Spring rain has tuned all the magnolia trees.
Through the city, drops fall in precise time
offering music God knows but can’t see.
Streets reflect lights, changing from red to green.
One car’s wipers for rhythm. There’s nothing to find.
Spring rain. Boarded shops. Tuned magnolia trees
Dance lightly to the beat of not quite breeze.
They change their key. Without harmony. Pines
can’t offer music, God knows. No one sees
the score. Enclosed behind windows, wet streets
forbidden by plague. The morning twilight
of Spring’s reign is blocked by magnolia trees.
Soft water falls in spirals from one broad leaf
to the next. Fast, then slow—a scale you climb
to offer God music. You almost see.
Most days, cities bloom to morning. You leave
home for your opus. We dance in place. Time
slows. Cool spring rain will tune magnolia trees.
God likes music. He won’t look. He can’t see.
In dreams, they sail: He builds tall ships for her—
Selecting fine woods, strong lines—the ocean’s vast,
this voyage’s long. His hands can work to mend
damp damage when time shivers their timbers
or tides refuse to wait. They’ll shoot lost stars
with bright sextants. Full sails power them past
sharp shoals, lurking dragons, tricky sand bars.
He’s here for her long haul, to ocean’s end.
“Is the ordinary still there?
The ordinary is still there too.”
— Treatise on Sudden Enlightenment
A gate has been creaking all night.
It’s nearby, maybe one house over
and behind us. It doesn’t slap open
against the rest of the fence. It sounds
like it hangs from just one hinge
and is held firm by a hook and eye.
Wood is only straining against metal
trying to escape, to open, just once.
The wind toys with it until quite late.
Finally, it achieves music and we sleep.
Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest collection, Starting from Tu Fu was published by Encircle Publications; a new collection is due out in December from Cherry Grove. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, activist and documentarian, Joan Juster, where he made his marginal living pointing out pretty things. Now, like everyone else, he’s unemployed. He has published two novels, three chapbooks, and two full-length collections.
have you ever seen
a bird that couldn’t fly?
its mother’s wing
then caged behind
the cat’s teeth.
sometimes I remember
blowing in the wind.
Stephen Roche is from the south-west of Ireland, where he works in a press office. He has been previously published in Autumn House Journal, Poppy Road Review, Three Line Poetry, The Literary Commune, and Haiku Journal and runs a horror blog (www.thehorrorclubblog.wordpress.com) dedicated to books and films.
She showed up on his porch, flinched when he opened the door and snapped at her, held up a laminated photo of cookies in front of her face as a shield. A school trip, she said, or a school party. He wasn’t listening, had only opened the door out of indignation.
The gate? The sign?
Behind her, the gate hung open, the narrow road littered with dirty papers. A circular pasted to the road lifted a corner in the breeze, half-alive. Last week’s storm, with wind that had rattled the windows and the vent above the oven enough to keep him awake, must have blown open the gate and his mailbox.
Did kids still knock on strangers’ doors to ask for money?
He’d seen her before, in town with her parents. Her mother almost transparent, closer to ghost than human, and her father, anger crackling off his coat, someone you’d let cut in front of you (and he had), it wasn’t worth arguing, he’d hold a grudge until you died. Or he did.
Her upturned face, wide-cheeked, bothered him. Too vulnerable. Close your face, he wanted to say.
After he sent her away, he pushed a curtain aside to make sure she closed the gate. She walked off the porch step and past the window, slowly, with a pasted-on smile. He knew that look, a stoic in the making, a sign of early training in hiding what you felt.
No, don’t open the door again.
Goddammit but he was opening the door. Ok, put him down for three orders. He didn’t care which ones. But not oatmeal raisin, those two had no business being in a cookie.
When he looked out, she was wiping her cheek with the back of her fist. He knew that feeling too, the way an unexpected kindness could force sadness to the surface so fast you didn’t have time to hide it.
It’s not natural how much that order meant to her, Eva, he said to the window.
She was tucking the photo under her arm to fuss with the gate latch. He willed her to slam it, give him the finger when she walked away, but she closed it carefully, even pulled it to check that it was closed. Shifted the photo and visibly sighed before turning to continue down the dead-end road.
What had Eva always called him? Mister Don Quixote?
He opened the door again just to let her know the neighbor’s dog barked at whoever walked down the road, but he was harmless.
Just when she reached the front of the line and thought she knew what was coming, the line broke. Everyone scattered as if there were a signal that only she couldn’t hear, some bellowing and whooping, pointing their elbows out as they rushed away. She froze, saw that she was standing alone, and ran after them, terror rising up to her ears, muffling sound. As she merged with the crowd, a wave of arms and shoulders broke through them and into her. She twisted around and joined the wave until someone shouted and pointed her back in the opposite direction.
She ran until the crowd thinned and stopped where others stood grazing, bored and restless and calling to each other, bending over in contrived positions, squinting into the sun, spitting on the ground and contorting their faces into expressions that seem far too serious for the occasion. A boy, unfamiliar, took pity on her and pointed to the lines almost invisible under the slowly settling dust, the dirty squares he called bases. When she thought she understood, the unheard signal sounded again and the boy grabbed her arm and they ran. He pulled her forward with him, against her instincts of self-preservation, as she flinched and tried to turn away from the undulating wall of people, elbows, blows, aiming at them.
It baffled her, even weeks after her mother had unpacked the boxes and they were eating off of real plates again and she no longer got lost in the long corridors of the new school and she’d learned the basic rules of baseball: the odd abandon, the mob, the joy in conforming and crowding together, the lust for chaos that caused some of her classmates to slam into others. They seemed like animals, blinded by some instinct toward lunacy, and then more than other times she wished for familiar games and accents.
Willow Barnosky lives in San Jose, California. She hopes to resume her work this fall as an English Language Fellow, teaching and training teachers in Poland. Her fiction is featured or upcoming in Spelk, The Write Launch, Misery Tourism, and The Font. She can be found on Twitter @onomatopoesia.