She married the one back home instead
the son of a farmer
heir to a kingdom of tobacco and cotton
a man with broad shoulders and few words
and a farmhouse embedded like a stone in the flat endless fields.
She binds her hair now
safe from the grasp of tiller and plow
a heavy rope coiled at the base of her neck
weighted with memory
that she will not cut
and on hot hot nights
while her husband snores in his chair
she loosens the band and climbs the thick braid
anchors her fingers
in the stunned crumpled mass
and beside her in the stained tub
the cool water rises and rises
lifting above it a mass of scented bubbles
that will collapse beneath the weight of her hand.
– Agnieszka Stachura is a writer and part-time graduate student in the North Carolina piedmont, and her prose has appeared in Tiny Lights, Funny Times, Swink, and Ghoti Magazine, and is forthcoming in both Passages North and in an anthology of “Hint Fiction.”
A sleepless night, the moon
placed like a filter before fires
that rise in the east. She knows
how blue light scatters
to whiten the paving stones.
When dust infiltrates
it’s like a secret not told
to one’s lover. Later
it becomes off-color, too large,
soaking the sky with trouble.
She tries to breathe.
Each tiny fire will grow
from draw to cliff,
whether by dry lightning
or a campfire left with the stamp
of someone’s footprint
long ago layered on cinder
like a palimpsest.
Each fire will persist
until the events that preceded it
become nothing more than a day’s
worth of chores. Some will leap
these lines the men
have worked for hours.
Perhaps this is just another dawn,
the nests just now sparking
with bird song, fluff and straw,
the patio littered
with bark stripped from twigs
to make a nursery.
Or maybe in the reddened moon
she misplaced some mawkish bit of grief
and now she’s flaying herself
like a priest who knows there is no penance
for words whispered
back into themselves—
for all that was nil, slivered,
addressed by dust to shine particulate, alone.
– Judith Skillman’s twelfth book “The Never” is forthcoming in May, 2010 from Dream Horse Press. The recipient of an award from the Academy of American Poets for her book “Storm” (Blue Begonia Press, 1998), Skillman’s work has appeared in Poetry, FIELD, The Southern Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Seneca Review, among others.
Here’s a steady light, I said
and he was pleased, tucking that
into himself now he owned it.
So I didn’t say, how you are always
around, forcing photosynthesis.
I didn’t say, you see me here
by the side of the road, as if waiting
for your arrival, but normally
I’m a small animal, living far under
reams of dead leaves, where no news
can reach me. But this light. I fear
one day you’re going to tear off
with my shivery pelt.
I didn’t say that. No,
I merely trilled my dainty fingers
as he poled off into the dark
and inevitable street.
– Teresa Scollon lives and writes in Traverse City, Michigan. She taught as writer-in-residence at Interlochen Arts Academy. Her work has appeared in several journals. Her chapbook, Friday Nights the Whole Town Goes to the Basketball Game, was published in 2009 by the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press.
You, on the couch, becoming a stranger,
do you know who I am?
You hold your newspaper
without reading words.
Your memories are locked in a cupboard
to which neither of us has the key.
When anyone comes to visit,
you smile. You say:
My house is so beautiful.
Everybody loves my house.
Dogs like it here.
If I were a dog, I would curl on the couch
and lean my chin on your thin ribs.
I would lick your bony mother-hand
to show you I am here.
– Penelope Scambly Schott’s most recent book is Six Lips (Mayapple, 2010). Her verse biography A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth won the Oregon Book Award for Poetry.
Sometimes it’s the ordinary things
that occur to you in the night
like turning the heat down or
the origin of the mysterious stain on your favorite white shirt,
a call you need to make tomorrow.
Sometimes something reaches out
from a long past place
like a lavender button
with a small rhinestone in the center,
a coat with a pale lavender plaid pattern.
The coat was small,
the girl was small,
her father was alive and smiling
and her mother helped her
put her arms into the sleeves of the lavender coat.
The buttons were difficult to close,
the petal shapes pinched her fingers,
but she didn’t care
her father smiled and her mother said,
– Marietta Calvanico lives in Staten Island, NY. After working for more than two decades in advertising/marketing, she now works with her architect husband and is able to devote more time to writing and music.
In the chaos of our parting, you scattered
scraps of my shredded letter. Bits
of words fell to the floor, noiseless
and soft, as a lover slips into bed
beside a sleeping partner:
As the front door slammed,
they fluttered then stilled, surrounding me;
irreparable fragments of something
so recently whole, still warm in memory.
I swaddle its image, perfect, and choose
to forget that you’ve left me
for the kind of woman who buys herself
flowers. Spread across our bed under
the blanket of night, I slide into a fitful dream:
women move across a dance
floor, sultry, seductive, sparkling,
bright bubbles in champagne flutes. Laughter
rises as music plays, shoes shuffle and skirts
swirl while I, not knowing the steps, follow
behind, bent low and barefoot, nails unpainted.
Flakes of burnt skin fall from my feet
like black petals as I quickly move to pick up
buttons dropped from shimmering gowns,
then hand them over, an offering:
a fistful of gold.
– Christine Orchanian Adler is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in various publications and anthologies across the United States, as well as online at LiteraryMama, Cahoots, The Furnace Review, SavvyMiss and elsewhere. Her writing includes book reviews, poetry and articles on health and family. She lives in New York with her husband and two sons.