The first time she fucked a machine, there was some uncomfortable pinching. But it was momentary, corrected after a few thrusts by a data-driven recalibration. The second time was much better. The machine had measured her depths, tested her temperature, listened to the tempo of her breaths, and now it slid into her with the smooth precision of a crescent moon turning in circles for the sun. And the money was incredible. Impossible to beat. She could show up for two study visits a week and spend the rest of her time lounging around the hacienda with her fat black lab, Queero, painting and having languid encounters with lovers of the human variety.
But lately, something was different. She was starting to crave the feeling of the machine’s slithery suit sliding across her skin—the softest organic polymers yet, they said. The other night, Juno came over and seduced her. As they fell to the bed with mouths full of blue agave, tonguing the circles of tequila’s heat, she caught herself listening for the soft purrs of the machine’s sensors transmitting data back to its central server, missing the rhythmic hum of cooling fans spinning behind glassy eyes. After Juno left, she sat on the porch in an old flannel robe, feet tucked under Queero, staring out across the bay. The night was clear, no fog, and there were thousands of drones flying above the waves in coordinated fashion. Manufactured by the same company as the machine. Her machine? God, only two more days until she would see it again. Queero started to snore and she decided there was nothing wrong with drinking alone.
kt farley is an errant daughter of Deseret, birthed by pioneers along the red risk lines of the Wasatch Fault. To humor the gods and keep life’s unavoidable balances in the black, kt spends her days working as an attorney and thinking and talking about bioethics and clinical research. Before making the trek over Donner’s peak and settling in Berkeley, kt taught courses in gender studies, queer theory and trans* studies at the University of Utah. kt lives full time with three woodland nymphs (a boy, a woman, and a man who strangely all have the same diminutive waist size), two cats, one naughty dog, and several despicable South American Cichlids.
Guidelines for Eating
Do you like peas?
Do you like rice?
asks the little girl in her highchair.
Maybe it’s when we are her age
that we first learn the truth about food.
It’s when we make our choices to be
eaters or starvers in times of crisis.
“Maybe you didn’t grow up that way,”
he says, but “I’m European….”
Do you like cheese?
“I made that soup for you!
I know you love meatball soup—
would you cry if I told you to go
in the kitchen and fix yourself a bowl?”
Do you like ham?
We had ham for Easter.
“Why are you crying? It’s not like
an airplane has crashed. It’s not like
your mother has been hit by a bus.”
Do you like peas?
Do you like rice?
“You shouldn’t eat that bread and butter.
Butter is all fat. It will kill you!
Go ahead—here, take this!”
Two pounds of butter tumble
across the counter.
Do you like cheese?
There are times when a woman
wants salt or chocolate,
at least comfort in the form
of bread or peas.
And there are times when this man
eats an entire can of condensed milk.
“It’s a treat,” he says, “Where I grew up
this stuff was over two dollars a can.”
Do you like ham?
We had ham for Easter.
I know the planning, the time
and preparation that go
into making ham for Easter
or into a bowl of homemade soup.
I know how hard it is
to taste a gift when it comes
with words so often repeated,
words that pass through the filter
between brain and mouth
as easy as water through a colander.
Do you like peas?
Do you like rice?
Walking in Circles
If blindfolded and told to walk
a straight line in the desert,
we cannot do it.
In a forest, where the canopy
of leaves blocks the sun,
we will find an invisible wind
blowing us off course.
It is ingrained in us
to walk in circles.
Perhaps this is why I wake
each morning, surprised
that there is no head
on the pillow beside mine.
There is a need to check my phone
for a message from you,
as if I simply slept so soundly
that I did not hear you
returning in the night.
But I woke seven times–
the cat was running a circle
from the windows on the east
to the windows on the west.
She is curled up now,
a nap-circle beside my knee.
It doesn’t seem to bother her,
to accept that circular nature
of nose to tail.
But I feel myself, orbiting moments,
for when you were here.
Everyone’s advice would be–
As if I could control (or would want to)
the emotion circling
through arteries and veins.
It is only natural
to remain unable (unwilling?)
to follow a linear path.
I remember exactly what my crib tastes like—
a sort of plastic-wood, the way I imagine
a fresh snapped birch twig to taste.
These days, as an adult, I try to be choosier
about what I put in my mouth.
As children, we explore and discover,
almost forget how to stay alive.
We leave the safety of children to adults,
who install crib sides upside-down
and inadvertently allow our heads to get trapped.
Maybe it’s because I understand that imperfection
that I crave the creamy texture
of plastic Risk troops on my tongue.
I have the inter-generational habit of idly chewing
the ends of hair, while pondering
some kindergarten question—
Some of us always return to taste
as the basic means of understanding.
Even the cat is drawn to circles of elastic,
lying in wait on the kitchen table
or on top of the clothes hamper.
And somewhere, someone in this neighborhood
is trying to overcome the need to gnaw and chew—
I found a metal spatula with bite marks on its handle.
It is lying, lonely, on the sidewalk under a pay phone.
It makes me wonder if its surrender was forced or voluntary.
I can picture this cooking tool flung out an open window
by a cook weary of seeking from utensils
what can’t be found in food.
Maryann Wolfe teaches creative writing, composition, and food writing at Bridgewater College. She has had work published in The Bluestone Review and Earth’s Daughters and placed in contests run the VA Poetry Society.
for a while he worked at a school up the road
and told us not to talk to the boys who lived there
but trouble started inside our house
the hole in the rug
the beet-stained cloth
the dark-winged insect in the unslept night
haste hid his plan
and a dearth of kin
like the letters in the glovebox
from friends who fed our animals
and doubted our return
the unclasped necklace
the bruise on the knuckle
the heat of the day trapped in the car
at a gas station pay phone
in a town we didn’t know
see the bend in the river
where he longed for the coast
and numbered the things he could part with
stand on the porch
of the house near the train tracks
where we curled on the floor
in one room together
and outgrew our clothes
by the end of that winter
In summer we walked through the woods,
picking wild strawberries and naming the trails as our own.
The remains of a homestead lay half-buried, roof joists rotting around rusty cans,
books frail and dusty as moth wings. Grass seeds clung to our clothes.
Can you stop time so we can stay together?
In town, he drove with his arm across the front seat
to keep us from hitting the dashboard at intersections.
Leave your coat on when we get there.
He knew these people before he was married. Sad to see us, they asked us to stay.
But by then we’d seen dead animals and fires at the edge of the garbage dump,
smoke lingering in the orange peels and eggshells, cigarette butts and toys.
We’d heard arguments through the floorboards, moved into houses with dirty sinks
and medicine abandoned behind the bathroom mirror.
We’d departed together, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the school year,
to sleep in campgrounds and fields.
We’d listened to the snow muffle our voices as it lit the night sky,
tree boughs soft and heavy and quiet.
We felt the inward pull of family,
like underwater branches against our legs in the lake.
Will you leave us some clues before you go?
We need to know fool’s gold from the real thing,
the names of the people who broke your nose,
and should you kiss the girl on your right when you see a car with one light?
Put your feet in the creek,
sit next to me in the shade.
Do our voices idle between the books and clothes and dishes we left behind?
Unlock the secrets of the language we used to speak.
Hold on, even as meaning unravels.
Laundry swings on a clothesline, blocks out the sun. There is a storm coming.
We make a circle, five of us, like fingers on a hand.
Bees swarm where the faucet drips.
Pull away, baby boy, from the gestures we inherit.
In smoke-scented, threadbare coats
they’d walked through frozen fields and empty streets
toward whispers of work and pickles, fresh bread and fish,
an address in a port city, yellow flowers at the base of a mountain.
See the curve of her cheek as she turns from the pier,
seagulls loud in the charcoal sky.
They’d dreamt of fruit trees and a food grinder for the new baby.
Between tanks of tropical fish, he eats a sandwich at his workbench
in the hazy pungent air.
Short sleeves show Navy tattoos, the arms of a tinkerer, an appliance repairman.
Branches heavy with plums obscure the potholed alley.
Doorbell. Cars on Orchard Street. A neighbor’s sprinkler.
Turn the radio on.
Were they led by bravery or hunger?
The men who knew him then turn to each other now.
Signal and refrain.
Samantha Malay was born in Berlin, Germany and grew up in rural eastern Washington State. She is a theatrical wardrobe technician by trade, a writer and a mixed-media artist. Her poem/collage ‘Rimrock Ranch’ was exhibited at Core Gallery in Seattle, Washington in January 2017. Her poem ‘Gather’ was published by The RavensPerch in May 2017, and her poems ‘Rimrock Ranch’ and ‘Homestead’ appear in the summer issue of Sheila-Na-Gig.
In the 1930s, all we English society girls were mad for Munich. Unity Mitford, one of the six troublesome Mitford sisters, was living there at the time. Unity had become a Fascist and a Hitler groupie. She adopted the name “Unity Valkyrie Mitford.” UNITY VALKYRIE roaring around Munich on her black motorcycle steed. She wore a black shirt and a man’s tie and a gold swastika pin on her collar, dressed in black leather head-to-foot and could skillfully dismantle and clean a carburetor. One day she picked me up and said, “Hop on, Sybil, we’re going to the Hofgarten to have tea with Hitler.”
As we approached the table, Unity grasped my hand, she was shaking with excitement. Hitler was so short that when he got up to greet us, I thought he was still sitting down. Really. And his hands, I couldn’t help but notice, when he passed the milk and the sugar bowl. They were rather small and twitchy. Yes, twitchy. Unity told me later it was nothing to worry about. That was just the cocaine. He held a German shepherd puppy in his lap and stroked it with his doll-like fingers, while he held forth on the merits of a small affordable car he was designing for the German people, he called the Volkswagen. He sketched it in a shaky hand on the tablecloth, a squiggly blue-inked bug of a thing. He bought an ice cream for a little girl at the next table and squeezed her pink little knee. I don’t remember much more than that. My strongest impression was that he was FLAT. Flat and made out of painted tin, like one of those little tin metal soldiers you find in a souvenir stall on the pier at Brighton.
In September of ‘39, when Britain declared war on Germany, Unity took a pearl-handled pistol to the English Garden and shot herself in the head. Unfortunately, she survived. They left the bullet in. While Unity lay in hospital, a huge bouquet of yellow roses arrived in her room. She showed me the note, written in Hitler’s nearly illegible schoolboy scrawl, “My dearest Fraulein Unity, you are for me the ideal Aryan-Nordic woman. I hope you have saved a lock of your precious blonde hair for me. Get well soon, yours Adolf.” Unity lay there half-paralyzed, her dark roots growing out quite healthily. But with that 9mm bullet lodged in her brain, Unity was never quite right again.
Finalist 2017 Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize for What Wolfman Knew, Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival; Received the 2016 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, 1st Prize Award for the One Act, Cream Cakes in Munich. His play, A Kind of Marriage, exploring the private life of British novelist E.M. Forster, received an Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation LGBT 2015 Playwrighting Award. His original portrait of Pamela Harriman, Swimming at the Ritz, developed with award-winning BBC director David Giles, began a UK National Tour in March 2011 supported by the Arts Council England; American premiere at New Jersey Rep Company, Jan 2015. Charles is a former fellow of the Edward Albee Foundation and a member of the Dramatists Guild. www.charlesleipart.com
If you wear a suit of bees
Through the Yale Art Gallery,
They will think you are misplaced art –
And exhibit you somewhere:
Artist unknown – you and your suit of bees will be.
You will buzz with acclaim,
The likes of (N.) will adore you,
You and your art: one substance –
Envy of Carrevagio, jealousy of Picasso.
Oh, avant-garde! Oh, expressionist absolutism!
Oh, you and your suit of bees
And a career flowing with milk and honey.
But somewhere after midnight
As you remain still on your pedestal,
You will hunger for beer and pizza,
Itch to see old episodes of Dr. Who,
Be desperate for her breasts and eyes
Turning toward you.
MARK FITZPATRICK is basically a poet although he has had fiction, non-fiction, and drama published. Among his credits are Parting Gifts, Oasis, The MacGuffin, Whiskey Island Review, The Small Pond Magazine of Literature, Oxford Review, Dramatic Shorts, Amarillo Bay and many others. His novel-in-verse was a finalist in the Tassy Walden Creative Writing for Young People contest. Two of his plays are in. He works as an ESL teacher with ELS schools at the University of New Haven. He worked as an ESL teacher in Brazil, Honduras, Haiti, and the Republic of Somaliland. Before he was a child care worker for over 20 years in a low-income, African-American neighborhood of Chicago.
I was in the yard working
when I heard, through the
open kitchen window,
my wife tap a spoon shank
on the edge of a cooking pot.
Of course, it was my mother I heard,
as if transported to years ago,
me a boy, playing in the yard, dusk falling,
my father clipping hedges,
my hunger just starting to gnaw.
Then one of my boys ran past crying,
“Mom? Is it dinner yet?”
and I, brought back to the present,
hedge clippers open wide,
knew that that boy—
not a duplicate of me
or owned by anybody—
was, nevertheless, in a living line
of felt continuity,
I lean my elbows,
an uneven café table
chinking, sliding saucer
tinkling ice cubes in a glass that
clinks a sugar dispenser—and I’m
my sketchy, troubled, already-
vanished reverie of elsewhere,
my raised elbows
resettling—and resettling me to—
flatware, glass, saucer.
Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com