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*NOW TAKING PRINT ANTHOLOGY SUBMISSIONS for our new print journal “The Whiskey Mule Diner” named after our online anthology that was inspired by Tom Waits. This journal has now expanded to become a new print journal endeavor that includes poetry, art, writings, photography and more inspired by musicians, artists, writers/poets, movies & actors/actresses see this link for more Introducing a new print journal dedicated to poetry, writings, art & more inspired by music, artists, movies, and writers “The Whiskey Mule Diner”firstname.lastname@example.org (all poetry/writings/essays, art, photography will need to be submitted by June 1st for one of the first 2 issues) please put in Subject the artist you are submitting poetry/etc inspired by. Include bio. No need for cover letter. Only in word doc, pdf or body of e-mail for writing submissions.We do NOT send rejection e-mails if you want to withdraw anything or have any questions on your work please send us an e-mail. We DO send acceptance e-mails however. Also, for editing/curating reasons we will most likely add a considered piece(s) to the website prior to any print publications. We are unable to pay contributors however you will receive a free PDF of the journal. (Even the editors have to pay for a copy for themself) Please consider donating to our PayPal at email@example.com
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OnlineSubmissions could include Poetry, Art, submitted Book Reviews, culture pieces, rants, pre-published poetry from self-published materials, defunct lit mags, pieces from other lit mags/books/blogs with permissions. We prefer 3-5 poems sent unless you are sending for a writing prompt. There could be exceptions to this rule of course. If we take 3-5 or more poems from you will we feature you as a poetry showcase on the website.
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all artwork sent in by Pasithea Chan for these amazing artists.
“i was a thin sea of blue” by Paula Hayes
didn't you know, love, i was a thin sea of blue
waiting for you to come along
and fill yourself
inside my creases
to drink me in between your restless
i asked you to come closer
so i could please you
but you ignored my pleas
and left like some tug of gravity
was waiting for
to carry you
where are the gods, now, to bring the waters back
up to my lips
to give a little salt in return
for all i've lost; is that too much to
ask? just a little salt to take down
even if there is no quenching
in hapless mornings
there is sky and sea and sun
all making for soft horizons
pretending these natural elements
are some kind of boundary
sealing off what was meant to hurt me
from where i stand now
sucker-punched and drunk in the orange of waves
light, all light, radiant and forgotten
while two birds, lovers no less, fly by me
certain that they are far away
from what they once knew
and even more certain
they have nowhere left to go
Bio: Paula Hayes is a poet who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, the same place where rock and roll was birthed and where the ghost of Elvis still hangs around Beale Street. She finds the presence of such a rich musical history in the town she lives in to be right on track with transforming one as a poet into a bard.
Alice Checks the Queen by Lynn White
in response to Anita Arbidane artwork
‘Your time is up’ said Alice.
She knew it didn’t matter
how big she was
or how small
in the end.
She knew it didn’t matter
in the end
whether the queen was red or white,
whether time moved backwards or forwards.
In the end
there was still no stopping it,
still no changing it
however many time-pieces the Queen owned,
however many times she moved the hands
on or back on the clock-face.
It made no difference.
‘You’re just a pawn
on the wheel of time’
‘No wonder you look glum’
Bio: Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and a Rhysling Award. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/"October Hardcover" by James Schwartz
Shifting season of melancholy,
Dark bark decay,
Lighting of lamps,
In the v
Against frosted fog,
Shorn corn stalks,
Lost leaden leaves,
Cafe au lait,
Notes of nutmeg,
Victor Hugo hardcover.
Bio: James Schwartz is a poet, slam performer and author of various collections including "The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay & Amish in America" (available on Kindle 2011), PUnatic (Writing Knights Press, 2019) & Motor City Mix (Alien Buddha Press 2022). on twitter James can be found under @queeraspoetry for a follow.Art inspired by Clive Gresswell
life’s ballet cycle
causes me to pause
in the twinkling of a romantic pose
inherited by nature’s mystique
the floral fauna and reddening leaves
flutter inside my mind’s eye
caught in the season’s harsh mirror
light infernal, light eternal
rays of the insect fanning down
the earth’s delightful eternal gown.
Bio: Clive Gresswell is a 64-year-old innovative writer and poet who has appeared in many mags from BlazeVOX to Poetry Wars and Tears in the Fence. He is the author of five poetry books the last two being ‘Strings’ and ‘Atoms’ from erbacce-press (see their website for more details).
A saddle strapped and swallow down the tincture.
Assimilation over these years worth of crashes to curves of corners.
It is much heavier than before
It is much heavier than before
I begin to resemble a caricature of a zombie-
drawn by the superficial you.
Under a slightly warm night sky, barely alive
I was dreaming of you dancing on unbroken bottles.
Then again, they break again, and you're always surprised.
Much heavier than before is the cutting
Much heavier than before is the failing
I watch you fainting out a smile while bleeding away onto the floor.
I watch you believing in which heaven you have restored for this day.
The evolution of the tincture.
What is willing and what is wading
You’ve tried to prove yourself almighty. But
It is much heavier than before
It is much much more heavier than before
Wishing I was inside that mind with you.
Poems about Elliott from Afta GleyUntitled
musician, from your
your oblivion ambition,
may you never, never
October 21, 2022
dear Mr. Smith, twelve
years ago I was too sad
to go to work, but
decided to work
through the depression. there
by the Dumpster: a cat.
who knows? maybe you
guided your namesake to me.
so very grateful
TWO FROM FOUR DAYS AGO
lighting a candle
for 34 minutes, youre
nineteen years ago
I knew everything else
meant nothing to me
Elliott Smith waltzed
with his metaphors, partnered
by no one at all
(C) IM-JESS ON DEVIANTART
SO UGLY BEFORE by Lynn Elliott
A great man once proclaimed
He was damaged bad at best
In my heart of hearts
To know him I feel blessed
There was beauty, truth and honor
In his troubled soul
People clammered just to touch him
and it took it's toll
I see him in the morning
As the sky is turning blue
I feel him in the stillest night
Sometimes as if on cue
I mourn his loss quite often
Celebrate him even more
For bringing out the beauty
In what was so ugly before.
XO. Lynn Elliott
Unknown name poem by Lynn Elliott
It's so easy living in the past
Sleep walking through each day
Living where I saw you last
Pretending I'm okay
XO Lynn Elliott
My Elliott Smith story is a little different
I broke my neck and suffered a traumatic brain injury water skiing. For 5 yrs I was pretty much a zombie. The only thing I could feel was fear. I'm not a fearful person at all but that's how all tbi ppl feel
I was listening to everything's OK by Elliott
and it made me feel safe. It was the beginning of my recovery. I listened to Elliott almost every hour of every day.
It inspired me to start writing songs and poetry, which really sped up my recovery even more. I'll never be like I was before but my injury stimulated my drive to write and share what I write. So I was in my 50s when I started.
I rescue special needs dogs. I did extreme sports most of my life. Surfing, skiing. diving, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, etc. I worked for the airlines so I did a fair amount of traveling. I'm an outdoorsy person. Elliott Smith is more than a great musician to me. He is my safe place.
Ripples by Khadeja Ali
inspired by ‘Everything Means Nothing to Me”
days start and end in blank white and solid black
shapes that will not harmonize rigidly exist in my eyes
when finally touching, the sharp lipped edges cut
and me, wanting so badly for lines blurring, insides blending
But there is no chance of grey. No body electricity to make it work.
was I once a kaleidoscope of magnetic color
shuddering with vibrating life, dancing constantly? I think so
if not singing, was I humming to natural silence?
now is there a piercing screech in my ear, or nothing
No ears-plugging or opening my mouth anymore. Frozen.
lying down is not an option; when did I start standing?
since when can I not move? This is not me. Is it? walking I was
but stiffly erect and standing at once. When started my movement’s death?
my mind’s edges are so sharp, but inside empty as air
Squinting hard. There’s nothing to see.
my energy; drained by a taunting echo of everything
wavering glass below me reflects my iron face
So glorious am I, yet—I’m nothing to me.
“Junkyard Full of False Starts” by Jennifer Patino
'gone too soon'
I'll boast of your intellect
There's a way back to blue
& to you, but we couldn't
remind you in time
& wasn't that you,
that one time, pounding
like a barbarian?
You couldn't speak
without scaring them
I know, I know, I know,
you tore from
your aching shoulders
I know, I know, I know
how terrified you were
of even the vague idea
of growing older
You were only one, ever one,
little inside, unnamed,
but mighty Someone
we'll think of
staring at flames,
hearing your phantom drunken
crooning on repeat,
when we're tired
or just tired
of the taste of the
where your ghost
beneath neon lights
& in the silhouette soul
in a beanie
we happen to meet
I'll say it, I'll pray it,
Little Mr. Socialite by David L O’Nan
We’ve all been strapped to and strapped by the spellbinder
He walks up to you and expects you to drop the ceiling down to become his platform for a show.
Handed the keys, by osmosis you become a local legend.
To the city that continues to decay,
there is only so much here to reel in.
The cocaine socialites keep barking for you to leave their hipster colonies.
Fuck you! Fuck You! Fuck You!
You can’t talk sense to the overconfident.
They want the world, and they want the life.
They want the respect, Rifles and knives.
They want to joke and manifest a spiritual world in which they are absorbed of their behavior.
Hell to the homeless, hell to the mental health
“I don’t care about your personal lives” I care about my termination.
Your words will never get past these windows because I’ll just run out
And bark out orders like a witch in a bad dream.
Blah…blah…blah Fuck You! Fuck You! Fuck You! You can’t talk about our prince and princesses
That push the drugs and sex behind bars and counters that blow up this neighborhood.
You will vanish as soon as you appear.
Hours later you’re in another chessgame. You’re in another straight line socialite walk.
From one blink to the next you’re game changes. Drawn to your fuckin’ pawn.
He is in charge of our children. Teach them well.
Teach that future well.
Afraid of a soured reputation.
Bullying has never left your privileged brain.
And your story will never be told as long as the socialite holds the powder and the power.
Roman Candles by David L O'Nan
I’m feeling tricked in this cold October rain
The entire town are shooting Roman Candles in masses
Hypnotized in another wired dream.
Nauseated and feeling blind, worthless
The rain burns the cuts on the skin.
The friction drowns me with the idiots.
I’ve never felt this tired. I’ve never heard this much screaming.
The Roman Candles, Firecrackers, the Halloween monsters.
The shoes are beginning to sour.
The red just keeps getting darker, yet feeling thinner
The slitting and sitting with the rattle again
Have I ever been real?
The Kill of the Darlings by David L O'Nan
Another abused evening. Copper skied and bloodshot eyes.
The kill of the darlings reads on a flashing screen.
I was introduced to the spilling and polishing of my sweat to the sheets.
It must be raining, raining in my death.
I’ve been waiting, smelly and divided
On a pitch black night with coal mine moons.
I’ve been asked inside to feed the tiger.
The locomotives keep moving slower through the brain, through the cast.
Through the fade, they praise the ugliest ghost after all.
Becoming so angry by medicine and shiver out new fears.
I wait and wait and wait. Just knowing you have his name tattooed in your blood.
I wait for you on the inlay filling of broken sidewalks that have survived the earthquake.
I wait for you to come home with him.
To bust him with this chain or break a bottle over his skull.
Yet, I should realize you’ve the not caring if I ever lived or died.
Adaptation, realization and broken, a crinkled tarot card.
I’ve been calling another busy signal suicide hotline.
Winnemucca by David L O'Nan
Days of being dazed, drugged, and dangerous
Now in Winnemucca waiting for a new train.
To rescue me from the lights of the cities to the deserts to thaw.
Not feeling the jazzy hope that all these horns convey.
I’ve been travelling like it is a system wondering
If the honey was ever laced, were your smiles ever more than pain.
You played beautifully being beautiful and being muddled at the same time.
You played beautifully being heartbroken and wearing a new ring from another lame maniac.
Wafflin’ drunk on something, traintracks shaking.
Winnemucca gives me the eye of some crook.
I’m asking for tickets, asking for wishes, I’m asking for some powerful graveyard dirt.
I’m washing my hands of you since yours are covered in the outlines of sweat from the burns.
You’ve been a cough, to send away the clouds
You’ve been a leap, through the meek and the lack of sound.
You’ve been admired, but admiration wasn’t enough.
You’ve been dashing, dashing straight into the wreck.
And I will fall and eventually so will you.
I may fall sooner, but tomorrow is a full moon.
I could still be in Winnemucca, I could be dead,
or banging on pots in the streets of Chicago.
You could still be married to the errors,
you could be flooded out of house and home.
Digesting more fertile dirt.
Catharsis (collaboration poem K Weber & David L O'Nan)also part of the Empath Dies in the End series
1. (David L O'Nan)
I was in the process of purging the ideas of you
The wrens, the beetles, and the crabs we’ve been energized by
On days of smiles. The parks, the oceans,
the imperfect apartment ceilings.
In the middle of a catharsis
I was fast to the falling down the mountainous zoo.
In the deluge of rain I remember smashing against your dress.
Umbrellas breaking, wind straining, yet in the distance we see a sunset.
Now I’m wondering are you ever really leaving me?
Will we meet again in this organic hex that has been swirling
From the ground to the trees.
To the shearing of my humility, my impulses are pulling with each inhalation.
With palms on head, a robin stares at me from the ground.
Right against my boot it seems not fear my 50 foot shadow.
Just searching for some worms through the puddles we reflect in.
2. (K Weber)
Winged leaves breathe
Between fingers of ashen
Branches where birds’
songs rest. The pulse
of a rain-tapped dusk
counts down the last
snippet of sun. Light
gets drowsy as windows
on one wall yawn
to a close.
Red Ant. Black Ant....The Stars (collaboration poem with Jennifer Patino and David L O'Nan
1. (Jennifer Patino)
They spoke of interior silence.
A way to navigate cacophony
with a smile on your face.
These forced emotions, pulled
to the surface, daisies squeezed out from beneath the grime
One has to die to hear advice better. A portion of the self must be sacrificed to allow change to claim new roots. I think I'll bloom in winter. Switch the expected at the last moment so the patient ones can be satisfied. Those drought souls have waited for a resurrection long enough. They will have their day safe from the blinding sun. They will feel rain on new skin and be quenched.
2. (David L O'Nan)
I’ve been searching for your footprints all over the place.
The joke is only red ants meeting black ants on my shoelaces.
I’m disgusted I can’t past this place. Scared to walk out to new noise.
I’ve feigned happiness and I’ve dreamt up new stars.
I’ve been alone and hid my aches away.
The nightmares absorb in the pillows, as long as I stay hid.
In the shade. I got to my tree.
And I try to remember the invisible me.
I know you’ve been waiting for me to at least show a hello
I can’t keep the creatures inside and the rush becomes a roar
And the hush becomes hypnotic and
my window becomes the source
for the entertaining eye.
So go on, and move on with what you want.
The devil is dancing and waiting for your soul.
You know you want love, but this will just be another gaslighting poem.
The lake, the flowers, the light. Go the distance and find what’s right.
I met you in a trance. I was scrawny and I was a mess.
I thought I was becoming famous. And you thought you’d be the root.
I would grow from you and learn to be a jolly shine under your foot.
It’s a shame I only can understand what is anger, snark and shame.
If I could cure myself, I would try to shave away your pain.
The scene won’t have any of it.
The Dark Aesthetic/Wives in the White Light by Jess Levens and David L O'Nan
1. (Jess Levens)
The sky is quintessential October—
wet without rain; dusk in daylight, blurring
any distant thing. Blurring what is real.
Desaturated evergreens birth out
dead leaves in every citrus shade, plus
plum and pear and red delicious. They
clatter down, loudly in the quiet fog.
The chill bites flirtatiously, without pain.
Outside my window, a lone coywolf in
the farmer’s clearing stares back at me through
this dark aesthetic—howling into my
home; into my head—barking out malice.
2 (David L O'Nan)
So you keep your wives in the White Light
And the mass is enchanted that you bring
The entertainment and the insanity from the mistakes.
Like paper we’ll fly with the crisping leaves.
Some cut just like that paper,
some just itch as the wind bites down on the skin.
The wives you hide in white light
Scurry like a squirrel trying to hide a direct hit.
From grey to brown to orange to green trees-
that squirrels will scurry from the pain.
So slip outside of your skin,
Watch yourself in the mirror with another angry grin.
Revenge glowing in your eye.
And the harm you want is the harm that’ll cause you to die.
There are wires just falling everywhere…the storms are brewing
And the we all become impaired.
Hiding your wives in the white light behind the shed.
Are they in blinking blue and red lights ripe for the restoration.
They are just waiting for you to fall asleep and give up,
in your irate dream.
Continue to pour yourself that drink.
Continue to pour yourself that wolf’s howl.
Continue to transition from the rake to the shave.
Repair is on the way.
But the bedpans and the creatures inside may be the cream,
and your body may just be the trough.
The Wives in white light are just looking for you to break.
The narcissism will eventually implode
And the darkness will be decorous with light as they take you aside.
(c) Dribble from DeviantArt
Bled Out For Liberty (collaboration poem Giulio Magrini & David L O’Nan
Bio: Stephanie Parent is an author of dark fiction and poetry. Her debut poetry collection from Querencia Press, Every Poem a Potion, Every Song a Spell, is available now. Connect with her on Twitter at @SC_Parent and Instagram at @SCParent.
“One day you ordered a Happy Meal for the last time and you didn’t even know it,” McDonald’s said on itsFacebook page earlier this month
somehow McDonald’s seems to think
that the over-20/30/40/50/60-plus set
would return to days of childhood in a blink
when the reality is many of us never
thought of youth as happy times
or a Happy Meal as anything other
than an overpriced / poorly seasoned,
underwhelming twist on nuggets
that beg for a hint of lime
/ a marketing twist that poorly rhymes
as McDonald’s rolls out its new
and improved version
of the adult Happy Meal
puffed and stuffed / packed and stacked
plated and baited / a high-end advertising campaign
with promises of smiles and joy amidst daily rain
in a designer box
i’m much happier now that i realize
it’s no more than a childlike game
of dress-up, the chicken nuggets inside
still utterly uninspired / the lettuce,
tomatoes, and onions layered and limp /
and the promise of the hidden toy
(artificial, highly processed joy)
nothing more than fleeting
clutter for the counter
/ some things are indeed better left
undone / unsurfaced / unsaid
/ undercooked & a closed book (box)
"And now, we won't always have to buy them to try them!”
of the samplers’ return
(chocolate and coffee and corn, oh my!)
hits the airwaves, bellies
in this & that neck
of the woods --
all compass dials spinning
hit the roadways
for there’s nothing quite
like a free bite
of a salty & sweet mix
with a surprise twist
especially after almost
three years of pent-up
demand & no giveaways
it’s high time
to buckle up
and hit the roadways
perhaps it’s the promise
of a pint sized
scoop of vegan bulgogi
(enough for you & me)
or maybe a paper cup
half-full of maple
oat milk (pure silk)
whether a dash
or a pumpkin cereal bar
bite square (a worthy dare)
i realize that it’s not
the sampler itself
for which i care
it’s the traders and the joes
and the strangers-turned comrades
with whom I share
/ on the house from a smartly
dressed lad with a chipper wave
together we eagerly inhale
the scent of savory bait
and the whiff of the latest fanfare
as we adjust our gait
in perpetual states
our shopping lists
/ turkey tips,
Joe-Joe’s, creamed kale,
Toscano cheese spreads,
cannoli dips -
and metal carts
all highly dependent
on both storewide scents
/ the sample sale, a bargain-basement term of art
with which even i, never partial to kale, cannot part
Source: https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/03/business/free-samples-trader-joes-costcoNine Ways of Looking at a Rain Lamp
1 :: As a young girl, I’d sip soup (chicken, mushroom, lentil) and sit (crisscross applesauce) on the rug (thick shag) in my great-grandmother’s third-floor apartment. As elders of varying degrees of mobility (and politics) shuffled cards, dealt hands, and folded laundry (all corners tucked, all pins pointed), I’d study a photo in an ornate frame stationed in the middle of a rectangular oak console. The console was fixed to the right of a plastic-covered lime-green sofa. The sofa’s floral fabric simultaneously pristine and unable to be punctured. The photo (and frame) sat to the left of a rain lamp. The center of the rain lamp boasted Aphrodite – uncontested and clothed in nothing other than green vine (also plastic). At the center of the photo sat a woman (clothed in a long, flowing white cloak) on a large, white horse.
- the woman, the horse, and the statue – majestic
2 :: Most Saturdays, I’d watch the rain lamp on the console, while the sitter watched Rain Man on the tv. Neither of us were interested in pretend play. Neither of us were willing to pretend. She’d snack on oyster crackers, moisturize her arms with mineral oils, and read Greek mythology. I’d consume consommé and alphabet noodles, tally strands of filament, and study Aphrodite. Both of us would count down the hours until bedtime. All transactions timed. When the clock struck ten, the sitter would press stop on the remote. I’d pull the plug on the lamp.
- all (f)oils capped / performance stops with the rain
3 :: Most Sundays, I’d sit at the base of the rain lamp and wait while my grandmother curated then contained my hair in pigtails (one plus one plus / sometimes / two / sometimes / three). The number was never meaningful. Much more a reflection of humidity and happenstance. I’d watch her fingers braid (mirrors on all walls) and inhale the scent of strips of bacon (straight from the butcher and the pig’s belly) that fried in the nearby kitchen. Stomachs would growl and grumble in sync (sometimes staccato). Both of us eager to consume.
- pigtails fried and tied
4 :: As I grew, I’d wave (a temporary) farewell to the rain lamp and take brisk (though brief) walks at dusk. One evening I noticed a pigtail in the middle of the street. Yellow cabs (some with trailing metal cans) headed both north and south. I feared their rubber tires would destroy the pigtail. I also feared its elastic wrappings might snap. I never thought to wonder how it got there. I never thought to rescue it. I also never thought about its undeniably limited function (the tail incapable of reattachment). I simply wanted it to remain, like the rain lamp.
- chemical reactions in perpetual states of motion
5 :: I was never allowed to touch the rain lamp. Its filaments forbidden along with the television dial, the master bedroom, and the shoebox (undersized) tucked behind my great-grandfather’s (oversized) tweed overcoat. “I won’t break anything,” I recall pleading, as the naive often do. “Maybe true,” elders would respond, “but what you consume through touch, taste, sight, and/or sound may break you.”
- i would have preferred to believe us all unbreakable
6 :: As grown-ups broke (then dissipated) and dust accumulated as varying degrees of destiny danced, I cleaned-up (and ultimately cleaned-out) my grant-grandmother’s third-floor apartment. I cleaned not because anyone asked me to, but because no one else did. The day “For Sale” turned to “Sold”, I packed boxes of summer linens (mostly cotton) and winter layers (mostly wools) - all closets outfitted of moth balls, mold, and memories (mostly mine). I plucked lint off sweaters stained of marinara and marmalade (raspberry and grape). I packed notes of palmetto olives, poker plays, and palm readings. I stacked photos in piles. Carefully not to touch, I used cloth to wipe dust from the woman on the horse and the Aphrodite covered in vine. Only then did I realize that what I had taken for goddesses were simply girls. And that my great grandmother had been simultaneously guarded and avant-garde. Once everything was securely packed in labeled boxes and sealed of non-stick tape, I turned and left. Hadn’t thought to tuck the photo of the girl on the white horse in my purse and the rain lamp under my right arm.
- to touch forbidden
7 :: My great-grandmother used to tell me life was what you made it. “Add some oil to the rain and a splash of happy to every day,” she’d say. She found happy in semi-sweetened chocolate morsels, vanilla-bean ice cream, and dr. pepper. She also began and ended each dawn the same way -- with a swig of coffee and a starlight mint. On a plastic-covered lime-green floral couch positioned to the left of a rain lamp – Aphrodite at its middle. I remember the tray of starlight mints she’d keep on the table (to the right of the plastic-covered sofa) in a small glass dish and to the left of the rain lamp. Always full.
/ i’d wish upon a star (and a statue) each night
8 :: I spent hundreds of hours studying the photo, always as the oil rained. Chemical reactions in perpetual states of activity. Had I known that both the photo and the lamp were prone to tarnish, I’d have painted them. Had I known my eyes would fail from persistent strain, I’d have recorded the sound of the beads as they coated the cotton strands. Had I known that the door to the third-floor apartment would not always be open (to me), I’d have hugged my great-grandmother longer before I last left. I’d have asked strings of unanswered questions that dripped and collected like beads of oil at Aphrodite’s feet. I’d have cut then pasted sketches of the woman and her horse using tubs of elmer’s glue and hodgepodge paste and scotch taped their four corners in scrap books. So that I could still sit (crisscross applesauce) on the rug (a thick shag) of another third-floor apartment (five hundred miles from home) and study the photo (the one to the left of a rain lamp). Because I hadn’t known to ask the questions. And I hadn’t the nerve to take (or touch) the rain lamp (or the photo) when I still could.
9 :: I drank from the rain lamp (once; then twice; then once more). Despite knowing not to touch. My tongue would dart then dare. I consumed the oil beads like air. Each time I thought might be my last. Yet, I was always thirsty. For Hawaiian Punch. For Rain Main repeats on black and white tv. For more rain. I thought my time in the third-floor walk-up apartment would last. I never imagined the woman on the horse had passed (of a pernicious anemia). I never realized the liquid gold was nothing more than mineral oil. A fix for constipation, complexion, and curiosity. My great grandmother would buy packs in bulk. At the local discount store. I hadn’t realized that, like other laxatives, mineral oil is meant for short-term relief only. And that life, also, too short. Chemical reactions in perpetual states of activity.
- i remain thirsty / for long-term relief and permission to touch
Source: https://www.loc.gov/item/97510669/of hands and handiwork:: a woman named ___
each summer, the local strip mall ran a sale. christmas in july beckoned in thick, expo marker block print on laminated card stock. births & birthdays marked. mr softee trucks (chocolate & vanilla) and philadelphia water ice carts (cherry, lemon, & blueberry) would idle alongside giant air men (smiles always on). arms groped / common tropes on perpetual display. most proprietors on wheels. some on stilts. peddling and handiwork often a matter of perspective. the small stores (mostly mom & pops, some staffed by tots) put out (then pushed) racks full of fabrics. plaids & tartans. cowboy hats & high-end wool slacks. some stitched by hand & hard work. others by automated handiwork. items deeply discounted. potential sales marked. the sidewalk would fill early. before the sun hit its strongest mark. everyone eager for three for ten-dollar cotton tees, tie-dye scarves, and half-price denim. cuffs hemmed, seams tucked. i’d spend my time sorting & shuffling through cardboard boxes. tucked just beneath the long skirts / sized x small to xx large. ample fabric to conceal ankles & anglers.
i believed the shopkeeper stocked the box / a special lot for space-saving purposes / perhaps to save face. judgment paraded in plain sight. i also believed in santa claus. & tooth fairies. & that the box bode not only threads, but tidings. the box held items no longer favored for public consumption. mismatched socks. faded lots. bleach spots. specks and stains. crisscrossed seams. last season’s winning teams. neither knock-offs nor cast-offs. mostly one-offs. stocked, stacked, & stored for properly threaded time & temperaments. one summer, a new set of racks was added / front & center / to the traditional lot-sized celebration. rows of purple, white. & green. hues both hangry and turn of key. pre-sorted / not by size or season. but color. shirts & shirtwaists. shawls & covers for stalls. all stitched by hand. strings of letters – not for sale – handwritten in cursive print on the side of cardboard signs.
the shop’s owner was a woman whose name (& name tag) changed with the day & the seasons. each july, she was leonora. hand-written in large block font. she’d sew most of her own merchandise. mostly while the locals would whisper. pettiness on parade, she’d say. i chose to linger – toil with the fabric. finger seams. read labels like library books. tee’s with black and white images of 1915 parades. nyc / down 5th. washington dc / along pennsylvania. protests & protests. ironed & threaded. all corners clipped & lycra stretched. all cotton prepped & limits stitched.
did you make these? i’d ask
in the USA, the woman would snap / then smile
make a stitch, she’d gesture / then teach me
how not to follow patterns, but to thread new knots. all steps clocked. all shirts & stitches stocked – of time and tradition. she’d wonder out loud while she worked. i’d listen. like a woman named leonora. she sought to agitate the locals. she’d sit in a hard back chair to the right of the racks. shoulders locked. & sew. deliver words like daily stitches. her needle & thread traced time to november 1909. to mark not christmas in july. the new york shirtwaist strike of 1909. through march 1910. an uprising of 20,000 knots. by then i had learned there was no such thing as santa claus. neither fairies nor fair weather. all claws hidden in plain sight. most knots manmade (& made of man). clauses inked of cotton fibers. all seams sealed. all soles squared. then clocked.
would move in rapid
motion. each of three bones,
according to the relationship
/ both proximal & technical
to the palm of her hand.
tellers of futures & fortunes.
clocked & clacked. shirts
& seconds stitched
alone with no middle
and the persistent
push & pull
alone amidst fabrics
weights & tension
each shirt of a trillion
stitches each stitch
a cell a building
block of knots
of life, liberty,
& the pursuit
in an America
a base not basic
a structure not structured
nutrient serving not notorious
an uprising not upright
in an america
of ___ / not to be consumed
composed of membranes
/ nor confused
of mud & mocha-flavored memories –
baste / running
catch / blanket
back / whip
slip / ladder
a thread of
& cotton tees
in an america
our dna. our rna. our rights. shirts on racks.
deeply discounted. each stitch a cell.
/ each thread a t(r)ack. stocked & stacked.
smocks of purple, white, & green on backs.
(not) for sale. of knots and needles. at the local
strip mall. threaded / at the six-month mark.
12 (plus) ways to thread (move) a needle :: it’s christmas in july
1. Trade corsets for cottons (& needlers for knowledge)
2. Harness handiwork and hand-me-downs
3. Gather garments and gatherings
4. Layer fabric (and labor)
5. Agitate aggressors. Box confessors
6. Knead knots (& knotted labels)
7. Organize buttons and bandwidth
8. Curate collars and corners. Thread strands of syllables.
9. Examine all sales & tales. Question all claws & clauses (claus, too)
10. Peddle serious sales. Maintain handiwork in perpetual perspective
11. Shirk standard shirts and sermons (standards, too)
12. Strip racks (trace new tracks)
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonora_O%27Reillyjoy in cranberry-striped spandex
she’d approach the gates with a regularity i could only dream of. her wide torso no match for the undersized metal turnstile. her right hip would thrust through the awkward jack-like maze as her left served as a cushion for her dollar general plastic bag. keeper of her turquoise cap & her lemonade yellow towel. joy can’t be purchased, though i imagine it also held her red cloth coin purse, the one she’d tilt then watch four quarters from a roll. always after her thirty-minute swim. an odd number of butterfly & backstroke. alternating laps. both rituals completed daily. at the ice cream counter. i’d count then stack the quarters. & ask if she’d like her regular. a sandwich. rectangular cuts of vanilla between two thin chocolate wafers. she’d consume the sandwich while water dripped from limbs & stray locks. the cap no keeper for her energy. her cranberry-striped suit no match for her joy. layers of skin. folds of time. planted squarely on concrete & soles of rubber.
10 (plus) reasons (& ways) to float
1. pink flamingos paired with yellow lemonade
2. limbs locked of knotted lycra & well-known lyrics
3. late afternoon drizzles in wading pools (weather rules)
4. paper umbrellas under cloudless skies
5. early morning laps in deep ends (time suspended)
6. paper boats & penny tosses tease high & low tides
7. sunscreen on noses, blueberry polish on toes
8. undersized spandex (striped) on oversized girths (all bases covered)
9. lifeguard whistles time rowboats in thistles
10. toes in tepid water wriggle. legs make gentle waves
11. don’t look back.up.down. keep eyes closed. flap arms
summer in the city
the neighborhood diner makes fried eggs sandwiches twenty-four hours a day. grills always on. breakfast always ready. for the regulars. the lot of us. in the small pockets of air where limbs lock. sweat pools on upper lips. scents of cheddar & colby jack on rye linger as overheated bodies banter & barter. city folk on all corners. knees to chins. elastic bands tame locks. two steps south. three north. the sun continues to rise. heats on. black asphalt sizzles. patience frizzles. spatulas flip burgers on portable grills. wooden spoons stir kool-aid over ice. laundry lines sag. hurry. three steps west. break time. spoon change from frayed denim. fingers poke back pockets. swap with staff. single silver keys in sweaty palms. one stroke closer to a hidden slice – twenty square feet, depth of six -- of heaven. cotton t’s tucked in twelve-inch cubes. stainless steel doors click. by the clock. lycra hugs layers of life. fingers tug. never enough fabric. never enough time. rubber soles flip. one. two. three. necks crack. concrete, too. walk. don’t run. run. toss towels of rainbow stripes. one per person. checked & tracked. in the distance, a belly flops as the sun sizzles. bodies fry. whistles blow. adult swim. all plastics banned. all guards on duty. a slice of cool whip pie & time to fly. chlorinated serenity. perfectly positioned peace. eighty degrees of quiet. amidst concrete. horns. shouts & sirens. in pockets of air where one hundred and twenty decibels simmer. summer in the city. never tire. of the community pool. open noon till five. monday thru friday. several paces from the neighborhood diner. guard always on. water always ready. inhale. exhale. ready. set. dive.
On Challenges, Pills, and Lyrics that Whirl:: Thank You, Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn’s The Pill was challenged when first released in 1975. Now, as I consume the lyrics, I lament the passing of time. Lynn was one of eight. All stars. Had six of her own. Shining bright. She sang of miniskirts, hot pants, and potlucks. Lyrics layered of regular and random (fandom) frills. Today’s teens opt for tennis skirts and teddies. Pearls of single and double strands. I wonder what Lynn’s great-grandchildren think of today’s trends. Most tracked in (and of) phones. Largely tied to offbeat ringtones. In 1975, radio dials remained simultaneously timed and out of tune. The Pill rose to No. 5 on the charts in the U.S. despite (or in spite) of caustic remarks. Upwards of sixty bans. Tension a curious phenomenon. All fibers stretched. All ropes tied. I bathe and linger in Lynn’s lines. Language that can set the world on fire. I’ll never tire of her tunes. The school of hard knocks called, and she answered. Umpteen times. With layers of lyrics and blankets of conquests. She rode a one-town horse (from a one-horse town) right up, then out, then down the highway. She did it her way. Country roads all around. Found home. Then. Now. Known.
The good ones. They leave too soon. Radio roundups stacked. Lynn’s songs trend. In small pockets of air between then and now. Her voice well known. The channels differ. The challenges remain. People continue to contest. Airwaves continue to save. Tries. Lives. Family Ties. A few good men. Lynn was quick with the pen. Her life on parade. Both a balm and an aid. Lemon. Fire. Little Red Shoes. Loretta Lynn – a coal miner’s daughter and The Pill save. I’m convinced of it. No matter what the studies say. Lynn’s hit both contested and dynamically tested. A quilt and a comforter. Of Silver Threads and Golden Needles. A warm embrace. Lynn -- a master mistress who ran her own race. She led the pack.
I’m grateful she had our backs. The Pill both a gin (grin) and a tonic (conic). Far more satisfying than a bout with Mario’s Super Sonic. It’s been a while (and no time at all). Perspective as layered as moments turned minutes turned music. I’m grateful for pills and radios on windowsills. For fingers that snap and ankles that tap. For roosts in time and beans on the side. Cola in tin cans and carefree rural (big-time) stage bands. For country gals (flashing smiles that shimmer) that know how to make songs simmer (and handle men with gin). Grin. For the trends that inspired the challenges retired. For the resistance conspired. For Loretta Lynn. The epitome of a win. A wonderful whirl. Rest In Peace. Then. Now. Known.
Author Note: There’s not much more to say. I’m spending my time listening (thinking, too). Loretta Lynn’s passing has me streaming her songs on replay. The Pill especially relevant now, more so than ever. Questions of advances in contraceptives equally so.
Bio: Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, works, and writes in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania.