Potluck

 

T H I S    W E E K

The Theorist by Bo Fisher

 

Yesterday's Ghost

They reconnected across subway trains, her mouth curling into an O, a crooked smile spreading across his face. Catching each other's gaze, holding it. That’s all it took. He was back in her head, as if he'd never left.

 

She worked for years to free herself, spent countless gin-soaked hours with friends and drained her wallet into the cushions of a therapist's couch. Finally, she was able to shove the memory of him into the far recesses of her consciousness, into a broom closet reserved for emotions she'd never revisit. Still, every once in a while, a song came on the radio, a tune filled the air with the essence of him, and the door creaked open. She hurried back there, out of breath and panicked, closed it with a heavy hand before a trickle of feeling could escape. Then she dialed the radio knob to the left or the right, turned up the volume just as far as it would go and gulped in sounds. She piled them high against the closet door and locked away all vestiges of yesterday.

 

They were headed in opposite directions, he coming, she going. Their trains came together somewhere along the track, screeching to a halt for no apparent reason, windows kissing windows, sparks escaping from grinding wheels. They locked eyes and he strolled right in, snaked through the crowd, slipped through rubber and glass, pierced skin and bone and stepped back into her head. He dropped his bag in the center of her mind, grinning like he'd done before, saying everything she longed to hear without any words.

 

They held each other there, in the recesses of her mind, as she made her way from the subway. She fumbled in her purse, pressed her key into the outside door and climbed three flights to her apartment, her arms wrapped around a week's worth of groceries. Usually, such a burden felt immense, especially by the time she'd reached the second landing. Today she ascended as if made of air, intoxicated with the notion of him, with his imagined company. She placed the bags on the table, leaned them against one another so they wouldn't spill, but when the apples and the yogurt came tumbling out, she let them. She didn't bother with the television or the blinking light of the answering machine, either. She sat on the couch, bearing witness to the flood of images that spilled into her consciousness, watching him in vivid Technicolor reruns.

 

When the high waters of her past finally ebbed, he was still there, in the present, almost in the flesh, in the middle of her addled brain, sitting cross-legged on the undulating floor. Go, she said, leave, because she knew he shouldn't be there, because her world stopped spinning when he was in it, if only in her head. But he just smiled and stretched his arms, like he used to do. The boy I'm dating, he'll be here any minute, she said. It's okay, he said, winking. She shut her eyes and shook her head. No, it's not okay. It's too weird. He shrugged and hummed a tune, something achingly familiar.

 

The boy she was dating came round that evening, put the yogurt in the fridge and the apples in a basket, then made love to her on the futon beneath the open window. They could hear the neighbors' turntable belting out scratchy Sinatra tunes, the same record, the same skips, a Friday night standard. Her neighbors were old and trapped in yesterday. She'd study them when, on rare occasions, they ambled into the sunlight, his hand resting in the crook of her arm, her head leaning on his shoulder. They'd wait at the bottom of the stairs, maybe for a taxi to transport them to someplace magical, maybe just for a breath of air. They were two blades of grass, separate but indelibly fused, nurtured by the ground they stood on, swaying together, moving in unison no matter how the wind blew. She wondered how they got that way, what they did to find each other, how they made it work so well. She, in contrast, was wilted, untethered and formless, with no hope of rooting.

 

She liked to make love to Sinatra's soulful crooning, but that evening it felt wrong. There were too many people in the room, too many participants, too many eyes.

Are you going to make me choose? She asked when the boy fell asleep. No, he said, I'll go. And he did leave, eventually, but never completely.

 

The vacancy sign above her heart flashed neon red. Boys came and went and she reveled in their newness. But passion invariably gave way to routine, and mundanity pressed in on her like a shrunken garment: hot, itchy, suffocating. The closet door in the back of her consciousness, its latch long broken, swung open and closed like a porch screen in a black and white movie, at the mercy of a fickle wind. She couldn't control it, didn't even try anymore. And in the middle of it all, he'd stroll in, smelling of yesterday, upending her reality and wreaking havoc with her heart. He'd lay his long body down on the rug at the bottom of her mind and look at her in that way that, to her, meant everything. But before long he'd leave again, a white trail fading into the sky behind him as he walked, without looking back. 

 

Then a new boy came along. He cocked his head to the side and gazed at her, his brow furrowing. That sound, he said, there's something broken, somewhere. He took out his wrench, stepped into her head and knelt down by the rickety screen door. It took a long time - days, maybe even weeks - but finally he managed to secure the latch. He turned off the vacancy sign, took her hand in his and led her away. At the entrance to his head, he swept her up and carried her across the threshold, just like she'd seen in those black and white movies, except this wasn't the empty windswept part where a fiddle cried in D Minor and the camera panned out, capturing loneliness. This was the happy part.

 

And when the boy from yesterday came back, he found the door shut tightly and the lights dimmed low. He knocked. He called her name. He hummed a tune only she would know. Then he smiled, nodded and moved on.

 

Heidi Heimler's work has appeared in both online and print publications, including Full of Crow, Yellow Mama, The Scarlet Sound, The Linnet's Wings and Popcorn Fiction. She lives in Milwaukee, WI and moonlights as a psychologist.

 

I'm Having a Day


I acknowledged
I wanted

to take action
to do something

as the woman
began collecting

my hair clippings
but I was too scared

to ask what
she was

doing instead
of having me pay

she explained
herself & told me

she was making
her husband

a new toupee out
of my hair & therefore

out of me she
liked my hair

but I don’t
understand how

she can just
make a toupee

out of a stranger’s hair
logistically & without asking

especially considering
law & risk of disease

in the future
when she makes

love to her husband
in my hair will she

think of me
as she climaxes

or alternatively
will my non-

existent lover
think of the man

he passes on the street
with my hair on his head

these questions are
bothering me

in a way not unlike
the questions:

when will Graham
get home & when

will I stop eating food
my body can’t digest

& when will this pimple
on my forehead disappear

tonight I am alert
& questioning

most of what I know
to be honest

I would like
the answers

now but need to
be more patient

in a poem I once wrote
that Kmart came to me

(though it was actually
I that went to Kmart)

& gave me
answers & solutions

to all my questions
but someone told me

I should stop
writing about Kmart

& start writing
about real issues

which made me
laugh & ask

about the difference
between the two

what I didn’t tell
her was that the poem

about Kmart was actually
a poem about sadness

but I tell myself poems
about sadness are worthy

of eye rolls in a bad way & I
don’t want to be given anything

in a bad way so instead
I wrote a poem about Kmart

which is where
I used to buy

antidepressants when I was sad
in the clinical sort of way

I wish now that I had asked
the person against Kmart

poems what I should write
about to make her happy

my mind drifts
to the time Jack Kerouac

told Frank O’Hara
he was ruining American poetry

& Frank smiled while saying
“that’s more than you

ever did for it” & like
the diva he was walked away

from the microphone & though
this person never told me

anything that extreme
& though I am awful

at comebacks & even
though I know how

inappropriate it is to compare
myself to Frank O’Hara

in literally any regard
but especially this

I’m having a day
& will do what I please

 

 

 

 

Colin Drohan is from Chicago and lives both in New York and on Twitter @colindrohan.

Paradise


When the telephone rang,

whether early morning or

mid-afternoon, she was the

one who answered, and took

care to sound exactly as

though she’d just woken from

napping. It colors the

sleeping child’s imagination.

I’ve said that time designs the

ornament that suits it, and

this has everything to do with

how a life gets organized for

love. Similarly, the stack of

papers disappeared from the

table before anyone could

reasonably have filed them,

but who would steal a stack of

blank forms printed on

recycled paper. But if activity

is irritation. Think of the tiny

bush bird. It isn’t coffee, it’s

tea. In the afternoon heat my

thoughts drift, I think of

friends far away, struggle to

focus on the movement of my

children away from, towards,

and upon me where I sit in a

green lawn chair, listening to

the screen door slam

upstairs.

 

 

 

 

Andy Stallings lives, teaches, and coaches cross country running at Deerfield Academy in Western Massachusetts. His first book of poems, To the Heart of the World, came out with Rescue Press in 2014, and other poems from Paradise can be found around the internet.

Paradise


Though only a few miles

further east, she thought of

herself as nearer to the sun.

Faulty logic is nothing like

faulty piping. The tower’s

steps, dark and cool. But why

should an eighth-grade

understanding of temperature

suffice, ergo language, ergo

empathy. The children

troubled the ducks, no matter

the children, never mind

the ducks. With water

in mind, with water at

heart, we set out walking

south and arrived at water.

The door stood open,

allowing warm air from the

deck to mix with cooled air

from the house in a sort of

floating estuary navigated by

bugs. Sudden noise was

usually a timer buzzing or

beeping, which someone

slapped shut or off.

 

 

 

 

Andy Stallings lives, teaches, and coaches cross country running at Deerfield Academy in Western Massachusetts. His first book of poems, To the Heart of the World, came out with Rescue Press in 2014, and other poems from Paradise can be found around the internet.

Paradise


She eats the slice of cake

slowly over three mornings,

stores it in the refrigerator, a

few bites each breakfast,

savors the lingering sense of

“getting away with it,”

frosting first and frosting last.

Between one city park and

another. Where there were

morning birds, we always

found rocks, always found

water, always found bushes

and trees. In the dignified

room, their behavior was

anything but. The curtains

separated light but didn’t

block its entrance. Nor ought

it, in his opinion at least. It

troubles the poinsettia in the

lobby. And any longer we

didn’t need to set our kitchen

up before we cooked, though

only as of late.

 

 

 

 

Andy Stallings lives, teaches, and coaches cross country running at Deerfield Academy in Western Massachusetts. His first book of poems, To the Heart of the World, came out with Rescue Press in 2014, and other poems from Paradise can be found around the internet.

Paradise


A downpour slips beneath the

lesser rain, colorfast and

anonymous. I hold the

freshest water in my cheeks,

as though to attract your

door to summer, let it swing

loose in its harness. My mood

won’t hold its decline after

dark, this is called affection.

Maybe a sister treads beneath

the canopy of your sleep. The

rainbow’s mark is faint as

waking, rails to clinch a

gradual rumination. Will

shallows rise to any air,

bumping repeatedly against

fields plowed and flooded

that reflect your flashing sails,

behind them a sheen they

don’t yet contradict.

 

 

 

 

Andy Stallings lives, teaches, and coaches cross country running at Deerfield Academy in Western Massachusetts. His first book of poems, To the Heart of the World, came out with Rescue Press in 2014, and other poems from Paradise can be found around the internet.

Paradise


The value of tolerance for

paradise varies depending on

the tolerance, the paradise.

That was a dusty road,

though freshly planted

with crops along each side.

The flat rock denotes childish

anticipation, the jewel-filled

rock is for flight. What do

you mean, diminished. How

one “navigates the blemishes”

of others is what makes one

human, and in this sense at

least, a human is a stylus.

Rhythm, however, floods

through meaning, mostly. A

real effort to see the sun has

not relieved the weight of

beauty even a little.

 

 

 

 

Andy Stallings lives, teaches, and coaches cross country running at Deerfield Academy in Western Massachusetts. His first book of poems, To the Heart of the World, came out with Rescue Press in 2014, and other poems from Paradise can be found around the internet.