By Wendy Taylor Feature image: Blue Horse I, 1911 by Franz Marc
I’m at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, drawn to Degas’ Racehorses at Longchamp. I remember the first time you left a message on my answering machine, mumbled your soft voice, said, I’m in the mood to go to the horse races tonight. A thing I knew only from the Pomona County Fair as a child where Grandpa lost our dinner money and Grandma fell down. On our date, we arrive before the 9th race, empty lot, attendants gone, the turnstile jammed, you jump over, I duck under. You dig a Daily Racing Form from a Coke–spilled trash bin, scrape up losing tickets off the cement. We sit at a table with TV monitors, gloomy lights, no view, no stands, no night air or dusty moon, no romance, just stray cats licking nacho cheese off chips, old men in torn fedoras with dead faces and nicotine-washed fingers. Today, I think of how your friends and I meant to secretly scatter your ashes over the turf after your memorial service, to let you rest while the ponies and the trotters kept pace. But I couldn’t give you up to the earth or take you out of the race yet, and even now through this oil on canvas, I can hear you say, Put me on the favorite, baby. You can’t win it, if you aren’t in it.
After my husband died, my dad drove my 2 1⁄2-year-old son to the lake at Tri-City Park to feed the ducks and throw rocks. Voices of carefree children on swings and slides nearby didn’t interest my pensive boy. And though he feared the wild geese at the lake’s edge, my dad said, He just needs something to throw across the dark waters. So, my dad bought big buckets of rocks from Home Depot, sat patient for hours while my son reached into the orange container, indiscriminate about which rocks would take the journey across the surface of the black rippled liquid. They each had their lonely airborne moment, as he frowned, flung his arm back and released, and released, and released.
By Dion O’Reilly Feature image:Mahna no Varua Ino (The Devil Speaks), 1894/1895, Paul Gauguin
He sits in thinned Hanes, reading The New Republic, one leg crossed over the other— picking at a flaked green toenail, some rot caught in the steaming air during amphibious assault on Guadalcanal.
And on weekends under wraiths of blue smoke, he visits with his buddies— men in striped bell-bottoms and afros, women with long noses and gypsy earrings, French professors from the university— organizing for the first farmworker for Congress, the first black man for president, the next Kennedy.
By Dion O’Reilly Feature image: Hope, 1886 by George Frederic Watts and assistants
means whistle. A Spanish word that sounds like silver in the air, a little bird’s song Oh My Dear. Oh My Dear. Every year, the first time I hear that smooth silbato, it’s the first day of fall, a sparrow with a small stripe lining its eye, passing through with the dying days when the golden apple’s skin feels softer than in summer, a little more honey. Oh My Dear. Little girl, this is how it begins— school, getting up early, not knowing what you’re in for, what your friends will do to you, what you’ll do to them, what being one year older will mean in the world of a girl. What to fear and what to hope for.
By Amelie Meltzer Feature image: Landscape, Sunset, 1886/1887 byGeorge Inness
The sun sets red through clouds of ash made of normal stuff, like trees and brush, but also bedroom walls, Persian rugs, winter clothes, LEGOs, maybe the family dog.
At a safe distance from the actual disaster, we cough and small-talk about wind patterns, particulate counts. It’s everyone’s opening line on Tinder, something like, “I’ve got an extra N95 mask waiting for that special someone ;-)”
“And beyond the empty cage, a bedroom; and beyond a bedroom, the wood boards, beams, and floors holding the shape of the house; and beyond the house, a yard.” —from Jorge Luis Borges’ mislaid manuscript, Labyrinthian Architectures, a book that has been wished into existence
The day the tarantula escaped, my uncle joked, “The cage is empty.” He said it over cornflakes— the rock fallen off, the mesh lid mysteriously askew.
By Mark Kraushaar Feature image: Still Live with Bottles, 1892 by Roderic O’Conor
Donny Banya does the room repairs or when he isn’t buzzed he does. I’m the night clerk. Alma runs the bar—plus she’s an artist. Big John, the owner, does the books and walks around and plans big changes to the parking lot and ground-floor Men’s. There’s other staff but tonight it’s just the three of us, or four including John who is dozing on the sofa by the magazines,
By Nancy Miller Gomez Feature image: I Am the Abyss and I Am Light, 1928 by Charles Sims
My house cleaner passed away last week . . . need to find someone new . . . Prefer someone who charges by the hour . . . Bob 831-435-648 —posted on social networking site Nextdoor
Dear Bob, Perhaps you’ve noticed the smell of cinnamon and sweet rice drifting through your kitchen at night. So when the ice melting in your second glass of gin begins to sound like a woman singing “El Cantante,” you’ll know. It’s me.
After the handmaidens, blindfolded and proceeding by touch alone, have twined the masses of string across its enormous silvered surface, then the mirror-keeper, also blindfolded, sets a lit match to the central knot.
When they sense that the whole skein is ablaze, they bear the burning glass to the lake’s edge, and lower it into the icy shallows where the mirror-keeper strikes a single blow, shattering it along every line at once.
Then they lift it in its frame from the water to tap and test its face with their tongs, plucking out the fragments, swaddling them individually in silk to be dispersed throughout the land.
Now instead of making pilgrimage in order to not look into the virgin mirror, each family can cherish a shard to not look into without leaving home.
By Claire Bateman Feature image: The Breeze at Morn, 1930 by Thomas Lowinsky
And here we see where the pages of the ocean were torn from their logbook as if in meticulous rage, though there’s no debris adhering to the binding, as might so easily have been the case. What to do with this stiff and empty cover? Pack it with snow and staple it all around, so it can retain its shape until the committee rends it open and shakes it out face-down, inviting the ragged pages to return in just the right sequence from every place they’ve flown.
By Michael Pontacoloni Feature image: Fire at Full Moon by Paul Klee
Dad has three different chainsaws and Kevlar shin pads, the same glossy material protecting a spacecraft as it drifts into the Kuiper Belt where little flecks of undead planet fling around like buckshot and light from the sun takes a while to arrive.