• Big Table Publishing

JUNE, 2020


1969

Ron A. Kalman

It was the summer of ’69 and I was 10 years old.

I had a friend named Mark who lived

in half of a two-family house.

His father was a carpenter,

and they had a bulldog that once bit me.

My sister was in junior high.

She wanted to go to a place called Woodstock

where they were having a rock festival.

I imagined this as a festival for people who liked rocks.

My father talked about a demonstration downtown.

People had started throwing bottles,

and the police used teargas. My sister,

who had been out shopping,

had to run to a church to escape.

Mark’s brother, Don, was in Viet Nam.

Once, I heard Mark’s mother

read one of Don’s letters. He had to stay up nights

to keep watch over the camp

to make sure no gooks snuck up on them.

Later that summer, I saw an old car drive to a center divide

and watched as a young guy plucked a flower.

I told Mark, and he said, Did you yell at him?

did you yell, ‘Hippie!’ That’s what I would have done.

But the next day Mark found out that the guy in the car

had been a friend of his brother.

He was leaving the city

and had plucked the flower as a memento.

Ron A. Kalman received his MFA from Emerson College and has lived in the Boston area for most of his life. His poetry and translations have appeared in The Exquisite Corpse Annual, The Main Street Rag, The Somerville Times, Muddy River Poetry Review, The Whiskey Review and other publications.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Faultfinder

Rhienna Renee Guedry

My mother’s memory 

is a record skip she

recalls the color 

of the backpack she packed 

to send us out the door she 

oscillates between thin-lipped 

fighting words to tears to mending 

a halter top we will never wear 

during the commercials of 

the television show she never turns off

She thanks herself 

for her hard work 

which stopped when we 

stopped being small

the depths of her love she 

describes as mourning

for little girls that didn’t die 

but grew up instead

Rhienna Renèe Guedry is a writer and artist who found her way to the Pacific Northwest, perhaps solely to get use of her vintage outerwear collection. A Jill of All Trades, she enjoys time spent creating, riding her bicycle, and curating the best Halloween parties this side of the Mason-Dixon. Her work has appeared in Portland Monthly, Bitch Magazine, Scalawag Magazine, Taking the Lane, and elsewhere on the internet. Rhienna holds a MS in Writing/Publishing from Portland State University. She is currently working on her first novel.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Consolation

Carla Sarett

You’ll never meet my sad self.

You’ll never see 

the wear and tear, 

the caution I’ve acquired.

You’ll never see how

I lock the doors

I shut the windows

I lower the shades, 

even if no one’s looking inside.

(No one is looking.)

And the oven I left on,

It’s off now.

I won’t start a fire, 

not now.

Nothing’s unprotected,

just as you wanted 

all those disorderly years.

Or did you secretly like guarding me

while I paid no attention to 

anything but you

unaware of the

distant thunder?

Carla Sarett’s work appears in literary magazines including Hobart, Across the Margins, Black Rabbit Quarterly, and in press, Third Wednesday, Prole and The Virgina Normal; and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2018) and Best American Essay. Her debut novel, A Closet Feminist, is forthcoming in 2022. She lives in San Francisco. 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Fishing

~ for my father (June 16, 2019)

Corey D. Cook

You must be

a hundred miles away,

trolling for lake trout

on Champlain.

I can picture

your freckled shoulders,

the tacklebox

with its rusty latch,

the lures,

their barbed hooks

like inverted talons,

dangling two by two,

the downriggers

that will take

the lifeless decoys

and drag them towards

the rocky bottom.

I can picture

the open mouth

of the net,

its handle

just within reach.

Corey D. Cook’s fifth collection of poetry, The Weight of Shadows, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2019 and is available for purchase online. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in the Aurorean, Brevities, Freshwater, The Henniker Review, The Mountain Troubadour, and Viscaria Magazine. Corey works at a hospital in New Hampshire and lives in Vermont.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Highfalutin

Michael Estabrook

I long for those days

we’d stroll Newberry Street

wandering in and out

of art galleries searching

for the next painting in our collection.

Exciting seeing the various textures

techniques and colors

landscapes and portraits

classical, abstract, figurative, contemporary.

We’d talk with gallery owners as if we knew

what we were doing

sometimes meet the artists themselves.

After a while we had enough paintings

not room enough to hang any more but still we’d go

gallery-hopping hoping for something

that took our breath away or at least for a gallery

that served cookies and tea assuming

we had money to go along with

our sophisticated highfalutin airs.

Michael Estabrook has been publishing his poetry in the small press since the 1980s. He has published over 20 collections, a recent one being The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019).


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Corvid Spring Elizabeth Moore

Bird-watching soars amid COVID-19 as Americans head outdoors ~AP headline, May 2, 2020 Since I cut your hair on the patio the backyard birds have been threading it into their nests. Now chicks come of age in your curls. Early mornings I hear them clamoring to be fed, all mouth and inborn insistence cleaving the shell of the cold. What to make of all this life and all this sickness? How to account for this world? Up the road, at the asphalt refinery, I recently heard a man and crow going at it, one cawing back at the other in call and response, as if arguing or speaking a common language. Crow to man, or man to crow—you couldn’t have said who was who, who wanted to keep living more. Nothing to do but make do; the nests hold forth through the seasons. The inexorable earth turns summerward as your hair grows in to feather the tips of your ears.

Elizabeth Moore is the author of The Truth and the Life (Alternative Book Press, 2014), and her poetry has appeared in Pangyrus and Print Funeral. She lives with her husband in the MetroWest area of Massachusetts.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Mourning Dove

Barbara Alfaro

“The doves are here!” I’d yell

to my husband in another room

as if weekend guests had just arrived.

Something about their quirky

elegance always got to me.

Visiting our wood deck often,

inculcating warmth in the sadness

of their sound, bobbing, preening,

grooming one another with caring pecks,

they seemed in every way a perfect couple.

One morning there was only one.

Had the partner died from some disease

I don’t know the name of—

or a hunter’s bullet? Like a fool,

I whispered a prayer. For weeks,

I saw the dove, then not again.

I don’t know if that prayer was for the dove

or me. Familiar with the strength of omens,   

I know how cruel even soft gray ones can be.  

Barbara Alfaro is the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Playwriting for her play Dos Madres. Winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award for Best Memoir for her memoir Mirror Talk, her poetry has appeared in various literary journals including Poet Lore, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, and New Millennium Writings.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Library

Jane Snyder

“Great stuff,” he said, looking up from his book. “Her holding it in, resisting. She won’t let him see her writhe with pleasure! With pain! But then he draws the yip of his riding crop down her spine and she shudders. I didn’t see that coming.”


“I kind of did,” she said. “How about this: The success of the dish depends on using the freshest goose fat available?” 

 

“You’re turned on by cookbooks?”


“Butter.” She touched the tip of her tongue to her upper lip. “Whipped cream.”


Rendered leaf lard,” he read. “Couldn’t hurt to try.”

Jane Snyder’s stories have appeared in Five On The Fifth, Pithead Chapel, and Bending Genres. She lives in Spokane.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Sultry Summer Morning

Laura Rodley

“Slide the boards over,” he says,

as I hand three cedar siding lengths to him,

sit thirty-eight feet off the ground.

In the heart of the wood are swirls

resembling amber, green,

and coral swirls of sand receding from shore.

We study the amber liquid

in the green vial on the white plastic level,

straighten the lengths,

pound nails hard into the pressed sand,

no sand drips out, only boards

crack if the nail is too close to the edge.

All lawnmowers silent,

I climb back into the bathroom window,

late for my second job.

“There’s no one here to see you

if you end up dangling.”

“Why do you think I might fall?”

as he wears no rope or harness,

slides his blue-jeaned backside

over the planks,

holds the nails in his mouth.

Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner is a quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Latest books Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Publishing and Counter Point by Prolific Press.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Sister

Francine Witte

She’d follow me, puppy that she was, the two of us new in the bicycle wind. The mist of adolescence just ahead but not just yet. She’d grab the flounce of my jacket, she on her roller skates, me on my bike. She’d squeal me to go faster, go faster. I wanted to slow down to an ooze. Never wanted to get to the part where her daughter calls one night to say she’s gone. How even now, I can’t help but look behind sometimes to see if she’s still there.


Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) Her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind has just been published by Ad Hoc Fiction, and her full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This was recently published by Blue Light Press. She lives in New York City.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Inflatable Man

K. Wergland

Twenty-three years ago, I found an inflatable man in the back seat of a Boston taxi. He had been deflated, but something in his Gallic expression drew me closer. Was it the frank, friendly gaze, or his easygoing smile? He wore nothing but a pair of swimtrunks; a curl of black indicated chest hair. He was a swim toy, nothing more.


At home, my housemates and I discovered the leak that had flattened him. We patched him up, and I put my mouth to the nipple in the center of his back. Fully inflated, he stood about five feet tall. Soon enough, he came to occupy the sofa opposite my bed.


I leaned my head against his shoulder as I read the newspaper. Before long, I started talking to Lance—over morning coffee, while I got dressed, and as I drifted off to sleep. We shared a love of merlot and the occasional Gauloise. I bobbed in the water at the beach with Lance in my arms, supporting me.


But after all the loving and the hugging and the carrying him about, he came to develop another leak, one I never patched. I'm not sure why I neglected Lance in this way. Was it because I had finally realized the over-large position he had come to occupy in my life? Or was it my new boyfriend, who seemed to feel upstaged by the little man?


When we moved in together, Lance was left behind, on the floor of my closet, or the back of the moving truck, like an emblem of my youth. I had exchanged him for something less airy. More substantial. Marriage and children drove Lance further into the past. But oh! the times we had.



K. Wergland was nominated by the faculty of Vermont College for the Best New American Voices competition. Her fiction has appeared in The Emerson Review, The Long Story, Phoebe, The Pinch, and The Urbanite. She is at work on a novel.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Innocent Objects

Emily Judds

It had been the promise of Sun Chips, the Garden Salsa kind she always bought from the break room vending machine, that had gotten her through the slew of morning meetings. They left her fingers sweet and lickable, something she hadn’t been for a long time.


The machine whirred to life, twisted its shiny coils, pushed her chips over the edge, and— NO! She slammed her palms against the glass. Last night it had been Sam who’d slammed his palms against the living room wall, one on either side of her head, but she was trying not to think about that. Desperate, she pounded the sides of the machine. Her shiny little bag of chips was backed into the corner of the next row down, cowering and defenseless.


She stopped her pounding, stood still for a moment. There was cottage cheese in the refrigerator. Even Sun Chips had to keep themselves alive, after all.


Emily Judd’s non-fiction work has been published in the Mighty, as well as The Startup, The Ascent, and Coffeelicious. Her short story, “Peacocks and Lampstands”, was awarded Honorable Mention in the Bess Streeter Aldrich 2020 Short Story Contest.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Porsche 

Leah Browning

Helene decided she’d finally had enough of his shit and left.  He got drunk and called her, crying, at her mother’s, and begged her to take him back.  She felt sorry for him and said she’d think about it. 


A month after she moved out, Raymond won the Powerball jackpot. 


Helene still hadn’t called him back.  He bought a Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet with a vanity plate that said SHES2L8.  He drove the car all over town, parking near her favorite places.  

 

At some point, Helene moved away, but Raymond still drove the convertible with the top down.  It was a kind of habit, by that point.  Showing her.   


Leah Browning is the author of six chapbooks including Orchard City, a collection of short fiction published by Hyacinth Girl Press in 2017. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Mojave River Review, Four Way Review, The Forge Literary Magazine, The Threepenny Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Watershed Review, South 85 Journal, Superstition Review, The Homestead Review, Newfound, Clementine Unbound, Belletrist Magazine, The Literary Review, Poetry South, The Stillwater Review, and elsewhere. Browning’s work has also appeared in anthologies including The Doll Collection from Terrapin Books and Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence from White Pine Press.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Heart Trouble

Steve Klepetar My aunt sat down in the street, right there on Yellowstone Boulevard, with her shopping bag. She was breathing hard. Was she having a heart attack? Panic attack? All the way home she had been talking about Prague, a city she rolled into a little green gem carried in a pouch around her neck. People walked by staring, cars slowed, windows open as they approached, then speeded past. ‘I’m ok,” she said. “Just let me rest a minute.” She wouldn’t let me take her pulse, but when I flagged down a cab, she got in, though she yelled at the driver about the best route until he screeched to a stop a few blocks from her house and ordered us out. Wouldn’t take my money, just drove away. As we walked, she sang an obscene Yiddish song about a goat, a drunk, and an owl in the strawberry moon.

Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. He is the author of fourteen poetry collections, including Family Reunion which is available from Big Table Publishing Company.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Symbiosis

Nadine Gallo flatworm grows own food garden of algal cells biodome with lunch Nadine Gallo lives in Hadley near dairy farms and writes fiction as well as haiku and other poetry. She is working on a story about teaching in the pioneer valley.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Buckley his name had we kept him

Len Germinara

Found a blue-black Labrador retriever

abandoned on the New Year

huddled around a garbage can

in a dog park 

borders the I 50