winter 2016

A Nice Old Man Was Biting My Toe

Rich Ives

It escapes me, this cautionary landscape, moving under as I pace its surface, but I’m counting miles instead of taking in its distinct aberrations. I’m failing to register its transitory existence, liberated with each release of my padded step. I’m slapping my expensive footwear in its open face, again and again, getting only to where I planned on going as it gets itself newly positioned where it already is.

I must have missed it before, I think, missing it in a new way. I’m intent upon a kind of progress that takes me out of myself, into a better body to separate the quick from the quickly dead, a body that could, however, more quickly miss more. I could be entering myself now, even as I carry my “self” away to discover who I am.

On the road last night there were too many frogs for any purpose I could imagine, but then maybe I wasn’t small enough, or I was in too many parts to do things alone.

The old man inside me asks, Which smile is this, which puddle of moonlight?

I found too many aspirations nesting like voyaging seabirds as I arrived at the shore, huffy little summaries of oceanic caravans. I looked up to see myself floating back down, there where a moment before stalked a creature cloaked in fierce intentions and transparent hope.

The old man inside takes a breath and then he gives it back. The whole truth was always guilty of only half the story. He wants a picture finished with falling. The way I can see everything clearly confuses me. It’s time now to listen. Time to take us here. Time for there to wait, and a time for stepping quickly to between, where one step and two hold true, and the end of anything is the beginning.


Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available form Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.

Invisible


—Alec Solomita

My dear mother, God bless her,
was on the final stretch to forty-five
when she turned to me in the grocer’s
and said, as if she’d solved Fermat’s
Last Theorem, “I’m invisible.
That’s what happens when you get old.
You become invisible.
Four years, thirty pounds ago,
people could see me. Now they don’t.”
I still saw her but I saw her point.
Four years before, I was about ten
when frisky, stubbled cabbies tried
to get a rise out of my shapely dark-haired
mom, “Watch out!” she cried
when our cab nearly clipped
a pedestrian. “Don’t worry, honey,
I don’t want to clean off the grill.”
A grownup joke. She acted shocked.
I was shocked. And once on a crippled
brick sidewalk as I helped her
navigate my baby sister’s carriage,
a man with a tie leaned from his car
to sing, “Whatcha got cookin’?”
And there must have been subtler signs
beyond my ken that told her she was there:
admiring glances from women, men
whispering dark somethings in her ear.


Alec Solomita is an editor and writer living in Somerville, Mass. He’s published fiction in The Adirondack Review, The Mississippi Review, Southwest Review, and elsewhere. Recently, his poetry has appeared in 3Elements Literary Review, Literary Orphans, Silver Birch Press, Turk’s Head Review, and, forthcoming, Fulcrum: An International Anthology of Poetry and Aesthetics.

– Elaine Olund

I was on the ferry, on my way to see Tristan, my uncircumcised English boyfriend. Aside from his accent and his penis, Tristan had few charms; but he used what he had to good effect, shagging me hard in the dark so his spotty skin and undeserved arrogance and roving eyes were not evident. So far I hadn’t spent enough time with him in the light of day for those things to become deal breakers.

I was leaning on the rails, watching the prow cut into choppy surf the color of a cold November sky, thinking of Tristan and pretending in my head that he was a real boyfriend. The sort a woman like me might describe to her girlfriends back in the states as her lover with a capital “L” The sort who might compose well-written letters in which he made allusions to Shakespeare or possibly Pride and Prejudice, the sort of lover you could, in fact, nickname “my Mr. Darcy,” when writing about him on your blog.

I was out on the deck, even though a miserable misty rain was wrapping around me like a wet angora scarf. Even this short crossing made me seasick. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to find the horizon so I could calm my stomach and weave my fantasy again—the one that kept me from wanting to throw myself into the cold channel, the one in which someone, even the very superior, rabbit-faced Tristan, loved me for me.

But my illusions were falling apart faster than a damp scone.

Tristan loved whoever would stand still long enough for him to poke. Tristan was not, in fact, a poet, as his profile had claimed. Tristan was an advertising copywriter, and not even a good one. He wrote sales circulars and direct mail pitches with cloyingly cute headlines like “Somebunny Loves You!” for a pet-rabbit farm outside Surrey, aimed at parents of allergic children. He was proud of that one. Like I said, he was unaccountably arrogant, a boy who must have been doted on too much by his mother, who attracted women like me who weren’t doted on enough by theirs.

And so, I was on the ferry when my aloneness rose up like an invisible tidal wave and nearly pushed me overboard.  Here I was, almost forty, alone and shaking in the cold wet, realizing for the first time that if I disappeared from this earth, no one’s life would come crashing to a halt. My inability to weave my usual magic spell about Tristan, the spell that kept me safe in a relationship or recovering from my last or in the giggly throes of my next—it was like I’d been floating in a bubble that protected me from seeing just how alone I was. The bubble popped and I woke, the spray stinging my eyes as I felt this knowledge envelope me, strong and gagging as a spritz of Tristan’s cologne. It took my breath. 

The lonely hum of the ship’s engine chugged into a deeper roar as the ferry began to slow a bit. Ahead, the shore came blurrily into view. In this cold gray, I felt a warmth flare somewhere inside me, a strange, fiery glow. The faces of all the men of the last two decades flashed through my mind the way calendar pages flip past in old black and white movies; all those handsome and cute and nerdy and chiseled faces (okay, just one was chiseled, and he did turn out to be gay)—they all flashed by and I had a sudden surge, a knowing, elemental as the tides beneath the ship, that I was on the wrong course, and had been for a long, long time.

I was shivering when I spotted Tristan, waiting for me on the shore, standing in a beam of sunshine the color of weak tea, chatting up a willowy young thing who looked from this distance a little like Keira Knightley—long-legged, laughing, wide mouthed.

He wasn’t watching for me, he would never watch for me.

As fellow passengers piled out on deck, I felt a pushing my on back. I turned, but there was only a young mother, kissing the swaddled head of her sleeping baby. No one was touching me.

But the pushing continued, an invisible strong hand, pushing me to go taste something new—because nothing was stopping me from tasting new things. I could taste things far more sustaining than the likes of Tristan, who was the relationship equivalent of a donut, an unsatisfying lump of dough, fried up—temptingly sweet at first taste, but ultimately leading to diabetes. 

I was swept into the stream of disembarking passengers, striding fast, my bag slung on my shoulders when I began to crave Bangers and Mash and Guinness and finishing my novel without asking what Tristan thought—because, really? And long walks down twisty lanes or across misty moors, stopping when I felt like it, and not before. 

I walked faster, towards the cabs queued up at the head of the hill. I heard Tristan call my name, in that accent that once had made me swoon. His voice rose as I kept going. I didn’t turn to look at the disbelief on his face, but I heard it with 20/20 clarity. 

I was laughing aloud, hiccupping almost, as I slid into a cab. 

I didn’t care if the cabbie thought I was crazy. 

The warmth that had begun as a little glow filled me with the sort of joy I hadn’t felt since I was a baby, lying on my back, laughing the funny faces that I suddenly knew my mother must have made, at least once or twice, just for me.


Elaine Olund is a writer, designer and artist. Her work has been published in Bartleby Snopes, Turk’s Head Review, Black Demin Lit, Story Shack, and others. She’s working on her second novel, and looking for a home for her first. She blogs at elaineolund.com.

– Dan Jacoby

ancient dirt country road
past what’s left
of redington farm
out to the west
sky patchwork of red
devil’s sky
bobwhite calls off in a draw
just east of the road
where garden once was
barn falling in on itself
house gone
posts of old stock pens
staggered from time
stand sentinels of mortality
in overgrown stock lot
all that remains
are whispers just
above the graves
still there
like the dead apricot
stone names washed away
surrounded by roses
planted a century ago


Dan Jacoby is a graduate of St. Louis University, Chicago State University, and Governors State University. He lives both in Beecher and Hagaman, Illinois. He has published poetry in Arkansas Review, Belle Rev Review, Bombay Gin, Canary, Cowboy Poetry Press-Unbridled 2015(Western Writers Spur Award), Chicago Literati, Indiana Voice Journal, Deep South Magazine, Lines and Stars, Wilderness House Literary Review, Steel Toe Review, The Opiate, and Red Fez to name a few. He is a former principal, teacher, coach, counterintelligence agent, and Green Beret. He is a member of the American Academy of Poets. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He is currently looking for a publisher for a collection of poetry.

– Dan Jacoby

half dozen squirrels
stripped the bark
from a forty year old pine
the bird tree
my wife calls it
sheltering a crowd
sparrows, doves, buntings
frostbitten, hungry, complaining
raise up at every false alarm
they live another day
I feed them
some so desperate
furnace exhaust doesn’t frighten
puff their feathers trapping air
in twenty below wind-chill
an americanized norwegian  rat
living in a deep hole
wont stick his head out
all paw and claw at frozen earth
looking for life
cling to clear plastic feeders
an uncommon south wind
turns them sideways twisting
sunflower feeder broken open
by mad starving gangster squirrels
who bump and tumble across the flat roof
a cardinal perches stoically
watching the clamor above and below
passes some pine limbed judgment
flys off reminding my obligation
not to forget them


Dan Jacoby is a graduate of St. Louis University, Chicago State University, and Governors State University. He lives both in Beecher and Hagaman, Illinois. He has published poetry in Arkansas Review, Belle Rev Review, Bombay Gin, Canary, Cowboy Poetry Press-Unbridled 2015(Western Writers Spur Award), Chicago Literati, Indiana Voice Journal, Deep South Magazine, Lines and Stars, Wilderness House Literary Review, Steel Toe Review, The Opiate, and Red Fez to name a few. He is a former principal, teacher, coach, counterintelligence agent, and Green Beret. He is a member of the American Academy of Poets. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He is currently looking for a publisher for a collection of poetry.

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