Poetry

How To Reattach Icarus’s Wings and How to Drive an Old Car

by Rebecca Schumejda

 

How to Reattach Icarus’s Wings

for Kristina

The newspaper says your father stumbled in front of a car,

was drunk, his destination unknown;

no wings, not even a single, waxy feather stuck to his back,

no witnesses, no autopsy results yet, just speculation

and a relative’s words turned inside out by a journalist

who never met him until assigned the story.

 

I could barely read the offhanded comments about how

your mother died of cervical cancer, leaving you and

your siblings behind with a man who couldn’t follow

directions for microwavable meals, how his construction

business and second marriage fell apart, how after the death

of his parents, he found comfort in liquor juxtaposed by how he

was always the kind of guy who was the life of the party.”

 

I wonder where the journalist is now while your family and

friends gather in a veteran’s hall on a warm December evening

to celebrate the life of the man her words condemned.

If she were here, would she scribble down notes

as the Reverend speaks about how your father helped

people who he knew couldn’t pay for his work

and looked for nothing in return?

 

Would she sign her name in the guest book, look up

at the wall to appreciate the large black and white photo

of him when he was a young man, buck-naked,

suspended in midair like Icarus above

the body of water waiting to receive him?

 

 

 

How to Drive an Old Car

 

I open the dusty slats of the blinds with my fingers, so I can

watch the man across the street argue with his new, younger wife

about all the things he expected she would do that his ex didn’t.

 

After she drives off in the red convertible, he bought to lure her in,

I turn on the shower and wait for the water to run warm.

Looking down, I spy a cluster of gray pubic hairs. I am not that old,

 

but I am not that young either. I am my husband’s to-do list:

a thunderous muffler that needs silencing, a much needed tune up,

and a new battery. Luckily, my husband is a mechanical genius,

 

his car is parked a few blocks away, on a hill, so that he can

pop start it if it won’t cooperate. He knows replacement is futile,

new cars lose their value as soon as you drive them off the lot.

 

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Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Cadillac Men, a full-length collection of poems (NYQ Books, 2012) Falling Forward, a full-length collection of poems (sunnyoutside, 2009); From Seed to Sin (Bottle of Smoke Press, 2011), The Map of Our Garden (verve bath, 2009); Dream Big Work Harder (sunnyoutside press 2006); The Tear Duct of the Storm(Green Bean Press, 2001); and the poem “Logic” on a postcard (sunnyoutside). She received her MA in Poetics and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and her BA in English and Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and daughter and online at: http://www.nyqbooks.org/author/rebeccaschumejda and www.rebeccaschumejda.com

3 poems rebecca schumdja_Painting Juan Pablo Bavio detail from  NIÑA MELANCOLICA

Painting: Juan Pablo Bavio – detail from  NIÑA MELANCOLICA

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Fiction

For you…

by Natalia Ilia

 

Please, try to remember that one holy moment, that unique autumn of our life, when you held me in your arms and our hearts became one for the first time. I was breathing rapidly and you said how miraculously brilliant was the fruit that took the grace of God and got out of your body.

And when you breathed I breathed, when you eat I eat and when you were sleeping, I was sleeping, too.

We raised together and our sun accompanied our hugs and talks. I was fed by your purest white drink and my body never got sick. You washed me with your warm breath and your kind wishes and prayers and my soul never got hurt. You taught me the truth of God and you revealed the traps of real life and sorts of knowledge and my spirit never sinned.            And even though I owe you for all these, knowing that your giving is not to be returned, only a worthless “thank you” comes out of my mouth.

During the first nights, I was waiting for you to lean on your pillow and fall asleep so to wake you up again and again, innumerable times. But you were always coming by my side patiently and tenderly and you put me back to sleep. Your mind was full of sweet melodies and beautiful, simple and dreamy words which you used to sing to me whenever I needed to sink into a deep sleep upon the white flakes of the sky.

And yet, you never complained about your lost moments of  sleep. You were just sitting on your rocking chair, without making any noise, like a guardian angel next to my bedside.

Once, I remember, I asked you if you love me much and if you would be next to me forever and you answered that love cannot be measured by much or little. Because, you knew that it was that kind of love that we shared, that differed from all the others, and by the moment it had started it could not be stopped.  And you told me that our love was like the life of stars. They never fall, they are never lost. They stay in the same place from the moment you are born till the moment you die. Then, you said that for you I would stay forever and ever the most precious person of your life, but yet you couldn’t protect yourself from dying. And I was terrified by that news. And, who was death that had the power to tear us apart? By the moment you saw my body trembling, you took a heavy oath. You promised that each time I would suffer, you would come dressed like an angel in white and intrude like a hyena in the heart of every pain and every bad feeling and protect my existence with your endless love.

Years later, the letters came in our life. One plus one equals two, part – amphibians, the Pythagorean Theory and Euclid. And there you were again, transforming your mind into a child’s one. Because, that was the only way to help me understand the meaning of all these strange theories and make me curious about the centripetal and the centrifugal forces. Each time I had to deal with a problem you were always near to give me a thousand options and conclusions and solutions. And what an unspeakable joy, the first time I choose my own solution. And “why is this?” and “why is that?” and so many questions to be answered. I could accept and deny everything in the same time. But, no matter how many were the questions, you were always there to explain to me in every possible way how this world functions.

And by that time, between hugs and kisses, a cloudy autumn morning I saw that red hot fluid running over my legs. It was the blood from your blood. A fateful moment that I thought I had ruined everything. I had been transformed into a woman, but it was too soon. I cried your name, but you came and tenderly kissed my stomach and called me your grown up little woman. Though, it didn’t matter to me, because I knew that from now on everything had changed. And I was right.

After that, I grew up a little more and some stormy nights came to confuse our happiness. Despite your efforts, I couldn’t accept any of your advices nor bear any of your restrictions. I became a rebel and no one could stand on my way. Thus, you took a step back and let me do my own mistakes so to learn what life really is about. Later, you confessed that I was a mirror of your own youth and that you were so proud of me each time I stood up for my rights instead of giving up. I remember clearly enough that you told me to open my wings and fly to a world that would suit my needs of expression, without being afraid of what this world would say. I do remember “Nothing is impossible, as long as you have faith in you”.

But the impossible came suddenly in our life. Actually, it’s not that impossible. I can see how your hair have become grey enough and how much you need my help to stand up.

But again it’s too soon. Everything have happened too soon. I need more time with you though no words have been left unspoken and no feelings have been left unsatisfied, you cannot just disappear and leave all alone.

Where are you now, that I am the one who has to explain the Pythagorean Theory and the centripetal forces? Where are you now, that I have to be so generous to hugs and kisses and not caring about my lost moment of sleep? Where are you now, that I have to show patience to every little question that comes again and again by the same mouth?

I promise you, wherever you are, that I am going to live all these wonderful moments till my last breath. I will tolerate the most blessed childish reactions. I will put all my purest ingredients to sculpture the most unique and beautiful of all my creations.

And every autumn I will come over for a little conversation, bring some flowers and some of your favorite biscuits. I promise I am going to be there with my child, your granddaughter.

And for the end, I am giving you these words. You offered me the most unforgettable autumns and winters and summers and springs of all my life. And that is because the love that we shared didn’t make the world go round, but made our common journey priceless.

My beloved mother, I hope we’ll meet again in Heaven.

 

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

 

Natalia Ilia was born in Athens in 1983. She is a Sociologist with a Master Degree in Criminology. For the past ten years she works on music projects, while she uses writing as a self refuge. Her first book titled “Next Door Men” is as in-depth study on serial killers from around the world. It was released in 2010 by Oselotos publishing. Most of her short stories have been awarded in nationwide competitions. Her first theatrical script entitled “Monologue of a Dog” was awarded and presented in Athens in May 2012.

fiction natlia ilia_Paiting Juan Pablo Bavio detail from DESCONFIANZA

Painting: Juan Pablo Bavio – detail from DESCONFIANZA

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Fiction

Bus Ride

by Marsha Barrett

 

It was 2:00 Sunday morning, and I was catching a Greyhound bus home to Maryland after attending a dinner in New York City. The bus was parked deep inside New York City’s Port Authority Terminal, a large subterranean building on 8th Avenue and 42nd Street.

I had no car; I took a lot of public transportation. In my travels, I had met many interesting people who told me of their lives and I was always surprised by their complexities.

A young man sat next to me. He was a bundle of energy and verve from the moment he choose the seat. He rearranged his bag several times, talking all the while. He had shaved his head bald and wore a gold earring. He was probably 5’11”, trim, muscular, and dressed in a dark sweatshirt and jeans. In a constant stream of conversation, he talked freely with me about his personal life as if he were friends with the whole world. In less than two minutes he suggested we get together.

So, you dating anyone?”

“No.”

“So, maybe you and me should get together.”

I smiled and said, “I don’t think so.”

“Hey, older women are great, you know, all those hormones,” he smiled.

I laughed and said, “So, I’ve heard. Thanks for the offer but I want more than sex.”

“Oh yeah, like relationship and intimacy,” he said.

“Yeah,” I laughed, “like that, those are some nice words.”

Internally, I sighed, staring at a seemingly intelligent, healthy, young man. I wondered ‘What age do you live in, sir? Have you ever heard of AIDS? It’s pandemic. One in 200 young adults in the United States is infected with HIV according to Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Approximately 21 million people worldwide are infected. By comparison, the 14th century’s bubonic plague killed about 25 million people. Deaths from HIV will exceed that number.’ Visions of a decimated population filled my mind.

Was he playing the numbers game–ask every woman you meet and hope for a hit? All my life, I had heard men used this approach. I wondered about their ability to adapt. Men, who played the numbers game in the age of AIDS, were courting their own death. I speculated that males suffered from a mind-body disconnection where their logical mind did not communicate with their libido.

He offered me all of his food, several bags of corn chips, potato chips, and candy bars. I declined. I watched as he wolfed down the chips.

“Are you hungry?” I asked.

I offered him one of my sandwiches. He took it, but before he ate it, he asked “You’re not trying to poison me, are you?” He stared at my face looking for telltale signs of madness. He opened the sandwich and eyed it suspiciously.

“No,” I said, “It’s a bologna and cheese with mustard.”

He was thirty-three. He told me now, he was thinking he should settle down and get married.

“Know what you want or you’ll get what you don’t want,” I said.

“I want a woman who isn’t smarter than I am, I’m telling you the truth. I want her to laugh at my jokes and accept me as I am,” he said.

He was a contradiction. He was ready one minute for a quick liaison, then talking of future marriage plans the next. He said he worked in construction. He built and repaired bridges and his voice was hoarse from yelling all day. He talked of his apartment and how he regretted getting all black lacquer bedroom furniture. It collected dust easily. He liked things to be clean and dust did not look clean.

And he talked of pizza, and who made it best. “Hey, what do you expect? I’m Italian”, he explained.

As we talked, he joked, and we laughed. I was intrigued. He was so verbal. This was a novel experience, few men I had met or known were as open and talkative. He questioned me about my marriage and my divorce.

Why I hadn’t been involved with anyone in the years since my divorce? he asked. I was again struck by the intimacy of his questions. The bus was dark and quiet. The tall, upholstered seats created a sense of seclusion, muffling everyone’s voices. Before I answered, I pondered the phenomenon of strangers sharing personal information.

On the bus up to New York City, a young South African selected the seat next to me. I looked nice, he said. He was anxious. He faced 24 more hours of travel before he returned home. He had been visiting his fiancée in the West.

All Americans think of is money, he said. He seemed naive. He clutched a religious inspirational book and told me he met the book’s author. Pointing to the author’s picture, he smiled at the memory and said, “I met him. He’s tall. He’s someone you can really look up to.”

I remembered the Blackfoot Indian boy I met on the train on the way to South Carolina last summer. He was beautiful; his dark lashes framed wide dark eyes set in a young, open face. He was fifteen and had ulcers. He had been a juvenile delinquent and now worked for a family as a babysitter. He was going to visit his father.

We played cards through South Carolina. He toyed with his food, making up games with it, claiming he’d never grow up.

None of my former seatmates had asked me such personal questions as this young Italian did as he inquired about my dating habits. I told him what I thought was the truth. I still loved my ex-husband. That silenced him for about two seconds.

Later, when he learned I didn’t have a television or a stove, he cracked up. “How come you don’t have a stove?” he asked.

I’d bought a house that was a handyman special, a house that needed work. I had to gut the kitchen and only had enough money to refinish one half.

“Don’t tell me, you got a refrigerator and a sink instead of a stove,” he grinned. I nodded.

“No wonder you can’t get a guy. A man wants a channel clicker and food,” he advised. I chuckled. He had a point, but the man I was looking for would want something more. I didn’t know if such a man existed anywhere but in my mind.

“No TV, no stove,” he giggled and fell back against the seat laughing.

I laughed too, and said, “You’re probably right, but it wouldn’t help if I got a stove because I can’t cook.” We laughed until we cried. He fell asleep against my shoulder.

 

 

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

Marsha Barrett

Originally from Silver Spring, MD, she lives in Mérida, México in Yucatán. She is a writer/editor, web/desktop publisher and an avid bollywood fan. Professionally, she prepared marketing materials for research reports and maintained the department website. As a former typesetter, she wrote a typesetting manual, marketing and lesson materials for clients. In her previous writing group, she read her slice-of-life stories. Now, besides writing monthly Bollywood movie reviews for her blog bollywoodtalk@blogspot.mx, she is exploring micro-business marketing, teaching English, and working on a novel, plus there’s a screenplay living in her head.

fiction marsha barrett_Painting Juan Pablo Bavio detail from COMPLICIDAD

Painting: Juan Pablo Bavio –  detail from COMPLICIDAD

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Essay

Two Poets and a Dancer Suing Mexico: A Dancing Metaphor of Arts and Politics

by Fer de la Cruz

 

I don’t want my government to get away with extortion, especially when it is done to me. So this is my personal story regarding Mexico´s hottest issues: public education and human rights. For months I haven´t been paid in my job as a professor of Creative Writing for a public school of arts. So I am suing. Yes it is possible to sue the government in Mexico and, despite retaliations, it is possible to win. I was writing this to share with readers of In Other Words: Mérida right as the national leader of Mexico´s largest teacher´s union was about to be arrested on charges of embezzlement, as The New York Times was reporting on the hundreds of disappearances by Mexican police and military forces, as I was receiving kind invitations to work without pay at this year´s International Book Fair in Mérida (FILEY), and as I was worrying about how I would pay this month´s rent.

Beside the disappearances, the beatings in the prisons, the illegal arrests, the irregular trials, and the horrors of that sort which are not always publicized in the newspapers but one would expect to occur in a developing country, what is probably the most subtle but prevalent of human rights violations committed by the Mexican government against its citizens is the withholding of payment earned by workers in the public sector, particularly in schools. This is an account of my own such experience here in the state of Yucatan, Mexico, as founding professor at the School of Creative Writing at Yucatan´s State Center of Fine Arts—a nearly one-hundred-year-old institution locally known as Bellas Artes—after I, with some colleagues, decided to sue.

Many of the professors within Mexico´s huge public education system saw St. Valentine´s Day go by without having yet received September´s paycheck. Year after year, this is the reality of Mexico’s adjunct professors: 1) that their new 10-month contract is finally authorized—in which case they get their late payments all at once—or 2) less often, but not unheard of in Bellas Artes, that their new contract is not authorized by the Secretary of Education and the time that they already worked will not be paid. From this perspective, slavery is still taking place in Mexico.

To prevent this, in July 2012, thirteen of Bellas Artes´ employees (two from the administration and eleven faculty members of various arts) placed a lawsuit demanding tenure from the Secretary of Education, to which Bellas Artes belongs. The initiative came from Leticia Sánchez Vargas, professor of Mexican folk dance who has been teaching there for fourteen years. On more than one occasion, Maestra Leticia obtained excellent marks on her tenure examination, only to discover later that new teachers, including her own former students, were being hired by the newly appointed principal and entered Bellas Artes as tenured faculty.

This school year, due to the transition between the old and new State governor, payment came early in Bellas Artes. Except for those thirteen listed as plaintiffs within the July lawsuit, every non-tenured worker received their payment and contract in October. Shortly after, we and our lawyers found out that a group of teachers and the two workers from the administration had withdrawn from the lawsuit. The entire faculty of the Jazz Dance department then decided to step down in support of their coordinator who, reportedly, had been threatened with losing her job if her teachers and staff did not line up with Bellas Artes´ higher authorities. Other teachers were simply offered more teaching hours. At least one was legitimately afraid that she would lose her teaching job at a different official institution.

In any case, the extortion continued. Bellas Artes´ principal, Maestra Rita Castro Gamboa, summoned most of the “rebellious” teachers to her office, one by one, with a simple offer. If, while within her presence, teachers chose to call the Secretary of Education´s legal services office and withdraw from the lawsuit, in return, she would immediately authorize the release of the paychecks withheld and extend them new ten-month contracts. She kept her word in most cases and her method proved effective, reducing the number of dissidents from thirteen to the current three. The last one to abandon the lawsuit, in January of this year, was a professor of contemporary dance who had to pay her mortgage or lose her house. She has taught at Bellas Artes for seven years.

In the meantime, those who remained party to the lawsuit continued to teach but without pay. The three who remain are: Lety Sánchez from Mexican folkdance, and from Creative Writing, Francisco Lope Ávila and myself. Maestro Lope is quite knowledgeable of the issues mentioned in the opening line as he happens to be a member of the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights. Unlike the many professors suing the government in the State of Yucatan alone, we´ve gone public. However, there are some local journalists, artists, and intellectuals who hesitate to take a stand, perhaps out of fear of losing their jobs or isolating their influential contacts.

The Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights, member of the International Federation for Human Rights, has already sent a letter to Yucatan´s new Governor, dated Dec. 10, 2012, urging him to instruct the State Secretary of Education, Dr. Raúl Godoy Montañez, and Bellas Artes´ principal, among others, to immediately cease violations of both criminal and labor laws as well as the Human Rights of Bellas Artes´ professors.

As for me, after having worked enough semesters for a paternalist government, I’ve transformed from lyric poet to satirist (as Quevedo did), believing that it’s better to laugh than cry. Along with Lety & Lope, I am actually enjoying this ongoing legal process, painful though the lack of an income may be, because we are proving to ourselves and others in our situation that something can be done. And as we fly among the uncertain winds of politics (here´s the dancing metaphor), Lope and I are looking for a publisher who might be interested in the wonderful poems written by the children and other students of all ages who have attended our classes and workshops for the past four-and-a-half years since we founded Bellas Artes´ School of Creative Writing. And we stand at ease, knowing that the law is on our side and that our lawyers have proven to be far more efficient than those of the State government, in our tropical corner of this developing country (which is still quite safe for tourists), where we are proudly making a difference in what our principles dictate as wrong.

 

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Fer de la Cruz is a Yucatecan poet born in 1971. He has received two national, two regional, and one state-wide poetry awards in Mexico and is a member of the founding faculty at the School of Creative Writing of the State Center of Fine Arts, in Mérida. He is also coordinator of the Historic Mérida branch of Centro de Idiomas del Sureste, where he was a teacher for 20 years. He holds an MA in Spanish from Ohio University and a BA in Philosophy. As an independent editor, writer, translator, and cultural promoter, he has participated in cultural festivals, conferences, and book fairs in Mexico, Cuba, France, and the United States. His poems appeared in the books “Redentora la voz” (Ayuntamiento de Mérida, 2010) and “Aliteletras. De la A a la que quieras” (Dante, 2011), as well as in the chapbooks “La cuenta regresiva. Radiografía urbana mesozoica” (El Drenaje, 2012) and “Seven Songs of Silent, Singing Fireflies” (JKPublishing, 2008): delacrux@hotmail.com.

 

an essay by fer de la cruz_Painting Juan Pablo Bavio detail from  CABEZA CANSADA

Painting: Juan Pablo Bavio – detail from  CABEZA CANSADA

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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

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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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