Sunday, December 18, 2011

Guest Review: Patricia Lee Lewis's High Lonesome

High Lonesome by Patricia Lee Lewis
Hedgerow Books/Levellers Press, 2011 
Reviewed by Claire Keyes 

Spinning worlds out of language, writers require us to attend, to read, to listen.   The best writers are also those who listen, whether it be to the speech of others or to the messages they hear in the language of leaves or rocks or ocean.   Patricia Lee Lewis enters that rank of skilled listeners with High Lonesome, her second book of poems.  In this book, Patricia forefronts the art of listening as a dynamic act of connection.

“Jazz,”an emotionally intense poem, enacts a scenario where a 21-year-old musician-daughter asks her mother to “listen to that” jazz.  But, more importantly, to listen to her say, “I am pregnant and I am not ready.”   The mother is non-judgmental and concerned.   Desperate, the daughter asks her mother’s help. “And you knew that I would,” the poet writes.   They leave the jazz club and walk home, “parts of one song, one knowing/ remembering, one telling, one listening.”   The narrative of this poem is interlaced with imagery from modern art (“Blues like Picasso’s blue figures”) and jazz (“high notes on clarinet, shrieks of the horn”) which help weave the strong emotions into a wider aesthetic tapestry.

In “The Reader,” the poet again becomes audience, this time for a six year old girl.   Attentive, she “listen(s) for the clues, how she’ll write the story/ of her life.”  The poet knows that “it’s up to [the girl] to choose/ which words to love and which to fear.”   In one of my favorite poems, “This Day of Being Born,” the poet writes of a woman who “speaks to herself” as she cooks some potatoes.   The poem evolves into a meditation on a beloved son who “went out” one day but “did not return.”   In her first book, Patricia Lewis also wrote about her son who committed suicide.  In this poem, she admits that she may have lost him, “but things/ he loved carried him to her as if he had asked them to.”   The poem then breaks into a lyrical passage about the very potatoes she is preparing:

                            Lovely, smooth, full of life, he is in you, she sings.
                     From the ground we dig and hold, we wash and boil,
                     we put you in a blue glazed bowl the color of his eyes,
                     we thank you and we thank the ones who brought you here.

The simple, homely task of preparing a meal becomes a sacramental act.   Once the potatoes are cooked, she puts butter on them, “lets [it] melt across smooth skins, watches pepper/ float in light/ pours salt into her palm and sprinkles/ as her father sprinkled holy water on her newborn’s head.” Reading Patricia Lee Lewis we learn to appreciate the simplest daily tasks.  She makes such duties magical.

“Kayak” takes on more adventurous material with the poet becoming separated from a loved one in her kayak.  In this poem she doesn’t listen because she can not hear.   She rues this: “if your voice had carried from the pier/ as through the one remaing seagull’s wings,/ perhaps you would have kept your place beside/ me in the sudden storm.”  Becoming separated from the voice she wants to hear, she grows desperate:  “drowning/ is the only sound, the cutting off of air/around your face, the silencing of movement/ toward me now.” Clearly, she has more adventure than she wants to deal with: “the kayak learns the river,/ and the heart the rushing cataract.”

Patricia Lee Lewis structures this poem beautifully, employing the device of a series of “Ifs” which function to build the necessary suspense.   The narrative elements are kept to a minimum, allowing the emotional material to take the primary position.   She’s not a story-teller; she’s a priestess of the heart’s passions.  In “Standing By Song,” she employs her voice to engage some standing stones, possibly in Wales where she locates another poem.  The woman in her poem comes to a “kneeling place between/ two great stones,”   Once there:

                                          . . .  she sends her voice,
                   low at first, the way she thinks a stone
                   might sing.   It reaches something original,
                   strong.   She feels it more.   The stones
                   begin to rumble in response.   She sings louder,
                   at the lowest frequency she has.   How else
                   to speak to them?  Something pushes
                   from within the standing stones; pushes
                   through her spine to make her stand,
                   make her start again.

What’s remarkable about this passage is its depiction of the power of the woman’s voice, so powerful that the stones listen.   Their listening and responding reinvigorates the woman.   She takes some of their strength into her own being: something “pushes/ through her spine.”  She no longer kneels; she stands.  

With this newly acquired strength, she offers herself to others in “Leopard Frog.”   Once again, she structures the poem around possibility with a series of “What ifs”:  “What if you should find me/ on a windy day, my body curled/ around a red oak trunk, my head/ at rest on granite, my hands in prayer.”  She encourages the “you” to notice what she looks like, to feel her cheek, to reach her hand inside her pocket and not to be afraid: “do not pull back, but pull within yourself/ and listen.”   Listening to Patricia Lee Lewis has its benefits:

                                 Perhaps you’ll hear the echo
                         of my voice, leopard frog, acorn,
                         panting of the bear, and you will rise
                         and walk to where the world
                         is waiting.  You will say, I found
                         a woman in the woods.
                         I left her there.

The engagement the poet offers is magical, just as this book is magical in its essence.   Become a good listener, she advocates, and the world will open to you.  As it has opened to her in these artful, compelling poems.   

Claire Keyes is the author of The Question of Rapture, a collection of poems. Professor Emerita at Salem State College, where she taught English for thirty years, she has also written The Aesthetics of Power: The Poetry of Adrienne Rich, published in paperback in 2009 by the University of Georgia Press.  Her poems and reviews have appeared in Calyx, The Valparaiso Review, and The Women’s Review of Books, among others.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hey, Guess What!

You probably guessed right, much appreciated readers, if you guessed that our Fall/Winter issue, Volume 3.2, is now available, just in time for your holiday reading pleasure.

If you haven't already, you can check it out right here.

And have a happy one!

Friday, December 2, 2011

New Issue Delayed, But Coming Soon

Our "Fall"/Winter issue will be appearing while it is still technically fall (astronomically if not meteorologically) but it will be a little delayed from when I was originally hoping for it to appear, by the first week of this month.

Aside from the server migration issue with the hosting service setting me back a full day's work or so, a shocking loss this week has made it difficult to focus on the work I had planned to do, and frankly, I've gotten pretty much nothing done in the last five days.

But as long as this annoying cold I'm fighting doesn't turn out to be the flu, with a little work this weekend and over the next week, hopefully the issue will launch by the end of next weekend, December the 11th.  It's going to be a pretty good issue, content-wise, I think, so I'm looking forward to being able to finally get it out there.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: Ann Cefola's St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped

St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped, by Ann Cefola
Kattywompus Press
, 2011
Reviewed by Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom

In her new chapbook, St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped, Ann Cefola begins by exploring the transformational potential inherent in the ordinary moments of a woman's life:  having girlfriends over on a summer evening, kissing her husband goodbye in the morning, enduring a long commute to a downtown job, shopping, getting a makeover, reading a daily horoscope, celebrating an anniversary.

As the collection progresses, the subject matter grows weightier, in poems that deal with loss, grief, and the capacity of human belief systems to address the more elusive mysteries of human existence. 

In "Girl's Night Out," the child-free hostess of a garden soiree for friends glad to be relieved for a night from the responsibilities of motherhood imagines her uterus "untraveled as a new triple-digit Interstate,/ a wide boulevard Hausmann might have built,/ tree-lined and unpopulated, a passage I walk every day,/ sometimes fast, blindly; other times singing,/ My avenue, my very own.

In "The Boys of Iona Prep," who spy on the narrator and her husband's goodbye kiss from a coffee shop window, a daily ritual is charged with new erotic significance:  "Mid-kiss I catch his eye — unblinking —/ and I am no longer being but body, marriage no longer a distant vow".

In "Dance in the City," the darker voices of the narrator's family history won't be silent even amidst the most joyous moment of her life:  

At our wedding, the dead, close as my lace stroking the red
church aisle, chanted:  Lovrien's breakdown over grandfather's
affair.  Great uncle's depression-era suicide.
My father soon dead from drink.

All my life, I read their lives like so many required
tragedies, the twists to come or avoid.  We were like
that painting by Renoir, me creamy fragile in your arms,
you all black poise.  Music and color blotted out their voices
and we danced.  Anniversary after anniversary.  I tell
the dead to return to their tombs, but they won't,
they want our breath, they call it inspired.

"Teint Pur Mat," a poem about the seemingly frothy topic of a woman's lifelong romance with cosmetics application, hints at something deeper in the epigraph, a French proverb which is translated, "It's hard to be pretty."

In that vein the poem closes, "To swim toward grace, she knew what must be applied."

The title poem takes its name from a news headline, "Hospital changes name to Westchester Medical Center, White Plains Pavilion" and finds the formerly eponymous saint forced to roam the grounds, looking for new employment.  "Now she understands the dilemma of the dying:/ how they don't want to turn their backs on/ the sun-edged bloom, how one human spring/ can ruin paradise."

"Kerning" offers a pause for comic relief from the more somber tone of the collection's later poems with a defense of the punctuation-followed-by-two-spaces convention, comparing the white space they create within a page of text to "Twin beds made up perfectly./ Binocular lenses that form one image.  Miles/ of thought after reading a billboard.  The weekend./ Systolic and diastolic pumps.  Good fences/ that make good neighbors.  A swim lane's/ quivering blue lines.  Deus/ ex machina", exclaiming in the next stanza, "Save/ the double spaces!"  (For the record, this reviewer agrees.)

"February" speaks movingly of death in winter:  "If you must escape,/ the angel of late winter counsels/ my comatose father, do it now/ before the strength of green reappears.// Do it now before light floods day,/ before hope pierces maroon tree buds./ Before you see the unboxable blue sky/ and believe in beginning again."

"After" lyrically examines the moment at which the enormity of grief begins to give way to a certain curious haunting by what remains of the deceased:

Behind the opaque glass.  Not memory, not
bone — but unspoken balloons in a cartoon,
what would have been said, certain times.

We were quick to get rid of the clothes,
and she has not appeared in dream.
But the jellyfish that follows

squooshes underfoot, takes in 
salt water and sunlight.
That harms no one.  That floats.

The luminescent edges of its circular spine.

Finally, "Velocity" depicts the moments immediately before death, when it still seems avoidable, describing the Kennedys in the seconds before the assassination:  "His square head, jacket bunched at the neck, her wide delight/ as she turns to the camera.  Joy fills their bodies like/ an anesthesia that will fail them./ There is a prayer that says// Shield the joyful."

Despite Cefola's ability to look squarely in the face of human vulnerability and the chasm of grief, the poems in "St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped" tend to wind up accentuating the positive, crystallizing the moments of joy, wonder and clarity to be found in even the most tragic or banal circumstances, but in a truthful way and in clear, graceful language, without resorting to the convenience of window-dressing.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Jessica Cuello's Curie

Curie by Jessica Cuello
Kattywompus Press, 2011
Reviewed by Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom

Jessica Cuello's debut chapbook, Curie, is a biographic poem cycle devoted to the Polish-French chemist, physicist and twice-honored Nobel laureate who became one of the most famous women of the 20th century.

Cuello's lyrically spare yet sensual narrative style is well-suited to the subject matter of a serious yet passionate woman who spurned frivolity and adornment and pursued her work with absolute rigor but who also loved deeply and was fearless in her intellectual curiosity.

Curie, as shown in these poems, was driven by enthusiasm for her life's work in chemistry and physics as well as by her devotion to her husband and lab partner, Pierre Curie.

Other pivotal events and catalysts in her life included the devastating early loss of her mother and sister, who died within a year of one another; her romantic disappointment when the son of a couple for whom she worked as a governess obeyed his parents' wishes to reject her because of her poverty; her lifelong loyalty to her father and her native homeland, Poland, for which she named one of the elements she discovered, Polonium; and an affair she had with a married colleague after the death of her husband which made her a figure of notoriety in the French press for several years despite her international acclaim.

Cuello treats all of these topics with an agile grace restrained by understatement.

In “Schoolgirl,” we read how the young Maria Skłodowska “stands for the Russian inspector” and recites the names of the czars while her Polish-language books lie hidden in her desk: “All my life there was a motion/ outside me, and under the desk,/ the saved page. I performed/ at will. My little arms grew.”

The poem ends, “Then it crystallized –/ our shelves were full of specimens,/ burning outward in the dark./ They could not be contained.

In the final part of “Casimir,” a poem about her early suitor's rejection, Cuello's narration dispassionately relays the young scientist's mindset as she embarks on her studies:

In Paris I arrived
without a girl's desire.

I used my memory
for facts. With a porous

mind I woke,
tin roof slanted

over me. Alone
I made my myth

with a cup
of tea and radishes.

In a poem about the miscarriage that ended Curie's second pregnancy, “Fifth Month,” Cuello writes:

The child had been living.
I knew her like the form
in a sideways glance,

like three words
in a whisper before sleep
not ordered for sense,

the way we know everything
somewhere: the salts we will find
at the bottom of the ore,

my husband awake
in the kitchen, stiff with pain
when my eyes open.

The next poem, “Pierre,” which evokes Curie's despondency after the loss of her partner and husband, begins by recalling the tenderness of earlier times:

Slow, careful
as words, you climbed

the steps our wedding night.
Fingers cradled the railing as I would cradle
your head – no one else

feels. Has ever felt.
I wish I had no daughters,
no work. No garish daffodils
in a cup of water.
I was an eye climbing the stairs.
My eye saw out of my chest,
my head heavy
with emptiness.

“Rented Room,” a poem about the affair with Paul Langevin, Marie's colleague, ends, “Yesterday, I asked myself/ as though you were a compound/ why his body?/ My first answer: to merge.// But my second: to annihilate/ the self. I hate/ that you must plan your life.”

The cycle's final poem, “Last Day: July 4, 1934,” describes the hospital bed where Curie was nursed by her younger daughter, whom she had loved but never fully understood because of their dissimilar personalities:

Her fingers turn the sheets

and the static coat
my body walked in everywhere

loosens. Our bodies hum
together in a way

they didn't in our lived lives.
The metal bed glints

like Gallium warmed in hands.

The poems in Curie often begin by holding their treasure at a distance from the unfocused eye, but as the reader is drawn closer, she catches first a glint and then a growing sense of an underlying radiance. I wish more poets wrote like Jessica Cuello does here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Guest Review: Carol Smallwood's Compartments

Compartments:  Poems on Nature, Femininity and Other Realms by Carol Smallwood
Reviewed by Aline Soules 

In our modern world and complex lives, we live in "compartments"–home, school, town, nature – the kind of compartments and realms Carol Smallwood explores, giving us what we know and questioning what we don't. "The Morning Warbler" may be seen "if one walks the bogs," she writes, "but does it sing in the morning?" What do we really know? Smallwood raises questions even as she leads us into a consideration of our own world with a direct, matter-of-fact approach. "Why Do Women Ask First about their children / when meeting other / women?" or "After a / hysterectomy did they package your remains in a / paper sack like the gizzard, heart, liver, neck, / inside a roasting chicken? 

Everything is delightfully jumbled, but beautifully detailed. "The Sewing Box," just like Smallwood's compartments, is filled with its own sub-compartmentsthread bag, needle assortment, tray, and others-each, in turn, filled with its own details, whether a "myriad of spools," "potholder loops," or "a ring of white crocheted pineapples." She ties these objects together in the poem and also from poem to poem. For example, she sews the ring of pineapples on a "new J. C. Penney's case"; later, in the "Town" section, she gives us a poem called "J. C. Penney litany" with its "Flannel, Poplin, Wool, Cotton, Chambray, Chamois, Corduroy, Micro-suede" shirts and its "Amber, Indigo, Basil, Blue Abyss, Oatmeal, Olive, Espresso, Mushroom" colors, all in the "men's section" with "not a man in sight." 

The joy of these compartments is that they are all linked: the women's objects from "The Sewing Box" and the array in the men's section of the "J.C. Penney Litany"; the ants and spiders from the "Nature" section and the "Black Holes" from the "Science" section; and the questions that range through the book from "What'd happened to the Chinese damask / robe Nicolet had worn greeting the Winnebago's at Green Bay?" to all the answers the poet would "like to know"--"why snow's white" or "Why we know more of / the surface of the / Moon than ourselves."

Everything builds on her prologue-how we live between "the highest mountain / and the deepest ocean" and how we are all these compartments rolled into one. In this collection, the reader can experience a journey through our shared world, a journey beautifully guided by this skilled and generous poet.

Aline Soules, California State University, East Bay faculty member, has appeared in journals such as Kenyon Review, The Houston Literary Review.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Susan Knox: Baby, Baby

The maternity ward. Alliance City Hospital. Alliance, Ohio. July 3, 1941. A new mother, twenty-five years old, stares out the window.

Is she remembering her lascivious grandfather, the rape, the termination ten years earlier. Is she picturing a small, windowless room, a man in a white coat, the mass of tissue he dangled in front of her face like a warning. Does she believe the sins of the father are visited upon the son and she will pay a penance for her grandfather’s perfidy. Is she worried because the nurse hasn’t brought the infant to her. Was it a difficult labor, a long labor. Was she sedated before the baby was born, a mask clamped over her face. Is she afraid her newborn is not normal, that she will be punished with a blemished child. Will she undo my pink receiving blanket and will she untie the ribbon holding the white plisse kimono and will she remove the safety pins closing the cloth diaper and will she bare my body and find a flaw, a deformity. Will she call for the doctor, show him the stigma, ask him what it means. Will the doctor reassure her, it’s only a missing toenail, nothing to worry about, or, not knowing her deep concern, will he laugh at her silliness.

Questions for my mother that I never asked. 

Susan Knox's book, Financial Basics:  A Money Management Guide for Students, was published by the Ohio State University Press in 2004.  Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in CALYX, Monkey Puzzle, Pisgah Review, and Sunday Ink.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Diane Hoover Bechtler: Do It Yourself Project

It was not the kind of job tackled without help. But we did it ourselves, alone.

We had to. We were the single mothers of sons. Chloe was a widow. Her husband died in a car accident when the child was a baby. When our son was three, my husband left to chase other women.

Chloe received Social Security checks for her son. I collected sporadic child-support. Neither was enough to support us. So it was up to us to both work and raise those small men.

We forged our careers and raised our sons when two dope-smoking draft-dodging former hippies occupied the White House.

We knocked our heads against the glass ceiling as we climbed and left scratches as markers for our sisters to come. We pushed forward in sickness and in health. No one else was going to pay our rent or help us teach our small men to ride bicycles, to sail, play baseball, or later to shave and drive.  When we had to work extra hours or travel, we placed our sons with caretakers often of questionable abilities, so we could do our jobs and make money to feed our growing children. As in the beginning of time, a single cell split and made two. We were mother and father, caregiver, and provider. Chloe was in sales. I provided customer support, both of us in the graphic arts industry.

We brought home the bacon and fried it up in a pan and did not think that commercial was funny. We were tired. In the summers, Chloe sent her son to spend time with her parents. I sent mine to basketball camp, archery school, tennis camp and whatever else I thought could shape him into a good man.

Together, Chloe and I bought tropical wool navy blue suits chosen with the Women's Dress for Success recommendations. Briefcases flapping against our Jane Fonda-firmed hips, we wore our serious suits and muted lipstick  to appointments with our clients. At home, we assembled model cars and studied the scales of train sets.

After late business meetings and only a Powerbar dinner, we attended PTA,wearing those ridiculous ties – like fake silk scarves for women with little anchors and turtles dotted across them. We drank our scotch neat. We smoked an occasional cigar. We already smoked cigarettes. We placed our MasterCards by our plates to signal wait staff that we were paying. Occasionally, we abused our privileges from our places of business by treating ourselves to dinners placed on our meager expense accounts. We took lunch at 3:00 so we could go to school conferences with our sons’ teachers.

Chloe grew her hair to her waist.  My hair was cut in an easy chin length bob quickly and cheaply trimmed at SuperCuts once a month. These were economical hairstyles.

For business, Chloe twisted her hair or clipped it in a barrette.  But on weekends she'd let that hair flow and fly.  It was like wheat.  Mine was black as sin. She was a color like lemon. I was not a color. She had the golden hair. I had the midnight black hair. She looked great standing in a cornfield and I looked great over candlelight. Night and day.

She painted and I sculpted in the bit of free time we had. We never expected our painting and sculpting to put food on the table.

Rather than be second-rate struggling fine artists we applauded the works of others by attending gallery openings. So after a week of doing double duty, Chloe and I drove to the arts district and strutted. I have a photo of us standing on a red carpet after an art gathering.

She and I did not walk.  We swished and bounced. "Thriller" blared in the background and we danced, planting one foot and stomping around it with the other foot. We let go the tensions of the week.

Many boyfriends came and went. Few stayed very long.  We were incredibly picky about who got close to our sons, our best creations.  Some men saw our sons as possibly being their sons. They missed the window of creating a family so looked to us as potential providers.

I eventually married again only to choose another womanizer.

Chloe broke my heart more than any man could have. After vowing to grow old together and sit side by side in rocking chairs staring at ocean waves, until death did us part, Chloe renounced her vow and moved away without me.

Years have passed. I see Chloe occasionally. She comes to my town. Or I go to hers. So in a way we have grown old together, but my rocking chair is here and hers is hundreds of miles away. Our sons have not seen each other in a decade.

Our careers ended. We passed our business torches. We have reverted to one person rather than two.

Our children have grown into men-good men. We did a fine job of raising them alone, of doing it ourselves. Raising our little boys into tall men made us grow taller and stronger.

We still do most things ourselves. The pace has slowed. We have the time.

I miss weekends with my best friend kicking back and having fun. I miss the little boys who now bring home women who may join our lives and provide grandchildren. One and one will equal three. Chloe's hair is very short now and streaked with gray. Mine is too black for a woman my age.

I miss our journey.

Diane Hoover Bechtler lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, Michael Gross, who is a poet with a day job, and with their cat, Call Me IshMeow. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: Thirteen Designer Vaginas by Juliet Cook

Thirteen Designer Vaginas, Juliet Cook
Reviewed by Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom

 Juliet Cook's provocative new chapbook, Thirteen Designer Vaginas, presents the author's 13 takes on, well, exactly what the title suggests.  Each poem in the chapbook is entitled "Designer Vagina" and explores this unique material for inspiration from a slightly different angle.

Many of these poems explore body image issues, the Western worship of youth and airbrushed perfection and the objectification of the female anatomy.  Others are labyrinthine body/self-reflections.  As in all Cook's work, there is wonderfully dynamic wordplay, an undercurrent of horror and little tolerance for the candy-coated comforts of euphemism but instead a tendency to err on the side of candor.  Visceral imagery is used to conjure mood, often a sense of suffocation or paralysis under the cosmetic surgeon's knife.

One poem sums up the aim of a combo "vaginal rejuvenation" (as the surgery is clinically termed)/lobotomy:  "... It's all about pleasing/ pink squiggles and tiny flightless wings."

The previous one begins, "I should switch to a robot model.  Snip, snip, pivot/ on oiled button mums.  Siphon out sputum;/ enter hot datum.  Flora approximated/ with keystrokes.  In this cube, I am perfect;"

In these poems Cook's signature motif of the "doll injection mold" is applied to the one aspect of anatomy the cookiecutter-variety plastic girl's doll explicitly lacks but which, for the adult woman, has nevertheless failed to escape the influence of the "injection mold" philosophy of shame for any sort of deviance from an arbitrarily prescribed ideal.

This chapbook is the first title from Hyacinth Girl Press, which describes itself as a feminist micro press.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: Lyn Lifshin's All the Poets Who Have Touched Me

All the Poets Who Have Touched Me by Lyn Lifshin
Reviewed by Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom

 Lyn Lifshin's latest collection All the Poets Who Have Touched Me is an intimate whirlwind tour through literary history in the company of the perfect confidential guide.  Lifshin, prolific "queen of the small presses" for the last several decades, must have been at least casually acquainted with some of the poets she writes about here, but to what extent only she could tell us, and this isn't a tell-all.  One poem is entitled "The Poets I Know the Best Are the Ones I Could Never Write About" and begins, "It would be betrayal..."

And it would be, wouldn't it?  Any poet, novice or established, tends to feel the necessity of that rule instinctively.  So, having set those parameters, Lifshin puts us at ease that these poems are primarily works of the imagination, with maybe a few smuggled-in details, a few sly observations thrown in here and there.  Many of the poems, like "Eating Chocolate With Edgar Allan Poe," are playful; others are candid, meditative, sensual, melancholy.

As with all of Lifshin's work, these poems are self-revelatory, but they also offer insights into her sources of inspiration, often in stunning imagistic language.  In "New York With Dylan Thomas," she writes:

     ... I hated it when he     
     wrote his wife, Caitlin. Though he     
     called her a fishmonger, he still wrote     
     with one arm shadowing the page. Light     
     through jade glass, days burning     
     fireflies in September. I knew they      
     could not stay

In "When Being Awake Seems Agony After Disappointing News," she shares Sylvia Plath's last hours in that cold London flat, where the two of them...

     ... drank hot chocolate with some
     Sambuca, talked about how the worst time
     of day was 5 am, early morning, the
     depression time hardest to endure. It seemed
     funny, her daughter’s name, my mother’s,
     Frieda. On the last day together it was
     so cold. Even in 3 sweaters I was shaking.
     Maybe I sensed what was ahead though
     Sylvia chattered, her lips a wild red,
     her cheeks rose. Maybe it was the fever
     hanging on since December...

Other poems tell of shared moments (often courtesy of time travel) with Byron, Keats, Whitman, Dickinson, Millay, Sandburg (who got it all wrong about the fog and cats) as well as Sexton, Ginsberg, Bukowski, Kenyon, and the list goes on.

A few sources of inspiration are lesser known, even unknown poets, like an unnamed fan with more than his share of demons, recalled in "He Said He Saw My Picture in a Magazine": 

     ... I never liked his
     poems as much as I pretended, not even
     the ones he stole. But I loved the stories,
     how he made love in coffins, stood on the
     roof of his house screaming at stars. But
     he kept breaking into places. Once I
     held him four hours while he cried.

In the sensual "Sleeping With Lorca," she writes, "There’s/ more you might coax me to say but/ for now, it’s enough I can still smell the/ green wind, that 5 o’clock in the/ afternoon/ that would never be another time".

"There's more you might coax me to say" sums up the charm of this collection.  With all that is revealed of reverie and anecdote, fantasy and (possible) reality, there is always another delicious detail that might have been added, another poet who might have been befriended and revealed.  It's easy to get caught up in the infectious fun as we teleport with Lifshin through pivotal moments in the lives of poets who have touched us as well, imagining with her what well might have been.

Read Melusine's interview with Lyn Lifshin in our debut issue here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Six Questions, etc.

It seems we have experienced another rather lengthy hiatus, which I guess I'll attribute vaguely to "summer" with all its distractions and triple-digit temperatures + humidity (yes, it is the humidity, and also the heat) sapping our strength.  As a consequence of the lapse, we have a pretty healthy lineup of new reviews that will be coming as soon as we can read and review all those books, hopefully beginning with a post next weekend.  We may even post two weekends in a row just to catch up a bit, but I better not make any promises... it is still summer, and more triple-digit temperatures are coming, after a short reprieve of only the low 90s. 

Meanwhile, here are some questions I answered about what we're looking for editorially over at the "Six Questions For" blog.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Guest Review: Susan Scarlata's It Might Turn Out We Are Real

It Might Turn Out We Are Real by Susan Scarlata
Reviewed by L.S. Bassen

A quotation attributed to William Butler Yeats can be found in cyberspace, "What can be explained is not poetry." At least 63 people have ‘liked’ this quotation, but not me. I appreciate explanation. Susan’s Scarlata’s new collection is bookended by both an introductory “Proem” and end “Notes”. The “Proem” explains that her 64 poems are: “A recoup of the Sapphic Stanza form … They are strung… linked without attempt to present any sum total.” The first poem, “What Is Your Business Here?” begins, “I dreamed I carried a snake/ to a burnt cracked tree/…Our needs and wants…” include “a plectrum” and we are advised to “throw these bits/ in two directions at once.” “Plectrum” is explained in the end Notes, “A plectrum is a spear point used for striking the lyre…).”

Those “two directions” introduce twosomes appearing early that become landmarks. The phrase that reappears most, echoing Homer’s “wine-dark sea,” is “the red behind my ribs.” “Phantasmagoria” takes us further to when “it was all/Arcadia that whole day long,” and where “satyrs…/ …are…dancing” the “Hoof crunk.” Explained in the end Notes, “Crunk is a type of frenetic, urban, contemporary music and dance that fuses elements of hip-hop and electronica.”
In the familiar modern quest to polarize the definitions of artifice/art, rejecting civilization in order to rediscover a more authentic reality in the archaic past, Susan Scarlata is studiously un-lyrical and rejects at the same time she invokes earlier forms of lyric, narrative, and epic poetry. It Might Turn Out We Are Real is a marvel of expression of modernist tension between Classical/ Romantic inspiration and Ironic self-consciousness.

Midway in the collection, there is delight at “What Part Reached?”: 
Listen, words were once carved on wax tablets
then placed in jars for safekeeping.
And what’s strange about
the hippocampus is how it’s both
a sea creature of whimsy, part fish and part horse;
and the ridged part of our brains where our
shortest of memories spend time.

By “Of Pelts And Cuff-Links”, you can feel yourself hoof-crunking along. In “To What Do I Most Compare You?” (post-modern echo of not “to a summer’s day”), the poet juggles rapture & reason: “… the knife was blunt/ the ram caught in thicket, or a deep appears…/ that will suffice. Synecdochic day. Part for the whole, and ‘civilized’ starts.”

Synecdochic Day ought to be an international holiday.

This collection also works as a precis course in the history of poetry & post-modern criticism. The syllabi for three recent classes are at http://www.susanscarlata. com/teachings/. Anyone creative in the post-modern period – certainly in the Academy – has been ironically constrained by a century of critical rules of rebellion and rejection of past formalities. The hostile antithesis of art and artifice has not yet found synthesis. With Ferlinghetti, we await a rebirth of wonder. It happens in some moments in It Might Turn Out We Are Real, the title a Romantic wish expressed in Ironic terms. In “A Living,” the poet writes, “The honey the bees made from almond flowers was/too bitter to eat.” Now there’s a perfect metaphor for the modern poet’s predicament. 

L.S Bassen's The End of Shakespeare & Co. was the winner of the 2009 Atlantic Pacific Press Drama Prize.  Ms. Bassen also won a Mary Roberts Rinehart Fellowship and has been published in several print and online publications, including Kenyon Review and American Scholar.  She is a produced and published playwright and commissioned co-author of a WWII memoir.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New Issue!

Check out Melusine 3.1, our Spring/Summer 2011 issue, right here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein and Lisa Marie Basile's Diorama

Diorama by Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein and Lisa Marie Basile
Wisp Press, 2011,
Reviewed by Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom

Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein and Lisa Marie Basile's collaborative chapbook Diorama presents two parallel threads of a lyrical progression — at times starkly haunting, at times lushly sensual — through scenes of intimacy and eroticism, loss and death, set against a backdrop shifting in locus between the deserts of the American Southwest and the valleys and rainforests of Central and South America, with occasional detours to the Old World of the Mediterranean.

Morhardt-Goldstein's poems are informed by her background in classical music, including one presented as the first movement of a requiem mass, with parts in English and Latin.  

Her poems move gracefully between dictions, painting moods with landscape and imagery. 

One poem, "Piece for solo quena," begins:

We wear mustard-dust.
We sprouted saguaro antlers.
It sounded like the crackling of clay skeletons
             running on the back of the sun.

The wind shot through holes in our bodies:
             a violet diction of harmony.

The closing lines of her final poem exemplify an open-endedness that marks all of her work here:  "the rolling of his cigarette/ the way a potter throws a teacup."

At first reading we see an image of effortless craftsmanship, and yet, two lines before, we had the image of "the foot that knocks over the fan at night," implying a drowsy carelessness; and reading the lines again through that lens, we can see a finished, painted, even well-loved teacup being carelessly shattered.  It can be read either way, like much of the best work here.

Lisa Marie Basile writes with both startling immediacy and a taut reserve.  Her image-rich poems retain an undercurrent of mystery beneath a disarming veneer of candor. 

Her section brims with dazzling, at times devastating lines.

In "Letters," she writes:

When my mother spoke at the podium I felt
a wide angel fly from her head, crack against the rafters
and fall to the floor.

She covered the place in wing.

I imagined myself bending over her, preparing her like a
butterfly jaggedly descending toward a calm death.

Each poet carries her weight in this joint effort with technical skill and a voice refreshingly unabashed in its directness.  This slim volume is a good introduction to two complementary yet distinctive new voices.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sorry We Were Out...

We apologize for our lengthy hiatus from the blogosphere.  Vacation, random personal crises, and just plain laziness may have interfered with our ability to post much over the last month and a half. 

We would like to just blame the gap on our flurry of preparation for the Spring/Summer issue, which will launch by the first of next month, but that doesn't completely account for our lapse. 

However, we might as well take the opportunity to mention that the Spring/Summer issue will launch by the first of next month!  It's looking to be a good issue, and we look forward to wrapping up production on it soon.  The issue will include the top three poetry contest winners and much more literary goodness.

And, finally (finally, indeed) look for a new review here in the blog next weekend.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

2011 Poetry Contest Finalists

We're pleased to announce the 10 finalists for our 2011 Vivienne Haigh-Wood Prize for a single poem.  The prize winner will receive $500 and the winning poem will appear in our Spring/Summer 2011 issue, out next month.  The second and third place poems will also appear in a special section of the issue, and all non-winning finalists will be listed there as honorable mentions.  Finalists will be notified of the status of their entries shortly before the issue appears.  Congrats and good luck to all!

*Finalists are listed in alphabetical order by name.

Lou Amyx:  Roses
Connie Boyle:  An Inheritance
Pat Hurshell:  Elegy (in 3 movements)
Pat Hurshell:  Leda Tells It Again
Tomasz Mielcarek:  I Was Waiting For You
Jenny Sanders:  Mama's Little Heartbreaker
Lorraine Schein:  The Hanged Woman
Lorraine Schein:  The Lady in the Lake
N. A’Yara Stein:  For the Rest of Our Lives, That Far Place Waits
Julie Stuckey:  Watching the Door

Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: Melissa Crandall's Weathercock

Weathercock by Melissa Crandall
Tortuga Loca, 2010,
Reviewed by Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom

Melissa Crandall, whose short story collection Darling Wendy was reviewed for our debut issue, sent me a copy of her first non-series novel, Weathercock, a fantasy set in an alternative-reality medieval world where gender roles are directly inverse to traditional gender roles in the majority of known human societies.  In other words, men's lot in life was rather bitter.

I admit I'm not very familiar with the fantasy genre, so I asked for some feedback from my partner on this, and it was interesting to get a male perspective on the story.  He found the female characters easier to relate to than the male ones, simply because men in the world of this novel are so unlike the typical picture of a man in our society, while women in the novel's world do resemble men as we know them, exhibiting both what are perceived as positive as well as negative typically masculine traits.  It seems the reversal in behavior stems from the respective genders' stations and the effects of those roles over generations, through a feedback loop of heredity and environment

For reasons unknown to the lead characters, men were born more rarely in this society, and they were often sterile.  "It was just the way things were in Duine, the way things had always been." 

The result of this scarcity is for men to be treated like commodities, essentially as breeding studs.  Women set up "households," which are comprised of several wives, one of whom actually "owns" the husband and therefore wields most of the power, and others who exist lower in the hierarchy and have less say in household decisions.

Kinner, the lead male character, son of the "Firstwife" of a household, finds his future in jeopardy when it's discovered that he is apparently sterile and therefore cannot contribute to the household in the manner expected of him.  The only alternative to execution for a sterile male is monkhood, and so Kinner's mother undertakes with him a long journey across the country to a monastery where he can live safely among other men in his predicament
although we later learn that Kinner's mother, Holan, who is a blacksmith, has misled the other wives about her son's sterility because she wanted a pretext to travel with him to this distant place of refuge as part of her quest in relation to a special sword she has forged in honor of a god, the Weathercock, whose worship is forbidden in a society that instead worships a triune goddess.

The inverted parallels to medieval European Christendom are obvious, but the questions this allegorical adventure tale raises are provocative and compelling.

Has our own society, even today, afforded equal worth to half its members even if they do not assume traditional procreative roles?

And, political measures like affirmative action aside, what would women today be achieving in non-female-dominated professions if they had not been treated as second-class citizens since time immemorial?

Kinner, raised to be docile and not trained in battle because he is a man, does not emerge as a hero in the war between the corrupt queen and her discontented subjects that provides much of the action in the novel.  (Many of the subjects are miffed that the queen keeps stealing their husbands in pursuit of an heir.)  In this way, the story is realistic, unlike anachronistic Hollywood films that cast every other ancient or medieval heroine as a Boudica, rather than portraying them within the context of their time, where courage did not necessarily manifest itself in dazzling swordplay.

And political feminism didn't win all of its early battles, either, but the closing of Crandall's tale allows for hope that change is in the air for men like Kinner, not from martial victories but from mutual understanding between the genders one person at a time, which is how all true and lasting peace and progress tends to be won.

I admire the author for tackling this territory and think she has written an original, idea-driven adventure story worth checking out.

The book is available directly from the author, as well as in ebook form here.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Editorial: Relic From The Mix-Tape Years

Sorting through a box full of cassette tapes that survived my handful of moves from over the last decade, I reread the story of my adolescence and early adulthood, spelled out on the handwritten covers of my mix tapes.  

Ah, the mix tape, a short-lived, essentially obsolete art form.  A few of my eighth and ninth-grade classmates had made them for each other, with photocopies of kittens or puppies as covers.  As an introverted chick with few friends and less confidence in matters of influencing others' taste (but plenty of confidence in my own ability to know what I like) I made tapes for myself.

In high school the tapes, titled "Hits of 1980/90-whatever (I'm going to pass up the chance to show my precise age here)" and adorned with hastily ink-drawn musical notes, were songs I caught off the radio, recorded on the fly.  I depended on my not particularly quick reflexes to catch the songs in their entirety, and so they appeared in no particular order.

Then in college I got a bit more sophisticated.  I titled the series of tapes "Sonic Potpourri" and made them only from other tapes or (increasingly) CDs that either I or my brother owned.  I could only make them when I was at home from school, where my treasured once-state-of-the-art stereo stood in my girlhood room.  On the frequent occasions when I was home for a weekend, a new tape would be my major weekend project.  I labored over the tapes with the attention I should have directed to my homework -- the attention and the passion.  Maybe it wasn't coincidence that the only A I received my first freshman semester was in the history of jazz.

The tapes told the story of my life -- not from day one, but what was going on right at that time, in narrative form, although the narrative would probably have been comprehensible only to me.  Much of it was centered around my relationship at the time, my first serious one, and my efforts to find my own voice in the world.  Typical college stuff.  Speaking more recently to friends, I realized that almost everyone made mix tapes in those days.  My boyfriend at the time had made some for me, stuff he thought I might like, or hoped I might like, or thought I should like.  I lacked the confidence to pass on my own finds to him.  

Later on, my tapes began to tell the story of my burgeoning feminism -- since this was the '90s, a Second Wave, Riot Grrrl-influenced feminism -- my own untattooed, still-introverted but increasingly confident version of it.

I found one tape that captured this moment in time, a "special edition" called "27 Songs by Women."  One of my signature ink-drawn notes is encircled by a Venus symbol.  Reading the list of songs really took me back.  Some remain staples of my playlists.  Others I haven't heard since the '90s.  Tori Amos, Veruca Salt, Shonen Knife, Hole, PJ Harvey, the Breeders, Belly, Throwing Muses, Heather Nova, Bjork, et cetera.

"Silent All These Years" leads off, and Indigo Girls' "Language or the Kiss" closes with a question, one never answered, but replaced with different questions.  

Yes, I have my playlists now, but I can tweak them with a quick right-click of my mouse -- a bit too easy.  In comparison, those tapes have staying power.  Like the spiral notebooks I scribbled in as a kid, they're immune to hasty single-fingertip deletion.  And every once in a while, I'll probably find myself combing through that dusty box of tapes and retrieving a gem. 

I had faithfully kept journals in spiral-bound notebooks and later more attractive blank-paged hardcover books, up until my last year or two of college.  I don't know why I stopped journaling.  I continued to write poetry and dabble in fiction, but at some point I stopped allowing myself the luxury of written self-reflection.  The mix tapes filled the void, and allowed me to tell my story (if only to myself) in music.  

I never did go back to handwritten journal-keeping, but eventually (after a few resistant Luddite years) started up a live journal, which offered the slightly unnerving opportunity for me to share my personal thoughts with other human beings, albeit at a safe distance.  Eventually, I replaced my highly personal blog with others more topical in nature.  I suppose sites like Facebook filled the more personal niche, or maybe, once again, I stopped believing I have the time to journal.  And I'm probably right, unfortunately.  It's difficult enough to make the time for poetry and fiction.  But occasionally, I jot down a quote or a few lines and file them away in a safe place.  

And I have my playlists.  The one entitled "Melusine" does, oddly enough, share a few tracks in common with my rediscovered feminist mix tape.  All is not lost.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Melusine is a Hibernating Creature

Hello — just a note to say that Melusine is headed on vacation shortly.

Don't worry, we're not going anywhere warm.  Winter will remain very much with us in our travels.

In any case, our nonfiction/review series will be on a two-week hiatus until we return.

Look for a new post the last weekend of this month, and have a lovely Valentine's Day!

P.S.  Don't forget about the poetry contest — just two weeks left before the March 1 deadline:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Merlaine Sivels: Daddy Issues

When I was younger, he stuck around. He got an apartment nearby, dropped in whenever mom went to work and my brother went to play basketball. He would rent movies, a new one every week. We would watch them together. Eat all the frozen pizzas in the house together. 

The next day, mom had warned me not to let him do that again. She’d said it was bad for his blood pressure.

As I got older, he drifted farther away.

Location-wise, he was a nomad. 

Parked his truck in empty fields and slept in it. He only parked in places where he knew he wouldn’t get a ticket, and he would call me, telling me the newest place he’d managed to fall asleep. It was dangerous, his like of work. People robbed trucks and shot truckers, I was told, and for the longest time I would spend nights awake, wondering if I would get a call from him the next morning. He always seemed to make it, and by day, he emptied the truck to the designated store. Then be on his way again. 

He had sent me postcards. 

Alabama, Washington, Las Vegas, Utah, Texas, Maryland, California.

I still have them. My favorite was Virginia. He would call and ask me if I’d received the latest postcard, and I would reply with a yes, I had, but Virginia will always be my favorite. For a while, she let him come back, my mom.

She let him stay with us and we played house again for a while. He was the daddy. She was the mommy. I was the daughter and my brother was the son. The roles were intricate. My part was easy, but everyone else struggled. Eventually my mom got sick of pretending. She wanted him out. He left. She apologized to me.

To my brother. My brother took her sorry to heart, as if he was the one who’d been wounded. 

I remember going into another room and calling him, tell him that she apologized. He never picked up. Never called back.

I am a girl of false hopes, my mother told me once. He promises me things. I cling to them with all my heart, all my soul. When he doesn’t deliver, I am heartbroken. But he makes more promises and I cling some more.

Nowadays she tells me that I don’t remember the old him. The one who sent me to bed without food. Who pushed me to the ground whenever I would kiss her goodnight. The one who pinched me so hard he split my tender six-year-old skin in half for biting on a straw. 

She says that if I remembered the way I would cry in her arms while he was outside mowing the law, the way I would wail in my bedroom at night after he went to work, the way I would shake in his presence when I did something he didn’t like. If only I remembered that side of him then I wouldn’t hold on the way I did.

But all I can say to her is that he is my dad, and you can never let your number one fan go.

He doesn’t call me on my twentieth birthday. I don’t wake up waiting for it, but at the end of the day, I realize there is one voice I haven’t heard from. When I call him, he assures me, yes, he did call, and he even left a message. While he is speaking, I check my phone for the voicemail sign. 

It’s not on.

I ask him when I will see him again. It has been almost a year. We make plans for Sunday. He has a delivery in Miami for Monday, so he will pass through Orlando for a few hours. 

I am excited. Not just to see him, but just to be in his presence. To hear him talk in person, for once. To see his facial features, that huge smile I got from him. I miss it all.  He does not call me on Saturday.

On Sunday, I wake up early, dress, and put my keys in the ignition, as my phone buzzes with a new text message. I don’t need to read it. I pull my keys out, go back inside, undress and go back to bed.

At my door, my mom, is on the verge of tears because she can hear mine. False hopes, honey. False hopes. 

Three days later, I read the text message. We have new plans for Sunday again. He will be there, my phone assures me.

He does not call me on Saturday. On Sunday, I wake up early, dress, and put my keys in the ignition. My phone is silent the entire drive.

Since sixteen, we have met at the Navy Exchange, even though I am twenty nothing has changed. I drive around the parking lot, looking for him. I find his truck. 

The purple eighteen-wheeler is tall behind the old lawn and garden building. When I pull up he is not there. I park behind it and go look for him. I find him exiting the barbershop. From faraway, he is my dad. My daddy.

The man that woman would swoon over at my brother’s basketball games, at my job, in restaurants, in theme parks. He is tall and poise, walking with his back straight, like the military taught him. His hair, which has been balding since before I could remember, is cropped closely to his head. From far away, that smile is bright with memories of his little girl, and momentarily I expect him to run to me and scoop me into his arms like he used to. But he doesn’t. He keeps walking, and when we are standing face to face with each other, I realize that I have made a mistake. 

This man is not my father. 

His hair is salt and pepper instead of black. His eyes, usually vigilant and alert, are tired and baggy, as if they threaten to close at any moment. His stomach, once flat and muscular, is now heavy with the threat of a gut. His muscular arms are skinny.

And his face.

He is handsome still. But his face is accented with heavy lines around his mouth, around his eyes, on his cheeks, like origami art that has been deconstructed. 

I stare because I don’t know what to say. What do you say to a stranger?

He speaks first; a loud obnoxious greeting that if I was still thirteen would have made me laugh hysterically. Now it makes my bottom lip quiver. 

I greet him, closing in for a quick hug. He embraces me and even manages to lift me off the ground an inch or two. I do not stay airborne for long, and it scares me to think that there will come a time when he will no longer be able to do that.

When he releases me, my cheeks are wet. I tell him it is allergies. He believes me. 

We walk and he tells me about the allergies he had while in Alabama. He throws his head back in a laugh and says that I wouldn’t last a minute there. I nod, still looking at him, never looking away. I want to be able to see when this man will turn back into my dad. I want to watch the metamorphosis. He asks me what’s wrong? It’s my birthday.

I should be happy.

I reply that I am old now. He laughs again. That same laugh that sounds like my dad’s. He asks me how I have been. How is my boyfriend? How is my brother? How is my car (he can’t help but comment that it still looks like shit)? 

I tell him everything is good. Everyone is fine.

I don’t tell him about how I have moved in with my boyfriend, how my brother has moved out because of fights with mom, how my car stopped working in the middle of the highway the other day, how my heart stutters when I laugh too hard or sleep on my stomach, about my puppy, about my grades. 

He doesn’t pry.

He tells me about his fiancée. He calls her Mrs. Sivels. 

When he says this, I laugh for the first time. I picture my mom. She isn’t, but to me, she will always be the only Mrs. Sivels. It is not as funny to him as it is to me. To him it is not funny at all.

We walk around the exchange for an hour. When he finds something he likes, he gets my attention by calling my name and begging me to look.

It reminds me of our road trips when I was younger. When we would pass a field of horses or cows, he would nudge me repeatedly. 
Look! Look! Cows!

I indulge him by feigning interest. 

In return, I point to things I like. He merely nods, continues walking. Makes a comment about my mom buying me something if I want it bad enough. When we pass the jewelry department, he shows me the ring he plans on buying for the new and improved Mrs. Sivels. 

It is five thousand dollars. He informs me that she is worth every penny.

He does not have time to take me out to my birthday lunch as we planned. He admits that I took too long getting there. We eat at a sub shop.

I do not like subs, but I don’t speak up. He doesn’t ask.

He eats quickly, almost swallowing his sub whole. 

Mouth full, he confides in me that he loves their subs. How does mine taste? As he is speaking, mine slips out of my hand on to the floor. He laughs. My stomach growls. I did not eat breakfast that morning in order to have room for lunch.

He says oh, well. He shrugs.

We are silent as we walk to my car and his truck. I cannot help but still look at him, but this time I know he is not going to change. For me, there will be no metamorphosis into the man I knew.

He pats me on the back as I stop in front of his truck. He tells me that he has something for me. I cannot help it, I get excited. I did not expect anything from him. He dashes into the cab of his truck and rummages around for a few minutes. The longer he takes the more my heart sinks. He yells down to me that he might have lost it—Oops, he found it. He steps down the cab with two envelopes. One blue. One yellow.

Both of them read To My Favorite Girl.

Before I can open them, he tells me that he has to get going. He’s sorry he can’t stick around.
I understand, or at least that’s what I tell him.

I admit to him that I had a good time. It had been too long since I last saw him.

He is already in his truck, turning his keys, and pressing buttons. He pulls the string that hangs by his head, and the sound of his horn reverberates through the parking lot as he exits on to the highway.

When I can no longer see him, I open the first envelope. The yellow one. 

It is a Valentine’s Day card. When I open the card, it sings a quick song and to the side he writes a simple message telling me to be good, don’t do anything he wouldn’t. I smile, close the card. Slip it back into the envelope, and slip the envelope in my bag.

I open the second card, the blue one. 

There is a small postcard inside. There are big city lights and people smiling, showgirls dancing, casinos and gambling all on the front. Las Vegas, it reads in pink lettering.

When I flip it over there is a small greeting. To the right is his scribbled handwriting:  I always remembered that this one was your favorite. Happy 22nd birthday, young lady.

Merlaine Sivels is pursuing a degree in English education and has promised her mother that she would publish at least one story during her lifetime (her mother's, that is, not that she plans on passing anytime soon.)