Summer after chlorine saturated summer
we pretended we were cholitas,
twelve year old lambs in disguise.
I wore swap-meet Adidas breakaways over unshaved
legs and blue gray Venice Dolphin’s swimsuit.
Seventeen, our lieutenant, tiptoed lightly,
a damp towel tightly wrapped around her curves,
sang Mariah Carey’s Fantasy.
She’s Mary’s baby, her adopted baby.
Seventeen, thick with double D breasts, a hot
wanton waist and straight hair I secretly longed for.
I whisper to her – hard candy.
At fifteen she’d played with dirty dice, chupando
sandia lollipops; tamarindo con chile,
I swam laps in the pool, her voice carried;
high and sweet melting handlebars off cholito
low-rider bikes, swollen sloppy lips, saccharine
kisses, a rub down of adolescent stiffies.
She never played water polo with us.
Practicing her synchro routines, a sexy under water flamingo,
she danced for a boy I liked. I watched as he bit
her right shoulder, a small burn mark on my lips.
At night I wore flannel pajamas to her sleepover party.
She wore nothing and played digits with her boyfriend.
I reached for my inhaler.
Years later I held her hand, too much like my own
small and soft,
we buried her mother. Her father too.
She calls me on my birthday.
I love her. She’s tattooed, tired and beautiful.
Real hard candy.
Her belly was full that night.
Drops of honey dew spilled out
dimples and sparkle eyes.
She smiled when she cooed, sweet baby lamb.
by A. R. Castellanos
Born and raised in Los Angeles, A. R. Castellanos writes poetry, fiction and memoir that draw upon her vibrant and tenacious ancestral heritage in Guatemala and California. Her conjured worlds encompass feral spirits, otherworldly legends, and the disconcerting realities of domestic workers in Hollywood celebrity homes.
To the Man Who Was to Be My Gardening Companion for Fifty Years
You used to love that I see the fierce beauty in a little chaos. I first cleared that web of woodiness cautiously. I pruned instead of hacked the curious entanglement of Greenbrier and Wisteria. The roots seemed to reach as deep as our own. Coiled arms weaved and roamed within a contained jungle; unaware of their confusion. Wherefrom were the clustered blooms and the source of those thorns? I trimmed the entwined vines and branches to create a negative space. The lofty window then was in view.
A too-early spring bestowed a lavender waterfall. You should have seen it. The Wisteria’s light-green leaves were infrequent, and the blooms hung like grape clusters. The pods of the flower were velvet, and when I ran my hand underneath them, they felt like delicate mala beads across my palm. The sweet smell of baby powder hung in the air, and I longed to be near them. I sat on the steps of my front porch to hold the impermanence of a Florida spring.
In the Fall, you came and took measure. We dug perfect beds in the sun. You replanted shy-yellow lilies. To flank a much-better laid path. But, the vines. Our bare limbs bled from thorns. We have to get at the roots, you said. You pulled hard and we cut underground. You wielded shovel and saw. To conquer Mount Parnassus’s Pythons. All roots were exposed and then gone.
Now the rusty swing squeaks in the nearby park. The squirrels’ throaty barks fall from the Laurel tree. A sliver of lavender peaks through pale- green buds on the spiraling vine that hugs the Crepe Myrtle trunk like a gentle rebel.
by Johanna Lane
The Voice of the Withlacoochee
To see colors along the Withlacoochee River, you must be there in the slanted light. Walk with her there. Let soft shoes touch the path like a shushing finger to the lips. Notice longleaf pine needles gilded from the sun’s glow. The sinking light unmasks a lapis sky. See the soppy, pine-needled path become maroon, like the underside of a great blue heron’s wing.
Don’t worry if you are out of step with your companion.
Separate the stiff palmetto fronds for her and step down to the riverbank. Don’t fall. Walk closely to the roots and stay on solid ground. As the sun descends, watch how the tannin-stained river appears copper. Be mindful of shin-high cypress knees, so you don’t trip. See them scattered like old faces in a crowd. Focus in on one. Study the intricate lines like those around our eyes and mouths. They reveal our sad and happy stories.
Imagine the deep, gentle flow of a raised river when you see high water lines on Cypress tree trunks. But the shallow reveals gnarled roots grasping the bank; its knuckles protrude and fingertips sink into the soil.
Plan to return. As the setting sun erases the lavender hues in browned grasses, recall what wasn’t said.
by Johanna Lane
Johanna is an adjunct instructor of English at Saint Leo University. She writes personal essays that focus on the diverse and complicated natural environment of Florida and how this can mirror the dynamics in our most intimate interpersonal relationships.
I sat among the books and the shelves rattled and shook
The covers flying open as the words wrestled their way out, shattering the air with a collective shout,
Settling down into a song the words took shape, rising and falling each one struggling to find it’s space
The melody began, drifting, dancing
Lazily the tune took me like a stream, each turn and bend showing me a new dream
The harmony joined in, as I looked upon the banks and saw the rolling hills and fields ready to be filled with whatever my mind could make
The stronger words decided to have their turn, as the stream gained strength and a river was born
Dropping me down in frigid waters, and the song was gone and the only sound was the chatter of my teeth
Then I burst through again, and drawing breath, riding the crest of the wave, I found myself at the sea and knew I could stay afloat
As the sun warmed my skin, I heard the sweet hymn once more, and looked out and saw forever stretched across the shore
by Crawford Krebs
Crawford Krebs is eighteen years old and lives in South Carolina.