Flash (Mob) Special (Sept 2013 / 13.17)
Nazifa Islam, whose cover art became the symbol of Flash Mob 2013, grew up in Novi, Michigan and received her B.A. in English from the University of Michigan. Her poetry and paintings have appeared in a number of publications, including Anomalous Press, splinterswerve, and Flashquake. Her debut poetry collection searching for a pulse is available from Whitepoint Press. She frequently updates her blog Thoughts Interjected and is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in poetry at Oregon State University. ‘Deep Sea was created using watered-down acrylic paint on a white cotton canvas. The unmarked canvas was pressed down on a pool of green and blue paint to create a sea weed-inspired fractal pattern.
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(Highly Commended and “Best Gerontagogy”)
They sit beside each other, him and her, gumming their digestives and staring at the horizon.
Seventy-five years ago today, she gave birth to him. She’s remembering the pain as she pushed, the tearing of her, and the wet heat as he was dumped on her chest, writhing, alive, all hers. Beautiful. A lifetime ago… yesterday. She sips her tea and thinks, I’m old.
He licks the digestive crumbs from his lips, his tongue smearing them but not agile enough to remove them. He wishes he had a Bourbon Cream, and hopes she’s remembered his birthday. Seventy-five. He thinks, so how long have I got?
Both of them hope she dies before him; it’s important. It might be the only important thing left. Both of them hold their breath for a moment, trying death out. Then they both inhale, and it still feels good.
‘Birthday, kid,’ she says.
‘Ma,’ he looks into her eyes. He’s said ‘Ma’ about fifty thousand times now, reckon.
She grins, and brandishes a parcel wrapped in shiny paper.
‘Seventy-fiiiive,’ she says, all proud, just like she said, five, six, seven.
It makes them laugh.
Tracey Upchurch lives and writes in a tiny house overlooking the Atlantic. She blogs at www.traceyupchurch.com and tweets as @traceyupchurch. More here.
W F Lantry
Memories resemble sight: the edges stay the longest, and the words. You reinvented every word for me: cashmere, peacock, bangle. I always thought those were bracelets. Until you told me they’re a term of art. Your art, the careful ornamentation of movement. Orchestrated with sound and flashes of gold, sapphires depending on the light, slants or unsuspected sudden beams, the considered harmonies of woven cloth, the echoes of your steps on marble.
I was alone in a foreign place. Summer: not the solitary night of the countryside, the boisterous firelight of a central square. There was music from a cafe, long flickering shadows of people and forms milling half in and half out of darkness. A few were sitting on the edge of a fountain, I could hear the water behind them. If I’d looked up, I could have seen stars, the constellations changed from the seasons, changed from the ones I’d known.
But I wasn’t looking up. I was watching you dance. I didn’t know you then. You had on a long skirt, gold threaded. I could tell in the starlight, in the swirling reflections of flame. And a long scarf bordered with lace: when you raised your arms above your head, it trailed behind your hands. I remember the way you gave yourself to the music, as if it moved through you, as if no-one could see. You surrendered yourself to joy, gave yourself over to ecstasy as you moved across the cobbles, the stones set there centuries ago. I nearly turned away, thinking it might not be you.
You still say it wasn’t you. And yet I remember the bangle on your arm, the same one you still wear. I remember the peacock pin. Everything external, everything on the edge. The cashmere. I remember the graceful joy.
W.F.Lantry’s poetry collections are The Structure of Desire (Little Red Tree 2012), winner of a 2013 Nautilus Award in Poetry, a chapbook, The Language of Birds (Finishing Line 2011), and a forthcoming collection The Book of Maps. Recent honors include the National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry and the LaNelle Daniel and Potomac Review Prizes. His publication credits include Valparaiso Fiction Review, StepAway, and Eclectica. He is an associate fiction editor at JMWW.
Sarah Ni Shuilleabhain
Few Are Chosen
In memory of Walker Evans (1903 – 1975) ~ American Photographer
He submerges himself into the city streets. The rubber-burnt air fills his nostrils and seals over against the noise and life above. The lens of his camera blinks at the world from his lapel. Good leather shoes sands the city steps as he goes lower, his cheaper wool suit feels tight in the heat.
He waits on the platform his back to a curving wall, watching. He will take their train. The wire from his 35mm Contax winds its way down the left arm of his jacket. He gently checks the press with his thumb at it rests in the palm of his hand.
When the doors gasp open, he joins the masses. He sits and watches in silence faces that sit and watch and rock gently at points. He likes how the human landscape changes as the carriage passes through his days on Lexington Avenue; City Hall; South Ferry; 7th Avenue and Pelham Bay Park. His father would despair at the pointlessness. Why do you feel you need to do that? Is there not enough here for you? But his heart fills with the capturing: eyes, gestures, bowler hats, fur, pursed lips and feathers.
A couple sit directly opposite him. They’re hard working. They’re doing all right. They were downtown. She wears her good coat with fur trim and a cleverly augmented beret with feather. He wears his work jacket but under is a carefully pressed pullover and shirt. They whisper in the close corner, united in hope and reality.
He likes them. He decides to take their photograph.
Just as his finger glides over the shutter press, they stop their talk and look directly at the hidden camera. Like they felt it there. He alights at their stop in Brooklyn, a million miles from where he started out.
Sarah Ní Shúilleabháin is trying to find the muse that used to fuel her to write and that she somehow lost touch with after college. She took a train from Dublin to Galway but the muse got off in Athlone and headed somewhere else altogether. To get it back, she started a blog. Her posts are so sporadically sparse that at least two of the three subscribers will email to see if she’s alright (her mother and her friend Claire). She attended a Stinging Fly workshop in Newbridge with Sean O’Reilly, learnt a lot, made two friends, and realised that she was somehow on the right road. She lives in Tipperary, Ireland with Seán, Elly and Sadhbh.
A Girl Named China is Your Brittle Future
She was taking care of her terminally ill mom and a set of potted silk plants. Her words were crazy trains rushing past me, over me. We spoke between classes or when the bus broke down or under trees hiding fat squirrels with eyes that knew us. Weeks passed like slow flames. Her mother was sleeping more, talking less. I came over twice a week, brought several shades of neediness. We did it quietly in her room while her mother remained dreamless with her mouth open. I felt dizzy in that house, un-knowing myself or my motives, made stupid jokes about growing onions upside down or how during sex, our bodies sometimes squelched. China didn’t laugh. Her dark eyes remained frozen, unreadable . Evenings became strained, more humid. I wondered what it would be like to plant myself in her shoes. Which way would I grow? Her mother’s body had shut down, became a mysterious void.
China jumped at the beep of a feeding pump. She was becoming more obtuse, saying that she didn’t believe in the word “decompose” or “dead,” She said bodies evaporate the way liquids do in our experiments for Mr. Hennessey’s Physical Science labs. I suspected she had a crush on him because ugly men to her were a challenge. They needed merciful weeding and make-over. They needed a patient gardener, sensitive to root need. When her mother finally evaporated, China disappeared for weeks, her rooms closed for sex. My nose itched. I gave wrong answers in Hennessey’s class. My mother bought powdered milk because she believed it was healthier. When China did return from whatever state of matter or not-matter, she was mute. My thumbs hurt from planting vegetables.
Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Matchbook, and elsewhere. He loves cats, dogs, and garage bands of the 60s. More at his blog.
*** On Helen Weaver, Amelia Earhart and the Sibyl of Cumae
I am in ruins.
Oed’ und leer das Meer.
Sometimes we make the most unwise of decisions. Sometimes the most unwise decisions are made for us.
Leaving her enigmatic fiancée, Helen takes flight from Worcester hoping to sail to a different place.
The Sibyl’s wish, as she grasps the black grains of sand with her fists, is for long life. Failing to see the many meanings of her own oracles, she plants her roots into the black soil of the underworld.
Amelia, grand-daughter of Daedalus, searches to be loved by all. It takes two mirrors, two pieces of silvered glass to catch the sun and send a ray of light down the dusty hollows of chill mansions, catching each island mote in the path of fatigued vision.
Helen pursues calm seas and a prosperous voyage over the oceans, carried by gyre and Tasman currents, to the romanza of tympanic engines and violins.
The Sibyl shrinks with old age, held in her ampulla for all to see.
Electra plots her revenge on her mother and stepfather. Fred floats the thin atmosphere, navigates the journey with a sextant, flies north and south. Amelia escapes the winter, forgets the cry of the gulls and, like Enoch, was not.
Trimalchio asks after the Sybil’s desire. The boys tell him she wants to die.
On Taranaki’s glassy black sands, Helen connects nothing with nothing. A damp air brings cold rain from the South.
We all are stranded on some strange shore, trapped in a cage of water or glass or living under the black ash of some fiery mountain.
We are all bit parts, variations on an original theme, fragments have I shored against my ruins.
Sometimes I go south in winter.