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Clouds

REM

Clouds Clouds

A CHILD’S
RECURRING DREAM

Poem by Alicia Katzman
Illustration by Brian David Smith

Watercolor of a child running from man in purple suit with orange hair resembling flames and hands shaped like lobster claws. Haiku reads, Run, hide! He's coming. Flame-haired lobster-clawed goblin! Don't let him find you.
Some Rain Must Fall

SOME RAIN
MUST FALL

Writing by Kevin Klinskidorn

There is a faintness just now. A strange thinning of the air as I watch my mother dance with my father in the yellow kitchen light. They are happy. And my brother and I are laughing, a gap-toothed and cowlicked audience of two. Music is playing. A man’s singing voice, and the warm hum from the hulking Philco phonograph that will always remind me of church doors. My mother wears a long striped dress, which will be worn again on some distant day by my own daughter, though of this, now, I am unaware. I am seven years old and smiling. My father looks like the man we all wished for him to be. He holds my mother with steady hands as they transit across the linoleum, a sureness in his step I will never see again. This is the last night he will smile at us. Tomorrow he will step onto a bus and into a war and when he comes home—

He will never come home. Not really. His hands will return shaking. His eyes distant. His voice sharp and frightening—though, on most days, silent. The war will take many things from my father.

My brother steps onto a bus before I am old enough to follow him. He won’t come home at all. His hands will be buried in mud and tall grasses. His eyes shut tight. His voice a fading echo in my ears—Thomas, you’ll have to come out sometime; you’ll have to grow up; you can’t just hide yourself away in a broom cupboard; there’s a world out there and we can see it together.

This is Paris, and I am still tripping over my new tongue. I am standing in front of a girl. I am twenty-two and uncertain of nearly everything. This is the world. I am seeing it now, a brother without a brother. I feel the roundness of every cobble in the city through the thinning soles of my shoes.

Still twenty-two. I am standing in front of another girl, and she is smiling at me. She pronounces my name in a way that makes my feet feel steadier. Her name will slip carefully from my mouth for three more weeks and then never again. But first, we are standing in front of a fountain. Stone horses rise up from the water, and passersby cast their wishes as coins. There is music. Someone is singing for coins. This, I think, is exactly how I dreamt it would be. I pay a man too much for a rose and give it to her. She smiles and breathes it in. She kisses my cheek, just once, lightly, then sets the rose afloat in the water of the fountain. A wish.

I am standing barefoot and boyish in a kitchen watching my mother hold tight to my father before he leaves her for a battlefield. I will leave her too. Tonight, he dips her, gently, saying something in her ear too quietly for my brother or me to hear. She laughs. We are all laughing, as a man and a woman sing a song I won’t remember. For now, roses are just something a father brings a mother on sunny days to stand in a clay pitcher and slowly fade.

A home in Philadelphia. There is music here too. My son, marching around the house with green marker drawn all over his skinny bird body. His hard, grasping fingers. He wants to show me something. Rebecca, holding our daughter in her arms, coos and shushes her tiny grimacing face. My son has drawn a picture of soldiers. Men killing one another with all the little boy bravery and terrible glee of astronauts and firemen and laconic cowboys.

To him, his dead uncle is a hero in a story. To me, he is simply gone.

The children, sunburnt and spinning. Sand in their hair. We have crossed the country to see another ocean. The Pacific swells blue-black and enormous. Familiar in its size and shape, but somehow strange. Foreign. Like a photograph of a distant relative. The children run toward waves and leap away in squealing retreat each time the white foam reaches for their ankles. Look at them, Rebecca says. Look at them. My son has found a tide-smooth stone in the crude shape of a dog. This stone he will keep forever, an irreducible artifact of his life, precious to him long after he has forgotten why.

My brother and I want to join our parents on the brick-red linoleum. We want to dance with our mother. To dance like our father. We want them to see. But we don’t dare interrupt. We stay pressed against the doorframe, stains on our shirtfronts, aware somehow that this is ours alone to witness.

The bird doesn’t see the glass. I sit at the table, hoping Annabelle hasn’t heard the thud of his slight body colliding with the window, but I know she has. She looks at me, almost an accusation, and then rushes to the windowsill. He lies there motionless on the ground outside. A grey warbler, stilled. Maybe a thrush. No bigger than a couple of inches—the weight of a coin. His will be the first death Annabelle meets. There is something out of proportion about this moment. The size of the little bird and the size of Annabelle’s new understanding of the world. She stands before me, hands on hips, dry-eyed—why did the bird fly into the window, Daddy? Sorry, Squirt. Sometimes it just happens.

A mother—a grandmother—sits up in a narrow bed. A small table lamp lights her face. Her blue eyes still shine. My daughter is crying. My son, once too young to understand death, now too invincible. I don’t know what to feel. I am forty-nine. Still uncertain of nearly everything. My father, long dead, might have held my mother’s hand. Might have danced with her, humming a tuneless waltz. I take her hand now, a cage of fingers, light as a bird’s wing. She doesn’t speak. Hasn’t for weeks. But I see in her pale eyes that she knows my face.

The record hisses and crackles as the needle searches for another track to follow. My father keeps shuffling his feet. Swaying with my mother, back and forth, to the rhythm of cicadas, the clicks and pops of the empty song. To a song only they can hear. I stand tiptoed next to my brother in the yellow kitchen light, not knowing I will be taller than him soon enough.

Beyond the kitchen windows, I will fall in love just twice. I will outlive Rebecca by just two weeks. Survive one hundred moments of darkness—one hundred moments of wonder. Eighty-six years of heartbreak and smooth stones and questions stretch out ahead of me. Countless dreams forgotten upon waking. But for now, just at this moment, there is dancing. There is dancing in our house.

Dog training Dog training

DOG
TRAINING

Poem by Nick Hiebert
Painting by Giuseppe Lipari

Oil painting of a dog with black and white markings and a soft facial expression

This morning
as I walked around
the meadow, I fell in love
with a duck
and later in the day
with a mole
you had chewed up with a
lawn mower last week.

Pulling your weight
with my neck that evening,
I was struck
by Clare’s knapsack,
so orange and bouncing.
And when we got back
to the house, my heart leapt
and I nearly peed on the rug
from the scent of the
carraway-dotted sausage
—beer steam rising from the
cast iron skillet.

This is the love I want to
teach you, I thought.
No strings,
no naked-man-
bathtub-goadings,
or cold commands
to drop it or to leave it.

The love of the toad,
the dead mole,
and the white lacrosse ball.

No impassioned politic,
no this-needs-that rancor.
No television flickering—
the love of the squeak from
the toy pheasant,
the frosty morning grass
between toes,
the warm cut of sunshine
in the atrium, the nap.

No expectation, no plans,
no fantasy football—
just a soft spot for kibble,
for the sandhill cranes in the
cattails—
the symphony of all things.

And the red orbs
at the party,
with their long green tails
hovering
just above the ground.

My heart
is always in front of me,
ready to pull me here.

As the sky turned dark and
you jotted something down
on your notepad,
I found myself looking up
at a magnificent leaf
caught on the windowsill.
There has never been a leaf
as leafy as this,
so crumpled and brown,
so at home off its tree,
dancing in the wind.