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“Poetry must be available to the public in far greater volume than it is.” – Poet Joseph Brodsky
Welcome to the Winter 2015 edition of The Fox Chase Review, our 20th. We are pleased to present:
Poetry by: M.P. Carver, Colin Dardis, Marty Esworthy, Melanie Eyth, Gene Halus, Phil Linz, Gloria Monaghan, Stephen Page, Chad Parenteau, Prabha Nayak Prabhu, Felino A. Soriano,Jack Veasey, and Lee Varon.
Fiction by: Ramona DeFelice Long, Mary Pauer, and Jeffrey Voccola.
The Fox Chase Review
Copyright @ The Fox Chase Review. All rights reserved.
M.P. Carver, Winter 2015
So, let’s say we’re all dying up.
Caught in some circle unfurling
drab tongues to press and rattle, faded
but full with the cold of the sea.
But then there’s you, and you
lesser of time, were for me.
We talked about you at the bar today,
and I told them how you read me
the very cut of the earth, and that our arms
were the same as the shore.
Wide to the water lap, the ebb, the pull.
And I said that you taught me
to be still, and an open sort of grace, drawn
in the greatest tide we’ve known.
Setting apart children in the rafters
and picking at translucent heavens
keeping on the habit if I do say so.
Occupied, devoting palaces to art
and oscillatory scraps of sediment
wearing away the viscera, heart.
My keyboard keys cast darkness
and writhe in their plastic casings
hours after my late night knockings.
¿Tell me, lonely, what is the pace
and what is the mood if shadowed
but the far-flown flares of warning?
My lover meanders, thinks of war –
and sunup to down I’m all warring
down to up I’m pressing her into it.
Bringer of Victories I’m caw-cawing
and grow a talon for each enemy eye
wings wings weep & sing, full aflame.
M.P. Carver, poet, lives in Salem, Massachusetts. She is a member of YesNo Press (publisher of the Zig Zag Folios) and Poetry Editor of Soundings East. She will also be assisting organizers for the 2015 Massachusetts State Poetry Festival. Her work has appeared in various local journals, and she has featured at multiple venues across Massachusetts.
Colin Dardis, Winter 2015
The rain is holding off,
and in this country, broken away
from Europe in the centre
of a meteorological crossroads,
this is all important:
the news report cover it;
the bus stops consider it;
old women in supermarkets
driven crazy by loneliness discuss it;
countless teacups pour over it;
strangers meet up around it;
every pursuit, from hiking
to the laundry centre on it;
the awkwardness of pauses
in conversation is driven out by it.
We are noisily obsessed,
a national characteristic, so much so
that perhaps the Citizenship Test
will soon expect you to write
dissertations on local weather patterns,
and if you fail to consider how
the drop in temperature will affect
the strawberry crop this year,
then it’s no passport for you
and a ticket home.
Colin Dardis is a poet, editor and arts facilitator, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His work has been published in numerous anthologies, journals and zines throughout Ireland, the UK and the USA. He is the founder of Poetry NI, which focuses on poetry and poets within Northern Ireland, running workshops, readings, open mics, slams, as well as publishing chapbooks and broadsides. www.colindardispoet.co.uk
Marty Esworthy, Winter 2015
Long/ Train/ to Winnetka
Locale: never easy. Yet, in, maybe, Minnesota,
a woman– a friend of Paul’s– lolls on muted towels
by el-e-men-tal dried grass. Big sky.
Breathing/ sensually, all around, clouds
and sky. It’s a big world. With high hopes
Yukiko boards a train for Tokio.
The maybe-Minnesota-woman, actually Paul’s
friend’s wife, wears a bikini top and short denim skirt.
Behind her– a / multitude of pines. Well, conifers.
Skies of blue– ionospherically speaking, just
above a whisper. Against, y’know– interpretation.
Dreamy Tokio: covered by an intense network of train,
subway and bus lines. Seas of green. Yukiko, covered by
a smart cotton frock. Swirl/and sweep & waves billowing.
Prints, cloud shapes. Stylized piety. Ruffles sing ridges like
a ghost in a trance/ might waft, hover, settle into a walnut grove
to sleep and sleep and sleep. Albeit. Un/easy.
During clement weather, cinnabar powder can morph into
sunset gold at-the-drop of a fedora. Boarding, or unboarding
a train, lazing gainst a backdrop of tall pines,
Abe Lincoln said that. Yeah. Nearing Winnetka.
Celery/ stalks at midnight; Yukiko dreams Tokio.
And, I could wish/ my days to be.
Like a Star War, or a Cat Fight, Like a Moon-Bright, or a Sleek Run-On Sentence Sinking,
Slinking, Sinking/ into Long Forgotten Snow
And lips, ground faint and fretful, melt, morph
from simply red-and-icy to prehistoric grins. Remembrance conquers all. (See:
The Maine, Cotton gin, the Alamo, kiss is still a kiss. And i before e, mais oui.)
Every darn time Yuki slipped and fell into a phoneme from Okuyama dialect, a
buzzer would sound scattering wives and children all over Fuji.
And, suddenly, characters grow in size:
Mourning becomes Garamond! There are subtitles
all over the screen door; Elektra/ signs Herb Alpert.
It’s as if the Drake were driving a Beamer.
Are you kidding me?
Foregrounding/ each. Reedy pitch-height, timbre, duration. And tone. Not-
withstanding, heathen seraglio heaped, and I mean heaped to bursting.
As detailed as the speech of bees.
Who doesn’t love the Drake?
Mnemonically speaking, who doesn’t love adjacent skies streaked with irony?
Heaped to bursting. The summer birds had, by this time, completely deserted.
Deserted, I tell you, deserted!
Little blue heron, gone. The Ravens?
splitsville. Ptarmigm and Snowbird, nevermore. Hovering. Hovered. Pouf!
It felt/ as if all history, and the memory of history had gone… well: pouf.
Whaddaya gonna do?
Time is a Susquehanna/ and we experience subtitles
to talkies to Surround-Sound® in a fresh and seemingly redeeming manner. Way.
And, as if a drought had disappeared over a span of seven dog-years, we kiss the lubricious ground.
Screech owls in a chinaberry tree. Terraced soundscapes resounding to a
shadowy red-purple that echoes the saintly chants
of hovering, nay, orbiting objects
And, yeah: we kiss that lubricious earth, Pearl Buck! We kiss/
that lubricious/ earth.
Marty Esworthy is a leading advocate for sound poetry and meta-verse. Esworthy is a Megaera-award-winning poet, editor emeritus, Steel Point Quarterly, and renowned poetry impresario, is director of the Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel. He’s been published in numerous regional and national publications, including Haggard & Halloo, text_TOWER, Literary Chaos, Fledging Rag, House Taken Over, logodaedalus, Syzygy, The International Digest of World poetry, and the Miserere Review. Recent Esworthy tomes include hard reality, Pacobooks, 2004, and The Object Stares Back, Uh-Oh!, T&T Press, 2009.Twenty-Six Javanese Proverbs was awarded the 2006 R.E.Foundation Award for Outstanding Poetry from Iris G. Press in 2006.
Melanie M. Eyth, Winter 2015
The Ground Upon Which I Dance
Dedicated to the madness I hear driving me forward I dance,
as if only my legs were real and nothing else mattered I dance,
where no one can see and loud melodies flood me so that juices
pour and my fingers of fire are living on planets rotating round the
sun and my head is spinning like dust lost its way in the desert I
dance, mad with envy at those who have more madness than
I and angry at God for those who have less. I dance while
the world turns on an axis they tell me is there.
Melanie Eyth. Is a poet and dancer living in Ivyland, PA. The words are like movements choreographed to song. The movements are like sentences that form an engaging story. She enjoys the dance of her hands as they skitter and scamper over the keyboard. She is currently compiling work on the healing, therapeutic of poetry for a new collection The Soul’s Bright Home: Collected Poems. You can contact Melania via email at email@example.com
Gene Halus, Winter 2015
To a former student
Hiding in an overhang of branches
he stalked fish, crayfish
on a cooling July evening.
The air still thick and unbreathable
from the hundred plus day.
Now there was breeze with an edge of coolness.
Stalking. It was poetry to watch him move and
to hear the small creek tumble
into the Perkiomen.
The place where I saw a snapper
clamber over rocks
seeking the Perkiomen, fish and birds.
The place of deer.
For want of a bow
I could feed my family over winter
there were so many.
The place of geese, swans
and diving swallows,
raccoons and weasels.
I’ve seen them all here.
Just a mile down creek
the toxins have been seeping
bit by bit,
and Limerick’s back up draw of water
happens to light New York with fission.
This is what I have given you.
A native of the Lawndale neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa., Gene Halus is an Associate Professor of Politics at Immaculata University. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from LaSalle University, he graduated with a double major from the department of History and Political Science, his Masters of Art and his Ph.D., from the Department of Politics of the Catholic University of America. Halus has been a community/social activist in the United States and Ireland. He has written several op-ed pieces for various newspapers including the Souderton Independent and the Lancaster Eagle Gazette. He has written articles on topics such as German-Americans of Northeast Philadelphia and Resurgent Ethnicity: Reconsidering Ethnicity, Whiteness, and Assimilation; At Frankford We Stand!: The Mobilization of Euro-American Ethnic Consciousness in Philadelphia Neighborhoods and Changes in City Government; and Fair Housing/Fair Lending. Halus is working on a new poetry collection titled Perkiomen using the Perkiomen Creek as the focus of the cycle of poems. His most recent book is Irish Americans: The History and Culture of a People, co-authored with William E. Watson released in November of 2014.
Phil Linz, Winter 2015
“Who’s Got It Better Than Us?”
A warm Tuesday afternoon, middle o’May, the boardwalk, Atlantic City,
Just walked out of Showboat, $150 to the good & “Muskrat Ramble” still in our ears.
Join the crowd of pensioners this fine day, a couple of hearings set for tomorrow, but nothing today,
The cool breeze off the ocean, a small win in the pocket; a hot dog, a cold drink; a good day, a good friend.
I’ve heard pieces of your story often, some parts still too painful, no need to pick up that knife,
So I don’t know the eight years before ‘84, know only the surface of Vegas or New Orleans whore-stories,
Can’t know the hurt of the first daughter, but know the shining pride & love & joy which comes from Nicky,
The glorious child giving meaning to it all, who keeps you from becoming the bum on the beach with a bottle.
“Not all crazy at the same time,” words you & I live by, laugh by, words which keep us reasonably together,
Japanese dinners before Highlights, the commonality of our pleasures, jazz, old jokes, various kinds of lusts,
And meetings, and meetings, and meetings, and working & living the program as best as we can;
$150K in debt, no lovers in our lives, and you telling me: “Who’s got it better?” And you’re right.
If friendship is a blessing, a gift, a necessity for a healthy, useful, constructive life,
I’m grateful: the blessing of our connection. It’s an honor to call you friend.
(Originally published in the chapbook David’s Book, Fierce Grace Press, 2007.)
Phil Linz was born in Brooklyn, NY, and has lived in New Orleans, Tucson, Los Angeles, New York City, Morrisville, PA, Westchester County, NY, and Pooler, GA; since October 2011 he has lived in Wilmington, DE. He’s been writing poetry since 1971 and is the founder and publisher of Fierce Grace Press, which specializes in chapbooks, believing in the concept of “Publishing under the Radar.” His previous Fierce Grace chapbooks include Roz’s Book: In Celebration of Fifty Years (2001), In the Midst of it All: Selected Poems 2000 – 2001 (2002), For Those Who Remain (2003), and Kyzen (2005, with illustrations by Ryn Gargulinski).. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gloria Monaghan, Winter 2015
Yes, I will be thy priest and build a fane
In some untrodden region of my mind-
Sparrow in the Hedge
Each bird sings from the hedge his
sad sweet song that does not require
a backstory of time and place.
Do these sparrows somehow lift into their hearts
a past dream of young love
or do they lift with them chance, into the billowing sky
their small beating hearts against the terrible whiteness.
Do their twig-like ankles fear the snow?
The small dark eye flits against snowflakes
the dark black beak shines in the snow branch
as the bird sings in the hedge of his lost love
his small wish, his golden youth, his boyhood
and his parents both gone. He sings of his
chance in the hedge to be redeemed
as the snow flakes slide off his speckled wing
he endures it all with his brave little face
and his sturdy shiny eye on the endless looming
white sky in the first week of February
does he not see the thick snow on the fence?
or every branch covered in white?
In the morning light in the kitchen facing the backyard
she sees the first cardinal
a small red body flying in the white.
There is no one to be married to,
and everything in the house slowly starts to dissipate;
the water heater, the boiler, the door off the hinge, the facet in the bathroom,
the hallway lights and the roof leaking into the upstairs.
She says nothing.
She knows nothing,
The small cardinal flies from the fence into the winter white.
His journey is gleeful. No romance holds him back.
She stares into the sun and feels the light all over
the crimson bird disappears into a tree
there is a glittering in her heart.
Gloria Monaghan is an Associate Professor of Humanities at Wentworth Institute in Boston. Her poetry chapbook, Flawed was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. Her poetry has appeared in Slope, Spoonful, and Aries, and 2River. Her fiction has appeared in Ezine. She is working a book about the spectrum of masculinity.
Stephen Page, Winter 2015
arrived, bit by bit, violet
lips, pink hair, orange tongue.
I smelled her jasmine perfume
at sunset, inviting me out to
the patio, pleading me toward
the darkening trees.
She no longer wanders the Wood,
but cradles her child in the bleach
of her kitchen. I long to touch
her humus-stained feet, but find
them washed and clipped. Disinfectant
permeates her pores and sour milk
stains her shirt.
The heat withers me. Mosquitoes
chew me. Thorn plants razor
my legs. Where thistle grows
the grass goes to seed, and pelo
de chancho yellows in the sauna
of cloud shade. Where is the purple
I have to close the shutters on
my office windows to feel
healthy, to not be sunburnt.
When I have my admin in order,
the papers filed under
names, calves disappear.
When I have the cow count
correct, my hernia pops out.
There is too much grass here
and not enough there. The
hummingbirds pick only in the
cultivated garden. Summer
is a bread oven and delivers
too early. Yeast leavens the pastures,
the corn, the wheat. Her hands
are powdered with flour.
What right does she have to bear
children?—her duty was to virgin
the Wood. I see her sister darting
in the shadow of eucalypti, but she smells
my mosquito repellent, hesitates, sees
the change in my eyes as I
approach. She steps back, cringes
as I snap a twig under my shoe,
and folds into a tree knot.
Stephen Page is from Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions. He holds two AA’s from Palomar College, a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from Bennington College. His critical essays have appeared regularly in the Buenos Aires Herald and the Fox Chase Review. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. He loves his wife, travel, family, and friends.
Chad Parenteau, Winter 2015
Lost love remakes
brass knuckles you
punch walls miss
never armed practically
smile behind tombstones
off color remarks holster
At burials, she plots
her poison. You dream
drink juice lovers’ beds
rib jostling suicides in bars.
Facebook nothing in
between. Photos ask
imagined sneer it looks
nothing like her.
Chad Parenteau is a poet living in Boston. He hosts the weekly Stone Soup Poetry series in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His book, Patron Emeritus, was released from FootHills Publishing in June of 2013. He currently serves as Associate Editor of Oddball Magazine.. http://www.chadparenteaupoetforhire.com/ http://oddballmagazine.com/
Prabha Nayak Prabhu, Winter 2015
Branches of family
older members retire
to old folks’ homes
The <For Sale> sign
on the lawn
changes to <Sold>
Possessions are hurriedly packed
The U-Haul truck turns the corner
No one cares to take
one last look
at the house
that was once home.
have no worth
The old oak
in the front yard
its branches severed
in its place.
It only knows one home.
Prabha Nayak Prabhu is a language teacher and a sporadic writer. Her articles have appeared in The Delaware County Daily Times. Her poems have been published in Philadelphia Poets, Mad Poets Review, Pennessence and Poetry Ink.
Felino A. Soriano, Winter 2015
from Forms, migrating
within the concealing prosaic creases
of my closed hand. Listen.
Felino A. Soriano is a member of The Southern Collective Experience. He is the founding editor of the online endeavors Counterexample Poetics and Differentia Press; in addition, he is a contributing editor for the online journal, Sugar Mule. His writing finds foundation in created coöccurrences, predicated on his strong connection to various idioms of jazz music. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology, and appears in various online and print publications, with recent poetry collections including Of isolated limning (Fowlpox Press, 2014), Mathematics (Nostrovia! Poetry, 2014), Espials (Fowlpox Press, 2014), and watching what invents perception (WISH Publications, 2013). He lives in California with his wife and family. Links to his published and forthcoming poems, books, interviews, images, etc. can be found at www.felinoasoriano.info.
Jack Veasey, Winter 2015
THE RABBIT’S FUNERAL
We should wait till after dark, you said,
And I agreed.
I had gone there in the afternoon,
after she stopped breathing,
after we stopped crying
and holding on to each other
as we could not hold on to her.
On both sides of the bridge,
There were signs everywhere:
VIOLATORS WILL BE ARRESTED.
No place where you could walk
Right to the edge of the water.
Neighbors we’ve never met
Own every inch of the world
On that side of the tracks.
We passed the last house.
I lead the way.
A camper was parked in the front yard,
Not far from the river.
All its lights were on,
The canopy extended,
A card table and two lawn chairs
Set outside, as if the occupants
Would be right back.
Dogs barked somewhere
On the property
To warn them we were passing.
We would not want them
To notice us. Thank God
It would be darker
On the bridge.
You carried her
Wrapped in a pink baby blanket.
The bridge curved uphill.
If it had been lighter,
You could see the water
Through the slats under our feet. Cars hissed by us
With high beams, one low stone wall
Between us and them, another
Between us and the river.
We were almost at the center,
At the top,
When an egret swooped over us. –
Only a yard or two above us, a huge black shadow
Set against the sky’s dim glow.
Both of us gasped
At the sight.
We know it meant something.
You told me later
That was when you knew
That everything would be all right.
You opened the blanket so we could see her,
Touch her, say goodbye.
I stroked her fur, afraid she would feel stiff.
She didn’t. She felt like herself,
Though so utterly still.
She had lived with us seven years.
We couldn’t afford a cremation.
There was no place private
We could bury her;
We rent our shred
Of the town.
But we would give her
To the universe, to nature.
I told her that we loved her
And we always would, hoping
Her spirit would hear me,
Wherever it was.
We had decided we would keep
The blanket to remember her.
You let her drop.
It seemed the fall
Took an impossibly long time.
Her small body
Made a large splash.
We held each other
Once more, wept again
For a few minutes. Then
We turned away to take
The dark walk home.
And yes, I will confess
I did look back, searching
For that shadow in the sky.
It’d be nice
To meet a nice guy,
She thought, wandering
Down the hill to the dirt road
That passed her parents’ property.
Or just to get stoned,
Added the devil
On her shoulder.
She thought she was smart.
She thought she knew
The way the whole world worked,
Although she hadn’t seen
That much of it.
She thought she was tough —
Defying her father,
Wearing tube tops,
Had no license plate,
But she could only see it
From the front.
The driver wore
A baseball cap,
Like everybody else.
His windows were rolled down,
But she could smell
The sweetrot odor
Of the smoke.
He leaned over,
Popped open the door
On the passenger side.
She caught his smirk at her
And glanced uphill
At the old house, feeling
A fleeting spooky twinge,
But never dreamed
That this would be
Her last look at her home.
It would be about a week
Before the local paper noted
That she’d vanished,
And a dozen men
In baseball caps
Would fan out through the woods
In search of her,
Half of whom
Had picked her up
On the same spot,
Though only one
Had done more than just flirt.
All of them knew
The girl was jailbait.
Jack Veasey is a Philadelphia native who has been living in Hummelstown , PA for over 20 years. He is the author of eleven published poetry collections, most recently SHAPELY; SELECTED FORMAL POEMS (The Poet’s Press, Providence, Rhode Island, 2014). 2015 will see the publication of his twelfth collection, THE DANCE THAT BEGINS AND BEGINS: Selected Poems 1973-2013, also from The Poet’s Press. His poems have also appeared in many periodicals including Christopher Street, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Assaracus, Harbinger: A Journal Of Social Ecology, The Philadelphia Daily News, The Painted Bride Quarterly, Fledgling Rag, Oxalis, The Blue Guitar, Bone And Flesh, Zone: A Feminist Journal For Women And Men, Film Library Quarterly (Museum of Modern Art, NYC), Experimental Forest, Tabula Rasa, Wild Onions, Mouth Of The Dragon, Asphodel, Insight, The Irish Edition, The Harrisburg Patriot-News, The Harrisburg Review, The Princeton Spectrum, The Little Word Machine (U.K.), and The Body Politic (Canada), among others. His poems have also appeared in a number of anthologies, including “Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets On Pennsylvania” (Penn State University Press), “Sweet Jesus: Poems About The Ultimate Icon “(Anthology Press, Los Angeles), and “A Loving Testimony: Remembering Loved Ones Lost To AIDS” (The Crossing Press, Freedom, CA). In 2015 he will have poems in two new anthologies, one of erotic poetry by men from Poem Sugar Press in Harrisburg and one of supernatural poetry from The Poet’s Press. He is a member of Harrisburg’s notorious (Almost) Uptown Poetry Cartel. Veasey spent the seventies and eighties working as a journalist for such publications as The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, Pennsylvania Magazine, APPRISE, The Philadelphia City Paper, and The Cherry Hill Courier Post, and editing a number of periodicals in Philadelphia and New York, including The South St. Star, The Philadelphia Gay News, and FirstHand Magazine. His articles for the Philadelphia Gay News won two awards from the national Lesbian And Gay Press Association.
Lee Varon, Winter 2015
In May, 1936 my grandfather was shot by the husband of his mistress. The following four poems refer to the shooting.
MILLIONAIRE’S SON SHOT
The Richmond Times, May 1936
Better if he had died
that night at the farmhouse?
I have heirlooms:
quilted satin trimmed with blue velvet,
brilliant cut diamonds,
turquoise cufflink shot through
with black veins
but what seeps into my bones
is the story of a marriage:
it started with bluebirds among the crepe myrtle
nearly ended with the smell of gunshot.
thought she’d be an extra in the movies—
her image on a matchbook wearing a beret
smiling for the camera
but ended up as the main attraction—
the scorned wife
they all came to see at the courthouse.
In her pocket—
Grandfather, with his three-piece suit
his easy smile—
I wanted to be
the girl in the photo
he had his arm draped over,
he let drive his new cars,
with cinnamon candies,
the one who gave him a sip
of water after he was shot.
I never laid eyes on Loretta Harding
the woman he was shot holding,
her red hair
clotted with blood.
I wanted to be the air
a wedge of stars.
Lee Varon is a writer and social worker. Her poetry and short stories have been published in Artful Dodge, Blue Mesa Review, Euphony, Hawai’i Review, High Plains Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Permafrost, So To Speak, Soundings East, and Willow Review, among others.
Ramona DeFelice Long, Winter 2015
What I Don’t Know About Nature
I don’t know what genus of trees grows where we went hiking. I can’t recall if the flowing water we walked beside is a brook, a creek, or a stream. The fish in the water—bass or bluegill? I can never remember the difference.
In the shade, moss grows on the sides of the rocks. Green stuff clings to the trees. Lichen, you called it, but it was just green gunk to me. Poisonous vines crowd the path—or maybe thevines are harmless. Flowers blossom in the brambles. They smell sweet, but their names escape me.
I watched you skim stones across the water—one, two, three hops—before sinking. The stones I tossed plopped and disappeared. I laughed, and you laughed with me.
I lie on a rock and stare up at the canopy of leaves. When you left, they were green; now they’re gold, red, orange. Two fall, twirling, and settle on my stomach. I run my fingers over the moss and down to the dirt that is dry and hard. It hasn’t rained since. . . I can’t remember. The rock is cold, and hard against my back.
The first letter you sent from the desert had sand in the envelope. I lined up the grains on my dresser and Scotch taped them to the glass. Now the tape is fraying because I’ve run my fingers over and over it.
Overhead, a small brown bird hops along the limb of a golden-leafed tree. A wren? A thrush? A starling, a warbler? Long ago, you explained how to tell the seasonals from the permanent, but I watched your lips instead of listening.
The bird disappears into the canopy. I wish I’d paid attention when you talked about the birds, the fish, the plants, the trees. . . about everything.
You wrote from foreign places and told me what you could. When you came home, a flag covered your casket, hiding the glossy wood. Pine or maybe oak–what did it matter? The flag’s edges were sharply creased when it was presented to me.
The bird flies off, a brown flutter under the gold. I raise my head and squint. Am I seeing what I see? Is that crazy bird making a nest, in November?
The wind rustles, moves the leaves, and shows a nest of twigs, and leaves, and small shiny things not native to the woods.
I pull the ribbon that’s not a ribbon from my hair. It’s yarn I threaded out from your old green sweater, the one you left behind for when I sleep. Every day I wear a bit of it in my hair because at night I never sleep.
I lay the yarn on the rock, like an offering. Maybe the bird will take it, and twine it in the branches, in a nest made in November, in a tree I cannot name. Or maybe it will lie on this rock, beside me, and wait to blow away.
Ramona DeFelice Long’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in regional, literary, and juvenile publications, including The Delmarva Review, The Arkansas Review, TOSKA, and Literary Mama. She has received grants and fellowships from the Delaware Division of the Arts, the Pennsylvania State Arts Council, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. At her day job, she is an independent editor and online writing instructor. She lives in Delaware.
Mary Pauer, Winter 2015
What We Do for Love
Angie viewed the gathered crowd with suspicion. More than fifty people stood at the gravesite. Although the obituary had been printed in the daily statewide paper, The Reader-Herald, in three weekly newspapers circulating in the area, and time and date of the funeral posted on his company’s webpage, she didn’t want to share David, her husband, with so many. Nor had she realized so many wanted to grieve for him. A pinch of anger arose, like her too tight shoes.
From the thin lapels and tapered waists, it appeared their jackets had come from Jos. A. Banks, or Nordstrom’s. Not one corduroy sports coat, not one leather patch on the elbow. Clones, she thought. Any one of them could have been David. They stood erect with a tightness as if by holding in stomachs, they might stave off gravity-laden aging, as if they too held secrets close. They wanted to touch her, to offer sympathy, as if they understood.
Looking at those other engineers, with the faces of the living: serious, fortyish, smug with styled hair that stayed put in the slight October breeze, she wanted to ask, “Did you teach your wife to vomit when she ate too much? Or does your secret lay between anonymous sheets?” Would they have answered truthfully, or walked away, shaking their heads, blaming her grief.
She could still hear David say, “I see you have gained a few pounds.”
Angie eyed them with blurred misgiving, then sucked in her own belly, aware of the stuffed feeling of the Krispy Kreme donuts she had eaten that morning. A tiny burp exploded, the taste of fried dough repeated, much as the images of the sleek men echoed around the funeral service.
The top of the zipper in the back of her dress was not closed, because David was not there to hook that last clasp, and because, in the past four days, the neighbors had descended with pies, cakes, cinnamon rolls, tuna noodle casseroles, a five-layer chili dip; macaroni salad, rich with mayonnaise; potato salad threaded with bacon and real sour cream.
Her refrigerator shelves sweated, working overtime to chill foods she had not touched since college, since she married David. The sight excited her. Inhaling the aromas alone added thousands of calories. She salivated, wanted to binge on the sweets, to stick her finger down her throat then gobble more, devouring the buttery drop biscuits.
Instead, she organized Tupperware, the Pyrex dishes; ran her finger along the edge of the gallon sized baggies pressing air from the chocolate chip cookies, soft oatmeal muffins, caressing the bags she stacked on the counter.
She could not zipper the back of the dress because already, it seemed, her arms had taken on the feeling of sausages and her thighs occupied more acreage than the black shift offered. She heard the grunt of her nylon slip as she swung into the dark limousine, and felt the taut black dress across her middle as she moved slowly from the town car to the canopy shading the hole in the ground where David, in his dark suit would lay, for all eternity, in darkness. He had always kept the light off when they were together, in that way; or perhaps, she thought, they had never been together in that way, in light or dark.
When she had found David’s body, he was clutching a pair of large black panties with a silk bow. Before going to his funeral she stuffed them in her dress coat pocket.
Standing at the gravesite, the dirt thumping against the coffin, she tucked her hand in that pocket, rubbing the fabric against her thumb, a reminder of what David had desired.
As the minister intoned, she snuffled, thankful for the black veil. Certainly her cheeks had puffed. Tears, and the custard filled donuts, and the retching. She could have been the woman who wore those panties, if only he had allowed her to be voluptuous.
Several wives approached and said, “Oh, Angie. I can’t imagine.”
She clutched their arms and said, “Yes, hard to believe the crashed tree, the smell of pine filling my nostrils, like Christmas, and David crushed beneath.” She waited a beat, and said,
“Imagine panties clutched in his hand, held close to his face. Imagine the odor of another woman through the dampness.”
But they walked away before she finished. They only wanted to imagine loss, fearful of what they might have learned had they waited.
It wasn’t until the coffin had been lowered, the service completed, and the crowds thinned that Angie noticed, almost hidden in spidery shadows, a young woman standing alone. She wouldn’t have noticed except the woman had waved her hand and dabbed at her face. Even from a distance she looked to be the size of a female who would fit the silk panties.
Angie walked to the edge of the cemetery row. An aroma of fried dough mingled with the newly turned dirt and crushed leaves. The woman had not been waving. She had been eating a donut. This was the woman who wore the black panties. Angie fought against the desire to rush, hoping not to frighten the woman, hoping she would not dart away. Of course, as large as she was, she could not move rapidly. Angie knew this from her own bulked youth, thighs rubbing each other, hating to run, avoiding the itch of sweat creased in her fattened skin. Hide and seek was her favorite game. She waited, willing to be caught first, never running to home base.
Morbid obesity, said the family practitioner, shaking his head, pulling his eyebrows together, as if Angie were at fault. She understood the nameless woman standing beneath the tree. In a moment Angie occupied that woman’s body, felt the pressure of skin folded against skin, breasts overfilling cups, bra straps cutting into shoulders. Rage, rage against the goodnight, against the accumulating fat cells. Lash out against David’s body exalting in abundance, while from her, he only wanted a size six. David, always fastidious, washing quickly after they were together. This David, the dead
David, was a stranger.
Angie blinked and the vision was gone. Its only evidence was the silk panties in her pocket. Weeks passed. The food from the neighbors finally consumed. At some point Angie stopped her Zumba classes and retching within minutes of each meal. Yet the pounds stayed off. There was no enjoyment in what was once luscious delight. Her ears buzzed from the chain saw, which cleared the driveway, and thoughts of David’s other life. She sold his Toyota Prius, the vehicle in such pristine condition that the first caller snatched it.
Her funeral dress lay on the floor. After weeks of stepping over it, Angie finally kicked it aside, jammed a hat on her head, threw on her workout clothes and ventured to the old strip mall. She drove past the corner shop several times before she parked directly opposite the Krispy Kreme outlet.
She craved that fried dough. Angie marched to the door with a bell that tinkled when she opened it. The rush of warm air dizzied her and she had to sit in a plastic chair to find her breath.
The young woman from the counter wearing a yellow uniform, perhaps twenty-five, certainly not older, walked over. The odors of burnt sugar and coconut surrounded her as much as her skin. “We don’t wait tables, only service. Carry it on the orange tray.”
Angie grabbed the woman’s forearm, the pressure from her grasp indenting the ample flesh. There was no doubt; this was the woman at the funeral, the woman of the silk panties.
The girl with the name tag, Cindi, printed in raised letters, pulled back, her body jiggling, her fat curling in waves of its own motion. “I knew it was you. You look like Olive Oyl, and your wedding band is like his, smooth, glowing the way gold warms with age.”
“He was old enough to be your father.”
“I suppose, although I never thought of David as old, or fatherly.”
“Are you certain you want to know?”
“I don’t have a choice. I have to understand.”
“That is not the same as the details.” Cindi wiped the table with a dreary cloth. “Harry,
I’m taking a break.” She turned back to Angie. “You want coffee, black, I assume, and a donut?”
“Yes, choose for me.”
Cindi returned with coffee and custard-filled donuts. She slid one towards Angie, and bit into her own, letting the sweetness dribble, licking it from the sides of her lips. “For three years on Mondays and Fridays, never on Tuesdays.”
“That was our day to swing dance.” Angie sniffed her donut, held it close and licked the confectioner’s sugar. Three years and she had suspected nothing. “What did he say, about me?”
“Nothing. I was his necessity, all two hundred and thirty pounds of me.”
“How did it happen?” Angie felt a need to punish herself with every particular. With each bite of the donut, she hunched closer to Cindi’s face, almost daring her to withhold.
“Right here, he sat right here, with a single plain sour cream donut, on a thin napkin. He touched my hand as I wiped the table. He bent his face to lick my fingers, one by one, my hand almost filling his mouth completely. He whirled his thumb across my palm, slowly, slowly.”
Angie breathed harder. “Then?”
“I feel him, even now. His hands moving, exploring, fingering my skin as if to memorize each cell. I pulled him down the hall, to the men’s room, pushed him in. I pressed against the heavy door. He moved forward and I closed my eyes. I vibrated and hummed and crushed him into me.”
“You had sex as soon as you met?”
Cindi nodded. “Not always in that bathroom, but gluttonous in each of our couplings.
Hundreds of times.”
“But you are…” Angie looked at her empty hand. She had finished the donut. “…so fat.
You are obese.”
“I would tell you what I eat on an average day, but you would be disgusted. He never was. My excesses excited him. He caressed me, thrust deep into me, and mingled his skin against my ripples. That is how I remember him, as the man who loved all of me. And I loved all of him. I squeezed him between my breasts, offering them to him, blanketing his body within mine, answering his pleas to be taken, fully taken.”
Angie reached for another donut. “Strange that I should be here.” She stared at Cindi with unblinking eyes. “He made me stay thin.” Her misery escaped through a sigh. “You must have wondered.”
Cindi shook her head. “I tried to imagine him grinding bones with you. I gave up.”
Angie shoved the tray away, twisted her ring and walked to the counter, waiting for Cindi to return to the shelves, to her duties. Angie pointed to crullers, double-dipped chocolate donuts holes and twisted buns glazed with opaque sugar.
Cindi boxed up her order and set it on the counter. Angie pulled a wad of bills and the panties from her purse. Her eyes watched Cindi’s as they recognized the underwear.
Angie spoke in one breath. “These are yours.”
Cindi tucked the sheer silkiness somewhere within her large yellow uniform. “Thank
you.” She pushed the box of donuts closer to Angie who grabbed the baker’s dozen and stepped from the counter.
Before she opened the door she turned, her voice scratchy as if she hadn’t used it in some time, “Next week then.” Her not so tight butt trembled as she walked to her car. She wished she had been his insatiable yearning.
Mary Pauer received her MFA in creative writing in 2010 from Stonecoast, at the University of Southern Maine. In 2011 she was awarded the Delaware Division of the Arts Emerging Fellow in Literature (fiction) and in 1214 the Established Fellow in Literature (fiction). In addition to recognition from DDoA, her short fiction work has won awards from the Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. Her work has been published in Southern Women’s Review, The Broadkill Review, On the Rusk, Delaware Beach Life, and several anthologies. Her poetry can be read in the Avocet Quarterly and The Avocet Weekly. Her essays have appeared in Delaware Today Magazine. She is the author of two collections of short fiction, which delve into the subtle psychological relationships of men and women. Recently she was the literary artist in residence at the Biggs Museum in Dover, Delaware for a special project on recycling in the arts.
Jeffrey Voccola, Winter 2015
The scene would be this: Leah is seated at the kitchen table, her body turned slightly because she is done with this town and with me, and she is hugging herself in her chair, clinging to her own resolve. There is no one else, she insists, then appears sorry for that, as if another man might make this easier, and we watch our plates, the walls, the floor, anything but one another, while the ceiling fan slowly churns the scent of curry rising from the apartment below.
Next the camera pans down through the floorboards, descending slowly upon the couple downstairs: him tall, a day or two unshaven, her small and full, pretty. They speak quiet, unintelligible dialogue while the television flashes blue in the next room. This is merely for effect, for contrast, an image in my head taken right to the screen. And when he leans closer she laughs, covering her mouth with her hand. We won’t know what was said, but it will be sweet nonetheless.
By the time we cut back to my kitchen, Leah has taken our plates to the sink. Her back is to me and the dishwasher is open, and when I say I’ll help she says it’s okay, but gently. In a moment she’ll run a bath and soak until the water is murky and cool, and I’ll move into the living room and read in the recliner. It will be dimestore fiction, an adventure or mystery, something that won’t run the risk of touching the heart. When I sleep it will be dreamless.
Allow me one flashback: only two nights earlier, lumbering towards the present scene, Leah and I are home from work. She is in dungarees, cross-legged on the floor, reading through a stack of student papers and humming low and out of key, editing sentences as she goes. Off screen the local news is on, but I’m listening to her. I can never make out the tune in your head, I tell her, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting to listen, and she lifts her eyes with a look that is almost pleading. Soon we are making love on the sofa, her on top, but we are desperately out of sync. And then she arcs back so far that I have to pull her forward, and suddenly she collapses on top of me. She hides her face in the crook of my neck, shuddering with what sounds like laughter but is not, whispering an apology I can’t quite make out, and I put my arms around her and stare into the ceiling trying to catch my breath. The final moments will be split screen. I will wake in the recliner and shower and dress while Leah pretends to sleep. I’ll take the train to work, watching the passing homes, schools, glimpses of the freeway that runs adjacent to the track, and she will move about the apartment, straightening up, removing even the smallest reminders of herself for my sake. When she finally closes the door behind her, there will be a long still-shot of the empty hallway. So long it will seem like a mistake. And then we’ll find her in her car, and she and I will be speeding in opposite directions, and that’s when thecamera will focus only on me, on my face. Except it won’t really be me. I won’t be there at all. It will only be my reflection in the window—transparent and grayed, appearing just as the train dives underground—and no one will even know the difference.
Jeffrey Voccola’s fiction has appeared in The Cabinet, The Noctua Review, Cottonwood, Central PA Magazine, Whirligig, Beacon Street Review, and other journals. He is a winner of AWP’s WC&C Scholarship for fiction and has numerous essay publications in text books and academic journals, including The Chronicle of Higher Education. Jeffrey teaches creative and professional writing at Kutztown University of Penn