Blue Five Notebook – (July 2015 / 15.13)
Artist, Christopher Woods: House, Evening, Old Chappell Hill Road. Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. His published works include a novel, The Dream Patch, a prose collection, Under a Riverbed Sky, and a book of stage monologues for actors, Heart Speak. His fiction has appeared in a number of publications including Stone Voices, The Southern Review, Columbia, New England Review, New Orleans Review, and Glimmer Train. He conducts private writing workshops in Houston. His photographs have appeared in many journals, with photo essays published in Glasgow Review, Public Republic, Deep South, Shadowgraph, and Narrative Magazine, among others. His photographs can be seen in his gallery.
We used to fear the shadow-seam of earthquakes,
the way gridlocked roads might suddenly split
apart to jagged gashes,sliding vehicles and homes
into an atramentous crevice; a fear that lived more inside
the black box of horror films than on the gray-voiced news.
Then came the report from Florida
of a roadway mawing to sinkhole,
swallowing a car into deep ocean pitch,
where burst pipes thrummed spasms
of water to dusk the windows, and when the driver
called 911 for help, they asked only one question,
what kind of car are you driving?
But I found something more harrowing
than an earth that breaks in a lace scarf
slithered across the arched, white neck,
the slough between breasts, the silken skin
of my lover who slid and twitched when I licked
the scarf along the inside of her thighs,
then tied that gauzy snake around her eyes,
into blackness, a starless galaxy,
so fluid it was unnecessary to answer
what might contain us.
Richard Krawiec’s third book of poems, women who loved me despite, will be out in early 2015. His second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award. His work appears in Drunken Boat, Shenandoah, sou’wester, Dublin Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Spillway, ampersand, 2Rivers View, Witness, Cream City Review, Florida Review, West Branch, Connotation Press, etc. In addition to poetry, he has published 2 novels, Time Sharing and Faith in What?, a story collection, And Fools of God, and four plays. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the NC Arts Council(twice), and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He teaches Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced online Fiction Writing for UNC Chapel Hill, for which he won their Excellence in Teaching Award in 2009. He is founder of Jacar Press, a Community Active publishing company.
The first time I heard the Beatles was when I was twelve, the day I arrived on Wake Island. My father and I had just stepped beneath a large tent that shaded the refugee processing center. We embraced the reprieve from the scorching sun. I was surprised to see a young American man—wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sandals—sitting behind the table. He had long blond hair tied in a ponytail and big circular glasses that framed a wide face making him look like a frog. His fingers tapped in rhythm to the music blaring from the stereo beside him. I had expected to meet a soldier, not a hippie.
When we came face to face with the American, waiting for his direction, he simply ignored us as he forcefully pushed down buttons on his stereo until his song played from the beginning. I couldn’t speak more than a few words of English but it didn’t matter; that melody displaced everything in my mind. Every fear and regret I had harbored was temporarily forgotten. I didn’t think about my mother. There was no guilt about my sister. There were no figures lurking in the shadows. For those two minutes, I was a boy again.
I leaned against the table, an arm’s length from the speaker, and mimicked the words, humming the tune. The music box clicked and the song was over. The American handed my father a piece of paper then looked at me and said, “Welcome home.”
Vilaska Nguyen is a felony trial attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. His flash fiction has appeared in NANO Fiction and The Squawk Back. He is a regular story contributor to As It Ought to Be. In addition to his passion for writing, Vilaska loves to perform stand-up comedy.
J. Dee Cochran
Pumps smack the gravel,
a sensible dress
kisses the wind –
an occasion where young
and steady calves
that the resume
of beauty builds
upon the career of a gland
or that a tulip will stand
merely to check out
the nightlife of water
which runs quietly
like the vendetta
of a varicose vein.
J. Dee Cochran is assistant editor of the website Identity Theory.
That High-Quality Talk
They were talking that high-quality talk they could never quite hit on in sober life: the books that changed their lives, the down-and-out truth about their friends, their unfashionable love of this country. All the fears they habitually embraced had disintegrated – the Doyenne’s fears that her poetry would never be discovered, the Pest’s fear of settling down, and the Shaman’s own fears that danced like the twinkles out of the corners of his eyes, but disappeared when he turned to look.
But to say they were without anxiety would be untrue: in place of the fears around which they had cultivated their lives like grapevines stretching tentacles toward distant sources of light, there instead stood the dread that this moment of liberation was certain to abandon them, and, when it did, the old darkness would return, intensified.
But, for now, there were fire escapes to climb, and roofs to conquer, and the light of a dozen stars to bask in – yes, stars! It had rained all day and though the iron ladder rungs were slick, the sky was clear. “Clear at last, clear at last, Thank God Almighty, it’s clear at last!” the Shaman preached. The other two didn’t get the reference, and the Shaman cursed himself for giving them another reason to unite without him.
“Do you ever use that for anything besides drugs?” the girl had asked him earlier that night, as he crushed up the pills with his mortar and pestle. “I mean, who besides a shaman owns a mortar and thistle?”
That had been several hours, or days, or lifetimes ago, before he was the Shaman and she the Doyenne, when his stomach was still growling after a dinner of cold leftover noodles. As the pestle knocked against the mortar, he had proposed that they order pizza.
But the other one – the Reliable Pest – was busy ridiculing the Undiscovered Doyenne for her malapropism, and envy popped the hunger pockets in the Not-Yet-Shaman’s stomach. The effect was worse than indigestion.
He was, not incidentally, the first of the trio to bump a line.
“Brilliant!” he declared, throwing his head back.
“Good stuff,” his friends ceded, swiping their noses. “You’re like a doctor.”
“No, I’m a shaman!” And thus he came to be.
“Look, stars!” the Doyenne exclaimed, as if the Shaman had not already pronounced it “Clear at last!” Were it anyone else, the Shaman would have pointed out the obvious ignorance of such a statement. Instead, it was the voice of the Undiscovered lover, the Doyenne of his heart.
“Fuck you, stars!” the Pest flipped off the sky. “We don’t need your kind around here. We’re building a Great Wall of smog to keep you out of Beijing!”
The Doyenne laughed, and the Shaman groped around for a weapon. His hand met the cigarette box. He offered sticks to them both, like olive branches, and the righteous flame united them again.
They stayed up on the rooftop singing camp songs at the civilians below, lighting each other’s cigarettes, and talking that high-quality talk until the distant mountains appeared like shadow puppets before a rosy glow, and they watched their empty cigarette box fall to its grave seven stories below, and the Shaman – grinding his teeth and gripping the railing for support – presided over the street as the Doyenne and the Pest sidled into separate cabs, meaning that he would be joining them for brunch after all.
Hannah Lincoln lives in Beijing and works in market research, writing fiction and gardening in her free time. She has lived in Beijing for five years and does not have any plans to leave, though she originally hails from Boston.
Robert Bharda (Ward)
of its perfidy,
broken windows. In panic,
it razors off
all sides, edges.
into itself. In Escher
staircases, figure 8’s,
tangled ropes, it roller coasts
of spruce and oak. Like a boy
angry at his father,
the wind dumps
rubbish into the street,
no one understands.
Originally from New York City, Robert Bharda (Ward) has lived in the Seattle area where for the last 35 years he has specialized in vintage photographica as a profession, everything from salt prints to poloroids. His illustrations/artwork have appeared in numerous U.S. and Canadian publications, including Naugatuck River Review and Conclave 8. His poetry, fiction and critical reviews have appeared The North American Review, Northwest Review, Shenandoah, Quarterly West, Fine Madness, Kansas Quarterly, Yellow Silk, Poets On, and many others including anthologies.