Do you know who this is? That was my father’s gentle prompt. We sat together, patiently, treading the protracted silence. This should be easy. I am my father’s son – hairline to heartstrings, a physical carbon copy down to the wellsprings of emotion.
It happens just like that; no warning. All her files saved under son suddenly, inexplicably corrupted. Expectations were clear from the beginning: given time, she would leave us, but here I am the one who is gone as she searches my face for her boy she cannot place.
Thad DeVassie’s work has appeared in numerous journals including New York Quarterly, Poetry East, West Branch, Ghost City Review, Barely South, Unbroken, PANK, Lunate and Spelk. His chapbook, This Side of Utopia, is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. A lifelong Ohioan, he writes from the outskirts of Columbus.
I don’t want to die, I don’t want to live,
neither, I’m ten years old and if ten years
is any indication of the next
ten or twenty or sixty I don’t
want to go on but then again I don’t
don’t want to as well so is there a third
choice I asked my Sunday School teacher, say
like the Holy Ghost to God and Jesus
or Mary to Peter and Paul or Shemp
to Moe and Larry but I’m damned if she
didn’t start laughing and couldn’t stop ’til
I started crying, which is unmanly
but to be fair I’m just a little boy
the way a kid is the third part of Mom
and Dad and then she said Why Gale, bless your
heart, which made me cry more, and silently,
which is the most grievous grief of them all
so she started crying, too, but hers was
weeping, which made me sadder because I’m not
old enough or at least too stupid
to cry with class. But I’m guessing I’ll live.
Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in eleven countries and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.
Poetry didn’t come easily there.
Dusty roads limped into bush,
seventies Chevys slouched in yards,
half-hearted homes wore cigarette stains,
Domtar wrap and Jack Daniels dreams.
We, the children, were scrappy,
snotty-nosed, smelled like horse,
ensnarled in hardscrabble brush.
But in summer’s oily nights
Creek water under the trestle filled our ears
with amphibian song, cleansed us, cradled us,
held us apart from the shadowy leeches below.
For just a moment we were
Lana Crossman lives in Ottawa, Canada, but grew up rural New Brunswick, a place she continues to revisit and recast in her poems. Her creative work has been published in Bywords journal and Apt613. She recently won Carleton University’s Lilian I. Found Award for Poetry (2020), and was shortlisted for the John Newlove Poetry Award (2018). You can follow her on Instagram (@Lana.Crossman) or Twitter (@LanaCrossman).
Cellar Door (Orange)
I know of three ways to eat an orange. I imagine there are more. First: to dig one’s thumb into the rind around the stem. To excise that botanical naval. The spiral that results ought to form a continuous corkscrew, according to my passed grandfather. He was speaking of clementines, but the logic still applies. Second: post-juicing. Pulp present. In the morning, listening to traffic, pre-sun. My mother did things for us like this, once. Now it is Minute Maid, and only in emergencies, when my father’s blood sugar dips below biological permissibility. Third: quartered. The skin still on. Wedges filling pep talks’ lapses at soccer games’ halves. Bees would swarm. It is impossible to overstate the beauty of these moments. The unrecognized pre-loss states in which we existed. Lozenge. Nate, who is dead, who passed a bullet through his head, who was clever at ten, impossibly so: door hinge. The world, in its experienced jadedness, had forgotten these rhymes. We were wise, then. We were impossibly wise.
I was living with my diabetic father and my exhausted mother when I received the news that Nate had died. He was twenty-five. Had been. I, too, was twenty-five. After reading the text I turned off my PlayStation and then my phone and climbed the basement’s carpeted stairs. My socked feet made no sound. It was a Saturday in May. Cellar door is the most beautiful phrase in the English language, according to the film Donnie Darko, or, rather, some writer quoted therein. Cellar door. An orange, either segmented or pulped or quartered. Peeled. Cellar door. I opened the door, searching for someone. The house was quiet. Something. I did and still do not know for what.
Colin Lubner writes (in English) and teaches (math) in southern New Jersey. His writing has either appeared or will appear, temporally speaking. Recent pieces can be found through his Twitter: @no1canimagine0. He is keeping on keeping on.