A black suit hanging on the back of the door
as if it were auditioning
for the part in an Edward Hopper painting.
The radio is playing something inappropriate,
and children are roaming the house, filling it
with their sad questions.
And in my hands a pair of shoes, bereft of shine,
like two dead birds
this ordinary polish will not bring back to life.
Joel Scarfe’s poetry has been featured in Acumen, The Rialto, The North, Interpreter’s House, Clementine Unbound (November 2016), and others. He lives in Bristol UK with the ceramicist Rebecca Edelmann and their two children.
I wonder what else I might have learned
had I not spent so much of my childhood
memorizing the names of Old Testament books
in their exact order.
Habakkuk. I always fumbled the pronunciation,
but no matter—I needed only to spell it correctly
for the Bible Studies test, and the teacher
didn’t dwell on that particular book anyhow.
Scripture sprouted from the nooks and crannies
of our house: King James Versions, New Testament
pocket-sized editions, easy-to-understand translations
complete with illustrations
and my late grandmother’s personal Bible
in which she wrote:
I have read the whole Bible through in 1987.
I am reading the Bible through again in 1988.
I have read the Bible through in April 1989.
On and on, the tally scrolls down the page.
I recognize the obsessive behavior I inherited;
that same terror of being cast into hell
licked at my heels for twenty years.
When I moved out and found a place of my own,
I refused to take a single Good Book with me,
not even the one engraved with my name
and bearing the date of my salvation.
M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in San Pedro River Review, SOFTBLOW, Calamus Journal, and numerous other print and online journals. She can be reached at writermstone.wordpress.com.
What They Do Not Know Is
That a shut bedroom door offers no protection
That she spies mummy’s necklace of black-blue fingerprints
That she’s stinky-knickered cause the Frightened seeps out
That whispered times-tables help her push back the dark
That she’s learning her worth and what to expect
That the brighter her smile, the emptier her eyes
That the playground bullies sniff out her loss
That she shares what little she has to be liked
That her pencil sharpener blade exhales lines on her thighs
That she only feels real watching rivulets in red
That her life’s mapped out as one-way streets, dead ends
That she will love them just the same, and forget how to cry.
Stephanie Hutton is a writer and clinical psychologist in the UK. She has published her short-form work online and in print. In 2017, she was nominated for Best of the Net. Find her at stephaniehutton.com.
Two Dollars’ Worth
Mama cashed checks at the
local market and made deposits
to cover the checks she wrote
yesterday, because Papa didn’t
get paid until tomorrow. He
would get angry and make Mama
cry while she made fried eggs
for dinner. Mama would get
angry when Papa went to the
races. Once she threw a glass
pitcher at him as he ran down
the back stairs. But he hit a
big one once and bounded up
the stairs and said we were going
to the lake. I was falling asleep
in the back-seat footwell when
Papa pulled into the Esso station
and smiled at Mr. Riley. “Gimme
two dollars’ worth,” Papa said.
Somewhere upstate we pulled
off the highway, and mama pulled
clean clothes from a brown paper
bag as I shivered in the crisp
dawn air. Papa liked the lake’s
crystal-clear majesty, and Mama
liked counting ground hogs and
rabbits along the highway. Papa
found a cheap cabin for the night,
and Mama made us sandwiches.
Once, we went to Frontier Town.
I fiddled with a cowboy trinket
on the ride back through the
mountains. All that was left was
enough to get us home. “Gimme
two dollars’ worth,” Papa said.
William A. Greenfield is a writer of poetry, a part-time public service worker, a fairly good poker player, and a fairly poor golfer. He resides in Liberty, NY, with his wife, son, and a dog—always a dog. The winner of Storyteller Magazine’s People’s Choice Award in 2012, William has had poems published in dozens of literary journals, including The Westchester Review, Carve Magazine, The East Coast Literary Review, and many others. His chapbook, Momma’s Boy Gone Bad, was published in February 2017 by Finishing Line Press.