ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Hannah Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Scott Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Nicole Alexander
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Lawrence Berger
   Kevin Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Craig Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Adam Levon Brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Tony Bush
   Zachary C. Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Dana Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Phil Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Merrill Cole
   Karen E. Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J. de Salvo
   J de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   t. joseph dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Alex Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Raud Kennedy
   Bernard Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Ashley King
   Robert S King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Thomas Krämer
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Wolf Larsen
   Kasandra Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Anne Lecrivain
   Marie Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Emma Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Lee Mason
   Hyatt Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Richard Lee Miller
   Robert John Miller
   Scott Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Carl Moore
   Greggory Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Toti O'Brien
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Nina Orlovskaya
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Luke Prater
   Kristena Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Rina Rose
   Emily Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
   Alison Ross
   James Robert Rudolph
   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
   Ashley Rumery
   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
   Sonya Sabanac
   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
   John Saunders
   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
   Iftekhar Sayeed
   Frances Schiavina
   Kim Schroeder
   Carol Schwalberg
   Peter Schwartz
   Ken Scott
   Sondra L. Scott
   David Scriven
   Justin Scupine
   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
   Tom Sheehan
   Jake Sheff
   Steve Shickman
   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
   Ferrari Silverpowder
   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
   Danielle Smith
   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
   Jan Steckel
   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
   Carl Stillwell
   Bruce Stirling
   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Dee Sunshine
   Mani Suri
   John Duncan Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Jonathan Taylor
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
   Evan Walsh
   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
   Justin Weiler
   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   Leigh White
   J.T. Whitehead
   Claire Williams
   John Sibley Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Jessica Wilson
   Amye Wilson
   Robert D. Wilson
   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
   Joseph Wistren
   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
   Abigail Wyatt
   John Yamrus
   Müesser Yeniay
   Julie Yi
   Gregory T. Young
   Britney Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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Brendan Connell
November 2005
   

 

Against the Back

Out of one self same clod of clay

there sprouts both stinking weeds and delightful flowers.




                                    –Robert Greene




    She woke up in the darkness of morning, near his body. The thought
crossed her mind that she might straddle and make violent love to him,
shocking the man out of sleep.

    A reversal of roles, she thought.

    In the distance a dog barked and their dog, from its kennel, replied.
As if in sympathy with the canines, Mary Herman silently removed herself
from the room where she and her husband slept. The child’s door was open
and the night-light comfortingly lambent. This inspired her to lean against
the doorjamb and look at the raised rectangle draped in fabric where her
offspring slept. Unconsciously she kneaded her right breast. She was not
thin and her epidermis was full of human being. The sound of a truck engine
revving in the distance made her think, by obscure modes of association, of
eggs frying in a pan.

    She walked down the carpeted steps and into the kitchen, and then began preparing
breakfast.

    Why do I do it, she thought as she dropped a handful of small pork
sausages in the hot pan. They replied, sizzling, and the smell, as it
sometimes did, brought forth an epiphany of nostalgia. She felt an almost
overwhelming connection to the United States of America and what she
believed to be its history and tradition.

    When the husband appeared the child was sitting in its special seat,
the yellow crust of egg decorating its mouth. Cooked food lay on the table.

    She, the mother, looked at him as his teeth closed in on the toast; the
crunching projected the image to her mind of human bones being decimated.

    He began to speak, apparently in harmony with the proteins ingested.

    Hearing his words, she nodded, smiled. In a way it was a relief that he
talked, then teased the child. She loved him. She hated him. His mop of
silver hair was an insult to a woman under thirty. Then there was a feeling
of affection; she saw him tease their daughter. A slight warmth was felt by
Mrs. Herman between her hip bones.

    When he wants to be nice he’s lovely, she thought. Then she wiped the
child’s mouth, a vague act of comradeship to ally herself to the man.
    Receiving a kiss of significant rapidity, the husband left the country
house, his torso in a sports jacket. He would lawyer and fulfill certain
primitive instincts for survival.

    The woman felt as if a railroad spike had been removed from the midst
of her spine as she saw his car turn out the long drive. The terror of the
early morning was removed by the appearance of a misted, bright orb hovering
low over the swamp, which she called "a lake." The kitchen table was scattered
with the traces of an eating and the child was there without being where
she, Mary Herman, was.

    Without altogether making a human connection she took her daughter to
the living room TV, and then set her in front of it. In the kitchen she threw
away bits of masticated bread, ate a bowl of cereal, and listened to the
distant cartoon entertainment. She tried to feel a bond with the child and
in touch with the events on the screen though she could not see them.

    TV brings people closer together, she thought. Yet I could not be
further away from her if I were on the moon
.

    The apparent injustice of this stirred her and later when she found
herself naked under the warm fluid of the showerhead, actually moved her to
tears.

    The tears of a desperate woman, she thought as she lathered her hair.

    By the time she put the child in the car seat she was completely dry.
Pulling on to the road, she nearly hit a man out walking. For a moment she
wished that she had. Then she saw him wave, and the bald crown of his head,
and his age. She waved back.

    If all men could be like that, she thought. Friendly even to strangers.

    She realized that she was smiling, repressed it, and then smiled again
self-consciously. The car moved rapidly through the farm country, the woman
behind the wheel a young mother.

    At the supermarket she sat the child in the child’s seat of the
shopping cart and wheeled through the aisles, filling it with fruit, iceberg
lettuce and aluminum cans of beer and soda. The sight of the pork chops,
beef and other raw meats filled her with a certain pleasure. They were the
dead meat of once-living things, in plastic wrapping without any obvious
relation to life.

    She grew more comfortable as the cart accumulated goods, the familiar
packaging making her walk with easier steps. Music, filtered through
discreet speakers, soothed her and brought out certain primitive,
pseudo-emotional instincts in her being. The smile of the cashier made her
feel that she, Mary Herman was an integral part of the community, yet at
the same time like drinking a very stiff gin and tonic, and smoking a
cigarette.

    Later that day, the man who was jointly her husband’s best friend and
her lover came over. During sexual intercourse she tried very hard to enjoy
herself, and even cried out. But this was more from a sense of desperation
than pleasure. Afterward thunder growled outside, lightening cracked, and then
she saw the rain fall past her window.

    The man beside her was a trucker by trade who carried merchandise both
licit and illicit over the interstate highways. Living was painful; he
reminded her of a pile of lard or inert matter. He smiled and said things
that were meant to be endearing but were very banal.

    Slowly he became a living man again, and through shame and pity she
believed in love.

    Her daughter came in but did not appear to be surprised to see them
both in bed. The child reported that there was a rainbow outside and Mary,
raising her body and looking out the window, saw it hanging over her lake. A
moment of true tenderness followed.

    A flower in the desert, she thought.

    "Happy, happy, joy, joy," sang the child, skipping from the room.

    In the kitchen she made him a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and
coffee, and the she had a cup of coffee. He ate and looked at her,
occasionally raising his eyebrows as if hoping thereby to communicate. The
house sat under tall pine trees, and even though the sun had come out and
birds sang the unlit kitchen was full of shadow. She could hear her stomach
rumble slightly from the coffee and looking at the clock saw that it was
past two.

    As if this was a signal, he abruptly got up to leave.

    After he left she turned on the radio and moved, almost danced around
the room. A strip of cold bacon lay in the pan on the stove. She grabbed it, and
then rammed it into her mouth shaking her head in time to the music. At the
sound of laughter she turned around. The little girl stood at the entrance
pointing at her.

    Outside they watched the dog, a Dalmatian move around the property. It
sniffed at a tree, marked it, and then snapped at a wasp. Gunshots could be
heard from across the swamp where sportsmen shot ducks. The dog looked out
across the swamp. She played catch with her daughter, a small beach ball
passing in the air between the two.

   As the feeling of domestic tranquility grew more pronounced so did her
feeling of listlessness and loss of purpose. She wished her daughter would
grow tired of the game and without admitting it, was not there.
    Looking at her own lower body, she noticed how tightly the jeans fit,
though they were a size larger than the pair she had worn the year before. The
thought of liposuction flashed through her mind, and then a boat floating
across an ocean of puss.

    The child was holding the ball, staring at her questioningly, she threw the ball and it bounced off her shoulder. Suddenly angry, she thrust the
ball back at the child. It missed, landing in the bushes. The child stared,
shocked, and then cried.

    Disgusted and afraid of both herself and the other, she ran inside. No
sooner had she closed the door behind her then she heard the sound of tires
turning down the driveway. She looked at the clock and was surprised to see
that it was almost four-thirty. Outside she could hear the car door slam and
her husband’s voice. He was talking with his daughter and as Mary heard
this, she also heard the faucet dripping, the refrigerator hum, and the
click of her own jaw as it tensed.

    When he came in she saw by the expression on his face that he was
upset. She made a feeble attempt to smile, knowing as she did so the sense
of failure.

    "You hit the girl," he said.

    She denied it and tried to explain. He yelled and made sharp, abrupt
movements with his arms. As he yelled her thoughts rotated between killing
him, or preparing dinner. In the end he took a cold can of beer out of the
refrigerator, and then drank it. Pacified, he kissed her and felt her right
breast.

    As she prepared dinner she snacked on small bits of food: a piece of
lettuce, a crouton, a lump of uncooked ground beef. The little girl walked
through the kitchen undisturbed, and the husband sat in the living room
watching the evening news. When the telephone rang, she picked it up and
heard the other man’s voice.

    "I love you," he told her.

    "Do you want to speak to my husband," she said.

    She took the portable telephone into the living room and handed it to
him. As she set the table she heard her husband’s laughter. His tone of
voice had altered to one that men use towards men. Without knowing why she
knew that they were talking about the sex opposite to themselves - and
probably her. She looked out the kitchen window and, in the evening light
saw a deer move toward the edge of the swamp. For a moment she thought of
calling out to the man and the little girl, but then decided to keep it for
herself.

    During the meal of meatloaf, potatoes, and salad the man drank
beer and talked, telling jokes and stories. After the table had been cleared
she still saw him sitting there, his fingers snapping open a fresh can of
beer. He was fourteen years older than her, and when she notice the large
ketchup stain on his shirt and the piece of lettuce that glowed between his
teeth every time he opened his mouth, she became suddenly queasy. He licked
the beer from his lips and continued to speak, while she leaned against the
kitchen counter.

    "Please honey," she said, and then closing her eyes, tried to blot out
the sound of his voice. She thought of a gurgling brook, a woodpecker, the
white sands of a beach, a wicker basket full of shellfish. To her amazement
when she opened them again, he was not there. She heard him crashing around
in the garage; he had taken out the trash.

    She stood motionless and listened as he came in, very near her, and then he
took another can of beer from the refrigerator. She heard his footsteps
recede into the living room, and then the usual sound of TV combined with
the voices of daughter and husband.

    Mary went out the backdoor and stood on the porch. Moths beat
against the porch light, fragile and tragic. Walking out into the darkness,
she felt the moist grass beneath her bare feet. She gasped for breath, stuck
out her tongue, and then cried out.

    Her husband’s head appeared in the living room window pressed against
the glass, looking out. Then ee was then gone and the curtains closed. She heard the
crickets and clouds sweep past the bright moon. It’s almost full, she
thought, and then with arms folded went back inside.

    She wanted to go upstairs and lie on her bed, but could not do so
without passing by the living room. Her throat constricted. She breathed
deeply through her nose to help remove the panic. Quietly, she went to the
stairs and walked up. Out of the corner of one eye she saw the man and
child sitting side by side watching TV. There was an impulse to join them
as a member of the family, but she did not obey it. She found herself at the
head of the stairs.

    In the bedroom she turned on the reading lamp by the side of the bed,
and then sat down. Her shadow, cast against one side of the room appeared
grotesque. She ran a hand up and through her hair; the dark motion
against the wall was that of an alien.

    Rubbing the back of her neck, she went to the restroom, brushed her
teeth and then washed her face with soap and warm water. she changed into a
nightgown, and lay under the covers. Asleep, she drove down a highway paved
with coarse ground pepper, talked with a dead friend, and accidentally drank
dishsoap instead of coffee.



(previously published in The A-list)

copyright 2005 Brendan Connell