a photo by Elizabeth Switaj

a story by Eric Kenron

The bridge-boards are red under her feet. Hems of kimonos brush the surface of the wood. She is wearing a gown colored like forest pool, lily-covered at dusk. She is the demure center of attention. Her mouth is hidden: she is the archetype of discrete equipoise. She is silent; awaiting understanding. In that way, too, she is ideal. She is reflected in the river below as rippled blobs of color. I whisper a wish for her silent strength.

Paul’s arm slides around my waist and startles me, even though I know it’s him.

Today is our fifth anniversary. The gallery was my idea, so the restaurant is his choice. As we are being seated, I see how tired he is. I try to tamp down my ebullience to reduce the discrepancy between our moods. Instead I am daydreaming through dinner, laughing inside.

My imagination-laugh is elegant and feral, not anything like my real laugh. I will have a cat’s laugh. I will say: “When I met you, your words were honey and light. You were fascinating and beautiful and I loved your voice and face and the way you looked out to infinity. I even adored your vagueness, mistaking it for thoughtfulness. But since then you have recycled your words many times, and your face does not show your feelings. I have discovered firsthand how far away infinity is from me.”

He won’t have been listening, but I will make him pay attention the same way he has compelled me to silence so many times: with more words.
“You are shedding onto me the pieces of you that you despise, and those pieces have grown within me. I have allowed myself to incubate the poison that has come between us, believing first that it was mine, and then that it was something we shared. It is neither: it is yours, and I am going to give it back to you. Hold out your hands.”

I will press my fingernails into my abdomen, cutting the skin. I can push my
fingers, then my whole hand, through my skin and into the pit of my stomach, where I can feel the weight that has accumulated there. I grasp hold of it and pull it out. This is bloodless, but not without pain.

The lump which I pull out of myself I will drop into his open hands. He will sag under its weight. I will reach into my purse and pull out a small, golden bow—like they put on gift boxes in department stores—and affix it to the top.

“This is you. This is the reflection of yourself that you tried to create in me. This is how I will remember you.” Then I will turn away, and before he can muster an equivocation I will hail a cab. The driver will squeal the tires at my instruction.

© 2011; Eric Kenron

a poem by Brad Rose

Between Tecate and Tijuana,
we slide across the border,
silent as a rattler swims across a dune.
We transport more coke than the Mojave has sand.
Paid the right price, La Migra eagerly looks the other way.
When we get to LA, we will sleep in satin sheets at the Beverly Wilshire,
and pay cash for our suites.
Our ancestors were Aztec gods,
here before the whites invented themselves as a race.
No one will ever know
we are here.

© 2011, Brad Rose

a poem by Mike Berger

Like robots they move.
I Marvel at the skill and
efficiency of the crew that
load the cargo hold.
Packages are unloaded from
the truck and put on the
conveyor belt with mechanical
precision. At the top, two
burly guys grabbed the
packages and stack them.
They moved at lightning speed
without a misstep. They do
occasionally drop a package
and have to stop the conveyor.
This sets my mind to wondering.
Why is it that the only packages
they drop are those marked fragile?

© 2011, Mike Berger

a poem by Mike Berger

As a shrink, I see every day
people chained to misery.
Their woes are shackled to them by
themselves Over time they habituate.
Each day their burden grows; it is a
malignant thing.

I counsel them on how to rid themselves
of their burdens using guided imagery. I
asked them to go home and follow these
steps. Get out a mental suitcase and stuff
it full of guilt, remorse, and shame.
Have your travel agent to book a
good hotel and get tickets to a
Broadway play. At check-in
be delighted that you don’t have
to paying the $15 to check in your
imaginary bag.

Hop on the plane with eager anticipation.
You will soon have no more baggage
to tote around, when the airline
loses your luggage. Throw away your
baggage claim stub, steer wide and clear
of the lost and found.

© 2011, Mike Berger

a story by Richard Hartwell

She seems to have traveled so lightly:  keys, only three; a woman’s wristwatch, gold-plated, with an expansion band; a purple ballpoint pen, cheap; a pencil, wood, yellow.  On the key chain:  three keys, two chrome, worn; a car alarm buzzer; a plastic fob that reads “Keys I Haven’t Lost Yet” in day-glo orange.   It makes me wonder about her.

With only three keys, what did she have before that she lost or misplaced or placed back?  Judging by the alarm chip on the key chain, the large plastic-enclosed key is for her car. One of the other two is presumably for her house or apartment.  What’s the third key for?  Her office?  Garage?  Back gate?  Storage?  Boyfriend’s apartment?

Her life’s too streamlined, too thin of details and attachments.  What am I to make of her life from just these?

Perhaps the pen and pencil indicate a teacher, or a secretary, or just an organizationally anal personality who’s always been prepared.  No, not always.  There’s no notepad.

The watch is keeping the correct time.  The crystal’s not been broken by blunt force nor the band twisted grotesquely in a final struggle.  The pencil is sharpened, not broken.  The plastic pen is not shattered and isn’t leaking.

With only these remains, how am I to reconstruct a life?  I’ve been waiting three hours now, resting on the seawall of the jetty next to these items, waiting for her to return.  She hasn’t.  They weren’t laid out in a pattern, neatly organized with thought.  They weren’t scattered, abandoned hastily or in panic.  They were merely deposited in a loose pile, tokens of a thin life left behind.  Momentarily, I had hoped.

It’s three-and-a-half hours now, and the tide’s almost fully in.

© 2011, Richard Hartwell

a poem and photograph combination by Julie L. Corbett

Hulk in the Humber by Julie L. Corbett

tarred talisman, twice
each tide-turn day, washed
in estuarine river and sea-brine,
a cargo of sand and slit,
anchoring her. raucous gulls
rest on the bow—facing the wind.
settled, scuttled with a firm trim,
this broken barge, watches
the tugs and freight go by

© 2011, Julie L. Corbett