Tuesday, 2 March 2021

 

Who Does the World Belong To?

by Elise Stuart


To the raven, and their calling
To the fox, rarely seen
To the coyote, howling in the distance
To the bluebirds, flying down from the branch.

It belongs to the trees, stark and naked in winter
To the flowing river
To the nearly opened bud
To the green stones, the white shells.

It belongs to the lonely peak of the mountain
the bowl of the valley
the burning heat of the desert
the dripping rain forest.

It belongs to the constant moon
To the stars, breathing above―
And we will come and go
And we will come and go.


* * * * *

Elise Stuart is a writer of poetry and short stories. She’s facilitated numerous poetry workshops for students in Silver City schools, feeling how important it is to give voice to youth. Her first poetry book, and then her memoir, My Mother and I, We Talk Cat were both published in 2017. She lives in Silver City, New Mexico with four cats, a sweet rascal of a pup, and her piano.


Monday, 1 March 2021

 

Power Play

by Alexis Rhone Fancher


When my lover tells me I cannot say no, and I protest, she parts my legs, says yes, baby. Yes. I do what I’m told. No becomes a foreign country. I take it as permission. Open season. So when the waiter asks if there’ll be anything else, I peruse his menu. I’m stuffed, but I say yes, cram my mouth with macaroons and chocolate. And when the Lyft driver seduces me in the rear-view, eyes me like prey, asks, May I kiss you? I say yes. And when the long-legged woman I’ve long lusted after at the gym wonders aloud if I’m single, asks me to dinner and a movie, I say yes. And when she invites me into her bed, what can I say but yes, yes, yes? And when my fan in Nova Scotia begs me to be his muse, to sanction an explicit ode to my breasts, my ankles, my lower lip, a poem he’d never show his wife, I cannot say no to his lust and delusion. Now he wants to climb me, sublime me, shoot me full of stars. Is this what you want, too? he writes, and I answer yes. And when I return to my lover at last and she sinks into the heady dampness between my thighs, looks up at me and asks, Have you been faithful? I say, Yes.


* * * * *

©Alexis Rhone Fancher. "Power Play" was first published in Harbor Review, 2020, and nominated for Best of the Net, 2020.

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily, Plume, Cleaver, Diode, Duende, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry East, Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. She’s authored five poetry collections, most recently, Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), and The Dead Kid Poems (KYSO Flash Press, 2019). EROTIC: New & Selected, from New York Quarterly, and another, full-length collection (in Italian) by Edizioni Ensemble, Italia, will both be published in 2021. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. www.alexisrhonefancher.com

 

Sunday, 28 February 2021

 

We carry our identity on our fingertips

by Alexis Rhone Fancher


When you think that I’m not looking,
you bring your fingers to your nose.
We carry our identity on our fingertips,

you say, pattern recognition-based,
all those whorls and arches
.
I’d know them anywhere, baby,

your ridges, and loops,
how fiercely they grip and throttle.
Tonight I slice the garlic, season the roast,

rub cinnamon, brown sugar, pepper
and salt into the meat.
Sear it evenly on all eight sides.

When I bring my fingers to my nostrils, I smell dinner;
when I bring them to yours, you smell love.
I watch you scrape those tasty bits

from the bottom of the pot,
deglaze with beef broth and merlot.
We tie the rosemary sprigs with twine;

float them above the nascent gravy,
chopped onions the crown on top.
You set the timer for 70 minutes,

program the Instant Pot for quick release.
Meanwhile, in the bedroom, we’ve got time.
You school me in the efficacy

of facial recognition, palm prints, iris I.D.
rub your body all over mine, finger my flesh,
program me for quick release.


* * * * *

"We carry our identity on our fingertips" was firs published in The Night Heron Barks (October, 2020)

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily, Plume, Cleaver, Diode, Duende, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry East, Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. She’s authored five poetry collections, most recently, Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), and The Dead Kid Poems (KYSO Flash Press, 2019). EROTIC: New & Selected, from New York Quarterly, and another, full-length collection (in Italian) by Edizioni Ensemble, Italia, will both be published in 2021. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. www.alexisrhonefancher.com

Saturday, 27 February 2021

 

On today's beautiful full moon (I saw a preview last night at moon rise!), the 70th Moon Prize goes to Eve West Bessier's poem "The Love Tattoo."


The Love Tattoo

by Eve West Bessier


Time listens.  An old crow in the young corn.
Hungry.  Patient.

Geraldine Maia Jones sits on the front porch steps,
her bare feet planted on the boards of the sagging stair,
like they might never again stray from this place
of her birth.  Her red dress sulks between brown knees
ankles swollen from years of travel and heels.

The molecules of wood under her soles resonate
with the vibration of the instrument at her chin.
The amber violin’s sensuous form holds steady
as rapids of Rachmaninov flow under fluid fingering.
She bows the white water tones into the windless sky.

She moans and pauses.  The weather speaks Gershwin. 
She turns her face upward into the full flare of sun,
her forehead glistening.  She adjusts the violin and begins to pull
the long, languid notes from the wood.  "Summertime." 

Silver Brown’s hound dog howls
from its yard down the deserted Sunday street.
His chewed up ears hear overtones higher
than silent stars hiding under cover of heat. 

The angels arrive, the old ones who have been here for centuries.
They settle on top of the blossom-sown grass, glowing

like fireflies in the moist shade.  They rest their large, heavy wings
with perhaps nothing better to do when good folks are at church
and bad folks are sleeping on their couches, wearing yesterday’s
clothes and last night’s liquor on their slow breath.

The angels have come to welcome her home.  "We hear you, sister!" 
They say.  Even as a baby, her mother declared, there was no denying it,
"That child done talk to the Lord.  See them eyes?"

Gera Maia has eyes the color of holy water,
opals set in the gentle mahogany of her face.
You can't just glance, you have to linger there;
even if it is rude, even if you do get uncomfortable with yourself.

Those eyes can see straight to your secrets.  You feel them
make you flush with the homemade wine of shame,
and grow lightheaded when she’s laying down a melody
because the notes are all the oxygen in the room,
and you have to breathe them deep
or swoon from the silences between.

It owns her, this music born in the belly
of her unanswered soul.  She feeds it like a mother cat
takes her litter to her teats, until she is emptied, sore and red. 

She is a virtuoso.  That’s what the fat man said,
the second cousin of the Reverend White visiting from Atlanta,
wearing a suit the color of elephant tusk and sweating
in the humid air from his own excitement.

He tells her daddy that Gera Maia is too good to waste
on some poor Baptist church off a dirt road in the dead
center of nowhere.  "That child is a virtuoso," he says,
his mouth damp at the corners from the weight of the word.

And her daddy lets her go to New York on a scholarship.
Every Friday, a postcard.  Miss Liberty, the Empire State Building,
carriages in Central Park.  Her mama carries those dog-eared cards
to all the neighbors’ back doors in the lazy hours of the afternoon.

Gera Maia doesn’t come home except for summers. 
She is full of talk then, hard to turn off.  So much water pressure
she is fixing to burst, so they let her refresh their minds with that fine,
cool spray about city life and music growing into its own knowledge.

Like summer squash so big you wonder how
you’re going to eat it all and who you're gonna give some to
before it spoils.  Everyone is like a child then, happy
and full of believing in something.

Gera Maia’s mama cuts a magnolia blossom and floats it
on water in her best glass bowl.  She lays the food out
on a faded, blue cloth in the grass,
shooing flies off the sweet potato pies.

Then it's Chicago.  Gera Maia doesn’t come home
but once a year for Christmas.  "Too busy now."
Her daddy frowns, remembering about nowhere.
Voices raise one Christmas Eve to a place too tight
for resolution.  Lights stay on late, all night.

Five years of concert tours.  Gera Maia doesn’t come home
at all.  Every so often, a post card; a quick, expensive call.
A lot of space between.  Los Angeles, Boston, Stockholm,
New York, London, Paris, Rome, Sydney, Moscow.
Eventually, just a distance without words.

But, Gera Maia is home today.
Her fingers are buzzing with it,
with the being back at her roots.
She turns her spirit-water eyes
to the old magnolia of her childhood.

It is past blooming.  Tattered,
cream-colored flowers sulk
between oily green and yellowed leaves.

She gets to her feet.  Slowly and with effort
she moves through the thick silence she has suspended.
Digs her toes into the dirt.  Stands heavy, completely
in the tree’s cooling embrace, branches overhead, roots below.

She touches the aged bark, her palm
on the marks she made when she was five,
her brother holding her hand over the knife.
That day, a fresh petal caressed her cheek.

Now, a wilted petal falls, glides down
in the still air, landing on her graying hair.
She feels its gentle weight, takes it in her fingers.
Touches its velvet to her lips.  She leans back
against the trunk and eases into memory.

The polished maple of the stage at Carnegie Hall.
The first time.  Her knees unsure.
The orchestra a tense net of security and expectation.
She feels the slick, cool silk of her gown begin to cling
to the small of her back.  Alabaster to ebony.

The music is swollen with anticipation.  She feels the taut
pull of her imminent entrance.  She fills her lungs.
The orchestra falls silent.  She drops her full emotional weight down
into the bow.  Down, into the strident chord.

Down, into the electric tension of the strings.  High.  Suspended.
She streaks the silent aural abyss with the call of an eagle,
the claim of a warrior.  A thunderclap of timpani and horns lifts
her solo onto the arc of a rising canopy of sound, tossing her free

into the giddy atmosphere of Beethoven’s ethereal mind.
Her diamond notes cut the glassy space.  She finds her grace
over a rugged terrain of musical theory stretched to its extreme
edge.  She glides with profound focus over the glacial ice
of each delicate passage.  She is so young.  She is so new. 
She could easily fall.  She does not fall.

The remnants of her final notes are covered by an avalanche
of applause.  A crescendo of approval envelops her,
the daunting embrace of three-thousand strange hearts.
She stands in triumph.  She stands in tears. 
She stands, listening to the roar of her achievement.

"Is he here tonight?" She wonders,
She feels the abstract loneliness of fame
siphon away the nectar of her elation.

In her dressing room, she finds a small, white box
with a pale, yellow bow.  It contains a single flower.
A magnolia.  Her mother’s balm.

An old crow calls
from the corn field behind the house.
Time is liquid, fitting any mold.

Gera Maia rests her head against the fortitude
of her old, patient friend, her eyes full of inner rain. 
She holds the withered, perfumed postcard petal
between thumb and middle finger, and returns
her forefinger to the tree’s weathered skin.

She finds the letters there,
runs her finger in the worn groove
of wood, the old wound,
the love tattoo.


* * * * *

"The Love Tattoo" received the Kathryn Hohlwein Literary Award in 2000. It was published in: Kalliope, A Journal of Women’s Literature and Art, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2002, and is part of Eve West Bessier's poetry collection
Roots Music: Listening to Jazz (Falcon West Books, 2019).

Eve West Bessier writes poetry, fiction and essays. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and has received a few awards. Eve is a jazz vocalist and pianist. She’s also an avid hiker and nature photographer. Eve is the current poet laureate of Silver City, New Mexico; and a poet laureate emerita of Davis, California. More at: www.jazzpoeteve.com

Friday, 26 February 2021

 

looking out    

by Suzanne S. Eaton


he opened the window and let in
the smell of a fresh morning

the dew on the grass and the summer
scent of a world busy thriving

with the faint hum of cordial
voices nearby.

her heart reached for the
hovering tree half-lit by sun,

limbs bowing gracefully
in the breeze while the green

spring of life shimmered across
identic callow leaves.

clouds nested in treetops
with gashes of blue 

that diffused into an
endless beryl sky,

her hardships melted into a
moment of conciliation.

she loved this symphony of life—offered to all
yet wondered why some

still choose insurgency
over amity

and leave in their wake
desultory victims of malice

who can no longer look out and
take in the obeisance of life.

she adjusted the tired
blanket over useless legs

gratified by a light-hearted morning
and nature’s enlivening

that helped her forget herself,
her privation, her plight

and just feel thankful for
the world outside

with its constant rhythm and
fight to continue.

tomorrow he’ll open the window
and let in a fresh morning

with the sound of distant
cars travelling to who-knows-where

the smell of fresh-cut grass
and new possibilities.


* * * * *


Suzanne S. Eaton is an author and marketing consultant. She has written many corporate stories and magazines. She authored the book “Chinese Herbs,” reprinted by Harmony Press seven times. She has written for various magazines and anthologies. Most recently, Down in the Dirt Magazine, Writer Shed Stories, Seaborne Magazine, The Purpled Nail, The Silent World in Her Vase (TSWHV), Scarlet Leaf Review, and Rue Scribe have selected her work for publication. 


Thursday, 25 February 2021

 

New Delhi

by Sally R. Simon


Curry and cardamom combine, a sea of cilia ripple the scent landing it full stop. Men with heads wrapped in tangerine and scarlet scarves offer Masala chai in miniature glasses as if they want to fill me with liquid spice, birth memories in me so I’ll return, swallow to a distant land. Hijab-cloaked women avoid my stare, reject my presence as if I’ll rub off. Men sitting cross-legged hawk their wares, eyeing a lone woman wandering down dirt drenched alleys. Oxen plod on cobblestone, dragging wooden carts flowing with okra and onion, almond-skinned teenagers dance abreast to keep pace. I watch women pray to elephant gods I do not know. I wonder how their breath can be my breath, their sky my sky. I want to press my palms together and mirror them, but my heaven is hollow. I want to saturate myself like a cloud, cradle the moisture before it morphs into rain. I am a drop of water clinging to a glass on a sultry summer day that lingers before it slides to the surface and makes a ring that someone wipes away.


 * * * *

Sally R. Simon is a retired teacher living in the Catskills of New York State. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prime Number MagazineTruffles Literary Magazine and Adelaide Literary Magazine. She’s also been known to write a play or two. When not writing, she’s either traveling the world or stabbing people with her epee. Read more at www.sallysimonwriter.com

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

 

I Think of Dying Way Too Often

by Funmi Adenle

 

I think of dying way too often. Not a suicidal I’m tired of the motion kind of death, but the more natural I tried to run across the road and got hit or the I choked on a piece of fish bone kind of death. I think that my death, like most, will be fleeting yet elaborate. Like I’ll slump while waiting in line at the bank. The customer care agents would be rude, everyone would scoff at them and complain about the air conditioning, about the poor service, about their aching legs and I’ll stand there, with arms resting on the counter, waiting for death.

When I’m next in line, I’ll cough. Once, still heads. Twice, few moving heads. Thrice, more moving heads and on the fourth cough, when the air in my chest explodes and I kneel in collapse, I’ll have everyone’s attention. They’ll yell in many Jesus Christ’s and their bodies will imitate comic movements. The security guards will clear the already full encirclement. He’ll kneel and touch my pulse to confirm my death. Everyone will wait for his sorrowful head shake before yelling even more Jesus Christ’s, with hand above heads, light jumping’s enunciated by breast and ass and penis bouncing softly between bras and pants.

And when they would want to call a family, they would call my mom first because they wouldn’t know I have used my dad as my emergency contact for a reason. But they would call her anyway and the phone would ring and ring and ring but she’d be too busy clapping hands and marveling at other people’s problems to pick up. When they’d call my dad, he’d pick the call with a bark. There’ll be some miscommunications and he’ll yell a “You say? What’re you saying” and when he would finally understand what the call is about, he’ll stutter in “when? Where and how?” Because he likes to be scientific about things. There would be some devastation even I cannot picture, but it’ll be a loud kind of devastation that’ll rupture his precious mind and blur his vision. He might try to contain it. As expected of a man. Or he might scream in repeated “I dey come, na my daughter, she don die” as he races past the cold hospital floors.

My mother would be all the things my father is struggling to not be. She would yell a “ehn? Ki le so” with her hands on her head sealed with high bounces. She’d throw her weight on the floor, she’d scream in many Ya Allah’s and become a rolling and rolling piece of chopped wood. She’d be excessively loud.

My father would leave with my brother to sort the exhausting affairs of my dead body. I can’t picture what would happen with my brother and my sister. In truth, I don’t really care.

When I die, I’d like for it to matter to just two people. A girl I’m in love with and a boy I think I used to be in love with.

The girl, I don’t think she understands what I mean when I say I love her. I think she thinks I mean the “I love you baby” used in the political language of girl’s kind of love. I think she doesn’t know it’s a love I spend hours between a busy day contemplating over its gripping power. She doesn’t know I walk around smiling from the satisfaction that love brings me, she doesn’t understand that often, I think to myself that it doesn’t matter if I ever love a man as much as I love her, that sometimes, I’m scared of admitting its depth even to myself because of how unnatural and unprecedented it feels, to love another girl with that much abandon, to be all jesusy and “I love you regardless” about it.

Even now, I’m scared of admitting its depth to myself from fear that I might try to define it and it might end in self-imposed misconstruction even before I can explain to others.

I know that when I die, she’d roar in disbelief and mourn the many many dreams of mine others weren’t aware of. She’d talk about all the stories I was too scared to send to anyone but her, she’d tell them she was there, from the first day I wrote about disturbing things with crappy words to the much better ones with compact words and rhythmic lines and schemes. She’d be present in everything and she’d say nice things and mean them because that’s just who she is #loveandlight. 

And the boy that I used to love? I don’t think he’d show up anywhere. If he did, it’ll be for irony that’s in the literature of the gathering. He’d mock all the acquaintances who’d talk about how they’d just seen me the previous day “hale and hearty”, the ones who’d talk about how I’d supported their business and how I supported through tough times. The ones who’d say I was a good girl filled with smartness and inspirations.

He’d pfft! At them all, but I’m almost entirely sure he’ll not be present for the rounds of pretense, the failed attempts at exaggerating our friendship and the way they’d search for kind words to say.

I imagine that he’d be in a room with all the lights out, he’d fumble for the lighter like he usually does and he’d light up a smoke that makes puffs in the air in. His hands would grip the joint hard to be sure it’s real, his eyes would be set on the semen stained wall and his hands would rest on his laps. The girl he’s now in love with would kneel to spread her hands round his back. He’d hold them and tell about how he’d promised to call me and he hadn’t. He’d tell her about the time my mind disintegrated and he couldn’t understand it. He’d talk about the sweet poems I wrote him he pretended to understand. He’d say, more to himself than to her, that I used to like rings of smoke being puffed on my face, that I was always so hard on myself, that I didn’t eat or sleep well and that I could get myself to fit into many perspectives and somehow, still be myself.

He’d say to the dark, that when he really loved me, I treated him bad. Really bad, but he loved me still because he thought that was the kind of love he deserved and because he understood I was only a child of many tragic circumstances. He’d say it took him a while but when he finally learnt how to love me from afar, he couldn’t stop until I became a terribly fond memory. He’d say I was foolish in many ways but smart in the only ways that mattered. He’d say he could never afford to look at my limp body, now full of breasts and ass and fat.

At night, while he holds the girl he’s now in love with, he’d see the ghost of his dead mother. She’d be as she was the last time he’d seen her alive, lying on her bed with her back turned to him. He’d tug at her shoulder and she’d mumble a “fi mi silé, jé ki n sun” and he’d tug at her some more so she might not sleep and not wake up again. He’d tug and tug and tug and when she’d turn to face him, it’ll be me and I’d laugh hysterically.

I’d laugh and laugh and laugh and say “Dummy, you promised you’d call. Why didn’t you? Ehn?” He’d jolt to reality with a terrible migraine, light a joint and try to perform a séance by blowing warm heavy smoke into the air to send the impending madness away. 

I think of dying way too often.


* * * * *

Funmi Adenle is a technical writer and fiction writer who resides in Lagos, Nigeria. She creates content for websites and blogs as a freelancer and currently interns as a creative writer at erpSOFTapp.