Blue Five Notebook – (April 2013 / 13.7)
Artist, 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. His photography can be seen in his gallery.
What is the difference between tangled and nappy? Heads of hair growing on other sides of tracks—interlocking of identity. Some kids sit on mother’s lap: a post-bath ritual. Others fashion a do-it-yourself do in the mirror: a daily lesson in upkeep/upbringing. Some strands become unruly. Flaxen tendrils with a tendency to stray. Other wisps rebel. Stand out like stubborn schoolchildren, a label they wear themselves. Frilly ribbons frame sunrays, suburban sky the face of ruptured stars. Elsewhere, rhythmic beads clap together during double-dutch upon urban concrete that has witnessed too much. Brushing locks—routine, day after day, a maintained shimmery cascade. Healthier than straightening with a hot comb, chemicals condemning scalp on special occasions: family reunions, funerals, weddings. Feisty threads, interlaced. Kinky curls; in your face. A condition. A lifestyle. Weaving in Sunday Best with what’s left of the self.
Daniel Romo is the author of Romancing Gravity (Pecan Grove Press, 2012) and When Kerosene’s Involved (Black Coffee Press, 2013). His poetry and photography can be found in The Los Angeles Review, Gargoyle, MiPOesias, Yemassee, Word Riot, and elsewhere. He teaches high school creative writing. He lives in Long Beach, CA. More of his writing can be found at Daniel Romo.
The mind is something John doesn’t want to think about. Not his nor anyone else’s. What’s the point? His wife could move from stove to sink to fridge, but what does that tell him about her thoughts, her schemes, her soul? The kitchen might be her chemistry lab, the garbage disposal her depository of failed research, and what about the freezer? Isn’t that the perfect hiding place for the poisons she might someday ladle into his oatmeal?
He presses against his recliner, stares at the ceiling, but pondering won’t do any good. He has to let go of distrust. Empty his skull. Find a distraction. One of those Kardashians is on the TV showing off her ample rear. His wife used to have hips, now she’s skinny as a Marsh pick.
Inside his cranium, the San Onofre Power Station looms dark against the sky, the ocean slaps rocks, but the heat inside the camper warms him, his fingers smoothing his wife’s curves as if she were made of clay.
“What’s going on in that nutty head of yours?” she asks.
Her interceptors are capable of mining every one of his unwelcome thoughts. He blames the days and nights in the trailer when he let her seep inside him like radiation from the nuclear power plant. He should get out of his chair; ramble onto the deck and into the sunshine. He likes this cantilevered house in the foothills, its view of Devil’s Gate Dam, the distant freeway, but dusty old pines groan against the railing—
“John, I’m talking to you.”
“What?” What had he done? Accused her of affairs with the deacon at church, his cousin Dave, even the sullen grocery clerk with the checkerboard tattoo, but that was long before.
“You’re getting on my last nerve.”
The eraser in his hand feels soft, but he knows it’s a figment. This happens, hearing his name called out, sharp and clear, when no one’s around. He sees in the darkness, a hunched shape dissolving into nothingness when he squints. He wants the Pink Pearl to be real so he can reach into his brain and rub it clean. But it isn’t and he can’t.
And there she is, standing over him, with a glass of something white in her hand. He frowns at the grim smile on her lips. Is this it, the moment one of her potions will eradicate him from the crust of the earth?
But didn’t this woman once dance the Hustle with him under a disco ball? Hadn’t they sipped champagne on a rooftop during Y2K? Raised a Palo Alto software wizard and UC soil scientist?
No. She’d been the one to raise them while he buried himself in the composition of the earth, its erosion, its earthquakes, its volcanic mountain building, and like his daughter, the very mud outside the door.
But don’t think. Empty your mind. Stare at the dancing light on the wall. Take your medicine.
Gay Degani has published on-line and in print including her own collection, Pomegranate Stories. She is editor-emeritus of EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles, a staff editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and blogs at Words in Place. Nominated twice for a Pushcart, her story “Something about L.A.” won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize.
This is (not) a poem about a knife
In the morning we visited the market,
a covered square
around a statue of a blind woman
and her dog.
The olives I chose from the Arab
the discount cheese she bought,
She held the sandwich out—
two small hands clamped.
A knife, brilliant as the fauna
on red hills,
sliced the sesame bread, swiss cheese,
the blade flirting
In the afternoon she wore
a yellow dress
and peeled it off her sturdy shoulders
to swim in the cove.
Elias Simpson tried to grow up in Iowa, where he now lives after the MFA stint at VT. He’s chief of the online art journal, Toad. Currently, poems are forthcoming from Cold Mountain Review, Interim, and Painted Bride Quarterly.
Several Forms of Leaving
When my sister and I were young, our parents went to England for several years and left us with our grandparents in Cairo. It was 1952, when Egypt declared its independence, and the people who had been protected under the old regime were forced out. Except for old people. They could stay. My mother’s departure was not surprising in that she is a person of surprises. One day she sat at the piano and played Clair De Lune, note for note. We did not know she could play piano. Another day, when she was 50, she performed a tap dance. We did not know she could dance.
In Cairo, my sister became seriously ill for several months, and I didn’t go into her room. I didn’t care about her feelings. I wanted to move around as I pleased, the way my parents did. I remember the men who stood on the teeming streets outside our windows and served tiny rum cakes to passersby. Behind them minarets rose up like amaryllis buds about to sing. The men wore beards and had kind eyes, and although I came from wealthy people, they gave me pastries for free. I didn’t think about the disease the flies might carry. I didn’t think about the fingers of the men.
One day, after my sister recovered, we watched a mother cat eat one of her kittens. A shadow fell across our childhoods, but we had found our bearings.
Laurie Stone is author of three books of fiction and nonfiction, a former writer for the Village Voice, and a member of the music-and-text performance troupe FlashPoint. Her stories have appeared in Open City, Anderbo, The Los Angeles Review, TriQuarterly, The Literary Review, and Threepenny Review, among many publications. In 2005, she participated in “Novel: An Installation,” writing a book and living in a house built for her in Flux Factory’s gallery space. She is at work on My Life as an Animal, Some Kind of Romance and The Pain of Language, a collection of essays.
Two Hundred Ninth from American Ghazals
This night, a jazz man lifts away from us, as others have,
a treble near Tal Wilkenfeld’s trans-Paganini hands.
Roughed up lake of old wood, water weeds, and toes
a hiding place from seedlings and full-grown trees.
An epistolary novel holds paint smell
in a house never to reside in.
A meal along the cusp of feigned alertness causes rifts
between people who claim intimate connection.
Tree house gathers rain then lets it go, apart from plan.
Legend equals nothing more than truth displaced from present tense.