Beth Sherman

Strangler Fig

 

After midnight you set out, some on foot,

others hiding in the back of an old pick-up

truck. Fate is the string on a paper kite, caught

in a strangler fig tree. Tangled, useless. Root

stems grafted together, merging each time they touch.

Noble and strange. Twisted. Overhead, a crescent

moon, sharp as a sickle. Its hook like blade could

lop your ear off. There are holes in the wall.

But you have to know where to look.

 

America. Where you cut lawns and give mani-

pedis and mop floors and change old peoples’ diapers.

Sleeping six to a room. Eating food from the dollar store.

If they catch you, they send you away. Hope is the

skin on a copperhead, it sheds and grows back.

 

The truck rumbles below your ribs. Someone moans.

Stink of fear and piss. The wind tumbles through the

acacias. Your mother’s brother has a cousin outside

Kansas City. You don’t know where Kansas City is.

The figs on the trees not yet ripened. Color of blood

and sadness, hard as the moonlit stones.

 

 

Solitude

 

Sol ‘it’ ude /~/ n.1. The state or situation of being alone. Blue feather dizzily falling. Leaves no one bothered to rake. The empty chair you used to watch TV in. Barren and stained, covered with a winding sheet. Thoreau had it wrong. Once the maple leaf loses that scarlet sheen, it withers and crumples, feigning death. Walden Pond was a kettle hole formed by glaciers in retreat. 2. A lonely or uninhabited place. Rural wilderness or desert, backwoods. The word beasts recline in the shade of the maples, licking their paws, dreaming of meat.

 

 

Beth Sherman

 

Beth Sherman received an MFA in creative writing from Queens College, where she teaches in the English department. Her poetry has been published in Hartskill Review, Lime Hawk, Synecdoche, Gyroscope, The Evansville Review, Silver Birch Press, Zingara, Rust + Moth, and Blue River Review. She is also a Pushcart nominee and has written five mystery novels.

 

Kelsey Ann Kerr

High School Lunch

My father made me a sandwich for lunch every day,

carefully put the turkey, cheddar, lettuce and mayo

on the sourdough, then zipped it up in a Ziploc.

 

And every day during orchestra, I slipped the sandwich

into the whooshing plastic of a black trashcan, or palmed

it off to a friend. Those feinted days, when I almost fainted

 

in the hallways, eating less than three hundred calories.

Once, my father made a spaghetti dinner—the last
he’d cook for us as a family—and I refused to eat

 

anything but Special K. His dish crashed into the sink

and my mother ran after him (then, she still could).

I held the shards in my hands; the pasta sauce

 

coated them like coagulated blood. That was

the first time in my life that I felt regret,

true regret, the kind that’s parasitic

 

and coils up in you like a tape worm,

eating through your intestines,

inside out. The kind that swims

 

around in your stomach when you wake

covered in the lilacs and butterflies

of your childhood bed, to come downstairs

 

and find your mother, alone, crying.

The kind that feels like the frozen lace

of love covering your heart

 

when your aunts are waiting for you at the airport

in Seattle, instead of your mother’s friend,

and they sit you down in those grey vinyl chairs

 

by baggage claim. You don’t want to look
at them. You want to watch the carousel

until it’s one with painted horses that never

 

stops spinning. You hop on, grab

a magenta mane, and hold as tight

as your tiny hands will let you.

 

 

 

Visiting my mother’s memory on a stormy Friday night

I stare at the reflection

in the candle, aimlessly,

until it hits me—it looks

like my mother’s eye,

dark as the sea in a storm,

grey and sad but inquisitive.

Then I realize, it’s actually

the matting of our portrait

that I took in college,

in the reflection, of us

in matching outfits,

mounted on my wall.

The cancer had gotten worse

then; she’d started fearing

death for the first time.

When I asked her

that winter where

she wanted her ashes

spread, she said

she didn’t know,

maybe the Grand Canyon,

where she and my dad

were wed, maybe

Bandelier, where

she spent much

of her childhood,

just outside Los Alamos,

then looked me

in the eyes

and just cried.

I held her until

she fell asleep;

her short

blonde hairs

stuck to the pillow

with static.

The next morning,

when I kissed her goodbye

and flew away,

I refused

to know

it would be

the last time

I’d see her smile.

 

Kelsey Ann Kerr

 

Kelsey Ann Kerr has a great interest in loss: holes both metaphorical and physical of the heart, holes in life left by the loss of parents, cauterized by love. She teaches writing composition at the University of Maryland and American University, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Maryland. Her work can be found, or is forthcoming, in “Stirring,” “New Delta Review” and “The Sewanee Review,” among others.