Volume 2, Issue 2

To Submitters & Readers,

The quality of work we continue to receive for review is outstanding. We feel lucky to review it, humbled to compile it, and proud to share it with the world.

Thank you for your continued support of From Whispers to Roars. What started as a passion project is now so much more than that. Thank you for supporting indie publications, writers and artists new to the scene, and the communities that support these amazing creatives.

The work within this issue has depth, is thought-provoking, and are pieces that return to my mind again and again. I am confident that they will do the same for you. Enjoy!


Rachel R. Noall



“During the Days of Sapphic Fragments”
by Anneysa Gaille

I courted scripture

With a prayer for it

To descend from muscled flames

Followed by a mouth full

Of your

Proud oracular flesh

Knitting faith using old

Scorpion bones

Sleeping in a delicate locket

We could share now

And then again become

Crimson with a silent compliment

If a comment hit the right place

As if all the unsung

Debasements of the past may

One day come true after all

Hope’s only as renewable as pain

And your smirk stands as proof

And I’m not whining

I’m just telling you about

How I have sat with

An acute smile

So patiently pained

Aimed directly

At every soft season

That has cracks through

Which winter or fall

Might leak out

Still believing in Truth

Obscured by

The symbols of Truth

Those seraphim surrounding

What hangs between a

Hollowed-out breast

Our hollowed-out breasts

Paying tribute to

The last young thing

We ever did

Waking in levitation

“May 15th
by Molly Ponkevitch

It is the day of my birth and I want nothing

more than a buttered yam and a promise

from the aphids to save some lettuce

for the man who gave me a garden,

in my heart no less, as we sat like kids in dirt

ripping ragweed and spurges up from the taproot

and overcast left the sky

like the foam on blue breast milk, dissipating,

we plan the space between kale and bell pepper

and find seeds to plunge through our mountain ground:

ground made of probiotics, rusty screws and veined worms,

old cans from the mine—

ground of miscarried children and tufts of rabbit fur,

of phosphorus, zinc, and two wolves

who ate rat poison—

a ground loosened by monsoons in July

but come August, begging for coyote piss

or a human to cry

and I’ve cried many times with my hands tucked

beneath the skin of this desert,

so I know the soil is rich.

“In My Pocket”
by Ken Greenley

Standing in front of a mansion

in the rich folks’ neighborhood

And finding myself actually liking it

to hell with class divisions—there is beauty in it

I feel free to enjoy the fine 1890s architecture          

of one of Denver’s wonderful old neighborhoods

This is inspired work that supersedes class

Just look at the unique layout of each house

All of them sectioned off into different areas with different shapes

Every section framed with brightly colored trim

Each finely carved, with swirling wispy designs

Some of the houses have two-story round and hexagonal rooms

Others long rectangular picture windows

with small square windows like wings on each side

with breezy, railed porchways that wrap entirely around the house

And up top, the separate, peaked rooves rise from each house-section

like in the house of the Seven Gables  

Taking it all in and realizing 

That I don’t have to own it to enjoy it

Don’t have to hold it in my hand,

Don’t have to put it in my pocket.

Same thing out in the country;

the blue sky and huge billows

and the deep green forest that reaches for it

the streams that run through

and the waterfalls, too

It’s all there—for free

Don’t have to chase it down and capture it

Don’t have to put a fence around it

and say it’s mine

Don’t have to put it in my pocket.

Same thing applies out in the suburbs

with their lush trees and gardens

and fine-trimmed lawns

Don’t have to buy a piece, I can just go visit

Ain’t my world anyway.

Most of all                              

The sudden, the impromptu

The unplanned, the unthought-of

all these types of phenomena

that always seem to find me

They’re all free, drifting

In a warm current all around us.

No need to grab any of that, either

Just relax and enjoy; float along with it

Don’t have to put it in my pocket,

It’s like grabbing a dandelion head

out of the air,

then letting it go

Sometimes I even make a wish.

“Collage” by Devon Wilkinson

Collage” by Devon Wilkinson

“Abdominal Exercises” by David Lawton

These days

Everything is perceived

Through this weird filter

Of our comfortable isolation

A simulacrum of sentience

Turtles twist against plastic trash in the sea

The belly of the whale full of medical waste

Our national parks lined out for real estate

Alaskan snow measured for a new coat of oil

While you, dear readers, are the most important commodity

A commodity that consumes

And they will drone it to your doorstep

So we have no chance to discern

The algorithm has been messing with me

I cannot protect the freedoms I care about

My phone keeps texting itself unfamiliar characters

Hacking the checks and balances

So oligarchs can shvitz in the shitcoin tureen

Villainising liberty’s tired

and poor

When you laugh out loud

The sweetness turns bitter in your mouth

They’re promoting a second Thai cave rescue movie

To compete for your currency

(all together now:)

While the kids in Flint still   

don’t have clean water to


I want you to make me a picture

Of where we are right now

And draw me the way out > > > > > > > > > > > > >


The draft picks from your fantasy league can’t help you

Your skills at Grand Theft Auto lead nowhere

All your social networking is virtual at best

This is all on you – PUT DOWN THE CHALUPA!

Consider the Righteous are not just people you find in a book

> > > > > > > > > > > > > The heart and the brain

                                            Are both good and fine

                                            But without the gut

                                            They cannot stand up!

“Blood Moon” by Keith Harper

The Moon was doing its magical number

and I’d be damned if I missed it.

First from my apartment balcony,

then from the breezeway;

then I watched its smokey red

in the field I walk to get to work.

I went home soon—I wasn’t sure I liked what I saw.

Back in the breezeway, I gave the Moon a final look

and I didn’t see red.

I saw a rock inside a shadow,

large enough for gravity to crush it to a sphere

and close enough for monkeys to hallow.

I went inside—

because I needed it to be the Moon.

“Not the Theme of English Class B”
by Brendan Praniewicz

John Doe, front row, head shaved, sleeves of tattoos,

nodding to my lecture like he’s viewing Fox News.

His eyes were dialed in like a sniper through a scope.

He raised racist rants like a fire that’s been stoked.

Nuke Mexico, send those migrants straight to jail.

John’s Final Solution—let them all burn in hell.

But, when I taught a book about Henrietta Lacks,

and how her HELA cells enabled the Polio vacs

and doctors made billions off a black mother’s body

while her sons and daughters struggled in poverty.

John Doe believed her family deserved that cash,

and then his words hit the class like record scratch.

Regardless of color—let’s give them compensation.

A white supremacist argued for black reparations.

This was a moment in teaching I’ll never forget,

but the lesson could never change John’s mindset.

Three years later, John’s marching at a mosque,

balled fist in the air, and he’s gripping a Glock.

He’s standing with Nazis and beating his chest,

holding a Prophet Mohamed drawing contest.

I turned on the news, John’s on Anderson 360,

spewing hateful statements that transfixed me.

John wore a shirt—fuck Islam etched in black,

and yelled, “Send every Muslim back to Iraq.”

Years later John’s on the news all over again,

fighting for Clive Bundy in Portland, Oregon.

He joined a militia to claim white-man land,

reciting from Thomas Pains’ Rights of Man,

distorting lines from Henry David Thoreau,

misquoting passages from philosopher Plato.

I shook my head, and I exhaled a long breath,

as John used my readings to hatefully oppress.

Let’s start from scratch, I didn’t teach you that.

Your rhetoric’s not grounded in reason or fact.

I taught you humanity’s a tapestry of people,

and that nobody’s DNA makes any race regal.

Eight generations back totals 200 grandparents.

Yet, you believe your blood has no aberrance?

And, if you go back more than 20 generations,

one million relatives with genetic mutations.

Yet, John believes he’s pure Mayflower white.

An ignorant premise became his lifelong fight.

I taught racism stems from economic frustration,

an absence of resources, and relative depravation.

If you lack something, you blame someone else,

when you should take ownership for yourself.

Instead of using my lectures for alt-right hope,

I wish that you would have taken better notes.

Hatred’s a seed that spreads spurious weeds.

Feed it enough, and it will branch like a tree.

I learned from you to look for hatred in me,

to soak in that seed, and not let it overfeed.

John, you missed the theme in English class B.

“America” by Zachery Rahn

I fought in battles for mama’s shepherd’s pie,

for the sweat rolling down preacher man’s neck,

and for teachers in schools of deadlocked fear.

I could’ve been embalmed if it weren’t for my neighbor’s bump-stock.

“Cactus Blooms” by Molly Ponkevitch

“Cactus Blooms”
by Molly Ponkevitch

 “Gods are Unruly Things Best Kept Supervised” by Larisa Harriger

We must not allow them

to set up booths on the street corners

to sell their talismans,

glamours for the slightly overweight,

charms made up of pot shards and bluebells,

formulas for rites of ablation,

maps to shell encrusted grottos,

            and the tombs of derelict fauns,

oil can phylacteries, and

fetishes made of string,

            sticks, and bits of blown out stars.

We must not permit them to

preach wayward epistemologies

            and doctrines of faithlessness, or

proselytize in front of the baroque church windows,

            those crazed works of a blind glazier.

We must not give them licenses to

panhandle for offerings, or

peddle the paste-glass wonders

that tourists carry home: snow globe  

dioramas of angels assembling chimeras

and Christmas tree ornaments

depicting the three wise men

worshipping at the original Starbucks.

“Portrait of a Blind Artist” by Nick Compton

Feel the creased fabric of collar, the crumple of shirt with charcoal hands or rather fingers wrapped around him. His lovers smooth tips. The crimson smalls of ecstasy a love-bite of acrylic on his neck. He wears a galaxy of pride for him; a nebula purple drifting from lobe to cheek, a supernova of teal crashing cataclysmic but in the twin suns of eyelight, a cataract bleeds; fog diluting blue rimmed pupils till only a memory is left; a tousled hair, a whisper of lips.

“Afterimage” by Von Wise

In the summer we threw rocks

aimed at each other and nowhere

in particular. Dodging, getting hit,

hitting back. Dirty and blood-caked, laughing,

everything we required was within arm’s reach.

You said you saw a ghost in the woods.

I thought or I realized that I saw it too.

What power we possessed then,

willing the dead into existence

like stories. What innocent

fury pelted birds out of the sky

with air guns. We didn’t understand

how stealing life asks so much more

than conjuring it out of hot air.

I wrote you letters after you joined the army.

I saw you on visits home in the fall,

but they never felt the same as they used to.

So much had grown and died in between.

Neither of us even pretended to see

ghosts appearing among the branches.

“Milky Way” by Maria Berardi

So tender, so intimate an image,

our hominid, our mammal, view

of incomprehensible reaches

of space, of cold, of dark:

our view of another part of our own galaxy,

hello, hello, over there:

galaxy. Galactic.

*   *   *

When nursing my babies,

all three, there would come a time when

they would unlatch from me,

perhaps to cough a little cough, or sneeze,

just as the milk was in full flow:

tiny pearls sprinkled on surprised silken cheeks,

then a grin, then a giggle: a joke!

Warm sweet drops, sustenance.

*    *   *

To think the ancients thought,

in the creation, the separation of light and dark,

that mother’s milk formed the intricate lace of stars in the night.

What does this say about us?

(And if it is true, from deep in a mine shaft,

or the utter bottom of a well,

that the stars may be seen in the daytime,

is the sky then blue, or black?)

We have to keep things to scale,

our prodigy-minds are still shelled

in culpable mammal bodies.

“time” by Linda Kramer

The plumber came today  

to determine the interior cause of my

bathroom drain blockage

After multiple attempts at solutions

it was discovered that long ago

a woman inexplicably lost her wristwatch      

to the drain

Talk about a waste of time


“Slackening Observed” by D.R. James

A cardinal, its heaven’s sound, the winter’s

effervescent rag with salutating

gait. Notes etch, sun foils, cathedralic

miles enlarge the whispering. To center

oneself, to murmur, to intercept the

synchronizing run that’s rioting, is

as longingly still as the slope outside

the city’s heaves, the barn-red-confetti’d

woods, the uniform crisp of autumn days,

shallows iced to the shoreline, valley’s dream.

“Reading in Bed” by Joel Savishinsky

Lying in bed reading

I heard the planes grinding

the night up into

a dark grain. I knew

in a new way that

my sons, with children

of their own, would now

never cease to worry

and so had made

me old, a profession

I might be better at

than parenting or

fail at anew in

another way. I hoped

they would forgive me

or that, like the spirit

of each year’s end,

I would forgive

myself. Either way,

it would never be

what any of us had

hoped for. When I turned

the pages, the book’s

tight-fisted spine

made small trenches

in the blanket, thin

furrows scooped out

like so many

morning moons

pinned, marooned,

in a sea

of gray sky.

“I Siken Myself” by John Smith

I don’t like beer.

Rather it be chocolate, soda, potato chips, corn chips,

french fries, ice cream, Laffy Taffy.

It’s the sagging body of an adult,

            the zipping tongue of a child.

They laugh and joke when I don’t come to the bar

with them, we all have children’s tongues.

We all have children’s dreams,

            we all have children’s eyes,

We all have children’s hearts,

We all have children’s heartbreaks.

Ruined cartoon ending.

I am tired of being patient, I am angry with the world, I am sick

of being told to move on, I am hungry for a lost flavor of youth and promise,

                                    I am still tired.

Sitting in my dusty room.

Sitting in a room of decaying dreams.

Ruined Japanese cartoon ending.

                        Ruined Japanese cartoon ending.

“Old Wooden Spoon” by Brad Garber

The wooden spoon is cracked
            blackened worn blunted
small bits of itself in soups
butter bacon salt spice wine
            having stirred dreams
            & anticipation.
From a fallen tree
what is left of a family
            it has accepted its lot
            has made this one.
It reclines
            against the pot
ready for flavor.
Open in the middle
            its heart soaks up blood
long handle a life line
            taking it where it matters.

“Aviatrix Props?” by Gerard Sarnat

— thanks to Vijay Seshadri




autopsy table

kimono wince


400 blows

decrepit towelette’s

200 proof

exurban elixir





mimetic hubris

we pity it

much as

Icara (used

to) pity

her succulent self


singed, insipid

withered once

beauteous vitreous

scarred by our sun.

I bow

to kiss

the burnt

hem of your

paltry garment.

“Ginny” by Lee Felty

“Ginny” by Lee Felty

“Paradise” by Andrew Sutherland

I wonder if we don’t sometimes
confuse exhaustion
for a kind of love

but I would drip fatigue
down our worn-out length
if it would be enough

to keep us bound; but reaching –

yearning for the next, and
grasping our disquiet
for anything that’s left

like ibises, like longkangs
our newness drooling
into drains –         

when spreadsheets might express concern

I pray that what we’ve
always done is hold
tight to a blinding life

un-build the kind of world
we’ll never see, but know
like skin stretched out on floors

that place worth screaming down the mic

where we shatter love like sleep
or fuck like sheep; co-parenting
three-headed beasts

who’ll grow to feast on paradise
love’s tired-place – where
words fall down; and grapes applaud

and everybody knows us –  except, thank god, for us.

“Shetland Cattle” by Janet Powers

Shaggy beasts, red with curved horns,

far from your island byre, sheltering

in thin shade along a slight fence row

where woods come up against grass.

Out of place, wronged by error of birth,

exotic to the farmer who fields you here

with llamas from another far-off land,

both despising hot sun and dry fields

on a Pennsylvania farm. Your genes

must long for wetness and the cool

of the Scots isle where you were bred,

where trees are few and those that grow

are short in stature like all creatures

grazing where one gray day softens

another, rain caresses the green land,

constant mist and hard wind buffet

the night with a rough unsparing hand.

There, standing stones and ancient forts

mark centuries of living strong, pressed

hard to the earth in small cottages with

thick walls and thatched roofs. So clear

the call of the isles, to tell the truth

you and I might both be strangers here.

“Angel Wing Dumpster Fire” by Roy Bentley

A dumpster reads Sherman’s Recycling Service

and a partial phone number—and Newark, Ohio.

A couple of older teens, locals, Halloween costumes

in hand, Netflix-phenomenon Lucifer Morningstar

outfits—I recognize the get up—BIC lighters busy,

autumn gusts making it a miracle if anything burns.

But now a few of the feathers are starting to flame,

smoke and a rheumy grey the flag for a republic

that is, most days, an angel wing dumpster fire.

I’ve pulled over. Parked by a McDonalds across

from the Courthouse. And they see me watching

like the natives must have watched Henry Hudson

sailing the Half Moon past Poughkeepsie long ago,

though farther east. Neither boy drops what he

holds and each shoots me the Middle Finger

then moves off, in no hurry, as if within their

rights to set fire to the world. As if they see it,

the work of our hands, as finishing something.

“Simon Said” by Robert Fogler

Simon Wilkins once said

That freckles were where the angels

Pinched the baby

Before it crawled out of its mother’s tummy

I didn’t remember being pinched

But it must have been true

So we counted the freckles

All over my body

Hundreds of them

I cried because I thought the angels hated me

“They only pinch the cute babies,” Simon said.

Simon Wilkins once said

That girls kiss different than boys

Lipstick makes the girl’s lips harder and tough

Boys have to have strong and powerful kisses

Like the movies

We practiced kissing

Every day after school

So we would be ready for our first kisses

I jumped when I felt his tongue

“Using your tongue means you really like them,” Simon said.

Simon Wilkins once said

That sleeping naked

Would help our willies grow bigger

Night was when your body grew the most

I wanted my willy to be big

So every sleepover

We’d hop into my bed

Remove our pajamas

Then in the middle of the night

Compare our sizes

I woke to him holding me

“Body heat helps them grow together,” Simon said.

Simon Wilkins said nothing

The day I told him I loved him.


The Price of Chivalry
by Arthur Klepchukov­

     $65. That’s the price of chivalry. Stop reading. There’s only embarrassment ahead. Whatever curiosity the title sparked should be satisfied. Go on. Live your life. Make your own mistakes.

     Still here? Fine. Grab a cup of something good and sip along with the first real sentence.

     One June morning, one car unintentionally kissed another on a freeway somewhere between Dublin and Berkeley. California, that is. Where good boys go after East Coast melancholia, for a few years of “radically different.” There they hope to meet a fine curly-haired creative girl, who had her radically different moments in Paris. France, that is. Whoever named “Paris, Texas” should kindly lose a duel. Ah, and here we are at another fumbled, rambling beginning. Anyway, the car accident.

     So this adrift East Coast boy meets this curly-haired creative girl shortly before this accident. No one hurt. It’s not that kind of story. Not yet.

     He called her. Or she called him. Memory is not a prerequisite of chivalry, I don’t think. Anyway, later that same June day there was a call. There, that’s accurate. Apparently, passive voice is a prerequisite.

     “I got into an accident today,” she said.

     “Oh no! Are you okay?” He flexed his arms. An influx of testosterone always helps.

     “Yeah, I’m fine. No one was hurt. Just shaken up.”

     Something whooshed by and he realized where she was.

     “Are you driving right now?” Another car passed her in the background.

     “Yeah… I can’t miss my class in Berkeley tonight.”

     She’s near me! “Let me drive you home when you’re done.” He could take the subway back as late as midnight.

     “That’s sweet but I don’t want to–“

     “Not a problem at all.” He inhaled and puffed his chest before realizing she couldn’t see his majestic pose. “Listen, I’ve been in two car accidents. I can imagine what you feel like right now. I want to help.”

     “Really?” Her voice rose as if to meet his tall kiss. “I would appreciate that so much!”

     “I’ll be there.”

     The boy hung up and enjoyed a mighty dinner of Chinese take-out over the fine art of professional wrestling.


     At 11pm that evening, the curly-haired creative girl embraced the boy with a hug that made him forget his place in his weathered library book for the subway ride back. He even lost track of his ephemeral bookmark–the frail return slip with the due date.

     “Do you want to talk about it or do you want me to distract you?” he asked.

     “Well.” She gazed at his feet on her pedals. “Probably not in the car.”

     “Distraction it is!”

     He recited something he wrote for his first girlfriend:

I tried to cover you in a blanket of stars,

But you smoked my love like a cigar.

I tried to raise your eyes to the moon,

But I tried too much, too soon.

     Ah, rhyme–the essence of chivalry. Hey, don’t you dare fight me on that one. Without rhyme he’d be no more than a pretty face on a tall horse, or–in a fast car, anyway, it’s essential! Trust me.

     They drifted at a gentle pace but still too fast to take the proper exit east. Cautiousness was paramount! Maybe not to chivalry but to the nervous warmth of her hand. He obeyed the speed limit in the middle lane when she asked him to switch to the right. The boy did not mind the detour of thankful palms and kindled fingers. Safety is most certainly a prerequisite for chivalry unless it stands in the way of tenderness. Their hands intertwined for the rest of the ride.

     They reached the subway station by her house after midnight. He could have read her a dozen more lyrics to lift that soft, tired chin. But he had a final train to catch. The curly-haired creative girl hugged the adrift East Coast boy for longer than he’d been hugged in quite some time, before her warmth and taillights dissolved into the night.


     The book could hardly hold his attention on the subway platform. I did a good thing here, he reminded himself. He did the math on tonight’s hours of sleep. The old book got a few new creases. The ephemeral bookmark was found.

     A hollow train passed in the opposite direction. The platform was empty; the sign for the next train, blank. And remained so. But the boy grinned all the way up the escalator to the lone station agent. The last train was not, in fact, at 12:46am. He had just missed it.

     The boy sunk down the steps outside to the two dim cabs whose drivers were both asleep. They weren’t even yellow! He knocked on the dingy glass of the first window. The cabbie jolted awake and squeezed out a toothless smile from his musty vehicle.

     “How much to Bayfair?”

     “Oh, thirty-feef, forty doll-ers.”

     The boy heard perfect English. Xenophobia is certainly no prerequisite for chivalry.

     “I’m hoping to catch a bus north to Berkeley.”

     “Bus?” The cabbie looked around. “Sure… there bus. There bus! Come every hour.”

     The boy recounted his tale on the way to an ATM. Cash is not a prerequisite for chivalry, though it tends to help. Even if the cabbie didn’t parse a syllable, the boy snuggled into the backseat with the curly-haired creative girl’s smile as they decoupled from their final hug. If only he could share that smile. The cabbie nodded and asked if American Bank was “good ATM.” Yes, Bank of America was fine.

     “What say, sixty doll-er and I take you home? You rest in bed sooner?”

     “That, that would be great. Thank you.” The cabbie appreciated the fine flavor of every word. How could he not?

     The ATM obliged with the boy’s last twenties.

     The cabbie slept at that subway station for four hours until the boy knocked on his window. He’d driven fifteen years here, another twenty in India. He spoke in a fading voice, not sure if this boy was a dream sprung out of some midnight imagination. But if this was a dream, he wouldn’t let this fictional character fall asleep on him! Anytime the boy grew silent for more than three freeway exits, the cabbie bellowed “Hello!” and confirmed the directions.

     The boy didn’t look for a ring around the cabbie’s finger but the curves of his smiling wrinkles and the even, silver beard suggested a wife. Did the cabbie long to sleep next to her like the boy next to those creative curls? Wouldn’t thirty-five years of late night roads only nurture that balmy desire? They pulled up to his building.

     He tipped the cabbie what was left in his wallet ($5) and gave directions for getting back on the freeway. The cabbie drove off with his aged smile. The boy sent a handful of wishes after his taillights. Don’t miss that exit I missed earlier. Make it home safe obeying the speed limit in that right lane. Let the simple lyrics of the empty cab and lonely road and night stretching into tomorrow carry you the rest of the way. After all, she’s waiting.

“Untitled” by Cedric van Eenoo

“Untitled” by Cedric van Eenoo

by Alan Meyrowitz

     John was at the Holocaust Museum by court order, following his conviction for vandalism, the spray painting of anti-Semitic graffiti. He had completed his required one hundred hours of community service. Now he had only to tour the Museum, which the judge thought might change his perspective on his crime.

     On his way through the exhibited cattle car, a car that had transported untold numbers of prisoners to their destiny of torture and ashes at Auschwitz, John broke off a sliver of wood and put it into his pocket.

     That sliver had known the pressure of bodies crammed into the car on trip after trip, had swelled with the humidity of labored breaths.

     But John had his souvenir and the satisfaction of another desecration, if only a small one. He did not think of it as diminishing the evidence of genocide.

     Returning to his apartment, he placed the sliver in a small open jar. He found a place for it on a bookshelf in his bedroom, between a group of Stephen King novels and a stack of anthologies of weird tales.

     The cover of the book on top of the stack proclaimed “Fear nothing but fear itself? Don’t believe it!”

     John did not believe it, as his reading had made him aware of a litany of possible monsters. Thinking of those monsters troubled him as he tried to sleep. Well after midnight, he finally dozed off.

     It was then that the sliver of wood began to darken and smolder.                                                                       

     Neighbors heard a succession of screams. The police were called and might not have entered his apartment, as they had no warrant, but they found cause enough to break through the door when more than one concerned neighbor confirmed the disturbance.

     John was found in his bed. His arms were twisted grotesquely behind him and upward, each clearly dislocated at the shoulder. His mouth was bloody as most of his teeth had been roughly extracted. They were scattered across the floor.

     No less disturbing was his emaciated condition. He was very much skeletal. In the days following, the Medical Examiner would decide John had suffered from starvation endured over many weeks.

     That was remarkably at odds with testimony from friends who had seen John the day before and remembered him being quite robust and healthy.

     Routine police photos of his room showed the bookshelf. No significance was attached to the small jar there, a jar of ashes.

“Waking at Sunrise” by Lee Felty

“Waking at Sunrise” by Lee Felty

In one fell swoop
by Chad Broughman

     On a sweltering Friday night in July, Ma asked me if I wanted to have a yard sale. She said it would be a good experience, witnessing the supply and demand theory first hand. She said we needed the money, too, which I didn’t understand. Pa was a foreman at the largest mill in Houghton. All the other foremen’s families lived on the bluff in big houses with massive windows and wide, stained decks that wrapped around front, overlooking Lake Superior. We lived in town, an old two-story Victorian with a saggy front porch and a garage that leaned left, too small to park a car in. I remember being at one of those lakeshore houses once, a classmate’s birthday party. As I walked by the group of gathered mothers, one said to another, “I heard his father buries money in the yard. What a deadbeat.” Later, when Ma picked me up, I told her. She simply replied, “Unfit conversation for a party, don’t you think?”

     We gathered all the junk that might sell then started debating prices. “Antiquity,” Ma quipped, holding up a pair of old ice skates, the kind with straps down the sides, more like a man’s belt. “What do you think?” Her smirk was mischievous and I laughed. It felt foreign to do so with such abandon.

     “Might have to pay someone to take those,” I said. I loved it when Ma acted silly, though it only happened when Pa was gone. The threat of his truck tires crunching against the gravel always loomed, but at least for a little while, she was carefree and playful. However, that night Pa had driven to Green Bay, something about the union and dips in demand for iron ore. All we cared to know is that he wouldn’t be back until Sunday.

     Ma brought up several boxes from the basement and began digging through one full of ugly sweaters, mostly from Grandma. “On your dad’s side,” she insisted. Draping a shaggy blue cardigan over her chest, Ma pretended it was the latest fashion craze. She gently brushed her fingers across the dull yellow sunflowers knitted across the mid-section then pinched one of the half-dollar buttons––wood, stained a deep brown––and puckered her lips like a supermodel. She flipped her hair back, trying to be salacious but looked more like a liquored-up walrus. “A buck fifty,” she said in a deep, breathy voice, then wrapped the cardigan around her shoulders with flair, “and this could be yours.” We laughed from our bellies. And then a pricing game ensued: .50 cents for dad’s old jockstrap; a quarter for my bag of army men, pellets of mouse shit in the bottom. We scrawled out “make an offer” on a box of random knickknacks, like some of those souvenir spoons from different states that always tarnish a dark orange and a ceramic salt and pepper shaker set in the likeness of Lot and Lot’s wife, the former looking back over her shoulder, of course.

     We made $174. Even though I garnered no more than $10 from selling some old toys and a few fishing lures, Ma split the money with me. I think about that weekend often. I still see her flitting between the boxes of junk, letting out a girlish hee-haw after having played hardball with some toothless old codger, standing her ground when he tried dickering her down a nickel for some crocheted pot holders. When she pressed pencil to paper, tallying our minuscule proceeds, Ma said, “Integrity is the root of true riches.” I know the words well, as she wrote them in frosting on my graduation cake––fancy, curlicue letters.

     I remember, too, that Sunday, when Pa came home. Ma and I were boxing up the unsold items when his tires pressed against the pea stone. After questioning Ma about our weekend venture, Pa demanded the money. In one fell swoop, it was gone. Ma’s principles were left floating in the dusty air. I can still hear the thrust of Pa’s shovel in the earth, see the starlight on his naked back as he proved the haughty ladies on the bluff to be right, planting our money like rutabaga. My heart still sinks when I recall Ma asking me for my share of the money back, head down like a scolded dog. Sometimes, when I think of Ma, the world feels completely adrift, the sky starless. I wonder how people can just live their lives––buy groceries, pump their tanks full of gas, order fancy draft beers––having never known her strength. And I think, too, how much my heart hurts as it slides up my throat every damn time I pass a yard sale sign.

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