SPARK get together | get creative | get sparked! Mon, 11 Mar 2019 21:57:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Anne Nowselski and Amy Souza Fri, 08 Mar 2019 18:20:29 +0000

Anne Nowselski

District Taco
By Amy Souza
Inspiration piece

We got tacos at 7 and by 9 asked, Is this it?

The dog slept on the floor, back pressed against her bed

When she dies, will you still be here?

We planned an imaginary barbecue

You talked surgery on your jaw

I saved extra soda in the refrigerator

But dumped the ice like you asked

Wondered whether we’d hear the owl again

I thought that was something we shared

But you reminded me you’d never heard it

I miss who we used to be

Can’t see who we might become

Forgot about that pinecone in my pocket


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Lisa Nielsen and Jay Young Gerard Thu, 07 Mar 2019 14:18:28 +0000 Jay Young Gerard
“Detritus Has No Soul”


I Stood, Longing
By Lisa Nielsen
Inspiration piece

I stood on the edge
past the yellow line
and the train’s rush
daring your anger to push me.

Defeat took me back to the apartment
waiting for the blows.

What does it feel like to be nestled in,

Would I dare dream

That I could
dial the phone
and have you show up
arms wide
ready to grab my bags
and save me?


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Jay Young Gerard and Lisa Nielsen Thu, 07 Mar 2019 14:10:48 +0000 Jay Young Gerard
“My Rock and My Redeemer”
Inspiration piece

Loneliness on a Bitter Sunday
By Lisa Nielsen

I, drifted between
gravestones and angel statues,
fingering the carved wings;
my chest stretched by their fluid flutter.
I read the mourners’ devotionals,
testimonies etched to enduring love.

You, stood against a tree
smoking cigarettes,
hovering through the wide expanse
of the buried.
You were still high from brunch, where
I counted your drinks and seethed with resentment.

I’m pretending.


squashed down by knowing.
If I point out what is in front of us,
you’ll be gone.


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Robert Haydon Jones and Greg Lippert Wed, 06 Mar 2019 21:03:38 +0000

Greg Lippert
“Summer of Jimmy”
Inspiration piece

The Good Humor Man
By Robert Haydon Jones

There were 83 children under 16 living in 17 houses on Jimmy O’Hara’s lane. Jimmy was the oldest of six. His mother had managed to scare off all but one of the ice cream trucks. The Good Humor Man still came every weekday at 7pm and at 1 pm on weekends.

His mother had confronted the Good Humor Man. She had accused him of disturbing the peace. She had threatened to call the police. He wasn’t fazed. The police wouldn’t bother him. The town had given Good Humor a permit to vend on this lane and other streets like it clear through Labor Day. But he would be glad to come at a scheduled time if that would make things easier.

Mrs. O’Hara set the times and the Good Humor Man honored them. He came after dinner on weekdays and after lunch on weekends. Jimmy first walked up to the truck on a Saturday early in June.

He was just back from Prep School, where he had struggled most of the year. Then two varsity pitchers had gone down with injuries. Jimmy had been promoted from the JV squad and named the starting pitcher against his school’s archrival.

While he was warming up, his catcher ran out and asked him if he really meant to throw all change ups. It turned out Jimmy was choking the ball, holding it deep in his hand. His eased up on his grip and went on to have the game of his life.

By season’s end, he was the number one starter. Even though he was only a sophomore, he was named to the first team of the All State squad. He was a star! Life at his Prep School got much easier.

The Good Humor Man was pretty young – in his mid twenties. Jimmy ordered a raspberry humorette. “I hear you made peace with my mother”, he said. “Yep”, said the Good Humor Man. “It was a good move too. Believe it or not, your Lane is the highest profit street in town for Good Humor.”

The Good Humor Man’s name was Lincoln – he went by Link. He had been in the last lot of draftees from the War and had just been discharged in mid March after two years in the army. He was glad he was out. Korea was chewing up all kinds of casualties.

Link was from an “old Yankee” family a few miles up the line. He was living with his girlfriend right in town. They had a garage apartment at a great rent. Jimmy noticed that Link had several books stacked under the counter. He was not reading for college – he was reading for pleasure. He handed Jimmy a book.

“I just finished this”, he said. “It’s pretty wild. You want to borrow it?”

The name of the book was The Trial. The author was Franz Kafka. Jimmy didn’t hesitate. He snatched the book up and said, “Sure.”

That was the start of his friendship with Link. In time, the bond he had with Link, would become the linchpin of his personality and influence his life forever. Franz Kafka was a great icebreaker. John O’Hara did the name proud. The poems of William Carlos Williams looked at the world like Jimmy did. EE Cummings was the same sort of rebel Jimmy was – only braver.

The best thing was that he began a correspondence with Link that went on for years. Link’s letters to him started, “Oh boy-faced man.” and spun on for single spaced page after page from there.

His parents knew about Link. In the beginning, before he was old enough for a license, when he arranged a visit, he needed a ride to Link’s garage apartment. He would stay for hours, talking with Link and his glamorous girl friend, Olga. Link would give him a ride home.

They stayed close over the years. Link was the Good Humor Man for just one summer. Then he got a job as a copywriter for a small advertising agency in Manhattan. The next summer, Jimmy landed a summer internship at an agency near Link’s office. They met for lunch whenever they could. Often they would stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Link did most of the talking. Jimmy’s heart would sing as he listened. The Brooklyn Bridge was a generation’s reach for the stars. A daring venture many expected to fail. When at last, after 14 years, it was completed in 1883, the Bridge was a soaring ode to beauty. This was a beauty no one had really expected. Crowds still surged across the Bridge’s broad promenade. Every walk Jimmy took with Link back and forth across the Bridge was a celebration.

They stayed close. Their letters kept them in dialogue. Jimmy joined the Marines. Link and Olga got married. Jimmy fell for a sweet girl at college. Link and Olga built a house deep in the deep woods. Jimmy got married and kept going to college.

Then Jimmy, rather suddenly, enjoyed some quick success as a writer for Ad Agencies. He was making good money. He had three sons. He was drinking way too much. He was out at the racetrack a lot. He hung out with a lot of wise guys. He had girl friends. He stayed in the city way too much. He lost big jobs. He got big jobs. Every so often, he would get a letter from Link: “Oh boy-faced man.” Link wasn’t doing all that well. Jimmy couldn’t understand it. Link was a brilliant writer and yet he kept being trampled by third-rate agencies.

Jimmy opened a new agency in his hometown with several large profitable accounts. His company occupied an entire building right near the center of town. Business was good but Jimmy was down. He was drinking too much. He was depressed. His wife was talking about separation.

Jimmy had hired a top Account Services executive to manage the business – and things ran smoothly enough. But the costs were high. His Account Executives were making good salaries – plus they expected Jimmy to lease them a car. His clients were very, very, happy. Jimmy’s marketing was working extraordinarily well. But Jimmy wasn’t seeing the profit that he expected.

He heard that Link was unemployed again. Jimmy called him and hired him right away. Link took over the roll out for a financial client. It had been draining Jimmy’s energy. It was strange – now they were in the same building and yet they didn’t get to talk much. Jimmy was tangled in business and personal problems. Link’s work had him busier than a one-armed paperhanger.

A few weeks later, Jimmy got a call on Saturday from a banker in Rhode Island. Two years back, someone had opened an account at his bank in Jimmy’s name. About a third of Jimmy’s monthly throughput was being deposited in the account. The strange thing was that the only outflows from the account were checks to the Account Services executive Jimmy had hired to manage administration. The banker apologized. Jimmy should have been notified right away.

Jimmy was alarmed but he figured there was some simple explanation. He left a voice mail for the executive suggesting they discuss the matter when Jimmy returned on Thursday from his college exploration trip with one of his sons.

When he returned Thursday, he walked into an empty building. Only his office and that of his secretary were still furnished. He asked his secretary if she knew what was going on. She said she did know. She gave Jimmy a slip with a phone number. Then she left the building.

Jimmy called the number and was connected to an attorney. He was informed that his executives had convinced his clients it was in their best interest to move their business to a new company staffed by his people. His clients were under the impression that Jimmy had approved the move. He was exhausted. He needed rest. He needed to retire.

All of his company debt had been paid. If he agreed with the move and signed a release, he would be given a Certified Check for $150,000. Jimmy asked if all of his people were in on this, He was told they were. Only Lincoln Selleck had misgivings but said he had to think of his wife and kids.

Of course, Jimmy was devastated. Actually, when the lawyer started to talk about Link, Jimmy threw his right arm up over his head as if he were trying to deflect a blow.

He never talked to Link again. Years later, after Link had died after a sudden heart attack, his oldest son called Jimmy. Link had always felt bad about the way things finished. His son told Jimmy that Link didn’t know what to do. Link said he had to think of his family. Jimmy said he understood. It was a lie. He was still crushed. He had been murdered.

Decades later, he thought of Link and was swept away by love. Of course, he forgave Link. He wished he had understood right away that his love for Link trumped all pain. He wondered if there was anything he could do now. Olga had died a year back at 93. The son was reachable in Iowa.

He would think on it. He had been rescued. He had basked in love. He had ambled back and forth with Link on the Brooklyn Bridge. “Oh boy-faced man!


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Greg Lippert and Robert Haydon Jones Wed, 06 Mar 2019 20:39:32 +0000

Greg Lippert
“You Don’t Know What Sad Is”

Nelson at Spithead
By Robert Haydon Jones
Inspiration piece

Little, 5-year-old, Jimmy O’Hara was about to be murdered and there was nothing 
he could do about it.

His grandfather had Jimmy by the ankles and was spinning him faster and faster 
around and around over his head. His grandmother was on her knees screaming, 
pleading with the big man to stop.

“Please, please”, she screamed. “Please don’t kill him. I’m begging you. Please stop.”

Jimmy was frightened. He knew he was about to die. He was spinning faster and faster. His grandfather was about to hurl him against a wall and dash his brains in. Just like the SS Storm Troopers were doing to kids in Russia.

Jimmy cried out, “Please!” It was a pitiful squeak. So, he just screamed with all his might.

His grandmother kept screaming. “Stop! Please don’t kill him! I’ll do anything you want.”

His grandfather grunted. Then he suddenly slowed the spin and gathered Jimmy in. He set him down next to his grandmother, turned on his heel and walked away.

“Oh, thank God,” his grandmother said. “Thank, God.” She was trembling.

“Darling boy, are you okay? Your grandfather gets crazy some times. I should 
never have left you alone with him.”

She kissed and kissed Jimmy’s cheeks and hugged him. He could taste her tears. Her gold bracelets jingled.

“You must never tell anyone about this. We don’t want your parents to worry. You will always be safe with me.”

Jimmy kept the secret. He never told anyone. He never learned what it was he had 
done that had set his grandfather off. Jimmy thought about it hard over the years, 
but he could never figure it out.

In the days and weeks and months and years to come, when he stayed with them, after breakfast, Jimmy would accompany his grandfather to a nearby park where he 
met with friends. Jimmy would dig around in the brush in a ravine below the benches. 
When he found something interesting, he would put it in a little basket, shake the basket 
and his grandfather would haul it on up. It was fun.

Jimmy’s grandfather’s grandfather had served five years in the Welsh Fusiliers and sailed 
for America with his wife a week after they were wed. In 1849, he trekked to California 
and struck it rich. He returned to Ohio in 1850 with $43,000 in cash and six big nuggets.

By 1853, he was flat broke and back in the mines. His problem was, “…He crooked his little finger too much.” In 1861, he lied about his age (51) and enlisted in the Union army. He was 
badly wounded in the stomach but recovered after a year and reenlisted for the duration. He was captured at Cold Harbor. In September 1864, he died of scurvy and dysentery at 
the Confederate Prison in Andersonville, Georgia.

Jimmy’s grandfather’s father was also a Civil War soldier, who after the War, went on 
with the Cavalry to fight in the Indian Wars.

Jimmy’s grandfather was born in 1870. He grew up in a coal-mining town in Ohio. 
As a child, he showed he had prodigious ability as an artist. When he was 14, a collection 
was taken up from the miners and he was sent to the Cleveland Art Institute.

He did well there. He had unique ability as a sketch artist. He worked as a part time janitor and extended his stay at the Institute for two years. Then, he decided to go to New York City and seek employment as a sketch artist with a newspaper.

He failed at that. He was lucky to get a job as a deckhand on a cargo ship that made two round trips a month from New York to New Orleans. After nearly two years, he was 
off duty when he happened on a fire at a well-known hotel in Manhattan. Firemen quickly extinguished the blaze, but his grandfather was able to make a fast sketch of the action.

He brought the sketch to the Editor of the New York Herald, who bought it for $10 and added him to his staff.

Over the years, his grandfather would tell Jimmy the standard Cowboy & Indian stories 
and sprinkle in some stories of his life on the job. Sitting Bull had become enraged when his grandfather did a sketch of him and his grandfather had to flee to avoid being knifed. 
Pat Garret, the sheriff who had killed Billy the Kid, liked to play poker.

During the Spanish American War, his grandfather had been captured in the bush in Cuba 
along with a Hearst reporter. They were taken to El Morro, and sentenced to death as spies.

At dawn, two days later, he was blindfolded and transported to a ship. As he stood there in 
his blindfold, several drums rattled. He was sure he was about to be hung. Then his blindfold 
was removed. Rather than a gallows, the first thing his grandfather saw was our flag. He was 
on an American ship. He and the reporter had been exchanged for several Spanish officers.

That was his last war. But not his last adventure. He was a tall, powerful, handsome man – 
well over six feet like his grandfather before him. For decades, he was a famous sketch artist 
for big newspapers across the country. He was a good artist and quick. He was referred to as 
The Human Camera in the promotions the papers ran about him.

Of course, Jimmy never could trust his grandfather. They never discussed the horrific spinning incident. But Jimmy knew he had come very, very close to being murdered. His grandmother and his grandfather knew it too.

Over time, Jimmy learned that his grandfather had a weakness for alcohol. He was just one in a long line of his ancestors… “Who crooked his little finger too much.” Jimmy’s mother and father also had their problems with alcohol. A lot of people did.

His parents traveled a lot and they were having more babies, so Jimmy spent a big chunk of time with his father’s parents, who lived nearby. Then his grandfather did an 
oil painting of Jimmy – and it was so bad, his grandfather went to see an eye doctor.

It turned out his grandfather had real bad cataracts in each eye.

He had surgery on both eyes. In those days, you had to wait two weeks before you 
could remove the bandages. Jimmy kept his grandfather company while he waited. His grandfather was very disturbed. It was as if he had suddenly gone blind. He couldn’t sketch. He couldn’t meet with his friends at the park. He couldn’t see his own sketches 
and paintings, except in his mind’s eye.

So, he told Jimmy a lot of stories. Once he had been drinking with some men on a train bound for California and they ran out of whiskey. One of the men offered to share some 
moonshine he had purchased at a town down the line where they had stopped earlier for coal.

His grandfather declined and went to his sleeping berth. In the morning, he learned 
that two of his drinking companions had died and one was blind.

His grandfather’s father had gone on with the Seventh Cavalry to fight the Indians. His grandfather had a letter his father had written just after his brigade had used their 
new repeating rifles for the first time against the Plains Indians. “We fired a volley at them and they came on us directly, expecting to be on us before we could reload. We let them 
come for a bit and then fired volley after volley at them. We had ourselves a regular Turkey Shoot!”

Finally, the two weeks passed. The Doctor and his assistant came to remove the bandages. They made sure the blinds were drawn. They removed the bandages very carefully. Then they meticulously cleaned off the eyelids. His grandfather opened his eyes slowly.

He could see wonderfully well.

Decades back on their extended honeymoon in Europe, his grandfather had done a watercolor portrait of his grandmother sitting under a grape arbor. He had done the trellis – but had not put in the grapes – meaning to finish the painting later. After the bandages came off, he thanked the Doctor and barked at Jimmy to fetch the watercolor 
of his grandmother. The Doctor was still taking his leave while Jimmy’s grandfather 
furiously added the long lost grapes. His grandfather had obsessed on them for 14 days.

Occasionally, Jimmy was with them on weekends. On Saturday night, at 7:30, they would gather by the radio and listen to The Lone Ranger. Jimmy liked The Lone Ranger all right, but he was very surprised his grandfather was such a fan.

Jimmy’s family moved away from the city to a small Connecticut town by the sea. On VJ day, his grandparents came and they had a wonderful party. Everyone got a little tipsy. The next day Jimmy and his father took the grandfather fishing in a small motorboat. They were just out of the harbor only a small way when Jimmy’s grandfather got very 
seasick from the mild chop.

His father was very solicitous about the old man but he was very sick until they all got to shore and got out of the boat.

He was very sick and very embarrassed. “Just like Nelson at Spithead”, he said two or three times. There was a family fable they were descended from Nelson on the bar sinister, but his grandfather never believed it. It was a sad experience for all concerned.

A few years later, Jimmy was just home for the summer from Prep School, when his father took him to visit his grandfather at an Old Age Home a few miles away.

His grandfather was in bed. He smoked his cigarettes in a rubber tube to minimize 
the risk of fire. Jimmy sat by the bed while his father and grandfather talked. After a time, 
his grandfather said, “I’m very, very sorry I wasn’t a better father for you, son.”

His father replied, “You were a good father, pop.”

“No, I wasn’t,” his grandfather said.

“No, I wasn’t. I am so sorry.”

On the drive home, Jimmy told his father it was sad about his grandfather.

“Sad,” his father replied. “You have no idea what sad is.”


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Cathy Stevens Pratt and Kamika Cooper Mon, 04 Mar 2019 22:17:31 +0000

Cathy Stevens Pratt


By Kamika Cooper
Inspiration piece

don’t make assumptions

about how i am feeling

based on how i look


for all that you know

i have become hallowed out

empty yet breathing


you are fooled by smiles

you want something more from me

better look elsewhere



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Lisa Kilhefner and Jackie Wood Mon, 04 Mar 2019 17:55:57 +0000

Jackie Wood
Inspiration piece

Pick up
by Lisa Kilhefner

Pick me, pick me, pick me

Pick me up

Pick up, pick up, pick up

and go.

Pick me up and don’t put me down

Pick up, pick up, pick up

and up you go.

I can barely see you in the night’s complexion:

Heavy with mood,

Gloomy and heathered,

Sullen and dry.

Pick me up, pick me up, pick me up.

I’m moving in circles,

etching the atmosphere,

changing my mind.

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Jackie Wood and Lisa Kilhefner Mon, 04 Mar 2019 00:00:24 +0000 JWLKresponse

Jackie Wood

By Lisa Kilhefner
Inspiration piece

I don’t fight at all.

Once I tried
but the punching bag looked more like a water balloon,
and one hit from him was all it took
for my ooey gooey insides to erupt
all over my red leather gloves.
I couldn’t stuff it back in,
couldn’t sew up the skin,
not even with a thousand delicate stitches.

I keep my insides outside the ring
because I can’t

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Amy Souza and Anne Nowselski Sun, 03 Mar 2019 23:40:07 +0000

Anne Nowselski
Inspiration piece

By Amy Souza

Butterflies don’t worry about attachment

When they wrestle away the cocoon

Soar wispy but not frail

The woman who discovered their life cycle

Was ridiculed by men who knew better

Even though they were wrong

She painted and drew, explored and

Listened, watched insects hatch and must

Have thought she’d witnessed God’s hand

At fifty-two she traveled the Caribbean to consider

mysterious creatures. Today I read that women

Over fifty disappear to those around them

Near and far, ceasing to exist

Imagine the oldest butterfly living hundreds of

Times longer than most of its species

The stories it could tell

Shrewd flap to its wings

Going in for nectar with sureness, determined

History pulsing through its genes

Unconcerned about your lack of knowledge

If it noticed you at all

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Darice Shatteen-Jones and Evelyn Ihrke Sun, 03 Mar 2019 22:23:45 +0000

The Galaxy and The Fall by Evelyn Ihrke



Our Fated Fall written by Darice Shatteen-Jones

Inspiration Piece

I am a climber
Epicurean by nature
And also by choice

Thick, curvy, thewy biceps
My back is a power source
Height excites the cosmic black road between my left and right brain

And I am well trained in loving the earth that keeps me elevated
Suspended in mid-air

I only know how to hold on
To speak life into the land,
Knowing that everything alive is my early morning lover
Wanting in one fashion or form

We – Living Things are all deeply social
And paradoxically obsessed with freedom from bonds

For me, this base physical effort, using the body I have been gifted
to rise up
While reciting amorous verse into each stone my hands grip
Has been a life calling

And then one day on my climb, I locked eyes with a heartbroken ancestor
Predisposed to fuckery
Battling bitterness in the afterlife
Stewing in pains of a hard, ugly life
where she had suffered unjustly for simply showing up as a baby in that magical Black skin

None of these truths were known to me

She presented herself as a happy fairy floating near a waterfall
It was her way of mocking my unending faith

Who was I to be joyful?
Where was joy when she had died?
She wanted to see me crash
To become something sad
Only then would she be able to love me
To see me as hers

Days on end she advised me to let go
Release my hold on the earth
To “trust life”
I listened intently but kept on my climb
Letting go, in my mind, would bring certain death
I had no interest in joining her on that side of the veil

But she never relented
Even sometimes pleading
And I began to wonder if maybe she knew something I did not
After all, she was my ancestor
She loved me, right?
Maybe there was some detail she could see from over there
That I was too close to notice as I climbed and climbed

On the other hand
I could feel my lungs expanding
My core developing
My view widening
I was close my peak

How could I let go now?
How could I fall without knowing if I was going to die or fly?

Then she reached out and touched me with her old sparkly Spirit dust, opening a hidden chakra, and making me laugh.

Feeling giddy
I let go

As I fell
My lungs seemed to stop to watch me
in shock
I could smell every flower I had ever encountered
I could hear the song of every bird, insect, and new Mother
This was the life that passed before my eyes

I saw the Spirit of my ancestor change, looking hungry for the demise of my breath and my hope
Then I realized my mistake
My body seemed less sturdy when I hit the ground

and i broke into thousands of small pieces like Mahogany sands

Somehow, I realized, I was not dead

My healthy ancestors flew in from all the 6 directions and gathered me together
Careful to protect my lungs
And that happy Black road
Between the hemispheres of my second brain
The one that sits in my gut

My people made themselves into a clay blanket
enfolding me completely
Putting me back together
With the strength of shared history

“This is not how you die Daughter”
I heard them as a mass choir
A collective rocking
An afro-futurist code

We all wept together for the one who had tricked me
And they placed her beside me
To continue our climb.

By Darice Shatteen-Jones
Written Between Realms
Black History Month 2019


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