Witness II: Still on
News crews gathering for that perfect shot
of the perfect baby lying on the beach,
in his perfect nappy quietude,
with perfect clothes still on,
the cameras are still on
insisting that he looks like he was sleeping.
We all know he is not sleeping,
we lie to stay afloat.
Cut to a rescuer’s hands
out stretched in prayer,
on a forsaken beach,
a baby still in his red tee-shirt.
Why are we here?
What are we looking at?
his face in sand, turned to the dim Aegean,
the monster made from our watching,
swallowing his colorful dreams,
unaware of exit visas in Turkey,
entry visas to Canada.
He could not count to 4,
the distance between Bodrum and Kos,
where the tideline beat his small heart to silence,
without a visa.
Dusk mists Helsinki. Neoclassics flank the Esplanadi past Market Square. Wet cobbles
stacked along ripped-up sidewalks. Pipes leak. I slip past a phalanx of red cones. A
couple outside Hotel Kämp hugs in the aroma of sausage and warm croissants.
Drizzle. Railway doors swing open to gloom. Umbrellas pop. A red granite tower records
dead moments on its clock. The Guardians of Travel glare down, twin gargoyles
clutching globes of the world. Workers spill over rail-ribbed crosswalks to flood the mall.
They surge past the Memphis Grill, Zetor’s Finnish Restaurant and boys pitching
Helsingin Sanomat. Umbrellas of every color round the corners, charging into streaks of
50 Words for 50 Moments
Inspired by the Art of Richard Tuttle
By the time the museum opened,
I knew I wasn’t pregnant.
The mother in me never lived past 24
and when I slighted the man in the candy store,
I knew the child had gone, too.
A ghost of chocolate from the shop
like a blackbird passing eye level
on a flat highway – a sweet so good
it bitters the tongue
so you can’t say “I didn’t mean it.”
This spanish man is a mirror, so unlike
the palsied half-face with native hair
and palour’d skin.
Framed composition paper
lined a wall in the front
gallery, each piece puckered
at the center; a few dabs & smears
of thin color once wet the
artist’s mind. On the ride up,
the wine-dead mountains
bloated over shrunken look-alike
sunflowers. Black Francis crooned
“Here Comes Your Man”. The desert
was full of all things: bush, brush,
heather and signs like “Meteorites
50% Off.” The white lines of this highway
one day will arch into spines & carry
road-worn travelers home. Mr. Composition
hints at duck-faced dragons in kinder-
garten strokes. There’s nothing to do
but feel sick & wait for the clouds
& this to pass. I thought of the boy
in you, of your fragile birth and angry words,
that I am sometimes such a terrible fool and that
the blood on the paper looked
How I Identify You
I listen to your heart beating inside its cage of broken bones
the Braille graffiti of your chest, and even now I wonder
what things would have been like if you were whole when we met
if you weren’t so damaged by your past, would you have come to me?
I run my fingertips over the old cigarette burns along your arms
testament to a drunk stepfather who never bothers calling anymore, wonder
if I could somehow put the pieces back together, fix this mangled child
how long it would take for you to decide you didn’t need me anymore
that without your damaged past, there’d be no reason to seek solace
against me and my own broken heart.
I can barely see beyond the court to the park house where skinny boys run around the little house of brown brick. My assignment wipes the sweat off his forehead with his fingers and stares at me. He’s got nothing I haven’t seen; his knees, his whole body hesitates. Mild screams resound. The screams sound like they’re coming from beyond the fence.
“Whose ball?” I ask, hearing feet rhythmically stamping, marching.
“Get him up! Get him up on your shoulders,” somebody says.
“Ours. Ten to eight,” my assignment speaks with overconfident, straight lips.
He has a bland look on his face. My open arms prevent him from going right or left. Skin smacks recoil and echo through the park.
“Walk nigger…walk,” another voice screams, from just beyond the trees, where the small, brick park house stands.
His eyes get big as he stares at my crouched knees, aggressive stance. He calls for help and passes. His team-mate rotates back. I move down low, closer to the fence, near the voices.
“He better wake the fuck up,” a bass voice roars from just above my head.
“What if he don’t?” says a shaking Smokey Robinson-like voice.
“Come on out Reed. Our ball,” my team-mate says.
I swing to the top of the key, get the pass, bend down and shoot a perfect, high jumper. The ball barely pings the iron hoop on the way in. A few lights begin to come on in the projects across the street and some showers are started; one woman opens her window and breathes in deeply. I take the ball out at the top of the key; through the awkward rectangles of the fence, about ten gaunt figures are hoisting some slumping dude.
“Your ball. Betcha can’t hit that again. Self-checked,” he snarls.
I catch the ball already in motion, extend my shooting hand, flick my wrist and the ball vaults in air just above the chipped paint of the rim. The screams of the boys with the skinny legs near the park house intensify.
Everyone surrounds the guy that looks very tired in the middle. His limbs look like marionette’s without strings. He moves like one of those dingy mascots at state fairs.
“Shoot salt into his veins. That’ll wake him up,” a voice screams from where the urine smell comes to us, on the court, in waves.
I get the take out pass and shoot immediately; the ball hits the back of the rim and slowly rolls in. There is the familiar itch in the middle of my right hand for the ball.
“All day baby,” I say, taking the ball out again. He sneers. The men in dark clothing bend down and yank the arm of the tired one. They jerk his arm and then take out a silver, perfectly straight needle that catches a glint of afternoon moonlight. They bury the needle in his arm, drawing back blood. He startles for a second and then becomes lifeless again. Blood fills the cavity of the needle; pass the ball to the corner and shift behind a screen, catching and straightening as I shoot off the sweet spot in the backboard.
“Do you ever miss?” my opponent says, looking a little bewildered.
“I try not to,” I say, back peddling.
The young man on the ground convulses, his body bounces into the air and then slams down to the concrete. Some of his friends laugh; some look in horror. Their bodies shake inside their baggy, wool clothes.
They lift him again and again but his black converses drag; the toes make an eerie sound against the pavement.
“Point game,” my team mate shouts out. The trees behind him seem to give a signal by waving and he drives to the basket, lowering his shoulder and curling his body.
I follow my man to the basket as I hear a loud thud against the ground. Something bounces like a solid ball. My team-mate floats a pass in the air and I grab it, faking once, twice and then twirl to the basket, hearing shifting feet in the dirt. The too thin body falls from their grasp, floating for a second until he hits the ground. He lies motionless.
I drop the ball, run to the fence and watch his buddies—they hesitate for a moment, looking down and then they run away laughing and slapping each other five.
The junkie’s bloodshot eyes roll; spit is caught in his purple lips. He slumps, falling to his bed of bricks. One eye clicks into place. Then, after some minutes, the second makes a clicking sound as they fix in his head.
“Just another dead nigger man. Let that be a lesson to you, Reed. You got talent. Make it outta South Jamaica in one piece man. In one piece. That’s the ticket, making it out of this motherfucker with your head on straight,” my team mate yells, retreating.
my flight insists:
that I can
that I am
without the weight of
or the gravity of
my weak attempts.
more to the fire
than the putting out of it,
though a collage of
and loose ends,
built of black marks,
and a hips-width
but I am a
skeptic of defeat,
untangling the wires
rooted at my feet,
towards an all-seeing sun,
drinking in its fruit
Donia Mounsef was born and lived in Beirut, Lebanon until the age of 19. She is a Canadian-Lebanese poet, playwright and dramaturge. She splits her time on either side of the Canadian Rockies, between Vancouver and Edmonton where she teaches theatre and poetry at the University of Alberta. She is the author of a poetry chapbook: “Slant of Arils,” published by Damaged Goods Press (2015), reviewed in Fruita Pulp, http://www.fruitapulp.com/2015/07/06/review-slant-of-arils-by-donia-mounsef/
Her writing has been published and anthologized in print and online in The Toronto Quarterly, Labor of Love, Bluestem, Yes Poetry, Gutter Eloquence, Poetry Quarterly, Skin 2 Skin, Iris Brown, Reverie’s Rage Anthology, 40 Below Anthology, etc. Her performance poetry and plays have been performed on stages in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Edmonton, and New Haven.
Kirby Wright was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is a graduate of Punahou School in Honolulu and the University of California at San Diego. Wright received his MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. His first play was produced at the Secret Theatre’s 2016 One Act Festival in New York.
Deborah Berman-Montaño has featured her work in the Phoenix poetry and art scene since the late 1990s, around the time she graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from ASU. She has curated, hosted & produced poetry events in the Phoenix/Tempe area since 2012, focusing on artists from disparate and under-represented backgrounds and cultures as well as those driven to redeem humanity through the creation of great art. She has been published in ELKE “A Little Journal”, Spilled Milk Magazine, Four Chambers and more.
Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota since 2000. Her published books include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and The Book Of, while her poetry has recently appeared in New Ohio Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle. Her newest poetry book, Ugly Girl, just came out from Shoe Music Press.
Dennis Reed is a poet living in Bowie, Maryland. His work has appeared in ESSENCE, CLA, STYLE and DISCORD. He has taught writing courses at Morehouse, William and Mary and VCU.
Latiana Blue is a native of the Bronx who cites an inability to forget where she’s from as a key ingredient to founding her budding business, bklynprose. bklynprose is a collection of writing and wellness workshops for the lady spectrum. Latiana is an upbeat tutor, teacher, and advocate, speaking up for mental health as well as rape and sexual assault awareness. If asked to sum up her existence in one image, she = a thought bubble personified.