March 1st, 2019 Issue
We've defrosted all of the best stories and poems for this issue of PPM. Shelter a baby goldfinch with Alexandra Mclntosh's poem "Cover", ponder the mysteries of trees picking up their roots and walking off in Courtney Knox's flash fiction "Watching Trees", and finally, experience Norfolk, VA through the eyes of Hector Ruiz in Peter Schulman's marvelous translation of "Ghent People". Here at PPM, we'd like to wish you a happy reading, and may the great ground hog bring you an eternal spring.
Table of Contents
by Alexandra McIntosh
I found a baby goldfinch, a fledgling according to internet photos, hopping like the stuffed chick in my Easter basket in third grade.
The road was busy, kids playing by the middle school, so I herded
the squeaking creature into an alcove formed by the roots of an oak tree, kept my eye on it as I cut the grass. I read online that its mother
wouldn’t be far off, that she’d feed it until it could fly. Bending down,
palms against the oak root, I whispered to it like I would my dog,
explained in English—the only language I have—
that I wasn’t leaving it alone, that its mom would be back when I left.
It rained that night, lights from the school shone on the wet street
and I thought of the little bird. Of its mother foraging for food,
carrying it back in her belly. How brave she is, softly
giving birth to her soft children in our world of machines.
Alex McIntosh lives and writes in Kentucky, her favorite place in the world. She received her B.A. in Recreation with an Emphasis in Adventure Leadership from Asbury University, and is currently working on her M.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Northern Kentucky University, and her MFA in Poetry from Miami University. The woods are her favorite place to walk, think, sing, and sleep. You can find photos of her poodle named Grizzly Bear on Instagram.
by Courtney Knox
Every kid in our neighborhood used to go out and climb to the top of my white oak every night after homework. We’d have to explain to our mothers that the scratches would heal, that our school pants could just become new play clothes, and they never seemed to mind. Until the year all the trees walked away.
It started at Eleanore’s house, the roots ripping from the ground thundered through our small town. We all went to school like we didn’t notice the hole that was left in her yard, like we weren’t going to miss the smell of oranges that would stick to us after a day spent grasping onto the strong arms.
A few days later Anthony’s decided to follow, perhaps seeing the liberation of the precious citrus inspired his mulberry to carry itself away. Sure, we would have all been sad to lose our mulberry pie, but the real trouble was that Anthony still had his his feet dangling above the earth when it happened. He must have been too scared to jump because we never found him. After that, all of our faithful protectors found their way to the edge of the earth, and leapt over the ice of Antarctica into a darkness I was never allowed to visit.
Most kids stopped going to school because most teachers stopped teaching. Theirs had left too. A few months later my mom thought she’d found a new one, a beautiful cherry blossom that was mid bloom, but just as soon as it was planted it too wandered off to join the others. I was sad for a while, but my mom said there was not point in missing something that didn’t want to stay.
Since then every hole has been filled, and grass has grown over my memory, but I will never forget the feeling of my own oak finding its way down our street.
Courtney Knox spent the bulk of her adolescents in Fredericksburg, Virginia, although she lives in Florida now, and tries to incorporate the beauty of the state into her work whenever possible. She is a creative writing student at the University of Central Florida, and she enjoys traveling and petting dogs whenever possible.
by Hector Ruize, translated from French by Peter Schulman
Every image is shaped by the betrayal of time — Michaël Trahan
The flight attendant signals the backwash behind us. From the sky, I observe the movement of rivers, the geometries of the earth. I wait for my suitcase at carrousel number 5, no one came to pick me up. I feel the vulnerability of a father with children in a public place. In my hotel room, I notice the deep silence caused by the distance I have travelled. I forgot the cord that recharges the battery of my laptop, it will cost me dollars and dust.
I’m in room 428, I observe the movements of the American flag on the roof of the University. It is accompanied by the sound of cars racing up and down the boulevard but I think about the beach. I would rather dream. It’s a bit like the stock market’s choreography, I would rather dance. It’s a bit like the hands of the Dreamers hailing a taxi to take them back home. Tomorrow is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, perhaps the flag will be at half mast, perhaps the wind will fall and the voices will return to pick up the fallen corpses beneath the sea.
Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I walk slowly despite the cold, I pick up words and broken things, greet elderly and wandering people. When I get back to my hotel room, I’ll read Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison and I’ll listen to Alabama by John Coltrane. I’ll knit the words and things that I’ll have collected with their art, I’ll hang a quilt on my window so that it will shine through the American night.
Last night, Luis and Peter drove me to a Japanese garden. When I got out of the car, three canons were pointing at me. I don’t know how to incorporate a warship into my imagination; its disproportion and glacial gray are as foreign to me as death. I am not an Immortal; my neighbor is not a threat but death toys are already sailing towards my country’s shores and are quietly settling in; earlier I said Hi to a captain in an elevator. Death toys occupy my imaginary land. Soon metallic bursts and bodies ripped to shreds will be hurled near the beach at skyscrapers’ feet.
It’s swarming with insects
at the plexus level
when I’m afraid I dawdle
but it is impossible to get lost
downtown I eat a taco
and go to the public library
I’m not looking for roots I’m not from here
They called for snow and they shut down the city. We regained our beds and under the covers mixed T. V. with dreams. At noontime, I looked out my window still no snow, rectangles of color were driving down the boulevard and a bird was circling the flag. It finally started to snow in the middle of Happy Hour. When it snows here it isn’t like back home. When it snows here it’s like watching a war movie on Christmas Eve, a soldier by the window, tomorrow he’ll climb aboard a battleship to win another war, the soldier has this feeling, it’s snowing, but I don’t know who shook the glass globe.
Last night, in a tavern, Peter, Tom and I drank several pints together. We discussed how essential it is to move souls. My head comprehends, light for souls, my body lifts the blinds, but my heart is not satisfied, can a heart ever be satisfied? My head, my body and my heart will never agree, we are made of uncertainty, can we accept that? That night, in a dream, I realized how much I loved Ariane. She was leaving her house but she wasn’t 37 years old, like today, she was 57. She was a beautiful lady and I wanted to take her in my arms, but, like today, she was in a rush, and I didn’t want to bother her. Forms and languages perpetuate conflict, no poem can sign a peace treaty.
Snow melts beneath the noontime sun
I dress in water and shadows
speak little listen a lot
dive often but I never get used to
the sea level is rising
the earth’s is sinking
thisis not an exchange
perhaps the beginning of a dialogue
We walked through old town Portsmouth, looked at some old houses and a church’sburned bell tower. In the cemetery, the river’s currents randomly displaced the tombstones. We went into a hotel just like a thousand other ones, a hotel is both a home and not. The ferry made its way under the stars, I listened to the sound of the waves as the wind shook my body. Who could have said, he’s not from here?
This morning, I drank my coffee in the hotel lobby. A woman’s basketball team was having breakfast there too. The chambermaids as well. My mother will be retiring in a year. She’s been at her profession for 28 years. Chambermaid is a terrifying locution, it lends itself to confusion and grants little dignity to a horrible job. When my father was on the road, my mother was working her ass off to keep her household from falling apart in addition to cleaning up the messes of young Americans who came to Montreal to party. I wonder who the team captain is, who the star is, who sits on the bench waiting for a turn that will never arrive. This afternoon, after my walk, after my meeting with the dean of the college, I’ll buy a mermaid for Juliette, a Lego for Leo, a gray sweatshirt for myself with the blue letters of the university to make me feel like I’m part of a team. From now on, I’ll participate in all the fundraising campaigns of my long lost secondary school, of my university gone astray, I’ll take a risk by loving without funds and without limits.
Censorship is a technique used in warfare.
As I sat on the couch, I looked out the window hypnotized by the back and forth of the flag on the university roof. The mechanical waves along the boulevard cradled me and at that moment I thought of the Ghent people that I had met who live here but are not from here. At home, the Ghent people dream of their houses in another state.
Ruiz is an accomplished Quebecois poet and the author of three books of poetry: Désert et renard du désert, Éditions du Noroît, Montréal, selcted for the prestigious Prix des Libraires du Québec; Gestes Domestiques, Éditions du Noroît, Montréal, 2011, and Qui s’installe. Éditions du Noroît, Montréal, Recueil selected for the. Prix des lecteurs du Marché de la poésie de Montréal. He also wrote a book of essays with Dominic Marcial titled Lire la rue; marcher le poème, Éditions du Noroît, Montréal, 2016
Peter Schulman is the author of The Sunday of Fiction: The Modern Eccentric and has translated five books of poetry, a selection of plays and two detective novels: Pages of Travel (Pages de voyage) by Silvia Baron Supervielle (Belfast, UK: Lapwing Press). He has been nominated for the Warwick Translation Prize. A Thousand and Second Night and Other Plays by Jules Verne (West Warwick, RI: Bear Manor Fiction, The Palik Series, 2017) Impressions of Summer by Ying Chen Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2017)
by David Aghram
Once with Mary, I talked about silence. She looked up at me as I said the word, her expression interested, but still vacuous, as stoic as it ever was. Inner visions arose within me. The farm, surrendered to disuse, on a street with no real name. The pastures. The ruins in the northeast corner. Mary rocked back and forth as I told her of its current state, the wild decrepitude of her old garden beds. She had built them herself, the same year the barn was finished. She looked attentively at me as I relayed what I had seen, but she said nothing, asked no questions. I soon became fatigued with the longing radiating from her slumped frame.
I heard someone, a child from the sound of it, laughing loudly from below. The clamor of Mary's family, I imagined, probably continues day in and day out. The four of them, all sharing the large carpeted downstairs. Mary gave no indication that she noticed the laughter. The coffee I had brought for her, just in case, was growing cold. Mary ignored it as she sat on her mahoghany chair, a stray taken from a Norfolk dining set. Behind her, the low afternoon light, which passed through a few of the slats, cast a striped shadow on the hard-wood floor behind her. Outside, the snow had taken root upon the lawns of the other houses, and the chill of the winter felt inescapable, as if no amount of clothing could keep it at bay.
"Would you like me to read to you?" Moisture, not quite enough for a tear, pooled around the corners of Mary's distant, rueful gaze. She nodded yes, I think just to keep me occupied, so that I wouldn't become restless and pack up my things. She sat quietly as I read aloud, but I could tell that, to her, the words carried no meaning They simply washed over her like a wave over some deserted shore. It wasn't the poems of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī that she heard, but her own trembling murmurs, her own faint ringing.
Old age, I thought, takes place within its own esoteric version of time. Or rather, as the autumn years begin to roll around, different people begin to experience time differently, and the longer death is delayed, the further people wade into their own private streams. Mary, I can tell, has waded so far that she has forgotten that, at one point, there was a shore. A mooring. Other people her age. Now, she has long since drowned. Not furiously, but with a calm serenity. The same serenity that always accompanies a great silence.
David Aghram is a writer currently based in Olympia, WA. He has been published previously in Big Sky Journal Magazine and panoply zine. He has never been to Virginia, but he thinks that it sounds lovely.
by Greg Nelson
I like the way
your eyes deepen
when you interlace
your fingers in mine.
I start to forget
the long season I felt
like a wasp
stuck in sticky amber
doing a crazy dance
struggling to get free.
I start to remember
the pure waters of surrender
and how tenderness can
make a man cry.
Nelson has been living in Suffolk for over nine years now. Hampton Roads is an area with many genuine people, and his poem is based on his experience with one of them. He recently resumed submitting again after a lengthy hiatus. He received an M.F.A. in poetry from George Mason University. His work is forthcoming in Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, and Snapdragon. His poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Phoebe, and Artemis, among others.
by Eric Luthi
The label on the can advertised, “Promotes muscle memory.” George mixed the powder into his coffee that morning along with cream, two packets of sweetener and one raw egg.
He felt the first twinge while tying his tie. Later, as he stooped to pick up his briefcase, his left bicep said, “No.”
“What’s that?” said George.
“Get Guido to do it.”
At this, George’s right bicep spoke up. “Luigi’s shirking again.”
“No shirking here. I carried yesterday. It’s your turn.”
“It’s always my turn.”
“Yes. Well, more often than not.”
“That’s only because he’s right handed,” said Luigi. “He always favors you.”
“And so I do all the heavy lifting while you just hang around.”
“I provide the necessary balance.”
“Yeah, while we do all the work.” This from Duke, the right hand.
“You’re just taking his side like you always do,” said Mitt, on the left.
“Fellas,” said George.
But it was too late. The two sides had already come to blows.
Eric Luthi writes short plays, short stories and longer works as well as the occasional bad poem. He is currently seeking a publisher for his first novel.
by Yuliia Vereta
When I was twelve I moved to another city, much bigger than the town I was born in. When you are twelve it is actually hard to move, better to say I was moved. Everything I had was put in big suitcases and bags by my parents and was brought to the train going to the place I never saw before that day. I had a small bag with lunch and Tamagotchi in my hands, while the rest of the luggage had to travel in a different traincar.
The railway station was close to our house, walking there was just fine, no need to drive, as well as all the rest of the places in town, it seems to me I could walk around it in three or four hours. On our way, my mom was telling me what a great school she found there for me and I was thinking that I was leaving so many nice things behind. When you are twelve you think it’s very important to say bye to a cherry tree in the yard and to the railway bell on the station. I did not expect to see them so often as I actually saw them after we moved, as we still came to visit my grandparents, every year more and longer.
We sat in a coach with a sweet woman, reading a huge newspaper and at least twice an hour snoozing behind it, every time friendly smiling at me when my digital pet was beeping and waking her up. She was going to visit her grandson who moved with his parents several years ago. She treated us with home-made cookies, I shared my jelly worms with her. That’s everything I remember about that trip, probably I fell asleep somewhere in the middle of it.
Our new apartment was great, I had a bright room and enjoyed going to a bunch of places close by. There were a wooden playground and an enormous pet shop with fish and even a pet crocodile. It was not that bad. I did yet know anyone in the neighborhood so I went everywhere with my mom, but September was coming and I was hoping that the school will fix it. And eventually, it did, although it took a little longer than I expected.
At the point when I did not understand why I cannot get on the same vibe with others, there came the girl who said "If you exchanged Friendship Pockets as we all do it would be much easier for you to make friends and make already existing friendship better," giving me a shapeless lump, which seemed to be a mixture of paper, cardboard, glue, stickers, glitters and something else. There was definitely something else, filling all the above mentioned and making it the size of the football, stuffed like a turkey on the Thanksgiving table.
The words on the cover, which was hiding in between everything else, said "Friendship Pockets". As I discovered several weeks later, the thing was renamed into "Halloween Pockets" in October, "Christmas Pockets" in December and so on, at the time when no major celebration was coming it was just "Friendship Pockets". Every month they made a new empty and super slim pocket collection and gave it in turns to all the people they were friends with.
The first step to do was to make it – that girl showed me how it was done. First I had to take the notebook or a copybook with soft cover and fold every sheet and a cover into a triangle, folding each of two further corners to the stapled line to make a "pocket". It was the main part, everything that was left was only the decoration of the cover related to the holiday coming or just anything bright and shiny for usual pocket collections. Everyone I was giving it to, was supposed to write their message or wishes on one triangular pocket or in it, decorate its exterior, place a small present inside and stick it with glue or two-sided tape. The filled pockets could not be opened if there were some empty ones left, so I had to give the collection to other people and wait until they finish all the pockets.
There were some unwritten rules that everyone exchanging the Friendship Pockets had to follow. Rules of that kind are very important when you are doing such a serious business especially when you are twelve. It was strictly prohibited to open other people's pockets, damage or spoil the pocket collection in any possible way, place inside any stuff containing liquid or being able to melt and the most important, of course, everyone receiving the collection vowed to fill the pocket that same day and bring it to school the next morning. Those were essential conditions to be given someone’s pocket collection to fill.
When the big day came and all the pockets in my first collection were filled, I was glad about having made some new friends, who invited me to come over to see their pets or new games after the exchange of the pocket collections, and I was extremely happy to finally open it. And only after I did it, I understood why the whole school was doing it. It was the most quivering expectation I ever experienced in my life before that moment, it was many times more exciting than just going to the shop and buying things. It was the whole world of tiny things, each telling their own story.
Among the most memorable gifts I found in the pockets were shiny color paper-clips; coins from foreign countries; fruit-shaped scented erasers; sea shells; key chains; beads of all the possible shapes and colors; bracelet with golden leaves hanging from its links; plastic rings with glitters; a little finger-sized pen; fridge magnet; pea-sized marbles; flower-patterned stickers for nails; banana-shaped buttons; a fortune-telling plastic fish that wiggles on the palm; pin badges; fake pearls; plastic flies and beetles; Pokémon cards; and many others.
Now when I try to remember the first year of the new school the only that comes to my mind is those pockets, making the friendship between children from different neighborhoods, of different social status, of different race and with different future. It’s warm to remember that long time ago kids did not kill each other for shoes or bikes. I did not hear about any friendship pockets or anything like it in the school where I teach for five years now. In the school where I teach that violence breeds violence, and it cannot be stopped until people become people and children become children.
Yuliia Vereta is a young writer from Ukraine, who is creating essays, fiction and poetry to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted. Currently lives and works in Beijing, China. Holds the Master of Arts in Translation. The majority of her works reveal sharp social issues, moral crimes and emotional struggle.
by Malcom Massey
A walk in the quiet
The trees form a hush
A rustle then silence
inside a dry bush
A walk in the quiet
Brings pleasance to mind
And warm songs of friendship
Creep up from behind
A walk in the quiet
The breeze pads the sound
No noise breaks the silence
Where silence abounds
When people cry out "Peace!"
They ought to go try it
For you can find peace
With a walk in the quiet
A Walk in the Quiet
Massey grew up in Norfolk, graduating from Old Dominion University. He is grateful to have lived in three foreign countries for at least one year, He always makes his way back to Coastal Virginia. He now teaches at The Muse Center in Norfolk, writes novels and poetry, and lives in Suffolk, VA.
by Lauren Cortese
Sunday mornings in Savannah, Georgia start much the same every week. Elderly Church ladies carpool to worship and help lift each other out of the car and onto the pavement. A young pastor in a red button down shirt and a polka dot bowtie greets them, they each hold his hand in theirs a moment longer than they used to with the former pastor, grey and grisly as he was. There aren’t enough young men like him to introduce to their granddaughters, they lament each week at tea.
The art students of SCAD begin to enter the coffee shops. Hungover eyes are lit up by laptop screens. Graphics and designs and ideas scream in LED blue light, except for the few who press their charcoal pencils against thick pieces of sketchbook paper. Purists, traditionalists, old-fashioneds, never-make-its. Everyone is required to take a course on perspective.
A bachelorette party fills up the entire banquet table of a local bakery, one known for their biscuits, but modestly carrying the best cinnamon rolls in town, too. The party took a rideshare here from their hotel in the historic district. When driving it’s difficult to notice the boarded up homes that fill the blocks on the perimeter of this bakery, homes that have a few more hours left before they start to stir, if they do at all. The party doesn’t know all that they do not notice, but even if they did, it probably wouldn’t come up during the stories they tell when they get back home up north. Those stories tell how much nicerpeople are in the South and how they just don’t get food like that at home. One of them will wonder for longer than she expects what it would be like to live here, a smaller city, one where people don’t all seem busy running off somewhere else. The rest of them will just call the city “cute”.
It’s a rainy Sunday, humid even in January. Much the same way it has been in this part of the world for a few millennia, since before a time when the institution of “January” was introduced here. The church ladies have to balance umbrellas, purses, and prayer books as they exit their cars. The students bundle jackets, the weather offering no motivation to emerge from their post-bacchanalian states. The bachelorette party says what a “bummer” this weather is. The boarded homes soak up the moisture, feeding the overgrowth that borders the doors and the moss that hangs from the rafters. Maybe this will be the rain that brings a final new growth to the building after all of this time. But then again, maybe not.
The lingering humidity amplifies the town, a reminder why tourists scoff that they don’t get “real” winter down here. One of the many real qualities they don’t experience in the city, the traditions and mantras and routines saved only for those who stay beyond Sunday.
Cortese was born in Arlington, VA and raised in the DC suburbs before attending GWU for undergrad. This story is an ode to slower paces and smaller cities that are so easy to forget about when stuck inside of the Beltway Bubble. She is an emerging writer based out of Annapolis, MD focusing on fiction, short stories and is completing her first novel.
This season has been a whirlwind at PPM. We have new things in the works and quite frankly, it's been knocking our socks off. But, in the meantime, we've found the March issue to be packed with our favorite thing, flash fiction, and it's absolutely charming. Thanks, as always, to all of our writers, poets, and artists who contributed to this issue. Thanks to our submission readers, and a shout out to those doing such good work over at The Muse. You all are amazing, and without you, none of this would happen. Your hard work means so much to us.
Sincerely, the Editors of Penultimate Peanut Magazine