“Epiphany” – A Short Story by Clark Zlotchew

 

             There you are, five years old, left in the care of a baby-sitter for only an hour in a nearby playground.  Marcy is a fifteen-year-old neighbor.  You heard your mother’s instructions to the girl, including not to give you any sweets because it might ruin your appetite for dinner.  It is a very hot day, the kind that turns the roadway into a melted sea of sticky macadam.  When the ice cream truck stops, Marcy buys a chocolate fudge popsicle and begins to eat it.  You have just jumped off the swing to stare at that delicious ice cream.     

            Marcy watches you as you longingly gaze at that popsicle, and she finally says, “Aw, I know you’d like a popsicle too, Richie, but your mom said you were not to have any sweets before supper.  I’m sorry.”  She shrugs and affectionally touches your cheek.

            The heat causes the popsicle to start melting and trickle slowly down the stick onto her hand and wrist and drip onto the ground.  But your attention drifts from the coveted popsicle to this very pretty girl.

            Marcy, all smiley and brimming with affection, bends down to get closer to your face and speak to you.  She asks all kinds of questions, laughs good-naturedly at your answers –even though you don’t think you’re being humorous– and pats your head and shoulder.  When she touches you, it sends a soothing vibration all the way down your spine and into your pelvis. Soothing, yet exciting.        

            There is something about her…  She makes you feel weird.  Not bad weird.  No, a good weird.  Yet…  You just cannot understand it.  She seems so interested in you and your thoughts.  And her face is so pretty.  You want to look at her forever, at her magically beautiful face, with its dark-chocolatey eyes and black lashes, framed by a curtain of dark brown, almost black hair that reaches past her shoulders.   And at her tanned arms against the white of her summer dress, her bare, magnificently curved calves below the hemline, above it, the shadowy suggestion of full, smooth thighs…   You are captivated by the mystery veiled yet intriguingly suggested under the diaphanous fabric of her clothing, the outline of her body –slender in some places, curvaceously wide in others– even the glossy texture of her skin…  She seems to glow…

            Her long, dark hair surges forward, framing her face and grazing your forehead, as she leans over to talk to you.  An intoxicating fragrance emanates from those tresses.  Your attention shifts when you notice she keeps slipping her foot in and out of her sandal as she speaks to you.  Her foot is so graceful; the instep is deeply tanned but the arch is much paler.  And her toenails are painted red.  You have a frightening urge to kiss that foot, but simultaneously feel shame for having that desire.

            You are only five years old and have not a clue as to why you have those feelings.  Marcy is just an ordinary teenage girl, but there is something magical about her, something unfathomable.  She seems to radiate a kind of luminescence, a force, a magnetism…  If you knew the word, or even the concept, you would think she is a goddess.  To your childish mind she is divine, in the literal sense of the word.

            And her speech…  The way she speaks to you, the caressing tone of voice, the lilting intonation, even the quality of her silky-satin voice, has a deep effect.  Listening to the music of her voice as she speaks to you is mesmerizing.  It soothes you, like the smooth hand of a woman stroking your neck.  You are enthralled, hypnotized.  You cannot budge from the spot, from her magnetic presence.  If she were to ask you to go home with her, you would.  Gladly.

            You experience pleasure gazing at her, hearing her voice and having her touch you…  But all that produces a kind of irritation as well, an itch in your soul that you cannot scratch.  It makes you yearn for something to happen.  Something… Yet you haven’t the remotest idea of what that something might be. 

            As she speaks to you, she touches your head, your cheek, your arm, while smiling so warmly, showing white teeth framed by luscious pink lips.  And through all this she continues to lick her fudgy popsicle, and suck on it, moving it back and forth between her pursed lips.  When she notices the melting chocolate dripping down her wrist she raises the popsicle to a point higher than her mouth, turning it so that the wooden handle is higher than the ice cream, in order to catch the drippings on her extended tongue, and she then applies that pink tongue to her wrist to lick the sticky-sweet molten cream so it won’t run down and dribble onto her white cotton dress.

            Marcy finally notices your gazing at her mouth as she holds the popsicle to her lips. She erroneously assumes it is the ice cream that holds your attention, and, despite your mother’s instructions, offers you some.  You let her place the end of the melting cream against your lips and bite off a piece, the piece that she has just been licking and which has just been in her beautiful mouth.  This thrills you for reasons you cannot comprehend. The experience is ineffable.  It is a kind of communion, even though, child that you are, you would not understand that word.  You feel a mysterious connection between yourself and Marcy.  Between her and yourself and something invisible but immense and powerful. 

 

 

Clark Zlotchew is a veteran academic and creative writer of several books of poetry and fiction. For more information, visit https://www.clarkzlotchew.com/

Poems by D. S. Maolalai

 

How can you write

 

now? she asked me.

are you not

as tired

as I am?

 

we had just gotten finished

with a meal with my family.

it one of those endless

long days on a sunday,

and especially hot,

when skin bakes to footpaths

and dogs walk a little

and then fall asleep

beneath dandelions

grown from the corners

of empty buildings

where the pavement

makes cracks with

neglect.

 

I had told her when they left

that I would do

a little writing. got a bottle

from the fridge

and had gone to the other room

and she had followed me

to ask it. what a life –

I had a certain feeling. if I didn’t

get it down, this sleepiness

of a meal on a hot day

and company, and milky coffee,

I would lose it

and didn’t want to,

that is all.

 

 

Terriers

 

bottles bounce

and clip my ankles

like I’m walking through baskets

of terriers. they’ve moved the recycling

centre; now I must go

20 minutes, dragging my empire

along with the dog on her leash.

it’s fine – they are heavy,

but never too heavy – 

just two plastic bags and some dogshit

on a Saturday. fresh as clean pennies

and laundry from laundry

machines. and I don’t go

if the weather

is not clear as bedsheets. the weight

of bottles sweats

me; we smell

together like old beer. mainly

the bags do, but I must confess

to some fault also. I enjoy it. recycling.

pushing my past

to the future.

when I drop them

down in the chute. listening.

hearing them break.

 

The glass of soda

 

the air comes thick

and sticky; a patio

park picnic table

and a waspish and cold

glass of soda. light

getting everywhere,

pleasant as crawling insects.

 

buildings buckle,

tumbling summer heat,

which rocks them

and knocks them to pieces

and somebody drops

their sandwich, and ducks

past the following

birds. smoke rises

 

above each litter bin.

it moves in the wind

like laundry,

and laundry,

hanging on balconies

steams as it bleaches

and cracks.

 

cars sink on hot corners,

smoothly as lizards

on rocks.

someone drinks a glass

of warm soda, and looks

through their glass

at the sun.

 

 

DS Maolalai has been nominated nine times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

Interview with Aakar Patel

 

Plato’s Caves is proud to present an interview with noted columnist and author Aakar Patel where he talks about the state of the nation with illuminating insights, startling data and stimulating reflections for all those who are interested to know more about the crises that have gripped the nation.

Watch it here on our Youtube channel: https://youtu.be/YkODTucZcLk

 

 

Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist. He is a former newspaper editor, having worked with the Bhaskar Group and Mid Day Multimedia Ltd. He is the author of Our Hindurashtra. What it is. How we Got Here. His articles have regularly appeared in The Times of India, The Indian Express, Outlook, Scroll.in, Firstpost, Deccan Herald, Business Standard, National Herald and countless other prestigious publications over the years. He was also the former Chair of Amnesty International India.

Poems by John Grey

 

VACATION POEM

 

Today, we fly south,

a week in Florida,

a respite from the chill,

the job, the stress,

seven whole days

of basking on a beach,

sipping margaritas

and, with my doctor well out

of earshot,

whatever suits my hunger.

 

Off come the shackles,

the regimen, the rigors,

replaced by ill-fitting swim trunks,

flowery shirts

and chest-glistening oil.

 

If I was Gaugin,

there’d be no conditions

on my freedom

like the fact that my ticket’s

a return.

I’d be on this lifetime vacation

in Tahiti

but I lack the nerve…

and the oil paints.

 

So a week it is

and then

back to all I thought

I was escaping from.

The dictionary defines vacation

as a respite, an exemption,

a suspension.

To me it’s life’s codicil.

Temporarily modifying.

Permanently overruled.

 

OLD LOVES IN THEIR NEW PACKAGING

 

It can’t be her but it is.

The hair’s cut just below the ears.

The eyes are green

but without sparkle.

Rose cheeks have withered.

Throat and chins have doubled.

The body’s left its old curves way behind.

 

She looks at me,

gaze equally bewildered.

Yes, I’m in here somewhere.

 

And yet, the more we talk,

the more familiar everything becomes.

The faces, the shapes,

aren’t so different anyhow.

When we speak of the old days,

we grow younger by the minute.

 

“Remember when…”

“What about…”

“And then we…”

 

We hear voices

loud and clear

and convincing.

We know these people.

 

SYNTACTIC ANALYSIS

 

A noun is something real.

A lion is a lion

whether in a cage in the zoo

or stalking antelope on the savannah.

And a cop is a cop.

One pulled me over for speeding

and his uniform, his badge,

left no doubt as to exactly what he was.

Not a priest. Not a kangaroo.

But a c-o-p cop.

 

A verb though is something else entirely.

Yes, I can stare directly at a verb in action

but there’s still no guarantee

I won’t mistake loving for hating,

or giving for taking.

 

Adjectives are easier to deal with.

I may get them wrong

but it’s no matter.

The woman I call lovely

may actually be shrewish.

The kind face could be cruel.

They’re personal opinions

so who can disagree?

 

Adverbs I could care less about.

They’re leeches, nothing on their own.

Not an elephant or a building

among the lot of them,

Prepositions are too insignificant

to worry about.

And pronouns are just the opposite –

too huge, too everywhere at once,

to get a bead on.

 

For example, you used to be a noun – woman.

But now you’re you – a pronoun –

though you think you’re really I.

When I try to make sense of this

I end up in confusion – which is a noun –

 

A Conversation with Dr. Nabanipa Bhattacharjee on Bengali Identity in North East India

This is the first online Interview showcased by Plato’s Caves. Abin Chakraborty and Sayan Aich Bhowmik talk to Dr. Nabanipa Bhattacharjee on the complex history and cultural condition of Bengalis in North East India.

Watch it here on our youtube channel: https://youtu.be/Dbd5poWBJZ4 

 

 

Dr. Nabanipa Bhattacharjee teaches at the Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi, New Delhi.

Poems by Tracy Powers

 

 

Senses

 

I’ve always loved the aesthetic

Of neon reflections, on wet streets below

Liquid stained glass in the black of night

Black of pavement

Flowing downward in vibrant hues

Paint kissed by turpentine

Warm rain, I adore

When it trickles down in rhythm

To leave a thousand butterfly kisses

Inside your pores

While the sun shines through

Lustrous and bright

Two worlds that don’t belong together

But opposites attract, I guess

 

The cuddle of silken kitten fur

In a windowsill filled of hazy morning light;

Soft pillows, plush velvet blankets

Fresh & new on store shelves

 

Soundwaves of pleasure

moaned in secret electric whispers

Into a lover’s ears;

Scent of butter, salt, and oil

While viewing the latest blockbuster;

Taste of roasted coffee,

And tangy sweetness of a perfect mimosa

On a summer Sunday afternoon

 

All around

All simple

All Loved

 

 

A Mountain Pictorial

 

Open the pages

A pictorial

Life of the mountain folk

Left side, there’s Anna

Time worn in soul and shirt

Standing by her prized canning station

Jars of pickled wares to her right and left

A mountain of glassed goods

 

To the right

Here’s Robert

Stocky, sturdy, callused

All red flannel & Mack Truck, scrambled egg snapback

Showing off his antique coal stove

That once warmed the hearts and hands of old-timers

At the woodbare, wood floor country store

 

And I always wonder why, in these photos

Unlike the so-called city dwellers

They never, ever smile –

Interviews talk of pride and joy

Family and rural fortunes

But cameras display steel face and stone

 

They have a different view of love

I suppose to myself

A kind that thrives on self-reliance

Instead of fake, toothy champagne grins

A variety where survival becomes a goal

And not a bare minimum

Togetherness, community unlocks

A hope chest of the past

And unveils a mystery hidden

From urban worlds

Now in my hands, printed & bound

 

 

The Killing Floor

 

Within the walls of a factory farm

Or commercial slaughterhouse

One truth is clear

The animals don’t have names

No Bessie or Arnold

Just pierced ears & industrially numbered tags

How many calves did that one cow have? Where was that chicken hatched alive?

How much was put into raising that plump pig?

No one knows

And no one cares to know

To be frank

Nothing comes to light

 

Why would this be?

It’s simple

When choosing to see the creatures of the field before them

As pure meat

A symbol of want

And reduced to members of a nameless, faceless legion

The means to an end

Killing is easier

 

Inside those buildings

Built on blood and bone

You come to fathom the dangers of hate

“Just words”? Well, yes

But words of spite, ignorance, hate

Are woven by design 

To view their victims into unknown beasts

barely human

 

And for those with the sharpened axe on their tongue

Pneumatic gun in their hands at the ready

Thought will all too often lead to action

By their hand, their own

Or have a hand in inciting

The bloodlust in others

 

And then, to them

It’s time for the slaughter

But hey, they’ll tell you – it doesn’t matter They were just meat, anyway

 

It could be argued, of course

That often the need to disconnect

To process, to pack, to classify

Is an ugly necessity to those

Who crave meaty wares,

But we are not animals. 

 

Outside the 4 walls of that place

When considering human mammals

We have the ability to see beyond

A name, who they are

Far more than what group they may fall into.

But when we give in to spite

 A curious yet dangerous phenomenon- Some will do nothing less than reduce those they hate,

 for whatever reason, to nothing more than unseasoned meat

Trapped in stalls and ripe for the killing floor

To justify harming “the other”

With words or actions

Void of normal guilt

 

Or even to feel righteous

Exude dominance over those they see

As simple livestock and property

Cookie-cutter beasts

 

Let that settle in

And send a chill down your spine –

The lock of the gate clicks and rattles

Time for the slaughter

 

 

Tracy Powers is based in Oak Ridge, TN, and her writing is often inspired by the ‘traces and places’ she has experienced in life – and even some she has just dared to dream about. Her publication history includes ‘Vision’ – LiteraryYard.com, “Firestarter” –  Ariel Chart, & “The Field” – Kingdoms in the Wild. In addition, my first poetry collection chapbook ‘The Dragon’s Den’ is available on Amazon.com.

Poems and Paintings by Tamizh Ponni VP

 

The Reflection

This day began like all other days

Taking a long hard look

at the magnificent piece of polished metal 

Both the subject and the object 

broken and losing their sheen.

Neither a fabricated expression

nor a vinegar,soap water spray

could restore their lost elegance.

TAMIZH 2

Years and years ago,

grandeur and glamour were all it rendered.

While squandering all the precious hours

when the only mess to fret about

was a lonely zit on his swarthy chin.

Times have changed

Predicaments have evolved

Priorities have shifted

Lessons were learnt

Now there’s just one disappointment

standing as a sombre visual

running over the rococo’s surface.

Something wicked from the unknown realm

sneered at him unkindly,

‘What a pathetic travesty of youth!

Just a shadow of his former self.’

He is weak, empty, craving for care

But dark as the vast abyss

A camouflaged narcissist!

As the cracks of the fractured glass

branched out to bedeck the boring plane

perfecting his diabolical facade,

the world will never get to know

one frightful naked truth

that the mirror and its muse

were beyond repair and forever scarred. 

TAMIZH 1

 

 

Moon Girl

Her imperfections looked flawless from afar

Though bonded against her will

to the breeze and black clouds.

She glowed under the borrowed light

Truly sun-kissed

The lone orb of the night

Earth’s solitary satellite

When lonely hearts yearned for closeness,

they gazed up to her and the stars 

in the stillness of the angelic night 

thinking about their first and last,

calling to mind, their bittersweet past. 

She became the transmitter of

hackneyed phrases and lovelorn messages

concocted with worthless words and bogus emotions

at least for the most part.

Oceans, Mountains, Peaks and Valleys,

Shelters and streets, big and small

were embellished with her silver glaze.

TAMIZH 3

 

Darkness played a primary part

Appearing quiet and queerly nonchalant,

it didn’t need her acceptance 

for she’s busy basking in her vainglory.

Pride consumed her long ago.

Although it’s an acquired beauty

with distance and luminescence

concealing her greyish grotesque craters,

there’s no one to stop this radiant shrew .

Through periodic manipulative reshaping,

her beauty takes different forms

like an oriental dancer’s curves

shimmying to the Arabic tunes.

A perverse version of Hide and seek

remains to be her preferred pastime.

She rides and rushes through the skies,

disregarding the world below,

airily asserting to the whole lot,

“I am the only precious thing you’ve got.”

 

TAMIZH 4

 

 

Tamizh Ponni worked as Design Facilitator in an International School, Bengaluru, India. Tamizh sees learning as a never-ending process and with technology integration, it gives her an interesting dimension to knowledge acquisition and skill-building. Tamizh spends most of her free time painting, reading, writing articles, stories and poems, playing keyboard and watching documentaries/movies.

Poems by Joan McNerney

 

 

“A” train

brassy blue

electric

bleeds upon rails.

blue, white flashes

leap forward.

they move, they move

constantly they move.

close your eyes

watch points

like stars

think now

how insignificant

you are

compared to train

speaking for itself

stars known

in no language

shooting

thru tiger’s eyes

brain in

constant action

reaction

to what we do not know

plans of distant stars

galaxies floating by as

“A” train

silver worm

bursting through

big belly of city

 

 

 

Shimmering

 

That summer I wanted to

take off all my clothes.

Be naked under the sun.

Tango all over warm grass,

so warm, warm.

 

Noontime perfumed berries

and lush grass.  Beneath honey

locust through hushed woods

We found this spring,

a secret susurrus disco.

 

My feet began two-stepping

over slippery pebbles. 

Threading soft water, the sun

dresses us in golden sequins.

 

Your hand reaches for me.

 

 

Almost…

 

As if you could come so swiftly

unnoticed like butterflies tapping

wild flowers with soft yellow wings.

 

Appearing before me quietly

while morning mist curls through

coolness of mint-green spring.

 

You walking over roads through

fields where tree shadows make

heavy slants against the sun.

 

As alive as day…saying my name…

filling me up with the taste of you…

kissing my mouth awake again.

 

By touch and whisper how we would

imitate long leaves weaving, undulating

and finally surrendering to silence.

 

 

Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many 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 Journals, and numerous Poets’ Espresso Reviews have accepted her work.  She has four Best of the Net nominations.  Her latest titles are The Muse in Miniature and Love Poems for Michael both available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net

Poems by Amitava Nag

 

City Crimes

 

As we sit back, distant and lazy,

the omnipresent crowd all around us

waiting and watching not as vultures,

but as crows,

circling with disrespectful tyranny,

We all turn to respectable criminals,

respectable – as our dresses allow us to be,

 

Just like the coins,

occasional notes, crumpled, treasured

in the tin box of the street beggar in the cities,

I count the essays,

website references, Google coins

the importance of paper –

the command of the impotent,

as cities turn to papers,

and lust wither without a sense of living.

 

In the cities, the beggars wait at a place

and walkers circle unknowing,

 

The cities grow towards the south

the cities grow in the north,

the cities arise and grow taller and taller

out of our needs and desires,

an expression of its own folds,

the cities become crimes that we always dream of committing.

 

 

 

 

Everything has a name

 

How absurd is it that

Everything has a name,

Every body part –

the tiniest tentacles,

the largest gland,

the vilest bile,

not a single left for my imagination,

 

Even the birds, mammals, reptiles,

my favourite fish –

Their sounds, how they look, what they eat,

Filling colours in children’s books

Robbing them off fairy tales,

 

Now, as I grow old,

I wish not to know the names,

To detach myself from the pleasures of equilibrium,

the tranquil sangfroid at the time of being lost,

For once not to believe –

everything has a name,

nothing is me.

 

 

Amitava Nag writes poetry and short fiction in English and Bengali with anthologies published in both the genres and in both the languages. Amitava also writes extensively on cinema and has authored 6 books till date. He has been the editor of ‘Silhouette’ film magazine since 2001.