My days are measured
By bottles of discount wine,
My weeks by clean linens;
I seek salvation
in a cafe benison.
Sleep, sleep divine,
Why should eternal sleep
not be heaven?
For religion begins
Where knowledge ends.
My little fame in life,
Will be confined
to a freeway sign:
a gray morning sky,
Flashing, flashing, flashing
above a highway exit.
The door was closed
and did not open,
So how did the cat
go out again?
But remembering to floss
gives each day
a bright new meaning.
So knowledge ends
Where religion begins.
Italy’s third volcano,
what’s it called?
Not Etna or Vesuvius,
The one in the movie we saw?
I forget, though I should know;
And not Olympus,
with Hera and Zeus
For us mortals what does it signify,
purchasing stain remover
by the gallon?
Pessimism of drooled spaghetti
or long life’s delusive
All hail Staphylococcus,
with my name on it;
Where fear reigns,
Dough, the financial guru says,
you’ll need ’til you’re ninety five,
or perhaps, I think,
Or maybe I’ll rob a bank
or fail to pay my taxes
for a prison bunk
and hospital bed.
But what about the poor teller,
and the unlucky feller
who has to clean up the mess?
The coffee grinder churns,
the espresso machine
so why should I surrender?
Yea, verily, I declare
on my life’s embers
that where true knowledge ends
unyielding ignorance begins
and religion wins.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina and Duke Law School, James Garrison practiced law until returning to his first loves: writing and reading good literature. His novel, QL 4 (TouchPoint Press 2017), set in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War, has won awards for literary fiction and military fiction, and it was a Distinguished Favorite for the 2019 Independent Press Awards and a finalist for the 2018 Montaigne Medal. His creative nonfiction works and poems have appeared in online magazines and anthologies. Sheila-Na-Gig nominated his poem “Lost: On the Staten Island Ferry”‘ for a 2018 Pushcart prize.
Is death a seed born in us, growing unseen
ripening at some pre-determined moment
a heart stops, a car strikes, cancer takes a final bite
Is it possible to die a little slower or stretch time out
like a sleeping lion
or salt water taffy
Can you bargain with Time, haggling and hammering
out deals like a summit meeting
but holding hardly any chips, only a few memories
Like her first cry or moments of tidal love
that comfort you during the lean years
memories you are willing to exchange
For a minute, an hour, a day
can you wear Time down until, totally exhausted,
setting his scythe aside, consulting his ledger
fiddling with his abacus, doing the math
like your granddaughter struggling with algebra
making sure it adds up, nothing extra
Nothing left over
he looks at you with tunnel eyes, his brow
narrowed and gnarled
I am an old man he sighs, twirling
his white beard, scratching his ears
where rogue hairs have begun to sprout
He brushes away ash from a burned out star
before handing you a scrap of paper
You write your lover’s name on it
postponing phantom pain
written in the black glyph of forever
Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
The pawnshop faced the traffic of Putnam Avenue. The people who went inside usually ducked their heads and moved with quick movements, but my dad liked to go in and wander around and buy things like old VCRs and televisions and dishwashers – a purchase he would forever regret after our house became infested with roaches. But Dad’s biggest regret came not from purchasing from the pawnshop but from selling his most prized possession to it.
I don’t know what lawsuit or worker’s compensation claim landed my dad with the money to buy that Gibson Les Paul. What I do remember is him giving each of us kids $100 when the windfall came down. I held the money in my hand, vowing to save it, but over the course of a week bought $100 worth of pickles instead because those Big Papa pickles were the shit.
He had guitars before but none as beautiful as that dark green Gibson. I watched him open its case and run his hands over the red velvet interior before picking it up and stroking its strings. One thrum and a dreamy sort of faraway look passed over his face.
Dad loved that guitar but pawned it on the regular because on the regular, we were broke. He always managed to round up the cash to get it out of pawn before they kept it. Then one time, he didn’t, and when we drove by the pawnshop, his Gibson was sitting in the window with a for sale sign slung around its neck. One day we drove by again, and the Gibson was gone.
Each time Dad drove by the pawnshop, he cringed a little until eventually, he wouldn’t look at its windows at all.
April Pride Sharp
April Sharp is an English instructor at Felbry College School of Nursing, and a graduate of the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. She often writes of her childhood growing up in Southeast Ohio. Her work has been featured in The Devil Strip, Rubber Top Review, and Appalachia Bare. When not writing she can be spotted stomping through the woods with her two dogs.
This story is about drawing my mother’s portrait in a twenty-minute timed session. She is in her late sixties, but I am not sure of her birth year or birthdate. She has changed. She has mellowed out over the years.
Capturing likeness is the aim. She is a willing model. She wants to please. She sits down and I begin. The forehead does not move. Facial muscles around the eyes don’t move. Eyebrows don’t move. They are thick, as they are penciled-in dark.
Eyelids move. Eyeballs move.
Her eyebrows point up; they didn’t before. The end of her eyes where the eyelids meet also point up; they didn’t before. That’s one botched botox job. She is frugal.
Her husband of fifty years wants to leave her. She chewed his ass growing up. He withdrew. She pursued. He withheld.
Old people break up the same way young people do. There is back and forth. There are acts designed to cause jealousy. There is reluctance. There is attraction. There is repulsion.
She lost weight. He lost weight and fixed his teeth. Divorce papers are drawn up, but not filed. Fifty years is a long time.
I am down to her chin now. She has facial hair. She didn’t before. They are bleached but not removed. That double chin can be captured with shading. Time’s up.
Hooman Khoshnood began his artistic career five years ago, after practicing law for over a decade. He began painting at an early age. But his approach to art-making became more conceptual while studying with Laura LLaneli, a sound art artist, and Marc Larre, a photographer. Mr. Khoshnood was also mentored by Giancarlo Bargoni, a renowned Italian painter in painting and theory. They also explored possible connections between painting and poetry. Mr. Khoshnood continued his studies in art at the Art Students League of New York where his painting “Unknown to me” was published as exemplary student work in the League’s 2017/18 catalog. Mr. Khoshnood obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and a Doctorate in Law both from the University of Georgia. He is also an avid reader focusing on Linguistics, Literature, and Art History. He was born in Iran and has lived in Iran, Italy, Canada, France, Spain, and the United States. He is fluent in English, Farsi, and Italian. He considers Atlanta home.
Grace lives up the street. Every morning she gets into her mint condition 1982 Plymouth Reliant and drives two blocks down the street where she spends the day with Gary, her gentleman friend. Grace is a spritely 89. She is robbing the cradle a little with Gary who is only 78. Gary is homebound. Diabetes took his vision. They both have grandchildren and great grandchildren of children who left this little town long ago. Widow and widower, they spend their days together. She cooks for him. “Having someone to enjoy the food is the only fun in cooking anymore.” They are intimate. “Our children think we should marry but phooey on that!” They never spend the night. “I need my beauty rest!” She takes him to church and to the Elks club for pinochle and for coffee and pie at the little café so they can get the gossip from the coffee clutch. Gary always has pie, diabetes be damned. She reads the local paper aloud and plans their attendance at funerals. She has a little box of sympathy cards at the ready and an envelope of laundered and pressed five dollar bills. She always gives one in memory of the deceased to the church’s radio broadcast, unless a memorial fund is specified. She includes Gary’s name with her own on the card.
Late one afternoon, after she divvies the roast, mashed potatoes and gravy into separate containers for their meals throughout the week, and puts a couple in the freezer as well, Grace tells Gary she needs a nap before driving home. While she dozes in the floral print recliner, he listens to a cooking program on television. The woman cooks from her kitchen on a ranch, and a husband, children, and a widowed father-in-law are always brought in to eat what she makes, usually after chores or school or some play activity. They are always happy. He likes the show for the stories of ranch life that go with the food. It puts him in mind of his life, before the kids grew up and moved away, before Nettie died, before he’d sold the ranch and moved to town, before he’d lost his vision.
He says, “I was listening to the Pioneer Woman and thinking on the old times.” He says this over and over in the next couple of days to anyone who will listen, to his children, to himself while he waits in the corner of the family room at the church. He thinks on it during the Psalm and the hymns, and still beside the grave where disturbed soil gives scent to his sightlessness. His daughter helps him find the casket with the flowers he’d asked her to buy. The people whisper in the church basement over casseroles and bars, “Grace was always so good to him,” and “What will Gary do now?”
by Tayo Basquiat
TAYO BASQUIAT is a writer, teacher, adventurer, scavenger, and Wilderness First Responder. He gave up tenure as a philosophy professor to pursue an MFA in creative writing at the University of Wyoming. His work has appeared in Superstition Review, On Second Thought, Northern Plains Ethics Journal, the Cheat River Review, Proximity Magazine, and in a growing portfolio as producer of Wyoming Public Media’s “Spoken Words” podcast.