A letter to M. F. K. Fisher about Thai leftovers in the morning by Ralph J. Long Jr.

Mary Frances

Six empty bottles stand witness to last night’s folly.
I should be past mornings where alcohol fueled
camaraderie brings pain and remorse. Cider, wine,
brandy have left only the soles of my feet without
complaint. The muted refrigerator light behind curry
stained boxes pierces, even my eyes are part of the
litany of distress. To soothe the morning, my friends
want the full American: Bloody Marys, coffee, eggs,
toast and bacon. I crave water, not the false reset of
vodka. The sounds of percolation and frying turn my
headache into a storm. I bless the soft rain that mutes
the high-pitched calls of songbirds. I fight the warm
allure of bed. Sleep must wait until suffering recedes.
Hope lies in the leftover containers of larb with fish
sauce and puckering lime; in tiny eggplants napped
with Thai basil, and chilies and lemongrass nestled in
noodles ready for a minute of microwave rejuvenation.
If only recovery was as easy as pressing start.

I’ll write about the Gravenstein blossoms soon,

Ralph J. Long Jr. is the author of the chapbook, A Democracy Divided (The Poetry Box, 2018). His work has appeared in Stoneboat Literary Journal, The Poeming Pigeon, The Avocet and the anthology Ambrosia: A Conversation About Food. He graduated from Haverford College and lives in Oakland California.

 

A Body in the Body of the Universe by Micki Blenkush

When I went hungry, I slept less.
Roused by hummingbirds at 4:00 a.m.
to add sugar to my blood.

Today, I rest to the luxury of dozing,
wait for news of our survival.  Slow bleed
of light around the shades,

my mind’s graffitied chug
like box cars on a train.
That my skin cracks open feels significant.

Forced air heat blasting through the vents.
I buy jugs of distilled water
to feed my humidifier, take too-long showers

mouth agape, inhaling the steam.
Persistent itch, abrasion with bullhorn,
subcutaneous alarm.

Micki Blenkush lives in St. Cloud, MN.  She was selected as a 2017-2018 Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series fellow in poetry and was a 2015 recipient of a Central MN Arts Board Emerging Artist Grant.  Her writing has recently appeared in: Cagibi, Typishly, and Crab Creek Review.

Then…as Now by KL Frank

Thought hands a world to you
separate as a head on a platter.
But shuffle awhile
through damp new grass
and warm wood chips,
stumble over errant rocks,
pocket a few illicit pine cones,
recreate scenes of
soaked papier-mâché drying,
skewer miniscule starchy
sugar lumps on sticks and sear
over charcoal fires, or
cook a few squashed
indecipherable meat patties
over propane until
severed images recede.
Now will become as then
when right hand and left hand
were joined at the spine.

Karin L. Frank’s poems have been published in various literary journals, such as the Rockhurst Review, the Mid-America Poetry Review, the North Dakota Quarterly and New Letters and in various science fiction venues, such as Asimov’s and Tales of the Talisman. No matter the genre, her poems speak women’s voices.

 

 

Loss by Sandy Feinstein

I keep thinking I’ll be able to see in the dark,
that moonrise or bright Venus will penetrate.
Maybe if I wash the grit from the windows
or open them in defiance of winter
stars could burst through,
shed light as they fall
through earth’s indifferent atmosphere
down, down down.

Not so much as a flicker’s left for me
from the arc of unplanned flights.
Stars die out of the sun’s spotlight
unremarked.
Perhaps Palomar finds a skyful
to name and number,
mathematically account for each.

Loss of a single light remains
forever
unmeasured,
immeasurable.
It’s not enough to know what stars do.

Sandy Feinstein’s poetry has appeared most recently in Maximum Tilt (2019); in the last three years, her work has appeared in Viator Project, Connecticut River Journal, Gyroscope, Colere, and Blueline, among others.

 

Spurious Claims by Mark Tulin

The sidewalk healer witnessing
in the house of spurious claims,
preached faith and transcendence,
promised miracles with each dollar
dropped in the collection bucket.

He gave simple answers
to all of life’s complex problems
into one magical moment,
wrapped in a neatly-tied bow
and delivered to your door.

Believe in how the spirit works, he’d say,
and give you the same line;
the same worn-out phrases
as he sermonized yesterday.

He claims to be a partner
with the all-knowing,
a six-figured salesman
who thumps the podium
with a lunatic’s conviction
without caution or delay.

He’s a rainmaker
who can’t form clouds,
a fisherman
who’s never cast a spinning reel,
and as much as he kneels and bobs,
he never could turn water into wine.

Mark is a former therapist who lives in California.  He has a chapbook, Magical Yogis, and two upcoming books: Awkward Grace, and The Asthmatic Kid and Other Stories. He’s been featured in Fiction on the Web, Ariel Chart, Amethyst Magazine, among others.  His website is Crow On The Wire.

 

 

Taming My Mother’s Tongue by Zoë Christopher

Living too long in glass houses, careless
now private thoughts on my lips

I descend into a fleshy silence conjuring
my mother’s frayed coyote soul. I can hear

her splintering howl, barbed tongue lashing
like teeth into my innocence and needs.

I could not bolt the door against my ripening,
she said I came to spoil hers. I would learn

I could not cradle her feral demons, soothe her
madness without risking the skin of my bones.

Now too frail to pounce and strike, she’s lost
and stumbles toward me, a plea in her silence.

We sit and pray together until the old camellia
leaves of my childhood glisten in the night rain

and the moon coaxes golden shadows from
the dampened scent of winter viburnum.

And so the sluicing begins, the eloquence
of water taming my mother’s tongue.

Zoë Christopher is a photographer and writer who published her first poem at 16. Soon after she was sidetracked, putting food on the table as an ice-cream truck driver, waitress, medical assistant, addictions counselor, astrologer, art installer, bookseller, Holotropic breathworker, and trainer of psychospiritual crisis support. (She didn’t get paid for milking goats, teaching photography, or raising her son!) She holds a Masters in transpersonal psychology, and spent 20+ years working in adolescent and adult crisis intervention and support. Her work has appeared in print in great weather for MEDIA, and online in The Writing Disorder and WordsDance.

A letter to Campbell McGrath about Polaroids at a yard sale by Ralph Long Jr.

Campbell

An unleashed Dalmatian is never a good idea at a
yard sale. Barking chaos, toppled tables, a box of
Polaroids scattered. Bow-tied boys, girls in print
dresses, squinting Sunday-best parents strewn like
autumn leaves on the still-green lawn. A woman
chases the errant dog. Her daughter guards the cash
box, offers me the photos for a nickel each if I spare
her the chore of picking them up. She finds no value
in the once-precious moments that are fading into
chimera as chemicals decay. Edwin Land’s promised
hundred years of color already spectral. There are no
images worthy of Adams’ Yosemite or Wegman’s
Weimaraners. A few arcade booth strips amid the
mess capture a vitality, a reality missing in the others.
I don’t know what happened to all the old photos of
my family. I wonder if the parents in these ones are
still arguing about the thermostat, children, television
channels. Or if the photos are the detritus of divorce,
death? Do you think this LBJ era ephemera is worthy
of preservation when so much else is disappearing?

I bought a dollar’s worth of photos, I can’t say why.


Ralph J. Long Jr. is the author of the chapbook, A Democracy Divided (The Poetry Box, 2018). His work has appeared in Stoneboat Literary Journal, The Poeming Pigeon, The Avocet and the anthology Ambrosia: A Conversation About Food. He graduated from Haverford College and lives in Oakland California.