Alice K. Boatwright: Life Sentences

Jack Hillyer waited on the deck while the Masons made a last tour of the house. He studied the scene below him: Easton, tucked against its curving harbor with a ferry standing at the dock, the pale green landing strip carved between dark woods and golden meadows, and, beyond, other islands floating like green hummocks on the shining water.

The cove where he and Patti lived was down to the left, hidden from this vantage point, but he knew exactly where it was and could picture everything in its place: The woods, the cabin, the patch of garden, and Patti. He set Patti on the porch, reading in the butterfly chair, her legs folded up, long red hair pulled back with a rubber band. Not that she was a big reader, but he had seen her that way one afternoon and liked the image. He carried it in his memory like the faded photograph of his two children that he kept in his wallet. He would call it up and say to himself, “This is Patti, the woman I love.”

He glanced at his watch and took out his cell phone to let her know he’d be home soon, but the muffled sound of a door closing made him put away the phone and turn back to the house instead. Continue reading “Alice K. Boatwright: Life Sentences”

Robert Wexelblatt: Hsi-wei and the Three Threes

Before retiring to his cottage outside Chiangling, the peasant/poet Chen Hsi-wei had always been on the move.  When the news spread that he was able to receive visitors, several came.  Among the most welcome was Liu Qing-sheng, who, before his own retirement, had been a second minister in the last years of the Sui dynasty.  Liu and Hsi-wei had been pupils together under Shen Kuo, an exacting and formidable master.  As the two friends shared recollections, both noted that the pains of their youth were somehow more delightful to recall than the pleasures.  “The alchemy of age,” Hsi-wei mused, “is magical.  It seems to have transmuted resentment of our Master’s sarcasm and fear of his bamboo cane into something almost like affection.”  Continue reading “Robert Wexelblatt: Hsi-wei and the Three Threes”

Bobby Horecka: Lubbock 1974

If the stars had aligned better, the boy could’ve been the son of a teacher, a scientist, or a business tycoon. He might’ve spent his days blowing out birthday candles, playing catch outside with dad, or singing silly songs with mom, full of elaborate gestures.

The itsy-bitsy spider, perhaps. Or He’s got the whole world. That one about that bridge that kept falling down. He’d settle for the alphabet song. Johnny Cash. Sabbath. The Doors. The son of son of a sailor. Anything, really. Was it so much to ask? Continue reading “Bobby Horecka: Lubbock 1974”

William Cass: The View from Here

Our school district’s special education director told me before the annual IEP meeting for John Manor that his parents had been a nightmare to deal with for years.  He said Mr. Manor was an attorney who headed a firm that represented parents of special needs students in law suits against districts they felt weren’t supporting their children adequately; they’d already gone to due process twice with our district over what they deemed lack of services for their own son.  The director rarely attended IEP meetings at the district’s sites, but always made a point of presiding over theirs.  Although I’d be there as the administrator of record, he advised me to stay as quiet as possible, especially since I’d just started in my new position as assistant principal at the high school. Continue reading “William Cass: The View from Here”

Jessica Martinović: Mr. Thomas’s Gift

The wide-open field across the road was not dotted with life like most fields around this area of Kentucky. No cattle or horses or even goats or sheep roamed there. Instead, it looked untouched and imperfect with its overgrown patchy grass, green and golden-brown, with sprinkles of purple and yellow weeds that looked maybe like wildflowers but were just plain old weeds. The landscape was tarnished-looking with the yellow patches, scorched from the sun, but it was also incredibly beautiful, wildflower weeds and all.

There was an old abandoned barn that seemed to be ready to collapse at any moment. Lining the road was a bent, flimsy looking fence that at one time was brand new and useful. The land was broken into weaving hills that told a story about the history of this land and how it got its shape, although I didn’t know that story. Continue reading “Jessica Martinović: Mr. Thomas’s Gift”

James McCormick: Lewis Carroll’s Last Photograph of Alice

Oxford, 1870

“It’s too late to correct it,” said the Red Queen: “when you’ve once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.”
Through the Looking-Glass

Neither he nor she says a thing.  She’s sitting, posed.  And he’s telling
The seconds that make light and silver nitrate into something not painting,

Not sight.  Into a kind of world.  Into a kind of double of this world, only
Where color becomes lost, where her pale lavender day-dress will become gray, Continue reading “James McCormick: Lewis Carroll’s Last Photograph of Alice”

Donley Watt: Circling

When we are young we look forward, our eyes always on the future, it seems. The present is illusory; “now” disappears into our past the instant our mind forms the concept and then the word. And for the young that past is often ignored, blotted out, refigured into a history that gives reason and comfort to their lives as they relentlessly focus on what is coming next.

But if you have the fortune to live with relatively good health and a somewhat sound mind until you are, like me, closer to eighty than to seventy, dwelling on what future still looms ahead often seems futile and without purpose.

So what am I, or anyone my age, to do but look back, relive my life’s history, once again going over those things from the past that have left their marks, a search for self-acceptance and self-understanding. Continue reading “Donley Watt: Circling”