The Main Street Rag
Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001
704-573-2516, contact us
Heather Davis, Author of The Lost Tribe of Us,
Winner of the 2007 MSR Poetry Book Award
Interviewed by Suzanne Baldwin Leitner
Reports from Another World by Carl F. Thompson
Lucifer Bird by Sue Williams
Thirst by Mark Lewandowski
Reviews by Anne Barnhill, Heather Jane Collings, Kristina Marie Darling, Jennifer MacPherson, S. Craig Renfroe, Jr., Richard Allen Taylor.
of the following work:
Take What You Want by Henrietta Goodman, Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey, Line Dance by Barbara Cooker, Magdelena by Maureen Gibbon, Aphrodites Daughter by Becky Gould Gibson, Need-Fire by Becky Gould Gibson, Lucky Man by Ben Tanzer.
Heather Davis, Virginia Aronson, Henry Berne, Elizabeth Burgess, Alan Catlin, Glen Chesnut, David Chorlton, Noel Conneely, Robert Cooperman, Elissa Errick, Frederick Foote, Rod Farmer, Rebecca J. Foust, Trina Gaynon, Carol Hamilton, James Himelsbach, David Jordan, Krista Klanderman, Robert Collet Tricaro, George Looney, Don Mager, Bethany Mahan, Vicki Mandel King, James Scannel McCormick, Ron Moran, Mimi Moriarty, Mike Powers, Alice Osborn, Scott Owens, Charles Rammelcamp, Sarah Sarai, Kelley Jean White, Lisa Sidelarz, Sheila Tiarks, Elizabeth Swados, MaryJo Werthman White, Neal Zirn
Cover Art: M. Scott Douglass
Photo Feature: Bethany Mahan
Front Royal, VA
All his life my father
yearned to make art.
So when I was five, he gave me
the book of his desire.
Whispering close your eyes, he placed
the volume in my hands. It was
so light, for years I forgot it sat there
speaking its delicate commands.
Sometimes, I thought there must be
something I forgot to dopick up
the laundry, call a friend, some
task or duty left incomplete,
or maybe something
I was supposed to be.
What drove me on then
was like a seed. The words
multiplied, the book grew.
I could not put it down.
I read my palms and found
strange messages there that had
no beginning and no end.
* Also appears in Heather Davis' book, The Lost Tribe of Us published by Main Street Rag in October, 2007
Bushy Park, Early June
A duck hums on the pond;
the sound propels it.
The arms of the water
open wide to the shore.
A preening swan
finds its head in a wing,
rises with a loud
ballooning of wind.
A boy who has dropped his ice cream
wont be calmed.
He wants his father
to feed it to the ducks.
The ducks hum grows keener.
Five cygnets follow the swans
on Bushy Park pond. This summer
no duckling survived.
Joggers beat the truth
out of the grass.
Behind all that green,
its just dirt.
MY FAVORITE SNAKE
A young woman says to me,
What's your favorite
this is not a question
I have contemplated
at great length, I just look
at her. You know,
she prompts, a garter
snake? A python? What kind
do you like best?
I still don't answer,
so she goes on:
I used to hate
snakes, but then
I got a job in a pet
store, and I had to sell
snakes. I handled
them a lot, and I learned
they're quite nice. Smooth
to the touch. Not
scaly, really. And warm.
People think they're cold,
but they're not.
Well, I said, my favorite snake
looked a bit like you,
and she called me up
one day to say
she didn't want to see me
because she'd slept
with a guy
from her office
and she liked him
better than she liked me.
She was smooth,
but I wouldn't call her warm.
Boynton Beach, FL
THE POPPIES OF AFGHANISTAN
If as Marx says
religion is the opium of the people,
then it seems only natural that this latest
war of faiths
experienced its initial twilight
in mountain hollows where fields of blood-red
poppies burgeon. The adherents
to this tumult
however have not come here to reap
the harvest for opium. They have reaped
instead Scriptures sewn by age-old
saints, having themselves
of this spiritual pay dirt,
their interpretations furnishing
them with guns that bark of righteousness,
and the dream of rewards both inconceivable
and empowering. This then is the lay
of the land, the way mankind
under banners boasting of majority convictions
that once established
hardly age. This then is Afghanistan
in bloom, as the world wheels upon its pinions,
curving into seasons
bearing wars waged by fresh empires
for false ideals. Only the poppies here
remain faithful to truth,
prophesying as they always have
eternal sleep for all
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Carl F. Thompson
Reports from Another World
The small courtyard held several tables, most of them unoccupied. It was late evening. A pleasant sea breeze would come, leave, and return.
A waiter shuttled between the few patrons, presenting drinks or food. In a minute, he would begin lighting candles at the tables.
Near a potted palm sat two middle-aged men in concentrated conversation. The older of the two was drinking tea from a small porcelain pot stamped Royal Sea Restaurant in delicate red letters across its belly. His companion sipped a red wine and occasionally dipped a spoon into a half-finished chocolate mousse. The older man, his black hair drawn into a short, neat ponytail, was precisely fifty-two years and three months old. His utterly bald friend was forty-eight years, one month, and two days old. Neither knew his age this exactly. Their friendship had lasted some twenty-five years, from graduate school days. This evening, in less than two hours, one of them would commit suicide. The other would have a severe accident. The events would be related. But their conversation harmlessly resembled continuation of long ago college bull sessions.
Heres the problem with death, said the more concentrated, older one.
The problem with death? The problem of death? His companion laughed at what he assumed was a joke. Death was the great problem that defined allwhy did his friend need to speak of a defined problem as though death had a hidden blemish?
Yes, the problem with death.
They had been drinking for a considerable period before the tea and the mousse. The one had been drinking rum, the other a variety of wines. The first preferred to drink wine, too, but before his tea had been drinking something he did not prefer because he was in a rummy mooda black, mercurial mood that usually passed but would not this evening, a mood unrevealed to his companion.
So what is the problem with death? said the friend, accepting the gambit.
The problem with death is not that you go away, said the elder.
Thats not a problem?
Well, if you dont exist, how can you call it a problem?
His younger friend chuckled. He held a spoonful of mousse, but had to replace it. So the problem is?
The problem is not that you go away, but that the world goes away. The entire universe goes away. Finito. In an instant, eternity itself passes.
I dont understand. The only thing gone is you.
Listen. This is a lesson in relativity. The minute you cease, the world ceases. All history ends, embraces nothingness. And that is scary. It amounts to the universe never having existed at all. Lets make it more concrete. Lets say the entire human race ceases. Lets say all life anywhere in the universe ceases. Here, thenpoof! Gone.
His companion cocked an eyebrow, slowly and purposefully dug at the remainder of his dessert. If youre saying, does a tree make a sound when it falls if no one hears it, that was challenged centuries ago by saying God perceives it.
Ah. And whos that?
Then they laughed as if theyd shared a private joke, and finished their drinks. The evening had been pleasant right up to afterwards. It was then that the man who was fifty-two and three months, driving home, ran his car headlong into a bridge abutment. His friend, who lived in the same direction and was following not a half mile behind, pulled his car off the road. Standing there calling 911, thinking next to call his wife, he was struck by a car doing at least sixty.
Every morning was the same. Every morning was heavily beautiful but the same. Sunlight invariably prevailed. The sun rose in the morning, set in the evening, rose again the next morning.
He was young. Nineteen, perhaps. Twenty-one? Physically, everything was fine. He felt a strength and fluidity of limbs and motion. The age spots which had wearily begun to appear, vanished. His skin looked tan and healthy.
The view was perfectly fine. His home was a one-room cabin surrounded by both pasture and forest. In the distance, he could see a high mountain peak, and a range of mountains falling off in the father distance. A path from a strong line of trees led through grassland to the cabin. But he saw no roads, nor heard any sounds of ordinary lifeno echo of hammer on nail, of saw on wood, of mother calling child.
For whatever reason, he was confined to the cabin, unable to leave. He could open the door, raise a window (every wall had its window), but he could not physically exit. Air circulated in and out, an insect might enter or leave, but these acts were not permitted him.
Every morning he woke when the girl came. She, too, was nineteen or twenty or twenty-one. She smiled, but never looked at him. She wore what he would have guessed to be a nineteenth century peasants skirt, with a ruffled white blouse. Her cheeks held a high color to them. She had full breasts and strong-looking limbs. She was not his idea of a twenty-first century woman, but was this, precisely, the twenty-first century?
The girl was wholly task-oriented. He slept on a narrow bed nailed in place near the doorway. Each morning she opened the door and brought in a fresh pitcher of water, placing it beside two water glasses and a wash bowl set against a splash board. She put the Report on a small, bare table with a single straight-back chair, then leftbarely nodding in his directionclosing the door behind her.
He rose each morning as soon as the girl left. Sometimes he watched as she walked down the pathway into the wood and disappeared.
Once out of bed, he poured water into the bowel, rinsed his face, and peed into a curtained urinal at the back of the cabin. His hair and beard never grew, thus he never needed a shave or haircut. He never ate nor felt hungry, though he drank considerably.
As there was no mirror, he could see his image only vaguely in the reflection of water in the wash bowl, or indistinctly in one of the windows if the light was just right. Thinking of mirrors brought to mind the era he had gone to college, read philosophy, and fenced. Fencing exercises could be practiced before a mirror. Now he was young again, but with little opportunity to exercise.
At midday and again in the early evening, the girl brought a new pitcher of water and a new Report.
Reports were single-page newssheets printed on one side in text onlyno photos, charts, or comics. His first Report was dated the day after the previous evenings events and bore a time stamp, 0600 hours. The midday and evening Reports were labeled 1200 and 1800 hoursUniversal Time?
None of the Reports ever mentioned his demise. He quickly learned never to expect an article that touched on such small matters.
He could read a Report in half an hour. The articles bore repeated topical similarities. Headlines were of uniform size and consistent sterility. No longer would he find an editors witty pun planted in a headline. All reporting was direct, concise, and factual. No opinion pieces or speculative essays. No human interest stories, advice or gossip columns, sports stories. Indian Subcontinent Experiences Temperatures of 130 Degrees. U.N. to Address Ready Response to Genocide. Astronomers Discover Large Planetary System in Nearby Binary Stars.
The old world, it would appear, continued. What precisely contained the new world was another matter.
Want the rest of the story (and more)?
The conclusion to this can be read in the Spring 2008 issue which is available direct from MSR for $8 at
The Main Street Rag Bookstore
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