Three Sunflowers by Derek Pollard

     Tonight, I am again the writer

Not writing

     Janvier

     Fevrier

     There is the candle lit

And burning, there are

The three sunflowers sagging

Against the earthenware cup


     Where have we come

To where arrived

     At night and in the afternoon

The wind pushes insistently against

The windows of this small apartment

In which I have never loved you

With the violence of one thing

Longing to be another


     It is the sound of a vinyl casing

Just before it is forced apart

The glass thudding in the padded

Frame so sudden that I can only

Startle to meet its unexpected

Shudder

     There is the candle stand found

Discarded in a drawer in that other

Apartment we once shared

The blue ceramic vase left me

By my lover whose name you have

So often spoken without knowing

     And now she and I hold one

Another as if we had been cast out

From our families and must live

In that wilderness everyone has

Forsaken in their rush to proclaim

A new Jerusalem

            That burnished place that once

Held such vast promise and is now

Our home, despite our longing

For otherness in all things and in

Ourselves always

A Letter to Paris by Katy Newman

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                                                       1.

       The summer we turned twenty-two, you and I would go to Europe, but at separate times.  I would go with my conservative Christian parents and rebellious, aloof sister on a short vacation, and you were to go as an au pair in August, to leave everyone behind: your mother and angry stepfather, your boyfriend Deon, your dog, me. Ten months teaching English to two children six miles outside of Paris, selling your furniture, streamlining your wardrobe—remember you read a blog on how to cut it down to twelve outfits?—learning French. If that doesn’t fix a person, doesn’t force them to find out who they want to be, what can? I went out of the country.  Couldn’t find myself within a thousand mile radius. When I know how much of you is here, how many leftovers from high school, from four years of college. I’m here, and I’m part of you.

       Of course, this isn’t a letter of anger about your leaving; it’s a letter of change. Our generation is getting married too soon, and we know better. We change better than everyone else. We’ll find ourselves better.  As though at the beginning of time God had sorted us into baskets, those with ambition, who have interests like yoga, or photography, or scrapbooking, with the will to order, and those who are careless, who settle for community college, who don’t put away dishes or clean out their inboxes. In one basket, those girls who don’t get married before twenty-two. In the other, those who never leave our hometown. Those who do.

 

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Cora by Louis Bourgeois

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When she left, there was only a white cup on the sink and a battered cobalt blue St. James Bible on the wobbly three legged kitchen table and an even more abused dog-eared paperback of Louis L’Amour’s Mustang Man.

The house had no electricity for three days, exactly the number of days it had been since the dog had been fed and since all twenty of the fish died in the algae covered ten gallon aquarium. 

I felt large and nameless. I had no friends and no money, yet, I felt strangely comfortable, as if nothing worse could happen to me.

If this is life, I thought, then this life is sacred and must be clung to at all costs. Life must be sacred if it is possible to feel this way.

I was not educated in those days, but I knew enough to know that one should lose himself in the darkest of places, that no one should attach himself to images and that inactivity is the highest expression of love.

Yet, I confess, that’s when the pen began moving across the page, when the poems began, and life began to take form….

1990

Stay Good by Emelie Fritzell

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            Stefan didn’t think it would make any difference, seeing his mother dead. She had been ill for almost a whole year and everyone knew this day would come. But suddenly, everything had been switched off to mute inside his head. It was a deafening silence. The kind of silence people always find terrifying; it happens when the aircraft takes off or descends from the sky to land; we blow the pressure out to get rid of this temporary discomfort and be able to hear again. 

            It is rather simple. We all know.

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Snowfall by David Hollingsworth

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            One strange day in my youth, on a Monday, the headmaster, Mr. Werman, interrupted my English class and Mr. Plimpton’s lecture on the Romantics, Wordsworth in particular. 

            We were supposed to have read “Lines” the night before.  I wasn’t paying much attention and was instead doodling lazy daydreams in my mind.  Mr. Plimpton, when he recited lines of the poem, had a sleepy, deep, and sonorous voice. 

            Since I wasn’t paying attention, Mr. Plimpton called on me and asked, “How would you describe the force that Wordsworth believes connects us all to nature and to each other, Mr. Rowland?”

            Before I could answer him, and long before the chilling fear of an audience could sink in, Mr. Werman entered, shuffled across the room, and whispered into the long raisiny ear of Mr. Plimpton.  After a moment of listening, Mr. Plimpton said, “Edward, Mr. Werman would like to have a word with you.”

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Graffiti Birds by Chris Castle

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            Bobby walked out of the house and down the road. Some of the birds were singing and some were not. He wondered why they didn’t sing, the starlings, the blackbirds and thought they might be unhappy. The idea of sad birds almost clouded his eyes but after ma, he had made a Bobby-promise not to make any more tears pop out of his eyes. They were cruel, hateful things, smudging everything, making buildings look like butter and the flowers like ruined photographs. No, no more tears for Bobby, even if his heart trembled and shook like the tracks when a train approached. Ma had always told him to stand behind the yellow lines when they’d gone on a trip and he’d always listened. Would he ever go on another trip now, without ma? He shook his head no, but in his heart, in that secret place where he made his dreams and sometimes fell in love with the pretty girl from the local shop that sold his pop, he wondered.

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The Woman in the Rose Colored Dress by Kaj Anderson-Bauer

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            It started with a real woman in a real rose-colored dress. Roland saw her while we at the china buffet. All the while, as we’re eating, Roland is giving me this weird look. As we walk out, Roland whispers in my ear, “that woman in the rose-colored dress was staring at you the whole time.” I had no idea what he was talking about so I said, “oh yeah, the woman in the rose-colored dress, she’s been on my trail for years—she’s like a state of mind for me now.” That was sort of how the joke began.

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He Never Liked Cake (EXCERPT) by Janna Leyde

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            He had not been home in precisely 87 days—almost three months, which amounted to so many weeks that I’d quit counting. The days of chicken salad sandwiches and chairs that hurt my tailbone were long past. So were the days of watching a familiar reality fade away. These days my mother and I had mastered a perfect illusion of sameness, masking the gap of before and after brain injury.

            She winterized the boat, made time to throw sticks and tennis balls to Meagan, helped me with math homework. I thought her intelligence and perfectionist approach to things would be the trick to algebra, but we were both stumped, bored and frustrated. She cooked for us, mowed the grass and kept the garage clean. She went to my volleyball games and chorus concerts, and drove me to Speech tournaments in the wee morning hours on Saturdays. She lectured me about cars, constantly. About riding with my friends, and how to pay attention to who was a good driver, who was responsible.

            It was as if my dad had been on a long vacation. He could walk in the door and slip right back into our lives. Except my mother kept referring to my father as “handicapped, both mentally and physically.” She had me prepared to babysit my father—meal times, bedtimes and do and don’ts and lists. I was a good babysitter, the kind that gave all the kids on my block secret snacks and extended bedtimes.

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In Guatemala by Joan Potter

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            I’m sitting next to my Spanish teacher in her dusty old Honda as she pulls into the town square and parks on the packed dirt near a stone wall. The square is crowded with people, mostly women and children in traditional Maya dress; the fragrant smoke of cooking fires floats above them. As I step out of the car I feel dazed, as if I were in a dream.

            A young woman rushes toward me from across the plaza – a small, solid woman with shining dark eyes and a beautiful wide smile. “Hola, Juanita,” she calls. She wraps her arms around me and the warmth of her hug makes my eyes fill with tears. I know she must be Maria Francisco, the wife of my friend Elio. But how did she recognize me so instantly?

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