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.