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Other notable work by Rusty Barnes, Teisha Dawn Twomey and Mary Benson.
Eulogy for “Dying Suddenly”
The boil on my back doesn’t know what dependence is.
The burn on my face is for me to see only
You are a bone I broke, arm dangled in a sling
Then I felt like eating what I killed, so I did
In the morning, a cigarette sandwich,
Coffee with sugar, because bitter I know
the cost of running my car straight into
a stanchion, the repairs will make me stronger
You were slumped over in bed, lips white, I protest
I never hunted an insect with a semi-automatic
The television turned on at 3:45 a.m.
something woke me that day. I knew
Tales Which Moved Me
I was never so stirred when surrounded
by death, you say, he, most imperative
the brother, who held the family together,
ODed plus Timmy, Stevie, Buddy shattered
the week with tiers of the departed,
I remain timeworn without comfort,
zilch—you and I filled the voids
with soft hips pushing at moroseness
pinned against a wall, smooth
perfection; the stroke of eye-shadow,
I watch your irises open faintly, the blooms
burst deep, into me, you’ve opened wider
We can split peas into little bites
feed the fish, walk on the grass
we all cry for approval, acceptance
is shelter, we take risks, we love
people who don’t love us
hide it in context, we go the
separate ways we lie
on a bed of nails all set.
I shalt not want a hammer
to cut my food. Accept the truth
like a sharp wind, the cold razor rain
in your face, finally opens up
Remember the shark tank?
I swam with the blood dripping in.
When We Talk About Love
We talk about the wrong things
We think about the other
young girls we danced with,
They must be desperate
Let me sell it to you
Sell you something of yours
There’s 13 steps you took
Then became lukewarm
the best kind of love, isn’t regular
it is with a cleaning lady, a mailman
Want to see something?
It’s how you kill the slugs
It’s how you plan to fly away
into a negligent nonexistent role
In the future, you will go home
to take a bath, we’re all unconscious
unhappy enough to smash rocks
over the heads of unwilling lovers
or denim wearing cheaters at a bingo parlor.
Did you clap when she cried out victorious?
Did you drink whiskey and keep fishing
when the body of a girl washed ashore?
A dummy near the water, built
an electric fence to keep our thoughts
Timothy Gager is the author of eleven books of short fiction and poetry. His latest, The Thursday Appointments of Bill Sloan, (Big Table Publishing) is his first novel. He hosts the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts for over thirteen years and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival. His work appears in over 300 journals, of which ten have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio.
The View from Earth
If you were in space and you looked back
my love might be the biggest thing you see.
Fuck that Chinese wall and the trails
of Conestoga wagons in the midwest,
you could look just south of anywhere
and witness the mass of shooting clouds
and the triphammered horn of my heart break-
ing the bowl of soup the sea has become.
It says to you don’t leave don’t fly away
the things you part with as you leave earth
matter just as much as asteroids which shake
off pollen and continue on their merry way toward
planetary destruction, just ask the Tungusku
forest how nothing will grow in the impact
crater that is more like a radioactive no-fly
zone but what I’m saying is don’t die love
ever: make it so the cosmos knows your name
shoot it out in big bright lights so that when
you look at Alpha Centauri and feel that bigness
and muchness, come back to little earth. Look for
the guy standing next to the ocean in Revere
Massachusetts, the big one with the gray beard
and the perfect children and watch as he pledges
to give you everything all over again if he can
if you don’t leave and he don’t leave and the oceans
stay wet you might stand to see another lifetime
as codfish or snappers or even the tiny amoebas
tickling the anemone or giving the shark another
remora to support. The point is he said don’t wink
out like a star but be with me again and again, just again.
God is a liar. When an earthquake splits
the earth’s skin in front of you
the only recourse is to move or to invoke
some long-forgotten hope in an afterlife.
Plate tectonics will dictate the length
and severity of your punishment,
that not-so-silent and hardly penitent
prayer to the saint protector Emygdius.
Successful or not you may as well
piss on your fingers and call it rain
for all the good it will do. Both root
and branch will tremble, we’re told,
the very rocks break under the thundercrack
yet you will find no surcease in the after-
life. There are ways to die and then there
are ways. If the earth moves under your
feet don’t write a song about it. Prepare
yourself for a permanent vacation where
skulls and bony points finger you to sleep,
where the moons are mere dust reflecting
fire so far over you your breath fails to
catch you can think of welcomes suitable
to your new home, not of fire and saltpeter
and the bare ends of sanity but a place
where every day your toes crack the surface
of earth and you fall forward only for forever.
Poem on a Misremembered Line From Donald Ray Pollock
I sat underneath an apple tree
reading while my father and brother
forced a rebuilt transmission into
our old Ford Fairlane. Rotten green
apples littered the ground where
I stood. I remembered my mother
and Aunt Mary skinning a buck
hung from the same small tree,
my mother dressed in a headscarf
and a thrift-store letterman’s jacket
trimming the white-gray fat and tossing
it into the trees for the swallows and blue jays.
It was her job and later mine to shoot
the squirrels that stole the suet,
those scrapping skinny beggars who
took whatever they could find.
In my mind I am twelve years old though
I know that can’t be right because we
had the Fairlane in my mid-teens.
I picked up my girlfriend Theresa
in it and took her to the Fireman’s
Carnival in Southport. So long ago,
but it seems like yesterday and now
another memory: a fat woman sitting
on the hood of that same Fairlane at
Packard’s Pond in a suit too small to hide
her beauty.I got depressed because those
pearly pubes were as close as I had gotten
to the real thing at sixteen.The gap between
her thighs.How hot the memory remains.
Rusty Barnes is a novelist and poet living in Revere MA. His latest book of poems is called I AM NOT ARIEL, and his latest novel is called RIDGERUNNER.
Teisha Dawn Twomey-
Two men sit in a nursery
a baby swaddled in soft pink
reaches for them and everyone
and no one raises their hasty hands
at different times, two right hands
then two left ones drop from
their lofty visions like collapsing day
dreams she will continue to stumble towards men
their age. Drunk, she is a blind, deaf, and dumb
to their departure. Without genetic sampling;
the ground has rushed up to meet her face first.
She knows what kind of woman she is—
both captured and defended, in one
swift motion, by and by,
against and against
Ode to April
I should have been regretful but brimmed
wildly, had that deep run-off thing,
rich in my knowing I was dead
right inside, collapsing daily in the yard,
fingers sunk deep in the cool dark, digging
up strange earthworms I needed. I could say it
happened some ordinary day: I woke up
one Sunday morning and it was gone. I left
a note on your pillow. These things happen
in a familiar way. I envisioned each footstep
trailing from mudroom into your office.
I wiped my raw feet on a welcome mat–
HOME, as the screen door clicked
behind me. The whole world
had been tugging, in December
I’d known. April, it was time.
I was praying then, coming clean
to you. Last time we’d been fishing,
you pressed your ear to my barrel belly.
I begged, please, you, you bait the line.
There is a cabinet with no bones,
a tiny dog shrinks at his bowl.
It is bare. If you become small
you get less of everything.
The cupboard holds on to a wall,
the wall holds down the floor.
The floor has a hole in it
A trap fills with a cave in
of muscle and bone. The dog needs
and paws, belly hollow as a drum
beating the dog, who gets less.
The world’s full of this
sound, the humming contraction,
a song of rats throbbing,
behind walls, their tiny hearts
holding tight to bare cupboards.
Teisha Dawn Twomey received her MFA in Poetry at Lesley University. She is the poetry editor for Wilderness House Literary Review.
Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous print, as well as online poetry publications.
Stopping at an Old Friend’s Apartment Complex
Her mother stood on the rim
of the bathroom sink, smoking
through the ceiling vent
beside the living room smothered
with curtains, the carpet collecting
rent, the answering machine plugged
at the foot of the couch
flicking red messages from
a father who never lived there
and we’d lie on the tufted grass
in front of Building Three
smoking butts from her mom’s purse,
blowing ringlets into the black
of some high school winter
when everything seemed to suck—
I’d count the cars filling
and leaving the lot while she,
stuffed in an orange jacket,
counted the lit windows
turning off one by one.
The Dish Soap
Our dinner plates dimmed
like clouded moons.
My mother watered down
the soap until the red
oozed pink on the soiled sponge.
My father’s work shirts slouched
in a pile at the corner
of the kitchen table. I sat beside them
long past dinner— avoiding
the full glass of milk beside
my elbow fogged
with stains. the white
tainted with apple-juice
bruises, rusted well-water.
Bills and old receipts
leaned like weathered buildings
on the back kitchen sill,
and I stared out that window:
the moon a yellow tablet,
Apology in a Drugstore
I’m sorry I stole
The last tube of Crushed
Crimson Lipstick. Sorry
I bagged groceries instead
of going to prom,
sorry my stubbornness
lasted too long. Being a dark girl
wasn’t easy. You weren’t
cut out for the turmoil without
cause, the quiet spells. I don’t resent
you for that, and I’m sorry
I threw up your birthday
Cake. Sorry I ran your mother’s
treadmill to wire, counting to 500
while you watched sit-coms—
Sorry I left you to the dank
internal rooms of hips and breasts
while my body regressed,
wasting with no logic
other than the urge to scare them.
There are so many apologies
I want to tell the back of your head
but you’re wearing flowers; I still
wear all black. I still breathe
nicotine while you buy Clorox
for your kitchen floor,
but today I’m going to buy lipstick:
not shove it up the sleeve of my sweater.
See, I’ve grown too.
Mary Benson’s writing often stems from service industry jobs and a working class upbringing in rural New Hampshire. She currently lives in Somerville, MA, and earned her MFA in poetry from Lesley University. Her work has appeared in Fried Chicken and Coffee.