Your mother was not allowed to touch the horizon.
“You may look at it, if you want to, but you cannot touch it,” your grandmother told her.
It sounded like a ban, but, in actuality, it was just a law. And you always wondered whether the law spread only on your mother or it was for everyone. Therefore you often violated it. This helped you to live the normal life of a child.
Your mother, on the contrary, never had a childhood. Once she was born she immediately became an adult because your grandmother knew her future. Your grandmother also made an attempt to find out your future, but it was inaccessible to her. So she focused on your mother.
“You cannot touch the horizon!” she reminded her each time.
Your mother just listened to her. The horizon was smooth and clear with a few blurred flourishes of clouds, which your mother tried to decode. She had the secret hope that those flourishes were for her and that once she read them she’d live happily hereafter.
Your grandmother didn’t take it seriously and often made sarcastic comments.
“What’s new?” she asked your mother staring at the horizon.
The horizon changed and each time there was something new. But your grandmother didn’t pay attention to it—she always got to the root. And the root was that your mother didn’t know how to read it. So, days had gone, and the horizon didn’t get closer, and eventually your mother realized that your grandmother might be right. And one day she found no changes in the horizon and she couldn’t wait for the next day to see if something had changed. Alas! The horizon was the same.
“It cannot be!” she whispered to herself. She scrutinized the horizon, but there was no sign apparent.
“It cannot be,” she tried to convince herself. “It must be me—I’m missing something. But I must know the truth!”
Each day the horizon got worse: it got yellowish and the flourish faded out.
“What if it’s dying?” she thought. “What if I’m losing it forever?”
She became somnambulistic. Each night she got up and walked along the skies, but she never approached the horizon—as soon as she got close to it she woke up and immediately fell down to her bed that was put under the skies by your grandmother in order to catch your mother when she fall. So, one day she decided to steal your grandmother’s magnifying glass in order to examine closely the horizon and see the true state of affairs. She waited until your grandmother went to the store to buy some freshly fading flowers (your grandmother loved fading flowers and she decorated the house with them) and took the magnifying glass from her table. The magnifying glass was dull and with crumbs of bread and sugar as if someone had analyzed meals with it. Your mother thoroughly cleaned the thick convex surface and looked through it at the horizon.
…At first, she didn’t notice anything but a large space paved with cracks, which turned out to be roads and paths covered with a golden brown. It was the end of July. Nature got tired of waiting for the rain and smoothly sank like a sandcastle the next morning. There was no one around, just an endless space with arid soil. She was sitting on the bench and slowly scratched the horizon with her fingernail as if it was a winning number under its silvery mist.
“I told you so many times—don’t scratch it!” your grandmother yelled out of the window.
A tiny blurred spot appeared on the other side of the picture and moved toward your mother’s house. She didn’t notice anything, but your grandmother immediately saw it. She got very excited—your mother could hear her running back and forth and rumbling with her keys. Then she leaned out of the window and screamed again: “Stop scratching it!”
The spot was getting closer. It expanded like a fog and covered the horizon’s suburbs, which merged with the earth. Your mother saw airy rivers gracefully streaming down the earth, which carried light triangles of sails on their waves. Your grandmother carefully observed the trajectory of the spot expanding through her magnifying glass.
“Go inside and get changed!” she ordered a few moments later.
Your mother obediently nodded and continued scratching.
“Stop it!” your grandmother screeched and your mother’s fingernail broke.
She had nothing to do but stop it and go inside the house to get changed. Her closet was piled up with her photos and it was difficult to find the appropriate one.
“How many times have I told you to put everything in its place?” your grandmother yelled angrily.
“Which one do you want me to put on?” your mother asked calmly from her closet.
“Take the one with forget-me-not.”
It was an old picture taken a day ago when your mother had no idea about the horizon. She looked much younger then—that expression of unawareness that makes one’s face angelic. She was thinking.
“What are you thinking?” your grandmother cried out from the other room.
“That picture is too young for me… I cannot wear it…”
“Nonsense! Pull it on, I’m telling you!”
Your grandmother cried hysterically. Your mother had never seen her like that. She tried the picture on. It was too tight on her. Her new expression was constantly showing from under that angelic face and your grandmother tried to pull it on. Eventually, it stretched in the middle and covered your mother’s face that now looked a little bit distorted.
“It’s nothing. You look fine,” your grandmother said.
The fog occupied the center and moved toward the house.
“Go inside and wait!” your grandmother ordered.
“Do I have some time?” your mother asked.
Your mother didn’t know what to answer. It was too obvious, no matter what she said.
“Well, I’ll tell you then,” your grandmother said, pointing at the horizon. “Nothing is in there for you. Do you hear me? I said—nothing! When I was a little girl I scratched it once and it was nothing—just emptiness. They promise you everything if you buy their books, but in reality you find nothing. They just want you to buy their unsold stuff. That’s all. Go!”
Of course, your mother didn’t trust her, but she believed her, and she was sure that if your grandmother said something then she knew it better. Therefore your mother went inside and waited until your grandmother called her.
The fog went through the door and clouded the windows. Now your mother couldn’t see what was going on outside. The only clear spot was in the house.
“I want you to meet your future,” your grandmother said.
Then your mother ran to the window, but it was clouded by the future. She couldn’t even see the present or the past.
“How can it be?” your mother thought.
She wanted to discern something outside and pressed her forehead against the window. The windowpane cracked in the middle.
… “Did I tell you not to touch my magnifying glass?” she heard a voice from behind.
Your grandmother entered with freshly fading flowers and looked with reproach at your mother trying to erase the crack.
“This was my grandmother’s present at my wedding,” your grandmother said. “I never got married thanks to it. No one was aloud to touch it but me.”
Your mother looked at the crack that widened and glittered with crystals. She touched it with her little finger. It was cool and fresh.
“Give it to me!” your grandmother ordered.
When she made a step forward your mother closed her eyes and jumped into the coolness of crystal waters. The crack meandered and carried your mother away—to the other side of the glass where you were waiting for her on the horizon with the book in hand. She had always dreamt about the book and she was willing to overcome any obstacles in order to get it. So you held the book above the waters and it shone like a lighthouse, pointing your mother the way to you.
“You cannot swim,” your grandmother said calmly. “Just come back.”
Her voice was reigning above the crystal waters. Your mother got scared. She looked around. She was alone. The book shone far away, but it would not help her much—she had to swim all alone. Then you signaled to her the contents of the first page—all she needed to overcome the river. But she didn’t know how to read it.
“You don’t know how to read it. Come back. You cannot swim,” your grandmother said.
She put her flowers into the vases. All her vases resembled urns. Your mother looked over, trying to find some support, but the only voice she heard was that of your grandmother. So she opened her eyes and found herself in the room again.
“She lied to me and I knew it,” your mother thought. “I should’ve swum.”
Then she looked down to see how deep the crack was. It was pretty deep—like a seven- story house. She bent over the bottom to see what was downstairs, and saw your grandmother serving tea to the future in the backyard. Your grandmother looked up and waved her hand.
“Come here,” she said, “it’s time to have some tea together.”
Then your mother closed her eyes and stepped forward.
For a few nights she was restless. She woke up and went to the closet that no one could hear her. Every evening your grandmother touched her forehead and sang her a lullaby about the snail. It finally worked.
Bio: V. Ulea (Vera Zubarev) is the author of 16 books of prose, poetry and literary criticism. Her book, About Angels, About God, About Poetry (Livingston Press, 2002), won The Top Book Award at the International Book Fair “Green Wave.” Her cycle of poems, Letters from Another Planet, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her works have appeared in the Literary Review,RE:AL, Princeton Arts Review, The Bitter Oleander, Sein und Werden, Apollo’s Lyre, The Dream People, and other journals and magazines. She is the editor of the anthology, Quantum Genre in the Planet Of Arts (appeared in Paraphilia Magazine). Her collection of short stories, Snail, was published by Crossing Chaos (2009). Her new novel, Spherical Violin, is coming.She has won many prestigious international awards for her works, including, most recently, Bella Akhmadulina International literary Prize (2012). Her works have been translated into Czech, Ukrainian and German. She has a PhD in Russian literature and teaches classes on decision making in literature and film in the University of Pennsylvania.
The Vanishing Moon
Moon stands, hands on hips and head held high, astride the glittering evening sky
Shouting – cease your constant tugging – at the overbearing Earth;
Moon – my child, Earth replies – struggle not; I urge you look inside my tender heart
Do not mistake my embrace for restraint; I hold to you to keep you safe…
No! Moon shouts – as she pulls her hair – that cannot be
Your restraint is stifling; confining me
It’s killing me – Moon sags to her knees – nightly as I pull and tug
Ceaseless, trying to be free;
Moon – my child, Earth replies – you don’t understand the perils of the sky
Please! Moon shouts – as she stomps her feet – I understand that I must fly
Free and unfettered; I long to be me
Moon – my child, Earth replies – for you I shall grant your one demand
You may roam unfettered and free, when you finish your responsibilities
Speak! Moon shouts – as she cocks her head – I won’t be tricked or misled
Moon – my child, Earth replies – I have no tricks or treachery
At your wane, I will abide your wish to be unfettered; free to roam; free to fly
Heed my words – impetuous Moon – I demand of you a simple thing
What! Moon shouts – breathlessly, demandingly – do you require of me
Moon – my child, Earth replies – you must be back again to rise
Why! Moon shouts – as she flops and pouts – you promised I could wander free
Moon – my child, Earth replies – free you shall be but not absolved
Of any and all responsibility
Bio: I started blogging as a hobby in November 2010. In January 2011, I joined Plymouth (MA) Patch as a paid columnist. In August 2014 I joined the Old Colony Memorial as a columnist and appear every other Wednesday in the print edition and on the wickedlocal.com websites. I try to write every day and have recently self-published a short-story and a book of poetry.
Julia Rose Lewis
You Were the Discoverer of the Wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant.
After Bianca Stone
Gamma is the Greek number three: you, me, and Dax (Lela, Tobin, Emony, Audrid, Torias, Joran, Curzon, Jadzia, and Ezri, the joined thrill.)
You run anomaly scans in operations at night to relax. I check you for ticks because you are extremely allergic to insect bites.
Your favorite drink is a Black Hole and your unrequited love was a physicist. The teacher, the explorer, the biologist, the fourth is not given.
Your mentor tried to steal the body of a shape-shifter decades after he washed you out of the program. Still, you miss the hoobishan baths at home.
You look good in blue. In vessels named for the earth’s rivers the Gander, Ganges, Mekong, Orinoco, Rio Grande, Rubicon, Shenandoah, Volga, Yangtzee Kiang, and Yukon.
You have inherited a love of steamed, not fried nor sauteed, azna from prior hosts. I dislike okra of all kinds.
You are attracted to aliens, farangi (a Persian word) and sleeping in the skins of animals slaughtered on a alien world.
You commanded the defiant. Run you boat.
You are late; we schedule our time together in twenty-six hour days. Where do you see yourself in three-hundred years?
I would like to see some of my molecules and some of your molecules in the runabout Rio Grande. Watch the emissary and what you leave behind to understand you are loved.
Re: Water’s Monologue
This is the character of water wanting inside the tree where apples are happening; they are bathtub white now. Because the body is not only pipe, nor pump, I must worry about pollution. A cup of tea being a bathtub in miniature some bitterness, same the heat. Here I reside in Nantucket’s tap as great the glasses of water or lakes, a thinking cup its breaking point.
Of capricorns, Enki, and I besides the biologist likes the goats; they give their milk, the fish for dinner oven ready ocean. His voice across the Atlantic reading to me. I want to be an island of water inside the dry this horse a Sagittarius yes.
“Tell me a story…”
Thank you for taking me to the Moth last night. I do have money for you for my ticket. I’m sorry I forgot to give it to you.
Wil’s breaking project essay is as much a reflection of him as you as me. I am beginning to break old habits.
At the start of my life and at the start of the summer, I said no to you. I held you at a distance. How does a double negative mean differently than a yes? I think double negative implies change and counterfactuals. Not no, in silence’s stead.
I am afraid you will break my brain, the red and gray place in my head.
Holding Pattern is the name of a series of poems in my dissertation. They are old love poems (baltic isopods). I have been avoiding them this summer. They need revision, I know, but I was afraid of confronting old feelings. I have been avoiding the old man (object) of the poems as well. He is on island; we have been friends. After listening to you last night, I feel less afraid. Even braided and soldered sterling silver will unravel now and again.
I love how responsive you are to my writing. I love how responsive your body is to mine. I love that you said, “Descartes was wrong,” in bed.
“This is not a love story, but love is in it. That is, love is just outside it, looking for a way to break in.”
Of Cats and Bathtubs
The flattest sentences I could find. Four and ten are fourteen. Four times ten is forty. The verb to be in poetry, the equals sign in mathematics, metaphor really, where is the mountain in the photograph? The leg of a horse can be a cliff face to a kitten, the thickness of a draft horse.
Be kind nightmare. There is nothing delicate about this old warmblood.
The flat test I created for you.
When I am with you, Mu is equivalent to Enki. Mu is forty. Enki is forty. Force the mouse to sing. This is the story of a cat named Mouse. First named Mu, his brother Pi died, and so his name changed. He was the mewling kitten. Now the muse singing.
The kitten that did not get killed.
Mu rhymes with new. Nu is the flow velocity. Nu is a variable in the Navier-Stokes equation for describing fluid behavior. Remember Enki is the god of water and semen. Where are the other verbs?
The floating rest here.
Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum (Margaret Atwood)
Nolite Polite Not lie No light (not quite black hole) Night life (magic)
Te (Tea) Thee The Thou
Carborundorum Car bore run door rum Cardboard and or um (some) Cared or under hum Carbon dear come home (soon)
From sand and water come castles. Here is calcium carbonate from scallop shells and silicon dioxide on the ground. Sand paper grinds you down, yes, and polishes. The shine and electrical properties of silicon carbide can be mistaken for diamond.
From sand and water come quicksand. You live with the grit of fallen sandcastles. The water will wash you for a time.
Bio: Julia Rose Lewis is a working towards her MFA at Kingston University London. She received her BA in Biology and Chemistry from Bryn Mawr College PA. Her scientific training has given her an appreciation for the judicious use of terminology, stories of evolution, and evolution of stories. She is interested in the role environment plays in love poems/love stories. Her chapbook manuscript is an attempt to answer the questions- Can you love a person as a place? and can you love a place as a person? She began her love affair with the Little Grey Lady in the Sea twenty-eight years ago. (She also owns a horse named Apollo’s Lady.) When not in school, she is living on Nantucket Island. She is a member of the Moors Poetry Collective of Nantucket.
NO NAME WILL
I stand under the sun in Seahorse Valley. Sweat to remember what I just forgot. Deodorant applied in a pattern reminiscient of the Tarantula inside the Large Magellanic Cloud. Feel it caked on, swamping pit hair like pity a whore.
Hop in the Ford. Shove a Chev aside. Crush a beetle. Step on it.
Hit the highway right through the center of the short of what term did I say my name is? Well… never remember directly. Now I’ve established character, hell – I answer to anything. So we don’t descend any further into this depression.
Swing the glasses onto the Cloud. Gawk at the Tarantula embedded therein. Drag me 180 thou lightyears to the heart of a star factory. Holy Genevieve de Brabant!
Decide to camp for the night in Goose Holler. Scream of a town inhabited by gophers and actual tarantulas fat as the head of God’s cock. You know – the cock that turns God on. Am I sounding cockamamie?
Hm… starts with an M?
The solution to this ice might lie with let go and float on the outer rim of Neptune’s toilet.
Enter the john. Interrogate myself in the damn mirror.
Spot my eyes are closed. That’s a kick – look in a mirror see your eyes shut tight. Don’t try this at home – might mean you are dead. In a story, of course, means you are dreaming. Especially when the lids twitch – see that?
Too bad. Well, I saw both balls twitch. Like mantises kicking out of cocoons. Turn that cock on God never quits! Some claim a black hole occurs when you turn the cock off completely. All the way to the right, or maybe it’s left… can’t seem to put this issue down…
Hey, baby – won’t you put me down. Show me up. Lay me out flat. Pull my plug with your mouth and a mouse click.
Make fun of me. Flip my corpse onto the fire.
Hire two crews. One to giggle, one to shovel. Strew my ashes to the multitude of maggots lying in wait out by the dump.
Rumplestiltskin? Has an M in it…
Wander into the kitchen. Heft a butcher knife. Hey, baby – put me down so I can carve your soul up. To live one must kill. In reality this fantasy won many, but never the last.
Hey, baby – put me down to spin you up, tight as yarn soaked liquor. Spirit our story to the crib. Hey, baby – put up with me, till that frailty when I beg you put me down. But right now, forget the rites: could you just put my name down on this scrap of asswipe?
(Seem to have ambled back into the john… that it, John?)
YES! John Brant! It’s like I goose myself! Here, let me have a gander – that what you put on the asswipe?
No? C’mon – lemme see. Just lemme open my eyes in the mirror let’s say five hundred blinks. What, OK – fifty. OK – five. Five blinks worth.
What did I say my name is? You can just tell me… mouth syllables if THEY might hear. They aren’t even here. It’s just you and, what did you say your name was – mike?
Dick? OK, Deadeye Dick – how the Jesus does a guy find his way out of Seahorse Valley? My wife and I have decided we don’t need to buy here. OK, Mr…. what did you say?
Jest ride one o’ them hippopotamuses square out of the potty? Suppose makes me feel too camp? Could I see a taste of that feel? That another star already – in the pygidium of the Tarantula? Holy Genevieve de Brabant – spare any sex change?
Poor Gen! Wrongly accused of cheating. Her husband, Eration X, some kind of fairy anyway. I’m a Boomer. That means I fuck everything up enthusiastically.
Exiled in the woods, Gen eats minnow roe, spider spatter, butterfly sperm. She made her bed in a nettle patch, anxious to demonstrate innocence. At length, more time than I have here to hang you by the yarn until enlightened, the false accuser exposes himself.
His Excellency castrates the loser. Tortures pervert into eating his own balls. The prince excels at cruelty. Loves vengeance more than Gen herself. Although he finally does get around to drilling the princess schizophrenic, and maybe that’s why my name really is, glimpse in slot machine flash: Millenial.
No last name. No name will.
I am pod people. I inhabit an apodment. You might think I have a headcold or come from New York, but, no, I actually do inhabit an apodment.
I have on my unit tattooed your name. Once I get you inside the unit, drop trou, unfurl Speedo’s: there it glows: in magenta Braggadocio: Your Name.
Something octopussy about pod. Suckers in the brine some cat heavy into Greek scarfs. Pie, Omega, Delta. Like pie up the delta in Bung County, poppy pods in the jam enough to put to sleep your dog while stuck in traffic. Euthanasia a mere ramp in the mirror off Xanadu.
Did I relate yet about a bout between your hippocampus and my cuttle fish? Knew you wouldn’t remember – didn’t happen ago long enough, too new.
“Screw-belong-arm!” I coo in pidgin. Elbow you out the apodment the second I come.
You got a sister, tell her I got a blister, so hot half-cocked go off clean to the spermbank. Otherwise, a word to the wise: still a few pods unoccupied here in Seahorse Valley.
If you think you remember: Forget it! What happened more anonymous than a virus in the gut of a bug on a rat in the wall of this complex a generation from now, when all the money pulls up stakes. These pods by then one whale of a mistake. Me and the bum squats here then two peas in a pod; only I got the dough, he got the time and you got no sister, ya know, sister?
Now get out before I implode like a twister loaded on every liquor under the moon but time. Time you forget – remember?
I am pod people, see, because I’m the developer. This pod but a pad for my unit to unload.
Why you coming back? Oh, it isn’t, is it, loaded?
Lunchtime. The best part of the day. The moment when the cruel hands of the clock line up in a rare harmony, temporarily freeing those who suffer inside the towering office blocks. The sweet air outside had tempted me all day, whispering through the windowscreen, and so I pulled open the office door, the scent of nearby flowers leading me to the city park. Gripping my lunch bag loosely in one hand, I headed for a nearby bench, settling at one end and observing the chipped paint adorned with layers of graffiti. Markings of the goings-on of the local teenagers; who blew, who was here, who loved who. Shrugging, I attended to my sandwich.
The woman caught my eye as she slowly made her way down my path, and I watched. Her face was old, the last remains of what once must have been great beauty erased by the lines etched deep into her pale skin. Her blue eyes were dull, and I found myself wondering how she could see. A slight coolness on my leg alerted me to the mayonnaise dripping from my sandwich; by the time I wiped it with a napkin and looked back up, she had sat on the other end of the bench. Her head swiveled as she looked around with a sad smile on her face. I could see her shiver in the faint breeze, and wondered why she wasn’t wearing a warmer coat. Her silver hair cascaded down her shoulders, curling at the ends.
“It’s always so beautiful here,” she said, noticing I was watching her. I blushed, looking back down to my sandwich.
“I grew up in that house across the street,” she said, pointing to a low-rise apartment building. “Before they tore it down. All my children were born there.” She looked around the park, the same sad smile at the corner of her mouth. “My husband proposed to me right here in this park, fifty years ago,” she said quietly. She pointed to a spot a few feet from where we sat. Squinting, I saw nothing now but some yellow grass and a dead squirrel “That was long before the cancer. The doctors said I have to go to a treatment center in Boston, and I probably won’t come back.” Her hand slid inside the pocket of her light coat and rested there for a moment before emerging. I stood up quickly, recoiling from what I saw in her hand.
The cold metal gleamed against the papery skin of her hand. There was the faintest clinking noise as the rings on her left hand pressed against the gun.
She pointed it, not at me, but at her own face.
“I spent my entire life in this town,” her voice was still quiet, calm. “I’ll never leave it.” She smiled, glancing once more around at the faded grass. “Freedom,” she sighed. Her finger pressed down, and I screamed.
The funeral was a week later. I don’t know why I went; call it closure. I met her husband, silenced by his grief. Her children couldn’t understand. It was as everyone was leaving when her oldest daughter beckoned me into the kitchen.
“Did she say why?” She asked, the silent tears pouring down her face.
“She wanted to die in her hometown,” I explained. “She said she had to go to a treatment center in Boston, and the doctor said she wouldn’t come back.”
The daughter’s breath caught, and her hand flew to her heart. She turned her back to me, searching for something on the spotless counter. Finally she located a plain white envelope, which she handed to me.
“I insisted she get a second opinion when she got her diagnosis,” she said simply.
I opened it, scanning the first line of the paper inside, feeling my heart sink.
“Test results,” it said. “Negative.”
Bio: Future cat lady Hilary Spencer lives various parts of Maine. She can be found at http://nerdlylittlesecret.tumblr.com/
(Hospice-one month after learning your toothache is a malignant tumor.)
(Hospice-one month after learning your toothache is a malignant tumor.)
We’re watching the Tigers blow a chance at the ‘Series when you say my name the way you say it. Your voice resonates and my insides flutter I know what will follow will not be light conversation. You tell me you are going on a four day weekend with Dan. My eyes fill with tears and I just nod and start to pack the things you will need. We sit in silence as you hold my hand and say calming things (calming things to me!) about needing to go, that you will be back on Monday, that the Tigers have one more shot tomorrow night and my heart begins to slow it’s pounding. We watch the game like it is church. I put my head on your shoulder and we watch the rest of the game. I listen to you breathe. I smell your neck. I listen to your heart beat. I try not to cry. When I look into your giant, brown eyes I am dumb-struck by my love for you. Do you see what you’ve done here?
The nurse packs your meds. You ask for extra pain pills because four days is a long time and who knows? She makes an aside to her co-worker, calls you “drug-seeking,” I’m not sure if you heard. Fucking bitch,this is the same one that gives you dirty looks when you want another beer.
Four days pass as I obsess over your absence. First I am happy you are with your brother,then I am anxious. When he finally brings you back, you are smashed like a pumpkin. Dan smiles and staggers you to the love seat. It is three in the afternoon, your chin drops to your chest and you snore. My heart fills to overflowing, my face hurts from grinning. Danny has your smile on his face. You two are really something, God I love you guys. Do you see what you’ve done here?
At 7 p.m. I can’t wake you up. Your heads lolls to the side and green goo foams out of your mouth? I scream and call for help but there is no real help. You are put into a gown and into bed. I watch you breath. The snore is not a snore…four day weekend and a month worth of oxy is missing. I see what you’ve done here. Oh my God.
I call Dan at 10. He is drunk and silent and he knows when he gets to the door. You die after breakfast on Tuesday. Two years, it took me two years to see what you two did here.
It is series time and watching baseball makes me cry. Fall leaves make me cry. Dan’s smile makes me cry. I dream of thirty oxy’s and thirty beers. But I don’t do it, I don’t come find you. Sometimes I wonder if I’m living, but I do understand why you did what you did.