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  Lyrical Passion Poetry E-Zine © 2007-2019

The elephant shifted in the chair and put down his glass of ice tea. He put his two front feet over his eyes and I could see his chest heaving as he tried to hold back his tears.

                “He was such a good friend. He never harmed anything,” he said in a broken voice.

                “I found him in a clearing with half his face sawed off. Half his face gone” and at that he started to cry.

                I didn’t know what to say. There was really nothing I could say to comfort him.  What could I say?

                                                           by Jack Galmitz 


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from Country      by Shelby  Stephenson

Horton Barker did all he could to show the world his love of Child Ballads, though he never met the Harvard professor Francis Child:  I never heard Barker sing, even on record, though his name surfaces, like white caps among the waves of festivals at White Top Mountain, over round Marion, Virginia, 1933, or at the annual University of Chicago Folk Festival, 1961:  after losing his sight to an accident, Barker kept his spirit easing among music’s gardens − Horton Barker, Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee!  Nin and I have several skip-laurels out our bedroom window:  they wave in wind and dream; we thrash around up on our Delicate Balances.  In Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, Horton Barker stands tall for fireflies:  they speckle dusk’s  chimney, that lofty yard-concerto of mine, flitting and blinking and stirring up trouble for our dog Cricket that tries to snap them in her yip:  she’s scratching the oriental rug under the chaise lounge:  could she be Clyde Beavers if she could write “I’d Rather Fight Than Switch”:  her tail wags to see Molly Bee, real name Molly Beachboard, Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, 1950’s:  Ole Ern, the Tennessee Pea Picker, went out to Hollywood, joining Cliffie Stone and his Orchestra: they made a gusher of a show, Molly Bee, pursing her lips, dancing and shouting on TV: Jimmy Dean, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Jimmie Rogers (not the brakeman), Roy Rogers, Ed Sullivan, and my favorite of those years, Ernie Ford’s Nighttime Show:  after stints in Vegas, at the Thunderbird, Desert Inn, Flamingo, the Moulin Rouge in L.A., Harrah’s in Reno, the Shamrock, Houston, Crystal Bay Club, and Lake Tahoe, Bee toured Japan, before doing musical comedy in shows like “Paint Your Wagon”:  decades ago I lost her, writing then Country Song Roundup columnist, Bill Anderson − “What happened to Molly Bee?”  “Don’t know,” his reply. Along the way I saw her obit in the paper, saying she was a grandmother − fighting Addictions − turning blue, paying Celebration and Fame no mind.  Wonder scratches her head and loosens her arms instead of  ratcheting down or out or up the world’s whipping post, that snagging, ragged sensation coming on when you come into your favorite room, look for a chair and sit down and wait for poetry’s Clan of Beers to sound the B’s:  Robert “Fiddler” Beers, wife Evelyne Christine, daughter, Martha Christine:  they sang songs like “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” playing folk festivals in the Midwest, mainly, though I can’t say how their songs swayed and rocked the Newport Festival, 1960’s:  anthologizing their names, I cite them Airy Angels.  A mockingbird just collided with an eastern kingbird:  the Old People said Bee-Martin:  Harry Belafonte, born 1927, a year before my brother Paul:  Belafonte’s an activist for human dignity, a pusher for civility, justice:  I can hear his calypso clearly: “Day-O” (Banana Boat Song), “Matilda,” and “Jamaica Farewell”:  the give and take of culture and music gather his life:  his mother, Jamaican, was so proud of him:  Carl Belew probably wrote “Lonely Street”:  I wonder, though, if Wynn Stewart might have and sold it to Belew for beer-money:  Belew wrote “Stop the World and Let Me Off” − and recorded it − but Johnny and Jack made the hit in ’58. Remember “Am I That Easy to Forget?”  Carl Belew!  I never heard him sing, but I’ve seen his name on lots of songs.  Bounty’s a basket-case or guitar-gig-bag of sorts − with no hasp to clasp.  The narrative goes forward:  spring springs, chickens cackle, bees bumble, most often where the lawnmower collects dust under the shelter and nightbirds drop droppings in troughs of stables where Black and Gray pawed and stomped, pushing their chests against barbed wire, their sanctuary now taken by Scag, Grumman, and the Equator.



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Fred’s ‘Port’      by R.D. Bailey  


Monday, October 14th:

       I, often aimlessly, watched the early morning autumn fog drift by my screened porch like Fred's second-hand smoke. A slight chill would tickle my bare arms as the haloed sun drifted in and out of sight. Fred always offered his last ‘Port’, as he would call them, just when I wasn't in the mood; sitting, with my pencil and pad… writing just another poem on my day off.

Succumb

tired, old tree trunk
gold and orange fallen leaves
lay before me


       Whenever I heard his screeching patio door slam and his shabby, brown slippers dragging on the ground, I knew that he was off to the corner store to purchase another pack. I would watch him make his way to the corner with his dingy handkerchief dangling from his soiled jean pocket. I, on the other hand, was your typical sporadic smoker. I never wasted my hard-earned dollars on such a harmful investment. Never did mind taking one from Fred though.
    Fred was my newfound friend, although I'd been his neighbor for more than three years; a retiree of Direct Airlines from Savannah, Georgia - so content and quiet. He sat on his porch, puffing pounds and pounds of tobacco a month, smiling at the sun.
I'd almost forget he was there. He'd look up at me with a delighted presence whenever I knocked on his patio door. I could sit with him from the moment the scent of eggs and bacon teased our noses from an open window in the next building, till the crickets hiding in the surrounding darkened bushes began harmonizing. I wouldn't be bored.

       "Here! Have a port, Randy. My last one." Never did mind donating 1 out of 20 as long as I smoked it down to the filter line. I remember how he cringed the first time I extinguished a cigarette of his after smoking only half. I almost felt guilty - like I owed him $0.25. His gray eyes coached me; followed the cigarette between my fingertips from my lips to his ashtray as he listened to the birds sending sing-songs from tree to tree. It seemed important to him like a mother making sure her child cleans their diner plate. I didn't have that constant urge to smoke, but it seemed as though it was all he had. No significant possessions to flaunt, no photo albums to share, no family and no friends ever visited Fred. I don't recall ever seeing the mailman placing mail in Fred's box… and only once had I ever observed him bringing in groceries. His dentures remained a golden brown as if he probably chewed tobacco - the only thing he had a craving to chew on. Yet I never felt sorry for him because he smiled and chuckled sometimes for, what seemed to be, nothing. He was just good old Fred; Frederick Moss.   
 


Friday, December 1st: 

       My worn dark blue sweater hung over the back of my swivel chair as I gazed down at my wrinkled, pale fingertips while listening to the roar of what sounded like a jet coming in for a landing at Tallahassee Regional. Of course, Fred would have known the model for certain, being a former Direct mechanic.
        He would have shouted, "Seven-thirty-seven…eh, Yes Sir!" from his porch and I would reply, "I knew that, I was just waiting to see if you were still on top of your game, Fred."
        "Man-made eagle. I'd fly me one if I knew how." And this was how Fred and I, how we, spent our days. 



Saturday, December 23rd:

       It seems I must have missed Fred these last few days. It would be good to know that he went to visit family for the holiday. 



Saturday, January 7th:

       Still no sign of Fred; only signs of a bare and aging winter. All I could hear was the early morning winds whistling through my windows and intruding under my front door. I listened - for the planes… among other things as thoughts of my retirement plagued my mind. By the passing of the 6th plane overhead, I was bored of assuming what model soared overhead. I wasn't amused; not without hearing Fred's grimy voice calling out model numbers to me. Where was the toxic stench from the smoke of Fred's Port creeping by my porch to torment my nostrils as I took my first sips of hot raspberry Lipton Tea? I squeamishly squirmed at the thought of not hearing his wheezing cough that he deliberately muffled under an old soiled handkerchief he used to wipe his occasional mucus excretions. I turned my head whenever he spat on the pavement. Those moments seemed painful.

       I rested my mug on the floor, stood up to stretch and strolled over to Fred's porch. I squinted to see past his living room drapes. I could only see one framed picture hanging on his wall. I stepped inside his dusty porch sprinkled with remnants of brown leaves and picked up the only Port resting in his ashtray. I struck a match in the wind gusts - then another and lit the tip as I pointlessly counted my steps back to my porch. I looked back twice at his screen door.
       Well, I sat gazing in the heavy, icy sky blanketed with gray clouds and smoked Fred's Port alone… only because I knew he would have offered me this one… his very last; Newport that is.

(First published in , Chistell Publishing & reprinted in Big Pond Rumours)

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After the Rain, Before the Storm.  by Raquel D. Bailey

They were waiting; waiting for the hum of the wind-driven rains to cease; for the heavy, dark clouds to part. Their new home stood humbly at the foot of an Irish hill in the County of Wicklow. But the wall of rain drowned nature’s scenery for miles.

Ashley and Ben would peer out of the window, listening for the calming of the downpour and listening for distant laughter of children from the meadow.

To pass the time, Ashley helped Ben learn to read, lace his boots, make his bed and set the dinner table, in the time they wished they could have used to find new friends.

It was a very muggy summer and Ben was tired of lacing shoes, making beds and shining silverware. As he and Ashley stood in the dining room, shining the tarnished silverware, the clouds quietly parted and a spectrum of afternoon sunrays blanketed the oak table. Distant laughter echoed in the evaporating mist. Children.

Mom called down the stairs. “Summer’s finally made it to Wicklow. It’s high time we planted seeds in our garden.” Mom advised Ben and Ashley to wait for the floodwaters to dry before playing in the meadow by Loch Dean.

Ben tripped over his laces and apron while racing up the staircase. Ashley smiled and followed behind.

“See, Ben, look. It’s over there!”

“Where?”

“There, where that black hawk is circling in the sky. That’s the Fiery Hill mom told me about last night, where a great king’s castle once stood.”

“Last night, when?”

“When you were asleep.”

“It’s shiny!”

“Indeed.” Ashley admired the illuminated view from the window that covered the mountain’s peak like a halo.

“What’s up there, Ashley?”

“Mom says her grandma told her, after the rains wash away all the soil, nothing but gold dust covers the peak of the hillside, and we’re going to get it for mom and dad so we can buy everything in the whole wide world. We will be rich!”

“Mom says we can’t go outside yet because it’s not safe and it’s wet. Dad says the water monsters will wash you into Loch Dean and take you away forever.”

“No such thing, silly. You stay here and watch from the window.” Ashley flung her apron behind the bed, tightened the belt around her waist and laced up her old brown boots. “If mom and dad ask where I am, tell them I am in the bathroom in the cellar.”

“You mean lie? You’re gonna get in trouble!”

“Shhhh. I’ll be right back, Ben. I promise. When I reach the top of the mountain, start counting down from 100 and I’ll be back before you even make it to 1.”

“Okay.” Ben whimpered reluctantly, wishing he could escape to the hillside with her.

Ashley went down the stairs and out the front door while mom was taking a bubble bath and their father was muddling around in his new tool shed, hammering anything he found loose.

Ben stood anxiously waiting at the bedroom window, watching Ashley climb the hill as she disappeared into the fiery light surrounding her. His mouth dropped open when she was gone. No sound. Not a sound.

Ben could feel his little heartbeat in each of his fingertips. He waited.

Suddenly from the fiery peak of the hill, Ashley, as nimble as a deer, made her way back down the hillside with her hands clutched together. So overwhelmed with joy, Ben began hopping as he held on to the window drapery. He had forgotten to count down from 100 as he was more relieved that his big sister was safe.

Ben quickly laced up his shoes and made a dash for the front door to let Ashley in. They smiled at each other, looking toward the den. “Let’s go in there, Ben.”

Creeping into the den, Ashley whispered, “Make sure you close the door behind us, Ben.” The door creaked till it shut. “The light is much too bright.”

“Lemme see. I wanna see, too!” Ben whined in a whisper.

“Okay. Okay. Mom and dad will be so happy! Just think, Ben, you will be able to get all the toys and candy you want, I can buy the most beautiful dresses and shoes... Oh, and mom and dad can buy another house!” Prancing around the room, tangling herself in her joy, Ashley clutched her palms tightly and didn’t open her hands. Ben’s smile began to turn into frustration.

“What is it? What’s in your hand, Ashley?”

“It’s gold dust, just like mom said.”

“Lemme see. Lemme see it!” Ben’s voice began to rise with mounting curiosity.

“Okay. Promise to be quiet and I’ll show you before I give it to mom and dad. If you raise your voice, you will get us in trouble.”

“I promise, now lemme see da dust.” Ben’s lisp tickled Ashley as she agreed and slowly opened her hands. His smile lit up the whole room but it was not as bright as the glow within her palms that began to bounce off the walls.

“Look, Ben! We’re rich, we’ve got gold! We’re rich!” Ashley’s eyes were glowing in its light. The palms of her hands even appeared to be plated in gold. She froze in the moment, making wish after wish. She was so lost in the richness of the hill, she had almost forgotten to breath.

“Yaaay! Daddy! We’re rich! Mom! Ashley’s got gold dust from the hill. Daddy, come, come see! I saw it!” Ben stood in front of Ashley, gasping for air.

“Shhh!” Ashley tried to quiet Ben but he was too amazed at the sight of shimmering dust he’d never seen before. Ben made a quick dash out the den, through the dining room and to the shed. “No wait, Ben.”

Pulling their father into the house, Ben chanted. “Come see. Come see, daddy. It’s gold dust! Ashley’s got gold. She won’t give me any!”

Their mother heard the commotion and wrapped a towel around her hairdo; she hopped out of the tub and threw on her pink bathrobe.

With so much chatter, no one noticed the heavy storm clouds quickly setting in. The meadow went from green to gray over Wicklow and the fiery peak of the hill hid behind the weight of the clouds as if it went up in smoke. One raindrop fell. And then another.

“What is all this fuss?” their mother snapped as she rushed down the stairs.

“I have no idea, honey. Ben says Ashley has gold dust. He wants us to see.”

Their mother gasped as her cheeks went a little pale while she murmured something incoherent. Scrambling in her slippers to keep up with Ben, they headed to the den and pushed the door wide open.

Just as the last ray of sun slithered off the peak of the hill, the glow in Ashley’s hand faded. The light in her eyes had died. A teardrop fell into her palm as mom and dad caught a snapshot of an unexplainable glistening light.

“Show them, Ash. They want to see da gold dust!” Ben tugged on Ashley’s arm as their mom and dad approached. Nothing but a mound of ash trickled into the air and settled on the wooden floor.

“That’s not gold, those are ashes, Ashley! Where did you put da gold, Ashley? Mommy, she hid it from us so she can keep it for herself. They want to see it, Ashley.”

Ashley could only look at her mother with unforgiving eyes. She didn’t understand.

Her mother paused in the doorway in utter disbelief, though she didn’t doubt her own eyes. She stood gazing at the mound of ashes on the floor.

“Okay, Ashley. You and Ben had better clean up this mess and get ready for supper. I’ve got things to do before then,” their father demanded as he exited the room.

Ashley and Ben each received a kiss on the head from their mother and slowly made their way to the bathroom to wash up and set the table for dinner.

* * *

Ben lives in Dublin, where he has a comfortable position as a banker. Ashley still lives in Wicklow, waiting for the black hawk to circle the hilltop again. She watches her children play in the meadow between the rains. Ashley and Ben have not had much to say to each other for a long time now.

(First published in Bewildering Stories, Issue 385)

At the British Museum    by Bob Lucky

Standing with his wife before the Rosetta Stone, he realized he'd never decipher his heart. Some languages are better off dead and forgotten, he thought, and left without a word.




Soap Opera   by Bob Lucky

“I can't,” she said, her face flickering. “I'm so sorry.”
“Don't be. Not much to love, really.” His voice crackled.
“Come back,” I cried, beating the top of the television.



Compromise  by Bob Lucky
 
She said she faked it.
“That's okay,” he said. “You're good.”

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