A 357 Is Sometimes Better Than Santa Claus by Catfish McDaris

Riding the bus through the hood
everyday to work can try your patience,
I think like a scout, be prepared
2 young ladies blocked the aisle,
with baby carriages preventing 30
vacant seats from being used, I had
10 hours of being on my feet coming up
Asking politely if I might squeeze
by, you would’ve thought I asked
for oral sex, a race riot
Damn near started, this big furry
looking man with arms like
telephone poles glared at me
He said, sit your white ass the
fuck down, the only seat was
next to him & I was almost
on his lap like Santa Claus
Sitting there in a fog of b.o.
farts, halitosis, & swine flu,
I closed my eyes touching
my 357, waiting for my stop
& dreaming of Christmas.

The First Five Pages by John Sheirer

When Jack was twenty-three years old and imagining himself to be a writer, he met Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut was an author so famous he really had no business giving a lecture at the second-rate graduate school where Jack skipped classes in Colonial American Poetry and Deconstructionist Literary Theory to read 1950s science fiction novels and scratch out short stories for hours at a time in the window booth of the pizza place on Main Street while trying to build the nerve to smile at the pretty college girls who sat nearby.

The day after Vonnegut’s lecture, as Jack sat in that pizza place among all those pretty girls who had no idea who Kurt Vonnegut was, Vonnegut himself walked in, the English department chair trailing along behind him and talking nonstop long after the great author had stopped listening politely.

Jack had trouble smiling at pretty girls, but he knew a pivotal moment when he saw one. He walked right by that befuddled department chair and pushed a heap of paper toward Vonnegut, the only famous writer Jack had ever seen in the flesh.

“Would you read my story, Mr. Vonnegut?” Jack asked, looking directly into his face. Vonnegut took the story without hesitation, methodically counted out the first five pages like a cash register kid counting change on his first day of work, griped them tightly, ripped them away from the staple with one clean pull, and handed them back to Jack.

With a look of grandfatherly patience, Vonnegut said, “You keep these. At your age, the first five pages just say, ‘Hey, look at me. I’m a nice person writing a story.’”

Vonnegut patted Jack’s shoulder as he stared at him, his first five pages drooping in his sweaty hand.

The department chair gave Jack a dirty look that Jack didn’t notice. Vonnegut folded the rest of Jack’s story and stuck it in his back pocket as he walked away. “If I like this, I’ll find out who you are,” he said with a wave, “and you’ll hear from me.”

That was thirty years ago. Jack never heard a word.

(Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007)

To the Mother of All Mothers by Helen Peterson

Hail Mary, full of grace
In your warm bed of soft hay warmed
With bovine breath, sung murmured lullabies
By sleepy eyed goats and sheep, worthy of the guidance
Of angels in your labor, bringing forth the Prince of Peace
Who must have slept through the night the very first week, never
Spit up or pooped through his swaddling clothes, no terrible
Twos, straight As, never missed a homework assignment or permission slip
Nor ran through the neighborhood naked, avoiding baths, said yes please
And thank you ma’am….
We, your daughters, heavy with sleep deprivation
Up to our elbows in spit up, (and worse)
Who spent hours travailing in steel hospital beds
On sheets so crisp, in air so cold and sterile,
Staying up ‘til 10 helping with Algebra,
While keeping one hand in the tub, collaring
A cranky toddler who somewhere has learned to swear
Envy you.

two poems by Diana Rose

Beyond Closed Doors

Scent …clings to a room
Pervacent as cats feet across
mystic night air
It seeps in sleeping minds
with eyes wide shut,
Clandestine
redevouz in midnight hour
while a sleeping dog lies.
See spot run,
the drum beats the tune
and he runs
baying at moon with packs
of wolves in sheeps clothing
Pissing on fences
erected
for circumstantial reason.
Whispered words
italicized
centered focus
were more than the fine line
walked down the median
with headlights
blurring vision,
Lost…
between the sheets
of the fucked
and mind fuck
Beyond the
ass(sertion)
of reality
fenced framed and fucked again.
American whore
the pictures of her
on the players lists.
More than this
time ticked
tocked..
sands sifted through fingers
where and when
were we before this..
still whispered
were the words..
framed
warm inviting
like the kiss of Judas.
Omission
the slap
with a whip(lash)
discord(ant)
jazz chords
rift final notes
ass(ending)
beyond all belief
as you walked on down the hall..
The closed door
the tale to be told
in darkness
fringe
calculated
estimated
jaded
fucked again

Where The Road Leads

There was a time..
If I closed my eyes I could return
Return to the weekend trips
where life was the top down
my bare pink tipped toes propped up on the dashboard
sunshine on my shoulders that made you high
Didnt matter where we headed
trees drooped down to touch the earth
covering the world with tranquil simplicity
mountain streams rose crashing around us
where an inner tube was enough to
leave me dizzy.. and my laughter made you stop
quoting Kerouac just long enough
to start believing that the road of life
is what we traveled
to find the hope in each other..
Life can be measured in the roads we travel
it cant be seen in the material possessions
or the jobs we have
Life is the heart of the world
through the eyes of another
It can be as spectacular as a waterfall
careful as you scale those rocks..
they can scar your knees should you fall
and the rush
underneath the water
leaves you needing
leaves you wanting
to take a picture and remember
the moment that you knew
that someone else
saw the same thing as you..
That climb to the top
of that mountain.. hush of the world draped in green
the only sound a far off osprey
echoing our thoughts that bounce
from your eyes to mine and back
So many roads upon roads..
At what point do we stop
And just be..
Just breathe
Stop searching the world for completion
traveling each road for inner redemption
that is a long time coming
You cant ask me what road to take
the map I give will be highlighted with my own wants
It might not be the destination you need..
On this earth there are hundreds of roads to take
each one as valid as the last
You have to decide when to stop
changing direction
set the course, and a time of arrival
Cause baby.. only you know
what road makes your heart pound
makes you realize that at long last you are coming
to the end of your journey
and what destination will make your heart
know its home.
There aint no mountain high enough
you can scale to other side
take the path less traveled
search through endless deserts
that will complete you in a way that
says.. I made a difference in this world to
someone..
these roads we travel… we break down a lot
put our face in our hands and say shiiit
Where am I … who am I
and what difference does it make
Get out at that gas station
look in the greasy mirror of that bathroom
look long and hard
Somewhere
there is light on at the end of your road
there is someone there that makes you
understand what home is..
You just have to believe.
Me…. I believe in you
I believe in you so much that it matters not what
course you set..
I have traveled the roads less remembered
I have seen lifes endless highway
And the roads I have yet to take can be
with you or without you
It matters not… cause in essence..
Im not going anywhere..
My heart is home.. home and resonating with
life to give you back..
Should you choose
to just arrive.
this last road you take
could be your ride home.

DLR© 2009..all rights reserved.

The Aunt by Elaine Rosenberg Miller

All our lives, my sister and I had heard about my father’s aunt, how she had stayed behind with her elderly parents as her sisters and their husbands and children fled towards the Soviet Union. The lull, following the first days of the war, had ended. The Germans were advancing towards their town, Ulanow, Poland. A Yiddish speaking Russian soldier had knocked on the door of their wooden house and said “We’re leaving in the morning. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll come with us.”
My teenaged father, five younger siblings, his parents, two aunts and their families, started their trek eastwards. But Ruchel did not go with them. She was twenty seven and lived with her parents, Ita and Rafael. She was the child of their old age.

“I remember her standing there on the side of the road, waving at us,” my father’s sister once told me. “She wanted to come with us. But she didn’t.”

“Are you sure that your grandparents couldn’t have made the trip?” I asked.

“They would have died on the way or in Siberia.”

“When grandma survived the war,” I said, “she was one of the few people of her generation left alive. Her parents, siblings, everyone were gone. I wonder how she felt.” She was silent. “What was she like?” I asked.

“Who?”

“Ruchel.”

“Oh, she was very pretty. She had straight hair.”

“What color eyes?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Grandma had green eyes. Did she have green eyes?”

“I was just a child.”

“Did you ever find out what happened to your grandparents?” She shook her head. “How did they die?”

“No one knows.”

“No one?”

“I heard that they died in the street. I heard.”

“What?”

“From starvation.”

“And Ruchel?”

“Maybe Belzec. Maybe.”

For years, my sister and I heard about Ruchel. Her act silenced us. Whatever problems we faced, questions we had, the image of Ruchel waving at her departing family made all pale in comparison. She was one of eight children. Dozens of her nephews and nieces lived in Ulanow. As the maiden aunt, she was a figure of affection, warmth to them, giving them treats, an admiring word. For decades, Ulanow’s location remained a mystery to me. No map listed it. Then, one day, I found it in a book titled Macmillan Atlas of the Holocaust. It was perched at the divergence of the San and Tanew rivers. Ulanow was real, not just a tale told by my father, another story of “the other side” as my relatives termed pre-war Europe. Ulanow had been an important town in the first days of the war. The Russians had taken it, then withdrawn. The Germans had occupied it.

A photograph of Ruchel revealed a young woman who wore her hair in a bob. Her expression was determined. It seemed to say, that given the right set of circumstances she would have left Ulanow and moved to a city, gone dancing, been held by a man.

“When was this taken?” I asked my father.

“About 1937.”

“She had a nice dress.”

“She could sew.”

“Very modern.”

“I loved my grandparents,” he said. “I spent more time with them than my own parents. Whenever I would visit them, my grandfather would call ‘Ita! Give the boy something to eat!’”

My father, hobbled by osteoarthritis, sat in the sun of his Florida independent living facility and remembered his youth.
I wondered at how fortuitous his survival had been. He and his family were transported by cattle cars to Siberia. Two years later they were relocated to Tashkent. Due to his mechanical ability he was chosen to be the chauffeur and bodyguard of the Governor-General of the region. He carried a sidearm. He was exempt from the military, obtained privileges and food for his family.

“After the war, did your mother ever talk about her parents?”

“No.”

I looked at my father. I recalled my sister’s phone calls detailing his increasing medical problems. His face was ochre colored, his eyes red rimmed. Purple splotches disfigured his hands. Still, he was as handsome as a matinee idol. His eyes, unencumbered by recently removed cataracts seemed more hazel than brown.

“C’mon, Dad. It’s time to go in for dinner. Let me help you.”

if we don’t make it by John Grochalski

laying in bed
she says
what if we don’t make it
what do you mean? i ask.
this, if this never pans out.
the writing.
all the time we’ve invested
all of the early mornings
and rejections.
i see, i say
i don’t know, i say
i just don’t want to think
that we missed out on anything, you know
like kids and stuff?
and other things.
it takes a lot to make it, she says.
i know, i say
but we’re doing all right.
do you think?
yes, i could go the rest of my life
having it happen here and there
nothing big.
what about you?
i guess i could too, she says.
besides, i say, the rest of them
have just given up.
they’ve let it die
just to settle on less and less.
do you think? she says.
i have to.
otherwise i don’t know how
i’d keep on going.
okay, she says.
we get the light
and no one says a word.
soon i hear her snoring
and then the world
just falls away.

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