Too Many Questions

Six weeks

after I began ninth grade,

Mother went to bed.

 

She closed drapes, hid

autumn light, knotted

her body beneath winter blankets.

 

Seven years earlier,

her brother went to work

then crawled under his desk,

mumbling.

 

White jackets took him away

and whispers I overheard

spoke of electroshock therapy,

depression.

 

Confused by my feelings,

I asked no forgiveness

for liking the new quiet,

 

but it felt strange

to exist without her anger,

her disappointment.

 

I pedaled to the cemetery,

walked among tombstones,

sorting my unsettled mind

as I questioned skeletal remains.

 

There was John, the soldier

from South Carolina

whose brother had disappeared.

But not under blankets.

 

I asked James, the eldest

of ten children, what he knew

about living in the dark.

 

He kept it simple, suggested

I leave her alone,

get on with my life.

 

I bemoaned my transfer

to a new school,

but Daniel, who grew up

on a farm in south Georgia,

 

laughed, said school was school

and I should just shut up.

Or pack a bag and run away.

My choice.

 

I thanked them all,

bid them good night

and rode home

as streetlights began to buzz.

 

Is she thinking

about my mistakes,

storing up punishment

 

and criticism to use

when she gets well?

Will she get well?

 

And who is cooking dinner?

 

 

Linda Wimberly

Linda Wimberly is a writer, artist and musician from Marietta, GA. A former Vermont Studio Center resident in writing, her poetry has appeared in The Raw Art Review, Lunch Ticket, Stone River Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems and others and a short story appeared in Cricket. She is a self-taught abstract artist and her images have appeared in or been cover art for jelly bucket, Critical Pass Review, Inscape Magazine and others. Her image “Woman on the Move” won the 2019 Art Contest for So to Speak: feminist journal of language and art. (lindawimberly.com)

There Is a Temperature

Our clock.

Do you remember?  The one we bought at the edge of the world? The shop being pulled into the ocean ? She has rounded the bend. She’s played her song.

The crickets still chirp. The moon still shines.

Outside, the world is covered in silver dust. Outside, the trees and the stones are getting colder and colder and colder.

Let’s agree that pajamas are for puritans. We are of this world. We were made to sleep with feathers. We were made for open windows. We were made to be together.

Ask the scientists. There is a temperature perfect for sleeping. It’s the temperature of you and me close enough to warm, but not close enough to burn.

Pajamas, my darling, only get in the way.

 

Shawn Pfunder

Shawn Pfunder is a writer, performer, and creative coach. He studied poetry and fiction at the University of Montana. He is the author of the poetry book, I Believe in a God Who Roller Skates. Shawn lives in Phoenix, Arizona with a medium-sized dog.

Country Boy

When we were kids, in junior school

in Pembrokeshire, we didn’t do wild

or joyful, didn’t do great and glorious.

We wore limp ties, half-skewed,

over blue-green cotton shirts, grey shorts,

and tugged long, drooping woollen socks.

We hoarded foreign stamps, played marbles,

were drilled in tables, verbs and chalk,

hoofed at a soggy leather football.

 

There were a few quick early sallies

down the rapids of River Joy, first sounds

maybe of Elvis, first scents of dances,

first date .. but that was soon washed up

on the banks of embarrassment.

One first big joy, first rush of rhapsody,

was our trip to the London Planetarium,

the sunrise scene, to Morning from Peer Gynt,

and the sense of a wondrous opening-out.

The price, as I remember, was a shilling.

 

First weeks in university. Posters and politics

and arguments over midnight coffee

and then, with such a shot to the emotions,

the new black friends in the hall of residence,

Femi from Nigeria, Zac from Ghana,

Astley from Jamaica. Back home we’d read

of Windrush and Brixton and rioting

and landladies (no dogs, no blacks, no Irish).

Now suddenly these charming, genial men.

The fellowship. The joy of it.

 

That was October 1960

and it seemed absurdly simple.

 

 

Robert Nisbet

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has appeared recently in the USA in San Pedro River Review, Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, Burningword Literary Journal, and many online journals. He has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

The Discalced

Into the foothills:

individuated and

intentional, like tumuli,

poised in geometric solitude;

yet reiterant—

battologizing in every direction

like a lavish obsession;

 

Over the clatter of lava scree,

down stress-cracked arroyos

polyped with balsamroot,

astride dustracks canine and human,

over roots of gnarled fir that

knuckle the trail like black fingers.

 

Into the foothills, then,

you run—

without optimism,

suspecting all summits false,

enduring your own shadowy weather—

unending systems of shifting mentalese;

 

Overtaking strangers wordless

and passing through strands of huddled pine

sunk with errant shafts of yellow light,

networks of crows bruiting your

course in the canopies above.

 

With ragged breath and aching limb,

you are lifted and lowered,

left to pursue protracted arcs,

like the practitioner of an esoteric ritual,

like the epigone of a mathematical formula.

 

Compacted and sunbaked into pavement

the path rattles talus and tibia,

climbs the fickle architecture of your spine,

and delivers spoonfuls of annihilation.

 

Into the foothills, then,

you are running—

not speaking,

but hanging on

the susurrus of the breeze,

listening intently,

trying to hear the urgent call of the world.

 

James F. Latin

Jimmy Latin is in his fourth year of Honours English at Concordia University (Montreal). He writes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

The Pearl of Great Price

for Joel

 

There were fields around our homes, Joel,

some fallow for a season, others full of maize.

Around them were the woods, in winter

a filigree of witch-fingers clutching at the sky,

in summer, overgrowing every boundary.

Enclosed within the symmetry of corn rows

and houses, we slept well at night, although

boys’ thoughts drift and shape-shift.

We could see there was no reconciliation

between the earth and our back and forth

attempts at order. Fences falling groundward

succumbed beneath vines. An orchard grown wild

was our prototype for Eden. Its apples were picked

by deer, or left in the grass as God intended,

rotting with their wasted cider.

 

In the north country now, I imagine people are burning

leaves. Fire runs through them like a loose dog.

From the hillside, you can see smoke rising, a man

standing there beside the bonfire, watching. A woman

comes out from the house. It’s almost a ritual scene.

 

There are no leaves burning in this yard.

I hear voices from inside the cafe, but I’m alone

beneath a locust tree, drinking coffee,

watching two men in the next yard over

gather tomatoes they grew somehow amid the ruins

of a Brooklyn townhouse. Odd angles, old brick

mold-mottled, and those green, gaunt vines

that twist and zigzag, and branch out, emerald lightning.

The property was abandoned back in March

when they cut the chainlink fence. Together,

they cleared as much of the soil as they could

of stones and glass. Boards protruding from the ground,

like the bones of a half-buried animal, they pulled loose

and set up to hold the twine they used

for a makeshift trellis. They planted their sprouts.

As the season advanced, they appeared more

at home. One of them hung art on the remnants of a wall,

portraits painted by children, his own, I guessed,

faces composed of bright colors that matched

the beans and peppers, and tall sunflowers whose

big dials of yellow petals counted down the hours.

 

Someone mid-summer tried to mend the fence.

A sign was posted:        NO TRESPASSING!

PROPERTY FOR SALE.

It didn’t stop them. Today, they are laughing,

picking the ripened fruit and vegetables,

gathering the good in baskets, tossing the bad away.

Their joy, their exuberance in their work,

how could it be for just tomatoes?

Whenever I saw them weeding in the sun,

shirts off, sweat curdling through their skin,

they reminded me of the parable about a man

who sold everything he owned in order to buy

the field where he found a hidden pearl.

 

Have I misunderstood them? Maybe that heavy, red fruit

is more than enough. But we lived according to the poem:

living within, / you beget, self-out-of-self,

selfless, / the pearl of great price.1

 

Joel, we haven’t talked in years. I can’t guess anymore

what you are feeling, if your optimism we shared survives.

Addicted to the opium of poetry, I foster in myself

that one impurity, hoping to work it into luster,

but it’s funny to think that all it takes to undo a pearl

is one cup of vinegar.

 

_________________________________________

1 H.D. “The Walls Do Not Fall” 4.43-46

 

 

William Welch

William Welch lives in Utica, NY, where he works as a registered nurse on a critical care unit, and also as editor of Doubly Mad, a literary and visual arts journal published by The Other Side of Utica, Inc. His work has appeared in numerous journals, most recently in Thimble Literary Magazine, Rust+Moth, and Stone Canoe. His poem “The Border” was a finalist for the 2020 Adelaide Literary Award for Poetry.

Goldilocks Speaks Out Though Her Lawyer Tells Her to Shut It

Tell me what’s so wrong with walking in

when the door is open

and nobody answers your “hullo”

and you’re tired after walking all day

in circles in some stupid wood.

 

The place looked like they’d run away,

food still on the table,

each bowl microwaved a different temperature,

the middle one hardly heated at all.

And it’s like two cents worth of porridge.

 

So I’m sorry that chair broke.

What kind of chair is so fragile

that a size zero can’t sit in it?

I said I’d buy the kid a new chair

but noooo, his chair was special

‘cause Daddy built it.

 

Now they’re calling me a speciesist

because of that remark about opposable thumbs.

Well, how could they have built those chairs and beds

without thumbs? And what are bears doing

with sheets and blankets when they have all that fur?

Plenty of people don’t even have a blanket.

 

This is a set-up; you just want to use me as an example of

whatever.

I have feelings, too! But you don’t care.

None of you care that you’ve ruined my life

and I had to wipe out all my social media accounts.

I’ll have to dye my hair—my trademark!—

and build a brand all over again.

Do you have any idea

how much work that is?

 

Sherry Mossafer Rind

Sherry Mossafer Rind is the author of five collections of poetry and editor of two books about Airedale terriers. She has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Anhinga Press, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission, and King County Arts Commission. Her most recent book is Between States of Matter from The Poetry Box Select Series, 2020.

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