Thursday, January 30, 2014

Undelivered

 Ms. Roe’s mailbox is bluish-green – our winters chipped away color – baring spots of metal.  It is rusted shut from violent gales, knifing sleet… and inactivity.  Yet every Saturday at dawn, the hearty spinster trudges down the hillside, casts down her eyes then awaits the courier in silence, just outside our matronly circle.    

In Sheridan County, the mailboxes are clumped together on warped 2” by 4”s – and the posts shift in the earth – the letter boxes lean like bowed branches.  Due to reckless snow-plows, some women paint their boxes splashy colors – our row consists of a grassy green one, pink, a shiny unpainted one, then turquoise (that’s Ms. Roe) and black (that’s me).

Self-sacrifice has dimmed our eyes, but there’s strength in having no voice.  The postman steps past her; Ms. Roe stands expressionless ‘til he drives away.  She curtsies slightly then forges up the ridge, empty-handed once again.  And the lines in our foreheads are rigid.  You see, the women of the borderland quietly dream their boxes will bring glad tidings or connection, if only by proxy, to the world beyond our margins.  So not even a frigid northerly can deter a frontier woman from her weekly trip to the mailbox, even if she knows it’s fruitless, there’s hope in the trek.  
 
That day, the bitter wind cut our faces.  We were stoic as the postal truck appeared; then the whirling bands of white closed in behind it.  Still, no Ms. Roe.  

No one dared watch as the postman tugged at the lid – the paint flakes sprinkled down, green and blue and blighted, so sharp atop the snow – and placed the letter inside.


No one dared turn when he closed it again – like a floorboard it groaned.    


She used a single shot Winchester.  Black powder and blood and patchwork quilts.
And no one dared cry. 


The wide-eyed matron ambled over to the blue-green box and wrenched it open, glanced back for our blessing – we cast down our eyes.  She huffed then tore at the sullied envelope.  We held our breath, with sweet expectation but feigned disapproval.  It says, Leave the light on, she jerked the paper front to back, “That’s it?” she cawed.  We turned our backs, she crinkled the paper and threw it at our feet.  “You wanted me to,” she snorted.  

The chickadees gargled loud amidst the lull. 

“How could we have known,” someone whispered.


Our winter-leaden row looks tiny from my window.  I think I’ll wrap myself in my sea-colored shawl and curse serendipity then quickly turn to other things.  


by Chad Broughman
 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bogey Woman

It had been an hour. Sixty, swollen, aching minutes flashing expectantly on the shitty radio alarm clock. She hated waking up, the whole routine. Glaring at the fluttering, flirty lashes of the LED.

She lit the spliff, licked her finger, picked her nose. Flicked the page of her book. She tried to melt away, soak into the paper leaves.

For two days now, her fingers had been digging, diving, into her nostrils. It was this new stuff. So cheap! But two days later (not including last night, when she had needed 3 lines to get the Christmas tree done), she still felt worms feeding from her brain. They begged to be teased out.

He kept telling her to stop. After the first nosebleed, she’d asked him to interrupt her excavations. Now, he spoke: ‘Stop that.’ She examined the tree, dry and spindly. Though it had been his big idea, his interest ended at the hunter-gatherer stage of dragging it down the high street.

He had missed the whole thing, probably admiring his awful hair - was it Beethoven or Mozart? Last week, she had frogmarched him to the barber hoping to tame 12 months of unkempt, uncared-for jewfro and nip 12 weeks of unemployment in the bud. He had nobly sacrificed ½ an inch.

He always chose the driest flavours; it was like he was overwhelmed by the taste of life itself. Green tea, Margherita pizza, raw nuts. This disappointing desire for the mundane was not apparent in the bedroom. It was as if he poured all his fantasies, his creative juices, into her. But outside, with his clothes on... His last meal would be a chip butty, own-brand lemonade, a handful of Haribo for dessert. Then drugs, sextoys. How many nights had he beckoned her, with those gleaming saucer-like eyes, the manic sweaty sheen, breathing stickily into her ear, ‘Are you ready for bed, Girl?’

He would boast of her blackness, aiming for cool points. He beamed when naive youths praised his clown-club trainers. Always two sizes too big, they left him with the gait of a baby dinosaur, a lumbering fossil with a walking impediment. They matched the terribly cut jeans that he refused to relinquish. With their numerous, redundant pockets, he could have been mistaken for a Chinese boy-band member down on his luck.

When she failed to follow orders, he heehawed her name, a warning expelled like a nasal foghorn. Smoking in bed, keeping the reading light on, chatting on the phone to her friends too loudly, too happily. Her response was always the same. If she ignored him, maybe he would go away. Recently, she had recognised that tone, far out, on the Mediterranean coast, as his mother chided his toddling sister. Another time, another place, another victim. But the sound chilled her tanning shoulders. (Yeah, Prick, black people do tan.)

Rebelliously, she attempted to ease out a stubborn, slippery, possibly non-existent bogey. Self-conscious, she checked to see if he was watching. He snored on, a cherubic samurai. She poured herself another glass, lit a cigarette. In bed.


By R.H. Daniel

Monday, January 20, 2014

Iridescent


she danced
 like she was settling

fingerprint frost emblazoned on her skin
 above everyone else
 skirt blooming; dying
arms outstretched--

shivers up her spine:

 her only fear was flying.


 i knew a wintergirl once.

 from up out of the snow-flakes
 falling on her appleglass eyes,

 and with thoughts like mountains
 words made of icicles
 the delicate orange blossom painting her lips,

 she rose
moonlight monument
 to soar on the stars.

by Sarah Goehring

Friday, January 17, 2014

Chameleon




Jem always tried to blend in with his surroundings. Like a chameleon he was, turning green against the leaves of the forest, burning brown in the hot winds of the desert.

Life was a moveable feast. Jem drifted seasonally from job to job, digging in, holding fast, until it was time to move on. It was best if he didn´t stay anywhere for very long. It was best if he didn´t talk that much, if he hid himself in the wallpaper of other people´s lives.

Over ten years of wandering, Jem drifted from coast to coast, up into the high mountains and down again, but he never went to sea. He had no desire to turn blue against the waves and sky.

He moved across the wetlands, turning pale yellow against the rushes. Red-winged blackbirds nested on his arms. Soft cattails brushed his bristly cheeks. He dreamed of resting in the swamps until it was all over. He could just decay, his colourless body softly dissolving in the brackish water.

But the signal came, as he always knew it would. He must move on - along the estuary, to the blue-grey sea. He must find the watery city and the salt-encrusted pub where they hired sailors.

He stood in the jostling queue for most of Tuesday, turning grey against the desperation of those who stood with him. Late that afternoon, he found himself on a merchant ship bound for the Azores.

In the dark, below the decks, Jem blended in, a black chameleon, invisible against the timbers. His black hands turned grey in the morning light as he grasped the ropes, climbed up the rigging. In the noon sun his body re-shaped - first rigidly itself, then blurry blue against the sea, and back again.


The captain was a drinking man and none could thwart him. They sailed right past the Azores, heading straight to Africa. Jem's body shifted in the Atlantic winds. The captain´s demons made him howl.  

The other sailors were not chameleons. They saw no reason to follow drunken orders. The first mate punched the captain, struggled to control the ship.

But the captain had set a steady course that night - straight for the rocks and the shallow water. Men jumped and tried to swim, but mainly drowned, in that black night, so close to shore, so far from a safe harbour.

Jem was caught below decks when they ran aground. His body understood his sentence was nearly served.

As the jolting of the ship tore lanterns from the walls, the ship caught fire, flaming like a torch as it crashed onto the shore.

Jem turned bright red. He became the fire. He glowed crimson, then gold, then icy blue and exploded into a thousand fragments. He soared through smoke, through clearer air, through starry night.

His grey ashes drifted slowly down onto the blue-green waves. His molecules tore apart, scattering his cells, setting his essence free at last across the shores of Africa.



by Frances Hay

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Hatter Shakes





Before the onset of addled speech
when stitch becomes swatch becomes
swish becomes swash becomes schwa,
the fabric needs to be dipped and dyed,
measured and cut, patterned and sewn.

But it’s all wrong, needs to be done
twice again. Shaky hands, poor sight
make for mis-measurement, mis-hue.
The felt has never been sick, yet it’s still
cured with mercury in rooms with no vents.

In the late stages,
the hats make themselves.
Dance under needles. Zip through machines.
Twinkle. Entwine. Glow velvet neon.
Crush with feathers.  Drink the mercury
gallon by gallon, let the hatter
sleep in his maddened bed.



by Christina M. Rau

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Snow

Something dropped onto my nose. I tried to look at it but it made my eyes go funny. Another one. I looked up and could see millions and billions of bits of white falling down on to all the people in the street.

‘Mummy!’ I laughed and stopped, pulling on her hand in mine, ‘Look Mummy!’

‘It’s snow, Charlie, it’s snowing. We’ll have to hurry to the bus stop now or we’ll get wet.’

‘Wet?’ It didn’t look wet to me.

‘Of course, you haven’t seen snow before. Goodness Charlie, your first snow! When we get home we can have some fun in it, sledging and snowmen, but we need to get to the bus stop.’
She pulled me along but I wanted to stop and look at it. Everyone was moving faster and we were pushed along the pavement. No one else wanted to look at the snow but everyone looked cold. It fell and fell and fell, jiggling about before it landed. The floor was turning messy and puddly. I tried to stand in them but Mummy kept pulling me along. The hedge beside us was turning white like I had spilt my sherbet on it. The cars in the road were going slowly and had their wipers on but the snow was holding on to the windows and making them look bumpy. I held out my hand and tried to catch some. It felt fluffy and soft and tickly, like stroking next door’s cat but then it was gone and my hand was wet. I tried again and held my hand close to my face. It didn’t smell of anything but it looked sort of spiky, not soft at all. Staring quickly I could see points and spikes like a star but then it was gone. We found the bus stop and stood in line.

‘Mummy, it goes.'

‘It what?’ She asked, reading the timetable.

‘When I hold it, it goes.’ I showed her my empty hand.

‘Of course it does, it melts. Like ice cream. There’ll be one in five minutes.’


Ice cream? I looked up again and opened my mouth. It felt cold on my lips and tongue. I stuck my tongue out to taste more but it went so quick. I looked up again and tried to fill my mouth with the snow, bobbing around trying to catch as much as I could. It didn’t taste like ice cream. It tasted a little bit like water and felt like feathers. I stopped eating it and looked around. There was so much white now, everything had some snow on it and it was quieter. It felt like I was under my duvet, like my ears were covered and I couldn’t hear very well. I stood closer to Mummy and waited for the bus.  

Diane Scott