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Quiet Lightning is:

a literary nonprofit with a handful of ongoing projects,


including a bimonthly, submission-based reading series
featuring all forms of writing without introductions or
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opportunities + community events


sparkle + blink 102
© 2019 Quiet Lightning

cover art © Zoltron


zoltron.com

“Don’t Lose This” by Noah Sanders first appeared in The Fabulist


“Growth Rings” by Kelly Alsup first appeared in “when if ever alive”
(Finishing Line Press)
“Bathing My Dad” by Abe Becker
first appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal
set in Absara

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quietlightning.org
su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g
Contents
curated by
Hadas Goshen + Kevin Madrigal
featured artist
Zoltron | zoltron.com

A.A. Vincent as hallelujahs rend


the solar system 1
Noah Sanders Don’t Lose This 3
Anna Allen Sea Cucumbers 7
Chelsea Davis u up? 9
Kelly Alsup Growth Rings 11
Abe Becker Bathing My Dad 13
Emilie Osborn Eclipsed 15
Snowy Plovers 16
Genie Cartier Melissa 17
Diana Donovan Bodies at Rest 21
Don’t Think Twice 23
Fernando Meisenhalter ¡Ajúa! 25
Serena Chan Origami 27
Lauren Ito Two Pennies in San Francisco 29
More than Just Human 31
Lessons in Love 33
JC Walker Two Sentence Horror Stories 35
Richelle Lee Slota We All Walk in Shoes
Too Small 37
g is sponsor
et Lightnin ed b
Qu i y
Quiet Lightning
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet
Lightning is to foster a community based on literary
expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL
produces a bimonthly, submission-based reading series on
the first Monday of every other month, of which these
books (sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts.

Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the QL board is currently:

Evan Karp executive director


Chris Cole managing director
Meghan Thornton treasurer
Kelsey Schimmelman secretary
Christine No producer
Lisa Church curator liaison
Edmund Zagorin disruptor
Katie Tandy disruptor
Hadas Goshen disruptor
Sophia Passin disruptor

If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in


helping—on any level—please send us a line:

e v an @ qui et light nin g . o rg


Vincent
A.A.

a alleluja hs
rendsth
he s o lar s yst e m
I.

& I wonder whether hallelujahs rend the solar system


or just the earth in judgment
or if they dance fast in tune to the clouds

& I wonder whether or not the things we fear


are apparitions of every supposed-dead dream
that laugh with the forest standing above it

& I wonder why we scream with our eyes open


as our mouths collapse outwards
as we throw out our courage to expose the sobbing
callouses

& I wonder how it was that being exposed


didn’t mean shelter but sorrow
as we are robbed of the joy of being rewritten

& I wonder why we are so satisfied to


settle ourselves in contradiction to peace
so confident in our authority

& I wonder why so much of the world is in strife


with its body & its soul
hiding prayers of its true nature of goodness

1
& I wonder whether people realize that
the immoral good will bury them in emptiness
& others without interdependence

& I wonder why it’s so hard to turn away


when everything warns you it’s going blank
the air crystallized above & shattered into

& this poem cries for all the things that


don’t know they exist
does the nighttime have a recollection of all the times
it resets grief?

II.

& I wonder why indifference


is such a gentle hatred

& I wonder why justification is only probable


when the outcome suffocates the dead

& I wonder why love so often drains to a pallor of anger


blinded in the face of the one it claims as its own

& I wonder where death goes when it gets tired of all


the things on its back?
does it get tired of carrying the heavy jar?

& I wonder why we all pull behind us the sins of others


in an attempt to mask our own

& I wonder why we substitute our strength


for the comfort of weakness

2 A.A. Vincent
ah Sanders
No

Don’t Lose This


Stella sits in the window frame and rolls the big globe
of dirty plastic in her tiny hands. Raoul, 4’10” and the
shortest kid in his class, stands a few feet behind her.
“I’m telling you,” Stella says, angelic, “the man said this
was a crystal ball, and that if we could figure it out,
there was magic in it.”

“Where’d you get money for that Stella?” Raoul


shuffles from one foot to the next, rubs together the
two quarters in the pocket of his oversized cargo
shorts, and hopes someone didn’t take Stella for her
snack money again.

“He didn’t want any money,” she says with a broad smile,
“he just said,” and her tone becomes conspiratorial,
“‘Don’t lose this girl, don’t forget it either.’ And then he
just pushed his big old shopping cart down the street.”

Raoul is giving her his older-brother look from the


hallway, arms crossed, dark eyes distrusting. “I’m not
kidding!” she shrieks, grabbing the plastic sphere with
two hands and shaking it violently in his direction, her
mouth gritted in anger.

Raoul takes a few steps back. Stella’s been getting


mad lately, getting in trouble in her 4th grade class
for hitting a few of the other girls, and she’s liable to

3
toss that dirty old globe at him, regardless of its magic
powers. “Alright, alright Stell, stop waving it at me.”

“Stop not believin’ me then, Raoul!” And she drawls


out the whole of his name in some approximation of
a cat’s howl.

Stella’s now sitting cross-legged with the plastic globe


cushioned between her pink sweat-pant-clad legs.
“What should we ask it, Raoul?” she says, the anger
gone, all of her focus now directed at this supposed
magic item. Outside, a car alarm bleeps long and flat
and persistent.

He checks his watch, a grimy little black thing he


found in the gutter; their mom will be home soon.
She usually pops back up around now, either drunk or
looking to drink, and it’s probably best if she doesn’t
find them mucking around with some filthy thing
Stella brought off the street.

Stella’s looking at him now though, her eyes wide and


wet with eager anticipation, a little patch of sunlight
illuminating the thin scar that cuts across her forehead.
Raoul scrunches his mouth up and takes a step forward
out of the doorway.

“Okay, let’s ask it what you’re going to be when you


grow up, Stell. You’re always saying you want to be a
plumber, but who knows,” and he lifts his hands like
he saw in a movie, “but who knows what the crystal
ball will say.”

Stella squeals in laughter for a second, and then stops,

4 N oa h S an de r s
suddenly serious, all of her nine-year-old attention
coming to bear. “Let’s ask where dad is and if he’s ever
coming back.”

Raoul doesn’t say yes or no, he just sits down on the


dirty stretch of carpet between the end of the bed and
the bay window stoop. Stella slowly lowers herself
so she’s sitting across from him, the plastic globe in
between them.

They place their hands on the scratched surface of the


globe; Raoul closes his eyes, hoping Stella has done the
same. “Um,” he says, suddenly nervous, “We wanted to
ask,” he inhales loudly from his nose, “where our dad
went?”

They’re both quiet, the only sound a woman’s loud


crow of laughter outside and the gentle in-out of their
breath. Raoul feels the globe suddenly grow warm,
hears Stella gasp quietly and then a wave of sounds
and images hop, skip, jump across his brain.

He hears his mother and father, drunk, and laying in to


each other on the street in front of the hotel. He sees
them in the light of the doorway, their arms locked
in something between a hug and a wrestling hold. He
sees Stella then standing next to them, younger then, a
little more innocent, her arms reaching up.

His mom curses and her father swings his arm wildly,
striking Stella in the forehead, the corner of his watch
making contact with a fleshy thump.

He hears a scream and sees a flash of something wet

Noah Sande rs 5
and red and sees Stella fall and his father, quickly too
sober for the moment, throw his arms up and bellow
like a sick animal before screaming a final “fuck you”
to their mom and charging down the stairs. He sees
Stella sitting on the ground screaming and his mom
trying not to sway saying, “Oh baby, it’ll be okay,” over
and over again.

And then the images and sounds are gone. He feels


tears on his face and opens his eyes slowly expecting
to see the same from Stella, but she’s just staring back
at him, almost all of her teeth exposed in a smile.

“Daddy looked so happy,” she says, and he starts to


respond but hears the front door of the hotel slam shut
and his mother yell, “Stella? Raoul? I brought food
from the corner store.” Stella shoots up and runs out
the door yelling “mommy,” the plastic globe already
forgotten.

Raoul wipes away the wetness from his face and slowly
puts the globe on the ground.

Don’t lose this, he thinks, don’t forget it either.

6 N oa h S an de r s
Allen
Anna

Sea Cucumbers
I dreamt last night that you were a walrus
And I had a lucrative walrus-hunting business
I wanted your tusks to make into fine jewelry
For rich wives

I stalked you for days


Eventually becoming charmed by your
Comedic ways
Clumsily diving, giving high-fives
Barking your approval of the fish we threw
Into the ocean

When I stabbed you on the fourth day,


Red mist blanketing my face,
Clouds weighing down my timid shoulders
It was the most difficult thing I’d ever done
I kept a tusk for my own
But pieces of you don’t make a you
I’m not sure what that means, love

But I’ve been looking up the dream


Interpretation of walruses for eight hours
Does it mean she’s alive or dead?

Your name sits in my stomach like lead


I’ve swallowed it again
Every time I said your name,

7
I counted
I knew I wouldn’t have the privilege of saying
It for very long
You’re not the type to let me have you
For very long

The first time we fought, I traced my fingertip


Over your mouth and you forgave me for
Crimes I was framed of
Just like that
You took me back

Now I’m sleeping all day,


Drinking myself earnest again
Dreaming it could be like that
Kissing in the opera seats
Fucking with the windows open
Wishing for the same thing
Every night, before we sleep

I’m just here


Wondering what walruses eat.

8 An n a A l l e n
lsea Davis
Che

u up?
I find them in the mornings,
the small hangovers
from last night’s needs.
Tuesday, 2:24AM, Facebook message: “U up?”
Thursday, 4:16AM, Instagram DM: “sup?”
Saturday, 11:51PM, a text: “hey How arc yoou?”
Sunday, 12:01AM, a text: “Hey can u talk otp?”
Sunday, 12:05AM, a text: “CHELS I really need to
talk to you.”
Sunday, 12:07AM: missed call.
12:10 am: missed call.
12:12AM: missed call.
12:12AM: missed call.
No voicemail.
Missed call.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.


Your life, I mean.
You were supposed to
fall in love. You were supposed to
have a friend, or four. You were supposed to
paint or teach or serve coffee or
surf. You were supposed to
leave your house from time to time, maybe
even every day. You were supposed to
know the feeling of the sun on
your face. I was not supposed

9
to be the sun around which you
spun
and spun
and spun.

But I know you only call me in the night,


brother,
because that is when the voices call
you. And I know that there’s some hope
at first, when they start, because they start
so softly. Hardly whispers, quick
static hisses in your ear, so distant they
are almost only in your head. But I know
that they come closer. And I know
they are persistent. And I know they know
your name. And they know that it is
3AM, and you
are up.

10 C h e ls e a Dav i s
y Alsup
Kell

G r o wth Rin g s
I remember, years ago, my first times lying with men.
Sometimes
I would not wear underwear, and this

discovery would be the thing that excited them—or


maybe it would be
my narrow belly, a smooth lake where they could lap.
Sometimes I would feel

shy of my small breasts, but other times I was fearless


as a warrior—
with steel eyes, I surrendered my spear-tip nipples,
unreservedly succulent.

Things I enjoyed about them: broadness of chest,


flatness of nipple. Roundedness
of shoulders. The place, of course, where pubic hair
begins, darkly—

most earthen of browns and raven-black, bristly nests.


To hold them now, I am not sure
I can delight as much, for all the freshness my eyes
had then. Each person’s

unique structures like first-held vistas in foreign


countries. And, I’m not so sure
that revealing the moon-slopes of my thighs or
burls of my buttocks, rich
11
for climbing, would now fulfill as much bravery as it
once did. But I do suppose
there is still the matter of what I hold inside—the
phloem that descends

from the top of where I have gathered all water—


and drips, cleanly, at my roots, where slick snails
make loose

my joints and heat many layers of what has fallen.


And the xylem that
retrieves it, bending accelerated nerves up through
my trunk and its vessels,

curling my limbs and voyaging from my throat,


its brightest feathers in fertile song after song after
song after song after song—

12 K e l ly A ls up
Abe Becker

Bathing My Dad
The tubes. There were fewer than usual but only to
make closing the door possible & eliminate the risk
of cannulas funneling shower water into his lungs I
imagined drooping like punctured balloons (children’s
birthday balloons, the colors of his favorite team, of
fun & a child’s energy (he was six when the vaccine
became available, five when he caught polio (I think?
He never told me I could ask about his health which
I understood to mean BOOM!))) his lungs were faulty
boobytraps on a battlefield so wrought with despair
to choose to go there was just cruel was the opposite
of the impetus to scream ILOVEYOUILOVEME
every time he asked how I was & my silence was like
extension- cord tripping – there would be fewer cords
& tubes without cannulas

but less margin for error too, less room for Clyde Klutz
over here (one of his favorite ballplayer names) – I’m
my least clumsy at work caregiving but my clients
aren’t this precarious & not my father who would be
NAKED for the second time ever, whom I never even
hugged right or showed my writing to after he found
the first poem too crass (his semi-girlfriend post-
divorce found another about his disability on You
Tube & he called to ask if it was true (I assumed he
meant the line “he looks like a resuscitated corpse”
but he wanted to know if I really loved him “like a

13
seal loves the sun” (not often enough but awestruck
when it BOOM! (when he called I was on a work trip
with my main client who loves his dad easily as I hate
myself, & whom I had just bathed))))

Yea. My sister asked if I could do it. He was having


surgery the next day & smelled like he hadn’t showered
since a tracheostomy became so necessary he not
only admitted his health was a problem but that he
didn’t think this procedure could solve it. If he lived
I might never hear his voice again. If I touched him
our skin might break into hives full of false memories
we craved (like his arm might hatch the wedding or
grandkids I never provided, my consternating brows
might burst into battalions of times when I believed
he was proud of me with such religious blindness it
could fight the regret that would lay siege constantly
if this was the last time (the first I knew my existence
was a net positive (wow that’s heavy))). Really, I
worried about distraction, dissociating, disastrous
unrelenting visions of silly (his lungs sucking me
into abstractions of who we should have been to each
other (my mind wandering to untethered traipsing
through the atmosphere – flying cats – pollen – our
lives as adjacent plants (or maybe him as the bee
who pollinated mom? (that sounds too scientifically
confusing even for dissociation ) ) ) )

OK: I just wanted to get high. I brought weed gummies


to try & sleep after he did (otherwise I’d lie on his
couch, my thoughts wrought with parenthesis (like a
poem about too much (like a moment it’s more logical
to fuck up than do your job (to treat my dad as client
not dying God))))

14 Ab e B e c k e r
lie Osborn
Emi

Eclipsed
How could the moon eclipse the sun?
A huge gaseous ball of flames and light obscured by that
cold rock so close to Earth How could I eclipse you?
My so much bigger man—
fifty years I have lived in your shadow.
A female moon to your explosive sun.
We sparred and sometimes fought -
no winners in that Grecian war of gods—Hephastus and
Athena creating sparks.
Now we are winding down,
our fuels decreasing,
we circle round our family Earth. You, so much brighter,
me, the healer, orbitting together to our inevitable
eclipse.

15
Snowy Plovers

Older women with short white hair


in polar fleece coats perch
on the wooden benches in the chapel—
a New England covey.
After the service we gather at the farm
drink hot coffee and tea standing up
as the day grows colder, darker.
All the cousins, nieces, nephews, grandchildren
hover around the widow,
a spry white bird encircled by her flock
she looks slighted startled.
Years of caring now over, she seems ready to fly.
At ninety she still has plans to travel, care for her
chicks and teach. The older women are the last
to leave.

16 E mi l i e Os b or n
ie Cartier
Gen

Melissa
The board wasn’t showing his gate yet. That’s how early
he was. He stood there watching numbers and letters
change for a while, then he walked to the security line.
There were so few people there that he just ducked
under the ropes, the ones that were meant to delineate
the flow of the line. So people could be diverted the
way a river is diverted when humans want to create
a lake. He poured through the line quickly, slipping
off his shoes as he got closer to the machines, placing
them neatly in a grey bin next to his jacket, his keys,
his phone. No message on the screen yet from Melissa.

He walked through the scanner, the cold carpet on


his socked feet, and met his luggage on the conveyer
belt. It stopped and a chubby hand fell on top of the
suitcase as he reached for it.

“Is this yours, sir?”

He nodded.

The man pulled the bag aside onto a table and opened
it, rifling through the contents. It hurt to watch his
belongings disrupted; they had all been arranged to
fit. Now the right angles were all poking each other
haphazardly.

17
“This one is over the ounce limit,” the man said, holding
up a bottle of hot sauce. He had bought it as a gift for
his mother, for her collection.

“You can check this bag, or else we’ll have to take this
away.”

“No,” he sputtered. He didn’t check bags. He went


to great lengths not to. He didn’t like other people
handling them and Melissa didn’t like waiting for
them on that stupid carousel after the flight.

The man threw the hot sauce in a bin with a bunch


of oversized water bottles and soaps. He wondered if
the agents went through it later and took the things
they liked. When he got his bag back, he wanted to
put everything back in place right away, but there
were too many people waiting behind him. He carried
his open bag like an injured puppy over to the nearest
bench, shoeless, and carefully replaced everything the
man had disturbed. He was still so early.

Melissa always complained that he took too long to


do everything, that he made her wait. How is it possible,
she always said, her eyes up to the ceiling in irritation,
what could you possibly be doing that takes so long?

He tried his best to move faster. But he didn’t know


how. Before we leave, he thought, I have to put on my
clothes, brush my hair, grab my keys… He talked through
it with her, explaining all the things he had to do and
that they took a certain amount of time. But I get
dressed too, she said. I have more hair to brush than you do.
I just don’t understand how it takes you so much longer. He

18 Ge n i e Car t i e r
thought through the sequences over and over again,
but he could never understand it. It was like Melissa
was able to warp time.

He made his way to the screens, which had just begun


to show his gate number. At the gate, the previous plane
had just landed. He found a seat facing the hallway so
he would see her when she arrived. He waited.

He watched the people go back and forth, finding


their gates. He tried to guess which flights they were
on based on their clothing. Flip flops and surf t-shirt?
San Diego. Puffy jacket with fur around the hood?
Denver. Most people were looking at their phones or
had their headphones in. Or both.

He thought about the hot sauce in the agent’s sweaty


hands. His mom would have liked it. She would really
like Melissa though, and that was more important.

He listened to the announcements from nearby


gates, paging people who were late. He heard the
announcement from his own gate, that the flight was
boarding. He stayed where he was, looking for Melissa
among the faces in the crowd.

He waited until the last person had boarded. The


crackly voice overhead called his name.

He stood up slowly, his eyes lingering on the hallway.

“I’m here,” he said, and handed the flight attendant his


ticket. He heard the crackly voice call Melissa’s name
as he walked down the wobbly tunnel to the plane.

Ge ni e Cart i e r 19
“I’m sorry,” the flight attendant said, “we’re out of
overhead space. You’ll have to check your bag.”

He stared at her blankly. Her lipstick covered her


chapped lips like chalk over gravel.

“Fine,” he said.

20 Ge n i e Car t i e r
na Donovan
Dia

Bodies at Rest
Our day of reckoning came long after we had stood
shoulder to shoulder under the same sky—with its
rays of light

that travelled ninety-two million miles to reach us—


asking
Where did we come from? Where are we going?

You sent pictures from where they filmed The Bridges


of Madison County
and you arrived on your motorcycle, holding out a hat
you bought me in Eureka.

We sat in the fog where the Russian River meets the


Pacific
and dreamed of all the faraway places we could
explore.

We wandered through art galleries—patterns


emerging
from a distance, stories of our past under layers of
pigment.

You were convinced I had a message to deliver


and I was afraid of losing you all over again—
which I did

21
on the day when you spoke of the dangers of
worshiping false idols
and said you would turn from me to not go against
God.

You read out loud from your dog-eared book of daily


affirmations
while a woman at the next table pretended not to
eavesdrop.

And before I knew it, we were exiled—at least I was—


while you spoke of religion, I was imagining your
hands on my skin.

It was like the law of physics that says an object


can arrive at its point in space even before it leaves.

Still—wasn’t it beautiful?
The garden, the world at our feet.

22 D i an a D o n ovan
Don’t Think Twice

The time came to speak the truth in love


I wanted to marry you when I met you, he confessed
Showing up decades later, eyes bright, a little weary
All those years she never stopped dreaming about him.

I wanted to marry you when I met you, he confessed


Though they’d buried the past—late nights listening
to Bob Dylan
All those years she never stopped dreaming about him
It was a pure miscalculation (he was better at Math).

Though they’d buried the past—late nights listening


to Bob Dylan
She often imagined they would be together, but not
like that—not trapped
It was a pure miscalculation (he was better at Math)
And yes—it was a mistake not to tell him about the
pregnancy.

She often imagined they would be together, but not


like that—not trapped
I have a confession of my own, she began, looking in her
bag for the photo
And yes—it was a mistake not to tell him about the
pregnancy
We have a daughter—I gave her up for adoption—she lives
in San Francisco.
Di ana Donovan 23
I have a confession of my own, she began, looking in her
bag for the photo
Showing up decades later, eyes bright, a little weary
We have a daughter—I gave her up for adoption—she
lives in San Francisco
The time came to speak the truth in love.

24 D i an a D o n ovan
n do Meisenha
r na lt
er
Fe
¡ Aj ú a! *

(*That’s Yee-ha! in Spanish)

Yadira and I are having sex when she breaks it to me


that she’s married, and I get an even bigger erection,
which I know is totally inappropriate.
“What are we going to do?” I ask.
“We could snuggle,” she says.
“I’m serious, Yadira. This worries me.”
“Oh, relax,” she says. “Do what I do. Just forget about it,
and yell ¡ajúa!”
This is her solution to everything.
“But I’m from Mexico City,” I say. “Self-hating urban
Mexicans don’t go around yelling ¡ajúa! We’re far too
repressed for that.”
“Well,” she says. “I’m from Sinaloa, the Mexican Wild
North, and we always yell ¡ajúa!”
Something tells me I’m not reaching her. I knew she
was a wild one since she told me about her business
selling her used panties on the internet, but I never
said anything because she was making such good
money. Who was I to complain?
But now that I can see how far she can go I realize
I have no idea what to do with her, not to mention
with all those poor pervs on the internet buying
her underwear unaware of the additional and
unintended pheromones they’re inhaling now that
Yadira and I are exchanging fluids on a regular basis.

25
(This, incidentally, is why I never buy stuff from the
internet.)
“So,” she says, “are you in, or are you out?”
I look into her light brown norteña eyes.
“I’m in,” I say.
So we swim in the darkness of her room, through
reckless and unknown possibilities and the dangers of
ill-advised and short-term ecstasy.
“¡Ajúa!” I cry, because I’m happy and, goddamit, because
it’s good to be alive, even if you have no idea what’s
going on.

26 D i an a D o n ovan
na Chan
Sere

Origami
what I would have done
for a pair of slender collarbones
soaring gracefully above my chest
like weightless hollow bird bones

but I am no dainty thing.


I do not flutter under male gaze
and yes I exist beyond
being held in their eyes

which have somehow


found their way behind mine,
beholden to an image of beauty
so porcelain under this weight.

what I would have done


or not have done,
how I stretched and contorted to
repeat in this mind of mine

as if chanting:
just a little more,
just a little less.
I am no origami doll
fold it a little here
tuck it in there
smooth the wrinkles,

27
cut and paste

to look the same—


I don’t dissolve in a pool of tears,
I have built this body of mine
cell by cell by scar by nerve

goodbye to years of hurt


I still carry deep in my ribcage.
the pit of envy is a bitter seed
so I try to relish instead in the fruit

and flower a little more every day


blooming my being from my heart
and propping open the doors—
isn’t that what collarbones are for?

28 S e r e n a C h an
Lauren Ito

T w o P en n ie s i n
San Francisco
Flying body like a rag doll

Dressed in funeral black

Black like the bars of corner store doors and windows

Prison cells that only speaks in “ATM Inside”

Two pennies, please

Black like the boy’s memorial candle soot that lingers


two blocks down

Weeping up his photo frame

At most 14?

When he tip his head back to the black sky knowing
this city would swallow him whole?
Spit his bones to the sidewalk

Miss the trashcan, no recycle

Rattling bottle caps on concrete


This graveyard of chewing gum



Battered by shih tzus in sweaters

Snakeskin dress shoes
saffron yellow
barbershop bound
Allbirds sneakers pimping time

Soles bound to feet bound to hands bound to
phones
We worship screens these days

29
Plastic rose bouquet fights for real estate
Wilting balloons drop their gazes

“We made a house from air” they whisper


“We made a street corner a symphony”

Huddled shadow two blocks down


Bootstrap veins strain skin

Eyes like overwatered bulbs Exhuming themselves
from soil Cardboard byline reads
“Vet—Anything Helps”

White Styrofoam cup meets San Francisco
Draped in bougainvillea wearing a crown full of
teeth
She drops two pennies in his cup.

30 Laur e n I t o
More than Just Human

To my date who says “there’s only one race—the


human race”
And cultural pride is a “toxin on this earth”
The man who prioritizes racial identity 8th or 10th
Behind human, vegan, dog lover
And hip hop fan

Under what rock are you living?


Do you not see the shades of bodies slain in these
streets?

Your skin is of toasted coconut


Hair black as midnight
Eyes glisten like your father’s
Who came here to escape a war pummeling his
country
That spattered his likeness across screens
Then the walls of the tea shop next door
In the plaza he learned to ride a bike
In the market stall your grandmother’s hands plucked
dates, and grapes and cucumbers for his lunch
Her eardrums permanently ring from the bombs that
seared them
Craving nothing more than the chirps of canaries
once again

So now I ask
Who maimed you?
How did it happen?

Lau re n It o 31
Was it boys who pummeled your face with grimaces
at recess?
Or girls who wouldn’t dance with you because your
skin color clashed with their prom dress
Did the media that consumed you?
Until you pander to voices that can’t even pronounce
your name
My heart aches for you
For your future children
Who will one day look up at you over a bowl of
grapes
Eyes glistening
Canaries chirping
Bombs rattling in their blood
And ask,

“Daddy, who am I?”

I beg of you
Answer more than just
Human.

32 Laur e n I t o
Lessons in Love

“Grandma, what was it like in Oahu during the war?”



[silence]

“Do you remember were you were the day of Pearl


Harbor?”

[silence]

“Did you and grandpa experience any prejudice during


that time?”

[silence]

My grandmother taught me sometimes love sounds


like silence
The craft of forgetting an language of practiced
protection

Let me love you until this pain only rattles in your


marrow, without seeping into skin
Let me love you until some stories evaporate from the
mouths of your sons and daughters
Let me love you until you won’t be torn in two by a
country that never learned how to reciprocate
love

Her stubborn tongue

Lau re n It o 33
Loved
And loved
And loved

Through our questions


until her last breath.

Rewriting our creation stories


I excavate love languages
Weave poems from the fossils
Artifacts are meant to be inherited.

34 Laur e n I t o
JC Walker

T w o Senten c e
H o r r o r St o r i e s
The knocking at the front door was insistently loud.
It startled me as I stood on the stoop looking for my keys.

To my ears came the sound of the knocking of my knees.


Strange thought I as I looked at my stumps.

Just the thought of the parasites gave me goosebumps.


But I exaggerate, when they rip through my flesh they’re
only the size of small ducks.

How much wood does a woodchuck chuck when it


chucks?
As he fell into the burrow Pinochio wished he’d been
better at math.

In the end there was a total bloodbath.


Ahh, a soak in virgin blood is so invigorating.

The client went to Yelp and gave me a bad rating.


He wanted me to save his mother’s heart for him to eat.

We made some delicious cakes from Buckwheat.


We’re saving Spanky and Alfalfa to barbecue.

I was so stressed over how my investments would


accrue.
So I relaxed when I saw the first mushroom cloud.
35
h elle Lee Slot
We A Ric a
ll Walk i o S m all
e s T o
A D r a m n Sh o
atic. Monologue
Hello. My name is Norma. Welcome to my apartment.
Welcome to my refuge. Shoes. You might say I like
shoes, shoes, more than people. I like shoes more
than you. I don’t like you. I want to make it clear I
like men’s shoes, but I don’t like men. I don’t like
women. And, like I said, I don’t like people. I’m not
a foot woman, either. I can take or leave feet. What
I am is, I am a shoe woman and I’m a trans woman,
a trans dead man’s shoe woman. And it’s not cross-
dressing. It’s only shoes, okay? Like a warm hug on
a cold day. Okay? Okay. From estate sales. I collect
them from estate sales. There’s energy in dead men’s
shoes. Not new shoes. Used. New shoes have no soul.
Dead men’s shoes have soul Dead men’s shoes are little
personalities just waiting to be put on. They make me
feel special. Give me that special rush.

I’m at all the estate sales. Always have; always will.


Even when I had a job, even when I had money, I got
all my shoes this way. Even before I got on SSI for my
mental disability.

Anyway, I’m in line at this estate sale an hour early


waiting for it to open. I’m wearing some handmade
Italian Bally’s and they are making me feel special
like my mother holding me tight and there’s this

37
sense of something important about to happen and it’s
all like in a dream.

It’s a hundred-year-old clapboard in a better part of


town. Promising setup for quality shoes. Big hand-
lettered sign in the front yard: “Estate sale. Entire
contents of house. Today only.” Everything has the
look of a family run, no-dealer, sale. It has the smell of
good pickings and low prices.

So, the word coming through the line, snaking down


the sidewalk, waiting, is that this is a dead psychiatrist’s
stuff estate sale, and I start feeling a little disappointed.
I’ve never been impressed with psychiatrist’s shoes
and I’ve stared at a lot of psychiatrist’s shoes. When
the psychiatrist’s widow opens the door, I ask her, her
husband’s shoe size. She gives me a weird look and
ducks back in the door.

When the estate sale finally opens, I’m first up the


stairs to the back bedroom. Over the bed is a photo of
C.G. Jung. So, he’s a Jungian. Jung wrote movingly and
with great insight about shoes. Jung once said, “We all
walk in shoes too small.” Not me.

That’s when I spy shoes under the dead psychiatrist’s


bed.

I get on my knees. Oh, My Lord! Florsheim Imperial


wing tips! With the V-Cleat!

They are truly brown, leather-soled, beauties! Nine

38 R i c h e l l e L e e S l o ta
regulars. My size! They are gorgeous. Every important
man in the 1950’s and 60’s wore them. Nixon was an
Imperial man who wore his shoes too small.

I sit on his bed, put on his shoes, and my squished feet


are lovin’ it. They fit so perfectly tight they scare me.
My toes tremble. I search the chest-of-drawers, the
closet, for the rest of what he left behind. Argyle socks,
bow ties, worn pants, tobacco-stained shirts, a blue
serge suit not my size.

Then, in the second closet––visions of heaven––twenty


pairs of the best hand-made Italian loafers, French
goatskin pumps, Destra three-tone brown calfskin
wing-tip oxfords, Fratelli Borgioli handmade gray eel
leather wing-tip dress shoes, Bartello Ultimo’s. All 9
regulars! I love this man! I should have done therapy
with this man! He would have understood me, for
Christ sake! He would have taken me off medication
and told me I was normal!

I fill a plastic laundry basket with all the shoes.


Downstairs, heart pounding, I dicker with the widow.

“Five hundred for everything,” the widow says.

“Three hundred bucks?”

“Five.”

Four hundred?”

“I said five.”

Ri ch e lle Le e Slota 39
“Ok, ok.”

My hand trembles forking over 5 C notes. For years


the dead man’s shoes stand silent in my closet where I
keep the best of the best.

My therapist keeps telling me I need to get out more.


“There’s more to life than cramped shoes,” she says.
“Find employment!”

And I can sort of see her point. Even if she’s 6 feet tall
and wears 4-inch heels, of which I strongly disapprove.
So uncalled for.

To make a long monologue short, I apply at


Nordstrom’s shoe department, they meet my standards
and I consent to let them hire me.

Well, I say to myself, a new job requires impressive


shoes, new powers, and adjusted medication. I feel
called to stand before the open closet door, the dead
man’s shoes speaking to me in tongues.

The first day at work, completely against my


therapist’s advice, I confide in a telepathic co-worker
who immediately leers down at my shoes, laughs, and
intones, “Dead psychiatrist’s shoes! Owww, spooky!”

“Shuussh! You shall fear me!” I say.

I take off one Florsheim Imperial wing tip, grab his


arm, pull him toward me, and hold the shoe under his
nose,

40 R i c h e l l e L e e S l o ta
“Without my foot, this is an empty shoe that can’t ever
do anything. It can’t walk by itself.” I hold up one
stockinged foot toward his face. I wiggle my toes, “My
feet are Gods!”

And that’s how I became a foot-woman.

Ri ch e lle Le e Slota 41
42 R i c h e l l e L e e S l o ta
- november 4, 2019 -

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