Category Archives: JANUARY 2021

STEW

STEW

by

Vivian Lawry

 

Alta set the Dutch oven on the stove and smeared the bottom with bacon fat. The cast iron shone smooth as black satin. When the fat shimmered, she scraped in the chopped onion and gave it one quick stir. The smell of onion and bacon bloomed.

Judith poked her head in at the screen door. “Hey, sis. Something sure smells good.”

“C’mon in. I’m making stew for dinner.” Judith slid onto the bench behind the old oak table and plucked at a little triangular tear in the oilcloth covering the big rectangle. Alta glanced at her. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m feeling like the old woman who lived in a shoe.”

Alta turned to the chuck roast, bloody and marbled white with fat. “What do you mean?”

“You know. Granny always said, ‘There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. If she’d known what to do, she wouldn’t have had so many children.’”

Alta chuckled. “You aren’t even married so you don’t need to worry about that.” She cut a look at Judith. “Or do you?”

Pink flooded Judith’s face from collar to hairline, nearly hiding her freckles. “Of course not! I’m not Rosie! It’s just… Well, Bill asked me to marry him. But I just don’t know. I don’t want to be like Ma. I don’t want thirteen children—nor six, neither!”

While they talked, Alta blotted both sides of the beef, tossing the bloody towel into the wash basket in the corner. “You should talk to Lena or Bessie. They’ve only got one each, so they must know what’s what.”

“But their sons are older than I am! That would be like talking to Ma—and what’s the use of that? If she knows anything about stopping babies from coming, she must not think it’s the right thing to do or there wouldn’t be so many of us!” She tossed her strawberry-blond curls, her eyes pleading. “I was hoping you’d tell me.”

A pained look flashed across Alta’s face. She picked up the slab of beef, rubbed salt and pepper into both sides, and scraped the wilted onions to the edges of the pot. She sighed. “I’ll tell you what I know—what I’ve heard and such.”

“Oh, yes, please!”

Alta dropped the roast into the Dutch oven, jerking her hand back from the popping oil. “Surely you know about rubbers?”

“Of course! Everyone knows about those.”

“Well?”

Judith blushed again. “I heard Bill joking with some of his poker buddies. One said something about sex wearing a condom feeling like wearing galoshes, and Bill said one good thing about getting married was not having to wear rubbers anymore.”

“Oh. Hmmm. And you say you and Bill haven’t…?” 

Judith whipped her head back and forth so fast her curls flew out. “I told him right off that we would never go all the way unless we were married!”

When the first side of the beef had seared, Alta turned the roast with a long fork. At the end of the stainless steel handle, tapered scarlet Bakelite always made Alta think of a hot pepper. She favored this cooking fork, partly because Granny had given it to her. “Does he want kids right away?”

“We haven’t talked about that. But I know I don’t!”

Alta poured iced tea for both of them. “Well, if he won’t wear rubbers, I guess it’s up to you.”

“Why do you think I’m here! What can I do?”

The second side had seared. The beefy smell was heavy in the kitchen. Alta moved the pot to a cooler burner and dumped in a quart of canned tomatoes. The sizzling and bubbling quickly subsided to a simmer. The lid was too heavy for steam to escape, so a rich broth was guaranteed.

“Some of our cousins down in the hills talk about it a lot. Mostly they seem to try to keep their husbands’—or whoever’s—seed from getting through.” While the roast simmered, Alta collected the vegetables—dirt-brown potatoes, purple-and-white turnips, and sunset-orange carrots. “I don’t know how well any of these things work. One said to tie a square of sponge with string, soak it in honey or vinegar, and push it up against the opening to the womb.”

Judith looked aghast. “How?”

“With your finger, of course.”

“Ugh! Put my finger up there?”

Alta grinned. “Hon, there’ll be bigger things than a finger up there!”

“But… But… Won’t it get lost?” Judith’s voice was a high-pitched squeak.

“It can’t. The opening to your womb is tiny. And you have the string there to pull the sponge out after.” Alta started scrubbing the potatoes—so young they didn’t have eyes to bother with—using the toothbrush she kept for the purpose. “Personally I think that’s better than another thing they’ve used: tobacco shreds mixed with honey and cotton lint—just pushed up in there.” She glanced at Judith. “Up against that nob that feels like the tip of your nose.” She turned back to the potatoes. “I’ve heard of lots of things like that—like a paste of juniper berries smeared on your privates, outside and in. Cousin Ima said she’s used a lemon half with all the juice squeezed out, pushed up there like a cap—but she can’t always get lemons. Irma said she cut the fingertip off a rubber glove, but it was devilish hard to get in place.”

Alta dropped the chunked-up potatoes into a bowl of water to keep them from browning and to make potato water for the next bread-baking. 

Green tinged Judith’s face. Alta said, “You could find a Catholic co-worker and ask about the rhythm method—the calendar method they sometimes call it. One thing I can tell you is that when you notice a creamy discharge in your panties, that’s when you’re likely to get pregnant. My doctor told me having sex as long as it looks like egg white is likely to get a baby. If that isn’t what you want, wait till four days after it disappears.” 

The carrots and turnips were scrubbed and chunked, dumped into another bowl. Alta had nothing pressing while the beef simmered, so she sat across from Judith. “Listen, hon. Great-Granny talked about stoneseed root—said the Lakota swore by it—but if that’s around here, I wouldn’t know what to look for or where.”

Judith’s shoulders drooped and Alta patted her hand. “But there are things right in the kitchen you could try. I’m taking this from what my doctor told me not to do if I didn’t want to miscarry next time.” She looked aside. “You know Elwood and I lost another baby, don’t you?”

Judith leaned across the checked oilcloth and squeezed Alta’s hand. “Oh, sis, I didn’t think…I mean, I thought you wanted to stop after the two girls and would know what I should do. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” Alta’s small smile quivered. “We’d just really like to have a boy.” Tears filled Alta’s eyes and she wiped them away with her apron.

“Oh, sis, what kind of person am I, making you talk about this when you want another one so bad!”

Alta shrugged one shoulder. “Don’t fret about it. It’s not like one has anything to do with the other. Now, according to Dr. Hodson, too much of any of these can cause you to lose a baby—and some will keep you from getting one in the first place: lots of aspirin, raw cinnamon, and laxatives.” 

Alta rose, checked on the stew, reduced the heat, and wiped her eyes again before she sat back down. “I found an old herbal in that box of mixed goods I bought at the auction awhile back. The first section is growing and storing herbs. The second is recipes. And the third section talks about medicinal uses. According to the herbal, eating apricot kernels or roots of Queen Anne’s lace should trigger a miscarriage too. Or drink teas made of ginger root, rue, angelica, jack-in-the-pulpit root, pennyroyal, parsley, chamomile, or nutmeg.” She squeezed Judith’s hand again. “Ask around. Some women who’ve used them might not be willing to talk about it but some will. I think some of the teas need to be taken more often than others, some every day to build the effect.”

“I’ll never remember all that!” Judith wailed.

“Hon, you really need to talk with Bill about whether to have children, how many, and when.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right.” Judith jumped up, face blazing scarlet. “Thanks, sis. I…I have a lot to think about.” The screen door banged behind Judith. 

Her failure to give her husband the son he wanted—a son to carry on the family name—weighed on Alta’s heart like a river rock. She retrieved the herbal and sat down to read, hoping she might find something she’d missed before.

When the roast was nearly fall-apart tender, Alta added the drained vegetables to the pot. By the time the vegetables were cooked but not mushy, the biscuits would be done. 

Alta dabbed her tears with the sleeve of her dress. She wished she had a recipe for Judith—and for herself.

MY TWO NOVEMBERS

 

 

 

MY TWO NOVEMBERS

 Abigail Warren

 

Not this freight train

barreling down from Canada

an unwanted guest

leaving mornings smoky

with a drunken sun

too tired to push

his belligerent fires

to that quivering hemlock,

standing erect as a boy

in 3rd grade who’s

pinched a girl

and is waiting outside the principal’s office

for punishment.

Not you, November.

The other one.

Where the pokeweed is still alive

with purple orbs hanging heavy,

trees still crimson

oaks, cinnamon.

No smell of fossil fuels,

but leaves gathered

in mounds where children

dive recklessly

in great leaps crackling

until some father gathers them,

and they blaze under a

November moon;

look close, the hydrangeas,

their fading heads droop 

like those sullen children, 

called in after evening’s play.

But let the children stay

let them gather leaves,

let them believe all this

will not end

THE TRACTOR AND THE FARMER’S WIFE

John Grey

 

It’s one thing to be private.

It’s quite another to be so obsolete

that your tires are flat

your flywheel’s shot

your gas tank’s empty, rusty.

and you’re abandoned

hi the far end of the paddock,

mid-winter,

smothered in a foot of snow.

It’s one thing to think that the ideal

is to be done with work.

cooling off,

when that work is what’s sustained you.

and you’re not cooling off,

you’re freezing up.

And sure, it’s one thing

to materialize out of melting,

with spring upon you,

the unplowed field ahead of you,

when there’s a newer model in the showroom.

and the bank is making loans

to every farmer in the county.

And it’s one thing to be a tractor.

But such a misery to be you.

LETTERS FROM HOME

LETTERS FROM HOME

Anna Kapungu

 

In the deserted days

Where the sun is my champion

And the blood thirsts for water

I tell the rays what I miss the most

Hear my breathing

Sweat drip down my back

My hands cracked  from the labour

Labour  without  gains

Split the grounds to pass the hours

Read the roads of my palms 

Roads that lead me back home

Then I receive your letters

Your words are like rain in the summer

Comfort my blackened heart

Feel the elevation of my spirit

My people,the force of humanity

I cannot pray to surrender my heaviness

I cannot cry to release my sentence

THE FAMILY

by

Mitchell W. Baum

Ice cracked under the tires as Mitchell parked at his grandmother’s house. The gray afternoon was fading. Crusted snow in the light of the house clung to laurel leaves, making the bushes sag. Only Mitchell and his sister were left to see the old woman now. Uncle Wally had moved to Florida and paid her bills from there. Mitchell lit a cigarette, delaying going in. He remembered the old house in Waterbury, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The tick of the tall clock in the front hall had made it seem that the house itself was alive and unchanging. In that house he’d always known what was expected. This house was like a shoebox, all on one floor, practical. His visit was overdue. It seemed incredible he didn’t come more often. 

Mary, the Black cook, let him in and took his coat. He liked her but was uncomfortable with her shyness. For both of them it was as if they mattered only for what they meant to the old woman. Mary was in her fifties. Mitchell wondered how she coped with her loneliness. A nurse came most days, but Mary didn’t drive so she couldn’t leave. He’d seen her, on her Sunday day off, hurry through breakfast, change into a pretty dress, and take a taxi to New London. He thought she must live for those days. 

“How is she, Mary?” 

“She’s pretty good. When she gets tired she doesn’t make much sense, but we don’t bother her with that. She’s been asking all day, ‘What time is it? What time is it? When’s he going to get here?’” 

She led him into the living room, where his grandmother sat peering at the fire. She had a round, pretty face and a cumulus of white hair. The big, winged chair dwarfed her like a child. She didn’t notice them come in. They stopped, not wanting to pierce the quiet. A spark sounded in the fireplace. 

“Look who’s here, Mrs. Wallace!” 

It took a moment for recognition, but then her arms shot out. She grabbed his hands, shook them, and laughed. She kissed him, then pushed him back. She held him by the lapels of his jacket. She seemed to soak him in. 

“Let me look at you!” 

She banged her cane on the floor. 

“Well, Mary, what do you think?” 

“Isn’t he handsome, Mrs. Wallace!” 

He was almost handsome but his extra weight made his face soft and undefined. His big, round eyes seemed perpetually questioning and indecisive. 

Mary brought them some drinks and nuts. 

“Good old Dr. Holiday says I need one of these every day for my heart.” The old woman winked. “What would I do without him?! So tell me, how’s that college of yours? Having a gay time with the girls?” 

“I’m keeping up the tradition,” he lied. 

“Well, that’s good! You should. When I was your age, there wasn’t all this seriousness you have now. We had some fun. There was a gang of us. I went to all the parties. Your grandfather, poor thing, was courting me for a long time, wanting to get married. But I kept putting him off because I was having too good a time.” 

Mitchell relaxed back into his chair. He had heard the story so many times, unchanging word for word, like a favorite song. 

“I wanted to go to the Yale Prom again. You can’t be married and go to a prom! But H. Mitchell had finally had enough. He came to see me one morning at my father’s house on Prospect Street. He got us alone, and he sat me down. ‘Now, Louise,’ he said, and I knew I was in for it.” She winked at Mitchell. “‘Louise,’ he said, ‘I’m taking the afternoon train to New York. Tomorrow I leave on a boat to Africa. I’m going to expand the business there. I plan to be gone five years. If you agree to marry me, I won’t go, but I have to know now.’” 

She laughed. “Well, I could see this was it. I didn’t want him to get away. I just wanted a little more time but he was so determined. So what could I do?!”  

She looked at Mitchell as if she was helpless. Then she laughed and looked into the flames like she was seeing it all again. 

Mary brought trays, which she set on little tables in front of their chairs. Mitchell was sad to realize they didn’t use the dining room anymore. 

Now Mrs. Wallace seemed exhausted. Mitchell realized how much the effort to be gay had taken out of her. She looked listlessly at her food. 

She’d always gotten what she wanted and been happy with it, but she was no longer in charge. When Mitchell was young, if he complained or was scared, she would say, “Oh, bubbles!” It always made him feel better, as if whatever the problem, it was not too big. But now the eyes that had been the happiest of his childhood looked tired and afraid. 

When they were done, Mary came in to take the trays. “Now Mrs. Wallace, you haven’t eaten but a bit of your dinner.”

“I tried to eat, Mary. Don’t make me eat more,” she pleaded, looking up at her.  

“Well, just eat some of those peas you haven’t touched while I take Mr. Mitchell’s tray to the kitchen.” 

Peas fell from her fork as she brought it to her mouth. Mary came back and took the tray. “That’s good enough for now, dear.” 

Mary’s approval reassured her. Mitchell saw his grandmother relax. 

“I don’t see anyone anymore. Where’s all the old gang you used to bring down? We used to play all the old songs, roll up the rug in the living room, and dance. Remember?” 

He didn’t remember. It was almost like panic. He didn’t know which generation she had placed him in. Did she think he was his uncle, or one of his grandfather’s friends? 

“I’m just an old woman now. Everything seems to have changed. I don’t understand what happened. Even H. Mitchell never seems to be here, and he was never like that.” 

She watched her grandson closely, as if he might provide some clue. 

“It makes me wonder…I wonder if there’s something I don’t know about?” 

Mitchell realized that she was asking if his grandfather had another woman. It stunned him. The pain of it. That something as strong as their marriage could be doubted and lost. Anything could be taken away. He was afraid to tell her, but there was no one else. He lit a cigarette. He leaned toward his grandmother, clasping his hands. 

“Granny, I’m your grandson, Mitchell.” He paused. She stared at him.  

“My grandfather, your husband, H. Mitchell, passed away. He died eight years ago.” 

She looked like he had hit her. Her face went slack. Slowly anger reanimated her. 

“Why do you say this when you know it’s not true? Why do you want to hurt me?” 

“Granny, I don’t want to hurt you.” 

He thought, I’ve done the wrong thing. His resolve left. He felt he couldn’t finish it. 

“What I told you is true. Granddaddy passed away.”

She continued to stare at him. He drew on his cigarette, not wanting to look back. He wanted to run outside. His grandmother seemed to be trying to figure out what was wrong with him. 

Finally she said, “I’ll prove it to you.” She picked up the phone and dialed. 

“Operator, I want to speak to H. Mitchell Wallace.” She paused, irritated. 

“Well, I suppose he’d be at the club.

“The Waterbury Club.

“Well, of course in Waterbury, Connecticut.” 

Mitchell marveled at the patience of the operator, that she was able to get the call through. 

“Hello… Yes, I would like to speak to H. Mitchell Wallace… He’s been a member of the club for a great many years… I’m his wife, Mrs. Wallace…

“I see. Yes, I’ll try again later. Thank you very much.” 

She hung up the phone and turned to her grandson. Her eyes were clear and alive with triumph. 

“They said he isn’t there yet.” 

Mitchell felt terribly alone. He imagined the kind, well-intentioned man at the club desk. Perhaps he had worked there when his grandfather was alive. 

Mitchell heard a voice that didn’t seem his own. 

“Maybe you can reach him later.”

TALL GLASSES

Tall glasses

DS Maolalai

pouring our gin

onto icecubes

and limes.

enjoying              

the crackle

and crunch.

and summer

is trapped

by the walls

of our balcony;

the ice in a tall

glass of gin.

we lean back in tandem,

stretching like poolside

recliners. below us

the traffic is steady; locked

like a lime

in our ice. we stir

our tall glasses

with takeaway

chopsticks,

shifting the garnish

around.

SECOND LIFE

Shellie Richards

Who checks for lumps before age fifty? I was only seventeen when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My breasts more closely resembled moon pies than actual boobs. The round hockey-puck-like protrusions had grown a mass, and I never even noticed. It spread to the lymph nodes and then it was everywhere. After months of chemo and radiation, I was bald but in remission. About the time my eyebrows decided to grow in (right after I got good at drawing them on), I got run over by a UPS truck. I was pulling a box turtle from the road in early June and then everything went brown—then black. Damn UPS truck. I didn’t die instantly, though. I lingered while my parents and sister held a bedside vigil of hope. Every day after her shift, the UPS driver came by to see how I was. Had I opened my eyes? Had I squeezed anyone’s hand? Had I wiggled my toes? Each day was more waiting, more hoping that I’d suddenly come to life and ask for some nachos, a Pepsi, and my cell phone. Then, on day ten, I flatlined. 

What a relief that was! The constant sobbing and reminiscing and profuse apologies from the driver depressed me, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it but lie in the bed and listen. And I heard it all. I heard my sister on her cell phone with her boyfriend—not her husband, her boyfriend. Who knew? I heard my dad squeal like a little girl when he landed tickets to the Masters golf tournament and then listened to him practice his speech (the one he’d give to my mother) over and over. He cleared his throat and tried various tones of “disappointed yet excited” and “somber yet ecstatic” so she’d understand that while it was their silver anniversary, this was the chance of a lifetime (!!!). Maybe she’d like to come too. Then I listened as my mother said yes and later cried on the phone to her best friend about the anniversary party that would never happen. Then there was the whole living will disagreement. My sister and mother wanted me to remain hooked up to the life-sustaining machines, while my father argued I would never have wanted to live like a vegetable.

“But she’s come so far! She fought the cancer and she won! Against all odds!” My mother’s crescendo of defiance filled the ICU.

“Yes, Marion, I know. You say it like I wasn’t there! I just don’t think Rachel would want this! I know she wouldn’t.”

“Oh really, Jack? And how do you know that? Did you ask her, ‘Hey, Rachel, if you were in a coma and hooked up to machines that were keeping you alive, would you care whether we pulled the plug?” My mother’s voice disappeared into muffled sobs.

But none of that mattered. I died anyway.

I was buried in the family tomb in New Orleans in the Lafayette Cemetery, and before I even had time to fully decompose, I came back. And despite common reincarnation folklore, I remembered who I’d been in my previous life. Reincarnation is funny like that. Stranger still, I’m living in the same city on the same street, attending the same school. Some days I go over to the cemetery and pull weeds from around the tomb where my old bones are slowly baking to dust. No one else in the family has passed away, so I’m still on the top shelf of the tomb. Just the other day, I watched a caterpillar on the marble tableau weave in and out of the date on which I’d died—June 11. He walked up the first one and down the second one and over to the first two in 2012. I left him sitting in the center of the zero, where he evidently decided to take a siesta. I walked home, past my old house and my old family with my old mom cutting roses in the front and my old dad working on a new charbroil grill. They smiled and waved and so did I. They’d no idea and I didn’t want to freak them out, but I could have.

“Hey, Mom, remember the day you taught me how to ride a bike without trainers? A storm was coming, but I was so excited because I was sooo close, and so we stayed on the sidewalk in the pouring rain, and later we went out for milkshakes to celebrate? Chocolate mint!” Or “Hey, Dad, remember when I fell off my bed and busted my chin and got stitches on your birthday and then four days later when it was my birthday, you cut yourself and had to get stitches too? And the nurse took our photos, mine with my stitched chin—I got seven and you with your stitched-up hand, you got eleven—and hung them on the bulletin board at the nurses’ station? How funny was that?”

I admit I think about saying something, but they were good parents, and I just can’t bring myself to creep them out. But there is something… My former sister, the one with the husband and the boyfriend, both of whom happened to be named Jerry, now runs a bakery in the Garden District and, well, I applied and got the job. And maybe I cheated a little. I said how I loved gingerbread, and she said, “Me too!” and how my favorite color was yellow, and she said, “Me too!” and then I said my favorite soup was the shrimp bisque at Commander’s Palace, and that was that. I was hired on the spot. But I hate gingerbread. And yellow. And shrimp bisque. I’m a gumbo kinda girl. I was then, and I am now. But I do have real boobs this time, not those old moon pies like before. The apron I wear at La Bon Bakery stretches nicely over them. It’s been years—sixteen to be exact—and Jerry the boyfriend is gone and it’s just Jerry the husband now. Still, on the days we bake cherry pies, I always sing, “Cherry-cherry double Jerry-Jerry,” and watch for any sign that she gets it. She doesn’t. 

She does talk about me from time to time. How great I was, how perfect I was, and how sad she was when I died. She’d go in my room and lie on my pillow and bury her nose and smell. It smelled like Moroccan oil. That’s what I always used on my hair. She listened to my iPod and after that, she said she’d listen to rap music at least one day a week just to remember me. She’s told everyone about how I died pulling a box turtle from the road and how the UPS driver was never able to forgive herself and how she no longer drives. Instead, she works at Fresh Market grocery in their deli. Rides her bike there and back and, every Tuesday, brings my old sister a pound of London broil and a pound of smoked turkey. In exchange, my sister bakes a cake shaped and iced like a box turtle. I can’t imagine that’s consoling, but whatever, right? 

I mean wtf? “Hey, here’s a cake in the form of a box turtle just like the one Rachel was pulling from the road the day you ran her down in the street like a dog…” Too dramatic? Maybe, but I wouldn’t want some sordid reminder and at 750 calories a slice to boot. No thanks. I must admit I found the whole fixation on the turtle rather odd. I mean, it was just a small part of my story. Just a thing I was getting out of the road. Me, the one who had survived breast cancer. At age seventeen, against the odds, only to be run over by a UPS truck. If I’d died at the hands of a drunk driver who’d been drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, would they toast my memory with PBR? 

My old sister’s not half bad as a boss. She’s fair when I need a night off and she always lets me take home a dozen or so cookies. My favorite, the snickerdoodles, are especially good. I’ve never had a better cookie anywhere. They are crisp on the outside with a soft center and the perfect amount of spices. Last week, a guy drove three hours from Mississippi just for the snickerdoodles. He bought all we had, and I had to take home oatmeal raisin that night. Bastard. And the regulars, the ones with discerning tastes, and the local foodies all come for the snickerdoodles. I’ve no idea what is in them, but I imagine it’s a lot like crack cocaine. Try them once and you’re hooked. 

At the bakery, I don’t actually mix them—that is to say, I don’t know the recipe. I just plop them out in tablespoon-sized dollops for baking. But I imagine baking them at home until my tiny apartment has permanently captured the aroma, storing it in my curtains and walls, and each day when I come home, that incredible smell greets me like an old friendly dog. I figure there must be some secret ingredient that makes them so delicious; I suspect it’s something odd, like a dash of black pepper or walnut oil or some exotic ingredient she has imported. I’ve asked but she always pantomimes the zippered, buttoned-up lip and smiles. Only she knows the recipes for everything she bakes, and she guards them like the NSA guards classified documents. 

I guess if I ran a bakery with cookies that good, I’d guard them too. But I was her sister. Even now, I’m [still] practically family, right? I was family and the only thing that has kept me from having that recipe as far as I’m concerned is that UPS driver! If you were going to share a recipe, wouldn’t you do so with a family member? How much closer can you get than me, former sister, previously Rachel? She keeps her office locked up like a bank vault and she’s good at keeping secrets; we know that already, right? Cherry-cherry double Jerry-Jerry. But I just keep imagining my apartment filling with the smells of baking snickerdoodles, and I wouldn’t mind that red velvet cake or the million-dollar pound cake recipe while I’m at it. Or the pumpkin roll she makes only in October and November.

Here’s my plan (it’s not foolproof, but stay with me). One day while old sister’s busy in the freezer with inventory, I’ll sneak into her office, pick the locks on her cabinets (I’ve researched lock-picking extensively), quickly photograph the recipes with my phone, and be out before she can count three sticks of butter. That’s my plan. Part A. Part B is where things get sketchy. If she catches me digging through her files, I’m going all out with the freak show. I’m going to dredge up every last thing she did when I was Rachel—those things only Rachel would know…like how she accidentally broke Mom’s antique washing bowl that had belonged to her great-great-grandmother circa Civil War era. Or how she burned down the garage and everything in it one time when she was sneaking a cigarette—Dad’s golf clubs (including his lucky driver), Mom’s antique dresser, my childhood books and dolls all nothing but ashes (nothing against ashes—lots of really good stuff ends up ashes). Conveniently, it’d occurred around the Fourth of July, and so “fireworks were the obvious culprit.” Uh huh. I’m with ya, sister. Cherry-cherry double Jerry-Jerry. Marlboro Lights and bottle rockets are hardly the same. Shoplifting. Skipping school. Losing her virginity at fourteen. Underage drinking. I know all of her sins, and if my hand is forced, I’ll have to do it, and it will be greater than any sideshow at any circus. I will try my best to avoid the freak show route. I like my gig here, and old sister is not so bad. In fact, I much prefer her to my brother I have now. But I need that recipe. I need to know what is in those snickerdoodles.

It was indeed a freak show. FREAK SHOW. I waited until she was in the freezer counting eggs and butter, and I went into her office and picked the lock to the cabinet. I went straight to the S’s for snickerdoodles, and without even reading the recipe, I photographed it. Then the million-dollar pound cake, then the red velvet cake, the Italian cream, the fresh coconut, and the pumpkin roll. I lost focus and got greedy, and I would’ve been fine except I noticed cabinet number two. I hadn’t counted on that. With the precision of a seasoned thief, I picked the lock, and that’s when the freak show started. I opened that cabinet to a shrine of sorts. In the center, a single turtle shell and around it, a few candles, some incense, an urn (???), and photos of me everywhere. Well, technically, of Rachel. Photos of me on my bike, me and old Dad with stitches, me at graduation, me on chemo with my drawn-on eyebrows. I examined the turtle shell closely. It had to be the one. Had to be. There were grooves in the shell where it had sailed across the asphalt. I ran my fingertips over the scratches. Without thinking, I shut the cabinet door, turtle shell in hand, and headed toward the front. As I stepped out into the hall, there she stood, old sister. Her mouth dropped and I knew it was coming. The wtf are you doing with my turtle-shell-shrine-shit? But I never gave her the chance. I figured the best I could do was try to get away. So I made a run for it, and the last thing she said was “Butter!” As I turned to look at her, I slipped in a puddle of butter and went down, snapping my neck on the counter as I went. The turtle shell popped out of my arms (once again), and in my peripheral vision, I watched as it skidded across the floor and eventually sputtered to a stop.

I could’ve wasted my final words on “I was Rachel, your sister who beat cancer and died saving a turtle, and I hope the cigarette was worth the garage burning to the ground,” but all I managed before I went was “I love your snickerdoodles. What’s in them?”

IKEA

IKEA

DS Maolalai

on the floor of the bedroom

searching the carpet for screws

while the mattress stands over me

like the approach           

of a two-storey

truck. I slug a beer

and put it down somewhere

out of the way

on the carpet, (I know

before I’m done

I’ll knock it over). pick up a strut.

I work steadily;

place wood against

wood and screws

in holes. forget

where I left

the allan wrench. the screwdriver.

dust spews up

like spores out of mushrooms

or a movie

about discovering old cities – digging in, I find

forgotten books, dirty plates,

t-shirts and condom wrappers. outside

a broken box-spring

sits in the garden

and soaks – it will be there

at least a year

once we get used to it. the carpet

under the bed

thirty years fresher. I work

in spilled beer

and old receipts, hoping

to get things done

before chrys comes in

and decides we should change that

too.

Photo credit: Iris Yue, Unsplash

HOW TO ARRIVE IN VENICE WITH YOUR MOTHER

How to Arrive in Venice with Your Mother

Dan Morey

 

The train from Florence to Venice takes a couple hours, so we made sure to book window seats facing each other. This way Mother could look at me, and I could look at Mother, instead of some belching German pensioner.

We found our car and went directly to our seats, which were occupied by two Russian women with dyed yellow hair. They greeted us in English, but after we showed them our tickets their language skills conveniently deteriorated.

“Those are our seats,” I said.

They smiled innocently.

“Our seats,” I repeated, pointing in the vicinity of their ample buttocks.

They nodded and withdrew some magazines from their bags. An Italian passenger popped up beside me. He spoke English, and was all too willing to help. After looking our tickets over, he scrutinized the Russian ladies.

“I have a solution,” he said. “We will trade. Let me sit here with these ladies, and you can have my window seat over there. The seat beside it is also free.”

“But we booked two window seats,” I said.

“Of course,” said the Italian. “But these bella donne don’t understand. It would be a shame to distress them, no?”

“I wouldn’t mind distressing them at all,” said Mother.

She was still cross about the kebabs I made her eat in Florence, and very ready to sit down.

“Please, signora,” said the Italian, turning on his native charm. “Let us make this journey a pleasant one.”

Mother slung her bag into the overheard compartment and flopped onto the man’s proffered seat, saying, “Oh, to hell with it.”

Mille grazie,” said the Italian, smiling at the Russians. 

We sat facing a middle-aged couple. The woman was blonde and semi-stout, and her husband was tan with salt-and-pepper hair. He put down his magazine and said, “That guy’s a real joker. He was sitting in my wife’s seat when we got here. Said he had to be next to the window or he’d get sick.”

“He’s on the aisle now,” I said.

“And loving it,” said the woman. 

“You’re American,” said Mother.

“So are you,” said the woman.

“Where from?”

“Philadelphia.”

Mother and I burst out laughing. I explained that our neighbor in Rome was also from Philadelphia, and that we were from Erie.

“No kidding,” said the man, happily.

Before Mother could remark on how small the world was, I got the conversation rolling: “What’s going on in Pennsylvania? We’ve been away a long time.”

They updated us on Penn State’s football record and reported the outcomes of several elections. We rolled through the Veneto talking about TV and sports and movies. Travel is said to inspire tolerance and dispel prejudice, and it’s true. People from Philadelphia were beginning to seem more human every day. Of course, if we’d wanted to bond with Philadelphians we could’ve stayed in Pennsylvania and saved a lot of money. We were supposed to be getting to know Italians. Sadly, the only one within chatting distance was our friend, the seat-swapping, second-class Casanova. He was currently involved in a palm-reading gambit with the Russian ladies, who’d miraculously recovered their ability to speak English.

“Look at this love-line,” said the Italian, fondling a beefy Slavic hand. “You must be some real hot stuff.”

Apparently he’d learned his English pick-up lines from old episodes of CHiPs. Somewhere around Padua, he got up and went to the bar. The ladies rolled their eyes at each other. He made a theatrical return, with three cocktails in hand, and announced: “Moscow Mules, to heat up my little arctic foxes!”

When the train arrived at Santa Lucia Station everyone sprang up and grabbed their bags. We made our adieux to the Philadelphians, went straight to the Grand Canal, and boarded a Venetian waterbus, or vaporetto. The boat was wide and ugly—a noisy, metal people-barge. It filled up with passengers and we shoved off.

Vessels of every description, transporting all kinds of cargo, ply the waters of the Grand Canal. We saw sturdy, blue-hulled skiffs laden with furniture, pallets, aluminum cans and seaweed. Glossy speedboats whizzed by carrying elegant young women, their silky scarves undulating in the wind.

I leaned over the rail and snapped pictures of the palazzi: the Pisani Moretta with its Gothic windows, the Salviati’s flashy glass mosaics. 

“I must be dreaming,” said Mother, as a gondola skimmed by. 

We got off at the Ca d’Oro (“Golden House”), and took a narrow alley to the Strada Nuova. This shop-lined road runs through the heart of Cannaregio, Venice’s least touristed neighborhood. Our hotel was located somewhere in the maze of baroque lanes that twist behind its storefronts. To help us get there, I’d printed a Google map. After three turns, we found ourselves at the edge of a small green canal with laundry strung over it. 

“I see a bridge down there,” said Mother.

“We can’t get there from here. We’ll have to go back a block and take a right.”

“And then another right.”

“Right.”

We performed these maneuvers, and arrived at an entirely different canal. We followed it for about a block until the path ended. 

“This way,” I said, re-entering the labyrinth of laneways.

Dusk had descended rapidly, bringing with it a clammy chill. There were no people around, and few lights. Our footsteps echoed eerily off the dank walls. When we hit a dead end, I turned the map upside down and reevaluated it. “This is useless. We’ll have to rely on our instincts.”

“Do we have any?” said Mother.

We moved quickly through the darkened streets back to the Strada Nuova, where she wanted to ask for directions. I refused. Asking directions is the mark of a worthless and defeated traveler. I took us down another road, which led to a humpbacked bridge with wrought iron railings. A man passed us as we were crossing, and Mother accosted him: “Excuse me, do you know where—”

He moved brusquely around her.

“Serves you right,” I said.

“Why? What’s wrong with asking for help?”

“Imagine if you were a Venetian,” I said. “Your family has lived here for centuries, dating back to a time when Venice was the most powerful trading nation in Europe—the Queen of the Adriatic. Your ancestors were rich and influential, doges possibly. Now, your once magnificent city has been reduced to a waterlogged tourist attraction. Thousands upon thousands of foreigners pass through every day, and each one wants you to give him directions—directions to hotels, directions to restaurants, directions to churches, museums, or statues. They ask in English, in German, in Japanese. Would you stop?”

Another man came over the bridge. Mother approached him, and asked where we might find our hotel. He gave her precise instructions in English and departed with a friendly “Benvenuti a Venezia!

Mother led the way, grinning profusely.

“Oh, shut up,” I said.

The hotel was only distinguishable from the tightly packed buildings that bordered it by a tiny, illuminated sign. I tried the door, but found it locked. This was not entirely unexpected, as the hotel was closed for the season, and we weren’t actually staying there. The owner had booked us into something he called “the annex” instead, and instructed us to check in at the hotel before seven o’clock. It was now the wrong side of seven o’ clock.

I knocked, and there was no response. I knocked again. Finally, a harried-looking girl opened the door and said, “Che cosa?

“Checking in,” I said.

“Oh, yes. The annex people. You’re late.”

She gave me some paperwork to complete at the desk. When I finished, she whipped a keychain off the wall and said, “Follow.” We tried to keep up, but the girl was under twenty-five and fast. I’d seen Jamaican sprinters get off to slower starts. She took us down a long, gloomy road.

“Where are we going?” said Mother, stumbling over the uneven pavement. “Isn’t an annex supposed to be attached to the building?” 

“I don’t know,” I said. “But if we want to find our way back, you’d better start dropping breadcrumbs. 

When we caught up to the girl she was standing beside a nondescript entrance with a key at the ready. She held it up for us to see, and inserted it into the lock. “Door number one,” she said. We went inside, trailed her up a flight of steep stairs, lost her at the landing, and found her again at the top of a second flight. “Door number two,” she said, leading us into a chamber with a shiny checkered floor. In the corner there was yet another portal.

“Door number three?” I said.

“Correct,” she said.

A short corridor came next, followed by door number four. The girl opened it and we entered a room that was glorious, almost American, in its proportions. She showed us around: one big antique bed. One small antique bed. TV. Toilet. Shower.

She held up the keychain and took us through the keys once more, in order: “One, two, three, four. Got it? Good. Have a nice stay.” The breeze generated by her exit nearly blew a painting off the wall.

“Well,” said Mother. “They certainly don’t coddle you around here.” 

I collapsed on the big bed. Mother went into the bathroom and flushed the toilet. After it filled, she turned on the faucet and the shower. “Everything works,” she said. “And there’s hot water if you want a bath.”

Scummy and degraded as I was, I didn’t consider cleaning up a priority. The totality of my lunchtime nourishment had been derived from a malformed clump of chocolate, caramel and hazelnuts purchased at a sundries counter on the railroad platform. 

“Let’s go eat,” I said.

Mother sat on the small bed, unpacking her bag, and expressed a perfectly reasonable reluctance to leave. “We’ll never find our way back in the dark.”

“We’ll never find our way back in the light, either. But we can’t just stay up here in the annex like Anne Frank. We have to go out and see things. We have to do things. Italian things. And we have to eat. Now.”

Four doors later, we were back in the forsaken street, making our way toward the Strada Nuova and paying close attention to identifying architectural features. “Remember that door with the Byzantine lintel,” I said. “We have to turn left at the Byzantine lintel.”

“What the heck is a Byzantine lintel?” said Mother.

“And the lancet arch over there. Memorize it.”

“Everything has arches!”

After a couple wrong turns, we arrived at the Ca d’Oro vaporetto stop. As we pulled away from the dock, a penumbra of apprehension darkened Mother’s brow. She peered intently at the façade of the Ca d’Oro, trying to count the windows.

“Relax,” I said. “You can’t miss the Ca d’Oro. Besides, the stop is called Ca d’Oro. Just get off when the man yells ‘Ca d’Oro.’”

“What if the man doesn’t yell ‘Ca d’Oro’?” 

“He will. It’s his job.”

We debarked at the Piazza San Marco and joined a small crowd in front of St. Mark’s. The basilica’s oriental domes and arches were ablaze with golden light. It wasn’t open, but people were still drawn, moth-like, to its brilliance. The famous pigeons were there too (dozens on the ground, hundreds roosting above), strutting and cooing abrasively. 

We went into a restaurant and ate a foolish amount of seafood: linguine with mussels and whelk and octopus, calamari atop a sloppy puddle of polenta. After dinner, we exited the piazza between the two big columns that represent the gateway to Venice. There is a winged lion, symbol of St. Mark, current patron of Venice, atop one, and a statue of St. Theodore, the city’s original patron, on the other. With their saintly finials, the columns might be construed as serving some religious purpose, but this is not the case. Mark’s lion is fierce, and Theodore wields a deadly spear. Many gory executions took place at the foot of these columns, and Venetians consider it bad luck to pass between them.

It proved to be just the opposite for us. After disembarking the vaporetto at Ca d’Oro we managed, through what can only be described as supernatural intervention, to return to the annex without a single misstep. I even got all four keys right on the first try. Grazie, St. Theodore.

THAT BEACH, AGAIN

That Beach, Again

Michael J. Shepley

 

      I thought 

  to put a piece

    of the sun in

a standard business 

    envelope and

  then stamp that

        for you

  loved the sand

    and seasighed

        song under gulling wing     

        as your skin

    drank salty day

to firm the borders

between bold bronze 

           and more shy

porpoise belly bare

  a little later there

with moonlight smile

  you know exactly 

      what I mean

     or once meant

         to you too

        and I wish

  I had and sent it

  if in mere meta4

          like this here poem

        but it’s been

   -what? now way more

               than 30 years

                             since I have

                  any new address for

           it

 

LIONS IN THE GARDEN

LIONS IN THE GARDEN

Molly Gillcrist

Erna is sitting in her wheelchair on the sunporch of Homestead Manor while Charmaine braids her hair.

“‘You see, Erna,’ he told me as he stepped back from the crate, ‘it’s not everyone has lions in his garden.’ ‘His garden?’ I said to myself. I’m telling you, Charmaine, from the minute he threw the excelsior off those snarling heads, Mason fought me at every turn. I mean, for a long time he’d been like a zombie at home. Mind at the office, I thought. Ouch, Charmaine! I did what I pleased, and he never noticed unless I pointed out something like the hyacinths under the daphne. But after those lions were out of their box, Mason came to. Where’d I get this, he’d want to know. Why’d I put something here or take it from there? My peace. What? Place? No, Charmaine. Today I say my garden was my peace.

“Two acres on a hill topped with oaks, a step across the city line. Grapevines curling near the bittersweet. May apples blossoming in the spring. And birds. Yes. In bare winter I’d see a nest in every tree. In summer I’d sometimes slip outside when it was still dark and wait at the corner of the porch. I’ve never heard anything so hushed—expectant—you know. The breeze would rise up a little, then fall back with the hint of light. I’d wait till I could see my right hand clearly, then lift it, just a bit, like this. The air would fill with song. I felt like Eve.

“When Orrie was still in high school, I could count on Mason arriving at six. But after Orrie left for the East and those lions were delivered, he started coming at five, at four. He even came at noon a few times, but I wouldn’t look up at him when he did that. He was howling my territory. That’s what I said, Charmaine. Prowling.

“And then he attacked. I can still hear the snarl of the backhoe coming up the drive. Mason ran it straight down the old roadbed Orrie helped me line with walls of rock from the quarry. We heaved those limestone blocks and set in ivy above them while telling stories about the folks who’d rumbled by in their covered wagons, pulling their cows behind. By our time it was grown over, of course, but you could still see the wheel ruts. Those should be saved, you know. Well, because—because they’re evidence, Charmaine. And there was Mason, hoeing up the roadbed, laying pipe to the lions on the bank of the deep hole he’d torn through the violets by the end of the wall. Now, I tell you, that was something I couldn’t forgive. How’d he know about such a thing as a backhoe? He spent all his time with numbers down at the bank.

“You’re right, it was Mason’s land too. But he’d never claimed it. I made it mine. I’d wanted that hilltop since I first noticed it way off in the distance from my father’s office when I was sixteen. From that high and far, it looked like the Promised Land, green and glowing at the end of day. I was careful not to talk about it much. Let it grow on Mason. One day he came home with the deed. I nearly loved him then. I’d thought he was the one who’d get it for me.

“Mason was ten years older, you see. Yes, ten. Not twelve, Charmaine. I should know. Our fathers worked together and he’d always been around, staring at me. Wary. I played the flirt with others and ignored him. He was such a serious person—lean and tight, already a manager. The more I ignored, the more he watched. To be honest, Charmaine, I liked his staring, yet until I saw that hill and knew it was the place for me, I didn’t think of him as a lifetime prospect. But then it came to me that if the hill was to be mine, Mason could help me get it.

“He liked my hair, Charmaine. Auburn it was then. So I was careful, when he was around, to sit where the light would catch it and then look up with a smile when I felt his eyes on me. Little by little I drew him in. We married when I was twenty. I never told anyone what I thought. Yes, maybe you. But I never told anyone else—not even my sister, Hortense. You remember. She stopped by a month ago. The twenty-third? All right, closer to the thirtieth. Anyway, I really did think, now he has what he’s wanted, and soon he’ll give me my heart’s desire, and that will be that.

“But there are many hours, Charmaine. He was always wanting me to listen. ‘Just hear that!’ he’d exclaim when he played music, or ‘Isn’t that interesting? Don’t you agree?’ he’d look over after he’d read me something he’d found in a book. Always wrenching me out of my own thoughts, forcing me to pay attention to his. I wanted to be out where it was quiet, and when he came outside with me, he drove me wild with fussy questions. ‘Why’d you put the lilies here—and facing this way and just so deep and cover them exactly this way?’ he’d want to know. And ask me the same questions later and say I’d said something else before. I couldn’t explain lilies to him, but I knew what they liked.

“How civilly we yanked and prodded each other nearly raw! And neither would yield. Even if Orrie hadn’t been born, I don’t think we’d have ended it. Too obstinate. And then there was Orrie. He was such a soothing child. The years he was home, sometimes we were almost—a family.

“At least until Orrie left, the land didn’t matter to Mason. I ask you, how can land not matter? Remember that poem? You know—where we go to meet all the kings and queens who ever lived? They’re all in the earth, you see. And we’ll be with them. Everyone who ever lived. I like that. Mason hadn’t thought that way at all. He lived on the surface. He stayed with his numbers and books and music like a bird on a wire, unaware of the messages hurtling through the curl of his feet.

“Live and let live, you say. Before I lived with my alternative, I thought that too, Charmaine.

“Orrie knew how to join in. He’d watch what Mason or I was doing, see a part of it he could do, and just step in, the way a jumper watches the twirl of the rope and slips in to the center. I could do that with him too. See a space and step in. Mason never could. It was force with him. You don’t understand what? Why we didn’t talk about it?

“Don’t talk to me about talking, Charmaine. There’s too much of that now. Mrs. Hartley even tells me when she moves her bowels. She does too, and you know it, Charmaine. As if she has to tell me! How could I not know? She looks so satisfied when she hobbles out after. Transfixed on her bowels. What a thing to come to! That’s not funny, Charmaine. Your turn will come.

“Where was I? Yes. You think I should have said what I felt. Well, Mason didn’t say what he’d been doing—studying! After the lions were uncrated, he pulled out a big, yellow envelope and slapped it down in front of me on the table. ‘I’ve been researching,’ he said, ‘and making plans.’

“The next day a truck delivered a load of gravel for the bottom of the hole he’d dug. Before noon the pipe was connected, and by evening enough water had gushed out the lions’ mouths to make a dark pool. Well, Charmaine, it looked dark to me. When it was full, Mason turned down the valve so the water dribbled—day and night it drooled out of the mouths of those lions. Wherever I was in the garden, I could hear the noise it made. Even in the house I was pursued. I’m telling you, Charmaine, that water was not a comfortable sound.

“Then Mason decided to plant an apple orchard, starting at the top of the hill and marching south. I told him that would mean cutting down most of the oaks, and he said, ‘Yes, Erna, it will.’ I told him to wait, that it would drive the birds away, that orchards were best put on a north slope, that summer was not a time for planting trees. But he tapped his plans and said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do, Erna, starting tomorrow.’

“In the morning two workmen knocked on the door, and for the three weeks of Mason’s vacation, there was nothing but noise—the growl of the power saws, the crashing tear when the oaks fell, and the backhoe rending the hill. The birds disappeared. I couldn’t look. I tied a thick scarf over my ears, but I could still hear the noise.

“Mason was true to his plans. By the end of his vacation, the orchard was planted. But I had a scheme of my own. I waited till fall and while he was working at the bank, I picked up a basket, stuck a trowel in my pocket, and went out to gather acorns. It took time—arthritis was already stiffening my joints—but I filled that basket full and dragged it out to the orchard. Around every sapling and in between, I dug small holes, put an acorn in each, and covered them very neatly. You couldn’t tell where they were or where I’d been either because I smoothed over my footprints when I backed up the hill—every row. The next spring I went out and pulled weeds, only those that might smother the oaks. They’d get a good start before Mason could tell they weren’t weeds.

“I knew those fruit trees would wither, Charmaine. They’d be fooled by the sun shining so friendly in January’s false spring and burst into flower. In a day or maybe less, a storm would come to wrench away their bloom, and during summer dry spells they’d use all their resources just to endure. They couldn’t grow in that location. Mason hadn’t learned anything about orchards from his study; he’d just decided to settle our account.

“You want to know about ruin, Charmaine? Listen to me. With no leaf filter to cool them, my daphne and vines and trillium—everything—blanched from the sun. They lost their vigor and faded away. Several birds did return. Out of habit, I suppose.

“Mason staked and fertilized and watered his trees, but most were dead in two years’ time, and he was gone in another. He left for the bank one morning, and they told me he slumped at his desk. He had never apologized. You’re right, Charmaine. Neither had I. He did leave me some money in trust, enough to live in an apartment but not enough to stay on the hill. And I didn’t want to anymore. It was no good offering it to Orrie either. He wasn’t coming back.

“Before I left, I planned to take a hammer and smash the lions, but then I decided to leave them be. I would turn off the water and let nature take its course with them. When the oaks grew tall to shade the hill again, the ivy would return. It has a way of coming back, you know. It wouldn’t be many years before the lions were covered, and the place would be the way it was before I came.

“Yes, I’ll be all right, Charmaine. But don’t wheel me back just yet. If you don’t mind, I’ll stay here on the porch for a while.” 

Photo: public domain, provenance unknown

IT HAD THAT SWING

Ed Ahern

 

My mother spent evenings listening to records.

Years of evenings.

78’s and 33’s, and only big band swing.

All named after the band leader.

The bands are largely forgotten now,

but there were Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey,

Woody Herman and Harry James,

Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

My mother, widowed and jobless,

Played the music of her courtship,

Of a yet unburdened future,

At least twice a week.

I never liked the music,

But had nowhere else to go,

And absorbed it despite myself,

Melodies lingering decades later.

In cleaning out her house

I couldn’t throw away the records

And suitcased them back home.

Never played, almost forgotten.

They’re serious collectibles now,

Worthwhile selling off,

But I can’t discard the future

She almost had.

THE COSMOS

Madelyn E. Camrud

 

That summer of good rains, 

he scattered seed for her—the woman 

he loved; she his life, disease he wasn’t ready for; 

nor was she, young by standards today; 

brilliant; beautiful; loved before

she left; loved still and ever 

after because that’s how it is with flowers, 

tall and slender, growing below 

a mountain where breezes fall; where 

bears romped, rolled on seeds—

the hundreds of pounds he planted; 

stalks grown tall after good rains as if the love 

would not go away; as if all and every 

love is a story; yet never one so rare 

as The Cosmos; none so delicate, and true.

SEVENTEEN

SEVENTEEN

Jocelyn Cooper

 

My perky ponytail bobs

As I strut with my friends

New Hampshire

The White mountains

A hot August night

The Maplewood Resort

Harry Belafonte performs inside

He sings his haunting melodies

I hear Scarlet Ribbons for the first time

Poor teenagers like me are at the windows

Looking in longingly

He acknowledges the outsiders in a song

We’re young!

We’re thrilled!

THE FORECAST

THE FORECAST

Madelyn E. Camrud 

 

Temperatures below zero,

windows frosted over; 

rabbits chew shrubs 

to the nub; the willow 

curled crooked over the coulee 

like before—as if we 

hadn’t passed that day; 

as if nothing has happened; 

it bends ever so slightly above water like before—

                                         does nothing in nature know? 

How many buds cut—lost count; 

the sweet smell of narcissus—

ominous fills my house.

The days lead to Christmas: 

my garden grows grief in the cold.

           

          :/who knows what evil takes over a mind?            

^^^^^^

The willow remains unchanged—

ice on the coulee

thickens—

my skin 

grows thin.

 

Is there no measure 

to this sadness? 

 

I strain to see 

past the glass; 

something is falling—

neither rain nor snow.

 

                         

What country is this?