Nickeled-and-Dimed – Iris N. Schwartz

 

Brooklyn, New York; 1967

In the middle of the sitcom “Love on A Rooftop,” Lenore, eight, announced she had swallowed a nickel. Her voice was low, her words measured.

Imogene rushed over. “Are you sure?”

Her sister nodded.

Imogene paced the living room, muttered, “How could this happen?” Regarding her younger sister on the sofa still watching Judy Carne, the eleven-year-old again probed, “Are you sure?”

Lenore smiled, slightly.

“Why? On the one night Mother and Dad go out!” Suddenly Imogene was speaking with an emergency operator. “I don’t know how it happened!” and “She’s breathing fine.”

She hung up, shut the TV, glared at Lenore. “You better not be making this up!”

“I’m not.”

“Because if you are…”

The doorbell rang. Two lanky young men in police uniforms were at the door. They probably hadn’t spotted the mold on the mezuzah.

“Is this the household with the coin swallower?”

“Yes, yes, oh God,” the older sibling responded.

Blond Policeman sat down by the unsteady kitchen table. Brunet Policeman stood nearby in the living room, examining the family’s antique, glass-doored bookcase. He seemed rooted there. Would he be nesting soon?

“Can I get you coffee?” asked Imogene. “Gum?”

“No, we’re fine.”

Brunet finally walked into the kitchen. He and Blond questioned Lenore about how she’d swallowed a “Buffalo nickel,” which she “collected,” and was “examining in the dark.” She “didn’t want to bother her sister” by turning on a light. When the eight-year-old held the nickel high, it tumbled from her left thumb and forefinger into her open mouth.

Blond: “Any trouble breathing since the incident?”

“No.” Lenore spotted a humongous water bug by the table leg closest to Blond. Would he notice?

Brunet asked the older sister their parents’ whereabouts.

“Oh, God… they’re at a PTA meeting, and were planning to eat out. They haven’t been out in years, and…”

Brunet: “Well, we need a family member over eighteen to tell us whether she’ll stay here or go to the hospital…”

Lenore gulped. She hadn’t been to a hospital since her tonsillectomy. They hadn’t given her ice cream afterwards like they promised. Just watery Jello. She wouldn’t go! She tried to stomp on the water bug as it neared. It sped away.

Imogene decided their parents should be called and brought home.

Dad grumbled that this was the first time in three years they’d gone out, and now they were back. Early. Mother wore makeup. The sisters knew not to look her in the eyes, hers with mascara, theirs not.

Blond told Mother and Dad that Lenore could get her stomach pumped in a hospital, or the collectible coin would come out the next couple of days if she ate fibrous food and drank lots of water.

Brunet admired out loud the glass-doored bookcase. Was it for sale? Dad and Mother shook their heads, no.

The parents let nature take its course. They didn’t yell at or spank Imogene or Lenore. Mostly Dad grunted; Mother favored silence.

Two days later a dusky Buffalo nickel was affixed to orange contact paper, accompanied by Dad’s funny words. This was taped to the door leading to the basement. Anyone who visited could read it. It hung on that door for a year.

Lenore had dreams involving Blond and Brunet till early spring.

 

ins current cropped (1)Iris N. Schwartz is the author of more than forty works of fiction. Her literary fiction has been published in dozens of journals and anthologies, including 101 Words, The Flash Fiction Press, Gravel, and Jellyfish Review. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have been published widely, as well. Ms. Schwartz’s first short-short story collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth: And Other Stories, is scheduled to be published by Poets Wear Prada in Autumn 2017.

The Moon – Ion Corcos

 

The moon’s light opens the sea,

brings limestone and sea urchins out of the dark,

lets me see more than I would in the day,

when the light is hard, reflects off water,

white houses, the rocky hills.

 

It is hard to see fish in the sun,

except when they come to the surface

to nibble bread, or when they are dead;

thrown back to the water, untangled

from a net, floating.

 

I prefer night, the white moon,

phosphorescence in the dark sea,

like a turn in a dream, the quiet

silver of fish, the mystery

of stars.

 

Ion CorcosIon Corcos has been published in Grey Sparrow Journal, Clear Poetry, Communion, The High Window and other journals. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Ion is a nature lover and a supporter of animal rights. He is currently travelling indefinitely with his partner, Lisa. Ion’s website is www.ioncorcos.wordpress.com.

The History Of Their Handprints – Len Kuntz

 

It was the second fire

Years after the garage

Had burnt down

I came home from

Night church

The light switches

Wouldn’t work

I didn’t smell smoke

Right away but heard

My kitten Christopher

Mewling downstairs

The hallway door

Leading there was closed

And in the basement

The shell of my brother’s

Bedroom had become

Charred crimson cinders

Each slat of wood

Resembling red rebar

Or long stove coils

In the smoky haze

I scooped up Chris

Went to a neighbor

Dialed the fire department

They brought an investigator

Who grilled me

Out on the damp lawn

Until it grew so dark

I could no longer see

His expression and

Determine if he was

Actually serious

He pointed questions

Was I resentful my

Parents had left me

While they lived

Somewhere in Idaho

Did I want retribution

Were there issues

I had with them

That would lead me

To set my house on fire

I said

No

No

And

Of course not

I never said how

In those years

Each day was spent

Hustling the demons

That buzzed around

My shallow skull

Like a hive of

Angry wasps

Sometimes drilling

Their stingers

Straight through

My hippocampus

I never said I

Was actually thrilled

My parents were living

Someplace other than here

Where the history

Of their handprints

Still haunted everything

Darker than

The thickest smoke

Glowing brighter

Than any oven coil

Burning everything

To ash

Again and again

And again

 

6294_1156782568787_1504415167_30412971_8075954_n (2)Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE AND NEITHER ARE YOU, a story collection out from Unknown Press.  You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

Ascending from Vilenica Cavern – Glen Sorestad

 

One hundred thirty-four stone steps

drag us into the somber underground.

It is so novel an act, we have no thought

of what lies ahead when the time

comes to return to the comfort of earth.

 

Here in Slovenia’s Karst region

this huge limestone cave awes the breath

from us as, step by step, we descend

from sunlit warmth to eight degrees —

a constant, day or night, year in or out.

 

In this well-used cavern at a location

that is not its lowest depth at all,

but a spacious room where music

is played and prayers are uttered,

we listen to a brass ensemble blow

bats right-side-up, with notes flying

into every rock niche, sliding up

and down stalactites and stalagmites,

reaching out and up, shivering

a thousand candles with delight.

 

Over flicker and sputter of tapers

poets declaim poems and bring

evening to a close. Now we must

ascend to dark Slovenian night.

One hundred thirty-four steps: the test.

 

Up from the underground we climb,

single file, a stream of souls spiralling

to an imagined heaven. Our first steps

identical to those of the descent,

but now steps enlarge and each leg

must somehow be lifted higher.

A cruel joke? Has someone altered

the step size while we were below?

At one hundred steps we huff

and wheeze, wanting to stop

and rest, but there is no stop,

no looking back on this ascent

from the underworld, just keep

our eyes on the climber ahead

and hope that person doesn’t stop

or falter because these steps

will not suffice for two. If one

person stops, then we all must.

 

The only sounds are footfall

on stone, the puff and gasp,

and the rustle of clothing.

Just when we think our hearts

will burst and our leaden legs

will not budge another step,

we are returned to earth.

Night is cool, a lighted path

leads us to food and wine.

 

Sorestad 5x7Glen Sorestad is a Canadian poet whose work has appeared in publication in various parts of the world, has appeared in over 60 anthologies and textbooks, and has been translated into eight languages. Sorestad lives with his wife Sonia in Saskatoon on the northern plains.

Void – Lynn White

 

There are dark misty spaces

topped by the blackest clouds,

so that I can’t see into them.

I have always been afraid

of the monstrous beings

which may lurk there

waiting in the dark.

But now the mist

is lifting,

moving

away.

The cloud is becoming thinner,

allowing the light to penetrate.

Now I am even more afraid,

afraid of the light,

afraid

that it may reveal

not monsters, but

the bare boards

of emptiness.

 

Lynn...Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Her poem ‘A Rose For Gaza’ was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition 2014. This and many other poems have been widely published on line and in print publications. Find her at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynn-White-Poetry/1603675983213077 and lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com.

Looking at your pictures… – Francesca Leone

 

Still feels like stepping on a grenade.

Will it ever stop,

I ask myself.

Piazza Trilussa in the morning is at its most beautiful:

the air crisp, cold like a knife,

the silence of a city who’s still in bed,

quietly stretching out in the dark.

But that night when we said goodbye,

it was truly something else.

A beauty from God’s grace.

What a blessing it was to

get my heart broken on a night

like that. I felt so alive with pain.

Will it ever stop,

I ask myself.

Let’s hope it never does.

 

fl-picFrancesca Leone is a 24-year-old living in Rome, Italy. She writes in English at https://frellification.wordpress.com. She is currently writing a fantasy novel, but poetry remains her first love.

The searchers – John Grey

 

When I claimed to have seen the boy,

the others shouted “where?”

But he was already gone.

I was in a bunch of weary men and women

who were more than ready to pack it in,

cold and damp, and aching for their warm beds.

As the others retreated, I stayed behind,

in woods so silent and empty,

nothing rivaled my heartbeat for sound.

The trees felt like the dark walls

of an abandoned church,

the rocks, altars stained with rain.

And I was the preacher without flock.

Or was that the flock without preacher?.

Was the boy really out there?

Every square inch of forest had been trudged through

by his would-be rescuers.

The wind was bitter, clouds low and gray.

It wasn’t winter but not through lack of trying

on the weather’s part.

Maybe he’d found a secret place

out of reach of red-eyed shivering saviors.

When I ran away and hid, I wanted people to find me.

But that was a long time ago.

When I claimed to have seen the boy,

maybe that was me skirting between the trunks,

through the brush, terrified, miserable,

but enacting part of a plan to be retrieved, taken back,

squeezed even deeper into the family fold.

I stopped. I listened to the shouts.

I longed to cry out in return.

But that wasn’t how it was supposed to work.

I had to lead them on that weary chase longer,

until the anger was fully drained from my pursuers

and only the compassion remained behind.

Forty years later, I wait and watch.

The boy is probably home and safe with his mother

tor all I know.

Most likely, only I am out here now.

So do I keep searching?

Or do I go home to bed?

Wait a minute. What was that?

I thought I saw… or felt penetrate.

Small but bright. The boy. But which one?

 

unnamed-bioJohn Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. His work has recently been published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review, and is upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Slow Clapping – Richard King Perkins II

 

It would be an untrue kindness

to say it started innocently enough

 

when we both knew otherwise.

 

I asked you to walk with me

to the side of the building

hidden by shadow and irregular trees

 

where we could speak freely

about dandelions and reverse-image suns.

 

As intended, the conversation ended

and the sidelong glances

into distance and unlit corners began

 

and we became exciting people once again;

nearly glorious

 

but from the moment we caught our breath

there was a redefining;

 

a subtle sickness of stomach,

the ebb of coherence

 

so that even our false selves

had lost whatever fragment of innocence

that might still have remained.

 

And yet,

because we belonged to no one indefinitely

 

there was a steadying, a recovery,

liars made well by ill-given pardons

 

our pathetic espousals applauded

by the rhythmic clapping

of lime gloves in an artificial darkness.

 

rkpiiRichard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.