Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine # 14

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Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine issue #14

spring/summer, 2021 fiction

Mark Cassidy

Winter Blues

12

Marco Etheridge

The Beacon

70

Phil Harvey

Therapy

30

Sunny in India

46

Deborah M Arrin

Walking through the door of old age

68

Carol Casey

1965

84

Eric Chiles

Breakfast after church

59

Holly Day

Fox in the Snow

29

Martha Golensky

Anomalies

87

Deadwood

86

Nels Hanson

Night Mirror

28

Sydney Junkins

silly putty

57

Mary Ann Larkin

How to Change a Diaper

89

Deborah Levine-Donnerstein

Fall Remembers

23

Julia Lisella

a brief history

60

At Home Depot 15 Years After Your Death

61

The Book of Repulsive Women

62

non-fiction Teresa Yang poetry

Richard Luftig

And Still

4

Sentinel

8

Starlight

6

DS Maolalai

March 2018

88

Michael Milligan

Dead to Me

56

Heirloom

54

Cindy Milwe

Anza Borrego

90

Marita O’Neill

At the Funeral

24

Ode to a Beaver and Her Dam

26

Passover

27


Simon Perchik

[untitled] They no longer. . .

66

[untitled] Your wrist is. . .

67

Dan Pettee

The Wake-Up Call

65

Benjamin Schmitt

Ne’er-do-well

58

Paul Smith

Nothing Hallowed

10

Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Anaïs Anaïs Perfume

91

Bat Inside

92

When a Poem Is More

93

Michael Chauncey Stanley

Sunlight

11

Nardine Taleb

Dear Boy draft 5

52

my god

51

the middle east is not a metaphor for violence

50

Coulrophobia

40

Selena

44

Waking

42

Deborah Levine-Donnerstein

Fall Remembers

22

Marietta Modl

Chicken Dance

64

Lookout #2

39

Chicory and Lace

85

Alida Woods

images

Jean L Wilder Smith

East Fork Falls Through the Looking Glass

7 45

cover: Chicory and Lace (partial), by Jean L Wilder Smith

Editor's Note COVID. It's a term that didn't make any sense to most of us a little over a year ago. Now it reigns as the American Dialect Society's 2020 Word of the Year. Doomscrolling (a preoccupation with negative news online) won the Digital Word of the Year. Words matter. The ones we use with increasing frequency have the power to direct us, to counsel us, to comfort us. As artists and writers, we reflect and interpret the reality around us, a world that is comprised of words. As you read through this issue, you may be struck, as we were, by how current events and concerns of today inform our writers' works. Julia Lisella writes of immigration, race and feminism. Poet Nardine Taleb explores the wrenching politics of the Middle East and the public and private collision of cultures. And Marita O'Neill and Richard Luftig muse on how a tiny virus has changed our lives. Of course, our contributors also pursue beauty, age, memory, and other subjects of art and literature. We hope you enjoy our variety of topics, both timeless and contemporary.


And Still it is empty on these city streets where taxis once lined up and down at traffic lights, horns blaring like alarm clocks, if only people had any place to go. It is still empty in every small town in Iowa and Illinois where storefronts are shuttered now and maybe for good, these places where crops have been plowed under and the feed store has no one to gather inside in the early chill to drink coffee, dark and thick as motor oil collecting in the engine pans of tractors that haven’t been started in months. And it is still early on my street, where houses sit so quiet until I hear later in the morning, a piano played by a young girl through the open window


three doors down: The first movement of the Moonlight Sonata, as she waits for her lesson which she is sure will begin again some time soon. Richard Luftig Richard Luftig is a retired professor of educational psychology at Miami University in Ohio who now resides in California. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States and internationally. His full-length book of poems is entitled A Grammar for Snow.


Starlight When I come to visit he often begins by asking who I am. On good days he asks about my mom, his wife, who died twenty years ago. Or goes off about DiMaggio who’s the greatest all-around player the game’s ever seen or Robinson who could turn into a pretty good infielder someday. Pee Wee too, the best damned shortstop in the National League. But somehow we always return to that Studebaker Starlight, the one, he laughs, pointed at each end like a rocket ship so you never know if you’re coming or going. One of the first cars with push-button shifting automatic transmission push-button shifting set right into the dash. Taught your mother to drive in that car. His eyes look at the withered elm just outside his window. Say, if I could just get out of this bed, we could go out to the garage, take her for a spin. What do you say? I always tell him the same thing: that it’s in the shop for repairs. Next time, he says, next time. Richard Luftig


East Fork Falls

Jean L Wilder Smith


Sentinel He is late today, by a full ten minutes. Perhaps he is AWOL, has joined a new outfit, been assigned somewhere else. But I know that this is just pure speculation on my part. He will arrive, he always does, just as morning fog parts like a curtain and announces the presence of speckled ocean. And then they show up, the whole squadron flying in unison, white in the sun, big bodied, ready to plunge like bombardiers. But he veers off at the last second, flies off on his own, due east to the last column, chases off the singular gull that has roosted on his private spot. Then, he assumes his post. Let the others work, dive again and again for their food. From his lookout he can see the whole pier, already full with people,


their lines submerged into dark water. All he will have to do now for the rest of morning is remain here, watch and wait, gullet empty, pouch ready to gorge on what these people leave behind as they fillet their catch, never knowing how they always leave him the best parts as they walk to their cars with what will become evening supper, now submerged deep in their pails. Richard Luftig


Nothing Hallowed A candle burns top to bottom nothing special nothing holy nothing sacred nothing hallowed wick consumed wax ingested combustion started light invented angels summoned vespers chanted zeal ignited hearts decanted shadows jumping darkness fleeing like a tiger in whose face a torch is thrust consecrated light illumines everything within its reach Paul Smith Paul Smith is a civil engineer who works in construction and likes writing poetry and fiction. His works have been published in Convergence, Homestead Review, Literary Orphans and other magazines.


Sunlight There is a crack, a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in -- Leonard Cohen

Believe you can I can we can move beyond our learned certainties to find the dancing singing let-going gently holding listen to another’s argument as real as your own the door will open a crack we all own hate and great stores of loving we’ll tear holes in our stubborn minds dare the impossible into sunlight Michael Chauncey Stanley Michael Chauncey Stanley lives in Dublin, New Hampshire. He has been writing poetry since he left the world of finance and devoted his energy to being in and about the woods and waters instructing wilderness trips for Outward Bound. He’s published two poetry chapbooks, Driftwood and This Trip I’m On.


Winter Blues Finish up my set in the Old Kettle, Bobby come over to where I'm settin in back a the room, set another beer and a shot a Crown longside what I already got lined up. Don't drink any fore a show, get me all edgy and tight, but I do enjoy a little somethin after I'm done, fore I head upstairs. "What is this now?" ask Bobby. Tween sets Bobby like to put on a little jazz, on account a he a jazz nut plus he own the place. Ain't goin play no rock and roll nor blues even it a blues night in the Old Kettle Bar 'N' Grill, got the sign blinkin and winkin out the window, snow all comin down round about. Bobby got Miles playin, waitin on the next outfit, fellow purveyors a twelve bar drinkin accompaniment, set up. Turn and point to a gal settin her own self at a biddy table front a the stage. Give me a wave and a big smile and, bein the friendly, and not to mention lonesome sort a person I am, wave her over. Ain't like had much in the way a companionship in recent times, bein on the road and such, bein a what to call divorcee. Huh? You know it? I'm just sayin. "Hi there! Sorry, I don't mean to intrude." "That's just fine honey, you ain't intrudin none." Pretty gal what I'm sayin. Got she a bulkyass purple and red ski-sweater, blue jeans tuck in her boots. Sneakin up on chunky little bit, which I ain't unfamiliar my own self. But my goodness, such a smile! And shiny eyes make my heart go pitty pat. "I saw what you were drinking and I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your show." Reach out and touch her arm. "Well thank you sweetie. That's very nice a you." Nod at the drinks. "And for this too. Much appreciated!" Flap her hands a little, like she flustered some, start to stand. "I'll leave you to it. I just wanted to say thanks again. I really enjoyed it." "Well now hold up there girl. You don't want to join me?" Bobby standin by, like he managin the situation, lean in and pull a chair out. "Really? you sure?"


"Come on!" Wave a hand at the glasses on the table. "Plenty keep me busy now so a little help ain't goin hurt none is it?" "Gee, thanks." Sit down side a me. Push a glass a beer and a shot a Crown in her direction, curious to see which one she goin go for first and ain't need to wait long fore she dive right in and swallow the whisky in a go. I'm sayin. Lift her head, lick them glossy lips little bit, push her hair back and reach her hand cross the table over top the glasses and the biddy rack a menu cards. "Natalie!" Take her hand, feel the heat come off. "Well hi there Natalie, it's my pleasure. I'm Lydia." "I really do love your stuff. Makes me want to dance the way you get a bounce going with the slide and foot stomping and all of that. I love it!" Take me a sip a beer, sip a whisky. "Ain't see you dancin none though honey. You right in front a me I should see you up and boppin long with the rest a the folks." Wave my hand out at the room gettin ready for the next thing come on. "I would dance if my husband was with me." Lean back give her my what to call quizzical look. "What is that now? Need his permission to dance is it? Dancin all it is girl." "No, it's not like that." Turn her mouth down some. "He has to work. He's on the nightshift. I don't like to go anywhere without him, you know? Doesn't seem fair if he has to work and I'm out having fun." Look up again and smile. "But you here." "Oh, that's because of you! He's seen you before. We both have. Here and over at the East Fortieth, Sunday nights, although he's not much of a fan for the open mic format." She look around a little. "He prefers it here. More like a proper night out, you know?" Take me another drink. "He a fan a the blues then is he?" "Oh, he loves the blues." Take her a drink a beer. "Actually, he considers himself something of an aficionado."


"A fishy what now?" Lean a little to brush my fingertips against her arm. "I'm kiddin honey." Catch Bobby's eye cross the room. I been playin hereabouts a while gone since. Bobby look out for me. "Which kinda blues your husband enjoy?" Frown some. "To be honest he likes the British blues. You know? From the sixties. All of those people like Chicken Shack and Savoy Brown. Peter Green. He believes the British lads, as he calls them, don't get enough credit." "Mmmm, they invent the blues did they?" Jump up and laugh. "See? He told me! He said, Tell her that. You get a chance to talk to her, tell her what I said about it, see what she says." "That why y'all come on across to talk to me?" "Oh no." She sat down again. "Sorry. I love your stuff as well. I just wanted to say hello was the main thing, and say thanks for how you play. Like I say, we've seen you a couple times. He really admires what you do, how you do it, with the slide and so on. He loves it. I told him I wouldn't come without him but he said, No you have to go. You can't miss that. You can't miss seeing Lydia play. We don't know when she might get back around here." Take her a sip a beer. "You'll be back though, right? I mean, I'd hate to think that we won't get another chance." Bobby pull up got a clutch a shots set em down tween me and the gal, push one towards her hand, which she knock on the head no time, what I'm sayin, and the glass hit a little hard she set it down again. Give her a minute let her settle some "He play? Y'all's man?" "Sorry. I'm a little excited. Talking to you is like meeting a famous person." "Well I am famous honey. I'm a hit with your husband no matter what all else, right?" She smiled and nodded her head. "He play?" "No. He has a guitar. Well, six or seven actually, but he doesn't play. He likes to look at them. He has them hanging on the wall in the den." Pick up her glass, drank some beer. "He'll try sometime." And then a little more, set the glass down. "Can I ask you something?"


"Somethin from you or somethin from y'all's man gone off all workin hard leave his pretty wife hangin in a blues bar by herself. What's his name anyway?" Look at me. "Henry." Shrug a little. "Hank." "He a good man, ol Hank?" Put a little salt on how I say his name. And you want to think, even a tiny hesitation in there goin let the light in. But she good, she quick, even a little bit defensive. "Yes. He's fine. He's a good man." Set her fingers on the rim a her beer glass. "Well that's good." Take me a drink a beer my own self, set the glass back down. "You love him?" Eyes get wide on me then. "Honey," tell her. "I'm a blues singer, that's my livin. Got questions we in the business obliged to ask. He a good man it's ok, it's alright. But keep on with bein a good man goin put a hard workin blues gal such as myself outta business. All I'm sayin." Put my own bigass toothy smile on her. "Huh? You know it?" Watchin me now, got a careful look up on her like she thinkin about somethin. Touch the back a her hand again. "I'm just foolin with you honey. Ain't every day I get to set and chitchat with a pretty gal, I'm on the road and bustin my sloppy ass, gettin home late, whatnot. I'm just enjoyin meetin y'all. Ain't tryin to offend nor nothin." "Oh no, it's fine. . ." "What you wanta ask me anyhow? Go on ahead, I'll quit fuckin with y'all." Push another shot glass in her direction. Put her hands, fingers splay wide edge a the table. "I want to have something up on my husband. When I get home he's going to call from work and ask me how it was. I want to be able to tell him something he doesn't know." "About me." "Well, sure. But about the blues as well. You are a real blues singer. Tell me something." Take me another drink, pick up a napkin dab my lips. "You goin interview me now?" "Well no, but. . ." "You goin take notes?"


But she rollin on me now. "Where are you from? Are you from Alabama?" "God forfend honey. Give you that idea?" "Louisiana?" "The Lord have mercy! I look like a coonass to you? Come on! I'm from Texas darlin. Texas gal what you all got in your eyes." Raise my voice. "And a damn fine lookin one too, I say so my own self." Open my arms up wide, jiggle little bit. "All a me is Texas. You want it you got it." Eyes get big again, glance this way and that. Bobby at the bar leanin, chucklin some. "It's alright sweetie. Daddy from Houston its own self, Mamma from up round Lufkin but she gone to be with Jesus now, bless her heart." Take me another shot knock it back in one. "And that's where you learned to play the blues? Down in Texas?" "Learn to play the blues a lot a places hon. Blues a part a life what it is, sneak up on you anytime, anywhere. But I did, what you want a know, pick up the fundamentals on Quintana Island." "Oh God, that sounds delicious!" Cover her mouth like she said somethin shouldna come out. I laugh. And got me a sweet laugh too, I want to. Look at me through her fingers. "Please tell me." Set myself back a little bit in my chair look across the table at this here biddy gal all wound up and excited, took herself maybe a couple too many shots a good whisky. "Tell you what honey. goin relate the history a my tappin into the blues and such, venerable form a communication that it is, but we ain't goin do that here. We done settin here drinkin whisky and beer. Ain't good for a body, what I'm sayin. You know it? I'm a settle up with Bobby and we goin go through to the coffee shop, take us a cup a coffee, what's required for this here story I'm a tell you. Huh?" Stand up, look across at her, got her big open shiny whisky face goin on. "Come on honey. Get us a cup a coffee. Don't forget y'all's cell lessen that fine man a yours want a call, make sure you alright, ain't keepin bad company and such." Bobby over and help her up. Wave me off I hand him money. "See you tomorrow," tell me.


"I be here." "I know it." ~~~ Coffee shop in the Kettle, side the lobby, an old fashioned kinda place what it is, got they a shiny chrome counter with stools all along, got tables by the window look out to the sidewalk. Drunk folks, happy folks, tired folks, walkin, chirpin, hangin along in the snow headin home. Big ol police cruiser other side the street keepin a eye. Get us two big steamy mugs a coffee we set. She a little wore out but goin be alright. She with Lydia and Lydia goin take good care a her best way I know how. "You want a eat something honey? Get us some pie you want to. Got some fine cherry pie hereabout, if I do say." "That would be nice." "There you go." Order up some pie. She a little woozy but she ready, sweep her hair back from off her face. "Tell me." Gal bring us I'm sayin a big ol piece a pie and a couple forks, set em down either side the plate. Thank you honey," tell her. Take me a bite on account a ain't natural for me to refuse pie, turn the dish round to face my lady friend here. "Servin beer what I was doin down yonder, name a Captain Ken's Krabshack, in Freeport, Brazoria County, bout a hour south out from Houston down along two-eighty-eight. Step out the back a Captain Ken's you in the Brazos river. Real nice spot what it was and likely still is. Gal come in there one time, long with her buddies from the project goin on over to Quintana Island, some type a refinery, get to talkin. Fore you know it want to show me the porpoises in the shippin channel and, next thing after that, we livin together, got her a what to call company house on the beach right there on the island, house on stilts, side the ocean." "That sounds amazing." "Well it was sweetie. For a while anyhow, you know it?" "What was her name?"


"Betheny." Take me some coffee. "Betheny a safety officer in the plant, for the construction crews and whatall workin the job. Doin well what she was, steady income and like that. Out back a the house was the road longside the plant, one end a the island to the other, and out front was the ocean. Big ol beach far as you can see and the ocean flat as glass clear out to the sky. Got to where, Betheny out the bed to work, take me a chair from the kitchen onto the deck, deck wrap all round the house what it was, take me my pot a coffee, set out there all day I want to. Go to work round four be ready for the boys come in off the day shift. Get back to the house round ten, eleven, eat dinner with Beth and head to the bed. It was alright." "And there was guitar playing in the bar?" "One particular night get home, we chillin, take us a little red wine gettin all snuggly, head to the bed and I forget the chair was outside still on the deck under the stars. Mornin get up, get my coffee, step out in the sunshine, ain't a damn chair in sight." Look on over, she driftin on me just a little. Tap my fork side the dish. "You keepin up honey?" Smile at me, eyes a little droopy. "I mean gone. Beach that time a the mornin ain't but empty clear to Louisiana, all the way back yonder to Corpus, but I swear ain't see a thing. And I'm lookin. I mean I'm beady-eyed out there walkin that rail over top the sand. Walk all round the house til I'm facin the road out back and the line a traffic creepin up into the plant gate, walk all the way further round back to the ocean and not a damn chair in sight. Beth goin be pissed what I'm sayin. Head back in the house take another chair, ain't but inside the kitchen a minute, step back out, damn if it ain't out there now, way out there almost to the waves. And got somebody settin on it! Huh? Which, how come I ain't see it before?" Natalie shakin her head, mumble through a mouthful a pie, got cherry juice on down her chin. "What did you do?" "Well what do you think I did?" Come out a bit snippy. Shook her head again.


"Went straight back in the house took my huntin rifle out the closet, drop that motherfucker where he sat, back a his head, topple his skanky ass in the water, in the tide comin in." Wait on that to register, take a minute fore she clear on what she just heard. "Texas honey. Step on my toes you goin pay a price, what I'm sayin. Huh?" Mouth fall open slow, pie all in there back a her pretty lips, make me want to reach out and ease that sweet chin back up into place, wipe the juice with a fingertip. Smile. "You with me now honey? Y'all payin attention now?" Blink some. "What I did, walk on down there, ask him, hands on my hips, what in the name a the sweet Lord Jesus he plannin on doin with my wife's kitchen furniture. Old black gentleman what he was. Bald as a cue ball, settin yonder under the sun, waves comin in toward his feet, nice shiny shoes, got him a big fat ol cigarette hangin off on his lip, got him a guitar leanin up against." Natalie chewin again. She wide awake now. "And wearin a suit." Clear her throat, reach for her cup a coffee. "You were married to Betheny?" "Look up at me, tell me, Sorry ma'am, cigarette wagglin off on his lip. Tell me was walkin out along the beach headin, can't recall where all he said he was headed, might a been California, and got tired. Bandy ol legs give out on him, tell me. Need to set a spell and saw the chair on the deck, didn't think any harm goin come from it. Stand up straight as he able and tell me he sorry again, goin be on his way. Tell him sit his skinny ass back down. Walk back up to the house grab another chair, couple mugs and the pot, head on back set alongside a him, pour him a cup a coffee." "That's so cool!" "Set and watch the ocean a spell, big ships comin and goin, in and out the ship channel, pelicans sailin over top the waves. Ain't talk much, ain't much to say. And then he lift his guitar and start to strummin little bit and playin for me. What he considered reparations, tell me. Every day after that walk down the beach to meet him, he laugh out loud, tell me, Hey gal! Come on in my kitchen! And we sit and drink coffee and he play for me and show me where to put my fingers, how to holler out


the words a the songs. Two a us, singin beat the band to the ocean and the sky and the big ol floppy birds cruisin." "Geez." "Wasn't no Jesus sweetheart. Tell me once, only once, what was his name and damn if I can remember all what he said it was. Robert somethin. Bald as a cue ball, like I said. Big ol cigarette hangin. All I remember. How I first pick up to playin the blues a little bit." "That's incredible." "And then one mornin get out the bed he gone. Beach empty. Chair on the deck where all it belonged and, first time in weeks, got clouds out yonder far side a the sky. Way out there and built up high, nasty lookin what they was, and rollin. Couple days later Harvey come to visit, work stop on the construction site and Beth decided was time for her to go home." "Harvey?" "Hurricane Harvey honey. And I came with her." "Ok, up here. Betheny is Canadian?" "Yes ma'am. Found us a biddy house by the river down yonder to Calgary, and then she went up north to work, met a gal from out east and took off runnin." Wave my hand, pointin at the window and the snow, show how fast she ran. "Oh. I'm sorry." "That's alright honey. Like I said, ain't hurt none for playin the blues now does it?" "That's an amazing story!" Set quiet a spell, finish the pie and the coffee, lookin out the window at the snow comin down like we gone all shy. Street about empty now. Look across at me finally. "It took time for you to get used to the winters up here?" "Little bit, I guess, specially I was left on my own in a foreign country, make my own way." Look across at her, shrug. "But it's alright. It's life. And like Jimi say, I still got my guitar!"


Smile at me then. Tell you she got the sweetest smile since Betheny Tomalin walk into Captain Ken's Krabshack down yonder to Freeport, I ain't lyin. "You goin come see me tomorrow night?" Glance at me quick and then turn her head back to the window, at our reflections in the glass and the snow fallin, fillin the street. Cross the way the police cruiser pull out slow, exhaust all rollin and tumblin in the ice crystal streetlight. Turn my voice down low, ain't much more'n a whisper. "Husband workin nights again tomorrow night?" She lookin out the window but I can tell she lookin at me. Nod her head just a little bit. Just enough.

Mark Cassidy Mark Cassidy was born in the UK and lives, presently, in Texas.


Fall Remembers

Deborah Levine-Donnerstein


Fall Remembers Just as you forgot fall remembered to transform our aging leaves into browns, brightened colors, and burnish golds, empty leaf-filled trees with a cool swift wind, and then, like a subtle wave, still their bare branches. You passed on that same day, when pines and other conifers retained their shaded yellows, greens, blues, and remained with your ending mix of quieting breath. Slight sounds flow through me anew, more of a dimmed howl— in dense dark moments, and at the near start of our next season, they overlap with frosted hues of goodbye. Deborah Levine-Donnerstein Deborah Levine-Donnerstein’s past work has appeared in Santa Barbara Anthology (Community of Voices), Curiouser and Curiouser, The Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, and other publications. Retired from the faculties of the University of California and University of Arizona, she began writing more poetry and fiction in Asheville, North Carolina.


At the Funeral Those were his best years, someone tells me, the years with you. While your uncle from Chicago looks through our wedding album, as he makes his way through ham sandwiches and seltzer in a paper cup. Another man, a college friend of your brother’s, whose name I can’t hear in the din, tells me about the night, so funny, when your brother locked you in his dorm room, screaming from a bad trip on mushrooms. As he talks, I calculate you were 15, maybe 16. Or the time, he says, when you got so wasted on vodka and grape juice, you spent the next day puking. As my stomach turns from too many coffees and he was so funny’s and that fifth-time hearing from another Row Camp friend from upstate New York, how we called him Bam-Bam, how he wore nothing but a tie-died diaper to a party, holding a stick, blonde curls dangling, hence the knick-name. And the kindnesses: the cousin who pulls me aside to say, It wasn’t your fault, you know that, right? And the father-in-law in AA who told you: you’re playing with fire. How he talked through your boyish grin, your I got this head nod. When I was little, sitting in Catholic mass, we heard the story of Lazarus, how Jesus brought him forth, all body stench and rags, from three days’ dead. No one could believe it—maybe not even Jesus. This miracle, emerging out from the void. As a kid, I believed this dead man coming forth, the power of love to pull each other out from grave, from dead chill and fire. Your mother told me the story: how she cried and cried, lying on the living room floor, after putting you all to bed—three boys aged three to six—after she heard, late one late night, calling your father’s apartment, his female student’s voice answering the phone. As the pictures rolled, I caught a photo of our wedding day, we’re hand in hand, your red bow tie beaming, my veil waving. Those were the days when I believed


I could call you forth, days when I thought you’d hear my voice, hear my, please, love, and follow me out. Late for work and panicked, I once pressed a wine bottle in your arms, told you, Here, cuddle up with this. Is this what you want? I didn’t mean it as a curse, yet now as the picture fades, I notice how we’re waving out to friends, both of us younger, smiling, and I’m turning away––too soon––while you slip away out of frame. Marita O’Neill Marita O'Neill lives in Portland, Maine, where she teaches high school English. She received her MFA in poetry from Vermont College of the Arts and has one published chapbook, Evidence of Light. Other publications include the Portland Press Herald's Deep Water Poetry Series, the Cafe Review, and the Union of Maine Visual Arts Magazine.


Ode to a Beaver and Her Dam On the outside, it’s just shy of symmetrical. Not much to look at. Fury of knitting needles jut askew from its top and sides in a clumsy state of clutch and hook stick and river muck. It hovers between. world of palm press and float world of wood and willow rod like a vision erected by some fanatic architect, mad to prove impossible containment what can be born from pulp, gnaw, and splinter what can be held, gathered, left at bay Inside is a place of dryness, enclosure suspended, poised against a holding together: all things terrestrial and corporal all things unspoken and dream Who would crave space born from toil and obsession? Who but an artist would make a home of teeter and collapse? Marita O'Neill


Passover A super moon looms magenta, and hovers like a bowling ball at the edge of our city street. Nothing’s normal anymore. My nephew in Brooklyn calls to say 750 people die daily. As we stare across virtual time, his pregnant wife bakes brownies; her figure a silhouette ghostly in the window behind him. Where did the Jews hide while barley fields, untended, hung heavy with first fruits, while mothers soaked hands in lambs’ blood, marked their doors, while God smote and smote? Today, we count the dead, wash, whisper, pass over, pass over. Marita O'Neill


Night Mirror Tonight 10,000 pale faces, reflections like dominoes or playing cards, doors each day opening on other doors abandoned in old mirrors in houses, barber shops, stores, bad diners, in car windows, ticket takers’ booths, shiny bumpers’ chrome all watch from the room’s darkened glass the sleeper dreaming now of echelons, wondering if a face amid so many was ever his or if from clearing waters a final likeness rises to the surface to match his face like skin, like the truth. Nels Hanson Nels Hanson grew up on a small raisin and tree fruit farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California, earned degrees from U.C. Santa Cruz and the U of Montana, and has worked as a farmer, teacher and contract writer/editor. His many publications of fiction and poetry have received numerous awards and prizes.


Fox in the Snow Blood red in the snow, a tiny spray of drops an arc of unjust accusations frozen in time. This place is more oil than air, echoes rusted metal teeth snapping taut on a hand full of claw. This spot, here, where her foot landed, where the trap is sprung. She is white against the snow, like soft spikes of thin mercury, liquid, tufts of white fur glowing bright against the brutal iron clasp her nose quivers black and tiny, sees me, knows who I am. Holly Day Holly Day teaches writing at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review. Her newest poetry collections are Into the Cracks, Cross Referencing a Book of Summer, The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body, and Book of Beasts.


Therapy Her fingers were strong, pressing against the lower part of his ankle. Those fingers, in their vinyl gloves, felt professional, confident. They moved across his leg, just above the ankle, finding a sore spot. “Ouch,” he said. “Sorry. That’s part of the injured muscle. It’ll get better.” The pain subsided. “You need to do those exercises I showed you Tuesday, every day. Toe-heel raise, then back and forth like a windshield wiper on a towel.” “Okay,” he said. “I’ll show you a few more exercises later.” “Not too many, I hope.” He smiled. She laughed. “It’s just your foot,” she said. “You should see what we give the guys with back problems.” He looked up at her. “Did you ride your bike today?” “Too cold. I took the Metro.” Both her thumbs pressed into the top of his foot. “Your foot is swollen. I want to push some of that fluid up—toward the calf.” This part felt good. Her thumbs kneaded his foot, forcing some of the trapped fluid upward. On the third visit, as he started the foot exercises, she said, “I like your socks.” His socks showed an assortment of multicolored stars. “I try to bring a little color to men’s clothing,” he said. “Foot’s still swollen,” she said and went to work. “I rode in on my bike today,” she said. “But no traffic circles. Never get into a circle on your bike.” “I won’t,” he said. “Too much traffic in the city.” In fact, he’d given up bike riding altogether. He was eighty-six. Too easy for something to go wrong. He’d fallen once, mashing his cheek and calf into the gravel pathway. Nothing but harmless scrapes, he thought, but his paper-like skin took more than two months to heal. They fell silent for a few moments. He concentrated on the rhythm of her fingers on his foot, pushing, sliding back, pushing again. Mmm. Mmm.


While she massaged his foot—her fingers in pale blue gloves, sliding with a neutral-smelling lubricant—he mused. When he’d thought about her in the first session, he assumed she was twenty or thirty years younger than him, but today he realized, with a bit of a jolt, that the difference was more like fifty years. Even sixty. She was young, probably in her twenties, strong, supple, long, dark hair, moving gracefully but not in a way that anyone would especially notice. She was regular, just a fine person, a good person to be around. Her name was Tia. “The foot feels okay when I’m driving,” he said. “With no weight on it, there’s no pain.” He paused. “I’m very careful with bikes. Give them plenty of room.” Her thumbs and fingers moved on, a little farther up the vertical muscle that seemed to end below the knee. Her hands, sliding along his skin, felt satisfying. The damage from his injury would surely improve. “The commute was hell today,” he said. “Construction on Larch Street.” He stopped. His mind wandered. “Are you going to Florida this month?” she said. “Next month. . . late March.” “Stand next to the table now,” she said. “One hand on the table. Balance on one leg. Thirty seconds on each.” She stood close in case he lost his balance. She touched him twice, on his shoulder and arm, to keep him straight. Her breasts pushed gently against the fabric of her shirt. Normal-sized, appropriate. And of course she didn’t emphasize them. She was close to him, though, and her hands were warm, even through his shirt. “Thirty seconds on each foot,” she said. It was easier on his right foot and he didn’t need any help on that side. “I planted a tree last weekend,” she said. “Oh? Where?” “At that park, off Route 42.” “I know that one. What kind of tree?” “I don’t know. It’s for the climate.” “Good for you.”


She wore pants, tapered and tight in the current style, but not clingy, nothing suggestive. Still, especially when she demonstrated new exercise positions for him, the tights folded in straight lines around her crotch, outlining what lay just underneath. He didn’t think about that, because she was a professional and their relationship was professional, friendly but not erotic. Still, he was growing fond of her. They communicated easily and well. He found that he was looking forward, sometimes eagerly, to these sessions, usually two each week. “How’s the twentyfourth?” he asked her as they ended session five. “Twenty-fourth at eleven-thirty? Does that work for you?” she said. “Yes,” he said. “I’ll be here a little early.” The people at the place where she worked—Orthopedics & Therapy—called and cancelled that appointment. Family emergency, they said. He was disappointed about missing the session and even more about the fact that a company staff person had notified him; Tia had not contacted him personally, and he knew she had his e-mail. He allowed himself to hope that her family emergency—if there was one—was not serious. And he made another appointment for the following week. He arrived early for it. He wanted to be sure he got the full hour. When he limped into the exercise room with his cane, he scanned the moving bodies but couldn’t see her. An assistant, a young man in tapered jeans and a T-shirt, directed him to one of the padded tables. He lay back. Surely she will be here. She was. “Sorry,” she said. “A problem with one of the machines.” She brought a pillow for his head and then another. He propped his head up so he could watch her while she massaged his foot. “There’s a parade or a protest today, I think,” she said. “I saw some banners,” he said. “It’s about climate change.” “The swelling is better today,” she said. “I can see the architecture of your foot.” That seemed good, satisfying. His foot was responding to her ministrations. He didn’t want the session to end. Each time the ice pack was removed from his ankle at the end of a session, she touched him briefly on the arm or shoulder and


said, “See you Thursday,” or “next week.” On one occasion—visit number eight—her left breast had briefly pressed against his upper arm as she helped him balance. It was unintentional, he was sure, but the soft pressure was thrilling, if only for a moment. He realized that his feelings for her were unusual, but they seemed good, positive in every sense he could imagine. She mattered to him and, he felt sure, he mattered to her. Wasn’t that what we want in life—to matter to other people? He called her Tia, she called him Mr. Burgess. He’d thought of asking her to call him Gene, but decided not to say anything about that. A little bit of distance seemed appropriate. At the end of session nine, she handed him a length of green exercise elastic. “Use this at home,” she said. “The way I showed you.” “Okay,” he said. “I’ll do it.” He held the elastic in his right hand, his forearm horizontal. She took one step closer to him and put her hand on his arm, curling her fingers around it as she told him about the green band. The touch was electric. It was intentional! It warmed his arm and sent sensations toward his elbow. He felt the beginnings of an erection. He realized that her gesture wasn’t meant to be intimate. Some women just naturally touched other people. It was their way of showing interest, a tiny bond. He remembered a girl in high school who had been like that. She was older, a senior in his sophomore year. Her name was Marlene. Once she had touched his arm like that, using her whole hand, and he felt it must be a signal. Her breasts were pointy and delicious-looking. Maybe she’d let him touch them—first base—maybe even without a bra. “Bare tit” was the height of sexual experience in those days, the ultimate conquest. But he saw later that Marlene touched nearly everyone’s arm that way, at least people she liked. Well, good enough, he thought. She must like me. Tia’s hand was now demonstrating a rowing motion exercise. He nodded as he watched. But the feeling of her gesture lingered. It was a pleasure that seemed to move around his body, a moment he’d remember.


“Will you spend Thanksgiving with your family?” he said. “Some. We go to my aunt and uncle’s in Charleston. West Virginia.” “In the mountains?” “Yes. It’s beautiful there.” “Do your parents go too?” “No.” She seemed reluctant to go on, but he felt he knew her well enough now to push things a little. He said, “Why not?” “It’s a long story,” she said. “I’ll tell you another time.” She had stopped working on his ankle now, and there was time left in the session. He said, “You’re wearing a different shirt today.” “It’s new,” she said. “I like it. I like the dark orange and the way the color shapes your side.” “Thanks,” she said. “Now, sit there.” She poured a bunch of marbles onto a towel. “See how many you can pick up with your toes in three minutes. Put them in the bowl.” She spread the marbles on the towel. “By the way,” she said, “those striped socks are nice, but I like the ones with stars even better.” “I can get more of those,” he said. “Different colors.” He went to work with his toes. It was hard. The marbles scattered and didn’t fit between his toes. He managed to get six into the bowl. “That’s not very many,” he said. Had he let her down? “That’s not bad,” she said. “You’ll be able to pick up more next time.” As he was leaving, she said, “Feel free to come early on Thursday. I enjoy our conversations.” “I will,” he said. “I do too. Very much.” It did him good to be near her. He wasn’t sure why. On the way to the elevator, he encountered a woman pushing a stroller with an infant. The girl—he thought it was a girl—looked up and waved both her arms. He couldn’t squat down, but he bent over to say hello. The girl smiled and patted his nose. “Beautiful child,” he said, standing up, relieving his lower back. “Thanks,” the woman said. “She’s a handful.”


The infant’s touch delighted him. New life! The child even smelled good. He bent slightly backward. He felt his eighty-six years today. He understood that he was in hailing distance of the end of his life, and youth—all youth—seemed precious. “I’m glad you let me say hello,” he said, grateful that the mother had revealed the child’s sex. “What’s her name?” “Antonia.” “Goodbye, Antonia,” he said as mother and child moved down the corridor. He had contemplated the shortening years to the end of his life more often in recent months. His two good suits would outlast him, and so would his shoes. He didn’t like to dwell on that. Someone would have to dispose of them. He did not expect to outlive Helen, his wife. Death, he thought, was knocking at the door. He smiled. Jon Voight’s character in Conrack had put it so nicely to his young students: “You hear those notes in Beethoven’s symphony? Ba-Ba-Ba BOOM! That’s Mr. Death knocking at the door!” His own sense of mortality was arriving more quietly. Creeping on little cat feet, perhaps. He was grateful and pleased that he could remember these things. He held his hands in front of him, palms out. His hands had been graceful; long, tapered fingers, patrician hands. Now the fingers were bent, the skin cross-hatched with wavy lines (those new lines were graceful!) and purplish splotches. Those hands could no longer open a pickle jar, but he had no trouble with the metal top of a bottle of Trois Anges pinot grigio, of which he was very fond. On Thursday, he had a ten o’clock appointment for a chest X-ray at Rafon Radiology. He was having serious problems with a wheezing cough caused by whatever treacherous thing was growing inside him. But the day had run late, so he rescheduled the X-ray for the following week. No hurry, and he wanted to be sure he would arrive at the rehab room before eleven. As he walked along the sidewalk from the downtown park where he went on sunny days, he realized that these sessions were becoming the focus of his day. Was that wrong? Of course not! Did she—Tia—sense the feeling between them? He was sure she did. He lay back on the familiar pillows. “It feels better today,” he said. “I walked


three blocks without the brace.” “Good,” she said. “Walk as long as it feels comfortable.” He propped his head up so he could watch her. Her massaging had moved to focus on the inside of his still-swollen ankle and along the calf muscle that controlled it. Some of the pressure was painful, and once he said, “Whoa.” “Sorry,” she said. “Let me know when it hurts.” She looked up at him and smiled. “It shouldn’t be painful.” “It’s in a good cause,” he said. “Most of the time it feels good.” “Good.” She scooped some lubricant on to her vinyl-covered hands and went back to work. “You were going to tell me why you don’t join your parents for Thanksgiving,” he said. She sighed, and her massaging stopped for a moment. She looked up at him again. “My parents are a mess,” she said. “He drinks, she whines. They’re bitter. They. . . ” “Yes?” “They hate each other. I don’t see much of them.” “I’m sorry.” “It’s okay. I have my own life.” “Do you think you’ll get married one day?” She looked directly at him. “Look, this is getting personal. It’s supposed to be therapy for your ankle. But. . . you’ve been very nice.” “I try,” he said. Then, “You can trust me.” “Yes,” she said. “I know.” She stopped and ran her hand along the edge of the padded table, cupping the smooth metal edge in her hand. “I’ve already been married once,” she said. “It didn’t work out. He split.” She glanced around at the other tables. Three were occupied with clients spreading their knees against the pressure of an elastic band or making circles with their arms. She lowered her voice. “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.” “Please,” he said.


“I got pregnant. I. . . ended it.” She leaned against the table where he sat. “We’re supposed to be. . . ” “I know,” he said. “But I’m interested in your life.” “What about you?” she said. “Do you and your wife get along?” “We do,” he said. “We’ve been married almost sixty years.” He paused and looked at her. “There have been rough times. I wandered once. Only once. But my life with her is fine. My life with her is much better than my life would be without her.” He sighed. Yes, he thought. Life with Helen is much better than life alone. “The doctors say she has only two or three years to live.” “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said. “She’s eighty-five,” he said. “She says she’s had a good life. I believe she has.” On his last visit he felt, almost painfully, how much these sessions had meant to him—how Tia and her thumbs and fingers and the way she smiled with her eyes, had made his life richer, his heart fuller. He noticed her now and the way her hips creased when she walked away from him, and the way the corners of her mouth pulled back when she made a point. He did not want this part of his life to end, but the system dictated twelve sessions and no more. Could he see her after the sessions were over? No. There were probably rules about that for therapists. No fraternizing with the clients. No dating the patient. Dating! What an idea! He smiled more broadly than usual. Still, a cup of coffee at the cafeteria downstairs or a glass of wine at the corner restaurant. No one could object to that. But no. He had been prescribed twelve sessions. That was the rule. He would have to leave all this. These meetings had transformed the months of October and November for him, the meetings, the sound of her voice, her hand curled around his arm, they would be like the early morning sunlight on the sycamore trees that flanked the river behind his house, moments of great pleasure, of glory even. In fact, he thought, when I see that light in the early morning and wonder at its beauty, I will think of our sessions here and perhaps that will be enough. The sycamores would remain, but the sessions with Tia would be gone. He would hold the memories. At the door, he tried to be inconspicuous, but he held out his forearms for a


hug. She pulled him toward her quickly, squeezed tight against him, an embrace, a pulling, a touching that told him immediately that she held him special. They moved apart. “Thank you so much for all your help,” he said. “My foot’s much better now.” “I know,” she said and smiled. “I’m intimately acquainted with your foot!” They both laughed, and then he turned and walked, only slightly limping, to the elevator. As he stepped onto the sidewalk, he heard metal clacking. His cane. There it was. He tried to reach it, kneeled down. Now he couldn’t move. He felt arms pulling him up. He struggled to rise, but his muscles weren’t working. He crumpled onto the sidewalk, heard voices, sounds. “. . . ambulance. . . 911. . . ” He looked up, saw Tia’s face pushing close. “Gene,” she said. “Mr. Burgess! Are you all right?” Not exactly! he thought. He tried to smile for her, but his muscles weren’t working. He couldn’t tell whether the smile reached his lips or died on the way. “Ambulance is coming,” someone said. It’s my time, he thought. My time has come. Ba-Ba-Ba-BOOM. They lifted him onto a gurney and rolled it into the ambulance. “I’m going with him,” Tia said to the aides. “I’m his friend. . . his relation.” They won’t fall for that, he thought. These were his last thoughts, as Tia scrambled in. Ba-Ba-Ba-BOOM. Within two blocks, with the siren wailing, he was gone. Phil Harvey Phil Harvey has been published in numerous magazines, including Antietam Review, Phantasmagoria, and others. Harvey is the founder and chairman of DKT International, a nonprofit family planning and AIDS prevention organization, and president of the company Adam & Eve.


Lookout #2 (oil)

Marietta Modl


Coulrophobia Americans are more afraid of clowns than terrorism, economic collapse, or dying… -- Vox poll October 2016

You reach out your hand take the flower you don’t know if it will explode in a bouquet of color a storm of flowers or a surge of water pushing you back against the man in the clown suit. His bulbous nose smells your terror as he shuffles forward in mammoth shoes, the tiny car he drives spins in circles. Now you see him everywhere: he is Pogo, Patches, Pennywise, he is the anchorman on the nightly news, the rebel at the rally, the commissioner on City Council, the governor at the podium, the cop at your car window, your husband at the kitchen sink, your son driving home for the weekend. The man in the clown suit stares back at you from the mirror astonished you are not laughing.


Coulrophobia II You reach out your hand take the bag of skittles you don’t know if it will explode in bits of color or a surge of bullets pushing you back against the man or the surge of water pushing the children back against Irene’s Beauty Shop Birmingham 1963. Their dogs, unleashed smell the hatred. Long sticks wave in the air above your head, the white patrol car blocks your exit. Now you see him everywhere He is Uncle Tom, Andrew Jackson, George Wallace, George Zimmerman Daniel Pantaleo Darren Wilson Derek Chauvin They stare at you from the TV screen. You are astonished. Alida Woods Alida Woods lives in Asheville, NC. Her work has appeared in a number of journals including The Amsterdam Quarterly, Front Porch, The Great Smokies Review, and others. A chapbook, Disturbing Borders, was published in 2018.


Waking I wake beside you bed clothes rustle like the papery sound of retreating

shore birds.

Your breath

steady from slow dreams gives pace

to my rising. Outside

waves pummel From greyness

a low tide line.

emerges

a lone runner

like a barefooted prophet prostrates himself

finally on the sand.

Spectral steam from my tea lifts

into morning fog drifts

as the smell of sleep

holds you.


When you wake soon enough day pauses and turns on the updraft

a hundred wings

oaring their way

across the horizon.

You turn and I am caught short by the density of love your face creased like wet sand the sea of your eyes

blue.

Alida Woods


Selena “Selena’s moon rays fall upon sleeping mortals, and her kisses fell upon her love, Endymion.” Encyclopedia Mythica

We are ghost-daughters gathering sea roses and heather for the funeral pyre. We have come from her bedside, left her statuary, bed-clothes tucked under her chin, face up, dead. Fog spills over pale dunes slumped over the beach. We step into the night onto wet sand. The sky opens up to make a place for her among the stars. Her reflection, orange and unafraid, rides Endymion waves lapping sea oats, receding at her will. Has she found us here in the hush where water sips at stones deaf to our grief? Tonight the moon takes back the waters, an old story writing itself. Where will it end? She reminds us we are the keepers of each others’ secrets and hers -– sadness too great to hold, jealousy thinned by time. We stack beach stones, the cairn casts a shadow in her light -– sister, brother, father stone by stone. Clouds feather the horizon. I’ve lost count of who is living and who is dead, who was born and who returns to ignite the fire. Alida Woods


Through the Looking Glass

Jean L Wilder Smith


Sunny in India There are so many people in India that we can afford to have three guides: Sunny, our guide; Rohan, his assistant; and the bus driver. Driving in India requires its own dedicated resource. Like some Bollywood dance, it’s all color and motion: cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, bicycles, tuk tuks, carts, pedestrians and, naturally, the sacrosanct cows. Our Sikh driver is unflappable, his eyebrows and turban fixed. Roadblocked in Old Delhi by a too short overpass and sandwiched in a glacial stream of cars, our driver somehow maneuvered the vehicle to freedom, inch by inch, gingerly avoiding the cows. Even Sunny congratulated him afterwards, in words we do not understand. Conspicuous signs hang on the backs of trucks, ordering “Blow horn!” Our driver obliges, honking to say, “Excuse me, just letting you know. I’m behind you.” Remarkably, there’s little hostility; it’s pointless to yell and scream over the Bollywood soundtrack playing in everyone’s head. Rohan also does not speak English, except for words like “sir” and “ma’am,” which sounds more like “mom” in his adopted British accent. His job, when we climb onto the bus, is to offer a squirt of antibacterial gel and a cold drink. We are in India, the six of us, my husband, his sister, his brother, and their respective spouses. It is a chance for the siblings to return to their youth, make new happier memories in the wake of their mother’s and eldest brother’s deaths. In Agra Rohan accidentally drops a water bottle, the plastic tube rolling on the bus floor towards the Taj Mahal and Sunny’s feet. Ever helpful, Nellie in our group bends down to retrieve it only to hear Sunny say, “Leave it.” Faster than a family of frogs, we all jump to conclusions. Sunny looks ahead, ignoring the water, and begins his story about the labor of love that produced the Taj Mahal. In that moment, Sunny reminds me of my mother-in-law. She had grown up in Shanghai as the daughter of the family that owned the salt mines, one of the key ingredients of soy sauce. Like the royal family, she had a nanny for each of her four children. Of course, once she moved to California, her children raised themselves. She


was too busy working, cooking, and cleaning. Her downgraded status didn’t prevent her from charging to the front of any line, though, like she was destined to be first, oblivious to the other waiting customers. Perhaps it is not noteworthy, but Sunny’s skin is much lighter than the other two guides. His extended family lives together, separate but apart, the older brother and family in one apartment, Sunny’s upstairs in the other. As tradition dictates, his mother lives with his brother. Sunny’s sister lives in Las Vegas, his niece studying to be a dentist at UNLV. Every few years Sunny makes the long journey from Delhi to Vegas, where he “doesn’t have to pay for a thing.” He has seen the Blue Man Group and, his favorite, Celine Dion. Have you ever thought about moving to America, Nellie (who else) asks. She mentions all the Indian PhD students who have stayed, jobs at Apple or Google, children enrolled in the Palo Alto school district, green cards in hand. “My duty is here, with my mother,” Sunny says. “It’s different with my sister. She goes with her husband.” Later at dinner Sunny says, Rohan will lose face if I pick up the bottle. “It is his job. If I do his job, then it means he is inadequate.” In the U.S., we think we can do everybody’s job better than they can – politicians, doctors, daughters-in-law. Yet, I wonder, is it the remnants of the Indian caste system that keep Rohan and Sunny swimming in different pool lanes? If Sunny stoops to pick up the bottle, then maybe next month Rohan will decide to improve his English and say, “I trust you slept well last night, madam.” Is it strictly about the dignity of doing a menial job well? Or does job security and protecting one’s way of life enter into the prickly fold? With a population of 1.4 billion, resources and indoor toilets are scarce. I ponder this while sitting in the luxurious Oberoi Amarvilas dining room. Every morning Sunny greets us with palms clasped together, steepled fingers skyward, “Namaste.” With his V-neck sweater vest, fanny pack, and Panna National Park hat, he could easily be a suburban dad on some Silicon Valley soccer field. Or just as easily, dressed in uniform, Lord Mountbatten’s house manager, sipping his Earl Grey tea just like the British. Even his name, originally Sunil, has been westernized.


The middle of three, Sunny’s birth order has given him considerable skills. While the honking is not aggressive, the souvenir vendors are. Sunny calls them “the hawkers,” birds of prey waving their China made trinkets at every opportunity. Once we’re seated comfortably, already serviced by Rohan, he invites the hawkers, one by one, onto the bus landing. “Any takers? 10 rupees,” he says, showing bangles, Tshirts, replicas of Ganesha. Where otherwise we would be running for cover, eyes averted, here cocooned under Sunny’s safety, we buy! It’s small change – and we cannot return home empty handed. We spend two days, one day too many, at a camel festival. Only the white horses, awaiting auction, are pristine, their whiteness made even more dramatic by the surrounding dirty brown. Gypsy families, camels, stray dogs, and horses all drink from the community trough. Sometimes the barefooted, half naked Gypsy children jump in to cool off, or maybe urinate. As young as 4 or 5, they grab onto pant legs, shirt sleeves, sometimes bare arms, their immature fingers begging for money as the mother looks on, infant to her breast. Even Sunny seems discombobulated, wishing for his hawkers. On the drive westward towards Rajasthan and Jaipur, Sunny tells us about Partition, a bureaucratic, neutral sounding term, Britain’s last gift to the subcontinent. The body of India was carved, left arm to Pakistan, right arm to Bangladesh, the liver of Punjab cleaved in two, the resultant bleeding too mighty for any tourniquet. Sunny’s grandparents fled current day Muslim majority Pakistan for Hindu Delhi. Expectant belly swollen, it was already so difficult for his grandmother to travel. She tried to focus on her unborn child, shielding its eyes from the horror of decapitated heads, randomly strewn limbs, the physical manifestation of the motherland’s dissection. When the pain awakened her one night, she knew the baby had seen enough and was trying to escape. It’s starting, she told her husband. Alone and without water or medical help, the two of them did the best they could. After nineteen long hours, Sunny’s mother was born, but by then his grandmother, like India herself, was bleeding to death. It’s estimated that as many as two million people died during Partition.


“So you see,” he says, looking at Nellie, “I cannot leave my mother. She has already been abandoned once.” Sunny then puts on a popular Bollywood comedy, The Three Idiots. Finally we arrive at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, once home to the Maharaja. His grandson’s wedding will take place soon. Anticipation abuzz, the Palace will host the nighttime festivities for the A list guests, with live streaming to the other dinner venues. The Gypsy children are a fading memory. As if reading my mind, Sunny says, “It’s a country of monumental contrasts,” something he has said all along. Teresa Yang Teresa Yang is a dentist living in Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in several journals, including HerStry and The Writing Disorder, as well as in dental publications. She is currently working on a dental memoir.


the middle east is not a metaphor for violence says my Lebanese friend who saw her neighbor, blood-stained and gutted by the explosion’s knuckle her insides out and her eyes looking into ours like she’s just discovered a bruise she doesn’t remember getting. We reach for her, for our people, and our fingers hit a pixelated screen, bas it doesn’t feel real, the losses my people in Beirut in Syria in Palestine on the other side of the earth’s cheek, where there are no more homes to rupture

to sword

to displace

any longer the pain migrates to the arch of my spine, in the same place where I’ve saved phantoms of late nights with my cousins, lips coated in sugar and aunties who hand me jewelry off their arms when I see them once every two years I must still be there, cushioned in the lungs of an arab sun, daughter of hayaa, from the people of hayaa, who from their open palms offered me hayaa all this hayaa, where you only see dead. bas = “but” in Arabic slang hayaa = life / lively

Nardine Taleb Nardine Taleb is an Egyptian-American writer, speech therapist, and Prose Editor of the online literary journal Gordon Square Review. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Passengers Journal, Yes Poetry, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and others. She was a fall, 2020 Brooklyn Poets fellow.


my god Hidden under the pupil of the moon at night, I dance in my room half-naked, my body skin of silk and hips like valleys molded by an unseen god Nobody has called me beautiful but I learn young of body and desire and the boy who wants my tongue but not its punctuation my scarf an orange peel my self-love lingerie One day I’d like to write about beauty One day I want it to be enough Until then we smile my concealed deity and I the boy’s eyes rolling backwards a cloud

and not its hunger that I am soul

and not a platter

at the thought of my scarf slipping like the white of a good dream. Nardine Taleb


Dear Boy draft 5 I don’t have trouble with commitment - I just don’t know when I’ll find love again, so here i am: caught between two lands not country enough to be home, & neither could ever love me back -

George Abraham

Dear country of a Boy color of sugar, Do you remember the days I translated for you Arabic, opening in front of you like a generous sky? It is hard coming from an immigrant family that teaches you how to serve and give, when the world is only taught to take. You watched me, blue flame in daylight. I untied bows with my tongue the Arabic in my mouth showering meteors. You asked me, what does ‫( سجود‬sujood) mean? It means prostration fatigue & submission unconditionally loved.

after you, it really just meant I want to be deeply

You made me forget the pulse in Mama’s laughter the dance in Baba’s accent forget the Arabic names for God all ninety-nine of them Could I add milk to myself


and become like you white clouds unquestioned and not color of sphinx ? I couldn’t so instead I write poetry. One day on campus you hugged me so genuinely. Your eyes two blue skies, your humor boyish. You drew a picture of me and slipped it in my jeans. We talked for hours about your parents, my brother, and our terrible tendency to laugh when we’re nervous. In those instances, away from people, your love did not feel like undressing repeatedly in cold air. I did not feel like the Arab girl who lived her life backwards. I did not feel like a thing of self-indulgence, desired but never kept. You were more than a metaphor and a white boy from some Taylor Swift song. We fit in a world only ours and that was enough. Nardine Taleb


Heirloom How objects contain more than what they seem: a Barlow knife. Blade jacked into handle. A mystery of you fingered in my pocket. For years I pounded incessantly at the fissure between us. Last night I opened the garage to a fluttering. A mockingbird beating at window glass it could not see. A neighbor once tied a silver shard in a shrub, showed me how mockingbirds hammer their reflections. Until they die or the mirror cracks. I still bang away at space and wonder who might answer. Wonder how we might be the same. Contained or concealed. That bird, lost in the dark cathedral of wrong place, bashing itself in hope enough pain ruptures the world to an open window again. How stunned I feel turning this knife over in my hands. Remember how you beat me? How I burned my wrists with cigarettes? That hurt too shallow for my sister-- she began to cut. Blood a better beacon. Scars still gleam on the body she wanted to fly from. Too much flesh to cup in my hands, too much bone to save. Unlike last night’s bird whose terror I scooped and enjoyed. A small heart beat the sudden cadence of wings, as though I had fathered this creature by rubbing my palms. As a child, locked in a different garage, I panicked. Smashed a pane with bare fist. Bled for rescue. From my hands, yesterday’s mockingbird flew outside, solid one moment, next a flight of ghost dissipated into night. So you left this knife, whose importance I cannot grasp,


no matter how tight my hold, as a bird never fathoms its own reflection. I know the blade whittled, your grip warmed its handle. Mockingbirds flit the yard but I cannot recognize mine. Michael Milligan Michael Milligan has worked as a construction laborer, migrant fruit and grape picker, homestead farmer, and graphic arts production manager. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College, co-founded Poetry Oasis Worcester and was privileged to be an editor with Diner. His reviews, fiction, and poems have appeared in Agni, Diner, The New Orleans Review, and others.


Dead to Me This afternoon from the apartment next door the old woman’s voice again through the walls. “Fine, go on lying there. You’re dead already. You’re dead. You’re dead to me.” Over and over, day after day. On an afternoon like this, when rain scours down like the last time we talked, both of us hatless, cold trickling then torrenting down our necks, soaking our collars, and shirts. On an afternoon like this you told me the secret you had kept a life time, my lifetime. What does it mean that I have always known, that for most of that life, my life, I have not cared enough to question, or to bother repeating? On an afternoon like this I touched your shoulder, my hand raw and wet, and faked sympathy─ my sympathy raw and wet. On an afternoon like this, rain raw as the gaping wound you imagined as all your own, I pretended until I believed I did not pretend. The earth’s core was already plugged into me like an anode, battery acid slick as rain dripping off the noses and chins of two men standing hatless in the deluge, one touching the other on the shoulder, a pretense of touch, a touch stripped away with the soaked clothes peeled off in the mud room so as not to drip on the newly waxed kitchen floor. Next door the black dog they keep chained outside barks through the downpour. “You’re dead. You’re so dead. You’re past dead.” Michael Milligan


silly putty you would think sitting stagnant for five years in a crowded desk drawer would crack and crumble the pink, double bubble textured putty and yet it resurfaces now surely confused as i am to see me grown up with the same child sized hands but a fresh worry and new years under my belt new years of turbulent, turmoiled triumph if staying inside for 4 months made me bold, then online school reversed it and i need something to stretch and pull the way i feel my mind stretched and pulled in a million and one directions sometimes i read the news and think: silly putty will outlive us Sydney Junkins Sydney Junkins is a writer from southeastern Pennsylvania whose work has appeared in Bridge Ink and Scarlet Leaf Review.


Ne’er-do-well The summer air has developed a drug problem this hulking mass of swirling grey carcinogens fell face first on the beach the beach was cordoned off and we were all told to go home he was in the hospital for weeks mumbling baseball scores after his stomach was pumped And so the rain came with her weird parties we were instructed to wear funny hats while she played ragtime on an out of tune piano but no one wants to hear that crap in September it was nice to see her gone this morning when the summer air returned to swing his body on the rooftops I was driving when I heard the gunshot it sounded like a lonely Christmas a few blocks later I saw blood stains on the leaves of the trees the summer air must’ve staggered through there leaves falling in his wake he left debts all over town and the cold wind stalking Benjamin Schmitt Benjamin Schmitt is the author of three books, most recently Soundtrack to a Fleeting Masculinity. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Antioch Review, The Good Men Project, Hobart, and elsewhere. A co-founder of Pacifica Writers’ Workshop, he has also written articles for The Seattle Times and At The Inkwell. He lives in Seattle with his wife and children.


Breakfast after church She needed a ride to mass one Sunday, so we obliged and were rewarded by her offer to buy us breakfast. On the way we passed the mall, and she recalled those acres were once a golf course her husband played. Over coffee and eggs, she remembered their honeymoon at a Catskill resort where he tried to teach her the sport. They made a foursome with some other honeymooners. She wore loafers while the others wore their spikes. On one fairway, she said she swung nine times at the ball without hitting it. Embarrassed, she didn't take another stroke. The next morning, her new spouse joined the other couple on the tennis court while she lolled at the lake—alone. At home, photos of grandchildren bracket his urn on the mantle, and she muses, I don't know why I ever stayed with him. Eric Chiles Eric Chiles is a former career journalist who teaches writing and journalism at a number of colleges in eastern Pennsylvania. He is the author of the chapbook Caught in Between, and his poetry has appeared in Allegro, Big Windows Review, Canary, and elsewhere.


a brief history we were little and we were dark and there were so many of us speaking our guttural dialects and unable to speak to each other we descended like goblins from the bowls of the ships that brought us here eyes tearing from the smoke and the smells we were stunned by the movement of the streets we were greeted by spit and smoke and a swift tongue & in it we were wop and guinea and grease ball we were given a lynching and then we were given a holiday we were given a key to a renaissance Italy so we were music we were makers we were lovers we were famous we were Giovanna to Jenny, Pietro to Pete, Francesco to Frankie we were Philomena to Phil, Giulio to Jules we were quiet when the man with the ships became a story in a history book he had ships he had rhymes we had parades we had a holiday from the grime and the news stories that we were radicals we were troublemakers we were little and we were dark Julia Lisella Julia Lisella is the author of two poetry collections, Always and Terrain, and the chapbook Love Song Hiroshima. Poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Ploughshares, Paterson Literary Review, Prairie Schooner and others.


At Home Depot 15 Years After Your Death When you said listen for me did you say angels? -- but I insist to remember it this way, to pin it, thumb tack fighting the crumbling plaster. You said you would BE and we wouldn’t have to miss you. You must have known I would believe you. So at the Home Depot gardening section today, such a late spring, I cannot find the tomatoes, and when I do I’m weirdly upset. I know you would not like them, spindly and diseased. I can hear you. Is that the way of my work these days conjuring you into existence when even the borders around houses and rocket ships are beginning to slip from our grasp and everyone is leaving the party before they’re asked to? Mortality, doors shutting behind me, the parent gone who brought me here who willed me, was surprised by my awful first cry, named me startled at my fingers wet and rounding over their knuckle. Julia Lisella


The Book of Repulsive Women Djuna’s ladies are cramped and unhappy-they stagger in the light of another day blooms drooping in jars and all hell at their fingertips Williams’ women rearrange their hair, wave to the cars passing by; widows in lingerie, or young housewives finished sweeping the floor shadow doors, half-dressed somebody muffed it someone wanted to joke. You bet, Gwendolyn. But when the jokes pile up what’s left for me to decide about the glory of my own body drowning not waving you would think my wild haired forbears would give me a little room to be bored, cramped, and still productive. Miles of women line up across the width of my shoulders these are not angels, not archangels these are my descendants, ordinary women my shoulders are sore, my neck, my back from what weighs and presses down there. you can’t you can’t you can’t you’ll see you’ll see you’ll see I prayed this morning God let me be unbeautiful and not deranged because of it.

Let me offer what I can from behind skin that no longer glistens let me forget to powder my nose or put on a hat in the wind I want to say no one told me this before but they have never stopped telling me the blood in my fingertips


pounding as I reach each arm out ahead of me. It’s going to be some other kind of day can I stand not knowing what kind? I walk away from the dusty shelves place each foot on the ground, eye the skyline, hit the pavement hard. The title of this poem is the title of Djuna Barnes’s 1915 chapbook, The Book of Repulsive Women. Other poems feeding this poem: William Carlos Williams, “The Young Housewife,” Gwendolyn Brooks, “A Sunset in the City,” Stevie Smith, “Not Waving But Drowning.”

Julia Lisella


Chicken Dance (acrylic)

Marietta Modl


The Wake-Up Call You never know exactly when it comes, all unannounced, tiptoeing in the dark, not prey to any secondary whims, explosion waiting for the fatal spark... You never see the tell-tale signs, the light behind the curtained window, or the bird almost as if captured in mid-flight, hinting intimations of discord... You never hear the true but distant warning, uttered in a monotone, or shouted out like roosters crowing of a golden morning, message in a code you cannot uncreate... You never feel the telling shiver that oh so silently communicates, that rips from living's book its cryptic cover, erasing all those once important dates... You never know or see or hear or feel the final message pulsing everywhere you are...awake or deep in dream. Yet, still you carry on, awaiting final ice or fire.... Dan Pettee Dan Pettee, a native New Englander, operates a freelance writing business in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He's had poems published in Chicago Review, Texas Review, The Old Red Kimono, and others.


untitled They no longer wear gloves —even in winter these headstones point as if each finger naked, helpless, once was aimed at the darkness all afternoon falling from the sky, making a circle—these dead are good at it have learned to track each star the way even in the open a chandelier is needed here, could find the corners —it’s the circling you come here by making the final turn as a squadron with its wing lights still in formation —these stones are lit by that bombardment you hear as rain and though it once grew it has to be returned by hand by reaching up as if a great wing was opening, the Earth would be held lifted and you inside, behind a clump teaching it to fly again by breathing in breathing out its pieces as thunder. Simon Perchik Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Poetry, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Weston Poems.


untitled Your wrist is used to it, baited with fingertips and the small watch that never opens though your pulse has an echo, comes from a sea already damaged by moonlight and its embrace as the cry for mother between the stones still being buried trapped in the dirt they need for darkness hour after hour pressing down on your chest listening for you among the flowers who say nothing about leaving or their shadows that wave to you. Simon Perchik


Walking through the door of old age There is no denying I’m different now. I talk about breezes, To others who don’t notice breezes. My blazers have given way to scarfs and shawls. Just right for the chill around my rounded shoulders And the soft paunch at my core. Nature, expecting no kissing left in me, Has sunken my lips inside my mouth Like an apple bitten once then Left drying in the playground trash. Paradoxically, while I now see small font in a blur, My cursive flows out smaller and tighter. Resembling my mother’s hand. What did she write me then? About breezes? On a phone message playback, I’m surprised to hear my quivering voice That might need a cough To strengthen and clear. But there’s no cold or pending cough, Only the chronic rasp within a droopy turkey neck. My loss for names and lapse of fact Slow the volley of my banter. Where I once could slam A solid rapid fire retort, I now pause and only lob for want and reach Of word precision. Sometimes I offer no reply at all. Impossible to translate The mumbles I hear When your face is turned away And your lips are out of reading range. A sudden, greedy sweet tooth Lures me to the candy aisle, Dodged since babies shared my cart, And urges me to bake scones


And other soft tea cakes. I serve them warm On the good china plates In my lovely home. Where I choose to linger most days. Gallivanting having lost its thrill To the contentment of home And the pleasant breeze From the open patio door. Deborah M Arrin Deborah M Arrin is a retired business owner who has written poetry for over 50 years.


The Beacon She walks down the sloping beach to the water’s edge, fleet of foot even over loose shingle. Kelp wrack crunches between her bare feet and the sliding stones. She wades into the water and feels dark fingers of cold reach under the neoprene of her wetsuit. A three-quarter moon paints the night horizon a liquid silver. The woman stands calf-deep in the black water, staring out into the darkness and moonglow. Three miles of open water to the barrier island where the lighthouse beacon shines. She sees the finger of its light stabbing over the Atlantic, above the surf that pounds out beyond the barrier. The long beam of light reaches to the north, disappears from view, then sweeps to the south, again and again. A beacon cast into the darkness and beyond, four thousand miles to the beaches of Morocco. The woman understands the language of the automated lighthouse, the messages repeated in its rotating beam. It says here are shoals and foundering surf that will drown you. Here lie rocks and reefs that will rip your keel, break your back and leave the ribs of your hull a skeleton perch for gulls. The beacon of light swings north to south, north to south, warning ships that this is where they die. Beneath the lapping water, the cold bores into her feet and she feels them beginning to numb. Her eyes are still fixed on the slow semaphore of the lighthouse. The pulsing light on the far horizon has no language for her own name. Yet she has a name; it is Amy Kincaid. It is the one thing she did not leave behind when she abandoned her unlocked car at the trailhead to this empty beach. Amy Kincaid is waiting for the tide to turn. The water swirls around her calves, each successive wave pulling toward the open water, insisting. She demands a sign, a message as unambiguous as the shining arm thrown by the lighthouse into the night. Swim to the barrier island, stagger up the next beach, or sink beneath the moonlit waters. Her body hesitates, adhering to the gospel of


survival, but her mind is resolved. She cannot bear the thought of one more day spent in the empty desert of her life, surrounded by a throng of strangers. This is a test, not a suicide. Amy Kincaid drops her eyes from the horizon and wades deeper into the water. She throws her strong arms forward in a lunge and her lithe body follows. The cold water bites into her exposed face and hands. She is glad for the cold, knowing it will sap the reluctance from her body, move her into action. She has to be certain. Her body knifes to the surface, arms stroking over her head, feet pointed and kicking in rhythm. Cupped hands reach for the water. With every fourth stroke, her head rolls to the left, lungs sucking in a sharp breath. Moonlight illuminates the shimmering wake that marks her passage. She swims with a practiced, automatic motion and her brain quiets to the rhythm of her body. The act of swimming brings with it a familiar solitude. The public pool is her retreat when people push in too close, always hemming her in with their noisy chatter, their empty ritual, their petty desire. They only want of her, never wanting her. Submersion is her sanctuary. Water amplifies sound, carrying it across distance while at the same time deadening it, softening it. The sharp-tiled echoes of the public pool stab at her ears, but once she is below the surface the water, that which was excruciating becomes bearable. In the water Amy is anonymous and strong. She passes other swimmers in her lane with a liquid slide. They are nothing to her and she does not recoil from them as she would on the sidewalk or hallway or the aisle of a crowded bus. When Amy is in the water, she does not shrink, she does not cry out. Now she is swimming alone, and the dark water is speaking only to her, blackness below her and moonlit night above. The saltwater pushes slick against her face and she hears the language in it. Shrimp click and echo as she swims past. Rocks clatter against an unseen bottom. And from beneath and beyond comes the


sound of Atlantic surf pounding the seaward side of the barrier island. It is a distant drumming slower than a heartbeat and she swims towards it. The drumbeat pulls her on, fills something in her emptiness. ~~~ Jasmine Johnson sits in a low Adirondack chair at the end of an old wooden dock. The weathered planks glow a ghostly grey in the moonlight. She leans back in her chair, watching, a shadow in the shadows, darker than the water lapping below the dock. The woman does not watch the glow of lights from her cottage, or the rustling sea oats, or the moon risen high behind her. Her eyes follow the progress of a swimmer out across the open water and the moon-dappled wake that trails after the swimmer’s kicking feet. She raises a pair of heavy binoculars and steadies her elbows on the wide arms of the chair. Her eyes are accustomed to lenses and apertures. She pivots the binoculars until she captures the swimmer’s magnified form. One finger finds the focus knob and the details become clear. Through the powerful lenses, Jasmine Johnson sees disembodied white hands rise and disappear, the flash of white skin as the swimmer’s head rolls up for a breath of air. There is only blackness between the white hands and kicking feet. The watcher guesses at the black wetsuit. She heaves a sigh thick with exasperation and lowers the binoculars. The woman rises from the chair in one fluid movement, lean and whipcord strong despite her years. The dock planks creak under her bare feet as she moves to a ladder that protrudes above the dock. Grasping the ladder, she climbs down to a sleek twelve-foot rowboat. She slips into the boat with practiced ease, frees the painter, and pushes the boat clear of the pilings. Marking the progress of the swimmer, she finds her bearing by means of familiar landmarks on the shore. Sure


of her course, her muscles pull, the rowing seat slides, and the oar blades send the boat gliding into the night. Jasmine Johnson has no fear of rowing alone under the moon. She knows this water’s quirks and currents from beach to barrier island and five miles up and down the coast. She has rowed it under shoals of fog and in the glare of blinding sunshine, her heavy cameras and lenses stashed in waterproof bags lashed down tight. For almost twenty years she has made a record of this place. She captures images of seabirds floating in an endless sky, shorebirds on empty beaches, and the tiny universes contained in a tide pool. Publishers pay her well for those photographs and with that money she buys her privacy. Jasmine Johnson is a woman who is particular about being left alone. A dead swimmer washed up on the shore brings all sort of unwanted attention. Jasmine pauses at the end of an oar stroke, lets the sleek hull slide across the water. She checks over her right shoulder and spots the moon glimmer of the swimmer’s wake. A slight flick of one oar changes her course by a few degrees, then her legs slide the seat forward, the oars dip, and the boat leaps forward under the stroke. Her rowing has a syncopated beat, her head back and body extended for the rest at the end of her stroke. She hunches forward on the one-beat, body tight coiled, oars before her knees and knees to her chest. Then the blades touch the water as if frozen to an appointed point, her body uncoils, and the hull dances over the surface. ~~~ Amy swims above the deep, where the silver fingers of moonlight cannot reach the rocky bottom. The dark water amplifies the sounds of a boat hull hissing across the surface, oars dipping and rising, the creak and slide of a rower’s chair. The telltale sounds draw nearer, and Amy utters silent curses.


Then the hull is so close she can feel it gliding past. A familiar anger rises in her, anger at the violation of her solitude. Even here, alone in the wet and dark, they won’t leave her alone. She rolls into a sidestroke, both eyes above the water. The boat is low in the water, not ten meters off, the moon shining behind it. The oars are still now and there is a single silhouette rising from the center of the hull. Amy swims on. The oars dip into the water and the scull skims forward to keep pace with her. Before she can scream out her anger, the figure in the boat is speaking. "I don’t know where you think you’re heading to, but I can tell you where you’re going to end up you keep swimming." A woman’s voice, yet deep and resonant. Her words hold no sentiment but there is music in them, as if spilled from an oboe. Amy breaks stroke to tread water and her feet slip beneath the thermocline. The icy seawater bites into her bare flesh as more words roll from the woman in the boat. "You won’t make the lighthouse, if that’s what you’re thinking. The tide is running and there’s a rip this side of the island. It’s going to spin you out into the Atlantic like a roller coaster. I ride it sometimes when I want to go south. Hell of a thing to be caught in." Amy keeps her eyes on the boat and her mouth shut. She hears a sigh blown into the night, then sharper words. "Do you hear me talking to you? Unless you’re deaf and dumb, you had best not try my patience. It’s running a little short tonight." "I just want to be left alone. Why can’t you mind your own business?" "Missy, you are my business and you want to know why? Your bloated corpse going to wash up on my beach. You ever seen what the crabs do to a floater? It ain’t pretty, that I can guarantee you. Eyeballs eaten out of the sockets, face all chewed away; no sir, nothing I want to find bumping up against my dock. So you best turn your skinny white ass around and start swimming before I smack you with an oar."


Amy feels the cold sucking the strength from her limbs. The weight of the water presses in on her as the woman’s harsh words ring in her ears. Another stranger pushing into her world. "I don’t think I can swim back against the tide." "I’d say you shoulda thought of that, but I’m betting you planned it that way. Lord damn me for an idiot. What’s your name, girl?" "Amy Kincaid." "Then you listen to me Amy Kincaid. You grab onto the boat and I’ll tow you back in. We’ll figure out what to do with you once we get you up on the dock." Without another word from the rower, the oars dip and the stern of the boat moves out of the darkness. Water swirls around the oar blades and the boat stops within an arm’s reach. "Get a hand up over the transom there and lie still, you hear?" There is no strength left in her to argue. The moment her hand wraps over the edge of the stern, the rower crosses the oars and the boat spins in place. Amy’s body trails behind her as the boat begins skimming over the water toward the few lights scattered along the shoreline. Looking back, Amy can see the beacon of lighthouse pirouetting over the night and hear the low rumble of surf pounding the far side of the barrier island. Its drumbeat still calls to her, but she is being pulled away. ~~~ Amy is wrapped in a thick kaftan, her damp hair sticking up in blond tufts. She is sitting on a ladder-back chair in the soft glow of Jasmine’s small kitchen. On the kitchen table before her is a steaming mug of tea. Jasmine leans against a counter, arms folded across her chest, her eyes on Amy. Jasmine’s bare feet splay strong and dark against the worn wooden floor and Amy’s eyes are on them. "In the interest of saving everyone trouble, I’m guessing you left a car at the trailhead. That right? Key in the ignition?"


Amy raises her eyes, still wondering who and what this woman is. She nods her head. "See, that there is going to worry folks. The deputies roll through there ‘bout twice a night. They find an empty car, keys in the ignition, they’re bound to think the worst. Then we got search parties tramping up my beach, boats and lights out on the water. I can’t have that. You leave a note?" Amy shakes her head. Why would I leave a note? This is nobody’s business but mine. And what would I write if I did? Dear Abysmal Emptiness, You’re a shitty partner and I’m tired of you. I’m leaving. I decided to go for a swim. Don’t wait up. Love, Amy. She looks up and finds Jasmine’s waiting for an answer. "No note. I didn’t see the need." Jasmine nods her head, slow and thoughtful, not taking her eyes off the pale girl. "You’re not much for idle chatter. Might find out we get along fine. Meantime, I need to bicycle over to the trailhead and fetch your car. Which means you got to stay here. You going to be okay if I leave you here alone?" Amy nods her head, watches the steam rise from her tea. "Miss Kincaid, I am serious. No swimming off into the night, no playing with sharp objects, you hear what I’m saying? I come back and find a mess in my kitchen, you gonna wish you were dead." Amy’s eyes snap up at this and her voice finds its bite. "It wasn’t what you think. It was only a way of testing myself. I’m sorry you put yourself out, Mrs. Johnson, but that was your choice. I’ll be fine." Jasmine chuckles at the sharp words. "You still got a little fire in you. That’s good. And it’s Miss Johnson, but Jasmine will do just as well. I need to be getting to your car ‘fore the deputies. You sit tight and I’ll be back right quick." The lean dark woman uncoils herself from the counter and disappears from the room. Amy hears the sound of a door, footsteps creaking on a porch, then the clank and whirr of a bicycle. She is alone in the kitchen.


~~~ The driveway leading away from the cottage is paved with pulverized seashells which glimmer white in the moonlight. Jasmine pedals toward the blacktop road and wonders what Jenny would say about this mess. She’d most likely laugh, sitting behind the clutter of her doctor’s desk. Mama, if you’re collecting strays, I can send you enough to make a matched set. I got a whole clinic here full of lost women can’t pay their bills. Mama, what would Nana do? That’s what Jenny would ask her. Nana, who had raised Jasmine after her own mother died, after her father wandered off the island. She who still spoke Gullah with the old Aunties, a secret language that allowed the old ones to speak secrets openly, unheard by outsiders. Jasmine turns the bicycle onto the blacktop road that runs back of the headlands. She pedals past longleaf and slash pine huddling in the darkness. Her Nana’s voice fills the night, words rich and slow as if she were still amongst the living. Child, they’s lost souls everywheres, lost children ‘specially. You cain’t save them all, but you surely can look after the ones that fall into your own path. Them’s the ones the good Lord’s chosen for you. That ain’t no lost child sitting in my cottage. She’s a full-grown woman, even if she’s skinny as a stray dog. Don’t you sass me, Girl. You know better than that. ‘Sides, you scratch that thin white skin, you find a child hiding underneath. Now git on with you. You gots things to attend to. ~~~ Left alone in the cottage, Amy rises from her chair. The kaftan falls to her bare feet and she feels like a Bedouin taken from the desert. She crosses to the kitchen door and peers into the night. There is a screened sleeping porch across the back of the cottage. Her neoprene wet suit is draped over a wooden railing,


shedding drops of water onto a plank floor. She looks out over the black water and steps back into the glow of the kitchen. What would be the living room is a workspace, a photographer’s studio. A wide worktable dominates the center of the room. Along one wall are a computer station with a huge monitor and a large format printer. Bookshelves climb the wall, each shelf crammed with oversized art books and heavy technical manuals. The other three walls make up a gallery of photographs. Each wall is painted white. Two of the walls are covered with images of the seacoast. Birds soar on outstretched wings or wade in mirrored shallows. Anemones with bright tentacles are frozen in crystal pools. Her eyes skim over these beautiful images, but it is the third wall that draws her. She stands before an entire wall of portraits. Women with solemn eyes, men caught in the black-and-white act of passing a bottle, a laughing child with knees drawn up, hovering above the blur of a jump rope. The backdrops are stark and urban; concrete and chain-link, boarded up windows and sprayed graffiti. One image captures her eyes and holds them, or rather two images of the same face. It is a diptych of a young girl. The grim concrete background is the same in both photographs, as if the two were taken within seconds of each other. In the first, the girl is solemn, her dark face smooth and serious. Her eyes stare directly into the lens. In the second, a blazing white smile breaks her face nearly in two, her eyes wide with merriment. Amy reaches for the frame and removes it from the wall. Holding it before her like a roadmap, she walks to the kitchen. She props the framed photograph on the kitchen table and sits. Reaching for the mug of tea, she drinks from it, her eyes glued to the two faces of the girl. She is still staring at it when she hears the sound of tires crunching up the crushed shell driveway. ~~~


Jasmine walks into the kitchen, pulls out a chair, sits opposite her uninvited guest. She slides a set of car keys over the table and is not surprised when Amy does not react. Snatched that photo off my wall bold as brass and staring at it like a zombie. Jasmine feels her Nana in the room, hears the whispered words in her head. Yes, Girl, grief will do that, turn a good person into a zombie. You’ve seen that before, haven’t you? Talk to this poor girl. "Amy, I think it’s best if you stay here tonight. There’s a guest room already made up, my daughter’s room. You can sleep there." The woman looks at her across the table as if just noticing her. "How old is your daughter? What’s her name?" "Her name is Jenny and she’s older than you are. Jenny’s a doctor up in Baltimore. She runs a women’s clinic up there." "You don’t look old enough to be the mother of a doctor." Jasmine chuckles at the simple compliment. "That’s sweet but it’s also a long story, too long for tonight. How about you? You got any people where you from?" "Charleston. I don’t have any family. Never knew them." No family, a child shunted in and out of foster homes, an unthinkable concept to the aunties on the island. Not what this girl needs to be talking about tonight. "I see you found the gallery. You like that one?" Amy brushes her fingertips over the edges of the black metal frame. "I like it very much. Who is the little girl?" "Don’t know her name. Just another kid from the projects. That’s the title of the piece, The Project Girl. It’s from a series I shot around the Perkins House, public housing near Jenny’s clinic. I hear they’re fixing to tear the place down." Without a word, Amy reaches for the frame and rises from the table. She walks out of the kitchen and into the gallery room. Jasmine follows her, stops in the doorway. The girl crosses to the far wall, hangs the diptych back in its place, then touches it again to straighten it.


Jasmine speaks to her from the doorway. "Come on, Miss Amy. I think it's time to call it a night. Let me show you your room." ~~~ Amy Kincaid sits in a low wooden chair at the end of the dock. Her feet are folded beneath her, wrapped in the folds of Jasmine’s kaftan. A morning breeze swirls the inland water, and rays of sunshine dance across the riffled waves. Footsteps sound on the worn planks and she turns to see Jasmine walking barefoot over the worn planks. She is carrying a tray loaded with mugs and a carafe. Jasmine smiles to Amy, leans to place the tray on the dock, then lowers herself like a dancer. She sits on the edge of the dock. Her lean legs dangling above the water. "Good Morning, Amy. Were you able to sleep?" "Hey, Good Morning, Jasmine. I laid my head down and I was out. I slept like the dead." She catches the look Jasmine throws her, shrugs it off with a nervous smile. Jasmine shakes her head and turns her attention to the coffee things. "How do you like your coffee?" "Black is fine." "Yes it is, Girl, but I still need sugar in mine. Here you go." They sip from their mugs in silence, two women awash in sunlight. Amy’s eyes trace the dull sand scrub line of the barrier island and the white finger of the lighthouse. "It feels so different in the morning light." Jasmine looks at the horizon over the top of her coffee mug. "The light changes so quickly. That’s one of the things I love most about this place. One minute the horizon is crisp and sharp, like it is now. I turn my head, shoot a few photos and when I look up, everything has changed. I’ve been out in


the boat when the sky and sea are so mixed together, I can’t tell if I’m rowing on water or through the air." "I like that, the idea of rowing through the air, lost in the clouds." "It’s a strange experience, like being inside a white cocoon. Sounds are muffled. There are no details, no landmarks, no outside references. And it can be dangerous. You lose your sense of direction, find yourself on a current or a rip being carried down the coast or out into open water." Amy looks out over the morning water, but she does not see the brightness. She sees the night instead, sees herself wrapped in darkness, pushing through the cold water, driving her body towards a single pulsing light. Then Amy hears a voice and she is blinking against the dappled light on the water. She looks to the voice and finds Jasmine’s eyes studying her. "Sorry, I drifted off." "So I noticed. I was asking you about Charleston. Last night you said you didn’t have any family up there. You got anybody else?" Amy shakes her head, sips the cooling coffee, thinks how simple the answer is. "No, there’s no one. No boyfriend, if that’s what you’re asking. No girlfriend either." Jasmine nods her head, not looking away. "Solitude is a blessing when a body needs it, but loneliness can be a curse. When I was a girl coming up on the island, seemed like I was never alone. Big old house full of women and children, my old aunties trying to keep us kids in line. It was a noisy place, I can tell you that. Out here, I’ve got all the quiet I can want but sometimes I miss that mess." Amy tries to hold the image in her mind, a foreign world for which she has no reference. "That’s hard for me to imagine." "It was something, that’s for sure. I can’t offer anything that lively, but what would you think about staying on here, at least for the time being?"


The words are slow to take shape in Amy’s brain, as if she is translating them from another language. She throws herself from the chair. The mug falls from her hand, spilling coffee to the dock as it bangs and rolls across the planks. Then she is running up the dock and the pounding of her bare feet rebound from the wood and the water. ~~~ Amy bursts into the tiny bedroom, flings the door closed, and falls back against it. Someone has made the bed and her clothes are laid out upon the comforter. She sees her car keys sitting atop the small nightstand. Three quick steps and she is across the room and scooping up the keys. She sinks to the edge of the bed, hands over her face, ignoring the sharpness of the keys pressing against the soft flesh of her cheek. When Amy raises her eyes, she sees two photographs in one black frame hovering on the whitewashed wall before her. The double vision of a young girl stares at Amy from across the narrow space of the room, one face solemn, one face dissolving in joyous mirth. The girl is there in the room, regarding Amy with solemn eyes and at the same time daring her to laugh. Amy sees the dual face of tragedy and comedy broken from profile and facing her, daring her to choose. Nothing breaks the stillness of the room. Amy stares from the bed and the girl watches her, waiting. Amy feels a smile tightening her cheeks, feels the warmth of the sun through the window over the bed. Her hand moves of its own accord and she hears the jangle of car keys falling to the scuffed pine of the nightstand. She winks at the two faces of the girl and rises from the bed. She passes through the sun-drenched kitchen, crosses the sleeping porch, and walks down the path to the dock. Broken shells bite into the soles of her bare feet, but she does not feel any pain. Jasmine is sitting as before, feet dangling above the dappled water, now raising one hand in greeting. Amy steps


onto the weathered planks and raises a hand in reply, feeling like a welcomed visitor just arrived. Marco Etheridge Marco Etheridge lives and writes in Vienna, Austria. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared recently in The Thieving Magpie, In Parentheses, Jonah Magazine, and others. His third novel is entitled Breaking the Bundles.


1965 I beat him in the spelling bee. I knew the answers, aced the test he barely passed. I hit a fly ball that grazed his reaching glove, and watched him get all smug you’re just a girl, and girls don’t count I yelled, that isn’t true he shrugged and said, they all say so. I looked around and saw a man in every place of prominence. I dug through books to find that Eve had erred, was weak and must be ruled, the she and her are better lost inside the he and himall men created equal, education for Emile, domestication for Sophie no man an island, no woman … No women. Stunned, I rubbed my eyes, tried to unravel the knot, yet each string I pulled was broken, burned or led to men and more men. There is a creature’s moment just when the trap is sprung, descending, when life becomes betrayal of biology, a trust misplaced, a bitter, spiteful food to taste. My argument collapsed to dust settled in layers that could be written on I beat him in the spelling bee. I knew the answers, aced the test he barely passed. I hit a fly ball that grazed his reaching glove. Carol Casey Carol Casey lives in Blyth, Ontario, Canada. Her work has appeared in Backchannels, Front Porch Review, and other journals and in We Are One: Poems From the Pandemic, as well as in other anthologies.


Chicory and Lace

Jean L Wilder Smith


Deadwood At five years shy of fourscore, I wish my brain less encumbered by the flotsam and jetsam of trivia, amassed by accident rather than design. I know Yogi’s uniform number was eight, Mantle’s, seven, and Babe Ruth’s, three. I know the words to Emma Lazarus’s poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty. I know Michigan is shaped like a mitten, Detroit at the thumb. I know the preferred pronunciation for minutiae, in which I’m now drowning. On the other hand, I easily forget the name of the tree that anchors my patio, or the cross street at the shopping center where I’m meeting a friend for lunch, or the item I meant to add to my shopping list— zucchini? peanut butter? guacamole?— Instead I roam the aisles at the supermarket, hoping for a spark of recognition. While I may seem a perfect candidate to be a contestant on Jeopardy, I fear that’s the time my synapses would choose to go on strike. Instead of the responses that come so quickly to me in my living room, I’d be left to ask plaintively: What is It’s on the tip of my tongue? Martha Golensky Martha Golensky began writing poetry after retiring from the faculty at Grand Valley State University, where she taught Social Work, and relocating to Greensboro, NC. Her work has been published in print and online journals and anthologies. She is a volunteer instructor in poetry at the Shepherd's Center in Greensboro, a non-profit serving older adults. Her first collection, Pride of Place, was released in 2018.


Anomalies Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current. -- Marcus Aurelius

When you died, I was a thousand miles away. (You were still so young—just fifty-nine.) Yet I remember every moment of that day. So very hard not being there to hear you say my name aloud and I love you for the last time. When you died, I was a thousand miles away. It was November, but it might have been May, so deceptive, so improper the bright sunshine. Yes, I remember every moment of that day. The night before, I dreamt of a jittery blue jay sounding an alarm. So clear now this cosmic sign. When you died, I was a thousand miles away. Random thoughts: your laugh almost like a bray, the slight droop of your right eyelid, just like mine. Oh, I remember every moment of that day. You were cheated of your proper earthly stay— so sad losing the chance to age like a fine wine. When you died, I was a thousand miles away; yet I remember every moment of that day. Martha Golensky


March 2018 inside we were drinking. outside, snow broke its skull on the rooftops and steamed the windows like piss from a drunk. clothes stuck tightly; everyone entering sweaty as a wet cat. but still, we were drinking. sat at a table which clicked on our knees and argued about anything to keep the cold out. enjoying ourselves; pointing for punctuation and guzzling beer which smelled of wet leather. in dublin the pubs are wonderful. rain no reason to slow anyone down. and blizzards even less so—just a day off work. coats all over, and the stink of drying laundry. cold making entry at every open door. and nobody, for once trying to fuck anyone else; the weather too perfect for drinking, political discussion and long indoor conversations; getting someone home more trouble than it's worth. DS Maolalai DS Maolalai has released two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden and Sad Havoc Among the Birds.


How to Change a Diaper First, make sure you have one. Often you don’t and you hear your grandson grunting under a table he thinks is a cave in a men’s clothing store where his Grandpa contemplates buying an elegant suit to replace the elegant suit he hasn’t worn in twenty years. If you’d had a diaper you could have taken your darling past the Pierre Cardin’s to the fancy bathroom you never got to see. You could have chased that cherub around the marble sinks hopefully with his fulsome diaper still on and not with it half off. Oh, no, not that in the swanky dimly lit ladies room you never visited because of your cavalier attitude about the diaper. Instead, you had to drift into Grandpa’s dreams about the suit he’d never wear— its singular cut, its silk-like feel— to encourage him, instead, to pick up his odiferous grandson and move casually but swiftly to the door, now being precipitously opened by the bowing, no longer hopeful, suited salesman. But, every ill wind blows some good because you did get to watch Grandpa ask— as the fragrant reality caused him to turn his beautiful dream-wrenched face toward you— in a puzzlement akin to that of a sleeper dazed into sunlight: “Where the hell’s the diaper?” Mary Ann Larkin Mary Ann Larkin is retired from Howard University and lives in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in chapbooks, magazines, and anthologies. Her full-length book is entitled That Deep and Steady Hum.


Anza Borrego That night, the desert, the silver sand’s expanse made bigger by our being lost, stuck in my hatchback, that poor car spinning its old wheels in a ditch backlit by stars and lush planets, visible as our naked limbs in the creosote dusk. I was 21, spent from the city, night’s pink-tinted sunrise a gift wrapped in tissue. And you — your chipped front tooth, the Badlands’ glare — my dumb mind made up there. Cindy Milwe Cindy Milwe lives with her family in Venice, California. She holds a BA from NYU, a Masters in English Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an MFA in poetry from Bennington College. Her writing has appeared in 5 AM, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry East, and others. She has poems in two anthologies: Another City: Writing from Los Angeles and Changing Harm to Harmony: The Bullies and Bystanders Project.


Anaïs Anaïs Perfume I have several bottles, always a back-up, one so small it fits in a palm for traveling. I spray my neck, my wrists—a little spritz. My mother bought my first bottle. Duty free, she said—two words I’d never heard together. Maybe I want to be a curve of lilac blossoms or a ball of peony petals widening now that she has left the world & me & I am duty free. Sarah Dickenson Snyder Sarah Dickenson Snyder has recently had work appear in Rattle, Artemis, The Sewanee Review, and others. She has authored three poetry collections, The Human Contract, Notes from a Nomad, and With a Polaroid Camera.


Bat Inside I am a house of fear— all of the doors to the rooms shut to keep it in one place. I know where it is not—the living room where it swooped and shadowed last night as we watched TV. I saw it sail into the kitchen and the rest of the house. Is this how infection spreads? An invisibility lurks as I tiptoe & shudder in place with my deepest want—a cessation of skin-thin wings. But what if it’s slipped through what’s almost closed, eased back into sky—all the fear unreal? Something entered my home, has worked itself into breath & I want to let go of what might be already gone. For now I sit outside, feel the invisible wind, more calming than the invisible bat I imagine flapping & landing on everything I love— folded wings curled into a bud. Sarah Dickenson Snyder


When a Poem Is More I like thinking of the folded poem in Nelson Mandela’s back pocket, words a man from Gloucester, England wrote decades before he was born, before he was imprisoned for twenty-seven years in a place of wrath and tears, before he led a nation beyond its hate-filled past— how rhymed lines coursed through his blood in the blinding limestone and the bludgeonings of chance, how these words gave him an unconquerable soul. made him the master of his fate, how holding onto a poem is planting a prayer inside of you— the part of sea that stays in a shell, reverberation in every breath, every cell. Italicized words are from “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

Sarah Dickenson Snyder


Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine issue #14 spring/summer 2021

fiction Bruce Spang, editor Peter Alterman Susan Coyle Gail Hipkins non-fiction Susan Coyle, editor Peter Alterman Steve Wechselblatt poetry John Himmelheber Pete Solet Bruce Spang art & photography Terry Johnson, editor editor-in-chief John Himmelheber


Articles inside

Bat Inside

1min
page 92

DS Maolalai March 2018

2min
pages 88-89

Cindy Milwe Anza Borrego

1min
page 90

Martha Golensky Anomalies

1min
page 87

Sarah Dickenson Snyder Anaïs Anaïs Perfume

1min
page 91

Deadwood

1min
page 86

Carol Casey 1965

1min
page 84

untitled] Your wrist is

1min
pages 67-69

Dan Pettee The Wake-Up Call

1min
pages 65-66

At Home Depot 15 Years After Your Death

1min
page 61

The Book of Repulsive Women

1min
pages 62-63

Julia Lisella a brief history

1min
page 60

Benjamin Schmitt Ne’er-do-well

2min
pages 58-59

Sydney Junkins silly putty

1min
page 57

Michael Milligan Dead to Me

1min
page 56

Heirloom

1min
pages 54-55

Selena

1min
page 44

Alida Woods Coulrophobia

1min
pages 40-41

non-fiction Teresa Yang Sunny in India

6min
pages 46-49

the middle east is not a metaphor for violence

1min
page 50

Holly Day Fox in the Snow

1min
page 29

my god

1min
page 51

Nels Hanson Night Mirror

1min
page 28

fiction Mark Cassidy Winter Blues

17min
pages 12-21

Deborah Levine-Donnerstein Fall Remembers

1min
page 23

Richard Luftig And Still

1min
pages 4-5

Sentinel

1min
pages 8-10

Passover

1min
page 27

Michael Chauncey Stanley Sunlight

1min
page 11

Marita O’Neill At the Funeral

2min
pages 24-25

Starlight

1min
page 6
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