Fall Quarterly – Water (Fall 2015 / 15.23)
Artist, Jo Ann Tomaselli has studied with renowned landscape photographer Joel Sternfeld and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Stephen Dunn. Defining herself as a particular type of photographer is impossible as every moment behind the lens offers an opportunity to see the world from a different point of view. Her inspiration? Color, shape, design, and the most delightful factor of all – fun!
Alan S. Kleiman
In keeping with our theme tonight
Of World Series domination
And the chance the cubs might
Rise from the dead
O choose Resurrection
Mozart it seems ran home at the thought of his father
And belted out the big Requiem
In the hearts of men,
Movies and Concertgebouw members
And team sponsors
Like Don’t Cry for me Argentina
Cry the Beloved Country
And Crying in the Rain,
All perfectly good thoughts on a wet night
When leaves are slick and streets call
Blackness wants you
Your mane is ruffled
You won’t live forever.
Alan S. Kleiman is the author of Grand Slam, a collection of poems published by Crisis Chronicles Press. His poetry appears or is forthcoming in Yareah, Verse Wisconsin, The Criterion, Right Hand Pointing, Pirene’s Fountain, Stone Path Review, and Festival Writer. His poems are in anthologies published by Fine Line Press and Red Ochre Press and have been translated into Spanish, Russian, Polish, Norwegian, Danish and Ukrainian. He appeared at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as a featured poet in the performing arts series. Kleiman lives in New York City and works as an attorney when not writing poems
Temptation is not a river. You don’t jump in and get swept away. You dip a toe, cautiously. Send a text, touch an arm.
I never see anyone I know in airports, but there she is, looking at her phone. Waiting to board my flight. My phone is in my pocket and I’m reading Martin McDunnough’s new play. I’m the asshole reading a play in an airport, grimacing at all the other assholes on phones. It’s been three years and my first thought is it’s a shame she isn’t smiling.
Submerge past the knee, then the thigh. Yours, hers. Until you steep in it. That pond. That festering, tepid pool of yesterday and yesterday’s yesterday. Up to the crotch. Yours, hers. The first time’s like a sickness you want to catch and spread. Yours, hers.
It’s those breasts. And that smile, as generic as it is. Red lipstick mouth and that voice, and nothing interesting to say. Except those things she says when we are in bed, or almost naked on her kitchen linoleum. Even then, it is the way she says them. And now I’m the asshole staring at a woman in an airport.
Up past the belly button, sink to the neck in moss and what should be regret. Slimy creatures sliding around your sunburned shins, but you can’t move. Because you don’t want to. You think about the shore. That impossible sun-bleached grass where you were once so happy. You’re unable to surface. Because you don’t want to. Hold throats to keep from breathing. Yours, hers.
I am completely unconcerned with what was—just fourteen seconds ago — so interesting. The script shakes in my hand.
Two months immersed, and you trudged to the shore, emerged like primordial scum. The possible drying up behind you in your secret murky water. What you’ll never have again. What you’ve tried to forget every day but can’t, memory adjusting just enough to retain the torture of desire. And those warm and horrible waters rise again.
I peek over. A mist has begun to collect on the window. She’s stopped texting. She’s sucking her cheek, looking past her half-smile reflection. She knows I’ve seen her. My phone vibrates in my pocket. Eyes beating in my skull. Something slimy grazes my ankle.
I remember what I wanted. What I promised I would never take again. I’m neck deep and want nothing more than to drown in an airport bathroom, or at a mile high with our drenched bodies bent over 30,000 feet of emptiness. Or the middle of the terminal with everyone watching. And she would be down. She told me that when I broke it off. I’ll always be down, ur dirty little secret. The stupidest fucking cliché ever, but she meant it and I’ve soaked in it since.
Her text reads “Where u going?” Just a day trip for work, then home in time to tuck in the kids, kiss the wife who promised to stay awake but won’t. I think it over. And over: A quick trip. A stop off in Dallas and then home.
She is smiling in line behind me. I know it without looking. Warmth bubbles over my chin. The plane waiting like a cloud, two empty seats in the mist.
Hand over the ticket. Step on the plane. “Just stopping off,” I type.
Her voice is moss — sweet stench. She whispers “Where are we going?”
Matt Flickinger is a high school rhetoric and literature teacher in Austin, Texas. He lives with his wife, Kelly, and their two sons, Morgan and McCrae. His works for the stage have been performed in multiple countries. He has several poems published in various journals. He enjoys playing with his sons and living the outdoor, laid back Austin life.
I Called it Rain
When the metal rods in the ceiling fan
Kept me from sleep, I called it tropical vacation,
My little monsoon.
Pretended it was childhood.
I called it tropical vacation, in the years
Before silence was invented,
Pretended it was childhood and my father
Stayed calm, never fussed or walloped.
He was calmer than God, never took
Retribution. Tried to pretend but my mind
Must have been thin. I wanted to escape
Childhood, my father, again.
My monsoon, my childhood.
We survived, grateful for little metal fans.
Marilyn Kallet is the author of 16 books including The Love That Moves Me, poetry by Black Widow Press. She has translated Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems (Derniers poèmes d’amour), Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game (Le grand jeu), and with Darren Jackson and J. Bradford Anderson has co-translated Chantal Bizzini’s Disenchanted City (La Vie Désenchantée). Kallet directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Tennessee, where she is Nancy Moore Goslee Professor of English. Each spring she leads poetry workshops for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Auvillar, France.
She talks to you like a baby, and you hate it.
“This is an adventure!” She exaggerates each word, stretching each syllable out, and it sounds wrong.
1.Leave words the way they are.
“Look at the ocean, Max. Isn’t it pretty?”
Beautiful. Picturesque. You are a picky child, and you pick the best words. Words that weave like silk, that cling like bitter honey. You live for these syllables.
Your mother, of course, never notices. She insists on explaining, and it hurts that she refuses to believe that you’re smart. (Intelligent, brilliant, a thousand words in between.)
It’s the shadow of every movement she makes, the shuddering flutter of — hello, this is the schizophrenic, Max. My child.
So you get back at your mother, in every childish way you can. Yet again and again, it always comes back to the same thing.
“So, did you find Lissy yet?” Just so you can see your mother crumble a little more, so her obscenely simple words will disappear, even for just a moment.
(You make sure to say Liss-y, with the delicate lilt, two perfect syllables.)
The sky tastes like lightning – crackling and quick, too elusive to grasp. A thin film seeps between your teeth, and it’s metal, painted with artificial sugar.
1. Wipe the corner of your lips with the back of your hand.
2. Don’t stare back down.
3. You already know of the tell-tale smear of red; and
4.Ignore it for as long as possible.
You miss Lissy — all side smirks and bouncing curls. You miss your sister, and you wonder why she left.
When Lissy disappeared, in a swirl of violent scented wind and scattered beauty products, you didn’t get to follow her.
“Max, no.” A sharp shove, back into the house, leaving you to stare at the hardwood floors like they are mirrors.
There are a spew of four-letter-one-syllable words, none of which you understand. You are never given a chance to understand that one particular word — the one that begins with an “r” and ends with your mother’s scream.
After that, Lissy never gets mentioned. They call her A-ly-ssa, followed by something close to a grimace, and always leave it at that.
He had smiled, and his badge flashed — an indecipherable scribble, after the Dr on the small white square of paper. Your mother’s eyes had widened, her smile stretching across her face, in the form of a grotesque mask.
You had envisioned her skin peeling off, cracking like dried cement, oozing to the floor. You had to be sedated. Escorted out of the psychiatrist’s office.
(Your mother told you that you never stopped screaming.)
Well, you think, with satisfaction, good, fine-fine-fine, I never wanted to stop, anyway.
You imagine tanned fingers, curling around your own, and you know that Liss-y would’ve been able to calm you down.
“The ocean,” Dr. _________ had said, “is an excellent choice.” He stood, and the leather of his shoes seemed to splinter, shattering into a thousand pieces. “Therapeutic. Relaxing — to be out there, in the waves.” He smiled, and his eye fell out of its socket. “Might relieve some of your nerves, no?”
You hadn’t even opened your mouth, and your mother was already fawning over the idea. Oh, what a coincidence, living in Florida has never been better —
When she looked over at you, all large, hopeful eyes, you thought that maybe the needle sticking through her head wouldn’t be going away.
So here you are, the freak on the ship. With your mother clinging to your shoulder.
“Hold onto my hand.” Her fingers clamp down, iron manacles.
1. You hate it, the way her hand clutches yours, all too tightly.
2. You can take care of yourself.
3. Let go.
“Did you lose Lissy on a ship, Mom?”
Each word is pronounced clearly, from the sharpened edge of the “p”, to the groove of each “o”. Each word is targeted, designed to hurt.
Her hands loosen, slightly, and she lowers her face down, her hair a fluttering curtain.
Her painted lips curve up.
“Run along, Max.” A small shove, towards the ship’s deck, into the cool, curling winds and the stinging spray of the sea.
As you inch away, watching her eyes lose focus, you notice that that her lips have the same slope as Lissy’s, that mischievous half-curve.
You turn away, and you ignore the glint in her eyes. It looks like happiness, and you’re not quite sure why.
There, out on the waves, is Liss-y, who grins, and holds up her hand in greeting.
Here’s Lissy, who looks so pretty.
Here’s Lissy — her skin is patterned blue, like the water around her, foam curling in, to form the tips of her hair.
Here’s Lissy, who reaches out, her hand as large as the ship itself. An invitation.
You think you can see your mother, out of the corner of your eye.
Lissy’s tail — stretching far, far into the distance — flops. A mess of swirling green, blue.
“Come on, Max.” Her lips slope up. “Don’t you miss me?”
And you do. You do, I do, I-do-I-do —
You reach for her hand. You would give everything — all your pretty words, all your perfect syllables —
1. Flying feels like falling.
2. Your mother lets go.
3. You smile.
Renee Chen currently attends school in New Jersey. She has attended writers’ conferences in Brown University, Middlebury College, Oxford University, and the Alpha Program at the University of Pittsburg, and looks forward to many more to come. She has won sixth place in Stonethread’s SpecFic III contest, and is working on her first novel. This story was inspired by her fascination with the ocean, horror, and psychology.
– from Reality Check
REALITY CHECK #2
Rowing the dory, you can only see
where you have been. What’s ahead
is over one shoulder—rock or strainer,
bend or eddy. Stop looking, girl,
for someone to save you. The life you
may save is also yours to lose.
REALITY CHECK #3
Mask and fin through dark
waters. Feel the cold sheathe
your body. Sea cave ahead with
a toothed moray. Above, sand
shark. Sometimes safety comes
as feigned indifference.
REALITY CHECK #4
The trail is root-spoked. You’re
walking downhill after the rim burn.
Ashes and treebones, reek of charred
fur. Here apocalypse has happened.
Feet blackened, eyes tearing, not yet
touched. But ahead, fire and more.
REALITY CHECK #5
In the camp stove, fresh-split wood
crackles. Outside: the sun.
Inside, though swathed in padded
layers, it’s still cold. Because he
will never come with words
to warm you. Put on more wood.
REALITY CHECK #8
September grass is dry and furrows
like wheat in the wind, like ocean waves
in sunlight. You lie there, chewing a stem
of wild oats, considering today and
tomorrow: how time rescues memory,
but the only caress is the salty breeze.
REALITY CHECK #9
Examine just what it means to be
coupled yet not-coupled. Sand off
years. Argue technicalities. You are
asking exchange of youth for age.
Out of sync, you offer ease to one
who tastes stress as his just dessert.