“Black Tambourines,” “Brother Red Gold,” and “Flesh”
And I heard black tambourines, stolen
steel guitars, small-room tubas, forsaken
trumpets, green castanets, kettledrums
of gold, stained-glass window pianos
— the orchestra of the alley,
pavement joyously undefended.
“Love Letters,” “Purple Flowers,” and “Chicago Stars and Hospital Beds”
in this world
rising from the cracks
in this cement ground
on the surface of the lake
implying your ability to drown
“Sleeping,” “Elfie and My Mug,” and “The Land II”
I think I'm sleeping, night long, more than I think,
And days blur like leaves in a pitch-long fall,
while clocks run on with numbers that always blink,
then flicker backwards. I close my eyes and sink
“Good Old Dad,” “Nuns Fret Not,” and “That’s All Folks”
Had enough of it,
pushing along with
his job and family
and gave up.
Good old dad,
always liked trains
and that's where he went.
“Lake Ontario,” “This Town With One Bridge,” and “A Proctor at the Final Exam”
You are launching us in the boat
that you made seaworthy. It scrapes against the
pebbles which shift so reassuringly when the lake
is calm. It is your boat, your day, and we are your
children. We have brought along our families,
all that we have added to your empire.
“Tree Rings,” “The White Cat,” and “Goodbyes”
My skin told me first, when I saw his picture. The cold memory of touch
a frantic messenger, almost swifter
than the optic nerve. My body remembers.
So I got into the shower, ran it scalding, breathed
the vapor like medicine, the mist a place to lose myself,
“Cycling,” “Utter,” and “Glass”
On the ride to work I try to remember; did I make my bed?
—Wonder if I love myself, wonder if I care about my children’s children
Wonder where every plastic bottle went—each one I have sucked from and sent
on its journey, perhaps to landfill, and What does that pile look like
“Pull,” “The Fall,” and “Moth”
Unsure how many lives I’ve taken.
Hornets, spiders, the boy hardened – unbelonging
in the furling roots.
But this isn’t about the bodies,
it’s their shadows, seeping through the openings,
weighing the bones with dark.
“Barefoot,” “Reconstructions,” and “Vulcan’s Flames”
He says his favorite clouds
all wear size seven shoes. He knows she believes
she once saw a paisley rainbow
and will never forget it.
She wears size seven shoes
and her tears can be torrential,
yet they can still nurture
“Contagion,” “Melancholia Covida,” and “Intermission”
Who among us has not been infected with COVID
fear? Waking, wanting to vomit but the vomit hangs
burning in our esophagus and we are not certain of the day
of the week or when our toilet paper will run out and if
there will be more in the stores. Who among us does
not fear dying alone, COVID keeping loved ones distant—
A Barber in Abingdon
A chill in the air woke Ali. It was just a slight draft but enough to brush the hairs on the back of his neck upright, if he’d had any. He’d shaved them clean off though, like the sparse hair on his head. Back in the day when hair loss was his only concern, Madiha, his wife, had caught him researching transplants online. She’d laughed, slipped off her headscarf and shaken out her hair, ‘Want some of mine?’ If he concentrated, he could still feel its soft weight and silky texture.
A large dispenser of no-name hand sanitizer should not be the first object patients see as they open the door bearing the engraved brass plaque SANDRA R. KRASNAPOL, PH.D. So, Sandra had positioned the bottle behind the lamp on the small bookshelf in the vestibule. Immediately visible, yes, but an offer rather than an outright command. She expected the alteration would not go unnoticed by her patients—and it didn’t.
It’s six years since I was last home. It’s funny how quickly you can forget yourself. London is a long way from the village in Limerick where I spent one August as a teenager. We used to go a lot when I was a small boy, but I couldn’t remember it very well. But it wasn’t until I was fifteen that it became a part of me. Until then, I never wanted to visit family. It was summer after all, I should have been with friends, but my mother made me go.
The Law of Forgetting
Sister has never sought recognition for her sacred work, but those afflicted with childlessness find her. They send heartrending letters. They send aged Manchego and Jamón. They send exquisite rosaries of rare wood and bone.
The couple from Salamanca is typical. It’s May 1973. They make a personal pilgrimage to the clinic, as if Sister were herself a saint.
Out of the Blue
They say that the characters in a movie are affected by the developments the screenwriter creates between each of them, and that these characters are influenced by the paths taken within the plot. I envied characters that said or did things on the screen that they would never do in real life. In some ways, my life, or existence, was like a movie script—adventures sprouting up unexpectedly over many episodes.
In front of the door of her building, Maria’s male black cat Dash is waiting for Steve’s cuddles. Steve lifts Dash up and kisses him on the head. Dash allows it.
— This thing could kill me, he says, and Maria knows Steve means Dash, as usual.
Steve places Dash back on the ground. Dash disappears behind the brick wall surrounding Maria’s garden. Maria and Steve go inside. Apparently, Steve is allergic to Dash.
I was born naked, but I got dressed up as soon as I could. Mom teased me about that when I was a kid. When I chose a fringed flapper dress for my first day of school, she rolled her eyes at my Miss Priss personality. She was a single mother, just starting out in the practice of law, had put herself through law school. And she didn’t work for some fancy-pants law firm. She was a public defender, so she didn’t have time or money for frills.
The Pointillist Strain, A Requiem
Two women walk in tandem down a cobblestoned street, one of many radiating like the veins of an emerald-green tree leaf from the metro down through the park towards a museum. The park is lined by elegant two-story mansions with beautiful balconies.
Children mount small horses inside the park in a corral of sorts, their moms adjust their helmets, while Daddy snaps pictures.
When her uncle came to visit from Florida, he brought a bagful of shells.
“Look at you! How big you’ve gotten! C’mere, c’mere! Give your Uncle Glenn a big hug! Aren’t you glad to see your Uncle Glenn?”
Her siblings (“half-stepsiblings,” as her mother joked about her confusion over the distinction between stepsiblings and half-siblings) were jealous that he gave her the big conch shell, but her Uncle Glenn had said that she was the youngest, so she would appreciate it the most.
Long Short Story
Derek La Shot
“Crazy weather we’ve been having,” an old woman said as she creaked her way forward to a row of chairs in the pharmacy, something in her knees snapping softly as she sighed and sat into the chair next to a man in early middle age, looking reflectively at his cell phone.
The man called “Cuch,” which was short for Cuchullin (his Irish mother had a thing for ancient epics), had saggy, red eyes like he’d been crying. Was this why she was making small talk? Normally the man would have dismissed trivial attempts to occupy time while waiting for a prescription with a clipped yep, but today something compelled him to reach out.
Today, Cuch felt more appreciative of these opportunities to exchange small pleasantries with other human beings because he didn’t know how much longer he’d be able to do it.
The Twelve-Year Chaqwa: A Time of Suffering and Chaos
Semper Mariá: A Tale of Hunger and Terror
Like the original mother Mary, Mariá Elena Moyano – known affectionately as la negra by the masses – was considered a mother not just to her own two sons, whom she adored, but also to the thousands of children of Villa El Salvador, the largest shantytown in Lima. She had run hundreds of communal kitchens and the extensive Glass of Milk program since her days as president of the Women’s Federation of Villa El Salvador. By February of 1992, by which time she was vice-mayor of the town of three hundred thousand people, the program delivered a glass of milk each day to sixty thousand children and elderly who would otherwise succumb to malnutrition.
The Twelve-Year Chaqwa: A Time of Suffering and Chaos
The Seduction of Javier Pardo
In France, I met Irving Rivera, a Puerto Rican born in New York City, about twenty years older than me. He lived on the same floor as I did in the Maison Américaine at the Cité Universitaire in Paris. I saw him often, since there was a cafeteria in the basement of the dorm room, where both he and I often ate. We gravitated toward a group of Spanish-speaking friends, some Latin American but mostly Spaniards, who also lived at the huge American dormitory. I would also regularly see Irving on a table in the plaza behind the Maison Américaine, with a sign saying, “Independence for Puerto Rico Now!” He requested donations, ostensibly to help rid Puerto Rico of its American colonial masters.
Answers to Questions Not Anticipated
I slip the CD into the car audio slot and the music begins. As always, Cole tells me he likes riding in my tiny car because we can play CD’s and listen to music and we dance and get silly while driving. I hunt through Goodwill stores and garage sales, always looking for “hidden jewels,” preserved covers and discs without scratches on the tracks. Cole is very specific about his likes. He doesn’t much care for little kid tales. He likes The Four Tops, Jimmy Buffett, The Beatles and Raffi. This day I slip in Jimmy Buffet’s “Greatest Hits” into the slot. Track 7.
The Voodoo Shell
I hold the tarot card in my hand and stroke the silky surface, studying the illustration. It’s a colorful drawing of a woman seated on a throne. She’s beautifully dressed in a red billowy gown with a crown of moons on her head. I rub my fingers over the image as if using a paintbrush, imagining I’m the artist creating it. Mom’s voice interrupts my dream drawing. She directs me with her sweet sing-song upbeat tone. Put the card here on the table, face up, and then take another from the stack and flip it over next to it. Mom smiles and looks me straight in the eyes. Her cobalt blue eyes glisten and sparkle. I’m mesmerized.