strangers lined in rows sundresses on layaway where’d you buy dem shoes?
MéShelle Fae has a passion for teaching and developing others, which led to the creation of meshellefae.com, her online blog for writers who want to hone their craft or learn how to tell their stories on a digital platform. She’s an avid reader of anything she finds interesting and thinks of herself as “the ultimate geeky, weird nerd-girl.” She’s a resident of Charleston, SC, where she operates The Writers’ Block, a literacy and mentorship program.
It is tempting not to speak. Rather, to breathe in cold catacombs with eyes wide open. I think I understand the way you hope. In your mind, above, crisped spring: white plum blossoms icing up saplings. Belief is like this, getting carried away by progress. I cannot believe in history. Still, the fisted buds flare into wicks burning atop stone- cold facades tipping deeper into silence.
Michelle Matthees lives and writes in Duluth, Minnesota. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s MFA program in Creative Writing. Recent work of Michelle’s can be found in PANK, The Prose Poem Project, Cider Press Review, 22 Magazine, Proof, Memorious, Anderbo, Defenestrationism, 5 Quarterly, Humber Pie, Specs, Third Wednesday, Paradise Review, The Mom Egg, Sou’wester, Thrice Fiction, and elsewhere.
Remembering the sound of my father’s axe as it split wood, the pile of kindling on the ground, how my fingers would test the edge of the blade for sharpness and the day it left us when we ice-fished on Banks Lake, Mark chopping a hole through the thick ice, the axe slipping from his grasp as it broke through the opening and fell to the lake’s floor where it still lies— Have you felt the surprise when you swing at something expecting to feel resistance, but hit emptiness?
This December, George Such will graduate from University of Louisiana Lafayette with a Ph.D. in English, a significant change from his previous incarnation as a chiropractor for twenty-seven years in Washington State. His creative writing has appeared in Arroyo Literary Review, Barely South Review, The Cape Rock, Dislocate, The Evansville Review, and many other literary journals.
Let’s pretend the room is dark. You on your blue bedspread daydreaming when your daddy comes swaggering down the hall bringing presents. Hmm, not here since Christmas, but he’s come to lead the singing on Easter, make your church thunder with hallelujahs, rock with hosannas;
let’s pretend he promises to watch you in the senior play, and you slip out front to take a peek, but he’s not there. Not that you expect a miracle, but let’s say he appears in the second act: your dead-beat father, ashen in the stage lights, new Afro, his deep brown face reminding you so much of yourself, you forget your lines, forget how lonely you always are.
Then, one day peeling peaches for a cobbler—crumbling sugar, flour, and more sugar in a bowl and smearing sweet salted butter over everything, taking your time when a door slams, and there he is, smelling like Wild Turkey and Old Spice, you blinking at white sharkskin and gold incisors, the loss of all the
years, when the knife leaves your hand, clatters to the floor, and Gran appears, lifts the hem of her apron, fans her face, speaks slow like she’s from high class Southern soil: Every girl need a daddy, but this girl walking in the light. We don’t need no trouble,
and your daddy steps back, catches himself before he falls clear through the screen door and slips away, you leaning against the table, thinking this is just pretend, but there’s a knife on the floor, your gran reaching for the Bible, shaking and praying, peach juice running down your wrist.
Ann Herlong-Bodman’s work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, including The Courtland Review,Atlanta Review, South Carolina Review, Cold Mountain Review, Main Street Rag and KaKaLak, anthology of Carolina poetry. She is a former journalist, travel writer, and college teacher whose full-length poetry manuscript was named runner-up in the 2010 SC Poetry Initiative competition. A featured reader at the Piccolo Spoleto Sundown Poetry Series in Charleston, SC, she lives along the Carolina coast.
I said Vic Damone. He was a singer, like Mike Douglas
or Jerry Vale or Steve Lawrence, narrow tie
and pastel shirt, a pleasant enough face, pleasant enough voice
singing the standards, the love songs of his parents’ courtship.
Think singing new songs so that they sound old, wrong,
nothing to fall in love by, but Vic Damone a star
in my family’s firmament, because of the famous elevator ride.
At the Jersey shore for our summer vacation,
in a hotel with an outdoor pool, it was the afternoon
my sister and I were allowed to sunbathe by ourselves
as we waited for my mother to come down,
as my father took a nap in the room.
Could it have been that my mother and father
both took a nap, together? This question did not occur to us.
Anyway, we dangled our feet in the water, made sloppy,
slappy footprints to the plastic lawn chairs, and we waited.
When my mother stepped into the elevator, there he was,
Vic Damone, like any man wearing a polo shirt and plaid shorts.
My mother, bright white towels
pressed to her pink seersucker bathing suit with boy-cut legs,
my mother smelled of suntail oil, and did not speak a word
to Vic Damone, did not even look at him, although
she could not help but see his reflection
in the elevator’s steel doors, until the doors slid open onto sunlight.
She walked over to us and sat, began combing my sister’s hair
into a pony tail, while Vic Damone paused beside the elevator.
He put on his sunglasses, lit a cigarette,
maybe preparing to meet his agent or sign a contract,
to be driven to rehearsal for a show. Then he turned,
headed into the lobby, and my mother, still combing, whispered,
That’s Vic Damone, as if she spoke not a man’s name, but,
rather, a verb or noun, and she was enriching our vocabulary, vicdamone meaning “to prepare for departure” or “to pause,
to reconsider,” vicdamone meaning “privacy in a public space,” vicdamone the discretion that keeps strangers from saying
what could divert them from other, more important, things.
Suzanne Cleary‘s poetry books are Keeping Time and Trick Pear, both published by Carnegie Mellon. Her honors include a Pushcart Prize and inclusion in several anthologies, including Poetry 180 and Best American Poetry.