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Dan Morey – Little Skulls

Little Skulls

Eight old men are dying behind a curtain in Brendan’s hospital ward.  What they’re dying of I can’t say.  But they’re dying.  You can smell it.  Sometimes I go over and talk to them, but they never say anything back.  I go anyway, because I can’t just sit here and stare at Brendan all day.  It’s too boring.

Right now I’m on Brendan’s side of the curtain.  Like the song that says whose suicide are you on?  I’m on Brendan’s.  And he is a suicide.  Well, almost a suicide.  The doctor told us he took a very bad beating and drank a lot of Drano and that he’s going to be comatose for a while.  He doesn’t know if Brendan got beat up and then drank the Drano, or if he drank the Drano and then got beat up.  I’m pretty sure I know the guy who did the beating, and I wouldn’t put it past him to wail on a suicided body.  But there’s no proof, and Brendan isn’t likely to tell us, since the only noise he can make is a fart.

Brendan really does look like hell, with his bruised face and purple eye sockets and breathing tubes and IVs.  The nurse shaved off his mohawk so they could drill a hole in his head and relieve the brain swelling, and now you can see all these old tattoos where his hair used to be.  They look like a five-year-old drew them—little skulls and stars and a heart that’s cracked in half. Continue Reading »

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Heather M. Browne – Her War Ghosts

Her War Ghosts

The ghosts she did not know
 Tinged her days, sepia shaded longing
Sadness touching upon celebrations

 Cooling the edges, chilling
 her laughter

The ghosts she did not know
  Painted her moments, washing her walls
 Their shadowy silhouettes hanging
 Among family portraits
 Photos of before or now lined the walls, never then 

She looked into the eyes of her grandmother
Grandfather, uncle, aunts

 Days, years, months before, lightness, light
 Family she’d never meet
 Or know
 She looked at their mouths, soft
 Their hands, open
 Their bellies, full
 Her parents never spoke of what happened
 Only these three photos remained, hung
 Silent

Walking the hall she struggled to capture their voices
 Their words, alert to prick their whisperings
 She could sense their muffled background rumblings

Standing before their faces she could feel the rise
 Their anger stirring, her hatred mounting, stomach rolling
 Her family had been taken
 Ripped from all they’d known, stripped
 Down to nothing, nothing but flesh and bones
 Their bodies burned
 The dust of their debris covering everything, falling
 Still 

She moved to Papa and Mama’s portrait, young then, before
A spring dance, lace, chiffon

 Laughter filling their faces, spilling easily into gentle bodies
 Ghosts she did not know
 She smiled, a bit
 Mama’s hand gently touched Papa’s clean-shaven cheek
 Her wrist soft, clean
 Their numbers inked
 Embedded into flesh
 Stained
 Always covered now, her body shook, on guard with prickling
 Her covering would slip in moments, exposed
 Fear and shame contorting Mama’s face, always fear now
 She longed to touch their mark 

She turned to Grandmother’s portrait
She he had her Grandmother’s eyes

 Spoken, this brought stinging to Mama
 She looked deeply, her eyes
 She pressed her nose upon the glass, cold
 Dust stirred
 The barrier between then and now
 How could they share eyes
 When she’d never seen the horrors?
 Her reflection mirrored back in the aged glass
 Her eyes overlapping Grandmother’s
 Blending and reflecting
 Revealing
 Her ghost

Heather M. Browne

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Ashley Shaw – Cannibalized Romance

Cannibalized Romance

i seek shelter from the bomb
of your bloated tongue
your sneer, an angry gash
frigid words blur your lips
land like fists on mine
inkblot bruises stain my neck
i shed my dress
trembling red rose petals
limbs and skin and desperation
clinging until we are spent
i inhale the nicotine from your skin
apologies are a filtered afterthought

caught in the haze
of our better days

you peel back your spine
reveal low trees in dusky tones
i peek over your horizon
lips trail a pink sunset
an angry sliver of teeth
hovers there, bitter and
creeps between the discs
you are shocked by my
electric moonlight
as we cling beneath
sullen armchair feet
my slow hands tend your husk

we are radiance
on our better days

Ashley Shaw

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Thom Mahoney – A Four-Letter Word

A Four-Letter Word

When Hillary left, Jenn ran through the living room to the window seat where they had read together while rubbing each other’s feet, where they’d sipped tea and dreamed of tomorrows and all the glorious days after that. She kneeled on the brocade cushion and watched as Hillary bounced down the steps from the front door to the waiting car, her hair pulled up in a high pony tail that swung from side to side as she walked. She could remember Hillary wearing her hair like that only when she washed her face before climbing into bed at night.

Then she watched as Hillary hefted the suitcase high in the air and swung it on top of the 4Runner and bungeed it in place. It was the twin to the suitcase she and Jenn had gotten the winter they took that magical cruise to Mexico.

Outside, the day was warm and the sky was bright and cloudless, and all around trees were budding a ridiculous lima bean green. Birds danced from limb to limb, fat and happy.

Jenn leaned her face against the window as Hillary climbed into the passenger seat and followed the rusty-red truck as it pulled away from the curb and turned out of sight.

Then she climbed into a pair of green sweatpants and her old, grey pullover cable sweater with the holes in the shoulders, and she pointed her toes into the Curious George sock slippers Hillary had given her for Christmas and peeled back the quilt comforters and crawled in and curled herself into a tight ball and began to cry. And she cried for a long time, talking to herself, telling herself that in the morning, she would see once again the person she used to be. In the morning.

After midnight, or it might have been later, she could no longer cry anything but air, raspy hoarse air that sounded like the spring wind passing so easily through the hole in her heart, the emptiness in her tomorrows, the sudden vacancy in her life.

So, she gathered the quilts and her pillow, and she shuffled into the living room and loaded a Janis Ian CD in the player and wandered around the darkened room, the moonless night coloring it as dry and as dead as her heart, touching first the edge of the desk and then the framed photo of her and Hillary at her sister’s wedding, the sun in their eyes, their arms linked together. Happy times.

“My heart could sleep,” she said, aloud, to the no one that was there. “If I could turn to stone.”

By Sunday night, she wondered if Hillary had left her on a Friday so that she would have time to heal, or time to grieve. It was so like her. And she knew then that she had known love.

- Thom Mahoney

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Bryce Taylor – What Henry Middleton Had Meant To Do Before Dying

What Henry Middleton Had Meant To Do Before Dying

He had meant to visit Rome, to feed pigeons with fresh Italian bread in the warm shadow of St. Peter’s. Over breakfast he would have swapped stories with fellow pilgrims: a young Parisian filmmaker, perhaps; a one-armed sculptor from the Bahamas; a Canadian bureaucrat who enjoyed mystical visions within the confines of his cubicle. 

He had thought of learning Greek, had daydreamed about translating the New Testament into English, not for publication, but for his own intellectual and spiritual enrichment. He had meant to look up local courses that could accommodate his schedule. 

He had wanted to take up bird watching. Slight callouses would form around his eyes from the binoculars, and he would recognize other bird watchers in the grocery store, not only from their own slight callouses, but from the gentle attentiveness that would accompany their every glance. One of them, perhaps, would be a middle-aged widow by the name of Diane, whose green eyes would appear to discern the presence of angels in an avocado. 

He had intended to become something of a film connoisseur, an expert in Hitchcock, Bergman, Malick, Kaufman. He would watch his favorites dozens of times, write essays with unprecedented observations, post them on a blog that would gain a steady readership. Eventually, a book publisher might notice his work and send an eager email. 

And he had meant, just once, to sit down and observe an oak tree as he had observed one in the 5th grade, when Mrs. Galli had taken the class outside to write. Somehow his poem had gone missing, and he wanted now, decades later, to write the same poem, to use the same metaphors, to compare the branches to wild roller coasters, their tips to fingers reaching up, reaching out, touching only wind.

Bryce Taylor

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H.E. Saunders – The Devious Nap

The Devious Nap

I never intend to set about napping; it catches me off guard, seduces me and pulls me away from consciousness before I can scarce protest. It must be a calm day, or a day when I have too much to do, or a day when I am bored, or really any kind of day at all, because naps are devious in that way.

You never say to yourself “Wow, today would be a great day for a nap. I will go home, walk the dog, nap, prepare dinner, sort laundry, and tidy the house.” No, no. Instead what we say is “I will be productive. I will go home, walk the dog, prepare dinner, sort laundry, and tidy the house.” Of course you can insert whatever other events you would like in this scenario; perhaps you hate laundry and absolutely refuse to do it unless you are down to only one pair of clean underwear and one pair of slightly used socks. I will not judge.

I personally love the fluff of clean fresh clothes and the warmth of them as they are just finished in the dryer. I love nothing more than to bury myself in their inviting softness and heat; to pull a collection of blouses and towels to my face and let the warmth tingle through my skin. It reminds me of when I was young and my mother would pile mounds and mounds of laundry onto her bed for sorting (I have four siblings so really it was a mountain) and I would dash into the room and throw myself headlong into the heap.

If I was quick, or she was in a playful mood, I would be able to burrow between the pants and blankets and socks and school uniforms and curl up like a kitten. The joy was always short-lived, however, because she would either snatch me from beneath the laundry and task me to sorting and folding, or she would leave me be to play, but the heat would dissipate too quickly, escaping through the sleeves and thin fabrics. And I would be left in a pile of nothing; a mountain of chores and stack of responsibility. But the memory of those moments in my kitten laundry cave is so delicious that I cannot stop myself from pulling my toasty laundry to my face every time as I pull it from the dryer. My eyes close and my heart sighs and my skin tingles.

But laundry isn’t always so indulging and sometimes a nap surprises me when I am trying to hide from responsibility. I suppose some would call it stress napping but I call it playing hide-and-seek with reality. All of the to-do lists and bills and appointments are very firmly stuck in the calendar, while my naps are endless diversions that care nothing of the calendar, if they even acknowledge it. And when I awaken, usually to find I have just missed an appointment or to-do item, I am always surprised at the devious nature of the nap.

When I call my missed appointment to apologize (and reschedule – reality requires it) I never tell them I was napping. I am quite sure the person on the other end would not understand. He or she would assume me to be lazy or inconsiderate, when really truly I am a simple victim. I made no plans to miss our appointment, to leave reality behind. The nap reached out and snatched me; kidnapped even! To be angered with me is to be angered with the victim. I was helpless as my eyes drooped and the world became hazy around the edges. I was still planning on going to my appointment, so my nap, ever so deviously, slipped my mind into a dream. Perhaps it’s a moment’s wandering about how the pool feels right now, on this hot summer day; how I could dip my toes into the water and let the coolness tingle up my leg, my side, my back up to the top of my head and the chill runs back down and the water is so bright and enticing and . . .

– H.E. Saunders

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William Greenfield – Dusk

Dusk

There is an ebbing of spirit;
The part that marvels at a sailor’s sunset

or finds solitude in the noise that crickets make.
In the coming twilight I will perform a life sustaining
walk past rolling leas and century
old farm houses. My arms and legs will
function like the involuntary beating of a heart.
I do hope that one day soon
a resolute spirit will resurface;
one that yearns fascination, like those
that come and flutter their powdered wings
seeking but a brief respite from the darkness,
one that can laugh along with a farmer’s
children at the morning bus stop,
one that can acquiesce to the
fading light of days.

William Greenfield

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