Month: March 2016

Featured: Punch Lines

Gary Glauber

Listen to the poem below.

 

She is the empress of exaggeration,
hyperbole her summer home.
She uses the largest knives to
cut the smallest items:
mincing, dicing, never explaining
something we’ve come to expect.
Her bold stories convey
strife, loves, loss, global dangers,
cautionary tales that trade on common fears
so that none of us mere mortals
has to experience all she has gone through,
year after year, side trips,
crumbled marriages,
hard knocks and harder ones yet.
As the pregnant orange sun crawls
over her shoulder, you might spot
the wrinkles hidden behind the cosmetics,
the secret of the tired magician’s tricks,
the toll of those many raw years.
Best not to mention it;
she harbors lifelong grudges.
Instead, drink it in and smile,
while she laughs at some farfetched anecdote
she’s been telling someone, anyone,
decade after decade.

 

 

Gary Glauber is a poet, fiction writer, and teacher. His first collection, Small Consolations (Aldrich Press) is available from Amazon.com.  A chapbook, Memory Marries Desire, is available for pre-ordering from Finishing Line Press. It will be published in March.

Featured: Fig Tree Summers

S.R. Stewart

 

I made freezer meals from the remnants
of my birth, to keep my mother with me, always.

I remember,
scalding water on my toes
you christened me in a broken tub
behind the motel.

Your blood sopped off
with a rag,
that smells of fig trees floated on gas-waved air.

I wonder every day why
didn’t you leave me to drown.

 

 

SR Stewart is a freelance writer making in her way through the Pacific Northwest one state at a time. Her mentors include Dana Gioia, Joe Wenderoth, Andy Jones and Greg Glazner. Stewart loves crocheting, backpacking and writing snippets on her blog Lil Miss Poetry.

Featured: How the Two Points Meet

Justin Goodman

Listen to the poem below.

 

 

Desire is a glowering fire, and the tungsten filament
Keeps away the Evil Eye. How many Nazar does it take?
When the beads blink with light, it is enough;
When iris by iris they change shade, it is enough;
When the blackened world grows wild with bright, enough,

I have seen enough to hold my arm over this sea,
Its nymph wings rising, and watch
The wings speak tongues to the sky,

The arm’s dark side brimming with reflection
I swear I can see the fish in
As their fins flicker like photons,
Turning and crashing into each other imploringly:

Light wants to reproduce itself, but is shy.
It will not reach fathoms, but
It is enough to skim a skin’s gyrations (It is all).
Change is too swift, as the moment
You look into the sun or its simulacra

It blushes, turning away.

 

11825595_1017370508283259_162488451349943377_n (1)Justin Goodman earned his B.A. in Literature from SUNY Purchase with writing published in CounterExample Poetics, 352 Degrees and Italics Mine. He also has book reviews published in Cleaver Magazine, movie reviews published in Red Carpet Crash, and music reviews published in InYourSpeakers.

Featured: Northwest Passage

Todd Mercer

Listen to the poem:

 

 

Ingenue on foot for miles
northwest from the Logan Square station,
the weather couldn’t be better. She diagnoses
neighborhoods, their themes and aims,
quirks, and social cures. Steadily outward,
past Milwaukee Avenue & California,
‘til her power plant’s expended.
Then food vapors take her into a café
that lacks that fourth front wall. Small
but charming, open. It’s a mundane morning
or it’s a bounty of incoming details, this city;
the day is a stair-step toward a greater breakthrough
a synthesized everything theory, grounded
in the ranks of brick-built brownstones. Ingenue
stretches long strides through the place
where she was born. Along the streets,
but also in the bubble which has always
been around her. Seven miles or more
from the Loop, packed with
mental notes for later, satisfied and finally
in search of an inbound train.

 

TODD MERCER won the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Award for 2015. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer’s recent poetry and fiction appear in: Bartleby Snopes, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, Eunoia Review, Gravel, Kentucky Review, The Lake, Literary Orphans, Main Street Rag Anthologies and Misty Mountain Review. Mercer is Poetry Editor at The Legendary.

Featured: A Chant Against Lonely

Published in Issue 9 of Two Cities Review

Mary Caroll-Hackett

One focus point in the brain, one lobe, one light, sitting up on the side of the bed at night, fingers tapping out incantations in the rumpled sheets, some sleep-deprived meditation.

Say I am open. Say I am willing. Say I am hungry. Say I am ready, even if you’re not.

The bed is hot, and empty, the windows ache toward a deep night sky now too familiar.  Constellation identification, even as the seasons reel. How the deer drift, take their time, no need to run this late, in the winter hay field. How the trees, so upright in daylight, lean toward the road when no one is watching.

But you’re watching.  Say This is what I remember. Say This is what I have learned. Say This is what I deserve.

You trace Orion one star at a time across the empty side of the bed, again and again. Consistency, you’re told, is key. So you repeat, some mantra you think you’re making, until it all just becomes shaking. in theories of time and space.

Say This is where I will show you the night sky. Say This is where the lonely come to die. Say This is all I know, but I will share it with you. 

You say, and say, wait for light to remake the day, for the blueing start of dawn, when you rise, and once again, move on.

Say There is a magnet dislocated in my heart. Say The windows are inked like an atlas. Say I am no better than geese, calling calling, searching and bent, on someplace like home.

 

Mary Carroll-Hackett earned an MFA from Bennington College and is the author of four books: The Real Politics of Lipstick, Animal Soul, If We Could Know Our Bones,and most recently, The Night I Heard Everything, from FutureCycle Press. A chapbook, Trailer Park Oracle, is due out in November 2015 from Kelsay Books. She teaches at Longwood University, and on the low-residency MFA faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan. Mary is currently at work on a memoir.

Featured: Sufficiency

Published in Issue 9 of Two Cities Review

Charlene Langfur

Today all of it matters, the start, the finish,
the dark, the light. Around here each year
this is the time the heat increases, this is why I
care about what works best in the desert, where
sitting still in the hottest part of the day is a skill.
In the winter long walking is okay any time
and planting seeds is easily done . In a hot time
it is different, how to treat sunflower seeds and
calendula matters, early morning water is crucial.
Protecting the miniature plants to give them a strong
beginning is key. What keeps us all going in
an impermanent place. This is why I am out early,
walking hard under the palm trees, moving under
the stars in the early part of the day. And there are
life tools involved. A bottle of water, a kerchief, a hat.
When the sun is burning hot in the desert, it makes
any of us forget ourselves and how we need
basics to get by here. Shade may be the same as
love and slowness in an arid place is the same
as quickness somewhere else. And then there
are the wildflowers in the middle of nowhere.
A staggering sight. In a pitch of sand. Wild
pink poppies. A few rabbits heading fast for
a tuft of wild grass. Some of the flowers are
opening up like dreams. It is what they do.
I bring what’s needed. Mental delectations
for what rises no matter what else doesn’t.
No matter what is wanting, there is always
this idea of more. The blush of things. The shape
of the flowers, the feel. The dog is moving along
over the back field. Soon it is time to turn back.
Time for work again, a bowl of oatmeal at home.
Ideas of desire on the pile again but never out of sight.
I am ready to cut a few rose buds to put on the kitchen
table for another day of light, the petals opening up
toward it. Ready to start again.

 

Charlene Langfur is an organic gardener, a southern Californian, a Syracuse University Graduate Writing Fellowship holder and her writing has appeared in The Stone Canoe, The Hampden Sydney Poetry Review, The Adirondack Review, most currently in Spoon River Poetry Anthology, Earth’s Daughters, The Buddhist Poetry Review, forthcoming in Fall 2015 a series of poems in Poetry East as well as Weber-The Contemporary West.

Featured: After the Nazis

Gavin Adair

 

She sifts through the dirt. Again. This time the hole has squared corners

and the sides are a cool and loamy clay. It is like a small chip

in the earth, just a speck. Who could think there has ever been a cut here?

Who could think there has never been a cut here?

 

Who could think a nick has not been made here and flesh removed? She sifts

thought the soil, her hands come up with bits of something – enamel covered

in decades of dirt. You can see they’re forever stained once it is brushed away.

Here, she says, holding them out in her palm.

 

Can you see the difference? This one is shark, you can tell by the point. This one

is a child’s, chipped and broken. You can tell

by the jagged edge.

 

 

G AdairIn September 2014 Gavin Adair decamped for Shanghai after eleven years in Brooklyn. “After the Nazis” is from an ongoing sequence of poems based on other works, acts, or events. This is the third poem in the sequence to see publication.

Letter from the Editors, Spring 2016, Issue 9

Subscribe to read the full issue

Dear Readers,

A MAN’S SON, LOST IN THE QUAGMIRE OF SYRIA. ANOTHER SON, NEARLY LOST IN RELIGIOUS “EX-GAY” THERAPY. A WOMAN STRUGGLING TO KEEP HER FAMILY’S SECRETS SAFE. Our March 2016 issue might be our most dramatic collection of true and fictional stories yet.

What makes a story electric? We have been exploring this question as we assemble Issue 9, and discussing it in our growing podcast (check out our latest episode on iTunes or at twocitiesreview.com/podcast). In our latest issue of the magazine, we return again and again to characters struggling to define who they are in the face of outsized odds. Characters in these outstanding stories, essays, and poems reach out for connection and grasp only air; they dig deep into their memories, searching for a true version of the past, and can only find uncertainty. Self-discovery is a rocky path to go down.

Our poems in this issue are also concerned with survival. What does it take to be truly self-reliant? How do we recover from grief and pain? How do we derive meaning from the great and the awful in our childhoods? Ultimately, survival is a question of self-discovery too; our writers have found that to make it in this world, you have to know who you are and what to take with you on the journey.

Speaking of journeys, this magazine, which started as a tiny fern unfurling beneath a canopy of larger magazines, has grown into a wide readership and is now spreading new branches into the world of podcasts and beyond. This issue marks our two year anniversary as a magazine, and we are so proud of the incredible growth we have seen. Not only has the number of submissions we receive increased exponentially, but the readers we are reaching now number in the thousands, over many states, countries and continents. And in a literary market that is full of turbulence and turnover, we are here to stay.

We hope that you, our readers, will continue with us on this journey and spread the word about our magazine and podcast. Writers continue to submit your best work. Together, we will make the next two years even more fruitful that these last two.

Happy reading!

Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon

Read select pieces from the issue

Featured: An Object in Motion

Published in Issue 9 of Two Cities Review

Listen to our interview with the author in Episode 6 of our podcast.

Corie Rosen

She could leave him if she wanted.  It might be the right decision.  It just might.  That was what Carolyn told herself as she leaned up on her elbow, face turned toward the window, listening to the Big Bopper while Henry drove.  It was the second day they had spent streaking through the desert.  By the time they arrived in California, the Subaru would be wearing layers of caked on dirt across its blue metal, Colorado silt and Utah soil and dust from Arizona—residue of the vast landscapes through which Carolyn struggled to make up her mind.

*

It was something called the Coriolis Effect that made the Pacific’s water so cold, Henry told her as they carried the cooler and chairs down to the sand, the California sun hanging bright and soft behind them, beckoning them toward the beach.

They walked a sandy path, their shoes scraping the sidewalk, and Henry tried to keep things simple, to make his point about Coriolis, to explain.  He told her how the Coriolis Effect could create illusions.  Because of the Earth’s curvature, objects on the surface of the planet appeared to travel in a circle, when, if you did the math correctly, you’d find that they were really moving in a straight line.  An object set on a course of unwavering motion, on and on like that forever.

Carolyn thought he had seemed so like a grown-up when she’d met him, or at least close to her idea of what a real adult might be.  At the time, she’d was taking a fifth year in college, not sure that she would even finish her art degree.  He was already a graduate student, already teaching, renting his own apartment and bringing home a paycheck, staking out a clean and tidy corner of the world.

At first, she’d liked the way he had of drawing into himself at exactly those moments when other people would have burst with emotion.  In those days, with her father sick and her mother caring for a man who had betrayed her, Henry’s silences had kept her safe.

She unpacked the beach towels while he set up the chairs.  Together, they jammed the metal arm of their blue umbrella into the sand.

She untied the knot on her black sarong and let the mesh fall in a heap to the sand.  From behind his textbook, Henry watched her moving, studying the way her breasts sat in the cups of her red bikini, the way the string-tied bottoms lay just above her hips.  At work, he could always find the answer, but with his wife, lately, he struggled to know what to say to, to find a way to tell her, without numbers, exactly what he meant.

He watched as she worked the rubber band from her ponytail with the tips of her fingers, and pretended not to mind when she said, “Hen, I’m going down to the water.”

Caleb would meet her on the pier at four o’clock, exactly.  It was three thirty when she walked away from Henry.  Three thirty five and she was alone on the shore.  She carried her sandals in one hand and trekked into the breakers, watching two small boys chase each other, shrieking with delight whenever the foam tickled their knees.

Farther down the beach, the edge of the pier hung like a beckoning finger, curled into the brilliant water’s mouth.  Below it, light gleamed from the waves’ tops like so many rows of teeth.

At four o’ clock she stepped onto the pier where families and couples ambled past her to the lookout at the pier’s end.  Did they know what she was after?  Did they see her face and understand what her presence on the pier meant?  She stopped halfway to the end and leaned against the wooden railing.  4:03.  4:07.  4:09.

At 4:15, she considered walking back, but then she thought of Henry’s face concealed behind his book’s pages and she stopped walking and stood, feeling the hot sun on her shoulders, the salty, gritty air warm against her thighs.

“Excuse me,” a man, a teenager really said, brushing past her where she had stopped in the pier’s middle.

Then Caleb was moving toward her, saying, “Carolyn, Carolyn?” and staring at her with familiar green eyes.  “Carolyn.”  He rolled the sound of her name on his tongue like a marble, cracking it hard against his teeth.

*

It was a terrible plan, Caleb had told himself as he’d started toward her.  He’d hung back at least ten minutes, unable to bring himself to step onto the pier.  But then, he needed to do something, and this was something after all.

At twenty-eight she was still lovely, mouth still a little too sharp, nose still a little too small, but on the pier, with her hair cast around her shoulders, she gleamed like so much water and he thought, this just might work.

*

Past the pier, a seagull screeched and ducked fast toward the water.

Caleb said, “Look at you.  Time hasn’t changed you one bit.”

“Really?” she said.  She didn’t mention the wrinkles collecting at his eye corners or the precarious line of his receding hair.

“Listen,” he said.  “There’s something I want to give you, something I think you might need.”

How long had it been?  He tried to remember the last time he’d seen her.  Ten years, eight at least.

“Can you tell me what it is?” Carolyn asked him.

“Not yet.  The thing is, I don’t have it here right now.  Meet me later?  Someplace more private?”

The appointment made, Caleb walked back to where he’s left his Jeep parked at a meter.  His wife was at home, watching their two children, tiny girls bursting with newness, each new day an exercise in how to approach the world.

He wondered if other men felt as he did, closer to his wife and children when he was away from them.  It was though, at a distance, their complex minds flattened into something straightforward, something clean and easy that he could understand.

Business had been bad through the recession.  Fewer films, fewer commercials, less work for everybody in the photography business.  And there were things he wanted to buy for the girls, clothes and dresses, the lure of private elementary schools and nannies.

It wouldn’t have been so terrible if the Warner Brother’s job had come through earlier that summer, but when he had gone to see the man he’d hoped to work for, clutching the half-sized water bottle the receptionist gave him, he’d known, the way he always knew when the work wasn’t coming, the truth of it welling up inside him like water seeping through the sand.

“We’ll call you,” the man had told him.  Caleb had waited, was still waiting, but there hadn’t been any calls.

*

He was the only person Carolyn had told about her father’s letters.  They’d gone down to the beach, not far from where the pier edged into the water, a cooler full of beer in the trunk of his parents’ station wagon, packed in next to the logs for the fire pit and the moth-holed, plaid wool blanket.

No one was supposed to stay on the beach past ten p.m., and when they got there at eight, just as the sun was setting, people were already packing up, coolers and beach towels tossed together into sandy trunks.  The cars departed, one after another, until only she and Caleb were left on the sand.

After the last car’s lights had faded, they’d peeled off their clothes and run screaming into the water, cold biting into her skin as she fell against the surf, the sting of the waves awakening her to a cut on her thigh she hadn’t know she’d had.

She hadn’t been looking for the letters when she found them.  Her parents were out for the night and Carolyn, nearly sixteen but still without a driver’s license, had been left at home with the television and the knowledge that somewhere in her father’s sock drawer, a half-smoked pack of Lucky Strikes wouldn’t seem much changed if she only took a couple.  She’d been looking for the pack when she’d found the bundle and, laying aside the red ribbon that bound it all together, she had leafed through the letters one at a time.

She had never heard her mother never address her father as “My Dearest Harry,” and the handwriting was oddly compressed, too compact to be her mother’s.  The woman, a person called Kitty, wrote about the way her father’s blue eyes looked milky in the morning, the way, when he smiled, wrinkles formed at the corners of his mouth.

How the letters had gotten to her father’s hands, she’d wondered.  Had they come to the house by mail, handled by the postman as if they were something as benign as the electric bill?

“My father is having an affair,” she’d said to Caleb after they had crawled, shivering and drenched, out of the ocean and back onto the sand.  They’d spread themselves out on the blanket, two striped towels covering their shaking bodies, the high fingers of the waves pulling high against the moon.

Caleb had lit a cigarette and passed its gleam to her.  This was the kind of complication he didn’t need.  The kind of thing that made the lines of their love less sharp, less clean, less even.  He was still at an age when he wanted to keep everything in pure, bright emotion.  Nothing messy or difficult, nothing shaded or dark.  That night, though, he’d made love to her on the blanket.  He’d pulled her body into his, the smell of salt and fire smoke and the sound of the ocean, their sweaty bodies filmy in spite of the cool.

After her father died and the hospice people had carried out the body, she’d left Caleb in the kitchen with her mother and gone in to the bedroom to take the letters from the drawer.  Only, when she opened it, there was nothing, twenty pairs of rolled black socks and a half-empty pack of her father’s smokes.

*

In the evening, after their day down by the water, Carolyn undressed in the spare bedroom while Henry walked around her mother’s the house, turning out the lights in all the hallways.  Her mother was already downstairs, sleeping alone.

Three more hours, two more hours, one more hour, she’d thought all through dinner, counting down the time until she’d be with Caleb again.  They’d eaten at an Italian place near the water where Henry had told her mother all about his research and Carolyn had drunk iced tea while her fettuccini got cold.

She waited until Henry asleep and then stood and slipped out of her cotton nightgown, shedding it silently, like the skin of a ghost.  She pulled on jeans and a light windbreaker, slid her tennis shoes on, and straightened her hair before gliding out of the bedroom, down the stairs, and out of the front door.

Caleb was already there, beneath the street light, the meeting place they’d snuck out to as teenagers.  Those were days when Carolyn had still believed that anything was possible, that she would grow up to become a singer, or a playwright, a person who took photographs for National Geographic, or a dancer in the company of American Ballet Theater.  Those were the years when she had waited expectantly for summer, believing that, if she just concentrated, she would wake up one morning and find herself thrust into the great adventure of her life.  She wanted to drink wine in Burgundy, to dance in Spanish Harlem, to jump out of an airplane and feel the air around her body, to moving toward the Earth with predetermined force.

Now, she wanted to drive to Mexico with Caleb, to smell the dirty air and drink cold beer out of long-necked bottles, to feel their bodies, pressed together, sweating in the southern heat.  It was a feeling as dark and full as the smell of the soil in her mother’s backyard, and she had wanted to hold it always, to turn her life into what it should be, a constant, impossible feat.

In the lamplight, he looked older, as though he’d worried too much too often.  She could see now that his frame, thin and lean as ever, already held the shape of the reedy old man he would someday be.

“I hope you don’t think it’s strange,” he said, “my asking you to meet here.  It’s just that I wasn’t sure if I should bring this when we met before.”

She closed her eyes, thinking he was about to kiss her, thinking that if she concentrated hard enough, she could call back all the old emotions, but when she opened her eyes, he was still a few feet away from her, holding a wrinkled manila envelope.  It was the kind of envelope she used for filing documents at the office, only this envelope had been folded.  It wore its creases and wrinkles like a pattern of veins.

“I was at the house the day he died.”  Caleb said and nodded.  “You’d told me about the letters, the affair.  It didn’t seem right to leave them for your mother.  When you called the other day…I thought that they might be worth something to you.”

Carolyn closed her hand around the packet.

He said, “I hope I haven’t done the wrong thing asking you to meet me. I just thought you might think they were worth something. I hadn’t thought of it, until you called.”

“What do you mean, worth something?”  She drew back from, stepping out of the streetlight’s glow.

Caleb shrugged. “I’m sorry, the recession.  I’ve got two kids, you know.”

“You mean you want money?  You want me to pay you to keep the letters secret?”

“No,” he said.  “Just asking for whatever seems fair.  Asking if you want to buy them.  I thought you’d want to have them, even after all these years.”

It had been silly, embarrassing even, to think that Caleb still thought about her, to have believed that they might, in standing across from one other, have found themselves full of the thrill of the youth they had spent together, the sense of their own power and possibility.

He said, “If you need cash, I could take you to the ATM around the corner.”

Carolyn pressed her thumb into the envelope that hugged the packet of letters and felt as though the ocean were rising within her lungs.  The envelope in her hands, she reached out for Caleb and pressed her thumbs hard against the backs of his palms.  This man she’d once believed to be so strong, so solid, was nothing more than thousands of fragile bones.

“Keep the letters,” Carolyn said.  “I’m don’t need them.”

*

In the bedroom, Carolyn felt her way through the darkness, tripped over a square object, and found Henry’s textbook under her nightgown.  She held the book a moment and then set it carefully onto the top of the dresser.  Between its covers lay Henry’s world, a reality of fixed shapes and numbers, sturdy but impossible to hold.

Once, when she was little, she had visited the tide pools with her father.  They had waded in near the rocks and Carolyn had run her fingers over the grooved bodies of mussels, their shell mouths opening and closing in the splash that broke in from the sea.  Her father had told her stories about how the beach had changed since he’d visited it as a young man, sitting in the back of a Ford station wagon full of boys with Beatles’ haircuts who didn’t yet know that they were bound for Vietnam.  In those days, the suburbs had been mostly unsettled farmland, rows of strawberries and citrus trees.  That had been before Desert Storm, before the Balkans, before the builders had developed all along the coastal ridge.

She had chosen Henry, chosen him in one of those moments when choices are made or permanently lost.  All of her decisions, a string of choices, a string of moments, could be connected up to form a curve, the shape, the arc of a life.  An arc carrying her away from the jagged coast of California to the shadow of the mountains, an arc that had carried through the West and through her marriage, through all of Henry’s silences, to exactly just this time and place.

As she got into bed, the mattress gave under the weight of her body.  Henry felt the heat of her, her knees against the backs of his thighs as she pressed against him.  He told himself it didn’t matter that she had been somewhere secret.  She was there now, and that was the thing that mattered, the fact of her presence, then and always.  Her steady pulse, her slowing breath, her soft heart beating, and beneath it all, he knew, the pure and mathematical precision of her pain.

None of it mattered, he told himself, not really—not California or the beach, or Carolyn’s mother downstairs, silent and alone.  In a few days they’d drive back through the Western deserts, back to the country where entire landscapes could be quieted by flurrying drives of snow.

 

Corie Rosen, for Two Cities Review-1Corie Rosen’s stories have appeared in the Crab Creek Review, the Bangalore Review, and Konch Magazine, among other places.  Her work has been recognized by Nimrod, Carve, and the Tucson Festival of Books, and has also been featured on public radio.  She is a member of Denver’s Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop.