Monday, November 23, 2015

#186: Two Poems by Kate Hovey

                           BONE LOSS

~This poem was previously published in The Ledge (2011).

            Splayed on a table,
            brow knitted against the light,
            I hold my breath in the frigid room
            where a white machine whines and hums,
            its tedious song lulling, the shadow
            of its calibrated arm passing over me,
            slow, telic—an ancient gesture.

            O deliver me from mechanical chants,
            from keypad-decoded maledictions
            transforming on black screens
            into elegant images:  this one,
            a slim chain of white lace descending,
            delicate, serpentine, its loose crochet
            a portent of my unraveling. 
            A technician studies this apparition,
            scrying Cassandra-like in a veil of pixels
            the doom she must soon pronounce.

            But I’ve already seen the future, minutes ago
            in the crowded waiting room, a woman so curled
            by vertebral collapse she could not look up,
            wedged like an ill-used comma
            between the daughter and grandson
            commandeering both armrests,
            the former thumbing House and Garden,
            the latter the latest hand-held device.

            The white-robed technician has typed a code,
            zoomed in on my upper spine, pointing
            to a cosmic image so riddled with black holes
            it has all but vanished.  “Crush fractures,”
            she announces.  The once-erect matriarch
            still hugs herself in the waiting room, quietly
            imploding, reduced to the reading of shoes. 
            “See?” the technician summons, holes
            gaping at me like mouths of hungry infants,
            the forced air sucked from the room. 
            I don’t see, can’t augur
            what goes against nature.  Flesh sags,
            organs fail, but bones—O let them endure,
            let them hold us together to the end and beyond
            that they may be licked clean and weathered
            to white crystal, their messages scribed
            in the fossil record:  dependable,
            immutable, oracular.


Monday, November 16, 2015

#185: "A Kiss Thing" by Robin Gaines

~This story was previously published in Slice  (2010).

I hadn’t seen Big Becca Leonard in weeks. Not that I thought of her all that much, but suddenly there she was, bigger than ever, like a cartoon figure come to life, banging on our screen door.
            “Now what do you want to show me?” I say from the other side of the screen.
Big Becca likes coming to the front door and grossing me out with dead animal skulls she finds or flattened frogs she peels off the street. Only this time, she just stands there, twisting her hands together, looking lost.
Big Becca nudges her thick glasses up closer to her eyes. “I’m locked out,” she says, rocking side to side, staring at where the tiny bird’s nest pokes out from the top of the address sign nailed to the brick.
            “Those baby birds used to chirp all the time,” I tell her, “but not anymore. They probably got too big or maybe just bored living around here and flew away.”
            “Maybe they’re hiding,” she says. “I think they might be hiding, like ghosts.”
            “Why aren’t you in school?” Every morning a white van filled with kids like Big Becca picks her up and takes her to a special school two towns over.
            “It’s meat loaf day. Last time it was meat loaf day I threw up. My mom’s supposed to make me lunch.”
            Normally, on Wednesday afternoons, I’m not home either, but yesterday, the principal suspended me for punching Andy Dembeck between the shoulder blades at recess. The sun was out and everyone was running around going crazy because it was warm enough not to wear a sweater or jacket. Waiting my turn at tetherball, I looked over my shoulder and saw Dembeck blow me a kiss. When he turned to his loser friends and laughed, I ran up behind him, slugging him as hard as I could, knocking his glasses off onto the asphalt and cracking one of the lenses.      Dembeck couldn’t believe I did it, and neither could I. First, he looked like he was going to cry. Then, after he got a hold of himself, he had this dumb look on his face like his dog just bit him in the leg.
            It wasn’t just that one blow-kiss thing that caused me to snap. Dembeck has been harassing me the whole school year. He leaves hard candies sprinkled with pepper on my doorstep and follows me around at recess trying to give me handfuls of dandelion bouquets. Teachers think it’s cute, like puppy love, but I know the real Dembeck, the psycho who eats the fuzz he digs out of his belly button then moves his finger slowly up to his nose like he’s going to pick it just to hear the shrieks from his classmates.

Monday, November 9, 2015

#184: Three Poems by Corey Ginsberg

~This poem previously appeared in PANK  (2012).

My Mom’s Getting Plastic Surgery

Tonight on the phone my mom tells me she’s getting plastic surgery and I’m not sure what to say because it’s weird to think of my mom as a candidate for a facelift because she’s not Anna Nicole Smith or a Kardashian or an instillation art exhibit and besides, her face is the face I reconstruct when we talk from our bipolar country corners, it’s the face that used to drive me to swim practice at four a.m. and sit in the car while I lap-after-lapped and bring me donuts before school, it’s the face I’ve seen twist into every combination of swear words and sometimes apology as my adolescent asshole self told her I hated school and I hated life and I hated her goddamn fucking face so now that I don’t hate her goddamn fucking face I don’t know if she should change it because I’m used to her wearing it just like she’s used to me wearing that stinking rotting hoodie she bought me when I went away to grad school the first time and she’s seen it on me so often she begs me to get a new one, tells me she’ll give me the money if I’ll please just go shopping but I don’t want a new hoodie and I don’t want her to have a new face and her offer makes me feel extra bad because it leaves me wondering if I had the money, would I give it to her to get her face did or save it for that inflatable bounce house I plan to get for my thirtieth birthday party, which she better come to, new face or not, and better bounce in, because if she gets her face lifted she won’t have jowls anymore that would flap, and maybe if she had the surgery she wouldn’t call me on those drawn-out nights when my dad’s out of town as she channels her third vodka solipsistic assonance about how she’s droopier than our basset hound, how that shithead got his eyes done when they sagged so much the vet had to do emergency surgery so why the hell can’t she be more special than the dog for once, and I don’t know what she wants me to say so instead I ask what they do with all the extra skin because in my writer mind I’m imagining a huge quilt of lady necks and liver-spotted flabby folds pastiched into a modern art cannibal canvas, and it freaks me out because I’ve seen Face Off enough times to know how wrong face surgeries can go and she could come out of the operation with taut Spandex cheeks clinging to the scaffolding of her skull or looking like Connie Chung, and the face she’ll be staring out from won’t be the one that used to oogle google my brother while he drooled in his crib, it won’t be the same face that used to fishlips crosseyes my sister from the front window while she walked home from the bus stop, and I’m worried that when they revise her face, trimming and tightening the second draft, that the new dust jacket will forever take the place of the original.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#183: "Famous" by Allison Williams

~This essay was previously published in Pivo (2003).

“So what do you do?” I ask, because he already knows what I do, we’re at my work.
“I’m a musician,” he says, and we both know that’s not all, that the twelve people in the private room and the tension in the dressing room on his arrival don’t have a lot to do with music. But we pretend it is, pretend we can have a normal conversation, pretend there’s lots to find out about each other and that we both care.
He’s nearly forty now, or perhaps on the far side, it’s hard to tell grey from blond. In the poster on the wall of my rented one-bedroom, over where the funky part of Dallas becomes a bad neighborhood, he’s thirty, or maybe a drugged-out twenty-five, fronting a band that will be famous always but always a little less famous than him. He’s drinking brand name gin and tonic, three green olives on a plastic sword balanced on the edge. I’m drinking champale, which is house code for a six dollar cranberry juice and ginger ale. I’m underage, my Poloroid’s on the Do Not Serve board in the back hall, but I don’t drink anyway. He’s either a boobs man or a brains man, because if he was an ass man, I wouldn’t be here, being a little softer around the backside than the rest of the Dallas girls. My bet is on brains. I’m hoping it’s brains. I figured out pretty quickly I wasn’t a Barbie body, was never going to be the tightest girl in the bar no matter how many reps I did, my money comes from conversation and climbing – they’ll pay twenty bucks for the fun of watching me climb two stories up, wrap my high boots around one of the cage bars, lean back and slide down, squeezing my thighs to stop short when my hair brushes the platform. Sometimes thirty.
We’re supposed to do two sets in the cages after two songs on stage, but he’s had a word with the manager, or rather, his manager’s had a word with my manager, and a girl who never liked me to begin with and now is into full-blown hate is taking my sets. Lock my locker for sure tonight, or better yet, take everything home, shoes, dresses, makeup, anything that can be ripped or cut with nail scissors or smashed on the tile floor. I learned in Florida never to leave money in a locker, as fast as you can make a hundred and eighty bucks it still burns to lose it. Dallas is better, there are house mothers who police the dressing room and iron and bandage and pass out cups of liquid latex in the clubs inside the city limits, where if the cops come in, your fake nipples have to peel off in one piece and be opaque to a dollar bill. Here outside the city limits, we’re bare up top, but in the Cabaret we’re also in dresses “appropriate for street wear” when we sit with the customers and we don’t cross the invisible wall in front of their knees, the barrier between us and their groins.

Monday, October 5, 2015

#182: "Danish Modern" by Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson

~This story was previously published in Little Patuxent Review (2013).

Isabelle wondered how long it would take for the police to arrive.
Five minutes?
It depended on the store’s security system, she supposed. A silent alarm would be nice because then the racket wouldn’t disturb her (although she’d become quite adept at tuning out noise: conversation, TV, crying.)
What she wanted was right there in the window, a mere six feet away. She could scramble through the wreckage and have a few quiet moments before the cops shuffled her off in handcuffs. She would get caught, of that she was certain, but at least there would be no eyewitness to testify against her. This town shut down on weeknights, making it easy to stand here, undisturbed, at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday, with a cinder block cradled in her arms and a diaper bag spilling its contents on the ground a few feet away. She’d abandoned the bag—an oversized Vera Bradley with kitschy flowers and quilted material—after discovering the cinderblocks next to the warehouse. All that stuffing puckered between thick stitches reminded her of cellulite. When her mother-in-law gave her the bag, it had overflowed with poop-related paraphernalia including a bottle of something called Jr. Lil’ Stinker Spray Poo-Pourri.
“You spritz it on the diaper before it goes in the trash so it doesn’t smell as much!” her mother-in-law had said.
“Wow,” Isabelle had replied. “Who knew crap required so much crap?” and her mother-in-law had cocked her head and blinked the way she does when Isabelle mentions politics.

Monday, September 28, 2015

#181: "Y" by Colleen Carias

~This poem was previously published in Sin Fronteras: Writers Without Borders Journal (2011).


I have another X
so I am dragged from the tent
kicking  yowling  as gray grandma chides
go sleep with the girls in the house
Boo and his buds can camp outside
they have a Y instead
can roll in red dirt and fart and squirt
aim spitballs   moon the neighbors  belch a song
and I should comb my mass of hair
wear a curly dress my brother would dare to see me in
ten is too old  the wagging finger scolds
to sit on common mango trees  shoot
the breeze with geckos grazing up my arm
I watch through glass   wild colts passing
under the weeping window   watch me


Sunday, September 20, 2015

#180: "Meditation 32" by Julie Marie Wade

~This essay was first published in Fourth Genre (2013). 

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was not an orphan tended by a woman who was not a nanny in a red brick house that could never be, by any calisthenics of imagination, a castle—
though there was a view of the sea.
That girl sitting at the table was me.  That woman standing by the stove was my mother.
We lived then in the late splendor of catalogues.  Everything we ever wanted could be found on a glossy page.  Locate the little white letter in the upper right corner, then call and place your order.
I liked to linger in lingerie, with my scissors and my paste and my tablet of red construction paper.  These were old catalogues, mine to cut and alter.  My mother stirred a pot of something frothy and said, “Pack a suitcase.”  This was only pretend.  She wanted me to choose the clothes I would take on the trip that comes after the wedding.
If the man was there, the man who was every day less my savior and more my father, he would fill a glass with water and lean beside the sink.  “Did someone order a honeymoon salad?”  I never got it.  I shook my head.  Then, he’d chuckle—“Lettuce alone!”
I noticed over time the faces of women in the catalogues.  There were not many of them, so the same woman wore garment after garment, sometimes with her hair let down or her lipstick lightly blotted.  One face I loved—the dark curls, the pert nose, the creamy complexion.  She posed in nightgowns, pajamas, matching bras and panties.  Once, I found her in a black lace body suit.  Though it seemed transparent, nothing was visible beneath it.  I expected a glimpse of her real body, but she had none.  She was like a doll arranged on a low chaise lounge: her elbow bent by someone else, a smile painted across her lips, her bright eyes unblinking.
“Have you found what you’ll wear on your wedding night?”  My mother leaned across the counter as I tore the page free and trimmed its edges.
This,” I said, triumphant.
“That’s a little racy,” she murmured.  “Why don’t you try again?”