2 Poems

I STAYED UP FOR TWENTY-FOUR HOURS RESEARCHING WEATHER

The sky threatened to break. I called its bluff. It broke and all the birds
took the opportunity to leave. I had no idea that birds could breathe in the
hollow expanding emptiness space & nobody else did either.

A small boy flies from California to Hawaii in the landing gear of the
plane. Everyone says he is lucky to be alive. I disagree. I think through
the right balance of temperature and sleep, anything is possible.

In the future I will carry a bouquet of flowers. I will visit a grave of a per-
son I don’t recognize. Other people visiting the cemetery will think
I’m leaving the flowers on the grave, understandably. It will begin to rain.

 

NEON // MOUNTAIN

A mountain which has formed behind another mountain
watches a man covered in neon. Or else, the man is himself,
neon. The mountain watches him climb the other mountain,
his tiny body a dive bar for mosquitoes. Doesn’t this keep
you awake? the mountain asks the other mountain. No, the
other mountain says, before causing a rockslide.

 

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Dalton Day is a trembling literal dog-person, Pushcart nominee, & MFA candidate in The New Writers Project at UT Austin. He is the author of the poetry collection Actual Cloud (Saló Press, 2015) & the chapbooks FAKE KNIFE (FreezeRay Press, 2015) & To Breathe I’m Too Thin (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2016). His poems have been featured in PANK, Columbia Poetry Review, Hobart, & Alien Mouth, & he can be found at myshoesuntied.tumblr.com & twitter.com/lilghosthands.

2 Pieces from I Remember You Well In The Charlottesville Motel

My brother was in the Army for three weeks, then he started mumbling all
his words & calling his commander Sergeant Fuckwad & they gave him his discharge papers. The doctors said he needed a lot of pills to keep his head together, but he wasn’t into medicine. One night, he showed up at our motel room. Louise answered the door, thinking it was the chinese food we’d ordered, but it wasn’t. My brother was 6’7’’ & skinny as a Pringles can. He needed a place to stay & I said we live in a goddamn motel. We don’t have room. That night, he sliced the tires to thirteen cars, took a sawed-off shotgun from inside one of them, & killed a pair of sheep from one of the neighbor’s backyards.  

***

We knocked on the door of Louise’s dad’s home & kept knocking until we concluded no one was home. We walked into the backyard. My swingset, Louise said, pointing to a broken swingset. Our baby can use it, I said. We knocked on the patio door. The grass was unkempt. We looked through the window. The house was dark inside. A car pulled into the front driveway & we heard the door slam shut. We walked back through the yard, past empty beer bottles & a mound of ants. Louise gasped. Her stood in front of his car, staring at her. I noticed the paint peeling off the side of the house. No one moved.

 

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Justin Carter co-edits Banango Street. His poems & fictions appear in Booth, cream city review, The Journal, Passages North, & Sonora Review. He’s a member of the seventh best trivia team in the Dallas area.

Construction Work

One neighbor, Rex, came out of his house to address another neighbor, Sam,
who was standing out on the sidewalk.

From the sidewalk, Sam was watching the ongoing reconstruction of his house, which was adjacent to Rex’s.

This reconstruction of Sam’s house seemed to be total in nature, and had been going on now for almost a full year.

***

Thus, Rex approached Sam on the sidewalk. “How long do you think before you’re done with your construction?” he asked.

But Rex startled Sam. “Whoa!” Sam said.

Rex had managed to startle Sam due to having snuck up behind him.

Rex said, “Sorry, I have a tendency to sneak up on people.”

***

The two neighbors, Rex and Sam, switched places with each other, in terms of their positioning on the sidewalk, just to give it some variety.

“You were asking about the progress of construction?” Sam said.

“Yes.”

“It’s going to be several more months.”

“Which stinks,” Rex said, “because my wife and I just had a baby and the construction is keeping us awake at night.”

“You have a baby?” Sam said. “Honestly, I didn’t even realize you were married.”

“Do you want me to prove it to you?” Rex asked, getting angry.

“You don’t have to prove it to me,” Sam said.

“Hold on one second,” Rex said.

He ran back inside his house, from which Sam soon heard the sound of something crashing and then lots of shouting.

A few minutes later, Rex came jogging back outside, his face red like a pool of blood. “I couldn’t find my wife or my kid. I wonder where they are.”

***

Then another neighbor, Alex, ambled up to where they were standing.

Alex took a position right in the middle of the two men.

“What are you guys talking about?” Alex asked.

“Rex is complaining about how long my construction is taking,” Sam said, nodding towards his house.

Alex said, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that too, actually.”

“Me?” Sam asked.

“No, Rex,” Alex said. “I wanted to team up with Rex in order to bring you down.”

“Me?” Sam said.

“Yes,” Alex said. “Because you’re making us all look bad with this construction.”

“I want to have the biggest house on the block,” Sam declared, proudly.

Rex got excited, then, but it wasn’t about the idea of him and Alex teaming up to take Alex down.

Rather, he thought he had glimpsed his wife in one of the windows of their house. “I’ll be right back,” he said, and then he dashed into his house.

***

Meanwhile, Sam and Alex stood considering the on-going rehabilitation of Sam’s house.

“What made you want to have the biggest house on the block?” Alex asked.

“I thought it would give me a sense of power,” Sam said. “I thought people would fear me, and from this fear I would be able to have things from them that they wouldn’t normally give.”

“Like what?” Alex asked.

“Like maybe sexual things,” Sam said, blushing a little. “Or other favors—sexual favors.”

“Who do you want to have sex with?” Alex asked.

“I’d rather keep that to myself,” Sam said, smiling at Alex.

***

Soon, Rex came out of his house accompanied by his wife. “Well, I found my wife but neither of us could find our kid.”

“How old is your kid?” Sam said.

“It’s a baby,” Rex said.

“Rex, I didn’t even know you were married,” Alex said.

Rex’s wife said, “Hi, I’m Theresa,” and she shook hands with everyone.

“So you guys don’t know where your baby is?” Sam said.

“We know where it might be, we just don’t know where it is,” Rex said, smiling.

“Rex is a real smart ass,” Theresa said.

“Well,” Alex said, “I’m sure it will pop up somewhere.”

“Honesty,” Theresa said, “I’m not optimistic.”

“Why not?” Alex asked.

“I’m just not that type of person,” Theresa said.

***

The four of them then stood watching the reconstruction of Sam’s house.

One of the walls that the construction workers were putting up fell down suddenly and broke into a bunch of pieces—a cloud of plaster dust went up into the air.

“Damn,” Sam said.

“Does that happen a lot?” Alex asked.

“All the time,” Sam said. “They’re not very good construction workers.”

“My brother is a construction worker,” Rex said. “But he’s pretty bad too.”

“My sister is a construction worker, actually,” Alex said. “Or, was—she’s dead now—a wall fell on her.”

“It’s dangerous work,” Rex said.

***

Then, another wall fell down, and then another.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Sam said. “That’s why this is taking so long—it’s always two steps forward and then no more steps forward, just hundreds of steps back.”

“Have you thought about hiring new construction workers?” Alex asked.

“Yes,” Sam said, “but these guys have excellent personalities.”

“Prove it,” Rex said.

Sam called one of the construction workers over.

This construction worker came jogging over—he was white with plaster dust.

Sam said, “Would you mind telling them a joke?”

“Me?” the construction worker said.

Sam nodded.

The construction worker thought for a minute and then said, “Honestly, I don’t know any jokes, I only know riddles.”

“Say a riddle then,” Sam said.

“What is white and endless?” the construction worker asked.

They all tried to think of an answer, but couldn’t.

“I forget the answer,” the construction worker said, and then he started to laugh.

***

Just then, a baby could be heard crying from the direction of Rex and Theresa’s house so Rex and Theresa went running into their house.

After they left, Sam said to the construction worker, “You can go back to work now.”

Alex, looking hurt, said to Sam, “I didn’t know Rex was married.”

“You didn’t?” Sam said. “Neither did I.”

“I wish I was married,” Alex said, sadly.

“I thought you were,” Sam said. “I was positive you were married.”

“Everybody makes that mistake,” Alex said. “I guess I look ‘married.’”

“I can’t keep track of who on this block is married and who isn’t,” Sam said.

“Here,” Alex said—he took a sheet of folded paper from his pocket and passed it to Sam. “This lists everyone on the block and whether they’re married or not.”

Sam took a look at the sheet. “Oh, here, this is a mistake—I am married.”

“Okay,” Alex said. He took out a little notebook and made a note in it.

***

Rex and Theresa returned to where Sam and Alex were standing, but without any baby.

“No baby?” Sam said.

“False alarm,” Rex said.

“What was making that crying noise then?” Sam asked.

“The TV,” Theresa said. “We think, though did we ever confirm that?”

Rex shook his head.

“Well, I’m sure it will show up,” Alex said.

“You keep saying that,” Theresa said.

“Honestly, I don’t know what else to say,” Alex said.

***

The addition being built onto Sam’s house collapsed completely, trapping several of the workers, who were now shouting for help from inside the fallen structure.

“This happens sometimes,” Sam said.

“Aren’t you going to save them?” Rex asked.

“They need to learn to build better walls,” Sam said, angrily.

Another wall on the house fell down.

“Timber,” Alex said.

Rex and Theresa laughed, but Sam didn’t—Sam’s house was falling apart right before their eyes.

No one knew what to do exactly, but Alex put his hand on Sam’s shoulder.

Sam grabbed Alex’s hand.

***

Then, crying was heard again coming from Rex and Theresa’s house.

“I swear to God,” Rex said.

“Well?” Theresa said, looking at Rex.

So Rex went hustling back into their house.

Theresa smiled at Sam and Alex. “Sometimes he thinks we shouldn’t have had a kid.”

“Rex?” Alex asked.

“Yeah,” Theresa said.

The sound of something crashing came from inside of Rex and Theresa’s house again.

“I hope that’s not the baby breaking,” Sam said.

“I hope so too,” Theresa said, laughing nervously.

***

Then, Rex came running out of the house and he had a baby in his arms.

When he got to where they were standing on the sidewalk, he lifted the baby to Theresa. “Is this—?”

Theresa shook her head.

Rex put the baby down on the sidewalk.

 

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Beau Golwitzer’s work has appeared in BOAAT, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. He lives in Amsterdam.

Julian

Before his fourth summer is hot enough for swimming, Julian starts disappearing.

When his mother first calls his father saying she can see through part of Julian’s forearm, he doesn’t understand.

“What do you mean? Did he cut himself? He broke his arm and bone is poking through his skin?”

After she explains that Julian is uninjured, merely slightly invisible, he grows angry, suspecting a ploy to allow his ex-wife an extra day with the boy. When he arrives to pick the child up, however, he sees that Julian’s physical form is, indeed, gradually fading.

“Well, what are you going to do about it?” he demands.

“I don’t know,” she replies tersely.

“Do you have any ideas?”

He has none.

Julian behaves normally, even when his torso grows so not-there that he can barely wear his favorite t-shirt. The screen-printed robots sag and slide around over the place where his shoulders had been, but he stands on kitchen chairs and snatches snickerdoodles from the cookie jar all the same. He demands visits to the playground right up until he is a fading voice, a vague form within the tented fabric of his clothing, and a shadow.

“I feel like I’m losing you,” his mother whispers over breakfast one steaming August day. A tear slips past her nose and lands in Julian’s half-eaten bowl of cocoa puffs as she smooths the ghost of his hair. Julian giggles and runs into the living room to play with blocks. The next day, it takes her fifteen minutes to find him inside her cramped apartment. She weeps outright, but by the end of the week, locating him by sound, not sight, feels almost normal.

His father never quite grows used to it. On his days with Julian, he tries any trick he can think of to visualize his son, to cement his physicality. For a time, he uses a backpack with an attached leash, but after Julian’s back goes missing, he can’t keep it on the boy. Next, he tries throwing paint across him to make the translucent easier to see and the opaque more clearly defined. Before long, most of the paint simply passes right through him. After a failed system of lights and bells rigged to a nine-volt battery singes the vague suggestion of Julian’s right leg, he refuses to visit his father again. Nobody can grab hold of him or, for that matter, reliably get him into a car, so the threatened calls to various lawyers are never made. His father simply lets him go.

Weeks pass when Julian’s mother cannot see her son, but she knows he’s there. The rise and fall of his blanket at bedtime, the rapid diminishment of a small bowl of popcorn during the blue flicker of Finding Nemo, and the warmth of a delicate but sweaty hand pushing into hers at the grocery store bespeak his presence. The sound of plastic hooves galloping across the kitchen tile or a smiling rubber duck bobbing placidly in a bathtub of water she did not fill tells her not to give up on her son. She forgets about preschool, takes a sabbatical from work, and often runs through the park apparently alone but laughing, laughing.

 

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Betty Scott lives by O’Hare International airport with one bird and two people. Her writing has recently appeared in Slipstream and is forthcoming in The Wax Paper.

At the Wedding

The intelligence was a bloodstain on a mattress. It didn’t want anything until
it met the sickness.

The sickness was eight-year-old Melvin at a wedding. The wedding took place in the back garden of a rented mansion, with about two hundred guests on plastic chairs. The whole affair looked like a party of stick figures to Melvin, and he scowled darker and darker as the priest drawled out the vows. Near the end of the solemn oration, when the priest was saying “…intended by God for their mutual comfort,” Melvin leapt over his mother’s lap and started kicking and screaming in the aisle. “BORING! STUPID!” he shouted. “Honey, don’t,” his mother whispered, kneeling beside him. Melvin kicked and pounded so violently that his mother stepped back. “BORING! STUPID! BORING! STUPID!”

The priest had to speak louder to be heard above Melvin’s wails. Two large men in tuxes—uncles of the bride—picked Melvin up and carried him into the rented mansion. They lugged his struggling body up three flights of stairs and locked him in a bedroom. Melvin banged his fists on the bed, screamed a little while longer, then stopped and blew some snot into his hand. From the window of the bedroom he could still see the wedding, which was going on without him.

“You’re a brave little boy, Melvin,” said a small bloodstain on the mattress.  “Do you want to play a game?”

“Who’s that?” Melvin asked. “Who’s in here?”

Melvin got off the bed and looked under it. A cheer rose up from the wedding party, which meant the groom had kissed the bride.

“It’s the bloodstain on the mattress,” said the bloodstain. “Do you want to play a game?”

“I’m going to tell on you,” Melvin said. “Are you a ghost?”

“No,” laughed the bloodstain. “Have you ever smelled an old bloodstain before?”

“No.”

“Try it.”

Melvin put his nose to the mattress. “You don’t smell like anything,” he scoffed. “You’re too dry and old.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” said the bloodstain. “But I’ll tell you a secret. If you look in that nightstand drawer, there’s a giant egg. You have pretty good aim, don’t you?”

“Yeah! I have really good aim.”

“Well, you could drop that egg out the window,” suggested the bloodstain. “But you have to have really good aim.”

Melvin took the egg from the nightstand drawer. Three stories below, the groom and bride were slicing the cake.

“I have really good aim,” Melvin repeated. He thrust his hand out the window, closed one eye, and zeroed in on the head of the bride. “Now!” said the bloodstain, and Melvin let go. The egg plummeted like a white asteroid and exploded orange sickness onto the bride’s expensive veil.

Melvin laughed so hard his stomach hurt. Down in the garden the guests were screaming and four dress-constrained bridesmaids rushed in with napkins to pat at the bride’s head. One of the bridesmaids tripped on a barking dog and Melvin laughed even harder. “Great job!” chuckled the bloodstain. Melvin’s mother and the two large men arrived a minute later.

“I’m not sorry!” Melvin shouted when they burst into the room. The two large men held Melvin down on the mattress while his mother yanked down his dress pants and spanked his bare ass.

“I’m proud of you, Melvin!” the bloodstain whispered.

“This really hurts,” Melvin mouthed through tears.

“Take it like a man,” the bloodstain whispered back.

Melvin shut his eyes against the pain while his mother spanked him harder and harder. When she got tired of spanking, she dug her fresh-manicured nails into his naked behind and left four deep claw marks that stung like nettles.

 

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Angela Allan was born somewhere and lives somewhere else. She likes pineapples and capybaras. Her eyes are gray. She has been close to Antarctica, but did not make it all the way there.

Month of Widows

That month so many men died, there were widows on our block, and one of
them collected nice alcoholic beverages. When I sat on her sofa, she excused herself and came back barefoot wearing a silk kimono and a velvet headband. She was boyishly pretty, like nobody else.

Her husband had been one of fifteen contractors crushed when a pilaster of brick and plaster imploded. She said the hospitality group sent her a condolence letter with no personal signature. A tear leaked out of one eye when she said it. That eye shone.

“Too bad my husband never saw all those exotic tiles,” she said.

“Well, my husband has seen them all as you know,” I said. “He can’t stop bringing them home.”

“Still,” she said.

We kissed for a while without mentioning it. The day moved in and out, holding one another up. Later that night, I told her that my husband felt like a familiar movie. Too much of one thing, and not enough of everything else — and I had to just sit there and watch.

She told me my skin reminded her of abalone. It changed color, she said. She seemed happy to have company, her face was all pink and shiny, and the feeling inside my spirit revived from all the goodness, and the sharing of yellowish burning syrup that she admitted was homemade absinthe. The young widows made the absinthe and shared it, she said.

Her liquor-coated lips burned my sadness off, and later on, early in the morning when the sun was new, I walked home with nothing and everything.

 

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Meg Pokrass is the author of Damn Sure Right (Press 53, 2011) Bird Envy, a novella-in-flash, Here, Where We Live (Rose Metal Press, 2014) and Cellulose Pajamas – Prose Poems (Blue Light Book Award, 2015). Her fourth full collection, The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down, is forthcoming from Etruscan Press in 2016. Meg’s flash fiction has been widely and internationally anthologized, most recently in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International. Meg is a co-founder of the San Francisco reading series “The Flash Fiction Collective.”