Stories & Poems,
An Anthology from Main Street Rag
Edited by Jane Andrews
ISBN: 978-1-59948-586-7, 252 pages, $14.95
Release date: November 1, 2016
Suzanne Adams has been an actor, theater teacher, and chaser of Mountain Pine Beetles in Colorado’s Ponderosa Pine forests. She also writes and tells stories. “The Severed Hand,” which won a prize in the Elizabeth Simpson Smith Short Story Contest sponsored by the Charlotte Writers’ Club, is a story she told her granddaughters when one of them asked what the word “severed” meant. The child had nightmares for weeks.
Sheikha A. hails from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. With over 60 publications in various print/online publications such as Red Fez, Ygdrasil, A New Ulster, The Penmen Review, Pyrokinection, Mad Swirl to name a few, and anthologies by Silver Birch Press and Kind of a Hurricane Press, she has also authored a short poetry collection titled Spaced (Hammer and Anvil Books) available on kindle. Her poems have also been recited at two separate poetry reading events held in Greece. She edits poetry for eFiction India.
Sally Bliumis-Dunn teaches Modern Poetry at Manhattanville College and at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Her poems have appeared in New Ohio Review, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, PLUME, Poetry London, The Bellevue Literary Review, the NYT, PBS NewsHour, Terrain.Org, upstreet, The Writer’sAlmanac , The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day, and Ted Kooser’s newspaper column, among others. In 2002, she was a finalist for the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize. Her two books, Talking Underwater and Second Skin were published by Wind Publications in 2007 and 2009, respectively.
Andrew Bourelle’s fiction has been published widely in a variety of literary journals. His fiction has appeared in other Main Street Rag anthologies, including Aftermath and Crossing Lines. His story “Cowboy Justice,” originally published in Law and Disorder from Main Street Rag, was reprinted in The Best American Mystery Stories 2015.
Taylor John Bruck is a twenty-something rascal from Kingston, New York. He starred as lead villain Tommy Rocketship in the indie cult film They Read By Night. Most of his time is spent arguing with truck drivers and climbing fake rocks for fun.
Ann Cefola is author of Face Painting in the Dark (Dos Madres Press, 2014), St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped (Kattywompus Press, 2011), Sugaring (Dancing Girl Press, 2007), and the translation Hence this cradle (Seismicity Editions, 2007). A Witter Bynner Poetry Translation Residency recipient, she also received the Robert Penn Warren Award judged by John Ashbery. Her work appears in journals such as Feminist Studies and Natural Bridge, and translations in Eleven-Eleven, Exchanges, and Inventory among others. For more about Ann, see www.anncefola.com and www.annogram.blospot.com.
Cecilia Eichenberger is a research grants specialist at Duke University by day. By night, she writes short stories that are mostly rejected by the main stream because they have a paranormal bent. Yet she hates being lumped with vampires and werewolves, so she is thrilled to be included in a classy literary journal. Recently she had to out herself as her alter ego Lilith Giardini, author of the novel Fallen Far from the Tree, a quirky quest for self-fulfillment, available on Amazon.com. Fallen contains no paranormal aspects, but the author usually explores frontiers of the mind. Her latest: Ufology and its vast array of conspiracy theories as to whether angels are guiding us or evil aliens will consume us.
Diana Estigarribia is a science fiction and horror writer who resides in the unpredictable wormhole known as New York City. Her fiction appears in 2113 from The Subtopian Press. In 2015 she was a VONA/Voices Writing Workshop fellow, studying with award-winning author Tananarive Due. You can find Diana on Twitter as @Dhyana_Writes and blogging about way-too-many fandoms at Write Revolution: www.tumblr.com/blog/writerrevolution.
[Flannery Author Bio]
Kathie Giorgio’s fifth book, "Oddities and Endings: The Collected Stories of Kathie Giorgio", a collection of 40 stories published in literary magazines, will be released by MSR in 2016. She is the author of three novels, “The Home For Wayward Clocks”, “Learning To Tell (A Life)Time”, and “Rise From The River”, and a short story collection, “Enlarged Hearts”, all by MSR. “Clocks” received the Outstanding Achievement award by the Wisconsin Library Association and was nominated for the Paterson Fiction Award. “Hearts” was selected for the the 99 Summer Must-Reads by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2012, and “River” was selected for the same list in 2015. Giorgio’s short stories and poems have appeared in over 100 literary magazines and anthologies.
Jack Granath is a librarian in Kansas. His poems have appeared in Poetry East, Rattle, and North American Review, as well as in a couple of issues of Main Street Rag.
Jeanie Greensfelder wrote Biting the Apple (Penciled In, 2012), and Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith (Penciled In, 2015). Her poems have been published at Writer’s Almanac and American Life in Poetry; in anthologies: Paris, Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems, and 30 Years of Corner of the Mouth; and in journals: Askew, Miramar, Orbis, Kaleidoscope, Riptide, Falling Star, If&When and others. She won the Lillian Dean Poetry Award, 2013. A psychologist, she seeks to understand herself and others on this shared journey, filled, as Joseph Campbell wrote, with sorrowful joys and joyful sorrows.
Rasma Haidri grew up in Tennessee and currently lives on the arctic seacoast of Norway where she teaches British and American studies. Her poems and essays have been widely anthologized by publishers including Puddinghouse, Seal Press, Bayeux Arts, Marion Street Press, The Chicago Review Press and Grayson Books. Literary journals featuring her work include Sycamore Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Passages North, Runes and The I-70 Review. Her most recent work is forthcoming in Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women, and Songs for a Passbook Torch: Poems about Nelson Mandela. Among her distinctions are the Southern Women Writers Association Emerging Writer Award in Creative Non-fiction, and the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters & Science Poetry Award.
Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from non-fiction to poetry and he is currently reliving a boyhood passion for science fiction. He has published numerous SF short stories and is building up to longer pieces as he learns more about the universe. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong.
Terresa Cooper Haskew writes poetry and short fiction from her retirement home on Lake Murray, near Prosperity, SC. Her poems and sometimes strange stories have appeared in journals such as Atlanta Review, Cold Mountain, Iodine, Kakalak and Main Street Rag. She was awarded the Poetry Society of South Carolina’s 2015 Starkey Flythe Award, the Emrys Journal 2013 Nancy Dew Taylor Poetry Award and the Press 53 2010 First Prize for Poetry. Her poetry chapbook “Breaking Commandments” is available through Main Street Rag Publishing Company at http://mainstreetrag.com/bookstore/product/breaking-commandments/.
Nancy J. Hayden is a writer, artist, and organic farmer living in northern Vermont. The story in this anthology was inspired by the hundred year old dairy barn and hayloft on the farm. Nancy had three stories published in 2015, with two accepted for publication in 2016. She is currently working on an historical novel and a dark fantasy short story collection. Both set during WWI. She earned an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast Writer’s Program. She also has degrees in English, studio art, ecology and environmental engineering. Her website, www.northwindarts.com, has a link to her WWI Collage Blog where she regularly writes about her art, stories, and research related to WWI.
[Jackson Author Bio]
K. N. Johnson writes from her home base area of Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has appeared in Current in Carmel, Silver Birch Press, The Lighter, the Lament for the Dead online project, and So It Goes: the Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.
Her volunteer work with the Westfield Washington Historical Society introduced her to the world of cemetery preservation. In the Anti-Slavery Friends Cemetery, special solutions are sprayed on headstones to reveal the name and years of the dearly departed.
Her stories aim for the unsettling, suburban science fiction and supernatural. She plans to finish her novel The Birthling by late 2016. Follow her progress at https://www.facebook.com/knjohnsonauthor/?ref=hl
[Judge Author Bio]
Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis is the author of Intaglio (Kent State University Press, 2006), which won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize, and The Rub, which was recently awarded the Elixir Press Editors' Prize. She teaches at Columbus College of Art and Design where she is the faculty advisor for Botticelli Literary/Art Magazine.
Michaeleen Kelly is a philosophy professor, pianist and performance poet in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has won the Dyer-Ives poetry contest twice and has published in Right Hand Pointing, Blue Collar Review and Melancholy Hyperbole. She has just completed her second poetry-instrumental CD, “Same Ol’ New Beginnings”.
Bruce Lader’s most recent book is Fugitive Hope from Červená Barva Press who nominated “Winter Night Fugue” for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. Discovering Mortality (March Street Press, 2005) was a finalist for the 2006 Brockman-Campbell Book Award. His poems have appeared in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Poetry, Einstein Journal of Biology and Medicine, The Humanist, Confrontation, Harpur Palate, New York Quarterly, New Millennium Writings, Asheville Poetry Review, Solo Novo, and many other international magazines. He won the 2010 Left Coast Eisteddfod Poetry Competition, and has received a writer-in-residence fellowship from The Wurlitzer Foundation. www.brucelader.com.
Larry Lefkowitz has had stories, poetry, and humor published widely in journals, anthologies, and online, including the Crossing Lines anthology and the Altered States anthology of Main Street Rag. Lefkowitz's humorous fantasy and science fiction collection, "Laughing into the Fourth Dimension" is available in print from Amazon books. His humorous literary novel, "The Novel, Kunzman, the Novel!" is available as an ebook and in print from Lulu.com and other distributors. Writers and readers with a deep interest in literature will especially enjoy the novel.
Edward Lodi is best known for his many books on New England history and folklore (most recently, Who When Where in King Philip’s War), but also writes fiction, including four novels in the Cranberry Country Mystery series: Marmalade and Murder, Murder at Anawan Rock, Murder on a Lonely Bog, and Murder in an Old, Dark House. A number of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, most notably in Poe’s Lighthouse, published by Cemetery Dance. He also occasionally writes poetry, including a volume of light verse (Ida, the Gift-Wrapping Clydesdale). Several of his poems have won cash prizes.
Katharyn Howd Machan, Professor of Writing at Ithaca College, holds degrees from the College of Saint Rose, the University of Iowa, and Northwestern University. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines; in anthologies/textbooks such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013, Early Ripening: American Women’s Poetry Now, Literature, Sound and Sense, Writing Poems; and in 32 collections, most recently H (Gribble Press, 2014) and Wild Grapes: Poems of Fox (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Former director of the Feminist Women’s Writing Workshops, Inc., in 2012 she edited Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology (Split Oak Press).
Mary E. Martin (Rock Hill, SC), author of The Luminous Disarray (Floating Bowl Press 1998) teaches English and Expressive Arts at Winthrop University.
Deborah Mead is a freelance writer and poet. Her essays and articles have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor and Family Fun Magazine. In 2011, her collaborative chapbook, Topless, was published by Main Street Rag. She lives with her husband and daughter in Needham, MA.
Todd Mercer is the Poetry Editor of The Legendary. Mercer won the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Award for 2015 and was runner-up in the Palm Beach Plein Air Poetry Awards. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer’s poetry and fiction appear in journals such as: Apocrypha & Abstractions, Bartleby Snopes, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, Gravel, The Lake, Midwestern Gothic and Spartan.
Katie Darby Mullins teaches creative writing at the University of Evansville. In addition to being nominated for a Pushcart Prize and editing a rock 'n roll crossover edition of the metrical poetry journal Measure, she's been published or has work forthcoming in journals like Hawaii Pacific Review, Harpur Palate, Prime Number, Big Lucks, Pithead Chapel, The Evansville Review, and she was a semifinalist in the Ropewalk Press Fiction Chapbook competition and in the Casey Shay Press poetry chapbook competition. She's also the lead writer and founder of the music blog Katie Darby Recommends.
David Olsen’s Unfolding Origami won the 2015 Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award. Poetry chapbooks from US publishers include Sailing to Atlantis (2013), New World Elegies (2011), and Greatest Hits (2001). His work appears in leading journals and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic. A poet, fiction writer, and professionally produced playwright with a BA in chemistry from University of California-Berkeley and an MA in creative writing from San Francisco State University, David was formerly an energy economist, management consultant, and performing arts critic. He has lived in Oxford since 2002. See www.davidolsenpoetry.net.
Alice Osborn is an editor-for-hire and a writing coach. She has taught classes and writing workshops to thousands of aspiring authors of nearly all ages from 9 to 90 both around the corner and internationally. Heroes without Capes is her most recent collection of poetry. Previous collections are After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects. Alice also edited the Main Street Rag anthologies Tattoos and Creatures of Habitat. A North Carolina Writers’ Network board member and Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, Pedestal Magazine, Soundings Review among others. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and two children.
Lee Passarella is a founding member and senior literary editor of Atlanta Review and is also associate editor of Kentucky Review. His poetry has appeared in Chelsea, Cream City Review, Louisville Review, The Sun, Antietam Review, JAMA, The Formalist, Cortland Review, among others. Swallowed up in Victory, a narrative poem of the American Civil War, was published by White Mane in 2002. Passarella has published two other books of poetry: The Geometry of Loneliness (David Roberts) and Redemption (FutureCycle Press), plus a poetry chapbook, Sight-Reading Schumann (Pudding House). Passarella recently published his first YA novel, Storm in the Valley (Ravenswood Publications, February 2015) and has a forthcoming chapbook, Magnetic North.
Colleen Shaddox’s essays have appeared on NPR and in The New York Times and Washington Post. She’s been featured in fiction and non-fiction anthologies, including This I Believe and Unruly Catholic Women Writers. She’s an award-winning playwright. Colleen has interviewed orphans in Rwanda, a bank robber (who confessed to her) and the inventor of Velcro. She’s mostly quit the journalism habit and now advocates for reform of the juvenile justice system. Colleen lives in Connecticut, where she tends a peach orchard, a flock of chickens and various other living things.
Johannah Siragusa, a former teacher and counselor, resides in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with her husband, two sons, and one yellow dog. Though a native of Louisiana, she’s called a half-dozen states home. Her interest in the paranormal dates to early childhood and experiences yet to be rationally explained. Published in poetry and flash memoir, this is her first foray into the world of short story. When she is not writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, crafting, and road-tripping.
Brian Slusher teaches theatre and English at Mauldin High School. He lives with his wife Terri McCord in Greenville, SC and writes a lot of poetry. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen Cecil Smith is the author of the biography Orlean Puckett: The Life of a Mountain Midwife (1844-1939); a children’s picture book entitled An Old Salem Christmas, 1840, and Pillow of Thorns, a novel. Her children’s picture book and novel were recipients of The North Carolina Society of Historians’ Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award. She has worked as a newspaper reporter, editor, and photographer. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in national magazines and literary journals. The Violin was first published in Writer’s Journal magazine.
Matthew J. Spireng’s most recent book of poems is What Focus Is (2011, Word Press). His book Out of Body won the 2004 Bluestem Poetry Award and was published in 2006 by Bluestem Press at Emporia State University. He is also the author of five chapbooks including Inspiration Point, which won the 2000 Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition.
Jeff Spitzer lives in Columbus, Ohio near his two grown children and four grandchildren. His stories have appeared in several small-press and college magazines such as The Sun, Ripples, Lines in the Sand, Cimarron Review, Escape Your World (anthology of Scribes Valley Publishing), New Ohio Review, Louisiana Literature, Laurel Review, Limestone, West Wind Review, among others. One of his crime stories won third prize in a contest sponsored by Arizona Mystery Writers. Another won second prize in a contest sponsored by the Columbus Dispatch newspaper.
Phillip Sterling is the author of In Which Brief Stories Are Told (short fiction), Mutual Shores (poetry), and four chapbook-length series of poems: Significant Others, Quatrains, Abeyance, And For All This: Poems from Isle Royale. Sterling’s Amateur Husbandry, a series of micro-fictions, was runner-up in the 2014 Rusty Toque fiction chapbook competition; his flash fiction “kidnappingtax.blogspot.gov” won first place in the 2015 Monstrosities of the Midway contest. As a member of the board of directors for Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters (readwritelive.org), in Grand Rapids, MI, he is active in literary activities throughout the Great Lakes Region.
Chris (Sutty) Suddeth was born in Greenville, SC in 1975 and has lived his whole life in various locales within the state of South Carolina. He graduated the University of South Carolina in 1998 with a minor in English Literature. Writing began its siren song for him at the age of twelve while sitting on the rocks of Fripp Island, South Carolina where he now lives with his wife and daughter. Sutty is a full-time Mr. Mom with his own holistic health business. He has been a practicing Reiki Master for over five years and uses his passion and proficiency with energy work to inform his writing.
Maria Terrone is the author of the poetry collections Eye to Eye (Bordighera Press, 2014); A Secret Room in Fall (McGovern Prize, Ashland Poetry Press) and The Bodies We Were Loaned (The Word Works), and a chapbook, American Gothic, Take 2. Her work, which has been published in French and Farsi and nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize, has appeared in magazines including Poetry, Ploughshares, The Hudson Review, and Poetry International and in more than 20 anthologies. She was commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum to write an essay for its performance project, “stillspotting nyc” and has published her nonfiction in Witness, Briar Cliff Review, The Common, Evansville Review and Kestrel. www.mariaterrone.com
Helen Tzagoloff was born in Russia, coming here at the age of eight. She has worked at a variety of jobs and has lived most of her life in New York City. Her poems and short prose pieces have been published in Another Chicago Magazine, Karamu, Poetry East, New York Quarterly, The MacGuffin, Blueline, Barrow Street, The Best of the Prose Poem: An International Journal and others. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was the First Prize winner in the Icarus Literary Competition in honor of the Wright brothers. Her book of poems Listening to the Thunder has been published by the Oliver Arts And Open Press.
Tim Weed’s debut novel, Will Poole’s Island (Namelos, 2014), was named one of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of the Year. His short fiction and essays have won Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction and Solas Best Travel Writing awards, and have appeared in Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Saranac Review, The Rumpus, Talking Points Memo, Writer's Chronicle, Backcountry, and many other reviews and magazines. Tim teaches at Grub Street in Boston and in the MFA Writing program at Western Connecticut State University, and works as a featured expert for National Geographic Expeditions in Cuba, Spain, and Patagonia. Read more at timweed.net.
Sarah Brown Weitzman, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has been widely published in hundreds of journals and anthologies including Miramar, Zymbol, Thema, The North American Review, and Rattle, among others. Sarah received a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A departure from poetry, her fourth book, HERMAN AND THE ICE WITCH, is a children’s novel published by Main Street Rag.
Robin Whitten is a Physicians Assistant working in North Carolina. She has been published in the Red Clay Review for short stories as well as the Bethlehem Magazine and has one novella, Epona.
David Earl Williams is a native of Kentucky who is living at the north as a happy deserter. Recent publications include Yellow Chair and Incessant Pipe, both web publishers. He is the winner of the Incessant Pipe Venus Open contest, and was twice a finalist for the Actors Theatre of Louisville National One-Act Play competition.
Poetry: Taylor John Bruck, "Spirit"
Short Fiction: Andrew Bourelle, "This Book is Property of"
I don't want you here,
speaking to me
through his beautiful body;
you don't belong;
you never wanted
to be a father. There is
no love when I hear
your voice. When you
were alive, I could leave
the room, and now,
poor bodiless father,
I've learned to look
away, not listen
to you in the cold glass
vase on the dresser,
the spaces between the stars.
“Kristen Blakely,” Mrs. Carter calls out.
Kristen rises, and Mrs. Carter hands her a massive textbook.
It’s the first day of school, and Mrs. Carter is assigning English books. Back at her seat, Kristen flips through the book as Mrs. Carter progresses through the alphabet.
Nearly two inches thick and not quite 1,400 pages, the book is going to be hell to lug around for the next nine months. The pages chronicle American literature from the Indians and John Smith to Arthur Miller and Flannery O’Connor. Kristen recognizes a lot of the names, but she doesn’t know why or from where. Whitman. Frost. Hemingway. She is vaguely familiar with who they are, like the names of actors from old movies, but she couldn’t say what works they are famous for. Kristen likes to read, but she prefers Dean Koontz and Robin Cooke.
She is always nervous on the first day of school. It’s the first time she will be presenting herself to the rest of the students for the year. She’s worn her best Jordache jeans and a new blouse she bought at Merry-Go-Round. Her hair is styled differently this year, longer, with curls and bangs sealed in place by hairspray, and she’s wearing more makeup than in years past. She has vowed that this is the year she will get a boyfriend. She is now finally over a boy she sat next to last year in biology class, James Johnson. They had joked and flirted, and she expected him to ask her out. She turned cold toward him when he asked someone else to the spring dance. This year, she’s told herself, she will find a boy who is right for her.
After Mrs. Carter has distributed all of the books to the class, she asks the students to sign their names on the front inside cover where it says “THIS BOOK IS THE PROPERTY OF.”
Kristen flips to the front. The names of students from previous classes are listed, each with distinct and individual signatures. She reads the names before her. Tom Boyce in 1986. Erin Beaufort in 1987. And then, last year, Dylan Blackman.
Kristen goes cold, staring at the name.
Dylan Blackman is dead.
He died on the last day of the school year, right before summer break.
Mrs. Carter begins talking about the greatness of the American literary tradition. Kristen watches her and pretends to listen, but her mind is on Dylan Blackman and how anyone can die at any moment and that the daily routines of life—going to school, getting a job, making friends—are all illusions to keep people from obsessing over the fact that life simply ends. She has never had such thoughts, didn’t even think them when Dylan Blackman died, but now that something that once belonged to him is in her possession, it hits her like one of those things her English teacher from last year had talked about—an epiphany. Everyone dies. She’s always known that, of course, but now she understands it in a way she never did before.
The bell rings, and the other students rise. Kristen stares at the book. It’s just an object, but she doesn’t want to take it. She hasn’t signed her name on the inside front cover.
“Is something wrong?” Mrs. Carter says.
The classroom has emptied, and new students are arriving for the next period.
“No ma’am,” Kristen says.
She takes the book and leaves the room. She walks down the hall, carrying the book out in front of her like it’s something rotten she doesn’t want to infect her.
We pass the church and climbers’ graveyard silently.
The mists thin to show dark peaks.
Stone walls and paths cut scars into the mountain’s hide.
At first, only the tips are touched,
grasses bedecked with glittering jewels.
We climb higher.
Every stem is a one-sided feather,
the edge serrated and sharp as a saw.
We are held in subaquatic silence,
Drowned by mist, colours submerged, sound muted.
The frosted ground, bone white,
the icy rocks glistening black,
a salt-print photo on a zinc plate,
a frozen image of an antique time.
The mountain’s side looms unexpectedly,
shadow dark and sheer.
A stain of disturbed scree
points arrow-like to the cliff’s roots.
We approach as swiftly as the terrain allows.
Head torches cut tunnels into thickening air.
The needle snow stabs into eyes.
When we reach him
the walker’s body is almost covered,
has become tumuli,
a smaller shape held in his arms.
They look like they’re sleeping.
Father and son, curled together,
broken leg splayed at an awkward angle.
An apostrophe; lives abbreviated by ice and wind.
The larger body lies wrapped round the smaller
in concentric snail shell curls.
The snow lies over them like a duvet.
We try to lift them. They are petrified.
Spittle, sweat, tears, blood,
the stuff of life turned to mountain stone.
For our ancestors Hell was always frozen;
only in more recent history, beneath the desert sun of Gehenna,
have we found Hell a conflagration.
We carry our burden to the village,
our hearts ruled by older gods.
According to Google I died today. My Wikipedia entry now uses the past tense, but there’s no cause of my demise. I pinch myself. Hard. I pick up the paper, take another sip of coffee and scan the obituaries. Oh, God. “Pulitzer prize-winning poet, loving wife, mother of two and political activist.” Who’s playing a practical joke here? My son who works for Google? I call my husband at work, but it goes to voice mail after two breaths. Maybe he wrote the obit? I text my best friend, Anna, but the message says “undeliverable” after I send it. I taste my bile—maybe if I open Ray the cockatiel’s cage, he’ll bite me like he always does. Then I’ll know. With jittery fingers, I unlatch his door and he … does nothing. I reach in, stroke his feathered chest and even tap him on the beak, which he hates. Still nothing. I decide if it’s really my last day, I should enjoy a big slice of my son’s ice cream cake from last night’s birthday dinner. Cookies and cream.
Yesterday, after my very successful book signing at Next Chapter Bookstore in New Bern (I sold a hundred books!), I ventured to the Cedar Grove Cemetery on Queen Street where all of the ghost walks start from. I had extra time before I needed to get back to Raleigh for my younger son’s 12th birthday dinner. I know, the trip’s timing was terrible, but I figured I could get business and birthday done all in the same day. I passed under the huge Weeping Arch built in 1854—the same year the ghost stories began here. Legend says if you get dripped on while you pass under the Arch you’ll be marked to die. So, yes, I ran under the Arch which is made up of a stone called marl, this porous material that holds water and looks like a sponge. Days after a heavy rain, the Arch “drips” like a cocker spaniel’s eye. The cemetery was haunted even before the Arch was built due to so many people who were buried alive because their families thought they died from yellow fever. They seemed dead because they fell into a coma and were unable to speak or respond. With a few birds chirping in the weeping willows, I tried to read many of the gravestones, but they were all too old to decipher. Taking off my jacket, I felt peaceful with the fall sun shining overhead—perfect for photos. I casually walked through the Arch this time and just as my left foot crossed the threshold, I felt a substance on the back of my calf. Like spit. From my car, I grabbed a bunch of napkins to wipe up the reddish crap—sure didn’t look like water.
As I eat the cake, I taste the too-sweet icing on my teeth and I’m suddenly very tired. My eyes feel like they’re bleeding. I swallow and clear my throat, but no sound comes out. My right thumb starts tingling, then it goes numb. I mouth “Help!” to Ray, but he continues eating his fat seeds, not a care in the world.