In the Pocket: Day 1: Women Traveling

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Saskatchewan

by Mindy Haskins Rogers

For three days I ride the Canadian prairie, on a road that cleaves the plain into a rippling symmetry. Wheat pools are beacons of humanity, and infrequent houses loom, bleached and brittle. There’s no god here but the wind, mowing the fields, silencing all with a roar. I open the throttle and thrust forward.

In a windowless pub I suck down sour beers with a bull rider and three affable steel workers. We marvel at each other’s presence. The bull rider’s jeans stretch taut; he sways when he walks like a too-tall tree. When his girl comes to take him away, a pang of solitude strikes. She looks pretty, and clean – cleaner than I could ever be, even if I took a shower.

My scarecrow, lion, and tin man remain. We drink until our tongues are thick and dry, chalk the pool cues one more time. Then I totter to my rented bed, to sleep, untroubled, and wake to a sky as big as the prairie itself.

Mindy Haskins Rogers’ writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Hippocampus Magazine, Atticus Review, and Entropy Magazine. She lives in Massachusetts, where she is a member of Grub Street Writers’ community and Straw Dog Writers’ Guild. She was a scholarship recipient at Juniper Summer Writing Workshop in 2014. You can follow her on twitter @mhaskinsrogers. 

 

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You and I Were Never Going to Trade Spare Keys

by H. E. Fisher

We gathered at the gate on the first Thursday in November, 1992, ten of us traveling together to Israel. The El Al flight attendant greeted each of us with the word Shalom as she checked our seatbelts and overhead compartments—and said it again as we filed off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport. Shalom means “hello” and “goodbye.” Our mutual friend introduced us. Your dark goatee framed your smile like a parenthesis. I probably smiled back (I don’t remember). I recall thinking that you and I both understood intuitively we weren’t meant to be friends.

But then we laughed at the mouth of the cave near Masada, shuttling on hands and knees along its narrow yellow rock passages beneath the stalactites where Hebrews with oil lamps once hid from Roman soldiers. And on another day, in Jerusalem (when non-Muslims could still visit the mosque), I photographed you outside, near the Dome of the Rock in the Old City, in the long, hand-sewn skirt you wore over your shorts and bare legs out of respect, vamping and high-kicking against the fantastic blue sky and Mediterranean tiles. On our host’s rooftop that evening, the sky in stilled light, we looked out at all the white roofs of the city, and everywhere was splendor. Later that week, when we met the Palestinian filmmakers at Al Kasaba Theatre in Ramallah, we talked about movies and how peace felt both imminent and unattainable; the duality of the region always palpable.

On one of our last days there, we visited the Holocaust Museum. I left through the closest exit to get away from all that curated hate and found you alone in the shade by the building’s dumpsters and thrumming AC units. “I lost family,” you said, and without waiting for a reply, asked, “Who did you lose? How many? From where?” I wondered if for you it was enough that we were Jews and that the tragic history we shared produced its own kinship. The sudden intimacy of your questions was unnerving, without boundaries, even. I went inside without answering.

Long after our return, near my apartment on East Seventh, I saw you playing basketball on roller skates in Tompkins Square Park. You were too absorbed in the game for me to call your name or wave. It felt as though once again I was standing on the other side of a back exit. Lingering for a moment or two, I hoped you would see me behind the fence, a tourist viewing an attraction from the past, and that you would greet me with the smile of an old friend. But even as I thought it I knew that wasn’t our history. I lost no one; they left before the war, I replied, silently, at last, to all those questions you posed at Yad Vashem, the enduring memorial. I walked on, never having said hello or goodbye.

Helene is a writer, teacher/mentor and health literacy expert. She is currently working toward her MFA in Creative Writing at City College of New York. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Hopper, Hip Mama, Wild Violet, and Parent Guide Newshttps://www.hefisher.com.

 

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Philoxenia

by Lisa Reily

My partner and I are in Greece, passing thorny green hills and silver-leafed olive trees. The rush of cars echoes around the mountains and the breeze through our open windows brings hot summer air.

I am drawn back here, to the turquoise water, the relentless sun. I have missed the taste of black olives, lush summer tomatoes, and warm crusty bread infused with oregano. There is a generosity here that I do not find back home. Last stay, an old man in the village caught us admiring his fruit trees; we walked home with his gift of fresh oranges. It is the Greeks’ philoxenia that I love, their philosophy to go above and beyond to welcome their guests.

Our host, Nikos, spins the wheel and screeches to a stop outside a sweet shop. “Pagoto!” he shrieks. Ice cream. And he is off, leaving us with our bags in the back seat of his car.

He returns promptly, accompanied by an enormous box of the most exotic ice cream. The kataifi one wins hands down: crisp strands of honeyed dough, hinted with lemon, aromatic cloves and cinnamon. As we eat, Nikos beams; he prides himself on his philoxenia.

We met Nikos last year, when we rented an apartment from him. We arrived to its fourth-floor balcony to find a freshly cut platter of fruit—pungent nectarines, peaches, and apricots—and a bottle of sweet red wine. Nikos filled our fridge with food and our freezer with icy treats. Homemade olive oil and a pot of fresh basil decorated our counter. The next day, a luscious bag of plums hung from our front door.

We pass a line of beehives on a hill, their old, white containers with colored lids. “Bee boxes!” I shout. We spot more scattered among the green, waiting patiently for their visitors.

We are weak for the honey here, scented with pine, sometimes a kind of woodiness, or pretty Greek wildflowers. Little do we know that a jar from Nikos awaits us in our kitchen cupboard, yet to be discovered and poured over thick Greek yogurt.

Lisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry and stories have been published in several journals, such as Riverteeth Journal’s Beautiful Things,  Panoply, Amaryllis, Riggwelter, Magma and DNA Magazine. You can find out more at lisareily.wordpress.com

 

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