April 25, 2023

Week Four: Eric Forsbergh, Susan Simonds, and Eric Goodman

Week Four: Eric Forsbergh, Susan Simonds, and Eric Goodman

Two Erics? How did that happen? Is it a coincidence or kismet? Let’ give ’em both a read before we decide. Here’s our first, Eric Forsbergh.

The Love Poetry of Eric Forsbergh

My Lucky Jacket 

My lucky jacket drapes me pleasingly: 

a cross between the wings of victory 

and an asbestos fire suit. 

A cloth talisman, 

it buffs my confidence  

to polished brass. 

After all, I wore it 

during our initial kiss. 

It’s my fabric shield  

the eyes of trolls roll off. 

On my motorcycle, in the rain, 

I swear this jacket wards me  

from a lightning strike. 

You’re my loving skeptic. 

You claim it’s not a coffin or a cure. 

You claim what counts 

will rise within my skin. 

My lucky jacket? Some days 

it’s like a rescue blanket made of foil: 

shiny and appealing, 

looking larger than it is, 

but insubstantial, and 

less than lucky after all. 


Gaunt, but Fresh in Love 

Divorce triggers deprivation 

you explained.  

Food’s available. Just not for me. 

And twenty-five was more  

than you could spare. 

In your walk, you’d lost  

the confidence of dance.  

I arrived by accidental glance. 

You’d even fallen sick,  

you in that blue kerchief, 

hair hanging limp. I looked past  

shadows pooling in your cheeks, 

your temple bones laid almost bare. 

But hope’s a gill net.  

It gathers tides of yearnings  

schooling through unreal light 

below the surface. 

I applied oils and honey 

to the marks he left on you: 

the broadside volley of a turned back, 

each pinch-and-twist fiction 

on your lack of wit,  

his burlap comments 

abrading your satin  

into sexlessness. 

By summer’s end I washed your hair  

as often as you wished. 

And then you fed us both. 


You’ve Got to Pick Your Bear 

I’ve only dated you a month. 

And this is our first hike.  

On a water break,  

lowering your canteen, 

you level your eyes at me. 

Are you ready to bring 

your best timber 

to this relationship?  

Then you add, as an aside, 

And where we’re going, you’ll learn 

you’ve got to pick your bear. 

The secluded campground  

spreads in front of us, 

its scenic sweep,  

its back braced in hickories 

while a nearby river garbles  

deep among the ferns. 

Then, nearly missed, 

a fist or two of bear scat. 

Well, fall is rutting season.  

And spring means  

mamas with cubs. 

But this is summer I reply. 

Exactly. Juveniles on their own, 

easily intimidated

So strip with me. 

Let’s hit that river.   


Love, with her Telltale Laughter 

while Love with her telltale laughter sped to Cyprus 

          where her grove and scented altar stand. 

                                                           Book 8, The Odyssey of Homer

After such a dalliance,  

a caprice of her design, 

how she effects her escape 

I still can’t understand. In a trice, 

while still embedded in my eye, she’s off. 

Her laughter, born of sea foam, 

dances with her earrings, 

trills across her lyre on a lost afternoon, 

and weaves in the motion 

of mating birds in flight, 

To Cyprus did the blind  

and bearded poet sing? 

Even on this island’s rocky scarp, 

with its men in hides of goats and swine, 

my only Aphrodite casts her plea on me. 

She built her grove and scented altar  

next to a bedroom lamp  

hung with a blue silk scarf, 

tinting her grotto  

like an underwater world 

into which I wish to drown 

before I learn to breathe again. 


After a Summer Hike 

On his way home 

Napoleon wrote 

to Josephine, 

Don’t bathe

Lifting the hair 

off the back of your neck, 

I want to taste the salt 

from your evaporated sweat. 


A Meditation on My Wife, with Edith Piaf  

As she sews,  

the sounds of Edith Piaf  

spill small white feathers  

out the summer windowsills. 

They filter through the garden shade 

where I am troweling in 

transplants from the woods. 

I cannot see her, 

smell her, hear her. 

Enough that music brushes 

past her as it flows.   

What rivets my attention? 

Occasionally she poses 

as the other woman 

in that unctuous dress 

and low-slung voice: 

accessories she stole 

from someone  

I never sought. 


Summer Sunday Volleyball 

From the far side of the net, 

I watch you leap 

to tap the ball.  

I observe an athlete, 

her tee-shirt 

riding up at every jump,  

and I see the perfect navel  

glance out momentarily,  

the small mouth  

of a cowrie shell set vertically. 

How appealing, this attraction  

centered in the muscles of the belly, 

the ones you’ve worked so taut and tan. 

Two springs ago, you invited me  

to drink from this narrow slipper 

so your fever could recede. 

Tuesday, you tell me you are pregnant. 

Complicit as I am,  

I’ll learn to love by twice  

the lace-like patterns  

on your abdomen. 

I should have known,  

of all the money, love, and time 

we’ll offer up, 

you’d launch your body first  

into the sacrifice. 


Now That She Resembles James Dean 

Do you notice anything? 

Her comment, laid down like a mark. 

Often I’m the one caught  

napping in a class.  

Except today. 

She came home with his haircut, 

not the soft shoulder flow  

we found agreeable before. 

Suddenly, it’s swept-back sides,  

almost a crest on top. Not even 

a tight bounce as she walks. 

Did I forget some part of her?  

Should I not assume an always tender look? 

This hair could stare down the police. 

Always, I confirm her  

choice of cut and clothes  

with brief and apt remarks. 

But appreciation as an art  

delves into noticing detail, 

those layers built, those subtleties of taste. 

Like the utmost care in sewing a designer piece.  

Which is why she didn’t get it styled for me. 


     Eric Forsbergh’s poetry has published in The Fictional Cafe, JAMA, The Journal of Neurology, Artemis, Ponder Review, The Cafe Review and multiple other venues. He has twice won the Edgar Allen Poe Prize from the Poetry Society of Virginia, and has been Pushcart nominated. A retired health care worker, he participated in two medical mission trips to Guatemala, and one to Appalachia. During COVID’s peak, he was a volunteer vaccinator for the Loudoun County Public Health Department. After earning a Master’s certificate in social justice at a seminary in his region, he is now undergoing training to teach poetry in prisons. He is a Vietnam veteran.   

Introducing Susan Simonds, who is making her first – but hopefully not her last – appearance at The Fictional Cafe. She has entitled these works, “What I’ve Been ‘Working On.'”

What I’ve Been Working On 

I’ve found that if you lay a body down 

and keep still long enough 

the pain [mostly] goes away 

even the calves that ache 

from the steep ups and downs 

of the Harlem hills 

even the middle vertebrae in your back 

compressed from hours impressed in chairs 

But the body recovers 

as it lays still 

it lies still 

and tells you that pain is nothing 

more than vibrations  

and the weight of you on the earth  

[and think of all the earth already has to bear] 

At least your pain is small, precise 

you can locate it 

you can put a pillow between sore thighs 

to lift pressure, place it elsewhere 

[because you already know 

you can get screwed over 

even with your knees closed] 

It doesn’t have to be like this 

and yet here you are 


wishing for the pain to sink 

into the mattress 

praying that your dreams are more 

than just your imagination 

but another world you can slip into 

when you need to be less alone 

but also only with your mind 

Do not give in to movement yet 

enjoy the calm 

this is what they mean 

when they say [enlightenment]  

the act of not moving 

of lightening yourself through pure focus 

and when you are there 

try not to be alarmed 

it can feel like falling 

but the beginning is always a wobbly child 

soon you will twirl 

leaving musical footprints in the wake 

of your sound waves 

Don’t say I didn’t warn you: 

you can return to a faster pace 

but your heart will ask to go back 

it will not understand 

why anything else matters 



lexington ave 

This is not real 

life is not fantasy 

don’t fall 

the landslide 

will kill your keep 

I am a street below you 

could you even find me 

if not for lexington ave 

63rd st 

There is no condition 

to my heart 

or did you know that going in 

I would accept you 

regardless of your 

unapproved carry 

on my wayward love 

do not worry 

we are all here for you 

as open as a sore 

needing your wound 



like the rubber  

of my mind 

expand to the left 

right away from the diagram 

its venn my vexing 

you are 

my hex 

I should need 

me down 


don’t let me 



For Giveness 

If I could make magic 

it would be in the shape 

of forgiveness 

First, I would forgive 

my voice its tremble 

every time I tried to say ‘no’ 

built a wall of tissue paper 

only to have it beaten down 

by your ‘yes yes yes’ 

Next, I would forgive 

my eyes their salt 

my throat its constrictions 

all those quick-quick breaths 

all the queasy sickness 

all the times I feared the outside 

when my mind was my sole enemy 

Finally, I would forgive 


and you, and you 

for words hit hard like bruises 

for sleepless sleepless  

so tired  

of crying 


all night 

And in the end I would 

[hopefully] find 

under the shell  

[cracked] open 


all that I am 

for forgiveness gave me 

my life 



Susan Simonds is a graduate of Adelphi University’s MFA program. Her poetry has been published in Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Blue Ridge Literary Prose, Black Fox Literary Magazine, and Three Line Poetry. She has taught English and creative writing and volunteered as a mentor with the NYC nonprofit, Girls Write Now. She is currently working as a learning center office manager and resides in Nashville.


Eric and Eric, c’mon in, have a cuppa creativity while meeting each other here at The Fictional Cafe. Up next: Eric D. Goodman.

Knights that Pass in the Ship 

Two knights in shining armor 

join together at a round table 

centering of the ship’s dining hall. 

One sits with his back to the window, 

facing the door, watching. 

His years as a royal guard informed him 

that one should always watch for  

a dark knight approaching. 

The other sits with his back to the door, 

preferring the view of the riverside beyond, 

knowing that most who approach from behind 

do so with good intentions. 

Of course, those who watch for danger 

have the advantage if it hits; 

those who live with their breast plate off, 

heart exposed, 

may one day be injured. 

So be it. 

The knights part as friends, 

each understanding new perspectives, 

each clinging to old convictions. 



The death toll: staggering. 

Wildfires in the west, hurricanes in the east. 

The cowardly acts of the terrorists—  

civil unrest breaking out in the sandy,  

faraway republic bursting with  

old Soviet warheads. 

Headlines astounded  

television viewers and social  

media scrollers alike.  

One person abducted on the same day 

that last week’s innocent was found 

mutilated in a ditch. 

The fatal electrical fire at the puppy mill  

outdone only by  

the deadly gas leak at the orphanage. 

All devastating news for an atypical news day, 

taking eyeballs momentarily off presidential gaffes  

and political posturing.  

Lost in all this devastating news: 

my first book’s publication day. 


Buried Reason 

As I walk through the graveyard,  

see the rolling farmland on hills beyond, 

I think of the native Americans  

Who planted dead fish with their corn kernel 

to fertilize and nurture,  

to create life out of death, 

and I see that the burying of the dead, 

of those we love, did not begin  

as a ritual of respect  

or a suffocation of spreadable disease, 

but as a story 

intended to convince people who may not understand 

why they really need to bury their dead  

and to get them to fertilize the earth. 



Good job, but 

when blood pressure moved 

from borderline high  

to healthy medium, 

during a two-week staycation, 

systolic dropping a full 20 points, 

when a return to work 

became a return to hypertension, 

when unacknowledged stress 

chipped away at health, 

a realization: 

good job, but 

even better: 

rationalizing what is not true.  


Backyard Weeds 

Watching the documentary  

about the life of plants,  

observing how root systems  

map out the most efficient paths 

to water and nutrients in the same way  

that our civilization maps 

a public transit system— 

the visual image of the roots appearing 

identical to a large city’s subway map— 

it occurred to me that we, 

despite our pretention  

that humankind is superior  

to every other life form— 

animal and plant alike— 

are really no more consequential 

than the weeds 

in our backyard. 


Eric D. Goodman lives and writes in Maryland. He’s the author of Wrecks and Ruins (Loyola University’s Apprentice House Press, 2022) The Color of Jadeite (Apprentice House, 2020), Setting the Family Free (Apprentice House, 2019), Womb: a novel in utero (Merge Publishing, 2017) Tracks: A Novel in Stories (Atticus Books, 2011), and Flightless Goose, (Writers Lair Books, 2008). His short stories, articles, and travel stories have been published in many periodicals, as well as several works on The Fictional Cafe. His recent poems have appeared in Gargoyle, Loch Raven Review, North of Oxford, and Bourgeon.

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