FREIGHT contest


a photo by Elizabeth Switaj


poem and artwork by Ruth Schiffmann


Crisp leaves break under my step;
I’ve lost my way.
The wind spins around me
Crossing my path, stirring my center, swaying my certainty.
My heart plods against the weight of unbelief
Rousing the scents of a past: familiar, forgotten.
Uncertainty unleashed spreads wide in front of me
I kick through dead forest cast offs and hope for life.

© 2011, Ruth Schiffmann

a poem by Bruce Harris

Nothing followed by tapping.
Phone ringing.
And ringing.
Fuel surcharge rising.

© 2011, Bruce Harris

and in the bus station I don’t want to watch
men count how many barrels
they can throw, backwards
over a bar against the clock
bulldog squat, temples blinking
panic on all stations as they hurl

boulders topple planks lift tire
barbells load sacks haul monster trucks

and afterwards, wading jelly-legs
pinched cheeks and faraway gaze
of children lifting weights that don’t need
to be lifted toppling planks that hurling boulders
but stay with me instead he says
remember the curves
dangerous curves
road construction
and what does it mean to live
straight up: I’d be mad
if this wasn’t the plan, but don’t go, but

I’m kidding, what do you need
I can buy it for you at Wal-Mart
that’s serious, and can I pin
a note on you, right here, it says:
If found return to Sayulita, Nayarit.

How it could have been any different?
How it couldn’t have been any
different. After all we can’t
overcome ourselves.

© 2011 Rose Hunter

a poem by william krill

The same empty space dust particles that created this here and now empty space madness,
are still floating in my dirty yellow bucket
tangled forever in mop hairs
wrapped soaking in the chemical firmament of this black brown water—
I’m most comfortable in these restrooms, especially when no one else is in here.
I should by now know the particle of the tile grout,
and should know of the little cricket
that lives behind the grey plastic trash can
waist high with crumpled paper towels and discarded underwear—
my mornings of mop meditations and dirt yellow bucket
pardoning off galaxies by request of the earthly floor,
in this I’m known for nothing,
respected for my nothings,
and loved only by the sleeping eye and that little cricket saint.

© 2011, william krill

a story by Richard Jay Goldstein

Quiet Wednesday night in the ER. Staring into cold coffee, in a drug-company cup. Three AM. Time to grab a little sleep.

I’m in my windowless room, pulling off my shoes.

A man’s voice, shouting.

Shoes back on. Run out to the ER. Night nurse Diane, holding a phone to her ear with her shoulder. Trying to call me. But I’m standing right there.

A baby in her arms. Blue baby. Flaccid baby.

There’s a young guy standing there, hollering. He’s maybe twenty.

“Is he dead?” he shouts. “Is he dead?”

Diane trying to do solo CPR, not easy on a slippery little limp body. Sees me, drops the phone.

Into the code room: Baby boy. Nine months old. No pulse. No respirations.

Hollering guy tries to follow. I outshout him.

“Over there. Sit down. Now.”

For a second he looks like he wants to fight. Then he sits down. Over there.

Here’s what happens next: I slide a tube into baby’s trachea, start oxygen. Diane does chest compressions. Gently. Two fingers. Very small person. With a little oxygen the tough little heart starts back up. Good pulses. We start an IV. We hook up a heart monitor. Baby starts breathing, but not awake yet. Can’t have everything. We call the pediatrician.

Here’s the story the father gives us: Baby fussy all night. Suddenly goes snort, stops breathing. Scoops baby up, races to hospital.

Family shows up: young mother, maybe eighteen. She and hollering guy are separated. Both sets of grandparents, arguing. Your son couldn’t take care of. Wouldn’t have to if your daughter.

Diane sticks them in separate rooms.

As the pediatrician walks in baby starts convulsing. One seizure after another. Takes us forever to get them stopped. Probably brain damage from too long without oxygen.

We finally ship the baby off by helicopter to the big University Pediatric ICU.

What a great job, I’m thinking. Saving lives right and left.

A couple of hours later a call from the University Hospital.

“Some feedback on that kid,” says the University doc. “Did a CT. Subarachnoid bleed and retinal hemorrhages. Shaken baby syndrome. Somebody shook the hell out of him. Probably won’t wake up. But if he does, everyone will wish he hadn’t.”

Driving home later, I tell myself that the University pediatrician isn’t a prophet. Maybe the baby will be fine. My job is to do my job. Takes me a while to fall asleep.

The baby beats the odds by waking up. But a few months later it’s clear he’s severely impaired. Fourteen months. Can’t sit up, can’t eat. Virtually a vegetable. In a special care facility.

The father confesses to shaking him. Wouldn’t stop crying. Swear I didn’t think it would hurt him.

The state files charges, then drops them.

Meanwhile, in the ER, we go on battling death whenever we can, no matter what, because what else can you do?

© 2011, Richard Jay Goldstein

a story by Thomas Sullivan

I’m standing in line at the Puget Consumer Co-op, reading a newspaper article about a woman who is suing the Marriot hotel chain. Apparently, the woman wasn’t pleased after walking into her room and finding a male employee in a Marriot shirt wearing one of her dresses and parading around in her high-heeled shoes. That right there is the problem with large corporations. Too many of their
customers have no sense of humor.

But that’s not my main concern on the corporate front. Until recently I did my food shopping at one of the major grocery chains. I just loaded up my cart and didn’t think much about what I was buying. But then the massive recall of Write County Eggs struck, sickening hundreds of people whose only crime was being in Write County at the wrong time. According to news reports, the owner has a long history of fines and settlements for repeated health and safety violations. Yet, no one has shut him down and he keeps resurfacing, like a farm version of Freddy Kreuger.

After inspecting a number of Write County farms, the FDA described one of the hen houses as “bulging with manure.” That could be an apt description of the owner as well.

I’m not a worrier by nature. I don’t think people are out to get me and I’m not fooled by the likes of Terror Mosques or WMDs. I’m a trusting person by nature, but when genuine threatening patterns develop, I act. Like yesterday, when I finally moved my money out of a Zombie Bank.

So I’ve now got another unwanted and unnecessary fear to contend with. A fear spurred by the actions of yet another indifferent mega-corporation. Hence, my visit to PCC, where I find organic free-range eggs raised on a small farm that, to my knowledge, has never been described by a federal Secretary of Labor as “simply atrocious, as dangerous as any sweatshop.”

I pay up and head for the exit, wondering how many more people will bite the dust before small farms and organics become to food what seatbelts were to cars. I enter the outside seating area, which sits below the sidewalk level and is filled with people enjoying their sunny lunch hour. I’m lowering into a chair to finish reading the paper when a guy suddenly appears at the edge of the sidewalk clutching a guitar. His buttlength whitish hair flutters in the breeze as he stares down at the crowd and flashes a grin beneath his Brawny Man mustache.
“Thank you all for coming!” the street-musician barks, before breaking into a cover of “Brown Eyed Girl”. He strums in place for a bit before crouching down low and marching Chuck Berry style back and forth along the “stage.” Most of the diners ignore him, but I know better. I smile and watch the guy, enamored by his fearless performance.

Which is exactly what that woman at the Marriott should have done.

© 2011, Thomas Sullivan

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