‘This Moment Now’, ‘Arrival in Luhanka’, and ‘Departure’ by Katherine Zeserson

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This moment now

sky and rain, rain and sky
darkness under the hawthorn trees
a rabbit waits

darkness under the hawthorn trees
wind and stones, stones and wind
a crow, hiding

wind and stones, stones and wind
the sound of the sea a way away
spider motionless

the sound of the sea a way away
sky and rain, rain and sky
rabbit, crow, spider

a strip of light at the edge of the earth
the wind roughing up the leaves
lifting and falling, falling and lifting

the wind roughing up the leaves
the rain thinning
the light spreading
rabbit on the grass, eating
crow in the tree, watching
spider motionless

Arrival in Luhanka

I am no Finnish poet to know this snow,
but I have northern bones.
There is darkness in my marrow.

My blood thickens, slows down, as shadows stretch
between light and the night. I am a woman of wire,
hanging, pressed against yellow sky;
fire streaked, lavender, tremulous,
bright as breath, then paling to silence,
I raise my hand to the sun.

Ice wraps the rowan tight.
Red berry stars burst out in the molten dusk.
I lie my cheek upon the white wave of earth and drown in the dark.

Departure

Dawn is stealthy.

Look away, look back, she has not come,
then a swelling in the east, pressure,
night leaning on frail birch,
a quiver of silver, again black.

Look away, look back, she has not come,
then a deepening of darkness,
a bird, detaching from a branch,
releases a shiver of ice.

Look away, look back, she may have come,
a tree has formed, a rock, a roof.
Dawn has crept in, coral sky,
stain upon the snow,
my cheek knows the glass,
we are small and we are gone.

‘I Guess That’s Just Like Her Shampoo Or Whatever’ and ‘Toad Road’ by Eric Delp

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I Guess That’s Just Like Her Shampoo Or Whatever

Nothing
in this world
smells like strawberries. Nothing,
not even strawberries.
When the poet writes
so-and-so like strawberries
be wary.
When the lover sings
the honey-brown hair of the beloved
she means some experience
attached to the experience
of the idea of the beloved.
She means
some attachment to the experience
of the idea of love
recalls the experience
of reading once how so-and-so
with her honey-brown hair gathered at the back of her head
just so
recalls the experience
of after berry-picking as a young child
her father cracked the tab on a can of soda pop
there on the curb outside the ice cream parlor
the sunlight honey-brown in strands across the parking lot
gathered
and held the can’s mouth still sparking sugar
to her own
just so
like strawberries.

Toad Road

While you were whiskey drunk and ginger

falling through the hotel’s steel-
shimmer lobby with the hundred

strangers who all shared our uncle’s face,
I was drowning in the bathtub
back home. The place is at the edge
of a field of dry wheat husk
golden in the television screen.
There is a sharp turn in the road
and a path
and a sharp turn in both directions
and a path into the woods.
The drugs were in the glove compartment.
You were on the balcony
cupping your eyes against the sun.
Your telephone was ringing in your pocket
which I know
because I was calling. I was calling
and it rang and rang
inside your pocket on the balcony
and the sun was setting
behind you. The drugs were in the tape deck.
A stranger’s face was at the door.
The place is at the edge of
the woods and all throughout
the woods there is a sharp
turn in the road in both directions
and a path into the woods.
I met a stranger with our daughter’s face. He told me.
I met a boy who said he knew
the location of the seven gates of hell.
The drugs were in the bloodstream.
After the final turn there is
another turn.
It was the most romantic thing I’d ever heard.

Eric Delp is from Harrisburg, PA. He currently lives in Oxford, MS, where he is an MFA candidate at Ole Miss. He recently got a haircut which, according to his friend Jan, “looks great.”

‘It’s a Secret to Everybody’ by James Edward Schier

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“Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly late last night
Now they blew up his house too”
– Bruce Springsteen

Some days, I’m fine.
Other days, I listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska over and over again, and play video games from the 1980s.

Zelda, like Laura Palmer, had secrets. Move the block, get the dopamine rush of the tingle-jingle chime (the ‘official lyrics’ to this iconic piece, I learned, are apparently something along the lines of ‘ho-ot sau-uce’ in Japan. I don’t hear it, or get it, and don’t quote me on that, but there you go).

But I’m starting to wonder if she, or they, didn’t have other kinds of secrets, too. Bomb a wall, you might find a secret shop, or even an old man asking you to pay for repairs on the door you just blew through; that’s fine, that makes enough sense. You just destroyed his god damn house, even if he’s inexplicably living in a cave, coordinates 36°45’13.63”N & 3°50’4.57”W from the nearest 7/11 with the old lady who sells potions and kinda looks funny at you if you keep buying the blue one, like are you hooked on this stuff kid? behind a sheer cliff of solid rock, with only two completely exposed balls of flame to his name… it’s still his house.

But some of these caves contain monsters. And they are not hostile. Not friendly, but… under some kind of treaty, perhaps, both sides observing a kind of wartime diplomacy in these select meeting rooms, maybe because these aren’t foot soldiers, they’re accountants, moneylenders, specialized units, etc. Kind of like a medic is supposed to heal both sides in a war. They’re willing to talk, to deal.

But why? If we take these games as fact, which is about the only thing we can take, every monster in the game is an embodiment of evil; this being why every Zelda game ends with crushing, I-wanna-go-back finality, and you cannot continue on, because to continue on would be to adventure in peace, every monster exorcised from the land. Presumably, this is how the citizens of Hyrule et al. experience the place most of the time. Even the outside-the-box, throw the box away, get on top of the box and sail it across the water Breath of the Wild doesn’t let you go on… it would be defeating everything Zelda has ever stood for and the main story that runs through each and every game. Evil is gone, and, well… good just ain’t that interesting without it.

That means, as far as I can see, that we cannot treat these beings as wild animals. They are Evil, Ganon’s Evil, down to the last Octorok, the last Gel, the last Tektite, even though they don’t really attack you; they generally mind their own business jumping around in the mountains. They are part of Ganon’s Army and thus scorched from the Earth when the game is finished. No sympathy is allowed, and no-one in this game has a choice.

Which leaves me with, as I see it, a couple of explanations here. The first is mundane: Ganon’s creatures surely can’t be domesticated, beings of pure evil that they are, but can they defect?

It seems improbable. They are, of course, extensions of Ganon himself, spawned to protect him and block the way, thru labyrinth after labyrinth, FBI men at Death Mountain surrounding & protecting the President on the Grassy Knoll… trying to protect the president… how many Arrows of Light? Just one, or… rerun the tape, reset the machine… find Miyamoto’s original Zapruder scrolls of A4 paper, the whole game laid out on it in squares, for real & not a Kerouac self-myth… find that secret sheet of A3 with the rest, & the Second Quest on the other side of the ROM… might tell us who truly shot Liberty Valance… and Miyamoto will always print the legend…

The second option is much more sinister, as it implies underhanded dealings with the Enemy and perhaps even conspiracy on behalf of the Hyrule government, which I believe to be some sort of monarchy.

If Hyrule, or the King of Hyrule (who is never seen) is in fact working with the enemy, it utterly shatters the presumed reason for the mission. Link’s just following orders, sure, but he’s 12 years old, a real child soldier… and sure, the Princess had to be saved, but was that rookie, green, the best agent they had? (Did she want to be saved?)

Again, this place is supposedly used to peace, so maybe they didn’t train too many pitched fighters. There was no Achilles by the beaked ships to call upon when it was time to go and get back Helen… there was only you.

“Through the badlands of Wyoming
I killed everything in my path”
– Bruce Springsteen

Every time the boulders roll down the cliffs of Death Mountain, I think it’s Shigeru Miyamoto doing it. I don’t think of him, or the other designers (Tezuka-san deserves his own article, but who really knows who did what…) overmuch while playing the rest of the game, but every time I walk those cliff sides suddenly He’s there, the clearest sign of the Hand of God in the game, Zeus throwing rubble off of Olympus or maybe just Mount Ida to screw with Herc or some young upstart…

So maybe, like Herc’s famous trials, this whole thing is a controlled scenario to get a man into fighting shape… ah, but now I’m just describing the game, and all games. A dead end. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a way around it…

This game, the first one, is Zelda, or rather Hyrule, before it turned into Twin Peaks. This game is part of a lineage of Cosmic Joke stories, Seinfeld’s NYC where everybody but you is crazy to the point of outright hostility for no apparent reason at all, Scorsese’s After Hours (screaming ambulances chasing you ‘round every corner of that black wet night-street, bloodred Octoroks with no rhyme or reason), maybe even A Confederacy of Dunces, depending on how much of a reasonable person you think this Link kid really is… & did his mother or grandmother approach the archaic printing press and say “you gotta hear what my son did, what he did before, you know, before he passed…”

It’s 3 miles of, no, it’s many more than 3 miles of bad road… it’s all bad road. It’s a never-ending trek thru the baddest of the Badlands, and one day you’re gonna spit in the face of ‘em, maybe throw an arrow of light in for good measure…

“There’s no love in your violence”
– Ichi the Killer [2001], dir. Takashi Miike

It’s a game of unspeakable violence, your only chance at getting through this sun-baked, hostile environment… they say Zelda is about exploration and adventure, and it is, but I think this game is really about survival. You’re your only friend. Your only friend. I don’t trust those old men, those old women, not really. Do you? They are distant, cold, you will not break bread with them. They dispense their advice—”good luck out there kid, you’re gonna need it”—and then sometimes, quite literally, fuck off completely and disappear, leaving only darkness, if that, or a pair of uncontrolled fires that do not sooth your bones, standalone Burning Bushes without the bush, empty balls of red that do not quite brighten up the corners.

The only thing you can trust completely, besides your wits & violence, is the fairy. And even she’s skittish, turning up at complete random, sometimes in that white-hot split second you find yourself burning the candle at both ends, walking that tunnel, and she’s the sudden burst of light, and you offer your praises, but you know it was just luck, not something you can count on… unless you visit her where she lives, introduce yourself properly.

Even then… as an immortal, does she take some kind of twisted pleasure in reviving this kid over and over again, as many hearts as he can take, full to bursting, right thru the IV… maybe she gets a rush out of it. Considering later fairies in these games and their suggestive eccentricities, proclivities, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Nowhere is safe. The safest place in this game, to me, is in one of the labyrinths, which features four, maybe five of these big jelly guys. This is the safest place in the game because the walls are mental-hospital slate grey and I am in a position of power. They are slow, and I am fast. With a powered up sword, they are just about the easiest enemy in the game. I feel safe here, because even though, in their tiny, Ganon-possessed brains they don’t know it, I can kill them any time I want. And, ya know? Sometimes I like just having them around. For company. Better than that old man again, who I can’t even kill if he gets on my nerves.

And yeah, the second game (Zelda 2), is pretty harsh too. Pretty hostile. But even that pointed towards the Twin Peaks future of the series—not quite the idyllic towns full of decent folks, farmers and tradesmen and friends, along with, of course, a mixture of sinister and bent folk, Outside and Unknown weirdness and Fear, and the necessity of fighting—but there are actual towns in that game, barebones as they are, and women on the street will actually say “Hello!” to you, if you chat them up. I don’t know about you, but that cheers me up.

Men will invite you into their houses, and sure, their hints are still cryptic and strange, but they’re actually trying to communicate, to help you, to give you a roof over your head, even if only for a moment. There are women who will stand in front of their houses like Bob Dylan on the Street-Legal sleeve, and let you in… come to think of it, they must be related to those questionable fairies…

Which brings me, finally, back to the first one. To the, let’s say, Hyrulian psyop that might be going on in the shadows…

Could someone, a 007-like agent, have snuck in and turned these money-giving monsters, inserting a little help along the way to our unwitting friend, about to run this hellish gauntlet to rescue the princess? Does Hyrule have that kind of power? Are the Gods involved? How high up does this go?

There’s no way to know. Could these monsters, really, not be monsters at all? Maybe they are in fact Hyrulians, waiting in caves in their Nixon-masks, government stipends for the hero, write-offs… a secret war economy operating underground in case of an event like this, a red alert, an APB suddenly put out on a giant pig up on Death Mountain by the King, maybe that’s why taxes went up, think the good citizens, after this is all over (after having thought oh, it couldn’t happen here)… It’s a Secret to Everybody.

But of course, this is the legend. They say that once a great hero saved the princess, and it’s taken as fact. This would, incidentally, happen over and over again, but that comes later… or before.

Perhaps it really happened the way they said it did. Maybe this young man was officially supported by the King (unless Link, en-route, was somehow captured by the Enemy, in which case I’m sure they’d have had to Deny All Knowledge, not that there’d be any knowledge left to deny), and perhaps the Princess really was terrified, up there in that cold, cobblestone room, hearing the breathing, pawing of that invisible monster just outside the door, hoping but never really believing the hero would come… or maybe she laid there, open eyes, going over the plan in her head, getting up occasionally to shoot the shit with the man in the pig mask next-door, wondering idly whether that little kid in green was still alive, gambling on his odds… wondering if this little stratagem would work out, if they’d have a Plan they could put into operation against this happening again in the Future, or if it could be made to happen again, improving & complicating it each time like a well oiled machine, a machine that prints legends…

“There’s a white diamond gloom on the dark side of this room
and a pathway that leads up to the stars
if you don’t believe there’s a price for this sweet paradise
just remind me to show you the scars”
– Bob Dylan

The talking monsters remain unexplained, unexplainable. I never promised you an answer that doesn’t exist. Why am I so obsessed by them? Well, it’s one of those nights… tomorrow will be different. Maybe. But one more thing:

Shigeru Miyamoto, director and producer of The Legend of Zelda, has said, time and time again, that he was inspired to make a game based on his experiences in Kyoto, as a boy, wandering around and adventuring through fields, rivers, caves, forests.

Now, when little Shigeru was traipsing about, having the time of his life, fantasizing that he was on an adventure, not dreaming of video games and code but of those things every boy dreams of, pretending, telling brand-new stories in real time, projecting a better world on top of the real one in a way we somehow forget how to do… then needing a rest, maybe sitting in one of those little caves for awhile, a little scared, a little excited…

Did he talk to the monsters?

Follow James Edward Schier on Twitter

Four Poems by Terrence Abrahams

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Scorpio moon

The dark puts us out

of ourselves. Into each

opening we go filling.

This life an underground

lake. Not clean, but safe

to drink. A key distinction

to make. Remember:

reflection only exists until

light cannot go on.

So faced with myself,

I’d rather look at you.

thoughts on lately aspiring to beetles

lifting my body toward the sun

should be so iridescent

everyone I love is an animal

and vulture-hearted I am here knowing

the best way to preserve anything

is to leave it outside

amateur geology

There is no universally accepted definition of a mountain. So maybe I am one and maybe you are too. I’m saying this because I want to valley you, which means I want to be under you in all manners of landscaping. None of this is easy to explain. I read more on geography than I do on people. Abhorred by the way hands speed up the erosion process, I deign to touch as little as possible. However, I love to talk, and talk I do, mostly with my hands. Listen: if you want to sign up for rock-climbing, I know someone. If you want to visit a valley, I know someone, too. If you want to talk, I have capable hands. What I’m saying is we have no defined boundaries. You make your own. You move your own stones. Leave a little or take it all with you. What I’m saying is we too are growing at less than an inch per year thanks to an effort that is no effort at all.

Terrence Abrahams lives and writes quietly in Toronto. His work has been a part of Hobart, The Poetry Annals, Peach Mag, many gendered mothers, the Puritan, Witch Craft Mag, and ZEAL, among others. He tweets at @trabrahams.

Four Poems by Sara Matson

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seismic darling

astrology characterization –
a classic
steel (self)
wading thru breath by
rose gold eye’s
perfect geometric oval
pierce ur body with sun //
shine
seismic darling
of anonymity
an omission of ascent
by the oracle
arcade clawed from
obscurity
she smoked the bed
to that barren triangle
wild lights
she radiates
(god’s gender)
a condemned hawk
authenticity
the weird // the secrecy
she wore
obsessive institutions
in a glass jar
around her throat
+ remained a symbol soaked
in nighttime shock
future //
hanging menacing beauty
in oil stains
applied with fingers
my eyes’ inability
to adjust in darkness
trans // formed her into
a black velvet ghost

nursery rhyme

her tits swung low
like a nursery rhyme in
// s l o w m o t i o n //
her armpits were
tufts of hairy pizza
seasonings
casually sprinkling
alcoholic junk
secrets across a knit
sequence of blinking
eyelights //
was the dead electricity
clutching the basil plant at
the hour of her death or
is this postmortem biennial
p r e v a r i c a t i o n

sprouting between
(in)fertile
sacrum leaved fingers
scratched at
freeze dried blood
wiped across the faces
of so many trusted adults in
the course of her perverted
growth

ocean thickets
scheming weightlessness
plucked language from
incandescent tongues +
distant dances welcomed
radioactive mourning //
the timely sunset
even the liquored slumber
cried out upon the
discovery their
kingdom was an
asteroid belt

capture

wrist skin
scented saboteurs
a broken staircase
(in)visible thru her
velvety cemetery ghost //
harmonic decay
paper wrapped fingers
capture the limited confession //
experimentally we lie
under cellophane sheets
a warm hurried crash
behind guilty battle
sunglasses + reeking leather
mouth //
folded on darting starlight
a perfectly strange paper scrap
documenting the puckered
seam across the vapid
edgeless
skin highway

haus

neon geisha hemlines
strewn into
blistered air
the smell that makes you
nervous
beautiful women have died here
whispered a house voice
between decaying floor boards //
windows didn’t crack
under the weight of birds
(a boring fear)
((flightless and sick))
all ransom notes are
love letters, the house explained
vellum paper shapes hiding
sticky fingers //
between floorboards, house mites
marched in tiny lines
hungry, hungry,
hungry

sara matson’s writing can be found or is forthcoming in Rabid Oak, Mannequin Haus, Anti-Heroin Chic, FIVE:2:ONE, Burning House Press, OCCULUM Journal, Dream Pop Press, Waxing and Waning, and elsewhere. she lives in Chicago with her rad husband + cats, and tweets as @skeletorwrites.

‘sadderdaze’ & ‘4183 / 3524 / 2042 / 1961’ by Caroline Grand-Clement

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sadderdaze

there are some days when the line between self care
& giving up becomes too blurred to make out.
on those days, i do not change my routine;
i do not try to catch up on the sleep i have deprived myself of;
i do not try to give myself the mental space to breathe.
on those days, i am so scared to move i barely move at all.
if i am scared it will lead me to you.
i do not want this to be another love letter to my self destruction.
it is not lovely or poetic.
it is laying on the kitchen floor because you promised
your best friend not to lay down anywhere else.
it is making those kind of promises to make sure
you do not break down in the middle of class or of a corridor.
it is laying down on the school floor anyways, sometimes.

sometimes: a word that means “now and then”.
a word that means, there are days when i am not like this,
i swear. there are days when i laugh at your jokes.
there are even days when i paint you my favorite song
& say i love you, & mean it.
but today, is “now and then”; today is sometimes.
so today, forgive me if i complain without accepting any of your solutions.
i am still trying to solve this equation, but it keeps on changing.

4183 / 3524 / 2042 / 1961

it is no particular hour / a place between places / i hear your voice from the clouds / & the sound that settles in the silence of your tongue / 850 kilometers per hour away / from the pitless fear of losing you / if i squeeze my eyes shut i won’t hear my heart breaking / after you slam the door / i am still building you the castle i promised / the barn / the goats / the trees / water flowing from anywhere / but your eye sockets / only luck / i throw pennies at you until you turn copper blue / my only wish / to melt in the light of your arms / the sun never sets / we are falling through the clouds / leave all our organs in the air above our sin / time stretches like chewing gum caught in your hair / shave it off / throw it to the wind / corals have heard of our love / deep as your voice /

Caroline Grand-Clement is a seventeen years old, half-time poet, half-time student at an international school in Lyon, France. She dreams of art in any form, falling stars & late night conversations. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beyond the Shallows, an anthology by L’Ephemere Review, Rose Quartz Journal, and elsewhere. She takes part in the school magazine as writer & co-editor. You can find her on Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram @octopodeshearts.

‘The Artist’ by Tomas Marcantonio

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Grey-feathered gulls barked at the sway of the marina masts and a black cloud grew across the water. The artist snapped open the newspaper with a whip-crack across his folded knees and observed the sun’s descent into the burnt-honey haze at the horizon. The rub of cheap ink smudged the prints of his thumbs and ingrained on them the stale smell of recycled paper. He wrapped his slender fingers around the beer glass, moistening his palm with cold crystals of condensation. He raised the glass to his mouth and tasted only the bitter melt of the foam.

Reece Wilde’s latest masterpiece is perhaps the most stinging piece of satire to come from the controversial artist in years. ‘The Dirty Brexiteer’ is a step away from Wilde’s recent forays into watercolour, and the return to a more abstract style is a welcome return to form.

Wilde looked up to regard the changing hue of the sky. He couldn’t think of the last painting of his that wasn’t labelled a return to form. The article went on:

Wilde is a known student of the Cubist movement, and this is evident more here than in any of his previous work. The harsh angles and vivid, almost aggressive palette on show in the unnamed subject’s face are the product of a frustrated, albeit hugely masterful, creator. And the results, it cannot be argued, are astounding. ‘The Dirty Brexiteer’ is already causing a stir in the art world, and further cements the already concrete reputation of Brighton’s own prodigy.

Wilde raised the glass again and let the foam dissolve on his tongue as he shook his head. He wondered if the article had been written by a kid; an intern, perhaps, or an art student. Or just another of the blindfolded sheep-men behind their typewriters. I dance for the bears, he thought to himself, and the bears clap their stupid paws together because someone whispers to them that it is a dance and that they must clap.

‘It doesn’t look anything like your work,’ came a voice at his shoulder.

Wilde craned his neck and raised a slow, greying eyebrow to the chestnut, cat-like eyes of the waitress standing behind him. The lamp above the table cast a white glow on the crests of her olive cheeks. She stood with an empty tray tucked under one arm, and a ribbon of silky, raven-black hair fell across one eye.

Wilde regarded her and motioned to the chair opposite him. The waitress sat, her angled brows slightly turned in as she surveyed the artist.

‘You haven’t painted anything for a long time,’ she said at last.

Wilde smiled. So, one of my little rats has squeaked, he thought to himself.

‘Who have you been speaking to?’

She shook her head. ‘I’m just not as blind as everyone else, that’s all.’

Wilde’s forefinger skirted the rim of his glass. ‘And what do you know of art, exactly?’

‘I know that your true paintings are deeper than a six hundred page novel, and far more complex. I know that the way you mix colours takes my breath.’ She picked up the newspaper from the table and examined the black and white photograph. ‘And I know that your last three pieces were not painted by anyone so talented, unless you painted them with the brush between your toes, and a blindfold over your eyes, and a worm burrowing into your brain.’

Wilde observed the almond eyes before him, the cool expression.

‘Why are you doing it?’

Wilde gazed at the last heat haze of the disappearing sun. The truth was, he didn’t know why he was doing it anymore. An experiment, he told himself at first. But now what? It had backfired spectacularly.

‘If only everyone had half your wits,’ he said finally, his sentence trailing off unfinished.

The balcony was filling quickly as the lamps across the waterfront flickered into life.

‘I need to get back to work,’ the girl declared, standing up.

‘Come to my studio,’ Wilde said, fishing a card from the inside pocket of his suit jacket. ‘Tomorrow morning, open house.’

The girl scrutinized him.

‘Take the card,’ Wilde said calmly, his eyes fixed on hers. ‘I still have some pieces of my own.’

The girl took the card. She turned towards a table of new arrivals, looking back once to see the artist’s eyes still trained on her as he stood up to leave.

Wilde strolled the length of the marina in the fading amber light, his cane clipping the wooden boardwalk as he went. He came to the stairs of his basement studio at the end of the promenade that ran from the marina to the pier.

‘Ah,’ Wilde said, opening the door and finding the lights already turned on. ‘Found your way in, did you?’

Continue reading “‘The Artist’ by Tomas Marcantonio”

Three Poems by Luanne Pumo Jaconia

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photo by Allen Nomura

The Lights Below

From the safety of my perch
Among the trees and stars, I watch
The lights below twinkle seductively

The blinking lights
Terrify and seduce
In the same instant

They illuminate possibilities,
Coaxing long suppressed dreams
Out of the shadows

They tease with their twinkle,
You will find love. Fortune!
You will find your muse

Come here among my lights
They scream more loudly each night
With greater urgency!

I have long been a satisfied voyeur
Up here, among the trees and the moonlight,
Laughing at the lights from afar

Yet tonight I tremble; afraid of the ghost of regret…
And as my solitary perch among the stars begins to crumble
I willingly catapult myself into the fire below, before it is too late!

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photo by Al Faaet

Respite

Life, I am exhausted!
Attempting hour after hour
Day after day, to become beautiful
In your sight; to emerge a
Loving and generous soul

Even after the long and arduous task
Of emerging from the chrysalis,
The majestic grey and white moth
Pauses briefly on a red-orange petal
Before catching the next breeze

Life! As I struggle and stretch
Attempting to form myself anew,
Lovingly provide a beautiful
Red-orange blossom for me to rest upon
Before the next grueling phase of my metamorphosis!

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photo by Priscilla Hancock

Grand Jeté

Time Flies!

I jump
Spreading my arms and legwings
Wider than they can go
Then l push them further!

Time stops!

Suspended above my life
My heart leaps along with my limbs!
In this moment
I know the liberation of possibilities

Stop, Time!

You must not return me to earth, legs!
Standing up-right in the mess of my reality
Feels like dying in a dark prison
From which there is no escape

Luanne Pumo Jaconia, CSSW, began her career in child protective services, and currently facilitates parenting workshops. Luanne and her husband are parents of two; hands-on grandparents of three. Her poems often reflect the difficult and exhilarating experiences that happen within families as they grow. Luanne began submitting poetry at 70.

‘The Wishing Pool’ by Walt Giersbach

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That night, Otto wore his pajama pants and shirt backward and inside out.  He also planned to turn his Iowa Huskies cap inside out and put it under his pillow.  He told his sister Alicia about his ritual, and she sneered the immature way six-year-old girls do, showing off her lack of education.  But earlier, he knew, she had taken a handful of ice cubes from the freezer and had gone out in the bitter twilight to throw them, one by one, at the oak tree in their front yard.  Alicia also ran around the house three times, and then flushed more ice cubes down the toilet for good measure.  The ice would float to the ocean and freeze it up causing it to snow.

She could scoff, but he knew his special ritual would win the wishing pool.

Each of his eight friends in Miss Firm’s third-grade class — plus Alicia who was only a first-grader — had bet on the pool.  Each had solemnly put a dollar into a fruit jar and tucked it under a fallen tree behind the playground.  The winner would be the person who guessed most closely the first day school was cancelled because of snow.

Otto had carefully marked the calendar when the first school closing had taken place the winter before.  That January, the snow over Iowa had piled up so high Otto sank almost to his knees when he stepped off the front porch.  He and Alicia had made snow angels and gotten their Dad’s dusty Flexible Flyer out of the garage waiting for Mom to come home from work and take them to Suicide Hill.  And they had made a fort and attacked the Schumacher kids three doors down with their barrage of snow balls.

As Otto twisted himself into a comfortable nest under the blankets and quilt, he suddenly realized there probably were one or two snowballs still left in the freezer in the basement.  He had made them in March during what seemed like the last snowfall of the winter.  The freezer was almost empty now; Mom had said they had to cut back expenses with Dad away.  Perhaps he should make a few more snowballs because they would really be needed next May or June.  What a shock the Schumacher kids would have when snowballs hit them in the head as they ran around barefoot in the springtime!

He might even write a letter to Dad and Mom could put it in an envelope with her letter she wrote every Saturday when she didn’t have to go to work at Tom’s Big Value store.  He’d tell Dad about the snow-closing pool, and how he knew he was going to win it.  The contest had been his inspiration.  He had come up with the idea of a pool after checking — secretly, of course — with the lady at the library on Greenwood Avenue about when the first snowfalls had taken place in earlier years.  He told her it was for a science project, but she didn’t seem to care as long as kids stayed in the children’s section and were quiet.

Dad had said he’d be home before the first snowfall, so he’d win two ways: he’d collect all the money and Dad would come clumping home from Iraq wearing his camouflage fatigues and big boots and give them all hugs and kisses.  Maybe Mom wouldn’t be so tired at night and always ask Otto to rub her feet as she sat in the recliner in front of the TV.

He had written down all the “first days” and then asked Mister Cooper at the grocery store to average them out for him.

“What d’you wanta know that for, Otto?” Mr. Cooper had asked.

“It’s for my wishing pool.  To pick the first snow day that school closes.”

Mr. Cooper had said, “You’re a smart kid, Otto.  What’re you wasting your time with that foolishness?”  But while averaging the dates, Mr. Cooper rambled on about a winter that froze the river.  Time stands still when it snows, he said.  He called it an occasion for happenings.

When Mr. Cooper paused, Otto told him about Miss Firm, who wore no makeup and kept a snow globe on her desk.  She’d shake the globe sometimes and say she remembered when it snowed so hard in Iowa the wolves came out of the hills and visited the town.

Mr. Cooper was patient with Otto, his mom said, because he once had a boy who was sent to a place called Vietnam and didn’t come back.  Whatever his reasons — an old man’s memories or simple generosity —, Mr. Cooper gave Otto a dollar and paid for a chance on December 23rd.

Otto picked the date of December 18th — four days away—and that meant he had to begin his pajama ritual early.  He had chosen science over guesswork, but he never ever ignored omens and symbols — what his grandma called portents.  Every event, every glance, every crack in the sidewalk was filled with meaning.  Dogma was established: “If you step on a crack, you’ll break Vladimir Putin’s back.”  And, there was unpatriotic heresy from Tommy Schumacher: “No way!  If you step on a crack you’ll break your mother’s back!”

Alicia had picked Valentine’s Day and then had to ask Otto what date that was.

Maybe, Otto thought, his dad knew when it would snow if he could be so certain about his return.  This was something to think about, Otto considered, as sleep closed in on him.  He decided there were more questions than answers in life, just a lot of mysteries only grown-ups could figure out.

“Ha ha,” Alicia laughed dramatically the next morning.  “Didn’t snow and you look like a dork!”

“Yeah, but wait’ll I tell Mom you were throwing ice cubes at a tree and running around like a chicken.”

They ate the rest of their oatmeal in silence and then left to wait for the school bus.

Otto had nothing more to say as he stared balefully at the sun, didn’t wave back at Mrs. Schumacher who dropped off her kids, didn’t even lean down to pet their Labrador retriever when it rubbed against his leg.

There was now more than twelve dollars in the jar.  They all stood around at recess while Eddie Kraus counted it.  Otto tucked in Mr. Cooper’s dollar and they covered the jar with brush again under everyone’s mutually distrustful eyes.  Walking back to the playground, Eddie poked him.  “You aren’t cheating, are you?  You said your dad would be home before the first snowfall, so maybe he knows when it’ll snow.”

“Nah,” Otto shrugged, “that’s just what he said.”  But Otto knew privately that the promised return was a solemn oath.

The next day and the next were no stormier as December 18th approached, and Otto’s mood darkened with each passing day.  His mother sat watching the news on TV after dinner each night, making Otto wonder if children in Iraq ever watched TV shows about American people.

“I swear, you are the unhappiest child I’ve ever seen.”  His Mom stopped him in the kitchen and looked him up and down, standing over him with her hands on her hips.

“I do my chores,” he said.

“I’ve seen happier looking children in the poor house.  Cheer up, for Heaven’s sake!  It’s going to be Christmas pretty soon and your Dad will be home.”

Sure, he thought, but would it be a white Christmas?  The holidays signaled anticipation and a certain magic, but as a third grader he worked to maintain a defiant belief in Santa Claus against ridicule from bigger kids.

December 18th dawned without a cloud in the blue hemisphere.  A big red sun rose over the houses as he clambered aboard the bus.  The morning of the 19th started out cloudy and brisk, with a wet north wind whistling down out of Minnesota.  But by two o’clock, as the bell rang and the children ran from the school to their buses, Otto felt the first snow flake on his ear.  And then another tickled his nose.  And another.

“Snow!” he shouted to Alicia.  “It’s coming!  I told you my trick with the pajamas would work.”

“Ha ha!  You missed it by one day.”

“But I can still win.  I’m still the closest.”

The bus driver heard them and smiled.  “Big ’un coming.  Watch the TV weather lady tonight.”

Otto had never felt better.  Tomorrow was Friday and if it snowed hard enough there would be no school and if Mom didn’t have to work she could take them to Suicide Hill and he could collect the money on Monday.  If it was real blizzard, it might even be Tuesday, but he could wait.  The wolves might even visit town.

He ran shouting up the walk to their front porch and bumped into two men wearing green Army uniforms who were coming out the door.  One gave a flickering half-smile of embarrassment; the other stared intently at the opaque sky.

His mother stood silently.  Her hands twisted the front of her green Tom’s Big Value smock.  Her eyes stared sightlessly at the backs of the visitors.

“Didn’t you hear me, Mom?  It’s snowing!”

“Shut up, Otto,” Alicia said, sensing something neither of them understood.  “Just shut up!”

Walt Giersbach’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in a score of online and print publications, including Soft Cartel. He served for three decades as director of communications for Fortune 500 companies, helped publicize the Connecticut Film Festival, managed publicity and programs for Western Connecticut State University’s Haas Library, and now moderates a writing group in New Jersey.

‘Antagony LLC.’ by Edward Raso

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I have been ignored, avoided, cursed, berated, insulted, threatened with bodily harm, chased, spat upon, and assaulted. Sometimes all in the same week. But I don’t mind. Quite to the contrary, this is the kind of week to which I aspire. The kind that typically nets me a nice little bonus. You see, it’s what I do. Professionally. I annoy. I agitate and antagonize. I drive people right to the edge and if I can, over. I am a Professional Nuisance.

I even have a business card: Scott Stempowicz * Professional Nuisance * Antagony LLC.

A Professional Nuisance (PN as we refer to it in the trade) is kind of a hitman for the meek and passive aggressive. We don’t make people dead; we make them miserable. Do you have an awful neighbor? A cheating boyfriend? A coworker from hell? A tyrannical in-law? I can get you satisfaction. I will, for a fee pre-negotiated by Antagony LLC, make your despised one the target of my considerable antagonistic talent. And for your viewing pleasure, many of the interactions with the target will be recorded with my vintage Google Glasses, that, let’s face it, annoy everyone a great deal right off the bat.

I have been with Antagony LLC for eight years and I’ve won Nuisance of the Year four times. I was all but assured the Senior Professional Nuisance (SPN) position opening up next month. But unfortunately for me, a public nuisance is only as good as his last case. And as I sit here with my jaw wired shut, sipping coffee through a straw, I now have serious doubts about my chances of promotion. You see, my last case was such a shit show-dumpster fire-spectacular-hot mess, that even these idioms invoking feces and flames fall short as descriptors.

It did not go well.

I didn’t even want the stupid case in the first place, but then when the original PN became incapacitated, it was assigned to me. That original PN would be one Freddie Spangle, my longtime rival and now probable lock for the SPN position. Don’t get me started on Spangle. He is a great and terrible asshole.

There’s a lot of competition among us nuisances. It begins early on. Antagony LLC is always looking for new talent and there is no shortage of annoying people out there who would like nothing better than to transform being their anathema into a prosperous career. Most get weeded out during the applicant interview process–clueless aspirants who all think they’re Machiavelli when really they’re just Elmer Fudd. Only the very top of the talent pool makes it through for a probational try. As these hopefuls quickly find out, talent alone doesn’t cut it. Nor does enthusiasm. We’re always getting these young hotshots, fresh out of college and full of promise, talented enough to make even Fred Rodgers go red in the face and scream “FUCKKKKK!” through clenched teeth.

Your typical probie hot-shot starts out gung-ho but no matter how much he’s warned, his enthusiasm will usually get the better of him. He’ll cross the line from clever, covert nuisancing to legal harassment. He’ll go too far, too soon, and blow his cover on the first or second day. This ruins any chance of continuing the case for the week or so it takes to truly antagonize someone. When they fail, Antagony LLC ends up having to refund the money. At best. But sometimes the target goes to the authorities and the whole big mess leads back to Antagony and creates legal headaches the company does not need. Had it not been for the Trump Freedom of Business Act of 2019, capping liability suits against corporations by individuals to $1,000, Antagony LLC would surely be out of business. Nevertheless, a new hire who catches a harassment suit or even a restraining order during his probationary period is automatically shit-canned.

Any seasoned PN will tell you that a successful case takes more than just a full frontal assault. It takes research into the target’s habits. It takes planning. You must be sagacious. The first thing I do when I’m assigned a case is study the target’s routines. I slog through the research so I can map out my nuisancing ahead of time. The company encourages this. They recommend one week for research, one week for nuisancing.

Once my research is done, I begin. If the target is a motorist, Day One will typically begin with one of my favorite and most effective techniques: I engage him in a rented car. I start by weaving recklessly around him so that he gets very nervous and slows down. Then I pull right in front of him and drive very S-L-O-W-L-Y. Think of the speed you’d need to go in order to get a large knuckled, eleven-and-one-steering-wheel-clutching, elderly person to pass you across a double yellow line, shaking their heads in pity while doing so. Now half that velocity and you have an idea of what I mean. The target becomes upset, blowing his horn, flashing his lights, screaming out the window, etc., until he can finally get around and away from me. Except: Aha! He hasn’t gotten away at all. I already know where he’s going. And I, armed with my research into his routines, can take my time like Pepé Le Pew gently and relentlessly pursuing his feline love interest. On a good day, if the target has lots of driving to do, I will switch rental cars several times to preserve my cover and make his day a vehicular living hell.

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