A Shining Star At Every Wake

Donal Mahoney

A Shining Star at Every Wake

Bill hates to go to parties but he loves to go to wakes. One of the advantages of being old, he says, is that there are fewer parties to go to but a lot more wakes.

At parties he finds a distant corner, stands there like a sentinel and watches the young folks have fun.

“At parties the young move among each other like bees among flowers,” Bill says. “When I was young I tried to find the right flower and hover there, if you know what I mean.”

Although he doesn’t approach anyone to start a conversation, Bill’s not upset when people approach him. Some young folks want to know why is the old guy standing in the corner. And he doesn’t hesitate to tell them.

“I came with my wife,” he says. “She’s out on the floor somewhere having a good time.”

Moments later, he adds the obvious: “She’s an extrovert and I’m not.”

At parties Bill and his wife always slow dance at least once even though he says he has two left feet. He says that after 50 years of marriage, his wife’s used to having her feet under his. He says she never complains. She loves parties and is happy that he’s willing to come along, even if it’s only to stand in a corner.

At wakes, however, Bill comes out of his shell. He’s in his element at wakes.

“I’m the life of the party at a wake,” Bill says, “if you’ll excuse the expression.”

His modus operandi at a wake isn’t complex. First he consoles the bereaved and then talks to anyone and everyone who has come to the wake. When Bill has finished his rounds, everyone, even the dead person’s kin, feel a little better.

“Bill should have been an undertaker,” his wife says, coming back from the dance floor.

Bill says he would have been an undertaker but in most states you have to be an embalmer to qualify as an undertaker.

“Embalming is not a trade I ever wanted to learn,” Bill says. “But I don’t have to be an embalmer to help people feel a little better at a wake.”

Several years ago, a friend of Bill’s lost his wife and Bill, of course, went to the wake.

He was talking to the widower when a lady walked up, interrupted them and said to the widower,

“I know you’re not ready to date, but when you are so inclined, I would like to throw my hat in the ring.”

Bill and the widower were shocked, but later the widower dated the woman and married her. In a relatively short time, she spent most of his money and then divorced him when he got sick. He died a year later very much alone.

Had Bill known his friend was sick, he would have tried to supply him with support. He has great empathy for the dying as well as for those mourning the dead.

Going to wakes reminds Bill that some day he will be the guest of honor at his own wake. He has mixed feelings about that.

“I don’t know if there is ever a perfect person for someone,” Bill says, “but my wife is the only one for me.”

He thinks it’s selfish to want to die first but that is his wish. He doesn’t want to live without his wife by his side.

“She’s my North Star….my compass,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to dance on anyone else’s feet.”

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Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney has had poetry and fiction published in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html

Three Poems

Allison Grayhurst

Seeing

I begin a new line of music
to hold the frameless parable.
The room is there
where the field mice nested,
where the insect broke its wing
and still found a way to fly.
Points of power on my walls,
scents in my basement,
a bread basket in my hands.
My wholeness increases, months after he has been gone.
I breathe out my fear and listen to the sounds falling
like flowers, watch the butterfly
darting past the bus shelter, beautiful among grey matter
and Monday faces.
Mythical are the letters of his name saying goodbye,
saying the past is gone and this day belongs
where it is.

 

World

Around
in the vast cave where
the entrances and exits were lost long ago,
where the only smell is stale bat dung
and fungus is carpeting (hanging loosely from) the ceiling.
Home is not a place I can find outside
this enclosure. It calls to me – a vision
that falls in my lap
like a tangerine, that slips into oblivion before
I take a second bite.
There are only apparitions here. Apparitions that haunt me
but have no idea of my name.
Apparitions that sit beside me on the carpet, have
conversations then fade into meaningless fluff.
Happy at first I was to meet them, with their pretty pictures
and well-rehearsed spiritual words.
Happy I was to love them like a firefly in this dark kennel.
But my birthday came and went without much fanfare.
And I am waiting still for the darkness to end.

 

Heart’s Exchange

I look to see
your naked back
against the day’s light
and see a language
translating the flow
of flesh, into wave and wind and all
that moves with the bouncing tide.

I am not blind
to the weeds of whirlwind circumstances.

But together, with eyes locked
in knowing love, we are like a mother with her child or
like that child, feeling (on open lips) a noon rainfall.

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Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Three times nominated for Sundress Publications “Best of the Net” 2015, she has over 900 poems published in over 395 international journals. She has twelve published books of poetry, seven collections, nine chapbooks, and a chapbook pending publication. She lives in Toronto with her family. She is a vegan. She also sculpts, working with clay; http://www.allisongrayhurst.com/

Three Poems

Gary Beck

Homeless V

Lunchtime in Bryant Park
is the best time
to go through trash cans
and retrieve cans and bottles
for redemption, five cents each.
There’s always leftover food
and liquid in the bottles,
so I manage to eat,
as long as it’s nice out,
for when it rains,
people stay indoors
and I can’t find anything.

 

Cityscape

Each street
a living, breathing
fragment of the fabric
holding together
aspirations,
desperation,
functional enactment
to the livelihood
of individuals,
the urban mass,
many struggling to survive
a harsh environment
unsympathetic
to hunter/gatherers.

 

Damming the Electronic Stream

Is Times Square still considered
the crossroads of the world?
In the Information Age
electrons are the travelers
and except for local restrictions
of forbidden transmissions,
the unstructured data flow
is barely comprehended
by social media users
consumed by the inane,
while the rich and powerful
establish control
of the data highways.

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Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director, and as an art dealer when he couldn’t make a living in theater. He has 11 published chapbooks and 3 more accepted for publication. His poetry collections include: Days of Destruction (Skive Press), Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press). Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways, Displays, Perceptions & Fault Lines (Winter Goose Publishing). Tremors, Perturbations, Rude Awakenings and The Remission of Order will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. Conditioned Response (Nazar Look). Resonance (Dreaming Big Publications). Virtual Living will be published by Thurston Howl Publications. His novels include: Extreme Change (Cogwheel Press), Flawed Connections (Black Rose Writing) and Call to Valor (Gnome on Pigs Productions). Sudden Conflicts will be published by Lillicat Publishers and State of Rage by Rainy Day Reads Publishing. His short story collection, A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications). Now I Accuse and other stories will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.

Two Fictions

Beate Sigriddaughter

CINDERELLA

There’s no blood in my shoes.

I always knew that in preparing for the prince it was important to have unmutilated feet, so, except for a few dance shoes that were specially balanced and well made, I never even bothered to wear high heels.

Okay, maybe my feet are too big—maybe that’s why the prince hasn’t found me.
Thing is, I like this raggedy old top and my comfortable jeans. Wearing a ball gown is all very well for a photo op, or if you have a particularly competent dance partner, but even then you’re limited to waltz and foxtrot and such.

I want to swivel my hips, I want to run with the wind. I want to move. I want to move you, too, if possible, but above all I want to move.

I like my feet and where they carry me.

 

WHORE

I am sorry you feel that way, my son.

Life wounds.

My parents said I had to go and so I went. I was still obedient then. I suppose I still am.

On the way to the camp I missed my two younger sisters so much. Once I was there and given my duties I forgot even my sisters. That was no place for sweet memory. There was only time for pain, anger, hatred, shame, despair. There was only time for disbelief that I had to be there and had to do what I had to do. I swore then that I had no family and I have kept that vow. Not that it does any good.

I have no family except your father who is sorry that he married a whore.

I have no family except you, my son, who are sorry that your mother was a whore.

I have no family except my decaying self that is sorry I have to live like this.

I once was a young girl. I once had such dreams.

You once were a young boy. You once had such dreams. Maybe you dreamt of being a foundling. Maybe your true mother was a secret princess who had to abandon you for your own good. Then you came home from school into a kitchen smelling of cabbage and bacon and grits, and you knew you had neither choice nor hope. We were it. Your father who drank and your mother who cringed or yelled obscenities, and the sad part is, the more I yelled, the less he beat me to try and pass along his pain. When I tried to be pleasant, it didn’t go well for us.

But you know what? Maybe I was a princess once. In that long forsworn family that sent me on my way.

I gave your father one brilliant moment of glory—when he decided he would save me out of that hellhole where men lined up outside of the tent to come spill their seed, all of them eager to do it, and all of them disgusted that they had to do it like that. I could swear when he asked me, his brown eyes shone with nobility and his spirit flew around him like a dove.

It didn’t last, this spirit, this shining.

I know I was luckier than most. I do not know why he chose me. I didn’t ask. He never said. I was no prettier than any of the others. I was no more skillful than any of the others. I guess it was the lottery of life.

I feel like a decaying rose that never bloomed.

I want to say to you, let us bow our heads and pray. But such words seem too delicate for this gritty life.

Before you went to school where you were taunted and also praised we had one sunny day by the river. I will not forget. I fed you plum cakes. You likely don’t remember, no. Sunlight played with the water, brilliant shivers of light.

I had moments of light as a child, too. All children, I believe, own buckets full of laughter. But I have promised to forget that family.

Maybe I, too, should learn to forgive. I do not know how.

After we learn to love again, it will be easier.

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Beate Sigriddaughter, http://www.sigriddaughter.com, lives and writes in New Mexico, USA, the Land of Enchantment. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and poetry awards. In 2018 FutureCycle Press will publish her poetry collection Xanthippe and Her Friends. She orchestrates a women’s writing blog at https://writinginawomansvoice.blogspot.com/.

Five Poems

Donal Mahoney

Never Is the Best Time

November’s lovely in the rain, she says
from her rocker near the window
to no one in particular although

the butler’s waiting for her grocery list
having walked her Pekingese.
She hopes to see December

and her neighbors hoisting snow
and she wants to see April’s tulips
although her doctor doesn’t know.

She hopes to see the sunflowers
and this is why she tells the butler
never is the best time to die.

 

Confetti Waiting for a Parade

As autumn turns colder
there’s only one moth
fluttering at midnight

around the porch light.
He’s the last of the flock
that danced all summer

in the glow of the night.
Confetti that never fell
on a holiday parade.

 

A Red Kettle Crisis

No red kettles and bells
this December outside
the stores at the mall

in our suburbs this year.
They irritate shoppers,
the business article says.

So folks will keep their bills
as usual but now they can’t
get rid of their change.

 

An Old Bachelor Reflects

He should have married someone,
James tells himself at 80
coughing in bed with the flu.

He remembers very well
that Miranda was a nice girl.
She’d bring him coffee now

and April would too and then
she’d go and find his paper
hiding somewhere in the snow.

Jane wouldn’t get his coffee
and wouldn’t find his paper.
But love wasn’t enough.

 

Bulbs Alive

A doctor by day
Ralph spends his nights
ordering tulip bulbs

from Holland
beautiful and rare
to arrive in autumn

to plant and think about
for months ahead until
spring arrives and the

tulips become a rainbow
beautiful in his garden.
Ralph talks about tulips

at the office every day
where he pulls small bulbs
from the gardens of patients.

Unlike his tulips
those bulbs don’t grow,
never become a rainbow.

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Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney has had poetry and fiction published in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html

 

 

In The Dark

Michael Chin

The first time I worked the Pacific Northwest territory—the first time I worked for Dennis Dean—there was so much I didn’t know.

Like if Chuck Sampson, who booked the Colorado-based wrestling promotion I was contracted to at the time would have a problem with me going west, where I wouldn’t be in competition, but I would still be making money from, and more importantly for someone else.

Like why Dennis Dean was so desperate to get anyone who’d come that he’d pay double my normal booking fee for that Tuesday night’s show.

I heard it’d be a tournament and he needed both a field of competitors, and half of them would need to work twice or more in the same night—some as many as five times. Then I heard he wanted to stage the biggest battle royal of all time—a hundred men in one, custom-made, super-sized ring.

So we piled into Samurai Smith’s pickup—three in the cab, four of us riding in the bed of the truck to hit the road, speculating about what else might be at stake. A twenty-man tag match. A double-tiered Lumberjack Match with forty men around the ring to really guarantee neither of the main eventers couldn’t escape the fight. Maybe a beat down of the local hero—whoever he was—so Dean could write him out of the storylines while he got married and went on a honeymoon. I’d heard of such things.

Dennis Dean paid every wrestler who showed, though it was only one and a half, not two times what I was used to. Confirmation of what the boys had told me along the ride that only about half of what Dean told anybody was true. Whether the concept had changed, or none of us had heard it right, we’ll never know, but by the time we arrived, it was Dean’s objective to break the world record for longest wrestling show ever, and go for a full twelve hours, from noon to midnight. He charged three times the ticket price for the extended show.

The dingy little arena wasn’t much to look at. Heard from the local boys nothing had happened in it for nearly a decade, that it was on and off the block for demolition and Dean booked it for a pittance.

Everything was going just fine, a packed house of lively fans with good endurance until midway through the fifth hour when the generator blew and the arena fell into darkness.

I figured we were in for a disaster. Refunded tickets and boys being asked to pay back part of what Dean had given them, or else an angry mob that took out its frustrations on what wrestlers they could find or their cars.

But Dean was ready.

Dean had a megaphone and walked out into that darkness to announce that this show featured the best wrestlers in the world. And anyone who wanted to leave could get a half-price refund, but anyone who stayed would be in for a truly special show. For these wrestlers—these warriors—were trained to use all of their sense. They wrestle through eye gouges, through blood pouring down their faces. Yes, it’s true, they don’t need to see to fight. And all of you who stay will be treated to the privilege of the most remarkable wrestling show you’ve ever heard.

Maybe he sold them on the idea. Maybe the half-refund wasn’t enough .Maybe the consensus decision was that maneuvering out of the arena in the dark wasn’t worth the trouble.

Whatever the cause, out of a crowd of five thousand, fewer than fifty stood up and took his offer to leave.

And us?

We worked the show. In clapping hands that sounded like the smack of flesh on flesh. In stomping feet that sounded like running and like falling. In grunts and groans and screams. Referees counted pin falls when both men stood on their feet. We scored submissions without physical contact.

And the crowd ate it up. Some of them had to know we were scamming them, but there weren’t catcalls or boos. A mostly silent crowd, listening for hints of the action. Exploding after the finish, after the referee called for the bell, after the ring announcer used the megaphone to winner.

When we weren’t in the ring, most of us boys went out to the section of the parking lot cordoned off for talent and the crew. We played cards, drank beers that we couldn’t keep cold, stretched.

After the show, Dean met us out there and told us we’d done good. He told us the same thing he’d told the crowd at the end of the night—the message we’d heard rumble through the walls, fed through the megaphone. That we should all come back for another show. That the whole family was always welcome.

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Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and is an alum of Oregon State’s MFA Program. He won Bayou Magazine’s Knudsen Prize for fiction and has published in journals including The Normal School and Passages North. Find him at miketchin.com and follow him on Twitter @miketchin.

All Along The Watchtower

Mark Young

Two minutes ago I
answered a knock
on the door to find
I’m Harry & this is Bill
standing there in their
outback hats & boots

& moleskin trousers.
Wanting to share some
special information with
me. Looking old enough
to have witnessed Jehovah
the first time around.

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Mark Young’s most recent books are Mineral Terpsichore, from gradient books of Finland, & The Chorus of the Sphinxes, from Moria Books in Chicago. An e-book, The Holy Sonnets unDonne, came out earlier this year from Red Ceilings Press; another, a few geographies, will be out later this year from One Sentence Poems; & another, For the Witches of Romania, is scheduled for publication by Beard of Bees.