This week’s artwork is by Christine Duncan.
Even Though I Don’t Believe in Such Things
The room is ghost white then black again and the sky cracks with such violence the bed frame shakes. The rain thwacking wet against the glass sounds as if God himself is throwing drumfuls of it. The dog whines like she is heartbroken we deserve such punishment. She buries her nose under my feet, coveting more of the duvet from my side despite the neat, empty plentitude on yours. She’s still waiting for you. And even though I don’t believe in such things, if there was a night for ghosts, this would be it.
The Loved Ones
by Pratik Mitra
The under construction skyscraper could be seen from her slum. Lockdown delayed it’s work. Nights were still left to stay dark and mornings echoing with birds’ chirp. Things would change soon into a cacophony of halogen lights, metallic clanks, and screaming of exhausted men. She wondered while peeing just outside her hut under open sky for how long that pee would be able to go and fall into that disputed marshland on which the skyscraper was being built up. The only thing that she loved besides her body was that marshland and yet…
by David Henson
As we drive through the Illinois farmland we pass a coyote sprawled roadside I want to pull over get out pick up the broken teeth rattle them shout this is all you’ll ever hear from me we might as well put our lips to this growl only the asphalt can hear exhale the last breath of our marriage over this slab of tongue and into the flat sacks that were lungs and call someone to haul this poor beast away.
But a dead coyote’s a blink at sixty. We have more to do with the corn.
by Angelo Aita
He was infatuated with her when they first met, but as soon as they slept together he pulled away, though not before he said he’d love her until the world exploded, which was not technically a lie; and although she didn’t much like him, she became obsessed with his pulling away, i.e., reading into the late-night text messages he’d send (seemingly at the precise moment she’d begun to accept his pulling away) in hopes of continuing their sleeping together at an emotional distance he was comfortable with, ad infinitum.
After Her Daughter’s Suicide
by Molly Clark
She burned the dinner. She had spent hours preparing it, chopping the vegetables, caramelizing the onions, marinating the meat. She was responsible for feeding her family and the failure burst out of the fire extinguisher with a blast of cool death. A finalizing air. Her husband was disappointed; the party was ruined. Everyone went out to eat instead; they needed a meal she couldn’t destroy. She stayed home and scrubbed the pan.
by Ana Gardner
On opposite sides of the Atlantic, two titanic women played ping-pong with a little girl.
“You can have her this summer,” said one woman, paddling the girl across the ocean with a backhand spin.
The other paddled back. “Take her for Christmas, but I want her back in January.”
A serve went awry, once: the little girl fell in the ocean and swam by herself, in any direction she pleased, and she never wanted to go back.
by Voula Labos
She saw herself in New York City.
Sawing through the moving bodies, toward her destination, coffee cup in hand, mint suede shoes, try to not get stepped on, nearly unavoidable at 7:54 on a Monday morning, but it was all in the attempt.
The rain, the shoes all muddied, coffee spilled, burning, and she was two and a half minutes late but it was New York and not okay but half expected and was what you had to do to be a part of the city and she’d gladly trek through quicksand to continue with this life.
by Kent Oswald
Never believing his mother’s repeated reassurances he was just a late bloomer, Mark had always regretted what seemed a burden of terminal normalcy until the day he hid from work in a toilet stall and timed himself reading Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” for an hour and three minutes. Thinking “who else would do that?” he resumed his accounting with unbridled optimism, unaware—and finally with no concern—that nobody else noticed nor cared.
Under The Eight-Mile Bridge
by DB Cox
Most nights he slept in the silent space between freights that rolled overhead like a storm. Rocking concrete pillars planted along hidden fault lines—under the eight-mile bridge. Where gods spoke through broken wine bottles and drunken-tongued stumble-bums coughed up old tales that colored the air blue. Haunted faces, like hopeless ghosts, tallying old mistakes under the eight-mile bridge.
His mind was gone when they brought him back to the county home—where he lies under nights too quiet staring up, restless and confused, wondering what happened to the thunder under the eight-mile bridge.
Dish towers sway beside ornithology magazines; a shoe gathers mold in the sink. He tries to be better, like a skunk trying to fly. Junk-winnowings, selective, sparing more than he trashes. Useful items, never used. Still, mail lurks in the bathroom, pamphlets avalanche the unwary—his wife mourns old checks, dated 30 months prior—artifacts from the past, never cashed.
“Let’s see a couple’s therapist,” she says. They don’t. Instead, when they drive to the city two years later, it’s to meet a divorce lawyer, who draws up the paperwork her husband later shoves into the gap behind the sofa.
Silver Years Self-Discovery
by Laxmi Vijayan
Didn’t have the cash nor the courage to leave country, so I kept my ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ near Virginia. My granddaughter says local is en vogue.
I ate my way to my stomach, and through its lining, at them Korean places? It was authentic cuz none o’ them understood a word I said.
Y’know, I meant to find God at that temple in West Virginia. But He wasn’t worth driving through 200 miles of mountain roads, so I settled for Buddha at Luray Caverns.
At my age, I can find love right here, playin’ board games at the Senior Center.
by Maggie Childers
Oh, who am I when I listen to vinyl? My old boorish vinyl—the stories behind these records must be rich and telling! Oh, who am I when I gingerly flip through these stories, pressing them onto my player? Some 70’s song playing intricately in the background, surely the soundtrack to a movie! A glimpse into this room is a glimpse into a cinema. A film of a girl with a record player plays under stars, under bed comforters, under parents’ arguments. She believes in this song. This dance. This subtle nod at all that’s happy. Amongst a wretched summer.
by David Henson
She dreams moonlight turns to frost in his lungs, and he scrapes his breath from the mirror when he shaves, coughs up hail.
His shivering awakens her, his body spooned to hers. She piles blankets. So cold, he says, darkness separating him from his voice. A shiver slithers up her spine. She tries to make her thoughts July.
After he’s gone, she looks through memories on his phone, finds a photo of herself standing near the water, whitecaps riding her shoulders. Her face is shadowed, and her head blocks the sun, its light flaring through her hair.
by Yash Seyedbagheri
Cynicism never abandons you.
It’s easy to laugh at smiles and contemplate what pills people take to induce jocundity.
It’s even easier to laugh at Mercedes and BMWs, imagine that some so-called family man is compensating for extramarital affairs. He doesn’t know his kids’ favorite bands or wife’s worst days.
It’s very easy to dissect Leave It To Beaver reruns.
Ward’s beating Wally and Beaver off-screen. June plans to abandon them, plans disguised within starched smiles and nicknames.
At dusk, I absorb long bursts of tangerine, pale blue, and lavender. I almost smile.
But there are layers beneath clouds too.
This week’s artwork is “Piety and Supplication, With Fishes, Sharks and Letting Agents” by Julian Cloran.
Katie Anne Dour’s, Tiny Family Snow Globe
by Dan A. Cardoza
She’s conflicted. If she insists the lights off, will that be seen as a compromise? Katie won’t be punished for sleeping in layers of sweat-soaked bedclothes and blankets. Mother is aware she’s not a sweet Vidalia onion. Sure she’s upset about school grades and fighting. They call her Sour Lemon Dour. But, that’s not the reason. Katie will be punished for making it snow all night. Mother says, “How dare you expect a perfect summer with all that white noise?” There’s not a vengeful bone in her body. There are none. Katie Dour is a delicate, porcelain dolly.
by Calvin Yorick
The gray beast is gnarled all over like dead bark. It sits in the sky over moonlit ruins and the tattered masts of shipwrecks. It sings. Branchlike limbs swings concentrically in a silent dance, and a great, tangled head quivers in a gentle orbit away from the rising moon, humming softly. Electrically. We fall to fatigue; this ghastly birdsong bids us to sleep. And in dreams overgrown with sunflowers we wake to the firelit shores of an empty city, waiting eternally for morning and the inevitable nightmare which follows.
by David Henson
A tattoo battleship plowed the gray on his chest. He hoisted an anchor on each arm. An eagle stretched from wing to wing of his shoulders.
One day we found a blacksnake. He grabbed a hoe, and we chose between watching the body flop in the grass or his cat eating the head in his lap.
After his wife died, he spent every evening in an old caned chair, told us he let the stars fly out of his eyes to their places.
That last night he surprised us when he laid back his head and flew out with them.
by Abigail Skinner
I stood there, feeling the crisp breeze prick against my open and exposed heart. And she laughed.
“Right,” I said. I snapped my ribs back into place and tugged at the muscle. Slipped back into my skin. “Heh, you’re right.” Covered now, but not enough. The wind still cut through. I threw on a shirt.
She chuckled. I kept adding layer after layer. A sweater. A flannel. A hoodie. A coat. Finally, a windbreaker. Too late. The wind was already inside me, the chill deep to my bones.
She sobered. “Wait, were you serious?”
Gone for a Song
by Simon Barron
From his lofty banyan perch, a honey-creeper struck up in joy and expectation, for the time was ripe. Notes fell like diamonds sprinkled on the air. Swelling, he pushed the gallant question further.
The island, bounded by sullen seas, gave no like return. Yet there was life enough, with furtive cats and sportive rats and braying goats in pens.
Another interloper – a solitary ecologist – sat on a log-pile near the banyan and wept to hear the exquisite song fall about her. She knew what the honey-creeper couldn’t.
He sang all day, and never so well.
by Roger Haydon
From the other side of the ornate doorway, I thought I saw a house with open shutters, lights on and smoke curling from chimneys. I heard voices, saw figures talking and laughing, saw a manicured garden, neat lawns and bright flowers and children playing. And then, eagerly, I stepped through.
Now, standing in a shell of scarred walls pierced by empty windows and vacant corridors, the fine rain turns the rubble to mud and tears sting my cheeks. I can see sunlight on the other side but don’t know if I can go back or if I should even try.