Month: May 2017

How People Fall Off The Earth by Sarah Lilius

How People Fall Off The Earth by Sarah Lilius

We could blame this on . . . . . . . . . . . . .the weak gravity Like porcelain plates . . . . . . . . . . . . .children first, float . . . . . . . […]

Head under Water by Neil Serven

Head under Water by Neil Serven

If they liked you, they’d remember you. And every once in a while a kid pops back in to say hello. A little fuller in the face, a little more run-down. Out of the Army or Marines with erect posture, rounder head, clearer gaze. The […]

The Idea of Order at My Address by Jim Gustafson

The Idea of Order at My Address by Jim Gustafson

Beyond late hours of light
no singing, no music.
I can hear the water drip
from the downspout.
It is not the same sound
as ocean surf. No masts
rock to sleep in a harbor.

There are trees, though.
Their boughs, some moments
pretend to sway the way
small boats do at anchor.

Nor is there a woman
at a shore, indifferent to the ear
of anyone who listens to her song.
Her voice touching places
seldom seen.

There is an egret, though,
who jabs the soil and wades
through fresh cut blades
of my lawn. The bird makes no sound.
Only a Red-Tailed Hawk interrupts
the air with an aria to the woods.
It is clear. It is their world.

Tell me, if you know, why
when the hawk sang,
I turned and went inside,
and left the trees to listen
to keener sounds.

The Sea and the Honeycomb by Peter Shippy

The Sea and the Honeycomb by Peter Shippy

(for Bly, after Machado) On Sundays we take the last piece of honeycomb out of the wall safe and walk to the beach. As we stroll we recall what’s no longer here—a shadow that belonged to a tree we loved, that cafe with the good […]

X and Y by Chris Milea

X and Y by Chris Milea

The primrose will live on this planet for X more years; the main contribution to its desolation will be climate change or Y. More children are born every day than people who die; yet X children die daily because of Y. Sometimes, I know the […]

All of It by Kristen MacKenzie

All of It by Kristen MacKenzie

“I know the perfect place for you,” she tells me, phoning from the bath at her mother’s apartment in the city.

I am at the long, red-honey wooden bar at the only diner on the island, treating myself to fish and chips and a beer, pretending confidence; I haven’t grown accustomed to eating alone yet. The sign out front says “The Hardwood Store,” but you have to cross the street and go down the block to buy screwdrivers and light bulbs at a place called Island Lumber. That’s where we met.

I’d come in for chicken feed (always organic) and she, working the farm and garden counter, sold me an antibiotic to prevent worms in my flock. She had small hands that painted pictures in the air when she talked, hovering now and then over my arm without quite touching. I made my way to the register up front holding the medication, feeling like some other person had taken my place while we talked, the kind of person who might do any number of unpredictable things.

In line beside the bags of chips and jerky, my husband held up the bottle with its rows of fine print following the all caps WARNING.

“That’s an interesting choice,” he said, this man who had known me for thirteen years. The world around me snapped back into place and I was myself again. I tucked the bottle behind the beef jerky and bought my organic feed.

I hear the water rush away from her in the tub and I know she’s sitting up now, plotting my future.

“It’s not even on the market,” she says, “but I know the owner and I bet I can get you in for $500 a month.”

It’s after nine and the noise behind me of children who’ve just lost interest in their broken crayons and the photocopied pictures drowns her out for a moment.

“…beach…” is all I catch.

“A house on the beach for $500?” I imagine the crowd around me suddenly losing interest in their own conversations. My voice feels too loud, bouncing off the terracotta tiles underfoot.

The atmosphere in the diner begins to change quickly then, the noisy kids hustled out by their parents and the heavy door thumping shut behind them all. It’s quiet enough that I hear the water moving around her and against the tub as she changes positions.

“I could maybe talk her down to four if you do yard work.”

I crumble the greasy crust of fried fish, breathing in so deeply there’s no more room for anything.

She laughs at my silence and the sound of it is water-warm.

*

The armoire is red, Chinese antique; the couches are green leather and hard enough to bruise your backside when you sit down quick. One wall is all windows, forty rectangles lying sideways, each one holding a piece of water and sky. I can take in the whole house in the space of one quick breath, turn around, bare feet on cedar floors, and let the breath back out before I reach the rectangles again and count how many ways I’m lucky.

I still have a picture of her there, sitting on the end of the couch with her back to the view while she laughs at me and refuses to look at the camera. She’s wearing the shorts her last girlfriend didn’t like, and the white sneakers without laces I borrowed once that gave me blisters when I took her dog for a run. Her arm is extended across the top of the couch, and she looks bigger than she really is, in her tank top and summer haircut.

I can see the owner, Chinese and elegant with long hair and linen jacket, pacing with a phone call across the sharp blue rocks of the driveway, giving me time to decide, but I don’t need time.

The woman on the couch isn’t laughing anymore. She looks at me, smiling.

Please be mine.

*

It’s June when I move in; five hundred a month and no yard work, with a pair of kayaks included in the rent. We have one full month, a solstice, and a moon like the globe of a dandelion gone to seed, framed in the skylight. A month of firsts and morning-afters with late breakfasts eaten in the too-bright shine of sun on the water while we look at nothing but each other.

By late July the island is a jelly jar, and to breathe deeply is to paddle through the scent of blackberries and sunshine, every fruit full and hanging, trembling in the wind coming up off the water when the waves turn the color of parking lot oil-spill rainbows. But around certain corners, where the light has been too bright and the days too long, there’s a whiff of vinegar, and berries lay in flattened heaps beneath the vines.

Something has changed between us. She calls less often and when she does, silence begins to work its way into the conversation.

“When are you going to go kayaking with me?” I ask, unable to wait any longer for her next words.

“Soon,” she says, but it’s an apology, not a promise.

After she hangs up, I sit in my chair and watch the dark come across the water and the streetlights flash on the opposite shore: stop; go. Stop. I fall asleep with the window behind my bed open wide to the hill where the brambles sprawl, and I imagine I can hear them growing, stretching long arms to push against the screen and straight through. The pillow next to me still holds the shape of her head.

*

She’s gone before the leaves begin to change on the maple tree that hides my view of the mountain. I take the kayak out for the first time, alone, to get away from the memory of her on the couch, at the table in my bathrobe, asleep in my bed with only the top of her head showing from beneath the sheets.

When I stop paddling, the tide turns me around so that I face the shore and I see my little house, all of it, in a punch of rushing air, a joy that hurts. The sound of my laughter reaches across the water.

ditch weeds by James Butcher

ditch weeds by James Butcher

these are solid gold spectacles with the finest crystal lenses put them on (i said) the street is a blurry collage  * if you want to call it a collage it has to have a pink man a kodachrome woman a traveling carnival flyer and […]

Paintings: Mattina Blue

Paintings: Mattina Blue

Mattina Blue is a painter, designer, and educator whose work stands on decades of dedication to photographic and meditative practices. Her interest is in using the special qualities inherent to watercolor (bleeding, merging, layering, flowing) to create highly personal, intimate, and emotional paintings. A graduate […]

Sailing over a Cardboard Sea by Peter Shippy

Sailing over a Cardboard Sea by Peter Shippy

Our boat’s made from hundreds of toy boats.

Our engine’s a goose egg, roiling a tin watering can.

The moon’s a rind of mold, sliced from a wheel of black Brie.

The friendly whale’s my dog, Lucky, spouting barks.

We open the bale window in the theater’s back wall so the golden city across the sea, our destination, can be played by the golden city across the sea.

My black slicker is covered in mirrors, so the audience can see my crew.

Dim lights.

A toy piano plays my theme. The pianist asks the audience to find the day-glo balloon taped to the bottom of their seats. Quick, blow them up, she says. Now stand up fast and let go, so you see stars.

A stagehand turns a wheel and the waves wave and wheedle.

We’re off.

Curtains.

A Conversation with Tom Bissell

A Conversation with Tom Bissell

Interview by Ron Riekki David Foster Wallace lives on in the heart and mind of Tom Bissell. It makes sense that the Wallace biopic, The End of the Tour, had shooting locations in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Muskegon, Michigan. I have always seen Wallace […]