Are You There

Poetry
Amy Sherwood


Photo Credit: seanj/Flickr (CC-by)

I see you lying there, in the middle of your living room, set up as if you are on display. Put out in your own home with an open-door policy for others to come in and walk through. To view you like a New York City Christmas window display. Are you cold? Just under a blanket in your pajamas? We all just sit here, in chairs, around you, having a normal conversation like you are here, but you’re not. You were a woman who always had each hair in place, an outfit for every occasion, and a shoe in every color that would match every one of those outfits. When the seasons would change, and the weather would get cold, you could put on a wrap, or a coat that would complement the shoes and the outfit. And don’t forget the hat. One minute someone is saying something funny and laughing about you, the next minute someone is saying something sarcastic, maybe about how you had an outfit for every occasion. Can you hear them? I know you can hear the voices, the talking. You know they are here. You know they mean well. You have a heart of gold, that’s why they are all there. But you don’t want to be seen like this. In your night clothes. Having to let others clean you up. See your naked body. We all want to have you with us. But it’s ok to let go. It’s ok to go to sleep. Let your tired body rest. We will pick out the right shoes and outfit to meet you on the other side.

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Amy Sherwood is a student in Professor Sandra Graff’s Creative Writing/Poetry class this semester at SUNY Orange in Middletown, NY. Email: aes31[at]sunyorange.edu

Rivers

Poetry
DS Maolalai


Photo Credit: Thomas Bryans/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

the blood
of a place
is the river.
movement
giving motion,
bringing forward ideas,
smells
and water-birds; shifting trash
and lighting off parks
like a fuse
leading to fire.
that
was what was wrong
with Toronto; pressed instead
against a flat lake
to sustain itself;
a mollusk
clinging on rocks. a grey city
against
grey water,
pumping grey
all over the landscape,

like trying
to suck life
out of sand.

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DS Maolalai is a poet from Ireland who has been writing and publishing poetry for almost 10 years. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 by the Encircle Press. He has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice for the Pushcart Prize. Email: diarmo90[at]live.ie

Sanctuary

Poetry
Carl Leggo


Photo Credit: Steve Baty/Flickr (CC-by)

most of my adult life I have spent Sundays
in church, but cancer has consumed my spirit,
so I now spend Sundays at the Sanctuary,
a coffee shop a few minutes up the road

Tim built the coffee shop, especially for cyclists,
where Coffee Cycle Culture is the slogan and highlights
of Tour de France races are presented on a big screen
hung over the coffee bar, a gathering place

for cycling groups from all over the Lower Mainland
who arrive in happy numbers in spandex and cleated
shoes with expensive bicycles and camaraderie
to drink coffee and eat raspberry and lemon scones

Tim remembers people’s names, asks about their stories,
he knows I am now often in the BC Cancer Agency
and he is always glad to see me, glad to hear treatments
are working, I might actually have some future left

perhaps I will ride a bicycle again, one day, as I often did
in Corner Brook, and one Christmas bought a Raleigh
ten-speed and had it shipped by train across Newfoundland,
with anticipation of riding it in the spring after a long winter

I look forward to returning to church on Sunday mornings
but for now I will sip coffee at the Sanctuary where
I can relax in the predictable pleasures of cycles of stories
that continue week after week, a simple air of repetition

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Carl Leggo is a poet and professor at the University of British Columbia. His books include: Growing Up Perpendicular on the Side of a Hill; View from My Mother’s House; Come-By-Chance; Lifewriting as Literary Métissage and an Ethos for Our Times (co-authored with Erika Hasebe-Ludt and Cynthia Chambers); Creative Expression, Creative Education (co-edited with Robert Kelly); Sailing in a Concrete Boat; Arresting Hope: Prisons That Heal (co-edited with Ruth Martin, Mo Korchinski, and Lynn Fels); Arts-based and Contemplative Practices in Research and Teaching: Honoring Presence (co-edited with Susan Walsh and Barbara Bickel); Hearing Echoes (co-authored with Renee Norman); and Poetic inquiry: Enchantment of Place (co-edited with Pauline Sameshima, Alexandra Fidyk, and Kedrick James). Email: carl.leggo[at]ubc.ca

Two Poems

Poetry
Teresa Blackmon


Photo Credit: timuiuc/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Last Request

When he dies, I want a black-topped table,
one some sophomore used for biology experiments.
The smell of formaldehyde to stifle me.
I want safety glasses so I can see
all that’s there before me.
I will take the T-pins and hold this old body down.
I have waited all my life to see what lies beneath
this skin, what holds these bones together, what words
unsaid might spill freely from his speechless tongue.
I need no partner for this. I will stand over him; I will
have him where I want him. He will be mum; he will
listen now.
I do not want to see the blue eyes. I want empty
sockets that I can dig into. I want dumb lips and ears,
no foul-fake terms of endearment.
I want to fit my fat fleshy fingers into
the sticks of his hands. I want his crunchy knuckles
to beat upon mine. I need that music, the percussion
of nothingness.
I want to pick up his skull and hold it in my hands.
I want to look at it in wonder, rattle it—
The parts that worked his heart, his judgment,
His wayward feet.
His grey matter will not be fleshy like the summer’s watermelon;
it will be rotten, like the fall.
I want to open his empty mouth and see what fed him,
what satisfied his soul, what stuck to the roof of his mouth,
I want to cut out the kneecaps, smooth them out like worn pebbles
and carry them in my pockets. I want to touch them
when I reach for coins or grocery lists. I want them there,
immovable, depending on me to get from one place to another.
I want to paint his rib cage blue for town sparrows
that can fly only as far as the frame lets them.
One by one I’ll crack the bones
and free them. They will flutter past his lungs and heart
while I watch.

 

The Blue Top — 1960

Outside the Blue Top service station on the corner of Main,
middle-aged men balance on empty cola crates,
sit there hunched over, elbows to knees, work-stained hands full of chins.
Hats and caps tilted ever-which-a-way, fit heads all full of a day’s work
or next week’s intentions.
Stained fingers flick burned-out butts like fireflies in the night air
as Camels and Lucky Strikes send smoke in circles of angry clouds.
Old timers spit with the accuracy of rain.
Those that can, whistle, and every one of them snorts and coughs and reaches
for soiled handkerchiefs in pockets filled with case knives and loose change.
Their conversation rarely varies, only when the weather does.
Never enough or too much, rain, wind, heat.
They brag about garden plots and tobacco crops, their new mule,
their old Chevy. Their voices buzz and nag like mosquitoes;
fibs and exaggerations punctuate their chatter, a steady beat.
It’s as if they’re keeping score—who works the hardest, catches the biggest,
remembers the most, or finishes first.
Their stories play like songs we love to hate.
About closing time, they ante up.
Released coins sound like dinner bells as they fall into the fat red Coke machine
next to windshield wipers, motor oil and maps.
Pulling Cokes—
checking thick bottle bottoms for their origin, making small bets they can afford.
They pull their drink from the metal cocoon, walk away as nonchalant as cats at rest,
and check their luck as if it doesn’t matter. First one shouts “Raleigh,” a sure loser,
and then “Pittsburgh,” “Chicago,” a Fayetteville or two.
The farther away the better—distance wins the jackpot,
five or six case quarters and a palm-spread of nickels and dimes.
Arguing over mileage and geography a spell, they put their crates away
and head home, just down the street a block or two.

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Teresa McLamb Blackmon is a retired Media/Technology Coordinator, high school English teacher and Yearbook Journalism adviser. She graduated from NCSU in 1984 with a MA in English and is an avid Wolfpack fan. She graduated in 1995 from North Carolina Central University with an MLS. Teresa lives on a farm near Benson with her four-legged babies, including dogs, miniature donkeys, horses, Brahma bulls, goats, and sheep. Her writing is an attempt to capture those people and places around Johnston County who shaped her life and her drive to create poetry. She has had poems published in Toasted Cheese, Absinthe, The News & Observer, Poet Lore, Cellar 101 Anthology and various local newspapers and community publications. Email: teachasso[at]aol.com

How to Eat a Haitian Mango

Poetry
Jerrice J. Baptiste


Photo Credit: Larry/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

She’s on the hunt for the sweetest mango she’s ever eaten. In the late afternoon, Emile sits on the ground under the shade of her tree, after picking mangoes. A small pile is by her side. She delicately pinches the skin of each mango to loosen its juice. Emile makes a wish as she holds each one “Thank you for this fruit. I hope it is sweeter than the last.”

She smells the skin then carefully bites a small hole at the top of her chosen ripe mango. This is a sacred moment that goes back for many generations. Her grandmother has suckled many exotic fruits and showed her how to savor each. Emile’s fingers gently squeeze the mango as she sucks out more juice each time.

After the juice is done, Emile peels the mango and bites on any golden orange flesh left, then she slurps more mango juice dripping down her fingers. Each finger is licked as if it were a grooming ritual.

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Jerrice is the author of eight books. She has also been published most recently in Kosmos Journal, Pivot, Breathe Free Press, The Write Launch and many more. Email: ellaninabillie[at]gmail.com