Sunday, 5 February 2023

Four Poems by John Harold Olson

 




Lost At The Fair

 

Let go of my Father’s  hand 

to watch the ice cream clown

and was lost, just like that,

 on the crowded midway,

where the strangers  were

as tall as giraffes.

Beautiful,

like fireworks 

you could walk around in the midway.

Double Ferris Wheel

Folding in on itself,

Twirling in yellow and purple neon.

Candy apples

Red like the cherry pop neon.

The giant cow in

her own trailer.

Standing in front 

the Burlesque show

where  spotlights on poles

lit up LaVerne, the goddess dancer,

in a purple robe. Smiling,

Inviting people in, when she 

Sees me standing alone.

Her man comes over.

“Are you alone here, Kid?”

“My Dad is here. I lost him.”

He looks up at the stage.

She points to a folding chair 

next to a girl in braids 

taking tickets.

LaVerne comes down

from spotlit stage,

“Are you lost, Sugar.”

“I lost my Dad.”

“Well, you sit right here” she said 

“ and watch for your Daddy. What’s your name?”

“John.”

“Paul, step over and get John some popcorn,

I’ve got to do my show.”

 

I was still

eating popcorn and talking

to LaVerne’s ticket taking daughter

who  shared her Coke

with me

when my Dad

came up.

He wasn’t mad.

I can’t remember 

anything else.

 

 

My Autumn Girlfriend

 

No indication 

what old age is like

when you’re young and

beautiful, and all that.

 

Talking all night about sex and 

philosophy was invigorating,

but now it’s fun

to exchange about 

Catastrophic illness,

pain, children and grandchildren,

and tough love of doctors, 

bad breaks and good luck,

like two old offensive linemen

who didn’t get a trophy,

But know how grand

it was on the line, in the weather,

colliding with what came at you.

 

Debby, or Linda

(I keep forgetting her name-she laughs)

looks at me and sees

the long ago lad

you could take a chance on, 

But now she doesn’t have 

To gamble. 

 

And now, it’s enough

to have it all nice, 

just enough, like a cup of tea

when it’s raining,

and you can stay awhile.



Quarterback Sneak


God is watching.

The rain fell straight down. Helmets shiny in the lights; charcoal sky.

Injury.

Coach points at me

and I go in on Defense- Right tackle-

I wish I was there now. 

Quarterback

watching me with crow eyes,

was gonna try me,

reading a weak spot.

Down, set

And he carried it,

like I figured,

right into my little zone. And I wrapped him up,

light as a chicken,

and took him over backward to the rainy mud.

Thanks.

God, thanks.



Hammock

 

Rowed across the 

the smooth glass

arm of the lake

With the fireflies

And the fish jumping.

 

The party was a tonic,

whiskey and laughter,

and I slept on a hammock

of the back porch.

 

High summer

Green dripping off the trees

Awakened in the morn

by raucous crows in the

green crown.

 

“Good Morning”, she said

from the upper deck next door.

“ I was watching you snore.”

 

Why was she smiling?

Did I talk in my sleep?

 

“Why don’t you come up

And have some coffee,” she said.





John Harold Olson - Is a retired Special Education teacher in Las Vegas. Transitioning to being a hospice volunteer.


Five Poems by Nolcha Fox

 




Everything moves

 

from crib to sleigh to coffin.

We pretend that life is still,

prove it with our photos.

We must pretend or risk the fear

of falling off the edge of time.

Time moves, too, before the

moment we are born past

last breath, last blink of our eyes.

We grab the sides to keep our place,

but place is space that hurls us out

to who-knows-where, and how

we land is anybody’s guess.

 


Make a space

 

to store dark hours.

Toss a match to

watch them spark

and scorch the

moonlight, burn

a hole through

hints of sunrise.

 


Grief is a wilted

 

corsage pinned to my chest.

It doesn’t match my sweater,

but it goes with my smile.

 


Stay in place

 

to downsize time, to keep the strings

of Christmas lights from lengthening

to drape the eaves expanding into

endless rooms that never fit the 

sofa that I bring from home to home.

 


Twelve Months 

 

I woke up to a year of no regrets,

except to regret a year 

is only twelve months.

 

A year is only twelve months, except

for regrets that bleed. I woke up

to a year that should have lasted longer.

 

You have been gone a year. I shouldn’t

regret waking up to your absence. I can’t stop

the bleeding from twelve months without you. 

 



Nolcha Fox - Nolcha’s poems have been published in Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Alien Buddha Zine, Medusa’s Kitchen, and others. Her three chapbooks are available on Amazon. Nominee for 2023 Best of The Net. Editor for Kiss My Poetry and for Open Arts Forum. Accidental interviewer/reviewer. Faker of fake news.

Website: 

https://bit.ly/3bT9tYu

“My Father’s Ghost Hates Cats” 

https://amzn.to/3uEKAqa

“The Big Unda”

https://amzn.to/3IxmJhY 

“How to Get Me Up in the Morning”

https://amzn.to/3RLDaKc

Twitter: 

@NolchaF

Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/nolcha.fox/


Agarial's Plight - Flash Fiction Story - by KB Updike Jr

 




Agarial's Plight

Flash Fiction Story

by KB Updike Jr

 

Agarial remembers a birth of sorts, so long ago. A sudden awareness, an awakening from non-existence. A memorable moment, because for that single frame in time, he was conscious without having anything to be conscious of. His first memory is of not having anything to remember.

Lights twinkled and exploded into being. Planets became, and then substantiated. Others like him blinked in all around. Other dwellers of the Void. Before, there hadn't even been a void.

Agarial saw it all as it happened. The glorious creation of being, balanced perfectly over a razor's edge. One mistake, and... But there were no mistakes, for being is being still.

Life happened, too. A different kind of life than that experienced by the void dwellers. A life of flesh and fur, green and sunlight, and swimming things in the water. A piece of the tower on the razor, a piece later called nature.

The tower was not finished. The void was changing, swirling, gathering substance with which to swirl. There were spiraling silvery streets and glittering golden gates and marvelous material mansions. Paradise for the void dwellers, lacking only purpose.

How can anyone be content without purpose? Agarial was happy. They all were happy. None were content. Time was too young for words like "diversion" and "patience".

Then came another miracle. Suddenly, they knew. They knew what they were supposed to do and for whom they were working. And they were content. It was a between time puberty. They knew!

Many were messengers, many were healers. Many would hurt. All chose to serve. All chose to think.

There were poets and muses and philosophers in the sky. And, would you believe it? Before religion, there were theologians. All were commanded to ponder, all were content to ponder. All were commanded to serve, all were content to serve. Until, like the theologians, a politician preceded government.

"I am greatest among us," said Politician to his brothers and sisters. "I am the light of the one that created, the one that commands. Who here questions my greatness?"



None could question Politician's greatness. He was indeed known by all, even by the Creator, as the Creator's light.

"As the greatest, I say we are all great. Our bodies crackle with power. We move like no others. Why, then, must we serve those that eat bread and hide behind flesh?"

All said, "We are commanded."

"Am I not the light of the one that commands?" asked Politician. "Without me, our master will be in darkness. We are commanded, we need no longer obey."

And so began a great war, a war in which Agarial was unlucky enough to choose the wrong side. The skies shook with the fury of the former void dwellers, until the void child Michael stepped forward amidst the bloodshed.

Politician was ready to lead a charge against his enemies when he noticed the meekly, soft-spoken Michael approaching at a calm pace. And he asked, "You face my troops alone, Michael?"

Michael said, "I have a better question for you. Who created the light?"

Politician was enraged by this reply. He made as if to smote Michael with his flaming saber, and discovered upon drawing the weapon naught but a cold hilt. A great weight forced Politician and all his followers to their knees.







KB Updike Jr is a Richmond, Va area asexual writer to have been published in Word Riot, the Circle, the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Black Petals, and Blood Moon Rising Magazine. Most of his arts are available free on his website, www.individuatechurch.com

 


Five Poems by Nolo Segundo

 




A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS CAROL  

 

Then… it was a time of true magic,

When the world was small and soft.

It had to be magic, my mind of five

Told me: how else could my brothers

And I go to sleep on an ordinary,

Dull and quiet night, to awaken in

Sheer joy the next morn as though

We had been zapped by a warm

Bolt of harmless lightning, setting

Our now restless bodies tingling….

 

Like racehorses at the gate of magic,

We stood at the top of the stairs,

Pulling at whatever patience we

Could muster under the admonitions

Of Mom and Dad to wait! wait! the

Camera must be loaded—but how

Painful to be still when we knew

Children’s paradise was only a

Stairway away—and what a

Paradise we saw unfolded in

Our now unfamiliar living room!

 

The tree drew our eyes first—

It was big and fat, with its

Branches sagging under all

Its myriad ornaments: glass

Balls, plastic candy canes,

Tinsel drooping as though

It hung on a weeping willow

And not a proud Blue Spruce.

 

And hundreds and millions of

Coloured lights, some blinking,

Some staid, made our tree

Sparkle like the royal crown

Of a giant king—perhaps

The King of Toys, for they

Were seen in abundance

Wherever we looked: trucks

And bikes, and bats and games.

Each brother had his own pile

(we marvelled how thoughtful

Santa must be) and we knew

In each stack there were boxes                                     

Beautifully wrapped but sans

Treasure, alas, hiding only socks

Or shirts, perhaps a sweater.

 

Well, even the jolly fat man

Could not be perfect—still,

He would bring magic to our

Home every year, overnight

Transforming our prosaic lives

By wonder, by magic, by love.

And after he went away,

When I was an ancient six,

The world grew much bigger

But colder, dull and empty

Of that special joy that

Can only come to those

Children who believe….



AFTER COSTCO, BEFORE UKRAINE

 

You saw the lines weren’t too long

so you went for the gas first---

spend a little time, save a lot of

money you thought. But it took

longer than you expected [too

many ‘tanks’ as you call SUVs

filling up their 50 gallon tanks]

so by the time you went into the

giant store, you were feeling like

a crab trapped in a net as you

wrestled through the weekend

horde of bargain hunters….

 

Finally at home, you plopped

down in the comfy chair as

the nightly news came on and

sipped the fresh brewed French

roast and ate a piece of rich

chocolate cake you bought at

Costco and felt a bit sad for

those poor people in Ukraine

as you watched war in hi-def.

 

Still, the thought uppermost in

your mind, as your eyes scanned

so many dead bodies lying quiet

in the streets like stones thrown

randomly, was just how damn

good the coffee was and how

much you had saved going to

the big box store….

 

 

LOVE IS NOT KNOWN

 

Love is not known, and

can never be known.

Love cannot be weighed

Like bullion or flour.

Love cannot be roped—

A wild mustang running

Free, never tethered,

Never corralled—freer

Than the North winds.

 

Love has its own mind:

It comes when it comes,

Will not hear entreaties,

Will not beg its bread, 

For love rules all worlds

And love soaks all life.

 

Love is a gangster,

Obeying no laws,

Taking what it wants.

And love is a priest,

Making holy life’s dirt,

Redeeming then the

Wreckage of hope by

Pouring its holy water,

Quenching all longing

 

Love is a magician,

Appearing in two

Hearts at once,

Transforming the

Beast into a man,

Girl into woman--

An alchemist

Changing lead

Into pure gold….

 

And love can never die.

When the heart it holds

Beats its last beat, then

Love will soar with soul

To the next world, for

Love is the only key

That can pry open

Heaven’s heavy door.

                                                                                                

 

OCEAN CITY

 

I saw it then as my own little Shangri-La,

for I was very small and knew nothing

of the big world, the grown-ups’ world.

 

And for the child-me it was nirvana,

that little town on a barrier island

between the grey, cold, untamed and

endless Atlantic Ocean and the quiet,

near somnolent bay where the boats

of the less brave could sail safely….

 

I could ride my bike from Nana and

Pop-pop’s little house on that bay,

feeling as free as the myriad seagulls

swirling forever above my head--

I ‘d ride ‘cross town to the boardwalk

and if I had a dollar, see a movie by

myself, feeling like a proud little lord--

I remember as though yesterday, and

not 60 some years, my favourite theatre,

with its long darkish hall that looked

like the entrance to a pirate’s den,

lined with displays of model sailing

ships, mostly men-o-war chasing, yes,

pirates, but never catching them….

 

But most afternoons I was happy to

just sit quietly on the porch of my

grandparents’ house, smelling the

dinner Nana was making while I

read of countless dreams in books,

books that captured like a pirate

his prey, and took me round the

world in the finest and fastest

sailing ship of all—imagination!


     

Tasting Eternity

 

My old friend and I went to a restaurant for lunch,

a ramshackle little place, but my friend told me

the food was great—and it was! Three different

chicken curries, a lovely lamb curry, and a half-

dozen veggies, and mango drinks to wash it down.

 

I suppose we visited the buffet more times than we

should have but we were talking philosophy as we

always did when we got together and speaking of

God and the soul and the meaning of life really

can make you hungry--then my friend said he

believed in God but had trouble with Eternity--

it seemed scary, terrifying even to think of time

going on forever, endlessly, a road never ending.

 

I laughed a little, then smiled at my old friend--

‘THIS is eternity! ‘ I told him, ‘Right now, this

moment as we eat this delicious curry and try

to figure out the meaning of our existence’.

I swallowed a mouthful of lamb korma and

laughed again-- ‘wherever we exist is eternity,

and we always exist somewhere, and time is

an illusion, time does not exist, except as a

moment’-- And the next moment, I asked him

if he had room for the rice pudding….


Nolo Segundo, pen name of retired teacher L.J.Carber, became a published poet in his mid-70’s in over 120 literary journals/anthologies in 11 countries and 3 trade book collections: The Enormity of Existence [2020], Of Ether and Earth [2021], and Soul Songs [2022].

  

 


Monday, 30 January 2023

Three Poems by Margaret Duda

 




American Tragedy

 

What if, instead of immigrating

from Hungary in the early 1920s,

my parents immigrated from Mexico

around 2005 and settled

in a Texas town called Uvalde

where I was born in 2011?

They left their lives behind

to give me chances they never had.

What if, as hoped, I excelled in school,

dreamed of becoming a teacher,

and made the honour roll every year?

What if the dreams of my parents,

along with mine, were coming true?

 

And then one day, a mentally unstable

eighteen year old with two assault rifles,

entered the school and my classroom?

He killed two teachers, nineteen students,

and wounded numerous others.

What if I was one of the students

whose life and dreams he snubbed out

as nineteen policemen waited in the hall?

 

Papa, who looked most like Bogart,

but admired the tactics of Cagney,

would not have waited for two hours.

He would have found a long two-by-four

rushed inside past the waiting policemen

and broken through the classroom door,

with inhuman strength as he was shot.

The policeman, forced into action,

finally entered and shot the killer dead.

Papa would have called my name,

scanning all the bodies of the children,

then howled in pain as he pulled my body

into his arms while our thick blood flowed,

and tears poured down his ruddy cheeks.

The EMTS would try to get him on a gurney,

but he would not release my lifeless body,

as he tried to figure out how to tell

Mama, still praying her rosary outside,

that the dream we all had was shattered.



                

              Dad in 1927                                                   Mom in 1927 



Harmony on the Hudson  1927

 

A passenger on the first bus from Sacred Heart

Hungarian Church, my father is already on board,

balancing in the prow.  His eyes, almost as dark

as his black hair, see the women hurrying toward

the Skyline at Sunset cruise from the second bus.

 

A slim woman with dark wavy hair in a flapper dress

with a drop waist, pleated skirt, and t-strap heels

sees him staring at her and smiles back.  He moves

to help her from the pier and leads her to a seat,

taking the one beside her. 

 

“I’m Andras,” he offers in Hungarian.  “Margit,

from Battonya in Bekes county.”  she replies. 

He looks puzzled.  “Its on the Great Plains.  You?”

“Turterebes on the river Tur.  It was given

to Romania after the war.  Now it’s Turulung.”

 

Filled with passengers, the ship jolts into reverse

and pitches into the East River.  Margit gulps, grabs

her seat, admits she can’t swim.  “I grew up swimming.

I can save you,” Andras offers, smiling.  A band

plays “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” as they approach

the Brooklyn Bridge and hear over the intercom:

 

When Roebling, the engineer, became bedridden,

his wife Emily took his place and finished the job.

 

“Only in America could a woman do that.  My daughters

will have so many opportunities.”  Andras smiles again. 

She was going to be a great mother.  As the ship passes

New York Harbor, Margit beams at the electric lights

erupting in every highrise.  “They would never believe

this in my village.  It’s amazing.  Wish I owned a camera.”

 

“I like your dress,” he ventures, not easily distracted.

“I’m a governess.  My mistress gives me her clothes

she no longer wants and lets me go to English classes.”

Beautiful and smart, he thinks.  “Want to dance?”

Following him inside, she slips into his arms as the band

plays “My Blue Heaveen” and she follows him easily.

“Oh, we’re under the Manhattan Bridge,” she exclaims,

glancing through a window.  “I take a subway across that

every day to a factory where I work as an auto body man,”

he tells her, proud he has a trade.  She looks impressed.

 

The band starts to play a csardas, a courting dance.

“Do you know it?”  She smiles and nods as he

grasps her waist and her hands encircle his neck.

Others gather to watch them work through the slow lissu

into the exhilarating frizz as he swings her to the finish

amid claps and cheers.  Panting, he leads her to a table

by a window as a waiter brings two glasses of wine

and a plate of hot hor d’oeuvres.  They approach

the Hudson River and glimpse the Statue of Liberty

shining green in the spotlights as the intercom instructs:

 

Notice Lady Liberty and her torch with a flame of gold.

Bertholdi used his mother’s features to shape her face.

 

“I cried when I saw her from the deck of the ship

three years ago,” Margit tells him.  “My mother sent

for me but she died before I arrived.”

 

A man taps Andras on the shoulder.  “Time.”

“I’ll be back,” he promises, patting her hand.

He climbs to the stage.  As the band breaks into

Hungarian tunes, he sings the lyrics and Margit

gasps in surprise.  When the set is finished, he

rejoins her.  “My foster father sang in our summer

Playhouse, but you sing, you dance, and even swim.”

 

Andras suddenly finds the courage to tell her a secret

few others know.  “I was married before.  She

was to join me in America, but she died in childbirth.

I have a son back home being raised by her parents.”

His words gush out  Tears stream down Margit’s cheek.

“I learned what it means not to know a mother.  I am sorry.”

 

That night, back in his room, Andras writes to his mother

to tell her he feels he has found someone to help him love again.



 

First Communion                                          Foster sisters forty-five years later

Margit (mom) on L., 

Mariska on R                



Home After Forty-Five Years

 

“It’s my first time back in forty-five years,”

Margit announces, wishing she could use

the loudspeaker to tell the whole airport.

“Have a wonderful trip to Hungary, my dear,”

the ticket taker says, patting the wrinkled hand

of the white-haired lady beaming with joy.

 

The ship had taken eight days in 1924,

the plane takes eight hours to Budapest in 69,

then the four hour train trip to Battonya

where Mariska and her good friends wait

at the station with open arms and bouquets

of huge sunflowers.  Will it feel the same?

 

The three smother her in hugs and kisses

and versions of welcome back in Hungarian

as the conductor lowers two heavy suitcases

and smiles at their reunion.  “Your hair is white,”

Mariska, her foster sister, says.  “So is yours,”

Margit counters, “but I’d know you anywhere.” 

 

Margit marvels at Gerda and Agi, so unchanged

except for grey hair, but Mari has grown heavy.

“Let’s go to my house,” Mari says.  “I have lunch

waiting.” Margit hires a taxi for them and Mari

gives the driver their old address on Garmezy street.

“I live there now.  I helped Roza neni as she aged.”

 

On either side of her, Agi and Gerda hug Margit

and marvel at how good she looks.  They wear

cotton dresses longer than Margit’s and smile

at her as if she is an apparition from their past. 

The white stucco house with a straw roof looks

the same.  It is as if Margit never left at seventeen.

 

They take places at the table set with hand-painted plates

on an embroidered tablecloth.  Mari brings a cucumber

salad, then heats something on the stove. “You didn’t!” 

“Of course I remembered your favourite and made lecso

just like Roza neni did, but added sausage to the onions,

hot peppers, and tomatoes.  Have some bread and butter.”

 

Margit finds out that all got married and had children,

Mari the most with three boys and a girl.  “I have one

daughter, but she has three boys and a girl under four,”

Margit says, showing photos.  “To our reunion,” Margit

says, raising her glass of plum brandy.  When Mari brings

crepes filled with fruit, Margit passes out her presents.

 

After lunch, Mari finds someone to photograph them under

the acacia tree.  “I used to resent Margit,’ Mari admits.

“I was special, the only girl, until she arrived, and then she

was always smarter and prettier.”  Margit gasps in surprise.

“She even had a mother in America who was going

to send for her, but when she left, I missed her so much.”

 

When the others leave, Margit hugs Marisa and tells her:

“I never stopped loving you.”  “I was stupid to be jealous.”

“I want to see their grave,” Margit says.  “Tomorrow,” Mari

promises.  “But you won’t be happy.  They are buried with

six other caskets.  They said we are running out of room.”

“I’ll fix that,” Margit says, “but I’ll have nightmares tonight.”

 

Mari insisted she stay with her as she was also widowed.

In bed, they spoon as they did as children.  “Zoltan

and Bela?”  Margit asks.  “Both dead.  One heart attack,

one cancer.  Good brothers.” “Eva?  Donka?”  “Jewish

and Roma.  Gone in the camps with their whole families.”

Margit asked no more as tears poured down her cheeks.

 

In the morning, Mari walks Margit to the small cemetery

and they find flowers at the grave.  “I try to bring them

flowers from the garden every week.”  Margit hugs her,

then joins Mari in the prayers for the dead.  After paying

the caretaker, arrangements are made to construct a walled-in

gravesite Roza and Laszlo will never be forced to share. 

 

The rest of the two weeks are spent visiting with friends

and Mari’s children, who worked as local tradesmen. They

ask Margit where she would like to go and she asks to visit

the nearby museum for Janos Arany, the Hungarian poet.

She wishes her daughter, also a writer, had been able to come,

but Margit knows she is there with her, tucked into her heart.

 

The following day, Mari passes her a gift to open on the train

back to Budapest.  They hug farewell for what they both know

will be the last time and Margit tells her, “I never really left,

you know.”  “I know.”  In the package, Margit finds a copy of

of Arany’s poems and Margit finds the quote she memorized

in school:  “In dreams and in love, there are no impossibilities.”






The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, Margaret Duda has published numerous poems, short stories, non-fiction books and articles.  She is working on the final draft of a novel set in the Mon Valley south of Pittsburgh and will have a book of poetry entitled "I Come From Immigrants" published in May by Kelsay.  She was listed in an anthology of "Who's Who in Emerging Writers in 2021 and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2022 by Lothlorien Poetry Journal.  She recently began another miraculous journey around the sun and spent the afternoon of her birthday with her daughter Laura and Darcy, the new rescue puppy and had a Zoom birthday dinner with members of the rest of her large family.

 

                               



Four Poems by John Harold Olson

  Lost At The Fair   Let go of my Father’s  hand  to watch the ice cream clown and was lost, just like that,  on the crowded midwa...