Jessica McCaughey

Sleep in the Week that Follows

Sunday Night
Michael is dying. In my dream, he has gone blind, but seems to know it's me creeping up to his bed, where he lies 
in dirty jeans, eyes shut, and without the thick blue frames I so intricately paired to his face at the eye doctor’s 
office. Smaller now, his eyes are swollen and red. I walk around the room slowly and his attention follows me. 
He tells me that soon his hearing will go as well. And then the rest. I sit on the edge of the unfamiliar 
antique-style bed. I nod and touch his arm. I am cold and he is warm. We both flinch as our skin sparks. All I can 
think of is how much I'd like to leave.

I wake crying over my ambivalence. It is cool and black with a bluish tint in my bedroom, but the dream had been 
orange, candlelit, and I feel my eyes change, as if struggling to adjust.

Monday Night
At 2:00 I am jarred awake by my own voice in the cold. It's monotone; an exhausted call for help, as if some 
caretaker will answer at the slightest call, sit down and pat my fingers or my hair. As if they might bring a warm 
washcloth to my forehead, heal me, warm me in combat of the broken heater. My shoulder sore from lying at an 
odd angle, I wiggle my body, working out the ache and the mental reverberation.

Tuesday Night
Woody Allen is in the kitchen of my grandfather's house, and has talked me into making a bomb with him.

"It's not like we're going to use it. What're you, crazy?" he asks me. "We're just going to make it."

I am easily convinced. The bomb requires coffee, and lots of it. With the two-cup brewer, it takes a while. 
I pour small pot after small pot into a steel vat, but eventually I get careless. Grinds overspill. Weak batches 
are mixed in. Woody is not happy. My father walks in with familiar donuts, those that powder-coated my 
childhood weekends. He reprimands me for my bomb-making attempt.

"If you want to help Woody make a bomb, that's your business. But first you need to go clean up your laundry."

The downstairs is littered with my dirty underwear and t-shirts. I'm embarrassed and can't clean them up fast 
enough.

Wednesday Night
Sitting on the ground and holding a glass of water between my knees, I struggle to balance and escape an 
inward-collapsing gravel hole. Like quicksand, it slides and sinks while I struggle on all fours, backwards like a crab, 
panicked. I look over, and Michael is on firm ground in a beach chair. He sees me, but turns away. I waddle faster 
as the hole picks up speed, expanding. I abandon my water, hear it ping, then shatter on its way down, and focus 
on the business of scooting awkwardly toward safety.

Thursday Night
Only solid, pinot noir-soaked sleep.

Friday Night
Years ago it was reoccurring: I have found an old love. We are rapt, yet each time we kiss, our mouths fill with sand. 
Only the location of the dream changed. A museum. A basement. A cave.

Now snow is falling quickly, and Michael and I watch silently from his oversized, dusty window. I want to stay, though
at first he seems reluctant to have me. Then he kisses me. 

There is no sand, but it feels like the kiss of an uncle or a cousin. I push forward into him anyway. Downstairs we 
watch people dance on television. His roommate is a rail-thin model, and mocks the costumes in her raspy voice. 
The doorbell rings, but all we find are strands of long, dark hair in a trail of snow.

Saturday Night
I dream of us lying on an orange-blanketed bed in the middle of the day. The fabric is worn and soft, faded and 
puckered from the wash. The sun warms us through the window. Our limbs stretch out toward all four corners. 
My head is propped on Michael's stomach, and we let out contented murmurs, hands grazing shoulders, eyes closed.
When I remember I'm not supposed to be there, I sit up and look toward the window and squint, stalling. Eventually
I go, pulling one hand from his leg, one from the blanket. Stepping off the blanket is sadder than the earliest, coldest 
mornings in winter, broken heater and all.

Jessica McCaughey earned her MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University in Virginia. Her work has appeared in The Colorado Review, Silk Road Review, Best American Travel Essays 2011, and Phoebe, among other publications. She teaches first-year and professional writing at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

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Joanne Lozar Glenn

A Tailor’s Daughter Explores Loving-Kindness Meditation

In the seven points of mind training, one must become accustomed to ripping the selvage 
edges of even beautifully brocaded material. It is important to train in the preliminaries, 
so first the tailor’s daughter scraps the vestiges of old patterns. Then she mends the 
tears ever so gently, basting the garment parts to each other as carefully as the stone 
frog balances on the edge of the red lacquered chest, joining in meditation whatever 
she meets unexpectedly: a snag in the silk noil, skipped stitches where the presser foot 
hiccupped. She knows to thread a sturdier needle with new yarns cut from string art in 
random arrangements brought to light under the soft glow of the Chinese porcelain lamp 
resting in the alcove. In advanced practice, she will learn to pink the seams so there is 
no unraveling. She must not allow things to come to a painful point. Inserting a freshly 
wound bobbin allows the new garment to be fused from both sides, so that sending and 
taking can be practiced alternately. It is an operation as delicate and as precise as the 
Tiffany lamp fitting its light over the filigreed brass bookstand that holds the tracing 
paper, yet she abandons any hope of fruition. “Gold leaf over all,” the tailor insists, 
and so she turns the wheel, correcting all missteps with this one intention: regarding 
all dharmas as dreams. The grow lights in the Tiffany lamp are doing their work. Soon 
she will have a slice of lacquered redwood to show for all her efforts, being grateful to 
everyone and vowing from this day forward to be a child of illusion.

Joanne Lozar Glenn writes and edits content for clients in healthcare, education, and business, and leads writing retreats at the beach and in the mountains. Her essays and poems have been published in Amaranth Review, Peregrine, Under the Gum Tree, and other literary journals.

October Edition: When You’re Strange

Social Anxiety Disorder, by Heather Doherty
Social Anxiety Disorder, by Heather Doherty

Welcome to Ayris magazine’s second online themed issue! This month we will feature poems that in someway express our theme of When You’re Strange. In our call for submissions we asked for creative pieces that explore the strangeness observed in the world. Each Tuesday and Thursday of this month, we’ll share the best of the best from the submissions we received.

Gail Comorat

Love Song

Some mornings I wake to find you
leaning over me, watching me

with a scientist’s intensity
as if I am a specimen of water 

no longer wet. We study each other 
like photographers measuring light. 

It is in darkness that we speak truths. 
We wonder if we’re crazy, if it’s bad 

to still love ourselves after all these years.
Our parents’ DNA and damaged cells

inhabit our backbones, each of us 
already displaying our own patterns 

of infidelity. We take turns 
wearing the strait jacket, fake-smile

as we buckle and unbuckle our arms 
around hollow abdomens. Our hourglass 

of sand is trickling through 
the thin waist of time. 

Give me a bright grain of hope. 
Promise me redemption. 

Sing my praises. 
Perhaps I’ll sing yours.

Gail Braune Comorat, a founding member of Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, has been published in Grist, Adanna, Gargoyle, and various anthologies. She received a 2011 fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts as an emerging writer in poetry, and was the winner of the 2012 Artsmith Literary Award for her poem “Summer of Ladybugs.”

Sandra Kohler

Notes from One Spring

In the hospital, holding my granddaughter Katie,
two hours old: she is red, chapped, her body raw, 
undone. The play of reactions on her face, fluid, 
transparent – an array that mirrors mind –
sensations reactions impressions responses 
quick fleeting, cross it, are caught for moments, 
puzzlement or inchoate wonder. Playing on 
her tiny visage, the experience of a world.

		***

How delicate the orchid I’ve moved into this room:
darker, smaller than the one I switched it with, curling
scallops more like a butterfly, exquisite insect form.

		***

I don’t know what’s happening in the cutting bed.
If I planted marguerites where I thought I planted
cosmos, are they coming up, will they, are they just 
slow? The mountain bluet are over; if I cut them
back, will they rebloom? The fragrance of flags – 
white iris – is as pervasive as the pale thin sunlight 
glazing every leaf or shoot. If the garden about which 
I know at least a little baffles me, what about my 
growing granddaughter? About whom I know 
everything and nothing. 

		***

We begin as creatures, fundamental: 
the in-and-out chart my son keeps for
Katie: eating and peeing and defecating. 
Almost all he says about her is focussed 
on these processes. She experiences hunger, 
cold, warmth, wetness, movement, noise, 
the pleasures and pains her body provides.
What else? What is color or pattern like 
for her, what does she dream, does 
she dream, of what is she aware beyond 
bodily sensation? Of what is she 
conscious, what is it like to be her?

		***

Small birds flutter through the garden, larger
ones go overhead. Light and shadow on leaves
of the choke cherry, the tree hydrangea quiver
and ripple, shift and shimmer; summer is stirred
by morning; shaken, evenings, by storm. In the
eastern sky, a plane. Our neighbor and her sister 
across the street come out, dressed in pink, cream, 
icy pastel colors, their hats flower-decked boats 
sailing on upswept hair, their faces veiled. On 
the skinny stems of high heels they are flowers 
too, blooming in the gray gloom, on their way 
to whose wedding, what celebration?

		***

In the film we saw yesterday at the Science Museum,
the mountain climber whose mountain climber father 
died on the north face of the Iger when his son was nine 
is obsessed with climbing the same mountain; it will 
liberate him, he believes, from the fear and grief 
that imprisoned him at his father’s death. For this, 
he’ll risk inflicting that anguish on his daughter, 
eleven. When he survives the climb, he feels freed. 
Why? His childhood was what it was, as mine was.
Our pasts exist still, have not been obliterated.

	***

My granddaughter’s no longer that not-quite-
formed raw red creature, startlingly new;
her skin’s pale, creamy. Her exhausted mother 
tells me she sleeps a lot; awake, cries a lot. 
Today, our windows open, I hear Katie crying, 
hear a bird insistent on making his sound, 
voices from a yard a few houses down where 
someone’s working. Call and response. Cries, 
voices, birds, the drum of a hammer, chitter 
of squirrels, drone of a plane. A radio comes 
on, an announcer’s voice, will there be music? 
It’s loud. It’s off. Around me, what is being 
built, torn down, rebuilt? 

		***

Sage and raspberry thrive in this backyard,
meanwhile something’s broken off new growth
on the andromeda, phlox. I suspect a dog.
The cutting bed, weeded, hoed, watered, 
mulched, is full now of zinnias and cosmos, 
sunflower studded among them. Where to 
put peonies next year, which is the sunniest 
spot in the backyard? I say peonies but I have 
only one, a frail thing. I may have killed that 
clump of ornamental grass I uprooted and
replanted in the shade bed. The mountain
bluet I divided has buds; it will rebloom. 
Experiment, experiment. To garden well 
is to be opportunistic, both 
intentional and spontaneous.

		***

Her mother can’t figure out why Katie’s fussing, 
she’s fed, dry, “You just don’t like being two months 
old, do you?” How we want to pierce that impassable
barrier, unbridgeable gulf of distance between us, 
even mother and child, that isolate unsurmountable 
wall that locks us, from our beginnings, in the absolute 
loneliness of selfhood. We believe we can, that if 
we do it right, the barrier will vanish, enlightenment
will tear down that prison, banish the suffering 
we need not inherit, pass on. We can’t.

		***

In raw rain, I plant a hundred
crocus in the backyard lawn. I want more
clematis, peonies. What fits in my life,
where? Yesterday, the doctor I see every
six months to check for growths says 
yes, it takes ten years to create a garden.
I’ve begun.

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, appeared in May, 2011 from Word Press. Her second collection, The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 AWP Award Series in Poetry, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in November, 2003. An earlier volume, The Country of Women, was published in 1995 by Calyx Books. Her poems have appeared over the past thirty-five years in journals including Prairie Schooner, The New Republic, Beloit Poetry Journal, APR, Natural Bridge, The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, and The Colorado Review.

Michael Ray

The Auk-House

She digs a circle into the hill 
overlooking the pier and horse-shoe cove, 
a foundation-ring of pebbles and rocks 
pounded flat with a water-logged plank.

She fillets mackerel dries each spine, 
presses them into the earthen floor;
threads haddock and cod on long willow sticks 
builds a tower, five fish thick,
covered in carrageen, wood-ash and clay. 

With the back of a spoon she rubs the walls, 
exposes a constellation of eyes, 
cuts out a moon-window facing the sea, 
pricks, with a whitethorn, nine hundred scales, 
stitches and hangs them with strands of her hair, 
to make up a mirror and scatter the light. 

On the beach she gathers six ribs from a whale, 
cobbles them into a frame for the roof; 
tempts two seals with buckets of fish, 
removes their skins with a razor-sharp knife, 
covers the rafters to keep out the night. 

The beak of an auk tied overhead, 
turns on its shadow into the tide
as she lies inside, on a bed of brown kelp, 
closes her eyes, head full of him, 
thinks back to the morning they kissed on the quay, 
and she watched and waved as the wake of his boat 
spread all the way to the edge of the world, 
to the end of the world.

Michael Ray is a glass artist living in West Cork. His poems have appeared in: The Moth, Asylum, Poetry 24, The Irish Independent, The Shop, Cyphers, and The Bare Hands Anthology. In 2012 he was shortlisted for the Cúirt New Writing Poetry Prize, and won second prize in the Fish poetry competition. In 2013 he was shortlisted for the Hennesy award.

Jay Sizemore

My New Bed

Tonight I sleep in an ashtray,
last night I slept on the couch,
my body squeezed into a space
it was not meant to fit,
like an accordion stuffed into
a coffee can
or a human being inside
a dog house inside a grave
being shoveled over
with eggshells.

I prefer the ashtray,
my feet do not hang
off the edge of my new bed.
Instead, I sleep sound,
I drink in the night whispers
of ghostly conceptions,
the dark stains of
premarital virginity,
phantasms of former selves
that wrap around me
like supernatural blankets.

I dream.
I wake up.
I wash off the scent of smoke,
the aftermath
of living inside
a burning house.

Jay Sizemore writes poetry because he needs to. His attention span is too short to write novels. Blame the internet. Some of his work has seen daylight in journals online and in print. Although he considers a day job to be the enemy of imagination, he has found poverty to be the cruelest of muses. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three cats.