Read of the day
Bombardier to Captain
First the sky, black or blue, depending on the time.
By day, Memphis blazes, 100 degrees in the shade;
the sky, robin blue. At night, there are lightning bugs galore
and stars, eerie, dazzling and quiet, as from the Mississippi,
slaves once dragged bales across cobblestones.
The bridge was too far so we stayed where we were, stuck
forever between the Overton Zoo and Beale. We played
in the yard with daggers. We burned each other’s toes.
The bull dog Prime Minister humped our legs
while the Afghans ran in circles chasing dust. We ate potato
chips at midnight and cried in our sleep: let’s go back tomorrow.
Color of my eyes? Mother’s? It was morning glories we beheld,
not roses. Roses come in black, not in blue. I did see father
many times but I don’t remember his eyes. White and black
photographs show us in our pajamas with little bows
and arrows scrawled across the tops.
Bugles and drums decorated our blue bottoms.
How large the Pippin loomed over the police academy.
German shepherds lunged at padded arms as men in black
set fires with smoke as thick as cotton candy. The elevators
at the Century Building were open by day. We ran in
hoping for a ride to the top of the world;
secretaries chased us out into the bright sun.
The horizon was on the other side of the river, but nobody dared
cross that bridge. We were stay-at-home types, little chickens.
Everything was thought the best. I believed the art gallery in
Overton Park was bigger and better than the Met.
Second rate was not only good enough.
“Who the hell do you think you are?”
The Pink Palace was dad’s fortress of art and power, in costumes
he designed himself: a clown, some whimsy, a melancholic
smile, despair, or an oriental stare; in make-up and girdles,
a sword, a pistol, a tunic or robe, tights and sandals,
shaped from plastic or leather. Father directed:
Give them some cleavage. Show ‘em your tits.
Not wanting to stay—please no longer. Not one more hour, not
another minute, not five measly seconds more. Mother couldn’t
get out of town fast enough. Father could ruin a dinner over
a lousy buck. Kool-Aid or pudding? Take one or the other.
The grand master had little to give;
it was all show but no tell. I’ll have another martini.
This December, the trees in our yard will come down,
felled by an ice storm. It feels right that the old man is dead.
His heart was black and blue. He beat himself up and beat me,
too. When I think of Memphis I think of death, but not
from long ago. Brother Martin was first to go
and then Vernon Presley’s loving son.
Dad’s gone now, thank goodness; there’s only mother.
The dogwoods stand silent, as her eyes watch, laughing.
There’s much comfort knowing how much she loves the bluff.
All the memories are gone. The Old Forest full of heavy growth
lures us back but all we find is an empty lot,
a ghost town called invention.
David Lohrey’s plays have been produced in Switzerland, Croatia, and Lithuania. His poetry can be found in Otoliths (AUS), Tuck Magazine (UK), Terror House (Hungary), Sentinel Literary Quarterly (UK) and the Cardiff Review (Wales). His fiction can be read online at Dodging the Rain, Storgy Magazine, and Literally Stories. David’s collection of poetry, Machiavelli’s Backyard, was published by Sudden Denouement Publishers (Houston, 2017). He lives in Tokyo. ‘Bombardier to Captain’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2018) judged by Dominic James.
My brother is killing again
He left the house
early this morning
a red gleam
in his eye
his gun swinging
from his hip
No one could stop him.
My four AM darkness
is full of children
Their mothers frantic
to protect them
lifting his gun
We huddle sadly
in the house
the neighbors murmur
no flowers grow
no drugs to blunt
our dreams replaced
our fine house haunted.
‘Family Problems’ by Vishishta was published in Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine, May 2003. Native to Southern California, Vishishta grew up in the tumultuous and inspiring 60s. Starting out writing short stories, she published short surreal epiphanies in underground newspapers. Gradually, she changed to writing songs, then poems, then back to short stories and now back to poems. She is the author of Eros – a collection of poems.
Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition
Closing date: 31 October 2020
You are invited to enter your poem or suite of poems in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2020) to be judged by Roger Elkin. This competition is for original, previously unpublished poems in English language, on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long.
Prizes: £250 (1st), £100 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £30 x 3 (High Commendation), £15 x 3 (Commendation), 3 x SLQ magazine paperback (Special Mentions.)
Entry Fees: £5/1, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4, £14/5, £16/7, £22/10
For full terms and conditions, to enter online or by post, the address is
Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition
Prizing poetry…since July 2009