The Afterlife Cycle of Moments
An outstretched hand collects time in its cup. Seconds flow over and collect as moments children run through—little regard spared for who the hell will clean this mess. I am this moment scattered by tiny, muddy feet as countless possible outcomes take brief flight, arc to oblivion. One collects on the extended tongue of a border collie’s yawn. Another condescends to break the surface of a young writer’s no cream, no sugar, sinks into black coffee dreams, affords the writer a moment he fails to notice. Others take refuge on the backs of birds, think they’re safe, but what of changing migration patterns, shifting trade winds? Many outcomes evaporate before they have the chance to land, their potential energy realized too soon. The lucky outcomes drop back to earth, coalesce, become new moments collected, run down to the sea where, burned off by the sun, they cumulate nimbus, darken, rumble, complain, and fall all over again.
Friday night pornographers
Wet lips fall on a Friday night scene. Everything
slows beneath the anonymous blue
of a man who smells like lit Diamond matches;
sulfur and sex; sweat and peppermint gum.
You pay for the packaging:
The man in a pencil-thin mustache and shiny shoes
engages in fishnet stalkings
of women who can fold themselves into thirds.
Friday night pornographers don’t always get it
right, but they give it the old college try,
indulge in two-for-one floggings
at happy hour for amateur masochists
where red wax drips, collects, hardens.
Jared Duran is a writer, musician, and full-time neurotic. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, Up the River, Suisun Valley Review, Four Chambers, and others. He hosts Limited Engagement, a monthly reading and interview series, and he is seriously thinking of becoming Tom Waits.
The Union Bank Times
I found the old newspapers in the bottom drawer of the last dresser. The folder holding them disintegrated in my hands as I set it on the table. By then, my arms were exhausted from hauling garbage bags of winter coats out to the car and carrying old toys saved for grandchildren up from the basement; I had paper cuts on four fingers, two chipped nails.
At the top of each first page, bold block lettering offered the title of the publication: The Union Bank Times. Underneath the header, the date and issue number danced across the page in a rolling script. Beneath that, the ghosts of Union Bank drifted through the articles.
Nancy Jackson had been promoted to Senior Teller that summer. George Marshall transferred to the new branch in Watertown to become an Assistant Vice President. In the 1976 intra-bank softball season, Pete Wills led the Union team with six home runs and a .624 batting average. Anne Johnson won the trip to Europe by raising the most money in the charity drive. She smiled in the full-page photo as she posed with the bank president.
My sister, carrying a stack of empty boxes, peered over my shoulder to read with me.
“He kept the weirdest shit,” she sighed. “Just…make two piles. If he’s mentioned, I guess save it. Throw everything else out.” She headed for the front door. Claire always spoke like she was in charge, even when she wasn’t.
Seventeen people were retiring in 1977, listed alphabetically starting with Tony Ayers and ending with John Washburn. For the trip to Florida – families and spouses welcome – the train was leaving the downtown station at eleven on a Friday morning. There would be an overnight layover in Washington, D.C., after which it would arrive in Winter Park by one on Saturday. Make sure to register with Nancy at headquarters if you’re joining us.
My brother sat next to me with two cups of coffee. He pushed one over. “Thanks,” I said.
Jack nodded, then pulled the top newsletter from the pile I’d already gone through. He skimmed it and shrugged. “There’s nothing here,” he said, resting it back on top of the others.
“You’re wasting your time.”
I stopped reading and turned my head to him. We locked eyes like we’d done a thousand times before: when he held my best doll for ransom, when he would take only the strawberry from the Neapolitan ice cream, leaving behind a pink-stained canyon in the carton, when he pretended he didn’t know me in the halls the day I started high school. “Fine, then,” he said, yanking his coffee up and carrying it off into another room.
There were eight new tellers at the new branch in Middletown. Another full page was dedicated to showing them each working behind the counter, landscape photos running top to bottom in two neat columns. They wore wide collar blouses, big hair. The paisley popped off even the black and white pages. If anybody was interested, Helen Montrose was hoping to start a volleyball league in the high school gym around the corner from her branch, Thursdays after work.
If anybody was interested.
My daughter Ashley came up behind me, draping her arms over my shoulders and hugging me. She pressed her cheek against mine. Her weight felt good on my back. I grabbed her wrist and closed my eyes for a moment.
The people from Union disappeared. I panicked and blinked my eyes open again. Clutching Ashley hard, I kept reading.
Jerry Pederson opened the most new accounts that fall. He posed with the watch he’d earned as a reward. A line of cars – wood-paneled station wagons and lanky Buicks – waited one behind the other at the fancy new teller window in the Grayson branch. Linda Esposito was getting married next spring.
Ashley wandered away after four issues. My nephew arrived with doughnuts and everyone except me loitered in the kitchen, echoed laughter erupting in sporadic beats. I was alone, still reading The Union Bank Times in the dining room, when I finally found his picture. Jerry Parker – my father – would celebrate twenty-five years at the bank that July. There were others having anniversaries too – ten years, fifteen, twenty – and their names were listed running down the page, but twenty-five years meant you got your picture taken. Dad’s smile was wide above his neat tie, his white shirt and gray jacket, the ever-present black sweater vest because, even back then, he was always cold. I started a new pile.
There were only a few more newsletters to review. When I finished, I had the one with Dad’s picture to my left, the pile with the rest to my right. I rested my chin in my hand and finished my coffee. I held the larger pile, filled with the faded images of strangers, over the open black garbage bag at my feet, my hand trembling. After a few seconds, I pulled the newsletters back and set them up on the table. I stared at them. Then I put the piles together, Dad’s picture on top, and slid all the pages into a sparkling new manila folder. I snuck the whole thing upstairs, tucking it in with my grade school reports, his army discharge papers, the picture of me in his lap when I was a baby.
When I came back downstairs, the doughnuts were gone, the kitchen empty. I stood in the entryway and watched all the activity, my family rushing to and fro, each back to work on their projects. None of them noticed me. Outside, the day was losing its light, and the descending sun slid between the slats in the blinds, into the living room, glinting off the silver side rail of the bed hospice still hadn’t picked up.
Chris Negron‘s short fiction has previously appeared in Pilcrow & Dagger, The Grand Central Review, Torrid Literature Journal, Synaesthesia Magazine, The Vignette Review and elsewhere. New stories will soon appear in Split Lip Magazine and WhiskeyPaper. He has received multiple writing honors from the Atlanta Writers Club as well as the Literary Award of Merit from the Dawson Country Arts Council.
After the MFA
You cobble together
a collection of classes
at community college
and state university. You
shop your manuscript. You drink
bourbon neat, go to poetry readings
at a sports bar—
it's a Tuesday.
I knock over
the topless cup,
spilling its liquid
across the floor.
Get out, everyone screams.
On My Birthday
My friends take me out, buy me
all the drinks. I drink them
all. I'm so grateful.
They hate me.
Proposed Ad Copy for My Second Visit Home
June 11th – 17th, 2014
New! From the same people who brought you
childhood favorites like 'worry' and 'overcooked chicken' comes
the latest in our Adulthood© line series of fragrances, 'old lady smell'.
Yes. Old lady smell, a unique blend of lavender and repression
that, whether you are walking dogs with your neighbors
or being unable to have a real interaction with your son,
is sure to leave you questioning, what happened to
your family, who broke them, can you fix it.
Jake Friedman primarily identifies as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of an independent community literary magazine and small press called Four Chambers. He is also; previously unpublished; a good waiter; a bad son; often tired and hungry; occasionally smells if he has gone several days without a shower (as anybody would); likes to cook; wishes he read more but not enough to actually do anything about it; fetishizes coffee cups and office supplies; enjoys petting other people's cats; rides a bicycle; wants his family to know how much he loves them, which is very very much.
There were two red birds on a fence. Well the thing is, the birds were hardly red, they were really maroon, blood colored, they were made of blood, they were bloodbirds, and the fence, well it wasn’t really a fence either, it was a bath and the birds were washing in the fence, in the bath, and well they weren’t bathing, they were washing away, not like half bird/half bloodying water but basically the birds kept the same bird shape and just got smaller and the water was becoming the diluted bird, so there was this growing water bird and this small bloodbird and in the distance the moon was soon going to burst but the sun was just sitting there not bursting not exploding just smiling and slowly falling away while the big water bird was pushing the moon away and the little bloodbird thinned and flattened and flew up to the horizon like a long line holding the sun’s blood red face down under water.
Everett Warner spends his time trying to be a wolf. His words are at or are forthcoming at Rust + Moth, Axolotl, Chicago Literati, and other places. He is the Fiction Editor for Noble/Gas Qrtly. He thinks everything should be blue, and can be found on Twitter @danielwolfer.
Reunion Weekend Fills Divorce Courts
Lynn M Houston
Drunk in a motel room at 4 a.m.,
I have a river in my pocket
and in his, a ring.
We haven’t seen each other
in twenty years.
But some things
haven’t changed from long ago.
Read me your poems is the new
Show me your etchings.
It’s fall, like it always is
in poems about adultery.
Outside the bathroom door,
the heater’s hum drowns out
some of his sobs, but not all.
Pity is the married man’s
Show me your etchings.
Drunk on a motel room bed,
I have a flood in my pocket.
He has a flashlight in his.
Lynn Marie Houston is the author of The Clever Dream of Man, a book of poetry that explores relationships with men. She loves lazy mornings when she can debate literature with a lover while wrapped in a towel. Her Ph.D. in English is from Arizona State University. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Southern Connecticut State University.
I fell in love with a girl on a windy day.
She stood in the middle of a field in the park, and the wind stretched everything, her dress, hair and copper skin, horizontal. It threatened to tear the flesh from her bones and she stood there, embracing it.
I saw her in that same spot every day for three weeks, bathing in the wind and sun. She caught me staring and asked me to join her.
Six months later, we moved in together. I wanted to rent a small apartment, but she talked me into buying a house with her. We found a fixer upper with nice bones in an old neighborhood on the east side of town where people still talk to each other and hold block parties and know their neighbors’ names.
I carried the last box in from the truck and met her on the front porch. She stared into me with her eyes like two pools of murky green seawater and kissed me on the cheek. I took her hand and our fingers intertwined.
She kissed me on the lips and then climbed the tree in front of the house and spent the next hour staring at the stars. She asked me to join her, but I had to unpack the boxes.
She spent every free moment in that tree, climbing and staring out over the city.
A few weeks later, a television commercial caught her eye. An overly excited man with bleached tips and a polo shirt promised viewers the world and more, for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling.
He held two silk, triangular sheets in his hand. But, they were no ordinary sheets, he promised.
They were angel wings, bought in bulk from God himself during a fire sale. The entrance fee to Heaven had dropped drastically in the last couple of years, with all of the indiscriminate sinning here on Earth, and God needed to make up for his shrinking coffers.
The wings, he said, opened up a world of possibilities. Anyone could travel to Spain, Japan or Australia without worrying about the cost of airfare. Just strap on your wings and fly away.
She called the hotline and paid $19.95 plus shipping and handling. She called back the next day and ordered a pair for me, too.
Once she placed the order, she slept no more than a few hours each night. She waited on the wooden porch of our small house from morning until dusk, staring out into the street.
On the third day after she ordered the wings, I asked Eloise if she was going to leave me. She smiled and kissed me on the cheek.
We sat at the dinner table, the next night, and I asked her again, but she would not eat or look me in the eye. She looked out the window and said no—she only wanted to take trips to Machu Picchu and Mount Everest and Kuala Lumpur—she wanted to do it all with me.
I said I would go as often as I could, but I knew I was lying. I couldn’t just fly away.
She quit her job at the supermarket the day after the wings arrived and flew around the house all day, getting the hang of it. At first she could only hover a few feet off the ground, but after a few days she could reach the ceiling.
Every time she touched the ceiling, she’d fall to the carpet. Her wrists and legs and arms were covered with bumps and bruises by the end of the night.
She begged me to try mine on, so I did. I learned to hover above the ground, but I wouldn’t go up to the roof because I was afraid I would fall.
The next day, I saw her standing on a thick branch near the top of the tree. I told her not to jump. I told her to take those silly wings off and come be with me. She asked me to meet her up there. It’s time to leave, she said.
She jumped and hovered for a few seconds. She hovered like she did near the ceiling and then she began to fall all the same. She fell and her body cut through the air with a whoosh, the wings flapping like pages.
She fell and I didn’t know if I could catch her. She was falling right towards me, so fast I thought her body would slice through mine.
Then the wings came to life. They became rigid and pumped back and forth and she rose into the sky. I shielded my eyes as she disappeared into the sun.
After that, she ventured off to nearby cities and towns nearly every day. I came home to an empty house night after night. I made dinner for us both and put her plate in the refrigerator and went to bed. I pretended to sleep when, hours later, she crawled in next to me, breasts heaving in and out, stinking of anardana or curry or turmeric.
On the rare nights when we sat on the porch together, I tried to talk to her, but she looked past me with glassy eyes at the stars above. I am going to touch them, she said. I am going to hold onto them until they tear me apart. Come with me.
You’re going to leave me, I said.
I can’t leave you now, because I’ve already left. But, you can come with me. She wrinkled up the corner of her mouth. She touched her chest with her hand and then reached out and rubbed mine.
I grabbed her hand with both of mine and squeezed until my knuckles turned white.
Just stay with me, I said.
We’re a million miles apart.
With that, she sucked in a deep breath and jumped into the sky. Her ascent cracked the wind like a whip. I looked straight up, but all I could see was a trail of vapor and thousands of tiny stars.
I walked inside and made dinner. I didn’t make her a plate. I knew there’d be no more strange scents of spices sticking to her skin, just the smell of burning hydrocarbons dancing in the air.
Sometimes I roll over in bed at night and breathe into her pillow, because the smells she brought home still survive there. I close my eyes tight and picture her the way she was before she left. I picture the trips that are now stained into the pillowcase, and I can see her spinning, smiling, living.
On those nights, I sometimes I walk outside and climb the tree. I stare up at the stars. If I see one moving, I plead to whoever is listening that it’s her, and I feel like we’re together again. I feel like there’s no distance between us. I feel like, even though she’s gone, there’s no space between us at all.
Wayne Schutsky is a 20-something writer living in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and baby boy. He creates sweet fictitious nothings that will change your life and writes stupid things on the Internet that will undoubtedly embarrass his son in 15 years. You can find his work in Modern Times Magazine, Thought Catalog and The Blue Guitar. His first novella, "Of Ghosts and the Living", was published by Thought Catalog in 2013.
The Answer is 120
I was once the boisterous sophomore
slumped in the desk at the back of the classroom
who demanded to know if we’d ever
need to know any of this stuff
out in the real world
but now I am the grown man
sweating in the supermarket
with clipped coupons for
a discounted mid-life crisis
struggling to remember
how to calculate
the least common multiple
when purchasing 5-Hour
Energy drinks and 24-Hour
Shawnte Orion's poetry is influenced by night, chocolate, and tea. His first collection The Existentialist Cookbook was published by NYQBooks. His poems have been heard in theaters, bars, libraries, hair salons, museums, and laundromats and found in the pages of The Threepenny Review, Barrelhouse, Gargoyle Magazine, and New York Quarterly.
She steers the car toward the intersection but doesn’t make the turn. It’s like a meteorological spell, seventy-six degrees and dropping, perfect for the moon-roof. She’s listening to the Eagles, driving toward the buttes—more specifically, to the spot where she saw the Phoenix lights, the place that the Papago considered sacred. She has a bundle of dried sage in her bag. She’s been reading some promising studies on cognitive function and Alzheimer’s patients. First there was the music phenomenon; now there’s the sage extract. She’s mouthing the words to Hotel California as she drives past the sacred spot. The passenger seat is empty, but she hears him say the word halfwaybetween the guitar solo and the chorus. She’s not sure what it means, so she calculates the distance between where she started and where she’ll end. She multiplies her age by two. She divides his in half. She concludes that the sum of memory and desire is something other than dried herbs being set on fire. She steers the car toward the root of loss, which is a flavor that smells like cedar. She’s almost home, and all she can hear is the wind. This time, she turns right at the light, but she doesn’t remember leaving.
Bagua and the Art of Loss
I make him kiss me before I feng shui the birds (cardinal above blue jay), alphabetize the books I almost read last month. He watches as I sweep the crumbs one-by-one into the dustpan. I tell him that a woman is a fork and a man is a spoon.
We sit on bright green Adirondacks facing southward, eat pink ladies until our toes are sweet and we can sense the monsoon rains rounding the western corner. He wishes he could change the song that’s playing in his head, the one about the girl who hitchhikes north to Santa Fe and reminds him of his dead sister.
But he can’t, and his mind is like a View-Master, and he’s clicking between the aerial map and the nearby motel, the creek bed and her muddied tank top, her glasses that were never found. I tell him when there’s that much pain in the world, we’re forced to make little piles of order wherever we can, so I take his hand, and we crouch down to the bottom shelf, and he watches me as I run my finger over the spines: Whitman, W., Williams, W., Wright, J., Yeats, W.B.
Rosemarie Dombrowski is the co-founder of the Phoenix Poetry Series and a poetry editor at Four Chambers. Her poetry has appeared in Columbia Review, Ginosko, Salt River Review, Hartskill Review, the anthology Poetry and Prose for the Phoenix Art Museum, and elsewhere. Her first collection, The Book of Emergencies, was published by Five Oaks Press in 2014 and was nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. She was also a finalist for the Pangea Poetry Prize in 2015. She’s currently a Lecturer at Arizona State University’s Downtown campus.
bones that cracked
have turned to dust
as they so often do
for a reason, I may not know,
I remembered the trips
to the chiropractor
not a Bone Woman,
as they may have said
in the old country...
but, rather, a man
who cracked bones.
the wood paneled
walls, orange carpet, and
the sound of bones
cracking, the paper gowns,
and a feeling that maybe
this room was wrong
Erin Lorandos is a librarian, wife, and mother (not necessarily in that order) living in the Phoenix area. A relatively recent transplant from the midwest; she enjoys basking in the perpetual sun of the Valley, and (not shoveling) the heat. She has been writing poetry since she was in 6th grade, and enjoys both free verse and found poetry especially. She can be found online at www.loweredvoices.com or Lowered Voices on Facebook.