by Terry Godbey
I was carrying on about my milestone.
Next door, Rita was carrying on with Earl,
my best friendís father.
No one blamed her. Ritaís husband,
Big Ralph, with flying saucer ears,
a chin that pooled like a doughnut,
never let Rita have any money.
She scrubbed floors at the base hospital,
took care of whiny Little Ralph,
owned exactly two housedresses, both plaid,
of discordant, spectacular hues.
I bounced out of bed on my birthday
to miniskirts and Stones records,
a reprieve from housework,
mushroom steak for dinner.
Mom and I left the dishes to soak,
joined Rita outdoors in the lawn chairs.
Terryís 16 years old today, my mother announced.
Big Ralph, greasy and bent over the hood
of his old Chevy, dragged over a webbed chair,
squeezed into it and pulled me onto his lap.
Sweet sixteen and never been kissed,
he shouted, whacking my bottom
with one meaty paw,
restraining me with the other.
Stop, I yelled.
I slapped and kicked and glimpsed
through his thick, hairy ankles
the upside-down arrival of friends, neighbors.
Iím gonna spank you one time, he said, panting,
I was sorry to be so old, sorrier still
to be so young. My mind spun
with wishes, and not the birthday-candle kind:
may the base commander rip the stripes
off your massive sleeves, may Little Ralph grow
to hate you as much as I do, may Ritaís lovers
line the block. When he finished, I scrambled
to my feet, tried not to cry, snarled That hurt!
Aw, honey, he said, still smiling,
if thatís the worst pain you ever know...
My mother lit another cigarette.
© 2009 Terry Godbey
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Our Lady of Regrets
by Patrick Carrington
She didnít mean to die on Christmas. She did
not mean to loom over every Yule
like a gargoyle. She did not
mean for her children to be the ones
into whom she thrust such sorrow.
What she meant to do was go to Venice.
She meant to spy on the new neighbors.
She meant to repair the birdhouse feedbox
for April, then drag the rest of spring
down from storage. She meant to confess
one day, to the treasures we found later
on our own as we cleaned out
her closet, the photos,
the torn tickets, the love letters from a man
we never knew. She meant to tell us
that time is liquid and spreads and pours out
beyond the memory
if youíre not careful to cup it
and freeze it and preserve it
in a book, a shoebox, that a life is made
of real things. She meant to be there to watch
me go off to fail at law and come home
and go off again to fail at real estate
and return like the sad boy I always was,
to the lemonade and sponge cake
only she knew how to make. She meant
to explain why I should ever bother
to get out of bed again. She meant to be there
to collect all of us, to gather what was broken
in her arms. She meant to tell us how
we are all a lifelong journey
away from splendor, the pristine beauty
that makes a child whole, that growing up,
growing old, ainít for sissies.
She did not mean for us to see
the endless blue geography
of human frailty etched on her skin
like a map. She meant to be in every way
always and instantly beautiful. Mint.
© 2009 Patrick Carrington
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by Jim Daniels
We had no room large enough
to divide, so it stood against the living
room wall where my father had knocked
down the boxy coat closet jutting out
like an abandoned confessional.
Heíd swung his sledge into plaster, white dust
rising like forgiveness, fingerprints dusting
his long-neck bottles lined against the wall.
The room divider displayed my motherís
fake birds and their nests, ceramic Madonnas
or nativities, vases of fake flowers or antique
scout projects, depending on the season.
It covered the bare wall with squares measuring out
our enclosed lives. We had a couch, two chairs,
a lamp, and a TV. Five kids sprawled on the floor,
faces at the set, waiting for somebody to make us
laugh, waiting to change the channel
or argue about it.
I cannot say why the room divider was purchased.
A mystery, like the half-set of encyclopedias
molding in the basement. If weíd had accomplishments,
they would have been displayed there.
In the one drawer, we stored an atlas
that was never touched
and a candy jar that was.
© 2009 Jim Daniels
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by Charles Rammelkamp
Back in the Sixties,
when everybody smoked cigarettes,
my pixyish blond Aunt Sally,
fresh from the shower,
a towel wrapped about her,
modest but provocative,
sprayed her hair (Alberto VO5),
a butt dangling from her mouth.
The hairspray ignited,
her head a halo of fire.
She screamed, the smoke
rolling under the vanity,
her towel falling away.
Eight years old,
I stood outside the bathroom,
door half open,
watching my aunt grab the towel,
smother her head,
as if in some crazy purification rite,
killing the flames before
any serious damage.
Just a kid who assumed
all endings were happy,
I howled at the sight:
my naked aunt, towel over head
like a shroud, fear distorting her features.
Aunt Sallyís open hand
caught me across the cheek,
knocking me backward.
Recovering her composure,
she pulled me to her,
pressing my face against her naked breasts,
the confusing scent of singed hair, tobacco,
her sex wafting up from her lap,
as I watched the small flame
from the linoleum under the vanity
where the cigarette had rolled.
© 2009 Charles Rammelkamp
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