issue 4 · summer 2017
Alchemy · Seth Jani
The forest is everywhere
Like someone’s lung blown
Inside out by a largening wind,
A red corolla emerging from
Becoming a place for bees,
The dangerous work
Of transmuting honey out of air.
We circulate in that stream.
Our whole lives beautifully
Stitched and heathered
By the expelled breath
My House First · Catherine Arra
rise with chimney steps
where years of rain-rotted wood made gateway
to apiary heaven, homeland security
bliss until lethal rain, jets of sting, convulsive retching
of one and then dozens, sending all
into swarmed confusion, never to know
why this act of terror.
Honey bees ringing the birdbath
said it was hornet genocide
No Sanctum · Catherine Arra
From the crown of an abandoned shell
the one no one wanted for the gift shop
the seaside memento; its flawed chamber etched
and cracked, a sliver shattered from its spire
cast aside, masked in muddied mulch, forgotten
until excavated, knocked, shaken
the young gecko cascades to concrete
with wet sand, stunned still.
One-eyed heron spindle legs the cloistered courtyard
her haven now, abandoned by the flock, never to mate
navigating her half world, half blind.
Fragile is each thread unwound, unbound
isolated without shape, form, purpose:
twigs in a nest, cells of a hive,
people in democracy divided.
Water Aerobics · Catherine Arra
down pool laps
cajole the Bistro owner to pipe
out the music – LOUD.
I forget the book.
with the biggest voice starts it.
Her entourage in varying degrees
of size and volume pipe in
about that first lay; drunken legs straddling
in backseats, closets, cornfields.
loving themselves young.
Then in unison, no cues
the white visor, straw hat
black cap and pink turban
pick up step with the beat,
punch air, singing Rockin’ Robin.
We’re all rockin’ bare toes keeping time.
Man next to me shakes his head
gives up on the Sunday Times, leaves
as they jump, midriffs bulging and
Someone on the ladder shouts back
It’s that mix – that zeitgeist
between 1955 and ‘75
the cold war and Vietnam
What it is ain’t exactly clear
fought the law…
Help, a Dream Lover, a Dream
The Time of the Season
to Give Peace…
Take a load off…
la la dee dah
Do you remember
when we used to…?
Just like that.
Sister · Emma Johnson-Rivard
talking on a cliff
but never showed anyone.
Wrote another instead
about a murdered boy
covered in wax, this
won praise for its gravity
There was a line about sinking
and she wrote the same cliff in the murder that
the young lovers awkwardly confessed on
The murderer, incidentally
never said a word
He was caught by fate
science conspired against him
She wrote him unkindly, then
was told he had great depth
This is what we call irony.
She went to a wedding, was mistaken
for the bride’s sister,
did not dance at the reception
She took a peacock feather for a gift
broke it in half, stuck it in her hair
It was not whole but it was hers
Later, this was not said:
You would not come
if I married
You would not dance or
smile for my wife for the sole reason that
she would be
Both of them are writers, this
is not said
She keeps the feather in a book, is not surprised
when the marriage goes wrong
Her sister, who is not really her sister
has always been an optimist
She returns to the murder story
the one where the dead boy rises
ten years later
preserved in wax
to haunt the cliff side
where the two lovers
young girls with black hair once held hands
and cast stones
across the river below
Misguided Pathos · Angela Dragani
Please don’t tell me you know how I feel.
You – with your murmured sweet nothings,
your Great Uncle’s cousin’s sister and her ill-defined troubles.
Your face so alarmed as you desperately struggle
to see my long-familiar self, my eyes, my heart –
And yet peer past my left shoulder with vague feelings of unease.
It’s okay. I really do get it. I was cool,
but now I’m something new and alien,
and quite possibly dangerous.
Please don’t tell me how I should feel.
You – Ha! You who have never tasted that burning metal spit
while the wind steals your breath and you pluck the stars from the sky.
Dancing on dew in that secret ethereal forest,
and the colours! Oh man those colours in a million billion hues
and every single one a promise and a possibility.
Please don’t tell me how to fix myself, I’m not broken.
You – who have always been on a first name basis with your sanity,
never felt that creeping, clinging otherness.
That hostile stranger,
That malevolent bastard,
Felt him wrapping you in black in a room that only locks from the inside.
Trapped with him for days, weeks, months,
while he feasts until there is nothing left.
Staying alive loses all appeal and there is only the cold black left.
Please don’t criticize how I choose to treat myself.
In fact, how I choose to treat this illness, or not,
is none of your damn business?
You – who saw the Silver Linings Playbook – twice!
And so, you KNOW of what you speak
Your micro expertise droning on into nothingness.
And now I’m left here to curse your sudden and inevitable betrayal
(I’ll pause here so those in the know can sigh and reminisce)
Because it’s just too hard, it’s exhausting, but I’ll understand?
Please don’t say it’s for the best.
You who seem to have conveniently forgotten
in your mad dash to anywhere but here.
I didn’t ask for anything. I didn’t have to.
15 minutes and one heartfelt confidence ago – we were friends.
For you my friendship now comes with a taint.
There will be midnight phone calls.
Missing jewelry and liberties taken.
I’ll ruin the wedding and destroy the marriage.
Show up uninvited and leave misery in my wake.
That’s what they say. That’s what you read.
You can’t see past the diagnosis and it’s just not worth it.
Please don’t tell me that you know how I feel.
You couldn’t possibly.
The Jar with the Dry Rim · Jessica Purdy
— after a title by Rumi
It hasn’t always been dry.
Once it had the kiss of a salty lip.
The jar had been opened
in a moment of need.
The design met the desire
of the opener. First, a hand,
damp with sweat and grimy
with garden dirt reached out
thought nothing of future want,
eventual need, swiveled
the metal lid after a brief effort.
The dry tongue and aching lung
tipped the glass jar to the sun
and water was like a meal, elemental,
like breaking the surface of water
after holding a breath for too long.
Now, its rim is dry, a vessel
awaiting the richness of refilling.
Accident · Jessica Purdy
For Mark DeCarteret
I come upon a scene in the dark on the road home
after feeding your cat as you recover.
A deer in the middle of the road looks as if it’s resting
settling down to sleep maybe, but then I see the blood,
greasy as black oil in my headlights,
and a woman pulled over on her phone.
I stop and ask if she’s all right
thinking she must be the one who hit the deer
but no, she’s only the one calling the police
whoever did hit the deer is gone
and all the people and cars pulling over
are a microcosm of a world
that illuminates suffering and dying.
The blue lights come —
their order-inducing panic —
the officer steps out
draws his weapon,
I think he hates this
I can tell by the way
he aims, checks, aims again
so he won’t miss and cause more pain.
I cover my ears and the shot
is nothing I can prepare for;
the deer’s head simply drops hard
the plumes of breath that had been vapor
dissipate, dissolve into the air
like the cars and people who soon leave
the road in darkness
the culprit just one of the bad in all this good.
Twelve Naked Men · Pris Campbell
the sea wipe out yesterday’s footprints,
talk about days when they made women’s hearts
beat faster, their loins damper, days
when they threw off their clothes,
preparing for their calendar tribute,
in a deserted graveyard at dawn,
on a limb over the Charles River,
in a commune with friends in and out,
chatting, in the woods, on stairways,
in a church, once in the apartment
of the photographer, an old lover.
These twelve naked men, aging now,
hair thinning, bellies thickening,
wave at the dolphins, feed bread crusts
to swooping seagulls. They smile at the days
when women kissed their photos
before lying back on the beds of lost time,
arms spread, waiting only for them
to walk off of the wall and love them.
No Longer Safe · Pris Campbell
You, who safe in the DMZ on a supply ship,
still came back to Pearl with the stench
of Vietnam trailing behind you, its angry heat
embedded into your pores.
We married beneath crossed swords,
not yet knowing that the war was strong
enough to rip out the part of your heart
that once carried me in it so gently –
like a gestating baby, a safe cocoon
of dreams we didn’t yet know would be
unraveled before the bootees were made.
Vietnam Memorial III · Zvi A. Sesling
The Vietnam Memorial of Maya Lin
is a giant mirror where the living and
the dead seem to intermingle
— Murray Dewart
Whose face do you see – son
or brother crying as you are
Sorrow on a day of sunshine
that cannot warm the heart
The name reminds he is a
son or brother gone forever
The face in the mirror is there
and though the heart breaks
Both leave with an imperceptible
smile at having seen the departed
Note: The epigraph by sculptor Murray Dewart is
found on Page 21 in his Introduction of Poems About
Sculpture, in “Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets”
Black Moon · Zvi A. Sesling
howlers and creepers stalk
cemeteries and roadsides
The living avoid these places
even animals wary of the ghoul
These islands of horror
even the ghost of your father
gives it wide berth
Waterslides in Auxiliary Hospital Washroom · Daniel Thompson
Flowing through corridors of familiar institutions. A toilet flushes in another part of the building. The sound draws nearer, impossibly close, trickling down the inside of my skull. I put my ear to the wall. Water falls along the long axis of my body and passes through the floor, dragging my bladder, seized in an uncontrollable urge to urinate. I step foot forward toward one of the tubes, tugging at my waistband in preparation of a flood.
Threading consciousness through the eye of a needle poked myself to see if I’m alive and bled; it’s the game over threat of living my final life. I can’t remember anything too specific. There’s a game we play in there. Its name incommunicable and keeps us coming back to find it. Once inside it’s easy to forget where I am. I come and go as I please, but never stay in either place for long. Commanding attention to bring information back with great effort to recall, contents of a room itemized in the dark behind eyes, before eyes, how they evolved in response to other eyes because there’s something out there watching us. Detects me beyond the threshold, across the placenta-like partition wall.
Waterslides in auxiliary hospital washroom, the janitor rushes in, tries to stop me. Wants me to pay a toll. I put my hand in my pocket. Feel the small, hard shapes of coins fizzle into non-existence like seltzer tablets. “I don’t have any money,” hands held out, palms up, universal sign for no money, but he keeps coming. Blue dickies morphing into form-fitting policeman’s blues, big black boots rapidly outstripping the size of his feet sinking into a grid of floor tiles as the room closes in, curling into n-dimensional space (anything above 4 presenting difficulties to physical objects so accustomed to occupying the more or less flat Euclidian plane) some kind of hyper-dimensional construct experiencing a break down or contradiction, as in the same matter occupying the same space. The skin of reality come peeling off to reveal the operations behind smooth exterior walls made more permeable to waves, light. The whole building, save for the roof, visible from any point inside or out, openwork steel girders bowed like the struts of a barrel or cask. While what should be the static, immovable fixtures of an institutional washroom—mirror, urinal, stall—shift with every angle of my approach, disappearing and appearing halfway up the wall and on into velvety darkness; the limit of programmable space. Blacked out to hide the deep structure of things I am used to seeing (or not seeing) here inside the box. Not even objects or shapes, just atoms, bonded in electrical night: the dark interior of a machine’s head tuned to a quiet station, nothing, not even cosmic background radiation nothing. ‘Nothing’ as far as I can conceive of nothing, but that may be something to something else, unable to raise my eyes higher than the top of the wall and the drop ceiling.
Footsteps echo in layered delay of no-time, hard and wet; assumes a grating, industrial sound.
The janitor reaches out to grab me.
I give him the slip — slide through one of the tubes.
Pop out in the poplar grove.
Behind the mirror is a room. A screen hanging from the roof displays the poplar grove in two-dimensional interactive computer game interface from the eighties. Something watches the screen, images of me as a stick man strolling through the knit graphics of a softwood forest. Flame leaves forever on the verge of exploding into pure colour. Tandem-walking on two legs, dragging my shadow, lagging along behind me.
Trees thin out to a field of tall grass. I wade through with swimming motions of my arms, sweeping the ground for rocks, holes, obstacles in my path. Emerging at the edge of a precipice where I join or am joined by, ‘the teacher’. Manipulating the environment through metaphors. Parallax prospectus of mental pictures pro specere the future. Flipping through photographs held up to the sky, taken from different angles, heights, POV of a bird in flight.
Rainbow waterfalls from spout in the sky, wellspring at headwaters of cloud pitcher pouring milk through cleft columns where sky meets earth. Beading off leaves and rocks finding fissures contiguous through cracked and uneven slabs of stone. Flowing in the dark undetected until it bursts forth into the worn crease of a stream, rushing toward the heart—center of the mandala. Shared affinity with municipal drains, crossed X streams, the one taking on the burden of the other, burrowing into habitat for humanity; the dank basement of a house built into the side of the mountain.
I feel around in the dark. The cave is dry, just the water sloshing inside my skin suit.
Nobody home. No home should be without a body and nobody without a home. Our bodies and homes are the same sort of thing. Temporary, we’re always moving on. When the second little pig moved out he bought a bundle of sticks and built a house.
The house teeters on the edge of its foundations as if the ground will open up and swallow it. House with the false bottom, digging down; further excavations reveal damp grottos, a parking garage, a skeleton beneath the floor. No one can recapture the psychosis of that place. No one is willing to go to such lengths. Enough to scare even ghosts away. Those with a propensity for such things might call it haunted: the house that haunts the town, the house that haunts itself. A long legacy with the realty company, defunct, de-fucto heap of rubble driving down the value of houses around it, hedges raised to block it from view.
Wake up… and the tragedy that befalls me is my folly.
If I were an animal what would it be?
Sheep. I sleep, enough. Counting. It’s time. Wasted.
I want to wake up in a past locus of time, as a child crying in a twilit room, mom and dad rushing in to tell me it’s alright, that it was only a dream, not a clock or a bomb about to go off…
The radio chirps 6:30 bluebird world report Pacific-standard-time to wake-up. Snoozing through news, weather, traffic, sports. Just over one million civilians… did I hear that or was it part of a dream? I turn off the radio, but the voice is still there. Could be the stereo? No. Must be the fillings in my teeth.
I search the house, haunting, hunting for a place without reception, but it’s hard to find a spot with no signal at all. Data floating around in the cloud until I hit the right place like watching home movies of myself tottering around a destroyed room, camera shifting amoungst the rubble, solastagia in condemned homes so we can’t move out or away. A ghost with no choice of which places to haunt, magnetized to a system of leys free of hunger, disease; supplied only with what a ghost needs, to relive old memories, pine and long for in autochthonic recursion of seasons — resurging streams, recurring dreams.
I crouch in a corner beneath a tall tropical plant.
The chattering stops, but I’m left without a voice in my head.
Just waking up? You should be hearing alarm bells.
If I am to keep this story going I will need to say a few things, otherwise I will roll over and go back to sleep.
Our lives online, games to kill time, games about killing. Blinking, cursor, ready… now there’s a game, its name a secret. Ticket, a token, I took the ride. The stub left in my hand spelling out the last few letters of the word, the name of the game – the other half of the story.
Summer is a Dream · Gary Sokolow
There were explosions over sky, I
had heard of the bomb makers
behind stone walls, as I rise from this bed
as others try but can’t and decide
I can be anyone, anywhere, doing anything.
I write of the most intimate things: a wicker
basket moved under a desk, the steam
radiator too hot throughout winter. Here I play
at nothing, am content to watch a summer
storm dump three inches of rain, drown the azaleas,
threaten to wash away some town deep
in the heart of Jersey.
Here it all seems so easy: the woman on the screen
in a sparkling dress, the official waving behind
a phalanx of security. Easy. Like the ache of love for
the dark haired woman, her beauty, a mirage,
dissolving into the scorching heat of a July noon.
Bosch & Keaton Hide Behind a Poem About a Deer · Jim Zola
Buster hides behind a bowtie disguise
I once watched a man fly
over my car
late at night
on route 28A
heading back to Falmouth
he stood up
and stared at me
He became a deer
running back into the woods
pine brush and nettles
The artist crosses himself
The actor moons
Sabotage at the Subliminal Tape Factory · Jim Zola
Expectations are petty
You think of Bird’s
be-bop and swing,
the first mover unmoved,
where every story
begins with once
upon a time, think
of the voice beneath
the smooth voice, within.
After hours you lie
in a field till arms
and legs take root,
till dirt fills pores
and your heart
into the unknown
where trees are thought
and thought is sabotage.
When Kudzu Takes Over · Jim Zola
so subtle we don’t notice
how it strangles the green
out of trees. Around here,
they say you need to shut
your windows to keep it out.
Morning finds odd shaped
sculptures in wooded lots.
Medium of Release · Michael Istvan
Taking it out on the funeral director.
Weed brings them together after several years
silent since the repressed “bad touches,”
but dad’s high compliments are tinged with flirtation.
Those who grope for the brass ring in hope that all
will then be okay, but are let down after reaching it
because death is what they were after all along.
If either is worthy of being wiped out,
it is not the conman but the smug one
who really thinks that he is a sorcerer.
People still lose themselves
in play, knowing there to be
no chance to make the NBA.
Mugs held between sweater sleeves at the fire.
Yard sale prescription glasses.
Because the dread of death is lingering—
that is how we still manage daily tasks
with the dread of death lingering.
Warm baths before school
from a dish sponge dipped
in coffee pot water.
Condemning gay sex on grounds
that Leviticus unequivocally forbids it
even as you catch pigskin footballs.
Sometimes the subject
is not to be centered
in the viewfinder.
Condemning gay sex on grounds
that most animals do not do it
even as you use an electric toothbrush.
Thoughts turning hair grey.
Straight-razor tucked in the bra.
What is left in the fridge after death.
Breasts that can be thrown over shoulder.
Furrows cross the grain of the deejay’s corduroys.
Workdays spent building with packets of sweetener.
Driving around all day getting pain prescriptions filled.
Those for whom the smaller the talk the better the buoy.
Not wanting to admit, even
to yourself, your hope
to die in your sleep.
are more shaded than before—
unexpected side orders.
Those sentenced to be hung
forced in the meantime
to carry out hangings.
If to have a title on a poem
is to treat the reader as dumb,
where should the cutting stop?
A self-help book for how to open up to self-help books.
His blank face, as he bottles
the infant in his arms, speaks
of submission to his fate.
(goiters, humps, lop-shoulders)
taken as signs of evil character.
Waterways of yellow fury run
over bridges, but evacuees
first load their cars to the limit.
Arms-out entries from high cliffs: water-bruising.
Painters who seem apprenticed on separate planets.
A mother’s bra —
for the three-year old.
Avoiding each other’s eyes
to deny the threat
that we have been denying.
Vacant Houses · Ernest Gordon Taulbee
The vacant houses remain in
The county, but in the east
End and richer places they
Become fewer and fewer.
The main congestion is
In the west end where
Prosperity never seemed to
Take hold. Not that it wasn’t
Welcomed and wanted, I suppose.
Some of them have been
Abandoned for a decade or
More, but there are only so
Many funds to tear them
Down. Most of them
Have been ransacked.
When I look inside,
There are papers scattered
All over the floor and the
Plaster or drywall is full of
Holes and colored with
Graffiti that sings cautionary
Tales about the depths of
Drug abuse. Of course, some
Of the scribbles are the tags
Left by the city’s community
Of taggers who like to wander
Into vacant houses. I assume that
Is for practice, as it is only
Seen by the junkies, code enforcement,
And the boarding crews.
Most of the houses are boarded
Already. We just go to create
The work order to have the board
Nailed up again, like another
Failing messiah who isn’t going
To save that house or any other.
Sometimes a new board is needed
As the old one has turned to a
Sponge. These houses are always
Trashed. In addition to the graffiti
And teenage vandals, it is a den
For those with nowhere else to
Go. It is an easy place for
Prostitutes and it is common
To see used condoms and
Soiled underwear when you peek
In the door – or a more gory offering.
There are others though. There are
The ones where someone died and
And the heir locked the door. They
Stayed vacant for years. Now the door
Has been kicked open, and there
Is some degree of pilferage.
But the house remains. There
Are pictures on the wall or
A magazine in the doorway
That is from presidents ago.
Something about it seems so
Still and so hallowed. It should
Almost be kept sacred against
Vacant memories of dead days.
It reminds you that it was
Someone’s home at some
Place in the past. Someone
Lived here. They probably died
There too, but there were family
Dinners and family lessons and all
The other stuff that goes with it.
It stops being a vacant structure
And becomes a corpse that hasn’t
Had a proper burial.
One could wander the empty
Rooms and forgotten furniture
Looking for a place where a long
Diseased memory was left behind.
Fat Thumb On The Scale · Bart Solarczyk
a man’s weight in ashes
lost between the numbers
there’s a life.
Dear Ron · Bart Solarczyk
& six Sicilian slices
could get better if you
float me six green clouds.
He’s Talking Again · Bart Solarczyk
an empty can
makes the most noise
how vast & deep
the sound of nothing
so loud in
your small mouth
you who have ears
sharpen your voices, sing!
Glass Alibi · Charles Kell
about. Ripped & written,
the open block drags
us back to the broken smoke scene.
You can still blame the black weather.
The late way I dragged you
kicking & screaming from
that sick junk cell. Together,
we rode toward the rip tide.
In a far off city your third eye
caught the last half shape paralyzed
in the doorway. Two coats, keys,
ring of skin trapped fast in a back
memory. There was your mouth
shining red just before dawn.
You broke the window & took
off. Closing my eyes was easy.
Strips of Cooked Flesh · Robert Beveridge
was never much of a meat eater,
but the idol demanded
Hard to let all that
go to waste.
Parade Drain Paranoia · Samuel Cole
“It’s your room.”
“Would you like some water?”
“They gave me a sandwich and an apple earlier. Call me Barney.”
“Where are you all coming in from anyway?”
“Forget it. Ask me whatever. I have nothing to hide.”
“Just a few questions. In and out, I promise.”
“Have they found Abby yet?”
“We have many skilled people looking.”
“I offered to help look for her, but they told me I couldn’t leave this room. If she’s still able to hear voices, I know she’d respond to mine the fastest.”
“Tell me about this morning, Mister King, before the parade.”
“Why can’t I see my other girls, Carlie and Kaitlyn? Who are they with?”
“They’re with Marianne Pribanue, a social worker. Very professional. Very caring.”
“I don’t want them going to my mother or my mother-in-law. They’re both crazy. They’ll say things about me that aren’t true. Have you gotten in touch with my sister?”
“So far she’s been unreachable by phone.”
“Did you try her cell phone? I think she got a new cell phone.”
“We’ve been trying for hours but still nothing.”
“She and my wife used to call each other kindred spirits.”
“Did you notice the sewer drain when you sat down?”
“I know that the second button on my shirt popped off. Doctor Vindigo says I’m using food to stuff my emotions, but in all honesty I’m just stuffing my face. I really don’t care how I look anymore.”
“So you planned to attend the parade beforehand.”
“I thought we could all use some time out of the house. I even pre-packed the diaper bag and sun block. The forecaster on TV said there was a chance of thunderstorms but I was so glad when I woke up and knew he was gonna be wrong. Fucking experts think they know everything. But they don’t.”
“I hear your wife recently passed away. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“You must have a lot on your mind?”
“Well, I know the name Susan G. Komen if that means anything and I know that a casket costs as much as a grave stone and I know I’m supposed to smile real big for the girls and just go on living life even though I wish it would stop and rewind.”
“Sounds frustrating and confusing.”
“Did the girls seem excited about the parade?”
“Abby kept sticking out her tongue going, Pllllllllllllllllll, which made all of us all smile and that’s when we saw the tall, blonde woman walked by and Abby said, Mama, and I saw the same pain in Carlie and Kaitlyn’s faces like the day of their mother’s funeral and I thought they were gonna cry but they didn’t and I knew right then that life really does move on.”
“Did you walk or drive?”
“We live right off Radcliff. It’s like six blocks away. I wanted to make sure the girls didn’t have to sit behind anyone this year.”
“Do you remember what the girls were wearing?”
“I sure do. We wore the same red, white, and blue outfits my wife picked out last year. They’re a little matchy-matchy but I figured that was the point and besides I didn’t have time to go out and buy anything new. Carlie hardly fit into her shirt, she’s growing so fast, and I distinctly remember bending down to kiss Kaitlyn’s sparkly pink headband because she really likes my kisses even though I don’t wear chap-stick which she thinks I should because boys need soft lips, too. She’s very thoughtful like that. And I remember sitting up real straight and thinking if my wife were alive how proud she’d be of the example I’m setting for our girls. She was very proper, my wife. All her ducks were in her row. Every T was crossed and every I was dotted. She was very orderly, and very fashionable, too.”
“The older girls said Abby was only wearing a diaper. They said you refused to put clothes on her.”
“That’s not true. I remember putting her arms through the shirt holes. Why on earth would they say that?”
“They did. Two different times.”
“My wife wouldn’t want me to take her outside in just a diaper.”
“The Superintendent at your school said you’ve taken a leave of absence.”
“What? Oh, yeah. They’ve been very understanding.”
“How long have you been off work?”
“I don’t know. Three, maybe four months.”
“An officer reported finding eighteen prescription bottles in your nightstand.”
“So what? They’re all prescribed by a doctor.”
“Almost every bottle had a different doctor’s name on it.”
“That’s not a crime.”
“It’s called doctor-for-pill-shopping and it doesn’t paint a very good portrait of you being a dutiful father in total control of your surroundings.”
“Fine, I went to see a few doctors. My regular doc wouldn’t give me anymore pills and then after a while he refused to see me at all. I mean, I lost my wife. I needed some assistance. I was in pain. Call him. Ask him. Ask any of them. They all know what happened.”
“So much pain that you might have forgotten to put clothes on Abby?”
“I told you, I put her arms through the shirt holes.”
“Fifteen of the seventeen prescription bottles were empty, Mister King.”
“I’m not talking to you anymore. You’re accusing me of doing drugs and being a bad father. I held Carlie and Kaitlyn in my arms the first three nights they came home from the hospital. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I was a wonderful father and devoted husband whose girls wear shirts all the time.”
“I’m simply trying to map out a timeline.”
“Ask Carlie and Kaitlyn who I am. They’ll tell you.”
“They said you sleep a lot during the day.”
“I make them breakfast every morning.”
“They said they’re afraid of you a lot of the time.”
“Afraid of me. Yeah right.”
“Kaitlin said sometimes when you’re lying on the couch she thinks you’re dead.”
“You talked to her? Did she ask about me? How did she look? Is her knee still bleeding?”
“She’s safe, Mister King. I promise.”
“They’re not telling you the whole story. I mean, they’re little girls. They don’t see things the way you and I do. They’re not with my mother or mother-in-law, are they?”
“No. They’re with Marianne Pribanue, a social worker.”
“Oh yeah, you told me that. I forgot for a second, but now I remember.”
“My wife’s name was Marianne. Did you know that?”
“Tell me what happened when you arrived at the parade.”
“A few people were sitting in plastic chairs and there were lots of people speaking Spanish which didn’t surprise me as much as it angered me because it’s like America’s birthday and shouldn’t we all be speaking English on that day, and then some African American family plopped down beside us but they didn’t stay very long, because the mother said something about being smelly or stinky or something strange like that.”
“You thought she said smelly or stinky?”
“We were sitting there awaiting the first float and the older girls were knocking their knees together and Abby was fussing between my legs. Then Carlie mentioned wanting a lollipop and Kaitlyn said she loved marching bands which made me happy since that’s what I do for a living and I knew she really meant it.”
“Did she say stinky or smelly?”
“I don’t know. Floats and streamers started passing by and all the kids were screaming and grabbing candy from the ground. Usual parade stuff. I was just thrilled to see the older girls doing something besides sitting in their rooms or asking me questions about cancer that I don’t know any of the answers. I’m no doctor. I teach spoiled rich kids without rhythm to play the drums.”
“Then what happened?”
“The girls said they were hungry so I went for food.”
“Did you leave the girls by themselves?”
“They weren’t alone. Those Spanish speaking people were still there and I distinctly remember asking the lady in a blue bonnet to keep an eye on them.”
“So you do remember leaving?”
“Kaitlin said she was sick of candy and Carlie kept begging for a corn dog with lots of ketchup. She loves ketchup. Kaitlyn prefers mustard like her mother and I’m not sure what Abby likes yet, but yeah, they said they were hungry and a good father doesn’t let his girls go hungry.”
“Do you remember how long you were gone?”
“I told you, a couple of minutes, maybe two. Five minutes tops. No more than a blink. And the whole time the tall vendor guy was breading the corn dogs I was looking at them over my shoulder.”
“The girls said you were gone for more than an hour.”
“Tons of eyewitnesses said the same thing.”
“They’re lying. I distinctly remember the short vendor lady in the red hat was deep frying cheese curds which is why I blew on them so hard when I walked back and that’s when I heard everyone screaming that a little girl had fallen into the drain.”
“So which is it? Vendor guy or vendor lady?”
“You first said it was a tall vendor guy and then you changed it to short vendor lady.”
“Vendor person. I don’t know. They all look the same.”
“Eyewitnesses said you weren’t holding any food in your hands when you returned.”
“I knew they couldn’t be screaming about Abby. I knew it had to be somebody else’s baby. I knew my wife was watching down on us from heaven and that she wouldn’t let anything else bad happen to us.”
“Eyewitnesses said you were shirtless when you did return.”
“We all wear shirts all the goddamn time. Why does no one believe me?”
“They said you were panting really hard and super sweaty, Mister King. Mister King. Mister King!”
“You were snoring.”
“Marianne said I didn’t snore.”
“Are you okay to continue?”
“Like you care.”
“We’re almost finished. Stay with me, okay.”
“I wish you’d stop accusing me of doing something wrong. You know what? I’m done with you. I mean, you won’t even let see my other girls so why in the hell should I help you, when you won’t help me.”
“I can leave if that’s what you want.”
“Where are you going? Come back. Okay, fine, I’ll tell you more. Just please don’t leave me alone.”
“Hello Mister King, I’m detective Marianne West. May I sit with you?”
“It’s your room.”
“Would you like some water?”
“They gave me a sandwich and an apple earlier. Call me Barney.”
“Where are you all coming in from anyway?”
“You didn’t see the lady who just left?”
“I’m the first person to come in here.”
“She was just here. Blonde hair, green eyes, fashionable and orderly, just like my wife, Marianne.”
“Excuse me, Mister King.”
“Where are you going? Come back. Okay, fine, I’ll tell you more. Just please don’t leave me alone.”
“Hello Mister King. I’m detective Marianne Atridge. May I sit with you?”
“Stop tormenting me. All of you. I know who you are and I know what you’re doing.”
“Hello Mister King. I’m detective Marianne Whitmore. May I sit with you?”
“What do you want? You want me to admit that I pushed her in the drain and ran away. You want me to say I’m sorry, well I’m not sorry. You want me to say I failed them, fine, I failed them, but I don’t see it that way. I see it like I saved them, like I saved all of us from living life without you, which I can’t do, if you really want to know the truth. Well, do you? Do you?”
Swan · Natalie Crick
The dead stay dead.
A necked Swan
The pale bone poking through, a
Sword rising from a lake
Sharp and still sheathed.
The bone is so white
I could have carved
It from wax,
Soft as bees,
A candle without a flame.
Forever Winter, the sky
Looks cold, pink as a clot
In the mouth
When the lights go out.
A Fire Without Light #493 · Darren Demaree
A Fire Without Light #494 · Darren Demaree
A Fire Without Light #495 · Darren Demaree
Near Miss · Robert Stout
transformed by rain
into lone survivors
whose fingers clutch hard edges
as traffic screeches past,
gravel spatters the axles
and the front seat fills with the smell
of scorched tires and burning brakes.
Echoes of Doris Day · Pam Munter
Doris Day’s career is a cornerstone of motion picture history. She holds the record as the only person on the list of the top ten box office stars for ten years in a row. Only Streisand and Sinatra would subsequently achieve such conspicuous success in both films and records simultaneously. She is an icon of the 1950s, representing the innocence of a bygone era where even the social and political culture seemed to be in black and white. Shades of gray were viewed with suspicion. Doris Day and especially her films were viewed as comforting, reassuring family fare, many featuring her warm, inviting vocals.
And now, many decades after her career has ended, her fans have come to worship at the shrine of imprinted memories, unconditional approbation of the body of work of a beloved legend and to celebrate her birthday on April 3. Most of us stay at the Cypress Inn, which the icon co-owns. It’s not only pet-friendly like the luminary but its walls are covered with fading film posters and stills from her 39 films, the last released in the mid-1960s, a half-century ago. A flat-screen TV in the bar continuously plays her movies and episodes of her TV show. This weekend, time will stand still.
Overheard conversations are dominated by talk of her career, each contributing bits of information often gleaned from media coverage. Some eagerly and competitively proclaim their superior status. One man proudly told me, “I’m a Doris Day savant.”
Even her birthday is fictitious. Doris MaryAnn Kappelhoff, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was born in 1922 but she continues to maintain it was two years later. And so we have come to honor her on her 92nd birthday, not the real one. It seems oddly appropriate.
There are nearly 150 people here, some from as far away as the U.K. and Germany. Most are 50-something women or gay men, few people of color. The isolated younger attendees belong to the older ones, not here on their own. And yet, they are all alike in many ways. There is a Stepford Wife quality to the perpetual and relentless cheerfulness and beaming faces. It resembles a provincial church social where everyone makes quick friends. There is no sadness or dismay here, no snark and no complaints. They introduce themselves, want to know where I’m from, what my connection is to Doris. More to the point, they want to tell me their own treasured Doris stories, how she has impacted their lives – how she made them happy or nourished them when they needed it most. Some are so fervent, I fight the urge to say, “Amen.”
Most of them are latter-Day fans, from her last half dozen films in the 1960s after the game-changing sexy “Pillow Talk.” They speak lovingly of her as if they were intimate friends, frequent adjectives being “warm,” “lovely,” and “sweet.” Any critical analysis of her work is in short supply here. I spoke with a couple who effervescently spoke of her “purity” and “wholesomeness,” qualities in equally short supply in today’s coarsening culture. She’s emblematic of a simpler time, the one with inevitably happy endings.
Doris, herself, won’t be here, though she did make a surprise appearance two years ago. Those who were there still speak in reverential tones about what it meant to them to meet her. This time, she sent a recorded message to all of us, played back over a speaker phone during the first gathering appropriately held in a church. She thanked us all for being here and for being there for her, too. “It’s all about the doggies,” she reminded us, asking for financial support for her Doris Day Animal Foundation. Her love for animals is a passion that has consumed her life these past five decades.
Few celebrities have enjoyed her longevity and range of marketable talent. It seemed there was little she couldn’t do. Her public personage was meticulously groomed first by Warner Bros. then by her controlling and avaricious third husband and manager, Marty Melcher. The inconvenient conclusion is that much of what we admire and love about Doris is a well-crafted image, a manufactured persona. We don’t want to hear about the rough early life of easy sex on the band bus, the four dysfunctional marriages, her sometimes turbulent relationships with her son and grandson. We cling to the crystalline voice, relishing that little squeak when she got excited, the boyish-yet-seductive figure, her compelling on-screen honesty and her incredible capacity to exude an evocative warmth even on a recording. It’s like pouring warm honey over the soul. For us, it’s personal.
For me, the weekend celebration is a poignant reminder of who I once was. I was weaned on Doris Day movies. My first film was hers, too, “Romance on the High Seas” in 1948. I fell in love with the voice, the personality and the movie magazine hype. I sat transfixed through her films countless times, bought all her records, fell completely under her spell. In fact, by the time I was 15 I had joined her church and subsequently studied the profession she portrayed in “Teacher’s Pet” – a journalist. And, yes, I became a performer, like Doris a singer and actor. As the decades wore on and life’s realities cascaded over me, I left my adulation behind – mostly. My last gasp came in a couple of tribute shows to her performed across the country and a CD done at Capitol Records. I sent one to her and received a flattering, almost gushing fan letter in return. After all those years of listening to Doris in my bedroom, now she was in her house in Carmel, listening to me.
And so my being here in the Land of Doris is an oddly existential experience. I’ve had countless connections to her on many levels over my lifetime. As a young admirer, I considered her mine alone, an integral component of my identity. But here in the middle of all these giddy fans, I am even more dazzled by the indelible illusion she created for those of us in the emotional hinterlands. She seemed to speak and sing only to each one of us, one needy person at a time.
There were two nights of performances here in Carmel, both given by 30- or 40-something singers. The largest was in a crowded high school auditorium, full of garrulous ambient noise. While waiting to get in, I looked for a place to get away from the cacophonous jabber. I found an isolated women’s restroom. As I entered the stall in the empty reverberating room, cutting through the silence was the familiar title track from Doris’ album, “What Every Girl Should Know.” I realized, though I hadn’t heard it in 50 years, I still knew all the words. I remained for a few more minutes, listening. Once again, we were alone.
First Date · Lisa Brognano
Moment, that outdoor moonshine time.
A picnic basket held limes
And wine and the thickest Florida
Prime rib. No pie, no cake.
The man and lady were shaking
Cutely like kettles, touching their
Elbows, tilting their heads.
They were gentle people with calm
Ideas, lovers of shooting stars.
The red wine, the green limes, the
Noises of the night echoing like gongs
On trees, gongs on trees, gongs on trees.
Hailing a Taxi · Lisa Brognano
Was a noodle on her wrist, she
Wore a shirt with a pocket and
It had lovely designs on it, quite
Odd for an executive, a pacifist,
Tall anti-war girl, a woman dis-
Tressed with global warming.
The corridors echoed with the
Ping of her heels as she said bye,
Bye, take care, to the mealy-
Mouthed man and walked out
Of the building, hailing a taxi,
The driver puffed his smoke out
The rolled-down window, saying
He didn’t care much for heavy
Snowy winters, much less driving
He said only eat half · Jason Baldinger
the other half in my pocket
I wait on the couch with him, his girlfriend
nurse a beer, I drank too much already
wait for alcohol to neutralize
wait for the brownie to hit
while we watch saturday night live reruns
after one, I head home, alcohol
a small buzz, weed not hitting
safe for driving in theory
I make my way down penn ave\t
aim for millvale
cross the 40th it dawns
millvale cops and saturday night
it’s a gauntlet that has to be run
I think about the dwi I talked myself out of
a few months ago, 2 beer night
coast through a stop sign, cop let me go, a ticket and a warning
I explained I’m two blocks from home
The brownie in my pocket, untenable
I eat the other half incase
I pass cop cars with video game precision
tonight I am perfect
I find my keys, smelling the record store smell
that is my apartment, the other guys apartment
that is the record store downstairs
the first half of the brownie hits
zombie wobbles upstairs, through rituals, to bed
tonight I am perfect
four am, eyes pop open, all of a sudden the room is technicolor, I see every shadow, I hear every noise, there is no one to talk too, they (collective or proverbial) were right you don’t want a head full of anything when a house gets quiet and dark, I wash my face, careful of the mirror, back to bed, stop to put in cds: amon duul, ash ra temple, terry riley, tiny volume, throbbing sounds, I sink low into mattress, no sleep, a heartbeat
we’re dying every day, why is it a surprise when you feel your
meditation, how to mark time, sun comes up, lungs of daylight fill, I drift, I drift, I drift
this morning I am perfect
I wake up hours later, legs won’t work
I crawl to the bathroom, back to bed
I have to be up in an hour, I have a date at noon
these hour later legs work although my mind a viscous place, alcohol hangovers and THC in effect
they battle for supremacy
breakfast negotiations, greasy, greasy glass eyed, today I am not perfect
but I show up on time
it took a month for her to ask why I was weird when I arrived
Forward · James Croal Jackson
has no teeth
in his exit.
along the edges
of the street.
A tomato grows
in your garden
of the fertile.
Dust and ice
compose the rings
What else is there?
Cries long lost
in the stars.
recipes · Mark Young
Take on the
words of others
& then take
out the words
you do not
is left is right.
words of others
& then take
out the words
is left is right.