• Big Table Publishing

NOVEMBER, 2020

Updated: Nov 23, 2020


Bacon-Wrapped Dates and the Last Word

Lindsey Royce


Stones pock our dirt road to the end of my vision.

There, perspective hones to a point

as small as your vaccine scar. You were making

bacon-wrapped dates for a Thanksgiving party,

and I recall wishbones, that like all superstition,

are archived with chuckles from past holidays

where you sliced turkey so gently, the meat

could have been butter. What sacrifice

is in the filigree of a dead geranium’s blush, one

inhabiting that soon-forgotten moment

between life and death, the last inhale, the letting go,

book’s last word, cinema’s fade-to-black?

I forget what breakfast juice I sipped while you stiffened,

your gregarious green eyes bereft of sight.

This year, I’ll try to cook, use spices you left behind,

your oregano, your sage. I’d rather take LSD

to lose this Thanksgiving wholly to imagination,

this anniversary of the beginning of your end.

There is nothing uniform about grief,

though I’d scissor it into islands

like the Cyclades, their trees, pomegranate and fig,

sweet after the bacon-wrapped dates

you’d been cooking before your collapse,

when the ambulance squared up the drive, your food

left warm on the counter. Who knew you’d begun

to leave this life while you were making side dishes?

Who could have suspected your cranberry tart

would match the body bag

zipped slowly over your perfect face.


Lindsey Royce’s poems have appeared in American and international periodicals and anthologies, including the Aeolian Harp 5 anthology; Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts (periodicals and anthologies); The Dreaming Machine: Writing and Visual Arts from the World; and Poet Lore. Her poems, The Sensual Sea and Adagio for Heart Strings, were nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Royce’s first poetry collection, Bare Hands, was published by Turning Point in September of 2016, and her second collection, Play Me a Revolution, published by Press 53 in September of 2019, won the silver medal for poetry in the 2020 Independent Publishers Book Awards.


~*~*~*~


Winter Walk with Angel

Elizabeth S. Wolf

“I saw dad punch the dog,” she tells me.

We are walking on the beach. The dog is old.

“He told me not to tell you. Do you think

the dog forgives me?”

Her words sting like icy wind.

I did not protect this dog- this girl-

as I should have. Fiercely.

My home a safe shelter.

“You got caught in crossfire,” I tell her.

“But I put that man out.

We gave our precious Angel

ten more good years.”

That afternoon we bring the dog

to the vet. I stroke her ruff as

her shoulders slack, stroke

my sobbing daughter’s back.

Elizabeth S. Wolf ’s recent books are the Rattle Chapbook Did You Know? (Rattle, 2019) and When Lawyers Wept (Kelsay, 2019). Elizabeth’s poetry appears in many journals & anthologies, including Ibbetson Street, 3rd Wednesday, Fiolet & Wing, Peregrine Journal, Persian Sugar in English Tea (in English & Farsi), and Klarissa Dreams Redux. Her poems have been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes. She was a winner in the Third Wednesday 2020 Poetry Contest.


~*~*~*~

On Religion and Ramen

Alexa Doran

There is a body I pray to & a body I fold.

My son looks up long enough to wince at

the categories I’ve chose. He’s figured out

truth is more complicated than I’ll divulge.

We’re pasting noodles on paper since his

teacher believes the wheat hue resembles

Jesus’s hairdo. Harried by this inaccuracy

I try to explain ethnicity in terms a toddler

can perceive, but he stops me, I know Mommy

God is in the trees. I’m shocked that moss static

on a branch comes at him as hymn, that bark

or limb could be conjured into sermon but he

is back to his macaroni Messiah before I can

ask who’s in the wind or if God’s in a canopy which

deity gravels our feet. Unvexed by the possibilities

which haunt me, he returns to building Jesus’s

wings out of garbanzo beans, not bothering

to ask if God is legend or reality, a question

he poses about everything from Thursday

to Ms. Piggy, but currently has forsaken for

a chance to tesselate this holy lentiled body,

elated that even his mistakes have a place

when it comes to composing God’s face.

Alexa Doran is currently working on her PhD in Poetry at Florida State University. Her full-length collection DM Me, Mother Darling won the 2020 May Sarton Poetry Prize and will be published by Bauhan Publishing in Spring 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Nightsink, Faucet Me a Lullaby (Bottlecap Press 2019). You can look for work from Doran in recent or upcoming issues of Passages North, Literary Mama, THE BOILER, and Harvard Review, among others.

~*~*~*~

Gasoline and Water

J.G. Chayko

Skin upon skin, gasoline in the air, the smell of another’s perfume. I kiss your lips, and stroke your abdomen, the acrid taste of gasoline and oil staining my nostrils. I am making love with you and her, the object of your desire.

I feel your hand around my waist, moving up my ribs and then down over my hips, you and her together. I am excited by this threesome, ready to ride fast and furious down this speedway of passion.

Your hands are working with me now, but her presence remains; gasoline and oil, lingering in the doorway. She hides in your fingernails, is embedded in your skin, and I flow into the heat of your triangle, vanishing in the rear-view mirror.

When we are in our room, I see you in her room, lovingly polishing her dash, playing under her hood, lubing her joints. I am strangely turned on by your love scene with her, jealous, longing to feel the heat of you on that cold concrete floor, our reflections in her polished frame.

Steel upon steel, hot and cold, brittle and hard, that power beneath the hood that beats in my chest when you turn the key. Pump harder now, faster, push the limits until the gear shifts and we speed recklessly towards the crash.

J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress and an international arthritis advocate from Vancouver British Columbia. She has published several pieces of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. She is a contributing writer to three books: Strange World—A Biff Bam Pop Short Story Anthology, Emerge 19, and Real Life Diaries: Living with Rheumatic Diseases. She is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio Program and is working on her first novel.

~*~*~*~


That Summer

Mary Rohrer-Dann


Ralph Hauptmeir found himself in deep woods

igniting rotted fence posts, yellowed newspaper

with gasoline siphoned from his father’s truck.

He longed to confess to Father Mathias, but

how to speak his body’s constant conflagration,

its luscious buzz in the sizzle-suck of air?

One afternoon behind the shed, his fingers

closed on a matchbook in his pocket.

It was flame before he knew it, flame

vaulting as he watched, struck, flame

lighting the thick fuse of Virginia creeper

that climbed the house where his mother

lay in the back bedroom napping,

the new baby curled at her breast.

From afar, he watched himself

grab the hose coiled in the shed, attach

mouth to faucet, his hands steady.

No one ever knew.

His sister grew, a slow, sunny child

with eyes bright as blue glass.

She would never marry, never leave home.

He knew this had nothing to do with him.

He knew it had everything to do with him.

Mary Rohrer-Dann is a writer and painter living in central PA. Her poetry collection, Taking the Long Way Home, is forthcoming in December from Kelsay Books. Recent stories and poems have appeared in San Antonia Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Literary Yard, The Drabble, & other publications. Two narrative poem projects, La Scaffetta and Accidents of Being, were adapted to stage by Tempest Productions, Inc. and produced in NYC; State College, PA; and Philadelphia.


~*~*~*~

Should Have Been a Tuesday

Sarah Mackey Kirby

Not a Saturday.

She should have died on a Tuesday.

The line’s not so long at the bagel place

you take your dad to

to make sure he eats breakfast.

Because staying home means

he’d get swallowed by the house.

Fall so deep into the hurt

it could knock him to his knees.

Collapse his lungs right there

next to the newspaper he’d

started to read and the phone

dropped beeping on the floor.

Bagels are a good choice

because the line goes quick,

and you don’t have to

decide what you want.

People tend to stick

with the same brand of soap

and the same kind of bagel

all their lives.

But Saturdays are the busiest

bagel-getting days and filled

with head-scratch-folks

who can’t make a decision.

And you’re afraid to have your dad

stand too long in line in case you’re not

strong enough to hold him up.

Or make up for her being gone.

But also scared to make him

wait at a table alone.

No good day to lose

one of your daughters.

But a Tuesday might have been better.

Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet. Her work has been published in Boston Literary Magazine, Connecticut River Review, Impspired, Muddy River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MA in Teaching and a BA in Political Science. She and her husband live in Louisville.

~*~*~*~


Bill Cosby’s Cancelled Commencement Speech

Chad Parenteau

Think of me from the last episode,

the best retelling of my life.

Me in the bleachers, another

surrogate child moving on.

They flashback to episode one,

where I verbally whipped him

into shape, to the laughter of millions,

game rigged from the start.

If he, or you, could see me

in the background smiling, you’d know.

It was me. It was always me. I won.

You commenced, I finished years ago.

If you’re going to win in life,

you need to insert the McGuffin

monologue, the game changing pill

before they tell you to go.

If you don’t like it, you can leave,

but I’d rather you pull your pants

up, join me in the living room

watch my story over and over.

It’s a good life in Huxtaville,

where we all do our part,

remember the titles of your betters

after the light goes out.

Chad Parenteau hosts Boston's long-running Stone Soup Poetry series. His work has appeared in journals such as Résonancee, Queen Mob's Tea-House, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Tell-Tale Inklings, Off The Coast, Ibbetson Street and Wilderness House Literary Review. He currently serves as a regular contributor to Headline Poetry & Press as well as Associate Editor of the online journal Oddball Magazine. His second collection, The Collapsed Bookshelf, has just been released.


~*~*~*~

Imagine

Madlynn Haber

Whenever it happens, more often than you might think, that I encounter a group of my peers, aging boomers, greying hipsters and the like, sitting in a circle around a guitar player or two, singing the anthem of our generation, the classic Lennon song, “Imagine”. I pull out my phone and take a video clip to send to my millennial daughter. She rolls her eyes, sighs and says, “They’re at it again!” I imagine that someday those eyes will fill with tears when the last of my generation is gone and she happens upon one of those recordings playing a bit of that song. It’s the way the strains of “Tumbalalaika” or “Tura Lura Lural”, brings up for the grandchildren of immigrants, remembrances of the smells of steaming soups and stews, the sound of laughter flavored by old country accents, and images of worn faces framed in silk kerchiefs and wool caps. It was a beloved generation who crossed oceans to get here. Now, they appear mostly as symbols of nostalgia in film, books, faded photos in old albums. Soon we too will be a generation mostly forgotten. Brought to mind by memorabilia, buttons, bumper stickers, songs (already being used as background for commercials), snippets of still and moving photos on tablets and old phones.

Madlynn Haber lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her work has been published in the anthology Letters to Fathers from Daughters, in Anchor Magazine, Exit 13 Magazine and on websites including: The Jewish Writing Project, Mused Literary Review, Hevria, Right Hand Pointing, Mothers Always Write, Random Sample, Club Plum Literary Journal, Ariel Chart International Literary Journal, The Sunlight Press, Sparks of Calliope and Adelaide Literary Magazine.

~*~*~*~


Mailbox Andrena Zawinski

Those days unfolded slowly inside the deadening cold of another East Coast freeze— rolled towels stiffened by frost stuck into weathered door jams, rods of icicle ripples dripping from window sills, comfort huddling at an old space heater. Then those drawn out summers sticky with sweat, with bare feet stung by pavement and racing inside from play to box fans for a wash of syncopated cool, the waiting for something bigger to arrive, by mail order—its free items and all the things quarters taped with address onto file cards could bring from back page ads of Screen Book, True Story, Look: The stamp collection of flags of states and foreign lands all traveled into the mailbox. Stars fell from fan clubs on signed photos from Jimmy Dean to Omar Sharif, Shirley Temple to Marilyn Monroe. Hope rose on Zoltare’s fortune cards: your search for travel is present within. Possibility showed up in John Gnagy Draw Me challenges of Appaloosa, Great Dane, Arctic Puffin. And then the poems, the poems: Lawrence Ferlinghetti sailing in with A Coney Island of the Mind. Allen Ginsberg asking, America, why are your libraries full of tears? Dylan Thomas pleading do not go gently into that good night. Sylvia Plath taking a deep breath and listening to the old bray of heart, saying I am. I am. I am. All of them tumbling into a bowed box streaked by rust, slightly unhinged coffer askew, lid squeaking open and closed announcing deliveries, sometimes donning its cap of frozen snow, other times parched by sun, but always, always, ready to be filled.

Andrena Zawinski’s poetry has received awards for lyricism, form, spirituality, and social concern, several of them Pushcart Prize nominees. Her latest book is Landings from Kelsay Books; others are Something About from Blue Light Press (a PEN Oakland Award) and Traveling in Reflected Light from Pig Iron Press (a Kenneth Patchen Prize) along with several smaller collections. She founded and runs the San Francisco Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and is Features Editor at PoetryMagazine.com


~*~*~*~

The Beach at Lewis Bay

Howie Good

1

Because I was watching the waves

roll in and not where I was walking,

I very nearly stepped with bare feet

on a decaying wing, all that drearily

remained of a so-called “laughing gull,”

dirty white flight feathers flaking off

a now-fatuous frame of hollow bones

that nature had designed for soaring.

2

I don’t remember why I started,

but I have almost filled an old jelly jar

with sea glass, odd-shaped shards

I have collected one or two at a time

from the beach, and whatever their color,

brown, turquoise, white, bottle green,

whatever their eligibility or provenance,

they were stored for an age underwater

in cold and darkness and now are like charms,

talismans, to which the cold yet clings.

Howie Good's latest poetry collections are The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press, 2020) and The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro-Press, 2020).

~*~*~*~

Grandma’s Rosary Beads

John Johnson

His flannel pajamas were decorated with Noah’s Ark cartoon animals.

The giraffe glued to his body where the towel missed the remnants of the bath water.

A nightlight throws out yellowish halos, breaking up the darkness of the murky bedroom.

He is unsettled under the covers after this traumatic day.

But he would not dare miss his nightly obligation after what happened.

Although Grandma wore her favorite red party dress adorned with tassels and fringe, it seemed out of place.

The flowers smelled sickeningly sweet, and she wore too much makeup,

And she clenched the rosary beads too tightly.

There was a penalty for not saying his prayers every night.

If only he had met his nightly obligation, he wouldn’t have had to say good-bye to her today.

John Johnson is a writer and entrepreneur from McLean, Virginia. He is the author of Everydata: The Misinformation in the Little Data You Consume Every Day. His poetry focuses on capturing the essence of everyday experiences.


~*~*~*~

Out Through the In Door

Charles Coe

Going to the supermarket as a young dude was fixin’ to leave through the “in” door. That door opens when you come at it from the wrong side but it opens inwards; I was approaching at the same time and triggered it a moment before he expected. It smacked him right in the snoot. A full-frontal Hall-of-Fame slobberknocker. A beautiful sight. I will regret until the grave that I didn’t record the moment to provide pleasure for millions throughout cyberspace for all eternity. Young dude reclaimed his cool, readjusted hipster glasses, and strode by me with an “everything’s-under-control-nothing-to-see-here-just-move-along” look. I played it deadpan but on second thought maybe I should have guffawed…offered a little lesson that if you can’t laugh at yourself someone else will be happy to do it for you…


Charles Coe is the author of three books of poetry: All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents, Picnic on the Moon, and the just-released Memento Mori, all published by Leapfrog Press. Charles is also author of Spin Cycles, a novella published by Gemma Media. He was selected as a Boston Literary Light by the Associates of the Boston Public Library and is a former artist fellow at the St. Botolph Club in Boston. Charles was a 2017 artist-in-residence for the city of Boston, where he created an oral history project that focused on residents of Mission Hill. He is poetry editor of Multiplicity, an online literary journal. Charles has served as poet-in-residence at Wheaton College and at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State and is an adjunct professor of English at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where he teaches in both MFA programs.

~*~*~*~

Bagged During Quarantine

Susan Vespoli

“You didn’t bother to tell me before I drove two-and-a-half hours to visit?” ~Me

How’d he quit the relationship?

By removing gold ring from his left finger.

Susie-Sunshine-Can-Be-Stupid

asks, “Where’s your ring?”

“Stopped wearing it,” his terse reply

while taking another bite of salad.

“Too little time together.” Utterly

nonchalant with an especially passive

undertone of violence. Or was that me

who wanted to smash that glass

Buddha head into my now X’s noggin,

a man still forking fish from plate

to mouth, a man who X-ed me out

after X number of years

without even mentioning it?

All his clothes and shoes bagged

in Hefty black plastic. Closet emptied

and wiped down of his smell, like after

a death, except he’s still breathing

up in Flagstaff. Fucker used to be

a good word, not a slur. “Pour

your hormone replacement