by Joelle Biele
Those nights nothing could soothe you,
and nothing explained your love of Fillmore’s
Circus Bee, the crash of Samson and Delilah,
or any full-throttle Sousa at 2 AM.
Midnight maestro, you conducted the spheres.
We drew our sabers and danced we waltzed
moon rivers, we swayed with the ladies
of sorrow, we scat with the ladies of joy.
The house a sudden hush, wed whistle
with the panes, measure the hours with the wind,
we’d study the alphabet of sleep.
Do you remember the dark swelling up,
the snow, the white and icy fields?
My love lost in grief, you were my claire de lune.
by Eric Anderson
Before I was born, my mother knew. She could tell because my movements felt like flutters, because the birds wouldn’t leave her alone. Grackles on the windowsill, so many starlings in the trees. When the wind blew, their feathers rustled like black leaves.
IN a bikini, she would sunbathe in the backyard, rubbing lotion on her proud belly, rising, inexorable as bread. Inside, my world was bright and bloodcolored, like the light when you close your eyes. I like to think I can remember her hands, two shadows passing across the glow.
She fell asleep that way, once, and woke up with a crow perched on her stomach. The bird cawed and pecked, making a tiny triangular cut. My grandmother ran into the house, calling for cotton balls, alcohol, Band-Aids!
When I was born with wings, no one was surprised. The wings were little and white, but already strong enough to almost lift me out of my grandmother’s hands. Only the placenta held me down.
My grandmother cut the cord, then handed the scissors to my mother, who snipped off both my wings, the way she trimmed the roses to keep them from growing wild.
She put them in a jar for me. When I shake it, just right, I can feel myself flying.
Well anyway Goldilocks has just been discovered snoozing away in Baby Bear’s bed. What the fuck are you doing in my bed, he asks in a very unfairytale-like manner. Goldilocks is nonplussed. This is not the manner in which she is accustomed to being spoken to. Having always been very blonde and very cute, she has come to expect spontaneous affection and loving adoration from strangers. This little ursa minor has ruffled her feather so to speak. Despite all this, her middle-class upbrining tells her to follow the path of least resistance. Who are you, she asks, instinctively adopting a wide-eyed, innocent demeanor.
A quick inventory reveals:
Papa Bear, always the sleepy slow-witted, and benign patriarch, has failed to grasp the full import of the siuation. To him, the intruder has violated the sanctity of his abode, nothing more, and this rather simple-minded appraisal of the events has numbed his sensibilities to the crucial problems, i.e. the potential impact of Goldilock’s considerable charms upon Baby Bear’s budding sexuality, Mother Bear’s consternation at the thought of a possible disastrous intra-species pairing, and the question of justice with regards to the porridge supply.
She is to be forgiven for her tactics. They are, after all, tactics of survival. Everyone understands survival.
She appeals to the bears on the basis of her need, her weakness, her humanness. That is her strategy. It has never failed her. A recent close call:
“Honest, babe, I was there so long and I was just so lonely and missing you so bad and there he was, y’know, and he was so nice and most of all he reminded me of you, babe, he reminded me of you a whole lot and so, well, what else could I do?”
It works. Individuals die, species survive and, along with them, tactics for survival. Goldilocks knows this. The only thing troubling her now is that she is out of her element, out of that cozy, comfortable context she knows so well. This is a different world, a world of fur and claws and grunts and very bad breath. Can she depend upon survival instinct in this world? Can they (the bears) be manipulated? (They look so gullible in their ill-fitting clothes, trying to stand on two legs and clumsily attempting to grasp knives and forks in their paws. They’re so cute, after all.)
“Forgive me if I seem ill-mannered,” she says, a drop of porridge still clinging incriminatingly to her lower lip, “but I chanced upon your little cottage and I was scared and lost and ever so hungry, and well, what else could I do?
(Photograph by Aaron Winston)
by Nicholas Kolumban
I see you eyes without the glasses.
They are light green, life-size,
a masculine openness in them.
Your fingers thick, tanned in April.
I lay my mouth in your fresh palm.
A car toots,
its abrupt brutal horn in my brain.
People wade toward their occupations.
You allow me to kiss your unimaginable breasts,
the home of your youthfulness.
You arch in bed,
the muscular trough of your back
I bend down to savor
your salty dew.
Cloth Squeezed Tight Against the Wheat
by Rosa Alice Branco
Could this be the wheat they gave us
to make a wicker basket and the bread within it?
Just the bread to reach the blade of grain? As many roads
as the hands we knead over the stone
and the open flame where we deposit our long waiting
for what we will not be. Hurried steps,
toiling hands squeezing the tea cup where you sip me
in order to forget the cold. You come to the surface like a fish
for whom they have taken the sea (the fish embedded on her finger
she tells herself). Two minutes pass, not counted on a watch,
then a wave carries you off, leaving behind wet scales
on the chair. I lull to sleep your childhood lying in my lap.
I chew on my own Mouth. I moo the wheat where you grew up.
I remain with an empty basket, and the bread inside.
Translated from Portuguese by Alexis Levitin
(Picture from here)
by Tim Ross
Once more we scrape our nubs of chalk against
the worn-down tips of pock-marked cues. Dave leans
to break. Through smoke his face is squinted, mean.
The Silver Bullet sign, its endless dance
of blinking lights cavorts above the bar.
Pam sweats and cleans the mugs, serves drinks and frowns.
Some drunk in the corner booth nods off, face down.
And now another rack explodes so hard
it cracks the night in two. The drunk, on the nod
all night, comes to and slowly looks around.
He dreamt of horses fenced afield. A rod
of lightning forked the sky, hoofs stomped the ground.
He woke to strangers shooting pool, spooked balls
stampeding blindly in search of their small holes.
by James Haug
The smart thing to do would have been
to return the package.
As Lucy dumped the pieces out
and scattered them over the floor, I saw
one blue fragment with a fisheye
printed partially in it slip underneath
the fold-out couch where Nana sleeps
on her long weekends. Already
I knew we’d never recover
the missing piece, that on one rainy Sunday
afternoon on a card-table the picture would be made
but for that one piece. It’ll leave
a hole in the lake, unfair for us all,
as such a dark weekend was coming
to a close. A hole near where the fisherman
stands in his rowboat. He’s sunk
the hook into a nothing, with a hook that isn’t.
with no fisheye at the end of the line
to alert the rest of the fish that something
of great value dangles before it.
From Issue 34/35/ of Artful Dodge
James Haug has published one collection of poems, The Stolen Car. Individual poems appear in Doubletake, Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. In late 1998, the Center for Book Arts in New York published his chapbook, Fox Luck.