Sandra Fees is the author of The Temporary Vase of Hands (Finishing Line Press, 2017) and served a term as Berks County Poet Laureate (2016-2018). Her work has recently appeared in The Blue Nib,Kissing Dynamite, and Sky Island Journal.
Angelo J. Letizia is a professor of education at a small college in Baltimore Maryland. His true passion however is writing poetry. His work has appeared in a number of publications including Bewildering Stories, AHF Speculative Fiction, Tales from the Moonlit Path, Bowery Gothic, New American Legends and the Atlantean.
Like many well-meaning people, Felicity and Roy Williams thought moving to a new town would signify a fresh start. But they were to discover, as everyone eventually does, that troubles are rarely left behind. Felicity, a well-respected heart surgeon and Roy, a mediocre dentist, had just celebrated their pearl anniversary when Felicity detected the scent of cheap perfume on one of her husband’s shirts. This wasn’t the first of Roy’s indiscretions and it wouldn’t be the last. Her mother had warned her about marrying a man of such character but ironic as it is for someone in her profession, Dr Williams was naïve in matters of the proverbial heart.
They had paid little heed to the realtor’s warnings and local gossip that said their new home was apparently haunted.
‘It can have one hundred ghosts at that price,’ Roy had laughed handing over a cheque.
There had been reports of a woman in red, objects levitating, things that had been reported missing had turned up mysteriously in the town lake. The previous owners had packed up and moved out after a month.
‘Their loss is our gain,’ they toasted over champagne on their first night in the house. The hope that things would be different hung in the air.
It took one month for the ghost to show itself. A plump, corseted woman with drop pearl earrings in a blood red dress appeared in the doorway when Felicity was doing the laundry.
‘You’ll want to check those shirts for lipstick stains,’ the ghost said with a smirk. Then she disappeared into the thin air, not showing herself again for quite some time.
The strange thing was that far from being scared, Felicity felt oddly comforted by the ghost. The woman in red proved to be helpful, even. When Felicity misplaced something, it would randomly appear when she mentioned it. One day when running late, the ghost located her car keys and in so doing saved the life of Tony Parsons, a local barber who had gone into cardiac arrest. When Roy fell asleep with the TV on whilst nursing a bottle of whisky the ghost would turn it off. A ghost could have her uses.
‘You know this used to be a whore house, right?’ her friend Sally informed Felicity one evening over their monthly game of bridge.
‘They say the mistress of the house killed a man in cold blooded rage.’
‘Don’t believe everything you hear,’ said Felicity. ‘I’ve had no trouble.’
One-day Felicity found a receipt from a jewellery shop for a gold heart shaped necklace in Roy’s trouser pocket. Her birthday came and went and her neck remained unadorned. Christmas yielded nothing but new gloves and bath salts. She could feel that sickening but all too familiar feeling returning to the pit of her stomach. A lingering glance was observed between Roy and Debbie, his dental nurse when Felicity surprised him at this work with lunch on her day off. Debbie who wore too much make up and had one of those Chinese symbol tattoos on her wrist. Felicity noticed a gold heart necklace lie between her ample cleavage. She was reminded of that Bible verse about casting pearls before swine.
As with Vanessa, Susan and Julia before her, Debbie and Roy’s fling was short lived. Dr and Mr Williams played the usual routine of confrontation, frostiness and eventual forgiveness, a dance well-rehearsed at this stage. One night when Roy was out, the ghost, whom Felicity had come to regard as a celestial housekeeper, placed Roy’s laptop on the kitchen table. His emails were open.
Felicity read the screen. It was an email sent from Roy to Debbie.
It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
Thoreau (Walden, “Economy”)
For the dignity of labor, I break
my body just as tin soldiers die
of metal fatigue, as truce flags beg
until their fray is woven among twigs
of goldfinch nests. My hand tools
become mantle shelf antiques, valuable
to collectors in pristine uselessness:
my making made me.
For honesty of heart, I spray paint
through the stencil of my handicap
as proof of concept; to old friends confess
miscalculated desires, the way
apple trees drop their benevolence
as a catalog of worms. Regret
undermines confidence, so says
this voice of ink.
For the refuge of mind, I cross
off the been there, done that, the else to do.
I am the out of focus child
in witness snapshots like a humble god,
but I have traveled the Middle Way
like a hemlock falling precisely between
gravestone rows, the way a latch-bolt
snugs to its keeper.
Frederick Wilbur’s first book of poetry is As Pus Floats the Splinter Out. A second poetry collection, Conjugation of Perhaps is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing. His work has appeared in many print and on-line reviews including Shenandoah, The Atlanta Review, the Comstock Review, The Dalhousie Review, Rise Up Review and New Verse News.
regret, the architecture of his cheekbones, offered outward
the most vulnerable angle of his face.
Here, anyone might take a swing, but
unconcerned, he gazes out
beyond our circle of easels and arms
stroking and swiping with brushes.
He is beautiful and survives, old dancer.
I’ve painted him for years
in life class or open studio and know
he does flamenco.
I used to keep a distance from the models.
But today he confides
of arthritis, doctors’ warnings
not to pose on hard surfaces.
There’s swelling in his knuckles
which I render with Prussian blue shadows.
His could be
priests’ hands giving benedictions
or painters’ hands, like mine,
which tire and twitch after an hour.
I wish he could pose as he once did,
wrists snapped to the rafters, arched spine but
as he mounts the model’s stand
his palms wilt like nightflowers.
Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA, USA. Her poems appear in Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, 6ix, North of Oxford, Passager, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review, Rogue Agent, Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press, 2017) and Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press, forthcoming 2021). She received the Interfaith Relations Award from the Montgomery County PA Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Award from National Association of Poetry Therapy. Her artwork is on view at Cerulean Arts Gallery (www.ceruleanarts.com).