The Average Lifespan of a Dream
karla k. morton
Graham W. Henderson
Ezra Hillel Kronfeld
The Note is not available this month. The Note is in serious but stable condition at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, where for the last two or three years, she has lived and worked in a bar on East Washington St. She is recovering from a gunshot wound. I learned about her shooting from Kyle, a regular at the bar. He found my number in The Note's phone.
The Note is my lifelong friend and a former pediatric dentist. To me, she will always be "The Note," my name for her since we were 12. The death of The Note's daughter in an accident had, over time, led The Note to criminally employ her DEA number to supply herself with drugs. Dominos fell, as they do.
I'm writing just off I-65, in a Denny's in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the site of a recently famous non-massacre. (I'd rather be in Sweden.) I'd normally be able to make the drive from Birmingham to Indianapolis without a stop of this length, but it is 2:15 in the morning and I'm behind on sleep. I can't pull all-nighters anymore. So coffee and a weirdly-colored breakfast plate and more coffee.
Kyle told me The Note was found gutshot in the bar by the owner who, contrary to his custom, had come in after closing time. She was unconscious when the owner found her, but this morning was able to speak briefly to detectives. Kyle said she told the last patron she was closing the bar and politely asked him to leave. He responded by pulling a gun and demanding the contents of the cash register. She obliged and he turned and left the bar. She had told police that the last thing she remembered was the sight of the shooter on the way out the door and a strong sense of relief.
That's all she remembered. No one has a theory about how The Note ended up getting shot when her memory is that the guy had left the bar without shooting her.
The coffee at Denny's is good but I'm not making any progress with the Santa Fe Skillet. It's been said that no one sets out to go to Denny's. You just sort of end up there. When The Note and I were twelve, she didn't set out to be working in a bar in a troubled neighborhood in Indy. She just ended up there.
I've worried about my friend for nearly 10 years and now I find a strange peace, heavy and orange and warm, settle around me in this Denny's in Kentucky. D'aneisha, the waitress, pauses for a moment and smiles at me, broadly and genuinely, and therefore inexplicably. A truck driver sitting along across the diner takes off his cap, scratches his head, looks out the window at the nearly empty parking lot and chuckles. For the first time in years, I am certain The Note is going to make it.
I don't think the guy left the bar until after he shot The Note. Maybe he shot her for the hell of it. Maybe she made some remark he didn't like. I think she stood there and saw the flash. But our minds protect us, when they can, from memories of naked evil. Unconscious, on the floor, floating in the ether, The Note had a dream of mercy.
Here is Issue 108, "The Average Lifespan of a Dream." As always, my thanks to my co-editors, the fantastic Laura M Kaminski, the mighty F. John Sharp, and F. J. "Eagle Eye" Bergmann. Thanks to all contributors and you, our loyal reader.
For those new to RHP, "The Note" is my introduction to each issue. "The Note" is also the nickname of a person whose life I sometimes write about here.
Down City Street Crossing
You and I,
hand in hand,
crossing the street,
soft-shoeing through traffic
bathed in a trickster glow
of fleeting headlamps,
a shadow waltz
strung from the half moon
only a step away,
the opposite sidewalk
like a neon dancehall
wide-open and throbbing
The other who lived with us became the shadow
of our beginnings, father for so long now broken in age.
I watch you, Love, turn into an old shadow, while
the first shadow dies, right before our eyes.
Footsteps leave the house. Ghosts play
against the wall, I am left with the cat and the husband.
We drink tea, and the light changes, the earth turns.
Everything, nothing, this is the tapestry of love.
Maybe she didn’t really want to wear that wedding dress for real, just have it to think about and play with just like the flower girl dress that had so many permutations through the years until hardly able to squeeze into that white satin rag. Just a dream that was what it was a dream little girls have before they know better, taxes, babies that stuff; bite the bullet stuff, now or never biological clock scary. Better to leave it in pretending stage no pesky lists and decision making invitations, who sits where or are they not speaking now. Elope? Nah too easy have to make ‘em pay through the heart. Expensive. No baby holding just an occasional thank you, yes, no, no more. Get another pretending dress now; this one stained with unpleasant.
The Artist’s World Is Mental
A non-story is a story.
There is a devil, there is a muse.
The most important lesson:
start at the end.
Do rules still apply?
[Your ego is getting
out of hand.]
Fiction is truth.
Come up with a concept.
Think all day in blocks of time—
get a bad idea. Be 100% pure.
Rootless. Clueless. Surrender.
The epiphanal moment
is a corollary
to the all is lost moment.
A remixed poem composed from chapter titles of Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield.
The Average Lifespan of a Dream
The stage is bare.
I'm swimming through
a black sky of fear,
surrounded by stale, dusty air.
You know it’s going
to be one of those days
when the third day of the week
surrenders to the fourth,
trying to draw air out
of a room full of broken people
making their own geography.
I know how that sounds—
but it’s true.
A remixed poem composed from a series of first sentences of novels.
The Barker and the Seals
The Barker pulls back the curtain, ushers us inside to a swollen expanse of darkness. In the center, a halogen puddle spills onto the sawdust-strewn floor. There, a dozen seals sit upon overturned apple crates, a scale’s worth of tin horns arrayed in front of them. The curtain sags behind us, and the Barker ushers us toward the Show. He bows and doffs a stovepipe hat revealing a mass of hair as unguent as his smile. When he straightens, the seal orchestra snaps to attention. Their liquid eyes follow the flourishes of his hand.
We edge closer, can smell the acrid stench of their pelts, the smell of salt and malice. When they play their horns, the notes fall like dominoes, discordant bleats tumbling on top of one another. The Barker leers his corrugated smile, and we burst into applause, not knowing why, as if our hands are impelled by hidden pulleys or wires. With another wave of his fingers, the clapping stops, the seals stop—all but a small one on the far end, a shabby-looking one with dappled spots. It honks and honks, oblivious to the Barker’s approach and the eager murmurs of the crowd. We all know what is coming.
The neighboring seals shift on their flippers. They avert their eyes from the Barker’s cardboard face and their idiot brother, still bleating its horn. Their fat and muscles hardly ripple at the wooden percussion. Silence billows out from the slumped form.
When the Barker smiles, our hands come together in a furious patter, louder than ever. The remaining seals join in and bite at the bulbous ends of their horns, over and over, honking with passion and avarice. Trails of viscous spittle glisten in the light.
The Barker bobs his head about on thick shoulders as the music swells, then raises his arms high. The noise stops. He thrusts his hands into the empty space. His fingers are small, sausage-like. Brassy rings cover his piggish knuckles.
“You,” he shouts, and his gaze pushes through the crowd. We crane our heads to see who is fortunate enough to be singled out. Envious faces find your eyes, stare at you searchingly. What have you got that we haven’t? His eyes draw you forward, away from us, past the lugubrious seals and their drooping whiskers, until you stand by his side. Do you really tremble? Is it with trepidation or excitement?
With a sweeping gesture he unfurls a sealskin cape and drapes it over your shoulders. He leans close to you, his breath hot against your cheek as he knots it about your throat. We yearn to hear what secrets he might whisper, but his whispers are for you alone. You blush mightily before he buries your head beneath a mottled cowl. We press forward as he pushes you to your knees, your new maw level with the old seal’s horn.
The Barker smiles and we clap. And we clap.
Making of a Temple
karla k. morton
Uriel hunts in silence
from the mantle.
Angels fold their wings within
Underneath the fireplace stones,
Each tin roof becomes steeples
You could bring in the world's wounds
to this cabin,
but at the first wink of moon,
they turn to moths—
somber, sooty butterflies
in the dark.
What I’m trying to say about fire raging across our lives
I hate it, too, when it all slips
out of my mind when I try to say
what I’m pushing my shoulder against
and losing as it resists, even rolls back
down this incline, getting steeper
and soon I’ll be pinned
up against a new tragic that’s readying
itself up against every other tragic ever
and this isn’t personal though it is that too.
On Staten Island
Who’d think that on Staten Island
you’d meet the original
old gentleman, bowler and tall
riding boots, jodhpurs, all black
to set off his furry little beard
and expression rimmed with blood?
Snow trims the streets. A tree
exclaims open-armed behind him,
but its warning is useless. He tips
his hat and smiles and smiles and smiles,
and the deflation of your ego
follows with a hissing sound.
Thank him. Note the papers
tucked under his left arm. They bear
your name and require your signature.
But read them with care. They’re legible
only in the early winter dark.
I saw a buck tonight.
I stalked him through
The tangled woods
In the pattering rain.
Never got a shot off.
Such a beautiful night.
She said she was pregnant and Elvis
was the father. She’d met him once,
before he’d hit big, playing a gig
at the teacher’s college. Back then,
she was a sorority beauty queen.
The nurses clip pictures from magazines,
young Elvis, old Elvis. They tape them up
above her bed. When we visit, she calls
all her children’s names in quick
succession, maybe because she remembers
the names but not who belongs to each.
Behind a wooden altar, white-robed old
men who smelled like fried chicken lectured
us about the sins of our minds. A pool
of greenish-blue water stagnated beside them.
They claimed it held the secrets to our salvation,
if only we’d let them dip us in with their shaking
arms. When the singing woke us, we begged
to go to the bathroom, and searched the otherwise
empty building. We explored every door, climbed
to the balcony looking for something worth finding
while in the other room, our neighbors
smiled politely and damned us to hell.
He’d cool it in the fridge after
buying it from the glaring old
man’s roadside stand, halve
the cantaloupe, scoop the seeds
with a spoon, tossing them out
the door into the ditch the sink
and washing machine drained
into, douse one half with pepper, and eat
it to the green bone of the rind.
That was breakfast, along with
coffee, or, after he decided
that made him too jittery, Gatorade.
He’d read a Tom Clancy novel
in the kitchen until the sun was up,
and leave a rind in the sink so clean,
fruit flies wouldn’t touch it.
I will perform surgery with
the jagged edge of memory
slice you from breath to clarity
and remove the generic masculine
rewrite your consciousness in base 3
ink revolutionary verse
across the wall of your heart
take out the circuit breaker between
the cradle and your dreams
ruining your resale value.
Graham W. Henderson
i’m so grateful every person
on this train is alive
happy that none of them
have eaten poisonous mushrooms
or have been bitten by sea snakes
or Brazil’s wandering spider
i stare at them and smile
but look away when they notice
Graham W. Henderson
a small un-
in a big war.
clear young eyes
full of blue sun
and the ocean.
here at the outskirts,
the pen in the margins,
private notes in a library book,
blue ink, no name:
"Faust should have known better."
Ezra Hillel Kronfeld
Stumbling through a wondrous land of vegan cupcakes and anarchist bookshops, I ponder computers that know my emotions and intricate roller coasters on the rings of Saturn. Colors of the streets and skies fade to grayscale. A stray dog’s light brown fur shines through as the town’s remaining hue. He hops over to the broken typewriter on the other side of the street and ferociously smacks the `H` key. He seems angry about something. Perhaps the day has disappointed him somehow. Maybe music stopped abruptly; maybe tone has drifted from him.
Kangaroo, Lion, Stones, Market, Men
it is a story about a lion. and a tiger. it is a story about animals.
all kinds of them.
it is a story about a crowded market, full of colourful tastes. it is a story
with shopkeepers of shirts and semi-precious stones
it is a story about men
who touch your ass
Still Not Feeling at Home
In the darkness
I still miss
and in the bed
I cuddle up
in the dark corner
like a boxer
after everyone left
CL Bledsoe is the assistant editor of The Dead Mule and author of fourteen books, most recently the poetry collection Trashcans in Love and the flash collection Ray’s Sea World. He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.
Laurie Byro has been facilitating “Circle of Voices” poetry discussions in New Jersey libraries for 17 years. Her 3rd collection of poetry, Wonder, was published by Little Lantern Press(Wales). Laurie’s 4th book, The Bloomsberries, is due this year from Karen Kelsay Books. Laurie is Poet in Residence at the West Milford Township Library.
William Doreski recently retired after years of teaching at Keene State College in New Hampshire (USA). His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.
John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review.
Graham W. Henderson published his first story collection, Hendrix the Worm and Other Stories in October. He has work published or forthcoming in Five 2 One, Third Street Writers, and Smartish Pace. He tweets @gw_henderson.
Joshua Jones is a writer and animator residing in Maryland. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Golden Key, Bartleby Snopes, Juked, and Cleaver Magazine. He’s sporadically on Twitter @jnjoneswriter.
Ezra Hillel Kronfeld is a contemporary writer and poet from Maryland. His work was recently featured in 1947 Journal, and his chapbook Waking Up & Other Poems is now available at retailers.
Judith Mayer has a BA in Chemistry, and has lived through three separate careers, all involving science. Unsurprisingly, she has had only one poem published. Undaunted, she continues to sign up for workshops and attend readings in her spare time.
Neila Mezynski was a ballet dancer/choreographer turned abstract painter/found object sculptor/installation artist and off-and-on writer. She has six chapbooks published.
karla k. morton, 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, is a Betsy Colquitt winner and twice an Indie National Book Award Winner. She has eleven books of poetry, with her forthcoming title Wooden Lions due Spring 2017 (Texas Revew Press). Morton has begun her Poets Laureate National Parks Tour to visit 50 of the 59 Parks with a percentage of that forthcoming book sales to be donated back to the Parks System. In January, she visited Joshua Tree and Channel Islands.
Alexander Nachaj lives in Montreal and lectures at Concordia University part-time. He edits JRC, an academic publication focused on religion and its interplay with culture. His work in this issue of RHP is his first published poem.
Karen Neuberg’s poems and collages have appeared in numerous online and print journals and anthologies including Forage, Hermeneutic Chaos, Otoliths, Really System, and S/tick, Her most recent chapbook is Myself Taking Stage (Finishing Line Press). She is associate editor of First Literary Review-East.
Sean Prentiss is the award-winning author of Finding Abbey: a Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, a memoir about Edward Abbey and the search for home. Finding Abbey won the 2015 National Outdoor Book Award for History/Biography, the Utah Book Award for Nonfiction, and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Biography. Prentiss is the co-author of the environmental writing textbook, Environmental and Nature Writing: A Craft Guide and Anthology, and the co-editor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction.
Shloka Shankar is a freelance writer from Bangalore, India. She loves experimenting with Japanese short forms of poetry, as well as found/remixed pieces alike. Her work has most recently appeared in Otoliths, The Bangalore Review, Bones, and Failed Haiku. Shloka is the founding editor of Sonic Boom.
Guy Traiber writes. He studies & practices shiatsu & acupuncture. He likes to see the stories in the people who allow him. He likes a good story and even more, a good poem. He likes it if you write him a letter or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).