You Save Me

A Poem by linda m. crate

bluebirds sing in your eyes
sun stars in your locks
magnolia lips dance their kiss
the birds of you nest
their song in my ears
the eggs of psalms hatching
some song i can scarcely remember;
you awoke in me a need
to cleave the bitterness
hanging it into pomegranate
sunsets that know nothing more than melancholy —
you washed over me hymns of light,
rivers of bliss:
You broke me out of the stone.
Let me sing a song of thanksgiving
and let’s harmonize a better medley
for all the world to hear.

Gone With The Wind

A Poem by Linh To Ngo

To live in this life, one needs a soul
For what, you know? To let go with the wind
Wind swept yours away
But not that sure will bring you another’s

To live in this life, one needs a heart
For what, you know? To stop someday
That very moment one’s life stops
But not that sure it has a beginning moment

To live in this life, one needs a love
For what, you know? To be broken
Leaving a deep wound
But not that sure it would heal someday

To live in this life, one needs so much
There are things those never can be enough
Don’t cry, my dear
I would be living with you in your life, tomorrow.

Shrink Talk

A Poem by Diana Raab

The day after the doctor
cut off my breast
I got on the phone
crying to my therapist
who told me to give
myself some time
to figure out who I am
and how I feel
after being slashed
by the knife
which stole
the woman from me.

Somehow I will never
forgive him.

Radicals, Unfree

A Prose Poem by Justis Mills

Let us suppose for a moment that the skeptics are right. For the sake of argument. Let us suppose that there are furrows between sorts of experience, of suffering, and that these furrows are not navigable. That we may only read messages fired over gaps, across borders, and speculate no further. That we are lonely creatures.

If the skeptics are right, we have so much work to do. We have to be quiet. We have to listen to people who strive to think slowly, to blot out inner lightning. We have to pay attention, actively, to many things we try to ignore. We have to build trebuchets and load them carefully, calibrate the angle.   ____________________________________________________________   ____________________________________________________________  Lennie:  Lennie: So what does all of this mean?

Justis: Sure! The idea was that there are always people who are pretty sure that almost everyone else is wrong about almost everything. They’re under the impression that people with different sorts of experience can’t properly communicate in any relevant respect. Older and younger, people of different races, or genders, or from different places, etc. Because their life experiences are too different for communication to actually work.

So if these people are right, everyone’s in trouble. If they’re right, we’re all isolated! And trying to communicate at all becomes extremely complicated. We’d have to be paralytically aware of our own situations, and those of the people we were talking to, and use plenty of disclaimers to connect even in a cursory sense.

Fortunately, those people aren’t right. It is possible to communicate. But everyone else is wrong, too, because we assume that it’s a lot easier than it is. Skeptics negate plenty of stuff that’s actually there, but everyone else assumes stuff to be real that isn’t there. A lot more of it, so that we can survive in our day to day lives.

Blackbirds

A Poem by Donal Mahoney

A moment ago,
in a flicker of pique,
with a wave of the hand,
I dispersed them.

Glorious birds,
now they are back,
gold talons wrapped,
roosting.

Glorious birds,
high on a wire,
spearing the nits
in their feathers.

Speed Reader

A Poem by Peter Mladinic

Here’s a nonfiction tip: Hampton Sides’
In the Kingdom of Ice, a riveting account
of Arctic desolation. Sounds depressing
but the writing redeems it. I found,
when reading, at sea, a Caribbean cruise,
if a fellow passenger had come up,
while I sat in comfort, near a window
that looked out at water and a light sky,
he or she would’ve had to wrench it
from my hands, so enthralled was I in
Sides’ true story of an Arctic venture
at the dawn of the twentieth century.

It was the centerpiece of my cruise,
a book I read quickly, though with most
that’s not the case. I read slowly. But
I recall an afternoon in 1971, a ride
from southern Minnesota to South Dakota,
a man, on our return tip, in the back
of a car; the driver I don’t recall, nor
the airport where we met this man
who was to lecture at our small and
now defunct college. I recall the man’s
wire rim glasses, longish light brown hair,
the brown velour collar of his topcoat.

His clean shaven face, wide, angular,
chiseled. Some talk prompted him
to say he was a speed reader. I sat
“riding shotgun” in a sedan heading back
to Minnesota, a trip I recall little of, only
little curls came down past his ears.
Speed reader, he said, no boast, his tone
buoyant, matter of fact. I thought what
would that be like, to read a whole page
in ten seconds. Katie, you too may be
a speed reader, but eschew the label.
In the Kingdom of Ice is a real good read.

Minneapolis

A Poem by Peter Mladinic

At the lake she touches
her gold crucifix
shadows of leaves
pattern her white blouse
the god she sees is
elsewhere a wood crucifix
in a church with a poor box
a mighty cloud

She sees her fire-red Porsche
weave through traffic
in this Midwest city
her key unlocks a door
in her aquarium lavender
gold and turquoise fish
dart through castle openings
a child one floor above
patters across the ceiling
out the window treetops roofs
taxis cars pedestrians
shadows of leaves
god is the wind the lake
hears her coins drop
one two three
into the poor box

Two Poems–for Lori and Enrique

Poems by Michael H. Brownstein

For My Sister, Lori

–She will be missed.

She was beautiful
even when she was not–
brilliant
even when she pretended not to be–
a huge window of passion
even as passion was downsized–
and, yes, she was beautiful
even when she was not.

I’m standing in some kind of church
praying to a foreign god:
Please make everything right.
Please make everything good.
The surgery to remover her brain tumor
successful.
I was maybe five.

Hey, I said, you have to listen to this
and I played Vanilla Fudge.
She clapped, asked for more,
and we chugalugged to the Supremes at the Copa.
I was maybe twelve.

I can handle this one, she commanded,
and I’m sure everything will be solved.
We were working in Uptown, Chicago,
a great sprawling slum violent and neglected.
She took the child under her wing
and he thrived because her wings were that strong.
I was ,maybe nineteen and she
one year younger.

Of course, you can come, and she laughed.
My home is always your home.
The pipes in my old house had burst again
and she warmed me with tacos,
handed me a warm towel,
asked what else I might need to be comfortable.
I was maybe in my thirties.

At the art fair,
she knew everyone.
Introduced me to one artist after another,
gave me a front row seat under her canopy.
What do you think? she asked
and without words she knew my response.
I was maybe forty-five.

Then one day she took a swim in the river
a Mercedes Benz
and climbed the banks a rusted Ford.
Suddenly
everything was underwater.
She asked me why this happened to her.
How do you answer that kind of question?

She died at 8:22 PM,
January 16th, 2022
complication from a stroke.
The night before she passed,
she spent the early evening
singing old time songs with her husband,
and even though her stroke
hit her five years earlier
and she could hardly see
or move parts of her body,
she danced.
Oh, yes, she danced.

To Lori’s Husband, Enrique

–May he forever remain strong.

He told me she was his rock.
I already knew that.
He told me how beautiful she was.
This, too, I knew.
He told me he missed her.

I told him she was the house he dreamed
and he was it’s foundation.
I told him she was the stately oak
and he was its roots.

He married her after her stroke,
took care of her for five years
even when the path led only to quicksand
and hardened lava, sink holes and mud.
I thought how God brings people into your life
for a reason–she was his reason/
he was her angel of glory.

I want to let you know how rich they were together.
It’s important to me that you know.
They had a real love, a love so rich it shamed bankers,
shamed people yearning to be of the one percent,
and, yes, they were richer than even the richest half percent,
their love so great, so strong, even after the stroke
she was everything and so was he.

Enrique, remain steadfast in your love.
Remember your last night together.
You sang with her and I know Amun listened,
I know Osiris heard, I know the Turquoise Prince applauded,
I know Pacha Mama sang along.
Dance, Enrique, dance.
Your love is already immortal.

http://medusaskitchen.blogspot.com/2022/02/oh-yes-they-danced.html

Mrs. D

A Poem by S. F. Wright

Mrs. D teaches math.
She talks to me once in a while,
Always says hello
When we pass in the hallway.

She’s been teaching a long time.

One of those teachers
You had in school,
About whom you’d wonder,
“What’s her life like?”

Mrs. D was married,
But not anymore.
She has a daughter.

I sometimes see myself
In Mrs. D,
As I fast approach
Middle age.

For fun Mrs. D bowls.
Once she asked me
To join her.

I made up some excuse.

Five Pounds

A Short Story by Kunal Mehra

You’re perched on top of the red cliff, whistling your poem out loud. A moment ago, you were probing under a rock, looking for insects. And now, you’re up here, looking at the open space that’s been your home for the past six months. Blackbrush and creosote bushes dot the high desert landscape. The crevices in narrow slot canyons are one of your favorite places to go looking for food, especially in the summer, where there’s plenty to shade to be found in the canyons.

Maybe that’s why they call you a canyon wren. But six months ago, you were an eighty-year-old, 160-lb human being, living not too far from where you are now. And one day, life decided to say goodbye to you, walking you out the door of its home and there you were, a while later, in your new life, poking your beak out of an egg that your mom laid in a nest made of twigs and bark chips.

There was an interim phase though, a phase that you often think about. You didn’t just go from 160 lbs to 20 grams; somewhere in the middle of that metamorphosis, you were a 5-lb bag of gray ashes in an urn that was left at the bottom of a cliff by your family. After all, it was your life and it was your request to them to leave your ashes in the high desert.

And that’s what you keep coming back to: that blue rosewood urn with the milky way painted across it, filled with eighty years of your previous life. Several times each day, you stand on top of the urn, looking into it. Even though you’re no longer a human being, you can still do the things your body and mind used to: smell, touch, feel, see, hear, grieve, rejoice, regret, love.

~

You find it hard to believe that your former mind and body, the stage where your entire life played itself – with all its feelings, bones, blood, aspirations, dreams, liver, kidneys, sorrows, heart, mind, soul, toes, fingers, wrists, successes and failures, relationships, work, arteries – is transformed into a 5-lb bag of dust that’s now lying quietly beside you. It’s like a reunion of everything that your life was. How did space, and your time in it, metamorphize into dust? You started as a twinkle in your parents’ eyes and you ended up in an urn of gray ashes. What happened in between?

All those joyous and fun moments in your life, the big ones and the small ones – holding your newborn son in your hands and kissing his fingers, watching a hummingbird dancing near a butterfly bush, having a beer with your best friend from middle school and laughing and reminiscing about all the fun and silly things you did as children, being offered a job that you’d always aspired for, feeling nostalgic about your grandparents as you skipped through black-and-white photos of your childhood on a rainy December evening and, ironically, wondering where they might be now – come to mind. You jump into the urn and peck at the ashes, trying to find those moments.

And then, there were the complementary sorrows and griefs – rushing your six-year-old son to the ER to seek help with his seizure, seeing your pet chihuahua who’d be been your companion for sixteen years finally be put to sleep, getting laid off during a recession and not sure where to go or what to do, having your first girlfriend breakup with you over a telegram that just said “Goodbye forever” – that also blended along with the happy times and are indiscernible from them now.

Or, you just reflect upon those seemingly mundane moments in your life – being stuck in rush-hour traffic on the commute home, standing in line at the grocery store, washing dishes in the kitchen sink, filling gasoline in your car, paying your credit card bill over the phone, standing in line waiting to board an airplane, quietly doing your middle-school homework after dinner, picking raspberries from the salad bar at the grocery store deli – and wonder where they all went. After all, they were as much a part of your life as were the happy and sorrowful times. Did they simply come, stay and shyly fade off into the past and are now staring at you from this powdery mix?

You try to talk to your life – to what used to be your life and is now a handful of gray-colored grains – and ask: Did we live to our fullest potential? Did we love those we should’ve? Did we do the things we thought we would? Were we our best and true selves as much as possible? It’s hard to discern from these five pounds what really happened. It all looks, feels and smells the same.

You wonder how all your years on earth coalesced together into a bag of gray powder. You smell the ashes and dive your beak into it. You realize that it’s just like dirt; but for its gray color and coarse texture, you wouldn’t be able to tell it from the dirt in your backyard where you used to grow cosmos flowers. You lived your life thinking that it was like a straight line, when really, it was a circle.

With your beak full of your past and your heart full of nostalgia, you try to pinpoint the ashes to a specific moment in your life: do these granules correspond to that evening when you were about go on a first date with your to-be-wife and how nervous and excited you felt? Forty years after that date, you remember that summer evening when you and your wife were sitting on the porch, holding hands, the wrinkles on your hands reminding you of the life that had gone past you, of all the ups and downs that you both weathered, of how soothing it felt to have her wrinkles nestle into yours, to snuggle with four decades of life. That fond memory comes to your mind, but now, all you get is gray particles in your beak.

You dig in further and pick up some ashes from a different part of the bag: was this when you attended the funeral of your friend who committed suicide, writing in his final note about how no one ever really cared about him and how he felt like Sisyphus constantly pushing the rock of his life uphill and how regretful and guilty you felt for not reaching out to him earlier? And, not surprisingly, all you have in your beak is dirt.

You wish that you could correlate each year, each month, each day of your life to a specific granule, a specific particle of dust, so you could look at it more carefully and fix – in your next life – what didn’t go as planned, and celebrate that which did. But what you have before you is powder. There’s no starting point, no end point, no middle point – it’s your entire life, distilled down to a 5-lb bag of calcium phosphates and other minerals.

In hindsight, if you knew it was all going to blend together in the end, what would you have done differently? Just because it was all going to end didn’t mean that you shouldn’t have been an active participant in your life and instead just disregarded everything. Of course, you had to live your life the way you wanted to. But would living it with a sense of humility, with a perspective that was vast enough to bear in its arms the reality that in the end, everything crumbles down to dust, have helped you live a more vibrant and honest life? Would it have helped you live more like a maple leaf blowing in the October breeze, rather than a tight hose stuck to a spigot?

You reminisce about that argument you had with a colleague at work over who broke the printer. You insisted it wasn’t you because when you went to the printer, she was already there, fiddling with it. She countered that and said that the printer was malfunctioning because you sent a 45-page document to print, something that was too much for the old printer. And on and on that finger-pointing went, not as much over how to fix the printer, but over whose fault it was. You never talked to each other after that. And now you wonder if you might have reacted differently had you kept in mind, during all that clashing of egos, this upcoming pouch of ashes and how everything – you, her, the printer, the papers, the rigid sense that you were right – would eventually end up in that pouch.

That was one instance, but you try to recollect how many times you refused to acknowledge the transient nature of everything – egos, printers, people, emotions, hearts, jobs, governments, memories, buffets, pets – and how futile it was to hang on to such moments and your feelings in those moments, when, instead, they were calling out loud to be let off the leash of your rigid sense of permanence. ‘This too shall pass’ got morphed into ‘This ought to be that way’. Were you afraid to consider that one day, power would shrivel down into powder?

~You fly out of the urn and sit on top of a rock that’s in partial shade. The ground is dry and solid underneath you. It hasn’t rained in months in the desert. You look up and the sky is filled with dark clouds, with patches of blue in between. Maybe there’s a storm in the forecast; you can almost smell the upcoming desert rain.

The wind is starting to pick up, your feathers feeling the storm coming. And there it is: a strong gust, sweeping past you, toppling the urn and scattering the ashes, scooping up and taking along in its arms, your entire previous life. You also leap up into the sky, flying wildly amidst the swirling cloud of gray dust.

Author’s note: This story was published elsewhere so this is a reprint.

Previously published in Writers and Wordsmiths.