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Raw Honey

Raw Honey 

©Jo Hewitt The Teal Mango 2017

It has been a year.                                 

Shall we again meet?

Shall we gather

In your city

Or would you rather



Either is fine.

Shall I bring chocolate

And pastry sweet?

Truffles perhaps,

Rosemary, Cayenne, or Lime?

Name the date.

Name the time.

Shall we talk of then or now?

Shall we talk, compare each different path?

Shall we give voice

To the aftermath

Of the why and how

Of each one’s choice,

Of our each different path?

Do you want coffee, tea, espresso?

“Oh, the tea” you might say.

“I guess so.”

For me,

I might choose the coffee.

It is long since my life,

My surroundings,

Afforded me the civility

Of the fragrance of tea.


Please, say again

Where shall we meet,

We three

To savor old times

With coffee or tea.

Shall it be your condo?

Or shall it be your

Backyard and pond


Your screened porch?

Shall you, or shall I pour?

How much sugar does it take

To sweeten your tea?

One lump,

Two, three,


How many more?

You stop at three?

Lumps in life come differently.

I will decline the sweetener,

Real or artificial

As may be your habit

or your ritual.

I now drink mine

Bitter, a bit.

As we sip,

As we sit,

Shall my thoughts lead my mind

To the calm of the pond

Or beyond

And leave my ears behind

With your shallow prate?

I have no patience of late.

Nor time.

I do not understand

The reason or rhyme

Of your need

for shallow discourse.

Of course,

If I offer topics deep,

Me, again, will you berate

And claim I condescend?


Will I again

Need to defend

To you

My view,

My stance

On the current social brew

And circumstance of



Bigotry and hate?

Perhaps you cannot fathom it

From your city,

Or this pond.


Shall I regret,

Shall I reflect

My lack of circumspect

In what words I proffer?


If I were to offer

You honey raw,

A chance for healing,

(In sugar coating

There is none,

None at all)


In my defense,

If I were to coat your cup

And stir with your delusion,

And seclusion,

A picket from your

White middle class fence,

Would you drink it up?

Would you drink it all?

Could you stomach it raw?

Or would you choke

In the coat

Of feeling?

Swallowing the rawness

Is the healing.


It has been a year.

Shall we again meet,

We three?

I think not.

I have not time to savor tea.

Time is short.

Barely time for coffee.

We stand at the shore,

The brim,

Of the rim

Of a blackened sea.

The waves of the old ways,

Cresting, crashing

Have come,

To swallow us,




Portrait of Miss Sinclair by William Orpen

Portrait of Miss Sinclair by William Orpen








The Fox and E.’s E. Grapes

The Fox and E.’s E. Grapes

©Jo Hewitt The Teal Mango 2017
The Fox and E.'s E. Grapes © Jo Hewitt 2017

The Fox and E.’s E. Grapes
© Jo Hewitt 2017


The Fox and E.’s E. Grapes

You said you’d heard I had a change in heart,

Maybe I would feel better now.

You said you had heard it from the grapevine.

You said your heart was okay,

Your heart was fine.

Did you ask me about mine?


What did The Fox say?

As he lured you over the vineyard trestle

To expose your nakedness

To his rakishness

To begin your writhing,

To wrestle,

To twist your morals,

Churning out the inside.

The emperor has new clothes-

His flaccid ethics.

Did you both his bloated corpulence ride?


To measure truth, reality, justice and ethics,

What are your metrics?


And yet,

Do you have regrets

As he filled your cistern with rancid wine?

Churn, twist and turn

On your mottled bed under the grape vine.

Day and night, night and day.

Did you listen, really listen to

What The Fox did say?


With your legs and mouth agape,

Did you ruminate on each

Rotten grape?

Did you swallow it all,

Each little green ball

Proffered on his spear’s length and girth?

What did The Fox say?

Did he promise The Garden’s rebirth,

Make new your own Gethsemane?

And what would that be?

It seems it’s a garden turned dark and gray.

But tell me, tell me,

What did the Fox say?


Were you complicit?

Were you complacent?

As the cross was broken for the Sacrament?


I call you out on your hypocrisy,

The modern world’s leprosy

Where the seekers of Truth

Are confined in the colony.


Did you choke on the soured green pearls you spewed


In slouched protection from your

Paltry, pernicious pew?


You Pharisee,

Void of humane thought,

Vapid head.


Where years ago the Good Word fell

Screaming, silent, a knell

To a soul long dead.


What did The Fox say?

While, before, after

He mind-fucked your head

Fornicating, penetrating to

Your heart, your Soul,

Giving us all the shaft


All you say is:

“My heart is okay.

I worry about MY children, too.”



Your blonde-haired, blue eyed babes

Who will never experience the

Bludgeoning hate of a bigot’s rage.


My heart is fine. My heart is okay.”

Again you nurse your whine

Blood letting whine of malice.

You drink from a long tarnished chalice,

Gloating, your spiritual body bloating,

Seeping, ooze of ignorance.

Dare I say, dare I pray for your temperance?


Cease and Desist



The call of The Fox

As he mocks

The Word, turned to bitter brine.


This is absurd.


Again your whine.


Would we be safer

With your Holy Wafer,

A thin stale slice.

Dried up infectious staph of death,

Not life.

Do we warrant a few crumbs

To ease the strife?


Do we have a choice?

Do you have and

Will you use your voice?

Do you even have your own thought?


I thought naught.


In this sordid play

Will you only believe and do

Whatever The Fox will say?


You laid your soul upon this perverted alter.

You did not falter

As YOU drained it of life.

What else has died,

What else is dead?

You lay back on your grape leaf bed,

Your legs wide



This is not a game.


Do you think your leaf of fig

Will hide

your shame?

Your holy leaf,

Gold leaf,




Is now our crown of thorns.


Your lips, lowered, spread wide,

A bloody smile,

Blood of my children, my friends.

With each thrust of The Fox

Another destructive beginning

Which never ends.

All the while

You writhe under The Fox and whine

My heart is okay. My heart is fine.”


Did you ask ME how I feel

Is my heart okay?


My heart may never heal

As I breathe

In the stench of your spiritual decay

And of your Judas vote.


One thing more I must note,

One thing more needs be said,


“Let the dead

Bury the dead.”




Wilma, With Love

© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2016

With Love, Wilma

With Love, Wilma

This past spring, in the 3rd month of the year, it was the 3rd anniversary of my mother’s death 3 days short of her 97th birthday, 3 years short of her hundredth.

Over the years I had asked my mother things about her life. Evidently I did not ask enough or I have forgotten; questions do arise. I think, “Oh, I’ll ask Mom.” But it is too late. She had shared the events of her life, facts and observations of the facts. But I wanted to know what she thought and more importantly, what she felt. One time on a road trip I asked her some things. She relayed facts of events. When I pressed her for what she thought and what she felt in those moments of her life, she stopped talking to me, turned her head and stared off to a vacant horizon. She either wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me what she felt.  One of the few things she shared was when I asked if at some point she became ill, in a vegetative state, what  decision she would like me to make for her.

Starting off as a sickly baby, she had her share of hardship. I don’t think I could have gone through what she went through: 11 children, childhood diseases at a time when one suffered through and prayed no one died, sewing their clothing, canning their food in addition to a full time job teaching. Money struggles and a lack of robust health, and the death of three of her children before her own were added to that. The heart and soul of a naturalist and artist, a free spirit, buried beneath the heap of the demands of life, struggling for air. I think of her as a marathon runner. Maybe she didn’t have the luxury of thinking or feeling, but had to focus: one foot, then the next, to keep on going.

Still I wonder. I want to know. Still.

It’s too late. She will never tell.


Wilma With Love


Oh Weakened Wilma!

Yellow, puny, sickly baby, small.

Did they cuddle you, love you, 

Give you all?

Not enough mother’s milk for you to feed.

Not enough to meet your need.

Give her the summer milk they said.

Might as well, as well she’s dead.

Oh Weakened Wilma, what did you think? What did you feel?

It’s too late. You never will tell.


Oh Wistful Wilma!

Did you find delight of dew on naked feet?

Did you run through meadows 

Or fields of corn

To catch the sky above 

You and flowers of the same earth born?

Did you greet the sun of morn

Or the stars of night?

Did your heart mourn the fall of leaves

Or autumn birds in flight?

Hay loft above, straw below,

Did you day dream, hay dreams

To a bovine low?

Oh Wistful Wilma, what did you think? What did you feel?

It’s too late. You never will tell.


Oh Wondering Wilma!

From open fields to opening your mind,

Beginning at home, then off to school  to learn.

What will you find?

A new love, for knowledge, you yearn.

This drive, this quest, a thirst, your soul burns.

Science, nature, Latin, literature, art.

Elementary, high school, to university.

Valedictorian. Your hallmark. 

Valē. Embark!

Oh Wondering Wilma, what did you think? What did you feel?

It’s too late. You never will tell.


Oh Winsome Wilma,

In this new, college town place

Did you know how much your world changed,

How much your life would be re-arranged?

Someone would not see a plain Wilma Jane face,

But a smile to beguile and rile

A force that would your past erase.

Unintended, unexpressed flirt.

Could you understand love,

Its joys, its hurt?

Oh Winsome Wilma, what did you think? What did you feel?

It’s too late. You never will tell.


Oh Wandering Wilma,

What was this love, this vow? 

Was it somehow

A  deal with the devil?

Constant upheaval.

Far from your family home.

Another year, another town, another house, another baby-child,

Love’s illusions defiled?

Your emotions involute, to a dark inner alone.

Oh Wandering Wilma, what did you think? What did you feel?

It’s too late. You never will tell.


Oh Wearied Wilma

Moving mouths and moving trucks or vans

Packing, unpacking, reaching, empty hands.

Sugar, eggs, milk shortage.


Chipped dry beef gravy

Or hash on 

White bread.

Stomachs grumble to sleep in cold bed.

Not really enough to eat.

Worn out shoes or no shoed feet.

One house with floor of ice

On winter days and winter nights.

Children sick, was it five or six?

Diseases, was it four or more?

Diapers and vomit on beds and floor to clean.

Two weeks of quarantine,

With you to care, just you alone.

Tired, exhausted to the bone.

Oh Wearied Wilma, what did you think? What did you feel?

It’s too late. You never will tell.


Oh Widowed Wilma

You are at no one’s beck and call.

There is no one there. At all.

After years of giving your life time blood

To children, dying son, dying husband

Can you answer to one, your heart, instead.

Is it time to pick up brush and pen,

to pick up palette and paint,

Begin again?

Orange, red, gold.

Splattering autumn pigment so bold.

Wispy fingers of dawn clouds so faint,

A trace of light, a trace of your soul.

Oh Widowed Wilma, what did you think? What did you feel?

It’s too late. You never will tell.


Oh Waning Wilma,

Did the days begin to run one into the other?

Did monotonous time becomes your new master?

Slowly sucking the flesh of your days,

Faster and faster?

Did your heart running free

Stop, look back to see

The empty place,

The missing arms, the missing face,

The voice, words that at times were gruff?

The clock tick-ticking behind the chimes. 

Was it perhaps enough? Was it time?

Oh Waning Wilma, what did you think? What did you feel?

It’s too late. You never will tell.


Oh Waiting Wilma,

What will your heaven be?

What will your heart yield?

Is it the rose fingers of dawn

bejeweled with lingering stars of night?

Is it golden blue sky 

over purple drenched field

From which the winter crow takes flight?

What did death’s summon bring?

Did souls with loving arms around you ring?

Oh so many things I should have asked

before your invitation to death’s dance,

Before the adorning, death’s sunken mask.

Now I could not ask. I could only sing

and hold you, for this transitioning.

A silent wail,

I felt the rift in Heaven that morning night.

Your winter’s birds taking spring flight,

Lifting the veil. 

Oh Waiting Wilma,

What did you see?

What did you feel?

It is too late. You never will tell.


Girl With Kittens In Berry Basket. By Wilma J. Russell circa 1930

Girl With Kittens In Berry Basket.
By Wilma J. Russell circa 1930




The Rain Crow

© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2013

The sun prepared to take its usual trek the_crow_and_the_rain_by_leaderdobbie13-d4xz0tqfrom the east, highlighting the dew on the young grasses, clover and alfalfa in the meadows and on the barely emerged corn and awakening wheat in the fields. It wanted to chase the cool shadow of night from the gravel and asphalt roads that fed out from the towns to the farms and back, like tentacles stretching out, sucking up the life force of nature and the countryside, to fill the ravenous shelves of hungry stores. It wanted to hop-scotch from the fields to the Great Huckleberry Marsh, splashing its toes in the pockets of ponds between the rushes, east of Coot Coon Lake before looking to the northwest to tiptoe along Huckleberry Trail to the road that ran from the school, sneaking along the back of the lot, to step over it, to pass along the garden, to swing with the morning air and then slide up to sleeping windows to say good morning.

But it couldn’t. It was stopped in its tracks by the chill of a slumberous gray fog that had latched onto the marsh, and the lake, and all that was in the land, and refused to budge or to roll over, and continued to sleep.

*  *  *

Her eyelids lifted to the movement of her feet pulling back under the folds of the loose cotton weave blanket that had stayed with her through the night even after the fuzzy fleece had slid to the floor in the darkness and had invited the other blanket to follow it. Slowly returning to the room from a far away sleep, her eyes opened and closed softly, repeatedly, each time re-absorbing her time and place. The thick white trim of her sister’s room held the gray white walls in place, separated from the soft gray light of morning and the fog of still sleepy thoughts.

Her sister’s room was on the back side of the house. From the window, if she stood on the bed or pulled over the chair from the dressing table, and stood on her tiptoes, she could see the old garage that smelled like the mud and rotting walnuts from the tree behind it next to the fence. She could see the sidewalk that led from the back porch steps, ending in the grass next to the swing set. She could watch the grassy path as it led away, past the garden to the back edge of their property to a road that, turning to the right, led to the school, the big school where her brother had gone to kindergarten last year and where, at the end of summer, she too would  start.

On the hot summer nights when the window was open, on one of the rare occasions when she was allowed to sleep there, she lay there awake and awake and awake. She could see the still light of a summer night. And through that window she listened to sounds of cars, transformed into sounds from an unknown world, coming and going, but mostly going, going far off in the distance, maybe down Huckleberry Trail. She liked the sound of the name because it was like one of the cartoon shows. Her mother had taken her and her brother two or three times on Huckleberry Trail, It connected to the road that went by the school. As it left the town it angled off, leaving houses behind until the road went in different directions. One way, it curved to go back into town. The other twisted into a darkened tree lined road. They went on it one time at night to buy some eggs from a small white house hidden from the road. Merely a quick stop, her mother was anxious to return home. Maybe it had something to do with whispers she had heard about things and people farther along the trail.

The rest of her body stirred. She looked around the room, followed the white trim to the door to outside of the bedroom, around to the half closed shutters on the white wooden paneled closet doors, to the fog-paned window and then back to the bedroom door. The quiet of the fog had seeped in and silenced the household in a sleepy hush.

She lifted her blanket and gingerly swung her legs down from the almost too big bed, her feet not landing in slippers she didn’t have. She didn’t put on the robe she didn’t have. Those things belonged to the perfect families in perfect white houses in perfect neighborhoods on TV shows. Families where the mothers wore pearl necklaces while making French toast for breakfast before hugging their children and wishing them a good day at school, holding on to the door frame, waving a last good-bye while the children merrily headed off to school. Those were the families where they sat around the table at night, the father at the head, the mother either by his side or at the other end, feasting on roast from a platter placed like a sacrificial offering to the conqueror, and talking and philosophizing about the day’s events. Instead, people came late, grabbed what they could and continued to work either inside or outside the home. Instead, she straightened her thin cotton pajamas that her mother had sewn for her the previous year. The bottom hem of the pant legs had long ago receded from grazing the top of her feet below her ankles and journeyed up toward her calves.

She tiptoed to the door, carefully opening it to control the creaking of the hinges . She paused for a moment, partly to steady herself, her little body wasn’t fully awake yet, and partly to make sure no one else was up. She crossed the upper landing to the top of the stairs. She held on to the post shaped like the swirl of a snail shell at the top of the banister and looked down at the 14 steps to the landing. She had counted them many times up and many times down. She liked to run down the steps as fast as she could when no one was watching. But this morning she carefully placed one foot down on the first step, and while holding tightly to the banister, she brought her second foot down to rest beside it. She did this with the second step, and the next step, each time being careful to miss the creaky spots and to avoid the areas where the finish had worn, where splinters rising from the grain were waiting for her, and the next step, and the next, every so often along the fourteen steps she paused to listen.

She arrived and softly pounced on the landing.  She liked the landing. It made the stairs not as steep. She had fallen many times on the stairs at the old house. But here, the landing caught her in her fall. And after a couple times she could go up and down without so much fear. She liked to bring her books to the landing and to sit under the window to read. She liked to stretch out on her belly on the landing, facing the living room, to color, looking up, peering through the balusters and on through the living room windows to watch the traffic on the street and the neighborhood’s cats that claimed the sidewalk as their sunning spot. This morning as she crept down the stairs she could see out the landing window. And as she paused on the landing to listen she could see out the living room windows. The gray blanket was wrapped around this side of the house, too.

The mantel clock ticked as her feet brushed over the stubble of dirty gray green carpeting, making her way past the sofa toward the fireplace where she turned right into the dining room, passing the chairs at the table including the one where she left her sweater and the Thumper bunny rabbit, past the doorway to her parents’ bedroom, to go to the kitchen.

The back door was just ahead of her, a quick scurry across the black and white tiled floor. She looked at the handle. Did it turn right or left? While she was thinking her eyes moved up the door to the dull black sliding lock with but a few traces of dirty white paint left on it. Every so often she stiffened her ankle to perch on her tiptoes to see if she could reach the lock. Maybe today would be the day as she reached with her arm, almost pulling it out of the socket, her fingers flailing, missing with every swipe to touch the bolt. Her mother kept a folding step stool near the miniature pantry of shelves to the left of the door. It was as long as she was tall. She couldn’t lift it and if she dragged it, surely its scraping across the floor would wake her mother. She managed to pull it from the half slot in which it was stored. She precariously tilted it on one leg to pivot and swing the other leg forward. She danced the stool to the door, her heart beating to the pivot and swing, afraid the household would awaken. She spread its legs and pushed down on the brackets to brace them, moved it into place and made the ascent. She leaned into the door with one hand to brace herself and with the other grasped the peg on the bolt and jiggled it to the left, wiggling it around the bumps of old paint until the door was free. She climbed down to the floor and slid the step stool to the side. Reaching up with both hands she grabbed the doorknob and turned it back and forth until she heard the latch click and the door swung open.

She was almost there-standing on the back porch next to the washing machine, behind which their cat had decided to have her kittens. The black walls that enclosed it and the screen door with the hook lock were the last obstacle. The air here was a little cool. She quickly returned to inside the house to grab her sweater off the chair, bumping her thumper rabbit to the floor, ran back to the porch and pushed the hook out of the eye and remembering that her mother had told her she was never to be out there alone, opened the door.

Clouds. She had lain on the little hill of grass at the old house, not far from the flower bed that blossomed with the song of the bees, next to her sister, lazily searching for bunny rabbits, fish, and dragons in the marshmallow kaleidoscope above them.  She had watched them from the car window as her family drove from one town to another, from one house to another. Sometimes the clouds were ahead, sometimes not. But she wanted them to win so they would get to the new house first. She wanted to see something soft and familiar in the next strange beginning. Yesterday, as she had swung on her swing set, swinging as high as she could, to see nothing but clouds and to get as close to them as she could, she realized she couldn’t and she whispered and willed them to come to her. And, now, they did.

*  *  *

She stopped on the second of the three crumbled concrete steps, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, trying to avoid the jagged edges of the broken surface, her toes and the tender parts of her feet trying to find the vestige of a smooth pebbled surface fighting through the deteriorated mortar, her feet taking turns, one down, the other on top of it, a dance to regain warmth the dampness had drained from their soles. She had stopped, at first, because of the abrupt, startling slam of the screen door. But now her feet had stopped their involuntary dance. Now she stood absolutely still, overwhelmed by what stood before her, all around her. What should have be a moment of excitement-a world of sunshine on soft cloud pillows- left her on the verge of tears. The clouds had come but her world was gone-the garden, the swing  set, and the whole back yard, replaced with a damp gray cloudy mist. All that was left was the last of the three steps, the edge of the sidewalk and a little grass that bordered it. Everything else was gone.

She wondered what it felt like, this cloud on the ground. Would it feel squishy like a marshmallow, the way it looked like a marshmallow in the sky? Would it feel like the billowing of sheets when she ran through the laundry on the clothes line? Would it tickle like a cloud of a poof of dandelion seeds that she had blown against the wind?  If she touched it, would her hand and maybe herself disappear like the rest of her world? Her curiosity overcame her fear. She reached out, her fingers, her hand, her armed extended, disappearing into this mysterious world. And then, she pulled her arm back. Her hand, her finger were all still here; she was here; maybe her world was still here. She took a step down to the third step and then to the sidewalk. With each  step a little more of her backyard returned. She would find the swing set and swing in the cloud.

With each step, something reappeared. On her left, she barely saw the edge of the garage, moving in and out of the cloud. It danced in and out with the tall bush that would have purple flowers on it later on. She came to the sidewalk block with the dark lime green paint stains. Her dad had found two old rusty tricycles somewhere, one was a little bigger, one was a little smaller. She and her brother couldn’t ride them until they had been cleaned up. But washing wouldn’t get rid of the rust. Her dad had bought a couple cans of spray paint-one bright blue and one dark green.  He had laid newspapers down to protect the sidewalk from the paint as the  tricycles were sprayed. Some of the spray landed past the edge of the paper. Her brother was a year older and was given first pick on the paint colors. He chose the blue. She was left with the green. It wasn’t a pretty green; it was a dark heavy green. She wished  it had been bright green like new grass in the spring. Step by step, along the re-emerging slabs of sidewalk, she made her way to the swing set, always, something reappearing, something once again sinking back into the quiet gray.


Every couple steps she had stopped and listened to the quiet. In the fog, everything seemed more quiet. The jagged edge of the broken step was quiet. The roughness of the concrete of the sidewalk was more quiet. The splintering wooden daggers of the rotting frame of the garage were softer, more quiet. The precise edge of the border between the newspaper and the green paint on the sidewalk seemed more diffused, quiet. The edges of the rusted metal tubes of the swing set receded into the fog, quiet.


Everything was quiet, including her heart as she stood, her thoughts looking around, side to side, absorbing the vastness of the quiet cloud in which she stood. The garage was gone again. The house, with everyone in it, had disappeared, long since swallowed by the slumberous fog. This big expanse of thick cloud arms had encircled her, protecting her from her other world, even muffling out the sounds from the houses, the roads, the whole town around her. This world of fog and peaceful silence was all hers.

She stood in front of the swing set, contemplating its three swings, almost disembodied, the chains barely visible. Which one would she choose? One swing was a plasticky canvas cloth. It sunk low to the ground as it tightened around whoever sat in it. Her mother always put her brother just younger than her in it to swing, the sides coming up around him, hugging him, holding him safely in the swing. With that one she would be too close to the ground and she wouldn’t be able to pull her feet up close to her away from the cold dampness to warm them.

The swing on the far end was metal. It had been a gray blue-green color with a scrolled design cut out in the center which had been a creamy white. But it, like the rest of the set, was pitted with rust, its chipped paint lost in the surface of the dirt below it, scraped many times by little feet, She would feel the sharpness through her worn pajamas. She had cut herself on it the previous summer; the edge of the scroll had cut into her skin above the backside of her knee where the hem of her shorts had ended. It took over a week for the inflamed red line with a hint of pus to heal. The burning and itching bothered her even more than the look of it.

The last, the middle swing hovered in the fog, held in place by little swirls of mist that danced, reaching out to her, calling for her attention. It moved a little toward her, creaking softly, saying, “Come sit on me.” She walked to it. It was a wooden swing. Its paint had long worn away. It might have been red or orange. She thought she had seen a sliver of paint around the edge of the opening where one of the hooks screwed into the wood. She wasn’t sure if it had just been sunlight reflecting off the metal onto the wood. But now it was the same dingy gray brown as the decaying planks splitting from the sides of the garage. It was mostly worn and frayed but had been smoothed in some places such as the sunken indentation in the middle where who knows how many kids before had swung on it, flown into the sky and into their imagination. It didn’t matter. It was hers. It was just the right height. It was her favorite. She felt protected in the middle with the other swings one on each side of her.

She stepped toward it, walking a little to the side to avoid the muddy area immediately below it, held onto the chains and pulled herself up and onto the swing. She squiggled back and forth, holding firmly on the chains, the tips of her toes lightly dug into the ground while she positioned herself at just the right spot on the time worn well of the seat of the swing. Her toes still braced in the dirt, she pulled hard on the chains and pushed off with her toes. Then she pushed and pulled and pushed and pulled and pushed and pulled and pushed with all she had. She did it. She was flying through the cloud, the fog cloud. The chains creaked and the whole swing set moved with her, emitting a muffled groan. And then she stopped, sitting still as the swing came to rest again over the stretch of muddy dirt below it.

This wasn’t what she had imagined and hoped for. It wasn’t sunny and blue. It was damp and she was cold. She pulled her feet up onto the swing under her, her knees to her chest, leaned back into one of the chains and huddled there. She sat quietly, breathing in the fog. There was something clean, clearing about it . It made her nose run. She didn’t have tissues with her, but her sweater sleeve was right there. So she sat, just looking and listening between wipes of her nose.

She could almost see a dark shape where the house of one of the next door neighbors was. That was where Johnny lived. He was going to kindergarten in the fall also. Sometimes he came over to play with her and her brother. Sometimes he was mean and was then ordered to leave. She wondered if he could see the fog. Did it look the same from his house? She looked back to where her house had been. Part of it was back. She could just see a tiny hint of the edge of the roof. Just beyond that she saw what looked like dark gray pine tree shapes, a tip of a branch poking through here and there. She couldn’t tell if they were the trees from the corner of her front yard or from far away. Everything looked so different and she wasn’t sure of distance. She looked around a little more but with a few exceptions pretty much all she saw was fog. She decided she would just sit there breathing in the quiet. She adjusted her position, pulled her feet closer in under her, scrunched her knees, hugging them even closer to her. Sitting still, pulled in tight, she didn’t feel as cold. She leaned into the chain again, closed her eyes and took a little step towards sleep.

The arms of the fog wrapped around her; the fog’s fingers tugged at the swing, swaying it back and forth, back and forth. Her eyes opened and closed with the movement of the swing, closing as she leaned back, dazedly opening a slit when moving forward. All the muffled sounds and foggy shapes moved around her, around her thoughts, around her being.

Then she heard it, something. She pushed her foot onto the ground and completely stopped. Was it from a dream? She listened some more, looking around, from Johnny’s house, toward her own, over to the other side to the house of Ruby and Emil, the elderly couple who would invite them to their front porch for cookies and Kool-Aid.

T-whooo whoo whoo whoo whoooo…

She now put the second foot on the ground, leaning forward, grasping the cool, misty metal chains, and slightly lifting herself from the wooden seat, leaned farther into the fog cloud. Turning and tilting her head slightly, her ears and eyes peered into the fog. She could neither hear nor see anything different.

T-whooo whoo whoo whoo whoooo…

There it was! She had never heard anything like this-that sound. If fog could talk, that is what it would say.

T-whooo whoo whoo whoo whoooo…

It spoke to her. It spoke of things magical and far away. It spoke to her of her fears and loneliness, of her tears and fleeting happiness. It said, “I know and I am here.”

T-wooo whoo whoo whoo whoooo…

She would learn its song.

She listened for it again.

T-whoooo whoo whoo whoo whoooo…

It was a long note. Then there were three quicker, shorter notes before the last long note. It started soft and low, went to a higher pitch which melted into lower notes and finally the last long note melted into the fog. She practiced, listened and practiced, over and over again until she had it just right. It took awhile. She couldn’t whistle well; they had laughed at her. But this she would do. She would learn the magic call and whistle it for her mother. Her mother would know what magnificent creature made this magic melodious call. In between, she kept looking, and looking, but could not see it.

The magic call had become less frequent and slowly faded to a distant place. With it, the fog had begun to become restless, shifting its seat, loosening it’s hold on her swing, on her house and everything around her, and little by little, gave her one last misty caress and left to follow the now distant sound.

She could now see the faint glow of light in the kitchen; her mother would be up. She had to hurry before she forgot the song. She ran as quickly as she could through the retreating fog, across the rough sidewalk, up the chipped, sharp-edged steps, opening the rusted screened door, past the washing machine, opening the dirt stained handle of the back door and into the kitchen, taking just a quick moment to catch her breath.


Her mother was at the stove. She was always the first one up. She was standing there, still in her faded pink flannel night gown with her faded pink satin housecoat, any sheen to the weave long ago rubbed off, in her old stretched black corduroy slippers that instead of giving comfort to her feet, betrayed them, exposing the shape of bulging inflamed joints beaten into constant pain from standing, from work outside with insulting pay or at home with demeaning words as recompense for being a wife. The worn furrows in her face matched the wrinkles on her hands that were laying strips of bacon to be fried in the aluminum skillet making sure none of the pieces overlapped, watching them to turn them at just the right time and placing them carefully on a napkin covered plate to drain. She would save the fat, scooping it from the pool in the skillet with a tablespoon to pour it in a small stainless steel bowl she kept on the stove. Her mother’s eyes turned from the task at hand to look not quite at her but a little bit through her.

“Were you outside? By yourself? What were you doing out there? What have I told you? Were you…”

“Mommy, I…”

“…out there in your pajamas? Are your pajamas wet?”

“Mommy, I heard a bird!”

“What were you…”

“Mommy, listen! “



“You heard a bird? So? There are birds around all the time.”

“No. I was out in the fog and I couldn’t see anything and I touched the clouds and,  and I heard a bird. It was all magical. And this bird, this one is different. Listen.”

She took a deep breath, pursed her lips, and began to whistle. She whistled the whole call in just one breath. She looked at her mother. Her mother just looked at her. Maybe she hadn’t done it right. She tried to remember. She took another breath and tried again. She made sure the long parts were long, extra long and she made sure the notes went up and then came down just right. Her heart, her whole body trembled with its call.

Her mother continued to look at her.

“It’s a rain crow.”

“A rain crow?” she responded in awe. “What does it look like?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen one.”

“Where does it live?”

“I don’t know.”

“How can I find it?”

“I’ve told you I don’t know. Now go upstairs and get dressed. I don’t have time for this.” her mother commanded as she turned back to watching the bacon.

She felt confused. Her mother knew so many things. “But how could she know it was a rain crow if she has never seen one, doesn’t know what it looks like or where it lives,” she thought as her feet scurried over the gray green carpet through the gray rooms to the stairs to go up to change out of her wet pajamas.

*  *  *

She always thought about the rain crow. She thought about it the rest of the summer, especially early mornings, just wakening from sleep where she had searched in magical places through the night, or when she was under the summer sky, swinging, flying high to touch the clouds.  She thought about it as she headed off, by herself, the first day of kindergarten, walking on the sidewalk which was shoved by the highway running along side it on its way out of town, speeding cars whizzing by her. She had watched a movie on TV about a little girl who had disappeared. A car had stopped beside her. The strange man inside the car had shown a doll to her and told her it was okay to get into the car to see the doll. Her family never saw her again. She thought of the rain crow later when she felt more confident as she kicked the autumn confetti of leaves back into the cold crisp air, watching them sprinkle back down on the side walk on her way to school, beginning to wish she had mittens.

She thought of the rain crow as she swung through the ups and downs of her life. She thought of it as she waited for her mother to come home as the evening darkened from autumn to winter. She thought of it as she stood at the spindle-legged wooden kitchen table  covered with a textured vinyl cloth, the thin red lines criss-crossing into a pattern of squares like a trellis, each anchoring a spray of red flowers and green leaves, a table cloth meant to conceal the wear and the dirt so embedded in the old paint that it changed the old white paint of the table to a dingy greenish gray, now, the tablecloth not looking much different than the table. She stood as close as she could get without getting in the way while her sister made popcorn balls and homemade candies for Halloween. Afterwards, she would be the first step of clean up, licking the spoons and scraping the bowls of any residue of candy or batter.

She thought of it when her sister left, married to a dark souled man, to live at Coot Coon Lake.  Some women were throwing a shower for her. She couldn’t image why they would. Why would anyone throw water on someone? She was invited to come along with her mother. There wasn’t a shower. The only water there was for drinking, along with something red in little cups that looked like Kool-Aid but tasted better. There were lots of boxes wrapped in paper of delicate colors and finished with ribbons and bows. One bow was extra big with extra loops of soft white fondant like ribbon entwined with just as much lace, looped and folded, layered and turned until it bubbled into a bow like a huge peony. When all the paper and shreds of the day were being gathered to be discarded, including the bow, she panicked. How could they throw something so beautiful into the trash? She went to her sister, stretched up on her toes, quietly holding onto her arm and whispered to her,  “May I have it, please?” as she pointed to the bow.  She wouldn’t let her mother put in the bag with some other things she was carrying back to the house. She held it in her hands, guarding its very being all the way home. She put it in a safe place in her drawer where no one could hurt it.

She thought of it toward the end of the school year when her birthday came around, when she pulled the bow from its safe place. She pinned it to her dress and then carefully put her sweater on to cover it. She did this after Mrs. Merrick, the baby sitter, batted the side of her head with a hairbrush as she had done all year long. Then she grabbed her things and headed out to walk to school. She wanted to feel special today. On birthdays, her teacher Mrs Gardener had the student come to the front of the class. She gave them a choice: a spanking or a kiss. All year long she had watched the other kids; all of them had chosen a spanking. The child was placed over Mrs Gardener’s lap and a big thick book was placed on the child. And then Mrs. Gardener walloped the book-one, two, three, four, five, six times. She didn’t want that. There were enough spankings at home. She chose the kiss. So at the end of the day, with her peony fondant lace bow pinned to her dress, she walked to the front of the class to receive her birthday kiss. It was a lipstick kiss, almost as magical as a rain crow, she wore happily home, the ends of the curve of her smile almost meeting it where it sat on her cheek.

She was little and quiet and for the most part went unnoticed in the house. She could go from room to room listening. She listened to many things and heard many things. She heard her parents talking about her sister and saying something about a baby.  After her sister left, she was moved into her sister’s room. She would listen there too, listen to the noises coming through the window, some of them from far away on Huckleberry Trail, maybe as far as the marsh and from the lake. She listened to see if she could hear her sister’s voice.  She was listening from a dark corner the time she heard her parents  talking about her older brother, hearing words like “running with the wrong crowd, hoodlums from the town across the marsh,” and “rape”.  She was sitting in the corner on the living room floor, at the base of the landing, listening the night the sheriff came to the front door, when she heard the words, “knife” and “stabbing” and heard the sheriff say her brother had hurt someone. She wasn’t surprised. He had hurt her many times. She remembered the first of many times to come when he had called her and told her to come to his room, he had something for her. She remembered the rubbing and rubbing, the pushing and pushing. The sheriff took him away that night.

*  *  *

That summer, they packed up to move again. For awhile she was afraid they would leave the swing set, but they packed it, too, all of it. She watched as they took down the three swings and then the “circus” bar where she had played trapeze. It had taken a long time before she could jump up and reach the bar. And then it took more time before she could pull herself up, pull her knees to her chest and then hook her legs up and over the bar to dangle and swing like a circus star. But after awhile she was just dangling. She didn’t know how to get out of this. She asked her brother just a year older than her to help her. He wouldn’t. She asked him to go get their mother. He wouldn’t. He told her to just let go. She asked him if he had done it that way, gotten down that way. “Yeah, sure,” he said. She looked at him. She had her doubts but he seemed okay, not hurt. So she did, head first, hitting the ground, hard.  She quickly realized that she would have to develop the strength to pull herself up.

They moved to a house out in the country, many towns away. Their car had backed down the driveway, away- from the dilapidated walnut tree with its festering pool of decaying leaves and walnut skins at its base in eternal shade on the north side of the garage where the the water from the eaves rushed down the gutter to its stagnet end, past the row of barberry shrubs, their shiny red berries luring you and then mocking you as the thorns tore your skin when you reached to pick some, to the highway that slithered along the front side of their house, flanked with concrete squares of sidewalk, like the squares on a game board and seamed with a double yellow line, showing you the way to go, the path away from the darkness to something better.  At some point the sidewalks and the houses with their green lawns next to them said good-by and were replaced with strips of mowed tough grass and asphalt ringed businesses. Those too left, passing off their charge to a vanguard of grass and weeds with meadows and fences and fields beyond.

Her sister didn’t come with them. Her older brother didn’t either. Periodically, she turned around in her seat, up on her knees to look out the rear window of the car. Maybe, she thought. But there was no car following behind her. She would miss her sister. She turned from looking behind her, positioning herself on her seat, her face at the window. The road was a blur, the posts of the fences that divided her from what was beyond, that marked the passage, whizzed by. She looked past them, past the grasses and wildflowers transitioning to a different sun, to meadows-some green, some gold, to the fields-some still lush, some harvested with bent brown stubble, some bare, waiting for the next season. Her eyes walked the expanse of field to a distant copse, alternately shrouded in shadow and gilded in sunlight. The toes of the trees firmly rooted in the cool shaded earth anchored the arboreal arms waving to the sun, to the wind and clouds and to a lone bird circling and swooping above.  She looked.  Her heart sank a little more. It was a hawk. Searching. She sank back into her seat, leaned her head from the crook in her neck across her tiny shoulder to rest on the hard pane of the window. She closed her eyes, sank inside herself and continued her search for The Rain Crow.

"Ancient of Days" Original watercolor by Derek Collins.

“Ancient of Days” Original watercolor by Derek Collins.

Tales From the Teal Mango-Drops From a Bitter Brew

© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2013
Laurette S Head With A Coffee Cup by Henri Matisse

Laurette S Head With A Coffee Cup by Henri Matisse

Officer Ruiz had called for backup. Elliott sat cuffed in the squad car while the police did some preliminary questioning and the CSI team started collecting evidence. There wasn’t much but a bullet wedged so deep in the plaster and lathe wall that they couldn’t budge it. Margo had convinced them to let her and Clark stay to clean up when they had asked her to also leave. She promised them that they would leave the seating area untouched.

A couple hours later, Margo told Clark, “Why don’t you head on home. I’ll finish up.”

“Sure,thanks,” Clark replied.

Margo let him out and locked the door behind him. It didn’t take her long to finish. Margo went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Not many things get to her anymore, but today did. Elliott could have killed Paul. He could have killed anyone today. She looked around the kitchen and in resignation forewent the making of tea. She just wanted to get as far away from today as possible. Instead of taking the front staircase, she went up via the narrow backstairs behind the kitchen.

She had made some changes when she had acquired the house. There were so many rooms. She created a suite with a kitchenette for herself on the second floor. There were still plenty of bedrooms left, including the third floor. She went to the kitchenette, deciding to make her tea there. She opened the cabinet door with the crystal knob and removed the old copper kettle that had belonged to her great Aunt Edna, the tea, and a green and blue porcelain cup with an insert to hold the tea leaves and a cap to keep the tea hot while it steeped. She filled the kettle and put it on the stove to boil. While the water was heating, she took a quick shower to scrub off the trauma of the afternoon. The water was ready when Margo finished. She poured the water over the leaves, gathered the tea with a few crackers on a tray, and headed off to her bedroom.

It was barely dark but seemed much later. The house, everything, seemed colder than usual. She set the tray with the tea and crackers on her night stand and crawled under the covers, draped a shawl around her, and leaned back into the pillows behind her back and head, holding the tea in the hands of shivering arms, sipping and then hugging it tight, to warm as quickly as possible.

She was frazzled and tired but couldn’t sleep. She set the cup down, picked up the book on her nightstand and randomly opened it.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse A persona che mai tornasse al mondo, Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero, Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

“If I thought my reply were to one who could ever return to the world, this flame would shake no more; but since, if what I hear is true, none ever did return alive from this depth, I answer you without fear of infamy.”
              — Dante, Inferno

(Never return was right. He would never return.)

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;

 (The last time-when they pulled the sheet back-so she could see his face-what remained of it.)

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument

(The never ending arguments…)

Of insidious intent

(The dirty dealing, the cocaine, the financial scandal…)

To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

(The first shot was meant for her. It missed and shattered the pane on one of the French doors that opened up to their balcony.)

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

 (He was at the edge of the balcony, backed into and leaning over the railing. She was close. Not close enough to stop him from turning the gun on himself, pointing it toward his head and pulling the trigger. Close enough to be covered in the spatter of his blood, drops and drops that drowned out her screams.)

And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

(His body almost seemed to float in slow motion as it headed toward the ground, lightened from the load of  mental torment. Then-thud. The sidewalk crumpled it in a heap and left it there as it moved down the block.)

And indeed there will be time

(What time?)

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

(Seeing his face over and over in nightmares-the dark face of the night.)

There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,

( There is no more “you and me”.)

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,

(Revisions? Another version of the ongoing torment of “what if?”, of  “if I had only done something differently”, if I had only seen it coming, if, if ,if, if,if…)

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

(Damn you, Peter! Damn you, Elliott for shooting that damn gun!)

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

She could feel the dampness of the pages of the book. It slid to the floor as her chest heaved to a stop, her tears on her cheeks the only warmth she felt. Her body crumpled under the cold blanket of blood drenched memories; she slumped into a cold sleep.

Snowball Bush -prelude to “The Gypsy Graveyard”

© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2010
May Snowballs by Kim Stenberg

May Snowballs by Kim Stenberg

When the snowball bush blooms, you know it is the end of spring. It is fascinating that when your arms are sweaty, when the iron rail up the steps is too hot to touch, when the boundary between the outdoors and indoors becomes a fine wire mesh of house flies on a banging screen door, that there are ready made snowballs, yours for the picking, by the gas tank under the bathroom window.

That tank used to scare me. It looked like a big white ghost creature in the moonlight. And sometimes there was a little hissing noise coming from it. Maybe at night it did come alive. What if it came into the bathroom window and waited for me in the dark. Bathrooms are scary at night. Well, every thing can be scary at night, but especially bathrooms, and dark stairways, and the thought that maybe you waited too long and you would wet your pants and in the morning the yelling and screaming would start. But bathrooms are scary on a hot summer day, too. I always heard about how gas could explode when it was hot or near a flame. And the house would burn down and people would die. I figured sitting on the commode, all exposed like that would be a really bad time for the gas to go. That’ s what I would think of when I was six.

Spring is a happy time for me. But the snowball bush is blooming, it’ s getting hot. I’m not six any more, I’m ten. And it is not spring anymore, it has ended and it is getting hot. And the words around the house are hot. Snowballs in summer are an illusion.The security of home is an illusion. The towels from the bathroom, the plates from the kitchen, a few family pictures are boxed and hidden away, the way stifled words in the night are hidden.

The snowball bush is blooming and spring has ended. And other things have ended. I’m in a car, driving to I don’ t know where. I get sick in cars. It doesn’ t matter how much I crack the window, it can’ t quell the heat of summer and the hotness of the words that my mom and dad now have packed away, buried deep inside them.

I look down at the snowball in bloom that I picked, the last ghostly remnant of my old life, already wilted in my hand. I turn my head toward the window and lean into the glass, watch the farms and the fence posts along the road. Maybe I can fall asleep. Maybe I am already asleep. I listen for the hissing of the gas tank, hoping to awaken. All I hear is the motor of our car, its vibrations pushing me into the box of sleep.

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