Brain Storm #16 — by Pamela Hart

Jill Bolte Taylor picks up the brain from a serving tray – it’s only two minutes into her talk – and walks across the TED stage holding three pounds in her gloved hands, opens the halved cortices to reveal lobe and cerebellum sliced in two. Orbo Novo. The new world. Gyrus and Broca. Parietal and occipital. Where names are like continents: cisterna magna or the aqueduct of Sylvius. What country for wound. All the words meaning broken. Like a swan’s neck, one canal curves mid-brain. This fretted kingdom of mindscape and nervous system. You want to warn Jill not all realms can be restored. Which both of you already know.
pamelahartheadshot (1)
Pamela Hart is writer in residence at the Katonah Museum of Art. She was awarded a NEA poetry fellowship in 2013. She’s an editor for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. Her chapbook, The End of the Body, was published by Toadlily Press. Her poetry has appeared in various journals.

Here and There — by Monica Nawrocki

I’m the only one left by the grave.

What’s the point of being liberated from my body if I’m just going to get left behind at the cemetery? I look at the hole in the ground. It’s pretty big. I don’t know what comes next. God, or at least Morgan Freeman, should have shown up by now to explain things.

“Hey.” I kinda shout and wave my arms at the row of cars pulling away. Well, that’s not going to work.

But the procession stops. The back door of the front car opens and Libby gets out. She stands looking in my direction. How do I get to her?

And then I’m there. Ah, it’s the wanting, I note. I’m right in front of her and I wrap my arms around her and squeeze as hard as I can. After a long time, I release her and look in her face: I know she felt something.

I put my mouth close to her ear. Now, should I whisper or yell? I’m thinking I need to be, you know, louder, for her to pick up on me, but I’d hate to scream in her ear and scare the bejesus out of her if she’s already tuned in. I speak softly but clearly – more than a whisper but not so loud that it will hurt – no matter how much gets through.

“I’m here.”

She looks around, hesitant but alert. As though someone just yelled, “Look! It’s Mick Jagger!” and she’s searching but trying to look like she’s not. Her eyes are slightly brighter.

I look into the car and picture myself there and then I am. She climbs back in and I take her hand. It’s crowded but I’m just not interested in anyone else; they are familiar but out of focus.

Libby stares out the window, hoping no one will talk to her. Maybe I can help with that. I watch the fuzzy mouths. One opens to speak and I lay my hand over it quickly. It closes again. I keep the car quiet all the way home. When I have no mouths to stop, I rest my hand on Libby’s heart.

At the house, I feel a hint of joy to be home, but the opposite crackles around Libby. I take her hand and go inside with her. She excuses herself to the bedroom to lie down. As soon as her feet leave the floor, she begins to splinter. I imagine my hands being bigger, warmer, softer than they were in life, and I begin patting all over her body, keeping her fragments together. I touch her tears. I pat and stroke until she becomes still and quiet. Her heaviness surprises me.

I lay close to her side, so I can tickle her arm while I sing in her ear. By the third round of Bernadette, she is asleep, but it’s a sleep full of static and sharp images so I keep singing until it smooths out and peace like grandma’s quilt descends gently on our bed.

I keep humming and tickling, wondering idly what comes next. She stirs, whimpers. I lay my hand on her heart and melt the tiny, jagged icicles of pain with my Mickey Mouse hands. She settles and I settle more deeply beside her. I look at the dusty curtains we’ve been afraid to wash, in case they fall apart.

“They’re made of dust,” she laughed last week as she sneezed on the window. I’d asked her to open the curtains so I could see the sky.

I was so sick of this bed and now it feels so good to be in it again, free and whole. I snuggle in closer and there is no point of resistance. The memory, perhaps, has evaporated the boundary between us and I feel myself sink into her. A small burst of pure joy pulses through both of us. I feel us smile and I think, “I’m here” and she thinks, “I know.”
Monica Nawrocki
Monica Nawrocki lives on a small island off the west coast of Canada with her partner. She earns her living as a substitute teacher, happily impersonating someone different every day. She is the author of two books and her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies across North America.

Ricochet — by William Reichard

At dawn the hunter dons an orange vest, black and green pants, and sets out to track his prey. He’s hoping for a big buck, maybe a twelve-pointer, but he’ll take a doe if he has to. A mile away, a mother and baby sit at the kitchen table. She feeds him strained peaches, strained peas, everything pastel colored, soft to the palate.

The hunter sees movement in the trees, a flash of brown, a white tail’s flame. He fires. The bullet misses the prey and flies the distance to a stop sign, bounces off the metal, changes course. The sound of shattering glass is quick, too sudden for the woman to turn, and the bullet enters her left temple, where a major artery flows wide and close to the skin’s surface. The baby, surprised, waits for the spoon.

The hunter chases the flashing white tail through the trees, blackberry brambles slap his face and an irregular pattern of blood blooms on his cheeks. He shoots again. The leaping form falls. He stumbles up to the dead doe. Nearby, a fawn hides in the grass. The hunter drags his prize back to the truck.

In the house, the baby cries, then falls asleep. His mother’s head, on the table, is surrounded by a halo of blood. In the forest, the fawn stays still but is taken by wolves. In town, the man dresses the doe and sits down to a venison dinner, his first of the season.
William Reichard
William Reichard is a writer, editor, and educator. His fifth collection of poetry, Two Men Rowing Madly Toward Infinity, will be published by Broadstone Books in 2016.

Flash in June: AmpLit Festival, Poetry Press Week, and more!

Where to read, hear, and meet your favorite Flash Flash Click contributors:

verminposters_LA_logos_full-580x751The next Vermin on the Mount reading happens in Los Angeles on Sat., June 11! Jim Ruland hosts.

Pam Hart reads at the AmpLit Festival in New York on Saturday, June 11.

Lisa Locascio reads June 14 for Poetry Center San Jose!

The next Roar Shack reading happens June 12 in Los Angeles. David Rocklin hosts!

Susan Moore’s poetry will be featured in Poetry Press Week in Portland on June 18

IrenaIrena Praitis launches her new book, The Last Stone in the Circle, on June 19th at Teatro Paraguas in Santa Fe. Get a copy from Red Mountain Press.

Read new work from F. Daniel Rzicznek at Ostrich Review and Belmont Story Review!

Jim Ruland reads July 30 in San Diego for So Say We All.

Read Lisa Locascio’s short story, newly up at Hobart!

Velvet Glove — by Sean Bernard

That’s what they call me here in the admissions office because, due to my vast reserves of patience, I get all the asshole parents. It’s a magical ingrained ability I have, that I can say No, based on her SAT scores, your daughter is not worth the time and effort of our institution or really the country or world, bummer for you  in such a delicate manner that Mom and Dad (usually Mom) leave my office or hang up the phone somehow feeling comforted, warmed. (I call this chicken-noodle-souping them.)

The parents never see what happens next, which everyone in the office thinks is hilarious: how angry I get. I shout. Dumbfucks! I scowl. Idiots! I roll my eyes. So many people in this world somehow don’t know the rules or think the rules shouldn’t apply to them. It’s maddening!

Chill thyself, Gene! shouts my boss, Rawlings.

I shout back, Stop dumping idiots on me, Rawlings!

Rawlings just laughs.

Of course, whenever I’m actually talking to the sad dumb parents, I channel all my frustrations into a singular warm and soothing tone, a tone that spreads through the phone, through the air, flooding the dolts with compassion even as I break the bad news: sorry, no college for your kid! The first such parent was Latina. Her son had some medical problem that’d kept him from finishing an entire year of high school. What could I do? I told her, medical problems, those you work out with the high school. But the high school is racist, she said. Then with the school district, I said. The school district is racist, she said. Right, I said. Then she just sat there.

My office is nice. My degrees hang on the walls. Certifications. I watch the volleyballers from my window, talking after practice. I’ve also got up pictures of me and my nephew that make it seem like I’m a dad, like I’m this sympathetic guy.

That first lady, she just kept sitting there, but some women get pissed off. They lose it. Their screams curdle the windowpanes. Hair tearing. Snot. Tears. They even stomp the floor. Supervisor! they demand. (Rawlings is no nicer.) They look for things to throw (my desk is now free of clutter). I like them, the shouters, more. They’re a challenge. I crack my mental knuckles with shouters. Really let my good feelings fly. Because compassion, to me, is more about not pitying people worse off than you.

That first lady, she had a brown leather barrette with a stick shot through it and her hair bun both. To fix everything in place. The leather was cracked – she kept turning to reach into her purse and all I saw was this barrette. That leather, all dry and cracked. Like old hands. She kept touching at it, even when she was facing me.

Señora, I said. I said, Really, I can’t help.

At one point her eyes narrowed. I thought she was readying a comeback. Like, Oh yeah, really? Are you sorry?

But she said nothing. Instead, at that moment, the barrette came loose. It fell from her hair, tumbled with her hair down toward the floor, and she flinched and looked up at me, her eyes wide and startled, like somehow I’d made it all happen.

Even though she didn’t respond, she must have heard me as she was bent over, grasping after that barrette. First and only time I apologized.
Sean Bernard is the author of the novel Studies in the Hereafterand the collection Desert sonorous, which received the 2014 Juniper Prize. You can learn more about him at his website.