#75

Aiko Harman
Frog Dream

In my dream, as you promised,
We are hunting frogspawn

I am surreptitious in a lake,
With one lip above,
And one below,
The horizon of the water

It’s very still,
And I know nothing about frogspawn
But imagine they do not breed in water
Deep enough for me to be half-lip in.

I imagine it is a swarm of eggs,
Murky like your sky
(Not orange like Japanese ikura
Which I think are delicious.)

In my dream, lip-deep,
I brave my face into the puddle of eggs,
Stare so closely into some of them
That we are eye to eye

I can see tails,
Little pod-bodies, all head.
My lips unveil,
Capturing one slick egg—

Mouthing over it
-No, it is not ikura at all-
Holding the thing on the tip of my tongue
Up to the sunlight

In my dream I watch it, and I shine through
Because in dreams you can be in two places at once.
I can see your puddock, on my tongue,
A real live frog.

 

John Grochalski
dan (why haven’t you called?)

dan
why haven’t you called?
we’ve been waiting three days
and the cats are starting
to get worried.

dan
did you get lost in
manhattan?

dan
why haven’t you called?
is it because i got drunk
last friday on cornelia street
and you bought both bottles of wine
and dinner?

dan
did you get lost in
queens?

dan
why haven’t you called?
is it because i ate that cupcake
off the dirty street?
is it because i grabbed your ass
mistaking it for my wife’s?

dan
did you get lost in
the bronx?

dan
why haven’t you called?
is it because the world has you down?
because of the job?
because of dreams and children?
because of art and white lofts
in soho?

dan
did you get lost in
staten island?

dan
why haven’t you called?
is it because i got the hiccups
and cried in the white horse
restroom?
is it because we left you at
the subway station
too early on a friday night?

dan
did you get lost in
brooklyn?

dan
why haven’t you called?
because we’ve tried you
four times
and have been worried sick
if you’re all right.

dan
did you get lost in
jersey?

dan
why haven’t you called?
the holidays are over and the moon
is rich
outside they are threatening snow
and solace
and we’d love to hear your voice.

dan
give us a call
when you get the chance.

 

 

Dave Lewis
41 Ladysmith Road

I cuddle your mind like a duvet
Your pixie ears
      like Tiny Tim

You wear a green velvet hat
To move your possessions
      and my seed

Floating home
I hold my head high
      like a skyscraper

 

 

Adam Moorad
As Daisy Plays in the Sand

…well, if you want to do it the right way, the best thing to do is
have it all done at once so you won’t have to go back and get the rest
done to you after you just get better. Yeah, it’s much better to have
it all taken care of in a single sitting. My mommy didn’t do that and
had to go back and forth to the doctor’s and she was always feeling
sick because of all the medicine she had to take for all the different
operations and the only thing she could do all day was lay in bed and
sleep and she never wanted to do anything but sleep and my daddy would
let her sleep all day and tell me to leave mommy alone because she
isn’t feeling good and needs some peace and quiet so she can rest and
let all of the booboos from her surgeries heal. That was the last
time mommy had a face lift and it was exactly the same when she had
both her tummy tucks. It wasn’t so bad when she had the liposuctions
because I got to sit in the waiting room with all the other nurses and
watch the Little Mermaid on the television in the waiting room.
Afterwards when mommy was through she and I went out and got ice cream
on the way home and I had a cone of rocky road with strawberry
sprinkles and mommy had a cup of mint chip. She said she shouldn’t
but did anyways because she said she earned it and I asked why she
said she shouldn’t and she said because it isn’t good for mommies to
eat the same way as their babies but it’s ok every once and a while
and I asked mommy if I would be able to eat ice cream cones when I
have my own babies and she said I could eat whatever I want as long as
I have my own doctor Schwarz to keep me pretty and mommy giggled to
herself and licked her cone and I smiled too but didn’t understand…

 

 

David McLean
if fingers may touch

if fingers may touch still
maybe not just the flesh
trembling erect a minute

but whatever stands
elsewhere than here
in the body brutality

that locus of passion
and nothing’s nexus
words falling through us

lost unholy logos god spat
on waters where words
were once

worth more – but bodies
are meat and it is meet
we live there seemingly

not necessarily empty
just flesh not always
whores

bodies and dead flesh
words’ worth
no more

life and lies
like time behind
walls

 

 

Wendy Kwok
between blinking and breathing

drug me up
on sun-stroked days;
i am overdosed
on shattered clouds and
shards of salient air.

i perceive with pleasure
the image of your yearning
painting lacy blooms on
the back of my eye.

i receive at leisure
the eloquence of wilted
wildflowers; a hundred
white flags wafting soft
as dying day.

i swallow seedheads
swooping swift-quick
flight feathers fanning
whitecap waves sinking
sand into the interstice
between skin and stone
as

i wallow in words
marching mouths with
delicate disorder.
they warp the weft of
webs you weave in
to drape skies in windows
that hinge on my lids

 

 

Allison Duarte
Family Dinner

The sign outside Napoli’s Family Restaurant bears a cartoon Italian cook with a rotund belly, his chef’s hat covering dark hair and his moustache curling upward like his smile. He’s holding a pizza pie with his arm extended as if welcoming family to his home.

Inside a family celebrates in the middle of the room. There’s that uncle who cracks jokes, and two little boys and one little girl running around and under the table. The grandparents laugh merrily, while the mother tries to calm the children down. The father winks at his wife and makes a toast to her birthday.

Across from the happy family sits four people, my mom and Deet, her boyfriend, both in their fifties, and me and Anthony, my brother, both in our early twenties. We’re just individuals who are sitting together because we’re hungry. Somehow the idea of talking to one another about feelings and sharing laughs and memories was lost in translation during my upbringing. I often want to say ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m here for you,’ but find the words get stuck in my throat.

A cute waiter introduces himself and asks what we would like to drink. Deet orders a beer, and my mom, a Pinot Grigio.

“Kids? What would you like?” she says.

Anthony shakes his head. “Kids,” he mutters and orders a soda.

“No beer or anything?” Deet asks.

“Well, she can’t because she’s not 21,” my mom says. She’s been saying this since I was 18, and she finds a way to embarrass me every time.

“Yes, thank you for the announcement,” I say, glaring at her and then blushing as I ask for water.

“Hey, I got a joke for you,” Deet says while chewing bread. Crumbs fall on his large belly. “A horse walks into the bar and the bartender says, ‘Hey, why the long face?’”

He lets out his usual loud laugh. I fake one to be nice. “That’s funny,” I say, eying my brother, who is sawing off a piece of bread. To those that don’t know him well, Anthony seems friendly and charming. But he keeps me and my mom distant unless he wants or needs something.

I remember a time when my brother visited me during my first year of college. When he was about to leave, I said, “Wait, Anthony, don’t go yet. I need to give you a hug!” His friends cooed in the background. He put his arms around me like I was a walking disease. I’ve never made another attempt to hug him. Instead we give peace signs.

The family in the middle has paid and walks out laughing. Toward the back is a couple in their thirties, sitting on the same side of the table. They read a menu together, and I want to hurl at their affection.

Our waiter brings the food and another beer for Deet, whose face is now flushed. He makes another bar joke, and my brother nods his head in acknowledgment. Deet puts his arm around my mom who tucks a napkin in her scoop-neck sweater.

“Have any of you talked to Dad recently?” she asks.

“I spoke with him earlier this week,” I reply.

“Anything new?”

“No.”

“I wonder if he’s spending Easter with that bimbo. You know he probably won’t call me, though we’ve been married for over 20 years. Not even a common courtesy call to see how I’m doing.”

“I’m not sure, Mom. I really don’t know.” I look at Anthony for help, but he taps his foot and looks away. We’re both used to my mom calling dad’s girlfriend a bimbo. My parents are legally married for the sake of finances. Though I don’t know the full story – just my mom’s version – my dad cheated on her for a long time. I see my dad irregularly because of his work schedule and my hectic college life. I was always daddy’s girl, and I always felt protected by him. But when he left my family, he took a part of me with him. I always had a hard time expressing my emotions unless I express happiness, and now I find it damn near impossible to open up without becoming a blubbering mess.

I watch the couple in the back feed each other pasta. I try to change the subject.

“Where should I register to vote?” I ask. “At school or here?”

“I’d say here. You live close enough,” my mom says. I live about 40 minutes away from my college, but I am rarely home. Even during my summer and winter breaks, I’ve been able to work and live at school.

“How do you learn about political issues and stuff?” I ask. “Like, what do you do to be informed as a citizen?”

“Ah, I don’t know,” Deet says. “I read the news, watch some television.”

“Do you feel like you’re told the truth? I’m always worried that I’m not getting the full story. It’s a worry I have with potentially working in the media.”

I have dreams of being Oprah one day. Except if I have my own media conglomerate with my own line of pots, pans, clothes, accessories, whatever, my factories will be eco-friendly. And I’m donating my money to charity.

“Eh, I mean, you do what you can,” Deet says. “I think I know things, but then again my kids are always coming up with these strange facts about politicians and policies. I don’t know. Sometimes they just make me feel stupid.” He lets out another loud laugh.

I wasn’t laughing with him this time. Instead, I try sharing my own thoughts about the candidates and issues, but Deet interrupts.

“You know,” he says, “you just listen to the news.”

“I know, I know. But I mean, the news doesn’t always—

“The news is the news. Let me tell you something about the election.”
“No, but really, I’m so worried—

“I’ll tell who you will get the ticket. Mark my words, I think Obama will get the Democratic ticket, but McCain will win. That’s what I think.”

“Okay, that’s great. But what about media coverage? I think that its—

“You just learn what you can.”

He makes another joke and laughs. For God’s sake, stop laughing.

My mom and brother were nearly done eating, but I had barely touched my baked ziti. Deet gets up to smoke a cigarette.

“I hate when I can’t defend myself,” I say, turning to Anthony. Both my hands are dug in my lap, and my shoulders slumped. “I didn’t know what to say to shut him up.”

“Who cares?” he snarls. “Make shit up.”

“I can’t make shit up! That’s wrong!”

“You have to know what you’re doing, or at least act it.”

“I know what I’m doing, Anthony.”

“Clearly not.” He grabs my baked ziti.

“Oh, what? Like you know what you’re doing all the time?”

“I don’t give a shit.”

“I just felt like I couldn’t be taken seriously,” I say.

“Nobody takes you seriously because you’re a girl.”

I look down and tears well. “I-I know a lot. I know things. I do. At least I care, Anthony. At least I care about what’s going on. Just because I can’t make a great argument—”

“You don’t know anything about Republicans and Democrats. What the hell do you know?”

“Why would you say that? You think you know everything. You’re acting like you know exactly what’s going on.”

“Alright, alright,” Deet says. He’s back from his cigarette break. “Let’s finish eating.”

I start to defend myself one more time.

“Okay, okay,” Deet says to quiet me. He’s chuckling. To him, this conversation is typical for siblings. For me, it is years of torture. It is years of having to defend myself and always failing.

The waiter comes over and asks if we have any room for dessert. I ask for a cannoli, and my brother, a coffee.

“You drink coffee?” my mom says, sounding surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” he says.

We eat our dessert, and Deet pays. We all thank him. My mom rubs his back.

As we walk to the car, Anthony gets a phone call. I hear him say, “What the hell do you know? You’re a Jew.” I walk with my head down and my hands in my pockets.

We drive home in silence.

 

 

Karen Kelsay
Sailing From the Shoreline

It seems colder by the pier tonight.
The outline of Catalina has already dissolved
into a swipe of grey and I can’t distinguish
island from cloud. These are the hours
when gulls skim the waves, like my thoughts,
and spill into a scarlet ribbon of sea, stretching
before a half-sunk sphere of sun, left to sheet
windward like sideways sloops, unable to stay
on course as they take on water.
I walk the shore, uneasily, in my little sailor hat–
while a western squall keels the sea scamps over.

 

 

Birdie Houston
She Was Woman

She was woman
Spending all her days
Raising another woman’s children
Serving another households food

Doing another woman’s tasks
Rising at rooster crow
Torn head rag on
Strutting a tattered, oversized, soured dress

Splashed water on skin
To Try to look her best

As she stood before mirror
She had to confess
It’s all because she was
A woman of color

Couldn’t ask momma,
How to handle this,
Cause they sold her…… sold Aunt June….and Poppa,
Had a boy child…he’s gone too!

Gone!

Feel like there’s a hole in the sky
Feels like a flood
Heading from the North and the South
Soon to collide in the middle

I felt agony…
I guess…….
See….I’m not suppose to know
What that is…but I feel I do

I felt rejection
Depression
Oppression
Never had obsession
But Mrs. Cane has an obsession with
Her sister in laws companion……….Captain Wallace

I see, hear, cringe, walk away and forget
Captain Wallace has made several passes at me
He kisses and fondles me madly
Tell me hush up!

But I do dream ….
Dream where I can bathe in crystal waters until I smell like scented roses,
Dream where I can wash my hair then let natural curls
Bounce off my marked shoulders

My lover’s gone………….
I recite a new poem for him everyday
He gone,,,,,,, with momma……poppa and my boy child….Seth
Yes….they sold him too but sometime I feel he’s still here
Mr.Wallace say he’d be my next baby daddy

Been years ……….shedded tears
Baby did come along but he now sold!
They said…. they’d keep me….
Mr. Wallace ……….say’s…. I go nowhere!

Ruthless pains attacking mid chest
Won’t go away
There’s no cure…..my life is only a few seconds from death

A young man cradles me in his arms
Could this be my son who they said they sold?
The tears in his eyes showed distress
Telling me yes………..

Hopefully my ashes will be scattered
Far away from the morbid fields of yesterday.

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