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
Reversal of Fortune
That . . .
Today, I write:
no brain lock or writer’s block,
never idle or addled, plot upon plot.
Practical prompts, writing schedules,
I aspire − become renowned
as scribe of insightful stanzas,
toward tour de force status,
something deemed a Classic.
Endowing with endearing words
as adulating aficionados gnaw painted nails,
climaxing with thumbs-up . . .
a dedicated shelf in bookstores –
glitzy chain and Indy alike –
masterwork, magnum opus!
This . . .
Today, I fret:
soured lines glares back,
needing reweaving into resonance.
Fictions and goading prose whacked
into petite victories, hard to celebrate.
Suppress a passive verb.
Second coat of adjectives.
Laminate lame line with adverb.
Pious patinas . . . hocus-pocus. . . .
I declare to the image, make homage
to the muse, regret oft-committed sin.
Lesser pleasures depress ears,
joys chopped, smeared over tongue.
Eyes directed to shadowy things,
I re-pledge to slivers and scattered
scruples backsliding across my page.
On the Shelf
A single space gapes between
books on the shelf. Most fill
allotted slot unread, collected during
semesters, or cluttered years.
At attention behind framed photos
and dusty memorabilia, well-worn
volumes denote evidence of worthy
pursuits: immediate joys weighing
against passed lulls, token props
and notions. I shall vow to search
for another book to bridge the nagging
breach in my archive. Pillage boxes,
stacked and stored; or revive a weighty
transcript – not just a joyful passage –
one revered cover to cover. Drab
shrouds stare back, awaiting re-sorting.
Perhaps I could disguise the gap, dust off
a snapshot of a past-lover’s bleary smile,
on a blurry day: her unanimated eyes, our
overcast desire never dowsed, since hidden
spellbound in a drawer. Even a colorful vase
might stand in: yet bouquets become a nuisance
. . . the watering and required trims. . . .
Each shelf evokes slivers of the man I sought,
every boring binding a craving: pages
of extinct minutes, passed-on un-mended,
too easily supplanted with prattle. The gap
reminds me of my delinquent spaces
I must fill before true midnight turns,
reread awkward chapters only skimmed.
Revisit bookmarks, and retranslate
word by word to reckon a foreseen self.
Poems have appeared Poetry South, Crucible, Asheville Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, Potato Eyes, Georgia Journal, Main Street Rag, Iodine, and Pembroke Magazine, among others; plus on-line journals Vox Poetica, Pyrokinection, and The Blue Hour. His fiction has been recognized by the Norfolk Society for the Arts and published in Atlantis. His Second poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (Press 53), was published in April of 2016, and a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016. He was awarded an “Emerging Artist’s Grant” from the Winston-Salem Arts Council to publish his first collection Changes of Venue (Mount Olive Press); has been a featured poet on the North Carolina Public Radio Station WFDD; received the 59th Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society for his poem “The Blood Watch”; and is a Pushcart nominee. Sam lives in Winston-Salem with his wife and has two children, and retired from his day-job of 32 years with the Winston-Salem Recreation Department. He is the 2017 President of the NC Poetry Society, and Past-President of Winston-Salem Writers.
Every day Amanda Treese would draw hearts on her math warm-up when she finished it, and finally Matthew Taylor, who sat next to her, couldn’t take it anymore and he said, “What do you love?”
“What are you saying that you love with all these hearts?”
She looked at her paper. “It means love.”
“I know it means love. But what are you saying that you love?”
“It’s just love.”
“It can’t be just love. It has to have a point behind it. Like as in you love something or somebody.”
“Because otherwise it’s just floating out in the air and it doesn’t have a…”
“A destination. A place to land.”
“Why does it have to land?”
“Why does it have to land? Because otherwise of course love. Of course love is nice, but…”
“Do you like love?”
“Of course! How is anybody going to be against love? But…”
“You should draw a heart too then.”
“I can’t draw a heart. I have to have some purpose for drawing a heart.”
“What is your purpose?”
“I mean suppose I loved somebody. Then I would draw a heart and write their name. That would be a purpose.”
“Do you love somebody?”
“Not like that.”
“What do you love?”
“I love my family.”
“You could draw a heart and write your family.”
“I already know I love my family. Anyway this is just a math warm-up.”
“It’s still a good place to draw a heart.”
“If you say it like that, then any place is a good place to draw a heart.”
“Any place is a good place to draw a heart.”
“Then people would just be putting hearts everywhere!”
“What is wrong with that?”
“Well, somebody would want to know what is the thing that all these hearts are saying they love?”
“You would want to know that.”
“Yes, me. And some other people. Everybody who thinks that if you’re going to draw a heart, you should say what you’re talking about.”
“What if I just say that I love love?”
She drew two hearts on her paper next to each other.
“That’s better at least. But everybody loves love.”
“Do you love love?”
“I’m going to draw two hearts on your paper.”
“You don’t think it’s girly?”
“I’m not worried about girly. Girls are people. I just don’t understood having something about love without talking about what you’re talking about.”
She drew two hearts on his paper.
“There,” she said.
“You don’t mind?”
“I don’t mind. This has some purpose to it at least. It’s not just out there floating by itself.”
This happened near the start of seventh grade. For the rest of that year and through all of eighth grade, Amanda Treese drew hearts on her math warm-ups. She always drew two hearts together.
Siamak Vossoughi was born in Tehran and grew up in Seattle. She has been published in Kenyon Review Online, Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, and Chattahoochee Review. Her collection, Better Than War, received a 2014 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.