Sunday, April 18, 2021

New Poetry by Tony Hughes










Looking for our footsteps

- for Cass

Looking for our footsteps.
I stood on south point
and listened to the
wind howling
I don’t have
tears left
Its
late
I sit
by the
spirit fire
listening to
your playlist
Tracey is
taking the
force
of the
blow
I pretend
you wait
for me
to finish
my glass
of wine
before I climb
into your curves
where our
bodies fit.











Will winter
always find
me here
guiding the
last embers
of the fire
off to sleep
I planted
two stardust
banksia trees
today
one for you
one for me


- © Tony Hughes 2021


Cassandra Woodburne, to whom this poem is dedicated, was the beloved wife and best mate of Tony Hughes and mother to their two daughters, Georgia and Eddy. She passed away on 22nd November 2020 after a long and courageous struggle with cancer.

Tony Hughes is an Australian actor and singer. As an actor, he starred in The Lost Islands (1976), Chopper Squad (1977–1979) and the film adaptation of Puberty Blues (1981). As a singer he has fronted Bellydance and King Tide. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)


© Reg Mombasa (painted for Cassandra for her twenty first birthday)


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

New Poetry by Roberta Santlofer










Going Home

A journey back to the self
That you no longer know—
Lifting your sweater to show your appendix scar
Holding up your hair to be sixteen again
Visiting relatives and sleeping long
Being asked about the length of your dreams

Then, sitting around the dinner table with Aunt Emily
And Aunt Adele
Smiling at their rhetorical questions
Mouthing assents to their pauses

And then, as the evening gets late, and drowsy eyes and mouths
Flicker more slowly and not at all
Getting to concentrate on a piece of the firelight
To hold it, to take it back into a part of some life
Of some moment, when words were spoken to mean something


- © Roberta Santlofer 2021


Roberta “Bobby” Santlofer (1943-2020) was a mother of sons, an avid reader, and a poet. A posthumous collection of her poetry is forthcoming. Santlofer’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, Philadelphia Stories, Grey Sparrow Review, and elsewhere. 

[Editor's note: Roberta passed away in June 2020. These poems were sent to me by her son, Mark Danowsky, in his capacity as her literary executor.]

New Poetry by David Adès










Trinidad Nights 

Whether the moon is full or crescent, 
whether the moon is absent, 
whether the night breathes silver and shadow, 

whether the night breathes darkness and stars — 
dancers always come. 
The musicians’ jump  

to congas and bongos, 
to percussion and guitars, 
to saxophone and trumpet, 

fill the stone courtyard with sound, 
fill the night with sound, 
fill the dancers with movement. 

The sound is loud and fast, 
the sound is rhythmic, 
the sound is salsa. 

Above, 
on the stone steps to the Casa de la Musica, 
the drinkers drink Cerveza, Ron, Mojito, 

the drinkers talk, 
the drinkers’ eyes slip down 
to the bodies of the dancers, 

slip down and up, 
down and up. 
On the stone courtyard 

the dancers step forward, step back, 
link arms, unlink, 
step around each other, 

the man always directing the woman, 
the woman circling the man, 
dancing on and on, 

changing partners, 
feeling sinew and muscle, 
feeling the drip of sweat, 

feeling the slip of shine and sheen, 
feeling the brush of skin on skin, 
of hands touching backs. 

The dance is hot and close, 
the dance is hypnotic, 
but the dancers do not dance for love or lust, 

not for youth or memory, 
not for themselves or each other, 
not for the drinkers’ eyes. 

The dancers dance 
for the perfection, 
for the intricacy, 

for the synchronicity 
of movement, 
the dancers dance 

for salsa, 
always for salsa, 
only for salsa.


- © David Adès 2021


David Adès is the author of Mapping the World, the chapbook Only the Questions Are Eternal and most recently Afloat in Light (https://uwap.uwa.edu.au/products/afloat-in-light). In association with Mascara Literary Review, David is a recipient of the 2020 Don Bank Writing Residence (extended into 2021 due to Covid) together with Michelle Cahill, Debbie Lim and Michelle Hamadache. 

 



Monday, April 12, 2021

New Short Fiction by Sandra Williams

 Mystery Men

 For two days, I saw a una-bomber look-alike in a baggy orange sweat shirt wandering around restlessly through the halls of the hospice center where we each had a friend who lay dying. When we passed each other one night, I tried to read the words on his shirt, but the folds of the shirt kept folding in on the letters. His red MAGA hat, too small over his shaggy hair—reminded me of those clown hats with a wig attached to it. Around his neck was a heavy silver chain with a figure dangling from it. 
 Later I learned the figure was St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. That says it all, I thought, but still haven’t figured out what the “all” was. 
 Did he believe that America needed to be “great again,” but didn’t have much hope that it would happen, or was the lost cause his friend who had no options left, except waiting for the grim reaper to swing his scythe?
 On the third day, at the coffee cart, I asked him, “So, who is the little shiny fella there?” pointing to the dangling figure on the chain.
 “It’s St. Jude!” he said in a tone of voice suggesting I should have known.
 “But Judas isn’t a saint, is he?” that much I knew, but I got the wrong saint, or in this case, sinner.
 “No, no, no, you are thinking of Judas Iscariot. He was the apostle who betrayed Jesus,” he said.
 “Yeah, that’s him, for thirty pieces of silver, right?” I said.
 “Exactly."
 Exactly thirty? I wondered. Just before I bit into my multi-grain muffin, I blurted out, "Well, they say no good deed goes unpunished.”
 “What do you mean, good deed? His was the greatest betrayal in the history of the world.”
 “You mean the greatest catch 22! I mean, if Judas didn’t turn him over to the Romans, Christ wouldn’t have 'died for our sins,' which was the plan all along. So, they both end up hanging from a tree, right?”
 “Yes,” he said, “but Jesus in victory and Judas in defeat.”
 “But…but,” I started to say.  Then I decided to put the mystery men: the una-bomber look-alike, Judas the sinner and St. Jude the saint out of my mind. It was starting to sound like a sporting event.
 I poured the guy a coffee, passed him the cup, and we stood eating our muffins in silence. Then we moved on into our respective friends’ rooms—to watch and wait at the foot of their beds.
 My friend died that afternoon, and I wept.  
 On my way out, I saw Mystery Man #1 coming down the hall. Our eyes met for a moment, then I looked down and was able to make out what was on that orange shirt:
 It was the image of the blue marble Earth in darkness, and below it the words:

YOU ARE HERE.

New Poetry by Jean Bohuslav










compartmental beauty

a rusting iron bucket with
cracked patinas
muted greens
translucent mauves
an artefact most would dismiss
instead treasuring prominent
renowned efforts

a rounded sculptured kettle
or toaster
chrome with thick duco paint
shaped like an fj holden,
overlooked glory

a button
an exquisite thread
faces with unspoken thoughts
embedded in each silent expression

a tricycle with chipped enamel
scratches and dents
hollering reckless enthusiasm
another syphoned with care

objects
comparisons of yester year
fortitudes of treasured principles
placed in mental compartments

each thought
tone and movement
affecting the whole
relics of time
connected intrinsic beauty


- © Jean Bohuslav 2021



Jean Bohuslav enjoys the company of friends who like the arts on the Surf Coast of Victoria.  Her interest in philosophy and mindfulness is sometimes reflected in  her work.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

New Poetry by John Tustin










Let it Rain

It’s raining out there
And I mean really raining
With the thunder that shakes the foundation
And the soothing jargon of raindrops
In their sheets coming down
Like endless theater curtains

But that’s fine with me
Because I have nowhere to go
And even if I did
I probably wouldn’t want to
So this rain coming now
Might be a waste for me
Because it could make a fine excuse
To not go somewhere I’m expected to be.

I stand in the doorway looking out.
A Haydn sonata battles the sound
Of those big fat drops crashing to the ground
In their continual downward assaults.

I could stand for it to rain like this a long time.
My house is ready to continue guesting me –
There’s coffee and there’s sugar for the coffee
But no milk.
Also there’s
No beer,
No cigarettes

Which is fine
Because I don’t need milk,
I don’t drink beer anymore
And I’ve never smoked.

Let it rain.
Let it fall and fall.
I can last here for a while.


- © John Tustin 2021


John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

New Poetry by Tom Montag










from The Old Monk Poems

We could tell you
twice as much,

the old monk said,
and you still wouldn't

know the half of it.

~

Is this what
it comes to,
the old monk asked--

an old man,
a cot,
cold coffee?

~

Where the horses run,
the wind follows,
the old monk said.


- © Tom Montag 2021


Tom Montag's books of poetry include: Making Hay & Other Poems; Middle Ground; The Big Book of Ben Zen; In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013; This Wrecked World; The Miles No One Wants; Imagination's Place; Love Poems; and Seventy at Seventy. Two new collections, The River Will Tell You and Maybe Holy: Six Old Monk Poems are forthcoming. His poem 'Lecturing My Daughter in Her First Fall Rain' has been permanently incorporated into the design of the Milwaukee Convention Center. He blogs at The Middlewesterner. With David Graham he recently co-edited Local News: Poetry About Small Towns.

Monday, April 05, 2021

New Poetry by Kenneth Kakareka










My Love

Her and I
are out to eat
tucked away
in a red brick corner
all our own.
She’s looking at
a skinny group of girls
celebrating 1st place
for their swimsuit modeling competition.
I’m looking at her
dark roast black hair
pulled up in a bun,
hazelnut-colored skin
and milk chocolate eyes.
Her wonderfully crooked teeth
she doesn’t show enough of
with a smile;
that’s my sunrise.
I’m looking at her
California-shaped birthmark
beneath her eye
tattooed on as character.
Her cute, pudgy
sausage link-shaped finger
with the diamond ring
I gave her
that seems to have been
carved and crafted
solely for her;
no other finger
wearing that ring
could look
even remotely close
to brilliance.


- © Kenneth Kakareka 2021


Ken Kakareka is a poet and writer who lives in California with his wife-to-be. He is the author of Late to Bed, Late to Rise (Black Rose Writing, 2013). Ken's stuff has been published in Lost Lake Folk Opera Magazine, Ink & Voices, Conceit Magazine, Spontaneous Spirits Magazine, DoveTales Journal, Amulet Magazine, HASH Journal, Route 7 Review, The Vital Sparks Journal and Burnt Pine Magazine. He has stuff coming forth in Gargoyle Magazine.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

New Short Fiction by Veronica Kirin

 Elephantalism

 I dreamt that the circus had come to town. We gathered at the railway to watch the train roll in. The master of ceremonies was eccentric, we had heard, and was experimenting to perfect the circus animal.
 We were awed as the old steam engine puffed past, for the first car was a flurry of activity. With each breath of the blackened metal issued an infant elephant. One by one they landed beside the great wheels of the engineer’s car, righting themselves and trotting along to follow in a manifest herd. 
 These calves were strange, unlike those at the Zoo. They were smaller and grew before our eyes. Their skin soon changed from smooth and glossy to tough and wrinkled, tusks began to form. They trumpeted to each other as they trotted along, their feet crunching the weed-covered stones.
 Step by step, clickety-clack, the hoard grew up as they followed the painted cars. Their grey forms obscured the bright yellows and reds that swooped along those wooden frames. The rumbling metal wheels grinding on metal rails was scarcely heard over the cacophony of stomping feet and snorting trunks.
 Into adulthood they paraded as the end of the train neared. Their tusks were long and they trumpeted loud their joie d’vivre. But the mad ringmaster had not perfected his elephant formula, and as his elephants aged into full height, they began to fall apart.
 Their weight was too great, their pace too quick, and the elephant bodies cracked. A leg here, a tusk there, breaking beside the train. Distressed, but not in pain, each stopped to pick up its own pieces. The pride of elephants that followed the train now limped along the tracks. 
 They gave their best effort to follow their master, but instead they continued to weaken. As the red caboose pulled away the elephants began to fall. To our horror, their heavy bodies split open when they met the ground. The seam of their backs, the top of their heads, broke as if brittle ceramic. Layer upon layer we could see inside, not blood or bones, but clay and sandstone. What bizarre chemistry had the ringmaster used to form these artificial creatures?
 Silence fell with the last elephant, all movement and prancing ceased. The train, our joy, and the elephant's lives ended unceremoniously.


- © Veronica Kirin 2021


Veronica Zora Kirin (she/her) is an award-winning queer author whose writing aims to unearth within the reader something they may not have known existed.  Learn more at https://veronicakirin.com/books


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

New Poetry by DJ Tyrer










Bomb Diffusion

Bob always had trouble
Finding the right word
Resulting in an incident
When he tried to diffuse a bomb
And, having failed to defuse it
The bomb diffused Bob
Over an exceptionally-wide area


- © DJ Tyrer 2021


DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, and has been published in issues of California Quarterly, The Dawntreader, Haiku Journal, The Pen, and Tigershark, and online at Atlas Poetica, Bindweed, Poetry Pacific, and Scarlet Leaf Review, as well as releasing several chapbooks, including the critically acclaimed Our Story. The echapbook One Vision is available from Tigershark Publishing’s website. SuperTrump and A Wuhan Whodunnit are available to download from the Atlantean Publishing website.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Two New Prose Poems by Jason Heroux










It was night…

It was night. The streetlamp lit a match, the sky leaned in with its cigarette, and an old man wandered around searching for his lost tooth. “It looks like the moon, but smaller, with a chip.” I said I hadn’t seen it. But how could I be so sure? Millions of items are lost in the world, over a thousand things a minute, and most of them look like the moon, but smaller, with a chip.


The circus came…

The circus came to town. A trapeze artist took a death-defying stroll through the park, an elderly fire-eating sword-swallower smoked in the rain. The human cannonball sat on a café patio and worked on a crossword puzzle. Homeless clowns slept in the doorways of abandoned storefronts. I watched blindfolded knife-throwers bump into each another on busy streets and apologize profusely at the top of their lungs.


- © Jason Heroux 2021


Jason Heroux is grateful to live as an uninvited guest upon the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Anishinabek Nation where he is currently the Poet Laureate for the City of Kingston, Ontario. His most recent book is Amusement Park of Constant Sorrow (Mansfield Press, 2018).

Monday, March 29, 2021

New Short Fiction by Lex Pennington

One Last Drive

 I took it out for one last drive, but one could argue that the last drive was a long time ago before I knew that what I was trying to hold onto was already gone. My wife told me to sell the piece of junk already. She said that it had seen better days, but I still think there’s some magic in it. Every time I touch the steering wheel, I think of those last days of summer when we were all friends, and the only thing I cared about was if we had enough money to see the next movie.
 I can practically see Steve leaning over the seat in his cloud of cigarette smoke shouting at me over the radio to change the station already. He never did like the The Beach Boys like I did. Sandy, my wife, always rode in the passenger seat next to me, where she’d kick her shoes up on the dashboard just because she knew it drove me crazy. The scuff marks are still there like the memories.
 I passed the shopping mall that used to be the theater. I know that if I looked, there still might be some decades old popcorn kernels stuck under the seat. When we went to the drive-in, Marty always rode in the trunk, so he wouldn’t have to pay admission. Then, he’d jump out like some magic trick once we pulled in, thinking he was the smartest person in the whole world. 
 I’d lost track of them somewhere between the good old days and the life after that. I guess sometimes the best people you know are only meant to be a memory for the majority of your life, so that the time you actually knew them seems more special. I know I wouldn’t be able to picture them as old men even if they were standing right in front of me. They’d always be those kids in the back of my car, all grease, leather jackets and denim, and cigarette smoke. 
 Down the street I turned by the Dairy Queen that I took Sandy to on our first date. I’d been asking her forever, but she was always “busy”. It was spontaneous when we finally went. She said “Lets get ice cream”, while we were waiting for the others to get out of work or sneak out of the house, and she didn’t have to twist my arm. She sat across from me with a vanilla cone, dripping ice cream on the seat when the leather still looked new. It was the first time we ever went out without the others, and I soaring with joy until she declared that we were only friends and threatened me not to put my arm around her.
 When I swung around by the diner where we’d blow our change on jukebox songs, I started thinking what the car would sell for. How do you put a price on memories? How do you explain why you never fixed the passenger window that’s jammed because it was funnier to hear Sandy shout about it being broken in the heat of summer?
 I didn’t have an answer by the time I got to my street, but I knew as soon as I saw Sandy outside watering her flowers. I rolled down the window like I was still eighteen and leaned my arm on its edge. 
 Sandy looked at like me in her unamused way like she did on our first date. “I’m surprised that piece of junk even runs.”
 I motioned my hand for her to come over to me. “Come with me for one last drive.”
 I was surprised when she didn’t argue and came by the passenger door. 
 “I was gonna come out and open the door for you,” I said.
 “Why’s that?” she said, getting into the seat and slamming it shut. “You never did before.”
 I laughed when she kicked her shoes up on the dashboard.
 “Where to next, Sandy? The junk yard?” I asked, pulling out of the driveway.
 She stared out the window for a long time. I could still see her the way she was when I met her, the brown hair sweeping her collarbones, dark eyes rolling at my bad jokes. 
 She shook her head. “Lets get ice cream.”


- © Lex Pennington 2021


Lex Pennington is currently a college student majoring in Creative Writing. Her passion for writing is fueled by reading, and she tries to read at least twenty books every summer. Besides books, she loves movies, the beach, and her dog named Ella.

New Poetry by Michael Keshigian










Moonbeam
 
Every night
a different message.
Tell me tonight
about the translucent bones
of icicles on the gutter.
Their tale is a disclosure
of your stalking.
You creep through windows,
a cunning burglar,
on the heels of darkness
and leave no fingerprints,
yet cleverly steal away secrets
between the elusive shadows
you create,
some darker than others,
convoluted figures
rummaging in the most remote corners
of the room.
The sleepless await an explanation
but your peering eyes
slip away
when the clouds make you blink.
If you do take something,
no one is the wiser.
The sand in your light
eventually blinds into submission
the most suspicious
who, in the morning,
awake unaware of your intrusion,
until icicles drip
in the rising sunlight.


- © Michael Keshigian 2021


Michael Keshigian’s recent poems have appeared in Muddy River Review, Edison Literary Review, Jerry Jazz Musician, Boston Literary Magazine, and Tipton Poetry Journal. He has been published in numerous national and international journals and has appeared as feature writer in twenty publications with 7 Pushcart Prize and 2 Best Of The Net nominations. (michaelkeshigian.com)


 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

New Short Fiction by Fay L. Loomis

Trick the Devil

    I was coming home from school, on the last stretch, the part where the sidewalk ended. I heard feet scuffling on the gravel and turned around to see Rankin Skinner walking about a half  block behind me.
     He had been following me all week long, and it was time to put a stop to it, ask him what he was doing. I slowed down, until he caught up with me.
    “Why’re you followin’ me?”
    “Not followin’ you.  Goin’ home.”
    “You never did it before this week. And, I want to know why you take your shirt off when you get past my driveway.”
    “Need some sunshine before I git home, git to work.”
     “Where do you live?”
    “Right before the cemetery, ‘bout a mile from here.”
    “Never been out that far.”
    “Wanna come and see where I live?”
    I went back and forth about whether I wanted to or not, then said, “Sure.”
    He undid a couple of buttons at the top of his shirt and pulled it over his head. Black shoots of sticky hair stood on end.  I could imagine him slicking back his hair with a comb and water before leaving for school that morning. We ambled west.
      I could see that his stomach stuck out. Made him look kind of sickly. I didn’t say anything, though wondered why it was so big.  I coughed to cover up a sniff and decided the smell was coming from him. I moved a little bit closer to the ditch.
     We passed the next farm, hit open space, and continued to walk in silence. Neither of us said much in school, so we were OK with not talking. We had moved to Coldwater, Michigan, late in the spring, not long after the end of WWII, and the other fourth graders hadn’t been exactly excited to have me take a seat in the classroom. I don’t know how long Rankin had been going to that school. He wasn’t welcome either. 
    We finally got to a sign that read “Municipal Dump” and turned onto a dirt road that cut through thick woods. Up ahead were piles of smoldering trash, surrounded by dark pools of water.
    “Be careful when walkin’ over these boards,” Rankin said. “They’re kinda tippy, and you might fall in the water.”
    The planks led to an island where a metal shack reared its roof above the junk. I heard a voice, before I saw the woman coming out of the house. Her straggly hair was wadded on top of her head and a workman’s denim apron covered a dress so faded I couldn’t tell what color it was.  She blended with the dank ground she stood on.
    “Rankin, what are you doin’ bringin’ that girl here? You tell her to git out of here.  And, you put your shirt on and git to work helpin’ your daddy sort stuff. We had a lot come in today.”
    Rankin seemed to get whiter and smaller. He put his shirt on and walked to the side of the shack. I backed up to the plank, turned around, and started running when I got to solid ground.
    Back on the highway, I slowed down and began to think on why Rankin lived at the dump. I had heard that nicknames were given to trick the devil.  Rankin’s mother must not have known about that or she would have given him a better name.  Like Clark. Superman tricks the devil all the time, and Clark Kent does just fine. If Rankin’s mother had given it some thought, maybe that boy wouldn’t be living in a dump.


- © Fay L. Loomis 2021


Fay L. Loomis was a nemophilist (haunter of the woods) until her hikes in upstate New York were abruptly ended by a stroke three years ago. With an additional nudge from the pandemic, she has been living a particularly quiet life. A member of the Stone Ridge Library Writers and the Rat's Ass Review Workshop, her poems and prose appear in numerous publications.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

New Poetry by Doug Holder










A Bag of Flesh with Bright Blue Eyes

All the world
weighed in 
on his body.
Its baggage
rounded his shoulders,
forced his head
towards the pavement--

The owner of
a hirsute couple
of graying breasts
his legs
as thin as a hawk's
does a vaudevillian
shuffle across 
the street.

His white pubic beard
covers a small fossil.

But his eyes
cruel,
blue gimlets
shine
mocking it all..

Not dead
like the eyes of
the Cod
you saw staring
at you at Market Basket
they bitch slap
you in the mirror
each morning
with some azure
fantasy
of years ago..

They just won't
let you go.


- © Doug Holder 2021


Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. His work has appeared in Iodine, Hazmat, Caesura, and many others. He teaches writing at Endicott College in Beverly, Ma. His latest collection is " The Essential Doug Holder" ( Big Table Books.)

New Poetry by Ankur Jyoti Saikia










Mortal

Both were sure
the skinny, senile, skillful shaman
and the decent, dapper, demure doctor.

Towards the bitter end, 'twas Death
who emerged victorious.


- © Ankur Jyoti Saikia 2021


Ankur Jyoti Saikia is a researcher at a forestry research institute in India with only one poem published in The Minison Zine (Issue 6) and one upcoming in Last Leaves magazine.

Monday, March 15, 2021

New Short Fiction by Marc Isaac Potter

A Memory of Loveliness 

 What is the memory of some imagined loveliness?  Flowers, certainly - and roses most assuredly - are lovely.
 The chickadees are slowly walking, like tiny chicken hens, strutting, dancing through the blossoming dandelions ... These calm chickadees are quite lovely.  And, I would say, that my sister Evangeline, in her way, was lovely.
 My sister Evangeline - that was her formal name - was a tall thin girl, all of 13 and a half years.  No degree of happiness came to her face, because even at 13 Evangeline was a determined and accomplished girl.  Rarely, when a smile would light her face, I knew what loveliness was; I could see that Mom was proud of Evy, not just because she was good at grooming the hogs for 4H, or her sewing, or her horse hiding abilities - no I think Mom loved her because she was a girl, soon to be a woman, and Mom, you could tell was proud of all 5 of her girls, and women in general; I think Mom felt that women got the short shrift of things, the short end of the stick.  She would not say this out loud … how Evy’s voice went up and down and sideways like a player piano that needs tuning or a church choir member, still drunk from Saturday night rabble-rousing. 
 Mom and Evangeline, had a special bond, like Bonnie and Clyde or the Little Rascals on the radio.
 The day my sister Evy hung herself on Grandmother’s largest Oak Tree, the ants on the middle anthill were, quite mistakenly, busy discussing a baloney sandwich.  At the time I knew nothing of what had happened - I would not find out for more than a decade.
 … I was trying to explain to the ants that this was not a baloney sandwich -  the ham was uptown ham - that the people Mom worked for had given her some uptown Black Forest Ham and them - the ants - ought to damn well appreciate it.  I only swore in front of the ants, not in front of the goats, and certainly not near the “banny” rooster - the colorful banty rooster is very quick and will use any excuse to bite me on the heel.
 Grandpa came up beside me and said, “Boy let’s go in the barn, I need to talk to you.”  I thought I was getting a horsewhipping, but if so, why did Grandpa not have me pick out a green switch from one of the young cottonwoods that he had planted?
 “Son, you know how sometimes when a mare has her foal, she gets sick, and sometimes she even dies, like what happened over at Jenner’s last year?  You know what I mean?”  Billy Jenner is the oldest boy in the Jenner family - well I wish we were best friends, but still, we were pretty close; I could not understand why Grandpa was calling me son - I was his grandson.
 Grandpa was acting more gentle than usual, more like Grandma than his usual self, and he kept touching me on the shoulder, which was odd; something that he normally did not do.  I figured - certainly somehow - I was in for a whipping - even though this time I did not know what I had done wrong - even though as usual I did not feel I deserved one.  I remember thinking: why were the ants having such a nice meal and I am being punished.
 Anyway, Grandpa said Evy was going away for a while and no one knew when she would come back.  I figured she had gotten knocked up without getting married first and they sent her off to a nunnery or a boarding school, but I was not supposed to know about those kinds of things just yet.  And what did that have to do with Jenner’s mare dying last spring?
 Momma was crying an awful lot during dinner and Dad was his usual quiet self.  I was busy putting scraps in my overall’s pockets for the ants; our mutt dog Spotty who could smell the scraps whined as usual.  Not only was Evy nowhere to be seen, but my cousin Carrie, who lived with us because her stepdad beat her so bad - Carrie was nowhere to be seen either; maybe she had been sent to bed with no supper.  
 The Melbournes, who lived a good distance along the railroad track ...Mrs. M knocked at the door; she apologized for interrupting supper and I heard Mom whisper “he doesn’t know.”  The two ladies, Mother, and Mrs. M had a good cry out on the porch. Mrs. M seemed to know about Evy going off to the nunnery because she brought two cobblers to mark the occasion - one was blackberry and one strawberry - so Evy going, you see, was kind of paying off in a certain way.  At least I thought so at the time.
 When we visited Grandma and Grandpa, they always, and I mean always - ate with us … tonight they were nowhere to be found.  “Your Grandpa had to go into town on business,” Dad said, even though the sun had set a while ago and nothing in town was open.  I was hoping to get back home.  I wanted to visit the red ants in the moonlight as I gave them the scraps that I had collected.
…. ….  

Over the years, Carrie and I of course fooled around together, as cousins usually do;  I did not go too far with her because I did not want her running off to the nunnery.  You would have thought Evangeline would have come back, but she never did; I finally figured out that she probably liked being a nun and I supposed that she gave the baby away.
 Carrie got married to a football player and I thought she and Jethro would certainly leave town, but he did not make the team at Jefferson College - so he, Jethro, went to work at the Ford plant just like the rest of us.  One day Carrie and I were sitting in her new shiny green 1968 Camaro convertible - that car Wow!  And Carrie’s legs that day Wow!  Yes, even though now she was a married woman, we had stayed quite good friends; we each told the other our troubles.  Today Carrie was telling me how she and Jethro had been trying for a baby for almost a year and nothing had happened yet.
 “You mean you are not pregnant yet.?”
 “Yes dumbbell,” Carrie said, straightening out her skirt, “Yes and I wonder if Jethro will eventually leave me?”
 “Well, you can always join the nunnery,” I said, which was something I had frequently said over the years any time it was Carrie’s turn to tell me her troubles.  Carrie turned in her driver’s seat and stared right at me, as though she was going to give it to me with both barrels.  “Martin,” she said.  She nearly always called me Marty and not Martin.
 “Martin,” I have to tell you something.  This seemed even more serious than her marital problems.
 “What Carrie, what is it.”
 “Evy … Evangeline.”  
 "Yes,"  I said.
 “Evangeline never did go to a nunnery or a boarding school or to live with our cousins in Tennessee.”
 “Ok, so what happened?”
 “Marty, she hung herself - she hung herself to death on the big oak tree - you know the one cattywampus of the front porch.”
 “The one by the mailbox side of the porch?”
 “Yes, Carrie said, I was in my room doing math problems right there after school; I was concentrating like all get out on long division, and then I happened to look up.  She was- well - blue and her head was at an unusual angle like an overripe cucumber.  And then I realized Oh My God, she is up in the damn tree and she is just hanging there - that means …”
 Carrie took my hand and started playing with each of my fingernails in turn, which was her way of doing things.  
 “I meant to tell you all these years but your Mom and Dad don’t know that I saw it happen.”  The silence pronounced itself; the silence stuck solid.
 “Oh my God, Carrie, you have been living with this all this time, by yourself.”
 “Yes.”
 “Oh my God, Carrie, what can I do?”
 I stared at Carrie and somehow - I know it is impossible, I also, at the same time, stared straight ahead out of the shiny new windshield.  I imagined a chickadee on the hood of the car, strutting through a field of dandelions.  “Let’s go for a drive,” Carrie said.
 So we did.  We took a drive up route 122 through Ashland, Paintsville, and other parts of northeastern Kentucky; it is pretty this time of year.


- © Marc Isaac Potter 2021 


Marc Isaac Potter is a writer living in the Bay Area.  Marc’s interests include blogging by email, creative writing, and Zen.    Since 2001, Marc has produced a TV Talk show at the Community Access level; the show is called In Our Community

Sunday, March 14, 2021

New Poetry by Mukund Gnanadesikan










Parasites

The Purple Emperor and Zebra Longwing
Cannot survive alone on sweetness

In death comes opportunity,
Decay and bitterness provide satiety

No charity exists in Charax
whose serrated wings will kill a rival.

And am I different?
Watching, feet planted atop absent ancestors

No more than a saprophyte
Feeding on society’s wet stumps

No second thoughts
Doubts are lethal to the heartbeat

We all partake of the corpse that offers, silently,
Alms to the open-handed.


- © Mukund Gnanadesikan 2021


Mukund Gnanadesikan is a poet, novelist, and physician who lives in Northern California. His poems have been published in The Fib Review, Paper Dragon, Cordite Poetry Review, Praxis, and others. His full length fiction debut, Errors of Omission: A novel, was released in November 2020 by Adelaide. 

New Short Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Pretty Little Miss

Jedidah pulled at the cuticle that was half on and half off of her right index finger. The skin gave way and suddenly she was sucking at the resulting small laceration.

Basmat lifted an eyebrow at his wife and then returned to studying the book before him. The twins had gone to sleep only minutes ago, and, for a short span, the house was quiet.

That span got truncated. With the delicacy of a capybara, Basmat’s beloved began to complain. Both Anat and Nava, Basmat’s sisters, were taking their families to a hotel in Jerusalem for Shavuot. Jedidah, it seemed, was more than annoyed that her family was not similarly going away for the holiday.

“Cherished wife,” I bought you the kitchen appliances you asked for before Pesach. I also bought you and our five daughters two new outfits, apiece, for the holiday. So, presently, we don’t have any extra money.”

Jedidah’s bottom lip began to quiver. Her high tech job covered all of their expenses since Basmat, who learned Torah full-time, earned just a pittance of a stipend. On balance, when she had been seeking a mate, Jedidah had specified to all of the matchmakers that she wanted a “learner,” not an “earner.” Moreover, her college degree in computer science, more than equipped her to fund a family. The problem was that she liked “nice” things.

Twelve years earlier, the honor of supporting a man who would devote his life to learning was more important than: a new car, a large apartment, or boutique clothing. Besides, her parents had gifted them an apartment as well as had given them an allowance for the first ten years of their marriage. Those parents had likewise bought Basmat and Jedidah’s daughters everything that those girls claimed that they “needed.”

However, when Malka, a late bloomer and Jedidah’s only sibling, had at last stood under the chuppah, the familial subsidies had stopped. “Gotta be fair to both of our girls” was what Jedidah’s parents had said.

Going forward, Jedidah and Basmat used Jedidah’s salary. No longer were her earnings split between savings and indulgences. There was no more patronizing of posh steakhouses or biannual restocking of clothing closets. Rather, there was ground meat that had to be manually transformed into patties and Malka’s hand-me-downs.

Large tears fell from Jedidah’s eyes. Although she was a high tech wonder, she was, concurrently, at forty, poor!

Sighing, Basmat closed the book from which he was learning and wiped a tear from his wife’s cheek. “Fine, I’ll arrange something,” he grunted as he left their apartment for evening prayers.

Lag B’Omer came and went. Jedidah accompanied their girls to their Beit Knesset’s campfire. The little ones roasted potatoes and then marshmallows. Thereafter, the good wife awaited her husband’s return from learning.

Basmat came home flushed. His night had been filled with a great deal of dancing and singing, plus hours of debating Torah. He loved Lag B’Omer.

Jedidah looked at her happy mate. More or less, she succeeded in pulling herself into a mindset that might share in his joy. Her sense of loss, though, walled his rapture from her. So, rather than smile at Basmat, she held out her palm. “So, where’re the tickets? Where’re we going?”

Basmat, who was glistening from elation as much as from sweat, smiled at his beloved. Without her working to finance their family and without her parents’ decade of generosity, he would not have been able to toil in Torah. Jedidah was a woman of valor! He filled her outstretched palm not with a registration form for a hotel or with a surprise of jewelry, but with kisses.

Jedidah yanked her hand from Basmat’s lips and glared at him. “Your sisters’ husbands work even though they, too, were once at the top of their respective yeshiva classes.”

“Yes. One’s a store manager and one’s an accountant. Their lives are neither easy nor illuminating.”

“But they will go away for Shavuot.”

“So will you.”

“?”

“Raphael …”

“Your afternoon learning partner…”

“… has a sister-in-law, who has a cousin, who has rental property near Meron.”

“Lag B’Omer will be over when the stars come out.”

“Yes, but Shavuot in Tzfat won’t start for another few weeks.”

“Tsfat?”

“Tsfat!”

“Can we pray at the Breslov synagogue?  Do you remember that Chanukah, when I was pregnant with the twins, that you watched our three oldest so that I could join the collective recitation of Tehillim?

“A sweet time.”

“Can we buy cheese from Kadosh?”

“Of course. I’d anticipated you’d want to do so and have already written “dairy cutlery” on the packing list.”

“And…”

“You want to come home with one piece of microcalligraphy. That’s why we’re arriving a day before the holiday and leaving a day after— you’ll have time to shop.”

“What did you trade Raphael?”

I’m teaching his sister’s cousin’s nephew te’amim; that boy, with Hashem’s help, will become Bar Mitzvah next year.”

“I’m blessed! I can’t wait to tell our girls!”

“About that… before Pesach, your mom bought them new dresses and bought you this gift card. I picked up the package, which contained these goodies, at the post office last week, but didn’t tell you since we can’t buy new things until after Shavuot, anyway.”

“The card’s to Ohr Boutique! I can use after we return from Tsfat! Life is good. Why was I complaining?”

“I don’t know. We have each other, our children, a Torah life, and a home in Jerusalem. Gifts and trips are just bonuses.”

“Forgive me?”

“Nope. You never hurt or otherwise upset me. There’s nothing to forgive.

“Besides, my dear, pretty little miss, I’ve always known that you like sparkly things. I’ve equally always known that you wanted to be married to someone who learns full-time.”

“Not a contradiction?”

“Does it have to be?”

“Keep me?”

“There was never an option not to.”


- © KJ Hannah Greenberg 2021


KJ Hannah Greenberg captures the world in words and images. Her most recent poetry collection is Rudiments (Seashell Books, 2020), her most recent essay collection is Simple Gratitudes (Propertius Press, 2020), and her most recent short story collection is Demurral: Linens, and Towel and Fears (Bards & Sages Publishing, 2020).

Thursday, March 11, 2021

New Poetry by Jeanne Julian










Making It Go Away
 
In the pew at St. Alban’s
the girl picks a bit of skin
from the edge of her nail
during the liturgy,
sting a distraction
from the staid service,
the reverend’s rote,
but uh-oh her thumb
is bleeding so she tears
a little triangle from
the corner of a hymnal
page and presses paper
to the rude sore.
The scrap tamps
sensation, disguises
her discreet misdeed—
this discovery
of secret satisfaction
hers well before
entrée to the tedium
of sex with some dull,
demanding boy.


- © Jeanne Julian 2021


Jeanne Julian of South Portland, Maine, is co-winner of Reed Magazine's Edwin Markham Prize (2019). Author of Like the O in Hope and two chapbooks, she has published poems in Comstock Review, Kakalak, Poetry Quarterly, Naugatuck River Review and other journals. She reviews books for The Main Street Rag. www.jeannejulian.com

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

New Poetry by Peter Mladinic










Schaeffer Is Next

The next vape, the next corner
To turn, the next day, he drove
To Maidenrock.  It was a Saturday.
Schaeffer thinks of the adjective,
Then, next, please, please added
To soften the blow that one is next,
Whether one likes it or not.  Schaeffer
Thinks, I’m next.  He thinks:
The next vampire film, the next
Trip to Walmart, the next bite
Of the apple, the next diver
To leap from the plane and pull
The parachute string to soften the fall.

Don’t sit under the apple tree
With anyone else but Kim Kardashian West
Don’t sit under the apple tree
With anyone but Derek Jeter
With anyone but Taylor Swift
With anyone but a descendent of Clyde
Barrow, with anyone whose surname
Is Lake
Don’t do it, don’t sit there with
Casey Anthony, Susan Smith
Or Charles Manson

The next vape, the next hero
The next vampire, the next banquet
The next moment, who knows
Anything might happen:
A river might flood,
A tree might catch on fire.

There’s the Rita H angle
How she was glamorous in her voice
Her eyes, her long wavy red hair
Her spangled dress that hugged her hips
Glamorous in her walk in how she moved
Back and forth on stage
Under the spotlight in Gilda.
Then, spin the wheel of time forward,
Say, twenty years and find her
Alone in a room.  Dementia
Has taken over.
She is cared for, incontinent
Can’t wipe herself or wash her
Once lovely hair.  Oh,
The waking nightmare bird
Perches on her shoulder
That was once bare and aflame
With lust, all of her.


- © Peter Mladinic 2021


Peter Mladinic has published three books of poems: Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press.  He lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.
 

New Short Fiction by Michael Cantor

 I’m the Fly on the Wall

 Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton has a visitor’s center located near its main access gate in Oceanside.  If you want a pass to go on base, you must get one at the visitor’s center.   They don’t accept appointments.  I arrived at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
 As I flew in the door, I counted nearly forty people already seated waiting to get a visitor’s pass.
 I didn’t need a pass, so I took a seat on the first wall I found to check things out.
 It appeared that the first step was to stand in line and submit paperwork.  After that you take a seat and wait for your name to be called. 
 As I sat on the wall, my attention was drawn to an outspoken man of let’s say about sixty years of age. Hard for me to give his exact age because… well, I’m a fly.
 Entering right in front of me was a middle-aged woman of Hawaiian descent.  How do I know this? I’m a house fly.  I watch a lot of TV. 
 As the Hawaiian lady stands in line, the ‘say about sixty man’ says something to her in some other language.  It might have been Hawaiian, but I wasn’t sure. He then says, “I learned how to say that in seven other languages depending on where I was stationed.  When I was in Honolulu for two and half years, all my children had friends with names like Alani, Kona, Leilani, Healani and Kapuni so I also learned a bunch of Hawaiian phrases.”  He added, “To this day, my favorite dish is Loco Moco, but I don’t like Poke.” She smiles, waits her turn in line, turns in her paperwork and finds an open chair on the opposite side of the room from ‘say about sixty man.’ 
 I changed seats and took one on the ceiling just over the ‘say about sixty man.’ 
 By the way, he had a small mixed breed dog.  At this point his dog lets out a high-pitched bark, and I’m a little concerned that he/she is barking at me.  Even though I’m sitting on the ceiling, I always get more nervous around dogs.  The ‘say about sixty man’ says, “Oh my little girl is just hungry for a treat.”  He reaches into one of his pockets and offers her a little cookie snack.  I see a tiny crumb fall to the ground and buzz down to catch a bite.  In mid-flight, I change my mind as it’s too close to that dog.
 That said, ‘say about sixty man’ speaks quite loudly whenever he has something to say, which makes everyone in the visitor’s center privy to his commentaries.  I don’t think he’s talking to everyone, but it sure seems like it.  I decide to leave my ceiling seat and take another one on a side wall.
 This is when I hear ‘say about sixty man’ tell the young lady seated next to him that his dog’s name is Dumo.  I think that’s what he said, or Domo.  I’m not sure. 
 He then introduces himself. “I’m Jerry Walazinski.”  I think she told him her name. But just as she did, someone slammed a door on my wall, and I instinctively flew off and didn’t hear it.  I buzzed around a bit and had to dodge some hand waves until I found another place on that same wall where I could continue to listen to Jerry Walazinski.
 Jerry was about five nine, two hundred plus pounds and a full head of uncombed white hair.  He was wearing an oversized zippered gray sweatshirt and had a knack for talking to strangers.
 The young lady whose name I didn’t get when the door slammed was dressed in tight black jeans, black lace-up boots, and a black tank top. Her shoulder-length blond hair covered up some tattoos on her upper arms.  Let’s call her Door Slam.
 I wasn’t picking up on Door Slam’s sexual orientation, but Jerry was.  I couldn’t resist listening in as he chatted her up non-stop.  It was like he was a distant uncle that hadn’t seen her since she was a baby and was totally into what she had grown up to be.  They were talking about some very intimate things regarding same sex stuff… at least, he was.  Even from my elevated wall position, it was over my head.  For your benefit, I’m just sharing highlights.  In short, Jerry was straight, and Door Slam was not.
 Jerry is in an aisle seat and two ladies close to his age are standing in line to turn in their paperwork right next to him.  From his chair he looks up at them and says, “Hello Ladies. If you’re sixty or younger, you are beautiful.  But if you over sixty, you’re gorgeous.” 
 I’m just a fly, but I can feel a genuine compassion in Jerry’s words, even if what he’s saying is questionable.  I dart to another wall position just in time to see both ladies roll their eyes.  One of them was moving her lips, but I couldn’t make out what she said.  I’m sure it was related to the eye rolls.
 Meanwhile, Jerry is getting to know Door Slam.  I can’t say how he got there, but he’s saying things like how important it is to know who you are and what you want and need in life. 
 Jerry’s a retired career Navy guy who was stationed all over the place.  Not unlike what I do on a daily basis.  He was telling Door Slam stuff about his Navy career and asking questions related to her partner.  Her girlfriend is a civilian and works in a HR department in a hospital off base. She’s a Marine getting a pass for her girlfriend. 
 With almost forty people in the room, there was a lot of activity going on, but I couldn’t take my feelers off Jerry. After two hours or so a visitor center employee called out, “Jerry Walazinski window five.”  
 Jerry got up and went to get his pass.  As he walked to window five, he announced to all, “Finally they’re getting rid of me.  I’m getting out of here before lunch time.  Duomo is happy.”  Duomo? Maybe that’s it. 
 I buzzed just above their heads, dodged a few hand waves so I could get the dog’s name straight. I stopped on the wall above window five. If he says it one more time, I’ll get it right.
 After Jerry got his pass, he turned to the forty or so people and one fly on a wall and repeated the same thing he said to the ladies earlier.  Only this time, he said, “Before I leave, I want all the ladies here to know if you are sixty or younger, you are beautiful.  For all the ladies sixty and over, you will always be gorgeous.”
 I did a fly over spin like a F-16 upon hearing that one again.  While spinning, I noticed a majority of the people in the room thought that was pretty funny the second time round.  Of course, some were rolling their eyes, probably wishing they could lift off and do an aerial spin like me.
 But he wasn’t done…
 He pointed at what’s her name, Door Slam, and said, “Come up here.”  In front of everyone that was watching and listening, as if they did what I did for a living, he directed her to get out of her chair and come up to him.  He gave her a big hug. “You are beautiful.  Keep doing your thing.  That takes a lot of courage.”
 Door Slam was a little taken back by that gesture, but accepted it like a good sport and sat down.
 Jerry Walazinski and his dog Duomo left the building at 10:45 a.m.
 I decided to buzz around and wait to get a ride out with the Hawaiian lady. If you’re wondering how I got here, it was in her car.  I spent some good times in her house and was looking forward to making the return trip with her.  She has a really big TV.


- © Michael Cantor 2021


Michael Cantor was born in Los Angeles and earned a BA in Humanities from the University of Southern California.  In 2018 he published, “Thanks for Taking the Time to be Prepared.  A Handbook for Emergency Preparedness Tips."


 

 

Monday, March 08, 2021

New One Scene Play by Amita Basu

Trio

ETHEL: You didn’t let me go last year. Now, I’m going.

#3: Look what she’s packing. Two bits of string – to wit, a bikini.

HANNAH: That’d look lovely on you, darling. It’s just your colour –

#3: That bulge-eyed Mr. Geil is ‘escorting’ these innocents!

HANNAH: …But if you’d just wait till April! I’ve almost saved enough for a new car. I’ll take you camping.

ETHEL: Why d’you need a new car? You’re only going to buy another thirdhand piece of shit. Mom, forget the car. Send me to camp. I’ve earned it.

HANNAH: True –

#3: She wants to go only because there’ll be boys. She’ll come home pregnant. As you did.

HANNAH: …No, darling. Once we’ve got the car –

ETHEL: Forget the car! You only want it so you can pick up a boyfriend. Aren’t you ashamed, at your age, gallivanting around with good-for-nothings?

#3: Doesn’t she realise you need a man around? She thinks living is free.

HANNAH: Ethel, that’s not fair. I slave all day, earning minimum wage. If I could save enough to go back to college –

ETHEL: And pick up a college-going good-for-nothing? Oh, you’d need a new car for that, for sure. So which is it, mom? Are you saving for a car, or for college?

HANNAH: Ethel, that’s not kind.

#3: Not kind! Belt the brat. As Dad belted you. And you turned out tough. Got me for your 12th birthday-present. This brat – you’ve spoiled. She’s 15, and still a child.

HANNAH: You’re lucky I don’t… You’re not going to camp. Go to your room.

ETHEL: No. I’m fifteen. I can’t even talk to you?

HANNAH: You’re always cursing at me, darling.

ETHEL: Because, you never understand me. Everyone’s going to camp!

HANNAH: Hmm… How much did you say it’d cost?

#3: You’re rewarding this idiocy?

HANNAH: …Whatever it costs, you’re not going. If you won’t go upstairs, I’m leaving.

ETHEL: Go! Run away. David’s coming over.

HANNAH: Hmm, David’s nice…

#3: I bet she thinks so, too! A boy coming over, this late – and Mrs. Kleinlich next door peering between her blinds writing her weekly report for Pastor Schafer!

HANNAH: …But it’s late.

ETHEL: He’s almost here. What’re you gonna do, turn him away?

#3: Yes. David’s nice, but he’s going nowhere. She’s fallen for a loser.

HANNAH: Who’s Jason dating now? Couldn’t you two make it up?

ETHEL: I like David. Fuck Jason. Fuck you, too.

HANNAH: Ethel, I understand you’re upset about camp –

#3: Don’t apologise. We made the right decision.

HANNAH: …You needn’t understand my decisions. You do need to respect them. I’m the adult.

ETHEL: You’re the adult? You don’t even know your own mind!

#3: She knows nothing. Don’t worry. I’ll teach your daughter. Soon, she, too, will start hearing me.

HANNAH: Ethel, someday you’ll –

ETHEL: I’ll never be like you. I’ll always do just what I want. (Storms out.)

HANNAH: I hope so, Ethel. I hope when you talk to someone, it’ll always be just you two.


- © Amita Basu 2021


Amita Basu is a cognitive science PhD candidate. Her fiction has appeared in Toyon, Silver Pen Fabula Argentea, Flash Fiction Magazine, Gasher, Fearsome Critters, Star 82 Review, Kelp, Potato Soup Journal, Dove Tales, St. Katherine Review, Ligeia, Novel Noctule, The Bookends Review, Entropy, Proem, Muse India, Scarlet Leaf Review, and The Right-Eyed Deer. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Curious Reader, Deccan Herald, Qrius, The Hindu Open Page, Countercurrents, and ParentEdge. She lives in Bangalore, India.




 

New Poetry by James Croal Jackson










Overtime

January, so–
renewal, no, just

soaking in the sunrise,
the year– not NEW

year, same shit
as last, endless weeks

of overtime, begging
the sun

please change
your sleep pattern,

stay up all night
for me!


- © James Croal Jackson 2021


James Croal Jackson is a Filipino-American poet. He has two chapbooks, Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, forthcoming 2021) and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), with recent poems in White Wall Review, Subnivean, and Hello America. He edits The Mantle Poetry (themantlepoetry.com) from Pittsburgh, PA. (jamescroaljackson.com)


 

Sunday, March 07, 2021

New Short Fiction by Chuck Teixeira

 … short for Salome

 “Sorry to disappoint you,” Atsushi said. “I asked, but Sally said no girl should endure discomfort on her wedding day.”
 “It doesn’t surprise me,” Jeff rode a wave of regret for having delayed so long to come out to Atsushi.  But, after so many years apart, the past few visits had been growing comfortable, even sweet.   “Remember,” Jeff added laughing, “Heaven knows no rage like love to hatred turned/nor hell a fury like Filipinas spurned. William Congreve said that,” Jeff clarified, “the British playwright, not me. A little bit me.”
 “It isn’t funny,” Atsushi said. He was the only child of a family from Kagoshima. His mother had never let him lose hope of giving her grandchildren. Now, almost 40 years old, he had proposed marriage for the first time in his life.  Sally, his intended, was a kindergarten teacher from Manila. “And it’s kind of racist.”
 “It’s a terrible generalization,” Jeff admitted, “But examples lend support.”
 “Give me one,” Atsushi said, “and a way I can confirm it.”
 “Sorry,” Jeff said, “I have it only second hand. And my source has passed away. Nonetheless, eventually you may find yourself confirming it.”
 “Maybe,” Atsushi said, “but careful what you say about anyone not here.”
 “Once upon a time,” Jeff began, “while I was still in the closet, I went on a few dates with a Filipino ice skater.  He had actually medaled at the Gay Games in Prague.  He was a handsome guy with a beautiful body.  But, two weekends into the relationship, he started reorganizing my life.”
 “If you had let him reorganize,” Atsushi said, “you might be in better shape now.”
 “He wanted to move into my house and seize control of my finances.”
 “The house you had to sell to pay gambling debts?”
 “Yes,” Jeff said, “the only house I’ve ever owned.” Jeff had fallen so low financially that he was renting a room in the Sunset and was working call centers through a temp agency.  For a long while, he had resisted the advances of the teenage son of the Chinese family he was renting from.  But now Jeff was yielding; so, it would not be long before he would have to find another place to live. “Maybe in better shape,” Jeff said mostly to himself, “or maybe in prison.”
 “Why prison?” Atsushi said.
 “The Filipino skater wouldn’t let me stop seeing him.  Late nights, he would show up uninvited, bang on the door and demand to be let in.”
 “Did you call the police?”
 “No, I was afraid to. I was still in the closet.”
 “Still in the closet?  Nearly everyone knew you were gay.”
 “Really?” Jeff said. “Was I that nelly?”
 “No,” Atsushi said. “Never flamboyant, around me at least, but touching me and, I guess, other people a lot after a drink or two. You feel better now?”
 “No! If I had come out when we were young, I might have frightened you away, but –"
 “Who knows what could have happened back then?” Atsushi said. “But I don’t want to revisit the subject.  Your being gay doesn’t bother me now. Maybe it never would have bothered me.”
 “What I regret is the constant evasion,” Jeff said, “the erosion of authenticity in dealing with you.”
 “Shit happens,” Atsushi said, “so cut the recrimination.”
 “I would,” Jeff said, “if the duplicity hadn’t led to my drifting from one unsatisfactory substitute for you to another even less satisfactory.”
 “I don’t know if I would have been available back then,” Atsushi said. “But as things stand between Sally and me, I can’t be available now.”
 “I wasn’t thinking you could,” Jeff said.
 “The other rice queen, the one on ice,” Atsushi said, “did he offer you the bronze? Or was it bamboo?”
 Jeff frowned in disapproval. “I didn’t know how far the Filipino skater would take things.  So, I sought personal guidance from one of the senior leaders in my Buddhist group.  He told me about Ed, one of his neighbors, a construction worker who married a nurse from Mindanao. Ed boasted that his new wife was even more docile than his first, a pole dancer from Chiangmai.  At least, that’s what the nurse led Ed to believe.  And during the first years of marriage, she seemed to handle things pretty well, his smoking, his drinking, even his messing around with other women.  Then a fall at a construction site left Ed helpless in a wheel chair. His wife remained faithful, but sometimes her anger barreled through her nurse’s oath.  She would slap Ed hard across the face and ask if he still felt irresistible to other women.”
 “Why are you telling me this?” Atsushi said. “Sally’s not from Mindanao.  She’s from Luzon, a world away.”
 “I don’t know Asia,” Jeff said.  And Jeff had had no interest in anything or anyone Asian until Atsushi slipped into homeroom the first day of sophomore year and pierced Jeff’s heart.
 “And I don’t know a lot about women,” Atsushi said, “but I’m sure my kindergarten teacher from Luzon has nothing in common with that nurse from Mindanao.”
 “You’re probably right,” Jeff said.  “But forewarned is forearmed.  I came out of the closet right after I received the guidance about Mindanao, R.N., and Mr. Ed.  And I called the cops the next time the skater showed.”
 “Did you ever receive guidance about gambling?”
 “Nothing I felt was necessary or even possible to follow.”
 Atsushi shrugged his shoulders. “All of us probably could have worked harder at one thing or another,” he said then looked at his phone. There was a text from Sally questioning his whereabouts. 
 “And maybe still can,” Jeff said. “Should I expect an invitation?”
 “Sure, I think,” Atsushi said.  “It won’t be that small a party.”
 “Great,” Jeff said and sucked in his belly. “I’ve held onto the one suit I think still fits.”
 “You can understand Sally’s nixing you as best man,” Atsushi said, “and wanting her brother instead. But annihilation?  She’s not Medea!” 


- © Chuck Teixeira 2021


Chuck Teixeira grew up amid the anthracite collieries of northeastern  Pennsylvania.  Early on, Chuck earned four university degrees, including an M.A. from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.  For many years, Chuck worked as a tax attorney in San Francisco, California.  Now he teaches English in Bogota, Colombia.  Chuck identifies as gay, and his children and their mother have made peace with that. Chuck’s stories have appeared in Esquire, Permafrost, Portland Review, Two Thirds North and Jonathan.  Collections of his published work are available at Amazon.com.