One summer we were given two gifts: a decent amount of money, and nothing else we had to do but spend it. Johnny would say we were given a third gift too, each other, but we’d been going out a year by then and he just likes to be poetic.
The money was because of an uncle of his, who assumed he would be dying soon and knew how impatient Johnny could be. “I’ll just write you a check,” the uncle said. “So you don’t have to worry about the lawyers.”
“Isn’t he afraid he’s going to a put a kineahora on it?” I asked when Johnny told me.
“No,” Johnny said. “He doesn’t believe in that kind of thing.” Continue reading
The Voodoo Bench
My sisters and I, along with my cousin Benealda, were marked the moment we moved into the Woodcroft Apartment complex. We were branded with a large red scarlet “A”. Our “A” did not represent the adulterous sins of Nathanial Hawthorne’s character. Our “A” stood for something much more foreign…Africa. In 1992, we migrated from our home state Providence, Rhode Island to Fall River, Massachusetts and now we were settling down in the south, Stone Mountain, Georgia.
I don’t remember exactly how the kids in our new neighborhood discovered that we were African. Maybe we told them. After all, we were first generation Americans who wore our Liberian heritage on our heads like crowns.
“Hi, what’s y’alls names?” they probably asked.
“Lemriel, Kia, Benealda, and Manseen,” we might have said.
“Oh. Where yall from?” they continued. We answered and the rest was history.
The Weight of an Anaconda
I do not share my sister and my son’s love for snakes, so seeing the largest anaconda in captivity in an outlet mall in Chicago was not my idea of a fun day. However, neither my overall uneasiness, nor my vote counted as we came to the black painted windows at the entrance of the zoo located in the mall. My hopes sank as the door swung open, my sister Pamela (who I always called “Sissy”) bracing it with her foot in the white canvas Ked accented with the blue lace ribbon as shoelaces. Her daughter Tana’s hand hidden within mine was slight and cool, the feeling and weight of dried snow as she flitted her fingers within my palm while we followed them in. Continue reading
I am elbow-deep in moist newspaper and bird droppings, being bludgeoned repeatedly in the forearm with the head of a canary. He – I am making a base assumption on bird-gender – gets a tight grip on the wire of the cage and launches himself back at my arm, bird-head first, as though he has been shot out of a cannon. His partner is desperately attacking the back of my hand with her surprisingly sharp bird-claws and tiny but ruthless bird-beak. I am currently in the second hour of this hell, no doubt catching bird-diphtheria from these beautiful little jerks. The tiny feathered soldiers pause for a moment, bird-chests heaving rapidly, and then begin the attack with renewed vigor. My bleeding fingers accidentally knock over their water bowl, but victory is mine, little jerks! For in my human-hand, I hold what I have been sent for: a beautiful, molar-sized bird-egg. Continue reading
It’s you. You know, there’s something about you. Something good, I can just tell. It’s in your eyes mostly. I love them. They are beautiful, I mean really beautiful. I would know because they’re looking right at me, right now. You’re just sitting there across from the page and I beg you please don’t leave. Not until the end when it’s all over. A horrible but inevitable ending I dread. If you stop before then, I don’t know if I will have fallen completely in love with you. Continue reading
Every Mile A Memory
Seven years and eight months have passed since she last ventured to the haze-ridden Blue Ridge Mountains. With the seasonal change of bright coppers and ambers blanketing the treetops towering overhead, she’d arrive at a small campground outside of Ellijay, Georgia for an extended stay in a fifth-wheel camper hitched behind a white two-door GMC truck. Traveling daily through dormant communities and mingling with mountain folk, my grandmother’s admiration for north Georgia was unquestionable. Countywide fall festivals, antique thrift stores and the occasional Huddle House, she loved this place. And it wasn’t just her place, but theirs. Continue reading
My Life: A Memoir
I told my boyfriend I’d never have children because I’d be too afraid I’d eat them.
“What the fuck?” he said.
“Yeah, you know,” I said. “I’m actually writing a memoir about my life and all my problems right now. Let me read you what I have so far.”
Ivy Hall Review Features Sybil McLain-Topel
Lavender No. 19
La lavande me manque.
Lavender is missing to me. This is the French construction of the phrase ‘I miss lavender.’
When I say I miss my lover, I say in English, I miss you. In French I say, you are missing to me: tu me manques. Listen for nuance. The noun for me, myself, and I now rests in shade. My lover takes on full sun. Tu me manques.
Subtle. Thought. Shift.
My mother says that God told her to name me Melody. She says He led her to a verse:
Ephesians 5:19 “…singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;”
In Isaiah 43:1, God tells Israel, “I have called you by name; you are mine.”
If I believe in this sort of thing, my existence is stamped with divinity; the name Melody was chosen by Jehovah.
Did He know people would have such difficulty pronouncing it?
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.”
The dark leather couches are situated to encourage conversation and interaction. Sectioned off, it accommodates no more than five to six people but more could squeeze in. Men, sometimes with a mix of women, but mostly men sit on supple leather chairs and couches and talk. “Man, I just lost my job today.” One friend orders the newly jobless a scotch. Another goes to his private humidor locker and pulls out the Cuban he’d been saving for himself and gives it to his disheartened comrade. Another hands him a card and says, “Call me tomorrow, I might have something for you.”
The Otis Complex
I flick a soggy cigarette butt off the lip of Otis’ bejeweled dinner bowl before dumping the mush into the crowded sink. You can’t tell it apart from shaved yucca skin or three day old guac.
“Ma, you trying to kill the dog again?” I yell into the dim, half opened bathroom. It’s obstructed by her yellow scooter and a tower of records. “He ain’t a smoker, you know.”