Original Poetry: The Cellist

Mother’s mother lies as a wisp in the crevasse
of pillows on a propped bed amid the flurry
of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” sputtering

from the tinny radio. Her right hand bows
tremolo seemingly. A continuous flutter of motions
seeking its cello now long-lain in velvet

and rusty clasps. The left hand is dystonic
like storm-stripped umbrella ribs, like the dead
spider on the sill. Cyan skin with florets

in hazels and mauves veneers her emergent clavicles.
I can turn away and close my eyes to the open
window. The radio cues a waltz and I can feel

the bed jostle with the bow-bounced spiccato
and the answering long-bowed quivering vibrato
of the left hand. The spider gingerly reanimates

its legs and explores the gap around the window
screen. My grandmother rests her cello
and, floral skirt in hand, twirls to the music

careful not to brush me as she passes.
 
 
 
[This poem was published by The Eunoia Review in April, 2015.]
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Short Story Review: “Grandma” by Carol Emshwiller

2 of 5 stars.

Like Matthew Johnson’s excellent “Heroic Measures”, this tale depicts a former superhero succumbing to old age as they interact with a loved one. In this case, the superhero was of the Wonder Woman or Supergirl variety. Her end-of-life sees her living a secluded life with her youngest granddaughter who narrates the tale.

Little insight is given into the grandma’s motivations beyond “not wanting to be a bother” as her abilities become increasingly limited. The granddaughter is a compromised POV, as she clearly feels inadequate carrying the family mantle and yet aspires for some sort of greater life despite an overall lack of super-talent.

The narrator can neither face the truth, her grandmother’s legacy, nor the public.

This tale appears in the anthology, Superheroes edited by Rich Horton.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Original Poetry: A Song for My Grandmother

Two trumpeters standing tall . . .
From deep within, two trumpeters,
like a pipe organ warming up,
causing shivers and glassy eyes . . .
(It’s an anthem?)
Billows of fabric, flags, circle slowly.
Two trumpeters standing tall
announce
from deep within, an anthem;
and flags, mere billows of fabric,
grandiose flags arc upstroke skyward
in a burst of white doves on a blue sky
causing shivers and glassy eyes.
The crowd, two trumpeters,
a field of uniforms . . .

I am alone
on a high box in white spotlight—
The Moon (Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding).
I am alone and not seeing the crowd
in the blackness; voyeurs watching
me sing of death and longing.
Blue hair, white face, and painted brown
lips, hands clutching (bowing) an upright double-bass.
I am singing what he knew,
of what I’ve yet to know,
of what she knows; and I am alone.

She, my grandmother, straddling her cello,
bows the exhaustion, the longing;
with a trembling upstroke,
does not see the crowd in the blackness
anticipating.

The white doves, anticipating,
are waiting for their high box to open.

Trembling, she claims the microphone.
(It is an anthem.) From beyond
her girth-protected pharynx,
from deep within, like a pipe organ
warming up, she sings
of white doves in a field of blue.

She, the moon,
with wild brown hair and gypsy eyes,
has always sung through the blackness.
Her bone white in a blue sky
sees the anticipating crowds
from her high box on the upstroke.
She announces.

With billows of fabric trembling,
the white doves upstroke
toward a knowing moon.

Two trumpeters announce an anthem.

She, at the microphone, anticipates
the crowd and sings.
I am alone (but am I brave?)

White hair and a blue dress
are laid out on billowing fabric.
The bows are silent.
The brown earth lip-trembles
like a lover anticipating.
She, my grandmother,
does not see the brave crowd
in blackness singing,
causing shivers and glassy eyes.

The moon knows of longing
and sings from deep within.
It’s an anthem “of the brave,”
that she, at the microphone, sings.

He knew the moon.

I have yet to know the doves
that two trumpeters announce.
 
 
 
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Short Story Review: “Super. Family.” by Ian Donald Keeling

4 of 5 stars.

Along the course of every father-daughter relationship, there’s the moment things change. The little girl is no longer a little girl anymore and the father–no matter how invincible and unknowable he seemed–proves all too human. Adult mysteries fail to remain mysteries to the ever more canny offspring.

This tale captures the wonder and bafflement of that moment, when the daughter’s curses and disappointments can slash the parent as deeply as any knife. The loss of innocence is rarely subtle.

However, here it is larger than life. The father is a superhero, one of the greatest and strongest. And yet his identity has remained a secret to even his two daughters. Mom, too, was an active superhero once. But now she’s home raising the third child that came along well after the others. The relationship between the parents is strained to say the least. And the strain is not nearly as lost on the daughters as the parents have hoped.

For a man that’s nearly invincible to the rest of the world, his daughters and wife find and exploit his vulnerability to his very family . . .

This tale appears in the anthology, Superheroes edited by Rich Horton.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “The Palm Tree Bandit” by Nnedi Okorafor

3 of 5 stars.

This very short tale reflects the familial tales told within families about particular ancestors. A young girl is told this tale about her great-grandmother, “Yaya,” while getting her hair braided by her grandmother [or mother]. It comes across as a girl-power, folk tale.

Yaya lived in a village with a strong gender divide in what was allowed. Especially banned for women was the climbing and tapping of palm trees since palm tree sap is an intoxicant. Yaya felt less constrained by the rules and defied the ban in a toyful manner making the male leaders into fools. Slowly, the gender constraint slides away as others carry on the playful defiance throughout the village and on into neighboring ones.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Original Poetry: Thanksgiving Gathering

This table –
      elongated and stretching
to the borders of the room,
      set with heavy silverware
and water goblets and plates
      centered with linen napkins in steel rings,

and circumnavigated
      by my older brother
who’s lost the thread
      of conversation in pursuit
of his son who has left
      two Dr. Seuss books on the butcher’s block

and popped
      each fat black olive
into his mouth as his father did
      30 years ago;
my brother who still
      favors Stovetop Stuffing,

Scrabble after the meal,
      and his left foot ever since last year’s
second round of chemotherapy
      (that Thanksgiving spent
in marrow transplant isolation,
      nauseated

and nervously eyeing dry erase numbers
      that vaunted his T-cell count),
and his wife who’s returned to baking:
      two pecan pies, a blueberry pie
and cheesecake, and who’s inherited
      the gravy station at the stove

from our grandmother –
      whose chair is not filled this year,
whose silent passing muted
      everyone’s focus on cancer,
whose marshmallowed yams
      are not here –

this oaken table gathers
      the candied cranberries and crabapple pickles,
the casseroles edging the vegetables,
      the family that gathers
to pieced and quilted conversations
      and to clasped hands.
 
 
[This poem was published by The Eunoia Review in April 2015.]
 
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Original Poetry: Mermen

The game is to see who can stay submerged
the longest. More than breath-control, it involves
constantly propelling our underdeveloped buoyant
bodies downward. Our arms are outstretched
condor wings pushing upward. Our legs are half-
enfolded and helplessly dangling jellyfish tentacles.
We face each other in the dappled glow of the pool’s
washed-out blue and bait each other as only merman
can. Escaping bubbles leak out; my ears ring
with my breath-deprived heartbeat.
 
                                                                 I first
zip-sledded the previous summer. The boat circled
far and large with the board skimming behind
while I, bucked off, chattered in the cold, cold,
brown lake water. Feather-limbed lakemen circled
beneath, brushing my legs and fingering my ankles.
Kicking at them made them madder or meaner.
The distant boat didn’t hear me screaming, swallowing
the bitter fishy water.
 
                                        I know this feeling,
the one that makes me run from the top
of the stairs, down the dark hallway, past five
dark doorways to mine at the end. Whatever
is there is surprised by how quickly I can
turn on my bedroom light and scramble to the far
corner of my bed, nestled in the room’s corner
farthest from the door and closet. I hold my breath
until all is quiet in the house.
 

                                                  The game is
to stare at each other through the chlorine-
sting. He is two years younger and kicks off
the bottom. Thankful, I surface right behind.
 
 
 
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]