on the wheel, feinting into his lane before pulling back with a squeal of tires. Her opponent sped up, appearing to attempt escape, only to swerve back in front of Dana. His brake lights lit up like ominous novas and Dana had to swerve frantically around him. Old trick, thought Dana, who was now situated in front of the Audi, but then he was beside her again, neck and neck, the two exchanging furious glances. His lip curled daringly as together they ran a red light, then sped on to the next. It was with a mixture of exultation and regret Dana recognized her building on the next block. Reluctantly, without admitting defeat, she downshifted into second and turned left on a green arrow. When she glanced in the rear-view mirror she saw the Audi had pulled in behind her. It followed her into the garage. She parked, and it passed behind her, presumably to park as well. Dana rushed into the lobby, stopping before the elevator. A crowd of six or seven people stood waiting, watching for the up arrow to flash red. Dana noticed the bright jowls of the Audi-man just as he noticed her. He sniffed and looked down, checked his watch, switched his briefcase to his other hand. The doors opened. Everyone got on. The carriage ascended, sluggishly, stopping heavily at floors as if to catch its breath, then plodded upward again. Each time the doors opened a few people got out. Sometimes one or two got back in. Dana couldn’t help noticing this man, her nemesis, was among those who remained. She distracted herself by concentrating on her interview. She rehearsed her explanation for arriving late, practiced answers to probable questions. By the time she reached the thirtieth floor, only Dana and the Audi-man remained. The elevator doors opened, a moment of awkwardness, then both Dana and her enemy stepped out. She saw that his face, like hers, was a mask of calm resolution as they proceeded down the carpeted hallway. This time Dana allowed him to pull ahead, preferring this gap of ten feet between them. When he halted before a door labeled Tucker Designs Inc, Dana stopped too. The Audi-man opened the door. With his jaw set like stone, he held it open for Dana and she passed under his arm into the waiting room. The secretary looked up. “Nope, hold on,” she said into the phone, then raising her chin to the Audi-man. “Hi, Frank. Morning.” He shut the door behind him. “Morning. Sorry I’m late.” “Don’t worry,” she said, hanging the phone on her shoulder. “I think this is your first one right here. Are you here for an interview?” The woman smiled brightly at Dana, who tried hard to smile back.
Hostage —Matt Ryan The girl is about five or seventeen years old. Something like that. She has been taken hostage. Again. These situations never last longer than a weekend visitation. They take place in a big empty warehouse. The hostage-takers never know what to do with the kid, so they send out for a bike or a trike to be delivered. This makes the girl happy. She whizzes around in fast furious circles and screams, “I’m dizzy.” The adults rub their temples; the birds fly from rafter to rafter. “You’re upsetting the birds,” the little girl is told and then her bike or trike is taken away from her. Boredom fills the warehouse with heavy air. Everyone slowly sinks to the floor, snoring. Eventually, the money is delivered and the kid is free to go. The hostage-takers tell the little girl that she was like a daughter to them. She hops on the bike or trike and rides away.
Mississippi Crow Magazine
From the Oracle’s Lips —Lesley C. Weston She called it labiomancy, but it wasn't. Ellen always did things like that, used words I didn't know, made me stop to figure them out. She called it that, but later I looked the word up, just to know. By then it didn't matter, not like I thought it would, anyway. Her boyfriend, Donald, was there. I was standing by the door, all bundled up in my winter coat, sweating, trying to get her to go with me, trying to get her to visit Mama. She didn't answer me when I asked her. She was sitting deep in Mama's chair. Her right leg was thrown, careless, and asking for it, over the arm. Her penny loafer was hanging half-way off and swinging side to side as she jiggled her foot. Mama would have had a fit, seeing her sit like that. I took hold of the doorknob, and asked her again. “Ellen, I’m going to see Mama, are you going to come with me or not?” She did this thing with her eyes. Have you ever seen anyone sigh with their eyes? Well, that’s what she did. “I don't want to go, if you won't go with me,” I said. Sometimes guilt worked. But I’d forgotten about Donald. I forgot Ellen had an audience. She’d never give in if someone was watching. That's what I thought at the time. She crooked her finger, beckoning with that little smile she had. Both Donald and I started towards her. Of course, it was Donald she wanted. My neck was hot with shame even before she reached up, grabbed Donald’s tie, and pulled him down until he was leaned right over her. “Ellen, it's Mama's birthday!” My sister raised her head, stared at me over Donald's shoulder. “What do you think you are doing?” I asked. That’s when she said the word. “Labiomancy.” It lolled out of her mouth like something dirty. Then Ellen tilted her head back and pulled Donald closer. From where I stood, it looked like their lips were touching. “Come on, Donald,” Ellen said. “Do it!” I knew what she was up to. At least I thought I did. And it made me furious, Ellen sitting spraddle-legged in Mama’s chair, kissing Donald. I yanked the door open, then I slammed it closed, loud. The crack of wood against wood, the vibration, somehow it seemed like a sling shot released, and I stalked across the room with my hand up, ready to slap Ellen’s face. When I got to the side of the chair Mama’s chair, Donald hovered over Ellen, his lips not actually touching hers at all. Ellen glanced at me and held her own hand up, as if to say, wait, wait. He inhaled and then blew his breath out. I could hear it, he was blowing so hard. Ellen opened her mouth, and she moved her lips, and her tongue also moved around inside the cave of her mouth. Hearing Donald's cigarette breath hiss against Ellen’s lips, hearing it fill up my sister's mouth with a whispery noise, somehow reminded me of the flowers wilting on Mama’s grave. I hit Donald’s back with my fist. “You are disgusting,” I yelled. Ellen’s hand gripped my wrist, and she looked up at me, her eyes all shimmery, and she said, “Come closer.” I thought she was talking to Donald. But when he moved in like he was really going to kiss her this time, right on her open wet mouth, Ellen let go of me, put her hand on his chest and pushed him away. “Come here,” she said, and reached for my wrist, again. “Now, you do it, Sue.” I stared down at her. She sighed, eyes glittering
Are YOU in it?
with tears. “Come on, Sue. Please. You do it.” I moved between her and Donald, stood between Ellen’s spread legs. I took a deep breath, so deep my lungs hurt, and because she said please, I did it. I let my air out in a slow steady stream right into my sister's mouth. As I blew my breath across her lips, Ellen shaped it into sound with her opening, closing lips, with her teeth and with tongue, the sound coming from my lungs and the words, the consonants, the vowels coming from my sister’s mouth. A ghostly whisper rode in the air between us. “I loved her, too.” As she released those words, Ellen’s lipstick smeared, her face, her lips wet with tears. And I knew then that no matter how she felt, Ellen would never have spoken those words alone. She’d needed me to help her.
Legend —Luke Maclean I can recall a Saturday evening, as a ten year old boy, engulfed within the television broadcast of a weekly hockey game. With the new status of double digits in years and a reciprocal bedtime, I was now established among the ranks of ritual. Between the first two periods, the chatter of the living room drew silent, as the social gathered around the television to view a former coach comment on the weekly events in our sacred. During this evening, the coach was asked what he would do to get the players of my beloved Montreal Canadiens to come together and play as a team. The Coach answered with his unquestionable knowledge that they should all go out for a pop, to loosen up a bit, and forget about what the Montreal media and fans were saying. “They’re squeezing their sticks out there!” he yelled. “These guys gotta get back to basics. They’re all trying to do to much it. It’s a best of seven game series!” He stared into the camera as if each and every player in the dressing room were watching. Just as we. We amongst our ranks of ritual. I imagined the affable Canadiens captain, Bobby Smith, orchestrating a conversation with his fellow teammates by gesturing emphatically with his hands as the glass of cola and ice cubes perforated a frosty glaze on it’s surface.The small left-handed swede, Mats Naslund, sips on an orange soda through a bent straw nestled in the corner of his mouth, accentuating his boyish looks and charm. Patrick Roy, still very much in his last game, sweats profusely as a steady heckle of steam billows above the 33 etched into his jersey. A glass of bubbling lemon lime sits in front of him as Stephane Richer feels the urge to pour the cold beverage over the twitching goaltender. Instead he reaches for the diet cola, it’s rim decorated with a lemon slice. The yellow fruit gestures cue to the observant Mike McPhee, who wonders if drinking diet has anything to do with Richer’s team lead in goals. The only man with a handle on his glass, McPhee takes the stage by dipping his mopping moustache into the foaming head of a rootbeer mug, and then smiles while blushing slightly.
—Vernard Kennedy The bell rang. Peter carefully placed his soldering iron on the coffee table, pressed the buzzer without asking who it was, and opened his third floor apartment door. It was Zelda coming up the stairs, not Michael Maynard, an elementary school friend he had recently run into and was expecting. What the hell was she doing there? Suppose he had another woman in the apartment? Just then it occurred to Peter that something worse than being caught with a woman in the apartment was about to happen. Zelda was about to meet the tall, charming, statuesque female-magnet, Michael Maynard, unless he thought of something really fast. Peter's mouth hung open, his heart pounded as his delicate prized possession, beautiful Zelda, avoided his eyes, ducked under his arm into the apartment and strolled to the easy chair on the balcony. There, she stared at the blue sky through wrought iron bars and twirled a lock of her long wavy Spanish hair. Her right leg bounced incessantly. The bell rang again. Peter felt as if his pounding heart had been yanked clean out. Michael had arrived. Inspired by memories of their shared past, including how all the girls swooned over Michael, Peter received his friend with a hug. With two folding chairs in hand, he led Michael out onto the balcony. The scent of sea salt from the ocean two blocks away was pungent in the September late afternoon air. Palms swayed gently. "Zelda, this is Michael Maynard. We went to school together when we were kids. Michael, my woman, Zelda," Peter said, without taking his eyes off of Zelda's. "Nice to meet you," Michael said in his easygoing manner. "Peter, you’re still the same: you have electronics everywhere; always taking things apart and putting them back together. You fixing all this stuff?" "He's a hermit," Zelda interjected. "You a hermit, Peter?" Michael asked. "Somebody's gotta keep the world going," Peter said, his low voice rumbling, his long face animated at the end of the sigh. Zelda didn't take her eyes from Michael. "Peter, you remember third grade? Your name's Zelda, right? Zelda, you had to see his face," Michael said laughing, "when Sister Mary held him over her desk and whacked him with one of those old fashioned yard sticks for disabling the P.A. system." "Man, you would have thought she was killing me!" Peter said. "I did." Peter contorted his face and upper body like a mime. "Shoot, it was more than that," Michael said. "It was like you were being electrocuted." Michael reared back in his chair, laughing. His teeth were perfectly set in his powerful jaw. His bronze skin, even around the neck, was taut and flawlessly smooth after 25 years. He didn't even look real. Zelda sounded a "dzzzzzz," going along with Michael and laughing too." Did he catch on fire?" she asked. "Damn well might have," Michael said. Zelda ignored Peter's disapproving scowl and turned right back to Michael. What force was at play here? Peter thought. She sat on the edge of her chair, acting silly, as if taken by Michael's seductive eyes. Peter grew quieter, observing the interaction while darkness deepened. He had a half-smile plastered on his face, though his shoulders were stiff and his heart raced. Zelda hung on every word of Michael's, inquiring about Peter's past and giggling nervously, as though she might come out of that flowery sun dress and offer her pale body
as a sacrifice. But what about the private e-mail? Peter thought. "Even though he barely lets me into his world, I am embarrassed to say I love Peter more than I love myself," Zelda had written to her best friend Abigail. What did the email mean? Peter thought. What did Michael's now teasing Zelda and her blushing mean? "... oops, you almost fell from the chair!" Michael said to Zelda, laughing. "That's stupid," Peter blurted out, screwing up his face at Michael. "She can't fall 'from' a chair." Laughter ceased. No one moved and no one smiled. "What did I say? From?" Michael adopted a formal tone. "That's right, from." "That's stupid," Peter said, with a shoulder shrug. He shook his head. "Anybody knows, a kindergartner knows, that 'from' refers to leaving a place to go to another place." "Yeah," Michael nodded. "Her butt almost left that place," he pointed at the cushion under Zelda, "and ended up at that place," he pointed at the linoleum. "I think he got you there Peter," Zelda said. "How do you know?" Peter directed his fury at Zelda. "What do you know?" He glared at the slut who had betrayed him. "Whoa, hold on," Michael said, palms outstretched. "Don't talk to her like that." "Don't tell me how to talk to my woman!" Peter said. He stood up. His chair scraped the floor and knocked over an exposed stereo receiver. Michael stood up, too; he was two inches taller than Peter and twice as thick . Zelda sat, looking tiny, knees together. She was wounded and perplexed. "Aw, man, get out of here," Michael said. He smiled and waved a playful hand at Peter. "You’re joking, right?" "No," Peter replied, looking straight up into Michael's eyes, "I'm not joking, and you get out of here, right now!" Michael scowled and looked at Zelda as he made his way to the front door. Peter thought he saw Zelda peek at her shawl, which was lying across a huge television tube. "You can go too," he said before he realized the implications. Veins were popping on his head. Wounded, Zelda gathered her shawl, passed Peter and followed the hunk. When the sound of her heels and the sweet scent of her perfume faded, Peter felt a pang at his heart so sharp, so overwhelming, that he held his chest and stumbled against the wall. Moments later, he'd recovered sufficiently to stand and stagger over to grab the bars of the balcony railing. He yelled into the darkness of the street below, "Zelda! Come back, Zelda! I'm sorry!"
Photo by William Parsons
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Ruby at Thirteen —Margaret Buckhanon Grandma is beating Jamal again. This is the third one he’s gotten this week since the social worker brought us here in the middle of the night. It was really ten o’clock but to Grandma after eight is the middle of the night. She was not sleeping when we knocked on her door but watching her favorite station, TV land. To Grandma, those 1970 shows were when television had morals and the characters had dignity. Never a dirty word left their mouth or flesh exposed. There was always a moral lesson and most importantly, a happy ending, all in thirty minutes. Life lessons from episodic televison. Through her, I developed a fondness for Happy Days, Sanford and Son, the Jefferson’s, McCloud, Barnaby Jones, Hawaii 5-0 and my two favorites, The Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family. Jamal does not share our fondness for nostalgia TV and is always into something. The social worker informed Grandma Jamal was diagnosed with ADD/HD. Grandma dismissed it, saying Jamal is simply hard-headed and stubborn. He won’t listen, she assessed, he’s spoiled, ruined by our mother giving into his whims instead of whipping him. The main reason it’s my mother’s fault is because she’s always on a mission instead of caring for her children. She can’t really fault Ma for the social worker coming that night. I guess I could shoulder some of the blame. Hours earlier, Ma quickly threw together dinner and then took off saying she’ll be back-that meant she’ll be gone until tomorrow morning, especially when she got her biweekly unemployment check. She had a really good job once, (according to Grandma,) at the utility company until they fired her for misappropriation of funds. Grandma yelled “she’s lucky she ain’t in jail for stealing them white folk’s money!” Ma waited for the mail man like a dog waiting for its owner to return home, smiling a smile she never has when there are no money for drugs, then off to the check cashing place we went: Ma, Jamal and me. Jamal is good at mimicking people: Grandma, Ma, me, anyone. He also likes to play with matches. He imitated Ma smoking rock. She left her pipe and lighter on the nightstand that night and the door to her bedroom unlocked. I could’ve stopped him. I could’ve snatch it away and pushed him out of her room. I’ve always managed my little brother. Sometimes I had to slap him on his hands to discipline him and I ‘d feel bad about it and kiss him and make him a sandwich. But that night I did nothing. I sat on Ma’s bed watching my brother twirling the glassine pipe in his capable little hands sucking hard and running the lighter back and forth. He look up at me smiling, fueled further by my giggling. Inside I was not laughing. I thought, if the house burned down, I’d be free of the roaches, and the smell of boric acid that's killing us instead of them. The unbearable cold during winter, and the insufferable heat of summer. There would be no more leaking ceiling in the livingroom that molded the already raggedy sofa. I would not have to worry about the decaying drywall in the hallway that may collapse and crush my little brother to death. I would not be fearful he’d eat a paint chip and suffer brain damage like the cute little Dominican girl who lived next door to us did. I would not have to walk down the piss filled hallway encountering drunken bums and dope fiends offering me to buy shit they stole from my neighbors. I would be a hopeful teenager, if only the house burned down. So, I did nothing.
Are YOU in it?
Grandma’s place is a big step up from our home. The senior citizen complex is neat, smells clean and is quiet. Grandma says old folks take pride in and out of their home. She says she was better raised than my mother, Jamal, and me. But she’s tired of us; tired of my mother’s addiction, tired of being a safety net when her daughter screws up. She’s tired of beating Jamal. I know she loves us, but I can see the weariness on her old chocolate face. Grandma wants to be free. She wants her life back, what little she has left. Jamal has cried himself to sleep. Grandma will get a break until he wakes up tomorrow. But we can’t stay here. It’s a complex for seniors only. She is sad and relieved by it. She motions me to sit next her and places her flaccid arm around me while we watch Barnaby Jones. I feel safe, secure, laying against her soft, sagging belly, a smell of Ivory soap, and dax hair grease. Grandma may not realize what she is doing, but a humming of a hymnal I’ve heard her sing so many times when she forced us go to church. “You all right baby?” “Um hum,” I faintly reply, her soft voice is making my eye lids heavy. “The police man told me what you did....” I snapped out my slumber and froze, preparing myself for the whipping of my life. The truth about the fire, that I did nothing while Jamal played with Ma’s crack pipe and lighter. I want to tell the truth, why I did it, but my tongue is dry and locked behind my lips. “I’m proud of you,” Grandma rubs my forearm back and forth in praise. “He say you got Jamal outta of the house, ran back in screaming and banging on the neighbor’s door. If it wasn’t for you, folks could’ve died. I say nothing. Grandma thinks her home training about humility has not gone to waste on at least one of her grandchildren. “You did a blessing girl. Grandma proud of you. But you should of been watching your brother,” she gently reprimanded. “How did he start that fire?” “I don’t know.”
If Grandma died very few people would come to her funeral. Of course, I would and Jamal too, (though I have to force him.)
Billy Rasco —Julie Shapiro Copper pipes hold sunlight and water above a man doing a crossword puzzle when paper is outlawed. Once the crossword king, he used to do them in his sleep. It’s said on the trees themselves. When the words became the man he glued paper to his torso and draped it from his arms and clung to the last tree designated in town for pulp. Inseparable…he loved the tree of paper. The way a pen rolled across it, the press of ink from idea to inspiration at his fingertips. They said he was a relic. Everyone else plugged in an outlet to their brains, enabling words to spill forth, a built-in editor, a ribbon trailing to a PC, never a printer. Glued to the mind and melded to the machine. Electrodes eroded the soul.
A Beautiful Death (Perhaps) —Jason Jones "Angels (they say) don't know whether it is the living they are moving among, or the dead.” -Rainer Maria Rilke Early Sunday sunlight shone into the diner's windows. She'd seen night change to day through yellow blinds and felt nauseous on catching that glare reflect from greasy tabletops, metal stool posts, and a mirror behind the counter. Her hand clutched a coffee cup and released it repeatedly while outside, Chicago wind tore through the streets. "I could work here," she thought, and scanned the room to catch a glimpse of the man who'd been watching her for twenty minutes. She plucked a fork from her napkin, and to avoid his attention, put a piece of omelet in her mouth even though she couldn't chew and spat the gob into a saucer. Her stomach turned, and she looked up to find the man staring with dark menacing eyes and lips curled back to reveal sharp, uneven teeth. She'd seen him outside her apartment; he'd followed her when she looked for "Help Wanted" signs; but he'd never trailed her openly. As she looked toward the entrance to gauge its distance, bells chimed, and a violent gust held the door back so forcefully that the customer and a waitress had trouble pulling it shut. From where she sat, she felt cool air along with a fresh wave of panic, and she almost ran. "I wonder what he's planning," she thought. “He might be a detective that Dad’s hired to find me,” and she reached for her bag beneath the table for comfort. Inside its folds was a copy of Wuthering Heights, and when lost, she'd imagine she was Heathcliff who’d left home to amass a fortune and take revenge on those who'd hurt him. She'd flip through pages and pass to a place where neither her father, who in tender moments retained an aura of tyranny, nor the man trailing her, could do harm. She didn't have a job and she might not have a place to stay much longer, and this made her vulnerable. She yearned for a home’s safety, a room to escape the world's whimsicality, but she'd left so long ago and under such bad circumstances that going back would mean failure, and familiar voices predicting nights on hardwood floors and meals in cheap eateries kept her away. A burning filled her throat, and she touched the spot where a silver necklace from her brother once hung. The waitress passed, and she grabbed her arm. It was a quick violent action, and she was embarrassed. "I'd like the check," she muttered. As she reached for her wallet, her hand crossed sunlight. "I look pale," she thought. She opened it, revealing a driver's license with her name and parents’ address, a picture she'd taken of her brother she couldn't part with, and a few credit cards she hadn't used for fear she'd be tracked. She extracted a ten that she lay atop the bill and examined her hand. "I need more sun..." She waved it—small, translucent—before her face. "Maybe I'm getting sick?" She took a deep breath and then stood, forgetting her change. She walked hurriedly, aware of him, but scared to turn around. She could hear his shoes on the sidewalk, and snow began to drift, only to still and lay dormant on the pavement. The brick tenement buildings to each side forced her to take corners tightly. Fire escapes shot toward garbage cans and iced puddles where trash covered the cracks, and between the two narrow lanes of roofing, a pale blue horizon fought with grey cloud cover. She climbed the closest escape, pulling herself along narrow fragmented stairs, and when she reached the roof, she leaned over to find he'd followed her. She turned toward the slums where she lived, and its bare trees waved a summons. The black and forgotten factories’ smokestacks
were ominous towers, and her knees grew weak at the sight of them. Everything pulsated, and she ran to a ledge and stood beside a pigeon coop. She'd reached a critical decision and couldn't go back. She bowed her head, and stepped into the air. "Please," she whispered. "Save me." And she clasped her hands. The sun warmed her face as she fell, and the wind caught her. She convulsed, bent by contortions of air, and when she spun, her fingers dissolved into bone and gristle and spread into feather-tipped endings that wrapped around her new appendages and let her soar toward a water tower that stood on a neighboring building. The clouds disappeared; her thoughts were fading as she soared past the south side toward the west; and she could no longer distinguish whether she was moving among the living or the dead, or even, if she'd ever existed at all….
Feed Up —Doug Lee Harold picked up his cap from the floor and walked towards the door. “Maude?” he called. “Yes?” “I’m going to feed up.” “Alright, dear.” Harold checked his overalls for a handkerchief and ambled towards the door to go feed the catfish. The phone rang. “I’ll get it.” Maude said. Harold paused and heard her answer as blew his nose. Maude walked around the corner blocking the receiver with her hand. “It’s the bank again, Harold. Do you want to talk to them?” Harold sighed and shook his head. He walked outside into the fresh air and wondered how much more time they had left on the property. He entered the cool darkness of the barn to get the feed. He filled a fifty-five gallon drum in the back of his pickup using a shovel. He placed the five gallon bucket beside the drums and drove to the ponds. Harold stopped at the first pond. He filled the bucket and threw the feed into the murky fresh water. Unseen fish swirled and rippled the water, the floating brown pellets disappearing. He watched the fish eat the food made from corn. The price of feed had increased five-fold in the last year. Harold watched it disappear like his profits and maybe his livelihood. Maybe the food wonders the same thing, Harold considered. It wonders how it got here and where is it going because everything it ever knew is floating in the water waiting to be gobbled up. Maybe the deep black hole of the catfish’s belly is a better place because the unknown is sometimes superior to the known. Harold wiped the sweat off his brow with the same hankie. The delta was heating up while the price of fish was going down. Soon they would all be in the fish’s belly.
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Lonely Days Are Gone
It started with one hamster because he was lonely and wanted companionship and his landlord would absolutely not allow a cat or a dog but instead suggested a bird that would stay in a cage such as a parrot but the lonely man’s aunt had had a parrot when he was younger and quite possibly she still had it or probably it died but maybe she got another one he really didn’t know he hadn’t visited her in quite awhile which saddened him since he now knew what it felt like to be lonely but at any rate it had always seemed that the parrot was taunting him and it wouldn’t shut up and the thought of it reminded him of his exwife and that quickly turned him off of the entire bird idea so he opted instead for a hamster but of course after a few weeks the hamster was not as peppy as he too had grown lonely and needed companionship so the man went out and got another hamster that the first hamster could hang out in the cage with but the first hamster was kind of mean to the new hamster and wouldn’t share the food with him and one day the man found the second hamster dead so he threw it in the trash and went and got another hamster but this time also got a bigger cage with a retractable partition so the hamsters could play together during the day but be separated at feeding time and the hamsters seemed very happy and so the man felt happy but that night he was awakened by a lot of scratching and thrashing coming from the direction of the trash can and it turns out the second hamster hadn’t died after all but had passed out due to malnutrition but since there was plenty to eat in the trash can he was revived and so first thing in the morning the man went and got another even bigger cage with yet another partition and he put his hamsters in it and all seemed very content but one day after some time had passed he came in to find that the third hamster had had six baby hamsters and it seemed that the first hamster was helping her take care of the babies which was enjoyable for the man to watch but eventually he began to notice that the second hamster acted as if he felt left out like a third wheel so the man went and got more cages with more partitions and a girlfriend for the second hamster with whom he got along great but time passed and passed and no babies so the man took them to the veterinarian who told him that no babies were born because both hamsters were girls but this confused the man because when he had just the first and second hamsters they did not get along and had no babies so he brought in the first hamster and the veterinarian told him that that hamster was also a girl and this is when the man realized he had the first and third hamsters mixed up because hamsters kind of look alike so he went back home but not before stopping at the pet store to buy more cages with more partitions plus boyfriends for the third and fourth hamsters and over time all the pairs had babies and the babies grew and formed new pairs and more babies and before he knew it the man had lots and lots of hamsters and was very busy feeding and cleaning and buying cages and retracting partitions but the man eventually realized that the hamsters had not kept him from feeling lonely and soon after he spent a week locked in the bathroom with a case of Jim Beam and no one fed or watered the hamsters and they all died.
Lost in pictures of Sangria the lovers winked at each other as a bride walked past them. She clutched her bouquet of Casablanca lilies and hiccupped. A flower dropped to the ground and she bent down ever so graceful, as John nibbled on Priscilla’s ear. He dared her to grab the veil. Priscilla nodded, “I do…indeed love lilies.” She feigned picking up the flowers and John swiped it. The bride called for help and the two lovers sprinted for the cliffs. Amidst shouts for the cops, Priscilla reached into her pockets for barrettes. John kicked off his running shoes in front of the cliff overlooking the turquoise ocean and shouted, “Hurry.” Priscilla fastened the veil in her hair and John grabbed her hand. Together they jumped and smiled at the sound of the police sirens. Priscilla tugged at his shirt catching a little back skin. “Go gentler on the nails, hon.” The shirt ballooned like a sail. A megaphone blared. The cops shouted at them to come clean for their wedding theft and all would be forgiven, but John and Priscilla hit the waves and dove down. They swam with her legs against his underwater as fast as they could toward the neighboring cove. When they couldn’t hold their breadth any longer they dared to push to the surface. The police still on a megaphone called down at them for jumping and thievery, but they just smiled at each other and kissed, then continued swimming. In the cove they exchanged their vows next to a smattering of floating rose petals, ones John said he’d stolen from last week’s wedding party. Priscilla said, “So you snagged it from a table arrangement?” “Nah, that’s for amateurs. It’s the bride’s bouquet.” “But how?” “Oh, she got spooked by a bumblebee and the poor photographer had his hands full trying to get her to pose without crying, but he couldn’t help her jumping and tripping on her own train and that’s when I made my move.” “And that’s why I love you, you’re so resourceful,” and with that Priscilla reached into her pocket, extracted a safety pin as a big as a guppy, opened the prongs and handed John a ring. She told him, of course, it came from the ring bearer, one little five year old just couldn’t resist her offer of a teddy bear at the wedding the week before. “Ah….hon…you’re The Mischief Supreme.” And they did as lovers do basking in the sun and the warmth of each other’s bodies until the police came and wanted to have a word with them. Why it seemed a certain wedding or two or three was missing a memento. Handcuffed and all John and Priscilla vowed their love in the back of a police car and John said, “We’ll always be resourceful. Priscella said, “Yes, always, always.”
DELMA LUBEN - www.authorsden.com/luben Internationally published author/poet Delma Luben writes about relationships, between the races, the sexes, and the species--and between this world and the next. Executive editor, inspirational speaker, and honorary member of The International Society of Poets for Peace, she has been nationally recognized for “… outstanding literary contribution against discrimination and religious intolerance.”
C’mon folks, what’re ya waiting for? Order your print copies online of this and/or past issues of the Mississippi Crow magazine at: http://stores.lulu.com/RiverMuse
Are YOU in it?
THE OTHER SHEEP by Delma Luben was recently selected “Book of the Month on Religion and Spirituality,” by Best Book Reviews, U. S. and Canada. This fascinating chapter in the continuing story of heaven sending guidance to God’s earth children, is spirituality made human. You feel you know the characters, as if you’d met them in another place and time.
Brief Candle —Jim Esch The last time I saw Aunt Betty was the Rustler Steakhouse. We took a corner booth; there weren't any tables available. She watched me spear a final morsel of ribeye and swirl it in a pool of watery catsup, the red meat clinging to the fork tongs. Behind her a massive bison skull was leaning off the wall, looking down on both of us. "So you're smoking 100's now," I said. "What's the doc have to say about that?" "It extends the pleasure. Doc doesn't agree. He wants me to outlast life." She smiled. Her teeth were the color of decades-old formica, but I loved her anyway. I wasn't going to try and talk her out of quitting anymore. She'd invited me to dinner because I was graduating next month, and she wanted to give me advice. I was drifting. Didn't know what I wanted. Prospects cloudy with a chance of rain. I thought she had brought me here to lecture me. I didn't understand why she was so willing to let go of it all. It bugged me. "Most people's lives," she said, "the bits worth remembering, would run the length of this cigarette. All the most important stuff don't take long." She flicked open her Zippo. "You're born, like this. All the good times are the deep drags, smooth in the lungs, settling there. The tragedies: coughs of flem, choking on the smoke; a live ash falls and burns your arm." She held the cigarette in her fingers, the fire ring blinking, alive. She had this way of over dramatizing the smallest statements. This time, it fit. "And then what? What about the end?" I said, staring down the eye of the cigarette that was killing her. As long as I'd known her, we'd been able to be blunt with each other, cutting to the quick. "Butts in a glass ashtray. We all burn out eventually, you know." She smiled again. Did she want to confess her regrets? Why she never married and had kids. Why she never took pottery classes. Never went to Hawaii like she always wanted. Maybe, I thought, I'd crossed a line, said too much, too judgmental. I wanted to take it back. Who was I? Some ungrateful clueless kid. "It seems a waste of time. A whole lifetime reduced to a cigarette. What about all the space in between? When nothing much happens?" She laughed, the phlegm chugging deep inside her. "I know, most of life is pointless. That's what these are for. They fill the gaps between the stories." I could see she knew something I didn't, that whatever was bothering me, keeping me from pushing through, was the same thing she had learned to put up with. She allowed the smoke to gush from her lungs, a waterfall of air, and the booth filled with ghosty ringlets, like reels of magnetic tape unravelling off the spools.
The Caller —Frank A. Gladden “They say he’s calling around to different numbers, listening to people’s voice,” the old woman said, squinting at the phone number on the parking violation. “How come he’s doing that? The surly voice on the phone asked. “To see if they sound old.” “Why?”
“Cause he wants to break-in and rob ‘em, or do God knows what to ‘em” “He called you, ma’am?” “Who?” “The man calling on the phone.” “Is he on the phone?” “I’m asking you if he called you on the phone, ma’am.” “I thought I was talking to the Sheriff… Sheriff Walter Davis,” she said squinting at the parking violation. “This is Sheriff Davis, ma’am,” the voice on the phone said in an angry tone. “You don’t sound like it… uh ooh, I heard something outside.” “Sound like I talked to you before. Did you call down here yesterday and the day before that complaining ‘bout a parking ticket you got up yonder at the drug store a few days ago?” “No, sir.” “What’s your address?” “Twelve twenty-two East Pinecone.” “ Keep your door shut, I’ll be right over” Sheriff Davis said, slamming down the telephone. The old woman hobbled into the bedroom, reached under the bed and pulled out her dead husband’s old shotgun, then dragged her high back rocking chair from the living room and sat facing the front door with the shotgun resting across her lap. The roar of the blast drowned-out the knock, as the pellets blew a hole through the flimsy wood door. The recoil of the twelvegauge shotgun knocked the old woman backwards in her rocking chair. “Got him!” she yelled, struggling to her feet, as the smell of the burnt gunpowder caused her nostrils to flare.
Fast Twitch —Matt Hlinak Your skeletal muscles are made up of fast-twitch fibers, which generate speed, and slow-twitch fibers, which provide endurance. The ratio of fast-twitch fibers to slow-twitch in the average human is 1:1. Among Olympic athletes, the ratio is 4:1 for sprinters and 1:4 for marathon runners. Although genetics largely determine this ratio, kinesiologists have found that you can increase the percentage of fast-twitch fibers by as much as 30% with the proper techniques. You came so close to reaching this limit running countless windsprints in battle against your coach’s unforgiving stopwatch that, with a little luck, you were able to qualify for the state meet in the 100-meter dash your senior year and your dad was very proud of you for a little while. Even now, when your athletic glories have long since faded and you dropped out after three semesters of pre-med and you don’t have a job and you are sleeping on an old high school buddy’s couch and you are 99% sure your dealer went to a house party over by the river and that you’ll be able to find some cash or cocaine lying around his apartment while he’s gone and you get caught breaking in, your fast-twitch muscle fibers propel you out the door with such velocity that neither your dealer nor the neckless Neanderthal he hangs around with can catch you. But fasttwitch fibers grow at the expense of slow-twitch fibers, which is why they eventually find you a half-mile away, panting and holding your side and remembering how good it felt to be a winner.
Mississippi Crow Magazine
The Nest —Kyle Deacon The Irises beside the house hadn’t bloomed in years. In clumsy gloves, the Husband weeded around them anyway, plucked grass gone to seed and garbage straggling with last fall’s leaves. Up against the bricks, something fuzzy, like stray lint blown from a dryer vent, came up with clumps of dead grass to expose huddled brown bodies breathing to the same beat. There’d been mice moving in on the Husband and his wife. The first got cornered in the bathroom closet, no bigger than a bottle cap with a tail; the Husband couldn’t kill it, so he’d gotten a jar, a dust pan, and told the Wife, “he gets by me, you stomp him.” But she’d only danced and screamed like somebody else’s cartoon princess. The second was a laundry room gift from Senõr Gato. Bones crunched sticky under the Husband’s bare foot. He’d done his own dance while the Wife screamed demands of extermination or else. She couldn’t know about the nest. When the Husband dug his trowel underneath the bodies they only cuddled closer. He closed his eyes, flicked, then opened to find five in flight, sticking where they fell. Careful not to crunch any, he looked closer to one burrowing in blades of grass. The ears gave it away. Not mice. He called inside for the Wife. “Oh, little baby bunnies,” the Wife covered her mouth and cooed when one by the fence faltered on its first hop. Two others found each other and nestled under a dandelion with their eyes cringed closed. The Wife giggled. The Husband asked if he should put them back. “If you touch them, the mother will smell it and eat them.” The Wife spoke with stiff-lipped certainty, innate, uncontestable. But the Husband let his face furrow anyway, before stepping in front of one crawling towards the street. The glint in almond-shaped eyes, her head tilting to count blooms on the Tulip Poplars above, these were sure signs that the Husband should have known better. “I had gerbils when I was a girl,” the Wife said. He told her he’d leave his gloves on and lift them with the trowel. Fear froze them stiff. Still, it was hard to get the trowel under them, hard to get them to stay when he did. When one flopped, the Wife whispered a whimper. The Husband wanted to tell her that they were only bunnies, that miscarried didn’t mean dead. The first few readily re-nestled to wait for what was next. But the las bunny wouldn’t stay. The Husband ladled him in a second time, rebuilt grass and fur layered according to the Wife’s directions from the sidewalk. But the baby popped out again, squirming and squeaking when it felt the cold metal. The Husband wished he could grab the baby without the trowel or the gloves; feel its softness, just to know what it was really like.
Are YOU in it?
Feed Sack Majesty He only wears Armani now, my sister says of our brother as we watch the children skate in an icy Central Park. Her voice drones on mingles with traffic noise and I am drawn away by a remembered song of cicadas far off starting soft then building to a crescendo the way they do. On trips to the feed store fall and winter Mama-Teen would take us girls to pick up flour and feed in printed muslin sacks We’d pick the ones with pretty sprigged patterns while she hoped for something boyish for my brother Chanel never searched so diligently for fabric nor stitched with such pride sundresses and shirts to last all summer I recall the four of us three girls, one boy running barefoot through the long singing meadows of our childhood
garbed in feed sack splendor real lilies of the field and none were so arrayed we knew ourselves the undisputed owners of the sun the broad-faced moon and the oceanic waves of timothy grass below the far hill where we played through those green and shining seasons of forever I don’t recall exactly when it was we learned the price of things. I only know I choose to keep safe in my pocket the coins of honeysuckle summers the moon’s wide smile and feed sack majesty. —Carla Martin-Wood Carla Martin-Wood’s second chapbook, Garden of Regret, is forthcoming from Pudding House Press. Her poems have appeared in the US and Ireland since 1978, including Rosebud, The Clapboard House, The Linnet’s Wings, ken*again, Soundzine, The Lyric, IBPC: New Poetry Voices, Up the Staircase, Flutter, Cherry Blossom Review, Oak Bend Review, State Street Review, Aura, Songs from the Web, Astarte, Elk River Review, Goblin Fruit, and many other journals. She maintains a virtual open mic at Smoky Joe’s Café on her website at The Well-ReadHead: http://thewellreadhead.googlepages.com Editor’s note: “Feedsack Majesty” was one of the first pieces scheduled to appear in this issue of MCM and is one of my favorites. It was inadvertently omitted from the first print run. Our apologies, Carla.
Mrs. Lloyd Seeks Work —Leo Lichy Unfortunately, I have never managed to map a successful path in the world of work and career. Years of tedious study didn’t help me to find more rewarding employment. The thought of being stuck in one solitary location under the dictatorship of a singular employer unnerves me. I believe you are at your most popular and useful when you are a new employee, feigning interest and pretending to have useful skills. After a few months of apologies and excuses, inevitably you turn to griping and the truth that you are an idle dimwit incapable of doing the most basic tasks is soon fully exposed to your gullible manager, who allowed you to wreak your brand of incompetence on the workplace. It is little time before your card is drawn and the game ends with a scowl and an unwilling handshake, as you are jostled out of the door and into the cold. If it wasn’t for the financial rewards -- which I find tend to be on the miserly side -- I wouldn’t attempt to comb my beard, don a clean tie and trade my comfy slippers for toe-capped work boots. However, when your financial situation grows blacker by the day, unemployment is no fun at all. Last week I paid for a lavish meal and night on the town and it sent Devron, my bank manager, into a crisis. His desperate plea that I should repay my sudden debt at once gave me the shakes. Even though I am near destitute and obliged to accept meals from charity, apparently I should curb my spending. That fervent zeal and great devotion which carried me through Harlem International Community School was once more relied on to come to my aid in this hour of crisis to cleanse me of the terrorizing taint of debt and restore me to my former eminence. “Even if I must pawn my syringe I aim to see to it that my shameful deficit is cleared forthwith,” I told Devron. The pressing urgency for money meant I was forced to put my acting career back in the closet and seek gainful employment sooner rather than later. And so, with hunger in my belly and passion in my heart, I set out with renewed purpose. I had scant regard for the type of work I should expect to find, merely applying for as many jobs as I saw advertised. What I failed to consider was how difficult and time consuming the process could be. After days of focused effort, I achieved only two informal interviews. The first, with the Roundabout Theatre Company, who were advertising for actors and directors, led to the manager throwing my resume into the street, where it caught a breeze and fluttered into the path of an oncoming vehicle -- the manager suggested I follow its course. The next was with the soap company Lush. Although I thought it went well I did have reservations. Particularly following the look from the manager after she had revealed I would be the only male in a shop of twenty young female staff and I had laughed raucously and clapped my hands with glee. My reservations would prove justified. Before returning to my lonely room, I also dropped into an employment agency. They had me waiting for twenty minutes on a squeaky leather couch and then made me endure a two-hour test, entailing thirty-seven questions on several computer packages called Word, Excel, and Access. I then suffered two five-minute numeric and alphanumeric data entry tests. It was all very clinical and organized. In this I also fared badly. The receptionist gave me a quizzical look when my results came out of her printer and then an employment officer called out my name but pronounced it “Leachy.” In the confusion I fell over the leather couch. As far as I could tell, the interview wasn’t a complete catastrophe. I smiled at the pretty employment officer’s jokes, dodged a
few harmful questions regarding my sketchy work history, and got through our meeting without even once spitting tea over her, or upsetting my cup and saucer. In fact, the only concerning moment came at the end of our meeting when, having told me she would give me a call in the near future, she referred to me as Mrs. Lloyd. It has put a dampener on my hopes of receiving a call from Hunt-A-Temp Ltd. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic. However, I am giving serious thought to the pronunciation of my surname and debating the pros and cons of changing my name to Mrs. Lloyd.
Doorway —Richard Lloyd Cederberg The knock on the door stiffened my spine. I wasn't too sure about what I'd be encountering on the other side of that threshold. Change, in any form, represented a nebulous form of chaos to me, and my adroit and disciplined life suffered immeasurably. During these seasons, a profound tingling took residence in my stomach and joints and my puerile concern with it interfered with all my daily routines. The physical symptoms were always the same; my thoughts and responses became vacuous, I developed this nagging difficulty focusing on simple things, and a general malaise’ hovered around me like drunken wasps. Where had the youthful warrior gone? The one who had packed up and charged over battlefields on a whim? That man who had never backed down from anything, or anyone, and always seemed to emerge unscathed from any kind of resistance. Back then that man wouldn’t hesitate a second to move across the country in an old dilapidated vehicle with only $1500.00 in his coffers, and no prospect of work. Was that faith in action? Aaaarrrrggggh! I felt like cursing myself, but somehow restrained doing so. These memories, though, ate at me. Something I had wanted for so long was now, finally, upon me, and I'd somehow become tenuous in my yearning to embrace it. I could feel my fingers trembling slightly as I reached for that old tarnished doorknob. Slowly as my wrist arched down; the ancient strike groaned and released. With a low pitched squeak, the doorway fell open. Standing on the other side of the threshold was a benign gentleman smiling with one scarred hand outstretched towards me. “Welcome to the next season sir,” he said gently with a voice like bubbling water. “I would remind you that the Light of Truth arrived here many centuries ago, and the wisdom He offered, and the work He accomplished, brought life to those who will believe and accept it. We are indeed blessed to know this. I hope you will enjoy your stay. It is so good to see you. You have been known to us for many decades. If there’s anything that you need sir … please pray!” After that he bowed slightly, and then moved back into the light. Immediately, after he'd vanished, choruses of laughter rippled through the air and, all around, I could see smiling silhouettes emerging towards me with extended hands. As my pounding heart echoed in my ears, and my eyes beheld wonders that I had never imagined, I took a hold of someone’s hand and shuffled forward into a brand new season.
Mississippi Crow Magazine
The Problem With Magic —Robert Freeman The problem with magic, as any spellcaster can tell you, is that it leaves precious little time for anything else. While the young craftsmen and squires gathered at the local tavern, trading their best goblin jokes, and enjoying a well deserved (and usually watered down) ale, the warlocks and witches in training were mastering their incantations. Well, all of them except Maya, of course. Maya was always in bed by then. That way, she could get up a few hours before classes began. While all the other sorcerers in training were snoozing away in their beds, Maya was already up, dressed, and running laps around the school. Eventually, the bells for morning study and preparation would ring through the school, to wake up the rest of the children, and let Maya know it was time to REALLY start working out. She’d tumble, climb up walls, jump rope, do push-ups, shadow box, and muse over which class she’d skip that day. Maya would never have been able to pass her classes if she skipped too many, so she had to be careful to skip only one class each day and never the same class more than once a week. What would she do in that class period? Why, homework, of course! She’d race to the nearest student lounge, whip out her books, and do the bare minimum amount of work required to pass each class. In the early afternoon, when all the other students were doing their homework, she was reading. Sometimes she would read about magic, but was far more likely to be reading something for enjoyment, or to expand her horizons. To put it bluntly, Maya was the school's worst student. Oh sure, there were kids who failed, but they were always gone within the first week or two. In order to pass, succeed and graduate, you had to push yourself to the limit and apply yourself to magic completely and utterly, for nearly every single moment of the day. The only other possible option was to figure out the exact minimum standards of the school, and make sure you consistently met them every year until you graduated. Maya only had three more months to go, and graduating was more or less certain. What wasn’t certain was the Grand Wizard Challenge. “You’re pathetic, you know that?” Fiona's roommate stood at the lounge door, with her short, pointy nose turned upwards in a sneer. Eventually Maya finished her work, and could finally respond to her, if she chose. She chose not to. Fiona rolled her eyes, moved her hands from left to right, fingertips flexing into the appropriate contortions, and then exhaled deeply, causing the air to suddenly chill. With another careful wave of her slender limbs, purple magical energy enveloped the cold air, and formed the cold vapor into a small statue of a swan, about the size of her own fist, on Maya's desk. Maya tapped the small statue of ice once, and then went back to her notes. Fiona shook her head in rage and contempt. She normally wouldn’t have cared, but Maya was her roommate, and being associated with her in any way was making her embarrassed. “Why did you even come to this school?” That struck Maya as a silly question, “What did I come to the ‘magic’ school for? Was it carpentry? Law? Magic, perhaps?” “You never learned anything past the basics!” Maya allowed herself a small smile, as she replied, “The basic spells are the most useful ones. Everything else is just icing on the cake.” Fiona pointed an accusing finger at the swan.
Are YOU in it?
“Maya, you’re the worst sorceress in school! Can you even undo the spell I just cast?” Maya pointed at the ice swan, and inquired, “What, this?” “YES!” “Oh, sure.” With a short swing of her arm, Maya flattened the statue with her palm. Despite Maya's happy compliance, Fiona seemed enraged for some reason. “WITH MAGIC!” “Why?” The mere question affronted Fiona. “WHY?!” Maya nodded, and continued, “Why should I waste years learning spells that aren’t useful? Why learn a spell to move objects around a room, when you could simply stand up and move them by hand? Why do you, Fiona, summon birds to fly through your window every morning, just to help fix your hair, and adjust your clothes? I’m right there, Fiona! All you have to do is ask, and I’ll button your dress up for you.” Maya was no longer a mere annoyance, but a complete affront to everything Fiona founded her tremendous ego upon. Fiona whipped her golden hair over her shoulder, and then marched adamantly over to Maya, who stood as she approached. In return, Fiona slowed her pace a bit, forced to respect the fact that while she had a slender, petite frame, Maya’s stature was far more ‘common’ and ‘peasant-like’. In other words, Maya weighed almost fifty pounds more than Fiona, all of it muscle. Fiona smirked, and called out, sarcastically, “What, are you going to knock me over? I have over twenty protective auras at my command that would…” Without warning, Maya snapped an arm forward, stopping a few inches in front of Fiona's face. Curiously, Fiona cast none of her protective auras, and stumbled backwards instead, nearly falling over a desk. “That’s quite a unique spell you've got there, Fiona." Fiona snapped both fingers, and the room filled with shadows. The slim, willowy sorceress became wreathed in dark, billowing spirals of smoke, as she cried out, “JUST YOU WAIT, MAYA! THE GRAND WIZARD CHALLENGE WILL COME AND YOU’LL BE HUMILIATED, BY ME, IN FRONT OF EVERYONE, INCLUDING YOUR PARENTS!!!” Maya sneered, but instead of saying anything, instead effortlessly fired a burst of magical fireworks into Fiona's face. Maya had always been very good with fireworks, and they appeared real enough to send Fiona running out the door, in panicked hysterics. This left Maya alone, to consider her roommate’s words. The challenge was open to every one of the graduating, seventeen year old wizards who wanted to participate, and usually drew about forty participants on average. The arena would be magically charmed to prevent any real, lasting injuries from the spells, so there was no reason for anyone to hold back. Everyone would bring the very best they had, and those who were serious about winning would craft and practice spells in secret, to leave their opponents unprepared. That night, as Maya brushed off the passive aggressive notes Fiona had left on her bed, an idea came to her. For better or worse, she decided it was her best shot. The next day, Maya rose as she always had, but instead of doing her normal daily exercise, she instead traveled into the nearby forest. After a week, many other students were rising early as well, to also practice for the grand competition, but none of them practiced as secretly, as Maya. Rumors began to pass through the school, and
although the more talented wizards scoffed, everyone was a little mystified and perplexed by the weird sounds and lights that randomly emitted from the forest. A freshman would describe Maya turning into a T-Rex and gobbling up her opponents. A slightly more reasonable sophomore wondered if the arena would blow up. The popular opinion was that she'd set the school on fire and cause everyone but her to run out, allowing her to claim victory by retreat, but the teachers dismissed that rumor, pointing out that the grand challenge did have some rules, albeit merely a few. The day of graduation, all was fanfare, magically created confetti, music, and celebration, but the ancient graduation ceremonies seemed to be little more than a footnote, leading up to the great event, where each young spellcaster got to show their families, friends and rivals alike, exactly how much they learned at the academy. The turnout for the main event was smaller than anticipated, with only thirty-two graduates lined up for the arena. As a general rule, those that didn’t want to participate were given ample chance to discreetly leave, and with no dishonor to their name. Maya let the other wizards go out first, displaying minor spells and their special outfits for the crowd. Most of the other spellcasters wore special outfits bought specifically for the occasion, but Maya preferred her normal outfit, and she spent the time before the match mostly stretching, as the other wizards checked notes. The judges searched the participants for any illegal weapons or magical objects, but found none. Fiona was the last to leave before Maya, and wore a billowing silver dress that seemed far more appropriate for a grand ball, rather than a battle. Earlier that week, Maya overheard her former roommate whisper the words 'fireproof' and 'magic wards' to a friend. Both were completely against the rules, but not impossible to hide from the judges. Before leaving, Fiona gave a parting shot, “Whatever crazy spell you’re intending to use…it won’t work. You’re just not good enough.” Fiona deliberately left before Maya could answer, and greeted the loud cheers and appreciative whistles of the arena. The teachers, sitting along the first row of the encircling crowd, were betting that Fiona would make it to the last three, with Maya lasting until the middle, mostly from good physical conditioning. In fact, they had already decided to give Maya a ‘good sportsmanship’ award, after the match was over. Even though the battle hadn't started, Maya was already jogging as she entered the arena. Her eyes scanned the crowd, and eventually located her incredibly huge extended family. They cheered and waved less formally than most of the crowd, leading Maya to smile. There were no official starting areas, and the match always started without warning, with the start of the official gong. BONG! And there you go. At first, Maya did nothing besides run, and keep watch for potential attackers. The other competitors all either prepared defensive spells, or went immediately on the offensive. As the weaker competitors evoked protective barriers, the more powerful wizards threw everything they had in virtually every direction, eager to take out as many opponents as possible before they were even ready. Maya had to admit, the strategy worked, as more than half of the wizards fell within the first few minutes, falling to large blasts of fire, swarms of vicious insects, giant stony fists reaching out of the ground, and the most vicious of all, countless flying shards of ice. Fiona’s merciless icy blasts threw many of the competitors off, not inflicting enough damage to really hurt, but enough to break their concentration, forcing them to dodge and retreat. To make it worse, her spells made the arena grow considerably colder as well, causing 32
many of the casters to become cripplingly distracted. Maya, who had the foresight to wear a few extra layers, continued her steady pace. At first, none of the attacks were directed at her, as she wasn’t casting spells at them, but when the number of wizards in the arena began to dwindle, Fiona lashed out in her exroommate's direction. The shards of ice struck Maya's side, slamming her into the arena wall, and dropping her off her feet. Maya's face flushed red as she leaped up, shook off the pain, and continued to run. She wasn't ready to reveal her secret weapon just yet. The other competitors took advantage of Fiona's distraction, and fired a few spells into her back, most of them fire based. Fiona shrugged off the spells alarmingly well...almost too well, and fired frigid blasts of cold back at them. Boris, not wanting to face Fiona directly, cast a particularly difficult spell, to summon a minor demon. The crowd recoiled in shock and terror, as the beast appeared, with a black cloud of smoke. The demon was misshapen, green and covered in twisted horns. The young women in the crowd all began to point, scream and press themselves into the arms of the person next to them, which Maya considered a bit extreme, given that the demon was slightly smaller than your average dog. It did wonders for distracting Fiona though, who screamed and backpedaled at the sight of the small imp. That was the moment that Maya had been waiting for. It was time to reveal her secret weapon. She continued to run, but instead of circling around the arena, she began to encircle Matthew, the smallest of her opponents, and a talented water mage. Matthew raised his hand, whispered a few incantations and as he twiddled his fingers, a geyser of water erupted from his palm. Maya ran as quickly as her legs would take her, and Matthew kept missing, mostly due to the fact he was aiming for the spot she was in, rather than the spot she would be when the geyser reached her. As his spell began to fizzle, Maya turned to face him, and raised her arms into the air. Every member of the audience held their breath in anticipation, as they awaited the sight of Maya’s spell… Every morning for a month, when Maya was certain no one could see her, she would prepare in secret for the Great Wizard Challenge… Maya arched herself toward Matthew, and dashed directly towards him. ... by running... The entire crowd winced when Maya's shoulder landed against Matthew's abdomen, sending him flying straight to the ground. He would not get up anytime soon. A flash of light caught Maya's attention. ...tumbling... Maya barely managed to cart-wheel out of the way of a giant fiery blast, fired by Ronnie, the largest of the remaining opponents. As he readied another spell, Maya ran towards the outer wall. A furious inferno soon erupted from her opponent's arm, directed towards her. ...climbing... Ronnie assumed that Maya had cast either an invisibility or teleportation spell, as she was nowhere to be seen. He glanced around, as the audience attempted to direct his attention to Maya, who had scaled directly up the arena wall. ...jumping... The crowd gave another collective wince as Maya landed directly on top of Ronnie's head, knees first. Her opponent crashed to the ground painfully, and tapped his hand upon the arena floor, in surrender. On the other side of the arena, Boris’ summoned demon, and Fiona’s storm of ice, had gotten every other opponent to surrender, leaving only three competitors in the arena. Boris wasn’t too intimidated by Maya’s display of force, and decided to counter with one of his own. With a small motion of his hand, he ordered his imp to leap upon her, as he countered Fiona's spells. Even Maya couldn’t
Mississippi Crow Magazine
ignore the furious monster, which leaped upon her with surprising strength. ...doing push-ups... With both hands, Maya hurled the green imp into Boris's face, knocking both of them senseless. The imp, having been summoned away from its delightfully dark pit by a teenage twit, decided to vent its rage upon its summoner, with manic glee. This left Maya and Fiona, each standing at the opposite side of the areana. Maya charged forward, as a cone of icy shards slammed in her face. Maya ignored the pain, as she zig zagged foward, forcing Fiona to keep changing her aim. Fiona's face grew red, as she amplified her spell greater and greater, only to have Maya plow through the summoned storm with grim determination Fiona couldn’t take it anymore! She couldn’t even concentrate enough to keep casting! Maya was ruining her glorious victory! Fiona ended her spell, and furiously shrieked, “YOU CAN’T DO THIS! THIS ISN’T MAGIC! YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED! I FORBID…” ...and shadowboxing. Maya’s left hook landed directly upon Fiona’s temple, which stunned the enchantress long enough for Maya to send a right blow into her abdomen. The incredibly powerful strike caused Fiona to stagger backwards, leaving her completely unprepared for Maya's brutal uppercut, which sent the enchantress flying into the air, with her high heeled shoes literally flying off her feet. The arena went dead silent. Maya wiped the sweat from her brow, rubbed her bruised knuckles, and grinned from ear to ear. Seeing that none of the other professors were moving, the oldest of the wizard council made his way to the arena floor, trophy in hand. He handed Maya the trophy and shook her hand, as he had done every year for fifty years. He forced a serious expression upon his face, uncertain as to whether he wanted to laugh or cry, and gave Maya the customary commendation. Maya didn’t really care. It wasn’t about the award or prestige. It was for her. Still, she couldn’t help but notice that the audience, her own family included, was stunned into a completely motionless state. Maya raised her hands into the air, not waiting for the administrator to finish, and fired countless fireworks from her fingers, filling the top of the arena with brilliant, colorful explosions of light. In reaction, her family broke out of their frozen state, and cheered frantically for their dear Maya, as her fireworks continually erupted in celebration. When you're the best, it's the only spell you need.
here I’ll see to it there’s hell to pay!” I press on. After a while, ahead in the clearing, it’s like seeing a whole new world, the kind you only hear about in stories told to children to excite their imaginations. It is glorious and sparkling like diamonds. My eyes pain at the sight, but Oh! It is heaven! With winter soon on its way, I wonder why this is not so here. Stepping into the clearing, warmth penetrates my face. An inner peace seeps into my soul. Finding a spot dead center, I sit and lift my face toward the warmth radiating from above. I close my eyes and breathe in the life that fills this place. Then something odd happens. Dizziness, with a faint pain deep within, begins to intensify. As if someone stabs me, the pain is excruciating, unbearable. My eyes fly open, yet I see nothing. The pain increases and I scream out, but no words come forth. Panic gluts my throat, I try to leave but can’t. “God help me! It’s evil here, I don’t want to die!” I faint… Opening my eyes I find myself in a room, white and sterile. Everything looks hazy. “Where am I?” I ask. “Well, good afternoon, Katrina,” the doctor says. “You gave us a terrible fright. We almost lost you.” He smiles warmly. “I think we got all the cancer. Rest easy now. You’ve been through quite an ordeal.”
The Clearing —Sue Midlock Cold and gray, the day wears on as I make my way toward the forest. “What was I thinking? I’m not going to find it there, yet they told me it’s the only way.” Talking out loud is the only way to keep from turning back and into the warmth of my home. Icy cold, the winds’ breath comes sweeping around my neck, sending shivers down my spine. I quicken my steps. Finally, it stands before me like a towering city, dark and forboding. Beams of light cast their willowy arms through the canopy, urging me in. I take a deep breath and make my way through the maze of black soldiers with arms outstretched toward heaven, as if they themselves beg for warmth. “How much farther is it?” I ask. “This is insane! If it’s not
Are YOU in it?
Pensive Woman—Richard Lloyd Cederberg
The Fall winds blow, the leaves change. Leaves fall to the ground and make a crunching sound. We pile 'em up to have fun.
Winter means snowballs. The snowmen are built. We slide, slide, slide down the hill.
Summer is fun with sunscreen and more. With innertubes on the water and splashing fun. With kids screaming on the beach under the beautiful sun.
Music, Music, such a beautiful sound. Like jazz - so lovely so soothing and more.
Horses so beautiful, big and grand. I like horses running in the sand. Ella is the daughter of Erika and John & big sister to Caden She was born on January 12, 2001. On December 7, 2007, at only six years old, Ella was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. Ella is being treated at the University of Minnesota (Dr. Mortel). Her treatment has consisted of Radiation, Nutrition, Envita Natural Treatments, & Oral PolyMVA. Ella Hope Hauschildt is a caring, 7 year old girly girl who is happiest being with her family and playing with her friends. Ella has 3 fish and rat terrier she calls Polly. Ella hopes to be a teacher when she grows up. She loves to read, draw and write poetry. The following are some of Ellaâ€™s thoughtful poems:
Bicycle, bicycle the speed is great, the wind in my hair, the sun on my face. My bike is lookin' good.
Donations to help the family with medical expenses are being accepted at: Ella H. Hauschildt Benefit Fund, Wells Fargo Bank, Attn: Jane, 17365 Kenyon Ave, Lakeville, MN 55044 http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ellahope
Photo by Nadia Giordana
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Popcorn In Heaven â€”Kasin Hunter It was a good death. The article from the Internet that my new friend, Christine, sent me via email explained what I needed to know -- what I needed to hear. Of all the deaths that someone could go through, renal failure was one of the easiest. I still was trying to grasp what the doctor had said that night in the hospital. Just a couple days prior, Bill lie in the Emergency Room, strung with I.V's, as if he were fighting some urban octopus for his life. The doctor, one of Bill's longtime medical team, stood beside Bill on one side of the crisp, clean hospital bed. I stood on the other. The doctor's face was an odd mix of concern, gravity, and some bewilderment. "Bill, this is really hard for me. Usually by this time, the patient's mind is pretty much gone. But that's not how it is with you. Your mind is sharp as a tack." A look of pride washed over Bill's face. Sharp as a tack, I thought. Could the doctor have any idea how sharp? The first day I met Bill, he had shown me his van. A moving warehouse of electrodes, diodes, commercial phone systems, spools of wire, thousands of tiny parts that necessitated picking up with tweezers, and dozens upon dozens of oddly shaped, intriguing tools with, to me, unknown functions. "You know how to use all this stuff?" Bill had nodded, smiled proudly, and simply said, "Sure." His easy-going manner, his love of gentle talk, his sparkling green-blue eyes and sprinkling of warm humor - I felt immediately at ease, as if I had known him all my life. That very first day, I knew I had met someone special. Little did I know. Little did the doctor know about the true Bill, even after all the treatments. But I knew. After 17 years of caring, of helping each other, of teaming together through the fun, the multitude of dogs, the hospital stays, the emergency rooms, the video projects, the camping trips, the . . . LIFE of it all. I guess I knew him better than anyone else on the planet. I knew that night in the Emergency Room that this was not just another hospital visit. Nothing was going to help this time -- no new Miracle-in-a-Bottle to add to his already burgeoning shoe box-full of daily pills; no new P.T. routine to help the stubborn joints; no new cream to rub on scarred, browning, and often, bleeding skin. It had been years of emergency rooms, 911 calls, hospital stays, surgeries, care centers, shots, pills, in-house nursing, pain . . . I had never given up. I had never quit fighting to keep Bill going, because Bill had not given up. I was Bill's backbone, his strength, above all, his friend. True friends don't quit, don't give up. But this night, this time was different. "Bill," the doctor was continuing. "I can't recommend dialysis. It would be a hard row to hoe. And you've already been through so much." Doctors take a vow to do no harm. "I will do it -- I'll set it up, if you want. But I don't, and neither of your other two doctors here recommend taking that route. It would be very hard on you, and at most, buy you maybe a few more weeks. You'd be bedridden the whole time. The kidneys are just plain, worn out." Bill asked, "How long if I didn't do the dialysis?" "It's hard to estimate, but your kidney doctor said two weeks. I would say, two to four weeks with no intervention. The other doctor said maybe six months." I heard the words, words that I knew someday I'd hear. I felt my throat turn hard. Not now. Be strong for him. But emotion took over, and the hot tears began spilling out my eyes. The doctor looked at me, but I shook my head and pointed to Bill. This was not my time. This was Bill's time. The doctor turned back to Bill, himself emotional, and continued to explain the few options. Bill had to make up his mind. Choose dialysis or decide - finally - to die. "We can talk again tomorrow. Try to rest." Still fighting the urban octopus with blood, medicine, saline
Are YOU in it?
coursing through it's many thin plastic legs, Bill spent two days in intensive care. The greater battle went on inside of him. He still wrestled with the decision finally put before him â€“ how does someone choose to die? I couldn't fight for him anymore, except to say that I'd support any decision he made. I had taken Princess, Bill's handi-helping dog, with me to every hospital visit in those days. She couldn't come in, but when I told Bill that Princess was close, in the car in the parking garage, he said it was nice and smiled. What do you do for your best friend who is dying? I brought a favorite picture of Princess and put it on his night stand, propped up against the Valentine cup I bought him for Valentine's Day this year. Scattered around was a handful of other snapshots - family, mostly. And the longtime friend by now, Scarecrow, Bill's stuffed, 18 inch-high buddy and guardian with the sweet, ever-present smile to watch over him in the rehabilitation centers when I couldn't be there. On the third day, when I went to intensive care, Bill wasn't there. I felt my throat harden again. Had he passed so quickly? His doctor said at least two weeks . . . "Mr. Hunter has been moved to the fourth floor," the female voice tinned from the speaker on the wall. Relief. I got the room number, and with my mind flitting from one thought to another, I hurried down the hall to the Visitor's Elevators. Why was Bill released from I.C.? A small, but brief ray of hope glimmered on the periphery of my hectic thoughts. No. The doctor wasn't wrong. Then, as the elevator rose, my heart sank. I knew why Bill had been released to critical care. Bill's room was single, quiet, with a good window facing a sunny, treed view. The urban octopus was still there, one less, pumping limb. Bill looked more swollen, and not peaceful while he dozed. I sat quietly, organizing the many papers we needed to look over, making notes as needed, glancing up time and time again, until at last, Bill's beautiful blue eyes peaked out under heavy eyelids. "Oh. You been here a while?" "A little." Silence, then, "I decided not to go with dialysis." There. He said it. He had decided. "I wouldn't mind being in bed for the rest of the time. I could live with that. But I don't want any more . . ." He looked at me. "I'm just tired. Tired of being poked, the drugs, the hospitals. Just tired of it all." I felt an odd release inside of me. No more struggling with him, shoulder-to-shoulder, day-to-day just to live. I thought, Bill deserves something easy, even if it's his death, after all he's been through. After so many years of set routines, I suddenly felt in unknown waters. What could I do now to help him? Be a friend." With everything you've been through, I understand that decision. Do you need anything?" It was Bill's time. When mom asked me the next day how I was holding up, I told her that it wasn't about me. It was about Bill. "Take care of Princess," he said, and started to cry. I wrote her name in my To Do book, underlined it and crowned it off with three large exclamation marks. I showed it to him. He smiled. I dove into my new supportive roll with all the fervor and love that I had given in all those many, prior years. The next too-short days were filled with visiting nursing homes and hospices, gathering brochures, doing interviews of facility heads and nursing staff. I filled the disposable cameras with pictures of where Bill might choose to go, to die. He sweetly perused each snapshot, nodding, making comments about this one and that one. We riddled through the insurance intricacies, slew each bill dragon as they came along, and lined up the ending moments of Bill's life the very best we could. I thank God that Bill's mind was "sharp as a tack" as the doctor had said, in those final days. How much harder it would have been without Bill's guidance, his 35
stated wishes those last few days. For some reason, an idea popped into my head that morning. At the hospital, I asked Bill, "If you were to sum up your life, have it symbolized by some icon that folks would think of you when they saw it, what would that be? "Popcorn," he said."Popcorn?" I was a bit taken aback. I was thinking a bolt of lightning icon to symbolize his work with electricity or a phone, or something about security systems or even computers. "Yeah, or movies. Folks watching a movie in one of those old movie theaters. I really like both of those." Bill had spent a good part of his life collecting old 8 mm movies on their original reels. I found out later that he had drawers and boxes full of them. It's odd how you think of peculiar little things when someone you love is going to die - how even small things seem enormous, how everything counts, no matter. Like popcorn. Whenever we'd watch a movie, or when one of us would have a bad day, we'd make a big bowl of butter-slathered popcorn. It got to be a saying between us, when times were tough - Think popcorn! In other words, things will get better; just hang in and enjoy what blessings you have in the moment. This last year I bought 50 lbs. of popcorn. On March 12th, when I came in to feed him his dinner, everything seemed the same except The Octopus had only one leg. Bill ate his meal, tidbits of each different dish. With all the edema building up, there wasn't much room for food. But he ate two bites of everything though, even four of the salmon patty, which he must have especially liked. As I eased the meager forkfuls into his mouth, I thought about our own Official Salmon Can back at the house. In the continuing effort to help, I had found The World's Best Diet, adapted it for a diabetic, and set meals for each week from it. We had taken to eating more fish, including salmon. But our neophyte efforts in making presentable salmon patties was pitiful. Bill, being very independent, wanted to fashion the patties himself; but is arthritic hands weren't helping. So, in my own inventive way, I cut out the bottom of a tin can, and turned it into a sort of cookie cutter. It turned out to be the perfect diameter for making beautiful salmon patties, and a breeze for Bill to use. After the meal, Bill's wonderful hospital case worker came in. But her ready smile was gone that evening. She nodded a greeting to me, then said, "Bill, I think we need to talk about a hospice instead of a nursing home." How did those dark clouds get in here? "Bill, as you know with renal failure, the kidneys slow down - they can't clean the blood like they should, the poisons back up, and the mind starts to fail." I felt that familiar lump in my throat start to rise up once again. She stepped closer to the hospital bed. Wait a minute. Hospice? But one doctor said six months . . . My fighter inside of me started to put on her punching gloves. "Bill," the case worker continued, "the nurses have noticed that this is happening to you. You're just not quit as sharp as before." I glanced at Bill, but instead of being mad or defiant or even hurt, anything like I had expected to see, he was simply nodding in agreement. "So, what I've done, " and now she looked at me, "is ask the coordinator of that hospice you liked to come in and talk with Bill, to see what our next step will be, and what Bill wants to do. And the best thing about it, is that Bill can see Princess there!" Bill was pleased to hear that. Although I seemed supportive on the outside, my equipped boxer was doing her footwork inside. After the case worker left, I turned and looked at Bill. He seemed fine during dinner . . . I asked Bill a few questions. He answered perfectly, but gradually, as we talked, his answers became scrambled, more incoherent. Several times his eyes would wander upward, and his mouth would drop open. I thought maybe he had passed already. I would touch his arm. "Bill!" and he would come back into it, sometimes with a smile to continue a 36
conversation we weren't even having. Once he spoke up strongly, saying, "Don't forget to email Becky. That's important." He didn't even know a Becky, but in my heart, to save his face, I knew the right response. "Don't worry. I will! You know I've done everything you've wanted so far. I'll take care of the email. Don't you worry." He relaxed, resting his head, then his eye drifted up and away once again. How was I to get along without that sharp mind, that teamwork that I had come to depend on year after year? Even though Bill was right there, I suddenly felt so awfully alone. That night the approval for placement in the hospice came through. A caring nurse won the battle against the Urban Octopus, pulling the last long pick line from Bill's body. I followed the gurney down the elevator, making sure the ambulance driver took each bump a little easier. When a bump was too uncomfortable, I'd tell Bill, Think popcorn!, and he'd seem to be comforted. Bill's hospice room was beautifully decorated and most of all, quiet. The loving nurses moved about in low-key proficiency, asking permission for this and that, talking to Bill even though he didn't talk back much. I arranged Scarecrow up on the robe closet to overlook Bill's bed. The night of the transfer, Bill had been coherent enough to state that he liked Scarecrow up there, holding onto the snapshot of Princess. Princess was the first of our dog family to say good-bye to Bill. She crept into his room, head low, not understanding this unfamiliar place. And who was that man lying in bed? It couldn't be her dad. He did sound like her dad. She looked scared, confused, hesitant . . . then she slowly approached Bill's head, sniffed his mouth, his ear, then, happily, she ever so gently kissed his bruiseriddle arm. "Now you know this is your Dad." I think Princess knew it was a final good-bye, different than from all the times she had to be apart from him during all the other hospital and care center stays. The kiss was the softest I'd ever seen her kiss him, the most tender and loving affection from his four-legged daughter. Mom and I stayed in the hospice until early in the morning, until sleep finally dictated that we needed to rest ourselves. The next day, the other dog members of our family made their way into his room one-by-one for a final good-bye. With his adopted family at his side, Bill passed away in the afternoon, just one hour after the last of his beloved dog family had paid their respects. ***** It's been five weeks now. The transition, I fully admit, has been rough. It's gone from a house full of Bill to empty huge shoes and an old blue van that I will never again see Bill drive by the front fence. Some days are better than other. Iâ€™ve kept myself busy, moving hundreds of electronic parts from his storage room, thousands of small diodes, miles of coax cables and buckets full of what-in-the-world-is-this? things. I also found several course completion certificates, some framed, others not, none of them ever hung up. And I'm still in amazement at how much he knew, how much he had inside of himself. Princess sleeps with me, now. She has moments of her own mourning in her own doggy way. I hug her, and let her know that someday we'll all see Bill again. This seems to comfort me as much at it does her. One morning, a week or so ago, the alarm came on for work with a long-time favorite song. For every season, turn, turn, turn; there is reason, turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under heaven. It was Bill's time. His time to go. Somehow, that song, at that time, seemed to fit better than it ever had before. As if it gave me permission to accept the on-going inevitability of life. Bill's final time in his physical body had come. He was finally ready to leave it behind with all its surgeries, and heart stints, and drugs, and pain. Take things at your own pace, mother had told me. There's
Mississippi Crow Magazine
no need to hurry anything. So as the days have gone by, I’ve cleaned his bedroom a little at a time. One day I found a partially empty sandwich baggy in Bill's night stand. Inside the baggy, there were off-white tidbits. Yes. It was leftover popcorn. I couldn't toss it out. I folded it neatly, and placed in Bill's old cigar box along with the other mementoes. I don’t know why I needed to do that. I guess some things need to be held on to, no matter how small. Bill is out of pain, now. I find great joy in that. Since God is as loving as He has shown Himself to be, I’m sure that Bill is happy. And knowing Bill, that means one thing for sure - that there must be popcorn and even old movies in Heaven!
Being Old —Heidi Heimler Today is a good day. You asked me how old I was, and I said, “95, I think. I’m an old lady.” When you asked me who the president was, I scowled and said, “That no-good son of a …” We both laughed and you knew that I knew. You looked relieved. You asked me about my day, and I said it’s been interesting, How so? You asked. “Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “It just was.” I was embarrassed to tell you that I had a blast at Bingo, and that I watched Wheel Of Fortune with the gang, though you probably saw me when you passed by the TV room. Today is a good day because I know things that everyone else knows. I know that daylight means morning, or maybe afternoon; I know that the nurses’ station down the hall from my room means I am in a nursing home. I forget the name though, and don’t bother asking me what floor. Yesterday was a bad day. I woke up in a bed that wasn’t my own, in a room that wasn’t my own, in a place I didn’t recognize. I was so frightened! I was sure I’d been kidnapped and they were holding me hostage. When you came in, you looked familiar, like maybe I’d met you years ago, or sat next to you on an airplane. I felt relieved for a moment, but only for a moment. Then a cockroach crawled out of your shirt and scampered down to my bed. Many more followed, until my bed was covered with roaches. I screamed, of course. I hate those vile creatures. I yelled at you to get out, you filthy bitch! You left, but the roaches stayed in my room, crawling under my covers and into everything. I got out just in time. Would you believe they had the nerve to try and make me go in there to use the restroom? I told them to go to hell. Anyway, by the time they got to me it was too late. Today I forgive you. Someone must have slipped those roaches into your shirt when you weren’t looking. It wasn’t your fault. And someone must have come at night and cleaned up my room. Sprayed or something. Even the bathroom is clean so I can go in there again. Today I’ll let you sit at the edge of my bed, and I’ll tell you about the time we went swimming in the pond where there’s now a Wal-Mart. I haven’t told you that story before, have I?
Are YOU in it?
Mid Evening —Robert Edward Sullivan Take a step. Only takes one, one step. Get in, have a seat, near the back part of this car, of this train, at this time, anytime. So you can see them walking in, walking by, to pass the time, see us walking in, passing through. You, me, people. It’s dusk out. The once perfect blue sky is now a mess of color, a splatter of hues, awash with mix. It is an absurd, abstract painting, one done with such ease that it mocks artist, art, poets, poetry. In the train, time passes with each stop, each step along the way, while the Chicago skyline fades, transforms into the backdrop, until the darkness, speckled by thousands of scraping lights, scattered and faint, these urban stars, litters the view. The curtain of night rises, the window in the train becomes a mirror, reflecting all you see, and soon you can watch the characters. You’re surrounded by them. We’re in it together. Waitress Girl gets on at the same stop, stands in the same spot, the same time, five days of the week. You see a peek of her apron at the peak of her outfit, a pale pink to mix with the faint, light peach lipstick that contrasts sharply with her brown skin. You think she looks tired; you’ve seen her smile and her eyes don’t smile with her. One time, one day, you almost see her name tag, almost can move beyond your head nod, your head-nod/hello, to head-nod/hello/ NAME. Almost. Office Boy sprints in next. Late hours at the desk only makes him quicker, edgier. He’s watching his watch, then looking for two vacant seats, only sees vacant stares (his briefcase needs a seat too), gotta stand. Suit looks too big, still. Still looks too new. Face still bright, not clean shaven, but looks shaven clean-- skin: light, white. Teeth jump out when gazes are met, but he mostly studies his shoes, his watch. Watching the view, looking out. Factory Joe steps in shortly after. A short man with long steps in his stride—he’s got the “shift’s over” bounce. You call him Joe only once and a while, only when preceded by “whatta ya know?” He nods at you. Probably has a name for you, too. Indian Joe, perhaps. You’re both Regulars on this train, at this time. He’s distinct enough until Factory John, Tom, Richard, Harry all get on in short steps, shortly after. The Chef shuffles in next. Only a few stops left. Could be a Chef. Maybe a Cook. Looks at everyone, nods at no one, says nothing. Not old, but looks gray, not white, not black, but something “ethnic.” A strange distance in his look and a strange distinctive manner in his undistinguishable-ness. The steady train strolls with steady bumps, rocks, shakes. Shifts along, gyrating steadily on its straight path, though bumpy, never changing, never taking a wrong turn, and oddly enough, never lost. You see yourself in the window, the mirror, the city in your face. Irish white father, Native mother, you’re a new America perhaps. Indian enough to look Mexican, white enough to look tan, dark enough to not be white, distinct enough to be called anything from the mix: darkie, spic, skin, (strangely, one time: a mick). You’re an abstract, and absurd mix of Original American and the Arriving one, and perhaps the Will Be. You’re a walking metaphor for the waking land, still groggy, still in the Monday of its existence, looking to the days of the ideal. But you let these and other thoughts fade… the day’s almost over, the train has come to your stop—you are the only one to depart here. Only you will occupy the bench in the back part of this park, your park, the one you call Yours, until the weekday morning connection comes through, the new day with it. Before you make your way through, you will gaze. Only you will watch the train continue on, unphased, until it passes the tall stars of those offices, those towers, whose lights twinkle just enough to call it a starry night, and then it’ll disappear into the background, the backdrop, the heart of this, the city you call home. 37
Brigada 2506 —TD Conner April 18 1961. Night. Fires were still burning on some of the foundered ships in the Bay, occasional explosions from them slamming dully through the mangroves, the Sea Furies still strafing above the saltwater, the clatter of their guns continuous in the distance. Six-by-sixes and Stalin tanks growled back and forth across the dunes and up and down the beach now, and there was the sound of marching feet thumping along the pathways through the pine woods to the water, muffled shots here and there, and commands in Spanish down around the surf line… Mera, the paratrooper, rolled over on his back, drained the last few drops of rum out of the USMC-issue canteen strapped to his belt, and heaved it away into the darkness. He ran his hands carefully all over his body. He had a splitting headache and blurry vision, but no wounds that he could feel. We came to this spot in early afternoon, he was thinking. There was a row of dead men flopped across the shoulder of the big dune beside and slightly above him, caught fair and square by a low-flying Fury sometime during the early afternoon, only minutes after they, along with Mera, had clawed their way through the mangroves, then stumbled through the scrub pines and to the base of this oatcovered dune after being dropped miles away from the target zone by a nervous young gringo spook pilot. All of them had fired a few rounds into the tree line to the north. Then the Fury had arrived at about 60 feet, wing guns chattering... Now their bodies were bloating, the fist-size holes in them alive with droning bottleflies. There were no weapons around the bodies, Mera noticed. Someone had taken them. If there had been survivors, they had left him for dead. He sat up and looked behind him. His scoped rifle was half-buried in the sand. He had been lying on it. He slid the clip out of his rifle. Two rounds left. He tossed the clip into the sand, then used the butt of the weapon to scoop out a hollow at the base of the dune. He tossed the rifle into the hole, then kicked sand over it. It might mean death if the barbudo soldiers saw him anywhere near a scoped rifle, he was thinking… Mera climbed to the dune’s rounded peak and stood, facing the sandy path that ambled off into the pines. There was the noise of trucks arriving somewhere nearby and voices speaking calmly in Spanish down the beach, all of it punctuated by the roar of the engines of the patrolling Furies, still swooping in low often to beat up the smoldering hull of the Houston, which lay across a nearby reef, her back broken, spewing jets of fire into the inky sky. It didn’t look like there was a safe way to cross the sand. Vehicles and barbudo soldiers on foot crossed and re-crossed the beach in front of him, their silhouettes limned against the bright lights of the US destroyers anchored hull– down against the south horizon, laughing among themselves after their victory. What now? Would the Yankees take things into their own hands? Or would they just sail away? In New Orleans, he was able to own a business, just like before, in Cardenas. Now business was illegal in Cuba…What kind of world was that? He had joined the Brigada one night at Rip’s, up on Magazine Street… There were still sporadic shots in the woods and along the beach, sounding flat and close to the ground, and command-shouting and the roaring of truck engines as more barbudo and Russian troops arrived near Giron. The steady stream of trucks, tanks and marching soldiers continued along the beach at his feet, clearly illuminated by the lights on the Yankee ships to the south. Mera slid down the side of his dune. A patrol approached from landward, breaking out of the tree line and
slogging across a bit of marshland behind his dune, weapons at the ready. He stood up slowly and raised his hands. The barbudos were spaced out and moving cautiously as they approached the beach. They all had their faces blackened. They looked like creatures from the dawn of time--but they all had Russian tommyguns. They stopped and crouched when they saw Mera. He was sweating then, in the darkness gazing hard at their muck-smeared faces and wild beards and at their gun-muzzles. He waited for the sound of a shot, but it didn’t come. A teen-age boy with a light, pimply beard stood from his crouch and glided slowly to the base of the dune, a submachine gun crooked in his arm. Mera could smell the cosmoline on it as the boy raised it to aim at his head. He raised his hands higher. A few more of the barbudos stood and moved toward the base of the dune. The boy motioned for Mera to approach him. Mera stumbled across the wimpled sand, oat-stems crackling like fireworks beneath his feet. The boy slammed the muzzle of his submachine gun into Mera’s ribs. “CIA!” he shouted. Mera shook his head. “Brigada 2506,” he said. The boy laughed. “What’s the difference?” he said, shrugging. Some of the barbudos followed Mera down the beach, passing other soldiers, some marching together, some in knots of twos or threes. No one spoke. They stepped silently at the base of the dunes. The Furies continued buzzing about madly above them. Then one of the planes peeled away and swooped down low, running just above the sand. It opened fire, shells from it slapping and thumping down into the duneline all around them. Everyone dropped into the thick sand at the base of the dunes except Mera, who ran toward the surfline. When the plane was gone, the barbudos rose and moved away down the beach. Mera found a palmetto log floating in the surf. He clung to with it for awhile, trying to put distance between himself and the beach. Then he heard the clack-clack of English-speaking voices and saw a light on the bow of a whaleboat. The Yankee destroyers were still at their place far to the south, still fully lighted. “Hey you gringos! I’m Mera! Brigada 2506!” he yelled.
I'd Like to Place an Order for Take-Out Please —Valerie Z. Lewis Last night we didn't feel like cooking, so we ordered a pizza instead, and I picked it up on my way home from work. "What name is it under?" the girl at the counter asked me. "Katelyn," I told her. "Great name," she said with a giggle as she retrieved my large pepperoni pie. "I said that because my name's Katelyn too. How do you spell it?" "The normal way. K-A-T-E-L-Y-N." She began ringing up my order on the cash register. "I spell mine C-A-I-T-L-I-N-N-E." And I just wanted to reach across the counter, grab her by the shoulders, shake her, and yell, "You're the reason why no one can ever spell my name!" But I didn't, because I'm not very good at confrontation. I'm kind of a coward when it comes to things like this. Also, I really wanted my pizza.
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Climbing Katahdin —Pat O’Regan It was the worst kind of traveling. Having slumped, scrambled, rolled, bounced, and walked, by turns, over this scraggy country, I arrived upon a side-hill…where rocks, gray silent rocks, were the flocks and herds that pastured, chewing a rocky cud at sunset. HD Thoreau, Ktaadn, 1846 Katahdin is a mountain of granite boulders in Maine. Three hundred sixty million years ago, the bedrock of the mountain solidified into two kinds of granite – gray granite lower down and pink granite at higher elevations – together called Katahdin Granite. For the past three hundred million years, the forces of erosion, relentless and irresistible, have worn down the bedrock of Katahdin and the surrounding area, washing away perhaps 10,000 feet of it. Katahdin stands above the surrounding landscape because its granite is harder, more resistant to erosion, than the surrounding rocks. Two to five million years ago, Katahdin came to look largely as it does today, standing 5,267 feet high. Glaciation, like a geologic sculptor, carved the details of the landscape – the Knife Edge ridge, the basins and the rivers and streams – over the past one million years. The shape of the mountain is a cirque, a deep steep-walled mountain basin, with several peaks – called Baxter, Chimney, Pamola and South – of which Baxter is the highest. The Knife Edge is a narrow, steep ridge between Baxter and Chimney Peaks. With a base elevation of 800 feet, the climb to the top of Katahdin is almost 4,500 feet. Taking the Chimney Pond Trail, I ascend the mountain gradually, at first, through the pine and hardwood forest, stepping over embedded boulders, crossing streams, scrambling through boulder fields. Crouching, holding on, stepping down; placing a foot, getting a hold, pulling up – the going is easy and I try to soak in the sylvan beauty. But the “boulder scrambling,” as they call it, becomes more challenging. The boulders get larger and present recurring problems of how to get a few steps higher. Above the tree line, there are even a few places where hand holds are necessary to continue upward. But the summit looms, enticingly. Other climbers are pulling themselves up or lowering themselves down past me. We say encouraging words to each other. After a final steep climb, the trail levels off at the base of the summit. Here I stop for a break among a giddy corps of climbers, mostly very young, and meet Jerry, another climber heading up. We ascend to the summit together, taking the Saddle Trail, a gradual, then steep climb through jagged rock, perhaps half a mile to the apex of the mountain at Baxter Peak. A sign announces the mountain’s distinctions as the highest point in the state of Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, which we can see sweeping off down the mountain in a wide curve to the south. The vistas are incomparable – a hundred miles, perhaps, to the horizon all around, a green-carpeted forest broken here and there by lakes and solitary, green-topped mountains, standing like sentinels, keeping watch for millennia, trying to hold out against the ravages of time. Both mighty and perishable. Bathed in the beauty of the vistas, we stop for lunch and talk.
Are YOU in it?
What is the source of the mysterious grip that Mother Nature has on us? Why does she draw us on, like a siren? Is it because in her we recognize a true reflection of ourselves? Before her imposing majesty, we seem to be exclaiming, Your beauty is mine. Your grandeur is mine. We are made of identical stuff. My atoms are as good as yours. They pass freely between us. I, too, trace my descent back to the beginnings of time, and I, too, will linger forever. Jerry is a librarian at the University of Maine and an experienced mountain climber. Having climbed Katahdin before, he knows it well. I trust in his judgment. The descent, often the most difficult part of the climb, seems less foreboding. After a brief lunch, we start down. We’ll take the Knife Edge Trail along the summit ridge to Chimney Peak, then the Helon (heel on) Taylor Trail to the bottom. Knife Edge is aptly named – a thin traverse of perhaps two-thirds of a mile. Gusts of wind can make it treacherous, and Jerry inquires of approaching climbers as to the conditions on the Edge. If not in top shape, Jerry is younger and stronger. He leads most of the way along the Edge. The climbing is steep: Secure a foot hold, find a hand hold and pull up; keep one’s body close to the rock, hold on tight and lower down. The wind gusts on the narrow ridge, but not too strongly. I fall and bang my left knee, then, a little further on, the right one. Both bleed. Jerry, as it turns out, is compassionate – “Pat! Are you all right?” – This helps. Compassion is the most beautiful virtue. Watch every step, I keep telling myself. We make it to the final trail, tiring badly by now. For all her beauty, like a great mural, Mother Nature seems to be saying, Here I am. Behold me. Your life is enriched in the communion. But human nature means no more to me than the pines and rocks and gusts of wind. Your rapture and pain are trifles; indeed, so is your life or death. As we descend, lowering ourselves carefully through boulder field after boulder field, fatigue takes a daunting grip. I’ve been hiking eight hours; Jerry, who took a longer route up, ten. Every step down has to be taken carefully. My legs are rubbery. I fall again and bang the right knee, shouting in pain. The knee swells. Jerry becomes sick to his stomach; his legs cramp. We stop more and talk less. All the same, I have visions of Shackleton, and all romance of embracing Mother Nature in her regal majesty, already dampened by arduousness and pain, is sinking in an ooze of foreboding. I tell Jerry I never want to see another boulder field in my life. He doesn’t say anything. The descent seems interminable. Youngsters, coming up behind, announce their presence with gay shouts, and scamper past, skittering from rock to rock, like water fleas on a glassy lake. My knees ache, even apart from the banging. Did Thoreau have this much trouble when he climbed Katahdin? It was the same then, a mere 161 years ago, or imperceptibly different. But he didn’t make it all the way to the top. But, of course, the mountain flattens, the boulder fields give way to mere bumps in the trail, and we reach the stream at the bottom, somewhat the worse for wear. I’ve been on the mountain 10 hours; Jerry 12. The fire in my legs will last two days. The sense of adventure, the memory of the mountain, will linger forever.
Nobody Drowns In Muskegon —Simon A. Smith I A big part of me thinks the only reason he went up to Muskegon was so that he’d be free to kill himself anyway he saw fit without having to feel guilty about it. Sure he had excuses, but none of them made any sense. Who takes an Amtrak two hundred and twenty miles north to another dead end town like that, not knowing anybody, no car, laid off and washed up? Nobody, that’s who. II Following the divorce last year, after he lost his job and moved into some asshole motel in Winnetka, Pop asked me if I thought he could get eight thousand dollars for his Ford Focus. I told him he might want to consider asking for six instead. He got so pissed off. “I’m not going to start lower than seven if I think I can get eight. That would be stupid!” he hollered at me. We were standing in the middle of the shitty parking lot outside The Peacock Lodge where he was staying. “But it doesn’t even have a backseat,” I said. “You might insult somebody.” “Nobody cares about that!” he insisted. The story about why he ripped the backseat out of his car and threw it in a dumpster behind the mall is a long and muddled one that only Pop understands. I’ll say this – he was high at the time. III Pop claims his reasons for moving from Winnetka to Muskegon are indisputable. Winnetka has too many mosquitoes, he says. Muskegon is the home of the Miss Michigan Pageant. Winnetka just passed a dog leash law that miffs him even though he’s never owned a dog. Muskegon is the number one spot in the Midwest for SCUBA diving. He wants to see the shipwrecks the travel brochures promise. When I remind him that he hasn’t even been swimming in years, he tells me it’s because the lake on Winnetka’s side is too dirty. IV I remember being nine years old, waiting outside in the rain for Pop to come pick me up from a karate lesson. The instructor took me into his car and asked for my address. I was so frightened and worried, I forgot. Both of us were still wearing our uniforms. We waited there, listening to heavy metal music on the radio, until Pop finally showed up. Instead of apologizing, he drove me back to the bar, bought me chicken wings and gave me quarters for the Double Dragon game in back. I remember the regulars kept asking me what a yellow belt meant. V Pop’s new obsession with SCUBA diving is overwhelming and irrational. If I bring up how he might be better off moving to Chicago near me or Kansas City near my sister, he responds by bringing up ludicrous safety concerns. “Do you know boating accidents accounted for eight hundred and twenty-nine deaths in the Chicago area in 1995?” he wants to know. “I don’t know what that has to do with anything.” I say. “You wouldn’t,” he says, “and Kansas City is the murder capital of the world. Do you want me dead? I’m trying to explore the depths of the unknown and you’ve got me being shot or drowning.” My concern is his lousy health. Without a car or any relatives, he’ll have no way of getting medical attention if he needs it. He tells me all the doctors in the state of Illinois are quacks anyway. He brings up the time Dr. Bell told him twelve years ago that if he didn’t quit smoking and drinking, he’d never see his fiftieth birthday. “I told him to fuck off,” he says. “Look at me now.”
His brother, Caleb, moved to Vermont eight years ago and he’s been clean ever since. Caleb used to be hooked on cocaine. Pop tells me he could never move to Vermont because his brother would make him take his “goddamned shoes off every time I come in the house.” He says it’s a metaphor for much larger issues. VI The weekend Pop packed for Muskegon, I drove over to the motel to try one last time. I found him sitting on the toilet lid, bundling his glass pipe, a carton of cigarettes and a half-empty wine bottle together in some bubble wrap. Nothing else in the room had been touched. I sat on the dresser outside the door. It sounded like he was trying to Scotch tape a car back together in the bathroom. “You know, Pop,” I said. “I’ve been thinking and I don’t think the SCUBA folks have been entirely honest with you.” “Hm? Why?” he asked. “Well, I just don’t think they really have any sunken treasure up in those waters. I have a theory that they just drop old speedboat motors down there and maybe some planks of wood… maybe an old replica chest for the tourist’s sake.” “You’re nuts,” Pop said. I hear him grunting, ripping and folding more tape. “You’re in denial, Pop.” I said. “I don’t know why you can’t admit it.” “No,” he said. “I used to be in denial but I came to terms with my problems. Now I just decided that I don’t care. I’m having too much fun.” “You don’t believe that.” “You don’t believe there’s a pot of gold in Muskegon… doesn’t mean there ain’t one.” “I hate you,” I said. I waited a second, punched the dresser as hard as I could. Pop stopped wrapping. “That’s a shame,” Pop finally said, “because I love you. No matter what you do, I’ll always love you.” I stood up. My knuckles burned. I opened the door, and before I closed it I said, “Yeah. Look how far that’s gotten us.” Simon A. Smith is the former editor of Bruiser Review magazine. He is also a former reporter for Chicago Public Radio. His stories have appeared in Quick Fiction, Opium Magazine, Storyglossia, Skive, Dogzplot and a few others. He is halfway through the MFA English program at Northeastern Illinois University.
Monarch on buddleia—William Parsons
Mississippi Crow Magazine
The Underwear Incident —KC Crawford “Everyone needs one.” “I don’t know. I mean, like they look so uncomfortable and stupid. It doesn’t make sense. You might as well just not wear underwear, you know?” “Jen, they make perfect sense. Don’t worry. I thought the same thing but then my sister got me hooked. Now they’re like all I wear because they’re so comfortable.” “Oh bullshit! You had to use butt-cream after the first time you wore one.” “But then you get used to it! Don’t you wanna be a woman?” Kendell was right. All of the older girls wore them, even if they didn’t need to. I wanted one, but I didn’t want to wear it. I just wanted to own it, to join in on conversations about it, and let it sit in my drawer for people to see. I just didn’t want to wear it. “Those are all on sale. There’s some cute ones too.” She pointed to a stand in the back of the store full of ½ off thongs. The small store was packed with teen-aged girls and skimpy clothes. The fake hair, cheap perfume and dim lighting made the atmosphere conducive to picking out the perfect thong. There were all styles and colors-- black feathers, yellow lace, red beads, pink glitter. I sorted through the mess of lace, picking one up and then throwing it back in the pile. Too big, too small, too heavy, too much stuff on it, too pink, too see-through, and too expensive. But as I cleared away the blue sequence and maroon fabric, I uncovered a beauty. There is was, under all of the strings and sex, the perfect piece of womanhood. “I think I like this one.” I held up the deep pink g-string, eyeing the size to compare it to my hips. The tiny, metallic flower glittered in the corner, and in that moment it made the classless material look even trashier. Here it was my first thong. “That one’s really cute, but is it too big?” “Does it matter? It’s not like my butt has to fit into it.” “But it could fall down, you know?” “Well, I don’t want it like too tight. I don’t want to have to use butt cream.” “Shut up. Just go pay for it.” She roller her eyes. It was done. I had just become a woman. Or maybe I wouldn’t be a woman until I actually wore it. Regardless, I was one step closer to being a lady. I didn’t feel any different though. I didn’t feel sexier and more confident, or older and prettier. I just felt like I was on my way there, or something like that. My way to womanhood took a week when I finally wore it. I got the courage to put it on and wear it to school. If I was going to wear it anywhere, it might as well be in a sea of orange and yellow girls all sporting the same underwear; I might as well wear it around a bunch of eye-wandering and skin-happy boys. Plus, the poor fluorescent lighting in my school made everyone look horrible, so this was a way to make up for that. I put it on, put my jeans on, some trendy top, and it was over. I still didn’t feel any sexier, but I did feel more mature and older. If it was meant to attract people for sex, then of course it made me feel older. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought; it was just like regular underwear except sometimes it twisted a little. For the most part it was like it wasn’t even there. And, the best part was I got to talk about it. “We should go back to Juxtapose; they had a lot of cute underwear.” I said to Kendell as we drove home from school. “Yeah, but you know that like blue checkered one I bought? When I got home I realized I have one just like it. Do you just want it?” “Sounds good. I still don’t really like them much, but at least I didn’t have to use butt-cream.” I giggled but she just smirked and blushed. The second time was better than the first. It was less awkward
Are YOU in it?
and I felt like I pro by then. People didn’t know I only had one thong, they just knew that I had thong-shopping experience. When I got home, the feeling of g-string shopping was still resounding. After I got dressed down in sweat pants and went about normal life, I was still thinking about it. I was still doing all of the same things I always did, but I guess in a sexier and older way, maybe. That's what thongs were supposed to do. I walked out into my kitchen to get some water, with math problems and different thong designs all swirling in my head. I filled up the blue glass, and as I turned around I saw my dad in the laundry room. He was holding up my thong, examining it in disbelief. “Dad! What are you doing?!” I shrieked! He had founded it! “Jennifer, why do you own anal-floss?” His scrunched face matched his concerned tone. “Dad! It’s not anal-floss! It’s a thong!” “I don’t care what you call it, why do you need it?” “Oh my God! Dad! Just put it down!” As mortified as I was, I giggled. I ran to my room in embarrassment, and then couldn’t stop laughing. I thought I was a woman, I thought I was older, sexier, and more independent. But I wasn't, and I had gotten caught for faking. I had the one person I depend on the most find my only shred of independence. My dad, of all people-- the one person I didn’t want to know-- caught me trying to be older than I was.
Untitled —M. Blake A tradition of excellence. At one time he wouldn't have laughed at the phrase. It might have been something that he could have been a part of, another in a long line, that kind of thing. But it is way too late for that; he is no longer the studious and promising youth; he can feel the corruption oozing out of him. Yes, he is a Dorian Gray smiling at himself in the mirror, still looking fairly young, in good shape, but he knows what is behind that, the truth that is hidden, his weaknesses and foibles, his tucked away failures and dishonesty, the unpleasant and the ugly put back there somewhere in that head (he never knows when they will suddenly flash out at him and bite). It seems he has lost as many fights as won, and he feels so weakened and tired that he no longer considers himself a serious contender. It's hard to believe that at one time he did. At one time, he wouldn't have believed he could be so sick and tired of himself. And that scornful laugh is really for him, though he believes that there will be plenty who follow him after starting out with their eyes on excellence, plenty who will receive the painful education, and eventually stand there with a knowing snicker as they suddenly see the faded promise. Oh, for a dozen drinks to blot out the sad sack chronicles, some dope to get him laughing at all traditions. He'll take it, yes, this old cripple will, any kind of aid in a bleak time, for his pride blew out of here years ago. The faithless goes pin-balling through the years, his destination this day, this hour and minute, appreciating any spark to get the blood going, any helping push to give him the idea that he has picked up speed again and is back on some long lost track. It's whatever comes his way, pushing and pulling, raising and lowering, stunning, thumping, prodding and poking, a doll, a dummy on the winds of fate, a cynical laugh in the roaring vortex. 41
The Moustache and the Passenger
Henry examined his face in the bathroom mirror. 3am, finally home. Just off a night flight from San Francisco to Phoenix to Detroit. Getting to Phoenix was hard enough on the nerves, with the heat wave turbulence of July shaking the plane all the way to the landing strip. But no sooner was he off that plane then he was onto another for several more hours of restless sleep between bouts of disengaged, light reading. Once firmly on the ground in Detroit, the captain got on the intercom and apologized for the square wheels during the landing. Henry thought he’d put the plane down in a cornfield. The captain said square wheels with familiarity, like it was industry slang. Through squealing tires, the violent trill of rumble strips, and shrieks from his fellow passengers, one thought splashed across Henry’s quickened mind: I've never had a moustache. Now looking at a full week’s worth of vacation beard, he realized—by god, that was the last thing he wanted to have pop into his mind the next time he thought he was going to die. Henry’s dad always had a moustache the whole time Henry was growing-up, so ever since he could grow facial hair, Henry sported a goatee. Henry’s grandpa would clean-shave daily, though now in his nineties, he often had stubble, likely due to that delicate turn his skin had taken, like it was ready to crack off like the dry, outer-shell of an onion. Henry thought: my chin hasn't seen unfiltered light for almost a decade. He remembered shaving as a young man. Soft brown skin; bloodless cuts filled instantly with elastic oils. New hairs springing up like cattails, once buried in mud, released by storms. Skin changes though. Seventeen never brought stubble. Now there are no clean shaves; immediately after, it’s a cheese grater. Henry’s dad still wears a moustache, though the last time he saw his dad, it was all gray, and the creases of his smile, etched there forever. Dad’s features will one day grow into a grotesque rubber mask, like Henry’s great-grandfather, once a man of full life, now redrawn in his great-grandson's mind into a blur of large ears and nose. Great-grandpa was always clean-shaven. Henry lathered up his face and shaved all but the moustache. A moustache that had never been taken in alone. Henry could hear the shit he would take at work tomorrow. It's the cop, the fireman, the cowboy, Burt Reynolds—costume virility, washed-out. But Henry’s mustache wouldn’t be ironic. It was an homage. Dad always embarrassed Henry, not because of his moustache, in particular, but because of the whole package. Dad doesn’t just rock the moustache, but also the white short-shorts and sock-less tennies in the grocery store after a long, hot afternoon mowing the lawn. Dad doesn’t give a damn. And that’s just the attitude you need to die in a plane crash outside of Detroit in the middle of the night.
It was a hot summer night. We were lying in bed reading with the doona pushed to our feet, my T-shirt rucked under my big, swollen breasts, when pain shot through my abdomen. I moved aside the book that I’d propped on my belly, looked down at the bump and saw my bare skin ripple. “Have a look at this,” I said. “What?’ “The baby’s really peddling.” John put down his book and turned to look at me. I patted the top of my bump. “Let me feel,’ he said. He pressed his hand down firmly. “I think I can feel a foot.” I looked down. Extra chins bunched under my jawline. “I’m so fat,” I said. “How can you feel anything?” He reached across and took my hand and moved it up my belly to where his hand had been. Laying his palm on the back of my wrist, he pressed down on my fingertips and kneaded gently. “Can you feel it?” “I think I’ve lost it.” He moved my hand aside and ran his splayed fingers under my sternum. I felt the baby wriggle and squirm under the weight of his probing hand. “I’ve caught you,” he said. He kept one hand on the spot and guided my hand with the other. “See? Can you feel the heel?” He pressed my fingertips firmly down and around a small hard nub. I felt the nub kick; the nub became a foot. “Can we feel its hands?” I asked. I was excited to think that we could feel distinct parts. John shook his head. “No.” I believed him when he said that. As well as being my husband and the father of this baby, he was training to become an obstetrician. “See if you can hear its heartbeat,” I said. I reached out and took his temples in the palms of my hands and lowered his head on the top of my belly. He curled up and pretended to snore. I poked the back of his neck. “Do it properly.” He cupped his hand against my belly and listened with his improvised stethoscope. “Your tummy’s gurgling,” he said. I felt the baby kick again as John fell silent. I waited. “Can you hear its heartbeat?” I asked. “Yours is louder.” “Be serious.” He moved his hand; he listened again. “I can hear it!” He sat up and turned to look at me. He had a big grin on his face. “It’s soft but it’s definitely there. It’s going tett tett tett tett.” He made a series of short staccato sounds with his tongue. I felt a thrill of joy as I realised we would soon see our baby. I smiled back at John. “I can’t wait.”
On December 7, 2007, at only six years old, Ella was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. Donations to help the family with medical expenses are being accepted at: Ella H. Hauschildt Benefit Fund,Wells Fargo Bank, Attn: Jane, 17365 Kenyon Ave, Lakeville, MN 55044 http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ellahope 42
Mississippi Crow Magazine
A Bookish Traveler’s Op-Ed Piece —S. A. Harris Let’s face it, a potpourri of millions from around the continental globe keep commercial airlines booming. Literally, travelers come in all (luggage) shapes and sizes. There are devote ‘sky-dancers’ of air travel (mile-high club members not included), those adhered by the obligatory call of employment, and some who abominate the notion of ascension altogether. A quiet observer, I’m wedged amidst the examples. Personally, having the backside of my seat jolted for an uncomforting 11-hour flight with connections, isn’t as enticing as the springing joy of my final destination. Point blank… no matter who you are, or where you’re going, the itinerant demand doesn’t necessarily result in smooth endeavors. Withdrawing the melodic pitch of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly with Me’ pulsing in near distraction through the computer screen speakers, of course, I speak for myself. There’s simply an abundance of scheming forethought entailed to the break down of ongoing logistics, wishing the process were easier. Sneaking up on homemade travel charts from hidden corners, and then tackling it as if a piranha to its prey, only leads to the diligence of… packing (cue the scary music). Throw a pile of yesterday’s laundry in a bag and voila, you’re done. Well not exactly. I personify the stereotypical model of femininity, ardently organizing a hoard of Louis Vuitton bags reminiscent of a passenger boarding the Titanic as opposed to an Elite Access Continental. After nearly a mile of brisk strides through a throng of lengthy corridors, clattering stilettos finally locate the last gate to my predestined terminal. A design that is assuredly part of some new fitness program. The airport breathes with hullabaloo as overhead PA systems blare effusively (!) to the beat of its own drummer. I admit, the multitude of people spatter together a Picasso rendition of business, pleasure, and necessity. Bold datum contends we are the nameless links of air transportation that saturate beneath a torrent of florescent bulbs and flight delays. A jungle of paperbacks, multicolored Blackberrys, laptops, iPods, and diverse banter illuminate hastened boarding calls as a modicum of boredom weaves the metaphorical features of departure gates, all passengers all rows… terminal. Without defense to unwarranted luggage cruelty, enthusiasm flatlines. Ah, the joys of travel. My silent scream resonates, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!” before being whisked away to a Houdini-esque disappearance in the blue. But travelers beware. If one arrives at the airport obtrusively clad in… oh, I don’t know, perhaps a three-piece suit and top hat ensemble (enter Sebastian Horsley), prepare for a cross-examination of integrity that will not be graded on a curve. And a shudder befalls beneath the collective gasp of Liberachi enthusiasts! With that said (and yes… allow me to present a diction of opinion), writers and readers alike shed a bizarre reality to the somewhat grave communal requiem of nonsense and dramatic interest. For those uninformed… Sebastian Horsley, British author of the memoir, Dandy in the Underworld, was denied entrance into the United States on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at Newark International Airport, New Jersey. Beneath a humid reiteration of editorials, reports continued the beleaguering news, as Horsley (traveling under the Visa Waiver Program) was refuted on grounds of ‘moral turpitude’. When did humanity become overtly skewed by these overwhelming levels of vainglorious media coverage? Spin doctoring the situation is to be expected, but it needs an ounce of moderation. Unsurprisingly, I believe some may negate the larger picture to the voyeuristic milieu of public relation. Dandyism is tangling the central concern. Not only was the London writer subjectively denied entrance into the United States,
Are YOU in it?
decidedly our federal government maintains regulative legislation over our morality and expiation. This fantastically flamboyant man, obviously carriages an acute intelligence to the capitalization of personal tribulation (nothing wrong in writing about it), though doubtfully is his book tour a menacing threat. The conglomerations of devotees marching single-file, a standing ovation to bookstore launches in his tribute, empathetically harvest top hat soirees to the dance of Gheppetto strings. This is a blatant observation to the reality of visa repudiations, foregoing 8-hour detainments better known as an interrogation of sorts. But if a daringly unapologetic Sebastian Horsley has not committed a criminal act within the United States, is a peppered lifestyle enough for the federal government to refute travel? The flippant affect of incident mysteriously concedes unanswered validation to the multitude of questions amassed. However, the department of United States Customs-depending on the amount of database information-- has the justified authority to deny passport stamps. Not by a long shot is this an extraordinary act for immigration officials and Border Protection to uphold the duty sworn to their country. Whilst Horsley’s controversial autobiography remains of little concern to the hazards of civilization, it is indeed a spotlight of humility. This tit-for-tat even sets thematic tone for a subsequent book. A brazen realism from London to Newark. Whether your preference is plane, train, or automobile… life’s adventurous side definitely imparts a story of unexpected moments, which might involve a bureaucratic twist.
Arrival of Bravo Darlings…
Company —Danielle Thorne “I know I’m not a handsome man.” I make a disagreeable noise, but his face tells me he’s not the type that wants to hear lies. “I suppose it’s in the eye of the beholder,” I answer. He rolls over on his side and props his head on his hand. It’s a conversational pose that tell me he needs more talk. The sheet has slid down between us and I pull it up, careful not to pull on the satin trim that’s coming loose. “You’re not bad looking.” I tell him this because it’s true. “You have a great talent and that’s a wonderful advantage.” He shrugs and looks sad. “Advantage for what?” “Money. Women. You don’t have to be here. You can have anybody you want.” “They don’t want me,” he says in frustration. “They want the voice. They want the album cover.” “I don’t believe that’s true about everybody. What about an old girlfriend?” He smiles. “Yeah,” he says, as if his past is long forgotten. “There was this girl, you know, childhood sweetheart, went to school together…we’re still friends.” “But you still love her?” A nibble on his lip--too long and often and he’ll chap his lips but I don’t tell him so. “I see her sometimes but she’s different.” “She is?” I ask. “I haven’t changed. I know we all say it, but I haven’t. She’s just different. All grown up. A little bigger, you know?” He makes swelling motions and I try not to grimace, but he sees it. “She not fat, she’s just bigger.” “Well the girl next door doesn’t have a personal trainer.” “You look good.” He smiles flirtatiously and he is in that moment a handsome man. “I don’t have a personal trainer either.” “So you make an effort.” I laugh. He didn’t notice the scar running up my calf from my ankle, or my roots. It’s time to color. His eyes trail down my face, my neck, and across my chest. “You realize these aren’t God given?” I ask. “Really?” If he’s kidding, I can’t tell, and the thought that he’s that naïve makes me think less of him. “Really,” I say finally. My mouth twitches because I’d like to be sixteen and fall for it. He finally makes a bold move and rubs his hand across my chest and down the sheet over the valley of my stomach. I watch his eyes. They won’t meet mine and there’s a stain of red on the balls of his cheeks. “You want me to sing?” he murmurs. I whisper, “No, I don’t get into your kind of music.” This stops him cold. “What do you like?” “What do you care?” He smiles after an awkward pause, then climbs out of bed to search for his clothes. “Do you always make people feel bad when they leave?” “That’s their business.” “I don’t feel bad when I leave. I never do.” “Good,” I say. “That means I’ll see you again.” “Yeah.” He smiles, says it softly as if we’re lovers in a committed relationship. “I have the awards show in L.A. next weekend, but I’ll be back in town at the end of the month.” “Okay.” I get up and head for the shower, aware of his eyes watching my hair swing just over my lower back. 44
“I’ll see you,” he calls and I don’t say anything, just turn on the shower and watch the water run down like rain. Maybe he didn’t see the cellulite on the inside of my thighs. I’m going to have lippo again if I make enough during the holidays. The hotel room door slams and I sigh in relief. The last time he left there was an autographed CD on the nightstand like some kind of bonus; a party favor or goody bag. I gave it to one of my friends and she went crazy telling me to get concert tickets. I was going to ask him tonight but I just couldn’t. He pays me not to care who he is.
The List —Marcia Feese The old woman made her crooked way home as dusk claimed the aged stone cottage outside of Salem. Her long skirts and petticoats hindered her. Serena, her faithful cat, ambled alongside, no less crippled than her mistress. Serena’s erect black tail swerved from side to side with her uneven gait. “Come along, Serena, we’re almost home,” Magda urged. “Almost home, and without incident.” The words were barely out of her mouth when a shower of stones fell on the pair. “Poltergeist throwing stones!” Magda screamed. She bent as quickly as her creaking bones allowed to scoop up Serena, her treasured only friend. Her only family. Serena had come with the house when Magda bought it from the widow Haecker’s estate. Magda found the struggling abandoned kitten in the basement and bottle fed her for weeks. They’d grown old together, comfortable companions. In truth, Magda knew it was no poltergeist. She had seen the small heads bobbing hurriedly along behind her stone wall after the attack. Serena was bleeding from a wound on her side, sensitive to Magda’s touch. The cat’s eyes narrowed, but she surrendered to the indignity of being carried. The old woman would tend to her needs. She wouldn’t let her die. She couldn’t die now, with only two days to go. Two days left, and many names on the crippled cat’s mental list. Including the names of the foolish, evil children who had just attacked them. Inside the cottage, Magda filled a blue glass bowl with fresh cream and set it, and Serena, on the weathered planks of the table. She fetched her herbs and eased into a wobbly chair, stroking Serena to reassure her. Serena’s eyes were golden slits. “You’ll be fine old girl. I’ll take care of you. We’ll take care of each other just like we always done. Never mind those cruel folks. They’re just ignorant. Well, ignorant and mean-spirited, but they’re scared. We gotta forgive ‘em. Imagine being scared of a crippled ol’ woman and her scruffy cat. Sorry Serena, but we’ve both seen better days.” Serena purred under Magda’s ministering. You forgive ‘em old woman. I’m makin’ a list. Magda continued her monologue as she tended Serena’s wound. “Imagine me, a witch. And you, a sweet ol’ house cat, s’posed to be my ‘familiar’. Long as we been here, you’d think they’d know better. I guess it’s nigh on to twenty years now ol’ girl.” Twenty years lacking two days. Serena purred. “Oh, and not just any witch,” Magda scoffed, but a milchhexe! Stealin’ the cows’ milk by sorcery, an’ makin’ off with babies in the dark of night! What ever give ‘em such a foolish idea? Did you see all the cows in the fields, with ivy an’ red thread tied to their tails? Double protection from the sorcery, I guess, usin’ both.” As Magda continued her musings, Serena pondered her twenty years as a cat. She had well used most of her nine lives. Two more days, and she would shed her feline form, and spend the next 100 years as a witch. And she had her list.
Mississippi Crow Magazine
An Actor Prepares —Gary Beck "Not like that, Andrew," Eliot whined for the fourth time. "You're supposed to be having a nervous breakdown. You have to look it, not just say the lines." "I'm working on it, Eliot," I replied, in the tone that I knew would piss him off. "I'll get it. It just doesn't come as naturally to some of us as others," and I looked at him suggestively. Eliot glared at me impotently, a look that I was used to, since he resorted to it frequently. We had been at loggerheads from the first day of rehearsal, when I took exception to his request to keep working past the contracted time. "Eliot," I said in a patronizing tone, "Union regs don't let us rehearse more than six hours a day. This is a showcase. You were told the rules by the union rep. If you like, I'll show you the handbook. I didn't make a fuss when I didn't get all of my allotted break, but it's time to respect Equity rules. You don't want me to file a grievance, do you?" I scornfully dismissed his silly appeal for me to forget the regulations for the sake of the show. That was when he glared for the first time. As if he cared about anything but his dumb concept. Then he babbled to us about the need to work hard to produce art. The other actors nodded solemnly, but I laughed in his face. "This isn't art, Eliot. It's like a meat market with talent for sale. If you want art, you shouldn't be doing a showcase." I must admit I enjoyed watching him squirm when I reminded him in front of the others that the showcase system was designed primarily to allow actors to demonstrate their talent to agents and producers. I didn't bother pointing out that actors couldn't demonstrate very much with minimal rehearsal and three weeks of performances. But that didn't bother me. I mean it's not as if we're trained like dancers, with all kinds of different skills. I had a different agenda. I wasn't really interested in theater, though I knew I could do the classics if I wanted to. I wanted a career in television. A part in a long running show was my goal, with the accompanying rewards of fame and fortune. Unlike many actors, I had disciplined myself to put on a good front and always look confident, even when I felt like crapping in my pants. The truth was that I was meant for the showcase system that encouraged surface skills and facility. It was an ideal vehicle for me to display my confidence, relaxed ease and magnetism. I hoped that by doing showcases I would land an agent and maybe even get a commercial. That would pay my freight as I worked my way up the ladder to a big time tv show. This was my fourth showcase and nothing had happened yet, but I was still hopeful. I hadn't bothered explaining the plan to Eliot. He wouldn't see the logic of it. He was another dumb liberal arts grad with a degree in directing. He'd have a better chance for regular work if he became a traffic warden. At least he'd be able to direct motorists, who might listen. He had no real idea what he was doing and his selection of the play further indicated how dumb he was. Nobody would stay awake while a young man had a nervous breakdown in front of his father, mother and older sister, just because he was turned down by the college of his choice. Well, maybe the playright's mother. And Eliot didn't even know how to block properly. He kept putting people in front of me, so I couldn't be seen while I was doing my lines. To make matters worse, Eliot had cast a retired insurance executive as my father, and a retired school teacher as my mother. I never understood what prompted these greyheads to suddenly try a second career in theater. These retreads took everything very seriously and went about their business as if they were preparing for a Broadway opening. They even supported Eliot when he demanded that I learn
Are YOU in it?
my lines. I tried to explain that I would know most of them by opening night. They got real nervous when I said it wouldn't make much difference, since the audience didn't know the script, so they wouldn't know if I dropped a line or two. But they kept hassling me. Mr. Insurance company mumbled over and over: "How will we know our cues, if you don't say your lines?" They freaked out when I said: "Just wing it, pop." Eliot had cast a slightly overweight, nervous girl as my older sister, but she wasn't bad looking in a fleshy sort of way. I figured to slip her some unbrotherly love, once she got to know me. There was nothing better available. I never seemed to meet anyone at my waiter job at the restaurant, an untrendy hamburger joint, where the female customers kept their legs tightly shut. So I had no where else to meet women…. But sis turned out to be an ingénue, trapped in a bulky body and I was just too crude for her. Then, as if things weren't bad enough, the playright showed up and droned on and on about how we were missing the real theme of the play; 'the breakdown of high expectations'. Give me a break. Well I can get through two more weeks of rehearsal. Maybe the show won't be as bad as it sounds. And if they give me a hard time, I can always walk. That's the beauty of the showcase system. An actor can leave the show anytime for paid work, or an audition for paid work. And what would these losers do, bring a lawsuit to the union? Fat chance of that. If things go bad and I decide to split, I'll just pick an audition from a trade paper and say I have to prepare for it. But it may not come to that. If I don't have anything better, I'll stick it out. Maybe Snow—Rebecca Shafee
Silent Story —Sue Midlock Sitting there on the floor my student comes to play. He is three with milk chocolate skin, and eyes that melt my heart. A circus story is being told with every kind of animal imaginable. Elephants, zebras and even the ponies had their day in review. He loves the tigers best, and his facial expressions showed such excitement! The roars he displayed and white teeth scared him badly. Next the cotton candy had made its mark. Sticking out his tongue, he said turned a lovely shade of blue! I laughed so hard. I pictured it perfectly! Next a piano was acted out, when actually, it was still about the stickiness of the candy. It also painted his fingers blue which gave the story a delightful tone. A good ten minutes had gone by, but I cherished the entire time. The funny thing about this was—not a word was spoken. It’s amazing that at such a tender age he could sign as well as any deaf adult!
What Happened to Crop Circles? —Russ Curtis I miss the simple crop circles. Single solitary circles located on canvases of lush agriculture. Their sweeping broad strokes evoking a viscerally erotic experience one can only liken to young lovers hiking in a dense forest with a sleeping bag and massage oil. Since extraterrestrial cropcirclers—colloquially known as artestrials—rarely, if ever, title their work, I’ve taken the liberty to name some of my favorites: Laser on Wheat, Corn #11, and Circle of Soy (aka, Soy Circle). The more modern works— which are now conceitedly called crop formations—are nothing but cognitive blustering, no passion whatsoever. This is not to say that crop formations aren’t creative. They are. As fancy as Christmas lights on a mobile home—the multi-colored chaser lights, no less. To glean insight into this disturbing trend of crop-formationfancifulness, I attended a recent party where I was enjoying the most marvelous drink, some type of tequila-cranberry spritzer, when a lithe and lanky artestrial approached me. I immediately told this particularly charming artestrial that my telepathy was atrocious (not so much the receiving as the sending) and he, or she (I’m never quite certain about their gender), was most accommodating, even offering to implant a computer chip in my brain to facilitate the telepathic process. I quickly said no, explaining that my miserable cousin bragged of having such an implant and was now heavily medicated and living in a psychiatric hospital. My dear artestrial acquaintance nodded sadly and transmitted his desire for us to stop preventing them from helping advance our world. Upon hearing this, as you can well imagine, I made a mental note to cease making fun of my “mad” cousin Henry. Anyway, the conversation turned and I began expressing my exasperation with their recent crop-work when he transmitted that the new movement in intergalaxy art is to play off the cliché’s of American culture. Mon Dieu! American Culture inspiring art!? There you have it, then. This obviously explains the recent wave of crescent moon and sun formations appearing in the fields all over southern England, clearly a rip off from Pier One Imports. Needless to say, I left the soirée feeling a certain tristesse profonde. How could I not be depressed? For what can we expect next? Impressions of soup cans in fields of alfalfa!? Hilton Als once wrote, “All artists have a streak of the solipsist; their loneliness and self-interest are what propel them to make art in the first place. But that doesn’t mean that anyone wants to watch those thrashings.” (New Yorker, February 28, 2005). Indeed Mr. Als, indeed—ibid, crop formations. I suppose I will always pine for the return of the crop circle, but in fairness, I should say that the current pastiche of crop formations are meticulously executed. The massive spider web in Etchilhampton and the mandala-shaped impression in Wayland’s Smithy near Ashbury are beyond approach when it comes to form and texture—which strangely, almost bemusingly, compensates for their complete lack of color, about which I was told by a notorious artestrial, “color is a crutch.” Oh dear, I suspect Mr. Matisse might have had something to say about that. But there’s more, in an uncharacteristic display of realism, a face appeared in Chilbolton wheat which looked remarkably similar to the actor Kevin Bacon. In fairness, at the right altitude, say 10,000 feet above sea level, this apparent face formation closely resembles the Grey’s, the breed of artestrials most known for avant-garde work. Suffice it to say, since the new movement of crop formations, arguably beginning in July 2000, decadence is most certainly in vogue. The monstrous formation, I dare say—giant nautilus—placed just 150 meters from Stonehenge was appalling. Not so much because the effect
was grossly similar to displaying a Timberlake next to a de Kooning, as much as it was surprisingly infantile, a childish shout from artestrial nations saying, “We’re not fake! Please take us seriously!” In response (and I chuckle as I write this), “Yes my dear artestrials, we know you exist, it’s just your latest work appears to be—with all do respect—a bit insecure.” For even the most novice crop formation admirer can tell the difference between alien productions and those propagated by Doug and Dave, the bastions of British intelligencia who attempt to create plausible denial about the existence of artestrials. It’s not that I denigrate Doug and Dave’s effort, mind you, developmentally it’s very appropriate to learn a new craft by copying the works of others, my problem is their complete lack of attention to detail. Most of their “art” resembles the scribblings of second graders, left partially incomplete as second graders are prone to do. My message to all aspiring human crop formationists is this, quit attempting fancy. You obviously don’t do fancy very well, not yet anyway. Instead, spend time perfecting the crop circle with whatever arcane lawnmower or rope and plank method you choose. This my friends will most certainly command my attention. My goodness, could humans be the leading force in bringing back the lost art of crop circles? Previously published in Review.
the literary journals, Metabolism and Taj Mahal
The Wedding Party of the Newly Bereaved —Lisa Veyssiere So sorry, so sorry, our thoughts, our sympathies, your loss: the bouquets are the first thing I will take care of. Our house looks like the wedding party of the newly bereaved. My father sleeps in a chair- what can I say? Nothing breaks my heart anymore. If I could pray, I would pray for his sleep to last a little longer. Perchance to dream: it is thirty-six years ago, and his brother Bobby is on leave from Vietnam with a new joke. "Go ahead," he says. "Ask me. Do I have problems?" He grabs Beth’s arm, and peony curtains hang like splatter around them. "Come on, ask me. Ask me. Have I got a problem?" She asks. He takes another swig of Teachers. "What kind? State or Federal?" And when he laughs it’s like laughter is something they might not be making next week. Beth wore gold and her eyes were painted green, the color of peacocks. Was it appropriate? It was something. Daniel believed that whatever came to pass would be. And then, under the hallway light, he saw the blue of the recent bruise, the yellow of the fading one, a blood bloom and the jaundice of his brother’s marriage hidden under gauche face paint. Daniel danced with her in the living room, down the hall and onwards. Bobby finished the Teachers and played a word game in yesterday’s newspaper. 1968 was about to explode in front of them. Nobody had to tell me this. I know enough to listen to weeping in the night. Beth was my mother. Bobby was my father. Daniel was his brother. My mother is dead. And I think: if he dreams, to not wake him is cruelty. The next day, they went to the war. Daniel read bible stories, he liked the Old Testament best, and when he dreamed, he dreamed of the
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Rapture, but when he awoke, he was in nothing but hell. He started to say: I’ve got a girl in the war, although it was he in the Mekong, he reading Thomas Merton at night. He said it through the battles and the botfly and charred bodies and the rations; it was he worrying and forgiving and ultimately hating his brother, and finally receiving news, one day in July, that Bobby was being sent back to Detroit with an honorable discharge, a wife large with child, elevated liver enzymes, terminal prognosis. When the day came, Daniel arrived on the doorstep with a green beret in hand, newfound faith in God, palpable guilt, and a funeral wreath for his brother. The unlocked door was watched over by an old grey tabby, who paid him no attention. The cat was much loved by his brother, and for his sake, Daniel stepped wide. The animal had seen the last of the great spectacles. The hallway was narrow, and he felt the walls to find his way. He did not turn on the lamp. To do so would cast light on the pictures of Bobby as a child. He always preferred Robert to Bobby, but his brother was fond of the diminutive. As he walked down the hall, he wondered if children don’t have enough problems in this word without coming into it with lesser of their given name. Children need fortitude, he once told Bobby. But don’t we all. He walked slowly, and he looked ahead. He did not turn around. If he turned around, he might see that Beth was not behind him, but he turned around anyway. The hallway smelled like a wake. He stopped at the end. Had the hallway gotten longer? It might have gotten longer. He found the door to the bedroom. Where the bedroom was, he already knew. After all the mourners departed, he turned on every light in the house. He did not want to see clearer. He wanted to be seen clearer. Beth stood in front of the brightest one. There was a chair in the living room, it was blurry and soft and out of context with the rest of the furniture. It was an end stage chair. He sat in his brother’s house and made a vow: when this was over, after the long decline, he wanted for his body to be burned. And then, because the red peony curtains still hung in the living room, and beyond them, beautiful stars exploded over the sky, he looked at her, and what he saw was good. When the clock hits five, I will sear the ends of the calla lilies, one by one. Later, I will shut the curtains and prepare a tea and milk for Daniel, and he will say: let me tell you the story, of how you came to be.
Mrs. Greenthumb’s Garden —Dave MacPherson a. Garden My friend John, from Port Washington, tells me that no one has ever seen her garden, but everyone just calls her the Gardener or Garden Lady or Mrs. Greenthumbs. No one knows her name. They just know that in the back of her house, there is a garden no one has seen and they know that it is hers. She wears white sneakers that are never smudged. Her fingernails are clean. She is completely unsoiled. But to John and everyone else who ever passed her door, she is the gardener; what else could she be? b. Hot Spot Piper from Valley Cottage, Mehkal from Burrough Park and Brian from Aurora have told me that they had sex on the front lawn of the Garden Lady. Not with each other, mind you, but whomever was at hand. Nancy of Grand Rapids only fooled around and would have
Are YOU in it?
gone farther if her mother hadn’t called on her cell phone, and wasn’t that one big buzz kill? It is not like they knew each other or that this was some sort of initiation. They just walked by her house at night and been struck by how bright the sky was. How it lit the person standing next to them like they were characters from an illuminated manuscript. And they needed to hold, touch, tickle, kiss, blend with each other; move like gears in a clockwork globe. Men and women. Men and me. Women and women. People. Touching as if compelled to dance and jape. When they tell these stories, it is never with shame. c. Black Hole Dr. Stephen Hawking of Cambridge has recently recanted his theory of black holes; the idea that time itself slows while pulled in the black hole. He has said that he was wrong. There are rules to the Universe, but he does not know what they are. We are explorers of negative discovery; we know of a thing by what it is not. And we hope we get the “what it is” part nearly correct. d. Moon Akeem of Ottawa knows every full moon he has walked under. He can describe their size, location and color. I give him a month and a year and he tells me of the moon that owned that moment of time and space. Yes, he could be making it up, but the moons he speaks of feel correct. In 1987, in the month of March, he was in front of Mrs. Greenthumb’s house. The moon was full and ample. Green Large, the size of a doubloon. He would have looked longer, but the person standing next to him took his mouth like a lover and diverted his attention. e. Casino A woman, who’s name I never learned, told me what Mrs. Greenthumbs grows in her garden. The woman was sitting in front of the dollar slot machine next to mine. It was in an Indian Casino in Montana, by the rest stop for my train. I had time to kill. The woman next to me said, “The Garden Lady grows universes. Her garden is made up of rows of stars. Bunches of planets. Galaxies hanging low on the vine. Comets drop like acorns. Asteroids are pulled from the ground.” The woman put in three more dollar coins, like the moons of Saturn, and pulled the arm. She said, “She harvests the heavens. She fertilizes the soil with a mulch she makes from desire and passion. The bulbs of solar systems are planted in her backyard waiting to be harvested and displayed in the sky line like floral arrangements.” The woman smiled and said, “The Big Bang ain’t over. It’s always exploding. It’s always growing. The Big Bang is a garden in her back yard.” I gave the woman my coin bucket and left the casino. My train was not leaving for over an hour. The lights of the casino negated the stars above me. But they were there. And every season, there are more, like a horn of plenty. I headed back to the train, knowing for the first time, what my destination could be. DELMA LUBEN - www.authorsden.com/luben Internationally published author/poet Delma Luben writes about relationships, between the races, the sexes, and the species--and between this world and the next. Executive editor, inspirational speaker, and honorary member of The International Society of Poets for Peace, she has been nationally recognized for “… outstanding literary contribution against discrimination and religious intolerance.” THE OTHER SHEEP by Delma Luben was recently selected “Book of the Month on Religion and Spirituality,” by Best Book Reviews, U. S. and Canada. This fascinating chapter in the continuing story of heaven sending guidance to God’s earth children, is spirituality made human. You feel you know the characters, as if you’d met them in another place and time.
Belief in the Dying
Pens run out of ink always at banks and post offices. It makes sense. There’s only a certain amount of ink in this world and it’s not regulated. Places aren’t going to give it away free; at least not a lot of it. Even the places where there are thousands of pens stockpiled, dripping a rainbow of blacks, blues and reds. I can’t wait until the price of ink goes down. I wanted to write a novel but I can’t budget it just right. According to my calculations I’m going to run out midway through chapter seventeen. I could write it in orange. It’s cheaper but just doesn’t have the contrast. It wasn’t always this way. I remember when a ten pack of Bic roundsticks was a dollar. A person could write all the way across the country and still have enough story left for a flash piece in Tin House. I can’t wait until alternative utensils come to market. Maybe pencils will make a comeback. My father used to have a sixty seven Cross. I had fond memories using that pencil, but it always seemed to run out of lead early or break down halfway between a story about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Refills were constantly a problem. Some people talk about how it’s got to be next year. Ink will flow like spring mountain streams. I’ve heard overseas production is already increased. I sure hope so because my pen is running.
Jano had left the roof of the furniture store at eleven p.m. and, sporting fish lips, had gone out of his way to kick the biggest clump of snow along the path. The outskirts of the field wore a heavier quiet even than downtown, allowing an unidentifiable pursuer to slip onto his tail unnoticed at first. Now the man was gaining on him. Jano was leaving a fancy trail of footprints in the snow and there was no getting around that. The ground was undisturbed from Center to Quarry except for the popcorn crunch of their merging trails. Is this what it felt like for Mari? Mari was the girlfriend who gave him her last words—nothing like, let’s just be friends, or, I need to figure some things out, but it was definitely, wear orange, kiddo. Wear orange for me. Jano donned his gloves after his second slip and dive, after dusting off the cold, after fighting back the adrenaline. Is this what it felt like for Mari? To come closer and closer to death? And die? I’m okay, he whistled silently. We’re only going the same way. He isn’t following. But he was gaining on him, and Jano knew it. That’s when he realized that this was it; this was the crisis Mari had been waiting for. Orange is a happy color, she had assured him. She had followed it with a wink or a flutter of only one eye, emitting a sense of hereafter insight. So he was right in leaving his coat draped over his arms: his happy-orange tee was a celebration of Mari’s life, a charm of existential protection. Her ghost pressed in over the tremor of his lip, the bite of his ears, and the sharp offense that ran down the lengths of his arms straight to his ribs. He felt close to the dead, and she would shelter him while he lost the man between Center and Quarry. Then, suddenly, the snow-crunching footsteps picked up a new rhythm and caught up to his back, and before he could turn—but he managed to raise his coat up behind him and shrink beneath it—something like a tool—a whole toolbox—collided with his crown. The sound became a muffled thud through the coat, the zippered flaps swinging in against his ears. Jano ducked, or staggered, twisted around, punching through his coat leftrightleftrightleftright. A metal bar came down on his back and he collapsed to one knee, but he bounced right back up and forward. Too far forward. His neck hooked a groin, his shoulders uppercutting a pair of cold thighs, but he went ahead and stood up as hard and as fast he could, launching the weight of the man over his back, tearing through into the cold air on the other side like a ripping predator, like a dinosaur out of the tar, falling onto all fours and then getting up again and fleeing in one, two, three scrambling steps. The air was quiet. He turned. The man was in a heap with his butt in the air. His neck was twisted like a limp turtle’s. He didn’t move. Jano approached from the side. The snow was red around the man’s face, reflecting in his staring, bulging, wandering eyes. The throat moved. Jano dared to lean in closer, and the voice half-said, “If you leave me now . . . everything will be all right.” And Jano hadn’t lost his faith in the near-dead.
It —Adam McGavin I wave goodbye to Maria and Bailey and scrabble my keys around to find the right one. I really should get a light out here; I get an all too sinister feeling every time I unlock my door at night. I turn the handle and give it a push as my keys swing around like Newton’s cradle, still stuck in the door. I kick off slip-ons and drop the styrofoam container of leftovers on the stove in one familiar motion. Straight to bed tonight, I already had too much to drink over dinner. I ascend the creaky wooden steps to my room, careful to skip the fourth step broken from last year’s house party. To conserve electricity, I rarely turn on any lights. My bedroom door is already flung open, an oddity from my sterile apartment. As my foot drops for the first step into the room, the feeling of another human crawls up my leg into my chest. I raise my right hand, the way I would to hold a tray, to stand the light switch on end, in an effort to investigate this chill. Immediately, I am seized by what feels like a much larger, much sweatier man. He holds the blood warm blade below my jaw and jerks it, like you’d open a feisty plastic bag. The rats, insects, cockroaches and bacteria freefall from my unbolted throat and dance at my feet. Teasing in their joyous dance of escape, they illuminate the room. I finally flip the light upward and pan left, then right, then left again and then crane my neck behind me. My posters all sit still. I promise myself I’ll stop watching B rate slasher films and flop on the primped bed like a lifeless carp, light still on.
AutismShopper.com Laura T. Behrendt—Designer/Creator (612) 669-6109 firstname.lastname@example.org For a FREE download of a recent article about the creator of Autism Shopper, go to
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Echinacea and Butterfly—William Parsons
Wake Up —Daniel Dominowski The old man sat very still, nearly glued to his chair. He had frazzled, gray hair on his head and wrinkles around his eyes. His yellowed fingers lifted a cigarette to his mouth and he inhaled deeply. The action was smoother than a finely tuned piece of machinery. Staring at the old black and white television, he barely stirred save for the action of smoking. He realized how burnt out and tired he must appear to the others in the rec-room. As much as he would like to jump up and scream at them, to let them that he was very much still alive, it would not do any good. They would ignore him and continue to stare at the television themselves. My God, what is the world coming to? he thought to himself. Another inhalation of sweet, slow death. But I'm no better, all I do is stare at the television too. How depressing is that? The others were all sitting in chairs, also watching the television with quiet, dumbfounded expressions that hung on their faces like do-not-disturb signs. He remembered those, and a great deal of other things. Day after day, the same routine now. Shower in an assembly line, eat in an assembly line... file into the rec-room like cattle to watch television. Hadn't they once laughed and called these things boob tubes? He thought so, but wasn't so sure anymore. The past had drifted away along with his life. Now, sitting in the sterile rec-room with the others, under the bright, cold fluorescent light, he wished to leave. To visit his children and their children; they never visited him even once, but he felt that somehow they loved him. 'Just stand up and leave', the news anchor on
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the television told him. 'But that was 1982', he murmured, unaware of the fact that he had spoken out loud. The others ignored him. The television flickered, and changed channels. It simply stunned him, because the channel on the television never changed. They watched news about war and the economy all day, every day. But he showed no sign of acknowledgment. Not out of fear, but because nobody would care if he noticed or not. The scene on the television was that of a man and a woman at a party. They seemed to be having a grand time. The man was quite drunk and the woman was very nearly so. He remembered those days too. Then he watched, motionless, as the couple got into a car and drove away from the party. He did not want to watch this part, because he knew what was going to happen before it did. Their car went screaming through the brush on the side of a highway... then the television went to static. He heard one of the others speaking softly. It seemed as if they said, 'I love you, dad.' But he didn't bother to look at who said it. It wouldn't matter anyway, they never responded to anything. Occasionally one would mutter something, but that happened less frequently these days. Most of the residents were so subdued now that sometimes they wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. Not that he missed them while sitting the rec-room, but it cast a bit of strangeness upon the room when one or two were missing. Today, they were all present. We're like sheep, he thought, but the sheepdog is lazy and does not care if he misses one every now and then. But he does care if the television shows the right program. It was back to showing the news. They showed a picture of his wife on the news report, looking as beautiful and alive as she was the day they met. But he wasn't paying attention to the news anymore. The screen went fuzzy again. 'What's wrong with the television?' he asked himself in a quiet voice. He was under the impression that it was simply a thought he had, not spoken aloud. He heard a small, childlike voice behind him whisper, 'there is no TV.' He lit a cigarette and quietly inhaled. Nobody else in the room smoked, but nobody ever complained. It was a good arrangement, he thought. Nobody else moved. Rose Atkins looked down at her father laying on the white hospital bed, curious about the fact that his eyes moved around under his eyelids as if he were dreaming. His lungs still took breath, his heart still pumped blood and the doctors said his brain was still fully functional, yet he laid there day after day in a coma. Mostly. Once in a while he would respond to voices, but with peculiar answers. Less often, he would mutter something random. It was sad, but there was still hope that he would wake up. She held on to that. She kissed him on the cheek and told him she would be back next week and not to go anywhere, then went into the hall closing the door to his private room behind her. Dominica Moore lives in a war zone both at home and at her new school in that she endures cruelty by the hands of her father and also by the hands of her peers at school. She doesn’t meet what they consider to be the standard norms of society; their codes of ethics. Instead, Dominica Moore goes against the standard norms of society. Through her endless struggle to be accepted for who and what she is inside, Dominica looks to the Lord for friendship and strength. Warren Moore, Dominica’s father, has a beastly personality and runs the household worse than military style. He doesn’t allow Dominica or her brothers to have friends over to their home. Dominica loses faith in the Lord as a result of her brother Jake’s death. She then finds comfort in realizing her brother Jake has become her guardian angel. It’s as if he never left her side. Available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and publishamerica.com. About the Author: Joanna Maharis was born under the name of Kiki Stamatiou. Kiki’s name was originally supposed to be Joanna. She grew up in Kalamazoo where she received a Bachelor of Arts
They Cage Freaks at Night, Don’t They? —William Parsons “If you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks long into you.” Nietzsche Con lay there in bed, dawn filling his bedroom window. He stared at the ceiling—his left forearm, encased in a florescent-green cast, under his head. —the school bus tumbled over and over down the embankment— He gulped, and a bead of sweat traced its way down the side of his stubbled face. Four days. It wasn’t long enough. But he knew he had to go back there eventually, face everyone. —Bret, the freak, held Sue’s hand while reciting the Lord’s Prayer even after she died— Con clenched the sheet in his fist and took a shuddering breath. He couldn’t wait to get back to football practice, smash the gridirons, plow down the deep end, get his blood pumping. All this lying around, too much time to think, too much time to remember. —Conroy Adams, captain of the team, star of the school, sprawled impotently across two crumpled seats while the metalhead freak played the hero— He squeezed his eyes shut and refused to accept the escaping tears. A quick rap at his door. He popped his eyes open. “C’mon, Con. I need you in the car in half an hour if I’m gonna get you to school on time.” “Okay, Dad. Thanks.” He swung his long legs off the bed and sat up. He gave the cat a quick scritch. Body showered, face scraped, stomach filled, Con met his father at the car, tossed his bookbag in the backseat of the thirteen-yearold Dodge, and folded himself into the passenger seat. The trip was routine. Some small talk, then Con cranked the radio, drumming his fingers on his thigh. They came to a stop in front of the high school. Dad cut the engine. Con, his hand on the door release, looked back at him and stiffened when he saw the...the...fear in his dad’s eyes, his dad’s. He crinkled his brows when Dad straightened the collar of his letter jacket and squeezed his left forearm. Con swallowed hard. “I’ll pick you up after practice.” “I can just grab the—” “I’ll pick you up, Con. Right here.” Dad cracked a smile, breaking the dark mood. “Tell Joe to wait with ya, and we’ll grab a pizza at Tony’s Pizza Oven. Just the three of us guys.” Con nodded. “Yeah.” He coughed. “Yeah, Dad, sure. Thanks.” He got out and waved goodbye as his father drove off. He turned and faced the school. —the school bus tumbled over and over down the embankment— Con gritted his teeth. “Get a grip, Adams,” he growled under his breath. He straightened and smiled his best, winning smile when he saw Joe entering the school and he ran to meet his best friend. The morning settled into the school-day rhythm he remembered. No one talked about the accident, thank God. At lunch he was sitting in the courtyard with his usual bunch of friends when he saw Bret emerge from B Wing, the place where the artsie freaks hung out. Con narrowed his eyes at him in disgust—Bret, in his lime-green, foot-tall mohawk and black lips and painted fingernails and spiked dog 50
collar and knee-high boots laced all the way up with rainbow-colored laces. What was it with this scrawny freak? He’d been parading around in this getup all this month. Granted, the month before that his costume had been a black turtleneck with shades and a fedora. And, actually, the time before that, Bret had pranced around in Levi’s, biker boots, and a T-shit à la Springsteen. The only thing that remained the same was the case for the soprano sax always there slung over Bret’s bony shoulder. Con rushed over and stood in Bret’s way. The two juniors stared at each other. Bret swallowed. “Wasn’t the cosine worksheet Simpson handed out a killer?” Con didn’t say anything. “How’s the arm?” Con shoved him. “Where do you get off playing the hero? Someone like you doesn’t do that.” “‘Someone like me’,” Bret echoed under his breath. He shrugged. “Fine, man. Next time, you get the Knight in Shining Armor duties. Let’s just pray there’s never a next time.” He gave him a quick wave as he turned to walk off. They had gathered an audience. The jock who played football and the stoner who sat alone every day at lunch reading books, probably about sacrificing goats and building bombs. Con looked around at the crowd and grinned and rushed up again to Bret and made him turn around “You don’t turn your back on me, metalhead.” Bret hooked his thumb over his shoulder. “Hey, man, I got cla—“ The crack of Con’s fist meeting Bret’s jaw surprised even Con. Half of the crowd scattered while the other half cheered. Bret staggered a few steps and blinked as he worked his jaw with his hand. He stared at Con for a long moment, then tried again to turn and leave. Con punched him again, this time in the nose, then stood there, chest heaving and both fists clenched at his sides, as he watched Bret inspect his nose gingerly with fingers that came away bloody. “Punch me back,” Con goaded. Bret shook his head, grimacing as he touched his jaw. Someone shouted, “Mr. Hawkins!” and the rest of the crowd scattered at the very name of the vice principal. Bret grabbed Con by the arm and led him through the big doors into the empty gym. He pushed him up against the wall. “Yeah, big guy,” Con mocked Bret’s thin frame, “take your best shot. Now no one’s watching.” He pushed himself off the wall, shoving his face right in Bret’s. “Do it!” “Man, what are you so pissed off about?” Con raised his fist, glaring into Bret’s black eyes. Con dropped his arm and started to shake and blinked as his breathing came in shallow gasps. He darted his wide eyes at the doors, then up at the windows, the far doors, the bleachers. Finally, though, he returned to looking long into those eyes, dark as obsidian, deep as an abyss. Bret crinkled his brows. “What?” Con yelled and slammed himself back against the wall and slid down it, hugging his knees to his chest. Bret tossed his bookbag aside and sat down beside him. “It’s okay. Don’t worry, it’s okay.” “No, it’s not!” Mr. Baker drove bus #54, that evening’s “Activity Bus,” down the country road, grinning as he glanced in the rearview mirror at the kids pumped from their various extracurriculars. Con gave the old man a thumb’s up as he returned the grin. It had been a good practice, one he and Joe and linebacker Paul were picking apart with animation. They had to practically shout over the other dozen conversations and din of laughter at jokes and the notes that weirdo
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Bret was playing on his sax. The setting sun winked at their fun through the trunks of the midFebruary Georgia forest that the country road wended through. “Oh God!” Mr. Baker shouted as the school bus lurched. “Damn drunken fool! Grab onto something, kids!” Lurch. Screech. Lurch. Lurch. Screech. Laughter and happy music became screams and shouts for parents and siblings. The whole world became flying bookbags and textbooks and bodies as the school bus tumbled over and over down an embankment. The scream of metal relenting to the trunk of a hundred-year-old oak rent the air. For an instant everything was silent—no talking, no screaming, not even birds or crickets. Then, praying. “...forgive us our trespasses...” With those words, Con was sure he had died, until the pain in his left arm pinned under him assured him otherwise. He blinked and focused on the praying and was able to blink blood out of his eyes enough to see that mohawked freak having crawled over to Sue’s broken body and having grabbed her pale hand and now reciting the Lord’s Prayer with her despite her voice weakening. Soon, he only had Bret’s voice to focus on. “Why am I talking to you about this?” Con viciously slapped the tears away. “I haven’t told anyone this: my folks, my girl, Coach Bradley, anyone on the team, that shrink at the hospital. You’re nobody, just a stoner.” Bret wiped his own tears away. “Hey, once you’ve decked someone and publicly embarrassed him and totally passed judgement on him, presto, you can tell him anything.” Con found himself laughing out loud. So this is hysteria, he thought. With great effort he stilled the laughter, then put the back of his head against the wall. “I crapped my pants, Bret. I mean, people are hurt and dying all around me, and I’m crapping my pants?” He shook his head. “They cage freaks like me at night, don’t they?” “If they did, I’d be locked up, too. Or so everyone thinks.” He caught Con’s embarrassed glance. “Right?” “Well, man,” Con blurted, “can you blame people? I mean, really. Look at you, look at the way you’re dressed. I mean, really, look at your hair.” “Oh, my, no, don’t say it. Don’t say it! I don’t look like everyone else. Where’s the nearest noose—I’ve gotta hang myself immediately.” Con shook his head. “You are a freak.” Bret shrugged, then sat back. “For the record, I’m no stoner. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I’ve never tried drugs. And I’ve never bitten the head off a single bunny or worshiped Satan in the middle of the woods.” He looked at Con. “It’s what you think, isn’t it?” Con shrugged. Bret sighed. “You know what’s sad, I was gonna ask Sue out, go for the brass ring. I really liked her.” He chuckled under his breath. “I wonder what crossing the River Jordan was like. I betcha it was beautiful.” “Beautiful?! She died mangled in the wreck of a school bus accident. What’s beautiful about that?” Bret shrugged. “We’re all gonna die, Con. But can’t you picture heaven? Think of it, hard rock where the amp never blows and the drummer never loses his sticks at the height of his solo.” He shook his head, grinning. “Wow.” Con grinned. “Coached by Bill Walsh and Dick Nolan.” “Eat all the chocolate you want and not a single pimple.” Con felt his heart squeeze. “I can see my gramma again,” he whispered. He looked at Bret. “The Kingdom of God.” Bret thumped himself on the chest. “The Kingdom of God’s right here, man, in each of us, right where He put it. And I don’t think He’s gonna care you did something anyone would do scared out of your gourd like that. I do think, though, He doesn’t like you beating yourself up about it.” He worked his jaw again. “Or other people.” Con stared straight ahead. “Sue was scared.”
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Bret shook his head. “Not at the end. Not in that last moment. She was at peace, like my kid sister when she’s asleep.” Con snorted. “Dying just doesn’t bother you.” “I try to live every day to the fullest, and I know what’s waiting for me. What’s there to bother about?” “Well, it bothers me.” He looked at him. “How can you be so sure about everything? You’re just a kid, like me. I’m not sure what I had for breakfast this morning.” “I just know God loves me, and I wake up each morning with that.” “You’ve got more strength than I have.” Bret fingered his nose. “I don’t know about that.” “Oh, yeah.” Con hung his head. “Hey...Uh...Sorry ‘bout that. Um...I...Y’know.” Bret got to his feet and held out his hand and helped Con to his. “Yeah, I know.” He retrieved his bookbag. “I know we go back out those doors and back to our separate tables in the caf.” “Uh...Yeah. Um...” Con cleared his throat and squared his football-toned shoulders. “I didn’t make the rules, y’know.” Bret gave him a jaunty wave goodbye. “That’s okay. I’ll follow the One who did.” He slipped through the doors, leaving Con in the quiet, alone. Con looked down at his forearm in the cast and gulped. He flexed his fingers and marveled at the intricacy—and the fragility—of who he was. And who was that? A stupid jock who went from party to party, game to game, thinking about nothing more than how to score the next beer or the next girl. Conroy Adams suddenly realized he was sick and tired of his brain feeling as if it were on Novocaine. He glanced heavenward. Maybe someone up there had given him a kick in the can—and a second chance. An hour later, Con walked into the cafeteria and straight over to the corner where Bret was sitting alone with his book. Con glanced at the title, Great Sea Disasters, and laughed at himself. “Hey, Bret.” He could tell people all over the caf were watching. Bret’s lip had swollen. “Hey, Con.” He grimaced for a moment. “Hey, man, you like the pizza at Tony’s Pizza Oven?” This book eases the communication lines between school and home. Teachers find this book easy to use, children find this book easy to understand and parents are provided with valuable information about their child every day. Teachers can easily report about their student with a series o f c h e c k boxes, PECS symbols and places for notes. Teachers can quickly convey i n f o r m a t i o n about your child's daily school activities, lunch, homework, what to bring, mood, comments, etc. (368 pages!). Go to:
Happy Dead Ending —David Stillwagon I hated that kid. Everybody hated Francis. With a name like that you would think he wouldn't be a bully, but he was. And he was good at it too. I was in elementary school, 6th grade, when Francis moved into the neighborhood. He was bigger than every kid in the class and he knew it. During recess that first day he started to bully me. "Hey Leonard, is that your name?" "Yeah that's my name." He walked over to me, and he snapped me on the nose with his fingers. "Hey, why did you do that?" "The same reason that I did this." He snapped me on the nose again. "What are you going to do about it?" I wasn't going to do anything about it except avoid him. I wasn’t the only one he bothered; there were others, like my friend John. John was a favorite target of Francis. His usual game with John was to push him when no one was looking. After being pushed into the urinal a few times; John also avoided Francis. Of course when Francis was in class he behaved like any other student - no talking, no backtalk, no bothering his neighbor. If you asked the teachers he was as good as they come, a model student. So if we told anyone that he was a bully we would just be picking on the new kid. The worst part of his game was being friendly with my parents. One day out of the blue, he knocked on our front door. "Hello, is Leonard home?" "Yes, and you are?" "I'm Francis. I go to school with Leonard." "Well, Leonard is in his room. I'll show you." Mom led the enemy straight to my door. "Look who's here, Leonard." When my mother was out of earshot, Francis sat on the corner of my bed and looked around the room. "This is a pretty lame house, are you poor, Len-turd?" "No, leave me alone." "I ain't staying. I just came to borrow your basketball, forever." Francis grabbed the ball and walked out of the room. I heard him saying goodbye to my mother and explaining to her why he was borrowing the basketball. Francis continued to torment me, John, and the rest of the class for most of the year. It was getting so bad that I was becoming sick. I tried lying to stay out of school; but my mother wasn’t buying it. Then providence eased my burden. One afternoon after school, John and I were riding our bikes through the neighborhood. There wasn’t much traffic in the neighborhood; but we were careful anyway. We never went farther than the corner of Mercer Street and Bottom Road. Bottom Road had a steep drop off and it was filled with potholes. Just as we started to ride, we saw Francis riding his bike. "Hi girls, what are you doing? Where are your training wheels?" "Hi Francis." "I bet you never ride down Bottom Road, do you? You two are chicken shit." Francis pedaled hard till he reached Bottom road. We saw him hesitate for a moment, and then he took off down the hill. It seemed like a second before we heard a loud boom. John and I rode to the edge of Bottom road. We looked down the hill and
saw a car with a large dent on the side of it. A frantic man with his hands on his head was standing next to the damaged car. Francis's bike lay in the road folded in two with the handlebars missing. We abandoned our bikes and ran down the hill. The man quickly came around the car and stopped us. "Stop there boys. You don't want to see this. You need to go home." We turned around. We had an idea what happened. Francis must be hurt pretty bad. The next day at school, Francis wasn't there. Everybody talked about it except the teachers, who seemed upset. I wasn't upset and neither was John. We felt a little bad about not being upset. If Francis was hurt we should be upset, right? No, Francis was an asshole and a bully who picked on everyone. We could relax till he came back. When I got home Mom was waiting for me in my room. "I need to talk to you Leonard about something that is very sad." I became worried. What if it was something about grandpa or grandma or even Dad? Somebody had died who I really cared about. I just knew it was going to be something bad. "You know that your friend Francis was in an accident yesterday." I nodded my head. Mom started to get upset. She looked like she was about to cry. "I'm afraid he went to heaven yesterday." Mom pulled me in to her arms. Well that was a relief! My grandparents were still alive and Dad was too. "I know that you don't know what to think about right now and that’s okay. If you have any questions let me or your father know." "Mom." "Yes, honey." "What's for dinner?" "Chicken dear, it's chicken."
Sun melts into cool lake Three swimmers beat the heat Living cameos —NGK
Mississippi Crow Magazine
The Gift of the Magi —Aubrey Hirsch “I’m Amy,” I say. “Don,” he says. “You know that, I guess.” I sit across from him in the crowded restaurant. It smells of sesame and lemon. I try to find the scent of his cologne and match it to an early memory, perhaps one too early for eyes and ears. But I cannot. He tells me I look like my mother now. Probably he has to say this. Really, I look nothing like her. I am all elbows and knobby knees. Mousy hair. Big teeth. He’s never had Middle-Eastern food, he says. “They don’t have much of it in Idaho.” I make a few suggestions, though I do not know his taste. “Not bad,” he says after the first bite. A pearl of tahini sauce clings to the right corner of his mustache. When he is looking, I raise my right hand, wiping imaginary sauce from my imaginary mustache. He twists his lips into an embarrassed smile around a mouthful of falafel. “Thanks,” he says. But he wipes the wrong side of his face—left hand to left side—with his brown paper napkin. I laugh. “Other side.” “What?” he says. “The sauce. It’s on your right side.” I tap my right cheek. “Oh,” he says. He finds it with his finger and removes it with his napkin. “You used your right hand. Most people do it like a mirror, you know, because you’re across from me.” He draws a sight line, in the air with his finger, from the left corner of my mouth to the right corner of his. I shrug. “I do right to right,” I say, gesturing diagonally to each of our right shoulders. I take a big bite of lamb kebob. It is tough, spicy. Even after I swallow I can feel heat in my mouth that isn’t taste. It is something different, something chemical. He tells me a little bit about his kids. His other kids, he says. There are three boys. They play soccer. The have hamsters. One of them wants to be a veterinarian, like me, but I don’t say anything about it. Soon, he has food on his face again—a streak of hummus in the same spot on his mustache. This time when he looks I use my left hand, like he suggested, and wipe the left side of my face. Because, he is my father. And we will have to learn to accommodate each other. He is learning, too. Again, his left hand raises his napkin. “See?” he says. “Left to left.” The hummus lifts as he smiles. I laugh, shaking my head. He checks the right side, pulls back fingers oily with hummus. He laughs, too.
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Margins of Solitude It is spring, after all. The end of May. The sun is drunk, a burning wheel in the sky. Tree branches slowly ache with the weight of burgeoning leaves, and with robins dancing about, their beaks stuffed with worms. He has neither made love nor read his poetry in public in five years. Sunlight strikes the peroxide blonde hair of the woman dying in the bus seat directly in front of him. He’s convinced she is Venus de Milo. He leans forward, lips pressed almost to her ear, and says, in a loud baritone made of Chardonnay and lust, “You are almost unbearably beautiful!” (It is spring, after all.) The faux blonde Venus turns about. With a ferocity usually reserved for drunken jaguars and rabid nuns, she glares at him, her anger multiplied by contempt. The weight of fear rips her flesh from its bones. Her face is now a jigsaw puzzle. She gets off the bus and scuttles away into the suburbs like a sand crab. His eyes are now locked upon the sidewalk. His lips are moving, as if in silent prayer or kissing a woman who is not there. —David Kowalczyk
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Are YOU in it?
Gimmelwald Hot Shower —Becky De Oliveira THE TELEPHONE BOOTH stood in the middle of the village. It had four transparent glass walls—an unexceptional phone booth, the kind you might find anywhere. My brother and I wouldn’t have even noticed it if it weren’t for the sign—a piece of lined notebook paper taped to the door with the words Gimmelwald Hot Shower scrawled in thick red ink. At first, I thought some translator had made a mistake, but we opened the door to check, and sure enough, the telephone booth was indeed fitted with a shower nozzle and two dials—blue for cold, red for hot. “What the hell?” asked my twin brother. He wore a bandana tied pirate-style on his head. He hadn’t shaved for a week and his facial hair grew in unruly clumps on his chin and cheeks. He frowned and stuck out his lower jaw, like he does when he’s thinking. He tapped his teeth together, making a faint clicking noise like those wind-up teeth you hide under pillows as a practical joke. “Maybe we’re on Candid Camera,” I said. We hung around looking cool and calm, as if by not reacting, we’d lure the hidden cameramen from behind trees and low brick walls. If you’re American, the first rule of international travel is that you must never look perplexed or delighted. They will call you naïve and child-like. They will say you understand nothing but Disneyland. WE HAD BEEN guests at the Youth Hostel for only one night. We slept between two guys, both named Justin, on a communal unisex bed— one wide mattress spanning the width of the room. In the morning, we stood with everyone else—brushing, spitting, swirling, gargling, watching clumps of our own spit mingle with everyone else’s into a long trough with a single faucet at one end and a drain at the other. This Swiss hostel, it didn’t have a shower—not that we could find. We ended up applying extra deodorant. We were dirty and cranky. After arguing over who would carry the backpack, we stomped out the door in hiking boots. Wandering through the village, trying to decide whether to hike up the Schilthorn or soak our feet in a stream and drink iced-tea all day, we stumbled across the Gimmelwald Hot Shower. “You think people really use this thing?” I asked. My brother narrowed his eyes and looked at the phone booth. “No way,” he said. “It’s in the middle of the village. It’s glass walls. Nobody’s gonna strip buck naked in the middle of a village with old ladies and goats watching.” “But it’s definitely a shower,” I said, and we both stood for a few more minutes, helplessly trying to make it make sense. What could it possibly mean? EARLY THAT EVENING, after hiking all day, we went to a hotel/restaurant next door to the hostel for a cold drink. We sat outside on the patio. We picked at splinters on the wooden table. “I’ll bet this place has a shower,” my brother said. “It costs ten times as much as the hostel,” I answered. “I didn’t want to have to reveal this,” my brother said, in his usual ironic tone, “but I just had a sticky shit, the kind where you have to use half a roll of toilet paper to clean your ass. Okay? I need a shower.” “Dude,” I said. “I don’t take that much convincing.” We checked our funds. We didn’t have enough Swiss francs, but pooling all our cash together, we had one hundred and ten US dollars. One night in a decent hotel, good shower, and we could head back down to a main town with a cash machine where we’d get more money and spend it really carefully for the next month. We’d head to a cheaper country, maybe back to Italy. Maybe Hungary. “Do you think they take dollars?” I said.
“Can’t hurt to ask.” So we asked the waiter, a thin old man with grey hair, round glasses and a burgundy apron. But while he was off considering, doing the math, asking the manager, telephoning the owner and calling the bank, I got a brain wave. “If we snuck out in the middle of the night, it would be dark and everyone would be asleep. We could keep a lookout for each other, take real fast showers—no more than five minutes each.” “I don’t know.” “Someone must use it.” “Maybe it’s a trap—they listen for a tourist to switch the shower on and then the whole village comes outside, switches on flashlights and laughs.” “Why would they do that? Why?” WHEN THE WAITER returned, we told him thanks very much, but we’d decided to keep our digs at the hostel. The old man turned purple. Why ask about a room when you already have a room? Why waste an innocent person’s valuable time? Why make things so difficult? Why do you carry dollars? What country do you think you’re in? Arrogant Americans. You think the whole world belongs to you. The man slammed his open palm on the table, rattling my half-full glass. “We’re sorry sir,” my brother said. “Truly sorry,” I echoed, cowering. The man muttered and walked away, flinging a dishtowel to one side as he went. It landed near a bird that flitted up into the air, frightened, perhaps bewildered, maybe even wishing it was back in Buckley, picking up broken Dorito scraps from the Rite-Aid pharmacy parking lot. I wiped my eyes, took a leftover piece of bread from the backpack and offered it to the bird, hoping for a sign of recognition, hoping maybe, at some point in his travels, he’d spanned the same landscape I had, but he ate my bread and flew away without a backward glance. “It’s okay,” my brother said. “Hey. Everything will be fine.” Of course he was lying. How can everything be fine when nothing makes sense? WE KEPT SWITCHING on our flashlights to check the time. When everyone was quiet, at around two in the morning, we crept over one of the Justins. We tried not to creak the heavy door as we gently closed it, leaving it just slightly ajar. The village was as black as the inside of a deep cave, the kind where you can’t even see your own hand in front of your face. No street lamps or house lights. I imagined hot water running down my back. I clutched a towel to my chest. My brother reached inside the telephone booth and turned the hot water knob. Nothing happened. He turned the cold-water knob. Nothing. My brother swore loudly and kicked the door. I started to laugh and cry at the same time. I kicked the shower too. Then I punched it. We whooped and screamed and kicked until the glass walls shattered into thousands of tiny pellets. Lights flickered on in the nearby houses, curtains twitched, eyes narrowed. Someone fired a gun, probably into the air, but for all I know it might have just missed me. We spent the rest of the night sitting on a wooden bench a mile outside the village, facing the dark silhouettes of the mountains, hugging our arms, waiting for the sunshine.
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Emotional Release Through Character Conflicts —Mary Deal Writers must allow themselves to experience all the emotion they create as they write about it.
Sometimes the lyrics in certain songs get deeper into my psyche each time I hear them. The accompanying instrumentals can accentuate that too. An example that has stayed with me is Joy Enriquez’s vocal from the movie Anna and the King. Her squeaks and voice-breaks and near-crying tone at the right moment reach deep into my emotions and open them up. When the song is over, I know I have heard words and music that have touched a deeper part of me and I feel immensely satisfied. It is one thing to hear a pleasing melody; another to have the words of a song put you in touch with your emotions. As an author of words, whether in song or story, strive to go deeply into your reader’s psyche, to dredge up emotions and rake them over fiction’s flame. If this is accomplished, ultimately the reader is left with a sense of satisfaction at the story’s end. In today’s world, it’s not enough to write a story for the sake of telling a plausible tale. As purveyors of emotional satisfaction through words, writers must appeal to the reader’s need for a sense of fulfillment. Like music, a good story is a good story. But music or a story that enables the reader to experience a gamut of emotions will be a better sell. A simplified difference in story telling is that a good romance shows the reader the attraction between two people, their differences and how they overcome them. The characters end up together and, voila! The story ends upbeat in spite of it all. In order to make that story linger in the memory of the reader—which will make them yearn for the author’s next book—the characters must not only have differences but they might be irreconcilable. Certainly, two people in love and having those kinds of problems ache inside. The writer must ache with them by feeling all the pain while writing the story. If the writer does not feel the emotion, a plausible enough reason to keep these two people apart has not been presented. More importantly, the writer probably hasn’t written convincingly enough for any reader if the writer is unable feel the emotions of the characters. Write so that you ache for your characters. Devise a solution that alleviates your own pain. Your reader will feel that same duress and subsequent relief for your characters. You will have raked the reader’s emotions over fiction’s fire, then presented a viable solution, and enticed your reader to remember your byline. Notice that I said viable solution. Your ending doesn’t have to be the perfect solution, only an acceptable one. Perhaps, the plot problem is a situation that both people must learn to live with if they are to be together. They swallow their pride; they compromise something of great importance to themselves and they hurt because of it—all so that they might remain together. Or perhaps the story ends with them going separate ways and that might be the proper ending. But they still hurt inside. Didn’t your heart ache when you heard Rick (Humphrey Bogart) utter those famous words to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) in Casablanca before he walked away: “Here’s looking at you, kid.” When creating conflicts, check with your own emotions and see how your heart aches for your characters. If you recognize that as something you feel as you conjure your plots, you will convey it to your reader who will absorb it and yearn for it as they gobble up your books.
Are YOU in it?
This true to life gritty love story is replete with many conflicts involving disparate individuals. The central conflict threading its way through these involves an unexpected—and taboo, challenging relationship between a hard bitten charity worker, Ian, and a homeless woman named Carol. He believes the answer to her problems lies trapped behind the closed smile. She's more in touch with her situation and their relationship than he realizes. Probing the depths of her emotional upheaval unearthed more than Ian had bargained for - more than they both did. About the author: Born in Central Scotland, Daibhidh MacAdaimh (pronounced Davie Machuv) left his native country in order to spend some six years in England working with the socially marginalized. As well as bringing his life's experience and common sense to bear upon the work, he also applied insights derived from studying social psychology, sociology, social policy, politics and theology. Daibhidh - whose leisure interests include oil and pastel painting, and music especially that of The Beatles - continues to work in England and is married with a grown-up daughter.
Never an End —Mary Deal No writing is ever perfect; not a line of poetry, nor a short story, and certainly not book length prose either. When you’ve submitted a piece that keeps getting rejected, quite a few reasons exist to explain why this happens. Perhaps you sent it to the wrong publication. Maybe the editor was in a bad mood and your piece didn’t sit well with their emotions that day, wrong word count, wrong theme, and on and on. The reasons stories get rejected are too numerous to mention, and the writer cannot control any of it. Except for making sure what they send out is written the best that it can be. Notice that I didn’t say perfect, but the best that the write knows how to make it. If you’ve studied a lot about the mechanics of writing, you’ll find an error or two in whatever you read. You’ll be able to identify areas of the prose that could have been written better. Since you can’t change what’s already published, can’t change anyone’s work but your own, apply your educated eye to your own writing. Read through and edit your work prior to each time you send it out. Make any corrections or improvements you notice that should have been included but missed the first time around. This may be an arduous practice to apply to book length manuscripts. Care must be taken before you feel you’ve got it right, before you print those several hundred double-spaced manuscript pages and send them off, thinking they are perfect. As you write more, you learn more and hone your skills to better grammar, better sentence, and paragraph construction. You learn which words best fit your message. Each time you read through the prose you’ve already written, bring it up to your current level of expertise before sending it out again. One change might be the correction that gets the piece accepted.
To her credit, Mary Deal is the author of two published novels, “The Tropics” and “The Ka” (available at amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.) She has written numerous stories and articles and her website is a valuable resource for writers: www.writeanygenre.com.
Website Links to Recent Contributors Adelle Bradford— www.AdelleBradford.org Adrian Ludens— wwwmyspace.com/adrianludens Brenda Wooley— www.onekentuckywriter.blogspot.com Bryon D. Howell— www.freeewebs.com/persistentmirage C. Wolf Forrest— www.cwforrest.org Carla Martin-Wood— http://thewellreadhead.googlepages.com Christine Magee— http://www.beforetherainscome-poems.webeden.co.uk/ Colin Meldrum— www.colinmeldrum.com Daniel Gallik— www.danielgallik.com Daniel Wilcox—http://seaquaker.com/poetry David James— www.oaklandcc.edu/or-eng/dljames/djhome.htm Eric Vance Walton— www.EricVanceWalton.com Ernest Williamson III— www.eyeoftheart.com/ErnestWilliamsonIII Eva Marie Ann Dunlap— www.apoeticjourney.com E.W. Richardson—Editor, Distant Echoes http://iwvpa.net/index.php F. William Broome— www.fwilliambroomewriter.com Janet Butler— www.janetleebutler.com Jason Ericson— www.jasonericson.blogspot.com Kerry William Parsons— www.taskstream.com/ts/parsons13/kwp.html Kiki Stamatiou— blog.iwr.co.uk/2006/11/web_20_nic_newm.html Kimberly D. Robinson— http://jpicforum.info/ Lyn Lifshin— www.LynLifshin.com Mary Deal— www.writeanygenre.com Michael Lee Johnson— www.writesight.com/writers/advmktg Michelle Close Mills— www.authorsden.com/michelleclosemills Myrna D Badgerow— www.authorsden.com/myrnadbadgerow Rebecca Oliver— www.myspace.com/rebeccalynno Rhomda Parrish— www.rhondaparrish.com Richard Lloyd Cederberg— www.authorsden.com/richardlcederberg Robert Max Freeman— http://maxandotherstrangeness.blogspot.com Ryan Priest— www.ryanpriest.net Susan K. de Vegter— www.webspawner.com/users/susankdevegter/index.html Shawn Nacona Stroud— www.authorsden.com/shawnnstroud Susan J. Ashdown— www.splash-of-ink.co.uk Shawn Luke— www3.telus.net/public/smluke Valerie Bean— www.valeriebeanonline.com Virginia Emrick— www.virginiaemrick.com Wendy Brown-Baez— wwwwendybrownbaez.com
C’mon folks, what’re ya waiting for? Order your print copies online of this and/or past issues of the Mississippi Crow magazine for family and friends at: http://stores.lulu.com/RiverMuse
All contributors to the Mississippi Crow Magazine will receive as payment, an e-book copy of the issue in which their work appears and a free listing of their website as space allows.
Working Backwards Moves Writing Forward —Valerie Bean Like many creative writing hobbyists, too often I have to put personal projects on hold in favour of paid work. For me, paid work means professional writing assignments. It’s always a joy to return to my pet projects after a three or six month contract, but getting back in the swing of creative writing after months of drafting business documents sometimes takes a good deal of effort. And to make sure they don’t languish on the side for months, I recently discovered a trick in my professional writing life that transfers nicely to my sideline. Last month, with a publisher’s deadline safely in the distance, I became stymied by a case of irrational copy jitters. For whatever reason, in the final draft stage I began to struggle; I couldn’t complete the article. Since much of my writing has moveable deadlines, I panicked. I began looking in all directions for help finding solace in a trusted technique – procrastination. After hours of Internet surfing, I gathered my senses. Reaching for something else to take my mind off my writing troubles, I turned to an old friend. When in need of a creative boost, I usually re-read passages from Julia Cameron’s books on my bookshelf. I’ll grab The Artist’s Way, Right to Write, Vein of Gold, or Walking in this World for inspiration. And for a giggle, I’ll flip through How to Avoid Making Good Art – a book filled with 125 illustrated avoidance facts/excuses. This time around, though, I needed something new, something different, so I hopped back online and ordered her latest book – Letters to an Artist. The deadline loomed, but two days later my saving grace arrived by courier. Or, so I thought. From the get-go, I had a hard time getting into the book. Usually, the author’s engaging writing style and barebones understanding of the artist – be it writer, sculptor, painter, or quilter – buoys me, gets me working again, but not this time. There was a thread of similarity to her previous books that made most of what I read seem rehashed. My creative slump persisted. Nevertheless, I continued to read, if only because I didn’t want to return to work. I slogged through three quarters of the book, until I found a nugget to push me forward “...all artists are both easily encouraged and easily discouraged.” Within a few pages (at 131/163), my true test of reading value: I reached for my yellow highlighter. Here’s my turning point, I thought, my “light bulb” moment: “If I want something completed in one year, what must then be done by nine months, six months, three months, one month, one week, today?” counselled Cameron. The concept of working timelines in reverse seemed so uncomplicated it alarmed me. Could I really meet deadlines by counting in terms of daily production? Professional writers are used to juggling many projects at once while working toward a deadline, but backtracking to daily efforts seemed, well, backwards. What the heck, I thought, something needs to pull me out of my saggy state and push me towards my deadline, now only a week away. What have I got to lose? I looked at my to-do list –an overdue class assignment, daily blogs, two half-finished freelance articles and query letters, novella revisions, résumé updates, novella manuscript in various stages of editorial requirement – and calculated daily production.
Mississippi Crow Magazine
Broken down to each work’s simplest terms, I was no longer overwhelmed, but motivated to return to the keyboard. With a daily to-do list in front of me, I had enough time for paying gigs as well as my personal creative writing projects. In addition, I’d built in some downtime, something I usually overlook until I feel overworked bringing production to a standstill. I turned the assignment in on time and returned to my other writing projects. By paying attention to daily work, I focussed on completion of small tasks, rather than on a looming deadline somewhere in the future. I turned my to-do list, into a “ta-dah” list building an impressive list of finished work: The articles were published, the query letters mailed; I submitted my class coursework early, wrote and published two additional assigned articles and shipped off my novella to an editor while continuing with daily blogs. I even managed to write content for my new website. There were other writing activities, but I can’t recall them; I’m well into my current daily yield and now I can cross this article off the list!
Writing to Live, Living to Write —J. Williams What is writing? Well, that’s a complicated question. Writing is meticulous, sometimes stressful, and always eventful. It is hardly simple and very challenging. Writing is everything to some and nothing to many. Writing is physical creativity rolled up into a ball of cosmic questions desiring to be answered, understood, perfected and hopefully, appreciated. Writing is the art of finding the universal in the ordinary, every-day things of life. Writing, in book form is now considered by some to be a dying form. Writers were doomed to be as outdated as video cassette recorders. Writing is trickery. Writers have an obligation to their readers to captivate from start to finish, front to back, without fail. It’s trickery but not impossible trickery. While writing in book form may be dying, writing online, such as blogs or the like have breathed new life into the written word. Thanks to the invention and development of the internet, writing is evolving everyday, endlessly. Writers are always competing. We must continue to weave our way through the daily advances of the Internet and adapt to a whole new way of thinking, which leads to a new way of writing. We must adjust ourselves to the ever-changing expectations of the public. Blogs have resuscitated the writing world. Dare I say: “it is one of the main factors in the revival of writing.” Contrary to popular belief, writing is far from simple. Anyone can throw words together and call it a piece of writing. But it is us, the true students of this wonderfully creative art form that realize, without prejudice, that writing takes days, weeks, months and, in many cases, years to perfect to even a mediocre level at best—if we’re lucky. Some of us write for many reasons such as insomnia, boredom, fear, excitement, sadness, happiness, and the list goes on and on and on. We writers have to cope on a daily basis with the fact that some people take us for granted as useless artists holding on to a dead pastime. To these people, I remind them that their favorite movie, song, television show (reality shows included) and radio shows have one thing in common; they are the creation of writers. While it is the stars who receive all the glory, it is the writers who do all the work within the shadows, behind the scenes. Writing isn’t, nor should it be, a task, chore, assignment or duty. Writing is a way of life! Writers do not have the ability to turn off their creative minds. If we had that ability, we’d probably use it from time to time just to sleep through the night. But just as with most addictions, good
Are YOU in it?
or bad, we writers would definitely run back like a moth to a flame. Writing demands your undivided attention; it demands to be heard. Writing is a passion and desire not to be taken lightly. Writing is a need and a release. Writing needs our support to stay alive and remain strong. Before the tremendous success of the Harry Potter series, it had been a long time since writers have been spotlighted and books actually read out of joy and not necessity for a passing grade or a promotion. We writers are ready for our resurgence. We are ready to once again answer the question: “why do you write?” Why? Because we love the written word and the process it takes to form a story that is compelling and interesting. We are writers because we love to create worlds of our own devising, to give life to characters we create, to play god.
Michael Lee Johnson’s first chapbook of poems and prose is available for preview and download at: http://www.lulu.com/content/936633 “The Lost American: A Tender Touch & A Shade Of Blue”
Repetition Insults Your Reader —Mary Deal When descriptive words are used repetitively in writing, it makes the reader wonder why they have to be told something they’ve already learned earlier in the story. Repetition can kill your reader’s interest. On Page 2 of my new novel, River Bones, the reader learns that Sara, the protagonist, is blonde when the real estate salesman describes her to someone else: “Some middle-aged blonde woman—a real looker out of Puerto Rico—just bought that damnable eyesore down along the river.” On Page 9 I say, “The breeze whipped her hair across her face and wrapped it around her neck.” I had originally written that sentence like this: “The breeze whipped her long blonde hair across her face and wrapped it around her neck.” Because I mentioned Sara’s hair color on Page 2, no need exists to mention the color again anywhere else in the book, with rare exceptions, of course. Notice, too, her hair length was not mentioned on Page 2, but on Page 9 if her hair is long enough to whip across her face and around her neck, no need exists for the word “long” to describe it. Surely from reading that one corrected sentence, a reader knows Sara’s hair is not cropped off at the nape of her neck. The word “long” was not needed due to the description of how the hair reacted in the wind. To further prove the point, read the sentence from Page 2 with the correct sentence from Page 9. Then go back and read the sentence from Page 2 with the incorrect sentence from Page 9. Analyze your sentences for superfluous words. Cut ruthlessly, or improve the action in your sentence to show what you mean. Your readers will love you for it. 57
hear him?” The reply was, “Text messaging.” At that instant, the door burst open and the party began. The next day Chuck peeked into my office and said, “W hat’s tex t messaging?” …Gotta love ‘im.
No, Thank You, I’d Rather Be Myself! —Editor’s Editor’s Musings Musing s I have a niece whose birthday falls in the Christmas season, and consequently it has been largely ignored most of her life. But when she turned thirty, her husband surreptitiously planned an elaborate surprise party for her. The day arrived and the guests were all waiting. Her husband had taken her out to dinner. While they were out, he kept in touch with the party via cell phone. When we got the word that they were just around the corner and would arrive momentarily, my husband Chuck asked one of the other guests, “How can he keep this a secret? They are both in the same car, won’t she 58
My daughter said to her husband one day when she wanted some TLC, “Honey, say something nice to me.” “I love you.” he said. “No, honey, say something nicer.” “I love your mother?” he answered.
It’s time to do away with Piranha-like people. They muddy up the water making it difficult to see the sharks. __________________ A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets make a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.
Destined to become an iconic history of Alaskan life along the Glenn Highway during the latter part of the 20th century, this book details the daily activities of Norman and Sylvia Wilkins (and frequently, of their friends and neighbors) including the struggles and frustrations of living on the frozen tundra. Norman Wilkins and Slovenia-born Ladislava Kolenc (Sylvia to those who know her) met in postwar Gorizia Italy in 1946, marrying there in 1948. Norman had long felt the pull of the north, drawn to the mystique of Alaska—“The Last American Frontier” many said, and once the children were on their own, that desire to go north grew stronger. He made more than one hunting trip to Alaska before the 1978 expedition included in this book, and as the trips unfolded, so did Norman’s desire to make Alaska his permanent home—to be a part of the expansive wilderness and yes, explore for gold! They did find gold in Alaska. They found it in the air, the mountains, the wildlife and especially in the people—the people they worked shoulder to shoulder with and shared their table with, each one weaving an independent piece of the tapestry of everyday life along the Glenn Highway during those years. The contents of this book have b ee n tr anscrib ed fr om Norman’s notebook-style pages as originally written with the exception of occasional edits and insertions for clarity. Book two, the second part of this story is already in the planning stages. For info go to: www.10000daysinalaka.com or http://stores.lulu.com/10000days Mississippi Crow Magazine
A serial killer terrorizes residents among the lush orchards and farmlands of Californiaâ€™s Sacramento River Delta. Sara Mason is a woman whose destiny has brought her back home to the Delta, but her decision may lead her down a path lined with danger and straight into the arms of a madman in this captivating thriller.
Author Mary Deal
Read more about River Bones and order paperback, hardcover, or eBook copies from her Web site: http://www.writeanygenre.com/mystery-novels.html Mary Deal's official Web site: http://www.WriteAnyGenre.com Visit the Novels Section for Rave Reviews of River Bones, a thriller, just released in paperback ISBN 0-595-48172-8 and hardcover ISBN 0-595-71751-4. Are YOU in it?
Chef Chuck: Food Artist with granddaughter, Brittany Mabusth
Here we daaayy....
These paper thin, lacy-looking cookies are quick and easy to make, can be made ahead and will keep for weeks in a cool, dry tin or other airtight container until you are ready to give them to family and friends for the holidays.
I wish I could fly like that. Maybe if I flap my earsâ€Ś Hey! Who is that with you, chef? Iâ€™M your assistant, remember?
French Lace Cookies 1/2 cup light corn syrup 1/2 cup shortening 2/3 cup packed brown sugar 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup chopped pecans Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare cookie sheets by covering with parchment. In a medium saucepan, heat the corn syrup, shortening and brown sugar over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. In a small bowl toss together the flour and nuts; stir into the saucepan mixture, and remove from the heat. Keep the batter warm by setting over a pan of hot water. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be at least 3 inches apart. Bake for about 5 minutes, until the center of the cookie is set. Let the cookies set before removing from the baking sheets. Makes 24 cookies
Mississippi Crow Magazine