In My Mother’s Voice

I sit by her tomb as she chastises me
in a boneyard strewn
with hillbilly ancestors
neighbors and friends
all bearing witness to memories and regrets
enshrouding me in silent rebuke
as she rather unkindly reminds me
how I fled the Ozarks at seventeen
got above my raising
brought home my uppity up-north accent
college learning
scoffed at my kinfolks’ ain’ts and cain’ts
double negatives
disregard for subject-verb agreement.

But that’s past, she says
and other than that
you was a pretty good daughter
and I been right sorry
I couldn’t help none
when you had them troubles.
I went and passed too young.
I done let you down.
Forgive me.

On her grave I left a dime store bouquet
conciliatory tears
and some words I knew would please her:
“You never done no such a thing,” I said.
“You was there the whole time.
I seen you.”

Peggy Schimmelman is a San Francisco Bay Area writer. Her work includes the poetry chapbook Crazytown (Writing Knights Press), an upcoming chapbook Tick-Tock (Finishing Line Press) and the novel Whippoorwills. She is co-author of Long Stories Short, by Wild Vine Writers. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in North American Review, sPARKLE & bLINK, Winning Writers, Novella-T, Aleola Journal of Poetry and Art, Pacific Review, The Comstock Review, Wild Musett, 100 Word Story and others. Learn more about Peggy at https://spark.adobe.com/page/Fseu7gmSgPOmI.

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Porch Step Twelve-Bar Blues

Some nights the blues just keep on comin’
and all you can do is strum that guitar
hummin’ some twelve-bar three-chord tune
about a moonstruck mama
            or a gamblin’ man
                        or your damn empty wallet
and you wail it to the stars ’cause so far
nobody else seems to want to listen.

So you throw in a verse about God’s indifference
not paying attention, not fixing the holes
in your low-down, bottomed-out, not-fair luck.
You’re not asking much
            a little cash above rent money
                        lovin’ in the midnight
a low-light, open mic blues jam
where people let you play your music.

Now thunder’s rollin’ in like a drunked-up drummer
heavy on the downbeat
            draggin’ on the backbeat
                        jackin’ up the time
            messin’ with your shuffle.
But you can’t quit now
got to write ’em where you find ’em
rope ’em in before they run

’cause your muse is in the porch swing
with one eye on the highway.
Why, tomorrow that girl might hit the road thumbin’
but tonight
those blues just keep on comin’.

Peggy Schimmelman is a San Francisco Bay Area writer. Her work includes the poetry chapbook Crazytown (Writing Knights Press), an upcoming chapbook Tick-Tock (Finishing Line Press) and the novel Whippoorwills. She is co-author of Long Stories Short, by Wild Vine Writers. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in North American Review, sPARKLE & bLINK, Winning Writers, Novella-T, Aleola Journal of Poetry and Art, Pacific Review, The Comstock Review, Wild Musett, 100 Word Story and others. Learn more about Peggy at https://spark.adobe.com/page/Fseu7gmSgPOmI.

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Rising

Scouring Google Earth,
for a village long ago
swallowed by the city,
I find a gray and lifeless
compound menacingly silent
to the camera.
            How what appears to be
an industrial slum can be
as impenetrable as time.
How we forget there is
a horizon behind us, where
real dreams fall off, grown
stale as the generations pass,
and we just keep stepping.

Daryl Muranaka lives with his family in New England. In his spare time, he enjoys aikido and taijiquan, and exploring his children’s dual heritages. He has written one book of poems, Hanami, and two chapbooks, The Minstrel of Belmont and Leading the Beast Home.

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The View from the Road

The view from the road goes by in a flash
even as the view of the town inches by.
The miles blur like a photo mishmash.
The years tick-tock as they multiply.
Above the shabby farm town, forgotten
and lonely, a graveyard sits on a hill.
Old chipped headstones lean together, hidden
by overgrown trees and the daffodils.
Like a flip book, this scene happens over
and over, time after time and again.
I’m surprised by how many there are—
the countryside littered with ancient townsmen.
Who cares for these graves, these buried fellows?
Not us rushing past them like empty echoes.

            familiar yet
            forgotten under a tree
            broken headstones

Daryl Muranaka lives with his family in New England. In his spare time, he enjoys aikido and taijiquan, and exploring his children’s dual heritages. He has written one book of poems, Hanami, and two chapbooks, The Minstrel of Belmont and Leading the Beast Home.

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At Highway Speed

At the border
between Mass & NY
there are billboards
reminding us there is
injustice in the world
that turns people
into vagabonds & wretches
for the curve of their faces,
the mishmash of their shades,
that blind justice
is both all-knowing
and unseeing,
that long shadows
are remote and dark
over this bare
and sullen landscape,
the empty trees scratching
at the chilly air,
the washed-out grass,
the dull palate
polite folk call “earth tones,”
that’s spread fast and thin
with jerky strokes,
because we don’t
ever look too hard
at the world as we pass.

Daryl Muranaka lives with his family in New England. In his spare time, he enjoys aikido and taijiquan, and exploring his children’s dual heritages. He has written one book of poems, Hanami, and two chapbooks, The Minstrel of Belmont and Leading the Beast Home.

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Infinite Jetlag

“Did you ever have a childhood dream?” he asked us. My English teacher smiled and patrolled around the classroom, filled with a mix of immigrants, mostly Latin American. He probably thought I was too. He caught me resting my eyes.

“Not like a going to sleep dream, Dhlma,” he explained. “I mean something that you’ve always wanted to do.”

A few students turned around and stared at me, chuckling. Regardless of having the best English in the class, and working late nights waitressing, I was the bitch that always fell asleep.

I shouldn’t be in here.

“I understand what you mean, teacher. And I don’t know. Probably. Yes.”

“Probably? Let us know. I’m interested to know more about you. And, please, call me Paul like the rest of the students.”

Now more students turned around, eager to hear about my old life and desires. They probably wanted to hear me say that my childhood dream was to move to America. But it wasn’t really. I only had one aching desire when I was younger.

I did have a childhood dream, quite a specific one, back in my home in Xinjiang, a place my clueless teacher had never heard of – a place where you treat authority with respect, whether it be teachers, police, or fathers.

I never did well there.

We were poor, and my father often angry. We did own one nice thing in our home – a vibrant glass bookshelf given as a wedding gift by my mother’s mother. It was only ever a happy home when my father was not there. In my shared bedroom with my two younger sisters, I learned to turn on Friends reruns to max volume – loud enough to mask the pelts and pounds of flesh my father laid onto my mother. ‘Watch Friends,’ my mother said in our native tongue, ‘it will help you learn English.’ The only dream I ever had was to hurt my father – to make him stop. One day, I entered our house. My mother wept on the floor. Books covered the floor, littered with colorful glass shards. Her back bled onto the white, dusty tile. My father panted and looked at me. ‘Look what your mother did.’ He turned away. I picked up a piece of turquoise glass. My eyes welled, and I squeezed it tight, until warm, smooth blood ran down my palm. Finally, I would charge and make it stop; I’d make my dream come true. Now.

But a hand gripped my forearm. My mother, on her knees, with tears falling down her purple face. “Dhlma,” she said, “don’t do it. Do not ruin your future for me.”

Our English teacher stood by the board, waiting with a smile and his arms crossed. “So, what was it? You wanted to be an actress or singer?” He let out a very American chuckle.

“No. Not quite.” I glanced down at my open palm, a dark scar curved across the soft, tan skin. Dhlma, my name, in a rough translation means close to the heart. I thought about telling him, letting this clueless teacher and everyone in the room glimpse a piece of my childhood from somewhere so far away. He wouldn’t get it. That was another life in another world.

“It doesn’t matter. My dream never came true.”

Joseph Stearman is a writer who’s previously been published in SPANK the CARP and Eunoia Review. Originally from Washington D.C., he now teaches in Shanghai. To keep up with Joe, follow him on Instagram: ufojoe13.

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Snow

Each silence you hear is lost in history.
Each sound is dead like the fish you ate
When animals were just inventing wine.
Children laugh like butterflies devoured by squirrels in the snow.

Ivan Peledov is a poet now living in Colorado. He likes to travel and to forget the places he has visited later. He has been recently published in Clockwise Cat, TXTOBJX, Unlikely Stories and Illuminations.

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