Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Well

“Are you there?”

“Yes, what’s up Walt?”

There was silence on the other end except for his breathing into the mouthpiece.  It wasn’t that labored prank phone call breathing, but something more contemplative and measured.  It was laced with beats not everyone could hear.  Its feeling unregulated.  She waited for his litany.

“I think you need to come over here right now.  I mean really because there is something you have to try.  It is off the chain.”  She could feel him fidgeting over the phone; could see the tremble in his hands and the tapping of his toes he did unconsciously that she always noticed.

“Walt….it is a really long drive for this time of night.”

“I know, but you have to,” he insisted.  His insistence was always child-like and never offensive.  The power behind his asking was always knowing that she would say yes.  This made her predictable and in turn made her irritated with herself.  “Ok.”

Marnie pulled into the dirt driveway and made a mental note of the sound the stones made under her tires.  It reminded her of the day she found out her grandfather died.  He was old and crazy and mean and now dead.  For some reason it didn’t stir her heart towards him, but she liked the sound just the same.  It was dark now that she was in the country out by the lake.  Marnie had hoped the moon would have given a bit more reflection off the water, but like most everything else, it disappointed her.  She was egotistical for even thinking the moon would be so gracious.

Walt her the creak of her car door and stood on the porch leaning on the pillar.  He was smoking a joint and Marnie liked that smell too.  She told herself she wasn’t going to smoke.  She couldn’t afford being loose in the mind.  It disintegrated her inhibitions and made her reckless.  She shuddered with the memories too many to count.  Walt’s toes were still tapping his internal beat.  They were his metronome and sometimes they were hers too.

 "Ok Walt.  I am here.  What is so fucking fantastic I had to drive out to the boonies for?”

 “The well,” he said matter of fact.

 “The well?  I drove all the way out here for the well?  Seriously Walt, I am damn tired.  There better be a fucking baby in it that I have to rescue.”

“No, no baby in there.  You have to taste the water….it’s off the chain.”

“You asked me over here to have some water?  God, why do I always say yes?”  Marnie turned to go back to her car.  If she left now, she could still get home before she was deathly tired…before she ran herself off the road.

Walt grabbed Marnie’s arm gently.  She looked at his fingers in the dark and then at him, but all she could see was the glow from the lit joint on his lips.  He sensed she was irritated about being touched.  He could feel it on her skin and so he let go.

“Wait Marn…come on.  Just come taste it and talk to me.”

“I’m pissed right now Walt and you don’t want to talk to me, seriously.”

He took her hand this time.  He liked the softness of it so he held it awhile.  They said nothing.  He put all his good energy into that hand sitting lightly in his.  He felt Marnie’s body slacken a little the longer he held it.  He felt her mood soften some.  It was time for the water.

“Come on,” he whispered.

n the dark, Walt led Marnie to the well even though she knew where it was.  She let him take her there…let him have this important moment.  She didn’t understand what was so great about the well and what, if anything, it had to do with her.  She closed her eyes as he walked her there.  It was too dark to see anyway.  Marnie knew Walt would not let her fall.

The well was traditional and stone built with a bucket.  It made Marnie want to make wishes and she supposed she had made a few a time or two without telling Walt she did.  In the blackness, she listened to the pulley haul the bucket up from the water.  There was that rush of the pail ripping the placid surface and the cascade of splashes as it spilled over the sides on the way up.  Walt pulled the bucket from the center of the well and let the rope go limp behind it.  He set it on the edge and cupped his hands into the cold, clean earth driven water.

Walt offered his hands to Marnie.  “Here, drink this.”

“You want me to drink out of your hands?  Are you being a pervert?”

 "No I am not being a pervert.  Just drink the fucking water already!”

Marnie hated it when he swore at her.  It was unlike him and now she knew they were both irritated.  She stepped closer to him and reached out in the dark to find his wet hands.  They had a slow leak and the water was dripping onto the tops of his shoes.  There was that beat again.  Always a beat.  She held his hands in hers and drank from them as if she had her face in a stream.

The water was beyond anything she had ever tasted.  Her mouth felt alive and her thirst doubled and tripled with each slurp.  When she had drank it down so low, she began to lap it up like a cat.  She stood there in the dark licking the water off the texture of his skin.  Her head was spinning.  Her heart was bursting with light.  Her body feather like.  Her thoughts somehow free.  Free.  Free.

Walt took his hands away from her mouth and put them on her shoulders.  By the well in the night they had shared something.  They both knew it. 

“I just saved you,” Walt said quietly.

“I know.”

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Not From Here Are You?  Guest Writer, 1/11

100 Years Will Get You Nothing

I blow my nose
standing topless in front
of the bathroom mirror,
after reading a poem
about an centenarian
awaiting the revolution,
with my breasts lying flat
against my chest like that old man’s
dream of an uprising.  I struggle
with the box of tissues—
pull out too many and catch
a glimpse of my tired face
and even more tired body
and wonder exactly
what am I doing here?

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Nibble

Cy Twombly, Animula Vagula, 1979

His soul speaks in tongues
all snakebite

A hand on the bible
one in the air,
mouth sucking in
a yellow ochre moon,
painting over the stars
with proposed holiness
that will get him locked
out of the gates.

He warbles into the night
sparks at his fingertips
body arced back
speaking with a devil’s
intention—split and bleeding
           and all the lost ones
gather round to read
the writing on his skin.
They wait quietly
for redemption.

Aleathia Drehmer 2011

Published by Riverbabble 1/11

Descendants of Centum Languages

Tears painted my cheek
and then your shoulder
as we listened to the wind
rap against the glass,
repeatedly, begging to come in.

You whispered,
Don’t cry.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Decompression 12/10

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

False Dreams of a Nightingale

People move in and out of tables
around us, each ordering plates of eggs
and toast. The smell of pancakes with
maple syrup is sickly sweet after
long hours in the ER, saving lives.

Both of us sit there
in an abbreviated second wind,
the years showing on her face
as I am sure they also do on mine
with all the losses we cannot forget.

There are tears over shared tragedies,
still fresh and painful,
that lead to ragged napkins
crumpled on the table amongst
the empty creamers and cold coffee.

She leaves the spot across from me
and I am suddenly aware of what this life
will become; one thankless night
after another, spanned over the decades
of my life, until I am here again

watching people drip egg on their shirts.
They make straws into geometric designs
in the awkward silences between bites
and I think to myself that I should have hugged her
when she told me her friend died.

Aleathia Drehmer 2008

Published by Decompression, 12/10

Lost Season, a novena

Day One

The light is faint through the window and my body lies in the silence of morning. She has died, I know. Her brilliance faded into tendrils of weakness on tree limbs and broadsided homes. Her smile is absent on my skin. She has died, I know. I rise with feet hovering above the sea of neutrality.

Day Two

They have come with her burial shroud, lacy and white, sheer muslin from stitched vapors in the crow’s beak. For once, they have nothing to say….just this once when I look for their clear calling across the meadow. She has died, I know. They have come as pall bearers now. I lift hands to sky asking questions; I stand willing and open for answers, however small. She has died, I know.

Day Three

I know when the ladybugs swarmed the air in a scarlet wind weeks ago that time was closing in, but never imagined she’d really go. It was not urgent in my mind, but now the elders have lined up in their naked grace. She has died, I know. Their once flexible branches now stiff in her passing. They no longer speak to me. Why is everyone so silent? Why is there no more crying out in the night? She has died, I know. I lay my hand upon great trunks with rough bark feeling for the heat of their cores, but there is nothing.

Day Four

She has died, I know. The path is covered in frost this mourning when I have come to absolve my disillusions of the world in her face. She would speak to me in the place where the paths crossed, where choices always come to be made. She has died, I know. “Mother” I call standing small with my own heart pumping in hand. I wait for an answer.

Day Five

“Come quick into the light before it goes” they whisper and from the downy wings of sleep my blanket warmed body shuffles from the dark cave in my mind. She has died, I know. With my head hanging and solid, I find the door. Its metal is rude and real. I need not open it to know that truth is only meant for dreams. She has died, I know. The window tells me to go back from whence I came. There are no answers here.

Day Six

In the night, I lie awake aware that maybe I have missed her in sleeping. My despair is fondled and molded into a new shape. It is warm and sticky on my fingers. She has died, I know. The night will not give me the answers. He is shrewd and keeps secrets. I count the breaths exhaled from my chest, waiting for something. She has died, I know.

Day Seven

I have counted 5,760 breaths, all of which whispered her name like a prayer. My body is suspended there momentarily until I go to the crossroads again. The goldenrod is gray there and the grass suffocated in thin white ice. The japonica will not even look at me; she has died, I know. I will wait until she comes. I will not move from this vigil. She has died, I know. The candle in my heart grows dimmer.

Day Eight

Sometime in the night my body collapsed onto the path. The pattern of rocks pressed sharply into my flesh, biting my cheek. She has died, I know. My nose shimmers with blue and I half wonder if I am still breathing. Have I forgotten to live while waiting? The thrush perches off in the distance. It calls me to waking, reminds me why I’ve come. Frozen hands push up frozen limbs from the ground. She has not come.

Day Nine

I have given up the wanting. She has died, I know. And by the window I sit more innocent than is understandable to me and somehow I am so empty I’ve become full. The rock pattern is still faintly indented into rosy cheek and I touch its outline. In it, I find the answer. Some grace of spirit has come to show me I am only human; I am real. She has died, I know.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Toy(ing) with the Revolution

You can’t wrap your fingers
around it, the elusive it.

There aren’t too many
things to wrap a finger

around, but the image
burns my eyes; your

fingers long and rough
wrapping around the neck

of the establishment. You
mutter it is all gift wrap

for tiny toys anyway. I try to laugh
but all I see are toy machetes

and your fingers the revolutionaries
taking it all down; your breath

the revolution itself, pulling
it in and spitting it back out.

Your tears create the flood
that washes them all away.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Prathamata (India), Print, 2010


We were opposites then,
I was olde world
and you were new—
inverted paradigm
freshly enslaved.

It is all stolen

It is all quick
in this black night
of rain slicked
pavement with
angles incongruent
and mouths indifferent.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Prathamata (India), Print, 2010

Reading Tea Leaves at Midnight

Through the window
the street light reflects
off the abandoned cars,
windows sheathed in the night’s
dew, now hardening into frost.

It is cold enough outside
to see the anatomy of autumn.
His sword falls onto the necks
of everything living, his blow
only hard enough to maim;
the deconstruction a whisper.

And inside, his fingers stitch
cobwebs in the empty places
we didn’t know existed.
We will find them when it is too late,
when the ground is covered in pale
misery, when there is no inspiration
to fight back.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by MUST, 10/10

Burrett's Mound

Josephine sat in the corner of the shelter off the edge of the yard. Her back was pinned against the cool pounded earth walls her grandfather had built so many years ago. She pulled her knees into her chest at the horror of the beastly winds above ground. They had not even reached her yet, but she felt their presence before the sirens beckoned her under earth.

She had been sitting on the porch after the day’s work in the fields, her knees feeling older than the stud beams of this house, watching a fall storm roll in across the flat plains of Kansas. Josephine had never lived anywhere but here on the outskirts of Topeka. She had never seen a mountain in real life nor the ocean. The thought of seeing those things were considered as implausible as living forever. But there on the far horizon the thunderheads formed. The lightning flashed like a fierce tongue lashing from Zeus. Josephine believed in Gods and Saints and all matter of higher powers. It was foolish not to in these tough lands with the devastation they could unleash.

Jo stood from the chair with her hand on the railing suddenly afraid of the electricity in the air. The chill of a freshly turned October was laden in skin as she pulled her sweater tighter. She had a feeling about this one despite it being late in the year, Josephine knew twisters could crop up if the heavens aligned just right; if the opposing air masses transcended their allotted space in the world. Now, she didn’t have any children to worry about and no man graced her bed (not in a great many years ) so she closed up the house and walked slowly to the shelter just passed the squared patch she had spent all day toiling.

The metal doors were heavy and rusty and in great need of oiling, but Josephine never seemed to find the time to do this sort of thing. She had not climbed down into this hole in so many years. With her flashlight, she located the tiny staircase and let the door clatter behind her. The sound was painful and filled her ears with pressured air. Josephine found the bench, sat down, and waited. She turned the flashlight off.

Here she was with an empty head and a racing heart that only beat faster in the darkness. An acrid taste formed in her mouth listening to the storm rage, rattling the steel doors like a rabid animal. Josephine sat there curled in a ball whispering devotions to St. Swithin under her breath knowing this time, he would not relent the storm. She prayed anyway.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Doorknobs & Bodypaint, Winner of the Hayward Fault Line Section, Issue 60

Batting .359

“Mr. Gibson, can you hear me?”

Josh Gibson heard the young nurse speaking at him, recognized nervousness in her voice and wondered if he looked that bad, or if she were merely star struck to be taking care of the “black Babe Ruth”?

“God it’s dark inside my head. I sho wish I could open my eyes,” he thought, feeling his lips move but knowing he wasn’t making no sound. Last he remembered it was 1943 and he was on his way to being the best baseball player in history…in any league. “I’ve done performed some exceptional deeds in these years of mine,” Gibson decided before fading into this continued state of dream inside a dream.

He faintly recalled sitting in some group session in the mental institution listening to the counselor tell them about St. Dymphna, the patron saint of their mental conditions and him snidely shaking his head. “You can pray to her if you like, she has been known to bring miracles of the mind,” the prim older lady told them. Somehow he couldn’t find it in his heart to pray to some vaulted Irish girl, what could some little, ghost of a white girl do for him now.

He felt the seizing of his brain; the lights fractured and sounds slowly fell under the current until there was nothing. He wasn’t sure what happened really. No one told him anything. He didn’t even know what day it was.

“Mr. Gibson, you alright in there?”

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Doorknobs & Bodypaint, Doorknobs section, Issue 60

Going to Prison (non-fiction)

In April, I will take my daughter across the country to Arizona to visit relatives that have never been a thought in her head. I contemplated not even going, to not even open up that section of questions and family when they were never even formed, but in good conscience I could not let my bad familial ties become hers. In Arizona there are a handful of cousins I have not seen in 20 years, a niece I have never met and an uncle in prison—all of whom had always been wonderful people.

One might begin to question why I would take my daughter into a prison situation and if I am honest, I must tell you my original thought was nothing more than family. In my own life, I spent a great deal of it moving around with very loose ties to my family members so that today, as an adult, they are names and faces I know, but not people that I am attached to. I did not want this for my child—to be separated from the possibility of knowing people that could somehow change her life. After thinking about the implications of bringing a young girl to a prison, I then began to see the benefits of the visit.

In this day and age I see many children that live in a nice bubble of protection afforded for them by their parents. They grow up thinking the world is happy and shiny and that everyone in it will be nice to them. As much as it pains me to know that isn’t reality, it pains me more to think I will send my child out into the world unequipped. She is a child who does not see consequences very readily; she does not understand the world out there. I remember being eight years old and it is an impressionable time. It is when independence really starts to rear its ugly head; there are only a few years of opportunity left before the teenage years when it is hard to get children to believe anything you say. The clock is ticking.

It would be safe to say that I don’t “know” these relatives of mine anymore, but in our youth we spent a great deal of time together, suffered together, laughed together and saw the world from common view points. I have always loved these cousins I am about to visit. I have always loved their father who is in prison. He is one of the kindest and funniest men I have ever met. The question was posed to me why would a man in prison want to expose his young niece to a prison setting? I have only one answer—family. Through all the hardships of his life and that which he has put his children through, he maintains that family is the most important thing in the world. It is something we cultivate no matter how hard that might be, no matter how difficult the circumstances, because in the end it is all we have.

So after contemplating these things, I asked my daughter if she would like to visit our uncle in prison when we go and her immediate reaction was tears. As an eight year old a child she only has what she sees on cartoons and television in which to form some sort of judgment as to why people are in prison and what goes on there. She had seen enough to have fear not of the prison itself, but of what was inside. I had not expected this reaction at all. It made me laugh until I saw that she was seriously worried. I told her she could stay with her cousins while I went if it scared her and she started crying harder. I asked her why and she said “because I would be worried sick about you getting hurt.” It was valiant that she thought her going with me would somehow protect me. The thought of her very being often does, though I have never told her this.

This question sparked a conversation laden with the effects of crime, prison systems and how one leads their life. I hesitated to continue on, not knowing how to approach each subject with knowledge, but had that feeling that this opportunity may never come by again. We discussed in general the reasons why some people commit crime and I spoke of our uncle’s problem specifically—drugs. I explained to her that he has spent half his life, on two separate occasions, in prison for armed robbery attempting to get money for drugs. My daughter questioned how come he just didn’t buy more instead of doing the crime.

I realized a valuable lesson about my child and how my own protective bubble keeps her from seeing the truth of the society we live in. In her generation, everything can be purchased as easy as going to the store and swiping a card; drugs are the norm; avoiding people accepted and saying things that are judgmental is easy as breathing. The estimated value of money means nothing and her perception is if you want it, you just go get it, no problem—it will always be available. I told her buying drugs is very expensive and getting caught for buying them or robbing for money to buy them is also a crime and this makes it a crime within a crime. These actions put you in jail or prison. The strained look on her face did not lessen and she had serious doubts about this uncle of ours and whether or not it would be safe to even speak to him. Her concrete thoughts were very evident and I felt like I was spinning my wheels.

I told her a story about the time I had visited a prison once during nursing school to look at the medical wing. During this tour, we saw all the sections, even general population. It was a frightening experience as an adult. The sound of bars locking, the guns and clubs, guards everywhere, the sound of the prisoners and the feeling their eyes give you as they scan you over. Going to the cell block was the most mentally defiling experience. The level of noise unbelievable and the amount of fear I could smell on myself was intense. I knew right then that prison life was never for me and that I couldn’t even stand to work there no matter how good the benefits were.

I explained to my daughter my experience and told her that she would not have to see those scary things, but she would see prisoners in the visiting room and the guards with their guns and she would get patted down before visitation. She said, “What is an eight year old going to do to hurt prisoners? I won’t have a gun.” I found it very hard to explain these hard cold facts about the world. I wanted her to live in a nice mental garden, but wondered to myself if that would really make her ready for the world? I told her imagine standing in our walk in closet and closing the door for which you could never open when you wanted to. You had no light and you had to share that space with another person even if you didn’t like each other. All your hours are spent thinking about the mistakes you made, or how to survive in a hostile place. You have no television and no computer and you wear the same clothes all the time. You get told when you can eat and when, if you are lucky, you can go outside and feel the sun on your face and remember what life could have been like…and when you imagine all of this, you are a prisoner. I told her that sometimes, people who aren’t in jail do this to themselves when they know they have done bad things. Her face softened some and thought again about the question I had asked her.

Despite her fear, she maintained that she wanted to go and meet this uncle, stating she was scared, but wanted to do it. I admired her bravery and her character and her curiosity. I told her this would be her chance to see what happens when you don’t live your life in a good way, when you let the temptations of the world take you over until you aren’t the one making the decisions. And as we finished this conversation in silence and contemplation, we passed a crew of juvenile jail workers on the side of the road showing her that living right, starts now.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by On The Wing, Full of Crow, 9/10

These days continue

The sun burns the left side of my face,
and the wind follows cooling the skin slightly
pushing a loose hair across my nose, tickling it.

Marley on the radio sings about Jammin’
as I peer over the laptop
at delicate blushed tulips and blue flags
unfurling in light; tiger lilies wait to explode
and I think of you sitting at the table with me.

Our silence would be comfortable
with hands reaching across the space between,
fingers touching like feathers.

Love is as easy as that one movement,
as easy as spring through paned windows,
as easy as the cat at our feet,
as easy as summer music,
or as easy as fresh faced flowers tilting towards heaven.

Yes, I think of you now,
here in this moment sharing life and breath,
holding hands in the afternoon.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Published by Poet Plant Press, "The Love Book", 2010

Art Can't Save Me Now

There is an urgency around her neck

his finger’s watermark
left indelible from now on
changing color, solidifying
and taunting memories

          from me
          from left hooks to my jaw
          from tire marks on my mother’s bones
          from babysitter’s unrecognizable face.

I want to shake her but he has
done a fair job of that
not enough to make her leave

even though I tell her love doesn’t look like this,
doesn’t raise hands, doesn’t steal your breath by force,
doesn’t threaten icy river graves out of jealousy.

She can’t look at me
when she tells me she feels sorry
for people who have no one,
who beg her to come back
no matter what the cost.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Poet Plant Press, "The Love Book", 2010

The Runner

Bridget ran through the park as if her life depended on it. She never bothered to look back, just ran until her face mottled purple in the heat of her working body; until there was a wide band of sweat encircling her brow. At the edge of the tree line, she stood hunched over with her hands on her knees, chest heaving for air. Her mind went completely numb after finding Jackson with blood on his hands, standing at the sink frantically scrubbing it away. She noticed a look of insanity on his face and how he smelled of panic.

Jackson didn’t notice her or hear her enter the apartment. He only knew Bridget was there when her elbow bobbled the vase of sunflowers from the table by the door. He watched them fall in slow motion; each petal golden and beautiful, perfect. He saw them smash to the floor and smiled at the green smelling water pooling on the Berber carpet like magic. Jackson could hear each drip as it launched itself from the lip of the cherry finished table. He could hear her breath as it increased and the covered gasp when the vase landed, but did not shatter. He could hear the guttural tones lifting up into her throat though not escaping her mouth.

“Bridget….close the door” Jackson said.

She stood there unable to move. Her mind racing “What has he done? What has he done?” over and over like a chant. Bridget felt stuck with fear as he began to move from behind the counter towards her. She felt her skin rile up and the acid in her stomach began to boil and burn her esophagus. “Ten years,” she thought, “and I don’t even know him.”

He advanced on her and she began to back up instinctively, her hands flying up in front of her as if they would stop the bulk of his fury. There was a storm on his face she had never seen before, though it was so distinct, she wondered how she never noticed it resting there latent all these years. Bridget felt her back ram into the edge of the door and she cried out in pain, stumbling. Jackson’s blood-stained hands reached out to take her arm, still wet and smelling of darkness. He wrapped his fingers around her left bicep with a fierce grip, squeezing the tips into Bridget’s flesh until it blanched beneath them. She wrenched her arm backwards and surprisingly it came free, leaving someone else’s blood transferred onto her pale skin.

Bridget looked at it a split second before she turned and started running. Her feet flew down the stairs—floated like she did when she was a child. Jackson lumbered after her, shouting things she could not understand or process. The only sounds that registered were the thumping of her heart, the blood rushing in her ears, and the quickening of breath that pinched her ribs.

She stood there now, alone; nothing more than an accordion of flesh letting the body regulate itself and waiting for the sounds of life again that would ease her back into reality. Bridget felt a wind sweep up and dry the salt to her forehead. She felt the chilling deep inside her bones as her breath suddenly lightened and her limbs relaxed into themselves. She crouched on the ground with the smell of the grass under her nose. This somehow settled her as the first drops of rain began to fall. She felt like a pebble in the river, something far beneath the surface that could not be seen or touched. And in the juxtaposition of light, Bridget watched the bloody fingerprints begin to dissolve and run down her arm. “Some things,” she said aloud to no one, “are best learned in storm.”

Aleathia Drehmer 2008

Published by Full of Crow Fiction 10/10

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Empty Bed

What could Julia do? Bernard had been the love of her life, her every breath, her heartbeat, her sweat, her longing, her anger, her everything. She felt lost when she woke in the morning to find his side of the bed empty and cold. At first she imagined Bernard at the corner market buying fresh oranges and strawberries and maybe smelling the flowers before paying Carlos with not only money, but also with the kindness of his smile.

When he did not come back after this thought, Julia had to concoct another to excuse his absence. Maybe he went to the record store down the street, she thought to herself, he was just talking about finding that Miles Davis record from a festival in 1969. She imagined Bernard cradling the produce under his arm gently while he fingered the covers of the old records, smiling and nodding when he found something satisfactory and familiar. Julia could almost smell the must of the vinyl and hear that soft sound of pressured air as the records leaned into each other.

Bernard still did not appear after this thought. Julia began to worry a little now. She rose from the warmth of her cotton sheets, her old faded nightgown sliding over her knees where it had crawled up to in the night. She let the floor get sturdy under her feet before putting on her slippers. Julia felt the nervous tremble in her hands begin and hoped she could keep herself from a state of panic.

The lazy morning sun was piling in through the sheer curtains and Julia walked to the window and pulled one aside. The street below was bustling with early morning commuters and children off to the last days of school and old folks that had no other place to be. She scanned the area feverishly for sight of Bernard. There was no trace of him. Julia turned from the window and went to the kitchen to start the coffee. Bernard will want coffee when he returns, she thought.

Julia sat at the kitchen table, the coffee in her mug now cold as she stared at it. It was nearing noon and still he had not come home. Her face looked more aged than it should be at 62 and her thinning hair lay in ragged, dirty strands about her face. Something caught her eye from the center of the table. It was a paper or a card with Bernard’s name and face. Julia reached out but did not touch it. She was unsure of what it could be, or what it could mean. Her arm hung suspended in air, frozen in fear, until at last the tips of her fingers felt the laminated paper beneath them.

She pulled it closer to her face. There was Bernard staring at her so handsome in his wavy chestnut hair and warm smile. She touched his face, his teeth, his eyes, his curved nose. Julia read the words:

“Bernard Jones, loving husband, lay to rest in the arms of God. April 19th, 2010. He is survived by his wife Julia (Martin) Jones.”

“No,” she cried, “no!”

The shiny paper fell from her hand onto the floor. Her arm dropped into her lap like a weight. Julia began to cry.

“How could you leave me Bernard? I loved you from the attic of the world, from that ivory tower you rescued me from. I loved you wider and deeper than any ocean. I loved you. How could you leave me?”

There was nothing but the sound from the street to answer Julia; nothing but the wind blowing the curtains inward; nothing but the pounding of her own heart and the dripping of water into the sink. There was nothing.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Haggard & Halloo 8/10

The Philosophy of Heat

Bart and Zaria both lie limp on the blanket under the oak tree at the park. Their books creased open onto their chests recording their ragged breaths in the blistering summer heat. The air is thick as sauna steam and Zaria’s head is pounding with dizziness. She can feel the sweat rolling from her skin and collecting onto the back of her green tank top.

“How hot is it Bart?” she asks almost too slowly so the words sound cryptic.

“Dunno sweetie, ‘bout a hundred I think.”

“Oh. It feels like we are burning in hell.”

“For your sins or mine?”

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Not From Here Are You?  Special Jury Award

A Dead Man's Chest

Chad was keenly aware he was trapped behind the fallen rocks. He had felt the rumble as he paddled deeper into the coastal cave. The light from his helmet scattered fractals into the dark churning waters barely lighting up the carved walls. There was history in here and maybe treasure too, but he had come for history. But that seemed less important now.

It took him several minutes to right himself after the boulder broke from the ledge above the cave causing water displacement to smash his kayak against the cool pointed formations. He had kept himself from curling under, just barely, but he had done it. The light had been weak before the opening was sealed but now he was left with only a thin shining from his head lamp. Chad allowed himself to panic for just a moment. His throat was dry and the air now torrid despite the lack of sun.

He had to find another opening before the batteries from the lamp ran dry. Chad hated to defile nature, but considered in times of life or death, being ecologically sound mattered little. He pulled the small can of spray paint from his pack and marked his starting point. He prayed he would not paddle in circles. He prayed for a ray of sunlight. He contemplated all this praying as the stilled waters were cut by his hand hanging over the side. He had come for history. He realized he might be writing his own.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Doorknobs & Bodypaint

By the River

Martina sat agitated under the oppression of the Mississippi river. Her blood boiled in the August night, but not specifically from heat. An American named Frank joined her table at the cafĂ© by the rolling, muddy river. He made small talk and sounded like a Yankee. Frank’s interest in Martina escalated when her French accent touched the air. He studied her face in the syrupy setting sun and how she carried her head and the shine of her chestnut hair with strands jumping loose in the heat.

She winced at his harsh English spewed forth to bait her with conversation about the history of the Louisiana Purchase and whether or not Napoleon did a disservice to France by giving up the port of New Orleans. Frank’s tone was condescending and vile as if he single-handedly supported the acquisition on his shoulders when he wasn’t even an embryonic thought at the turn of the 18th century. His arrogance made Martina livid. She cut him with her tongue and the sharp corners of her knowledge about the dealings of her own country. Both of them were overheated in patriotism.

By the time the fireflies arrived, they were silent and breathing heavy in the dark. Martina wanted to send him to the guillotine. Frank felt like he held the ability to deport her opinions to his back pocket, invoking John Adams Alien Act. He was unsure why he found his lips on hers and even more puzzled she allowed it.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Doorknobs &  Bodypaint (winner of the Doorknobs section)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Three for Tea

13 rooms fashioned in a time machine,
the relationship between magic and beauty building
until we collapse on the curved wooden bench,
golden slatted tree hearts carrying our weight,
facing Picabia’s transparencies; eyes twitching then closed.

You tumble at last with face pinned to the glass
admiring Duchamp’s chess set and his headiness
to give it all up for the game, moving pawns
through invisible patterns garnered in both minds,
ten steps ahead of time and space.

We emerge from the end of the tunnel into splintered light, its sudden lift
at once weary and heavy, pushing us down the escalator
through color blocked art we’d never witness. Descention brings
silence, no words equaling the imprints now in cells.
Our bodies part directions at the bottom.

I find you leaning over the rail outside the doors,
the glass towering above you, monolithic, and the fag
in your hand souring the air, the smoke pulls me closer.
I dream of suffocating the images, tweezing each color and form
from between sluiced gray matter with precision.

We curl our chests over together, watch relatives struggle
to push their fat, crippled kin up steep ramps from the underbelly.
The pompous rapid language of French pre-teens, intermittent with laughter,
tells how unsettled they are in their skins; how we all fit that
shame in one lifetime or another.

Our elbows touch point-to-point, inhaling and then out
love still molding and shaping its way onto blank canvas;
colors being chosen carefully, meticulous to a fault,
because some things cannot be erased.

Aleathia Drehmer 2008

Published by Clutching at Straws 2/10

Faltered Exchange Through the Doorway

I want to punch things---
his face, our failed
marriage, his inability to live
now, his incessant need to fumble
backwards in loop, his voice
a skipping record.

I want to scream obscenities
into the phone, decimate
what’s left of him, knock
him further into the ground
so he can’t resurrect Lazarus
again and again and again,
each time voiding another
good memory from our crumbled

But I cannot
I will not
I won’t.
Instead I breathe deeply
and imagine myself
encased in the ribs
of Gandhi.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Published by Leaf Garden Press 3/10

Loose Netting

My limbs slide through the water
                                         without resistance,
                  tepid waves swallow me
                       in a vacuum of fragile, braided reflections
      as my face submerges.
             Water fills the crevices of my body
                           like whispers. I think of your
                grasping hands like loose netting
         slipping over my flesh
as I sink to the bottom.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Published by Leaf Garden Press 3/10

No Longer Will I Be Hungry

Light snow falls in thrown light,
me, spread out alone
with the sound of cycling breath
easy in late hours.

The mind wanders
into new lover’s beds, men
who don’t tarry; explorers
here only to claim parcels
of a fleshy tome for respective
queens and kings.

Tongues warm against breasts,
skilled fingers tracing shin blades,
soft lips meek on inked knees, and
all their bodies jagged and diminished;
our meeting pure existentialism.

And when they have claimed me
with colorful flags of arms,
filled bellies and eased minds,
I am left alone in snowed light
smiling into easy breathing
of late hours.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Published by Leaf Garden Press 3/10


Meek and in the corner,
she was the only one sober enough
to hear me say I was going
to the corner gas station for smokes.

She sidled up to me
and put on her coat, insisting.
I shrugged rippled with tequila
and recklessness and walked out the door.

In front of the house on the return,
we had silent folded arms under stars,
hers long and thin like bird wings tucked
under, mine lost in a coat too big.

She had something to say, I could sense,
but not enough gumption to start so
I began speaking of the fragilities of new love
and old thin strangulations by men,
hers physical and mine always mental.

She recalled her year in a domestic
abuse shelter, hiding with her daughter
and had I not been drunk already, I would
have cried for how lucky I had been
to just be lonely and isolated for years.

We spoke of single motherhood,
of making the grade in unsure times—
divorces and mental institutions looming
and the two of us strangers but together here
always grasping our insecurities with both hands.

They are driven in by false men’s hearts.
They are patted down by the unknowing.
They are looked over by family, the embarrassment
too much for any of them and we swallow
pride on a daily basis, pour secrets into
the night on streets of cities we don’t know
just to somehow get by another day
with a smile pasted to our faces.

And when my cigarette is finished
and our breaths twine in the chill of the night
there is a pause, some understanding
sealed with a nod before rejoining the others
who did not notice our leaving.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Published by Leaf Garden Press 3/10

Waiting by the Window

We carry these symbols like a dedication,
an opening to move freely between us,
as if permission needed granting. They
are collected verbs unused, abject nouns
and solemn whispers through wood.

Their metal adds weight to our chains,
slung easily into pocket or purse,
but remain heavy in hand when
not in use. They are our quiet
neglected conversations;

these keys to each other’s
apartments which never seem
to be of use. On my ring, a duo
of non-descript silver fingers
jangle with the rest of them.

                            They could be keys to anything, but they
                            are his. I have marked them in black ink.

His crux to my door is enameled royal
blue and somehow off the mark
a millimeter or two in their making;
no engagement from the tumbler,
no satisfying click and turn. I always
wait by the window anyway.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Published as spoken word by The Big Other 1/10

Two dimensional ships set sail

His impatience with me is sometimes
notable as I wander off taking
photographs—finding worlds around
inanimate objects where he sees none.

Our point of views drastically askew,
his alive in the observation of the human
condition, mine static in the imprints
left behind by man and woman.

The vestibule of our sights
is seen from above and below
with our ages dictating the equations
of time and amassed energy.

There is a pinched tone in his voice,
biting tongue at me
always falling behind.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Published by Scythe Literary Journal 1/10