It rains and rains and rains.
Bodies and tea pots, couches and beds, hammers and dishes
washing up in town. When it stops, I’m busy drying out,
busy shoveling out, busy salvaging what I can. So busy
I don’t notice, at first, my kids’ long absences from home.
I think they’re afraid to stay indoors, afraid they’ll again
be trapped by water, that they don’t want to linger in a house
where so much was lost. Books, games, stuffed lovies,
the dog, two cats—all gone, swept away by flood waters.
I follow the kids down the dirt road, across the bridge,
up the ravine still muddy from the storms. I can’t see them,
but their voices carry through the woods. They stop in a clearing
and I creep across a felled tree, drop to my knees and crawl
closer and closer to peek through the leaves. The children
are circled around a stump, focused on a green mossy nest
of miniature babies, maybe four or five of them,
three-inch wriggling squeaking tiny human beings swaddled
in torn bits of blankets from our linen closet. My kids
are holding and shushing and rocking. I feel dizzy, afraid
they’ll see me, afraid they’ll turn to me for help, afraid
they’ll ask to keep them, and I stumble back over the log
and I run, and I run, and I run.
Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her stories and poems have been published in print and online anthologies. She’s twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. For more, visit her website: https://victoriamelekian.com
Blind in One Eye, Can’t See Out of the Other
according to her story / a woman, blind in one eye / didn’t tell her parents / she couldn’t see / until she was twelve. / Horrifying, but / she made it funny / and tragic because / obviously. / Got me thinking / what I’d kept quiet / not as cool as a blind eye / but a good story / like Dad’s wooden leg / trophy of a motorcycle crash / one he never talked about / not even at the dinner table / us kids quiet and still / not rapt, terrified / because wrong moves went noticed / no one wanted to be guinea pig / for whatever reproach / Dad delivered that day / eyes fixed on our plates / eating dinner with his gun / to our heads. / He could have said grace / could have bared his teeth in smile / could have seen us / two good eyes and all.
Instructions for a Life
unfurl the gravel road as a tablecloth, a bedsheet
drifting low towards horizon, stars spiriting upward
into the gloam. tug on the string of night, open
the door of birds blown from muddy fingers
their songs like sermons, like recipes. suds
buds bulging knots on limbs, massage
into being with fingertips dipped in wine. you
are halfway there. now comes the wait
weight of it all, trucks ticking time along
the highway hauling burdens to & fro
in shutter-speed time.
sleep. when the breadbox of morning lifts
it’s time to water the grave, excited as you’ll be
to untangle the fathomless frog of your throat
in the cattail bog harboring fairies in the marsh.
Cyn is an Associate Professor of English at Knox College where she teaches creative writing and literature. She is the author of Ten Tongues, a collection of short stories and also writes nonfiction and poems, some of which appear in such places as Still, Fourth River, American Writers Review and Poetry South. Cyn makes her home in Forgottonia, a downstate region on the Illinois prairie.
After “Litany” by Billy Collins
I’m a broom and its dustpan, the sharp tip
of a long knife, watermelon, cool side
of the pillow on a muggy night. I’m the red
squirrel scrambling up a screen door, a dandelion.
I’m not gingerbread or lace of any kind;
not on collars, tatted doilies. I’m not the ocean,
prick of a cactus, a long-stemmed glass, bottle
or carafe of red wine. I fancy myself Egyptian
turquoise, a Paul Klee painting—geometrics
in soft pastels, hung on a plastered wall.
I’ve never been whiskers on cats, gerbils.
Not an apron—clean, maybe, never smeared
with flour, tomato sauce, greasy anything; not
the moon, though its craters are my thoughts.
I would love to be, but sadly not, the sounds
of Thelonious Monk, Johnny Mathis’ croon, Barbra.
I am a branch scraping a tin roof, fall from
a skyscraper, never hitting ground, a ripe
banana turned brown overnight, coffee without
enough cream. I am, in my dreams, a queen-size
bed in the center of a room—impeccably made,
four crisp corners, blue cotton spread, a throw,
mattress firm enough to hold a life of secrets,
soft enough to burrow in, fall slowly apart.
Hari B Parisi
Hari B Parisi’s (formerly Hari Bhajan Khalsa) poems have been published in numerous journals and are forthcoming in Thuya Poetry Review, The Blood Pudding, Two Hawks Quarterly and Inklet. She is the author of three volumes of poetry, most recently, She Speaks to the Birds at Night While They Sleep, winner of the 2020 Tebot Bach Clockwise Chapbook Contest. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Website: https://haribpoet.com