by Lou Gallo
art by Clinton Van Inman
Late in the night I caught her reading
the book I was reading, an old leather tome
with gilded edges, the book I was reading
the night before.
She raised her eyes and smiled,
closed the book and passed it to me
and in the transfer our fingers touched.
Her hair brushed against my hand
as she turned and sank into the divan,
dreamy-eyed and out of focus.
I opened that book as I stood
to where I’d left off but the book had changed.
Her slender fingers and gaze upon its words
had changed the book, had changed the words,
the words now illuminated, enflamed.
I reread the passage from the night before
and sensed that I too had changed.
The book became a kiss, an embrace,
its leather velvet, its word a song
which compelled me now to sing along
and as I sang she opened her drowsy eyes
and touched the book again, and her touch
ignited the page I had settled on.
Reading would never be the same.
I bent to kiss her lips and stroke her hair,
her wheaty wavy hair, and shyly she smiled.
Wherever I’d loitered the night before
was not where I now lingered, breathing
her magic and by her presence beguiled.
Breathing will never be the same.
LOU GALLO's work has appeared in Fiction Fix, Glimmer Train, Hollins Critic, Rattle, Southern Quarterly, Litro, New Orleans Review, Xavier Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Texas Review, Baltimore Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ledge, storySouth, Houston Literary Review, Tampa Review, Raving Dove, The Journal (Ohio), Greensboro Review,and many others. Chapbooks include THE TRUTH CHANGES and THE ABOMINATION OF FASCINATION. I am founding editor of the now defunct journals, THE BARATARIA REVIEW and BOOKS: A NEW ORLEANS REVIEW. He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.
Clinton Van Inman grew up in North Carolina, graduated from San Diego State University in 1977, taught in South Carolina and is currently a high school teacher in Tampa Bay where he lives in Sun City Center, Florida with his wife, Elba.
by E.J. Lawrence
“You don’t sound Southern,” she says,
When I tell her where I’m from.
I don’t sound like crickets on a summer night?
Or like a screen door slamming
When I run outside to catch fireflies,
My fingers, sticky from homemade jam,
Clinging to the jar?
Like my parents talking in low whispers
On the porch swing, as I run after
The specks of light,
Leaping high to catch one,
Then slamming the lid down tight.
You can’t hear the honey in my voice --
The biscuits, the fried green tomatoes,
Or the black-eyed peas and hog-jowl?
I sound like watermelon, anyway --
Slices thick and sweet,
Cooling in July,
But sometimes full of seeds
My cousin and I spit, unladylike,
across the yard.
When I’m deep in thought,
Sometimes I mimic my father,
Who sounds like a cotton gin --
Whirr, sigh, click.
Do you hear my grandmother’s twang?
Like the tune of a banjo.
As she snaps a chicken’s neck
To fry him up for dinner.
I sound as Southern as the change
That jingled in my great-great-grandfather’s pocket
When he moved to Tennessee
With nothing but those coins
And the clothes on his back.
As Southern as a Baptist Choir
Out-singing the Methodists on Sunday morning.
As Southern as the pop of a Coke can.
Southern as Rocky Top.
The Mississippi River runs in my veins.
I know all about Elvis and Martin Luther King, Jr.
All about Shiloh and Alex Haley and
B.B. King and Fort Pillow and music --
Oh, all the music.
My sing-song is like country, blues, jazz
Wafting onto Beale Street
Mixing together, the discordant notes
Melting like my ice cream in August,
Splashing on the ground,
Infusing my blue suede shoes.
Lord, I jingle like a Southern Belle,
Though I come from a line
Of rolled-up sleeves and salty brows,
And not from gentry at all.
I know I sound like
East Coast book-learnin’.
Like SUVs and kids with shoes
Pattering down the concrete
Onto manicured lawns
Of the houses that all look the same.
It’s simpler that way.
That’s how we like it.
E.J. Lawrence was born in Memphis, TN and grew up in a small Southern town by the Mississippi River. An avid reader from an early age, she discovered a love of fantasy (and England) when her dad bought her a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Living in the country afforded many opportunities to explore fantastical worlds, and the woods behind her house became Terabithia, the corn field became the Great Eastern Sea, and her playhouse, a house in Hobbiton. These days she lives in Athens, GA, where she teaches English literature courses and is working on a fantasy novel, inspired by her love of Grail lore. Visit her at ejlawrence.com, or blogging about women in literature at cannotbecontained.com.
poem and photo by Jane Blanchard
From within a dated version
of the classic Joy of Cooking
falls a recipe that calls for
cranberries and raisins, apple,
onion, celery, as well as
spices and white sugar, in the
fine but faded script of someone
once familiar through a marriage.
After thinking, going shopping,
I start heating, chopping, stirring,
later canning, cooling, cleaning,
until ending up with eight sealed
pint-sized jars, just right for sharing
with old friends and new relations.
Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her second collection, Tides & Currents, has just been released by Kelsey Books. Find it here.
by Neva Bryan
Summer sunlight lingers
like honey on my tongue.
My son sighs
as day’s light pulses…
Twilight fades to night.
My boy squeals at
his first sight of lightning bugs.
He chases the fireflies until
we capture some in an old jar.
We flick our fingers against glass
to goad them into illumination.
The makeshift lantern glimmers
with weird green light.
Their luminescent bellies fascinate him.
He pulls up his shirt
to examine his own tummy.
Little does he know…
he doesn’t need that glow
to be my life’s light.
Neva Bryan is the author of four books and a contributor to an anthology about mountaintop removal mining. She has been published in numerous literary journals. Neva was born in Kentucky and lives in Virginia with her husband and dogs. Her website is www.nevabryan.com.
Belle Rêve Literary Journal is a southern literary experience. Our mission is to capture everything that makes the South and its residents unique through the best contemporary literature we can find. We publish new works weekly.
Passionately Ran, Compassionately Fed.