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The Scarlet Sound Editing Staff
By Holly Appling
listening carefully to the air, I can hear
will seed leaves on the trees.
I know this road, by the quiet and the snow –
where the hurry
is in the falling
- of flakes.
there is a love a wisdom finds, blithe
as sunlight shining,
kind, like the desires of birds.
the dream moves inward to your eye
and our mourning is a pure gift,
a madness –
I stay nearer while the years shiver, the glory
the sea is breathing
and I am awake.
We told each other that we would never cheat unless it was for something epic - like for a love, lust, connection - whatever it was - stronger than ours. We said would only cheat if it was like in the movies where the hero is helpless against the seduction of an affair, and the infidelity is somehow bathed in guilt and glamour all at once. We laughed at its ridiculous notions. That’s how I knew he would never cheat.
When I found out, my spine went fluid and shot up like mercury into that hollow cavern, uniting with my equally yellow-bellied brain. How was I supposed to know what to say when he was taking my fish tank and turning it on its side? No, not a literal fish tank; a metaphorical one. I am the pale guppy flapping amidst the broken glass and plastic seaweed I once called home, nerves firing finely, exquisitely severed, casting a desperate net for something familiar to the touch. My eyes are not blinking, and I am colorless and immobile. I am pallid and pasty and yielding to the touch.
Later, after he has left our apartment, I can hear someone in the next building over playing Fur Elise on what sounds like a Wurlitzer, except they keep messing up after that part everyone knows, and then starting over, so that the song basically sounds like a neglected, endlessly ringing cell phone. Eventually, they give up and mash on a handful of keys so that it makes a giant, non-musically antagonistic sound. If they were playing a real piano and did that, the felted hammers strung to the delicate white keys would strike the metal strings all in a row, and the sounds would echo off of each other, and the dissonant chords would gnash together under the hood of the piano until they were left to seep angrily out of the cracks and through the varnished wood until they dissipated with the polluted New York air. But then again, you wouldn’t have a full, proper piano if you lived in New York City, because there is no space where we live.
There was no space, and it was not epic. It was some girl he worked with. They had sex on a table at their office, and all the windows were open as the backs of her thighs recklessly met the creases of his elbows. He said it was not epic, or beautiful, and I wanted to be that hand smashing down onto that ocean of smooth white ivories. I wanted to hear what kinds of mournful cacophonous sounds they would make, and how long it would take them to fall into the piercing still of silence.
You pray in the dark, at night, still
waves of breath gush over parted lips.
You think back to the time
your nine year old daughter said
she would read the Bible.
There is a wind chime tinkling by itself outside,
metal slivers touching, pushing, swaying
with corn stalks in the back yard.
Where is your daughter now?
A pithy sigh at the thought.
A lemon-squeezed acid tongue,
A ruby red drop of blood
If only she knew how hard you prayed,
in the still quiet of silence;
How hard you work for her
once everyone else has gone
to sleep, you are the only one
showing her you still care.
By Heidi Heimler
At midnight, when the crickets hum a familiar dirge and the warm wind runs her fingers through the willows, Momma goes fishing. She drops her pole into the water and stares up at the sky.
I watch her from the window then slide my feet into well-worn reindeer slippers and pad down to the pond. “What’re you doing, Momma?”
“Shhh,” she whispers. She doesn’t look at me. “I’m counting stars.”
The water licks our feet with a teasing tongue. My slippers look like used carwash sponges. The silence taunts me, a staring contest but in sound. I lose. “Where’s Poppa?” I ask.
“555, 556, 557.”
Poppa’s been gone for a week, and Momma’s been fishing ever since. I wonder how much longer she’ll keep it up. She uses gummy worms, on account of she hates real ones. She never catches anything.
Momma ain’t right, my brother says. I throw a half-peeled orange at him, a kamikaze fruit that hits him in the eye. He squints then throws it back, but his aim is bad and it rolls into the corner. We leave it there.
When I come back from school a couple of days later, a policeman greets me at the door. Beyond him, in Momma’s bedroom, paramedics huddle over her bed, a bunch of footballers planning their next play. The policeman holds me back as they load Momma onto a stretcher. She doesn’t move or say anything. By her bed, an empty bottle of pills waits for no one.
She looks the same when she’s lying in her casket. I peer down at her. “Bye, Momma,” my brother says.
When the preacher asks if I want to say anything, I walk up to the podium and lean into the microphone. “558, 559, 560.”
By Linda M. Crate
I blew my breathe out it
misted like white fog it
spooled upon cobwebs
of gossamer silver as it
spun a life of it’s own
independent from mine —
it’s time was brief like
a spirits haunt, but it is
a moment that lingers
immortally in the mind.
By Joe Baumann
She didn’t need the sound of the jiggling knob to know what was on the other side of the door. Even with the heavy quilt pulled up to her eyes, the smell of sewage and dead fish seeped through the crack under the door and permeated the room, the walls, the bed, her nostrils. She tried closing her eyes, pressing her hands against the blanket to plug her nose, but the odor lingered, swirling around like so much muck.
The smell wouldn’t go away, and the angry grunts had started to weep through the door. She felt her heart beat speed up, the coldness pour into her chest. It always reminded her of waking from a nightmare, when she would rip herself away from the things that terrified her, like lawn gnomes and broken ankles and jackrabbits, when she knew she was asleep and told herself to wake up, just wake up because it’s not really happening, and then she would, and her face felt fuzzy, like dozens of ants were crawling across her cheeks.
The door knob was turning faster, and she caught her breath, wondering when the lock would spring, break apart with a pop, and then the smell would be there, in the room, the galoshes squeaking against the carpet, and she would stare wide-eyed at the wall, wanting to scream and thrash about, knowing it would do no good.
Her skin danced. Her toes wiggled at the bottom of the bed. Nervous energy crawled up and down her legs in waves, the tiny ciliated hairs on her knees undulating.
The smell changed, became more acrid, the pungent sewage looming up and blossoming in a horrific flowering spray, and she wanted to pull the blanket up over her head but couldn’t. That horrifying odor would overwhelm her, paralyze her senses and leave her lying there exposed, staring up at the ceiling when the door opened.
Because it would open. She knew it would open. She imagined it opening, the creaking noise sending a new flush through her, her face reeling back, skin thinning and tightening, her senses growing stronger when all she wanted was for them to disappear, for the room to grow even darker, for her hearing to fall silent, the touch of the blankets and air and weight to go numb.
The door knob stopped turning, but her breathing rattled on in ragged, pitchy huffs. She closed her eyes again, but the kaleidoscope of light felt like a revolving dagger.
She held in her breath. The groaning had stopped. No sound came from the other side of the door. Her body felt light, as though she might drift upward, float to the ceiling and hover their. She imagined it, dreamed it.
The stench hadn’t gone. It hung there by the ceiling, where she wanted to be, where things would be quiet and calm and dark. It might smell like the ocean up there.
She heard the door whimper. It opened.
By Ryan Shepard
He lies there lately, well past anything resembling a reasonable hour, and some nights he loses himself. (More nights than less, actually.) On such a night as this he finds himself enraptured in despair. Six shades of loss now color him in dark, and their picture finds his hands. This isn’t the first time it has happened and he admits to himself that it will not be the last. With a sigh he slips into their world, a single beautiful moment.
There they are, framed together in a large standing mirror. An entire universe bordered in brilliant golden Corinthian leaves. A realm comprised of but a single moment, stolen away from a different life to be made its own, given birth by a mutual reality born of an honest love. In that moment, they were unstoppable, the only thing that could have caught them was the camera’s flash.
He saw how the future gleamed in their eyes, even though their faces were cast in shadow. Surrounded by intriguing furniture, the kind of a forgotten year yet in possible to give a certain date, their minds were filled with the ideas of a future together, so close to becoming reality as to be given near tangibility. The shadows falling over them from the dimly lit parlor made it hard for him to differentiate where one of them ended and the other began, yet, as they held each other so close, it didn’t matter that they were individuals.
Both of them knew they came from a different reality, and he knew it too as he observed, a world of innumerable troubles that seemed insurmountable at times, trivial at others, but they took for themselves a single moment, one where everything could be perfect for themselves, and for each other, and it was. Moments of this kind come very few in life, they are those that make one realize that nothing could devalue its lone purity; that the love is perfect within itself, and that is the only unbending truth, the only thing needing to be known to make it through. It is a moment like this that deserves to be saved forever, and so it was stolen away, a captured life, a reality, as their own and placed aside to exist always. No matter what, this reality would exist for those in the picture framed by the Corinthian leaves, and nothing those that walked away from the frame could do could take that away from them. Their reality would always exist, always be true for them, and so they would live their forever.
He envied those in the picture more than anything. He leaned back, breathed in deeply as he pulled himself away. Nothing marked him more than lost and listless. The picture lay close at hand, he glanced at it occasionally and how, he would think, he missed them so. How much he envied them. How much he loved both of them. How very much he missed being one of them.
By Ma. Cristina de Guzman
Centuries of sundown mourned,
yet Manoah’s loss was still a victory
for his tribe, set apart for light
from the impure warmth of unredeemed.
Upon his tongue lied the sweetest lie,
which tied her liberty to kiss and tell
the innocence that once conceived by
his younger days of abstinence.
Riddles and scribbles out of honey and bones
paved a destiny to his virgin braids.
Remember those knives on those papyrus
he needless to utter, for it were written long ago.
Old tribe sent plagues to her back,
reminding her of spoiled blood in lion’s claws
that invaded the depth of his blameless soul
where the truth was hidden for centuries.
Hopes still cling to the twosome pillars
that broke her faith in his impeccable strength.
Stains on his mighty linear limbs
still haunt the remnants of her sanity.
The world has pierced her on the vineyard’s earth
where past spat his royal blood,
that slowly turned into enticing green
once blown soft whispers upon in dawn.
Thou shall not blame her for Zorah’s grief,
if his bones were crushed to a soiled carcass.
Caresses laid him to the depth of slumber
but her sinful hands did not cut his braids.
By Josh Gottlieb
Tossing and turning. Every thirty seconds a new movement comes to mind. A new position. Something that was supposed to make me more comfortable. I never slept well when I had to share a bed. Never. Even after the Xanax kicked in I couldn’t sleep, and I knew it was bothering her too.
My earbuds were softly pumping my head full of Ace’s latest rant. I could never sleep without background noise. Even though we were in the heart of Canada’s largest metropolis, the sirens did nothing to assuage my insomnia. The Siren laying adjacent to my perpetually active corpse wasn’t helping either.
I went from my back, to my stomach, to my left, to my right. I took a breath through my nose, then my mouth, then both. Through my lungs, through my diaphragm, down to my gut. The oxygen was flowing through my veins in addition to the anxiolytic. Alexander Keith was my best friend earlier in the evening, and his mistress was Crown Royal wearing a Canada Dry dress.
The clock read three forty seven and I began counting the hours of sleep I would be able to achieve if I fell asleep that instant. Six hours and thirteen minutes until the alarm went off.
Three out of four in our overpriced room were asleep, so why couldn’t I? Maybe it was because they were women and I was the only male in there? Laughable. Sleeping in the same room as these three particular goddesses only added to my anxiety. Maybe I should have just slept on the floor instead of the queen with the slender, slightly inked, vicenarian who I envisioned the same scene with prior to its actual occurrence. The only difference being the images I foresaw didn’t include the sweatpants she was wearing, nor the old gym shorts I had on.
Suddenly, I felt the sweet embrace I had been looking for. The soft, gentle lips of everything I wanted at the moment. With the copper haired beauty at my side fast asleep breathing quietly through her teeth; the sedating effects of the fast acting benzodiazepine finally came to fruition. I shut my eyes slowly, and little by little I found myself giving in to the pharmacologically induced languor.
My wake up call came through. Nine o’clock sharp. I answered the phone, listened to the brief, form recording our particular hotel rattled off, and hung up. The bed to my right was empty, but they hadn’t vacated the room too long ago. I could still smell the fragrances of the hair products and body lotions they had applied what I estimated about fifteen minutes prior to my awakening. The bathroom mirror was most likely still half covered in the fog produced from a hot shower.
The booze from the night before shifted in my gut, sloshing around like a seal in Baffin Bay. I rolled over onto my left side. She was staring at me. Her pretty, brown eyes gazed into mine. She looked confused, as if she wasn’t sure whether or not we had engaged in some form of coitus, or even kissed— a more intimate form of lovemaking.
I saw the sigh of relief in her eyes. It was almost as if her skeleton had leapt through her flesh, which would have left very little substance, given her angular frame. She knew nothing had happened. Beautiful girl shares a bed with a lonely guy and nothing happens. A story told a bit too often in my experience.
Soon enough she would share a bed with my confidant, or so my imagination would lead me to believe. He would be afforded the opportunity I wanted so desperately, but really I had no knowledge of what was to come. Clairvoyance was not a particular strength of mine to begin with.
Rolling over onto her side, she turned her back to me. Her penny colored mane burned the white bedding. I shut my eyes gently, hoping I would receive just the slightest bit of affection. I felt an abrupt movement. The bed shook. It turned. It jumped. Was she tossing and turning? Was she agonizing over the same thing?
I opened my eyes again to see her figure swinging back and forth, getting rea
By Linda M. Crate
you cut me into pieces of
moon silver, left me to put
the tatters back together in
a meaningful way conveying
some form of sense, left me
to reconstruct my soul’s eye.
By Anita McQueen
Seeing the light
once or twice
I can’t forget it
during the pressing down
of the streets
into their hands
constantly feeling me
into what they want…
to be an old woman
on her deathbed
by a loving family.
By Chuck Von Nordheim
I am not I
Nor are you
The homunculus said to be inside
The spirit that allegedly resides
Cannot be found by any scan
The so-called am
Is a rationalization
Of savannah adaptation