Still Life

October 3rd, 2021

by Marianne Peel

For I have known them all already, known them all:
            Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoon
            I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

                           -from “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot



My beloved has mastered the artistry
of corralling his hair into a ponytail.
Blindfolded hairdresser, he crosses fingers
over and under, manipulating the elastic tie,
unable to view the proceedings
as he exposes his neck.

Tonight he reads Yeats out loud to me.
Cursed Adam knows this verse cultivating
is yeoman’s work:
     Better go down upon your marrow-bones   
     And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones   
     Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;   
     For to articulate sweet sounds together
     Is to work harder than all these.
Dirt gathers underneath my fingernails
as I dig in the muck of memory.  My beloved offers
shovels and trowels, tools to assist this unearthing of soil,
this aerating of clods of clay. I plant splintered popsicle sticks
in the dirt, hard scrapple words scribbled on them,
fodder for days that are just fog upon fog.

Tonight I read Pablo Neruda to my lover.
Let’s not speak in any language
let’s stop for a second
and not move our arms so much.
He tells me , “Quiet is a good place to be.”

His reading glasses came apart in his hands,
earpiece detaching.  Tonight
he wears my readers, purple frames
balanced on the edge of his nose. 

I offer him brie and fig jam.
Sugared pecans. 
There will be slices of nectarines,
crackers composed of cauliflower and chia seeds.
There was a time we read poems to each other every night.
He- enamored with sound and sense,
the smooth collusion of vowels paired with meaning,
of consonants blended with the severity of sound.
I- enchanted with sensory images,
the collision of sensuality and seduction,
of the tactile and the olfactory fusing at the base of the spine.

I have dressed all in white,
baked a bushel barrel of black cake,
slipped beneath Emily Dickinson’s skin.
I am his sullied bride, molasses stains on my apron,
flour on the tips of my wide heeled, sensible shoes.
He steams open my Letter to the World.
I want him to withhold judgement,
to open me with majestic tenderness.
I wait for a reply.  The post is fickle these days.
A letter could linger in a pile for days on days.

My hair is as long as it has ever been.
He smooths out the snarls with his fingers,
pulling at the roots.

I miss the splash of the pelican’s deep dive,
the blue heron still life on the edge of the dock.
I miss the wine and the whisky
while we predicted the colors of the sunset.
I miss keeping watch for Portuguese man o war,
our feet naked and vulnerable. 

Tonight, I will fall asleep on his chest.
I rehearse surreal stories as I doze off.
A cloud passes over the moon, cuts the moon in two.
A razor blade passes over an eyeball, cuts the eyeball in two.
I never knew the moon could bleed.
I never knew an eyeball could disintegrate.

My beloved tastes of fig jam and cracker crumbs.
Salty decadence,
I devour him all night long.







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A Gift from Zhino, the Kurdish Translator at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp: pt. VI.

October 3rd, 2021

by Marianne Peel



VI.

That next morning
I found the kittens huddled in a nest of grasses,
next to the olive tree.
Eyes open just a little, letting in the light.






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A Gift from Zhino, the Kurdish Translator at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp: pt. V.

October 3rd, 2021

by Marianne Peel




V.

It was then Zhino put her hand
on the small of my back
and guided me to the back room of the shop.
She pointed to a loose knit grey sweater on the floor,
right beneath men’s Arabic dresses. 

This is my crying place, she told me.
This is where I come when I need to cry,
when I cannot stop crying.
I will share my crying place with you.








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Winners of the 2021 !Short Story Contest!

September 6th, 2021



Never one to waste time,
the winners are:


GRAND PRIZE:

Safe Air
by Mike Wilson


RUNNER-UPs:

Snow
by Eris Young
&
Echo of Hollow Hooves
by Rachel Friedman


What a contest.

Some of our strongest writing, ever, and every single finalist received a Judge Vote. “Safe Air” was the run-away winner, with a vote from every judge, and three Grand Prize votes.


In the 75 days since we announced the finalists on June 14th, we have received 4,210 hits from 2,118 unique IPs.


Though Fan Voting didn’t have the usual turnout– there were only 63 cast!– the voting was especially interesting. We had a tie for the second runner up, so both received a half vote. Remember, each vote cast results in three votes, hence the screwy percentages…


FAN FAVORITES


“Safe Air”
by Mike Wilson
with 39 votes.


“Contiguity”
by Ale Malick
with 37 votes.


“Snow”
by Eris Young
with 27 votes
&
“Echo of Hollow Hooves”
by Rachel Friedman
with 27 votes


I told you vote often!

View How the Judges Voted

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Last 16 hours of Fan Voting 2021 !Short Story Contest!

September 4th, 2021

That’s right, you have but hour left to

VOTE

for your three favorite stories.

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A Gift from Zhino, the Kurdish Translator at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp: pt. IV.

September 1st, 2021

by Marianne Peel



IV.

And on that morning
Zhino asked about the mascara dripping down my cheeks.
Wondered why my eyes were swollen red.
I told her of the I’m sorry’s of the morning,
how I had no shoes
that fit the feet I held in the palms of my hands.






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A Gift from Zhino, the Kurdish Translator at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp: pt. III.

August 29th, 2021

by Marianne Peel



III.
And on that morning
Zhino, the Kurdish translator,
brought her mother into the shop.
Wanted to show me this matriarch
who had clutched the side of the raft
with all her strength and stamina
as they crossed the treacherous sea
between Turkey and Lesvos.

And on that morning
this matriarch would lay on a gurney
while the surgeon carved a tumor
out of her brain.





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A Gift from Zhino, the Kurdish Translator at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp: pt. II.

August 25th, 2021

by Marianne Peel



II.
And that morning
I had no shoes to offer
the family from Syria.
Had only flip flops three sizes too big
for the husband

       clownish shoes, good only for
       seeking a laugh
       from a choreographed stunt or fall.

And I had no maternity underwear
to offer the wife
whose belly swelled beneath her burqa.
And I had no hijab to offer.
The head coverings plastic bin was empty.

She desired a deep green hijab
with gold threads.
Wanted to drape the fabric
around her face, bring the green flecks of light
out of her eyes.

And I had no football shoes for the daughter,
who showed me how her left foot
was stronger than her right,
kicking an invisible soccer ball with one foot
then the other.

And I had no socks for the baby.
Toes cold before the morning sun
warmed everything,
even the rocks
at the roots of the olive trees.

On that morning,
I was bursting with no
in answer to everything this family needed.
My mouth was full of I’m sorry
and this is all we have
and I wish I had more to give you
and I’m sorry your feet are hurting
navigating all the rocks in this olive grove.
Shoes broken,
exposed feet spilling onto crooked rocks,
unable to gain balance. 

I could not keep my eyes from crying.
So many I’m sorry’s tumbled out of my mouth.






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A Gift from Zhino, the Kurdish Translator at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp: pt. 1

August 23rd, 2021

by Marianne Peel




1.

That morning
an orange tabby
darted out of the shoe room,
scrabbled over my feet.
and exited out of the back of the tent.

In the shoe room,
she had given birth to five kittens
and throughout the day
in between refuges seeking shoes and clothing
when translations from Farsi or Urdu or Arabic were silent,

the mother cat clenched her newborns
around the scruff of the neck
teeth sunk in just enough to secure the hold
and carried them out into the field behind the shop,
one by one.

By noon, she burrowed a nest of kittens in the long grasses.
There, the song of the mourning doves lullabied her babies to sleep,
eyes closed tight, secure and unafraid,
Mama feline standing guard,
ears pricked for intruders.







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Fan Voting is now open

August 22nd, 2021


Y’heard?



Vote Here
As our fresh content posts throughout the Fall, a link to the voting page will active on
our Retro Navigation Panel,
somewhere around







<——————— here.



Speaking of fresh content,
here is our Autumnal Publication Lineup:



Monday, August 23rd

A Gift from Zhino, the Kurdish Translator at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp pt. 1
by Marianne Peel


Wednesday, August 25th

A Gift from Zhino pt. 2


Sunday, August 29th

A Gift from Zhino pt. 3


Wednesday, September 1st

A Gift from Zhino pt. 4


Saturday, September 4th

FAN VOTING ends


Sunday, September 5th

A Gift from Zhino pt. 5


Monday, September 6th

Winners Announced for the 2021 !Short Story Contest!


Wednesday September 8th

A Gift from Zhino pt. 6


Sunday, September 12th

Still Life
by Marianne Peel


Wednesday, September 15th

Career Man
by Chantelle Tibbs


Daily Publication from September 19th until October 26th

Famous Last Wishes
by Tom Ball


Sunday, October 31st

Digital Halloween Party
with the Defenestrationism Team


Wed, November 3rd

Try and Be Kind
by Chantelle Tibbs




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