Monthly Archives: December 2015

‘A Lonely Walk’ by Olumide Oluwasegun

In times and a time, the value of life
I lived on an isle south of France
With nobles and royals all around
Behind a drawbridge lived my life
Candles and chandeliers light the night
From curtains and drapes spring forth light
Rays from the sun to warm my face
The glow of the moon when it’s pitch black

I long for a time when I’ll run around
Free of the drawbridge with glee and delight
Galloping on horseback meant for princes
Travel the world of Castles and Churches
Run in the fields of parsley and sage
Eat food garnished with rosemary and thyme
I’d love to do all these in time
But perhaps they are musings; musings just blind.

Copyright 2015 by Olumide Oluwasegun. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘The Pluperfect Moment’ by Andrew Bradford

Though she understands it’ll all be done soon, there is still hesitation as she looks at the pills on the coffee table and considers what will be written to describe what has taken place in this tiny apartment just north of the city.

Everything has led to this moment, she whispers into her contracting soul as she rubs her fingers across the multicolored tablets and pours a glass of vodka. In just 28 short years every signpost has brought her to this irrevocable sliver in time which is now hers and hers alone.

So many mistakes, so much unintended pain, starting with the way her father left when she was too young to even know what he was doing. She had felt him close to her some nights in her bed, mumbling that he loved her as he removed her pajamas and pressed his sweaty hands to her body. She had wanted to scream, but no sounds came from her other than a grunt when he touched her in a place that had never before been subjected to such feelings. It was not wrong, he told her, as long as it made him feel good. It was not wrong to need, to have feelings that had to be quenched. It was not wrong, but it felt that way.

She still recalls the way her mother would stumble down the hallway as she made her way to her own bedroom long after daddy had left. Mother had been drinking something in a glass all day and weeping from time to time as she refilled her glass, but it had nothing to do with children, so she tried to pretend it was not really happening as best she could.

All those nights of adolescent pain spent alone because she was not one of the cool, the special, the beautiful. She was just average, and that was simply not good enough. She was not good enough, she came to believe. Never had been; never could be. As her father had once told her, You are only good for one thing. How horribly correct he had been. The proof was visible in the way others ignored her.

Shaking her head now, she picks up one of the pills and washes it down with a healthy swig of the vodka in her glass. She feels the tablet as it swims down her throat and the certainty of the moment is so clear that it makes her laugh. Sitting there in the semidarkness, laughing like a madwoman. What a sight! God, I am so fucking pathetic, she tells herself, and that calls for yet another pill, yet another long drink.

Maybe it was all better in the past, buried somewhere back in what has already been and will never return except in memories. All those memories hurtful, devoid of any lightness or pleasure. She sought pleasure once, long before she gave up the scavenger hunt for something she now realizes has never, will never exist for her. Someone must be experiencing pleasure somewhere in some unseen room and some untold time long since forgotten. Perhaps that was the real problem: She had been born too late, or too soon, or had been born at all. Such questions of existential import no longer interest her.

Another tablet, another drink, but this time she begins to choke as she tries to swallow, sees the tiny clouds of pain and fear blooming in her eyes as her life begins to roll before what remains of her willing consciousness. Imagine the irony, she thinks: Wanted to go out with pills and wind up choking to death instead. God, what a horrible thought! Does that mean she wants to live? Is this a renunciation of the wish she has had for months now? Could there be a glimmer of clinging to her life at this late hour? She is down on the carpeted floor beating her fists against the sofa, fighting to breathe, attempting to invalidate her once perfect ending…choking…rasping…praying for just a moment of air…then lighter, sensation of having been remade in time and space into a feather that is floating down, down, so calm…all is quiet….

When she awakens, her eyes slowly adjust to the light, focus, comprehend the nurse standing before her as she intones:

Miss Smithson, you’re in the recovery room. Just take deep breaths. Your surgery is complete. We’ll be taking you to back to your room in a few minutes. Deep breaths now. Deep breaths.

To which she can only manage to think, My God, I failed again.

Copyright 2015 by Andrew Bradford. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Coin Of The Realm’ by Gloria Christie

I could barely wait until Dad stomped outside, his boots soaked with spring’s dew. “Was there one? Did you find one?”

Spring is the time of buds’ promises fulfilled into flowers and for newly-minted baby calves. It was these babies I awaited impatiently. This morning I was rewarded. Yes! Dad found a new baby calf! Our cow, Oogie, had calved during the night.

Each morning Dad walked round the pastures seeking out the calf that had mysteriously relocated itself from inside its mother to our outside world. One of the most heroic events of a lifetime, I understand. The birthing of oneself.

I jumped up and down with delight at the news of the new calf, even though I couldn’t yet go look. You see, people can’t go near a new mother of the bovine persuasion. I had to wait until she was ready to show off her new baby, swaying with a cow’s sizeable grace up the worn path her pristine calf in tow. The baby’s legs worked all cute and wobbly, its pink nose frosted with mother’s milk.

It occurs to me we are in something of a rebirthing process ourselves right now. Each is thrust into this new world where the ground once terra firma moves beneath us. And the world swirls like a movie run too fast. When the earth slows for a moment, we find that some of us are lucky. And some of us are not.

What is going on anyway? Fire-breathing relatives of the dragons in my fairy tales books have awakened. And these Great Dragons of Greed have come to reclaim our gold and much of our certainty. And as they move about, our earth shakes. When they make demands, our world spins.

Before the dragons awoke, mothers were the CEO’s of their homes and fathers went out into the world to earn money. Now sometimes, even two full-time and two part-time incomes come up short. And if everyone is always working, who leads their babies up the pathway and home?

The sly Great Dragons tell us it is quality of time spent with our children, not quantity. But I wonder. What if we respected parenting and home-/hearth-making demands — whoever is responsible — father, mother, grandparent, good friend or some combination of all?

The Dragons of Greed have sucked all the money out of our homes and our 401(k)s, out of our gas tanks and our yearly salary increases. Now jobs can disappear with a slip of pink paper and half an hour’s notice.

Once we speculated about how to spend our free time as the work week shrank from 40 hours to 37 ½. But now productivity is up. We either keep up on the dragon’s treadmill or fall beneath into its gears, only to be replaced by another hungry for any work at all.
So where’s the opportunity?

Well the Great Dragons of Greed are never satiated, because they don’t understand the great satisfaction of other currencies. We enjoy family and friends, beneficence and kindness. Rewards come when we work as a team in a small business or just shop there. Gold is a helping hand or putting hand to pen or paintbrush.

Surprisingly the shaking earth forces us to seek firmer ground, whether that’s in three-generation homes or questioning whether necessities are necessarily that. Will we invest in a real community or feed our dollars to the dragons? We might watch a child’s first steps, assured of spring’s return.

Creation is spring’s gift. And it can become ours. Just as we greet the baby calves of spring, we can recreate our own lives into something far more alive.

Copyright 2015 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘In Early Evening Lost’ by Andrew Bradford

The Diplomat stands and speaks with such terse violence

That the testimony of the lotus is forgotten in only fragementary seconds

Inside the room where they stand and wait is very boisterous, very


Words came from her mouth in an icy rasp and she did say:

Now we shall all worship at the altar of the morbid bizarre insult which carries the day

What did they look like, the man in blue wanted eagerly to know

Left us leaping around the room like kangaroos on speed

Friday night at Allentown’s they serve the very needy low-dime drinks

Always wanted to be a real live human, the gas truck driver mused

Minutes later he did lead the whole damn parade

So I sez to the guy standin’ in the door,

I sez, They’re all insane, ya know? Nods around the room

Short walk around the hospital to clear my head did not take

Iron shutters fly up like silk curtains of gray and silver

Aztec priest readies knife

Steady, boy…ever so steady

Last handful of the night so better make it last, babe.

 Copyright 2015 by Andrew Bradford. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Sister Sister’ by Olumide Oluwasegun

Growing up, you held my hand
You gazed longingly at your pride
She mirrors your person you are sure
She reminds you of you at her age
“Don’t fall down!” you say to her
You want to keep her protected
It’s easy to lose track of oneself
When selflessness becomes the theme

“I care so much” you say to me
Not words I know, but I see them still
I never understood some those times
When you told me; “No! Don’t go that way”
It was easy to believe you did not care
As a little girl I was after my treat
As I grow more and more I know of a truth
That your love for me is quite unmatched.

A friend indeed you are to me.
Moreso a Sister, my very own.
Sometimes I may act as though I don’t care
Indeed deep in my heart, I know I do.
You’ve been my guide, I am blessed indeed
I see now the lessons you wanted me to learn
And I’m glad I listened enough to learn
Words may fail me to capture all
But I’m glad I have you in my life
Awesome sister and my friend
I love you more than you can rend
Discovery comes when one misses a step and
I found indeed you are God-sent.

I celebrate you sister and friend
For love and comfort, and for joy
I am glad I listened all those times
To your words that build indeed I chose.
Thank you for being on my side
When I fall more times than I could count
I may not be able to put them all into words
But my love for you is unrivaled.

Super you, blessing to all
Holding my hand since I was little
I doff my heart to the one I know
Who makes being a sister a joy to behold.

Copyright 2015 by Olumide Oluwasegun. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Words Can Change Our Worlds’ by Gloria Christie

My 7-year-old self walked aimlessly about a yard bereft of trees, neighbors hidden by the distance. I understood that walking could not carry me into my dear Grandma Christie’s arms ever again. But I had nowhere to go, anchored as I was to this ashen earth.

Grandma had gone into the clouds and changed from her rose-covered house dresses into a long white gown. And I gathered from Sunday school that they rode donkeys wherever she had gone. But I doubted that she would prefer that ride over the padded seats in her green Studebaker.

Without warning, a flock of hummingbirds interrupted my thoughts and surrounded me. Magical. A charm of hummingbirds, they are called. And charmed me they did, as well as comforted and delighted me. The charm of birds fully encircled me like angel hair envelops a Christmas tree.

Grandma loved cardinals. Could she have directed the child-sized hummingbirds to comfort me? I wondered. The birds lingered for a few precious moments, then disappeared, leaving me less burdened by my grandmother’s death.

The birds have it right: a congress of crows, a company of parrots, a ballet of swans, a watch of nightingales and a wake of buzzards.

I grew up in the country of eastern Kansas and went to a one-room schoolhouse. For show-and-tell, my parents finally let me take dad’s Japanese rifle, the one he brought home from World War II. I struggled against its weight, but the effort was well worth it. And sure enough, it elicited the anticipated ooh’s and aah’s.

But then Cheryl Moyer opened her big cardboard box. And my Japanese rifle was forgotten, because Cheryl’s box contained the huge dead horned owl her older brother shot hours before. Certainly not part of a charm. No, owls come in wisdoms. We were at once fascinated and fearful.

I have contemplated why we deferred to the power of guns. I grew up around guns. Dad is a natural sharpshooter. On brisk falls days, my mother’s brothers, gun enthusiasts, sought out deer. Today “gun” is an abstract word in an abstract world. “Gun” translates into power, winning and/or skill. In that little schoolhouse, the magnificence of the horned owl, paused in flight, enthralled us. Not its death.

We knew death. Mothers killed chickens and dressed them for dinner. Men butchered big, soft-eyed cattle bound for the freezer.

The kids in my school saw the release of life. We understood the carnage a gun renders upon a body. We recognized the coppery smell of blood and saw the real price of a bullet. The words “death” and “gun” had concrete meaning to us.

I knew a young man who was shot in the face. It was a hunting accident between a classmate’s father and another’s brother. The victim recovered, but the shooter was unable to liberate himself from his terrible guilt.

Today we throw away words as if they were worthless, but each emits a positive or a negative charge: stupid, good job, enemy, thank you, evil and hero.

Words can channel fear into a raging river of hatred. They can engender respect. Or they can change our worlds.

When I was a high school junior, five words strung together did just that. I sat in my vertically alphabetical desk, against a putrid green wall, a color forced upon all past students of a certain age. Mrs. Michaels roamed her English classroom as she often did, but this time she stopped at my desk, bent forward and whispered, “You should write for television,” then continued down the rows of desks.

Those words were like a trolley pulling me toward a platform destination I reached before branching out into other adventures. Thank you, Mrs. Michaels.

Words do matter. Rhetoric has the potential to wound or to heal or to heal wounds.

I had never seen a charm of hummingbirds before my grandmother passed away. Nor since that walk in the yard. But their charm comforted the little child I was. And after all these years, that memory still elicits a smile and a positive healing charge.

Copyright 2015 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘It Means Nothing Until It Means Everything’ by Andrew Bradford

Although I’m sure she didn’t mean what she said to be so cutting, so destructive, I still took it that way and was still feeling quite hurt by the time a week had passed. Seemed silly to be so upset over something so trivial, but it was the first time we had ever fought that way, and now I was feeling fragile, questioning everything she’d ever directed at me, be it a joke or just a tossed-aside comment on how I might be dressed or a song I had playing in the car.

These things are gonna happen in relationships; good God I know that as well or better than anyone! I’d waited for years after my last separation from Cassie before I even ventured out into the field of experience and opened my heart up again. Now it seemed to have been a big fucking mistake to have done that. Because what did she mean by those words? Was that really the way her mind and soul operated deep down inside? Imparting motives to her sentence, speculating how I would have felt if I’d said the same thing. I decided I would have been cold as frozen rope, coiled up in my guts and then striking at her with cobra-like surgical precision, thinking as I spoke, There…take that!

But I think far too much. It’s a definite drawback most of the time, but how in the hell is one supposed to just turn off his brain? Sure, there’s drugs, I guess, but pot only makes my mind race faster and more thoughts march around like so many enemy soliders. Alcohol? Way too much alcoholism on both sides of my family for me to ever do more than drink a glass of wine from time to time. Still…what did it mean? Why would she say that?

Admittedly, in romance I’m somewhat like the typical man: I pick up on few if any signals that are being sent my way, usually too busy calculating what I can say or do that will maximize the chance of amorous evening endings. Want me to clean that for you, my dear? How about we stay in tonight and just fool around? Why are you looking at me like that? 

OK, ok. It was just one sentence. Keep in mind that she’s incredibly cute and often eager to retire to the bedroom for the night. She’s got a dry,  dark sense of humor that fits in perfectly with my own. And then there’s that thing she does with her tongue…hmm…this is gonna be a damn close call.

What do any of us want? And how are we supposed to get it and be happy at the same time? Maybe those two things are mutually exclusive. But seems like some couples are happy, or at least put on one hell of an act.

So back to the thing she said. It wasn’t anything that impugned my manhood. She didn’t look at my crotch when it was exposed and comment, Who do you think you’re gonna please with that? If ever asked that, my reply would be, Me!

No, it wasn’t devastating, but the way she said it, the way I heard it, the way it felt when it flew across the room and finally landed. It was a painful kind of thing. Yeah, sure, part of it was my own reaction to it, but damn, am I supposed to be immune to feeling hurt simply because I’m a man? Are we not allowed that? If we are cut, do we not bleed? Shit, now I’m getting all melodramatic and syrupy. Someone please kill me now before I go any further!

Thinking of it now, with some clarity (which is certainly relative), it shouldn’t have done what it did to me. I should have shrugged, chuckled, and let it roll off my shoulders like I didn’t even take it the least bit seriously. But I didn’t do that. Seemed like I couldn’t; as if I simply didn’t have that capacity the way I did when I was younger.

Eyes closed now, reliving it, seeing her standing there with that half-grin on her face as she shook her head and asked me, How is anyone supposed to fall in love with you?

Now, as I ponder it, I wonder that myself: How could anyone? How could they possibly dare? How do any of us ever manage to do that?

Copyright 2015 by Andrew Bradford. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Under The Final Fragmented Fall Of Trying’ by Andrew Bradford

When she came in the room, he was seeking to find his lost sense of wholeness

Dropped my bag down in one city and wound up living in six others

Never underestimate a man’s capacity for longing in the face of loss

He looked at her and whispered,

Maybe never

Watch the delight on the faces of those who understand nothing but their own self-loathing

He had a mirthless inner grin that only those who had known him for years could see

They were disposed to grand gestures which signified their own shrieking soul-numbed horror

She told a long story of a man she had known in some unfeatured past she hoped to lose

Why are you running, she asked him, to which he replied,

Forgot how to walk

Just stood there slack-jawed in the middle of that place, not sure of anything anymore

Tidied up the place real nice, didn’t he? Such a shame he had to,

leave so damn suddenly

Some interpret her silent manner as a case of spiritual peace

But they only hear voices murmuring,

Lower now, slower still, wait for nothing least bit real

It was at that moment she at long last realized…

How the fragments of inner-felt glass were only wet with tears, not blood

Falling, falling, falling, falling…

“Maybe we could make a go of it; sleep now try again at light.”

Copyright 2015 by Andrew Bradford. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Early Morning Dusky Haze And All Life Left To Be’ by Andrew Bradford

There remains a Wedge into this World

Not close enough to be sighted or beheld

Quite early on we have been Witnesses to the Truth of All

Late one evening you may have perhaps known

That the truest Marvels of our Great Experience

Are lost among the haze of damning Dusk as it cruelly condemns

Snug in the shared conspiracy of our own mutual malaise

We are attempting to awaken so slowly at each Daydawn

Until Mysteries are shown to be but creeping fog

If the people of our own contentment among the lives we exist into

Might anxiously grow dim, might fade, might burn as Gossamer

The frozen questions asked so fervently could be told aloud for airing

Somewhere East of a Cheated moment we shall maybe behold

Content in a day of Reckoning we never wanted to create

Copyright 2015 by Andrew Bradford. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Hunt For White Ants’ by Michael Owuor

In my culture white ants were and are still a delicacy. There are several types of white ants generally called ngwen where I come from. Certain types fly out  in daytime and the others do it at night. Let me say something about ngwen that fly at night: They are very difficult to catch. And again they are basically in two categories: those that fly out around 2am, and another at around 4am. More delicious is the 2am ngwen. This one is a little bigger and fatty, and may cause diarrhea when eaten in excess, and yet most people prefer it raw. Ngwen normally fly out from grown anthills. We usually had to go searching for anthills that were ready for harvest many kilometers into the wilderness back in those days. On discovering those that were expecting, we then prepared them by clearing and digging a small hole for trapping ngwen on either side of the hill, and sometimes we had to blow tobacco smoke into the anthill to make sure all the ngwen were put on standby. The other materials to prepare for the night exercise were dry grass that would be lit to provide flames, that attract ngwen and got them trapped into the harvest hole before drawing into baskets.

However, we grew up with frightening stories about Jinn’s and ghosts during the ngwen season. Our elders usually told these scary stories at night, especially after supper, and this inflated fear into us to the extent that no one would shout or even talk at night. The Jinn’s are called ‘Yamo’ in my local language, and had the most horrific stories. Yamos were known to be tall, awkward humanlike creatures with goatlike hooves, and would turn you into whatever they wanted if they caught up with you.  But I never got the slightest proof whatsoever. Therefore, one required a lot of courage to move at night. But despite all this, white ants are a delicacy in my culture, thus it was a must for people to go hunting for ngwen in the wee hours of the night; the very time the Yamos were known to explore the land.

One day we went to trap ngwen at an anthill almost 4km into the wilderness. It was midnight when we set off in a very dark and quiet night in the month of August. We were four in number, each equipped with a bundle of dry grass, a box of matches, and a basket for the harvest. By about 2.45am we had taken position around the huge anthill, two on either side. Ngwen began to rain out of the anthill as though very uncomfortable in their motherland, time and again blowing out our flames. We beamed with excitement and the baskets had just begun bulging with the delicacy when suddenly one of us glimpsed at something standing, and without looking back shouted, ‘Yamo!!’ Everyone got terrified and in a blink scattered for their lives, leaving all we had behind, only to reunite as we scrambled for the narrow door into our hut. Early the next morning we went back to the scene, but to our utter amusement it was an old tree stump that had scared us out of our wits.

Copyright 2015 by Michael Owuor. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.