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“Red Leaves” by Lisa Nanette Allender

As the falling leaves remind us all what time of year it is (my favorite time of year, by the way, is autumn) I’m often prone to bouts of almost inexplicable sadness. The Buddhists have a saying about leaves falling and the loss of a child: that they are the same, that all loss is simply loss, which implies that everything is somehow “equal.” That, coupled with the Buddhist notion that desire leads to pain, are just two reasons why I will probably be unable to call myself “Buddhist”, though I certainly can adopt many other precepts which make sense to me: respecting all of the natural world, maintaining a connection through nature, even the absence of G-d.

While I’d never use the word a-theist (absolutely denies or refutes the existence of G-d) to describe the very spiritual practice of Buddhism, it does appear to be non-theist (not attached to a particular theory of G-d), or, at least, non-dogmatic. In these times of falling leaves, with the yellow and orange and red – like the children’s blood being transfused daily in places like Egleston Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and St. Jude’s Hospital in Tennessee – I am acutely aware because of the holidays and fundraisers for the aforementioned, and very, very valuable medical centers. I also am reminded of this saying of the Buddhists, almost daily, such as when I was in the checkout line at Barnes & Noble, North Point, to grab a book or two before heading off to see amazing, suspenseful, going-to-get-an-Oscar-nod-for sure Argo, and the sales associate asked me if we’d like to “donate a new book to a terminally ill child this holiday.”

I gulped, suddenly feeling quite greedy for purchasing not only a gift for friend, but for snatching up the paperback of Unsaid, a novel about a redemptive dog, just for me, just because I wanted it. I glanced at my husband Hansoo, who appeared as shaken as I was, both of us imagining children on the brink of death, with tubes in their noses, reading a few words between labored breaths.

I quickly asked the questioner, “Could we get one for a boy? I mean, everyone gives girls books. Do you have one that both could enjoy, or something specifically for a boy?”

“How about this ninja book?” she asked, holding aloft a bright-colored manga book.

“Perfect,” I replied. “Look, Hansoo, it’s Asian-centric.” She popped my purchases into a bag and gently laid the book-for-unknown-terminally-ill-boy in a nearby donation stack. As we hurried to leave, I asked, “Is it possible to donate gently-used books, or, um…?” I knew the answer, as soon as the words flew carelessly out of my mouth.

“Well, they’re in terminally ill/critical care.”

I interrupted her with “Oh, of course, the germs.”

“Yes, the kids sneeze on a book, you know, it could expose them to –”

“Of course.” We walked away, heads down, to the great film we were about to see, the film in which lives are saved and there is hope at the end. Exiting the AMC Theatre, I noticed a maple tree shuddering in the strong winds of that Sunday afternoon. She’d lost several bright red leaves, and, I’m guessing, if trees can weep, she wept.

Peace, kids.

An earlier version of this piece was featured at Lisa’s official blog, Lisa Nanette Allender Writes, in 2012.

Carol Lynn Grellas poetry

Of God Go I

When she pressed my nipple flat
I flinched inside and tried to hide
myself in me, as if there were

a way to save the peace of yesterday
in the midst of opened robes
and fasteners freed, while images

were made of lumps and memories
that dared collide with how my breast
had lied each day I’d lain upon my bed,

then asked my hand to read in Braille,
probing for this pea-sized thing,
a hidden ring of mass within the skin

that bloomed unseen, deprived
of starry legs that bring a cancer in
while floating near the 2 o’clockish part.

She said it was benign and marked
me for another checkup in a few months’
time. And then I placed my opened palm

upon my heart, concealing just a portion
of my jostled breasts. She walked me back
without a word, yet, reassured, I tugged

the loosened lace. Humbled with my gown
around my feet I prayed,
There but for the grace…

Mikel K poetry


If God is responsible for 
our happiness, then he
or she or it must then be
responsible for our depressions
our insanity our wars our prisons
our mental institutions, for rape
and child molestation. If God 
puts a smile on our face, rewards
us for praying, then he or she or it
must also be responsible for our
frown, for us wanting to kill somebody
who has done nothing to us. 
NO, says my lover, God is not
responsible for our happiness.
I said if.

Mikel K lives and writes in Atlanta, Georgia. Explore and purchase his books here.

Louis Daniel Brodsky’s IN THE JAPANESE GARDEN suite

Several years ago the late Louis Daniel Brodsky wrote and shared this suite of poems about his visits to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, with an emphasis on the Japanese garden. Visit his site.


In the Japanese Garden
For Masako Umegaki

I: Friends

This fourth day of April, so joyously warming,
As glory-born as ever the Botanical Garden has seemed to me,
Was a pristine flowering of preening fruit trees —

Redbuds, pears, crab-apples, quinces, cherries —
Dappling my eyes, with dazzling pastel pinks and whites,
Efflorescing, this one brief season, each year,

Before disappearing into the humdrum viridescence of summer . . .
Tiny, delicate petals drifting through the air, on gentle breezes,
Like confetti, snowflakes, angels in Renaissance paintings.

Tonight, while I sit by myself, in a quiet restaurant,
Contemplating my time in that sublime time-out-of-time estate
Akin toEden’s not-yet-inhabited garden,

My mind, heart, imagination — all my soul’s senses —
Yet apprehend the lingering essence of spring’s benison,
The legacy of unadulterated beauty it’s left in my keeping.

And as this day slips swiftly away, I weep silently, privately,
Realizing it will never, in quite this way, come again,
To make, of me and my solitude, friends.


II: Grand Prize

I award my own rendition of a grand prize,
Whenever I go to theMissouriBotanical Garden,
Which I do, with a reverence bordering on spiritual fervor,
At least every few weeks, month in, month out.

Today, with exhilaration and just a hint of nervousness,
For wanting to assign my best subjective criteria
To the worthiest of exemplary contestants,
I finally settled on the common hyacinth,
With its palette of purples, reds, pinks, whites, yellows, blues.

Selecting a winner, from among all the entries,
Was far from a pedestrian task; indeed, it was daunting.
Creeping junipers, rhododendrons,
Daffodils, tulips, bluebells, pansies, and phloxes
Offered a formidable array of spring blooms to judge.

Even the dazzling, immaculate fruit trees —
Cherry blossoms, redbuds, quinces, and crab apples,
With their ballerina petals pirouetting through the air —
Lost out to the hyacinths’ spikes of basal-whorl flowers.
They’ll keep the ribbon . . . at least until the next competition.


III: Surrender

Albeit completely man-made, sculpted by hand,
The Botanical Garden is all the more natural,
Hardly redolent of the fabricated,
For being so profusely planted with exotic flowers and trees.

Indeed, it asks nothing of us,
Who come here seeking a momentary stay against stress,
But submission of our psyches, to its calming balms,
And a willingness to let our senses override our intellects.

This glorious April afternoon,
My only motivation for exploring these blessed premises
Is to locate the Koreanspice viburnums
And surrender to their intoxicating, aphrodisiacal fragrance.


IV: Making Love, in the Garden

This pollen-hazy sixty-five-degree May afternoon
Is all azaleas and rhododendrons.
Every other growing thing pales, in their presence.

Their whites, pinks, reds, purples, and crimsons
Are so beguilingly vibrant, yet so soothing,
They seduce my eyes, into undressing them.

Oblivious to hundreds of strolling souls,
I luxuriate amidst these voluptuous ladies.
Making love like this is such exquisite fatigue.


V: Tableau

As I sit cross-legged, relaxed, contemplative,
On this grassy green knoll,
Overlooking the Japanese Garden’s placid lake,
Rimmed by indigenous trees
Alluring, for their contorted and curiously leaning shapes,

I see a pair of mallards plying the water, nonchalantly,
Oblivious to myriad visitors —
Grandparents, moms, dads, kids, in family groups —
Come to spend the afternoon
Basking in the perfectly natural artificiality of this refuge.

One of the ducks, lackluster brown, flutters its wings,
Leaps up, in a huff, onto the shore of the largest island,
Even as her brightly colored mate continues on,
Carefully calculating the distance its webbed feet weave,
Then reverses heading, returns, emerges on the islet.

Perhaps we’re watching each other, possibly not.
Ten minutes later, they plop into the water,
Paddle toward me, as if my gaze were attracting them.
And again, they gather themselves up, in a flutter,
Leap onto this grassy bank, thirty feet below me.

I’m not conversant enough with Eastern thought —
Ancient and modern philosophy, poetry, calligraphy,
The subtle scrollwork of master painters —
To interpret, from this harmonious tableau,
Anything more transcendent than the tableau itself.


VI: The Last Thought

Youths, old folks, parents with babies,
Couples holding hands stroll, peacefully,
Along the path contouring the serene Japanese Garden.

On the lake, below where I’m seated in the grass,
Mallards and Canadageese float obliviously;
Stoic flowering plants, shrubs, and trees just grow.

In this quiet, inviting retreat,
The last thought any of us likely would have,
I tend to believe,

Is of those who’ve sacrificed their lives, in combat,
That we, this Memorial Day weekend and always,
Might enjoy the freedoms that define us.

Then again, what could I conceivably know?
Perhaps most everyone here has lost a dear one
To the sad, savage ravages of man’s brutality

And is paying tribute, in the gentlest possible way,
By strolling, peacefully, through this garden,
Hallowing harmony and love, a footstep at a time.


VII: Garden Strolls

They started in the last two and a half years
Of my estrangement and disengagement from Janie —
My strolls through the Missouri Botanical Garden.
They’ve become more frequent than I’d have imagined,
Averaging every other Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Something about these transcendent walks
Provides my weary spirit with curative powers,
Locates my solitude, there,
Anoints me, with happiness, serenity, hope,
As I walk those labyrinthine, flower-dappled paths,

And suffuses my lonely soul, with natural sympathy,
Lets me know, in my aloneness, that I’m not alone,
When I’m in the garden’s embrace.
Today, I spoke with the crape myrtles, rose of Sharons,
TheVictoria water lilies, caladiums, Russian sages,

And I carried on a measured, intimate conversation
With the pin oaks, Japanese maples, maidenhair trees.
All of them seemed to be in agreement
That I’m healing nicely, achieving contentedness.
They asked me if I’d consider never leaving.


VIII: The Recessional

Last-minute bees, this heated October afternoon,
Perhaps the last warm day for months,
Are mindlessly busy, gathering the rest of the nectar
From every available flower yet growing
And delayed, tantalizingly, in its imminent letting go.

Each intransigent tree and plant in this retreat —
Osage oranges, ginkgoes, pin oaks, Japanese maples,
Feather celosias, rose of Sharons, chrysanthemums,
Autumn crocuses, caladiums, Egyptian star flowers,
Water lilies, arrowheads, papyrus sedges —

Knows, by heart and smell and terrestrial breath,
The telltale whispering crispness lifting its spirit,
The seasonal confluence it’s reached,
Where finish and beginning are indistinguishable —
Fall and summer swaying in the same breeze.

Another mere spectator to this recessional,
I too sense, with regret, the inevitable evanescence
Settling into the days just ahead, rushing toward us.
Like the flora, I know that the sowing and winnowing
Are necessary destinations, stressful, blessed incarnations.


IX: New

I’ve come to the pristine, serene Japanese Garden
Just to get away from the trinity of my identity —
I, myself, and me.

This sunny Saturday afternoon in October,
Sublime chill fills my cells,
With an overwhelming sense of fluid ambiguity.

I could just as easily be who I’m not
As who I was before I entered this moment of repose
And became suspended in undefiled transcendence.

In the near distance, I hear a minister’s voice
Articulating a marriage ceremony,
Initiating the next episode in the lives of two souls,

And with it, I try to triangulate the hour of my days,
The span remaining for my vibrant psyche to thrive,
The visions left for my imagination to harvest.

Gradually, as the sun descends,
I rise from my trance, assume my waiting identity,
And exit the garden, glad to be new to who I now am.


X: Autumn

It’s that exotic phase,
When all the trees are disrobing immodestly,
Throwing off their vibrantly painted summer clothes —
Cotton frocks, diaphanous scarves, silk blouses —
Draped in nothing but autumn’s compromising majesty.

This immaculate Saturday afternoon,
I’m the lone witness to their seductive show,
Sole beholder of their blessed letting-go —
Nature’s rites of change and renascence.
I’m in her throes, the thick of things beginning to end

Or, if not, to enter evanescent coalescence
With the orderly coronation of the seasons,
From which they’ll awaken again,
Dress in regal greens spring will breathe into raiment,
Once they’ve completed sleep’s quiescence.

The hour of their coruscating immortality and mine is now.
In this warm-weather embrace, we’re inextricable.
To remain transfixed, like this, is my wish; it’s theirs too.
Even in winter’s frigid grip, we’ll still be here,
If our intimacy has anything to say about it.


XI: Epiphany’s Leaves

With a small container of garlic-and-olive-oil-infused hummus,
A package of mini-crackers, and a plastic knife,
Hidden in my all-purpose burlap knapsack,

Which I slip, surreptitiously, past the lady taking tickets,
I enter the Missouri Botanical Garden’s pristine purlieus,
My appetite exceeding my excitement on just being here.

If this is the worst transgression I’ve ever committed —
Bringing a picnic lunch when I know food isn’t permitted —
Most likely, my soul’s sinful trespass will be forgiven.

After all, I’m a frequent and highly appreciative visitor,
A devotee of these premises sacred to me,
Who comes to this retreat every several weeks or so,

Even more frequently, each end of October,
When its epiphanies exhilarate my spirit to its limit.
It’s the trees, their ever-evolving gradations of colors,

Their sense of rendering a renaissance from the throes of death,
As if they’re decorating the sky’s walls, ceilings, transepts, vaults
With freshly painted frescoes by Giotto and Cimabue,

In hues of red, scarlet, crimson, burgundy, vermillion, cabernet,
Amber, umber, burnt sienna, rust, yellow, orange —
A Joseph-coat of nature’s most arresting sunrise/sunset gestures

And those last, gasping greens, seen before they submit,
When winter’s traces, hints, tugs, rubs, and nudges
Begin prickling, ever so discreetly, the flesh on my arms and neck,

Putting me in mind that our time —
That of the trees, the leaves, and, least of all, me — is fast arriving
And that before we awaken from the truth of our deep sleep,

Winter will have tempered our steely resolves to persist,
In its bitterly chilled alembics, into spring, beyond,
All the way through summer, to another fall, like this one,

When, with a degree of providence, good fortune, kismet, luck,
I’ll again be an October’s-end visitor,
Picnicking on garlic-and-olive-oil hummus, in the garden.


XII: Garden of Eternity

This wondrously sunny first day of November,
Not even the robust roses are growing.
The pools are devoid of their lilies,
All plants, save for the hearty papyruses.

The garden is resigned to its slumberous designs,
And so am I, to its and mine.|
At peace, in this sweet, pungent retreat,
The brittle leaves invite me to sleep beside them.

Sadly, I have to decline,
Though my soul knows, full well, its inclinations,
That its sensibility would acquiesce, in a heart-breath,
Were it not that my destiny has other inspirations.

There are yet too many undisclosed seasons,
For me to be saying yes to death,
Too many ecstasies, epiphanies, efflorescences left,
To let my essence fester in quiescence’s keeping.

There will be time and time, beyond timelessness,
To press the limits of ever-after life.
For now, I have no choice but to bear witness
To this short-lived withering and sigh.

How, otherwise, might I realize my own immortality,
That state of blessed perpetuation
In which flesh imitates silence, silence flesh —
Eternity’s inexorable earthly incarnations.


XIII: Seiwa-en

Seiwa-en” translates, from the lips of my new Japanese friend,
Masako Umegaki,
As “garden of pure, clear harmony and peace.”

This invitingly warm late-November Friday afternoon,
At the Missouri Botanical Garden,
Far, yet not far, from Nagano, Hiroshima, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka,

She and I walk slowly, contentedly, side by side,
Around the fourteen acres of this blessedly serene sanctuary
Alive with lanterns, lake, waterfalls, islands, bridges, basins, pines,

Gazing at the few remaining Japanese-maple leaves
Fluttering from their limbs’ shivering tips,
As sunlight penetrates their flesh’s and veins’ reddish hues.

We stop, on the flat bridge, to watch whether the massive koi
Will turn into humans, as legend has it,
If we disturb the water, with our quarter’s worth of feed.

Then, we resume the path that echoes the shape of the lake.
Pointing, Masako whispers to me,
Gently, in her mother tongue, “Tokiwa,”

Translating “evergreen” into its symbolic equivalents —
“Longevity” and “happiness.”
Standing on the edge of a fine-white-gravel dry garden,

We contemplate the exquisite fluidity of the undulating waves
In a sea carved with a five-tined rake —
Movement that arises from the essence of perfect stasis.

Then, she gestures me to stop, accept her humble gift:
An ivory envelope shimmering with a floral design,
Wombing a purple card, decorated in kindred symbols,

Its interior unveiling six vertical calligraphic columns
Of beautifully scripted blue-inked Kanji and Hiragana characters
Delineating a poem composed by Jun Takami

And a separate handwritten translation, on rice paper,
Rendered by Masako, to honor me as a poet,
Who would understand the symmetry of artistic harmony.

Five hours later, I can still hear my friend’s soft voice:
“This is my favorite time of the year,
When the flowers die and shriveled leaves litter the ground.”

And I understand. It reminds her of the mystery of existence,
The nature of what remains hidden from common view,
And the idea that within the seasons, forever is never far away.


XIV: Japanese Garden

Many hundreds of uneven steppingstones
Lead me through the English Woodland Garden,
Along a meandering footpath following a stream
(A singing sluice spilling, by slow degrees,
Past all twenty-four of its miniature rock falls,
Under four inconspicuous bridges),
Deliver my spirit to its water’s plunge into the lake.
I descend, as if materializing out of sheer imagination,
Into the shimmeringly exquisite Japanese Garden.

That I’ve reached this source of the life-force itself,
The origin of harmony, peace, contentedness,
Is evident by the sense of inner serenity
That has slowed my worldly thoughts
To the heartbeat of tranquility,
My blood to the rhythms of solemnity’s whisper,
Which seems to be enveloping my breathing,
Beneath a bell jar of gentle, deep sighs
That keep existence echoing with its hopes for eternity.

Now, as if floating in a mist of invisible synthesis,
I stroll to my left — the only hand on a mystic’s clock —
Around the rim of the timeless lake,
Past the lotus bed, surrender to its white purity,
Despite its being flowerless, this late November;
Past the gravel dry garden (karesansui)
Containing a sea within its sinuously raked perimeter;
Past the flat bridge, spanning swarming nishikigoi
(Colorful, finned symbols of courage and strength);
Past the eight-sectioned zigzag bridge (yatsuhashi);
Past the stupa (stone pagoda honoring Buddha,
Its fire boxes signifying earth, wind, fire, water, sky);
Past lanterns, basins, lake islands, a waterfall,
To where the English Woodland Garden released me,
Two hours earlier, which I enter again,
Retracing hundreds of uneven steppingstones,
Following the stream back to the person I never was
Yet know, now, for his serenity.


XV: Kenshō

Sitting just above the ultimate curve
In the slow-flowing stream
Serpentining through the English Woodland Garden,

Whose riffles are on the verge of disappearing
Into the sheer calm of the Seiwa-en, below,
I’ve paused on a wooden bench,

To bask in the end of November’s seventy degrees.
I close my eyes, to heighten listening,
And lose myself to mesmerizing timelessness.

No transgressor, trespasser, am I, in this refuge,
Rather just one more welcome guest,
Invited to participate in autumn’s transfiguration.

Soothing, whisperous water,
Cascading over the rocky breaks,
Enchants me into sleep, with entrancing harmonies,

Transports me, beyond dreaming, to deepening repose,
Farther from daytime’s shores
Than I’ve ventured in more years than own me.

And when I awaken, as I must,
I hope I’ll yet be able to recognize myself,
From among the defoliating trees enfolding my soul.

But if I can’t identify my rested spirit,
I’ll not be lonely, bewildered, sequestered,
Since, coming here, today, I never intended to leave.



Carrie Ann Baade visual art

Carrie Ann Baade is an award-winning artist who is Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at Florida State University. She lives in Tallahassse. Visit her site.





Lee Price visual art

Visit Lee Price’s official site.

Self Portrait with Raspberry Sorbet 

Lemon Meringue

Strawberry Shortcake

Lemon Slices II

  Lemon Slices III

“Are You Now, Have You Ever?” by Terry Barr

My question was quiet, but clear: “So what do you think today about those years in Birmingham? You know, when the Klan and the Citizens’ Council opposed integration?”

“Well, I’d have to say the Klan was right. I don’t mean right in burning houses or churches, but people had the right to shop where they wanted and to go to school where they wanted. It wasn’t the federal government’s business.”

I wasn’t interviewing a former Birmingham police official or a former Klansman. I wasn’t in someone’s office or downtown club. I was in my parents’ home, my wife and baby daughter ten feet away playing tea party, while my mother and father and this man’s wife socialized before supper. Christmas Eve supper.

These were family friends – longtime. Their daughter and I had been friends before kindergarten, since the womb even, as old photographs of our mothers sitting on our front porch, pregnant together, attest. Through the years there were many such suppers: trips to Alabama football games on fall Saturdays back in the Sixties. Back when the crowds and the teams were all white.

Their daughter and I went to public school together. We experienced the convulsions of integration, the fights, and the supposed harmony of our senior year when the Homecoming Queen was white and the School beauty contest winner was black.

Times change both more and less than you think they do.

Our senior prom was held privately at the Birmingham FOP lodge. A segregated dance at a policeman’s hall. For our first two high school reunions, though, the parties were held publicly and were integrated.

But ever since, due supposedly to the two sides disagreeing over venues, there have been separate but equal reunions, except that it’s hard to say what is equal.

Much harder now than in the Fifties when anyone could see the rundown black school and the slightly less rundown or perhaps wildly prosperous white school.

For no one on either side actually got to see the other’s reunion site, the actual locale, unknown to anyone not invited. Of course, not even all white people received invitations to “our” reunion. Only a few: the proud, the elite.

Our venue was a private home, a very fine mansion in the hills south of Birmingham. Maybe it isn’t a mansion, but it will always be three times larger than anywhere I’ll live. Amongst the reunion selection committee was the daughter of our family friends.

“Remember when she threw sand in your eyes?” my mother asks recently.

“We were only three, Mom! I’ve tried to put that behind me. I think I’ve forgiven her.”

Forgiving, forgetting. But nothing is ever quite over.


I was working on an essay about my father’s rabbi, Milton Grafman of Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El. Rabbi Grafman was a good man. He encouraged interfaith dialogue. In a troubled time, he chose not to be an ardent Zionist. He was no racist either, yet he did not believe that Dr. King, or any outsider, should journey into Birmingham and stir things up only to leave it all behind for others to clean up. Others, like himself and the Alabama clerics who wrote a declaration advocating that changes in Birmingham be left to Birminghamians to orchestrate and administer. Their public letter provoked a response from Dr. King. The one he wrote from a Birmingham jail cell. That’s famous history.

I don’t know how many private stories of those days still exist, published or not. But our family friend had one.

A prominent Birmingham lawyer, he was involved in the negotiations between Birmingham city officials and the Kennedy White House. I don’t know exactly what he did or said back then, but he told me that times were tense, that the Kennedy delegates dispatched to Birmingham didn’t understand the local problems. I wondered aloud if anyone did.

“That’s a fair point,” he said. “But we had to live here.”

I think it’s interesting when people say things like “We had to live here.” Interesting because in those days, the Sixties and Seventies, many people left. Sometimes they moved out of specific neighborhoods and into other ones nearby. Other times they moved into neighboring counties. Suburban counties. Sometimes they moved across school district lines or into rural, county outposts.

What does “living here,” mean? Exactly where is “here?”

For instance, our lawyer friend’s family moved from the older neighborhood we lived in to a newer one in the western part of town where a newer high school was being constructed – one zoned for whiter clientele.

I got zoned to that school too, as did black kids from my side of town. By the time my friend’s daughter and I graduated, the ratio of black to white students was 60-40. Over the next decade it got worse, if by “worse” we mean more segregated. If we mean that others who “had to live here” found that they didn’t.

“It was just a difficult time,” he said. “Raising children back then – yes, I believed the Klan was right in that there should be neighborhood schools, freedom of choice.”

“Did the Klan want freedom of choice?”

“Well, yes. Meaning that we ought to be able to pick the schools we wanted our children to attend. I think you’d find back then that not only did white people want to go to school with other whites, but so did blacks. When you force people to change, to mix, then you’re asking for trouble.”


The neighborhood my parents lived in at the time of this Christmas gathering had been changing for the previous ten years. Black families had moved into the next block, and just before Christmas a black family moved in next door to my parents.

And so it was just after supper, after it seemed that all discussions of race and the past had been left in the wake of our Cornish game hen supper, that my mother turned to the lawyer’s wife, her oldest friend, and said:

“Well, they moved in last weekend.”

Her friend made no verbal response. She didn’t have to. Her face contorted into the visage of a mongrel pug, and then she shivered like you do when someone scratches her nails on an old elementary school blackboard.


My parents remained in their home, the place where my mother grew up, the house she and my Dad were married in. Married not by Rabbi Grafman, but by a Montgomery rabbi, Rabbi Blachschleger, who sent them an anniversary card for the next fourteen years until he died. Unlike Grafman, Rabbi Blachschleger believed in mixed marriages. It took a drive-by shooting in front of their house on a hot summer Sunday afternoon to get them to move. Ironically, they had become friends with the family next door.

Do times change? When change is imperceptible, is it still change?

So many of these figures are dead now. Rabbi Grafman, my Dad, Dr. King, my mother’s oldest friend. But just last weekend, my mother called her friend’s husband, the lawyer. He’s in an assisted-living home now. He has severe back problems and who knows what else.

“He was glad to hear from me,” my mother said. “I had to get his number from his daughter after she told me he wished I’d call him some time. The funny thing is, he’s always had my number. Why didn’t he call me?”

Of course, I had no idea.

“He always was strange,” my mother said then.

I agreed with her. We can hide from the past, and sometimes we can even bury it. At some point, though, we give ourselves away in a chance remark or a silent action. Or in a ringing voice that speaks of “freedom,” even if most of us will never agree about what that word meant back then, when things seemed so black and white. Or especially now, when they so clearly aren’t.

Stephen Pusateri poetry

The Bucket

Every day
The boy
a bucket
The well
a chore
           Then one day
           The boy
           a bucket
           The well
           a bird

Serious Question

Do you think the troops
that are on the front lines of wherever
it is that is considered protecting our borders,
ever sit there and share with one another
how happy they are
that they were thanked last night
on Dancing with the Stars?


Stephen Pusateri is a regular at the Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange. He works as a tour manager for the band Silencio (a tribute to the works of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti) and for WYEP-FM on their soul and blues programs. He has work collected in The Brentwood Anthology from Nine Toes Press. His poems have also appeared in Pittsburgh City PaperAfter Happy Hour Review, and Uppagus. His performance at the Hemingway’s Summer Poetry Series can be heard here.

Diane Elayne Dees poetry

A Decade Blown By

Huddled under an unconscious haze
of faded blue roof, we still begin
sentences with “Before Katrina”
and “After Katrina.” Never quite sure
whether something – a shop, a clinic,
a way of life – still exists, we search
the Internet, do the mental inventory,
consult each other. We talk in code:
“He’s aged, “It’s gone,”
“…when the trees were there.”
Some started over, some went away
and never came back. Some died,
some drift silently by in a rolling
fog of Xanax and uninvited memories.
Katrina weeds choke the perennials
in our yards – daily reminders
that none of our landscapes
will never be the same.

The Last Time I Felt Connected To My Body

Was it the time that I sat close enough to view
the ornamental stitching on Midori’s
gown as she offered me Sibelius
like a sacramental goblet at an altar?
Was it when I heard the metronomic swinging
of two rackets as the green clay formed fine dust?
Or when black and white surrealistic photos
made me feel like I might drop in a dead faint?
Perhaps the time I held a large sledgehammer
and transformed my wedding ring into debris.

My body has an instinct to survive,
to eat and drink and sleep through fitful dreams,
to push and pull and press and lift and sprint.
It doesn’t seem to have much need of me,
or what I thought was “me” before I noticed
that the long-term trauma that we called our marriage
had vaporized what some might call my soul.
Will we ever meet again, me and my body?
Or have I wandered so far from the living,
I cannot seek my bones, my breath, my blood.


Baptize me in the River Ouse.
Let me sink from the weight
of my oppressive thoughts,
heavier than boulders,
breccia formed from
the landslide of my history.
My pockets forever emptied,
my skirt a dripping prism
of conflicting impressions,
I will drift into soft waves
of unknown indigo.
Lift my body, clean and light,
and let me gasp for breath
until breath
is all
that matters.


Diane is a poet and psychotherapist who lives in Louisiana. 

David Van Gough visual art

Necrorealist painter David was born in Liverpool, England, and he moved to California in 2005. His past exhibits include Man/son and the Haunting of the American Madonna at Hyaena Gallery in Burbank, California and Purgatorium at Bash Contemporary in San Francisco. He’s also featured in John Borowski’s Serial Killer Culture documentary. Visit his official site.


Would This Monster Make a Man?

Space Have I To Lie In Such A Prison

The Dark and Backwards Abysm of Time

Dog Eat God

What’s Past Is Prologue