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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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They weren't really his friends.

He went along wanting,

wanting to hear her sing.

He liked to say he loved her.

L-o-v-v-v-v-ed, the word slurred,

in awe.


In scans,

the depressed brain is blue

but her voice, ah,

that was ecstatic blues

that was

the blues in ecstasy.


He wanted to feel good.


On the album cover

she was big and dark

and smiling

unless that smile was

just her mouth

open to allow the sound

head tilted back

eyes closed

dress down to her ankles

a floral pattern and the fabric

shiny even printed

in matte black and white.


And they weren't really his friends.


First they laughed at the girl,

white, like they were,

dancing alone like a fool.


He would never laugh at her,

at the singer,

make fun of the singer

he said he



Because he is not—was not

he cannot even say the word

as Jeffrey Dahmer's father said

yes, a cannibal, yes, mass killer

but a racist no, I did not raise my son

to be a racist.


He wouldn't even call those boys

his friends.

Not real friends.


At the club, from the bar

they called to her,

and she nodded her thanks

for every drink they sent her way.


She's so thin now,

in a man's jacket,

a funny hat on her head.

The years have sunk her eyes.

Another drink thrown back

and lyrics skitter away.

She can't recall the words.

She blames the band:

wrong key.

Where has the right key gone?

Where have they gone?

The words.


She's falling-down drunk.


This is the show they came for.

This is real life as it's lived.

The real thing. Real blues.

The real deal lowdown dirty blues.


That night, OK,

I was there, too.

They weren't my friends either.

I saw the way he tried

to stand apart

looked away

when they laughed

like an adolescent

trapped with parents.


Yes, that night,

I was the dancing girl

drinking too much—me, too.

I heard them talk.

I saw and I felt such rage

and I did nothing.


Later, yes, 

years later,

I gave money

for a marker

for her grave.


Years later,

they say things have changed:

my records replaced

with CDs.

                                 -Diane Lefer


Mother Mystique,  Summertime



She wore my clothes

when I outgrew them. Or when they

            were stained or torn

       mending them clumsily

her lips always colored that bright red. 


             What do you call it when you take off someone's skin?

        She wanted to skin me.

        She flayed me and wore my skin.


  She ate

        counting every calorie and every gram

         without pleasure

        eating only what we left over

             eating the scraps

        eating off our plates on her way back into the kitchen,



            scraping the scraps with her angry tongue.


        Except sometimes in the girl conspiracy, she

            made me curl up with her on the couch and eat ice cream

            that's when she told me about sex.


            That tongue.


            She spoke

            with malice aforethought.

            Knowing I would not listen.


            Oh, the way she breathed:


            Sparingly, with nostrils curled.


        She breathed

                        as though the air were water and she gulped it down.

            or as though it had a very bad taste.


She walked

        Briskly. Uphill.

        Through the cattails.

        With a bob and jangle. Slap and shuffle.


She lived with regret.

            Simmering, seething.


        Yes, all of that.


A daughter is nothing.

A broken doll. A gift pushed

from the magic package, the curve

of her too small hips.

Longed for, wished for, waited for, and

            not at all what was expected.


And yet

         we would go out in the morning with a basket

            for morning glories.

             White flowers. The grasses high. The fields

            so I clung to her bare legs

             and she let me.


            I could have been lost in those fields like a child in a snowdrift.


        The white flowers on the vine

till the basket was full

        and dead by the time we got home.


            Put them in water.

       Too late, they were dead. The next morning there were

                        always more.


                        We were up before the insects.

                        No bugs.

            Up with the dew. Those inexhaustible days.

            White flowers.

           Broken off at the vine.


                        First they closed up. Then shriveled. I didn't wear shoes.

                        Her legs were bare.

                        The birds.


            At night,

                        crickets and frogs

                        and  fireflies

            Hundreds, thousands.

            I caught them


        Put them in a jar


            Daddy punched holes in the lid for air.



            Their bodies crumbled.


            The moth dust powdered my fingers.


            She tucked me in at night.


        On the screen porch.

        In the jasmine-drenched air. Her smile.

        Red lips.

        The way she crushed her cigarette.

        Her teeth gleaming like a shark's.

                                               -Diane Lefer


This Girl I Knew, Long Time Ago



His memory materialized in her room,

palpable, the way ghosts came to greet

her mother before she died. It must be


that brain cells, dying, release memories,

send words and images drifting free. So

she knew the price of desire hovering


around her, and oh, the touch of his hands!

It meant part of her was dying too. Had to be

put to death.


She closes herself in at night.

Darkened room, shades drawn,

memories flickering


like a black and white TV

unwatched, sound down, filling the air

with teeming not-quite-life.


There are times of interior movement and

growth, of great activity not visible

to the social eye. She waits,


dying, or hoping to grow.


                      -Diane Lefer