By Karla Cordero
Training bras in third grade
are invitations to birthday parties
my mother made me go to
I told her I was never
best friends with Puberty
At recess I’d kiss childhood
with crustless PB &J
avoiding the itch of wires
camouflaged in polka dots
which kidnap my comfortable
Peanut butter had lost its taste
I’d over hear the prissy girls
with mosquito bite cleavage
adjust their pink polyester
straps by the monkey bars
Samantha would say
Boys like staring at
boob skin, it makes
their dingalings smile
sound more like pornography
handcuffed to a 32A cup
Read about Karla Cordero
A short story by
Mom is getting up there. Dad’s gone, and she’s all alone in that big house. So my brother Mike and I decided to buy her a computer, to pull her into the new century and to give her something to fill up some of the idle time.
We taught her how to use the shiny new tool, and no doddering old fool is Mom—she soaked up the basics and ran with them, and now she has become addicted to information about mindless reality show girls, talentless pop singers and famous promiscuous men, and all things Lindsay Lohan. She claims she has uncovered the facts that Ms. Lohan was born with a tail, and that her toes are webbed. Who knows about the stuff you find on the Internet.
And, she discovered chromium, a trace mineral that, taken in sufficient amounts, will extend the human life span by thirty percent—or so says her computer-based new millennium snake oil salesman. His website sells bottles of the stuff: $299 for a month’s supply. But God bless the Internet and Mom’s frugal little heart: she was able to discover that good old fashioned beer is loaded with chromium.
And so here we are, at the Mediterranean Gardens, celebrating Mother’s Day with plates of steaming spaghetti and Chicken Alfredo, and Mom—who never indulged in more than a small glass of wine in her life—is powering down her fourth chromium-laced Budweiser, and wanting to know of the man at the adjacent table: “WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT, BOOGER HEAD?”
I put a hand on her bony shoulder, to keep her from getting up and taking a swing at the guy, who hinders my effort by calling her a nasty old bitch. So Mike, the dutiful son, jumps up and punches the guy to the floor, bringing his—Booger Head’s—lady friend into the fray. She hooks brother Mike into a headlock and proceeds to blast his head hard, bouncing her bejeweled fist into his face.
I have to grab Mom in a bear hug from behind. She writhes against my restraint, as Mike backs into the wall, hard, slamming Booger Head’s girlfriend loose. Then he spins around and they face off, dukes up, dancing and trading fists to a serenade of waitress screams, as I wrestle Mom out the door.
I pin Mom to the front fender of my car and try to talk her down, as Mike dashes out of the Gardens, missing a front tooth, shouting “I COLD COCKED HER!”
Mom is ranting. She dearly wanted to mix it up with those folks. I coax her into the front seat, and stop—per her demands—at a liquor store on the way home for a six pack of chromium. But she falls asleep enroute to her abode, and I carry her inside over my shoulder, lay her out on her couch and throw a blanket over her snoring form.
“I’m gonna go online,” says Mike, running his tongue over the gap where his tooth used to be, “and get some of that chromium in pill form.”
Mom snorts and snuffles, and I say, “Good idea.” Then I kiss her forehead, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom,” and go to the kitchen to take all of the old girl’s beer away.
Read about Dan McClenaghan.
Photo credit: Neil Moralee via a Creative Commons license.
May 12th, 2013 in
, Humorous fiction
| tags: chromium
, Dan McClenaghan
, flash fiction
, funny flash fiction
, humorous flash fiction
, Mother's Day
Pacific Coast Poetry Series aspires to publish the best of those poets whose states lie along the far Western edge of the continent and touch the ocean that—in the seminal years of this country—men, women, had dreamed of reaching.
Call for manuscripts – deadline June 7, 2013
Pacific Coast Poetry Series, an imprint of Beyond Baroque Books, will publish two manuscripts a year by poets who live, work or study in Washington, Oregon or California. Our editors are open to various styles and sensibilities, but will be looking always for strong, accomplished, affecting writing.
- Standard manuscript, 48-60 pages
- Manuscripts will not be returned
- Deadline, postmarked June 7, 2013
Pacific Coast Poetry Series
681 Venice Blvd
Venice CA 90291
Suzanne Lummis, Editor
Henry Morro, Founding Editor
Henry J. Morro, founding editor of the Pacific Coast Poetry Series, is the author of the poetry collection Corpses of Angels (Bombshelter Press). His poetry has been published widely—including Seneca Review, New Letters, Black Warrior Review, Poet Lore, Askew, Chiron Review, California Quarterly, Sonora Review, Pacific Review—and in The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (Thunder’s Mouth Press). In addition, he released Somoza’s Teeth (New Alliance Records), a CD recording of his poetry. He also served as Associate Editor of two poetry journals, Blue Windows and Tsunami, and as Principal Advisor of Grand Passion: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond, named one of the 100 Best Books of the Year by the Los Angeles Times Book Review in 1997. As a California Poets in the Schools (CPITS) poet-teacher, he taught bilingual (English-Spanish) poetry workshops in Los Angeles, and poetry workshops to honor students at Santa Monica High School. He also leads the Beyond Baroque Wednesday night poetry workshop. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Beyond Baroque Foundation.
Beyond Baroque Publishing History
The Beyond Baroque Foundation began in 1968 as an avant-garde poetry magazine called Beyond Baroque. Editor, publisher and founder George Drury Smith created the Beyond Baroque press in order to publish emerging, over-looked as well as established poets – especially those from Los Angeles. The Foundation started issuing perfect bound books and chapbooks in 1971. Titles include the first book from Los Angeles’s recently named and first poet laureate, Eloise Klein Healy, works by Dennis Cooper, Amy Gerstler, Bill Mohr, Harry Northup, Holly Prado, and Wanda Coleman to name a few. The Foundation’s current press, Beyond Baroque Books was launched in 1998 by Fred Dewey. It has published fourteen books and several magazines featuring works by Jean-Luc Godard, Jack Hirschman, Diane di Prima, David Meltzer and more. Beyond Baroque Books continues to unearth cult rarities as well as collections by noted performance poets, educators and cultural leaders.
Excuse Me, I’m Writing offers creative writing workshops for beginning and seasoned writers, because writing is not for sissies — it’s for everyone!
• • • • • •
An Evening of Lust, Love and Literature
Discover words your mother never taught you — and play with them in poetry or prose. This workshop is for folks attempting to write erotic scenes and for folks who don’t write at all, for couples, for singles, for the adventurous, for homebodies, for anyone with a sense of fun!
With a series of simple exercises, we will explore the ways of writing the things our senses tell us, as we engage them in the literature of lust and love — with things sweet and savory, soft and hard, light and dark, funny and sad, lilting and raucous. …
One evening session, Friday, 31 May 2013
7 to 10 p.m., edible goodies included — $30
Come prepared to indulge your senses. Bring writing materials or a laptop. All other materials and yummy things to nibble and drink are included in the fee.
Feedback from a recent workshop: A very liberating experience. Definitely thought provoking. I found myself writing from hidden parts of my thoughts and yet it felt safe to share…Oooh, the beautiful lines these [people] wrote…such craft with words.
Instructors: This workshop is facilitated by Penny Perry and Kit-Bacon Gressitt.
For more information and to register: Contact K-B at 760-522-1064 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Penny Perry
Better to skimp on food and pay the electric bill
so my daughter won’t find me dead,
only my knitted cap peaking above the covers.
Food stamps. Day old bread. Dumpster diving
behind the Cask and Cleaver.
Once a whole lobster. Once I was so hungry
my hand grabbed a banana at the fruit stand.
No security cameras like inside
a market where I see me waddling down the aisle
in my wine colored pants.
That banana day was a Saturday. Trader Joe’s
two blocks down gave out samples of ravioli
and garlic bread. When Chelsea, next space over,
has her electricity turned off,
she uses my oven. I went on welfare
when my daughter was born. Only for a year.
Those days you could live on
what you made serving burgers,
selling shoes, even pitching pot holders, picture
frames over the phone. Pacific Blind Products
is what they called it. Washcloths sewed
by the blind. Once I lived on the street.
My daughter was grown then and didn’t know.
I never felt safe to fall asleep.
Two months ago there was a stabbing at our park.
We all try harder now to watch out for each other.
My daughter helped me buy my home. I painted
the trailer egg shell white, yolk trim. I keep it neat.
Tuesdays are busy for Chelsea and me.
Cans and bottles, recyclables. Riches.
When my daughter visits she sees my red, yellow
and orange nasturtiums. She bends down to sniff
their spicy flowers. “Ma,” I’m proud of you,”
she says. “You’re doing fine.”
Read about Penny Perry.
Photo credit: M. Hester via a Creative Commons license.
Writers Read Presents
Conney D. Williams
Reading from his new poetry collection
Blues Red Soul Falsetto
Preceded by open mic for original poetry and prose
Date: Wednesday, May 8, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Café des Artistes, 103 S Main, Fallbrook
Enter from the rear parking lot off Alvarado St.
Conney D. Williams is a Los Angeles based poet, actor and performance artist, originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he worked as a radio personality. Conney’s first collection of poetry, Leaves of Spilled Spirit from an Untamed Poet, was published in 2002.
His new collection, Blues Red Soul Falsetto, was published in December 2012. New York Times bestselling author Michael Datcher described the collection as “a haunting interrogation of the African-American sojourn in the land that helps to hyphenate his name. These poems ruminate on fatherhood, foreign policy, failure and F.E.M.A., with the subtle lyricism of a poet comfortable with the high notes and familiar with the moans of life’s low-end register. In particular, the poems on Hurricane Katrina are devastating. With this stunning volume of poetry, Conney Williams double-dares you to look away. A dare you can’t win.”
The following is an excerpt from Blues Red Soul Falsetto, which will be available for sale and signing.
you my fifth gospel;
writing yourself into my life,
when I thought books in my canon
Your prophetic gibberish
is the vocabulary of kinship;
you dispense redemption
in saliva stained kisses;
place my palm and fingers
underneath your splinter less torso;
I hold you Calvary close;
you wear olive tinted skin,
smoother than chasm that exists
between heaven and sincere prayer;
at dawn, I wake myself
to smell holiness on your breath;
stare me down with eyes
void of sin, as though I was last apostle;
they seal my heart from corruption,
then resurrect parent in me thought deceased.
your birth is my atonement,
and I love you as though I was virgin
Conney is also the Artistic Director at the World Stage in Leimert Park, and a member and current coordinator for the Anansi Writers Workshop. His has collaborated with artist Charles Bibbs on the production of WordArt, a monthly event of poetry, jazz, and visual art. He has hosted several poetry venues and been a curator for many poetry/jazz events throughout Los Angeles.
A bistro supper is available; for supper reservations, call 760-728-3350. For more reading information, contact Kit-Bacon Gressitt at email@example.com or 760-522-1064.
by Amber Dawn
Review by Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Compared to the dearth of little girls who say they want to grow up to be prostitutes, the hundreds of thousands of sex workers in North America suggest there are forces propelling women into the sex trades beyond their free choice, external to their personal “agency.” And powerful enough to challenge any Gender Studies “sex-positive” stand, is the argument against the purported joys and self-empowerment of sex work inherent in How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir. The new book, to be released by Arsenal Pulp Press May 1, makes this argument eloquently and forcefully while revealing the gifts of author Amber Dawn, those of poet and memoirist.
Dawn, from Vancouver, Canada, made cross-border literary waves with her debut novel Sub Rosa (Arsenal Pulp Press 2010), an allegorical fantasy pitting magical sex workers against evil johns, and a fictionalized spin of the author’s own story. In the book’s release, Dawn outed herself well beyond her Canadian audience as a former sex worker, a lesbian, and a literary activist. The book won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award for lesbian fiction, and the author was on her way to greater recognition and acceptance—but only to a degree.
Dawn found resistance to her story, her openness about her past, yet she had been poking at that taboo for years, writing poetry, struggling to take ownership of her stories, to avoid the destruction implicit in her trade, and society’s response to it, by speaking of it. And poetry did ultimately save Dawn’s life—the poetry she wrote, the poets who encouraged and taught her through college, the poetry of her MFA program. Now, the poetry and prose in her memoir exquisitely articulate her resigned entry into the world of paid sex work, her passage from the street to safer indoor work, and her eventual reconciliation with herself.
Dawns writes of learning the hard way how to avoid abuse by her johns; of offering an array of sex acts in the language of a fast food menu to skirt anti-solicitation laws; of contemplated suicide; of the void of queer funeral etiquette. She writes of her life with weathered rage and hilarity and love; she writes of coming of age as a prostitute.
It happened suddenly. It happened without warning. One day I woke up and I was an old ho. … My dream shifted from high school sweetheart to winning big at the ho game. Maybe some dumb regular would buy me a condo or I’d land that mad-money stint in Vegas. My “real life” certainly didn’t have any bling makeover potential. I was a poet, a homo with a weakness for broke-ass butch dykes, and I danced burlesque—badly. I ought to have tattooed the word ‘penniless’ on my titties and tossed in the towel. If I was ever going to go from geek to chic, from trash to cash, I figured ho-ing was the only way. I constantly scanned the adult help-wanted ads for the perfect gig. I chatted online for hours with potential sugar daddies. But even in my final days of sex work, I still hadn’t discovered the place where the money was greener.
And she writes of reconciling with herself.
I understood very clearly then that there would be no cumload of cash or fame. No Ricki Lake Show. No free condos. No Viva Las Vegas. … I knew that this is what I am: a queer femme who often has misguided crushes, dances low-rent burlesque in sticky-floored dyke bars, and writes goddamn poetry. And what, I asked myself … is wrong with that?
Dawn also invites readers to join her, to stand naked with her on the art gallery’s steps, to be there at anti-homophobia kiss-ins, to become a community of voices. Perhaps one that resists a society that transforms little girls who want to be scientists and teachers and artists into sex workers.
… And We Did
I have stood naked on the art gallery’s steps.
We were one hundred strong, lesbians,
we seized the food court at the Pacific Centre mall to disrupt
the heteronorm with an anti-homophobia kiss-in.
I have kissed pavement while an officer handcuffed me
another searched my bra and underpants for an alleged weapon.
(No one read me my rights. No weapons were found.)
Our rubber-soled boots tracked red footprints down
the highway on ramp. Vaseline will help
break down spray pint stains on skin—share this information.
Our mark the next morning: shame / stop / smash / the state
vote no / yes / now / rEVOLution.
We ate pepper spray.
We saw riot tanks rush London on Financial Fools Day.
I have torn a sleeve from my blouse and used it to bind
an open wound.
Once, I sat in a cake at a charity ball where the mayor
was in attendance.
Before the Internet we found each other in the streets like swallows
who find their way home each summer. How did we know?
We linked arms. A human chain, we chanted the people
united will never be defeated.
We were young. So certain we would change the world…
We were young. So certain we would change the world…
The people united will never be defeated.
We chanted. A human chain, we linked arms.
How did we know to find each other like swallows
in the summer?
Before the Internet we made our home in the streets.
I once sat in a cake at a charity ball where the mayor
was in attendance.
I once tore a sleeve from my blouse and used it to dress
an open wound.
We saw riot tanks rush London on Financial Fools Day.
We ate pepper spray.
shame / stop / smash / the state / vote no /
yes / now / rEVOLution: our mark.
In the morning, share this information.
Vaseline breaks down the spray paint stains
on skin and rubber-soled boots.
We tracked red footprints down the highway onramp.
(No one reads us our rights. No weapons were found.)
We have kissed pavement while officers handcuffed us,
others searched our bras and underpants for the alleged weapons.
We seized the food court at the Pacific Centre mall to disrupt
the heteronorm with an anti-homophobia kiss-in.
We were one hundred strong, lesbians!
I have stood naked on the art gallery’s steps.
Amber Dawn will be at:
The San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival on May 23 and 24
A ”Meet the Author” event at Seattle’s Gay City Library on June 6.
Also published by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.
April 28th, 2013 in
, Economic justice
, State violence
, Women and work
| tags: Amber Dawn
, Arsenal Pulp Press
, How Poetry Saved My Life
, Sub Rosa
By Karla Cordero
I am black sheep
staring up at heaven
questions of faith only
to hear the laughter
of angels as my lashes
tickle their armpits
and I wonder if God was
drunk the night he
made my left breast bigger
than my right
Wonder how he
knew to balance
fish bowls on my
shoulders to swallow
the ocean of my
father’s let downs
If he sneezed
for dirty boys to trace
the night sky on my back
If he dug navel
into my abdomen to hide
the sins from my mother
If he blacksmithed
my liver to keep the whiskey
If he carved picture frames
on my thighs to museum
the scars I couldn’t display
on my wrists
if he keeps my voice
in a bottle by his nightstand
to ignore my prayers
About Karla Cordero
Photo credit: Thomas Bresson via a Creative Commons License
April 21st, 2013 in
| tags: Karla Cordero poet
By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
An annual remembrance of the 19 April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City
Ladies and gentlemen and children: See before you the crumbled concrete and teddy bears, the wreaths and forlorn love notes, the postcards and classroom projects, the flags and bobbing balloons, the flowers and final farewells to one hundred, sixty-eight souls.
Ladies and gentlemen and children: Blown from the earth with a single obscene gesture, they were three months, they were seventy-two years, they were one and twenty-three and thirty-six and forty-two and fifty-five and sixty-seven; good ages all, now etched static on stones in perpetuity.
Ladies and gentlemen and children: Look at their faces, unprepared to be memorialized, giggling from family photos; posing for graduation pictures; caught unaware in backyard barbecue snapshots; accepting awards for deeds well done; squinting through sunglasses and wind-whipped hair; smiling from beneath coquette eyelids; flirting with a future that will remain unlived.
Ladies and gentlemen and children: Do they now soar on the wings of eagles? Do they join celestial choirs, belting out the blues for those left behind? Do they rest safely where a god is nigh? Do they fly wrapped in angels’ wings and draped in patriotic colors? Do they heed the solemn psalms we offer up, the precious quilts we stitch with tears, the “Taps” we sound in stolid sorrow?
Ladies and gentlemen and children: Do you know? Their memories will never leave us — children’s cries that faded before they could be found; a boot, impotent with only its warrior’s leg; the futile reach of a toddler’s severed hand; the sacrifice of a limb for life; the heart of one who would serve and protect gone limp as the baby’s body he cradled.
Ladies and gentlemen and children: Can you see? In the victims’ absence, a flag gently caresses a face of faith, memorializing last kisses never placed on loved ones’ lips. Children’s words, pure and simple, are searched for some serenity. Voices are joined to find a remnant of harmony in harrowed hearts. Hands are clasped, ribbons are donned and candles lighted to lead wounded survivors to comfort.
Ladies and gentlemen and children: Can we help but wonder just how great is the resilience of this human spirit? Can we help but question that a god would make such a day as April 19, 1995? And when the doubts are done, when grass grows where battlements once stood, can we find inspiration in the agony? Can we embrace the anguish of it all and fill the void with the wonder of hope and peace?
Ladies and gentlemen and children: Speak tenderly to the city and love each other well that darkness may not have its way.
Visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
What possessed me to click on the popup message Monday afternoon, I’ll never know. “Warning:” it said, “This image may contain graphic or objectionable content. Click to view image,” which I did without a thought.
But, unlike the previous photos of the Boston Marathon bombing—unsurprising pictures of stunned witnesses scurrying away, emergency responders exuding concern and duty, bloodied victims carefully tended—the picture The Atlantic had tried to warn me about inspired the same devastation in my gut as the morning I watched people stepping from the upper-floor windows of New York’s Twin Towers. I wept then as I wept Monday afternoon as I wept just the other day when I finished reading Mary Karr’s 1995 memoir The Liars’ Club—as I weep just about whenever I’m exposed to someone else’s excruciating, defining pain.
I shouldn’t have clicked, but I did, and perhaps some day I’ll be better for it.
I’d resisted reading Mary Karr’s book, suspecting what I would find, not wanting to share her pain, but I finally did. Perhaps some day I’ll be a better writer for it, but therein lies the personal challenge of Mary’s memoir.
I call her Mary, because she asked me to, when I interviewed her by phone a couple years ago. (Honestly, it felt darn awkward at first, my being raised in the South, but now that I’ve read her book, I’m more inclined to call her dawlin’ and feed her chicken soup.) Back then, she fessed up to being sick in her New York bed, trying to overcome bronchitis so she could climb onto a plane—challenging god once again to mess with her or not—and make her way out here to speak at Point Loma Nazarene College’s Writer’s Symposium By the Sea.
Her darkly iconoclastic humor pervaded the interview and reportedly her memoir, a bit of grace for me and my resistance. So last week I buckled down to read The Liars’ Club, because I suspected she’d written about the sorts of family things I’m writing about. I figured I’d be wading into the same treacherous Gulf waters in which Mary’s sister Lecia’s leg was whiplashed by a man-of-war and Mary’s youthful agnostic soul prayed to a god she “didn’t trust a prayer” to not let her sister die. It’s unlikely a prayer will pass my lips, as I drift between agnostic and atheist, depending upon the day’s news, but as Mary came to know her mother through the memoir, I hope to come to know my Great Grandmother Ada Latta Rutter through my writing, her seeming boldness, her apparent decent into mental illness; to discern what it is she handed down to her offspring and theirs and theirs and mine.
I’ve put off writing this story for years, always finding something else, something safer, to hold my attention, to avoid the repercussions of blabbing, as my siblings would say as kids. Today, forty or fifty years beyond the blossoming recognition that something might be a bit off in our family, were I to seek their approval, I suspect few of my family members would be as supportive as Mary’s. She warned them about The Liars’ Club and quoted her mother as saying, “Hell, get it off your chest. … If I gave a damn what anybody thought, I’d have been baking cookies and going to the PTA.” Sounds a bit like my mother, although she at least tried to hand out milk in my school cafeteria—except she came dressed, as my peers described it, like a “Gypsy.” But Mother is a Bacon, not a Latta, and that’s another story.
Still, there is much in Mary’s story to scare folks away, as I suspect they might be scared from mine, those folks who don’t want to read of sorrow, no matter Mary’s riotous black humor (she describes sharing with neighbors her grandmother’s grotesque death from cancer—including that “the ants were crawling all over her arm,” then cuts to the revelation that it was all for effect, as she and Lecia were on the lookout for sympathy cookies and Kool-Aid), or her exquisite appreciation of Texas redneck culture when a neighbor shoots a rattler (“It’s nature itself, revered in other climates, that’s Leechfield’s best advertisement for firearms”), or the forgiveness Mary ultimately finds in the truth (“What Mother told absolved us both, in a way. All the black crimes we believed ourselves guilty of were myths, stories we’d cobbled together out of fear”). It’s interesting that the book, written when Mary was a diehard agnostic, contains such suggestions of her coming conversion. And afterward, sixteen years later, at Point Loma, she said something that might explain her embrace of Christianity; it certainly explains the resolution of my challenge to reading her book. She said that when we take in somebody’s suffering, we are transformed by it.
I hope that’s true, I hope that’s true of the story I’m writing. I hope that’s true of any suffering. I suppose, had the Boston Marathon bombing not occurred Monday, had I not clicked when I shouldn’t have, had I not taken in the suffering, I might be writing something different about Mary Karr and The Liars’ Club. But that, too, I’ll never know.
A Short Story by
Ruth, Juanita’s best friend, went through the change before Juanita did, and when Juanita got there, Ruth gave her this sage advice: “Put a pair of panties in the freezer, hon. Nothin’ can cool off a hot flash quicker’n a pair of frozen drawers.”
And it so happened, one hot and sweltering summer day, Ruth and Juanita, and Nadine from up the street, drinking margaritas and wearing muumuus for the cooling of the air circulation afforded by that loose style of garb; the men—Ruth’s Ellis, Juanita’s Clete and Nadine’s Chuck—kicked back out on the patio with the beer and the smoldering barbecue; that after a couple of drinks Juanita had the mother of all hot flashes, her face reddening like a ripe tomato, sweet oozing form her pores.
“Panties, girlfriend,” said Ruth, seeing the signs.
So Juanita pulled them from the freezer, and with the easy access afforded by the muumuu, she dropped her current overheated pair of undies and stepped into the cold ones right then and there. But frozen panties—the cotton variety that had been misted with a fine spray of water before going into the cold (as per Ruth’s instructions)—are not what you would call pliable, and, while Juanita was able to insert her first foot into the leg hole, the other got snagged in a tangle of crumpled, chilled cotton, an entanglement that sent her hopping and crashing through the sliding screen door, and down hard on her butt on the patio, just as Chuck was taking a big slug of beer.
Chuck sputtered and choked, and went into a coughing spree. Clete and Ellis froze, and Ruth and Nadine dashed out the door and helped Juanita to her feet, so she could arrange those cold panties in their proper place. Thus clad—and blushing like a summer sunset—Juanita smoothed her flower-print dress back down, glared at the men and demanded, “What are you turkeys lookin’ at?”
“Nothin’!” Clete and Ellis said in unison, as Chuck’s coughing jag decrescendo-ed and a dense fog brewed up by clashing temperature extremes rose under Juanita’s muumuu, escaping in hissing streams from the neck opening and arm holes, and Juanita’s little chihuahua, Ginger, pranced out of the house with the abandoned, pre-chill underwear in her jaws, shaking them as if to kill, growling like a wild beast.
“GET BACK IN THAT HOUSE!” Juanita screamed at her dog. Ginger dropped the panties and dashed, yipping, for cover. Juanita scooped the hot drawers up and stalked back into the house, fog tendrils snaking in her wake, followed by Ruth and Nadine, leaving Ellis, who was clueless about hot flashes and frozen underthings, to suggest to the guys: “Maybe we ought to cut the girls off on that margarita thing they got goin’ in there, before they really get outa hand.”
Photo credit: Darice via a Creative Commons license.
By Penny Perry
I took the sheets off the bed
when she died and put them
in the laundry bag for Mr. Cho.
My mother’s only luxury.
She loved to un-wrap the rectangle
of blue paper and rest her face
in freshly ironed sheets.
My father stopped coming home
nights. Sometimes I thought
he was fumbling with his key
in the lock, but it was only
My underpants and socks piled
up in the hamper. My best skirt,
the black wool I wore at her funeral
had a tiny mustard stain.
A boy from the poorer part of town
said he liked me. What he liked
was that I was home alone
on a school day. We sat on my
mother’s floral love seat. He slipped
his callused hand under my jeans
and touched me.
I ran to my mother’s bathroom
to wash my face. When I came
back the boy and the money
in its crisp white envelope
for Mr. Cho were gone.
In our dark laundry room, I tried
to start her washing machine.
The motor hummed. No water came.
I drove without a license
to the new Norge Laundry Village.
Orange plastic chairs, shiny linoleum,
it was almost like a party. The insides
of the dry cleaning bin smelled like
a sick animal’s fur.
I tucked my underpants, my socks,
my father’s muddy work pants,
my mother’s nightgowns
and cotton skirt with lavender flowers
into a washer that was three times the size
of our machine at home. Water sloshed.
Suds threatened to overflow and spill,
but subsided just in time.
From Santa Monica Disposal and Salvage, Garden Oak Press, 2012
Photo credit: Ben Ostrowsky via a Creative Commons license.