Artist, Christopher Woods: Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher, and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. His photo essays have appeared in Public Republic, Glasgow Review, and Narrative Magazine. He shares a gallery with his wife Linda at MOONBIRD HILL ARTS – Moonbird Hill Photography.
The Red Knitting Woman
—after La tejedora roja by Remedios Varo
In a corner of a dark room she winds
a skein of rose-colored wool into a ball.
Behind her graying crown of braids,
fleur-de-lis on papered walls
reflect their vague faces in the mirror,
and from the open window filter
fresh cut grass, lavender, sweet basil,
pale evening sun, breezes.
She breathes in the clear light of being,
and shuts her eyes.
She dreams the red scarf she will knit
has gathered itself from her lap
and become a woman. Auburn hair, arms
open like wings. Poised to fly under the sash.
She wakes in her chair, wonders where
the scarf lady has flown. The light
in the room has faded. Coarse
wool rubs against her fingers. She casts
on the first row. Shadows and sunset
shift like flames through the glass.
Christine Swint is a teacher of English, Spanish, and occasionally yoga. She lives outside the city with her husband, her two sons, and her dogs, Red and Duffy. Her work has appeared recently in Ouoroboros Review, Poets for Living Waters, and The Cordite Review.
Let’s Not Use the Word “Delicious”
The sound is off. I no longer require tenderness and my big audition was years ago. Let’s not use the word “delicious” to remember his buttered lips, the way he said my blue jeans smelled like a forest… how our honeymoon ended with vanilla nut-bean coffee, pleasant and dumb. How we swam out to the sea of yard sales, flea markets, superstores… whatever fit inside that damn red car.
Meg Pokrass is the author of DAMN SURE RIGHT, a new collection of flash fiction from Press 53, and serves as Editor-at-Large for BLIP Magazine (formerly Mississippi Review). Her stories, poems, and flash fiction animations have appeared in nearly one hundred online and print publications. She runs the popular Fictionaut-Five Author Interview Series. Most importantly, Meg loves bearded dragon lizards. Visit Meg’s website.
Elegy (For Dean)
Your vapor essence rises now,
your singing body failed.
I hear the voices crying, “Dean! So young!”
Outside the grackle pounces
on the feebly flapping sparrow wings,
staccatos its beak to the spastic breast.
I see great red chunks ripped free
and flung like rubies quivering to the porch,
then gorged into the black bird craw,
embers forever dying but always alive,
passed from one beak to another.
The sucking voices cry out, “Dean!”
I see the ember breath leave one beak,
inhaled by another. I see your body
ripped and raw in satin breezes
rocking through the grief-bouquet-ed parlor.
The glutted grackle ruffs its feathers
in a great bird belch, then launches
heavily to the tree above your empty hole,
picks its beak, croaks to the stunned silent air.
Your vapor essence fails.
The air lies thick under the grackle’s tree.
The gutter yawns to take you in.
The scraping shovels nudge
your emptied frame. The grackle preens
as breezes rise and rock your carcass
drained and dry as leaves blown in the gutter.
Robert Persons has been writing poetry, short fiction, and opinion pieces since he was a teenager. Several of his works have been published in Voices International, Tangent, Kaleidoscope, Amalgamated Holding Company, The Camel, the Lion, and the Child, Caryatid, Tempest, Ford Times, Trails, The Wisconsin Academy Review, and Jupiter SF.
Mama’s got this lipstick—red. Burgundy, rather. Mama says burgundy is the black folks’ red when it comes to lipstick. When she first told me that, I was going on seven and didn’t really know what burgundy was. Mama had said it was a dark purplish red. I looked it up anyway and found that mama was right, but burgundy was also defined as a blackish red— which satisfied me more because it seemed to go with what mama had said about burgundy being the black folks’ red. Once, I was talking to a cousin in the kitchen and said that mama’s lip color was maroon. Mama heard me and shouted down the steps, from the bathroom, that it was burgundy. “Maroon,” she hollered, “is a dark brownish red color.” But I looked it up anyway, and mama was right again, but I saw that maroon also had the same definition as burgundy: a dark purplish red. I almost told her that, but mama wouldn’t have cared anyway because burgundy is all mama cares about. Even her sisters ask her why she only wears burgundy lipstick and she always tells them that it’s the closest she’s gonna get to wearing red lipstick since she would look like a fool in that bright red the white girls wear. Mama’s sisters say mama should wear lipstick in the plum family, but mama hates anything related to purple: lavender, violet, indigo, mauve. “I can’t stand for a woman to wear purple lipstick,” she always says whenever her purple lipstick wearing sisters leave after visiting. All of the women on mama’s side wear purple: on their eyes, nails, cheeks, mouth. Mama never took to purple; she just went without color on her face until a man she was seeing said her lips would look good with some color to them. Wanting to keep him, she stole some color from the corner store— a tube of bright red; anything but purple. When he saw her with her bright red mouth, mama said, that man took his thumb and wiped it all off and said, “That color is for white women.” He told her to try a darker color; told her about this color his first wife used to wear—burgundy. That man is long gone, but mama has been stuck on burgundy ever since. And because of that man, mama always says to me, from time to time, to get it in my head, “Black women can’t wear bright red.” The first time she said it to me, we were in the drugstore. She had run out of lipstick and was looking around for her burgundy stick. When she couldn’t find it, I told her, holding up a tube of bright red lipstick, “You should try this one.” I barely had that tube in my hand a second before my mother snatched it, put it back, and told me about what black women can’t wear on their lips. “But Sheryl’s mother wears that color,” I said and mama, I could tell, was about to say something nasty about Sheryl’s mother until she realized I wasn’t one of the neighbor-women she gossips with at the gate. All she said was, “Sheryl’s mother ain’t black,” and she didn’t explain further— even though I kept asking her what she meant. Later, I asked Sheryl what my mama could’ve meant by that and all she had to say was that her mama had a little bit of white in her. “This much,” she had said, measuring the smallness of her mama’s whiteness with her index finger and thumb— the thumb and finger almost touching. “That’s not much,” I said and later showed my mama just how little, but mama said it may not have been much but that it was just enough for Sheryl’s mother to be born looking like she was whole-white, like she didn’t have a jet-black papa, waiting, ready to give her his last name. Sheryl’s mother is the kind who can wear bright red lipstick, mama says. But I don’t know what the big deal is about red lipstick, or lipstick at all for that matter. I’d rather have my own lips. “Lipstick is such a waste of time,” I told mama once. “It just comes off when you’re eatin’ or kissin’.” Mama didn’t like that – not because I was talking about kissin’ – but because I wanted nothing to do with lipstick. “One of these days,” she said, “you’re gonna come across a boy who likes everything about you ‘cept those plain lips.” She dug in her purse then and took out her burgundy tube, said, “Bring your face here,” and she slid that black folks’ red all over my mouth like that boy was already waiting outside for me on the porch.
Michelle McEwen, poet/storyteller and author of DELICIOUS DANGEROUS (a poetry chapbook published by Didi Menendez for the Mipoesias Chapbook Series in 2010), has had work published in Poets/Artists, The Caribbean Writer, and the anthologies THE BEST NEW POETS 2007 and WOMAN’S WORK (a short story anthology). In 2009, her poem “Sucker” was nominated for the Pushcart prize. When she isn’t busy writing or reading, she’s interviewing poets at The Poetry Chain Gang.
In Her Heart, Red Weeping
There is a smell
to a hundred white candles
burning pure in ruby glass.
It is passage, amnesty. It is a blanket
draped on the bony shoulders of a soul
cold and alone.
in descending rows of twenty flames
on the slightest breeze
from the cassock
of a long-dead priest.
A shapeless robe in pigeon blue
covers Our Lady.
Yards and yards of false wool
to diminish temptation. Dust collects
in the chipped folds.
In Her plaster face
I see my needs reflected.
Camaraderie — in our rightful place
on bended knee.
Bow, kneel, finger the virgin-pink rosary beads.
Years and years of bowing, decades of kneeling,
miles and miles of rosary beads.
We’ve shared wine, we two.
We’ve shared votives,
I see Her need reflected
in the grime at Her feet. Leaning forward to kiss them,
I singe my hair
on the sputtering, wary wax guards.
There is a smell
to singed hair,
a cadaver-sweet smell.
It fills the nave
in a way weeping cannot.
They are too much for me,
the Father and the Son.
They are too much for me,
but not enough
I’ve never summoned up the courage
to drink bourbon with lunch
or watch a movie before dark,
before the dinner dishes are washed and put away.
I can do no more
to liberate us than light another candle.
But I’ll light it with the Laws as written by man.