Monday, September 29, 2014

#143: "France in 25 Exposures" by Christiane Buuck

~This essay first appeared in Seneca Review (2005).

1. Meat
The white truck stops in the middle of the empty street. Its driver, dressed in a white plastic rain suit, leaves the engine running on the cobblestones of the rue Cler. He nods to the owner of the boucherie who has also just arrived. No words this early. The sky is still black, the lights of the Eiffel Tower extinguished. Up goes the door of the truck. Up goes the chain mail of the storefront. The owner of the boucherie props his door open with a wooden block. Inside the lights flicker and cast a sterile glow. He walks to the back, to the coolers. There is a sound like a mechanical bumblebee. A white metal arm extends from the back of the idling truck, dangling the carcass of a cow. The man in the white rain suit puts on his hood and his plastic gloves. He steps back one, two, three, four paces. Ready now. Find the focus. He lunges for the slab like a wrestler, everything throttling forward. Together they swing with the momentum, arc up like the swaying of a bell. At the crucial moment the carcass comes free of its hook. Its weight settles. He fights it, holding his balance, stumbling toward the door of the boucherie, a waltzer dancing his dead partner.

Monday, September 22, 2014

#142: "Coming of Age" by Lorine Kritzer Pergament

~This story was previously published in Bridges (2008).

Fannie Lipsky picked up her pay envelope at four forty-five. She counted her money and thought about what she might do with the nickel she usually kept before giving the envelope to her mother. Her papa and brother Oscar always went to the Havdalah service at the shul to thank God for giving them a day of rest and meditation. The Havdalah was the “great divide,” between the Sabbath and the rest of the week. For Fannie, it was also the great divide between men and women. She thought about how nice it would be to have a Shabbos day of rest herself, but the entryway sign in three languages at the Triangle Waist Factory was clear: “If you don’t show up on Saturday or Sunday, you’ve already been fired when it’s Monday.” She sighed, content with the thought that tomorrow, Sunday, was her day off, and even though she had to help her mama with the housework, that was better than going to work at the factory.
She glanced at the calendar on the wall – March 25, 1911 – only two weeks until her thirteenth birthday. She didn’t care that girls didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah service at the shul with a grand reception afterwards, like her brother Oscar had, to celebrate entry to adulthood. Fannie wanted only one thing – books.
            Back out on the floor she made sure the girls finished putting everything away properly. The eighth-floor watchman had just rung the quitting bell, and one of the girls in the cloak room started singing “Let me call you sweetheart.” Soon others joined in. “I’m in love with you...”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#141: "Winchester .351 High-Power Self-Loading Rifle" by Alexandra Teague

~This poem was previously published in 32 Poems (2012).

Winchester .351 High-Power Self-Loading Rifle
                    from an ad in The American Field, 1909

It was the love which the hunter has for living things,
and which he can only express by aiming his gun at them.
                                                Italo Calvino

Who doesn’t dream of a heart with all sights
attached, all moving parts enclosed? A love
that can shoot through steel? See how the cougar eyes
the bold word Winchester—its jagged rush

his body, whisker-close against the cliff, unflinching.
Already he’s prey:  his muscled legs like roots
too deep for springing; a pendulum stilling
for the chime of fate. Who wouldn’t lose

this skin for an instant of lightning—one
flash from the lightest, strongest, handsomest
repeater ever made? Who hasn’t gone
to a ledge like this and waited? The scent

on the wind that draws them:  lover or devil,
the heart reloading even as it recoils.


Monday, September 8, 2014

#140: Three Poems by Ravi Shankar


~This poem first appeared in Gulf Coast (1998).

Before Sunrise, San Francisco  

Bruno’s by sallow candlelight,
The jacketed barkeep counting
Tips from a jam jar and horseshoe
Booths burnished a bit too bright,

Yet the stained mahogany walls
And the lazy lament of Spanish
Horns from speakers huddled
In the corner speak a different

Language altogether, one that rolls
Effortlessly off the tongue and fills
The room like myrrh, a promise sent
That four walls can indeed keep out

The world, that when horns wail
For percussion and those walls
Are elegantly attired, why there
Is no need to ponder the gristle

In the Mission outside, no need
To wonder why that one left you
Or why you are always too
Late. The weight of your existence

Roughly equals the martini glass
In front of you, the thick mass
Of the past collapses into brightness
As well-lit as the dripping star

At the center of your table.
Nod. Snap your fingers. Order
Another drink. Let horns grieve,
Let the wristwatch think on sheep

Before you leave. Tonight,
The only eyes on you are two
Pimentos stuffed into olives
Bloated with vermouth and gin.