Visual Art & Photography
Colleen Louise Barry- Soft
Riley Hodson- Untitled (2)
Joe Dupon-Roche- Untitled
Dive into Her Stream of Consciousness
~ ~ ~
i told myself at a young age to be honest.
so swallowing at my reflection, i warned the girl looking back she wasn't good enough.
she believed it.
i believed it.
i yelled at my mirrored silhouette all of her weaknesses and yearned for her to fight back;
but she stared at me unknowingly.
“who have you become?” she asked simply.
i knew myself as strong, kind, honest, compassionate…
at best, i was naive.
every day my reflection shrinks away from what glares back
because that girl,
she is losing herself.
at a young age, she was compulsively satisfied with all of society’s preconceived thoughts and ideas.
society raised her to blame everything else for her problems;
they never once told her to blame herself.
so what happens when you look at your reflection to find out you are the only disappointment?
~ ~ ~
i took my thoughts,
piece by piece,
fragment by fragment,
separating nonsense from logic,
hesitantly dove into the unknown.
i made my whole life from it.
finding myself in a whirlwind of muddled experiences, contradicting emotions, and overbearing people.
i ended up
lost in the logic,
and found within the nonsense.
i tried to keep it simple.
black and white,
right and wrong,
but i kept losing myself.
as we grow up we are advised the picture is black and white
or the conflict has only a right and a wrong,
but lately i’m not convinced.
and i hope you're not either.
~ ~ ~
i dreamt last night
the fright was over, that
my life had finally returned to its unstable stage
for no clear reason i wished for it to remain there
i loved you again
and the emptiness returned
because the stability returned.
for no clear reason i wished it would not remain there.
and i regret it
for no clear reason.
~ ~ ~
in this particular stream i found It.
the Reason many search for their whole lives, but never find.
i found It in this particular stream,
no, i cannot reveal what This is nor even the name of this stream.
because if i did you wouldn't understand.
you wouldn't understand the Reason.
yet in this particular stream is where It was buried and where
It will survive.
only the lucky find It,
only the unfortunate are confronted with It.
because they can handle It
the Reason i searched for my whole life and regretfully
in this stream they found me.
not dead or alive
but with Reason.
~ ~ ~
you’ll drown, girl. you’ll drown.
in a sea of people who are too invested in themselves.
you will drown if you depend on them.
too often i make the mistake of trusting they will keep me afloat.
i have been trying to remember when i was lost in the sea of life,
gasping for air because my thoughts were drowning me.
my stream of consciousness was drowning me.
I was drowning Me.
who was there to save the lost girl with the mirrored silhouette from drowning?
… “no one” were the only words audible as she sunk deeper into the stream.
Chart my filthy tracks
all the way past the sky.
Once I saw you there,
kissing my boyish thoughts
when I was green and unsure
how the planets ruled me.
I needed all that space
where so much depends
on what you see
in the clouds
or if your boredom is true.
What did you make
with the colors you saw?
That is to say
time freaks me out.
You’ve been alone,
so you know what it's like
among the pearlescent chaos,
those places you come to
when the galaxy just moves
Beautiful, I Say
She always loved the Hallmark Channel at Christmastime—the heterosexual films, cheesy, unrealistic, boy meets girl at airport, boy meets girl at Christmas tree lighting, boy meets girl. What a waste of manhood, She said when Neil Patrick Harris appeared in the opening credits. When a picture of his family popped up on my Facebook feed, She shook her head. I have no problems with gays, She said, I just don’t want them married under God’s roof.
When I came out as bi, the first thing out of my God’s mouth was let’s not tell Her about this. And sitting on the train, there’s my future wife, but she’ll never know because my girlfriends were prayed into the closet, door closed, light tight, the last coffin nail forced by my hand. Afterwards She took me to get ice cream and pointed at boys, saying, they’re cute. The thick cream caught in my throat.
Luke Cole Swanson became Cole, and my brother didn’t invite her to his wedding. I always comment on Cole’s photos, beautiful, I say. And when my best friend was avoiding a boy who liked him, I subbed for their joint kitchen job because we both knew they would never walk down the aisle together. He was not allowed under Her roof. Cole was not allowed under Her roof. I am not allowed under Her roof. So we’ll all just get married in the rain.
Fog this morning drugs the fields
needle disappearing in my one big vein.
I don’t want to sleep. I am trying
to pay heed to the motivational poster
framed on the far wall. Beneath a lighthouse
shooting its beam into a storm, it implores
me to discover the limits of the possible
presumably by giving myself over
to the dark regiment of waves crashing
against the shore. As usual, I find myself
at a total loss. And once again it’s not
my failure but the very attempt at all
which terrifies me most. I won’t let
either eye close: heart monitoring
the corner, daffodils on the sill.
In the window, angles of intersecting
roofs, a sculpted pelican perched
atop a weathervane where real birds
land to put on their black suits, to watch
what’s happening in the luminous
vacant room next to this world.
Under the willows, under the stained glass.
Under the squabbling airplanes, under their exhaust.
Under the meteor & the meteor’s shadow
there is an inevitable shifting of perspectives.
Where I would once dig in my pockets
for a piece of foil so I could safely view
the sun’s reflection, I now grit my teeth & stare.
The wisps & sparkles are true as the hole
burned in the field, a black ring of grass.
It’s nearly impossible that we are alone,
if we believe in the mathematics,
which regards our belief as the ocean regards
the scuba diver with his foot caught in a crevice.
I believe in visitation, the right of all denizens
to plant their words in a foreign pasture.
Even now they come unbidden to me:
What is it you do, exactly?
Does that pay the bills?
Each is a probe launched with the hope
of delivering a payload, a golden record
holding our treasures.
Here is every shimmering thing I am.
Would you pay to tour this museum?
Would you stop in the gift shop to buy a postcard?
Maybe this one here, where I am holding
an oversize cheeseburger & making a face
that says: get a load of this thing!
I would happily spend my days affixed
to your refrigerator, under the photo of your parents
renewing their vows. Under the magnet
that keeps us sometimes pushed apart,
sometimes pulled closer together.
What is said
It’s not the anger it’s the beauty. Beauty is pain they say but why do
I always get let to sit on pins when they have the smile painted
across ther face. Life isn’t fair they say. But we all know this by age
10 when the candy is gone and you blame anyone but yourself
It’s gone and you are too as your heart always follows their steps
through the hall and you are the one out of control just trying to get
back what is yours
Why your organ gets stuck on the bottom of their shoe and you are
the one called crazy women
Why it stings so bad when your steps have passed
A blow to the chest and a blow to the heart are not the same to
those in the blue scrubs
One can be fixed and the other is medicated with the swift brush of
the broom under the places that no one would dare to look for
Why this now and why not then
These feelings I want you to leave,
the numb mind is easier to
Drowning in my own blood with my heart on your shoe
Nourishing Wet System
When the moon rises in the afternoon no one can see it.
Separated from you by the bodies of our history, I try
to make it right. All my life I fall away from myself.
There is a bridge in the distance. Already steam obscures it.
The people chatter, they wear blue and red jackets.
Possessions in hand, they leave their houses.
I do not posses a house. I am renting my space like a visitor
I am always leaving. I have a pale cream bag.
It holds rose-jelly and a cloud. My jacket has no sleeves.
I lift my hand to my brow and imagine it is slender.
Beyond the bridge I know a soft and wild meadow. Two deer
make a bed there. In the morning the heat from their breathing
leaves the long stalks of earth bent and weeping.
All my life I see my life
reflected in glowing squares.
As it grows clear it obscures.
I check my iPhone
to see where I am.
The waistband of my pants
cuts a wheat field into my belly.
Still in bed the morning commuters’ red tail lights
lick it to make it grow.
This has been reality. This has been almost like a letter,
the word I mean.
The mistake was to begin without mentioning the ideas in it.
Impressions of Substance
Leave one environment for another
and so lose the first forever
the trees all scattered to the digital winds
or else their outlines adrift.
They are vanishings
in the predominant flow of phenomenal reality.
I dial the phone to talk to one friend and then I do it again.
I write a long letter
to connect my failing human heart to the heart of some other
and to ruin my hand make the day physical.
Invention and imagination the principles I live by.
The bumper sticker on the car
in front of me indicates
other more elaborate modes of transport are available.
Tells me also the driver has a cat and two dogs.
I remember when this day started.
It was ten thousand years ago and I was a penitent
kneeling before the maw of angry gods.
They said We will obliterate your soul
You will forget who you are
You will start crying when you face Us
Raging and you will never be able to stop.
So I went on a journey. I didn’t take their words seriously.
I thought I knew better about how to conduct my life.
Write all day about the clouds describe the surface
and penetrate the mist
the sky disappearing saturated in dusk.
I start from a blank page near the back of the pad
and work my way forward
a terrible god in my own human lights.
Life is too short to worry about the words we speak and how they’ll be interpreted,
or the collisions we create in the palms of our hands,
because it doesn’t matter what we’ve touched or what we said,
because we are all just specks on a rock.
Insignificance and existence,
they tend to flow together like waves crashing on the beach shore,
or tidal waves roaring in my eardrum,
but it doesn’t really matter because nothing does.
We pretend sadness isn’t familiar.
There is a false correlation
that those who talk the most are the most bold,
that those who don’t are timid and shy.
I could speak mountains of nothings
compared to the oceans some have given me.
There’s depth in some vocabulary
that the volume of my words
will never amount to.
You are allowed, and even encouraged, to yell,
because your footprints on this planet seem small to the universe,
and your voice is but a breath of wind.
I wish we didn’t pretend that sadness was unfamiliar.
It was a slow day. Not many people stop by the office of a private detective on a Sunday. Or maybe it’s just that not many people go and get murdered on Sundays. But this particular rainy November night was different, and I knew it as soon as the dame walked in.
She was a brunette, and brunettes are always trouble. She had eyes as brown as a steak from Big Tony’s diner.
“Sorry Miss, but I’m closing shop. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
She blew smoke in my face while sliding a wad of cash across my desk, right past an open bottle of whiskey and my trusty .44
“Will this change your mind?”
“No, I’m hungry. Come back tomorrow.”
The seduction tactic hadn’t worked since I lost my old girl in a shootout with the cops. I stood up, and noticed a heater pointed right at my left breast pocket.
“How about now? I can’t afford for you to turn this one down.”
“Look kid, if you shoot me I’m afraid I won’t be around to solve any case at all.”
After she calmed down, she told me some kingpin named Red had pumped her man full of lead. She wanted Red at the bottom of the Hudson. I couldn’t see why she was so upset; it seemed like just your average murder. This Jane Doe was trying to cheat me out of my greasy diner food, and on a Sunday. I was mad. Real mad. So mad I could taste the royal with cheese I’d be missing just to crack this one.
The first place to look for information in this part of the city was Big Tony’s diner. Tony and I went way back; he was the one who saved my skin in the shootout two years ago. I walked in to the smell of sizzling meat and cigarette smoke. Tony Two-Times caught my eye from behind the bar, and stopped flipping burgers to sit down at my table.
“How’s life treatin’ you, kid?”
The voice of Tony Two-Times was like the rumble of the thunder outside. They called him “Two-Times” because he did everything two times. If you ordered an espresso, you’d get a double shot, and he’d charge you twice.
“Doing well, Tony. Doing well. Look, I was wondering if you had any info on one Mr. Red.”
“Big Red? The mob boss? You’re in deep, pal. What’s the deal today?”
“Some dame waltzed in today looking for revenge. She said he was the culprit.”
Tony lit two cigars and puffed on them thoughtfully.
“Last I heard of him was when he iced old Officer Herring. Haven’t seen him since. I’d check the old train station, where he used to play cards. Watch out for the fuzz, though. That place shut down cause of unstable tunnels. They catch you, and you’ll end up incarcerated. If you’re ever in need of assistance just whistle. Twice.”
“A royal with cheese to go, Tony. Thanks for the help.”
The old rail station on the edge of the city was foreboding as hell. It was cold inside, and the quiet was unnatural. If anyone was down there, they would have heard the echo of my shoes on the cement floor. The station was either empty, or I was walking right into a trap.
“I thought you were better than this, detective.”
I whipped around at the sudden raspy voice behind me.
“Surely you would have known it was a setup. The dame, the murder, it was all too cliché.”
There was a man leaning against a wall between two of his gorillas, who had tommy’s trained on me. I recognized his voice, which sounded like a steam locomotive grinding to a desperate halt. The wide brim of his fedora hid his face; he was wearing a wrinkled grey suit that matched his complexion. He smiled as he adjusted his pink carnation.
“But alas, the bait was too tempting for you. I guess it’s true what they say about tough characters like you. You only see what you’re paid to see.”
I’ve heard the whole speech before. He was about to explain his whole scheme, but I wasn’t in the mood.
“Go ahead and shoot me already so I don’t have to listen to you talk.”
He continued, pretending he didn’t hear me. As he rambled on about his master plan like they always do, I ate my second burger. I could’ve sworn I’d seen this man before; his crooked nose was familiar. It was just like the one I gave the cop, two years ago.
“With you stuck in this train station, no one can stop the brunette from sabotaging the radio transmitter-”
It was the copper who killed my partner in a shootout two years ago, right before he disappeared. I was about to make him disappear for good.
“So you finally-”
“You’re the one who killed my girl. I’m gonna do a hell of a lot worse than break your nose this time, you corrupt pig!”
I shot him twice, right on the spot. As his body hit the cold cement, I dove behind a pillar as bullets whizzed past my ears. The thugs both looked like they could take 5 shots from my .44 and live to tell the tale. I didn’t see myself getting outa here in one piece without help. I whistled. Then, I whistled again.
Tony Two-Times burst out from behind a pillar, two guns blazing.
“You didn’t think I’d let you waltz in without backup again, did you?”
We were sprinting towards the stairs when the ceiling started to crumble. Tony stopped, turning towards the pursuing henchmen.
“Go on, kid. Pour me two glasses of whiskey when you get home.”
I heard gunshots echo as the station caved in, when suddenly a bullet slammed into my back. The last thing I saw before I hit the ground were those brown eyes, like a steak from Big Tony’s Diner.
Even after nearly four decades living in New England I have not quite become accustomed to the fact that the weather on any day can be completely opposite than the previous one. This day was no different. Following an early summer like day of sun and sixty degrees, today was more seasonable for late November with gusty winds and blowing snow. Still till early in the season for the snow to really stick, but the branches on the barren trees had a white coating and the evergreens took a light frosting as they bounced about in the wind. Being the Sunday before Thanksgiving one might imagine the snow is a welcome sight for the peddlers of Christmas trees and wreaths as they have already begun to fill the garden centers and roadside stands. You might imagine a family driving along Route 101 with the mother exclaiming how excited she is for the holiday season, the weather being an inspiration for such thoughts. The children, immersed in their ipads and iphones, seemingly ignore the sentiments until their mother draws them into the conversation. “Yes, the holidays, Mom. When are we getting lunch?” “Oh look, Dear, the Christmas trees have already arrived,” she states as their SUV speeds past. “I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to get our tree today?” Dad grimaces, they have a schedule to keep. The Patriots kick off in an hour and they are at least thirty minutes from home. “Come on Honey, let’s go back. Kids, don’t you want to pick out a tree?” Mom inquires. “Do they have food?” chime the passengers in the back seat. “Fine, I will turn around. I mean, they will be the same trees if we wait a week, so, whatever.”
The wind and snow don’t seem to hamper the chickadees and sapsuckers that frequent the bird feeder. Maybe the icy precipitation causes them to scavenge more in anticipation of worsening days to come. Or perhaps, it’s that those same conditions cause me to be inside on the couch snuggled up in a fleece sweater watching the birds fly here and there, stopping for a moment to steal a morsel from the feeder. I imagine they are there other days, as even after pleasant days, I find the feeder in need of refilling. But those warm and clear days find me not lounging on the couch, but puttering around the house and yard trying to fulfill all the necessary tasks to prepare for the winter to come. I do feel a duty to keep everything well stocked for my avian friends so as to encourage their visits. One might consider it a symbiotic relationship, I providing a source of sustenance, they giving a reason to pause and gaze out the window and make a small but meaningful connection with nature.
Living in an old New England home has many charms. There, of course, is its history, and one may be able to imagine how our ancestors filled the space and lived their daily lives. There sometimes occurs a sense of duty to take care of a home that was built with basic tools and working hands and maintain the traditions that the previous occupants may have observed. It would also seem that some sort of hardship is expected when living in one of these houses. It might be cutting, splitting and stacking cord wood used to stoke the woodstove or fireplace whose use add to the character and ambiance of the place. It might also be the creaking and cracking of the old wood floors and beams which over time have settled unevenly. At various points through the home there may be an extra shim or shingle under a table or desk so as to level the working surface. And then there are the old drafty windows. Sure these are easily replaced and there is much to be gained in efficiency, but no new window can match the aesthetic of looking through a pane of glass whose age is shown through waves and ripples. These imperfections are as if time and gravity have caused the glass to warp. But they have withstood many years of nature’s worst and seemingly avoided an errant or misplaced rock or baseball. On a windy day they bang and rattle and the air whistles about, looking for a gap or void to slip in through. Certainly from which side you peer through the window will lead to different sorts of views. Looking out, one may watch the snow falling, a slave to any wisp of wind, pushing it about. There are times when it appears that none of the flakes will reach the ground as they create circular patterns and crisscross about the sky moving in one direction only to be redirected back from where they came. Looking in, you may find a child waiting patiently for the ground to be covered white, a new smooth surface with limitless possibility of sliding, snowballs and snow people. Will there be enough to cancel school? Will the piles be big enough for snow forts and secret caverns? A new fallen snow is winter’s chance at a clean slate, covering up, just temporarily, the forgotten leaves and browned grass. Opportunity seemingly abounds as seen through a clanking old window, where if you stand close enough, you can feel the cold seeping through. The chill being held back by an extra log on the fire and a wool sweater draped over the shoulder.
All rights revert to the author upon publication in Layman’s Way, and your work may then be published afterwards; we just ask that Layman’s Way gets recognition as the site of first publication.