• Big Table Publishing

SEPTEMBER, 2020

Updated: Sep 16


Jungle Scene, New York Style

Philip Vassallo

Born and bred in New York, I am no shill’s fool, but was I ever had today.

I was heading for my car in the parking lot next to the office at five p.m.

heading for my humble Bronx apartment,

when a middle-aged woman wearing a mink coat grabbed my arm,

begging, “Please help me.” A young, disheveled man was following her,

raving about the republic, God, and how scared she was of him.

She would not release me. “Let’s go, please.” I took her to my twenty-year-old Honda.

We drove around the block to Twenty-second and Sixth, Lola’s Restaurant,

where her husband, a doctor at St. Vincent’s Hospital, was waiting for her for dinner

before returning to their apartment on Fifty-seventh Street, not far from Tiffany’s.

She was coming from her marketing consulting job for Icelandic Airlines

when emerging from the subway, the villain of our story accosted her.

It all sounded on the up and up until she tipped her hand:

“Is this such a dangerous neighborhood?” she asked,

as if I were Tarzan and she Jane. This time I grabbed her by the arm,

but her slippery mink enabled her escape back into the jungle.

Philip Vassallo’s poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in many publications, and his licensed plays have been produced throughout the United States. He is the author of The Art of On-the-Job Writing, The Art of Email Writing, and How to Write Fast Under Pressure.

~*~*~*~

Birds of New England

Howie Good

I bought a book the other week at Costco.

We were really there to buy paper towels.

The book is called Birds of New England.

It contains colored drawings of all different birds.

I got it to help me identify some of the birds

that come to our feeder. So far it hasn’t been

much help. I could already recognize cardinals

and blue jays and finches. But what is that

small, plump, self-satisfied bird with dark eyes?

I’m looking frantically from bird to book to bird

when I realize this is hopeless, like trying to identify

a 70-year-old from his third-grade class picture.

Howie Good is the author of The Death Row Shuffle, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

~*~*~*~

Letter of Intent (Translated to English)

John Lane

Zog Species Commander

Milky Way Galaxy

To Cmdr. Groth:


From our ten solar year study of United States:

Places, like National Parks and State Game Lands, have room to build.

Sun will not go supernova for billions of years.

Total of animals is three times higher than the number of Americans.

The military has downsized, about fifty percent from previous twenty years.

Conclusion:

The United States will make a great new home from overcrowding, collapse of sun and hunger.

We have no resistance.

Our spaceships are five light-years from the border, waiting for your order.

Emperor Vom

Over 20 of John Lane’s stories have appeared in The Drabble, 50-word Stories, Spillwords, Trembling with Fear, and other venues. He is on the editorial team for 101 Words and is an Army and National Guard veteran.


~*~*~*~

Trumpet Vine

Laura Rodley

Waiting outside the village grocery store

until it was emptier, holding only the required amount of people,

my attendant waiting was supervised by a woman sweeping

the fallen orange trumpets from the trumpet vine, dozens of them.

She looked up when I said, “Look, there’s a butterfly,”

hanging out on the door screen, a brown spotted orange sulphur.

“Maybe it’s a sign,” I said. “Yes, it’s a sign, maybe from my brother,”

she surmised. “I’ve been missing him so much,” her eyes

above her midnight blue mask watering.

“I dreamed last night that I smelled my brother,

and he was big and strong,” holding her hands out to twice

her size, broom handle still in hand. “He died of kidney

disease: he had a kidney transplant, and he never

should have had it. It killed him.”

“What did he smell like, in your dream, sandlewood,

aftershave?” I asked. “No, just clean, pure, like

an angel. He was big, and white, glowing. Then he was skinny

and shriveled like when he died. My mother, my father,

my brother, all gone.” “I know,” I said, “I’ve lost my

parents too, and others. All the people who passed are closer now,

checking in on us, asking what the hell is going on.”

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.


~*~*~*~

Yearning D.A. Lucas

fall rain, your breeze comes— inside the window's darkness dreamers wait for you. D.A. Lucas is a poet living in Cleveland, Ohio. His most recent works have appeared in Literary Shanghai, Amethyst Review, Barking Sycamores, The Blue Nib, and Three Line Poetry.


~*~*~*~

Young Homemakers

David Miller

We had a set of scant houseplants,

modest greeneries for the stolid sills.

Windows with obstructed view

of a stale, traffic-hemmed brook.

Why not pick up the dowdy digs

with little friends of chlorophyll?

In the kitchen, cardboard box of rocks

placed with care for future plantings.

And the roaches homed at that furtive nest,

crawlers uncovered with the first pulled pebble.

The kitchen floor was frenzy, skitter, squash.

Our bundle of dried Indian corn

festooned the apartment door

at the bleary hallway’s ignored end.

Why not cheer the autumn equinox

in a place you never wished to live?

The solstice came and so we squirreled it

deep on a closet shelf against next year.

And long before harvest time came back around,

the roaches swarmed to their feed,

to cob, husks, and niblets in the dark.

David P. Miller’s collection, Sprawled Asleep, was published by Nixes Mate Books in 2019. Poems have recently appeared in Meat for Tea, Hawaii Pacific Review, Turtle Island Quarterly, Seneca Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Constellations, Denver Quarterly, The Lily Poetry Review, Unlost, and Northampton (UK) Review, among others. His poem “Add One Father to Earth” was awarded an Honorable Mention by Robert Pinsky for the New England Poetry Club's 2019 Samuel Washington Allen Prize competition.


~*~*~*~

Bud’s Secret

Zvi A. Sesling

Bud Devlin was not the smartest, best looking one and certainly not the strongest, yet he always had the prettiest girls chasing him. It was not because he was rich, because he was not. He did not play sports or smoke dope, in fact he did not even drink Coke or root beer. So when the tenth reunion came along we asked the girls but they would not tell us. Nor would they reveal Bud’s secret at the twentieth, thirtieth or fortieth reunions. At the fiftieth Dolly DeRoma finally told us that Bud was stupid and the girls did not have to pretend to be smart in order to impress the guy. They would go out with Bud because he paid for dinner or a movie, did not talk about anything and always walked them to the door never expecting even a kiss. We always called him Bud Light, Dolly told us.


Zvi A. Sesling is Brookline, MA Poet Laureate. He edits Muddy River Poetry Review and is author of The Lynching of Leo Frank (Big Table Publishing, 2017)and six other poetry books. His flash fiction book Secret Behind The Gate will be published in early 2021 by Cervena Barva Press. He has published poetry and flash fiction both in the U.S. and internationally. He lives in Brookline, MA with his wife Susan J. Dechter.


~*~*~*~

I Fall Apart in English

Cynthia Van

I used to think in Chinese until I went to school. My English was television learned and I translated for my parents at the store and the bank. The teachers smiled as they fit me with a new tongue. Like all the other Asian kids, I seemed built for it. I say, hello, thank you, may I please use the restroom? My parents don’t speak English very well.

In the car, my dad asks what I learned in school. My tongue is too tight. I say I learned the alphabet. What? I said I learned the alphabet. What? My new accent is thick. I try to take off my tongue, but the stitches bleed. Now I am American girl.

Cynthia Van is a new writer studying mechanical engineering at university. Her writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth and the Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal.

~*~*~*~

The Lesson

R.C. Neighbors

At emergency medical training, we watched a suicide attempt, or rather, its aftermath, lights dimmed and faces glowing with the flicker of a nineteen-inch screen at twenty-four frames per second.

The man shot himself in the face like Cobain and Hemingway but with far worse aim. He raised the shotgun to his jawline toward the skull cap not the brain stem and pulled the trigger with a toe.

His face gaped open when the techs and cameras came— what was left: a hole of dripping meat, animal carcass burst on summer asphalt, a specimen with skin flaps pinned across a pan of wax.

“Notice what remains of the sinus, nasopharynx, and a salivary gland. Find the sliver of vocal cord by the sputtered, gurgled wheezes.” As they began to work, he hung on to consciousness and dangled till sedated.

Mouths agape, we watched it all— from initial flail to final, brutal tremor— to study airway intubation.


R.C. Neighbors is an Oklahoma expatriate who received a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Indigenous studies from Texas A&M University and an M.F.A from Hollins University. He currently serves as a Lecturer at the Texas A&M Higher Education Center in McAllen, TX. He lives with his wife, four kids, two dogs, and a photo of himself with the head of hair and motorcycle he used to have. His work has appeared in Tampa Review, Barely South Review, Found Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Anthology: Texas, and elsewhere.


~*~*~*~

Split Screen

Elizabeth S. Wolf

Should wears a yellow dress,

carries a handkerchief, knows

what a duvet is. Should has a place

in the homecoming court, really could keep

her knees closed clenched around a pill.

Should has no regrets.

Look, there’s Real Girl in the shadow,

outside the caf, by the tree with peeling bark.

Real Girl told what happened but no one

believed. No one is listening now

as the grey man without a face,

leaning behind the tree,

readies his shovel.

Should wears her yellow dress,

drinks iced tea and lemonade.

Should is as solid as forever

and a relic of the past.

Real Girl downs shots. Was she

pushed or did she fall, either way

a hole’s a hole. The man without a face

prepares the burial, finishes his smoke,

flicks away the butt.

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 multiple journals & anthologies and has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes. She was a winner in the Third Wednesday 2020 Poetry Contest.


~*~*~*~

A Moment of Pause

Matthew J. Andrews

He took his respite at the creek,

his head and hands aching from work,

to lull himself to numbness

with the soft murmuring of the water,

to lose himself in the formless wafts

of vapor created as he exhaled.

It had been snowing all day,

writing the fields into blank pages,

and it was peaceful enough to forget,

for a moment, that nothing was working

the way he’d hoped. A pause

was all he needed to collect himself,

to breathe a little. He closed his eyes

and let himself float away, adrift

in the water’s chanting. He knelt down

to the creek and put his fingers

in the frigid stream, watching the way

it contoured to his shape, relentless

in its pursuit of an end it cannot know,

cannot possibly imagine. He laughed,

at that moment seeing with clarity

that he now had a different story

to tell. He quickly returned to his firelit

cabin, his footsteps leaving deep

impressions in the carpet of snow,

his feet kissing the ground below.

Matthew J. Andrews is a private investigator and writer who lives in Modesto, California. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Funicular Magazine, The Inflectionist Review, Red Rock Review, Sojourners, Amethyst Review, The Dewdrop, and Deep Wild Journal, among others.

~*~*~*~

Sorry Sir

Steve Klepetar

My cousins played softball in the sun.

Their uniforms were white as bone,

their skin bronzed as they crouched in the field,

Magda at shortstop, Irena in centerfield.

Man, they were strong up the middle.

In the first, Irena got an infield hit, stole second.

Magda hit a home run over the right field fence.

It broke a car window, and the alarm screamed

until someone ran over to shut it off.

She hit another home run in the third,

and then they walked her three times.

“Cowards,” she yelled as she took her base.

I tried to make my popcorn last until

the seventh inning, but it never did.

After the game, the other coach came over.

“You’re a heck of a player, young lady,

but you’ve got an attitude.”

“Yeah? Your team plays like the old ladies

who sit on the sidewalk feeding the birds.”

Irena said “I’m so sorry sir. My sister’s a bit

brain damaged,” and the two of them

ran off laughing like wind chimes in a storm.

Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has appeared widely in the U.S. and around the world and has received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. He has published a number of poetry collections, including Family Reunion from Big Table.

~*~*~*~

September, 2020

Brady Peterson

My fig tree would have made Jesus proud

this summer, producing hundreds of juicy

brown fruit, sweet on the tongue,

picked and eaten from the tree.

Its broad green leaves, its insatiable thirst

for water in a land more and more drought

prone. I empty my two large rain barrels

into its roots, trickle the water just so.

My pear tree on the other hand

produced no fruit this year. I’ve been told

freezing days during winter are important

for the tree to blossom in spring.

My sweaters were taken from their plastic

bags and worn once each. Or twice maybe.

Whatever, it doesn’t get cold much here

anymore. But it does get hot.

It rained yesterday, for the first time

in forever. Rain is hope.

It comes now and then—like elections.

I walk outside and stand barefoot on the wet earth.

Brady Peterson spends much of his seclusion time riding his bike and swinging kettlebells. He is the author of Garcia Lorca is Somewhere in Produce and other books of poetry.


~*~*~*~

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