What Do I Do as a Father…

As I wait for my little girl

To stand next to me.

 

A document full of memories

And a tassel that covers her sight

Triggers off a wave.

 

Her pile of homework,

Drains her sleep for eight,

No seven, no six hours.

 

Time ticks to nowhere.

The lessons take longer.

Her shaky desk, gazes the clock

That never seems for her.

 

Her teacher speaks the words

She won’t remember once

She opens the fast-paced streets.

 

Notes message what she cannot uncover.

Pages flip as letters ripple from sight.

 

My daughter’s voice

Should headline the New York Times.

 

Will joy grab her by the hand?

 

Her, soaring with the eagles.

Her, drifting, from a piece of paper,

Dreams, and…

Me.

© 2014 Anthony Gomez

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Dawn

Like a summer-lust teen, the morning web

clutches you, then fragments into filaments.

 

Caught in the light of the low slung sun;

by nine, they’re gone. Sweltering noon

 

blots out sin better than the prayers of saints

in heaven or on earth. The stain of the sins

 

of the world burn your eyes like the coal

of heaven that Isaiah stole from the altar.

 

The seraphim never saw him, and God missed

it as well. Isaiah slipped it into his pocket,

 

brought it home and used it to write a book

about fire on filaments of spiders.

 

© 2014Thomas Sabel

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LEAVES LIKE GOLDEN, BREATH LIKE FROST

Put on all my woolies and we rode up.

 

From away, home looked really close.

I could see every part of its safety:

rigid structures holding the line between

higher income and low, our covenant-controlled,

chain-stores-for-every-need town, with

improbable signs warning “no cruising between

9 PM and 4 AM,”

the home of our medium class.

 

On the mountain we are in another country,

colder by a good 40 degrees, brashly wild as winds,

not breezes, whip through pines taller than most buildings down in our town of horse properties

warring with development and losing, as usual in Colorado, to the winds of change–a lot less clean

than what we feel right here.

Soon the meadows along the tracks will be filled in,

the horses on Kipling gone.

 

There is no summer here. It is over 10,000 feet,

and the best it can ever do is a sort of late spring.

Somewhere I read about a Neversummer Range:

here it is. That’s why aspens never turn a true dark green; they hold a fresh springtime color, then turn immediately to autumn gold, while down the mountain it’s September and it’s hot.

 

In Ouray our friend Don found abandoned seedlings

and brought them down. We planted them at his house

and ours next door; together we have a grove of trees.

The extension agent said no way could they thrive

so low, so warm. Of course they grew, because Don planted them, my husband staked them, they both watered them, and prayed over them, I swear,

by the light of every moon.

 

We are near to Brainard now. It is snowing and

my husband is just a little more aware of the road.

Big old motorcycles work best on dry surface,

but can ignore the surface better when the man

who drives it has fixed it, ridden it, wrestled it every summer for 11 years down roads like that nearly-to-Rapid-City 10 miles of gravel and sticky tar, always unmarked, always in a different spot, that the South Dakota highway department is pleased to call its “Welcome to Sturgis Rally Week”.

 

This guy I don’t mind riding behind when traffic

or the road turns weird, though even he can’t control the weather and I do carry an extra layer of warmies in my saddle bag.

 

There’s snow collected under the trees; we’re going

too fast to tell now if it’s new or crusty old.

Almost all the golden leaves are gone and there’s little contrast between dark rocks and darker pines.

Which stand of aspen stood out tall and golden blowing in the hard breeze, losing its leaves first?

 

Was it the one on the right, only a few trees thick but very tall, with nothing to fight it for sun and soil?

Was it the left stand of forty or a hundred trees enfolded in their faithful backdrop of lush pine,

dark green velvet until you try to touch?

 

I have never seen our aspens turn deep and truly green; they too are always spring-colored and supple

in the breeze. Or the fifty-mile-an-hour wind–they

don’t care, but move and skim against our roof, making

dimly-colored shadows on the sky. They live and thrive but in their own mild way they oppose

the rigid sameness of our town.

 

 

We’ve been riding against the wind down Left Hand Canyon, past drab little huddles of Appalachia

against the Colorado hills. How unsightly and so sad.

Houses crumbled there with their wood and metal leavings as if the glory of the Colorado 1960s

never happened, but just the poverty of old druggies

who refuse to find a job.

I wonder what their grown kids think;

I hope they don’t live there.

 

We are running past Sunshine Canyon now, toward Boulder Creek. Soon the traffic will remind us that we aren’t so far from home and all its have-tos. But we’ve been where the winter comes, snowy, still, and real.

 

He guides our bike onto our driveway in a sudden drift of leaves. I know it’s too soon for autumn, but I haven’t really been keeping track. In my imagination, starkness fills my mind and a hard wind blows; in the mountains, the aspens sit rigid in their dark branches. And I’m still cold.

 

But we’ve been gone all day. It’s like a cat, really,

that knows the car means going to the vet.

Our aspens at home live warm, but they’ve cousins

in their hearts. They know we’ve seen the mountains; they know it’s started to snow.

 

Off the bike, I walk through autumn gold.

We won’t see them green again this year.

They only began to turn last weekend,

but now almost all their leaves are down.

 

© 2014 Melanie Rodden

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HARD TIMES

The call comes in. Finally, she’s dead.

 

Francisco opens, but the chain is still on. I set my foot between the door and the jamb.

He says, “What are you doing here?”

“I called you.”

“That was a few days ago.”

“You didn’t call back.”

He tries to slam the door and my foot gets pinched. I kind of scream. There is a struggle, but Francisco has been sickly since he was a kid, so he is in the habit of giving up on fights quickly.

He says, “Ok,” like a little brat.

I bang on the door once more.

“Ok! Take your foot out. I have to shut it to take the chain off.”

“You better open this door.”

“I will.”

He opens and I walk in. The place smells like it has gone rotten. The cigarettes have soured.

An ugly girl is on the couch, comatose. A scattering of magazines are on the cushion beside her. I toss a few onto her to clear a seat for me.

Francisco has followed me in. He looks unhappy about me covering the girl in the magazines, but he isn’t going to do anything about it. He sits in the recliner, kicks out the foot rest.

On the TV is some old movie. A woman is trying on a green bonnet that some dashing guy has bought her. She says, “Well, I won’t kiss you for it either.” She runs into his arms and puts her head up, waiting. He touches her on the chin, says, “No I don’t think I will kiss you. Although you need kissing badly.”

I snicker.

“That’s what’s wrong with you,” he says. “You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how.”

I ask, “What’s this?”

Francisco says, “Gone with the Wind.”

The girl on the TV says, “And I suppose that you think you are the proper person.”

“I might be, if the right moment came.”

This guy is sticking it to her and I love it.

Francisco says, “What are you doing here, John?”

“I told you. On the phone.”

“I don’t sell to people like you.”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“You abuse drugs. Take them for the wrong reason.”

“What? Go get me what I want.”

“No, John. I don’t sell to people like you because it makes me feel like shit. I don’t want to be the one responsible for fucking up your life.”

“Dude.”

“You ought to be in AA, or NA, one of them.”

Dude.”

“No.”

I can’t believe this little puke. What a shitty drug dealer. I say, “I’ll get you a night at the Ritz-Carlton.” I put my hands up. “Huh? Can’t say no to that. Bring her.” I point at the passed out chick.

“I’m not selling to you, John.”

“Fuck you.” From my jacket, I pull a drink.

He says, “This is what I mean. You use drugs to escape problems instead of using them to make your life richer.”

I swallow a mouthful. “What about her? She’s making her life better?”

“She’s narcoleptic.”

“That was impossible for me to know.”

Francisco seems to concede that point. He really does have my best interest at heart. He says, “You should exercise. You’ll see the world differently. It’ll bring you to a new level of clarity.”

“You fucking bore me, man. Listen, I get it. You don’t want to be the one who sells the drop that kills me. But I’m a responsible guy.”

“I’m not doing it.” He said it tougher than I like to hear him talk. He is a weak little thing, but he has spirit and he has really good dope. He needs to either be bigger or cut out trying to be tough. He stands up for himself, and that usually leads to him getting his ass kicked. I couldn’t tell you how many times he’s been robbed.

I say, “Just give it to me, all right? I’ll pay you double for it.”

“Can’t do it.”

“I’m gonna pay someone to fucking rob you. Is that what you want?”

I can see he’s cracking. He’s scratching his head. He’s looking at the narco-chick. He says, “Tell me what happened.”

I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to have to think a goddamn thing about what’s going on. That’s why I want the dope.

He says, “I know there’s something wrong. You only come to me when there’s something wrong. And I want to know what happened. Then maybe I’ll sell to you.”

All right, if he wants a story, I’ll give him one.

I tell him it has nothing to do with being sad, that it’s all about sex. I tell him I discovered that if you cover your prick in dope, then have sex, you could be fucking two rocks and it still feels like you’re in a twenty-year old. You come so hard you nearly knock a ball out. I say, it’s good for her too, because basically you’re jamming dope up her twat.

It takes him a few seconds to catch up with me. Francisco is many things, one of which is a big fucking idiot.

He says, “Shit. I’m gonna try that.”

“Fucking ‘a. So can I get my stuff, please?”

I don’t feel bad about lying to Francisco, but I feel a bit worried about what will happen to his dick when he covers it in heroin, and what will happen to the girl, probably this narco-chick, when she gets the drug slammed in her.

He gets up, walks the horse out of the stable, and not five minutes later I’m back in my car, dope in my pocket, and I’m feeling a little glimmer of hope. I’m heading for home, heading for a beautiful place.

Tinfoil. Lighter. Straw.

 

*****

For two days, I’m a lot like PSO J318.8-22. That’s a planet. It’s six-times the size of Jupiter, eighty-light years from Earth. Scientists say, it appears to be just floating through space. Orbiting nothing. Just a solitary giant gas ball, wandering the cold wastelands of deep space.

© 2014 Michael Morshed

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Collect Call

Silence can be adored. I speak of my neighbour,
who has spoken more words than I have.

He turns the volume up loud on his TV,
the remote baking in his fist as he curses

the bridge section of a neighbourhood:
every happy howl or blinkety streetlamp,

or the wild-go passerines on the street
who whistle a tune that survives only in whistles.

He could have been a librarian, speaking volumes
in the strict parameters of hush and the soft snore

of a thousand pages turned at once. Sometimes,
we noisily turn pages that don’t have books.

I think of the stargazer who knows true silence.
That it lies up past the cavalries of birdsong,

to where the clouds keep the stars in
overnight for observation.

© 2014 Rebecca Bird

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Hand Drawn Sky

She had been alive for 5692 days, 2 hours, 3 minutes, and 6 seconds.

I watched her chest rise and fall, in tune with a silent rhythm. At times, she struggled to breathe, her back arching from the effort, but she stayed in a deep sleep. The tubes protruding from her chest reminded me of an ancient voodoo doll, pierced in vital places. Her inch-long dark blonde hair shot up from her head as if she had been electrocuted. Deep black circles ringed her eyes and dried spittle formed a halo around her mouth.

Her breathing became more and more labored as I approached. I hated the way I affected them, like I was something evil to be avoided, never embraced. Sometimes they even fought me, but I always won.

Sometimes I wanted to lose.

I was new to the job and had little of the skill of my predecessor. He had enjoyed it, maybe a little too much. He’d loved watching their last seconds tick by and their eyes grow wide with fear and fight. He had not been one to strike quickly, preferring rather the slow decay of their body and mind. I felt, watching her, as if I had already failed him.

She opened her eyes. They were a soft shade of green.

“Who’s there?”

Her voice was soft but unafraid. I liked this one. Her eyes flicked to the spot where I stood but quickly passed over me. But then they flicked back again. My breath hitched in my throat.

“I know you’re there.” Her hand caressed the tubes protruding from her arms lightly, like a lover. “And I’m not afraid.”

Don’t speak to them, he had told me. Never speak to them. They will use their silver tongues and simpering eyes to convince you to spare them. And you cannot spare them. You cannot spare a single one.

“Well,” she demanded, sitting up with great effort and labored breath, “aren’t you going to say something?”

I opened my mouth, then shut it. Some sound must have escaped, however, because she grinned triumphantly, the smile threatening to break her too-thin face apart.

“I knew you were there,” she said, lying back among the pillows.

She smiled, gently this time, up at the ceiling. I followed her gaze, seeing for the first time the mural of the night sky painted clumsily over her bed.

“They didn’t even get the constellations right. I just want to take a sharpie and fix them. I don’t think I can stand anymore, though. Especially not on this rickety bed. You see that?”

She looked at me, pointing at a constellation on the ceiling. Despite my training, I nodded.

“They mixed up Canis Major and Canis Minor, see? Rookie mistake.”

She was quiet for a long time, staring up at the ceiling. I could only watch her, stunned. I had visited millions of people in the last 349 years. After the first 100 years, they’d all started to blur together. But I’d taken particular time with her case, hoping without hope that perhaps my orders would be different this time.

“I’m Annabel, by the way.”

I know, I wanted to say. Annabel Marie Edwards, youngest of three sisters and the most ferocious fighter. You’ve been battling the cancer for exactly 605 days, 23 hours, 46 minutes, and 1 second. Your parents and sisters have watched as it slowly ate away at your body. I’ve been here, I wanted to say. Watching, waiting. I’ve seen everything.

I’ve seen your mother smile and hug you and tell you everything’s going to be all right. I’ve seen her sob in the hospital bathroom until her chest hurts and her tear ducts dry up. I’ve watched her retching and heaving and blaming herself. I’ve seen your father, who you think doesn’t love you, stare at your picture for hours in his office, tears streaming down his face. I’ve watched your sisters shoulder the burden at school, dodging unwelcome questions and curious glances, guiltily thanking God for their good health; yet still they wish they could take your place. And most of all, I’ve seen you. Laughing, smiling, babbling, wondering, living. I’ve seen your darkest days of doubt and anger. I’ve watched you fight through them all. I know you, Annabel, I wanted to say.

But I didn’t.

Instead I walked to her bedside, watching her eyes follow me in the dark.

“Will it hurt?” She whispered, suddenly looking like the fifteen-year-old child she was.

I shook my head. Gently, I took her in my embrace, letting her vibrant soul ease out of her body. He would have disapproved. He had liked to watch them fight for their last moments, although their fight would be in vain. When she was gone, I shut her empty eyes.

An idea blooming within me, I rummaged in one of the hospital drawers, frantically looking for something. I had to be gone before they came back. They would not be able to see me, of course, but I disliked witnessing the tears.

I held up a black sharpie in triumph and crossed over to the bed, perching precariously on it; I began to write on the ceiling.

Minutes later, I surveyed my work. Canis Major and Minor were fixed, in their appropriate positions in the sky once more. Annabel would be pleased.

I shook my head at the thought.

“Rookie mistake.”

© 2014 Danielle Bordelon

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Woodwinds and What’s Between Us

Woodwinds

 

He’s the sound of pine and cedar crackling

in a forest, chain oil greased in his palms,

the low lying rustle of salal, sword

ferns and chanterelles underfoot.  He’s snow

crunching under heels of boots, the trumpet

 

of geese overhead, the drizzle of rain

off black silk boughs.  He’s the thwack of logs,

the flop of a jean jacket, the swoop

of waxwings to air as the axe catches

glints of light.  He’s the shake of leathery

 

drenched leaves, the brush stroke of branches,

the sprinkle of saw dust in his damp brown hair.

He’s the sound of the wheel barrow creaking

towards the house, one tire deflating soft

as a stiff breeze in snow.  He’s the sound of fire

 

wood being split and stacked, winters breath

haloed in hemp smoke.  It’s the flutter

of his rumpled blue shirt tied round his waist,

the thump of logs piled beneath the window

sill in tidy rows.  It’s the lumbering

 

footsteps on stairs, the squeak of the screen door,

the spark of a Red Bird match.  This man who

scarcely says a word can divine a chore

into music.  He witches sound like water

from a woodpile, resonating a pitch

 

that flows a perfect cord between us.

 

© 2014 P.C. Vandall

Previously published by Lipstick Press

 

 

 

What’s Between Us

 

What’s between us is this space, dark

matter that makes up billions

of particles yet neither of us

can see it.  You on the sofa,

 

me on the love seat, this expanse

that might as well be a savannah

of leaping gazelles and zebras,

a stampede of rhinos in a deep

 

rutted gorge.  Behind us is the fire-

place which holds the frame of us–

a wedding picture with silver

bells and dust, inanimate

 

as the mantel we stand on.

We are statues on a mossy

ridge beneath a giant weeping

willow.  You wear black and I wear

 

white.  We are lovers drawn together

by an artist’s charcoal touch.  We face

each other with vows in the air

but again this space between us,

 

this ever widening gap that grows

like ripples on water, rings inside

trees.  You can’t always see them but know

they are there.  You sit on the sofa

 

and gaze over at me on the love

seat.  It might as well be an ocean,

a prairie sky or the African

Serengeti plains between us.

 

© 2014 P.C. Vandall
Previously published by Lipstick Press

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