STYLUS Spring 2012
STYLUS Volume 127, Number 1, Spring 2012. Founded in 1882. Undergraduate members of the University are invited to submit original works of poetry, prose, and art. Direct correspondence to: Stylus, Room 129, McElroy Commons, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Works under review remain anonymous. Copyright 2012 Stylus Editorial Board, 2011-2012. All rights reserved.
Dedicated to all the graduating seniors in the class of 2012. Thank you for your contributions to the organization.
Whoa, Nelly! After a decidedly Cold in Herre fall semester, students were thrilled about the reinstatement of the spring concert. Worried about drug-related problems, the administration scheduled the concert for 4/20. Studentsâ€™ eyes were red with tears of joy.
We are saddened to share that our bodacious Bootyfishious has had his life tragically cut short. He was murdered in cold blood by a disgruntled former Stylus editor. She has pled not gill-ty.
This Spring, Stylus is proud to unveil its new subsidiary Twitter account, @Stylus_Girl, based on the imbroglios of certain members of the editorial staff. Whether fending off slews of suitors like Penelope or striving for the hands of their Dulcineas, the contributors draw their inspiration from their day-to-day romantic endeavors.
Having learned of campus-wide housing issues, Stylus happily offers its office as a living space for all displaced sophomores. The administration has also provided for students to live in the Higgins greenhouse, the infirmary, the dumpsters around campus, the Newton bus, and, most egregiously, Walsh Hall.
STYLUS Volume CXXVII Bostonese
Number 1 Staff
Verse Bumpkin Greenhouse Effect Rwanda Whether Werther At The Gate Would Sigh We Brought Erhai Hu Lake Effect Grim Grim Manet Sleep Talk Unveiling Dear Family Gothenburg March 9th, 2012 Untitled Threnos to the Virgin Muse Paint Nighthawks Diving at a Shipwreck Succession Isomorphic Observatory Thaw The Show-All Girl Elephant Man A poem Harvest Ground Modern Ecologues Two Scars Travel Blind
10 13 16 23
Katrin Tschirgi Rich Hoyt Trotter LaRoe Jordan Dorney
24 40 41 42 45 54 55 56 58 59 60 62 67 69 70 71 72 74 76 77 91 93 94 96
Helen Spica Trotter LaRoe Bailey Spencer Michael Wolf Katrin Tschirgi Claudia Christensen GarcĂa James Parkington William Watkins Thomas Kotlowski Christine Zhao Paul Boboc David Chou Kayti Lahsaiezadeh Jordan Dorney Lauren Audi Michael Wolf Bailey Spencer James Parkington Katrin Tschirgi Mireia Triguero Roura Patrick Reynolds Thomas Kotlowski James Parkington Michael Wolf
The Fledgling Tired Eyes Fish Bone Moscow is Just a Picture Un Sue単o de la Playa Along the River Between Rwanda and Tanzania Evergreen
103 104 119 120 122 124
Helen Spica David Chou Katrin Tschirgi Chris Criswell Ashley Schneider Trotter LaRoe
Prose This Time The Plagues and Plaques of the Aftermath Mary and Anne Going to Raleigh Alphahomega How to Recycle Desert Fish
Kevin Hall Sophia Gorgens
27 46 64 79 106
Tracy Rizk David Kunkel Rich Hoyt Tracy Rizk Lauren Audi
Art Play Me Cover In a Russian Kitchen 11 Nature Preserve 15 Carrior Bird 22 Take it Back 26 Radiance 33 Untitled 39 Pure 44 Stormy Walk Home 50 Power 57 Euphoria 63 Untitled 68 Projective Test #44 73 Untitled 78 Suspicious Gentleman 85 Twelve 92 Shades 95 The Power of Touch 102 Broken Eiffel 105 Untitled 111 Feeling 118 Montaña de Oro 123
Rachael Glassman Sonia Iosim Claudia Christensen García Adrian Tatro Andrea Kisiel Rachael Glassman Elizabeth Caruolo Rachael Glassman Claudia Christensen García Michael Stone Sonia Iosim Brian Park Anthony Traver Allison Miller Richard Seitz Andrea Kisiel Richard Seitz Michael Stone Liam Navin Adrian Tatro Rachael Glassman Claudia Christensen García
Bumpkin I grew up on the consonance of blueberry. Butter, baking soda, burnt-bottom: this is how you make a muffin. Above the stand mixer, I learned to read cardboard and to love tin-berries like beluga caviar or bath beads. But still, we were nostalgic for our bacciform star fruits. Weekend picking, we bathed in boscage, Tupperware baskets in hand. Our fingers were stained like after background checks. They were woodland barnacles and we were boatmen with fishhook typeface hats, folded ballroom linens, picking each from our Ponderosa starboard. In Aunt Jemimaâ€™s kitchen, we rinsed our blue California gold in stainless steel, baked them into sweet blisters, buried between comfort and crumb. Katrin Tschirgi
In a Russian Kitchen
This Time kevin hall
You see her. You clutch your lukewarm Dunkin Donuts coffee tight to your balmy skin and scramble for a plan. Do you say something this time? Do you ask her how her bio test was? Do you even give a shit about bio? Of course you don’t. But you give a shit about her. Hence, you give a shit about bio. She’s getting closer. You turn your iPod off. Dashboard Confessional was on shuffle. This isn’t a fucking movie, jackass. You give yourself a last-minute makeover, using saliva as dime store hair gel and your sweaty fingertips as a comb. You look great. It’s go time. “Hey you, what’s going on?” you blurt. It wasn’t your first line but you panicked. Clark Gable, you are not. She talks to you. She says something about quitting smoking for Lent, and then something about the spring concert. You’re halfway into la-la land but you’re listening. She slowly morphs into your own damsel in distress. You’ve always wanted to be Lancelot. Or Highlander. You always get way too drunk at Medieval Times to appreciate the full experience. You’re daydreaming again. Snap out of it. She says she’s late for class. You say something about meeting up for coffee. She touches you lightly on the shoulder and asks you to call her this weekend. You’re not sure if this sincerity is real, but in your adorable optimism, you believe it is. You hug. The hug is better than anything. Better than your mom’s home-cooked mac and cheese. Better than Christmas morning. It’s even better than the ending to The Shawshank Redemption. It’s awesome. You don’t want to let go. But you do. You watch her pass by you. You linger in the spot where you embraced. You should really get to the library and print out your paper on violence in Chaucer. But your feet can’t move. At least not right now. You take a deep breath and keep walking. Maybe she’ll answer your texts this time. Maybe there will be a “this time.” 12
Greenhouse Effect My student apartment felt as homey as an ashtray, so I bought myself a quiet fern. The effect of green on Boston brick was revolutionary. Soft light, plant life, wood floors and the scent of coffee and pine breathing became more delightful. The fern was what you’d call stoic, which I admire in degrees, but it made coming home awkward, at times. I didn’t want for the stupid love of an adorable mutt. But, as long-stemmed leaves cast shadows on my walls, there was an air of expectation, and as I spilled measured drops of water into the clay pot I wondered, what are you waiting for? So I took a leaf out of the bible (it had browned yesterday, and slid between Genesis and Exodus) and gave the fern a name— “Robert,” which felt more comfortable than the leafy thing’s latinate label. When company came over, I was always conscious To introduce my Robert plant, “No, not ‘the’” Though, with its laddered fronds unfurled in the window, it was somewhat like a stairway to heaven. Not much of a talker, Robert was a good listener, taking in my sighs and converting them into something 13
a bit easier to breathe through. He would watch the busy street wake and work to remember itself, only to then move all those eyes and all those minds gratefully towards the anesthetic of forgetful sleep, But mostly the fern tended to quiet miracles sustained by patience and sunlight. Soil damp, no care needed this minute. I tapped a makeshift watering can And tried to kick winter from my step. Rich Hoyt
Claudia Cristensen GarcĂa
Rwanda I have spots where they bite me: this tender red splotch, these series of bumps. I’m drawn to them, to the tropical red bitten into my arms. In Africa you should understand—the marriage of beauty with pain is the marriage of God and the sun— smoldering rays, wind emblazoned coals, infant green grass over the ferrous earth. Hills and hills and hills and the places where corpses used to be, but now only trees and memories standing like abandoned homes. On every exposed part the bumps, the bites—the harpies never quiet! This place holds torment, buzzing, stinging, cruel torment. We dig up the bananas, ferment the juice into urwagwa as our parents did before the plane was shot down. We harvest the sorghum, carry cassava on our backs, tolerate another meal of bananas. We take up our machetes again, as we had when they were never anything but tools of cultivation, washed clean, scratched over. We endure the grunts trees make when hacked through, the whoosh of a blade made devil.
The Plagues and Plaques of the Aftermath Sophia Gorgens
I thought maybe this world could use a little bit more of me and a little less of everyone else. I get so tired of all that hand-waving and door-holding and smiling. Especially the door-holding, until there’s that one person who refuses to hold the door for me when I’d actually appreciated it and then my thoughts just turn all bitter green Jell-o. Jell-o. Now there’s a thought to turn my head upside down. Then right side up again because all that blood rushing to it gets uncomfortable. Like doing handstands for too long or dangling my head off the edge of my bed just to see what the world will look like if I stand on the ceiling and secretly hoping my roommate will come in and see. Her mouth would form into a quaint little “o” before lips begin to move in the silent mouthing of a question I would rather not answer. Because it should be obvious, the joys of head-standing and o-lip-watching. But Jell-o. Marvelous wobble-flobble goop. It’s absolutely disgusting, so naturally I adore eating it. Slithers down like spaghetti overcooked or maybe a well-greased wrench, but I’ve never tried that one before. Ground-up cow hooves! my sister once told me. That’s what’s in Jell-o, but she’s a vegetarian anyway so I’d never believe a word that she has to say on food. And the gelatin-free option? I can taste the difference, and it’s almost edible. It’s just I— No matter, I’d rather not think here, because there is just so much fuller of half-witted butterflies. There’s a vegan craze on the loose, or so my sister says. All I can find in the fridge at home is eggplants and squash, carrots falling into cracks where raw blood once oozed quite deliciously out of tornopen packs of flesh. Succulent flesh, but that’s unhealthy to say at home now. Thank God there’s college. I just wonder when the plague will hit here, too. Plague. That’s almost like plaque, you know. In letters if not practice. But they found an Archaea that causes some dental disease, so there. And what causes plaque itself anyway? Bacteria, so there. Now plagues and plaque can go hand in hand and skip on down to the voting booths but if they ever did—you know there’s like a bil17
lion more bacteria in the world than there are you and mes? I’m sure they’d talk a mighty swagger, Bacteria in Sherriff’s boots, so don’t ever let them vote. My body may be host to trillions of un-me, but there is no court or democracy—no, it’s total tyranny inside, and I suggest you do the same, if you plan on keeping toe and foot in a coordinated dance of twitching muscles. Puss in Boots strode through the world in his swagger-stagger sherriff shoes. The seven-league boots I mean, but no one ever knows that anymore. All they can think of is that cartoon on steroids that’s hyping crazes into little children until suddenly they all want a Happy Meal so they can Put a Smile On like the old commercials all beg them to do and in the plastic-wrapped synthetic fibers of a hamburger and greased Freedom Fries they’ll find little old Shrek and his cute orange conquistador. What happened to the seven-league cat of my childhood? And here the walls keep creeping in, and I can feel a mental breakdown about to happen in mustard fields of pomegranate hues. I’d much rather chew on clouds and think thoughts unforgotten. Meow, my sister says, and pounces on my leg. Clinging there as I swing her back and forth. But she’s not that little anymore, and anyway, it causes my leg to cramp. Like a spasm shoveling through my cells, but I just eat bananas and say it will go away. Bananas are medically proven to be good for that—they’re full of… Mother said eat them. I just wonder how much we really get out of them, the bananas of the world. I mean, they’re picked quite unripe—for shipping efficiency, of course (the same reason they make lamp shades conical not spherical). So young and tender and torn away and I’m supposed to eat the adult that has been artificially matured and pretend that it’s not a psychotic banana that I’m eating? Any human’s mind would flitter-flatter-flap away in fright and leave an empty husk of a skull if they were tinkered with like that, but somehow I’m supposed to accept that these bananas are perfectly normal and healthy and functioning members of society. But I’ve seen the way their empty husks pool in a degenerate pile of brown-spotted leprosy and wait for the unwary foot. Revenge can indeed be had from beyond the grave. I stare out my window every day, but the view refuses to change. They say the world doesn’t stand still, but then why do I 18
have to see the same thing here every day and never a hop or a bound of the landscape jumping away and herds of new crowding into the empty space with skyscrapers where houses stood or trees where once I saw only pocked asphalt gray? After she di— The world indeed stands still. But there I can still ruminate on revenge, to my heart’s content, although I hardly see how my heart can be described as content as it is only an organ of me and hardly sentient. Cardiac muscle is no more than that, yet there’s more written on the unraveling of the heart, of our true love, than almost any other subject. I’d omit the “almost,” but that sort of finality without the temperance of an “almost” almost always sparks up debates in society and I don’t feel like talking to society right now. Everyone’s so afraid to be definitive—they just reach out a cautious tendril, probing here and there and seeing where it might take them. But when they realize that it goes up into the sky and that they might find themselves suddenly in zero-G surrounded by the star-riddled darkness, they shrink away. Shrivel like a plant into the explored corners of life. But what am I doing that’s any different? Thinking of Pluto, for one. No one does that anymore, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. That poor little planet got demoted and suddenly no one even wants to acknowledge his existence. If this is modern science, I don’t want anything to do with it. I want my Pluto back, and so do Goofy and Mickey. And so does Hades, but he keeps such a low profile these days. Pity—I’m sure he’d make a fine advocate. My sister always says she’d name the planet Scooby, because she prefers him. When we went to Disney World, Pluto came over to give her a hug, but he tripped on a fallen ice cream cone and almost crushed my sister. She’s been having nightmares of falling ice cream cones ever since, but Pluto’s name never gets dragged into it. She just keeps a respectful distance from Pluto, so Scooby wins out in her solar system. Not mine though. Even though I love them both, I’d have to go with Rin Tin Tin just because he’s such a classic and makes me feel like an old man for tipping my hat respectfully to him. Or maybe an old woman jabbing upwards with a pair of knitting needles in a reverent salute. I like that thought—that I’m an old person shriveled up to fit into this youthful vessel that can hardly contain my splintering bones and decaying cartilage. 19
Here is where she’s gone from me, but no matter what I do, I just can’t get myself to like eggplant or squash or the carrots hidden in the cracks. My sister and I like following the cracks on the sidewalk, carefully avoiding stepping on them because we know that it could kill mother, but then suddenly there’s just this sudden urge and snap! We’re stomping on them and waiting for the omens or at very least the bear to appear. The bear follows children and scares away all the bullies, but no one knows that anymore. Even my own fairytale book is gathering dust, but at least I have it memorized back to front and back again because that’s the way I read it and learned the language of backwards. Sdrawkcab. It’s like Pig Latin but better because only I know it. My sister, too, but she sometimes forgets her vocabulary and really needs to practice conjugating verbs. Or are verbs declined? No matter. I’ve never done either, because really it’s undoable in Sdrawkcab and apart from that I’m a strict xenophobist. Sister says it’s no wonder I failed Spanish, but I just say, Hsinaps? But that’s all there, and here my roommate’s started worrying about me. She thinks I forgot the past tense, but I told her it was all part of my xenophobia. She just gave me a weird look and called the RA to say I haven’t eaten for three days. Apparently, neither she nor the RA accepts the common knowledge that you can’t stand on your head with a full stomach. Upside-down, dancing on the ceiling, my sister sings, and I fling a carrot at her. I’ve been finding them all over my room and I’m really not flattered. Do I look like a vegan? I prefer my unisex hamburger with Freedom well-fried and greased to perfection, although I don’t see any ham in it. Because even if I say that there should be more of me and less of the world, I won’t deny that we’re actually one and the same. It’s called assimilation, and it’s the goal of all great ruling nations. It’s how they tame the natives. The Romans gave the world their law and order and their gods, but the natives were allowed to keep their own deities as well, and that’s how I feel right now. Somewhere inside me, I still have my household gods, but the rest of me is in a smoothie that obnoxious blondes buy because the recipe makes the claim to be thirty percent lower in fat than all the competing brands. 20
There’s a pair of hawk eyes staring at me—the RA, making sure I eat. I poke experimentally at the macaroni and cheese, but it just wriggles out of control like a mass of newly-hatched larvae, and it’s no wonder my fork flings spatters of potassium yellow at the cracked wall. It now has a runny nose—brick and mortar oozing chemical cheese. I can sniffle-snuff in sympathy, because I know there doesn’t really exist. Only here does, even if she’s not here, and I guess that’s going to have to be okay. Maybe.
Adrian Tatro 22
Whether Werther at the Gate Would Sigh I hadn’t thought it through, I guess. I’d hoped that when we took at last to the air, all surly bonds slipped and the great Face touched, I’d hoped to be with you. I’ve asked and answered this before: where two can go, can three? If two can sit at Christmastime or dance amid the thunder— It does no good to wonder now how you meant that word, engaged. You sent me away. I stayed only long enough, I thought, to feed the glow of my last ember: your picture in my pocket is factual and cold. I should thank him for the ribbon, too. What became of the robin that ate our crumbs, which touched your lips and mine? I suppose he took to the air one morning. I was fond of him. So it’s up, then, and up and away. You sit beside me and he beside you. Amid the wide galactic sprawl, there is no away to be had, I hear, and once alighted here no one lands. Jordan Dorney
We Brought We brought wood for the fire. We brought water for the red geraniums bruising beneath the porch light. We brought the dusk in buckets, curls of birch bark, blood root blossoms for the blue vase on our mother’s table. We were more sunscreen and gin-soaked pimentos than the wild hearts we thought ourselves to be. But a river ran forever through our ears, and to the horses in the pasture we brought sugar and fallen crabapples in the flats of our palms. We brought prayers for the rain, and we brought the rain, too, against the wood shingles and the grey lake, and against the overturned canoes behind the house it drummed. We brought morels to the kitchen, snapped from their creamy stems below the oaks, and fiddleheads with the fresh curl of my sister’s hair soaking in the sink. We brought wild leeks from the woods for the cast iron pan, for our empty bellies, for the dogs whimpering behind the screen door. We brought handfuls of strawberries, and the wing feathers of pheasants. We brought the pale moon to the fire. We brought the blue shell of a robin’s egg, 24
broken in the grass, its gold spreading out over the earth. Helen Spica
Take it Back
Mary and Anne Tracy Rizk
“The man at the store—you know, the one I went to last week to ask for a refund on the iron curler—he didn’t remember me. Can you believe it?” Mary asked, as she paused to adjust her bag on her shoulder. “Are you sure he didn’t? He could have been busy or something.” Mary shook her head. “There wasn’t even anyone in the store— it was around closing time.” “I don’t know,” Anne said. “He was really nice,” Mary said. “A real gentleman.” She bit her lip. “Maybe you just didn’t speak to him long enough. You can’t expect these people to remember every person who walks in the store.” “We must’ve spoken for a good fifteen minutes or so. He was very nice. You’d think—” Mary paused. “I don’t know.” She pulled open the glass doors of the local Starbucks and let Anne enter first. When they were inside, Anne turned back to face her. “You must’ve not said much, Mary. Sometimes you’re not very impressionable.” “What do you mean?” Mary asked. She fished through her purse for her wallet. “You know.” Anne walked up to the counter to order. “What do you want?” Mary still had her hand in her purse. “No, you don’t have to—” “It’s fine, don’t worry about it. I’m getting a chai latte. You’ll have the same?” Mary nodded. “Thanks Annie.” She walked over to a small table for two in the corner. A jazzy cover of “Love me Tender” was playing, and Mary leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She was tired. Annie came back with two paper cups and a Danish pastry wedged between her teeth. She set the cups down on the table, pulled the pastry out of her mouth, and sat down across from Mary. She took a sip from her drink. “So,” Anne said, “Do you have a dress for the Christmas party yet?” Mary shook her head. “It’s in a week.” Anne set her cup down and looked at Mary intently. “Everyone’s going to be dressed up.” 27
“I just thought I’d wear the blue dress I bought over the summer with black stockings.” She opened a sugar packet and poured the contents into her drink. “You’re not buying anything new?” “No,” Mary said, “I mean I could buy a blue ribbon for my hair—” “No—you should keep your hair down. It looks better. I bought this gorgeous dress on sale last week.” Anne pulled her phone from her bag and retrieved a picture. She pushed it towards Mary, who inspected the photo. Anne had taken a picture of herself in a blood red dress. She was standing in front of a bathroom mirror, holding her phone up and smiling brightly, a matching red ribbon in her hair. “Wow. That’s really pretty,” Mary crooned. “Yeah,” Anne said. “Best part is I got it half off.” She took a bite from her pastry and chewed, looking thoughtful. “You know, I saw a really great calf-length brown dress at the same store. Very classy. We should go take a look. What about after work tomorrow?” Mary shook her head. “I was gonna take Big Bob to the park.” Anne sighed. “How about on Saturday.” “I guess I’m free then,” Mary said. Mary and Anne worked together at the Buggle Family Library downtown. Anne had been an employee there for nearly twenty years. As Circulation Manager, she was the one who hired Mary into the entry-level position at the reception desk. At first, their relationship had been strictly professional. Anne was, technically, Mary’s boss. However, days at the library were quiet and eventually the two women became friends despite the age gap between them. At twentynine years old, Mary rarely encountered people her age in Brockton. She appreciated Anne’s youthful spirit. Anne had lived in Brockton all her life and was so comfortable that she wouldn’t dream of leaving. Mary, on the other hand, had moved around a bit in her life. She had finally settled in Brockton to be close to her brother, Robert, who lived with his wife and 5-yearold daughter one town over. Every Sunday she would load Big Bob, her Puggle, into her car and drive over to her brother’s for their weekly barbecues. She sometimes made a salad or pasta and brought it over. Nina, her brother’s wife, made a scene about the small gesture so Mary often brought little baked goods for Lily instead. She would hide a parcel behind her back and ask her to guess before 28
handing it over, and Mary always thought it was so cute seeing her scrunch her face up and think really hard. Robert would scold her for spoiling the girl, but she did it every week anyway. Mary was a little late to the barbecue that Sunday. She had experienced trouble sleeping the night before and couldn’t wake up before ten that morning. She needed to stop at the local shopping center to buy dog food for Big Bob before going to the barbecue. While there, she stopped at a crafts store to buy a ribbon for the box of coconut cookies she had made for Lily. She looked for a thick one in Lily’s favorite color, purple. Nina hated it when Mary gave Lily treats, though she always told her not to eat them all at once. Mary remembered how awful it felt to be forbidden sweets as a child. Upon reaching her brother’s house, she opened the car door and let Big Bob bound up the driveway and lumber around the house, into the backyard. Mary found Nina in the kitchen marinating the steaks. She asked if she could help. Nina shooed her way, instructing her to go into the backyard and see Lily’s new dress. Mary shrugged and walked out the sliding doors into the backyard. Lily was lying on her stomach, petting Big Bob. Robert, her brother, was sitting on a long chair, reading a magazine and smoking a cigarette. When he saw Mary he stood up and gave her a hug. She kissed his cheeks and assured him that she was fine. She then walked over to Lily, who squealed excitedly. After making her promise not to eat any before lunch or feed some to Big Bob, she handed her the white box of cookies. Mary accepted a hug from the little girl, walked back to her brother, and sat down on the wooden chair next to him. He leaned back in his chair and stretched slowly. Then he sat up straight and looked directly at her. “Business has been crazy, Mary,” he said. “Real good.” She smiled. “Great job, Rob,” she said. “That’s amazing.” “Thanks.” Mary leaned back in her seat and watched Lily spray water from a hose on Big Bob. He loved it and ran around excitedly, shaking himself dry. Lily got wet and shrieked. “Lily,” Robert called, “stop that. You’ll catch a cold.” Over the past few years, Robert had turned into a thoughtful, caring parent. Mary had grown to respect him in ways that she never did when they were children. He had left home at seventeen 29
and gotten his first job as personal chauffeur to the CEO of a large air-conditioning installation company. Since then, he had gone from one promotion to the next. Two years ago, that same CEO put Robert in charge of a branch of his company. The raise in salary had bought him this nice house with a big back yard and a grill. Despite everything, Robert had not once forgotten about Mary. He had helped her out when she decided to go to culinary school for a year. When that didn’t work out, he encouraged her to move to Brockton and he helped her find a place to live. He had even put down the deposit and paid her rent for the first month. “I spoke to Mom yesterday morning,” Mary said. “She and Dad have taken up bird watching.” Robert shrugged. “That’s good. You have to find something to do at that age.” “Yeah,” Mary said, “and Dad’s been feeling better.” “Oh yeah?” Nina walked out and started to set the wooden table nearby. Robert glanced at her and back at Mary. “You know, Mary, an employee of mine is coming over for lunch today,” he said. Nina looked over as she put down the forks and knives. “He’s very nice,” she called. “Yeah,” Robert said, “he’s a great worker. Real smart. You should have a chat with him.” “Oh,” Mary said. “What’s his name?” “Michael,” Rob said. “He’s about your age. Maybe a bit older.” Rob looked at Nina. “He’s good-looking, too.” Mary smiled faintly. She walked over to where her niece and dog were playing, and sat down on the grass beside them. Big Bob nuzzled his head in her lap and Lily walked over and fed her a cookie. Robert stood up and walked towards the green patch of grass Mary was sitting on. “How’s the job going?” Mary looked up. “Alright. It’s not too much work.” Robert shook his head. “That friend of yours still hasn’t promoted you, eh?” “No.” “Well, she should. You’ve got a degree for Christ’s sake. You’re better than that.” Mary shrugged. “She says there’s nothing open for me right now.” 30
Robert shook his head again. “Bullshit,” he said. “Invite her over here sometime. We should get to know her—sweeten her up a little bit.” Mary nodded. “Sometime,” she said. The annual Christmas Dance Party was the product of a combined effort between Hornby Elementary School and the Buggle Family Library. This year, the price to rent out the ballroom at the Rosemary Hotel had skyrocketed, so the Christmas Dance Committee had decided to cut costs and host the dance in the elementary school gymnasium. The committee, which Anne was a member of, had done a decent job of ensuring that the space looked festive enough. Streamers had been hung across the walls and around the basketball net. Helium balloons floated throughout and a section of the room had been designated for dancing, with a red lighting machine casting glows on the rubbery floor and cement walls. Mary spotted Anne near the drinks table at the far left corner of the gym. She was talking to a white-haired man and laughing energetically. Her red dress was a flashier red than it had seemed in the picture. Mary turned to Michael. “Would you like to get a drink?” “Sure,” Michael said. He offered to go get them. “I’ll come with you,” Anne said. They walked over to the drinks table. Anne saw them and waved excitedly. She eyed Michael curiously as they approached. Mary quickly introduced them. “Pleasure to meet you, Michael,” Anne said. She smiled widely at him. Mary turned to the table and started to pour herself a glass of white wine. Anne was introducing Michael to the old man. “Michael, this is Geoffrey. He’s the vice principle of Hornby Elementary.” She tapped Mary on the shoulder. “Mary, meet Geoffrey.” Mary turned around and shook Geoffrey’s hand. “Geoffrey and I just started chatting because we both poured ourselves the same kind of red wine,” Anne said. “Pinot Noir!” Mary handed Michael his glass. Anne, who was inspecting Mary’s outfit, frowned. “What happened to the dress we bought together?” she asked. Mary looked down at her blue dress. “Oh.” She glanced at Michael from the corner of her eye. “I returned it.” 31
“But honey! Why?” “It was a little pricy. I—” Anne turned to Michael. “She’s so conscientious. That’s why she’s such a great employee.” Anne laughed and grabbed Mary’s arm. “Gentlemen,” she said, “please excuse us for a moment.” She led Mary across the vast gymnasium into a corner. Her face was plastered with a big bright smile. “Jesus. He’s handsome, Mary!” “Really?” “God, yes.” Mary blushed. “All this time you haven’t introduced me to one man and all the sudden you show up with this? He’s a catch.” “My brother—” Anne interrupted her. “So what do you think about Geoffrey?” she asked. “He’s recently divorced.” Mary glanced over at the drinks table. Michael was on his phone—texting, probably—and Geoffrey was taking slow sips and staring at his shoes. “He seems nice,” Mary said. Anne nodded. She wiggled a little as she adjusted her red dress at the midriff. “Do I look good?” “Yeah. Great.” “And I don’t look old?” “Not a day over forty-five,” Mary said. “Mary!” Anne looked around and slapped Mary playfully on the shoulder. She leaned back and said: “You know, the woman at the cosmetics counter swore she took me for a thirty-four year old. Imagine.” Mary was eyeing the drinks counter. Michael was expressionless, staring at two elderly ladies dancing together a few feet away. “It must be the anti-aging cream,” Anne continued. “I know it’s a little expensive but it’s worth every penny. You should buy it, Mary. You’re pushing thirty, you know.” “I know.” Anne exhaled loudly. “How youth fades!” She pushed a strand of hair out of Mary’s face. “You have a few years left, I guess,” she said. “Let’s go see what our men are doing.” She hooked her arm into Mary’s and started to steer her back towards the drinks table. Mary shook her head and did not move. “I’m going to stop at the restroom for a few minutes,” she said. Anne nodded. “Don’t be long.” 32
Mary looked around the gym for the restroom. She spotted a small line to the right of the bleachers and made her way there. For the occasion, she had worn a pair of shiny black sandals. Though the heels were only two inches, the shoes made her feet ache. She moved slowly, conscious of the fact that she had never been graceful in heels. She had to wait a while before entering the brightly lit restroom. Two women were leaning over the washing counter, chatting. She waited for them to step aside before approaching the sink. She let the warm water trickle over her hands for a few seconds and looked at herself in the mirror. After drying up, she leaned back on the counter to ease some weight off her feet. Mary closed her eyes. Her ankles throbbed. She sensed the women maneuvering around her to wash their hands and fix their hair, but did not leave. When the throbbing subsided, Mary moved away from the counter and opened her purse. She pulled out a brown compact case and moved towards the mirror near the door. She had purchased the mini makeup kit at the mall yesterday. It was fancier than what she usually used and much too expensive, but the sales lady had managed to convince her that she would need it for occasions like this. Mary turned towards the mirror. Though it was too early in the night to reapply makeup, she unattached a small brush from the inside of the kit and used it to smooth light pink powder onto her cheeks. Then, she sucked in her face to highlight her cheekbones with shadows. After replacing the brush, she stared into the mirror to see the difference. The makeup worked as well as the saleslady had promised. Mary patted a smaller brush into black powder. With an eye open, she smeared silky black over one eyelid, and then the second. Her right eye fluttered and smeared the makeup so that she had to wipe it off and start over. When she was done, her face looked more defined and her eyes were sharper than before. She closed the compact case and headed back out into the festooned gymnasium. As Mary approached the drinks table, she saw that Anne was chatting with Michael, leaning in on his shoulder familiarly. When Mary was close enough, she could hear Anne telling Michael about how she once saw a seven-foot bull shark when she was vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Geoffrey was standing a few steps away, talking to an unfamiliar blonde woman. Mary hovered near them for a while before turning around and examining the selection of wines. Finally, Michael tapped her on the shoulder. â€œIâ€™m kind of hun34
gry,” he said. “There any food around here?” Mary turned around. She nodded. “Yeah,” she said. “Sorry— over there.” She pointed at the banquet table and started to lead the way. When she had taken a few steps she turned around. “Anne,” she called, “we’re gonna go get something to eat.” Anne had her drink poised at her lips and was making her way towards Geoffrey. Without looking, she waved goodbye to the couple. Michael led the way towards the long table laden with hors d’oeuvres. He walked up and down along the buffet table, inspecting the assortment of sandwiches and quiches intently, a paper plate in his hand. He stopped in front of a platter of mini pigs-in-a-blanket, picked one up, and sniffed it. He put it back and grabbed a tuna sandwich instead. He then plunged his hand into a bowl of barbecue chips and emptied a handful onto his plate. He walked along the banquet table once more, picking up a spinach quiche, a bacon-and-cheddarcheese mini sandwich, and a hardboiled egg. Satisfied, he retreated to where Mary was standing, waiting for him, and bit into the spinach quiche. “You’re not eating?” Mary hesitated. “No, I am,” she said. She walked over to the table and examined the options briefly. She then picked a sandwich at random and dropped it onto a plate. She walked back to Michael, who was wolfing down the hardboiled egg now. She took a small bite of her sandwich and chewed slowly, her stomach uneasy. Michael looked around and set his plate down on the floor, leaving a sandwich and the chips uneaten. “That was shit,” he said. Mary could feel herself blushing. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I—” Michael laughed, interrupting her. “It’s not your fault,” he said. “I’m real picky with food.” “Oh,” Mary said. She laughed weakly. “Seriously—I am,” he said. “It’s the only thing I’ll splurge on. Sometimes I go out for fifty—maybe sixty— dollar meals, I don’t care.” Mary had stopped trying to eat her sandwich and held the plate limply in her hand. Michael looked at her. “Maybe I’ll take you out for a meal like that some time.” Mary smiled. “Maybe.” Michael laughed again—this time loudly. “You’re really damn quiet, eh?” He tousled her hair playfully. “I wonder what’s going on in that head.” He took the plate from her hand and put it on the floor. “C’mon, let’s get a drink.” 35
Michael was pounding his fist on the driving wheel and singing along to a rock song playing on the radio. “I fuckin’ love Pearl Jam,” he yelled, as he cranked open the car window. Mary giggled and watched him tilt his head back and belt out the words of the song. After a while, she closed her eyes and leaned back. The music was starting to give her a headache. Michael glanced at her and turned the radio off. “You don’t like it?” Mary kept her eyes closed and shook her head. “Alright,” he said. “Don’t fall asleep.” He reached over and squeezed her nose teasingly. “C’mon.” Mary smiled and sat up straight. “That’s a girl.” He patted her on the knee. “Can you believe I have to get up for work tomorrow?” “You work on Saturdays?” Michael laughed. “Hell yeah,” he said. “Every damn day.” Mary was quiet for a moment. “What’s it like working for my brother?” she asked. “A lot of donkey work,” he said, smiling bitterly. “I’m better than that.” He turned around to look at her. “Don’t tell him I said that though—I need the money.” Mary nodded. He laughed again. “Besides, who knows, one day I could be your brother’s boss.” Mary shrugged. “Maybe you could.” Michael smiled and patted her on the knee again. This time he let his hand rest there. Mary, careful not to move too much, reached for the radio and turned it back on. A lively country song was on. She sat back and pretended to listen to the lyrics. She caught herself breathing louder than usual and tried hard to settle down. Michael hadn’t noticed—he was driving fast and his eyes were glued to the road. When she song ended, Mary stretched an arm out, dropped the sun visor, and looked at herself in the small, rectangular mirror. Slowly, she adjusted her cheap navy dress. “You see your brother often?” he asked. “Yeah,” she said. “About every week.” He laughed. “Happy family,” he said. “I guess,” Mary said. “I like to see my niece.” “Ah.” 36
After a few minutes, Michael made a right onto her street. He slowed his car to a crawl, turned in his seat and kissed her. After a few seconds, he turned back around to pull up in front of her apartment building. He turned the engine off and rolled up the windows. Mary was still twisted towards him. He reached for her face and kissed her again. His mouth was hot and he smelled like soap and scotch. It only lasted for a moment before he reached for the handle and opened the passenger door for her. He leaned back in his seat and looked straight ahead. “What?” she asked. He glanced at her. “What?” “What’s wrong?” “I don’t want to be teased, babe.” Mary didn’t move from her seat. She leaned towards him and put her hand on his shoulder but he moved it. “You know,” he said, looking at her. “You seem shy.” Mary didn’t say anything. “Like you’re not gonna follow through.” Mary sat still in her chair. Michael was now looking at her expectantly. She swung the door open, about to get out, when she felt him grab onto her thigh and push her back in. Mary and Anne walked up the driveway and into Robert’s house. Upon entering the kitchen, they found Nina bent over the counter, preparing a salad. Mary introduced Anne, who gushed and complimented the house. After chatting with Anne for a few moments, Nina shooed them both away into the backyard. Robert was there, sitting in his long chair smoking a cigarette. Big Bob ran around the edges of the backyard, sniffing under rocks and barking. Lily was sitting cross-legged on the green lawn, playing with a doll. Mary greeted Robert and introduced Anne. “It’s so nice to finally meet you,” Anne gushed. “Mary is so lucky to have a brother like you.” Robert smiled. “It’s nice to meet you too,” he said. “I’ve heard about you quite a bit.” Anne beamed at him. He offered to make her a drink. Anne accepted enthusiastically. Mary put her bag down and walked over to her niece, who kissed her and looked up at her expectantly. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I 37
didn’t make you anything this time.” Looking a little disappointed, Lily turned back to her toys. She picked up her doll and began to brush its yellow hair. Robert, who was watching the exchange, called out to Lily: “Cheer up, Lil, you get enough presents from Mary as it is.” Anne was lounging in the chair next to Robert. She took a sip from her drink. “Such a lovely house you have here,” she said. Robert thanked her. He turned to Mary. “Hey, Mary, Michael told me you two had fun at the dance last week.” Mary nodded. “It was fine,” she said. Anne piped in. “We had a great time—the committee did a really great job this year,” she said. “You and Nina should definitely come next time we have an event.” Robert agreed and Anne began to tell him about her work at the library. Mary turned to face her niece, who picked her plastic doll up and held it out. “It’s new,” Lily said. Mary sat down next to her on the bright green grass. She gently took the doll from Lily’s hand and brushed her fingers through its waxy nylon hair. “It’s pretty,” she said.
Erhai Hu The pleasure boat eddies in circles about the lake. Everywhere a picture to take. Naturally, above deck, stand professionals hired to snap you with a dancer: a girl who sits upright and flits her fingers in a wave, who bends her neck to single syllables and drums. Or with a boy dressed like a monkey, hopping, kicking to the side, indulging every monocle and eye shutter by shouting hya, hallo, sah, lay-dee. Outside the wind assails those who wonder drily how jumping would feel. Some sit in the shade, watching the unshaven mountains as the boat whirls through the rapture. On his own briefly, a boy holds a tiny heart by its frilled, vermillion ribbon. It whips in the railing-side gusts. He fancies letting go, doesnâ€™t dare loose his grasp. Trotter LaRoe
Lake Effect Legend tells of the stumbling lumberjack and his thirsty ox, but I always imagined someone took an ice cream scoop to the land, carved lakes like pores into its smooth face—my grandfather’s tricksters, born of red walleye bones and petoskey stones, who sang their secrets perched by his ears as he coiled line and cut hooks, swinging between the hanging spoons and peeling wooden fish he’d nailed above the door. I wanted to thank them. But the Algonquin syllables always seemed to catch between my third-generation teeth and I could never remember the melody anyway. Summers, my nightly vanilla cones became tribute, hands sticky with remembrance. Bailey Spencer
Grim Grim Manet for Henry VIII in Hipster Drag Ryan Nebulaeyed, heavenly cloud in the ashtree lava sky between sprawling chaos and creation. One night I slept in your room and snuck into your notebooks horrified at the mangled creatures crawling through your mind. Did you bear these grizzly figures or are they the eternals you sacrifice your sleep to? We whiskey knights and you the druglord ruling the abandoned basement kingdom. Bonemen came to dance and swear off their asses on the floor, the hall of mirrors spinning. Son of Narcissus, scared to see yourself. The night we met behind the gymnasium and I insisted that you listen as cannonballs dropped on the dodge ball court. You led me underground, to the secret station transmitting winter sounds. We stole the neighborsâ€™ Korean drums to beat some sense into our arbitrary yelps. You refused to mentor me thank god, so the sun bloomed in the porch once Bell hauled out the garbage. You live here in myth, the undead otherside surviving you in the public eye, bull headed prince of hell. I shook that slant-light afternoon on the pointless lap around the Pru the day you swore off art, perhaps you pined for purpose or felt forgotten by your peers, the aged rappers, wrinkling and stinking and feigning relevance. You were right, you know people want to be acknowledged especially when sailing away. That summer you bedded
a hundred downy heads and sent them packing when they failed to play with words after your genitals. Pacing and alone in your post-coital glow I listened to the stomping and wondered what woman will match your wit and madness? At times, I was Nero’s foot soldier shoveling coals into the furnace as you played your wild violence. Two-thousand half-read books is still a lot of pages. The test makers can’t tell when we fake it, as we live it livid at the artificial limits, time and breath and money always thrown from parapets especially when there was mischief to be had. We’ve restarted the Screaming Circus two stories underground in a Christmas lit room, the shaman meditating over the same six strings again. I try to sing without thinking but can’t help but think of you. We are hawks hanging with the whippoorwills, listening to them whistle, eager and unable to restrain a frenzied apocalyptic squawk. We rode recycled bicycles in loops around the graveyard on Comm Ave still settling from the acid in our blood and blood in our eyes, we read off the names and laughed at those foolish enough to fall for the myth of death. Michael Wolf 43
Sleep Talk I was never young enough to see the sunrise unfold, red buffalo hide teepee, across the sky. My eyelids became dusty rose at night until I let them sink like old ground into their sockets. She translates early French, words with meanings lost to the modern romantic, words that are not “les bois,” “Malheur,” “Coeur d’Alene,” which are lost on me, or perhaps just buried—buried like the dead heart of the Nez Perce monster before his sons shot him down and called his cardiac skin a hill. So we approach dawn, ambling away from plum skin sky, eyes with black insides, woodnotched, and seeking sleep. Katrin Tschirgi
Going to Raleigh David Kunkel
I’ve never been drunk on a plane before. Amy thought that was funny. I told her it was funnier that she had been, but she said she hadn’t either. We decided to watch a movie and see if we could get drunk before we left, but the movie was bad and the cab came in the middle, so we hadn’t even finished our second. “You don’t have to come now,” I said again. “The airport’s a terrible place to wait.” “I’ll be all right,” she said, and meant it. “I’ll finish our movie.” “Good luck. It was pretty bad.” “How else am I supposed to get drunk?” she said. I laughed. When we arrived at the airport, we found out that our flights were in different terminals. She followed me anyway, saying, “Security’s security,” since her flight wasn’t for a while, but I could tell she felt a little anxious. Or I did. Once we’d been at the gate for half an hour, she went off in a flirtatious sort of way and I realized we should’ve stayed here. My flight boarded soon. I always waited until last, just so the attendants would look at me and say, “Going to Raleigh?” and I could stand at the end of the line. Once I missed a flight because I thought I had more time before it left, but that didn’t stop me from doing it again. The website told me I’d get a window seat. People took it sometimes, which was only fair, and they usually ran out of space for my bag, which was okay, too. This time, nobody’d taken my seat, but an old woman was next to it and I wished she had. She creaked as she stood to let me past. The man across the aisle looked like her husband, and the woman next to him looked like Amy, so I stared out the window. An oxygen mask or some other safety thing had fallen off of somewhere and was at my feet, and as I kicked it around the woman next to me kept eyeing it and saying, “Oh,” and, “Um.” Amy would be coming to Raleigh after a day at home, and I didn’t know why I hadn’t stayed with her. I’d only see my family once before then. My family wasn’t anything special. The flight attendant came on and forgot the captain’s name. Everyone laughed kindly, and then she said we were going to Newark, and we laughed less kindly. Her face was bright red. She must’ve been about my age. She had to ask another woman what the captain’s name was and corrected herself, and everyone laughed uproariously. 46
The old woman next to me turned and said, “What a ditz,” in that ornery old person sort of way. “She’s having a rough day,” I said. The woman shook her head. “An absolute dunce.” “It’s a tough job,” I said. “Ma’am.” Then I looked back out the window. I’ve always thought planes always take on a magical sort of quality at first. When they take off, they briefly reveal the whole world, just before covering it up again with distance and clouds, and for those few moments, before the uncomfortable ear-popping and pressurization set in, I can’t unstick my eyes from the glass and my imagination runs away with me. After it’s gone, I lose all my focus, and even though I say I’ll get work done, it’s never finished. Usually I listen to music and keep watching out the window until it happens again on the way down, but this time ends not with clouds but because I end up too close and involved. No matter where I’m going, it still happens just as spectacularly. The old woman needed a wheelchair and my bag was at the back, so I sat with her until everyone had gotten off. The flight attendant said we’d arrived in Newark and people laughed at her again, but the novelty had worn off. When she came over to discuss the wheelchair, the old woman said something about her ditziness again. The attendant said she hadn’t slept in thirty-six hours because of a shift mix-up. “I know how that feels,” I said, and the old woman looked at me as if I didn’t. “You must be new,” she said to the attendant. “No.” “One of those days,” I said, and nodded sagely. “Don’t worry, we all understand.” “As long as I get a wheelchair,” said the old woman, ending the conversation, and the attendant looked at me like I’d been the offensive one. While we waited for passengers to file off, I kept looking to the back of the plane even though I knew it wasn’t empty just to make her anxious, but I only unnerved myself. When we left the plane, I ended up stuck behind her. Everyone nodded at me generously, thinking I was her son or grandson. I didn’t say anything but walked away a little too quickly once we finally reached the gate. I thought they might say something. It was raining by the time I had coffee with my mother the next 47
day. Nearly everyone I talked to mentioned something about how it might turn into snow. I drank my coffee black for the same reason I drink my whiskey straight, and the barista gave me a look as if I couldn’t be serious. My mother’d been there for a while and had ordered some kind of triple chai mocha peppermint thing. She waited for me at a table while I waited for coffee at the counter. She’d brought a laptop, and she said she was trying to do some writing. “Are you a writer now?” I asked. “What’s that supposed to mean?” “I’m not sure.” “You sound like your sister,” she said. “All she does is yell at me nowadays.” “I didn’t think I was yelling.” “It’s uncanny. You sound just like her.” I sipped my coffee and thought about saying, “Nice to see you” or something else mean. Instead, I said, “How are things?” She gave me a look I used to be familiar with. “What do you mean by that?” “You know what I mean.” “All we do is run around. Your sister always has some other place to get to, and I swear she’s never getting her license. And you know how Dad is.” “No.” “He’s trying to dress better now. He decided that he can’t have all these young kids showing up to work and out-dressing him, so he told me he wants me to pick out new clothes for him, but then of course he refuses to wear anything I do choose. I’m like, why even ask me to help you if you won’t let me help you? But that’s how everyone is now.” I really don’t like black coffee. It was hard to sip as a distraction. I wondered if drinking it fast like whiskey would make it any better, but doubted it. “Maybe you should try and make some time to relax, Mom,” I said, knowing it was stupid. “I am relaxed. I’m the only relaxed one here. Don’t give me that. I mean, look at you.” “I’m plenty relaxed.” “Good.” She typed some nonsense on her keyboard. I could tell it was nonsense because nobody ever hit more than one key at once while typing. She clucked under her breath a few times. I let her get away with it. “So,” she said, as if to change the subject. “What?” 48
“Are you coming to dinner tonight?” “That’s what I’m here for.” “When’s Amy coming?” “Tomorrow.” “Why didn’t she just come with you?” “She wanted to see her family.” “Why didn’t you go with her?” “I didn’t.” My mom laughed. “I can’t wait to meet her,” she said. “We’ll get along really well.” “You’ve never even talked to her.” “Tell me about her.” “You know about her.” She pulled a face. I thought it might be the coffee. I drank some and pulled a face out of solidarity. “Nobody ever tells me anything,” she said. “Really, you’re just like your sister.” I left her typing some more nonsense to go buy some things. It was funny because my sister called me and said she wanted to go buy some things, too, so I picked up my sister. I told her to meet me outside and pulled up in our cul-de-sac. Our house looked largely the same. It couldn’t talk. A wealthy, brick house, it emanated this aura of finality, combining with all the other houses to hasten my departure. Harriet took her time, but eventually ran out of the house just before I honked. My car probably looked poor to her from the outside. I remembered that it was a rental. She appeared just how I pictured her, without the black make-up and tight clothing from last time. “You could’ve just come to the door,” she said. “If I was taking so long.” “I didn’t say anything.” “Imply, say, whatever.” We drove to the mall mostly in silence. It always surprised me how little conversation we had whenever I visited. By now, I was used to it, and that surprised me more. I was getting used to meeting everyone over again and seeing them completely differently. The mall was crowded. I parked at the end, and my sister made fun of me for it. We split up soon after walking in, following a few jokes at Mom’s expense. She was hard to shop for, but eventually I picked out a gift card for more coffee. The coffee shop in the mall was more crowded than the rest of it. People shot me angry looks for only buy49
Stormy Walk Home
Claudia Cristensen GarcĂa
ing a gift card. I left my sister there. My mom could pick her up. Amy called to remind me about her flight. I hadn’t forgotten. She called my cell phone instead of the hotel phone, which I suppose I ought to have expected, but I’m not too clever about that sort of thing. Lots of things to say occurred to me, but I didn’t say any of them. Amy had family to deal with, too, and never said anything about it. After she hung up, I sat on my bed and stared out the window. The room had a chair in the corner, but I’ve never been able to use hotel chairs, probably because my mom always stole the chair when we traveled anywhere. My dad would lie on his bed and my sister and I had to sit on the other bed and stare out the window. When I returned home the first few times, it struck me as odd to think of my parents as ordinary people. Now that was all I could think of, but for some reason flashes of immortality kept rushing back to me. We argued a lot, about politics, about religion, about those other things you’re not supposed to talk about, but it always felt good-natured until my dad got involved. He would state some opinion nobody could ever refute and then stay silent for some minutes afterward, until we all second-guessed our opinions and he won out. I don’t know why I was thinking these things. I considered switching rooms. My health had maintained itself well lately, but it jumped back into my mind momentarily and I started worrying about it. The doctor had said that worrying about it made it worse, so then I’d started worrying about worrying about it. I did some variation of that and stared out the window and took medicine. At around six, I called home. My dad answered. “I don’t think I’m going to make it tonight,” I said. “Is something wrong?” he said. “I don’t feel well. It’s nothing important. I’ll be there tomorrow.” “This isn’t that stomach shit again,” he said. “Amy’s coming in tomorrow, so we’ll stop by at some point.” “Don’t miss dinner Saturday,” he said. “I’ve about had it with that stomach shit.” That was Thursday. I hung up. Both my sister and my mom wanted to come to the airport with me to pick up Amy. I let Harriet come. She’d talked to Amy before, 51
and I didn’t want a big scene. “We should go through security,” Harriet said. “I bet Amy won’t be expecting that.” “Was Dad mad at me last night?” I asked. “It would be a huge surprise if we went through security. Come on.” “Nobody likes surprises. And we might miss her.” “You’re the worst,” she said. We waited outside the terminal for Amy. Other people walked through and I knew it wasn’t her plane, but I looked for her anyway. “Are you going to marry Amy?” Harriet asked. I looked at her. Amy didn’t come through with that group of people. The nearby screen claimed that her flight was on time, but that meant she still shouldn’t arrive for at least ten or fifteen minutes. We tried to find some place to sit. Everywhere was full. For a little while, we stood in one of the magazine shops and joked about celebrities, but I grew anxious after a bit and walked back to stand alone. After Harriet perused the magazines a while, she joined me. Amy still wasn’t there. Heavily dressed people appeared soon after that. I rocked back and forth on my heels. Harriet eyed me with annoyance, but I ignored her. Near the end of the procession, I heard a familiar padding of flats, and I probably didn’t hear anything at all, but I could swear that I knew she was coming. “Harriet!” Amy said, and they hugged after introducing themselves. “How was the flight?” I asked. “I sat next to this horrible ten-year-old who had no concept of personal space. I swear, I never want kids.” “Tell me about it,” I said, and Harriet laughed. The drive home proved considerably more bearable than I expected. We would have gone straight to the hotel, but Harriet was with us, and my mom told me she’d disown me if I took Amy anywhere other than our house. While we drove, Harriet pointed out landmarks on the side of the road, and for fun I passed the high and elementary schools. I circled our neighborhood, looking for more tidbits of history I could explain, until Harriet began to catch on and I drove straight on in. There wasn’t much on the side of the main street, so Harriet talked about running next to it, since Amy had run a marathon once. We were all very proud of her. 52
It was a right, then a little straightaway, then a left, then straight some more, then one more left to reach our cul-de-sac. I turned right and then idled some down the straightaway so we could talk about neighbors. The left I took a little too hastily and almost hit something. We drove a little ways further and everything around looked exactly like always. Then we took a left and this time I drove carefully. At the edge of the cul-de-sac, our house hid behind some trees. Dad was at work. We got out of the car. “It’s so nice here,” Amy said. “It snowed yesterday,” said Harriet. We all walked across the grass, still damp, but not actually wet or muddy. I worried Amy might seem uncomfortable, but she fit in admirably. She laughed at something Harriet had said. Watching her kept me from looking at the house at all until we were inside, and then my mom came running up. “Amy!” she yelled, also hugging her. We drank some coffee, but as soon as Amy sat down, I felt ready to leave. Harriet and my mom crowded around Amy, and my mom over-reacted about something Harriet said, and Harriet jabbed snide comments at me and my mom, and Amy absorbed everything and played it back in perfect good humor, and I tried to keep everything from collapsing, but Amy fit in so well, she fit in too damn well, and I felt my eyes widening as I saw her fitting in perfectly with everything else, and it was all just so fucking awful. “Time to go,” I said. “I’m not feeling well at all.” “What’s wrong?” Amy said. “Has it been that bad?” said my mom. “You just got here,” said Harriet. “Let’s go, Amy,” I said. She looked at me, her eyebrows all furrowed in concern, and I stood up to leave. She rose. “Amy, if you want to stay, I can drive you home,” my mom said. “What?” I said. “If she wants to stay, I can, you know.” I looked at Amy, and she looked back, with this expression of perfect bewilderment and benevolence on her face. She wanted some cue, so I nodded, and I thought she might say something, but the door closed behind me with no sound other than its own clasp. Back at the hotel, I sat in the chair. There was just no use in pretending anymore. 53
Unveiling You painted me as an angel. With your flowery language my being was that of another worldâ€” sun spots in photos, images floating, dancing, drifting along. We drifted far away, abandoned the others and made this world foreign. You held me in the tips of your fingers, perched gently, balanced. Then as we leaped in the air, I slipped. There is no slow motion, and our reaction was earthly; like a porcelain statuette, your angel fell to the earth. I shattered upon contact, and was bare before you. Embarrassed, you saw I was no angel, no saving grace, no post mortem miracle. Claudia Cristensen GarcĂa
Dear Family When it’s time, I will lie to you about the horseback rider whose throat was scrubbed with arm and hammer and whose hair shined cleaner than her rope raw hands. I once let them snatch my cheeks and rein my lips into hers— a kiss more confusing than s’mores covered in moss and moist salsa. I will lie about the bourbon in turbid glasses fatter than children’s cups that I polished as I tried to tell myself the truth. Sixteen. Yes. A virgin. No. She folded her shirt upward and loosened the strap on her left shoulder as my limbs shimmied like suicides. “What took you so long?” Well, I’ve always wondered why time pulled me kicking from the man I once loved being— the one who knew better.
Gothenburg Reposing on the unfelt floor, My Sikh uncle’s chanting students, A healing circle. Mantra fusing Our being, shooting energy in my chest Like bombs in a desert canyon. * Feeling the explosions in my center, thinking Of my grandfather, dead before my birth. Navigating through Vietnam, and White Sands, New Mexico, the Air Force colonel thunders In black metal through emptiness. * The space in my chest swirls with embers, The cavity’s air like a mid-winter’s spring. Mind shifting from brain to abdomen, Stomach heaves with the full sense of being. I hurtle through existence, compact like an atom bomb. * One day, his chest tightened and the space Jammed. Like bullets in a shell, the clot Allowed no passage. At forty-four, His swollen face echoed his boyish smile, The young aviator in my living room frame. William Watkins
Michael Stone 57
March 9th, 2012 After finishing The Idiot I couldnâ€™t help but wonder why Nastasya Filippovna did not bleed when Rogozhin stabbed her in the heart. Perhaps I understand better after sitting next to you on a bench watching the geese bob for fish in the shuddering pink light. When I finally looked into your eyes, after the shock of your bite, I might have expected to see a lion picking his teeth, a prowling leopard crouched in the bush or a she-wolf sniffing out fresh meat. But instead you are as shattered as a shaking terrier still reeking of piss and barking at shadows despite the Xanax he was given at the shelter. And while I considered weeping, instead I sit with you and watch the geese fly off and run my hands through your flaxen hair. Thomas Kotlowski
Mother’s shaking hand, age spotted, white and pure, Hits the table with a too-loud sound and teacup Meets wood with a bang and brittle porcelain Quivers with fear, sound reverberates and is caught By the buttery thick silence, suffocated. Her eyes flash—changing traffic lights, wary of warnings, slender fingers move to twirl her ring and circling and circling, frantic and dizzy, the gold glints in the light of heavy closefitting news. Lips tighten into a pencil drawn line, curve towards the Daisy tiles and yellow plastic linoleum. Father can’t hear in his pipedreamland, nothing is Allowed without a happy face sticker. Daughter’s secret monsters or Teary-eyed imaginary friends don’t float on Milkshake hopes. Christine Zhao
Threnos to the Virgin Muse If I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the gates of the pit? Shall we descend together into the dust? Job 17:14-16 The wan and lucent wax, the loveliness of every maiden cheek is pale mortality’s domain. So rise to sigh a prayer, weeping soul, and drift a scene or two into a dirge, to seek the place where beauty’s eye will still remain; while you, hope placed in wax, still lie in cinders, like a burned tree in ashen sulfur waste and famished dirt, unchased by absent snow and empty rain. So stiffly frozen, silent friend, now stay. Know that a thousand years might pass, and still I’d love a phantom’s shadow and a puppet’s will; for you, diaphanous relic, alone can see that you must, as a light unto the obscure, lie still in your chaste casket and let not the brays and bullets of this fallen breed debauch your loincloth with pollution’s blood. Why do I love you so? I ask myself. I hate the world, and I love you because you are not of the world’s obstreperous dust: eternally you sing, forever rise, forever sweep along the spheres Divine with crystal sighs and furnace Seraph eyes. Whether you were the deceiver and I the fool, or whether I was the deceiver and you involuntary to the act, I can’t recall. 60
It boasts of irreverent irrelevance: the truth is that all hope and all redemption have been thrown into the pit upon a rolling fall. I look upward and feel that both my feet are fled from me. And if they were to be found again then would I bury them again and rather die than strut about upon my heels like mad, my eyes fixed upward onto your glaring gossamer eyelashes and your furnace eyes, in vain dread dreaming of us as an eternal dyad. S.D.G. Paul Boboc
Paint The tangible breath of Brooklyn Reminds me of the heady kids At Park. We used to sneak Into their parentsâ€™ art shows And douse ourselves In paintâ€”jacaranda and coral red And umber and mauve, which always looked more purple To me. The rain washed away Most of our troubles and we slumbered Peacefully until mom saw The oil-stained shoes by the door. My friends ran home. I sat alone On the floor of my room, the colors still dripping Onto the off-white rug. Faulty bleach never cleaned it up, So I dreamed of becoming an artist To try my hand at living Forever. My first piece never made it past Conception.
Alphahomega Rich Hoyt
As children, we worshipped Home, wild and reckless. Armed with markers and crayons, we scribbled manic hieroglyphs on its canvas walls. Relished the soft, flowing pressure of our graffiti. And in the kitchen, like a Norman-Rockwell B-side, we climbed on each other’s shoulders, toppled over cookie jars and turned our Home into a den of robbers. Ran away with the nervous excitement of house mice, height still a combined wobble, a tower of crumbflecked babble. But when night fell, and every awful thing creaked our floorboards and tapped our windowpanes, we threw blankets over our heads and let our little lips pray. We ran home when the kids said mean things, when dead birds on the sidewalk upset us, and when our skin splintered on the old cracked porch, we felt betrayed by our stupid pink foot-stubs, and never the home we ran into. The home whose address felt as real as words like “roots” or “soft” or “the.” And for a while there, it was downright Eden. Our mothers in the garden charming snakes out of the tomato patch, father on the steps drinking from aluminum cans, loving her sundress flow. All the while we were tucked in our favorite hiding places, laughing in ranges somewhere between flutes and kazoos. Then we grew into adolescents, and we tore down stairs like heretics, leapt the last three to get, even faster, to our automobiles. Curfews surfaced on the skin of our home, and the place became a sentencing rather than a comfort. “I hate this house.” We shouted, with twisted faces and purple emotion, our fleeing bodies a cartoon streak out the pie-tin-slam of the front screen door. Then came the exodus— to school, to work, across state lines and over seas. Home became a photo-album thing, next to our children bodies and the “when mom was pretty” rectangles. We meant to return home. Distance made us nostalgic. But, we had our exciting distractions: our cigarettes and our music, and our fine-featured friends, so adult and exciting with their ideas and complications. We found sex. We found it repeatedly: in the cupboards by the coffee beans, in the rustle of leaves in the streets, in the up-anddown bob of a lonely body waiting, there in the cold, for some bus or train. All objects, all sounds, all roads lead back to bed with that golden one now so far away. And what chance did home have there? 64
It became a piece of motel art left too long in the sun, faded. We visited on holidays, and kept a casual observance of our past addresses. But it couldn’t keep like this forever. Even the most beautiful line about shoring fragments against your ruins feels stupid with a bus-ticket in your hand and a very old, familiar bed waiting. Because you get to the point where the bottom drops out, where “I’m lonely” pops from your lips, a kind of loneliness you can’t patch over with friends or activity or frenzy. Eventually, everyone goes to their own sleep, and in even the most full theater, everyone is looking forward. Sometimes you just want to go where everyone knows, but doesn’t need to use your name. They know your weight on the front stairs, the jingle of your keys, and they know as soon as you’re inside you’ll take your shoes off anywhere and head straight for milk in the fridge. And that all plays inverted on your eyelids, projected upwards from the pinhole in your heart that formed in the tiny moment of despair before you raised sails and threw up your hands, converted anew, ready again, for home. And this comfort proved plush, wonderful, and short. Because we became the adults and architects our parents were, and the anxious pressure to get a foothold in the world gave Home a clear voice we dutifully followed. Home said, “Build me a house in which to worship. Make a yard forty cubits in length, dutifully maintained and weed-wacked. Plant perennials by the porches and come fall, sacrifice the afternoon of your first-born son, the one you love, to clear branches and rake leaves when everyone else is at the mall, or the gas station, or at Jenny’s.” This done, Home said, “You shall have no other habitations before me.” But still, we stayed in uncomfortable hotel rooms, brought back false idols of plush, white towels and small containers of hair conditioner and shampoo. Home is a jealous god and when we go camping it will not bring in the mail or stop the drip of the kitchen sink. We should not use the name Home in vain, but still, when visiting friends for dinner parties it will only seem right to compliment their living space. “Oh, my. It’s lovely. Much better than my place.” But Home isn’t powerless, and for our insolence, it will send heat waves when the air conditioner breaks, it will send the floods after we pass on including water-damage on our insurance forms, it will send plagues of ants, or mice or bedbugs, just when we most need the basic, wonderful luxury of being horizontal for a while 65
in all this gravity, with always its pull, its pull, its pull. We’ll leap up scratching, angry as hell, and curse the house until the affliction passes. But Home is also benevolent, which is why we worship to begin with. And Home will give us warm stoves in cold winters, robins will perch on our windows in the spring, and on Wednesdays when we become fed up with everything, we’ll stay home, and flirting in rooms we will be fruitful and multiply. Summers, we’ll sit out and listen to the crickets that sing in their brown casings until the stars come out. We’ll smile at our mailbox, make pleasant twists of doorknobs and palms and get excited about words like “mulch.” We’ll count our blessings and fry our eggs. We’ll have coffee, and laughter, and miracles. Miracles like “Be home in ten.” “Be home late.” See you at Home, oh home, home, home: hallowed be the name. For a while, at least. But worshippers grow weary, and days are just so long. And home will sit uncelebrated, unblasphemed, unanything. And if it still had voice to speak, it might sigh into itself. It might think about how it was once adored, and now just a door that people walk by and haunt but never pass through. It might tip its hat to the mail carrier. It might smile at birds. But it won’t. It won’t do anything but grow weeds and gather dust. And for a while there it was Eden. But then we let the trees grow. We let the shingles slide. The gutters filled with dirt. By now we’d moved out, moved on. New phone numbers. New zip codes. But, as this all draws to an end, know that there will be that night, that night when you wake up, room full of blue, and drive back to that old house, still empty. Your old key might have worked if you’d kept it, but it’s gone so you’ll climb through the window. You’ll walk to the center of the living room, so like a museum without any furniture. Maybe you’ll cry, maybe not. Most likely, you’ll lower yourself like a ritual to the floor, spread out on your back, allowing your fingertips to move like threshers through the carpet. Eyes shut, then open, one breath in and out, and you’ll say it— I lived here.
inspired by Edward Hopper’s painting of the same name
He’s thinking about her body, childishly vulnerable when you pull off its fragile armor of nylon and velvet. How it changes in the light, the pale skin veined with green, arteries twisting like ivy. The windows make her feel like a reptile, trapped in a terrarium. She’s had too much to drink and knows it. He won’t look at her, so she smokes the last Parliament in silence, lipstick staining the filter, angry at him for being angry. The man by the window orders a cup of coffee, glances over. He wonders if he’ll look like that when she’s left him for good… Years from now, will he be alone with a Salisbury steak and a cigar, watching some other couple? She hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks. She blames her nerves but he knows differently, wonders what it is that makes her sob and cling to him in bed. When she wakes up she always pulls away, as if embarrassed. She won’t leave him, though. She was raised Catholic, she will stay even though he doesn’t want children, she will stay even when he shoves her against the wall and hurls words like dirty pennies into her face. Can the man behind the counter see how they are? He hopes not, he hopes they appear as they used to: two young people, barely aware of love and how beautifully it can dissemble you, strand by strand. Kayti Lahsaiezadeh
Diving at a Shipwreck Sunk deep in a broad sea the musician sleeps: his curved ribs swelled in song and his fingers once strummed the deep. But now with ropes untaut, oars undipped, he is at ease beneath the wake. Though his marquee days are passed the old act remains, cast with dervish-stars who dive beneath the broad sea, whose whorl matches spiral shells. Youngest and brightest are one-night-only fireballs but it takes a special kind to travel abroadâ€” the jet-set of bears and bulls and weary men. The where and when of changing skies the old musician knew. Still, even the unmoved morningstar sighs when her sailor is lost. She loved his sleek sails most. She takes to the stage, but lanterns are lit in syncopated burstsâ€” forbidden flash photography. The cosmic troupe stumbles as a hull fractures the ice above. Jordan Dorney
Succession The sea clung in shards like distorted glass or globs of oil. The Moon pulls the tide to her inner lip. The sky citrus; mango, pomegranate and grapefruit. Behind, the city is crumbling, and I am floating, floating, floating The roads are gone now. So are the people, the store fronts empty, glossed in mossy growth. Everywhere is the shore: fossilized remains, scattered sacred dust. Some thing crawls inland. It was me once, but now I am gone floating, floating floating Lauren Audi
Isomorphic Observatory Old boy Jag, by jove he got it right there in the preface, bold he’d bussed in professionals double checking lines and figures, staggering he said “I’ve made astronomical errors” Swell kid, now we still swing ‘round hell, host of the seven necromantic nights out all got up like Halifax honey wine, the used-hearts salesmen spots the glimmer in your eye from his shotgun hearse. Minute changes to the maps lined up back to back and stacked scratching dementias, math meant to connect thoughts now we’ve a clear idea of where we stand and hold the pinhole to the light cut to: lines going nowhere but forever. Let us laugh at the past and bash the last act. Nice ruffles, Copper, but you and the long lens doctors figured wronged. Twine between the trees, visible time in the Rold Skov forest. Here man’s last voyage laid out on earth, as if a cold dream, unpronounceably wrong. I am mute and conducting. We have aligned ourselves to emptiness, we have hitched our wagons to dead stars. Michael Wolf
Thaw Maple sugar mud seals my eyelids shut and my fingers turn gray cadaver blue, but it’s too warm for syrup. I unstick cotton dry scrambled egg from my esophagus with tap water and wait for snow. Meanwhile Nordic mittens melt, tossed in front of the fire to stain brick with synthetic yarn. We used to color the ice, blow fish onto the lake’s surface, but I’ve swapped dye for spray paint. Pots sprouting corticoids and enzyme eaters line the windowsill where I once stood the jars, amber Grade A hemoglobin warm under blue bird winter sun. I try to wedge a reed into the bark, drive it in with my bare fist, but its veins are thin and shot. Tubes are cruel and breath short. I leave it there, splintered between moss and mold, to work itself out. Bailey Spencer
Projective Test #44
Anthony Traver 73
The Show-All Girl I know a girl who likes to weave my old scarves around her waist. She speaks nonsenseâ€” whenever I bring her to the city, she gnashes the concrete between her cuspids and hands it back to me, covered in seaweed. She comes from far away. I could smell her steps when we met. One time we planted rutabagas and roses next to a cross in our garden to try and find love in everything. We blended them all together and tasted cloth. I ran back and forth with buckets of the river to keep her throat open. I always liked nonsense. And though it ran dry, I found strands of tangled silk in the crumbled hills and a heron the same color as dawn kissing the fire stove. They made the air sweeter to us. I know a girl who steps softly as if sheâ€™s afraid to tangle the wind with itself.
She stands behind my dreams and shines spotlights on locked fingers. She built an altar under my bed with her eyes closed, and when I wake up, I feel her flowery breath and forget her name. James Parkington
Elephant Man I saw him once on a lake where Kiplingâ€™s mauve cat was caged behind ivory bars like an exotic dancer. The water was shallow, sponge painted as an algae leper in tandoor summer heat. Then again at the puppet show. I see him: the left of his face slides off in velvet curtains, anise skin pooling like late-aged breasts. His ear swings; it is the nose of an anteater. The elephant man closes the hammock lid of his eye. I stare hard at the puppet master, the dervish invisible in lakes of black silk tent. He spins and spins, marionette strings never twisting. From the crowd, the elephant man vanishes, or perhaps turns, masked in right-side symmetry. He is drowned out in the nightâ€™s pitch like the voices of chai wallahs offering masala cups. But everyone is fixed on the one with no body and his dancing doll. They are free of bones and full of grace. Katrin Tschirgi
A poem we’d stay long at night we’d see sun rise and set we’d have sex on the roof and listen to some (British) singer sing I’m so sorry we would have coffee, and see the world spinning round in our teaspoon. we would shout (I surely would) and drink some flavoured drink no one would mind us someone might call the cops but we would be nice to them say hi to them pour some wine to them and dance. you’d say the world stops when I smile at some point the world would stop I would cry or throw up you’d play serious solemn role OK. I can perform the hysterical one I can throw the silverware at you. I can take out the crockery. my new heels. slam doors and so. I’d stay long at night I’d see the sun rise and set. Mireia Triguero Roura 77
Allison Miller 78
How to Recycle Tracy Rizk
Milky Ways Liz thought maybe this would be the last time. She went down the steps to the basement with a bulging trash bag slung over her back. Paul was crouched on the floor, already spreading out the week’s debris on the damp cement. He was frowning. “This isn’t good enough,” he said. Liz shrugged and sat down next to him. She loosened up the knot and emptied her black bag. Her hand sifted through the pile of cans, wrappers, and cardboard boxes. “All right,” Paul sighed, “we should start.” He helped her onto her feet and they walked toward the corner of the basement, where a mass of junk stood large and rickety under a single dusty 60-watt light bulb. Three Styrofoam cups had come unstuck from its side and rolled under the workbench. Liz knelt down and retrieved them, assuring Paul that they would glue them back on. The sculpture had come to tower over both of them. It hugged the walls and masked the brown-stained rectangular windows. It was leaning slightly to one side—close to tipping over. Paul scrambled to glue some baked bean cans together to add on to the bottom for reinforcement. When he was done, he lifted the quilt that covered the base of the structure and wedged the cans in. “This thing is going to shit,” he said. It hadn’t, in fact, turned out the way Liz had planned. She had suggested the idea in an attempt to combine two of the Top Ten Tips from her Guide to a New You and get the whole thing over with. The project would allow her to both “Do Something Creative with a Loved One” and “Give Back to the Environment,” which would mean that she would have seven of the Top Ten down. Already more than halfway there, she figured it would be smooth sailing from then onwards. Six months had passed since she had started taking the selfhelp book to heart and her life was still in about the same place as it had always been. Now, she wanted nothing more than to give this whole thing up and go back to a good old-fashioned arts and crafts class. “I’m going to start with the wrappers,” Liz said. She balled her right hand into a fist and used it to flatten the 79
wrappers on to the worktable. She had consumed six Milky Way bars this week. She grabbed scissors and cut the wrappers into long, thin strips. When she had accumulated a small pile, she curled them like ribbons and glued them together to make a little pompom. She held it at arm’s length and admired the effect of the bright colors. She knelt down at the foot of the sculpture and glued the pompom on top of a broken toaster oven that jutted from the mammoth sculpture. Paul was using a hammer to pound some beer cans flat in the far corner. Liz watched him as he stared at the cans threateningly. He stopped hammering and looked up. “You still reading those stupid magazines?” Paul nudged his chin towards the copy of Cosmo that Liz had shoved in the bag earlier. “Yes,” she said, “for the health articles.” After a pause, she continued: “Which you obviously don’t know much about considering you’ve been smoking so many cigarettes.” She pointed at the packs—at least eight—huddled by his feet. “Yeah,” he said, “I’ve been out of it.” “Because of work?” “Could be.” They both turned back to their tasks. Paul whistled a tune Liz thought sounded familiar, but couldn’t put her finger on. She looked out the window and saw that it was sunny outside. “Maybe we should go for a walk later.” “No,” Paul said. “When this is over I’m going upstairs for a nap.” Liz nodded. Paul always napped on Saturday afternoons—he said the dim light in the basement made him drowsy. At least he was enthusiastic about this. He had taken on the project with a listlessness that had slowly and inexplicably grown into a quiet interest. Of course, there were complaints, but he kept at it with dedication that left Liz confused and a little hesitant to oppose. She decided to keep at it too. A Patchwork Quilt Before she decided to make the sculpture, Liz had—upon attending a few art and craft classes at the local adult education center—decided that she would make a patchwork quilt. Back then, she still had neat little plastic containers filled with clothes that either clung too tight around her midriff or were shades of colors she 80
wouldn’t dream of wearing anymore. The skinny, shaggy-haired man who taught the crafts class had hailed quilt-making as a thoroughly therapeutic and leisure-filled task. “It’s basically a bunch of memories you can cover yourself with,” he said, “It’s really great.” After showing the class a quilt of his own making, he warned, “You have to really think back. It can’t just be anything because then it’s just an ugly blanket.” Liz went through the plastic containers for items she thought she remembered had been meaningful at some point in some way. A stained sweatshirt from her debate club days went into the pile. So did the tee shirt she won at a sweepstakes during a vacation cruise with her family. A pair of jeans she used to get compliments on in college for accenting her derrière went in too. Items like this, she figured, would be good enough. But Liz soon ran out of memory-laden garments—well before she was close to collecting the right amount of fabric recommended to her by the shaggy-haired teacher guy. She started to cut corners. One bright orange tank top she thought she must have worn on a bright day once went in the pile, as well as a scarf she felt grateful to for keeping her warm. Liz embarked on her new project with some enthusiasm. Every afternoon for two weeks she snipped and stitched for two hours, and the quilt grew from a hand cloth to a coffee table cloth to a coffee table rug. Before the project was able to reach bedspread status, Liz read an article in the Daily Express about the therapeutic effects of baking and decided to ask her mother to teach her how to make some basic desserts. The smells that would waft through her kitchen brought her back to Sunday afternoons as an eleven-year-old, when she would come home from soccer practice and stuff her face with her mother’s coconut cake or apple cinnamon muffins. And so the quilt stayed sprawled on the armchair in the corner until one day, while cleaning, Liz put it in her closet and left it there. She picked it up again while looking for items for the sculpture one Saturday morning. She unfolded it and took it down into the basement. Paul grabbed it from her and said that it would look good if it lined the base of the structure, which they had made by gathering their bulkiest pieces of trash and gluing them together. A Can of Baked Beans One day, before this whole fiasco with the sculpture started, Paul offered to make Liz dinner. She was surprised—he didn’t know 81
how to cook. She could hardly cook either, but sometimes she would decide to make him a feast and spend whole afternoons poring over intricate recipes. Paul always appreciated the meal but often failed to appreciate the delicacy of her palate. Either way, she found that it gave her a certain satisfaction that tinged of 1950s housewife. “I still don’t know what I’m making,” he said, “but I’ll figure it out.” The next day, Liz walked into a kitchen that smelled overwhelmingly of baked beans. “Just in time!” Paul slipped his hands into the oven mitts and bent down to open the oven. He resurfaced with a Pyrex baking dish, which he held to her nose. The creation consisted of baked beans as a main ingredient as well as melted cheddar, olives, and chopped tomatoes. “It’s bean dip.” Apparently, it was a recipe from his old college days. She noticed a tall bag of tortilla chips on the counter and smiled. “I also grilled some steaks,” he said. An Electric Saw and Some Superglue Paul’s first reaction to the suggestion was not favorable. “Is this another one of those things?” “What.” “You got this from a magazine or a talk show or something, didn’t you?” Liz realized that she might have overdone it a bit lately. Over the last few months she had—in an attempt to strengthen and rebuild—asked him to go bowling with her, which he did and hated, and to take salsa dance classes with her, which he absolutely did not do. She had spent years trying to compensate for his lack of oomph. “Listen,” she said. “It’ll be a fun way to get rid of all that junk in the attic.” Paul shook his head. “Also,” she said, “you could use the electric saw.” He hesitated. “And superglue.” “Tommy and the guys cancelled Saturday morning basketball practice.” “Good,” she said. “We’ll start then.”
Oyster Shells Liz and Paul had met through mutual friends, as most couples do. They were at a barbecue at a couple’s house. Liz knew the woman, Leslie, through work and Paul had met the man, Michael, at basketball games. Liz and Paul were both making themselves drinks at the plastic foldout table in the backyard. He approached her. Liz noticed that he seemed confident and pleasant. She was friendly but not friendly—as all women are supposed to be with potential partners. He was easygoing and seemed to know where he wanted to go in life. They were soon knee-deep in a conversation about Spanish wine. The next weekend, they went out to an oyster bar together. A Few Assumptions Liz and Paul had been together for four years. This was a long time, and it was no surprise that their mutual interest had slightly, over the last year or so, decomposed. Pushed by a vague awareness of loss, Liz had tried, on occasion, to find remedies for the situation. Of course, she didn’t blame anyone for anything. She knew that Paul, lately, had been failing to find fulfillment in the work place. Probably, she figured, because his creativity was being stifled. He, perhaps, also lacked ambition in almost all things. He hadn’t been promoted for a long time and she too would be bored if she worked in IT. Liz, on the other hand, made continuous efforts to not let herself slide. In work, she constantly welcomed new challenges, networked, and took measures to distinguish herself from her peer group. Everyone, except Paul, she guessed, knew that this was how to get ahead. All things considered, Liz concluded that she reaped more from life. And as the happier member of the relationship, it was her duty to fix things. A Little Reluctance Paul took a few steps back from the sculpture. He tilted his head from one side to the next. He walked up really close and examined the details, running his fingers over the empty pasta boxes Liz had glued together in the shape of a star. “I’ll be right back,” he said. Liz took the opportunity to sit down across the wall and take a 83
breath. She was both tired and restless today. She racked her brain for something different she could convince Paul to do. He reappeared with a thick stack of magazines in his arms. “I think these should go in the sculpture,” he said. The magazines dropped on to the cement floor with a thud. Liz looked down at them. “No.” She got to her feet and walked to the workbench, where she started to glue bottle caps onto an empty cereal box. “But you don’t need them anymore.” Liz shrugged. There were copies of a motherhood magazine, and a couple of parenting books. There really wasn’t any more use for them now that she and Paul had decided not to try anymore. “Either way—” Paul bent over and started restacking the heap of parenting paraphernalia that he had tumbled onto the floor. When he was done, he carefully pushed the pile into a corner. “OK,” he said. Sitting crosslegged, he helped her sort the bottle caps. A Little Help “It just looks like a load of garbage now,” she said. “It is a load of garbage,” Paul said. “Then what’s the point? We can’t even get it out of the basement.” “Doesn’t matter.��� Soon after, Paul ran upstairs and returned with a pile of Liz’s old high school yearbooks. He sat down on the floor with a pair of scissors and started slicing through the pages. Liz joined him on the dusty cement, and opened one of the yearbooks to a photo of her. She was wearing a stained white shirt and her face was covered with the red spots that had plagued her until her early twenties. Paul paused. “You don’t want these, do you? You hated school.” Liz shook her head and tore the page out, crumpling it up and throwing it onto the small mound of trash in the corner. Paul bent down and started to show her how to make little paper men cutouts— an activity they dedicated the rest of the morning to. Some Baby Blues Liz realized that she was three days late but decided not to take 84
a test right away. If she did not turn out to be pregnant, she would feel stupid. If she was, she would feel terribly unprepared. Liz liked to be prepared, so having all of the information first seemed like the best option. She considered calling her mother but didn’t. They were two completely different women. Liz headed to the local Barnes and Noble instead. She walked straight to the cashier and spoke very seriously, like all mothers, she thought, should. “Can you please direct me to the parenting section?” Liz had not expected there to be so many options. Titles like How to Avoid the Terrible Twos and Raising Devout Teenagers caught her attention, but she decided not to get ahead of herself. She stuck to the shelf for expectant mothers. There were books for single mothers, books for working mothers, and books for expectant couples. She picked one of each, as well as a few copies of motherhood magazines. After paying at the desk, Liz headed straight home, went up to her room, and climbed into bed with her purchases. In one of the books, she found an article entitled “WHAT TO EAT IN THE EARLY STAGES OF PREGNANCY.” Avocadoes were good, soda was bad. Liz envisioned herself raiding her fridge, and heading to the grocery store on an early-stage health-foods spree. She then flipped to a spread of ultrasound fetus images and held it close to her face, tilting the magazine sideways and squinting. Liz got her period two days later, but not before she had a chance to confront Paul about her potential pregnancy. She placed her hand on his shoulder and asked him if he was ready to be a father. He ran his fingers through his hair and paced around the room. “Have you taken a test yet?” he asked. “No,” she said, “but I’ve never been this late before.” “You know that my job—” Liz interrupted him. “Paul,” she said, “I can afford it.” He shook his head. “You’re gonna keep it?” His eyes grew wide. “Maybe.” The conversation did not go much further than this before Paul said that he needed to think about things. The next day, Liz got her period and confirmed that she was not, in fact, pregnant. She restacked her parenting materials and placed them on the top shelf of her closet, where they sat there, gathering dust, until Paul came to retrieve them. 86
A Little Surprise Liz was surprised when she first realized that their sculpture had started to take on a distinct shape. That had nothing to do with her, of course. Lately, she had been a pair of hands under Paul’s direction. Over the quilt-covered base rose a kind of tree-like shape with branches made of used gift-wrapping cardboard cylinders, an old tennis racket from Paul’s college days, and some soda cans pasted together. The trunk of the tree was constructed from a rickety lamp made sturdier and thicker by duct-taping old cardboard boxes all around the iron foundation. The little paper men they had once made were slung across the branches of the tree, along with some of the shiny ornaments that Liz had fashioned from wrappers. This is not to say, though, that the recycled junk made for a Garden of Eden or anything glorious like that. The tree towered over strange, unshapely mounds of whatever Paul, despite all his efforts, failed to make meaningful. Overall, Liz still thought it was ugly. It was a little surprising, though. An All-Encompassing Guide on How to Please Your Man One day, upon overhearing a conversation in a ladies’ bathroom, Liz decided that, so far in her adult life, she had not been experimental enough in sex. One young lady—unaware that Liz was occupying the handicap stall—was describing, in excruciating detail, a sexual position she had attempted with her significant other that had left her with a huge bruise on her right shoulder. The thought of it made Liz blush. Her sex life with Paul, though satisfying in a warm and comfortable sort of way, was nothing like what this lady was talking about. Somewhat concerned, she set out to do something about it. In the safety of her bedroom, she went onto a porn website and paid close attention. Liz had seen porn before, but this time she studied the girl’s movements very closely. After closing the laptop quickly, she sat down in front of her full-length mirror. She tried to put her foot on her shoulder, and failed. Then Liz stood up and examined her profile. Although her silhouette was all right, she thought that she might want to look for a Pilates class at the local fitness center. She also decided to order a copy of Cosmopolitan and The Kama Sutra from Amazon. The Cosmo eventually made it to the sculpture. 87
The Kama Sutra, on the other hand, was silently discarded after Liz studied the images and reached the conclusion that it would not be a quick fix for her problem after all. Torn Cardboard Liz received a package in the mail from New York City. Martha, her friend from college, had sent her a letter, a thick binder, and a few photos. Liz opened the binder and skimmed it. It was a business plan. Liz saw that it was very good. It would have been better if she had been a part of it, of course. However, when it still mattered, Liz had made the decision to stay where she was. Martha had less to hold her back, and she had just gone ahead and done it by herself. The first few lines of the letter told Liz that she had travelled to five different cities in the past year only. After reading the letter—an energetic, excited account of Martha’s trials—she folded it carefully and put it with the rest of the contents of the package into her lower bedside drawer. She tore the cardboard box the things had come in into smaller pieces and hauled it into the basement. She could make use of that. Craigslist Liz came home from work to find Paul in the basement kneeling on one knee and snapping photos of the sculpture with his camera. He couldn’t get the whole thing in one shot and was pacing around the room, aiming the camera at different angles. “What are you doing?” “Taking photos.” “Why?” Paul stopped snapping and let the camera hang around his neck. He turned around to face her, a small, excited smile playing on his face. “So I had this idea.” Liz waited for him to continue. Paul’s smile grew wider. “I wanna try and sell this on Craigslist.” Liz shook her head. “No one would want it.” “I know,” Paul said. “It’s crazy. But I’ve seen some of the stuff that goes on there. People will buy anything.” “But—why? We don’t need the money.” 88
Paul shrugged. “About time we get rid of it. Might as well sell
Liz shrugged. “All right. You can try, I guess.” She walked back upstairs to her bedroom. One Hundred and Fifty Dollars A few weeks later her bedroom door flew open and Paul walked right up to her bed. Liz looked up from her laptop. “I got an offer on Craigslist.” “For the sculpture?” “Yeah. This couple from two towns over wants to pay a hundred and fifty dollars for it. They’re coming over tomorrow to check it out and maybe take it home. It’s crazy!” Paul waited for a reaction. When none came, he continued: “We should go downstairs and make sure everything is still in place.” He left the room. Liz hesitated for a moment but did not follow. A plump, red-haired woman slid out of the pick-up truck and beamed at Paul and Liz. Her husband, a man with chin-length black hair and a beard, stepped out of the driver’s seat and stood in front of the couple with his hands in his pockets, smiling. “It’s very nice to meet you both,” the lady said, as she shook Paul’s hand and then Liz’s. “Sonia.” The man introduced himself as Steve, but did not say or do much else. Paul led the couple into the back yard. He had managed to disassemble the sculpture into two parts, carry them up the stairs, and reassemble it on the lawn. All this he did without any help from Liz. “Oh,” Sonia said, “it’s great.” Steve nodded in agreement. “This is great for us,” Sonia said. Paul looked at Liz. “You know,” he said, “Sonia and her husband like to collect what they call ‘eccentricities’ they find on the Internet.” Sonia nodded. “That’s true,” she said. “When we read what Paul posted about the story behind this whole project of yours we thought it was just wonderful.” Steve nodded in agreement. “We’ve been doing this kind of stuff for years now. You’d be surprised how much homemade crap you can find around these parts.” 89
“He doesn’t mean crap, literally,” Sonia said, laughing. Paul glanced at Liz again. “I just wrote a few lines about, you know, what made us get into this whole thing,” he said. “Just to stir up some interest.” Liz nodded. “You guys want to give me a hand?” Steve asked. The four of them walked over to the sculpture and, with some difficulty, lifted it onto the pickup truck. A few things got strewn off here and there but Sonia laughed it off. “It’s not important,” she said. The couple drove away with the heavy, rickety thing strapped onto the bed of their truck. Liz and Paul climbed down the stairs into the basement and spent the afternoon cleaning out the debris of their months-long project. They swept the cement floor clean and managed to fill up two trash bags and a cardboard box. By the time they were done, the dark corner was bare and the basement looked as if the whole thing had never happened.
Harvest Ground This place is ancient and baleful and filled with the organs of now ashen men and women I’ve never seen. And this dust is much too cold for now. This cobwebbed, grey place with long dead crawlers and a silence that resonates is swallowed whole by my dilated pupils. And now these deeds are much too old. The walls have seen banana bone marrows carved out in faux-hubris by sweating men—Murderous, this place shivers under and out of my eyelids. Murderous—this place is the end. Patrick Reynolds
Modern Eclogues Tonight I gaze into the sublime beauty of the nearly unadulterated Wyoming sky imposed onto my computer screen to see hundreds of smoldering gray glass stars. I imagine my sister can see Sirius and maybe Polaris in New York if she leaves bricks of concrete and steel beams for a perfectly cropped Central Park. In our hometown of Newburgh we could see Orionâ€™s belt and sword when we lay in the damp grass behind our white plastic home (packaged neatly between a blue one and a yellow one) serenaded by a chorus of crickets. Even in Wyoming, I wonder if a man can rest on a hill at night and open his eyes to see the firmament crackling with purple and yellow flames interrupted every pixel or so with diamond pinpricks of light as he could when he first crossed the Bering Strait.
Or is this image a product of imagination and Photoshop not even existing before the first pig was traded for a sack of grain under the knowing eyes of Artemis, twinkling in the dark. Thomas Kotlowski
Two Scars When I say she was something else, I mean that she reminded me of a circus. Her colors were not very bright, nor was she shaped like three rings. But inside an old tent in the corner of a moonlit field, you could watch her dance in just a white t-shirt, and forget how sad the elephants looked without their tusks. James Parkington
Selections from Suzanne
I. Suzanne told her friends she’d been born into an empty home, frames tilted together on the mantle and hazy faces, just her mother’s back against the hardwood floor. Elijah blew in from the attic with eggshell bells, curled around the white-gold candle stick to smile and twist his temple hair around a bony finger. After she was out her mother moaned, vanished into a spritz of air, and floated up the chimney like a stone. Helpless, obvious child wailed in the family room, until the next tenants moved in, kind enough to keep her along with the leather couches and the liquor cabinet. See that spot there, she’d point to a dark knot in the pine wood floor when friends visited, That’s the blood stain. My new parents tossed a rug over but it marooned and caught fire. II. Someone’s Suzanne, summer child. Wheat braid hair and seasick eyes, reaching out knocking on the crystal window with her elbow. Her mother opened the door and she rushed in, arms full of wildflowers and crabgrass grass. I’ve brought the sun inside, she smiled and took the heads off of the sunflowers like mounted lions, arranged them face up in a mason jar aquarium, set
by a window to catch and confuse the light. III. It was a two mile walk from her house to High School, enough time to imagine all the better ways to spend the day. Sheâ€™d double back through the birchwood and across the mossy train tracks, to an empty home and the din of tearing tambourine petals. Fill the bath tub, soak with a half-glass of red wine, then read in bed, wrapped up in warm sheets and light headed from the alcohol and dodged sleep. Her fingers slid across the surface of the morning, tracing figure eights and tiny eddies. Once her mother came home early. Suzanne asleep in the tub, head against the cloud white porcelain, face half-submerged in water. The glass tipped in her hand, red wine flowing down her neck, through the valley of her small breasts, and deltaed into the tub, wine becoming water, some confused sacrament, sharks moaning miles away. Her mother opened the door saw streaks of dark red ribbon spilling down her daughterâ€™s limp body and screamed like a dying angel. Suzanne woke up underwater, one eye rippling the tower, the unmanned lighthouse, the life giver, saver, vague and fractured. Her mother for one moment drowning in the doorway and perfect in the broken light, the screams registering church bells in deep underwater decibels.
Suzanne covered it all with a story about her period, rose petals in the bathtub and they laughed about it later. IV. Hours by the river breathing in bullfrogs and weed, understand it all so simple in blue bellbottoms and her father’s fatigues. The summer he was fired and grew a prophet’s beard, watercolor painting in the backyard, mixing the stale clay pastels with his handmade saltwater and mother mixing dishes in the kitchen for his war friends
who’d stop by every weekend now for drinks, snacks and selective disremembering. They said she’d better get a job, but after just three days of watching low grade meat sizzle and brown over a blue butane flame she fled. A quick hundred in one handful from the lotus jar in the back cabinet, tucked behind the tea tins. One-Way Ticket on Paul Simon’s America BusCo south down the interstate to warmer air, watching the river twist out the window, little moths of light flitting against the glass. The white haired Japanese woman asleep in the seat beside her, open mouth snoring like thunder dreams. A dustblood bible on her knee. Nothing on the radio. Outside trees splintered at a sickening pace, a wrinkled hand slipped off the stranger’s lap to find her thigh. Suzanne lifted the dozing arm like a body from a pond, glimpsing the tattered map on her ancient palm now turned upward, open, thousands of tiny collisions, unavoidable unkempt highways, asking for alms.
The thin pulse steady even in sleep fleeing for freedom from backyard bonfire bongo circles, deep dreams of Thoreau with a drum machine, a beat pad and the beaten path. Bouncing into another artistâ€™s song, our daydream visions swelling with a calling, calling, cull. V. The bus pulled out of the parking lot and Suzanne stood between the steel highway girders, and the sloping river bank. Across the road a diner, outlet mall, and antennae of an air force base, spires and radio signals honing in concentric spirals above The Homeland. She walked down the riverbank, immediately falling in the loose, wet soil sliding down the crescent on her gingham skirt, and sat, the river curled around her toes. She cried the wind out of her, choking on her hopes expired, time pulling out her hair. The sun sank and she shivered through the sweep of dusk and owl air. VI. Sub-marine and nearly freezing midnight dream or wholly hallucination, but the bubble, gurgle, hiss spitting from the tardark water rose from halo lips of torn shapes, the sandy bottom figures white beneath the moonlight. VII. The Month of May in the halfway house. Half the time insisting she was sober, half translating ripples in the hardwood floors, the radiator screams, and saving soggy tea leaves. The nuns were nice, alright. Breaking hearts because why? Why? Why? Such a sweet girl with a sunshine smile. So many young ones staying here with just the slightest
manic tendencies, demonic liars, fire starters. Somewhere she’d tripped up or been slipped acid, rumored to be in certain city’s drinking water. Suzanne’s sunken eyes tie-dyed depression -era steel, burnt down blues, and inchoate chlorophyll. Some nights she had to be tied down, thrashing about the girl one room over, sure she’d died. Sister Solipsism sat with her, stroked her hand, and read brighter selections from the bible, stringing words into wreaths to be sung. Two pillows propping up her head, two fingers pointing to her heart. Sister hummed through a half-smile, eyes closed, laurelling the ghosts. He sails across history in a skiff, stiff wind rising, skipper crying in a pin-stripe suit. For you, for you, He sings, sweet and shadowy as honey in a barrel of burgundy wine. Wanderer in the temple, slipshod sinner, forsaken for the sake of future saints saving their soul fortunes. The rags fall from His shoulders, and the wounds wide-eyed and aching in the blue morning mission light, the lampbulbs burst, His tired feet on shattered glass, kind eyes and sandstorm skin. Sister shakes in ecstasy. Suzanne up and swinging around the room following His jitterjunebug lead and half-step tune. In his ear she whispers, Every morning, I see children standing in the fields outside, drinking detergent from glass canticles, reaching out for love. He pulls her close, close enough to see his trembling, his translucence. He mixes wind and water, dabs his blood across her forehead. VIII. Suzanne half-naked on the hardwood floor, bits of glass in the toughs
of her feet, as if waking up to the first day of summer. The halfway house is bare, no medical equipment, just an uncovered mattress and a broken lamp. Fully empty and in disrepair. Sister. Sister, someone. Burgundy puddles on the floor. IX. In one breath, she blew up all the dust carpeting the walls and countertops. It hovered for a moment, then burst out the metal grid of the screen door into a diaphanous breeze across the backyard. She followed down the green ground and onto the pier standing in the river, legs thick with primordial algae. Plucking her lyre, she couldnâ€™t help but look down into the depths of the troubadour river, foaming with Kanagawa fury. In the turbulent skin, she saw herself and dropped her bone. Where have all the young men gone? There was no nubile beauty to be lost in, no dawn breaking across her face. Step in said the river, and she did. Watch the minutes wash off and away to a distant delta and melt into the sea of lost time. Spanish roses floated past her and faded like bright barges into the horizon, but the smell stayed a moment. Wet as whaleskin, Suzanne sank into the water, moss rock bottom slipping underfoot and the trees arched their backs to block the sun and the wind whipped and whistled through their leaves and somewhere whippoorwills were making love and tiny fish tucked around her nubby ankles and kissed the small of her back for air bubbles and for the life of her she couldnâ€™t keep from floating.
Michael Wolf 101
The Power of Touch
The Fledgling My sister found a fledgling in the grass and begged to keep it. All night it screamed in a shoebox filled with moss and fallen leavesâ€” rotting. For days we pulled caterpillars from the garage siding, writhing between our fingertips we held them over the bird whose neck bobbed, mouth open wide and empty. It never ate those caterpillars, never the worms we dug from behind the house (thin and pale, I wouldnâ€™t touch them, but my sister plucked them from the ground and held them in her outstretched shirt). We buried the bird just beyond the house. My sister brought violets from the roadside fading from spring. Helen Spica
Tired Eyes Thin light with an air of humility quietly beckoning the curtain astray, fooling again the careful caricature of shade. What is it you seek to find? A hint on the desk, or last nightâ€™s gin? Foreign source of morningâ€” worn and fleeting, softly leaving a stripe on the far wall. David Chou
Liam Navin 105
Desert Fish Lauren Audi
Hot. She sat on the front porch and rocked in that chair. Every so often she would moan. Not a sad, hopeless moan, the kind that depletes the air, but a happy moan, a nostalgic moan. Her eyes always closed. Still she saw everything. She’d seen everything. Mostly she just rocked to the buzzing of the cicadas and the dry wind that would occasionally blow through the rusted screen wires. She was as old as the splintery rocking chair she seemed to have become one with. Old as the house she guarded with an air of haunted pride. Her hair, a web of black and white streaks, protruded in a dizzying array from the head of the Afro-Navajo Goddess. Badu. Rocking and rocking and rocking. She was endless like the desert. Time had somehow gotten tangled in her, confusing past for present. Her face glistened, feverish and alive. A layer of ancestral dust had settled permanently over her sagging skin. If you tried to rub it off, I was sure, her skin would come off too. But it was the image of her eyes darting like fish beneath the surface that flooded my mind, swimming in never-ending circles. Not that I had ever seen them. There’s no fish around here. No water. Hot. Too Hot. We drink our memories. The Southwest sprawls. Purple skylines and shadowy mountain sketches give fluid form to the airy landscape. Always that haze. You could walk forever in the heat, never knowing where you were going. Never caring much. Every day I walked by Badu’s moaning and her quiet spells. My Shima, mother, warned me not to. She would say, “Mia! Miakoda, I don’t want you going near that breed. That crooked old witch doctor. She’s of the underworld—born of the sea. Even that godforsaken desert can’t dry her out, and it could leave the ocean barren if it wanted.” As the old myth goes, Badu could live forever by eating the souls of Navajos, but she had to pay a price. She was forced to relive their most painful memories. “Those moans,” my Shima would shudder at the thought, “oh, those wretched moans.” Why Badu wanted to live forever? It was unclear. Some said she was the spawn of the underworld, like my Shima, a demon here in the middle world. Others told it as the story of a wronged woman seeking vengeance for the rape and enslavement of her family by Navajo traitors. Those that had complied to the White Man’s vision. Whichever it was, she reigned over the thoughts of the Navajo people. She sat resiliently in that old house just outside of the Res. The 106
queen of our archaic town, a forlorn symbol of what our world had become. That old rocker was her throne, the rattlesnakes shaking in the distance her guardians, and the swallowing desert her kingdom. My Sicheii, grandfather, made sure I knew all the sacred Navajo myths, but he also taught me about the history of our people and most importantly about the blood divides. He taught me that after Columbus came there were centuries of turmoil between the Indigenous people, the White Men and the African Americans resulting in government issued blood rolls. These rolls attempted to classify Native Americans, but they only further fractured a breaking nation. Land was taken. Property was taken. People were taken. All because of something as universal as blood. My Sicheii tells me blood never mattered to Navajos. But the BIA agents didn’t care. They kept coming, the men in the tailored suits and the ironed slacks that they wore on even the hottest of days, and it was always hot. They wouldn’t let us put ourselves back together. To watch our nation fall into a seemingly unbreakable cycle of poverty, despair and social tension breaks my Sicheii’s heart. I see it pouring from his eyes. He drinks his memories. Silver, translucent and sometimes golden they slide down the weathered ripples of skin until they rest on the shore of his cracked lips. A desert shore. He licks them hungrily. Sometimes I’d ask Sicheii about my ancestry. But Shima would just shake her head at Sicheii, saying, “Hush, hush, old man.” I didn’t need to hear that stuff, she’d say. I already looked enough like a mixed-blood with my dark skin, natty hair and golden eyes. She didn’t want him putting thoughts in my head. I’d start acting out. The authorities, who were always sneaking around here like desert foxes, would get suspicious. My Shima didn’t want that. The blood rolls may have officially ended 20 years ago, but it didn’t mean that anything had changed. I never got any answers. I didn’t understand why it worried her so. She was always looking over her shoulder as if something were lurking in the corners waiting to come for her. Maybe she thought Badu wanted to eat her soul. Maybe she thought the desert would swallow her whole. It happened that way. People disappeared. If they weren’t removed by the agents, they just sort of gave into the despair, slowly fading into the landscape, skin turning to sand before their eyes. People liked to blame it on Badu’s “witchcraft”, but I knew the myths were wrong. Badu was not evil. She was happy. And she was in pain. She was alive. She was dead. She was being born every second—continuously. I had this feeling, that if I could just look at her 107
eyes—if I could just see those golden fish—it would all make sense. But I was just a lost wanderer who had come to beg at the feet of the great Goddess searching for some answer only she knew. Having not found it, I was left to go crazy in the hallucinating distant, a decaying skeleton laying somewhere far off in the cracked moonscape while she moaned and sighed, knowing what I thirsted for. I desperately wanted to talk to her, but I was afraid. This place did that to you. A few times I got brave and attempted to get her attention. I made a loud fuss as I passed her house, kicking rocks and coughing loudly, but she never once looked up. One time I even sat outside for hours on the dusty ground, hoping she would sense me—she would stop rocking. That, wherever she was, however far off, somehow my presence would reach her. I stood and watched her moan and rock and sweat and be still for hours on end, too afraid to push the door open. I was always too afraid to have any sort of agency. The sun eventually set over the mountains, and the cool night crawled across the open desert. I shivered in the moonlight, feeling my pores clog with dust. When I looked up at her, there she sat moaning, sweating, rocking, completely unmoved. The rusted screen door still closed in front of me. The moonlight slit across her face and I thought, for a second, that I could see two golden orbs shimmering and sliding beneath her wrinkled eyelids. I gave up and went home. Cold. Too cold. I walked under the weather-beaten sign posted over the entrance of the reservation welcoming “All Friends” to the Navajo Nation. I clutched a piece of paper tightly in my hand, trying hard to not think of what it said. I’d gone by Badu today as usual, walking by quickly, feeling, for some reason, abandoned. It was the route I took every day on my way home from the private school I attended off the Res. My Sicheii had encouraged me to apply for a scholarship when I finished grade school, so I could get a real education. I hated the place. It felt more barren than the desert with its concrete walls and linoleum floors, but I didn’t want to disappoint my Sicheii. So I’d put my head down, and study the books before me, or I’d hold it high and straight looking beyond it all—the faces, the walls, even the desert. That way I didn’t have to see them when they stared from beneath their porcelain skin and I could pretend like I didn’t hear them when they whispered things like “Indian-nigger” or “White Man’s burden.” I crushed the piece of paper harder willing it into inexistence. It was too hot. The sun was raining down relentlessly. I looked, disheart108
ened, at the same broken-down shacks and gray rusting trailers. The pathetic attempts at gardens and the Yahzi, little ones, playing in clouds of dust, their brown eyes peeking out like jackrabbits, only made the feeling sink deeper. I thought back to when I was their age. When the sky rained, we would go outside and dance, our bare feet splashing in the clay, mud turning our toes into sculptures. We’d shake back our heads, letting the rain run her fingers through our hair. It was told that the rain would make a little girl’s hair grow long and beautiful. But to us, dancing out there with our arms spread wide and skin tingling, it always felt like something more than that, like the whole world was spinning. It was like our bodies, or maybe our souls, returned to some primordial state. There was another thing, I was remembering as I stood and watched one lay close to the ground, hiding. There was this steady and low humdrum of the earth pounding beneath our feet that reverberated up our bones and exited like gongs from the ears. I hadn’t felt this desert move in years. I passed the dust covered Yahzi, thinking they needed some rain. This whole town needed some rain. I sure could use some rain. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen a fish. A real fish. “Hey, Mia,” called a voice. Cool. The only cool thing in this place. Or at least he tried to be. I waited to turn around. I smelled him before I saw him. The tobacco wafted through the sunset air— purples, golds and some blues. I closed my eyes and inhaled. Hazy. He laughed, “Want a drag?” He was teasing. He knew I didn’t. I turned and watched him repack his pipe. It was Niyol, wind, but he went by Ni. He stood leaning against his father’s rusting trailer. The blue door hung off the hinges looking abandoned. “So, Miakoda.” He dragged his words out slow. “You coming to the dunes with us tonight? There’s going to be a full moon. Aouuuuu!” he howled before taking a hit. I grimaced. Niyol was tall with prominent cheekbones, long hair he pulled back in a ponytail, and dark eyes. He wore a jagged stone in his left ear, never a shirt, and his feet were always bare. He was the picturesque Native American. The beautiful, mysterious kind Hollywood liked to depict. Not that he was into it. The Native American thing. He said he wanted out, but he never actually tried. Too breezy. He’d probably just end up like his father. It was sad, really. It made me hurt for him. I wished he saw that there was more to our culture than “silly” stories and peyote. “Yeah, I’ll come,” I said, flicking some dust off my arms. He 109
nodded approvingly then, noticing the piece of paper I had begun to un-crumple subconsciously in my hand, tilted his head. “What’s that you got there?” “Uh—it’s a scholarship to a University,” I mumbled, crumpling it back up and going back to flicking dust off my arms. I didn’t know why I told him. I think I was desperate for someone to know before I threw it away. Maybe even someone to convince me otherwise. Niyol wouldn’t. That was why I could trust him. He would never mention it again. “Shit. Your Sicheii really did a good job with you, huh? The last person to get a scholarship was Ash and he didn’t last long. Came back more messed up than he ever was here and then, well, you know what happened. But, forget about that. You going?” He watched me intently. I tried not to squirm. I knew perfectly well about Ash. I thought about it enough; that other, outer world I’d never fit into. The kids at school spelled it out clearly, those perfect looping lines fresh in black ink, blaring against the white, always ended up on my desk. “I don’t know,” I said because there was nothing else to say. What was I supposed to tell him? That I wanted to go out there and be something great for all of us? That I wanted to show the world we weren’t a dying culture? But I couldn’t because I was too afraid. I wouldn’t make it out there. They would eat my soul and I’d come back empty, just a body, like Ash had. Or worse, I wouldn’t come back at all. “Perfect Mia,” he laughed. It seemed a little bitter. A little mean. “Yeah, well, you’re lucky. I’ll see you.” He turned and opened the dangling door and went inside. I listened to it creak back and forth for a while before turning to leave. I walked the rest of the way home, cursing the piece of paper into nothingness. I wasn’t lucky. Niyol had no idea. I stopped in front of our well-kept house. It looked like a traditional adobe home. There was one large room with a fire pit in the middle. An opening in the ceiling allowed the smoke to escape. I would climb up on the roof and cover it when it started to rain. There was no electricity, no stove and definitely no television. Only miscellaneous objects and clothing would tell you we were well into the twentieth century. I didn’t mind. Shima was meditating when I came in. Her eyes wrapped shut and her legs crossed, she sat in the middle of a woven blanket rocking back and forth, humming softly. I thought of Badu. Something had to be wrong. Shima only meditated when something was wrong. 110
I tossed the stupid paper in the recycling bin, erasing it from my thoughts. I was careful to tiptoe around her, pulling the cloth back from where it hung over my shelf bed. Shima moaned softly, “Don’t leave.” I crawled into my bed and tried to whisper “I won’t,” but it didn’t come out, so I just lay there for while—drifting in and out of sleep. Drifting across the desert, into the wind blowing through the grates on Badu’s screen porch and right into her eyes. I slid beneath them. A howl penetrated the quiet night sky, and I jolted awake. My heart choked my throat with its pounding. I stumbled out of bed onto the hearth. It was late. The night was a deep purple and navy encasing the small home in its arms. Shima and Sicheii had already gone to bed. I fumbled around, light-headed. What had I seen in my dream? There were only glimpses of colors, feet on earth and silvery slinking shadows. Also, there was that feeling, that pounding feeling in my soul. The same I had felt in the rain all those years ago. It had jumped to my throat and escaped out my mouth when I awoke. I grabbed a cup of cold soup off the table where Shima had left it, but I could hardly swallow it down. “AOUUUUU,” the howl broke the night again, but the fracture was soon filled with laughter. Grabbing a blanket, I slipped outside into the night and silently joined the group of excited teenagers teeming with some repressed spirit. The desert always got cold at night. Nothing to hold the heat. Nothing to make it stay. The moon shone down quietly. Her light gently brushed the mountains in the distance, shading them into silent stalking guardians. I watched her, suspended there, alone. The stars were lost in the magnitude of her light. Yet, in all her glory, reflecting across the whole wide dessert, she seemed so vulnerable. I imagined she dangled there by only a thread as if she were aware of some precariousness associated with her role—caught between two barren seas. “Mia, Mia, always serious,” teased Niyol as he slung his arm around my shoulders leaning his weight against mine. “Loosen up. It’s nighttime, the moon is full. How does that ancient creation story go?” He took a puff of a cigarette and blew the smoke towards the moon in salute. “There must be something wild in it. You know all the stories. Tell me a story, Mia.” He flicked the cigarette butt to the ground and took a swig from the deerskin flask he was carrying. “Only coyote is wild. He throws the stars into the air before the people are ready,” I said quietly, feeling unsettled. He howled again, taking a second swig and breathing in the night air. 112
“Tonight I’m going to call you Coyote.” He passed the flask to me. I could smell the acidic scent of the sacred peyote. The Elders used it for ceremonial, medicinal and spiritual purposes. Through it, they could commune with the upper and lower worlds. I’d never tried it. Sicheii said I had to wait until the time was right. I was sick of waiting. All we ever did was wait in this place. My Shima waiting to not be afraid. My Sicheii waiting for peace. Niyol waiting to get out. Me waiting for some answer. Nothing was coming. We were all just slowly turning into the dust that blew across the floor of the desert or fading into the phantom mountains in the distance. I took a long swig and then, thinking of Badu and her ever-shut eyes, another. I handed him back the flask and shrugged him off my shoulders. “Then Coyote I am,” I said with a quiet force that I pulled from somewhere deep in my core. I took one last glance at the moon before running past everyone, letting out a howl. I heard Niyol call, laughing, “Wait up, Coyote Girl!” I ignored him, the mescaline surging through my being, feeling my feet pounding against the hard surface, now cold. I felt it reaching up for me, trying to tell me something. When I reached the dunes, I jumped off the top of the low cliff and slid down the sandy embankment, feeling the blood throbbing through my veins. I listened trance-like to the soft rumbling coming up from the earth. The moon above broke from the thread and began to slide down the rim of the sky, slowly descending towards the purple mountain tops. An alien jellyfish, it hit the top of one and popped, sending silvery, translucent water splashing across the desert. The same stuff that my Sicheii’s memories were made of. The same stuff, I suspected, that was behind Badu’s eyes. I watched it rise into a monstrous silver wave, waiting to come roaring across the desert. In a hurry, I scrambled to my feet, my body tripping in and out of spaces, unsure of what was solid and what was gaseous. I crawled up the hill to where the group was dancing crazily around a giant bonfire. It threw evil sparks up into the sky where the moon used to hang. They danced and laughed, taking turns drinking from the many flasks being passed around. Their vulture eyes stared back at me hungry—ravenous. I stumbled forward only to be knocked backwards by solid air. My eyes were rolling—the sky was the desert. The desert was the sky. Or was that how it always was? I couldn’t make sense of it. I closed my eyes. I could see them coming, the men in the slacks, my mother begging them. “Time to make a sacrifice to the Moon Goddess,” Niyol cried 113
above the roar as he lifted his hands high above his head, palms facing the Upperworld. His bare chest reflected in the fire strong and primordial. The others danced around him to the beating of tom-toms. Those vulture eyes pried into me and clawed at my skin. I turned in fear to Niyol. His eyes, black as obsidian, held no mercy. My dark skin burned like a brand. I was marked for prey. Even here I was different. I’d always known. I looked behind me; the silver ocean was closing in fast and strong. In fear, I fled the obscene mimicry. I ran and ran pounding with the earth. My ears flooded with the rhythms rising from the cracks opening in the desert. Silver liquid seeped through. It appeared before me without even looking for it: that old house standing with immovable dignity in the otherwise empty landscape. I could hear the whistling of the rusted screen and the creaking of the old rocking chair. Only that and my haggard breathing broke the night. Badu. I ran up the front steps, grabbed the screen door, and pulled it open, stepping for the first time onto the sacred porch. The door slammed behind me. There was a silence. Badu had stopped rocking, she had stopped moaning. I had stopped breathing. “You’ve come.” She spoke in a distant voice, a voice that had to travel across the whole desert to reach me. “I’ve always been here,” I whispered. Barely audible, I was sure. I couldn’t even tell if it escaped my lips. They were so dry. There was a lump in my throat. I thought I might cry, but no water. “No.” She shook her head slowly. I watched her eyes—darting—darting—darting behind the thin film. “I’ve been waiting for you.” “You know me?” I said louder this time stepping forward, daring to puncture the tender air that surrounded us. It did not break, but instead moved to fill in the space. “I know you,” she repeated softly, her voice following the arcing motion of her rocking chair. “Your Shizhe’e, father, he was my Shiye, son.” My knees buckled and I sank to the floor by her side. Finally, the truth. “You are my Tsosi, granddaughter,” there was compassion in her voice. It made her seem closer than before. “Why didn’t they tell me?” I whispered, my body shaking. The tears leaking from my eyes splashed to the floor, leaving dots amongst the dust. She continued to rock for a moment, taking in a deep rattling 114
breath. Her hands—warped wood—trembled. “The world was no good back then, Yahzi.” She paused and inhaled the whole desert; sand, cacti, the mountains, the purple sky and the stars. “A secret, forbidden love bore your Shizhe’e. We knew how wrong it was to hide our love as if we were ashamed.” She spit the last word out with detest, exhaling the landscape with a rumbling roar. The anger punctured ever word. “But it was too dangerous. The men with the stamped papers would come and people would disappear. My Shiye, my beautiful Shiye would not be taken from me, even if that meant he could not know who I was.” She stopped and moved her hands to her lap. Those eyes darting faster and faster now. “Your Sicheii and I fought over it. He wanted to take them on. He wanted the whole world back then. ” There was a smile on her lips. It made her seem young for a moment. “I didn’t listen. Stubborn as old rabbit, I returned to the home I was born into. Took up my place on the porch, remembering. That was what my family had done for generations. Remembered. The centuries of injustice and repression we were not allowed to forget. It is who we are. It is our curse and one day it will be our blessing. One day the world will know.” The raspy voice trailed off. “He was like you, Yahzi. Unsure of who he was. Pulled to me.” She stopped and tapped her heart. Her words were so slow, they clung to the air. “A night like this, he came. I did not need to tell him. He knew. He was my Shiye.” I nodded, pressing my eyes closed, trying to stop myself from pouring out everything that was inside. “I’m afraid Badu,” I stammered. “I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to disappear.” She lifted her spindly hand—rivers in her skin— and touched my face. They were so warm. Slowly, like a ghost, she turned her face towards mine. Those golden fish stood still beneath the veiled lids. “Miakoda.” There was tenderness in her voice. “Power of the moon.” I reached up and touched her eyelids. The little golden fish swimming—darting—floating passed like a pulse beneath my fingertips. She moved my fingers away softly. “You stay here, and you’ll disappear into the desert. You leave and it will be your ocean.” Her dark lashes opened like a flower in the night—a golden Evening Promise. The two fish swam like fireflies through the soundless air. They hovered for a moment, before sliding into my eyes, blinding me. I beheld what I had always known. What I was born 115
with. What I died with. What I lived on forever with across the desert, past the purple mountains, beyond the translucent moon. The sun rose behind the dark mountains, illuminating the unusually gray sky from below. I pulled open the door and walked inside. My Sicheii sat in his chair by the fire, reading. The shadows caught in the lines on his face. When he saw me, he closed the book in his lap. My own face lined with streaks of silver tears mirrored his. I told him with my eyes. “Oh Yahzi,” he spoke in that soft voice of his, “come here.” I went and kneeled beside him, pressing my face against his warm chest. His hand touched my cheek. The same place Badu had left hers not long ago. “I knew it would only be time.” He stroked my hair, holding me against his heart. “How is she, Yahzi?” “Beautiful, Sicheii.” I looked up; the silver tears were in his eyes, the memories pouring out. I kissed them as they fell on his dried skin. He smiled and closed his eyes, leaning his head back, remembering. “After she decided to leave, I tried to visit her secretly. I loved her so fully. She said no. This was the way it had to be. It was her destiny. Just as it had been the density of her ancestors before her to endure the pains of the unjust world they lived within. All those years, and how different it looked, but nothing had changed.” He sighed, and his smile wavered sadly. “Still, nothing has changed.” “It hurt me, but I did not stop loving her. Every week I wrote her a letter after she left. I wanted her to know her Shiye, and then I wanted her to know you, Yahzi. You were both so beautiful, so much of her in you. It is not a fair world.” He rubbed at the wrinkles—imprinted caverns—on his forehead, and picked up his pipe. I stood up and went to the kitchen, rummaging through the bin until I found the piece of paper. I opened it, smoothing out the creases, before walking over to Sicheii. “It has changed, Sicheii.” I handed the paper to him. He read it and nodded, a smile breaking across his face. He kissed me on the forehead. “My Desert Flower.” Outside it began to rain. Soft footfalls caught on the rooftop like a stampede of horses off in the distance. I walked to the door, stepping out into the air. Each drop fell like a tiny beam of life. They sank into my skin, filling the rivers that ran through me. The whole 116
desert was opening. Moving. Centuries of life beating up through the pores. I looked off into the distance; it didn’t seem so far anymore. I wondered if one day I would have golden fish eyes. I cupped my hands, catching the water. This place wasn’t a desert. This was my home—my ocean.
Fish Bone The last time we saw the mailman, he delivered the last brown box: two pinwheel lollipops. Dad threw the senderâ€™s ashes into the mouth of the Gallatin like birch sticks for his Labradors. They settled with the first hatch and were eaten up by salmon, the flesh of their bellies lined with blood clot roe like Grandpaâ€™s brain. Spring, Dad would cast for paternal bones, wish them back to land. He clawed black bubble embryos and vein threads out of brook trout spine, replaced liver with lemon and salt. I watched eyeballs jitter across butter, closed my lids, and thought of empty patio. In the back pantry, sugar stales. I ate a shard one year, a strip of cerulean, tried for the taste of Big Sky, but it was calcium white instead.
Moscow is Just a Picture To Victoria, a stranger: Maybe I do love you, like a stranger So perfect, and lost in midnight, spreading Lips in the gaslight of some Europe To speak to yourself, tell where you’re heading: Right foot moves like telephone wires, a danger— A terrorist glance—just step slimly and look up From your apteka’s dull glass, running a Sunday errand For the parents, who tell you stories about Our fascist West every now and then. With their manner Of speaking so belovedly, I listen, understand, Your eyes: every day, full, pushing so much dusk out To trace back from you like a moonlight on the banner Of metro advertisements—pure, cold, glass, upturning melancholy: Your innocent beauty is a siren to a window like myself, Splitting the surreal and red fires of swooning disaster, Serenading all night at my frames, upturning the trolley Of courtship charades that crawls, chugs on an old street shelf Holding sides of towns no one’s heard of. It smells of plaster In a city that is just a room I never come out of. I ride in taxis and find all the places you’ve been: Soviet parks of adolescence seen through the clouds of literature; Cafés of foreigners and college: waiting for cappuccinos, You’re waiting for love; an eletrichka ride for a lost friend, through snow-strewn avenues of some then; a one time church of the old maids, around the streetlights written thin as your signature;
“Hush,” you tell me, in the back seat of the cab. “Love isn’t free, I don’t know where you got the idea.” I watch out the low window. I surprise you with the poetry of my sidewalk contentment. We were so brilliant, weren’t we?
Like dust around Tsarist monuments, like good time European radio, Like not knowing what that smiling fragment meant When you tore all my sleeping pictures of you, When you squeeze my hand and say â€œThe dream is through.â€? Chris Criswell
Un sueño de la playa I can’t touch anything that I can’t see but the feathered edges of darkness fall behind me soft, heavy and kind of cold. bitterness burns the backside of every single taste bud, ahead a vast expanse glistens red like the northern lights dancing across my ankles beside fired salt spaces left by spitting foam; they hang there like sheets on the clothesline from Grandma Nellie’s backyard in Lynchburg, Virginia. actually, Grandma Nellie never really lifted a finger. In truth, it was my mother. a whole circular line of history spins into my fingertips; it’s 1833 and now it’s 1965 and now we’re robots in split top cases. who knows how we got here but that ice storm in ‘85 might have predicted that the house died after my mother left because Grandma Nellie refused to look sideways. Want in one hand, spit in the other; see which one gets full first, she said to me. The perforated honeybees ate seaside hibiscus on plain toast as I laughed away the haggard ghost woman inside the house at the top of the hill, rooted to the spot inside plain gardens I ran to Grandma Nellie and hugged her, told her I’d love her forever while a series of invisible staircases lined up in front of me and walked off. Worry less, you have some time. Sea salt tendrils tug back my body and pull me high, holding me like a father holding a child, it feigns throwing me once, twice, three times, then toss. I soar up and then drop, catching a piece of air and holding strong, eyes shut waiting. Then tips of toes graze salt sting places and all the rest of me dissolves. Ashley Schneider
Claudia Cristensen GarcĂa
MontaĂąa de Oro
Along the River Between Rwanda and Tanzania Here they were lobbed in like waste, some alive, some dead. They washed ashore in Congo. Anyone could fall, skating this edge; any body could collapse like dead brush into the foam; I could be that muddy water! The cut cliffs, the hawk perched on the tree overhanging the rocks, the bridge painted red like the churning water, the monkey born after the last corpse was retrievedâ€” one powerful quake, one deep tremor, one warbled sound of alarm and murder could crumble everything.
Evergreen On Sunday mornings, we fall out of bed like two halves of chopped wood and stumble in separate directions. I bathe in the afternoon to catch your love clean, while the kitchen is still warm with flower buds and bacon fat. But you would never know. I always smell of junipers. Fingers and palms crush the needles, stealing their perfume like bread dough. Your eyes always greet me as if I donâ€™t belong, before you grab your lighter and hide on the porch. But I sprinkle the scraps into your tobacco dregs beforehand to stir life into your breath. It keeps us together. James Parkington
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