• Big Table Publishing

DECEMBER, 2020

Updated: Jan 26


To My Relatives Who Died Before COVID

Francine Witte

My father who loved the distance. Loved being far from things. From us.


My other-city sister, who slumped sudden over a flip phone and wouldn’t be able to mute.


My mother, always lipstick, always powder. A mask would not have stopped her, because, she’d say, people know.


My grandmother, flu of ’18, who knitted and baked and ended up vision loss and hearing loss and that was her shelter in place.


My free-spirit aunt, who wouldn’t have stayed home nohow and rather she’d slip out to one of those bars with takeout only, her in the alley with her son’s best friend, the two of them not hearing my uncle’s muffled footsteps.

All of them not believing. We can’t see it. This couldn’t happen.

And yet I remember the time we all stood on the beach and looked at the horizon. We thought it swallowed everything. Look! one of us even said, A whole boat hidden behind my thumb!



Francine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, Passages North, and many others. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and (The Theory of Flesh.) Her chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) will be published by ELJ September, 2021. She lives in NYC.

~*~*~*~ Just A Few Facts

Andrew Stancek


Everyone always wants to remember, every head is full of facts: phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, the date of VE Day and 9/11.


“Remember when,” she’d say and of course I always nodded, even if I didn’t; no one ever admits not remembering.


I’ve decided to not remember three new facts a day. Yesterday I surrendered the name of the stuff that comes from cows, the color of the sky and the land mass next to New Zealand. Today it’s the taste of lemons, the smell of a camp fire on a fall day and the sound of a flute. I feel lighter already.


The doctor said you are likelier to get hit by lightning twice than to have two such fatalities. I’m sure he means to be helpful, consoling, demonstrating his best bedside manner. I remember our visits to his office and the first ultrasound with the pounding heartbeat. I remember the way Evelyn clutched my hand. I remember our drive to the hospital and the sweat on her forehead, her eardrum-shattering moans and me whisper-screaming, “Breathe, breathe, breathe.”


I remember the nurse’s yell, the doctor’s snapping, the Code Blue, a white coat taking me by the elbow, “You have to leave the OR now, give the doctors room.”


I remember knowing, even before the words came from the doctor’s mouth.


Tomorrow I will forget the baby’s name, my wife’s name, the past month.



Andrew Stancek describes his vocation as dreaming – clutching onto hope, even in turbulent times. He has been published widely, in SmokeLong Quarterly, FRiGG, Green Mountains Review, New World Writing, New Flash Fiction Review, Jellyfish Review and Peacock Journal, among others, and he continues to be astonished.


~*~*~*~



On a Cold Day

Steve Klepetar

My father walked out on the roof

looking at the pale morning moon.

My mother called me for breakfast,

but I slipped out the back door and ran

with my friends to school.

It had snowed and we had to carry

a little sister over the drifts.

When we got there, the teachers screamed at us.

“Why did you come today in the snow?”

We thought we were heroes, especially

the way we saved the little girl’s boots.

Her cheeks were plump and red

from cold, but the teachers didn’t care.

They put us in the auditorium, gave us

a thousand math problems, then burned

our papers in a garbage can.

At lunch time they sent us home

with nasty notes. We took the long way

past the library and soccer field,

where the big kids were having a snowball war.

An ambulance arrived and there were cops

in the street zipped into dark blue coats.

We climbed the fence, slipped into the basement,

followed the tunnels home.

My father had fallen from the roof

and was buried in the snow to his chin.

We shoveled him out and he paid us each a dime,

made us coffee, put a shot of Irish Cream in each cup.

Dinner was Wiener schnitzel with dumplings

and a Sacher torte for dessert, with whipped cream.

My father ate his schnitzel but wouldn’t touch the cake.

“Too dry” he said. “It makes the dust come out of my ears.”



Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has appeared widely in the U.S. and abroad and has received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. He is the author of fourteen poetry collections, including Family Reunion, from Big Table Publishing.

~*~*~*~


Rebound

Renuka Raghavan


Mike died on Friday and by Sunday, Grief arrived like my monthly period, at the worst time possible and not giving a rat’s ass what I thought about it. As if that wasn’t enough, I could tell he wanted something in return, something good. Don’t lollygag, he scolded, I’ve got other places to go. Your kids, for example. He stayed like an unwanted guest, like that friend of a friend who was never invited, but came over nonetheless. Grief became a fly on my wall. And oh, how he loved to play games, Hide and Seek—his favorite—popping up to scare me when I least expected it. God only knows what he’d do to my children. My sweet babies. They stand, inserting quarter after quarter into The Claw machine, Mama, we’re gonna get a new toy. Grief stood by and watched it all, something he’s very good at. In the end, when the kids didn’t catch the stuffed monkey, I saw Grief snicker and snort even though he tried to hide it. That night, after dinner, Grief lingered as I did the dishes, kids already asleep. Let’s have a drink, he said. We clinked our wine glasses and slipped into a silent familiarity. After the third round, we staggered upstairs and shed our skins on the bedroom floor.



Author of Out of the Blue (Big Table Publishing, 2017) and The Face I Desire (Nixes Mate, 2019), Renuka Raghavan writes short-form prose and poetry. She serves as the fiction book reviewer at Červená Barva Press, and is a co-founder of the Poetry Sisters Collective.


~*~*~*~


This Day, This Pizza

Tony Press


Eating cold pizza beneath an ash-filled sky,

but better, because twixt the ashes and me,

constructed by hands now unknown, is a roof.


Who built this roof, ceiling, floor?

Who built this house?


It dates to 1937, this house.

Changes have been made,

but the core remains.


A house on a hill,

a little town near the bay.


The bay normally visible

through windows, and from the porch.


Today, though,

beneath a dreary sky,

the bay appears only in memory.


Sometimes I notice and appreciate.

Sometimes I don’t.


Five states and even more decades.

Forty-one addresses.


Who made the pizza there?

Who grew the crops, built the roads,

apartments, homes?


I don’t believe in heavenly bodies

but wouldn’t it be nice

if the creators of this house

were looking down now.


Looking

and seeing me

sitting and smiling,

despite the fire-ridden sky,

enjoying the walls, the floors, the cold pizza.


Sometimes, I notice, and appreciate.

It can take prompting,

but it happens.



Tony Acarasiddhi Press writes fiction when he has questions, and poetry when he thinks he has answers: thus, mostly fiction. His story collection, Crossing the Lines, was published in 2016 by Big Table. He claims 2 Pushcart nominations, 12 years in the same high school, and 25 criminal trials.


~*~*~*~


Brendan and Willie in ’73

Stephen Barry


In the Spring of seventy three

when baseball,

the last one true thing we shared

was resurrecting from its slumber

my father died

That fall at the waning of the year

our beloved Willie Mays returned to the Series.

No longer the young bronzed God

but old and bewildered in the green expanse

lost and failing as he stumbled the field.

I recall the newspaper photo of Willie kneeling near home,

arms upheld as if in prayer seeking one last day of youth

While I stared at the empty kitchen chair

and begged God for the same.



Stephen Barry is a trial lawyer living in New York City. His poetry has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, The Magnolia Review, and a number of other print and online journals.


~*~*~*~


Clarity

Brady Peterson

Rain lilies sprinkle the yard this morning:

single stem, six petal, white flowers

that pop up and bloom for a few days

after a good rain.

The wet grass and weeds are ankle deep

around his feet as he sits in a plastic chair—

watches the morning come into being.

Holds himself still in the moment.

I am a statue, he whispers,

made of soft stone. I will sit here

until the wind blows me away

or the next rain dissolves my bones.

Or until he feels the need to pour

a cup of coffee, the coffee

brewing inside in the house.

If the world would only stop.

A blue pickup passes on the road.

The driver honks and waves,

and pulls him back into the narrative.

He raises his hand to acknowledge—

In California, fires rage

up and down the state.

Here, the ground is popping

rain lilies.

Brady Peterson lives near Belton, Texas where for twenty-nine years he worked building homes and teaching rhetoric. He is the author of Between Stations, Dust, From an Upstairs Window, and García Lorca Is Somewhere in Produce.


~*~*~*~


You Can’t Blame Her

Scudder Parker


The wounds on her legs stay open

like frozen smiles. “They show up

and just won’t leave” she says

when I visit in the hospital,

“sort of like my daughter

and her no-good boyfriend.

“I think they’re getting better,

then bump the coffee table.

They start bleeding again,

and I’m back in bed; that’s

just the excuse they need

to stay longer ‘so they can help.’”

A fit of coughing; she complains:

“I’d have to go outside to smoke.

If I could get there, you know

I’d just keep going. But then they’d

track me down and bring me back;

that’s what they call help.

“So why do you come visit

every time I’m in? You think

maybe you’re gonna help me too?”

“Nope, I come to make sure

you’re still misbehaving—

and of course, for your good looks.”

She smiles. “I’m not sure what to do.

I guess I’ll have to leave it

to the Man Upstairs.”

“Or Woman,”

I suggest. She stiffens, gives me a look.

What did you say?” “It might

be the woman upstairs, don’t you think?”

“Where did you come up with that?”

she asks, “Hell no!

I won’t stand for it!

He‘s always claimed

that He’s in charge,

then turns out to be no help at all…

damned if I’ll let them

blame it on a woman!”



Scudder Parker grew up on a family farm in North Danville VT. He’s been a Protestant minister, state senator, utility regulator, candidate for Governor, consultant on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and is settling into his ongoing work as a poet and essay writer. He’s a passionate gardener and proud grandfather of four. He and his wife, Susan, live in Middlesex VT. Scudder has published in Sun Magazine, Vermont Life, Northern Woodlands, Wordrunner, Passager, Eclectica, Twyckenham Notes, Crosswinds, Ponder Review, La Presa, Aquifer, and Sky Island Journal. His first volume of poetry Safe as Lightning was released in June, 2020, by Rootstock Publications.


~*~*~*~


Upon Waking

Marissa Glover


It feels so real

this morning,

I check my texts

to be sure. No—


you didn’t say

you’re sorry.

Mom was right.

When I was young,


running down the

hall to her room in

delight or terror,

she taught me how


to tell if it was just

a dream: Either the

worst thing you can

possibly imagine


happens, in such

detail every nerve

is set alight, or the

very best thing.



Marissa Glover lives in Florida, where she teaches at Saint Leo University. Marissa is co-editor of Orange Blossom Review and a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. Her poetry most recently appears in FEED, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and River Mouth Review. Marissa’s full-length poetry collection, Let Go of the Hands You Hold, will be published by Mercer University Press in 2021.


~*~*~*~


Ode to Aunt Frannie’s Eyelashes

Susan Vespoli


Oh, fluttery black fringe,

more butterfly than caterpillar,

more valance than shade.

Oh, thin lines of adhesive

along shimmery-shadowed lids.

Oh, black dot penciled

high on the right cheek, ala

Marilyn Monroe. Oh beauty

mark, beauty queen, beauty

work. Lipstick painted

into pointy peaks on a pouty

mouth. Oh, hours in front

of the mirror in the guest

bathroom on a Christmas

morning. Oh, putting on

her face. Oh, six cousins

lined up, dowdy on the couch.

Oh, flicker of the doorknob.

Oh, play up your best features,