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Category Archive for 'Issue 23'

This spring, we are pleased to feature work that will draw you in and keep you. We were struck by the raw beauty and depictions of love found in this issue.

We’d like to announce the publication of SURVIVAL SKILLS by former damselfly press contributor Jean Ryan, which is available this month from Ashland Creek Press.

As always, thank you to our readers and submitters.

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Listen to the Poem
Earth Before Blooms

One boy lisped his declarations
so I couldn’t grasp the slips of sound,
Try again I said, watching his mouth.

You love me, he said. We sat behind
a trellis of sweet peas, touching,
comparing skin, his pale against mine.

Every afternoon I ran from my barren yard
to the patchwork of his mother’s garden,
its fragrance inflamed by late heat.

I loved the way she carried a watering can
to dry spots or knelt among the plants
to tend the troughs of seeds.

Love me, he said, when we sat on the bench,
tangling and leaning against each other
so the light swirled.

I closed my eyes, imagined the earth
before blooms, the grit, the damp, the dark
remorseless song of it, and I did.

– Lisa Krueger has published or is about to publish poems in various journals such as Atlanta Review, Paterson Literary Review, and Rattle; Red Hen Press will publish her third book of poetry in 2014. Krueger is currently completing her MFA at Bennington Writing Seminars, where she has studied with Tracy K.Smith, April Bernard, and Brenda Shaughnessy.

THE APPRENTICE PHOTOGRAPHER CONFESSES THIS MUCH

The possums kick up a ruckus
under the kitchen floor again.
She stomps down over where
their heads must be. They keep
on hissing and snapping underfoot.
She stomps again. Silence.

Winter and cold have driven them
to shimmy into the crawlspace,
abandon the shed at the back fence
where they fought or loved, she’s
not sure which this is, in peace.

The winter it snowed nearly
every week she finally grew tired
of the shovel in her hands.
She threw the fresh snow on
the previous weeks’ accumulations,
precariously arranged piles that
didn’t completely melt away
until one day in March
she woke, they were gone.

Anyway, it was winter, night,
unshoveled snow shone like
shattered glass, shimmered in
the hair that escaped her hood.

She conjectured there was
all this beauty in the man
who opened the door she
knocked at, who watched her
shake snow from hair, skirt,
that this time it would stay,
but even as she stood loosening
boot laces, she saw a series
of photos that looked perfect
as the shutter clicks, but later
tell no story worth repeating.

On a street by a junkyard of
slightly disarrayed cars, someone
either chose, or more likely,
given the neighborhood, found
themselves moved, trash bags tipped,
busted bed frame shoved into a bush.

A dining table and chairs on the porch
wait for breakfast to walk out
the flung open door, cereal and juice,
maybe even french toast, to appear.
In the curtained front room, a white
upright piano, paint job earnest,
brushstrokes labored, obvious.

She stands on the sidewalk, Minolta
in her left hand, recognizes that
blend of salvation and frustration,
that cross of willingness tempered
by an awareness the door will, most
likely, slam hard over and over,
maybe never stop.

One near perfect shot. The piano floats,
a conjured image in low light behind
the promised open air breakfast,
a well intentioned attempt to
salvage what might have
splintered apart one last time.

– Marianna Hofer has Studio 13 in the gloriously haunted Jones Building in Findlay, OH. Her poems and stories appear in small magazines, and her b&w photography hangs in local exhibitions and eateries. Her first book, A Memento Sent by the World, was published by Word Press in 2008.

Souvenirs from Wonderland

She plays Sheepshead now
with her in-laws, on warm nights,
and sometimes, by chance
her husband throws down
the Queen of Hearts, a card
familiar, like a remnant
of a thing she can’t place,
so she groups it with similar
scraps from other hours.
She has more of these episodes,
I imagine, in spring,
when the world is a bit fantastic
already, and magnolia petals
fall to the grass like shoehorns
for Cinderella’s slippers,
left behind, in her haste.
I very nearly bring this up
in conversation with a friend
who thinks it’s possible
a few souls come to life knowing
too much, having carried over,
like refugees with time enough
to bring just what they need
in the hem of a dress or tight
against a ribcage. My friend says
Mozart was such a person.
But I think of Alice, and the smiling cat
who surely mews about her ankles
while she cooks, putting her in a mood
by dinner, though she couldn’t say why,
and what she almost grasps
as she dries her hands
in the orange glow of a nightlight,
and how it would remind her—
like the bitter note sounding again
at the height of the violin’s bliss,
or the quiet shuffle of a shade
recalling another window,
and how it would feel—
like the thin blade
of a small shoulder, fledgling
in the palm of her hand.

– Beth Bretl has a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her poetry and fiction has appeared in several journals, including The Southern Review, Aufgabe, and The North American Review.

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Gossamer

When I rocked you, singing “Lavender Blue,” I believed every word because you were my precious brown-eyed boy. In daycare you strung a bracelet of plastic beads and a tiny soaring bird that gripped my wrist like your sticky hand. The song’s gone, bracelet lost in the garden facing west, the one drenched in evening sunshine and thick with lavender and roses. My fingers probe their roots as you tower above me, shifting from foot to foot. “Mom,” you say, “can we go now?”

The year we excavated the lawn we found a rusted airplane with wings wide as your shoulders, its chassis like metal lace, cockpit and propellers corroded clean away. In every garden still we find dirt-crusted marbles. Cupping them in hand, rolling them smooth, I remember my daddy’s stories of shooters and steelies, hear the click of captured cat-eyes. Someday when your hands are gnarled as old lavender, someone will find your beads–disconnected, holes filled with soil–between roots like stringy hair. Songs of lavender seep through the seedy blossoms. Roll them in your fingers. Smell. Listen.

___

Forty years gone, an LP smeared with fingerprints–Country Western Love Songs, ordered for $9.95 off the TV set–plays on a stereo bought with an Albertson’s credit card. Needle, find the groove, settle and spin, wail through songs of candy kisses, cheatin’ hearts, lonesome whippoorwills and cotton boles gettin’ rotten. Warble, you old cowboy crooners, make your throats ache with gravel and break at the top of the riff–sing of heartbreaks far away.

Carolyn, twirl with me, sing–in the summertime, when all the leaves and trees are green–dance with me, baby sister, like we’re girls again. Let the music swirl everything away, when the red birds sing, and we’re in bare feet and nightgowns, spinning on the shag carpet in that mismatched, sunken living room. Our lives will hold for just this moment and the honkytonks are far away and we twirl, arms outstretched, hair flying behind us in the morning sunshine.

In a kitchen muggy with gas flames and bacon, Grandma sang as she swept the battered linoleum, her feet in a gentle two-step, voice scratchy and quavering: When I was a little bitty baby my momma would rock me in my cradle, in them old cotton fields back home. She died the year I turned thirty.

___

I’m away from you, boys, but tethered still. On the beach this morning, I find a massive purple sea star whose twenty arms shimmer like sequins. Porpoises slice the waves in graceful arcs, their slick fins like blades on a wheel. Your dad and I took you here years ago. On trails worn between tall sea grass, you ran so far ahead we couldn’t see you, and we ran after you–down one trail, then another, calling with rising fear.

Clumps of seaweed litter the shore: flat bronzed hands, balls like glowing marbles, iridescent strips like ribbons in a girl’s hair, like tangled promises. Above me on a grassy hillside stands a brick tower built by a minister for his Scottish fiancé who demanded a castle. He crossed the waters to find her wearing another man’s ring. Better versed in God’s grace than a woman’s capricious heart, the minister left his post, never married, eventually returned to Scotland to raise an orphaned niece. A bagpiper’s song echoes across the green, between white-fronted houses trimmed in black and his citadel of devotion.

Make your heart as wide as the sea, dear ones, as wide as Aunt Carolyn’s outswept arms and true as Grandma’s lullabies. I want to keep you as an otter wraps her sleeping babies in kelp so they can’t drift away. Sometimes still you reach for my hand, hold it as we walk, and I think: maybe the last time. One day you’ll know the strongest loves are for those who pull away.

But I’ve gathered sea glass and agates for you, plucked from the wet sand and brushed clear, bright as marbles. They clink in my pockets, clean and smooth.

– Patti Crouch has taught high school English in a Japanese fishing village, the Puget Sound suburbs and in Northwest logging towns. Her poems and essays have appeared in Demos, Stone Highway Review and Pilgrimage Magazine; one essay is forthcoming in Bellingham Review. She lives in Tacoma,Washington with her husband and sons.

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The submission period for the twenty-third issue of damselfly press has closed. Look for the issue on April 15, 2013.

As always, thank you to our submitters.

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