Parallax Spring 2011
Parallax Spring 2011 Editor in Chief: Madi Hartzog-Warren Jr.Editor: Whitney Aviles-Low Poetry Editor: Austin Starr King Fiction Editor: Becky Joy Hirsch Dramatic Writing Editor: Amber Morrell Front Cover Art: Serena Kim Back Cover Art: Jing Li Layout and Design: Fion Chen
Creative Writing Department Faculty: Kim Henderson (Chair), Andrew Leeson, Katherine Factor, Abbie Bosworth Visual Art Department Faculty: Rob Rutherford (Chair), Eric Metzler, David Reid-Marr, Melissa Wilson, Mallory Cremin, Steve Hudson, Terry Rothrock, Gerald Clarke, Paul Waddell, Erich Bollman, Youree Jin Idyllwild Arts Academy President: William Lowman
Idyllwild Arts Academy 52500 Temecula Dr. PO Box 38 Idyllwild, CA 92549 (951) 659-2171 Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Arts Foundation All rights reserved. No work is to be reprinted without the written consent of the author and the Idyllwild Arts Foundation.
For Bill, and in honor of the 25th Anniversary of Idyllwild Arts Academy
Contents Amber Morrell Category 8 Becky Joy Hirsch Patience 10 Scarlett McCarthy sidecountry 11 Austin Okopny Detroit Decays, Vegas in Flux 12 Madi Hartzog-Warren The Light of Kamps 16 Austin Starr King Zepplin Night 17 Ariel Bevan artificial intelligence 19 Brittany Wigintton The Fairground at Fifteen *Contest Winner* 20 Madison Marlow The Great Horse Race *Runner Up* 25 Whitney Aviles-Low Glass 27 Becky Joy Hirsch Questions to Consider 30 Delaney Larimore Drear, Oh! Drear. 31 Delaney Larimore Entry Level Masochist 33 Abigail McFee Clara 34 Rebecca Cox The Valley 52 Rebecca Cox Living in the Fishbowl 53 Rebecca Cox The Life of a Tulip 54 Austin Okopny Bryant the Alien 55 Amber Morrell The Lies of Evolution 57 4
Contents Austin Starr King The 5 o’clock Villain Rebecca Cox Renee Scarlett McCarthy Knocking Austin Starr King Confusion is Natural Ariel Bevan Platinum Amber Morrell Holiday Cheer Scarlett McCarthy The Last to Know Whitney Aviles-Low Shards of a Mother Katie Johnson A Lily’s Smell Madi Hartzog-Warren October Chill Amber Morrell How to Tell if You’re About to Burst into Flames Yareli Rivas-Torres Find Her Simone Wild Fire Taylor Johnson Moonstones Whitney Aviles-Low Cain’s Lament Gabrielle DiMarco Spirit Austin Starr King jaw man Austin Okopny Cavity Rebecca Cox Paraniod 5
59 61 62 65 67 68 81 93 96 97 98 100 101 104 107 109 110 112 114
Contents (cont.) Rebecca Cox Pixie Stick Sensory Rebecca Cox If We Survive This Becky Joy Hirsch Miss Missouri Scarlett McCarthy Looking Right Madi Hartzog-Warren Temptations Amber Morrell On Walls Becky Joy Hirsch In the Brush About the Idyllwld Art Academy Creative Writing Department
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Category By Amber Morrell
This is your category: Staking out campfires for the waiting like bricks obscuring confidences of homeless boys in leather shoes.
Scribble love letters on paper plates, burn them when finished, finish before you begin skip step one, and like old bread growing worthless cretin, forget to be eaten. Make a house out of butcher paper watch soda tabs hail onto blacktops, and paint it’s a new home paint it with carbon dioxide dyed brown and make packing paper stained teeth, rotted out, flesh sick of ‘the moral high-ground’ make the dwelling into an envelope send to tooth fairy, hope for quarters. Instead, get an error message: This weight is ineligible. Reach, like the child leave a girl and come back a paper plane don’t forget that the Eid al-Adha printed on recyclable paper begins at sundown you were too busy making love that day. Meld into time, forget existence Be saved by God through anecdotal evidence. Discover that the only way to win is to spill like soup, the cloaked woman’s soul through means of blue dry erase markers the way we came when our fringe was cut straight across remember what she stole never forgive. This is your category.
Did you forget? With packing tape send out confirmations, everything lost inside a photon, quantized, in sets of two because nothing left, waiting if nothing else, remember broken hearts must be sent in duplicate.
Patience By Becky Joy Hirsch
Sometimes she drapes her laundry over the porch railing, clips the delicates up to the rim of the over-hang. She leaves her scrubbed boots out to dry on the tall front steps. Sometimes she places one hand on the rounded, decorative head of the pole that marks the end of the handrail up the steps. She stares the wailing sunset down. There is something inside her like an unknown something in a locked desk drawer, or like a baby. One hand on the rounded, decorative head of the hand railing pole leaves one hand to scratch over her heart. On the flat plane between her collarbone and right breast, she leaves red marks an inch long. She clenches and unclenches her fingers over and over, her nails licking over the patch of skin. She thinks absently of laundry. She is waiting for the day when sheâ€™ll see her lover cresting the foothills (March 7, not that she knows), when heâ€™ll ask for her hand (March 9), when sheâ€™ll stroke the white folds of her long dress smooth over her stomach and fidget (May 6). Sometimes she feeds her lust for him like a hungry cat, but sometimes she stands at the head of porch and sees his silhouette on the horizon like a lick of flame.
sidecountry By Scarlett McCarthy
I. And my mother, the tredder— mountaineer of the hive you threw me from, small Bumble, to tumble. Buzz. buzz. And Alexander wept, you say, when there were no worlds left to him unchartered. Uncoursed and rough like your world shut to me by the sister keeper, a lie to keep thee safe within that sickly comb. II. Disagree in patterns, like sparrows find grassroot. It is not you, but birth and wombhome. Save lion rawr in tin box beneath loosened bed knob. And grace will fall like the spring water to cover hard hand. Remember when you word was disgrace, and your face degraded into smoothed doll’s cheek against bosom. Leave space you inhabit that ought to be empty, not filled with your outguessed eyes, and want to win love. III. Hug toy castle and bury inside cervix, let out through snarled mouthteeth. In mind, love as you wish, not practice let out. Godmother and small princess intertwined in rocking street hammock. Scatter breath fair stories like beads from the inherited pearl necklace, take place of memory you never brought up—picnics on lawn green, and puttering balls on grassriver. Swoop in, fall down puke waterwheel and take beating. Pretend it’s your own. Pray for none but godmother and untamed black frock.
Detroit Decays, Vegas in Flux By Austin Okopny
The city is Detroit. You’re there, driving the downtown freeway. In a Cadillac, like in those sexy adverts GM plays for the Super Bowl. Leather seats, the smell of rain. The streets are wet. Amber streetlights. It’s cold, but only because the A/C is on. You’re driving, leather seats. Those leather seats. In the passenger seat is a babe. Dressed in red, she’s blonde and beautiful and deadly. Crimson lipstick. Detroit beckons you to its streets. Detroit wants you, needs you in that Cadillac. It’s gonna be a helluva night. You’re driving, and she whispers to you to turn on the radio. You flip a switch, and out comes Snoop Dog. He’s now in the back seat, and he’s doing his thing. He talks about the ocean, and you see the beaches in LA, and it’s night, and the bums and the groovy catsters are burning on the beach, gettin’ blazed. Snoop’s blazed too, and now he’s at school. This will be important to you, remember these lines. “Kids, gather ‘round, I need your focus. I know it seems like the world is so hopeless.” And you’re still driving, and the grey Detroit River wants you inside it. You’re driving towards it, and it takes you back to those beaches in LA, and you’re there, and so is that deadly blonde in the passenger seat. You know, she’s in a band. She plays the house in a jazz club down the road, and she sings like an angel. The lips of an angel. In the great city of Detroit. The city is now lighting aflame as the bombshell kisses you. She kisses you, and you can’t help but notice the perfume she wears, it’s a signature, rain to your nostrils, and the picture of raindrops in her lips makes you whole, and the city is burning down, and she’s saving you. You remember the great Art Deco statues on the Hoover Dam, and you’re there, still night, always night, and those great symbols of industry, and you love the way she tastes, oh the way she tastes, and the city is burning, and the way she tastes makes you park it. Snoop peaces out in his fur coat into the steam-vents on the sidewalk. You turn to her, and she says, “Save me.” You do your best to save your sweet angel from death, but you know that in the end, you can’t. The night grows hot as you put it in drive and slip along its streets, and the night is wet and blue and orange and red, oh god red everywhere, and blonde, you can’t forget blonde, the statues on the Hoover Dam dedicated to the workers that plummeted to their doom. You think that everyone falls, even the angel that’s entangled with you now, even you, and the city is burning still, fire roasting from rooftops and Portishead is on the radio now, no longer Snoop, he’s out somewhere, and you remember her at the jazz club, the lights low and dim and the stench of bourbon
in the air, and the catsters that partied on the LA beach are now in the club, taking in the angel’s voice with respect. Such an angel. She’s becoming more engrossed with you, and you’re engrossed with her, and you love the way she feels against you, against the cold leather seats, and it takes you back to the Dam, with the angels and the wings that rise fifty feet above your head, and the orange streetlamps make everything icier. You turn to the bridge. You’re driving over it now, you keep driving that Cadillac, she tells you to keep driving, and her lips are ecstasy, her neck flirts and you’re intoxicated. She rides you like a midnight cowboy, a steed of nighttime glory, and you enjoy every minute of it. She pants, you pant, her ankles cry for your touch. Your hearts move in synchronization, rising and falling like the Roman Empire, and the way she whispers into your outer ear makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, and you let her ride you like The Midnight Cowboy, and the way she tastes is like heaven on a plate, the way she tastes, the way she breathes, the way she smells, like an angel, an angel, the way she moves. You lose control. You wind up in the river. The Cadillac is sinking. Firefighters put out flames on the rooftops and control the streets, and you’re slipping in the mud around you. She’s no longer around, she’s gone. Like she flew to heaven with fifty foot wings, and you’re trying to rise up out of the muck. You find yourself in the river, and you tell yourself to go screw yourself, and you laugh at the irony, and you miss the leather seats and the smell of rain, the smell of her and her glow and her sweat and her red dress and lipstick and you were going to save her but you didn’t know how, and then you remember the city of Detroit. The city of Detroit. The city of Detroit is not unlike LA’s midnight beaches or the concrete Hoover Dam. It’s not unlike the meadows of the woods of the great state of Michigan, with the lakes and the river banks. The symbol of industry is Detroit, you think, still in the river, still swimming up toward the surface like it’s the dawn that’s coming. The dawn is coming. The dawn is coming, and you can feel the faint light beating down like an elephant, and the dawn reminds you of that jazz club in Vegas, the one that your angel played at, but where is she? Where did she go? The jazz club is out, and the catsters are stumbling home, and the jazz plays and she sings as everyone wanders out, into the daybreak, into their lives and wives and children, into IHOPs for breakfast, into the glitter and dust and drought and glamour of the glorious Las Vegas. You switch Detroit for Vegas, and each is the same, each is doomed to fall, each is the emblem of industry. Detroit sells cars, Vegas sells dreams. Switch one for the other, no more leather seats. No more bombshell, no more angel, no more rain, no more rain, and you tell yourself you love her, you love the angel,
the dangerous angel, the one that showed you where Heaven was, but not how to get there. The dawn came and went and you’re in IHOP with these catsters and they’re telling you the money they made last week at Palace Station, or that they saw Paris Hilton at the Palms, or they had drinks with the mafia, and they made a deal, and you’re in it, and you remember that bombshell in the corner, blonde and beautiful and dangerous, and you remember she smelled like an angel. It’s coming to you, you remember the parties on California’s shores, the breeze through your hair, you remember the surfers climbing up like whales to the beach to tell you that Detroit needs your help. You would tell them you’d fly out the next chance you got, next week sometime, to sort the mess out. And you flew to Detroit on a plane full of office workers and ex- military, and you remember the air conditioning like pleasure, like leather seats, and you flew to Detroit and they gave you a Cadillac to drive around in. And the streets are wet from the rain, and you pull a cigarette past the airport and you feel like stopping by the office, the car plant, the mayor’s house, something, to help the office workers you met on the plane. And the office, the car plant, the mayor, they told you they couldn’t help, the mafia was taking over, their hands were tied. But you weren’t gonna give up. You’re not that kind of character. You blaze with the mayor of Vegas, the mayor of Detroit, in the fat underbelly of either, and the mayor of Vegas is in on the deal, you don’t know it yet, and you feel the burning intensity of your angel’s kiss of death amidst the fire in your lungs, and you smell rain and sweat and you know that she’s your butter. She’s to live for, to die for, to fight for, the city of Detroit, the city of Vegas, the colitas, called Snow Cap, like the laborers on the side of the mountain, like Hoover Dam, and you tell the mayors you’ll think of something to get the mob off the car industry. But then she’s there, she’s haunting your thoughts like a spider or the ghost of your long-lost grandmother, may she rest in peace, and you take her out to dinner. She knows her stuff, and she sings at the club for you, and you fall in love with her. And she throws you off the bridge. She throws you off the bridge. Detroit throws you, the mob throws you, the government throws you, the angels throw you off the bridge. And you’re okay with it. You think you’ll be okay with it. The smell of her sweat comes back to you, the dress she wore, the lipstick on her mouth, the smell of rain and leather seats. They call you. You’re still in that river, you remember that river? And the dawn came and went and it’s night again, and you realize it all together like a puzzle you got at Christmas one year when you were ten, and there’s no escaping the justice of it. IHOP and the air conditioning and the lipstick and the jazz club and Palace Station and elephants and whales and the smell of rain. You remember Vegas and IHOP, California with the surfers that had mafia intel, flying to Detroit to fix it, angel is in the mafia, pause, repeat it to yourself—your angel is in the mafia, she’s killing you right now, in the river. The smell of sweat, how 14
organic and divine. Can you get over it? You take in a gulp of water and you feel her in your heart.
The Light of Kamps By Madi Hartzog-Warren
Outside the wind slams against bare legs, chases laughter away There are cars circulating the streets Machine-made fog clears to reveal bodies Alight with bass and drum beats Curves hitting the air like a tennis match People show up with a want for a good time Smell of alcohol-infused systems Lack of clothing, fake IDs Cigarettes, change of shoes, crumpled up cash “Whoa, that was sexy” “Does she realize that people can see her ass?” “I need a smoke break” Taylor is emptying herself, her double shots into the bathroom sink Waylon waits in line for his hangover The room bounces with its inhabitants Black light, neon light, stop light, low lights Glow stick play toys keep the sun down Shadowy alcoves hide choices lost to the night
Zeppelin Night By Austin Starr King
20mg Cough down another golden star sit back, relax, enjoy the thrill. Itâ€™s nearly two, you know what time zeppelins fly. 40mg Talk, in wound-up tongues, behind the water tanks with spray paint swastikas and MMS13 grilled on like tin crosses. 60mg Neurons tremble back & forth Youâ€™ll go nowhere. Selfish and short lived. No gold is allowed, away with the alchemy. 100mg Against the storm drains filled with roaches I shake. The bars I can fit through visit the waste. My arteries move like earthworms, that if they could see, would flee from what they saw 17
as fast as sacks of blood could beat. The sky streaked with sores, geometric shapes perfectly in tune, all baritone. One Incessant Note. The pilots spit down, the people look beneath. I shake, not because of the frost forming on impulsive cement, but the nerves rift back, like the sun, in their place.
artificial intelligence By Ariel Bevan
i. teach him how to blow bubbles that will put demons to sleep. tell him about computer programs that kill each other and teach him how to avoid them. tell him that they look like humans and act like humans. warn him. he will thank you for it when he’s older. ii. demons are humans in disguise. teach him this after you teach him to fight. tell him to make his own choices, and he’ll learn to become a man of honor. or not. don’t tell him that there is a difference between honor and honesty. he’ll figure it out on his own. remember that you are neither honest nor honorable (because you are nothing at all). forget to tell him this. he doesn‘t need to know. iii. convince him you’re just as human as him. your skin is cold, he says, and you tell him you don‘t know why. he doesn’t believe you but it doesn’t show on his face. remember to convince yourself that you’re human, too. he looks into your eyes and sees nothing there.
iv. you meet a woman who changes you. you hate her as much as you love her for that. she turns you into a demon and you become human. talk to him. he says your skin is warm and you tell him it’s because your heart is working. he smiles. the woman vanishes. v. when you die, it almost tickles. you‘re turned back into data like in the beginning and disappear. he grows older and you open your eyes. you feel small and remember nothing. he looks at you, smiles, and says welcome back. you don’t know what he means but you smile at him too. 19
The Fairground at Fifteen (Contest Winner)
By Brittany Wigintton There hasn’t been any wind this summer. The dust that usually blows around the empty lot on the corner of 77th and Pine stays in its place, not able to dance around and cover up the footprints of whoever has dared to venture there that day. There are no breezes pulling through Ainsworth to pacify its sweaty and temperamental residents—so I, too, remain restless. From bikes and skateboards, everyone can see the numerous trucks and trailers and campers and contraptions pulling into the lot, resting there like presents to be unwrapped. Tuesday shows us these presents. Wednesday lets us see what they might become. And on Thursday night the carnival opens, revealing to everyone what treasures and excitement could be contained between two walls of chain-link and two of brick. Lizzie, Mae, and I slip into our favorite summer dresses, giggling as we slide on our summer sandals. We paint our nails a pink that my grandmother says is not appropriate for my age, but I still wear it, only on my toes. Our bikes take us over to Pine and 77th, where everyone in town is decorating the usually empty space with their presence. The lights can be seen from blocks away, enticing anyone who looks in that general direction, the tinkling music and sugar-topped funnel cake scent intoxicating. You really can’t resist. The aisles spill with every wonder. The Zipper, taking you in an oval-shape, flipping you upside down and right side up. We ride the Wheel, until we feel like those frozen lemonades and hot dogs we ate are about to reappear. But the booths are what intrigue us most, the lines of catcalls and baseballs. And there is that one boy, who works at the ring toss. He says to us, “Try your luck here.” So we do. Mae goes first, flicking the small plastic hoop over the numerous fishbowls, hoping to gain a new friend. It falls onto the dust below the table. He picks it up, handing it to me. “How about you? Try your luck.” And I see something there in his smile. A hint of sweetness, a shine between his summer-tanned cheeks. He slips the ring from his hand to mine, telling me again to try. And I go home with a new friend. As tomorrow dawns, the sunlight filters through my wooden blinds, making stripes across my bedspread. And those stripes only remind me of the ones on his shirt. The swirl of the lights on the edge of the Ferris wheel, the laugher exploding from the chests of children, those that hugged their new stuffed elephants to their 20
chests—last night. Again, the dust reflected the footprints from last night, a mess of aisles with rides and games. The carnival starts up again. It’s still light outside, and the three of us make our way to the ring toss booth. He wears another ragged striped shirt today, his yesterday scruff now shaved off, leaving his face clean and younger. We find that his name is Anderson. He’s nineteen. He’s from Oregon. He hates garbanzo beans. But his arms still stretch across the table again, as he asks me to “try my luck” once more. I laugh, “I don’t need another fish.” I go home that night with a new friend for my new friend. I name them both Anderson. And then it’s just me, traveling to the fairground each day. Me, in my summer dress and summer sandals and summer skin and summer hair, on the corner of 77th and Pine. And him, his facial hair he didn’t keep for more than a few days, and the same four striped shirts, rotated. As night collapses over Covington, I hide away under the table of the booth, conversing with him between the visits of those who come to toss rings for goldfish. And, then, as the people faded away with the sunlight and hours, the ancient card table and the iced tea would come out to help ease the sweat off our brows from the hot Southern night. The entire family—although none of them related— reiterating stories of their lives, so much richer than mine, cultured and seasoned by travel. They tell me these recollections, candle flames dotting the background of my vision. But Andy was the only one at the front. The carnival is only open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays. So the other Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays are breathless and become filled with bare feet on the kitchen’s hardwood floors, a hand on the refrigerator door and fanning my face. My freckled cheeks are now always red, flushed. Grandma says that it’s from being out so often, maybe I should stay in more nights, watching Wheel of Fortune on the chaise with her. There’s no time for that, this summer is rushing past my shoulders and forearms and palms. On a certain Tuesday, I go out with Lizzie to the new picture in town. The posters have been up around town for weeks, but I’ve barely taken them in from the point of view of the whizzing surroundings from my bicycle. A romantic comedy—great, uplifting, or entirely depressing. However, as our bikes pull up to the third building on the block between Milford Avenue and Main, there is only one figure that stands out more than the burnt out bulb on the marquee. I can’t get to him quick enough. A greeting is swallowed by my shock. In the queue to buy the tickets for the romantic comedy (Great! Uplifting!) stands Anderson, his arm around the waist of a woman without a name. She doesn’t have a name for me. This romantic comedy that I’ll never see is entirely depressing. The questions that I shouldn’t care about flood my mind—Who is she? 21
What were they doing together? The snapshot of the half-embrace and the proposed, possible date is the only thing I see. I don’t go to the carnival that Thursday, instead, I watch Wheel of Fortune. The ever-so-slender Vannah touches her fingers to the illuminated block letters and I feel my soul scratching me, the crave to escape. I know the place I wish to escape would not be the best choice. But the moonlight on my bedspread pressures me to leave. I slip into an anxious sleep instead. And by Friday, I can’t resist the temptation of the glistening lights and the cotton candy fuzz. When his tanned face becomes visible over the seemingly endless line of tents and senseless games, I regret coming here. And then this resentment is overtaken by his gaze towards me. The smile that rips open his face, letting him tell me that he “missed me last night.” And I’m down on my skinned knees again, under the table that holds the rings, looking up at him, my smile refusing to wipe away from between my cheeks. That night, once everything closed, he asks me to stay later. Under candlelight, he shows me the leather journals with scrawls of his poetry, spewed from his intelligent hands, and filling my thoughts only with the narration of his creativity. He shows me the scars on the soles of his dirty feet—what he gets for walking barefoot everywhere. He doesn’t even mention the girl who he half-embraced the other night, and I don’t ask. The jingle of the ice in our paper cups, the sizzle of a match being lit, are my eleven o’clock alerts. The people of the carnival introduce me to the dates from the far-away coast and the chilled minty drink from somewhere further south. And there are stories that go with it, colorful, humorous tales of greedy kids who tried to make off with all the prizes straight from the booth; the solemn stories of the boy with the birth defect that make his features look shrunken into his face, who came to the carnival every day, only to be hit by a car during the last days. I wrack my mind for any story that comes close. I have never even left the South. They like their sea of tents, lanterns, folding card tables and folding chairs. The hooks that let them drag the large metal contraptions behind them, wherever they go. Everything they have can be stuffed away into a duffle bag, can be folded and slid between an oven and a cabinet inside a trailer. Compared to my closet, stuffed with stuffed animals and my desk that’s screwed into the wall—what a life, to move at any second. And to let the wheels take them to see so many small towns, different cities, different people. In my prim summer dress and summer sandals, sitting there on a folding chair at a folding card table, I look so clean. And that’s what I don’t want to look like. He would like someone more like himself, maybe more like the girl who twirls at night in the firelight, she lives two tents over from his. She has a long mane of brown hair, and every night, she wears those tin-sequins around her ankles, making her dancing more like music. She has that delight, and I have that delight, but I feel so young. I try to hide it behind a mature smirk. And I know that the questions will arrive any day now. And then, my grandma 22
asks why I’m coming home later and later every night. I can’t seem to tell her accurately that I’m just having too much fun at the corner of 77th and Pine. She says they’re gypsies. She says, soon they’re going to go away. And it’s tonight that I ask that weighted question to Anderson. “When are you leaving?” I ask, shuffling in my summer sandals, my old pink toenail polish just about chipped away completely. My eyes shift upwards, making contact with his six-foot-two stature. And he doesn’t look at me. “Not for awhile.” My heart’s there, on the dust, just getting dirty. If he doesn’t know how I feel by now, then he is blind. And time stands between us, gathering dust, as well as the potential of what might happen and what might not happen. The option of what I can do to push things the way I want and the possibility of him also not reacting quite the way I prefer. All of it is here, on the dusty ground. But, under the gas lantern that hangs over the doorway to his humble tent, his hands land on my bare arms, a bit sticky from the summer. And there, he presses my lips with his in the sweetest and most pure manner I could hope to be my first. The sheets on his slim sleeping pad wrinkle and gather with the brushes of our toes and the grip of my scared fists. The air is heavy, tempted with the stickiness of our whisperings. The closeness of all confinements traps my shuddered exhalations and worried inhalations. My body is so dirty with the dust but his kiss on my freckled shoulder feels clean. I don’t know how I got here. The jangle of the ice in the paper, maybe plastic, cups has been forgotten; what time is it? How can I contain this night, its awkward stickiness and momentous nature— can I conserve it in a fishbowl, and let it rest on my dresser, next to my two new friends, marked “summer of nineteen-seventy”? And my grandmother asks why I’m home so late. She waits there on the couch in the front room with the light on, until I enter through the door. I feel like she can sense my sudden change from the increased flush of my cheeks or maybe by how my hair is in a ponytail and how I never wear it in a ponytail. Individual strands stick to the stale dusty sweat I’m stuck with. When the stripes paint my bed again, I rush to get back into another summer dress and back into my summer sandals, and to the corner of Pine and 77th, to live it all again. An endless summer of my heart, so great and uplifting, maybe Anderson will finally go see that film with me. And all I find is the depressing dust, the footprints and tire-tracks beginning to be hidden by the sudden wind that starts.
The Great Horse Race (Runner Up)
By Madison Marlow And when a sigh filled my mind, Of things to do before I die Kentucky derby was first. Sinken sunken down to the first, I thought of these and I wrote of dirt. Completely compelled, Orange sun Pulsating pulp Through my pores. I tried to write, I tried to rhyme, Two different things. He came back from The pace of time, I haven’t not got I can’t not stop I can’t say I can’t speak. Faulkner did that for me. Family grind tied it down, Childhood rewind Childhood Painfully mistaken. Princess of craft But this is the first draft Create to revise It only happened one time, And — but — Stupid ties, dramatic lines Of an old suit, An old face. More space to make Words that weren’t there In the suit William was buried in I’m sorry they put you there In the first place.
Chloe Kim Drawing
Glass Inspired by “The School“ by Donald Barthelme
By Whitney Aviles-Low The five of us were combing the beach for sea-glass, bending our noses low to the sand and straining our eyes for the tell-tale flash of a clear shard — those are the rarest, and everyone loves you if you manage to find one. The tide was cool and high. I had my back to the boys when one of them pointed out the dead jellyfish. It was a Man-of-War, I think. It looked pretty sad splayed out there on the compact sand, its long, lacy legs spinning like pink hair in the water. We gathered around it. All five of us surrounded it and came to terms with its morbid beauty in our own way, as if admiring the courage of a soldier and bidding him an honorable farewell. One of us even put a hand to our heart. It’s likely we would’ve forgotten about it had we not, just a few minutes later, come across a half-eaten puffer fish rolling on shore off a runt of a wave. With the puffer fish, though, it was more a case of shrugging and getting past the smell. Those things always found a way to wash up on the beach, especially when the tide was up, and then they were easy pickings for seagulls and unleashed dogs and the like. We’d all seen its like before. That little fish corpse was not enough to sway us from our sea-glass-hunting adventure. When we came across the baby turtle we all agreed it must’ve happened that day all those tourists were here, feeding the seagulls. For some reason everyone is always fascinated with seagulls, even though they really are the most stupid birds. They probably had no idea there were turtles hatching, and…the poor thing never had a chance. Then again…well, none of us wanted to believe someone could’ve done it on purpose, although one of us did mention it was a possibility. Our suspicions only grew when we came across the seagull with the broken neck, the drifting head of a moray eel, the reef shark…I think all of us lost the urge to fish that day. Strangely enough, it was almost a relief to find the hole full of dead sand crabs. Those things, you always find them dead on the beach, sitting in some random spot like a tiny statue made of semi-transparent rock. It’s rare to see them alive since they move so quickly, and this lot had probably had their little sand tunnel collapse down on them when a particularly forceful wave came in. Seeing them brought back some sense of reality. We had to double-take when we saw the Eagle Ray. We had to double-take because it was still alive, the struggling gills opening and closing like bloodless knife wounds in its sallow flesh. We watched it struggle. I wanted to help it, but as soon as I looked into those glassy black eyes I knew it had put itself there on purpose; the boys must’ve known it too, because none of them made to move. We didn’t even want to stay, there’s something terrible about watching a helpless thing die in front of you, but that 27
something terrible is also something fascinating, and it’s unforgiving in the way it forces you to look. We dubbed it Sir Joshua, after Nathan’s father who died in the army. One by one we added on to the story of how Sir Joshua was a great hero of the sea. He used his mighty sting to win many duels. Sir Joshua was humble. Sir Joshua was just. Sir Joshua was a fine underwater knight. We were almost moved to tears as we recounted the fatal wound dealt him during his last battle, and how he’d come to see the surface world before he died. Only Nathan remained silent. Eventually, Sir Joshua went still. We studied his fine spots, examined his battle scars. We all wanted to believe he’d gone on to a better place. Adrian suggested he was reunited with the brutally devoured wife who inspired his heroism in the first place. All of us agreed. Not long after leaving Sir Joshua’s venerable side, we came across the fat tabby. It was a really pathetic sight, we could barely see the stripes for how much the water had plastered its fur to its body. The collar really threw us off, because none of us knew how a domestic cat could get into the ocean without anyone knowing about it. One of us suggested we check the tag, call the owners, but instead we took a collective shuffle-step back and eyed the foaming waves with vaguely placed suspicion. Logically, I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with the water, nothing willfully malicious. I was starting to consider pollution. We spotted a couple of dolphins floating just off shore, jelly fish spanning the length of the beach for half-a-mile, an adult sea turtle flipped on its back with its eyes half-open and mouth agape. One octopus. There was a family of monk seals, cold and still just beyond the reach of the waves, whose loss filled us with genuine regret. And then the Sea God. The Sea God was really a humpback whale, but for five kids who had never seen any living giant so close up before it was like having Poseidon incarnate emerge from the depths. He was only half out of the water, but it was still a miracle that no one seemed to notice him, or perhaps we were the only ones on the beach that day, I can’t really remember. Either way, the Sea God thrashed and heaved and turned until he’d gotten himself into deep enough water again. He made it about ten feet out to the sound of our cheers before he stopped moving and went belly up. I didn’t even know whales could go belly up. At some point we paused and sat in a semi-circle on a small sandhill a good distance away from the ocean. We asked each other what the ebbing waves sounded like to each of our ears, and all but one of us said Hush, Huuuuussssh. Nathan swore he heard a long and languid hee heeee. We all asked him, How, Nathan? How is the water laughing? and he drew in air through his teeth, widening his eyes as if about to shout before letting out a barely audible, Heeeeeeee. And we asked him; we said, Nathan, do you think God is trying to tell us something? He shrugged and turned away. We pushed him, took his arms and shook him, all of us as one saying, how can you believe in a divine universal creator without conjecturing that He may, on occasion, channel his presence and supremacy through the natural mediums of — 28
He said, I don’t think it works that way. We called him a liar. He called us heathens. We sneered at his hypocrisy. He smiled. We asked him, will you kiss Oliver now so we may go on trusting you? We don’t want you to be a hypocrite. Nathan curled his lip and said that he would not. You’re always studying Oliver, we pointed out, don’t pretend you never have. Nathan made as if to leave, but he must’ve thought better of it because instead he hunched his shoulders and made a vulgar sign at all of us. Oliver drew up his knees. Please, we insisted, please kiss Oliver, we want some obvious truth to hold on to, we’re weary of vague omens. He said we deserved the discomfort for spitting so openly in the face of God. Oliver touched his hand. Nathan winced. The rest of us leaned forward, our mouths formed into tight o’s. Then the sea parted, and sparkling below us amid the hundreds of wriggling fish were thousands of shards of smooth, clear glass. We ran for the shore.
Questions to Consider: As You Reflect back from the Final Stages of Your Life By Becky Joy Hirsch 1) His back hurts a) So he can’t focus on the real problem: 2) That he does not know if he is a) A man b) A woman c) Or is becoming a woman i) Again? ii) Or for the first time? d) Or if he has lingering vestiges of womanhood (1) From a past life, (2) Or last Thursday1 (a) And was she a date (b) Or just a friend? e) And what if he was a lesbian woman and she was date f) Or what if he was a lesbian woman and she was still just a friend? g) Or what if he was a bisexual man and she was still only a friend after he told her that he was in love with her after he left his life partner of thirty years, but she was so sure that he was just confused (and that he really was gay) that he ended up having to chase her back to her apartment2 where he tripped – no, slid – on the street because it was the day before New Year’s3 and he had just told Asher it was over and he was wearing heels- no, platforms- and he slipped i) And was that how he hurt his back? ii) Or was that from the complications from the surgery he had gotten back when he was a teenage girl4 and he had been so sure that he was actually a man 3) And he had never regretted that decision a) Except that right now his back was killing him.
When he went out jogging with Claire-Elise On 22nd and 9th 3 And snowing 4 Named Justine 1 2
Drear, Oh! Drear. By Delaney Larimore
A Moment of clarity and unforeseen metamorphosis Blurs of red, touch of gray and nothing of purpose Time forsaken because of a door left open I am not apologetic for her mistakes Transfixing on what happened One. two. three hours before Before when your shoes still fit The cinema talk and red carpet walk Round rimmed glasses, swishing of unwanted saving Time ticking on the clock, blinking constantly Thriving off darkness, bleakness that succumbs you You remember nothing. I have taken the â€˜wasâ€™ away. Passing by photographs stained with remorse Touching glossed wood held tight by the layers Walk up the stairs, you enter her old room Inside you sit, outside you watch Walking toward the mind of mirror covered walls They are looking for you, put on the mask and affirm knick knack, pick pack, tick tack Attend the overture at the cemetery, Watch out for the knick knackers, pick packers, and tick tackers. Eventually we all drown ourselves Take me, Take me, Take me as nothing, for I was never even there.
Nadia Kim Photography
Entry Level Masochist By Delaney Larimore
Hello? Hesitate when entering “Welcome” mats, pink door Dried out bird feeder. Ring, ding-a-ling Answer, don’t think Disappointed hedonists are calling The how’s, the what’s, the who’s Disregard what once was Regret stained words you soon only speak Shaking off the riff raff Riff raffism and you need to Breathe slow, understand Jacking pig figures sitting on the mantle Little one, put it back… One, two, three. Four, go lock the door Replace morality with pleasure Your bible left handy to read Hold tight to your insides Everybody wants a piece Fantasize the rotten Take refuge Yes. Fess up, this is your fault You’re a pig on a mantle, I warned you You didn’t put it back I’m sorry, can’t get out of your indentures Oh sweet maiden of mine, come in for a while I’ll cut you a piece of warm apple pie Hello? Hesitate when entering Disappointed hedonists are calling Fading away, dancing for twilight They need satisfying
Clara By Abigail McFee
I can’t even make the sandwiches anymore. You’d think I could do it the same as every other mother in the world, or in America anyway. Places where mothers make PB and J sandwiches. I mean, I’m sure we all do it exactly the same. Just take out the bread and cut off the edges—the kids have gotten so picky about that. With how picky they are, you’d think they’d be complaining to me about how bad the sandwiches look. Gosh, they’re gruesome. Just sloppy, you know. It looks like a kindergartner made them, not the mom of a kindergartener. But when I wake up in the morning, and I’m rushing to get everything done, and Kenneth is standing behind me, waiting for me to move out of the way so that he can get his V8 out of the refrigerator—there’s just no time. It might not seem like much, but the laundry piles up, too, and then there’s the house. Everything’s a mess. Twenty-four seven. Kenneth says if it bothers me, why don’t I pick it up? But I don’t want to be the mother who stands with her back to her kids, doing dishes while they try to show her the Play Dough people they’ve made. And on top of all of that, I’ve let myself go. I guess that’s what they call it. The crazy thing is that I used to see those mothers on the street who were in their sweat pants and their ketchup-stained shirts, and God only knows why I believed that I would be different. It wasn’t like this at first. I think it started last summer, for some reason. I guess that’s when I met Clara, and I remember that I was caught up in all of it when I met her. Because that summer was just a juggling act all the way. We had little Mike in swim lessons, and Ty Guy was in his terrible twos, just constant screaming, constantly wanting attention from me. I think I cried every night that summer. Kenneth didn’t understand. He was working, so he was away most of the day. I mean, he was really involved in the kids’ lives. But he wasn’t the one who put them down for their naps, you know? He wasn’t the one who ate the kids’ leftovers for lunch. The cold pizza, the mixed veggies that they had poured apple juice in. While I was having that tasty lunch, Kenneth was sitting on the patio of the Italian café in town, splitting pasta dishes with his co-workers. So of course he didn’t know what it was like for me. That summer, we had our routine all set up, where the kids woke up around seven and ate their breakfast and watched a little TV, and then we walked over to the park while it was still morning. The park was only a few blocks away, but sometimes it would take a half hour to get there. Mikey would stop to inspect every stick or stone, pretending they were treasures. If I said, “Not today, Mikey,” then he would insist on pushing his brother in the wagon. He did it in big jolts where he sprinted, pushing the back side of it, you know. And even 34
though I was still pulling it, he scared me. But when cars drove by us, I always felt the need to smile, like I was creating a picture for them of a mother having fun with her children. Like that was something they would carry with them. But on Tuesdays and Saturdays, we drove up to the city pool in the morning for Mikey’s lessons, and Ty wasn’t in lessons yet, but I had to bring him along on Tuesdays. On Saturdays, I usually brought a book along because I was trying to get to that point where I could actually read something for fun. Not mommy books or health books, but fun stuff. Nora Roberts or those criminal books. But anyway, Mikey loved the pool. So I usually ended up just watching him. I guess those were the happiest times that summer, when he was wearing his orange fishy floaters—they were the cutest things—and he was grinning at me from the pool. And it was still morning, so there was no glare. It was quiet. I would take them up there sometimes in the afternoon, too. It was hard to find a time because we had lunch time and nap time, and by then the pool was only open for a few more hours. But if Ty Guy napped for shorter, that’s when we would go. Clara was only there one day. I think it was Thursday, because it was family swim, which meant that the pool stayed open until eight o’clock, instead of six. I remember that we got carried away talking, and for some reason, the kids weren’t even complaining or telling me that they were hungry. So by the time we left, it must have been seven o’clock or seven thirty. That’s the most beautiful time of day in the summer. You know that the sun should be down, and it isn’t. The grass and the concrete feel a little bit cooler, and your eyes are drooping from the chlorine and sun, yet you kind of want to take the kids outside and play with them after dinner. Because those hours are borrowed hours. I don’t think they ever belong to us, and that’s what makes them so precious. When I met Clara, I remember thinking that she was young and happy. She was nineteen, and she was from Canada, but she had traveled all over the place. China, Mexico, Phoenix. You name it. I wasn’t like that at nineteen. I think I just drove around town all day. She had a boyfriend with her, and they were on a road trip across the United States. “Well, we stop wherever it feels nice,” she told me. They were in most places for only a few hours, unless there was something about it. I guess they had found a place in Colorado like that, and they had acted like they lived there for awhile. They went to a diner every morning for breakfast, and bought the paper outside the supermarket, and then they read at the library all day or went swimming. They even went to church there on Sunday. Most of the time they slept in their car—this orange VW bus—and sometimes they stayed with people they met. But I didn’t know all of that when I first saw Clara. She was sunbathing, and her boyfriend was one of those really social people who can make friends anywhere. So he was already roughhousing with a group of guys in the pool. I didn’t even know they were together at first because she was lying on her 35
towel alone. But the thing was, she seemed fine. I had the feeling that they could have been apart for months, gone off to different countries, different colleges, and they would have been fine to be apart. But instead they were with each other almost every second of every day, driving through places they had never seen before. And that worked for them, too. I had the kids with me, of course, so I was usually in the pool with them. Ty Guy was too young to swim by himself, so he could really only play in the baby pool. But Mikey refused to be seen in the baby pool in front of his kindergarten friends. So usually we were in the big pool, and I was holding Ty Guy. His brother would splash him, and he would splash back. And they would both be absolutely giddy. Then Mikey would splash too hard, and Ty would start crying. It was always chaos, but I could handle those moments at the pool. When we were surrounded by people, I wasn’t so lonely. Ty Guy was only two and a half then, so he got worn out sooner than Mikey. That day, he started fussing really early. I knew that it was time for him to have a snack, but one of Mikey’s kindergarten friends had showed up, and he didn’t want to get out of the pool. The little friend was with his babysitter, so I went ahead and took Ty over to a bench across the pool. I remember that I was watching Clara while she was sunbathing. She wasn’t reading or anything—not because she didn’t like to read. But maybe she didn’t need to be doing something twenty-four seven. I’m not sure how it happened, because I was distracted with Ty Guy, who kept asking for more “snacks.” That’s what he calls his fruit gummies. Anyway, Mikey’s kindergarten friend had an older brother who was seven years old, but he was big for his age, and he was rowdy. When I looked up, this boy had come over, and he was dunking Mikey. The thing is, Mikey was just learning how to swim, and he couldn’t fight back. But the boy kept dunking him, over and over again, and Mikey had his mouth open. At first, when he came up, he was gasping for air, but pretty soon he was choking on water. So I ran. All I can remember is feeling completely helpless with Ty in my arms. I couldn’t run fast enough, and I didn’t even think to set him down. That babysitter was laughing with a group of her friends, not even paying attention. I looked up at the lifeguards, and they were twirling their whistles around their fingers. But Clara was on that side of the pool. I didn’t see her get up. I just saw her once she was in the pool. She moved quickly, so fast that I didn’t even know what was happening. Maybe she had been a lifeguard before; I never asked her. She pulled Mikey out of the water, and he was fine. He was your typical kid. I tried to get him to rest for a little while, but he was back in the pool in no time, riding on his noodle and screaming “giddyup, horsey!” Clara didn’t make a big deal out of it, but I couldn’t stop thanking her. Her boyfriend had seen, so he came over and met me. He played with Mikey for awhile, molded his wet hair into a Mohawk, and Mikey, of course, went wild. So 36
while Clara’s boyfriend—his name was something with a J—was playing with Mikey, Clara and I took turns holding Ty in the pool. I told her that she was good with him, and she almost looked embarrassed. And this is what she told me. She said, “I always pay attention to kids, because I want to be a mom.” I knew that she would be a great mom—a perfect one, if that was possible. But I told her not to do it too soon, because she was so happy that summer, riding across the country in that orange VW, and you can’t do that sort of thing with kids in tow. I don’t really know how to describe Clara. She looked like that girl who you only see once, at a stoplight or on a train, and remember for a long time. What I noticed first was her smile, because it was a Julia Roberts smile. Later I saw how clean she was, for someone who had been traveling around for weeks. I don’t mean put-together—just clean. Clean from fresh air or resting her feet on a dashboard all day. That kind of clean. When I realized that it was seven o’clock, she helped me get the boys out of the pool. They listened to her better than they listened to me—because, well, they were in love with her already. She was new and exciting. I understood because she was the same for me. Clara helped me pack up the snacks and wrapped the boys in their towels. She told Mikey that he was brave, and I could practically see his heart leaping out of his chest. She kissed Ty Guy on the forehead, and she hugged me. “I’m glad we stopped here,” she told me. From the car, after I had strapped the boys into their car seats, I watched Clara and her boyfriend standing by the edge of the pool. They were getting ready to go, so I watched them wringing out their towels. They wrung them out one at a time, and they worked together. They would roll it up on the concrete, and then each take an end and twist it until water poured out of it. Then they would roll it up again and wring it out, until it was completely dry. I must have watched them for at least ten minutes. Ty and Mikey didn’t complain. They must have been watching, too. I think we were all mesmerized by that—by Clara, who took the time to wring out her towels all the way.
Yuli Kuan Photography
Dean Kang Painting
Ben McNutt Photography
August Whitney Painting
Nadia Kim Photography
Alake Shilling Painting
Jihyun Chong Painting
Nadia Kim Photography
Samuel Lee Sculpture
Samantha Jungheim Painting
Yuli Kuan Photography
Samuel Lee Painting
Ben McNutt Photography
Jing Li Photography
The Valley By Rebecca Cox
Home is a cereal bowl filled with Cracker Jack politics it is littered with the prize inside. There I am the Madonna or a whore, my sexuality is black and white. To the north is a bay and to the south a mountain range. Any direction you look, the mountains forbid progression. My daddy grew up working a yellow combine, my mom never worked after the babies were born. The air here is thick on a summer burn night, the almonds come off the trees and sound like rain. To me the 1950â€™s mentality is a lesson in confessional style poetry. To most it is comforting.
Living in the Fishbowl By Rebecca Cox
My bones are made of stone, and my flesh of frozen water. The flickering flame melts my tongue. The taste of pain coats my burning throat. I have come to know the pain of destruction, a constant for one made of water. I have come to know the pain of glory. A constant in the life of stone. And they in unison, as I am, become a thing of god. As water becomes stone. But I am not a believer in god, for god is becoming of both. And I admire neither.
The Life of a Tulip By Rebecca Cox
She cleaned the bathroom cabinet with her bleach white jawbone. Concealing encapsulated dust, she is fashioned of sandstone. We dance under a methadone sky, crying tears of impotence, we know she speaks a language of lies. Knee to chest, an artistic oasis warrants us to regress, we discuss the daunting possibility of social arrest. We know the stones have spoken truths, we ignore the blood, but protect the bruise.
Yoojean Kim Graphic
Bryant the Alien By Austin Okopny
“Go away,” Shannon shouts toward a plump, unwashed nine year old. His name is Bryant, and he’s very aware of his weight. He wears a grease-stained tee bought at Ross two years ago, with the words ‘annoying the world, one person at a time,’ written in bold. Shannon is his second cousin twice-removed, so the adults say, but Shannon doesn’t want to be associated with Bryant in any way, shape, or form. Shannon doesn’t like Bryant, because one time, earlier that afternoon, Bryant tripped and fell and grabbed onto Shannon’s chest for support. Naturally, Shannon went down too, and she fell right on top of his greasy hair, which, along with the grass, left stains on Shannon’s blouse. This caused a conservative Mrs. Lowry, Shannon’s overbearing mother, to freak. She went, as Bryant’s pen-pal Kyle would say, “ballistic.” What a way to meet a relative for the first time. Bryant responds to her command of going away only by poking her again, at which Shannon leaves his presence to join a group of boys playing soccer over in the field. They stop playing, notice her, and flock around. She sure is pretty. She says something, they look at poor Bryant, they laugh. Bryant follows over and pokes her again with his index finger, with the same stupid, playful smile he’s been wearing all day, and one of the boys, a year younger than Bryant, his third cousin, belts out: “Bryant the Giant!” At least it isn’t what Bryant is called at school: “an alien.” Bryant moves away from the whole group, to the adults. One can always find comfort in the conversation of adults. Bryant moves across the yellow dirt of the field to a set of picnic tables with a crowd of loud Texans. A group of men to Bryant’s left, doing what Bryant’ dad would call “shooting the shit,” drinking what Bryant’s mom would call “the complete cause of Western civilization.” To Bryant’s right, women, laughing, carrying on, Mrs. Lowry within the group. Mrs. Lowry. “Oh dear,” Mrs. Lowry probably said to the group earlier. “You know, Annabel, don’t take this the wrong way, but your son Bryant needs a bath. I know how things get, hun, but you just gotta turn the hose on him sometimes. I know my boy Christian is clean, but that’s only because I made sure of it. Your son fell on top of Shannon, and her blouse got covered in the grease from his hair. I didn’t even know hair-grease could stain clothing. Shannon, bless her heart, had to wait in the bathroom for an hour while I washed her things.” Christian. How Bryant hates Christian, everyone Christian is associated with, even Shannon, of course Shannon, Shannon is what Bryant’s brother called a bitch. Christian is golden, his blond hair neatly combed, how Bryant hates the comb, and Christian is slimy and atrocious and he has a lisp. But oh no, Bryant 55
can’t bring up the lisp because Christian is embarrassed. Because Mrs. Lowry made a point of it not to talk about the lisp, and the adults told the kids to take it easy on him. On him. He’s the center of all that is wrong with the world. He embodies the heart of evil. Of course, Bryant’s mother, Annie, wouldn’t tell the adults to tell the kids not to bring up Bryant’s weight. Of course not. But Mrs. Lowry does it, she tells people to take it easy on her kid. Why doesn’t Annie? Bryant leaves for a quick bathroom break, and hopes to come back and find his mother somewhere else instead of with Mrs. Lowry. He discovers her talking to a certain Mr. Derkin, a relative only by marriage, but Mrs. Derkin had passed away a few years ago, and Mr. Derkin seems to be ‘the most eligible bachelor in this here family reunion’, and Bryant’s mom is laughing and drinking Bud Light out of a can, talking to Mr. Derkin, and here Bryant is without anyone to pay attention to him, to care for him, to tell him to go wash his hair, to love him. Bryant thinks about Mrs. Lowry, and about Shannon, and about Christian. He wants his mom, and the way to get his mom to hug him and sympathize with him (that’s a vocabulary word!) and cry with him and hold him and watch stupid movies with him, the way to get to her, to get her away from Mr. Derkin, the slimeball, is to get her attention. Bryant goes back to the field. Shannon is still there twirling her hair at a boy named Ralph. Bryant walks right up to Ralph and clocks him. He falls, but Bryant is walking still, looking at the kids around him and he notices looks of disgust on their faces, and why can’t they feel like Bryant feels, why does Bryant have to be alone all the time, why can’t Bryant see and live like a normal human being? And Bryant is on top of Christian now, beating him, blood all on the neat clothes, Mrs. Lowry is going to have a fit about that, and the soccer kids are on Bryant now, and Bryant falls too, and Christian is up kicking Bryant to bits, becoming bruised and numb and Bryant is crying now, and the adults pay no attention. None whatsoever. Not until Christian finishes kicking and calls out the word which will most certainly bring Bryant a new nickname: Psychopath. Christian calls his mother, and Mrs. Lowry is now screaming at the blood, and what a horrible awful no-good kid Bryant is, who are you, you’re lucky Christian doesn’t need stitches, what would your father say, (don’t you dare, Mrs. Lowry, bring up Bryant’s father, who left them not six months ago), but she dares. Mrs. Lowry huffs and puffs and Bryant doesn’t belong with these people. He isn’t of this earth. Bryant is an alien.
The Lies of Evolution By Amber Morrell
What is it that reality tastes like? The sadness of your best friend disguised as cat scratches, the murmured mask belonging to all of us of what weâ€™re supposed to be; clean creatures, sensible creatures, moral creatures. Evolved from petty single-celled organisms that evolved from molecules that evolved from atoms that evolved from protons and neutrons and electrons that evolved from particles that evolved from energy. Why can we not see this energy. It bustles around us every day in the form of complicated words like infrastructure and technology, the beautiful creations of man utilizing science in assorted ways, letting parents far from their children celebrate their birthdays. Living in oscillating affection inconstant and imperfect a rose and all its molecules tie up in wilted wrinkles until it reaches a threshold of petals peeled back like skin pulled away in snaps off a sunburned arm, light hairs fluttering like wheat growing across a speckled ground. The iron in your blood exploding at the back of your throat like regurgitating pennies. Nothing but that which is held in the consciousness of society as disgust purpled into the realm beauty with arbitrary, senseless words. 57
This is what reality tastes like. This is what reality has always tasted like.
The 5 o’clock Villain By Austin Starr King
When the sun creeps in the east You let your pincers out, Cactus pricks, To claim my face for yourself. No more peach fuzz business either. You are Acne’s older brother Who tags him out. And I have to play The role of Sgt. McScruff, Private eye detective, With my five bladed razor Along in my briefs I carve you out But you’re smarter than that, I can’t scratch out the roots Like every good villain, By 5 o’clock, You’ve found your place In my visage, Another shadow of your Ingrown spies.
Lian Tsai Photography
Renee By Rebecca Cox
Renee wears dogteeth strung like pearls. Her hair hasn’t been washed in days and she smells like oysters Rockefeller mixed with gasoline. Her best friend is Mister Stress, a skeleton tattooed on her left forearm. Mister Stress relieves Renee of the memory sensitive scar tissue that plagues her body. Don’t ask her where she is going, she doesn’t know. Don’t ask her where she is coming from, she doesn’t remember. Renee wears rat tails like chandelier earrings. She walks the Kings Road like it’s her home turf, but the Manila Peninsula is really more her calling. Her wristwatch was a gift from her grandmother but she pawned that this morning. Don’t ask her to listen, narcissism runs in her blood. Don’t ask her to speak, she is much too weak and her liver is turning to dust.
Knocking By Scarlett McCarthy
I was sitting on the welcome mat, a bristly thing my mother thought inviting. It wasn’t, and I know this because I was locked outside. I was five, and it wasn’t that big of a deal, except it was. Not then. But after. It still is. Being on the outside of a house’s insides is lonely. Most things people do are, unless you like doing them. But even then. The key had fallen off my sunburned neck and into the mustard playground dirt somewhere. But that wasn’t it, it was the locked door. A lock was such a small mechanism, a minor deterrence. There were always rocks to break windows, but that wouldn’t be an invitation to step through the door frame and inside. I couldn’t be inside without them wanting me to be, without their desire for me to fill their space. The house was barren of life to allow me inside. I was prevented from running my fingertips across the polished staircase banister, running my palms over my mother’s clothes and watching fabrics find solitude in between fingers. I knew I would do it all again, sometime soon when my mother came home from work. But I was young and time seemed far off, like a balloon floating away from a birthday party and I was the one child watching it drift into an atmosphere I would never be apart of. When we played ding-dong ditch we ran the neighborhood’s narrow, paved streets, stubbing our bare toes against the open mouths of sprinklers. We never went into the houses, but I would lean into the windows, clear after the newspaper-and-vinegar solutions. Clean windows let outsiders know how you act inside, or how you look completing tasks. I wanted to know them how they knew each other, like scars, fragmented split ends of a memory. I wanted to be held together by tapestries bought on a Moscow honeymoon. Marriages, childhoods strung along by marionettes playing a memory. Everything was kept hidden, like their souls were tokens kept beneath floor boards. To pry them up would be treasure; they would take on wholeness. I couldn’t only know the college they attended. They kept that on their license plate frames, small reminders. But they knew each other as people, not the images reflected to a world ignorant of their existence. At night, after Mrs. Lorrison caught us and the kids stopped playing, I would ride my bike on our old routes and do it alone. Not because I was bad, or because it was fun, but because it was important. On the newspaper delivery route I threw the thick, grey rolls at potted plants and animals that sat on wooden porches. Garden gnomes were my favorite, people used to handpaint those. I never hit anything important to me, 62
just things important to other people. Things other people think important are the most special to me. It’s interesting to value what other people love, they like you more. Then they let you see their kitchen’s rooster wallpaper that fades in time like cloth on bone. Dogs went missing. Once the signs were posted I took the dogs back and the owners let me on the porch. But never into the house. Dogs weren’t worth allowing me in the house. Dogs are Christmas ornaments. Memories are attached, but most people don’t think they’re important enough. I would if I had one. I never did the same block when I knocked at night. Knocking in the night, in the darkness was vulnerable. Not for me. It had stopped affecting me that way. They would come outside, in their house slippers kept next to a bed but never worn, but worn now because it made them feel stable. They’d be angry, and that was expected, because I could be anybody; people fear that. No one likes possibilities, not really. I think the most important thing was that I existed, and now these people knew that. I existed whether I knocked on their door or not. With cookwear I was allowed in. Not because of me, but because of what I was selling. And I could go in, past the frame that had always kept me out. The thing is, once you’re inside a house it’s nothing like what you thought because most houses are different. Even if the people inside pretend not to be.
Lian Tsai Drawing
Confusion is Natural By Austin Starr King
Weave its mane through your knuckles, light the match with a kick let your lip bleed with a winded curiosity. Play with the sand, that turned to gunpowder. You built your castle around your head in a coffin. Your thoughts, on paper, mean nothing in this dimension. Nearer and nearer to exist caress life with gravity, but donâ€™t break a nail. You only have one. A hairpin conscious is not extinct, but all that it does is frustrate a species that has grown to expect a higher existence. Weâ€™re all still on the field, conscious as statues with noses skinned off. That always expects our importance is significant to every law of physics and to the minute hand of the clock. Another timeless invention of man. Homo Sapiens is Latin for wise and like Uranium our existence is unstable. An incomplete thought, Build more technology Build less meaning The map is at the edge. Migration is in the law of gravitation. 65
Everyone is pushed on. Proceed on; but at the edge, all goes down the sink like light that rotted, prisons too can be wrought with rainbows.
Luke Sherman Photography
Platinum By Ariel Bevan
Fontaine’s sort of not really heard of him before she meets him. It’s one of those “I’ve heard of him from my friend’s friend who knows this girl over at the other school who’s best friends with this other girl who knows one of his guy friends” things, the chains that distort information past something recognizable. Usually. This time, though, she’s fairly certain it’s correct. It’s not like it’s one particular thing she hears. No, she hears a lot about him. Kind of. Not really. It’s sort of like he comes up in stories about other things that he’s not directly involved with, but always seems to help out with, and — she’s not really sure, to be honest. He’s just kind of… there. Someone she doesn’t know but wishes she did. Funnily enough, though, for all the little parts he plays in stories, she’s not sure she’s ever heard what he looks like. It puzzles her a bit. She’s heard girls giggle about him in hallway corners, blushing and gossiping, and guys laughing on the sidewalks — but she’s never heard a description. But despite that — despite that she doesn’t know, couldn’t know — she knows him when she sees him on the street, that figure who shows up and saves the day in all those silly little after-class stories without ever revealing his face. She watches him pass on the other side of the street, surrounded by people, and smiling (why does it look so — she doesn’t know the word). It’s so cliché, she knows it is, but he looks at her a few seconds after she started staring like he knew, and — There’s something about the shadow playing over his silver eyes that makes her stomach freeze at the same time a thrill runs up her spine. His eyes don’t do much besides flicker, and she’s quickly dragged along by her friends. Her eyes follow him over her shoulder and as far as her head can go, but he keeps moving too and it’s like nothing happened. She turns her head forward and keeps that in mind, but there’s something that won’t stop pounding in her chest. It’s not a fluttery sort of pounding, but it’s actually pounding against the walls of her ribcage, trying to get out. She doesn’t know what it is, but she almost wants to run after that mystery figure with the side-swept dark hair and silver eyes and that funny smile that’s almost not quite fake but almost — and what? She catches him and then what? She keeps walking with her friends, occasionally peeking over her shoulder just in case — just in case? — he felt like his chest was being eaten by something too, a weird pressure and expansion that felt a little bit like fear. (Nothing happened, she reminds herself, lying on her bed at home. It doesn’t stop the near painful pounding in her chest, but — Nothing happened.)
Holiday Cheer By Amber Morrell
A holiday display in the middle of a mall. Stage left there is a large, red, festively-decorated chair. It is empty. Stage right there is a line of people waiting behind a red rope. HOWARD (the father, mid-forties), LAINEY (the mother, mid-forties) and DRAKE (the son, twelve or thirteen years old) are waiting in line. LUKE, the photographer dressed like an elf, is controlling the line. LUKE Alright folks, it’ll just be a few minutes, Santa’s taking a potty break. (LUKE begins messing with his camera, fixing up Santa’s chair, etc. until his next line.) DRAKE Ugh, I can’t believe you guys made me come here. Seriously? (beat) Dad, can we please leave? HOWARD It’s up to your mother. LAINEY Come on, it’ll be fun! You love coming to see Santa! And sitting on his lap, and getting your picture taken... DRAKE Yeah, when I was five. I’m way too old for this crap. LAINEY I will not be hearing language like that coming out of your mouth, young man! You are not that old. I mean, after all, I’m only twenty-five. (LAINEY pulls out a compact and fixes her makeup.) DRAKE What? Twenty-five? In y our dreams-68
HOWARD Drake! Just let her have her moment. DRAKE (whispers) What is this, a mid-life crisis? She just turned forty three! HOWARD Well, this is what happens when a woman stops bleeding out of her uterus-DRAKE Dad! Ew. I get it. HOWARD Anyway, she’s taking it pretty hard. DRAKE I’ll say. (ROB, the mall Santa, returns from his potty break and sits in his chair.) LAINEY Oh, look, he’s here! Oh--oh... (LAINEY is suddenly uncomfortable when she sees ROB.) DRAKE Ugh, what is it now? LAINEY Nothing! It’s just... um... a sale! I forgot about a sale at Forever 25! (DRAKE facepalms.) DRAKE M om. Seriously!? It’s called Forever Twenty-One, and we already went there. (beat) Nothing fit you. (beat) It’s for teenagers. LUKE All right, folks, you’re up!
(LUKE messes with his camera until his next line.) LAINEY Actually, we should get going... HOWARD Hell no. We waited in line for forty five minutes to see Santa, so Drake is damn well going to see Santa! (HOWARD pushes DRAKE toward ROB. LAINEY hesitates, but then joins them. ROB sees LAINEY and suddenly looks tense and nervous. DRAKE sits himself on ROB’s lap.) DRAKE Here M om, happy? LAINEY Now now, I don’t know if you have to sit on his lap. (to Howard) Honey, is this really necessary? HOWARD Of course it is. LUKE Dang it, out of film. I’ll be right back to take your picture, all right? (LUKE exits.) ROB Well, uh... ho ho ho... what’s your name? DRAKE Drake. ROB Drake! And, uh... How old are you Drake? DRAKE Thirteen.
ROB Thirteen! And, uh... is this your mom? (LAINEY begins pacing nervously back and forth. HOWARD grabs her and makes her stand next to him.) HOWARD Settle down. DRAKE Yep. And that’s my dad. Can we hurry up? ROB Of course, of course... uh... what would you like for Christmas, Drake? LAINEY Howard, I’m hungry . DRAKE I’m Jewish. ROB Oh! I didn’t know that! DRAKE Good, you shouldn’t know that. That would be creepy. LAINEY Just tell him what you want, honey. ROB Well what would you like for Hannukah? DRAKE Actually, we’re not practicing. (ROB rolls his eyes.) DRAKE Wait, I have a question: (points to ROB) If he gets a boner, can we sue?
HOWARD Drake! Behave. DRAKE Fine, fine. Get on with it. LAINEY Howard I really have to pee. ROB Well, um... what would you like for... this holiday season? DRAKE How politically correct of y ou, Santa. You know, they don’t pay you--(enough) LAINEY Just get on with it!! (Everyone looks up at LAINEY.) DRAKE Jeez, mom, what is your deal? HOWARD Calm down... This was your idea. Let’s just get this over with, and then we’ll go home, okay? ROB So, um, anyways... what was it you wanted?
DRAKE Let’s see, for starters, I’d like my family to stop being such a freak show. (LAINEY in anxiously tapping her foot. Looking frazzled.) ROB O-okay, anything else? LAINEY Howard I think I left the oven on!
DRAKE Yeah, I also want Fallout: New Vegas. ROB Video games! Okay, uh... ho ho ho. I’ll see what my elves can do. DRAKE Elves can’t make video games. It requires advanced computer technology. Unless lasers come out of your elves’ eyes. ROB Well, maybe they do. DRAKE ... that’s badass. LAINEY So, are you finished? ROB Is there anything else? DRAKE Yeah, there is. I frickin’ hate my family. My mom walks around acting like a stupid teenage girl, and makes me do things like I’m still a little kid. (LAINEY looks offended.) LAINEY I do not! I love you! You’re my baby boy!
DRAKE See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about! HOWARD Come on, Drake, that’s not fair. Your mother might be going through a... rough time, but we’re not all freaks. DRAKE Ugh, don’t even get me started on my Dad. He has absolutely no idea how to act in society. He’s always saying these ridiculous things in public and they’re so embarrassing! It’s like he has no concept of reality! 73
(HOWARD looks offended. LAINEY touches HOWARD endearingly.) LAINEY I think it’s cute. DRAKE But my mom is the worst. She makes all kinds of stupid drama with her friends, who are equally insane and menopausal, so they stopped calling her. And now the one friend she does have left has dragged her into a secret cult. ROB I’m sure that’s ridiculous, Lainey’s not part of a secret cult. DRAKE Like you would know. You’re just a mall Santa. And don’t call my mom by her first name, it’s weird. HOWARD How do you know my wife’s name? LAINEY Um, well, you see-ROB Let’s just say she’s one of Santa’s little helpers... ho ho ho. (HOWARD looks confused, LAINEY looks incredibly freaked out.) DRAKE (to parents) Excuse me! If you want to talk to Santa, wait your turn! (to Santa) Anyway, it would be nice if they could stop having secret, evil cult rituals in her room in the middle of the night whenever my Dad’s away. It’s creepy. HOWARD Okay , hold the phone. What are you talking about? Evil cult? Secret rituals? DRAKE Yeah, I bet it’s why mom is such a spazz all the time. LAINEY I am not a sp azz! We should really talk about this at home. I’m sorry , Rob, but 74
we really should get going-(LAINEY pulls DRAKE off of ROB’s lap.) HOWARD Stop! Lainey, Drake is right. I understand this is a hard time for you, but you’ve taken this too far. First of all, you try shopping at all the ‘trendy’ teenage stores thinking you’re barely over twenty, then our son thinks you are part of a secret cult, and now you’re on first name terms with the mall Santa! LAINEY It’s not what it looks like! DRAKE So you’re not part of a cult? Damn it. I was hoping that was why the CIA were outside our house. EVERYONE What!? (DRAKE is shocked at their surprise.) DRAKE Well with that crappy car that always parks outside our house whenever you have secret meetings, I thought it had to be undercover CIA agents just waiting to crack down on you. ROB Crappy car! HOWARD Okay , so there’s a weird car that parks outside whenever your mother’s... “rituals” are happening. DRAKE Yeah. She locks the door and there’s all this moaning, I thought she was getting raped by the devil, like in Rosemary’s Baby. ROB The devil! HOWARD So there’s a car outside, her bedroom door is locked, and there is moaning? 75
Lainey? Is there something you need to tell me? (Everyone looks at LAINEY.) LAINEY I... I... uh... um... (ROB suddenly jumps up and rips off his hat, throwing it to the ground.) ROB All right all right! They found us out! I knew the second I sat down that the jig was up, Lainey! Don’t fight it. HOWARD What! What is this! (HOWARD looks from LAINEY to ROB, then makes the connection.) DRAKE Wait. What’s going on? HOWARD The mall Santa? The mall Santa? You’ve been ..... with the mall Santa!? LAINEY It’s not what it looks like! (beat) ROB First of all, my Toyota is not crappy! HOWARD (turns to ROB) How dare you! (HOWARD goes threateningly toward ROB. He lifts a fist, ready to strike. DRAKE holds him back.) LAINEY Don’t hurt him! 76
DRAKE I don’t even know what’s happening! Can someone please explain... (DRAKE is ignored. HOWARD, fists clenched, stops, then decides to pull on ROB’s beard instead.) ROB Ow, god damn it, that’s real! HOWARD Sorry , sorry! (beat) Wait, why am I apologizing to you! Not only did you bang my wife, but you did it while my son was home!? ROB I had no idea she was married, or had kids for that matter! (beat. ROB gives LAINEY bedroom eyes) You can’t tell. HOWARD How can you say that to my face! Homewrecker! (ROB looks insulted, but does not have a comeback.) DRAKE Wait... what? M om? M om, you didn’t...? (LUKE enters.) LUKE All right folks, ready for your p hoto? HOWARD We’ll pass. LUKE Oh, nonsense! For all the waiting you had to do, it’s on me. Now sit back down on his lap and squeeze together real tight. (ROB sits down. LUKE p ushes DRAKE’s shoulders so he is sitting on ROB again. He then pushes HOWARD on one side of ROB and LAINEY to the other.)
LUKE Good, good. Wait, your hat! There. Now don’t be afraid to get in there real close, Dad. Good. Okay, ready ? One. Two. Three. Cheese! (No one is smiling. LUKE snaps the picture.) LUKE Perfect! DRAKE I hate you all! (DRAKE runs off the stage.) HOWARD Drake! (HOWARD begins to run after him, but stops and looks back at LAINEY and ROB.) HOWARD Is this what you wanted? (HOWARD runs off stage.) ROB It might not be Christmas yet, baby, but Santa’s lap is always ready. (LAINEY sits on ROB’s lap. LUKE clears his throat and looks away, messing with his camera uncomfortably.) LAINEY Now what? ROB Will I still see you tonight? (LAINEY looks off-stage, then to ROB, thinking. She nods, bites her lip, and gives him bedroom eyes.)
LAINEY Eight thirty? ROB You got it. (winks) (LAINEY giggles then runs after HOWARD. ROB smacks her ass as she runs.) LAINEY Howard, honey, wait! (ROB gets up and walks off the other side of the stage.) ROB I need a beer. (LUKE looks around, confused.) LUKE Um! M erry Christmas! (LUKE looks around and sighs. He looks down at his camera. He looks to the left. He looks to the right. He shrugs, and walks off stage, humming Jingle Bells.)
Jing Li Photography
The Last to Know By Scarlett McCarthy
SCENE: A café. A man, DUNCAN, sits at a table. He is thirty years old and attractive but disheveled. DUNCAN’s hair is messy and he wears a university sweatshirt over his black suit pants and white button down. The shirt tails stick out. (DUNCAN checks his watch. He takes a sip of coffee. It is too hot and he jumps, spilling the coffee onto his pants. He stares down, and slumps back into his seat. He checks his watch again.) DUNCAN (to himself, exasperated) Just great. ISABELLE enters the coffee shop. She is noticeably beautiful and is dressed eccentrically in mismatched patterns and fabrics. She carries a stack of papers under her arms and her keys jangle loudly from a lanyard. (ISABELLE walks over to DUNCAN. She is unsure if it is him.) ISABELLE Are you Duncan? DUNCAN Uh, yeah. You’re Isabelle? (He looks her over. She is not what he expected.) ISABELLE Yeah! I’m so happy to finally meet you! DUNCAN (shaking her hand) Yeah. It’s really good to meet you too. Evan’s told me a lot about you. 81
(They sit down. There is a moment of silence.)
ISABELLE So, um, how are you? DUNCAN I’ve been okay. You? ISABELLE Everything’s been really great. You’re a substitute teacher right? (DUNCAN fidgets against his chair. He crosses, uncrosses, and crosses his legs. He takes another sip of coffee.) DUNCAN Temporarily. While I get my Masters. (beat) I went off track for a few years. ISABELLE It’s good you kept going, you know? That’s what matters. I’m so proud of Evan for getting published. (beat) You both quit school at the same time didn’t you? DUNCAN Yeah, we did it together. We thought everything would work out but, uh, I didn’t do too well without the structure. ISABELLE Evan’s always been a free thinker. (beat) I heard some of your old band’s stuff. You’re a really good songwriter. DUNCAN Thanks. 82
ISABELLE So, uh, why did you want me to meet you here? DUNCAN We need to talk about Evan. ISABELLE About why he hasn’t called? DUNCAN Um, no. I’m not sure how to phrase it. ISABELLE You think we should break up. DUNCAN I don’t know if he’s said anything. About how I feel about the situation. ISABELLE The situation? DUNCAN I just don’t think he should be with you. ISABELLE Is that why he hasn’t called me? Because he feels the same way? DUNCAN No. That’s not really it. What I meant to say to you was that(interrupting him) ISABELLE You think I should break up with him. DUNCAN Um, no. ISABELLE Do you think I don’t deserve him? That I’m not good enough? DUNCAN He’s married.
ISABELLE I know that. DUNCAN Really married. I mean, he built a tree house for kids he doesn’t even have yet. ISABELLE It’s none of your business, you know. I mean, we don’t even know each other. You’re Evan’s best friend but Evan and I are adults. And we made a decision to be together despite the complications. DUNCAN Complications? Is that what you call marriage? ISABELLE I didn’t come here for this, Duncan. (beat) So why did I come here. DUNCAN I don’t know how to say it. I rehearsed it over and over again to the guy at the dry cleaners who gives me lollipops. (ISABELLE pulls a flask from her bag and pours some alcohol into her coffee cup. DUNCAN realizes what she did and looks around to make sure no one else has noticed. He waits for her to speak. She seems to notice.) ISABELLE (trying to say something) Well if he gives you lollipops. (beat) I know you must think I’m wrong to be with Evan. But that’s because you don’t know us. You know Evan as this one guy. (ISABELLE stirs sugar and cream into her coffee as she speaks.)
ISABELLE (Cont’d) He’s someone you met when you were in college who had all these ambitions. Plans. He wanted to build homeless shelters in old hotels and to you, he‘ll always be that person you admired. (beat) But people change. They change when they grow up. He’s still so amazingly talented. But he’s different now. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. He’s different. DUNCAN You just can’t be together anymore. ISABELLE I know our relationship won‘t last forever. But when it does end it will be my decision. DUNCAN Sleeping with Evan isn’t what I need to talk to you about. I’m not here to lecture you on the morality of having an affair. There isn’t any. (beat) Everyone seems to know that except you. ISABELLE (saddened, under her breath) He said you were like this. DUNCAN That I was like what? ISABELLE Nothing. (pause) I didn’t mean anything by it. Sorry. (beat) I really do like this French roast. DUNCAN What did he tell you, Isabelle?
ISABELLE I don’t want to say anything that will make you jump to conclusions. DUNCAN Conclusions? I can’t just jump to conclusions. What did he say, Isabelle? ISABELLE Nothing. DUNCAN Tell me. ISABELLE What he and I talk about is none of your business. DUNCAN When the subject is me then, yeah, it is my business. ISABELLE I’m not here to stir the pot or bring up old resentments. Just tell me why you called me so I can go back to work. DUNCAN No. Screw that. Evan told me you don’t even work. ISABELLE (indignantly) I have a job. I’m a dog walker. (pause) And Evan would never say I don’t work. He walks the Cohen poodles with me. DUNCAN You walk dogs so you can spend time figuring out what do with your life. ISABELLE I’m only twenty-two. DUNCAN Yeah. Apparently that means you can ruin marriages and have no conscious knowledge of your actions. ISABELLE It’s not like that.
DUNCAN Then what’s it like? You just accidentally start sleeping with Evan. And then you thought hey, why not? Because that’s just how relationships work. ISABELLE You can’t just assume things about people you don’t know. It’s wrong. DUNCAN Please do not tell me what’s wrong. (DUNCAN takes a sip of his coffee, sets it down, and picks up her spiked coffee. He drinks it all.) DUNCAN Do you think it’s been easy lying to Brooke? Not telling her about my best friend, her husband, sleeping with a dog walker? ISABELLE I understand how hard it is to keep secrets. Believe me. But just imagine how Evan feels having to lie to Brooke. DUNCAN How Evan feels? You both chose this. When did I choose this, Isabelle? (beat) You want to know what’s funny? (beat) When he first told me I said, “You’re married to a preschool teacher who’s beautiful, and you want to date a dog walker?” He just smiled and he said you were different. You made him feel like a kid again. Like you were his first love. ISABELLE He said that? DUNCAN And I didn’t tell Brooke. I’ve known her for sixteen years. But I didn’t say anything because he was so happy and I couldn’t ruin it. ISABELLE (she mumbles but it’s audible) 87
Like it wasn’t to protect Brooke. DUNCAN Protect Brooke. Why would I do that? ISABELLE I don’t know. DUNCAN What did you mean? ISABELLE It just seems like you care about her a lot. DUNCAN Of course I care about her. ISABELLE I bet. DUNCAN Brooke’s an amazing person. ISABELLE So I‘ve heard. Everyone’s in love with her for a reason, right? DUNCAN Not everyone. I wouldn’t say everyone’s in love with her. ISABELLE Well that’s good that she’s Evan’s wife then. It’s sacred. DUNCAN Just because you do what you want, when you want, just because you can, doesn’t make it right. ISABELLE You don’t know what you’re talking about. DUNCAN You’re a narcissist.
ISABELLE Stop pretending like you know me. DUNCAN Admit that you don’t care how you’re affecting Evan’s life. ISABELLE You want to lecture me on morality? Fine. But I know it’s because you’re just jealous. DUNCAN Of what? The fact that you do immature things because you can’t accept reality? ISABELLE Well that’s what your problem is! DUNCAN Don’t assume everyone’s just as screwed up as you are! ISABELLE There isn’t good and bad and I’m sorry if you despise me for not caring what you or anyone else has to say, but I know I love Evan. (beat) I was naïve to think you could understand anyone‘s motives but your own. This was a mistake. (ISABELLE gathers her things and begins to stand up.) DUNCAN Wait. (ISABELLE pauses. She stands next to the table.) DUNCAN I called you because I need to tell you something.
So you’ve said. (DUNCAN realizes the weight of what he’s going to say. He looks down at the table. ISABELLE sits down but her 89
belongings remain on her lap beneath folded arms.) DUNCAN Evan was on his way home from work. And he was speeding. Evan loves that. And he loved that new Ferrari he had to have. There wasn’t much traffic. So he ran a red light. He always did that. You know. Like a cheap thrill. Evan loves a cheap thrill. (beat) I didn’t know how to tell you. I realized you were still here thinking Evan was too. (ISABELLE is looking at DUNCAN. She intensely stares at him.) ISABELLE I don’t understand. DUNCAN Evan was in an accident. ISABELLE So you’re saying — DUNCAN He’s gone. ISABELLE And you thought you could wait until now to tell me? DUNCAN I didn’t know how to tell you. ISABELLE Why would you say those things that to me if you knew? Did you want me to think I was wrong? DUNCAN I didn‘t say any of the things I planned. ISABELLE What you planned? You heartless bastard. 90
DUNCAN It wasn’t like that. ISABELLE Then what was it like Duncan? Because I‘m sitting over here and it feels like shit. DUNCAN You don’t seem too upset. ISABELLE Tell me how I should seem, Duncan. I don’t even know how to feel, so I’m sorry for not reacting properly. (ISABELLE gets up to leave.) DUNCAN I didn’t mean it like that. ISABELLE You want to know something? (beat) No one knows that I exist anymore. No one but you. (ISABELLE walks away.) DUNCAN (to himself.) Bye.
Jihyun Chong Photography
Shards of a Mother By Whitney Aviles-Low
You are sitting in the garden sinking deeply in the scent of sweet weeds as the children weave wreaths out of yellowed grass by the creek. Your daughter has fingers short and fat like bees. They hover over each stem — appear, almost, to float — each landing delicately, one at a time, on their intricate creation. Each sheared strand on her maple head holds a double-reflection (the sun on the water on her hair) imparting a certain electroluminescence to her dusty face. You can see the darkened skin where, a moment before, her brother smeared mud across her cheek. There is still a network of black veins caked into her lower lip. Normally, she has the complexion of a white plastic rose. There is something nearly false in that frail beauty of hers, something that mocks you for its dishonesty. Yet beauty cruel is beauty still. You learned this the day she clung to you, all those fat little fingers curling into your pant leg. The void of her onyx eyes were touched by a certain brightness, like a baby animal’s that knows it’s going to die. Her voice trembled when she told you, when she pointed to a stranger in the crowd and said, ‘It’s that man, Papa. The one that keeps following me.’ They scared you, oh how those words scared you. You thought for a moment you would shoot the man and take your daughter far away, out of state maybe, or out of country, yet an infinite number of strangers lay out there, each wringing his greedy hands, each hungry for her beauty. So you said a prayer to her mother, dressed the girl in rags, and sheared off all her pretty curls. No man has followed her since. Now she crowns herself with her wreath, and never have you seen a thing so perfect in its imperfection. The dead plants, twisted and bent, remind you of a crown of thorns. Her brother gave up on his wreath long ago. He’s playing with the tadpoles now, beneath the shade of a bent and bleeding Manzanita. He’s waving a small U.S flag he stole from the pocket of a little boy who wanted to be an actor. Last you heard, the boy disappeared one night at a Fourth of July Block party and was never found. That boy with the stolen flag has never, not once, called you ‘Papa.’ It has always been, since he first deigned to speak at the age of three, ‘Yes sir. No sir.’ He smiles only when the fireflies die on your porch every morning. Every time you sweep them, you see him grinning from the window, his square teeth lined up like powder-heads on a tribunal. Sometimes the sun catches them in the lightless house, and though you can’t see his face, his teeth ghost through the glass. He is all mouth, and yet he barely speaks a word. 93
The tadpoles bore him. He throws his wreath into the water and hides himself among the bent body of the Manzanita. He curls into its blood-stained arms, and for a moment you lose sight of him. You think, ‘He was never there. He is buried, and that tree is his honest body.’ A falling left shoe shatters your illusion. It has black and red stripes, imitating a sports car. The tree spits out the rest of him. You remember he is yours. You think of your wife and the sound of her voice drifts through you, the deep humming that travelled through the earth and wrapped it in a cloud. You think of when your daughter’s curls were her mother’s pride, and when your son’s voice was his mother’s secret treasure. You think of how your wide hands were her bulwark, and of the day those hands failed. You think of how the weeds in the garden were once flowers and all that remains of them is a heavy sweetness, lingering like perfume in a hospital hall. You stopped remembering the color of her hair once it was gone, and you forgot the color of her eyes once they were closed. The weeds might remember, and the creek certainly does, since she spent so much time around both. The children may remember, but you don’t believe they do. They were both very young, and they don’t miss her yet. You think she was a tall woman, often wore a white blouse and pale jeans cut off at the knees, where began the soft curves of freckled flesh embracing her calves, dipping at the ankles, stretching at the bare feet. She used to glide about the kitchen with the movements of a ghost, stopping in front of you, reaching out her pale hands. Her fingers made a sound like the earth breathing, and when you press your cheek to the dirt you still hear it: Thrum. Thrum. It fades in the ring of a shout. The children are fighting again. He pulled her precious wreath apart. The crucifix her mother gave her gleams on her throat. The mud is in his hand.
Grace Shin Photography
A Lily’s Smell By Katie Johnson
I love the way she smells. Like pavement just after it rains. Nothing like my old girlfriend. She would try to mask her body odors under thick clouds of perfume. It made me think of the Febreze commercials that showed tuna fish and flowers simultaneously hailing in the nuclear family’s living room. Even the cat makes the sour face from the scent, then it goes on to explain how Febreze eliminates bad odor instead of masking it. Anyways, the point is Lily didn’t smell like that. She smelled like the wet pavement or freshly mown grass. Sweet, and fresh, nothing that could be bottled up.
Jihyun Chong Photography
October Chill By Madi Hartzog-Warren
It starts at my waist Wraps around me, pulls me Electrifies my skin Fingers moving along my belly, sternum, breasts, Exhaling He pushes my hair in wisps away from my neck Wrists make ripples Hips make waves Lips release heat Dissipate into the purest form of energy
How to Tell if You’re About to Burst into Flames By Amber Morrell
You never know when you’re about to spontaneously combust, because it’s exactly that— spontaneous. You build something up and you think you’re doing so well and then it all just goes up in flames. It’s like someone suddenly presses ‘refresh’ on the keyboard of your life, and you want to bang your head against the wall because you just typed two heated paragraphs in response to a political debate over someone’s Facebook status. But really, it was being around the same girl day in, day out, never really knowing her, and then finally realizing you’re in love with her. In addition to said realization, instead of going out and getting some, you sit on the couch drinking Diet Coke, watching 16 and Pregnant on MTV, and wondering why your life sucks. And then you burst into flames. I saw her every day. We’d sit in libraries reading back issues of the New Yorker and listening to clocks tic, then run through 24-hour drug stores late into the night and sing along to whatever easy listening radio station they were playing. Wouldn’t that have been nice, a mutually platonic relationship where fun times could be had even in our own little suburban sanctuary? But it wasn’t like that, not even close. The truth is that I sat next to her in my English class the entire year and sometimes she’d lean over to whisper the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ into my ear. Occasionally she’d wave and say hello if she passed me outside of class because it would be awkward if we were walking towards each other down the hall and neither of us said anything. Rarely would she stop me and we’d talk about things like homework or random school gossip that I honestly did not give a rat’s ass about. Even rarer would she do this when she had a friend with her— but it did happen, a couple times. Once she sat at the same table as me at lunch, but it wasn’t because I was there and we only exchanged a few words. Neither of us tried to take our ‘classmate’ status to any other level, and I doubt she even thought about it ever. Even though I did. My feelings hid in a dusty corner of my brain, in the same file cabinet where I kept nineties pop songs, formulas for solving polynomials, and anything I’d ever learned about Hemingway. They were there, but constantly unacknowledged and denied. I hadn’t realized their full potency until two days before the end of the school year. It had always been there, subconsciously, but now that file had moved from the dusty file cabinet to the top of the head honcho’s desk, the one that actually worked. Now that I was actually acknowledging this, I was feeling something that couldn’t be described in any words other than, “Oh, shit.” I know it wasn’t love I felt—I’m not so sentimental and gushy to think that I had found The One, or anything like that—but it was at least a very clear 98
and deep infatuation. I found myself suddenly wanting to see her and talk to her and get to know her, so unlike my previous efforts. As a result, the only thing I accomplished was a growing fear of her, and instead of approaching her I did exactly the opposite and avoided her completely. On the last day, however, I resolved to say something to her, if only a friendly farewell and a hope for correspondence over the summer, so that somehow I might be able to see her and build a relationship with her then. Conversations ran through my brain, imaginary words that I would say and she would say in response that I knew would never go as smoothly as I had planned it in my mind. They were all just impossible scenarios that seemed so good within the confines of my skull, but if they ever escaped they’d be not so bueno. Finally my English period came, and after I handed in my term paper— subpar due to the wandering of my mind the night before—I leaned over in hopes of striking up a conversation that would make her fall head over heels in love with me. “So,” I asked, “what’d you write your paper about?” To my amazing tact and irresistible seduction, she replied: “Nineteenth century British literature.” “… Awesome.” And with that she turned away to socialize with some girls on the other side of her, about beach trips and learner’s permits and God knows what else. I quietly opened a battered detective novel, but in the half hour that passed I reread the same paragraph about picking the lock to a prostitute’s apartment over and over and over. By the time the bell rang she was surrounded by others, and I recognize a lost cause when I see one. Later I spotted her laughing at lunch, hugging friends that she wouldn’t see for a long while, getting them to sign her yearbook. I kept seeing myself in my mind going up to her and saying something substantial. I didn’t. It was just another one of those impossible scenarios. I tried to push her out of my mind, tell myself that she was way out of my league anyway, but the nauseated feeling in my gut didn’t leave for the rest of the day. That night I sat with my eyes glued to a glowing television set and a can of Diet Coke in my hand and thoughts of her replaying again and again and again in my mind. There was a fluttering but sick, guilty feeling in my chest, mostly regret and disgust in myself, in my anxiety, and in the fact that I never have the balls to do exactly what I want to. I crushed the empty can in my hand and closed my eyes, ready to bang my head against that wall. I vowed that next time things would be different. Someone pressed refresh. Then I burst into flames.
Find Her By Yareli Rivas-Torres
I found broken glass in her palm Blow slowly and feel it stab your white lips Watch it crash and scratch the red door house Red will lead to yellow cheese meadow Where the white mice rule And the rats will guard with cat claws Follow the posiesâ€™ gossamer smell And I will hold your hand Together we will find the white mouse king Oh, it is only a tombstone Filled with mice-eating rats Sink down the dirt; let it gobble your flesh Or hold on to the stone you coward For death wishes to eat you It will follow us It smells your leaking lip Salty, like a gasping salt ocean That cages her scream But do not inhale the broken glass It smells of her blood And your nose will know death
Fire By Simone Wild
Burned bitter red charcoal Almond musk, I smell it Because it lingers on the garment you made me Wear and throw away. Fishing through beads and Blisters of blood (which boil in my ears You can’t hear the pulse anyway). Led into a river that runs between Parts into an ocean of Chrysanthemum seeds. Rip it open, please. See the glistening things inside? Are they still alive, or do they Mark that which we hide, as creatures That breathe like swollen cotton? Everything blooms once a year Snapping shots from the pistol Worn as an accessory by the childless mothers. I can’t hear it when it burns a hole Into shattered teeth that hold the world together; It’s all wrecked lace and keys that don’t fit. The clothes are torn. Ripped dragonfly wings. My heart was set under the water-wheel. Have you found that it was Your stained doors that pulled it Open? My heart is held In two thousand other cavities. It’s funny that Your ashes are twisted 101
Bricks that make up the walls Of the sanctuary. That which bleeds sunlight Only does so When it rains. The snapdragon only wept. Iâ€™d pull apart the hipbone That holds yours and my pieces together If it meant the feathers would stop falling And the whispers would cease. Foretold in the mountain ribbon; The river that separates, knocks And winds to the sea of whiskey sleep. This treacherous fire licks my skin.
Zoe Ingram Photography
Moonstones By Taylor Johnson
Her momma always said her life was too good to be true. Little Miss Perfect, all decked out with her shiny lip gloss and red apple cheeks, her mahogany hair streaming like red-gold ribbon from the brim of her cap. Her name was Keeley. She wore dark brown riding boots that always smelled like new leather. Her hands were hard, encrusted with calluses like a man’s, but small and slender. Her momma always said her hands were quick as the devils. Thing is, they weren’t. She had a laugh bright as crystal and eyes gray as moonstones. Sometimes the light would glance off her eyes and they’d flash violet, but then she’d blink and they’d be gray again, pale as starlight at dawn. Her eyes are all anyone cares about now: big and white, blind as a bat and completely empty. They say her soul left her the day she fell. They say she chased it away. That girl was never lacking for anything. An only child, she asked once and she received. Her daddy was a farmer to the bone, born and raised, but he was no stranger to money. He knew how to invest. Her momma was a Christian of the greatest kind. After a shotgun wedding at fifteen, she turned to God to solve all her problems. Five days a week in church, she never let her little girl forget the mistakes she’d made, and she never let her get the chance to commit her own. That girl grew up straighter than a board, and she didn’t even know it. She had everything a girl could ever want; she just didn’t have any idea what to do with it. But then again, she did love one thing. It was the thing that lit her up from the inside, made her eyes shimmer like moonlight on water: her horses. She was up by five every morning, would have slept in the barn if her daddy let her. She had a whole herd all to herself, and God knows she loved every one of them. Ribbons coated the walls of her bedroom, trophies lined the bookshelves. That girl was the best kind of winner: completely self-taught, she rode for the joy of it. And it wasn’t hard to see. Nothing ever looked so beautiful as that girl on a horse. The horses kept her busy. She never had much to do with boys, and they never had much to do with her. You’d think the boys would swarm around a pretty girl like that, but they couldn’t get past the hard-set mouth, the bored gaze, the stinted conversation. She didn’t talk anything but horses; she didn’t think anything but them either. She wore her boots every day, and she kept an extra halter in her backpack. The only makeup she ever wore was her lip gloss. So those boys watched her from a distance, too intimidated by her focus and her dedication. Her momma preferred it that way. She knew boys had a way of twisting their fingers around a young girl’s heart, and once they drew their fist away, that heart was too mangled to beat on its own. But Keeley’s heart beat only for 104
her horses. She should have kept it that way. His name was Jackson Wyatt. A big boy from a small town, she met him when she was sixteen, the year the stars in her life aligned. Her momma told her he was no good and, for once, her momma was right. He broke her heart, plain and simple. Thing is, her heart was the only thing she ever had. And once that was gone…well, there was no point in living. She fell twice. She fell hard. She never recovered. Jackson Wyatt was a ladies’ man. There was no denying it and there was no hiding it. He was smart, he was sly, and he was cold. He wore Levi’s jeans and a leather jacket, pointy-toed boots and aviators. Later, he became the CEO of a Fortune Five-hundred company, bringing it up from its ashes and burning it back down again. He never did learn about empathy. Maybe if he had, he’d have made it big. He came to town dragging a string of tattered hearts, each one prettier than the last. He wore them like a diamond-studded wristwatch. Until Keeley. That one caught his eye: beautiful in that quiet way of hers, wild beneath the surface, a storm of passion just waiting to break through. Wyatt knew about that passion; he had a load of it himself. So he tossed aside all those diamond wristwatches in favor of the moonstones in her eyes. It didn’t happen easily, of course. Keeley wasn’t interested in Jackson Wyatt, a blow that hit him hard in the chest; a blow that made him more determined to make her his. Maybe if she’d been smart, she’d have held on; maybe if her momma had educated her on the finer points of men, instead of lecturing on about the devil in them, she’d have made it. But that girl was an innocent, naïve to the core. Horses don’t teach you about life. Jackson Wyatt was the first to show her this. Wyatt could see the only way to Keeley’s heart was through her horses, and he began to worm his way into her life. He was there at six o’clock when she arrived at the show ring. He was there in the stands when she won her ribbons. All summer he trailed after her, patient as the devil on Monday morning. It didn’t take long for her to notice him either. He was a good-looking sort: strong jaw, a five o’clock shadow darkening his face, eyes rich and smoky like a wolf’s. Keeley wasn’t immune to beauty; she’d spent enough time with her horses to be able to recognize it. She wasn’t immune to his charm either. It took all summer, but once he had that girl in his arms, she was as good as his. Her momma warned her about him; said he was a rogue, the devil’s spawn, a godforsaken monster. Keeley brushed those warnings aside. Because she was free; for the first time in her life, her heart beat for more than a twelve hundred pound animal. Every time she saw his face, her breath caught like it did when she cleared a four-footer, or when she broke in to a lope after rounding the last barrel. And when he kissed her…well, she couldn’t breathe at all. That summer was the best of her life. Little Miss Perfect, her lips all glossed and her cheeks apple red. She laughed louder and more often than she ever had. She couldn’t keep her hands still; those hands of hers, small and slen105
der and layered with calluses. She couldn’t keep them still. Her momma didn’t like it; yelled like a hellion every time her little girl left the house, screaming about hell and virtue and the strength of the devil. She didn’t have much patience for the glory of Christ those days. She didn’t see how God was doing his job. After the accident, she wondered if it was all a punishment for the crimes she’d committed so early in her life. She wondered if her failures were what made God steal her baby’s sight away. But God works in mysterious ways. So does the devil. The day the stars unraveled was a day for the history books. It was the last show of the season, a day so hot the sweat evaporated into the air before it could slide down your face. A storm was stirring, one of those quick summer storms that built up and up and up until it exploded. Keeley loved that weather; it stuck in your throat and made you work harder. She was a picture that day: her eyes all ablaze like the Fourth of July, mahogany hair spilling in a wild cloud around her shoulders. She was so focused that, if things had been different, maybe she wouldn’t have seen him. Maybe she would have never known, and Jackson Wyatt would have left her quietly instead of ripping her in two with his betrayal. But things were different. She sped into the arena, her hair snapping out behind her and her hands light on the reins, whipping around the barrels in a cloud of dust. That race would have been a record; that race would have been the highlight of her career. But the storm let loose as she headed for home, sending a bolt of lightning hurtling towards the earth. The light lit up the sky, illuminating Jackson Wyatt and some wisp of a girl, all tangled up and leaning against a tree. In an instant, Keeley’s heart shattered without a sound, and as the shards lodged into her soul, she plummeted from the saddle and hit the ground. Jackson Wyatt was never seen in town again. It’s a good thing too, because her daddy’s shotgun found a new home near the door, leaning against the wall fully loaded. Things changed after that. The horses were sold, one by one, and never again would that girl step foot in the barn. She traded in her boots for a pair of flats, black with silver embroidery that shone like her eyes. They don’t shine the same way anymore; not like starlight, or moonlight on water, or even moonstones. They’re lost now. She stocked up on hand lotion, pampering her palms until they were smooth and soft. There was nothing remaining of the girl she’d been; she wouldn’t have it. Her eyes don’t shine anymore. And her hands don’t move. They weren’t strong enough to hold onto Jackson Wyatt; they weren’t quick enough to catch him. Jackson Wyatt’s face is the only thing her ruined eyes can see. They say her soul left her the day she fell. They say she chased it away.
Cain’s Lament By Whitney Aviles-Low
I One evening, as I walked with my brother, we found the light at the end of the tunnel. God sat us down on the precipice of a wine glass and pointed to each one of the stars, naming them, telling us to memorize them as they were the measure of all our sins. And how he loved us for those sins. On an alien planet, an alien Christ was nailed to an alien tree. Or maybe he was shot. An infinite number of Christs dying an infinite number of deaths, mirroring an infinite number of stars. The feeling was of morning glories burning between our teeth. They were the measure of all our sins. God took out His pocket watch and chased a rabbit to the moon. Cooked him up and served him to us for dinner. The end of the world was a decade too late, and so He watched us fester in our own filth from on high, shaking His great head in inestimable sadness. The crucifix turned into a raccoon with a gimp leg and crawled away. How He loved us for our sins. How human we must have seemed to him then. II There was an angel dying on our doorstep. We watched closely, my brother and I, as the angel petrified in the sun. The blue eyes turned to glass, the skin to soft wax, the hair to curling threads of silk and gold. The blood turned to honey, and we filled our mouths with the sweet sap. Poor angel, sad Lucifer. How He must have loved you. How you must have loved our lips on your non-flesh. A graze of life, a brief stab of warmth from the flicker of tiny tongues against your pale throat. How He must have loved you then. III. A saint festering on our doorstep – Leprosy. Gangrene. Decay. Wretched. We left the house and burned it down. IV. Over dinner God told us he was an atheist. He spelled it out for us: A-T-H-E-I-ST. Christ admitted to being agnostic. “What happens,” my brother asked, “when you don’t believe in yourself?” God put an arm around him, led him to the edge 107
of the wine glass, directed his clean eyes upon the World. A child was murdered quietly in a market. A soldier shot civilians in the street as they pressed their heads against the barrel of his gun. A king ordered his subjects to hang each other and one by one they twitched and were still. A nuclear bomb obliterated one-third of the world’s population, but no one happened to be looking that way just then. God stepped away from the wine glass, brushing smears of human blood from his sleeve. “Oh,” my brother said. “Oh.” V. One evening we found the light at the end of the tunnel. I pushed my brother into it. God didn’t want me then.
Spirit By Gabrielle DiMarco
Zipped helmets of bulk thrust inward to serve the half awakened shadow of infinite circumstances, which persuade to exist with an essence. Shattering the barriers that have been bound so entirely within humanity, conceiving a vulnerability too potent. Annihilated corpse choking without any entity.
jaw man By Austin Starr King
ramble, ramble the man paused. his eyes disfigured green headlights. the park herds of families and their dog Snow the trashcan half full his Val Vista Pirates tattooed fist jaw out a second pair of ears brain stung by wasps. he has lived the Darwinist test. shoelaces damp 70-proof breath tail neglected. Stumbled forth.
Samantha Jungheim Photography
Cavity By Austin Okopny
A boy picks his butt while standing on a cliff. The bones, the veins, the cardiovascular system, the muscles, blue and pink and white and tender, the flesh on top of that, skin on top of that. He stands there, mud on his shirt, dirt on his face, empty head, empty soul, standing standing standing nowhere to walk, cliff, crags down below, crease in the earth, a fold in the world, he stands on the verge of it, rocks spilling over into the river below. River below, cliff above, boy on cliff, boy on cliff, empty thoughts, moving down from the top of his cranium, blood pumping mechanically, moving down, to his eye sockets, further down, to his jaw, further down to the base of his skull, his spine, his ribcage, his heart, pumping pumping, lungs in out in out in out, tender is his flesh, tender is his soul, a boy picks his butt, moving down, slower, moving past his ribcage to his pelvis, to his femur, to his kneecaps, to his shin, to his ankles and feet protected by light-up Power Rangers sneakers. He picks his butt. A girl walks up to him, from the fold, she’s not of his race, it’s apparent, they speak the same language, human, they look upon each other with the world off their minds, she’s also empty, she also has a cardiovascular system with bones underneath. Her face is torn, her smock is weathered. A girl looks up with eyes like God, and she claps with thunder, the boy does the same, they both clap and when they’re tired, they don’t clap anymore. Girl and boy unite, girl and boy move with the wind, down off the cliff, into the folds of the world. She leads him down to the valley. His fingers smell like butt. She takes that hand and goes beyond the sticks and the rocks, past the trees and the heights. Further down, she shows him a cave. They lay down in the cave. He’s embarrassed about his butt-picking, she doesn’t seem to mind, her eyes speak louder than her voice, they know no other language, she’s native, he isn’t, he lays down and sticks a long weed in his mouth and twirls it. She sits and contemplates nothing. Blank, blank, blank, no dialogue is needed. They sit in the cave and they watch the clouds and he doesn’t move, neither does she. They grow old. They grow old, sitting in the cave, the cave is seized up by rain, they sit in the floodwaters. They sit, empty, dream only of each other. They grow to love each other. The water sits and dries in the summer. He lies on the dirt twirling his weed, picking his butt. She learns to be patient and empty some more. Soon he grows facial hair. Soon she menstruates. Soon the cave is seized up again with snow, they sit in the snow, unaffected, they sit their life away, soon his joints start to ache, soon she becomes impatient. They sit and grow old together, in the cave. The cave means home to them, means nothing to us, it’s a cave, they name the cave something, but it’s unsaid, unwritten, no 112
dialogue is needed, just her blood on the walls and his semen in her hair. The cavity grows robust as the two sit and contemplate love, or procreation, or the love of procreation, nature calls. They answer their telephone. She lays him down and they push sperm into egg, they require no ritual, no candle, no dialogue. They know. Theyâ€™ve been in the cave long enough to know each other, they procreate with emptiness in their minds. The dirt lines his fingernails, mud gathers her breasts together, grit and cuticles and hair follicles and his Power Rangers sneakers and her patience, they add up to a child. A child is born, it needs what they cannot offer. It passes. They bury it in the cave, naming it the same as the cave, a cavity in the mouth of Mother Earth. They become the King and Queen of the Cavity. They grow old, his beard grows longer, she grows thinner. The clouds move and she passes too. He buries her in the cave, the cavity, he moves on, leaves the cave. He walks down the mountain now, a man. The mountain pumps and pumps and pumps like the boy g manâ€™s heart, each pulse a tribute to Queen of the Cavity, each step he takes a living testament to his starved child, the mountains are the bones of the world, teeth of Earth, and man in his past took refuge in a cavity. Dentists could hammer and fill it, but that will do nothing for our man.
Paranoid By Rebecca Cox
You’re the mongoloid boytoy brain child of 1990’s polka dotted panties. Unnamed, untitled, discharged from the slap in the face hospital. Tell me I’m wrong, the song birds tune will bruise and batter my gray matter. I am the mercury on the hands of a malicious mad hatter. The daughter of tattooed lovers two black doves shot dead. Tell me I’m a stain, the fist pump elbow grease that should have been wiped away. I’m just damned, the clammy palms up the skirt of a church pew prostitute.
Pixie Stick Sensory By Rebeccca Cox
Her teeth are glazed with Zeus’s lightning bolts, her saliva burns like Hades’ magma. Her eyes breathe green gasoline smoke, each blood vessel a siren’s stolen gem. Her thighs held up by fireflies, she lies through divine lips.
If We Survive This By Rebecca Cox
Youâ€™re a dope swappin name droppin cherry poppin pirate. All hands on deck break your back. This is what we call crack sack demolition.
Miss Missouri Inspired by “How“ by Lorrie Moore
By Becky Joy Hirsch Begin by answering the phone, reaching into the mailbox, visiting your mother. Maybe you hear it over the radio. Watch a late-night special. Read the back of the non-fat milk carton. In the lobby, your mother will apologize repeatedly. She will cry. She will have had her long grey hair cut short. Four years, one month and three weeks. You left your daughter, husband, and summer camp scrap books in a dusty village – village, really – in east Missouri. You are just now realizing you will have to go back. Feel abandoned, frozen, terrified, frantic, and the hottest little brushes of rage. When desperate or alone, walk to the grocery store. Stare at the backs of milk cartons. Blink at her name, age, height and wide eyes or, alternatively, hurl the stupid Missing Person ad to the ground. The night manager will drop your arm when he figures out you’re the mother, or fizzle out of the room when the police officer fills him in. Either way, they tell you that you get to go free and you spit on the parking lot floor. Four years, one month, and three goddamn weeks, but you’ll never be free. Make attempts at finding your ex-husband. Remember: you left him, not the other way around. The operator will ask you for the city and state, please. Tell him bitingly, bitterly. Add: it’s a hellhole, a waste, I mean home and all, but a pit. Devotion, deep-rooted and hot, laps at your insides. Emphasize the lack of options, lack of exhilaration. Plan not to hang up until the call goes through, but have a text message of the number sent to your phone just in case. And yet from time to time you will stare into the bathtub or a random tube of lipstick and bask in the life you have cultivated. You will feel nips of contentment, exultation, joy. Four years, one month, three weeks, and this is your family now. Let’s say your father is a troll. Your ex-husband is a magical turnip. Your high school classmates are spirits of the netherworld. They all still live in that primordial tar pit together. Her name means rival. Once she leaned over you while you were flat on the floor between sit ups and kissed your forehead like she understood gesture. She is velvet Teddy bear bow ties and creamed corn and knit hats and fly-away balloons. Once upon a time a tiny fist pounds into the carpet and you dance over to her spot on the floor, into her bright little soap bubble, “Up Mama I wan go up.”
Lie. Tell your ex-husband you work in a museum, one filled with dead animals. He wants to know about health risks. He wants to be sure that you’re, you know, all right. He breathes heavily into the receiver. Lie, repeatedly. Say you never have to work night shifts, that your darling grandmamma of a boss never makes you. Darkness. Glass cases. Chrome door panels. They all still scare you. He wants to see you. He wants you, ravenously. Do you still only fly United? Don’t put on music. Don’t wear lingerie. Take off your clothes, shyly. It’s a craft. You will lie on the bathroom floor naked, watching, your fingers beseeching bare skin of his insecurity. Hair: fool away from his face. Buttons: charm out of their hidey-holes. Chuck his shirt in the corner behind the toilet. Roll him over on your old bathroom floor barely three hours after your night flight lands, just past dawn in Hell. Go to the front porch. His neighbors. Everyone will look at you and then go back to what they were doing. His best friend’s wife will be jostling a toddler over her shoulder as she walks past. She will introduce herself as Tammy. Try not to laugh. She will want to know if Harold is home. She will ask you, “Are you house-sitting for him?” Faintly, distantly, she’ll remember the junior prom when you stuck celery sticks and thousand island dip down her dress, and look quickly away. You’ll smile. The toddler will spittle over the back of her pink and yellow blouse: gurgly, gaping mouth and hazy eyes push up into her neck. Feel sated, to the point of excess. “Is Harry home?” she’ll ask you again. Smile. Shrug. Swat the door shut behind you. It intoxicates you. Self-satisfaction. A slurp of tequila. When you pass women your age on the street, giggle and stare them straight in the belly button, straight in their bulbous, lactating breasts. One day – in a movie theater or a hardware store – see your father. He is either balding or sun burnt. He still has his special belt buckle from the car show at the fair and this will seem mystical. Have sex with him once and lay spread thin on the floor of your childhood bedroom, since converted into his trophy room. Or: don’t have sex with him. Hide behind the shelves of all the different sized hammers and then run for your life. In the kitchen the next weekend, feel loud and relentless. Sit on the counter and tell him he’s ugly. That you bet he doesn’t know anything about cars. That you’ve come back to find him freckled and spineless. He will give you a momentary view of his hunched back, vertebrae poking through his shirt almost like fingers stretching through a balloon. He will start to shake. Rub your hand up and down his arm. Run your fingers through his hair. 118
When you get out of the shower, damp and smooth-skinned, conquer his chest with hard, heaping bites. Trace your big toe against his ankle. His innerknee. His uniform is slopped over the bedpost. He will push you so hard you stumble and smack onto the floor. Say something like: What the hell is wrong with you? Or maybe that’ll be his line. Go back into the bathroom. Tighten every cap. This will be the tough part: her name repeats on the radio, at least on the station your ex- husband always plays; her name, age, height. On restaurant windows you see the posters. In line at the pharmacy you get furtive looks. They form a support group for you. They touch their own children’s heads. Bang the toe of your boot on the corner of the pew on accident. A cuss shoots through your lips like a little fish. He ducks his head and rubs the back of his neck, standing in front of the pastor sputtering search plans and statistics. Stare him down the next Sunday. Dare him to invite you to church. Your ex-husband will have a sister named Susan. Or maybe an ex-girlfriend who wears socks with white lace around the rims, even though she’s like thirty or something. At visits she will touch her ponytail and repeat herself. She will tell anecdotes about your daughter’s childhood when he goes to get you two girls something to drink. And she’ll call him honey pie. He will agree with her: yes, the police should be much more involved; yes, there should be television advertisements too; no, no, they should never give up hope. She will take out her hair tie and shake a hand through her thick strands, glancing at you. He will invite her to stay for dinner and walk her to her car when she declines. He is the best honey pie in town. Think about leaving. About standing in a damp-smelling elevator and being all drippy. Think about them: the endlessly illuminated street signs. But it’s cold, New York, and it’s wet. And he tells you his mother cooks this unbelievable roast turkey, somehow you never got the chance, back before you left, to try it. No, you wouldn’t leave before Christmas. Escape into movies. When he calls and asks you what you’re doing, say “Keeping busy.” When he asks you what you want for dinner, let your eyes roll back to the screen. At around 6:40 start listening for his car and when he pulls up, switch off the TV. Head back into the bedroom. Leave the DVD in, though. If he checks, he’ll catch you doing nothing wrong at all. He will seem to be drinking Vodka, tentatively, glancing quickly at you for approval.
At work he will spend company time in the exercise room. His boss will inform you by email.
He will ask you if you want to go to the fair.
He will ask you what the symbolism means.
He might say he wants to get the house refurbished.
Begin to plot confrontations, ultimatums, escape. Dream of United Airlines online check in. Wake up thirsty. Four years, one month, three weeks – more now. Tell him it’s complicated, what with your daughter and your job and your forwarded mail. You no longer know what you want from your life. When he brings his arms to you, open, tell him you don’t even know what you want, tell him, but push away, shout at yourself: Don’t freaking cry. Get a little carried away. Plan to regret this moment, someday. Pace around the kitchen and tell him you are anxious, all the time afraid. But this is your home, he will say, in a voice that rights wrongs and slays dragons, that dies off after the Middle Ages or maybe exists eternally in the bottom drawer of the pantry where you keep plastic bags for unforeseen situations that might require plastic bags, a voice that shoves the door open with its head, knocks back its visor and wails: How long has it not been enough, why didn’t you tell me it wasn’t enough? You will forget the last time you went barhopping in Hell, but pretend you do. Reminisce until your pupils shrivel up. Choke up. Say: I’m going out. And when your ex-husband catches you at the front door, add: Just out. His limp smile will palpitate like an upset stomach and you will hate him. Don’t bother to shut the door. It’s the Pig’s Squeal and it’s just how you pretend you remembered: smoky and wooden and dim like a copper penny. A bulky jukebox and a half-empty dance floor. A man in a red tie will catch your attention and then drop it. Someone on your right will start mewling the lyrics. Swivel on your barstool until she’s finished. Spit heartily in her drink when she goes to the dance floor. Spit and liquor swirling in foamy white loops. Swirling, honey pie, like piss down the drain. 120
Next there are eyewitness reports. Sightings: Barton, Benton. He will pound his fist onto the kitchen countertop, phone pressed wet to his face. A gust of hot wind blows into your eyes and your nose spasms from the smell. This is no time for miracles. There will be police interviews, statements and co-signatures. There will be nothing for you to do. He has already posted signs everywhere conceivable: on desktops, over freeways, over other signs. Someone will call from the police station: relatives’ names, phone numbers, addresses needed. Ask where his parents live nowadays and he’ll smile absurdly. Smile back. He will laugh at something, hours later, completely unrelated. But wheezing. Rioting. Roaring at the television screen in the next room. Bolt in and ask him what’s wrong. Roll together on the floor in front of the television screen. Afterward, there is nothing else to be done. Afterward, he will dangle half off the rug, completely used. Continue to pace. Despite fake New Jersey accent, feel unamused by his antics. Look at your wrinkly knuckles. If ever you would leave him. Glance at your cell phone. It wouldn’t be in spring.
There is never any news, just a telephone rocking endlessly in its cradle.
Once a week you will bring up her name in casual conversation, in public. Manage expectations. Tell the old ladies huddled around you that the police have made no promises. “We do what we can,” you tell them, never looking away from the tight, anxious circle, never quite meeting his eyes. to flee.
The thought will occur to you that you are waiting for her permission
You will pass your father on the street. Or maybe back at the hardware store. Begin by calling “Pa.” Begin by asking what he’s been up to lately. Walk him back to his house. Meet his lover. She will talk in a thick, European accent, respect only the working man, eat very little, eat only on divinely immaculate plates. It will end the second time he shouts at you to get the hell out. There is never any news, just a telephone wailing endlessly for its mother. You will fantasize about a dead body. At the sight you could scream. It would be a study in exhaustion, an examination of the end of the rope. You would be comforted by his bony sister and his sobbing ex-girlfriend. The three of you in the depths of the morgue would hurl yourselves at the steel table, 121
then surge backwards like a storm front. You, especially, would kick your feet, stumble and howl, bare your wrists. There would be no fear, no hope. You would hail a taxi immediately afterward, be in the frequent flyer’s lounge before he had his hat in his hands. After dinners with your father: slink home. Your breasts will ache, your knees will familiarize you with a sort of ceramic screeching. Neighbors will be rocking on their front porches, staring over you as you cringe past. You recall, recall nine years ago a night like any other night in January, your father stalking through the deserted streets, you following after like a famine. Damn it, he bellowed, god damn it, Lorraine! Lights snapped on in houses, then blinked out with swift apologizes. The two of you were the spooks haunting the streets that night. Lorraine. Your mother, Lorraine. It ran cracks through the midnight stillness. Lorraine. Two years later you received a postcard with zebras and grasslands, blank and unlabeled, and never told your father. You knew it was from her, that she fled into the savannah and enticed a mad shaman to take her in and then left to teach school children to speak English, poorly. You knew this, despite the brown-haired boy in the sophomore class asking you the next day what you thought of his gift, reminding you how you liked zebras the best, the very best, right? You ignored him studiously. You will spend the rest of your life believing in your heart of hearts that your mother spent five years in Africa before settling in Detroit. She called you long-distance one morning: Heard you got out too. How’d that go? Slink. It won’t matter. Your ex-husband will be pacing the living room looking fearsome. He will slap you, bite you, taste you. Kiss him, soothe him. Make love to him without batting an eyelash. Splash water on your face in the bathroom at four in the morning. Nothing will matter. Make him breakfast. Your ex-husband will ask quietly about your work. Lie. Tell him you build model boats for tourists. Smoothed, streamlined little things. He will ask about selling, marketing rights, inflation. Lie, always. Tell him, no, oh no, you aren’t involved in any of that. You have a friend in Seattle who takes care of it. You just build them, beautiful little boats. He will not eat your French toast. He will stir it on his plate with the butt end of his fork, and then hurl it against the wall. At night you will be anxious for the weather to warm. You will pace the front porch like are waiting for a package, for justice, for sunrise. He will not wait up for you.
When you go out, leave him a list of groceries that need purchasing, dry 122
cleaning that requires his attention. Wait outside. Lie beside the porch and watch the clear sky darken. You could lie there until the end of time. When he lumbers to his car, count to sixty before getting up. Go back inside. Go to stand in front of the wide kitchen windows. Stand stalk still. Watch cars and bicyclists zip past. Lie, when he comes home again. Tell him you wanted to go visit your father for once, just to see how heâ€™d been. No one was home.
There is never any news, just the phone sucking absently on its toe.
This is how you go: Flossing and primping in the early morning, with the bathroom door open, staring at his shape on the bed in the bedroom. Laying your head all the way back against your headrest. You will never see him again. Or maybe you will, whatever. But her youâ€™ll see daily. Her picture you put on your refrigerator, above your mantle, clamped in a locket. It becomes a conversation piece. When men come over, they ask questions. You tell them you named her Agatha, after your grandmother, after your best friend in college.
The phone will roll and roll in its cradle.
Four years, one month, three weeks, and so much more. They found her bones buried three miles outside of the town. You call your mother. The sun rises outside your window, out on the curb. The fog rolls in, but it dissipates. One of those mornings.
Looking Right By Scarlett McCarthy
You spit holy water on the sidewalk curb. For emergencies. Cursed the flask’s shallow waves and blessings that are Rorschachs in the cement cracks we never filled. Your wasp finger traced lines, not time. Cardboard boxes of VHS’s and rainboots were left for Salvation Army. You said they want things, how interlocked families wanted the green house. Lila’s turnip soul would be safe, you said, in her mason jar. It’s cold among the tin can collection. We tethered anchors to the pipes. They needed to be fixed. They’ll be sinking soon, buried beneath your outguessed eyes and my pliable nods. Good company, I say. The gap toothed waitresses and their soap chipped nails will excavate the vinyl booths. Home to our dimes, diner receipts. Proof of that fruit parfait I ate. Proof they fell from the butt of your ketchup pocket jeans.
Temptations By Madi Hartzog-Warren
*Italics from Ben Harper’s “Another Lonely Day” Bramble berry lips suddenly part into a smile It’s a look of happiness I haven’t seen in a while Then the realization washes over me It’s working out that we were never meant to be Now the distance that pushes our embraces apart Is the final straw that was plucked against my heart Wish there was somethin’ I could say or do I can resist anything but the temptation for you I wake up with your green jewels in my mind No matter who I wake up with your touch I cannot find Papers and pens, black marks, empty space I’m driven by your touch I cannot erase Memories of sneaking out and speeding down 45 Drinks sloshing through my vision as I attempt to drive Experiences are decoupage across my soul Each laugh, each wink is a strain, a toll Wish there was somethin’ I could say or do I can resist anything but the temptation for you You caressed me, gently peeling away my hide You knew exactly how to discover the real me inside Misunderstandings, assumptions, revealing the truth Our story never required a strawberry blonde sleuth We were looking for comfort, a place to call home Eventually divided by our impulses to roam
Grace Shin Photography
On Walls By Amber Morrell
At dusk the wires on telephone poles look like charcoal drawn across acrylic paint. Not that the telephone poles are used anymore; they’re kept as a monument, an epitaph to a dead civilization that we used to know, but has long since passed. When the bulldozers arrive, this time I won’t be the man without a shirt, waving signs to save those ‘good old days’ while intermittently kissing the girl next to him with the flower in her hair. And I won’t be the coward who ran away and left aforementioned girl behind. Last time, the bulldozers didn’t care that she was standing there, alone in her cause, and bulldozed anyway. There was nothing I could do, I swear. She was the love of my first life. Once she died I realized that it was time to move on to the second, and not to dwell on the past. So I got my body redone and moved to the other side of the globe. I took a small glass bottle with a cork, and in it was a small pinch of her ashes mixed with red dye. When it dried it became red dust and I pretended that it was the shade her lips used to be, the way I remembered her. Even though it was my second life she still lingered in the back of my mind like hot tea that burns your tongue and reminds you of its feeling for hours. I decided to travel a lot, in my second life. Under the speedways and monorail tracks of Los Angeles I could still see some of the remnants of the old buildings, of the old world. Words were scribbled in red paint on a wall in a language that was long dead, something no one remembered but was immortalized—at least for now—on these gray cinderblocks. Tu mama, it began, but I couldn’t make out the rest. Tu mama—I didn’t know what it meant. This city could be compared to Atlantis, but was nothing like the real Atlantis, because I had been there. But Los Angeles—it was a lot like Atlantis because it was lost underneath New Los Angeles, which was like a bubble of cement that encased the old one, preserving it in all its filth, and then built again on top, except better. Cleaner. But I liked these catacombs of Old Los Angeles because it made me think of her, because she had been lost to me, just like Los Angeles and Atlantis had been lost to the world for quite some time, and in some ways, are still missing. For both of us it was our first life, and being so new and inexperienced in this world made us long for simplicity. We were overwhelmed by the constant change, by the vast influx of information on a day to day basis. We wanted to enjoy what generations past had enjoyed—the writing on walls; the shades of blue you could still see in the sky on a gray day; the dog-eared pages in books someone made before you, and make you wonder what had happened in their lives for them to stop at that exact moment. We clung to the past and its unique 127
ingenuity. Everything in the future was nothing new. One time we held hands while looking at the greatest piece of art ever created by human kind. It was a landfill just south of Concord, Kentucky. We sat on top of the cement wall, which surrounded the giant crater in its entirety, and stared at the trash that had amassed there. Her fingers gripped mine gently, then every time a gust of wind caressed our faces she would squeeze, and I’d squeeze back, and we watched plastic bags pretend to be tumbleweed until the sun went down and we climbed back down the wall and headed into town for dinner. In the town of Concord we found a small family owned diner, one of the only ones left that still stuck to tradition. We pushed the button on the speaker box on the table and ordered, I remember, chicken strips. My first love smiled at me from across the table and grabbed my hand. Her head was tilted to one side and she smiled at me, her lips curving perfectly on her face, in that specific shade of red, her eyes glowing in that beautiful way they always did. I could feel the sole of her sandal rubbing on my leg underneath the table and I decided that this was the girl I would spend the rest of my life with. At the table next to us was a man and a woman, and they, too, were in love. I could tell because the man had a cigarette between his lips and the woman was looking indifferently in the other direction as she popped grapes from a bowl into her mouth one by one. I watched them, but the love of my life turned my direction back towards her. Let’s get married, she said. Of course, I said. Let’s grow old together, and move on to our second life, and have children together. I want nothing more than to spend the rest of this life with you, and the next. She smiled and gripped my hand in the way she had on top of the wall. From next to us I could see the eyes of the woman staring at us, mocking eyes that growled with contempt. Suddenly her eyes changed and her hands clung at her throat. My love and I did not move. Her love did not move. We had never witnessed the true death before. It came to this woman so easily, so quickly, that no one knew what had happened. And then she was gone, just like that. I had no idea that just a few months later my own love would be gone, too, just like that. I spent the rest of my first life with her. And when she had disappeared I decided that I, too, would have to leave that life. I was still thinking about her and still staring at the wall—tu mama, tu mama, please make it stop, tu mama—but I still didn’t know what it meant, no matter how I tried. And then there were footsteps behind me, which made me realize just how quiet it was here in the Old Los Angeles. I pondered this silence for a moment before I remembered that footsteps must belong to someone stepping with their feet, and turned around. 128
She was the love of my second life. She wore pants that clung to legs that didn’t rub together when she walked. She carried a camera around her neck and a brown purse with a fringe on a strap that crossed over her chest. She snapped a picture of me, in my weakest moment; standing there like a deer in headlights, thinking of my first love, and struggling at the complexities of lost language. Tu mama, I said. She looked confused and in that moment I forgot all about the little bottle of ashes and red dye, and realized that by forgetting it meant that I had fallen in love again and nothing mattered anymore. So I forgot completely about my first life. I forgot completely about my first love. I moved on. She was a student and I found out in passing that she was in her third life and her second one had been cut short by some sort of accident, but I didn’t ask what it was. I didn’t care; I was transfixed by the way her lips were always curved upward and by the soft texture of her golden brown hair. She said it used to be red and she missed it but I said I am glad it wasn’t that color anymore because she is beautiful the way she is now. And she smiled. I took my second love to a cafe in Montreal. She offered me a cigarette and I politely declined, because I had never had one before and didn’t quite care for the smell. They won’t kill you, she said. As long as you start a new life soon enough. I nodded but I still did not have one. I asked her, because I knew that this life was relatively new to her, what will kill you? And she said she didn’t know, but smoking wouldn’t, even though her consciousness had not yet glued itself to her body completely and needed time to heal. She said her doctor had listed off some things, but she didn’t remember, because she didn’t quite care. A city bus passed on the road beside the cafe. The advertisement on the side was of a young, smiling doctor in a white lab coat. The words said, Live Life. Underneath was the information for the Montreal Life Center where they transferred consciousnesses and started new lives. I watched it pass and thought of my first love. New lives can give you your deepest desires. This is what I wanted. My second love blew smoke out of her mouth, her lipstick smearing on her cigarette, and I looked away, indifferently, taking small bites of strawberry crepes. One week we stayed in a hotel in Hong Kong. The city was filled with lights and fast cars and all sorts of things that my first love and I used to despise. But now I liked them, I think, because this was supposed to be a new life, and I was supposed to be a new person. Our hotel room overlooked the corner of a busy street, and we could watch the train move side by side with the cars that congested the nasal passages of the city. Down on the sidewalks we could watch peoples’ heads bob up and down as they moved around each other, like fish in a tank that’s too small for their school. And when the fish wanted to jump from 129
one side of the tank to the other, they had to cross the passages sick with a sinus infection, and to protect the fish from illness plasma barriers would shoot up and let them cross, blocking the cars and the train. When you looked through these barriers, they give everything through them a milky white tinge. I liked to watch all this from our hotel room above all the insanity, but my second love grabbed my hand and kissed me. She pulled me back into the bedroom. She pushed me onto the bed. She unbuttoned her shirt. I rolled myself on top of her and made love to her for the first time since my first life. But at her moment of climax she had a seizure and died the true death, because it was one of the things she was not supposed to do when her new life was still young, and I didn’t know that. I wanted badly to end my second life and begin my third but I couldn’t get the first love of my life out of my mind. I had hid the little bottle of ashes in the drawer of my desk because in times when I was alone even after my second love entered my life I still thought about my first love and the way her arms felt around my waist, and her lips felt against my chest. She would sometimes nibble on my clavicle, not painfully though, but leave a little spot that marked her territory; and sometimes she’d lick around the curves of my ear and blow on it with her warm breath and it sent shivers down my spine and gave her goosebumps. My second love never did those things with me. I stood in front of the wall in Old Los Angeles with words that I still didn’t know scribbled on the cinderblocks. I stood close enough to it that I could reach out and let my fingertips gently slide over the red paint, feeling how the textures differed. From my pocket I pulled out a marker and tried to think of something profound of my own to say. It took a while. I heard footsteps behind me but I didn’t turn around this time; they passed by. I began writing on the wall. I sat in a cafe in Montreal smoking a cigarette because it couldn’t kill me and eating crepes because those couldn’t kill me either. I missed my first love, even this far into my second life, and I wanted my old body back. This one didn’t have the scars of our lovemaking. That one was gone now, probably occupied by someone else, who could look at the marks and only wonder what sort of animal had bit him in a past life. Well, the answer is that it was my first love. I sat on top of the cement wall overlooking a waste facility that filled a valley in Concord. It reminded me of Old Los Angeles, because I wondered what was buried underneath all the garbage that could be unearthed with new value. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That is what my second love said to me, once. She was someone’s trash before, and then she was my treasure. And then she was dead, and no one’s treasure. I thought of my first love. I stood on a street corner in Hong Kong waiting for the plasma barriers to rise so I could cross the street. There was nothing, now, between me and the road; just the curb of the sidewalk I was standing on. But once the red hand turned to the white walk symbol, the plasma barriers would rise and stop any cars from crashing into me. But now I was free. I felt freer than I had ever felt before; 130
more than in Los Angeles, or Montreal, or Concord, because hereâ€”here, there were no walls to stop me. Here, as I stepped into the street, thinking of my first love, nothing stopped me from joining her at last.
Hee Won Kim Sculpture
In the Brush By Becky Joy Hirsch
All along there have been lovers. Heart-felt movements in the brush below the cliff-face. Sentence of desire, inserted here, above my bow-tied, bee-stung body.
About the Creative Writing Workshop at Idyllwild Arts Academy For high school students interested in developing as writers, Idyllwild Arts offers a major in creative writing, which, combined with the academic program, prepares a student to pursue writing fields in college and beyond. The overall program for writers at IAA provides a general study of literature, arts, sciences, and fine arts; it also provides extracurricular experiences in public readings, publishing a literary magazine, and excursions to cultural and environmental experiences. A tiered curriculum provides introductory and advanced workshops, seminars, tutorials, a senior thesis, and a senior oral examination. Individual courses place an equal emphasis on the process of writing and on the study of literature by writers of many eras, continents, and sensibilities. Participants in the workshop develop a wide-ranging background in literature and the fine arts, varied historically, intellectually, geographically, and culturally. Classes are small, usually fewer than ten students, with department enrollment no greater than twenty-two students. Creative writing teachers at IAA are a mixture of full and part-time faculty who are experts in their field. Their work has been published by nationally known, professional journals and presses respected by other writers, editors, and publishers. Distinguished and emerging visiting writers teach master classes and provide feedback to students. In the 2010-2011 academic year, our guests included television writer Mike Narducci and poets Orlando White, Catherine Wagner, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Kazim Ali, and Zach Savich. Birchard writing center, the core classroom and workspace for creative writing students, is the oldest building on campus, a pleasant space with tall windows conducive to workshops and seminars, promoting an excellent atmosphere for concentration and focus. Students frequently travel to readings, workshops, festivals, and other special events away from campus, such as frequent trips to the Old Globe Theater in San Diego and recent student performances at the REDCAT Theater in Los Angeles. Students participate in competitions appropriate to their level, including the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Poetry Society of America Louise/Emily F. Bourne Poetry Award, and the Faulkner Society High School Short Story Award. Senior creative writing majors are always accepted into a variety of well-respected writing colleges and universities in the United States and beyond. Please direct questions about the program to Kim Henderson, Creative Writing Department Chair: Idyllwild Arts Academy, PO Box 38, Idyllwild, CA 92549 or email email@example.com 133