Christine Diane Allen
Maggie Nerz Iribarne
Ivan de Monbrison
Ann Marie Sekeres
David Earl Williams
with contest winners featuring the art of
Click on the cover image to see a flipbook layout of the issue or scroll to see individual works.
Christine Diane Allen
Your Other Perfect Lover
Letter to J.D.*
Absent, hidden, silent, separate, secret:
your other the perfect lover. You ask
what one does when one trembles—
what initiates the crack, the crevice
the flow; who apprehends this difference—
What is it that makes you tremble?
A longtime fawn, I really want to say
it’s the shining white of night, the black
cubbyholes of day, it’s the foot let loose,
the hand that disappears. Sadly, elusion
eludes me. Rather, it’s the wine that drafts
my tongue to betray my secrets, my hands
to resist restrain. It’s the fall night that smells
like a field of onions, the winter morning
that swims like a fish. It’s the irrepressible
past, the memory that threatens to remain—
black with rot, blue with flame, the desire
for that other imperfect lover: ever present,
speaking in tongues, lost and found and
lost again, imagined still then written down.
* From Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death, “Whom to Give to (Knowing Not to Know),” pp. 53-55. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press 1995.
(Downtown Friday night)
Itchy’s real name is Michel Paul, but I don’t know anyone that calls him by his birth name. As a matter of fact, I came upon his name accidentally, but that’s another tale. So it came to pass that the day Lysettes’s father, a.k.a El Diablo, opened the mail to pay the phone bill, he grounded her for life. Let me back track for a moment to that first encounter. It was Friday night, and we were all hanging out downtown when a white Lincoln Town Car sedan stretched lazily along the curb slowing down right in front of us; us being Marcy, Lysette, Woodsy, and I. It idled steadily as though breathing. An ultimate limo it was not, but certainly she was oozing charisma for the shades were drawn and the only visible means of looking in was through the windshield. A tasteful magnetic sign trimmed in gold hung on the driver’s door simply read Duke’s V.I.P.Limo. Were we being checked out or just happen to be standing in the right place at the right time? Whatever the reason it didn’t matter and immediately Lysette hiked her already short enough skirt higher, displaying the thickest part of her thighs.
The driver’s window cracked open expelling a procession of vibrations that can only be described as the piece de resistance of tight bass. An exposition of sound shot up through our abdomens, through the solar plexus, up into our low-cut, and drifted to the temple behind the eyes. The limo maintained its low idle while the dark tinted window slowly edged downward. Immediately, we dared each other to walk up to the driver’s door. Lysette only had to be asked once and she stepped off the curb like she had been doing this for years. The rest of us huddled together and could barely keep our composure because we were laughing so hard. All the while we were keeping rhythm to the low vibrations of the stereo, each watching Lysette saunter up to the driver’s window. I suppose that was the moment in time we can safely call “love at first sight”. That was when she met Itchy, behind the wheel of the limo. They talked for what seemed to be forever, her head and shoulders pitched forward, her arms resting against the lowered window frame while her big ass faced us and swayed with the music. Finally, she turned around and with the look of victory held up her cell phone and clutched it to her chest. As she stepped back up on to the curb only the lit end of a cigarette was visible through the dark glass. And then, once again, we were standing in the quiet of the street; the music had vanished as the white stretch streamed out of sight, leaving us all begging for details from a love-struck Lysette.
Have You Ever Considered That a Rhesus Monkey Might Be Smarter Than Your Child?
I’ve tried for years to remember
the name of that song we sang
in second-grade music class,
the one where we marched
in place and the teacher scrolled
a background on the wall to help
us imagine we were headed somewhere.
But every time my mind jumps
to Wesley Willis’ “Chronic
Schizophrenia”, which is not
the kind of song one has one’s
second-graders sing, even if it
had been out in 1976.
I can remember almost
the entire rest of that year,
from the hamburgers we had
to beg to get pickles on
to reading class all the way
from the first bell to lunch
(with a recess break halfway
through) to the letdown
of a teacher who refused
to recognize the slant rhyme
of “bark” and “fork”,
but all I get are disconnected
snatches of an uncarried tune
and the same countryside
under our feet every two minutes.
Next to the city in that little rundown bar
where Jimmy Loads is the only one who
ever touches the juke we put a bucket
in the middle of the table one night
and all four of us tossed in a bottlecap
every time Jimmy played side 2
of American Pie. He never played
side 1, only side 2, and every time
someone else even went near
that machine he'd snarl like a dingo
with half a cassowary to himself.
By the time we left, many many
trips to the urinals later, damn me
if that bucket weren't filled to the rim
and my veins half Bundaberg.
The four of us left Jimmy to it,
staggered home for a few hours'
sleep before another day of onion
prep, and I had nightmares about
the last train for the coast till dawn.
I’m a creature of habit, a slave to routine. My day--with the exception of the erratic nature of traffic--has been whittled down to a science.
At exactly seven-fifteen, the tumultuous blare of two radio stations fight for power inside my alarm clock. The raucous static sends my rigor-mortis body running across the room to end the audible torture. It’s the only thing strong enough to get me out of bed.
Next comes the slippers, warm and fuzzy like rabbits inside-out. Left first, then right. My feet are feathers as I make my way into the hall, a bloodshot apparition looking for haunts.
Kids, I call softly, It’s time to get up for school.
I hover for a brief moment outside their door, catching a glimpse of their heads cocooned under heaps of blankets. The room is dim, shrouded in hues of blue shadow, the sun unable to penetrate the thick curtains hanging from the windows. A dying yellow glow, it makes the children look like ashen tombstones.
Kids, I call again, You’re going to be late.
Another failure-- I can’t seem to rouse them. Their lethargy is so petulant that it’s become a part of my own morning routine.
Oh well, I think to myself.
Efforts moot, I glide down the stairs and make my way to the kitchen. As I pop into the fridge to grab the contents for my breakfast, I feel the December-wind glare of my wife boring a hole into the back of my head. I silently grab the cream cheese and pretend not to notice, but it becomes too heavy to ignore.
I’m sorry I couldn’t get the kids up again, I confess. You know I would try again after breakfast but it would just be no use.
Still, she says nothing. I sweep away my lackluster apology along with the crumbs from yesterday’s breakfast. After meticulously slicing my bagel, I insert both halves into the slots with the rounded sides facing each other. The lever presses into place, clicking as it goes, an orgasmicly satisfying sound. As I wait for my bagel to toast, the kitchen clock wails above my head like a pulsating heart on the verge of an attack.
I am now forced to bask in an uncomfortable silence. It’s tangible, suffocating, thick like molasses.
All the while Delilah remains perched on the stool where I left her after our argument last night, poised in the same stance and refusing to utter a word. I sneak a glimpse of her dried-lip snarl and melon-seed eyes, angry and hard enough to strike me dead. With a will stronger than Antarctic fjords, she upholds her petty silent treatment lest she forgets how to speak entirely. I squirm, put off by the tension.
Come on, honey. Please. You know I love you, don’t you?
Still, she says nothing.
My bagel pops up in that moment, a donut comet striking the roof, loud and abrupt and magma-hot. Hands shaking trying not to burn myself, I smear both halves with blood-orange jam while my wife watches with contempt, mute and statuesque, silently judging me for my carbs. I cast my shameful gaze to the floor before filling the rest of my stomach with coffee and heading to work.
I’ll see you later, love. Make sure the kids get to class on time, okay?
I hesitate in the doorway for her, providing one last opportunity to make amends. The ghost of the morning air wafts into the foyer, swirling her medusa curls, toying with her face to coax her into a goodbye.
Okay? I repeat myself.
Still, stiffened on the countertop stool, scowl unaffected by the tickle of the breeze, Delilah says nothing. I close the door and leave.
After navigating through the cataclysmic city, I park my van in the nearest open spot and wait until 7:53 to start walking to my office. Once inside, I flip on the charm to forget about Delilah and say hello to all my co-workers, most of them too incomptetent to maintain the positions they hold. Of course, I don’t let them know this. Instead I offer a bouquet of friendly waves, pretending to care about Jonathan’s dog and Amelia’s baby. Small talk is the reason I’m thankful for my cubicle.
What’s up? Asks Tom as I settle into my desk. How’s Carrie? Still going through the honeymoon phase?
No, I say morosely, Carrie is my ex wife. I’m married to Delilah now.
Tom looks aghast.
I know what you’re thinking--it was love at first sight, if you could believe it. I caught her leaving the grocery store one day and I just couldn’t look away. We hit it off splendidly.
Well…congratulations I guess. You’re quite the casanova, aren’t you? Tom sputters out. He looks off-put by my capriciousness. Not that it’s any of my business, but I heard you had another wife before Carrie, too. And don’t you have kids? Make sure you’re not confusing them with all the women you’re bringing home. That could be bad news.
Yes, I’m aware. I snap at him. And I’m handling it very well.
Tom is now rapt with intrigue, a schoolgirl socialite just itching for some gossip. He leans in close to make sure no one can hear me air my dirty laundry.
If you don’t mind me asking, how long was your last marriage anyways? And how do you find women so quickly?
I don’t answer now-- Tom’s questions have become too intrusive. Instead, I began to arrange my already-clean workspace, hoping he would pick up on my disinterest and go pester someone else. But instead Tom cocks his head to the side, looks at me quizzically, and says:
Hey Corey, why do you smell like shit?
Something inside me clicks.
My heart sinks into my stomach, falling like an inept acrobat, finally plunging into my feet. Dragonfire erupts in my heels and licks it way into my face, turning my cheeks redder than applesauce. Meanwhile Tom’s just standing there with chrysanthemum eyes, trying to gauge why such a simple question was leaving me silent. I cough and try to play it off like I choked on my spit.
The truth was that the fickleness of the human body soils every single relationship. The elements storm in like feasting piranhas, hungry for flesh and rust, taking my happiness with them.. Even with the thermostat low I cannot stop the decaying process.
I let the grim reality melt bitterly on my tongue, pungent like metal. Tom is now gushing about his frisky one-night-stand, the awkwardness of the past few minutes completely erased from his memory. I cough again to choke on tears. I can’t even remember the time.
I throw my briefcase to the floor and stumble inside, arriving at home just before sunset. There she sits, still idle, a black silhouette against the fading grin of the sun. Before we depart, I allow myself one last glance at my beautiful wife.
Her flesh has decomposed rather quickly over the past three weeks, hanging limply off her bones like laundry on a clothesline, patterned with blisters weak to the touch. Her eyes, once a green deeper than the heart of a forest, have shriveled up into black raisins. Cruel, selfish Time has taken every blossom of her youth and baked it under its greedy gaze, turning Delilah into a pallid lump of candle drippings
My stomach lurches. I can’t bear to look anymore.
On the brink of tears, I take Delilah in my arms and nestle my head against her shoulder, softly cooing I’m sorry until my throat runs dry. Not soon after, my nose begins to revolt from the scent of rotting eggs, sending thunderstorms sprouting from my eyes.
I suppose Tom was right-- I do smell like shit.
Delilah and the kids are taken down to the basement. I pile them next to Carrie and Anabelle, who’s now barely hanging onto her nails and teeth. Severing my sorrow, unable to see them like this--three dolls abandoned cold on the patchwork daycare floor-- I slam the cellar shut and hike back up to the kitchen, abysmally reminding myself that my pain is only temporary.
Tomorrow will be better, I say with weak assurance. Tomorrow I will have another family, and a wife who loves me just as well. Tomorrow will be better, I repeat again.
Tomorrow I will be happy.
If there were mountains, I never saw them
in the rear-view mirror or in the bottom of my cup.
Do the children live in the mountains? Do they eat
candy they stole from a house? The gutters, the shutters
stuffing them until they get sick? Does an old woman
try to help them, only to be called a witch? I never
lived in the mountains. I never had a candy house,
only this plain wooden one, only sticky with pine sap,
you see, and that would never attract children,
no matter how greedy, hungry, and fat.
Her dialect adapts, depending
on where she is, who she is with,
and how much wine is involved.
Was she born in Boston’s Back Bay,
or in the Bronx,
gazing at jagged potholes
and leftover fast food containers
tossed on the Brucker Expressway?
In high school, she stole Izod socks
out of gym lockers,
cut off the tiny alligators,
sewed them onto her acrylic JC Penney sweaters.
Her gold-knot earrings were from Woolworths,
coated with dollar-store nail polish.
She learned to set a table
and write formal thank-you notes
from books in the public library.
The doctor’s son tired of her
antiques, hydrangeas, and affairs.
She runs wild,
in awe of the atomic tiger lilies
and black-eyed Susans
growing by the highway
on the vast Midwestern plains.
Guidance on Avoiding Conflict with Wolves
If you see a wolf, be aggressive in your behavior.
It’s easy to forget there are rules for living with wolves, especially on nights when the moon shines like this. Bold. Bright. Not yellow, but the almond of her dead husband’s eyes. Nights like these, the mountains’ shadows hump in the shape of animals mating. It’s even easier to forget there are wolves living just outside her back door, slinking past her still warm firepit, nosing under her red checked tablecloth. They lick what tendrils she’s left behind, paw the dark morsels abandoned on the ground after dinner.
Fence yards to deter wolves.
Here in the mountains, men call these invaders coyotes. But she smells the lie. She knows they are really wolves. Hulking, matted, brooding. Their hollow call pierces her heart like the gnaw and nuzzle of the first baby’s hungry gums. In the dark of night, alone in her wide bed, she wants to wrap the wolves in her arms, whisper sweet words in their pointed ears. She wants to taste the earth of their fur on her lips. But. She knows not to trust a marauder in wolf’s clothing. Knows not to trust the mailman when he rings her doorbell, offers her a package she didn’t order. She knows to turn her back on the UPS driver attempting to deliver a king size mattress when she is very clearly a queen.
If wolves associate food sources such as garbage with people, wolves may lose their natural fear of humans.
When they first married, she tried cooking for him. He snapped and snarled, said her cooking was garbage. She began pouring a glass of wine each time he pawed her food from the table to the floor. At some point, she began talking to herself. What if I’m something ugly? What if I held the knife wrong? What if I poured too much into his drink? What if I arrive late to the funeral? What if I don’t mourn right?
Teach children to appreciate wolves from a distance.
Two months ago, it was February. She filled the windows with paper hearts, remembered past seasons, filling the children’s lunch boxes with candy. Love Me. I Luv U. Never Leave Me. Stay. She sang her daughter lullabies under her breath while the girl, coarse brown hair covering her eyes, texted the latest boyfriend. She made her son’s favorite dinners. Night after night he came home from stuffing hides at the local taxidermy shop, too full of bones and sawdust to eat. Everyone knew it was February. Everyone knew it was mating season. Nights after the children were long caved up in their rooms, she sat outside in her pink nightgown, waiting for the one.
Do not allow pets or children to run free.
Mating season always depends on the weather. On the amount of prey circling the mountains, the degree of longing in the houses surrounding the town. First mating, then pup raising, then dispersal. Sometimes the horrible fathers leave. Sometimes the sad mothers trail after their young, watching and wondering where they learned to rip open a human heart so easily. Once, she refused to cook the deer heart he brought home in a sopping sack. For days he growled at her under his breath.
Wolves are typically secretive and like areas where they can hide. Remove brush and tall grass.
Her dead husband always avoided people. Camouflage was his weapon of choice: a word carefully hidden beneath his beard, a casual shove blurred beneath his thick wool coat. The real problem was disguising his fur. The broad backs of his hands sported matted clumps of black and grey whorls. Clean me, he would snarl, wiping one hand after the other across her dry lips. One day she found him on the ground next to the dog, panting in great gasps, snipping clumps of fur with a small pair of scissors. She offered to trim his beard, sat him on a stool, faced him away from the bathroom mirror.
Losing their natural fear of humans increases the potential for conflicts with wolves.
Her dead husband wrote a postcard. In her own handwriting he wrote:
Don’t worry, wife, about sharpening the knives. Unfortunate wedding gift. Bad luck. Bad luck. Knives are nothing more than counter-burden, and I never meant to lock you in the closet, our house being round so you could never hide. I wanted you to feel safe in plain sight, safe in your nightgown when I was hungry, safe in your night when I was a heavy flashlight forbidding you shadow. Remember the Maglite your father gave you for Christmas that year? Remember its heft when the power went out? Remember the power when your breath
ran out? Taking in air, as I am, from the depth and breadth of a garden never planted is a chore, but one I can manage.
She still doesn’t know how he managed to fit so much on the back of a tiny card, but she keeps it tucked inside her bra, just in case.
Do not allow wolves to approach. If a wolf does approach, throw sticks or stones.
Is he dead? Did I kill him? Are the children still home? Whose voice keeps calling? The wolves’ howling makes it hard to sleep at night. She thinks the answer might be in the garden. By now, the moon is lone, a single claw behind clouds. She stumbles in the dark yard, sniffs the air to locate the freshly turned soil, its copper breeze. She holds her hands out in front of her, catches herself before she falls. The knife will pry open the trap. Or the trap will set her free. If only the wolves would stop howling, she could remember where she left the shovel.
Tell Her It Means Love
Play your tapes at full blast. If you still hear them yelling, feel your heart punch your chest. Count the punches, to ten. Open the box where you hide your mum’s cig butts and then wish you hadn’t. Open the bedroom window and try to waft the smell of ashtray towards the summer evening. Wonder if the neighbours will call the police again, if this time they’ll put you in care. Sing ‘Take On Me’ in an operatic voice that would make your mum laugh, in the right circumstances. Remember what she said about reading the room. Close the window.
Focus on listening to the music and get excited by A-ha's frantic synths. Above Morten Harket’s high notes, hear your dad shout, “Liar!” then slam the front door. Wait in your room for ten minutes, an hour, a week. Wonder where your sister is. Wonder where your mum is. Wonder why no-one is wondering where you are.
Panic-grab peace offerings and leave your room. Tiptoe down the corridor to your parent’s bedroom. Listen to your mum crying. Knock on the door until she answers – could be ten minutes, could be half an hour, could be not at all. If she opens the door, offer her whatever childish treasure you’ve stuffed in your pockets; an unscratched protractor, a fistful of marbles, a fortune teller fish, shiny and unspoiled. If she cries harder tell her it’s not her fault. Wait for her to say something. If she doesn’t say anything say, “I’m sorry, Mum.” Then she will tell you that she is sorry, that it’s not your fault either, that they are the grown-ups. Then she will be able to look at you. Fold yourself into her hug.
Hold hands on the way downstairs, her walking ahead of you like she did when you were a toddler. Notice how she trusts you to hold on to the banister, how she no longer looks back. Jump when the phone in the hall starts ringing. If your mum ignores it, answer it. If it’s your sister calling to ask if she can stay out longer, say yes. If it’s your dad calling to ask if your mum is there, say no. Unplug the phone. Ask her when he’s coming back. Ten minutes? Two hours? A year? Hope she will say never but never say that out loud.
Beg your mum to make instant hot chocolate. Feel yourself cheering up, instantly. While the kettle is boiling make her sit on the couch, then dry your mum’s tears like you’ve seen on the telly, except instead of a hanky use a hastily torn shred of kitchen roll – dab, dab, dab. Ask her to close her eyes and put her hand out. Be patient and persistent. Say, “It’s not going to hurt, I promise.” Take the fortune teller fish from your pocket and place it in her palm. Tell her to open her eyes. Watch together as the flimsy red plastic trembles, then curls up entirely. Tell her it means jealousy. Tell her it means passion. Tell her it means love.
Maggie Nerz Iribarne
The simple cross on the Methodist church looms and disappears as night engulfs the Fields. The Poor Road is forever lined with shacks and old cars. Our road, Fields Road, leads to town, has two-story houses with garages, green patches of front lawn. On the other side of the cemetery lies the trailer park which my mother calls the Honky Tonk, because it’s boisterous with fire pits, strung lights, neighbors drinking cold beers out of cans. Sometimes the police need to pull up there, bust up a fight, yank a drunk husband off of a trembling wife.
For me, it is always autumn here, always dusk.
The night my half-brother Henry disappeared plays on repeat.
There is the house in the center of everything, tall and grey, poking up into the dimming sky. The silhouettes of women appear in its windows. They are sliding around, upstairs and down. They dance together, hold each others’ hands, twirl in circles beneath a crystal chandelier. Some say they’re sweet old ladies who mean no harm. Some say they’re leaders who have given much to the town. Some say they are neither of those things.
I am dreaming of that night. We are trick- or- treating, out amongst throngs of children dragging plastic jack-o-lanterns.
“Let’s go home,” I tell Henry, my 16 year old face looking down into his small freckled one, a little moon. It contorts into defiance as he runs away.
In the dream, I don’t leave him, I don’t turn away. I follow him down the long broken sidewalks, stalking his small shadow, but he dissolves into thin air.
They are known simply as the Mills Sisters. They own everything. Their great grandfather founded the town and built the first house on this side, this place that became the Fields. The Mills construction company built most of the old houses here. Everyone’s mom or dad worked in some way for the Millses. Their father died suddenly by falling off one of their most celebrated buildings, then the five daughters took over.
They are all unmarried, all nameless. They plant flowers each year in spring, fill large tubs with pink and purple and white. The flowers appear almost overnight, lining the town streets. They hold an old timey fourth of July ice cream social, when all the children ride decorated bikes and follow a classic car driven by a local old man, red white and blue streamers flowing from their handlebars. At Halloween they put out pumpkins with all the treats a child would want. They hang doughnuts from tree branches. It’s like Hansel and Gretel finding the candy house in the woods. Of course the Mills sisters are rich. Of course they donate to plenty of things. The Mills Family name is engraved on every park bench, playground, and community garden in town. “What will those ladies do next?” many often ask.
Henry’s father, Frank, hates the Mills Sisters. He once worked for their paving company, tried to organize for better pay, was quickly dismissed. “That’s what happens to people who go against the Mills Sisters,” Frank says constantly. All he ever does is sit in front of the TV and gripe.
Halloween night, Frank sits watching sports.
“Help out a little around here for once, will ya? Take him out,” he says weakly, staring ahead at the screen. My mother is not here. She is working the 7P to 7A shift at the hospital.
“Yeah, help out, Sis!” Henry says in his squeaky copycat
It is Frank who tells the police I am a liar and have always been. It is Frank who tells them he wanted to take Henry but I insisted. It is Frank who tells them I am a bad sister, that I never liked Henry, that I’d love to do away with him. Some parts of what he says are true.
It is the inflation-high 1970s, times were simpler, as they say. Kids wear pillow cases, their faces charred with burned cork. They wear their fathers’ old plaid shirts. Henry, the little prince, wears a homemade costume my mother sewed late at night after her day shifts. I hear the sound of her sewing machine whirring along, the stops and starts of it, the creaks in the floor boards, her chair pushing out for her to stand to piece, to measure. Once, she made me a witch costume. I wore it for second, third, and fourth grades and I would’ve kept wearing it, too. In fourth grade, my father went to bed and died in his sleep. I gained weight; my witch costume no longer fit.
The ball beats against the spray paint can as I shake, point, aim. Devil’s Eve is an amateur night in which I would never partake. I prefer hot summer nights. I like to sneak out of bed, slide through my window, grab my bag in the shed and head out to spray the words in my dreams.
The night I am picked up by the cops, I’d been writing snippets of “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath on the wall by the bridge-an abandoned place.
You died before I had time
I was ten when they buried you…
“Clarissa, aren’t things hard enough?” my mother says when she comes to get me.
I’m not sure what she means. Dad dying? Or Frank? Or what?
“I’m sorry, Mom,” I say, and I mean it.
In costume everyone is the same, babies and big kids, batmans and clowns, good guys and bad. Everyone wants the same thing: candy. The legions of children blend together into one tacky blob, marching along.
Henry is different though. He doesn’t want to trick or treat.
“I want to be spidey,” he says, sulkily chucking his pumpkin candy holder and crouching down on the ground, darting from tree to tree, pretending to shoot webs to different places, fake swinging from a bush to a logpile.
I remove my cigarettes and matches from my back jeans pocket, light up.
“Mom’s gonna be pissed!” he yells.
I take a long drag, savoring the warm burn in my lungs, the self harm that feels like power, freedom.
The Mills house is always lit to the hilt on Halloween Night. The night Henry disappears is no exception.
Mom takes me to lunch at McDonalds after our morning shift at the hospital. She is nursing and I am fulfilling my promise to her that I will be better, make better use of my time -study harder, lose weight, stop smoking, volunteer. We sit in front of burgers (no fries, no shakes) and diet cokes and do not talk about what I said to Henry that morning.
“What have they got you doing?” Mom asks, using her pretending to be super interested voice.
“Not much. Filling water glasses. Delivering flowers.”
I finally get to the pickle bit and savor the one burst of flavor in the dry sandwich.
“Clarissa, Henry loves you. He’s just a little boy.”
“I know,” I say, looking down in shame, holding back.
“I’ll try harder,” I say. My mother’s hand reaches across, covers mine.
After we part ways I stop at the gift shop and slip a few lipsticks in my bag. It’s amazing how no one ever sees.
I begin to feel guilty for leaving him, so I turn back. First I say his name, then I call it, then I scream it. I run, despite my size and black lungs, repeatedly calling Henry’s name. Trick or treaters trudge onward. Children and adults ignore me as I barrel down each street. “Henry! Henry!” My throat is raw. I run around and around the Mills house, so bright I don’t consider it a possibility. There is no way my brother is in that house. I run through the shadowed graveyard, passing my father’s burial place without stopping. A flash of the skeletons laid out beneath my pounding feet explodes in my mind. Finally, I decide I must go home. That’s it. Typical Henry. He wants to scare me. He has simply returned home.
The storm door slams behind me. I gulp to catch my breath.
I yell for them, Henry and Frank. The TV plays the news loudly, too loudly.
I enter the family room, finding six or so beer cans lined up on the coffee table.
In Henry’s room, his bed is tucked and smooth. Weirdo. What kid makes his bed like that?
My stepfather sleeps in his room.
I shake him by the shoulders. “Wake up!”
“What the? “ he jolts out of his slump, his face twists in its standard annoyance.
“What do you want?”
“I can’t find Henry.”
He doesn’t panic, he doesn’t jump up.
“Way to go. Lose your brother.” He laughs and feels around for a beer can on the nightstand. He succeeds, tilts it into his chubby face, drinks.
“Just find him. Before your mother gets home,” he says.
The trick or treaters are dwindling, lights have gone out for the night. Stray pieces of streamers and candy wrappers whip in the wind around my feet. I look up at the full moon, the first time I notice it that night. My anxiety mounts just as my eyes land again on the Mills house. It is no longer lit with Halloween festivity. It is dark, dark as I have ever seen it.
I march with a new purpose to the house, climb the steps to the front and bang on the door. The house holds its breath, assumes a wall of silence. I run back down the steps, push into the strengthening force of wind. The wind pushes and pulls, like it’s pummeling me, the moon expands. Does it know where Henry is? Is it laughing at me running around like this?
I thought you hated your brother. Why are you so upset then? The moon jeers.
I lean into the dining room windows, cup hands around my peering eyes. Only darkness, an outline of furniture.
I turn to see a strange old man stands there, wearing a plaid barn coat and a cap.
“Trespassin’, young lady?” he asks.
“No. I’m looking for my brother,” I say.
“Henry ain’t here, no way,” the man says, offers a cigarette. I grab it, stick it in my lips, and accept his light. “No, no way your brother’s here at the Mills place.”
I turn and head home where the police have already arrived, are questioning everyone. It doesn’t matter.
I’m the one to blame.
“But what about the Mills house?” I ask during the second round of questions. “It was. It was-“
“The big house in the center?”
“Yes!” I gasp, but the images are already fading from my brain. I grip the table, trying to hold on.
“Vacant.” That word, resounding in my ears, an echo.
Vacant. It reverberates down to my toes. Vacant.
My memories cloud over, like a storm moving into a night sky, a cloud covering the moon.
“That house has been vacant forever,” Frank says calmly, his eyes soft, his voice natural, his hands spread on thighs.
“But-“ I yell but I don’t know what comes after.
I don’t bring up the old man in the plaid jacket, because I can’t remember him. I don’t remember him for twenty years.
The Mills House remains dark.
It never goes up for sale, no one ever moves in. All conversations about the house, about that night swirl, water down a drain.
There’s no body, no evidence against me or anyone else. The case goes cold.
Mom divorces Frank, barely speaks to me. I gain more weight, smoke many more cigarettes, barely graduate high school. I keep the house neat as a pin. Dust Henry’s room. In between, I keep that door closed, locked.
When I walk past the Mills house on the way to the cemetery, I feel it bite, nip at my shoulders. I keep my feet off the grass, look straight. I don’t want even the slightest glance at the windows.
I like to sit beside my father’s grave. He never knew Henry.
Lie’s pages bulk the lexicon -
truth to tell, the word’s overworked.
It’s all compounded, rounding up,
as sheepdogs after straggling flock,
race and nip then low-lie crouch.
Belie, belief and bandolier
the letters of that core relief,
as if its profile could be mixed,
laying down, that printer’s task,
the first edition put to bed.
Bullied, brollies, butterflies
from heavy hand to flutter wings,
clients, thought of cavalier,
like lei, garlanded with flowers.
Some lie low till danger’s passed,
some lie in on weekend breaks,
ships lie to, lay-by for cars,
while golfers check the lay of ball.
Others take things lying down -
but lying should be taken down -
as I’m confused, where lies the truth.
‘The truth’, ingrained from youth to tell -
though ‘whole truth’, more than kernel, seems
to invite granny’s painful knee,
yet ‘nothing but’ keeps small talk out.
The parliament - hear hear the howls -
that one where’s fed Westminster chimes,
where owlish wisdom should be heard,
sees history meet nonsense terms.
Here members, lying through their teeth
must still be named as ‘honourable’,
but never ‘liars’, ‘mislead the House’ -
as crossed that line, acceptable.
So well established, Palace set,
lies not called out though truly found.
Whatever question, state your will,
prevaricate against the clock,
filibuster through the night -
but then check in with family,
the daily course we all pursue,
and face, lie of the land at hand,
ask who follows whose map laid.
Away With Birds
What is the prompt that will stir you -
so different from my starting point -
when brain storage affects our train
and our cognition leaves us blank?
For you the age now to define
what’s counted from your prime as worth,
when mine is childhood, marks of note,
an endless list, onward from breast.
Though buried under sands of time
I recall scenes of multitudes,
five thousand, swards upon the hill,
the songs of Sunday School intoned,
more music, tunes familiar,
with well-being in ringing ears,
though term uncoined when we sang.
Why is it this theme taken hold?
My sister lies with fluency,
with tales, adventures flowing free -
though not a word do I believe,
amongst my nods and smiles, agree,
because her world is fantasy,
but truth from her imagined soul.
There’s no torture, her roaming mind,
indulgent scenery in play
or work, relationships and birds -
her love in ornithology
has taken flight, on wing, you see.
The castles in the air she builds
she visited, stood battlements,
before the knight she well describes
brought rescue, on white charger rides.
The past is vivid, happens now -
it’s tense, in that voice I hear,
today and yesterday as one.
How can I argue, logic rules,
when dreaming spires are in the skies,
and she so happy in the lies
that truly are so real to her?
So I build up as manifest,
the precious cargo I must hold,
ready, unladen, when I’m old.
The Voice Behind the Curtain
Can’t you see me? Come a little closer then, come and hear me out,
Let me ease your mind, strike away that look of doubt.
Another step towards me, there, ah there you go,
I’ll tell you of all the things, I’ll tell you all I know.
You there look so uncertain, as if you see not in me a friend,
Let me change your mind, if an ear to me you’ll lend.
Come now and sit closer, pull up a chair to stay awhile,
Prepare to be enlightened, flattered and beguiled.
A pillar of greatness, such a noble head you are,
A guiding beacon, a leading force, a brightly shining star.
You are above all others, in a league all of your own,
Striving to always do, things no others have ever known.
What’s that? Stay a little longer, don’t you leave so soon,
More I have to say to you, more I have to croon.
You define all that is so great, so strong and all that’s true,
Any storm that threatens, you boldly do pass through.
To say there is no other like you, now that I cannot say,
But now don’t leave just so soon, trust, a moment more you’ll stay.
Your actions have become you, oh such things that you have done,
As if above all else you seem to think, a final prize that can be won.
Yes, ah yes come closer to me still, can you see me now?
Why has that doubt come back? I see it, there furrowed in your brow.
I’m here, can you not see me yet? So plainly within view,
Closer, come closer, ah yes, now that will finely do.
Right here, I’m here behind the curtain, do you not see me still?
It is I that was and always is, to be there to do your will.
Come now great one surely, my face now is known to you?
It is I and I alone that has done the deeds, whatever more that shall ensue.
There, now yes there I see you at the curtain, your hand poised but still unsure,
Closer, closer come, the mystery of my allure.
Ahh yes, now there you have it, a little farther still,
You can feel it can you not? That eager, fervent thrill?
Who am I truly, haven’t you known me all along?
You as I and I as you, that’s the way it always has belonged.
You are the epitome of greatness, no flaws you could ever hold,
I would say you are the greatest of them all, if I should be so bold.
Closer yes, yes a little further still,
Don’t you want to be privy, to all the secrets I shall spill?
And now the curtain, pull it open at last!
The answers all to which, the questions you have asked.
That face. That face that looks at me,
Those eyes and nose and ears, of my own face of which they be.
Those lips that reflect back at me, mock the movement of my own,
Tauntingly in disgust, I stand now all alone.
This face that seems so unpleasant, so grotesque in all that it shows,
The mirror behind the curtain, for the truth it has exposed.
The Sorrow in a Smile
What Is Understood To Be True
Ivan de Monbrison
Untitled (with Translation
они говорят на неизвестном языке.
Я живу в яйце из плоти.
на улице шея, а в руках тела голова.
на тарелке мозг, который я ем.
в стакане есть слова.
Я стреляю себе в рот.
но мое зло - насекомое.
в другом месте.
путь — змея.
твоя семья - вороны на этой ветке.
в стене есть дыра,
с другой стороны, мы трахаемся,
у женщины ноги раздвинуты,
у мужика маленький член.
Я закрываю окно, я теряю безумие,
и я теряю желание.
They speak in an unknown language.
I live in an egg of flesh.
On the street is a neck,
and in the hands of the body is a head.
On the plate is a brain that I am eating.
There are words in the glass.
I shoot myself in the mouth.
But my evil is an insect.
In another place.
The path is a snake.
Your family are crows on this branch.
There’s a hole in the wall
On the other hand we fuck
The woman’s legs are spread,
The guy has a small dick.
I close the window, I lose my madness
And I lose my desire
Type of Man
Pops and I never got along. According to Mama, he had to be convinced to have children. Convinced. The way you gotta be convinced to get hurricane insurance or convinced to pay extra for the antivirus software. Mama said she leaned into his ear—this is true—and told him, “We’ll get more government cheese.”
Then he became a daddy.
But I could still sense an annoyance from him like I took too much space or I was in his life when he could have had a better truck or a bigger TV or a cruise trip to the Bahamas.
He regularly forgot me at: Wal-Mart (thank God a nice woman let me wait for him at customer service); at school; and once in the parking lot of Santa’s Enchanted Forest. At least he always came back, eyes turned low, ashamed. “Come on, boy,” he’d say.
Mom was always term to pat my back and remind me I was loved and wouldn’t end up living in a cupboard under the stairs. Her attention doubled. She seemed determined that I grow up ordinary and well-adjusted.
When I was forgotten, at a K-Mart this time, the next morning she baked me a three-layer cake with dulce de leche filling and Graham crackers. When Pops disinvited me from a fishing trip up at Pelican Harbor for sitting with my legs crossed, she bought us tickets to Busch Gardens. When Pops refused to teach me how to drive with his F150, she paid a little old man from a driving school to come to our house and teach me.
“I’ve got you,” she’d say, nervously. Mom sometimes seemed worried, like she didn’t know how much longer she could continue fighting this two-front war.
“I got you,” I’d repeat. It always made her lips curl and revealed her singular dimple.
In high school, Pops started seeing me as a man. By sixteen I had hit my growth spurt and had to lower my head to enter rooms. I became someone who could understand him and his desires. Sometimes he’d come into my room and hold up his phone with a woman’s ass pressed against the camera or ponderous freckled breast tied in a thin halter. “Nice, huh?” He’d say, looking at me and then back at the picture. “Right?”
When I turned seventeen, he caught me in the garage packing away one of his Presidentes. I almost spit the beer out when I saw him marching towards me. I expected an ass whooping or for him to smack the can out of my hand. But he grabbed one of out of the cooler and sat down with me.
“Nostrovia,” he said, pulling back the tab.
“I’m not in trouble?” I held the beer at waist-level.
He shook his head. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”
Around that period, he started treating me like one of his pals or co-conspirators. It was nice.
However, while my stock rose, Mama’s seemed to crash. They fought constantly. They thought I wouldn’t notice since they had the habit of fighting in the car with the music on.
She got suspicious of his late-night calls, his supposed overtime, and how he had stopped kissing her on the mouth.
One afternoon while Pops and I were watching a rerun of Jerry Springer, Mama dragged herself in like a storm making landfall.
“Let me,” she said, blocking Pops’ Laz-E-Boy. “Come on.”
“Not here.” He pointed at me as I was some prison guard monitoring the rec area.
“Now.” She had a pinched expression and stomped her foot.
“What’s going on?” I asked. I felt like I was watching two episodes of Jerry Springer in picture-in-picture.
Maybe it was after what Mama did that I finally began to understand Pops.
She squatted and dropped her face into his crotch. I heard take a long, deep whiff like the type one takes before free diving.
“Ew, what the fuck?” I shouted.
“Well?” Pops asked, waiting for a verdict. He later explained how she had started sniffing his balls and boxers to see if he was cheating. She was certain that she’d be able to smell another woman there. Or perhaps find some lipstick smudged across his inner thigh.
While Mama analyzed the smells, I noticed that Pops was also holding his breath. He was white knuckling the armrest. He was nervous.
“Fine,” Mama finally said. She walked out of the living room and to her bedroom where we could hear her calling her sister.
Pops took a breath. “Women, am I right?”
We were co-conspirators.
After my high school graduation ceremony, Pops decided to take me “somewhere special.” He wouldn’t tell me where and spoke in whispers. Once we got back to the house from the ceremony at the James L. Knight Center, he followed me into my room.
Looking through my closet, he said, “Wear something nice.” He pulled out a peach long sleeve polo and grey slacks.
“Can mom come?” I asked. I slipped out of the papery blue gown.
His eyes widened as if I had suggested cannibalism. He got close to me. I could see the wisps of nose hairs poking out of his nostrils. “No. And don’t say anything to her, okay?” He stepped back and his scowl softened. “You don’t want to ruin the surprise.”
I was afraid of things going back to the way they were. I’d be the annoyance again, the unwanted tagalong.
“I got you,” I said, imitating Mom.
We sat in Booby Trap’s parking lot for the entirety of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” Pops sprayed menthol into his mouth, checked his pits, and smoothed out the unruly hairs on his eyebrows.
“How do I look?” He smiled wide—the way awkward kids do on picture day, revealing a lot of gum.
I couldn’t remember the last time Pops had been vulnerable like this, if ever. He was bearing his belly. I could have taken his dignity, wiped the smile clean off his face with a simple no. But his vulnerability made me think he had grown to trust me—he showed me his neck knowing I’d never cut it. I said, “You look like a million bucks.”
He patted my shoulder and tossed me the breath spray.
The lot was sparse. There were six cars in total, and I imagined some had to belong to the employees. Maybe that was typical of a Thursday night. Pops continued singing “Free Bird.”
“And this bird you cannot tame…” He stopped when the bouncer held out his palm. We were patted down and paid the $20 cover.
Pops strode in like a regular, head high, greeting the girls. “You want to eat a little first?” He asked, nudging me towards the buffet where a tin of chicken wings was replaced. “This place has the best thigh.” He laughed at his own and filled his plate.
I looked around the place. It wasn’t like I expected, maybe I needed to come on a weekend instead. There was a center stage, like a black box, with one woman who swung around the pole. Her gait was slow, measured and to the beat. A remix of “Hot in Here” played with an added reverb. There were three men in the front watching her. I noticed one of the men kept throwing the same bills. He picked up what he had thrown and waved it in the air.
“Here,” Pops gave me my plate and we sat in one of the side booths.
He ate rapaciously. Not out of a normal hunger but also to get the need of the out way; to not get bogged with the human. Pops was also scanning the club. His eyes darted from the stage to the tables and then towards the stairs.
That’s when I first noticed that there was a second floors. Pops caught me looking and laughed to himself. “You want to go up?”
I didn’t want to sound like a pussy or disappointment him, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for whatever happened on the second floor. “Nah, I’m enjoying this. Next time.”
His eyes lit up at that. A promise of a return or the guarantee that he and I were the same type of man.
After we finished the wings with the rosemary potatoes, which were really good—like surprisingly good, he asked me what type of woman I liked.
“Which ever likes me,” I replied.
“That’s my boy.” He playfully gripped my neck.
Pops bought me a lap dance. The woman wore an American flag two-piece and had pink highlights in her platinum blonde hair.
“How old are you?” She asked.
“Forty,” Pops said, slipping her two Jacksons.
I was nervous and didn’t know where to put my hands, so I kept them close to my chest. It was hard to enjoy any of the dancing cause Pops kept watching me. When the woman turned, I leaned towards Pops. I hoped she wouldn’t hear me. I’d be quick. “I got this.”
“Oh okay, big man.” He winked and gave me a hundred. “There’s enough there for upstairs.”
The woman turned and caught the exchange of money. I quickly pocketed it and she asked if I wanted another. The song wasn’t over yet. She had said it would last the length of one song. I wished I had picked a long one like “Free Bird.”
She walked off to offer Pops a dance. He was already to talking to another woman who had shimmering body glimmer on. They all talked.
I didn’t know where to go so I sat by the mainstage. I assumed the best dancer would be there.
I sat away from the three men, who looked me up and down before returning to their chatter.
Should I tell Mama? I looked around, to remind myself of where I was. Would she have been okay with this? How many times did Pops come here and tell Mama he was visiting family in West Kendal or picking up the night shift with the county? What kind of man was I?
After I had run out of money, which was much faster than I expected, I decided to get more chicken. As I crossed towards the back, I saw Pops and the glitter woman go upstairs. I was looking where I was going and bumped into a server/bartender.
“Sorry,” I said.
“It’s alright.” She reoriented herself and the tray on her arm.
“I’m not a dancer.”
She must get asked to do things all the time. I stepped back to give him more space and not make her feel threatened. “No. I have a question.”
“Well hurry up, little man.”
“What happens upstairs?”
She put all her weight on one leg and seized me up. It seemed like a buffering screen. Maybe she wasn’t sure if I was working my way towards asking her to go with me upstairs. After half a song, she said. “Why do you wanna know?”
“I came here with my dad…” She let out a little laugh. I continued. “And my mom…I just want to know.”
The bartender called for the waitress and she held up her palm. “Nothing your mom would like, trust me.”
The woman walked off and I took a seat at a corner table that looked out directly at the staircase. Maybe he’d come down quickly once he remembered Mama.
I kept watching, waiting to see his hand on the banister ambling down. After forty-two minutes he finally did. There was a grin on his face and a skip in his step. He looked around, then waved when he saw me.
We left the strip club around three in the morning.
He threw his arm over my shoulder and put the Ford keys in my hand. “Don’t drink and drive,” he lectured—I guess, remembering he was someone’s father. I could smell the woman on his breath.
As I laid him into the backseat of the SUV, he propped himself up on his elbows and looked at me. It was a kind, rowdy look. “You’re a good kid,” he said, then fell back.
Once we were in the driveway, I noticed that the front porch light was still on.
I tapped Pops on the shoulder. There was a light rain and the palms on the street waved and bent, almost like spectators. “Come on. You know I can’t carry you.”
He swiveled up with the grace of a bag of rice. I held him like a crutch and we walked up the driveway at a snail’s pace. He stopped at the step. Pops gave me a grave look, more of a pinched expression. “You got me, right?”
“I’m holding you, yeah.”
His eyes widened to impress upon me his meaning. “Not that. You got me, yes?”
I’d have to lie to Mama the way he had. I was a man now and I’d have to choose a side. Before I could put the keys in the lock, Mama opened the door. She was in her white housecoat, holding a mug of tea.
“Where have you been?” She asked.
“Nowhere,” Pops slurred.
We got in and I walked him to their bedroom. He fell onto the mattress with a lazy plop. Mama scuttled in. “Don’t lie to me.”
“We got drinks,” I said while trying to take off Pops’ shoes. “That’s all.”
She grabbed the other foot and took off his other loafer. Pops was already snoring.
Mama grabbed the crux of my elbow and walked me into the hallway. She closed the bedroom door, in case Pops was listening.
“Son,” she stammered. “You don’t want to turn out like him, do you?” I hadn’t thought of the question, but wasn’t she right? If I covered for him over and over again, wouldn’t I become that type of man? “You won’t get in trouble if you tell me.”
I looked at her worried face. He had put her through hell these last few years. I wanted to tell her everything—about the women, upstairs, getting too drunk to drive. But I felt a strange allegiance to Pops. It had taken years to get him to tolerate me, let alone like me. There was something more stopping me, something more tribal.
“Please,” she said. She took my hands in hers. Her eyes were glassy and her nose was ruddy.
I couldn’t go back to the way things were. I was a man now, and that meant something. “We just got some beers is all.”
“What? Damn. Stop being so nosey.”
She dropped my hands. Mama knew who I had chosen after all. She knew what type of man I would be.
I never loved you, you know.
I couldn’t stand your bulbous nose
or straw-like hair.
And your cooking?
I’ve tasted better eggs
in swamps. Laid by frogs.
You always said we’d go to space,
but that was ridiculous. You’d
barely make it to McDonalds
before you started complaining.
How could you ever make it to the moon
when you’d turn around so fast?
They’d say, 10…9…8… and you’d
change your mind like that.
I always hated that about you.
Oh, and how could I forget
all those times you said you’d clean up
only to make it worse. I swear
wolves bred with raccoons couldn’t
make a bigger mess than you.
The Tasmanian devil wishes he could
throw his underwear on the ground
as fast as you could. Always after
I’d just finished vacuuming too.
I’d say you were psychic but
then you wouldn’t have lost
all our money.
Do you know what I’ll miss least?
Your hyena laugh. You didn’t light
up a room you cleared it out.
No one could stand your cackle.
You sounded like a cat got stuck
in a whale’s throat before it
started singing German opera.
Downright evil. Diabolical.
God doesn’t give with both hands,
but he must have had to to fit your
ridiculous lungs in your tiny chest…
I’ll miss you,
Momo Dispenses with a Thought Experiment
What Momo really wants to do
is bite my hand, his mind
perhaps clenched upon an idiom.
After feeding, and with encouragement,
he'll venture onto the couch
and sleep wild beside me
while I read the deeply bewildering
science section. It won't be long
before he leaves. The headline
claims "you can't pour coffee
from an empty cup" and that reminds me,
I've taken down my empty cup
proposed some milk,
at the same time propositioning
a bowl of cereal, all right,
some tedium here, trigger
warning too, yogurt, berries. That's all
there is to uncover. What else
would you have, what else could you
possibly care to know about me? The
truth? We must love one another or lie.
Ann Marie Sekeres
To a Student Who Lied About Trees in a Poem Called Autumn
Listen, please do not lie about the trees.
Do not say that in autumn all the trees die.
This isn’t true.
In autumn, all the leaves die, not the trees.
Some trees die in autumn, just as some trees die in summer,
and some in spring, and some in winter.
But in autumn, what all the trees do is go to sleep.
Autumn is their night, as spring is their morning.
Trees tell time differently from us, you see.
To them, a year is a day.
They go to sleep in autumn and wake up in spring,
just as we go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow morning.
So next time you write a poem about autumn,
or about anything else for that matter, please tell the truth.
If you want to lie, because after all, it is a poem that you write,
lie about yourself. Okay
How Beautifully the Lilacs Lie
How beautifully the lilacs lie.
We are the be all and the end all, they sigh.
How beautifully the lilacs lie.
How beautifully the lilacs lie.
We are the perfumed apples of your eye.
How beautifully the lilacs lie.
How beautifully the lilacs lie.
We will comfort you when you die.
How beautifully the lilacs lie.
The High and Mighty
Faces on the Edge of Darkness
This Isn't About My Snake Plant
I have forgotten to water this plant
more times than I have remembered
to water this plant. Still, it grows
Tiny shoots of new life
that should have been impossible
exist anyway: thrives
They are completely unbound
by expectation or presumption,
they simply are alive
Two new leaves appear,
curling from the base of a sprout,
reaching toward the sun as if in spite
Each day, I see the magic,
am awed and indignant, that
it grows, thrives, alive in spite of everything.
David Earl Williams
To John in Hard Knoxville
This is just a note to confess
the last time I visited
I had sex with your pleasingly plump
old girlfriend from college, yes, Carol
see I was there and she was there
and, yeah, you were at work, and well
one thing led to another thing
getting on top of another
and, wow, o boy, man, she, Carol---
she was so ripe, so warm, so ready, so willing
on my last stroke I entered her finally fully, froze
o man, o boy, O GOD!---I thought I’d come forever---
she did this thing---
you know that thing?---
I’m sure you do
She. Was. Won-Der-Ful.
And ---I thought I was given to understand
that the two of you had an understanding
and the understanding was
that the two of you were ---
just friends--- and that the understanding was
that the two of you were just roommates---
or, at least, that’s the understanding
that Carol gave me to understand---
but, it seems odd to me, thinking back---
that the two of you still live together
and you only have the one bed
and, I’m assuming here, that the two of you still sleep together
and ---maybe I ought to have mentioned it---
though she was pointed in saying---not to---
that it was none of your business
and if I knew what was good for me---
well, I really, really shouldn’t---
AND, I really want to see her again---
I have written to her and she has said
that she will let me know
that we’ll have a week-end alone
when “the coast is clear”
which ---I innocently take to mean:
when you are out of town
and we can have the apartment to ourselves
and we can romp around, but---
I thought I should let you know
and I’m hoping that it’s all o-k
Your Friend, Dick
David Earl Williams
All Alone in the Moonlight
I remember when I was a sixteen year old girl
and Picasso crawled in my window one night
and lay beside me.
I said, I’m only 16, I’m not 17 yet, you’ll have to leave, Picasso.
And Picasso said, is this because of that Hannah Gadsby woman?---
You know---she’s on the spectrum?
And then Hannah Gadsby came by and stood outside my window yelling,
Picasso!---Picasso, YOU FUCK! Get out of there!
Don’t you know he’s only a 16 year old girl?
And no part of it was funny at all in any way,
and that is why I gave up sex and comedy
and instead began my work on the invention of stand up cubism.
---How’m I doin’?
Night time NYC
Eating a Peach After Midnight
all my dreams are the same sweat & chase lately.
same labyrinth where i cannot figure which is left
or which is right. i’m a mess. i cannot catch my breath.
i slip on wet cobbles, am pursued
by wild dogs who know my dreamworld
like their master’s scent. i’m not fit for another night
of playing the hunted fox.
so i climb down through this dark apartment,
and the carpet under my feet seems softer tonight,
and the stars beyond the hallway window
are spread over black cloth like a vast jewelers' market;
white gems winking and wavering; their purchase power
an audacity of light.
in the kitchen, where moon rubs her silver polish
into glass and floor, i sit at the table and eat a peach.
the first bite is a sung act of worship to the peach tree.
juice must drip freely from the chin. the mouth is stung,
the walls breached, baby, there’s no going back.
hey Sleepy Brain- how does it feel up there
to be goaded and pressed into the stripclub chair
and forced to watch?
everything Seneca talked about- the shortness of life
the seizing of the moment- can be found in the eating
of a peach alone after midnight.
it is a place of love & squalor. it is the discovery
of colour, the hard hidden cherry disrobed by teeth
& wet hands.
in Eden they played it safe with an apple.
play nothing safe with a peach. find its bad temper,
its stab and choke of laughter, make it your bit on the side,
your moonlight affair, the story they tried to ban.
eat a peach after midnight any night you can.
love still is
all the lights in the city are not enough
to lessen the sorrow inside.
every window could be brightened
by the luminous soul of a happy heart,
but it seems like nothing
could reach far enough to touch
this burden carried on your shoulders,
no window of time could open wide enough
to make you feel the fresh words of the air
whispering to try again, to not let go,
because, still, you can’t lift yourself up
from under the weight of self-doubt.
every skyscraper points to what can be,
the endless possibilities of sky
meant to be scaled,
but for you, it’s just another reminder
of what heights will always be too distant,
the taste of a success you’ll never know,
a joy your hands can never hold.
the stars are shattered shards
of dreams, more fragile than glass,
scattered throughout the dome
that keeps you contained, afraid
of where you’ll never go,
of a life disappeared
before it could ever really be lived.
no one, though, can stop
the moon from rising again,
the stars from inspiring wishes
even when the well is empty,
and no pennies are left in the fountain
to glitter in the silent darkness,
so while I take another breath,
trying to summon the courage
to weave my way through
the tangle of unknowns,
I look at the quiet face of the moon,
more eloquent than any well-versed poem,
like a mother with her arm around you,
encouraging you to find your way
among the stars shawled around her,
waiting for you, hoping
your dreamer’s heart will remember its way home.
when all the lights of a city aren’t enough,
love still is.