(After Li-Young Lee’s “A Story”)
I ask my father
to tell me the story of how
he left home to work on his first motion picture, The Wild Racers.
The film wrapped. His visa expired, but he remained
by faking a British accent and taking a job under the table
as a hotel bellhop in Chelsea. This was the 60s. He was 26.
He had to return home eventually. Each time he tells it
the hues of the details change, like the color of his uniform, or the way
he pronounces the vowels in that actress’s name, but never
the end: “I was the poorest and happiest I’ve ever been.”
I ask him to tell me again and again, to return to this man I wished
I could have met, to give him back to himself. Everything
else has already been given. He reaches
for my hand and I help him
get up from his chair.
Sarah Haufrect earned her MFA from OTIS College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and her B.A. in English from UC Berkeley. Her poems have appeared in the Berkeley Poetry Review, Medusa’s Laugh, and PEN Oakland OutLoud among others.
We Live in Photographs as Ghosts
We live in photographs as ghosts: elongated shadows on the periphery of sunset panoramas, anonymous, disproportionate shades distended against backdrops of vacant space: extrusions, negations, two-dimensional impoverishments of form, allegories without a cave; memories to fade as soon as the sun sinks below the horizon and the world turns blue and gray—like a bruise, diffused, atomized, and rendered atmospheric—the sky awash in the colors of inflicted pain. Night will pass, and bruises fade, but memories—those phantoms haunting our peripheries—are far harder to escape
J. Lucas Hughes lives with his wife and two children on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he works in natural resource conservation. He is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and visual artist with a degree in philosophy. He is grateful for every person who takes the time to read his work.
I am my own tapeworm,
stuck inside myself.
Every turn is a cramp
in confines of intestine hell.
In the hall, I hung
a purchased painting
I picked out just to please,
but now it reminds me
of the wet worm
I asked to leave.
I am my own tapeworm;
give me something to eat.
Hand myself a menu
to let me choose for me.
Susan Amberson is a white twenty-something barista in upstate New York with a useless degree and really great friends. She has been a writer since she could hold a pencil and a weirdo for her entire life.
Picked up used towels,
Underwear off the floor.
Heaved and panted.
Dragon in my life.
So I shall arise
To my mother’s house.
Unrepenting of my sins
Of commission and omission.
Ermelinda Makkimane is from Goa and loves thinking poetry. Sometimes she writes down those words. On rare occasions, she pens a story. She currently works from her village in Divar, Goa.
chinese new year was january 25th
across the street
the scarlet of
a new year
it seems to be
a fuzzy rat
to the street corner
Kris Van der Bijl is an English Honours student at Rhodes University who enjoys reading stories that take him on a trip and untangle the world through language. Kris’s hope is to write stories that excite people.
Neighbors have been whining
of late about the trains
blowing their whistles as they pass
through town. To their ears
it’s a nuisance, but to mine
it’s a comfort, the same as it’s been
in all the other train towns
I’ve lived in down the years,
where the deep exhalations
of locomotives suggest the spent sighs
of fellow travelers, lamps trained
on the dim landscape ahead
as they push on toward home.
Michael Hill‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic, Concho River Review, Tilde, Third Wednesday, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Opossum, Soundings East and other fine publications. He grew up in Western Wisconsin and currently makes his home in Northern Colorado.
Isobel wakes up earlier than usual today. Still, under the blanket, she watches the sun stain the sky a deep purple from the glass slats on the roof. She could trace the faint horn of the local baker, the Poder, come to the neighborhood with his fresh morning batch. As the honking grows louder, she puts aside the Dohar, slips on her furry slippers, to open the door. “Poiwallah!” she calls out, “five, please.”
Isobel holds the warm pieces of bread close to her chest as she shuts the door behind her. Sunlight tides into the house, with little particles of dust waltzing in the air like butterflies, as they prance from one dream to another. She saunters into the kitchen and puts the bread on the dining table. One by one, in the basket. She pats them lovingly, what a lovely breakfast they will make. She picks up the pan from the floor, the aluminum pot, the wooden coaster, the ceramic vase, now in pieces. She moves towards the window, takes a dustpan and sweeps off the shards of glass from the floor. One of the tiny pieces nicks her thumb. She winces.
The pot is placed on the stove, and Isobel grates fresh ginger into the steaming water. Sugar is added, then tea leaves and a generous dollop of milk. The sweet smell of tea wafts through the house, like a carton of mangoes in the storeroom, an open jackfruit, like coagulation.
She goes to the bedroom to get her glasses. Russel is still asleep, his quivering eyelids hinting at exploits in another realm. In his sleep, he looks like a brown bear. His heavy breathing making his brown bear chest move up and down. An errant hair from his eyebrow curling over his eyelid. A gentle storm. A raging sea. Isobel goes out to the balcony and then to the garden with her cup of tea.
She loves her mornings at home: haunting the hallways, peeking out of the balcony, cooking up concoctions, tending to the blooms in the garden, growing herbs. The garden is her oasis. She has spent her time tending to the sapling, fertilizing the soil, watering the bulbs. She has made friends with the bees and the ants and the vines. They speak to her, you know. And she listens.
The village yawns out of its slumber. Doctor Menzies sits in his car, a rose on his shirt pocket pinned by his wife. D’Cunha leaves for the fish market on his bicycle, a flat beige cap crowning him today. He waves across the street, always the friendly one. Matilda passes by without noticing Isobel. She must have heard the din from last night. Mrs Menzies nods at her from the other side of the wall with an indigo smile.
The day trundles on, graced by the milkman, the newspaperman, the fisherwoman. The trees stretch their arms in the summer breeze, and the sunlight settles on its boughs. Slowly, the shadows get dwarfed. “It’s time for you to go home now,” they whisper.
Russel is now standing at the door of the bedroom. “Good morning, darling,” he mumbles. There he is. The apple of her eye. Her handsome brown bear, with his chest and long limbs. There is no trace of last night on his face. No regret, no apologies. “Should I make you some tea, darling?” Isobel asks as she moves towards the kitchen counter. He nods. Some fresh tea for her husband. After all he works so hard. He provides for all this. He knows right from wrong. He knows everything that there is to know. She looks down at her arm, where she is wearing the bruises like an armband. An armband in protest. She touches her left cheek, still sore from last night’s admonishment.
She puts some water to boil, adds the crushed berries from the glass jar in the cupboard, just like they told her. Grated ginger, jaggery, tea leaves and milk swirl together in a boiling pot. The concoction becomes thick as a shroud. She knows exactly what will happen next: Dilated pupils, hallucinations, and eventual paralysis of involuntary organs. Bit by bit, he will lose his grip on himself. Even for a big brown bear like Russel, 12 berries should do the trick. With a hint of a smile, she takes out the porcelain cup and saucer from the cupboard. Tiny purple flowers encircle the rim. Only the best, for her darling.
Sudeepta Sanyal is a writer based out of Goa and Mumbai, India, where she lives with her pet Shih Tzu. She is a 2019 alumni of Dum Pukht Writer’s workshop in Pondicherry.