Monday, May 11, 2015

#168" Two Poems by Michael Gushue

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

#167: "The One That Got Away" by Mary Kay Zuravleff

~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?”

Monday, April 27, 2015

#166: Three Poems by Kim Roberts

~This poem was originally published in Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue (2008).


Painted in 1805, part of a retrospective of the works of J.M.W. Turner
 exhibited at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

In Turner's painting The Shipwreck
everything leans and moans,

even the glowering clouds.
Three small wooden craft

are flung from the drowning ship.
The striped cap of the sailor at the tiller

looks like exposed ribs,
while in the other life boats

men drape agonized atop one another
and waves hoist

their hummocks of foam.
The young genius, the painter,

lingers lovingly, reaching
over each violent wrench of water.

The Shipwreck is his first large-scale oil,
his palettes and knives and brushes reaching,

desperate, through a vortex of small men
centered on their unfolding disaster,

two dozen hopeless figures
hemmed in by a dense black sky.


Monday, April 6, 2015

#165: "Anything You Want It to Be" by Jamie Holland

~This story was previously published in Antietam Review (2001).

              Two days after her father’s funeral, Maggie found herself on a Washington, D.C. tour bus next to a man who wore a leather jacket, combat boots, and a black beret.
              “How’s it goin’,” he said, zipping open his knapsack.
              She looked away. “Fine.”
              “Where’re you headed?”
              “It’s a tour bus,” she said to the window. “I’m just headed around the city.”
              “You live here?”
She turned to him. He’d taken off his hat. Perfectly bald. No hair whatsoever. And very pale with dark blue eyes. He looked like a grown baby. His eyes were that blue.
              “My parents do. Did, I mean. My mother still does.” She had to concentrate to focus only on his face and not let her eyes explore the globe that was his head.               
He stared at her, waiting for something, it seemed.
“My father just died.” It was the first time she’d actually said it.
              “Oh.” He took out a paperback book and began to read. She watched his eyes go from left to right, left to right, reading the lines.
              “He killed himself,” she said.
              He looked up. “Who?”
              “My dad.”
              “Oh. Was he sick?”
              A wave of relief washed over her. “Sort of. He’d been depressed.”
              He raised his eyebrows. “I guess so.”
              She felt her face curl into a snarl. What was wrong with people?

Monday, March 30, 2015

#164: "Mirror Glimpses" by Randon Billings Noble

~This essay was first published in Emrys Journal, where it won the Linda Julian Nonfiction Award (2009).


“[M]irrors, which seemed magical in their properties, … were composed of only two primary materials: a plane of glass pressed up against a plane of silver  …  When a mirror was broken, the glass could be replaced.  When a mirror grew old, it only had to be resilvered.  It could go on and on.  It could go on forever.” – “Mirrors,” Carol Shields.

Over the sink in the bathroom of my grandparents’ summer house was a smallish round mirror and directly opposite it, over the toilet, was a medicine cabinet with a mirrored door.  These two mirrors reflected endless images of myself when I stood between them.  I tried to see into infinity with these mirrors, but it got too blurry. 
The small round mirror across from the medicine cabinet was wreathed in wooden roses.  The face that looked back at me from this mirror was also round and rosy, framed at the top by a precise line of straight-cut bangs.  My eyes were wide and dark, unshadowed by disappointment or compassion.  My teeth were new and awkward, the two front ones serrated at the bottom like a bread knife, but I was too young to try to smile with my lips closed or laugh behind my hand.  I never thought this face would change.  I thought my childhood would go on forever. 
Instead, I grew out my bangs and grew up. 

            Over the sink in the bathroom of the hotel room was a large flat mirror that spanned the length of the wall.  Directly opposite it was the shower with its skimpy cloth curtain that somehow managed to block the shower’s spray.  Everything in the room was cold and white – the tiles, the curtain, the walls, the lights. 
The face that looked back at me from this mirror was round and blotchy, framed by a white towel wrapped around my wet hair.  The skin below my eyes was puffy and dark, shadowed from tossing and turning on scratchy hotel sheets, and my shower had done little to revive me.  My mouth was closed, tight at the corners, wondering that the day would bring.
That afternoon I would start my first day at college, four states away from the place I called home.  I tried to spy the future in my reflection, but my eyes were too dark to see anything in them.

            Over the four sinks in the bathroom of my dorm were four square mirrors bolted to the wall.  Fluorescent lights flickered and buzzed from the ceiling and a steady drip came from the third shower stall.  The face in the mirror was always turning away, on its way to something else; the mirror was too scratched to really see anything anyway.
            Every morning I showered early and then twisted my hair into a braid that nearly reached my waist.  By late October my damp braid froze on my way to my early-morning French class and when I returned to my room I unraveled its crispy kinks to let them dry.  When my mom came to pick me up in December I told her that I had made straight A’s but that I felt like nothing existed below my brain stem.   My body had become a cup to carry around my brain. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

#163: "Madrid A to Z" by Kathleen Wheaton

~This story was previously published in Artisan, a Journal of Craft (2005).              

            Alice, who one cold February day abandoned her career as a Kelly Girl, sublet her small, bad-smelling apartment on Broadway and 107th Street and flew away to live in Spain, began to realize on the airport bus entering Madrid that the line between spontaneity and insanity was finer that she’d thought.  
            Brushing away doubt as though it were a spider, she hailed a taxi at the Plaza de Colon bus terminal, gave the address of the Pension Rosa – selected for the admittedly corny reason that it faced the Palace Hotel recommended by Hemingway – and insisted, politely but firmly, upon being allowed to inspect the room she’d reserved before taking it. 
            “Como mi casa en Nueva York,” she murmured, meaning that the room on offer was as dark and smelly as the Upper West Side studio, though the landlady accepted the perceived compliment with a faint relaxation of her scowl.
            Days later, reflecting on the pass her life had come to, Alice would recall that this had been the only occasion when anyone in all of Madrid had come even close to smiling at her.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

#162: "South Ozone Park" by Abdul Ali

~This poem was previously published in Fledgling Rag (2015).

South Ozone Park

                         in the inner city
                         or like we call it
                                  —Lucille Clifton


They walk in packs
sweet talking
baby ooo & ahh
can I get yo phone number?
Don’t be that way
pretty thang
& when they give a smile
gold plates flash
ring to chain,
gold fronts
toothy smiles
beaming from
chest to chest
a pinball game
until the night lights up
like Times Square
& the hood ain’t so scary
until patrol cars change
the colors of the sky
from black & gold
to red & blue.