The Frozen Sky – by Rebecca Harrison

The Frozen Sky

Marilla walked in blue shadows. Before her, the glacier towered in chill heights. The air felt like waiting wind. The snow breathed silence. She huddled into her furs. The blue glaciers were once skies, but when coldness had cloaked the world, they’d frozen and sank. She picked up a small piece of the blue ice – it fit in her palm. She held it to her eye, peered through and saw the long ago views from the ancient skies – lost lands and seas.

About her, snow fell and wind widened but she only saw the vanished world. Through the ice, she watched warm lands flowing beneath gone away skies: rivers and forests, mountains and plains. The piece of ice began to melt and in it she watched day thicken into dusk. She stood still in the pale morning while she followed flocks of strange birds on the night winds.

The ice shrank between her fingers. She saw lakes blooming with reflections of unknown stars. She watched the old world until the piece of ice was gone. The snow had stopped falling. She forgot the lands seen through the blue ice. She trekked home. Only when the snow fell did she remember the vanished world beneath the old skies.

rebeccaharrison

Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and can be summoned by a cake signal in the sky. Her best friend is a dog who can count. Through the WoMentoring Project, she was chosen by Kirsty Logan as her mentee. Rebecca’s been nominated for Best of the Net, and her stories can also be read at Paper Darts, Maudlin House, The Wild Hunt, and elsewhere.

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Through the Veil – by THOMAS ELSON

Through the Veil

by Thomas Elson

       

Katherine was born in an isolated section of an isolated state where creeks were called rivers and foothills called mountains, where the letter “r” held its rightful position in the word Washington, and the final syllables of the word Arkansas were pronounced exactly the same as the state in which she was born.  

She descended from generations that farmed winter-hardened soil, resisted Prussian kings, rebelled against Russian czars, and were lured to a land of flowing waters and fertile soil by handbills distributed by Santa Fe Railroad land agents who came to do good and did damn well. Katherine’s ancestors migrated through southern Europe, endured the Atlantic Ocean, forded untamed rivers, and found, not milk and honey, but homestead land with narrow streams and minimal access near a place they named Berdan America. They filed that name with the state, received approval from the railroad commission, then painted both names on the city water tower.

By 1884, her grandfather had built the house, the grocery store, and the lumberyard that her father inherited in 1916. Her mother died in the 1919 Spanish Flu Pandemic, and memories of the withered body inside a dark casket resting on a catafalque draped in black inside their small parlor still felt to Katherine, sixty-four years later, as if she had been locked inside the sepulcher on Good Friday.

After what seemed to be an eternity, her mother’s body was taken across the street to the limestone church. Burned beeswax candles, black vestments, dull chimes, and the cloying perfume of incense prolonged the dirge speed of the funeral mass. At the snow-covered graveside, the sound of dirt clods tossed by gravediggers onto the casket, followed by the whimpering of her brothers and sisters, when coupled with her father, who lived for years as though he had been shot in the chest, continued to invade Katherine’s dreams.

When her father remarried, Katherine rebelled and migrated to her grandmother’s house where she was ingrained with the value of women, the value of learning, and the value of hard work, which stood in stark contrast to the community’s norm that women should learn the value of hard work.

Her formal education began in a well-built hexagonal building in front of the boy’s military academy next door to her family home where, at the age of seventy-two, she lived alone surrounded by large-print books and such ancient texts as Irving’s Sketch Book and a biography entitled Das Leben George Washingtons written in High German – each volume bore the imprint of Marian Catholic Girl’s school. On the inside of the book covers, written in a schoolgirl’s hand, were the names of her older sisters, Josephine and Mary.

Over the years, Katherine built her life as if it were a vegetable garden surrounded by a protective moat. The only time a snake entered that garden was in the form of an untimely wartime marriage to a man she very quickly learned to dislike and avoid. Their four year armed truce ended with his death and resulted in her son, Gerald. She laughed seldom, smiled rarely, and acted as if life were designed solely for the execution of duty, but in her son’s presence, her eyes sparkled; nevertheless, she saw very early that her son walked too close to the barbed wire, and, each year she grew more determined to serve as his buffer to the world.

 

“Gerald will behave,” she told his grade school nuns, then added her trademark declaration, “If he doesn’t, you call me.” The few times they did call her, she dispensed the discipline learned from her grandmother – an admixture of love and German formation.

“At recess, they said I was fat,” Gerald blurted out one Friday evening when he was in the third grade. She spent the weekend instructing him how act assertive. When he told her of his fears when speaking in class, she enrolled him in elocution lessons.

As an adult, Gerald ate dinner with his mother every Sunday. On his way to her house one evening, there arose a memory from a time when there were only three entertainment centers in town – the football field, the church social hall and the city auditorium. When Gerald earned his Eagle Scout award, he was asked to give the keynote speech at the ceremony that would draw over one hundred attendees into the city auditorium.

Gerald wrote the speech, his mother edited it, and for weeks, he rehearsed it with the elocution teacher and his mother. He inhaled the comfortable mustiness of the teacher’s basement where she conducted her after-school classes, and felt the crisp corners of the alcohol-scented mimeographed pages.

That evening when Gerald heard his name called, he rose, adjusted his new Eagle Scout neckerchief slide, stood tall, and walked to the stage. As rehearsed, he placed the five-by-seven cards on the podium, looked at the audience and spoke for over twenty minutes – seemingly without notes, seemingly at ease – so well rehearsed that it appeared to be ad-libbed. He flourished on that lighted stage with the darkened hall in front of him – all of the audience seated, all of them waiting, most of them eager. It was that evening, when he lost all stage fright. The time when he was imprinted with preparation, rehearsal, and presentation.  

His early high school grades were A’s and B’s. The B’s were not good enough. “Help me understand this,” his mother said and pointed to the only grade below an A. By “understand,” she meant justify it to her.

During an out-of-state high school football game his senior year, Gerald caught a pass, ran fifteen yards, was tackled at the ankles, his body flipped one-hundred and eighty degrees, and with several bones cracked and protruding, lay on the field. He watched his mother run toward him, and then drive him to the nearest hospital.

In the emergency room, she flashed her employee badge as the Nursing Director of the neighboring state’s largest acute care hospital, demanded the best orthopedic surgeon in the city, accompanied her son into the surgery suite, then watched over him after surgery. He knew he was safe when, after he awoke, she walked toward him, and said, “Don’t worry; it will get easier. I love you.”

It was that day Gerald remembered, that moment when his mother stood between him and the world. He retreated to that memory often.   

As Gerald turned the corner onto her street, his mind opened to memories of his mother’s chairs. At her home – floral, green, dark brown, beige, gray, finally peach. At work – cheap rolling chairs progressed to the high-back leather chairs. Gerald remembered how she rose from her chair, smiled and – erect and quick or bent and slow – gravitated toward him. He saw her old photos on the wall – Registered Nurse, young mother, nursing administrator. Her strong, assertive stance, generations ahead of her time. Her current photos, those of an old woman with eyes that saw in both worlds.

During dinner, Gerald noticed his mother had not taken her heart medications. “I forgot.” He took her weekly pill organizer from the counter, opened it. Inside the individual compartments, he saw five days of pills untouched.   

Her house overheated and desert dry, eyesight failing, frightened to navigate inside her own home, and unable to drive on her own, she sat stranded – reliant on visitors for food and sanitation.

“Nana,” he said to his mother as she sat slumped and unfocused, “I am moving in with you.”

As if she had forgotten the events of the day, she reached to touch their life years earlier, and said, “Just like before.” Added, “It’s sure changed.” She revealed a weakness never witnessed by Gerald when, with eyes that had declared love and protection, but now whispered weakness and passivity, his mother looked at him and said, “I’m so scared.”

One evening, Gerald found his mother on the floor near her peach chair. “Nana. Are you able to stand?”

She stirred and nodded yes.

“I’ll help you up.”

Her hands motionless, her unregistered eyes milky. He fed her soup, yogurt, soft buttered toast. She chewed for long minutes. She nodded when she finished, then forgot to chew the next small bite. A wave of nausea hit him.

Just the week before she had eaten caldo de pollo at a Mexican restaurant, and two weeks earlier she was the guest of honor at the annual family reunion. As the oldest surviving relative whose youngest family members reminded her of long dead aunts and uncles, she presided at the head of the table. When the question was raised about the next gathering, she raised her head erect, scooted her chair back, and pointed to a group of young adults standing where as children they had stood only a few years earlier – young adults whose diapers she had changed, whose first communions she had attended – and said, “It’s their turn. Let their generation do it.”

Later that evening, as Gerald lifted his mother into her bed, she said in a barely audible voice,

“This is hard work.”

Without thinking, he said, “It will get easier.”

Thirty minutes later, -911, emergency medical technicians rushed into the house, jerked his mother from her bed, laid her on the floor beneath her photos, cut her nightclothes, then applied the paddles.

Loud voices, then even louder voices repeated, “Clear.”

A quick hit with the paddles. “She breathing; there’s a heartbeat.”

Followed by, “We lost it.”

The emergency medical techs applied electrical jolts to her chest. Gerald had observed his grandfather age, become disabled, and die during the twentieth century; he had long felt it was better to grow old in the twenty-first; and it may have been, but, on that night, dying was dying.

He watched as her veins served as a foundation for needles and tubes. A paramedic yelled, “We got a pulse-”

Gerald leaned against the wall, and slipped to the floor. He began to perspire and breathe rapidly, felt his heart accelerate, attempted to catch his breath, stopped. Raised his head as if to speak, then realized it was a wasted effort. The right side of his jaw felt unaccountably sore – as if hit by a baseball bat.

He attempted to move his legs, tried to close his eyes and touch his nose, wanted to raise his right hand across midline of his head. This will pass. This will pass.  Within seconds, on the floor near his mother’s photos, “No heartbeat. Try again.”

 

Another technician, louder voice, “Clear.” Repeated. “Try again; no pulse, do it.”

Silence. “No heartbeat. Again. Heartbeat. None. Pulse. None.”

“Do it again. What? Repeat, please.”

Then silence.  “Noted.”

Silence again.

Then, “Time of death…”

#

A veil of reddish brown-dust covered the cemetery entrance. Every sound entered the car, time and distance evaporated. One of the black-suited men said, “Slow down for the motorcycle.” The accelerator eased as the car coasted until the cyclist passed and waved them forward. They drove past manicured grass, trimmed trees, small structures near brick paths. Late arrivals acted as if they had run a gauntlet to get there, then stood frozen.

After a few minutes, Gerald was taken from the vehicle; additional blasts of wind caused the men on both sides of him to sway. On this day, the wind was scented, not with robust pine resin, nor with delicate flowers, but with dust. Familiar people sang familiar hymns; there were the lingering odors of incense and the sounds of chimes. Light surfed from right to left as the sun moved above the canopy and highlighted two photographs on the table next to the priest.

A white-gloved man in the black suit spoke sotto voce, “You’ll need to move it a little to the left, then lower it just a bit,” after which the flat surface slid near the vertical tunnel just above the four by ten foot opening, followed by the thud and echo of the casket as it struck the metal grave liner.

 

After the onlookers departed, and Gerald was alone, he heard a familiar voice, saw an iridescent image. Together, they relived walks in the vegetable garden, the magical appearance of bread and butter to make cucumber sandwiches. He felt warmth and protection. She leaned over, kissed his forehead, and said, “Thank you. I love you,” then placed a familiar hand on his shoulder.

“It’s sure changed.” He exhaled, then said, “This is hard work.”

“Don’t worry. It will get easier.” Then said, “I love you.” It was the voice of his mother.

–END–

***

tme-photo-1-jpeg

Thomas Elson lives in Northern California. His short stories, poetry, and flash fiction have been published in the United States, Ireland, England, India, and South Africa.

 

The Cookie Jar – by MICHAEL MORRIS

The Cookie Jar

 

Little Bill constantly snatched his grandmother’s homemade treats. Every day after school, he went to his grandparents’ house, and did his homework at the kitchen table while his grandmother fed him two cookies and a glass of milk. He was never allowed more than this, but too often he could not resist, and when his grandmother left the room to put up laundry or to start his grandfather’s dinner, he took the smiling head off the ceramic bear cookie jar and helped himself to more.

 

At first, he didn’t get caught, and so began to get bolder, and stole even more cookies. When his mother came to get him after work, he could not eat the dinner she brought or made for him. But she just assumed that this was just a little boy phase.

 

But more cookies taken from a cookie jar usually means a fairly empty container, and Bill’s grandfather one day asked, “What’s happened to my cookies?”

 

“Your grandson ate them.” She didn’t mind the boy getting more; for her, a boy who couldn’t stop eating her food meant a boy who would always love her.

 

As grandfathers sometimes do, Bill’s decided to teach him a lesson. So the next day, Bill was looking toward the door to make sure he was not seen. His left hand pulled the bear’s head up where the jar opened at the mouth, and his right hand slowly went inside. He heard a loud snap, and then the tips of his finger felt on fire. He let go of the head and the mouth seemed to close on his hand. A mouse trap fell from his fingers and Bill saw — for only a second — a little blood on the lips of the bear as he pulled his hand away and tried to stifle his scream.

 

From another room, the old man laughed, but Bill was certain that the sound came from the smiling bear.

***

dscn3398-2

Michael Neal Morris has published short stories, poems, and essays in a number of print and online venues. His most recent books are naked and Recital Notes, Volume I. Collections of his work are listed at Smashwords and Amazon. He lives with his family just outside the Dallas area, and teaches at Eastfield College.

This Blue Monk: http://bluemonkwrites.tumblr.com/

Monk Notes: http://mnmwrite.blogspot.com/

Walking It Off: http://mnmwalking.blogspot.com/

Chance / Woman – by THOM YOUNG

Chance

 

he gave his only son

so that a wretch

may become

a treasure

he gave his last dime

to play A2

on the jukebox

again

and again

for there was something

left

a magic

a chance

one more time

to get up

and kick life

in the teeth.


 

Woman

 

if you can love

the same woman

twice

then you’ve already

beaten death

you need to parade

your superiority

over the masses

and it won’t be hard

either

their love never arrived

and wish them luck

finding a good one.


***

thom

Thom Young is a writer from Texas. His work has been in The Commonline Journal, 3am magazine, Crack the Spine, Word Riot, 48th Street Press, and many other places. A 2008 Million Writers Award nominee for his story Perico.

Epochal / Failure / Rope – by LAWRENCE WILLIAM BERGGOETZ

Epochal

                                                                

I did not speak to you in a language we will remember;

you listened, so I waited until a vision pierced

through me with a story that would

imprint images upon your mind like a dream

you recall years later compelling you to create

your own dialogue to make sense of the dramatic,

unfolding scenes, one after another,

 

each episode exploding out of

the dissonance of the last,

almost like a cascading of archetypes

telling a surreal drama around which

you must build an iconic lyric,

 

and you open your voice into the mantra of a tribal song,

your tongue the instrument through which a new epic

tale uncoils as you birth the poem a sacred people will

transcribe onto stone tablets so that

one day everyone can trace their lineage back to us

and call what you and I do today

religion


                                                                                                         

Rope

 

A rope is unwound, falling to the floor like leaves

faded and unbound by the autumn from their trees.

The hand opens to hold a book the eyes will not read.

An archeologist uncovers a city submerged in sand,

yet no bones are found.  The dinner plates

discovered are square and depict animals we can

only claim are mythic.

 

Religion explains what we do not know.  When the

self learns how to plumb its dark waters, god is no

longer needed.  In darkness, a deity is not enough,

and loses his power to control.

 

A twilight arrives when the bird does not return

to its nest.  The tree feels alone and sways awkwardly

in the night’s wind.  At daybreak, the sounds of the forest

call unbidden in songs the deserted can hear, but no

answer returns and the sun travels alone

through the azure desert.

 

In a dream, there is a text I cannot understand

but I keep reading it aloud until its message becomes melodic

and its music sinks into me like a memory

that I suddenly remember and only now understand

the lesson of its drama, and the warning of its violence.

I call this

meaning.

 

The smoke from an ancient, molded root burning

into ash enters my mouth and changes everything

I once said…My name disappears and my family now

claims that I died as an infant

–Abruptly, I am pulled out of death to moor heaven

with hell

like two ropes twined into a cord that won’t break.


 

Failure

 

There is less to me than what you seek.

Often, I languish in wonder and accomplish little.

I awaken past midnight and stare

at a star as if I, alone, can deliver

it as our next sun.

 

I walk in circles each morning, talk to

the dead, and imagine a divine world.

As a child, I would communicate with

clouds and engage in whistling

dialogue with the afternoon birds.

 

I still do not know if love

is found in one who exhibits traits

you cherish within yourself,

or in someone who tenderly provides a

gift of something sacred missing

within you.

 

I admired a couple I knew who

only sang around their small child,

hoping that she would learn music

before language and would intuit

how to experience the poetry of

life, even within its pain.

 

Although I have never been to

Norway, I dreamed last night of walking

through Oslo, speaking about Bob Dylan

to strangers.  I awoke in struggle to

interpret this dream.  Making sense

of the unseen is the only ambition I

still possess.


***

lawrence-oct-2016

Lawrence William Berggoetz composes poetry and essays from his adopted outpost of Dallas, Texas, a place which still feels foreign to him.  He has been published this year in numerous literary journals, among them are The Bitter Oleander, Poetry Quarterly, Poetry Pacific, JONAH, The Oddville Press, and Pour Vida.  He is a graduate of Purdue University and has written the book Under One Sun.

Owed to Continuation of Species – by PETER BRACKING

 

owed to continuation of species

 

banks you gotta hand it to ’em (and

you do you certainly do)

banks would slice off your testes

rip out your tubes

if

it were not for their ever grasping need

(banks) to claim your first born

and any and all subsequent birthings

***

Peter Bracking tells tall tales. Earth point: a tropical metropolis. Words have literally been published from ocean to ocean to ocean by some really great literary mags in a growing number of countries on half the inhabited continents.The only occupation is being a beach bum. Peter is the artistic director of Utter Stories. Self aggrandizement: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017AFRGEK

http://utterstories.wordpress.com

 

Poetry – from MEGAN MEALOR

Ripening

 

mother was our madness

 

and our curves

even her silhouettes were silver

 

        mother could grow marigolds

                              in November

 

she was our snake charmer

 

our static cling

 

(Previously published in the Mother’s Day 2014 issue of Broad!)

 


 

Little Punk

 

The wrathful kid with the fierce fingers

and a penchant for torturing ants won’t

stop breaking eggs on the sidewalk,

won’t respond to the vigilant old lady

shouting from across the street in the

kooky green house with lace for blinds.

He splatters the eggs like a delirious Picasso

from four or five cartoons I’m sure his mother

will miss.  I think his father works twelve hours

a day, six days a week, in some nearly-extinct

job better left to computers who don’t have

two mortgages out on some disfigured dark

eyesore with a leaf-choked lawn and a tornado-

prone roof which blocks out the sunrise.

I think his mother cleans the kitchen counter

twenty times a day.  The trampoline sags

like a heartless sonnet.  The basketball net

unthreads in self-pity.  Splat!  

Now there are no more eggs to scramble in

silent, screaming testaments, and the kid

heads home for another sapless sandwich

of a supper.

 

(Previously published in the April 2014 issue of Deep South Magazine)

 


 

Color-Coded & Iridescent

 

You dress in dogwood rose,

claret, jungle green;

chisel Chinese violet

out of bones and ebony.

 

I found a scribbled sonnet

inside your june bud jeans,

saw the way you danced in Venice,

your lines a sleek, sweet cream.

 

Your eyes could be a landscape,

its sky every shade of blue.

The instant when your heart stood still:

the most fuschia part of you.

 

(Previously published in the Spring 2013 issue of Obsessed With Pipework)

 


 

Distance

 

I allowed you

to sail me over lakebeds,

pull me up cliffs,

across broken bridges.

But I could not kiss you

with any trace of thunder,

even when the sun was

sinking into so many oceans.

You told me once

that there would never be

enough sky, but always,

always too many stars.

You wished you could

count them with your heart.

Love was the sacks

of luminous, worthless stones

you made me carry

up and down

blue mountains.

 

(Previously published in the Fall 2012 issue of Digital Americana under “Megan Hall.”)


 

the darkest art

 

cackling sonnets

inside every snare

spectral sunfalls

beneath roaring hale

unleashing calamity

these most ambrosial

of refrains

rabid moonbeats

become fancy

become flight

bloodless zion

cradled in

precarious constellations

seething grave

of gehenna

beckons

with a boil

withered wildflower witches

live on

to lament

our wintered woes

sing siren-soft melodies

into blacksmith night

hearts ablaze

as pillared wax

dripping

sonnets

on fir splinters  

windows polish

into prisms

yawning moonlight

breaking open

in the daze

between black shores

upon perfumed elms

windless waters

still remembered

from the moments

we were faultless

undiminished

in the eyes

of any god


 

To Whomever Listens Here

 

I will sustain for you in consecrated constraint,

tethered to this slatted kitchen door.

There are lesser visions, I am certain,

in your more honest reflections of me.

 

Where will you wait for me

when the yellow dahlias have finished

spinning into dawn?

 

There are never too many echoes or footfalls between us.


 

deployed

 

emily was right about you

 

from the peril and speck of jade

in your scrutiny

 

         (boozer flatfoot, a flair for us floozies)

 

to the way you yield your demonic seduction

in the murky, stained, disheveled moments

 

          (where she and I cannot exist together)


 

Relics

 

memorize me

in the slanted dawn

of your attic,

taking pictures

with my heart

 

unfind me

in the quatrain mist

outside the coffee trees

 

open up

the farmlit skies

shaking with the sea

 

lose me

in the newborn dimmet,

unlearn me in your cream

 

lie stiller

than a peony

bashful in the breeze

 

shed the solace

wrapped around

the bases of your bones:

autumnal afghans, freesia fleece

 

put away

those lost engravings

from your father

 

read to me

the only outcast star

in the tide

 

strike wilder

than a daisy

dining on its shade

 

conjure poems

from your sinew,

making all the right mistakes


 

mockings, midnights

 

the lion wants

what it still has

the warlord cat

it bides its cream

this sideshow

sun-starched calloused cleave

merciless minions

spread freelove venom

borneo black plague asps

we report paper cuts

and piranhas

us fragile inner city bees

i didn’t hollow

this canyon

between us

i didn’t carve it

from a dream

we meet at three ends

romancing embers

into echoes

so many heartbeats

later

you devour

lilac locust breeze

silicone sonnet sundae shade

baskets of billabongs

trapped in your bass

dreaming of frequencies

in the next lane

you never failed

in the phase

you waned

it only matters

when the moon is

unrehearsed

unexplained

electrifying snowflakes

branding bullets

with your everlasting

examining

our apparition

it flies solo

at the seams

shadowing a village

it pebbles

at our feet

we forget

we forgot our every father  

somewhere they trace

themselves

back to the tide

somewhere they lose

their opals

in the maze

try try try

we could never

jump-start skies

treason

your lone infatuation

mocking the martyrs

of the blaze

loose chantings

from our fingertips

the only part

of you

i take with me

into coal mines

past the bombs

wherever you flee

i feel your limerick

in my bones

however you undo

i find the starset

in my tree


 

Mapping

 

we finished in callous calligraphy

what we never felt the need to do

heart to heart

fire to frenzy to fracture

there were vast, luscious moments

we will remember in

agave Antigua whispers

Bavarian bread crumbs

winter-capped Norse summits

bleeding blue lyrics on Baltic beaches

crawling through granite and Greenland

deflowering Irish violet lullabies and

English rose sonnets in our shrieking wake

you manifested the anonymous almond shores

where I will one day overture my soul

these posturing postcards

will be our postscripts

those Nova Scotia steamship whitetips

our final coup de grace


***

me21

Megan Mealor has been writing stories since she was three years old.  Dozens of her poems and short fiction have been featured in such publications as Digital Americana, Hello Horror, Belle Reve Literary Journal, and Better Than Starbucks.  She is currently working on her first chapbook, Bipolar Lexicon, as well as a full-length royal romance novel entitled My Lady Mercedes.  She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her fiancé, three-year-old son, and two black-and-white cats.

Days on Lawndale – by MATTHEW J. LAWLER

Days on Lawndale

 

Oh those days on Lawndale,

The summer sweet weed smell

and 40 ounce behemoth breath

left its mark upon me

like a flame searing flesh.

I was in the present moment

more attentive than ever,

Now reflective upon feeling

a certain fire of uncertainty,

A vivid emptiness internally.

 

Identity was an infant

like a restless spider weaving

an endless web of discovery,

And every day was different

discovering the hate and love in me.

The teenage angst of city life

yet somehow I found a bliss

not in coins, but in pitching them

under the sun’s scream on concrete

where teens crowded corners

pitching quarters.

 

There was pressure to conform

to the image of the Cobra.

To weather the storm of youth

and not slip into that swamp,

To seek some sort of truth

in finding out who you are

and who you’re not.

 

Oh Chicago I remember,

Walking up to Jensen in September,

Ready to play ball in brilliant weather.

80 degrees and counting.

The court with its austere gleam

called teens to play.

 

We played ball that day in September,

Without any thought to what we’d do next

caught up in the moment until

we ran out of breath.

I took a break to grab a drink

and watched the dreamless

drinking on a park bench.

I was a question mark

consorting with exclamations.

Surrounded by dreamless

drifters and street bums

hearing the distant sound

of harmonica beats

as the marijuana seeped

into sewers of Seagram’s.

I grew up in this ageless

aimless teenage kingdom

where void was the concept of authority,

A kingdom of anarchy

and ranting of strange minds,

I saw the “powerless” feel empowered

in the proclamation of gang signs,

But I felt power on the court.

 

There was pressure to conform to their ways,

Though insecure about myself

I never bit the bait,

Denying my desire to belong.

My school days were lonely

like the loneliness of my disease,

Reaching with its forceps

and yanking out self-esteem.

Most classes I would cut

to smoke a blunt in the Cutlass

trying to regain a sense of composure,

I fled to the neighborhood

drifting in the currents of Cullom.

A place where teens found identity

and self-worth in the image of the Cobra.

 

Where did I find my self-worth?

I found it in my dream of playing ball,

Basketball at Jensen,

Soaked in September sweat

dribbling up and down the court

as mad men looked on

eager to participate.

I stuck the dagger in

with a swish to end the game,

Damn!! I felt good about myself,

Forgetting my limitations

in a blurring moment,

I ran like how the river runs,

Free from diabetes consciousness,

Free from the label of being dysfunctional.

I held the ball, smelling the dirt, the musk,

The burnt roach weed smell

from the fingertips of felons.

I fell in love that day at Jensen.

I fell in love with dreams.

 

“Come on Matthew, you coming with us?”

I watched them that day after the game

disperse from the park to hang out on Leland.

About ten of them.  Green eyes, green and black

back bruises, tattoos, shaved heads,

40 ounce behemoth breath.

Alone, I grabbed tight onto my dream

and dribbled it home down Lawndale,

Watching the dreamless go into a restless

night.

 

***

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Matthew J. Lawler is a poet and Chicago native. He is published in numerous online journals, Visual Verse, Unlost Journal, Caravel Literary Arts Journal. You can find him on facebook.com/matthewjlawlerpoet

Butoh / Barbarians – by CARRIE REDWAY

Butoh

 

I saw a Butoh dancer once

snap her back in mid-step

jerk her neck to the side

I gasped

it was surreal

but part of the dance.

 

My spine is an old witch’s crooked cane.

 

I am afraid that I might lean too far and

like a leather belt, crack–

vertebrae will fray,

two dangling ropes

hovering behind my rib cage

pinned up only by the mass of blood

tissue insulating the bones

which are ready to drop, tired

too withered

under the pressure of

scoliosis

decay

deformity

 

and womanhood.

 

The Butoh music tingles;

the dancer collects herself from the floor.


Barbarians

 

When Eve was cast from Eden

the garden excreted her.

 

New fingernails fragile like shale

grappled the dirt. Her bones

snapped backward hitting embedded tree roots.

She dragged her breasts

over wet leaves and sharp stems.

Once familiar weeds

that never touched too close before

now scraped like needles. A raging fire at her feet.

 

She cared for Adam’s old, rusty body.

“But it was all Eve’s fault,” the men wrote.

 

I am the fruit. I am

the woman. And sometimes I am the serpent.

“Where it was all red,” the children sang.

 

Sometimes I will spit on the dirt I’ve been tilling

and walk away. Out of the garden

 

where Eve was once gold.


***

redway-picture

Carrie Redway is a writer and mixed media artist in Seattle, WA. She is inspired by myth, folklore and ritual. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Really System, Picaroon Poetry and sea foam magazine. She tweets @carrie_redway.

Grandpa’s Hands – by TIM TIPTON

Grandpa’s Hands

 

Grandpa’s hands

were kind, old, tan from the hot sun

They told more than his face did about life

and where he had traveled in his eighty years.

His hands were masterful in finding lost gems,

making fishing lures and carving something

out of wood to last forever.

His hands always open, never closed.

I grew up wanting to have those hands

Touching earth, arranging space

I found it natural when his hand held mine.

***

me-reading

Tim Tipton was first seduced by the craft of poetry when he read the “Panther” by Rainer Marie Rilke. Tim is a graduate of California State University of Northridge where he received a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. He also received a degree in Substance Abuse counseling.