Prime Decimals 5.7
by Susanne Stahley
followed by Q&A
Squat electric fan the shape of a cat. For a while, in her fog, it comforted. Sadly, as she got better, the cruel truth.
Dear Alice, this was R first American B&B. The singing of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was marvelous. We hope the swan finds a mate! Jon & Tim
Raven Red 721. She's painting her toenails, been years. Blonde enough to be her sun. What the hell, life’s a beach again.
School parking lot. Watch: 3:06; cell: 3:07; car: 3:12 (fake late). Time so relative! Space? Daughter with my genes out door. Yes, indeed.
panting harsh. stop it. rattle throat. push away. collapsing black. hiss panic. snake coils. chest can’t. taste blood. crushhhhh. cigarette plz.
He’s not bringing a salad again. Takes too long to eat at his desk, alone. Sandwich is better. Like him, stuck between two dry toasts.
Night walk, two shadows: lamp & moon. Natural & not. Why... only 2? So many shadow selves, my reverse ghosts.
Susanne Stahley’s Biotweet: I’m another Incurable Romantic “foreverseekingthemoment.” So flash fiction is a sip of perfectly distilled wine.
Q: What was the inspiration for these pieces?
A: Twiction: fictiony haiku with saturated crimson currant, vanilla and espresso balanced with apricot and tannins. Sharp acidic finish.
All Undressed and Nowhere to Go
by Lee Upton
followed by Q&A
My friend liked to say things everyone else says, but he always got at least one word wrong. He’d say: Hope jumps eternal. Or: You can’t say that again. Or: No restaurants for the wicked. Or: Two rights don’t make a wrong. And once, after surgery when I’d lost a lot of weight, he tried to get me to eat by saying: You look so hungry you could eat a horse’s ass.
At my friend’s funeral the minister mixed him up in the eulogy with someone else and gave him a wife and two little boys, although he never married, never had children. There was a time when I thought my friend and I would marry, but that fizzled out—mostly on his part, I guess.
After the service, I got lost and had to make a U-turn in a parking lot behind a restaurant. Hulking near the dumpster was an ice sculpture, evidently a leftover from a celebration. An icicle hung from the swan’s beak.
It didn’t take me long to load the ice swan into the backseat. As soon as I got to my apartment I carried the swan into the shower and opened the window to let the air circulate.
Heavy snow fell during the night.
The next morning I took a shower with my feet stinging. Then I put the plug in the drain in case the swan melted while I was at work.
Everyone who carves ice says the same thing: it’s alive. Because ice moves. And move it did—like those time-lapse photographs. Except in reverse, traveling backward until some portions looked like a duck, then a frog, then a blastoderm. But the neck looked almost the same, like a question mark.
Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. My friend might have said: Tell me lies and I’ll ask you no questions.
Or: I’ll tell you to ask me lies. Questions?
Or: Questions lie so you might as well tell me.
Or: I’ll tell you a lie if you ask me a question.
Or: Ask questions and you’ll tell lies.
When I got home from work the next night I made myself take another shower in what was left of the swan, which slid around wildly in chunks—except for the neck. The neck was still shaped like a question mark, a brittle one.
You’re thin on walking ice.
Lee Upton’s Swallowing the Sea: On Writing & Ambition, Boredom, Purity, & Secrecy, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in 2012. Her most recent book is The Guide to the Flying Island, a winner of the Miami University Press Novella Award. Her poetry and fiction appear widely.
Q: What was the inspiration for this piece?
A: “All Undressed and Nowhere to Go” derives in part from my abiding interest in errors and how we must forgive ourselves for them—and, sometimes, cherish them.
by Christopher Lowe
followed by Q&A
When his son was a little boy, they’d drive in the car and sing along with Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. His boy’s a teenager now. Things change.
Buckle up, buddy, the dad says. How was practice?
The son responds with a noise, guttural and prehistoric. He looks at the car radio, what’s this, opera?
No, this song’s just like that. It’s KLH, classic rock.
Who’s the band? The son turns his head and glares into the side of his dad’s face.
The dad glances into the side view mirror. Queen, he utters.
Oh yeah, Queen, the son says. Their lead singer, who’s he again?
Freddie Mercury, the dad says.
Oh yeah, now I remember. He’s dead, right? Drugs, plane crash?
The dad braces himself and says, AIDS.
The dad doesn’t mind waiting in his car. He’s listening to Terry Gross interview Stephen Sondheim. The grass needs cutting and the shrubs are ragged, but that’s none of his business anymore. The son trudges out the front door wearing jeans three sizes too big and dragging an overnight bag like a two year old dragging his blanket.
How’s it going, buddy? Rays of sunlight ripple from the dad’s eyes.
Mom says you gotta get me something to eat.
Well, why doesn’t your mother come out and tell me that herself?
Oh, I don’t know, I guess maybe because she’s in the bathroom with the fan on, crying. The son flicks his chin toward the radio. Who’s this?
Terry Gross. She’s interviewing Stephen Sondheim. He writes musicals.
I wouldn’t know one way or the other.
Isn’t there some kind of code, you know, a secret Homo code?
That’s a derogatory term, it’s insensitive and it’s rude.
Oh, excuse me. How ’bout queer or fag? Or buttstabber?—the guys on the hockey team like that one a lot. Or maybe just the H-word, that’ll be politically correct.
The dad reaches forward and turns the radio off. So, what’re you hungry for?
The son looks out the side window and watches his home fade into the distance, his view blurred by the moisture in his eyes. He shakes his head and says, Qdoba.
Qdoba it is, the dad says, affecting his sunshiny persona.
On the ride back from the mall, the son turns the radio dial to KISS FM. Rap music blares. The dad gnaws his lower lip, but forces himself to concentrate on the lyrics. Slapping the off button, he asks if his son realizes that the rap song glorifies domestic violence.
Not all violence is physical, the son explains.
The dad considers the afterglow of the radio dial. I didn’t choose this, he says.
So it just happened? Poof, just like that?
Well, no, it’s just the way I am.
So, it’s genetic?
Well, sort of, in a way, the dad says. He looks at his son, sees his son staring back at him with flared eyes, and says again, it’s just the way I am.
Christopher Lowe is a lawyer in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and three children. This is his first published work of fiction.
Q: What was the inspiration for this piece?
A: This piece was inspired by conversations with my teenage children about what some of the kids at their schools, and their families, have been through. I originally wrote this work as an exercise for the Writer’s Studio online writing program.
Followed by Q&A
Who else is really trying to fuck
With Hollywood endings, the clipped
Finish sealed with a kiss and dipped
In dark chocolate ganache? I’ve stuck
My hand into the bonbon box
Too many times. The Juliet
Costume won’t fit with my body, yet
Romeo is like a pair of socks:
One size fits most; and, every rose
Is a rose is a rose although those star-
crossed lovers and two households are
The stuff of tragedy: stage, shows,
Pose, marks, and graceful suicides
Alike in dignity, no sound-
track, just a magic moment bound
By death, the March’s Ides
In full-on high step. Cowards die
Many times before their deaths
In their orgasmic bated breaths,
Clipped. Death, take off your shoes, stretch, sigh,
Then take me from behind and check
The paw prints on my back that climb
Away from you while bound in time
And space. Then clip my open neck
With your grim reaper teeth and mouth
Beneath your hood. We’ll have to doff
Our costumes now, take it all off,
Look us over and go down south
Until we’re not embarrassed. Luck?
We’re both cold bone with no Ave
Maria hope. You know what they
Say when it just looks like a duck.
It quacks just like a duck. We’ve made
The neighbors worry with our noise.
Skeletons have the greatest poise.
You got that scythe? A spade’s a spade.
Every bit of you is pivot.
I’m finished. Need a cigarette?
I don’t smoke. I don’t hedge a bet.
Now, go on, tell me how you love it.
Erica Dawson’s first collection, Big-Eyed Afraid, won the 2006 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize and was named Best Debut of 2007 by Contemporary Poetry Review. Her poems have appeared in VQR, Barrow Street, Best American Poetry 2008, the newest edition of Poetry: A Pocket Anthology, as well as other journals and anthologies. She lives in Tampa, FL with her puppy, Stella, and is assistant professor of English and Writing at The University of Tampa.
Q: What was the genesis of this poem?
A: True story: I asked my students to write a “love poem.” They returned the challenge and this poem was the result. What this means for me as a teacher or a person, I don’t know.
D. E. Oprava
It’s hard not to take it personally, the weather, the incessant wet that
dishevels my mood and eggs on the grass to new heights laughing derisive
in my direction, because it knows, it knows I can’t touch it while it bathes
and just gets more unruly, rowdy, Friday night crazy in the garden till I
can’t let the kids out for fear of unwanted advances by eager, drunk blades
hiding in their chlorophyll faceless numbers.
mower, gas power
horses coursing loose reined whilst
the beer hand drives on
Yet, what revenge can we wreak on the clouds as they silly fluff flow in the
winds intractable: lying in puddles one-beer-too-many-sudsy-mud looking
up shaking a meaty fist at air yelling, GO you grey bastards, go!
daddy on plush lawn
again, son too wet behind
the ears to know lush
Sombre sober wife writhing with thunder swings into sight, holy shit, it’s
night when the damp cool sloshing of sodden clothes and wetted brows
wake to stars and lightning shouts of get up you son of a bitch bastard
useless lump, get up, dry out and, wishing I were with the worms, be a man!
So much easier wanted than done, as no one cares to be the storm that
scrubs away other’s wishes, and yet.
D.E. Oprava is an American writer who has been published in over one hundred journals online and in print. He has three full-length collections of poetry: VS. with Erbacce Press 2008, American Means with American, Mettle Books 2009, and his third, sole, with Blackheath Books 2010. When he isn’t writing he is trying to live up to the high expectations of husbandhood, fatherhood, and humanhood, not necessarily in that order and occasionally succeeding. He lives in the UK with his wife and two small children. You can find him at www.deoprava.com
Sally Rosen Kindred
followed by Q&A
If we had to be their girls,
then there had to be ironweeds
around that house, needling up
through the pine shreds where
treelight divided one hard season
from the next. And there had to be
iron afternoons we lay our red
bodies down on the asphalt
for the smelting, waiting for sun
to hammer the bloom. And our mother
had to be hours at the iron,
where steam rose to meet her skin
from creases of our father’s
soft shirts and she bent into
the work, not knowing we were a house
under siege, that the ironweeds
were our battlements,
their purple spikes bright crenels
and merlons, that the crooked
walls of vernonia sheeted
our bodies with uneven shade
and guarded us from patches
of history and bloodshed,
from time to come. We could not know
that we would open here despite
the mean heat, that we would close
like the bristle of bruised threads.
We had to be hard as those stems
to withstand autumn, her face
pink and wet in the wind,
the dry ironweeds swinging low
and all those shirts
coming down off the line.
Sally Rosen Kindred’s first full-length poetry collection, No Eden, has just been released by Mayapple Press. Her poems have appeared in The Journal, Best New Poets 2009, and Waccamaw, and are forthcoming in the North Carolina Literary Review and Cave Wall.
Q. What was the inspiration for this poem?
A: “Ironweed Summer” is one of a series of poems I’ve been writing about members of the botanical family asteraceae, or aster family. Returning to these flowers in fields, field guides, and memory, I’ve been visited by their fierce, familiar strength: the strength of mothers and children, the ghosts of my Carolina childhood.
followed by Q&A
None of our beautiful words will live on:
“ruminant potato,” “ineluctable flux.”
No way around it, the world refreshes,
even the mountains move, they do,
and Jordan Rome, my poetry-pal,
will end up like me and Scranton, PA,
on the junk heap. Take for example this grain
of sand that once tipped the Sphinx's nose,
best safely stored in a reliquary
but oopse, watch out, it swirled away
on a lilt of the wind to join the sparse
vegetation of the Simi Valley
though wordy blurts like “the sparse vegetation
of the Simi Valley” are also bound
for oblivion, along with all gorgeous
sunsets, lyrics, gone, all gone,
even the small and appealing word “gone”
Known mainly as a poet/teacher, Barry Spacks has brought out various novels, stories, three poetry-reading CDs and ten poetry collections while teaching literature and writing at M.I.T. & UC Santa Barbara. His most recent book of poems, Food for the Journey, appeared from Cherry Grove in August, 2008. Over the years his poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review and hundreds of other journals.
Q: What was the inspiration for this poem?
A: The affection so many feel for the intimate details of ordinary life is made even more poignant by the consciousness of universal loss. Language seems to transcend the doom of its disappearance (along with everything else) by the act of talking about it.