Summer Quarterly – (Summer 2017 / 17.8)
Robin Grotke is an artist and 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,” of taking the viewer to the location of the photograph and to feel like she did when the image was taken.
A House of Cards Stacked in Wind Will Fall
Fortune tellers consult tea leaves,
or crystal spheres from which they summon
spirits to whisper the future
of a seeker seated at the opposite
end of the table. Invoking
a deity has never been my specialty, although
perhaps I lie. Once, a swarm
of spirits visited; a cluster blast of light
that warned: Do not eat of the apple in this
man’s house; do not share his bed.
Youthful and capricious, I jackknifed apple slices
as we lounged in his four-poster,
drank merlot from a skin.
By morning my feet were hooves, all
former resemblance vanished. There’s no
telling how long I remained a mountain goat. No telling
how he became the ledge I grazed upon.
Dianna Henning holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her works have been published in Naugatuck River Review, The Red Rock Review, The Kentucky Review, The Main Street Rag, California Quarterly, Poetry International, Fugue, Clackamas Literary Review, South Dakota Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and The Seattle Review. Finalist in Aesthetica’s Creative Writing Award in the UK, published in their Annual 2014. Nominated by Blue Fifth Review Dec. 2015 for a Pushcart for a poem. Her third book of poetry Cathedral of the Hand was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press. Website: www.diannahenning.com
Tara Isabel Zambrano
From the corner of my eyes, I watch my father’s hairy, entwined fingers and his strained, closed eyes, praying.
“Pass the potato curry, Kesu.” My mother hands a filled bowl to him, another to me and keeps the rest for herself.
“What are you two waiting for; I have enough, see?” She slants the bowl to make it look more than it is.
My father quietly exchanges the bowls when she gets up.
And I realize what love is.
Sinatra iterates love over the speakers. Everyone is holding coffee or a nonsense conversation in distinguished lab coats and I am inspecting a piece of coal, thinking about my father. His uneven head fitted with a loose headlight; permanently darkened nails and husky voice compressed in the floor. Like coal. My mother’s torn sari from the edges of this hard matter; her smooth smile obstructed with the charcoal sadness buried under the earth of poverty, forming a hard shell. Just like this rock. Useful but polluting.
I rub it over while I imagine the underground flood that killed my father and we wondered if one of these days, he’d miraculously show up, call my mother’s name and pull the chair, smiling at us.
The lab fills and empties; I recall the compensation; I remember the absent mourning, the endless waiting.
“I am home.” Sarita unlocks the apartment door.
My voice greets her as I prepare a zombie with several transparent, colorful bottles surrounding me. Looking for a meaning in her peeping tattoo and tight flesh in an auburn sari, I pass the concoction. The black pollen embedded in my skin sticks to the condensed glass and sprinkles on her.
“Kesu,” she frowns.
“My father worked in a coal mine,” I remind her.
“God’s sake, you are a scientist,” she scoffs.
“Do you love me?”
“You need to wash your hands.”
I lead her to the bedroom – devoid of love and soot, but beaming with the darkness of a coal mine.
Tara Isabel Zambrano moved from India to the United States two decades ago. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vestal Review, Minnesota Review, Storm Cellar, and others. She is an electrical engineer by profession and lives in Texas.
Michael T. Young
The Limits of Vision
In childhood I was told never
to look inside a robin’s nest
or the mother would abandon her young.
How much more enticing it became
thinking of all those cookie jars,
the wrapped candies, these urgings of a sweet tooth,
the beekeeper’s drive to cultivate hives
for the only food that never spoils.
As a young poet, that was how I thought
of the atom: a swarm of bees circling a hive,
and existence the tasty distillate
of the electrons’ hum like honey from nectar.
But when the bomb went off at Hiroshima,
the eyes of the anti-aircraft gunners
melted from their sockets.
The next day, children played in the park.
They’d stop to cry for their dead parents
and then played some more.
Michael T. Young’s fourth collection The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost was published by Poets Wear Prada. His chapbook Living in the Counterpoint received the 2014 Jean Pedrick Award. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Chaffin Poetry Award. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including The Cortland Review, Peacock Journal, The Potomac Review, Off the Coast, and RATTLE, as well as anthologies Phoenix Rising, Chance of a Ghost, and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. He lives with his wife, children, and cats in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Our ribs hold our lungs
After the store, we go to the cafe. Zoe clutches her bag that holds a new dress, tights, a necklace. Her hair shines black under the fluorescent light. We eat and drink—coffee for me, a vanilla milkshake for her and a shared chocolate éclair. The smell of burnt toast sweeps through me, leaving me longing for morning, for quiet. She slurps her shake. A group of teenage girls step inside, laughing. Zoe stares and stares.
We pull on our coats, scarves and gloves. I help Zoe with hers. Spread your little fingers, I say.They’re not little! She says. I kiss the back of her hand and my stomach sways at its softness, its lightness.
We step outside and the sky is turning purple. The streetlights switch on. We cross the road to the beach where the water is flat now and there are no surfers, only walkers. A seagull flies low over us. It rises again but hovers there, floats. I tip my head back and say, hello, because it might be him. The bird flies away. My jaw aches.
On the rocks at the southern end of the beach, a man stands, hands on hips, facing the sea. His shirt falls cleanly from his shoulders. He must be frozen, his skin alive, cold. He could take my hands and rub them up and down his ribs to warm him. That’s better, he says. Stay here. That’s much better.
There is a rustle, a crackle. Zoe struggles with the cellophane around a Cinderella necklace. I open it and put the necklace on her. It sits on top of her scarf, just below her chin. She strokes it with her gloved hand and says, Is it pretty? I nod once, twice. I cannot speak.
Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in Best Australian Short Stories, SmokeLong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, New World Writing, Atticus Review, Literary Orphans, and Jellyfish Review, among others. One of her short stories has been made into a film by the production company, Jungle. You can find her here: www.melissagoode.com and at twitter.com/melgoodewriter.
Dog lovers, confess: at certain times, the weight
of history is bruising. The numberless “accidents,”
that prized possession clawed and chawed to pulp
or shreds, the vet bills sometimes spilling over from month
to month because the family coffers aren’t sufficient to cover
the damage. I could go on, though my tale is not of history,
but of the immediate. Last night, my little shih tzu
went out to anoint the shrubbery by the kitchen door
as he does a dozen times a day—even then,
no insurance against the aforesaid “accident.”
The porch light spooked a hawk sleeping in the pines
behind the house. She swooped, without a stir of wing,
along the fence white-tipped with the glow
of a one-day-past-full moon: the dim chalk line
she used to set her course. A second more, and she had tailed
around the corner of the house, under the low-slung
branches of the dogwoods and crepe myrtles.
When I told my wife about this night visitor, curiously,
she worried about Edgar, our incontinent little pet,
wondering if the poor spooked bird mightn’t have nabbed
him in her flight. I’d only marveled at the hawk’s swooping dive
on those tented wings, radar-sure, even in the semi-darkness.
But now, I imagined our little Edgar in the grip of the scimitars
of talons that she bore, saw this backyard Azrael sailing
with him above the dogwoods and the pines,
translating him, in the proverbial one fell swoop,
to Doggy Heaven, or Hell.
Lee Passarella served as senior literary editor for Atlanta Review magazine and as editor-in-chief of Coreopsis Books, a poetry-book publisher. He also writes classical music reviews for Audiophile Audition. His poetry has appeared in Chelsea, Cream City Review, Louisville Review, The Formalist, Antietam Review, Edge City Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Slant, Cortland Review, and many others. Swallowed up in Victory, Passarella’s long narrative poem based on the American Civil War, was published by White Mane Books in 2002. He has published two poetry collections: The Geometry of Loneliness (David Robert Books, 2006) and Redemption (FutureCycle Press, 2014). Passarella also has two poetry chapbooks: Sight-Reading Schumann (Pudding House Publications, 2007) and Magnetic North (Finishing Line Press, 2016).
Sometimes, there are bears
The books are in the background. Bears lounge in the open spaces between the shelves. The bears loll about, growling.
Many step back from them and avoid staring. Don’t get too close, my dear, because the bears haven’t been for a wash. The smell is musty, like the smell of sweat on moist paws in summer.
The library is warm. Some come to hibernate. Their snoring disturbs; long forms spread out over low couches. The couches of the library are a soft place to sleep, compared with wood or concrete.
From time to time, wild-eyed bears burst in. They make a lot of noise, moan and grumble. The rangers use stern words to make the bears shamble away. Some bears groan under their breath, others knock books and grizzle, until grim men with sticks come to remove them.
Some days the rangers don’t feel safe, with bears among their books.
Ronnie Smart is a Scottish-born New Zealand poet and writer of short fiction and stories. His poetry and short fiction will be published in the June issues of Alluvia and Flash Frontier. In his free time he likes to train in Chinese kickboxing and watch Doctor Who. More here.
Dulce Maria Menendez
Ode to my Mojo
Where’d you go?
I didn’t realize you were gone
until I noticed I had lost the spring
in my step.
I was knocking myself against walls.
I was tripping over the dog.
I was petting myself.
I was alone in a room
with no music and only a David Park
painting staring back at me.
I was an L.A. woman stuck in the Midwest.
I was a Cuban woman without angry oranges.
I was a poet watching my words escape me.
I was a painter without cerulean.
I was a photographer without Kodachrome.
Mojo you left me when I walked out the door
on my second husband as my cocker spaniel barked
in the back yard, my two older children at their father’s house
carrying only my baby and a diaper bag.
You have reached the Miami police department.
I left my husband. He was violent.
Where are you?
I walked ten blocks to the nearest grocery store.
I am waiting here and not sure what to do.
We are sending a car over.
Where’d you go?
I want you in my pollo.
I want you in my tostones.
I want you in my frijoles.
I want to pour my mojo into a bottle
and take you wherever I go.
You eat it.
You eat everything.
You like it!
You really like it!
Life is a cereal Mojo.
Don’t you know that?
Packaged nicely in a rectangular box
with sometimes a surprise inside.
Dulce Maria Menendez lives in the Midwest. She sometimes writes poems. This poem is not only about finding someone’s groove. It is also about literally “losing it”. Mojo is also a Cuban barbecue sauce made from “angry” bitter oranges (naranja agria) salt, olive oil, and smashed up garlic. You may pick it up at a grocery store selling Goya products.
My brother Joe taught me about crows. “They crave intimacy,” he said. “They grieve for the dead.”
A pair of the birds had nested on our roof. They stared at Joe through his skylight. When he played the violin, they cawed along with him.
Joe had this way of speaking—through his nose, puffing between words. His chest rattled and his lips disappeared, he pressed them so tight.
Joe died when he was fifteen. One night his airways just closed up on him.
Joe’s room became my room. I lay awake, eyes open for ghosts, and he sighed to me.
For weeks after Joe died, Mum sat in a lawn chair on the grass verge outside our house and waved at passing cars.
I’d hear squawking in the distance.
I wonder about that night. If Joe felt alone in the world as he struggled for breath. Or if he looked up from his bed and saw those crows watching over him.
In my dreams, Joe returns as a crow, gazing down at me through the glass. I reach up to him. “Don’t be afraid,” he says, before he leaps. And I’m not.
I cling to his feathered back. We soar upwards into a tail wind. Thermalling, gaining altitude. Our trail a whisper.
Digby Beaumont’s stories have appeared widely both online and in print in journals and anthologies. Recent publishing credits include Literary Orphans, R.kv.r.y Quarterly, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Blue Five Notebook, KYSO Flash, Change Seven Magazine, and Flash Frontier. His short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology. He worked as a nonfiction author for many years, with numerous publications, and lives in Hove, England.
Emily After the Fact
I haven’t gone to her in years but in
honor of her birthday today I talk to Emily
Dickinson and say what do you think
about this election and she looks at me
so long with the guests’ sherry burning
in her eyes that I feel ashamed and think
of how her kidneys may have killed her
and how she had to make okay with Austin
boning Mabel in their parents’ house
because Emily loved him and sometimes
that was the only place they could go, but
how all along she loved Austin’s wife
Susan like a sister the way I would too
after Susan’s fear of childbirth made her
send so many on their way with knitting
needles shoved where women wouldn’t
say in that day. How the whole town knew
he’d found a fresher field and Emily could
only shut the door and write poems, could
only put her autocratic father in his place
by going out to where staying in helped her
go, Emily who wouldn’t play the cards
she was handed but laid them down. In
fact went so so far down that even today
with all the years in-between us and with
my kidneys that so far work fine, I have
only taken a couple of steps into the same
cellar. And finally, she answers my
question and says she finds the winner
a dreary Somebody and says she does
not admire this Frog and she closes her
door on him just as fast as she can, and
while she is at it she closes me out, as well.
Laurinda Lind lives in New York’s North Country within asylum-begging distance of Canada. Some previous publications/ acceptances include Antithesis Journal, Chiron Review, Cold Mountain Review, Comstock Review, Earthen Lamp Journal, Far Off Places, Forage Poetry Forum, Liminality, Main Street Rag, Mobius, Mudfish, Off the Coast, Origins, Paterson Literary Review, Plainsongs, Ship of Fools, and Unbroken.
First his mother sang of piggies and dogies that git along and doggies in windows. Then she called him “Sugar Pie” and it stuck, stuck like spun sugar to his mouth and melted there. Afterwards she called him that often.
When he was six, with curly hair that flopped in his eyes and went halfway to his shoulders, she used the name while chaperoning a class trip to the Planetarium. The other boys crowed: “Sugar Pie! Mommy’s Sugar Pie!” After that, she cut his hair and called him by his real name, but he was marked. He fought incessantly after that, never still.
At sixteen, he met Carissa — a delicate bud, allergic to nuts and gluten. For her pleasure he made a gluten-free crust for his pecan pie, sans pecans. When she tasted the oozy filling, she exclaimed, “Sugar Pie. Like in Montreal. My favorite!”
She took tiny portions of his Sugar Pie on the smallest teaspoon she could find (a serrated one, meant for grapefruit), and made each teaspoon last unbearably long as she teased it with her tongue. Watching her, he could barely breathe.
When Carissa left him, he was inconsolable. Until one night out in Ithaca with a townie named Tamar, both downing lemon drop shots and soured on love, they began trading pet words for their private parts – or, more precisely, the words others had called them. He confessed to Rocky, Seymour, and Oedipus Rex. Tamar said hers had been called Millicent, Mount Etna, and Sugar Pie.
She blushed. “I guess it’s not very original.”
“I don’t know,” he mused.
He inhaled her scent – a heady mix of sour and sweet. “What’s that perfume?” he asked, bringing her hand to his lips. She blushed again. “It’s called Destiny.”
And he wondered if she, or even they, might be more than he thought.
Nancy Ludmerer’s fiction and flash fictions appear in Kenyon Review, Cimarron Review, Sou’wester, North American Review, Gargoyle, Vestal Review, KYSO Flash, and New Orleans Review, among others. Her flash fiction has won prizes or honorable mention from Night Train, Chicago Literati, Grain, Blue Monday Review, Southeast Review, Fiction Southeast, Gemini, and River Styx. Her story in River Styx (“First Night”) was reprinted in Best Small Fictions 2016 and an essay in Literal Latte (“Kritios Boy”) was named a notable essay in Best American Essays 2014. She lives in New York City with her husband Malcolm and her cat Sandy, a rescue from Superstorm Sandy.
And the rain, again, takes up our day,
folds it into threes, and watches
as the world wraps up its gift,
first at the edges, then centered,
with more confidence and force
than justified. Who will forget
the hollow horse and its stifled
coughs, the stench of men too
long unbathed and drenched
in fear. Or the small girl running
naked, arms outstretched, skin
peeling, her life become a litany
of pain embroidered across
the unfeeling sky. Do not thank me
for your freedom, the mortgage
and its tax breaks, your designer
shoes. We didn’t bleed for you.
Robert Okaji lives in Texas. The author of the chapbook If Your Matter Could Reform, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Posit, Shantih, Platypus Press, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, High Window, Panoply, Eclectica, Into the Void and elsewhere, and may also be found at his blog.
Going in to Put Away His Laundry
The morning you find the wrapper from a pregnancy test in your teenage son’s bedroom. Your heart beating fast. The thought that it might not be what it looks like. The basket cutting into your hip. The number of minutes until school gets out and you can ask him. The distance between this answer and that one.
Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens and four chapbooks. Her shortest stories have recently appeared in Flash Flash Click, Random Sample Review, Newfound, The Homestead Review, Bellows American Review, First Class Literary Magazine, Waypoints, Wigleaf, Thin Air Magazine, Gnarled Oak, and 100 Word Story.
One in a Series of Mindful Pocket Love Poems
a mutually intense
vigorous physical struggle
bodies taking to it
just like that
with immediacy and horsepower
Nancy Davenport has been writing professionally since 2011. Her poems have been published in various journals and anthologies, including The Burning Grape, Mountain Gazette, The Bicycle Review, Oakland Review, The Lilliput Review, Poetry Quarterly, Full of Crow, The Lake, Yellow Chair Review, Blue Mountain Review, OTATA, and she contributes regularly to RED FEZ and Haight Ashbury Literary Journal. Her poems have been translated into other languages. Nancy’s chapbook, LA BRIZNA, was published in May, 2014.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
“As thick as what exactly: molasses, honey, oil? Was it viscous, watery, something in between?” The man huffs like a stray dog overheating in the midday sun. His long, hairy-knuckled fingers tug at his shirt-collar. There are dark, damp patches spreading round his armpits. His hair is a shiny seal-grey, and slicked down; parted the same side my daddy does his. The white boy at school with the gammy leg says that men who part their hair from that side are queers. My daddy ain’t no queer. Kids at school say the white boy at school got polio from eating poop. I don’t believe that neither. Fact I don’t believe most what I hear, and don’t know what vis-cuss means? And I’ve been sat hours in a wooden chair, and it’s poking and digging my bones, and I so badly need to pee I might just have to let it out right here.
The man cuff wipes his brow.
“You’re doing real great, but see, we’re trying to establish a timeline, sweetheart, and as you was the one found her, – the one see her first – you’re crucial to the investigation.” He puts both his elbows down on the table, softens his voice, and leans in close. His breath is ugly like he’s the one been eating poop. His eyes burn into me: I’ll ever remember them as eyes of a stranger pretending to be a friend.
“Let’s start at the beginning again, tell me everything you remember, and tell it to me real slow.”
Lee Hamblin is originally from London, now living in Greece. He has had stories published with: F(r)iction online, Flash Frontier, Spelk, Flash Fiction Magazine, Platform For Prose, Sick Lit, STORGY, and some other places. He occasionally tweets @kali_thea and puts words here.
If you suffer, it’s not because things are impermanent.
It’s because you believe things are permanent.
–Thich Nat Hahn
How many prayers stop in the throat?
How many doves coo in the church square?
A novel begins: I don’t know how I should live.
I don’t know how anyone should live.
Is this true?
Elmore Leonard said, If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
It is hard to believe in anyone.
It is hard to believe in.
It is hard to believe.
It is hard.
Life reduces like an algebraic equation.
Picasso could make anything into art.
Did all of it matter?
Do my words?
How much time is left in which to matter?
Summer is ending.
When does fall begin?
What makes one day worth more?
That certain slant of light?
It makes sense to like paintings of cloudy skies better than those of clear ones.
Virginia Woolf tries to capture one moment.
Buddha said to consider his teaching to be a raft helping you to the other shore.
When my mother was dying she looked me in the eyes and asked, Am I dying?
Marc Frazier has widely published poetry in journals including The Spoon River Poetry Review, ACM, Good Men Project, f(r)iction, Slant, Permafrost, Plainsong, Poet Lore, and Rhino. He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for poetry and has been featured on Verse Daily. His books and chapbooks are available on Amazon. His website is www.marcfrazier.org.
I’m living inside a lightbulb. I long for the dark, for a place to hide, but my life is all too illuminated. I’m a girl on a wire, a thin red wire that glows and shows all my sins. My life is a movie, framed by a mad director. I live in a loop of myself, montage of manicured hands, liquid-lined eyes, carefully denuded legs. Each morning, forty-five minutes of calisthenics before breakfast. Double-strong gelatin cubes for my nails. Each night, cold cream applied in half circles, always slanting the fingers up, never down. A silk pillowcase to prevent wrinkles. I am waxed and peeled, oiled and buffed. The care and feeding of beauty. I was born in a poor country, land grown thin from too many crops, air cold and grey with the dust of too many wars. I remember an audition, the photographer who made us pull our hair back, sit with scrubbed faces under a round fluorescent lamp. He wanted beauty bare. That morning I spent my last money on a pomegranate, crushed its seeds between my lips, prayed my crimson smile would save me. Once, when my hair was sandy and kinky; once, when my nose turned up just that bit; once, when my bony knees turned in: I was happy, then, and didn’t know it. I wanted the light. Now I stand in its sparking, coruscating glow, waiting for a final snap, a puff of sulphur, the carbon comfort of blackness. I’m living inside a lightbulb. I can’t get out. I can only go round and round, waiting for somebody to turn off the light.