We’re sitting in the Jimmy Johns
waiting for our foot-longs.
My father’s brand-new cane
a twisted length of black branch
every time he leans too heavy on it.
Outside a crowd gathers
around a Ford Mustang
with a kitten stuck
inside the wheel well, motor still
hot as black sand.
We ordered and paid
twenty minutes ago.
Two of the four teenagers
who run the place
stand outside wearing oven gloves
and one holds a box
to nest the kitten once she’s free.
My father peers
between window signage.
That’s a job for the fire department.
Someone call 911!
This music’s too loud,
Can we go someplace else?
Each time the door opens,
I fingernail pinch
the delicate skin under my arm
—to stave away
the slice of kitten’s
from deep the metal gut.
Katy E. Ellis
Katy E. Ellis grew up under fir trees and high-voltage power lines in Renton, Washington and is the author of three chapbooks: Night Watch—winner of the 2017 Floating Bridge Press chapbook competition—Urban Animal Expeditions and Gravity (a single poem), which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry appears in a number of literary journals including Pithead Chapel, MAYDAY Magazine, Calyx, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and the Canadian journals PRISM International, Grain and Fiddlehead. Her fiction has appeared in Burnside Review and won Third Place in the Glimmer Train super-short fiction contest. She has been awarded grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture and Artist Trust/Centrum. Katy co-curates WordsWest Literary series, a monthly literary event in West Seattle.
Each time I meet my grandfather in a dream
he speaks only German—reminds me to speak
only when he’s a ghost. He hums between
the chimes of the Black Forest cuckoo,
takes the pick out of his teeth
when he looks my way:
Kennst du mich nicht? ::
Weißt du nicht wer du bist? ::
I want to bring him back to Chicago, but
we’re lost in fields, midwestern soybeans.
And when he fades I cry out:
Wo bist du? Wo bist du?
When my grandfather dies
his body deepens into the soybeans.
I try to excavate him,
but all that is left of his bones:
empty gin bottles that perfume his tongue,
model train tracks set in a circle.
I look for a way to bear him back—but I find
myself wandering to his old house,
burrowing inside the fireplace,
pulling logs he had chopped around me
like blankets. When his ghost comes to light the fire
—the only way he knows how to heat
the house—I let myself burn with it.
The Embalmer haunts my grandfather back to the South Side of Chicago,
where he beat me for building with my left hand instead of my right.
I extract each cluster of edelweiss, de-construct each petal a tomb.
Clay: quarry and kiln—let it sharpen like an eyetooth.
Brick: measure weight in hand—consider its flight
through the window :: a way out.
Rough-hewn stone: walls built up in Chicago,
then hidden between fields of soybeans.
Nested in each hard, scarred pod is one of his bones.
The Architect shoos the Embalmer away
—lets me sleep—gives me the time to turn back
to stone dust or the silky powder of soot.
Born and raised outside of Rochester, NY, Erin Kae is a proud graduate of SUNY Geneseo. Her poetry has been featured in Vinyl, Sonora Review, Crab Fat Magazine, and Fugue among others. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Aster(ix) Journal, and was selected as a finalist for the 2017 Locked Horn Press Publication Prize for their issue Read Water: An Anthology, 2019. Her first poetry chapbook, Grasp This Salt, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2019. She currently resides in Somerville, Massachusetts.
He was caught, with loads of cash, trying to cross the border to avoid our invasion. His brown, wrinkled skin resembled bark. Fear glinted in his wide eyes. He hunched his shoulders, anticipating violence, hands tied behind his back. His dark-brown skin indicated he belonged in the hot place we had conquered. I saw him hunched over between two of our soldiers who were bone-white with red noses. His irises resembled freaked mahogany in their tanned surrounds. He was accused of being the head of a clan–with using his money to incite rebellion. No legal process had occurred.
Sipping soup in the kitchen, I heard: “Narahhhhh…..”
The spoon stopped before my mouth.
That high shrieking of horrified disbelief conveyed the amazement of shocked innocence.
My head shot around to look down the corridor.
I carried a chair down the corridor. Standing on the chair, I looked through a window above the door into the room where the seated suspected clan leader’s ankles and wrists were tied. His head fell forward. Blood dripped onto his lap. His puffed-up eyes were hardly visible in a face that now resembled putty.
Big, blonde Aaron released a flurry of fists, cracking the man’s head. The man howled like a wounded dog when a burning cigarette got stubbed out on his nose by Ariel whose smile resembled a malevolent spotlight in the room’s gloom. The man’s money was scattered across a table. Horror waves smacked my skull.
I bashed on the door while hearing: “Arhhhhhhhh…”
“Go away,” Ariel screamed.
“What did he do?” I yelled.
Aaron opened the door and said: “You’ve got work to do on the trucks. Do it.”
The tortured man’s wincing was high-pitched with disbelief.
I lingered in the doorway. Aaron was my commanding officer. His penetrating, blue eyes, like cut glass shimmering with anger, glared as he jolted his head and hissed: “Well?”
The blood on his green shirt contrasted vividly with his snowy hair. The tortured man wheezed like a punctured lung. Aaron and I stared at each other in a slow moment of both realising that we could never be friends. A savage brilliance filled his electric-blue eyes.
“Is this going to help us?” I asked.
“Go,” Aaron said, pointing down the grey corridor.
His attitude towards the man he was torturing seemed unnaturally personal.
“You don’t know what animals they are,” he said, slamming the door in my face.
The man’s body, dumped onto one of the trucks I had been working on, got taken to a mass grave for people massacred in the villages we had destroyed, its legs flying up and crashing down as the truck hit a bump when leaving the compound.
Terrorism started about ten years later.
Kim has worked for aid agencies in three conflicts: Kosovo, Iraq and Palestine. He takes risks to get the experience required for writing. He likes fine wine, art, photography and bullfighting, which probably explains why this Australian lives in Madrid; although he wouldn’t say no to living in a French château or a Swiss ski resort. 154 of his stories have been accepted by 91 different magazines.