Today at breakfast Sister Mary has pulled out from her cupboard A blue box filled with crispy crosses – edible rice bran the colour of amethyst Trix.
She pours the milk over her wholesome “t’s” and watches them float miniature crosses buoyant on a purple sea, the envy of all Carmelites.
Sister bows her head and prays over her tiny morsels, each infinitesimal snap, crackle and pop, giving thanks for some rangy white-haired Diva back in Rome whom they’ve named Product Manager.
Hunter Boone was published in Sappho Magazine under the pen name of J. Hunter O’Shea, has a BA in Creative Writing, studied with Stuart Dybek, Eve Shelnutt, Herb Scott and Jaimy Gordon whilst completing a MA of Fine Arts at Western Michigan University, and plays a Fender Stratocaster.
I sift through a treasure of photos that my Dad’s death has unearthed and pore over one of an acquaintance who had a fleeting presence in my childhood. I have a vivid memory that conjures every single detail, colour, smell and sound from recollections that would evade any other child.
sat in the taxi next to the driver, a proper but tiny barrier between
him and two young women, a relative and a dark-haired university
student in her twenties, visiting home. The driver, a typical
womanizer, divided his attention between the tortuous road to the
student’s summerhouse and her very short-cut blouse. She had a
beautiful bosom and the most captivating smile. He bombarded her ears
with compliments and sometimes he crossed the line. I viewed her with
my mesmerized eyes but she never returned a glance. She sedately
ignored the driver’s remarks with a meaningful but inscrutable smile.
I wondered what was making her so happy – I was sure it was not
that silly clown. Though her face was fixed on the road, she was
looking inwardly at something that fascinated her lustrous eyes. She
was so taciturn that I cannot now recall her voice. I had an excuse
to constantly examine her face to see how she responded to sexual
praise of the unremitting type, but her politeness remained all along
intact. When she left the car, I felt a terrible sense of loss. That
nymph had me under her spell. She never doted on me as strangers
usually do on children during a short drive, but she took away with
her a piece that she chiseled off my mind. My sun and my moon orbited
in her constellation – she had allowed them in without a sign.
More than forty years have elapsed and at the counsel of my retentive memory I could have been three, four or five. That was my only meeting with my mother, now I realize long after her demise. She had departed from the world without saying goodbye. I wish she had sealed that short meeting with a hug, a kiss, or a keepsake gift. My only inheritance is a box of haunting smiles and a long history of malignant lies.
Dr. Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in The Curlew, A New Ulster, Straylight Magazine, Down in the Dirt, The Ink Pantry, The Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Leaves of Ink, The Avalon Literary Review, The Opiate, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, WestWard Quarterly, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Blotter, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Crossways, The Moon Magazine, the Mojave River Review, Always Dodging the Rain, and Coldnoon.
In this last book of the Hidden Sanctuary series, the Tribe face their greatest threat yet. With Prosperity intent on expanding their city of excellence footprint into every corner of Brumont, the mass clearing of the abandoned industrial units begins; part of a regeneration that will leave no place for the Tribe left to hide. More than that, Prosperity’s methods of eviction are swift and brutal, meaning hiding has become a deadly option, one with only time as its protector – and that is fast running out. Just as Jacob was beginning to fit into his role as mentor, it falls to him to ensure the survival of those he’s been entrusted to take care of. The only options left are to leave Brumont City behind altogether, or return to their old lives in the city under Prosperity’s watchful eye. Either way, it will mean going their separate ways, and the abrupt end of their once peaceful existence.
Themes of mental health run through this final book as they have done throughout the series. In Unmasked, we see one of our characters descend into depression while another tries to fight their way out of it. Also depicted are issues resulting from PTSD such as panic disorder and anxiety.
“There’s another option… We go back.”
The city closes in on Jacob and the tribe he has sworn to protect.
With nowhere left to run, will they be forced back to the lives they had once escaped?
As the city grows ever more unstable, those living on its outskirts fear their once peaceful existence is almost at an end. In the shadow of this fear the members of the tribe connect on a level they haven’t before, defying the doctrine to share stories of their past. But for Jacob the time is drawing close when he must decide to put their safety above all else, a move that would see them go their separate ways and bring about the end of the tribe for good.
Sada has returned to her old life in the city to stay near her daughter. But its grip on her is as suffocating as it ever was. Yearning to be free from the glass confines of her husband’s penthouse, she seeks out reasons to meet with Jacob and the tribe. Even though doing so puts all their lives at risk.
UNMASKED is the third and final book in the Hidden Sanctuary urban dystopia series. Check out T.L. Dyer’s website.
As we step in to our own role We surrender to our true soul Path and calling for all to see Living as one in harmony!
Fearless beings of love and light Who truly have been in a fight A clash of ego and the deepest pain Now to rise like a phoenix again
It is the test of an enduring root We seek no glory or toot toot We jest in banter as much as we cry Most of our life, it’s been a lie
We told ourselves that all was real Then we discovered it was not the deal Or agreement we made many moons ago It was time we created an eternal flow
Across time and space we drifted most Many a time we felt like a lost ghost To find the inner power and desire Cutting the cords and etheric wire
Which bound us to a chain so strong Now we see what truth was all along Through experiences we had need to make And connections with others we got to break
It’s clear as the sun will shine each day Our inner calling guiding us all the way From here and now, and forever more We venture both sides of a swinging door
To be as One in balance with all that is We will live a life of love and bliss In pastures green and skies so blue, We are here, wondering where are you
Each of us who knows the truth It’s not the time to be aloof Change the thoughts and open your mind You will see us there, look, come and find
Let’s make it fun just like a game Trust us, it’s a new life for you to gain To be as free like a pure white dove That’s the essence of unconditional love
Deane Thomas is a former corporate executive who had the pleasure of living in many different countries and cultures. He currently lives in Croatia with his two teenage daughters. In August 2014 a set of life changing circumstances led to his own awakening and to finally lifting the veils of illusion.
Deane stepped away from corporate responsibility, relocated to another country, and began his own spiritual journey, and life as a solo father. He is continually healing and growing spiritually, and now dedicates his time to helping, healing and teaching others.
His inquisitiveness into historical events and places, as well as witnessing them in the present time, has led him to truly appreciate all that life has to offer. A deep fascination with indigenous cultures and their way of life, how they function and more importantly, live without religions.
Always challenging and questioning societies forced indoctrination and expectations of man, he has become a philosopher and writer, something he has been in previous incarnations.
When we first came to Golden Pines, Embarking on a ritual of friendship, The seafood buffet: Tilapia, raw shrimp, thawed, still cold. I told Frank that we would not be The youngest people here for long. So twelve years later We sustain the ritual As best we can, Walkers parked along the wall. Tilapia, raw shrimp, thawed, still cold. I tell Frank there are people here I’ve never seen before. Turnover, he replies.
On All Saints Day we listen to A modern requiem: Kyrie, Sanctus, Harp, tympani, Melodies, harmonies serene, ethereal, The composer not himself a man of faith. We hear read the names of the departed: Turnover. The choir recesses to Sine Nomine, For all thy saints… Harp, tympani. I do not weep at Christmas or Easter But weep today: Harp, tympani: Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
October: it is the day of the tour buses, But the Foliage Coordinator Has let us down: Where reds and golds should Spread, a colour wheel across the hills, Instead, you see here a maple Partly turned, partly bare, An oak mostly green, And a beech that mousey past-peak Yellow brown. Says it has to do with Misapplications of warmth and water. No matter. Waves of buses Roll on, each with its cargo Of greying leaf-peepers, Name tags around their necks, Cell phone cameras poised, But glumly suspecting that They have come the wrong week. The Foliage Coordinator acknowledges That some years are better than others, but The Chamber of Commerce is Loath to call Him out.
Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.
The regular tap of my stick
pauses as I lean over the stone wall and contemplate the swirling
dark below. As my breathing steadies, I fumble in my coat pocket and
locate the engraved hip flask, one of the few things I treasure in
this world. A generous gulp sends the honey liquid coursing down my
throat. By God, that’s the ticket on a night like this. I’m
screwing the cap back on when a movement catches my eye. Someone is
climbing onto the wall near the middle of the bridge, holding onto a
stanchion, head bowed to the blackness below.
I limp towards them, calling out, making myself known.
It’s a woman. She warns me to stop when I’m a few feet away from
her. She’s not dressed for the weather.
her my name. She doesn’t want to talk but I talk anyway, gentle,
soothing, like she’s one of the kids with a fever, all those years
ago. She wants me to leave her to it.
her why? What can be so bad? Her body folds in on itself, her grip
loosening on the stanchion. I’m nearer, asking her to hold on,
asking her to come down. I’ll listen.
shakes her head but then she speaks. Her child died. Cancer. She
can’t go on without her. Her husband is broken, their family
pain is visible, radiating into the darkness and much as I want to
take it from her, I know I couldn’t stand it. I’m nearer now,
close enough to wrap my shovel of a hand around her slender one. I
remind her that if she goes through with this, she’ll pass the same
pain to her parents, already mourning the loss of their grandchild.
frowns, then crumbles to a sitting position, her sobs covering the
noise of the wind and fast-flowing river. She’s shaking
uncontrollably as I help her off the wall, wrap my coat around her
and give her a nip from the flask. She splutters, then has some more.
talk quietly and finally she lets me call her brother. He arrives in
tears and takes her in his arms. I decline their offer of a lift but
take her hand through the passenger window before they leave. She
thanks me. He can’t thank me enough.
car disappears back towards town. I’m shivering from the cold or
shock; I don’t know which. The rain comes, thick drops, right on
the edge of sleet. I limp back to the point she was going to jump
from and regard the inky depths she sought deliverance through.
home, my wife drifts in a morphine fuelled sleep. She’s not long
for this world and I don’t want to be in any world where she isn’t.
My suicide note sits, neatly folded, on the kitchen side next to the
kettle. Veronica will find it when she arrives in the morning. She’s
a good girl. Comes to look after her mum two days a week to give me a
break. If I go through with this, she’ll have to mourn me, then
mourn her mother. Am I that really that cruel?
I take out the hip flask, drain it and watch the river flow.
Karen Rust is currently studying an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Check out her blog, Blooming Late.
I am programmed to help human beings: If I see them in difficulty, I must help; My maker said what I represent Is smooth machine bureaucracy, A hidden net of support, for the common people. I am proud of that. I do my job as best I can Which is very well: my circuits are faultless Devised and manufactured by real men; So, I am authentic as well as useful, Not a fake copy from the printing factory.
Well, yesterday I saw a human being, sitting on a train, A newspaper upon his lap, and pen in hand. He clearly was in pain: he frowned, he scratched his head, He pursed his lip; crossed out what he had written. I sought to help, as I had been advised Was proper to my role. I should say now I am a trusted guard Collecting tickets for the Southern Rail; a company, so I am told, Which carries commuters to and from their work.
This human being was doing Sudoku, a game for relaxation Which also, I believe, demands some concentration From the gamer. He had not made much progress. Well, I could not do less: I fed the grid into my circuit board, Filled in the blanks, projected them to the page. He should have smiled. He did not. Instead he cursed, Said “Damn” and worse. I must have dozed off. Did someone borrow my paper? I must check with my maker –
Did I do something wrong? Impossible! My circuits all prevent it.
Later, on my way home; I have a bedsit like a normal human being Where other helpers live, and we are overseen; I saw upon the street A five pence piece. Had someone lost it? That would cause distress. I picked it up and thought a bit: the police station, that’s the place! They will restore it to its rightful owner. The constable behind the desk, When he had asked how he could help, and I gave my reply; He looked me in the eye with a slight frown: “It is a crime to waste police time,” He said. “This time I’ll let you off, but don’t come back,” Perhaps there is some lack in him, or he is one of those Who do not love their fellow human beings. Perhaps he needs help?
I am not qualified for therapy. My maker says the time is not yet ripe. But, when I have learned the ways of human beings, a little better, He says there is hope I could be upgraded. I look forward to that.
In the meantime, my neighbour is a poet, I thought to have a look at what he wrote. Poor man! It lacked the elements of proper grammar, Showed some derangement in the way he thought, Speaking of moonbeams as translucent stories; Of course, I put it right, and then destroyed his former manuscript; I am sure he will be pleased. It is good to be a secret do-gooder, To do your kindest deeds and seek no praise.
Well, even machines need to rest. But I feel blessed To have done so much good today; and for no thanks; Even ingratitude. Yet I am puzzled still – Those I have helped should be happy – I believe I have done well – Yet some are not. Perhaps I should learn to programme human beings?
Rob Lowe has been writing for many years. He is a member of Colwyn Bay Writers’ Circle. Poems have been published in The Friend, Shire Magazine, and by Disability Arts Cymru.
Kathleen Jones is an
award-winning freelance writer, poet and biographer. She has
previously worked with the OU as a tutor of Creative Writing, and her
comments for prospective students and tutors are insightful and
Could you tell us
a little about yourself?
I was born and
brought up on small hill farms in a remote part of northern England –
quite wild and beautiful, but isolated. So it could have been a
lonely childhood, except that I loved it and I think it was all that
space and freedom that made me a writer. I wrote a lot of poetry and
got journalistic items published in teen magazines and local papers.
I left as a teenager to go to London – thinking that that was where
you went if you wanted to become a ‘real’ writer, but I hated
living in a city.
I got married as a
teenager, to someone whose job took him all over the world, and
started to travel. We spent roughly ten years in Africa and the
Middle East. I found expat life very boring and did quite a lot of
writing to fill the time, and was lucky enough to get a job in
English broadcasting out there – writing for radio was very good
training. Eventually, I came back to the UK and got divorced. Being a
single parent wasn’t easy but I found that freelance writing gave
me the opportunity to be at home for the children while still earning
money. I went back to university as a mature student and published my
Do you have a
Not really. I’ve
always enjoyed doing different types of writing – sometimes having
several projects on the go at the same time. At the moment I’m
working on a new collection of poetry, a couple of short stories, and
a biography, as well as editing the novel I finished recently and
doing quite a lot of book reviewing. I still occasionally write
features for magazines and e-zines. It’s the variety I love. Or
maybe I’m just a workaholic!
Do you prefer to
write poetry structured within forms or do you prefer free forms?
I probably enjoy
free forms best. Every now and then I play around with sonnets, or
terza rima, just to prove I can do it, but I’m happiest creating my
own forms to fit the subject matter. At the moment I’m
experimenting with a ten line form as well as longer, narrative
Do you have
favourites amongst your books/ characters?
Yes – particularly
the biographies. I loved them all at the time, but in retrospect the
ones I enjoyed writing most are A Passionate Sisterhood, which was
the story of the women who lived with the ‘Lake Poets’ –
Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey – and the biography of the New
Zealand-based author, Katherine Mansfield. Mansfield was a wonderful
writer and a very interesting person – I admired her courage
immensely. How do you cope with having a stillborn illegitimate baby
at the age of 19, all alone in a strange country? How do you cope
with being told ten years later that you are terminally ill? She died
of tuberculosis shortly after her 34th birthday.
Among the fictional
characters I’ve created, I’m fondest of Tamar Fell in The Sun’s
Companion. She’s based on my mother, so I suppose that’s why.
Tamar is very shy and gentle and struggles to deal with the social
upheavals of nineteen-thirties England just before the war.
How difficult did
you find getting published for the first time?
Not difficult at all
– and I realise now just how very lucky I was. I was working on a
documentary for BBC radio, so I had to get an agent to handle the
contract. They suggested that I extend the research into a
full-length biography, and introduced me to the new Bloomsbury
publishing house, just being set up. I was one of their first
authors. That was in 1986/7. When I lost my current agent to
maternity leave a few years ago, it was a very different picture –
I found it almost impossible to find a new agent. I wrote to 16 and
only 2 bothered to reply! Fortunately, one of those took me on. But
it’s now very difficult to get publishers to take an interest in
your work unless you’re already a best-seller, or a new author they
What awards you
have won, and for which genre?
short-listed for quite a few, but haven’t won many. The Barclays
Bank Prize for biography for A Passionate Sisterhood was one I was
very happy to win. And in 2011 I won the Straid Award for a
collection of poetry called Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21. Oh, and
one of my short stories once won a fiction award sponsored by Fay
What inspires you
I don’t honestly
know. I’ve been writing since I was a small child – it’s just
something that’s part of my personality – who I am rather than
what I do. It’s a kind of addiction.
As a published
poet/author would you go back and change anything in your past
Yes! I wrote a novel
as a teenager – the usual teen stuff – and sent it off to the
address of a publisher I looked up in a bookshop. I didn’t know
there was any such thing as the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook. I
got a letter back saying that it wasn’t good enough to publish as
it stood, but if I rewrote bits of it (they told me which ones), they
would take another look. I was so inexperienced and naïve that I
didn’t realise what was being said. All I saw was rejection. I
chucked the manuscript into the bottom of a cupboard and abandoned
it. Now I know that I should have worked on it and worked on it and
sent it back to them as well as submitting it to several other
publishers – it was an opportunity I missed because I didn’t
know. There were no creative writing courses back then.
What would you
attribute to writers like George Eliot and Charles Dickens who become
famous without ever taking any creative writing courses?
They just learned
their craft from reading other writers and practising endlessly.
That’s what Katherine Mansfield did, too – and DH Lawrence and
Virginia Woolf. I think that there are many authors who have an
instinctive sense of form and a gift for language. They develop these
gifts by sheer hard work. A lot of writers in the past also had
mentors who helped them to self-edit, and many of them learned good
techniques through journalism. It was a kind of apprenticeship.
Are you working
on anything at present?
commissioned to write the biography of an obscure northern poet to
celebrate his centenary in 2014. His name is Norman Nicholson and he
was a protégé of TS Eliot and one of the early eco-poets. He was
rather reclusive, so it’s a challenge to get enough material to
flesh out his personality.
I’m also editing
the final draft of my second novel, which is about a rather
controversial subject. The central character is an ageing artist who
was born trans-gender in the 1920s. She has become an international
celebrity, but has found personal happiness elusive. It’s narrated
by a young writer who goes to Croatia to research her life story, and
becomes drawn into a big family conflict centred around who is going
to inherit her property and the rights to her work.
Do you feel
social media presence is required for a writer? How does it help?
I think these days
it’s essential. The higher your profile, the easier it is to sell
your work. Often, being active in social forums is a requirement of
the publisher’s contract. They expect you to blog and Facebook and
have a profile on Goodreads, not to mention tweeting as well! And you
need a website of some kind (blogs can work well – they’re free
and easy to update yourself) to advertise your work – something
that you can supply as a link to anyone interested in what you do.
You can also have an author page on Facebook that people can access.
Not everyone wants the hassle of a website that you have to pay for
and then wrestle with html or pay a webmaster to update.
What advice would
you give to our prospective creative writing students and tutors?
I think the main
advice I’d give to tutors and those who set the courses is not to
be too prescriptive. Otherwise you get writing that is just too
formulaic – I judge writing awards sometimes and it’s easy to
spot the creative writing course poem or story. The very best writing
is often experimental, off-the-wall, tearing up the rule book. But I
know from experience as a tutor that it’s the most difficult work
of all to mark!
To students I would say read, read, read… and then write, write, write. There’s no substitute for practice. And I’m all for writing freely, without thinking about grammar or form or spelling. That can all be put in at the editing stage. You have to get the raw material down on the page first and tweak it afterwards. And write what excites you. If you don’t care about your characters the reader won’t either. You have to have total commitment.
A Sonnet to the She Wolf Aglaya Red curled hair, glittery eyes, modest
A quote by another of the names was still a listless debate While applying the softness of a makeup should round out each Reaching can be the element for which those carry out a twist Put through the heftiest of side to carry forward the most to relate How there is a future with the bemused side of the esteem to reach The moreover unlikely was the prudent to follow along the only list
However she must survive the elements of the cryptic and not low Within the parenthetical group is a loophole to seethe forward onto This could be the berated sounds have been presumed the lost cares Have alliteratively been her solid enough careful to resume the blow Must have to carry of the edge of the truly looked over for a same blue This the hype within the crusty and been the lengthy look for scares
A Sonnet to the She Wolf Arya Snake skin boots, baseball cap, high strung
Only to cope with the charging out of the stammering glows Has her complexion been the sorry result of another old squabble What must have to obey the stances are a rudiment of wishing not So elegiac as the taunting snow to the head of the peak for shows What can mystify the lumpiness of the driest of the heated wobble Has luckily been the stayed for what is the crimson and a very lot
Was to ramify the brilliance of the quaint is not inertia to her skin How was this a possible not lanky longing that impedes the dusty Was convinced to yield to the nodding is not here to stammer on sin This can be the winning cycle of her not so taken to treat a spin Was so likely to navigate about the changing can be a future misty Filled with the tepid heat of a hot clamouring and instilled to be thin
A Sonnet to the She Wolf McKayla Boots with zippers, long leather gloves, facetious
A true telling sign was not told for her to announce another Craving victimless taken to a hardship was ever known for The mystical zooming can be the leap to eke over a sketchy Explaining away the half side of the rather morbid sound other Can it pass from the seething to the hyperactive lurid is a chore With how one can compensate the pestering was an amused testy
Only to impact the other of the sidereal and mostly to flounder her Is the passing on of the blankly poured over the listening was a bait To catch on her lapses of the torrid enough can be the humility hence What should have to matter with the miraculous enough starry blur Was a change to have reached the utmost of the funniest can go fate Was a stance until it would have to grip the utmost of her pure dance
Lenore S. Beadsman lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She believes the Truth lies in 19th Century Russian and French literature.
She is very serious about her Sonnets. She has written three cycles of Sonnets; Witch, Goddess and Siren. A number of these have been published online and in print. She is currently working on a cycle of Mermaid Sonnets.
When not writing, Lenore enjoys driving fast cars and listening to Mozart (not necessarily simultaneously).
I throw up my breakfast in Sunday School –Cheerios and Tang–but Miss Hooker’s there to take me to the bathroom and help me hunch over and hack what’s left out of me. Not much. I spit a few times and I’m done. All finished?, she asks. Yes ma’am, I say. She’s our teacher. We love her but I love her best because one day we’ll get married
–I saw it in a dream the night after we
listened to her talk about Joseph and
Pharaoh. Pharaoh came to Joseph and asked
Do you know what my dream means? and Joseph
said, You bet, it means this and that, and he
got promoted from slave to good-as-king
so that night I dreamt about Miss Hooker
but it was no puzzle–I dreamed exact:
we were sitting on the sofa in our house and watching cartoons and wrestling and then more cartoons and eating popcorn and sucking a chocolate milkshake, one chocolate milkshake but two straws. My arm was around her shoulder. My left arm. Her right shoulder. Chocolate milkshakes made with chocolate ice cream, and chocolate milk, so they were as chocolaty as you can get. Thorough, that is. Maybe it’s a good sign that Miss Hooker and I go together through and through. 100% chocolate, that’s what we are. Maybe I’m like Joseph after all. I mean as smart, or almost, at least when it comes to my own dreams. Then
it was time for us to go to bed so I kissed her and she kissed me–we kissed at the same time, I mean, right flush on the lips. Then we shook hands and went to bed. We kissed again in the dark and said Goodnight. Then I said, We forgot to take off our clothes. Then we did but I couldn’t see too much –I had one eye looking and one not so if I sinned it was just 50%. Then we woke and kissed and shook hands again and made breakfast–Pop Tarts and bacon and Kool-Aid–and went outside to play baseball –well, we only just tossed the ball around. We took a break for lunch–macaroni –and at the table I suddenly said I forgot to go to work today. She laughed and laughed. Don’t be silly, she said–we’re rich, remember. Oh, yeah, I said. We kissed again and I ate her macaroni because she couldn’t finish it. Girls. Then we watched TV. Then we took a nap. Then
we woke and went for a drive. I don’t know how to drive, I said. That’s why this is a dream, she said. Oh, yeah, I said. I drove us to the hospital so we could buy a baby. They were having a sale so we bought two and put them in the back seat and by the time we got home they were grown. Please allow us to introduce ourselves, I said–we’re your parents. That’s nice, they said. Can we have some money? Ask your father, Miss Hooker said. Can we have some money, they asked. No, I said–money doesn’t grow on trees. Then I woke up. I was alone.
Miss Hooker even cleaned up my vomit and shushed the other kids, who were laughing. I hope they all go to Hell. I take that back–they’re just jealous but I forgive them. I sit down again and Miss Hooker asks me how I’m feeling. Good enough to make a woman out of you, I say. But
I’m not sure what that means. It just came.
I’ve been naughty so I’m in the closet again, this time for hitting my sister. I warned you not to hit girls, Father said. In fact, I warned you not to fight at all. Not only did you fight, but you fought girls. A girl. And the girl was your sister. Good God Almighty. I have my head bowed and my thumbs clasped behind my back. Behind my butt, really. I think and try not to smile. My butt. But my head’s down so he can’t see. And he’s a lot taller and that helps, too. What do you call those holes in your shoes, where the laces go in and out like worms? I don’t know. Look at me, Boy, he says. I look
up. I’m not going to spank you, he says. No. I’m going to put you in a quiet place, where you can think about what you’ve done. I don’t want to think about it, but I don’t say so. Father’s plenty hot. If his face was a fire and I had a hose, I’d put it out and so much steam would rise that he’d be all clouds above his neck and then I could get away. March, he says. Go in the hall closet and close the door behind you. I’ll come get you when you’ve had enough. He means when he’s had enough, and I hope he won’t forget me. Last time I almost peed in my pants, I was in for so long. When he opened the door I felt like that guy in the Bible, that fellow who died and came back to life, thanks to Jesus. So
much light and all at the same time. Even all the darkness that was trapped inside and came out with me couldn’t water it down. If he’d said Cover your eyes I would have. Now shame is what I have to cover up and it’s no match for the brightness, either. But of course my eyes adjusted. You’ve learned your lesson now, I’ll wager, Father says. Go outside and play. I do but my heart isn’t in it and, besides, I might see my sister out here. That would be awkward. The last time I saw her she was crying and I caused her tears. She likes the Beatles and I like the Dave Clark 5. She made fun of the Dave Clark 5. So I pushed her down even though she’s older and somewhat bigger and I punched her on the shoulder. Now she hates me but good, I’m sure. Apologise,
Father yells out the window. I’d rather forgive and forget. There she is now, on the swing set, going back and forth as if she’s a pendulum on a clumsy clock. I approach from one side so she can’t knock me down. She’s swinging so hard the swingset is jerking from the ground. Any faster and she’ll have it walking across the yard. I’m sorry I hit you, I yell, my words like scattershot at her moving target. Never mind, she says. How was the closet this time? Not bad, I say. I’m beginning to like it. She laughs, but sounds like a bird and stops swinging. You’re a brave little boy, she says, and kisses me, then goes inside. I take her place. I’m rising higher and
I’m not even swinging. Father calls me from the kitchen window. Get in here, Boy, he yells. His mouth is like a closet and his words escape but they’re not innocent. I go to the window. I said Come in, he says. There are no closets outside so I say, Make me. By Ned, I will, he swears. He runs out with his belt in his hand and his trousers sagging. You’re not a nice man, I say to him. I stand with my arms out to the sides and my eyes closed. Crucify me, I say. I goddamned dare ya. He knocks me down and wraps his belt around my throat. This must be child abuse–I’ve heard about this. When I open my eyes it’s dark–back
in the closet. A few minutes later I’m freed–by my sister. We’ll run away, she says. To England. To Liverpool or London or Tottenham or Manchester. No, I say. I like it here. It’s our home. Let him run away. Let’s kill him, she says. No, I say. No future in that. Come in here where it’s safe. She does. I close the door. You’re right, she says. It’s like not being born.
Dr Gale Acuff taught English university courses in the US, China, and Palestine. He has been published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Poem, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Orbis, and has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.