Four magpies huddle,
black tail feathers twitching
as they alight on Balsam fir,
forage for remnants.
A stranger driving past
might see a dusting of snow,
pinecones spaced randomly
How will any of us know
when it is safe to mingle
over a meal or bottle of wine?
Is there an equation for kindness,
a formula for equity?
The cure for loneliness
is kinship, a fractal
carried in memory,
tone of voice.
Love’s geometry, distance
and relative position.
Your night, my day.
My hand, your thigh.
No one would blame us for marrying voices
or inventing language
We are tethered to this morning,
watching the birds,
and their tiny conquests,
our bodies humming and poised.
“Mathematics and Language” is available in Sky Island Journal . It is included in Lisa's new collection of poetry Interrogation of Morning.
When the whale dominates
everything that isn't whale
is a kind of hope,
not a platitude,
surfacing in white caps
concealing migrating tuna or salmon
on their journey
to warmer waters.
The naturalist lifts binoculars
so a child can peek
at the kind of mass
that hints at relativity
while a tuna
follows a conscripted path
of truth or ritual.
don't claim justice for their catch
but food is its own reward.
yet any of us can be felled
by microscopic forces,
the opposite of whale.
“Whales” is available in Hawaii Pacific Review . It is included in Lisa's new collection of poetry Interrogation of Morning.
We sang Amazing Grace
to the walk light and fire hydrant.
Shadows of buildings inhaled exhaust
and I counted my remaining freedoms,
while your fever rose.
Night is a thief, you said.
and we wandered
into a part of town
for the healthy poor.
You handed the girl with a headscarf
your woolen coat.
The night after
you stopped breathing,
the moon was bloated
Only a handful of stars showed up.
I spun into cities I didn't know,
to meet your sisters, uncles,
foreign friends, tentative and visible.
I called you the name you chose
as if you would answer
but your family
repeated a name you shed
like the coat you no longer needed
because you were warm enough
and that girl, the one
with the headscarf
“Imposter” is available in Lily Poetry Review. It is included in Lisa's new collection of poetry Interrogation of Morning.
We're cross-legged on Angel's bed, her last four phones spread out in front of us. She tells her mother that her latest stopped working and she gets a new one. I'm at least three models behind her. I pick up her iPhone 6.
"Can't you sell these on eBay?"
Angel gives me that look she reserves just for me – kind of do you even live in 2018? – combined with do I look like I need the money? Her mother is a special kind of superstitious, beginning with Angel's name. Everyone knows that Angela is the feminine form of Angel, but she's named after a stillborn brother. This is where it gets complicated. He was christened Bryant, but because he's presumably an angel and her mother got pregnant again immediately, Angel gets stuck with being the reincarnation of her dead brother. See what happens when religion sucks all the logic from your brain?
"Lulu? Your father needs you to pick up milk on the way home." Angel's mother pokes her blonde head in the bedroom door. Her hair looks like a bathing cap, sleek and the color of dandelions. I wonder if a hairdresser convinced her this was a good look. Angel gives me her half-smile because we both think her mother is more than a little off, kneeling before all these tables she has set up with pictures of the Blessed Virgin and Jesus. It ruins the flow of the house, kind of an anti Feng Shui.
I don't think my father cares about milk. He’s just checking to see if I’m really at Angel's house. After three letters from school informing him of my unexcused absences, he makes feeble attempts to monitor my whereabouts. He's crafty, my Dad, pretending to need help moving furniture or fixing the insulation so I'll stick around. Once he saw me put a jackknife in my backpack before walking to the bus.
You can read the rest of “Consorts” where it first appeared in New Southern Fugitives. It is included in Lisa's second and most recent collection of short fiction, Impossibly Small Spaces (Arlen House/Syracuse University Press, 2018), which is available through Syracuse University Press and Bookshop.org.
So there we were, ten years after the honeymoon, and him clomping across the cafe in his steel-toed boots to find a seat near the front window, cluttered with taped-on flyers advertising church bazaars and yoga lessons. Outside a few zinnias flapped limp petals in the humid puff of air they call a breeze around here. He pushed over a stack of Time magazines and newspapers to make room for his macchiato, double order of bacon, and sketchpad.
I sat on a cast iron chair near the back, by the espresso machine. There was a painting of a woman in a gauzy dress kissing a man under a red umbrella even though I swear it didn’t look like a speck of rain was falling, her dress all billowy and the blue-white of those tiny flowers that dot fields back home in May. Just how it is with us, we prepare for rain where there isn’t any, a damn hurricane or one of those funnel clouds that the airbrushed woman on Channel 55 says there’s a thirty percent chance of it hitting somewhere, tearing up roads and picking up pets and even cars. Sometimes ten years can make a woman feel like life has caught her in a headlock, and she’s choking on all that monotony.
Clem’s the quiet kind. He eats too much and smokes those Maduro cigars so I’ll probably be a widow someday though God’s a fickle sort, taking my Auntie Viv at forty-two and letting my bastard Grampy Murray live long enough to gamble away the family money. I order up an egg over easy and iced tea, pretend not to see his extra bacon though Doctor Song warned him in April about fat. Clem doesn’t believe in anything but fate. If it’s my time, it’s my time. Fine. I'd like a guarantee that his time won’t drag on for years, draining all our meager resources.
“Anna, you’re gonna marry me. You'll see.”
“Growing a New Tail” is the title story in Growing a New Tail (Arlen House/Syracuse University Press, 2015), Lisa Taylor’s debut short fiction collection. Read the rest of this story where it first appeared in Bartleby Snopes and others in Growing a New Tail, which is available through: Syracuse University Press and Bookshop.org.
The tail protrudes from the wheel well
of my Toyota. I think it is a twig
until I see its utter pinkness,
glimpse of matted fur dark with blood.
I’ve been unconsciously spinning away life.
I pretend I’m not a part
of this drama.
I was only doing thirty.
Harsh, vital world.
Lives catch under wheels.
I have to stop my rushing,
these continuous murders.
In the night, the bleating goat wind
comes calling, plaintive cry
that seeps under the door until
the animal is at my bedside rubbing
his white horned head against my pillow
and I want to give him hay,
a promise and a ring.
I kneel praying to the long-haired woman
in the moors wind,
her dune-colored locks stirred up
like a lapwing beating
wings in a crazed tumble
through laden air.
Stranger rapping at the door wind
arrives in time for tea,
four short, one long;
windows answer with breathy sighs,
This morning the wind
on a stone wall, a tentative cry
leads me to unlock
the door, gather her
into my arms, make porridge
with fresh cream and honey.
In the afternoon, the wind turns old,
full of rheumatism and rotting teeth,
a shallow exhalation
that takes unnaturally long.
Now wind is a sure lover,
hands all over me,
drawing breath in sharp little intakes.
I’m panting so hard,
I forget to hold onto my cap
and he takes it, holding it high
as I chase him down a path
rimmed with brambles;
collapse amid spurge and milkwort,