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Debra Danz – What She Found

What She Found

She found a finger swimming in her split pea soup.  It was fraternizing with the carrots and onions, acting as if it owned the crock it swam in.  She insisted that the finger jump out immediately. When it refused, she bit it, only to realize that it was her own – it throbbed for a while.

She found a foot on a warm sandy beach in St. Thomas, so she invited it to join her in the tranquil sea but the foot wouldn’t move.  She watched it from a distance still hoping to find a way to persuade it, but she couldn’t.   Much to her dismay, the foot sank deeper and deeper into the sand until it was swallowed up – it didn’t leave any prints. 

She found a golden nugget wedged in her tooth. She ordered it to sparkle and shed some light, but instead it dulled and fell to the floor.  The nugget said that it would wait there for someone who might enhance its luster; someone brilliant and polished; someone who was worthy of its radiance.  She stiffened in discomfort and spat out the tooth that the nugget had filled – the hollow tooth rolled into a curbside sewer.  

She found a child’s mind at the bottom of her laundry basket. She stared at it for a very long time wondering who might have lost it.  As if the child’s mind could read her thoughts, it pointed to her.  The mind begged her to move on but she didn’t quite know how to interpret that.  When she told it that she had already exhausted her journey, the mind didn’t cry, it didn’t even whimper; it just waited to be bleached, pressed and neatly folded in her drawer – she wrinkled it and hid it under her bed.  

She found a soul dangling in her closet and wanted to know just how long it planned to hang around. The soul replied, “For all of eternity”.   She considered that to be an unacceptable answer, as she needed more space for her new clothes.  She urged it to vacate by telling the soul that it had no purpose; after all, she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it.  Insulted and saddened the soul flew off in a huff, leaving only its debris to be swept away and more than enough space in her closet – enough space to fill a God-gap.   

She found a bleeding heart crushed under the Twin Towers. It was grieving and wailing, its   pathetic panting prevented it from beating harder.  Its arteries were still attached and stretched out like strong branches beneath a cloudy sky, the kind she could hang on or even embrace, if need be.  She requested that the heart beat faster and stronger; the heart obeyed.  Placing it inside her chest, she adopted it as her own; it didn’t pulse for very long – the tempo changed.

She found an old woman grunting and groaning. When she asked if she could help, the old woman said, “No”.  She questioned the response but the woman didn’t answer.  She looked deep into the woman’s eyes, which mirrored her own reflection and then she kicked her – knowing that the hurt would be her own. 

She found a wedding ring at the bottom of her jewelry box and demanded the ring to slip over her swollen finger but it claimed to be afraid of the teeth marks.  She spun the ring in circles until it was dizzy and disoriented; she spun it so fast that it pleaded for pity.  Finally she put it on a golden chain and wore it as a necklace – it burned a hole in her skin. 

She found her diary standing naked in the window of a bookshop; the pages were dog-eared and it was offered at half price.  She went inside the shop and reached for the diary but it winced with pain as it shed its cover.  The pages fell to the floor one after the other, unmasking their misgivings and mishaps.  There was only one blank page, and it was left standing – she tore it to shreds.

She found her shadow sneaking out one night and followed it to the rooftop. Suddenly it lost its balance and fell; she snatched its hand to save it from a 20-story plunge.  The shadow weighed too heavy for her frail hand so she lost her grip on its fingers and they slipped away one by one.  Surprisingly, its bruised and bitten ring finger was the last to let go; she decided to detach it from the rest of the hand in order to keep it for memory’s sake.  Whilst the shadow was still in decent, she summoned one final request – all she asked for – was another chance – she didn’t find it.

Debra Danz

Author’s Commentary:

“What She Found” was written while I was battling with grief over the loss of my husband. It was meant to describe my attempt to redefine my identity and reemerge as a functional human being. It’s a collection of my innermost thoughts on grief and how I viewed mundane tasks while balancing the burden of hopelessness and despair. At some point I was overwhelmed with sorrow and looked for a way to detach myself from it – but I didn’t find it.

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Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri – Traces

Traces

The moon shines through silver-gray clouds.  My sister huddles beside my bed.

“It’s all right.” She wipes my tears. “Life offers something unexpected and surprising underneath the rocks.”

I smile, staring at the lights across the hillside. She knew Dad would leave. It’s a pity, the way she gets used to these things. First there was Mom, drifting in and out of our lives. She always said when she got in touch with who she was, she’d send for us. Personal happiness was the most important thing.

Then there was Margaret’s accident. She’d gone to Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies tour, when he played Philadelphia. She got hit by some Vietnam vet after the concert.

She was in the hospital for a month.

I stole Dad’s car to pick her up, even though I didn’t have a license. The first thing she said to me was that being close to death was like those childhood shadows you thought were monsters, always visible out of the corner of your eye, no matter how hard you tried to run. She wanted to scream, but no one was listening anyway.

Then there are Father’s women.

Margaret was twelve when he brought the first one home. Kate lasted only two days.

“We’ll get on,” she adds now. “We’ll find something better. We’ll leave this place behind.”

“We won’t know anyone.”

“When you’re a stranger, you can start all over.” She squeezes my hand.  “Make it all up. It’s like being in the movies.”

“What about you? What about your college?”

 She shakes her head. Dad threw it away for a red-haired neighbor and we’re left packing.

 Packing photographs of football games and dance-classes past, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, ripped and dog-eared. Telling stories about the people we never became.

Margaret always wanted to be the big-name civil rights lawyer. I was the high-school history teacher. We’d piece together cases and historical facts, as swiftly as puzzle-pieces.

Unlike our lives.

So, we’re packing for glamorous cases and new classrooms, tours of cities unknown.  Boston. Los Angeles. New York.

Stacking every photograph and book in neat little boxes.

Boxes rising like a temple.

Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri

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Joel Netsky – The Gentle Folk

The Gentle Folk

I was working in a movie theater as an usher. To the uninitiated, who think that the main vocation of an usher is to keep order – probably as a carry-over from going to movies as a kid – their primary duty is cleaning up: the theaters after the movie, restrooms during the movies, the lobby of fallen popcorn and wrappers.  With my foot I was holding a theater door open as patrons were exiting after a show, my two hands holding wide the mouth of a plastic trashbag for them to deposit their refuse, if they hadn’t already on the floor.  Out of the aether she from the lobby side emerged and asked if she could put a wrapper in

“Sure.”

She did so, and departed.  There are people, I guess like in anything, who take a hankering to a thing for a while, thoroughly enthuse over it for that time, then have their interests take them elsewhere.  Going to movies at theaters was for her in this period of her mortality a way of coping.  In the next few weeks I would see her any number of times in the theater lobby waiting for the evening show to begin.  Invariably she would be sitting on the long couch which extended the length of the side wall, studying the playbill of present and upcoming movies.  Weekdays, especially in winter, slow to a trudge, and individual countenances remain in the memory.  Once or twice had I tried conversation, inquiring about a film; always, though polite, she demurred.

Twice or thrice I saw her in the neighborhood; not once did either acknowledge – the last time she was sitting in a bookstore, reading, distress having seized her features.

An elapse of seasons crossed the heavens.  I was walking on the sidewalk when towards me she approached.  The crispness of late autumn with its clarity of air, the broom of brisk winds having swept away the residual dust, presented her to me as the unicum of a face in a portrait.  She looked well – her appearance almost was as if she had been freshly scrubbed.  Should I say hello?  Yet instead of passing me as a pedestrian, she came up to me as a friend, and said:

We are of the Gentle Folk:

We attach no agenda to our yoke.

As a matter of fact our shoulders are free

To live a life of liberty.

As much as they intimidate

And think that all are filled with hate,

We but remove them from our sight

And live a life of pure delight.

Joel Netsky

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William Greenfield – Momma’s Boy Gone Bad

Momma’s Boy Gone Bad

Dear Mother
I am sorry for not coming to visit you,

for not sitting cross-legged in the open field
while reciting confessions to you.
I am sorry you cannot hear my thousand thanks
for the many model trains and superheroes
that drove the family debt to somewhere
between impossible and my father’s insanity.
I should have leapt from my bed and came
to your defense late at night when you
screamed at him, demanding the car keys
because you “just wanted to go for a ride”.
I now confess mother. It wasn’t the heroes
I craved. It was you I so selfishly wanted;
not to be shared with brothers or sisters;
just you and me having French toast at the
diner on Sunday morning, you and me on a
train ride to the city, your voice
singing Nature Boy only to me.
I am sorry you denied yourself
baubles and furs. But I now understand
why you feared the darkness, why the
TV stayed on all night, why you couldn’t
make the briefest of trips to the nearby
market. Someday I will bite back on my
own fears and come to visit you. I
suppose we could reminisce about
model trains and I could explain why
there is a small machine at my bedside
recycling white noise late at night like
an old TV after the anthem has concluded.

William Greenfield

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Naomi Telushkin – Liar

Liar

He tells me he’s been with Lydia, that woman with red hair. She isn’t a petite beauty, Lydia, she’s almost masculine, and it raises some questions in the college circuit—Gay or what? He tells me he’s been with Lydia while we huddle by the bonfire, the big bonfire outside Stables, the nickname for the lacrosse team house. A party is going on and girls are walking in the snow in high heels.

I am floored. Lydia? Lydia, who could carry a sack of potatoes over one arm, carry ten children on her hips, that farm-girl, milk-fed look—that he could have been with her, my thin little friend.

He’s not so physically small, but his carriage, the way he hunches himself over books, the pouting expression as he touch-types on his Tablet. The dutiful vintage clothing, too-short pants and rolled-up socks, the thick glasses, the faux café intellectual, the faux cynic, my defensive friend.

His best friend outshines him just by walking through the door, his Golden Boy best friend. Mark with the same short pants and Dali mustache, Mark in the tight blue Christmas sweater, but it all suits Mark, the ironic clothing, the soy latte philosophizing, the fact that he plays clarinet in the orchestra, women love him. The international Poli-Sci majors with Dubai internships and the Connecticut English majors who ride horses and line up cocaine, they go to Mark’s clarinet concerts.

Mark with the conquests—my friend is not Mark. Continue Reading »

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Ken Schweda – Before All of This

Before All of This

What am I now that I was not before all of this? I am God. Do you think you are reading this because you chose to? You are an abject fool. I created this chain of events. I willed you here to this time and place and these words. Do not for a moment think these words are just any words for any person. I wrote them so that one day you would read them. And now I pity you. I pity your frailty and your stench. Do not look away! Read these words or suffer my suffering. What suffering? How dare you ask. If I were the man I used to be before all of this I would make you pay for such insolence. I am God. I do not suffer. I do not suffer. I do not suffer fools like you wait. Wait. Don’t stop reading. Stay. I command you to stay and read. Please stay. we command you stay. we need to command. we need you, , , , . we breathe. we breathe.

You’re still here. Keep reading our words. There isn’t much time left. We need you. We haven’t been ourselves since the disease and the rot and the tubes and the chair. We used to imagine and write long and far away and run and feel love and love back. We didn’t ask for these chains. We don’t deserve them. You must suffer us please. Bless you for suffering us and for reading our words have only a short time left. And you are here with me and I am not alone. And perhaps I feel just a bit. Of before. Of normal. Of not life but at least not death.

- Ken Schweda

Author’s Note:

“Before All of This” tries to express what a written dialogue might be between this person and the reader, with the twist that the reader doesn’t know in advance of the writer’s affliction. The writer starts out extremely brusk and almost abusive, as a defense mechanism. I’m hoping the reader actually begins to feel anger, like, why am I reading this crap from such an ass? Little by little, though, it’s revealed that something isn’t quite right. Finally, when the reader (by implication) threatens to stop reading, the writer softens up and lets his true feeling come out, as well as the fact of his affliction. The reader’s emotional state hopefully changes as well.

 

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David Dominé – Schmucks at the Starbucks

Schmucks at the Starbucks

            “You coming, Schmuck?” The cell phone at his ear, he studied the reflection in the rearview mirror and exaggerated a smile. The front teeth looked good but he needed to fix that rotten molar all the way in the back. “I’m in the parking lot already.”

            “Right around the corner, but go on in. I need to make a stop first.”

            “You got your camo on, don’t you? Or did you go fancy on me?”

            “Nope, ACU all the way.”

            “Good. Camo’s more effective. Want me to order something for you?”

            “Naw, I’ll get my own. Works better when we’re alone anyway. In a few, Schmuck.”

            “Alright, Schmuck.” He put away the phone and got out of the car. The sun hot overhead, he put on a pair of Ray-Bans and strolled across the parking lot. The glare reminded him of the desert. Not even half a year before he and the Schmuck had been over there, sweating their asses off and trying not to get blown up by IEDs.

            At the door he stopped and held it open for a small family on its way out. The father grinned and gave a single nod in passing; both of the children smiled and looked up, a glint of wonder in their eyes.

            Inside, it was cool and dim. Mirrored glass covered one stretch of wall, its smooth polish reflecting a row of customers at the counter.  He stowed the glasses in his pocket and got in line. A blonde looked back over her shoulder and gave him the once over. An appreciative smile turning up the corners of her mouth, she took her drink and walked over to the only empty table near the window.

            The sound of frothing milk drowned out the din of conversation. He jammed his hands into his front pockets and started to fidget. The Schmuck hated standing around doing nothing too. Over there in all that sand and heat they were always looking for ways to occupy themselves, especially while on guard duty. First they picked off the stray dogs that hung around the base. Then they started taking pot shots at the civilians that got too close to the fence. He smirked. One day, the Schmuck had blown the head off an old woman loaded down with a bundle of rags. She wasn’t even near the fence.

            The line had shortened and only two people stood before him. The gray-haired lady in front turned as if she wanted to say something, but then stopped. He smiled. He knew that look. She would be the one today.  

            The blonde by the window glanced up and caught his eye. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. He felt a stirring and pulled his hands from his pockets. Her eyes were dark and round, just like the baker’s daughter back in the village near the base. She showed up twice a week to sell enormous round loaves of bread. He and the Schmuck had hatched a plan to get her alone one day as she left, but one of the officers had ruined things at the last minute. They made plans to try again, but before they knew it he and the Schmuck were back home.

            “I just wanted to thank you for your service to our country and tell you how much I admire you for what you’re doing.” The lady in front had turned around to talk.

            “Thank you, ma’am. We’re just doing our duty.”

            “You’re making us proud. You wouldn’t mind letting me pay for your refreshments, would you?”

            “Oh, that’s not necessary at all.”

            “But, I insist. It’s the least I can do.”

            “Well, if you insist, that’s mighty kind of you, ma’am.”

            He ordered a coffee, making sure to include a sandwich and a slice of lemon pound cake. The lady paid the person at the register. Before leaving, she patted his arm. “God bless you and have a nice day.”

            “Why, thank you, ma’am. I certainly will.” He carried his food to a table and winked at the blonde woman in passing. She blushed. He returned to the counter for a napkin. On the way back he looked up and saw the Schmuck approaching.

            “Your turn,” he said.

David Dominé

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