Brian Michael Barbeito – Fiction

PROMISES MADE UNDERWATER

(A kiss for the mural)

Colored electrical lights affixed to small poles had stationed themselves at the bottom of the wall. There were some yellow ones and some were blue, while on the sides two that were faded and orange tried also to throw their glow up at the wall. It was the white ones though, larger in physical size and with more wattage, that outshone the others. Beside all of these were thick grasses and they were probably as thick as a brand or type could come without being called feral. They grew up all ways amid and amongst themselves, hunter and forest green hued, but so textured for the thousands of blades that at times they appeared black. This was all on the Atlantic Coastline and the sea somehow both rhymed and foiled the sky. The first boasted of whitecaps and reefs, of piers that tried to race out to the horizon line where cargo ships tried to slate the sea and floating man’o’ war, of poison puffer fish and myriad other artifacts. The second was a home to small planes that flew banners advertising local eateries and other events, and strange native birds flew by there with cumulus and cirrus both watching their flight and the ways of the planes. The coastline was a mixture of bright cement curbs that waited beyond the hot sands and of course the palms, terrene trunks and verdant leaves, which lived with a slightly cocked posture in boulevards of woodchips, sand, or both.

 

When the day tired of itself and even the dusk became overtaken by the night come to announce itself like a wave, the mural could be seen for the lights that shone on the wall. The mural was painted three or four stories tall on the side of, depending on how you looked at it, a large motel or a small hotel. It was of a tall ship, a realist-painting, and nobody knew who the artist was because it was neither signed nor dated. The ship was with wind in the white sails and the ocean birds scattering across the forecastle. The sea, rough, choppy, a sky threatening rain but no rain yet – but the ship – determined, going, plodding through to somewhere. I often paused to look at the ship in the day and also at the night. I stared at the picture until someone had to tap me on the shoulder and bring be back to the motel streets, the bright curbs, the sounds of the sea or the nearby seagulls yapping over scraps.

 

At nights, I waded unceremoniously through the water up to mid shin. Nothing really happened save for the night. I made the mistake of going in a bit deeper. I felt a solid object and wanted to see what it could be since whole conch shells, bright pieces of coral broken off from the nearby reefs, and other treasures could be found in that area. As I bent down, I did manage to grab the piece but I then lost my footing due to a wave and perhaps the dark. Next thing, a larger wave appeared and brought me out about five or ten more feet. I had gotten taken in an undertow, the bottom side and invisible part of the wave that pulls outwards back to the sea again. I was under the water and had swallowed what felt, against reason, like a chunk of the sea. Flailing my arms, thinking I would tread, and waiting to hear the sound that the arm and hand make upon the top – I realized that I was further under the ocean than I expected. Panic-dread-angst, all mixed together as an emotional stew. Bits of white specks in the vision, some internal vision. Nothing supernatural that I knew of – probably neurons firing and creating some odd lights. I wasn’t coming up. I didn’t know who Poseidon was but it felt like something was pulling. It was only more undertow. I said internally that I would kiss the ship, the painting of the ship – if I could get back up. Who I said it to, and why, I didn’t and do not know. Maybe I said it to the firmament, the reef, to an unknown God or Gods, to the whole, to myself, or to nobody at all. Maybe I thought the ship was a rendering of a real ship and the spectres or phantoms of the crew lived in those parts still. Oxygen deprivation, chaos, the feeling of going further downwards – these did not live well with logic. But as soon as I said it I was up. Gasping,  I swam inwards, and lay on the shore. After some time I rose, shook myself off and walked towards where I had set out that dusk.

 

The next days held  hours that were quietly rhapsodic. Outwardly I appeared the same and did the prosaic things that make up time. Inwardly I was happy to be among the earth dwellers and the living. Days learned how to be weeks as they traded themselves continually for night and then the night for the bright and onwards. Weeks joined hands and made a few months. Eventually I left. I forgot to kiss the mural. It would have looked insane, so maybe I intentionally forgot. But I wanted to. I thought I would be back but it’s not always the case that you get to go back. An unfulfilled promise and a broken deal. Maybe this is my kiss for the tall ship. I wonder sometimes if the mural is still there where the sea, effervescent, a salty and languid but dangerous libation, kisses the shore. And if it is, I wonder if the strong white lights nestled in thick grasses still outshine the others and splash themselves on the ship and the sea and the sky beginning in late dusk and going through the long pitch dark stretch right into places where secrets and promises are borne and made.

 

🍃

 

Brian Michael Barbeito is a resident of Ontario, Canada. He is the author of the book of short fictions Chalk Lines from Fowl Pox Press (2013) . Recent work appears at Fiction International from San Diego State University.

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Ryan Lawrence – 1 poem

Mine

 

Do you mind if I hold you,

if I grip you like an ancient goblet,

thickglassed, bejeweled,

and embossed with strange signs?

 

Do you mind if I drink you,

if I sip you like liquor from the grail

or swill you with a Viking’s gulp,

some of you spilling into my beard,

some of you wiped onto my cuff?

 

And if I slam you down on the table,

and later, when I’ve picked you up,

wiped you off, 

and put you in the cupboard,

do you mind?

 

What if I lay on top of you

and arrange you for my pleasure,

my skin cushioned by your scent,

my pain harbored in your bones,

your clean breast

as soft and dry as powder,

my head as dense as stone,

the burden of its dreams

yours to bear,

do you mind?

 

🍃

 

Ryan Lawrence is an award-winning writer living in Portland, OR. His awards include the 1991 Presidential Physical Fitness Award and an Honorable Mention for a science fair project about dinosaurs. His girlfriend, Bailey, adores him endlessly.

Frank de Canio – 4 poems

Mourning Sickness

   (the day after losing to Donald Trump)

 

How like a mother poised to bring to term

what would have been the distaff side’s first born,

must Hillary appear amidst the sturm

und drang development. Her fans are torn

to hear gestation periods so long

could bring to bear such inauspicious fruit.

They’re gathering to find out what went wrong

with a delivery that seemed astute.

Forget a baby shower’s diaper packs,

as Secretaries line her cabinet

with Treasurer, Defense, and State – like cracks

inside a ceiling made of glass. Regrets

alone inform her mortuary mood,

like hens on hatches that they failed to brood.

 

🍃 

 

The Blessed Virgin Chastises the Infant Jesus

    (after the painting by Max Ernst)

 

Although the child possesses rank

when swanked by saints in Heaven’s sphere,

He swallows pride astride her shank

while she raps penance on his rear –

despite presumptive blasphemy.

Albeit not of woman born,

and sworn to bear the cross for me,

He’s not above a woman’s scorn

when matters turn to discipline.

For no one is above her law

who’s swaddled with a diaper pin –

regardless of prophetic awe.

And since He suffers every man’s

development at woman’s hands

 

His kingly crown has tumbled down

beside her. She, with feet apart,

imparts with unforgiving frown

harsh blessings from an anguished heart.

For though He’s God’s anointed son,

He’s spared no trials while on her knee

who, faithfully, has just begun

to trod the road to Calvary.

Indeed. If he’d redeem His flock

He needs ambassadors on earth

who lovingly make us take stock

of life before our second birth.

As such, He raises from the tomb

the blistered fruit of woman’s womb.

 

🍃

 

Free Throw     

 

Imagine if Dan Sterling’s senile rants

were not made public to the autocrats

who smugly dictate what we can and can’t

communicate to girlfriends in our flats?

Our black Americans would still be riled

by fruits of their oppressed ancestors’ plight.

and street gangs would be running wild,

ensuring that their neighbors heed their might.

But now that Sterling’s forced to sell his share

of ownership by Teflon corporate shirts,

the black community will get a fair

proportion of the wealth for all the hurts

inflicted on them. Poverty’s passé

when knights in mail that shine like silver slay

with magic dragons those who scarcely puff.

Forget a hundred years of slavery.

A sacrificial goat appears enough

to show the world belated bravery.

Who cares if it’s 200 years too late

to fight the battle when it mattered most?

They also serve the cause who sit and wait

self-righteously to trumpet a riposte

against offenses in an old man’s brains.

Instead of reparations to oppressed

descendants of those victimized by gains

acquired thus, those presently obsessed

to compensate the loss of photo ops

to jocks, insist this worse injustice stops.

 

🍃

 

Prophylactic Encounter

 

I scarcely thought her bedroom was smack in the heart of the pharmacy. But the way she glared at me, it could have grown out of her

heckling hide, or else she wore peripatetic bedding to bide what was bugging her. Anodynes – seemingly secreted in crevices of her salutary skin at the express check-out counter – it’s not surprising she locked horns with mine in the safe of her incubating mindset.  Bedded near proscriptive drugs, she wore Rx pants like sackcloth for the bulldog barter. Her lethal looks infected me like a syringe inoculating a viral glance. With clinical duress, she measured passion’s pulse, poised to fend off a lubricious encounter. Was I a druggy, rummaging through the philter of her medicine cabinet looking for an angry fix?  Ginseng notwithstanding, there’s no hospice in this supreme deceit of courtship. And so armed with my doctored addiction I pay for my Pillsbury mixture like a flattened doughboy kneaded to leavened flour rising.  With the salubrious jewels in my hand, I paid Miss Glam Puss with a post-transactional “Thank you, ma’am.”

 

🍃

 

Born & bred in New Jersey, Frank De Canio works in New York. He loves music from Amy Beach to Amy Winehouse, World Music, Latin, opera. Shakespeare is his consolation, writing his hobby. He likes Dylan Thomas, Keats, Wallace Stevens, Frost, Ginsburg, and Sylvia Plath as poets, and attends a Café philo in lower Manhattan.

Sean Daly – Fiction

First Things First

 

For me, I try my best to get along. I don’t want drama. Even if I’m constipated which happens. It’s uncomfortable to talk about but it happens sometimes. This morning feels like an eternity since I went. I think I’m good to go….then… ahem… then the sensation is followed by nothing.  But today it will happen soon enough, I tell myself, for sure, you got this one.

Now I’m at a Costco parking lot.

“Are you okay?” my girlfriend says.  She knows there’s a problem.  Even though I’ve remained silent about the whole matter.

“I’m okay, why?”

“You look distressed.”

“Nah.”

The morning is all light, no heat. I always go in morning like clockwork, so I’m kind’a heartbroken if you want to know the truth, but it doesn’t stop me from getting out of the car and trudging to the entrance.

“Do you have the list?” she asks.

I fumble in my pocket. Everyone moves in a general malaise. Get this, my girlfriend stops by a reverse osmosis system and becomes immersed by it. By water. Fascinated by water, which is a good thing in its own right. Clean water can help. I’ll admit it. I’m not crazy.

But, I say.

“Let’s just stick to our list, Hun.”

Then my girlfriend recites it without looking. “Tri-tip, lettuce, rice.”  She’s memorized it even though she just asked me for it.

“We agreed to stick to the list.” None of which is conducive to movement, I’ll agree, still I want to get the items for the BBQ and split. I reach for my pocket again, but my hand stops over my gut as if it were a magic wand.

“We could use a water system?” Her voice is all heat, no light.

“I dunno” I say.

I wait.

Hmmmm,

but I say nothing more.

No follow up from her, either.

Nada.

“So were getting one now?” I say after a spell. As a matter of point, I catch myself observing the water moving through the charcoaled system, one cylinder to another, and it looks beneficial in all candor. It really does.

I grab her hand. I want to move along and get what we came here for. “What’s wrong with our water, anyways?” I say tugging at her, playfully.

“Chemotherapy, pesticides, heavy metals.”

Talk about nails on a chalk board.

And the entire store is populated with anonymous faces which is neither here nor there.

But she shakes off my grip – miffed.   She walks away – borderline fuming – the way she does. I pursue her while doing a quick inventory of the food I’ve eaten in the last 24 hours.  Then I review the list she’s memorized, the one rummaged for in my pocket. My girlfriend stops, again. Hands on her hips.

“So we can’t even entertain other things we might need?”

I hesitate. My thinking is this: sure we can babe after, but only after, I  go. I got to move my bowels, you have no idea, but no words come out.

No explanation in my defense, whatsoever.

Not a word.

Nothing at all.

 

🍃 

Sean Daly

Diane de Echeandia – 1 poem 

Passersby

 

Cruising by an osprey nest

perched atop the channel marker,

we suspend idle chatter

to crane our necks

and even stand a bit off-balance,

hoping to glimpse

the nestlings shielded

beneath their mother’s wings.

Does the osprey

despair of sputtering diesel

fumes invading her tranquility?

Does she wonder about us?

Disquieted for a moment,

does she continue watching,

as we do, uneasy–

conforming to life’s patterns,

while harboring fears of

life’s eventualities over

which she has no control?

 

🍃 


Diane de Echeandia writes poetry and short stories. Her work has won awards in competitions sponsored by Christopher Newport University, Asheville Writer’ Workshop, and Pamlico Writers. Her poems have appeared in SUNY Delhi publication,Agate; The Skinny Poetry Journal; and Pamlico Writers’ anthology – A Carolina Christmas.