A few highlights from Sassafras issue 7

I’ve highlighted some great lines from the current issue of Sassafras – # 7 is huge (in no particular order):

 

You fold this sweater the way a moth
builds halls from the darkness it needs
to go on living

Simon Perchik – Untitled

The struggle to take root, to look up
as I do, in awe of the elder, pray they will be able
to avoid boot, bird and belligerent weather

A.J. Huffman – From Forest’s Path

 

Possible side effects include sticky-slick crayon
sketches on paper tablecloths and your mother, smiling, her hand
on her soap-bubble belly. 

Allison Hymas – Warning

_

A woman had come in, hesitantly as if I might hit her with the broom I brandished. She wore a long red jacket and a black hat
that looked too expensive for this town and asked for books on alcoholics anonymous — she wasn’t the alcoholic, she assured me.
After fifteen minutes of her trying to catch the bird in her jacket while I chased it with the broom, I knew it was getting
ridiculous. And then, the bird vanished.

M.C. Kelly – Beware of Bird

-_
_

You pat the mound with the shovel again. She was right. It turned out to be good practice. You cough, harder this time. Dry breath hits your knuckles. Inside, a light comes on. 

Bennett Durkan – Good Practice

 

My son roared right back at them,

                        arms overhead—

                        Eyes full of wonder,

                                                I watched him instead.

Joe Wahlman – Autumn Waves

_-

I didn’t know her, yet dedicated all my activities to her, let her borrow my senses, feel her muscles through my exercise,
fill her lungs through my breaths, see art at the museum through my eyes, taste wonderful food at an Italian Christmas through my taste buds.

Bahar Anooshahr – In her Body

 

We notice things: the steady speed of dust
Accumulating at our spines, your glances

Kevin Murphy – Shelf Life

The neighbor, she likes to grow vegetables in the warm,
leaving my headaches and my heart on the front porch.
I must insert each in the proper cavity.
Sun widens over in a massive thaw.
All land obeys like a shackled chain gang.

Amanda Tummirano – The Approach of Spring

– 

Before he left, he turned,
and to all of us and to none of us
gave a slight, seemly bow,
as if to say,
Sleep well. I am here.

                       Bric Barker – 1281 Train to Andong

 

You roll over into a darkness that eases
upon your shoulder.  Within
a manageable light, your two faces
discuss themselves: hammer or nail—
nurse or patient?

Britt Melewski – In Patient

 

Where we would walk
with shadows ignoring the coarseness
beneath our feet like barefoot nomads
yours, one step ahead of mine, so carefully
avoiding this unbearable existence of following.

Carol Lynn Grellas – Before the Pink House

 

Cloudless
Eyes.  Ebi
Shinjo starry
Skies.
Friends to whom I belong.  Friends who I will wrong.

Lynn Xu – Our Love is Pure (first in Octupus Magazine)

 

“This is a game isn’t it? You’re testing me somehow.”

“Interesting you would think that. How do you feel about tests?”

“I don’t care one way or the other,” I say.

“Suppose I pulled a gun from my pocket and said I was going to shoot you?”

“I’d have to think about that. Shoot me where exactly?”

“For starters, let’s say the leg.”

Allen Hope – Not The First Time

 

Beside the refrigerator is where Mom sits, in the dark. Even though it is only afternoon, the house does not let much light in. The leg holes of the underwear she wears on her head open up to pink curlers with pressed black hair wrapped around them; they poke through like antennas. The nightgown she wears is sheer. I can see the outline of her long breasts under it. They sit on top of her tummy; these are the biggest things on her five-foot frame.

“This is my house,” she says.

Melissa Valentine – Evidence of Him

Later that evening, before retiring, Mr. P. was cleaning his teeth in his bathroom. Midway he paused,  and looking in the mirror with a mouthful of froth, he mouthed softly, “Wow, awesome!” and then, a little louder — “MAGIC!!”

Kay Perry – Terri and Tonka

We sleep, clinging to the elbows
of spring, shackled to the warmth
of doors.  Safety is any number
greater than one

Quinn Rennerfeldt – Low Bones

In July, chemo ended:
Wendy’s napkins
folded the same–
but I’d been rearranged

Carol Smallwood – Lunch at Wendy’s (first in vox poetica)

_

_

You are a stone chained behind my teeth, biting my tongue
until it is slashed into ribbons.
Does your throat swallow
broken glass when a shadow reminds you of me?

Carolyn D. Elias – Mother

_

_

I have felt the night quiver with heron’s wing
over the swamps, over wild pigs in a blackberry patch,
their snouts bloody & alive in the moonlight,
& I have walked on, dirty, alone, kicking to the grasses
the swollen bodies of possum, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, bobcat,
giving them no prayer, no peace-filled silence.

Joshua Poteat – Hitchhiking in the Dying South

the best way is to have these conversations
with your backs to one another
trembling from what you may hear next

Roger Bernard Smith – said

if we could hold still
long enough in the sheen
of morning light.

Carol Tyx – Tomatoes on Windowsill

“I’ll be wantin’ decaf too, sweetheart. Make sure it’s hot,” he wheezes. His eyes, level with my throat, are disturbingly blue, but one struggles to stay open. As I turn to assist The Golden Girls, who are making eyes at the pot in my hand, his snowy hand clutches my wrist.

“Ya know, I have a fetish for ponytails,” he says, licking each word. Oh my God. I am suddenly too aware of the end of my ponytail tickling the back of my neck. I breathe in the mixture of scrambled eggs and last night’s Old Spice.

Kelsey Damrad – Breakfast at the Ranch

 

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Kelsey Damrad – Breakfast at the Ranch

Breakfast at the Ranch

“Everybody, doors open in 5,” his voice calls out, heavy from the weight of his accent. Nobody pays any attention.

Stale sunlight pours through the oversized windows, which line the room. Waiters and waitresses styling the signature maroon polo and black cargo pants bustle by to check that each glass on their table is perfectly polished. Sergio, the robust manager, is not forgiving when confronted with an unpolished glass.

“No, cariña,” Sergio says to one of the waitresses, reviewing the glass under the light and shaking his head. “Otra vez.” She picks up her wet rag and resigns herself to rubbing the glass free of fingerprints.

I pretend to ignore Sergio as he checks my tables for unpolished culprits and wait for the nod of approval. I relax when he moves on without a complaint.

“Oh God,” the waitress, Maria, says. I follow her gaze out the oval window that overlooks the terrace and half-hearted gardens that sketch the outline of the driveway. Three buses unload the weekend guests. It is not unusual for people to come in groups to the Rocking Horse Ranch. Moral support, I assume. “It’s an old peoples’ weekend.”

I shrug, preoccupied by the clang of the bell in the distance and the familiar “Come and get it!” screamed at the guests by two of the waiters. Breakfast time.

She shakes her mane of tangled hair and her midnight irises focus on me.

“Old people don’t tip and so gross!” she explains. “And you make damn sure their coffee is hot, mami, because you won’t hear the end of it.”

Sergio calls for us again to line up to seat the guests. I don’t have time as my table starts to pile with a group of eight clucking women who seem to have come straight from the set of The Golden Girls.

I grab the handle to the coffee pot, and pause. Better bring the decaf. I replace the black handle with the orange.

Everything is buffet style, except for omelets. I stand next to one lady as she munches on a cantaloupe with cottage cheese and knits a scarf with the other hand. Her pink mouth stretches in a smile as I introduce myself, with lips as cracked as the Sahara in a drought.

“Honey! Has anyone ever told you? You are the spittin’ image of Molly!”

“Ringwald? Yeah, I get that sometimes.” Their popcorn heads bob in agreement at my uncanny resemblance to the 80’s actress – their own little breakfast club. I pull out my pad to change the subject.

They give me their egg orders and demand their decaf.

Hot, they remind me.

I ask them what their plans are for the rest of the weekend. Honestly, what do people do on a ranch getaway? My generic question produces a predictably generic list: swims in the lake, horseback rides and endless gluttony. One of them suggests nude swimming and they all burst into cackles of delight, but know they would never, really dare.

After I drop off my slip of egg white omelet orders to the chef, I make my way to stand against the wall and plaster on a smile as a new cluster of elderly folk claim their tables. The other manager, Katie, asks if I gave my egg orders to the chef. Her stomach bulges over the top of her belt, and a button is threatening to pop open.

“Old people are so adorable,” she coos. One of the ladies at my table, who I pick as Betty White, hears her and shares a look of disdain with the woman next to her. I stay quiet. Who am I to call someone with 50 years on me adorable?

Across the room, I notice an elderly man struggling to occupy the corner table. Waiters around him either don’t notice or don’t care. I worm my way through the littered floor of squashed grapes and abandoned napkins toward him. Two chairs, made from heavy oak, block his path and his knotted fingers scratch at the nape of his neck with what I can only assume to be frustration.

I move the chairs out of his way.

“Coffee?” I ask, as I make room for him to sit. He relieves his massive frame onto the chair and doesn’t answer immediately. Dressed in a pallid gray suit and glossy shoes only suitable for Sunday brunch, his chest heaves with exhaustion and he ignores me. A stuttered sigh later and I begin to wonder if he had even heard me. But, finally, he turns a milky gaze on me.

“He’ll be wantin’ decaf,” a voice aged with tobacco answers behind me. Of course. I could have guessed that. I make a note on my pad and repeat my question to the newcomer. He is sturdy, yet slight, and exudes an air of boyish confidence. He must have been a charmer in his day. For some reason, this makes me more uneasy than his silent friend.

“I’ll be wantin’ decaf too, sweetheart. Make sure it’s hot,” he wheezes. His eyes, level with my throat, are disturbingly blue, but one struggles to stay open. As I turn to assist The Golden Girls, who are making eyes at the pot in my hand, his snowy hand clutches my wrist.

“Ya know, I have a fetish for ponytails,” he says, licking each word. Oh my God. I am suddenly too aware of the end of my ponytail tickling the back of my neck. I breathe in the mixture of scrambled eggs and last night’s Old Spice.

“Can I tug your ponytail?” Without consent, he reaches behind me and gives a feeble tug. I throw a desperate look around the dining hall, but still nobody pays attention. The silent man turns his thick neck to watch the horses that graze in the paddock. A woman who favors purple paisley attire pushes her walker past me.

The old man, clasps his black and blue hands together and indulges in a toothless grin.

“Ahh, my wife hates it when I tug other girls’ ponytails,” he wheezes a chuckle, his skeleton hand still clasping my wrist as he sits. I force myself to stay polite, for the sake of my tips.

“Shall I get a decaf for your wife too?”

“Nah. She’s been dead for four years.”

He lifts the scalding mug to his cracked lips and sips. His hand trembles. Should I pretend to ignore?

I settle for an apology.

“I’m so sorry.” Even as the words come out, I am not sure if they are sincere. He ignores me.

He digs into his plate of sausage links and pancakes. Mouth full, he taps on the rim of his already suffocated mug and I top it off.

A hand squeezes my hip and Alex, a waiter, is next to me with a serving tray piled with The Golden Girl’s omelets.

“Hey you,” he says, with a crooked smile. “Thought I’d help you out. You looked like you needed it.” His eyes are mocking, and the same disturbing blue as the ponytail puller.

I silently relieve him of the tray and deliver the eggs to the ladies. I am prepared this time, with a fresh pot, when they hold out their lipstick stained mugs.

Decaf, they cluck. They noticed, by the handle, that I brought the caffeinated kind.

 

I finish their refills and stand beside a bus stand, topping off a mug every now and then as the room starts to thin out. The Golden Girls are one of the last tables to leave. They each grab my arm to say goodbye on their way out, pulling my face close to theirs. They all do that, I notice.

Maria helps me clear the table of their untouched eggs and empty half & half containers. Rolling her eyes and muttering aggressive Spanish under her breath, she snatches a broom and dustbin from the kitchen and begins to sweep away the muffin crumbs the ladies had carelessly strewn on the carpet.

I glance over at the corner table. Looks like Curly and Larry left.

“I’ll go start that table,” I say, and slip the empty bus bin under my arm. The plates and fork handles are sticky with maple and the table is littered with egg carcasses. My stomach curls as I gingerly pick up a stained, crumpled napkin and toss it in the bin.

The charmer’s coffee mug is left untouched and the lukewarm contents swirl like oil. Not hot enough.

Katie’s manicured finger calls me over. Maria’s eyes follow me, squinting at the object in Katie’s hand.

“Your table left a tip.”

She holds a pocket-sized manila envelope, containing a tip from The Golden Girls : $2.87. Maria screams a laugh as she looks over my shoulder at the amount. I pretend to ignore.

I slip the envelope into my apron, and continue the mundane task of scraping the crumbs off the surface of the table in preparation for lunch.

 –

 

Kelsey Damrad is a writer and journalism student at SUNY New Paltz. Born and raised in Rhode Island, she hopes to move to a big city after graduation to pursue magazine journalism. Aside from her being in front of her laptop, her favorite places are on a mat in a yoga studio or in nestled in a corner of a library. Kelsey’s is infatuated with culture, people and the power of the pen. Her main priorities in life are to try new things, eat anything red velvet and start the day with a decent cup of coffee.

Allen Hope – Not the First Time

Not the First Time

I am sitting on the sofa. Watching him watch me. He is wearing the same beige slacks, white shirt and red tie he wore on my last three visits. I am trying to decide how often he wears these clothes between washes when he looks sideways at me and says, “This isn’t the first time you’ve been here. Is it?”

“No,” I say. “I’m a regular. Pretty regular anyway.”

He scribbles something in his notepad.

“Which is it?” he says. “There is a difference between regular and pretty regular.”

“Regular,” I say.

“That’s odd,” he says. He touches the tip of his pencil to his tongue and writes again in his notepad.

“This is a game isn’t it? You’re testing me somehow.”

“Interesting you would think that. How do you feel about tests?”

“I don’t care one way or the other,” I say.

“Suppose I pulled a gun from my pocket and said I was going to shoot you?”

“I’d have to think about that. Shoot me where exactly?”

“For starters, let’s say the leg.”

“My left leg has been giving me problems. It goes numb, feels like it’s burning. It keeps me awake at night until I get up and walk it off. Maybe a bullet is what it needs.”

“Then the right leg. I’m going to shoot you in the right leg, the thigh. What would you say about that?”

“I’d say I prefer you shoot me in the left leg.”

“There,” he says. “You made a decision. How does it feel?”

“How should it feel?”

“I’m the one who asks the questions,” he says. Again, more scribbling. “So, how does it feel?”

“Considering my decision is over which leg gets shot, not very good.”

“Still,” he says, “it’s progress.”

He places his pencil and notepad on the table between us and leans forward.

“Next week we’ll discuss your aulophobia.”

“I don’t think I have aulophobia. Whatever that is.”

“We’ll determine that on your next visit. Until then,” he says.

On my way out, Nurse Hillesand stops me in the hallway.

“What was it today?” she says. “The same as before?”

“Yes,” I say. “He still thinks he’s a psychiatrist.”

“Oh,” she says. “I was hoping for the comedian again. Your dad really is very funny. That story about changing the baby’s diapers, I smile just thinking about it.”

“Maybe next week,” I say. “Maybe next week.”

Allen Hope’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Ghost Town, Gravel Magazine, Snow Monkey, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Gallipolis, Ohio with his wife and two daughters.

 

Bric Barker – 1281 Train to Andong

1281 Train to Andong

 

 

Late night, Yeongju. Track 4

Three other people on the platform

– a couple desperately trying to drag

heat from a cigarette

and a Buddhist monk

swimming in his gray robe,

a black and red Christmas knit cap

protecting his blue bowling ball head.

He gently tapped a wood block,

eyes closed as the train pulled in.

 

I found my car.

I found my assigned seat.

The others slept.

 

A consumed coachman in uniform entered

for my ticket.

Before he left, he turned,

and to all of us and to none of us

gave a slight, seemly bow,

as if to say,

Sleep well. I am here.

 

 

Bric Barker, currently an English professor at Woosong University in South Korea, has taught in many foreign countries. His travels have informed his poetry greatly. Once Poet in Residence at University of West Georgia, he has published poetry in The Eclectic, Old Red Kimono, and In Other Words (An American Poetry Anthology). His most recent acceptances were from Indiana Horror Review, Beecher’s Magazine, Hothouse Magazine, and What’s Your Sign (Poetry Anthology). He won the Kay Megenheimer Poetry Prize, and also awards for journalism and playwriting.

 

Issue 6

SASSAFRAS LITERARY MAGAZINE ISSUE 6  - Nov 25th, 2013 

CONTENT

ARTWORK

Emily Strauss (photos) - Covering Fog,
Hills and Barn, River Morning

POETRY

Jon Bennett - AHM#2
Michael Boccardo - What No One Told Me About Autumn,
Fable For Boys Who Chase Tornadoes

Beth Boylan - The List
Micah Chatterton: Self - Hypnosis
Nancy Correro - Pursuit of the other side,
New Life in the 21st Century

Megan Kaminski - Dear Sister
Mercedes Lawry - Trends, The Observer
Jeremy Nathan Marks - The Conversation,
The Moon

Dawn Schout - Scablands,At The Royal Palace
Emily Strauss - After a While Dumbness Strikes, Night Music


FICTION

Michael Brasier - Like Nothing Ever Happened
Ron Morita - Flight
Sherri H Levine - Footbridge
Ashleigh Rajala - Coal Dust



NONFICTION

Riona Judge McCormack - Theme in A Minor
Kelly Seiz - Pluck

(Sassafras issue 6 as a PDF)

Ashleigh Rajala – Coal Dust

Coal Dust

Chapter One

 
Caroline once joked that she got the worst bits of Dad while I got the best. Now I see what I never did when I was alive: Caroline wasn’t talking about genetics at all. She was sitting beside me on the beach then; we were having a holiday up in Whitby, as we always used to. The grains slid through her fingers as she dug through the loose sand hot from the sun to get to the dark, wet
Now that I’m dead can I replay those moments like rewinding a tape or skipping through the scenes on a DVD. Time means nothing: I can see past moments fresh like they’re happening before me. I was just a kid alive: only eighteen. Now that I’m dead I could be eighty. The loss of flawed and biased eyes brings a careful certainty to everything. My concluded life is a butterfly stuck through with a pin: the wings are never flapping again and all I can do is study them.
I watch Caroline at my funeral. She stands side-by-side with Stuart, facing my horde of mourners. Stuart stands on the left, Caroline on the right. They don’t look like family. Which is fine because they’re not. Not really. The only blood they shared was mine. I was a bit of each of them: half Stuart’s mom, half Caroline’s dad. Between them sits a picture of me like the overlap on a Venn diagram, a blend of the two of them. I only notice now how awkwardly they both stand with me between them. They both feel like first drafts, I realise now, with me the final copy. It’s unbelievable, really: their differences. You wouldn’t think you could make a person out of that.

 

 

 

 

 

Ashleigh Rajala divides her time between a variety of poverty-inducing ventures: writing for fun and writing for torture; watching far too many movies and reading far too few books. Previous incarnations include bookseller, bureaucrat, filmmaker, zinester, student, and wayward traveller. Her physical home is Vancouver and her internet home is sandpaperblues.wordpress.com.