The opposite of anything is the thing itself— Say, a face or a body.
Say, lilacs blooming from within the barrel of a gun.
As it pertains to the living, say then: each day is a crash course in survival.
Say, under extreme conditions,
a mother may kill and / or abandon her young.
As such, say it possible at every baptism, we arrive as low-hanging fruit.
That we are as strange & as meek as thy neighbor. Say, especially, this means
what we can’t say otherwise: say— of guilt & love, only the smallest
child can explain the difference …
Say, then, you believe the sun burns as extremely as it hungers. That violence figures
as a mercy which yields great returns on a body.
Say then: I am worthy.
Say, this time, I will be more than the slow infinity of my name in God’s mouth.
That should night come, I will be given
proper burial. At the very least— say: one day,
a perfect animal will make a house from my bones.
Susan L. Leary
Susan L. Leary’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in such places as Posit Journal, The Christian Century, Heavy Feather Review, Arcturus (Chicago Review of Books), and Into the Void. She is both a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, and her chapbook, This Girl, Your Disciple, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in August 2019. She teaches English Composition at the University of Miami (FL). Find her at www.susanlleary.com.
The mole traps haven’t sprung. The wishbone handles of grey metal stick up from the ground like tuning forks. If I’d caught, the handles would be angled wide apart – V for victory, or fuck off, depending which way you look. I seldom trap one, but it makes me look busy.
Another Sunday, another Sunday roast. A ceremonial carve up. Do you take these legs and breasts as your lawfully stuffed lunch? Soon she’ll start banging the saucepans on the hob and peeling vegetables. The needle will start after breakfast. Could be anything. How long to cook the meat is our Sunday family favourite. Last week I did the cooking.
“It’s running with blood,” she said and didn’t touch it.
We used to yell but it skidded out of control. Rattled the kids. A bit of pushing that’s all, a slammed door, a smashed plate.
Yesterday she said, “Don’t roll your eyes at me. You’re beginning to look like your father.”
I said, “Control your temper. You’re beginning to sound like your mother.”
My father’s got his anxiety. Her mother’s dead.
To find the mole runs I prod the grass with a screwdriver then dig round holes into them with a trowel. I set the traps on a hair-trigger and lower them in. Lay on a lid of turf, plug the gaps with dead leaves to stop daylight or draughts. The moles sense both. Noses like radar dishes.
“Mum says lunch is ready. Can you come and cut the meat.” Our youngest enjoys running errands for his mother. I follow him as he runs back up the path from the toolshed.
Chicken’s on the table. The sharpening steel, carving knife and fork laid out like an amputation.
“This bird doesn’t smell right,” I say.
“In what way?” she says.
“Smells like shit. Literally like shit. Excrement.” I prize apart its back end and bring out a smear of brown on the knife.
“Smell that,” I say.
“I can smell it from here.” She takes the carving fork from my hand, spears the meat and dumps it in the bin.
“Just roast potatoes and veg today. The chicken is shit,” she says to the kids.
Back outside a trap’s been sprung. I pull the dead animal from the earth, its neck broken, a lick of blood oozes from its mouth. I take the mole to the fence and spike its corpse onto the barbed wire. By morning all trace of it will be gone.
Steven John’s writing has appeared in Riggwelter, Spelk, Fictive Dream, Cabinet of Heed, EllipsisZine, Ghost Parachute and Best Microfiction 2019. He’s won Bath Ad Hoc Fiction a record six times and has been nominated for BIFFY 2019. He lives in The Cotswolds, England. Steven is Fiction & Special Features Editor at www.newflashfictionreview.com @StevenJohnWrite www.stevenjohnwriter.com
Like a flotilla revenging World War Two
an army of Japanese KonMari acolytes
are assaulting the cluttered disorder
rampant in our consumer laden homes
Mari Kondo, their high Netflix priestess,
advocates testing possessions for sparks of joy
and if there are no sparks
they’re off to Goodwill
For many, Mari Kondo is the antidote
to an out of control modern life
and by following the KonMari method
your home becomes a sanctuary of order
Yet like a time-consuming sponge
order nurtures conventional thinking
and studies show randomness
can spark creative ideas
This repackaged Shintoism
would have castrated the creativity
of Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein,
and Steve Jobs who loved their messy desks
Somewhere on my desk are studies
linking messiness to creativity
but with so many paper piles
I am not sure where they are
Barbie Turns 60
Barbie you razor thin blonde
who mutilated so many body images
who worshipped consumption
of sports cars, fashions and dream houses
who dallied on and off
with Ken but never married
Of course, it’s easy to understand
the lack of long-term attraction
between the model “it” couple
Very photogenic, but missing
some major private parts
Now Barbie you have to realize
your frozen good looks
can’t last forever and
it’s time to face the reality
of hitting the big six o
and let some wrinkles show
and consider a plastic butt tuck
Soon Mattel will have to replace
your suburban dream house
with Barbie’s Assisted Living
No dream kitchen
just communal dining
No spacious rooms
just one room and
God Forbid a roommate
So, Barbie your lack of eros
may not have stimulated Ken
but capitalism will honor you
as the queen of consumption
who stimulated the economy
Barbie is a registered trademark of Mattel Inc.
Sam Love lives in New Bern, N.C. which is as good a place as any to observe the drama that currently passes for Western Civilization. He has published and produced enough material in mass circulation media including Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazines that he has earned the right to be a footnote. After years of work with visual images and linear print he turned to poetry so people can make the movie in their head. His poems have been published in Kakalak, Slippery Elm, Voices on the Wind, The Lyricist, Flying South, Sleet and other publications. Eno published by Duke University has published six of his environmental poems and four of his poems have been featured on Poetry in Plain Sight posters throughout North Carolina. His latest poetry book, Cogitation, is available from Unsolicited Press. His illustrated children’s book My Little Plastic Bag is available in Spanish and English and has won numerous awards including a Nautilus Award. He is currently president of the New Bern local Poetry Group that organizes a monthly open mike.