Issue 1.37

Bill the Canary Waits for Spring

To press through the naked empty winter
we fuse golden ginkgo leaves between waxed paper
and hang them in windows like stained glass
until the early bloom of citrus sorbet daffodils
fills the view

we stave off cold snaps by freezing our own snap peas
and drying lavender blossoms, secreting sachets in drawers

Bill the Red-Factor Canary sings the spring aria,
and we feed him his favorite cherries and beets
to keep him as rosy as a parrot tulip

we drop the ugh in doughnut
and go straight to donut
swapping heavy fruitcake batter
for fried tropical banana and cardamom donuts,
light as a canary feather, sliced in half
and reclining against coffee sorbet

thawing and waiting, like Bill and the rest of us,
for sunshine and springtime.

Two Paths of Thomcord Grapes

Before the birds can eat them when they’re
harvested in late summer those blue-black
grapes with jellied insides appear in kitchens
like mine and unlike mine, the ones with stainless
steel and ringing of efficiency with mixer bowls
the size of cauldrons white glazed tile on walls
and salamanders that breathe fire and caramelize sugar

In my space of nicked wooden countertops
dull pine cupboards chipped sink rattling
refrigerator and stove with three out of four burners
working set in an imperfect triangle I spend
the day canning the Thomcord grape jam
ladling the thick purple gravy mixed with
a splash of balsamic vinegar and sluice of
lemon juice to help it set up

I wipe my forehead on my apron
settling the jars in a hot water bath
then lining them up to cool and rest
upside down on a towel to seal the gasket

But the evening belongs to a chilled lemon
pudding-like dessert with Thomcord grape sorbet
served in our corner café with a gleaming kitchen
and blur of white coated staff

I’m joined by a friend for whom I brought
a jar of still warm homemade jam, night-dark purple and
topped with a plaid bonnet, we recline on booth seats
blending the smooth parts of the dessert
with the almond crumb, fennel pollen merengue,
and mint, the taste unravelling in my mouth.

Sandy Deutscher Green writes from her home in Virginia USA where her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and appeared in Bitter Oleander, Paper Dragon, Neologism, and The Lake, as well as in her chapbooks, Pacing the Moon (Flutter Press, 2009), and Lot for Sale. No Pigs (BatCat Press, 2019). You can follow her on Twitter @SandyDGreen and Instagram @msssandygreen or on her website:

Bonson County

            for BW, mid-80s

I wrestled the Pawtalaskee Bridge, hoisted at dawn, lowered at dusk. Between, soaked my canvases, splash of yellow & draw, splash of crimson & plunge, the flood in the jilted vein. Watercolor nodding. So it went, into the night, the wood-burning winter when there was no wood, there was no cash, & the Soho gallery stopped calling, last drip of paint daubed from the mangled soda can. The river turned blue, the bridge in lockjaw. I sold blood, my grandmother’s gold, fifty silver dollars. I lived like that for three months, shaking in the monster’s arms.

First Marriage

            for David R, 1968

We were married at the courthouse
before I left for the war overseas
—prayer on a felony charge,
seven bags of electric powder.
She had her own battles,
dodging the tripwire in her skull,
pill vials lined up like grenades.
When I returned, my heart
plastic-wrapped, stashed in a duffel bag,
I tore apart the house,
found a sharp melody under a pair of shorts,
a flat guitar riff in my sock drawer.
Our song crumbled in the dim light,
even desire, that soaring hook,
failed to reel us in.
She buried her meds in the backyard.
I spent hours by the door, listening for footsteps.
One morning I waved from our living room
as she boarded a spaceship docked in the kitchen.
She took the bed.
I kept the Teflon pans.
That was fifty years ago, man,
that was yesterday.

John Amen is the author of several collections of poetry, including Illusion of an Overwhelm, a finalist for the 2018 Brockman-Campbell Award. His poetry and prose have appeared in American Literary ReviewColorado ReviewPrismPrairie Schooner, and Tupelo Quarterly. He founded and is managing editor of Pedestal Magazine.

Butane Cookery

The lightwell is a wrong-way syphon
brimming with onion sweetness,
near-burnt ragout, Reggae,
Gershwin, steaming caldo,
sucked into an insatiable sky.

Next door, the Channel Five news
marks another hour. Seeking cover,
I expose myself
to street-side cold, where water
from a higher balcony,

our knee-high cadavers
in pots of crusted optimism.

Downstairs, the terrace bar is full
and laughter floats
on the tobacco,
permeating double

glazing, where the screen
is paused at this week’s episode,
And my bookmark lies, naked
on the coffee table
marbled with your cursive.

At the stove, a darkness stirs
to keep the pot from sticking,
Will stir
until the gas
runs out,
though the trains stopped running
time ago
and our hunger
has been eaten by the night.

Jean Velasco is a writer, translator, and EFL teacher from Naarm/Melbourne, who lives in Madrid. Her work has appeared in journals such as Overland, Going Down Swinging, Kill Your Darlings, and the anthology “Growing Up Queer in Australia” (Black Inc, 2019). She can be found online @jean_sprout.