To the absent, the dead, the estranged: I am Mother

Somewhere

West of the Mojave.

In a dream

I don’t remember.

In that space

Where water amputates,

Land,

And everything,

We cannot burn grows,

Wild.

I am Mother.

 

I am Mother

To a daughter, born

Early,

Composed in a turbulent sea.

Surfacing, with skin and teeth,

Umbilical cord,

Tied off,

Knotted,

Around her neck,

In protest.

I am Mother.

 

Child of the corner.

Lotus flower

I wear you like a wound

Struggling,

To understand

Your language.

 

I cannot turn away.

 

They say, a mother is always

Letting go

Of her children.

I hear you.

I see you.

In my daydreams

In my nightmares.

I cannot turn away.

 

She takes a Permanent

Marker,

Crosses out my name.

 

i am mother.

 

by Sheree La Puma

Sheree La Puma is an award-winning writer whose personal essays, fiction and poetry appeared in such publications as the Burningword Literary Journal, I-70 Review, Mad Swirl, and Ginosko Literary Review, among others. She received an MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts and attended workshops with poet Louise Mathias and writer Lidia Yuknavitch. She has taught poetry to former gang members and theater to teen runaways. Born in Los Angeles, she now resides in Valencia, CA with her rescues, Bello cat and Jack the dog.

 

Party Lines

In the headlights, fingers of fog weave

over the road, a seamstress just beginning

to patch together the loss of hours and years,

 

the maybe not and the not there yet.

I drive three hours to my mother’s house,

arrive an hour later than she expects,

 

still she’s waiting with dinner. She’s

seventy something, I’m forty-six, we’re still

mother and son. Before I’m finished with

 

the salad, she wants me to accompany her

to two parties this evening: a birthday

and a retirement. Between the roast beef

 

and mashed potatoes, it’s all guilt. I continue

to say, “No,” mentioning the chainsaw and splitting

wood for the stove, playing basketball with my son

 

and friends, and, of course, the drive, and in case

exhaustion isn’t enough, I accept the label

of neglectful son, and whatever else she serves up.

 

Plato, Socrates’ prize student, when he was eighty,

attended a pupil’s wedding party,

and during the celebration retired

 

to a corner of the villa to sleep in a chair.

He stayed there until the all-night revelers

returned in the morning to wake him,

 

but he had slept too far into the Elysian fields,

leaving us with the question: Is it marriage

or a party that leads to the death of philosophy?

 

by Walter Bargen

Walter Bargen has published 21 books of poetry. Recent books include: Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (BkMk Press, 2009), Trouble Behind Glass Doors (BkMk Press, 2013), Perishable Kingdoms (Grito del Lobo Press, 2017), and Too Quick for the Living (Moon City Press, 2017). His awards include: a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the William Rockhill Nelson Award. He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009).www.walterbargen.com

Salt

So this bartender starts telling me about a story he’s writing. You know how back in the old days when salt was worth its weight in gold. When you could buy anything you wanted with a little pinch of salt. This newlywed couple decides to go back to those days on their honeymoon. There’s a Time Machine that will take them—on the installment plan, of course. They can pay when they get back. But they can afford the trip because they know all about the salt and will bring along a couple of boxes of Morton Salt. The dark blue round boxes with the little girl on it with the umbrella. So they go back. They are having the time of their lives at the Coliseum watching the Christians getting mauled and eaten by the lions. They dine in the finest restaurants in Rome and rent a villa by the sea. On Capri maybe. They have the time of their lives and pay for everything in salt. Or maybe they forgot the salt. The newlywed husband left it on the kitchen table. Or maybe the newlywed bride did. Oh god, they say. They can’t pay their debts and end up getting thrown to the lions themselves. I haven’t figured that part out yet, the bartender says. The ending. The twist. What do you think. I get up from my stool to pay my tab and slide a tiny glassine packet of white crystals across the bar. Half a gram ought to cover it, don’t you think. The bartender looks around the room with panic in his eyes. I can’t take this, he says. Don’t worry, man, I tell him. It’s good. Kickass shit. And legal. Hell, you people back here in the twenty-first century haven’t even figured out how to synthesize it yet.

 

by Robert Perchan

Robert Perchan’s poetry chapbooks are Mythic Instinct Afternoon (2005 Poetry West Prize) and Overdressed to Kill (Backwaters Press, 2005 Weldon Kees Award). His poetry collection Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light won the 1999 Pearl Poetry Prize and was published by Pearl Editions in 2000. His avant-la-lettre flash novel Perchan’s Chorea: Eros and Exile (Watermark Press, Wichita, 1991) was translated into French and published by Quidam Editeurs (Meudon) in 2002. In 2007 his short short story “The Neoplastic Surgeon” won the on-line Entelechy: Mind and Culture Bio-fiction Prize. He currently resides in Pusan, South Korea. You can see some of his stuff on robertperchan.com.