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a newspaper sat beside it with a streak /// New Fiction by Elizabeth Green


I handed him his coffee and he was disappointed it wasn’t in his favorite Saturday morning mug. He didn’t say anything, but I could see it in his eyes.

     I went outside to get the mail to find wet, runny human feces under our mailbox. That was the third time in a year that someone had smeared his waste up against our apartment building, directly under our mailbox. A newspaper sat beside it with a streak on it, slightly bloody.

     I stood there staring at it, daring myself to be less shocked and grossed out this time, but it didn’t work. I leaned over it and got the mail from the box, careful not to drop any bills in the pile. It was the feces of a sick man: watery, light of color with globs of blood. Someone coming down from a heroin high, maybe. It was intense.

     I brought the mail inside, which consisted of an ASPCA postcard, my Victoria’s Secret catalogue and my husband’s Verizon bill. I tried to imagine what the man might have looked like. I pictured a big man with a beard in brown raggedy pants and a dumpster coat. For some reason, I didn’t think a woman could create a thing like that.

     

     My husband came down to refill his coffee and he still wasn’t happy about his mug.

     “There’s bum shit under our mailbox again.”

     “Are you sure it’s bum shit? Could be dog.”

     “I know the difference between dog and human poop.”

     “You should put that on your resume.”

     “I’m serious.”

     “Well, I’m not cleaning it up.”

     There’s nothing like waking up to human shit and knowing no one was going to clean it up. Once, we cleaned it up with gloves, plastic bags and a snow shovel and it was one of the worst experiences of my life, no doubt for him as well. After that we pledged that we would never again deal with it ourselves. Unfortunately it also meant we wouldn’t deal with it at all. It’s not like you can call the cops. You could put a sign up reading: DO NOT SHIT HERE, but that would probably just encourage them.

     “Don’t you want to go look at it?”

     “Why would I want to look at it?”
     “Because it’s disgusting.”

     He kissed my forehead. “Relax. Let nature run its course.”

     And this was supposed to be a nice Saturday.

     He went to the sink and replaced the mug I gave him with his favorite handmade mug that he’d bought from hippies in Upstate New York. He filled that and turned to me.

     “What?”

     “You just dirtied two mugs.”

     “You know I like this one on Saturdays. It throws off my whole day if I don’t use it.”

     He went upstairs. I thought about the shit. He would ignore it while I thought about it every day, monitoring its minor changes as I came home from work: a little drier, a little more congealed, then a solid cake, until it was nothing but a brown ring on the pavement, and that’s just the way it worked.

     
     
–––––––

Elizabeth Green lives in Philadelphia. She works on the editorial committee for Philadelphia Stories and is a mentor for the PEN Prison Writing Program. You can find out more at http://elizabethgreenwriter.com or follow her on Twitter: @egreenwriter.
     



3 Poems || Jeff Alessandrelli


“I love berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black berries, anything with an ‘errie’ in it!”—Jordin Sparks  

 

Thrillberries are poisonous.

 

Gaudy linguistic

 

allure could tell you that

 

but like the shy, buxom brunette

 

that seems too good to be true

 

and then, in the end, is

 

humans often lust and crave

 

after thrill-

 

berries anyway.

 

This book is not to be doubted

 

reads one of the first sentences in The Koran

 

and yet depending on the translator,

 

the translation,

 

even that beginning is

 

rich with doubt.

 

Within life’s bearded tidal

 

trust—

 

of language, of lordliness—

 

inevitably rusts,

 

clots.

 

What’s beautiful and true

 

rarely rhymes in time

 

together.

 

Hickory dickory dock.

 

Loose lips sink

 

long lecherous limber

 

ships.

 

Thrill kills

 

kill kill kill.

 

 

 

August 28th

 

Urban alchemy teaches us

that, depending on one’s addictions,

 

gold reveals itself within many guises,

nearly all of them makeable, instantly ready for purchase.

 

That there are more African-American males in jail today

than there were slaves in the antebellum American South,

 

that over 66% of them are incarcerated for the selling of narcotics,

teaches us that midnight in a perfect world

 

is going to bed late and sleeping poorly,

waking up still tired.

 

For months on end it’s been evening

all day long;

 

an entire lifetime spent

learning how to be yourself

 

and perpetually failing

in ways not even your own.

 

Nightmares are imaginary but often

steeped in what was once real.

 

Gold’s gaudy, garish, especially

in the summer,

 

portentous weight of the heat’s dripping

licking sun.

 

The hard bright mist of hip-hop sprays

out a million passenger side windows this evening.

 

On tiptoe, in packs, each car slowly sidles by.

 

 

Poem against Adulthood 

 

Raping a slave is easy,

too easy. My job

sucks; yours is worse.

I’m unemployed

in the same manner as

the sun at night:

grand, idealized notions of what

might have been

if not for such sudden darkness.

I miss recess,

the golden miles between ignorance and regret,

between cargo shorts and collared shirts,

getting up at 6 because you want to

 

vs.

 

getting up at 6 because—something.

Age’s error is identifiable

not by number

but by sound, sight:

wrangled cracking of an oak

tree’s branches, perpetual,

close, distant,

the moon visibly alive

only at the very beginning

and end of our lives.

Dirt, dirt;

dying, I assume, hurts.

I’ll never know.

Food stamp kid

in a food stamp land,

I’m a bicycle accident waiting to happen.

Forever young,

may you stay

forever—

it’s the sick jokes that stick.

Leaves lisping

in the summer breeze,

the world’s beauty is unjust.

Grow up.

 

 

Jeff Alessandrelli is the author of the recently published full-length collection THIS LAST TIME WILL BE THE FIRST. Other work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Gulf Coast and Boston Review, among others. The name of Jeff’s dog is Beckett Long Snout. The name of Jeff’s chapbook press is Dikembe Press.