Categories
Poetry

Herbert

by Ariana Hughes | Poetry | Summer 2021

Summer Courtyard I by Becky Trigo

On the hottest summer days, I like to be up early,
Racing the advancing blaze. I tiptoe to the balcony
Accompanied by a gleaming bowl of oranges,
And absorb the shy warmth, the distant groans of construction.
Before long I am lost in a memory—
If I squint towards the sun I see him smiling dreamily, Herbert.

The father of my mother’s mother, Herbert
A man who never needed an alarm to rise early,
His inner clock beat steadily, unlike his memory
Which chased itself in circles, looping around his balcony
Traveling faster, as he would turn to stare at the distant construction. The tiny people hurrying to catch their mornings, as he peeled his first orange

With the sweet slice of orange
Herbert
Would find his voice, and tell me “I like to watch the construction–
They start early,
Like me, so I cheer them on from my balcony.”
It awakened a memory

A memory
Of the view from a naval ship–and the juice from his orange
Sprayed like the sea off the side of his balcony.
And then I could almost see him, Herbert,
Amidst the chaos of time—and the war that stole his brother too early.
I believed that he could see all that amidst the construction.

He leaned back towards me, “I like to watch the construction–”
The freshness of the memory
Faded like the wispy clouds, “They start early-”
His half-empty bowl of oranges,
Hinted at the passage of time, but Herbert
Continued, “Like me, so I cheer them on from my balcony.”

A distant drill pauses, pulling me back to my own balcony
Facing oak trees and closed windows, only the sounds of unseen construction
Permeate the air, and I yearn for Baltimore, and the distantly moving crane, and Herbert.
I cannot quite grasp a hold of him, or time, or his whirling memories,
But my bowl is full of peels and my fingers are sticky with the juice of oranges.
So I turn my face to the sun and soak as the wind tickles my skin, pleased to be up early

Categories
Fiction

Horsefly

by Ariana Hughes | Fiction | Summer 2021

Self Portrait by Chloe Casdagli

Just as I was finishing up my philosophy reading, and literally on Kant’s last few sentences, I became aware of a large horsefly
that had somehow flown into Lulu’s room. I always wondered how
these miscellaneous bugs crept their way in, and why they chose to stay. Was the space really so welcoming? The boisterous air conditioning unit fizzing, the ceiling fan hissing as it sliced through the air, our feet tapping with jerky energy as we threw ourselves into our numerous readings and assignments. Perhaps it was the leftover nibbles from a day-old scone that sat in the corner, a mellow iced tea that had become diluted and drab since the loss of its ice cubes. Was it really so amusing? Better than the vast openness of outside? This particular horsefly was wandering around in a vaguely threatening sort of way and then suddenly, distressingly, throwing itself into the air, zig-zagging awkwardly, clearly confused by the constraints of the space. It gradually zoomed closer, and I tensed up. It zagged towards me and then zigged back and then zagged closer still. Finally, I had enough.

Just as I was finishing up my philosophy reading, and literally on Kant’s last few sentences, I became aware of a large horsefly that had somehow flown into Lulu’s room. I always wondered how these miscellaneous bugs crept their way in, and why they chose to stay. Was the space really so welcoming? The boisterous air conditioning unit fizzing, the ceiling fan hissing as it sliced through the air, our feet tapping with jerky energy as we threw ourselves into our numerous readings and assignments. Perhaps it was the leftover nibbles from a day-old scone that sat in the corner, a mellow iced tea that had become diluted and drab since the loss of its ice cubes. Was it really so amusing? Better than the vast openness of outside? This particular horsefly was wandering around in a vaguely threatening sort of way and then suddenly, distressingly, throwing itself into the air, zig-zagging awkwardly, clearly confused by the constraints of the space. It gradually zoomed closer, and I tensed up. It zagged towards me and then zigged back and then zagged closer still. Finally, I had enough. Grabbing the laborious Kant I gave it a good thwack. The horsefly vanished from the air, lost for a delightful moment. Not dead or seemingly anywhere, lost in the void—and then it reappeared on the floor. Crawling, thankfully, toward Lulu. At this point the energy of the horsefly had seeped into us both, no problem or assignment could be handled until this criminal of distraction could be apprehended. Lulu commented on the somewhat bent wing it was now dragging oddly and I realized I must be responsible for this critter. At this stage, I understood that action had to be taken. The horsefly had to be put out of the misery that was this room and the thwack I had inflicted upon it. I had put it in misery, it had put me in misery. Now the misery needed to end. I held all the power. Kant was not powerful enough to take out this suffering brute, my laptop much too personal, too clean. I turned to my water bottle, it would have to suffice. And so I tracked it across the room, as it hobbled, perhaps suspecting its moments were numbered. I hesitated, and then brought the bottom of my metal water bottle straight down with an awful bang. Leaving it there for a moment, sucking in air rapidly, feeling a rush of shame. Postponing my view of whatever horror lay underneath. I raised the water bottle to find the fly dying, twitching its broken legs and wings. I brought the bottle down hard again, still moving, again, and again, harder and faster, not stopping to look at the horsefly. I was a mindless pulsing Cuisinart. When I finally stopped, it was nothing but a mush of legs and wings and horrible bug insides. Thankfully Lulu had a tissue at the ready. For a moment I felt the texture of its dead mush under the thin surface of the tissue. And then it was in the trash can, gone… problem solved… I retreated back to Kant. No more horsefly. An empty room. Lulu and I shared a nervous glance as we turned back to whatever it was that we had been doing before. The silent tension of the awful murder that had just been committed felt louder than the buzzing of the bug. Lulu tried playing music but kept skipping the songs… how could we relax and read and listen to music about love and heartbreak when we had so willingly taken a life? Not we, I. I had sacrificed another, an innocent! No, not totally innocent—a life for the benefit of my own. And all I could do was sit and avoid Kant, revolving in my guilt and the absurd amount of power I had been given. The bug was not coming back so I needed to accept its fate and move forward with my life and feel fortunate that I would never be squashed into a carpeted floor by a metal water bottle. But a rush of emotions took over, I could have trapped it with a cup, the tissue I had used for its dead carcass could have been a landing pad for a flight out of the window, I could have allowed it to continue zooming around the room—maybe it liked the small space, the nervous energy, the old scone and tea. Maybe it liked us. I couldn’t face Kant. I couldn’t face Lulu. So I took a moment for the horsefly, closed my eyes, sent out my best wishes, a silent apology, an admission of guilt, a promise to be better…