William Blake Brown: At a Nursing Home Window During the Coronavirus Pandemic

He calls, and they wheel her to the window.
Drawn deep inside herself she sits, gazing
into a land only she can visit,
until he taps the glass to call her back.
The smile that charms him still lights up her face
and she returns to the present moment.
His nose almost touching the glass, he speaks
above the din of the busy highway.
It is his news report about the kids,
grandkids, and friends. Sometimes her face goes blank
and he sees someone eludes her memory.
It is not important; they let it pass.
Often, they lapse into a long silence
taking comfort in the other’s presence.
When she begins to drift away again,
he does not try to pull her back; instead
he blows a kiss and waves goodbye.
Only after he has turned away
does he allow the tears to streak his face.

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

Barbara Daniels: Venus Rising

for Sandy Parker

A tree by the roadside suddenly
dropped every leaf, shock
of orange twisting, settling.

It was a blessing, Sandy says.
Her radiation starts tomorrow
now that her breast has almost

healed. I slow my walk,
touch wet trees, check
their terminal buds. They rest

now, waiting for spring.
Last night I read that some buds
are naked, some protected

by stiff little scales. A pair
of scales looks like a miniature
hot dog bun or (some people

think) praying hands. I’ve never
noticed their hopeful compactness.
The sun glows through fog

and suddenly brightens—too
dazzling to see. Venus will rise
to the left of the moon tonight.

Clouds will hide it. But it will rise,
a planet like a squashed beach ball
rotating backwards but catching the light.

 

For more on Barbara Daniels, please see our Authors page.

Chuck Taylor: Group Hug

“Loving nothing on this earth.”
                          Nabokov

I am trying to bring to mind
all the things I did not love —
parties with loud smoke
and heavy drinking in the humid
crush of rooms, football games
full of raging shouts cheering
gladiators as in the Roman Coliseum,
shooting clay pigeons out of a
grey Chicago sky, soot speckled
snow piles on a corner blocking
parked cars wishing to join
the morning commute, freeway
traffic on central expressway
heading to do the numbers up
in an Dallas accounting office

yet newness could always lift
the heart learning a new trade. I have
also in mind how alcohol and drugs
were medicines to carry one
through what one did not love,
or to change perceptions
and somehow make the thing
unloved loveable, or at least
numbed pain and made one forget.
Many that I loved were addicts
in a world they could not love
and I will admit I am with them
in understanding if not in practice,

but then I turn and admire
the careful stitching of my winter
gloves in the curve between
the fingers, something that no
machine can do. I walk across
a rusted steel railroad trestle
crossing the Brazos River built
in 1919 and am in I wonder how
it supports the heavy engines
of all these long amazing years.
Last night a frog looked me
in the eye as I got out of my
car, before she darted under
our porch into the deep darkness,
and you, you came as you always do
to the door holding our puppy Coco
and we clutched in a tight group hug.

For more on Chuck Taylor, please see our Authors page.

James Croal Jackson: Dust

a hole is a hole. until a breeze
carries sand back the way I
can barely see, or at all. and there. just
out in the water. a phantom
in my mind, bobbing with the
beat of the wind that blows out into the
aquatic landscape– a
horseboat in the night. the moon is in the
moonlight reflecting the waves,
shimmering in the brown
sky. it has been days, and all
the sea lilies of the waves with their green
trees are floating by me.

 

For more on James Croal Jackson, please see our Authors page.

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”