Monday, January 26, 2015

#156: Two Poems by Jody Bolz


~This poem was published previously in Prairie Schooner (2013).

Always before, light gathered
where I stood
as if each thing mattered.

Now it won’t, the moment
a collapsed box
whose doll-like tenants

scatter on the ground,
thrown riders,
like the dead I found

ten years ago:
a mother and her son.
Nothing to be done.

No way to stop the film loop
my brain replays,
mastering each image

as it darkens from the center
like the wooden floor
they lay on.

Race from that house—
run into the summer street,
scream for help—

Run away a thousand times
and still
the scene follows.

I hardly knew her,
but this much I could tell:
she finished her book             
and her boy and herself.
People say
she took him with her

as if any mother would—
but where were they going
without their blood?


Monday, January 19, 2015

#155: "Fancy Man" by Julie Wakeman-Linn

~This story was previously published in Rosebud (2010).

Jacaranda blossoms littered the steps of 36 Katima Mulilo. Tom Jensen knocked three times. He didn’t feel great about mooching a bed from his dad’s old pal, but he’d run out of options. When the door opened, he asked the Zambian houseman, “Is George Wilson in?”
“Now is not a good time. Can you come back after tomorrow? Maybe next week?” The man whispered, traces of Shona in his accent.
“George gave me a standing invite.” Tom started to explain, when the man muttered he would check with Bwana George, clicking the door shut.
Tom unslung his backpack, trying to figure out why this guy wouldn’t let him in. Maybe George’s house was too small to have a spare bed. Zambians lived in this neighborhood; the houses had wire fences, not like the rich diplomat compounds of Nairobi and Harare where he had been a house-sitter. Still -- Lusaka with its flowering jacarandas was as pretty as promised by the bedtime stories his dad had told him and his baby sister Lucy. 
The door opened and the houseman, still frowning, ushered Tom into a square living room. Maybe George would help him find a job or at least give him time to figure out where to go and what to do next. Being expelled from Zimbabwe had been scary, but he wasn’t ready to give up on Africa and go home to frozen Minnesota. George would also have news of his mother and Lucy.
On a wood table, George’s surveying tools, a transit and a light device, weighted down blueprints. Enormous splashy paintings covered the walls, a sort of Cubist Victoria Falls, an abstract orange sunset over the savannah, and a Cape Buffalo herd done in dots against a pink sunrise. All three paintings seemed like windows onto familiar landscapes, even though they were modern and blurry. 
 “Tom, welcome to Lusaka,” George’s booming voice preceded him. “College didn’t work out?”
“Wow, you’re dropped –what – 50 pounds? How are you, you old scoundrel?” Tom said.  George’s voice was the same but everything else had changed, his lanky six foot frame now stooped and his wavy brown hair mixed with gray.
George plopped in an easy chair and waved Tom into the other. “You look as scrawny as ever.”
“Nothing like travelling to keep a guy lean.” Tom laughed. He was a head shorter than George and Africa had kept him skinny with a couple of bouts of malaria. He hadn’t seen George since that night they’d prowled the State Street bars in Madison. George had been looking for some action but with his bulky beer gut, he hadn’t had any luck with the sleek young guys. Mid-evening, George gave up trying to score and they’d had fun as George showed Tom how to look gay when he needed to. Now he was washed up on George’s doorstep, out of work, nearly out of money, out of ideas. “I was doing just great until that ass Zimbabwean president shut down all the independent newspapers and my job disappeared.”
“Your mum told me in her last couple of Christmas cards to watch out for you in case you got into more trouble. Are you in trouble?” George asked.
“Not really,” Tom mumbled, thinking how little she cared. He’d run 10,000 miles away from one DWI charge and a crashed up car and she still nagged. She’d never help him, but he missed Lucy. Lucy had been fine in the backseat, even though his accident totaled his mom’s Camry. “Do her letters mention Lucy?”

Monday, January 12, 2015

#154: Three Poems by John Hoppenthaler


~This poem was previously published in New Letters (1985)

In this uncertain exile,
I heat canned ravioli in a saucepan,
stir, stare deeply
into bubbling tomato sauce
and see you.

We met again over Chinese food,
like the old days,
and discussed the subtle changes.
I expected you to order
shrimp with lobster sauce
like you used to, but you ordered
sweet and sour chicken,
and you never liked it before.
Tasting my drink I thought,
Jesus, God, Lord,
once this almost ruined my life.

I raise the spoon to my mouth,
scald my tongue, and know it’s done.