I pulled the sheet over the hole again,
laid stones along the edge to stop
the wind from slapping it against the sky.
I didn’t want to see
how far down I’d have to leave him.
He’d showed me what I needed to know,
how to brine the meat in salt and garlic,
how to mix dill in the vinegar,
keep the cucumbers and carrots
crisp through months of snow
when I’d be alone
and no one would come up the mountain.
He taught me to talk to the mirror,
look in my own eyes, say I’m afraid,
the only way to pierce the cloud,
make it bleed your worry.
He’d always say there’s no one
who’ll get in the hole with you;
make your own mind.
For months I tried to shove the ache
back in the hole, wanted the days
to pile like shells into years,
cover it, settle the patched mound
‘til it was a flattened hill of my dead.
Every morning the steel on stone voice
cuts the air when I cook the oats,
raisins and molasses,
stare out the window at the snow,
roll his words in my mind.
Even now I whisper the rules:
throw salt over your shoulder to blind the devil,
be ready to say you’re sorry,
watch a man’s eyes when he talks
if I want to know
whether you can believe him.
Mark Anthony Burke
Mark Burke’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the North American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sugar House Review, Nimrod International Journal and others. His work has recently been nominated for a Pushcart prize. See: markanthonyburkesongsandpoems.com
Albert did you really say
science without religion is lame
Did you repose under constellations
hour-less nights no calculations no formulas
knowing infinity lives in cosmic sparkle hoping
to stir eons of wonderment
When in deep contemplation did a welling-up
ferry you into timeless paradise priests call heaven
I ask you if this sacramental suspension
could be a black hole final grave consuming us
Tonight blackness swallows me
Imbibed by inky abyss turned inside out
I wonder of my finality earth’s extinction
the fate of pondering
When you reveled under constellations
hour-less nights did you implore God
that this luxury not be something
time forced you leave behind
Did you write a verse incant an intercession
invite tempus fugit back over and over?
Conversation with Albert Einstein
Marianne has been a music teacher for 43 years. After teaching in Hong Kong, she returned to the Napa Valley and has been published in various literary magazines and reviews including Ravens Perch, TWJM Magazine, Earth Daughters and Indiana Voice Journal. She was nominated for the Pushcart prize in 2017. She is a member of the California Writers Club and an Adjunct Professor at Touro University in California.
It wasn’t a very good time at all, not good. Edward Whitley stood in the corner like an old floor lamp. He wasn’t looking at anything. His beady little eyes just sat there like the last two peas on a plate, lost in some thought, away from everything around him. Winnie Spencer was passing out homemade peanut butter cookies, a good thing to do, but there weren’t many takers. It wasn’t that out of place. This was peanut country. Everybody loved a peanut. It’s what made Southampton County tick.
Why is it that the more miserable a time you’re having the slower it seems to move? It sounds reasonable, even true, but why, really? Emma Pattersoll’s little girl was sitting on the floor in her best Sunday dress, petticoat and all, playing jacks The ball bounced and she’d grab one. Then she’d do it again. George Spencer chewed Beechnut. He had a sort of slow rhythm to it. The last thing anybody needed was a clock.
Wade and Wayland Bennett were identical twins. It wasn’t until Wade died that anyone could tell them apart. “So, that was Wade,” someone said looking down into the open casket.
“Wade was the silly one. He had a mole.”
The funeral home man said, “I was expecting a bigger crowd.”
“Yes,” said Rosalie Bennett Poole, “I can’t understand it. Wade was such a good man. There weren’t no other man like him.”
“People just don’t pay respect the way they used to. They don’t come out.”
“I know. I know.”
“I always figured Wade Bennett to be queer,” said Charlie Ingram.
“For land sakes Charlie, don’t say that. Don’t say it so loud.”
“Hell, I thought that was Wayland.”
“Well, it don’t matter now.”
“Cookie?” said Winnie Spencer cheerfully.
James William Gardner
James William Gardner writes extensively about the contemporary American south. The writer explores aspects of southern culture often overlooked: the downtrodden, the impoverished and those marginalized by society. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.