no. 36

quell

quench querulous quibbles,

quell quarrelsome questions

 

qualms quaking:

quit quivering!

 

quash queasiness…

quaaludes?

quickly!

quietude.

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flash fiction: beach creatures

Beach Creatures

Mama, I yelled, making a dramatic entrance, I saw an alien princess in the hall today!  I sprawled on the floor, my snowy boots making a puddle on the laminate flooring.  I was six years old, my hair a white halo escaping from my itchy woolen cap.

Mama came from the kitchen.  She had flour all over her black turtleneck and wet raw dough encased her hands.  They looked like strange molting insects to my eyes.  I wanted to pick the dough off and eat it, revealing her white fingers.

What did the alien princess look like?  Her eyes were serious as she rubbed her hands together, ignoring the slivers of dough that rained to the floor.  Did she have a crown?

I thought for a moment.  Yes, I answered, equally serious.  She has grey eyes and tree-colored skin, and her crown is silver wire.  I started to take my boots off.  It was so difficult and I felt like giving up.  But that’s not what six-year-olds do, I told myself, sounding like my mother.

Mama went back into the kitchen.  That doesn’t sound like anyone we know.  Your alien princess must not live here.  She went back to the bowl on the table and struggled with the dough for a few more minutes before pulling her hands away with a loud, sucking sound.

Later you can bake the bread.  I smiled, the holes in my mouth leaked air when I breathed.  I had lost four teeth this year and they were taking forever to grow back.  I finished removing the boots and wool socks.  Laying back on the floor and staring at the ceiling, I imagined my alien princess.  I knew she must live in our building because I saw her every afternoon when I came home from school.  But I said nothing to Mama.

The next day, my alien princess was outside of the building, throwing bags of trash into the dumpster.  The muscles of her strong arms were visible with each heave, and she had several bags.  I wondered how she could be so strong but so beautiful; maybe she was like a workhorse, I thought.  Horses were strong and beautiful at the same time.  She smiled at me.  Greetings, she said, as she tossed the final bag.  I have a lot of trash, don’t I–and it’s too cold to be outside without a coat, isn’t it?  I nodded, blowing air through the gap in my mouth.  I lost four teeth, I boasted.  I don’t know when the big ones will come in, and I have to chew with my side teeth all the time.  I tried to whistle for her benefit, but it only sounded like spit.  She laughed.

Each day after that first chat, I saw my princess, whose name was Cherie (I called her Cherry, but in my mind she was always my alien princess).  She would always have something interesting to tell me:  Something about the bird on her windowsill, or the cake she had with her coffee that afternoon.  I would tell her about my six-year-old life.  Sometimes I would ask her about her clothes or her hair, which often billowed out in an explosion of curls from beneath her woolen beanie.  Once, in a fit of bravery, I even asked her if she had antennae tipped with silver balls, like a Martian from TV.  She could barely contain her laughter, covering her mouth and looking sheepish when she snorted.

And then, strangely, I didn’t see her for a long while.  It seemed like months, but perhaps it was only days or a few weeks.  But I missed talking to my alien princess, Cherry.  Her cheery manner and bright clothing; the way her white teeth stood out against her the dark bark of her skin.  In my whole life I had never seen anyone like her.

One afternoon, my mother and I went to the lakeside.  The snow was still pretty thick on the ground, so she pulled me on the sled.  Every once in a while, mama would turn around and scold me:  Don’t drag your hands in the snow.  Sit forward so you don’t fall out.  You know when you do that it hurts my back.  You’re very lucky that I pull you so you don’t have to walk.  I didn’t really listen to mama.  I was looking at the lake and wondering if the water under the snow was frozen.  Okay, okay, mama, I yelled, both so she would hear me and also so she would stop complaining.  It was hard being six years old.

Mama stopped near our favorite bench.  It was covered in a thick and crusty bar of white snow, so frozen that I could sit on top without breaking through.  My overalls and coat were soft and stiff at the same time as I tried to scoot back.  I didn’t feel like playing, and mama didn’t complain.  She pulled out a thermos of hot chocolate and a bag of little biscuits.  Your mittens are dirty, darling, she warned me, don’t eat the cookies with them on, I’ll feed you.  So she pulled off her gloves and poured me a cup of the hot chocolate, which I could hold in my pawed hands.  After I took a sip, she popped a cookie into my mouth.  The sandy texture gritted in my back teeth and across my tongue.  I wished I could eat some snow to clean it away, but I dutifully drank from my cup instead.

There on the far side of the park at the playground near the iced-over swimming beach, I saw someone moving.  The person was dressed in black snow pants and a red jacket.  A bright blue hat for a crown.  Dragging snow, piling it high in oddly shaped cylinders.  Grabbing spindly sticks that had fallen to the ground beneath the bare trees.  From a bag an eruption of brightly colored hats and scarves, mittens that dangled from the twiggy arms on the tubes of snow.  The person was very careful, taking time to compare combinations of colors.  I smiled at the sight, the ghosts of my missing teeth twinging with nerve pain in the cold air.

The person looked up.  Eyes sharp and full of humor.  It was my alien princess, and she waved when she saw me.  I waved back.  I turned to my mother.  See mama?  That’s the alien princess over there.  She’s building a gaggle of snow people.

A gaggle?  Isn’t that a group of geese? My mother laughed, and I was surprised because she laughed so rarely.  And where’s this alien princess?  I turned back to see Cherry, but she had disappeared behind the trees, leaving the silent snow creatures in their riot of color.  I dropped my cup of hot chocolate, my boots sinking into the snow as I tried to run the short distance between the bench and the vanguard of the gaggle.  As I neared them, their button eyes winked at me, their stubby carrot noses dripped snow.

My alien princess was no where to be seen.  After much discussion and cajoling, mama managed to get me back into the sled and we went home in silence.  I wondered if I would ever see Cherie again.

The snow finally melted, but Cherie never came to the beach to collect her snow creatures’ clothing.  I picked up my favorite set and hid them in my closet to remind me of those months.

Not too long after that, I had my seventh birthday and my teeth grew in.  They were straight and sharp.

 

(written 8 february 2018)

no. 35

is it strange?

i believe in writing poetry

about feelings never experienced;

curiously it’s possible:

just reach into your imagination

and conjure them up

they are rough and shapeless

at first, but then

peel away their layers

polishing or sanding

their imperfections until

they’re indistinguishable

from their authentic

counterparts

use them to conduct

an exorcism, preemptively

exiling, preventively

inoculating

until you are immune.

(written 16 november 2017)

no. 34 i don’t usually get political, but…

does america belong to everybody?

an amalgamation of all that is

human and not

holy and not

thoughtful and not

humane and not

 

today i saw liberty appropriated

and made into something

torn apart

your head could fit inside her thumb

 

the stripes were reduced

to red and white lines

stretched thin and tenuous

but dangerous

separating family members

the stars sharp barbs

corralling them

dehumanizing them

segregating them by race, ethnicity

by “nationality”

 

but we are all america

aren’t we

reduced to highly consumptive

mouths

perfected navel-gazers

blind to the rest of the world

 

everything that is anything

comes from america

i say this without irony or pride

but embarrassment

even the things that are born elsewhere

and we find those things remade in our image

ruined, reduced, fractured

at uncivil war

 

take each piece and

share it

the apple pie of america’s image

is overly sweetened

and falling apart

 

i’ll decline.

(written 8 february 2018)

mundane musing the seventeenth

two servings

of course, many have already written

an ode to this wonder of wonders in liquid form

imbibing carafes daily in homage;

me, i am unable to produce a single dose

instead, two servings steep in their vessel:

the first, tempered with cream

its aroma surprises me as i am greeted anew by

the steaming magical brew

extracted from regions near the equator;

i trace origins from names

sumatra, ethiopia, brazil

my mind wild with exotic imaginations

activated by the senses

(i only pretend to be a connoisseur);

the second, lukewarm,

is my offering to the gods

sometimes i drink it in their stead

but usually it is untouched

until it becomes too powerful to risk consumption

dregs pepper the metal basin

when i pour it down the drain

with only mild regret, but unfortunate amusement

as i picture river fish frolicking

under the influence of caffeine

(written 16 february 2018)

mundane musing the sixteenth

plows

they grumble, rumble with their efforts

hydraulic joints, well oiled, still grind

straining, lifting, pushing

it is a marvel that they are able to dance gracefully

their gargantuan treaded wheels

biting into the sand-like snow

every move choreographed carefully by the driver

(we wouldn’t want any accidents)

demi-gods of winter,

they move drifts and hills

piling them into mountains

with a sisyphean tenacity

the children delight and bring sleds

we are at their mercy

we pray each night

and in the morning

they have heard our call.