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H.E. Saunders – Dry

Dry

In a morbid way he wished it were raining. It only seemed right that if he was mourning someone so beautiful, everything else breathing should too. The air, the earth, the sky, everything alive should be mourning with him. The sunshine that lightly warmed his perfectly black suit itched and angered him. Head bowed, the back of his neck was getting close to burning and the sunlight was mocking him. Mocking his pain. It’s a beautiful day to everyone else in the world, a day that people would never believe was full of loss. And sorrow. 

Watching her rosewood coffin being lowered into the ground he contemplated sorrow. The lack of tears at such somber events was finally evident to his dry eyes. Simple loss flowed from widow’s eyes, but sorrow, true pain at losing this fallen person, couldn’t even be recognized here. No, sorrow was something that settled inside you once you returned home, and touched all the things that would only be touched by you again. Sorrow was burned so deep inside your soul that you couldn’t even recognize it until a great time later. Tears were a show of pain. A cry for attention. Pity me. A mockery for the person who had actually gone. 

With dry eyes, in increasingly warming sunrays, he stood alone with the preacher. The slow mechanical hum of the lowering brace created a distinct awkwardness in the air, in some odd way making the whole event surreal and distant. Once she’d hit bottom, where she’d stay until she wasn’t anything anymore, the preacher gave a respectful nod and silently walked away. The holy man’s departing back flowed between the markers of the past deceased, the recently forgotten, and Terry’s eyes blurred. 

Looking back to her resting place, he swallowed hard, trying to force away the lump in his throat. He’d be damned if he was going to cry.

H.E. Saunders

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Annie Raab – The Story There

The Story There

I moaned again about writing. We crossed into the park and he was saying it will be OK and I was saying I don’t know. A woman and baby sat at the fountain in the park. He said, why don’t you start over? I said, I already have a story. I don’t need a new one. The woman glanced around and removed the baby’s shirt. She dipped her hand into the silvery pool as water shot from the mouth of the ocean god above. Her baby waved his naked arms, and she lifted her hand from the pool. What rose from the water was the oldest vessel on earth, a cup pressed together by the hands of women thousands of years before. Her terracotta skin poured the cool liquid onto her baby, as if upon turned soil. Poseidon, the sentry carved into white stone, held his trident above. His judgment came forth in waves. I was caught, unequivocally caught, in a fear I could not articulate. I forgot myself. He looked at me, not a trace of human shame in his eyes, “There’s your story right there.”

- Annie Raab

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Patricia Marquez

The Fire at Bastrop

The town of Bastrop looked as if a fire-breathing dragon had careened above the twenty mile stretch of land, incinerating everything below. To his right and left, he saw thousands of blackened and jagged stumps and half-trees, trailing into the distance as far as his eyes could see. The ground below was sable earth and ash.

Jon tried to imagine the fire, the highway empty and hot, the sky bright and smoking from flames. Not a living soul within a mile, nothing to be heard but the crackling and whirring of an inferno. The loud and constant sound of nothing, because no living thing would hear it.

How long did this go on behind the livings’ eyes, he wondered. When did the fire finally die, satiated?

It was the penultimate of if a tree falls in the forest, with no one around to hear, does it make a sound. For centuries, perhaps millennia, scholars had mulled over this question. It is the question of man’s existence; its answer answers all to intelligent life as we know it.

More likely than not there would never be one. Like the old farmer he interviewed, whose house was destroyed in the blaze, and whose wife died of a heart attack during the evacuation. What answers could he find in the final chapter of his life? Could any give him comfort this far down the line?

There were infinite questions. They overran the mind and drove one nearly to madness. The central one of late was whether he was making the right decisions. Early in adulthood, he learned quickly that no one could tell him this. There was no objective truth in the matter. He was entirely on his own.

The old man had flicked a cigarette onto his porch and said “Life goes on”. Life does, yes, but what about the rest of it, he wondered.

There was a legacy to think of, mistakes he knew were coming, and pain from which he knew one day he would suffer. And all these uncertainties were a certainty, as if someone somewhere already knew. And this made him more frightened than anything, with a consuming terror he had never known.

- Patricia Marquez

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Arthur Heifetz – A.M.

A.M.

Why do you draw the sheets
over your head
and shrink from the day?
Is it because your father
taught you life
was an aching tooth
to be endured until
they finally removed it?
Or that friends’ fatal illnesses
began with nothing more
than a numbness in the arm
or a lump in the throat
and you’ve lost your energy
of late?

Or is it the anniversaries
of those who,
lulled by the frosty season,
never awakened at all?
You search for them
in your brooding dreams,
your footsteps echoing
down deserted streets
in cities with no name.

Stretching out your arms now,
you are relieved to find
a warm body next to yours.
You press her hand
and paddle to the kitchen
and set a pot of coffee there
for two.

- Arthur Heifetz

Author’s Note:

This poem is for my wife Mayela who gives me the courage to draw back the sheets and face the day.

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Ashley Shaw – Boning

Boning

I’m just one on the assembly line
Strung up on a bar stool
Torso pierced by your
Meat hook irises
Hands glide along the
Glinting metal counter
“Let me buy you a drink.”
Just slip that liquid past my teeth
Let the grog sweeten the meat
You dress my flesh,
Pepper me with compliments
“So pretty,” you say. “Such a pretty girl.”
And I wonder
Do my flanks meet your standards?
Do you enjoy the pulsing
Frenzy of my jugular?
Do you want to drain the blood
From my lips?
Grasp my hips
And split me in two?
Process me
Into pieces
For easier digestion?
Well, buddy
Let me break it down to the bones
You are more like me
 Than you’d like to be
And we
Are nothing but
 Gristle and stardust

You’ve seen the butcher.
She wears a blouse.

- Ashley Shaw

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Thom Mahoney – Blow Wind Blow

Blow Wind Blow

Blow wind, blow wind, blow my baby back to me.
Blow wind, blow wind, blow my baby back to me.
Well you know if I don’t soon find her, I will be in misery. 

–”Blow Wind Blow,” McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters)
 

When the wind stopped, there was an eerie and sudden silence before debris began returning to Earth. Shower doors and 2 x 4s and spatulas and stuffed animals tumbled from the sky alongside terrified cats and dogs. And when the dazed residents began emerging from their bathtubs or hall closets or from under piles of scattered rubble, the horror was everywhere. Roofs pulled and tossed like playing cards, cars toppled over and piled like Lincoln Logs, second stories sliced from houses like layers from a cake. Leafless and barkless trees stood naked and withered, their branches reaching skyward, asking, pleading: Why?

And then car alarms and police sirens and the anguished cries of neighbors and friends.

Three days later, 139 people were still missing. The President had come and hugged and promised, volunteers had brought bottled water and shovels. Media crews swarmed like insect infestations, gawkers and looters circled like jackals.

Zombie-like survivors wandered through the streets searching for loved ones. Photos posted on bare trees and toppling utility poles, hastily copied flyers handed out to anyone, everyone. Rescue dogs and expert trackers were brought in, hi-tech listening devices, robotic probes.

Sandra Nichols had been laying a flagstone path through her vegetable garden with her daughter, Amelia, when the warning siren sent them into the bathtub with the mattress pulled atop them. Then the wind came.

But, she couldn’t hold on, the wind yanking her daughter from her arms and sucking the scream from her throat.

Now, she wanders the Salvation Army and Goodwill, the hospital and clinics, the emergency services, and like all the others, she stands at the doors of the makeshift morgue and wonders why they won’t let them look at the bodies. Surely she’d know her Amelia, they’d all know their loved ones.

These people – these survivors, they are called – they wait for their DNA to be matched, while praying it never is.

And as the sun begins to set for the fourth time since the wind came, you can hear the cries of the living for the lives they have lost, as they pull wet teddy bears and shattered family photos from twisted and splintered piles, looking for artifacts of how life once was.

While mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wander the streets hoping to hear, hoping to see, hoping to find what others have not.

“Amelia. Amelia, can you hear me?”

- Thom Mahoney 

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Heather M. Browne – Letter From Speedy Stevie

Letter From Speedy Stevie

I’m sorry Daddy, I made you run. I tried to be good.
I’m your Speedy Stevie, cuz I’m so fast and loud. I screamed real loud that night, huh?
I didn’t know the coppers would come.
I shouldn’ta tried to make you stop.
Or go.

Mama cries all night long, holding her pillow real tight, so I don’t hear.
Trying to make everything white & soft like Snowflake’s fur.
Wishing her pillow was you.

She says it’s not my fault. I was just scared and wanted it to stop.
But she never cried all night ‘til now.
I got so mad yesterday I broke that plane we made. Threw it so hard
it flew straight out the window.
Oh Daddy, I laughed! But Mama screamed and yelled, wouldn’t let me help
or pick up the pieces. Her hand got cut too, kinda bad.

Mommy needs you back so she can sleep.

I tried to take Johnny,
cuz I don’t think he’s bad.
But I’m just fast and not that strong.
So I took his pillow & let him cry into it, just like Mama.
Making everything white & soft like Snowflake’s fur.
Wishing his pillow was you.
He kicked real good, Daddy – a fighter. He beat me with those little fists
as long as he could.
I bet when he got big he coulda been a real fighter, like you.

I left him there all quiet,
so Mama can rest. She’s real tired Daddy.

So come home now, Dad. I’ve run away with my loud, loud voice.
Runaway, like you.

Heather M. Browne

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