The Last Time I Talked to My Mom
She’d flown to Florida just to die, not that slow-
motion movie crammed with insights and coming-
to-terms, me on the edge of the plains hearing how
one brother and his wife went bedside, sang their
newest version of psalm twenty-three, another one
praying sweet Jesus how can I compete with that,
so you can see why she flew away.
She’d hired a cab to the hospital, told them, it being
the South, she was fixing to die, told me these doctors
they’re whispering cancer as if I can’t read the seven
signs, and they want to try chemo, as if that’s going
to happen, and anyway it was good to hear but I’m
going now and she just let the phone drop, so I
listened to her breathe for a while.
They called soon enough, saying it was a stroke –
that stubborn old lady, dying as she pleased.
Sometimes, She Says
It was my kid asking me and more than once,
so after she was killed, I decided just to quit,
though it was hard, having smoked for years,
and I loved it, I did, maybe out on the porch
a fall afternoon, someone burning leaves two
streets over, a high hint in the cool air, early
moon above the hills, or after sex sometimes,
like in the movies, where you’re the heroine
if not in this story, then another, wondering
how it might go, this whatever seems to be
happening here – cigarette moments to
ornament a tree with a little history, but
my daughter asks again and there’s a crash
that makes her brain swell into a thunderhead
soaking up ocean till it rains itself away, so I
tell myself, just stop, each time you choose
not to is a kind of prayer, and keeping that
it’s like lighting candles in a church, so
maybe it counts – only, sometimes on a street
a match will flare as another’s smoke whispers
of distant laughter, and yes envy and still the
anger over everything that’s lost, and is it lust
or deadly greed infiltrating my breath – this
banished pleasure, this near occasion of sin?
George Perreault is from Reno, Nevada, and his most recent collection, Bodark County, features poems in the voices of characters living on the Llano Estacado. He has received awards from the Nevada Arts Council and the Washington Poets Association and has served as a visiting writer in New Mexico, Montana, and Utah. His poems have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and selected for fourteen anthologies and dozens of magazines.
“This started when I moved to Amy’s house,” Judy said, as she and James set out for their evening stroll. It was the same stretch of the East Coast Park that they had walked every evening, for the last forty-seven years. James was still in his work clothes, a navy-blue Coast Guard uniform. Judy wore a beige top over black trousers.
“A churning in the stomach. Heart hammering loudly into my chest, drowning all other sounds. It grows faster, like going downhill on a roller coaster. My hands shake and go cold. See…”, she halted and held out her trembling hands.
James looked at them sadly and said, “I’m sorry, dear.”
They came to their usual patch of sand and sat down with some effort.
“No, don’t be. The only time the pounding stops is when you visit. When I see you, I can breathe. And think.”
James picked up a handful of sand and poured it over her fingers.
“You must come and see Amy. She doesn’t believe me when I tell her that we still go for walks. You know the way she lowers her eyes when she’s holding back something, she does that. “What did Baba say?” she asks. I told her to come here today and see for herself.” She leaned back to see if Amy was in sight. “There she comes”, she pointed to a blurry figure at distance, walking towards them.
James’s gaze followed Judy’s hand. “She is still angry. “Baba shouldn’t have gone after the little girl. The guard on duty was already there” she says. And she worries about me. Says I don’t sleep well ever since that day.” Her eyes started to feel heavy. “I don’t know…I look forward to sleep. Sometimes you come in my dreams. Of course, you’re always in this uniform.” The new Gallantry Medal glowed in the light of the setting sun.
“But there, it’s just the two of us. You don’t talk much, and when you do, you repeat the same things. That scares me more than anything”, she said, sucking in the warm air urgently. “And when it’s time for you to leave, the thud-thudding starts again, gently, from far away…I wish Amy would walk faster… and gets closer, and louder…why is she turning back? I reach out to hold you, but my hands feel heavy.” A flutter of alarm rose in her chest as James patted her hands firmly, deep under a mound of sand, and stood up.
“I call after you, but there’s no sound, only a wheezy sort of gasp. Once Amy heard it and came rushing into my room in the middle of night. But not you.”
“I’m sorry, dear”, he said, brushing sand off his clothes. He gently stepped over her buried hands and walked towards the water, footsteps in perfect rhythm with the deafening pounds that grew faster with every beat, and disappeared into the waves, again.
Nidhi was born and raised in India and currently resides in Singapore with her family. She is a business consultant by training and a writer by passion. She writes short fiction, poetry, essays and reviews. Her work has been published in Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore, Open Road Review, Mothers Always Write and Thrice Fiction and an anthology of fiction in Singapore. https://www.facebook.com/nidhi.arora.52206
mind on the line, ear to the note’s
approach, the hand must needs be
steady, body too―eye blind,
to all but time’s inscribing
one slip of the tongue, the world’s awry,
away over the hill she went,
the words said, and the damage done,
the cry too slight, too lame, too late
someone somewhere’s talking
call them, tell them to come,
one day, when no-one’s home
say, the walls will listen
to what there is, or was
or will be still, to tell
to be seen here
from where the poem is
the pale way, to the sense
that something is
that some place, in sight, might
be lying in wait
to be spelt out
the sound of your feet then
there in the street
that time night-time
step on step on the stone
it has not stopped
the lone way home goes on
the same feet sounding
stone by stone
Ray Malone is currently living and working as an artist, writer and translator in Berlin. He has published in so-called small magazines in the U.K. in the 60s, and occasionally since. In recent years he has dedicated himself to working with minimal forms.