PROCEEDINGS and UNDER THE GLASS EYE OF YOUR SCRUTINY

PROCEEDINGS

Joy and Damage Limitation
Parental Guidance
Calendar Girls
Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles
Separate Bedrooms
By Appointment Only
The Naming of Parts
Change of Address
Identification of Victims
Human Geography
Filing of Documents
Campaign Trail
Tactical Exercise Without Troops
Scheduling Conflicts
The Time and the Place
Jury Selection
Ticket Touts and Scalping
A Family Gathering
The Court of Arbitration
Negotiated Settlement
The Treaty of Versailles
Happiness and Unhappiness

 

 

UNDER THE GLASS EYE OF YOUR SCRUTINY

1.

This is the constructed world
and apparently it’s based on redundant models

2.

I remember every little detail of our expectations
and a thousand different possibilities comprise my memory,
although now not all of them seem quite credible

3.

For other motives and explanations of the current situation
it has become necessary to examine the fine line between charm and stupidity

4.

A cheerful story makes everything different
and I’m so happy I can open the window and let my mind drift for a while

5.

The girl or the boy sit beautifully beyond anyone’s reach
because difference is what refuses to change

 

 

 

 

Martin Stannard’s poetry and criticism have been widely published since the late 1970s. His most recent collection is Poems For The Young At Heart (Leafe Press, 2016).
Website: www.martinstannard.com

Poems For The Young At Heart: www.leafepress.com/catalog/stannard/stannard.html

THE STAR COUNTER

One moment it was there, then the next moment it was gone. Staring into the mesmerizing blackness of space, Jake blinked hard several times thinking his eyes were deceiving him. The star he had just seen had suddenly vanished. Where there had been a glimmering pinpoint of white light, there was now nothing other than darkness surrounded by other flickering stars. He knew nothing about astronomy so he had no idea what galaxy or constellation he was looking at. He had simply laid down in the tall prairie grass and with his hands behind his head as a pillow he began counting the stars. The star that had disappeared was insignificant to him, but now that it was gone, and in such an abrupt manner, it left him feeling anxious and unsettled.

He stood up and brushed bits of grass and dirt from the back of his shirt and jeans and turned toward the distant glowing light in the windows of the house where he lived. Leaving behind the imprint of his body in the flattened grass, he walked toward home, occasionally glancing up at the emptiness where the star had been. Once in the patch of bare earth that encircled the house like a dirt moat, he took one last look at the sky and found it difficult to locate the same void among the clusters of stars.

He went into the house through the back, letting the screen door slam behind him.

“Where have you been?” his wife said, looking up from the newspaper spread out in front of her on the kitchen table.

“Just out stargazing,” Jake said.

“There’s better ways to spend your time,” she said. “Did you take care of the horses?”

“Did it earlier,” he said. He went to the kitchen sink and turned on the faucet. As he bent down to put his mouth to the flowing water he glanced up at the star freckled sky through the open window.

Out on the prairie a coyote’s bark reverberated in the darkness.

Water dripped from his chin as he raised his head and turned off the faucet. Large drops of water continued to drop from it, making plopping noises as they hit the porcelain washbasin. He turned and leaned back against the sink. His wife was reading.

“Anything new in the paper?” he asked.

“I was looking at the obituaries. Merle Calloway died,” she said without looking up.

“That’s a shame,” he said. “He was a good ol’ boy.”

“He’s been sick a long time,” she said. “Did you ever go by and see him?”

“Thought about it a few times, but never did,” he said.

She turned the page of the paper. Black newsprint covered her fingertips.

The sound of it crinkling as the page was turned was like fingernails on a chalkboard. “I’m going to bed,” he said. He kissed her on the top of the head, and left the kitchen thinking how her gray hair smelled like the color gray

In the bedroom he put his cowboy boots by his side of the bed and tossed his pants and shirt in the basket for dirty clothes. Looking at his reflection in the dresser mirror he tried to remember when his belly had gotten so big. A hot breeze filled with the aromas of prairie grass and the promise of rain blew in through the open window as he got into bed.

* * *

Awakened in the middle of the night by the rumble of thunder, Jake stealthily pushed aside the sheet that was covering him and sat up on the edge of the bed. The scent of rain being carried from somewhere out in the prairie had filled the room. The sheer baby blue curtains hanging over the window were gently floating inward. He looked back at his wife who was sleeping on her side, facing away from him, then got up and left the room.

He turned on the light in the kitchen and opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of orange juice and sat down at the table. With one hand he removed the lid from the bottle and with the other hand he turned the pages of the newspaper. Putting his mouth to the bottle’s opening he tilted his head back and took a long drink while glancing at the names in the obituaries. He didn’t feel the need to read what was written about them. He had known them.

Janet Biedenbach died in the nursing home in Rapid City. She was the mother of four children, two of them, her sons, had passed away already. Her estranged daughters were not at her bedside when she passed away, but her eldest granddaughter was. Janet had taught school in Wall for many years before retiring.

Richard Lakley was killed instantly in a head on crash on I-91 near Wasta. He had been out drinking just before the collision. He was married to Sue who worked in one of the souvenir shops in Wall Drug Store and was the father of two young boys. He was a lineman for the electric company. He was the catcher for Wall’s men’s softball team.

Merle Calloway died at home after a long struggle with cancer with his wife and three adult children at his bedside. He was a retired park ranger and had worked at the Badlands National Park for twenty years. On Sundays he served as preacher for New Underwood’s Trinity Baptist Church.

Jake took another drink of orange juice.

His wife appeared in the kitchen doorway. “What are you doing up?” she said.

He turned the page of the newspaper. “Just having a little juice.”

Her fluffy yellow slippers made a whoosh whoosh sound on the floor as she crossed the kitchen and opened the inside door and stood at the screen door. The breeze played with the thin material of her pink cotton nightgown. “The rain may pass us by,” she said.

“That’s too bad,” he said. “The ground is really dry.”

* * *

The breeze brushed the tops of the blades of the prairie grass bending them forward then back again, causing rippling waves of grass across the nighttime landscape. Jake laid in a nest of grass staring up at the sparkling stars. When a grasshopper landed on his chest he captured it in the palms of his cupped hands and chuckled as it crawled about, tickling his skin. After opening his hands, the grasshopper remained still for several moments before jumping into the grass.

Raising his arm and pointing toward the stars he began counting them. Like the night before and the many nights before that, it wasn’t as easy as he thought it should be. It taxed his ability to concentrate. While counting he continued to search for the location of the empty place left by the star that had vanished the night before. At last tired and frustrated he lowered his arm and lay still, listening to the whispering of the breeze in the grass. He thought about Merle, Janet and Richard and felt a heaviness in his heart he had never felt before.

He stood up and looked toward the light in the windows of his home and thought about his wife.

In that moment he was there, in the next one he had vanished.

THE END

 

 

 

 

Steve Carr began his writing career as a military journalist and has had short stories published in Gathering Storm Magazine, Midnight Circus Magazine, Double Feature, Tigershark Magazine, The Wagon Magazine, CultureCult Magazine, Fictive Dream, Ricky’s Back Yard, Visitant Literary Journal, The Drunken Llama, Sick Lit Magazine, Literally Stories, Communicators League, Jakob’s Horror Box, Trigger Warnings, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, and in the Dystopia/Utopia Anthology by Flame Tree Publishing, the 100 Voices Volume II anthology by Centum Press, the Winter’s Grasp and Waiting For a Kiss anthologies by Fantasia Divinity Magazine and the Neighbors anthology by Zimbell House Publishing and the Grivante Press Anthology: MASHED: The Culinary Delights of Erotic Horror, among numerous others. His plays have been produced in several American states including Arizona, Missouri and Ohio. He was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee.

Understanding the Gift

You left a note on the refrigerator door;
three words I believe, but quickly faded;
a fast morning, when life decided to
push me out the door, for I was needed
on the icy road where all went to die.

Words scribbled in a hurry on the page
of a time passed before it had a chance
to live, upon which my eyes never set.

A voyage began, to the land of canyons;
the memory was not to yet constructed.

The suit, the tie, raincoat and fancy shoes,
unpacked to make that lasting impression
while near the refinery she wept once more.

A Saturday so lonely, dustpan in hand,
she swiped the pieces of what had broken,
on the floor, near the refrigerator, her heart.

Syllables to bring out the warmth of what
was deep inside, who she wanted to be;
letters collapsed in a jumble of unheard sounds,
she knelt, unable to move, by the white door;
cold, like the snap of her gift, never opened,
flung across the room, ignored, she cried.

 

 

Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 200 other publications.

 

Permafrost

      Jack, riding shotgun, pulls out a plastic bag from his jeans. I back out of the driveway. He digs the side of a nickel into the bag and removes it; a small lump of white dust. Still driving. I feel the dust hit my skin at the crevice where my thumb and pointer-finger meet. I drive to the public park. Untouched blankets of snow. We idle there for a while, heat blasting out the vents in the car. We wait for someone to call us for drugs.

      We will go into their house. They will offer us their couch and maybe some whiskey. Later, if they are nice, they will let us use their kitchen and eat their food. If they don’t have food, Jack and I will drive to the Asian grocery store for some rice and quail. Then we will cook it for everyone in the house. Maybe we will stay there all day until the bars open. When the bars open, we will try to make some more money. When the bars close, we will go to an after-party. When the after-party ends, we will sleep in the driveway or on the street.

 

 

Elizabeth Michael is an MA candidate at Northern Michigan University where she serves as associate editor for Passages North and instructs English composition.

Waiting

Waiting

 

Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 200 other publications.

Gassy and Yellow

Gassy and Yellow

Something gassy and yellow in the distance. Maybe it’s the ghost of Herman Melville looking for his favorite shipwreck. Maybe it’s the pulverized dust of an asteroid. More likely it’s a speech balloon exhaled by a small-time politician. You know, the one who likes you, his small head bobbing. You can tell by the quiver of his upper lip. Today the new snow looks grainy as old snapshots from the Brownie era. I loved my box camera. It took photographs thick and crude as flapjacks, but the images enthralled me. Note this gaggle of schoolgirls. They all could be you if only you smiled more often. Sometimes I wonder if your facial muscles have atrophied. Sometimes I suspect you of harboring a lust for ice fishing or auto racing, then frustrating yourself by failing to master the craft, art, or skill required. You shouldn’t feel alone with your thwarted ambitions. I’ve never mastered anything, but have fumbled, fuddled, and despaired from one objective to another. Maybe that gassy yellow entity isn’t a ghost or a ruin or fragment of language but a visitation from another dimension. Maybe there, if I can catch a ride, I’ll find you smiling again, your teeth as crisp as piano keys, your lips flexible enough to accommodate.

 

 

 

 

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in a small house in the woods. He taught at Keene State College for many years, but has now retired to feed the deer and wild turkeys. He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals and several small-press books. His forthcoming book of poetry is The Last Concert (Salmon Press).

A Subversive Technophile and Client Launch

A Subversive Technophile

I came here with a blown transmission
and translation, made whole
by a hole above my heart, hands clapped,
“how wonderfuls!” rained down,
apparently the crowd was convinced
it was all just a dance for the benefit
of the distributees of the city

The acclimations were the afterbirth
of an accident: I sang a song of exhaustion,
which gave them the music to go by,
while the dance was only a march
of tired footsteps losing all control,
it swayed me across sidewalks
and the wood floors of assorted living rooms

I have left those stages behind,
but I built a fan base sick with a loyalty
that neither supports nor cools me,
their former delight is my present curse,
overheating me via their handling
and destabilizing me with praise,
whenever I try to speak, they start to clap.

 

 

 

Client Launch

Validation failures, I asked
For the certificate, never got it,
Not even a ticket,
There are places to go,
All of them
Too comfortable to taste

The morning bites, the sun
Clips when it bothers to show,
Some kind of guilt
Turns my heart into a pulley,
Simple machines, they work

Others keep hacking
And cracking the passwords,
All of it legitimate,
I code myself a poet, sometimes,
But I still feel like a thief.

 

 

 

Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, Inwood Indiana, Pear Noir, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is looking to publish a novel.

Fourth Period

Him

 

You watch as the guard feeds today’s lesson into the VCR. The smell of gun oil from the guard’s AK-47 reminds you to pay attention or else.

You try to focus on this installment of American history, how their version of the truth lost to the right version of truth as god intended, how the country is blessed to breathe in the holy spirit day in and day out. You cough up something oily in your hand, study the flecks of blood in the gob resting in your palm. The cock of the AK-47 tells you to look up and pay attention, or else.

You are grateful that the mermaid’s last name starts with C and yours starts with M. You are close enough to map the beauty marks on the nape of her neck. You think about what her earlobes would taste like, whether her sweat is chemically equivalent to the pills you take to reduce how much blood you cough up. The mermaid must feel your eyes because she turns her head to look at you. Just as your eyes meet, the guard fires a warning volley above your heads. Blood trickles from the fresh bullet holes in the ceiling and covers up how hard you’re really blushing.

 

Her

 

The guard feeds today’s lesson into the VCR. It’s the same one as yesterday as it was the day before. You know this when the orange faced teacher in his American flag blazer appears on the screen. He pulls the pointer out of his blazer, extends it, and says let’s begin in the way that conveys he’s excited to teach you this lesson, as he was yesterday, as he was the day before yesterday.

You are used to seeing the same lesson over and over and over again. The state believes in the importance of repetition. You know better to question their facts after you watched your best friend, the girl with the melting face, almost lose her kneecap when she disagreed with the proctor of your science midterm.

You still feel underwater after last night from all the wine you drank, your mouth stuffed with wool, but it was worth it. The boy who coughs up oil maintained his composure. Even as he showed you the first star you’ve ever seen, he kept his hands and mouth to himself. You turn your head to look at him. Just as your eyes meet, the guard fires a warning volley above your heads. You watch the blood trickle from the bullet holes in the ceiling onto the boy’s forehead and cheeks. You turn back to your lesson after the guard cocks the AK-47, again.

You hope the boy doesn’t do anything stupid. The last boy who was into you, the one-armed one, rushed the proctor who shot your best friend. You thought it was romantic, even when he tried to say goodbye through the new hole in his throat, his vocabulary unable to clot. You used to think you were worth dying over until someone died on your behalf. You want to ask the boy who coughs up oil out, make the first move, to show him there is hope, to show him there is something worth living for, as intact as a boy who coughs up oil could be.

 

 

 

 

J. Bradley is the author of The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective (Pelekinesis, 2016) and the Yelp review prose poem collection Pick How You Will Revise A Memory (Robocup Press, 2016). He lives at jbradleywrites.com.

 

 

 

essence

the earth exudes a substance
more human than geological
its carbon/calcium/iron made alive
by those who tilled and shaped it
          fed armies and empires from it
          gave it battles and blood
          built on it
          buried beneath its crumbled loam
                  themselves and their artifacts

trees and crops must draw this essence in
breathe it back into the air
                  for it cannot be shaken off
                  the light hums with it

 

 

Andrew McCallum lives and works in the south of Scotland and is a widely published, broadcast and award-winning poet. He loves collaborations and has worked with visual artists on ekphrastic projects and with sound artists to produce an album of samplings. He currently works as a freelance proofreader, editor and writer.

HEIRLOOM and 1984

HEIRLOOM

As her belly swelled, she heard an opera
the waves crashed against the rocks
in fury, the aria of war.

Perhaps, the geometry of her life unraveled:
love, pain, shame, the chronicle of blood lines,
her clan lived in the same house for six generations.
One son moved from the North Sea to the Pacific,
another lost his life on an oil rig in Aberdeen,
secrets barely audible.

Perhaps, the deep blue
unfurled its long tongue
flicked it on the rocks,
smacking lips, the snack of a snake.
How unencumbered
he was to take what he wanted
from her small frame.

History is an outstretched limb
hungry for expansion,
breathe into the tightness
and feel your body open,
a softening, inside and out.

When the sun no longer dazzles,
we become elemental:
breath of wonder, pens of quartz,
wet briny sapphire.

 

 

1984

The smash of glass on the guardrail,
phone call in the wee hours
my Mother, hurried us into the car

His face, pummeled by force
crusted blood in nostrils
black eyed, my Father was in that body

Swollen, he looked so small
in the outsized bed. A purple monster
to my nine-year-old eyes

Her face wet with worry,
in the sanitary fluorescence. The nurse
held my hand and baby brother on her hip

She led us to her office, where I drew
and looked at the big Eucalyptus tree in the parking lot
What kindness she gave, meanwhile,
Mom digested fear and anger

See my slippers? They are kitty cats!
The nurse smiled at my pink face
My niece is your age, do you like stickers?

I watched my Mother’s face all the way home,
poised to poke her awake

 

 

Ingrid Keir is a poet, performer and educator. She is co-founder of the WordParty, a long- running San Francisco poetry and jazz series. She has been a featured reader at diverse venues in the Bay Area including the DeYoung Museum, The Beat Museum, City Hall, Quiet Lightning as well as many others. Ingrid has lectured Creative Writing at San Francisco State University where she taught undergraduate poetry, fiction and playwriting while simultaneously engaging students with writers of the Bay Area. She also received both her M.F.A and B.A. degrees at San Francisco State University. She has written several chapbooks: The Secrets of Like (2004), Toward the Light (2007) and recently released a new book of poetry in September 2016, The Choreography of Nests, published by Feather Press. Ingrid has been published in many literary journals including: Two Hawks Quarterly, The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Sparkle and Blink and Out of Our. She was also shortlisted in the 2016 Litquake poetry contest.