Friday, October 24, 2014
A Hemingway Day
While on a short vacation in Havana I ran into Ernest Hemingway at the bar Floridita and he invited me to sit down with him. Of course, he did most of the talking, telling me about a recent hunting trip in Africa and marlin fishing with some movie star friends. At some point, while there was a pause, I decided to tell him about a recent event that happened to me back in New York City. I decided to tell him the story even though I doubted that a man like Hemingway, who'd been everywhere and done everything, would be much interested in what I had to say. Mainly I wanted to find out what he would have done in the same situation.
"So I was walking down the street on one of those hot, muggy days in Manhattan when I noticed a child in a stroller eating an ice cream. Stopping to watch him lick at the ball of ice cream, it was only a short time before it fell out of the cone, bounced off his knee and onto the sidewalk. Immediately the kid started crying and screaming, while his mother tried to comfort him. Seeing that we were right in front of the ice cream parlor, I walked up to the mother and asked her to wait there a moment. I then went inside and ordered a fresh strawberry ice cream on a cone. Of course, I failed to notice what flavor the kid was originally eating, but just decided on strawberry because it was the first flavor that I saw. I walked out and tried to hand it to the kid, but he just looked at it for a moment, and then started crying and screaming even louder than before. Obviously embarrassed, the mother thanked me anyway, and started pushing the stroller down the street while I stood there holding a melting strawberry ice cream. Not really caring for that flavor, I walked over to the nearest trash can and dropped it inside."
At this point, I looked closely at Hemingway and realized he was staring to the side of me at a group of people sitting at a table. Sitting with the group was a beautiful woman who seemed to have captivated Hemingway's attention. "What would you have done?" I asked him, and still looking to the side of me, he responded, "It's not what I would have done. It's what I'm going to do!" And he got up from his seat and went over to the table where the beautiful woman was sitting. He introduced himself, and because everyone knew who he was, they immediately invited him to join them.
Now sitting there alone I wondered if my story would have impressed anyone other than an average person like myself, who never had a 'Hemingway Day' in his entire life, and probably never would . . .
Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro-Cuban folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. He's published five chapbooks including Zable's Fables with an introduction by the late great Beat poet Harold Norse. Present or upcoming writing in Toad Suck Review, Clarion, Kentucky Review, Edge, The Alarmist, Skidrow Penthouse, Uppagus, Ishaan Literary Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Futures Trading, One Trick Pony and many others.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Mary Queen of Scots
I would have liked nothing better than to have lived with my parents in a fishing village, or at least by the sea. But ideally, dad would have been a fisherman and mom and I would have baked bread and knitted sweaters by the hour in our quiet little house. I would go out to feed the chickens and the horses and the ox. We would have a pet rabbit that slept at the foot of my bed and made little rabbits that danced around the yard and that mom tapped with the broom when they got underfoot as she swept the rubble away, and we would have loved out homes and not wanted to leave Scotland ever. It would have been our solace and people free from tyranny, hunger, and Queen Elizabeth.
What did I do in my cell for 18 years before she found a way to execute me safely? I dreamed of another life. A fishing village. The sheep herder who would come with his son to visit. He would trade lamb for fish and my father would gut them with care. The boy would follow me out as I went to look at the sea and he would stare at me instead of the blue and he would say my eyes were like water and my hair like lamb's wool and my hands small treasures he wished only to hold.
I picked out names for our children. One I would name Maria and she wold be a poet with long red hair over her shoulder and against such pure fair skin. I lost my father when I was 6 days old. Our children would not lose Joseph, my sheepherding faithful hearted truth loving husband. Any my parents would grow old and come stay with us and it would be a house full of love.
The day of my execution I stopped dreaming and said: Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil for thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever, Amen. In the name of your son, Christ, who died for our sins and who I hope redeems me too because I can't stomach spending eternity with Queen Elizabeth. I can't forgive her for my unborn Maria, a poet I think. Yes. Maria will find the words to make it all right. God, is that you? My soul feels lighter. God? Holy Ghost? I'm being embraced I think by an angel. Thank you.
Monday, October 20, 2014
The Girl in the Coffee Shop
She always had an appetite for coffee, house blend was her favorite. A morning cup meant bliss, but, really she'd drink it all day long. She would enter every cafe she passed, flamboyantly flashing her silver rings and the jangly doo-dads of her bracelets. She loved the sound of the percolator, a whistling teapot, liquid creamer dripping. In fact, that's where she met him, at the Busy Bee cafe. He ordered a double-shot mocha latte and she thought the Gods must be sending her a signal.
During their first date, she was a jumbled ball of nerves, unsure if she should disclose that some nights she felt like a reincarnated Janis Joplin dancing before her bedroom mirror. But the sun set early during their dinner, the rare blood moon spreading pink clouds like blooming, effervescent flowers across the sky. Pink was her favorite color, and so she felt that was a good omen. She quickly fell in love, and, he, into her bed.
It was summer break, ten days full of two bodies spilling their chemistry into the sheets of her bed, the old couch from her first semester in college, the shag carpet that absorbed her tears when on the tenth day his call never came. She was okay for a few hours, wringing her hands and smoking cheap cigarettes (usually she didn't smoke at all). But soon her irritation with the front door grew as she waited for the 9 pm knock that never came.
In a fevered tantrum of grief and shame, she busted the colorful coffee mug he gave her, save for the one lone point of porcelain, the shard she used to scrape his face from a polaroid picture of them together. The only picture she had of them together, actually. And in a pitiful fury of revenge, she flushed the bitter beans of his favorite Columbian coffee down the toilet. After that she spent long days sleeping and took up baking. She learned to make fruit loaf yeast bread, sweet buns and sour dough, though she rarely ate anything she made. Her loaves of fresh bread became sick gifts she gave to friends and neighbors. She lost so much weight that her favorite sweater dress hung limp at the elbows.
Desperate for caffeine, she started making tea. She preferred it unsweetened so the tang of herb and tree leaves would tingle atop her tongue for hours. Until one evening in October she ventured into a bookstore, surprised to see a homely cafe nestled into the far corner. She couldn't remember the last time she drank anything besides chamomile tea, so she quickly bought the current issue of Poetry magazine and ordered a Hazel Nut espresso. As she savored the bittersweet nectar and words of poets by names she'd never heard of, she felt more like herself than she had since . . . him.
Now every evening you can find her there, in her long necklaces made with charms and hemp, reading poetry and having coffee. Her favorite seat is in the back right-hand corner so she can choose to lose herself in a book, or observe the hipster patrons engaging in conversations about new age rigmarole and the slow demist of pop culture. Every day she orders something different . . . Vanilla Bean Latte, Macchiato, even black coffee. But she never drinks Mocha anymore.
Stacy Lynn Mar is a 30-something American poet. Inspired by the works of Sharon Olds and Anne Sexton, her work is primarily confessional. She holds three graduate degrees in psychology and attended Lindsey Wilson College of Human Sciences as well as Ellis College of NYIT for a BA in English. Shacy divides her time between her young daughter, her forays into writing, a genuine love of books, film, coffee, vintage things, and her life partner. She is founder and masthead of a new literary ezine for women, Pink. Girl. Ink, and also has a book review blog. She invites you to visit her personal blog www.warningthestars.blogspot.com
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Why I Choose To De-Stress in the Shower
Milk baths are supposed to be relaxing. I do not find them to be so. The strange feeling of milk trickling over my skin is odd, disconcerting, as if I were sitting in a giant bowl of cereal and I am a rapidly-sogging grainy flake. I feel as if I am waiting for some unseen hand to swoop down with an enormous spoon, scoop me up, devour me. Or worse, I am a cookie bobbing, softening, every second of submersion weakening my body, breaking it down, making it easier to dissolve between anonymous dentures once gnarled fingers manage to maneuver me up to cragged lips, barely parted.
Bubble baths used to be a possibility, until I realized the softly-scented glycerin drops are only a dash of aroma therapy oil away from the detergent I use in my kitchen sink. Suddenly the loofa I use to scrub my back feels like steel wool, and I am a casserole dish, a day’s worth of cheese baked to my sides. I scour until I bleed, but realize the only real hope of salvation would be to slip from my own hands, crash into a million useless pieces on the tile floor.
Plain soap and a tub full of warm water was effective, until I heard the parable about the frog and the boiling kettle. The frog would not jump into the boiling kettle, because, obviously, it was boiling. However, the frog jumped right into a warm kettle, and happily stayed there as it warmed to boiling, because it happened slowly over a long period of unnoticeable time. Suddenly, I am bathing in arctic water, unable to bring my hand to reach for, let alone activate the hot valve, turn myself into frog soup.
So for now I stick with the shower, content to clean myself in the sanity of the regulated auto-draining spray of its head. The process safe from strangulated semi-psychedelic mind-trips, at least as long as no thoughts of subterranean water systems collecting acid reign creep into my head, begin dripping into my pipes.
A.J. Huffman has published nine solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. She also has two new full-length poetry collections forthcoming: Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press) and A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing). She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry, fiction, haiku and photography have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com