Perched not so high, in squatty crouched gargoyle position.
Man stands outside the world and I am that man.
Rubbing a morning’s dew from gushing gold fingers.
A lone angled walking stick rock-leaned out of its last thousand years.
Storm heavy over valley green. My whisper, hideous rumour… Clouds of ambitious breath can’t help but leave.
The Bridge of Your Nose is Worth Crossing
The internet is said to house trolls. With ugly weeping warts and their own URLs, whatever those are.
I much prefer incarceration. The way they replace the name I always forget with a number I can’t remember.
That dumb steel clank of the bars dancing together. Guilty in absentia.
Kafka is my favourite prisoner because he confesses nothing to everyone.
You find that you keep reading, offering outs to the author who never takes them.
The bridge of your nose is worth crossing. Traffic on either side and a half dozen Rubicons.
It’s pine needle gin and race records. Derailment east of the Rockies.
That selfish clingy way she cries into your shoulder as though her sadness will be there forever.
A single flicker of candlelight. Tiny bags of almonds handed out along the flightpath.
An army of mousetraps in the dark, so you have to be careful.
On your way to the bathroom and damn near anywhere else worth travelling to.
Without a valid passport. That open ocean way I step into the shower and take on water.
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Bourgeon, TheSongIs.., Cultural Weekly, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.
Image: DXR / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
I have not seen you in fifteen years. I’m not sure how to miss you. At first it was easy, plug in your Super Nintendo and sit down with a book – our mutual way of hiding. Lately it has been accidental, like when our nephew Sean played with your Legos. You always made space ships, I always made houses. Sean has never heard your voice, and I don’t know if he ever will.
I pulled you white plastic megaphone out from a box, my last visit home; hung it on a hook in the basement. The metal lip amplified your voice, reaching further than your arm. Your voice became grit, pushed against the hallways. Nothing worked to tame you, not hearing the version I remembered – Mom left Dad with both of us. I remember the loaded station wagon. You said you believed me, Mom fought for you. I knew you did not want to live with Dad. The dry echo of your voice lasted a year.
I. I couldn’t reach the felt top without jumping. Yet, we tried to play, one sticky sweet swelter of an afternoon in Ramona. He missed the pocket and the ball hit me. Instead of crying for Dad, I picked one up and threw it at him. It was payback; I threw it wrong, or he moved and it made contact with his jaw. His cries opened up the sky and everyone was there. Never, never throw something heavy at your brother. It could kill him. It doesn’t matter that he started it, or why. You’re older. It’s only a ball. You knew it would hurt.
II. Mom took us to Woodfire Pizza for Wednesday Dinner Nights. It was more adult than Chuck E. Cheese, full of arcade games, pool tables, and she could get a beer. I’m tall enough to reach the table now, to manipulate or fail at the physics of cue and trajectory, run a table for hours. At least, for an hour. Mom taught us how, but only until the pizza arrives at our table, too hot to eat. We poke at it with soda straws to cool it down, until she sends us off on our own with a roll of quarters. When we grew tired of pool, I used a few coins for the bouncy ball machine. He bought jawbreakers.
I didn’t say Hello. I saw you today. Little brother, that scar under your eyebrow has stretched beyond its eight stitches. You were seven when the hammock flipped you onto the rock porch, because Dad said the eighth stitch was one knot to grow on, like candles.
It was Dad who I had to grow away from, not you. As kids, you and I were different. I read, could always out-run you, raised rabbits and was shy with everyone. You picked fights, got detention, ran pigeon-toed and played Nintendo. The last I heard, you asked a real estate agent for help and she found Mom.
The agent you asked for help, found Mom, who flew down to Palm Springs to get you. It didn’t work. It never worked and here I am at twenty-six, in the computer section of Best Buy. You are ten yards away, amidst customers on the hunt for deals. I might as well be someone you have never met. You haven’t seen me.
You haven’t seen me wait for your attention. I messed up what I planned to say, the lie — My photography needs a computer upgrade. What do you have? You probably thought I was tired or had a crush. Your name tag doesn’t lie when I insisted I knew you; I am your sister.
I’m your sister. You shook my hand, something Dad would have you do. Your shoulders slope too much for your height. I said I was in town for Grandpa, was in the store on the way to the border to take pictures in Tijuana. You told me to stay put, we’d go for pizza and a beer. You vanished into the storeroom and didn’t come back. I didn’t say Hello.
Build a Brother
I have photographs of you, but they are not real. They have no breath; they are static and posed in a sweater, a plastic fern smile.
What I know, is a watercolor and crayon drawing you made when you were ten. When all the shit was reigning and nothing helped. After I kept you from jumping off the balcony.
Your neck is too long. Your teacher or therapist said it is a symbol for feeling out of body, out of control and yet, constrained.
The portrait is you with a buzz cut, cat ears, tears, my blonde braids, a soccer ball, Nintendo gamer keys and a storm cracked sky.
It is almost a momento mori in a white wooden frame, hung in mother’s office these 24 years.
Dear Brother, It has been another decade. Now you’re 36 and I have 40 in my sights.
I have hopes for you, the kind a sister still has for her kid brother,
hopes that formed as I tried and failed to teach you to read. Hopes that I cried away at 12.
There has not been a word, a like, a text, since I went to see you at Best Buy. When grandpa was still alive.
Mom has written you out of her will. Not out of malice, or need to disavowal but because she knows the odds are against her
to see you again. Odds against us all reconnecting. Unless Dad dies. And yet, she knows I’d do right by you.
So many years of her life went into fighting to keep you. The last ten, to build peace and security back into her life.
Elizabeth Ashe is a sculptor and poet, who earned her MFA from the Mount Royal School of Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and an MFA in creative writing from Chatham University. Her public art projects have been on view at the Bemidji Sculpture Walk, Sukkahwood Festival, Art All Night DC, and the H St Festival. Ashe’s poetry has appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, the Lavender Review, Vagabondage, and Badlands Literary Journal, among many others. Her work is included in Studio Visit Magazine, issue 46. Ashe lives in Washington, D.C., where she has an active studio practice. She is the Gallery Manager for DC Arts Center, and Exhibit and Event Technician at the Katzen Center, American University.
Image: Elbow Mountain by Elizabeth Ashe. Used by permission.
From where do you draw so much strength each day To fight the fight of life and death despair When so many patients will waste what may Be the last time they will draw breath and air.
Your light burns bright with such a fierce red flame As the world veers so near the darkest void I brim with pride to see you use my name And bask in glow of yours sharing your joy.
The end is near for this, the longest step And though by day i am not by your side Know that this world remains within your debt And I barely contain my swelling pride.
No greater spark than that within your kiss Forever yours and saying “As you wish.”
Author’s note: My wife completes a six year surgical residency training program in June.
A Sonnet for the COVID-19 Era
The world seems quiet and absent of mirth And though we smile and try to show our hope We wonder what will follow this, rebirth? A world order sways gently on a rope.
Nature seems to have reclaimed earth from us And I try to keep my gaze on the stars While some consider this not worth the fuss Of course heaven and earth were never ours.
Outside I look to neighbors for a grin Our homes, not traps, but something new and strange Human affairs turned inside out within Experience beyond our normal range.
The best of us fight on to stem the tide While we who are unarmed bemoan the ride.
Jeff Nosanov is a writer and entrepreneur living in Bethesda, MD. He has written short stories and a children’s book, led NASA research projects, and started several companies. He currently works in cloud computing and is trying to make sense of human existence one day at a time.
Image: Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons, by Hans Holbein the Younger
Matthew Ratz is an author and performer living in Gaithersburg, MD. His poetry has appeared online in Bourgeon as well as on Huffington Post; his essays have appeared in Autism Spectrum News and The Atlantic. Matthew also performs regularly at La-Ti-Do, a musical theater and spoken word cabaret in DC. He is the author of several nonfiction books and most recently a chapbook, Lightning Bugs in Fragile Jars (2017). Professionally, Matthew is a mental health advocate and peer-support specialist with nonprofit organizations in the DC Metro area.
Image by Enfo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35367942
Darting eyes of the patchy coyote, no bodies in the brush because this is not some simpleton dumping ground; this is exploding firework skies, tracheostomies running a line back to umbilical zero, those tiny pink cries that seem to wrap themselves around everything, the children and the streets with the same names so that one could hardly be blamed for driving over both with the stereo cranked; a bump in the road, is that not what the more philosophical among us always say?
Campsite arsonists collecting kindle. Run into the canyon and the canyon says ouch! Barefoot over thorns drawing blood. Our coiled white scorpion is the zodiac with intent:
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
This lame way I limp into everything, surrendering conversations that never belonged to me.
Snakeskin boots hugging the foot of someone full of a personal venom. Read the person and there is no need for the diary.
Black Trench Coat
He whooshes by over darkened cobbles. His black trench coat undone so that it waves like a hurried cape in the windless night. My companion is startled, gives a sudden jump he hopes I don’t notice. The only people that demand bravery are those that lack it. My companion can be as scared as he is sweaty. I am not without fault. Half a dozen women have told me so. I can only hope to hide mine a little better or at least for a little longer than my mouth breathing red-faced companion. That simple warm buzz of electricity all around us. Bags of garbage piled by the curb. A few overturned and torn down the side. The scavengers have been out early. I let out a cough and my friend jumps again. That queer jerky way the shoulders threaten to leave the body and never return.
I open the closet door
to a sea of applause.
The crowd noise drowns
Searching for a shirt
of man eating tigers.
Rolled up to the elbow,
so freckled gooseflesh can
make the rounds.
This collar pulled down with poise.
As 70,000 strong break into song.
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Bourgeon, The Song Is.., Cultural Weekly, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.
Imgae by Michael Gäbler / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
Bourgeon is an arts magazine written by artists, produced by the non-profit Day Eight.
The mission of Day Eight is to empower individuals and communities to participate in the arts through the production, publication, and promotion of creative projects.