Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Sunday, March 30, 2014

404: A Sin

by Ali Znaidi

Your wings are broken.
Your Face is veiled.
Your Book is burnt.
If you don’t have any outlet,
you are not in the light:

—The morning becomes dark
& Twitter becomes mourning.

—Hot tears cut across the laptop:
This is not an error.

This is a sinful act.

View From a Flyover State

by M.R. Smith

I watched twin clouds form from nothing like ink blots spreading,
genesis of exegesis on expansive deep blue stationary.

One became a reclining nude with gross exaggeration,
an elbow here and breast there, Picasso-like,

while the other became a fish more coelacanth than perch.
They expanded rapidly and shape-shifted pell-mell to gross mass.

The impression became a closing in,
as though they were rushing at me in my unearned leisure.

At some unknown signal, like beasts whistled home,
they dwindled, Dopplering away until they were gone,

the sky returned to its virgin state, flawless as an unwritten note.
Later, a distended contrail from an airliner drifted over me.

I wondered if the same cloud-lady traced a finger on her window,
her first-class seat comfortably deployed for a passage from Alaska,

unaware of the fish dry iced in the hold, bound for an expensive
table somewhere far east of the divide.

Sister Saturday Morning

by Tom Hatch

He was walking down the hall
A second after dawn
He heard and saw that I was awake
Tapped on my door
Are you ok dad, he said
I'm fine, I said
Just watching the sunrise, I said
It is not really rising dad he said
I know I said
Can I have a hit off your bong
I said
Ok, ok,...pull trust me
He said take the hit
I did then said, see you next week
(it was a Saturday)
Sitting in the snow the
Sky a bit brighter
Colors bright
Lovely then the thought
Dark thought sister was gone
My brain zig zagged then dropped
An inflamed fire escape
Done feeling the waves
Into low tide trying
To sooth the pain

There is the masking tape
Of ripping the colors off
The corners holding my
Shoulders together
Knowing thinking of
Her searching the forest of my life
Everyday she will be there
In a niche in my mind the happy part
A spark-plug missing from the V8
If there are angels they sang
Listening to Social Distortion "When The Angels Sing"
I cry


by Brittany Zedalis

roaming through this forgotten
wonder of lush green grass and wide
cypress trees, bare feet find smooth
pebbles and soak in cool waters

running rough hands along a
weathered bridge, looking out
over the deepest sapphire of rivers,
widening smile on lips

peaceful is the rush of water,
a hand slips into another, and
they stare into the sunset with
a sense of tranquility

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dr. Shecter and his November Issue of Running

by Amy Soricelli

She could say in her head you could surf - do water sports.
She could say that - yeah - from the glossy magazine by her side.
She could be thinking i could be dying here by the flowery plant i paid for with my co-pay;
She stares down the dead edges.
This could be the last time i sit in this office feeling young. maybe not dying.
The other magazines were food recipes wooden spoons from Paris nailed onto kitchen walls.
Who could be hungry here.
So she thinks i can rip out this face in the ad shove her deep in my winter coat pocket;
in the inside/the one on the inside because it pours out sometimes
stuff gets lost/that's okay it's a test.
She thinks if i control this i could live with this in my hands in my wallet i could see
this girl with her perfect everything - remember this better.
So she does - one perfect slice.
Rips it out miss perfect hair that blonde streaky hair- always wanted that;
add it to the list before she dies.
Add it to a list like the one her old dad carries around in his wallet with his license.
The never happened to me now this list.
They look at her/the angry young dying girl in the upper east side doctors office
pulling hope out of the magazine like a perfume strip.
Her name called - she goes in / yeah she ripped it-
glaring down the aisle of deep expensive seats/weaving between the next in line like her.
Ripped out the brave face pulled down from her own.
Less than thirty minutes drawn off the black light around her -
the now not-dying girl smooths the pages back down in the magazine;
leaving it for the next almost-dying person to roll into a ball before she knows.


by Richard Schnap

There was the one who shattered
The portrait that an artist
Had sketched of us together
In happier times

And the one who answered
The door one dark midnight
And whisper to somebody
To call her next day

And the one who published
The ad in the paper
For men I’d discover
When I got home from work

I think of them as I learn
How archeologists have unearthed
Two skeletons in a tomb
Forever entwined

child of the sun

by Linda M. Crate

got lost in a sunset
of crimson and gold
whose oranges
kissed me with lips
as rosemary as
my own, and i
tripped over
your indigo eyes
fell into the
ivory of your pristine fangs

your clouds kissing me
with so much
emotion i thought i had
left buried on
some distant shore
yet the mermaids in your
eyes told me you had
died, and i didn't heed their
warning cryptic and
cold as the moon beams
dancing in your hair;

so when you killed me i guess
i had no one but myself
to blame;
but i thought i'd swim forever
in the ocean of your eyes
when i was really
meant to splash in the waves of
crimson freckled skies,
and i've hurt so hard and so long
but i'm finally back where
i'm meant to be
dancing without shadow in the
sun forever and ever.

Welcome to Euphemism, North Carolina

by Michael Ceraolo

where Oceanview Farms operates
a Certified Animal Feeding Operation
that it calls by the acronym CAFO
to obscure what's going on there;

where a structure holding 12,000 animals
is  called a barn;

where hog shit is hosed off the floor
and then called waste;

where the hosed excrement is stored in a pit
that is then called a lagoon;

where the walls containing the pit
break one day in June 1995
and release
twenty-five million gallons
of the contaminated water
into the nearby New River;

where a seventeen-mile stretch of that river
had its aquatic life murdered;

where the punishments, if any,
never fit the crimes.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


by A.V. Koshy

We never played Holi
but I remember clearly
walking in the cities of our heart
Its streets that we ran through
splashing colours on each other's emotions
and feelings
I, in the hope that they would never get removed
You? I don't know what you wished for
but hope you wished the same
Stains spreading wet and warm on our dresses
in which appeared our dreams
with all the colours of the sun
our expressions unread
and our words
unwritten, speaking of unspoken love

The trail has no equal

by James Diaz

If who were in this? And not a near by thing
in all roots tortured by the incremental seriousness
foot fall in past
teething even the memory
or dream we don’t dream anymore

all of our envy put into the good parts of the soil
into the well tested earth
water none I leave and can love by rain
incapable of much more, heavy lifting
screaming, the rivers aren't flowing
naturally anymore

who has what I have- seen or not
the low lovable fruit smell
sun in more ways than one can count-
adding precious tokens to our blindness

I don’t understand
and fitted into earth, root, sit with good intentions
tidal wave crayon drawing
for sunflower or canyon, burning
frost of you, north of you,
where anyone belongs
but won’t go there alone.

Why Do I Pray My Son

by Tom Hatch

He told me they laid down
Between the train tracks
Pissed his pants and cried
As the massive engine and cars shot over inches
From his tears
It was a fifteen second rush he was fifteen
His stillness saved his life
His fear moving to something
Worse this is why I pray
His dares never ending
His inhale and exhaling
Brain is on a loose thread
A needle has been in his
Forearm teasing overdose and death
This is why I pray
Tracks and trains are both
Real and a metaphor
This is why I pray


by Nancy May

spring sun beams
reflect frog spawn
on the pond

Sunday, March 23, 2014


by Amy Soricelli

She is old under her face deep into her skin.
Her eyes brown crowded into themselves dark, twisty
she sees dark and twisty.
She would say -
hey this is me - this is me;
she wore it like a sign/an ankle bracelet - thin fragile.
She was sexy in her lonely scared ways.
Like the numbers on the ruler -you saw them/ you didn't.
She was older than she was younger...closer to now than to almost was.
Pecked-out fragments.lost in the spaces between the plant and the dirt.
Rings on the tree around and around she sees her hands
in long dark fingers pointing backwards.
She is old under the shadows on the dark dirty street.
Gum under desks the way it feels rough -
other peoples shame stuck hard into the tip of her fingers.
She closes her eyes tight she can borrow the memory;
the pink long ago sweet worn down to nothing.
To nothing.
she is old under her skin deep into her soul.

Bad Dog

by J. K. Durick

Good and bad are simple concepts
In the canine world, while arbitrary
At times, they summarize so much:
Good gets gentle words and pats on
The head, a treat or two, or perhaps
A chance to go along one more time,
And bad, the other paw in this parade,
Gets angry words, a hand or foot out
Of nowhere slapping, kicking, another
Tug on the choke collar, or time spent
In the too tight kennel they kept for
Moments like this; in the end, it’s just
A matter of reward and punishment,
Like we get so often; when good we get
Good words, good grades, all the extras,
Privileges and paychecks, pomp and
Playthings, a cozy life in comfortable
Surroundings; but bad we get other
Things, more guilt than glory, smaller
Checks, pink slips and traffic tickets,
Doors closing and busy signals, empty
Promises and pockets, all the next to
Nothing they hand us grudgingly –
All a matter of punishment and reward,
So we sit up nicely, rarely bark and
Wag our tails, hoping they notice.

Too Many Letters

by Ryan Hardgrove

When I get up to piss
and brush my teeth
like she told me to, hours and pages ago
my reading light
                which my body was shielding her from
spills onto her sleeping face
and the sadness of her beauty
rips down into me

she only wanted me

still wants me

and now there is another
somewhere inside, beneath all of that beauty

somewhere I cannot see
though it rests shallow
not deep
like the soul or the heart

for now it’s just flesh
but soon it will be more
more and more and more

it will grow
beyond any understanding
I now have
standing barefoot
in the bathroom
at 3:30 am
dribbling piss onto the toilet seat

and she wants me
and I want her
and us

so why am I awake
in the small hours of morn
trying to spell love
with too many letters?

The Parlor of My Dotage

by Donal Mahoney

In the parlor of my dotage
I have a grand piano where
the ghost of Shostakovich
plays "Chopsticks" every night
while I in my recliner
drink vodka in pajamas
and cheer old Shosty on.

Tonight the concert's interrupted
when Granny in her nightcap
dashes from her bedroom
and shouts in high soprano
"Send old Shosty home.
I need a good night's sleep.
I have Mahjong in the morning."

Through my bullhorn I shout back,
"I won't send old Shosty anywhere
until his concert ends at dawn.
Then I'll put my parka on and saddle up
the horses and take the master home.
Old Shosty swears that global warming
is no problem there at all."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

World Poetry Day

Happy World Poetry Day.

Drink up.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


by Larry Jones

My friend likes to
cast his hook,
likes to post pictures
of his catch on Facebook.

I scold him,
let them be, I say.
They suffer
even when you throw them back.

As I walk into McDonald's
order a fish filet.

The Shepherd of My Mind

by  Mitchell Garrard

My mind was split
like the spine of a book.
My doctor said,
“it’s strange to be seen. To be heard
is much worse.” Thunder sang
like a dream. I haven’t slept in days.
I haven’t woken up in years.
I had a prescription for indecision.
I refilled the next day.
My mind stopped splitting,
but the masoleum stayed the same.
Steamrollers came to roost;
in Spring, a dull witness, I watched them
flatten the horizon.
Winter’s bell fell quiet
as I fled through the moor.
I lurked like the shepherd
who made a wife out of wool.

Lady with Teeth

by Jessica Otto

Every Thursday night she has
nightmares where her teeth
break at the root
and fall out of her mouth.
She does not know if someone has hit her
or if she has drunkenly capsized.

Being drunk is like being asleep
but with more panic.
Sometimes she is with a man.
Sometimes she is with another woman
but more often than not she is
alone with her teeth.

Last Thursday her teeth exploded
from her mouth as rebels
fighting to throw off her
harsh, abasing tongue.

She gathered them up from her
sticky pool of tyrannical
blood —as always, when
she woke—and tried
to force them back
into her mouth.

The Ballad Of A Broken Man

by Paul Tristram

With a heavy heart
in splinters.
A soul which feels
like mercury drops
falling daily into a drain.
A park bench damaged back.
A left knee he’s always
losing an argument with.
A mind that fractured
on that cold full mooned night
all of those years ago
and stayed desolate,
demented and dislocated.
With no more tears left
in his humble possession
they left along time ago
hand in hand with warmth.
A face bruised,
burnt and scarred
but with eyes alive
like I have never seen before.
Crazy, wild and brilliant
like the swirls in the sky
of a Van Gogh painting.
I shudder in respect
as he raises his fists
and once more
squares up
like a prize-fighter
to his aching fate.
I realize that Broken
and Beaten are two
completely different worlds.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Michael Cluff

The Saloon is saddened today to learn of the recent death of our friend and frequent contributor, Michael Cluff.

An article on his passing can be found here.

His Saloon poems can be found here.

His collection, Alphabet Wars, can be found here.

See you across the river, Michael.  Keep the light on for us.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014


by Joanna M. Weston

my office crowds at night
with ghosts urgent
to manipulate the keyboard
with skeletal fingers

these back-room hermits
lift newspapers   old files
hack the computer
to add misted faces
among business columns

their voices murmur
from old cell-phones
interrupt YouTube videos
leaving phantasmal signatures
on my personalized display

Counting Sheep

by Amy Soricelli

Restless in the night her legs run across the bed sheet
terror gripping tight against the cotton;
against the grain.
Dark hallways math on walls;
foreign tongues spoken in broken glass chatter -
dogs always in the pit of it.
Shadows - lurking hot sweat- something she can't taste.

Bitterness stings on the tongue like death.
Lost promises leaving fathers;
back seat of something she can't see; everything moves by the window in the wrong direction.
Restless in the stinging hours of in between dark/light  -
crawl needles up the side;
up the dark deep sides of can't catch/lands hard.
Closed doors/ light slips through wrapping its clinging fingers around her throat;

broken things taped upside down to mirrors.
Grabby hands in staircases pinning against the wall she could die there.

Running in place soundless screams reaching jelly hands grip air;
cloudy loss of everything real.
Restless in the night she wakes screaming shadows;

lips covered in ash like hell.


by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

I need to stop
looking at the moon
I need to stop
thinking of how she smiles.

She is just like
the moon when it is bright.
When she looks down
upon me I feel all right.

I am not one
to wait for things
I cannot change.

I imagine
things.  I imagine
far too much.

Nocturnal Encounter with a Lunatic
(after the etching from The War by Otto Dix)

by Neil Ellman

Like a flowering hand
reaching from the ground
to seize the last light of the day
this encounter
somewhere between
the earth and sky
between a lunatic and me
in a place with a name
I can’t pronounce
seems perfectly natural
not at all at odds
with the commonplace of war.

“I am Napoleon.” he says,
“I rule this battlefield, this world
all of you at my command
will bend to my magnificence.”

Bowing at the waist
I do as I was taught to do
with emperors and lunatics
I arch my back, I bend
I pay tribute
with my dignity.

He the lunatic
or I gone mad as well
he who lost his mind
and I who lost my soul
old friends
meeting on a common field
just past hell.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Shoes on the side of the road

by Jessica Otto

we fall
on the red smear
of road work sign
where the edge
leaps out
claws the mountain
sharp flanks
in the headlights

we have
no home

She Undid Her Buttons

by Paul Tristram

She undid her buttons
and slid back down the bed…smiling.
I threw my cigarette at the ashtray,
I would deal with the burn marks later
on both carpet and soul.
Tingling with tenderness
I felt lace and magic and everything.
It swirled around my fingers and mind
blowing up into mental fireworks.
Centuries old scars
healed with slight caresses
…reciprocal, reciprocal, reciprocal…
Inside out, Off guard and scent driven.
I dove from the tip of her chin
to bounce from bellybutton
down into her explosion.
With a rage like passion,
extinguished never.

Ranch Dressing & a Couple of Extra Napkins

by James Babbs

sitting here alone
waiting for my food to arrive
I sip at my sweet tea
and watch the little boy and girl
in the booth across from me
arguing back and forth
fighting over the silverware
until the mom snatches it from them
and the dad glares
points his finger and says to them
no more
I look at my phone
checking the time
but I don’t have anywhere to go
checking to see
if I have any messages
when I know I don’t
but I look anyway
and the old man laughing
with the guy at the register
the old man nodding
as he heads for the door
and I hear the guy at the register
telling him to have a nice day
and when the waitress brings my food
she gives me some of her smile
asking me
if there’s anything else I need
and I tell her
maybe some ranch dressing
for my onion rings
and a couple of extra napkins
she says sure
and she’ll bring me another tea
I watch her walk away
knowing she’s probably too young
for me to think about her
but I do it anyway
biting into my burger
holding it over the plate
just in case anything falls out

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Story told me

by Dave Migman

They were arguing
over the day’s takings
he says
he took more than she
she that hers were greater
he’d miscounted
furious she took her wad
and ripped it

clean in half and
threw it in his face

furious he took his lighter
and set his 300
notes on fire
and stamped the cinders
on the ground
and “THERE!”
he shouted


she laughed wafting the
remains in his face

“yeah yours is ash,
mine still smells
like money”

and they fell to it
right there
on the floor like eels


by Nancy May

cold spring drizzle
orphan lambs feeding
on the bottle


by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

The rain just teases
and stays away,
a few drops and
a bit of wind.

The birds sing on, perched
on their branches.
I stay in bed
with numbered days.

Perhaps I'll snap out
out of this funk,
sing like the birds,
dance in the rain.

This rain is just fine.
Maybe later
it will burst and
chase the birds and

their song. I'll be up
and change my clothes.
I'll face the world
with a bit of hope.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

You and I

by Kunhunni master Vinodkumar Edachery

Not while walking round the temple
Or while bathing at that river ghat
Or on the way to college with friends
I saw you first.

Not by asking  name, book or flower
Or whispering honeyed words
Begging to have love for me
I came close to you first.

Not while struggling to get into the bus      
Or while hurrying to get to the mess
Or while in dream alone with you
I touched you first

I saw you, got close to you
And touched you, sweet heart
While reading sleepless overnight
Atom theory for yearly exam.


by Richard Schnap

It was a black and white photo
Of a Dust Bowl family
Gathered in the garden
Of a small wood-frame house

She found it in a box
At a local thrift store
To be the next subject
Of her portraits of others

They were smiling as if
It was a holiday of some kind
A chance to forget
To get lost in celebration

And for the brief moments
She painted their happiness
She could almost believe
That she was happy too

the swimsuit issue came today

by J.J. Campbell

those damn dark

piercing my soul
even though you
haven't looked
my way in years

like a child i
dream about
kissing you
under fireworks
of a fading
july sun

i once had the
courage to say
hello and try
my luck

but i chickened
out when i saw
what i looked
like in leather

because anyone
as beautiful as
you only likes
the bad boys

i don't have
the money for
a harley but
you're young

plenty of time
for you to come
to your senses

and notice the
pudgy dreamer
longing over in
the corner


by Bradford Middleton

It all went wrong with just one stupid status update
With some licks at my keys life had changed
Was I coming back to London or going someplace else?
The answer seemed easy
But in reality proved impossible as I did my sums
I was staying as I had no means of escape
And that, quite frankly, made me sad

Not at the thought of missing my old friends
But at the lack of any thing I would miss
If I’d been lucky enough to make the escape
Here is hard when you’re down on your luck
Like me and countless others in this town
Of cool which I could never wish to be a part of
Not at my age, not looking a mess

It all went wrong that miserable day
And I’ll never forgive the idea that I thought
It would be so easy to
Just pack up and go with nothing to miss
And plenty of old places and faces to catch up with
As if I’d never left at all
But I have and I shall remain here until I’ve had enough

I’m going to leave on my own terms
Not be hounded out by some crazy types
Who masquerade as my friend
Just for someone to hang out with and
Talk shit with but never truly comprehends
So in respect I have to get rid
And make a new start in this old town
Starting with new friends; good friends I hope

Thursday, March 6, 2014

soaked in bore hole

by Dave Migman

trailing silk through bars
of strangers

the force that drives
clustered eyes
like barnacles grip the
lunatic rock

I read your email 3000 miles away
squinting  between lines of bad English
while clouds windmill the dry grass

the tourists that flock the Bears Head
are oblivious - the face in the glass
moon shocked eyes and nervous smiles
butterfly hands around amber

Lone asylum behind me

by Tammy T. Stone

Lone asylum behind me
Perched on a hilltop
The walls have long disappeared
To join the other
Naked inhabitants, and it
Gets so cold at night,
So dark, especially when the
Moon has hardly grown
Which explains all the wailing
And ahead of me, the
Mountain which is not a mountain
High peaks razed trees
Luminous points like eyes, like
The full moon,
The growing, which we have
Had the fortune to witness
Most nights the sky
Has been clear
Though things change
So fast as we watch,
Clouds now, and
The trees which are not trees
Grow walnuts and sour
Cherries under the fog,
You can watch them
Be eaten by
The birds which are not birds, who
Welcome us early to the day.

You are here

by Andrea DeAngelis

You are here
in that circle
of red and dread
that center
of despair
and I don’t care.

Going nowhere
slow and slower
coarser and colder.

The subway stalagmites
growing into many rows
of graying teeth
that will cut your throat.

No one cares
what you think
only what you do
and what you do isn’t doing
but only your job
which makes you feel
less than nothing.

So you are here
when you only want to disappear.

You are starting to believe
that bitch Becky
who told everyone
“Oh, she’ll never get anywhere.”

You are here
you are here
you will never be there.

The fury of an amusement park T-rex

by John Roth

This dark jungle is a spread of plastic ferns
where the mesh-covered ground stinks

with wood pulp.  A rubberized dinosaur sprints
hydraulic, each mechanized limb swinging slightly

askew as its unwieldy skull cranks sideways.
What other predator has a steel-infused

skeleton and razor-sharp jaws incapable of slicing
through a single sheet of loose-leaf?  Its skin’s rugged

texture a silicone desert with coarse scales
painted in spotty camouflage.  It’s fearsome

foam claws are prone to rip and snag like a first
grader’s art project.  Even its terrible roar

is looped over and over on an outdated sound
board.  And when it strains every robotic muscle

in its body, just to conjure up a feeble half blink,
its eyelids stick together and its face freezes

into a long toothy snarl, wishing once again
to wear the living flesh of its ancestors.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


by John Grey

He's in the garden
pulling wings off butterflies.
crushing bugs,
frightening tiny frogs.
Four years of age
and he learns as much by cruelty
as by wonder.

Will he someday bruise a woman
to test love's limits?
Will he stomp down on others
to reach a higher rung?

It's just a stage kids go through,
says Joe.
Approaching likeness,
a father find his tongue.


by Robert Nisbet

Tall, sandy-haired, mild-mannered Bokes,
just leaving school, sixteen, the Merchant Navy
the Monday next. And nobody made a speech.
I walked with Bokes to his house.
Behind us, boyhood’s scuffling certainties,
mitching, matches, youth’s music.
Ahead of Bokes, I could not, could not see.
But he was peering then, that day,
out to the distances of diesel’s range.
In Mother Clark’s, the sweet shop, I bought
old Bokes a lollipop. Iced. Raspberry.
Hey boy, you can’t do that.
I can. You’re leaving.

I next saw Bokes at a reunion, some  
fifty-two years on. And he … ?
Half-million miles of ocean (my estimate),
much of it in the far Pacific, and often too
the Arctic Circle. Later, two oil rigs.
Still the mild and sandy Bokes. And I … ?
Stayed local, classrooms, seminars,
studied the iambic pentameter,
Petrarchan sonnet, irony.

I’ll get you a pint, said Bokes,
as a summer evening sank on the harbour
outside the Starboard Inn. A pint.
You bought me a lollipop, the day I left.


by Linda M. Crate

cold and alone
it's hard
being in love with
winter's child
carrying the ache of
a romance
with a man that
never cared
even though he said
he did;
i saw all those angel's
buried beneath
the ice of him,
must have thought i'd just
lay there let him
turn my lips
don't worry i woke
up from the
magic spell
let the snow fall over me
in it's white blanket
washing me in
the sadness
of dead flowers and melancholy
a world without sun,
but being alone
is better than being with him.

Maybe and Hence

by Pijush Kanti Deb

In the slum of huts and skyscrapers,
let our steps be crossed the line-
drawn by our own pride and contumacy,
and be rushed towards the ocean of tears.
our haughty hearts raise their palpitation,
brimful pockets move their heads
to their either sides again and again,
the planets and satellites ---
luminous in our own brightness
get self-eclipsed and become gloomy,
the bitterness of failure of yesterday
disturbs the steps to fall by a slip
and unknown tomorrow suffers from
the biting of our own blood.
let our proceeding steps are to be delinked
from babbling tongues and timid hearts,
our mortal eyes and ears be sanctioned a leave,
the line only be crossed with the hint of
the immortal sensation of our souls
and our tears be dropped  in the ocean
to tarnish it into a manageable river.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Godly Things

by Tammy T. Stone

Who knows why things happen? There are so many things, large and small – in a day, a life – it’s almost overwhelming. As a huge film lover, I’ve seen thousands and thousands of movies, and somehow they haven’t thought up everything yet.

Things like people reaching out in any number of small, necessary, non-cinematic but so-monumental ways.

It’s dark. I’m on a bus. Incandescent lights fill the night with warmth. A student with straggly blond hair sits next to his friends and a very thin woman who seems to be a nurse. She has a Bible she reads with fingers arched down as she skims the page.

A moment later, without taking her eyes off the page, she reaches into a pocket and turns to the scraggly-haired student and offers him a “Love Jesus” pamphlet without a word.

He takes it, smiles slightly beyond her to his friends – she can’t see this – and puts the pamphlet into his backpack. She reads for a moment and reaches for another pamphlet – she’s thinking and reading at the same time. Or she’s not reading at all, but wanting to share the Word.

She points it in the direction of the guy’s friends, and then to me. No one takes it. She nods and puts the pamphlet away, continuing to read the whole time.

It’s darker now. A little girl is almost buried behind a newspaper on the bus, her little bobby-socked legs not nearly reaching the ground.  Her little fingers chubbily grasp the edges of the paper, which covers her body from tummy to sprouting braids with the pink and green elastics. Picture-perfection.

Her father reads from a file to her right, across the way. Her newspaper slowly falls to her lap. Her head lolls in sleep. I see that she has Down’s Syndrome. When her father notices she’s dozed off, he cradles her under his arm and reads the file over her head.

These are pictures I recreate with language. The sound has been lost in memory, because I am not a musician and my eyes feed me more strongly. Who remembers the drone of a bus except in movies, when it has been added onto the soundtrack?

But I’m seeing, always trying to see more.

I’m at a café. A thin man sits by himself in the corner smoking and drinking a small coffee.  He looks like Henry Fonda, Easy Rider days. Blue tank top, loose-fitting grey dress pants. Near him a couple sits, legs intertwined. Two women sit down in front of me and speak in Japanese. Henry Fonda starts talking to them.

“Sometimes people say they’ve seen God and are blessed by God. I don’t want to be a part of the world. I trust God. People don’t keep their promises, don’t follow through. They say they’ll pay you tomorrow, tomorrow never comes.

“God keeps his words. He’s never going to leave me. Sometimes I say that out loud but most of the time I don’t have to. Gifted people do a holy dance to God. God takes care of every race.

“God is in every race. We are all children of light. Kay? God bless you. I’m not trying to preach you, just tell you about the love of God.”

He takes a sip of coffee and meets my eyes. He comes over and asks if he can sit down. I say yes.

He tells me he’s been in jail on and off for twelve years, since the age of sixteen. He had a cocaine habit for eighteen years. His parents may not have been perfect but they at least tried to teach him the difference between right and wrong.

He still faces temptation, he says, and it’s hard for him to resist it, so he goes home and to the Word, to read the Bible, because the minute your eyes leave the page they are away from God and that’s when bad things can happen. He wants at least to tell others about God’s love …

When I get up to leave, he says he’ll say a prayer for me tonight. He isn’t the first to say this to me, and his words bring back a memory.

My sister, two little cousins and I once played with the Ouija board all together, when I was about fifteen. My cousins had never played before; they were too young and had no idea what was going on. My sister had a tendency to cheat, but not with Ouija, she didn’t know how yet. I was earnest. I was always reaching for what was beyond my senses and I wanted to be invited in.

Moments later, my maternal grandfather appeared to come to us – he was our common ancestor.

We were scared and in full belief. We asked him if he had anything he wanted to tell us, and we were all shaken by his reply, which not one of us could have invented.

“I’m praying for you girls.”

He was not a religious man for any number of possible reasons. I don’t really know, I was so young when I knew him. I never found out what kind of person he wanted to be, or wanted us to be, or what kind of world he wanted to leave behind for the rest of us.

I’m sure it was a beautiful one, full of godly things.

Broken Things in Sunlight

by Amy Soricelli

Wicked machinery; not big like tractors but smaller steely parts
sitting in back yards nearby woody swing sets dried-up pools.
She lived near a family who had chickens like pets they would battle in the middle of the night - call up to her window;
whistle like she was a hooker.
One long chicken sound.
She danced by the open window sometimes the radio music on low she would sway her hips;
look down on the broken machinery
crap she would think.  crap this is ugly.
Her friends had snow blowers lawn mowers garden people watching over their plants
the sun would shine its side-ways smile through their bumped-up cross their hearts hope to die
She climbed on top of anything bouncing car-lot playgrounds thinking she could fly to God straight up.
Truth stuck to her like fly paper.
Broken bicycle wheels on chains dead on her burned-down street corner
sooty lamp posts she keeps seeing in the shadow dance of 'cant sleep'.
She looks out her window straight down to the shopping carts tipped to the side;
pooling up rain water slippery through its bars.
Almost in the bright sun it could look like a statue or something rich.
She wants to pray to it.

Sunday Snowfall

by Douglas Polk

evergreens tinted with white,
turtledoves descend from gray skies,
cooing in the cold,
snowflakes dance to the ground,
the music unheard,
but the rhythm seen,
as the snowflakes swirl,
the day seems a modern miracle,
the street silent,
a Sunday,
the day of rest,
a moment unexpected,
when all seems right with the world.

Marvin, Inveterate Schlepper, Turns Helper

by Donal Mahoney

Marvin, an inveterate schlepper since birth, is a man who has never done anything he didn't have to do. One day, however, much to the delight of his wife, Miriam, he suddenly became remarkably useful around the house. 

Miriam noticed the difference and she couldn't believe his sudden burst of activity. But she was afraid to say anything since Marvin didn't suffer compliments gladly. Yet she felt she must say something to this new man in her marriage after all those decades of lethargic years.

After all, Marvin was now a whirlwind, morning and night, making wonderful meals, doing the dishes and laundry, vacuuming carpets, performing with grace and without complaint all the household tasks Miriam had done without help for more than 40 years. 

Marvin even walked Chelsea, her ancient Shih Tzu, three times a day. Chelsea used to dive under the bed when Marvin came home from work. Over time, the dog got used to him after he retired. In the parlor at night it was hard to tell which one was snoring.

One recent evening, after another sumptuous dinner and elegant desert that Julia Child would have loved, Miriam decided to compliment Marvin on his cooking while he was loading the dishwasher. He was putting the dishes in carefully, one at a time, so as not to break her best china.

"Marvin, I'm astounded at all that you are doing around the house. I'm so appreciative. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Marvin scratched his head and kept loading the dishwasher. Finally he cleared his throat and said,

"Miriam, my sudden energy is a temporary thing. If you hadn't had that car accident, I wouldn't be doing any of this. But somebody has to do it until you get your new legs. Once you're back on your feet, I'm going back to my recliner for the rest of my life. Except for bathroom breaks. And I don't want to be disturbed."

Miriam smiled. She was pleased to know that once her new prostheses had arrived she would get her old Marvin back, the same churl she had always loved beyond belief. She wanted to please him again.

"I'm sorry, Marvin, that my first set of legs had one shorter than the other," said Miriam, almost in tears. "I didn't mind limping but I could tell you were upset."

Marvin told her not to worry, still being careful with the dishes. 

"Your new legs should be here in time for the holidays. You can roast the turkey. Feel free to wake me when it's ready. I can't wait for things to get back to normal. All this commotion is nerve-wracking."

Now Miriam knew for certain her old Marvin had never left. He was just doing his best to be nice, something he hadn't done since they were courting after World War II. He even knelt down in the snow to propose, with her ring in his hand. It is a day Miriam will never forget and Marvin, quite likely, will never remember.