Monday, October 28, 2013

# 103: Two Poems by Mary Zeppa

~This poem previous appeared in Another Chicago Magazine (1981).

Sweet Dreams


I speak to my sister
of orgasm
I speak to my father
of Proust
while Marlon Brando (as Stanley Kowalski)
is sitting beside me, his hand on my thigh.


These nights, I meet you
inside my dreams
dream lover of the long thighs.

Your wife doesn't notice
when you leave your body.
It still does the things that she likes.

All night, you bruise
the inside of my skull.

All night,
she fucks her blond doll.


Yellow begins.
My thighs are its flames.
Its light
fills those hollows,
my bones.  My skull
has been keeping
a secret:  this dark
is purple and warms.


Monday, October 21, 2013

# 102: "Slow Fire Pistol" by Sherrie Flick

This story was previously published in Puerto del Sol (2003).
            When I met Robert he was crazy, going five million directions at the same time. I followed him down each and every path, trudging right along behind him all the way, stomping all the way back.  The whole thing was super-fast—like one of those Matchbox car snap together loop-de-loop tracks.   
            By the end of the first month, he was moving in.  Into I don't know where because there sure as hell wasn't any space in my one-bedroom.  He seeped into nooks and crannies, into cracks, poured himself into the divots in the linoleum floor, reaching down and throwing some roots into the thin gaps between my floorboards.  He took hold.  And it worked, you know?
            It was saturation point, mind you, month one.  But I just keep taking and taking.  That's how I learn.  My friend Vivette tells me, she says, ‘Susan, you're like a motherfucking sponge.’  She says I'm one of those big ones you use to clean the tub with or the hood of your car.  I'm a sponge waiting to soak it in.  All of it.  Whatever it is.  Vivette says it's her job to come along and wring me out. 
            So there's Robert seeping into that, and reaching into this.  And there I am sitting on the couch with my legs wrapped up underneath me, watching him.  I'm sipping my coffee with two hands, holding the mug like I'm cold.  I'm watching him watch the football game he always has time for even though it always seems like he never has time for anything.
            I'm staring him down, watching him go five hundred million ways, and that's just sitting still.  He's eating pretzels and opening a beer.  He's shuffling some papers from work.  Robert sells life insurance.  He's good.  He says it's because he understands people.  He's alternately reaching out and squeezing the back of my neck.  I sip my coffee again.  I've been staring at him for five minutes straight and he hasn't once made eye contact with me.  He has the phone beside him.  He's trying to get through to his brother in California, but the line's busy which means that Danny's on the internet.  So Robert is going every which way, then he yells--jumping up--"Touchdown!  Yes."
            He flips to the Discovery Channel, because he's also watching this thing on frogs, then to MTV, the Food Network, then he looks right at me looking right at him like I'm the only person in the world.  There's some woman frying little chunks of ham in a skillet on TV.  The woman is smiling and saying, "Believe me.  It works," as she stirs the naked chunks with a big wooden spoon.
            Robert says, "Babe.  Let's talk.  Remember when we would sit up listening to the trains?  Remember that?  Let's talk like we did back then."  He looks at me for what seems like a long while but is probably just a second or so.  We don't say anything.  Just stare, smiling.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

# 101: Two Poems by Meredith Pond

~This poem previously appeared in Georgetown Review (2008).

Peeling Psyche Off the Wall

So we make the same mistakes and so does she: losing faith
in her lover, listening to jealous siblings, holding the candle

too close, spilling the wax. We can’t stop ourselves, neither
can she. But no ants come to sort our grains, no birds

to pluck the fleece from the thorns by the riverbank, no song
of Persephone’s to hum us home from the hell we’ve created

all on our own. Betrayal is a dusty toad, sitting in its lumpy truth.
Let her be, you say, setting her down in the gritty sand

to kiss the toad, to seal her fate. We knew this would happen.
We knew it all along. But now the ants are back, birds aloft,

the road to Hades darkening with Lethe’s sleep. Look,
she stands and loosens her garments against the heat

of his mother’s rage. Beauty suffers, but beauty lives. 
The soul reaches for the lost one, but where? For us

here in this empty room, we hold her threads,
we see her colors, we feel the weight of stones

moving where once our hearts lived, once we loved.
Over and over, we peel Psyche off the wall, help her

stand, begin again. We are the ants, the birds, the fleece,
the thorns. Our redemption is her immortality.


Monday, October 7, 2013

# 100: "Your Hand Is My Hand" by Catherine Chung


~This essay was previously published in The Journal (2007).

About a month ago I had a tumor excised from my left breast.  The tumor was 3.3 cm in diameter, roughly the size of a ping pong ball, and was located under my left nipple. When it first appeared a year and a half ago, I told it, “You can stay so long as you respect the balance.” But in its last months it had spurned the balance and grown, rising to the surface so that it was visible: an alien marking out its territory. It started to develop what felt like appendages. It began to pull my nipple back into my breast, so that the skin around it puckered and collapsed.           
I’d been told in the beginning by doctors that the tumor was not particularly worrisome. It appeared to be a fibroadenoma, a benign mass that often appears in women under thirty years old. When the tumor was discovered, measuring in at around 2 cm, I was told that surgery could end up doing more damage than leaving it—there would be damaged nerves, damaged milk ducts, scar tissue, and possibly a crater-like caving-in effect given the size and location. Surgery itself increased the risk of cancer later. I decided to leave it there, but remained always aware of it: sometimes it hurt, and sometimes it itched. Sometimes it shrank, but mostly it grew.
            By the beginning of the school year it had gotten so big you could see it from a distance. Not only when I was naked, studying it in the mirror, but through t-shirts. When I met the doctor who would later perform the surgery, he spent several minutes feeling around it. I lay there, left arm above my head, discreetly avoiding eye contact. Since he had to feel my other breast to assess symmetry, I offered to lie there bare down to my jeans, without the bother of the crinkly paper gown, but the surgeon insisted I keep it on.  It was strangely demeaning to be forced to pretend the paper gown meant something, that it was the gown that conferred his hands on my breasts with their disinterested professionalism. It reminded me vaguely of my first job interview after college, when I wore my first suit, with pumps and a necklace, and was overtaken by a wild sort of horror as I talked to the human resources manager: not because I thought she could see through my act, but because I suddenly realized that she too was playing a part. I wondered who was watching.
We were silent in the doctor’s office as he touched my breasts. The paper gown ripped when I sat up, but we both politely ignored the noise. When I was covered, he looked me in the eye and began to talk. He talked about the risks of surgery, which he felt were minimal. He talked about the scar, and the pain, and the chance that the tumor could have some cancer in it. He urged me to have it taken out. After he left the room, the nurse practitioner muttered, “I don’t know why he took so long, feeling you here and feeling you there: I could see that thing from all the way across the room!”

#99: Two Poems by Diann Blakely

~This poem previously appeared in Crab Orchard Review (2000)


   Enough of God.  Enough of witnesses.
         O turn your face to the room's wall
And sing, poor Bob.  O sing damnation past drawn shades
                 More cracked with light than mine.  Bowls fill
   With melting ice; fan blades shift, dangerous
     In the choked air.  A man's brought you to Texas,
                 Twice, to needle songs—I went
To the mountain, looked as far as my eyes could see
                 On waxy plates.  Brought you a pint,
    And let's drink to that first crowd's sweaty laughs, 
     Also your last girlfriend's.  O vengeful solo:
                 You didn't like the way she done
And swore she'd have no right to pray.  Tears prick my throat
                 As if you'd damned me too, as one
    Who makes her songs from scaredy-cat bravado 
     And flirts with others' dues.  Enough of love—
                 Aren't we both vagrants of the South,
You born from autumn trysts, black knees splayed in high cotton;
                 I from a history of shut mouths
     And families gone?  Lead me beyond the eaves 
    Of sleeping women's shacks, where you once stayed
                 Till dawn, your fingers muting still
The knife-edged chords that beckon toward a possessed heart . . .
                 Mine's followed you to Texan hell,
    Though walls melt down to echoes as you play 
    And curse God's vast shining back: don't throw me out.
                 Here's another pint.  Another hymn
From a white girl whose call craves your response, shades drawn
                 Against false stars . . .  Trouble gon' come:
    Lead me, like whiskey and wept judgments, down.