What did he think, that his hand-scrawled banner would somehow stop contracts from being fulfilled, the diggers in their tracks, that he could turn the world with words, that nineteenth-century verse would be enough? Once lines had been broken, once injunctions had been imposed, he departed, bereft, to be replaced by a tough tribe of characters with bolts and chains, who braved wet and cold in a last stand against the machine, and of course they failed too, and so another wildness was unwritten from the earth’s pages.
Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines in the UK and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are This Patter of Traces (Oversteps Books, 2014) and Mapping (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018).
Our father relented about BB guns, gave me a shiny new one for my birthday, excited to try it in the Forest Preserve. It was sunny and bright when my brother and I took turns, like in Christmas Story, shot down imaginary foes.
We didn’t see them, we brothers who laughed and traded our toy between us, didn’t see the neighborhood boys emerge from the thicket, a smirk of conquest planted on their faces, a snarl: What have we here! Did Daddy give you a gun? Too dangerous. Might hurt you.
Lifted me upside down, shoved dirt in my mouth, grabbed the gun from my brother, threw him to the ground. He rose like an angry snake, attacked them. A quick, hard punch, his nose spewed blood.
I knelt beside him as they strode away, their cackles never forgotten, nor the ping pings as the gun became their birthday present instead.
My brother became a master carpenter, fashioned custom furniture, now creates only for friends.
I taught special ed children, whose families sometimes punched them in the nose, forgot about their birthdays.
Never knew what became of those brothers. Some don’t redeem themselves. Some do.
ONE WHO LISTENED
Albert Camus died in a car crash at 47
Camus, push the rock up, up, down, up, up, down, Sisyphus no myth, born from a Plague, absurd Stranger, you should not have listened, died because you listened.
What of the sayer, the one who spoke, the one you listened to?
Your Editor persuaded: “Drive to Paris, Albert; It is so much faster than the plane. Believe me!”
We say because we say. We cannot put our hands over our minds.
The grief of the Editor: “O, Albert, what the world lost because you listened, Existentially.”
A retired special education teacher, Vern Fein has published over one hundred fifty poems on over sixty sites, a few being: *82 Review, Bindweed Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Courtship of Winds, Young Raven’s Review, Nine Muses, Monterey Poetry Review, and Corvus Review.
I wish I could ask how, why, or look into her eyes
on the bus from Reykjavik to our NY flight.
We sit as close as sisters but I can not make it alright.
She points to her heart. Me Papa sick.
“I’m so sorry.” Me go Katowice.
She loses her glasses on the dark seat
I search, find them, Tak. She touches my shirt.
The bus rattles from Reykjavik to our flight.
She snaps opens her purse covered in butterflies
Green and yellow flutter in the opaque light.
“Keep this lava rock for good luck tonight.”
This stranger’s part of me like the Icelandic sky.
On the crowded bus from Reykjavik to our flight,
I need to believe Papa will be alive in Katowice.
Mare Leonard’s work has appeared most recently in A Rat’s Ass, Perfume River, The Courtship of Wind, Bindweed, Forage, New Verse News, The Chronogram and Communicator’s League She lives in an old school house overlooking the Rondout Creek. Away from her own personal blackboard, she teaches writing workshops for all ages through the Institute for Writing and Thinking and the MAT program at Bard College.