At Forty-Eight and Twenty Five Days by Laura Lee Washburn

I go to a party at which pumpkins are optional.Photo on 2010-07-13 at 11.40 #3 (1)

I don’t bring a pumpkin. I sit in a corner

next to a cat that looks remarkably like the host.

The cat refuses to acknowledge me.

Outside, the host carves a pumpkin. I think,

It is too cold. Later I get hot standing

by an open window near the crock pot chili.

I remove my angora scarf. I stuff it in my pocket.

All day I have had a terrific knot

of pain where my neck and shoulder connect.

The word radiate comes to mind when I think

of my arm also hurting all day. I don’t know why.

At the party, we decide I am not having a heart

attack. After eating a Pillsbury biscuit

“sopapilla” dessert, two squares, I tell stories

in which I am a benign villain. The people laugh.

They have been waiting to laugh for a while.

Most of them did not bring optional pumpkins

either. We have been talking about feline diet,

which I did not bring up, but which is

one of my safe subjects. Later, before

the conversation turns to brain cancer—brain cancer

is not one of my safe subjects—I explain

teasing my excitable mother about the brown coat

my dad got me hand-me-down, but paid for, from

some guy at work and swore it wasn’t a boy’s coat

(unisex was vogue anyway), but I was twelve

with an Edie Adams salon mutilated Hamill (think wedge)

and waitresses thought I was a boy and old men

followed me into restrooms—well just once—

so why I asked my mom, why, why, did you make me

wear that brown coat?

Someone’s going to Finland

on a Fulbright. I listen for a while, pull the scarf

out of my pocket and go outside

where three pumpkins glow happily, each

having taken the permanent attitude of bemused hilarity.

~ Laura Lee Washburn

Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky.

Cody Shrum holds both a B.A. and M.A. in Creative Writing from Pittsburg State University with an emphasis in fiction. However, his poetry has appeared in velvet-tail and Kansas Time + Place online literary magazines. Cody plans to pursue his MFA degree in fiction next fall—an adventure he will embark on with his wife, Kylee, and their two dogs, Zoey and Zeus.


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