Spring Quarterly – Ekphrastic / Film (May 2012 / 12.10)
Artist, Robin Grotke: Grotke is an artist and photographer living on the southern coast of North Carolina. Her inspiration is drawn from nature, people and cultures, emotions and humor, new life and decay, present moments and distant memories. Grotke’s work focuses on the sensation of “being there,” of taking the viewer to the location of the photograph and to feel like she did when the image was taken.
Robert E. Wood
À bout de souffle
His life is nothing if not a movie—
murder just another take.
He is too fond of making faces
to strike the Bogart pose for long.
She has come to Paris to study art
and her own reflection.
She may be the only woman
who doesn’t remind him of his mother.
He has held his breath almost forever.
It leaves him now like a puff of smoke.
In the final frame she stares at the camera
as if her emptiness had grown profound.
Robert E. Wood teaches in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Tech, and is the author of Some Necessary Questions of the Play, a study of Hamlet. His poetry has appeared in Quiddity, Quercus Review, Ouroboros and Umbrella, War, Literature, and the Arts, Jabberwock Review, Prairie Schooner, and Minnetonka Review. A chapbook, Gorizia Notebook, was published by Finishing Line Press.
Death by Chocolate, or Seriously Lynched
And what about: there’s this signature dessert at the restaurant where you are eating and it is called DEATH BY CHOCOLATE? And you know it is, because you’ve had it, and wow. But you’re youngster shy so you just wait and don’t say anything when he asks what’s good, because you know if you try to talk and he listens, you’ll turn lava cheeks on the surface with accompanying meltdown beneath.
He orders it on his own, so you’re off the hook, sorta, but not really, because, between the intensity of that cake, and well, this particular guy in his nifty white shirt and dark jacket, (not to mention his signature shock of ash blond hair): there’s no way something is not going to happen. So when the waitress places this dessert in front of him, (and must be there are some forks for you and that other guy whatsis), but everyone’s busy watching as the new owner of the Death by Chocolate spreads his hands above the table — for the silence, for the spell — and at the same time he leans slightly forward, and compensates for the lowering of his voice by the widening of these oracle blue orbacles, to get across that this is serious business.
“What if,” he says slowly in this flat Midwestern voice, still embracing the aura of the death chocolate with his hands, fork waving between index and middle as might a casual wand, “this is the kind of cake . . .” (here he pauses, making sure you’re getting it), “that the morrre (drawing the word out) you eat of it . . . (pause, pause . . .), “instead of getting fat . . . (oh, ah!), “the morrre (he gestures outward) and morrre, you . . . (he leans forward over the table) get . . . skinny!” he finishes with a whisper, hands flat on the table now, fixing you with his eyes, daring anyone to breathe. And because this guy is David Lynch, the one directing your show, Blue Velvet, and you are merely an art department assistant – because of these things, you don’t. Don’t, can’t, breathe. Already tongue-tied and spastic kneed in the spell, thanks very much. No, don’t breathe, but! Because you look at him, only a furtive sidelong glance: just as you very well knew from the absolute beginning of this tale.
While he simply takes his fork and digs in, you, of course — yes — do exactly as the chocolate proclaimed.
Catherine Davis’s work has appeared at BLIP Magazine, 52|250 A Year of Flash, kaffe in katmandu, Blue Print Review, and elsewhere, and has received the Joan Johnson Award in Fiction. She is an Assistant Professor teaching writing at a small college in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In another life, she has decorated sets for film, including Blue Velvet, The Imposters, Joe Gould’s Secret, Copy Cat, Brokeback Mountain, Ira and Abby, and We Own the Night.
Away from Hong Kong
the reporter told
his grief to a stone,
stopped up his sorrow
with clumps of grass:
how two could intertwine
through typewriter pulp
and dinner pails traver-
sing stairs, how clocks
marked years leading to
surgeons and foreign tongues
becoming fertilizer for fields.
Emily Severance has an MFA in studio art from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Camroc Press Review, Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Juked, qarrtsiluni, Sisyphus, and Switched-on Gutenberg. She teaches in New Mexico.
Closely Watched Trains
When the announcement comes, and the lights flash in the distance, I step over the yellow line and steady my feet. I don’t want to stay back from the edge. I don’t want to take care. I want to stand as close as I can, so that the passing cars or wagons almost graze my nose and the tips of my shoes.
I want to feel the wind sting my eyes with grains of dust picked up from far-flung fields. I want to smell the tang of cities and towns and villages. I want to feel the drag of death as it tries to pull me along with it.
And then as it recedes, I’ll step back and let out the breath I’ve been holding, releasing the air of home and work, the exhalations of family and friends, to mingle with the wash of air, to be lifted and carried by the next train along.
That was where I met him. As I stepped up he grabbed me by the elbow, told me not to do it. Told me it wasn’t worth it. Told me there was plenty to live for.
I laughed in surprise, and explained.
His look told me he thought I was mad. But he was intrigued.
The next through train that came, I reached down and took his hand and we stepped up together.
The wind rose and lifted our hair into dervishes. His fingers tightened on mine as the gale threatened to carry us away to Kansas and beyond. He let out a sound – a whine – which rose into a howl. I could feel sound waves fractured by carriage-ends reflecting back against me as his howl grew louder. I joined him, our voices rising in harmony above the clatter of the wagons.
As the last one passed, the howl turned into a laugh, then evolved into tears and broke down into giggles.
“I should have asked,” I said, when we’d recovered enough “were you meant to be catching a train?”
He looked at me and I saw the tears of laughter had cut clear tracks through the dust which covered his face. I knew I looked the same.
“Not anymore,” he said.
Calum Kerr is a writer, editor, lecturer, and director of the UK National Flash-Fiction Day. His stories have appeared in Bugged, Litro, Flash, Shoestring, The Pygmy Giant, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Ether Books, and on BBC Radio 4. His pamphlet 31 is available on Kindle on Amazon, and his new collection, Braking Distance, was published by Salt in April 2012. Between 2011-2012 he wrote a flash fiction every day for his project Flash 365. For more information, go to his website.
Orfeu Negro (1959)
A young beauty in white [Eurydice] disembarks from
a ferry [in Rio de Janeiro], and is startled by a blind peddler.
Her agitation seems naive, an innocent overwhelmed by
the ubiquitous carnival drumming and the dangerous
festive vibe of the swarming revellers in the harbour
–Lawrence Russell, Black Orpheus (2002)
Call the blind man in the first scene Tiresias,
after the sightless oracle
who knew the language of birds;
for that is his role when her boat nudges
the dock, not far from the cathedral.
On his staff, he carries pinwheels—
green, orange, red—they could be
a bough of hummingbirds—spinning.
Eurydice flees the masked figure of Death.
Because he is a soothsayer, the blind man knows
this, and says, “I can feel your heart
beating—like a trapped bird.”
He gives her a necklace of honey flowers
To help her forget, and points the way to safety,
though she is soon lost among the dancers,
the fish mongers and butchers of the marketplace.
The lens finds her, wandering near the bird sellers,
where ravens (for they, too, are Death)
crowd a green hummingbird, lying at the bottom
of a wrought iron cage.