Category Archives: Linda Simoni-Wastila

Phantom Sister by Linda Simoni-Wastila

Marlena comes to me on the cusp of sleep and wakefulness, when the world blurs grey. She soars through yellow-tinted waves, her bald shining skull pushing through water. Although she never speaks, she makes a gurgling sound, high-pitched like the bottle-nosed dolphins at the Aquarium. I look but never see her face. When I wake up, the bottoms of my feet sting as though I scissor-kicked through 100 laps. Those mornings I call in sick and sleep in the boat’s hold. The gentle rocking hugs me.

My twin sister Maria lives halfway around the world in the Catoctin Mountains. She paints and writes poems about trees. We rarely see each other but the internet tethers us. Maria has the same dreams about Marlena — we think of them as visitations – but she feels the ache in her chest, the left side, a sharp pain like someone has plunged in an icy hand and wrested out her heart. Afterwards she also feels an uncommon, exhausting peace. We wonder if this is how we tangled in our mother’s womb: hands to feet to heart.

I find an old photo of the two of us, a college road trip to Baltimore. Our smiling faces squeezed together, the Washington monument towers behind us. I scan the picture, push send and the image zips to Maria’s mountaintop. Seconds later, she writes back. “There’s a hole between us.” I look closer at the photograph and my soles burn.

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Unintended Consequences by Linda Simoni-Wastila

You sit there bleary-eyed morning tired and coffee growing cold. The headlines blur. Your mother’s chitter-chatter segues into wall-paper and you try to remember where you parked the car, whether it’s pulled in nice and tight in the garage or whether you left it curbside, afraid the garage door lifting at god-knows-when would wake mom, but you can’t remember, you don’t remember much of anything, not driving, not stumbling up the stairs, not sleeping. Nothing.

But you remember this: mom already on the couch with her Scotch and week’s worth of Tivo, she assumes you’re with Brad and Mac, and you are, but not at the movies, you’re chugging beer and smoking blunts in Lorraine’s basement while you listen to Zeppelin, Morrison, Hendrix, the stuff your mom plays when she feels old, and for the first time all week you stop worrying how you bombed AP biology and how you missed the Berkeley deadline and what the hell you’ll do about college, you don’t have the dough for Stanford but damn if you’ll go to San Jose State, and then Lorraine pulls you from the couch, so alive, warm, so smiley, and you pile into your Mercury and barrel down the street, windows down, the air smells like sea, the night goes forever.

The milk smell makes you nauseous. Your mom says, “Pity about Stacie, some drunk ran over her dog last night,” and you remember the crunching sound when you took the corner at Beloit and Anderson, tires squealing.

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THE KISSING TREE by Linda Simoni-Wastila

I’ve driven hours now,
down roads wending
through wood and field.
All slows to childhood:
endless red clay, the kudzu’s
slow creep, the pitch of pine
seeps past rolled-down windows.

Past the derelict Exxon, the sno-cone
shack, the trout pond muddied
from goose leavings and algae bloom,
the Baptist church where voices
lift the clouds on Sundays.
The car shudders into the four-way.

Here, the usual kid bicker lessens
from the backseat, you stop
twirling the lonesome dial looking
for stations beaming songs of loss.
Here the ancient oak throws
its heft across the road, shadow-
softened mistle-toed limbs akimbo.

Here, we would kiss, the long trip
Home but two corners
and over-the-train tracks away.
But tonight the moon pounds
the pavement full and unabated and I
turn to your seat, wishing for my kiss.

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transplant by linda simoni-wastila

when the specialist arrived in his shiny white jacket and latex the room stilled, a sterile still life colder than the air used to keep the machinery blipping and bleating pushing red cells through my arteries, gushing antibiotics like city hydrants when summer swelters hot from the pavement into my veins, the frigidity keeping engines cool from shorts that would gum wires and tubes and send electric shocks down lifelines to the system, my system, and when he shook his head, a brief motion, his mouth a hyphen, the air grew colder yet and heaved my heart into a pulsing mass of valves and vessels, one last gasp before it puttered into a puddle of tissue necrotic and grey, of hope gone south with the geese

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TAINTED LOVE by Linda Simoni-Wastila

Tainted love is stained love, a dirty jeans love, mucky
under nails and knees from garden dirt and worms
slippery, slickery things compost-heaped, grubs chewing love.

Tainted love is tinted love, a greyer pink love, edges purple
from necrosis, halitosis, the lack of osmosis, a hypoxia
of the heart hardened boundaries kind of love.

Tainted love is skinny love, skinned and thinned weak
broth love, fight veneered, resentment adhered, salty-teared
nicotine-laden cloud love, breathed in and cancerous.

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blind by Linda Simoni-Wastila

what world is this

when in the parking lot

a man squeezes breakfast

from catsup packets

the girl squats

by Xerox boxes

she calls home

and you send back

your triple-slam

with eggs too runny?

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Divine Wind by Linda Simoni-Wastila

The hose squirms in my hands, a fat serpent. Water hits concrete, whirlpools in the chasm below, and steam mixes with smoke that smells like burning tires. The wind drifts the cloud over me, over the ocean and smudges the coming night. Two days ago when authorities called for all firemen to report to the No. 3, I wanted to hide. My wife whispered, “Be a savior for Japan.”

When I drink my tea, steam caresses my face, reminding me of Misaki’s hands cradling the bowl as she places it before me. Outside I am surprised at the sky’s brilliance. I gather stones, not smooth river rocks but sharp angular ones that sparkle with mica. I build the cairn under a wild cherry tree sheltered from wind. In the yellowed photograph, my grandfather’s face calm, serious under the scarf of the rising sun tied around his forehead. He flew his ninth flight 67 spring times ago; when he returned, they shot him for failing to dive into the enemy ship with open eyes. I weight the picture with the top stone, reach for blossoms fragrant, already wilted, and lay them prostrate before the tower.

My arms ache. I think of my wife pouring tea, of my grandfather unable to fling himself to his death. I think of flowers already withered and the invisible seeds of energy falling around me, on me, swallowed by me. I think of honor. Below, steam still rises.

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