HERMAN MELVILLE DECIDES ON THE COLOR OF HIS WHALE
Herman Melville dangled his legs over the end of the pier.
His boots nearly reached the rolling waves beneath him.
He felt elated. His big book was almost done.
He’d sent his sailors out to sea and killed them all except one.
He liked the final touch, his so-called narrator saved
by the savage’s coffin. Coincidence? Yes, but why
wouldn’t the box float to the surface, whether near the drowning man or not?
Only one other question harassed Herman,
brought down his mood: the leviathan’s color.
The entire novel—everything—depended on that decision, that vision. He’d scrolled through the rainbow spectrum tens, hundreds of times. Red for the American native. Orange for fire. Yellow for sunlight. Green for seaweed. Blue for sky and ocean. Indigo and violet (close enough) for veins and arteries. They all had potential,
each had its own merits but highlight one
and diminish the rest. Moby Dick consummated
every potential, the peg-leg captain trafficking life, death, and every mollusk and cormorant in between.
Then there, floating toward him, a dead fish, borne aloft by its very immobility, its dearth of struggle,
as if to stop resisting raised it up, allowed it to lounge. Did it hold the Answer, this Atlantic cod sweeping toward him, its dorsal fin invisible? In death,
its body had turned, its underbelly baring
every wondrous, inexplicable, invisible color.
Herman leaned out, plucked it out of its sea’s casket, and kissed the slimy, smooth skin reeking worse than cadaverous gutter rats on a rainy day, then slipped it back into its grave, the novel finished, the whale white.
(Richard Holinger’s books forthcoming this fall include Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences, a collection of his newspaper columns, and North of Crivitz, a first book of poetry focusing on the North Woods and Upper Midwest. His work has received three Pushcart Prize nominations, and his Thread essay received a “Notable” mention in Best American Essays 2018. Not Everybody’s Nice won the 2012 Split Oak Flash Prose Chapbook contest, and a chapbook of innovative fiction was published by Kattywompus Press. Among other journals, his fiction has appeared in Witness, The Iowa Review; creative nonfiction and book reviews in The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Northwest Review; poetry in Boulevard, Chelsea. He lives in the Fox River Valley west of Chicago. Degrees include a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Please go to https://www.richardholinger.net/ for more on the author and for ordering books.)
my bell jar
I'll give you a nice bell
me inside I didn't place
the glass around I more
humanely would have
used a porous element
so I still politely breathe
beyond the fifty years
I choke at now vacuum-
packed and freeze-dried
I didn't mind the womb
it was opaque and I was
obsessively guarded by
the only one who ever
loved me but this glass
cruel everyone sees me
mourn trip tremble bang
they point hear nothing
I'm endlessly vocalizing
I thought it was crooning
but no a life death mating
scream the worst of glass
is seeing prettier people
exhale twirl laugh beside
lovers touching tossing
unshattered children in
the autumn evening air
beneath strings of lights
orange purple I remain
guilty chaste confused
gray within this grave
I believe the rip gape twist
of god will be done soon
o believe what an empty
verb I'm a damp pouch
with a soul that traveled
nowhere we are tearing
contraptions wanting to be
more than chemical thank
you last O2 molecule thank
you last ray thank you all
(Marc Darnell is a custodian and online tutor in Omaha, Nebraska, and received his MFA from the University of Iowa. He has published poems in The Lyric, Blue Unicorn, Shot Glass Journal, The HyperTexts, Ragazine, The Literary Nest, Runcible Spoon, and elsewhere.)
Second Round of Chemo
My brother wants to remember
our life—the marshmallows
we roasted on a stick,
browning them, their soft, sweet
taste in our mouth,
the coals beneath, soft and warm.
He wants to hold
onto Yesterday as I want to hold
onto him, but I’m not with him.
I’m twelve hundred miles away
where, after the call, at dawn
I go out to pick the blueberries,
some pale green, some plush blue
that fall from clusters into my hand,
each with a round mouth puckered at the end.
I go stem by stem, the weight of berries
bend the branch. I lighten the load.
It’s the least I can do.
Then to the raspberries,
I stick my hand deep into the thorny stems,
red juice of them staining my fingertips,
whole fistfuls giving themselves up,
fall in the bowl,
like Eve with those apples, the smell of them,
wanting them all in her hand,
the ripeness, the sweetness,
this the third week in July
when the cancer came back, not good,
the insistent cells proliferate
as those of the fruit in my hand.
Tomorrow, I will pour
them over my granola, the blue red
staining the whiteness of milk
the bittersweet taste of fruit
as my brother, back in a sterile ward,
has the metallic aftertaste in his mouth,
his skin desiccated
like those marshmallows that flamed, too hot,
melted, ashes to fire.
(Bruce Spang, former Poet Laureate of Portland, is the author of two novels, The Deception of the Thrush and Those Close Beside Me. His most recent collection of poems, All You’ll Derive: A Caregiver’s Journey, was just published. He’s also published four other books of poems, including To the Promised Land Grocery and Boy at the Screen Door (Moon Pie Press) along with several anthologies and several chapbooks. He is the poetry and fiction editor of the Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine. His poems have been published in Connecticut River Review, Red Rover Magazine, Great Smokies Review, Kalopsia Literary Journal and other journals across the United States. He teaches courses in fiction and poetry at Ollie at University of North Carolina in Asheville and lives in Candler, NC with his husband Myles Rightmire and their five dogs, five fish, and thirty birds.)
Sonnet for the Long Married #3
There ain’t no cure for love, sings Cohen on
the playlist. Both dogs barking: hate the music?
want a treat? You crank the sound and drink
your meds, these cool strong beers. Linguine bubbling,
damp dishtowel your epaulet: Commander
of the Kitchen Sink. The rain, the time
tick-ticking down, hung leashes drip, unfinished
dissertation shelved, and Hamlet essays
still to grade. Your wife still at the stylist’s:
takes him eons. Darkened windows glint
like sequined mirrors. All these years refracted
and redacted, water droplets, life
support. You wipe your hands and glasses: why
so warm and wet? Love’s IV on slow drip.
Chorizo, couscous, thin-sliced gala apples
in a bowl: a bachelor’s hash a husband
married many years can love, with spiky
jazz (that’s Braxton morphing Monk), cold beer
in front of you. Your wife has turned in (headache),
so it’s you and Trey, adopted greyhound
black as dreamless sleep. Linked memories,
your private myths—first Ali-Frazier fight
(on German radio), a gradeschool English
teacher and the story of his scar,
Andromeda’s bare bottom in a painting
by Burne-Jones—rise glistening as boulders
in a river. Have you journeyed well
enough to know the boulders, be the river?
(Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits The Big Windows Review https://thebigwindowsreview.com/ at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Poems of his have appeared recently in Ephemeral Elegies, Grand Little Things, and Trestle Ties. Tom's website: https://thomaszimmerman.wordpress.com/ )
Balsamic Moon: Last Quarter before New
I took my aching heart for a walk above the river
seeking solace of rocks, and wind to clear me.
Balsamic moon, time of rest, of healing.
Blackbirds swooped tree to tree, to horizon.
Lilacs hanging heavy, bowed by fragrance and futility,
I took my aching heart for a walk above the river.
Balsam flower roots, the size of a hand, boil
into medicine. Leaf, flower, seed: all good
like the Balsamic moon, time of rest, of healing.
I lie down in arrow leaves, last shower of yellow
petals, cool and fragrant their little shade. The weight
of unshed tears in my aching heart, a river.
There’s a time to be lost in yourself, unknown as foreign land,
to listen for wisdom in your darkened quarters like this
Balsamic moon, last sliver of light, time of rest, of healing.
Silence holds the answer to the questions you don’t ask, like blackbirds
feeding on Balsam seeds. If you listen, you will hear them
in your aching heart’s lost river under Balsamic moon,
last quarter before new, time of rest, of healing.
Another sleepless night, pull of the moon
or some internal weather moved by time’s
changing rhythms. I walk, somnambulist,
in the new morning, west where the sun goes
each lengthening day to rest. I sit on the waking
earth. Last year’s grasses bleached platinum
on this south facing slope. River runs. Sky
unmarred by cloud thins along the sun-bright
ridge. I can see through each shadow of tree
the snow-dusted cheeks of hill and the age lines
left by deer. The dog paces in rustling steps
to check if I’m still here. I’m still, here.
(Subhaga Crystal Bacon the author of two volumes of poetry, Blue Hunger, 2020 from Methow Press, and Elegy with a Glass of Whisky, BOA Editions, 2004. A cis-gender, Queer identified woman, she lives, writes, and teaches on the east slope of the North Cascade Mountains, in Twisp, WA.)
It Had That Swing
My mother spent evenings listening to records.
Years of evenings.
78’s and 33’s, and only big band swing.
All named after the band leader.
The bands are largely forgotten now,
but there were Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey,
Woody Herman and Harry James,
Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.
My mother, widowed and jobless,
Played the music of her courtship,
Of a yet unburdened future,
At least twice a week.
I never liked the music,
But had nowhere else to go,
And absorbed it despite myself,
Melodies lingering decades later.
In cleaning out her house
I couldn’t throw away the records
And suitcased them back home.
Never played, almost forgotten.
They’re serious collectibles now,
Worthwhile selling off,
But I can’t discard the future
She almost had.
(Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over two hundred fifty stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of six review editors.)
Alone Again As Before
I stare at nightscapes
stars flicker a little too bright
over nearby rooftops
where Lady Gaga and House of Pain regale partygoers
I imagine bodies bouncing in basements
speakers thumping, dim lights glowing
like last week
I speak to the night
trying to find words
to describe vastness
sterility of rooms without pictures
inbox without emails
without the simple words. we’d love to invite you.
I try to speak
talk to me. get together for a quick drink.
please. may I join?
I’d like to join
I’d really like to
pronounce the words, but awkward
hands reach into the air
and I feel a thousand scenarios
mockery, apathy, ignorance marching
thumping. voice pulls back into sterility
like last week
and many last weeks
why can’t I just speak?
at least the wounded words would be spoken
(Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University's MFA program in fiction. A native of Idaho, Yash’s work is forthcoming or has been published in WestWard Quarterly, Café Lit, and Ariel Chart, among others.)
I forgive you
To the thug, the creep, the criminal
You who has to sneak in the shadows of night,
Your life of deceit is subliminal, yet you’re the only one who cannot see it.
Even when your lies are cast into the light, still you fight.
Manipulation and coercion without shame, to achieve your own personal gain,
This became my harrowing pain, melancholic misery, your actions were to blame.
The issue of consent is clear, no means no, but somehow you chose not to hear.
Your need to satisfy yourself has cost me my dignity, my job and my spiritual health.
Created emotional wounds visible for the world to see, gaping and raw, swallowed by a whirlwind of anxiety.
I am grateful you were not violent, if not only because the sheer shock caused my silent compliance.
Initially overcome with confusion, an unsettling feeling pushed aside as I fall victim to insidious manipulation.
Sadly I was blinded by delusion, a deceptive illusion of who I hoped you’d be,
The hideous man you are wasn’t evident to me, distracted by my own helplessness,
It’s clear now why I wasn’t able to see.
But slowly you revealed yourself to me, a monster, challenged mentally, a liar lacking empathy.
The police confirmed your multiple criminal convictions, they already have you marked as high risk on their systems.
Flooded with anger and insomnia, engulfed by mountainous waves of horror, I submerged in self pity.
I did request however, for the police not to make an arrest.
I’m still not so sure this was best, But my heart needed to rest,
Involving the police certainly wouldn’t increase my sense internal peace, their endless questions followed by your relentless lies.
Justice or peace, my heart had to decide.
Then it was your mum whom I wished I could tell, perhaps your ex wife even more so,
The man you truly are they deserved to know, desperately seeking a way to let this pain go.
But thankfully the pain is no more, my heart returned to peace, the wound no longer sore.
Now I am able to forgive you and wish you well, for you are just mentally unwell,
I extend compassion and loving kindness in hope that one day you will see through your nastiness and surrender your ego based righteousness.
I however, have survived this dark phase and have nothing other than gratitude and praise
For endless value arises from that brief encounter, an unexpected elevation in spiritual power.
I embrace my suffering, knowing that flowers don’t grow without rain.
Self-reflection inspired by my pain, pain which drove me insane, yet showed me that something needed to change.
Paradoxically my loss of dignity has lead to greater clarity.
Paradoxically I chose to be powerful, not pitiful, creating victory out of tragedy,
Paradoxically your trickery helped me to look inside, to where my own deceptions hide.
Internal fears, tainted values and silly ideas. I have let go of all of this.
I no longer need a man’s flattery, no longer burdened by this type of insecurity.
No longer do I fear rejection, that was nothing but a mere projection
I no longer need male validation, no longer time wasting seeking and chasing
I have stopped running and hiding, it’s myself I have started facing.
I am able to transcend my story. My past, my pain no longer has power over me. I am free.
God sent you to me to help me see, that all I need is within me.
I just need to love me to be free.
This anxiety inside of me, really ought to be set free,
Just let it go, it’s driving me crazy.
Spinning my head around and around, this mental block,
Sometimes leaves me bed bound.
Hours, days, years. Confusion transported through my tears.
Like a heavy river, fears and frustrations once again flood the banks of self composure
A single thought can cause a thousand heart beats.
That’s too much weight to carry man, I’ve only got size 7 feet.
Am I creating thoughts or are my thoughts creating me?
Sometimes it can be hard to see. Is this really reality or just my perception?
Endless day dreams, sometimes even night mares.
Exhausting my sense of positivity, diminishing my creative flare.
My thoughts seem so unclear, this internal chaos.
It can be like a whirlwind in here.
Worry, worry, worry. I’m so bored of this.
If there’s anything I’ve excelled at in life, it certainly is this.
Can people see that sometimes I’m a helpless mess?
Does my face show signs of stress, hiding eyes, tainted smiles?
Or have I convinced everyone that I’m powerful and strong,
That I can handle it, even when things go wrong?
I guess I can
Now listen miss, sit in your seat of self-respect, take a moment to reflect.
Your childhood spent in foster care, various places, so many faces,
often left you wondering if anybody really cares.
A life without parents has been hard and yeah, it’s definitely left some scars.
But from the way that I have grown, to hold my own, yet never really been shown.
I’m more than blessed.
I have risen against all adversity, damn I even made it university
And I’m not just an average pass, girl you got yourself a first class
So next time you’re about to break a sweat, just remember there is no real threat.
You’re on the right path, you’ve got a great life, wonderful friends and an amazing job.
None of this is pretend, this really is reality
(Cemile Kabadayi based in South London, is very excited about having her original poetry reviewed for publishing in The Beautiful Space Journal. Much of Cemile’s Poetry is authentically themed around mental health and surviving challenging circumstances. Cemile is comforted by the idea of others reading her poems and finding solace through identification.)
An ambulance sped
to a hospital at night.
The moon rose
in fright. Scared
all the way.
They sounded like
I saw a packed
room upon arriving.
A voice cried,
Don’t leave me
from a distant place.
Time bent, twisted,
I became loud
and unruly at once.
in the chaos like
a ship had ignited.
All hands stormed
the burning deck.
The crew’s white
Men dressed me
with a jacket.
A raft sailed by.
We got on board
and took off.
I rode a wave
The moon shone
full and high.
It pulled through
a cursed sky,
alarmed by a rising
tide of admissions.
(Sarah Henry is retired from a newspaper. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in journals and anthologies both printed and online. Sarah lives and writes in a small Pennsylvania town without distractions.)
Couldn’t be written or worn
He walked words that couldn’t be written
That rarely were spoken of, meaning he hung on notes
But left his glory to keep up with his mistakes
His mind went behind thoughts that found an escape
Hard to find
He drank from barrels of tea that had bags
That stained all his cups
Unable to wash off the uncertainty his life
Had poured out, he would never be clean
Or be able to be proper enough to hide
But when he embraced her design
Back in the closet he went through having hung nights
That he wore her thin while finding the fullness of his skin
Cast in the morning he looked for love
That he never thought would run out
with him wearing the heels or
That would be the most comfortable way to flee
(Uzomah Ugwu is a poet and writer. She is a political, social, and cultural activist. Her core focus is on human rights, mental health, animal rights, and rights of LGBTQ persons. My work has been featured in Prelude Magazine, Tuck Magazine and Wild Word, the Angel City review and Voice of Eve and Scarlet Leaf Review, and more.)
The Beautiful Space-