January 16, 2013 § 3 Comments
Staircase at Tallulah Gorge
Kathleen Brewin Lewis
Hiking at Tallulah Falls one hot, humid August day with my son. We come across a man slumped and silent on the steep steps that lead hundreds of feet up from the floor of the gorge, his frightened face the color of the red clay trail. He is already being attended to by other hikers; the paramedics are preparing to carry him up the last third of the stairs to the ambulance. As I pass by him, as he leans into the throes of heart attack or heat stroke, he looks me in the eye and I can see that he is not much older than I am, hell, he may be the same age. Now I understand: I am not middle-aged anymore, I am two-thirds of the way up the staircase myself.
My son turns and looks at me questioningly. Just keep moving, I say in a low voice, they’re taking care of him. Just keep moving.
Kathleen Brewin Lewis is an Atlanta writer whose prose, poetry, and prose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Weave, Boston Literary Magazine, The Prose-Poem Project, Town Creek Poetry, Deep South Magazine, Constellations, and Slice of Life. She is also an editor for the online literary journal, Flycatcher: A Journal of Native Imagination.
Image: Eucalyptus, by Stephen Martin
September 23, 2012 § 1 Comment
This Will Not Return
The girl next door is dying. I cannot pronounce her disease, but I know that far away look in her eyes, as if to say Someday. Someday. For better or for worse, it will be over. She smiles heroically, those hazel eyes of opaque need, sends me away, claims that today there is no room for two. Live your life is what I read in her eyes.
It will be 1966 forever.
I spend my days painting barns a deeper shade of red, counting hens’ eggs with a crooked sense of hope. After a rain, a Kansas wind, I cling to the insulation of the attic. There is a darkness there I do not recognize. I’m never comfortable with my loneliness. Homework, as usual, drags. My sonnets for Mrs. Hershey’s class are ruined. The meter is off. My mind drifts again. The girl next door will say she’s sorry but prefers to bleed solo. She will not want me to touch her/does not realize that my love is too serious, too simple.
My mother still makes me peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for school, even though I’m a high school freshman. She collects glass jars, says she fills them with trapped air, the cloud of a man’s shallow breath. On the days that my father doesn’t call from Germany, she lives on black coffee and crumb cake. The girl next door still loves macaroni and cheese. She can name each cat by her back lot dumpster and confesses to feeding them scraps of morning breakfast. When her folks are out, we make out to some old reruns of American Bandstand. If the pain becomes too much for her, she digs her fingernails into my flesh. I tell her I don’t mind. I hope the imprints of her nails in my forearms stay forever.
Walking back home, I look up. The sky cries foul play. The sky cries It’s never fair. I’ll hike over to Murray’s Field, bat & glove, will pitch a ball to no one. It will be me against loneliness. The score is always 0-1.
Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and prose: Avenue C, Cat People, and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications). His latest e-books are You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press and The Truth about Onions from Good Samaritan. This is his second publication on Slice of Life. He lives and writes in New Jersey.
Image: Rust, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
September 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
Pick-up-Charlie to Astronaut
This star reconnaissance began on the fourth of July, quick morning soft as a fresh bun, as warm, air floating up stairs and coming across my bed in the smell of burnt cork or punk as smoky as a compost pile rising upwards from lawn debris night had collected, spent rockets askew in gutters throughout the town, clutter of half-burnt paper and tail sticks themselves once afire in the night sky, signals that gave darkness a new dimension of light and sound and the explosion of circular flares too bright to look at, as if the sun had delayed departure for the heart of our celebration, as if stars had loosed their final demise amid the spatial junk they might encounter in outer reaches, friction of them in the measure as silent as Indians in the past on these fields and paths at flint and rock, even as children younger than I was went secretly about the ways and quiet roads and padded lawns collecting expended shafts of excitement, rolling them into fisted quivers of their hands, tightly against their noses smelling the residue of them, dross and dregs of sky-reaching powder that short fires had implanted on their thin shanks as black as the night was, so that when amassed in one child’s hand a match was re-applied in secret and the gut blaze of the celebration began anew for those without money to buy their own pyrotechnics, the blue-red and orange-green flames loosed by this competition excelling much I might have seen on the holiday eve, these young scavengers, that young army of excitement seekers like a fresh wind adrift on the dawn, younger brother Charlie one of the aimless searchers of ignited celebration goods; marked all the way across a vast lawn, where the flag was left hanging out all night, by his red hair and fiery eyes, even before the false dawn flashes, nimble legs in drive gear and nimble fingers at the bundle sticks awaiting new flame; young Charlie, long ago appointed to the same bedroom as I, who would decorate the walls with Neil Armstrong’s little dance down the ladder of time and across tempest tide of skies and blur of our black and white television set, this younger brother of mine who dreamed and reached the stilted aerodynamics of lads, who exaggerated his heart and his mind for the unseen, the unknown, that far pit of darkness the skies offer to imaginations leaping for the wonder of endless contact, sweet abrasions of the universe and all its parts, the coming global wanderer, aeronaut and astronaut and star traveler now out of the tight innards of the small bedroom Neil Armstrong carried on his back, the fiery-eyed, dreamy, celestial kid brother now in endless orbit and sending me these late signals from a far turn of the once-dark universe whose reception began in simple ignition beneath fisted hand like a wondrous booster for his tell-tale heart, who now makes no sudden moves.
Tom Sheehan served with the 31st Infantry Regiment, Korea, 1951. Books include Epic Cures: Brief, Cases, Short Spans; A Collection of Friends; and From the Quickening. He has 18 Pushcart nominations, and included in Dzanc Best of the Web Anthology for 2009. He has 280 short stories on Rope and Wire, Magazine, and print issues Rosebud (4) and Ocean Magazine (8) among others. Poetry collections, include This Rare Earth and Other Flights; Ah, Devon Unbowed; The Saugus Book; and Reflections from Vinegar Hill.
Image: Full Moon, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
April 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
Car Dumb Dogs
Sometimes car dumb dogs buy the farm. We hated a car chaser out there in the corn and beans, out on the dusty gravel roads of the Midwest.
But, terrible as the killings were, we all expected those idiot dogs to have gotten it sooner or later; what tears you up though, is whatever got into them.
Dogs are too smart to chase cars; so pride… a possession… something dark, unnatural, wrong… makes them do it. It rips the fabric of order, slashes it, really, violently.
They dart out of nowhere, fly out of hell; you hear them yelp and thump up into the wheel well making the car buck a little, terrifying and final.
Car dumb… time after time until the end… the chaos flooding in… that’s what wreaks the balance, what destroys salvation.
Note: “buy the farm“: US slang meaning to die in battle or a fatal crash.
Steven Gowin is a corporate video producer in San Francisco. Until recently an atheist, he now attends the Holy Church of Sauna and urges everyone to get in touch with the Holy Roast.
Image: Connection, By Leigh-Anne Fraser