City highways take the future
around the bend of the river
of money. Women assume further control.
The next human world aims its nuclear
torpedoes, as transcontinental jets
haunt the place, taking off and landing
on autopilot. Sons decide they’re daughters,
while the compass spin undergoes
its heavy journey across the charred
proving grounds of spring. Beetles burrow
into trees high up, where winter ends
and may return less often. Alien weather
balloons crack into a dimensionless chill.
Elk herds edge north, as the north pole
down-drains into newly claimed shipping
lanes. Parabolic receivers scan for eyes
of doubt over ends and their means.
Blue-suited company men gas up directly
removed from undead talk of extinctions.
A long hot kiss familiar with liberated
hip bones wavers before the collapse
of procreative love. Forebears continue
to break up and drift off from work shoes
and overcoats. Habits that grew out of fear
into lifestyles refuse to reveal their North
American arrogance in its rainwater
spend-drift street-carried flatness
under shirts and blank-slate asking
for reassurance around petroglyphs
that dwarf the possible ways to feel.
James Grabill’s work appears in Caliban, Harvard Review, Terrain, Mobius, Shenandoah, Seattle Review, Stand, and many others. Books – Poem Rising Out of the Earth (1994), An Indigo Scent after the Rain (2003), Lynx House Press. Environmental prose poems, Sea-Level Nerve: Books One (2014), Two (2015), Wordcraft of Oregon. For many years, he taught all kinds of writing as well as “systems thinking” and global issues relative to sustainability.
“I’m sorry, your position is being eliminated,” she said, handing me the divorce papers.
“Do you think I’ll just accept this lying down?” I asked.
She smiled, impartially, waiting.
“You’re not really eliminating my position,” I said. “If you were joining a nunnery then, yes, that would be eliminating my position. But you’re not joining a nunnery, are you?”
She continued smiling, always the professional, making a show of patience at the complaining customer.
“No,” I continued. “I didn’t think so. You’re not Ophelia off to the nunnery. I’ve been fired. I think you should reconsider. Sure, I’ve had a few bad performance reviews. Who hasn’t? But my job description changed to something very different from what I signed up for. Surely I deserve a second chance.”
“Sorry,” she said. “I’ve already begun interviewing applicants to replace you.”
“Ah,” I said. “That explains the little black dress and the alcohol on your breath. But what about our kids?”
“We might have a spot for you as a consultant,” she said.
“Oh, a consultant. Contracting out the heavy lifting, are we? I’ll pay child support. I’ll take the kids to Disneyland or whatever in the summer. I’ll pay the private school tuition. I’ll foot the bill for everything, but I don’t get benefits. Not that much different than marriage, is it? What about a severance package?”
“You’ll have the memories,” she said. “Those are portable.”
I exhaled heavily to show my disdain for her chutzpah and my exasperation at the injustice being shown me. I decided to play hardball.
“What if I sue you for discrimination?” I said, wiggling my eyebrows up and down in a significant and threatening manner. The tension left her face, and I knew I was toast.
“I’m sorry,” she said, smiling. “Faithful husband isn’t a protected class.”
Mike Wilson, a writer in Lexington, Kentucky, has had work published in small magazines including Appalachian Heritage, Solidago, The Seventh Wave, The Aurorean and The London Reader and will have work appearing in Fiction Southeast and Edify Fiction.
As in, pick up your mud-crusted boots and move along. Forward, onward. Stopping to ponder one’s thoughts could lead to a frozen death, a swampy drowning.
As in, the January memory of one million bodies filling the DC green (not green at all), the wind cold and biting on our cheeks, my children separated from me. They were near the Metro station, not far from where I clung to a flag-post but we could not traverse the sea of protesters. We could not march, or even move. Our arms shook, holding up signs of anger, and love. Winter, then spring.
As in, rain for ten days, stop for two. The trees bloom briefly, confused. They drop the petals like wet mittens on the ground, ground down to a faded sidewalk tapestry.
Dickens noted, “When it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.” But the light has eluded us this year, trapped in a box on Fox news. Blanketed with East Coast sleet, west coast floods. We watch a goat, standing along on the roof of a dairy farm, waiting to be rescued, cars floating by. Swollen rivers of doubt topple the last walls of credibility.
“We are sunk,” we say, turning off the television. “We’ve gone to the dogs.”
Simultaneously, our soaked Shepherds press muddy paws on the glass door. The mother dog’s eyes brim with anxiety. She is ombrophobic — March is not her month.
The invasion of mold in the carpet, water in the cellar, and ants. The ants erupt from a crack under the dripping window sill. Highly organized, they move four abreast across the counter, boldly. They resemble one million women in the streets of Washington, from an aerial view. The ant parade takes a sudden turn at the liquor cabinet. Drunken ants pile around the simple syrup. I understand. We drank too at the end of our long march.
As in, thousands of refugees who approach the border. The king of fools calls upon his reluctant troops to raise arms against them. He labels them The Caravan. As if they come with wagons and horses — settlers to the wild west. Could we offer a homestead, or a land title? No. To share even a jug of water risks arrest.
Emily Dickenson welcomed it like a secret lover, locking the door against April. My faith in the poet falters. To prefer March to April — strong evidence of insanity. I beckon April to visit me instead. I promise spring cleaning, fresh bulbs, and tea in the solarium.
My dry skin flakes away, words sit rough in my dry throat, and my winter belly creates a mantle over my jeans. The shadows under my eyes deepen to small tar pits. I awake with no spring in my step and my hips protest.
“Still cold and damp,” my joints moan.
“Hush,” I self-chide. “Lift your feet. Onward. We cross the border today. March.”
Joanell Serra lives and writes in Northern California. Her first novel, The Vines We Planted, was published by Wido in 2018. An award-winning playwright, novelist and short story writer, she has published stories in Eclectica, Blue Lake Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Poydras Review and elsewhere. In 2015, she won a full scholarship to Santa Barbara’s Writer’s Conference and also attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.