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Terry Blackhawk
 
I think of my ex-husband standing in sunlight
 
but it’s a frozen tree frog I hold
in my hand, capturing the evening
sun as it slants through the palmettos.
 
He’s hollowed, stiffened in position,
and I balance him on my desk top
poised and posed like a football lineman
 
ready for the hike. One leg stretches
twice the length of the forward-crouching
body making a stem I can twirl
 
between my fingers. The other forms
a Z, its toenails barely touching
the desk, as if he’s about to spring.
 
Decay would not have left him so fixed
and exact, like a paper lantern
or a cicada’s husk.  Some abrupt
 
and thoroughgoing freeze must have caught
him thus, midstride, his claws still clinging
to the bark.   Hold him up to the sun,
 
the spine’s an x-ray, the skull a dark
spoon above half-closed eyes, crescent slits
admitting light.  The dried pod of him
 
fairly glows, revealing veins, vessels
still red but no longer pulsing.  I
wonder what he saw as the cold fell,
 
if the lids lowered as the blood slowed,
the abdomen puffed out, innards turned
to vapor and he became his shell.
 
 
 
 
Laura LeCorgne

 

fromReally Good Feet
 
Now it was November and she’d been there since spring. Her husband called on weekends, wondering when they might return, but Hannah couldn’t say. She’d arrived at a point where she’d accept anything—a shadow of longing, the thick weight of duty, loathing would be a fine relief—but all she could summon was a worn fogginess she’d grown accustomed to, which could no longer be blamed on the blanket of heat that lay over the city and probably wouldn’t lift until Christmastime. Sometimes she found herself desperate for snow.
 
Her parents slipped from the room when he called, wandered the halls of their house, pretended not to hear. From time to time, her mother said, “Your voice shifts into neutral when it’s Greg on the phone.”
 
He typically waited until Sunday to call, from up at the house in Connecticut. Sometimes she could picture him there, on the other end of the line, in the kitchen, probably, or at his desk upstairs, the phone cradled in his neck, which smelled of sandalwood soap. Mostly she refrained from imagining him at all.
 
He had come down once that summer, in July, to see the baby for a few days. Leave him, her friends admonished, or, go back, they said and changed the subject, as though she were viral, as though this sort of trouble might seep into their own lives if they lingered on it for long. They steered the conversation toward other things—their children’s sleeping habits, their husbands’ professional worries, their wallpapers and topiaries and rugs.
 
Hannah called her sister Callie in Shreveportevery few days. Leave him, Callie said. She never said go back.
 
 
 
 
 
Katie Kingston
 
Southwest History Class
 
I confiscate Antonio’s rolls of flavored candy:
Dubble Bubble,
fruit punch,
cola,
Jolly Rancher, 
strawberry kiwi.
 
While he reads the chapter 
on Spanish borderlands,
I read the candy labels,
curled from riding all morning
in the pocket
of his Virgin de Guadalupe hoodie.
 
Antonio is what one would call disruptive,
full of belches, f words,
finger tapping, book dropping,
one whose desk
vibrates like a metal sorceress.
 
When I tell the class that the Spanish
allied with the Ute,
while the Apache remained hostile,
he tells me he is half-Indian,
half-Mexican.
What nation?I ask.
I don’t know, he replies
scratching the raven tattooed
on his neck.
 
The students continue to read 
about Spanish colonizers, Coronado,
Cabeza de Vaca, Juan de Ulibarri,
Oñate, though this history book
doesn’t mention  that he cut off
the left foot of Acoma males
to keep them in the colony.
 
As I prepare the next lesson,
the French coming up from Louisiana,
the room fills with restless
sounds, muffled whispers, crinkled notes,
pencils scratching, an occasional
spitball, and the intermittent
Scotch Tape dispensing from its roll
with a strangled zip.
 
 
 
 
Kathryn Nuernberger
 
Still Life
 
How hard it is to see clearly.
 
Take this grape. It’s violet,
but not quite, magenta,
but not quite.
 
More the amethyst night
of a lighted bridge
when there’s a bit of dawn
and you’ve been out late,
lying in the park next to
your best girl friend,
and you’ve gotten
that rustling feeling out
of your chest for a minute.
 
Only not quite.
 
More the color of her coffin
with its deep-wood shine
carried under the stained glass
as the choir sings, but no sound,
as you sing, but no sound.
 
More the shade of that perfect quiet.
 
Only not quite so perfectly round,
or perfectly dark, but reflecting
the white light of morning
on its shriveling skin
as one last thing that was hers
passes the plum shadow,
the wrinkled fig, of your pursed lips.
 
And now where there was fruit,
there are thorns. Not thorns
exactly, but woody fingers,
green tattered ends without name,
more green than yellow, more
green than brown, but not
green, not exactly green.
 
 
 
 
Lydia Kann                                                                     
                              
from The Arrival
 
The Arrival, L.A.
 
The bus is smoking as it pulls into the slot between a Greyhound and a Trailways.  Not like Camels, mind you.  Fumes.  Lili smells dust and petrol. The haul had been long and dirty with a big-time logjam in a snowstorm in the panhandle.  Texas wasn’t used to that kind of snow, not like New York, not like the East.  On the highway outside of Amarillo the bus sat still for three days.  Twelve of them in a vibrating tube, the engine on for warmth.  There was a strong smell of urine and all that comes with that, from the stuffed toilet.  Finally, they got off the bus to pee, hiding under sixteen-wheelers, crouched and pretending they were invisible.
 
Lili was the cheerful helper on the bus in Texas.  She kept busy picking up trash, walking down the line of cars looking for food for the crying three-year-old passenger.  There was a cute guy in a Chevy two cars behind.  He winked at Lili the first time she went past in the snow with no boots.  The next day he went walking with her down the row of cars.  She was asking for milk at that point.  Then the State Police showed up with milk and food for the kid, and some for them.  They got the cars plowed out and moving by the third day.  People were shuttled by tractor to local houses overnight, but Lili and the other eleven passengers remained on the bus.  It was a kind of home.
 
The bus pulls into the downtown L.A. terminal.  Lili picks up her suitcase and climbs down the stairs.  Three days late for arrival.  She sees them immediately, standing by the ticket window, two very short people.  A man with red hair, in a suit, and a woman with blond hair, also in a suit, with a skirt.
 
They don’t spot her, don’t know what she looks like.  She has the jump on them, a few seconds to scope it out.  Before.  Then she says, “I’m Lili.”
 
The Goodbye, N.Y.
 
Six days earlier Lili had carried her suitcase down the stairs bumping, banging into all those travelers, buses burping announcements, “9:45 to Poughkeepsie, Gate 31, leaving in five minutes”;  “10:15 to Los Angeles, Gate 28.”  Lili had waited on line.  There was a sound of distant humming   She was going, going.  She heard before she saw her.
 
“Lili, Lili!”
 
Lili did not turn to see.  She knew it was her mother.
 
“….not going.  No.  You are not.  Changed my mind.  Come home.  Now.”
 
Lili shook no.
 
“A mistake.  Ich kennisht.  Can’t do it.  You need to stay.”
 
Lili followed the line of travelers as it trailed out the door to the loud drumming of bus in gear.
 
“No, Ma.  No.  Please.  I have to go.  Sorry.  Sorry.”
 
Lili got on the bus and put the suitcase on a seat next to her. 
 
The mother was standing looking at the window.  She was mumbling, her mouth moving.  Lili changed seats to the other side of the bus.  Gone.
 
 
 
 
David Gibbs
 
Balloon and Ribbon
 
Why would you hold back
a balloon if its sole wish was to rise?
mother asked. To keep,
I said. She untied the ribbon to prove
what her worldly eyes swore,
it zigged like a bee,
and for whatever reason
a man caught it
from the 13th floor roof −
his body like an anxiety
reversing, dropping dull
and flat on Zoloft,
the creeping hum of rubber
volleying against wind
missing by inches
the streetlight hooked
like an endearing question.
 
 
 
 
 
Shannon Robinson
 
Miscarriages
 
Again
 
You look familiar.
 
That is what the anesthesiologist says to me. She’s petite, much younger than I expected, and has pale, smooth skin. I’m here to have a D&C. I had an abortion three years ago, but that was in another city. In a few minutes, this woman will take the clear plastic cup that she’s now holding and place it over my nose and mouth; she will put me to sleep. I will have no memory of her doing so.
 
D&C is short for Dilation and Curettage. The initials are for delicacy as much as for convenience. It is the operation performed after a miscarriage, wherein the fetus (or dead baby, however you wish to think of it) is sucked out of your womb. A bit of vacuuming in preparation for the next tenant. If there will be one. 
 
I don’t have a reply for the anesthesiologist’s remark, although I feel that I should. She sounds so casually certain. Oh, I say. 
 
Maybe I just have one of those faces. I’m lying down on a padded table, dressed in a large, two-ply green paper gown. A hose attached to a circular notch on the gown blows in warm air, inflating me like a pool toy, making me feel both comforted and a little silly. I’m wearing purple socks, with teddy bears on them in a raised, rubberized pattern. The hospital provided them. These I will keep. I will wear them around the apartment for the next few days until the soles get dirty and I begin to worry about the state of the unswept floors.  
 
The nurses have directed my husband, Sean, to another room that is filled with other patients’ relatives, waiting. As a day-surgery patient, you’re only allowed to bring one relative, and no children under twelve. So in other words, no children. We’d read that on the slip of paper given to me by the nurse at my pre-op examination two days ago.
 
I guess they don’t want a bunch of crazy brats running around upsetting people, grinding cookies into the rug, Sean said, probably thinking of the sign we read on our first visit to the obstetrician’s office, stating NO FOODOR DRINKS.  But you can bring in that coffee, honey. It’s got a lid, the receptionist had told him as we hesitated in the doorway. Sean has an open kind of charm about him, so she probably would have let him bring in a melting popsicle. 
 
Senbazuru
 
I had this notion, following my miscarriage, that I would undertake an origami project of folding a thousand paper cranes. In grade school, my class read a story about a brave Japanese kid who folded a thousand cranes while in hospital, hoping to get well. I remember feeling both impressed by and jealous of the kid’s dignity. According to ancient lore, whoever folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted a wish. I imagined a cinematic time-passage montage, wherein people would see me, patiently creasing small pieces of paper, bending and unfolding with gentle, nimble precision. Tiny paper birds would accumulate in our apartment. White birds, birds with the faint blue lines of notebook paper, glossy magazine-scrap birds, birds folded from the silver paper discarded from cigarette packs. It would become a joke among my co-workers at the library and my friends, that this was my Zen fidget, my quiet party trick.  And then, after I announced that I was pregnant, I could explain what was with the months of folding. I would have a mobile of paper cranes for the baby’s crib, perhaps even a framed print of a crane—a white bird stretched in flight against a powder-blue background—that people would mistake for a stork. Later, I would tell my child the story of my ongoing dedication, how I humbly willed him or her into existence.
 
I sat at my desk, turned on my laptop and went online to learn how to fold a paper crane. I found a set of directions that consisted of diagrams showing a step-by-step transformation of a square of paper into a bird with pointy wings. It seemed simple enough, once I finally managed to cut a piece of paper into a perfect square (I’ve always found it difficult to cut straight lines). But as I started following the instructions, I could only get so far before I was stumped. I tried a different Web site, a different set of diagrams. Again, I had a problem. Again I tried a different Web site. But each set of directions I found seemed to leave out a crucial opening step, or depict one step in abstract terms (Where is that arrow pointing, exactly? What do they mean by fold the outer corners to the center? How?) The online videos I found featured people whose hands occasionally obscured their operations. I folded, re-folded, unfolded and rotated the paper, smoothing it out and pushing aside the books and notes cluttering my desk so I had more space to work, but I just couldn’t replicate any of the instructions beyond a certain point. I left my creased not-crane by the laptop. A paper diamond. A crumpled kite.
 
The kid in that story—I think she died at the end, even though she folded all those cranes. Radiation poisoning.   
 
                       
 
 
 
 Pamela Davis
 
The Wallow Variations
 
Before the stock market crashes for good,
and we’re left defending our small patch of pride
permit me to digress—
in a word, to wallow in excess.
 
Fill your pinched cheeks with warm air, a tuba
slowly blowing out: Wall-ow.
 
The laws against foolery have been overthrown
by yodeling bands of jobless brokers.
Follow their lead and put your stock
in the weightless wings of mission swallows.
 
Only ascetics eat aspic when marshmallows abound.
Better to dine on melons, Mallomars, and hot syrup waffles.
Look at the pigs wallowing in mud.
Do you still think them awful?
 
Imagine wrapping yourself in whatever you love—
Viennese waltzes, Whitman, Van Gogh.
(Behold the beautiful walleyed girl,
how her Picasso eyes wander all directions.)
 
There is no end to it, once you wade in. Your body
is wired for the perfect expression of yellow—
sunflowers, jonquils, full moonlight, champagne.
Wear them, worship them, ride over them in a barrel.
 
A wanton kiss is your Buddha blossoming.
Oh, my worried friend, take my word.
 
 
 
 
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