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.
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 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.
I first met him when we were high school freshman. I liked the coltish limbyness of him, his pretend exasperation with the things I said. I knew he liked me too.
A decade later he called me because his mother was dying. He took me to lunch. I wondered if he could tell I still felt the same.
He asked me to visit so I brought a photo of him and me from high school to show his mother, proof I had the right to be there. She smiled from where she lay and said, “You’ve always been a good friend to him.” Even at that moment I wished for more.
I next saw him at the funeral, several hundred people there to honor her life. His brothers and sisters quaking in the pews, the father sitting off to the side by himself, looking like he was filled inside only with air. How those tall brothers carried their mother’s body in its box on their shoulders, stepping carefully, trying not to fold under the weight.
Later, on the train back to the city by myself, I kept thinking about my friend’s funeral suit; the stain on it I saw when he waved me goodbye. I knew we wouldn’t see each other again.
Ronit Feinglass Plank
Ronit’s work has appeared in The American Literary Review, Salon, Best New Writing 2015, Proximity, and The Iowa Review (runner up, The 2013 Iowa Review Award for Fiction), among others. She earned her MFA in nonfiction at Pacific University and is currently working on a memoir. More about her and links to her work are at www.ronitfeinglassplank.com.
Tell us about your scar. Does it hurt?
Only when I smile.
I suppose it has a story?
Yes, but not a very interesting one. I have another.
No. Another story. Would you like to hear it?
Please. Our readers would be most interested.
I was nine. There had been an accident.
An accident? Nothing serious, I hope?
A garbage truck had overturned on Bruckner Boulevard, and they were re-routing the traffic through the South Bronx. It was quite a torrid Sunday morning in July.
Not a good morning for garbage, I dare say.
No. I was seated half-naked on a curbstone picking through the bottle glass for diamonds and sharpening my popsicle stick into a defensive weapon, when a funeral procession came by—a line of stretch-limos with Connecticut license plates. One of them pulled over to the curb, the rear window went down, and a lady, a lovely lady in a black veil, asked me if I could give them directions to Woodlawn.
She was lost.
Yes, and did I think I could show her the way out of the South Bronx—and to Woodlawn Cemetery.
And could you?
I had given it a great deal of thought. She invited me to get into the back seat with her and give directions to the chauffeur.
I liked riding in that limousine. I didn’t want to leave.
Of course you didn’t.
It had air-conditioning. And a rather distinctive plum-plush interior. She let me out at the southeast corner of Jerome Avenue and West Gun Hill Road. In front of the Santa Maria bodega.
Such a sense of direction.
She thanked me for getting her there so quickly. She gave me an orange. And the Sports section to her Sunday New York Times.
For a very deserving little boy. You’ve grown since then.
“When I was a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
1 Corinthians 13. Ol’ Saul certainly knew his frijoles.
I believe that was Paul. The apostle. He experienced a conversion.
He did. Saul to Paul. Presto change-o.
His frijoles. Very good. Do you mind if I use that?
Be my guest.
To your lovely lost lady. Wherever she is.
To all my lost ladies.
Of course. Does that include me? We really must take a raincheck for dinner. I could always use an extra man.
I’d like that. If I ever get out of here.
Charles Leipart was a finalist for the 2017 Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize for What Wolfman Knew, Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival; What Wolfman Knew is published in the September 2017 issue of the Jabberwock Review; Tea with the Tin Man, a flash fiction, is published in the quarterly issue 82 of Burningword Literary Journal, July 2017. Frank & Mia & Me, a flash fiction, is published in issue 7 of Panoply Literary Zine. Charles is a graduate of Northwestern University, a former fellow of the Edward Albee Foundation and a member of the Dramatists Guild. He lives and writes in New York City.