Monday Aug 19

FrancineWitte Francine Witte is the author of the poetry chapbooks Only, Not Only (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and First Rain  (Pecan Grove Press, 2009), winner of the Pecan Grove Press competition, and the flash fiction chapbooks Cold June (Ropewalk Press), selected by Robert Olen Butler as the winner of the 2010 Thomas A. Wilhelmus Award, and The Wind Twirls Everything (MuscleHead Press). Her latest poetry chapbook, Not All Fires Burn the Same won the 2016 Slipstream chapbook contest. Her full-length poetry collection, Café Crazy has just been published by Kelsay Books. She lives in New York City.

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Creak

     Old Man Jones in his creaky chair. Likes to sit on the porch and watch the moon. Moon coming up while he rocks to and fro. The whole day drains through his feet. This day is different. Just hours ago, his only son, Tim, was killed.

     Car crash at the edge of town. Other driver walked away. Said Tim was looking at that condo complex going up. Tim used to say that he liked those buildings. That it made the town seem new. That stacks of people could live there and no one would have to feel alone.

     When Old Man Jones got the news, he sank into his creaky chair. Let the neighbors take care of the funeral part. Later, they came by with casseroles and soup. Young Megan Sims brought along a stew of lamb meat and carrots. “Tim’s favorite,” she tells Old Man Jones. She sends the others home and helps him inside. “Come on,” she says, “we’ll eat it in his honor.”

     At the table, just the two of them. Megan ladling stew onto his plate.   Through the window, the sound of cricket chirp and bee hum. Old Man’s chair is silent now, his gone son, Tim, rising up like the moon.


The House Watches Her

like a dumb husband. Like it knows she’s leaving, and it’s sorry, and it promised to change. Like this time, she’s gonna believe it.

     Like the water heater won’t break again, leave her in a shivery shower, leave her telling Susan over coffee and fatty donuts how she got cheated on again.

     And when she gets too fat to fight back, Susan says, “oh yeah, it was me. Your husband cheated with me.”

     And when she throws the coffee pot at Susan, who just ducks and scrabbles out of the house, she’s left with nothing but a hole in the wall where the coffee pot hit, and when she calls the fix-it man, he finds it’s just the start of her problems.

     The roof needs shingles, and the floor is uneven, and the paint in the bathroom is a peely mess.

     And she just can’t live in a broken house, a broken marriage, but when she sees what either one would cost to repair, she figures it’s cheaper just to hop in her car and drive away.

     And when she does drives away, and hears the carburetor whine, or sees a crack in the road, she’s just going to face forward, keep driving, because she can’t repair the whole goddam world. Now can she?


Gum

      When Buster asks Ginny for gum, she shrugs and gives him the piece right outta her mouth.

      “Eww,” he sheiks, little-girl style, “you’re icky!”

      Ginny knocks Buster over, sandcastle style and moves on.

      “Where are the exciting men?” she asks the windrumble as it whooshes by. “The men who will toss me around like you.”

      The wind just scatters her pile-of-leaves style and moves on.

       Later, she gathers herself and pops a fresh stick of spearmint into her gumhole. Gnaw and crackle and grind. And then, she meets Greg.

      He is all leather jacket and body spray. Eyes that could smoke her down to a stub.

       Ginny quits everything, including the gum, because everything bothers Greg. She misses the gum most of all, because she isn’t quite sure what to do with her teeth. In the end, she just lets them rot out.

      Which isn’t the best decision. Turns out, Greg doesn’t care for a toothless woman, and will, in time, end up scraping Ginny off of him, gum-on-your-shoe style.