“Cora, come on!” When Dad called, you came, whether you wanted to or not. Jesse was already there, grinning, flicking his new Swiss army knife open and closed. “You’re gonna cut yourself,” I said, jealous and a bit angry, but a look from Dad shut me up. We’d only driven a few miles before I knew my words were prophetic. The same ditch he’d always swerved around was damp and slippery today. Jesse must have just flicked the knife open when we lurched forward. When we stopped, Dad pulled me out, then went back, cradling him in his arms. I never knew he could cry, but I never saw him as unfeeling again. He said I could keep Jesse’s knife, but it held no more allure for me. I haven’t touched a knife since.
Rani Jayakumar has contributed to Honeyguide Magazine, Ab Terra Flash Fiction, Vine Leaves Press, Secret Attic, and other publications. She teaches mindfulness and writes at okachiko.wordpress.com.
Feeding splintered bones
to a sullen dog
that bites down
and, pierced in
Then, in the delirium
of his hunger
John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.
Paintings Sold Here
For Maude Lewis
She bore the brutal east coast winters in her bones; shrivelled, small, a child’s casket was enough to hold her when she was through with everything. The pain held her from the first to the last, kept her caged in a one-room shack with a big wood stove. She painted postcards, cheerful folksy bric-a-brac, bright birds and bells for oxen, lively colours to keep the bleaker agonies at bay. Sometimes someone would knock, pick out a card to take back west with them. Push a crumpled five spot into the empty tobacco tin. Her husband couldn’t read but he could count. No one liked him, and even after he was murdered for that tin of small bills, her gone already, they would keep on talking about him, call him mean. Maybe. But maybe she was not all sugar herself, and here she was safe and he cared for her in his own way. Even after the girl came, saying Maud was her mother. She was too lame to bear babies- the only one she’d made had been born dead. Her parents had told her so, before wrapping that oh so little life in blue cotton and passing her off to an orphanage so they would not be shamed, or stuck with more mouths that needed feeding. All of it hurt: the aching hell of a body and antibodies that turned on her before she could talk; the boy she had loved and made love to before he up and marched into the sunset without her, the ugly mug she saw in the broken glass, the way Everett struggled to keep the fire stoked. The grinding poverty. The lonely stretch of days and seasons, the isolation. If anyone had asked her about any of it, she didn’t have had any sweet words of wisdom about the good Lord’s blessings or the joy of simplicity and nature. She had only the paper, and the brush, the way she could make them work, the magic way that apples and kitty cats appeared. This, and the long dark overhead, the miles of spilling stars.
Lorette C. Luzajic is a widely published writer of flash fiction and poetry. Her most recent book, Winter in June, contains both. Most of her works are inspired by visual art. She teaches ekphrastic workshops online, and is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review.