Friday, May 19, 2017

#231: "Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Pit Bull" by Reuben Jackson


  
~This poem was previously published in Clockworks (2011).




I.

Among twenty sleeping row houses,

The only restless thing

Was the voice of the Pit Bull


II.

I was of three headaches

Like a neighborhood in which there are as many

Pit Bulls.


III.

The Pit Bull paced in the dealer’s yard.

It was but a small part

Of my anxiety.


IV.

A man and his dog are one.

A hustler, his stash

And a loyal Pit Bull

Are frightening .


V.

I do not know which to prefer:

The disdain of neighbors

Or the disdain of neighbors.

The Pit Bull breeding-

Or the policeman rolling his eyes.

  

VI.

Rain covered the picture window

With a posse of tear drops.

The ghosts of battered Pit Bulls

Crossed it to and fro

The mood traced in the shadows

Followed me into sleep.


VII.

O longtime brothers of Brightwood-

Why do you secretly long for Chocolate Labs?

Do you not see how the Pit Bull

Sits at the feet of the players

Around you?


VIII.

I know quieter cities,

and black men with unconquered livers.

But I know, too,

That the Pit Bull is involved in

What I wish I didn’t know.


IX.

When the Pit Bull strode in the shadows-

It turned the asphalt into a pungent river.


X.

The sight of a Pit Bull charging down Madison

Would make even the most ardent dog lover

Surrender the sidewalk.

  
XI.

He traveled the city

In a quiet subway.

Once, a fear pierced him

In that he mistook a sister’s ringtone

For that of a Pit Bull.


XII.

The block is silent.

The Pit Bull and his owner

Must be away.


XIII.

It was evening all afternoon

And it was going to rain.

The folorn Pit Bull sat in his

Dog house.

  

*****

Monday, April 24, 2017

#230: "Growth" by Amy Yelin



~This essay was previously published in The Gettysburg Review (2005).


I bring my father a slice of pizza and an orange soda in a grease-stained paper bag.  He is the only person in the surgery waiting room this evening.  A ghost room. He looks smaller than usual, dwarfed by the oversized sofa, his head slumped toward his chest, as if he were sleeping. Or praying. He eats greedily, and then we make our usual small talk. “How is your car?” he asks. “Your job?” He tells me again what is wrong with the state of health care in America. There are awkward pauses. We go outside so he can smoke his pipe.
“Six hours we waited,” he says, striking match after match as the wind taunts and blows them out. Finally one catches. He holds it to the rim of the pipe, and I see that familiar orange glow of fire. “The surgeon didn’t even call to update us. Six hours after we were scheduled, he just showed up. No explanation or anything.” My father sucks on his pipe as though it were a pacifier; the sound is like fish talking. We sit in silence for a while, on a stone ledge in front of the hospital.  The trees appear sinister, their branches reaching out, pointing at us, like skeleton fingers. I pretend I am cold so we can go inside.
When the surgeons finally come out, they look tired. The one my father and I think resembles Harry Potter assures us the prognosis is good.
“I think we got most of the growth,” he says. “There are just a few little dots left. Nothing that the chemo won’t take care of.”  He tells us he expects a full remission. Such confidence.
For the next six months, we are all obsessed with the word remission. It is our promised land, our mirage in the distance, our savior.

Monday, April 17, 2017

#229: "Like Everyone Else" by Tara Laskowski

~This story was previously published in Fiction Weekly (2009).  



It was after the teenage girl died that Samantha Wolewski finally agreed to go out on a date with Harry, the cops reporter who worked night shift. Up until then she’d been dodging him—she was the new obit clerk, her first job out of college, and she wanted to be professional, make a good impression.
But then the girl died. It was a car accident—she had been on her way home from the hairdresser to get ready for her prom that night. Before that, Samantha had only had to write obituaries for old people. There was something about this girl’s picture— a dark-haired young girl looking over her shoulder, smiling brightly, hopefully into the camera. Sam wondered if the girl had hated the picture, if she’d hated the one lock of hair that had separated from the rest and trailed along her red sweater like a snake.
She tried to tell Harry about it on their way to the casino. What happened to the young woman’s date for the prom, her friends? “Would they still even have the prom after that?” she wondered aloud, to which Harry replied with a long, drawn-out story about his senior prom and how wasted they’d gotten afterwards on the second floor of the Red Roof Inn off of I-81.
“How romantic,” Sam murmured, already regretting her moment of weakness that had gotten her here in the car with the only guy in the newsroom who didn’t sing karaoke at happy hour on Friday nights. It bothered her that Harry incessantly cracked his gum. It bothered her he had yet to ask her a question about herself. It bothered her she couldn’t remember the girl’s name.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

#228: "Stewards of the Dead" by Susan E. Gunter

~This poem previously appeared in Atlanta Review (2015).

~Selected by Clara Jane Hallar, assistant editor for poetry



                                   
I watch them circle above me, wings
like open pages curving slightly
from the spine, a kettle of royalty
attended by a page, a lone hawk
hoping for scraps from their carrion,
a bit of flesh or shredded muscle.

A wake of them undertakes to clean
the world of waste, their wings caressing
leaf mold as they feast on the fallen,
leaving a heap of knackered bones,
odd tufts of fur for the devil’s cloak.

In Brazilian myth, vultures’ wings
blocked the light until the hero captured
their king. Man and bird compromised:
divide the world in two, sun and moon.

Gods of darkness, death, and terror, take pity.
Spare me another hour, a jeweled sunrise—
keep me from the tower of silence,
for I have not yet finished with words.




*****

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#227: "Out for a Walk" by Eric D. Goodman


~This story was previously published in The Baltimore Review (2007).


            Last night they’d eaten fried chicken in their urban row house.  The chicken bones remained in his bowl, a skeleton of awful beauty, meat and veins still dangling. 
Now, Thurber’s head rested against Lindsey’s thigh.  He lifted it, looked up into her eyes, and put his head into her lap with the wisp of a sound, almost a whimper.  Lindsey put her hand on the crown of his skull and gently stroked his brown-black coat.  Thurber’s chocolate eyes looked ahead, floated up toward Lindsey, and returned to the blurred blankness ahead as she petted him.  Lindsey’s hand was heavy and slow.
            “You’re a good boy.”  The mellow muttering was sincere, but not entirely true.  If that were true, we wouldn’t be in this mess, Lindsey thought, and then hated herself for thinking it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

#226: "Never Enough Time" by Andrea Hollander

~This poem was previously published in Nightsun (2007).

~Selected by Clara Jane Hallar, Assistant Editor (Poetry)


Never Enough Time

after Seamus Heaney

Therefore don’t drive across Arkansas on the Interstate
but take one of the small meandering two-lanes
through the Ozarks. Park your car once in a while
and step out into the persistent deciduous forest.
Breathe in the wild mint and sassafras, notice
the way the sky’s blue seems bluer against
all that green. And when one of the small
old towns slows you down to twenty-five or thirty,
let the middle-aged woman smiling at the pump
save you any trouble. Answer her sister at the register
who’ll ask where you’re headed, where you’re from.
And if you happen into Stone County, please come
to my house, any local will give you directions,
though you’ll have to climb the last half-mile
up the rocky hill by foot. Knock on the unlocked door
or go out back, find me weeding beans or tomatoes.
After a stroll through the garden, I’ll make us some tea.
And together we’ll pass at least a couple of hours.
You can afford them. Do you truly believe
you have anyplace better to go?


*****

Monday, March 20, 2017

#225: "All We Did" by Elise Levine


~This story previously appeared in Gargoyle (2009).


Any man with a ponytail, any man twice our age: this was our thinking way back when, what passed for thinking. Any man changing the marquee after hours as we rode the streetcar past the second-run movie palace. One of us swaggered off at the next stop, dirty slush up to her ankles but so what, her baby-fat body not yet a bulb she’d blown, winter white not yet her favorite color.
            In the aisle of the theater, rows of faded red velvet seats, rank and file, observing
like cattle. Forget-me-nots, in the carpet.
            Spring came. She tried all things. Which when we think about it now, how quaint.
            Pregnant once and never again. Cramped for weeks after.
            She went away. She came back. Everyone who’d stayed looked the same, terrific, inexhaustible. She left again, and when she returned everyone had vanished. She was in need but the buildings were mute. Mother dead. Father too. The sister she never had. Cinema Lumiere an expensive isolation.
Slowly the flowers release themselves from our fingers.