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by Tara Seibel

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In the Drought

by Dennis Toth

Bleached and weathered
           rows of tattered stalks,
Crisp and golden from
           endless sun and days.

Crows made lazy circles,
          never dropping.
Never raising
           against the azure sky.

So much waste
           when your father died.
The world went dry
           And cruel
Yet beautiful,
           like a Burchfield scene.

We drove silent
           through dusty fields.
Nothing ever seemed
           the same again.

Spoon full of Glass

by Elisa Phillips

Spoon full of glass
Fun sparkles on my tongue
as the choking - through my throat they pass

Fire in my gut
Ache in my heart
Screaming I slam my eyes shut

Spoon full of glass
I feast upon at breakfast, lunch and tea
Praying for salvation at daily mass

My eyes bleed as I struggle to hide
This gut wrenching God awful pain
Riveted I religiously consume what I cannot abide

Spoon full of glass
Shredding my heart
Agony my new master class

Simmering just below the surface
A conundrum of confusion
Wisdom of no purpose

Spoon full of glass
Choked down pound for pound
Holding my nose, ever fast

Vocal cords silenced complaint
The cries in my head louder by the day
Bloodletting - required compliant

Spoon full of glass
Release me oh tyrannical devil
I can swallow no more alas

For small bits to shards
Have ribboned my soul
Drink no longer the pain retards

Spoon full of glass
Returned to sand by the winds of change
The direction determined by the broken compass

Pompeii and the Duck

by Rick Brown

I'm not certain exactly what Pompeii was really. Mostly German Shepherd I believe. I do remember he was always bedraggled. You see, Pompeii was what some people call "an outside dog". Farmers have outside dogs mostly. So it was a little unusual for my "second family" ... the Shylos ... to have one in the jurisdiction of our small hometown. Still, Pompeii was an incredibly happy hound. And it wasn't like he wasn't allowed in the house. Any time he wanted he could come in. I assume he preferred being an outsider ... a wanderer ... a rebel. He'd be gone for days sometimes only to return again ... tail waggin' ... crotch sniffin'. Perhaps Pompeii was aware some dogs were chained to their doghouses ... or confined to pens ... and felt lucky. Maybe he'd witnessed that in his travels. He did seem to have an air of wisdom about him. He knew the street. He knew people. But unlike most ... he knew himself.

One summer...and Pompeii was quite old by now ... my buddy Doug Shylo and I spent an evening at "Homecoming". This wasn't the usual high school variety. Our town, Olmsted Falls, had a traditional long weekend celebration every year for people to come back to where they grew up. There were rides and baked goods and games and small town festivities and friends. And there always seemed to be a ring toss booth. But this year it had a twist. If you threw a ring over a baby duckling's head you won ... a BABY DUCKLING!!. Being boys around the age of 12 or so, Doug and I both believed this was the coolest of cools. Doug won one duckling. I was awarded two.

Of course our parents weren't quite so sure this was the coolest of cools. Yet baby ducklings are so adorable that our bathtub soon became Daffy and Daphne's temporary home. The Shylos on the other hand were a little more pragmatic. After all ...if Pompeii stayed outside so would the duck. And if they named the duck I sure don't remember what his name was. I think we all referred to him simply as "Duck".

Baby ducklings do not stay babies for long. Soon enough they are ACK - ing and quacking around our fenced in backyard with the dog and cats. The dog kept her distance ... for good reason. Grown ducks are surly at best. Mean even. Hell ... they chased the cats around! They pooped everywhere! And a duck won't think twice about biting you either. At an "under the stars" sleepover at Doug's that fall Craig Rattray woke up screaming when "Duck" bit him viscously on the lip. And the poor kid's lip swelled big enough that it was difficult understanding what he was trying to say. Faaa Faa FLAA!!" The rest of us got a huge laugh out of the whole thing. But I soon learned to hate ducks as well ... especially the two stalking my backyard. Apparently my father wasn't too fond of Daffy and Daphne either. They "disappeared" one day. I think they ended up in the "kidnapper's" freezer.

Pompeii however, saw things differently. He and Duck bonded ... became the best of pals. After a long, arduous journey Pompeii would rest under a tree while Duck would cuddle on one of his back haunches and pull burrs out of his matted fur. Duck would sleep curled up between Pompeii's legs. I even witnessed Duck riding on the dog's back while he sauntered across the yard seeking out a new power spot. No one ... not even a Shylo ... could approach Pompeii without Duck's permission. And the dog protected his fowl friend as only a loyal canine is capable. This was an amazing relationship to witness. You had to see it to understand the breadth of the connection ... the loyalty ... the friendship.

One day right before the beginning of winter ... right before Thanksgiving ... Duck wandered onto Lewis Road. Not a busy thoroughfare. Just busy enough I suppose. You see ... Pompeii knew the street. Apparently Duck did not. The school bus ran over Duck killing him instantly. No one thought much about the event ... except Pompeii.The grieving dog wandered off as he did many times through the years. But this time Pompeii never came home.

It is not unusual for a dog ... or a lot of animals for that matter ... to know they are dying, ... that this is the time to go find a place to lay and let it be. Most would say Pompeii instinctually did the same.

As for me? It's the unusual bonds ... the unexplainable relationships ... the surprises in this life I admire and celebrate.

I knew Pompeii.

And I believe he died of a broken heart.

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C. Mehrl Bennett

The Castle

Morris Jackson

Chirstmas Card Memory
by Amy McCrory


a hot sidewalk
ejaculatory addiction
they vanish gummy clubbing
cross slinging guilt and a keyless lock
sniffing outside
creaming toward those curves
she lasts most of the night
the strongest of the enslaved

wearing out the sidewalk pacing
to see what comes next
tired of believing in faith or hope

giving them up feels freeing.
their knives they are sliding
and carving

the newspaper is paper and ink
Dylan read paperbacks now that poetry is dead
melancholy is curable
sorrow is so last year
no one is alive anymore

obligation and responsibility
got a bad rap free love free money free spirits
no one gets the blues or plans a guilt trip
chains are just for fun

escape freedom is athing closeted
darkening along with love and sacrifice
kills the buzz takes the shine
off the moon they tranquilize and call it right
false touch but plentiful outward those bruises
unwashed positions

grieve not for the invisible
brother, i am fire you are merely clear

who will be naming the wind
now that prose is gone?
I've all day to watch the blue
and no one to tell stories

cyndi oleary

by Sue Lense

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A Naked Sunfish Holiday Tradition

Holiday Cheer from Aunt Edith

by Rick Brown

My late Uncle Wes lived with my Aunt Edith for most of his adult life...although I’m sure it seemed like an eternity to him. He worked for the Bethlehem Steel Company in Baltimore for thirty years until he retired. He worked the night shift getting off around 7 a.m. when he would come home for dinner. In the summer when it was warm...and Baltimore can get very, very humid...he would go to a movie matinee in an air conditioned theater and sleep. If you knew my Aunt Edith you would assume what I did...even as a child...and that was that Uncle Wes worked nights and went to matinees to get away from his wife. He never said much. He was a slight, wiry man of few words. And the few words he almost always uttered were, “For Chrissakes Edith! SHUDD UPP!!”

The man was almost incidental by nature. One time...after he retired and he and Aunt Edith moved back to the Cleveland area...my brothers and I were helping him put a refrigerator in a backyard shed because there was no room for it in the trailer they were moving into. After much jostling my brothers and I closed the shed door and thought we were finished. From her perch (as supervisor of course) Aunt Edith looked at the three of us with bewilderment and asked, “Where the HELL is Wes?” And after exchanging confused glances we heard muffled sounds coming from behind the fridge in the shed. “MMMPPPHH!!! Hey!! HHMMPPHHFFF!!!” We quickly opened the shed door, moved aside the refrigerator and liberated Uncle Wes. My brothers and I were all embarrassed and each, in turn, apologized profusely for our insensitive behavior. Aunt Edith broke into the humility with a shriek of, “What the HELL were you doing in there?” Which prompted Uncle Wes to...once again...chant his mantra. “For Chrissakes Edith!! SHUDD UPP!!” They were quite the loving couple. Their last name was Crabtree. I am not making this up.

Wes soon was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thirty years in the steel mills and 2 packs a day of Chesterfield non-filters caught up with him. The last time I saw him he was lying on the couch in their trailer smoking the aforementioned brand of cigarettes, quite literally coughing his lungs out...or what was left of them. “I TOLD him to quit those goddamned things years ago. “ Aunt Edith offered for my contemplation. To which Uncle Wes replied sarcastically (yep, you guessed it) “Cough cough...For Chrissakes HACK! HACK! Edith!!! SHUDD UPPP!!!” These were the final words I heard my uncle ever say and we all joked at the funeral that these very words were more than likely chiseled into his headstone.

A few years after Wes passed, my brother and his new wife were having their very first Christmas and invited everyone over...including Aunt Edith. My parents were there along with my siblings and their families. This included my brother Jim’s 9 year old adopted son Matt. Matt the Brat was what my father called him. I thought this surprisingly subtle for my Dad. If I knew where Matt is today...and thank God I do not...I would have to guess some one killed him or he’s in jail convicted of several murders. I honestly don’t care so long as he’s nowhere near me. So Matt the Brat is playing with one of the toys some one so graciously gave him and he broke it. This kid could break anything he got his hands on. But in a moment of diplomacy my father (affectionately known as Snook) said, “They don’t make anything any good any more!!” To which...in the spirit of the season Aunt Edith quipped, “You’re right Snook!! Everything IS SHIT!!!” Well...happy holidays to you too Aunt Edith. Inside my head I distinctly heard a voice from my past reply, “For Chrissakes Edith!! SHUDD UPPP!”

You know...there are lots of reasons to go through life believing that “everything is shit.” There are days when it certainly seems true to me. I have my days when Sartre’s “Hell is other people” could easily be the thought of the day. But...unlike Aunt Edith...I don’t want to spend a big chunk of my life living alone in a trailer. And when I think of this particular Christmas it strikes me how most of them blur into each other...with the exception of a few. And this is one of them I distinctly remember. As much as family...and sometimes even friends...can annoy a person...especially at this time of year...I have come to realize that even some one like Aunt Edith helped make me who I have become. I mean that in a positive way. Imagine...Aunt Edith’s negativity was so over the top it MADE me consider the positive. I have no idea how she became so bitter. My father did shortly before he died also. Yet they both, particularly Snook, had a positive influence. They were there. Unlike today when some people are not.

This holiday season...regardless of which one you celebrate...take the time to savor those around you...even if they drive you nuts. They may not...for whatever reason...be there next year. And in some strange way, which will surprise you, their absence will make you miss them. I guarantee it. (a possible exception to this uplifting message might be Matt the Brat) And you might consider that next year YOU might not be here. So I suppose my holiday message may seem bittersweet to most...but that’s how I see it. And if anyone feels the need to take issue with my views then I encourage you to speak up LOUDLY...’cause I’ve got one thing and one thing only to say to you.



Editor’s note: Aunt Edith died a few years ago. She was 90 years old. Her neighbor called my Uncle Bruce and told him she had passed out in her trailer. He went and got her up…asked if she was alright and she said she was. He suggested she go to the hospital to make sure everything was okay. She told him to go to hell and get out of her house. He did just that…returning an hour later and she was gone. Sad…surely. But she lived her last day the way she lived every previous one. And despite her surliness I will miss my Aunt Edith this Christmas. And I will remember the one long ago when she informed us “Everything is shit!” Rest in peace Aunt Edith. I can picture Jesus turning to her and proclaiming, “Truly, truly I say unto you…For Wes’s sake Edith…SHUDD UPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”




© 2001-2008 NakedSunfish, All Rights Reserved

Issue 1 - January 2002