Week #43 – To the core

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is to the core.

totem plate by Peter Schwartz
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In Lieu of Flowers, Send First Aid . by Jessica McHugh

To his family, every word she said was a lie. Her denouncement was either rambling grief or an attempt to convince the world that Roland had faults. As if he ever could.

“You must believe me!”

She was difficult to reel in, even by the sturdier parishioners, but they couldn’t reel in her truth. It continued to blast as they hauled her down the aisle, and Roland’s precious family continued to call her “that madwoman”. Variations of “I knew that madwoman would be the end of him” were hurled at her in chunks, and she felt each one like they were his fists. Yes, they were his fists. She could never mistake a single knuckle. She could nearly smell the Jack Daniels. But not his family. They could never smell it over the aroma of the prize posies he’d planted all those years ago. Those flowers had long since withered, but they never saw it. Just how they never saw Roland withering away. Just how they never saw his poor wife withering in his shadow.

The men threw her to the pavement, but she was no stranger to those sorts of scrapes. She kept Bactine in her back pocket. Too bad she was wearing a dress.

“Need some?”

She looked up to see a bottle of first aid spray and the sweet face of the woman holding it.

“Thanks. Did you know Roland?”

“Why do you think I have the spray?”

Her scratches burned, but she smiled. Finally: there was someone to believe her.

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Inner Flaws . by Deborah A. Upton

A young man told me of his going to the core of the ship, a place
where not many were allowed to go, describing the darkened room where he slept.

“The room had just enough eerie green light to guide you to your bed. My berth was the one on the top. To reach it I had to pull myself up over the front edge, ducking and pulling my legs in then rolling over onto my back, with just a few inches between my face and the ceiling. There was a small curtain I could pull, enclosing myself in what felt like a tomb. I never heard any sounds coming from behind the other pulled curtains. I never really slept, though. What I thought were
dreams were really my own fears oozing from the confines of my manipulated mind. The whole time I lived in this manner I adjusted to the lack of sleep. Even now when I go to bed, I close my eyes, but I don’t sleep. I dream awake and now the dreams have become dangerous.”

He held out his hand and begged me to take the gun from his hand.

But there wasn’t a gun. It was then when I started not trusting him.

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Awakening . by Roberta Lawson

The first time – when things were ropey-precarious, and tentatively she hovered at the still place, it emerged between her eyes. A presence larger than everything that had gone before, greater than all yet to come. And the horn pushed out – gentle, probing, like a searchlight, something so pure and illuminating that everything that weighed her down could recede, dwindle. This that is stronger than the bruises on the inside. This that heals her from the inside-out.

Later she’ll meet it in dreams, in whisper-touches, in red roses ripe in bloom, in that certain feeling in her belly that says ‘Stop now,’ ‘Rest now,’ ‘Go now;’ in the place without words that maps a smile on her mouth, offers softness when the whole world is tired, seedy, when she is worn thin. The landscapes change. She changes. The difference between before and after is that now it’s here – whatever happens: it’s here.

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c(u)ore . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

c(u)ore

transfixed i watch your hands
strong quiet efficient
shape this humble offering

of mud into something pure
lyrical a form so flawless
it seems a miracle

later when the body yields
before the glassy burn
i cradle the leathered urn

and peer into eternity
ossified hollow of earth
primordial essence of you

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Attempt Number 24 . by Talya Jankovits

Lying still and naked like a gutted fish, I feel his hands hold mine tightly, sweat prickling up between us in little round, shining beads. He whispers in my ear I love you, but all I can think of is a piñata, the way they stuffed me up with eggs – small, ugly and little, nothing like the decorative Easter eggs with pink and purple and polka dots – all of them fertilized in little dishes with his sperm; a sad and desperate little garden. Feeling broken now, torn up and hanging from a tree, as if its all going to spill out of me like the Red Nile. I know their names; taste them on my lips as he kisses me. His hand reaches to my thighs, speckled with needle punctures, then to my buttocks bruised from deep injections. It will be the same this month: hollowed and empty – the core of me dried up and shriveled like a prune. His breath tickles my ear lobe and I think don’t touch me.

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Slow Thaw . by Solveig Mardon

My car windshield was cracked. Rain slipped in and tapped time on the dashboard while you drove. Stereo cymbals crashed and made kilometres into atmospheres, made our autumn road-trip grand and unruly. We stopped at beach, one famous on this coast. Determined plinking notes on a piano made of sugar. The flat grey sand, bookended by mammoth cliffs that ached towards the Pacific, was ours. Your boots were soaked anyway so you waded in up to your waist, hands white with cold, flapping like seagulls for me to follow. The wind spun flecks of salty sting. We checked into a motel, a scratched key with a disco-ball keychain. You loved this kind of chintz. You slid it onto a chain and bowed your head, slipping it over my neck, a bestowal. The smell of our damp socks on the motel heater reminded you of skiing, of salty-sweet hot chocolate from a machine. It reminded me of a slow thaw, from the outside slipping in, like rain.

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How to Grow Avocado . by Martin Porter

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do” O Pioneers – Willa Cather

Choose your sapling carefully.

If planting bare rooted,
Ensure the roots can spread
In an elegant fan, else
Dig a pit just deep enough,
But not too deep,
To take the root ball,
Gently guide
The root tips downward to ensure
A good, firm anchor.

They say it takes
Seven summers
For this tender tree
To mature. That’s not
Too long to wait.
Rich, oily fleshed and puckered
Dark skinned fruit
Worth waiting for

Weigh down its broad leaved
Reaching branches,
So vigorous I have to prune it
To perhaps three
Or four times my own height,
Or reduce it by the
Careful grafting of its leg
Onto another foot.

And at its centre
The polished nut,
Seems almost systole, pumping
Future sap in woody veins to
Wrinkled skin on sunburnt lips, or
Palms of a gardener’s hands.

I lean on one leg on my spade
And wonder “Should I
Dig this pit through
The midpoint of the Earth
And out the other side?

But here, the air
Is much too warm,
The soil too rich,
To lose, by just one
Careless footfall
Slipping gently
To cold winter,
Rotting windfalls.

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Snacks . by Stephanie Trembath

I take the knife in my hand, with thumb and forefinger pressed to cold metal, and taking my time as I contemplate the chilled fruit; so perfect, so round, so vulnerable. Looking down, I see that Katie’s lips are pursed, and I can see that she is getting annoyed. Then again, children are never patient. I slip the slight edge of the knife beneath the skin; ripe, soft, and succulent. Crisp and moist. Full and fleshy. When she smiles, I smile back.

Her eyes are round, ripe, and full of yearning. She holds her small hands palm-up beneath my hands. Beneath the knife. I shave thin, cold slivers of the fleshy insides once the skin is peeled off; spiralling from the top to bottom, and leaving a pile of shaved curls. She won’t eat these, and so her round eyes wait.

I picture the knife carving other insides; other forms of ripe flesh. Piercing soft skin, and spilling warm blood. Now, my lips match Katie’s, but they are pursed for the wrong reasons. I’m no longer hungry, and yet I continue sliding the knife up and down- up and down- until all I have left are the seeds.

And the core.

But as she holds the cold slivers of fruit between her fingertips I watch her small mouth welcome the slices of warmed fruit, and I can taste my hunger once again. Warming honey, finding brown sugar, I sit with her and savour the snack.

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The Core Question . by Susan Gibb

She lived her life concerned about the inside of people, the inside of herself. She’d forget what you looked like, never notice a new haircut, new color, a shaved mustache or beard. She wouldn’t know if you wore the same thing every day. I once wore big dark-rimmed glasses just to see what she’d say and it flew by her attention as if I’d been born with them on. . . and she’s known me since just about then; best friends kindergarten through college.

If she asked you a question she’d present it carefully, each word picked like the best blooms for a bridal bouquet. Then she’d wait, stare at you with an intensity meant to make you realize the importance of your answer but instead only made you feel pressured, flustered, and if you did not know her well, probably annoyed.

“What did we learn?” she asked me three hours before graduation ceremonies would begin. “What, if it comes down to a sentence, was the most important knowledge we’ve gained?”

“Not to mix wine and beer?” I said. I hoped that maybe on this one day at least she would relax, enjoy, go with the flow of the crowd. Believe me, nobody else would be pondering beyond missing their friends, gaining their freedom, their summer trips to Europe or at the very least, Belize.

“No,” she said. “We’ve learned that we are a core, with apple growing around it.”

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Moving On . by Andrew Stancek

When Mother plonks down at the rickety restaurant table to wait for Father, I am warmed by the two hundred-crown notes I liberated from her wallet. Two years after divorcing him, she is handing me over. She tells me she loves me but. My teacher reported on my absenteeism, the police on the kiosk robbery; in my room she found her lost ruby ring, the rubbers, my teacher’s glasses.

In the family meeting she cried. “You are fourteen, Mirko. What has become of you? Reform school or your father’s?”

She orders a beer, switches to mineral water. I order a beer, watch her look, laugh. She glances over, shudders. I start whistling, “All You Need Is Love”.

“You could…try a little,” she exhales.

In the bathroom I throw the toilet paper roll in the garbage, take the lid off the tank. When I return, Father is with her, face stinking with cheer. “So, how are my two favorite people?” he asks.

Her eyelid twitches. “You have to do it, Lado.”

“Aaah, don’t you worry. He’s a chip off the old block. I’ll show him what he needs.”

Rising, she knocks her chair over. “Maybe he’d be better off in reform school after all.”

She pats my arm. “Call me if…”

I nod. “You will bail us out, won’t you, sweet Mami?”

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Juicy Sticky . by Michelle McEwen

This is how we eat fruit down here: smacking loudly and to the core— with juice all over, with sticky hands. That is if it’s a juicy sticky fruit and most times, down here, it is. Daddy says people up north don’t know how to eat fruit and that they eat the wrong fruit, too. He says the peaches they got up there ain’t real peaches and especially the watermelon. He says they eat their fruit too neat up there— with napkins and tossing it before they even see the seed. Once, when he was fresh outta school, he went to visit an aunt up there; he said she brought home a paper bag of supermarket peaches for him. “These ain’t peaches,” he had said to himself, but he ate them anyhow. He had been intending to move up there for work, but after tasting those up north supermarket peaches he changed his mind. Had it not been for that aunt bringing home those nasty peaches, daddy probably woulda stayed up there and never woulda bumped into mama down here who was sitting, one Saturday, on daddy’s granddaddy’s porch. She was eating a peach, smacking loudly, while waiting for daddy’s granddaddy to finish baking the apple pies she had come for. “That was the sweetest sight I ever seen,” daddy says often and smiles great big when he says it, too, ’cause to him a woman getting down and dirty with juicy sticky fruit is the kind you keep.

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Watermelon-Size Love . by Melissa McEwen

Everything’s all warm
sunshine and clear skies because we are
back together. Never mind that it’s the dead
of winter and the streets are covered in ice. Nothing
can touch our hot-radiator love. We warm
the bed up electric blanket style, kick
back quilts, sheets, the comforter. No need
to turn on the heat. We open windows
all the way to cool off. This
is no half-ass love
he’s giving
me. He’s loving
me like I’m his only
girl. Right now
his love is so real it leaves
tall shadows on walls. His love is
so whole and so heavy
like an uncut watermelon the size
of the one Mr. Lumpkin grew two summers ago,
so big it made the paper. And I want
to eat the sweet
red core—all of it
until only the rind is left.

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Pie . by Susan Tepper

When Lacey wants an apple her mother makes her bake a whole pie first. From scratch. The water in the flour, the kneading, the rolling of the dough, the pressing in the pyrex dish, the peeling of the apples, the sprinkled cinnamon. Then the top crust. The top crust breaks Lacey every time. She can’t get that top crust right. She gets holes and tries patching. Little dough squares that look like knee patches. Her mom starts yelling that the pie is a failure. Lacey covered in flour. She cries out and drops to the floor. Every time she drops to the floor and wails there. Just once I’d like her to stand up and wail. But, no. So the pie gets thrown away. Her mother cackles like the old witch that she is. And Lacey goes to bed without her apple. It’s time to run away, I told her the other day. Lacey looked suspicious of me. Well how many pies this week? I asked her. She shrugged; and continues to act like I am the enemy.

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Rain . by Glenn Blakeslee

“Get in the car,” he says, but she doesn’t.

Instead she stands where the cold double cone of the headlights cuts into the glittering rain, and gazes up at the tall buildings surrounding the car. In the glow from a hundred office suite windows she catches with her eye the virtual fall of a single raindrop, and matches its velocity as it tracks down all the storeys, dimples the surface of the gutter water, swirls and joins a billion other raindrops, and pushes and drops into the gaping chasm of the storm drain. In her mind’s eye the water gathers power from unseen inlets, challenges the brink and falls in force over parapets of black crowning rock, slithers in silence down dark watercourses, pools in unlit caverns where sightless salamanders and silverfish imperatrix reside in abiding silence, joins again and gathers and plummets in steam into the once brightly-burning ember at the core of the world…extinguishing it.

“Get in the car!” he screams, but she won’t.

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Fruit . by Marcus Speh

Constable Cocks knew a lot of words once – words like compliableness, cantankerous and counterperformance – until one of his pals called him a talking banana with a moustache. That shocked him to the core of an existence, which had been founded on hearsay, female assistence and newspaper cuttings only, so that he had always felt frail for his lack of solid knowledge. A man can live without his right arm, his grandfather used to say, but he can’t get on in the world without a brain. But a banana didn’t have a brain. It was mushy and though it looked vaguely masculine, it felt feminine as soon as the peel was off. Constable Cocks resented his being compared to a fruit. When he got home, he threw his boots in a corner and snortily spit on the ground.

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Qualms . by Maude Larke

Writers often turn to music for inspiration. From it they can conceive very lyrical or complex works. But this is the first time when I feel that I cannot at all claim to have truly created any of this work. How much of the text is mine, how much the music’s?

At best, I can perhaps only be the equivalent of the interpretive artist who receives the work beautifully conceived from the composer and simply plays it. If I did not have that image to save me, I would feel that I was merely a thief. And perhaps I am.

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Regret . by Matt Potter

Red-white-and-blue pennants fluttered overhead. The night breeze cooled my naked nipples.

“So it’s a bit like an initiation?” he said.

“Yeah,” I nodded, hard-on tenting inside my shorts.

He hurled the brick I gave him at the car window. Glass shattered onto the front seat and the car yard asphalt.

I reached around inside and unlocked the back door. Sliding onto the seat, I released my waistband. My hard-on thwacked against my stomach.

Pulling my knees onto my chest, my toes touched the padded roof. It was the first time I’d been in an older model BMW, and the plush brown leather sighed against my back.

Pushing his jeans down around his ankles, he knelt, and pressed his moist dipstick against my hole.

“Do you always do this on a first date?” he said.

“Fuck my exhaust pipe,” I answered.

With each stroke of his crankshaft, my carburettor purred. And as he accelerated straight into third gear, all six cylinders throbbed.

“Play with my gear stick,” I moaned.

He smiled, and with his hands, surprisingly smooth and soft and clean, began –

“Hey!” I signalled, thrusting my palm at his chest. “I thought you were a mechanic.”

“No, a mechanical engineer.”

I reached up and, hard-on limping against my stomach, pulled my shorts down from my ankles. “Sorry,” I said. “I only fuck mechanics.”

“Too bad,” he said. He backed out of the car and stood up, penis dewy in the breeze. “’Cause I’ve got two tickets to the motor show.”

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As Ready As I’ll Ever Be . by Michael Webb

I liked to watch Annie when she didn’t know I was there. We had hiked all morning, finally stopping for water and fruit along a rock strewn break in the tree cover. I had wandered off, finally coming back to her from behind her right shoulder.

Her University of Michigan baseball cap was tilted back, her face, red with exertion, now blanketed by the spring sun. I could see the sweat on her back where her dark braid hung down. Her legs were open, her long cotton skirt forming a canopy over her hiking boots and thick socks. She was taking enormous bites of one of the huge pears we had brought, wiping her face with her forearm like a teenager, sitting on a flat rock, looking at the sky.

She was consuming. It was exhausting and futile to try and keep up with her. She was smarter than anyone I had ever met, stronger, emotionally tougher, and could beat me in one on one. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to be with her anymore, it was more that I couldn’t measure up. She wanted a partner, and I knew, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t man enough- at the center of me, there was nothing left.

She turned when she heard me approach.

“You ready to go on?,” she said with pear stained lips.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I said.

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Triplets . by Len Kuntz

I’m still searching for us, for our core.

We are three that are one that will always be linked: Ron, Rex and me.

Rex is home this week for saying to a junior, “Only fags wrestle,” and then dismantling the stunned guy after practice. Rex is large and surly, and so the kid’s family is suing.

Ron is writing new songs and trying out the lyrics on his Taylor guitar. When I press my ear to the wall that separates our rooms, the words from the other side lift and break apart and the cadence catches me off guard so that I have to put a hand over my mouth in order to hide my sobbing.

I keep the lights off in my room, let the lava lamp run while watching the glowing worms reshape and seek new identities.

I was the first one of us out of the womb but I am third. I am both the fag and the girlfriend in a song. I am someone’s choke hold and a broken guitar string making the wrong music.

After tonight, I’ll be the first one gone from this world and I’ll leave it up to them to decide whether that makes them twins then.

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The Source . by Al McDermid

I put the shell to my ear and I listen, listen to the sound, the sound of my blood, my blood rushing, rushing through my hand.

From my hand, the sound flows, and I listen, caught in the tide, the tide of sound, the sound that takes me, takes me ever closer, ever closer to the source, deeper into the shell, deeper into my blood, deeper into the source.

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To the Core . by Darryl Price

Of the core we go because the core has been compromised.
We’ll go deeper trusting in things turning inside out in the
end because there is no place where a new center cannot
be found. Plus we carry the ultimate tuner with us at
all times. You could say it is us but of course
that implies that there is no where to run,no where
to hide. Let it. The implication that we are our own
maps makes sense. As much as finding life in a frozen
chunk of black sea. As much as finding that the universe
contains another universe. It’s all true. The problem is the way
they believe in things as the only way things can breathe.

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Wave . by Jen Knox

The thing about a corner like this is that it doesn’t matter what city it’s in. It’s that corner from which you stand and see only a few bars, a convenience store, and a series of signs that promise if you buy two of something—boxes of cigarettes, bags of potato chips, two-liter bottles of soda—you get the third free. The thing about a corner like this is that if you drive by, or you’re stopped at the light and you glance out your car window, you can only think about the light turning green and where you need to be because that place is suddenly waiting for you. Because the thing about a corner like this is that it’s not going anywhere. It’s too common, too anonymous to loom. And if you live on a corner like this, at the core, you are too common, too anonymous to loom. So, if you live on a corner like this, wave at the people who drive by, smile at them, and take heart when they look surprised.

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On The Conscience of Kings . by Kelly Grotke

The matching pair of bronze statues, each of a son transfixed in the act of hurling a blade toward the neck of his father, disappeared sometime during the French Revolution.

They had adorned opposite sides of a bridge in Ghent, a bridge that no longer exists, but must have once since it left so many names behind. We know Albrecht Dürer walked upon it, in early April 1521. It was a place of execution then, a place where some lives remained forever halted in midstream, but if Dürer reflected on this all too human coincidence between the natural and metaphysical worlds, he left no trace of it; in his diary, he simply notes having seen the twin patricides in passing.

There are two stories about the events commemorated by these absent statues. In both, a father and son are condemned to die, though we know nothing of their crime; in both, the king decides that one may be absolved, if only he agrees to serve as executioner of the other.

In one version, the father immediately rejects this diabolical bargain, which the son then quickly accepts. As the son heaves the axe toward his father’s neck, the blade turns suddenly upon his own, killing him outright.

In the other, the father demands to be sacrificed so that his son might live, but as the son swings the axe to perform the horrible deed, the blade breaks in two. After this miraculous event, both are pardoned.

The king’s motivations remain unknown.

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Ghost Searches Downtown . by Michael Parker

I walked to the bakery where we used to buy our weekly bread. I meandered through parking lots looking for our mini-van. I searched the faces in the grocery store trying to see Elle. Does she search the passing faces for a resemblance of me?

I scoped out the city park, gazing at the faces of the children on the playgrounds. Do any of them have my eyes or smile? I visited the city library and then haunted the entrances of our restaurants, theaters, and farmer’s market.

Despondent, and not remembering the way home, I took to the heart of the city. The streets and sidewalks were furiously alive. Cars were out in droves, passing to and fro like angry bees. People strolled by in faceless crowds, like giant flurries of storms crossing the valley with the saintly demeanor of purple-robed priests entering Communion.

I looked imploringly at the people approaching me. I held out my hands like a beggar. Each hand held a photo of my wife or kids. “Excuse me, have you seen my family?”

I knew that if just one person would look at the photos, they might recognize one of the faces and that would awaken a memory in them, and then that memory would become a story that they could tell. And then that story might be one of the missing stories that would fill part of my hungry void. But no one looked at me, nor even noticed me. No one told a story.

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Coniferous . by Derek Ivan Webster

The pinecone fell at the edge of the lawn. It landed in that confused region neither manicured enough for grass nor wild enough for weed. It was smooth and dark like a single piece of aged leather. Seen through my window it might have been a dropped billfold, a shoehorn or a ruffian’s pocket sap.

I noticed nothing of it then, which is to say it signified little at the time. My thoughts were elsewhere that morning. There was an open letter on my desk; beside it a dry pen waited. The pen would not be dipped that day. The note found its way to the fireplace. The pinecone played no part in this reticence.

A week passed and the afternoon shadows deepened the edge of the lawn. It was the anger of the squirrels that finally brought me outside. They were attacking something, tearing at one another to go after their prize. My dress flattened the grass as I ran, leaving no trace of footsteps. Vermin skittered away as I approached the remains. The pinecone was open now, broken into sections with the interior exposed. I chose a piece; it was singular. It might have been a wooden tooth, a scale of armor or half of a child’s toy heart.

At my desk the last of the pinecone lay atop the fresh letter. I would send it to him, though he would not understand. The lawn was all flame now as a lamp blinded my side of the window.

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Ma George . by Alexandra Pereira

Ma George had a way with words. He was not a writer or poet, but he knew his words. How he knew his words. He knew how to choose ‘em, how to speak ‘em. Every word he said was said with dis-tinction. (He taught me that word). Before he’d open his mouth, he’d always wait, ‘cause he always took longer than anyone else to say what was on his mind. But when them words came out, he made them sound so rich soundin’ like he was some Congressman or General or somethin’ important like that. Ma George knew how to choose his words and he didn’t need a dictionary or any of that university stuff. He just knew. It was like them words were in his bones. Know what I mean? Like they was born with him. Know what I mean? Like when someone’s good at soccer and was born already kickin’ a ball. Ma George didn’t cry tears when he came into this world, he spoke words. Words! I tell you! When ma George spoke, everyone stopped what they was doin’, to listen, even if he didn’t say much. But what he said, he said it right and even if it didn’t make much sense to them, they agreed anyway. You see, ma George didn’t know everythin’, but he knew a lot a stuff. He was an intelligent man; too intelligent for his time. I miss ma George, but I know he’s happy ‘cause he’s got the angels listenin’.

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The Matter . by Helen Vitoria

I avoid everything. If it has potential to cut me in half, spread me thin or red, like a million wandering seeds of a pomegranate, I avoid it. I keep quiet. Hands in pockets, at all times. Not touching is the best way to avoid things. Do Not Touch. But, I do touch the things in my pockets. The halter top I wore when I went drinking with mad boys that I did not know well. The books I never read but should have. The promises I made and knew at that moment I would never keep. The knives that he used to sever the apples. All the sticks I used to kill yellow snakes. I avoid the myth itself. Never the desire.

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Shine a Light . by Libby Daniels

Some days feel like tar paper and brown paste. She walks through the cinder block halls, the rhythm of her own sharp heels on tile (clip, clip; clip, clip) solemnly marking time. A desperate urgency rises and falls throughout the day like a summer breeze.

Back in nursing school she saw a baby slip into existence and unfold itself like a desert flower at sunset, saw a woman’s heart drumming on meat and muscle, the inside of a man’s colon on a screen just above his bare elbow. It looked like a living cave. Everything was so fragile then.

Clip, clip. There’s no time to watch anymore, she thinks, something has been lost. Clip, clip. The world was delicate then. Students come in and out of the room all day, tough-skinned and belligerent. Metal chair legs scrape across the dingy floor. Dark book jackets absorb the light on a back shelf.

The students, heavy-lidded, wear hoods. And in her dreams at night the world is wide awake. She walks marble white pathways thinly covered in water. Soft light pours through high windows in a mahogany paneled classroom. There is a piano in the room and a robin’s egg blue carpet. One tiny student tumbled in among all the rest is a turtle encased in a leather shell. This is the student she must never lose. The mahogany walls shine.

Now in this cinder block room she scans their faces for her turtle student, feeling almost afraid for that one.

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Sunday Supper . by Joanne Jagoda

If I get dressed in the bathroom, maybe mama won’t see the finger marks turning purple and green. Lord, they make me feel sick.

After he forced me I told him we were done and he started beggin …“ It was the whiskey Del, I’m sorry.. I won’t force you no more. ‘Ya got to believe me.” I love Billy but he can be a brute.

Mama invited him to Sunday supper. She thinks he’s something ‘cause he sells cars at the Auto Mart. The fried chicken smell and the apple pies are makin’ me sick. I’m afraid Grandma’s going to see right through Billy but I can’t give him up. He’s like a drug.

The Baxter women are cursed with a third eye. Mama has it and I reckon I’ve got it. You can see the good and bad in people down to their bones and sinew, into their core. Grandma knew my daddy was a no good bum when he rang the bell selling brushes and took mama away. When she came home, she was pregnant with me.

The screen door slams and Billy walks in like he’s some celebrity just ‘cause he’s movie star handsome. I know he’s trying to impress them, all cleaned up in his white shirt and best blue jeans.

Grandma grips his hand hard. She stares at him with her evil eye, drops the bowl with the peas she’s shelling, and they skitter everywhere. Billy starts to sweat and runs out the door.

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Marriage is About Compromise . by Martin Brick

She came to him as he read. Always a book that smelled. “I liked them, but can you change a few words.”

“Change? Which ones? Why?” He didn’t put the book down. She knew from experience that he was in fact paying attention. He could converse and read at once, and honestly focus on each. Still, it bothered her.

“Like this one, the bit about your core.”

“You don’t like ‘core’? I think it’s well-chosen.”

“It sounds scientific. Love is in your heart, not your core. It makes me think of geology class.”

“See, that’s good. That’s a metaphor. If that’s what comes to mind, our love is like a planet then. Large. Solid. Life-supporting. Etc. ‘Heart’ is a dead metaphor. It is so used that there’s no room for ambiguity. You might as well say ‘I love you a lot’.”

“Also apple core. That’s trash.”

“Trash with seeds. One day our bodies will be consumed, but the love is there. Seeds also suggest children.”

“I still don’t like it. If you say ‘core’ I am going to quote Nicholas Sparks.”

“Then I will not love you and will not say ‘core’ because I won’t marry you.”

“What if the priest asks you first?”

He puts the book down. “Any right-thinking priest would declare such a union null and void.”

“Fine. You can keep core.” He put the book down. That’s all she really wanted.

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Core . by Catherine Russell

The team fought to make their way to the city’s core – the urban center from which youth, poverty, and violence radiated outwards, burning the denizens of the burgeoning metropolis. The city elders had hired the special squad as fumigators to rid the city of its pestilence. This new ‘cure’ only fueled the already disquiet and discontent masses. Not satisfied, never satisfied, the elite could never quite control the lower classes. Like vermin, they survived, mutated, took on new forms to rise again and strike back against their oppressors.

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To the Core . by Guy Yasko

Crumbs of sand fall into the footprint. The wind pushes streams of sun
dried grains through its crenels. She can still read it as her
own. Tomorrow it will be only ‘footprint’. No matter. There will be
today’s prints and the next days.

She turns to the empty sea to absorb the sun, then walks along water’s
edge, past dunes, over bleached trees.

At the black rocks she finds an apple core, white in the sea water. A
crow cries from the forest.

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Sidekick for Sammy . by Doug Bond

We hauled everything out, the ice, the twelver of Bradors and got started.

Finished my third and was tying off the fly when Sammy picked up a
good sized rock and started pounding the stakes, but they wouldn’t
grab at all in the sand.

“All right man let’s go!” It was at least two, maybe three miles back
to the bar. Sammy’d been coming up to this place since high school. I
figured he knew where we were, where we were going.

The trail cut in and around the pines and then there was no trail at
all. We both went bombing down the dunes, feeling the effects of the
big beers to the core, tripping and sliding out onto our knees.

At the bar the girls looked pretty. He told me not to worry, just to
play kind of fringe and quiet, like a sidekick. That way, he said, I’d
get the shy one who doesn’t know what she’s doing and he’d get the one
that wants rough. “It’s always that way, they’re always opposites.
Never the same.”

~~

The shy one was the stronger. She helped me load Sammy into the back
seat of her girlfriend’s car. It took all three of us to get him into
the tent. I had the first one, warm and inside, and the other one out,
both of us shivering with the wind as the fly flapped and yanked
against the hollow spanner pole and the light just coming to the sky.

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Cold Turkey . by Mike DiChristina

Two days after open-heart surgery, Gerber went to physical therapy down in the cardiac ward’s TV room.

“You work on Wall Street?” said an old guy with greasy hair sitting in the chair next to Gerber. The guy had a faded Marine Corps tattoo on his forearm.

“Sort of,” said Gerber, who was an actuary. He looked around the room – a bunch of old zombies. At forty-five, no doubt Gerber was the youngest person there.

“You look the part. Wall Street fucked me over. Fucking Ponzi scheme – rotten inside and out,” said the Marine. “Looks like it screwed you pretty good, too.” He cackled like the Penguin.

“Sorry to hear that,” said Gerber. “Name’s Joe.” Gerber held out his hand.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are,” said the Marine. He crossed his arms over his chest.

The therapist said, “Okay, people, let’s work those lungs. Hug your pillow to your chest and breathe in.” The patients blew into plastic tubes with little balls inside. They worked their cores, waving their arms and lifting their knees ten times.

“Never cross your legs,” said the therapist, “that could cause clots.”

A bird-like lady misunderstood and kept on crossing her legs, flashing a toothless smile and way too much of her thigh. Finally, the therapist let her sit there with her legs crossed.

“Hey lady,” said the Marine, “You got your legs crossed.”

“They are crossed,” said the lady.

Right then, Gerber decided to quit eating cheeseburgers, cold turkey.

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Hieroglyphics . by Stephen Hastings-King

His voice unfolds in hieroglyphics. They tumble across a wall and echo in a courtyard where they are caught by a microphone that translates them into packets which are diverted into cables that carry them to relays that bounce them between satellites. Everywhere below hieroglyphics fall through the continuous shower of radio waves.

Late at night when the birds are silent and there is only film noir lighting on the marsh I see them fall like tiny meteors. When they hit the water they give off sounds as lines that wind like wrinkles in my hand.

I trace the melodies of carved symbols across my lifeline. They say: Locked in hieroglyphic language the truth. Truth is in another frame of reference. Whatever you think it is, it is other. Where-ever you are, it is elsewhere. Here is only here because of this exteriority.

Night after night I listen to showers of tiny meteors expire across the water.

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Moving to Los Angeles . by Robert Vaughan

Lucy pastes pink post-it notes on her dashboard. She is driving to Los Angeles to complete her Indie screenplay about lovers who eat each other, part by part until there is no ‘other’ left.

Some post-it notes have JOE at the top. Some say LIS for Lisbon which Lucy knows is a place but thinks, well, there are people named Dallas or Madison.

JOE is changing, becoming more and more of an asshole. By the time Lucy reaches the New Mexico state line, JOE is a perfect fuckhead. He’s seeing three other women (all named for European cities, like Sofia) and lies to them all. He’s also a sodomizer, and fronts a band that gets five or ten people to a gig. So, he’s getting fucked, too. JOE figures we all are.

By the time Lucy hits the Mohave desert, LIS decides to stop stripping (or being a dominatrix?) LIS wants to be a bilingual teacher in East LA. Lucy scribbles ‘town?’

JOE and LIS love baseball and attend a Dodger game. They get to the stadium early and tailgate, partying, listening to Los Lobos.

1st inning, they finish their first six-pack.

During the 4th inning, JOE uses the restroom, never returns.

6th inning, LIS catches a Cubs pop fly in her gaping mouth. She is unable to breathe and she suffocates. They serve her as a buffet entrée for a Chinese New Year fundraiser in downtown Los Angeles. JOE’s band is in the entertainment line-up.

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Somewhere Down There . by John Sheirer

Somewhere down there in his memory, his high school long since torn down and hauled away to fill a landfill, buried beneath the rubble of countless other demolitions among the gray hard jagged chunks of locker room concrete blocks, among the crushed red brick walls whose sight he cursed each morning from the school bus, among the shattered hallway tiles he shuffled over on yet another trip to the principal’s office, within the mangled gym lockers used by his basketball team so bad their own fans booed them, inside his very own senior year locker is his pair of “lucky” socks worn the last game of the year, somewhere down there, through the rubble, through the decades, through the memories–those lucky socks still stink.

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Rotten (a parable) . by Tom Allman

Miscovitz is a vile wretch of a man. Other than his long-suffering Mother, everyone reviles him. In ’78 the Gods reached into the core of his putridness and removed his soul. When informed, his mother was inconsolable. To ease her suffering he promised to find a suitable replacement.

Miscovitz traveled the world consulting sages, clerics, and prostitutes. After a few years he came to the following conclusions: that he was truly rotten, and that his immortal soul was more of a hindrance than a help. “Good riddance,” he shouted. But, he had promised his Mother.

Miscovitz found a disgraced surgeon who could replace his soul for $500 cash. He grafted a mayonnaise jar into his abdomen (with the mouth and lid protruding). He told Miscovitz to write down every bad thing that he’d ever done on little pieces of paper and put them into the jar, so that whenever he did a good deed he could open the jar and throw away a sin.

Miscovitz has learned no lessons. His new soul is overflowing with sinful confetti. But his Mother is happy, and the Doctor is now making millions in Hollywood.

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Temporary shadows . by Walter Bjorkman

I stare out the pain
wanting an exit
from the loving grip
keeping me here

keeping my hair
tied to your bones
my way forever
following yours

let’s leave, I say
our shadows can stay
sighing about us
without us

a farmer’s market
tucked away in a grove
heavy with the sapor
we no longer have

you don’t eat peaches
you become them, lips
swollen in juices
breasts swathed in pulp

the fruitstand becomes
our bacchanal as I taste
the mellow ripe succor
almost as tender as you

shadows are merely
memories gone astray
for this moment your desire
opens the shades

for these times I will stay

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An Old Peach . by John Wentworth Chapin

Uncle Allen came to live with him for a short while, between retirement and nursing home. Allen would stroll the remains of the orchard, reminiscing with Tad, flirting with dementia. One row held a decrepit peach which yielded a host of sad fruit over the decades. In amongst a cluster of old trees that produced reliably, all of which were planted before Tad’s folks bought the place, this tree bore hard nubs ripe with promise which wizened to black before July. “This tree,” Allen said when they walked the property together, “will never amount to nothing. It sucks the life from the trees around it. They’d all produce better if it was chopped down.” Once, he added, “And that’s what my mother always said about me.” He didn’t repeat it.

The nursing home was a horrid, low-rent affair that shamed both Tad and Allen; it was easier for them both if Allen just died, which he did eighteen months later. Within weeks of the funeral on the north slope, that tree bore luscious peaches the likes of which Tad had never seen on his farm. He plucked one at first ripeness and carved a slice with his pocketknife: sweet and juicy. He wolfed the peach down and wiped his bristled chin.

In his palm lay a blackened, shriveled pit the likes of which he’d never seen on his farm. He took the old peach down himself with an axe that afternoon, leaving the fruit to rot in the grass.

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Three of Four . by Michelle Elvy

When Great-Grandpa Harold told me that eating the whole apple to the core and even past it, seeds and all, would make me live forever, I believed him. He was living proof, after all. He died at 101 when I was 10 — the closest thing to forever that I could imagine. Harold told me four basic truths back then. The other three were: chocolate is great but sex is better; your girl is always the prettiest; Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain will change your life.

My sister and I grew up eating our apples all the way down, seeds and all. She even ate the stems, thought Great-Grandpa Harold would think that especially good. She died last year at age 38. I’m still getting over it, and I admit that I’ve been bitter. But lately my girl and I sit on the porch at night, listening to Miles Davis, and I think that Harold was right about most everything. I still eat my apples past the core, seeds and all, ‘cause I don’t like to think of Harold as a liar. And besides, three out of four ain’t bad.

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Thanks to Peter Schwartz for this week’s art, totem plate. Here is what he has to say about its creation:

When I was painting ‘totem plate’ I was very interested in texture and bodies. The simple, minimalist figure against a textural background illuminated by a circle of light can be a symbol of many things: endurance, hope, protection. A clear definition of the totem plate and its origins is not available at this time.

Comment on “This Week’s Art”

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