Storm and the Woman by John Grey

storm
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Storm and the Woman
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Jessie was frightened of the lightning.
Not the thunder, that was just noise, and she’d been
married to a man who boxed in his spare time.
And the rain was nothing. In fact, she welcomed the rain.
But lightning could hit any place, any time,
and not just some solitary forest tree or an old barn
about to fall anyhow but a living, breathing human being.
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She sat with this new guy on the couch,
hugged him so close like she was trying to get
inside him for protection.
And then the thunder rolled loud and near.
She shuddered. “I didn’t think you
were afraid of thunder,” he said.
But she’d just remembered the times
her ex whacked her face suddenly, violently.
Lightning, thunder…it was near impossible
to separate the two.
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Then the clouds broke and the rain poured. She started
to sob violently. “Always used to cry like this when he hit me,”
she said. “Maybe you’re different,” she added.
He was. And then eventually storms were different.
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John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work
upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie
Review and failbetter.

The Finding by John D. Robinson

IMG_3131 (4)
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The Finding
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‘You can be saved’
he told me,
‘Like me’
he said,
one time male
prostitute and
heroin addict
who found god and
a woman to
marry and had
children:
‘Saved from what?’
I asked
‘From sin,
from debauchery,
from hell’ he
replied confidently:
3 or 4 years
later he’d left
his wife, moved into
a city
apartment with a
male lover
who died of AIDS
and several months
later he died of a
heroin overdose:
I’m still here,
drinking wine,
smoking hash
and swallowing
pills,
somewhere
between
heaven and hell
we’ll meet again
sometime soon
my friend.
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Two Poems by Joan McNerney

cellar
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Falling Asleep
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Curling into a question mark
                eyes shuttered
                         lips pursed
                               hands empty.
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Dropping through
long dusty shafts
down into dank cellars.
Leaving behind faded day.
.
That last cup of sunlight
pouring from fingertips.
Lulled by rattling trains,
                sighs of motors.
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Bringing nothing but
memory into night.
Now I will  untie knots
                   tear off wrappings
opening wide bundles of dreams.
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How Trouble Grows
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Trouble is patient
hiding around corners.
creeping through shadows
entering without a sound.
.
It starts as a seed blown
by careless winds and
covers your garden with
foul  brackish weeds.
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Or sparks from a match
spread over fertile ground
becoming flames speeding
through the long night.
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Trouble knows where you live.
You cannot hide from it.
Gaining a foothold, growing
fat feeding on your flesh.
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Watch how trouble grows
inch by inch, molecule
by molecule coursing
through your veins.
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Trouble begins as a whisper
day by day growing louder.
Stronger than your heart beat
becoming a thumping drum.
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Soon you will forget
there was a time
when trouble was
not at your side.
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Vivitar

Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work.  Her latest title, The Muse In Miniature, is available on Amazon.

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I Am Afraid of the Dark by Phil Rowan

morgue
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I Am Afraid of the Dark
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Someone is
cleaning the mess
I left behind.
They handle
and caress my body
carefully
which is what I
longed for most of all.
.
Talking about families
and news events,
ignoring the body
sounds and twitches
that are familiar,
I hope they don’t smoke
while doing their work
I’m allergic to tobacco
it makes me cough
uncontrollably.
.
Their work done,
calling it a day,
flip the switch,
leave the room.
I am afraid
of the dark.
.
I naturally want
to curl like a babe
but I can’t move,
the slab is
uncomfortably cold
even for the dead.
Pops and creaks
interrupt the deafening
silence.
Desperate to call out,
hoping I’m not alone,
my tongue,
a leathery flap,
lies still.
I am afraid
of the dark.
I sense a strangeness,
a void,
no rhythmic breathing,
no pulsing sensation,
emptiness.
No activity to gauge my
existence, except…….
mental awareness.
Awareness of no one there
to comfort me in the darkness.
I am afraid
of the dark
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Phil Rowan graduated from Western Kentucky University with a BA in Psychology. He is a self taught artist specializing in landscape and still life.  He has a passion for writing traditional and free verse poetry.
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Big Headed Anna Imagines Herself by Stephanie E. Dickinson

big head

By g emil reutter

We are introduced to Big Headed Anna at birth. Her child mother, boy bodied suffers in child birth. Her baby’s head so big that Anna’s feet were roped to free her from the womb, upon looking at her the young mother fled. Anna took to a cow when left for dead, survived to go on. Or so it is imagined by Anna.

Dickinson has crafted a series of flash fictions that chart the adventures of Big Headed Anna through time and space, of viewing the living and dead, of the life of an outcast from birth who encounters a wide array of characters. Imagined or real? For many who take the time to read this vivid collection, who have suffered from the cruelty of human kind there will be no doubt that the life of Anna could be real. Dickinson’s use of flash fiction to tell the story is simply brilliant as are the images and metaphor that populate this collection.

From Big-Headed Anna Believes Herself as a Strange, Beautiful Name:

“I am eleven years old today and hungry since I ran away from the other place. If I cut my eyelashes there would be no feeling. I would have to move my ear lobe between the grist’s flint or the tip of my nose to understand about touch. To show you how orchids thrive in snow and spongy soil, an earthworm loses its head and grows another. Tallow, bone flesh. My neck thinks of me as its lily. Wandering toward the French Quarter under talon of moon, I sing in a beautiful whisper. Hush little brittlestar who lives underewater. My big head hides under my bigger hat. I shiver listening to the river, the cotton barges.”

Big Headed Anna suffers the indignity and violence of rape, unable to see her attacker, a bag covering her head. And when she gives birth, her child stolen from her, carried away her only comfort is knowing the child has a normal head. Many of the flash describe her efforts to find her child.

From Big Headed Anna Listens to the Last Sound in the Grass:

“I am braised with malaria and yellow fever, and I sink deeper into the bittersweet. I am haul and lumber. An unmarked grave on Rampart Street where traveling workers make prayers has seen my child alive. A raven brings them bread and flesh. The lost Creole spirits sheltering them on houseboats tell me to lift the tablecloth where oysters are set down with comets.”

Dickenson has weaved these stories together as a master quilter, each strand interwoven, each resulting image full of color and metaphor. The stories take place between 1900 and 1933, a harsh time in America, a harsh time for those who appear a bit different from the majority, a harsh time for the poor during a time of exurbanite wealth and decline. Although dream like in its presentation the supporting characters are developed with words and images reflecting a beauty and realism to this work. Yet like a master quilter, Dickinson has created a body of work in this collection always with an underlying love for its central character.

You can find Big Headed Anna Imagines Herself here: https://www.amazon.com/Big-Headed-Imagines-Herself-Stephanie-Dickinson/dp/108723655X/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1572125064&refinements=p_27%3AStephanie+E+Dickinson&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Stephanie+E+Dickinson

g emil reutter can be found here: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

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The Big Impossible by Edward J. Delaney

imposs

By Charles Rammelkamp

The characters in Edward J. Delaney’s stories are all trying to figure out who they are, how they fit in.  “Writer Party,” an amusing story about self-absorbed writers hobnobbing at a cocktail gathering, begins, “I’m not really a writer; it’s just that I write.” And again, in the chapter of the novella, The Big Impossible, called “Buried Men,” the narrator, who more than once observes, “I was used to being invisible,” recounts a conversation with another itinerant worker. “We know you,” the man says, “The tall guy. The one who used to work with is. The one with the leather jacket,” each statement underscoring the ultimate unknowability of any of us. Home after the cocktail party, the narrator of “Writer Party” observes in conclusion: “I keep trying to convince myself that I’m not actually a writer.”

And more often than not, at the heart of the question, who am I? is a sense of guilt. In the first story, “Clean,” narrated in the second person, the protagonist spends his whole life with the secret that he killed another boy when he was sixteen locked in his skull. How often has he wanted to confess? After years, when it looks like his companion might tell the truth, “you were giddy that the secret might come out.” As the former munchkin from The Wizard of Oz, whom the protagonist of The Big Impossible encounters in a motel in Kansas, observes, “Living like you’re comfortable with what life deals you, that’s the big impossible sometimes.”

Indeed, the protagonist of “Street View” is very uncomfortable with his origins; possibly ashamed of his social status as a child, from a broken home, he collects academic degrees and becomes a hot shot professor at Harvard, puts distance between who he is now and who he was then. He is thrown off his game by a girlfriend he meets at UCLA, Estelle, who seems to intuit his origins. When he dumps her, “Not unexpected” she said. “Because you know that I know.” Spooked, he asks her what it is she knows, and her reply: “”You know that, too.”

David, the protagonist of the story by the same name, a school shooter, always picked on by the popular kids, likewise feels “invisible,” evaluates other kids as characters in a video game. Only at the end, when he acts out with a gun at school, is arrested and put in prison, does he see that he is “not invisible any longer.” But he has been “reduced to being a single entity, the least of what he was.” He feels he’s more than the freak people take him to be, but the story ends, “he tried to imagine who he might have thought he actually was.”

Many of these stories take place in New England.  The novella House of Sully that makes up the middle section of the book and the bulk of narrative, is a first-person account from the perspective of a teenage boy in a provincial Irish Catholic family in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in the tumultuous year of 1968. Jarred is trying to come to grips with the world. Only a boy of ten when JFK was assassinated, by the time Bobby Kennedy is shot, he’s on the verge of adulthood and coming to terms with politics, Vietnam, the Prague Spring, integration (Dorchester is becoming more black), even fashion. Air-conditioning, credit cards, are new. His parents’ “incorrigible squareness.” The bell-bottom trousers that he covets and which horrify his parents are at the tender heart of this story.  His mother, a good Irish housewife, suddenly wants a job of her own and out her marriage with Sully, a self-employed house painter. In August, Jarred and his father “sat down that night to watch the Democratic Convention in a way one might have The Friday Night Fights.” Mayor Daley’s Chicago.

In the midst of these upheavals, Jarred is very much trying to understand who he is and where his destiny lies.  Should he drop out of school? He’s suddenly in the minority and what good is “education,” anyway? In a final section set in 2001, when he comes back home to bury his father, the results of his decisions in that critical year are made manifest. And the mystery of the bell-bottom trousers that he was sure his parents had stolen and destroyed is solved!

In contrast to the first two sections, the third section, the novella, The Big Impossible, takes place out west, in the plains states. The protagonist doesn’t seem so much to be trying to understand who he is as trying to forget who he was, to erase his presence, start all over. It’s 1959, and he’s headed west. “I was living my life in small cycles, the way a man crossing a tough river thinks only of the next rock to grab.”

But even he, toward the end of the narrative, in older age, settles down with the single mother of a drunken sluttish girl, with whom he “adopts” the slut’s offspring, a kid named Bitsy. “I’d learned how not to be noticed,” he observes, summing up his life thus far, “how to make myself an ignored man.”

Only, guilt plagues the nameless narrator of this novella in the end, too, inevitable as sunrise.

There is a real depth of feeling in these stories, all of which follow lives from their beginnings to their ends. “And then, in old age, the reckoning,” as he writes in “My Name is Percy Atkins.”  These stories resonate with the reader, long after putting the book down.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Big-Impossible-Novellas-Stories/dp/1885983743/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Big+Impossible+by+Edward+J.+Delaney&qid=1572174333&sr=8-1

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was recently published by Future Cycle Press.