Cheryl A. Rice: “Infrequent Flyer”

Infrequent Flyer

Mesmerized even thru tears as the 
twelve-seater circled above Newburgh Airport, 
lights of the Beacon Bridge glittered like a strand 
of café lights over the Hudson. It was December. 
I had spent five days in Florida watching my father, 
skinny as he was as a kid, lie drowsy and confused, 
hospital bed in the usual hospital setting, white 
waffled blankets, white sheets, white paper cups, 
white pitchers of white water, white nurses in 
white nylon pantsuits trying to reassure me that 
dark was not hiding behind every closet door. 
His lungs, three-thousand miles of old road
paved with auto body chemicals and memory of 
Marlboro Lights, were collapsing under the
weight of time, waves of tropical light. 
Weeks had passed, and the lungs insisted on 
closing like balloons with a carnival leak, 
My parents, the Peter Pan and Wendy of
our neighborhood, if Peter had succumbed for a moment
to Wendy’s mothering charms and they’d left his
misfits behind to make their own Neverland,
their own lost boys and girls. 
They improvised life, fueled with impulse 
and recreational hormones. Some 
success, some memorable failures. 
He flew, he always flew, often higher than 
the proverbial kite. She cried, got work
when he could not, would not, supported 
his dusty flights of fancy, and now brought 
him spaghetti, American cheese melted on top, 
his favorite food, to supplement the hospital’s 
rancid menu. She visited daily, only a few blocks
from their final paradise, made us the bearer 
of her news, old and new. 

And my plane before landing circled the airport 
like Peter on a final flight, enjoying the view
he’d taken for granted for so long, 
thinking the journey would never end. 
We curled into a landing strip, I dried my 
eyes. My Beloved waited for me at the gate. 
We went to a barbeque joint to celebrate, 
see the live broadcast of a play his 
coworkers built the sets for, another trip
to Neverland and back. 
We left halfway thru, my heart never, never having 
landed, still up there in the stars, 
dreading the morning. 

About the Author: Cheryl A. Rice’s poems have appeared in Home Planet News, Misfit Magazine, and Trailer Park Quarterly, among others. Recent books include Love’s Compass (Kung Fu Treachery Press), and Until the Words Came (Post Traumatic Press), coauthored with Guy Reed. Her blog is at: http://flyingmonkeyprods.blogspot.com/. Rice lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “LAX Window” (2021)

Cheryl A. Rice: “Ashtray”

Ashtray

Paper and foil, relic from a time when 
hospitality meant accommodating smokers, 
waited for us in Pennsylvania, Mom and Pop diner
that serves pierogis like other places
dish up hash browns or white toast. 

You were still a smoker then, rolled your own, 
pure tobacco from pale blue cans, 
Indian silhouette on the front 
reassuring us of its sincerity. 
I would wake to the sound of your little machine
sliding back and forth, ka-thuk, ka-thuk, 
assembling your supply for the day.

It was already illegal to smoke in New York
unless you were fifty feet from anywhere. 
Even restaurants lousy with smoke eaters were forbidden. 
But here in Scranton, the place your people put down roots, 
you could sit back, tap your homemade ash 
into the proper receptacle, or your empty coffee cup, 
but that’s bad manners, as we recalled. 

Despite second-hand warnings, 
I inhaled the smoke, 
romantic intoxicant, nostalgic pollutant, 
Marlboro mornings, Lemon Pledge afternoons,
childhood nights around the color console, 
hair and teeth and t-shirts next day 
reeking like the butts in that dish, 
emptied infrequently as all the good miners
have gone to seed.

About the Author: Cheryl A. Rice’s poems have appeared in Home Planet News, Misfit Magazine, and Trailer Park Quarterly, among others. Recent books include Love’s Compass (Kung Fu Treachery Press), and Until the Words Came (Post Traumatic Press), coauthored with Guy Reed. Her blog is at: http://flyingmonkeyprods.blogspot.com/. Rice lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Image Credit: Louis Fleckenstein “Portrait of a Man Smoking Cigarette” Digital image courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program.

Cheryl A. Rice: “Remember the Goldfish Will Be Dead By Morning”

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Remember the Goldfish Will Be Dead By Morning, 

as will the thready cobwebs of carnival light
strung above scraps of pavement
that’s seen better days, industrious employees
parking in a fresh lot, neatly painted
plots from end to end,
paint now faded, workers retired,
transferred or deceased.
In the morning, stars will have moved on
to other fairs, or the other side of the globe,
rides beyond not yet unplugged,
not yet spattered with vomit and sweat,
freshly hosed, engines revving.
In the morning, somewhere, there is popcorn
waiting to be heated, holding explosions
tight inside their vegetal chests.
Lemons are being sliced, water chilled,
hot dogs start their hours-long sauna.
But here in our town, all that remains
are tire tracks on the ballfield,
garbage drums full of discarded soda cups,
French fry boats anointed with catsup,
napkins cycling in the breeze.
The sun surveys the damage.
Crews pick debris from the ground,
recycling antics be damned.
And that goldfish you won
tossing rings at impossible pins?
The one you carefully slipped in an empty beer stein
when you got home late, so as to not wake him?
He’s been dead for hours, floating in
glass and baggie, back to tank, egg, essence,
gold all that remains by morning,
a sort of orange sunrise to remind the masses
of reflective vests, steel-toed boots,
the circle of days that we swim around,
in our own bags, without air,
with too much light.

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About the Author: Cheryl A. Rice’s poems have appeared in Home Planet News, Baltimore Review, Up The River, and Misfit Magazine, among others. Recent books include Love’s Compass (Kung Fu Treachery Press), and Until the Words Came (Post Traumatic Press), coauthored with Guy Reed. Her blog is at: http://flyingmonkeyprods.blogspot.com/. Rice lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

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Image Credit: Image originally from Annual report 8th; 9th (New York State Forest, Fish and Game Commission) (1902-1903) Image courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library