Diffusion / NBA Finals, 2016

A poem by James Croal Jackson


Pacing around the bar crowd, watching
the Cavaliers transfer heat to one another through
bullet passes around invisible perimeters, Kurt

and I keep drinking the strangers toward us.
“Gaseous diffusion,” he offers. “Alcohol
is only molecules bumping into each other.”

Our bodies generate more heat with every swig,
the atmosphere tense but warm through
our gullets. We chug chaos in the blur,

invite a thousand basketballs to bounce up
and down halfcourt. The players don’t notice
our dribbled words in soundwaves processed

a million different ways in the space between
earlobe and brain. Endlessly the spectators
chant go to sleep because no one we want

to talk to wants to talk to us, our zigzagged steps
combining with the sound of a team on the verge
of climbing a challenging mountain though

the peak is steep so we try nothing more
but the drinks that keep us moving. To stop
would be to hear the room’s haunting cheer.


James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory. (Writing Knights Press, 2017.) His poetry has appeared in Hobart, FLAPPERHOUSE, Yes Poetry, and elsewhere. He edits The Mantle, a poetry journal. Find him in Columbus, Ohio, or contact him via his website.

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Baltimore City, 2016

A poem by William C. Blome


Sparrows pompous, pompous, on a granite ledge
and green willows clutching silver trunks—
hugging the shit out of the mothers—
as circus elephants’ll surely panic methodically
if you keep stuffing your tits in my nostrils again
and again. Yet a truly much-feared rainstorm
simply doesn’t get here close to lunchtime,
and I’m pressured big-time by your girl friend
to quit pulling on my own sugary peter,
as some tomato growers from the Eastern Shore
take turns pissing in the privacy of their truck.


William C. Blome writes poetry and short fiction. He lives wedged between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and he is a master’s degree graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has previously seen the light of day in such fine little mags as Poetry London, PRISM International, Fiction Southeast, Roanoke Review, Salted Feathers, and The California Quarterly.

Cicadas

A creative essay by Lara Lillibridge


I had not seen my father in several years, and I had no aching desire to change that. When I thought about my father, I felt nothing. He wanted to visit this past summer, and I didn’t know how to say no, for my children’s sake, if nothing else. Dementia was overtaking him, and the minute-hand of the clock was stealing the person I used to know—every day he was a little less the man I remembered. But I still did not want him to come. Whatever he had or had not been to me, it no longer mattered—I was a parent now, no longer in need of parenting.

~

When I was a child in my mother’s house, my brother and I spent our summers in the backyard. The grass was thick and dense beneath my bare feet, and the dark brown dirt always stained the pads of my toes. We carved fingernail x’s into our mosquito bites, in an effort to remove the itch. The cicada buzz reverberated in my ears, the tinny radio-static soundtrack of summer. I found their discarded robot/alien shells as clinging detritus on the tire-tread bark of the maple tree. The exoskeletons were the color of toast, slightly translucent. It took me a long time to realize the shells were empty and could not bite, and when I mustered the courage to touch them, they crackled into broken shards beneath my fingers.

~

I had spent a year plotting my father’s death when I was fourteen—I was going to push him down the brown carpeted stairs of his condo, and then inject alcohol into his veins and make it look like an accident. He was a doctor—syringes weren’t hard to come by, and I was overly confident in my ability to push a needle through someone else’s skin. In the end, I didn’t have hands that would push my father down the stairs, no matter how much my rage instructed them to. My hands were useless wounded birds controlled by my heart, which still yearned for a Daddy who loved me.

~

The years of unrequited love drained me of all emotion towards my father. I haven’t even been able to muster up anger in longer than I can remember. I have been full-grown for quite some time now. It is too late for him to requite my golden-retriever- like love, to fulfill all those hastily-made promises, or take me to the father/daughter dinner dance. Whatever I hadn’t gotten from him I no longer wanted. But his impending visit made me think I should try one more time, at least to appease everyone else. The night before he came into town, I thought about his attachment disorder diagnosis. Was it fair to shut him off if he was inherently incapable of feeling emotion? Hadn’t he tried the best he was able, small though that had been? He sent me stuffed animals each Christmas, weird ones, granted, like a three-foot- long snake made out of neckties or a weasel instead of the husky I had asked for, but he made time to go to a toy store and bought me something each year. He wrapped them up and wrote out a name tag with his favorite black pen. His handwriting was more familiar than his face. My father was always excited to see me, scooping me up in a tight bear hug and crushing my child-soft cheek against his black-and- red plaid Woolrich jacket.

~

He didn’t think it mattered that I only saw him twice a year as a child, and I have learned how quickly time passes when you are an adult compared to the never-ending feel of a child’s summer and the eternity of fifteen minutes when I rubbed the toes of my shoes in the brown-gray dirt and tried to guess how much time had passed. I decided to attempt to loosen my shell. Perhaps I could learn to see him through adult eyes. Maybe his attachment disorder really did explain all of his past failings, if only I would stop judging him so harshly. I knew we could not make up for the lost years, but perhaps it was not too late to develop some affection for the person he had become. Maybe a relationship could be had on new terms.

~

My father and I sat across the table from each other from each other and said nothing, like strangers at a train station. I looked at his eighty-year old hands, ropy with thick blue veins and corroded with deep lines. His fingernails were thick and clean and longer than mine. I felt nothing—not sympathy for an old, tired man, not remorse for all he had never been. I was no longer a daughter-abyss needing to be filled. We sat in silence and he looked into the distance blankly. I knew I was supposed to say something, but I had nothing left to say. My father just stared out towards my garden with unfocused eyes. When I tried to make small talk, he responded with words like, “oh,” words like air, words like emptiness. The cicada had flown, and the empty hard shell I had tried so hard to penetrate as a child was all that remained of my father.

~

My father peed on the toilet seat and I sat in it. My children asked why Grandpa got mashed potatoes all over the table when he ate. He tried to assemble a simple wooden toy with my seven-year- old and glued everything together backwards. My father, formerly an airplane pilot, boat captain and pediatrician, could no longer distinguish between his left and right hands, could not translate a map, could not follow a conversation to completion.

~

He asked to have a “heart-to- heart” with me before he left. I tried my best to avoid it. There was nothing he could say that would mean anything to me, and I hoped he didn’t expect reassurance of his parenting or proclamations of my love and appreciation. I just didn’t have it in me to pretend any longer. He stood up from the table where we were all sitting and asked to speak with me, and I could not come up with any more reasons not to. My father and I sat upstairs on my balcony, away from his wife and my family.

I could still see a tinge of brown in my father’s gray hair. His face was foreign to me. He had shaved off his beard when I was twenty, and had looked like a stranger ever since. Even though I had known him clean-shaven for more years than bearded. I always saw him through the eyes of a child, and his face was no longer the face of my childhood. I wondered if his front tooth had always been longer that it’s mate. I noticed how the extra weight he put on over the years filled in his wrinkles. He stared directly into my face, as he always had. I did not see him blink once. I could not sustain that level of eye contact, and looked at his hands instead.

~

My father told me about his dementia, his Parkinson’s Disease, and his relationship with his wife. He was sorry he was moving closer to her children than to me or my brother. He was afraid I felt spurned. He told me that he knew he couldn’t function like he used to, couldn’t carry on conversations or walk with his old, easy gait. His cicada words bounced off my daughter shell. I just wanted him to go home. I stared at his folded hands and made reassuring, meaningless noises, as was expected of a good daughter. But I was no longer a good daughter.

My father’s hands curled loosely on his lap, so I could not see his talon-like nails. The metacarpals rose in sharp ridges above the wrinkled red skin, his veins were bluer than his eyes. The skin on the backs of his hands was made of some material different from mine, something thinner and less opaque, like the skin of lips, that would chap and tear easily. The eighty years of his life didn’t show in his face, but were betrayed by those red, fragile hands. My body remembered his hands teaching me to tie off the boat at the dock, sew a patch on my jacket. My hands balled up so I would not reach out to stroke his fragile skin. I made an excuse to check on the children, and he followed me mutely down the stairs.


Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In March of 2016 she was a top 5 finalist for DisQuiet’s literary prize in Creative Nonfiction, judged by Phillip Graham. She has had essays published in Pure Slush (Vol. 11), Vandalia, and Polychrome Ink; on the web at Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, Airplane Reading, Thirteen Ways to Tell a Story, Weirderary, and Brain, Child Magazine‘s Brain, Mother blog. Some of her recent essays have been published in Hippocampus and Luna Luna. You can view some of her work at her website, www.LaraLillibridge.com, catch up with her blog at the Huffington Post, and follow her on Twitter @only_mama.

The Thesaurus Might Make Me Someone to Yearn For

A poem by Lara Lillibridge


Words on pages are cleaner than in my mouth.
I can’t enunciate,
my tongue is remembering
the taste of your regret.

My mouth cannot speak until the self-condemnation is silent.
Silence only comes when I am sleeping,
then I am unable to scream
and I wake up hissing.
I must find a more precise word for voiceless howling.
Words form in my chest that do not fit the shape of letters.

My brain-speak is littered with non-words:
irresurrectable, asituated, and other close-sounding words
that aren’t quite right.
I meant to be better educated.
A thesaurus might make me someone to yearn for.

My thesaurus suggests nag for torment and that’s not right.
The entry should read love.
The entry should read you.
The problem with finding your missing piece is that you are still fractional.
Claiming you was a plea for completion.

The right words might improve us.
Debauchery has a lilt at the edge of it.
Ignominy sounds fancier than shame, but already I misspeak it.
My tongue reshapes the word until it fits my mouth.
But Ignominy is hard to live under, even if you pronounce it correctly.

Obscurity is where we have always resided.
It would be easier to move away and start with a fresh lie.
But the remnants of our old lie are more honest.
Once we chose this life there were no un-slanted stories to tell.

I think you mean in one’s element when you say home with such yearning.
You sit next to me and still I long for you.
Tell me again what I can and cannot conjugate.
I’ll listen better this time.
What I mean to say is if I find the right words you will love me as much as____.

You have always loved an artist,
but I cannot paint bats or helicopters or other flying things.
I must write the words to ground us.
Show you the flowers I cannot draw.
Here is my stamen, here is my stigma.
Let the words be enough.


Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In March of 2016 she was a top 5 finalist for DisQuiet’s literary prize in Creative Nonfiction, judged by Phillip Graham. She has had essays published in Pure Slush (Vol. 11), Vandalia, and Polychrome Ink; on the web at Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, Airplane Reading, Thirteen Ways to Tell a Story, Weirderary, and Brain, Child Magazine‘s Brain, Mother blog. Some of her recent essays have been published in Hippocampus and Luna Luna. You can view some of her work at her website, www.LaraLillibridge.com, catch up with her blog at the Huffington Post, and follow her on Twitter @only_mama.

130 MPH

A flash piece by Mitchell Grabois


1.

Mr. Schenectady and his God were sitting in the ruined schoolhouse, the one Mr. S. lives in, the one with the roof falling in, next to the barn with the roof entirely gone, next to the overgrown grave of the farmer who plowed with horses until he was well into his eighties, next to a proud, 500-foot-tall American turbine, its blades spinning slowly.

2.

Historically, God had compassion for whores and lepers (reasoned Reverend Anne, a 60-year-old minister who’d retired from her first career as an English teacher) so He would also have compassion for the much maligned Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, even though Christie was a blowhard, a braggart and a bully, mired in political scandal, some involving political revenge. They know about revenge in New Jersey. It was where Tony Soprano, the Mafia boss, lived. Soprano and Christie were both big fat men who demanded respect and sneered a lot. They would have enjoyed a cigar together and a single malt whiskey neat. Reverend Anne thought Christie deserved some compassion to temper the contempt that the general public felt for him. She began to study him, looking in the nooks and crannies of his life, looking in the many folds of his skin, for praiseworthy qualities, but then she realized the obvious: that God’s love was unconditional, and she stopped looking.

3.

The turbine contemplates violence (because that’s what Americans do), angelic violence, in which wings beat like a goose wings beating a child near to death, traumatizing him for life, making him unable to even see a bird without nearly shitting his pants well into adulthood. An American Child who hadn’t even been to war yet. But wars were being prepared for him, to complete the damage begun in his childhood.

4.

I think I need some of Anne’s unconditional acceptance. I think my dentist does too. I told her (my dentist) that if she didn’t stop stalking me, I’d call the cops and have her arrested.

She looked hurt. We live together, she said. How can I be stalking you?

5.

The American Child’s first ex-wife filled his house with parakeets before she left him, her final Fuck You.

6.

Despite the apparent rationality of her question, I had her by the short hairs. Since she raped me, when I was in her dental chair, my first appointment, flying on nitrous oxide, she gets edgy if I mention cops, even if it’s something as innocent as telling her about the sinister black police cars new to our city’s department. They look like Batmobiles, the officers avengers of the night behind smoked glass.

7.

Mr. Schenectady wears a red flannel shirt. His God wears plaid pajamas, the same pajamas he wears day and night. He’s Mr. Schenectady’s God, so he can do whatever he wants. Mr. Schenectady brings him glasses of Welch’s Grape Juice without ice. When he wants more, God snaps his fingers.

8.

We get up to 130 mph. We terrify ourselves. Then we stop at the junkyard to study cars, like philosophers studying Life, with serious expressions, waiting for mysteries to be unveiled. We see ourselves in the junkers. Bobby always sees himself as a Studebaker. He has no imagination. He once lived next to a farmer who bought a new Studebaker every year and put last year’s model into his giant, unused barn until finally there were at least fifty Studebakers. The farmer’s long-estranged son, when he finally showed up, hardly remembering the place, opened the creaky barn doors and found the four bearded Studebaker brothers, looking a lot like the mentholated-cough-drop Smith Brothers, singing celestial hymns, until they realized that they were being observed for the first time in fifty years, and the oldest was so amazed, he involuntarily farted.

9.

My dentist, my girlfriend, came home and threw off her clothes, put on a Japanese kimono that emphasized her thinness. She had the most delicate wrists I’d ever seen on a dentist, on any woman. I could snap them like toothpicks if I wanted, but why would I? Every night she filled me with nitrous until I floated on a blue cloud, into her bed, into her body.

Don’t be cruel, honey, she begged me in the Southern accent she’d almost lost. Don’t talk about calling the police on me. I love you so much, despite your bad enamel and your periodontal disease, your fear of dentists and your phobia about dental treatment, and your resentment of me.

10.

Mr. Schenectady hates drinking anything without ice. He once washed up in St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, after a significant hurricane, and there was no ice for over four months. Mr. Schenectady suffered greatly, especially as he had shacked up with a hot Caribe momma who boiled his blood twice daily, so he really needed the ice. He was not an air-cooled kind of guy. So there they were, Mr. S and his God, God drinking grape juice sans ice and Mr. S. drinking water from a WWII canteen. Time passed, and they were comfortable sitting together, not even talking.

11.

How long did it take you to get through dental school, I asked her, handing her another glass of vodka with very little tonic in it. 

I don’t know, she said. I don’t remember, but it was a long road filled with pain. The pain wasn’t mine, but that didn’t make it any easier.


Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over a thousand of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes.  His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, and in print. To see more of his work, google “Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois”. He lives in Denver.

Jellywash

A flash piece by Mitchell Grabois


1.

Javier Bardem, who starred as evil incarnate in No Country for Old Men, doesn’t believe in God. 

I believe in Al Pacino, he says, to start our interview. We act to taste life twice. He pauses. received a letter yesterday from Dr. Sara, regretting the position we find ourselves in.

Who’s Dr. Sara, I ask.

2.

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote Nausea after watching the Oscars. Celine wrote A Long Day’s Journey Into Night after watching the Oscars. Kurt Cobane blew his brains out.

George W. Bush invaded Iraq three days before the Oscars in 2003, his eyes set on being a Big Star, standing on the deck of a battleship, hoisted into the air by thousands of hands, whole divisions of men and women. Mission Accomplished! He saw it all unfold.

3. Dr. Sara says that being mortal is a pre-existing condition, Javier says.

4.

Maybe he could wrap it up in three days, Bush thought, before the first star hit the Red Carpet.

5.

Meanwhile, climate change keeps getting uglier. Celebrity murderers hide in storm cellars as tornadoes destroy entire states. Nebraska is gone. Oklahoma. Where there was Midwestern goodness, there is only debris. Cyclones are airborne landfills.

6.

Other minds besides Bush’s also failed to apprehend the consequences of their actions, until later. The twenty-six- year-old third mate was driving the ship. It was his first time in this treacherous channel and the captain had gone to his cabin.

The second mate suggested that the captain was an intravenous drug user, but the first mate told him to shut up, he didn’t know what he was talking about and shouldn’t feel free to malign the captain, his superior. The second mate was suspicious of the word “superior.”

7.

I wanted to be married in Vegas, in the Chapel of the Eternal Elvis, but my fiancée bullied me into the Episcopal Church, where it was damp and cool, a climate for mushrooms and imprisonment.

8.

It was then that the boat began to list. It didn’t take long. It rolled over like the third mate’s headstrong girlfriend turning over in bed. She was a white woman, nothing like the spare Koreans he had gotten used to fucking. She had round, white buttocks. In fact, he was thinking about her at the moment the ferry began to roll, how she rolled over in bed and turned on the lamp. She was reading a novel with the name of a Beatle’s song written by a famous Japanese writer whose name he could never remember. Every time he tried to think of the man’s name, all he could come up with was Hari Kari, and he knew that wasn’t it.

9.

Whales have stopped beaching themselves, no one knows why. Dolphins have stopped acting Uncle Tom. They wear snarls and hatch plans.

10.

She was reading the book in Japanese. He himself never read fiction and did not know Japanese. The students in their cabins texted their parents goodbye, apologized for all the misdeeds they had done, or not done, as children. George Bush, on his victory battleship, and later, never apologized for his many crimes versus humanity. Only the innocent apologize.

11.

The priest couldn’t decide if he wanted us to end the ceremony by kissing passionately or chastely. We practiced doing it several different ways and he critiqued us, then joined us for rehearsal dinner at a Thai restaurant. The priest ordered a cheeseburger, drank several mixed drinks, then delivered a diatribe against “Asiatics.” They’re taking over the world, he said.

12.

The bodies of the students whimpered like the wings of trapped manta rays. There was a jellywash of entombed bodies in the muddy tide, the water dark and secretive, septic even. There was a moment when nearly three hundred students’ lives blinked out, like the lights in a barracks or dormitory.


Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over a thousand of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes.  His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, and in print. To see more of his work, google “Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois”. He lives in Denver.

Oh, Nereus

A short story by Steve Carr


The sea is my world, and it stretches on forever, on and on in the days since the sinking of my yacht, The Mercy. This world has no foothold, only islands and coasts seen on the horizon, never reached, reefs and volcanoes sprouting up like exotic flowers and simmering cauldrons in the middle of the jade-green and turquoise waters. The sea provides a mattress, a deathbed of rocking waves that lull me into sleep on this raft where I spend my days and nights; all the hours melding into years. All the years lost.

How many years since the day The Mercy went down in this watery graveyard, this salty, liquid earth? It’s like counting the pinpoints of light in the Milky Way. The days pass like that, twinklings in a distance, miscounted. I can lie on the boards and with the rising sun and its setting, watching the morning and evening skies shift, creating patterns like rotating colored glass in a kaleidoscope. I can watch the moon appear and disappear like a whale’s eye in the ocean of space.

At the bottom of the sea, The Mercy may rest in some crevice, some fissure where striped fish, gray eels and the ink-spitting octopus swim in the darkness. Maybe The Mercy is broken in half, like the Titanic, bow and stern separated, its contents – luggage, furniture, skeletons – scattered and decomposing in the depths or preserved in the coldness. Maybe the First Mate, Pete, stares out at the sharks and barracuda, watching from inside The Mercy. He’s trapped forever in the cabin as he peers with lifeless eyes through the porthole, the porthole where I last saw his has handsome face, his blue eyes full of sorrow. I fell past him, past that porthole, into the sea, tossed from the sinking yacht into the storm-driven waves.

~

The squall came upon us so quickly, so unexpectedly, that before The Mercy went down, Andrea didn’t have time to tie her daughter’s shows, Maximilian and Jan couldn’t tally their gin rummy score, Lucy was unable to fasten the top hook of her Christian Dior gown. Pete couldn’t get the door to his cabin open. I banged on his door. I rammed it with my shoulder.

“Pete, I need you,” I called in to him, then ran up to the deck, to the starboard side to get an ax. I wondered as I fell past his porthole if he thought I’d jumped – that I had abandoned him and the others. He must have known that The Mercy would be swallowed into the sea.

Of the others, including the effeminate Ray and his macho partner Mack, their room full of leather and feathers, of Suzanne who drank too much and looked older than her twenty years, of Sam the cook and the other servants; I don’t know they spent their final moments.

On the way to get the ax to rescue Pete, who could rescue all of us, who knew the yacht better than me, I saw Andrea as I passed her cabin. She was kneeling before her daughter, Tracy, and trying to tie Tracy’s running shoes while Tracy wailed against the horrors of the creaking ship, the pounding of the waves against every outside surface.

“It’ll be alright,” I yelled to Andrea, my shout barely heard above the stormy din.

I climbed the stairs and past the dining room and saw Jan, laughing, his Swedish voice booming “you didn’t win. I won.” Maximilian, much older than his young blond lover, was holding up the pad with the score and laughing also. They didn’t see me as I passed.

Neither did my teenage daughter, Lucy, who stood in front of the wall mirror in the living room, her feet squarely planted on the carpeted floor as the yacht tossed about, her hands behind her neck trying to fasten the top of her gown, a birthday present from me. She looked so much like her mother, the only woman I had ever slept with, when I was twenty, and before I knew what my true sexual tastes were.

The wave that washed across the yacht, that shattered port side windows and portholes, that swept me over the starboard side, seemed like a hand that held me in chilling fingers and emptied me from its palm into the sea. In that moment, beneath the water, I saw a school of fish blithely swimming on like a choreographed marching unit, and it seemed as if there were no storm at all. When I surfaced, I turned every direction, my eyes slapped with the stinging salt of the ocean as I searched for The Mercy. I was submerged again by the crush of the hand that had guided my watery fate, and beneath the water I saw the sinking yacht, The Mercy, stern-first going down into the darkness, bubbles rising from it like giant jellyfish racing to the surface.

I didn’t think at that moment about how such things happen, or why. I didn’t ponder the question of ballast or buoyancy, of the incredible sinking speed, the failure of the yacht to withstand the squall. I thought of Pete, waiting nude in his cabin for me before the squall hit, his door jammed as the boat was suddenly smacked with a monstrous wave, his voice sounding calm, yet strained, as he beat against the door before I ran to get the ax, before I was plummeted into the drifting eternity.

~

And now I try to count the days, the months, the years, and all are lost to me. Just as the memories fade and become distorted, so had time. The hypnotic sparkle of sunlight on sea, the mesmerizing quality of a shark’s fin slicing the water’s surface, the timelessness of playful dolphins; there things alter my perceptions and minutes become hours that become a day. I was thirty-seven when The Mercy sank, and was fit and handsome then, free of the stress of a less-wealthier life. I know by the wrinkles in my face, the whiteness in my hair, the aching in my muscles, that I have entered old age like a man who awakes from a coma and finds his past can never be regained once lost.

Even Nereus can’t stall the ravages of time that will someday be my salvation, my death. In his questioning eyes I see him pondering the growing slowness of my movements, of my weakening limbs as I swim with him beneath shooting stars.

“I’m getting old,” I say to him. “It happens to men, all men.”

He replies in a sing-song vocalization, like a quartet singing in a foreign language, tenor and soprano all at once, and though I have taught him some of my language, I can’t understand his. He reaches out and touches my hair, holds the white strands between his strong, tanned fingers and looks at me with alarm and misunderstanding.

This raft I’m on, this twelve-by-twelve board topped with a canvas tent and a single mast with a single sail, has taken me, I think, around the world, past continents and island chains. I’ve floated and sailed out where the horizon is another man’s piece of poetry. From miles off I’ve seen beaches and cities, ships and harbors. I am trapped on this cell as Nereus’ man. He doesn’t understand the concept of captive, or prisoner, or even possession, as he pulls me with a rope attached to the raft – a rope he holds in his strong white teeth as he swims the seas.

At night he climbs aboard the raft and crawls into the tent and holds me in his wet muscles. He kisses with salty lips, and we make love as he sings, and his songs attract the whales who swim with us as night as I teach Nereus over and over the ways in which men make love.

Nereus knows these things: how to bring food, fish, kelp and canned goods from sunken ships and stolen from ship’s stores; to replace my tent and sail and bedding when they are ragged, by going into harbors and stealing such things from small boats; how to pull me to safety during storms. All other things I must re-teach him every day, every night. He knows that I am changing, growing older, but I don’t think he remembers what I once was, how differently I made love at thirty-seven.

Nereus doesn’t age.

“I want to go home,” I tell him every day.

Nereus laughs and splashes in the water and pulls the rope, drawing the raft so that I go first in one direction, then another, and his message becomes clear: I am home.

“Take me there,” I tell him when we see a beach, a city, a ship. He tilts his head to one side and with grave eyes sings me what I’ve taken to be a warning, a musical note of caution, just as he does when we see a shark or we see an oncoming storm.

Occasionally he brings me things: a shoe, a wooden bowl, a piece of pretty coral. He lays these items at my feet and looks up at me with adoring eyes and rolls onto his stomach and my thank you is to take him, to make him sing, to bring the whales.

From sunken ships and harbor boats he has brought me books and clothes, and hundreds of small items, kitchen utensils and toys, and though there is not room on the raft for all these things, I have thanked him each time, thanked him because I hoped some day he would bring me a blank book, a diary and a pen, which now he’s done.

~

Today the sea is calm and the sun is high above the canvas tarp I wile away this endlessness of moments by recounting what till now has occurred, how my life ceased when The Mercy sank, though I am alive and fed and clothed, provided shelter and safety from the storms, and have a lover who is insatiable and infinite in his lovemaking, and amazing and breathtaking in his beauty. How many times have I cursed this all, and endless times jumped into the sea to end it, only to be pulled back onto the raft by Nereus.

Nereus has brought me a long piece of rope, a gift, laying at my feet and offering himself to me. While inside him, while he sings to the whales who sing to him, I think about the sea, the maddening sea, about getting home at any cost.

In the night the sea is as still as the day and I count the stars reflected in the black of the waters. The half-moon provides candlelight shadows as Nereus and I make love on the boards outside the tent, with the warm breeze drying him, drying his scales that cover his flipper, the whales singing in response to Nereus who seems particularly happy. Afterward we sit in the starlight as he preens his flipper. I comb his sea-green hair and decorate his long locks with starfish and pearls. I feed him seahorses, his favorite, while he strokes my weathered face.

He falls asleep in my arms and when the rhythm of his breath and the tenor notes of his sleep-sighs assures me that I won’t awaken him, I take his gift, the rope, and tie his arms and hands. I tie them so securely that even I couldn’t undo the knots without a knife. I fear that his adoring eyes, his pained song will stir me to change my mind.

When dawn comes, the sea sprinkled with shimmering sunlight, red and pink, I awake to the singing alarm of Nereus struggling with the rope. His eyes implore me, searching my face for answers. Maybe for a moment he thinks it is a game, because he smiles. But when I don’t smile back his alarm increases.

“I’m so sorry, Nereus,” I say, “but you don’t understand. I have to go home.”

Nereus looks about the sea.

“No, Nereus. This isn’t my home.”

I put up the sail and let the winds push the raft, and we float, sail on, and the day grows hot and Nereus becomes quiet. The following whales fall behind, and a school of dolphin who had accompanied us in the night, are gone from sight. I dip my hands into the sea and pour water to his lips and let him drink from my hands.

We float, sail, and I dream of home. I think about the way it would feel to walk up a tree-lined street, to feel the earth beneath me, to walk barefoot in the soil, to see a mountain, solid and unmoving. I think of how I’d smell the flowers and look up at birds other than seagulls.

In late afternoon I fall asleep, made drowsy by the breeze and warmth. I awake a while later to the sound of thrashing in the water. Nereus has rolled himself off the raft and is caught on the edge of the raft by the rope I have tied him with. Several sharks are circling around him, closing in. Nereus is singing, his sing-song voice rising out of the water like children playing flutes. I reach into the water to grab him, to pull him aboard. He looks at me, his eyes full of loathing, and he kicks at my hands with his flipper. His body breaks free from the raft – the raft he placed me on when he found me as The Mercy sank.

The sharks devour him.

Tonight I sail on a satin sea, and I have no idea where I am, but I suspect because of weather and stars it’s somewhere in the Pacific, maybe near Hawaii. If I should die on this raft in the seeming endlessness of ocean, then it will be a just and fair retribution for the death of Nereus. If I awake in the morning, or any morning, or any hour, and spot land and am saved, I’ll tell my saviors that I grew old and alone on a deserted island since the sinking of The Mercy.

The End


Steve Carr began his writing career as a military journalist and has had short stories published in Double Feature, Tigershark Magazine, The Wagon Magazine, CultureCult Magazine, Fictive Dream, Ricky’s Back Yard, Sick Lit Magazine, Literally Stories, Viewfinder, and The Spotty Mirror, as well as in the Dystopia/Utopia anthology by Flame Tree Publishing, the 100 Voices volume II anthology by Centum Press, the “Waiting for a Kiss” by Fantasia Divinity Magazine anthology, and the Neighbors anthology by Zimbell House Publishing, among others. His stories are scheduled for publication in NoiseMedium, Door is a Jar, Visitant Literary Journal, Panorama, and Bento Box, as well as in the “Winter’s Grasp” anthology by Fantasia Divinity Magazine, to name a few. His plays have been produced in several U.S. states including Arizona, Missouri and Ohio. He is a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee.

Uneasy

A poem by Thomas Zimmerman


But who wants easy? Nothing to rub up
against. No rub, as Hamlet says. The dweeb.
Me? I prefer that haunted husband/witch,
Macbeth. That cracked vaudevillian, Lear. The pines
out back, now lightning-lit like Baudelaire’s lines,
still whisper grim absurdities, the ditch
along a path I know, which ends at Zeeb
and Jackson here, but fellow fools say, “Yup,
we know that crossroads well. It’s First and Main,
it’s Freud and Beckett. Being. Nothingness.”
I should have studied math, imagined fact
that comforts like a mother’s pulse, the stain
of milk that seeps warm through her blouse. Unless
that mother is Death, her ovaries intact.


Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits two literary magazines at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

His chapbook In Stereo: Thirteen Sonnets and Some Fire Music appeared from The Camel Saloon Books on Blog in 2012.

Visit his website!

With Paper and Brush

A poem by Thomas Zimmerman


“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train
to Cry” is on the stereo, my wife
is gone, a stout’s half-drunk in front of me,
the dogs are faking sleep (just waiting for
a treat), and I am channeling the dead.
That is, the images won’t come. I’m not
in love with television. Internet’s
a bore. A jazzman said to play until
you’re safe. My father flickers just beyond
the lamplight, whispers faint and hoarse: To put
a penny on the track? Forget the flag
and flowers on his grave? To lend out books
and discs but not expect them back? They’re gifts.
And louder now: To paint. Not wait too long.


Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits two literary magazines at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

His chapbook In Stereo: Thirteen Sonnets and Some Fire Music appeared from The Camel Saloon Books on Blog in 2012.

Visit his website!

Apostrophe to Rene

A poem by Rodney Richards


You wrote in Meditations

you are a human of substance

So am I Rene, and I am so

And I think, Rene,

and even if I didn’t

I may be human form also

containing more

than just a wandering thought

My components like

yours, body including all twelve systems

and Soul system as you pointed out

interwoven like Persian tapestry

yet unique

First the Rational Soul

or Mind and its powers:

Imagination

Thought

Comprehension

Memory and

Common Faculty

that unites and unties all our others

The five most cited or ten or twenty-one

senses of the body like

Sight, and Hearing and Touch and Smell

and the like

inseparably linked in living beings

Each intertwined with the Lodestones

of our Hearts,

the Seats of Power

and Energy unlimited

for the whole to partake

The Heart feeling,

touching,

thinking,

smelling

et al

The commonest faculty

of life itself

It’s motive power

But It is not a power

to be objectified

and sung about or sung to

or eulogized

No, No, much, much more

Its beat beats all the rest

A City of thrumming in and of Thyself

The god within

perhaps with capital G

Alive and thriving

inter-spliced

interwoven

intertwined

as streets and avenues

laid upon a barescape

And He has said

“I hath chosen from the whole world

the Cities of men’s hearts”


Rodney Richards lives with his wife in a rancher in the “very center of the Great State of New Jersey”.

He loves writing, and is the author of the memoir Episodes (ABLiA Media), available from Amazon.