e d i t o r s
Laura M. Kaminski
F. John Sharp, Fiction
F. J. Bergmann, Copy
Sina Evans, "from the archives"
Dean Baltesson 'August Day'
Dean Baltesson, Nina Bennett, Micki Blenkush, Carrie Conners, Yusef DeLorenzo, Howie Good,
John Jeffire, Marian Kilcoyne, Brian J Koester,
Jeffrey Park, and Ellen Kathleen Smith
Maybe it’s because of the news but it’s been hard for me to write The Note. Or it could be that, at this moment, I have a low-grade fever and aches. I don’t know what it is. Except it’s either a virus or a bacterium.
I admire disciplined writers. The ones who get up in the morning, write for three hours and as a result publish a Stephen King novel every year. I write daily but a lot of it is technical and work-related. In writing poetry and other creative work, I am on the other end of the bell curve from prolific writers. If I sat at the kitchen table or at my laptop on a scheduled basis, I’d spend a lot of time looking a blank rectangle.
Instead, I wait for something. Something I see or hear, or read that gets me going. With no plan in mind, I will now start writing about the phrase “The Whole World in One Layover.”
That’s the title of a CNN article by Nathan Thornburgh with fine photos by David 'Dee' Delgado. It is about how a traveler with a layover in JFK can duck out for a quick tour of Queens and its staggering range of shops and restaurants.
Maybe it is the microorganism, which is also giving me a mild headache, but the phrase “The Whole World in One Layover” makes me a little teary-eyed. I’ve spent more time laid-over in Atlanta’s airport than any other, I guess. You know the old joke that if you live in the southeastern quarter of the continental USA, you will have to change planes in Atlanta to get to heaven. I kind of prefer “to get to hell” but I’m sure that is the virus talking. (My back kind of hurts, too.)
I love layovers in big airports, the ones that eat and shit planes full of people. I love watching the people who stroll through the concourses because they have plenty of time, and I love the panicky sprints by the people whose flight out of Denver got delayed.
Like any busy place with many people in it or moving through it, it’s a luxury to sit and watch the parade of humanity. It is not true that no two snowflakes are alike because I found one in my yard back in Arkansas during a snowstorm in 1966 which was identical to one that fell that same year in Boston. But it is true that no two people are alike.
Think of it. Not any two. No two that live now or have ever lived. Not my identical twin first cousins, Mike and Mark, who live back in Arkansas. Not any two Republicans. Not any two women named Martha. No two elderly Nigerians. Not any two 11-year-old boys doing poorly in school because their fathers are cruel to their mothers. No two Imams. No two divorce lawyers who smoke cigarettes.
Don’t scoff at this observation, which has been made by bright 6-year-olds. And don’t scoff today because I have a fever, a mild headache, a sore back, and am achy. (No two people with infectious diseases giving them stomach cramps. I thought I wouldn’t mention stomach cramps but I’m trying to tell you I’m not feeling well.)
It’s not profound. I’m just saying that you can spend your next layover reading a Stephen King novel you bought in the gift shop in the Denver airport, and there's nothing wrong with that. Or you can sit and watch the whole world in one layover.
I hope you enjoy issue 111. Thanks to my co-editors, Laura M Kaminski, F. John Sharp, and F. J. Bergmann. Thanks to all who contributed.
Sound waves lilt
from the cave
of my mouth.
hard or soft.
in this story
trying to land.
Ellen Kathleen Smith
all not saying,
we are all a tender
we are all a goodbye
we are all a walking
we are all not here to assure
we are all a secret
we are all not welcome
Going Away Party for a Liar
Forget one show a night and two on Sundays, it’s always nighttime at the bottom and it’s always on, slowly waving its wide red fins like a Ziegfeld girl working her feathered fan. It’s not afraid to work blue—you can look through it like chiffon—flaunting its organs for all to see. But come too close and it bursts into light, violent as a camera flash, casts off its sticky, bioluminescent skin onto the offender, leaving it spot lit, onstage without knowing its lines. Nowhere to hide, the failed predator can only wait, a second-rate starlet hovering by the newsstands for the first reviews, to be ripped to shreds.
The Swimming Sea Cucumber Puts Broadway Actors to Shame
It’s strange how you sleep well now,
twice removed from land and self.
Strange how the prairie of your face
eludes me. Lately I wish you well, or
as well as mint beetles are liked by
many. With detached regard.
Stranger still, the way time holds you
and carries you alive through owlish
afternoons, your breath a lattice flung
upon a thousand vistas. Strange how a
fearful ego can remain intact, the
heart uncut. But listen, I want to know
if your mind has healed? Have you
aligned peace with being, and have
I made myself clear? Finally.
The Heart Uncut
A steady, even-pressured, vertical slice
through her abdominal wall
reveals a glistening tumor
gripping blood vessels
as firmly as my mother
once held my toddler hand.
I sit on Mum’s patio late that night,
a glass of Malbec gleaming
in the reflection of the Perseids.
Stray bits of comet dust
slam into the atmosphere, create
streaks of light as they burn,
disintegrate, and fade from sight.
Tears of St. Lawrence
The carboniferous man paid us a visit last night. He left sooty footprints on the stoop and sooty handprints on the countertop, drank the last of our milk and ate the coffee grounds from the plastic composting pail. Things were different in my epoch, different smells, different vegetation, all different. He was nervous, like always, watching us out of the corner of his eye—fight, flight, freak out—as if he thought evolution was something that might suddenly leap out of the shadows to tear him apart.
I am alone, have been alone for a while,
with the door closed, rocking back and forth
at the end of the exam table. I have what
my mother had. It will kill me, too, maybe
not right now, but eventually. I ache all over
as if my body were once the only thing
standing between the Nazis and world conquest.
Someone raps with subdued fury on the door.
Did you really think this was going away?
A brisk young doctor in a fresh lab coat bustles in,
and I wonder if I asked would she know just
how long it takes for eyes to adjust to darkness.
6 Million Ways to Die
Every once in a while, the projectionist would make a mistake and play reel four or something before reel two. Most people would go, “Huh, I wonder what that is?” I would shake him by his jacket just to see if he was still breathing. Now it’s business as usual, of course. It’s heartbreaking. It’s difficult to hear about. Two slim, undersized, swarthy men lurk in a doorway. You just walked by them and you didn’t even know you had walked by them. They are paid to catch spies. And they catch people like me, who have done nothing wrong. Some of the things we say or do get twisted. I’m not exaggerating. Just a few nights ago, I dreamed I was a giant penis launching off from Earth like a spaceship. It’s out of the question that it will happen again. The dead cannot be raised.
9/11 . . . 24/7
It’s a place that has never gotten over its ferocious past. I was there for three months, and it’s the doorway to hell. The dog is a he, but the table is a she. They have no logic. You feel it inside your heart. Nobody told us why. It was like an Apple store when a new product comes out. Every man for himself.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space. It’s black, odd, and lacking. That’s why we’ve been warning for a while that what has happened could happen. You have a deadly mixture of things that will kill you eventually. So when you see a big thing in the sky, run.
Who are these people? I could hear them on the bullhorn but I couldn't really make out what they were saying. One has to be realistic. At any time somebody out there can snatch you away from everything for no reason. I just keep waiting on it. I want everything to end, all the ills we are suffering. The wind knows that I’m coming back home. It pulls that cold trigger again and again and again and again, and these beautiful little birds burn.
Riding the dirty railways
through London corners
and London ends,
through a ravish of history.
Every grimy window is witness
to a story, perhaps
even this one,
so very small.
As a kind of an offering, we bring candles to Woodstock. From the VW wagon in which we’ve driven all night, we begin handing out the candles the next morning, when the sun is still shining, when we sense we are near. We drive at a snail’s pace, half-hoping to sight Bob Dylan, smiling and grinning, maybe even anticipating something otherworldly around the next bend in the country road that’s clogged with the ‘beautiful people.’ None of us has a map, or tickets. But, so what? We have candles, man!
Surprise, surprise! Big John is there, and Rocky, and Hannu. From behind the fence at the Performers Pavilion they say they have a job for me. Like, wow. I’m through the gate and have an ID pinned to my white Mexican peasant shirt in no time. “Yeah, man, just greet performers at the helicopter pad, man. We can’t pay you, but you can have some of this.”
Big John hands me a joint of some kind of ganja. I mean, it is some kind of ganja.
When the helicopter comes overhead and takes away the sky, I flash on images from the Nightly News. At the bottom of the hill, I look upwards, maybe a little dizzy, and there’s the same intense sound of the churning blades. I’m thinking the Viet Cong are somewhere beyond the perimeter fence. But they’re not because when the door opens, Ravi Shankar’s black hair is blowing and another groovy greeter is walking up to him, the one who told me not to worry, all I had to do was to follow what he did.
While the helicopter throbs in a brooding way, he’s throwing his arms around the musician. The two men are intertwined in greeting—I figure maybe it’s an Indian custom—and I can see Shankar’s mouth, reddened by something he chews, his eyes roaming over the crowd beyond the fence, searching for Cong. A second figure appears at the gaping door. No gunner there. No helmet webbed for jungle combat. No walkie-talkie headset. There’s a woman wearing a sari. She hesitates at the terrible rush of air against her, instinctively gathering the folds of the colorful garment to herself and considering the distance between her feet and the ground.
I too hesitate. But I have my orders. I spread my arms and walk into the beating wash of humidity thrust downward by the rotating metal mandala overhead. I want to say ‘Namaste’ but I don’t know how. I want to say ‘Welcome to Woodstock,’ but I don’t know how to say that either. I’m not sure if she sees me, but I suddenly sense I kind of shouldn’t be here. I drop my hands to my side.
She slips to the ground, turns away, ignoring me, and walks down the hill, following Ravi Shankar.
That night, wandering in a haze of historical proportions, I look for burning candles. But it’s kind of raining.
Following Ravi Shankar
For the Anniversary of My Death
My friend Khuzin from Russia
Messages me happy birthday.
In Russia, it is already Thursday,
But for another hour or so
I am still in Wednesday and
Can claim to be a year younger
Than he knows me to be.
Somewhere in the great unlived,
A silence will sound where
The last fires bow then lay still,
And a friend in some distant timezone
Will mention my passing while
My lips touch glass one last time,
Content, not yet privy to the news.
the details are what
weigh most on the mind: window
slats, stairwell bars, cheerful locks
to keep your spirit from
flying straight off into the sun.
On the Psych Ward
Brian J Koester
Dean Baltesson is a poet and musician from Victoria British Columbia Canada. He is working on a book of his poems entitled There Must Be Words To Describe This.
Delaware native Nina Bennett is the author of Sound Effects (2013, Broadkill Press Key Poetry Series). Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net, and has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, I-70 Review, Silver Birch Press, Philadelphia Stories, and The Broadkill Review.
Micki Blenkush lives in St. Cloud MN and works as a social worker. She is a 2015 recipient of an Emerging Artist Grant awarded by the Central MN Arts Board, funded by the McKnight Foundation. Her writing has appeared in: Sequestrum, Naugatuck River Review, Star 82 Review, and elsewhere.
Carrie Conners, originally from West Virginia, lives in Brooklyn and works at LaGuardia CC-CUNY where she teaches creative writing, literature, and composition. Her poetry has appeared in RHINO, HOOT Review, and The Monarch Review, among other publications.
Yusuf DeLorenzo is four years into a project of writing a series of historical novels set in Algiers during the last days of the Turkish Regency, and has received almost two hundred rejection letters from agents. He thinks he's getting better at it.
Howie Good is the author of The Loser's Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize from Thoughtcrime Press. His other books include A Ghost Sings, a Door Opens from Another New Calligraphy and Robots vs. Kung Fu from AngelHouse Press (both 2016).
John Jeffire recently turned 55. He has no idea how he made it this far. His latest book of poems, Shoveling Snow in a Snowstorm, is available at writeondetroit.com.
Brian J Koester has recently earned his MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Louisiana Literature Journal, The Ghazal Page, HeartWood, and Peacock Journal. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts and has been a freelance cellist.
Marian Kilcoyne has been published or is forthcoming at Prelude, The Louisville Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Crannog, Ofi Press, Frogmore Papers, Cyphers, Apalachee Review, New Contrast, Quiddity, Grey Sparrow Journal, Off The Coast, The Galway Review, The Liner, Into The Void, Roanoke Literary Journal and others. Her website is at www.mariankilcoyne.com.
Jeffrey Park lives in Goettingen, Germany, and teaches English at the Georg-August-Universitaet. Links to all of his published work can be found at www.scribbles-and-dribbles.com.
Ellen Kathleen Smith is a writer and art teacher living in Washington state. She is a former National Poetry Slam competitor and has taught numerous creative workshops in her community. You can visit her online at www.ellenksmith.com.