Monday, November 30, 2015

#187: "Alphabet Autobiografica" by Eufemia Fantetti

Note: The Italian alphabet contains twenty-one letters: j, k, w, x and y are absent.

 A is for Andiamo

Pronounced: [Ahn-D’YAH-Moe] Translation: Let’s go. Verb, plural. Italian.
Yet in the Molisan dialect I have spoken my whole life we say yammacheen. There is a great margin for error then, for confusion and class system to enter into casual conversations, trip up the tongue. I have this problem in two languages. Witness the time I pronounced acquiesce as aqua-size, making my roommate think a new class had been added to the schedule at the nearby YMCA. Or when I said trapezing but meant traipsing. “You can’t come trapezing through here whenever you feel like it,” I say, accusing my boyfriend of being a Barnum and Bailey’s acrobat, casually back-flipping and sailing through my apartment.
I have an intense connection to the expression “Let’s go,” an attachment to the idea of: leave this place, go elsewhere, come with me. I borrowed Eliot’s famous beginning from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock—Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky—to use as a caption under my high school grad photo, summing up my farewell thoughts in the yearbook’s allotted twenty-five words or less. No “Keep in touch!” No “THANKS to A.H, J.K. & G.T - YOU GUYS ROCK!!!” More a poetic invitation, let’s blow this popsicle stand.

B is for Bonefro
Pronounced: [Bone- NAY-fro] noun. A village in Southern Italy, region of Molise.
Bonefro is our beginning. According to my mother, this place gave birth to our fierce, proud, better-than-everybody-else’s bloodline.
 We go back to the village for a summer the year I turn eleven. My mother’s health is deteriorating and she is convinced the climate of her youth will offer the best environment for convalescence. She wants to be close to her own mother.
Bonefro is tiny, chiseled out of the hillside, with buildings covered in cool rock tile that offer some relief from the unforgiving Mediterranean sun.
My Italian cousins find me curious. They find it difficult to follow the conversation as my parents and I flip between Italian dialect and mangled English in the same breath. Our speech is fragmented and sentences are splintered over forgotten words or incorrect translations. No one notices the problem until I ask Luisa to accompany me:
Lu, yammacheen u – Papa, come si dice store in Italian?”
My father doesn’t hesitate to reply, “Store è…is store.”
Luisa frowns. Store is clearly not how one says store in Italian.
“Wait minute…u sach è…I know is…”  My father is annoyed, frustrated that he cannot remember. He stares at the hand he has just been dealt in the card game Scopa and asks my mother to assist. She doesn’t know, doesn’t care. The word is gone, replaced. It’s not even on the tip of their tongues.
            My grandfather wins the round while my dad is distracted. Nonno shakes his head at the floor and again curses Columbus for discovering America.

Monday, November 23, 2015

#186: Two Poems by Kate Hovey

                           BONE LOSS

~This poem was previously published in The Ledge (2011).

            Splayed on a table,
            brow knitted against the light,
            I hold my breath in the frigid room
            where a white machine whines and hums,
            its tedious song lulling, the shadow
            of its calibrated arm passing over me,
            slow, telic—an ancient gesture.

            O deliver me from mechanical chants,
            from keypad-decoded maledictions
            transforming on black screens
            into elegant images:  this one,
            a slim chain of white lace descending,
            delicate, serpentine, its loose crochet
            a portent of my unraveling. 
            A technician studies this apparition,
            scrying Cassandra-like in a veil of pixels
            the doom she must soon pronounce.

            But I’ve already seen the future, minutes ago
            in the crowded waiting room, a woman so curled
            by vertebral collapse she could not look up,
            wedged like an ill-used comma
            between the daughter and grandson
            commandeering both armrests,
            the former thumbing House and Garden,
            the latter the latest hand-held device.

            The white-robed technician has typed a code,
            zoomed in on my upper spine, pointing
            to a cosmic image so riddled with black holes
            it has all but vanished.  “Crush fractures,”
            she announces.  The once-erect matriarch
            still hugs herself in the waiting room, quietly
            imploding, reduced to the reading of shoes. 
            “See?” the technician summons, holes
            gaping at me like mouths of hungry infants,
            the forced air sucked from the room. 
            I don’t see, can’t augur
            what goes against nature.  Flesh sags,
            organs fail, but bones—O let them endure,
            let them hold us together to the end and beyond
            that they may be licked clean and weathered
            to white crystal, their messages scribed
            in the fossil record:  dependable,
            immutable, oracular.


Monday, November 16, 2015

#185: "A Kiss Thing" by Robin Gaines

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

I hadn’t seen Big Becca Leonard in weeks. Not that I thought of her all that much, but suddenly there she was, bigger than ever, like a cartoon figure come to life, banging on our screen door.
            “Now what do you want to show me?” I say from the other side of the screen.
Big Becca likes coming to the front door and grossing me out with dead animal skulls she finds or flattened frogs she peels off the street. Only this time, she just stands there, twisting her hands together, looking lost.
Big Becca nudges her thick glasses up closer to her eyes. “I’m locked out,” she says, rocking side to side, staring at where the tiny bird’s nest pokes out from the top of the address sign nailed to the brick.
            “Those baby birds used to chirp all the time,” I tell her, “but not anymore. They probably got too big or maybe just bored living around here and flew away.”
            “Maybe they’re hiding,” she says. “I think they might be hiding, like ghosts.”
            “Why aren’t you in school?” Every morning a white van filled with kids like Big Becca picks her up and takes her to a special school two towns over.
            “It’s meat loaf day. Last time it was meat loaf day I threw up. My mom’s supposed to make me lunch.”
            Normally, on Wednesday afternoons, I’m not home either, but yesterday, the principal suspended me for punching Andy Dembeck between the shoulder blades at recess. The sun was out and everyone was running around going crazy because it was warm enough not to wear a sweater or jacket. Waiting my turn at tetherball, I looked over my shoulder and saw Dembeck blow me a kiss. When he turned to his loser friends and laughed, I ran up behind him, slugging him as hard as I could, knocking his glasses off onto the asphalt and cracking one of the lenses.      Dembeck couldn’t believe I did it, and neither could I. First, he looked like he was going to cry. Then, after he got a hold of himself, he had this dumb look on his face like his dog just bit him in the leg.
            It wasn’t just that one blow-kiss thing that caused me to snap. Dembeck has been harassing me the whole school year. He leaves hard candies sprinkled with pepper on my doorstep and follows me around at recess trying to give me handfuls of dandelion bouquets. Teachers think it’s cute, like puppy love, but I know the real Dembeck, the psycho who eats the fuzz he digs out of his belly button then moves his finger slowly up to his nose like he’s going to pick it just to hear the shrieks from his classmates.

Monday, November 9, 2015

#184: Three Poems by Corey Ginsberg

~This poem previously appeared in PANK  (2012).

My Mom’s Getting Plastic Surgery

Tonight on the phone my mom tells me she’s getting plastic surgery and I’m not sure what to say because it’s weird to think of my mom as a candidate for a facelift because she’s not Anna Nicole Smith or a Kardashian or an instillation art exhibit and besides, her face is the face I reconstruct when we talk from our bipolar country corners, it’s the face that used to drive me to swim practice at four a.m. and sit in the car while I lap-after-lapped and bring me donuts before school, it’s the face I’ve seen twist into every combination of swear words and sometimes apology as my adolescent asshole self told her I hated school and I hated life and I hated her goddamn fucking face so now that I don’t hate her goddamn fucking face I don’t know if she should change it because I’m used to her wearing it just like she’s used to me wearing that stinking rotting hoodie she bought me when I went away to grad school the first time and she’s seen it on me so often she begs me to get a new one, tells me she’ll give me the money if I’ll please just go shopping but I don’t want a new hoodie and I don’t want her to have a new face and her offer makes me feel extra bad because it leaves me wondering if I had the money, would I give it to her to get her face did or save it for that inflatable bounce house I plan to get for my thirtieth birthday party, which she better come to, new face or not, and better bounce in, because if she gets her face lifted she won’t have jowls anymore that would flap, and maybe if she had the surgery she wouldn’t call me on those drawn-out nights when my dad’s out of town as she channels her third vodka solipsistic assonance about how she’s droopier than our basset hound, how that shithead got his eyes done when they sagged so much the vet had to do emergency surgery so why the hell can’t she be more special than the dog for once, and I don’t know what she wants me to say so instead I ask what they do with all the extra skin because in my writer mind I’m imagining a huge quilt of lady necks and liver-spotted flabby folds pastiched into a modern art cannibal canvas, and it freaks me out because I’ve seen Face Off enough times to know how wrong face surgeries can go and she could come out of the operation with taut Spandex cheeks clinging to the scaffolding of her skull or looking like Connie Chung, and the face she’ll be staring out from won’t be the one that used to oogle google my brother while he drooled in his crib, it won’t be the same face that used to fishlips crosseyes my sister from the front window while she walked home from the bus stop, and I’m worried that when they revise her face, trimming and tightening the second draft, that the new dust jacket will forever take the place of the original.