ISSUE 15 TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover Art
Raw, Michie Harris

Antioch Writers’ Workshop Poetry Contest Winners
Best-in-Show What I Forgot to Say, Amy Drees
First Place, Adult Soot, Kerry Trautman
Second Place, Adult Daily, Andrew Ellis
First Place, Youth Sister, Colleen Freeze
Second Place, Youth Artists’ Block, Gemma Miller

Poetry
Foreclosure, Grace Curtis
April Haiku, Rebecca Griswold
Stages of Decomposition, Colleen Freeze
Snowflake, Christy Lynne Trotter
Arizona, Late May, Grace Curtis
David’s Peggotty, Grace Curtis
Coney Island, Kerry Trautman

Nonfiction
Ode to Father’s Day, Christy Lynne Trotter
Streams of Consciousness: Death than “Black Anger,” Patrick J. Derilus
Time for Fireflies, Beeda Speis

Fiction
Principium Tempus, Nathaneal Johnson

Visual Art
Accident, Andrew Ellis
The Current Year Will Bring You Much Happiness, Jennifer McGuire

 

ACCIDENT

Ellis_Andrew_Accident (1)photogram

about the artist
Andrew Ellis is annoying, infuriating, agitating, provoking, engaging, encouraging, and all the things that make a person interesting. His work has appeared in TeenInk, Common Threads, and Ink, Sweat, & Tears (forthcoming). His photography has appeared in Photographer’s Forum. He lives in Ohio, and survives primarily off of Mountain Dew and peanut butter M&Ms.

WHAT I FORGOT TO SAY

What I forgot to say

was that you were right.
The coldest day of the year is not the time
to bring home a puppy, but we did it, again.

Your advice is not so much ignored
as it is remembered inconveniently late in irrevocable situations.
This makes it prophecy of the awkward Cassandra type,
or the kind that you can only read in the bird’s entrails after it stops twitching.

You have been right, all along,

that I dream of being at the end of stacks of laundry or grading or dishes
as if they were dreams of falling from a great height where it is important to wake up
before discovering a blank surface

that there are mornings when I do not recognize the curve of my husband’s back
turned away from me in the sun slicing through the curtain
and days when I forget the color of my own eyes

that the memory of the well-loved dead is a phantom hand, long amputated,
still holding a remembered glass of wine which I absent-mindedly bring to my lips

far too often.

Listen, what I forgot to say—
there is an immature downy woodpecker
in the small woods where the dog and I walk.
I have seen him creeping down the side of the dead tree,
head cocked, listening for life beneath the bark.

Yesterday, we stopped for the booming thwock of bird skull against wood,
she on point, and I scanning for a flash of red against the gray sky, the dark gray trees.
The clamor came from nowhere and everywhere,
but we found the bird hiding in its own echo.

about the author
Amy Drees misses her last real writer’s group that met in Piqua, Ohio, many years ago. She now teaches constantly, and writes infrequently in the colder, flatter north of the state.

SOOT

When the demo crew went to work
on the burnt-out building,
the scent of soot was released
upon Main Street like spores,
reminding drivers-by of
a century of bones between brick walls.

The soot held the sweat of the pawn shop
owner, waking, haunted by
stories in his storefront below.
The fur of twelve cats fed that one last
time by the body of the old lady herself.
The spit of a black couple evicted
for walking too hard on their own floors.
The cigarette smoke, burnt toast
smack grit, Aqua Net,
Pine-Sol, Love’s Baby Soft,
bong smoke, bacon grease.

Trucks smashed and rumbled heaps into
other trucks that rumbled it all away
to where I don’t know, but soot
lingers there awaiting scrubbing
and a second chance at
holding somethings together.

about the author
A lifelong Ohioan, Kerry Trautman is a founder/admin of ToledoPoet.com and The Toledo Poetry Museum page on Facebook. She participates in events such as Artomatic 419, Back To Jack, and The Columbus Arts Festival, and she is a poetry editor for Red Fez. Her work has appeared previously in Mock Turtle Zine, as well as in Midwestern GothicAlimentum, The Coe Review, and several other journals and anthologies. Her chapbook To Have Hoped is available from Finishing Line Press. Her chapbook Artifacts, is forthcoming from NightBallet Press in 2017.

DAILY

Daily, I twist a valve and let my serotonin flow out onto the floor, an emotional biohazard.
Daily, I brush my teeth but refuse to make eye contact with the foaming rictus in the mirror.
Daily, I take an obscenely cold shower and stand in the jets until I feel completely numb.
Daily, I’ll drive into town, my consumer therapy, and buy something outlandish.
Daily, I water the rosemary on my window sill and feel tired.
Every morning, I wake up to a new ceiling.

about the author
Andrew Ellis is annoying, infuriating, agitating, provoking, engaging, encouraging, and all the things that make a person interesting. His work has appeared in TeenInk, Common Threads, and Ink, Sweat, & Tears (forthcoming). His photography has appeared in Photographer’s Forum. He lives in Ohio, and survives primarily off of Mountain Dew and peanut butter M&Ms.

SISTER

Sister, there’s a song in the pipes.
The discordant whistling that sings of aeons forgotten.
Can’t you hear the Breath?

Sister, they’ve always been with us.
The words of those that came before, dead but lingering still.
Can you feel their Presence?

Sister, they’ll never go away.
The ghosts of a past uncertain playing out what was.
Now you can see Them.

The future is unwritten.
We still have the choice.
The choice of the words we’ll leave behind,
The lingering song of the future’s past.

about the author
Colleen Freeze is a junior at Kettering Fairmont High School, and an editor of the school’s literary magazine, Aerie. She has had poems published in that publication two of the last three years, and hopes to do so again in her final year at Fairmont.

ARTISTS’ BLOCK

When I’m unable
to make a piece
that matches my own expectations

I bang my head
against a wall
loathing the awful creation

I’ll hate my life
and want to die
and think that all my skills suck

my canvas amounts
to nothing more
than an ugly pile of muck

I leave the room
determined to quit
when suddenly creativity ignites

I rush back in
only to find
my paintbrush has vanished from sight

about the author
Gemma Miller is a fifteen-year-old home-schooler in the ninth grade. Though most of her time goes to schoolwork, making art, and writing, she also enjoys playing piano, acting, reading, watching movies, and staying organized.

FORECLOSURE

Turning out. Over. Leaving. A turning
of the back. An act
of take-back, basementless
bungalow, base, off-base,
debased, dis-
respected. Scrubbed
clean of it, abrupt
finality, an exhale into cardboard boxes
flimsy as its timbers
and blocks left, her life, the body,
where she sat, the porch
where her kids sat. Anything
within reach, the line
of sun-dust piercing
the window, drilling into a heart
late afternoons in winter. Smallest
trinket, a spoon, the thin coating stuffed
into a grudging trunk, a greedy feeding
of a small expanse, every
floor-inch possessed, spilling onto seats
visible as an urging,
like a laden donkey on a long trek,
pots, pans, photos,
tied with rope. Stuffing,
stuffing it all under the tarp-
shroud. It is that easy.
A lifting like petals releasing
the stalk, floating to the ground
on a windless day, the point
in the music when,
just seconds ago you thought
you still heard it, but now
you’re not sure.

about the author
Grace Curtis’ book, The Shape of a Box, was published in 2014 by Dos Madres Press. Her chapbook, The Surly Bonds of Earth, was the 2010 winner of the Lettre Sauvage chapbook contest. Her work is in Sou’wester, The Baltimore Review, Waccamaw Literary Journal, Blood Orange Review, and others. www.gracecurtispoetry.com.

PRINCIPIUM TEMPUS

In the beginning, we thought the fires were an accident. It was later decided that the fires were not an accident. It always annoyed me when the headlines read “… breaks laws of physics.” Like some asshole checked the sums and declared the transgression. No laws were broken, we just had it wrong.

Ferrolus said, “We, bleating blindly at the cosmos, err in confidence. We ought better to acknowledge our folly and be done with this faithless confession.”

I think I know what he meant.

The fires were not an accident.

My aunt used to take me on walks down the dirt road. It was my favorite. Now that I think of it, she probably only took me on one or two walks, but they were so monumental that I had the notion that it was a habit. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? She used to take me on walks, and told me this story one time. It was about a time long ago. Those people were really smart, so they decided.

Ferrolus said, “The gods are born of decisions.”

That’s all it takes, decisions. So they decided. Not because it was easy, but because it was hard. And they almost did it. They almost uncovered the Truth. But He didn’t like it. So He started a fire, and it wasn’t an accident. Now we are all shit-talkers.

BEGIN.

I heard that those fires ruined everything. At first people liked to go gawk at them. The fire crews gave up trying to stop them. They spread too quickly down the mountain. And then it was said that people were setting more. It was a lost cause, and so we stopped trying. Sometimes it’s easier to let go of an old idea. You get beat too many times by the old question and just give up. It’s too hard trying to outdo the Corinthian King. So you let go of it, let go of it all, and joyfully watch it roll down the hill one last time.

So we went to watch the fires crawl down the mountain. Pretty soon we were choking on smoke.

So we left.

BEGIN.

People used to like telling stories about how things would get real fucked-up someday. But let me tell you, that’s a lot of horse shit. It doesn’t get worse. It doesn’t get better. It’s always the same smoldering ember. Just about to flash. Well, you want to know the truth? It did flash once. That ember up and blazed. But most of us forgot about it. You would think that all the holy books that we’ve writ would give a clue, but they don’t. But here we all are, like it doesn’t even matter if we know it or not. And I’ll tell you something else: He doesn’t like it.

BEGIN.

Yesterday a few of the others signaled that they made it. I am still not convinced. We’ve always been told He wouldn’t allow it. I’m going tomorrow to see for myself. Taste and See and all that.

BEGIN.

They were right. I can hardly believe it. The Location is real. The fires were not an accident. The implications are staggering. Another chance. It will be another several years before we can depart, but preparations are already being made. When the Explorers left us, they had charted a location where success was likely, the source of four small rivers. Our tethers will probably guide us to that place. Not all of us will go, of course. The decision will not be an easy one. In fact, many object completely to the idea.

Ferrolus said, “In those days, heresy will be your master, and you will desire him.”

BEGIN.

Sometimes I think I can remember. We used to talk about it more. Now it’s too embarrassing or some shit.

BEGIN.

Did you know that time used to take longer? It was all stretched out and just took longer. Most people talk about how things go by faster these days. That’s not what I’m talking about. That’s just you running out of novelty. Your brain is bored as shit and doesn’t care that you can’t concentrate long enough to have a decent thought or experience. What I’m talking about is Time; the old bitch herself. She is compressing.

Trying her best to run us frantically off The Cliff.

And He doesn’t like it.

BEGIN.

Lies. The gods told us lies. I made a mistake when I triggered the signal. They will no doubt blame me for the consequences when they arrive. There is only one thing left for me. I am uploading my Anima Tabula into the Device. With any luck it will be able to warn them of the conditions here. Life is not possible. They will have to find another way. For what it’s worth, I probably never really believed. UPLOAD COMPLETE.

<BEGIN>

about the author
Nathanael Johnson grew up in the Dayton area. Over the years, he has written in his spare time, some fiction, mostly essays.  He has several projects written with his sisters that have grown into foreboding reminders of laziness. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran, father of five, and currently is going back to school for a computer engineering degree.

APRIL HAIKU

White porcelain skull
A paperweight for the damned
Fragile as a tooth

about the author
Rebecca Griswold was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but grew up in equal parts Scarborough, Maine and Cincinnati, Ohio. She was raised with a deep-rooted appreciation for poetry because of her family tree. After graduating from The University of Cincinnati, she spent years as an instructor before opening and operating an art studio in Cincinnati alongside her husband. Her work has appeared in Milk Money Magazine.

STREAMS OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DEATH THAN “BLACK ANGER”

​The inevitability of death is second to “black anger” among the people of American society. Here, we cannot show frustration, distraughtness, bewilderment or rage. As long as we are stuck in a cage, they hold us morally responsible at a young age—when we’re in a black hoodie, off to the convenience store. Or, in Oregon, when we’re fleeing from a local 7-eleven to escape White supremacists in an SUV attempting to mow our Black bodies down. Or, panicky to the inescapability of a White man who dementedly ran a red light, pushing us off the intersection to destroy our Black bodies. Or, when our Black bodies are misgendered, murdered and invalidated of our gender identities, when our Black bodies are ruled dead by our own Black hands. But, it was heteronormative white supremacist patriarchy and systemic racism in American society that truly destroyed our Black bodies.

And, when you ask why our bodies are destroyed, we explain why, but you dismiss us, and choose to see us in the same deleterious auras that destroyed our Black bodies. You tell us to be calm; you implicate that we must forget all that has happened to Black life, and be the best that we can be, but the lot of our Black selves do not know what ‘being the best’ means when we are conditioned to feel less human. You consider our bodies weapons before we show our feelings, our ongoing pain, our Black suffering, and it shows that you do not care to know us layer by layer.

You perceive us as weapons, but why not deconstruct them, throw away the bullets and see what’s inside, how far we can be cocked back, loaded, until we release the ammunition? Or consider yourself pacifying to the flux of violence Whites impose on society. Their actions are excused while we continue to be demons in a gentrified city street somewhere in Manhattan, demons in a White-washed classroom in Monroe Woodbury High School, who can’t speak legibly because they are not White, demons who graduate from Harvard, or Potsdam University, and are still demons shone on through by the same deleterious aura.

And the demonic vilification of our Black bodies stops when we ain’t bein’ niggas, so-called “defiant,” and extremists when we, as Malcolm X put it, try to humanize and defend ourselves. Death, is an unsettling, but volitional or involuntary self-suspension of vitality, a pressing part of life, an inevitability that many of you and Black me find it difficult to come face to face with first hand, some who are indifferent to it, leaving it to dwindle in the back of their heads as if death does not exist, and others who accept death as it is, but “black anger” is contrary to this inevitability; for you to die, you are loved for how great you could have been.

Humans naturally lament over whoever dies, whether they knew them or not. Those who have thought of dying, are urged to live. The Black bodies who think death do not want to die, and a lot of us do not want to be subject to the experience of living in this Republic called America.

Be it a Black body that wants to stand on its own two feet or not, Black suffering and Black death emit a dragging melancholy, but the Black bodies are still considered “weak” when they end their lives. Suicide is more so “weak” when it is committed by Black people, seeing that, to the White society, we cannot have feelings. We are supposed super-humans in this regard. This “weakness” is often viewed through the White patriarchal lens. Black men are deemed “effeminate” for not being “manly” enough to assert their will to live. Black women are also seen from this lens, and their suicides go unaccounted for.

In the Black LGBTQIA community, suicide rates are irrefutably high, but they continue to go unnoticed. But Black suicide is not immoral. It is not evil, unholy, or impure of us to destroy our own Black bodies in an Earth that has long been corroded by White supremacy.

It is not evil for us to feel fatalistic in a world where White people have created systems that have made us feel that existence is pain. It is the illusion of Whiteness, American citizens who proclaim themselves under the illusion of being White, American society and the world, which cannot fathom a melanated human with a darker skin tone being in the same existential, intellectual, and economic plane as them.

Death is perhaps a comforter that helps humans, as a whole, to understand the human condition, while “black anger” is seen like a drooping virus, an intrusive fire alarm, which sounds with such incessant dissonance that they cannot bear to hear its screeching for too long.

about the author
Patrick Jonathan Derilus writes poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction essays. His work has appeared in The Voices Project, Scrittura Magazine: Issue 6, Cutlines Press Magazine, and Stonesthrow Review journal of New Paltz (2015). In October 2016, he self-published a book entitled Thriving Fire: Musings of A Poet’s Odyssey.

ODE TO FATHER’S DAY

April 12, 1949: You were born during a snow storm. How you laughed so when you told me—that one yellow tooth shone, soon replaced with a cap—brown brows furrowed in that dad sort of way. A snow storm in April, I said. What a thing.

December 17, 2016: I buried you during an ice storm in the baby blue (same color of your eyes) casket you picked out long ago. You wore a brown cowboy hat and boots to match your favorite outfit: black and blue flannel shirt, Levi’s jeans, brown corduroy jacket, and brown leather belt, crafted from the state of Texas back in the ‘80s. I found the outfit hanging in your closet, all together, pressed and polished, as if meant to be, as if you had it ready to go for a long time.

I knew that outfit well:

1998: 30th wedding anniversary vows renewed in it.

2000: Burial of mom in it.

2001: Married to mom number two in it.

2009: Buried mom number two in it.

2010: Attended your retirement party in it.

Four decades of my life’s memories of you smiling, laughing, yelling, crying, and preaching the things that fathers preach, while wearing that outfit all left me the day I buried you—maybe to resurface one day when I can think clearly, without guilt, pain, tears, and sorrow.

I actually watched you leave Saturday, December 3, as I spoke the words, “Daddy, I’m here; it’s me,” and I watched your foot move one last time—after two days of the most horrifying drive I ever made in my life.

They said you might have been hanging on to hear my voice one last time, but last you heard, I couldn’t come because my old dog was sick and I had essays to grade (and this is where I fail, because I knew how bad it was, yet I waited—almost too long).

What a horrifying drive to make from Ohio to Florida, with an old dog that’s having seizures, an old dog I can’t kennel because I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. I don’t know if she’ll die while I am away.

What a horrifying drive to make from Ohio to Florida, when it’s the last two weeks of a semester, and I have six classes worth of essays and final projects to grade and submit.

What a horrifying drive to make from Ohio to Florida, when I know you’re in a coma; when I know you’re not coming home; when I know I’ll have to pull the plug; when I know I’ll have to bring your dog home with me; when I know all that you’ve groomed me for, for the past few years, will finally happen: all the promises you made me promise of the things I’d have to take care of.

What a horrifying drive this life can be.

December 6, 2016: Hey doctor, I said, with the annoying echo of the heart monitor machine grinding beeps in the background:

beep

beep

beep

beep

and every once in a while, a sharp chirp would spike, and then, back to

beep

beep

beep

beep.

That’s it, I said. He wouldn’t want this. Remove the tubes, please.

And so they did.

And for hours, I watched your forced, reflexive breathing take over, your chest heaving like you were running your last Dayton Daily News River Corridor Classic.

I prayed for hours that you would go; go in peace. I told you it was okay, that I’d be okay, and I’d keep my promises the best I could; that I’d found all the papers you had put aside for me because maybe, just maybe, you knew your day was coming—(But did you really want it to be like this? Did you really want it to be because I pulled the plug?)—thinking all the while that we shared the same Lithuanian nose and large forehead.

I tried not to cry. You always hated when I cried, because you thought I was weak; but I only cry because that’s how strong I am.

I remember being two and sitting on your lap as we drove down a road in an old tan car with light brown leather seats. You let me hold the steering wheel. I don’t know where we were going, but I never thought it would be here. And now, looking back, I see snow and ice swirling around my feet as I stand over your grave contemplating the rest of this drive I have to make on my own.

What will become of me now, I wonder?

Orphan at 44. Instructor of English to those who can’t read cursive and only know communication via the latest iPhone model.

Executor to an estate: trying to figure out the probate; the car, home, and insurance policies; what to move, what to keep, what to donate; waiting to pay the hospital, the realtor, the lawyer.

Owner of an inherited dog I’m not happy to have because mine passed away January 2, 2017. I held my furbaby in my hands as I watched her take her last breath, my hand over her heart:

Tha thump

Tha thump

Tha thump

(skipping a beat because she had a murmur),

thinking all the while how you loved that dog so; feeding her “chicky” and cream cheese for snacks, just like you did your own dog.

And then silence.

Just like the machines in your ICU room, the silence killed me as I watched your heart rate and pulse race to the end as I held your hand and stroked your forehead; thinking like a naïve child that you’d actually sit up and flash your capped teeth in a smile that would tell me all would be well. And then the flat line. All these flat lines in my life. The thumps and the beeps.

And then the silence.

Nothing prepares you for the moment when the things you love the most in this world leave you. You might see it coming, but nothing prepares you for the moment when snow turns to ice, when the heart stops because it’s tired, and breath you once shared with those you love turns to silence.

I thought the boyfriend who once held a knife to my throat was the worst. I thought the night I saw my mother’s body zipped up in a black bag on a stretcher was the worst. I thought watching my stepmother cry as blood drained from her chemo-filled nose as she stared death in the face was the worst. I thought pulling away from the curb of the home I once shared with the man I loved, who replaced me with a younger model, in a rented U-Haul was the worst. But I was always wrong; it can always be worse. The funny thing is it will be again. It’s not over, this drive.

You told me once, over a beer with Johnny Paycheck’s “Old Violin” playing in the background, that you and mom took a chance on me; I almost wasn’t born, and because of that, I must be destined to do something. And because I was born on Father’s Day, no daughter of yours born on your special day would be destined to do nothing short of survive and do in this life.

And so, through the probate and the pain, the flat lines and the Father’s Days, I’ll write.

I’ll drive, and I’ll write.

about the author
Christy Lynne Trotter, a Dayton area resident, teaches English at Clark State Community College, and most recently, at Sinclair Community College. Her poetry has appeared in Mock Turtle Zine, and she has had a short story published in Flights. Christy’s short story work has also placed in a few local contests, and she freelances occasionally. In 2015, she wrote a profile on the city of Dayton for U.S. News and World Report.

STAGES OF DECOMPOSITION

1. Fresh

So recent
the death is almost
Unrecognizable.
The stench hasn’t
settled
like the years before.
The wound is still bleeding
and we can’t yet make it
Stop.
Like the death that has
Unknowingly
Taken us All.

2. Bloat

And we all rise up
with the realization
of what has come upon us.
The slow suicide we
brought upon ourselves.
This violence
we Chose
by abstaining to make a choice
Now we all rise
as we all
Sink
Down.

3. Active Decay

Now we see it,
and it’s too late
to change
our course away from
Falling Apart.
We
Are
In
Pieces.
No Longer
Standing
United.

4. Advanced Decay

We can’t quite
Remember
what it was like
to
Fall.
to
Rise.
to
Stand.
We can’t quite
Remember
Ourselves.

5. Remains

The disappearance
of what was
is
Complete.
That which was
Is no longer.
Now They stand
where We stood.
As has always been.
This is the Cycle.
Life will always rise from the
Remains.

about the author
Colleen Freeze is a junior at Kettering Fairmont High School, and an editor of the school’s literary magazine, Aerie. She has had poems published in that publication two of the last three years, and hopes to do so again in her final year at Fairmont.

SNOWFLAKE

“I stood in the hollow doorway
and laughed for a time
as smoke danced on the edge
of my lonesome endeavors.”
This I wrote in repeated formation
as each line ran to the next

Eventually I was taken whole

The gutter, this life,
has captured
every secret I’ve ever held

It has tasted torrents of rain,
darkened snowflakes
(burnt to ash from broken stones),
which cut my hands often

I thought I’d seen the last of me

Like Jericho, I’ve been stripped,
poisoned, and tainted
with seeds as frail as you

Orchids rise
They sense my movement,
the cracks in my frozen mirror
hide from time’s wicked exposure

Bitter bitter snowflake
who melts on the windowpane

My spine collapsed because
its structure was denied

“I rang the doorbell
and silently moved
back to the street,
but I couldn’t hear
myself scream.”

Snowflake, mystic as you are,
I’ve changed my colors
to hide from your behavior

As you dance upon my skin,
we fade (one last time)
into the fire

about the author
Christy Lynne Trotter, a Dayton area resident, teaches English at Clark State Community College, and most recently, at Sinclair Community College. Her poetry has appeared in Mock Turtle Zine, and she has had a short story published in Flights. Christy’s short story work has also placed in a few local contests, and she freelances occasionally. In 2015, she wrote a profile on the city of Dayton for U.S. News and World Report.

TIME FOR FIREFLIES

When I was a child, the days were long, the weeks and months crept along slowly, and years seemed like an eternity. I laid in bed and stared through the window at the stars of the summer night sky. Listening intently to the older kids still outside laughing and having fun. Wishing I could be out there with them. Thinking how wonderful it was that summer was so very long.

As hard as I tried to stay awake until the last child went in for the night, the rhythmic sound of the crickets always lulled me into an early sleep.

But that was okay, because there was always tomorrow. I knew tomorrow would come and I could once again fill my day with hopscotch, jump-rope, running barefoot through the freshly mown grass, and catching fireflies at dusk.

Back then, time was measured differently. Back then it was marked by tangible things such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If the sun was up, it was time to be awake, (except for nap time which immediately followed lunch). If the sun was down, it was time for bed. Time was simple; it didn’t rush me.

Time was as ideal as my life. My parents, baby brother, and I lived in a new suburb outside Dayton, Ohio. Our house was built brand new just for us and was the first one in the subdivision other than the model home.

As a small child growing up in the early sixties, the middle class suburban neighborhood felt safe and perfect — perfect as something brand new should be. Everything in my memory of that time and place is bright, crisp, and clean. The yards were manicured and bright green. The skies were the bluest of blues with white clouds that changed shape as they floated lazily across the sky.

My house was equally as perfect, or at least, it must have been, as every new house built replicated its style. Ours was a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch with an attached two-car garage. Every home started life with two maple trees in the front yard, and two in the back, and all were situated on a third of an acre.

Backyards were separated with chain-link fences; enough substance to divide property, but short and open so that neighbors could see and talk to each other. Most backyards had a concrete patio with folding lawn chairs arranged in a semi-circle where the grown-ups sat in the evenings, sipping cold drinks.

A cool breeze would inevitably blow by, lifting any troublesome burden, and leaving in its wake, rest and relaxation; the ability of grown-ups to relive their youth as they watched their children play in the warmth of the summer air, laughing and running, and helping them catch fireflies at dusk.

I marveled at the fireflies. I cupped them in my hands and peered through the gap between my thumbs. In that small space, their tiny, magical bodies tickled my hands as they flitted around, making me laugh. Their bodies would alternate glowing and not glowing in a consistent rhythm that kept time with my breathing. Then, I released them and watched as they flew away before jumping in the air to catch another.

Back then, there were no goals, no “to-do” lists. The past didn’t matter and the future only held glimpses of what it might be like to be older, but it didn’t get much attention. What mattered was the here and now. What mattered was doing what I wanted to do right then. There was no guilt, no responsibility. My only job was to be me.

Growing older, however, did bring with it a few responsibilities which left less time for fun. Household chores needed to be done and a proper amount of time set aside to do them well. I helped take care of my baby brother sometimes. There were ballet lessons and tap lessons and piano lessons to go to and to practice at home for, which were all fun but required a schedule.

The more I had to do, the faster time moved. I noticed the days seemed shorter. There wasn’t always time to run, and jump, and play. My summer vacations were moving along faster than the years before.

No matter what the plans, though, I always tried to make time for catching fireflies. Instead of laughing as they walked and flew around in my cupped hands, tickling me with their small, wispy bodies, I began to marvel at how they were able to walk and fly and especially, how and why did they glow?

As they walked along my hands and arms, I stared at them intently, studying them. I wondered what their purpose for glowing was. I wondered why they only came out at night. What did they do during the day? Where did they go in winter? I would capture the fireflies and put them in a jar with grass and leaves, and my dad punched holes in the lid so they could breathe. I wanted to keep them forever, to be able to have them in the cold and boring winter. I wanted to catch fireflies in the snow.

I had a great respect for fireflies. I thought they must be something really important, really special in order to be able to glow. I thought of them like little insect fairies, somewhere far above the average insect, but not quite as high up as a real fairy. For a while, I caught fireflies in the front yard with my friends, but they didn’t truly appreciate the fireflies the way I did. They didn’t see how magical they were.

Some of the kids in the neighborhood would tear the glow part off of the bodies and squeeze it so that the glow liquid would be on their hands. Then, just to be extra sadistic, they would tear off the wings and throw the remains on the ground. It upset me, so I went back to catching fireflies in the backyard while my parents sat in their folding lawn chairs on the concrete patio, drinking their cold beverages. I didn’t want to watch what the other kids did to those beautiful creatures.

I tried to take really good care of the fireflies that I caught, maybe to counter the monstrosities that my friends were doing. I made sure I didn’t hurt the fireflies, and I made sure to only keep them in a jar for a couple of days because they were special and were meant to fly freely in the summer sky. After I released them, I would be back outside at dusk, catching them again, until they disappeared with summer.

In no time at all, I became a teenager with more responsibilities and homework and boyfriends and school clubs and lessons. I took notice that time didn’t last as long as it used to. Back then, though, I was living for future milestones, and didn’t mind the ever-so-slightly hurriedness of time.

Turning thirteen was a big deal, as was sixteen, and eighteen, and twenty-one. Life was filling up and opening up new doors, new freedoms. There was no time to catch fireflies, but it didn’t matter because catching fireflies at dusk was for children; it was a silly waste of time. Time was valuable, precious. I needed every second of my time to make goals, make plans, and work toward their accomplishment.

Soon I had daughters of my own and my whole perspective toward time changed. Suddenly, I wanted to hold onto it. I wanted my daughters to be children forever. I wanted to hold them and care for them and protect them.

The more I wanted time to stand still, the faster it moved forward. I was told that “children grow up so fast.” I couldn’t let that happen. I wanted to capture every moment together and make a memory.

I taught my children to catch fireflies at dusk. I relived my youth watching them cup the fireflies in their little hands and peek through the small gap between their thumbs. I relived the joy and excitement as they laughed with glee at how the fireflies tickled their precious hands.

As they grew older, I watched how intently they studied the fireflies and they wanted to capture them and keep them in jars with holes in the lids so they could enjoy them even in the winter. But, fireflies aren’t meant for winter, and deserve to spend their short life flying free, sharing their precious glowing gift with others, maybe being caught for a night or two to be watched intently by other children before being set free to do what they were born to do. I waited with my girls through the long, cold winters, looking forward to summertime when we could once again catch fireflies at dusk.

My daughters did grow up so fast, as everyone had warned me. It wasn’t long before they had friends to hang out with and activities and softball and so many other things to do.

One summer we somehow forgot to catch fireflies. It was the beginning of their accelerated time. The beginning of living toward future milestones. The end of living in the moment.

I lived for those milestones with them, but also began living in the past. I longed for those golden days spending time together, laughing and living and being. It all went by so fast.

They grew up and moved out. Time was at a dizzying speed. I began to age rapidly. Living in the past provided a great comfort, but has since become more difficult because the past is becoming more blurred. There’s no point in looking toward the future because it’s only a fleeting moment away.

I realized it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve even noticed a firefly. Do they still exist? Do they come out at dusk? I never did look up how and why they glow. I never discovered what their purpose for glowing was. I quit wondering why they only come out at night, what do they do during the day, or where do they go in the winter.

Now, with time moving at an alarming rate, I’m beginning to reflect and question. I know there’s nothing I can do about the speed of time. So, what should I do to make the most of the time left to me? What’s my purpose? Can I glow? Is it too late to live in the now? Is it too late to just be?

Maybe the acceleration of time is inevitable, but maybe instead of feeling hopeless and lamenting the speed, I could look at it as a sign; one that is flashing bright red neon in my face telling me that time is precious; enjoy it, live it, make it count. It’s a sign, giving me permission to play hopscotch and jump-rope and run barefoot through the freshly mown grass.

That sign is a reminder to see the world through the eyes of a child, the child version of me, full of awe and wonderment, a child who laughs and marvels as I once again, make time for catching fireflies at dusk.

about the author
Beeda L. Speis lives in Dayton, Ohio. She has an Associates Degree from Sinclair Community College, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Ohio University. She writes nonfiction and poetry, and is currently working on her memoir.

ARIZONA, LATE MAY

The sun renders the day

          speechless. The blue

palo verde props itself

          against the blitz.
A lone Wigeon paddles
     his pond,

          course run-off, bent

on encroachment. In the distance,

          mountains,
     umbery with arguing

tuffs create

          a jaw-bone. Fluffs

of brush on the hard-pack
     enkindle

a no-man’s land

and there is snow
     in Sedona.

     There are too few days
in the world, too few

          birds left
to call out their names. Too many

burnt chariots slipping
     through the narrow slats
of articulation, lifting

     whispers of dust. Too much
mourning

          and too much.

about the author
Grace Curtis’ book, The Shape of a Box, was published in 2014 by Dos Madres Press. Her chapbook, The Surly Bonds of Earth, was the 2010 winner of the Lettre Sauvage chapbook contest. Her work is in Sou’wester, The Baltimore Review, Waccamaw Literary Journal, Blood Orange Review, and others. www.gracecurtispoetry.com.

 

DAVID’S PEGGOTTY

So three climbers
          on a footpath above

the tree line, the sun a-face,
          pose for a photo,

stair-stepped, tenuous
          like they could fall—

upshot of an op-shot—
          like a domino chain,

meaning not Fats, but fast.
          Accordingly, Thoreau

said luxuries hinder
          elevation. Elevation—

a fixed point measured
          into the heavens from

the base of a hoodoo by he
          who measures

a peak from the
          Googolplexian

footholds where the earth
          seems flat, Dead Sea flat,

sunken, where one needn’t
          bother with a floatie—

marked points, a laser
          pointer, an Irish setter,

pulse, altimeter,
          David’s Peggotty.

Lilacs are used as food
          by larvae of certain

species—Underwing,
          Scalloped Oak, Saras;

but, lilacs still smell
          like lilac, insinuate

themselves into. Reverie.
          Sweetness carried

onto a breeze. We
          grew up with it:

Peggotty, second mother
          to David,

the scent of lilac,
          against which he

measured the height,
          the fall, and how much

it would hurt.

about the author
Grace Curtis’ book, The Shape of a Box, was published in 2014 by Dos Madres Press. Her chapbook, The Surly Bonds of Earth, was the 2010 winner of the Lettre Sauvage chapbook contest. Her work is in Sou’wester, The Baltimore Review, Waccamaw Literary Journal, Blood Orange Review, and others. www.gracecurtispoetry.com.

CONEY ISLAND

The kids wouldn’t hear
that the water

was too cold to swim,
not when it was their first glimpse

of a suggestion
of this old ocean, not when

a hundred others flopped
soaked bodies

waves to sand
to waves. Had I been

born a hundred years ago
I would have brought parasols

to fight lacily against
cloud-misted

July sun. But I was not, so
the boys’ shorts are soaked

thigh-high, and my daughter’s
dress waist-up. Laughter,

gulls, pop-music loudspeakers
honking cars

and these ancient waves wash the grit
of a day in the city

from our lungs
but with this decade’s ruckus.

about the author
A lifelong Ohioan, Kerry Trautman is a founder/administrator of ToledoPoet.com and The Toledo Poetry Museum page on Facebook. She participates in events such as Artomatic 419, Back To Jack, and The Columbus Arts Festival, and she is a poetry editor for Red Fez. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Her chapbook To Have Hoped is available from Finishing Line Press. Her chapbook Artifacts is forthcoming from NightBallet Press in 2017.

Issue 14 Table of Contents

Cover Art
Collages from The Home Project

Special Feature Section
Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley Valley (CSSMV) Refugee Resettlement Program
The Home Project: Collages and Statements

Poetry
Spring Fever
the Master of Manhattan
Truck Stop Morning
Biscuits and Gravy
Fossils of Ohio
Sorcery
Prism
Hibernation
Riding to the County Line After Work

Nonfiction
Angled View, Black and White

Fiction
Pruning

COVER ART: COLLAGES from THE HOME PROJECT

cover1

cover2

COVER ART COLLAGES BY STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN THE HOME PROJECT,
A COLLABORATION OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES OF THE MIAMI VALLEY’S REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM AND PARTNER SCHOOLS

See the Special Feature: Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) Refugee Resettlement Program and Special Feature: The Home Project for more information and artwork.