Updated: Jan 30
In this issue, we feature
poetry by Robert Cataldo,
poetry by Mary Warren Foulk,
poetry by Moskoula Harisiadis,
poetry by KateLynn Hibbard,
poetry by Janet Joyner,
poetry by Briana Peterkin,
poetry by Jendi Reiter,
poetry by Deon Robinson,
creative nonfiction by Richard Schulein, and
poetry by Nicolas Teixeira
Provincetown in Winter
It’s dark out along the street
but the small groups
in the restaurant
seem cheerful and bright,
the happier tone of summer
On the streets
—now so much clearer—
of all who have died.
Back in our room
we turn up the heat
and take off our clothes.
The spirits rattle the windows,
knock, peek in
and all through the night
we hear them
—they, too, remember
what love was like.
Copyright © 2020 by Robert Cataldo.
The man who first made love
gently, as I recall,
without undue pain
—a favor asked—
obliged me with a laugh,
a warm forehead pressed against
Death, remember his kindness.
Take him now,
if you haven’t already,
or in the few short years to come
over that threshold
as he once had ushered me.
Copyright © 2020 by Robert Cataldo.
About the Author
Robert Cataldo is a novelist and poet, whose work has appeared in Bay Windows, Zone, a feminist journal for women and men, and several issues of Backspace, among others. A short short of his was published by Alyson Press in their anthology The Day We Met. His poem Ancient Find was published in Gradiva, International Journal of Italian Poetry, 2014. A travel essay of his on visiting the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy’s flat in Alexandria, Egypt is being featured currently in Thoughtful Dog. Robert lives in Providence with his partner of forty years.
Mary Warren Foulk
The Inventory of Fumbling
—A Response to Inventory, by Carmen Maria Machado
Two girls and a boy, seventh grade. I scribble your names next to small hearts and sparkly rainbows, on posters of teen idols and tiny kittens, centerfolds taken from cheap magazines targeting 10-14 year olds with their own awakenings to lust. I stare at their angles from a narrow bed, by the drafty window with daisy curtains and yellow trim. At night, I add more hearts, a feverish red, and singsong your names quietly, like a sultry lullaby, behind a closed door. I want to kiss and hug you, so unsure of the flutterings of this new ache, my searching fingertips. I like the feel of your smiles each day at school, the slight touch of your hair when I sit behind you in class, your smell like fabric softener and chocolate and fresh cut grass. I plaster your names like wallpaper, but my mother redecorates one morning after the school bus departs.
The locker room, high school. It’s best to keep my eyes down. Which is hard to do, after practice, in the showers with other young women like me, growing into their own curves and breasts and pubes, their arms and legs taut from training and wear, their skin golden from hours under a spring sun. The longing I feel for this team, for the daily practice, for the wins and losses, for our near familial embrace. And the captain, my god, like a gazelle dancing across an open plain, so unaware of her own prowess, her own agile beauty. It is confusing to want more from the quick hug before play. Confusing to feel another’s gaze along my body, as I wash away the day, as I slowly dress and undress. I memorize her name.
The dorm boyfriend, college. Is it sex if you can’t remember it? The midnight beer and pawing and cracks of morning light. The search for soiled clothing. Scrambled eggs and burnt toast. Maybe a final kiss, some hungover tongue before good-byes. Each weekend, on repeat. It’s what you were taught. It’s what you felt you had to do. He doesn’t notice when you spend more and more time with your roommate. You are assumed to be his, not hers. She fills your mind, as he pounds away, as you orgasm to the prayer-like mouthing of her name.
That girl, graduate school. The Child Psychology professor says, “Pick a partner,” and our eyes meet across a narrow table. It was as if he knew. After class, she asks me to go dancing. That night, I pick her up at her apartment in Spanish Harlem; she is wearing gold sequins and nothing else. I freeze while she whispers in my ear, “I like you.” I suggest a back rub and watch as she goes places I never thought possible. In the morning, we feel the sun traipse across our tangled bodies and then write poems while eating cereal. Mine is about cartography and exploring new worlds—hers, like an e.e. cummings, about the taste of wild blueberries coated in Maine dew.
About the Author
Mary Warren Foulk, a graduate of the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, lives in western Massachusetts with her wife and two children. She is an educator, writer, and activist. Her work has appeared in VoiceCatcher, Cathexis Northwest Press, Yes, Poetry, the Arlington Literary Journal (ArLiJo, Gival Press), and Palette Poetry, among other publications. She also is thrilled to be part of the (M)othering Anthology (Inanna Publications) and My Loves: A Digital Anthology of Queer Love Poems (Ghost City Press).
she was going
she had got a start she went on
I asked her
to be together.
She kept pecking at me.
I most wished the
stars were shining
trying to whisper
a sound like a ghost makes.
I had some company
the clothes off of me
a little lock of my hair
to keep witches.
Copyright © 2020 by Moskoula Harisiadis.
About the Author
Moskoula Harisiadis is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with an MFA in Poetry, and she received a BA from Barnard College with a major in English and Creative Writing. She designed and letterpress-printed two books of her original poetry, The Blackness and the Bird and Epigenome, while at the Iowa Center for the Book. Her writing appears in Where We Live: The 2010 Girls Write Now Anthology and (R)evolution: The 2016 Girls Write Now Anthology. She currently teaches English at LaGuardia Arts High School.
Consider my left hand, second finger from the left, the bare one, the one without the wedding ring, which I lost last October after taking it off at the gym. Months later I still feel bad about it and I don’t know why, since I am plenty married, with or without it. It was a sweet ring, a little plain, though not as plain as my mother’s thin gold band, which I hope to hell was not bequeathed to me or else I’ve lost that too. It was not a traditional ring with the diamond and so forth, but silver and shaped like the Sawtooth Mountains. When we bought our wedding rings we started wearing them immediately, months before our actual, legal wedding, had to take them off to put them on again during the ceremony. This struck me as absurd—about as absurd as two middle-aged queers being forced to wait fifteen years to be married in the first place. At first I liked theirs better than mine, but we didn’t want the same ring, being the two singular people that we are, yet I came to love mine over time, its calm face, the silver burnished with wear, a few nicks from when I was careless with my hands, which still feel very bare without it. Last year a tan line marked where the ring should have been, the groove worn into my finger, skin shiny and soft and a little broken down. This year you would never know that I’d had one at all, and forty years after watching Harold and Maude I finally get why she threw hers into the lake, saying “Now I’ll always know where it is,” instead of looking at every gum wrapper in the parking lot, still hoping it will turn up again, some day.
Copyright © 2020 by KateLynn Hibbard.
About the Author
KateLynn Hibbard’s books are Sleeping Upside Down, Sweet Weight, and Simples, winner of the 2018 Howling Bird Press Poetry Prize. Editor of When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwest Experience, she teaches creative writing, composition, and women’s history at Minneapolis College, sings with One Voice Mixed Chorus, and lives with many pets and her spouse Jan in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
You never promised
to love me. Never said
you would, but did swim
your scale-less pores
up-stream with me
against the tide,
mixing our sun-sucked
waters, a wet mist
rising like clouds
to escape gravity.
Copyright © 2020 by Janet Joyner.
About the Author
Janet Joyner’s Waterborne won the Holland Prize in 2016 and was followed by Yellow (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Wahee Neck was published in 2019 by Hermit Feathers Press, which will release her fourth collection, Now Come Hyacinths in 2020, and Omohundro’s Siding in 2021.
Darkness is the only friend
I had in my life
It knows all my secrets
It knows all my lies
It taught me when I'm bad
It holds me when I'm sad
It listens to all my thoughts
It listens what I talk
So tell me why?
Why do I need light
When darkness makes me smile
Light can make you dark
But in darkness you can shine
Only darkness you can shine
Copyright © 2020 by Briana Peterkin.
I'll never know
Every morning I wake up
With the incident
Replaying in my head
I can't wait until the day
I go to bed
And have sweet dreams instead
I keep asking myself
Is there something I did
To add to your frustration?
Or maybe something
I could've done to help
You have the revelation
That suicide was
Not the answer
Not the way to go out
But it's too late
What's it's done
In this life
I'll never know
Copyright © 2020 by Briana Peterkin.
About the Author
Briana Peterkin lives in Aurora, Colorado. Briana, an inspiring author who has autism, wants to let people know that people with autism can do anything.
Nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize
handlebar mustache one door down from Excellent
Dumpling House— a barber shop styled
Made Man. Cruising West 23rd Street.
What are you holding? What are you packing? Kill
a cigarette, blow out a teardrop
tattoo on his neck of licked muscle.
A needle in the thigh, a needle
between toes, joints, anywhere hair won’t grow to
cover the blue pipelines to the heart.
Effects may include a thickening
of the voice, greased skin erupting
zits like his stoop’s bullet-strafed bricks.
Today you are
made man, tonight boy
face-down keening the ancient prayer. Made man
with a prescription, with a razor
or a creed. Effects
found in his pocket: cardboard Iglesia
Santa Maria incantation with a heart-hole
their gold-bearded messiah points out like blood’s
monthly betrayal between his legs.
and was made
man or god barely of an age
to shave, that mirror-ritual of boys
aping the father,
making their bones
Copyright © 2020 by Jendi Reiter.
About the Author
Jendi Reiter is the author of the novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, 2016), the short story collection An Incomplete List of My Wishes (Sunshot Press, 2018), and four poetry books and chapbooks, most recently Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree, 2015). Two Natures won the Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction and was a finalist for the Book Excellence Awards and the Lascaux Prize for Fiction.
the time to doubt if love is real
— after Ariel Francisco
When I first came
to terms with men in
my dreams, I couldn’t
stop thinking what if
my father knew 15 years
in advance that I would
disappoint him? My parents
split shortly after I came
into the picture,
suddenly all my scoldings
torn in half. The sweetness
of wounds that would
never happen. Now, my father
could mistake my words
The past if anything:
a tone of voice, my word’s brittle
ascension up my throat.
Better delivered than
departed, is what I tell myself
Copyright © 2020 by Deon Robinson.
About the Author
Deon Robinson is an Afro-Latino poet born and raised in Bronx, New York. He received his B.A. in Creative Writing from Susquehanna University, where he is the two-time recipient of the Janet C. Weis Prize for Literary Excellence. Visit: https://linktr.ee/djrthepoet.
Visit this author's homepage at https://linktr.ee/djrthepoet
Nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize
“Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves”
So, this was the plan . . . . There was a train, sort of a phantom train that sometimes operated; sometimes didn’t. We would find out once we got there. It supposedly departed once a week to take passengers from the far hinterlands of Iran to the near hinterlands of Pakistan. Yes, around Afghanistan. But miss Afghanistan? Miss the land Alexander the Great had reached? Miss the Khyber Pass? “Well,” said Wolfe, “there’s always the way back.” Could I plan that far ahead? When would the way back be? And where? And how? I already had a small idea that I might just keep traveling East till I got back home, my tenuous home, California, but it was just an idea, not a plan.
Our plan, said Wolfe, was to take a bus from Teheran to Isfahan, a place I had heard mention many times already. Isfahan alluded to the former greatness of Persia and contained a wealth of archeological treasures. From there we would take another bus through the Iranian desert to the town of Kerman and, finally, another bus to Zahedan from where the train would depart on its 450-mile journey to Quetta. If ever a trip were off the beaten track, this was it. It was all new to me; all were romantic sounding names, but miss Afghanistan? I thought about it.
Yes. The Quetta Express was for me! Where do I sign up? When do we leave? “Well,” said Wolfe, “ It’s Saturday and the train leaves Wednesday at dawn. We leave here tomorrow, as early as we can.” Eight o’clock the next morning we were on a bus for Isfahan. About seven hours through the desert were needed to get there. It was mostly desert or semi desert. Not much to see except more camels. These had one hump. Why are camels so captivating? There were villages that seemed to be made of mud sinking into the ground. They were adorned with camel patties stuck to the walls, drying. The best part of the trip was lunch at a small-town outpost. It was goat stew with potatoes, and it was spectacular. Years later my palate still recreates that dish. Isfahan was beautiful. Like an oasis it was dry all around, but within there was plenty of vegetation. It was a joy to walk the streets.
Today, I cannot remember what I saw, just the feeling of being surrounded by history. We were only there for a couple of hours. I was dying to see everything from ancient Persia; all the palaces and fortifications, but our next bus whisked us away before we saw any important monument. The day/night bus to Kerman would get us in at 4 a.m., much worse for the wear. We slept, read, talked, and stared at the endless dry terrain. Wolfe told me bits of his story. He was a postman in rural central Germany. His job paid well without much stress. Every couple of years he was able to take time off without pay and go on extended trips. It sounded like a good life to me. He had family who lived far away, no wife or girlfriend. He was in love with American culture of the 1960s. He knew the lyrics of so many songs that I was in constant amazement. We had a lot to talk about.
All I can remember about Kerman is the waste of 10 hours waiting for the bus to Zahedan. Not only was there nothing to do in Kerman, there was nowhere to do it. After all the beauty we saw in an hour and a half in Isfahan, the dreariness of Kerman was disheartening.
It was Tuesday evening when our bus finally got into Zahedan. It wasn’t too much of a hike to get from the bus station to the train station. Around a corner and two blocks down. We walked into the station to ask for information about our train to Lahore. The waiting room was empty; the ticket booth was empty. It was an empty station. However, there was a single train on the farthest track. We could see people on the platform, so we went over to ask. A sign on the last car read ’Servants’ according to Wolfe. We found two young guys who, as luck would have it, were waiting for the same train. In fact, they told us, it was this very same train we were standing next to. It was leaving at 6 a.m. and we could get our tickets, as they had, from the ticket seller sitting at a folding table at the far end of the platform. All of this discussion transpired in perfect, but accented, British English. The two guys, it turned out were Pakistani students, studying in the UK and going home on their summer break. We made an immediate connection and they walked us over to the ticket seller so we could buy tickets in the same carriage as them. Tickets bought and seats procured, we then learned that we could now board and wait in the train till it left. No need for a bed for the night, just a free seat. The boys were called Golan and Richard and once we boarded and got to our carriage, there were two other friends of theirs waiting, Osman and Tamir. The first two had met the other two here at the train station, but they got along as if they were lifelong friends. They welcomed us into their coterie, immediately. The first order of business with our new friends was to break bread. Wolfe and Golan volunteered to go out to buy supplies for the trip.
When they got back and we had a feast of vegetables, flat and very huge bread, and something fried, of dubious origin. It didn’t matter. We were hungry and we ate. And we talked half the night. There was nothing else to do. Golan was an Asian from South Africa, a middleman. Not White, not Black. Not liking being inferior to the Whites of South Africa, but glad to be superior to the Blacks, to have something to protect. His father was Indian, his mother Turkish. His grandparents had immigrated. He told us a story of having a rented motorbike stolen in Corfu. He cursed the cops and the owner who colluded to force him and his friends to pay £20 each. He, himself was studying in Pakistan, but he hadn’t gotten a visa to return, so he was depending on his student status to get him through Immigration. Richard was telling him to hide out in the train during the immigration process. Golan demurred. Richard was a Roman Catholic Pakistani who spoke fast and intelligently, claimed he was only 20, but wasn’t. He had an engineering degree and wanted to study in the states, as I am sure one day he did. He seemed bold enough to do what he said. Richard had tried to sneak into Germany, but the Bulgarians stopped him and put him in jail for 2 days for not having papers. He lost his money and was now returning home. He called Golan a snob, but it was only projection. He was a little too concerned about fashion to be sincere about his progressive ideas. Osman was a happy-go-lucky Pakistani with a British passport who had spent 9 years in Great Britain as a TV repairman. Tamir was his friend and very quiet.
We stayed glued to our compartment in the train in the event that it would start the journey without warning. We couldn’t sleep on the hard benches. So, we talked. They told us about living in London on pitiful allowances or wages; having the worst diet imaginable with little or no fresh fruit or vegetables and of their trip across Europe, mostly through Eastern Europe to save money. Most of all, they told us about home: their Pakistan. Osman and Tamir were from Lahore, Richard was from Karachi. The way of life in Pakistan as they talked about it was just as foreign to Wolfe and me as London was to them. There seemed a joy in the air emanating from all the boys when talking about Home. Only Golan was a bit apprehensive. He lacked the right papers. “What would he do?” we asked. “We’ll see”, came one answer and “Hide,” came another. That was all that was said about that. Sometime during the night, we all fell asleep sitting, with legs resting on suitcases.
At 7:30 am sharp the train jerked forward, and we were off! Not very fast, though. We chugged along through the dry surroundings at a respectable 20 miles an hour. I calculated the 400-mile journey to Quetta would take us 20 hours, maybe more. We would arrive in the wee hours of the morning. At 8:00 am the train stopped at the Irani-Pakistan border for the customs and passport check. I had my Pakistani visa and so did Wolfe. The boys seemingly were OK. We were leaving Iran. The conductor walked and told us to stay seated. Everyone stayed put. The boys knew what the command was about and so did Wolfe and I followed his lead. It was a comfort that he knew what to expect. We were a good pair of traveling companions. He wanted to learn everything about American life from me because he wanted to visit there next and I wanted to learn about the countries we were in and traveling to next: Iran, Pakistan, and India. Our conversation never slowed down or became boring.
Everyone groaned. Would there be a full baggage check? Did they think we were escaping with national treasures? Most important of all: would we lose our seats and compartment? It took us a couple of hours to get answers to all our anxieties. What happened was nothing. We stood outside until they called us into the customs shed, 4 at a time. They asked a few questions, but mainly just grunted. Where had we been? What had we bought? There was no baggage check: Just something to do with their time, to justify their sinecure. By 10:30 we were on our way, again. The morning had just begun.
Now, we went slower than ever. It took us about 10 minutes to negotiate the 500 meters of No Man’s Land between the two borders. Again, we stopped. Now we had to enter Pakistan. Once again, out of the train with luggage. I didn’t mind with my puny backpack. However, 3 of our 4 companions were weighed down with heavy suitcases. They were bringing home gifts and whatever goods were unavailable in Pakistan. All except Richard—traveling light. In front of a square building with small windows and large doors we were made to line up in the sun, which by now, was blazing. The building was totally isolated. There was no road leading to it, nor were there cables for telephones or electricity. There must have been 200 people on that train. They were mostly men. The few women were each attached to a man, a husband, I supposed. Half were in local dress and half wore western clothes. Quite a number of them were carrying large bags or cases of various goods to be sold later. The bags seemed to have clothing, while the cases had various tools and utensils that we had seen when they were opened. Wolfe and I were the only Westerners.
We were ushered in and it took us a minute or two to get used to the darkness with dust swirling in the light from the tiny windows. I looked around. We seemed to have fallen down a rabbit hole into the 19th century. Not a light anywhere except for two oil lamps. The walls were lined with shelves containing book-like files with odd bits of paper sticking out, bound with ribbons in true British bureaucratic tradition. The passport controllers were police in crisp uniforms. They checked our visas and asked us why we were entering Pakistan. It was as if they were saying “show us why we should let you in.” It felt like Colonialism without the Colonizers. Then, they asked how much money we had. Luckily, Wolfe had warned me of this question because neither of us had the required amount. What we did was to combine our money and after the first of us showed the money, he was to pass it, surreptitiously, to the other. It worked, our passports were stamped, and we were through.
Then we were sent to the customs area. The customs agents wore white shirts, bowties, visors, and some type of garter on their sleeves. They looked like movie extras. Now we were in a smoky, dusty 1930s film noir. The atmosphere was tense, the faces, sullen. They held their single lamp in one hand while they went through our belongings with the other. They did this with everyone; everyone except poor Golan. The police kept him, and he did not get back on the train. Leaving felt like a prison exit office. We were allowed to carry our own possessions and we were handed back our passports. We walked out into the sunshine and had to shade our eyes. When I asked his friends, what would happen to Golan next, they could only shrug, only speculate. Then we saw him. With head bowed, Golan came over to say goodbye. He was being deported back to Iran. He would be their problem now. His own problem was he had no money. Could we help him so he could at least get to Zahedan? I gave him 40 Rupees. Who cares? He needed help and it wasn’t much, anyway. We say “Goodbye.”
By the time we left the customs shed we were ravenous. We had already spent 8 hours on our trip, yet we were hardly beyond the starting point. We still had a bit of bread left from the night before, so we weren’t going to starve. We boarded and went back to our original compartment, thankfully, still empty. Our Pakistani companions were especially lucky. They had hidden contraband under the seats. They checked and it was all there. Each of them had a package containing alcohol, cigarettes, and foreign currency. We were told all these items would have disappeared in the customs shed. Now we had plenty of time to wait and relax while the rest of the passengers were checked and searched. We kept hoping that Golan would reappear, but it was not to be.
It was 2:00 pm when the train jerked forward and slowly chugged out of the border area. I held my breath while it picked up speed, but it was a wasted effort. It did not pick up speed. It simply chugged forward slowly for a mile, maybe less, and stopped at the first station inside Pakistan, Taftan. This was a real station with lots of milling people, hawkers selling food, drinks, and religious baubles. Hungry, as we were, we got up to buy things, but Mohammad and Tamir sat us down again. We had to all stay put in our compartment in order to keep it for ourselves. At some point, they said, the train would fill up and we would have to allow others in, but not yet. When we protested that we would miss the food sellers and we were all hungry, they laughed. “Let the people find their seats and there will still be plenty of time to get food.” Prophetic or what? We were in that station for 20 minutes. And the next one, and the one after that. Our train was a local, stopping at each and every village with the hint of a station for the entire trip from Zahedan to Quetta. We had food stops, toilet stops (the train’s WCs were getting rank), telephone stops (the boys phoned their parents) and stops to let just one single passenger on or off. It was the ride of the century. We spent more time standing still than moving.
Gradually the look of the incoming passengers changed. Whereas in the beginning they were mostly dressed in Irani or Western type clothing, slowly more and more of them were dressed in (what I assumed was) native garb. The men wore loose fitting white trousers and tunics and the women billowy, colorful, dresses and scarves. I was seeing the pages of National Geographic come to life. Toward what I judged to be the midway point of the trip we had a particularly long stop of an hour. Wolfe and I were too tired to leave the train as Tamir and Osman did. They were gone quite a while and Wolfe and I were semi-napping as different people opened and shut our door, looking for a suitable compartment. They would look around, see lots of suitcases (the boys had 2 each) and ask how many we were. We would always include Golan in the head count to discourage our empty seats being taken. Tamir and Osman got back about 10 minutes after the train started, but we knew by now it was their style to mill about in the aisle before taking their seats. Twenty minutes later Osman sat next to me and half whispered in an agitated voice. “Did you see the two tall fellows who came in here a while ago then left very politely? Well they are tribals from the area and when they talked to each other, they had no idea that I could understand their dialect. My grandparents come from near here. Well, what they are planning is to run into our compartment, create a commotion, throw all our bags out the window, then jump out themselves. I know it sounds crazy, but it really is known to happen.”
Suddenly, I couldn’t swallow. “Well, what can we do?”
“The only thing we can do,” he said, ”is to confront them. I will do the talking—tell them that we know what they are planning and that if they don’t get off the train at the next stop, we’ll contact the military police who are posted at every station. But all of you must back me up. We must all be together, so they know that we are willing to protect ourselves and our things. One more thing, it’s possible they have knives.”
Having the least luggage, no camera or anything else of value, I knew I had the least to lose. I also knew that these three boys plus Wolfe were my traveling companions and needed my support as I needed theirs in this strange, new country. We all agreed to Salim’s plan.
This sort of action was beyond my ken. I usually avoided confrontation. From a young age I had never wanted to fight. In school the bullies always waited in ambush, wanting their victim to take the bait. So, I taught myself to see the signs and walk away. They could call me hurtful names if they wanted. I simply would not oblige. This was different. It was a clear-cut matter of right and wrong. I am not a fighter, but I had to stand up now. Yet, what if it didn’t work? We gave it no time for thought and got up immediately, left the compartment and found the two thieves lurking. There we were, facing two tall strong determined men of unknown resolve and backbone, with white smiling teeth and cinematic looks. Osman talked and the rest of us stared angrily. It was not an act; we really were angry. The strange language went back and forth between Osman and the two men. They finally backed down, not liking the odds of five to two and walked away. I couldn’t believe we had done that. I don’t know what I was expecting to happen. Osman and I stayed in the aisle watching them as they settled in the opposite end of the car. At the next station (which was very soon) we watched as they got off. We returned to the compartment before breathing a very deep sigh of relief. Wolfe’s breath was shallow and loud. I almost felt his heart pounding.
Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Slow as we climbed hills that took us higher and higher, always stopping at the smallest station. That was how the rest of the trip went: The ultimate local. Finally, 40 hours and 400 miles after it began, the trip culminated in Quetta, a quiet backwater then, now made infamous by the Taliban, and ISIS and others. Today, it is no longer an historical footnote. It is a refuge for fighters of differing allegiances. Bomb blasts today regularly destroy markets, mosques, hospitals, buses, a police academy. It is a battle ground where Shia meet Sunni; Baloch meet Pashtun and the Hazara call it “Hell on Earth.” It has the bad luck of being located at the crossroads of Baluchistan and the Pashtun tribal lands, of being too near Afghanistan for safety. When refugees need a place to go, when soldiers in Afghanistan’s interminable wars need a haven, they escape to Quetta. When these disparate elements meet in greater Quetta, hostilities break out.
Copyright © 2020 by Rick Schulein.
This is from a work in progress with a working title of The Open Road.
About the Author
Richard Schulein was snapped out of his reverie by his four companions who asked him to tell his story. What was there to tell? He looked around.
“I was born, I left home, and I’m still wandering. Obviously, that satisfied no one so I became a blabbermouth, proceeding with a story of being born in New York, of growing up in a German-Jewish family that was struggling to get out from under the post-war German shadow and become American. Or was it the Jewish shadow—that stigma of being different that nips at the heels of every Jewish person. Of course, my dad and I both played and fantasized Baseball. But that didn’t make us any more American or less Jewish. I looked at Silvio. My dad was also a taxi driver, and a good one, too. But he wanted something more and periodically left the wheel to become a salesman. That did not go as well but brought more status. My mom and brother were the Germanic part of the family. Mom was Germanic in her mannerisms and speech, while my brother was in his passion to organize and succeed. I digress. The New York struggle with its endless repetition of cold, snowy winters followed by hot city-baked summers ended with our move to California with its promise of the American dream; the absence of seasons; the absence of ethnic divisions for white people, at least meant that California, the Sunshine State, was the true, white melting pot. Nationality was ignored unless you spoke with an accent, unless you were Mexican or Oriental or Black or Jewish. We effectively traded the New York struggle for the California struggle. I should have understood when I opted out of the US permanently: You cannot outrun your own being. Again, I digress. Is that my real story? What story did I tell them, then? Certainly not this one. I did, however, talk for an hour and a half about my life. I had nothing to hide and just bubbled away about New York, California, Greece. What was in that tea?”
Schulein in an American expat who lives in Greece with his wife. He’s a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and taught English as a Foreign Language and owned a bookshop in downtown Athens for many years.
Ode for the birds
after Liberace on The Muppet Show
o god, already?
all that damn early & unearthly chirping—
that cheeping chirruping chorus w/ such conviction.
all that facing the great big burning wrecking-ball star,
bright-eyed, gaudy, & flashily feathered, like it was paradise.
all that burden, at the crack of dawn, in spring, on a Sunday?
i have been up all night long.
i AM sunburnt nocturnal dumb candelabrum
precociously holding onto lowly creatures’ warm lithe waxes.
i’ve taken foully to higher education, turbulent uppers, & born airs,
cherishing unguarded things like the thought of heaven, flouting
gravity strings, flourishing in savage undulating skies,
& chanting mechanical mating-ritual orgy sounds
whilst taking brumous good-luck seed
falling like ripe grand piano keys
from who the flock knows
i can’t identify.
all come & go
right over my head.
maybe one day
i’ll be *that guy.
one day i’ll remodel myself
into that brilliant-diamond-dust-eye guy
w/ absolutely no sweet tooth for pungent fruit
loom loops, & wake up right early to swallow down
plated sunny-side-up egg w/ forked chopsticks,
all arranged to sip on bitter sunlit percolations
over my Sunday-morning black & white
jazzy crossword puzzle, & i’d listen out
to the tuned sirens of nature & classify
sharp & flat duodene of birdnotes
knowing all impeccably intricate
warble by species name.
but i AM just
nom de plume babe
waiting for regurgitation.
Copyright © 2020 by Nicolas Teixeira.
About the Author
Nicolas Teixeira lives in New York City, where he obtained his MFA and now teaches. More work from his rainbow-connection collection can be found through his website: www.muppoems.com.