Copyright © 2018 NY Writers Coalition, Inc. ISBN: 978-0-9986029-8-1 Library of Congress Control Number: 2018937609 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Upon publication, copyright to individual works returns to the authors. Editors: Ben Dolnick, Miguel Angeles, Anna Pettus Formatting and Design: Nicole Di Luccio Cover Image: Señor Fluffy Title: Arvis Tyson-Ashitey From Page to Page contains writing by participants of NY Writers Coalition’s workshops at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central and Cortelyou branch. NY Writers Coalition Press, Inc. 80 Hanson Place, Suite 604 Brooklyn, NY 11217 (718) 398-2883 email@example.com www.nywriterscoalition.org
F R O M P AG E
P AG E
W RITING FROM B ROOKLYN P UBLIC L IBRARY WRITING W ORKSHOPS
NY W R ITER S C OALI TIO N P R ES S SPRING 2018
C ONTENTS ARVIS TYSON-ASHITEY 11 CAROLINE HOLDEN 15 CLARENCE "JALEN" STORM 21 ESTHER PORETSKY 28 DAVID SPIRA 35 ROBERT GIBBONS 39 JESSICA BALTER 43 JOHN MUNNELLY 47 HAZEL-ANN LYNCH 52 GAYLE PILGRIM 54 ANGELA M. KINGLAND 56 DANISE MALQUI 60 SEÃ‘OR FLUFFY 62 ANDREA PHILLIPS-MERRIMAN 64 LOUISE JAFFE 66 LISA M. NOVAK 68 JAN COHEN-CRUZ 70 TASHA PALEY 72 BOYD PEREZ 76 PJ JONES 79
Sweet Peace After the storm – the sun will shine After the winter snow – spring flowers bloom After the rain – comes the rainbow After darkness – light follows bringing darkness to a halt After life’s uncertainty and woes peace and joy is mighty sweet
Homage To My Pen The flow of ink from my pen from page to page is like water running through the roots of plants. As water travels downstream, my pen moves from line to line creating lyrics that nurture the mind and heal the broken hearted. It rolls over sheets of paper like blood flowing from a wounded soldier injured on the battlefield. It gives hope to the hopeless, strengthens the weak, nourishes the hungry. Itâ€™s scattered over walls of hope - gates of inspiration - doors of faith. My pen canâ€™t stop bleeding! REMOVING OBSTACLES! PROMOTING PEACE! SPREADING LOVE!
Addiction From the moment I saw you, I knew you belonged to someone else, but couldn’t take my eyes off you. You sat there tempting me – your body so smooth – dark chocolate. Your sparkling eyes – begging me to come close. The more I tried to resist you, the temptation to devour you overpowered me. Lost control of my tongue – licked your sweet lips – took a bite of your luscious body. Bit more and more of you until you only existed inside of me. Ooh! chocolate bunny, thought I had kicked my addiction. Must replace you before you are missed.
Gluttony The family gathered at aunt Janet’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone brought a favorite dish to share. The air was filled with savory and sweet aromas of food just begging to be devoured. Uncle Bill arrived in his usual inebriated tizzy. Family prepared for his monotonous wartime stories. Through his slurring words and shouting, he delivered as expected. During one conversation, he shouted loud enough for the neighbors to hear, “You know I lost this leg in the war.” He pointed to his prosthetic leg and said, “Even with this leg, I betcha I can outrun a four-legged dog.” No one dared to challenge him to such a bet. Little cousin Peggy started to giggle, then chuckled and laughed until she wet her pants. Aunt Janet’s sweet potato pies were scrumptious. Aunt Carol’s banana pudding was mouthwatering. The collard greens— seasoned with green, yellow and red peppers—so delicious. A beautifully crispy-brown-juicy turkey was tenderly cooked. Yet, the dinner would not have been complete without the vine sisters—Chardonnay, Rose and Moscato. Halfway through the meal, cousin Lucy’s face ended up in her plate. The chocolate cake tasted like it was made in heaven and placed on the table from above. I overdosed on every dish, especially the chocolate cake. Must confess—I committed the sin of gluttony.
Oh My My Oh my, my, I am so happy Just smiling away in the blue yonder of infinity I smile about the simple things in lifeâ€”what is the infinityIs it friendly to the unknown or not? I mean, is it welcoming to me- what is happyMe I am always sad because of my past I smile occasionally, As if I was a little girl waiting in line for a chocolate bar â€“ the chocolate candy makes me smileI love the sweetness of fudge dripping down my throat I love the pure cane sugar just picked from the field The field of nowhere the field of disbelief- the field of unknown. Oh but wait- just a minute- I feel the chocolate melting on my teethBut so what I am in the land of sugar Now oh wait a minute back to reality-I am in a happy state of mindWhere I can control the ideas of a happy ending Well anyway, reality sets in -I am an adult.
Someone’s Pocket Oh my, what jewels I found in my pocket: My pocket represents a dark tunnel full of hope and quietness and despairOh my what is this? Oh this is a flashlight: A miniature flash light The “flash light” is shining the flash light is a figure of infinityInfinite how life goes on and on-no stoppingJust a bright light. Oh I found other memorabilia in my pocket such as a quarter A quarter when I was a child could probably buy a small candy barA candy bar is sugary and is has many good pointssuch as sweetness and crunchiness A sign of lacking and fulfillment and satisfying So satisfying as if I am in a field of sugar- gathering the sugar cane- one by oneI am pinching the sugar cane from the field- so my pocket has the jewels of life and uncertainty
Such uncertainty that I am in the midst of curiosity and the unknownOh but yet Let â€œthere be lightâ€? with a life of sweetness and harmony I shall save the pocket: Thank you God for light and sugar A nice big Hershey bar- melted with marshmallows I am enjoying the sweet melted chocolate- from my pocket
Hello Oh hello, Hello again, and again – please can someone hear me I am hiding from the cruel world, the world of disbelief, nonsense, hate, anger, obsession, manipulation I mean wake up, I am free to the world – A world of loneliness, also happiness troublesome – I mean look at me – I have a pair of comfortable shoes a pair of ballet shoes and a nice Danskin bodysuit – my dance is described as a blooming rose of perfection and stamina and creativity – Come on Evelyn, lift the right leg and lift your body according to the music of Phantom of the Opera. oh my phantom of the opera, what a mystery and beautification. The ballet is such a beautiful dance, a dance
of description of my life a life of anorexia and skeleton – The mystery of my life Is in my emotions of movement. movement of a child, a lost child, trying to combat the world of Cruelty: movement, of anger and peace at the same time – oh my god, lord ma I can plié and stretching to the beat of phantom of the opera “I am stretching and kvetching at the same time.” oh mom – I will always be your shadow – a shadow of innocence and beauty: mom, I will always love you – oh mom, your body moves to the soft rhythm of the music – just like an angel in the sky – the world of mystery and peace – of my god, I can dance and sing and plie as if
I will climb the ladder of heaven – oh – oh – wake up now and I will always love you – I have ballet shoes and I do not have to cocoon myself in the world of dance – I am telling you a story of my life of a puma ballerina – oh oh god please hear me and bless the children of cruelty and abuse – I will reward myself with a chocolate milkshake and smile as I am sipping the milkshake slowly. Thank you world – “I want to be me”
CLARENCE “JALEN” STORM
Rebel Land #12: Hyper Drunk Hey guys. If you can’t tell, I’m drunk as fuck right now. Last night started out intense. Later it was fun then turned crazy! It’s been several weeks since the reappearance of the Zodiac. I’ve been busting my butt trying to solve this case and defeat them. Seriously, I’ve been working all day and all night on this along with our other clients and cases. I didn’t found a single lead or clue. Nothing! Nada! Zero! Not a damn thing. If anything, I have more questions than answers. Yesterday, I thought I finally got a lead. I thought my breakthrough in the case was located at a small town in Northern California. I was there for three hours and spoke to 21 people! Not one of those idiots helped me in the slightest! Either they were being obnoxious or completely incompetent! I was on the verge on hitting three of them. So fucking annoying! I decided to search for clues on my own. I must have looked around that entire town at least twice. I got nothing! The trail went ice cold. Personally I don’t think there was a trail there to begin with. I didn’t get back home until 8:32 p.m. I just wanted to sleep. Then I got a message then one of my friends was having a private party at a club and I was invited. Good music. Good, free drinks. Good times. Originally I turned it down. I just wanted to stay in. I was too exhausted to go to a party. I tried to go to bed early. Normally I don’t go to bed until after 1:00 a.m. But this time I went at 9:00 p.m. Then it happened again. My PTSD flared up again. The nightmares. The flashbacks. The anxiety attacks. After that I couldn’t sleep.
After that, I needed music and a drink. I just planned to stay there for about two hours, get a drink or two, hangout with my friends and maybe dance a little. Apparently, a little dancing turned into a lot of raging and rocking out. Two hours turned into 6 ½ hours. A drink or two turned into me getting totally wasted. Luckily, I was able to get a ride home. This morning, I feel awful. Right now I’m too out of it to deal with any cases, clients or mysteries. Today is just not a good day for me. Nor is tomorrow. I just want a nice, simple, easy day. I just want to watch my shows and movies, Netflix and chill, listen to my music, play video games, eat a nice meal in my room, sleep and sober up. No work. No fighting. No drama. No annoying people. No mysteries. No cases. I probably would get that if I wasn’t part of Rebel Land and live with one of the most annoying in the world, Roberto! He used his super speed to knock out of bed and wrap the sheets around me as a prank. “Roberto, you idiot!” Then he pushed me down to the floor and gave me a wedgie. Who still does that?! “Roberto, get out! I’m not in the mood!” “Hey. Wake up! Wake up!” “Stop slapping me!” “Okay.” He run into the bathroom, got a cup of cold water and poured it on my face! “You’re dead! Little runt!” I tried to catch him but he’s too fast and I’m too drunk. “You are so lucky I’m drunk. Just wait until I’m sober. You gonna get it! Oww, my head! My head hurts.” “Save it for the mission. We got a new case.” “Damn it! Shit. Shit. Shit.”
Someone sent us an urgent e-mail: “Dear Rebel Land. I’m Shannon. I’m writing in because I really need help. I work for a science division here in Arizona. We specialize in advanced robotics and technology. Recently, we developed a new weapons system program designed to weaponize, enhance, and super charge almost any electronic or firearms weapon. We call it “Hyper”. Hyper was created to deal with any threat it faces, assist in combat, help analyze any unresolved crimes and be summoned if they was another global threating event like the war. It was later infused with one of our latest android models. A few days ago, Hyper went sentient. It went completely out of control. It attacked our staff, caused a ton of damage and escaped our facility. Now it’s attacking anyone and anything it analyzes as a threat. It’s imperative that Hyper is stopped before anyone else gets hurt. I really hope you receive this.” –Shannon “So we’re dealing with the Terminator?!” “Wow. So we have our first case that isn’t a mystery and our threat is a machine. Not a person. Fascinating.” “Sounds like your kind of case Jeremy.” “Indeed, let’s see if can get Shannon on Skype. Yes, there she is.” “Hi guys. Thank you.” “Shannon, we just read your letter. The case has been officially green-lit. We’ll been flying to Arizona this afternoon to investigate.” “Thank you! Thank you so much.” “Yeah, we’ll be there shortly….”
I fell into our couch. “And Drew’s passed out.” We arrived at the Arizona science facility. I’m still out of it but I’m trying to push through it. “Drew, maybe you should sit this one out. You’re not well. Plus we can’t have anything holding us down and anyone getting in our way.” Normally I would totally agree with this. But I’m so drunk, I can’t think straight. “No, no. It’s fine. I’m good. Besides, we’re asking questions. I got this.” I’m struggling to open the door. “Turn the knob, Drew.” “I know that.” “Other way.” “Got it.” As we walked in, we had to walk down a lot of steps. “Can’t we just take the elevator?” “The elevator was damaged during the attack. And why are you complaining? You can fly!” “But I’m too drunk to fly.” OK, I can do this. Just take one step at a time. Literally. Just don’t fall. “I’m doing it. I’m winning. I’m winning.” I just had a few more steps left. “Yes. Yes. Almost there.” Roberto rushed in with super speed and knocked me down the stairs! “Roberto! Ouch! Ugh, that hurt my stomach!” “Too slow bro!” “God, I hate that damn rush attack of yours…”
I threw up. Roberto is laughing his ass off. “Not funny.” “Are you alright?” “Yes … no!” I did it again. “I can’t believe that used to be red wine and a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich.” “Shut up. Pull that shit again and I’ll throw up on you.” We finally met with Shannon. Looking around the lab area of the facility, Hyper really did a number on it. It’s a miracle no one was killed. But I’m really focused on Shannon. I can tell she’s trying to mask the trauma of the Hyper attack. I might be hungover but I can tell when someone is going through something bad. That’s the same look I had after the incident. I think that’s why I started drinking, fighting and doing things maniacally, to help me cope with my personal trauma. She gave this the schematics of the android Hyper was uploaded into. It has machine guns, rockets, a flight system, metal exterior and a laser-guided system. This would normally be easy for me if I weren’t trashed. “I must ask. Despite the situation, Hyper is our greatest creation. It’s worth millions so please do not destroy Hyper or the android. Simply deactivate it. Please.” “You heard her. Shut it down. Don’t destroy it.” “Guys I know I’m drunk, but I see weird lights in the sky.” “Wait, what is that?” “That’s a laser! Everyone lookout!” BOOM! “Is everyone alright?” “Yeah.” “Yeah…no I feel worse.” OK, doing a mission drunk is not a good idea, at all.
“It’s Hyper. It’s here.” “Targets sighted…weapon systems online…attack mode.” “It’s viewing you guys as threats. Defend yourself.” “No fear. Your “saviors” are here! Ugh! You know what, I’m not in the mood. Let’s just skip the banter and get straight into the superhero/fantasy fighting.” I double kicked it and hit with a lion’s paw attack. It didn’t work. It opened fire. The bullets didn’t faze me. “Machine guns ineffective…switching to laser systems.” “Get down!” “Jeremy, see if can shut off Hyper. We’ll cover you.” Trent punched it into a wall and repeatedly hit it. It blasted him with a laser. “Trent!” “Rapid Fire Attack!” It fired lasers from different angles. I flipped and dodged each laser. Doing flips and somersaults while under the influence is also not a good idea. Trent, Shannon and Jeremy ran for cover. Charlotte created a psychic shield to protect us. Roberto super sped to avoid each attack. He rushed with his rush attack to hit Hyper over a dozen times. Hyper fired another laser. “Alright. Time to end this!” Roberto charged up his lightning blast and struck Hyper. “Damage sufficient. “Overload. Overload.” “Roberto, that’s enough.” “Systems failing.” BOOM! Hyper exploded. He destroyed it. “Dude, what the hell? Moron! Did you not hear her just now? Shannon told us to deactivate Hyper. Do NOT destroy it! Idiot! I’m drunk and I heard her clearly! You moron!” “What? It was trying to kill us. Besides, how was I supposed
to know my lightning powers would be that effective against it?” “Yes Roberto. Who knew being struck by lightning can kill you? Oh wait, everyone! Seriously, you didn’t just kill it. You obliterated it! You just smashed it into a million pieces. You got some of those pieces in my jeans.” “Calm down Drew! Besides, tomorrow you probably won’t remember any of this.” “Guys. Guys. It’s fine. The important thing is everyone is safe.” “Are you sure Shannon?” “Yes. I think Hyper was too dangerous. Machines can be replaced. Human lives can’t. Thank you guys.” We left after the crime scene was cleared up. “Programming accepted. Download in progress.”
To be continued …
If All Else Fails If all else fails, blame someone or something else. Sure you messed up big time, but that doesn’t mean you should take responsibility. Tell the teacher you did your math homework, but your mother thought it was scrap paper and put it in the bird’s cage. You were going to mow the lawn, but the gardening guru on NPR said a healthy lawn needs at least 8 inches of grass, so you just left it alone. Aunt Josie went on a trip to the Galapagos. You told her you would water her plants. Between hockey practice and hanging out with your friends at the mall, you completely forgot your promise. Aunt Josie came home to brown and crumbling leaves. Don’t admit your negligence. Tell het that her plants got so depressed at her absence that they lost the will to live. There was a pint of Häagen-Dazs Caramel Cone Crunch that mysteriously disappeared. Don’t tell your mother that you woke up at 3 a.m. with an intense craving for ice cream. She doesn’t have to know that you went out in your pajamas and threw the container in your
neighborâ€™s trashcan. Say a hungry burglar must have broken in and raided the freezer. Save the truth for something you wonâ€™t be able to get out of. Take your licks if you have to. Be creative.
Call Me Call me a cab. I need to leave this pop stand and I need to leave now. Gerald just walked in with his new girlfriend and she’s all the things I am not. She’s tall and blonde. Not much of a figure, all angles, no curves. But I bet she looks good in anything, no matter what she’s wearing. I don’t want Gerald to see me. I don’t want to be introduced to the woman in the tight red dress hanging off his arm. I thought I was over him. I am over him. I also thought I’d never see him again since he moved to Idaho. What brought him back here to Clare’s party? He told me more than once that he didn’t like Clare. Maybe he wants to show off his new honey. Well, no matter. I’m leaving as soon as you call me a cab.
Packing I wanted to put it all away. Some would go out with the trash, some stored to be taken out when I could savor each object without becoming tearful. I made myself cold and dispassionate, merciless as I worked. Out went the painkillers, the vitamins, patches, rubs, creams. Evidence of our pain. A box of underwear, t-shirts, socks. Old cdâ€™s of bands long past their fifteen minutes of fame. Papers, papers, old forms, anonymous phone numbers written on scraps of paper. Books that I would never read, science fiction and fantasy with covers that showed dragons and odd mythological creatures. The scarf I had knit for him that despite my best efforts curled in on the sides. Caps that said Compost Happens, Las Vegas, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. And money, not much, in small tight bundles. No idea whose or what for. Hard work to make it gone from memory.
Failure Is Not A Glitch Maury Hollitzer stepped lively, as he walked across Brooklyn College’s campus. He was on his way to the Bursar’s Office to get his final grade for his Biology course. When he arrived at the Bursar’s Office he found a crowd of students staring up at the wall, all of them eager to get a glimpse of their final grades before they would enjoy their summer vacation. There was a long list of students’ names and final exam grades, scotch taped to the outer wall of the Bursar’s Office. All of the science department final exam scores were alphabetically listed on IBM computer paper. Maury squirmed his way past a few students to get a closer look at the names. When he got to the sheet with the Biology scores, his eyes scanned for “H” as in Hollitzer. “It’s a mistake,” he yelled. He repeated the phrase again to the female student standing next to him. She wasn’t paying any attention to him. “How is that possible!” Maury said aloud. “The computer must have had a glitch. I know I passed the final.” Maury’s heart was beating as if he had just run a few laps around the track. His face was flushed. He ran his fingers through his uncombed curls of black hair. There was no time to lose. He sprinted all the way across the building to the Department of Biology office to see if he could rectify his final grade. He arrived at the door and found a pink post-it note on the inside of the glass door.
“I will return at 2 p.m.” It was signed Herbert Mallory, Chairman of the Biology Department. “Shit!” Maury said. He needed to talk to someone right away, so he decided to trot over to the Dean’s Office and tell someone there of his tale of discontent. The Dean’s office was teeming with students and advisors when he arrived. It was close to twelve noon. Maury was desperate to speak to someone. A woman sitting at the front desk who could pass for a member of the Communist Party motioned for Maury to sign a roster sheet lying on her desk. Maury shook his head from side to side. There were just too many names already on the list. The woman kept pointing at Maury to the sign on the roster. Maury mouthed the word “No” with his lips. Then like a dream come true, Ms. Carthage entered the office armed with a load of books cradled in her arms. Ms. Carthage was friends with his sister, Amy. He had Ms. Carthage as his grade advisor in his sophomore year; surely she would speak with him. ”Please, Ms. Carthage,” he whispered to her, “you gotta help me.” “Okay,” she said. “Grab some of these books so I can unlock my office.” Maury obliged. She opened the door and was about to retrieve her books from Maury but he insisted on taking them in and placing them on her desk. He heard the door to her office closing. He made it! “So Maury, how are you doing?” she said with a smile. “Terrible, just terrible,” he blurted out. “Why?” she asked. “I think there’s been a big mistake on my Biology final’s test score.” “Oh, how so?” “I failed, that’s how so!” “And how can I help you?”
Maury wanted to tell her to take him in her arms so he could nestle his face in her bountiful bosom; that way he would be able to soothe his anxiety and sadness at the same time. He realized that he had a momentary lapse of thought and snapped back to the subject under discussion. “Ms. Carthage, I was planning to take my pre-med school exams by the end of the semester. How can I even think of taking the med school exams when I flunked biology?” “Well, let’s have a look.” She powered up her desktop computer and stared at the computer screen. “There we are. Maury, I found your course progress report and your exam grades. They don’t look very bad.” “See, I told you it was a computer error, a glitch.” Maury smiled. “Hmmm! According to what I see here you passed the final exam but you failed Bio lab, all five of them.” “Can that be cured?” Maury’s eyes widened like a child’s. “It’s a conditional failure,” she told him. “A what?” said Maury. Ms. Carthage turned her swivel chair towards Maury and folded her hands in her lap. She leaned towards him and he got a whiff of her delicious scented skin. He was sure it was Chanel No. 5; if he was wrong it didn’t really matter. He felt his lips itching and couldn’t take his eyes off her glossy red lips. He wondered if they glowed in the dark. “You can fix your failure by taking your Bio labs over again.” “No, I won’t do it! Not with Mr. Kaufman. He teaches lab like a Nazi.” “A what?” Ms. Carthage winced. “You know, like Hermann Goering. He was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda.”
“I know who Hermann Goering was.” She scoffed. “Mr. Kaufman is a fine lab instructor, you should be happy to have had him as your instructor.” There was a loud knock on the door. “Come in please,” Ms. Carthage said briskly. The woman from the front desk opened the door and stuck her head in the room, “Ms. Carthage, there are quite a few students waiting to be seen.” Maury was upset at the intrusion. He was now convinced that the woman was a member of some Communist group. It must have been the way she pinned up her hair in a tight bun. “Ok, thanks for letting me know,” Ms. Carthage said. The official party member closed the door and Maury was alone again with his Dean. “I’m sorry,” said Maury. “It’s just that failure is not an option for me.” “Well, in that case maybe you could speak with Mr. Kaufman and he might help you out.” “Where can I find him?” “At the moment he is on his way to the Galapagos Islands to do some research.” Hearing this, Maury pulled out a small pad and a pen from his book bag. “Where are the Galapagos Islands? Could you spell that for me?” The End
De Rerum Natura Every morning around eight o’ clock something happens if you take the number four train; the privilege collides with the deprived at Wall Street, men in bespoke suit and oblong cell phones have to look down in the faces of the outer borough, into the faces of people with a hundred thoughts run a thousand miles an hour, into the faces of the third company the lunch counter and the exit door, the faces with two pink slips, with discs and neck braces; the faces borrowed and taxed from the magazine, the dream deferred, the labor union historic; their day jobs are permanent, their efforts earnest, but they meet with no agenda, can’t be penciled in; can’t be lent out or contracted, only this contact has a contract, the banks want three ID’s, make your signature deceive; until the stop.
home before dark (for John Cheever) “I approached my fortieth birthday without having accomplished any one of the things I intended to accomplish—without ever having achieved the deep creativity I have worked towards all this time—I feel that I take a minor, an obscure, a dim position that is not my destiny, but that is my fault.”(John Cheever) *** I worried over a poem, a poem I had written; when I went back, the typographical and the grammatical looms out at me, like my mother looking over my shoulder, the proofreader became an inner critic; or out on sabbatical or drunk, but I compared my work to the others, the one without editor or agent; publishing credit or patron; it is obvious, it is trompe d’eoil it does take a certain giftedness; a certain compression and brevity; enjambment and flexibility; running these lines like a script, but to be able to draw from Goldberg’s inexhaustible Cheever, sat there in front me, reprimanded from his desk at the Iowa workshop, the
stops at the end of lines like Nicholas Baker or the tailoring of James Fenton, but what is this white man thinking; his thoughts affecting my writing; his prejudicial generation; drinking party and sailboats, Depression-era wrinkles; his stature rings in my ear, there should be sounds of the revolution or the Black Arts Movement; should hear Baraka or H. Rap Brown, or Rae Dragonette; but this New Englander seeing naked women rising out of water; could not quite place the voice; the distinct difference as old as Mason-Dixon; as tortured as Anne Sexton or Sylvia Plathâ€™s journal; should I care that Ted Hughes was a cheat; but entering the oven and accepting the story; my life entering this metaphor; all these years made flesh; all these years of journey. you must know the devil; the man on the streets of Washington told me to go home he did not want to see me die; I am not sure should ask Nicholas Baker about any of this; lines or life or rhythm or pentameter; but I am already in preparation, sneaking out, away at night with the few pieces in my hands; it was the preparation that brings me home at dark, all this loneliness; I am not sure the Depression
has more meaning than one; it did not mean the same thing to Cheever as it does to me; have no knowledge of the period; my family were farmers, so the feeling is to come home before dark. my mother told me one night in front of my grandmotherâ€™s house; no I could not go out at dark; wanted to hang out with my friends; the other boys on the street, but could not; became angry and resentful, pulling a literary temper tantrum, ran from room to room; writer to writer; did not matter the color; voice is voice; safety is seeking the truth; safety is being honest about all of it, eventually it reveals; it wields powers against me, being grounded without background, especially from this aesthetic distance. I waited so long to realize this importance; now must play catch up with the other boys on the corner, the neighbors laughed at me and said, roll call, because their parents did not have curfew, mine called me in to remember, to simmer in my preparation to come home before dark.
Wedding He invited me to his cousinâ€™s wedding. His cousin, an olive-skinned beauty. Slender and tall with long black hair, painted lips. She arrived just one week earlier from Israel yet she already lived with a handsome young man in an upscale apartment. We visited. Manhattan, picture windows overlooking the city. Rooms melding one into the next, circular. Clean, spacious and light. I remember a container of Comet sitting near the tub in the bathroom. The ease of the apartment despite its elegance. I sensed him slipping away from me even before the wedding. He seemed more interested in his cousin, the apartment and her new life in America than in me. So I shopped for what I wanted to be the perfect dress. I searched the aisles of a department store cluttered with too many dresses, too many choices. I struggled
through the racks trying on dress after dress. I found a pastel blue dress. Blue flowers amidst a pale blue background. It fit well. An A-line style with clingy material. The dress also came in black. I bought both along with a summery, strapless shoe and a black pump. On the morning of the wedding I dressed. The day dingy, drizzly. I stared into the mirror in my boxed-in first floor apartment. At the mirror, I turned from side to side not pleased with the flowery dress. It looked too pale, too plain. My hair looked stringy. I sighed. The doorbell rang. He wanted to get an early start. I slipped on the black dress, the black pumps and tied my hair up in a bun. We climbed into his van. A highway later we arrived at a hall filled with music and lights. The cousin, beaming, animated, carried and lifted up by the crowd shouting, â€œI love it. I love it.â€? My own love off somewhere. Out of sight. Me, alone. Feeling like a witch with a tight bun wearing a black dress and black pumps.
Kangaroo Sara walked into the dining room carrying her baby as if she were a kangaroo. Perhaps she should have just hopped into the room the way everyone stopped eating and stared at her. “You don’t have to pick up the baby every time he cries,” her aunt said. “He’ll never sleep through the night if you keep doing that.” Sara smiled holding back words. She didn’t really care if he slept through the night. She held the baby close. Loving him, smelling his sweet head, feeling his chubby hands against her chest. Her husband looked at her with fear in his eyes. “You can’t bring him to the table,” the aunt said. Sara stopped midway wondering why the baby could not join the family. “Too many germs for him,” the aunt said. Sara gazed at the table. Her aunt sat upright with a mask of lipstick and powdered cheeks. Lips gripped together severe and rigid.
“When Marsha was a baby,” her aunt glowered at Marsha in between words and spoons of soup, “she stayed in her crib when company came.” Marsha smiled with pride as if patting herself on the back for having been such a good baby. “Besides, you’ll spoil the baby if you keep picking him up.” Sara stood still wanting to sit down at the table and breast feed just to shut her aunt up. “I’ll just be a minute,” Sara said. She turned to walk back to the bedroom cuddling the baby closer, planning to remain in the bedroom loving her baby.
Much Wants More I had one Action Man, the standard issue, six- to eight-inch high human poseable figure dressed in a simple green and brown army uniform. His elbows, arms and hands were on plastic axels and his arms and legs held to his torso with a tight elastic string inside. He had fuzzy hair, tight cropped as real soldiers might have. He had plastic or vinyl boots and the most important accessory for a soldier—his gun. A black and brown FN rifle, the same as the Brits of the North and the Irish Army had at their checkpoints on the border. We heard that a bomb had gone off in the town. “Did you hear the bomb go off?” “... Maybe it was just a gas explosion in the dry cleaners in town,” we thought we heard from the talk on the road. Bombs were going off everywhere, though mostly up north in Belfast, Derry but also south in Monaghan and Dublin too. I was scared of the real soldiers’ guns as I looked out from the back seat of our Vauxhall Viva, fascinated too. I would observe how the real soldiers marched, held their guns when on duty and where they stood when they minded the checkpoints. Usually it was a Guard who stopped the car and had a chat with Daddy. Dad was friendly in his talk to everyone. This one time though, we came around a bend up near the border between Cavan in the South and Fermanagh, one of the six counties of the North, and there was a side-to-roadside blockade of bad-tempered British soldiers who searched our car.
My richer neighbor boys lived across the street in the slightly bigger houses. They not only had the Action Men figures but they were like America, armed to the teeth with jeeps, howitzers, tanks and every sort of action weapon a child could want. But these two spoiled boys wanted what I had. My ‘Army of One,’ with his single plastic black and brown FM SLR rifle. The two richer kids were the sons of a drinks rep who drove a better class of long cars called an Estate, with the extra back part piled with the pipes, taps and paraphernalia of his thirsty work. There was money in drink and this was Ireland. Clean a few clogged Guinness pipes, pass ‘GO’ and collect 200 every turn must have been the way to play on their side of the road. The two boys a little older than me insisted on seeing my action man figure up close and in my house. “Wait, what?” I said to myself (in my own head). And so the two small boys, with their own large plastic army, conducted a diplomatic and ceremonial visit to the early, still-curtains-drawn parade ground of our downstairs front room. I showed off how my wonky metal tank could shoot a piece of a wooden matchstick and nearly knock down one of those standard plastic toy soldiers. But still the thought persisted—what did these boys want? Didn’t they have more action men than the shop had? They were only acting friendly and I was suspicious of them, so when I didn't leave them alone they withdrew. Another dry sunny morning, I was playing in the pretty yellow construction sand heap a few houses down at the very far end of the estate. My action man was defending the sand mountain and was dug into his rough bunker, protected by some gathered up wooden ice pop lolly sticks, a stone and the
sand. I lobbed heavy pebble armaments at his bunker and saw explosions happen in the TV screen inside my head as my stone projectiles landed with soft sighs in the coarse and gritty sand cone. Along came the two brothers to play with me and soon enough my action man had been disarmed by these not-sosecret saboteurs. I thought as well that: “Maybe they didn’t take my action man toy rifle” like I thought they did and it could still be somewhere in the sand heap, and so I looked hard for it. I didn't have a voice to say: ”Hey you guys just stole my action man rifle, so give it me back!” Like every other liar I have met from that time to this, they smirked and ran back to their house of toys. I kept an eye on them from then on and sometimes philosophically stood looking over their back wire net fence while they paraded their Action Men battalions on their short mown grass. I wondered how I might walk into their shed and retrieve my Action Man's gun. “Isn't it just in there with all their other stuff?” I thought to myself, but instead I stayed looking on, impotent, saying nothing. The day of my first communion, the same two lads came calling again to my door and insisted that I come over to their house as their mother wanted to see me. I was reluctant and shy. Dressed in my communion day outfit, I entered a room full of adults and their mother beckoned me over to herself across what seemed like a playing field of carpet as a roomful of eyes looked on from the seats. She made small talk about it being my communion and pressed on me a scatter of mixed
change subtracted from her small, now-open clip purse. Her two thieving kids looked on. It was hardly enough to buy a few sweets in the local shop. She must have known that her two sons had stolen my Action Man FN rifle and here she was giving me a cheap payoff. I left with the two boys following after. I was glad later that, however small and insignificant monetarily it was and for whatever suspect reason the gift was given, that at least someone gave me some token to mark my spiritual occasion. “How much did you get?” was the normal persistent question on others kids’ lips. I avoided discussing it as we had no local relatives and my parents didn’t bother to bring me out on show for the post communion whoring that was the usual communion fuss. It was too suspicious that the only one to actively donate to my communion fund was the mother of the two covetous kids who took my only lamb while their barns, pastures and toysheds were full of plenty. But she at least did. As a youthful adult, I bumped into one of the two grown smirky brothers after a day at work in my local authority clerical office job in Dublin. He was neat, tidy and dressed like a bore. I was looking like I was heading to a rock gig. Now here on Middle Abbey Street he wants to reminisce. Our conversation went something like – “Oh, hello there, John. What you doing here? How's it going?” he says all nice expecting a nice chat about Cavan, our home town. “What do you want to talk about? Didn't you and your brother steal my Action Man's gun?” I asked him, finally able to say something.
He was surprised, taken aback by the unfriendly and certain tone of the accusation. He knew what I was asking, words I should have said years ago. I shook my head back, snorted softly in disgust and headed like a salmon into the busy throng of Oâ€™Connell Street.
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER It was the night of All Hallows Eve, and here I was, all decked out from head to toe as a seductive vampiress in a long, red, sexy, spandex and too-tight fitted dress, with a long train. Wait a minute! Is vampiress even a word? Anyway, here I was, stranded on some lonely, barren, Godforsaken dirt road, which I had no idea where I was. It was so black that I could not even see my hands in front of my face. I realized only too late that I had made a wrong turn somewhere, on my journey to Salem City Fright Night. I am not even at the party yet and here I am scared out of my witsâ€”for one thing, I am petrified of the dark. I had only met these so -called friends a couple of nights ago, while hanging at Dark Shadows Bar and Grill. There was no moon or even a single star in the midnight blue sky, and my phone was on its last two seconds of life. My headlights are now growing dimmer and dimmer by the minute. I am standing outside by my little red corvette, looking to see if there is some sign of life on the road. Then, as if by magic, a miracle! It seems as if I am in luck, when I finally see a beam of light headed my way, which looked like a car approaching me. Suddenly all the hairs on my arms stood up straight, and sweat started
to trickle down my backâ€”strange as it was a very cool night. Then I got a sense of impending doom, my heart was racing so hard, I felt as if I had just run the New York City Marathon. Then, as if by magic, the beam of light disappeared, along with the lights on my phone and headlights, all three at the same time! And it was then that I felt as if I was not alone. And that something, or someone, was breathing down my neck. I could hear the ragged breathing and felt the hot breath against my neck, and it was then that my blood turned ice cold.
Bonjour Again, Madame Two weeks prior, we had been vacationing in Paris. We had taken the much-talked-about Eurostar from consistently grey London and had whizzed through the undersea Chunnel to the famed “City of Light.” People often say that New Yorkers are rude. We’re not. New Yorkers are obnoxious, self-absorbed, judgmental and busy. But we’re also kind. If you want the adulterated definition of rude city dwellers, visit the city of Paris. The people there exude it in abundance! Beneath the delightfully smelly and tasty cheeses, fullbodied and on-the-slim-side red wines, and succulent slices of medium rare steak, it’s easy to lose yourself around the corner-winding cobblestone streets; however, there lies an underbelly of danger in this beautiful city. It exists in between the disagreeable attitude of nationalism and the curt bonjours. Just when we became familiar with strolling the length of the famed Champs-Élysées and were excited to successfully navigate our way around the fourth arrondissement map-free, I was somewhat alarmed to see the large, surly man we had seen at the last tourist spot suddenly appear from the entrance of the ornate
wooden door… it was as though we had been followed. Mr. Surly grinned at me menacingly, lazily removed a long cigarette from its crumpled pack, lit it casually, inhaled deeply; blew the smoke his own lungs refused directly into my face, looked me square in both eyes and smiled distractingly. “Bonjour again, Madame ….” It was the last thing I heard before I was slammed onto the Parisian concrete.
ANGELA M. KINGLAND
America When? When will there be an equal America When there was a civil rights protest The Rosa Parks protest, the school Segregation protest, the Selma protest The Rodney King protest. When will there be an equal America When we travel the world to help others Through thick and thin at their beck and Call. Lose lives to good name Stop at nothing when the nation is in pain America is missing the big picture at home An open book read from start and in between The answer is staring you in the face America. The world is looking while the cops are killing When will there be an equal America, when will The killing stop. Make it hard for us to understand Our actions. I can hear them say, I cannot breathe. People have had enough their pain change is overdue. Killed from wearing a hoodie, a young black man in Florida, running away from the police kicked down
His door, shot and killed his hands in the air. While walking in the darkness of the stairs, killed Playing with a toy gun, without any communication A twelve-year-old, wake up America, itâ€™s too obvious You canâ€™t miss it. Wisdom, knowledge, understanding Are the best ways. Rules and respect go both ways, Never a one- way street, your way or the highway America, will equality ever come for peace or Respect, what is law, I mean the real law For all Americans hating the police Is not what it is do not get it twisted It is the behavior of some in your league Like any other job, start at the top Set the example and others to follow Get rid of the thorns, they are going To kill the trees, blame others will Not solve the problems, train them Get rid of the bad apples, certainly will Oh! America wake up, please do the math Equality is easy to accomplish, stop acting Like dumb fools, adults are speaking To the back of my face is enraged I saw this behavior in school at 12 years old It was funny then, it is not funny now Respect comes by giving respect
Act like responsible grown ups With jobs, with the job that was given To all of you and thank God and New York You should not get mad when the Mayor Compares his son because he looks like them And keep those hindrances to society where They belong, when mistakes are made Do not pass the blame, why should the mayor Apologize to anyone, to any of you who chose To shoot and kill, the world was looking and Listening, the children are seeing, the professional That set the standard to follow Respect the law of the land They are here to uphold the law This is not a game of tic, tac, toe It should be about law and order Respect and consequences, when you break The law you should pay for your actions Most of them are fine and fair, hardworking And are in the right job, others are trigger happy And need the right training, but the bad apples Have to go with their overflowing egos Every work place have them they are a dime A dozen, do what is right, fair and square
Then and only then you will be examples All the police killers who want a lawless country Here is not the place, they will get you where Ever you go so do not get too comfortable Your payday will come, if you think you are Doing a favor, get your facts, you are a murderer You are not helping society if you think a lawless Country is what we want here in America. Are you For real you murderer, go and get an education Fact check the issues, murder is murder Call it what it is, excuse is no blame game We need role models for children to look up So, they can learn, so America about in this Day and age. Dr. Martin Luther King is now Turning in his grave, going backward is in poor taste So much has changed however, now it is back the Same. Communicate, listen, train and teamwork Is a must, then it will bring significant change.
An Early Morning In a space between closed and open, sun and stars, two different lights. The light in the predominant dark night and the light in the predominant daylight are the same and different. The gap makes it hard to focus in this between-light. Neck creaks. A body stiff and creased in need of ironing without electric heat. In need of body heat. Crack the body with strong fingers, action and time. Time is held in a charged white and clear and green case. Minutes, a pass. Watch the treeâ€™s leaves sway but be careful to watch the time case. No. Not a tender button but many tender minutes in the time and day that is blue-gray. Blue because it is not the full sleep color of night. Gray because it is the color of blue and night with yellow in it. Tender because the in between is soft but there are many pennies in it too. The touch of hair is eventful. A body standing up and then laying down is sumptuous. Sump to ooo us. A body sprawled in stretch is priceless. A scratch to skin, red and swollen from an insect bite, is
softly irritating. The arms and legs and fingers and toes are joy in moving. A door click marks the end. The exchange of time is near. A wish to stop the is. This moment is a nonstop is, and yet it is somehow an is that ends.
excerpt from “A Work in Progress” he went to the spot lining up the hand rails, roadlines and concrete walkway with what he held close. "it was my fault" a thread thin enough to split a boson Some fragments surfaced Sausage fingers, flash of an icon; rusty "brass doesn't rust" Gravity in this isolated spot folded several times over
excerpt from 'Doumu Ra; El Sueño de la Razón You see, yes this light, they all grow 5-6 thousand kelvin we all grow imagine, all at once single spot
if too blue, you would not sleep Too redâ€”you would cook I am just a guide that found a single repeating dot. I do not seek; they find i show "how did you find this" I was lost, crossing a desert a series of dots along the desert curious, not there before; like a childâ€™s crayon pressed into the dirt I waited and night came; i slept saw countless points in the sky; impossible to perceive in the hustle of a city flooded with undirected lights I waited and gathered the scant dew before the sun rose And I waited, watching the children of monsters scurry from shadow to shadow Then i saw Near mid-day; a slight twinkle Then a blinding light and a new dot I saw the pattern emerge, the gestalt So i sacrificed a child monster and waited another day set in the path and the monster was translated
A Date with Destiny The day starts when it starts. Like someone walking down a street, so the day ambles. It moves forward, observing the trees, the leaves—flaming red, burnt orange, chartreuse—discern the face of the sky, gray as scrim. The day ambles over the black honeycomb stones, shrouding the earth; the handiwork of bricklayers long gone, a foundation for those yet to come. The day moves to and fro. It looks for moments that will be momentous, occasions that will be auspicious. Seconds race into minutes and minutes crescendo into hours. It targets who will be born and who will die. With earnest eagerness, it will stalk its prospects, daring the lionhearted to seize the day, arrogantly. And unleash their rage! The day will find those deserving of mercy, favor and every good thing and in its kindness, release them. At the end, when the day is done someone will write, “On this day in history, I ….” The annals will record those events. A journal will state, “My mother died.” It will be written, “… the worst fire of ....” A passport will bear the stamp, “Deported.” And some immigrants will record, “I felt what snow feels like for the first time.” A first kiss; the last child born, the mountain climbed, the path not taken, the trail blazed, the rituals performed, all wait in the wings for their turn—none without significance.
Then, this day will be archived. In the basement of a building, boxes within manila folders, mildewed. The data on a ticker tape will pirouette. The cloud will hold like rain, a deluge of words, montages of frozen time. Besides. And in an old suitcase under a bed bear witness to a life lived. Faces, masks unmasked, faces confused with other faces, lines blurred and contours misshapen, survive. But for now, on a date with my day, I simply sit, sipping my cup of peppermint tea. I slather the butter on my bread; eggs with hot sauce and freshly pounded black pepper wait for my fork to puncture the yolks and let their yellowness run toward the toast drowning the blue and white pattern on my plate. I contemplate the presence of this day in my life. It whispers in my ear, â€œI must fly forward.â€? Gingerly, I step aside to let it run its course. This day will eagerly collude with its destiny to be and imprint on every single particle of time, the events that will mark it forever. I am neither happy nor sad.
Squirrels “Know something?” she begins the attack. “I don’t like squirrels. I’ve never liked them. See that one sort of making love to the tree trunk over there? Some people might find it cute. Don’t you just love it—I certainly don’t—when people like that look at squirrels and such almost as if they were people, too. Why the heck do you think they do that anyway?” We haven’t seen each other for many post-college years. Marriage, motherhood, divorce have gotten in the way of an earlier reunion. But we bumped into each other in Prospect Park last week and arranged this one. Now I’m wondering why. I can’t think of anything worthwhile to say to her—except that—sorry about that—I think the squirrel is cute, adventurous, too, much more challenging than she is. What I really want to do is, go home, put on WQXR, and forget about the whole afternoon. I wonder how to excuse myself as graciously and inoffensively as possible. If I were a squirrel, I’ll bet I’d know how and, after I did it, I’d still find time to get to the top of the tree and look down on the more cautious, less adventurous world.
Home I’ve never seen a map of home Maybe no one has ever found the courage to draw one or maybe the map-maker would but is sweating with fear of being rejected or laughed at or told, “Know something?” You should find another profession before it’s too late or you starve to death in this one.” Both home and heart start with the same letter. Think it’s coincidence? I sure as heck don’t. When I think of home I think of steam and blankets and memories and being young enough to bathe in feelings instead of facts and thinking it whatever it is will stay exactly this way forever
LISA M. NOVAK
Figure 8 â€œOh, you wanna dance? Let's dance! I'm gonna dance all over your fuckin' face!" Gerald was unimpressed, though slightly amused at the undescended balls of this kid, who couldn't have been more than 12. Especially since he spat out his threats with his spindly arms pinned behind his back by the burly six-foot-two security guard. "Get the fuck offa me you fuckin' rent-a-cop," the kid yelled. The harsh words were tempered by his freckled face and PokĂŠmon t-shirt. Gerald sighed. He didn't need this shit, but he did need the paycheck. Half the stores in the mall closed over the past two years and the security staff had dwindled from 35 to 15. Gerald was one of the lucky ones to retain this crap job. He marched his fuming, cursing, 85-pound charge out of Spencer's Gifts (which seemed to attract the most shoplifters) past the shuttered Sears and into the mall security office. Gerald shoved the kid none-too-gently into a hard-backed wooden chair that had more years on it than both the guard and the thief combined. He fished an Incident Report form from out of the desk as the kid's tirade continued.
"My father is a lawyer and he's gonna sue your dumb ass and sue the store and sue the mall." As the kid reached into his back pocket for his phone, Gerald snatched it out of his unsuspecting hand, setting off another volley of profanity that would have made George Carlin blush. "Good," Gerald said, "let's give him a ring." "Hey!" the kid cried indignantly, with a hint of desperation. "Give me back my phone ya fuckin' cunt!" This little bastard was probably too dumb or lazy to set a security code, Gerald correctly guessed as he swiped the cracked screen to life. "Hmmm â€Ś should we call Lawyer Dad, or ..." Gerald asked, grinning. "How about ... Tiger Mom! I bet she'd just love to know where you ended up today." Aside from a Billy and a Jose, the only other contact listed was Mom. There was no dad. "No, please, don't call my mom," the boy pleaded, all the badass now gone. "It's just a spinner for fuck's sake. I got the money!" Gerald almost felt sorry for him. But not really. Shoplifters were his stock and trade, and the only reason he was able to keep his job. He hit the contact and turned away grinning, while the boy cowered.
A Jewish Patient Begins His Analysis It was by the lake, where you threw bread on the water for each bad thing you did in the year that just passed. But they throw sticks now, and leaves, because the bread is bad for the ducks. There were other people there too of course—some teenagers looking for a food festival, a couple in a heated embrace on a blanket. And the two of us. These are the ten days, rabbi, when I can redirect my story, aren’t they? The first ten days of our new year? When I can be inscribed for a blessing in the book of life? A blessing—what is that? Is it that a new direction is still possible? That’s one way of looking at it. But what you must do first is clear the undergrowth, the branches, the mosses and slimy peelings of the year just ending. Who you were underhand with, less than patient, mean or without understanding, you know you must apologize to them. I could tell you who should apology to me— That’s not what I asked. Think. Who have you offended?
I don’t take no for an answer. I think I know better. I’m willful. And if you stopped that behavior? I’d be left hanging. Or? I’d have to wait. Wait to act. And while waiting? I’d see … the light in my office. It’s yolky yellow, too brash. I thought I liked natural light. Yes. And? I’d see I’m just a tiny dot, if you look from God’s perspective; if you get a little distance, higher, this whole town is but a dot; higher, then the whole country is, and the waters, even if someone is drowning right now, from there—who’d see it? No one. Or if someone is saving someone. Who’d see it? And so? Who do you need to apologize to?
Bullies “I am not fat!” “You are, too! You’re not only fat, you’re ugly! and smelly! and sweat like a pig!” The kids all laugh. “Oink oink! Oink oink, Little Piggy! Lou-Anne’s a piggy!” What’s the point … of protesting, I mean. I am sweaty, and piggy, and smelly. My mom tells me I should feed from a trough. That my table manners make her sick … sick … sick ... looking at me, with my hair messy like a rat’s nest, and my fingernails grimy. “You should go to your room!” she shouts. “Get out of my sight.” So I go to my room and read by myself—of all things—Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. But I like Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. She’s kind and neat, not like my mom. She wears her hair in a bun and laughs with the kids on her block and, in this chapter book, she goes to the moon. My mom never does that. She just lies around in her nightgown. And then she calls me a pig! Her nightgown is stained and she’s smelly. Takes one to know one. The other day I couldn’t fit into my jumper—the plaid one—it’s
wool flannel, grey and red, and I like it a lot. And I couldn’t button it. I tried, honest I did, but the waist is too tight. I’ll sneak down to the kitchen after supper and eat a cookie. That’ll make me feel better. But then I have to go school again tomorrow and I don’t have any friend there—unless you call Bunny a friend -- she’s picked on like me. But I get better grades in math. I don’t think Bunny’s too swift. At least I’ve got brains going for me. I like Mrs. Gunzer though, my 4th grade teacher. She’s a bit like Mrs. Piggle Wiggle … she wears her hair in a bun. And she’s adventurous. I wish I could go home with her. Maybe she’ll teach me how to shower and put barrettes in my hair. And eat like a lady. She’s a lady. And somehow I like that.
In response to prompt: Ben places a real apple on the table Now it’s the next day in school. I know I should eat an apple instead of cookies. It’s healthy. Mrs. Gunzer—and Mrs Piggle Wiggle, for that matter—both say, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But it’s not my apple. It’s on Mrs. Gunzer’s desk. Probably put there by Carolyn—Teacher’s Pet. Or by Mrs. Gunzer, who’s saving it for her proper lunch. Taking it would be stealing. And I don’t want to be a little thief—as well as a fat, sweaty pig, but darn it, Mrs. Gunzer touched it, and I want to have something that Mrs. Gunzer touched. Nobody’ll suspect me. They’re all at recess and I’m supposed to be in the bathroom. I’ve even got a pass. I’ll just put it in my book bag. No one will know. Then when I get home, I’ll just hold it and smile at it. And it
will smile back at me. “Here, Piggy Lou-Anne,” it will say, “I’ll be your friend.” And I’ll pet it and smell it and all Mrs. Gunzer’s
Recess is over Teacher’s Pet Carolyn says “Hey, Mrs. Gunzer, where’d your apple go?” I look really hard at my long division paper. Look really hard at it. Squeeze my pencil in my hand till the yellow paint chips off and my knuckles turn white. Oh please don’t catch me. Please. Then Carolyn: “There’s an apple thief in here. Who could it be? Everyone look in their bag. See if it’s there. Look in your desk … in the garbage … in the corner.” I pretend to be looking. As long as no one looks in my book bag I’ll be safe. “We’ll find it later, children. Right now, get back to your math sheet.” If I can hide it in my locker at lunch, I’ll be OK. Mrs. Gunzer sweeps around the room checking our work. She comes over to me and whispers, “Lou-Anne, can I talk to you later, after class, dear?” Oh my God. She’ll tell my mom, she’ll tell the principal … I’ll get in trouble. The kids will taunt me. Mom will lock me in my
room without supper. I run out of the room to the bathroom and hide in the stall. A few minutes later, Bunny comes to find me “Lou-Anne?” Bunny whispers. “Are you in there? Mrs. Gunzer sent me to find you.” “Yes, Bunny,” I whimper, “I’m here.” She follows the trail of pee and finds my stall.
From Rio Canas to Bushwick Last night I ate dinner at Grandma’s. She made white rice, pink beans, baked chicken breasts and green bananas. It tasted so great that I had two plates. As I ate the flan she made for desert, Grandma asks me, “How was the food? I have always joked around with Grandma. To see her response I answered, “The food tasted good but the chicken was dry.” Grandma glared at me so I began talking about the DACA kid’s situation and how I’m lucky the city gives apartments to crazy people. With the quickness of a Roast master Grandma says, “Boyd, don’t say that, you’re not crazy, you’re slow. The city helps people who are slow.” This was the first time Grandma told me I wasn’t crazy so I accepted her comeback as a compliment. Grandma has lived in Bushwick for fifty-five years. How much longer I will be able to tease her eighty-eightyear-old self about how she hasn’t learned how to speak English yet, I don’t know. But I savor the time we spend together now. She is an excellent cook and has fed me the majority of my life. I appreciate the fact that she still prepares genuine Puerto Rican meals for me and that she will be the last relative who will make
me sancocho, pasteles, vianda, bacalao, malanga, pernil, chuletas, ensalada de camarones, pollo guisado, arroz con gandules, arroz con habichuelas, mofongo, etc. If Grandma were able to teach me how to cook meals as well as she does I would show my future family how to cook them too. Genuine Puerto Rican Comida like they used to make in Grandmaâ€™s home town, Rio Canas. Te quiero Abuela. I will always remember you.
BPL CENTRALâ€” BILINGUAL
Black Her skin, very dark skin. Fleshy hands, ink black. The corners of her mouth turn down to catch a little subway slumber, the best kind. She is asleep, not nodding like a dope fiend pretending exhaustion from a day's work. It’s not the stupor that emerges from euphoria in time to look out the window at the station, then glide forward in a slow-mo dance toward the closing door nasally proclaiming, “Damn, I missed my stop.” No fake embellishment, after fake embellishment paired with veiled punctuality for an appointment that doesn't exist. Missing is the artful sham conversation seeking acknowledgment, agreement, acceptance from a tourist face that doesn't recognize, this is a junkie. She is out behind the tasteful designer frames. Not high—just sleep. At the end of the long sleeve navy-blue knit top with the whitest trim are the imbued noir hands; the nails so beautifully polished red they force the skin to take a darker hue. Fixed puffiness wraps the back of each hand a living reminder of her existence before this day in her life. The pitch darkness meshes with memories of a lonely childhood that slid through the teen years hurling her full force into an adult life of searching and groping for the next get high ride. The hands had manipulated, got arrested and embraced a thousand tries at freeing her. The swarthy hands barely visited, patted, gestured at clean life when three times they held babies, wiped bottoms, buttoned jackets and dried briny tears. The grim mitts released the six little hands into another's care for too many years only to yearn
to hold the tiny fingers once moreâ€”to be their mother, to braid their hair, to heal their boo-boos and make it all better. The hands prayed to Christmas shop, gift wrap, cook rice and fold laundry; to sign something purposeful. Permanent. Now clasped on a pocketbook in her lap, they belong to a different woman. They are no match for the clear eyes behind the dark lenses. Though they boldly wear their scarred story, they don't speak louder than the voice of the raised spirit that accompanies them in the world. Nor are they stronger than the soul connected to them. All they are are ten finger tombstones of a life that is no more.
Acknowledgements We share our belief that the world is a better place when everyoneâ€™s voice is listened to and respected. Many thanks go to our foundation, government, and corporate supporters, without whom this writing community and publication would not exist: Allianz GI, Amazon Literary Partnership, Cowan Slavin Foundation, Emmanuel Baptist Church Benevolence Fund, Kalliopeia Foundation, Meringoff Family Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the Two West Foundation. NYWC programming is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. We rely heavily on the support of individual NYWC members and attendees of our annual Write-A-Thon and Red & Black Fundraiser. In addition, members of our Board of Directors have kept this vital, rewarding work going year after year: Timothy Ballenger, Tamiko Beyer, Louise Crawford, Atiba Edwards, Marian Fontana, Kaitlyn Greenidge, Ben Groom, Susan Karwoska, Brooke McCaffrey, Sophie McManus, Alexis Nixon, and NYWC Founder and Executive Director Aaron Zimmerman. Some special thanks to Brooklyn Public Library, and to our workshop leaders: Ben Dolnick and Miguel Angeles at Central Library, and Anna Pettus at Cortelyou. To find out more about NYWC and learn how you can sponsor a NYWC Press publication or program, please contact INFO@NYWRITERSCOALITION.ORG or call (718) 398-2883.
NY Writers Coalition Inc. (NYWC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that creates opportunities for formerly voiceless members of society to be heard through the art of writing. One of the largest community-based writing organizations in the country, NYWC provide free, unique, and powerful creative writing workshops throughout New York City for people from groups that have been historically deprived of voice in our society, including at-risk and disconnected youth, homeless and formerly homeless persons, individuals who are or have been incarcerated, veterans of war, those living with disabilities, cancer, and other major illnesses, immigrants, seniors, and many others. For more information regarding NYWC programs and NY Writers Coalition Press publications, please visit WW W . NY WR I TE R SC OAL I TI O N . OR G
NY Writers Coalition Press is proud to present From Page to Page, a collection of poetry and prose written at NY Writers Coalition workshops...
Published on Apr 30, 2018
NY Writers Coalition Press is proud to present From Page to Page, a collection of poetry and prose written at NY Writers Coalition workshops...