Jelly Jar, II
Biscuits, corn-cobs, cornbread too,
potatoes, soda-pop over icicles,
plenty of butter, real butter, why not.
From scratch. Scratch everything.
Dull knives. Cast-iron skillet, rust
red. Black coffee, cigarettes.
On the player, light rain.
The forecast? Always rain.
The stove, searing the steak raw.
Start with dessert. Look at the clock.
Fresh cherry ice cream, spun
to an ether. Like a last meal
I keep her brains in a jelly jar now.
The clouds turn and come back.
I’ll believe it when I see it, I say to her,
time travel is just travel.
Let it be, she says, it’s for the best.
Strawberry jelly on toast points.
Breakfast until bed.
A stomach full of words.
Eggs float back into their shells.
Like a watched pot freezing
over, I’ll stand in awe
at the kitchen filling with snow.
Good morning, I’ll say,
as the story begins. I missed you.
Adam Ai is a Puerto Rican and Basque poet and U.S. Army veteran from Los Angeles. His poems have been published in various print and online publications. He lives with a Ghost. Hobbies include time travel and teaching robots to love. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram @AdamAiPoems.
Alva got home at one. Alva walked from her Third Grade at the Primary School that got over at half-past twelve, round the corner of Batistuba Park and along the curb of Fourth Avenue, where a lemon-yellow Brimstone befriended her. Alva and the butterfly skipped over the ivy. Alva hopped on the dirt road to her home. Alva unlocked the red-tiled tiny cottage which was her home. Alva kept her tiny shoes neatly on the worn-out wooden rack and her black polka-dotted bag on the desk in the foyer. Alva reached out for the pretty rag doll waiting for her on the blue-going-grey chair. Alva hugged Elisa, scooped the doll’s face in her palms for a tight kiss. Alva ate the cold sandwich lying on the table and trotted off to talk to Papa on the wall. Alva wiped the glass, kissed him. Alva told Papa about her day in school: Katie’s lost a tooth in school and with all the blood, Meg offered Katie her hanky and Alva went nowhere near them for, she told Papa, she can’t stand the sight of blood. Alva made a horrified face, Papa smiled—he always did from behind the glass. Alva boiled potatoes and green beans for dinner. Alva waited for Mum to come home. Alva listened to Mum talk about her workday at the salon; about the women who needed their toes painted with glitter. Alva sliced tomatoes thin. Alva mopped the kitchen floor afterwards. Alva lulled herself to sleep listening to Mum snore.
Alva got home at three. Alva walked from her Third Grade at the Primary School that got over at half-past twelve, round the corner of Batistuba Park. Alva walked alone on the curb along Fourth Avenue, where a minivan pulled beside her. Alva turned when someone asked her the way—someone else thrust something up her nose. Alva does not remember anything what happened next. Alva got thrown out at the same place, limped along the dirt road to her home. Alva unlocked the tiny cottage, threw her left shoe aside and the right is don’t-know-where. Alva did not look at the pretty rag doll waiting for her on the blue-going-grey chair. Alva never ate the cold sandwich on the table. Alva did not talk to Papa on the wall. Alva went nowhere near them for she can’t stand the sight of blood soaking her dress. Alva went straight to the bathroom. Alva waited for Mum to come home. Alva waited for Mum to notice the untouched sandwich, notice her. Alva listened to Mum talk about Alex, guitarist of the local Cuttlefish Band. Alva sliced tomatoes thin; examined the sharpness of the knife, tested the sharpness of the knife with tiny cuts on her arms; thought, what if? Mum discovered her in the bathtub. Alva mopped the kitchen floor afterwards. Alva couldn’t sleep from the pain while Mum snored.
Alva got home at one. Alva walked from her Third Grade at the Primary School that got over at half-past twelve, round the corner of Batistuba Park to the office of Chief Constable Whitney Moore on Lewisham Road. Alva gave a detailed account. Alva told her the second man was wearing a purple balaclava. Alva unlocked the tiny cottage. Alva threw the pretty rag doll waiting for her on the blue-going-grey chair in the trash. Alva did not eat the cold sandwich on the table. Alva trotted off to talk to Papa on the wall. Alva did not talk. Alva cried, Papa smiled—he always did from behind the glass. Alva wiped the glass, lingering on his dark-blue uniform, on the badges on his epaulettes. Alva kissed him. Alva did not wait for Mum to come home. Alva boiled potatoes and green beans for dinner. Alva listened to Mum talk to Alex in her bedroom. Alva, instead, switched the TV on; listened to Breaking News. Alva sat upright; watched the police drag the balaclava man handcuffed to a police van. Alva clenched her fists until the knuckles were white.
Mandira Pattnaik’s work has been published, among others, by The Times of India, Panoplyzine, Spelk, Lunate, TheBombayLiteraryMagazine, MadSwirl, Splonk, Star 82, Nightingale&Sparrow, Eclectica and DoorIsAJar. She is from India. She tweets @MandiraPattnaik.
We are forever running out of toothpaste.
We are running out of toothpaste, forever.
Remains of the weekday blight everything flat:
twisty bread tie on a crumbed counter,
aimless receipts overlaying an ancient manic pamphlet.
Is this capitalism? Shit, is this marriage?
The mail piles, languishes, puckers, piles again.
I think it might destroy me, this
relentless tide of tiny trash things, until
Tuesday, when you buy Aquafresh, in bulk,
five tubes staving off our ordinary ruin.
Is it ever a temple? But sometimes it’s a bird.
When your teen limbs lift with the violins,
your earnest beating sternum warmed
by a flock of sisters, you raise a sweat-silvered
parish of wings,
a latticework of bone.
Never a temple, but it can be a seep.
A pressing spill, unstilled, unbidden
and streaming from each hot fissure
for a tiny wanderer who, seeking sanctuary
from her first sun, senses milkfall,
calls you home.
Once two girls lost something over the backyard fence.
You were both ten, smaller than most. You boosted her so she could peek
but once there she scrabbled against the wood, suddenly
scared to be dangling. She cried out and you — feather-boned fifth grader —
put your head beneath her grubby summer feet.
A seep, a bird, a body: against all this,
what virtue is stone?
Laura Marostica’s writing has appeared in Buzzfeed, Iron Horse Literary Review, Exponent II, and elsewhere. She lives in Albany, California. Find her on Instagram @lauradomenica9 or, sporadically, at lauradomenica.wordpress.com.