An I-40 Road Song
Rusting roof top words invite us
to change course and See Rock City.
On the radio, “American Pie” crashes into static.
I’m on my back in the back,
watching the traffic of tree branches pass.
Mom tells Dad to slow.
I-40 is an infinite list of options
that we won’t choose:
we will not stop for Casey Jones Village,
will not veer up highway 641 to catch
the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm.
We drive on by.
Tourist traps, Dad whispers, seemingly to himself.
It’s been too long since Mom has seen her Mom—
moms need their moms too, it seems
so we go on
through last night’s rain,
through Appalachian oaks,
through smoke-like fog,
through towns with crooked sheriffs
and newly constructed revival tents
through the silence between us
Finally, we arrive,
and after cursory greetings
and “you’re getting so talls,”
I find myself staring at the popcorn ceiling
from my grandmother’s couch,
eyes searching for passing trees
and signs for Hidden Hollow or The Mule
on the Cliff — Finding a shelf of unread books.
The Statue of Robert E. Lee Contemplates his Removal
When I see the forgotten,
the dirty ones pushing stolen
carts, their fingerless wool
gloves gripping tight to all
they have left, I find myself
thinking back to those
rat boiling winters
when supplies were short,
the mud was thick
and the men wanted to battle
only to pillage
Standing atop this pedestal
overlooking my namesake park,
I’ve seen more than one mugging.
More than one poet penning metaphors
in a comp book. Protests, wedding ceremonies,
to me it all looked like
death and sounded like the
burning howls that have haunted
me since the Wilderness. Death
didn’t die in the fields of Slaughter Pen Farm
or the trenches of Richmond. It followed me
here. Just last week
I saw a car careen
and kill a child. The driver ran
around the wreck screaming,
it was all my fault! It was all
my fault. As if that chant
could change the choice.
I said the same incantation
at Gettysburg but learned
the dead stayed dead
and the dying kept dying.
I offered to step down,
tender my resignation
only to be refused so I
resigned myself to more
and more and I got so
Goddamn weary of it all.
Take me down.
For the love of God.
Take me down.
The work of Pushcart Prize-nominated poet Scott McDaniel has been featured in Mad Swirl, Deep South Magazine, Oberon Poetry Magazine, Common Ground Review and The New Guard. He has read throughout his home state of Arkansas as well as Manhattan and Castletownroche, Ireland. Scott began writing poetry at an early age and was encouraged to do so by his cousin, award-winning inaugural poet Miller Williams. He lives and works in his hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas; a city outside of Memphis that is highly influenced by the culture of the Mississippi Delta. His writings reflect the unique hues, quirks and broken promises of the modern south.
Every time I check the mail, I see the name of a martyr that France has wept since most of us stood united in early 2015 behind a sentence that started with “Je suis.” His name in proper spelling, with its final T, printed on a white rectangular label made by the co-op some decades ago. Before his name is his widow’s (more commonly referred to as the upstairs neighbor), the two names hyphenated together. I moved into the building less than a month before the attack, had never met him or her. I wasn’t even aware that they had been living for years in what has now become my building. It took me some time to understand why all these people were appearing in the staircase with a look I had never seen before on anyone’s face. I remember being surprised by what they were bringing her—care packages of necessities, including multiple copies of the daily, weekly, and monthly papers.
Time has passed by but we still occasionally meet in the staircase. She once asked me if I knew who she was. I don’t remember what I answered. We talk for a while or maybe a little every time we meet. She doesn’t know how to pronounce my name. I have never bothered to correct her. The other neighbors mispronounce it as well, yet in a different way.
The first time she cried in front of me I didn’t know what to do. Truth is, I don’t remember meeting her on the stairs without seeing her cry. When we meet on the street or uninterestingly enough at the hair salon, she manages to hold it together. But within the confinement of our building, there’s no way for her to hold her tears inside. She will be standing there with groceries, hesitating to climb the stairs to her floor or to stay in between floors with me discussing how life is going these days. It’s easy to see that she has been happy in her life. Her happiness has not worn off year after year. You can still see traces of it on her classically featured, sweet face. It is as if her muscles still remember what it is like to stand still with no negative thoughts. Once she told me she was sure I was raised in a house that read his newspaper. I lied. Truth is, we never bought it. We didn’t like the way the drawings looked.
One night after going to the movies, I picked up the mail from my mailbox. Number nine. I did so in a way that was almost burdensome. The mailboxes are further down in the courtyard, after the door of the part of the building I live in. It always feels unnatural for some reason to go all the way to those mailboxes. As I robotically crossed the courtyard back to my building and typed the code to the front door, I stumbled upon an envelope with a name different than mine. There it is, I thought. There he is. Black letters on white paper. His full name—not the one used when they mention him on TV. The power of reading his actual civilian name. His first name I had heard no one use but her. It was a rather thin envelope, those long shaped ones. There was probably just one page of A4 horizontally folded in three inside. Short of breath and with my eyes focused on those few letters, I turned around to put it in the correct mailbox. Hers. Number eight. I did so in a weird rush, my heart pounding as if I had just run to catch the bus, but with an additional hint of embarrassment. It was as if I had stolen something in order to find out a secret that was not mine to discover. When I got to my apartment seconds later, it took me a minute to calm down. I remember not taking my coat off right away as if I had something else to do, or would maybe need to go out again. Eventually, I got over myself and went to bed. I wondered afterwards why I hadn’t given it to her directly. I very well could have slid it under her door. His mail.
Haydée Touitou is a writer from Paris, France working mainly in English. Haydée has been published in different independent publications including Apartamento magazine for which she is today one of the contributing editors. Her non-fiction writing has also been presented in Double magazine or Kennedy magazine among others. She works as an editorial consultant for brands and agencies, with a range of missions going from producing editorial content for both internal and external communication, as well as overseeing the making, editing, and publishing of books. In 2017, Haydée co-founded The Skirt Chronicles, a collaborative publication that aims at reflecting a feminine voice without excluding anyone from the conversation. Haydée is currently working on her first book, a collection of four short stories entitled Name in Full as well as other projects including a book in translation and a children’s book.
When Uncle Sam shoots his gun, does a flag pop out? If so, whose flag is it, anyway?
When Uncle Sam shoots his gun, does his Cornucopian hat pop open? If so, do birds fly out? What kind of birds are they?
When Uncle Sam shoots his gun, does he lose his trousers? What else does he lose?
When Uncle Sam shoots his gun, does he ever hit the bullseye? How many Kewpie dolls has he won? Any wear a burka? A hula?
What kind of gun does Uncle Sam shoot? Without getting arrested? Without having his enlistment extended?
Is Uncle Sam related to Yosemite, by any chance?
by Michael Karl Ritchie
Michael Karl Ritchie is a retired Professor of English from Arkansas Tech University with work published in various small press magazines, including The Mississippi Review, Margie, OR Panthology – Ocellus Reseau. He has had three small press chapbook publications and Winter Goose Press has just published his collection of poems Ampleforth’s Miscellany (2017).
‘I shan’t introduce you to my sister,’ said Kate. ‘You’ll fall in love with her. Then I’ll have to hate you.’
‘Fine,’ I said.
(I’m used to Kate’s pronouncements.)
We were driving to Sussex. Having decided to marry me, Kate felt I should meet her parents.
‘You and your sister,’ I said. ‘Are you alike?’
‘We’re virtually identical.’
‘Stop the car,’ said Kate. ‘There by those bushes. I need to change.’
I find it captivating: Kate’s ability to transform herself. From brisk solicitor to untamed party-animal. From formal dinner guest to fun-runner in baggy shorts and shapeless t-shirt. The Kate, who now appeared in a black skirt and white blouse, was the dutiful daughter.
‘I must warn you,’ said Kate. ‘My parents are prudes.’
To me they appeared courteous, welcoming, perfectly charming.
‘Samuel will be sleeping in the guest bedroom,’ said Kate.
(Another of Kate’s pronouncement.)
Did I see Kate’s mother raise an eyebrow?
‘Don’t come looking for me in the night,’ said Kate. ‘You’ll end up in someone else’s bedroom.’
Kate’s father’s generous measures of single malt meant that I fell deeply asleep, but I woke up immediately when the bedroom door creaked open.
‘Don’t turn on the light.’
In the morning, she’d gone.
‘Were you alright last night?’ said Kate.
‘By yourself in your lonely little bed.’
‘By myself? But didn’t you …?’
‘Didn’t I what?’
‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘I slept fine.’
‘Who are you?’
‘Me?’ I said. ‘I’m the bridegroom.’
‘I thought you looked familiar,’ she said. ‘I’m Aunt Astrid. I’m potty as an aspidistra. Did you know there was madness in the family?’
‘Really?’ I said, looking round the marquee. ‘Tell me. I haven’t met Kate’s sister yet. Is she here somewhere?
‘Sister? Kate has no sister. Kate’s an only child.’
by Nicolas Ridley
It’s a pleasant day in early April. Winter is no more than a memory and today we are learning how to kill people. Or maim them. Maybe both. I’m not sure yet.
Together we chant the sergeant’s mantra:
Last January we slept in our boots on Dartmoor. We learnt the lesson on the first morning. If you leave your boots outside the tent, they freeze like solid blocks of ice. The answer is to keep them on all night. This means lying on your back in your sleeping-bag with your feet pointing upwards. It’s awkward at first but you get used to it. When you’re fourteen-years-old, sleeping isn’t usually terribly difficult.
This spring the school’s Combined Cadet Force is camping in the Thetford battle area. We have spent much of the week crawling through damp bracken and sheep’s droppings but we’ve camped in many worse places and will do again.
This afternoon a group of us has volunteered to undergo training in unarmed combat. It sounded more fun than signals, mortars or map-reading. We are in the care of our instructor: square, unhurried, amiable, Sergeant Jones.
Methodically, almost languorously, Sergeant Jones disarms, disables and dispatches us by numbers.
‘You take the arm. You break the arm. You twist the wrist. And over he goes.’
Perhaps it’s a little chilling but it’s also oddly hypnotic.
‘You take the arm. You break the arm. You twist the wrist. And over he goes.’
One at a time, we rush at Sergeant Jones with wooden weapons. Step-by-step — cool and unflurried — he goes about his business.
‘You take the arm. You break the arm. You twist the wrist. And over he goes.’
I’m not certain what we’re learning except that Sergeant Jones is the master of his craft. If we have to watch him very much longer, we may become bored and rather restless but, for the present, it passes the time.
All afternoon the sun shines down on us benignly. Tonight the damp bracken and sheep’s droppings will remain unfrozen and we will sleep peacefully in our socks.
by Nicolas Ridley
Nicolas Ridley has lived and worked in Tokyo, Casablanca, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Paris and now lives in London & Bath (UK) where he writes fiction, non-fiction, scripts and stage plays. A prize-winner and Pushcart Prize nominee, his short stories have been read at Liars’ League (London), Rattle Tales (Brighton), The Speakeasy (Bath), The Squat Pen Rests (Swindon), Story Friday (Bath), The Story Tales (London), Storytails (London) and Talking Tales (Bristol). Others have been published in London Lies, Lovers’ Lies & Weird Lies by Arachne Press (UK), Ariadne’s Thread (UK), Barbaric Yawp (USA), The Linnet’s Wings (Ireland), Litro Magazine (UK), O:JA&L (USA), Rattle Tales 3 (UK), Sleet Magazine (USA), The Summerset Review (USA), Tales from a Small Planet (USA), Tears in the Fence (UK) and Black is the New Black & True Love by Wordland (UK). Godfrey’s Ghost, his biographical memoir, is published by Mogzilla Life.
One night, we don’t know how, he slips the bands
that bind his claws and sets to work. If fast or slow,
it doesn’t matter—whether, in a rage
of thrashing action or, methodical
(the slow precision of a diver bent
on patient reclamation from the sea),
he stalks and disassembles each bound mate
he’s harbored with, and snaps off limbs and pries
between the overlapping plates their shells
can offer only for their weak defense.
He rips them up, thrusts toothed appendages
into the soft connective flesh, and feeds.
All through the night his work transpires until,
in morning’s white fluorescent light, he lies
revealed: an armored, glutted emperor,
a sated cannibal astir within
his muddied lair, his realm acloud with limbs
adrift and picked and gnawed to fringe along
the edges of their shells, and tissue ripped
to pennant threads and litter at his feet.
Consider how we care for him: the creature we’d
have eaten without thought, though he contrived
to feast before us, had he not consumed
the meat we’d meant to satiate ourselves.
And now, the empty tank near tenantless,
do we declare the victim we’d have made
our own a criminal among the just, or call
him reprehensible in spite of us?
by Gregory Loselle
Gregory Loselle has won four Hopwood Awards at The University of Michigan, where he earned an MFA. He has won The Academy of American Poets Prize, the William van Wert Fiction Award from Hidden River Arts, and The Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award for Playwriting. He was the winner of the 2009 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, The Robert Frost Award of The Robert Frost Foundation, and the Rita Dove Prize for poetry (where he won both First Prize and an Honorable Mention) at Salem College. He has won multiple awards in the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Annual Awards Competition. His first chapbook, Phantom Limb, was published in 2008, and another, Our Parents Dancing, in 2010, both from Pudding House Press. Two more, The Whole of Him Collected, and About the House, were published by Finishing Line Press in 2012 and 2013 respectively. His short fiction has been featured in the Wordstock and Robert Olen Butler Competition anthologies, as well as in The Saturday Evening Post, and The Metro Times of Detroit, and his poetry has appeared in The Ledge, Oberon, The Comstock Review, Rattle, The Georgetown Review, River Styx, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Pinch, Alehouse, Poetry Nook, Sow’s Ear, and online in The Ambassador Poetry Project, among others.
RIP Kenneth Arrow, 23 August 1921- 21 February 2017
Bizarrely charged – not unlike Alfred inventing dynamite — often polarizing Noble Laureates taught me at Harvard and Stanford.
The repellant Brit who co-discovered DNA — their shared award had the prestige of a “once in a generation Prize” — was notorious for looking-up skirts bottom of a steep auditorium he always requested as his Harvard undergraduate lecture classroom…
A Stanford Medical student doing a cardiology rotation, I sometimes lunched in the clinic’s empty waiting room with one who’d been honored in both chemistry plus peace; his goofy smile offered strawberries or oranges or capsules of vitamin C…
Handfuls of Laureates invited us to tea; I sensed the Administration required it.
Several belonged to our family’s synagogue.
Two were father and son: the former nearly threw a microscope at me when as a freshman I said the Dean of Admissions told me (a non pre-med) during a recruitment interview I wouldn’t need to use one; the latter was a college classmate then faculty colleague.
None were women though a hematologist-aunt made the short-list, as did a neuroscience asshole uncle.
But the magnetic gentleman I recall most fondly — an “impossibility theorem” was named after him — instead of resting on his laurels remained active “to be of use” developing fundamental theorems of welfare economics that gave ballast to progressive government action.
This kind soul had a seemingly insatiable curiosity.
Although not particularly close, we were friends of the same couple so had infrequent cordial dinners. Once sitting next to him, I explained that because of G6PD deficiency, which led to my red blood cells breaking up if I took the required anti-malarial prophylaxis Primaquine, I couldn’t accompany my son on New Guinea field-work.
Listening intently, he didn’t say a word.
Two years later, he mentioned casually that he’d gotten interested in malaria. I read his article, “Making Antimalarial Agents Available in Africa.” His accomplishment demonstrated cost effectiveness of artemisinins derived from Chinese wormwoods to treat resistant malaria: that gave ammo to adding it as a benefit to a national HMO I ran.
When his equally substantial wife of seven decades passed, the professor-emeritus shrank from view.
Last night I saw this once straight-as-an-arrow attractive figure at a holiday party — now he hunched over while his caregiver wiped drool. Intimates smothered him with respect and love; those in outer circles like me whom he didn’t remember stopped by for a smile; others figured he was our host’s demented relative, simply gave wide birth.
by Gerard Sarnat
Gerard Sarnat has won the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize and been nominated for Pushcarts. Gerry’s authored four collections: HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014) and Melting The Ice King (2016) which included work published in magazines and anthologies including Gargoyle, American Journal of Poetry (Margie), Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, OCHO, Brooklyn Review, Lowestoft, Tishman Review, Tiferet, Fiction Southeast plus was featured in New Verse News, Edify, Poetica, Songs of Eretz, Avocet, LEVELER, tNY, StepAway, Bywords and Floor Plan. Among other publications, Deronda Review, San Francisco Magazine, Radius, Foliate Oak, Dark Run, Scarlet Leaf, Good Men Project, Veterans Writing Project, Anti-Heroin Chic, Aois, Poetry Circle, Tipton Review, Creative Truth, Harbor Village, Indian Ruminations, KYSO, Flagler Review, Poets and War, and Ordinary Madness’ debuted feature sets of new poems. Mount Analogue selected Sarnat’s sequence, KADDISH FOR THE COUNTRY, for distribution as a pamphlet in Seattle on Inauguration Day 2017 as well as the next morning as part of the Washington DC and nationwide Women’s Marches. In May “Amber Of Memory” was the single poem chosen for Gerry s 50th college reunion symposium on Bob Dylan; the Harvard Advocate accepted a second plus Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Johns Hopkins accepted concurrent pieces. In August Failed Haiku presented his work first among over a hundred contributors. In January 2018, among other acceptances, six Sarnat poems were featured in True Living Documented Relentlessly [TL;DR], his work was front page in International Journal Of Modern Poetry, and pieces were accepted by Australian, Israeli, Canadian and Indian publications.