T H E T A Y L O R Poetry & Prose
Volume 2 April - June 2009
T R U S T
THE TAYLOR TRUST POETRY & PROSE
TABLE OF CONTENTS STILL NIGHT THOUGHTS Editor’s Letter 4
PARABLES Paul Sohar 83 Mary L. Ports 84
ANNOUNCEMENTS Publishing, Angels, Voting, Advertising, How to Subscribe 6
FICTION Lynn Veach Sadler 89 Joy Mosenfelder 94
SPECIAL DELIVERY Letters to the Editor 7 POETRY Fredrick Zydec 13 Santiago del Dardano Turran 15 Gina M. Tabasso 20 Kevin Strong 24 Leilani Squire 27 Lynn Veach Sadler 30 Ruth Glean Rosing 37 E.B. Reed 39 Mary L. Ports 40 B.Z. Niditch 43 Swayamdipto Misra 44 Tom Mirabile 45 Abraham Linik 47 Lyn Lifshin 48 Pamela L. Laskin 50 Charles Kray 52 Mahdy Khaiyat 53 Michael Lee Johnson 54 Emmanuel Jakpa 56 Carol Ann Howell 58 Alamgir Hashmi 59 Jonathan Harrington 60 John Fitzpatrick 61 Michael Estabrook 64 Joseph DeMarco 65 Renata Dawidowicz 68 Ellen Cooney 70 J.F. Connolly 71 Marc Carver 72 David Breeden 75 Bobby Bostic 76 Gerald Bosacker 77 Eve Jeannette Blohm 79
SCIENCE FICTION LaVonne Taylor 103 CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE Art Credits 114 AND THE WINNER IS ... Ballot Results 115 CYBERCONNECTIONS Networking 116 IN MEMORIAM 118 Dedicated to Ruth Rosing 1918-2009 Thank you to the staff: Jaime Pickell and Timothy Wang & Roger & Ron at AV Printing for priceless advice and help Published quarterly: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall The Taylor Trust: Poetry & Prose Poetry by the People, for the People Published by Excellence Enterprises P.O. Box 903456 Palmdale, California 93550-3456 email@example.com thetaylortrust.wordpress.com
STILL NIGHT THOUGHTS THE ARGUMENT OF HIS BOOK I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers: Of April, May, of June and July flowers. I sing of Maypoles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes, Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes. I write of youth, of love, and have access By these, to sing of cleanly wantonness. I sing of dews, of rains, and piece by piece Of balm, of oil, of spice, and ambergris. I sing of times trans-shifting; and I write How roses first came red, and lilies white. I write of groves, of twilights, and I sing The court of Mab, and of the fairy king. I write of Hell; I sing (and ever shall) Of Heaven, and hope to have it after all. This is the first poem in a book by Robert Herrick, 1591-1674, which mentions many of the subjects the poet wrote about. He often penned fanciful explanations of how flowers came to have their colors, such as: HOW MARIGOLDS CAME YELLOW Jealous girls these sometimes were, While they liv’d, or lasted here: Turn’d to flowers, still they be Yellow, marked for jealousy.
SPRING — A TIME OF REBIRTH
Just as Robert Herrick apparently did, I revel in the spring “times trans-shifting.” I adore the promise that every breath brings, as Mary L. Ports expresses in her poem “Breath of Spring” on page 41. As a creature of the natural world, the season of rebirth raises my spirits in the most profound way. Herrick lived four centuries ago, but the sentiment he expresses in his work is just as relevant as if he had written it yesterday. When I read poetry, I’m removed from the temporal world to the universe of imagination. (See Pamela L. Laskin’s tribute to poet Sharon Olds on page 50.) There I’m allowed to touch the inner lives of others, if only briefly, and I return to my day-to-day existence renewed. The magic of the written word is everlasting. And in keeping with the rebirth aspects of spring, this issue has sprouted several new elements: Border Design Element You may have noticed a new design element added to our pages. We have installed a page frame for your poetry and prose. Send us feedback at our e-mail address. Let us know how you like it. Special Delivery As part of the front matter, Special Delivery (page 7) shares the wonderful, encouraging letters many of you sent. Please keep them coming, we
love to hear from you. We may not be able to respond to each of you personally, but we do, indeed, read every letter that comes our way. And the Winner Is … In the back matter, we have the promised drum-roll kudos section on page 115, thanks to those of you who returned your ballots. The voting response was not huge with the first issue (only twenty percent), but we will continue to offer the opportunity for folks to be involved throughout 2009. Cyberspace Connections We also have a Cyberspace Connections page to enable you to view Web sites of some of the other poets whose work you particularly enjoy. We recognize that not everyone is part of the World Wide Web, but some of the writers who have contributed to this issue are. Check out this section on page 116. The addresses will take you to beautiful Web sites and blogs. I encourage you to visit them. CLMP (Council of Literary Magazines and Presses), Marketing, Nonprofit Status, ISSN The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses recently accepted The Taylor Trust into its fold. This organization is a valuable resource for small publishers. As a matter of fact, we will be attending a CLMP-sponsored event in Berkeley during the middle of May that is designed to provide The Taylor Trust with fundraising and marketing resources. And we will be initiating application for nonprofit status in a few days. Hopefully, all will go well. The ISSN application is with the Library of Congress and we’re hoping that one will be assigned to us before we put the summer issue to bed. Bell’s Letters Poet: The Coffee House of Poets Review We wish to thank Jim Bell for his complimentary review of our debut issue in his March-April 2009 issue. See a reprint of his review on page 117. It’s always lovely to see kind words written about our “baby.” BLOG Remember when you publish in the print edition of The Taylor Trust, you are also eligible to appear on thetaylortrust.wordpress.com site. PUBLISHING POSSIBILITIES I just want to remind authors that Excellence Enterprises, the parent company for The Taylor Trust: Poetry & Prose, offers assistance to poets and authors at all levels. EE provides editorial, design, and printing services, whether you have a twenty-page chapbook or an epic novel. We’re here for you! IN MEMORIAM During the production of this issue, we were saddened to hear that our long-time friend Ruth Rosing died suddenly. She was looking forward to seeing her poetry on pages 37-38. But, alas, it’s too late. We bid her a final goodbye on page 118. We hope you enjoy this issue, another labor of love for us. Take a moment from your busy schedule and depart on the magic carpet. I promise you will return to the “real world” renewed. My best to you always, LaVonne Taylor Editor & Publisher
PUBLISHING POSSIBILITIES Excellence Enterprises offers publishing support for all authors, whether you have a twenty-page chapbook or a novel to publish. We can put together a custom package just right for you that includes editing, designing, and printing. Send us an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a message at 661-267-2220.
Syd Knowlton Tim Wang Wanda Weiskopf
In each issue you will find an enclosed ballot slip so that you can list the names of the top ten poems you found most successful. You can mail the ballot back with your next submittals or e-mail the list. The winnersâ€™ names will be announced in the next issue.
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SPECIAL DELIVERY LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Bravo! Bravissimo! This creation of yours, The Taylor Trust: Poetry & Prose, is a masterpiece of immense proportions, as to attractiveness and readability and all the other areas of a wonderful publication. What delightful selections you have presented to us. So, I encourage you onward. You’re getting accolades for a well-done masterpiece. Joy! Joy! Joy! John Fitzpatrick, PhD Winner of the Hackney Poetry Literary Award New York, USA Congratulations on the debut of The Taylor Trust. It is beautifully done, and I can imagine the amount of work you must have put into it to make it such a success. I am very proud to have appeared in its pages. With every good wish, Jack Clubb California, USA Jack Clubb sent me the loveliest poetry book I think I have ever seen. What a beautiful presentation of poetry. I would dearly love to join your group. By the way, I loved the poem you had in Bells Letters this time. “My Mother’s Touch” was so poignant. It also reminded me of one of my own poems, “Mother’s Hands Upon My Hair.” I want to wish you success in your new venture, and sincerely hope that you will let me be a part of it. Take care and God bless. Poetically, Terri Warden I received my copy of your premier publication and want to say congratulations on a fine issue! I’m proud to be a part of The Taylor Trust. I hope you’re fully enjoying the wonderful sense of achievement this publication represents. Bravo! Trisha Nelson Idaho, USA First off, thanks so much for having me in The Taylor Trust — such a terrific, inspiring issue and I am honored to be part of it. Michael Estabrook Massachusetts, USA Just wanted to tell you how lovely the poetry book is. Got it today and the cover and quality is lovely and so is the back cover — well done with graphics, etc. You deserve some “good” feelings. Your book of poetry was one of the best I have seen, it was just beautiful! Michael Lee Johnson Illinois, USA
Just wanted to let you know that I just love The Taylor Trust! It is put together so professionally and the cover is very artistic. I love it! Yours truly, Celine Rose Mariotti Connecticutt, USA I’ve been reading through The Taylor Trust, and like these poets you have chosen. I very much like Mary Ports’ work. I also see that you are planning an animal sanctuary, and as I’ve had some experience with the wolf kind, I thought I might send a couple works that relate to that. Keep up the good work on this magazine and on the blog. You are doing the community a real service. Best, George Moore Colorado, USA Hey! I got your book today. It’s a beauty! I’m going to read every word of it. Keep on doing this beautiful thing! The world needs it. Carol Ann Howell Florida, USA Splendid mag! Love it! Molto grazie,
Hugh Fox Michigan, USA
I read the January-March 2009 issue with unbelievable pleasure. I could say out of excitement, I read it within one short gasp. I am again full of thanks. I could not seek better encouragement for my writerly pursuits than this. Kindest regards, Emmanuel Jakpa Waterford, Ireland I received The Taylor Trust, Volume One, debut issue in the mail yesterday. Congratulations! The magazine is beautiful and the poetry is all so outstanding that it will be hard to vote for the top ten. Will you be doing the same that James Bell does with the votes … listing them by preference at the top of a voting sheet in the next edition and others thereafter? Best ever, Mary L. Ports California, USA Editor’s Note: Yes, we will reserve a space of fanfare and recognition with each new volume for the results of the ballot. We realize how difficult it is to choose, because appreciation of art is so subjective. But with enough input, certain favorites seem to emerge in any genre. If we continue to receive a high enough response rate, we will continue with the feature. I have read through the first issue, and I can say it is a heartening debut. Its lovely covers led us into your “Still Night Thoughts” watched over by Li Po. I liked them — and the welcoming note of your mission to find and present fine writing to those who care for it. The contents evidence many different moods or effects — sobriety, concern, indulgence, humor; a lively, infectious mix. The themes and styles of poetry and prose here are an enjoyable sampling of what is being written around, is happening. May you grow and flourish. (Perhaps the next issue will have the usual
information on the spine, and the ISSN somewhere inside.) With best wishes, Alamgir Hashmi Islamabad, Pakistan
itor, r Ed my Dea nd se fi . Plea attached r s poem k you fo n Tha ing me in h . is l su b is e pu inter ore the w send m l w il e n w I s for es. poem issu i
Editor’s Note: Thank you, Professor Hashmi, for your attention to detail and for taking the time to write! The Taylor Trust is awaiting an ISSN from the Library of Congress and just recently was accepted by the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (see the logo on the back cover). We even have the spine printed this time too! In May we will start the application process to become a nonprofit entity. Please wish us well! Thanks for the beautiful production of my work in TTT … not a typo to be found, and I loved the graphic with the essay. All the visuals, in fact, were just fine. The thing is, I immediately wanted to know where the cover photo was taken and what the flower is, so I guess I thought there should have been an attribution for it. Then, of course, I wondered if that lush blossom was added to the scene by the photographer or designer. Intriguing. The debut issue was a winter treat. You’ve unleashed a lush, icy blossom, which may or may not occur in nature, but will produce a bounty of new spring growth … a truly fine product. My best, Penny Skillman California, USA Editor’s Note: The snow-covered Queen Elizabeth II rose occurred in nature, right outside the editor’s back door. The scenes on both the front and back covers were snapped, using a Sony Cyber-shot 5.1 camera, from the patio during a break in the snowstorm that happened on the Mojave Desert, December 15, 2008. Amazing natural phenomena often occur on the high desert, and one is snow while many flowers are still in bloom. And some roses in the yard bloom virtually year round; the QE II is one of those. Using Adobe Photoshop, Roger at AV Printing created the outline around the rose to give an embossed appearance. We were pleased with the effect and we are glad that you were intrigued. We felt no attribution was needed, because it was an inhouse production, but we stand corrected (thank you, Penny!). From now on, image credits will appear as part of the back matter, see page 114 in this issue. Let me first congratulate you on your debut issue of The Taylor Trust. It’s a wonderful poetry and prose magazine. I am pleased to be included with such awesome, fine poets. It was hard picking just ten favorite poems. The list could have gone on and on. The Taylor Trust was nicely put together … first class! I was just thrilled with my copy. Thank you. With warm regards, Kimberly K. Thompson West Virginia , USA
The Taylor Trust is a winner! A keeper … A wonderful magazine! So many good poems that the voting “picks” is a real challenge. I’m proud to grace the pages of January-March Volume One. Raymond Flory Indiana, USA Warm greetings. I’ve been very moved by your literary magazine and have written to my fans and friends all over the universe to let them know I’m in the issue and of its high quality of literary achievement. Sincerely, B. Z. Niditch Massachusetts, USA What a lovely book! You did a beautiful job … and I know what it takes to get something like this together on time, looking good, with quality contents and professionally done. Congratulations! Can’t wait to see the next one! Lynn Hartman Arizona, USA A great first edition! I liked the poetry, the balance of poems and prose … even the typography. My best, Ray Greenblatt Pennsylvania, USA I am very happy and excited. I recently had six other poems published by online poetry blogs, but this will be my first time in print. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I enjoyed your poem, “My Mother’s Touch” on www.thetaylortrust.wordpress.com. Why don’t you post more of your own poems on the site? Thanks, Kevin Strong Winnipeg, Canada Editor’s Note: Thank you for the compliment, Kevin. Yes, we’re all in this writing game together. I went out on a limb in this issue and decided to publish one of my short stories. See page 103.
CHOOSING OUR OWN NAMES ~ FOR MARJORIE JUNE
No one knows when it began in our clan but for generations we have chosen our own names. My Aunt Peg’s was really Annie Laurie and my grandmother, Blanche DeBoer’s real name was Sarah Jean. Names come and go in our family more like the seasons than any official text. Uncle William J. was known as Doc and his son of the same name travels under the autograph of nothing more than Buster Brown. My sister Sally knocked off the y at the end of her name and added an ie. She’s the artistic type. I suspect she liked the idea of having a single mysterious dot floating at the end of the el’s that help shape her signature. My Grandfather John was known as Jack, and to this day we call Leonard Pug and Cousin Phyllis Margaret by the nickname of Patsy. Even Cousin Barbara was known as Bobbie-June. My mother took the monogram of Marjorie and placed it like a jewel in front of her June ~ then asked the world to call her by her middle name. Even I added Christopher and Thomas at my baptism and confirmation. These new names become terms that help define not so much who we were at birth ~ but who we plan to yet become.
JUPITER He patronized not the sea or grave, but sky, and beyond. He ruled the other gods by keeping his distance. To this day no one has seen his face. He keeps it shrouded in clouds of violent motion. He knows secrets the other gods dare not name. In art, an eagle always perches somewhere near his throne. He holds thunderbolts in his left hand, a gesture of greeting in his right. He is middle-aged, bearded, long-haired, and handsome beyond belief. He wears many colors, and much glowing. For a time he was the god of lightning and principalities. Judges and generals took office by the power of his name. That was how he became patron to the idle. It was his downfall. To this day, four of his twelve moons travel in the wrong direction.
Fredrick Zydek taught creative writing and theology for many years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, then later at College of Saint Mary. He has published eight collections of poetry, with the third one, Ending the Fast, winning the Sarah Foley O’Loughlen Award for a quartet titled “Songs from the Quinault Valley.” He has a ninth collection forthcoming called T’Kopechuck: The Buckley Poems, and a chapbook called Hooked on Fish, which will be released later in 2009. Zydek’s work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Cricket, Cimmaron Review, and Yankee, among many others. He also edits for the Lone Willow Press chapbook series, but says “age seems to be slowing me down.”
SANTIAGO DEL DARDANO TURRAN THE STORM DISCOURSE OF PALDEN DORJE THE HALLORI JUNGLE IN THE BARA DISTRICT OF SOUTHERN NEPAL, AUGUST 2, 2007 The light fell down as hot translucent ore Creating forms that spread in shifting color From leaves above to waving fabric cloth That settled round those seated on the earth. Their words rode on the waves of expectation With verbal sounds all clashing in confusion As they watched a boy approach the microphone. Wrapped in a ruby cloak that brightly shone With high noon sunlight in the humid air He smiled beneath his flowing blue-black hair And still exuding calm from meditation He paused a moment by the human ocean. A ruby-cheeked sunbird flew over all The crowd and gave her high soprano call For silence with her gentle chiming force. It’s then that Palden Dorje began his discourse. “Across the earth there rages a great storm A broiling blanket bringing only harm From untamed passions in their wild fury That hunt with sharp-edged winds all of humanity. These are the undead species born of vice Who flash bolts in their clouds of blackened lice With endless hunger ever seeking a meal From those still bound upon Life’s thorny Wheel. Greased by the rain of blood it casts in sheets The Wheel grinds ever on to groaning beats. It’s in the chaos of this murky writhing Wherein the dark storm demons do their prowling And echo calls just like the shrill baboons All driven crazy by the lashing monsoons. The deadly lightning slashes in swift murder From anger driving on the growling tiger That crouches in the tangled bushes black With shadows, hiding, waiting to attack. All may seem peaceful, but, his strike is bold And unextinguished by the rainy cold,
That empty cold that steals warmth, much like monkeys All ever greedy for all they can seize. Their acrobatics try to fool the eye But all their joy and humor is a lie; An artifice of games that they must play Without an end or rest day after day. The torrents in ice arrows drive with fear Through broken trees and mud the timid deer. The very air to them is shattered in An unseen danger lurking in the din Of life that crackles in obscure anxiety From which their consciousness cannot be free. The storm grinds jungles into shattered piles Reducing them to ruin for miles and miles And leaving what was once a paradise As toxic waves of worthless sacrifice For what cannot be gained: true happiness With that which only causes man’s distress. For all the violent fury all that’s shown Are scattered fragments lying there like bone. Attachment forms the water of the oceans That swell into the tides of man’s emotions. When smooth and peaceful, they reflect the stars That mark Eternity’s dreams in passing hours But when the storm with turbulent black reaches Out to obscure this mirror it then breaches The primal vision and we may be drowned Within the choppy eddies swiftly pulled down Unless we reach out for the fairy boat, It’s there we have a chance to stay afloat. But while the ocean seems to be titanic It all will quickly in a moment sink Then scatter into vapor spray before The stoic rocks that form into Death’s Door. It’s there we lose it all: all our possessions And all our joys and sorrows in relations. They all will pass like rainbows in the spray That briefly shine before they fade away. How can these passing shadows of illusions Ever satisfy man’s constitution? Do not reach out for mocking demon hopes But reach inside to fmd Eternity’s rope. The only way to save this world, our nation, Is by the practice of renunciation. So seek a righteous path and wisdom soon Will follow waxing like the summer moon That shows the jungle paths all through the night With subtle touch of magic silver light.
That I have been in meditation not Eating, drinking for stretches and that hot Sunlight, nor rainy cold has any effect To move me from my perfect still erect In deep awareness isn’t as important As what I have to say about detachment. Do not lose sight in gazing at the miracle When what I’m preaching is by far more central. I’m only pointing out to you the way, It’s up to you to take small steps each day.” He then returned back to an ancient banyan That witnessed countless generations of man To grow into the central leafy peak There in Hallori. Seated in the thick And hollow trunk of brown and layered limbs That held the boy inside a cool dim womb, He entered in the everlasting flow Of Mind that shines through all that’s here below While pilgrims hung up colorful patches of prayer That waved upon the humid swimming air.
ISLAND OF THE CYCLOPES
DRAWN FROM THE ODYSSEY BOOK IX The fog in languid layers lay stretched out Across the island sliding over patches Of night greased by the stolen silver moonlight Eroding air in an indifferent silence. This is the island where the Cyclopes dwell. They build a street of high stone walls obscuring The sky and fertile parks that they eschew For shady dens that echo with their boasting. The bleating public runs beneath their cliffs Providing meat and cheese from managed flocks And forage on uncultivated fields The droppings left by mighty swinging arms. They laugh with scorn at aegis-bearing Justice That thunders distant in a sky theyâ€™ve locked up; For they, by far, are stronger and that gives Them, in their solitary caves, a total power.
OUR LONELINESS Our loneliness Can drive us to Strange places dim With hopes forlorn In twisted aisles Walking in a Low burning hunger That’s only salted By passing touches, A touch retracted That fades to bony Little white lies. Dressed in regrets
Of papier-mâché The tiny mouth With puckered pinpoint Finds no sustenance In splintered wood. How often must We fall into The same trap door At dead ends scribbled With our own Chalk hieroglyphs Mute blurry warnings?
THE HAWTHORN I saw a flock of robins in a hawthorn Dressed in a misty cloth of new white blossoms Cut from the glossy sheer first light of dawn. Soprano notes rose in a cryptic Orphism With woodwind winds for harmony that blew The petals from their buds in skipping play, A circling dance that scattered them and threw Them up to settle as the Milky Way. What secrets do the hard and prickly thorns guard Conjoined with buds in perfect unity? Is it some ancient path from which man’s barred Or all the freshness of rebirth’s purity? Perhaps when red-breasts leave, replaced by haws That in the autumn calm the anxious wren, I’ll once again pass by this way and pause To see if I can find an answer then.
Santiago del Dardano Turran says, “The basic facts of my biography are rather straightforward. I was born in April of 1968 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in rural Butler County. I have worked blue-collar and retail jobs my whole adult life and do not have a college degree, yet since beginning to submit poetry in August of 2007, my work has been accepted by thirty-four journals.”
GINA M. TABASSO HE WHO LOVED THEM Once there was a girl ~ a stupid, stupid girl ~ who thought she was an Amazon because she had only been thrown by her horse a few times and belonged to no one for long. She fell in love with a grass-eyed ogre because he was different from those with muddy eyes. Somehow he saw the world as she did and thought he was just as brave. Over and over she said she loved him until his ears blocked with fear and he used cat gut to sew her mouth shut. She ripped and tore, hoping blood would convince him but he used it with mud to make bricks. He stopped hunting and fishing, whispering soothing words to her horse so he could spend all his time building walls in fields and forests. Every day he walked the line, laid more brick until he was exhausted. She forgot how to fight, ride or love while she wept. And, although she was soaking wet he was bone dry. But both, because they were alike, wondered if they were still alive.
TWO DOORS DOWN Like a wolf circling my house that got lost to another scent, my neighbor shot himself in the head; three bullets didn’t do the job, missed his brain, took half his face; wandered inside for hours bleeding while we slept. They passed through him, through glass patio doors. On my way to work sirens flew. Thinking of fire further away I didn’t know there was cold so close, came home at the end of the day to yellow tape, SWAT teams, loads of guns removed. Where were his wife, elderly parents, two children who never spoke, yelled in Russian, waved on the way to the mailbox, picked trash, paced the lot, looked in peoples’ windows? We both were thinking of ways out, of all we’d lost, of what was after us ~ the mangy, rabid dog who leapt over my door, landed badly and with too much blood but didn’t make a sound, or no one heard it whimper and howl.
SILLY GOOSE How much is that goose in the window, decked out for Christmas, lit up, kissed? The angry goose whose neck the bald butcher wants to bite in half, flinches when she pecks his cheek, scans the room to see who might have been looking. He has to hide her under his pillow below ground, bury her in poems so their skin doesnâ€™t come close or she might raise the bumps for which sheâ€™s known. Christmas is coming but she will not be stuffed, not eaten, will wake alone to empty stockings by a fire that renders fat and crisps her skin. Every time he denies her she is plunged in scalding water, gives up the ability to fly so he can lay his head softly, continue to die.
TANGLE FOR S.T.
When he asked how long it takes to comb the tangles from my hair I wasnâ€™t certain whether to love or fear, thought of fingers and fluids, nudity and mirrors, someone else in the room. Not as long as it takes to drive to the bar to find him drunk, longer than it took him to hang up on me, less than it takes for a candle to burn down, longer than casting a fishing line or waiting for promises. I pause at the place where our legs get confused, where our torsos press. It is never as difficult as getting out of that bed but gets easier the more you get used to the idea of dancing hearts, a teeter-totter slapping mud, a lumberjackâ€™s saw made to divide, of only being young for a few grade-school summers. I told him the truth, as I always will: It takes no time at all. Maybe one day, after we shower, you can watch me flip my world upside down, watch my fingers pass through knots like ghosts; emptier than before. Gina M. Tabasso holds a masterâ€™s degree in English and has been published in many literary journals and anthologies. She has three chapbooks in print: From Between My Legs, Disrobing, and Front Lines. Tabasso earns her living as the corporate communications manager for a tire distributor and enjoys riding her horse, practicing yoga, belly dancing, teaching poetry workshops, giving poetry readings, and spending time with those she loves.
CONFUSION Out of order, at work or play, Everything is in the way Scattered, messy, out of place Things are at a hectic pace Mixed up, jumbled, people screaming You want to wake and find you were dreaming This way? That way? No one knows Pushing, shoving, anything goes Do this, do that, do everything! Exhaust pipes spit and alarms ring No chance for peace or a minute of rest Each confrontation is a test This is torture ~ true punishment Souls are warped and minds are bent Climb in a hole or up a tree And mass confusion is all youâ€™ll see
THE PEGUIS CREEK AT SUNSET I am sitting by the creek at sunset Soaking in its magnitude and solitude There is a peace here that is utterly relaxing A spiritual calm that envelops me Lining this narrow country stream on both sides are a potpourri of plants A carpet of beige drooping weeds Clusters of brown and yellow bushes Towering above all are the glorious trees Painted lovingly in golden brown, crimson red, and forest green A fallen tree drinks directly from the creek The gentle breeze causes the leaves to make a rustling sound Like a soft, romantic whisper in my ear I also hear children laughing somewhere to my right And crickets chirping somewhere in the grass below I smell a slight hint of pollen and smoke But the air is still clean and refreshing The sun pokes through the branches and warms me slightly For it is Autumn Late September of an Indian Summer The weather is perfect A near clear sky, but not too sunny Warm, but with an offsetting cooling wind The large dropping sun creates tall evening shadows On the gravel road and unmanicured grass And makes the dark, slow-flowing water Seem illuminated from beneath in certain spots A stray dog trots past me paying me no notice Very few birds remain to keep me company And cheer me from the trees with their lovely songs Even the friendly mosquitoes are not coming to me For their dinner tonight High up above, the geese and ducks fly in their V-shaped flocks heading south A goose from somewhere in the left flank Replaces the tired lead goose at the nose of the V The sky itself is a kaleidoscope of colours Deep blue overhead Blending to baby blue Fading to aquamarine and teal Which overlaps a pink: with an orange and yellow glow
Finally melting into purple along the horizon A pale sliver of the grey moon is visible to the left A jet soars far in the distance leaving a streak of white smoke To blend in with the thin, sparse clouds The clouds are more condensed and thick on the horizon Where the sun is setting Covering the sleepy sun with a fluffy blanket A motorbike zooms by on the other side of the creek Kicking up a trail of dust that lingers for a while I wish I could freeze this moment in time And stay in this place forever It is so picturesque and beautiful The surroundings are so soothing and calming That I forget all of my worries Daily minutiae and stress melt away The clouds slowly fade, dissipate, and disappear The sky becomes ever darker A new chill in the wind begins to nip at me Night is upon me
Kevin Strong is from Winnipeg, Canada. He writes music, scripts, stories, and poetry when he is not doing accounting or doting on his two children. Mr. Strongâ€™s poems have been published in several books, magazines, and poetry Web sites, including The Taylor Trust, Lone Stars Magazine, Falling Star Magazine, Expressions by Skyline, Joe Brainardâ€™s Pyjamas, Word Slaw, and LanguageandCulture.net.
LOVE POEM TO A PRIVATE You lean against that wall, my love, inside that cell alone ~ blinded with red ~ blinded from white ~ blinded by blue stars of war. A lullaby approaches from the place that can’t destroy. I want to grab it, mold it and whisper shrapnel out of your flesh, the embedded wounds around your heart. Let me sing to that and wish it out of you. Let me touch your leg, my love, the flesh and bone exploded beneath a youthful soldier’s valor. Let me work it back in dream of hope that seems so lost to you. Let me carry your loneliness and despair down the winding roads imprinted in your mind and lay you upon our great Mother’s earth where she waits and breathes and births fresh dreams. There, I’ll take your head and place it gently upon the bed of moss I’ll make for you. I’ll carry clear water from the river of your childhood and wash your wounds, all of them, and we’ll watch them float away. Then, I’ll lie next to you, my love, and we’ll look through the trees, up to the stars and into the night, I’ll listen to whatever you want to tell.
VOYEUR: SECTION 60 OF ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY A young woman lies on top of a grave her shoulders thin hunched forward white against the green the sundress spotted like a leopard her body stretches along the length of the grave sinking down inside the earth ready to break through the wooden coffin and make love to him once again The bottle half-filled with water seems empty a flag is stuck in front of each tombstone You don’t move his flag you lie down beside it next to the colors bleeding inside the thoughts I cannot know the three or four white flowers placed in a plastic vase stuck in the earth next to the fresh white tombstone Your hair so neatly knotted at the nape of your neck Your face buried in your hands ~ I cry too but unlike your tears mine do not flow instead I sit arrested at my desk guilty at looking into your secret promise your vow the wish that he’d put the ring on your finger before you kissed the earth before you embraced his grave Maybe this photograph shouldn’t have been taken Maybe the photographer should have passed you by But if he had then I wouldn’t know I wouldn’t know.
LESS THAN HONORABLE DISCHARGE He crawls across the room head close to the floor eyes straight ahead always looking back trenches deepen darker he pulls himself up the bed a thousand feet to go a million miles away on her lap he places his head squashed on the roadside body parts mixed in alphabet soup sobbing through the night she strokes his ear as sounds of war beat beatbeat this American son down down down
Leilani Squire, who writes daily, has been involved in the arts since dancing the hula as a toddler on the land of her birth, Oah‘u, Hawai‘i. She says her educational background is more eclectic than certified. “I studied film at UCLA before it was the hip thing to do.” Her poetry and short shorts have been published in The Sun, Gentle Strength Quarterly and other journals. She has been a featured poet and poetry facilitator at Beyond Baroque. Her second screenplay, Lips of Clay, was optioned for its edgy subject matter: A beautiful erotic dancer finds redemption when she must rescue her daughter from the topless club’s clandestine sex trade ring.“ She says, “This is my first year as the Director of the Hollywood Outreach Program of the Scriptwriters Network, and I was recently elected to the Board of Directors. For the past ten years I have been on the jury for The Humanitas Prize. I believe that peace will be created through dialogue, education, and culture.”
LYNN VEACH SADLER
BLUES-PAVED ROAD It turns out Granddaddy Bob is a fan of jazz and blues. It turns out Granddaddy Bob was a serious wandering tomcat in his early onset of the Slayter Dark Streak. A cool cat. He rode the rails with the best of them but claims to have been no more than a stringer, a fill-in. Bass. Guitar. Sax. Whatever the need, he willed himself to fill it. Being there, among “them” was both need and gift. A lot of people in other parts of the country didn’t know the Piedmont blues tunes, like “When You Kill the Chicken Save Me the Head,” until my very own Granddaddy Bob carried them around with him. “I quit because it about killed my mama. Or she pretended it did.” He shrugged. “That’s the same thing with women, Boy. If they can’t put the brakes on you one way, they’ll do it another. But this ~” He held yellow sheets in the air, punctuated his feelings with them. “These were my pride and joy.” “One of your roads not taken.” I put that in. It seemed to fit about as well as any case I have ever considered.
Granddaddy Bob nodded. “The road not taken for me. The road. If you ever find one you want more than anything in the world, Boy, take it. Don’t let anybody or anything detour you. Take your road. The one unfolding in front of you all clean and new and shining. Your road. The one others just about can’t take.” Granddaddy Bob handed over the yellowed paper. I put his songs on the computer. It’s just the words, the lyrics, but I’ve been picking at the guitar he bought me several years back when I was still ignorant of why he’d give me such a gift. I search the Web for places to try, even entered his “Delta Woman Blues” in UNISONG’s International Song Contest (lyrics category), haven’t heard the results yet. Wouldn’t it be rad wild if Granddaddy Bob caught fire as a blues man in his late eighties? Oscar Matthews, Durham ’s “Mayor of Main Street,” wasn’t that old when Randy Travis recorded “Oscar the Angel,” by Don Schlitz, about him. Oscar bummed the streets singing, begging, and prophesying. He’d give you a quarter if you didn’t have one for him and was always happy. He recently died at only 78. I am determined to unroll Granddaddy Bob’s road before him again, pave it with blues music, not yellow brick.
NOT RACE BUT CULTURE “Evolution” still raises hackles, but Darwin was cautious with the term. After all, he knew barnacles (and differences among barnacle geese!). He also might have coined, but cautiously didn’t, “not race but culture.” John Edmonstone, freed slave, rather similar, I think, to the effect of Equiano on Wilberforce, didn’t just teach him taxidermy but life in the ra info rest, whereupon, divagating later, Darwin-fashion (body and mind), Darwin concluded that, superficial differences in appearance notwithstanding, “Negroes and Europeans” are well and truly related. Were this view bruited about even today, brouhaha would burden the scientific bunch, though, so far as I am aware, Darwin was mistaken only about finches.
UNDER THE DOUBLE . . . HELIX The worst ~ or best? ~ is yet to come. DNA has already traced almost all of South, Central, and North America’s Native Americans to SIX WOMEN! All hail to the coming revelations! (Or will the coming be Revelations?) Those godly ancestors of the Aborigines ~ Grandmother Eel, Mother Emu, and Grandmother Crocodile ~ grind, gesticulate, and, yes, smile. The Three Mamas ~ Pachamama/Earth, Mamacocha/Sea, Mamaquilla/Moon ~ are up and dancing with the news. (The male Incas always thought them too full of themselves.) Mona Lisa’s smile has reached her ears (as would Grandmother Crocodile’s were the image apt). Emma is casting herself as the Duke of Lord Nelson. The Mothers of the desaparecidos, in Buenos Aires, nod wisely, waiting for more truth to out. Steinem and Constituents, Inc., may get to return to the saddle (though Jane, doubtless, will still be relegated to the ass). At the least, Darwin’s title is no longer likely to be shortened to The Descent of Man. In fact, odds are that Vegas is already billing it as Selection in Relation to Sex and engaging in other such stratagizing.
Meanwhile in Heaven, Darwin has begun to ponder whether his two types of Argentinean rheas really evolved from the Titaness Rhea. (The females have always left the males to tend the young.) Emma Wedgwood Darwin has discovered (doubtless through DNA) and brought forth upon plates, Charles’s prenuptial jottings on “Marry” vs. “Not Marry.” She’s pushing for gene to transmute its spelling to Jeanne. Scientists eschew the coming polemics, lie low in their laboratories. They’ve long since accepted that the pia mater envelops the entire surface of the brain. The REAL BATTLE is likely to leave off the sexes for Lilith vs. Eve. All hail to the coming revelations! (Or will the coming be Revelations?)
SECRET OF THE CHOUGHS Chough! Chough! (“Chi-ow” for the ignorant.) You acknowledge us, though ignorant you be. “Achoo,” say you. “Achoo!” Thousands of you say it, obscuring our way, thinking of your health only. And if one day, the I/Eye of choughs should come, what would you say? A chough is all that you will think, if you think at all. Are no Merlins left among mankind? No Merlin to know The Chough? (Is a merlin not a bird also?) Look to the bird world. Look well! Choughs mine your minds, are fishers of men, men’s minds. Do choughs go by your span? Years one hundred? Years one hundred, plus fifty more? “They (the Merlins amongst you) say” a pair of us have, for the first time in that latterday span, a nest of chicks brought forth West Penwith way. (One other pair is a-nest on the Lizard Peninsula, also Cornwall way.) But even Cornwall gives no clue, rings hollow with you! We cavort, tumble in the air
for your attention, pull at your mind with our high-pitched Chough! Chough! (“Chi-ow” for the ignorant.) We say it again.
Think back upon my words. Translate them anew.
Our reds of beak and feet, then ~ will they not bring you to it? It? Why, The Secret of the Choughs! (And of you, were you but wise enough to know so.) Alas, Merlin and Merlin’s ilk were the last to communicate with birds. We try once more ~ make our nest a reliquary, build in cavities of cliffs; seek out quarries, mine shafts, sea caves. Nor does that clue suffice. We choughs are reliquaries. To a point we must come, or our kind is waning. We must give up our gift ere it lose itself with us. Look to the coat of arms of Cornwall ~ a brotherhood: chough, miner, fisherman.
Dumbstruck, are you? We choughs are John the Baptist and what Good John foretold. The annus mirabilis will come with HIM. We choughs tell you gratis. The burden we have borne weighs heavy. We hold on but slenderly. Before our dying out, we tell you plainly (for you’ve lost the gift of inner sight): The spirit of Good King Arthur took refuge in us. The Great King Arthur was transformed into us choughs. When the last of us is gone, King Arthur dies to the world, leaves the world to its woes. Hear, see, know us choughs to know yourselves. Build brotherhood anew! Save yourselves!
Former college president Dr. Lynn Veach Sadler, editor, poet, fiction/nonfiction writer, and playwright, has published widely in academics and creative writing. She and her husband have traveled around the world five times; she was writing all the way. Saddler has a full-length poetry collection forthcoming; has several chapbooks published; and has won The Pittsburgh Quarterly’s Hay Prize, tied for first in Kalliope’s Elkind Contest, was a runner-up for the Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize Contest, and won the Poetry Society of America’s Hemley Award and Asphodel’s Poetry Contest. See her short story, “Until the Crow Turns White Again,” on page 89.
RUTH GLEAN ROSING HEARTBREAK IN A PAPER BAG “A few things you might use,” she said. “I don’t know what to do with all the things we cannot keep.” A dozen linen napkins marked with D, some dainty linen towels with hand embroidery, some Tupperware and kitchen things, and heartbreak ~ all inside a paper bag. I ached and cried. With care he chose a place to live, a good hotel that answered all their needs. “But home is here,” she said. His voice climbed a note, “But I’m the one that has to shop and wash the clothes and walk the dog. And I am tired. I want someone to serve our meals and make our beds and let us rest.” And then he put her dog to sleep. “He’s old and has arthritis in his legs; a few days more or less can’t mean that much.” And her protest was shortened by her guilt of being prisoner to a chair. “We face things as they are,” he said, “and all must end.” Yet in that paper bag I found heartbreak that I knew would never mend.
JOINT TENANTS OF AN UNINCORPORATED AREA Wild bird in flight if only you could yield a moment from your compassed route and let me touch your wings of light, I would no captive make of you; I, too, would silhouette the blue! And if from space I fall, I would not hold you from the greater way. Your wings would soar in silver flight away from my dark night
TO KAREN: Who moves at a walk-run, Scattering soft sounds with her musical heels; Who is not sure whether the moon or the sun Will start her day and determine her meals. Who sends free chuckles chasing each smile And reels with tipsy giggles in the night, Has a quaint engaging style And wears a halo with a flickering light. She’s prompt and patient, quick to sympathize, This nurse in white with simple flair. Quite suddenly you realize You take for granted she is there.
Ruth Glean Rosing, an opera and concert singer of longstanding, has had an illustrious career with the likes of Meredith Willson and Vladimir Rosing. She appeared as soloist in the centennial spectacular, The California Story. Rosing, the director, discovered her talent for writing and engaged her to write scripts for the Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona centennial pageants. She moved on to becoming associate director and producer and to eventually marrying Rosing. She has authored two other books, Val Rosing, Musical Genius and Planetary Push-Ups and Random Traffic. Her work also appears in the anthology LA My Way, published by Excellence Enterprises. Rosing’s poetry was excerpted from her book Poetic Global Rotations, courtesy of the author. Ruth Rosing passed away during production of this issue. See “In Memoriam” on page 118.
E.B. REED HAIBUN
COLLECTION: HAIKU, SENYRU, RENGA, TANKA Optimist’s Place ~ Braving the odds of peril at all the right times.
Pebbles dropping down drum-shaped hourglasses keep rhythm in good time.
Ever and ever life moves independently above and beneath.
Beneath and above independently moves life ever and ever.
Glacial ice mountains the past locked in the present quickly vanishing.
Before light, was dark, a brilliant light sounded out, suddenly there’s life. A stirring in the waters, all these wonders before you.
E.B. Reed is a disabled Marine Veteran, who refers to himself as a novice, yet contributes regularly to Bell’s Letter’s Poet. He has also published a chapbook titled Intricate Insights, which is a collection of Haiku, Senyru, Rena, and Tanka. At the time of this submittal, he had no phone, computer, Internet, or library access due to the difficulties imposed by hurricanes and the rebuilding of the area around Gulfport, Missisippi, where he continues to write. The above was excerpted from Intricate Insights.
MARY L. PORTS
GREMLINS ON THE GO You naughty little gremlins who come rapping at my door ~ how ‘oft I say, “Go way, go way and don’t come back no more.” But still you come a-pestering with impish, laughing glee ~ I’ve asked you more than once to leave, don’t want your company! The other day I lost my gloves nowhere could they be found. You know how blasted cold it is with snow upon the ground. Why do you steal and hide my things like thimbles, pens and glasses so I can’t sew or write or see to spank your little asses? These strange and creepy noises which are heard around the house come not from squirrels upon the roof or Jennifer, the mouse. I know you’re there, it’s in the air ~ I feel it in my bones when the moon dips low, the wind blows high and the woodwork creeks and groans. I’ve bought a ‘Witches Handbook’ to read what you’re about ~ to find a way to save my day and kick you rascals out!
BREATH OF SPRING (SWAP QUATRAIN)
When springtime comes, my heart will dance To lively tunes she will entrance. All growth will bring its mystic hums My heart will dance when springtime comes. With golden rays of beauteous light To warm my bones and bring delight, I’ll breathe in Earth’s green fragrant days Of beauteous light with golden rays. Break forth new life with rainbowed hue, To nature’s vow, you will be true. The songbird calls to take his wife, With rainbowed hue, break forth, new life. Soft breezes bring sweet kisses, rare, Upon my cheeks, the springtime air. New budded growth, their colors sing; Sweet kisses, rare, soft breezes bring. Breathe deep, fresh-scented morning air And know that God is everywhere. Black skies turned blue, we now can reap Fresh-scented morning air, breathe deep.
GRANDMA’S NUM-NUMS I remember Grandma In her flour-dusted apron Pulling hot plum scones From the fiery stovepipe oven. Pivoting back and forth In that small cabooselike kitchen, Preparing for those elegant Sunday Social Afternoons. I was always there beside her Dancing underfoot, waiting for samples Of those crunchy, buttered biscuits With hot purple dots oozing from the top. They nourished my taste buds And tickled my nose. How angelic Grandma looked In her long-sleeved cotton dress of blue With a large, laced medallion at the neck. Blissfully she sang, “Rock of Ages” as she worked. While pulling on her apron, I sang, “Num-nums, Grandma, num-nums.” Mary L. Ports publishes frequently in Bell’s Letters Poet and has appeared in Rockford Review, Lucidity, Poetry for Thought, and Shadow Poets/Quill Magazine Poets at Work, among many others. Her poetry is also prominent on two Web sites, shadowpoetry.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Ports published her first book of poetry, Kaleidoscope, through Shadow Ink Publications in 2003. Look for her tongue-in-cheek parable, “Randy the Ready Rat,” on page 84.
B.Z. NIDITCH PLAYING JAZZ VIOLIN Cold wind rolls at the Savoy door nonstop agitation with a forsaken air panting in fatigues of green corduroy favored on empty tuning up strings, the clack of keys jammed and maneuvers you up to the combo stage with a gig hand gestures shattering the main man for a jump start night. Having smooth notes you wave me on the blues will come down, outside it’s all abyss having to declare your name, country, time, birth, destination on scorched earth tiptoes angry at badges and uniforms landlords and lieutenants, whistling like gales for a groove of song with the resonant presence of the king fiddle of arpeggios.
A CHILD’S PASSING With his captain’s hat on a father outruns every sailboat, two miles searching landscape for ashen bones on a sun-beaten shore; the sea’s discarded child still bathes, her mouth full of a final wound, her soft breath dying by the rough torrents and harbor waves of an unseen undertow where salt air rays cling to shrilling gulls and chill winds comb through the rising tide, belying a summer’s good nature; beneath an invading sky a shadow grieves, the sister ocean surrenders a human shaped abyss.
B.Z. Niditch is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, and teacher, as well as founder and artistic director of The Original Theatre in Boston. His work is widely published in journals and magazines throughout the world, including: Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Art; The Literary Review; Denver Quarterly; Hawaii Review; Le Guepard (France); Kadmos (France); Prism International; Jejune (Czech Republic); Leopold Bloom (Budapest); Antioch Review; and Prairie Schooner, among many others.
SWAYAMDIPTO MISRA SLAVERY Freedom is a myth. One of the greatest lies that man has ever said It has gone straight to humanityâ€™s head We as a race will always be enslaved. No matter how people behave, Our decrepit chains still restrain us. Yet we have gotten used to them; many even enjoy them The full potential of our minds has been held back Like a bird caged within a small enclosure. Physically, we might seem free Like a proud lion on the savannah But in reality society has become the slaver Controlling minds through propaganda and shared blood. In order to function today we must become mindless machines Our battery is the cursed marked green paper These slips of paper drive people to madness We as a people have become addicted to it. But even if the madness is stopped, Another slaver will always take us hostage. Society dictates what we must and must not do Like a slave owner telling his slaves the boundaries. Those who escape this cruel bondage, Who break free from their rusted chains, Are vilified as uncivilized monsters. And thus the cycle continues With each new generation taught how to be slaves, But if enough people break their bonds, We can vanquish this slavery, And truly be free.
Swayamdipto Misra is a freshman in high school and likes to write poetry. Interested in philosophy, medicine, and politics, Misra has lived in various parts of the United States and travels often.
TOM MIRABILE AWAITING AFFLATUS A short story? An essay? A novel? A play? If verse, there’s uncertainty whether its lines will be formal or free; If prose, there are those bothersome questions of plot and who or what character will be pointing the view. I like to believe the arrival is near and will be touching the surface quite soon: A yarn just like Huck’s? A Dante-like epic? An epiphany from Joyce? Could be the shortest of stories, a set of vignettes, a drama, a ballad, or perhaps an ambitiously long dirty joke. It could show on this very same night as I fall off headed for dreams; And when I awaken my mind’s-eye’s new tenant will accompany my coffee and toast. I’ll toss in some tropes and ornaments of speech, a glorious mixture of beauty and depth; I’ll polish it up with the sweat of revision, the nouns and the verbs, the commas and colons, then finish it off with all of the appropriate paragraph breaks. The tale could uplift and carry one through, or maybe the tenor will be brooding and dark; Then I’ll shine it still further with figurative bells, the allusions and metaphors all ringing so true. And right from the start it will not only secure the coveted crown of a best-selling hit; It will later be fitted with the robes of a classic for a permanent stay on immortality’s shelves. But for now I’m still pleading for that formidable figment; And the truth of this matter is I’m beside my own self, at the end of these lines, with this ditty at risk of becoming no more than a dirge to be sniveled at or an epitaph to be laughed at, of a work whose appearance is inexcusably late, a fugitive saga, a delusion or pipe dream, and perhaps, worst of all, no more than a tease or a merciless fictional hoax.
A MEMO TO LADY MNEMOSYNE Your images, shadows, and ghosts are pestering needlessly, at times becoming gloomy critics reciting their unwelcome and inappropriate reviews while the reel of my movie is still delivering the story. They take over my daydreaming, ambush nighttime visions, invade the morning shower, or distract from a glorious meal. And on occasion they even have the audacity to turn lovemaking into an unwanted threesome. I try to slap away or stomp on your worst encroachers, the nostalgic insects among them, the slow-crawling should haves, the stinging could haves, or the racing what ifs. There seems to be disagreement on the subject, that is, some say the past can be a precious path, while others claim that looking backward is a fruitless detour. Abbie Hoffman viewed nostalgia as a form of depression, no more and no less, and I tend to agree whenever I call on you and fondly recall his protesting antics. In addition, there is the bafflement why certain especially useless reveries keep returning, those repetitious, time-wasting visits of specific events that deliver twinges of guilt? And just what determines the selections you are choosing? With all due respect, I would like a bit more of a say in all this.
Tom Mirabile lives in the Boston area and is currently seeking a publisher for his novel Bare Facts. His writing has appeared in a number of journals including First Intensity, Hypnos, and the Middle English Literary Journal. His short story â€œGoing to the Devilâ€? was a semifinalist in the 2003 New Millennium Award.
ABRAHAM LINIK THE KISS
An unexpected kiss ~ a beginning. (?) Lips ~ red rolling waves full of wine Yearning to be loved to be kissed
Memory Closes doors More and more Scenes of young life Intermingle Fade reappear And perhaps It was all Just a dream
Kindling passion a fire
A tear Rolls down Her cheek ~
Come closer no one is here.
How glowing Are beginnings How ravaging the end.
A PASSING TRAIN
Everything under the sun Will outlive me Only a memory Will remain
Constant. Unique. Unstoppable is TIME.
And like smoke in the air Like the gold of the day It too will dissipate And fade away.
Indifferent to pain. Oblivious to fear.
And perhaps, one day, Some reader will utter my name, Resurrecting a life That God has taken away.
A passing train moving in one direction.
Former school principal Abraham Linik has been published in Pudding, Georgetown Review, Edgz, Midstream, Nimrod International Journal, Art Times, and Black Buzzard Review, among many others. He lives and writes in Newton, Massachusetts.
LYN LIFSHIN MIDDLEBURY POEM Milky summer nights, the men stay waiting, First National Corner where the traffic light used to be, wait as they have all June evenings of their lives. Lilac moss and lily of the valley sprout in the cooling air as Miss Damon, never late for thirty years, hurries to unlock the library, still hoping for a sudden man to spring tall from the locked dark of mysterious card catalogues to come brightening her long dusty shelves. And halfway to dark boys with vacation bicycles whistle flat stones over the bridge, longing for secret places where rocks are blossoming girls with damp thighs. Then nine oâ€™clock falls thick on lonely books and all the unclaimed fingers and as men move home through bluemetal light, the Congregational Church bells ringing as always four minutes late, the first hayload of summer rumbles through town and all the people shut their eyes dreaming a wish
THINGS THAT SHINE IN QUEBEC CITY AS THE SUN FALLS light on the ball of glass, on the puddles under the Hilton. The St Lawrence glows, the flag poles, edges of buildings. A yellow car in the salmon light. Lights are starting to go on. Green copper roofs glow, shadows of clouds over sailboats on the water. The smell of leaves, cool wind blowing. The water a ripple of light like a flag of glass. Diamond ripples. I think of Diamond Head, light that seemed magical in a strange town. The only familiar sign is one that says Kresgeâ€™s. Light that will glow when what seems to might not. Green diamonds, red diamonds, blue diamonds starting to cover the hill.
DOWNSTAIRS THE DARK STUDDED with glow of white branches, clots of snow, stars in clumps, you have to bury your face in white. In Syracuse, off Comstock, the lilacs just starting, the first man who touched me inside my clothes pulled me under such white boughs thru rain dripping. Lacy boughs, light filling the dark orchard. In this same jeweled light everything opening like these clenched buds.
Lyn Lifshin lives and writes in Virginia.
PAMELA L. LASKIN BLANKET OF BOOK: TO SHARON OLDS
Little things like ladybugs and whispering willowed trees; four leaf clovers, red bracelets with Buddha beads blessed me, and when these didn’t work there was always the charm of a word, wrapped in insect wings, frenzied with the flight of anywhere. With your poems I am somewhere, tucked inside the blanket of a book.
THE LAUNDRESS I’m a poet different from others, I do lots of laundry spend hundreds on Heavenly Clean detergent. More than most poets, I scrub and scour persist with grease and grime refuse to believe in permanent stains. I even wash other people’s filthy laundry, and enjoy the caked vomit of young children the smelly semen of lovers, the sour sweat of a night of sex and boozing; I am willing to wash all of this, and if the bleach of my broiling labors is insufficient laundress that I am, I’ll get my hands wet let the dirt destory these very puny nails again again again.
(1900-1970, RUSSIA) TO MARY LASKIN
AGAINST THE WALL
She was her own supper: pot-roast, flanken served on fire;
She didn’t mean to murder her baby, but she did.
her words were weapons so she used them wisely and well, pushing four grandchildren to be educated,
She meant to be a good mother not the one who snaps the neck of a baby bird and buries it.
to shape a self not from clay but from ironinflexible tyrannical, big of breast and belly, Masha turned Mary,
She was bruised, she was battered, forty foster homes in four years. She swore not to be the mother who abandons her daughter on the stoop,
always had soup on the stove and hungry grandchildren at her table.
so she threw her against the wall instead.
SNAKE GODDESS Dear Daughter,
wonderful concoctions out of thin air like a magician;
Welcome to my meal. I’m sorry for the times I didn’t feed you, glad you learned to cook can create
you are the goddess of wisdom who ignored the snake at your setting.
Pamela L. Laskin has published four poetry chapbooks, two full-length volumes of poetry, two YA novels, and several picture books. She teaches creative writing at The City College of New York, where she is the director of The Poetry Outreach Center. Two new volumes of her work are scheduled for publication this summer.
A SENIOR’S WISH I wish once more I was 23 and again sail out on the roaring sea, Now the sea just makes me pee. I wish once more I was 33 when beer and whisky were my tea, Now they also make me pee. I wish once more I was 43 a rising tycoon of industry, Now nothing rises ‘cept when I pee. I wish once more I was 53 a world paying homage to me, Now I’m paying to help me pee. I wish once more I was 63 a leader feared by enemy, They never knew my prostate plea. I wish once more I was 73 retired then and feeling free, My trusty catheter helping me. Now here I am at 83 oops, sorry, I must flee. Mother nature is calling me.
Charles Kray started at the tender age of twenty-one as a newspaper editor in the army for the weekly publication Paraglide. He has a wonderful story about his beginnings, which will be published in the summer issue of The Taylor Trust. He lives in Carson, California.
MAHDY KHAIYAT TIME That conceptual dilemma of mankind Remains. Since time immemorial, man’s baffled brains and bodies Have been dragooned by Time’s edicts. We oby them. Animals tell seasons by their innate sense of time; When it is time, they mate and die. Plants too know when To bud, To mature, To wilt. Time is Olympian; He hovers above your head Like the spirits of your ancestors; He is there, and his influence is overwhelming Although you cannot see him. There is no place to hide, Because you carry him.
POETRY VIRUS AT DAWN I hear the robins chirp And the doves coo. At a distance, Behind the cottony white cloud, A voice says: “Enjoy! Enjoy now! My path is wide open. I am on My way,” says Death! Indeed you are!
Mahdy Y. Khaiyat lives and writes in Goleta, California.
The virus invades my body, Uses up my time, Pollutes my drink and food, Disrupts my tranquility, And makes me feel weak; I am bedridden. I try to call a doctor, But it numbs my fingers. I scream for help, But it stuffs my mouth with words. It murmurs: “It’s too late to find a cure. I am hidden somewhere in the Labyrinth of your mind.”
MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON MOTHER, EDITH, AT 98 Edith, in this nursing home blinded with macular degeneration, I come to you with your blurry eyes, crystal sharp mind, your countenance of grace ~ as yesterday’s winds I have chosen to consume you and take you away.
“Oh, where did Jesus disappear to,” she murmured, over and over again, in a low voice dripping words like a leaking faucet: “Oh, there He is my Angel of the coming.”
CHARLEY PLAYS A TUNE Crippled with arthritis and Alzheimer’s, in a dark, rented room Charley plays melancholic melodies on a dust-filled harmonica he found abandoned on a playground of sand years ago by a handful of children playing on monkey bars. He now goes to the bathroom on occasion, peeing takes forever; he feeds the cat when he doesn’t forget where the food is stashed at. He hears bedlam when he buys the fish at the local market and the skeleton bones of the fish show through. He lies on his back riddled with pain, pine cones fill his pillows and mattress; praying to Jesus and rubbing his rosary beads. Charley blows tunes out his celestial instrument and notes float through the open window to touch the nose of summer clouds. Charley overtakes himself with grief and is ecstatically alone. Charley plays a solo tune.
ROD STROKED SURVIVAL WITH A DEADLY HAMMER Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or a pull of a lever, that one of the bunch in her pocket was a winner or the slots were a redeemer; but life itself was not real that was strictly for the mentally insane at the Elgin Mental Institution. She gambled her savings away on a riverboat stuck in mud on a riverbank, the Grand Victoria, in Elgin, Illinois. Her bare feet were always propped up on a wooden chair; a cigarette dropped from her lips like morning fog. She always dreamed of traveling, not nightmares. But she couldnâ€™t overcome, overcome the terrorist ordeal of the German siege of Leningrad. She was a foreigner now; she is a foreigner for good. Her first husband died after spending a lifetime in prison with stinging nettles in his toes and feet; the second husband died of hunger when there were no more rats to feed on, after many fights in prison for the last remains. What does a poet know of suffering? Rebecca has rod stroked survival with a deadly mallet. She gambles nickels, dimes, quarters, tokens tossed away, living a penniless life for grandchildren who hardly know her name. Rebecca fantasized that life was a lottery ticket or the pull of a lever.
BIRD FEEDER Baby, born just a sparrow ~ first flight from balcony to tree limb. A chip of corn falls from the feeder to the ground. Michael Lee Johnson is a poet and freelance writer from Itasca, Illinois. He has a brand new chapbook, From Which Place the Morning Rises. He also has two previous chapbooks. Johnson is also the author of The Lost American: from Exile to Freedom and has been published in more than 280 different publications worldwide in countries that include the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Turkey, Fiji, Nigeria, Algeria, Africa, India, United Kingdom, Republic of Sierra Leone, Israel, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Finland. His work also has been read on Poland Internet radio. For more information on Johnsonâ€™s, work go to page 116.
EMMANUEL JAKPA IN SUPPORT OF JONES VERY* How good the certainty That Lever cannot pry ~ And Wedge cannot divide Conviction ~ ~ Emily Dickinson He drank from the knowledge everyone looks for and only few shall ever find. He drank and could not stay quiet ~ this was his crime. These votive words, this candle, this seed, these words, within the white woods, this silent page, honor your noble deed. Why should not all mortal things come to an end; why should the simple truth elude the shrewd?
~ Better to scorn academic glory; better they withdrew your lectureship, better despised, called insane, but follow your vision. Who shall receive such divine imports, revelations, and remain untransformed, unrenewed, unchanged? The worldâ€™s too much with care ~ getting, and losing ~ always unready to discern, receive, and learn ~ too much at forgetting.
Out of senseless chaotic mold, how can it come spontaneously, self- and senseful world. Out of sleeping awaking, out of awaking sleeping, is not all about life, the things we cannot see? It does not stop their reality.
How long must a poet justify the ways of God Why do we limit dreams ~ ever seeking the happiness and peace of ~ why not consider Infinity mankind, ~ why not consider Time ~ ever revealing the awesome mystery what stops us, but ourselves of manâ€™s freedom, and eternal freewill. to make our life sublime? *Jones Very (1813-1880) was a contemporary of Emerson, Alcott, Channing, Hawthorne and other notable freethinkers, poets, and progressive clergymen. His passionate transcendentalism, viewed as possible insanity by his peers, eventually landed him in MacLean Hospital for a month of observation. During 1839 Emerson helped him publish one book of essays and poetry that received a lukewarm reception. Regardless of his brilliant beginning at Harvard, Very did not publish again throughout his long life.
THE PINK HAT Beef and mashed potatoes wait on the table, with immaculate patience. Duffy’s Mercy plays from the laptop. I look out into Cork Road, vehicles pass, group of WIT students on the sidewalk, a workman bikes his way home. A windowful of breeze wafts in from the garden, carrying its well-groomed scents of fuschia and rose. In the yard, near the fence, a cat mews both neighborly and right, climbs up the birch tree and lies unnoticed.
I caress my mind and heart in a laughing voice, rub every tone against the walls of my ears. It is not like a clenched fist or a grinding of teeth.
Letters drop, dropping slow, drip drop, drip drop, drip drop like water from eaves after rain.
FOR JOHN ENNIS*
It is hard to wait for words while hours go in seconds. A mason knows no haste.
When I am upset, it slows the flow of bile into my veins. I use it often to water down a frown, and deflect the poisoned heads of the arrows of my foes. It’s a loaded gun.
He builds block by block, to a wall.
*Poet and educator John Ennis was born in Westmeath in 1944. A winner of the Listowel Open Poetry Competition eleven times, he won the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 1975, and the Irish American Cultural Institute Award in 1996. He is head of the School of Humanities at Waterford Institute of Technology, and lives in Waterford, Ireland.
It makes life more than a thousand times easier.
Nigerian Emmanuel Jakpa lives in Ireland. His poetry has been published in a number of online and print journals and the Echoing Years: Anthology of Irish-Canadian Poetry. He is a Yeats Pierce Loughran Scholar.
CAROL ANN HOWELL
If you keep running down the road chasing something that is always just out of your grasp and sometimes out of sight ~ in your exhaustion maybe you ought to stop and rest, take a right turn and wander off into the bushes or down a little path, maybe you should just meander until you find a stream ~ and perhaps a waterfall ~ and maybe when you’ve stopped running you will encounter and possess something more suited to you, something you’ve been pursuing all along ~ now that you are not running, you will of course have the opportunity to recognize it, it has been waiting for you ~
Si sigue corriendo por el camino yendo en pos de algo, que está siempre justa fuera de su alcance y a veces fuera de su vista ~ en su agotamiento tal vez debería para y descansar, cruzar a la derecha y desambular entre los arbustos o por un caminito, tal vez debería solamente pasearse hasta que encuentre un riachuelo y quizas una cascada ~ tal vez cuando haya parado de correr encontará y poseerá algo que es más adecuado para usted, algo que debiera haber seguido todo el tiempo, ya que no esta corriendo, tendrá la oportunidad de identificarlo, ha estado esperandole
Educated in New York and California, Carol Ann Howell has published internationally. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine and the Travel section, Family Circle magazine, Yellow Silk Literary magazine, LA Examiner magazine, La Opinión newspaper, Kaleidoscope, Women’s National Book Association/Los Angeles’ newsletter, and others in the USA. She has won awards from PEN, Women’s National Book Association, California Press Women, the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference, South Bay Manuscripters (Ray Bradbury was a member) and a Residency to Dorland Mountain Colony in California.
FOR BENAZIR She just passed through here, a meteor burning bright in the emptiness where breathing time is a happening, period. Oh, but what am I to make of your smile?
TO A QUERY from lessons in life sciences whose last slowing calls seize the essence of the matter inside this earth as it shakes free of her burdens, life races past all attachments, leaving you oh but where
No, a quake, downside up to vibrations that tell apart the yard maple from its bark, inside being outside, see that shag of brown grass perhaps an old manâ€™s beard show through the dirt still hiding school children
Alamgir Hashmi has published eleven books of poetry and several volumes of literary criticism in the United States, Canada, England, Australia, India, Pakistan, and other countries. His recent work has appeared in the inaugural issue of The Taylor Trust, Natural Bridge, Connecticut Review, and Water~Stone Review. He has won a number of national and international awards and honors, and his work has been translated into several European and Asian languages. For more than three decades he has taught in European, Asian, and United States universities, as Professor of English and Comparative Literature.
JONATHAN HARRINGTON EAT
MATTHEW 14:13-21 I met You once, though I don’t suppose You will remember me. Who knows? You had a thing for whores and drunks and guys like me who can never peg ourselves into the squares cut out for us. I’d just woke up, shoes full of sand from sleeping off a drunk, and joined that band of five thousand who followed You to a lonely place outside of town. I heard You teach and do amazing things but I was shaking by the time I knelt down on the grass before You. I need a drink, Rabbi, a skin of wine. You shook Your head and handed me a piece of fish and bread. Take this and eat, instead.
A WIFE’S FANTASY MATTHEW 27:19
The news reported I told Pilate of a dream ~ not true ~ it was, in fact, a fantasy. Each time my husband put his chubby fingers on my breasts I’d sigh and close my eyes. What he mistook for passion was escape to dreams of lying in some other arms than this fat, flatulent bureaucrat’s. That night he took me awkwardly as usual, as if I were a case dismissed in court. He humped and grunted over me as I returned to fantasies of the bearded, sunburned Prophet of the Jews. Later, as Pilate dozed beside me I cooed: Please let Him go. Next day Your death was on the evening news. In addition to eight books, Jonathan Harrington has published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in everything from the New York Times to the Texas Review. He received an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1983. In 1989 he edited New Visions: Fiction by Florida Writers. “Tropical Son” appeared monthly in Metro Magazine and won the coveted Gold “Charlie” Award for best column of the year from the Florida Magazine Association in 1990. In 1992, twenty-six of these essays were collected in Tropical Son: Essays on the Nature of Florida, and published to critical acclaim. Harrington lives on the hacienda San Antonio Xpakay near Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.
PROJECTION It was yesterday that I recognized the vast difference between the known and the unknown. Perhaps nothing of significance but into the dark night I ventured. My balance tipping beyond my reach. I saw the consequences of giving in to the desire of satisfaction. Nothing came of it but the knowing that one day I will be unable to control the fall, the downing of desire into the chasm of space ~ imbalance ~ then the coming to, the waiting for help I did not want but now needed.
I I killed a squirrel this morning. Not intentionally. It dashed out before me on I-90, hesitated and sped back as if needing to return for some forgotten item. Oh, I saw him way ahead of me. His speed to get across the road. His stop. His pause. His turn. I admired the ease with which he accomplished this feat like some athlete in morning exercise but I got lost in ecstasy of his swiftness and swerved the wrong way. II Here I was again days earlier alongside the Roe Jan Kill. I placed on a branch all my doubts and weaknesses and flung it into the cascading waters then looked upstream in prayer for openness of heart. I left the river full of commitment to follow my new path. Next morning my anxieties returned along with aches and pains of body still weak from disease and stress and overactive herbs. I hesitated. Turned. Fought this panic for air and resuscitation until later that day, I said internally, Get up, recommit, breathe Spirit air. Now, out of reverie, I was back on I-90. I looked in rearview mirror. Saw squirrel, its feet in air, squashed again by another car. I sped on, wondering if I had enough time to make it across my own imaginary highway.
MAKEOVER Yesterday, I said I would paint the clouds another color and teach the birds a different mantra. Alas, it is today. The winds have taken all my sets. The blue jay robbed all my hopes. And I forgot the programming for a more soothing cacophony.
John Fitzpatrick, PhD, has received Vermont Studio Center poetry residencies, the Hackney Poetry Literary Award from Birmingham-Southern College, honors in City Works, Mad Poets Review, Confluence, Taproot Literary Review, and Clark College Writers, with other poems published or forthcoming in Yalobusha Review, The MidAmerica Poetry Review, California Quarterly, Luna Negra, The Cape Rock, Plainsongs, SLAB, Out of Line, Snow Monkey, The Rock River Times, ICON, Common Ground Review, Willard & Maple, Chronogram & others. His 2000 New York Universityâ€™s Doctoral dissertation treated the poet as writer and reader of poetry, with poets Barbara Unger and Michael Burkard participating in his research. The prolific Fitzpatrick won the Hackney Poetry Literary Award from Birmingham-Southern College and was awarded several poetry residencies at Vermont Studio Center where he wrote and/ or refined the poems published in The Taylor Trust: Poetry & Prose.
MICHAEL ESTABROOK MY HEART IS SO FULL I see your pretty face, hear your so familiar voice, watch your precious movements across the room, and my heart is so full. I turn to the photos of you before I came along, 15 years old, so innocent and sweet lying on the blanket at Dallenbach’s beach, acting with your friends in a summer stock play, and my heart is so full. I recall our first dance, holding you so tenderly against me, our first kiss, so tentative, yet sure, our very first date when I asked you to be mine, and my heart is so full. I replay the scene of my proposing to you in the dark, fumbling with the ring, and you saying yes and crying, my world exploding with happiness and relief, and my heart is so full. I think again of kissing you, feeling your warm mouth on mine, feeling your slender fingers laced between mine, stare as your perfect smile shines on me still, and my heart is so full I fear it will burst.
Michael Estabrook says, “Over the years I’ve published a few chapbooks and appeared in some terrific poetry magazines, but you are only as good as your next poem and, like a surfer searching for that perfect wave, I’m a poet prowling for that next perfect poem. Right now I am looking for that perfect poem in my wife, who just happens to be the most beautiful woman I have ever known. If I find it anywhere I’ll find it in her.”
ADULTS DON’T READ TO THEIR CHILDREN ANYMORE The Judas Cow had a self-fulfilling prophesy That he was going to betray his species And lead them all to genocide by way of slaughter He laId down in the road as an alternative His remains were given to a poor family so they might eat well for half a year. When the stock market crashed Chicken Little fell out of bed and broke his back Chuck Little the investment banker (Chicken Little’s substitute) Ran to the top of The Empire State Building, yelling “The Stock market is falling! The Stock market is falling! ! !” The three little pigs foreclosed on their houses And fully expected a bailout They didn’t get it the FatCats in Washington refused They only wanted to bailout the Sheeps on Wall Street ~ And the Monkeys in Detroit The greed meter is broken! The clock is ticking way too fast! ! Something has gone terribly awry Even in the Fairy Tales Adults don’t read to their children anymore.
THE FORGETFUL FISHERMAN The forgetful fisherman was as wise as he was forgetful. Some even said that he used to be a Zen Master, but that was a long time ago and he had forgotten about that. Early one morning a little boy approached the fisherman asking him for advice. “Sir, my father would like me to help on the boat, but I am fearful of the ocean. Every time I get near it, I am desperately afraid. What should I do?” The fisherman sat contemplating the boy’s problem. Finally, he spoke, “My child, You have to learn to control your FEAR.” “No, that’s not it!!!” He said interrupting himself. There was a long period of silence, and the boy was unsure if the fisherman had fallen asleep. Finally, he opened his eyes and spoke, “You have to learn to eliminate your FEAR,” But quickly corrected himself again by yelling, “STRIKE THAT!!!” This time there was an even longer silence and the boy sat and watched as the sun changed horizons The boy thought the fisherman had forgotten about his problem and was about to get up and leave when the fisherman spoke again, “You have to learn to destroy your FEAR.” But was quick to point out, “Oh, Lord no, that’s not it!!!” “Neither do you need to learn to bury it,” he added quickly and then was silent for a long time. The boy sat with the fisherman until the evening started to creep up on them, The sun was about to kiss the ocean, giving the sky a tangerine haze. The boy really needed to go Now! As he got up the forgetful fisherman told him “STOP!” “FEAR is a sickness that crawls inside of you and dies,” said the fisherman. “The SICKNESS grows,” he continued. “It penetrates, infiltrates, your very being, doing, going, leaving you, in a constant state of FEAR. Making you its servant, You need to learn to release your FEAR.” “Is that it?” the boy asked getting up to leave. “Release? I’m ... Not... Sure ... Let me think about it,” the forgetful fisherman replied.
DEAR MISS RIGBY, The Beatles are frozen underground Like some sort of Prehistoric Cave Drawing, Art Incognito. The Ground is Hard And my Fingernails break. The Clay imbedded in my DNA, Some part of me is Buried Should I attend my own Funeral? Nobody Else seems to be going The Eulogy is short and unsweetened, There are no Tears. It hasnâ€™t rained in days, I long for the tropics, Where things make more sense. I long for that girl from long ago who was never anything but beauty personfied. The butterfly on her lower hip flutters and is perhaps my heart. Desire is an impossible suspect, My fingers slide under her yellow underwear Past the Tattoo which dances, Subtly stopping to admire the colors of her wings The Moment is perfect. The Cold outside in perfect contrast To the warmth I feel for her, beneath the Reptilian Skin I crawl looking for this moment Because that is all I can do To pass the time
Joseph DeMarco was born in New York City, but lived most of his life in Buffalo, New York. He now teaches seventh grade on the island of Oahu, Hawaii and is the author of the novels Plague of the Invigilare, The 4 Hundred and 20 Assassins of Emir Abdullah-Harazins, At Play in the Killing Fields and Blind Savior, False Prophet. He also is currently working on several new projects.
RENATA DAWIDOWICZ A BIRD ~ EXTINCT My mind completely inhabited By the wondrous collection of birds That have enveloped various regions of our world The magnificent wing spread of bountiful colors Representing species of different insurmountable numbers If only we could bring them back to life Or find them in a secret part of our hemisphere A group still in existence Hidden from the dangerous perils of life The amazing features characteristic of each one With splendid colors of plumage Hoping the remaining species left Will never be extinct in our time But continue to beautify our world forever They fly higher and higher And their songs thrill the senses to ecstasy Their beaks so distinctive in size CARE NOT And prehistoric-like webbed feet for their necessity Amazement of nature Thrilling to behold Laid out forever into dust How each bird is unique A young one loses to drugs or alcohol There are no imitations I got a phone call Someone in the neighborhood Graduated from the school I went to It bothers the heck out of me We go on with our daily life to pay the bills But I know another died in bed Before it was time to go Self-inflicted but it stops there The addiction is so great There are only losers in the use of drugs and alcohol I call it so because no matter how many episodes Trying to win the fight to overcome the addiction You keep winning and losing Itâ€™s so hard to win unless more clinics are established Yet if we could only find a strategy of win - win - win So there would never be anyone dead from drugs and alcohol I believe this should become a big priority all over It should be win - win - win for all the children They deserve it
WINDOW Reflecting to the other side of my mirrored image In an antique window with glass partitions Framed in small squares of blocks Enclosed in silver steel I can see duplicates of everyone in the museum restaurant Eventually we become only mirrored images when we are gone The reality of the human disappears An emptiness prevails in the glass enclosure As I observe all of this in an entity They cannot talk, see, feel, think, love, enjoy Be human Whatever we do But when we are gone Thatâ€™s what is left Somewhere in time Someplace I existed To think about The mirrored image
The prolific Renata Dawidowicz has published more than three hundred poems in many venues, among them Bellâ€™s Letters Poet, The Poet, The Sounds of Poetry, and Silver Wings. She is a member of The International Academy of Poets and has won many awards. Her book, 20th Century Now, is available from Plowman. Dawidowicz lives and works in Michigan.
IN SHERWOOD FOREST even today a cantering horse through rustling leaves suggests sheriffâ€™s men sending pedestrians fleeing to the hollow Major Oak stout as the Mother of all the living where all the outlaws from all the worlds gather
Ellen Cooney lives and writes in Northern California.
J.F. CONNOLLY GYMNASTICS
FOR SISTER ROSE IMMACULATA Floor, beam, and vault champion, coming Tuesday afternoons for extra help to improve her mathematics, she turns his life upside down in a tumble that numbers will not solve ~ he can count the digits on a hand: the years between them an equation he will not violate.
Courted by gold medals, she wins every meet. Still, the figures haunt her, the answers never correct. Held in his own iron cross, he studies the violet girl with her geometric shape: she hunches above formulas he knows by heart. Little thing to give her a B: he, too, cannot remember ~ has forgotten the young woman in her habit, the one who made him memorize her Latin, the conjugations that have flipped out of his mind.
She dons the school colors, purple and white, like a saint parading before nuns.
J.F. Connolly has been teaching for forty years, the last twenty-six years at Milton Academy, where he is the only current Master Teacher in the Upper School. In the Brockton Public School System, where he was an English Department Chairman, he established one of the finest high school creative writing programs in the country. Connolly has published eighty-eight poems and several short stories. He has coauthored two textbooks, Poeima and Touching All Bases: A Rhetoric of Self Discovery. He also has won two chapbook competitions: the Philbrook Poetry Award, selected by Martin Espada, which resulted in the publication of Last Summer, and The Comstock Reviewâ€™s Jessie Bryce Niles Award, which resulted in the publication of Among the Living. A retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Reserve, Connolly is married, has three children, and lives with his wife, Sandra Connolly, in Milton, Massachusetts.
THE WAIT I can feel the words coming, the words that I have been waiting for. The right words, good words. I cannot hear them marching over the hills and mountains. No clip, clop of little feet but I know that they are coming. The best words that I will ever write. Pure and honest. Real thoughts that will become words. I realized it at the dead of night, the changeover from one day to another. Thatâ€™s when I know. Now I wait. I warm the keys until they come. Until they arrive. Kill time with normal, ordinary occurrences and incidents. Smiling at strangers and flirting with women that I do not know. So I sit on the beach and wait for those waves to come, come crashing in. TO WASH ALL OVER ME. ARE YOU WAITING TOO?
JUST ONE You are a long time dead son. That is what my granddad used to say and my mother too. Now my mother says very little and my granddad has been dead a very long time. And my dreams are filled with strangeness. I am back to writing with pen and paper and borrowing other peopleâ€™s computers. I killed my computer, I killed it with my words. It is almost as if something is trying to stop me from writing. But here, they still are. The words. Ginsberg said that he just recorded the words that went through his head. Almost like they were not his. I understand what he means. The thoughts do not come from here and I am not sure, if they have a place here anymore. It is a different time now.
I walk amongst people as if I were a ghost. Maybe I am already dead. A long time dead.
IDENTITY I walk by the sea with a black manâ€™s name on my back. The sea stretches out on one side and the mountains on the other. They know what they are, the sea and hills. I walk slowly and look at all the people. They all seem together, with others. They all fit together. I walk to the sea and look at it. I leave the name on the shirt on the sand. Walk into the water. It raises up my body. When I get in far enough. I do what I always do. Ask him to make me clean, for one last time. He cannot see the point anymore, he knows it will not last. But he does it anyway, he has to. Under I go, under the water. As I come up, I feel different as I always do. Clean, fresh without sin. Someone new. I know that it will not last, but it feels good now. I do not put the shirt back on as I leave the sea. Did I leave something in the sea? By daybreak I will be unclean again, we both know that. Will the sea welcome me tomorrow? We will see.
United Kingdom denizen Marc Carver has published in Skyline, Candelabrum Poetry Magazine, and in the online Black Shark Press as well as Nigel Corbettâ€™s Blue Yonder. Carver says his literary training comes mostly from devouring the words of the great masters, American and English, for ten years. He has been writing poetry for about one year only, and he says the most important thing to him is to continue to write and watch his own work evolve. He lives and writes in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England.
& WHAT IS MORE: HEART ATTACK & what is more There is only you On the floor A further tale of terror Gone wanting Like any lie “Holy shit!” Might sum it up Since it is
David Breeden has an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, a PhD from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School. An accomplished poet, novelist, and Unitarian Universalist minister, Breeden’s latest book of poems is Stigmata. His next novel will be out soon from Fine Tooth Press.
STUDENTS OF POETRY We will always be students of poetry Trying to figure out which words go in what category Language will always evolve as it reinvents itself Even scholars have to constantly search through the bookshelf. Let’s travel back in time Venture inside the poet’s mind Try to figure out how did the poet come up with such a rhyme. Why wasn’t his classic work ever published in his prime? Poets forever trying to master the art We seek to learn so much before we depart A language of love so close to our heart With much passion from the start Poems drawn on your mind like a hieroglyph Mentally painting a picture of the written script You spend years studying the stanzas Digesting it all in your mental canvas Reading timeless poems that make you reflect What is the meaning in retrospect? We break down the verses like rocks at the quarry From the Stone Age to the present, we remain students of poetry.
Bobby Bostic has written seven books of poetry and four nonfiction books. He is now studying to become a paralegal. Bostic says he enjoys writing rhyming poetry. He lives and writes in Licking, Missouri.
ANOTHER WAR LOST Thousands of homeless no longer compete, vanquished by life, they parade in my street coming from alleys where they humbly sleep mustering grit to face the passing elite, pleading for money to buy things to eat, this prize example of our economic defeat. Paying for their bad choices they fester in jail, crippled by lack of training, destined to fail, judged then by courts where revenge is the tale since there’s no reforming a wayward male. When they’re released, did crime we curtail? Cons are made meaner, for policeman’s travail. Courts fault the schools, this war is now lost, Not the elected whose ethics were tossed, to share in the rich bounty from weaponry cost, paid by the lobbies rich companies bossed. We are the citizens their wars double crossed, paying for assets turned ash in war’s waste exhaust.
WE ARE PLANTING A tiny seed is wishful sown in God’s hungry, eager earth. It germinates, not on its own, since warming sun must beg its birth. If its roots reach deep enough in somewhat loosened common dirt, it nurtures from soil’s rotting duff and comes alive in mystic spurt. Our relationships are just like this, and we expect, they fervent grow. Dark clouds bestow sweet moisture’s kiss, but can’t control what fates bestow. As with anything that’s sown, there comes a harvest we must reap. Sometimes only weeds are grown and we must learn which crop to keep.
Former senior vice president of sales for Sun Chemical, Gerald Bosacker has found an early retirement a pleasant option compared to his life as a perapatetic executive. He now lives in Arkansas, where peer pressure is at an absolute minimum and there he contentedly indulges his love of words, writing a fresh but undiscovered novel, insightful essays, profound poetry and surprising short stories.
EVE JEANNETTE BLOHM
CINQUAIN AND HAIKU two true love birds on white and blue porcelain with a pagoda and pastoral scene from China the beam of flashlight becomes a pattern to trace as I write a haiku clouds in the sky smoke from a chimney impair our vision the autumn leaves blaze in the sunlight a golden maple skiing in the snow on a steep, foggy slope winter conditions walking through a fog we get lost in world of nothingness
Award-winning poet Eve Jeannette Blohm’s work has appeared in Parnassus, SeLa Vie Writers Journal, Cochran’s Corner, Poets at Work, Lucidity, Lone Star Magazine, Bell’s Letters Poet, United Amateur Press. She was a featured poet in Haiku Headlines, Poets Fantasy, Simply Words and voted distinguished poet in PAW. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she also appears in Who’s Who. Blohm writes in New York.
THE PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG FOREIGNER AS A POET America turned out to be not one but two big country clubs, one
at the top and the other at the bottom, and neither was easy to join; each had its own strange lingo and complicated rules, and disdain for poetry. Which was all right with the poet, he would’ve been happy to huddle in a dirty nook and play with his poetry, but a cup of coffee cost a dime, which the poet didn’t have, and even the dirtiest and tiniest nook cost a lot more ... The poet didn’t know anyone in the club at the top, so he applied for membership in the club at the bottom. For a dollar an hour he sold his hands and feet, which was all right, because they grew back after a night’s rest in a filthy nook that cost a dollar a night. Everything else cost ten cents, a hot dog, a glass of beer, or a movie, except for the free friendly advice that the poet did not really belong and he’d be better off back home, perhaps back in his mother’s insatiable belly. The members of the country club at the top did not hand out anything free, not even advice, only orders as to the utilization of the poet’s hands and feet and sometimes forms to fill out. More and more forms. And after a while, a slightly bigger nook to huddle in and a glass of wine, too, in addition to an occasional look through a chink in the fence of the country club at the top. Things changed for the poet when he discovered that some poets didn’t just play with their poetry behind closed doors and curtains but also out in the open, in bars and parks and public baths, and they didn’t seek to feel the weight of one another’s wallet but the fragrance of their poetry. And it was all for free. And these poets hung out in the no-man’s land between the two country clubs and without an organized club to join except if someone wanted their names printed out on the puffs of clouds, the smoke signals, that some poets with club connections sent up now and then — and they do dot the sky above the poetry party ever so nicely! — but our poet, though no longer so young and foreign, still lives in a messy, filthy nook, except now he sees it not as a place in which to hide, but as his poetry. The nook and what you do in it are the same, like soul and body; which is the substance and which the bag? Which is the wine and which the glass? The unity of all things, the harmony of inside-outside, the top and bottom, isn’t that the soul of poetry? The prolific Paul Sohar was able to pursue his life-long interest in literature when he left his job in a chemistry lab. Published in many venues, he has seven books of translations from Hungarian. His latest work, True Tales of a Fictitious Spy, is creative nonfiction about a Stalinist gulag in Hungary.
MARY L. PORTS
RANDY THE READY RAT (AKA SMARTY)
My name is “Ready Randy,” otherwise known as “Smarty, leader
of the pack,” sometimes even “Pack Rat.” Everyone relies on me because of my intelligence. I am charming, passionate, charismatic, practical, and hardworking. Many times, because of my cunning, I lead my brothers to safety. Mankind is not always as kind as one might think: a rat man named Joe has threatened our pack. He baits several traps, strategically hidden on an ivy-covered hillside in places where we like to nest. Fortunately, because of my shrewd, clever mind, many lives have been saved from a horrible, untimely death. While invisible, my built-in antenna can sense where these diabolical mechanisms are placed with their delicious poisonous pellets that when eaten, will kill you. Thanks to my wit, I have been nicknamed “Smarty” but some of my following do not listen to my warnings and are lured into the traps because of their greed. When they leave the trap, they are filled with poison and many are found dead on the upper trails — a sad, sorrowful sight. My pack and I are beautiful creatures of the earth, energetic and versatile, we find our way around obstacles and easily adapt to our environment. I can be the best of friends to almost anyone, but am highly exclusive in my choices, as most friends, I find, are not trustworthy. There is, however, a pretty little girl with long, blond curls and big, blue eyes, named Mary, who has adopted me as her pet friend — someone I can trust. She lives with her parents on the hillside here, where the wild ivy grows. Very, very early on Saturday mornings, while her parents are still asleep, she sits on the bottom step of her porch softly and sweetly singing: “Smarty, Smarty, let’s have a party.” I can sense that she will be there long before she arrives. My
sharp ears are always alert to her sweet-sounding voice and in seconds, I am there to greet her. We break bread and soft cheese together. While she sings, I squeak my grateful acceptance for the delicious treats that she provides. Mary loves to stroke my soft, gray, silky fur. I shiver and tremble at her touch, but I don’t run away. She is the dearest friend a rat could ever have! I can trust her and she can trust me. Why can’t the world be more friendly like Mary and love us rats for our intelligence and good looks?
Award-winning and prolific writer of poetry, Mary L. Ports has produced Kaleidoscope, a poetry chapbook; is published on Shadow Poetry and Poetry for Thought Web sites and in The Canyon News, Quest magazine, SIP Quill magazine, Bell’s Letters Poet, One-on-One, The Write Club, Poets at Work and more. Nonfiction works have appeared in The Canyon News, Quest magazine, and Senior Moments. A work in progress, Pleiades Poems, is slated for publication by Shadows Ink Publications. See her poetry, starting on page 40.
LYNN VEACH SADLER
UNTIL THE CROW TURNS WHITE AGAIN Keith Reynolds said: “I will love you, Macieta, until ... the crow
turns white again!” Two had thrown forth “until Hell freezes over.” Three others, “forever.” One, laughing, “until the cows come home to roost.” I thought it might be that last boy, for I like humor. But a little taking of the speaker’s measure, and I decided he’d meant to say “until the crows come home to roost.” I liked Keith Reynolds’ best — for the unusualness, the mythology lurking, the pause for thinking, the upturn of his voice when he had it right by his lights, his delight in it as if there were much more to it than winning a maidenhead. Nor was there trickery afoot. Keith Reynolds wasn’t in passion’s straits when he made that promise. He couldn’t know of crows’ and my mutual attraction, though I knew him as an actor of no small talents with his eyes on Broadway. The facts remained. Keith Reynolds would never be for the likes of a “poorbrown-trash bitch from Squalor’s Ditch.” Crows wouldn’t turn white again. My father said I’d go like my five sisters before me. A bitch in heat for the town-boy dogs, cast aside when I dropped the third baby, to work at the chickenprocessing plant or drink myself into the State of Ugly. Ah, but this time our “Papacito would be too wise for the white amigos.” My girlhood would be sacrificed to the highest bidder, but, so long as the dinero was almost the same, I could pick the winner. My father claimed he was a fair man in all matters. I was a reader, spent all the time I could in local libraries, where I learned to use the Internet. I carefully shielded my book smarts from my father. He’d brought us to the “USA” when our mother died to “find a life for us all.” But he knew only the physical, not the mind, way, which he was suspicious of. I had my sisters’ beauty (on the order of Salma Hayek’s). We were lithe and tall, didn’t run to fat easily, only after much self-abuse, because our “blood” was “part-Apache.” In addition, I had a quality I seemed to read in the Crow-Moon eyes of Katy Jurado, the lone helper of Gary Cooper in High Noon, which I’ve seen twenty-nine times. My father passed the word. I held court, so to say, in a special (clean, simple) room at a motel secretly owned by a Mexicano and near the “secret” place where
roosters and dogs, pit bulls mainly, were fought. I pretended, to myself, to be in The Merchant of Venice. Only, I was the chooser among the caskets, who were the men. I put the question to each in turn of how long they would love me. I picked Keith Reynolds for his answer (and because he was clean and fresh and went well with it). The giving over of myself was to take place in that same room at the same time the next Sunday afternoon. All week in my dreams, Keith Reynolds’ friends hovered about the room of our assignation cawing like crows with an attitude, making crude jokes. He’d done nothing to silence them or shoo them away. By Sunday, I was brittle entirely. I dared not show my brittleness to Keith Reynolds. If I were ill-at-ease, he’d be smooth. I didn’t wish him to have an easy time, so I play-acted “lady come down.” The idea came from the song in The Importance of Being Earnest. The movie version, though Google taught me it was a musical adaptation of the actual Oscar Wilde poem “Serenade.” I was well into my high-and-mightiness when Corbaccio began to beat against the room’s one window. I’d added towels to the thin, inadequate curtains, so I couldn’t see out (and so no one could see in!). Keith Reynolds, quite calmly, walked over, as I was nodding superciliously at something he’d said, used his hands to pull the covering to both sides, and looked face-on at Corbaccio. “Is this crow yours?” I didn’t know quite how to answer him. “I don’t own him. We’re friends.” He nodded wisely (as he probably thought), as I agreed. “I see. That’s why you selected me. I happened on the one topic that resonated for you.” Resonated. He’d chosen a wonderful word. I repeated it to myself several times. “All this is very strange. My friends swear you chose me for my looks and family connections.” “You left out your jockiness. Your BMIHSness.” “What was that last? Wait, it’s coming. Yes. My BIGMANINHIGHSCHOOLness. Not that any of my stuff cut any ice with you, did it?” “No.” “You chose based on what I said.” “What you said. That only. Well, maybe also on how you said it. Would you like to meet Corbaccio? No, of course not. I don’t mean to drag this out. The die is cast. I’ll live up to it.” “Why ‘Corbaccio’? You took the name from Ben Jonson’s Volpone, didn’t you? I played Mosca in it last summer at the School of the Arts teen production.” My face descended from “lady-come-down” mode, but I tried to distract him, fake him out. “With a name like ‘Reynolds,’ shouldn’t you have played the fox himself ... Volpone?” “You have me there.” “It’s off, granted. Reynolds to Foxy Renard.”
“I guess I see. I do know fox in Spanish is zorro.” “You really should have played Sir Would-Be Politic in Volpone.” ”Are you going to tell me about you and your Crow Nation, alias Corbaccio?” I hoped he hadn’t heard my sigh. “We lived in Monroe. Worked at Tyson’s. I was too young to be full time. I cleaned up out back. The birds fought over the scraps. It was a ‘first-processing’ plant, if you know what that means. You graduate from that to ‘further processing.’ If you’re good enough ... and our father was ... you get called in to troubleshoot. He was transferred here to Sanford to be a shift supervisor at Tyson’s Mexican Original. That’s why we moved. Anyhow, I was cleaning up the chickenkill the birds had dropped when a murder of crows went after this owl hogging the scraps. Without thinking, I took my broom and started dancing with it to a kind of chant that came from I know not where.
“Wise crow, wise crow, how’d you get your wisdom? Did wisdom grow when crow pecked owl? Will killing owl gain wisdom for the crow? Wise crow, wise crow, do you want to be an owl?
“Corbaccio, as I named him later, plummeted from the pack, came straight at me, rested one foot on the end of my broom, and cawed every time I said ‘wise crow.’ When I stopped my singing, I just stood there quietly and stared at him. He threw his head semi in the direction of his fellow crows and told them something in crow. They rose as if one and flew away. Owl took off in the opposite direction. I found a bag, picked up some choice-looking chicken scraps, and presented it to Corbaccio. He dipped his head in thanks and went. He’s been with me since. Not in a cage. He just shows up. When we moved here, he came along on his own. ‘As the crow flies,’ I suppose.” We both laughed. Keith closed the curtains and turned to face me. Before I had time to get scared at what was going to happen, he said, “I’ll see you at school,” and left. He never did demand his money back. The next Monday, I was called to the principal’s office for a “delivery.” It was a Crow Moon tile by an artist I’d never heard of, Tzadi Turrou. Keith’s note said the artist was from the Asheville area and that his tile was “done in cuerda seca technique.” I had no idea what that was, but it was Spanish ... “dry cord.” Google got me to cuerda seca’s Persian origins. With Mughals, Turks. The Dome of The Rock in Palestine. Artistic freedom of expression. Haft-rang seven colors. To America via Spain. But I especially liked the fact that, generally, black wax is used and creates a black outline in the design. Spanish for me, black for Corbaccio.
Tzadi Turrou for ... what? I didn’t know, other than she sounded like another outsider. Like me. Other than the fact that Keith had probably run into Tzadi Turrou’s work at the collection of the Grove Park Inn, a place I’d probably never get to see. The only thing I could think of to give Keith Reynolds in return was something I had first written for Corbaccio, which I was entirely up front about and which was, if Keith Reynolds was anything like what I thought, the entire point.
QUESTIONS FOR WAITING CROWS Why do gods and people think crows wise? Are you the Corvus Christi, waiting, waiting? Why do you, so lawless, have to do with law? (Will you seek revenge for my ramifications?)
Do you trick the world because Coyote and Raven get the better of you? (Will you seek revenge for my accusation?)
Do you wait for Death too near a house so that you can caw to warn of cleansing the sin within? (Will you seek revenge for my suggestion?
Are you black from the gods whom you’ve crossed unwittingly? Cacawphonous from their punishments, too? (Will you seek revenge for my jest?)
Why’s the raven more biblical than you and a flood’s age before Poe? Is raven holier-than-thou? (Will you wait to get revenge for Jest No. 2?)
Are you the “black but comely” in the Song of Solomon? You really are quite wise and lovely! (Will you seek revenge for my “querious” observation?)
Why do you mate for life? You certainly don’t have to. Do crows have mores, too? (Will you seek revenge for my forays?)
Why is DNA the only way to distinguish male and female crows? The only way for humans; it’s easier for crows. (Will you seek revenge for my non-PC intruding?)
Why do you shun South America? Why do you not act up in Antarctica? Where is your zeal for New Zealand (Will you seek revenge for my constant jesting?)
If you don’t like my crow catechism, you can still be social creatures. Murders and clutches notwithstanding, you’ve a lot to crow about.
If you don’t like my crow catechism, you’re still most intelligent of birds using tools, counting, never forgetting. You’re not Cro-Magnon, are much more Absaroke. * * * Keith Reynolds got the entire point. * * * Don’t think it was easy. My father was meaner about us than all of Keith’s family put together. But I was valedictorian and won full scholarships. I went to Duke because Keith was there in law school and because of its primate center. We married when I was in my senior year. You may have heard about me. Oprah interviewed me as “the coed the crow follows to school every day.” I’m a zoologist/ornithologist/animal psychologist. When needed by major zoos, I leave Keith’s and my “Corvine Preservation Trust” (near the Carnivore Preservation Trust in Pittsboro), where our emphasis is the endangered Mariana and Hawaiian crows and we give an annual benefit production of Volpone. Corbaccio is still with us and performs tricks for children. I’m hoping he’ll outdo the current crow longevity record of twenty-nine-and-a-half years. In the midst of our happiness, I occasionally wonder if Keith and I are just waiting, suspended in the holding pattern of our love, until an albino crow gets born somewhere and comes this way to kill our love. Keith responds, “Not to worry, Macieta. If an albino crow does get born, it’ll be blind. Like love.”
Lynn Veach Sadler was published in Del Sol’s Best of 2004 Butler Prize Anthology; another story won the 2006 Abroad Writers Contest/Fellowship (France); a novella and a short-story collection are recently out; and a novel is forthcoming. She was named 2007 Writer of the Year by California’s elizaPress and won Wayne State’s 2008 Pearson Award for a play on Iraq. See her poetry, beginning on page 30.
LIMINALITY Rick had stayed away from the house for as long as he could,
hoping the stench of anger and memory would air out if he left it alone long enough; hoping that if he looked hard enough he would find her around town. The pain of it almost bowled him over when he opened the door and walked past the cavernous living room where mildew and neglect permeated the open spaces and sank into the crevices behind the dusty old couch and the matching armchairs huddled close by, like old cronies. She was still gone, of course. She had skipped town that same night. He had held his breath and scoured all her favorite haunts. The third floor closet where time and again he had found her curled up in a nest of clean towels. The pantry corner still stocked with teen magazines from when he had taken the lock off her bedroom door. She had barricaded herself in and retreated to hide amid the canned goods and cereal boxes. In the furnace room, the drab gray-green paper blistered off the walls and he was not certain if it was from the heat of the furnace or from her long nights spent scowling at the wall, waiting him out. In her empty bedroom the smell of scorn and stale cigarettes masked the thick heady stink of a smoldering sulk that she had worn as often as any perfume. Her pillows were missing, and a few of her favorite clothes from out of the dresser; enough to keep her until she figured out something permanent. He left the door open and stepped out onto the front porch for a breath of fresh air and a smoke. * * * Missy found her undies at the foot of the motel bed; limp and crumpled like some dead animal by the side of the road. The schmuck she had slept with for the room had left shortly after two, when she had peeked out at him from under the tan fuzz of the motel blanket, reached up, caressed his bare finger, and asked him what his wife would think. She had noticed him pocketing the gold band when she had sidled up next to him back at the bar. She wasn’t looking for companionship, just a warm bed for the night. Married men were easy to understand, and she could keep things simple. She scooped up her panties on her way to the miniscule shower, tucking them into her knapsack. Missy’s jeans had been kicked into a corner of the damp bathroom floor early in the night. She checked the front pocket, confirmed she had lifted just over
thirty dollars from her mark. She dug deeper into the pocket and slid his simple gold band onto her thumb idly wondering how long it would take him to realize it was gone. She tucked the money back into her jeans, folding them onto the closed lid of the toilet as she stepped into the shower. She let the water heat up all the way and worked the hotel shampoo into a lather, running her fingers through her hair and letting her thoughts swirl down the drain with the soap. She did not think of herself as a hooker. She never actually traded sex for money. She took cash when she could find it, other things she could sell from time to time. She never asked. She finished rinsing off and stepped out of the shower. She flipped her hair back when she had wrung all the water out of it and turned to look at how it framed her long, pale face in the fogged surface of the bathroom mirror. The lines of her face seemed less like her mother’s the farther Missy got from home. * * * “I can’t eat this anymore.” Missy’s voice stirred the drab kitchen. Rick glanced up and studied his daughter across the battered table. “It’s seven thirty, I have to go.” Missy’s attention was fixated on the clock above the stove. “I’ll drive you, you’ve got a few minutes ... “ Rick started, but Missy was already out of her chair, binding her hair up into a ponytail with the rubber band she always kept around her wrist and heading to the closet for her coat. “Thanks,” she glanced over at him, “but I think I’d rather walk. It’s a nice day.” Missy slipped on her mother’s old wool overcoat, she had already wound a bright red scarf around her neck and it peeked out from beneath the weathered gray collar, like the last ripe tomato of the fall peeking out from behind already browning leaves. “You look like her, you know,” Rick said softly, nodding to the coat. “I could walk you to school. Just give me a second to clear the table.” He gathered up his empty plate. “Look Di ... Dad, I’m already going to be late.” Missy’s mittened hand was resting on the door. “I’m sorry, but I’d rather just go on alone.” The door opened and shut and Rick was alone in the kitchen. * * * Rick followed Missy around the house when he thought she wouldn’t notice. He studied her like he had studied pictures of naked women during grammar school, covertly and thoroughly, always afraid he would be caught. He feared her like he had feared the younger nuns, the pretty ones he had watched with a mixture of dread and yearning. Missy always managed to disappear when she noticed him, to find something important that needed her attention right when he tried to talk. She held a different sort of attraction than his memory of her mother. He did not quite understand it, not exactly virginal ... forbidden. For a while, he had taken to watching her sleep at night. He would stand in the hallway, turn off all the lights and nudge the door open just a crack so he could peer into the soft darkness of her room. When his eyes adjusted he could just make out her slender form, sleeping, and his breath would catch in that moment. He timed his breath to the rise and fall of her breast backlighted by the glow coming
through the window. It was his secret connection to her, this sharing of breath, of time. She, still in her slumber, hair fanned out across the pillow; he, still in his sleepless moment, watching in the dark hall. Sometimes he would stay there for hours, content to watch and breathe with her. Other times he could only bear it for a half an hour or so, crouched in the dark hall. She’d tum in her sleep, rolling onto her side so her lithe young back was silhouetted in the street light, or she would roll toward him and the blanket would slide off one smooth bare shoulder and his breath would catch again, quicken and break time with hers, becoming louder and heavier. * * * Missy had not actually been to school in the five weeks since her mother died, although she had left every morning as though she was going to school from the day after the funeral onward. She was very careful always to check the mail fIrst and remove any notes from the school. Rick had disconnected the phone after her mother died to “give the family time to mourn,” before the school even had a chance to try calling to find out what was going on. He had not gone back to work yet. He was unreachable. Missy had grown accustomed to spending most of her days downtown, somewhere on Main Street, perched on a park bench. More than a year ago, an older girl had taught Missy how to smoke. Later, after the diagnosis, Missy had swiped a bottle of cheap vodka from a convenience store and taught herself how to drink, practicing each day until the bottle was empty and her stomach no longer twisted at the smell of booze. At this point she was convinced she had probably been expelled from school anyway. With death always waiting at home, the nagging responsibilities handed out by school had grown less and less real. None of her school friends looked for her anymore. Sometimes, on a crisp morning like this, she’d see them walking to class in giggling groups of two or three, backpacks bobbing on the fresh morning air. She had learned to take different routes, staying out of sight. Missy cut across the park. The leaves had turned weeks ago, and most of the trees were bare, but this was still her favorite part of the walk. When she was much younger her family had come here every Thursday after her father got off work. They would fill the air with the scent of scorched hot dogs, drain a dozen cans of Coke, and share a carton of chocolate ice cream that was always partially melted by the time they were ready for dessert. Today the air in the park was ripe with the smell of pumpkin innards drifting over from the houses across the street. Missy always wound her way around the outside of the park, through the playground equipment, enjoying the crisp feel of leaves crunching under her shoes. Sometimes she imagined each leaf was a delicate eggshell cracking under each careful step. * * * Even before her mother got sick, neither of her parents had really known Missy all that well. When her mother had become ill, Rick had made a few cursory attempts to delve into his daughter’s life. Light forays into the uncharted territory
of conversation met with immense resistance. Other attempts at parental bonding were similarly unsuccessful, culminating in disaster on the day Rick, distressed, left a drawer open, her journal, off kilter. He was trying to raise her alone by then, the inevitable end to weeks in and out of the hospital had come and gone. Rick had retreated to the couch and was finishing off some leftover meatloaf; trying to rid his mind of the lurid passages he had stumbled upon when Missy had exploded into the living room and thrown the book at him. She had barely missed his groin. “What did you read?” She had demanded ... felt myself wanting to purr under his hands ... “I didn’t ...” ... it’s amazing how the heat from a tiny bit of lotion can completely change the dynamic ... “What the fuck did you read, Dick?” Rage had painted itself white across the surface of her skin and he had recoiled, his own anger building behind his eyes. ... I let him grab my hair, jerk my head back ... “I read enough to find out what you’ve been up to, young lady.” He’d shot back. “I read enough to know why you always come home smelling of smoke and beer and ... “ he stumbled on the last word ... called me his bitch, his skanky little slut. Then he turned me over and ... “And what Dick? And what else did you discover poking around in my private life?” Missy put as much scorn into her voice as she could muster ... let me try a hit of acid, all he wanted in exchange ... “... and sex. What would your mother think of you? Did you ever think of ... “ ... getting fucked up all the time now, it’s easier to deal with things that way ... “What? Think of what?” She had cut in. “What my mother would think is fucking irrelevant. “She’s dead. My mother is fucking dead.” ... I’ve got no one to turn to. I’ve been getting into the bars on weekends ... “What kind of a daughter are you?” He had asked, horrified ... I think Dad’s been watching me funny since the funeral. Maybe he’s hoping I’ll turn into ... “The kind of daughter who grew up with a dad who didn’t give a shit until now. You wanna read about my messed-up, fucking life, read it. Amuse yourself with all the gory details, all the dirty, naughty things I do with my spare time.” She licked her lips suggestively, leering at him as the erotic movement dissipated and her mouth withered into a curl of scorn. “Only this time don’t skim over the boring parts. You might learn something.” The empty room had echoed with receding slams of doors as she had stormed her way out of the house. He remembered reaching for the book, turning it over and over in his hands. After awhile he had opened it and started reading again from the beginning. Dear Diary, there isn’t really much to say. Mom’s gotten sicker, she’s always been a bit sickly though. I skipped school today, not all of it, just the second half. Left at lunch and kept walking. I wasn’t going to come back, but I started getting tired and hungry.
Guess I’m going to have to teach myself to survive if I’m ever going to get the hell out of here. I stole a candy bar from the Seven/Eleven just to see if I could. It was easier than I thought it would be. Something to remember. Rick turned the phone back on. The school called. The next day they had met with her school officials. She had been a sullen lump in the corner for the whole meeting, but they had been happy to have her back. Every morning for the next two months he had driven her to school. Every afternoon he had waited by the front doors, walked her to the car and taken her home. Every evening he had cooked dinner, set the table and waited for her to come down and eat. Every night they had fought through the locked door of her bedroom when she had refused to come out. He had taken her door off the hinges while she was at school. The faint smell of WD-40 still lingered. “I’m sick of all the fights.” He had followed her up the stairs to explain. “Fine.” * * * The house was littered with broken objects, the paint was chipped from things impacting the walls during continual battles. Rick’s mind was in turmoil, his voice was sore from screaming matches in which he just barely held his own against his daughter. His body was worn and weary from scouring the house, and later the town, every few days, hunting her down. By now he had learned most of her usual haunts. His mind was numb from the silences that came between their battles, the sullen looks and prolonged sulks. She sat at the table for hours staring at him or found some dark corner and refused to come out. She looked so much like her mother. He had tried to talk to her one day after she had curled up in a corner of the ratty old couch in an old oversized T-shirt and refused to talk, eat or even move for two days. He had come in with his morning cup of coffee in an attempt at companionship. Still, ... It felt so smooth and slick against ... his mind kept flashing the things she had written about. He explained how he was trying so hard to reestablish some sort of bond with her, waxed sentimental to her about how he had always tried to be there for her, do what was best for her. He started to stroke her leg in what he hoped was a reassuring manner as he rambled on with the best of intentions, but, somehow her smooth skin got all twisted up with the feel of his hands on her mother’s body, her mother’s eyes half-lidded and white, the smell of her hair in the morning, he had only wanted to protect their daughter. The stale scent of Missy’s breath inches from his face did not hit him until the moment after she kicked him. The force of it knocked him off the couch, sprawling. He hit his head against the coffee table. He felt blood, sticky on his fingertips when he reached up to check the pain. She was curled up in an even tighter ball on the corner of the couch, cowering. Suddenly it dawned on him how close he had gotten, where he’ been going. He looked down at his hands, up at his daughter and howled, struggling to his feet. His only thought was to get away from himself. Abandon the person he had become. * * *
Rick awoke, after his night alone in the house, curled up on her bed holding her blanket like a lover. His jaw felt tight. His scalp, tighter, inflicting upon his brain the kind of pressure headache that does not quite hurt, but by god does it feel uncomfortable. The blanket smelled like whiskey and sweat and had wrapped itself around his torso during the night. He did not remember falling asleep. His recollection stopped somewhere between his third pack of cigarettes and deciding to drink Jack Daniels straight out of the bottle when taking shots had proven to be too tedious and time consuming. His brain was taking great pains to focus on reconstructing the night to distract himself from her absence, but, as he was lying in her bed it was inevitable that the oddness of his presence and her absence in this particular space would sink in eventually. He started to cry and wrapped himself around her blanket again. It took him three attempts to sit up and sort out his orientation in the room through the watery kaleidoscope of his unsteady vision. He was too queasy to be hungry but he thought he should eat, drink water, lots of water. There was no clock in her room and he couldn’t quite bring himself to poke around for a watch. Not while she was gone.
Perhaps since she’d been gone for so long before she had actually physically left, the lack of her presence felt more intimate than her presence ever had. * * * Missy sat cross-legged on the end of the oversized motel bed, balancing the remains of a plate of blueberry pancakes in her lap. She was taking advantage of the hotel’s cable subscription before she left. She flipped through the phone book idly, glancing up now and then as Roadrunner evaded Wiley E. Coyote yet one more time. She glanced down again, seemed to find what she was looking for, picked up the phone, and listened to the tones as it dialed. “Greyhound bus line, how may I help you?” “When does the next bus leave?” “One fifteen p.m.” Missy glanced up at the clock, fidgeting with the gold ring on her thumb, she had just over an hour. “Okay, where’s it heading?” ‘’New Orleans and all points south.” “How far will thirty dollars get me?” “That will take you about as far as ... Valparaiso, Indiana.” “Okay, thanks.” Missy set the phone on the cradle and gathered her things.
Joy Mosenfelder is a new writer with ties to the Great Lakes region of the Midwest and New England. She grew up in small town America and has since developed an interest in city life. She currently resides north of Boston, Massachusetts. Joy earned her degree in creative writing from Bowling Green State University in December of 2005. Her story “In Reflection” was published earlier this year in The Fertile Source. She has also published poetry and nonfiction in various places.
EVOLUTION I was in a ruminating mood. It had been a long life. I stood gazing with half-closed eyes across the barely visible valley below. A miasmic purple haze cast long shadows over the panorama I had come to love during the past decade.
I wondered when my time would come … I supposed I should begin some preparations for someone new to continue my work here … then I smiled to myself as I realized how silly I was being. They had told me when I took this mission that my genetic coding would allow me to live in good health for about a hundred and fifty years. I was thirty-five when I learned I had been chosen out of a possible two thousand other applicants to participate in the first colonization of this planet. Women were preferred for these long-term missions because of their smaller body size, the natural equipment to incubate offspring, and because their physiology was more durable. These attributes often meant the difference between the success or failure of a colonization. I had been preparing for the colonization here on Eden One for fifty years now, so I still had at least another good sixty-five years ahead of me, barring accidents or other unforeseen events. Hmm … unforeseen events … I mused as I scratched at the strange, pinkish soil with my hoe, an implement as old as the ages, but still needed to help aerate the roots of plants, to helping them grow and provide food. In 2001 scientists at Duke University had found that tending crops in a spirit of loving-kindness had improved yield up to fifty percent, especially in the genetically engineered species. The World Sustenance Committee began to train the caretakers of food sources to raise these little chlorophyll-producing entities in a spirit of loving altruism. Soon after, the world food supply began to provide more than enough sustenance for the billions of higher life forms that could not provide their own food from air, sun, soil, and water. In the beginning so long ago, it had seemed like mysticism, now it was historical, scientific fact. I felt a presence behind me and turned to see my lifelong companion, Alta, standing with head held high, sensing the air. “My nose tells me there is a storm coming.” “Yes, I can sense it too,” I said. “You should come inside now anyway, it’s time to eat.” Alta stood erect and still, watching me leave the rows of green things and move toward her through the gate.
As we sat down to eat, I brought up a topic that had been on my mind lately. “Alta, I’m worried,” I said, “I detect a … stiffness in your movement recently that I’ve never noticed before. You seem to have slowed down a lot too.” I could talk openly with Alta because she was a synthetic human. I knew that Alta would not misunderstand. Communication with pseudos was direct, with no ego involvement or human insecurities, which made it infinitely simpler than talking with others of my own species. But then it had been a long time since I’d been home, perhaps things had improved since then. “I think I only need some rudimentary repair. I can probably do it myself.” “No, my friend, I believe the problem is not mechanical. I think it’s circuitry. As good as you are, you’ll still need help with that. Maybe we can do it tomorrow … by the look of the sky, we’ll be indoors anyway,” I insisted. Alta showed no expression, but she shifted uneasily in her ergomodule. During the night, the storm hit. It crashed and reverberated throughout the surrounding mountainsides. Lightning flashed and a few seconds later the cracking thunder reached the structure that provided our shelter. I stood looking out the port, wishing the powers that be had provided us with a means of taming the weather a bit. After all, they had harnessed this power on Earth long before we left. But Commander Andresen had told us that intergalactic environmentalists wanted to see how the atmosphere behaved naturally before they devised controls. I knew better than to be frightened. Alta and I were perfectly safe here, but the untamed power and wildness were unsettling. I glanced over at Alta, huddled in her ergomodule next to the heating element, staring blankly. Alta had been designed to appear humanoid, functioning on a biological cycle, while human traits were not necessary to Alta, it was decided to include them in her design so that the ‘bot would be a comfort as well as a practical mechanical aide to me, the one lone human they had stranded on this godforsaken outpost with the injunction to “settle the frontier and make it habitable for the settlers who will follow you.” Alta in all ways appeared human. I would often forget that Alta was biomechanical. The scientific gurus had worked their magic well. I had studied the technology of robotic construction on Earth. I knew that Alta’s skin was true human skin, grown in a nutrient base at first, then applied to her superstructure, where it was cultured and pampered until it covered the ‘bot in a glorious, glowing, living shroud. Alta’s hair was yellow, and her eyes were blue. Very Nordic, I had always thought. Alta was neither male nor female, but rather combined the best traits of both sexes. I had grown to love the ‘bot. We often slept in the same bed to satisfy my human need for intimacy. No sex, just the closeness of another entity. More than a hundred years before, it had become unnecessary for human males and females to form a bonded unit to procreate and continue the species. There had been a plague, spread by sexual contact that wiped out whole continents of humans. Those who escaped found ways to procreate outside the human organism.
All new humans were made this way now, in embryo chambers. I knew that I, myself had been created this way. A perfect superhuman, genetically engineered with all the strongest, healthiest, most intelligent human genes available from a gigantic computerized pool. I sighed as I knelt beside Alta. “What’s to become of us, my dear. I could build a new one of you, but I don’t want a new one. I love you and I want you with me when I leave this place. We must keep you patched together and working until we go.” Early next morning the storm had already passed and was roiling its way over a rugged mountain range to the west. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major bathed the living structure in glorious sound as we finished our morning meal and Alta cleared away the dishes. “Well, My Friend, shall we do the surgery this morning and see what’s what in that jungle of chips you call a brain?” I meant to sound upbeat, but my brightness sounded forced and insincere, even to myself. “Evan, there was a message on the receiver this morning. I think you should probably go see what it says.” “You can tell me.” “No, I prefer that you receive the message yourself. That was the procedure set up by Galaxy Command when they sent us here.” I was still shaking my head over all this sudden formality coming from the ’bot when I entered the small, spherical housing where we had installed the communication gear so long ago. For the first few years, we had received regular transmissions updating us on everything that took place on our home planet, but that had stopped some time ago with no explanation. It didn’t really matter to me, this life was my real, day-to-day existence. Whatever happened on Earth was not. I would check it once in awhile, out of habit. A few times there had been messages waiting on the screen, but usually they were garbled fragments picked up accidentally by the dish, sent there by some wrinkle in space, a sunspot, a quark, whatever. “GalCom ESS Orion requests permission to land. Cargo destined for outpost Eden One aboard. Transmissions to follow at one-hour intervals, until acknowledged.” “At least they’re adhering to intergalactic diplomatic procedures,” I muttered to myself as I checked the time of the last transmission. Good, ten minutes. That will give me time to formulate an appropriate response. It had been so long since I had talked to another Earthling. The message came in distinctly, a deep, resonant voice spoke at the same time the words appeared on the receiver screen. “GalCom ESS Orion calling outpost Eden One. Respond, please.” “Outpost Eden One responding to ESS Orion,” I tried to calm my pounding heart and control my breathing so I wouldn’t sound like some ingénue from the
nursery. The voice had sent a swirling thrill through my core. A feeling I couldn’t ever remember experiencing before this moment. “Permission to land granted, coordinates to follow. Major Evan Winters at your service.” I was satisfied. My voice had sounded strong and confident, not at all betraying the excitement I felt bubbling up inside. My God! I feel like a schoolgirl again. This is ridiculous! I’m a biologically engineered superhuman commander of a GalCom outpost. I must behave like one. The lumbering, very unstreamlined cargo vessel came into view and settled on the landing pad like a huge overweight goose, with large hydraulic stanchions spread-eagled on all four sides to cushion the impact. The retrorockets blew salmoncolored dust in all directions. Alta and I waited silently in the skimmer, with the cockpit sealed tightly against the blast. I regretted that I had not had time to look into Alta’s control board. Now the android’s needs would have to be set aside until this envoy was gone. I hoped Alta would keep functioning that long. Whatever the problem is, it is progressing rapidly. I could see Alta out of the corner of my eye, sitting morosely, staring straight ahead. Her features looked dull, as though some of the light behind them had dimmed, her movements were sluggish, hopefully not enough to be noticed by the visitors. Back home they unceremoniously discarded ’bots in giant trash heaps, then eventually recycled some of them. I was still haunted by the sight of one discard depot I had stumbled upon as a student. The pseudohumans looked so lifelike lying stacked as far as the eye could see. I remembered scenes from a history hologram about the midtwentieth century when a madman named Hitler had destroyed many humans and buried them in common graves to hide the evidence. But now on Earth it was deemed unnecessary to hide the robotic throwaways. In spite of the similarities with their human counterparts, they were still only machines, after all. Major interior conflict simmered inside me. I was excited to see real humans again and to hear news from home, but also anxious to repair Alta. Maybe one of the crew could help with her upgrade. While I was glad about the visit, I also hoped it would end soon. I smiled at my own cranky reclusiveness. That’s what happens when one spends decades with only a ’bot for a companion. I pushed the pad to activate the canopy lift. “Let’s go greet our guests.” The first creature out of the cargo bay was a defensive robot. I found that strange. I wondered if Earth was at war again somewhere. I thought those days had been outmoded long ago. The next group of entities came out all at once, five abreast, all tall, all very good-looking indeed. I met them halfway across the open space between ships. “Hello,” the one in the middle held out his right hand while holding the left shoulder high with the palm toward me, in the traditional gesture of goodwill. I took his hand and we shook once. “I’m Major Jáon Travellan. GalCom has ordered the cargo that our ship is carrying be sent to you. They feel it is time for the colonization to move forward.” The four other members of the ship’s command team stepped forward one
at a time and introduced themselves to me with all the formality that protocol and my rank demanded. When the diplomatic greetings were complete, the group followed us to the housing pod that Alta and I had built when we arrived here. Alta served us food and drink. I sat at the head of the long table, posing question after question to each of the crew as they ate. They seemed impressed by my quickness and ability to comprehend the intricacies of scientific and technological advancements made since I had left Earth. To me it seemed like child’s play. I was used to problem solving, leaping ahead to seemingly intuitive solutions that were actually based on strong scientific or technological principles. For my part, I was surprised that some of the changes seemed to be steps backward, but then, historically, the human race was noted for strange detours and retrogressions that it called progress. After finishing their meal, the visitors began to slow down and look drowsy. Conversation took a lazier, quieter turn. I rose as a signal to those at the table that they could adjourn. I invited them to tour the grounds on their own while I conferred with their ship’s captain. Alta joined Jáon and myself as we strolled to my favorite vista point on a promontory not far from the housing pod. She walked a few paces behind, as she had been programmed to do. “This is an extraordinary planet,” Jáon began, “were you fortunate enough to see it from space when you were relocating here?” “No, I was strapped into a landing module in a ship much older than yours and with a different design from the one you came in. There was no view port or video screen available to me.” “It’s really very beautiful from space. It looks quite amenable to human life.” “Oh, it is. Exhaustive studies were run long before I was allowed to come here. It’s a younger planet, though, so there are still some dangerous environmental phenomena to deal with, but life is not any more hazardous here than on Earth, just different. Once one learns what the dangers are, one is quite safe.” There was a warm fluttering in the pit of my stomach. It radiated a hot, throbbing lava flow through the core of my being. This sensation was new and very disturbing. I was exerting tremendous control to keep it from interfering with my focus and disrupting the conversation I was holding with this fantastic creature from home. I felt magnetically drawn to him. I had to look into his eyes as we held our mundane, diplomatically formalized conversation, to do otherwise would be a political transgression, but as I did so I felt as though I was being drawn into him, falling into a vortex of pleasure. I closed my eyes momentarily and shook my head. “Are you all right?” as he touched my elbow in a gesture of support, the fire of his touch sent an electric shock through me. I swallowed the lump in my throat and said, “Yes, yes, I’m fine … I was receiving some kind of information I’m not prepared to deal with.” Alta had hastened forward and slipped an arm around me. “It’s okay, Alta, you may return to your station.”
A look that I had never seen before fleeted across Alta’s face, but the android returned to the seven paces distance she had been maintaining before. I mentally shook myself, clutched at emotional stability again and turned to look across the fantastic landscape below. “I’m glad I have the opportunity to speak with you privately now … at the beginning of our visit here,” Jáon hesitated. I could tell that he was having trouble formulating what he was going to say next. I was secretly amused by this renegade human, who if he had been doing his job correctly, would have announced immediately upon debarkation what the cargo hold of his ship carried and its purpose. He decided to plunge ahead, it seemed he could think of no delicate way to make his announcement. He took a deep breath, “The cargo aboard the ship is a hundred pregnant human females … that is the way ECO felt we could best transport new life, there is also a fertilized ova bank aboard, for future progeneration. This system for creating new life is so old, but you know … science and history have a way of sometimes coming around to finding that the old ways were best after all …” he spoke rapidly, seeming to want to have his say before I interrupted him in what he seemed to expect would be a torrent of indignant questions. But instead I turned to him again and took my time examining his face, waiting silently for more information. I was puzzled. Why had they abandoned the embryo chambers of my birth? As if he could read my mind, he continued, “Some years ago the scientific community came to realize that the humans gestated in chambers were developing severe mental and physical aberrations later in life, many of them had to be eliminated … some kind of DNA breakdown … it was a bad time on Earth. You were lucky not to have been there.” Alta had been listening closely. She moved her gaze from the human male to me, watching me for a reaction to this shocking news. I smiled and nodded my acknowledgement to my visitor, hiding the turmoil that I felt inside over this latest news. “We probably should return now,” I said evenly, turning around and starting back down the path. “I must think about this. Alta will show you to your sleeping chamber. We’ll talk more in the morning.” When Alta returned, I was pacing back and forth across the chamber floor. “I must obey orders, Alta, but I really do find this whole situation extremely unsettling. I’m sure we’re up to the challenge of providing for all the needs of the new biological life-producers, but it seems so much more complicated than birthing with an embryo chamber.” Alta smiled at me tiredly, “You’re doing very well, dealing with all these visitors and the innovations they’re bringing. You’ll do well, as for me …” her voice trailed off. “Stop that!” I had never spoken sharply to Alta before in all the years of our association. It shocked us both. “What’s happening to us?” I cried in a small, frightened voice. Alta moved
across the room and pulling me to the sleeping module, enfolded me in her arms, rocking back and forth, crooning softly until I drifted off to sleep. The following morning construction began on the living quarters for the “Life Givers,” as they became known generally. I gave orders and dealt with the administrative details. Each Lifegiver had been supplied with a robotic pseudohuman to assist in all ways necessary for making the colonization a success, so housing for two hundred had to be arranged. The cargo hold of the ship disgorged all the necessary materials and under the invisible umbrella of the antigravitational generator, construction progressed easily and rapidly. I gave instructions to Alta, who would in turn pass them on to Jáon. From the first day onward, there was never any question about who was in charge of the relocation process and it became obvious that I was avoiding contact with anyone other than Alta. The crew seemed not to notice, they were all busy building and organizing, so they assumed that I was similarly occupied. Everyone except their captain, Jáon. One day when I was out inspecting the construction site, I overheard him referring to me as the “Ice Queen.” I supposed he felt demeaned by taking orders from Alta the pseudohuman, but then came to realize the mission was more important than what he finally recognized after a few days were petty grievances not worthy of a GalCom officer. For my part, I limited my contact with the visitors to brief encounters only. I was feeling so unsure about the emotions wrangling inside me that I felt it better to keep to myself. The foreign feelings disturbed my sleep at night and when my mind wasn’t occupied by practical matters, it would often drift back to the tall, handsome commander. Maintaining seclusion was my way of maintaining control of the situation as well as control over my emotions. I didn’t want another disconcerting episode with the ship’s captain. The emotions of that first evening had been completely foreign to me. They had made me feel out of control, which was not acceptable for an outpost leader. But I would have moments, alone in my chamber, when I would think of our first stroll together, and the feeling of deep warmth that I had experienced then would run the length of my torso and center in my loins. There was a throbbing sensation, then I would force myself to think of something else. This feeling was so disturbing I wondered if I had become ill with some virus or other that might have hitched a ride on the ESS Orion, but Alta assured me it was a normal feeling for humans under certain circumstances. In some circles on Earth it had been considered a weakness peculiar to humans, but so far the Eugenics Council had chosen not to breed it out of the species. The crew and the Life Givers settled into a community of workers with one goal, to bring human life to a far-flung outpost, thereby continuing the species. The aging planet they called home was not going to support life much longer, so it was of paramount importance that this experiment be successful. Jáon and I occasionally glimpsed each other as I viewed the construction site from the balcony of my living chambers. He would wave in greeting, but I pretended not to notice.
Alta worsened, but somehow she managed to keep me from doing any repair on her. She stayed busy day after day passing along my orders and integrating a few of her own. By the time she entered the sleep chamber in the early morning hours, I was asleep. Alta and I both knew her time was limited, but the demands on us were such that we chose to ignore the obvious. I wondered what had gone wrong. She was supposed to have a life span of a hundred and fifty years, just as I did. * * * It was just before midnight when Jáon and two of the crew knocked on my chamber door. Alta lay unconscious on a litter between them. My heart stopped. I managed to invite them in. They gently placed her on a reclining ergomodule and left. Jáon looked at me with such tenderness that my reserve broke. “What happened?” “She came to speak with me privately, then collapsed in a seizure of some kind. I still don’t know what she wanted to tell me. We decided to bring her here. I’ve sent for our ship’s doctor.” Alta moaned slightly and half opened her eyes. “I’m so glad you are here together.” She paused briefly to catch her breath and rest. “I have something so important to tell you both. Please do not interrupt me as I speak.” She paused again. I could hear a very faint rattle coming from somewhere inside her. I guessed it was her circuits shorting out. “I came to you, Commander, because I felt you could be of help to Evan through a transitional period that is going to arise soon.” She paused, trying to think of a way to express herself best. She gave up and said, “I’m dying.” Jáon started to interrupt, but she raised her hand, “Please let me continue, this is very hard for me, I must say it without interference. If you still have questions when I’m finished, I’ll try to answer them for you.” “As I started to say, I’m dying. I know you think that’s a strange statement coming from a pseudohuman, but please hear me out. On the flight here fifty years ago, there was one lone human aboard that ship with tons of equipment. The ship, of course, was totally computer operated and navigated. The robot that had been assigned to me had not yet been activated …” As the significance of what she was saying began to sink in, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Alta saw the look of horror spread across my face as she continued. “I suppose I am one of those genetic aberrations you spoke about on your arrival. I know I was an embryo-chamber child. I was raised in a community of children and I remember one adult human giving me loving care, but then I went away to school and never saw her again. Anyway, during the long flight coming here, I developed the plan to carry out an experiment of my own. I decided to give Evan the advantage of my own human experience so far. I programmed all my own history into her memory banks and she never knew the difference. I became her aide and helped her develop. She thinks she is human. She has human emotions. My
experiment has been a fantastic success!” Alta’s face glowed briefly with pride. “I wanted to show that the machines we create are capable of human traits. Evan has all the feelings that humans are prey to. And I don’t know if the result will ultimately be positive or negative …” Her voice became weak and trailed off. She closed her eyes and her head dropped forward. Her skin was turning an opaque, dusky gray. “I thought I would be here to follow the experiment throughout a full lifetime, but unfortunately that is not to be …” Jáon and I stood transfixed in stunned silence. Meanwhile, Alta was becoming more pale and gray by the moment, sweat had broken out in little ridges over her upper lip and on her forehead, her breath came in jagged rasps. On Earth it was against the law for humans and robots to form any kind of relationship other than a working one. Alta raised her face spoke again, “Jáon, I came to you because I know you have grown to love Evan nearly as much as I do … I’ve been watching you both. I know she loves you … she is afraid … I don’t want to leave her alone … in many ways she is still a child … my child. I didn’t know what I was going to do, then you came …” Her voice trailed off again, her eyes rolled up, and her head fell sideways. I looked down at her, my eyes unfocused, I felt as though none of this was real, I was sleepwalking, surely. “Alta! Don’t go! Don’t leave me alone!” I heard a wailing as if at the end of a tunnel, then a tremendous blackness encased me. When I awoke, I was kneeling with my arms over Alta’s torso. We were alone. “Alta, oh, Alta! Now you’re going to have to let me repair you. You’re so bad for avoiding it all this time!” I cajoled her as one would with a naughty four year old. “No, listen to me … it’s too late … I waited too long … you must trust Jáon, he is a good human. … He will take my place.” This was the last time Alta spoke. Her eyes closed halfway, her breath became fainter, then as the minutes turned into hours, she gradually faded away in imperceptible increments. Like a butterfly leaving a flower, I thought. I was familiar with death. It came to all living things. I had seen the pattern over and over, but I never truly believed it would happen to Alta or myself. Myself! Just who was this “self”? I had just found out I was not a human. Strangely, I didn’t feel any different having this knowledge. I was still the same person … no, entity … that I had always been. I felt no more or less. I was just who I am. Jáon came through the open portal looking shamed. “I’m sorry I left. I was so in shock I had to gather my thoughts.” “There is nothing to forgive,” I said. “This ... revelation ... has been a shock for both of us.” But Alta’s shutdown was foremost on my mind right now, “I must try to bring her back … it’s not impossible you know.” “No, no … you can’t repair humans like you do pseudos. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. No bringing them back. She told me she wants to be buried on this planet. She has no attachment to Earth.”
“Buried! In the dirt? How disgusting! No, we’ll start the repairs right now. Would you care to assist me?” He grabbed my shoulders and turned me to face him. “You must listen to me,” he began. He knew I was probably far stronger than he was and could easily break his grasp, possibly doing him physical harm, but he clung to me anyway. “Yes?” I said, gazing at him steadily. “What is it? Why are you so upset?” I didn’t twist or pull away. “Could we go to the vista point we visited on my first night here? I need some air, it’s stifling in here. I need to move. Alta can wait. We’ll repair her later, if you still want to.” I turned and glanced lovingly at the still form lying in the sleep module. “Yes, of course, let’s walk for a few minutes.” We were silent on the path leading to the promontory. I tried to affect a strong stride, but my legs felt like water, my heart fluttered out of control. In spite of my worry about Alta, I hungered for this man with a biological ravenousness that I had never known before and now had just begun to recognize. He broke the silence. “Alta told me she didn’t want to be brought back. She wants to rest and she asked me to be your companion from now on,” he blurted without preamble as we reached the windy bluff. “Oh,” I said, barely audible. “I wonder why she said that.” It hurt a little to think that Alta no longer wanted to be my companion. “She knows that I love you. That’s why I raced out of there after you lost consciousness. I was so confused by my feelings. I have fallen in love with you over the time I’ve been here. But I thought you were human. Then when Alta told us what she had done, I couldn’t cope … for the first time in my life … I couldn’t cope.” his voice cracked. “You know the laws regarding humans and pseudos. The authorities would execute me and recycle you.” He gazed at the snowcapped eastern mountain range, so beautiful silhouetted by the rising suns. “But then, when my head cleared, I decided the past doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that you’re a machine, it doesn’t matter what the rules on Earth are, we’re not on Earth any longer. Nothing mattered anymore, except that I spend the rest of my life with you. Without you, life would have no meaning or purpose anyway.” “Oh,” I said again, this time as an exhalation. “Does ‘love’ account for the way I feel when I’m near you? I thought I was ill.” He laughed with joy as I smiled up at him. He took me in his arms and as we kissed, he eased our bodies gently to the soft grass beneath our feet. * * * Six months later, with Alta long buried in a special grotto that I visited daily, the ESS Orion prepared for the homeward journey. Former second in command and chief communications officer, and now the ship’s commander, Zulo Mandolo, came to the housing unit to say goodbye.
“I’m sorry to be leaving Eden One, it’s turned into a true paradise,” Mandolo said. “I hope to return someday. I don’t blame you for staying, Commander, and you’re fortunate to have Premier Winter in charge.” Jáon smiled slightly as our eyes met across the room, “Yes, she is an extraordinary individual, capable, strong … versatile.” “Oh, my! You two are really far too complimentary,” I laughed. Mandolo rose to leave, “I’d think you were a pseudohuman if I didn’t know better,” a chagrined look fleeting across his face. “But how foolish of me. You’re far too empathetic and warm to be a biomechanical device. You really are the perfect person to lead the new cradle of civilization.” Jáon rose and shaking hands with Mandolo, smiled again, “Yes, isn’t she.”
LaVonne Taylor has been on the publishing scene for a long time, but usually working anonymously in the background. She has spent many years in the trenches, editing other people’s writing for large, corporate educational and periodical publishers. However, now she has the “luxury of creating her own stories,” as she puts it. Some years ago Taylor established the micropublishing company, Excellence Enterprises, which has published LA My Way, a short story anthology, On the Wings of Song: My Life with the Maestro, written by Wanda Weiskopf, and My Song, a poetry collection by the same author. Taylor is currently writing poetry, working on a novel called Liboto, and putting together a collection of short stories.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Covers, front and back: Photography by LaVonne Taylor. Page 4: Flower sketches, Dover Publishing (DP) clipart. Pages 7, 9: Silhouettes, DP clipart. Page 10: Quills & books, editor’s collection. Page 14: Zeus, odysseyadventures.ca. Page 17: The Wedded Banyan Tree, James Forbes, 1774. Page 18: Cyclops, artist unknown. Page 20: Horsemen Galloping, Leonardo da Vinci, 1503-1504. Page 24: Illustrations of American Landmarks, DP clipart. Page 26: The Water Babies, Warwick Goble, 1910. Page 34: Warrior Women, intixpatr.wordpress.com. Page 37: Paper bag sketch, Carolyn P. Chattaroj, January, 2008. Page 41: Book of Fairy Poetry: “Three spirits mad with joy,” Warwick Goble, 1920. Page 42: Quilt, courtesy of matrifocus.com. Page 43: Seagull, sammip.wikipediacommons. Page 48: Illustrations of American Landmarks, DP clipart. Page 49: Lilacs, paintings.pjf.org.uk. Page 50: The Reader, LaVonne Taylor, November, 2008. Page 53: Tall Clock, Jacob Diehl, 1776-1858. Page 54: Harmonica Player, vi.sualize.us/tag/beard/ Page 55: First Flight, LaVonne Taylor, November, 2008. Page 56: Jones Very, photographer unknown. Page 57: Silhouettes, DP. Page 50: Benazir, Reuters archive. Page 60: Jesus feeding the throng on the mount & being laid to rest, abcoffaith.com. Page 63: Clouds, jo.irisson.free.fr/wordpress.com. Page 70: Oak tree branch, natures-desktop.com. Page 72: Beneath the Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai, 1830-1832. Page 78: Hands holding sprout, photographer unknown, editors collection. Page 84: Dumbo, sodahead.com. Page 85: Pet rats, iStockphoto. Page 99: ...on the rumpled sheets, natr...illustration...flickr.com. Page 100: Backpack, freewebs.com/ramsus-kun/gallery.htm. Page 113: The New Born Child, Georges de la Tour, c. 1645. Page 114: Camera, clipartheaven.com. Page 115: Silhouettes, DP. Page 116: Computer monitor, clipartheaven.com. Page 117: Bell’s Letters Poet cover, courtesy of Jim Bell. Page 118: Four Musketeers, editor’s collection.
AND THE WINNER IS ... We had a twenty-percent response to the balloting option that comes with each issue. The appreciation of art in all of its forms is very subjective. As in life, having peer approval is fun for the people who receive it, but what about the many who may be skipped over? Does it mean their work is “lesser than …”? Absolutely not! Everyone’s work is important and worthy of recognition. It’s just that some art resonates more profoundly with certain groups of people at certain times in their lives. However, it seems it is part of the human condition to enjoy friendly competition and voting for ten favorite poems in each issue is meant to be an enjoyable feature. The Taylor Trust will continue the option through 2009. With the winter issue of 2009-2010, we will re-evaluate to see if we want continue the activity. Your participation will be a major factor in the future decision-making process. Congratulations to all! Following are the results from the 2009 Winter Issue
Author Title FIRST PLACE J.F. Connolly “The Weatherwoman”
SECOND PLACE Carol Ann Howell “We Are Not Goddesses” Abraham Linik “The Nightingale” Jack Lorts “The Autumn Greening” RUNNERS UP Eve Jeannette Blohm “Passing Images” Michael Estabrook “I Could Have Lost You” Syd Knowlton “Cardboard Boxes in the Rain” Jack Lorts “Fossil” Diana Raab “Powdered Milk” Diana Raab “You Are What You Think About” Alex Shepard “A-Z” Wanda Weiskopf “Feelings” Wanda Weiskopf “The Mountain” Fredrick Zydek “A Single Piece of Geography” Fredrick Zydek “Driving in Texas Hill Country” Penny Skillman “Panhandling Lifestyle” Michael Onofrey “Where the Green Parrots Roost”
GERALD BOSACKER, bosacker.com. DAVID BREEDEN, drpoetry.com. ROB COUTEAU somethingbeautiful.typepad.com; Collected Couteau available on amazon.com. PHIL DAVIS penpointview.com. JOSEPH DEMARCO Plague of the Invigilare and Blind Savior, False Prophet available on amazon.com. MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON He is also publisher and editor of two poetry/ fiction sites â€” both presently open for submission: birdsbywindow. blogspot.com; petriclegacy.mysite.com. Author Web site: poetryman.mysite. com. Audio MP3 of poems are available on request at promomanusa@ gmail.com. From Which Place the Morning Rises available at lulu.com; The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom, www.iuniverse.com PAMELA LASKIN Her two latest books can be purchased from the publisher: Secrets of Sheets, Plain View Press, 2008; Ghosts, Goblins, Gods and Geodes, World Audience, Inc., 2008. (Also available on amazon.com); a chapbook: Bending the Bones, Pudding House Press, 2009. And the link to The Poetry Outreach Center is 1ccny.cuny.edu/prospective/humanties/ poetry. MARY L. PORTS shadowpoetry.com, thetaylortrust.wordpress.com, nwala. org, nwalablog.org. LAVONNE TAYLOR lavonneland.com,vonnieshealthspot.com, thetaylortrust.wordpress.com, nwala.org, nwalablog,org.
PEER APPROVAL “The Taylor Trust, America’s newest contribution to the literary world, made its debut just before we went to press. It is a most outstanding job of design, creativity and encouraging words from its founder, California’s LaVonne Taylor. If you want your poems to get proper treatment – that Madison Avenue feeling, – then join the 100-or so pages of The (handsome and smartly tailored) Taylor Trust: Poetry & Prose. “There’s more – included are sections on nonfiction prose, short fiction, and flash fiction. Editor Taylor labeled her editorial page “Still Night Thoughts,” perhaps in recognition of the fact that many writers seem to receive their inspiration during the quiet period between dusk and dawn. To submit manuscripts, send them to The Taylor Trust, P.O. Box 903456, Palmdale, CA 93550-3456.” Jim Bell, Bell’s Letter Poet, No. 127, March-April 2009
RUTH GLEAN ROSING “Tell my favorite boyfriend hello for me.” That’s how Ruthie would usually wind up a phone conversation. She was referring to my husband, but I never took offense because we all knew Ruthie loved everyone. I will always remember her as a warm, caring individual, who on the surface might seem a little ephemeral, however as I came to know her better, I found that she had plumbed the hell of painful loss in her life many times over and survived to tell about The “four musketeers,” as we called ourselves, left to right: Ruth Glean Rosing, it through her beautiful poetry, short stoMarion Rosen, editor, Wanda Weiskopf. ries, and in her memoir. Ruth Glean Rosing wrote in Hollywood during its golden age. She started life as Ruth Grose Scates in a small Midwestern town, but left to become a scholarship student of Lotte Lehmann, studying oratorio, opera, and concert in New York. She came to the notice of the famed Paul Althouse, with whom she also studied, and soon was engaged as a soloist for the centennial spectacular, The California Story, by its composer and conductor, Meredith Willson, which brought her to Los Angeles. The director, Vladimir Rosing, discovered her talent for writing, and hired her to create the scripts for the Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona centennial pageants. She became associate director and producer to Rosing, eventually becoming his wife. I met her in 1987, when we founded the Los Angeles chapter of the National Writers Association. The delight I felt in watching her progress as a writer was enhanced many times over as I came to know her on a deeper level throughout the ensuing years. Our little gang of four (authors Marion Rosen, Wanda Weiskopf, Ruth, and myself) would often meet for lunches or dinners to catch each other up on our lives in the world of husbands, kids, grandkids, and other joys or challenges, as well as our professional achievements. When former opera singer, now poet and author, Wanda Weiskopf, whose husband Herbert was a colleague of Vladimir, called two days ago to tell me of Ruth’s sudden death from a heart attack, she said, “I will miss her so much! She was my connection with the past.” Yes, indeed, Ruthie, you will be greatly missed by all of us. Ruth authored three books, Val Rosing: Musical Genius, a memoir, Planetary Push-Ups and Random Traffic, a short story collection, and Poetic Global Rotations, a poetry collection.
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