Alex Richardson: “Back Where I’m From”

Back Where I’m From

I’m in the backseat of my own car,
Hurtling toward my hometown
With the kids up front,
Playing too loudly the first minute
Of every song they know I do not know.
My wife, their mother, lounges beside me,
Wondering how we got back here,
Staring absently out the window at a landscape
I can trace with eyes closed, winding back to family
For afternoon cocktails,
Our portable wet bar rattling and clinking
With each twist and pothole.
It’s then I recall being in my parents’ backseat
Forty years earlier,
Rolling over these same roads,
Stretching out to nap on the floorboard,
Moaning ‘How much longer?’
Dad would tell me forty-five minutes,
Nothing else. Then he’d offer five bucks
Not to ask anymore.

 

 

Alex Richardson has published poems in over thirty magazines, journals and anthologies. His book, Porch Night on Walnut Street, came out on Plainview Press in 2007. He teaches English at Limestone University.

Robert Halleck: “Father in a Drawer”

Father in a Drawer

After father’s funeral, after the food,
the daughter opened the drawer
next to his bed. What is this:
an expired passport, a bag of
French coins, Air France playing
Cards, 4 corks from
Domaine Matrot Bourgagne,
three photos of an unknown woman
on a beach, on a balcony, at a
sidewalk café, four Valentines
signed Sandrine, the name he
had suggested for her daughter.

 

 

Robert Halleck lives in Del Mar, California. He is a member of San Diego’s Not Dead Yet Poets. His work has recently appeared in Main Street Rag and The North Dakota Quarterly. His recent chapbook is Poems From The Blue Highways.  

Joseph Farley: “In this time of remote love”

In this time of remote love

I shall wrap my finger around your wrist,
and lift it gently towards my lips,
politely not asking if you have washed,
for love must not wear too much gauze,
and romance kept at a safe distance
went out with the troubadours.
It’s spring and we are roadkill anyway.
Let’s take the path of least resistance
and fill our desires while we still have them.

 

 

Joseph Farley edited Axe Factory from 1986 – 2010. His poetry books and chapbooks include Suckers, Longing for the Mother TongueHer Eyes, and Waltz of the Meatballs. His fiction includes a novel, Labor Day, and a short story collection, For the Birds. His work has appeared previously in The Big Windows Review, and recently in Mad Swirl, YgdrasilHorror Sleaze TrashUS 1 WorksheetsHome Planet News Online, Wilderness House Review, and Ya’sou!

David Petruzelli: Two Flash Fiction Pieces

El Paso

Before Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald went off to Hollywood in the winter of ‘27, they left their daughter, Frances Scottie, in the care of Scott’s parents, who lived in Washington, DC.; on their last afternoon in town Scott took his mother, Mollie, to a matinee. Scott was never sure whose idea it was to see Flesh and the Devil, though Mrs. Fitzgerald adored John Gilbert, and Greta Garbo was one of those secrets Scott managed to keep to himself. Gilbert gave his mother a lot to think about that day, and even though she annoyed Scott with questions about a cartoon they watched before the movie began, her warm thank-you afterwards surprised and touched her son in a way that made him think he’d never see her again, and at the same time knowing this wasn’t true. On the train the next morning, relieved that his daughter seemed content to stay behind, he was still sad that in the last reel Garbo fell through the ice and drowned. Then somewhere in Kentucky, feeling a little tight and dozing off, he kept breathing Zelda’s perfume and dreamed he was rescuing his idol.
_____It was his first trip to the west coast, and Scott was convinced he could write a feature for United Artists, and go home with easy money. They were introduced to Lois Moran, an up-and-coming 17-year-old actress, and Scott couldn’t believe how beautiful and intelligent she was, then made the mistake of describing her in similar terms to Lois’s mother, all within earshot of Zelda, who went back to the couple’s hotel room, where the evening clothes intended for their first Hollywood party were laid out on the bed, and used Scott’s straight razor on them.
_____In the end United Artists passed on his flapper comedy, about a magic lipstick that made its wearer irresistible to men. He and Zelda took screen tests and quickly grew bored with the process. Zelda ended up making faces, and Scott hated how he looked: too pale, too old. On the long trip back East, they were going through El Paso when they again quarreled about Lois, and in the club car that night, his wife removed the platinum wrist watch Scott gave her when he was courting Miss Sayre of Montgomery; Zelda opened the nearest window and tossed it out. The train gave a long, mournful whistle. In the Texas dark, Lois, or maybe Garbo, found it in the deep grass.

Chinese Coffee, East 52nd St.

Half a block away it seems too busy in front of my building: neighbors, strangers, all looking like they’re in the way. And there I am, about to walk into it after finishing work, ready for the bad news about the break-in, or the child found unconscious in the foyer, a hand trying to keep us back. And sure enough someone notices, turns from the others to step in front of me, though her voice tries to be friendly: “Hi, could you wait a minute? We’re almost done.” But what they’re doing isn’t police work, they’re making a movie, and the short sad-faced man looking homeless in the middle of all these people is dressed for fall even though it’s June, with a grimy raincoat and black beret pulled down to keep his head warm. In a low voice he explains what’s going to happen next, and I realize he’s talking about the brick wall two doors down, and the sunlight still on it and how well this works, and if you get rid of the coat & hat and clean him up, the poor guy could pass for Al Pacino, and with the woman next to him saying Al this and Al that, maybe I’m right, and I listen to the voice again, and yes, it’s Pacino—louder now—“OK, let’s try it.”
_____Then everyone comes off the steps as if they know where to go and what to do, and I’m wondering who the director is and where’s the rest of the cast and what are they calling this thing? “Chinese Coffee,” one kid tells me like it’s a password or he just made it up, but that’s really the name, Pacino’s directing himself, and even the title says the film’s being shot quickly and cheap, though it won’t be released for another three years, with Pacino as an unsuccessful New York City writer who in the scene they’re filming today gets mistaken for this serial killer by a quartet of detectives jumping out from their beat-to-death undercover car.
_____I watch as they slam him against the wall—over & over, take after take, with Pacino each time forced to press his whole body into it, the bricks painted a rich deep red that in the finished film looks redder still. A close-up shows you his weariness, but also surprise, as though the man can’t believe these things keep happening to him, while the actor once more feels the wall on his hands and face, the warmth left over from the first time.

 

David Petruzelli has had work published in crazyhorse, The Gettysburg Review, The New Yorker, Pleiades, The Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. A poetry collection, Everyone Coming Toward You, won the Tupelo Press Judge’s Prize and was published in 2005. He lives in New York City.

David Henson: “The Glassblower’s Wife”

The Glassblower’s Wife 

When they’re young, he plies her with crystal roses and hummingbirds. He even promises a life-size unicorn, but quits after fashioning the horn. The years break the fragile things, some glass, some bone. But she manages to protect the horn.

The last time he tells her not to wait up, she tries to calm her thoughts by doing laundry. But when she folds his sweaters, she’s twisting his arms, breaking his ankles as she does his socks.

The minute hand pounds cracks in the face of her wristwatch. Dishes and cups slide from kitchen wallpaper tables, pile jagged grins on the floor. Moonlight caves in the picture window, leaves long spears lounging on the couch.

Sometime before dawn, headlights flood the bedroom. A car door thunks. She hears him plodding up the steps, feigns sleep.

He’s quickly a pile of snores in the dark. She takes the horn from under her pillow, her heart a fist opening and closing around a shard of glass.

 

 

David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has appeared in various journals including Gravel, Moonpark Review, Bull and Cross, Literally Stories, Riggwelter, and Pithead Chapel. (http://writings217.wordpress.com @annalou8)

Tom Block: “Mystic”

Mystic 

_____I hang my head in shame.  “I’m not a mystic.”  I raise my head.  I look her full in the eyes.
_____Jazmin lowers her gaze.  “I,” she begins.  “I didn’t mean to . . .”  She turns away.  “Tankeen will be here soon.”  Then: “He – would you like to meet him?”
_____Tankeen is Jazmin’s Shaykh.  I do not want to meet Tankeen.
_____Sanjay is there.  He is a professor of Urdu.  He has two children.  He says he is spiritually drowning.  “I will wait for Tankeen,” he says.  “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
_____“I had a premonition that I would meet him,” Jazmin says.  “I was in class.  Suddenly, my head was completely enveloped with a purple color.  Like a scarf.  Or a haze.  The next day I met him.  Purple is the color of his tariqah.”
_____I feel nauseated.
_____“When Takeen took the bayah in Senegal.  The Grandshaykh served oatmeal for breakfast.  Tankeen did not want to eat it.  The Grandshayk’s son kept saying: ‘you eat it you eat it you eat it’ until Tankeen ate it.  Tankeen had a bad back.  That night, he had a dream that a zipper zipped up his back and made it better.  Some people think that the Grandshaykh put something in the oatmeal.  But Tankeen —”
_____Tankeen breezes into the wood-paneled room.  It is the lobby of a century-old dormitory hall at Columbia University.  He sports a jazz goatee.  His dark skin melds with the aged wood all around.  A red scarf hangs over his shoulders.  His face beams.
_____“Here he is,” says Sanjay.  Sanjay steps back and then forward.  
_____“Is this —” begins Tankeen.
_____“This is Sanjay,” Jazmin flutters.  Tankeen thrusts out his hand, grabs Sanjay’s hand and pulls Sanjay to him.  Sanjay sighs.  “And this is Tom.”  Tankeen takes my hand, lets it go and then places his hand against his heart.  
_____“It is nice to meet you,” I say.
_____Tankeen and Sanjay sit down on the hard bench, face to face.  Sanjay hopes that Tankeen might be able to save him.  
_____I move with Jazmin to the side.  “I want to go,” I say.
_____“I’ll escort you home,” she says, her voice a scattering of butterflies.
_____“I don’t want to go home.”
_____“I’ll take you where you want to go and then come back.” 
_____“I want to go to a bar.  To sketch.  But I need a sketchbook.”  Am I spiritually drowning, as well?  I frown.  “Take me to a drugstore.”  A drugstore might have a sketchbook and a pen. “I didn’t bring my sketchbook,” I apologize. 

 

Tom Block is the author of five books, a playwright, 25+ year exhibiting visual artist and Founding Producer of New York City’s International Human Rights Art Festival (ihraf.org). He was a Research Fellow at DePaul University (2010), LABA Fellow (NY, 2013-14), Hamiltonian Fellow (2008-09) and recipient of funding/support from more than a dozen foundations and organizations. tomblock.com