Category Archives: JULY 2017

Pickup

Pickup

Hannah Ford

He’s been driving trail shuttle for nine years, ever since his wife took her kitchen appliances and smoking habit and left. Their dog had howled after her for a week or so, then he’d forgotten about her, curling up on her rocking chair like it’d always been vacant.

His sons check in once in a while, but it’s mostly just him and the dog now. It’s not a bad life, maintaining the trail during the day, picking up hikers when need be, getting home in time to watch the sun set over Lake Jocassee.

The couple called three days ago, having found his number on the Trail Angels website. The boy asked about getting picked up at the end of the hike. I mapped it out, the boy said, and we should get to the end seven days after starting. But Trip has been around the Foothills for a while and so he says no to that plan, because nobody finishes when they think they will, and many don’t even finish.

He picks the couple up at the trail’s end, where they’re standing next to their car and holding paper coffee cups, the girl leaning her head against the boy’s arm. The boy is skinny with a wide frame that he’ll eventually grow into. The girl is small, barely to his shoulder, her hair brushed neatly into a ponytail and her hiking boots stiff and new. She’s wearing makeup. Just looking at her, Trip knows she won’t make it. Continue reading Pickup

Advertisements

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

Kate Henderson

 

Dickie’s teeth click when he eats. I have known for years they are false, but I can remember when I was a little girl and thought they’d come loose with age. Only his chewing interrupts the questions. What are you going to do now? Why don’t you finish university? His eyes are earnest. They bulge from his head, his head bobs up and down. It is hard to pay attention to the words, so I shrug at what I think are appropriate intervals.

“I guess you just have itchy feet.” He sighs, shakes his head, scoops up another spoonful of ice cream.

The conversation takes on a more general tone. The kids he teaches at school. Other grandchildren. Unemployment is terrible. Why don’t the kids take trades? I listen, but not closely. I let my eyes wander to familiar objects in the room I know so well. I remember Christmas dinners, when the Virgin Mary smiling down from above the cutlery box seemed less peculiar, when the table, filled with family, seemed less long. My eyes come back to Dickie; he is still talking. He is greyer now, his hearing even worse than I recall. He is retired, and teaches a class in Introductory Engineering at the community college. He is concerned for his students who are reluctant to settle down and work for a union. Instead they collect unemployment. He calls it “the dole.”

GrandEm fidgets at the other end of the table. We call her GrandEm because her name is Emma, and she says she was too young for Grandma when we were born. Her breathing is audible.

“You were far too young, Anne,” she interrupts suddenly. Continue reading The Whirlpool

Trans-Canadian Train

Trans-Canadian Train

William Cass

I met a young woman many years ago during an August evening of soft light and liquid shadows. It was during a short stopover heading west on the Trans-Canadian train that ran across the country’s southern portion. I’d boarded in Montreal following a visit with my grandmother in Vermont after a summer travelling the hostel circuit through Europe. I was on my way back for a second year of teaching in a bush village in the upper corner of the southeastern Alaska panhandle. I was twenty-four years old.

Passengers were permitted to disembark for a few minutes while the train was changing tracks in that town above the Boundary Waters separating Ontario from Minnesota. I was stretching on the platform while new and current passengers waited for the train to be ready to board again. The young woman was among those new passengers and stood reading a large book with a satchel at her feet. I guessed I was a little older than her. She held the book with both hands just below her chest that rose and fell slowly with her even breathing. She wore a mauve blouse under a light cardigan sweater, jeans, and sandals. Her auburn hair fell to her shoulders in a mass of curls, and when she looked up to regard the track-changing progress, I could see that her eyes were pale blue. Against that hair and those eyes, her skin reminded me of bleached driftwood. In the muffled light, she was so lovely that I found myself holding my breath. Continue reading Trans-Canadian Train

CACTUS

CACTUS

John Grey

I wouldn’t recommend the roadside.
And not on such a desert straightaway
where every passing car
kicks up a cloud of dust.

In a ditch of all places
and so small,
your roots get by
on water memory,
your fruit’s
a sun-scorched pebble.

But plants – not even cactus –
ask me the best place to prosper.
Seeds nestle down where they are blown
and try to make the best of it.

Besides, why else would an Australian be
on this highway in New Mexico?
A seed – an adaptation –
you have to believe
you can bear fruit anywhere.

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, 2010

Jazz Notes

Jazz Notes

Renee Butner

This chaotic jazz suits my mood
after the frenetic day I had

Heavy on the drums
Brassy cymbals clashing
Piano pounding and lively
Scaling up and down
trying to keep up
with the beat

A lone horn sings out
Edgy and soulful
Leading the session several
golden shimmering moments
before backing off
To allow a bebop
walking bass line solo

Notes wrap around one another
Entwined in a dance
for the auditory sense

Jazz beat lines up with heart beat
I relinquish myself to
the new pulse

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, Montreal Jazz Festival, 2016

Oświęcim

Oświęcim

Ilona Martonfi

 

Sown from the teeth of a birch tree
lashed together she

lives in a graveyard
paints a poem after Auschwitz

using Zyklon B gas
medical experiments

with a bundle under her arms
never took that photograph

the ghost plaint: here
remember the crematoria

living inside barbed wire
armed SS guards.

“Where are we going?”

Those feared as the other.
Those who rode in cattle cars.

Those whose voices silenced
fifty kilometres west of Kraków

Rajiya in the work camp.
Her only possession

a red knitted cardigan,
made by her Bubbe.


photo credit: Dr. Fred Leitner, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, 2012

Iris observes a sparrow at the apex and remembers

Iris observes a sparrow at the apex and remembers

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

 

Today, cold December sun streamingly rushes –
bright radiant light downpours the stone wall,
where a sparrow clings in the mist and Iris
wonders what it is holding onto. A flat wall?

No, not entirely, there is a high raised relief
an embossed concrete line which it clings to
in mourning light – much like a Mycenaean
stele marking the borderline between the
world of the living and the world of the dead.

******
Dark-cloud eyes flashed thunder; and lightning
must have struck open her chest because a sparrow
was pecking through the bloodworms of death.

Humble print of the Pietà hung and from
Madonna’s eyes tear-shaped garnets fell like
a broken string of pearls spreading hopelessness
all over the Carrara marble corridor.

Over-stretched leather covering of her heart
drummed out a faint death-beat march. Not shaking
of a rattler’s tail, but a dull-weakening beat.

The line on the monitor’s screen flattening.
And there was nothing for Iris to hold onto.

One large lethal tear slid dangerously down
rode over the high horseshoe cliff of her chin
the way a black and white movie once shown

a man inside a barrel riding over Niagara’s rushing
white waters shattering into the sudsy
foaming jaws of splintering death.

The shivering sparrow pressed against stone – Gone

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, 2017

James

James

Robert Boucheron

 

James Pettigrew was the bell ringer of St. Giles Episcopal Church for as long as anyone could remember. Longer, in fact. The oldest members of the congregation remembered him from early childhood.

Clinging to their parents’ hands, they had trooped through the narthex on Sunday morning, glanced to the side, and there he was in the shadows. He stood there silent, straight as a stick, hard to make out in his black suit and dark brown skin. They were afraid of him and curious. Was a bell ringer like anyone, or was he a special kind of person?

James rang the church bell in an alcove off the vestibule. A short, slight man, he pulled down the rope with all his might. Then he flew directly up, hoisted five feet in the air on the bell’s return swing.

“He looks like a monkey,” people said, though they never saw a monkey do any such thing. James’s antique manners and grave demeanor stifled ridicule. Nevertheless, the title of “sexton” seemed overly dignified for a black man. Continue reading James

Love Lessons

Love Lessons

Sue Granzella

In third grade, I learned that the Irish nuns of Saint Apollinaris School were married to Jesus. It was true; each Sister of Mercy, in her heavy black habit that brushed the toes of her sensible black shoes, wore a gleaming band on her left ring finger as very shiny proof.

“But are you all married to him, Sister?” Katie Bickle voiced the question that most of us were thinking. It was 1968, and Sister Mary de Chantal was teaching us about love.

After Sister explained the mystical marriage to us, we learned another confusing truth: the sisters loved each other and Jesus so much that all possessions were owned in common. In their convent, no one could accumulate earthly treasures, as all belongings were shared.

“But what about your glasses, Sister? Aren’t those just yours?” I was certain that I’d never seen Sister Mary de Chantal’s black-rimmed, cat-eye glasses on any of the other nuns. Continue reading Love Lessons

Unclear

Unclear

M. A. Istvan Jr.

She would masturbate to the magazines
that she found behind her father’s workbench.
Shaved bald, the females seemed as young as her.
That made her okay with fantasizing about them.
It was easy—and helpful—to be unclear
about whether she was lusting for those bodies
or was imagining herself to be one of them.

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, 2017

Traveler #17

Traveler #17

Jim Cole

 

By the time he was 46 years old, he had orbited eight planets, and then, finally, they selected him to go live on one for a time.

The blue surface felt like moss. Even through zinc boots and socks insulated with an aluminum alloy that left a rash on the soles of his feet, the planet felt luscious. Stepping onto the surface was exhilarating, as if he were the first to ever touch another planet. And yet, the weight of 300 pounds of gear – those zinc boots, four oxygen tanks, a big helmet they called the pumpkin, a tent made of carbon fiber, a stove, a camera and tripod, a solar battery pack, a weapon slung over his shoulder that frankly he had not learned how to discharge – left no trace. After three steps, he stopped to turn around – a maneuver more cumbersome than his instructors on Earth had warned. He stumbled, started to tip over like a dead oak tree, caught his balance, took a deep breath, smiled at his good luck, and pulled the camera from the pouch on his chest. He was giddy about snapping a photograph to beam back to his home planet, but looking through the lens all he saw were the faintest z-shaped tread marks in the powder blue surface. Before he could turn on the flash and focus again, any hint of his presence was gone. Continue reading Traveler #17

Jalopy

Jalopy

Mitchell Grabois

 

1.
My father ran aground amidst a naked, barbaric race. The women’s cologne must be distilled from excrement, he and his mates thought. They held their breath. The men’s penises dragged on the glacial ice. My father wondered why he had ever set sail.

2.
With global warming, the glaciers recede like a pack of erections that have simultaneously changed their mind. The Mendenhall Glacier wonders: Viagra or Cialis? I need to assert myself. I need to get back to fucking the world with my cold rod. The world is too hot. Women are supposed to be hot, but not planets. I remember when I was young and stretched out beyond what I could see or be aware of. I did not know myself. All the worse for me.

Now I know myself better, but what I know, I don’t like. I’m retreating from the battle. I’m becoming more frayed and mud-spattered every year. President Obama visited me, and he had tears in his eyes. Then, to take his mind off my fate, he went and watched Eskimo children dance in colorful costumes, big smiles on their faces. They laughed with joy when he got up and joined them in their dance.

3.
I once had a friend who was a microwave oven. She heated up quickly, but had a cold heart. I went to high school with her. We kept in touch over the years.

She married a man because she believed that as he aged, he would grow more and more to resemble his father, whom she greatly admired. But as he aged, he became the antithesis of his father. It made her bitter. Her glass door became greasy. You could no longer see what was inside her.

I talked to her on the phone. I was thinking about all the appliances that I’ve owned that have broken down and I’ve discarded. Continue reading Jalopy

Surge

Surge

Ronelle Hart

 

Solitary and slightly apart from my twin sister and brothers and three cousins, I would slip away to the single backyard swing attached to high poles cemented into the earth in my aunt’s back yard. At first I just sat there and swayed, with feet just off the ground, but soon I tipped back to hang on my arms, holding tight onto the chains attached to the seat of the swing with sturdy bolts. From that up-tipped position, I could see the slow spidery trail made by the tips of my hair in soil scuffed to powdery dust by previous feet, the hot sun on my tender throat, in a trance until the heat and hanging upside down made me too dizzy. I would sit back up slowly, to fully feel it: the surge, a streaming sweetness in my stomach. And then I would push up, and up, and up again, my feet hard against the earth and then not, finding the exact rhythm with arms and legs and torso, swinging higher and higher. With each downward swoop, sometimes I’d sing, in my soft schoolgirl voice: “SOME-how, SOME-day, SOME-where..”, my hair, unloosed from its tight plait, a dark warm animal rushing past my face on the high backward push, and dusty from where I let it drag again as I gave my body over to the sway of slowing down.

For a while after, my sweaty palms carried the imprint of chain links and smelled of bitter iron.

Vintage image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Kick

The Kick

Cecil Sayre

 

Strange how a tree heals, its cells diverging,
creating a different path around the wound
for water to flow from the roots to the leaves,
the wound covering over with sap,
becoming a dark knot.

When I remove limbs from these wild trees,
I want them to heal into a dark knot,
but I never know where to make my cut.
Too close to the trunk, the wounds will not heal,
not close enough and new limbs will grow next summer.

Wild trees lined both sides of Ridgeview Road,
the shortcut Bryan and I walked to and from school
to avoid the older kids and their bullying.
We’d talk about our favorite kung fu movies
and attempt their kicks,

feeling we were hard to see in the shade of those trees,
and not thinking how someone could hide behind them.
But my son thinks about that, these trees outside his bedroom,
their branches smacking his window as he tries to sleep,
and for him I trim and cut them.

I hold a limb and work the saw and tell myself
I am holding one of his nightmares
and try to imagine its shadow,
the creature it becomes at night
as I tell myself again I am holding his nightmare.

In the shadows of the trees, walking home,
Bryan and I were arguing about a kung fu movie
and the hero’s amazing kick, one foot rooted to the ground,
the other smack up against the bad guy’s head,
an impossible act for any man, yet one we believed.

Bryan stopped by a large, white mailbox and tried it,
kicking the air beneath the mailbox.
I said, No, higher, and kicked the air above the mailbox,
neither of us seeing at the far end of the gravel driveway
the old man in the doorway of his garage.

He yelled at us, stood up, and raised his shotgun.
We ran, clearing the tree on the other side,
the wind from the shot breezing past my back,
bits of bark and wood hitting my jacket.
One could see the damage done,

a chunk of tree level with our heads, missing,
the wood blonde and bleeding, sticky with sap.
We used to laugh at the idea of anything being dangerous,
would want to touch and explore any wound,
study how it would heal, wait for the crusty darkness of a scab.

My trees now trimmed, I hope for healing,
hope for sunlight to fill my son’s window,
the shadows now dead limbs piled on the ground,
the naked space opened above them among the leaves
an emptiness only memory can fill.

 

photo by Harry Rajchgot, Outremont, Quebec, 2017

 

Tug Hill

Tug Hill

R. Edward Hengsterman

There’s a boy. He does not speak. Dirty blonde and barefoot, he sits cross-legged in space. His arrival is unusual, but I have no fear. So in silence, I wait, until the moment comes when I can’t wait any longer. Then I scream, dance, cry, and laugh – outlandish pantomimes to break his silence, but still he never speaks. This ritual goes on throughout the night.

Then I wake.

Three days ago a boyhood friend died. The news of his death, though not a complete surprise, disrupted my sleep. To be honest, I’m ill-equipped to handle any emotional problems beyond my own. So I keep to myself.

Eric hadn’t crossed my mind in years. In fact, I didn’t realize I’d had any lingering feelings other than a few withered childhood memories until a one-sided conversation with my mother reminded me of the true depths of my baggage.

“Eric’s dead,” she said, “Died at home. Guess I’ll see you at the funeral.” Click. Continue reading Tug Hill

arrhythmia

arrhythmia

john sweet

 

10 below zero in the first
blinding light of a sunday morning and
they are slaughtering prophets
down on main street

air freezes in your lungs
when you try to scream

woman i love sleeps and
dreams of all the
days before we met

i am too goddamned old to keep
laughing off this pain
that has come to define us

 

image by Harry Rajchgot, 2017

Under the Eaves

Under the Eaves

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

 

Out there on the edge,
under the eaves
of mind’s fringes –
icicle of the past hangs

piercing through the present
a stuck scene re-playing itself,
a record’s needle skipping:
I need money, money to study.

She is speaking to someone whom
only she can see in the curtained
off rafters behind mind’s eye.
The darkness.

The blown out candles, or maybe
there is one, whose solitary flickering
refuses to be extinguished
in the webbed-wing lining of memory.

Late into her 80s, the present
lost as a blackout, yet
clear as a camera lens focusing on
a phantom apparition, her haunting –

tongue caught in ghostly protestations:
I need money, money to study Latin and French
with the instructor, who lives in the big beautiful
house on the overlooking hill –

then the added moaning of letter “o,”
she cannot let go of: O let me have money.
Again and again: O please, I need money,
money to study Latin and French…

as she presses wringing hot hands
along thighs, as if trying to iron out
the wrinkles of her own despair.
The seeing of someone not really here.

But there, where misfired thoughts live on
in the occupancy of haunted rooms.
This place – vacant to everyone, except
she – she who needs money,

money to study…
O’ please let me…
O’ let me study Latin and French
O’ please…please…

Voice drifting off into summer’s haze
flapping into cave of eternal night
exhausted she sleeps upside down, wings
curling in around, a delicate and boney body.

Neighbors

Neighbors

Eric Smith

 

My family had been in the neighborhood five years when Robert Aronson started the Belly Button Country Club. Robert, the only adult in the neighborhood whom every kid called by his first name, lived next door to us with his wife, Nan, and their two kids, Charlie and Elly. Like streets in every suburb that bloomed after the war, ours was a bare vine at first, houses growing up and down its length like fast appearing fruit. The Davies house went up on other side of the Aronson’s, the Roses’ on the other side of them, the Haskin’s house sprung up across the street. All modest homes compared to those in an older part of town, a section between us and the bay, where stately structures stood veiled behind dense shrubs and spreading oaks. We, too, planted trees and shrubs and built fences along property lines on our block but our fences were always partial, with openings left between us and our neighbors. A dirt path went around our chain-link fence to the Aronson’s where Robert laid down planking to keep us out of the mud. The redwood fence between the Davies’ and the Aronson’s had a gate that was always open, shut only by the wind. Moving freely between home and the homes of friends, we all eventually ended up at Robert’s. Continue reading Neighbors