Happy Holidays from THIRTEEN MYNA BIRDS!

13.

Levitation

We went to sleep-away camp together. That’s where I met her. It wasn’t a coed camp, but she was pretending to be a boy.

An East Indian camp counselor levitated by the campfire, but no one was old enough to know what was happening, even the other counselors, suburban Jewish kids heading for the Ivy League at the end of a long, hot summer.

The next morning they talked together about the clever trickery they’d seen, then headed to the lake to pull a giant cage from the mud, a trap for snapping turtles.

She whispered to me that she hoped the snapping turtles escaped and snapped the bones of all the counselors, snapped off their noses and eyelashes. I was the only one who knew she was a girl.


As an adult, her overmedicated, glassy blue eyes are a perfect match for the faded denim shirt that hangs on her bony shoulders. There’s too much in her face for me to wake up to. Those eyes are the windows to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She had to raise her own parents. She had to suckle them at her breast. It was too much for her.

She was too much for me. I had to put on a life jacket and jump from the second floor window into the flood. I floated by a rowboat and pointed with my thumb to where she awaited rescue.

~Mitchell Krockmalnick Grabois~

*

12.

Skinny

As I walk toward my office, patients greet me. Martha Washington approaches from down the hall and screams: I’M GOING TO KILL YOU, YOU SKINNY SON OF A BITCH! In reality, I’m no skinnier than Martha Washington , but Martha looks more filled out, swaddled as he is in incalculable layers of women’s clothing, the brassieres the last articles applied, wrapped around him like pieces of a strait jacket come apart.

I wish him a pleasant good morning and continue down the hall. He means me no harm and is not violent, though he is one of those who scare the grad students half to death when I guide them around.

I enjoy their discomfort, as if I am a horror film director gratified that my movie is having its intended effect, though I hide it from them. I feign sympathy.



I have my own problems This chick liked my novel on Facebook, even though she hadn’t read it, so I thought I’d friend her, but Facebook came down on me hard, said I’d violated community standards, and I can’t make any more friends until I’m rehabilitated.

The Facebook goons hit me with a digital night stick, sprayed my face with digital mace. That really pisses me off, but I know how to handle it—I’ll channel my anger into the next Hate Week.

~Mitchell Krockmalnick Grabois~

*

11.

After reading Rilke

Two or three patients were convicted
in robes and pajamas. Directors created
trees in fog and pianos. All this time
I stayed steadfast and sober
in my room safe as a coffin
doing or making awakening.
I imagined at night their short cigars
the bodies of parrots - a city of parrots -
speaking to us from the cedar bench.

Your letter said “Lie still, sleep well”
Writing covers my desk on an inclination.
We weren’t even handed masks -
no one knows why not.
I need raptors eyes to
reveal the penetralia.

A falcon is no astrolabe; 
even the letter O can be beaten,
become vicious. I walk
like an orphan, with the noise of
no noise at all.
How could this not inconvenience me?

You did not see the bus pass,
women schtupped in a white Calcutta
emptied of sound,
the beautiful shape of the toilet
an exaggerated sense
of something I have already forgotten.

Yet it has changed everything.


*

10.

Happy Family

A quarter sun
smiles from the top left corner.

The family, though too tall
for the front door
still don't reach the windows.

They can't see the red
spaghetti tree

or the giant chicken
beside the house
where the fence got tired
and laid down along one side.
Above it an empty cloud
rests on a hill like
a jigsaw puzzle piece.

The mother is very angry.
Her face is green.
The little girl doesn't look like anyone.

The father hums nervously.


*

9.

The Thing With The Strapped Face

I saw the thing with the strapped face.  It was around the corner and I was bold because it is Halloween and I have my mask on.  I looked and something about it stopped me from going further.  It stepped back away from me into the shadows and I moved away quickly. 

I remember I think that I had a sister.

No my mother says with a choke in her voice I never had a sister. 

The sky swirls grey into black.  I think it might rain but it doesn’t.  It never rains here.  I almost don’t know what rain is but I think it’s like crying.

You never had a sister mother repeats.

I don’t know why she said it again, this time with rain on her face.  Her face is not strapped but it is wet.

It is still Halloween when I get home from trick-or-treating because although I think it’s late it’s not yet.  Mother seems distracted and goes into the red kitchen.  I hear the squeaking on the tiles and I know I am alone now.  I walk slowly to the stairs and then go up them one at a time.  I am walking into calm, cool dark with shifting shadows. 

The thing with the strapped face has a long nose that emerges from the center of the straps.  Because it is Halloween I am not as scared as I might have been. 

There is something I am avoiding thinking about.  I have been so good at not thinking about it that I don’t know what it is, I have forgotten it well enough that I only remember that there is something that I don’t want to think about.  But sometimes there is a roar in the back of my head and I turn my head lopsided to get away from it.  Sometimes the roar is so loud that I can’t hear anything else. 

The thing with the strapped face I imagine hides in a corner, or maybe in the closet.  Everything upstairs is murky and I cannot see anything clearly.  But I get to my room somehow and lie down with my eyes open staring at the ceiling, which has patterns I cannot determine. 

I hear shouting from outside.  It is like their voices are hitting against the glass of my window.  I get up and walk slowly over to the side of the window and carefully look out.  I see some older kids doing something heavy and animal-like in the alley; they pay no attention to me. 

I hear something behind me and I get scared because I think the thing with the strapped face has crept up upon me.  I gather my courage and turn around but it is not the thing with the strapped face.  It is my mother.  She is wearing a Halloween mask and one of her hands is stretching out towards me.  I do not scream or cry but I do let out a scared sound and her hand stops.  Then I see that she is not wearing a mask at all but her face looks broken.  There is something in the air between us.

Mother?  I say. 

Her face breaks more.  It looks like it is falling off.  I wish she were wearing a Halloween mask instead.  I wish I were wearing a Halloween mask.  I want just the two of us to wear masks and the rest of the world can go by and we can look at it out of the window and I would never remember what I almost can’t and mother could be happy again.  The darkness of the night and the house runs through mother, bleeding in and out of her.

Mother disappears slowly.  I do not know where she went.  All the while I am standing there absorbed in the dark.  I want to put my mask back on but I can’t find it. 

The thing with the strapped face appears again out of the dark and I scream.  I scream because it floods my head with things. I see a beard emerging from the darkness of my brain and I do not want to see that. 

Mother!  I cry.  I feel her near but she does not come.  I had a sister.  I know I had a sister.  She lives in a distant corner of my mind. 

The thing with the strapped face goes to the window, its nose-thing pressing against the glass.  The older boys are still there but now not moving so much; I cannot see what they are doing but somehow I think the thing with the strapped face knows what they are doing.  She stares out at them. 

The thing with the strapped face is a she.  I had a sister. 

Mother! I cry.  It is raining.  It rains through the beard in the room and everything is getting wet, everything except my sister with the strapped face.  She turns away from the window towards me and mother, who is just outside of the room:  mother’s arms are stretching out as if to stop the rain.

Mother, sister and I are in a triangle.  The beard is in the center of it and everything is wet.  Even though the face behind the beard is wearing a mask for Halloween I cannot look at it.  I want my mask back on.  Mother is not wearing a mask but it looks like she is.  I gaze at her face and it breaks again, more than I thought was possible.  There is rain everywhere. 
           
The air shifts; something outside whines softly.  Halloween is dying.  Mother has collapsed silently onto the floor.  The thing with the strapped face fades away, but the beard is still there, and wet all over.  It no longer wears a mask.  I clench my fists and slowly look up to face it.  I enter November staring into the dead eyes of my father.
~Dean Knight~
*

8.

Lime Scale Existence

She strode in through the automatic doors,
pushing an army camouflaged buggy
with a dirty little kid in, who was busy
sucking upon the corner of a bread crust.
Walked straight up to the counter -completely
ignoring the queue- and banged loudly
upon the [Ring For Attention] service bell.
Margret the middle-aged, bored and -seen it
all before- receptionist came from behind
the half chipboard/half frosted glass partition
and with a sarcastic smile spoke thus
“Good morning and how can I help you?”

“My name is Charlotte Crampton Skankly,
and I live at 86 Meadow Road, Melyn, Neath.
There’s damp down 3 walls in the girls room,
the living room ceiling has come away in
2 corners and are hanging there precariously.
The backdoor’s still not been fixed since
Burglar’s kicked it in and robbed us 3 weeks ago.
The bath has a massive crack in the middle of it
and the kitchen taps are useless and leaking.
The people in there before me were drug dealers
and prostitutes and their clients are still knocking
upon the doors at all stupid times of the night.
I’m living a lime scale existence and I’m sick
to death of traipsing in here to tell you about it.
So yes, you can help me and you can start by
wiping that smug smirk off your face and getting
someone who can actually help me get moved!”

Margret smiled fully and banged twice upon the
little red panic button hidden under the counter
then walked leisurely back behind the partition
leaving her 2 grown-up sons the security guards
to deal with the now hysterically yelling woman.


*

7.

Evil

She came over begging a fiver until Monday
with her starving 3 year old son in tow.
She was politely told ‘No!’
So she bummed a cigarette and sat smoking
and explaining that her electricity had run out.
For the last 4 days she’d been partying hard,
drinking Jack Daniels by the bottle and speeding
with those 3 really nice guys who always
kept her company at her flat on benefits day.
Leaving the kid to tuck himself up in bed at night
with a chocolate bar bought on beer-runs.
Now being skint she was our unwelcomed visitor,
the boy was pestering my Mother in the kitchen
wanting to look in the cupboards and fridge
for treats and food stuffs, my Mother made him
a jam sandwich and he came running back in
to show his Mam, crying with real happiness
and waving it around like it was some trophy.
She lunged like a crocodile, grabbing his wrist
with force and biting the folded in half bread
right down to his fingers, leaving mostly crust.
The boy stared at his once gloriously full hand
for 2 or 3 seconds in shock and amazement then
let out an anguished, heartbroken soul scream.
He threw himself upon the floor and started
kicking and punching and crying uncontrollably
almost like he was being beaten by some kind
of invisible force, it was horrific to watch.
I looked at her sitting upon the settee ignoring
his genuine tantrum, nodding her head happily
back and fore and chewing down the boys stolen
sandwich without a single care in the world.
She had a big hooked nose just like a vultures,
yellow and green teeth that sloped backwards
rat-like and finally I spoke, loudly and with anger.
I told her to get her scrounging arse out of our
house and back over to her own side of the street
and that she was lucky that she wasn’t a man
or I’d be unleashing the violence of my temper.
And that was that, she left quickly, backwards,
pulling her still screaming, unfortunate child
with her out of our garden gate and straight
through next doors where we heard a knocking
moments later and the old couple who lived
there went quiet and pretended not to be in, again.


*

6.

Baptism

My highly impressionistic daughter
watched as my brother and minister
submerged me in the Keyapaha River.

The next day as I walked by our bathroom,
I thought I heard her praying.
It sounded like she said,
“In the name of the Father
and the Son and the Holy Ghost.”

Later my wife exclaimed,
“I found a Bratz doll in the bidet.”


5.

The nightmare

The nightmare is always crawled through with demons. There they are, crawling like vipers upright, soaked in black, grey, vomit-olive. Black symbols on red armbands pulse with inverted light. Two demons grab me, one at each wrist. My best friend, kicked to the corner of the room, mouth torn open, stomach punched in. She is so little. Like a tiny broken mouse. I cannot get to her. The demon on my left runs out away from me, stretching my left arm with him. The demon on my right runs out away from me, stretching my right arm with him. I’m stretched like a rubber gumby but since I’m not made of rubber my shoulder bones have popped and broken…the air is striped white and red but I cry cry cry for her only. The tiny punched mouse in the corner. Then comes demon three, and he’s tearing my mouth, puncturing my stomach to match hers. Always suddenly, the stretching stops, the violence ends. I try to run to the corner that cups her, crumpled, and am intercepted by demons one, two, three. They’ve morphed into a roiling black, grey, vomit-olive wall. Out of the wall, three arms extend, three index fingers point rigidly towards the door. I cannot go to her. So I sop like a half-squished inchworm out of the house, and as I turn to look back, it dissolves into grey ash on the ground. Then even the ash disappears.


*

4.

Snake People

once blood of the chicken
falls on a wooden box
she removes the white shroud
from her head
begins to touch her legs
to know she is alive

~Joris Soeding~

*

3.

The Errand

if only it could be about this meadow
forked trees and a rabbit in the stream
yet there are rabid bats
and the boy’s closet door creaks open
somehow he must down the switch
with seconds to the blue down comforter

a man’s arms and legs shudder in his own hallway
something has torn through the locked screen door

the boy explains to his mother
“it’s not a monster, it’s just a doggy”
alternator light is on and the ignition muted
though every dog must become sleepy
from the home of the mauled mechanic
a rotary phone continues to ring over a dozen times

~Joris Soeding~

*

2.

Circles

with wife and son he returns home after twenty-seven years
first hanging a Chicago Cubs poster

everything takes him to the train tracks
library books and a house key with red rabbit’s foot

can’t ward off that tunnel with his brother
even the greasers, with their blades and chucks, can’t run

three of them trapped behind flames of a black ’55 Chevy
freight illuminates those unforgettable walls

today they’re his students, history class, seniors
white shirts remarkably crisp, glazed leather jackets

they need him and the one that scrambled
they need to reenact it without error for chance without hell

~Joris Soeding~

*

1.

Oskar & Eli

Mimicking his bully, he asks the tree in snow to squeal
unsheathing a knife from his jacket, thrusting it into the bark
behind him is the new girl from apartment 15

at the pool they call for him, declining stairs
unfound at his locker

in the courtyard at night he begins a Rubik’s Cube
loans it to the girl until Monday
her belly growls after he departs

she returns it, early and solved
demonstrates to him colors, sides, first rotations
he examines her hair, cowered, in stark lights

band-aid to cheek, he tells mom that he fell on a rock at recess
the truth is only for the girl
whipped by one of three boys in the pool parking lot after hours

he introduces Morse code to her
knuckles sliding on the wall well after dinner and TV

on lake’s ice he hits the leader in the ear
it still bleeds despite much gray from mouths

he treads the pool, spitting water repeatedly, playful
one of the boys begins to speak
almost apologetic and trying too hard to be friendly
she looks through the window, unnoticed
hand on the glass and conversant with his enemies

~Joris Soeding~