BY TJ HERRIN
Lights embrace bottles
warming the smooth glass
sickly, neon jade showcase
of pain drowning in a glass full
of words flowing through brunette liquid.
listening— azure conversation holding
truths told to strangers.
slinging fiery liquid band-aids
from behind the chestnut bar.
glass reflecting an atmosphere of
Tuesday night loneliness.
two black notebooks
three chairs apart,
occupied by strangers
revealing their secrets
to ink soaked hoary sheets
BY JAY CALHOUN
Mrs. Anna Mary Moses
Who became our Grandma
Many works later
What could she know
Of the usual essence
And where did she learn
Of her colors and light
The farming and harness
Of right composition
I imagine her voicing
The essentially usual
Hard and insistent
Like a nail or a handle
Don’t slam that door, Tom
Got a cake in the oven
And leave them boots on the steps
Cain’t you see
I’m tryin to paint sump’n
I’m makin a pitcher out here.
SKY FULL OF BLOOD (A CAVEMAN STORY)
BY AMANDA CRUM
Opening your eyes here is like bathing in a dust storm.
The grit coats your teeth, angles hard beads into small spaces that hurt the most. There is no word for it, no way to curl the tongue inside the mouth and form language. I have so much inside me.
I sleep under the stars, or in a hollow cave in the eaves of a canyon. She sleeps with me much of the time, but not always. Things change with the sun, with the knots in her long dark hair. Once, she showed me the shadows moving slowly beneath the grasses, dark stripes on hard clay, and pointed to the sky; when the light goes, she told me with her eyes, the stripes get longer. We squatted on our haunches there until darkness came, watching the shadows until they were the same as everything else. You have to be patient to survive here.
She never dares to go beyond the big rock, stays inside the bowl of the canyon where the heat of the day isn’t so strong. It is up to me to hunt, something I have never minded until today. The air shimmers above my head, sizzles on my skin and draws the moisture out for creatures to feast on. I want to be past the canyon, watching the shadows grow on another patch of dust; asleep in the cool, dark cave that seems so far away just now. Anywhere but here.
Every day, the sky hurts. It bleeds as we all do, but goes quietly into the dark. It does not holler or beat its chest so it cannot be just as I am, but only as I remember it.
When she sleeps I lay my hand across the angles of her back, her skin warm like the clay. The air inside her rises and falls, reminds me of the feathered beast I came upon once as a child. It was broken but still lingered, pale belly facing the sun, a pitiful creature that wanted out. I carried it carefully into the shadows, vowing to bring it back to health, but while I was hunting, a slink-eyed cat came upon it. I returned to blood, carnage, and I wept. In that small creature I saw myself.
There is cruelty here. The days blend to shadows and the shadows whisper to me. They say this life is not worth living.
The rains come.
The clouds gather and crowd the sun out of the sky, a great purple mass shot through with streaks of silver. Water falls in curtains across the canyon, where she swings her body around with a look on her face like coming alive. We embrace, briefly, as steam rises from the clay, and when the rains stop falling she looks at me with eyes wide and speaks.
It is only one word, an utterance of sounds put together much the same as the ones she makes in pleasure or pain, but I know what she means. I understand. After all these long days and nights of feeling alone even when I am not, there is a way.
We retreat to the cave and speak for hours, watching the sky turn the color of fire as the last of the clouds move away. She uses ash to paint on the walls, smoky pictures of all the beasts she can think of, and we name them. Later, inside a canyon painted in starlight, the wind wakes the tall grasses in a rush. I wait for the sound of rain but none comes. Change has come on stealthy cat’s feet, the smell of clean mud alongside it.
When morning comes and fills the sky with blood I’ll rinse the gold dust from my eyes and find the bones of every last carrion, washed white by the sun and gleaming like something pure in the cracked clay. I’ll raise my fist and pretend I’m not the same as them, resisting the inevitable with every breath I take. Below me the dogs climb the rocks, famished and toothy. They turn their heads left to right, watching each crevasse with eyes that have seen the world.
MAYBE I’LL WATCH A MOVIE LATER
BY GRANT LOMELINO
I stood on the porch
Amazed at sky for turning a deep blue color
With a loose cigarette fluttering in my finger tips
Forgetting about the frozen dinner getting cold,
In the microwave diligently beeping to no one.
The street cat bolts from garbage can to garbage can
A couple chases after their son furiously pedaling a tricycle
The cemetery that is my missed call log continues to rot.
The family disappeared
The cat found solace somewhere else
The sky faded to black
Bringing my attention back to the world I inhabit,
I grab my cellophane covered dinner,
Sit on the floor of my room
With nothing but four eggshell walls.