Sharla R. Yates lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her flash and poetry have been published or forthcoming in Albatross, Lynx Eye, The Boiler Journal, Hartskill Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Poetry City, USA, Shadowgraph Quarterly, and Pretty Owl Poetry among others. Her poetry manuscript What I Would Say If We Were To Drown Tonight was a finalist for the 2015 Villa Paper Nautilus contest.
Two Truths and a LIE
I’m attracted to men who are Taken. Claimed. Off-The-Market.
I slept with Harmony’s boyfriend. Harmony, who ate with her mouth open, eyeing everyone like she wanted to punch them in the throat, who scavenged for attention like a dog chained for too long, held too little. Harmony, who drove forty-five minutes to check out some boys from Job Corps fishing on the South Umpqua even though I asked to go home. Harmony, who blared Steve Miller’s Band through broken speakers, and who wore her jeans so tight that her belly hung over them like rising dough in a bread pan, who would glance at me during arguments with her parents and smile because trouble was the only thing we had in common. Harmony, who slammed the sliding glass door and stomped back to the car because Nate had turned off the porno when it made me uncomfortable.
Harmony had left me behind alone with Nate.
So that’s how it began.
I liked that Nate apologized to me when he wouldn’t to Harmony. I made him apologize a lot. For being late. For kissing too hard. For calling me from County.
“Call her,” I said. “She’s pregnant.”
I hung up the phone before he could finish saying sorry.
If I knew your husband was cheating, I wouldn’t tell you.
I’ve made that mistake before. I told my sister, Sharon, that Dan had pressed himself down on me, squeezing my breasts while moaning, and I had to force him off. Dan had said with brewery breath, to keep it our secret. When I called Sharon, told her what had happened, she listened in a hushed stillness. I heard distant ambulance sirens on her end of the line and imagined her standing outside Whole Foods; empty cloth bags wadded under her arm, cellphone pressed to her ear, her nostrils flaring like an angry kid. For two years, she never returned my calls.
I understand why she chose Dan over me. Husbands are hard to come by, especially third husbands.
I wouldn’t tell you if your husband was cheating because once he squeezes my inner thighs, and his thick tongue enters my mouth, I’ll wish it was over.
My husband was married before.
Sometimes I need him to remember. I ask him questions about what she was like. I make comments about how strange it is that he once was with someone else. I reminisce aloud about how much time has passed since I went to church that Sunday. Remember that Sunday?
Someone hands me a bulletin and asks me how I know the deceased.
I say, “I thought there was church service today.”
From the back of the room, a home video plays on a white projector screen. I wonder why I’m still here, but figure I have to wait to catch the bus anyway, so I might as well stay. In the home video, the twenty-something woman, whose picture is in the bulletin, uses a handheld camera. She turns it on her friends and herself, making faces. She knows already that she has terminal cancer. She’s talking about the Chemo, what to do with her expensive bra collection.
She takes a drag on a cigarette and says, “My mom’s going to be so mad at me.”
Then someone behind the camera chuckles.
After the video goes black and the music clicks off, it is possible to hear chair legs scraping the floor and every sniffle and cough. Her husband stands and addresses the crowd.
“I’m here to remind you how much she loved you,” he says. “That’s what she would want. She would want you to remember how special you were to her.”
I think I want to be loved that much.
Months later, I would learn her dying wishes. He was only twenty-eight. Finish school, she said. Travel the world. Get out there and date somebody.
We were engaged a year later.
We keep her ashes in an urn at his mother’s house until the time we can spread them in the Thames. Another demand— go to London.
There are still times I ask him to say something to conjure her ghost into the room. I want him to say that she was the best person he had ever known, the smartest, the funniest. She shimmers in those moments. Translucent glory: red hair, a white mink coat, gold fingernails. She laughs as if she just heard the most delicious joke.
Have you heard the one about my widower and his new wife?
I was just dying to introduce them.
Marilyn Kallet has published 17 books, including The Love That Moves Me, poetry from Black Widow Press. She has translated Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems, Péret’s The Big Game, and co-edited and co-translated Chantal Bizzini’s Disenchanted City (with J. Bradford Anderson and Darren Jackson.) Dr. Kallet is Nancy Moore Goslee Professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Each spring she leads poetry workshops for VCCA-France in Auvillar. She has performed her poems on campuses and in theaters across the United States as well as in France and Poland, as a guest of the U.S. Embassy’s “America Presents” program; recently she performed with Ivy Writers Paris bilingual poets series, and with Plume at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris.
On Rue Bichat
on the shattered street
you want a poem
I have only
that hang heavy
in the air
like church bells.
I have Sunday
blue sky above
and foot patrols,
who “came all this way”
and can’t enter
I have one family
reduced to long echoes,
Ode to a Lost Poet
You abandoned me
during the worst violence
Paris has known
since World War II.
You are no
You are no longer
Poets must have heart.
The moment you
were not center
stage, you backed
I sat alone in
Hotel Quartier Latin
watching the loop
of butchery on TV.
a black hood of
silence for yourself.
“You can read
if you want to,” you emailed, at last.
“But my poetry must wait
for a more tranquil time.”
I was strapped into the plane
at LaGuardia on
to take off.
Sorry, the pilot said.
Now I’m here,
in our beloved Paris.
Writers and friends do not wait.
stays well-lit, open for poetry, camaraderie.
The amps have been plugged in.
The audience wants words: comfort, rage,
anything. Attendre? They attend.
“We need to laugh!” someone says.
Down the road, Place de la République
is packed, despite warnings.
Almost midnight: friends and strangers
raise candles, compose notes.
Wait for peace?
Yours will be long, Madame.
Your poems can
rest, tranquil as dust,
as a drug.
You lost me
in the dark night
Nancy Chen Long is the author of Light into Bodies, winner of the 2016 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry (forthcoming, University of Tampa Press, 2017) and the chapbook Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013). You’ll find her recent and forthcoming work in Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Bat City Review, the Anthology of Contemporary Indiana Writers, and elsewhere. Nancy received a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant, and project manager, and more recently earned an MFA. She lives in south-central Indiana and works at Indiana University. www.nancychenlong.com
D. H. Bruun is the recipient of a Stegner Poetry Fellowship from Stanford University, an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a Pushcart Prize nomination. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as AGNI, Meridian’s Best New Poets, Black Warrior Review, H_NGM_N, and Gulf Coast. He currently lives in Dubai, UAE.