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Other notable works by Katherine LaRosa and Cynthia Ring.
SONG OF A MAN ON THE VERGE
These days I find myself doing a lot of nothing,
and by nothing I don’t mean
a plunge into the sumptuous void
of Oriental suction (an easy osmosis
I would welcome), no sir,
the kind of nothing that buzzes, clinks,
hisses and bongs, a havoc of spirit and soul
that spits itself onto the mirror
Buttons hang by mere threads, cuffs frayed.
Tiny frantic shadows scurry across my face.
It’s a kind of endurance, exhilaration,
teetering on the edge of some empty vault.
If I’ve learned one thing about Hawaii,
peace of mind and the space between objects,
it’s that geography and time gnaw the same bone.
But we’re not fully wayward here, not yet.
Verging has its specific beauty, a spray, yes,
the exquisite blueprint of haze, blur and smudge,
those visible shenanigans.
This is how we live and die, refusing to budge
from what it’s come to,
not what has or might have been or will be,
but the eon lodged between tick and tock.
the knowing and the knowing not.
The orthodontist flutters in all smiles
fanning a photographic plate in his hand,
a sheet of thin transparent plastic.
He wears no white apron but rather street clothes
and the Muzak is cool – Mick, Credence, Janis.
A spacious, well lighted, pristine setup
and I’m thinking, this guy=s rolling in lucre,
and his assistant resembles Heather Locklear
whom I’ve adored since what was that show?
Dallas, Remington Steele, one of them.
Hey, I could do this, be him,
despite the wimpy shoulders and double chin.
It’s my twelve-year-old daughter in the chair
I’m trying hard not to think about,
merely because she’s here, has endured
prodding and casts in her mouth, squirmed
in the immaculate naugahyde chair for nearly an hour.
No big deal, though, orthodontics, not in league
with the plague, trauma, the mental demons.
And yet, and yet . . .
Dr. Spice holds up the plate up to the light.
Does this look like you? He jokes to Maddie.
She winces as I gaze at her skull and jawline,
distinct shadowy architecture upon which floats
her skin, hair, face . . . and there at the forefront,
her beautiful eyes, lips, nose,
as if they comprised merely a mask
camouflaging what always lies unseen,
the ossuarial reality, the stark horror, the bones.
Maddie and I play along, smirk, laugh,
give it our casual best. But our eyes meet
and I am tempted to snatch the accursed negative
from Dr. Spice’s fingers and rip it apart.
My daughter has no skull
She is made of roses and silk,
honey, sunlight and ambrosia. She will live forever.
There will be no evidence jutting out of mud or sand.
Her braces will fly off like butterflies when it’s time.
We leave the office and head for our van.
I tap her shoulder as she touches the door handle.
She turns, smiles, and we almost embrace.
I got here by mistake. I don’t want in.
It was never in the deck. I refuse
as I would refuse gravity, if I could,
and the heat death and dark energy,
entropy, black holes, whatever goes wrong.
I’d chuck the body itself with all its
sacs and ducts and nodes, the weak links;
and the mind, I’d kick that clown in its ass
if I could.
Don’t think I can, Don’t think I can.
The little engine that couldn’t.
No wonder we de-rail, swerve into imbroglio.
As if the tracks ever lead anywhere
we want to go, like Acapulco,
the trees verdigris and swollen
with fruit. Here at the outpost
it’s one powdery foundation after another.
That’s how long it’s been. Powder,
that queer state between solid and gas.
All you can do to push another button
and remain permanently out.
Access, just another orifice with airs.
Imagine the laws of inertia smoothly intact
like utensils arranged on a table,
and there’s the softball (life, after all, isn’t professional)
gliding through the bluest sky in history.
This is you sailing along in drowsy, happy stupor
until, whack! the first slugger in the lineup
sends you careening out of control, in some fierce direction.
You don’t know the terrain but manage
to achieve equilibrium. Then it’s cruising again,
goofy shit-eating grin plastered on first.
Whack! . . . another bat . . . where’d it come from?
Shifts you outfield, preferably right
given the sinister implications of left.
So you survey the new terrain and once more
and throttle into a kind of easy projectile,
a bit more grizzled but nothing too severe.
It’s all right now, you remind yourself,
back in the atmospheric saddle.
Whack! you ascend in parabolic frenzy . . .
Whack! across the bleachers . . .
Whack! line drive, knocking the pitcher flat,
the bastard . . . Whack! no grand connect this time
you’re somersaulting all over the place . . .
Whack! left field definitely this time . . . Whack! . . .
The leather detaches from your core.
Degrading little strings dangle from what=s left
. . . Whack! . . . up we go . . .
who knows where this time?
How in the hell many bats are there?
You imagine this beautiful piece, pure gold,
shaped like God, wise, compassionate
. . . you feel the jointure,
not an awful wallop but soft, easy communion,
and at last streak out of the stadium altogether.
Louis Gallo’s work has appeared in Rattle, Berkeley Fiction Review, New Orleans REview, Missouri Review, Texas Review, storySouth, Baltimore Review, The Ledge, Raving Dove, Bartleby Snopes, The MacGuffin, Portland Review, Amazon Shorts and many others.
This Happened Around The Same Time
One day out of the blue Paul stopped smoking cigarettes
and he started chewing on cinnamon toothpicks.
This was around the same time I lost the sight in my right eye.
For some reason people would find this funny
and I liked to clarify it with a story involving
a friend and a large kitchen knife
or an incident with some sort of fruit.
The real story, however,
involved a rather serious and savagely aggressive strand of staph bacteria
and a trip to Boston.
Paul quit smoking because he had nothing better to do.
This was around the same time I stopped going to school
and spent most my days sitting around Paul’s one-bedroom apartment.
This was not the first time it had happened.
Often we went to the park
other times we went to the library
and every now and then we just sat there
and talked about politics
or played chess.
I had nothing else to say
and neither did he
so we would just hang up the phone.
These conversations were forced.
One day out of the blue I traded this kid an unwanted copy of A Portrait
for Stephen King’s The Stand.
I knew the exchange was weighted in my direction
and he seemed too eager to learn.
He was so blameless it was almost disgusting
and I always tried to peer between his cracks to see
but he was exactly how he looked.
This was around the same time we discovered that most
of the cinnamon sold in the United States and Canada was actually cassia.
This deception didn’t mean much to me
but proved Paul’s disappointment
and I would light another cigarette
and Paul would chew on another toothpick.
When it was all over I had stopped laughing.
One day out of the blue my sight came back.
This was around the same time Paul got a subscription to The New Yorker
so we had something new to talk about
and Paul started smoking again
and everything was back to normal
and I would still sit around Paul’s one-bedroom apartment
and we would still play chess
but the games almost always ended in stalemate.
This Poem Used To Live Down By 6th Avenue
The women’s center down on 5th Ave. was disproportionately placed
between a bar and church.
Not a real church but one of those spots they set up
so the homeless and junkies can come in for a cup of hot coffee
in exchange for having to hear Ethan preach about sin.
It was the stoop next to the women’s center where Jimmy Stone used to sit.
Jimmy Stone was a man with black eyes
who repeatedly bummed cigarettes off anyone walking by.
Jimmy Stone was a man from New York
and he had a large scar that raggedly spread down his left cheek.
Jimmy Stone played the best version of “Wild World” you would ever hear.
Most nights during the summer I could be found standing around with a cigarette
drilling Ethan about why he thinks my friend Maggie, who’s a dyke, is going to Hell –
idly wasting time downtown between the coffee shop and 6th Avenue,
which you never went past
because that’s where the trannies hung out.
Not that trannies were bad company but they would smoke all your cigarettes.
Most nights during the summer there was a bunch of us,
deliberately separate from the bar crowd,
who took up space on that sidewalk.
The best nights were the ones when Jimmy Stone played,
adding a much needed soundtrack to the world.
He always had CDs made but by the time any of us had enough money to buy one
he was sold out.
I asked him once why that was
and he said he could never say no to a pretty lady.
Ethan used to sit next to Jimmy Stone on the stoop
and smile while wearing sandals and black socks.
Once I asked Ethan out because he was pretty good looking
for a 22-year-old Jesus freak.
He just patted me on the head and said, “Thank you,”
and then he asked me if I had read that Bible verse he told me about.
I said, “Of course, and I got a few questions…”.
This was one of those places where if you looked hard enough between the lines
you could find anything you wanted.
Everything in that little pseudo-church smelled like cooking oil.
The scent coated the inside of your nasal passage
and you can feel it go down your throat and slide into your lungs.
It smelled slightly like bacon but without the meat.
Almost like French fries short of the salt.
A little like tuna minus the fish.
The scent permeated everything: the coffee cups, the cooking pans,
the small white plates, the big white plates,
the copious amounts of little cans of peanuts that were always sitting around.
Cigarettes wouldn’t cover it. Air freshener was useless
and the dull-basic scent of bleach took a back seat to that slick smell of oil.
Charlotte was a woman who lived behind the women’s center
because she talked to herself
and by now she was drenched with the odor of cooking oil
but it seemed to work for her
because at one point she got a boyfriend who rode a bike around yelling at people
and we made jokes about the homeless mating in the wild,
how we couldn’t interfere with nature,
but he finally disappeared like they always do.
She was always wearing an inconceivable amount of different colored coats
despite the drowning summer heat.
One time I gave Charlotte a whole pack of cigarettes
and pseudo-priest Ethan asked me why I would do that.
I just shrugged and said, “I can get more.”
He was always smiling and he asked me, “You don’t believe any of it?”
I replied, “I must have missed the verse when Jesus gave all the lepers cigarettes”
and walked away.
Jimmy Stone didn’t say a word in the morning
when he would open that ragged case, take out his battered guitar,
and begin to slowly strum unrecognizable notes with dirty fingers.
The construction down the road on the new art museum
faded out Jimmy Stone’s cigarette-stained voice.
He never seemed to notice as I sipped a cup of coffee
while leaning against a barren brick wall next to Ethan
as he popped peanuts into his mouth.
“What’s the Bible say about legumes?”
“I don’t think it says much,”
and we watched the people walk to work through the dust.
Theo Isn’t My Brother But If He Were I Would Ask Him To Build Me A Bookcase
It was a room filled with paper
and she was reading out loud
but her dark hair was too thick for my tastes
and it reminded me of the dirty Florence air
which still sat in my lungs.
Paper was stacked in just slightly disorganized, tumbling piles
on Theo’s new homemade coffee table
which made the whole room smell like oak.
Everyone laughed a drunken laugh at her jokes except me
because I didn’t know – I hadn’t read that book.
I realized the reading list had changed in my absence
and it was like realizing it’s Tuesday all over again.
My left hand swirled a glass of ice cubes,
ice cubes that creaked in the August heat
and melted into the rusted bourbon I slowly sipped
which tasted a little too much like scotch
as she asked me where I’d been
knowing I’d just been back.
She continuously flicked an unlit cigarette.
My fingers still smelled
even though I hadn’t eaten either in days
and I had forgotten for just a slight moment how good a carpenter Theo was
as I watched ice cubes crack and sweat on the undisturbed coffee table
then absorb into our papers.
The humidity made her words melt together.
It made mine creak and then disappear.
We both agreed in silence to ignore each other.
Katherine LaRosa is a full-time senior at Radford University in Radford Virginia where she is majoring in English Literature. Besides liking things of the poetry genre, her interests include photography, Irish literature, Djuna Barnes, oranges and Woody Allen films. She is currently unemployed. This is her very first time being published.
A pair of pupils every which way, and a shaded-in church
Utters a random chord of dulled sincerity.
Their yo-yos won’t come up sometimes—
The frayed slip of twine was dizzy from opaque walls.
Charles found a gray hair buried deep in his scalp.
A pair of tweezers couldn’t put their finger on it,
So he turned to wax.
He scraped off the altar candles’ sides into a Tupperware bowl
With his dirty fingernails—
Honeycomb aura slapped his chin stubble harder than a quarter-mile caffeine rush.
A small microwave dropped a bombshell on those shrapnel bits of wax,
And told them they were naked—embarrassment makes you melt.
That stubborn hair was still there after a terrific pull
Brushed atop some Old English swear words.
Pastor said it meant he would have a diamond ring on his finger,
But ol’ Charles laughed.
The string tied around his finger helped him remember to buy oatmeal…
It meant that Church was reeling on its stone-cold foundation, clutching its grayed head
with shriveled hands, allowing its mouth to flap open in a croak of exposé
stirred with a wooden spoon.
But a free-fall-rusty-gears-breakdown helps Charles concentrate with squinted eyes
when the tingling subsides—
Sorry man, no luck.
You pull out your persnickety gray hair when church is coated with stained glass passion, cherry atop the steeple.
Is gray a color?
How about never.
JUDAS ISCARIOT GOES TO CLOWN COLLEGE TO BECOME A MIME
He shakes in his knee-high yellow rain boots.
Thrust headfirst into a world for supple two-faced bastards
Who fall upwards after chasing gravity’s top hat
Tossed past a rainbow waterfall mirage.
They glue cherries to their noses and tap dance sideways,
Only to loosen both suspenders
And walk on their palms.
But tight rope walks with a frilly lace dress woman
Who sticks a stout finger in one ear
Aren’t his jam.
A dogma dragonfly sewed his lips closed with invisible thread,
Then his eyes widened as frown lines and inflamed acne
Were covered up with white paint.
He will knock on Mr. Guinness’s shit-splat outhouse door
Once he beats an emaciated world record over the head with an empty stapler.
Longest time a mime has kept quiet:
Maybe the clock still counted on its fingers
When the poor ol’ chap with cowboy boots was enclosed in a white-washed casket.
How is that possible to beat—to cut its throat with a toothpick?
It doesn’t matter.
Cynthia Ring says: I’m 18 years old, but the poem’s I’m submitting were written when I was 16. I work mainly with surreal/experimental poetry.