William Cass: The Best We Can

I taught second grade, which meant that virtually all of the parents wandering around my classroom for Back to School Night were, like me, not much older than thirty.  The exception was the elderly couple who’d just entered the room and hovered uneasily inside the open door; I guessed they were both at least seventy.  The woman held her hands in front of her and stared up at some pictures on the big bulletin board beside her; the man gazed about him with a tiny grimace.  Most of the parents were at their children’s desks where work samples from the first couple weeks of school were displayed.  I greeted several of them as I made my way back to the classroom door.

When I got there, the old man’s eyes met mine.  I smiled and said, “Good evening.” Continue reading “William Cass: The Best We Can”

Christie Cochrell: In Suspension

From the train window Elena watched a bird rising out of an English field.  A perfect, ordinary thing—something she half-remembered underlining in a novel once, in some middle school class, profoundly stirred by a presentiment she hadn’t been able to name.  Her first encounter with a bird and field imbued with metaphorical significance, and now after a lifetime of sightings dulled by familiarity and growing weariness, likely the last she’d ever note.  Rising in late sunlight, then gone. Continue reading “Christie Cochrell: In Suspension”

Chris Guthrie: Kings of New Orleans

Are you gonna be okay? I asked Carly.

She sat cowering in the corner of her bed, recoiled into the wall. I could tell she had been crying. She wore a man’s T-shirt with the neckline pulled too much. Her knees were tucked tight into her chest. She nodded at a 9-millimeter on the nightstand. It was dark and heavy looking. The gun wasn’t hers; somebody had been here. Her eyes grew distant and rheumy. I stared at her and not the gun. She hadn’t looked at me once and I could tell she knew whose it was. Continue reading “Chris Guthrie: Kings of New Orleans”

Trevor Zaple: All the Clocks Have Stopped in Memphis

“The Boss Hides The Remote”

The sun sets behind a cloud and as its last magenta rays filter out over the gothic tops of downtown Buffalo Stephen orders a Rolling Rock and slides a five across the wet surface of the bar.  He eyes the pool table but there is already a couple playing there, a skinny blonde man and his tattooed brunette companion.  They stay close to each other and whisper intimacies into each other’s ears; Stephen turns back to his bottle of beer and plays with the corner of the green label, fraying the paper and getting the adhesive gummed into his finger pads.  He looks up at the aging television mounted behind the bar and sees John David Henderson looking like a deer that has been shot from behind a blind.  His eyes are wide and staring into the middle distance past the CNN camera.  His hair is grayer than Stephen had previously imagined, and is styled in early contemporary bird’s nest.  A solemn police officer is cuffing Henderson’s hands decisively behind his back. Continue reading “Trevor Zaple: All the Clocks Have Stopped in Memphis”

William Blake Brown: Porch Rocker

She sits in her front porch rocker watching
the shadows deepen and the street lamps
flicker on one by one. It is mid-April,
but the breeze caressing the wind chimes
carries a reminder of March, and she fetches
her worn denim jacket from inside. She drops
a chamomile tea bag into a cup and presses
the lever on the electric kettle. In evening
the porch is a sanctuary where her memories
glow as brightly as the street lamps.
“We had some good times, didn’t we?” she says
to the empty rocking chair beside her. At last
the darkness is complete, and she goes in
to find that the kettle has snapped off,
and the water in it is cold. Continue reading “William Blake Brown: Porch Rocker”

Phillip Periman: At the Lake

summers at the lake we sat and watched
the birds dip over the water and waited

occasionally I allowed myself a thought
what would it be like to walk on water

would I need a special type of footwear
should I take my clothes off without sunblock

nothing ever came of those musings except
the times you put your arm on my shoulder

those were the days when I believed myself
to be loved and all the world hung together

now it is winter and I am alone without you
where you are and on whose shoulder your arm

remains as much a mystery as then when
I wondered how you could love a pup like me

today the lake is bitter cold solid white
I stare straight ahead and imagine a bird

flying across the water in search of food left
next to the ice fisherman’s hut in the center

of the frozen lake where the ice is a foot thick
I realize now how easy it is to walk on water Continue reading “Phillip Periman: At the Lake”