And the moonstruck girl who sleeps under a gypsy moon
There is one day and a hundred years
Of the slow death of life
When burns a brazen sun
And howl contemptuous winds
There is a sad boy who
Stands under a broken bridge
And sells his songs
For a sixpence and a memory
There are loves’ contortions: fierce, false
Spawning along a boulevard of broken dreams
And rains, cold that sing one kind of song
The barren sands, another
There are mystic dreads pounding at the door of dark
Songs ringing with the skirling music
That transcends earth and time
At the far edges of yesterday
On the seaward side of tomorrow
Lamplights are fading
And the heavy-lidded eyes of the moon
Are closing on a fate that dares to dream
There was a moment in the fall, of sadness, a blink, a single leaf letting go and drifting down, but it was enough.
Ethan made her coffee and poured it in her favorite mug, the one she painted purple herself and insisted was more indigo, especially in sunlight. He baked her cookies and left the oven open to keep their kitchen warm on the cool October nights. He held her hand, tight, but he knew.
“What sort of name is Mellow anyway,” he had asked her when the met, “your parents hippies?”
And they were, but Mellow only shrugged. She had always liked her name, felt it suited her demeanor, gave those around her a sense of calm. She felt a little like magic, some days.
Other days, she hid beneath it like a blanket and let the world move along without her. She was quiet, reserved, a flower on the wall, a fly, watching and watching.
Ethan had lured her in to an art gallery, the opening of his own exhibit. The word gallery is really too grand for the space that it was. It was in a mill of studios where women rented rooms to hold quilting clubs, where writers worked together, but apart, in rooms with tall windows and brick walls that sent the noises of their typing bouncing through the air as they wrote.
It was three hundred square feet, a one month subletting from an older woman who used the room to sell her felt work. She made beautiful banners for local churches and felt jewelry that she sold at craft fairs on tables with paper tags and notecards about the artist.
Ethan, the artist, worked on napkins. He worked in zentangles and poetry, he spelled out music like jazz with his the tip of his pen and then framed it. Larger works were framed together like puzzle pieces, bar napkins, restaurant napkins, the occassional cardboard coaster, swirled with ink.
He rented the space and handed out paper flyers at the local coffee shop, the butcher, the village market, anywhere local and small, where people went in search of things that were organic, honest, not brand name. He advertised on social media and in the library and book stores too, but it was at the corner sandwich shop that he caught Mellow's eye.
She was eating her sandwich on rye, dabbing at a squirt of thousand island at the corner of her lip when the flyer slid across the table and into her view. One Night Only – Ethan Zinner – Art, Honest.
Ethan stood beside her chair and smiled his kind smile. His lips were not chapped, even in Maine, even in the dead of winter, when all of the face around her were pink and tight with dry skin. Mellow smiled and it felt nice.
“Art, honest?” Mellow tilted her head as she lifted the flyer, “shouldn't that always be the case?”
And he sat and they ate the rest of her kettle cooked potato chips, together.
Mellow, flower on the wall. Quiet, blendable, Mellow, she began to doodle on napkins with Ethan. She began to doodle on notecards, on backs of take out menus, on the spare space on appointment cards and grocery store receipts. Her doodles, though, were not honest. They were attempts, at best. They were the evenings spent with Ethan, Saturday afternoons spent losing herself as best as she could.
Until that one moment in the fall, when the reddest leaf in the tree in front of her, twisted and fell and spun through the air like a ballerina on fire, until it landed by her feet and they kept moving past.
“I'm craving pastrami on rye,” Ethan said in the late autumn, when the leaves were all scattered and dry and brown on the ground. “Are you hungry?”
But, Mellow appeared in the door frame, a pale blue dress with a wide white belt, a skirt that flared at the hips and skimmed her knees. She held a suitcase in hand and answered simply, quietly, “no.”
A Dream of Ice Cream
I remember ice cream we churned
In our own ancient mixer, a wooden
Bucket with ice crammed around a steel
Cylinder inside of which sugar and
Cream were rich and thick
From our own cows, grazing in
The fields beyond our white
Clapboard house, glad that they
Had given us their white magic,
And we cranked and turned,
And turned, until our arms were
Tired and the perfect mixture
Became firm as mud after a day
Of sweet unpolluted rain cold
As the ice that congealed it
In its chamber of sugared miracles;
And we waited for our father
To scoop a bowl for each of us
As our mother brought cakes
From her kitchen, with her hands
Offering to us, the way a priest
Extends communion wafers
To those penitents who pray
They will continue to be watched
Over by a universe of love.
for my birthday,
i’ve fired my breasts,
and the coquetry
of my lips and eyes.
out of routine,
i bleed once a month,
wear make-up, perfume,
trendy tops and leggings,
comb my long locks,
keep the hem above my knees,
but i have been severed
from their sexual references.
i blow out the candles,
watch my thoughts
mingle with smoke.
i used to make wishes,
but plan to say;
do not enter,
leave me alone.
had said it better.
Marion Deutsche Cohen
After a Long Illness
Like an oppressed
I thank the oppressor.
I thank my body for letting the hurt stop
For admitting me back to the land of the non-tortured
Even if later than sooner.
I also thank my body for being a body that I can enjoy dressing up.
I think most of my hairs for staying reddish brown
My mouth and vocal chords for outgrowing stuttering
My nose for being acquiline
And my cheekbones for being high.
I thank my body for its energy.
And I thank my brain for all those passions.
I thank it all for its kindness.
Thank you, thank you, I say.
Perhaps more humbly
Than I should.
I parked out front of my parent's house below the telephone wires that dissected the road. There were no other cars and the neighborhood was quiet. Cheryl, who lived across the street, was old and her yard had overgrown, dad usually tending to it. A hot morning, her doors were open and I could look right into her front foyer, all the way into her kitchen and practically out the other side.
My parents had twenty steps that climbed like a ladder from the road to their sidewalk. A series of terraces kept the house unnoticed and mostly out of view from passerby and each level of the hillside harbored rose bushes, poison ivy and hedges that reached almost as tall as me. It was like a maze getting to the heavy brown door. Unlocking it, I walked inside and felt the coolness of a dark deep cave.
Descending the steep basement steps, I could hear my father and the abrupt end of a spinning saw. He already had the door across the horses. Dust hung in the air and I could smell the heat from the recently cut wood.
He looked up, wearing a pair of goggles and a handkerchief around his nose and mouth. "Michael!" How are you? Sorry I didn't wait. I wanted to get this done before your brother got home. Jail only held him for the night."
"You sounded rushed on the phone."
"Did you eat?" he asked.
"I had a piece of toast before I came over." I stopped at the door. "What're we doing here?"
He slid the goggles to his forehead while the handkerchief remained. "There's a small hole in one of the door panels. I just finished cutting a piece of plywood to nail over it."
"Seems like a lot of work."
"He'll be home as soon as the buses start running their weekend routes and the home store doesn't open until 11:00am on Sundays and things are much better when he can go inside his room and shut the door." He slid the goggles back over his eyes.
"You can't just kick him out?"
"You're mother would have a fit."
"Where is mom anyway?" I asked.
"Oh, I don't know. She wasn't upstairs? She doesn't tell me much of anything."
I nod. "Well, what can I do to help?"
He looked at me. "I need to cut another piece of wood. You can hold it steady."
The piece he had finished when I got there was perfectly square. I placed the sheet of wood across the door so the square he had penciled onto it was in front of him.
"What happened to your hand?"
"Oh," I held up my hand, "Mary next door. Her cat, Cheeto."
"He attacked you?"
"No, he had been stuck in Mary's tree for almost a week. The one right outside her bedroom window. I could hear him so I can only imagine how horrible it was for her. I went over and asked if she wanted me to get him down."
"Yeah?" He was looking at my hand.
"When I tried to get his collar off from around the branch he'd attack me. The thing was really tight."
"But you eventually got him down," dad said now looking at me.
"He had been there for almost a week."
"What did you do?"
I stared at him a moment, his eyes oddly disfigured through the goggles. I wondered how he could see anything through them. I said, "He was suffering. Mary was suffering. Everyone was suffering. I told her he ran away."
"There was no other way?"
"I tried. I really did," I answered.
Dad put his head down. "Hold the plywood steady." He swallowed just before clicking on the saw. It whined and gnawed through the sheet of wood. Dust filled the stagnant air and mixed with the smell of earth and mildew.
He held up the square of wood. "That should do the trick. Have this door fixed and hung in no time." He put the plywood aside. "Just have to cut out what's left here, but you got to leave a little edge so we have something to nail the new wood into."
"Where'd you say mom was?" I asked.
"Walk? Hold the door a minute. Sometimes the blade likes to jump." He held the jigsaw perpendicular to the wood and forced it through, leaving a perfectly square hole. "There we go." He took off his goggles, placing them on the door. His eyes were tinted red and tired, something I hadn't noticed with the goggles on. "So how's the family? Job? Is Jack crawling yet?"
"Good dad. Jack's standing, walking a little when he has something to hold on to and he's talking about a storm."
"Yep, he keeps Col' and I very busy."
"I would love to see him if you guys ever need to take a day off."
"You and mom can always stop by. If you need to," I said.
Dad leaned on the door with both hand.
"I'm serious," I said.
"There was a reason I asked you to come over but I'm afraid what you'll say if I tell you."
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I can't go on the trip."
"I want to but I can't," he said.
"This is your retirement gift."
I reached for his face.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
A piece of wood hanging from his kerchief had been bothering the hell out of me and when I brushed my finger across the fabric I did it too hard and it fell, still tied, around his neck. "Jesus Christ, dad."
He brought the handkerchief back around the bottom part of his face. He grabbed the goggles off the door. "It's nothing. Don't worry about it."
"Your lip. It's split in two. And your nose…"
"C'mon let's finish this door before your brother gets home." He secured the goggles around his eyes, again enlarging them disproportionately.
"Is that who did that to you?"
"What, my face? Oh no, no. I was carrying the door," he swallowed, "and I stumbled on the steps coming down to the basement. It hit one of the stairs and I whacked myself in the face."
"Why didn't you call the police? Or tell Cheryl next door?"
"I hate Cheryl! It's none of her business." He adjusted the handkerchief again ensuring it would never fall. "Staples. I think staples will do the trick here," and he walked towards the furnace and the old refrigerator beside where he kept his tools.
"Is this all you needed my help with today?" I asked.
"Where did you say mom went?"
"Why do you keep asking that? I don't know where she is! I don't know." He came back around with the staple gun and I centered the square of wood over the hole in the door. He held the staple gun over the edges and shot the staples through both layers of wood. The patch covered the hole perfectly so that from afar one couldn't distinguish between it and the actual door. It was only as you got closer did you realize something was horribly wrong.
"All this work," I mumbled.
"I told your mom to go away for the weekend."
"What?" I asked. He had said it so quickly I wasn't sure I heard right. And his words remained in the air unaffected by the sound of my voice.
Dad kept his head down. "I told her to go somewhere. I told her last night to take the weekend for herself so I can get stuff done around the house. I didn't tell her anything else. She went shopping and she'll be back tomorrow."
The sudden emptiness of the house was deafening. He still had on his goggles and kerchief. The tiny flap of fabric that hung below his chin fluttered with each quick shallow breath he took.
He brought his head up. "But…"
The door upstairs opened and heavy steps pounded through the house.
Dad looked to the basement ceiling. "He's probably hungry. I'll come down and help with the door when I finish making him something to eat." He set the staple gun down on the finished door. He removed the goggles and kerchief setting them there as well. He walked toward the stairs, turned to face me, looked to the ceiling then at me again. His face sagged as if a weight were pulling it down at the chin. Swollen and bruised. He then walked upstairs and I could hear his steps above.
"What's Michael doing here?" my brother asked, his voice muffled.
"He just stopped by to help me with your door."
"You still didn't get that thing fixed?" The floor joists winced as he flopped down on the sofa. The TV turned on. Footsteps shuffled through the kitchen.
"Make me one of those frozen pizzas and don't cook it in the microwave like last time. Did you get the beer?"
"No." The oven opened. "I didn't have time."
My brother stood and his feet clomped across the wood floor. He stopped, just outside the kitchen. The refrigerator door slammed shut and the cookie jar on top shuttered. "I hope there's some downstairs," he said, moving towards the basement.
I hurried to the door, lifted it off the horses and leaned it against the wall at the bottom of the stairs. I hid behind it and waited with its weight on my shoulder.
I saw my brother from the keyhole as he opened the basement door. The nails in the staircase whined as each foot thudded on to each step. First his black boots then his shins intersected by lines of jean and cotton from his cut off shorts. I could see his hands, his black T-shirt. I could see the chain that choked tight around his neck.
It reminded me of when I was a kid. Mom would tell me when dad was home from work and I would run into his bedroom. My heart would race as I waited for him in his closet, watching through the slats in the door. When he came towards the closet I would wait for him to open the door then spring out at him. He'd stumble back, moaning and clutching his chest until finally he fell on to the bed. Mom would wait in the hallway and when she heard the commotion she would come to me and we would laugh and laugh, just the three of us, as dad rolled off the mattress on to the floor, pretending I had scared him to death.
Susan Dale’s poems and fiction are on Eastown Fiction, Ken *Again, Penman Review, Inner Art Journal, Feathered Flounder, and Hurricane Press. In 2007, she won the grand prize for poetry from Oneswan.
Melanie Harvey holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and was the 2006 winner of Family Circle Magazine’s Fiction Competition. In 2007 her story “Only in Bellington” was selected as the winner of the Ann Arbor Book Festival’s Short Story Contest. In 2008, her story “The Last Thing Before Dirt” received a Pushcart Nomination from Relief Journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Family Circle Magazine, Quality Fiction, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Relief, Blue Earth Review, Eureka Literary Magazine, The Summerset Review, Word Riot and various other venues in print and online.
John Garmon once served as president of Berkeley City College in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now in his seventies, he is an assistant in the writing center at the College of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas. His poems, articles, reviews, and stories have been in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, Southern Humanities Review, South Dakota Review, Commonweal, The Lyric, and other journals. He has been writing and submitting for 60 years.
Patricia Carragon is a New York writer and poet. Her publications include Best Poem, BigCityLit, CLWN WR, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Clockwise Cat, Danse Macabre, Ditch Poetry, Inertia, Lips, MÖBIUS, The Poetry Magazine, Marymark Press, Maintenant, Mad Hatters’ Review, The Mom Egg, The Toronto Quarterly, The Unbearables Big Book of Sex, Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life, and more. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press). She hosts and curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in chief of the annual anthology. Her most recent book is Urban Haiku and More (Fierce Grace Press, 2010).
Marion Deutsche Cohen's latest book is Still the End: Memoir of a Nursing Home Wife, the sequel to Dirty Details: The Days and Nights of a Well Spouse (Temple University Press, PA). Her books total 21, including Parables for a Rainy Day (Green Fuse Press, CO) and Crossing the Equal Sign (Plain View Press, TX), poetry about the experience of mathematics. She teaches math and writing at Arcadia University, where she has developed the course Mathematics in Literature. Another poetry book, Size Only Slightly Distinct, is forthcoming from Green Fuse Press. Other interests are classical piano, singing, Scrabble, thrift-shopping, four grown children three grands, and as of yesterday, twin step-grands.
A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Ryan Dempsey currently resides with his wife and daughter in the Pittsburgh area. Ryan's fiction is published or forthcoming in such places as The Portland Review, Drunk Monkeys and Almost Five Quarterly.