Listed below are the poems and stories submitted for Pure Slush's second birthday competition. Entrants were asked to submit poetry or prose, 50 to 150 words long.
The winner was announced on 6 December 2012 ... just in time for Pure Slush to turn 2 that day.
Tricia, my daughter of eight, found the answer to world peace and she painted it in her art mural.
“It’s beautiful. What are the people doing?” I asked.
“Dancing. They are so busy dancing they forgot to be mean. They all have All-Timers,” she said.
“Alzheimer’s.” I said.
“If people dance more they will forget to fight or have wars or hurt each other.” Tricia sat still in her wheelchair, her face a blank, eyes wet.
I asked, “What’s the matter?”
“I can’t dance, not with these useless legs. Dancing is a silly idea,” she said.
“Come here, dear, and put your arms around my neck, put your feet on top of mine.” She knew what to do. I held her thin body around her waist, legs dangling, and we moved to imaginary music, around and around. We hummed and laughed and we forgot about everything that was mean.
The shop only had large vanilla cakes, the remaining chocolate cakes tiny. She bought both, needing the larger, wanting the small, though her baby wouldn’t know the difference.
With a candle pushed into each, she struck a match, lit the first. But turning to the chocolate, she paused, hearing her brother’s voice nearby. Flown in last night, always off saving the world, he had just met his nephew.
An old memory had stopped her hand. At their own first birthdays, their parents had put a cake in front of them: she’d taken a fistful, he’d thrown his head face-first into his. The family saw it as a defining moment, an expression of personality before he could form sentences.
She looked again at the chocolate cake, bought for herself, but now with another purpose. She removed the candle, then blew out the match. The shop would bake more cakes tomorrow.
by Mira Desai
I crave the sun. I thirst for it, like a junkie. Yes a fix all right,
walking in the scorching sun, walking as my skin warms and sizzles and
tans, and my brain makes myriad connections to energize my day like a
live wire, alert! I yearn for its touch like heroines of old, thirst
for it, like the green of chlorophyll coming to life as sunlight seeps
in, nourishing, validating existence. I think of Karna, paying homage,
arghya, to the Sun by the Ganges. And then walking back,
bronze-rippled, every inch a King, even as the Sun coasted overhead,
aloof watchful. I think of the wife of the Sun god who’d created a
shadow personae, Chaya, because she couldn’t withstand his brilliance.
And I’d lie if I say I think of light and dark, the unending seasons.
I think of you, named after the Sun God.
by Mira Desai
Is seven perambulations around the sacred fire,
Watching the angry flames reach skywards
Speckles of burnt sienna and red trace instantly into black
Distanced from the laughing crowds
A time for thought.
Good conquers evil, Hiranyakashyapu laid to rest
Time after time, every generation
Many flames, many fires, one’s own ogres,
But yesterday was different.
Holi this year,
distant laughter and children’s squeals
busy with colors and squirt guns
multicolored splashes and circles on tar
As much as
tender green leaves of the mango, palm and cassia
freshly minted, new to the world
usher a gentle spring, wave to the Sun every dawn,
Once, there used to be a vasant–utsav
An ode to the Spring Gods.
An offering of poetry and color and song,
Of the greatest delicacy, an oblation
These days I make
my own little offering.
by Mira Desai
Laughter, the silent gut-shaking kind
My morning soaks in the mirth
From the quick turning pages
Of a super book
Sweet happiness zooms in millions of channels
Brings a spark to your eye
You walk taller,
Even at strangers.
The light looks beautiful
And nature abundant, resilient.
So much so
That the government must make it mandatory—I quite insist!
Even though it seems quite incapable of any policy action per se
Mandatory to laugh
Whole-hearted, belly clutching laughter
Once at least, a week.
Or maybe I should move to Bhutan
Where they take happiness seriously,
Gross National Happiness inches ever upwards.
Mr. Belkin detested his birthday. His parents threw him kid’s parties, but he couldn’t remember them. He got his license at seventeen. No car. On his twenty-first, he passed out naked on the bathroom floor, wrapped in the bath mat like a drunken taco. His boss laid him off for his twenty-fifth. So his wife threw him a surprise party and he wound up a bath mat taco, again. The next few birthdays were non-events, his preference. On his twenty-ninth, he got a 6am call from his Mom. Happy Birthday, he expected. “Mommom passed away this morning,” he heard. “Dad found her and she was trying to watch Ten Things I Hate About You.” No cake that year. Mr. Belkin spent his next birthdays drinking Crown Royal, watching Heath Ledger movies, imagining Mommom and Heath playing bridge together, preparing for another taco night.
the worst is over,
they say, unless
you’re the one
carrying the mud bucket
from the basement
to the curb. the worst
is over unless you’re
the one without power,
to take your kids
to school. the worst
is over unless it’s
your birthday, in which
case, you can take
your last breath and
blow out two candles …
but wait, then you’ll be
back in the dark where
the worst is yet to come.
by S.H. Gall
Within six months of her diagnosis, she’d refused chemo, checked out of hospice, and lay emaciated in the bed she’d shared with Dad. She wasn’t even trying to live.
Dad hired a nurse.
I came home one more time: arrived drunk, as usual, and allowed my mother a brief visit.
“I’ve been in Palm Springs,” I said.
Mom said, “Did you go with a group?”
“Just one man,” I said.
Her eyelids closed.
I walked downstairs to my room and lay down. The nurse woke me, whispered from the top of the stairs. “She’s gone.”
I grabbed some beers from the garage.
I cried for a moment. But the urge left so fast I barely noticed. I relished the buzz from the beer, called a friend from college, told him. Hanging up I breathed, closed the blinds, and lay back down. The ordeal was over. I was redeemed.
The faces of the fire fighters lit up. He stood in his pajamas clutching his stuffed dog, Barkley, watching his parents go up in flames in the only house he ever knew, a house where he would try to sleep with screams and glass breaking in the night, getting himself to school late every morning because they were both hung over and the only safe place for him was anywhere he and Barkley could huddle, preferably nowhere in the house itself. Maybe in a corner of the school basement or over at another kid’s house. Where would he live now, he wondered? He didn’t really care. As long as they didn’t separate him from Barkley, the English Fire-Setter.
The Shy Man adored the waitress named Lulu. He was a big man, but never worked up the courage to say, “Come home and cook for me.”
One day, the Shy Man became ill. The doctors said, “an inoperable hole in the gut, a poor prognosis.” Lulu visited him in the hospital. He asked her why it was that she never aged but he did.
She said, “People see what they want. Perhaps you always believed I was some young girl in your past who’d wait for you. A blind man once told me I was a wax figurine of a ballerina – melting.”
“Tell me, what do you see in my eyes?” he asked, sitting up in the bed.
“I see an old lover, too heavy for this life of sweet nothings.”
They married on his birthday.
In the short but happiest days of their lives, they became unbearably light.
by Abha Iyengar
It’s that time of the year again. Only this day this year I turn 50. Well-wishers are telling me I need to ring in the half-century with beer and bling and other cheery things. I see another line that sags my cheek, the crepes over my eyelids. Scarves have been this winter’s style statement for me. I may wear cotton ones in summer, pale colours to go with the white shirts.
The mobile rings. “Happy birthday, dear!” a voice pipes into my ear, shrill and very excited.
“Thanks,” I whisper, awaiting the inevitable question.
“Where’s the party, dear?” the words slam my ear.
“In Kampuchea,” I rhyme, the country arising out of nowhere.
The voice deflates, “Kampu... what? You joking?” and disconnects.
I untie the silk scarf around my neck and step out to find a travel agent. Who’s joking? Not me at 50. I’m flying out tonight.
Labor and revise
change and edit
birth those babies
send them off in the world
to soar like red balloons flying in the wind
to light like graceful butterflies
and catch the fancy of some editor somewhere
who’s having a good day
and if they find their way
into a magazine, anthology or e-zine
which might be read perchance
on a laptop resting on a kitchen table in Adelaide
or in an i-Phone on the Bart train coming home from work
or in a real book with pages
by someone in the universe
whom you’ll never meet
who pauses because they love the metaphor
you struggled so hard to find
and grins over your wit
or wipes away a tear or two
because what you wrote
hits them just so
celebrate my friend
the miracle of those words
that have the power to
bind our shared humankind
by Len Kuntz
To celebrate they threw a party. Someone hung a piñata. The birthday boy was too chubby and short to reach the pink pony and the other kids laughed as he flailed and flailed.
The father watched from a lawn chair, drinking warm bourbon. After a while the wife said, “Do something,” so the father got up and punched the piñata hard enough that an avalanche of candies sprayed the driveway.
The chubby boy watched the gaggle of kids filching candy but did not take any himself. His father eyed him, nodded and winked.
That night the entire troop of kids fell deathly ill, all except for the fat birthday boy. The poisoned goodies had been a success and the boy silently celebrated the fact that while he might be an outcast, there were other ways to win in the world, however wicked.
by Jayne Martin
Their ancestors, chosen from the all over the world for skills necessary to colonize a habitable planet, should their massive ship ever come upon such a place, had been the fortunate ones to escape Earth’s devastation. A century later, their descendents continue the journey.
The harvest had been bountiful this year. All of the embryos, carefully bred so as to assure a complete blending of the races, had successfully reached birth. As was their annual custom, music and laughter filled the great arena where the colonists feasted and danced in celebration of the newest generation.
Not until the digital night sky finally morphed into the first rays of dawn did the tired celebrants retreat to their quarters, many wondering what the next year would bring, as their ship silently continued to glide through the galaxies in search of a home.
by Marda Miller
“Ten” - I madly dash into the room in my sparkly dress and new heels. I’m out of breath and very late.
“Nine” - There are a hundred people in this crowded space. I scurry forward, examining faces while dismissing claustrophobic thoughts.
“Eight” - My heart pulsates intensely. I reject succumbing to panic. “You’ll find him” I command myself.
“Seven” - “Look for me wearing a white tuxedo” I recall his instructions.
“Six” - The lights are dim, increasing the difficulty of my task.
“Five” - Someone steps on my foot. I wince in pain but keep moving.
“Four” - There he is!
“Three” - “Excuse me” I scream at the drunken girl in front of me.
“Two” - He sees me now and rushes forward.
“One” - “You’re just in time” he whispers. Scooping me up into his arms he kisses my lips.
I feel the fireworks blasting.
by Mandy Nicol
Neither of us wanted to go to Pa’s funeral but the family said we had to. They said it would look bad if the twins weren’t there. They told us not to be scared. They said it would be a celebration of his life and not a day of sadness.
But that didn’t help.
We waited in our bedroom in our tartan dresses and shiny shoes. We sat on the blanket box at the end of Jenny’s bed. Jenny started crying again. I held her hand and squeezed it tight and gave her my hankie.
“The family says it will be a celebration,” I said. “But it doesn’t have to be a celebration of his life, does it. Not for us.”
Jenny stopped wiping her eyes and we looked at each other. Then we smiled, and we nodded. “We can celebrate his death,” we said together.
by Sally Reno
One morning at Las Palmas, Gigi, Celeste and I decided to make some clothes. We bought all the bolts of muslin we could carry on bicycles, sketched, cut, stitched and ate ripe avocado with fresh lime on toast.
To dye the finished garments, we built a bonfire in the yard and filled an iron cauldron with well water. I scrubbed an oar for stirring.
Dripping cloth… cayenne, citron, mango, sea grape, azure,… hung on the avocado tree. Twirling in the colored rain, we were seized by the Spirit of Celebration. I fetched roots and resins… storax, dragon’s blood, angelica, myrhh… and threw them on the coals. Soon, an aromatic cloud of twinkling pink smoke rose above Seminary Street, drifting enchantment from Safeway Harbor to Southernmost Point.
When the police arrived, they confronted three naked, rainbow splashed and wild-haired young witches dancing around a bubbling cauldron. They were very sweet about it.
I keep forgetting to remember
that some poets sing of pleasant
things, like when their wives
say good morning on their way
out the door in the morning,
or their kids forget to complain
about the meatloaf for dinner.
I keep forgetting to remember
that poetry need not be
only about how many beats
remain wound into my heart.
The floor is littered with confetti; the pink streamers are dragging; the shiny signs are falling off the walls. Champagne is spilled and chocolate cake icing mashed into the fringed tablecloth. A sprawled drunk is snoring in the corner.
The muted sound system resounds with Victory from Beethoven’s Fifth, the air fragrant with pineapple.
The congregation of bleary-eyed writers rises, even the drunk mutters in half-sleep, and all clink glasses at the host’s jubilant, “Happy Anniversary, one and all.”
“A hundred more years,” someone cries. “I’ll drink to that,” and “Pass the Moet,” from other corners.
Teary, the Great Editor looks over his fans, his friends and calls, “Celebrate.”
Brenda Bishop Blakey is a writer, poet, and artist born in Atlanta, Georgia.
Brenda, an introvert, believes in harking to the Muse for inspiration even if that means writing in public. She believes editing must be done in private because the Muse only cares for starting things, never for the polishing. She confesses there may be a conspiracy or, at the least, a Muse’s union of some sort.
Michael Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC, the online magazine of art, information & entertainment. He is the author of Sleeping Dogs: A true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping (Smashwords.com, Amazon.com or www.splitoakpress.com), and is married with three grown children and commutes frequently between Upstate and Metro New York in his day job as sales engineer.
Jayne Martin is the author of Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry available on Amazon. A former TV-movie writer whose credits include Big Spender for Animal Planet, she now lives amongst horses and vineyards in Santa Ynez, California and shares her thoughts on http://injaynesworld.blogspot.com
Darryl Price was born in Kentucky and educated at Thomas More College. A founding member of Jack Roth’s Yellow Pages Poets, he has published dozens of chapbooks, including a dual chapbook with Jennifer Bosveld, founder of Pudding House (the largest literary small press in America), and had poems in many journals.
Thomas Jay Rush is the owner of a small internet-based software company, a fact he chooses to ignore, focusing instead on writing short fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. Jay lives with his family in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania.