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David Sullivan

Spellbreaker

            —for Barbara Raney

Her mother had known
what was needed: insisted
all through her childhood

that her daughter’s thoughts
were wayward, ideas half-baked—
no one ices cake

by melting marshmallows—
really! So when the daughter
grew up despite all

her disasterous
predictions, married, moved to France,
she had to visit,

assess the damage.
Proudly unsnapped her suitcase
and fingered downwards

until she came to
the layer of Iowa onions,
individually

swaddled in panties—
one for each—and hoisted them
to her nose each time,

eyes blind to better
take in what she left—laughter
leaked from her daughter—

here was a grown child
whom she’d feared all her life,
delighting in sharp

smells of her girlhood,
unable to believe French
onions could match hers.

She would never lord
it over her again—onions’
bite bit through that charm.

Tale of the Golden Potato

Rena’s mockery balked
at the point in the story
when the motorcycles

circled a muddy
circle of potatoes. One
of them’s gold, they said,

your chick’s gotta find
which. Each revving, misfiring
Harley sported bra-

less biker babes, lips
smeared with high-gloss and shared beers,
their men—leather-clad—

jockeyed closer, crossed
the chalked line and corrected
before the pistol barked

and hooting women
leapt into the smeary ground
they soon resembled—

laughing, pulling hair
of one ahead. John turned back—
Rena, you gotta . . .

She spat: Are you nuts?
Then, as she tells it, the gold
potato squirted

between two bodies
and hurtled towards her. She held
her foot to still it—

soccer player style—
bent and plucked it from the pit.
Here’s what you can shove.

Dumped it in his hands.
Men cheered as she disappeared—
one finger held high.

Memorial Dinner's Aftermath

                        —for Laverne

Laverne returns in
garlic bread’s acidic bite.
It eats into us

after we partake,
hosts to pungent bulbous roots—
their derriers sliced

under her daughter’s
arched fingernails that held on—
knuckles against knife.

The see-through walls fell
down, were stacked, chopped, and dropped
into pooled butter

that burbled and spat.
A meal she loved now enters
us—friends, family—

friends of the family—
who will exude garlic airs
throughout the week—all

of us hold Laura’s
hand as she peels dusty husks
puts them to the blade.

She’s surrounded by
brothers and sisters, the smell
of garlic in her

like prayer, like fasting.
Feasts come off her fingers, fill
every mouth. Laverne

sternly admonishes,
even when her voice’s retired—
the loping cursive

across the white board
barks out orders, colestroal
levels checked right up

to the end. Certain
the work she’d done would land her
a spot in heaven,

where slathered garlic
bread, broken by Jesus, feeds
the multitudes, but

he’d let her lick his
yellow-stained fingers. You, Laverne,
no time for holding

back, let yourself dig
in—cannibal faith made real.
If you’re right, let sweet

bitter garlic eat
through every pore of our skins,
and every garlic

taste be of his flesh—
of his love—not wafer thin
and drizzled with shame,

but thickly sliced, steam
exhaling, fresh-baked, crusty,
blameless of a name.


David Sullivan

David Allen Sullivan’s first book, Strong-Armed Angels, was published by Hummingbird Press, and two of its poems were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Every Seed of the Pomegranate, amulti-voiced series of poems about the war in Iraq, was published by Telbot Bach. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his love, the historian Cherie Barkey, and their two children, Jules and Amina Barivan.

Winter 2013

Fiction
Peggy Townsend
Jill Wolfson

Monologue
Arthur Streshly

Poetry
Barbara Bloom
Lisa Ortiz
David Sullivan

Tribute to Don Rothman
read by Julie Minnis

FloodLight Feature
Stephen Kessler

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