#10? Seriously, has it been ten issues already? Time flies--it’ll do anything to avoid public transportation. On a serious note, group hug to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy, that bitch!!! We only had sporadic wi-fi outages, so no reason to complain. Let the writers herein do the griping.
Umphatic Editor Boston, MA November 5, 2012
Note: A technical issue smashed the poems' spacing like pumpkins. The editor fixed this prob on a big, badass PC. Be a pal and ignore cosmetic inconsistencies. I'm a poet, Jim, not a techie!
War Story: Veteran of a Foreign War By Steve Glines
Tony is a bartender, a tough guy. Guts and glory tattoos cover his exposed arms and suggest more. When the bar closes he puts on his leather jacket, pumps his Harley to life and disappears into the night. He says he lives out there and mumbles the name of the town, one I've never heard of. He says he has an ex-wife out there and a couple of kids too.
One night a rowdy customer spills a drink on Tony's shirt. His nostrils flair but he keeps his cool. "You're cut off unless you've got a really big tip for me," he grins and takes off his shirt. The chevrons of a Gunnery Sergeant, three stripes and two rockers, adorn both arms. He's still wearing a uniform.
"So you were in the service I see," I sort of ask. He says he was in the Marines and laughs.
"Hey 'gunny,'" I say, "bring me a beer." He grins and says, "That's Master Sergeant to you. Been meaning to get that fixed."
"Did you see any action?" I ask, hoping for a story. He points to a scar ripping through the chevron on his left arm but says nothing. The weary look on his face as he puts a wet shirt back on says all he's going to say.
The queen's children are mistreated, driven by smoke and subterfuge though they work hard at the harvest, two sets of wings acrobatic above the garden.
Careful, they learn early to hide from the bee-eater bird, beewolves and dragonflies, sometimes vanishing behind leaves before going back to nectar.
They don't deserve enemies! Hunter-gatherers in air, they are migrants, not fooled by floral oils, sometimes biting mistletoe to open to the center.
During flight, they dodge assassin bugs and crab spiders, sprays and birds, fortunate their queen lays thousands of eggs, backing them up.
Symbol of Lower Egypt and close to the Pharoah's heart who was born of Sedge and Bee, they are beloved to Seneca, prominent on crests and shields.
Noble grandchildren of the wasp, they gave up flesh to flurry in a yellow cloud through one season, building hives of plenty despite mockingbirds nearby,
their honey and wax rich enough for royalty and common men, pollinating evening primroses and crimson rhododendron.
Green Baby By Jessica Harman
It was before Facebook was invented but after microwaves, and as we were driving down de Maisonneuve Boulevard in Heidi’s Lexus, I knew this was a problematic time in my life when I would make all the wrong decisions.
Sara looked wistfully at a boarded-up storefront that used to be a Yogen Fruz. She pined, “During a recession, those little German yogurt places are the first to go.” I didn’t say anything, though I thought that it was a Swedish company. Now all we would be left with was Haagen-Dasz, which was made with real cream and not yogurt, and worse for our waistlines.
“Yup,” Chris said, in the front passenger seat, next to Heidi in her fuzzy Russian bear hat which had ear flaps she could tie beneath her chin.
“Insane, Insane in the membrane! Insane, ain’t got no brain,” Heidi sang very loudly to the soundtrack of our lives, which was playing very softly on the radio.
We were young—twenty-one is young—and I knew that it would never get any better than this. And if it did, so sue me Roger.
I was in the back seat with Sara. She pretended not to notice as I sniffed at the dirt underneath my fingernails, which was the dirt we so recently dug up in the park on the mountain under November’s blue moon. I caught a whiff of a scent she referred to as “Green Baby.” It smelt of ivy and saplings. It smelt of the essence that would satisfy hunger, and the one thing that could quench the thirst of the world that wanted to be drunk on beauty. We had very sensitive noses because we were werewolves. We knew that the others wouldn’t be able to know the world how we knew it: from its very rudimentary essences in scents. It’s a particularly cryptic type of information, and everything is so beautiful and raw.
As I looked at Sara’s snub nose in profile as she was looking out the window of Heidi’s powder blue Lexus, I could only vaguely remember when we learned that we were the same, and what I mean by that is that we were both werewolves. It has nothing to do with whether or not those in your family were werewolves or not, because it’s not hereditary. It happens to you because there is something about you that is your true nature that makes you become a monster, sometimes. You are either born one or you’re not, just the way some people have a natural predisposition to swimming—you either like the water or you don’t. I don’t like swimming. I know what I am, but sometimes I’m not sure who. We’re always learning.
I do remember very well how Sarah and I met. Her brother Josh found me lying moribund in a gutter. But that was in a dream. Really, I met her in school, on the basketball court. She came up to me and said, “Don’t I know you from art classes at The Visual Art Center Summer Camp when we were kids?”
I said, “Yes.”
She shared her cookies at break with me every day after that, for the rest of eternity.
But then eternity was cut short because my family moved, and I would not see Sara every day until I
Moved back, showing up on her doorstep one day with a duffle bag in my hand, screaming, “Gooey!!!
Sara!!!!” when she opened that heavy front door with the ornate brass knocker.
Then, I was there again, with her, Sara. That is what mattered. But I did not yet know that you can hang
onto nothing. I was a very naïve werewolf, indeed. And a very naïve person, too. I was a green baby if
there ever was one, and we are all green babies, until the world takes things away from us, until time
eats us as we so desperately try to eat it up first.
Urban Gardening Made Easy
Ensure your porch or balcony is on the second floor or higher and that you live in an urban neighborhood. If not, move.
Buy a pot for your porch or balcony. It doesn't matter how big or small because it's just a decoy for the plants. Gardeners make a big deal about facing south, but ignore them and plan to pot plants whichever direction your porch or balcony faces.
Purchase soil and seeds. Place soil in pots and sow the seeds.
On the third day, watch as 40-mile-per-hour wind gusts and driving rain tip over your carefully prepared pots. (Note: it's best to plan this for just after you've dressed for bed, because it's not nearly as funny if it happens when you're up and about.)
Run around in slippers and pajamas, righting upturned pots and scooping what dirt/seed mixture you can back into the pots.
In the following days, check for adequate water and add more as necessary.
Forget about the seeds and neglect them for the better part of a week.
Remember that you were trying to grow a garden and run outside to find the pot dry like the Sahara. Water it.
The next day, while walking along in front of your home spot dozens of tall green seedlings in the cracks and gaps in the sidewalk. Realize that you've never noticed them before. Pluck one and figure out that your garden has managed to break out of the prison you call a porch.
Wait four more weeks before sprouts teasingly poke their weak heads out of the dirt in your pot, and imagine them being teased by the motorcycle jacket-wearing ruffians that grow below.
Enjoy your urban garden.
St. Francis of Assisi in the Library By Shannon O'Connor
When I go to the courtyard of the library, I sit and read or stare at the fountain in the summer and listen for answers within the sounds of the humming water. Chairs and tables outline the courtyard; if it’s raining you won’t get wet because the chairs are covered by the ceiling that surrounds the courtyard.
People sit with books or laptops or food bought at the café or that they spirit in the library unbeknownst to the guards who eye everyone, making sure no Starbucks cups or McDonald’s bags come in that will contaminate the beauty of the oldest public library in America.
I’ve read that the interior of the Boston Public Library’s McKim building is America’s version of the Sistine Chapel. I have also read that some people think it is an abomination. Whichever one it is, people are always awed at the marble and the lions and the literary names, mostly men, etched along the walls and the stairs. In the afternoon when the sun glows, the light on the orange marble exudes an aura of what heaven might be like, if such a place exists.
I’ve seen a man sitting in the courtyard in the library, usually in summer, because everyone sits there, even though the chairs are out all year round. The man is homeless, obviously, but he surrounds himself with bread crumbs. The birds love him; they crowd on his table, under his chair, all around him eating the bread that he shares.
At a different point in my life, if I was not as healthy as I am now, I would have thought he was St. Francis of Assisi, surrounded by birds, a holy man, a saint. If I was sick, I might have said something to him. He’s probably not dangerous, but I don’t know for sure.
When I think of St. Francis of Assisi, I think of Italian neighborhoods with cement statues surrounded by roses and a brick wall. The man in the courtyard of the library is just an ordinary man, wishing to be surrounded by beauty. Homeless people go to the library because it’s warm and safe.
When I was unwell, during the time when I would have thought the homeless man was St. Francis, I wanted to find a magic place. But I didn’t know then that the ordinary world can appear to be magic, and when it does, the leap from real to magic is there. Beauty, truth, lies, pineapples and cupcakes can all be magic. The jump is hard to take. But if the jump is taken, and you surrender, but still believe in the boundaries, everything will reveal itself and everything will be the way it should. We can all be like St. Francis in the library and seek beauty anywhere.
I blot my broken bound book of blanks. Margaret’s laptop taunts like a do-over math teacher. Her washing machine's spin cycle times my writing like a swim coach.
I attempt another poem.
She assesses application essays, right hand grabs the other’s wrist, forces herself seated.
While I freefall into our future she flings forward, fills financial aid I pay for dinner, scarves to keep her warm, freeload for time
then quiet Molly onto the nearby couch, convince her to write haiku so her mother stays at computer’s helm, my mouth steady. Saying nothing will be my highest good tonight.
Sunday afternoons he’d bang on our door “Lend us twenty bucks, she won’t get up” and he was off around the corner for a whack, just to get her moving.
She worked in a house where he was the doorman, sending men up to his wife. She used to be pretty. Not any more.
She dreamed of leaving this behind. She had it tough. It was hard to watch even when you didn’t really know them. She could have been my sister.
He robbed someone, bought tickets to Lebanon, We’ll make big bucks there, They’ll love you. He cashed them in to score before the plane left. Someone saw his picture in a police station, Wanted. For robbery, not murder.
She was just another dead junkie.
_____________________________________________________ U.M.Ph.! Prose #10 copyright 2012. all written, photographic, and visual artists' work on this site belongs to the current issue for six months after posting date above. then rights revert back to the creator of each work. don't steal, dude; it's rude.