Sanjeev Sethi – 4 poems 

DESICCATION


You were my stomping ground, regrouping

takes time. This is the essence of eldership.

I can intellectualize grief. Earlier on I would

weep and wail some more. Lamenting sans

lachrymatory spectacle is an age leg up.

Some things just dry up.

 

🍃

 

 

ASSENT

 

It isn’t easy to receive others

in registers other than

their ab initio downloads

onto our domes.

Noticing their gestalt

isn’t a natural impulse.

It has to be goaded.

 

Peeps are unlike arpeggios.

Like drawers in a sideboard

they split themselves in shelves.

Chasing their bliss folks

choose melded frontages

like fugues. In acceptance

we can clean our corners.

 

🍃

 

 

THERAPY

 

Mine is solitariness. Yours is fanning

a weighty contributor to your kitty.

The line of demarcation is delineated.

There is no confrontation. Alternate

day our telecon lasts for ten minutes.

Everything I say is right as rain. I only

hear *bilkul theek

 

*Absolutely right

 


🍃

 

 

CRUISE

 

Stowed you in a ship without the stevedores knowledge.

Instead of beseeching God to overslaugh your station 

conjure to be cared for in the slot you’re in. Grief isn’t

about scope or scale but skills as a surmounter. Gnat’s

bite is unbearable for a few, for others snakes are slight.


🍃

 

 

SANJEEV SETHI is the author of three well-received books of poetry. His most recent collection is This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015). His poems are in venues around the world includingThe London MagazineThe Fortnightly Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Novelmasters, Zarf Poetry, The Galway ReviewEasy Street, W.I.S.H. PressDegenerate Literature, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Darkrun Review, Spirit Fire Review, Zoomoozophone Review,  and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India. 


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Toti O’Brien – Fiction 

FIVE THINGS SHE DID ON HER BIRTHDAY                                


     21.
     On the evening of her twenty-first birthday she attends English conversation class. A small group. Two guys in their thirties, non-descript. A middle aged Chinese couple. The teacher, for whom she has fallen head over heels. Another girl, a bit older, the teacher clearly plans to get intimate with. Tonight.
     She has known the very minute she’s passed the front door. You catch these things by radar, at twenty-one, especially when directly involved.
     There’s a bottle of lemon vodka on the coffee table. She has her eyes on it, but she refrains momentarily.
     The class starts. None of the students, her included, is in very good shape. They are slow, they stutter, they blank. The teacher—a bright guy, on the brisk side—has to feed them each and every word. They are reviewing body parts. “How do you call this?” he asks, brushing her forearm with an awkward, quick caress. She knows what he means—la piel, la pelle, la peau. It is on the tip of her tongue. She so wants to please him. She tries. “Sky,” she whispers. Almost… Irritated, frustrated, he turns the other way.
     This is when she grabs the bottle, unscrews the tin cap, and down goes the whole damn thing.
     She awakes kind of late the day after, wrapped in a thick bathrobe. He has brought her a cup of coffee. She needs it. He is relaxed and smiling. No kidding: the other girl is still lingering in the kitchen. They are still pecking and flirting. Love birds.
     Her dress is almost dry, hanging on the balcony in the morning sun. A long tunic, with a small embroidery, white. They have thoroughly washed it yesterday night. They have washed her too, sticking her stark naked in the bathtub, since she has vomited all over herself. She remembers nothing. Her dress slightly damp on her sky—her skin—is refreshing.
     Thank you. I mean I am sorry. Goodbye.
     Since, she can’t stand the smell of lemon vodka. Alcohol should be drunk unflavored. Pure.

     22.
     She is still trying to learn English. Another small group in another area of town. She has fallen head over heels for a fellow student. A bit older, bit weird, plenty mysterious.
     Things were kind of evolving between them. Meaning they had exchanged phone numbers and such. Things were getting promising for the last few months—until he briskly vanished. Once a week she has sat at her desk and spied for the sound of his car, persuaded she could recognize it. She’d know when it would turn the corner, park at the curb. Then she only should wait for the door to be pushed open, and his lanky frame to appear. Every passing car made her ears bleed. Every passing car scorched her nerves, ripping her apart.
     On the night of her twenty-second birthday he comes back. He sits by her and sighs, “I’ll bring you out to dinner”. She holds her breath momentarily.
     He has picked a downtown joint, small and trendy. In a daze, she has no idea of what they are eating or drinking. A North African transsexual singer, just a couple of feet from their table, grabs all of her attention. Short and bold, not-too-thin, but gorgeous. And the way he sings in French, “Plaisir d’amour, ne dure qu’un instant”—whatever it means—is just mesmerizing.
     He was sent on a job, he says, that’s why he has missed class. Very well paid for once. Should he buy something special before squandering the unexpected sum? He’ll do whatever she says. Seriously? She tries focusing, but the singer makes her mind wander. She tries harder. “A motorcycle,” she spits, suddenly inspired. She details brand and model, she can almost see him ride. What about her? Not sure. “Chagrin d’amour,” goes the song.
     He was sent to India, in fact. He has brought back a stone for her birthday. Here it is, surrounded with soft cotton, in a real jewel box—a pink amethyst.
     Early the morning after she goes belly button piercing. She’s bringing along her gold chain—the one from her First Communion—to be melted in order to mount the stone. Can’t afford it otherwise, but the chain will do. She will wear the pink thing from now to eternity, or close. “Dure toute la vie,” wailed the singer. Is it how the song ends?
     Then he never returns to class. She keeps her ears tuned, in vain.
     Once, while waiting in front of a theater with friends, she sees him arrive with fracas on a sparkling bike—the correct one. A girl is behind him. They don’t look much in love. They look totally, boringly for-ever-matched. They look married.

     23.
     She has moved abroad. After a short breather, she has fallen head over heels for a guy she’s met on a typing job. Right. She is typing a super-boring book a writer needs on the spot. Please, please, please, can’t wait. Hunched over the keyboard, she sweats, when a guest comes in and starts fooling with her. Around her. Behind her. Making funny faces—awkward way to break the ice. It breaks anyway. He insists for the writer to keep the typist for dinner. They exchange information. She can think of nothing else since.
     She invites him at her birthday party. A small gathering—besides him and herself a selected girlfriend, just in case. The two of them are a bit older than she his. And way smarter, and perfectly tuned. Thus the conversation shine, which is good, because he is having fun.
     Too much fun? They slouch on her bed—a large mattress on the floor. They are talking psychoanalysis, dreams, and so on. “Have you fantasized to have sex with two guys at once? How often?” he asks. “With two girls?” her friend promptly replies. “Have you ever dreamed,” her girlfriend insists, “you had two penises instead than one?” He laughs, splitting index and middle finger like a viper tongue—his hands casually reaching behind this and that waist, to the right, to the left.
     She wonders if she should call it a night.

     50.
     She has moved abroad again and again. In her country of last destination, she has serendipitously met her first English teacher. They have made a beautiful child, then they have separated.
     On the night of her fiftieth birthday she has got a good gig. She will sing French love songs at someone’s birthday party. This is what she does best. She has left her son and her umpteenth boyfriend at home. They will have fun together. More than they would with her.
     Outside it rains cats and dogs. The address points to a residential area of town, up the hills. Tortuous little routes deepen out of sight, concealed, remote. In the fog she only can see a couple of feet ahead. Everything feels unreal, but instead of being scared she’s exhilarated.
     The gig goes impeccably. No one bothers her while she does her thing in a corner, niched between an aquarium and a flower display. Smoothed in, part of the furniture, enclosed in her bubble.
     Later, someone comes to pay a compliment. Her performance was perfect. Discrete, neutral, unobtrusive, tinged with just that drop of nostalgia. The organizer is pleased. He smiles while he puts the check in her hand. “It’s my birthday,” she cannot help whispering, but he’s gone already. She cries suddenly, without a reason, her face buried in the scores she’s packing away.
     When she gets home, they are sleeping.

     8.
     They have chosen today for her first communion. Are they trying to spare themselves a celebration? Save on dessert?
     She has been waiting. A bit scared, bit perplexed. She has never worn a long, white, embroidered dress before—not even for Carnival. It’s a strange, eerie feeling. Not so sure about the bonnet, hemmed with curly ribbons, tightly framing her face. Whatever Mom wants.
     It’s a cold gloomy day. They have driven uphill to a small chapel. Proto-Christian, Dad says. Spare, severe. Naked. She kneels in the first pew. Family is bunched behind her. No one else.
     The priest talks in Latin. She knows what about, but she doesn’t quite understand. She feels dizzy—something is squeezing her throat, oppressing her chest—the smell of incense perhaps. Or the scent of the narcissi she’s holding. So pungent. So pure, porcelain white, almost fake. Sculpted. Petrified. Dead, almost.

     22.
     When they step out, downtown looks alive, brimming with entertainment. Vendor booths crowd the plazas and the riverbanks, stores are open and lit, tourists everywhere.
     “And your favorite flowers?” he asks. She’s unsure. Until she remembers: “Narcissi. Isn’t that smell incredible?”
      He laughs. “They will be hard to find, girl. We’ll try.”
     “They are in season.”
     “That’s true. With a little luck.”



🍃



Toti O’Brien’s work has appeared in Peacock Journal, Sein und Werden, Avis, and Ink on Thirds, among other journals and anthologies. More about her can be found at totihan.net/writer.html

Michael Lee Johnson – 2 poems

Solo Boxing

 

Solo boxing, past midnight,

tugging emotions out of memories embedded,

tossing dice, reliving vices, revisiting affairs,

playing solitaire-marathon night,

hopscotch player, toss the rock,

shots of Bourbon.

 

 

🍃

 

 

Alberta Bound 

 

I own a gate to this prairie

that ends facing the Rocky Mountains.

They call it Alberta

trail of endless blue sky

asylum of endless winters,

hermitage of indolent retracted sun.

Deep freeze drips haphazardly into spring.

Drumheller, dinosaur badlands, dried bones,

ancient hoodoos sculpt high, prairie toadstools.

Alberta highway 2 opens the gateway of endless miles.

Travel weary I stop by roadsides, ears open to whispering pines.

In harmony North to South

Gordon Lightfoot pitches out

a tone

“Alberta Bound.”

With independence in my veins,

I am long way from my home.

 

 

🍃

 

 Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  He has been published in more than 915 small press magazines in 27 countries, and he edits 10 poetry sites.  Author’s websitehttp://poetryman.mysite.com/.  Michael is the author of The Lost American:  From Exile to Freedom (136 page book) ISBN:  978-0-595-46091-5, several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises and Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems.  He also has over 103 poetry videos on YouTube as of 2015: https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos  Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL. nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015 & Best of the Net 2016. Visit his Facebook Poetry Group and joinhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/807679459328998/  He is also the editor/publisher of anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762

https://www.createspace.com/6126977.

 

 

G. Louis Heath – 4 poems 

The World Turned Upside Down

 

 

The sky and the earth traded places today.

Earth creatures whose feet gravitated to the

 

ground now breeze over shape-shifting

cotton patches. House morphs into horse

 

and horse gallops into mountains. These are

the New World. This upside-down reality

 

imposes Brobdingnagian challenges on little

cloud walkers. Scale and 3-D depth go awry.

 

Eyes must adjust. Little bodies are learning to

walk again on wispy feet shy of the blue sky.

 

 


🍃

 

 

All In The Family

 

 

 

His brother had been soft as pulpy leaves in autumn,

not soft and strong as parachute silk like Mom. In his

 

brother was enough of the quicksilver indulgence of

his Dad to spoil him and enough gentleness of Mom

 

to soften him, but not enough of either to stay his wrought

hand from a gun. Dad refused to plant any shrubs around

 

houses they occupied. His itch to move on could strike any

time. Mom would never have a home where she could get

 

to know other Moms and their kids, follow them through

the grades into adult life. Yet, his aimlessness somehow  

 

made her what she wanted to be. As she grayed, the more she

flowered in herself. The older and wealthier he got, the more

 

the man of parts fell apart.  His bluster and con waned as her

true strength waxed. His friends fled him as her circle grew.

 

He sank lower, as she rose. Her death did not veil his days with

mourning. He resented her leaving. Quick as a new house, he fell

 

into the trap of a young siren he adorned in his wife’s best clothes.

A month after he died, his last son heard about it with vast relief.

 

 

 

🍃

 

 

Chthonic Senescence

 

 

 

Glaucoma clouded my vision during palliative

care. I made a bad decision, staring at my liver

 

spots, my solipsistic stigmata of old age. I was

deluded, of weak faith. My mind, beset by dying

 

neurons, made me think myself a would-be saint,

a regular, good old boy Saint Francis, preaching

 

to the birds and staying the fangs of Gubbio’s wolf.

My body, my poor body, finds its way in shadows 

 

with no view to see the peaks from this valley. My

electric wheelchair climbs the access runway as 

 

I work the joy stick above the angry lake of fire.

 

 

 

 🍃

 

 

Sunday Wash

 

 

My wash churned in suds cycle as she pushed a

laundry cart in. Sunday, 6 a.m. and society was

not around with its cleaner, 11 a.m. liturgical cycle.

 

I had seen her around, recently moved in on the

second floor. First sighting at this wash hole though.

Twig-thin, somber, her eyes hollow and stark for one

 

so young. She had a presence I felt strongly. We talked

as she stuffed a machine with her feminine stuff that

seemed to cycle more smoothly on her quarters than my

 

masculine stuff did on my quarters. (The ear can hear

sounds based on gender stereotypes, I had read.) Annoyed

I was there at 6, she was used to her choice of machines.

 

Her voice and the way she moved (also her under-things)

did not belong to a woman up for church I said. (We

sociologists like to interview.) She smiled thinly. She

 

needed to wash before her 8 a.m. Alcoholics Anonymous

meeting, a weekly washday where candor and tears cycle

guilt and redemption. I said, not in a superior way, I did not

 

drink. She wished she did not love drink so much, but now

she could hold down a job at the box factory. I could not

feel her pain. I am not privy to addiction. I do not even

 

imbibe that demon drink coffee. This I said. I knew the wash

was over then. But it wasn’t. She looked at me in a way that

connected our eyes in sync to the sturdy rhythms of the wash.

 

This has been going on for some time now as we try to cleanse

our souls in a baptism paid for by quarters from the local bank.

In these spinning pools lurk secret depths on Sunday mornings.

 

 

 

 🍃

 

 


     Bio: G. Louis Heath, Ph.D., Berkeley, 1969, is Emeritus Professor, Ashford University. Clinton, Iowa. He enjoys reading his poems at open mics. He often hikes along the Mississippi River, stopping to work on a poem he pulls from his back pocket, weather permitting. His books include Leaves Of Maple, Long Dark River Casino, andRedbird Prof: Poems Of A Normal U, 1969-1981. He has published poems in a wide array of journals. He can be contacted at gheathorov@gmail.com