Olive Trees - By Marjorie Block 

Heavy wooden shutters stand open. 

Warm air and July sun stream into the room 

of the convent, my refuge for three weeks. 

 

At the window I inhale the unfamiliar 

countryside of Umbria: the scent of ripe fruit and earth 

the row after row of olive trees rooted in dry and stony soil. 

 

How I welcome the strangeness -- 

to be unknown 

unavailable for condolence. 

 

On one tier an old woman wearing a long black robe appears. 

Like one of the hags of fate. As ancient as this sanctuary. 

She moves slowly, dragging a thick black hose 

up the side of a hill and around the demented beauty of each tree-- 

bent and gnarled as her own body bent by pain or prayer. 

 

A presence about her touches me in a way I need it to. 

She turns slowly and looks up at my window. 

I raise my hand. 

She lifts the hose. 

Acknowledging loss so new 

I barely know its name. 

Hysteria in the Kitchen - By Linda Burk 

The commotion was getting louder. Cautiously looking around the corner, I couldn’t see anyone in the kitchen. What was happening? My eyes were drawn to the junk drawer. Could it be a mouse or worse a rat? I cautiously opened the drawer an inch or two. Utensils were quivering, jumping, and squealing. The ringleader seemed to be the packet of yeast. I noticed a diabolical shade on the label. Stunned, I opened the drawer the whole way. I quickly covered my ears to block out the screeching. The anger, frustration, and fear poured out in waves and knocked me to the floor. The spatula was the first to jump on me. “Are you responsible for confining us in this small space? We can’t breathe and I hate butting up against the soup spoon." Finally gathering my wits about me I said, "Things are not so bad. You've been together for a long time. What’s the difference now?" With a shudder the spatula murmured, “That instant yeast has really gotten a rise out of us. We were fine until it came along. Then we realized that we weren’t free, and we may never see the light of day, or worse. And you might just throw us in the trash, and we will never be together again. It was such a nightmare!" "What can I do to calm things down?” I asked. “Talk to us and tell us we are not useless, and you'll use us to make wonderful cookies and pancakes again. And that we are not disposable, like that packet of yeast . . . Oh yea . . . disposable.” I heard a cheer from all in the utensil drawer and quickly separated the yeast by putting it in a sealed jar so it couldn't stir up any more trouble.

What Are You Looking At? - By Marjorie Block 

It happens when you’re not looking. 

Sometime after the middle and towards the end 

when it’s easy to miss the fine silver thread 

waving from the middle of your chin. 

 

Unlike the shallows and the crags 

the Rorschachs that shift 

remind you where you’ve been 

where you’re going. 

 

Come closer. Look at the eyes 

resting most of their lives on the pages of books 

where the living and the dead 

wake you-feed you 

with little more than words 

 

and if you’re still-nudge you 

to notice the night sky 

starring Venus-goddess of beauty 

shining in the window 

lighting up the dark.

Man's Best Friend - By Carol Loo 

Dogs are the best, 

of this I can attest. 

They love you no matter what, 

even when you’re in a rut. 

I like to watch them run and play, 

they show us how to enjoy each day. 

They don’t turn on you like people do, 

you know they want to be true to you. 

I wish the dogs could all run free, 

they are such a gift to people like me.

Aunt Adelaide and the Stafford House - By Theresa Kennedy 

I don’t know why but I had the strangest feeling I should walk over, unlock the latch, lift the heavy arched window, and look down. That’s when I saw the jumbled mess of it, far below having landed directly next to the house in a colorful and fetid pile of scarlet and alabaster white. 

The house was one of those overbuilt Second Empire houses constructed in 1884 only a year or so before they went out of style, after their thirty year run of questionable popularity. It had haunted vibes and an overall bad feeling all around, which I attributed of course to my Great Aunt. Aunt Adelaide was an ancient woman of eighty six, inscrutable, quietly sinister and decidedly secretive. She acted as my legal guardian and for the most part baffled and repelled me. Though if the truth were known, I was her protector and she was lucky of it, too, while it lasted. I always felt that if not for me she’d have expired long before she did. The image of her in her cushioned wheelchair decomposing for a whole month before anyone noticed the newspapers piling up, the deathly quiet within or the commonplace urban stench of a rotting corpse sometimes came to me for no apparent reason.   

Aunt Adelaide was a tiny evil woman with skin as white as talcum powder and a large wig that sat atop her head majestically. It was a flipped bob style in a shade of warm chestnut brown, looked like a helmet and in the three years I lived with her in the house, I cannot recall one single occasion in which she was not wearing it. She wore salmon pink lipstick by Avon and was meticulous about her hygiene, and her fingernails which always amazed me considering how much of an invalid she was. She lived in the large, often drafty house alone, except for her grandson who I later discovered was also my second cousin. I had been in the house for two days before I even knew he existed, and Adelaide laughed heartily when he silently loped into the parlor unannounced, his head downcast, his hands clasped nervously in front of him. His entire demeanor was defeated, but he had striking golden brown eyes that emanated an intense melancholy and longing. 

Bradford was in his late thirties when I moved in and despite being Adelaide’s grandson; he lived like a destitute outcast in the enormous freezing basement with the old sawdust burner in the right hand corner, which heated the house. He slept in a large wooden shed that looked like a storybook cottage with two windows in the front and two on each side. It had been outfitted with all the necessities, like heat, and lights, a hot plate to boil water and a large antique metal brass bed with layers of tattered eiderdown quilts and silk coverlets in pale pink and lavender—Adelaide’s castoffs. He kept his ‘room’ in perfect order in the far left hand corner of the basement next to a window which allowed a wide swath of bright sunlight to drift in. There was a chair in the center of the strip of light where he would sit each morning drinking his cup of hot tea, absorbing the faint heat from the sun, with his thin legs crossed and his left ankle gently bobbing up and down, up and down. The other furniture in the roomy shed appeared to be castoffs from Adelaide’s huge collection, which was scattered all throughout the old house.               

Sweet Natural Grasses - By Dan’l McILhenny 

The rattle of cattle bells 

Rings clear across the valley 

As spring opens-up 

Her high green pastures above 

      

The steady rush - the splendid elation 

     When cowboys sing without hesitation 

     And promise their dogies 

     Sweet natural grasses they’ll love 

 

Can’t you see - the best of the west 

Awaits you just beyond this riverbend 

I can hear - your questioning voices  

Ask me... again and again and again 

“When will we get there…  

does this trail really have an end?” 

“I’m no pretender… please believe me 

My sensitive four-legged friends!”  

 

     Daryl’s not your average cowpoke 

     He’s learned to speak some bovine tongue 

     Kind of similar to smiley Wilbur Post 

     Who spoke to Mister Ed for fun

A Solid Gold Mustang - By Jim Carlson 

George Johnson and his beautiful young wife, Robin, had been married 24 years. They were in love as only two can be, and George treated Robin as well as any husband ever could. But this couple was not very well-off, as they had limited income—in fact, barely enough to get by each month. 

During their marriage, George had always talked about how much he wanted a new Mustang. The newer the better. But the couple could never in their wildest dreams think of such an expensive automobile. George just dreamed about it and spoke of his dream often. 

George's love for Robin never changed. He was generous and gave his wife a gift at least once a month—sometimes flowers, other times candy, other times even jewelry. She never complained about his generosity, even though they didn't have enough money for such gifts every month. But there was one thing about this marriage he'd never suspected. Robin had always wanted somehow to save enough money so the love of her life could have his car. So, for many years she put money aside in a secret bank account of her own. It had taken nine-and-a-half years, but finally one day she realized she had enough to buy the Mustang. 

Over the years, George had noticed that Robin had begun showing more interest when men looked at her. Everywhere they went, men both young and old seemed to be looking at his wife—in his mind, staring or gawking. Even his next door neighbor looked at her all the time. She didn't seem to mind, either, and always had a sweet smile on her face for her admirers. When George asked Robin about this, she would just say, "It's your imagination, George." Finally, he had all he could stand. "Honey, don't you know what you are doing to our marriage?" Again, she would say, "You're the only man in my life. I love you so much." He would say, "Okay," and then they would kiss, and everything would be all right for a while. 

George worked as a truck driver for a cement company that delivered cement to new construction sites all around the city. One day, on his way back to a delivery location, he happened to drive by his house. He noticed a gold Mustang convertible parked in his driveway. The top was down, and the interior was immaculate. He knew that whoever owned a car like that must be very wealthy, much wealthier then he was. "It must be her lover," he said to himself. "I knew it. She does have a rich boyfriend, and that Mustang must be his." I gonna bust in there and find out who this joker is. He could see though the living room windows that they were laughing and talking like old friends. 

Then he got an idea. He would drive his truck up right next to the convertible and dump his whole load into it. So, he did exactly that, then went back to work. He delivered two more loads before it was time to go home. 

He decided that after he got home, he would act like he knew nothing about what had happened that day. He would just go along with whatever story Robin told him. So, when he walked into his house, he said hello to his wife and gave her a big smile. "Hi, honey. What's new?" 

Robin ran over to him gushing tears "Oh, George. The most awful thing happened today." 

"What was that?" he asked. 

"Yesterday I purchased a new Mustang convertible for you. A twenty-fifth anniversary present. A car salesman delivered it today. But while he was here, a cement truck filled the car with cement. My anniversary present for you was ruined. Ten years of every cent I could get my hands on wasted—buried in concrete."

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