“When I’m Small” by Dan A. Cardoza

 

When you’re small, you forget most thatched conversations you have with adults. They tend to leave you restless and uninspired. Some bellow your emotional ambers so hot they glow when you’re lectured or you’ve taken insult.

Mother’s do’s and don’ts: Do your damned homework. Don’t piss the sheets again or I’ll sign you up for gross swimming lessons. You’re too sensitive, everything upset you.  

Timmy’s mother seemed calmer. He was my best friend. Even her name was as smooth as chiffon, Sharin. Her’s was an egregious name, even for the 90’s. Not sure how we ended up alone. How I got the courage?

“Ms. Beauchêne, can I ask…?”

“You just did.” She’d said with the wryest of smiles. I blushed.

I was caught off guard, dropped both of eyes on the travertine kitchen floor. Her floor was sticky, a little unkempt. It was hard to pick them up. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Questions at home were treated as dirty words.

“Why do you wear a platform shoe on your right foot?” It blurted out, not me.

Her head didn’t move to where I pointed.

“Hot-damned, you caught me off guard!” Somehow, her infectious grin lowered my shoulders.

“I’m sorry, I’m just…”

“Curious?” She quipped, forecasting my clumsy words “The short answer? When I’m squared away up here, and my shoulders don’t slope like a mouse. I can see almost anyting. Levi, I was born this way, one darned leg taller than the other.

“Mmm…What?”

“Ok, I can see you’re a very curious boy, a boy with a stallion’s heart, very sensitive. I like that you have the courage to ask steep questions worth climbing.”

“Climbing?”

“You’ll know exactly what I mean someday. It’s from high places that kindness and pathos come into focus, crystal clear at times.”

“I see where you’re going.  I hide things good, deep inside, down here, especially when I slump.”

“It’s a good thing Levi, mindfulness. One day, you’ll look back and be thankful you are strong and kind, sweet attributes that are delicious all gummed-up together.”

I left Bobby’s house that day, a little confused, wearing a smile you wouldn’t dare leave behind.

~~~

Enough time has passed. Looking back is something I do more often. Things are clearer up here, especially from an adult vantage point. As adults, we can see so much more, especially when we have things to overcome.

It’s been nearly five years now, since Massie and I buried Carysa, our stillborn. We named her Carysa just because she was beautiful. There’s something not right about placing a tiny something in such a deep hole.

It was eerie up here, at the unattended funeral, just the two of us, a shovel and a dozen red roses from Costco. I can still recall the playful breeze that day. We shared it with Carysa. It had bounded in from the west. It was a gift from our future.

The Cumuli’s bristles were as soft as a baby brush, not one ounce of rain in their pouches. We watched as the funny shaped clouds hopped through the valley all day before ditching town.

Come next July, I’m hoping the pain cuts as dull as a butter knife. If so, Massie and might return and look for Carysa, up on the henna hill, overlooking the Hollowsworth Cemetery. We’ll fox our eyes beyond all the headstones, toward the horizon, mindful of all the weather ahead.

 

 

Dan A. Cardoza’s poetry, fiction and non-fiction have been published in BlazeVOX, Bull, Cleaver, Coffin Bell, Entropy, Gravel, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Poetry Northwest, Spelk, and Your Impossible Voice. He has also been nominated for Best Micro Fiction, Tiny Molecules, 2020 and Best Poetry, Coffin Bell, 2020.

“The Swing Set” by Niles M. Reddick

 

“It’s not fair,” she yelled at Ms. Yvonne, the third-grade teacher. Ms. Yvonne snatched Sandy off the ground, little dust clouds rose around her, and pulled Sandy toward the principal’s office. Ms. Yvonne looked back at Mark and told him not to move, that she was coming back for him. Sandy sprayed blood all over Ms. Yvonne’s dress, blood from a busted lip and a missing front tooth, and within fifteen minutes, Sandy’s mother was in the office demanding justice from Mark and his parents and pulling Sandy to the car for a quick trip to Doc Johnson for a stitch or two.

 Ms. Yvonne was sick of Mark, was sick of his bullying kids in class and on the playground, was sick of his smart-aleck comments in class about what he had already learned at some fancy private school up North, and she didn’t care if his parents were part owners in the mill. She was going to take pleasure in witnessing the principal paddle him. She’d make sure he hit him hard, hard enough that Mark’s heals on his shoes would rise up off the floor, hard enough that his behind would have imprint of the paddle and its holes, and hard enough that it would beat the meanness out of him and the Southern hospitality into him. 

“We just can’t have this,” she told the principal privately in the office with the door closed while Mark sat outside and sulked in a straight back chair next to the bulletin board with cut outs of cheery cardboard kids playing ball, and learning math, all leading to a futuristic scene with graduation hats and diplomas. 

“But you know who his parents are, right?”

            “I don’t care who his parents are. They probably could use a paddling, too.”

            “You and I both know that’s not gonna happen.”

            “We’d do it for every other student, so we can’t treat him any differently and besides, he deserves every lick he gets.”

            “I know. I’ve heard from all of you. We’ll get it over with then. Bring him in.”

            “Mark, you understand the significance of your behavior?”

            “I guess. Well, face that wall.”

            Mark was whimpering before the principal pulled the paddle from the side drawer in his desk. “Can’t you suspend me instead?”

            “Certainly not. You’re not going to stay home and play. You’ll go back to class right after the paddling. Put your hands on the wall.”

            “But I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Before Mark knew it, the principal had whacked him once, his heals lifted off the ground, and he began to cry. The principal did it two more times, and Mark rubbed his bottom through his Levi’s

            “Now, get back to your class.” Mark scurried down the hall, and Ms. Yvonne followed happy to have him finally punished and hopeful that he might change. He stood by his desk, the other kids gawking at him, and he continued to rub his bottom.

            “Sit down, Mark,” she barked.

            “I don’t think I can.”

            “You can and will,” she snapped.

            Mark sat in his desk and moved around and around. “Let this be a lesson to all of you that you shouldn’t bully anyone in or out of class, especially little girls.”

            Mark’s parents complained to the superintendent, the principal got a reprimand and decided he would move to the city system the next year and leave the county school system to deal with its politics. Sandy returned to school the next day with two stitches in her upper lip and all the students oohed and aahed and asked if it had hurt, and Mark whispered to her, “You call me a loser again, I’ll get you after school on your walk home, and there won’t be a paddling.”

            “I’m sorry, Mark,” Sandy said. “I’ll push you on the swings at recess.”

            “Okay,” he said.

            At recess, Sandy pushed Mark higher and higher, pushed the other empty swing in front of him, and he crashed to the ground. He didn’t breathe, but his eyes darted around. Sandy yelled to Ms. Yvonne, “Mark fell” and bent down to Mark. “Don’t mess with me again, boy.”

            “Mark, do you need to see the nurse?” Ms. Yvonne asked.

            “I don’t think so,” he said.

            “You be more careful, hear?” 

            “Yes mam.”

            Ms. Yvonne turned toward Sandy. “Thank you, Sandy, for letting me know even after Mark was mean to you yesterday.”

            “Yes mam,” she said, her tooth missing when she smiled and a stitch poking out like a fleck of food from the lunchroom left unwiped.

           

 

 

Niles Reddick is author of a novel, two collections, and a novella. His work has been featured in seventeen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in over three hundred publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Citron Review, The Boston Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Storgy.

Poems by Tali Cohen Shabtai

 

 

Such a therapist 

 

I play games in my mind – behind papers never

Written about the tired person I am –

 

She’s trying to praise my grief

On papers gone to early retirement

On shelves of book stores

Where the bourgeois are the first clients to borrow

The fairy tale that’s posted in Friday’s edition of a

Leftist Magazine

 

She’s trying to decorate me with

A lower analogy of R.I.P. poets

Who produced the best comedies

Of their life

By blank papers and faked orgasm

And ending

As their own hangmen

 

But She, She must be warned! It’s a static position!

 

« A woman who gets lost,

Lost

In translation »

Will never be tested twice

Not in this scenario

 

My Doctor

 

I have

My own “Thousand”

Carrying your signture.

 

I wear them as an amulet–

 

Much like Umm Kulthum’s scarf amulet

The one she carried at every performance,

With a Thousand seeds of Parisian cocIne in it

 

I walk with them–

 

Like the thousand chemicals

In the poison that

Nietzsche carried permanently

In his pocket

 

But I don’t praise it–

 

So don’t ever try to train my brains

To be pleased

You know my heroes,

I was happy before I knew them

 

Before I barely knew

The difference between you and

A passer-by.

 

Dear poem 

 

I offered congratulations from this morning to tomorrow

even though I was corrected regarding the date of birth.

How do I explain that a person

has no idea when

he will end his life this time around?

 

I write to my mother my love for her

in the most unexpected moments

of tribute

how will I explain that perhaps it is the penultimate

greeting of a daughter to her mother before the present

cuts

the latter and not the resurrected midwife

from the year 80

the umbilical cord between me

and her placenta and not to give birth

to me again? but to kill.

 

I look at my father and cry for another

twenty years or so

that he will not be here

I was ahead of the artist to “grow and sanctify her great name”

in the Kaddish prayer in the twilight hour in Sacker Park.

I shed a tear.

 

If you live in consciousness as I wrote

“God does not pass over life from man, as he does not

pass over death.”

 

You are the most miserable person there is, with such insight

you do not enjoy a single piece of bread and no

drink.

You are dead.

 

3 Stars

 

There’s a whole world

waiting for you

around the darker

corner of life

 

in which

you are adept enough to sort clothes

of the same

ethnic group of

the black cloth

of your life.

 

If you hadn’t been a little better

than the decorations that would add

figurativeness

 

so as to decorate the rhetoric

of the black cloth of your life

 

I promise you that you would

get

to see

a star fall in the dark! 

 

Tali Cohen Shabtai, is a poet, she was born in Jerusalem, Israel.

Tali has written three poetry books:” Purple Diluted in a Black’s Thick“, (bilingual 2007), “Protest” (bilingual 2012) and “Nine Years  From You” (2018).

“Home is Grandma’s Butterfly Breath in a Guava Tree” – by Bhaswati Ghosh

 

Home is a kidnapper who has finally made you submit to its territory, mapped and unmapped.

Home is your first partner in crime who, by introducing you to its hidden corners, gives a toddler you a taste of what manipulating adults with pranks feels like.

Home is the no-nonsense courtroom, where, you, still a toddler, take the gods to task by bashing up their idols at the altar for denying your grandma her own house.

Home is the compassionate table fan that breezes through the room on a hot summer day as Rafi and Geeta Dutt croon aankhon-hi-aankho-mein on the radio and two children – your brother and you – sprawl on the cool cement floor of a government quarter to hurry through your summer holiday homework.

Home is the indulgent playground overlooking that same government quarter where children make friends over hopscotch and their mothers, knitting buddies, on charpaais.

Home is the confused late-entry hero that is finally grandma’s own house. Its dust and half walls hold you in a perplexed daze. Your brother, yet to reach his teens, brings you back to reality as he returns with a pot of rice he’s managed to cook in the half-baked kitchen of this unfinished structure.

Home is the jealous new paara, neighbourhood, who estranges you from old friends and the loving playground with its consolatory offer of a cricket-colonized back street and stock loneliness.

Home is the keen, encouraging listener of your early-morning and late-evening riyaaz that mother helps add melody to with the harmonium she buys you off months of savings.

Home is the generous open terrace that grows in personality as you do in age – as your study-time ally in your yet-to-be-teen, mellow winter afternoons; as the host of a star-draped night sky beckoning you to let go in your ambivalent early 20s; as your gym and fitness partner later, when you do learn to let go.

Home is the comforting pal your grandfather brings you back to from the bus stop every evening after school. It’s where grandma waits with hot food and a listening ear for all your school stories, helping you bridge the interval until mother returns from work.

Home is the trusted ally you make your way back to, having survived an attack by gunmen in a public space, to hug your grandma, sick with worry. In the days to follow, home makes you an accelerated learner of what political revenge means even as your eyes adjust to the sight of blood on the streets you call paara.

Home is the saboteur who smashes that trust and hurtles you into the dark, suffocating dungeon of an empty house after making you witness the deaths of your grandparents for two years in a row.

Home is the traitor who makes you grow up while you’re still an adolescent without allowing you the time or the technique for the messy transition.

Home is the embarrassing hole in the bedsheet you cover with a folded quilt that you desperately hope wouldn’t shift when your university friends come over to your house to plan a trip.

Home is the sterile mate you’ve lost all love for but continue to live with, your days drained of élan vital, your nights a concert hall for sleep-snuffing nightmares.

Home, after years, no, a whole decade, is finally the conciliatory collaborator who invites you to work from home – with your mother, now retired from work, filling up all the hollows your grandparents’ departure had cleaved into its spaces.

Home is the humble plot of land your grandma bought, even if it’s no longer the house she built. Her breath moves through the guava tree she planted, still rooted to the faithful backyard soil and alights on your skin as a butterfly every time you fly back.

Home is a detective plot that can only unravel in back stories. Each flicker of memory is evidence of the scraps that went into constructing this labyrinth. Every solution is wisdom distilled only in hindsight.

 

 

Bhaswati Ghosh lives in Ontario, Canada and writes and translates fiction and non-fiction. Her fictional and non-fictional works have been extensively published in multiple print and online journals and magazines in India and abroad. Her first book of fiction is ‘Victory Colony, 1950’.

“Deliriums of a Lost Pirate”: ‘Comics’ by Subarnarekha Pal

 

For the last couple of decades the genre of comics is vastly talked about. Academicians and scholars have started to talk about comics and graphic narratives in seminars, conferences and most importantly in classrooms. I’m no scholar yet, I’m just a mere lover of comics. My journey  as a comic reader began like it does for every other Bengali kid– with the worlds created by Narayan Debnath. I won’t go into the details as I’m not writing  an autobiography  of a comic reader here.

 Life takes unexpected  turns when you grow older. Such a turn came when I accidentally  found my abilities  as a conceptual illustrator. For a period of time, I seriously  thought about being a professional  artist. After reading lots of Neil Gaiman (Neil Gaiman’s volumes of Sandman), I wanted to be a graphic novelist, if not that… at least a comic artist. When I was thinking about how to begin I came across the works of Julian Peters who literally  changed my entire perspectives on comics. I began working on my favourite poem, Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (which I still haven’t finished). After lots of unfinished drafts through these two and a half years, I finally managed to complete some of the pieces. This time I was heavily inspired by the works of Elizabeth Haidle.

I might enrage the comic nerds by calling these comics. These are far from being ‘comic’. There is no element of laughter, sarcasm, cynicism or social criticism. I would call them just some pieces born out of curious experiment on both drawing and writing.

 I have a habit of jotting down two or three- line micro poems mostly when I’m  overwhelmed. These comics are based on some of those micro-poems. Both comics and micro-poems serve their purpose subtly. They are minimalist. When these micro-poems are telling stories in their ‘microness’, the comic is telling another set of stories in-between  the frames. I did all I could as an amateur. I hope my hard works pay off  and you, the readers!, like them.

Musing 1
                                                                        PANEL 1
Musing 2
                                                                     PANEL 2
Musing 3
                                                                              PANEL 3
Musing 4
                                                                         PANEL 4
Musing 5
                                                                          PANEL 5
Musing 6
                                                                              PANEL 6
Musing 7
                                                                           PANEL 7
Musing 8
                                                                          PANEL 8
Musing 9
                                                                           PANEL 9
Musing 10
                                                                        PANEL 10

Subarnarekha Pal is an independent thinker and enthusiast and jams poetry with her friend. Amidst everything, she struggles to be an artist.