Archives for category: ONE GOOD MEMORY

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a warden brings joy
by Olafisoye-Oragbade Oluwatosin David

dust was always a tenant, we just didn’t know
until we teased the rug to let loose its prisoner.

furniture, electronics, books, utensils,
all were lined up like orderly soldiers.
a memory was forming
the taste of of my mom’s favorite dish.

we would be greeted by new neighbors,
new dogs trying to voice our names,
new walkways, new scenes to feed on
but nothing made me my eyes water more than when I saw his smile.

he flung his new gift over his soldiers like an hunter
returning home with game
this warden would set camp and imprison dust in his house,
so he carried a smile that could fit the whole world,
and danced out with his new rug.

PHOTO: Woven Rug by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “a warden brings joy” is a poem about one of my favorite memories. Growing up in Edo State, Nigeria, my family of seven didn’t have so much, but we had just enough to get by. This poem speaks of when we were moving from one apartment to another. The previous apartment was not tiled so we had to get a rug that could cover the living room, but the new apartment, where we were moving, was tiled so this rug was no longer needed. A young man came to help us put our things together and pack up. I remember both himself and me rolling the rug together (at this time I didn’t know we would not need it) and, afterwards, my dad told him to go home with the rug. He was so excited, I still remember that joy till now. I couldn’t help it then, I cried, and when I told my dad why I was crying, guess what? He cried, too. I try to characterize the rug as a warden on these bases: 1) It traps dust, or imprisons dust, 2) It seemed to be responsible for setting free two different displays of emotion, that is the unfiltered joy in its new owner, and the tears in the writer’s eyes, my eyes.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Olafisoye-Oragbade Oluwatosin David is a 4th-year medical student at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Kwara, Nigria. Known by the pseudonym “King Davey,” he is a poet and spoken-word artist who enjoys playing with words. David won the ILUMSA Malaria Day Poetry Contest in 2021 and was on the top 20 long list of the 2021 Nigeria Students’ Poetry Prize (NSPP). He was also awarded the Best Poetry Content at Poethon Season 4 and ranked 3rd at YWCA’s Spoken Words Artist of the Year 2021. His works are published or forthcoming on African Writer, CÓN-SCIO Magazine, Arts Lounge NYC, Shuzia, SprinNG, BPPC Anthology, and elsewhere. David is @thekingdavey on Instagram and @TosinOlafisoye on Twitter.

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Riders to the Sea
by Richard L. Levesque

We arrive at the beach
post sunset, after the storm
rolls out into the Atlantic.
The asphalt
has a wet sheen,
almost like a black mirror.

Cigarette butts float
in deep puddles
that reflect neon signs.

At a nearby bar,
a cover band
is trying to be ZZ Top.
I fumble quarters
into an ancient
parking meter.
My friend calls
her son,
checking in.

Sneakers and sandals
come off,
pants are rolled up.
And we walk
on damp sand
behind the old Pavilion building.
The floodlights there
reveal an angry, churning sea
high above wooden pillars.
Against the night sky,
rolling waves rise
and slam against the shoreline.

My friend and I gasp together
and, in that moment,
I don’t think about why I’m there.

I don’t think about
my mother’s diagnosis
or my family’s denial.

I only think about music–
Anna Calvi’s
“Rider to the Sea.”

The instrumental
swells and breaks
just like the waves in front of us.

It’s all feedback
and noise,
then it is silent, calming.

I stare at the waves,
the music in my head
tearing emotion from my heart.

I have never seen
the ocean
in this context before.

“Beautiful,”
we whisper
before walking away.

I tell my friend
my mother probably
has a year.

She predicts
I will be back home
before then.

(It is a prophecy
that comes true
in six months.)

We don’t dwell on this,
but continue up the beach instead,
putting the storm at our backs.

PHOTO: Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts (2010) by 6SN7.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In 2013, my mother was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and I went back to my hometown in Massachusetts to assess the situation. Things were not looking good and it was starting to get overwhelming. One night, just to get away for a minute, I asked a friend to take me to Salisbury Beach. A storm had just blown out to sea and the surf was breathtaking. I’d been going to that spot ever since I was a kid, but never had that kind of reaction before. The memory has haunted me in a good way ever since. Because of it, I can usually find the one good memory in just about any situation these days.

PHOTO: The author at the Blue Ocean Event Center (formerly the Pavilion) on Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts (Sept. 11, 2022).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard L. Levesque is a poet who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife Lorrie. His previous chapbooks are Bone-Break Psychobilly Stew and Fetal Graceland. In his spare time, he enjoys tinkering with computers and watching roller derby.

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Blam Goes a Tufted Titmouse
by Ruth Weinstein

I see the sound BLAM in big bold balloon caps,
in comic-book pop-art bright primary colors,
in the asterisks ampersands and exclamation points
Roy Lichtenstein would use to cloak an avian superhero,
and go outside to seek a small feathered projectile—
a cardinal or one of subtler color—stunned but not dead,
I hope, on the deck outside my bedroom windows.

Nothing on the wooden boards or planting table,
no cat with little gray or brown bird in its mouth.
A quick scan reveals a tufted titmouse, hooked
at an odd angle to the screen door, where it landed
in rebound from the window and clutched the fine
metal mesh so hard that it cannot set itself free.

The obsidian bead of its eye pierces me.
I fear its tiny heart might beat too fast
in its chest if I touch it, this intricate machine
made for flight, but it struggles piteously.

I hold it with one hand, writing reassurance
in animal braille, and with the fingers of the other
I release curled claw toes from the web of screen.
I surround it with the loose yet firm clasp of freedom,
the cupped harbor of my own, now trembling, hands.

I blow warmth from my lungs onto its body and breathe
a good liftoff to launch it safely. Suddenly it knows that
it can fly again, and its gray white and rust-sided plumage,
its punk feathered-do, the prodigious sound it made,
its tribulation—all are gone as if nothing ever happened.
The window the screen door the deck bear no trace.
Only the electric vibrations of my still trembling hands.

PHOTO: Tufted titmouse by Jack Bulmer.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem in the autumn of 2021. The south wall of our bedroom is filled with windows, on which I have taped cutouts of hawk shapes and adhered butterfly decals to prevent songbirds from slamming into the windows when they mistake their own reflections for other birds. Many have broken their necks, one or two have been caught by now aging, no longer quick or agile, cats. If I hear the sound, I rush to the rescue. The sound this small bird made was so huge and visual and made a great prompt for a poem. The poem came together rather quickly. Somehow, a line from the old Roberta Flack song, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” came to mind and the “trembling heart of a captive bird/that was there at my command” translated to “my trembling hands” holding a rescued bird. The event is a treasured memory of this avian save.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruth Weinstein is an octogenarian organic gardener who lives with her husband on 40 hard-scrabble acres in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Her back-to-the-land life is often at the center of her poetry and essays. A family history/memoir of her first 18 years, Back to the Land:  Alliance Colony to the Ozarks, was published in 2020 by Stockton University Press. In it, she connects the dots—beginning with her ancestors, who helped found America’s first successful, Jewish agricultural community in southern New Jersey in 1882—to her own chosen life of nearly 50 years. Her 10-poem collection, “The Legendary Tomatoes of New Jersey,” is the current third-place winner of the annual Miriam Rachimi Micro Chapbook Poetry Prize, published by Poetica Publishing. Her poetry appears online and in print. Ruth is also a life-long textile artist who paints floor clothes, weaves, quilts, designs, and constructs one-of-a-kind clothing and articles for the home, as well as nonfunctional art pieces. Ruth has a low social media presence but can be found on Facebook. If interested in her memoir, please DM her for purchasing information. She urges that you do not buy books from Amazon if you can purchase them from the author.

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Chinese Restaurant (London 1988)
by Tricia Marcella Cimera

This is my favorite
Chinese restaurant in London,
my dad declares as we climb
a long dark flight of stairs
in a timeless building
where a hostess waits at the top.
I order cashew chicken—
the sauce is clear, fragrant
(there & yet not there).
The chicken is so white,
the cashews are fat & golden.
Rice awaits in a red bowl,
every grain tiny as a second.
As the lights go on
in Piccadilly Circus, my dad & I talk
in a circle of candlelight
by the window while the cashews
resemble crescent moons shining
on the china plate or little ears
listening avidly to our conversation
(which flows like warm tea)—
& the check doesn’t come
for hours & hours.

PHOTO: Cathay Chinese Restaurant, Glasshouse Street, Piccadilly Circus, London, England (1982).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My late dad inhabits many of my poems. This poem is about when I went to London on my own when I was in my early twenties. My father met me there; he was working in Germany at the time. We had a brief, splendid visit together. I wish I could remember the name of that Chinese restaurant; it was a mysterious oasis above Piccadilly Circus and had the best food ever (authentic, as they say). My dad and I talked of many things that night like we always did. He was endlessly fascinating with a gorgeous sense of humor. During our visit we also went to a Russian restaurant called Borscht N Tears, where we had caviar and encountered unruly Germans – but that is another good memory.

EDITOR’S NOTE: According to The Guardian, Britain’s first mainstream Chinese restaurant, Cathay, arrived in London’s Piccadilly Circus area during 1908, setting off the UK’s love of Chinese cuisine that has never waned.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Her poems have appeared in various diverse journals online and in print. She lives, writes, despairs, and tries to hope in America. A cedar Poetry Box called The Fox Poetry Box is mounted on a post in her front yard.

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My mother, eating churros
by Yvette Viets Flaten

that my father has just brought back
from Alcalá’s town center. Still hot,
from the rolling vat of olive oil.
My father, in a green sweater.
It is autumn, our tiny apartment
chilling, the Spanish sun dulling.

Their smile. I capture it on film.
Their cups of coffee on the kitchen
table. They are passing into middle
age. I am in high school.

My mother, lifting a churro toward
her mouth, smiling at my camera,
so happy this morning, my father
standing just behind, his hand
touching her shoulder.
I catch that moment.
Have it still.

PHOTO: Traditional Spanish churros by Vadim Zakirov.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am always fascinated at how memory works. Things that I think I should, or want to, remember often fade quickly. But random moments, conversations, the odd occurrence, or tiny detail are pressed into my memory as though carved in stone. So it is with this memory of my parents. It was a spontaneous moment: My father went out for churros—not our usual breakfast routine. I had my camera in the kitchen—not usual, either. On impulse, I clicked the shutter—and now, more that fifty years on, I recall every nuance of that happy Saturday morning.

Flaten

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yvette Viets Flaten was born in Colorado and raised in an Air Force family.  She has lived in Nevada, North Dakota, and Washington state, as well as abroad in England, France, and Spain. Those experiences gave her the chance to study languages, history, and culture, and imparted a love of travel. She currently lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

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First Encounter
by Melody Wilson

Bored of squeezing snapdragons’ cheeks,
impersonating my sister through their ruffled
lips, I sift petals in the soil, yellow, pink. A bean
wobbles toward me, domed creature marching
through chips. I press my finger
against the ground, up it crawls.
Eyelash feet, butterfly kisses,
up my finger and into my palm.
I draw my folded hands close
to my face, open: “Peek a boo!”

Its antennae wonder.
“Don’t be afraid” I poke
its shiny shell. Smooth,
cool as orange peel, familiar as fingernail.
I blow into my palm. The creature rolls up,
tight as a pea. I am wonderstruck,
test it with a tap. It rolls over once,
rocks back, Still, mute. A magic trick? A disaster?

I drop it into the leaves and stand,
brush dirt from my dress, glance
toward the house. My mother is working
in the den, my sisters playing records. The sprinkler
chides: chhh chhh, chhh, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch ch.
I tower in the flower bed, in my guilt,
step toward the sidewalk, look again
into the mulch. The bug ambles
toward the tomatoes, my tricycle’s streamers
glitter in the breeze.

PHOTO: Woodlouse on a twig by Mojo Maniac.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I spent much of 2020 writing a collection of poetry about my mother, at the end of which I felt pretty exhausted. So I decided to write a series of poems about bugs. The only reason I decided to do this was that they provided a way for me to do a little research, which I love, and focus on something that has few if any emotional resonances. Well, bugs turned out to have a lot of emotional weight and became a chapbook that will come out in August 2023. This is one of my favorites of that group. The bug in the poem is unnamed for two reasons. Because the narrator is a child and it’s her first encounter, and because the name of the “bug” is regional and a topic of conversation.  So, to me it’s a curly bug, but to some people it’s a pill bug, or a rolly polly. Sometimes it’s a sow bug.  It’s actually not even a bug but a crustacean.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The woodlouse has 176 nicknames and seven pair of lungs, according to Country Life. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melody Wilson’s recent work appears in Quartet, Re Dactions, Sky Island Review, and on VerseDaily. New work will appear in Sugar House Review, Minnow, and Nimrod. She received the 2021 Kay Snow Award and recognition for the Oberon, Dobler, and Pablo Neruda Awards. Her first chapbook, Spineless: Memoir in Invertebrates, was a finalist for the New Women’s Voices competition. It will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2023. Find her work at melodywilson.com.

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There Is a Picture of My Mother on My First Communion Day
by Karen Keefe

I am where I don’t belong.
Children cannot visit their mothers in the hospital
even on special days.

Dressed all in white I run from the hall to your hospital bed
and stop. I just look at you. Mama.
Your smile is tiny. Your eyes are so blue.
You can’t sit up, but your hand reaches out to me.
Fingers tangled in my hair
you pull me into you. I won’t let go.

This visit is a special secret, just for you, just for me.
Daddy snuck me in. I am afraid he is going to get in trouble.
You are singing to me. You always sing to us but today
your voice is a whisper.

I cry. It is time to step away.
I don’t want to leave you here.
When daddy drives me home
there will be cake.
My brothers and sisters are waiting.
All the cousins are coming.

You tell me it is ok to be happy
today. You give me a little red box. Inside are new rosary beads.
When you kiss my palm, you close my fingers around the kiss.
Now I can bring you home with me
and each of your children can press your kiss against their cheek.

PHOTO: First communion photo frame, available on eBay.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In many ways the crafting of this poem holds the evolution of my voice as a writer. I began this poem more than 40 years ago while I was a student at Harpur College. The version here holds many of the elements of my first efforts but now I can fully show the beauty of this memory. I know so many years later it is important to show the full measure of heartbreak and joy. I do not need to pretend it is anything else.  This day, this moment is the definition of my relationship with my truly special parents. As a family we found ourselves in a challenging and isolating experience: devastating illness. They insisted on trying to find the best way through it. Much of the time they succeeded. They always made sure that I and my brothers and sisters knew how loved we were. Both were fierce about making good memories during what could have been a devastating and sad time, one that would have been nothing but traumatic. This memory is of the day I learned something can happen that is so very sad and fiercely happy at the same time. I also learned there is a time to break a rule. My mother did return home after this hospitalization but this illness was a presence in our lives for the next 10 years. She died just before I graduated high school. She was an amazing person.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is a picture of me at the First Communion party. As you can see, it was a joyous day.

Keefe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Keefe (she, her) is now retired from international education, though her heart is scattered throughout the world with friends who gifted her bringing humility, deeper perspective, honesty, and love. She earned a BA in rhetoric and creative writing from Binghamton University (Harpur College). She also holds a MA from Binghamton University in Student Affairs with Diversity.  She was one of the editors of the now closed, The Parlor City Review and published in Anima: An Experiential Journal. She is the featured poet in the August 2022 issue of Anti-Heroin Chic. She has poetry forthcoming in the Winter Issue of POETiCA REViEW. A resident of Vestal, New York, she can be found on Twitter @karen_keef.

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at fifteen my cousin steve and i were more like brothers
by Scott Ferry

we walked the quarter mile to the ocean
down magnolia street in august 630 pm
dive into the shorebreak at high tide tall and swift
each of us with one fin to kick into steep walls
and watch the curl upend and dish into a swirling oblong
the body a sliding wet light among the sunlit array
of bluegreygreenyellowwhite until the glass
of evening closed steaming in a puff of foam
and we half walked half swam back out for another
and we never got cold or tired
until the corners of the sky turned
tangerine and smoke and we exited
maybe a towel maybe not maybe sandals
maybe barefoot back to his house on hula circle
to shower off the sand in our shorts
and the sticky salt from the eyelashes
and then we would eat and eat
and eat

PHOTO: Two surfers at California beach, sunset by Trevor Gerzen on Unsplash. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I thought I would throw one in about immortality.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as a RN in the Seattle, Washington, area. His seventh book of poetry, The Long Blade of Days Ahead, is available from Impspired Press. More of his work can be found at ferrypoetry.com.

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Wedding Dress Shopping on Mother’s Day 2022
by Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Under the light and the murmuring words
of a kind woman helping her
behind the curtains, I hear, Are you ready
to show your mother? Am I ready
for this brave child of mine
to walk out, to walk away,
how she’d never look back
as she ran off to preschool,
those blonde curls bouncing
off her small back, all those bones
wrapped and perfect in her skin.
She emerges from the parted curtains
her shoulders like sculpture
the shoulders that eased out of me
her blue eyes open through the muck
and blood of us. Now she smiles,
our eyes tethered
by some remembered chord.
When she walks, a waterfall
of dress follows her.
I’m about to pass out
by her beauty—
that first real contraction
when I had to hold onto a railing
before we slipped into a new world.

PAINTING: Bride with a Fan by Marc Chagall (1911).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This was perhaps the best Mothers’ Day imaginable.

Snyder

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sarah Dickenson Snyder lives in Vermont, carves in stone, and rides her bike. Travel opens her eyes. She has three poetry collections, The Human Contract (2017), Notes from a Nomad (nominated for the Massachusetts Book Awards 2018), and With a Polaroid Camera (2019) with another book forthcoming in 2023. Poems have been nominated for Best of Net and a Pushcart Prize. Recent work is in Rattle, Lily Poetry Review, and RHINO. Visit her at sarahdickensonsnyder.com.

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Pulling Off Route 79 on a Summer Day
by Sharon Ball

1.
Watching the white butterfly stop and sit
on a leafy green sunspot, then lift again
flickering on bright air,
propelled up, down, sideways across the road,
flying toward my open window.
Will it flap in or pass on through the trees to the river?

2.
White butterfly floats
Aspens quake against blue sky
Sun-dappled woods keep secrets.

3.
Through the trees, the river moves fast with yesterday’s rain.
I barely hear the water over the whoosh and hum
of coming cars and going trucks.
In between, leaves whisper of gifts as
the white butterfly melts into quiet woods.

Photo by Saturday Sun on Unsplash. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is the unexpected result of a solo drive through the countryside. At some point, I pulled off the road, rolled down all my car windows, and paid attention to the beauty around me. I tapped the poem into my cellphone and transcribed it later at home. Except for a new title and a few small edits, the poem appears as it came to me that day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon Ball is a retired arts executive who is currently in school to finish her B.A. in creative writing/poetry. She has performed her poetry, essays, and original songs live in venues in Northeastern United States and on National Public Radio in Washington, DC, where she previously worked as an award-winning editor. Her poem “Raindrops Sparkling in the Spruce Tree When the Sun Comes Out” was published in the multicultural anthology Confluence, edited by Susan Deer Cloud. Sharon’s essay “Remembering Octavia” appeared in Anthropology Off the Shelf: Anthropologists on Writing, edited by Alisse Waterston and Maria D. Vesperi.

PHOTO: The author and her cat, Miss Kitty. Photo by JW Johnston.