Mandira Pattnaik: “Expropriate”

Expropriate

_____She heard footsteps on the terrace. A man poking his walking stick on the terracotta burnt-red tiles? She could be wrong though. She was wrong. Maybe. She huddled her kids to the warm bedroom nestled between the spiraling wooden staircase and the archaic attic, and waited. The kids lay on either side of her—their home on this Greek island was snug like their mother’s lap. Within minutes their combined rhythmic exhalations lulled the kids to sleep.

_____With ears attuned to each rustle of the dry Sal leaves in the garden, each cry of the mourning cricket and each groan of defeated waves hitting the shore, she lay stiff and ready.

_____This started two weeks ago when her sailor husband left. The neighbors saw his wagon pull out at dawn. Mrs. Grace of the Elementary School down the bend insisted she saw two forms buckled in the front seat—one of whose head lolled. But her eyesight was failing. Over tea and cookies that afternoon, the missus told her that the sailor was gone to Scandinavia.

_____Before leaving, Mrs. Grace had waved to the kids emerging from their log house in the nook of the dried Magnolia that split into three at the base. The kids were playing hide-and-seek.

_____She unspooled canned images from that day. The night before, and until the dawn, seemed to rush in her mind—hazy and indistinct, but the evening stood out—like an aftermath. She remembered watching sunset sitting immobile on the cane chair, the grass of the lawn like velvet at her feet. Darkness descended from the rock faces and slithered down—down—down to the distant ocean. Between gusts of moist sea-winds, she evaluated the broad stretch of the ocean bathed in ephemeral light. Half invisible fishing trawlers swayed in the grayness. Nothing seemed amiss.

_____Down to her right, between the dark mass of the low dunes and the white sands, dominating the whole view, were colossal trees, heavy and dense, full of the brutal force of nature left to itself. Left to oneself natural instincts are always brutal.

_____The monotonous hollow whisper of the crashing waves had sounded feebler and feebler as she had slipped into a battle-weary sleep.

_____Would she keep the log house? She knew that is where her children hid, night after night, to escape their mother’s cries, waiting for their father to collapse in a drunken heap. Hard solid wood—would fetch a decent price. She couldn’t always be wrong—like he thought.

_____No! She wasn’t wrong. He was.

_____She’d have to do something about the walking stick too— his father’s—which he used on her back. She would plant it upright near the creeper; let the Devil’s Ivy expropriate the stick. Like she would—his money, the children, this house—while the waves gnawed away the sailor and his wagon at the bottom of the cliff.

 

Mandira Pattnaik writes flash and poetry. She is humbled to have her work published by The Times of IndiaFewerThan500, 101words, Runcible Spoon, Lunate Fiction (forthcoming), (Mac)ro(mic), and Eclectica Magazine. She loves to travel and embroiders to keep busy.

 

 

Kurt Luchs: “First Sight”

First Sight

Love at first sight is such a cliché
you thought
until it happened to you,
an invisible wave
passing through every particle of you
like a ghost playing a pinball machine,
instantly realigning your being,
re-magnetizing you to a new true north.
If she were an iron filing
she’d be clinging to you already.
You aren’t the first
and you won’t be the last.
It happened to Dante
the moment he laid eyes on Beatrice
and he immediately did the only sensible thing–
begin composing an epic poem
about the nine circles of hell.
Your fate, it seems, is kinder
and less grand–
merely to toss and turn all night
with thoughts of her,
then to rise in the morning
somehow magically refreshed.

 

Kurt Luchs has poems published or forthcoming in Into the Void, Right Hand Pointing, Antiphon, and The Sun Magazine. He placed second for the 2019 Fischer Poetry Prize, and won the 2019 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. He has written humor for the New Yorker, the Onion, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, as well as writing comedy for television and radio. His books include a humor collection, It’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It’s Really Funny) (2017 Sagging Meniscus Press), and a poetry chapbook, One of These Things Is Not Like the Other (2019 Finishing Line Press). More of his work, both poetry and humor, is at kurtluchs.com.

Pat Snyder Hurley: “Letters and Numbers”

Letters and Numbers

Down the side of page one in his gray softback journal he squeezed the letters

R
G
B

then across from each, like notes on a staff, an inscrutable series of zeroes and ones that reflected some unknowable pattern lodged in his astronomer’s brain—

maybe Red Green Blue to color in the Fibonacci spiral he printed on his business cards when the cancer returned

or nonsensical numbers for the Black Belt Sudoku puzzle he still pushed through with his morning oatmeal

or in the final days a single haunting code pulsing through leaf and cosmos that he had begun to write himself into

and then all those blank pages

left for me.

 

Pat Snyder Hurley is a Pushcart-nominated poet from Columbus, Ohio, who has been published in literary journals including Pudding Magazine, Poydras Review, Snapdragon, and the Passager Journal, as well as the chapbook Hard to Swallow (NightBallet Press, 2018). You can find her online at pathurleypoet.com

Mary Shanley: “bleached blonde beehive”

bleached blonde beehive

a short order cook makes
small talk with the waitress
while waiting for exactly
the right moment to flip
two eggs over easy and
serve ’em up with bacon
to his favorite lady
customer who sings along
with the jukebox as she
taps out rhythms on the
table at the back booth
where she sits every
morning in her gold
sequin dress looking
like she could have
been one of the Motown
singers I used to watch
on t.v. every afternoon

and dream of the day
that dick clark would
be introducing me
as the latest sensation
to hit the pop charts
and all across America
kids would run home
from school to watch
me going through the
motions of an elaborately
choreographed routine
as I lip synch a stack
of finger poppin’ tunes

kinda like the ones
that lady in the back
booth keeps playing
every morning.

I listen to her singing
while ringing up checks
in my hot pink lipstick
and bleached blonde
beehive I’m the hottest
cashier this burg ever saw
and by the time Christmas
rolls around I’ll probably
have enough money to make
the final payment on that ’66
mustang I bought from my
brother joey for half of what
it’s worth.

 

Mary Shanley is a poet/storyteller, living with her wife in New York City.
She has had a book of poetry, Hobo Code Poems, published by Vox Pop, Brooklyn.
She self-published, through her imprint, Side Street Press, two books of poetry
and one book of short stories. She is a frequent contributor to online journals.
She was the Featured Poet on WBAI radio, NYC and was nominated for a Pushcart
Prize.

Simon Perchik: Five Poems

*
Side by side a planet that has no star
you wander for years
which means remorse has taken hold

the way this dried love note
never lets go its warmth
though the afternoon becomes a place

for constellations, is wobbling
as silence and the end
–where else can it hide

is more forgiving than a period
left where a well-meaning sentence
gave all it had and for the first time

a darkness was falling from above
bird-like, spreading out as far away
around and around, over and over again.

*
Gradually, you can tell from its silence
this fence was building a bridge
though it’s the rust spreading out

that makes it so –you think it’s plankton
and how hurried was the river
when each afternoon still reaches out

becomes a sea again, heating the sun
with the same shadow
that leans against this iron gate

lets its great weight open the Earth
though nothing is left in your arms
is held anymore –you think it’s raining

as if that’s all there is in the water
that could help you breathe
without leaning over.

*
You clam though it’s the sea falling away
lets this rake threaten it yet go free
taking you along, knows all about going off

disguised as a night that reeks from salt
to keep from sinking –you reach for the bottom
the way your casket disappeared with a candle

made from paper –it was an old love note
in pencil, with nothing on the back
then folded over and over to fit into your hands

as moonlight –even now this long, wood handle
ties you dead to water –you hear the splash
giving up, lying down, at last what it wanted.

*
This paint is wet though when you weep
it flakes –the wall knows close
is too close, starts to turn away which means

it’s breaking open for steam, somehow
a few sparks and after that your tears
will cool, at last a hilltop lake, far off

still making its final descent as a second sky
–two skies and what you breathe in
are the pieces broken off those stars

that would become the sea and never dry
let you witness each wave slowly going off alone
from your eyes that have forgotten how.

*
Upside down, as if this cup
was once a blossom
would overflow with the tears

mourners fill then row ashore
–it’s empty, close to the grass
though her grave is still damp

from this hillside washing over it
scraping from these headstones
a lighthouse for each wooden boat

pulled from the sea –you heard
a trumpet when the cup capsized
is done, put down its sound

as if there was nothing to lower
that wasn’t crushed on these rocks
still trying to lift, one after another.

 

Simon Perchik‘s poetry has appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker, and elsewhere.

William Doreski: “A Damp Spot”

A Damp Spot

A damp spot in the forest.
Mist rises and clots the pine-tops,
erasing distance that enables
my sense of simple geography.

You never worry about your grip
on the planet, and ignore me
when I worry that gravity
will fail on my daily walk
and set me adrift in shades
of gray lacking innuendo.

You rake wet leaves into piles
shaped like extinct animals.
When I help you drag tarp-loads
into the woods I feel funereal.

Bored and exhausted by yard work,
I visit that damp spot and breathe
the mist, absorbing as much of it
as my slack old lungs can swallow.
If I were still a man among men
I’d lie in that muck and expect
to sink deeply enough to anchor
my body where it belongs.

You’d never bother searching
for my papery little remains,
but would collect my insurance
and rake away your modest grief.

More rain coming. I’ll cover
the firewood I split this morning,
then slip indoors for a sip
of the six-dollar vodka hidden
behind a bag of cat litter
where it almost never tempts me
to pour it all over myself
and pretend I’ve gone up in flames.

 

William Doreski‘s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall.

Robert Okaji: “Lying in Bed, I Think of Breakfast”

Lying in Bed, I Think of Breakfast

The moon smiles and I lie here thinking
of the simple breakfasts I would cook for
us: sticky rice with scrambled eggs and
sauteed peppers, or toasted boule with bacon
jam and a side of sliced peaches. And coffee.
Always coffee, black and bitter. But circumstance
dictates other courses, other time zones, and you
wake in your city as I walk in mine, an early
shopper plundering the store’s vegetable
bins, wandering the aisles in search of a
bargain and that special ingredient missing
from my tired, inconsolable days.

 

Robert Okaji lives in Indiana. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kissing Dynamite, Clementine Unbound, The Indianapolis Review, and elsewhere.