By Carlinda D’Alimonte
Beyond the dawn view out the kitchen window
that changes only with seasons, or the same
two girls at the bus stop each morning,
or the sound of the 6:00 a.m. train,
or the sun rising over the eastern field
or leaves sprouting from maples
we’ve known all our lives,
there are distant cracks approaching, threatening
to tear apart this tract of land: red, red, tomatoes,
lush basil, plump corn growing in backyards, thick ivy
we planted last year, the white birch promising
to complete our landscape, foundations of the home
we believe is our right – the one we imagine
we will leave to our children.
chelsea on facebook and off
by Laurie Smith
everybody’s crazy, really,
not just chelsea
who signs all her posts with smiley faces and hugs,
lots of exclamation marks
invites thirty people to her party friday night
by private message, drops names of attendees like bait
the place to be
we’ll all have such a great time,
so you go and find a parking spot four doors down
brought your own wine
but the place is quiet,
a mutual acquaintance comes to the door and lets you in
chelsea has a headache
help yourself there’s a bowl of dip and nachos on the table
six strangers try to interact, whisper,
chelsea’s meds do this, you know, sometimes
she makes an appearance half an hour later
in her pajamas, a bit off, drowsy,
thanks everyone for coming, enjoy the wine,
she heads back to her quiet room, calls it a migraine,
but do stay.
i’m home by 9:30
she’s offline for 3 weeks, no one hears from her
somebody checks the hospitals
then suddenly smiling responds to everyone’s posts,
two or three times, with
lots more exclamations points, and of course tiny red hearts
she contributes to conversations
with strangers she could not possibly know,
you wonder how she has 2000 friends,
notice an overlap, at least 30 from your private contact list;
the girl is more than creepy
we’re supposed to be sympathetic,
we’re supposed to say,
chelsea, did you remember to take your meds today?
i’ve known chelsea since kindergarten
mousy little thing with ridiculous cat-eye glasses
hands folded on her lap, ankles crossed
like all the girls in the front row.
she’s saying cheese for the photographer,
her brown bangs cut fresh, though a bit slanted.
i’m at the end of the row, assuming the same pose,
but i never smile. you might call it a smirk.
maybe i was a star,
maybe i was a public school snob
but she was just kind of there in all the pictures.
on the playground.
at morning roll call. chelsea. present.
i guess so.
here we are the helpful elves
helping others not ourselves.
she did insist on being a fairy, because
her older sister was a fairy
before she flew up to guides.
chelsea got a lot of brownie badges.
maybe she was a gnome.
there was a big 7th birthday party
for one of the girls in the class.
november. everyone was invited.
i assume she must have been there, too.
fifty years later.
it all seems so innocent
an atmosphere of adolescent tension
blended with a lot of beer and
one big happy alumni.
pretty much everyone wore a nametag and
then she starts to show up everywhere
or she doesn’t show up
and you’re running late waiting for her
not answering the phone
you go ahead without her
three days later she calls to ask
when you’re coming
or do you want her to drive?
i’m glad i declined the group visit to the dia
heard it was a nightmare of lateness and
getting lost on cass corridor, smoke filled car, windows up
still on cass, having only circled three blocks of
one-way streets, hungry, have to pee
gps not working, pedestrians not forthcoming
or completely ignored
but you can see the bridge from here.
had she held me hostage in her back seat
i might have called for mutiny.
she sends me cheery invites
to her fantastic soirees, or
little get-togethers, depending on
it seems i’m always busy lately.
there was a death in our group.
we are all reeling from it, the shock,
the circumstances. choice. we try to talk
openly about depression and mental illness,
we try to be progressive and benevolent
make arrangements to drive up to london.
chelsea scrambles for a ride;
did she even know him that well?
fifteen minutes late. we leave without her.
i could name names.
so many of us are struggling, yes,
that’s the word bandied about,
struggling with demons, another euphemism for
our fucked up perfect childhoods,
righteous wonderland suburbia
before the streets were named
dysfunction and emotional abuse
before the fad for unburdening, sharing,
back when all that mattered was family pride
a stiff upper lip,
smile for the camera and keep up with the progeny of
doctors and judges who lived on boulevards with
fancy english streetlights
or on the drive and hosted parties friday nights
when their parents were in myrtle beach for the weekend
but these parties we only heard about on monday
mornings; girls like me
and chelsea weren’t invited.
we thought he was one of the cool guys
who got to go, was the one caught
smoking dope in sharon’s bedroom,
sharon sprawled, passed out…only
now nobody acknowledges being there
we all confide we sat home weekends
listening to cklw, mooning over posters of
donny osmond or fantasizing about our science partners
if we didn’t have a part time job at the mall
or have to babysit.
nobody was cool.
i’ll admit, it’s confusing.
class clowns hanging in bedroom closets,
slashing their wrists
or slipping away in their self-induced comas,
gentle yellow smiles on view, endearing us
to their melancholy; this is all just
we learn our compassion has limitations
there may be a class system
associated with empathy, we
want our heroes to be believable.
we don’t want to hear them cry
it’s best they take us by surprise, but
for the next few weeks, we
check on the musicians and artists
among us, make sure they’re doing okay.
she was always a scrawny little thing
horn-rimmed glasses, bad haircuts,
but grinning so broadly she must be seeing
what i missed. this is not charitable,
but it could be worse.
we wonder if there was some sort of
contagion that infiltrated the drinking water
in those public school fountains,
the puddles we splashed in during the flood of
66, the brackish muck of pollywog pond.
now we come clean,
admit we were only middle class,
admit our parents beat us,
admit we were painfully shy and lonely
and all the snark and bravado was a ruse,
any attention at all was a token of popularity.
another friend request.
By Marcela Croitoru
Eyes search city on the map,
a dot with a name underneath
in her mind,
she walks the interlaced streets
of her hometown
she sees herself stroll down
the narrow lane
with a crack in the asphalt
shaped like a bald man’s head.
Home is where you know
how the wind sounds
when it blows through
the neighbourhood chimes
how it smells of linden trees
in full bloom.
That scar just below her left knee
she got speeding down
the chestnut tree-lined street on her bike,
a local piece of geography now marked
on her skin with just a dot,
name in her heart.