Poems By Dale Cottingham

                                               

                                                Texting You

The phrase “go go days” is

inviting even if it’s, mostly,

fallen out of use, but springs

from its seed pod into open

air where I’m still struggling

with harsh words lobbed in

the meeting and later wait

for the wait to be over when

the next big thing will thrust

on the scene somehow

superimposed  on what I

call real. I wonder if it is.

I text you these words they reveal

what I’m thinking (or is it feeling?) you

are likely emerging from work grit

                                                blown in your face breathing exhaust you walk

                                                with your usual purpose which means

like me you overlook so much eyes roving

your curves a flimflam trying again

the good right hand knowledgeable from use

I want to focus on how you are now

the image of you I hold in my thoughts

you occupy my mind

                                                I bear scars from what happened before

but today the sky is open as if a

storm passed leaving the way open

for brighter refreshments a new music

starts up my soul begins to soar

farmland crowds so close you can see it

from downtown not m any decided to live

here so truth remains undisturbed along barbed

wire fences dirt roads it’s hard to

to catch it in my silly netting I end up

with shards windblown glints

I keep visualizing what we could be doing

to each other for each other

in these little instances maybe

some dreams will come true

yet even if we return to these lines it won’t

be the same can never be

the same with each passing moment

they separate further from us

leaving us alone on a vast plain

which makes me sad I know I’m meant

to be alone some of the time

but being with others seems natural

and intrinsic to life so let’s be together

while we can there’s lots of time

to be alone think of the dead

they show us what loneliness is.

                        

Ranch House Days

                                                Good bye main road.

                                                You’re traffic was enthralling,

                                                but I’ve got to think on my own

                                                for once, I’ll see you later – which

                                                seems right to me now.

                                                Sometimes you have to look out from your own porch

                                                even if at the time it seems like you are wasting time.

                                                After she hit the jackpot at the casino

                                                she looked back and wondered if this is as good as it gets.

                                                Disappointment arrives in so many flavors

                                                which keeps us on our toes:

                                                the missive arrives about our oeuvre ,

not meant to be harsh,

but then again. . .

And if I kept longing for you

after you moved away,

the distance having grown usual,

like a gargantuan silence that becomes

like a perfect friend, taking and not pushing back,

can’t I finally get it right for once.

After my soiree in town

where I saw that fetching woman

and could have asked for her number,

but think “Why should I?”

I mean, it always ends in tragedy

I come back to my place.

I like it here.  I can mow fields,

paint rooms, find my way to the creek

where water held underground

springs into light.

Dale Cottingham is of mixed race, part Choctaw, part White. He won the 2019 New Millennium Award for Poem of the Year and was a finalist in the 2021 Great Midwest Poetry Contest.

Poems by Syam Sudhakar

 

Rust

(To Prasobh)

 

As he stepped into the bathroom,
a golden monitor lizard
in search of water
rushed out
into the summer heat.

 

The old man
at once crushed its head
and left it there.

 

Stretched out on an easy chair
now he waits for his son.
Flashes of pulsing eyelids
from the lonely woods
creep in from a time when
he worked at the reservoir.


When the dark splinters of the forest
crawl in through the fence,
the hunt awaits.


The hunger of the villagers
chase the black lizards
up the coconut trees;
their raw tongue, a coveted delicacy.

Monitor lizards,
the offspring of rock,
then undressed into
a boiling pot.


His little boy
returning from school
welcomes the broiling meat
with a flurry of hunger
writhing in his eyes—
as past years trickle slowly
along the wrinkles of his forehead.

 

If his son
were to return tonight,
they would dine
on the lizard.
But how long could
an old man wait
with the centre portion
for a son
who will never return?

 

 

Benevolent Uncle

 

Grandfather had with him
a betel box made of ivory
a hog‑tusk dagger
a tiger-claw charm.

 

Never had I craved for
any such thing
until meeting my paternal uncle.
I yearned to carve a Buddha
on his long tooth – a pendant!

 

The micro sculptor promised
a smile of Buddha
if I could bring it to him.    

 

Uncle was benevolent.
Helped those who sought help
without even asking—
donated a mighty teak,
land for the needy,
a baby boy for Lakshmi, our maid.
On his command
the mango trees bloomed
even in winter
and bats migrated
leaving their pregnant jackfruit trees.

Yet I hesitated
to ask for the tooth.
(He would have given it
without even asking.)

 

Each time I visited his place,
either the wind or the mongoose[i]
seemed to have claimed

his teeth one by one.
Vishu, Onam[ii], Birthday;
the front row of time
falls
four
three
two
and only one left.

 

Yesterday,
while bathing[iii] him
I tried to pluck it off gently.
Didn’t come out:

deep-rooted
like a Banyan tree in its earth.

 

On looking closer
I saw on the betel stained tooth
a Buddha’s head
smiling at me
to relinquish desire.

[i] A popular belief that mongoose will come and exchange its teeth with the fallen teeth.

[ii] Vishu and Onam—festivals of Kerala.

[iii] A ritual performed after death.

 

 

Beside the River

 

Loneliness awakens you
to a river;
on its banks
she stands alone
gentle as the breeze.

She sits under a lemon tree;
her fingers smell of lemon.

If you sit beside her
lie in her lap
and believe that
a river can only
unite with the sea,
she will lay her hand
on your chest
dip in her fingers gently
and pluck out the ripe lemon
which was once a heart.
And
when the pain
flows as tears
she will wipe them away
and tell you that
loneliness
has awakened you
to that river.

Beside the river
your beloved breeze awaits.
You needn’t tell
her your troubles.
The daily stories and
endless predictions of newspapers
would tire her out.
She is far away
from your files, seals and day-to-day affairs.
Her fingers now smell
only of your loneliness
and in her ears
the sound of the river.

She will embrace you
as the morning sun
spreads on a stone.
You may see
glimpses of maternal roots
flashing in her eyes.
She may share
with you
the history that
flows in her breath
and in your ears –
the laughter of a river –
because loneliness
has brought you
beside the river.

With you, light as lemon
in her hands,
she asks:
‘What are you feeling now?’

Feel free to tell her
that loneliness is
slowly turning you
into a river,
and none remain
on its banks
save the breeze and the lemon tree.

 

 

Syam Sudhakar is an award- winning and widely  published young academician and bilingual poet from Kerala, writing both in native Malayalam and English. His poems are rich in native imagery and a sound pattern which gives him a unique place among contemporary poets. His poems are  a part of the anthology  by contemporary  Indian poets that has been edited by Sudeep Sen and published by the Sahitya Akademy. Sudhakar teaches English literature in St. Thomas College, Thrissur, Kerala. 

“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)