Porch Sitters Sippin' Sweet Tea in Heaven
by Yolanda Franklin
Dialogue between Janie Crawford and Pheoby Watson
Chile, it’s not about the water, though love is lak
de sea. Faults always lift under siege—.
It’s ‘bout the sex: it’s a movin’ thing. Katrina
flaunt her diva complex, but still and all,
her stiletto stilted, & that slut slipped
her hips over da Big Easy, lap
danced over da Bayou, strut through the French
Quarter. A harlot in humid perfume
stuck, tugged her girdle, hula-hooped like
a wooden spoon, while Dixie’s sugar spilled,
bystanders eyed, an ankle bracelet snagged
the head of a tombstone. Seduction
rain danced the Creole Sea.
It was when we was leavin’
or fixin’ to consider it
da first time me and Tea Cake
heart breakin’ from da Muck
back in ‘28. Dat’s whut
‘trina act lak: a wildebeest
of a storm lak de one in de Everglades.
The sky had God’s handwriting
in its foreshadows: a sepia photo tinged
wit da rust of waitin.
3. (Phoeby speaking)
Uh-huhn, you knowed it too! Spoke
wit dat conjure woman
who say ‘trina left here hurried in a halter-
top, a fiend for Louisiana’s
five-day erection, pining
over some lover: a sultry
waltz to New O’Lean’s moan.
Girl, look lak Death came through
there! The horizon kneeled
spirits flood da sky. Watch
God parade: parasols balloon
under the shimmy of Spanish moss shawls.
Carrions epigraph tombstones.
An insatiable rape submerged da ‘glades.
by Randall Freisinger
I stood on the porch that night,
the lights from a parent’s car just vanishing
at the end of the street. My friend and I
had been to a movie, It Came From
Outer Space. Above me, the stars
had lost their innocence. My block
throbbed with threats from distant galaxies.
Because I was late, I entered the house
quietly, hoping to sneak unnoticed upstairs.
All seemed normal enough for the usual
Saturday night of too much drinking—
My parents, asleep, he in his chair
in front of the guttering television screen,
she splayed out on the studio couch
in a nearby room. How quickly
the known world can turn strange.
I knew what it was when I saw it
on the living room floor. I had swiped
them from Crown Drugs and filled them
with water to ambush passing cars. This one,
viscous, lay damply coiled on the rug
like the sloughed husk of a newborn alien
that must have streaked from deepest space
even as my friend and I hunkered down
in the Southtown Theater’s three-dimensional
darkness. My brain, agitated,
could come to only two conclusions,
one so fantastic my mind refused
the gross picture it posed. The only credible
way to explain it: Extraterrestrials.
Either way, I had no choice but to destroy
the evidence, picking the sticky chrysalis
skin up with a thick wad of Kleenex
and shoving it deep in the kitchen trash
right alongside my own astonishment.
Upstairs, I tried hard to distract myself
with prayer, but that wet rubber
crackled in my mind’s air like static
and there was no getting through
that night to the starry kingdom of God.
Next morning at breakfast, I studied them
carefully through my new 3-D glasses,
my father in profile with his coffee
and Sunday paper, Mother a bit
groggy at the stove, tending
pans of bacon and eggs. Nothing
amiss: no telltale scales on his hands,
no saw-toothed tail switching beneath
her gossamer robe. All through breakfast
I stayed vigilant, my eyes as sharp
as Flash Gordon’s, my mind hyper
with the ammo of fight or flight.
After breakfast I planned to search
in our backyard for the crater, the mother ship
I knew it would contain.
I would bravely destroy the invaders.
Then it would be my most solemn duty
to inform the world: From now on
here, on Planet Earth, things would never,
ever again be the same.
The List of Goats
by Tom Holmes
The goat hopes to become a mountain.
That was how I thought. I listed it
with the ideas I intuited
that spring: I was unread.
The lemon tree was all yellow
in wait, as my theory mind.
The teacher & priest lectured.
My book & I talked.
Reading was found.
I was twenty-one, writing in my Moby Dick,
my first note.
I am the sun with fifty sails.
I am adrift at the horizon.
Included that with the speculations I turned
in my hypothetical season … I’m absorbed
after a few items, observations,
my fingers follow down:
the goat itself
the dreaming of the goat
the goat braying on the rock
me as the goat
goat peaking through dawn.
The mind hopes it becomes
Iowa Landscape with Two Young Lovers
by Dennis Loney
1/ Crossing to Allamakee
They lay low in a field of wind-blown corn:
ribbons of twining leaves scratched feeble words;
roots, like lewd talons from overlooked birds,
clutched clods of huddled earth. She was forlorn:
pricked to the slow mill of gravel and wheel;
the cold quivering lights that exposed pale
ditch grasses and wire fences; distant male
voices; the greedy pigs addressing steel
feeders; iterant lows. In blue-black light
they crossed the county line, a dull black clutch
of nightshade berries stained her hands and much
of their sudden panic slipped into the night.
And when the brightened sky held out its hand,
they took it, rose into the heavens and.
2/ Waiting Room
Everything was white: the ceiling, the floor,
the walls, the frosted window and its block
of light, the straight-backed metal chairs, the clock
whose hands were still, the backplate, deadbolt and door
that would reveal a brilliant sun-slapped hall
that would clearly lead to light-filled rooms where men
and women wait with stock replies for When?
and When again? each like a pull-string doll
who fixes its crystal gaze on the dead spaces
above their heads. And what was said would change
perspective: shift, delete, reroute, derange;
its answers (any answer) would strike their faces
with light, the kind they found in Allamakee
that night, which seems, by now, an eternity.
How Far Back it Goes
by Scott Poole
The salamander falls off the leaf
and drifts down the side of a deep
canyon wall into the wild dark
of lazy mountain stream
and begins sucking on the side of a rock
that no man will ever touch or ever care to.
Then some sort of deep disturbed fish
comes up and kisses the ass of the salamander.
Then some other horrible aquatic creature,
something no person living or dead
has ever seen kisses the ass of that fish.
The ass kissing continues through the afternoon
deep, way back, into the dark crags of history
into the very fathomless evil
that no person will ever understand.
Kissing asses goes that far back, that deep.
Now here in a kitchen in the middle of
the plain day you give me an honest hug
and say thank you.
I love that I have no idea what it’s for.
by Natalia Treviño
In the hot light of your kitchen, ‘Uelita, you showed me how to press the thick dough against your popping, aluminum table. Your hands the size of the tortillas to come, willing the mass to open as soft disk. My hands too small to maneuver, to stretch over it, to pull the dry powder in. I was fifteen and knew you were happy. Years after ‘Buelito had died, you a new kind of woman. Certain eyes. Laughing, traveling, playing cards. Able to wake and say no, to skip the heat of the day to cook the midday meal. Bake a cake instead, at night. Crochet and smoke at the same time. Speak up around men. Accept a small glass of beer. The dough as cool as your hands, your red fingernails disappearing into the ball. Would you remarry? I ask. You are quick to answer. Yes, it is ugly to live alone. Your fingers have memorized this motion, this touch. All I can think is how the wives in Mexico flail in sick waters, in tired, wakeful oceans, choppy white crests salting their faces, silenced and gasping by the slap of spray. Romantic novella endings kneaded into the eyes and ears of daughters, spiteful neighborhood chisme, the sealing orders from men, sons, brothers, husbands. The lines on your face, Uelita, deep like the folds of the dough in your hands. The portraits in your living room, bridal framed faces, faint as shells at the end of flat beach, stripped of color by the brine of dry sunlight, waiting for the tide to soak them, turn them, or swallow them. Bone exposed at the back of the neck, you bend to your yes. And we press our tortilla skins to the heat, their faces down, to cook them.