Grandpa’s Ditties

October 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Grandpa’s Ditties
Kevin Heaton

Grandpa was born in 1896, and could play
just about anything with strings attached.
What pulled most at his heart, was an old fiddle
that he kept on top of a china cabinet
in the corner near his rocking chair; where
he fell asleep every night listening to Kansas
City Athletic’s games on a Philco dial radio.

He worked part-time for the highway department;
setting out kerosene warning flares that looked
like bowling balls without holes.

During the 20’s, and throughout Depression Era
days, he set great store in playing that fiddle
at barn raisings, and harvest dances; where neighbors
could find brief but welcome respite from hardship
in simple food and fellowship. Civil war ditties
frequented the menu; passed down to him
by the same fingers that first plucked his fiddle.

When his lame shoulder wasn’t throbbing,
and I asked him just right, he’d take her down
off the china cabinet, rosin up the bow, and with
a work boot conducting: take us down dusty,
forgotten pikes lined with blue, and gray soldiers;
marking cadence on the road to their awakening:

Ride a Scotch horse
to Danbury cross,
see an old woman
upon a white horse.
Rings on her fingers,
and bells on her toes—
she shall have music
wherever she goes, and goes…..


Grandpa’s Ditties was previously published in Tidal Basin Review

Pushcart Prize nominee Kevin Heaton writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Raleigh Review, Mason’s Road, Foundling Review, The Honey Land Review, and elimae. His fourth chapbook of poetry, Chronicles, has just been released by Finishing Line Press. He is a 2011 Best of the Net nominee.

Image: Halifax Harbour, By Leigh-Anne Fraser


Pick-up-Charlie to Astronaut

September 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Pick-up-Charlie to Astronaut
Tom Sheehan

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


August 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Kevin Heaton

Before daddy left, he gave mama
a brand-new feed sack dress, and planted
one last crop; I was her, ‘God’s Perfect
Number,’ the seventh heavenly stair step
to kick at her backbone, breeched, then
brought by a poor white trash midwife.
That year, our windmill huffed the horse
trough full of mule dust, and the persimmon
cheeks hollowed in early September.
A field of bluebells captured an awol rebel
sun shower, then flanked a hackberry column
on the north fence line, and drank the rest
of the water. The old southern gentry had long
since vanished, but only rich white folks could
book space on the ‘Glory Train.’ Martin wasn’t
born yet, so the saints weren’t marchin’ in.
Daddy left us south of the Mason-Dixon Line
in a cottonwood sharecropper shanty, squat
over the scratch dirt where an overseer’s
pointer pup itched his worms. He’d hung
a Rainbow Bread sign on our screen door
to set it apart from the trees. I grew up along
the Yazoo, where roly polys pushed each
other across farmed out river bottom flatland,
and ebony ivories still harped on ‘Delta Blues.’


Yazoo was previously published in Tidal Basin Review

Pushcart Prize nominee Kevin Heaton writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Raleigh Review, Mason’s Road, Foundling Review, The Honey Land Review, and elimae. His fourth chapbook of poetry, Chronicles, has just been released by Finishing Line Press. He is a 2011 Best of the Net nominee.

Image: Mood of the Meadow, By Stephen Martin

to frobisher and back: the chrome set

May 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

to frobisher and back: the chrome set
Claudia Couto Radmore

after Stan Dragland

he is sorry he mentions the possibility of going to frobisher bay. she wants him to go. we need the money she says. he agrees to go to frobisher bay for eighteen months.

she spends some of the money he sends home on a plastic and chrome living room set that she orders from the eaton’s catalogue. when he comes home for a break after six months, he loathes the new furniture. he flies back to frobisher and the family is glad he’s gone. (he will have a brief affair with a nurse.)

she gets to know mr smith from next door very well. mr smith works in the refrigeration department at eaton’s.

in frobisher he feels honoured to meet a gentle but famous oblate missionary who gives him an 8 x 10 photograph of himself meeting pope john paul II.

he gives his sixteen year-old daughter’s photo to a french co-worker in frobisher who is twenty-five. that man writes a letter to her. his daughter answers it briefly for politeness sake.

he misses his daughter’s graduation from teacher’s college. he sends through a friend, an enormous frozen fish called a char. no one knows what to do with it. we do not have a freezer.

she feels lost during the day. dr. b puts her on valium.

his now-best-friend in frobisher sends the daughter a photo of himself sitting on his bed with her high school graduation photo pinned to the wall behind him. he is not attractive and the daughter does not answer the letter.

on his second trip home he invites his frobisher friend to the house. the daughter retaliates by having her boyfriend come over, sits close to him on the plastic sofa.

at the end of his eighteen month contract he asks his daughter why she did not like his frobisher friend. he is not pleased when she says she says the man gives her the creeps.

he has acquired a projector and two movies in frobisher. one is too sexy he says to show his children. she has done her hair tonight and wears a fresh dress, and evening-in-paris cologne. from the back bedroom the daughter hears the whirr of the projector, the crackle and creak of the couch, their muffled sporadic chuckles.

she’s a bit disappointed in the movie; all it shows is a woman hitch-hiking on a country road. all she does is raise her skirt just above her knee. she thinks, my goodness, those men up north were desperate! still the movie brings back the wild whirl of early days when they went for picnics, the excitement of being deep in the cremazie woods on a blanket, alone with her catholic boy.

Note: That gentle but famous missionary was Father Pierre Henry, missionary Oblate of Mary, who lived on King Williams Island under the same conditions as the native people. The book Kabloona by Gontran de Poncins, has a section about him.


In poetry Claudia Coutu Radmore’s ‘Accidentals’ (Apt. 9 Press, Ottawa), won the bpNichol Chapbook Award, 2012 (Canada). Her fiction placed second in the Kingston Literary Awards, and won the Backwater Review’s First Annual Hinterland Award for Prose. She has written the foreword to, and edited letters for ‘Arctic Twilight: Leonard Budgell and the Changing North.’ (2010, Blue Butterfly Books, Dundurn Press, Toronto) and

Image: Light after the Fog, By Leigh-Anne Fraser

Trail Riding

April 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Trail Riding
Vivian Wagner

The granite-tasting fine mountain dust rose around us as we rode through the forest on our red Hodaka motorcycles – mom ahead, me strapped to my dad, facing backwards in a metal-framed backpack. The rushing air smelled of pine sap, gasoline, stale cigarette smoke, and adrenalin.

Suddenly, my parents slowed and stopped, our bikes sputtering, coughing, rattling. I heard a screech of oiled metal on wood and jerked my head to look over at the edge of the clearing, where men were using a large dirty yellow machine to rip branches off a felled pine, its majestic corpse stretched along the edge of the forest.

Maybe it was the painful sound, or the dead tree. Or maybe the faint realization that no matter how much my parents seemed at the center of the universe, there were machines much larger and more dangerous than their little trail bikes. Things, even, beyond their control.

I started crying, softly at first, so my dad couldn’t hear me over the motorcycle’s engine. Then louder, until he called out, impatiently, “What’s wrong back there?”

“I’m scared, daddy,” I wailed, each sob drawing in a fresh breath of dust and exhaust.

He laughed. “It’s OK,” he yelled back. “Just loggers.”

I watched tearfully as the men sawed through the tree’s branches, one by one. A few minutes later, we roared out of the clearing, our bikes straining to climb the hill, me watching the loggers grow smaller, my dad focused on the rough trail ahead.


Vivian Wagner teaches journalism at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review Online, The Pinch, Willows Wept Review, and other journals, and she is the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington, 2010). For more information about her, visit her website at

Image: Birch bark, by Sandra Jensen


March 27, 2012 § 5 Comments

Jody Strimling-Muchow

You pat the bench next to you and I come and sit. Reverently, you lift your hands and push back the wooden lip covering the keys, yellowed like old people’s teeth. My fiveyear-old hands can’t span an octave, but you demonstrate an arpeggio in C major and I do my best to duplicate it. Sunlight slips in through the ground-level window to ignite the dust motes. Evening is coming fast and soon Mother will call down the stairs. Grandma will have cookies and milk laid out for us but there won’t be time before dinner. You will have to eat them without me. For now, though, the notes and the slight gasoline smell from the garage combine to cement you in my memory. Two years from now it will be all I have.


Jody Strimling-Muchow is a writer, actor, and knitter who masquerades as a legal secretary by day. She lives with her husband, two dogs and one cat in a lovely little house in Dutchess County, NY.

Image: Fishing, By Stephen Martin

Sequined Visitors

March 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

Sequined Visitors
Cindy Small

A constant visitor in my grandmother’s pornographic lingerie store was Mr. Louie Farina, a square, short Italian man, owning a face like a pock-marked lemon. He was a daily permanent fixture and not on payroll. Family history or home address was never known to grandma. His Hart & Schaffer suits fit like a glove that had been hot-glued to his lumpy body. No “Soft Spot” beige vinyl shoes for Mr. Farina, rather he wore exotic crocodile shoes that seemed to slither on the pink and black floor tiles. Rumor had it years ago he was a member of the New Orleans Italian Mob and met grandma while purchasing lingerie for a hooker. Their friendship blossomed and in return for sexy underclothing he would “fix” things for her – parking tickets, lawsuits and angry customers who bitched that the merchandise was too expensive. He also was a liaison between hotels and her store. Mr. Farina made sure the mirrored storefront became a popular location for a steady stream of hookers and husbands away from home while insisting that Greyhound tour buses stop at Joan’s front door. Tourists plunged out of the bus and were herded immediately into the shop – like an adult Disneyland where the merchandise emerges whether you want it or not. Mr. Farina had an accomplice named “Blackie,” a short, skinny man in a cheap suit. Blackie helped Joan in the muscle department, taking care of anyone who got on her bad side. After all, she was one to snap easily. The pressure was on and my grandmother was the Jaws of Life regarding porn attire. She was the hydraulic rescue tool that extricated the victim — meaning customer. They had no choice but to buy something.

“Madam, you look fabulous. The mens will love you! There’s nothing to be afraid of. Stick out your bosom big and be proud. Your bosom is your crown!” Grandma yelled in her Viennese/Bavarian/Hebrew dialect.

“Well, yes,” said the usual victim.” “It does feel a little tight…but…I’ll get used to it…I…guess.”

Blackie loved Grandma and did as he was told. Over the years during my childhood, he had been in and out of prison and normally ate a celebratory dinner with Joan each time he was released from jail. Joan insisted he get fed in a more civilized way after being released from the pen. So, in reality, he could have lunch in jail and suck down lobster ravioli for dinner at Commander’s Palace, a five-star New Orleans restaurant. My family had mobster worship. They loved the intrigue, the danger of getting caught and always in hopes of meeting Don Corleone or Vito. The distinct smell of money travelled through the air surrounding me at all times, like leaves in autumn. Expensive perfume mixed with a “cash-like” aroma and you knew you were with the New Orleans mob alongside an X-rated depository of underclothing for the secretive – inside my grandmother’s store.


Bizarre family eccentricities provided Cindy Small a wealth of black humor laced with arsenic. Her memoirs are a field guide for the aficionado of a particularly rare breed of bird, daughters of Viennese Holocaust survivors living in New Orleans.

You can get in touch with Cindy here: csmall223 (at) aol (dot) com


Image: Firehorse, By Pirjo Zeylon

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