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"Butterflies Press”
by
Shelby Graham

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Wilma Marcus Chandler

Road 65

Imagine an invitation, more like a summons,
to appear at a certain address
in a nameless town on a road called 65.

Imagine a sharp swerve off the main route,
a gravel path, a house, stately, white,
with wide front porch, linden trees.

Arrive before noon and alone
the formal card states,
and despite the mystery, I am not afraid.

Although I can see no one,
wooden doors open the moment I arrive,
and I feel a rush of cool air.

Then there they both are,
bent and bowing, dressed in white garments,
wearing white masks formed into smiles.

Their arms reach forward to embrace me,
white sleeves billowing, the hems of their robes
belling in the lyric breeze.

Soon, in the dim foyer, masks removed,
I see them truly smile,
and he stands in front, she a little to the side.

How unlike the old life
where he would have been toward the back,
shuffling a bit, head down, eyes close to tears.

She might have started a stir, a fuss,
some cause for unease. But now,
in that pale light, a generous moment, serene,

thin as shreds of fog, and we look into each other’s eyes
 – the immensity of all that – the losses, memories, gifts.
An enormous comfort enfolds.

Imagine I stay as long as I can,

then, drive out to the main road, and on. 
             

Breakfast

R&B on the radio
  It’s OK, it’s OK, all right, outta sight
My table is small and my coat, purse, sweater
fill all the available other seat.
                         This is the present moment, passing.

The walls have a scrawl of menu;
a hundred choices for eggs, ten kinds of toast.
The fry cook readjusts his hairnet,
grabs the French fry basket from the hot oil
and eats one fast, his thin hand flicking and moving on.
                         The present moment passing.

A man at the next table orders Special #1
then bows his head to pray before
the first sips of coffee.
I watch his neat shirt cuffs, his trim, pale nails.
Just that.
                         It’s OK, it’s all right.

And so, I, too, realize I want to pray
before my coffee cup
in this noisy, steamy place,
and do;  a quiet, quick breath 
before the waitress comes.

I order Special #1 as well,
although I don’t know what it is,
then note that the man and I
both lift our cups,
at the same time,
and place them down
in the thick saucers together
                         as the moment holds then passes.

For Thor

Thor calls me at 9:35 at night
and addresses me as “Mrs.”-
doesn’t wait for me to respond,
begins to tell me how I can lower
my electric bills with solar.
I try to thank him but he doesn’t stop,
his voice becoming like a threat.
I tell him I am hanging up
and before he can continue
with a planned response or even before
he realizes I am speaking at all, I disconnect,
feel guilty, not for hanging up,
but because I know I should be greener ­ –
remember with shame how I slipped a catfood can
into the regular garbage last week  -
didn’t compost the banana peel, two apple cores –
then justify it by the thought
that a guy named Thor cannot be trusted,
especially at 9:35 at night.
Either this is a scam or it is real, but I wonder
why his mother gave him a name like that,
imagine him growing up to be someone
who would never disappoint
but then ends up telemarketing
late into the evening, the shift no one else would want.
Perhaps he is comfortable with the dark side,
the slammed receivers, the curses,
each rejection confirming his fears,
remembering the fistfights, the acne,
the locker-room shamings;
having a super-hero name
in a prove-it-to-me world.
My guilt crawls back over me,
a reddening heat. Perhaps kindness
might have counterbalanced not going solar.
Perhaps we could have actually conversed
and I might have been gentler with him,
letting him go on, saying everything he needed to say,
so that when I did abandon him, 
saying a soft goodbye, the ashes
of his long-extinguished dignity  
might feel stirred once again.

Like the River of St. Therese

Therese de Lisieux, dying young,
lived for love, said love
is repaid by love alone
merciful love
consummate love
and went to her death
with joy, they say,
seeing no divide
between this bleak world
and the gardens awaiting.

The spires of the cathedrals,
were yearnings
carved in stone,
the curved arches, bent low,
honored the Divine,
but then among
all the little flowers,
the gentle songs and
passageways of quietude,
were fires, chains, a history
of whips soaked in sulphur and salt.
the pillory and the candle drip.

Her devotion, like a river:
to work with love
to pray with love
to burn with love
to give everything in its name .

And so, seeking Heaven here,
I marvel at how simple
this should be,
but stumble,  contract
in moments needing kindness,
let them pass, feel traitorous,
staved,  betrayed
by endless loss,
not allowing tenderness,
the held moment,
things seen,
things known,
words coming
like clear air, like love.

 

Wilma Marcus Chandler is a playwright, poet and theatre director in the Monterey Bay Area. She chaired the Theatre Arts Dept. at Cabrillo College for many years and among other crazy endeavors is Artistic Director of the annual 8 TENS @ 8 short play festival and founder of THE WILLING SUSPENSION ARMCHAIR THEATRE and CELEBRATION OF THE MUSE annual women's writing festival.  Her books on Acting, Directing and Stage Combat are published by Smith& Kraus and her newest book, The Night Bridge and Other Poems was just published by Hummingbird Press last November.

Poetry
Charles Atkinson
Wilma Marcus Chandler
Diana Hartog
Rosie King
David Sullivan
Ken Weisner

 

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