Ron Hartley: Without a Helmet

I called him boyfriend as an endearment, like good morning boyfriend or I love you boyfriend; boy meaning he was much younger than me and friend because I desperately needed one. I was coming home from work at Best Buy, knowing his dyed blond hair would be punked up like always into a disarray of golden spiked ends, knowing he’d be waiting to teach me Texas Hold’em online, knowing he was hustling me and that duplicitous love was okay if it helped ease my pain. I was coming home from work at Best Buy knowing, knowing, knowing.

“Let’s go to Poker Planet,” he said, but as it turned out I couldn’t catch on to the math of loss to win ratios. “Just talk to me,” I said. “Tell me a story taller than Poker Planet.”

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Susan Dugan: My Funny Valentine

Jay Whitiker parked in a space outside the church and sat drawing deep breaths, hands over naval–left, over right for males, the way they taught in his tai chi classes. Outside the car window, the day shone like a page torn from a Colorado Bureau of Tourism magazine: blueberry skies and sugared mountains. A fresh coating of powdery snow steamed off the asphalt.

Jay glanced over at the roses he had picked up at King Soopers that were resting on the passenger seat beside his battered leather shoulder bag. A dozen red, a dozen white.

Angelica.

Even his voice teacher’s name suggested higher realms. Sometimes he would find himself suddenly repeating it over and over in his head like a string of prime numbers.

A rap on the window startled him. His hands flew up, palms out, as if expecting to confront a police officer demanding license and registration. But it was only Sheila, upstairs neighbor of his rented flat. Flustered, he grabbed the flowers and his bag, and climbed out of the car.

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John Muro: Adrift

Twilight’s turning out the daytime sky as if
it was a pilot light, blue flame fluttering into
vapor, leaving the edges of heaven fringed
in rippled scatter. Shadows lengthening as
the last play of light is pulled down to water.
Overhead, the hushed, dust-soft sweep of bats,
the slow, easy lilt of wind dawdling in languor,
and star’s sinking between clouds in bright idleness.
Leaf-burdened branches catch and then release a cold,
celibate moon into apertures of orange-yellow light.
And I see how this may well be the way life abandons 
us at some near-distant, mystical hour. Luminous
in parting, it, too, becomes a thing unburdened and,    
set adrift, brightly burns as it spins away from us.

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John Muro: Andantino

                 - After Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor: Third Movement
 
Calls to mind the disquieting
Lull and puddled velvet that
comes just after receding tides
unravel into an ampersand of
foam and fall back to water,
thickset in calm, aglint without
motion, revealing where grief
gathers as surf recoils or that
hushed, holy space between
breaths, with air held in a kind
of peaceful penitence, neither
moving in nor out, soft as wide,
immaculate lawns at twilight
or the momentary stoppage of
the heart that comes on just as
hope departs, leaving an undulant
wake and fractures of light
blossoming in abundance and
the sound of idle water rising
and what amounts to a life near-
drowning taken back to shore

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John Muro: To My Grandchildren

Gathering up this aging heart
that’s loosened and fallen again,
unable to rise, leaving a space
inside me while watching you
sleep, hurtling aimlessly into
dream, after a day seaside
collecting shells and snails,
housing them in bright buckets
and counting each one like
wishes carried upon incoming
tides crusted with light and
then taking in, by firelight,
the day as it undresses and
puts on a night-time sky,
with story upon story told
or to be continued like your
blissful lives that I pray are
no less full and never-ending
convinced that this earth may
well be our only heaven and
the best we can do is to try
and hold such days close for
safekeeping and keep loss at
bay, and so what I’m now
asking is to forgive those
of us who, deep in life’s
winter, watch over you and
once again dream of being
young while hoping we’ve
bequeathed something of
worth you might hold onto
and never outgrow.

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Monty Jones: Contemporaries

The ordinary thought
is that our contemporaries
are now alive during our own lives.
But look at this stone axe,
or trace your fingers
across the red paint on this rock
where a deer can still be seen.
 
Or read the Odyssey, Book XXIII,
where Penelope realizes
that Odysseus has come home.
Or witness Lear, mad in the storm,
or listen to Maria Yudina playing
Mozart, say the Fantasia, K. 475.
 
Who will not find these lives 
overlapping with our own, 
their time our present moment?
Who will fail to recognize 
the hands and the eyes
that shaped these creations?
 
The same as in the far future
when something, or its robot,
even from a distant world,
sifts the jumbled remains
of an archaic streambed
or at the mouth of a glacier
and finds what it believes
to be some trace of the human,
 
something from our own time,
from this city before it burned,
something we could not take
on the long road to the north,
our only hope then that someone
would come to value it
as we did in our day,
let us say a square of bronze
stamped with five words
from the Book of Ephesians:
“Be kind to one another.” 

For more on Monty Jones, please see our Authors page.

Kelly Ann Ellis: Owen County

They drank nectar
from honeysuckle and clover
August days when nothing
happened ever.

A nip and a suck
was what it took
to taste the moment
sudden sweet.

It made her livid
their mother. She’d holler,
You kids get outa them weeds
before I skin you alive.

You wanna drop dead?
They mighta been sprayed 
with poison. Go on.
Just get.

She pealed potatoes
with a butcher knife
wiped it on her dress
blinked back sweat.

They weighed the odds,
ate one last flower
made sure she saw,

then scattered—

like so much
dandelion fluff—
into the buzzing afternoon

For more on Kelly Ann Ellis, please see our Authors page.

Johanna da Rocha Abreu: Flash Floods

Vonnie eases up on the gas pedal and they coast the last couple of feet to the side of the road. A staccato burst of rain erupts on the body of the car as if it wants to dismantle every bit of glass, metal and rubber. Vonnie can just see them sitting in their seats after the storm, each lock, nut, bolt and gear of the “jalop,” as Paul called it, scattered around them. Worthless pieces not even a magpie would take to its nest.

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Jeanne Althouse: Love Child

She inherited my uncle’s face. She inherited his pale skin, freckled nose, smoky eyes, narrow cheek bones, the way he tilted his head to his left when he spoke. She inherited his love of gab and tendency to lecture. She inherited his profession, his talent at poker, his longing for mountain streams and the habit of a rod and line in his hand. She inherited many things from Uncle Dave, but not his name.
 
I didn’t believe in religion, in transitions to the other side, in seeing people after death. But the first time I met Renata Taylor that changed.

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