When they were children growing up in Shawnee, Oklahoma, her brother Kirby often pointed out Evelyn’s wide mouth. He’d say, “Little Sister, your mouth is stretchy as a clothesline on a windy Wednesday.”
It was true. Evelyn had no trouble nibbling her lips around spoonfuls of food – perhaps because as a child of the Dust Bowl, she seldom had enough to eat. She was from a family of ten. Her father George, a country doctor with a lascivious eye, abandoned the family and skedaddled back to Arkansas so he would not have to pay child support while he successively married wives number two through five. Perhaps Evelyn was hypoglycemic because in a jiffy she would become voraciously hungry.
In addition to possessing a ravenous appetite, Evelyn was a tightwad. In the mid-‘60s, when her two daughters were young, she was so penny-pinching, she would sit in the frayed velvet chair under one light bulb at night, stitching holes in their panties. She’d hoard soggy, crumpled Kleenexes complete with twisted stalagmites and stalactites in the caverns of her handbag and bathrobe pockets. Sometimes after Evelyn took the girls shopping downtown at the 40% off sale, and they were on their way home – even five minutes from home – suddenly she’d announce, “I’m hungry!” Then they’d have to stop right there at Orange Julius across from the college for a big splurge on hamburgers, fries and three of those fizzy, orange, delicious shakes that puckered their tongues with cistrus bubbles. The little girls were thrilled to have such a hungry mom!
Her appetite did not diminish as Evelyn aged. Continue reading
No Eloquence No Romance
A glimpse of life outside the next door may be useful in that bantering mistake as I point to this knotty proposal. I never venture on a second step. After confining myself to look watchfully at your suggestions, I apply myself to some pursuit that will lie too heavily upon my mind, heart and body but the more I do this, the more I feels my body very warm on its crisp surface and the more deep down is still cold. I want to see what is ahead of me in the street filling with shadows of the snowstorm. ―I’ll accept you if you can weave me a body, I hear myself saying to myself. ―Have you named any profit? I am asking myself. My face averts. My colour has gone. I am panting with fury. I stop my whole body sinking in a thin hole abruptly, putting my hands on the sundial to support this thought. I get quickly to the iron chair and sit down, still looking at the comfortable private house sitting on the boundary I have sketched to build and now dressed in dry ice like snowball shrub. I look at all other sketches of this life to see what I am now as the most splendidly ceremonious one before stepping out of any illusion. I paint my living wage for the factory boy and see everything coloured red. I look elsewhere. You have returned from your long journey without knowing you are back. You stand at my back. You embrace me. ―Narcissus, see how we’re in a vertical view when we’re stones waking up from stones that kneel on stones, I remain in the margin waiting, I face a pale face that looks over a solicitor’s shoulder after all these years. You’re tall, a figure behind in me says with a gravelly voice, grinning at me behind a kneeling figure. I suddenly hook myself and begin to play with my trimmed stubble and beard. Slowly, I gravitate towards my divisions with similar interests, living together with the law. It is swooning outside and this world is silent in its shell growing. Sometimes I draw the curtain to look at the house and this time I goes near it. I hears the rustle of the leaves and children squealing with excitement. I smells rotten apples trapped in the ants. I stands yet, at the close of the water running in the vale, my arms rest on the gate when I have already withdrawn my eyes from the penciled brow. I lift up my head and throw back a long veil. The distance behind me begins to be covered with large ornaments of rich and plenteous tresses. The door of the house is opened. Someone comes out to me. It is me. I look at myself, I look back. My mouth certainly looks a great deal compressed, showing its youthful and graceful form, full of fine contour. I likes what I am seeing. I drag myself in.
Jacob Kobina Ayiah Mensah, who is an algebraist and artist, works in mixed media. His poems have appeared in numerous journals. He lives in the southern part of Ghana, in Spain, and the Turtle Mountains, North Dakota.
Sometimes Softly Singing
There’s a crack running across the ceiling between the kitchen and the living room. The crack has been up there for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, the crack in the ceiling looks like a mouth. A mouth wanting to scream but the mouth can’t scream because it can’t open wide enough to let the scream out so the sound of the scream stays buried inside.
Sometimes, when I’m sleeping, in the dead of the night, I suddenly awaken thinking I’ve heard screaming but when I’m sitting up in bed there’s only an eerie silence mixing with the darkness of the room. But I stay like that for a moment or two taking deep breaths just trying to calm myself down. Sometimes, when I lay back against the pillows, I can hear the big knife all the way from the kitchen singing me back to sleep. Those are the nights I like the best.
The big knife sings all of the time. The big knife has many different songs. Sometimes, I hear the big knife screaming the words. Sometimes, I hear it softly singing. The big knife spends days and, sometimes, even weeks waiting in the bottom drawer feeling lonely and afraid. I know this is the way the big knife feels because we have always had this kind of a connection.
All of the electrical outlets in every room of the house have little faces with slits for eyes and tiny round mouths. The outlets always look like they’re screaming but they don’t ever make a sound. Sometimes, when I push a cord into an outlet I expect to see blood come gushing out. But there isn’t ever any blood and I always feel strange inside. Continue reading
Order Before Midnight For Next Day Delivery
Dummer had an eagle-eye to spot a good purchase. He had a lion’s heart and a nimble hand, was good at collecting bric-a-brac and all for a solid purpose. Which is why one day when he clapped eyes on an old plaid shirt, a rake handle and a garden pole he got the idea of constructing something to scare away the crows in the cornfields at Badger. It didn’t take him long to make a burlap head. There were other possibilities which meant that he had to experiment with a number of different ideas – a pillow case half-filled with straw or a pumpkin from which he would carve out the facial features of a personality that would assume a life of its own.
Every scarecrow that he made – for it was now turning into a cottage industry – had its own personality. He gave them Shakespearean names and with them he realised a recreation of all the comedy of low-life direct from Shakespeare’s time. He liked to pay attention to the facial features…would draw the eyes, nose and mouth using a black magic marker, cut out shapes from coloured felt and sew them on the eyes and nose, use coloured buttons for the eyes, a carrot for the nose, bits of pipe cleaner for the eyebrows and an old mop for the hair. The more dishevelled it was the better. Sometimes he would go for optional extras – a red bandana around the neck or a bright handkerchief spilling out of the breast pocket, an old pipe in the mouth, flowers in a hat. Individualism was a necessary part of it all. It was important that there were no look-alikes. Continue reading
Trying to steal Kitt’s oysters in the south bay forced me to decide that I was trying too hard.
Grandma Vettie placed her old, warm hands on my forehead and combed my hair with her fingers. We didn’t talk. She knew my heart like I knew that my birthday shoes would rub a blister on my heel. I dreamed like a fat baby on codeine.
There was a knock on the door. I could see cold air bounce off the window pane, through the sheer curtain that served no practical purpose. There was noise. Too much noise. Grandma Vettie despised noise as much as I did, so I was puzzled why she had let it into her house. Something about a dead man up the road. Heart attack. Crash. Blue lights.
There was silence again. I went to Tahiti and swam deep to collect abalone. The water was warm like baby tears. I think I drowned on my third trip down. Hazy recollections of kindergarten and teachers with long faces. Bloody eyes with fat veins wound around pink stalks. Crablike.
“He’s gone,” she said. “Just like that. Just like your grandpa.”
“Who’s gone?” My eyes were almost glued shut. Maybe it’s pink eye. I can’t see her face any more.
“My neighbor, that man whose name I can’t pronounce. From another country. I liked him. Always minded his own business. Just waved. Sort of like a hello but without any noise or commotion. Anyway, he’s gone now.”
“You wanna go to collect some oysters?” I ask. “Got a new place. I think you’ll like it.”
John Dorroh taught secondary science for a few decades, arriving at his classroom every morning at 6:45 with at least three lesson plans and a thermos of robust Colombian. His poetry has appeared in Dime Show Review, Red Fez, North Dakota Quarterly, Tuck, Piker Press, Selcouth Station, and several others. He also writes short fiction (99 Words, Black Rose Publishing, 2012) and the occasional rant.