Thursday, November 30, 2017

Relief and Tradition, Katy Comber

RELIEF
by Katy Comber

A sigh
A breeze 
A gulp
A hug 
An “I love you, too.”

A coke, just a sip,
a swallow to satisfy 
the addiction allowance

The perfect sentence.

A promise fulfilled 
A lifetime vowed 

A LEAP into freshly laundered covers 
still warm from the dryer 
after the longest day

The unleashing of a secret 
strapped to the yoke too long
An answer to a question
that tied the tip of the tongue 

Laughter after the joke 
The pin drop silence before the slap of applause 
And that Helping Hand just because

TRADITION 
by Katy Comber

Trembling. I held her hand. We looked at the icy water below. In my mind I was cursing tradition. Don’t ef with tradition. One of my brother-in-law’s colloquialisms for living that my husband often quotes far too often for it to be someone else’s anymore, comes to mind. First day the pool opens, every year, my daughter wakes up as she does on Christmas morning. Bright eyed. Alert. By breakfast, she’s counting down the minutes until the community pool opens and eating scrambled eggs in last year’s bathing suit. This year it is not quite 70 degrees outside. But. Tradition. You don’t ef with tradition. 

We warm up by playing tennis at the high school. When noon rolls around, we leave and as the car brakes and parks, she bolts. A flash of neon pink, a jumble of elbows and kness, toward the pool. We all reluctantly follow. A parade of fools. Happy laughing fools. The neighbors peer out and shake their heads. I wonder if this is their tradition too. The Comber parade of floats and towels trailing behind and gathering strands of grass from the first mowing. We enter the code and pass through the gate that declares we will be swimming at our own risk. No lifeguard on duty. 

Then. She grabs my hand. I kick off my shoes as she races me over to that deep end side. We stare down. Our toes curl over the precipice marked with a large number 5. Okay. Kid. We got this. Tradition, right? Her wide eyes stare back as she nods. Solemn. Serious, but radiant. In this moment, like so many these days, she makes me wonder in delight of her. Her being. The personification of joy. An eight year old version of my mother and my sister. All this in a millisecond burst of pride. In nonverbal agreement we grin and nod. “Okay. Here we go. 1.2.3 JUMP!” 
The icy chill shocks my system. I feel it in my bones. Water fills my ears and nose. I burst out and up to the surface. Teeth chattering. I’d swear my skin is tinged blue. Then, a moment of panic. The cool water is seemingly empty with the exception of my shivering body. I look for her. Nowhere. Where is she? A crackle of laughter above me answers my question. I am alone in the frozen pool. The joke’s on me and the joker is warm and swaddled in a towel that is perfect, fluffy, and dry. 



Relief, Fred W. Feldman


Fiction Works, Sharon Hajj




Balance
By Sharon Hajj

Becca stood in front of the flower bed letting the sunshine warm her both inside and out. The light bounced off the white rocks she lined up along the edge, their smooth surface making the garden look like it was surrounded in clouds. She left space between the azalea bushes as the perfect spot for her petunias next spring.

Life couldn’t get better than this. Becca was content. She had her home, her family, and satisfaction in her work. Nothing could disturb her.

She took a deep breath and patted her hands, stirring up the scent of the moist garden soil. Looking down, she sent a thank you to the flower bed for bringing her joy. Before she turned toward the front door, the sound of laughter from the neighbor’s children caught her attention. Their giggles filled her with love, remembering all the fun she had with her own children when they were that age.

Back in the kitchen, Becca turned on the stove and placed the tea kettle above the soft flames. The sound of the laughter came closer when her phone rang.

“Hello?”

“You won’t believe what happened.” Her friend Shauna’s voice screeched in her ear.

Becca pulled the phone away from her ear. “Tell me,” she said, leaving the ear piece a distance from her.

“Margaret said the mechanic charged her double for the part. My friend recommended him though. I know he wouldn’t do it!”

The sound of clinking rocks flowed up through the window. Becca peered toward the window but she knew the phone would get cut off if she moved too close to that spot, something she did sometimes when talking on the phone with her mom when the conversation didn’t have an end.

“Maybe you should talk to your friend. Maybe he knows.” Now she heard the sound of rocks being tossed against each other. Becca felt irritation creeping over her skin. A lump started to form in her gut.

Shauna’s voice still streamed into her ear but she could no longer discern the words. Her mind, out on her flower bed, listened to the mixture of happiness now mixed with deviousness. Those children better not be messing up my yard, she thought.

“I have to go, Shauna. Go call your friend to find out what happened. There are always two sides to the story.”

Once she clicked the phone off, she rushed to the front door. When the children saw her standing in the doorway, they dropped the few rocks they held in their hands and ran away.

In front of the flower bed, she saw a few scattered rocks. I’ll have a talk with the parents later, thought Becca.

Becca stepped down to the ground and rearranged the rocks, back to their evenly lined row.

Her neighbor, Henry, an older gentleman who retired last year, let his screen door slam shut behind him. “They remind me of when I was a kid, always getting into trouble.”

“Yeah, and how did you learn to stop? What should I tell them? They’re really messing up my zen.”

“Oh,” he swatted at the air as he paused, “They can’t mess up your zen. You’re the one responsible for yourself.”
Becca saw his smile, a genuine smile. When she looked over to his front yard, she saw rocks strewn across his sidewalk. The rocks curved in a way and something about them drew her closer. She stepped across the grass and met him. Henry whistled while he leaned over and gathered the rocks. He turned and placed them on the ground next to his flowers without saying another word to Becca.

Henry’s eyes twinkled when he turned back to her. “Enjoy your evening.”

***

The next morning when Becca sipped her coffee, she exhaled when she realized she had nothing on her to do list. When her phone rang and she saw Shauna’s name, she rolled her eyes. She clicked decline and picked up her copy of House Beautiful. She flipped through the magazine pages when the phone rang again. She slapped the magazine down on the table.

“Hello?”

“Becca, you won’t believe it! I spoke to my friend and he said Margaret misunderstood. I’m fed up with people don’t take the time to figure out what’s going on before they react.”

Shauna’s voice had an edge to it which twisted a dark cord of discontent through Becca’s veins. “Yes, you’re right. It happens too much.” Understanding and agreeing with her friend, didn’t keep Becca from feeling a bubbling anger growing inside her.

“I’ve told her before but she keeps calling me and complaining. I don’t want negativity in my life.” Shauna huffed into the phone.

Becca’s hand squeezed the phone. “I don’t either, Shauna,” she said. With a dramatic push against the phone screen, she ended the call and tossed it onto the table. The sound of tumbling rocks drew her attention to the front of the house. When she looked out the front door, the children had rocks in their hands and sprinkled at their feet.  “Get away from here.” The power of her voice caught her by surprise. She took off her slipper and threw it with all her strength down to the grass, in the space where the children stood only moments before.

Dark storm clouds passed in front of the sun turning the sky into an eerie tumultuous reflection of Becca’s actions. “I’m tired. I’m tired of the lies and anger and fighting.” She screamed up into the sky expecting a response.

A soft voice did respond. The words came from her neighbor, Henry. “Becca, life is all about balance. Don’t forget.”

Becca lowered her head. Lumbering footsteps came up behind her. She turned to see the sweetest smiles and most innocent faces. “Sorry, Miss Becca. We didn’t mean to mess up your garden. We want to put the rocks all back. Is it ok if we do it now?”

Becca sighed. Many angry thoughts twirled around in her head but she couldn’t muster the strength for them to escape. Better let it go, she thought.

She nodded towards the children and gulped when her eyes filled with tears.

“Don’t get down, Becca.” Henry’s voice soothed her. “We all have our days and we all have the chance to start fresh.”

The bright light from the sun broke through the clouds, warming her face, reminding her of the light and peace she strived to achieve. Focus, Becca, focus. She reached her hands out wide and spun around before looking back at her neighbor. “You’re right, Henry. It’s a beautiful day.”

Poetry Series, Sam Traten


Variation on Jim Harrison Themes – Complaint & Return Sam Traten 11.26.2017

Late November sun smiles with thin lips, trudges head down.
Cold, seemingly insincere. Do not be fooled. She has much
on her mind, longing and hope.

She does have a heart tho I can’t break it
with foolishness, pride, a flashy
grin, and flattery.

Instead, I’ll keep Spring in our plans, November and me. Live life simply,
without jewels, with joy and unconditional mirth.
Tonight, sleep soundly on winter-splintered hay. Save featherbed for the days to come.

Winter solstice in December signals a shift, a slow, incremental return to kinder comforts,
a soft transfer of power, a lip-balm to interrupted dream. Wind stills, tide stops.
A U-turn is imminent.





For Jennifer Hetrick’s Traveling Poetry group, 11.26.2017 at Dairy Queen in Gilbertsville, PA.
The Opposite of a Gun
by Laura Woodswalker


A man walks in the lobby with his luggage on a rack
It's bigger than a coffin & twice as black.
The manager calls the cops and says “you better come...
this guy has a suitcase, and I think it's fulla guns!”

Well the police come and they block off the door
they grab the suspect and pull him on the floor.
The man says “come on folks, I don't mean to hurt no one...
what I got in here...is the opposite of a gun.”

Well the people all were trembling and scared as they could be
and the whole city's watching the story on TV.
So they open up the suitcase and what do ya think they found
a Moog synthesizer, full of awesome sounds!

It's got sliders and knobs, buttons and faders
a mad scientist dream of twirling oscillators...
with every color lights that flash so pretty
'its like bein' in a disco in New York City!

Well it sounded like science and psych-a-delik drugs,
And aliens dancing the robot jitter bug!
As grand as the history of the human race
Mysterious as a galaxy way out in space.

He says “some folks are crazy...they can't get chicks in bed 
so they buy a machine gun and shoot people dead.
But you better give a listen and clear out your head...
get yourself a music makin' gizmo instead!”

If you're going crazy it'll help you stay sane
And if you're bored it'll wake up your brain.
And if you're lonely, there's no need to fret,
cause the Moog synthesizer is better than sex.

If you got a problem it'll help you survive
if you're dying it'll keep you alive.
It'll make the dead rise before you're done
Cause music is the opposite...
...the opposite of a gun. 

Yeah, music is the absolute opposite of a gun.


For more of Laura's work, check out her historical science fiction novel, TESLA'S SIGNAL, and her website.




Flash Writing Series, Abby Cohen

Harvest Time
The peaches sit patiently ripening on my windowsill. I am not so patient. I want things to happen. Mostly they don’t, but the sunset is beautiful every night and never gets tiresome. Once in a while there are clouds or rain, and I don’t even get to watch the sunset. Still, even this is usually lovely--the clouds scudding in mad gray patterns, the rain falling in soft sheets.


I am waiting for peaches. For something to happen. For the sunset. For my life to show up. Clearly, it must be somewhere that’s not here. I’ll wait here. Someday, I’ll eat a peach.

One Chilly Autumn Evening

The year I was in 9th grade and my brother was in 7th, the teachers in our school went out on strike. It was the only time this ever happened in my public school career. The strike ended without the contract being settled and we went back to school. But, there was going to be another strike. 

The night before that 2nd strike began, my brother and his friend Kevin and my mom and I all sat in front of the TV watching Carrie.  We were not scared--not even a little. We all kept predicting what was going to happen next before it happened. Yelling at Carrie, “You idiot, your mother’s hiding behind the door!” In any case, we weren't finding the movie scary at all. That is until the very very end. The one girl who survived is having the dream in the graveyard and a hand reaches out of the grave and grabs her! We all screamed. My brother, my brother’s friend Kevin, and I jumped out of our skins and into my mother’s lap. Or tried to anyway. The laws of physics intervened at that point.  I sat up until 3:00 in the morning reading a book and fell asleep with the light on. Doug and Kevin played Monopoly all night. (No way would Kevin walk home in the dark after that.)
The next morning, we woke up to news that the teachers had settled on a new contract. There was no strike, and we had to go to school. Kevin ran home for fresh clothing. There was nothing my brother (or even my father) owned that would have fit him. I had a science quiz and neither I nor anyone else had studied. The teacher decided to have mercy on us and postponed the quiz. But obviously one cannot rely on people to go on strike just because they say they’re going to. It is simply not something on which people can be trusted to follow through on their promises.
New School Year, New School
I remember the year we moved. I was in first grade. My parents had decided that being the new kid at the beginning of the year would be easier on me than being plopped down among everyone mid-year. I’m not sure this is true. Being the new kid mid-year would have made me really special for a little while. Anyway, my parents had bought our new house but not yet taken ownership and possession of it. The township agreed, in exchange for some money, to take me in early. I remember being taken to school and those three and a half months riding with Dad or Mom or Grandpa. 
The first day I was very early and the school was dark. I remember my teacher Mrs. Koliday was very young and pretty with a blonde ponytail. She was very sweet and nice to me. Especially considering-- while looking back on that morning-- she was probably as nervous as I was and could have done without the tiny child coloring in the corner, when she could have been nervous all by herself. I remember at least once or twice, persuading Dad or Grandpa to let me out of the car and walk a block or two with the walkers (that is the kids who walked from within the neighborhood adjacent to the school, as opposed to those who rode the bus). Did the kids on the bus have a name? That I don’t remember. All I remember was my delight at belonging to the group of kids walking, rather than being the sole child riding in a car.
Chilly Hallway
The black cat is staring at me. I stare back. There’s nothing else to do, after all. I’m stuck in this hallway waiting. It feels like I’ve been waiting for a long time. I am starting to wonder if I’ve been forgotten. I fidget a little. I would like to sit down, but the only chairs look fragile and possibly historic. I stand and look around. Above me, an old portrait of the founding father of the family stares down; a ruthless baron of industry who made his pile of money on the breaking backs of the people, quite literally in a few cases. He sits in his formal living room glaring balefully at the portrait painter, hands with brass knuckle rings holding the edge of a table. In the background there’s a cat who looks like the same cat staring at me. An ancestor presumably. Not this cat of course. But it does look eerily like the same cat. I shift uneasily and look away. I look back at the cat in the picture and the one perched on the mantelpiece. I hope they come to get me soon.

Poetry Series, deep blue river poetry

Bedtime Stories / 2017 deep blue river poetry
Here I go, at the crack of midnight, coming down  barefoot on walnut hardwood floors
I'm Santa tip-toeing past sliding doors
Locking up tight turn out the lights
Sleeping children

Bedtime stories sung by a choir of fatherly voices on high
It's a tradition to put out
The cookies and milk
And hang all the stockings with tender care
Filled with chocolate candy and fluffy stuffed
Bears

And turn down the lights and lock it up tight
And damp out the fires
Untangle the wires
Sleeping children
Sleeping children

Glory hallelujah it's cinnamon toast
And marshmallows to roast
And the holy holy
Ghost and
The sweetest of smiles crocodile smiles
On the cheeks of sleeping children

It's good that the dogs and kids
Always liked me
Cause I liked to make all the rounds round the tree
Handing out presents
Of preparation
on Christmas Eve

And eating tamales in Texas
That's a tradition !
With beans and cheese

And bedtime stories sung by a choir of motherly voices on high
It's a tradition to put out
The cookies and milk
And hang all the stockings with tender care
Filled with chocolate candy and fluffy stuffed
Bears

And turn down the lights and lock it up tight
And damp out the fires
Untangle the wires
Sleeping children
Sleeping children

So Here I am at the crack of midnight coming down barefeet on walnut hardwood floors
I'm Santa tip-toeing past sliding doors
Locking up tight turn out the lights
Sleeping children
Sshhh

Sleeping children
It's a tradition.

Tradition // deep blue river 2017
Bells are chiming the 3 notes
And I picture the hunchback of Notes Dame
over love birds singing the chorus of waking
Up ( again )
( and I remember her long gown in the kitchen)  ( like a child there was an innocence)
Over the bright blue voice of the clouds walking across the pillowed sky
And it's that day
( again )
Groundhogs day is everyday
When you are caught in the vortex
Of your river rock memories so worn with the water of life and with time's candle

I give up now
( allowing the release of )
White hand-painted cabinet fronts where the sun streaming In on bustling pots and pans
Caught love making potato pancakes and egg and cheese tacos lots of onion
Before mowing lawns
And trimming trees
And weeding flower beds
My life was full
And I didn't know it
Someone said I would always be searching
For something more
Down sunflower lined roads where the
Heart is always wide open

I wouldn't stand around arranging flowers in a vase very long when the open road was calling

And who would ever pin me down to these manicured lawns and TV movies
And Macy's one day sales
I just wanted to know God
Cause God wasn't in
The expensive dinners and the alcohol
That came with the love
That made some mighty good pancakes
And breakfast tacos
And that laughed like a bowl full of jello
Ate gummy bears
Smoked like a chain
Was full of contradictions
Don't you think that I didn't love you
Why do you think I kept coming back
To all the things
That ended up holding me for years
And that soft gown
Angelic hair
Blonde and long in tresses
Always at the salon
Or achieving the world's best manicure
You know
None of those things fit me
But I loved you
Ever so much
And new Christmas sweaters was a
Tradition.

I just wanted to know God.

Bells are chiming the 3 notes
And I picture the hunchback of Notes Dame
over love birds singing the chorus of waking
Up ( again )
( and I remember her long gown in the kitchen)  ( like a child there was an innocence)
Over the bright blue voice of the clouds walking across the pillowed sky
And it's that day
( again )
Groundhogs day is everyday
When you are caught in the vortex
Of your river rock memories so worn with the water of life and with time's candle

I give up now
( allowing the release of )
White hand-painted cabinet fronts where the sun streaming In on bustling pots and pans
Caught love making potato pancakes and egg and cheese tacos lots of onion
Before mowing lawns
And trimming trees
And weeding flower beds
My life was full
And I didn't know it
Someone said I would always be searching
For something more
Down sunflower lined roads where the
Heart is always wide open

( it's gone ) now

You would see me running.
Chasing down God.
All the while I was only trying
To know myself.
For I have always been
The heart
Of all my searching.

And if I only could find
Someone as kind
As patient
Who gave me all their heart
The best they could
( in flannel gowns with vodka cranberry)
Who went outside to smoke
When it bothered my eyes
Who stayed up all night with me talking my nonsense about
Becoming some star
In a distant land
On some other shore
Where the voice
Of God
Had called me

( I digress I release all my running to the dogs who do it better than me off leash In some open field I have run like the dogs in the heat of the summer eating table
Scraps ) just to see God

Find her out. She. Was always me.
But running was a tradition

Away from passing cars
And thrusting my pathetic
Pen to the page
In all the 50 ( states ) not really just a few.
Enough. Already.

I'd like to settle down to someone in a long gown who makes great tacos and
Puts the rock and roll on
At 8 in the morning
Sings
Me the Eagles
"You can't hide your lying eyes" on car drives to the desert to take pictures of
Birds on wires and cave paintings

I give up now
( allowing the release of )
White hand-painted cabinet fronts where the sun streaming In on bustling pots and pans
Caught love making potato pancakes and egg and cheese tacos lots of onion
Before mowing lawns
And trimming trees
And weeding flower beds
My life was full
And I didn't know it.

It wasn't perfect. It wasn't the perfect
Song that I thought I wanted to sing
But sometimes good is good enough
And you don't know it till it's gone
Maybe I was always meant to move on
But I haven't found it ( again)
Anyone who gets me
Wants me so bad
Like the first slice
Of coconut pie always tastes like heaven
No one seems to want
My bullshit

I only wanted to feel God.
Cause I thought
God ( was something separate)
And it was a tradition to
Run after
The light.

I digress ( how
I love traditions) ( how I miss traditions )
Like trying to play these broken strings
For the first time
I feel mostly whole
Inside
I know
I am not alone.
I can be by myself and not want to run
I accept the strong and the weak parts of me
Maybe I found what I came out here to find

God.

Is always with me.
You can count on it ( it's a tradition )
But the smell of November Rain
Presses in on me to let it slide
Let it go
Release the past
Stop thinking about my laundry tumbling In with yours
You are no longer with us
And I am older

I'll take a lover ( again)
When the divine timing is right
And l'll
Shine
What I can into the place
Of love.
I will bring all of me to the party
Roads are just long
( I need a new tradition ).

Small batch // 2017 deep blue river poetry
A kettle can be dark and iron is tough
Made for cooking small batches
Like popcorn and meats
Soups and things savory
Which come with a sweet smell
To the senses
Eyes dart
Hearts leap
The smell comes in through the nostrils
And straight on for the heart
In the stomach
The salivation
Begins
To become
Salvation.

A small batch
A right time
A right place
All the things that are needed have gone into the pot and are simmering
Carrots potatoes greens spices
Spiced right
In a small batch
Turned gently with the spoon of love
And thanksgiving

She held me like spice
Drawn deep in her embrace
She held
Me like love
Made in small batches
The kind you tenderly care for
The kind you keep tasting
The kind your nose can't get enough of
Like the scent of her hair
And Whisp of Morning
Smells like dew
Grown blessed
You can't hold it
It's going to wander
Like the steam rising up
From the kettle

I danced with the idea
Of making her my small batch
The one I would always come home to
With expectation
I tried to find the right voice
To speak her into my heart
I suppose I was disappointed
When she wanted to escape
But I know all
Things transcend
And find their end
Even beauty
Which you can't possess

We are drawn like dragonflies
Darting in the summer heat
Surrounding flora by the water's
Edge
Resting a moment
Before
Soldiering on to a souls call

How sweet the green in the pot
Full of life
The mix is a delicious blend
Of flavors

I am a fan of small batches
Made with love
Small attempts at making a perfectly blended soup
Stirring gently with a spoon
Turning it in

How grateful for the seasons
That fill us with grace and remembering
That see us through
In small batches
Give us honey for the tongue
And balm for the journey's
Wounds
Bandage us with rum and wine
And tasty desserts

May spice find
The hollow spots
And fill
Them all
With flowers.

Dropping seeds.