Word Fountain: Spring 2012 Issue No. 6
by Iris Johston
No one ever writes, ‘the morning sky
looks like nothing so much as cotton
candy or the eyeshadow palette
of a Harajuku waitress.’
She rubs the sunrise on her eyes
because there is no sky outside her window,
just a neighbor’s wall, one hour
the color of sardines, one hour
the color of boiled wool.
No one ever says that children
laughing sometimes look like children
crying, and a mother might turn
smiling at the laugh of her son
but clap her hands on her mouth when
she sees the sprawl of corduroy
and blonde curls on the sidewalk.
No one ever warns us that we are living
in cavemen bodies we are books
of biochemistry lasered on papyrus
and our bodies hate our brains
like the waitress hates her neighbors
and the restaurant, she hates her filmy lace gloves
it’s all she can do not to fold
a note under the egg custard in the blue fluted cup
that says, “meet me in the Ladies’ Room
and I’ll do whatever you like.”
by Laura Duda
It was Sunday – no longer an acknowledged day to her, but rather a gap between two others. The day of rest, the day of the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day; the day to pile the kids into the family sedan and drive to the local house of worship to repent and pray, drink the wine, break the bread, and beg forgiveness. Except, of course, if you were Haydn Andras. Haydn was different. For her Sunday was not for any of those things. Just a gap, an empty shell of darkness overflowing with memories, dreams and nightmares, fire and thunder. Things she wanted desperately to forget. Sunday used to be special when Haydn was younger – but Mathujan, the beautiful flame-haired sorceress whose jealousy driven evil had plagued her family for centuries, had changed that. She’d taken away her mother, her friends, and her home. Stolen the heart of Sundays, and left her an orphan in an imminent world of mortality.
Everything had happened so fast.
Sunday had never been a religious day for Haydn or her family, except in those sparsely scattered years when a solar Sabbat fell on one. In the year 2010, Samhain, the “End of Summer Harvest Festival” – the final celebration of the Pagan and spirit year when the veil between the mortal and immortal worlds is thinnest – fell on a Sunday. For Haydn and her mother, Vanaura, this Samhain was to be one of exaltation and joy; a long awaited reunion of souls and family. It was to be the night that Haydn’s father, Calder, would return to them to fulfill his mortal obligations and earn his place among the gods of Annwyn, the Welsh afterworld.
The evening’s festivities were highlighted by dancing fiddles, twirling belladonnas, and a playful merriment that swept through hearts and shone on the faces of all – young and old, infant and teen, boy and girl, woman and man. An immense bonfire glowed and warmed the air at the center of the clearing where they’d gathered to celebrate. Fireflies flirted over the drifting embers to light the night with sparks of green, and bring it to life.
It had appeared to dance. Flickering red and orange, yellow and blue flames licking high into the night wrapping themselves in a passionate embrace, and weaving tendrils through wood and branch seeking breath from the cool autumn air.
Then, it had roared.
The sky reached down in a thunderous rage. Lightning streamed from its clouds, an explosion of red escaped its grasp. The fire pulsed and raised, flames forming the jagged edge of a woman’s robes. The sorceress, in a fury of heat and rage, descended from the dark into the very heart of the flames. Women screamed and rushed to find their children, gathering them close as they all watched the fire transform. Men, hypnotized by her terrible splendor, moved as though in a trance, falling to their knees at her feet. Fiddles silenced. Whispers of her name, “Mathujan,” carried on the wind. She twirled in her birth-pyre as her midnight eyes searched the motionless flock. Mercilessly they sought until falling upon Vanaura, they held.
“Restless souls and spirits damned seek closure from this mortal world,” her voice crackled and hissed. “They wish their sins to be forgiven and erased, their debts to be fulfilled, their prophecy realized, and their existence to be passed from uncertainty to the heavens. Well, not tonight.”
Gasps of disbelief rippled through the darkness.
“Tonight, it is I who will fulfill a prophecy. Tonight, I’ll have vengeance and will take from you.” She pointed a blazing finger at Vanaura. “As you have taken from me.”
Haydn stood fast at her mother’s side. Some of the men and boys had gathered branches, spruce and firs, and were beating the flames at Mathujan’s feet.
She spared them a glance. “Cease! You mortal fools!” Balls of fire sprang from her hands and knocked them back, fully engulfed, screaming.
Her fiery stare returned to Vanaura. “Calder is mine! To you he shall never return, his debt shall never be fulfilled, and you shall spend your days in Limbus. Never again will you share his love, his life or his bed. He is MINE!”
Too quickly for Haydn to cry out or protest, the sorceress’s arms reached out from the night, flames dripping to scorch grass and earth, as she wrapped Haydn’s mother in a fiery embrace. They vanished, whisked up through the clouds from whence the evil one had come.
That was inRhode Island. That was nearly a month ago.
Haydn now sat in her new bedroom. A converted attic on the third floor of a dingy white, aluminum-clad, low-income house on a dead end street called Elm. She stared out her one small window at the desolate street below. Amber, orange, red and brown leaves performed an autumnal waltz across the potholed asphalt street. The wind swirled and floated and dipped them along. Over the cracked concrete sidewalk flirting with the trunks of maples and oaks on their way to the nearest storm drain, where they would end this final dance of the season.
At least they had company. Unlike them, she was alone.
Haydn didn’t know where her father was, or how to reach him. He hadn’t made it through that night after her mother was taken. She couldn’t even be sure he knew that either of them were gone. At seventeen, alone in this world, she’d been forced to leave her life, her friends, and the only home she’d ever known. She’d become the custodial ward of Elna Pickett, a childhood friend of Vanaura’s. Elna, the devout Catholic who had no idea of her old classmate’s beliefs and rituals, no idea that she was now sharing her home with a young woman whose beliefs did not match her own; whose divine spirits and deities were not of the Holy Trinity. Elna Pickett; a childless, husbandless, truck stop waitress in a one light, one God town in rural Pennsylvania.
by Dawn Leas
Sunday morning, drowsy from incense,
we kneel with mom at the marble
altar of Holy Name of Jesus, Eucharist
on our tongues. It sticks to the roofs
of our mouths as we sign the Trinity.
In the pew we bow our heads, and pray.
Sunday morning, dad talks to his Higher
Power as he runs between cypress and oak
trees inAudubonPark. His spirituality
sliding free like Louisiana Pine Snakes
flying like Red Tail Hawks, thirteen
years of Catholic school forgotten.
driving with the windows open
by Dawn Leas
a voice from the past called today.
fluid baritone cuts static. its timbre
slices long-forgotten lines, entwines
words and wind in hair let down
to roam summer heat, its song
laced with belief in second chances.
by Michael Lindgren
Through sleep among shadowed signs
Haunted by strangers
Kept static, awaiting
dawn’s silent hush;
a tremor still vibrates
under angles and planes, of
hidden surface, now banished,
buried sight, crown unseen
below hardening eyes
and masked by indifferent rays.
A summons: who calls?
What bright chiming figure
alights among rubble
glistening silver, shard-like
mirrored by unblinking rays?
Only thoughts, restless, rotating,
clicking on schedule
awaiting this discordant fray
upon the bower, still pensive,
a procession in balanced dismay.
Moonpies for Misfits
by Andrea Janov
Hot Water Music rasps
Mark walks in, Where the hell
his hands shoved in have you been? Nick asks
wearing his ‘shoot pigs in the face’
shirt, he’s worn every day this August.
The Grey AM was playing at Metro
told Jamie I’d meet him there
Wow, a show. Remember when…
Jibo in his faded AFI T-shirt.
Isn’t that how I miss Rianna laughs we all met? those days
the kids my hair still blue
the energy our purses covered in pins
and drinking 40s out of paper bags. Nick’s
out of his shorts
Don’t get all sappy on me Mark’s
hair hangs in his eyes.
We’ve Got a Thing That’s Called Postal Love
by Rachael J. Goetzke
“You need to buy that hat,” Cathy insisted as we stood in the “Mart of K” as she calls it. It was a bowler hat, the kind you might see in the 1920s when people not only knew that jazz existed but celebrated it. Cathy is warm and radiant, her wavy brown hair encircling her cheerful face. A writer, and confessed shopaholic, she is sturdy in her support of impulse buying. But Cathy is always
attuned to nuances of her loved ones’ tastes. She is so
considerate of her loved ones, in fact, that even on long days, she stays up to pen letters to them that she would send out by way of her beloved “U.S. Postal gods.”
“Yes, but it’s brown,” I contested, “and I have too much brown. And it’s twelve dollars. That’s a visit to the vet…and, it—it’s just not practical. Besides, it won’t keep my ears warm in the winter.”
The truth is that I’d been a fan of the color since age ten, staring up at the life-sized Eddie Vedder poster next to my bed. That corduroy jacket draped over hidden biceps could persuade a vegetarian to crave meat. Beneath those brown ripples, a lighter brown, form-fitted tee stretched over the lean, yet muscular chest, concealing my view. But I knew it was there. It held mystery in the way a plastic Ken doll’s flesh-colored skivvies did. Above that beautifully sculpted chest were the most haunting and brilliant blue eyes I’d ever seen. They reminded me of my own.
Mom had hope that we might one day win the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. To be entered into the drawing, one had to purchase a magazine subscription. Mom didn’t read magazines, really. She read Real Estate Reviews and bank statements. Whenever we’d travel to another state she’d pick up the house magazines just to dream about the houses. I grew up in these houses. The lock box was such a sacred invention. Her lockbox keys dangled from a large, spiraling red keychain. The keys to the universe, I thought, we can go anywhere.
I read magazines from back to front. People always want to start at the beginning. Even though this magazine was the most expensive subscription of the lot of them (a bi-weekly publication, in fact) Mom ordered Rolling Stone Magazine for me. When I got the magazine, I sought after whatever intrigued me. Any glint of brown corduroy and buddy, I was there. I think to get where you were meant to be you need to dive right in—especially when the water’s cold. After all, warm water isn’t usually a good sign.
Most children have two times a year to feel the postal love: Birthdays and Christmases. Unless you were born in December like me and get the all-in-one treatment. Shortly after the divorce, Dad made his presence known in the form of a $50 dollar check sandwiched between the parchment of a Chr-birthday card I valued more. It was signed off in nearly illegible left-handed scrawl, much like my own:
“I love you, Dad.”
But that, like the idea of having something constant in my life, disappeared too quickly. And there I stood on that summer day, the kind that hugs you with its humidity, pulling my treasure out of the compact, metal box. In a white rectangle at the bottom cover of the Rolling Stone it read: Recipient: Rachael Goetzke.
When my parents still lived together in our glass mansion I used to check the mail regularly. My heart would thrum at the sight of the capital “R” followed by the “C” and the “H” and the “A” until I focused in on the “I” the “R” and the “D.” Richard, instead. Mail for dad, though he went by Dick. I still don’t understand how the appropriate nickname for Richard is Dick. Even as my brother and I stood in the breezeway of our modest, brown wooden paneled house and he taught me the latest swear word he learned at school that day, I knew that Dick just didn’t sound right for Richard.
Staring at the cover that first day that music and writing eloped in my head I knew this bond would be postmarked on me forever. And when Eddie sang between the pages, I sang along from a spring hidden deep inside my rib cage, below the more obvious scar tissue.
There, in the middle of K-mart, he was serenading me from my internal radio as I stared down at the brown bowler hat. “Oh dear Dad, can you see me now? I am myself, like you somehow. I’ll ride the wave where it takes me…I’ll hold the pain release me, release me….”1
Recently, I paired together those same shades from childhood without fully realizing their significance. The light brown shirt, the dark brown enrobing the light brown the way a Milky Way bar does. In fact, I called it my Milky Way get-up. These earthy browns made me feel closer to Eddie. A new friend of mine told me, “Girl, you need some color in your wardrobe. You look like the UPS guy.” At first, I was hurt by her words. I’d tried pink but it didn’t feel right on me. Cathy always wore pink. Purple was her favorite, but she sparkled in pink and she had an affinity for sparkly things.
“Try it on,” her golden voice urged beneath the glare of fluorescent lights. But I already knew that this hat would feel right on my head.
1 Pearl Jam_“Release”_Ten_Epic,1991.
Until I Say So
by Andrea Janov
we mill around the yard and in the streets
Sharon’s 17th birthday party
the whole crew together again
we mill around the yard and in the streets
I hug RJ careful to avoid Dave
the whole crew together again
along with new friends we each brought along
Dave flirts with Steph : Mandy : Jess careful that I notice
we leave old friends mid- sentence
for new friends we each brought along
the sun sets : street lights stutter
we leave old friends mid sentence
the sun sets : street lights stutter
we flirt with crushes
break up with boyfriends : girlfriends : best friends
comfortable in our selfishness
we break up with boyfriends : girlfriends : best friends
I wander to the Swoyersville Little League Field
shouts and laughter leak from the party
the Swoyersville Little League Field
stare at the spot where the paint doesn’t match
shouts and laughter leak from the party
I sit on the curb : legs rest against blacktop still warm from the sun
stare at the spot where the paint doesn’t match
sneak a glance of my past
the blacktop still warm from the sun
Justin laughs, they were never able cover it…
sneaking glances of our past
Sharon’s 17th birthday party
Mark looks at me, I guess not everything fades…
By Edward Lupico
When spring has sprung,
raining down on neck and wood,
red sometimes flows
as from a Tudor beheading,
on a replenishing altar,
bloodstained by purpose.
Unobserved, by the baseboard,
preserving the Heisenberg;
until, licking the last of the peanut butter,
the unwelcome pest catalysts
then we measure…
you are in the red, you rascal,
no way out of this one.
I hear your tiny claws on the roof of my dream:
Here, hovering as I awaken,
like a chanced-upon image
from a silent film—
black and white, flight, never to land—
I pick you up with my hand
and bury you in the dried ferns.
What device did the Prince conceive
when he baited for a poisonous exeunt?
We hold our breath for the snap of death.
It is all suspense, moving our stories forward;
after each release, renewing the spring.
Will we trap something gray and ordinary,
or catch a king?
A Poem by Frank Walsh
The tyger leis
Down with the ewe
A man kind has his view
While miss this stage
Crew cut for a cast
Called for playing with stuff
With some of the stuff dug
Down in the flats, under
The red velvet fire curtain
Only the peak of a nose
And smile at the end
Of his awning snout
The lambs hocked and screwed
Up even as a green lion stalks
Even as the tigers shout
“Evermore, old boy romantic
Dust even now, you seasoned chump.”
iCharity by Mortification
by Iris Johnston
Pocket the panic of steel-speared fish
the boredom of cardboard box men,
steal the thirst from the tongues
of the ducks bound with twine
on the live market floor,
and sponge up the tears of the shinershy wives.
Then make a paste
with all of these
and all the love
he did not have for me,and pour it in my ears.
Make my head heavy and hard, so dense I cannot think
or hear, can neither nod nor frown.
Put me to bed on a bamboo grass mat,
wake me when the clocks all run down.
On the Highway Home
by Brian Fanelli
Long branches stick out, narrow and dull,
as you drive along the highway,
praying for overbearing winter to end.
You think of your kid, your wife
at home, if they shoveled
the sidewalk, if the remaining car
is buried beneath mounds of white.
Your chest tightens as you remember
the low amount of milk in the fridge,
the few slices of bread left.
You think of the basement furnace
that chokes like a smoker’s lung,
the cold that pushes against the house.
You remember Frost’s poem “Storm Fear,”
the raw winds that squelched the cabin fire,
the family of three trapped inside, their safety
so distant. You think of night, so cold and heavy, and count
the hours until you’re home,
safe, back from the business trip. You wonder
how you’ll drive over black ice, through pelts of hail,
how you’ll survive, knuckles white on the wheel.
by Luciana Celestine
As I walked down the hallway, I never lifted my eyes from the floor. Medicinal disinfectant lingered in the air, stinging my nostrils. The cacophony of beeps, buzzes and whirrs composed a symphony for the sick and dying. Hurried footsteps rushed past me. I listened to hushed conversations amongst family members as I continued on. Furrowed brows. Pained eyes. As I approached Mr. Stewart’s room, I could not help but sigh. Everything was wrong. From the hallway, I saw the shape of his feet buried underneath a pile of blankets. I hesitated before rapping on his door with the lightest touch, hoping maybe he wouldn’t hear me at all.
No response at all. Fine, I thought. I shouldn’t have been there anyway. I stuck my hand into my coat pocket and pulled out my keys. Then, I heard, “It’s ok. You can come in.”
I took a soft step around the corner, and I did not even recognize the man in the bed. His cheeks were hollow and his blue and white printed hospital gown hung off of his skinny shoulders. Completely bald except for a few patches of fuzzy brown hair, he looked weak, not like the apex of manliness and strength I envisioned as a teenager. He was chained to so many tubes and IVs that he reminded me of a prisoner locked away in some archaic jail. But then, he smiled faintly and his brown eyes sparkled just a little bit. That sense of familiarity rang, and I smiled too.
“I barely recognize you without your beard,” I said as I ran my fingers through my hair.
He laughed a little then said, “You always loved to pick on me for that.”
“Actually, my favorite target was your sunflower tie,” I said as I sat down on the pleather mauve chair.
“Ah yes, that’s right. Every time I turned around to write something on the blackboard I heard you laughing.”
“It was all in good fun,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. It was an impossible task.
He looked down at his hands, which he folded gently in his lap. His knuckles were big and knobby and I tried not to stare. He glanced up at the soccer game on television and then asked, “Why are you here?”
“I came to hand in my Latin homework. I know it’s a little late,” I said with a completely straight face. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was really there because my favorite teacher was dying from leukemia. I wanted to see him one last time and make fun of him for nostalgia’s sake. He probably knew that reason at least.
“Do you remember your first declension endings?” he asked, a big smile spreading across his gaunt face.
Feeling as though I had accomplished the greatest feat in the world, I sat up straight and stated, “Agricola, agricolae.”
“What case is that?”
“I have no idea,” I said with a laugh. “That’s why you had to give me that book. I only know that word means ‘farmer’ because it was the first word in the text. I am truly clueless about the rest.”
He raised his eyebrows and smiled. Yes. I was the absolute worst Latin student who had ever lived, and Mr. Stewart had me sitting right in front of his desk. Dead languages were not my area of interest. In fact, Latin class was my favorite time to plot my next dirty deed. As I looked at him lying in that bed, I felt a sudden pang of guilt but was reminded of a particularly hilarious prank I had pulled. I spent an entire period penning a fake love letter in Latin to my future class valedictorian. At the end of the day I slid the letter into his locker, which read, “You are a Roman god and I want your body.”
I nearly laughed out loud but held my breath, sure that Mr. Stewart had noticed my broken concentration. I recovered with, “So why did you give me that book anyway?”
“So that you could graduate.”
“Thanks for that,” I said, “I really needed the help.”
“Well, we didn’t want you around for another year. We were all tired of hearing you scream, ‘Fetus!’ in the hallway.”
Just as I was about to apologize for being the annoying student, a nurse walked into the room. “Excuse me, could you step out for a moment?” she asked, her hand filled with all sorts of vials.
I looked at Mr. Stewart and said, “It’s ok. I really should be going anyway.”
“Thanks for coming,” he said without meeting my eyes.
“It was no problem. I knew you were here, and I just wanted to stop by,” I said as I stood up.
The air in the room changed. Mr. Stewart clenched his jaw. I could not imagine what it had been like for him, having to depend on strangers to keep him alive, unable to even shift his own weight in bed. It was so unfair, such an unbearable tragedy that I found myself fighting back tears.
“You’re the only one of my students who came to see me,” he muttered.
My throat tightened. The nurse looked to the chair where I had been sitting. I unbuttoned my jacket and slid it off, then threw it over the arm of the chair. Slowly, I walked into the hallway. I crossed my arms and leaned against the wall, exhaling deeply. I hung my head and listened once again to the buzzes, beeps and whirrs. This time, they built to a hopeful crescendo. Nothing is fair. Mr. Stewart lay in the bed on the other side of the wall, fighting long after they had told him to stop. And suddenly, my breath felt precious.
by Charles O’Donnell
I’ve seen this work before:
the peregrine has torn
you from your spine
which lies by
your unlucky foot,
your tufts of brown-gray fur.
I used to watch you feed
on summer clover.
So little flesh
is left on you
the flies don’t even care.
I drop you at the dump
on piles of Spring debris.
When I look up,
the rest of you is circling.
by Dawn Leas
A shy sort of soul, he still prefers her voice,
a velvety alto, to the silence. When she says
there is always time, his mind goes to work,
a mental sketch. The rise and fall of his
powerful arms splits wood so splinters
become embers. He contemplates
the image, turning it over and over, pauses
to sketch, folds paper into pocket for later…
his breath heaves into fall air. In the evening,
he climbs plank stairs to the studio. His body
curls over work bench, the sketch tacked
to its surface. Intricate handiwork and metal.
One precious stone. Her voice…it’s never too late…
His back kept warm by an ancient stone
fireplace, its pops and hisses dwindling
as night turns to morning.
Luciana Celestine always wanted to be a scientist, but her horrible math skills made her think that maybe science was the wrong path to follow. She discovered that her unique way of describing things translated well to writing, so she picked up her pen. The rest is colorful history. Luciana received her BA in English from King’s College and her MA in Creative Writing fromWilkesUniversity. She lives in Pittston with her boy and her dog.
Laura Duda and her husband own and operate a horsedrawn carriage business inFell Township,PA. Laura is the mother of a 23-year-old daughter. She is a graduate ofLackawannaCollege, where she is also employed, andKeystoneCollege. She is presently a student inWilkesUniversity’s Creative Writing MA program.
Brian Fanelli’s poems have appeared in The Portland Review, Harpur Palate, Solstice Literary Magazine, Word Riot, Boston Literary Magazine, and other journals. He is also the author of the chapbook Front Man, and his first full-length book of poems will be published next summer by the small press Unbound Content. For more, visit: www.brianfanelli.com
Rachael Goetzke is co-founder and Managing Editor of Word Fountain. She hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Her poetry and prose have been published in Word Fountain, The Cohort Review and Ripasso. She has her MFA in Creative Writing fromWilkesUniversity. You can find more of her writing here:
Andrea Janov is a recent transplant to Pittsburgh who was raised by rock ’n roll parents who knew the importance of concerts and going past the no trespassing signs. She spent her adolescence in a small town punk rock scene where she moshed, fell in love, and produced a few cut and paste fanzines. She holds Creative Writing degrees from SUNY Purchase and Wilkes University. www.andreajanov.com
Iris Johnston can’t decide if she is more satisfied by flowers and ponds, or Sephora and Thai food. She currently hopes to discover the existence of a Nail Polish Tree.
Dawn Leas earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. Her work has appeared on goldwakepress.org, Willows Wept Review, Southern Women’s Review, Literary Mama, East Meets West, American Writers Review, Interstice, and others. Finishing Line Press published her first chapbook, I Know When To Keep Quiet, in 2010. Currently, she is a middle-school English teacher.
Michael Lindgren is a poet and musician who divides his time betweenPennsylvania andNew York City.
Edward Lupico is a librarian who enjoys dogs, requiems, Belgian beer, and words, though rarely at the same time.
Charles O’Donnell works at Arts Seen Gallery onPublic Square inWilkes-Barre where he organizes the Third Friday of the Month spoken word events.
Frank Walsh hails from the Miner Mills “parish” ofWilkes-Barre. Possessed by reading/writing enabled by the graces of the Osterhout. Underground LiteraryAlliance. Asst. Editor for Poetry, DeaddrunkDublin.com. Philadelphia poet since early 1970’s having attended Drexel andTempleU. Back in the area working for National Emergency Grant, Flood Reclamation.
570-823-0156 w Fax: 570-823-5477