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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

#43: "Dresstrees" by Kirsty Logan

~This story was previously published in lip magazine (2009)

     Every summer we decorate the orchard with dresses. On Friday we mix the dye in huge sheep-dip vats, as tall as me but wider. One blue, one purple, one pink, one red, one yellow. When leaves fall in we fish them out, their veins dripping colour. When insects fly in, we leave them be: once they’ve breathed in the chemicals, it’s too late. The dye smells sharp like fresh pepper, earthy like sprouting potatoes. Once I dipped in a finger, expecting it to taste like roasted vegetables. It was more like nail varnish; I didn’t try it again.
      On Saturday the vans arrive at the farm, spilling over with fabric. The drivers stack the boxes by our door, their talk and laughter making their cigarettes wiggle furiously. Their bellies hang over their belts, pushing out their t-shirts like balloons about to pop. They peer in the windows before roaring away. We pour out of the house and tear open the boxes. Piles of dresses, all the same beige-white like the underneath of a tabby cat. We sort them into piles: dresses to be reddened, pinked, purpled, yellowed, and blued.
      On Sunday we get up with the sun. We pile the dresses into the dye vats, swirling them around with broom handles. The dogs run infinity symbols between our legs, trailing leaves. The horse watches us intently, the colours reflected in her eyes. At midday we sit on the doorstep, eating chunks of bread and cheese dipped in soup. Our fingers dye the bread rainbow colours, so it looks like we’re eating iced cakes.
      On Sunday night the dresses hang in the trees, dripping multicoloured tears on the grass. My finger pads are dented from the beading, my knuckles ingrained with colour. The cat lurks in the doorstep; earlier she ventured out, then had to spend an hour licking her paws clean. The dogs sprint manically among the coloured drops, tongues lolling, tails swishing the hanging fabric.
      The sun slides behind the hill, lighting up the dresses in a blaze like fire. It sets, and the dresses fade to black.


Monday, July 16, 2012

#42: "Do Not Call My Lord, The Lion" by Adrienne Wolfert

~This poem previously appeared in Poet Lore (1969)



Iam too mortal for Divine Loneliness.
I have seen the face of the Lion and I deny it.
I have known the chill of recognition and I say it;
The Lion is the King of Beasts.

Do not call my Lord, the Lion.
It is He who stands waiting on the rim of mortality.
He is perfect to Himself.  What need has He of my love?
Is He not terrible? distant? isolated on the hill?
Does He not promise Death?

He commands.  Nature obeys.  Man he has given to ponder.
In our dreams, sunk to dread, we fear Him.
Awake, our words shatter His image.
Before the twenty-one inch orb of our eye’s reflection,
We bow to the mindless violence.
The Lion on the hill is wordless. He needs no rationale for murder.

It is our mortal loneliness to know him King of Beasts.
I have seen the natural god, I have walked his temple.
The peacocks chewed by hyenas, spreads his fan in the dust.
The golden impala rears exquisitely impaled.
The enemy lurks everywhere, part of the natural habitat.
How can such Being know me more than I know this creature?

I am too mortal for Divine Loneliness.
I seek the god who died, the God who was my Father.
I am no longer child, and God was never my Father.
Neither did He love me so that I may know love,
Nor teach me as He promised.
Nor did He give me knowledge; this I must to acquire.
Nor clarify His justice where murder precedes the murderer.
He loves me no more than the stars do, nor can I convince him of goodness,

I have looked at the Lion, at the green orbs of his power.
Don not call my Lord Nature.  Nature is King of Relentless.
Do not call my Lord Father.  He neither accepts nor claims

Monday, July 9, 2012

#41: Four Poems by Michelle Boisseau

~This poem originally appeared in Tar River (2009)

She knows a spoonful of religion.
It's very shiny. Over the dunes,
along the ocean, she steadies it

at the end of her hand. Like ribbons
wandering behind her, her children
follow their own trembling spoons. Careless

grasses congregate in the sand. Smirk
of surf, cough of gull, I must confess
I'm not trying that hard to love her.



~This poem originally appeared in Tar River (2009)

He cruises in smiling and knowing
it's polite to look out his eyes and exude 

regard, he sweeps our faces like a pine
shoreline with his trolling lights.

The tight tedium of others threatens
to swamp him, so he reconnoiters

with a drink floating by and the view
of Columbus Circle.  In the rain

the public queues glisten like lacquers.
All knowledge is orientation.

The horizon he sails toward eagers him.
The pleasure of knowing oneself

is knowing one's plenty.


Monday, July 2, 2012

#40: Two Poems by Julie L. Moore

~This poem was first published in The Southern Review (spring 2010)


I am sitting in the shade
watching my son’s baseball game
as the other team’s coach squeals like a monkey,
then yells, I want another banana! to his players
on the field while he stands
atop their empty bench.
They are losing by a lot of runs.
It’s hot as Texas as the sun bakes
the boys’ skin like dough,
as they sweat like pepperoni.
Our attention is, to say the least,
divided. Sucking on lollipops,
we chat about the biology teacher
who disappeared in April. The break-
down rumors. And the punishments the school
doles out like candy at a parade.
By the handful. With apparent glee.
We cheer on cue,
for high heat that gets a batter swinging
and missing, for line drives
snagged, hits in the clutch.                                                               
For my son’s teammate who steals home.
Cigarettes and popcorn smoke the Sunday
air like ham, while the other team’s
second coach walks back and forth in his dugout,
which isn’t dug out at all,
flashing his tattoos on each calf:
on the left, coins and cards—
ace, king, queen, jack—
on the right, hogs wallowing in tame cliché.
Between innings, the second base ump comes to the sideline,
his muscle T-shirt baring the sharp fangs
of his tattoos. He kisses his girlfriend as she
flashes her jewel-pierced tongue.
And the story of the missionary from church
comes up like a batter—
the coups in Chile in the ’70s—
how men thrust machine guns
into his chest and yanked him
from his house. How when the general heard him tell
what he believed, the whole gospel story,
he let him walk.