52|250's Third Quarter Review

Week # 37 – Border town

Center St. by Guy Yasko
Bearing Witness by Linda Simoni-Wastila 

In the meeting house this morning, silence. No machines thrumming, no rumble of moving earth. Six others sit in equal quiet. A blue jay caws from someplace distant. I look down to my clasped hands. The query runs through me: Where there are hatred, division, and strife, how are we instruments of reconciliation and love?

Pews creak. Blue pulses below my wrist, skin thin as hope. The jay cackles again, the same or another I cannot tell, but Franklin rises and slides the door bolt. No one speaks; it is understood the remaining Friends fled South through the excavated tunnels. Decades ago, the Sin Papeles built the tunnels and immigrated North. When they crossed the border, broken and naked, we sheltered and fed them in our safe houses until they ran down our schools, shot the police, and bankrupted our hospital. Their children hold the town captive.

Still, we hold Sin Papeles to the light.

To the light we hold our Friends traveling South. I hold my daughter, her husband and infant to the light. My cousin Lorraine, the kindergarteners I taught. I hold them all to the light.

A shadow in the window. A flutter of blue feathers. Footsteps rustle brittle leaves. Far off, the staccato of gunfire. I smell the smoke before I see it curl past the window. Muriel reaches for me and we grip hands.

We are instruments of peace, we whisper. We are instruments of love.

I hold us to the light.

In Between by Stephen Hastings-King 

Behind me are two doors. Each opens onto a room which is more event than space. Entering puts a sequence into motion that is every time the same.

In the first snow falls through the ceiling and weighs down with moisture the flock of paper birds pasted to strings so they hang in the air. One by one they drop away. Each leaves paper carnage behind. As the birds fall the room expands: mountain reliefs, islands and lakes; the holes in Appenzeller and Emmentaler cheeses; the craters of the moon and distributions of stars.

The second room is a diagrammed hierarchy of names that includes the word “room.” The visibility of the diagram varies with observer investment; if you think only about the word room and not about any particular room you may be able to see the branches that in the distance form fractal trees that include actual trees and cauliflower, floodplains and cardiovascular systems.

In between I listen against a door and never hear a sound.

I spend a lot of time in between looking through a window. Once I ventured outside to explore the white plane that extends in the same way indefinitely everywhere and found that nothing except position differentiates one place from another there and that the light moves very slowly right to left so everything seems to run backward. I was lost for I do not know how long. I have not gone out there since.

Someday I will leave this place.

Adult Dark by Martin Brick 

“Kids,” my aunt shouted from the back of the house. “Time to come in.”

“Aw nuts. Already?” I complained but started back.

My cousin Lefty didn’t move. “Come on, we’d better…” I began, but paused, looking to him for guidance.

He was right-handed, so his nickname was just the beginning of things that didn’t quite make sense. Another was that he was younger than me, but clearly in change. But since I moved from the city to rural Indiana he helped acclimate me to wide-open playgrounds of cornfields and woods.

“First,” he instructed, “don’t say ‘aw nuts.’ Who are you, Charlie Brown? Say ‘shit.’ Say ‘damn.’”


“Second. When were we told to go in?”

“When it’s dark.”

“Right. And is it dark?”

“I don’t think it’s dark.” I believed this. It didn’t seem dark. That was the other thing that was hard to get used to. We were right on the border of the time zone, so it got dark late. Mom would say, “It’s bedtime,” when just five miles to the west it was an hour until bedtime. Didn’t make sense.

“This is adult dark. When you’re inside drinking coffee, talking about sick people from church, sure it looks dark.”

“It’s not dark if you’re in it,” I told him.

“Exactly. You’re learning.”

“Boys. Come in.” This time it was my mother. “It’s dark.”

We both giggled. We’re far enough into the corn that she couldn’t see us.

“You going in?” Lefty asked.

“Shit no,” I told him.

On the Brittle Edge of Understanding by Kelly Grotke 

They left that morning before the dew had vanished in the blue summer heat. She’d tied her friend to a fencepost behind the house where the two brothers lived, talking all the while and telling him to be good and promising treats and walks and all manner of good things if he would just please wait there for her return, because cultural knowledge is passed on in elusive little ways after all, and a child’s mind is like a border town in which improbable scenes can and most certainly will take place.

She’d skipped yesterday but here they were picking sides again for another day’s war, two tiny generals and we have become their armies, but it was summer and she wasn’t bored yet and besides they’d all been told to be nice to them for living alone with their mother and coming here after some great tragedy that no one would ever explain. So into the woods now, half north, half south and they’d meet in the middle for the ambushes and taking prisoners and sort out who won after the major battles had ended or when they just got tired because no mortal can play even a great game forever.

Hiding low in the underbrush, she saw one of the brothers untie the dog and yank him toward the woods, a prisoner. But then the dog broke free and only hours later when he still hadn’t come home did she begin to cry and regret her initial enthusiasm.

Border Crossing by Catherine Davis 

Last we spoke, we dashed our cells onto highways, into the paths of semis. This wasn’t going to be like that. Fanning the pages of the album backwards, thumbing our noses at what hadn’t played out, so long ago.

Here is Del Rio. There is Ciudad. In de Chirico stillness at the edge of town, edge of the country – alone I wait, I worry, I want. From this poor motel room it’s high-pricked sensation: a deep lazy backbeat underneath the jangling thrill, the winding, rise-and-fall chirring of the cicadas, and the maraca sizzle of a thousand rattlers’s warnings. An awning flaps, if only in my mind.

The heat warps my view, revealing the true meltedness of it all. As it was then, so it is now: without warning, he appears on the rise at the end of the road.

I watch the sexy strut of dissolution coming onward. My sultry almost-cowboy hitches and rolls his lizard rhythm down the road, pacing this eternal inevitable path. The jingle-jangle of desire pulses against the lassitude of the dust. His shadow is long.

“I’m here,” he says.

“You are,” I say.

“You’re here,” he says.

“I am,” I say.

From the doorway, he watches with orange-flecked eyes.

“Slouch toward me, rough beast. Ignite my womb.”

“You don’t…”

“Now, the full catastrophe. Come on, before we cross.”

The dust on his face is fine. Of salt, of chalk, with a mineral bite. Lips like they ever were, like no others.

We’re going down, down.

Back to Wk #36 – Animal behavior
Forward to Wk #38 – Long distance

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