the best of 52|250's fourth quarter

Week #52 – Threesome

Week #52 – Threesome

Lola, Salmon, Juneau by Michelle Elvy
The Sisters by Karla Valenti  
The three of them stood at the corner, the rain slowly melting their umbrellas. A red umbrella, a yellow umbrella and a green-and-white striped umbrella, drippity-dripping into a puddle at their feet. The littlest one poked the tip of her shoe into the swirl of colors dancing on the sidewalk before her and soon there was nothing left of their umbrellas. Then the rain started on their hooded jackets, three bright pink jackets all in a row drippety-dripping as the color puddle beneath them grew. Small rivulets of what used to be their umbrellas sped away towards the drain, its black mouth gaping wide at the end of the street. The streaks of pink jacket followed closely behind. Then, they were left standing in nothing but their summer dresses: one red dress, one yellow dress and one green-and-white striped dress. The rain soon washed those away and the drain greedily gobbled them up. And that was when the sun decided to make an appearance, turning its golden glory upon that threesome standing at the corner, strong, confident and beautiful in their naked skin.
Alignment by Nathan Alling Long  
They lived in the same neighborhood, biked the same streets, went to potlucks at the same collective houses. What they remember of summer nights is drinking beer on front porches as joints floated through the air like fireflies, kissing each person’s lips. Talking of Rilke and Descartes until dawn. Walking home in the rain.Then autumn came. They pulled out old gray sweaters from their closets. They biked with coats and scarves. Evenings became large bottles of wine and steaming kitchens. Fresh bread from the oven. Everyone sitting on the floor, mismatched plates in their laps, the house dog circling the crowd like a shark, looking for scraps.

One night, near solstice, a few stayed up, improvising an epic poem in rhyme. One by one, they fell asleep, on the sofa, curled up on the rug, against each others’ bodies. The candles burned out, the night grew dark.

Then the moon snuck in. It brushed across three faces, the way a moth might glide past your arm. Each woke to the light, and without a word, they began to kiss one another. They had never seen each other in this light before. They kissed and kissed, as the moon trailed across their faces. It was like drinking milk from a distant planet.

Then their portion of the room drew dark, they grew tired, and, with fingers interlocked, they fell asleep. Later, when the moonlight slid across the dog’s tail, it awoke and sighed, then fell back asleep.

Charley by Lou Freshwater  
My house is on a dirt road that drops off on both sides into deep ditches that always have at least an inch of water in them. I live here with my mama. She has a mess of black hair and she always smells like she’s been soakin’ in spring. She goes to work at night. She works at a bar where the soldiers come when they get leave. We’ve been here near four years now. Since I was nine. Our house is tight and slanty. Long time ago, someone painted the wood blue and I never have been able to figure out why, cause now it looks like the place where the sky got washed away. It has one bedroom so I sleep in the livin’ room cause mama is tired after work and she needs her bed. It’s also cause sometimes she brings the soldiers home with her. They sometimes need a dose of home she says. But I wish they could get their dose somewhere else. When they are here, it makes me feel like I’m the only person in the world, like nothin’ is real. One night, I heard one of them singing to Mama, and when we get behind closed doors, she lets her hair hang down, and he kept goin’ on an on, so I took my pillow and I crawled under the couch and all the sudden I didn’t feel like I was alone anymore, and in that darkness everything felt real again.
Gingerbread by Catherine Russell  
Grandma always let me mix the batter. I was at that age when boys were icky and the only males I liked were composed of gingerbread. Daddy didn’t count because he ranked above the others of his sex.Every so often Grandma would come over to hem and haw over the smoothness of the mixture until the consistency was just right. Then she showed me how to roll the dough onto wax paper with long, smooth strokes of the battered wooden rollingpin. Dented cookie cutters helped me to make shapes – Christmas trees, ornaments, candy canes, circles and stars – but my favorites were always the gingerbread men.

We’d shove them in the oven, and I’d pretend I was the wicked witch trying to bake Hansel and Gretel. When the sweets were done, I’d put them on paper to cool. Later that day, when Mom would get home, we’d sit around the table – three generations of women – and bite their heads off one by one.

Three Stories of You by John Riley  
There’s a story of you who says to go on, to walk the room, to pretend to contemplate. Promises that if you lift your hand your head will follow. Assures you when your bones reignite there will be day, there will be night, and you’ll know which is which. Don’t worry about the door, this story says.There’s a story of you who says big things wait outside the door. Let me give you a taste, he says, and lures a city into the vestibule. Streets spread throughout the house. Get on your knees, he says. Crawl the city limits. Don’t worry, you’ll be welcomed. It’s night in the city. All the streets end at a wall. The harbor laps the door.

There’s a story of you who says he wishes you weren’t here. There’s little left to negotiate, he says. It’s time to leave the false starts behind. He introduces you to his regrets, refuses to negotiate, walks you down the hall. At the door he shakes his head before you can beg, slips an arm around your shoulder. We both need a new direction, he says. Walking out the door you tell him he’s the story of you that you like best.

Redux by Claire King  
The first one convinced me that every vile thought I’d ever had about myself was true. The weight of his judgement crushed me slowly until I was so diminished I begged him to love me because I knew no-one else ever would.When I found him again I peeled his tongue, word by contemptuous word, until he had nothing left but a scrappy shred of muscle flapping in his empty head, his eyes gaping and bewildered.

The second one could not bear to share me. He locked me in my lonely room where I waited for him to come. When finally he appeared, though, he was angry and threw rocks at my face.

When I found him again I took a poker from the fireplace while he slept and smashed his bones to powder. I sank my dog-teeth into his greasy jowls, spitting out his dead skin as I left.

I told the third one I could never love again. He smiled a sagacious smile and told me that is not the way.

‘You must re-write the end that should have been,’ he said. ‘I will be here when you get back.’ Then he sent me down dark labyrinths to find them again.

Phantom Sister by Linda Simoni-Wastila  
Marlena comes to me on the cusp of sleep and wakefulness, when the world blurs grey. She soars through yellow-tinted waves, her bald shining skull pushing through water. Although she never speaks, she makes a gurgling sound, high-pitched like the bottle-nosed dolphins at the Aquarium. I look but never see her face. When I wake up, the bottoms of my feet sting as though I scissor-kicked through 100 laps. Those mornings I call in sick and sleep in the boat’s hold. The gentle rocking hugs me.My twin sister Maria lives halfway around the world in the Catoctin Mountains. She paints and writes poems about trees. We rarely see each other but the internet tethers us. Maria has the same dreams about Marlena — we think of them as visitations – but she feels the ache in her chest, the left side, a sharp pain like someone has plunged in an icy hand and wrested out her heart. Afterwards she also feels an uncommon, exhausting peace. We wonder if this is how we tangled in our mother’s womb: hands to feet to heart.

I find an old photo of the two of us, a college road trip to Baltimore. Our smiling faces squeezed together, the Washington monument towers behind us. I scan the picture, push send and the image zips to Maria’s mountaintop. Seconds later, she writes back. “There’s a hole between us.” I look closer at the photograph and my soles burn.

A Book of Three and the Farewell House by Michael Parker  
I.
Ours is a life of many selves, like chapters of a book. I’m living in my seventh skin, after surviving two pulmonary embolisms. I know life is tenuous. On some days, the future is a cloud, as if it is a territory I will never see.Pain and fear work in us that way, like I’m standing at the entrance of the farewell house: My soul has left me. It stands on the other side of the doorway, mingling with shadows and ghosts. It knows everything, even their silent language.II.
The willow will never complain that it has no feet and cannot dance. She makes her arms sway to the wind’s rhythm.“Do not pity me,” she says. “I’m grounded. See how I can bend and honor Earth. See how I can reach and caress the sky.”

And opening the folds of her raiment: “I am filled with robins, blackbirds, finches, and jays. When I’m not singing with the wind, my soul radiates from their joyous symphony.”

III.
In the beginning, one man carried the stories. After a time, a child grew up with stories in his mouth. The story-man was jealous and took the child into the mountain where he pushed him off a cliff. The mountain, fond of the innocent interpreter, was furious. He shook, causing the greedy storyteller to fall to his death. Afterword, the mountain, trees, winds, rivers, and sky promised to never cease singing or whispering the history of things. There shall always be a story.

Pebbles by Kelly Grotke  
He picked up the three pebbles that lay on the desk, cupping them in his hand and rattling them around like dice as he stared out the window.She’d accused him once of caring more about things than people. It was an argument. He thinks of this as he shakes the pebbles. But it wasn’t true, no. Why had it come to be about truth and right and wrong and would you just stop it, stop, stop it now or I’ll….and then you….and in his gut, even here and now, he could still feel the bends and distortions of time that had begun pulling at their words until language itself threatened to unravel, even now and how much later is that than before, he wonders, and have I been gutted.

He had cared about things. Not more than people, no, not more than her. But by then there’d been neither time nor will to explain, and in truth he only understood himself much later. Remember this, the things said to him, this will be the future and the good, forever and ever, and we will walk upon the beach and the sun shone bright and warm on your hair and the smell of your skin yes and I touch you and the happiness and let me in, please let me in and now my soul is shaking again like these pebbles from the shore of some distant ocean and everything falls from my hands.

Landscape in Graphite on Paper, 3x3x3 by Sam Rasnake  
1. Clinch Mountain

He always wanted that long drive up Clinch Mountain
where the thick quilts of trees would bend to
hawk in cloud, the road, a hard gash of
stone and time to the wind, with its slow,
steady rumble of tires on asphalt, and far below,
the soft patchworks of farm, river, town – a twist

of the Norfolk Southern and 58, smaller than dream,
smaller than dust. This is my life, he would
say. The arriving – never as good as the going.
                                                                      – 1974

2. Outer Banks

After a night of winter rain, when the morning’s
deep voice of high tide booms the grey sea –
a relentless Bergman film – to wake the heavy, sunless

sky over stiff tangles of jagged shore with only
the occasional pelican or tern in a cold trough
of long wave to follow – and me, beside an

opened upstairs window, my cup steaming on the table –
one hand to the glass, and with the other
I write, “a view as wide as gifted song”…
                                                                      – 1999

3. Yamada Rōshi Says, “Even the sky must be beaten”

A blue without fracture, blue that is lost – like
the song playing – its rhythm of such blue ache
in her fingers’ rub of steel and wood to

darkness. Blue in this pen as I write, blue
on the cover of James Merrill’s Night and Day.
The poet is dead – still his words breathe when

I tongue them aloud in my truck, driving west –
but my truck is red. Everything falls away. I’d
thought the sky to be empty. I was wrong.
                                                                      – 2007

Back to Wk #51 – Unintended consequences

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