Sunday, July 5, 2015
Monday, June 29, 2015
~This story originally appeared in The Kenyon Review (2009).
Will went with Linda to the animal shelter because he had a crush on her and thought that the trip would help her to see him in a good light. She called Sunday morning, told him she needed a favor, and he said he was free. A lie. He’d planned on going to yoga in the afternoon for his back pains. He met Linda a month ago at yoga, before she quit to join a more challenging class.
She picked him up and told him in the car that she’d put a hold on a dog yesterday. “Impulse shopping,” she said, and that she needed a neutral party.
Will felt absurdly hurt, but said, “I’m your man.”
The shelter was south of town, in an area that was undeveloped two years ago, when Will moved to
Colorado. Tract houses were there now, and people were
raking leaves and washing cars. He saw a
sign for Shaeffer’s Miniature Animals and Petting Zoo, and in a small field
beyond the houses, children were looking into an oval pen.
“They do something scientific to alter those animals,” Linda said. “It makes me sad.”
He saw a tiny goat and something prehistoric-looking, a shaggy thing, perhaps a yak, the size of a tricycle. Miniature horses, their manes glamorously long, pranced among other mini-animals, including a pint-sized pig. Children pitched lettuce at the animals, and a bossy, regular-sized goose honked, and nipped at the children’s ankles.
Will knew that he’d recall this moment and the constriction in his heart. The boy he’d been. That’s what did it. The boy who despised circuses and carnivals, and feared especially the clowns, back East, in the
Adirondacks. He was seven when he and his older brother
saw the carnival parade--caissons of animals in cages, clowns lobbing candy at
people, and at the very end, a skinny, dark woman in gypsy garb, riding an
elephant. Will’s brother Eddie swore
that the woman winked at him.
Monday, June 22, 2015
~This poem originally appeared in a chapbook print to accompany the Call & Response Exhibit at the Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington, DC (2009)
You accused me of consuming too much
with my calm, sad face. I couldn’t stop,
so I didn’t feel remorse. I began to rot
from the inside. I understand what happened.
To save yourself you came to view me
without care or doubt, another bug
closed in on the porch, dead against the window.
To go back, even one step, is impossible
and imperfect. Beyond love is mercy,
and beyond mercy, oblivion.
You look at me now as a project
turned unrecognizable to you,
just as God cringes at the bitter taste
of the rivers and the seas.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Redux is accepting submissions of fiction/poetry/essays during an open reading period: July 5 to July 31. We’re looking for literary work of high quality that has been previously published in a print journal but that is not available elsewhere on the internet. Our mission is to bring deserving work to a new, online audience. Preference will be given to older pieces (i.e. published before 2012).
No novel excerpts, poems that appear in chapbooks, or pieces published in anthologies…even if these books are presently out-of-print.
Please read our guidelines for important submission information. If your work is accepted, you will also be asked to write a short “story behind the piece” essay a la the Best American series. Pieces must be available in a Microsoft Word file.
Authors we’ve published include Margot Livesey, Sandra Beasley, Robin Black, R.T. Smith, Michelle Boisseau, Kelle Groom, Erica Dawson, Catherine Chung, Walter Cummins, Lee Martin, Dave Housley, and Terese Svoboda.
We look forward to seeing your work!
Submission guidelines: http://www.reduxlitjournal.com/p/submission-guidelines-for-redux.html
Questions: reduxlj AT gmail DOT com
Monday, June 8, 2015
~This story was previously published in Ms. Magazine (2005).
You’ve seen me. I know you have. Maybe at the Piggly Wiggly, maybe at the Speedway Auction House, Braum’s Ice Cream, or someone’s estate sale. I waltz in, wearing a wide-brimmed hat adorned with silk flowers and feathers, or a Carmen Miranda number stacked high with bananas, pineapples, grapes. Remember me now? Maybe I step right out of the fifties, demure in saddle oxfords, bobby sox, a poodle skirt, and a cashmere sweater, or better yet, you look up and there I am in a fringed flapper dress with thin shoulder straps and beads around my neck, strands that hang down to my knees. Please excuse me; I’m working on reclaiming joy.
Tonight, at the young widows’ support group the leader, Candace, tells my friend Nadine that it’s all right to be angry with her husband because he killed himself. We all have a right to anger and guilt, Candace says; pain lets us know we’re alive. If we verbalize, we can accept. We can love, and love can save us.
“I’m pissed off,” Nadine says. “I plan on staying that way.”
We’re sitting in a circle, the five of us, around a table in a room off the Interfaith Chapel at St. Anne’s Hospital. The room is bright with fluorescent lighting so we can all try to feel hopeful and work on developing strength and tranquility through continual exposure to emotional intensity. Candace uses language like that; she’s a young widow herself. She tells us that grief relies on memory, so our stories are sacred.
Here’s one I’ve never told.
Monday, May 11, 2015
The Iraqi Hilton
~This poem was previously published in the Indiana Review (2003).
All this reconstruction is hopeless.
We will never lawn over our failures.
Failures are a lens to fry ants as they
travel on their invisible monorails of scent.
The smell of ants attracts
the bunko squad. Although disbanded,
each member of the bunko squad yips
like a Barbary ape caught between bars.
Sitting in bars, we watch the Nature Show and
the Food Show. But the Cop Show watches us.
In this episode, because he owns me,
the chief can put his arm around my shoulders
and say: "There's enough here to re-elect
the mayor without a single vote. A man
never knows how handsome he is until
his face has been irredeemably scarred."
During the night crows fell from the trees
and shattered onto the pavement below.
Each morning I had to sweep the shards
of black glass that littered the sidewalk.
Confession: I ditched the bags at a work site
for a monument whose very idea I detested.
One day while sweeping I took off my gloves
and picked up a bit of wing. Clean sharp edges.
The next morning my hand was brittle as praline.
We crawled downstairs to lobby head first.
In the middle of every room,
pools of mercury.
During the War of the Mini-fridges our emblem was:
The Frozen Exploded Coke Bottle.
Electricity rationed in tiny vials
and measured in sporks.
Famous Battles: Water Retention. Water
Retaliation. Meat Disposal. Attrition.
On Tuesday, an angel arrived
and committed atrocities on us.
Her left buttock was tattooed
with a skull and broomhandles,
“There is so much garbage in the world.”
In the Iraqi Hilton
there is something beige about
all the colors in the room.
The line dead. Two days,
and my body odor is a foreigner.
Outside, loudspeakers ululate.
In the TV snow, coming at me—
is that Godzilla, or the Dear Leader,
or the Parliament of Wolves?
Patella, femur, scapula, ulna.
I can hear the racket outside
my door, out in the dim hallway:
two skeletons, coupling.
Monday, May 4, 2015
~This story was previously published in Gargoyle (1988).
Jeanine’s gills were becoming more pronounced, she noticed on Saturday. Ralph pretended they were just lines on her neck, but Jeanine could feel them flap when she coughed or sneezed. They both read the paper. A woman in Miami, a man in Portland, sisters in New Orleans. A baby had been born with them in Houston. Gradually, Jeanine expected, she would need water for her air.
Ralph blamed Jeanine’s yoga teacher, though none of the other cases mentioned seaweed supplements or chlorophyll drinks. What was she trying to show him? Other wives were having breast implants, dying their hair, or letting themselves spread into elastic waist pants and baggy sweaters. Ralph could not understand Jeanine’s attitude toward the transformation of her shapely, freckled body.
At breakfast, Jeanine watched Ralph through the chlorophyll water in her glass, remembering when his unhandsomeness had been endearing. Ralph’s small brown eyes were sunk into his doughy cheeks like raisins, and his thick arms and legs stuck straight out from his torso. But he was not made of gingerbread; he was pasty white with clumps of black hair randomly tufted over his body. He smelled unshowered this morning, and Jeanine could not remember why she married a man with hair on his back.
So far, the longest they had gone without mentioning her scales or thinning bones was a full day. As a scientist, Jeannine was intrigued by these changes. In a notebook she recorded the progress of the slits along her neck as well as her ideas about their cause. I should tell him about the water supply, she thought. I’m going to say it’s a worry I have.
“What?” Ralph asked, expectant and annoyed.
“I’m going swimming,” she said and left to gather her gear.
In the water, Jeanine tried to be firm with herself. This is only for half an hour, forty minutes at most. You wouldn’t want to live in the water. You wouldn’t. Want to live. Her words floated away from her, and she swam without stroke or kick. From the bottom of the pool, she watched the executives take their oval laps while she freely moved from lane to lane. She listed reasons to stay on dry land. Ralph. Yoga class, the smell of wood smoke. More compelling was that if she were caught meandering in the Bay, they would probably scale and gut her on a university dissecting table.
The young, goose-bumply lifeguard glared at Jeanine the few times she came up for air. When she heard him blow the whistle that announced the end of adult laps, she thought only twenty minutes had passed. She flopped out of the pool, unexpectedly struck by how upright everyone was. Chlorine stung her neck, and her fine hair looked green under the bathroom lights. By the time she got home, Ralph had been to the hardware store and back.
“For Cripe’s sake,” he said. “Did you swim for two hours?”