FROM PREVIOUS ISSUES
When she comes into the room
carrying two logs for the fire,
I see the heaviness of her walk
and the swing of her grey braids.
That should be enough for tonight,
don't you think, Donnie? she asks
her husband. He grunts something,
doesn't look up from his laptop.
I look at him, then back at her
bending over slowly to put the logs
on the fire, think to myself just how
fucking old all my old friends have become.
You know, she says straightening up
and turning toward him, I spent all day
cleaning up your desk, then picking up
your clothes in the bedroom. The least
you can do is pay a little attention when I talk
to you. I am paying attention, he grumbles.
I heard every word you said. Loud and clear.
She picks up her wine glass and takes
a long drink. Well, she says her voice starting
to quiver, I just wish you'd help me sometime,
or at least show some goddamn appreciation.
Do you think I like doing chores all the time?
Do you really think I enjoy spending
every weekend cleaning up your messes?
He finally looks up from his computer,
then replies slowly and unemotionally,
To be perfectly honest, yes.
Everything seemed to go silent.
She slowly put her hand on her hip,
glares at him, mutters about being
sick and tired of all his bullshit.
I watch her walk out of the room,
hear the bedroom door close, then
only the hiss and crack of the fire.
Ten minutes later Donnie stands up.
I better go make nice, he says.
When he walks in front of the fireplace,
he stops and turns to ask me,
This heat feels really good, doesn't it?
I just nod, don’t have the heart
to tell him the truth that I’m sitting
too far away to feel any warmth.
David J. Thompson
Chapel Hill, NC
BOB HAD LEFT TOWN & ALL THAT JAZZ
She didn't want to drink
so we walked hand-in-hand
half-way home before
it dawned on us that we had
parked behind the bar
We bought it just that day -
had been saving like mad for
A 1953 Dodge coupe with
only a few nicks & dents
But neither of us knew how to
work a stick &
Bob had left town
so we continued to walk home
We made love to the
four jazz records that we owned
Neither one of us thought about
that car again &
Bob never did return from
PENNGROVE IN A DROUGHT YEAR
With the late sun low, the shadow of Mack's bar
deepens over the rail stop platform. This bar's
a place that incites me to play Grand Funk
a dozen times on the juke, get the barmaid to sing
along — save for the fact I'm forever shy to ask.
She's part time here, a nursing student at Sonoma State.
Draws blood for therapy, she tells me.
Another woman, with strange sleepy eyes
asks me to play Liar's Dice. She's with a biker
from Rip City Riders. He's downed a third blended
whiskey and isn't happy. I pretend my hearing's shot,
can barely hear her, and don't understand the game.
Behind me through the window, a passenger steps off
the outbound train. She wishes upon a blue flower
growing between the tracks, lifting itself from the stone.
WHERE'S THE ICE?
It had been a wicked summer, hot and humid. Weeks went by with no rain. The grass had turned a sickly yellow. Jim came home from work that Friday, sweaty and irritable. "Who drank all the beer?" he yelled after slamming the refrigerator door. "And where the hell is all the ice?"
He found Rita in the bedroom. She had cranked up the air conditioner and turned on a tape of ocean waves. She sat in a beach chair wearing her tiny blue bikini, two icy drinks clinked in her hands. She held one out, "Welcome home baby." she said.
Long Beach, CA
In early morning
washed and mended sermons.
Sorted proverbs until lunch.
In afternoon poured tea
for fifty volunteers.
Spoke with special cheer
to three widows crazy
for my reverend husband.
Played organ for choir
but not so well that I felt pride.
Dusted angels up to supper.
Heard my children's prayers.
At last alone, removed wedding ring
to free my stigmata
(an angry rash
circled like a snake
beneath the gold.)
Ran the tap till water steamed.
Held finger under
till rash reddened and swelled.
Wept needles and knives
as I soared past heaven
to the only place
I can be myself,
Spread-eagled at the crossroads
of pleasure and pain.
Donned my gown
and so to bed.
Prayed for all but myself.
Elaine Fowler Palencia