A Wall Of Pictures

Broker’s Pick
Madeleine Claire


Photo Credit: Tim Crowe/Flickr (CC-by)

A wall of pictures
was the reminder of a life built
throughout many years.
In the pretty, white frames
was the pretty family
on holidays,
at weddings,
at parties,
kids’ faces pressed against the glass,
a chronological display of their diaper days
to rosy, freckled cheeks beaming with lost teeth
to moodier, reluctant expressions in photos where
their parents forced them to smile for the camera,
to detach from their phones
for just one minute.

A wall of pictures
served as proof and passage
into the classification as “perfect, suburban family.”
It was a trophy mounted for all to see,
screaming, “Look at how happy we are!”
as guests could admire adoring wedding photos
and adorable baby pictures
and lament
the days when their children
still lived at home,
ruefully eyeing the Lego
splattered around the carpet,
or the sink full of greasy, cold water
from last night’s dishes
that had driven them crazy when their own children
had made a similar mess in the house
but now wished to see again.

But a wall of pictures
could not show that the mother
woke up to a cold bed,
the pillow next to her
still plump from the absence of a husband’s body.
A wall of pictures could not show
the nights he had been spending
at a friend’s,
or the looks of sadness and hatred
that they passed when they did see each other,
unlike the wedding pictures organised on the wall,
where their eyes overflowed with
the promise of spending a life together.
A wall of pictures could not show
the slow, pained steps the mother took
as she crawled into the kitchen for coffee
after another sleepless night,
nor the letter that lay waiting on the mat of the front door,
asking for a divorce.

pencil

Madeleine Claire is a young writer from Calgary, Canada. When not writing or reading, she can be found in the mountains getting inspiration for her next piece or simply climbing trees, and occasionally getting stuck in them, too! Email: madeleinee.claire[at]gmail.com

“Every meal begins with your hands”

Poetry
Simon Perchik


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

Every meal begins with your hands
dry and around your forehead
squeezes into its hiding place

—in such a darkness both shoulders
slump forward till they hear
the tablecloth pulled closer

fed air and a shirt collar
left open, waiting to lie down
where a plate should be —it’s the sound

your fingers make when drop by drop
a makeshift lake is pieced together
from a missing vase —wherever you eat

it’s night, still wet, bending over
and hand to hand breathe in the smoke
from a chair no longer there

—you eat from a chimney, reach up
with your eyes covered by a bedsheet
still warm from roses and ash.

pencil

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Reflection in a Glass Eye published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website. To view one of his interviews please follow this link. Email: simon[at]hamptons.com

a brief history of my pubic hair

Poetry
Ann Pedone


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

I.

I wanted him to want me more than
his ex I wanted him to keep fucking me maybe even
marry me so I ignored the voices of Gloria Stein
em and Judith Butler in my head and I
did it agreed to be waxed shaved smoothed
plucked and aloe
veraed I spread eagled myself on a table in a strip mall wax
ing center and opened my legs spread my legs held my legs
high behind my head and opened, when asked to, like a butter
fly

I told him it looked liked a drowned rat or a twelve
year old girl I told him I felt like a porn star at least from the
waist down but every month I called in my appoint
ment every month requested the one waxer who made me
feel a bit less uncomfort
able 18 appointments over 18 months until he
left me

my friends scolded me called me a stooge for the patri
archy questioned my feminist loyalties and asked me
how after twelve years of French post-structural post
colonial post-modern critical theory in grad school I could have
done such a thing I felt humiliated duped be
littled like I had succumbed to some
thing that I had vowed to
fight against

II.

six months later in a hotel room some
where on the mid-Peninsula my new boy friend my current
boyfriend asked me if I had ever seen the Courbet painting L’Origine
du monde

full-on center lies a woman stretched out on white
sheets naked mid-thigh to breasts legs open revealing a thing so
weirdly dark so lush and thick almost
irrational in its openness almost
obscene in its mystery so wild with possi
bility that you can’t take your eyes off
of it
right then and there I decided to
let it grow

over the following months I watched it monitored
its progress like a baby’s first steps washed and
dried it after every shower bought pairs of see
through panties so he could see the newly
sprouted hairs peeking through but I was nervous
what was he going to think would he
hate it ask me to shave it off leave me for some
one else

surprisingly it came in curlier than I
remembered looked blonde almost
in the sun light shimmered
like gold dust in the shower
and now it dances
when he is
on top of me
blooms when our bodies meet
is shy when he falls
asleep retains the
deep cypress scent of his skin
alive insatiate
a dark amber dark in the full
watery gathering that is my body

pencil

Ann Pedone is an independent scholar and writer who graduated from Bard College with a degree in English Literature. She has a Master’s degree in Chinese Language and Literature from UC Berkeley. Ann is the author of the chapbook The Bird Happened. More recently her work has recently appeared in Ornery Quarterly, Riggwelter, Main Street Rag, Poet head, and Cathexis Northwest, and The Wax Paper, among others. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Email: ann.pedone[at]gmail.com

Two Poems

Poetry
James Croal Jackson


Photo Credit: brx0/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Decade Dead

I exist in a perpetual state of thirst
and cold. I think I live in winter
and I don’t even like Christmas.

And I don’t like Christ, the dead
man left hanging. Were he to have
magic, that would be a good time.

And his rich Daddy. Abandonment
issues, for sure. My dad wasn’t
rich and he only abandoned me

when he was dead. Then was
the void of the voice. All
appliances in the house breaking.

My mother and I don’t know
shit about plumbing. Dad patched
pipes while I cast Raise on my

fallen Final Fantasy fellows.
It’s been ten years and there is
still everything to learn. That’s

ten years more of everything
I haven’t learned.

 

Red Lobster

The host stares blank pages at us,
mumbles in the vicinity of lobsters
in that overcrowded blue tank.

The waitress sings the menu,
points to CrabFest (overtures /
variations)—we are here,

always, for Cheddar Bay Biscuits,
the perpetual stream birthed in wire
baskets that make our intestines scream

minutes after paying
the check.

It is July 6th and fireworks explode
over trees
and, of course, we think them gunshots

because we are in a public parking lot,
our bodies full of grease that could drop
any minute in this America,

two-thousand-nineteen.

pencil

James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and recent poems in Sampsonia Way, San Antonio Review, and Pacifica. He edits The Mantle Poetry and works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA. Email: jamescroaljackson[at]gmail.com

Three Poems

Poetry
Marchell Dyon


Photo Credit: Geoff Bosco/Flickr (CC-by)

The Winter House

All the stars are frozen
The town crier blows heated air from
His lungs into his frostbitten fingers

Shaking them as if somehow
Freeing his fingers from the cold
He cries winter is approaching all is well

Even in their slumbering heat
Bodies press together not out of love
But out of necessity

Even in dreams they hear him wail
Through the night snuggled in their false security
The last log burns maxing out its warmth

There’s only the distance of their bodies
There are only inches of cotton blend between their naked selves
They will not share, separate blankets now,

Soon separate beds across town
One in the sight of the town crier
The other only in earshot

News about the winter house travels faster than light
Other ears like deer perk up so soft and so velvet
To catch snippets of sound, listening for cold words shouted

Ringing like church bells
Before the silence
Without prayers, they climb into bed,

They are past redeeming
Their anger bathes in silver shadows
Shadows glistening like tinsel

Time moves in and out
So, does the snow

 

The Winter Train

Always, she imagines how she would go
Tonight, this thought came to her
Swifter than other nights

The thought that she should leave him
She saw herself mentally writing
Her escape letter

Her letter would simply read leaving,
No more black eyes, forever gone, Jill,

She would then pass unafraid on the winter train
Dazing up at the moon, watching trees bare white

Happy to count the stars,
Happy to see them twinkle deep in the night sky
Happy just to be rid of him
Happy to be free

To watch
The snow falls like she does now

For now, she will be better
Next time,
She will be quicker, more agile in her steps

She mumbles this frozen prayer on the wind.
She believes this as she turns
Her frosty key into the front door lock.

She will continue to try to make herself invisible
As not to enrage his heated fists.
Fists he had promised to keep frozen
Time and time again never to thaw

Here again in this prison she called home
She knows now she haven’t yet
The strength to leave him

Her thoughts of leaving on the winter train
Keeps her warm at night, keeps her sane,
Keeps her alive…

So, another winter, she will dream of leaving
Till her heart and mind tells her it’s time to go
On nights like these

Still she imagines herself moving fast in slow motion
inching passes rooftops
Sugared with just enough frost, just enough snow.

 

Clocks

She watches
As I wind the figurative and literal clocks
Time to us is precious
Years are blessings
But some days aren’t always miracles.

She breathes with every second
Her heartbeat is like a stopwatch rhythm fading
Her breath is a cold smoke rising in the air
Mother and daughter now life companions

As for the clocks, I wind them tight
To get us through the night
In her voice frosty as hinges
She chimes many thanks to me
I answer her by covering her chilled feet
Again, with her electric blanket

There aren’t many hours left to my gray companion
I savor these moments
Before all clocks stop

And I’m left alone
With only the companionship of silence

pencil

Marchell Dyon is a poetry enthusiast. She enjoys reading poetry wherever she can find it. Once she was nominated for the best of the net prize for her poem “As I Stand by My Window Dreaming of Falling.” Her most recent publications are Toasted Cheese Lit Journal, Trouvaille Review and Medusa’s Kitchen. She has constantly developed her craft despite having both schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. She continues to write in Chicago IL. Email: marchelldyon[at]yahoo.com

Last Thursday Night

Poetry
Madeleine Claire


Photo Credit: Claudio Marinangeli/Flickr (CC-by)

Last Thursday Night

Do you remember what you told me
last Thursday night?
Rain battered the paint off our old pickup truck
as you drove on,
reminding us of another job that needed doing
that neither of us could afford.
You kept your eyes fixated on the road,
yet I was certain I could feel them on me,
criticising me, hating me.

Do you remember what you said?
Probably not.
What was one more comment
in our relationship where your disappointment
was practically writ on the browning wallpaper
of our apartment,
weaved into the threadbare stitching of our couch?
What was one blustery Thursday evening
in this world where time and days were counted
for monetary purposes only,
anxiously massaging hands
as we waited for the next paycheque,
counting how long we could last
on the next loan?

But I remember your words,
sharp as your wit had been when we had met,
back in the days when love had held us together
and not the common noose of debt around our scrawny necks.
“You’re a failure.”
Perhaps it was the worry of the rent
that we could no longer afford
that made you say it,
but the rain and the anxiety and the chugging of the truck
made a gluey knot that stuck to my heart.

I had failed.

We exited the car mutely,
the memory of a time that had once been
filled with our laughter
and lusting irises
silenced and erased
by the hand clenched around my vocal cords
and the hopelessness that pricked a tattoo of tears in my eyes.

I had failed.

I’ve been thinking about your words all week.
I have let the initial pain, like hot, choking syrup,
harden around the cavities in my chest,
maturing into something stronger.
Anger. Determination. Ambition.

Yes, I have failed.
I should not have spent my time driving secondhand pickups
or living in a dingy apartment.
I should not have been working three jobs
or eating reduced-priced, near-expiry-date meals.
I should not have been with you.

Perhaps you don’t remember last Thursday night,
but you will remember this Thursday evening
when I walk out our squeaky door
with my few belongings that you haven’t pawned away
to begin my new life.

Do you remember what you told me
last Thursday night?
It set me free.

pencil

Madeleine Claire is a young writer from Calgary, Canada. When not writing or reading, she can be found in the mountains getting inspiration for her next piece or simply climbing trees, and occasionally getting stuck in them, too! Email: madeleinee.claire[at]gmail.com

Five Poems

Poetry
DS Maolalai


Photo Credit: Paul Downey/Flickr (CC-by)

My Grandfather

heavy the tread
like a box
with flowerpots.

his fingers
dust brown
and warm soda
bread. a man
is a knuckle. made hard
with antique.

with simple food,
with hot tea,
with sunlight,
with cigarettes.

watering a plant.
watering a plant.
watering a plant.

 

On the Apartment Balcony

faces; flashing flowerpots
from someone else’s garden. light
beaming, the river
for once blue
and not grey. people on the quays,
smoking cigarettes
or walking. enjoying the heat
in general
like cats amongst activity
which prowl about a garden
playful in their chasing
of butter-
and mayflies.

I stretch my arms southward
and slouch on the apartment
balcony. in the kitchen
chrys makes cocktails
out of gin and crushed mint
leaves.

 

Alberta

I liked it a lot.
this was Calgary,
and our rented house
took the top of a hill, lurching
on a view
which went rolling down
past mountains and downward
into the river.

all around the edges
wood hung
like the dribbles
of enormous candles. swamps
with pine needles;
rain
settling on rain.

once
I woke up at 5 a.m.,
filled a glass of water
and went to the garden
and smoke
was stalking the street
in wisps.

we were fine,
the neighbours told me,
out early
gathering apples.
the wildfires
were 200
miles off;
we were only seeing it now
because they were bad
in particular this year.

 

Smoking

3 a.m. bar
closing. mr
and dame cigarette

outside. her back
on the wall,
his hand
braced against it. cold

damp stone
such as might be found
in caves
or the quiet moisture
of subway platforms.

his head
is half dangled. hers
tilted back. elbow
cupped, very
stylish. she blows

her smoke. it mingles,
goes up.
becomes stars.

 

The Fish Tank

after two years
he pulled out the suitcase
that had been sitting at the bottom
of his wardrobe
and discovered it had only ever
been half-unpacked
when he moved in.
those old shirts went in the trash
along with most of the things
he had saved that time—

bunches of letters
and movie-ticket stubs
kept in a drawer to decay after first dates,
a secondhand radio
and some pictures bought from street vendors
and all the empty bottles
bunched beneath the sink.

the rest he threw in,
not bothering to fold things,
and found there wasn’t enough there
to completely fill it up.
he fished out some of the old letters
and threw them in on top.

then he put on his coat
and placed a note in front of the fish tank
asking his landlady
to give the fish to her daughters
or at least
to not flush them away,
left the keys on top of the fridge
and opened the door.

the room looked much as it had when he arrived,
no plaque up with his name on it,
no new paint on the walls.
the goldfish were his only addition
and a bedside locker
he had found on the street
with the door hanging loose
and repaired.

everything else
was white walls,
cheap pine,
and a stain on the toilet.

he picked up his suitcase
and the plane ticket from the stripped mattress
and was very careful to shut the door
properly behind him.

pencil

DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019) Email: diarmo90[at]live.ie

Four Poems

Poetry
Mark Hammerschick


Photo Credit: Srikanth Jandhyala/Flickr (CC-by)

In Arizona Distance Long by Wide

Moon rocks beckon
in an Arizona distance
deep with desert
long by width wide with height.

Heat
Sand
Snakes
Saguaro

Lizards leap in tangled underbrush
bright greens, yellow, crimson
flowers thorny
spikes, thistle, cutting.

Silence, complete, suffocating
dances alone as
ghosts of Navajo
hunt death’s valley.

Women weep
in caverns dark
while waters flow upward
into time’s steep ascent.

They chase shadows
of forgotten ancestors
who once roamed
these lands wide below trenches

of misery and pain,
not knowing the knowledge
of death’s refrain.
And so they weep…

 

Out of the Boardroom (Boredroom)

Looking upward through a skylight
at clouds slowly moving north
destination unknown on a summer day
late in a July afternoon.
Shadows from a whiteboard in a conference room
fingers of shadow for each phase
of past jobs lived lifelessly
among targets and profits meetings and marketing
how those charts no longer matter
and probably never did.
Goals and objectives, appraisals and reviews forgotten
when a life is lived with trousers rolled
and shirts untucked, ties a distant demise.

 

Corner Office

It is dark.
A boy shovels snow.
With each neat pile
he shovels his future
in the moonlight of this present past.

Saturday is weeding day.
First Mrs. Wilson’s garden
dodging the pesky schnauzers
then Cora Anderson’s place
under the cool Catalpa canopies.

On some nights he helps his mom
at the Lions Bar and Grill
as the general kitchen helper,
scraping, cleaning, boiling and frying
chickens for the Friday night regulars.

After fifth grade classes at St. Andrews
he scurries home to outrun
the Gaylords gang hanging out
under the El on Roscoe Street.
They don’t like the Catholic boys.

It is night.
In a small room
enclosed with books
he counts his money.
Careful, methodical piles
take shape, penny mountains,
quarter valleys and nickel canyons.

Seasons pass, winds move.
The boy scrapes pots and pans,
scrubs floors, shines silverware
at Martha Washington Hospital
as the dietary aide after high school classes.
On Sundays he’s the cook’s assistant
learning the mystery of hospital cuisine.

He is not one to complain.
He has a plan, he has a vision.
Work is work, an end to a means of approach.
Forever winning, near the goal…

Years pass, seasons come and go
like the women in that room
speaking of Michelangelo.
The boy now a man sits
enclosed in an Italian leather chair
high in the corner office
of a glass and steel tower.

So many Saturdays
and so many Sundays
early and late
in the small hours
and in the large hours
in the wide valley of youth
and now in the narrow crevice of age.

The sign on the door says
Executive Vice President.

No one knows how
the shovels of youth
can form the mountains of age,
how pulling weeds
and frying chickens
and scrubbing floors
can lead to the corner office.

The boy-man knows this
and is proud.
A life lived long,
lean, focused and charted
like some square rigger on the high seas.

So, they give him the gold watch
inscriptions and pats on the back.
What a run they say, you deserve it
they chatter, drinks raised, toasts made.

The man now sits in this yard
sipping a dry Martini
yearning to start shoveling again,
pulling weeds and frying chickens…

 

Mai Tais on the Bay

It started in the dirt
weeding the rose bush beds
for five dollars per hour
big cash for those days
lived on the Bernard
in a fractured yard
of splintered dreams
not yet imagined

it grows
it moves
it learns
it grooves

then onward and upwards
to the grill
at the minimum wage
but heated to the maximum
macs large in an oiled purgatory
of fries laced with Lazarus stench
oozed into blue aprons
impaled on tender breasts
not yet pierced
by the pernicious propensity
of ambition

it roils and rolls
into bewildered adolescence
based on black beauties
Hawaiian expansion
dazed and confused
broken on the bottle
shaved inner thighs beckon
and then
the descent
into Shantih
beyond the brutality of breath
the longing of Tantalus
so near so close
yet so far from
the warm cloak of Pompeii
where the womb one
floated into free fall
waiting

paths
move
mountains shift
rivers do what they do
it gathers itself
as it descends into steel towers
doing what needs to be done
moving up
into quantum cubes
infected with fantasy
dreams not only deferred
but only dried raisins
on that road to
Selma, Bataan, Auschwitz

In the inner
you fight to live
you pray to flee
but memory
can make you free

it grows old
moldy, moody, mottled
and then the day
when it leaves the corner office
out of the blue and into the black
certainty of Groundhog Day
another severed brain
lost in the labyrinth
of what could have been
of what was wasted
which is now
the here and now
of trousers rolled
belts slung high
and flesh fleeing itself
as it ascends
into Mai Tais on the Bay

pencil

Mark’s poetry will be appearing in The Metaworker and Breadcrumbs Magazine. He writes fiction and poetry and has been published sporadically. He holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a BS and MBA. He is a lifelong resident of the Chicago area and currently lives on the north shore, most of his professional career has been focused on digital strategy and online consulting as a digital architect and transformation strategist. Email: hawthorn2414[at]att.net

complexity on my way home

Baker’s Pick
Johann van der Walt


Photo credit: Chris (a.k.a. MoiVous)/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

wait a minute
if you speak only to hear your own voice
you waste time
you told me this back when we shared fluids
you said that we are endless seconds that end up ticking in space
a finger pointed down to our separate shadows
showing our depart seeped out onto concrete
ushering our ultimate defeat
I was all the mistakes that left your mouths unmade
and after you I’d only continue to breathe
half of me reading the signs from back to front
I wonder if we have been fooled?
is this it? lovers until thunder? strangers exchanging fallen glances?
obviously my spine bends backwards
as I collect memories to piece myself back together
how did you move forward while my thoughts drown
cast in a stranger’s image?
we are disconnected but I can’t seem to feel it
lights blur on the way home like broken shackles
always light everywhere to elucidate heavy breathing
behind the steering wheel of every moving particle
I repeat like a familiar song
a worn out duplicated complexity
unwillingly yielded to multiple worlds
but after every journey how many of us really have any heart left to spare?
how many experiences can be purchased and built upon?
every day I convict myself
I ask nobody how small we all have become

pencil

Johann van der Walt has published his debut poetry collection in Afrikaans in South Africa (his country of birth) titled Parlement van uile (translated: parliament of owls) and also his first chapbook in the States—This Road Doesn’t Lead Home—over at Red Mare Press. Email: jlw.vanderwalt[at]gmail.com

Three poems

Poetry
Tiffany Washington


Photo credit: Sheila Sund/Flickr (CC-by)

Confession

Last Easter,
wedged between my brother (alcoholic)
and my mother-in-law (tyrant)
my grandmother decided to tell us a story—
to seek redemption in the retelling

Denouncing her past claims
that ink runs through our veins
(writing’s in the blood)
she admits Biology, not English
was her best subject

until the day
the young farm-girl version of my grandmother
maternally carried to school, a frog (extra credit)
“I didn’t know, I didn’t know,” she repeated

finally, my grandfather finished her words
concluding this story
between courses of the holiday meal

60 years later, her mind cemented
on that moment
(the scalpel and the still-beating heart)

 

Upon Remembering a College Trip to Ukraine

Babushka—hand over your face
do you worry about me now?
All American
All grown-up.
I do not make borscht like you

taught me—Saturday afternoons
for Sunday dinner.
Hot tea does not sit in a front
window-cooling as we pray.
My alphabet of tripled TTTs
and harsh straight lines lay
forgotten
folded between subway
schedules and sheet music.
I remember Katia
playing her accordion
while Ana banged the drum
and “little professor” practiced
English with us after every
performance.

Babushka—do you still ride
in the side-car of the motorcycle
down dirt roads outside the city?
How many groceries can
you fit besides you on your travels?
That summer when Sara got sick,
we did not know she would leave
her husband after only 10 years.
American aspirin and antibiotics
saved our lives—years of immunities
stored to prevent
death that too quickly came
—brought in our suitcases and on our clothes
from an airport halfway around the world

Babushka—do they still Baptize
people in the brown river,
downstream from Chernobyl?
You would not let us swim there
on hot days, fearful cancer
would seep into our skin—
But Baptisms were protected
“By God,” you told us.
Safe in the salvation
of full immersion, not that Holy
water sprinkle in an air conditioned church.

Babushka—do you stand taller
now after Dr. David straightened
spines all afternoon, while I checked
charts with names and ages?
Are your arms strong enough
to hug me like the prodigal
daughter when I return to the
country of my almost home?

Babushka—hand over your face
I do not worry for you
All Ukrainian.
Always grown-up.

 

On an Aging Mother-in-Law

Before dinner you told us
about the internship so close to death—
a summer between wills and beneficiaries,
of the “no presents” rule to protect neglectful children.

And I thought of your mother,
in the front seat,
who already declined the invite
to share our home (just in case),
disapproval trumping loneliness.

But when she made that comment,
the one removing me from all familial obligation,
I stopped feeling sorry.
And I started to understand:
her one son’s yearly Mother’s Day amnesia,
and the other’s long distance job, never a moment to call.

What I do not understand:
your eagerness to love her
and my savage desire for her approval.

pencil

Tiffany Washington is an 8th grade English teacher, mother of four, and sometimes poet. Her works have appeared in a number of print and on-line publications including Caduceus, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Artis Magazine and Long River Run. Email: tmwashington[at]yahoo.com