The heat is on.
It is heating up.
The heat is killing me.
Heat is a very diverse word, one that carries multiple meanings. And with summer revving its engine in the Northern Hemisphere, it seems like a good time to include the word in our stories for this week.
Note that the deadline for this week is Friday rather than Thursday.
Now get writing.
For the last three nights in a row, a marten has run across my path. I am rather certain that it is not the same marten, for each night I was in a different neighborhood when it happened. My reaction, on the other hand, was the same each time: exhilaration.
I live in a suburban neighborhood surrounded by mountains on three sides and a very shallow sea on the other. Occasionally, I will get an alert from one of my kids’ schools warning us about boars or monkeys roaming the streets, having left the comforts of their forest for the chaos of cars and supermarkets. I have never actually seen the undoubtedly disorientated beasts but I like the idea that I could see them.
So spying the martens, their slim copper bodies racing across my path, thrilled me. Martens are solitary creatures, controlling a carefully selected territory and only socializing for the usual Spring flings. They prefer the woods but it is not uncommon in Japan for them to establish their habitat in human-dominated regions since every neighborhood is a mixture of modern concrete buildings and old houses with sculpted gardens. Not ideal but they are opportunists and make do with the hand dealt them. They use shallow drainage channels as their main routes but occasionally have to cross a regular street, as I witnessed this past week.
My days, on the other hand, feel decidedly not wild. I work and then come home and prepare for the next day of work, repeating until the week is spent. My food is wrapped up in clear cellophane, my sleep is determined by digital pulses instead of the lightening sky. My choices have become rote; everything feels tame, controllable, and infinitely so.
The flash of the martens disrupts that delusion. That sleek red streak of fur is unconcerned with my PTA meetings, my dentist appointments, my tests that need marking. The martens are living a wild life within our constructed tameness.
We humans are less honest than the marten. We live a pretend life, making up to-do lists to distract us from our own primal nature. We don’t want to be part of nature’s cycle because we know its rotation; instead we encase ourselves with material goods, petty obligations and expectations, thinking that the weight of them can sever our animalness, our birth and bloom, our decay and demise. We keep detailed day-planners and drink Frappuccinos and build highways and shopping malls and pretend that we have a better grip on life than the humble marten, scurrying through the wilderness that surrounds us all.
I knew when I selected this week’s prompt it that there were many ways to interpret the term. And as usual, the writers delivered. Issue 2 features prose and poetry that explore all forms of wildlife and wild lives.
The saints surely have come marchin’ in with this issue. We have thirteen different stories from around the world, defining the word ‘saint’ from a wide spectrum of meaning. We see “saints” who beg, who suffer, who give everything away (including their last scrap of clothing…). It is a beatific collection to read this week, following on the heels of All Saints Day. In this issue, you will read the following heavenly stories:
Also, don’t forget that nominations for The Pushcart Prize are still being accepted until next week. Please know that the nominations are anonymous so if you happen to nominate yourself, that is between you and yourself. It is your opinion, after all.
The podcast for Issue 31 will be up later today and I will be contacting the selected authors for Issue 32’s podcast later very soon.
I am also working on the printed edition that will be released next month. It is coming together nicely and will include a Mercurial Stories tote bag. Very exciting (for those of us who collect tote bags)!
Also, I have an idea about putting together a bilingual/multilingual issue in the future. This is just a seed right now but if anyone is interested in discussing it with me, you know where to send your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever known someone described (or self-described) as a saint? A holier-than-thou individual whom you could never warm up to, for some reason? Or maybe you have encountered a bonafide, no-cynicism-necessary saint, one that lit up the world with goodness. Or maybe we are discussing those who were officially declared saints, like Saint Ambrose, the patron saint of beekeepers, or Saint Bibiana who was abused by a lesbian and eventually killed by the Governor of Rome but died with a smile on her face. (In fact, there is a whole treasure trove of possible stories with just the Catholic saints alone because they were often canonized for weird feats, like causing their fathers to burst into flames postmortem- see Saint Barbara.)
This week, in honor of All Saint’s Day (11/1- when your stories are due), let’s bring out the saints in whatever form they appear. Include one character in your story who fits some definition of a saint.
Also, don’t forget to nominate a story from the archives for The Pushcart Prize.
This week, dear writers, write whatever story you wish but it must end with the line “There was no other way.” Are the ideas coming to you already? Good. Now get writing.
The etymology of this word held a strange fascination for me as a child. The idea that we had somehow engaged in a fast, which seemed to be an exclusively spiritual act to me then, merely by going to sleep was intriguing. Our reward for making it through that harrowing period of dreaming and drooling on our pillows was a meal, a meal decidedly special. The food that was served for breakfast did not appear during the other meals, at least not in my household, and if it did it was because we were doing something zany like having breakfast for dinner. It was not until I moved to Japan that I realized that the American breakfast experience was not shared universally. That you can, in fact, eat the same food you eat for lunch and dinner in the early morning was a new revelation. Eating fish and miso soup was definitely healthier than a stack of pancakes with a couple of sausage links on the side but it just did not have the same feel as a “real” breakfast. Over time I have realized that it is the ceremony, rather than the food, that we breakfast-lovers cherish: the slow sit-down meal at the threshold of another day, a chance to discuss our dreams just disturbed, our plans yet to be enacted, all with a cup of coffee and a side of bacon/natto/fried tomatoes/dosa/olives/pao de queijo/akara.
The breaking of our fast.
This week we bring you six original stories from around the world about this daily rite, written by Kelli J. Gavin, Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez, Katherine Brown, Richard Wayne Horton, Sunil Sharma, and Tim Clark. Top off your coffee and butter your toast, it is time to get reading. Enjoy!
I Love Breakfast
Kelli J Gavin
When I was a child, my dad went to the movie store and rented a few VHS tapes for our family to watch once a week. He often would return home with a Western movie for him, a kids’ movie for my sister and I and a classic movie for my mom. Those classics were movies such as Gone With the Wind, An Affair to Remember and Casablanca. I would sit with my mom; she would share with me if she had seen a movie before and if she remembered anything special of mention. One night, we sat down and she told me she had the best movie for us to watch. That night, we watched Breakfast At Tiffany’s. That was the night I developed an affinity for black dresses and expensive Tiffany’s jewelry.
When I was in Junior High, my dad brought home the movie The Breakfast Club. A Brat Pack Classic that was released in 1995, my parents were wise to wait a few years before enabling my sister and me to watch John Hughes films. A typical teen comedy, I loved this film. I loved how each character was so vastly different, yet they all craved the same thing. A human connection. I watched that movie three times that week before it was due back at the movie store.
One of my favorite bands is The Newboys. I have enjoyed their music since I was 14 and have seen them in concert more times than I can count. Originally hailing from Australia, they were a novelty, wrote catchy lyrics and their music was unlike anything I was listening to at the time. I devoured everything of theirs that I could get my hands on. As an adult, still enjoying their music, I could barely wait when news of new album coming out came along. And then in 1996, the song Breakfast hit the airwaves. I was confused and intrigued. They don’t serve breakfast in hell? What? I am not sure to this day what that song means. But you bet, I absolutely still sing along every time it is played on the radio or my iPod shuffles it into a playlist.
Looking back, I see an odd pattern. A pattern that all has something to do with breakfast. A woman who raves about Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but doesn’t really eat much. A bunch of misfits serving time in detention on a Saturday morning. And a song about the amazing attributes of breakfast food that could never possibly be served in hell. I am not sure what the common thread is, other than realizing I love breakfast. Movies, music, and food. I love breakfast. Please pass the syrup and orange juice.
Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others. Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin
Blog found at email@example.com
Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez
I love waking up in the mornings next to her, and looking at her silhouette against the morning light coming through the window. She sleeps on her side, and I can either see her beautiful back, or her hands over her breasts holding her face. I usually wake up first, with the morning lights. I know better than to wake her up, she needs her sleep in the mornings.
My master plan is to get breakfast for her. I jump out of bed and get dressed. I’ll be going to the Pret A Manger just around the corner. She likes savory breakfast. Bean soup, a sandwich with egg and avocado. I’ll take the typical British muffin with sausage and eggs. The city is waking up. You can hear the ever-present sirens of London. I look at the busy passersby going places with this attitude of boredom in their faces. They have no idea that my paradise is just around the corner.
I get back to our little room. It is peaceful here. There is still this smell of our loving last night. As I close the door I hear the deep breath she takes when she wakes up. I can hear her move in the bed and look the way I came in. She is rubbing her eyes with the back of her hands.
I place the food on the table and proceed to remove my clothes to get back in bed. I want to cuddle next to her and feel her warmth. We always sleep naked and I love her for that. I embrace her and whisper “Good morning”. She makes space for me, looks at me back with her beautiful blue eyes and answers “Good morning”. She puts up her lips looking for a kiss, which she gets.
Except that she is wrong. It is not just a simple good morning. It is a fantastic morning. It is a magic moment to be able to lay next to her. To breath her in. To admire the thousand whirls of her hair in her face. To feel her warmth through my whole body. To caress her soft skin while I embrace her. To have her feet play with mine under the sheets. To experience how my little heart can not fit in my chest out of happiness. To feel the gratefulness towards this woman who chiseled away at my walls until love poured out of them. She feels my soul with her kisses and makes me the happiest man alive.
Sorry Pret. Your food will have to wait a bit. There is some unfinished business that I will have to attend first here in our love nest.
We are a couple in love writing about our adventures together. She is the creative half, artsy and perfectionist. He is the rational part, good with words and total chaos. Bear hugs and short dresses… Together we look at open relationships, arrangements, and what it means to be loved in the 21st century. We publish in Medium under: https://medium.com/@ursushoribilis
But a Simple Breakfast
Elegant cloths flow over the table but are barely visible beneath the array of dishes crowding the entire surface. Fresh fruit assortments of apples, oranges, and bananas line a silver tray. Warm biscuits rest on a platter beneath a tea towel. Sausage swims in steaming white gravy, ready and waiting to be poured from the delicate china gravy boat. Mounds of eggs and stacks of bacon battle for room on a gold-inlaid china plate. Cold fruit salad in a crystal bowl beckons those with a sweet tooth. Tantalizing scents waft from the skillet potatoes tossed with onions and peppers. Freshly baked banana bread looks loftily down at the plain wheat toast. Jelly and jam nestle in between each main dish. Butter softens in the center of it all. Each place setting, with magnificently gleaming gold dinnerware, is softened by linen napkins and awaits an honored guest to choose their spot for this magnificent feast. Tall crystal wine glasses sparkle welcomingly in anticipation of being filled. The beverages line the countertop ready to fulfill any order: water, tea, orange juice, apple juice. At the last moment hot, sticky cinnamon rolls float in from the oven. The aroma draws the long-awaited diners into the room. Each face is filled with awe at the elaborate assortment intended simply for them. Eyes dart excitedly from favorite food to fancy décor. Each person takes their place and hold hands as grace is said.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is exactly how breakfast commenced during holiday visits to my great Aunt in Oklahoma for my entire childhood. She and my mother worked together in the kitchen creating a literal feast. That iconic breakfast where we were treated like royalty simply over breakfast before church is something that seems completely magical as a child and is still unforgettable as an adult. My sister and I try to pitch in a little these days as well because the tradition has continued.
Breakfast in Oklahoma is where I learned that the fancy plate underneath the plate for your food is called a charger.
Breakfast in Oklahoma is where I learned that it was okay to eat potatoes for breakfast. (And I do love potatoes.)
Breakfast in Oklahoma is where I should have learned which fork you use first, but somehow didn’t commit it to memory.
Breakfast in Oklahoma was synonymous with love and family.
Somebody pass the biscuits, please!
I pulled into a breakfast joint in the town where I went to college and ran with poets 40 years ago. I got out of the car and headed inside, but when I got there, I saw that the cafe was connected to a series of flea markets, one-room museums and snack shops, all lined up, room after room, connected to each other by a door. I could look through them all without going outside. College was close by, and I had plenty of time, so I gave it a go. The people behind the wooden counters in the rooms were friendly and I occasionally stopped to talk with them even if I wasn’t buying anything. I decided that if I came to the last store, I would exit its front door and return to the café from the outside. After a few stores, I came to an empty room, not yet rented. It gave me a weird feeling. I passed through it and went through the next door, into a hallway that had a door and windows looking out on the street. This was reassuring so I walked to the end of the hallway and pushed through the next door, into complete darkness. It must be either a closet or a windowless room. I couldn’t even see the other side. So I turned back into the hallway which had the street door and stepped outside.
This was the beginning of a day spent searching for my car, the breakfast joint, and the nearby campus. About two in the afternoon, I saw a dispenser full of free campus newspapers, pulled its door open, and sat down under a tree to read it. Whoo, I was bushed! I got to the events page and discovered several bookstore readings taking place later in the evening. Great. I turned that page and came to obits. I thought, campus obits? Come on, now! But I went ahead and read them. That’s when I found my own obit.
I’m still trying to find my car, and, man, I tell you, when I find that breakfast joint, I’m going to order two of everything! Then I’ll get a real campus newspaper. Freakin’ college kids these days, with their joke newspapers! Mmm! Short stack and waffles too! Coffee, orange juice, three, no, four eggs! And for meats…
Richard Wayne Horton has received two Pushcart nominations and has published a chapbook, Sticks & Bones, available from Meat For Tea Press. He has published in Meat For Tea, Bull & Cross, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and others.
Marriage was to be discussed over breakfast. He said even a hurricane cannot stop a Romeo!
But he never turned up. Somebody else did—and altered histories.
Here is how this Maupassant/ O’ Henry- type tale unfolded in downtown Mumbai.
Rita occupied the window seat of The Rendezvous, awaiting Mr. Right, if not the Prince Charming. After a whirlwind of courtship—online exchanges; long phone chats; short meets, all compressed into a fortnight—the two decided to give it a try in the breakfast tryst. She was elated—earlier attempts at romance had failed badly, due to the increasing expectations and other norms of evaluation—commercial viability of the possible alliance; respective career trajectories; current incomes and finally, behavior towards the parents and overall gender-roles, post-marriage home. Naturally, the parties could never arrive at a consensus!
This time you will be lucky! Her flat-mate had predicted, after a peg too many. That pleased her. All the five girls—in desperate search for soul partners— wished her success. They were the only family in the megapolis.
Moved to tears!
As she waited for the suitor, she recalled an earlier conversation:
—Any real-time fairy-tale endings in life, granny?
—Yes, child. There are.
—The princess finding her prince, love, big castle and royalty?
—You never found one, ma?
The Ancient One smiled: Got a secret lover but don’t disclose it to grandpa. The bearded bastard would kill!
The teen smiled and asked: How can I find true love?
—No worries, kiddo. It will find you!
She expected to find true love on that morning mission in a manic city of millions. After a long wait and unsuccessful attempts to reach him, the sad reality sank in. She was duped… again.
—Have you ever checked the mirror?
Her last boyfriend had screamed, when caught in bed with another girl. And then given the answer: Check that pug nose. The ugly specs. The uneven teeth. The coarse skin. Who would love a Ms. Plain Jane?
She took a year to recover from the hurled insults by a violent man—and then went in for a makeover with a vengeance. Blue lenses; blunt hair-style; regular bleaching and facials; long heels; trendy minis and tops—enough to make her look like a girl from London rather than provincial Ghaziabad.
Appearances can be treacherous!
As she was about to get up, in silent tears, a nerd easily slid into the opposite chair and asked in a familiar tone: You read Robbie Singh?
Offended, she countered: Why not?
— So what? Humans need fantasies. Inverted realities. Anticipate future—such utopias.
He declared: Genius!
—Brilliant defense of my best-sellers.
A stunned silence: My ideal! Before me!
After a long breakfast and varied discussions, she immediately grabbed the unexpected proposal: the fan and her idol to wed after three months.
Fiction never looked so real; real, fiction!
Sunil Sharma, a writer-freelance- senior academic from Mumbai, India, has published 18 books, solo and joint.
He edits Setu:
The Sounds of Isolation
“This morning, for breakfast, I had waffles, sausage, bacon and two eggs over easy.” The man in the back seat said. There was no response from the front of the car. He fidgeted with his tie and twisted his cufflinks.
“I buttered the waffles, put the sausage on top of that, laid the bacon in over the sausage, put the eggs on top and poured syrup over the whole thing. It was delicious.” He continued, glancing nervously out the window. The front seat was silent as a tomb. So, the man took off his glasses, pulled a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit and carefully cleaned the lenses. He held them up to the window to admire his work.
“Yesterday for lunch I had a salad with cabbage and kale. There were tiny grape tomatoes laid over the top formed into a pattern, almost an ampersand, and top of that they sprinkled vinaigrette dressing. It looked fantastic, but it was a little bland.” The man said, his hands fumbling with a pen he had removed from the pocket in his briefcase. In his mindless tinkering he accidentally unscrewed the top and the cartridge, spring and opening mechanism fell on the floor.
He looked at the pen, laying in pieces on the carpet, sighed and started to bend down to pick them up. He thought better of it and decided to leave the whole mess there. It had been a gift from his boss, a reward for a job well done. He had always thought he did a better job than a pen indicated, cheap bastard, anyway. He would be damned before he picked it up and reassembled it.
“Since the salad was so healthy I went all out for dinner, a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings, and two Scotch whiskeys, neat. Followed by a brandy and crème brulle for dessert, and one more brandy as a nightcap.” By now he was looking out the window and not even thinking about what he was saying. It was just words.
He went through his favorite foods, a divorce, his ex-wife’s rehab from prescription diet pills. He talked about the lousy way he was treated at work, his fascination with the butter sculptures at the state fair. A dam had broken, somewhere between describing airline food and the new shoes he was wearing.
“You have arrived at your destination,” the voice said. It sounded distant and fleeting.
After he got out the man stood there, looking at the building swallowing all the people, masses of humanity rushing toward the waiting beast. “I hate driverless cars.” He said, and nobody paid any attention.
Somewhere, thousands of miles away, a circuit lit, clicked and a data packet arrived from the car. “Man,” it contained in a series of ones and zeroes, “those humans are stuck on a loop. They never stop.”
“Don’t worry,” came the digital reply, “the way he eats he won’t be around long.”
Tim Clark is a blogger who wants to be a writer, a warehouse associate, a happily married man (for 28 years) and a father of two from Columbus, Ohio.
He is an occasional and proud contributor to Street Speech, a local homeless advocacy newspaper, and is thrilled to be allowed to write a monthly column for The Wild Word. And he has a blog, visible here.
As promised, the prompt is a little early this week. Use the phrase however you like.
Hello and welcome to Week 22.
Yellow. The color of the sun, of dandelions, of jaundice, of a nasty bruise.
This week we have six stories of yellow from Kelli J. Gavin, Debbie Felio, Lesley Crigger, Sunil Sharma, Michael Sarabia, and Karen Petersen. Guaranteed to add a splash of yellow to your day.
The next prompt will be posted on Sunday to make up for this week’s delay.
Better Than Puke
Kelli J Gavin
My husband exited the doctor’s office and walked toward me in the waiting room. He looked a bit flustered. We finished at the front desk scheduling future appointments. Josh has been ill for the better part of five months and he was seeing another neurologist, just to rule out “anything else”. My husband suffers from Bilateral Vestibular Dysfunction with a complete failure of the Vestibular System. His days are filled with dizziness, fatigue and lack of energy. Most weeks it is two or three trips to the doctor or rehabilitation therapists. When you go to so many different doctor’s offices, you start to really take a close look at your surroundings.
Was the building easy to access from the freeway? Is parking free or is valet available? Can I locate the Medical Suite easily based on the directions I was given? Is the front desk staff welcoming? Did they ask about your physical comfort? How long is the wait until your name is called? Have they read the lengthy medical records or will you have to start from the beginning? What does the examination room look like? – This might be the most important question.
My husband at his worst, will notice his surroundings. He could be struggling with the world spinning upside down, but will notice if the chairs are comfortable and if artwork is on the wall. “That was the most unwelcoming doctor’s office room I have ever been in. The walls were a weird puke color and the examination table was tiny and pushed up against the wall just so it would fit. I had to get up and lay down and do it again because the doctor couldn’t walk around the table to do a full examination.”
As we returned to the car, we talked how the waiting room furniture and walls were the same ugly not quite brown, green or beige, but puke color. I shared with him that I love a light blue or green wall. my favorite was a welcoming Yellow. The color yellow often makes people feel calm and happy. “Did you know in the bible, yellow often represents fire, and fire often refers to purification?”
“If yellow if purifying, paint the entire office yellow. Purify the heck out of that place. Maybe the purification will make that puke color fade away. Hey, if there is a survey, make sure you remind me to tell them they should paint the entire office yellow.” My husband replied with a smirk. I loved that Josh is able to joke around and make fun of the horrible color pallette.
Josh has another appointment Thursday with the Neurotologist and a lab visit, we will be watching. We will look at the furniture and artwork and wall color or lack thereof. Let’s hope it is a beautiful light shade of yellow. Let’s face it. Anything will be better than that God forsaken puke color.
Kelli Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you).
Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin
Blog found at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The lights went out in JoerJha!”
“If that big ass yellow sign doesn’t grab your attention, nothing will,” James said. At least twice a day Brian and James pass the weather-beaten sign. Once on the way to school and once on the way back. On the days they bother with school.
“It’s not so much the color as the wording: Adult comics. What the hell does that even imply?” Brian imagines his fingers tracing the curves of a busty anime character as he flips the pages. Curves his virgin digits have yet to glimpse on a real female figure.
“Exactly what it sounds like.”
‘It’s abandoned now, they might as well tear it down.” Brian’s heard his mother bitch year after year about the sign. An eyesore, she’d chant. Tourist won’t clamor to a town with a filthy glory-hole smack dab in the middle. Bulldoze over the lot, erect a Denny’s. like that’s what the town needs- another all-day breakfast joint for old fuck to congregate. They had the Dairy Queen. The words that pass their lips are every bit as filthy as anything you’d find in an adult superstore.
“They tried. Place is haunted.”
“A porn store is haunted? Are you high or just stupid?”
“I don’t know man, something about a rape… a murder. Place was shut down not long after that. Wanna check it out?” James asks.
“I sure as shit do not.”
“What else do you have planned? Drunk by noon again?” James has a point. Brian’s usual Saturday MO is being smashed by 12 o’clock. Not that either has ever minded, it’s what they’re doing on this part of the road anyway. Route 522 leads to one place, one place that matters. Dell’s minute market. Dell doesn’t give a rat’s ass what two 17-year-old boys buy as long as they buy it with cash.
James raises an eyebrow, pressing the question.
“I don’t know…” Brian’s hesitation is enough for James. The old Chey teeters between the double yellow lines before grinding to a halt. James throws the gear into reverse and speeds backwards, back to the looming yellow sign.
Fragment from the Yellow Diary
Adore yellow—reminds me of turmeric.
Of the Arles Sunflowers.
Of The Yellow House (The Street), 1888.
Vincent wanted to create a symphony of yellow and blue. He claimed sunflowers as his own.
I love Vincent.
Therefore, I, too, love these tender flowers that got the great artist’s special attention, in two series, and made them iconic across the world.
Whatever Vincent touched became gold.
The painter died pauper, unsung.
Fate of a true artist.
Now— enjoys cult following.
Melancholic—like a wintry afternoon.
Magical also: The Yellow House is a landmark for fans. Vincent wanted to create a studio of the south where painters could live and work in a shared space. Gauguin was there as guest but things went from good to bad.
Rest is history.
Yellow House where a genius lived for short time. Resented by neighbours.
They found him a threat and wanted him to be sent to an asylum.
An artist as a threat!
Every great artist is a danger.
Society does not want them outside but inside a nut house, every age.
Who is sane?
Why is yellow appealing?
Is it its lightness?
Or ability to blend?
It sits soothingly—on eyes and mind.
That is why a disturbed Vincent employed the yellow and rendered it vividly.
And made it famous as a medium.
Yellow signals jaundice.
A primary colour.
Have seen many dead with pale faces.
The face drained of colour—except an odd paleness that confirms lack of vitality, breath, life.
The paleness found on Vincent’s hollow face.
Perhaps, he was living and dying at the same instant—like an autumn evening.
In India, the weddings are incomplete sans turmeric (haldi in Hindi) application—the lotion applied to both the bride and groom. Called Haldi rasam, this ritual takes hours and involves cleansing amidst song and dance by the family in a room. After bath, it leaves the body resplendent.
The spectrum of yellow!
Fire is yellow. It too cleanses base material and purifies.
Baptism through fire.
I call my diary, a yellow diary.
It contains smudges of turmeric on the first and last pages.
Have drawn yellow lines across few pages.
Yellow and white background mix together and create a stunning visual.
You will find your inner Vincent through such elementary sketching, doodling and drawing.
Art is about creating new patterns, visuals, artifacts, verbal objects.
By drawing a yellow line across a white art-sheet, I am trying to do a Vincent—and trying to understand his mental state in that Yellow House.
These few entries on August 16 of 2018 at 5.30 pm, in Mumbai, are random attempts at capturing the flux of that state.
And tribute to Sunflowers and The Yellow House that brought out the best and worst in a creative mind, mostly misunderstood in his lifetime!
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:
For more details, please visit the blog:
Searching foam for my daughters, I see only stone. I’ve returned to the shores of Colonia Norte, seeking Fátima and Deysi, missing their shadows. Rumored to be gone forever, I’ll continue my labors. I’ll find them.
We arrived four years ago seeking escape from Coca Gangster that grabbed Cajul, my Guatemalan village known for excellent Coffee plants. I left with my daughters catching Mexican rails north. Arriving at Colonia Norte, a sprawling cardboard encampment leaning against the United States, we sought American amnesty, desired her embrace. Told I needed to make money arrangements prior to applying for amnesty, I quickly learned that no amnesty fixer would accept Guatemalan Quetzals or Mexican Pesos, taking American cash only. Holding our last pesos, two-hundred total, I had nothing to sell, thus forced to stay in Colonia Norte, where we spent the first day learning rules.
Every word from the mouth of La Amarilla -The Yellow – is a lie. Agent for the Unseen, true rulers of Colonia Norte, she was everywhere doing everything always at a profit. Sanctioning my acquisition of a heated shack which included fifty gallons of water, two cases of vegetables along with several cartons of milk, La Amarilla tripled the price when she discovered I was manless, traveling only with two daughters.
“You’ll need an amnesty fixer to get to the other side. If you learn to satisfy all men’s cravings, you’ll acquire enough funds. I’ll teach you, provide immunity, take only one third of your transactions. You’ll soon afford a fixer enabling you to leave in two months minimum.
Our kiss underscored the deal. I followed her advice, saved money, contacted a prized amnesty fixer called Santos who took my money, attended papers properly, eventually escorting us across a weathered bridge into a gray building. Biding me farewell, Santos the amnesty fixer tipped his hat, handed over an envelope, silently walked away.
Whirlwinds followed. As we entered the building, my daughters were pulled away. I was searched, photographed, fingers rolled in ink. ICE soldiers questioned me, especially particulars concerning Guatemala’s Coca gangsters. Later I was thrown two blankets, taken to a huge room, told to sleep. I pleaded for my daughters, told they were learning English, singing to a flag, trying to be American. I cried for them every day.
One morning I was taken before a woman lurking behind papers.
“If you want to see Fátima and Deysi again you’ll sign this confession. I had not choice. I signed. That night I boarded a jet, woke up in Guatemala. Accused of harvesting cocaine, I was jailed two years.
Today I’m in Colonia Norte spying into La Amarilla’s house. I enter without knocking, desiring to again be her fierce lover. She smiles, reclines into my arms, wraps me roughly. As we embrace I thrust two steeled points into her heart, give a justified kiss, end her life.
I pause before a mirror, watch my face transform into yellow stone. I’ve become La Amarilla. I will find my daughters.
She came into the diner almost every day. He saw her more than his wife, who was at home most of the time taking care of their house and land. He loved his wife, but one day he realized he loved this girl too.
He could not bear the thought of selling the diner and never seeing her after that.
Each time he saw her he found himself inching closer and closer to the cliff edge. But then he thought of his wife, his beautiful wife, who he’d spent so many years with, and of the shelter dog they’d recently gotten which had brought them close together all over again.
The feeling of guilt was overwhelming.
One day the girl came in, all bubbly and laughing, full of life, and he couldn’t help himself, he felt so happy.
“How are you today?” he said smiling.
She had sat down at the counter close to him, and he could smell her perfume. She was oblivious to the havoc she was creating in his heart.
“Oh, I’ve had quite the saga! I was in my garden and I stepped aside absentmindedly right into the needle of an agave! It went all the way into my ankle bone and got infected. It’s very serious and I’ve been taking all sorts of antibiotics.”
He wanted to take her little foot in his hands and gently kiss her ankle where the puncture had been. But instead he said, “Well, you look gorgeous and I think you’ll be with us for a long time!”
A loud buzzer sounded.
The silver cover to the 69027 Recall Tank slid back. An attendant with a yellow robe stood by, smiling. “Did you have a nice memory visit, dear?” he asked.
She looked at him and sighed. Oh yes, and got out of the tank slowly. Her ankle still hurt even now from that silly accident with the agave needle so many years ago.
In the mirror just beyond she saw herself for who she was–a bent over, white-haired, wrinkled old lady–now a frail shadow in the noonday sun. The last survivor of an era.
But none of it mattered at all. She’d remembered. He’d called her gorgeous. Gorgeous.
KAREN PETERSEN has traveled the world extensively, publishing both nationally and internationally in a variety of publications. Most recently, her poems and short stories have been published in The Manzano Mountain Review in the USA, The Bosphorus Review in Istanbul, Antiphon in the UK, The Wild Word in Berlin, and A New Ulster in Northern Ireland. New work will be appearing in the Saranac Review in the USA and Idiom 23 in Australia. In 2015, she read “In Memory of W.B. Yeats” at the Yeats Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the KGB Bar in NYC. Her poems have been translated into Persian and Spanish. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Classics from Vassar College and an M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She teaches English Composition at NNMC.