Issue 6.2

Perspective

By Angela Sharman

I understand why you would say that. You see, from where you are standing,

 

I look nervous. My hands

are quaking, they are navigating the metro maze,

checking and rechecking my destination, never letting me sink

into the ride. Those sentient martyrs are fishing for blame, my fingers

coaxing threads out of a past that is so intricately interwoven

with you. But even they

do not wish to retrace the stitches

back to your colors, and they shake because it is the only way they know

to say that they are sorry.

 

You must not be good with metaphors. Let me try again.

 

I keep shifting the weight beneath my feet because I

am treading water, one foot

lost in itself, kicking wildly at shadows, the other

moving steadily towards the surface, and I am told that the sun

is blinding

where the mirrored water breaks.

I am cautioned that if I don’t learn how to roll

with the punches, I will meet nothing but the wicked, lazy lunges

of a world

up in smoke.

 

To be honest, that vacant stare is not what I was hoping for.

 

What if I told you that my heart

wants to match your imperfections to its beating anthem, to listen to your breath slow

when you know that I can see your face through the smog,

that I am fighting the flames of hell

to find you. Never mind your pain, this discourse on your remorse,

we are drowning in circumstance, surrounded

by cheapened romance and healing what hurts you

could be my escape.

I would lie awake for you

thinking up rules we were meant

to break.

Maybe I should have started with an introduction.

 

There once was a girl

who loved because she felt a spark and went scrambling

for a match- hands and knees, digging in the dirty audacity

of her youth- unafraid of flames because all she needed to know

was that she was cold.

Lumpy

By Angela Sharman

The demands of a perfection-starved society cling to me

like a plastic Walmart bag pulled taught,

smearing the eyeliner that once trapped my insecurities behind

thick

black

bars

into one wide-eyed look resembling

blatant panic.

I contemplate my pivotal state of transition between the sane and the ragged

until my eyes squeeze shut at the dreaded feeling

of something squirming

beneath the core of my facade.

 

Inside of me is a tiny clay figure,

just like Gumby,

only a little more deformed and a lot less colorful.

Poor, tormented Lumpy.

 

The stress tumbling down

from my scattered and heavy thoughts

has stirred him from his peaceful slumber.  My courage sinks with

the knot in my throat and I watch with growing unease as Lumpy

begins another stop-motion dance-

limping towards the faceless woman with a clipboard

who waits around every harshly lit corner.

Since Lumpy’s trembling creation, he has been drawn to her- the she-beast

who dangles tasks from her fingertips

and stores looks of disgust

beneath her manicured nails.

 

When the breathless clay figure again kneels before her

Clipboard Woman immediately begins to wave her arms

with a flailing dictate towards a graffiti-lined room.

A sculpting wheel with a raw glob of cracked clay

is there waiting for him.

 

Lumpy hobbles toward it, eager

to give Clipboard Woman a reason to check her next box.

He starts to spin the wheel, caressing the clay with the care and attention

a concerned father would offer to his sobbing daughter.

His slow and artful movements coax the broken clay into a coagulated pile.

But it is taking too long.

 

Clipboard Woman starts screaming.

 

Lumpy’s hands shake.  He pushes harder, his fingers

burning with the fury of red clay

ripping at their sockets.

 

The first pot breaks into three pieces.

He tries harder.  Lumpy’s fingers bleed together

with the darkening clay and become one with the pot,

forming four red lines around the center.  Confused,

he rips his hands away, staring in horror

at the stubs where his fingers were.

 

Clipboard Woman is still screaming.

Lumpy swallows, and tries to think.

 

In a daring act of self-preservation,

the little clay creature turns his back to the flailing arms and screaming mouth

and limps from the room, cradling his fingerless hands at his stomach.

 

In the dimly lit alley behind him, Lumpy finds a stick

with a loop of wire on the end, someone else’s discarded tool.

Without warning, he plunges the wire

into his chest, digging furiously at his soul.

 

A burlap sack appears beside him.

Lumpy laboriously places his precious heart into the sack,

smearing the gray with bloodied pieces of his hand.

He wraps a frayed rope around the opening

and lays the bag in a corner.

 

At this, he lowers his head ceremoniously and resigns himself

to a whispered prayer that God would watch over his gut-strewn core.

He hobbles back in the direction of Clipboard Woman’s frenzied shouts

with a soulless smile

plastered onto his face.

 

She is so furious that she is beyond words,

but hollow little Lumpy understands exactly

what he must do.

 

He sits obediently in front of the sculpting wheel

and reverently places his crusted scabs on the cold clay.

In a flurry of red and gray,

a twisted graffiti of mud and flesh splatters

onto the wall.  Clipboard Woman giggles

as Lumpy’s hands are ripped from his arms and added

to his quivering creation.

Lumpy struggles on.

 

In an alley not far away, his severed self

spasms and slowly slips into a dazed nightmare.

 

The cycle continues for days until each box has blood

caked over it in a wicked, elongated “V.”

Only then can Lumpy painstakingly stumble from the room

and make his way to his shadowed haven.

 

He unwinds the knot encasing his ransomed sanity

and cradles the dirty burlap sack with a sobbed prayer of relief.

Boots

By Mia Sara

I.

 

I want boots.

 

I want black, thigh-hugging,

three-inch platforms

with a lethal stiletto.

 

I want laces, triple rows,

and studs, and buckles

that jangle with every footfall

onto rain-slick pavement,

up the fire stairs, and out

onto the crunchy tar of the roof.

 

I want to stand in my boots

and survey the roof-scape,

the water tanks,

the steaming grates,

in the chill November air,

to know the solitary thrill

of the urban early riser,

unseen and godlike

over the dozing populace.

 

It would be good if there were sequins

somewhere,

and fur, real or fake,

it makes no difference,

it is all my Golden Fleece,

my highwayman’s cloak,

my mantle, my cape,

my transformational pelt.

 

I am growing hooves.

 

 

II.

 

I need the boots because

it was never my plan to be the go-to gal

for the Kleenex,

the Band-Aid,

the lost gray sock.

 

Stock the pantry,

stock the fridge,

check there is always an extra roll

of toilet paper

and a bar of soap.

 

I need the boots,

the fur, the spangles,

so that when I am crouched

on the dry grass

at the edge of the playing field

the other flag football mommies

won’t mistake me

for one of them,

and my son, now eleven,

will recognize

his monster from afar.

 

I am scared of mommies,

scared of all that

preening smugness,

needy, greedy martyrs,

organized, efficient,

toting snacks, and water, and iPhones,

wearing sensible

low-heeled shoes.

 

Show me a woman

who is galvanized by motherhood

and I

will show you

ugly,

sad,

unglorious,

footwear.

 

I am growing hooves.                                                                                                                        

 

 

III.

 

Motherhood. What a trip.

The rooftop is windy,

it is a long way down,

without the proper attire.

 

My daughter was born

at the kitchen door

at three a.m. the morning

of my thirty-seventh birthday.

Boom-shaka-laka-laka,

boom, boom, boom,

out she came,

because she wanted to,

and that is how she is.

Ferocious usurper,

splendid sovereign.

 

Her brother before her took

his own sweet time,

mop-headed dreamer,

swaggering Romeo.

 

His birth was

the beginning of me,

and hers, the beginning

of the end of me.

 

Knowing this, do you think

I love them less

than the proper mommies?

The mommies who

organize,

carpool,

volunteer,

and set healthy boundaries.

Mommies who call the school to complain,

and barge,

and bustle,

and feel

fulfilled.

 

Mommies who actually enjoy

playing games?

 

I am a sore loser,

but I am hollowed out with love for my children,

their eyes, cheeks,

knotted manes of honey-colored

tangy sweetness

at the backs

of their furry necks.

 

I am growing hooves.

 

 

IV.

 

The boots, the binding,

the trailing feathers,

kinky camouflage of my inevitable decay.

 

Inside, I am being slowly eaten.

Every ass wiped, tear shed, lesson learned,

mess cleared, squabble mediated, door slammed, game endured,

little shreds of my flesh, peeled, picked, exposing the gristle,

the blood, the still-beautiful bones.

 

“Please pardon our appearance while we are under construction.”

 

The scaffolding has stood these past eleven years,

and it will stand,

the filthy plastic sheeting flapping in the wind,

and passersby will stop seeing it, stop wondering what lies beneath,

and when the time comes,

when those who have made and then broken me

are properly formed and grown, and ready to jump,

it will come down.

The heavy metal framework will loosen

and plummet, the sturdy wooden planks they trod upon

will slip and slide

down the ghost of the edifice and crack the cement below,

and dust will rise and mushroom

and reach the tops of the buildings surrounding

and settle like snow on

my new shoulders, my shiny flanks,

my hooves, front and back.

 

No soft, bitter, lonely,

grasping doormat.

Not a crone, not a wizened

sexless toothless remainder,

waiting in line at Whole Foods Market

with a single doughnut

and a cup of tea.

 

I am growing hooves,

and a pelt,

and a whip-hard tail.

 

I am a centaur,

naked, unashamed,

and ready for the road.

 

___

Born and raised in New York City, Mia Sara made a reluctant move to Los Angeles to facilitate her career as an actress in the film and television industry. Her acting credits include Legend, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Time Cop, Queenie, A Stranger Among Us, Jack And The Beanstalk: The Real Story, and many others.

Now retired after twenty-five years, she has taken up poetry to stave off insanity. Her poetry has appeared in The Dirty Napkin, The Kit-Cat Review, and Cultural Weekly.

Earthworms

By Rita Rud

The humble earthworm,

my science teacher said,

cutting through its soft body

with no backbone,

showing us the segments.

Annelida. His thick fingers,

stained with nicotine,

pulled off its cocoon

for eggs—clitellum.

 

We girls stared—disgusted—

as the boys pulled more

from the plastic bag,

tearing the bodies apart

between them.

 

Today, in a different land,

rain’s driven them up

from winter’s burrows

to bird beaks. Dropped:

stunned on the sidewalk,

stretched out like

swollen matchsticks,

drying in a strong wind.

 

The robins are hunting

the grass for fresher ones

and I look away, torn

between rescue and nature’s

law, and the time my

daughter found them

dying like this

on the driveway,

and dug earth

from the hard ground

with her fingertips

to fill a Tupperware

bowl to save them.

 

Now she is

painting her nails:

each one a pink

pearl at the end

of her fingers;

singing under

headphones,

a boy band’s

song of love

for the new millennium.

 

___

After training as an RN and then completing a BS degree in the UK, Rita Rud emigrated to the United States to marry her husband and completed her MFA at Purdue University. After grad school, she taught writing at her alma mater until she moved to Washington State, where she is now a professor for the Honors College and founder of its literary and arts journal which will be open to students in Honors programs in the Pacific Northwest.

Before attending grad school, she was the coordinating editor for Bookbird: World of Children’s Books. The recipient of multiple teaching and writing awards, she had the opportunity to study with Patricia Henley and Marianne Boruch, among others. She had several articles published in a local newspaper when she lived in North Carolina and won the Highlights for Children Annual Story Competition in 1994. Her readership now knows her as R.M. Rud.

News Sendai, Japan . . . Beach Walk Sanibel Island, USA

By Barbara Rockman

The horizon had not yet consulted the shore,

nor the sand set its edge. As plates shifted

sea swept in. Windsor knots

centered. Bowls rinsed of rice.

A child refused what was offered.

Docks of crates. Admission of love.

Hello Kitty strapped to a girl’s back.

Umbrellas tight as spears

 

The news: He has not found   

 

The grapefruit, the bougainvillea.

 

his missing son     nor she

her wheelchair-bound mother

 

Morning walk:

whelk, cocina, scallop

I return the live, pocket the fractured.

 

Family garden disappeared:

 

Collectors drag nets at dawn.

 

the walls for leaning against, disappeared;

scythe in the shed, gone: the shed, the blade,

its need of sharpening.

 

Where was my house, asked the girl

 

Bowman’s Beach: Only Leashed Dogs

Everywhere

 

new signs:

 

Playground Closed will come later:

sealed windows.

 

Here, open shutters, dolphins and the gulf’s

 

convulsions, petit mal, yet, I scan the sand:

there, my girl reapplies sunblock.

My hands could ring her waist:

 

helpless

the world. White masks come later,

 

kilometers of particles:

the reactor’s rods will boil

and spew.

 

At the edge,

a retiree plants his pole and waits.

 

My husband, not missing. Distant,

 

at the end of the pass

he lifts binoculars.

 

I practice my grip

around his wrist. Later,

 

tourists will blast the cork, toast a fiery

 

horizon

but now, it is morning

in heaven

 

air, soft as soot.

 

* “News, Sendai, Japan…” first appeared in Caveat Lector

___

Barbara Rockman lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she leads poetry workshops and teaches at Santa Fe Community College.

Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Bellingham ReviewCalyx, Cimarron ReviewLouisville ReviewNimrod International Journal and Spoon River Poetry Review. She is editor of the anthology Women Becoming Poems. She has received the Southwest Writers Prize, the New Mexico Discovery Award, The MacGuffin Poet Hunt Prize, Baskerville Publishers’ Prize and two Pushcart Prize nominations. She was a 2012 Associate Artist at Atlantic Center for the Arts.

She earned her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is the author of the poetry collection, Sting and Nest (Sunstone Press, 2011) which received the 2012 National Press Women Poetry Book Award.

Happy Dream

By Derek Otsuji

Happy Dream

Derek Otsuji

 

 

And now the child dreams of the dead mother.

The small hovel about him falls away.

The little sister, with parched lips and fever,

is up and about, her voice brilliant

in the calm and impossibly bright day.

He looks up, sees his mother’s young face—soft

in pink shade of a paper parasol.

They’re walking on a beach bright with white sands,

soothed by blue, scrolling waves perfectly curled

—dream resurrecting the corpse of memory

of the one happiest day of his life.

In a lacquer box tied with fine silk cloth

are rice cakes that she’s lovingly prepared.

They will cure the hunger once and for all.

 

___

Derek Otsuji teaches English at Honolulu Community College and works at Otsuji Farms, a family-run farmer’s market, on the weekends. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in The Alembic, Atlanta Review, The Chaffin Journal, descant, DUCTS, Eclectica, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Hawaii Review, Inscape, Kaimana: Literary Arts Hawaii, The Ledge, The MacGuffin, The Midwest Quarterly, The Monarch Review, Poet Lore, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Sierra Nevada Review, Verdad, Word Riot, and Yuan Yang. He won first place in the Eisteddfod Crown Competition; and has studied writing with the late Welsh poet Leslie Norris.

Grandma’s Garden

By Derek Otsuji

Every trip we made to Walmart,

Grandma would insist

on paying a necessary visit

to the nursery,

filling up her shopping cart

with potted plants—ground cover, mostly,

and assorted blooming perennials.

 

When we’d tactfully point out

she had too many plants,

she made no denials

but simply would reply,

“I love plants,” and, “It’s how I

choose to spend

my money”—a logic against

which we could not defend.

 

Still, we did not understand.

 

She had no other vice

save the diabetic’s appetite

for forbidden sweets denied,

the surreptitious cigarette

hastily snuffed out when

the grandchildren came into sight.

 

And the creeping foliage

flourished, crowding the garden’s

corners, dark as original sin,

rich leafage filling in

each leafless vacancy,

which her absence noticeably

amplifies, as it does

the dying flowers’ silent cry,

the perennial imperative—beautify.

 

___

Derek Otsuji teaches English at Honolulu Community College and works at Otsuji Farms, a family-run farmer’s market, on the weekends. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in The Alembic, Atlanta Review, The Chaffin Journal, descant, DUCTS, Eclectica, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Hawaii Review, Inscape, Kaimana: Literary Arts Hawaii, The Ledge, The MacGuffin, The Midwest Quarterly, The Monarch Review, Poet Lore, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Sierra Nevada Review, Verdad, Word Riot, and Yuan Yang. He won first place in the Eisteddfod Crown Competition; and has studied writing with the late Welsh poet Leslie Norris.

 

War Time

By Bob Meszaros

It is Christmas.

The living room is filled with relatives

and light: logs in the fireplace, electric

candles in the windows and on the tree.

All real and artificial flames point

up and give off light.

 

My uncle plays the piano:

his sisters sing. His father sits hunched

before the fire, drumming with his fingers

on the armrest of his chair.

 

My father is in the Pacific

building bridges. My mother is in the kitchen

by the phone. I sit curled behind a chair back

in the corner, listening to my uncle play

the piano, to his father’s fingers drumming,

drumming, drumming on the wood.

 

Time stops while I listen;

while the radiators hiss;

before the Christmas fire collapses;

before anyone is dead.

Minotaur In His Cave

By John Lavitt

spends all day, before the hunt

and spittle of savage night,

choosing, trying to choose.

 

woman, cow?  girl, calf?

such lovely lips, a beautiful snout,

the muscular thighs, a milky breast.

 

i am man and you are beast.

you are beast and i am man.

i am beast and you are eaten.

 

the cave smells of bone and blood.

i should eat in the tall grass,

on the cliffs overlooking the sea.

 

my father won’t ever talk to me.

he will fight, butt horns, maul

my jewels, and gore my button.

 

my mother denies my existence.

it was such a horrible birth.

the baby died painlessly, right?

 

caught between the universe

and her mirror, i laugh.

laughter echoes in the cave.

 

the bull wants the woman.

the man wants the cow.

each wants to be the other.

 

__

Growing up as a stutterer, John Lavitt always saw poetry as a way to express himself beyond the challenges of simply getting the words out. He went on to do a paid internship at The New Yorker, graduated with honors from Brown University’s Literature and Society program, and was later proud to be given a solo reading at Shakespeare & Company in Paris. He worked very closely with the poet Robert Lax on the Greek island of Patmos in 1989 and 1997. Robert taught him the importance of developing his craft without fear or doubt and with grace and humor.

After serving as a literary manager in Hollywood for many well-known screenwriters, he became partner in the Content Director of Open-Interactive. He also currently runs the Hepatitis Connect website for Alliance Health Networks. In an incredible turning lemons into lemonade moment, the company hired him after reading his blog that focused on his treatment in a recent clinical trial and its emphasis on the importance of raising HCV awareness. He was grateful to learn he was cured at the beginning of 2012.

His published and forthcoming creative works include poems featured in My Kind Of Angel, a compilation volume of writers paying tribute to William Burroughs (Stride Publications,1998), as well as pieces in three separate Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes.

there’s an atomic clock ticking by my record player table

By Kate LaDew

there’s an atomic clock ticking by my record player table

it’s able to recalculate itself, blinking at the same rate as the world,

accurate to infinity, dropping down to the hundredth of any given second,

cooling atoms to absolute zero,

measuring clouds of fountains, atoms tossed into the air by lasers,

all this sits by my record player table

I watch the thick vinyl turn, looping out sounds that will be stored in my brain for eternity while everything else trickles through my heart like rain

they say ted williams could read the label of a spinning record from 60 feet away

I wonder if he counted the stitches on every baseball,

one by one or twos or fives, flying towards him in wavering lines,

atoms are weightless in the toss, invisible to any human eye

would ted have caught them with his bat, sent them over that great green wall in splatters?

does it matter if we’re all one second off?

when it’s finally time to die will we raise our hands into the air,

grasping at something we’re told is there but have never seen?

one eye on that atomic clock, the other blinking with the rhythm of our slowing heart

give me my last second back, we’ll shout at God

you owe it to me after all this living

 

___

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art.