He lay in bed quietly, not daring to move, holding his arms and legs and breathing as still as they could be held, waiting, not sure for what. The room had darkened, but was not too dark for him to see the outlines of the furniture, the central light fixture, the door slightly ajar, the slippers on the floor next to his desk. He could hear the slow ticking of the windup clock on his dresser but could no longer see the hands that marked the hour and minute. His heart beat along with the seconds, and the emptiness between beats stretched longer and longer even though he knew time could not be stretched.
Without realizing that he was drifting into sleep, the boy felt his body move, swinging back and forth on an axis through his navel. The movement dizzied him, but he enjoyed the speed, a whipping sensation as if he sat at the rear of a roaring roller coaster. He willed himself to spin entirely around, faster with each revolution. He was conscious that he still lay in his bed, but the part of his brain pursuing the thrill of movement cared not. Then, inevitably, his body slowed and he grew sad, sorry to be brought back to stillness. He opened his eyes to find the room pitch black, but could still hear the seconds.
Bruce J. Berger is an MFA candidate at American University in Washington, DC. His work appears in Wilderness House Literary Review, Prole, Jersey Devil Press Anthology, Black Magnolias, and a variety of other literary journals.
My father’s house burned down during my first confession. Dad had a hangover and dropped me off at Saint Patrick’s while he and my brother Jeb went to a local diner for coffee and eggs. I spent a few excruciating few minutes in the confessional in which I denied having any sins. Then I sat on the church steps reviewing the transgressions the priest had assigned me (Have you ever deceived your mother or your father?) and watching a huge cloud of smoke rise beyond the A&P.
“Probably someone in the trailer park fell asleep with a cigarette going,” Dad said as I climbed in his yellow Ford Pinto. My father was obsessed with fire. He inspected the crumb traps of toasters and told cautionary tales of doomed Christmas lights. He lived in the guest cottage, but was forever showing up at our house to unplug appliances and monitor my mother’s overflowing ashtrays.
We passed the cornfields and the mucky llama farm. The closer we came to home, the more silent we became. The fire was not on Christmas Tree Lane. The trailer park seemed empty and deserted.
“Jesus Christ!” my father cried as we rounded the corner, “it’s my place!”
“I’m glad I was at the diner with him so he couldn’t blame this on me,” Jeb said later as we dug through a pile of charred country music records.
My mother and my oldest brother Joey arrived home with groceries. Joey found the fire hilarious, his stock reaction to most of my father’s misfortunes. My mother, who played the organ for a rival church, looked for answers in the blackened sky.
Jocelyn is a Los Angeles-based writer and teacher. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hippocampus, Talking Writing and elsewhere.
it’s a shortcut for me
when I’m riding my bicycle to the city,
to take a short bit of the pathway
which /wīnd/s itself through:
and on this one, grand occasion —
a horde of black Dragonflies were flying,
en masse, all about it;
it didn’t mean anything, and
I’m not going to make it mean anything —
it wasn’t a symbol of the deads’ departure from,
and through, the living world, and,
it wasn’t an omen,
what it was, was
Dragonflies in the cemetery:
but it was also a moment of
clarity to me — and these moments,
I find, are happening
a father and daughter
are eating green Apples, on:
a stone bench
in the city, speaking,
Leonard Zawadski is a poet currently residing in Chicago, IL. He has studied the art of poetry writing at the University of Iowa, Northwestern University, and the Newberry Library.