Potluck

 

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Two Poems


Salvation Army Shopping Experience
 

It was the aisle
with fragile items,
once precious crystal vases,
trinket dishes,
a Japanese tea cup.

An old man reached for a snow globe,
wound it up and
flipped it over.
Fake snow fell
in slow
motion
to the muffled
low battery version
of Silent Night.

A monk, nearby
in his heavy gold robe,
rushed over like a child,
and curiously
joined the old man.

They watched
and smiled
with their heads leaned in
toward one another.

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting in the Lobby of my Psychologist’s Office


I was waiting in the lobby of my psychologist’s office.
A woman walked in
with a cast on her right hand.
The cast had a stretched out,
dirty,
pastel,
heart-print sock over it.
She sat down
in the tweed teal waiting room chair across from me.
She quickly rummaged through her large purse to
pull out her makeup bag.
I tried not to watch
as her inexperienced left hand
shook uncontrollably.
I tried not to watch
as she dipped the eye shadow
applicator
and smothered it with blue.
I couldn’t watch after that.

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Lothrigel is a poet and artist residing in the San Francisco Bay area. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Trivia - Voices of Feminism, Narrative Northeast, Poetry Quarterly, The Tishman Review, Cordella Magazine and elsewhere.

The Witches

       The witches are all on different medications. Sing is on antipsychotics. Sam is on antidepressants, but they don’t work and she’s gained weight. Johanna is on antibiotics but usually she just drinks. She read somewhere that she can’t drink with the antibiotics but she’s starting to doubt it. She’s starting to shake, starting to wonder if it’s worth having a bladder infection if it means she can’t feel the other things.

       They’re very conscientious witches. Used to be, witches were always stealing bits and pieces of other folk. Sam took the finger of a Jewess once in the twelfth century and she feels just rotten about it. And don’t talk to Sing about the ditch-delivered babe of a drab she stole. She paid that drab’s medical bills and checked up on her for years but she still wakes up at night, stricken with guilt. Sometimes she does good weather spells for the drab’s descendants, not that it helps her any. She’s so hard on herself.

       Now they only do weak spells, ones that don’t need hurting anybody much. It’s tricky: their power comes from stealing, comes from cutting and bleeding and eating.

       They bargain. “Sing, you’re part Moorish—if I give you some moonbrew, could I cut off your ear?”

       “Johanna, I’ll give you my best cauldron if I can get a big toe. It’s really important.”

       Of course they could give up spells, but they’re witches. It’s what they do. So they keep growing their wolfsbane and moor’s moss and bitching to each other over the phone when they’re not dancing naked under the new moon.

       “Found this great recipe for deceiver’s draught.”

       “Oh, here’s a trick for summoning spells: you put a little yarrow in the kindling before you start the cauldron. Makes a world of difference.”

       “Johanna, what did you put in these muffins? They’re like Percocet.”

       Mostly, though, they take from themselves. Little spells take little pains: Sam trips and falls in front of a crowd to give her new glamour some oomph. Johanna stabs herself between the ribs with a paring knife, holds the blade high over her pot as the liquid turns a fiery red. Sing makes a pro and con list: a new poison for sawing off her favorite finger at the knuckle. They heal, but slowly, and it weighs a witch down. It whittles them down, the cutting, the starving they do to make themselves stronger.

       Johanna says it first. She is the oldest, if only by a hundred years, and the bravest. Without glamour, her nose is the longest and the crookedest, and her best wart sits right at the end of it and makes her eyes look wild and sure.

       “Sisters, we are suffering.”

       Sam puts down her slice of quiche. She bought a plastic walker after chopping three toes for a stealing spell—she wanted a new house, with a bigger garden, but the old owners were stubborn. Sing whistles past her missing front teeth: she ground them up for ointment that makes her skin and black hair shine.

       “We can’t go on like this,” Johanna starts again. “In the olden days we were strong. We were fearsome. We took what we needed and we did not apologize.”

       “Abhorrent,” Sing says.

       “Reprehensible,” Sam echoes.

       “Yes,” says Johanna. “And also?”

       “Glorious,” says Sam.

       “Ecstatic,” echoes Sing.

       “The problem,” says Johanna, “is pathos. We feel bad for the Jewesses and drabs and newts now.”

       “Poor little newts,” says Sing. “With their sweet little eyes.”

“And the tiny frogs’ toes,” says Sam, tearing up. “They never knew what was coming.”

       “This pain we feel for the creatures—it is honorable,” says Johanna. (Ethical, Sam murmurs.) “But it is a cancer. It makes us weak.”

       “Weakness is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Sing, invoking her therapist, Steven. “But what is your plan, sister?”

       “We cast a spell,” Johanna’s eyes spark, “to cut this cancer from our bodies.”

       Sam has her spellbook out already. “It’s impossible. Or—it’s unheard of.”

       Sing is spitballing on a legal pad. “We’d need a cleaving spell, to take it out. And a splicing spell, to put us back together. And a strength spell, so we survive the other spells. Maybe two strength spells.” She tallies up the parts they would need, then lets out a low whistle through her gap.

       “This one’s going to hurt, darlings.” They’ll need fourteen toes between them, nine fingers, maybe a pint of blood. Depending, it could take a tongue to seal the deal.

       “Give me that,” says Johanna. She throws the legal pad into the fire. (Hey! say Sam and Sing). “Here’s what we’ll do.”

       They will kill an innocent woman to cut the caring from their witchy selves. Sing and Sam hem and haw for a minute, staring into the face of the young college student Johanna caught off craigslist with the offer of a college-level chemistry internship. In the end, though, they decide it’s the only thing to do.

       Johanna sets up the sacrifice, then goes to her cave with the shakes. She needs to vomit, needs to take her last Zithromax and a cranberry pill. She asks her sisters to call her when the killing is done and she will finish the spell for them.

       Under a hiding spell, she creeps to the burlap sack behind the fire. She sets the virgin free, presses a bill into her hand for a taxi home. She climbs in, stills her breathing. Soon, this pain will end. She has learned to trust her instincts in the past thousand years. When Sam and Sing throw the sack on the fire, they expect a shrieking.

       “You really nailed that sleeping draught,” says Sing.

       Inside the sack, Johanna gets hot. Soon she will be free. She waits for her memories of hairy men seduced, children eaten, babies gutted, to turn to smoke.

       But only the edges of her are singed. The sack burns up around her, then her clothes, and the fire eats the hairs on her arms and between her legs and the bristles from her face. Johanna looks out through the fire to see her sisters weeping and laughing, already feeling so good. She wants to be glad for them but instead the dark hurt inside her hardens like glass. She feels the guilt melt like tar, seeping out through her skin. Black covers her body, calcified, and she sits up, stretching herself through the top of the fire, smoke-like, wind-high. She towers, twenty feet tall, over her sisters, and they look up from their casting into the mouth of a great black dragon. The last witchy bit of Johanna hears her sisters scream, but she is so hungry. She swallows them right up. The fire and blackness is inside her, and Sing and Sam join it. Together the witches are one belly, one mouth, and they lift off to hunt the world that hurt them.

 

 

 

Wesley O. Cohen is a San Francisco-based author who specializes in short stories. Her work appears in Matchbox Magazine and Star 82 Review, and is forthcoming in Prized Writing. You can follow her at wesleyocohen.wordpress.com.

Three Poems


Not Coupling for the End Times
 

I’ve been a poor technician of my desire.
One solution is to stay in motion
so the blur of trees-sky-road
becomes its own kind of scene.
Too often, I linger on friends’ porches,
hesitant to bike uphill into the night.
There is an end-times feeling
to the world lately, and it makes
the grass rustling in the sunset
seem like an extension of the mind.
Pet-sitting, I sleep
with a mournful-looking Vizsla
curled at my feet. She steals my sheets
and has eyes the same color as her coat.
My life is not without intimacy,
just not the coupling kind.
On the porch, we say that we’re
all animals, and that all animals
have souls. I say I don’t believe in ghosts,
or anything really, but as soon as I say this,
I know I’m bluffing—not that anyone
calls me on it. I don’t care
if my current companions are all temporary,
I’m not coupling just for these end times.
I often wish there was an off switch
to desire, but I’m content
to feel overwhelmed
by the amount of world there is to want,
even the bits that exist
with no regard for my beliefs.

 

 

 

 

The Dogs Downstairs
 

The dogs downstairs bark through the day,
waiting for my neighbor to come home,

who looks uncannily like Walter,
an ex-boyfriend of a college friend

I don’t talk to anymore.
I am jealous of the dogs. They know

who their person is. They split their day
between not-bliss and bliss.

This is my year of crying. I cry
eating omelets, next to my car

when it gets stuck in snow,
when I drop my computer on my foot.

The body responds so readily
to pain, while the mind

holds off, delays the full conception
of betrayal. Even after their end,

I retain the habits of old friendships,
buying candy with their preferences

in mind. When I return home,
the dogs downstairs bark furiously.

 

 

 

 

A Few of the Poems
 

went over to your place,
where they sat as quiet as priests—

of course you didn’t notice them.

You brushed your teeth, shaved,
straightened up your room.

I’d been working on this kind
of problem in my poems.

Yes, I made them with care, stealing
bits of sky, polishing them

to be as smooth as pond stones.
But they were so fucking quiet.

I sent an army of them to call on you,
but they just curled up

beneath the couch and jumped
into the laundry hamper—

mild-mannered, wishy-washy things,
unskilled at feats of pyrotechnics.

Over the years I’ve gotten set
in my ways, so let me

tell you a story of a small quiet person
who loved another

small quiet person—was the love
reciprocated, would you know?

 

 

 

Anna Mebel lives in Syracuse, NY, where she's an MFA candidate in poetry at Syracuse University. Her work has appeared in Metatron, Tin House Open Bar, Bodega Magazine, and is forthcoming in TAMMY and Juked.