Poetry

Three Cinquains after the Exhibition…

by Alice Jennings

Three Cinquains after the Exhibition: III Bienal Ciudad Juárez-El Paso Biennial 2013

After “El rio parece tranquilo/The River Seems Calm,” 2013
by Olga Guerra
Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México

water
in six glass jars
might just be agua, a
child’s science project, or six
lost lives.

After “Sin titulo I de la serie “Desinterés social”/Untitled I from the “Social Indifference” Series, 2013
by Mónica Areola
Tijuana, Baja California, México

mattress
redistribute
recycle retrieve
refurbished artifact in abandoned
structure

After “Todos observamos/We all watch,”2012
by Eder Lindorfe
Mexicali, Baja California, México

look
through the
glass, observe the
flag in the center:
you.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Alice Catherine Jennings is a student in the MFA Program in Writing at Spalding University. Her poetry has appeared in In Other Words: Mérida, The Fertile Source, Poetry at Round Top and is forthcoming in the Hawai’i Review, The Louisville Review and Penumbra. She is the recipient of the U.S. Poets in México 2013 MFA Candidate Award. Jennings divides her time between Oaxaca, México and Austin, Texas.

viejita retocada jpb

Artist: Juan Pablo Bavio

Anciana de Izamal

Standard
Poetry

Foggy and other poems

by Celia Watson

 

Foggy

Foggy froth
Blankets our land
Catching steamed breath
Like prey

Foggy fingers
Lick rusty cogs
Biting and grinding
Ahead

Foggy lips Kiss the earth and blur
The line between our world and
Theirs

Foggy palms
Dampen the wails and
Forgotten screams
Of reckless rails.

 

The Eye of the Marshland

Crickets roar against the subtle
Hum of the summer night.

Fingers of moss drape down and
Lick the sticky cement.

An orchid moon pierces through
The web of vines,

Painting mirrors on the
Lid of the lagoon.

This is the still South:
The hushed presence of nature that

Pulls us together whilst
Tearing us apart.

 

White

As I turn the page
The flame retreats
Cowering in the breeze.
It reaches and stretches
Up to its tip
Straining for balance on its
Rope.
Beneath, a mess of waxy webs
Clumps and hardens
Each fibre frozen in its fall.
As the wax drips, it builds
Canyons of white soft string.
One more prayer
Added to the heap.
One more wish
Locked and bound
Never forgotten, as long as the
Mountains keep climbing
And the dreamer
Keeps dreaming.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Celia Watson is an International Baccalaureate diploma graduate based outside London. She plans to study both English with creative writing and Theatre at university. She has received 12 awards, including 4 Gold and 5 Silver Keys, from the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers (USA) for her work covering poetry, flash fiction, dramatic scripts, and humour pieces. Celia’s work has been published in The Ofi Press, Flash Fiction World, Theatre Reviews London, and MouthLondon Magazine (http://www.mouthlondon.com/author/Celia-Watson/).

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Samuel12

painting by Samuel Barrera

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Poetry

New Born and other poems

by Lorraine Caputo

New Born

Pines on the canyon
ridge are shadowy in the
morning’s heavy mist.
The chilled sun rises
above, its filtered light a
lemony yellow.
Roosters crow from this
house       & that       & another
throughout the village.
Last night’s rain still drips
off the roof, water beads on
the empty clothesline.

As the new-born sun
climbs, it reflects bright off
the butter-colored church.
The heaven above is a
brilliant azure sapphire.

In the main plaza,
under the shade of trees &
gazebo, Rarámuri women set
out their baskets & weavings.
Their full calico
skirts fan beneath them.
One ties a kerchief upon
her black hair. Another lifts
her short blouse to nurse her child.

 

 

Puerto Escondido

The dawning light outlines,
colors the eastern hills.
The deep blue water
of the hidden bay
captures pieces of sun,
washes them to the golden beach.
White boats beginning their journey asea,
fisherman wade,
casting their nets at arms’ length.

Across the bay,
behind the hills,
the tat-tat-tat of drums,
the chorus of trumpets—
morning review at the military base.

In a white church tower,
a bare-backed man
pulls the chords of four bells.
Their tones clang
over the village.

A cool breeze drifts
through windows, through hair,
across cheeks.
Palm fronds sway
in the growing,
dawning light.

 

 

Desert Reigns
  —a poem for two or more voices

I.

We boarded before 8 a.m.
I rested my head on the window pane
& drifted off to the hustling
of the other passengers.

Over on Track Nº 2 awaits a fancy
dark green, brass-railed car
for the President’s rare use.
It gleams in the rising sun.

On the third track is an old black &
silver steam locomotive—
Nº 30127, still used in Western movies

My sleep is disturbed by several
federales checking identifications.

II.

I yearn to be in this desert landscape …

Sometime, someplace in Guanajuato state,
a woman came aboard with
one-liter soda bottles of pulque.
The sour-cactus smell drifts
heavier & heavier through the car.

We pass by a trash dump.
Nine men, women & children
sort through it.

III.

This slow train stops at every village

marked by a station
or a sign aside the tracks.

The desert sings to me …

Oh, what is a Mexican train ride
without music?

Earlier a guitarist played harmonica
between his sung verses

& now a young man plays accordion,
singing in a  strong alto voice.

Large cumulus clouds tower into the sky.

Just south of Las Palomas
lie the ruins of a church.

It is now raining in the western desert.

IV.

I am awakened by our train
braking to allow another to pass.
Rain streaks my window.
Thunder rumbles through this closing afternoon.

As we enter San Luis Potosí,
we clatter over flooded streets.
The roof of a car is just visible
above the water.

A semi-rig sinks.

The ground is mounded with a thick,
snowy layer of pea-sized hail.

The sun begins to break out west.

As we leave this city,
beneath an underpass
a group of people push
cars to shallower water.

V.

Nighttime in the vestibule.

An Austrian, Roland,
His Mexican friend, Roberto
& I talk with a railroad worker.
He tells us that come next year,
there probably won’t be
any more passenger service.
US freight companies are buying
individual lines.
El Regiomontano has already been privatized.

He turns to Roland and me.
—It belongs to you.
—It doesn’t belong to me,
Roland corrects him.
He stares at me with squinting eyes
—Then it belongs to you.
His finger points inches from my breast.

—No, sir, it doesn’t belong to me, either,
nor do I get any benefit from it.
They happen to be companies of the
country in which I was born.

He forces the issue.

—Look, sir. I had nothing to do with that decision
any more than you did.
It would be like me saying
the policies of the government
of your country
were yours.

—Yes, it would be like saying
Salinas was you,
Roberto says, jumping into the fray.

The railroad worker makes a few
snide comments
before stalking off.

Roland, Roberto & I talk for a while
about who we allow to reign—
the corporations and their governments,
or we ourselves.
Then we fall into silence, watching the night.

Off in the far east sky, clouds
      pulse with pink lightning.

VI.

In the long hours of darkness we come to Saltillo.
The bitter smell of industry fills the air,
its sickening orange glow
just on this side of the horizon.

Out in the nighttime desert,
      crickets chirp.

VII.

I awaken to the sunrise.

We haven’t yet made it to Monterrey.

Its passengers are still on this train.

We sit for hours on a stretch of single track.

      The beauty of this desert awes me.
      Its eastern mountains are cloaked
      by the cloudy sky.
      The bright yellow sun-ball
      burns through, burns through.

We begin again slowly
passing by a ghost town.
Behind the abandoned primary school,
a swing set creaks.
Adobe buildings are almost
one with the earth.

The gentle wind promises more rain.

VIII.

Rocking fast past Monterrey’s
familiar saw-tooth mountains.
Their bone-white rock shimmers
in the sun.

& in the early afternoon north of there—
for how long, I do not know—
we are stopped in the middle of nowhere.

The wind gusts through the desert plain
      gusts at times to a howl.
      Distant mountains lie hidden in haze.
      Burnished yucca display bouquets
      of white flowers.

IX.

The Nuevo Laredo station is just within view.

But here we are stuck,
hour upon hour,
by a US freight train passing
through the border.
It inches forwards
then backwards,
blocking our train
from the streets leading
into town, towards the border.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lorraine Caputo has literary pieces in over 90 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America Europe and Asia, such as Drumvoices Revue, Canadian Dimension, ENcontrARTE (Venezuela), A New Ulster (Northern Ireland) and Open Road Review (India). Her works also appear in seven poetry chapbooks, ten anthologies and five audio recordings, including Latina Nights / Noches Latinas (Dimby, 2000). She also pens travel pieces, with works appearing in the anthologies Drive: Women’s True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and Far Flung and Foreign (Lowestoft Chronicle Press, 2012). In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada chose her work, “Snow Dreams,” as the poem of the month. Upcoming publications include poems in The Pavilion (September 2013) and the Human Rights Poetry Anthology of the Human Rights Consortium of the School of  Advanced Study, University of London (October 2013). She has done more than 200 readings from Alaska to Patagonia. Ms Caputo continues journeying through the southern reaches of the hemisphere, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth.

 

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jane10

Artist: Jane Gilday

Watchful Woman, Observant Woman, Wary Woman

Acrylic on panel

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Poetry

12/21/12: Last thoughts on the end of the world

by Bill Meissner

 

In an instant, the world is pulled through a small hole in the galaxy and
the galaxy is pulled through a small hole in the universe.

Somewhere, a Mayan priest dressed in a white robe
and stone necklace poises in front a pyramid
slithering with limestone snakes.  He lifts offerings in a golden bowl, chants
with words that sound like cicadas buzzing in the grass.
Oxlahuntikul, he says.  Ququmatz.

Somewhere, a man in a three-piece suit lifts his IPhone.
He checks his calendar.  He’s late for a meeting on the far side of Manhattan.
If he seals this deal—his last chance—he’ll make a million.
He sends a text just before he enters the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel:

Be there soon.  Soon.  We’ll be golden.

Moonrise.  The Mayan priest bows down.
The carved calendar shows that it’s the 12th month, the 21st day.
Insects click and inch up the tall jungle leaves
as wisps of incense send a message to the night stars.

Somewhere, a man passes through a tunnel in a Lexus.  It closes
in on him—endless, dark, endless, like looking
through the wrong end of a telescope.

Anxious to exit the other side, he checks his I-phone.

At the appointed moment, the Mayan priest lifts his gaze to the sky.
A thousand years pass.
The man in the suit stares at his phone for what seems like a year.
No messages.  No coverage.  A dead zone.  Finally, he drops
it out the window of the car where it cartwheels into a black puddle.

The priest stares patiently and waits, waits.  Finally it happens:
he  pulls the world through a small opening in his eye, and
when it comes out on the other side, the blue-green planet is still
whole, still spinning,
bright and innocent and beautiful as a freshly-polished emerald.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Bill Meissner’s first novel, SPIRITS IN THE GRASS, about a small town ballplayer who finds the remains of an ancient Native American burial ground on a baseball field, was published in 2008 by the University of Notre Dame Press and won the Midwest Book Award.  The book is available as an ebook from the UND Press.  Meissner’s two books of short stories are THE ROAD TO COSMOS, [University of Notre Dame Press, 2006] and HITTING INTO THE WIND [Random House/SMU Press, Dzanc Books ebook].

Meissner has also published four books of poems:  AMERICAN COMPASS, [U. of Notre Dame Press], LEARNING TO BREATHE UNDERWATER and THE SLEEPWALKER’S SON [both from Ohio U. Press], and TWIN SONS OF DIFFERENT MIRRORS [Milkweed Editions].

He is director of creative writing at St. CloudStateUniversity in Minnesota.  His web page is:  http://web.stcloudstate.edu/wjmeissner/

 

His Facebook author page is:

           http://www.facebook.com/mobileprotection#!/pages/Bill-Meissner/174769532541232?sk=info

 

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Samuel18

painting by Samuel Barrera

 

Standard
Fiction

Mater Dolorosa

by Grace Andreacchi

 

When at last he lay broken across her knees, his long body greenish in the lurid light of the torn sky. When at last he lay once more in her lap, helpless as an infant but no longer seeking her gaze with his. When at last he lay quiet, it was then she understood it had all been in vain. In vain to have borne him in her fearful girlish womb, in vain the twelve hours – a whole dark night of pain beyond words as she fought to bring him, struggling against the light, into the world. In  vain the midnight vigils when she had held him while he screamed open-mouthed, inconsolable from a place of such darkness it made her tremble. Now he lay in her lap, broken. His mouth hung open, the teeth gleaming between the bearded lips, the lips encrusted black with blood. How heavy he was! She held him, she would not let him go – not yet, though he weighed upon her, a stone as big as the world. She could not yet let him go. She wanted to think, now, while she still held him, one last time, in her arms. It had been so long since she had held him like that! He did not permit it. As a child he had been warm and sweet, even timid, and always fierce. His love for her as fierce as his fight with the world. As a child he had clung to her, sucked angrily at the breast, never satisfied, always crying aloud as though he craved some other food, something she could not offer him. As a child he had needed her. This was her joy, to be needed by him.

 

When had he begun to vanish from her sight? There was the time she had come seeking him, her heart in her mouth, he was only twelve – what if they had lost him forever? God’s child, a holy trust, fallen by the wayside, killed by robbers perhaps or taken by thieves… for three days and three nights they ran from one house to another, unable to eat or sleep – surely the Lord would punish them for losing his child, surely the Lord would protect him, or else he would not. He was in the Temple talking quietly with the old men, he looked up, vexed with them for disturbing him, and asked her what was she was thinking? Did she not know he would be about his father’s business? Her husband took him by the hand to lead him home, and the boy looked at him coldly. ‘You’re not my father,’ he said. ‘Let me alone.’

 

Well. He had never been like other children, did not know how to play with them, indeed seemed to frighten them with his strange talk and odd ways. But he was good with his hands, spent hours in the workshop where he made cunning toys from wood – a bird that could flap its wings, a lamb with its mother, a little cross. ‘Look mother, I’m the lamb’, he said, holding it up proudly for her to see. ‘And this one is you, my mother. Shall I make a wolf too?’ He made a wolf, then broke it apart with a hammer, a small line of vexation between his soft brows. His dreams were terrible. Sometimes he told her bits of them, stories of demoniacs and lepers with oozing sores, of crowds of people chasing him through a desert wilderness. Once he dreamed of walking upon a great sea of burning glass, and beneath the sea myriads of tiny fish glinting with all the colours of the morning. The fish were swimming towards him, hungrily, and he had to feed them, and did not know how…

 

Ah but how to tell of his loveliness? He was not the most beautiful boy, simply her heart and soul. He was always a bit too thin to be really beautiful, always that darkness in his great soft eyes, that restless anxious longing in him. But his smile had been like the small rain upon the tender grass. He was the lily among thorns, the apple among the trees of the wild wood. When he put his thin childish arms around her and pressed his face to her belly she was sick with love.

 

He was far too clever, and could read as well as a rabbi while the other boys his age were still struggling to learn their letters. She had been proud of her odd, bright, clever little boy. But as he grew up he grew harder to reach, no longer told her his dreams, nor asked her to explain the mysteries of life and death. Why can’t I fly like a bird, mother? Why do the lambs have to die while they are still only babies? Why does the night come and make everything dark? You will fly like a bird some day, my son, when you have found your wings. The lambs must die so that we may live, their flesh is our food, given by the Lord. The night comes so that we may rest from the heat of the day. But he no longer asked her these things. He worked with his father (but ‘You’re not my father’ stood between them always), he sat by himself, he went to the synagogue and to the desert to pray. He fasted and grew thinner, he who had always been so thin. His eyes grew larger, darker, she saw things in them that frightened her. When she asked him to do little favours for her he now pretended not to have heard. When she reached out to stroke his hair he did not draw away, he did not need to, his eyes merely failed to notice her, and her hand came away as if she had burned it. She had seen again the small line between his brows.

 

When her husband died he left for a while, saying he must pray forty days and forty nights. She sat alone in the empty house. She had never been alone before, it was odd to sit there and listen all day to that silence. The sound of cicadas at twilight, and of small birds at dawn. Mother, why can’t I fly like a bird… You will, my son, you will. He returned from the desert somehow taller, his hair and his beard shaggy as a wild goat’s, and a deep furrow drawn as if with an awl between his brows. With him were two angels, she recognised them easily by their bright garments, but they parted from him at the door and did not come in. There were angels here now, in great number, she felt them standing around her, drawn up in ranks, ready to bear him away but she would not let them have him – not yet. There were angels hovering just above her head, the night sky was thick with them, mourning and weeping tears of blood for him. Let them weep – what were their tears to hers? She held him closer, pressing his broad broken shoulders to her breast. He had been so little once, so soft! And now this. Ah she would not let him go, not yet, not yet, not until she had understood – why had it all been necessary, the sword, the cross, the sacrifice? What did the Lord want from her? Nothing more perhaps. Could she believe that…

 

One of the weeping angels took hold on her son’s left hand and pressed it to his lips, right there where the nail had left a blue black wound. Another held the iron nail in his palm, showing it to her, his face full of reproach. What did they want from her? Was it her fault he was dead? She had never been a part of this, it was not her plan. Ah but she had been the gate, she the golden door by which he entered. He might have stayed with his Father in heaven, might have spared them all this grief had she only said : No.

 

Now she bent over him and pressed her lips to his forehead, pushing back the heavy hair with her free hand, mingling her tears with his cold sweat. She kissed his cheek, then his lips – he could not prevent her kisses at last. How she had longed to kiss him like this! He had learned to disdain her, a woman and weak. Now he was broken and she still whole. How was it possible? She would gladly have died in his place, but it was not her plan after all, but the Lord’s. This incomprehensible sacrifice. Look mother, I am the lamb, and this is you. This is you with your one ewe lamb lying dead in your lap. Let me kiss him now with the kiss of my mouth, she thought, kissing him, tasting the terrible odours of blood and pain. He did not yet taste of death, that would come soon, once he was laid in the tomb, but tonight he was hers alone in this garden of pain, and she would kiss him with the kiss of her mouth. She had not known it was possible to weep like this, rivers running down to a sea of burning glass.

 

The time she had sought him again, now a man surrounded by crowds of hungry people, gorging themselves on his words, his looks, his miracles. ‘Who is my mother?’ he said, looking round at the upturned faces. ‘All of you who do the will of God, you are my mother and my brother and my sister.’ And she went away quietly, and did not seek him any more. Had she not done the will of God? Behold the handmaid of the Lord… When the terrifying angel came with his lily and his tale of a holy child, had she not fallen on her face in the dust? For this I was born, she thought, to this moment I was raised, a daughter of God. She might have said: No. It had not even crossed her mind. As she sat there holding him she could hear the creak of graves opening, and the dread footsteps of the dead. She felt a cool hand laid gently upon her hot cheek. A shower of snow fell from heaven, covering the two of them with a veil as white as wool.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Grace Andreacchi is a novelist, poet and playwright. Works include the novels Scarabocchio and Poetry and Fear, Music for Glass Orchestra (Serpent’s Tail), Give My Heart Ease (New American Writing Award) and the chapbook Berlin Elegies. Her work appears in Horizon Review, The Literateur, Cabinet des Fées and many other fine places. Grace is also managing editor at Andromache Books and writes the literary blog AMAZING GRACE. She lives in London.

 

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Samuel24

painting by Samuel Barrera

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Fiction

Stephen and the Others

by M F McAuliffe

 

(April 1974)

 

(i)

He looked out the window, again. The edges of the town curved away inland from the sea; along the coast there was a strip of sand and away from that sand there was sand covered with pig-face; everything else was red dirt and dead saltbush and sky.

But if he half-stood in his seat he could just see the tip of the pellet-plant. His father worked at the steel-mill, next to it. The mill itself was hidden by the distance and the hill where the managers lived.

Managers would live on a hill, he thought automatically. His father would have said it and slagged.

He eased himself down, turned to the front of the room and found another set of notes filling the blackboard. He scowled, squinted, and started to write.

“Stephen.”

He stood up.

Highgate was grinning.

He thought Highgate was having some fun because it was Sports Day and the period was being cut short. Highgate knew he was in the boys’ under-16 hurdles and most of the kids thought he’d win.

By this time tomorrow he’d be able to tell his father he’d won something. He’d stay home and see his father and tell him. School could wait for once.

Highgate stopped grinning. The chalk in his hand turned and pointed.

“You’d better get to work, Stevo.”

It was an accusation.

The other kids were looking. Jean sniggered. As though she had anything to snigger about, he thought, her tarting about down the shopping-centre and all, waiting for them guys from the pellet-plant or the shipyard. Or the mill.

His father

No! His father was at work, or at home. His father was on double shift.

Highgate was still pointing, accusing.

He picked up his notes. “Mr. Highgate, I been —”

“At the rate you’re going you’ll be out on your ear.”

Highgate stood behind the teacher’s desk and flicked through a pile of homework, picked out two ragged pages. “Yours.” The sheets fell. “A few more weeks of this and you’ll be finished here. You’ll be out there, son.” The chalk jabbed towards the window, the town and the mill.

Jean turned and looked right at him and sniggered again. Green glanced back and sneered.

He sat down and picked up his pen. He’d be able to see the bloody board, he thought, if Highgate ever bloody sat down and got out of the bloody way.

He looked at the window from the corner of his eye. He looked at the clock. His father would be getting home. Must be by now. They put you in bloody jail, his father said, except you’ve put yourself there first, getting married. They put you in jail just because you were born.

He’d asked once why they couldn’t go home instead of staying here.

Money. Another word his father spat. They couldn’t go home because there wasn’t any money in England, not for the likes of the working class. The workers always came last.

He looked at the clock again. It must be late enough. His father must be home by now.

Bloody Highgate finally sat down. Cities grow from the centre outwards. He slagged into hishandkerchief. This city didn’t. It just spread into saltbush. The shopping-centre was on the bloody edge.The room was as quiet as it always was when bloody Highgate had had it a while.

He kept is head down and copied the rubbish. The bell eventually rang.

 

(ii)

He wanted to be by himself so he could stop and think and be able to see that everything would be all right. He wanted a bit of peace and a bit of shade.

He had to buy lunch.

Jean and them were on their way out when he got to the hall. Elizabeth wasn’t with them. He sighed. That meant she’d probably come and hang around him on the line. He hated her, hanging around and trying to talk. At least the hall was fairly cool; at least he could stand at his full height and stretch.

“What are you getting?” Elizabeth was at his left elbow, looking up at him as though the answer would tell her if he was sick.

He shrugged and scowled at the seething and shoving. There weren’t any lines when you came down to it, just a fat mass of kids at the counter all asking for potato-chips.

There wasn’t even any decent food here. No fish and chips, no chip butties.

He saw the last bag of chips go to some little kid. Shit, he thought. He couldn’t even get a buttered roll and stick chips in it.

And bloody Elizabeth was still there, still wanting to know what he was going to bloody eat.

“A bloody chip buttie with no bloody chips.”

“Jesus, I was only asking.” She turned and went.

There weren’t any rolls.

He got two bloody cheese and tomato sandwiches and went outside to find Green and them. Healways had lunch with Green and them. Green’d turn on him if he didn’t.

He was sitting on the grass with Green and Adams and Peters. There wasn’t any shade.

The hard, spiky clumps and blades of grass prickled at his feet. Hard red dirt gaped between them. The minerals in the dirt glittered. He squinted and looked away.

The world moved.

Sylvia was with Jean and Elizabeth and them a few yards away. She was hardly ever with them, she was usually playing netball.

He unwrapped his sandwiches and stared out towards the oval so he could look at her without seeming to. Her father was a supervisor at the pellet-plant. She’d been here practically since she was born, in the sun and the saltbush and the glittering red dirt.

He heard Green slag, saw the slag glisten on a grass-blade. He turned and squinted and watched Green twist his lips, slag again, and grin. Jean pointed and cackled, “Hey! Tha’s dir’y, tha’ is!” Green gave her the finger. She wiggled her bum and went on cackling.

He couldn’t breathe until he’d looked out of the corner of his eye to see if Sylvia was still there, still talking, still tying the laces on her sandshoes.

She was wearing white. She looked like cool white gold.

The dirt glittered like shattered glass.

Sylvia was slim and blonde and poised and cool and beautiful. Every time she moved she was dancing somewhere, in the air somewhere else.

Green yelled.

He turned. Green’s lips and knuckles were white.

“You’ll have to leave school,” Peters said. Adams was grinning. “You’ll have to get married.”

“Get stuffed!”

Sylvia! He turned back again. Sylvia was standing, but she didn’t look as though she’d heard, didn’tturn, look straight at them and walk away.

He held his breath. If he was lucky she might stay for a while. They might all go over to the oval together; he might walk near her, next to her.

He might be able to talk to her after he’d won.

He closed his eyes and watched her turn and smile at him.

 

(iii)

The girls were all standing up and going. The sun was blinding. He squinted and looked down at the dirt. The light off the minerals was like knives.

“Let’s have a fag.”

He didn’t move.

Green slagged and turned and looked down at him. “Don’t bloody wet yourself! All the bloody teachers are on the bloody oval!”

He scowled and got up. Green and his fags made him ill. But no one ever said that to Green.

They got to the bog. Green leant on the door, lit a fag and stared at the burning point of ash. Adams leant against the wall. Peters lit a fag of his own. They all watched Green. He began edging along the tiles, towards the other door.

Bloody Sylvia couldn’t be pregnant, Green was saying. Not by him, he’d been using Glad-wrap and rubber bands. It must’ve been someone else, one of them blokes from the shipyard or the pellets or the mill.

Green grinned.

Stephen looked at the gaping stalls, wanted to shove Green into one, smash him bloody and leave

him there. But he kept quiet and kept moving, a sixteenth of an inch at a time, while Green shook another fag out of the packet. He stopped until Green was watching the fat match-flare and the thin twin twists of smoke, waited while Green inhaled and his gaze slackened and he started rubbishing on again. Then he began shifting sideways again, finger by finger, moving, warm tile, cold tile, till he could get to the door and disappear.

“They can do blood tests at the hospital. They can prove it was you.” Adams was deadpan, serious, dragging on the fag he took from Peters.

Green’s eyes widened. He made a short thick sound and then in one single movement collapsed and threw up, retching into a growing pool of sick. The air was full of the sound and stink.

Stephen waited for the others to move, help Green or get someone, but all they did was watch and grin.

He ran. He wanted to find Sylvia, warn her, hide her, protect her, obliterate everything Green could have done, everything Green could have rolled around and done.

But she was all cool white gold and Green couldn’t have done it.

Couldn’t have.

Couldn’t have.

He ran till he had to stop for the pain in his side.

(iv)

His eyes hurt. The sun was like a bullet-hole in his back. They were all lined up for the hurdles. Kids in bloody lines, his father said. Like bloody cannon-fodder.

The gun went off.

He breathed and threw himself at the air.

If he could get away

The last hurdle crashed. The back of his ankle was skinned.

And Green was already there. Green never practised but Green was already there.

Green was standing and panting; Green was grinning with his mouth turned down. Sylvia was grinning.

Elizabeth and her soft voice said: “You came second, Stephen, that’s all right.”

But Green was looking at Sylvia, and Sylvia was looking at Green.

“He was just lucky,” Elizabeth said. “You know he’s not going to go in the soccer or anything.”

Green had his arms on Adams’ and Peters’ shoulders, he was saying he wouldn’t mind a drink. Jean was saying he wouldn’t know how to get one.

Sylvia was smiling at Green.

Green was speaking to Sylvia and Sylvia was smiling.

Sylvia was speaking to Green.

Jean pointed and hooted.

“Jesus, Stephen! You look like your dad.” She moved her hips. “I know where he goes after work.”

Green was still talking to Sylvia and she was still smiling.

He turned and sat and unlaced his shoes, ripped the dangling skin off his ankle, put his socks on so they’d rub and sting, kept his head down. Waited for them to leave him alone.

(v)

He told Highgate he’d help put the hurdles away so he could stay late and not be out where they could see him. And then get straight home.

Where his father would have left for work.

And his father would come back afterwards, from work, not fresh from screwing Jean or some other bloody slag.

The hurdles had been put away. Everything was done, everyone was gone. He turned and started to walk. The bricks of the classrooms were liver-red in the sunset, the shadows were the colour of hardening blood. He turned and walked backwards so he could watch the whole butcher’s shop shrink with every step he took.

“Hey! Stephen! Hey!”

He turned again. Sylvia was riding towards him. Her mother must’ve sent her to the shops.

In the late light it was as though she burned in the air, as though a tawny light blew softly through her skin and made everything around her glow, and whoever stood near her could be warmed and glow softly, too.

He wanted to look at her forever.

She was there. She’d stopped her bike and was standing with one foot on a pedal and the other on the ground.

His throat was dry.

He was afraid.

“Are you going in the soccer?”

His foot dangled from the kerb. He looked up and the setting sun screamed into his eyes. He looked down at the axle and spokes in the front wheel of her bike.

“I might,” he said. “It depends.” Green laughing and slagging while everyone whistled and stamped and yelled.

Green getting all the goals.

“I’m going in the net-ball.”

He squinted. She was almost a shadow, but not quite. He could see her small white teeth smiling.

“You going to watch Match of the Day?”

The sun was too bright. He looked at the saltbush that led up to the bare, square tabletop hill a mileaway. He looked at the square, bare rocks. The shadows between them were purple.

The air in those shadows would be cold.

He looked at the ground, at his foot next to hers.

“Yeah,” he said.

“I barrack for Manchester.”

Green barracked for Manchester.

“They’re great.”

“Yeah.”

She was still smiling, but she was twisting her foot on the grit, getting ready to go. He wanted to ask her if she was going to go out with Green. He wanted to tell her what Green was like.

He wanted her to reach through his silence.

He blinked.

The last of the sun was still burning on the saltbush.

“When’s net-ball practice?”

“Wednesday.”

“Oh.”

“When’s soccer?”

“Tuesday and Thursday.”

So he couldn’t see her then. They couldn’t walk home. He manoeuvred a stone with his shoe until it left a scar on the road.

The sun had gone. The sky over the hill was like shallow, luminous water.

He still couldn’t speak to her. It would be like trying to speak to the air or the light.

“Yeah, well, I’ve got to get home by dark. My mum said.”

Sylvia turned her bike and bent to straighten the pedal. “See you Monday, then.” She smiled and rode off towards the glimmering sky. He watched the road lengthen between them.

(vi)

His father wasn’t home. He had already left for work.

His mother said they had fish and chips for tea because he’d won; there was bread so they could have real chip butties. Ken had told her, she said, when he came home from school.

His brother was all blue eyes and innocence, stuffing himself with chips, making claws of his hands and baring his teeth, pretending to be that stupid dinosaur band he liked so bloody much.

He stared at the walls. Compressed cardboard they must’ve been. You could hear people on the other side yelling at each other or their kids or watching telly or having a leak or a screw. His father said he worked double shift so he could get away. His father said the bleeding country began as a bleeding jail and that’s all it still was, every bleeding house another cell of bleeding prisoners.

“Never mind.” His mother turned the oven off and started shaking salt and vinegar on the fish. “You tried hard, and that’s the main thing. If you try hard at your schoolwork you’re bound to get a good job.”

There was no such bleeding thing as a good job, his father said.

His father was at work. Afternoons began at four, nights at twelve.

His father came straight home from work and went to sleep. He had dinner in the afternoon. His mother cooked it for him and then he went straight back to work.

That’s why he never saw him.

He watched his brother stuff his mouth and grin. He watched his mother telling him to have some chip butties anyway because nobody could win all the time.

He turned and stared at the windows and watched the streetlights weep in the glass.

 

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

M. F. McAuliffe is the co-author of the poetry collection Fighting Monsters (1998) and the limited-edition artist’s book Golems Waiting Redux (2011).

Her short fiction has appeared in Overland, siglo, Australian Short Stories, The Adelaide Review, The Clarion Awards, and Eye-Rhyme. Her poetry has appeared in Famous Reporter, Poezija (Zagreb), and Prairie Schooner, among other venues; her long poem “Orpheus” was staged by the experimental La Mama Courthouse Theatre in Carlton, Victoria, in May, 2000.

In 2002 she co-founded the multilingual magazine Gobshite Quarterly with R. V. Branham, and she continues there as contributing editor.

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Jane4

Artist: Jane Gilday

Arbor Life: Hummingbird

Acrylic on panel

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Poetry

Sequestration* and other poems

by Judith Steele

 

Sequestration*

Down he comes
handing out food clothes light
and again he comes
handing out violence and darkness.

This world is small
the children say
surely other worlds must be
above and above us?

Only God can move
up and down between worlds
handing out pain and pleasure
in this mysterious way.

*“Sequestration” was the first charge made against Josef Fritzl in Amstetten, 26 April 2008, after the discovery of the 24 year captivity of his daughter and her children he fathered through incestuous rape.

Sorry

I was reading a poem
about a mother’s memory
of her son’s first schoolday,
and I remembered first day
for both of us
at the new secondary school.

From the staff-room window
I saw my son standing alone,
hands in pockets
of his new grey pants,
slouched sufficiently to suggest
to schoolyard observers his ease
and approachability

but I saw
his chin tilted
eyes straight
shoulders squared

against whatever battering
I’d dragged him to
this time

his spirit as always
sternly alert
and courageous.

Waterbed

Mirror, stained glass window, curtain
throw light and shadow on the red quilt,
undulating centre surrounded by still life

How long do you think this will last?
It’s not your bed

Life on the ocean wave
lasts only until the night
he sleeps elsewhere

and you attack his bed
with a carving knife

Early hours of morning weeping
you try to patch the waterbed
with masking tape

He comes home
The wounds are fatal.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Judith Steele is Australian, currently lives in South Australia. She is co-author (with Moira McAuliffe) of Fighting Monsters, (Vaughan Willoughby, Melbourne, 1998) and was twice winner of the Dymocks Northern Territory Red Earth Poetry Prize (2001, 2002). Her poetry has appeared in Northern Territory and South Australian publications; in Gobshite Quarterly (Oregon) and Tema (Zagreb); and in webzines The Animist, Thylazine, Four and Twenty and In Other Words: Merida (May 2013).

 

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viejos tributo merida jpb

Artist: Juan Pablo  Bavio

Anciana de Yucatàn

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