No Orange for Julius

black busI always told him no one would ride in a black bus. Wouldn’t listen. Threw away his money to redo the fleet. Told him the bus came off like a hearse or some prison transport. Julius blamed the sun. Said he’d tinted the windows amber because people wanted to sleep between transfer points, cities where the railroad line dropped people off and where he picked them up. Places that were off the beaten track, someone running away from a deadbeat husband or on the way to rehab. None of that changed how the bus almost looked like a shiny beetle without wings. It was a free service. Julius was being paid by the county. Making peanuts. He kept telling me COB. I thought he had a disease, but he said, no, you idiot. It’s the cost of doing business. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I said, I’m telling you the truth, but he never listened, not until some guy bought a fleet of school buses from GreenValley District. The guy painted them bright orange and started to compete with my brother. That’s when Julius got another idea. He was going to design T-shirts so they looked like sweat was dripping beneath the armpits. I told him that was the stupidest idea I’d ever heard of. He said, no, you’ll see. People don’t want to work hard; they only want it to look like they do. Long story short. Julius sold the buses and made a fortune. Everyone thought the shirts were funny. The money lasted for a while. He never knew I had his back.

Upcoming Readings
Sept. 2, Oakland (Beast Crawl)
Sept. 18, Berkeley (Poetry Express)
Oct. 14, Alameda (Frank Bette Center)
Nov. 12, SF, (Jewish Community Library)

Eunoia Review is an online literary journal committed to sharing the fruits of ‘beautiful thinking’. Each day, we publish two new pieces of writing for your reading pleasure. We believe that Eunoia Review can and should be a home for all sorts of writing, and we welcome submissions from writers of all ages and backgrounds.

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Discovering Hungarian in Budapest

Chain Link Bridge, Budapest

Chain Link Bridge, Budapest

1. At West End Mall
Up Radnoti Miklos utca, street named after the Hungarian Jewish poet
who died in labor camps months before liberation
in a city that volunteered Jews to Nazi death
ancestral home to parents who squeezed their way
past two World Wars to meet in New York City’s immigrant hot-house.

I am looking to answer a question I have carried in a stone sack
within me for  years, ransack a pastry shop and allow
poppy seeds, sugar, and lemon peel to fill my mouth, and like a moth
drawn to the lightest of things move toward West End Mall’s three floors
of stores sit next to a statuesque ice-cream cone adorned with a red cherry
finish pastries and watch men and women belong to each other as I

try to break the code of this strange language
whispered in my infant ears.

2. Near the Chain Link Bridge
I wear a badge of pure white,
a strand that expanded to a tell-tale swatch,
my grandmother Lenke’s mark on me,
not the yellow star pinned to a sleeve.

She did not have to wear that, entered Ellis Island
pregnant with my Aunt Clara, bastard child
who revealed the secret on her death bed,
how Lenke was stranded alone

banned to the United States
to give birth to a baby, her sister’s bindle
tucked inside a sewing machine.
Lenke’s parents saved three lives, but not their own.

They say by the time she reached 30
her hair gleamed as white as enamel,
and when she baked, she set out her cakes 
with cloth and napkins.

I looked for her, my namesake,
my missing chain link
suspended over the Danube
running down my spine

and when the pot-bellied waiter
came to my side and winked twice,
my mouth opened up in Hungarian,
and he knew what I wanted.

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July Fourth Meditation on Love

It was July Fourth and early enough that most people were still sleeping in their beds unless they’d decided to get up to stake out a spot at a local picnic ground for their family’s festivities, spreading out the blanket or assembling the portable barbecue. It was quiet. Even the cats that usually jump into my bed were nowhere to be seen and I didn’t go looking  because that would’ve meant I’d have to fill their bowls and change their water, which I wasn’t ready to do, still drinking my coffee with its sweet taste of Half & Half and watching hummingbirds buzz the feeder on my patio. Tonight my daughter was leaving for Latin America. My condo would once again revert to single occupancy, not that I was broke up about it; we’d already said our good-byes following a European trip that brought us to Spain, Italy, and Hungary, spending if there is such a thing,  too much quality time together. A few weeks back I realized that she reminded myself of someone I knew, and that someone was myself as a young person: obstinate and opinionated. But there was something else about this July Fourth: something about a confession that bubbled to the surface. Maybe it wasn’t a confession, more like a question that I needed to answer, clear the way for a new energy path or some such woo-woo that I was willing to allow in a world that needed help from wherever it came. I’d already responded to an online astrologer who’d predicted that I was embarking upon a “transit period” where many miraculous things were about to happen. I had walked seven miles a day with my daughter to righteously earn the role of tourist. Several days ago I scrubbed my couch cushions clean and allowed them to dry on the patio, full-sun. In Europe, people hung their clothes out on the line, the way my mother did back in the days growing up in the Bronx, pinning each shirt and moving the line forward with a screech of the pulley’s rusted wheels. I wanted to return to a more primordial, essential time. And what was that question? It had to do with love.

For the past several years I’d been online dating. I can chart that time through certain phases, like Picasso’s “Blue Period” or Joan Miró’s “surrealism,” except mine had more to do with data collection, not art. I met each date in a café, restaurant, or bowling alley; my initial impressions gathered from a “profile,” the online calling card offered to anyone who cared to look. I provided a fair summary of my likes and dislikes and what I was seeking, and pressed Send. What followed were several responses. But you see, I was healing a broken heart, and during those first several years, I was seeking a replacement—his replacement and I sought out a certain kind of man, and each time I met with someone, sized him up hoping in my fretful way, that he would “be the one.” He never was. How  fair was I being to all those lovely men? Hopefully, I’ve changed. I have moved on in life and still continue to date. But I am puzzled. What is love and how will I ever be able to recognize it? I thought I had. Is it just about “chemistry” that sine qua non that we can’t spell out until we feel the heat?  Should I be looking for fireworks?

My daughter calls from her room. She needs help packing.

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Truisms

It’s not necessarily true that Italy has the best gelato and that every frame has to house a picture; however it is true that Italian men are conditioned by years of playing soccer to have broad shoulders and narrow waists, which can be said of Spanish men as well;

Footballs flying past outdoor tables can be pigeons, never parrots, as parrots are shy birds that take their camouflage seriously, and therefore, make the best ambassadors;

All great paintings depict two things: either faith or war while museum security guards are the most accomplished people watchers in the entire world;

It also could be said that there are no great paintings of security guards

or how the sun never sets on the Internet
in an airbnb without a window, coffee, or blankets.

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Keller Avenue Strip Mall

It’s a strip mall disguised as a plaza
where I used to take my cats to the veterinarian
on that one day when maintenance
inspected apartments and no pets allowed,
kept going back to the vet even after my place turned condo
we could keep dogs, cats, lizards, whatever else
we wanted. The pizza shop wasn’t very good and got bought
out by another pizza shop that wasn’t very good, but they
handed out packets of Parmesan and hot peppers
and made change for a twenty, if you really needed it,
something the Keller Market selling everything from beer to
sandwiches to Fruit of the Loom T-shirts
would never do, which the man behind the counter of the dry cleaning store
would do, especially if you were a regular customer,
and then an acupuncture office moved into a space
once occupied by an exercise studio, but that place went under.

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Sant Feliu de Guixols

Women made the fishing nets
valued throughout northern Catalunya
like the black lace
they specialized in knitting

fine and delicate.
Manuel Zalvide in charge of licenses
punished fisherman
if they were caught using any others

from this town on the Mediterranean
named after a preacher man
from northern Africa, Felix, who was
rescued by two angels from drowning.

Women performed their own miracles
worked in factories to manufacture
cork stoppers
for wine and oil but couldn’t stop

the town’s port from being bombed
repeatedly
during the Spanish Civil War
a gateway to the island of Mallorca.

Now tourists eat gelato
gather plates of tapas
late into the evening
swim at the playa

where the sea wall
looks like Jupiter’s child
had spilled her blocks on the way home
all the letters washed away in the tide.

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Desolation (after Josef Llimona’s statue at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya)

I’m headed toward a terrible outcome.
How can I be sure? Ask anyone.

They’ll tell you. How my Italian marble
is too white and how I give in to myself

way too easily, slumped over my arm
without coordinates or any place to go.

A little understanding please
no finger-pointing or shaking heads

as though I’m guilty of some terrible crime
picking me apart

from your pillar of self-importance
snapping selfies with a dumb smile.

Stop trying to make me
into something I’m not.

I mean that woman drenched in purple.
Does her husband even have a dick?

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Playing Doctor

He strokes her hair
As she suckles his cock
A grown girl
At mama’s breast
Reaches inside
To taste
What he’s made of
For the sweet milk
Double-timing
In iambic
Pentameter
A hungry lick
Doesn’t let go
This lover man
Now her woman
Comes crying out
Loud his birth pang
A surprise ending
She drinks the rose
Thistle and hemlock
She gets it.

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UltraMicrotome Chekhov

I was arguing in the car with my husband about his best friend. His wife had cried to me over the phone. “Can you believe it? He said that making love to me is like caviar, but sometimes he wants herring.”

What a stupid fuck. Taking the side of a friend who’s been sleeping around is generally not a good idea, especially ill-advised if your wife is pregnant and getting an ultrasound. He laughed, “He complimented her. What’s wrong with tasting like caviar?”

I unbuttoned my jacket and rubbed my stomach. I’d already had two miscarriages. “That’s not the point, Wallace.” The doctor wanted to check on the baby’s development. “How can you laugh about what he’s doing? How d’you think you would feel if I were sleeping around?”

For the last fifteen minutes we’d been searching for a parking spot. I don’t remember why Wallace didn’t park in the hospital lot. Maybe we were running late. “That’s a joke! Not in your condition.” So annoying. He laughed again.

“As far as I’m concerned, she’s got more going for her in her little pinky finger than he does in his dick head.” Marta looked like a Russian Orthodox icon even if I couldn’t stand her unwavering devotion to designer brands. She also was a kick-ass accountant.

He spotted a parking spot across the street from the hospital and moved to grab it. “You’re wrong. That’s what Russian guys do. It’s a cultural thing.”

“You mean she should enjoy being treated like shit because it’s a cultural thing?”

“Things are never simple between couples. You never know what’s happening.” He was about to pull into the spot when a silver Lincoln cut in front. Wallace was pissed. He double-parked and got out of the car. He was an imposing man, over six feet. I saw him bend down to the driver’s window and then walk back quickly.

“What’s up?”

“He pulled out a gun.”

“You’re shitting me!” I turned around and gave the man the finger, grabbed a pen from the glove compartment and scribbled his license plate number on my palm. “I’m going to report him.”

Everything that day felt urgent. We found another spot and finally got to the hospital where the doctor rubbed warm gel on my abdomen and asked if I had drunk four glasses of water that morning; still shaking from the gun episode, a question to which I answered, “Yes.” I lay on a white sheet and watched the monitor over my right shoulder, a little fish attached to my umbilical cord, bumping up and down to the rhythm of my heart. Stumpy arms and legs. The doctor called them buds. Amazing how an embryo can breathe under water.

“Your baby looks healthy,” said the doctor. We’d already knew it was a girl. “No abnormality.” But I didn’t feel that way, wondering if I was wrong staying with Wallace even if I were pregnant, even though I knew I didn’t love him.

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Transcendentalists

Being that it was sandal weather and time for her feet to reveal themselves to prospective dating partners, Bernice wondered what color to paint her toenails. There were so many choices: reds and pinks were her favorites. Forget those navy blues and blacks those young girls liked; those dark colors were too dense to ride upon the insignificant weight of a nail. She thought a person should reserve black for funerals, that it was totally unsuitable to make appearances on a young girl’s hands, just like Vaneeta’s in her Sophomore English class, and certainly unsuitable for a white woman like herself in her forties.

During the school year, Bernice only wore clear. She didn’t want to distract her students from their discussion of Ralph Waldo Emerson or Emily Dickinson. Transcendentalists like Bernice took their colors seriously. She knew about a great aunt in the family who had healed people through the laying on of color, an art that had been lost in the handing down. Even so, Bernice was a believer, had taken months to figure out the right swatches for her living room. She’d finally painted her walls light brown and deep purple, but as for her nails; they were apple red.

Looking out on the patio, she felt like she was in the mountains, not in a town house facing a major highway with a dozen or so more units being built behind her. She’d even started dating and was meeting Jeffrey for the first time at the Starbucks close to the university. They had been corresponding for weeks now, but neither of them had profile photos. She didn’t want her ex to know she was going out, and Jeffrey had said pretty much the same thing.

Bernice had never thought of asking him to send her a picture. She was worried that she might not like him, but he sounded so nice. He worked at the local radio station, and said she’d recognize him by his Diamondbacks cap. Bernice walked into the store and saw a man sitting near the windows and recognized the cap. He was the color of warm coffee. She nearly knocked over the napkin dispenser with her purse. “Hi, I’m Bernice.”

“Jeffrey,” he said, and he pulled out her chair. “What can I get you?”

“Small coffee.”  Anything larger would take too much time.

Before he left for the counter, he admired her hands and said, “You’ve got nice nails.”

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