Before the Sun Rose
She found our first home the day before I was born, meeting the realtor out front of an old victorian house, then following behind to a smaller unit, pink with green trim. The woman’s eyes gazed down at my mother’s stomach.
“A girl?” she asked.
The realtor nodded and looked toward the alleyway. In the distance, police sirens echoed off bricks.
“What would you think about getting a dog?” the realtor asked. “We don’t normally allow pets, but we could make an exception.”
“Dogs eat babies,” my mother said. And it was true, sometimes.
There wasn’t much to move in. My uncle drove over from San Pablo in the morning and helped my mother set up the crib in one corner of the bedroom.
“From Louise,” he said, laying a blue blanket over the crib mattress. “We have more, but she’s not ready . . .” His voice trailed off.
The stillborn. It was supposed to be Leon’s blanket.
At night, alone, my mother lay on a twin-sized mattress. The house was hot and the streetlamp lit up the bedroom window, casting shadows of bars across the floors. She pinned Leon’s blanket above the window. My blanket.
When her stomach began tightening, my mother turned on her side and cursed the name of the man who did this to her, or maybe a few names because she wasn’t ever sure. And somewhere between those screams, I emerged, purple and fat, screaming at her, relentlessly wanting milk, craving songs, needing that switch to click on when someone becomes a mother but it never did.
In the morning, the realtor returned and found a baby curled in a dog bowl on the front steps, howling. My mother was gone before the sun rose.
Denise is an Austrian-American writer, born in San Francisco, Ca. She received her BA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, where she was awarded the Frances Jaffer Poetry Prize in 2014. She currently lives in Vallejo, Ca, with her two young daughters and is a substitute teacher in low-income, urban high schools.
but wonder if something special inside of me has manifested in my posture. And though I acknowledge his praise with the slightest lowering of my eyes – don’t even glance over at my wife to see if she heard – all that modesty is just a pose.
A Thousand Words
Charles D. Tarlton
They agreed on most things, just not on art. His favorite paintings were Hans Hofmann’s solid color abstractions, hers were Gustav Klimt’s combinations of shape and object. The question was merely theoretical for him, but vital to her, because she was a painter. She mixed up colored patterns and designs with portraits or sketches of trees. One day, he was having coffee and reading on the deck when she brought out her most recent painting and leaned it against the railing. It showed an array of geometrical colored patterns surrounding a careful representation of the old, carved wooden Buddha they’d bought in Oakland. “What do you think of it?” she asked, and waited for his answer. He lay his book down, pushed his reading glasses up onto his forehead, and studied the painting. He felt that familiar tension he felt whenever they disagreed and, though he knew it was stupid, he went ahead and said, “We have cameras, you know, if you wanted a snapshot of something.” He turned back to his book as she walked away, leaving the painting behind. She came back after a minute with a big brush and a pot of black paint, and painted out the figure of the Buddha. Then she said: “Does that make you feel any better?”
Charles D. Tarlton is a retired university teacher who has been writing poetry and flash fiction since 2006. He and his wife, Ann Knickerbocker, an abstract painter, live in Northampton, Massachusetts. He has had poetry published in: Jack Magazine, Shampoo, Review Americana, Tipton, Barnwood, Abramelin, among others.
The Senior War Correspondent
Before she fled the rain of mortar fire that leveled Aleppo to ruins and left in its wake bands of flip-flopped teenagers, Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders. Before the Second Intifada, when she was caught between a triad of IDF and a tattered boy armed with a stone, praying they wouldn’t shoot through her to get to him. And before the weeks of training on anti-personnel mines and how to get through a checkpoint without raising too many questions, she was a girl catching fireflies in a mason jar and crying the next morning when they wouldn’t shine.
Douglas Koziol is an MFA candidate in fiction at Emerson College. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crack the Spine, Driftwood Press, and theEEEL, among other places.