#83

Catherine Zickgraf
Eye

I was headed down the hill,
horizon rising like a mountain,
when a rogue giant swung back his mighty fist and
bruised the pale dome’s lash line.
Veins opened with the punch.

On the sky, like beige paper,
I chalked pale violet, yellow,
drew my finger through the pastels,
and made tracks like clouds from the blended dust.

My Father is broken, in Intensive Care.
He’s stitched up like a river bed,
steri-strips holding his shoulder closed.
Tubes burst between his fractured ribs,
and his yellow limbs are fluid flooded.

Proprioception goes first.
He doesn’t live in his left shoulder right now or his right lung,
but in a small office in his mind operating on emergency power.
The conference rooms are dark, just a vacuumer in the hall.
Dad’s working steadily in there. Scanning all the monitors,
reading Archaeology Today.

 

Antony Hitchin
Slow Burn

You smooth the velvet of your dress artfully; idling by the mirror twirling tresses
in false vanity; smirking at playthings, the pitter-patter of your fingers casting crushed rouge, glitter dipped, iridescent billows carried like rusted leaves

on the street below there is a saxophone playing; lustrous gossamer notes float feather-light through the open window, gracefully circumnavigating as you inspect the polish of your nails; inventing imperfections, eyes gleeful at my
taught denim.

 

 

Michael West
The Well

“Seems pretty deep”.

“Yeah, I guess…although, I dunno, I think you could probably climb out, by placing your legs on either side and kind of scrambling back up”.

“Like a crab?”

“Uh, yeah, I don’t know, probably”.

Oscar and Henry, both young men of thirteen years old, had stumbled across an old well whilst out in the barley fields. They knew nothing of its existence before unwittingly discovering it amongst roots and shrubbery, whilst searching for their ball. The villagers all knew it was there mind. It had been a regular topic of discussion in the Cross Keys, and down at the Post Office, “They want to board that well up”, the locals would begin, “..theres been many a time when ive nearly been down the bottom of it!”. Henry’s mother had indeed aired her own concerns, “I’m sure everyone is well aware of my son’s condition here – the last thing I need, as a constantly fretting mother, is the extra worry of a bleeding thirty foot hidden hole in the surrounding fields of my house!”. But the well was never boarded up – just left to stow itself away under a blanket of foliage.

“Drop the ball down, and then we’ll see how it deep it is”, said Oscar.

“Ok” replied Henry, “..but wait… then we won’t get the ball back”.

“Sure we will, well, if its not that deep anyway, it’ll bounce right back up”, assured Oscar.

Henry nodded his head vociferously, as if angry with himself that he had not inferred this possibility. He then took the ball with both hands, and stretched his arms out into the centre of the dark gaping hole that lie dormantly beneath. He dropped the ball. It plunged into the misty vacuum, and the distant sound of it reaching the foot was anticipated – although never heard, despite the boy’s best efforts to reassure each another that it was.

“Yep. Not deep”, exclaimed Oscar.

“Uh, no, not deep”, replied Henry. Oscar then stared at his friend, and loomed over into the eerie darkness, he flitted his attention between Henry, then the hole, then Henry, then the hole. Henry became uneasy and an inescapable feeling of foreboding crept upon him. He had this feeling a lot, happened often, usually when he was with Oscar. It was an unusual mixture of, firstly dread – and then a fizzy excitement. It dissolved into a dull satisfaction. This bitter alchemy overcame Henry most weeks, and coupled with his unstable medical condition, he was scarcely left alone with the ever-adventurous Oscar, for it was he who usually profited from the dull satisfaction.

“I can’t believe we just did that, that ball cost me three weeks pocket money, what do you think of that?!”, howled Oscar.

“Yeah”, replied Henry, “Three weeks”.

“Yeah, three weeks, that’s right – what hell will I tell Dad!?”, Oscar bounded around the well and scratched his head as if deciding between a multitude of equally plausible options. But the ball was at the bottom of the well. And that was it. To retrieve it would require one to take the exact route that the ball took – and both boys knew this.

“Can’t go down there, cannot go down there”, mumbled Oscar, seemingly to himself. Henry uttered something about the ball being stupid, and sporadically shook his head with vigour, as if shaking off a fly – this caused his horn rimmed glasses to keep falling from his head. He then turned his attention to the drooping ivy that congregated around the rim of the well, lowering itself in like a reluctant abseiler. Henry began to finger the curled leaves, and this seemed to instil something in Oscar, who immediately raced up towards him,

“What you doing there..?” asked Oscar, almost nervously.

“Just playing around with the plants here – looks like it goes the whole way down, if the ball could climb… it could use this ivy”, came the reply. Oscar sighed impatiently and shook his head.

Oscar’s mother – Gloria, was cooking roasted vegetables in the kitchen. The family’s house was in-fact a Bungalow, its exterior doused in ivory white – its gables stood high and proud. It looked like the house of a ‘Stepford Wife’, whose husband worked long day’s selling cars and smoking cigarettes. But Oscar’s father did not sell cars, or indeed smoke cigarettes.

“Cooking smells great hunny”, he spluttered from behind his newspaper.

“Shouldn’t be too long now”, came the reply.

“Hopefully young Oscar will be back soon, I specifically told him to be home by five!”.

Oscar’s father then pulled back the blinds of the window beside his chair. He peered out into the distance and focused his eyes by squinting slightly – there he saw his son trudging back across the deserted barley field, kicking out at crops, and every so often breaking into a sprint.

 

 

Christopher Woods
Early Corningware

I was in the kitchen
Shoving a Hungry-Man meal
Into the microwave
When I heard her voice.
I turned around to see
Aunt Ella in a starched sundress
And, behind her, Uncle Lowman
In his customary khakis.

Are we late, my aunt asked?
Well, they’ve been dead
For a number of years.
Frankly, I was surprised.
But they explained how
They had a weekend pass
From heaven, and decided
To visit me.

I told them to have a seat
And offered them iced tea.
They never drank liquor.
I decided I would not
Tell them about the divorce,
The arrests, the DUI or rehab.
But they never asked.
They knew me as the sweet kid
Who spent summers with them.
They knew nothing else
And didn’t ask for more.

I popped two more Hungry-Man dinners
In the microwave. Dinner soon, I announced.
Aunt Ella asked about the microwave.
I tried to explain how it worked,
But I’m just a clueless consumer
Who takes miracles in stride.

But what about your oven, she asked.
I had no ready answer.
Where is your Corningware, she asked.
Tell me about heaven, I said,
And the conversation livened
Like the micro waves dancing
In the odd box in the corner.
They were more than happy there,
Uncle Lowman said.
Couldn’t be nicer, Aunt Ella said.
It sounded great, I had to agree.

I lit a candle and turned off the lights.
In the semi-darkness we ate our dinners
And laughed about old times,
My aunt and uncle smiling
Just as I remembered.

 

 

Gina Goldblatt
Lullaby

full of cliffs’ hallows
worn down to the souls

sangria lips kissed by lullaby

feet dangle
chasms in the light

the cherry tree gasps
speaking the language of lungs

 

 

Tetman Callis
“My Friend!”

My friend!
      Don’t be frightened, my friend, I didn’t mean to startle you. I must tell you of things I have seen. Disturbing things, littering the streets. Things that have been used in intimacy, only to be discarded in public.
      I will speak frankly–the rubbers, my friend. I speak not of bridge. So many used rubbers in the streets these days, torn and dirty.
      Please, my friend! Little could look more forlorn–what is to be done? Who is going to effect the throwing properly away of such sad remainders? Are they to be left in the streets to decompose, rotting in the summer sun? Shall we expect the ant to come cart them off? And the streets, my friend, with their gutters. Perhaps we haven’t been paying sufficient attention, but we have certainly been paying taxes, notice taken or no.
      So, my friend, indulge me if you please to ponder the streets and their gutters, littered with the used aforementioned items. These gutters and streets appear more torn and dirty these days than did they in the days of our youth. Less composed. Less laid down in dimly and deeply remembered Roman order, their quondam order now on holiday, our dear-bought streets and gutters crumbling somewhat under the summery sun.
      And the ant, my friend, between bites of rubber-colored rubbers, comes carting street pieces off ajaw. I have seen it, day and night, with mine own eyes close a-watching. With attentive listening it can even be heard, below the noise of traffic.
      My friend, I have heard it!
      And I must tell you, my friend, these used and chewy rubbers, they are nothing next to those galoshes, those combat boots and spats, those spits of screaming meemies going on through the night–Oh, it’s mine! No, it’s mine! Give it to me! No, me! And neither you nor I would have to strain too terribly hard to hear the splash of galoshes, the tramp of combat boots almost as loud as ants eating streets in the daytime, the nights-long hissing of women referred to unjustly as tramps, dueling as such women do over diminishing returns of possible commerce with johnnies come marching home on streets rendered now impassable by greedy ants picking apart the pavement one nearly microscopic piece at a time, carrying the grains of pavement to their underground colonies where they, the ants, construct their crystalline edifices mortared by well-chewed ant-spit-slathered slices of sun-baked indiscretion.
      Army-ants building forts underground you may think, but put your eye–carefully, my friend!–to the hole to the colony there in the dirt now exposed where the curbing used to be, and you may see as clearly as do I the delicate arches of the formicidaecal palaces glistening in the dimness down below.
      You may wonder as do I what they are up to, these ants.
      You may stand stock-still as I do, my friend, and watch in excruciating detail your dearly-bought and finely-ordered world slowly vanishing before your eyes, one ant-sized chunk at a time.
      My friend! Wait! Please! My friend!

 

 

Rhian Waller
What we Were

Alfresco,
I learned that it was not wise
to drink Bloody Marys
in the spicy summer sun.
           Some nights we lay so close that I wished
           I could forego air.
           Every time our bellies balled with breath,
           we were forced apart
           (which seemed like a waste).
But as I swirled tabasco
around my menstrual glass,
I thought of hot betrayal,
and the creative things that one could do
with a cocktail stick.

 

 

The drag King

The drag king
      with trimmings of fringe stuck to her chin
and a sock in her pocket.
      She finds it amusing to be so confusing.

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