Monday, December 24, 2012

On Hiatus

Redux will be on hiatus until January 14, 2013.  Thank you for your continued support.  We're looking forward to bringing to light many wonderful new stories, poems, and essays in the new year!

Monday, December 17, 2012

#63: "Aubade" by Bill Beverly

                       
~This story was previously published in Indy Men’s Magazine (2003).

Sanders liked Tuesday on the subway, its sunken-in comfort, the lawyers happily moored in their battle suits. The papers thinned down and the tourists thinned out and the sleepy heads rolled behind their newspaper sails as the tracks dipped and swelled. Above the ground an August rain was falling, and at each station Sanders smelled it, warm and silty in the brushed cold of his mouth.
At Van Ness the man boarded the train, with a shaved head, a small paper bag held in at his belly like a dagger. Sanders was annotating the morning's news from the war, circling who was saying what about whom. But he sensed the man there, standing still, winnowing, gazing up the car. The doors slid shut and the man came up the aisle, glancing side to side, not looking for empty seats, but at the faces. Sanders reached down to touch his wife's thigh—she hated to be disturbed at reading—and he dipped his paper so she could see.
Her body stiffened on the padded bench.
She whispered, “Is this one?”
“Maybe.”
She lowered her paper, too.
Directly in front of Sanders sat a young Asian woman, perhaps Korean, hair so black and shiny it looked blue. The man in the aisle swallowed his breath when he saw her, and for an instant he froze, as if he'd forgotten something. Then his body carried him forward and he drew the paper bag away from what it concealed, and Sanders knew what he was.

Monday, December 10, 2012

#62: Two Poems by Anna Leahy


Editor’s Note:  Anna Leahy was on the inaugural Editorial Board of Redux.



~This poem previously appeared in Rhino (2003).


Recidivism
            Hill Correctional Center, 1991

The boys huddle on the playground,
whistle and play kickball like inmates trading
cigarettes—one with his lips

threaded together and him not saying
but listening to all he can think of now,
and another’s stare like someone

who knows it is twenty-four hours from
here to there, there to here,
like a soldier remembering limbs,

and the variety of ways they laugh and touch
to distinguish and rank themselves—
and their hands, all their hands

like my hands, simple, almost indistinguishable
like rosary beads and their repeated prayers,
even the small shiny space between

the Our Father and the Hail Mary:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever
shall be, world without end.

I know of their uniforms—light
blue shirts, dark blue trousers, repeated wear,
a way to equalize with fabric

the rich kid and the poor kid,
the straight-A student and the one
who was left behind like the sixteen-year-old

who tried to kiss me,
put his big hands on me,
the way it made me feel, the forgetting

of the prayer—O my God,
I am heartily sorry for having offended thee
and I detest all my sins—the need

to revise later, the rapist and the carpenter
and the murderer and the altar boy, all the same,
just look. What else can you do

when the priest asks you
to hit him to help him
atone for his sins and be forgiven

but pick up the sturdy two-by-four
or that shiny chain with the nails
and swing away?


*****

Monday, December 3, 2012

#61: "Foot Notes" by K.L. Cook

~This essay originally appeared in Shenandoah (2002).

Feet are our primary proof of existence.  We are first identified by them: the nurses take us from our parents, clean the blood and womb fluids from our bodies, stand us on an ink pad and then on our birth certificates.  I asked a nurse why they did that when my second son, Tristan, was born.  Why not a fingerprint?  “The foot contains the more reliable markings at this age,” she said. “And we would hate to send you home with the wrong baby.” 
            We are a species of trackers.  We follow our quarry and identify our enemies by the footprints they leave behind.  We search for the fugitive, the absent parent, our ancestors by tracing their literal or metaphorical tracks.  On a recent PBS program, an archeologist shined a flashlight on footprints in a newly discovered cave, where there were drawings and a stone fire pit.  The footprints looked fresh in the dirt, as if they had been left there the day before.  The archeological tests revealed that the prints were over four thousand years old. 
            Feet are our basic mode of transportation, our direct connection with the earth, evidence of gravity.  The greatest track and field champions have always been those who win the sprints, those who can fly.  We may admire the endurance of the milers and marathon runners, but it’s Jesse Owens, Bob Hays, Carl Lewis, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Michael Johnson, and Usain Bolt we truly love.  They are the ones who remind us most of Hermes, the amiable fleet-footed messenger of the Greek gods.  The brilliance of the Nike commercials was their exploitation of our innate desire to defy gravity, to be like birds or gods, invulnerable, able to walk on air.
         Reflexologists tell us that every erogenous zone in our bodies has sensors in our feet.  I’ve heard a reflexologist claim that he can, by simple pressure to my foot, make me cry, recall my birth, or have the most intense orgasm I’ll ever experience.

Monday, November 26, 2012

#60: Three Poems by Terri Witek



~These poems were originally published in JMI: Journal for the Motherhood Initiative, as part of “A Manual for Children Leaving Home” (2011).


How to Make Friends Using Bat Wings
                                                                       
Maybe the last time you tried them on
they somehow galled or grounded you.

It’s certain that when you hung them up
(you’d also been trying to sleep lanternless)

they hovered, sighing.
Perhaps it’s time to move more than air.

Pulling them a body’s width apart,
ask a stranger to slip the left wing on

then stand out-of-doors together
until night alone can fill the chinks.

“Oh, but the body’s everything,”
sign some real bats then,

caroming among the palm trees
like smaller, more frantic fronds.

                                   
*****

Monday, November 19, 2012

#59: "The Crucified Bird" by Patricia L. Meek

~This story previously appeared in Puerto del Sol (1994).


            The bird of prey had been left hanging on the wire fence, its wings pulled to their fullest length along the barbs. The wind kicked up dust, the tips of the feathers twisted in the breeze, and for a moment I imagined the bird in flight.
            Dad saw it, too, and he pulled the station wagon over to the side of the road. I was tired and didn't feel like working, but I unbuckled my seat belt, took a breath of air-conditioned air, and opened the door to the searing California heat.
            Dad was already sweating before he got out of the car, and he wiped his face with the white towel that he wore around his neck before crossing the road to get a closer look at the bird. As he took light meter readings, I studied him. I watched the methodical way he prepared the photograph—checking and rechecking tiny numbers, twisting his moustache while standing at the exact spot, changing his mind, finding a better angle and twisting his moustache some more. If someone had told me six months earlier that I would be helping my father take pictures in the San Joaquin Valley during his sabbatical, I would have said "impossible."  It wasn't that I disliked my dad; it was just that I was eighteen. I had found a great summer job helping young kids write stories at the YMCA. I was dreaming about an apartment, all-night parties—I was even humming the Star Spangled Banner. Then my mother told me that Dad needed my help. For six hundred dollars, I was hired out to my father. It was as simple as that.
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

#58: "Thugs Like Us" by CD Mitchell

~This memoir previously appeared as "Memphis" in Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley (2006)  


Rachel and I left our apartment on June 14th, 1996, closing but not locking the door that swung on a splintered jamb. The swat team and DEA agents had ruined it with that battering ram they used to break in. We drove fifteen miles south to Brookland. I’d arranged earlier in the day for Larry White to meet me there at two o’clock with a brick of crystal-methamphetamine. We were taking it to Memphis, where a buyer would pay twenty thousand dollars cash for it. The buyer was the DEA.
Time and focus have a direct relationship that has always amazed me. It seems the further we are in time from an event, the easier it is to focus on it, and understand the insanity that gripped us. There is the perceived reality of the moment--and the truth, that can only be understood and accepted with time and reflection. Time has helped me to accept what happened that day in Memphis. Time has relieved me of the guilt for what I did. I know I did the right thing at the time; it took me years to realize I did it for the wrong reasons.
            I have changed the names of everyone involved to protect the guilty. No one was innocent.
 
The day started uneventfully, which was good for a change. We got up early--unable to sleep. But the clock kept ticking, and finally the time to leave arrived. Rachel sat in the kitchen, playing with her hands. She’d gone to the window and looked outside two different times while I spoke to Sanders on the phone. As the agent in charge of the Memphis DEA, Sanders oversaw the whole ordeal.
“What do I have to do?” Rachel asked.
“You’ll drive me to Brookland to meet Larry. I’ll ride with him to Memphis. You’ll come get me when it’s over. I can’t tell you anything else.”
            “Go to hell,” she said.
“Sanders hasn’t told me anything. I have no idea where we’re going or what’ll happen when we get there. All I know is you’ll need to come back here and kill an hour before you leave for Memphis.” I got up and walked to the window. Ever since the bust, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they still watched us, even listened to our telephone conversations. I spoke to Rachel as I looked through the curtains. “We’ll have a bunch of paperwork to do. You might as well go to Landry’s when you get there. That’s as good a place as any to wait. Sanders promised he’d send someone to get you and bring you to wherever we’re at.” I turned from the window and walked to the front door. I stepped out on the porch. Someone sat in a car across the street. I took a breath of warm air and walked back in. The apartment reeked of cigarettes and stale beer.

Monday, November 5, 2012

#57: "The Safest Place" by Jen Michalski

~This story was previously published in Reed Magazine (2010)


When Andnej turned sixteen he set like concrete. His cheeks and jaw flattened and squared, and so did his nose, which pointed downward, like a beak. Basha wondered if he smiled whether his face would break. In the afternoons and evenings he sat on a playground swing behind their apartment complex, his necklace catching the sun as his Adidas and jean cuffs dragged across the pavement. When the boys came up to him, he no longer ran.
              “He sold drugs to Henka’s sister,” Kamilia said as Basha studied him through the apartment window.
              “How would you know?” Basha looked down at her. Last year Kamilia had played princess games with Henka, the other 9-year-old in the building. Kamilia, whose face colored and eyes found the floor of the elevator when the boy down the hall read aloud all the bad words spray-painted on its walls. “Do you even know what drugs are?”
              “He gives her aspirin.” Kamilia moved her thumb and pointer finger together to show the size of the pill. “Henka says that Ania takes them to lose weight.”
              Basha could not forbid Kamilia to play with Henka; if it was not one child in the complex, it was another. They were the children of mostly second-generation Polish and Chechnyian families, and they tended to stick together.
              Andnej and Basha had stuck together once. When they were in the third and fourth grades together at Elementary School No. 58, every day Basha sat across from Andnej at the long, empty lunch table and smiled at him. She pretended not to hear the snickers of the other children, feel the spitballs and bread crust fly by her ears and face. She sat across from the only Polish boy in her class, almost a head shorter than she, and smiled at him until he smiled back.
              And now he was looking at her, nine stories up. His short blond hair bristled out of the edges of his backward baseball cap as his eyes squinted in the sun.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

#56: "Fear of Giants" by Philip Belcher

~This poem was originally published in Shenandoah (2009)


Fear of Giants
After Diane Arbus’s photograph, “A Jewish Giant at Home
with His Parents in the Bronx, N.Y. 1970”


Rabbi Mueller stopped calling him Samson
when my son at ten looked down on me.
By twelve, he’d torn the tightening collar

of school, and I saw his future frown.
Last week, Bart’s Deli named him worker
of the month.  He stocks the highest shelves.

Now we wait, our evening service, as he steps
in from the job, conquers the door with his cane,
his limp.  My wife’s hands nest on the ledge

of her hips, her mouth’s delighted “o” telling
him, telling me, of her triumph, that this Titan
began in her.  I look straight at his waist,

hands moling my pockets for dark.  Myths
have come and gone since I brushed his hair
while he stood.  Tonight, I sit by his brow,

surveying the baffling terrain of his face,
and muster a waning affection.





*****

Monday, October 22, 2012

#55: "The Nest" by Mark Farrington

~This story previously appeared in Phoebe: The George Mason Review (1987).


Eleanor, weeding the strip of flower garden along the front of the house, almost picked up a snake. From the window Al watched his wife jump to her feet and stumble backwards. She yanked off one of her work gloves and threw it to the ground. He started outside but stopped when he saw her running toward the kitchen door.
She closed the door behind her, pressing her body against it. Her shoulders rose and fell. “Eleanor?” Al said. “What is it? El?”
She eased away, keeping her back to her husband, and peeled off the other work glove and laid it on the counter. Turning, she rubbed her hands up and down her arms, squeezing the fabric of her navy blue windbreaker, and told him. All the while, she fought to recapture her breath.       
“What kind of snake?”
“I don’t know. A snake. It was in the garden. It was--” She shivered. When Al approached her she passed him, so they ended up exchanging places. “I thought it was a stick. I almost picked it up.”
“Is it out there now?”
“It went underneath the steps.”
“The front steps?”

Monday, October 15, 2012

#54: Two Poems by Lisa Hammond

~This poem previously appeared in CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women (2011)

The Goddess Cleans Out Her Purse

Sometimes that bag just got too heavy, full
of papyrus scraps a thousand years old at least,
a dried-out chapstick, stiff old rabbit skin
from before tampons, buried deep just in case.

First she decided to throw out the sun—
she had enough fire to last, handful of stars
dusting the leather bottom dense as sand. 
She never really used the spear and shield.

Her cornucopia spilled fruit constantly,
but she’d need it later, she thought, digging it
out from underneath the moon and her phone.
Though she thought of starting over, emptying
everything, she finally just lightened her load,
ocean still pouring from that small torn seam.

*****

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

#53: "Nora" by Tamra Wilson


~This piece was previously published  in North Carolina Literary Review (2001)

            When Nora had all she could take of life, she doused her hair in kerosene and ran down the road swaying and hollering like a branded calf before she finally crumpled to meet her Maker face down.
Hal and Billy were there and they couldn’t forget the sight of their big sister turned into a heap of smoked meat, and it bothered them for weeks and months afterward. They’d wake up nights in bawling fits about a booger, and it about drove Mama distracted trying to quieten them down. (Of course, I was only a baby then, so I couldn’t have no such recollection of my own. I’m just relaying what folks said.) Mama thought maybe all this happened according to the Good Lord’s plan being as how Nora had been an odd sock, but it didn’t matter then; Nora was as dead this way as any other.
The first thing they did was cover Nora up. Then they laid her out in a hand-planed casket that was already made up for Grandfather Tompkins. He hadn’t died yet, so she got dibs on his coffin. They said she was awful small for that man-sized box, but she was in it for Eternity whether she fit or not, along with the rest of her kin in the Providence Cemetery.
The folks weren’t about to ship her back to England, though some said they might should. Nora was a married lady at the time and her husband was an Englishman she’d met in the Great War. He’d been shot up in the Somme, and was one of the lucky ones that didn’t get gassed, trench footed or killt by the Germans, but he did get the shell shock. (That’s something that makes a fellow with otherwise good sense shake like a fresh butchered hog.) To actually see Nora’s husband, you’d never know he’d been messed up like that, but folks said he was. And they said it made him swimmy-headed, like when he was out back talking to soldiers and nobody was there.
The truth is, Nora first ran across Mason Thacker talking out of his head in a hospital tent. Being a nurse, she tried to quieten him down as best she could among all that hollering and damp misery. By then she’d seen plenty of men shot up, though I can’t see how any sane person could get used to something as awful as that. Mama said she didn’t know what Nora saw in being there, what when she could have been home in a clean bed and have decent things to think about besides strange men’s messes. Why that alone would be enough to drive anybody distracted!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Note from the Editor

Redux will have an open reading period October 8 through October 31.  In general, we are looking for your best literary work (nothing strictly genre) that:

~ Has been previously published in a print journal
~Is not published in any book
~Is not available elsewhere on the internet.

Please read these important guidelines before you submit your work; we welcome fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. 

*****

And I’d like to officially welcome the new Editorial Board:

Deborah Ager
Marlin Barton
Stephen A. Ello
Steve Kistulentz
Joseph M. Schuster

You may read more about their background here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

#52: "Secrets of Small Machines" by Sandra Beasley

~This poem first appeared in an issue of Black Warrior Review (2008), as part of a chapbook called Bitch and Brew: Sestinas.

Editor’s Note:  Sandra Beasley was on the inaugural Editorial Board of Redux.




Secrets of Small Machines

                                               
Dialysis units can taste the blood.
The boy watches as tubes giggle and twitch
in his skin. They are like pretty, cruel girls
who wave from the swing set. They are lean wolves
chasing him through the purifying woods.
Be still. The nurse hands him his Speak & Spell,

then wipes her hands. Spell island, it says. Spell
sandwich. The boy keeps watching as his blood
loops out. He decides to be made of wood,
to be a boat that cannot cry or twitch.
He rides the waves past the jaws of ten wolves,
and the wake from his prow douses the girls.

Be still. He sails to a shore safe from girls
and docks, armed with only the Speak & Spell.
He changes the language setting to “Wolves.”
He joins a pack who love him like he’s blood,
who bed down around him, sighing, twitching
through a common dream. Beyond shore are woods

brambled and poison-ivied. Be still. The woods
teem with mechanized deer. Don’t be a girl,
he thinks. Their rusted breath scares him, the twitch
of each perfect, telescopic eye. (Spell
telescope.) They pulse oil instead of blood
and they’re the only creatures feared by wolves,

who fear nothing. Be still, he begs the wolves,
but they’re out of sandwiches and the woods
hold rabbits. They leave him to chase for blood
and the deer come, their eyes soft as a girl’s,
their teeth sharpened and rotored. Time to spell
run, one says, beginning to spark and twitch.

He was good, says the nurse. Hardly a twitch.
On his sister’s shirt winks a small, stitched wolf.
Her Chrysler sounds just like his Speak & Spell:
Fasten your seatbelt. She pats its fake wood.
The whole way home she’ll ask him about girls.
You’re at that age, she says. Girls in your blood.

It is May, ’83. Spell twitch. Spell would.
The boy knows there’s a deer inside each girl—
and for every spell cast, they’ll need more blood.

*****

Saturday, September 15, 2012

#51: "Revillagigedo" by C.M. Mayo


~This story was originally published in Turnrow (2001).




Afternoon sea the color of midnight.
Sky egg blue, kissed with raspberry. (Sun out of the picture.)
In the center an arch,
immense,
layers of barren rock scooped by the wind and salty spray of eons into ribs, spires,
hollows fit only for magnificent frigate-birds


Rigoberto Castro lifted the photograph, holding it up over the equipal table, away from the island of shade cast by the leaves of his banana trees. He held the photograph as an actor would, grandly, his thumb he did not notice making a big greasy print on the front of it.
"Esto serĂ¡ la portada del libro," he said. This will be the cover of the book.
"Fabulous, yes?" she said. Her name was Consuelo Kennedy. Her English was perfect, if spiced from a childhood spent in Mexico City. She sat on the other equipal chair, one long leg thrown over the other. Her sun-browned feet were encased in Italian strap sandals, her jeans (so Vogue) ripped just so at the knees. She was the one who had taken the photograph at Clarion, leaning out of a helicopter.
"This will be the cover," Rigoberto Castro said again. He stared into Consuelo's lovely heart-shaped face as he said it yet again: "This will be the cover of the book."
And so, of course, it would be.
Rigoberto Castro had a flair for the dramatic, his wife Beatrix always said, and when she said it she rolled her eyes like a saint, engulfed in flames, imploring heaven. Beatrix had been obliged to speak to him recently about his new habit of wearing an ascot. Before they were married, when they were novios, when Rigoberto was twenty-two and Beatrix barely twenty-three, she had been obliged to speak to him about his habit of using an ivory cigarette holder. "Riggy dear," Beatrix had said, Riggy dyahr, in her plummy BBC accent, "You fancy you look like a movie director, but you look rather like Roosevelt. An old man with snaggly teeth." Rigoberto Castro did have snaggly teeth, which were now stained with the coffee and nicotine of five decades. He was sixty-nine years old, and with a bum ticker, too. Mitral valve prolapse.

Monday, September 10, 2012

#50: Two Poems by Monica Wendel

~This poem was previously published in Limestone Literary Magazine (2011).

Porn

If you think about it, he kind of always
made money with his body, bike messenger
with thighs of sharp wire, bandana around
his neck to prevent the exhaust of
BQE and Manhattan traffic from going into
his mouth & nose, like a coal miner.
But then his knee got fucked up and I ran into him
at a restaurant we both frequent
and he was talking to an older man about my lawyer
who is kind of a dick but has gotten me
out of a number of situations, and I wouldn’t
have gone over to say hi except that
there was this link, a bond
bigger than the house we both lived in or
our weird night bartending a show
for the resisters of somethingmovement –
but the man was not his father, and I slipped
and used the name I knew as his,
and a flash came across his face. I saw
that this is how one lives off of a paper trail,
out of white-collar slavery. It wasn’t Jenna Jameson
or The Da Vinci Co-eds. This was using
your own thin body for companionship
to a lonely old man. A question of what we own
and what we are willing to sell.


*****

Monday, September 3, 2012

#49: "Thrown" by Nathan Alling Long



~This story previously appeared in Tusculum Review (2005)


In the sense that there was nothing before it, all writing is writing against the void. ~Mark Strand

THE seamless expanse of the white white snow had been enough to terrify him.  No horse.  No ice-blue shadow of hoof prints.  No ephemeral outline of barn or tree etched on the horizon.   No instinct of North, South, East, West. 
How long had he been knocked out?  Where exactly was he when he had fallen?  How long ago had Mosby run off?  The snow swept past him in millions of tiny fragments.   He looked again for a trace of anything, but saw only white, above and below.  If gravity were to fail, there would even be no telling ground from sky. 
His body was stiff from the fall, but the snow had cushioned him from breaking any bones.  He yelled out for Mosby again, and after the horse did not appear, he did what he often did in infrequent encounters with terror.  He thought of the mundane, listing what was certain. “This is snow,” he whispered into the wind.  “My feet are dry and my boots are on tight.”
He knew enough not to panic—that was all.  Once a steer had fallen on him dead and crushed his leg.  He had waited five hours before being discovered, and another two before they could find enough help and chains to pull the animal off him.  He had learned not to panic then, though both his legs had been numb and the cold mud of September had broken his body into shivers after the first hour.
But this situation was more serious.  No one knew he was out here in the blizzard.  And though he could stand and walk, he didn’t know which way to turn. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

#48: Two Poems by Diane Lockward

~This poem previously appeared in Folio (2001)



Feeding Habits


At Ecco-la, my husband orders a bottle
   of Louis Jadot chardonnay. While he studies
the menu, I glance across the room.   A young
  couple waits at the bar, drinking
beer. The guy leans over and kisses his girl,
   a short sweet kiss, like an hors d'oeuvre,
then a long kiss, their arms wrapped
   around  each other, his fingers  caught
in the strands of her hair. My husband and I
   debate appetizers and entrees. They feast
on each other. By the time the waiter returns
   to take our orders, I'm  practically starving.
Soon he sets before me a plate
   of scallops, shrimp, and arugula, tossed
in scampi sauce, and nestled on a bed
   of linguini. They're kissing again. She nestles
her head against  his chest. He strokes
   the skin of her arm. I pop a scallop
into my mouth, savor the succulent flesh, then fork
   a shrimp, pass it to my husband. He offers a bite
of portobello mushroom stuffed
   with king crab, seasoned with herbs and a hint
of lemon. We consume and consume.
   Across the room an ear is nibbled,
cheeks  and neck devoured. I beg my husband
   for dessert. He holds up his hand to say
he's had enough for one night. I seduce him
   into chocolate mousse pie with a layer
of meringue, order charlotte russe for myself.
   With the recklessness of Sybarites,
we fill our mouths with ladyfingers, whipped cream,
   and chocolate curls. Nothing, nothing ever tasted
this good. As the couple is led to their table,
   my husband and I head for home, still licking
our lips, our tongues searching for crumbs.

*****


Saturday, August 18, 2012

#47: "All Souls' Day" by Barbara Crooker

~This poem previously appeared in West Branch (1990)

ALL SOULS' DAY



Say November woods.
Say the colors of earth:  ocher, sienna, umber,
a hearth where the fire's gone out.
Wind scours trees to their bones.
A chevron of geese cuts a wedge in the sky.
Imagine a hawk the color of winter.
On the day of the dead, he seeks a thermal
and soars.  The dead rise, too,
will-o-the-wisps of mist & haze,
tobacco smoke from Indian pipes,
the plumes of tall grasses.
They are always with us,
tangible as breath,
fill the interstices of then and now.
In the November woods, cold air
settles like a blanket.
The sky tucks itself in.
Everywhere, the silence of all the folded wings.

*****

Monday, August 13, 2012

#46: "Salvation" by Judith Cooper


~This story originally appeared in Whetstone (1993).


Put a telescope to your eye and the world is your oyster.  Nebulae descend, asteroids unravel, and the moon becomes your neighbor.  But look through a microscope and your luck might not run true.  Nematodes become the stuff of horror films.  The midge becomes mighty.  Glancing thoughts become obsessions.  Eons of continental drift become your own personal inability to walk a straight line.  Latitude and longitude are no longer harmless theoretical scratches, but your interior landscape that could satiate and surpass a lifetime of questions.
Nigel barely pondered questions of scale.  Caught in the Niagara of sensation, the Scylla and Charybdis of detail, he rode out the tide and thought little about consequences.
Living with Fiona and her three brats was a consequence.  The last time Nigel got better, he'd looked for new lodgings and ended up at Fiona's, where his position quickly matured from indifferent boarder to brother, and finally, to boyfriend.  He knew he had a certain intensity that women found briefly intriguing, although usually it ended up wearing them down, just as it did him.  When he’d first moved in, Fiona told him he had a mystique about him, the aura of the driven.  But the brief weightlessness of love was no match for the gravitational pull of drugs, doctors, and dementia.
Fiona's house was only a few blocks away from his studio, so the disadvantage of the children was outweighed by the savings in time and transportation.  He worked odd hours, but Fiona was a true-blue insomniac, so that frequently dawn found them huddled over beverages in the kitchen, the oatmeal for the babes simmering on the stove.  When the kiddies came down for breakfast, Nigel was usually on his way to bed.  Fiona cast off into another day of bombarding the children with love and admonitions, bamboozling the boarders into thinking this was the place of their dreams so she could use the full house to pay the mortgage for one more month, and trying to ward off the fatigue that always dogged her just until she gave in, when it persistently refused to translate into sleep.  So while Nigel worked himself into a frenzy, had a chat and a cup of tea, then stumbled off to bed, Fiona wallowed in hours of exhausted wakefulness, a bland balance struck between consciousness and death.

Monday, August 6, 2012

#45: "Pole Dancing on the Axis Mundi" by Jacqueline Dee Parker


~This poem previously appeared in The James Dickey Review (2011)

POLE DANCING ON THE AXIS MUNDI 

I.

Pole dancing on the axis mundi
Clad in air and a veil of hair, 
Kali is any one and everywhere

interrogating history, prophecy,
testimony and will, cracking abstracts--
from pressure of her inquiry,

fissures snake slivers in frozen
now gushing gunmetal waters.
She dips a skull cup and drinks.

She, too, could be a girl at the shoal,
Skipping stones, pressing a coconut cheek
And salty ear to hear woes

wafting from blankets—complaints
about Eros followed by platitudes, dates
for squash or a glass of merlot.

Monday, July 30, 2012

#44: "The Sigh of the Hard-Pressed Creature" by Sondra Spatt Olsen


~~This story previously appeared in The Yale Review (1990)
                                 
      They stand on the sidewalk in front of their apartment house, trying to decide how to get to Newark Airport.  Lief is carrying both suitcases because he doesn't trust his wife, son, or daughter to keep hold of them.  He's spent most of the morning making plane, train, and car-rental reservations, and he feels tense and not sure if he wants to go to his mother's funeral at all.  The last time he visited her, seven months ago, she only recognized him intermittently, confusing him with his cousin, Daniel, the last child she brought up.  She looked so frail he could hardly stand to look at her.  He much preferred the days when they quarreled.
            Lief feels pressed down by the small details of travel.  Perhaps it would be calming to walk over to the nearby PATH station at Fourteenth Street, and then just grab the shuttle bus from Newark.  He took this simple route on his last trip to Tennessee.  Everything worked out fine.
            But what's the headway on the shuttle, and is there even a regular schedule?  Among his many well-organized telephone calls, he's forgotten to check this one crucial point.  Or, they could go up to Forty-second Street to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and catch a bus directly to the airport.  
            "Whichever way you want," Ina says in a tired voice.  "We've got plenty of time.  But it's four dollars by bus just to get us all to the Port Authority.
     Lief hates taxis.  The cabdrivers unnerve him with their wild driving and strange routes.  He likes to know exactly where he's going.  He doesn't want any confrontations or terrors.  On the other hand, as they stand on the busy street corner, he notices that both Max's and Sophie's shoelaces are untied.  He feels so tense that he doesn't think he can make it several blocks to the PATH station without screaming at them as their laces, already frayed and grimy, drag on the filthy sidewalk.
      His bright, articulate children, nine and thirteen, aren't able to keep their shoelaces tied for more than ten minutes.  He's also noticed that Ina sometimes leaves her shoelaces untied.  It must be a genetic trait.  Although Leif is careful and orderly, he is not calm. Orderliness merely keeps at bay the chaos he feels breaking out all around him.