This month we offer fruit we never eat, transparent gummy worms, and dream after dream.
Next month we:
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still life with neighbors
Cezanne’s tables, broken and discontinuous,
are loaded with fruit we never eat,
orange apples and red pears,
folded beautifully in white
tablecloth folds, starchy and still,
light and shadow, shadow and light
everywhere and a mute teapot.
But yesterday, after our walk on the golf course,
we lounged around the sturdy pine coffee table
slicing yellow cheese in thick rounds,
paring the red rind-although Ray ate his.
Ruth dripped plum juice on the front of her sweater
and rushed to the kitchen to clean it
with water and paper towels,
the fruit choking her laughter,
the still winter light in our eyes
as we talked and laughed
bent around the coffee table
eating our fruit and cheese.
Jan Ball has had 354 poems published in the U.S., Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Czech Republic, and England. Her three chapbooks, Accompanying Spouse (2011), Chapter of Faults (2014), and Day Job (2020) were published by Finishing Line Press as well as her first full-length poetry collection, I Wanted To Dance With My Father (2017). When not reading non-fiction and fiction or writing poetry, going to book group or traveling, Jan and her husband like to cook for friends. These background experiences infuse her poetry.
Dirt & Worms
When I was a child I went to a summer camp that served a dessert called dirt and worms, the compound equally as appetizing as the name suggests. It consisted of a brownie or fudge base, deeply black, with transparent gummy worms of scintillating design strewn across its center, certainly thrown by a busboy sweating upon a grill with the promise of minimum wage. I never ate it, opting instead for the alternative delicacies a child considered to be desirable, vanilla ice cream sweating in prairie sun and heating recycled plastic in its contained chemical furnace. Red licorice from the package because it reminded me of my mother, the only parent I had. A single red can of soda, left in the chambers of my barren bunk cleaned out at the end of the day, one I still think about the way you think of all things left behind. I imagine a dejected, piqued teenager disposing of it in the trash. I imagine it there waiting for me, cold metal, a tarp of black plastic that can cut off your breath.
I think of the four walls and the table of dirt and worms. Certainly, the creator harboured no ill intentions for the forced Catholic youth that haunted the grounds, the lake brimming with black leeches and the half mile of beach that extended into dismal green water toiling with E coli and brine. The table was the cheap kind, fold out plastic that collapsed the moment you pulled the hidden switch.
When my father died I felt regret, and it burned in the base of my intestines with a need that fed off my desire to wall it inside my own head. I flew home for the funeral, to flat land kelly green and skies that ached to be seen, presenting vivid color to its mindless oppressors, those that lived and died in the bar the way my father did. He loved a drink. He loved Elvis. He loved me, but I didn’t know it. His drunken stupor drew text messages from the hands that once held me, donned in soft infant skin, where he knew me for two years before he decided two years was a lifetime. Yet, I was there. I was in the rows that preceded his urn and I was there when they lowered it, slowly, carefully into the earth.
I thought of the worms, then.
Jessica Daly is a horror and prose writer from Vancouver, Canada. Her work has appeared previously in Suspense Magazine, Artists’ Syndicate, and most recently in the Summer 2021 issue of The Horror Zine Magazine. She loves books that make her cry, films that make her cry, bad romcoms, and good arthouse horror. She is also a forthcoming reader for Patchwork Lit Mag. She tweets @jdandthevoid.
Hydrocephalus, or How Often
You Chose Home
Dream after dream, you returned
to me whole again, the baldness
on your scalp exchanged for lush.
When you first came, I was 15
& hollowed out & how my body sizzled
with grief. You’d just died a week before,
a death with which all the brightness in
my life began to dim. & that night when
you returned, I wondered if the fluid
in your brain was still thick as gel,
if death was all that darkness we
think about. & you said hey don’t
stare at me like you’re about to die—
the audacity of such humor soft
on your lips. That night we stayed up
on the couch, playing cards, recalling
jokes, guessing the look on your mum’s
face if she were to enter & find you there.
Chiwenite Onyekwelu is a Nigerian poet and essayist. His poetry appears on Rough Cut Press, America Magazine, Isele, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for the 2021 New York Encounter Poetry Contest, winner of the 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, as well runner-up for the Foley Poetry Prize 2020. He serves as Associate Editor at the School of Pharmacy Agulu, where he’s an undergraduate.