Fredrick Zydek, Ashley Boles, Barry Ballard, John Sokol,














Home | The Last Issue | Submissions | Achieve: 2004-2009 | Essays





 
 
 
Fredrick Zydek taught creative writing and theology for many years, first at UNO and later at the College of Saint Mary. He has five collections of poetry, and his work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Cimmaron Review, New England Review, Nimrod, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Yankee, and others. His collection, T’KOPACHUK: THE BUCKLEY POEMS, is forthcoming from Winthrop Press.
 
 
 
Letter to Palmer After the Death of our Mutual Friend

Dear Faye: In all the years I knew him he never talked
about his place in the universe or belonging to America. 
It always amazed me how much he enjoyed culture and
cruises to foreign lands and packing his mansions with
European and Asian antiques but never owned, read
or bought a book until Rock Hudson died and a tell-all
biography of  his life was published.  He was a man
 
who would rather polish diamonds than enlighten his
mind.  He liked stuff.  He wasn’t beyond taking other
people’s stuff if it took his fancy.  I often marveled at
how much he enjoyed getting a bargain.  It didn’t matter
if all he was able to get a dealer to do was come down
one penny on the dollar.  As far as he was concerned,
he had a new jewel in his crown because in his world
 
view getting it cheaper was the name of the game. 
It’s a damn good thing he wasn’t born Roman Catholic
because the three things he could never understand
were poverty, chastity and obedience.  I think he was
born standing up and fighting back.  I’ve never known
anyone who could be more cantankerous if he felt in
the slightest way devalued or challenged.   He seemed
 
to think he was entitled to have his way in all matters
about all things at all times and didn’t owe anyone any
kind of explanation for any of it.  As far  as he knew
he was right about everything whether he was actually
right or not.  He was more bully than most people could
tolerate.  But a few of us knew all about the buttons that
had been broken when he was just a kid and hoped that
 
if we just humored him through his tantrums and rough
times he would return to being the fun-loving, caring
friend we all got to know before he found the bottle and
began the long but sure process of pickling himself to death.
How do we deal with a man and a death like this?  I think
we do what we always did when he pissed us off.  We grin
and bear it because in a little while, we will love him again.




    

Ashley Boles Originally from Hokes Bluff, Alabama, is a first year Master’s student at the University of Cincinnati with a focus in poetry. Some of his poems and short stories have appeared in the University of Montevallo’s fine art’s journal, The Tower, as well as in The Rectangle, the literary magazine of Simga Tau Delta International English Honor Society. He enjoys the perks of Dolly Parton on a daily basis.

 

Lluvia Song

 

Nina sang

to the man who sold vino tinto from a street side shack that wore

christmas lights like a crown. Nina Sang, buzzed by the Dodge exhaust, as we poured ourselves back in the metal bed to ride up the hill, full of wine, until it was too dark to notice the gnats. Dominican rain began to beat and blow, bringing small gifts on wind—

liquid love as our bodies danced in time with tires on cement.

 

Nina sang

safe inside the dry wood of the common room, beside a chair she used to remember the rhythm. Its unshaven legs, steady cymbals on a bunkhouse floor, mimicked the tapping of neon nails against her jutted hip as she dragged lyrics like drying tobacco.

 

Nina sang

with a voice softer than coffee sacks over her mango colored tongue.

Her eyes met my open-wide mouth as she strangled a microphone made of air.

And I thought maybe she was crazy, like me, for the sound of Billie Holiday

on days that sweat like full pitchers left in the sun.

 

Nina sang

and cried. Her voice mourned along, shaking me out of my Caribbean sleep.

The rain, jealous by now, tried to drown her out, pelting the green tin roof

with sleepy bullets. But in chiffon sails and breath like wind, she sailed me home, full speed, until I wanted no more.

 

 
 
 
Barry Ballard poetry has most recently appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Connecticut Review, Margie, and Puerto del Sol.   His most recent collection
is A Body Speaks Through Fence Lines (Pudding House, 2006)  He writes from
Burleson, Texas. 


A KIND OF PROOF

When I fell from the Maple and knocked myself
out, you ran to the house screaming that I
was dead.  I woke, alone, back from the sky
that released me and walked in a trance till help
arrived, till our neighbor picked me up.  We
got ourselves back and swung from the same
cable (because there was a reason to name
our fear and then defeat it, a name
 
we gave to "nothingness" and the simple
given things that go away).  The tree still
stands as a kind of proof, a timeless symbol
with a two-by-four nailed like a window
sill where we sat and viewed the world. a fence
around it, as if  the bare roots were sacred.

 
 
 
John Sokol most resent collection of short stories is "The Problem With Relativity," published by Rager Media.

Fire and Water
         
                 -- notes from the upperground
 
How are you, old friend, dear once-wife?  Me?  Oh, women come and go (mostly go), but none speak much of Michelangelo.  In truth, I’d still sooner wash your feet with my tears than watch any of them try to start a fire.  “What brought all this up?” I can hear you saying. It all started the other day at work, when Frank mentioned how odd it is that hydrogen and oxygen, by themselves, are extremely flammable, yet when combined to form HO, they’ll put out a fire.  I blinked and thought of you.  When you were dying and delirious, your eyes closed, you whispered, “why do you love me?”  “Because you’re a tall drink of water and you saved my life.”  “No, really . . . . why?”  “Alright.  Because you’re a tall drink of water and you light my fire.”  And for five more months, it was fire and water, fire and water.  Adriamycin and cytoxin seared and collapsed your veins.  Radiation burned your chest and back.  Dillaudid and morphine burned holes in your stomach.  “Sweetheart, will you bring me some water?  I’m on fire.”  So I brought you water, and more water, and water, water, water.  Then they put a drain shunt in your back and removed 3 litres of liquid from your lungs, and still, a month later, you drowned in your own fluids.  But fire was your last request.  So I spread your ashes around the pond in the woods we loved, and, yes, ever since, its been water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink
















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