Flash Special (March 2013 / 13.6)
Robin Grotke is a 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,” taking the viewer to the location of the photograph so that he/she feels as she did when the image was taken. Blue Bench is a faux color infrared image and was taken in Fort Fisher, North Carolina.
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I step off the flamingo colored bus and walk into the middle ages with mountains hovering in the background while lots of vapors hit depending on which way you turn, charcoal smoke, dried dung, piss, nothing remotely romantic as the universe you’ve been living in has been flicked and brought you back to the time of camels and donkeys into the back of beyond sans electricity but rosy glow kerosene lanterns show off local vendors’ fruit in brown one story buildings down the dried mud thoroughfare where small piles of oranges are arranged like pyramids of precious gems and lanterns put out thin beams of shaky light so walking down the street into darkness you hear a clip-clopping echo and see a flickering pin prick light and jump out of the way of a donkey cart headed right at you with the driver sitting on top smoking kif next to a kerosene lamp unable to see you in the pitch black air though you might smell donkey and driver if the dung laced breeze blows up your nose as my body quivers with new found knowledge of time so I pour sand from one hand to the other in order to anchor me to the earth and settle into a leathery haunch and breathe in the remnants of the old ways through worn slats of the oldest door in the world hanging in entrance of a mud compound where bakers hook their flat dough pieces the size of small pillows with a black rod onto the roof of a beehive shaped oven with a flick of their wrists bakers’ limbs having an intelligence of their own needing no concentration after 1,000 years of repetition while turban wrapped men pass as if in parade out of the bible faces not quite Asian not quite European dark beards hollow cheeks gazing into space until throwing out pieces of conversation into the air stepping past dried creek beds with cratered walls of sand on either side of you the chaos of the crust of earth as if some mad god of sculpture troweled along their rims in ecstatic abandon jubilating in the peculiar sense of sand surrounding you in a protective snake shaped womb as you listen to the high wailing voices from the tendrils of the wind a song slithering among dunes carved from alleys of sand melody and lyric complete while a woman’s mating ritual of belly jiggling, pelvic thrusts vibrate and stretch in filthy angelic writhing in the mud unleashing a gale of erotic energy as drums carry her through different symphonies of movement causing the skin of the soldier of peace to split like a serpent’s egg to reveal the tinkle of a goat’s bell.
Mark Blickley is a widely published author of fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry and a member of PEN American Center. His latest book of fiction is Sacred Misfits (Red Hen Press). His work has appeared in Fiction International, Cream City, Potomac Review, Blackwater Review, and Rio Grande Review.
Last Night’s Berries
“You’re sweet in daytime,” he said, making me wonder what I was at night, last night. He stepped left, his face vanishing behind cardboard advertising “nectarines 89-cents a pound,” and what I could see of his right shoulder looked unfamiliar. He said he figured I would not remember, would be surprised he showed up at my job.
“Well, good. I suppose,” I said, and I fixed a basket of cherries someone tipped, tumbling them amongst the honeydew. A breeze wafted heat from the street and parking lot. From last night I remembered smoke from my friend Sam’s backyard fire pit, wood snapping as it shifted, dried, autumn-like warmth blanketing everyone—though it was hot because of July, not just because of fire. We had sipped sweaty beers, eaten hot dogs off charred sticks. Dark, I barely saw fire-lit faces laughing at nothings.
“I wanted to talk more,” he said, tossing an apricot one hand to another, back and forth, peering across displays of fruit. “In the light of actual day.” He chuckled, looked down as if ashamed, as if last night had blotched a pristine record. But I was used to mornings like jigsaw puzzles made entirely of grey whorls of storm cloud. Though typically I was alone confronting the indiscriminate pieces. Today there was him, his eyes emitting daylight.
“Ok,” I said, “but I need to pay attention.” I gestured toward the cash register.
“Sure,” he said. “Don’t let me bug you.” A woman handed me money, a bundle of sage, three peaches. I weighed the fruit and watched him wander, still tossing the apricot hand to hand, peeking into a crate of cantaloupes. He seemed nice. They always start out nice, though, don’t they?
I wondered what he knew. What words I had spoken—words suddenly seeming precious few like those of someone dying. Two goldfinches twittered, swooping through the corner, over the redskin potatoes. He reached for a strawberry, showed me, smiling.
“Strawberries,” I muttered. “Do I remember something about strawberries?” He nodded—again with the looking downward. He ate the strawberry, pocketed the leafy top, and I was sorry it was gone before I knew what it meant. Like the time I found a baby’s photo in a junk box, asked Mom if it was me, but she did not know. The fat face pushing a plastic grocery cart on a sidewalk became a phantom, became no one if not me.
“So tell me who I am,” I said. “If we talked, made out, whatever, then who am I?” A breath of asphalt heat exhaled, warmed my skin like velveteen, sweat trickling my temple. I watched his thinking face, searched for my skin in the skin of stranger. But as his lips parted to respond I stopped him, my outstretched palm flexed, saving me from what I might hear.
Kerry Trautman writes at dawn in Ohio. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in various print and online journals, including The Toledo Review, Alimentum, Third Wednesday, and Think Journal, as well as in the anthologies, Tuesday Night at Sam and Andy’s Uptown Café (Westron Press, 2001), Mourning Sickness (Omniarts 2008), and Roll (Telling Our Stories Press, 2012).
I just wanted to dance, perfumed, in silk, in gossamer. Mother took care of all the rest. Of course I followed her advice. When I saw John’s head on the platter, I felt irredeemable.
Beate Sigriddaughter is a US citizen currently living and writing in North Vancouver, Canada. Her work has received three Pushcart Prize nominations. She has also established the Glass Woman Prize to honor passionate women’s voices. Currently she is working on a novel called “Tango.“
The young waitress smiled as she approached the booth. “Would you like a menu?”
“Yes, I would,” said the old gent. He took the menu, slipped it under the left side of his jacket.
Megan’s forehead wrinkled. “What are you doing?”
“You just gave me a menu.”
“No — like, I meant to read.”
“I read it once. Boring.” He placed the menu back on the table.
“I’ll give you a minute.” She leaned over the table and reached for the napkin holder. “Excuse me.”
“What’d ya do — what’d ya do?” He picked up the menu and fanned the air.
Megan straightened, turned as red as a Mexican sunset, looked around and mumbled, “I didn’t do anything.”
She brushed back a loose strand of hair, regained her composure and said with a chilly tone, “Would you like to order now?”
The old guy leaned forward, squinted at the menu. “I’ll have ham an’ eggs.”
Megan slouched on one hip, scribbled on the order pad. “How do you like your eggs?”
“I like them very much.”
The waitress frowned. “No — how do you like them cooked?”
“I like them that way.”
“I’ll make them over easy.”
“I’d rather you asked the cook to do it.”
Megan delivered the order, then walked over to the cashier’s counter. “That ol’ guy gave me a hard time.”
The cashier looked at the booth. “Mike? He always pulls a routine on new help. But he’ll leave an awesome tip.”
“Does he come here often?”
“Almost every day — he owns the place.”
Ramon Collins lives on the NE corner of the Mojave Desert with an Irish wife and two little Animal Rescue dogs.
SupaMillenialNight-SpeedFalcon (Hong Kong 1996)
I think about that night and imagine myself running. Better yet, a running, veering, wildly sprinting, nameless silhouette inside of a logo, going, running like crazy, and inside of that—not stars but lights— a flower bursting open, the city itself, Hong Kong, jump to hyperdrive, boom through streets. And those stars stretch out . . .
Smash-cut to me falling through clouds—or, seemingly, right through clouds, into a couple of garbage cans, on Rodgers street, that part I remember, and everybody’s laughing; those girls, even Dustin, and it’s off, into traffic, horns blaring, I’m zigzagging, stumbling, those few beers, and I’m sweating, this weird fever, then again all that’s just an excuse. Then later, dry-heaving, crouched in the gutter. This must have been after that party, and we never did meet up with Nemo, we stood in line outside the Lost World for as long as I could stomach it, and Dustin was still there behind me, and as usual he’d wait this one out. And what about that party?! Or skip out to the end. Zooming around, turning without brakes, and because I’m drunk the idea is to soften me up, the old cross-harbour tunnel thing. Pulled over, there on the shoulder, bathed in the lights of the two cabs, and it’s not just my driver, the Kowloon taxi guy too, he’s pissed, also a third guy, Hawaiian shirt, interpreting, and wait, where’s Dustin?! And they could sack me, take my money, that’s the funny part, instead we’re negotiating; smiling, interrupting each other, I’ve got the sequined jacket over my head like a turban, and fellas, who else is blazing through these nights? Listen, forget the money. Not only are we like brothers out here, we’re strugglers, we move man, we’re on a mission . . .