Monday, November 26, 2018

The Slow Movement, a poem by Edmund F. Byrne


The Slow Movement
by Edmund F. Byrne

With Ashkenazi at the keys
Giuliani signaled for the Brahms
and thunder filled reality
reverberating in my ears
more turbulence than I could bear

I made some tea and tried to read
old arguments that God exists
while hardly sure that I was there
or that the world takes note of me
with or without divinity

Just then the tempo changed
and peaceful strings began to coax
from gentle horns soft mellow chords
that sang inside of me a tonal prayer
which urged the universe to care

Tea and book I put aside
to let some tears reply Amen
to the awesome orchestrations that
ensued in celebration of
what life can be with hope for love


From Edmund F. Byrne: “I'm a retired professor of philosophy. Spent most of my active years at newly established IUPUI. I'm still involved with the Journal of Business Ethics and review books for online anthology called MiSWR.”

Friday, November 23, 2018

Scar Tissue, a Story by Ela Aktay


SCAR TISSUE
By Ela Aktay

When you cut yourself and get a wound, after a period of time there’s this weird-looking permanent mark on your skin. You know, where tissue builds up and creates a scar. Well, I have a tiny starfish-shaped one on my belly button. I love that scar. Every once in awhile, I lift my shirt and touch the ever-so-slightly ridged skin. It’s my battle wound. Never mind that it was a battle I lost, I still love that scar.

I’m in the tattoo store. My heart is racing like the Energizer Bunny. I’ve got the classic sweaty palms, lump in the throat, pit in the stomach. Just breathe and do it. I lie down on the table and grip the sides so tightly I counteract the deep breaths that I thought would actually relax me. I shut my eyes tight and brace myself for the stabbing pain to pierce through me. Faster than I can say, “ok, I’m ready,” it’s done. Really? That’s it? Seriously? That didn’t hurt at all.

I walk out of the store beaming. Look at me—I’m cool, I’m edgy. I have a shiny fake diamond in my pudgy doughboy tummy. I’m grinning like an idiot, with no idea what’s in store for me later. It’s not always the instant it pierces when you feel the pain.

I call M. and proudly announce my daring feat, as if this is enough of a reason for him to come back. Waiting for his accolades, my satisfied smile is reduced to a child-like pout when I hear him laugh, “No way. You would never get your belly button pierced.”

“Oh yeah, just wait until you see it,” I whine.

M. never believes me when I say I’m going to do something. This time, I’ll show him. He’ll be the one saying, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, you’re exactly the bold, sexy woman I want.”

I stare down at my belly button again for like the 10,000th time. I smile. I don’t care what he thinks; it makes me happy. Never mind that it’s starting to hurt like hell, I keep smiling.

Dressing is a challenge. What the hell was I thinking doing this in the winter? Pants rub at the waist and it hurts. Tights rub at the waist and it hurts. Dresses rub at it. Anything I wear rubs at it. Nothing feels right. Is it ok to wear a sack to work? The pain grows. I’m uncomfortable. But it still looks good.

My belly button starts to turn a slight red. It’s not infected. It’s just this pain that refuses to go away. I’m not giving up. I’m keeping it, even if it hurts so badly—because it looks so cool. I can make this work. I’ll just take better care of it. I’ll be really careful.

I know how to do careful. If “walking on eggshells” were an Olympic sport, I’d get the gold. Living with M. was a delicate balance between not awakening the dragon and entertaining the prince. The prince was beautiful, strong, and radiant. With him, I thought anything was possible.

I start to see little connective stretches of skin form. Scar tissue is building, preparing me for healing. “Nooooooo! I’m not ready yet. I don’t want to heal when I haven’t even been able to show off my belly button. It’s not fair.”

Even though it’s bright red and the scar tissue is building, I still think I can make this work. Yet I haven’t done anything to make it better. I’m paralyzed, frozen, watching it get worse. I don’t want it to fail. I want it to stay, looking all shiny and pretty.

More connective tissue forms, pushing the diamond stud almost out of my skin. I ignore it. Maybe it will get better on it’s own. You know, kind of like when you cut yourself, your skin closes up and heals on its own. Yeah, that makes sense. Ignore it—it will definitely get better. Ignore the throbbing, searing white hot pain and keep on smiling. Suck it up. It will go away.

With M., eventually the pain did go away—if I kept quiet long enough. No reason to think it wouldn’t work now.

But it doesn’t. And I can’t ignore it. The constant stinging is kind of hard to ignore. I finally open my eyes, look down, and the piercing is hanging literally by a thread, by one little connective thread of stubborn skin hanging on for dear life. So what do I do? Lie to myself. “I’ll call the store. They’ll know what to do. They will save it,” But I don’t actually call the store for help.

The next morning, I take a shower. Within a few minutes, I hear the indistinguishable clink of metal. A little silver shiny stud rests on the tub floor. The end. Over and done. I tell M. over the phone. “You never really did want it anyway,” he says. I start to protest, and he smugly says, “No, your body rejected it because you didn’t want it. I knew you never really wanted it.” Maybe he’s right but I’m not convinced. Maybe you can want something and just because it doesn’t work doesn’t mean you never really wanted it. Maybe you just didn’t know what to do anymore. Maybe you believe in magical fixes. Maybe you hope and pray for the best without actually doing anything because that’s what you know. No matter how bad it was doesn’t mean I didn’t love it and that I didn’t want it.

END

A long-time Indiana resident, Ela Aktay is a writer and storyteller currently living in Chicago. She also works as an editor and content strategist for educational publishing. She is currently working on her debut collection of short stories.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Eulogies for Jay Zimmerman, by Michael Brockley


Buffalo Nickels and Steel Guitar Music
by Michael Brockley

for Jay Zimmerman

Last night I counted a buffalo nickel among the change left in my Levi’s. All summer, butterflies have fluttered from the shadows of the silver maples that have overgrown my fencerow. When was the last time you held a nickel? What was the last color of butterfly to land on your arm? I try to remember your poem about coming of age in Miami, but all I recall is you cruising in your Firebird along the strip of motels where Yankee teenagers on spring break gathered to drink local beers named for hurricanes. In the evening, a jazz combo lost themselves in “Kind of Blue.” The last time we talked we sat in a college bar surrounded by board games and used books. We read B. H. Fairchild’s poem about a young Mickey Mantle walloping a fastball from the green hell of steel guitar music off a water tower in Quapaw. “There’s more to it than that. It’s about men playing for redemption,” you said. The depth you always mined. I spent that night listening to Over the Rhine’s “I Won’t Eat the Darkness.” Where did you go to hear them that last time? I hide the buffalo nickel in a niche where I won’t find it and think about kissing a woman with luck tattooed on her shoulder. I want to cruise Ocean Drive in a muscle car with the songs that made me a man shaking the firmament. This isn’t the last time I’ll try to say goodbye.


Jay’s Eulogy
by Michael Brockley

You stand in against Whitey Ford on a baseball diamond in paradise while Mickey Mantle shouts instructions to you from the dugout. Keep your hands back. Follow through with your hips. The southpaw might stick a curveball in your ribs or knock you down with a “mudball,” but you’re not a Miami Little Leaguer anymore. You know how to wait deep in the box while digging in with your cleats. Know how to get back up after biting the dirt. The last time you faced this lefty, you didn’t see the ball. Said it sounded liked a strike. Since then you’ve meditated in the shade of the tree of life. Climbed a mountain with the man who had a dream. You let your soul catch your body beneath your favorite light. On the pitcher’s mound, Ford is nodding to Berra, rocking into his delivery. You’ve learned how to see the pitch. How to gauge its rotation with the sweet spot of your swing. You’re standing now on sacred ground where those you cherish most will cheer you on forever.


Bio: Michael Brockley is a quasi-retired school psychologist who still works in rural northeast Indiana. His poems have appeared in a variety of literary journals, including Atticus Review, Gargoyle, Clementine Unbound and Flying Island. "Jay Zimmerman was a teacher, poet and friend whose poems and creative nonfiction occasionally appeared in Flying Island. He passed away on August 6, 2018."

Editor's note: Here are links to Jay S Zimmerman's contributions to the Flying Island.




Friday, November 16, 2018

Pigeon Apocalypse, by Joanna Acevedo


Pigeon Apocalypse by Joanna Acevedo

The pigeons that were living in our ceiling had started getting aggressive with one another, and once in a while a shower of feathers and plaster would come raining down into my room. I wasn’t getting much sleep, which was making me irritable.

I thought I heard my roommate, Jared, telling a girl about the pigeons late at night, when he thought I was asleep.

“It’s like, the Pigeon Apocalypse in there,” he was saying into the receiver of the phone. He thought I couldn't hear him, but I could. “So if you want to hang out, we can’t go to my place. Besides,” he added, and I could hear the flick of the lighter as he lit his cigarette. “My roommate is kind of weird.”

“You’re kind of weird,” I said, to the wall that separated the two of us.

A few minutes later I heard the apartment door slam. Then it was just me and the pigeons. I listened to them rustling around, cooing, until I fell asleep sometime around dawn.

****

Jared interrupted me while I was writing a letter to my ex-boyfriend’s mom about how I missed her. I hadn’t liked the boyfriend much, but I had really bonded with his mother, and now we had a weekly correspondence. We exchanged knitting patterns and recipes for casserole. Sometimes she asked me for advice on parenting her younger sons, who were fifteen and eighteen, and getting into trouble left and right.

“You just need to be patient,” I always told her. Letters seemed awfully dramatic, and I liked that. I liked to pretend that we were living in a period drama, dressed in ostentatious, impractical clothes, and that it would be three months before I heard from her again, the letters traveling on horseback across the desolate American west.

In reality, our postman was pasty and grumpy and overweight, and complained to Mrs. Rogers, who lived downstairs, that his feet always hurt, that he had a rare and incurable liver disease. Sometimes if he was early on his rounds I could hear them chatting, through the air vents, the smell of ginger tea wafting up into my drafty apartment.

“You do know there’s such a thing as email, right?” Jared asked me, coming into the living room. He was looking at me like I was a waste of space, something unpleasant that had just crawled out of the swamp and into his living room.

“I like writing letters,” I said.
           
“You’re a space cadet,” he said, but this time there was affection in his voice. “Listen, I’m going to see a band later with some friends.”

For a moment, I thought he was going to invite me, and then I would have had to come up with an elaborate excuse for why I couldn't go, something to do with the lunar cycle and the pulsating of the tides. In reality, I was afraid of his friends, with their jeering smiles and biting wit, conversations flickering past at sixty frames a second, a sitcom in real life, complete with a laugh track and gleaming light show.

“I was just wondering,” he said, “if you could feed the cat.”

My face turned red, as if he could read my thoughts. Sometimes I thought he could. It was a secret suspicion of mine.

“No problem,” I said, and then put my headphones in, so that he knew that the conversation was over.
           
****

I found Jared through a Craigslist ad. The ad had read:

Considerate, responsible NYU graduate student seeks roommate. No freaks, no drug addicts, no trust fund babies, need references. Must be OK with cats.

The apartment was small, an hour from the city, but the room was clean and the neighborhood wasn’t bad for the price.

“You promise you’re not a weirdo?” Jared had asked.
           
“No,” I said.
           
I could see him considering his options. We were both students. We liked some of the same music. I got along with the cat, who butted his head against the palm of my hand and meowed plaintively when I got up to leave.
           
In theory, we should have been ideal roommates. Once in a while, I caught Jared eyeing me from across the living room, wondering what could have possibly gone wrong.
           
The problem was, I didn’t know what had gone wrong, either.

****

My only friend Sonia came over on Thursday night. Jared was around, cooking with headphones over his ears, and he smiled a small smile when I went to get the door for her. I had lived in the apartment for six months and never invited anyone over.

“This is my friend,” I said.

“I didn’t know you had friends,” he said.

Sonia wrinkled her nose. “Your roommate is a dick,” she told me, once the door to my room was shut.

“Yeah,” I said. He wasn’t, though. He was just telling the truth.

She picked up a piece of paper that was on my desk. It was part of a theory I was working on. I was convinced that all the people who went to my school were just clones of the same six people, repeated over and over, and wearing different outfits.

“So you’re not doing so well,” she said, once she had read it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

“You know people are worried about you,” she said to me, and then went to the kitchen to get the bottle of wine I had in the fridge.

When she got back she had a funny look on her face. I made room for her to sit down on the bed, moving my papers and books and the treatise I was writing. It was a sort of manifesto, a peace treaty, to the pigeons. I was planning to leave it up in the hole in the ceiling, with an offering of birdseed, and then maybe they would leave.

“Your roommate is a dick,” she repeated, “but he’s kind of cute. Do you know if he’s seeing anyone?”

“That’s really not something I want to get involved in,” I said, and then she was nice enough not to press the subject any further.

****

I got home one day and Jared was sitting at the kitchen counter, opening my mail.

“Opening a person’s mail is like, a federal offense,” I said.

“So is assaulting a bus driver, and I’ve done that,” he said. There were a bunch of cigarette butts in the ashtray. Our landlord had started leaving passive-aggressive notices in the hallway reminding us that smoking was strictly in violation of our tenant contract and if we were caught, we could be evicted and not get our deposit back.

I had never actually paid a deposit. I gave Jared an envelope of cash on the first of the month and paid the light bill on my credit card. I had never even met the landlord, but Jared assured me I wasn't missing out on anything.

“Why are you going through my mail?” I changed tactics.

“I was bored,” he said. “Also, you get a lot of mail. Like, did you know your scholarship is going to be pulled, because you haven't been going to class?”

I did know that, but I had been trying to avoid it in the hopes it would go away.

“Why do you care?” I asked.

“I don’t,” he said. “I thought you might. Are you having, like, a psychotic break or something?”

I thought about it. I had been spending an awful lot of time indoors. I had been breaking into his room when he wasn’t home and rearranging his socks so they didn't match. I had removed all the cups from the cupboards in the kitchen and replaced them with Styrofoam replicas.

But I hadn't known that he had noticed any of these things. He came home and shut himself in his room and I couldn’t even hear him when I pressed my ear up against the wall.

“Would you mind if I was?” I asked. I sat down at the table and took one of his cigarettes out of the pack he had left on the table. The cat rubbed itself against my legs. The pack was so crushed and smushed that it seemed impossible that there could even be cigarettes in it.

“I don’t know,” Jared said. He seemed to be really considering it.

I lit the cigarette with his Zippo lighter, which was also on the table. Then I took the letter about the scholarship and I lit it on fire. It burned my hands a little, but I didn’t mind that too much.

Jared watched me with no expression on his face. Suddenly he looked like all of the other people I knew, all six of them. I blinked my eyes, hard, and the feeling went away.

“It’s the pigeons,” I told. “If I could just get a full night’s sleep, I think I would be okay.”

“What are you talking about?” He said.

END

Joanna Acevedo is a writer and student from New York City. She studies Writing at the New School. In her spare time, she works as a barista and plays roller derby.