Laurence Musgrove: Good Medicine

The clutch of fresh tortillas  
You bought at Mata’s Fruit Store 
Just north of the Stanton Street Bridge 
Paired perfectly with your green chile stew. 
 
Long ago, I stopped with my daughters 
For combo plates and salsa in Las Cruces 
And learned the baptism of hatch pepper 
As it rinsed the dust from my eyes. 
 
So, when I stood in your small kitchen, 
Cubes of pork and potatoes swimming 
In a deep stained cauldron of verde, 
I knew I was in for another scalding. 
 
After a spoon or two, my tongue lit up 
And beads of sweat pooled on my scalp. 
Next came tears and laughter, a drippy nose. 
Down my neck and back, ran a rivulet. 
 
The mistake, of course, is to lick your lips. 
But even that quick blistering subsided 
As I peeled back and folded another tortilla 
To sop up what remained of my remedy. 

For more on Laurence Musgrove, please see our Authors page.

Lynn Levin: Evermay Blair

It was close to midnight on Saturday, and I was driving home from a visit with Sandra, the two-lane country road wet from a November rain and spattered with leaves, when a girl came running out of the woods and dashed straight for my car. If only she could have been snatched up on invisible strings. Instead we collided, her eyes in my headlights, white with panic. You don’t forget the eyes. Continue reading “Lynn Levin: Evermay Blair”

Alice K. Boatwright: Look Both Ways

When Molly Porter arrived home from work, she skidded around the last icy turn in the drive into a yard crowded with trucks: John Griffin’s rusty blue pickup, Mike Greeley’s classic Chevy, Victor Gianetti’s silver half-ton, and, of course, Andrew’s faded green Ford. On a summer evening or a Saturday afternoon, it would be ordinary enough for them all to be there, but this was six o’clock on a Tuesday in January. Continue reading “Alice K. Boatwright: Look Both Ways”

Neha Tallapragada: KEEPSAKES

People at work asked how I felt when I found out, and I didn’t know what to tell them because of the ideas they already had about how I reacted. I know how they already saw me in their mind’s eye, a collection of home videos starring yours truly: a soldier’s wife staring out the window waiting for her husband to return from the war, or the tottering child in a domestic drama naively wondering what’s happened to his alcoholic mother. Most of all, they expected me to have cried, tears like diamonds running down my cheeks and settling on my Cupid’s bow, intermingling with rivulets of snot. This is how the arts ruin us. They set unfair expectations for how we’re supposed to behave. That’s why I don’t watch movies. Continue reading “Neha Tallapragada: KEEPSAKES”

Kevin Baggett: Cricket’s Boys

There was a girl at Tuxchanie High School who had a reputation for being easy called Cricket, a nickname given to her supposedly because when she closed her naked legs while making it with a boy, she made a sound like that of the insect. I don’t know how many people even knew her real name. I had English II with her and even the teacher in that class called her Cricket. On the last day of class before the Christmas break, a rumor circulated that Cricket had tested positive for HIV, which caught on super-fast like all rumors in school. A secondary rumor to this main one was that dozens of upper level students, boys and girls alike, were ditching school to go get tested for STD’s at the county clinic. Anyone who had ever had sex with Cricket or had relations with anyone who had could be infected. Continue reading “Kevin Baggett: Cricket’s Boys”

Joshua Bridgwater Hamilton: Bird of Paradise

Six foot explosion of slender leaves
from a forest island of fleshy
swayed columns
prods thick air with lascivious intent
here where Gulf Coast vegetation
grows profligate, an obscene flourish
that devours domestic walls
and subdivided perimeters
beneath heady sun and heavy heat.
 
Dense green sphere draws in,
absorbs air, oxygen, our frivolous
obsession with presence, leaves
a lenticular procession of transparencies
layering vertically until
waxy green smell fills the nose
from 40, then 60, then 80
years ago –
 
my grand-uncle Allen
in Puerto Rico leaves the sugar
company office, brushes by the slow
eager bushes framing the entrance.
Flame-orange origami slices
the accumulation of humid
hours, sharpens evening
to a razor red bleed –
 
I touch the unfolded petals
and feel the cut purse
of mercantile profits
spill through hazy years
when the career bachelor
assuaged worry with balanced figures,
stock prices, careful retirement,
the fleeting seagulls
basking in exorbitant rays
that expire beyond
each day’s seashore.
 
Kate Greenaway’s compendium
lists lilies for humility, innocence,
majesty, and falsehood;
the red rose for bashful shame –
familiar in my own garden
and past –
but nothing on the bird
of paradise, which I can
only define
as calculating sensuality
that offers colonial memory
in the place
where guilt-free presence
spreads its lush fingers
and blooms.

For more on Joshua Bridgwater Hamilton, please see our Authors page.

William Blake Brown: Haying

Under a sky so blue it stops the heart,
low clouds as clean as kids ready for church,
they were haying in the narrow meadow
that stretched along the road that led to town.
In shade beside the road a pickup parked,
and an old man surveyed the scene.
A tall tractor pulled a bulky baler
that spat round bales, plastic wrapped, impervious
to rain; a man could make the crop alone.
In the rearview mirror that is memory
arose another meadow, another summer
An old tractor, older baling machine
chugging, tanned young men to hoist
the hay on the flatbed trailer
and stack it precariously high.
At the barn they packed the hay
into the loft up to the rafters,
and when the last load was done
they sat under the pin oak tree,
sweat painted tracks on dusty skin,
passing a gourd to dip into the keg,
feeling like they had won something,
and knowing how good tired felt.
The old man took a last look and pulled
onto the blacktop wondering whether
the driver cocooned in the tractor’s cab
would remember this as a perfect day.

For more on William Blake Brown, please see our Authors page.