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A LITERARY

/ARTS

JOURNAL

NYCCT

CUNY


In memory of Paul Violi (1944-2011)

“…to whom/ No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge, This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison

Thief Tempted by the Grandeur of February Wake up! I can’t wait to tell you How much I learned in my sleep. And though I remain somewhat modest And completely charming, I have indeed changed. Do you know that taxidermy students Begin with a mastodon And end by stuffing a flea? And as for poetry, it’s easy And impossible—like stealing from yourself. Do you know that whenever a weatherman Grows alarmingly unpredictable, As long as he retains A bit of modesty and charm, He’s promoted to astronomer?


And that like an astronomer in the mist, I am coaxed onward, in love With the blessings of sleep, The lustre of sleeplessness, more and more Aware of how serious I’ve become Because of you—serious And yet somehow remarkably pleasant. The beauties of the night, I already know What it’s like to feel cold And beautiful hair slide through my hands. Beyond the edge of forgetfulness Or the last of a fine rain, A few memories flare And sputter in a final appeal. What once seemed true, What once seemed wrong, I let them disappear, blown away By a caress, a spray of light here And there across slick, wide avenues. Distant pleasures, distant strife, I now can say, modestly But not without significant charm, I know the errors of my life. Poem by Paul Violi from Overnight (2007) Used with permission from Hanging Loose Press.


ABC 2 Bridges Review

Volume I, Number 1 Fall 2011 New York City College of Technology City University of New York 2BridgesReview.blogspot.com


The 2 Bridges Review is published by New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York

Cover design by Michael Kellner. Some images courtesy of iStock.


ABC 2 Bridges Review

Kate Falvey George Guida Yaniv Soha Stephen Soiffer Yue Chen Krisdat Kutayiah Limor Garfinkle Cover design

Editor in Chief Poetry Editor Fiction and Nonfiction Editor Managing Editor Web and Logo Designer Assistant web designer Graphic Designer Michael Kellner

Monique Ferrell and Kate Falvey, Co-founders


ABC Contents POETRY

Bridges 13 Toot Torneiri

Watercoloring 14 Billy Collins

The Cove

15 Billy Collins

Hat Day

16 Billy Collins

Dress Code

17 Billy Collins

Recollections 18 Colette Inez from a Newfound Cousin (in a letter from Maurice)

Snowmelt Upcountry Flood

I want to know someone

The Things You Forget in Jail

How my husband escapes

Clay Bowl

After the Revolution of Roses

28 Maria Mazziotti Gillan

34 Dorianne Laux 36 L.S. Asekoff

S/C 38 L.S. Asekoff

Tagore on the Bookmobile

I Said to the Wind

26 Kwame Dawes

Cosmonauts! 33 Sean Cissel This Will Be Our Year!

24 William Herman

Spring 25 Kwame Dawes

19 Colette Inez

40 Lorna Goodison 41 Norman Stock

With the Thousand Year 42 Norman Stock Old Woman


Anniversary 43 Richard Levine

Envying the Birds

44 Maria Terrone

The Bath

45 Maria Terrone

Johannes-the-Goldsmith’s Bible

49 Elizabeth Haukaas

The emergency-room imagist 51 Dan Sociu (Translated from Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and the poet with Mihaela Nitâ)

And Now This

65 Mervyn Taylor

Mother Moon

68 Mervyn Taylor

Poem of February Departures

69 Gerry LaFemina

Recession 70 Gerry LaFemina

You Took the Subway Train

76 George Wallace

Scratch the Iceberg

77 George Wallace

Hallmark Cards from 79 Lee Minh Sloca the Rubber Room

MRI Sonnet

80 Sandra M. Gilbert

Tooth Implant Sonnet

81 Sandra M. Gilbert

Bypass Sonnet

82 Sandra M. Gilbert

Fibonacci Sonnet

83 Sandra M. Gilbert

Oil Folly

95 Willie Perdomo

Body Shots

96 Willie Perdomo

Extracts from the 111 Lewis Turco Latterday Chronicle Disposition 114 Fred Dasig

The CEO’s Annual Report 116 Ned Balbo

A Minor Injury 117 Ned Balbo


Glassworks 128 Holly Posner

Stagnant Tongue 130 Holly Posner

Duskus Interruptus: 131 Bob Holman Boulder, Colorado

Healing Cloud 157 Douglas Collura

from Some Men Strike Me 158 Maureen Seaton

Aurora 160 Maureen Seaton and Neil de la Flor

Author Interview: Aurora 161 Maureen Seaton and

Neil de la Flor

Nothing Gold Can Stay 162 Crystal Williams

What the Memories Said 164 Crystal Williams

Northerner 165 Crystal Williams Lillies 166 Ellen Pickus Extreme Dysfunction 172 Mark DeCarteret My Fear Speaks 173 Sally Bliumis-Dunn se7en 174 Britni Jackson

The Mystery Has Been Let Out: 176 Jason Joyce

A Field Guide Brooklyn 177 Harvey Shapiro


FICTION

They Were Like Family to Me 53 Helen Maryles Shankman

Footpath

Monday

84 Danielle Ofri

The Reindeer Sleigh

97 Brad Barkley

72 Nick Ripatrazone

Falling Tomatoes 118 Lisa Pacenza The News 168 Sarah Van Arsdale NON FICTION

Jubilate 20 Marilyn Krysl

Wet Sponge 30 Peter Bricklebank

Roger and Me, Too 134 Jean Feraca

ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY

Scout 12 Nicholas Wilson

Shack and Tree

46 Christopher Woods

Shack in the Trees

47 Christopher Woods

The Road Through the Trees

48 Christopher Woods

Thursday, Late Sun

48 Christopher Woods

Perform the Division 132 Todd Behrendt

Solve the Equation 133 Todd Behrendt

The Manhattan Bridge 178 Robin Michals

ABC


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Editor’s Note Why a new literary journal? After a heart-stopping (literally and metaphorically) illness and a long recovery, I pondered whether or not to drop this project. Anyone who’s been through a like trauma will recognize the selfprotective disdain for all but a few choice morsels of one’s own private life. My child, breath, physical comfort, a cool glass of water, a brain that still knew how to put on a good show, when distraction was acutely called for. What else could possibly matter? Gradually, the world expands and the old allegiances assert their meanings again, with much the same winking insistence as before. And when faith in meaning-making returns, even intermittently, so does a reverence for our collective need to voice the meanings we make. A new literary journal is a good enough place to offer a trove of these voices and our 2 Bridges Review has quite the gleamy assortment of them, from the lyric promise of young Toot Tornieri’s “Bridge” to the elegiac praise song of veteran poet Harvey Shapiro’s “Brooklyn.” We are fortunate to have been able to collect so many gems in one place, to find so many writers and artists who do their wonderfully idiosyncratic best to make us stop, and ponder, and take heart. Kate Falvey Editor in Chief


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SCOUT Painting by Nicholas Wilson


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Bridges Toot Tornieri Perhaps the moon between its times to look at me hangs grasping its rope tied to elbows of bridges. Talk to me, moon, and teach me your secrets. w


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Watercoloring Billy Collins The sky began to tilt, a shift of light toward the higher clouds, so I seized my brush and dipped my little cup in the stream, but once I streaked the paper gray with a hint of green, water began to slide down the page, rivulets looking for a river. And again, I was too late— then the sky made another turn, this time as if to face a mirror held in the outstretched arm of a god. w


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The Cove Billy Collins None of these ducks knows it’s Saturday, and not one could name the president, which is why we love them so much in their paddling, their unseen underwater web-work, and in their flight, the wings a little frantic in this morning wind. You and I know what day it is, of course, and the name of our congressman and when we cycle down to the farmers’ market and back, anyone paused at a corner might notice our baskets full of beets and heads of lettuce as we pedal by, but no one can see how we are paddling around in each other’s hearts, how this is the silent, underwater work we have to keep doing if we want to reach the calm of that reedy cove before evening turns to night. w


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Hat Day Billy Collins It was Hat Day in my dream. It was also a 1950’s Technicolor movie dream with the air all glossy with the sheen of perfection, but it was mostly Hat Day, annually marked in our little town by the wearing of hats and most strictly observed by people behind counters, bank tellers, pharmacists, and the staff at the haberdashery. I began telling you this as soon as you finished telling me about your dream of a giant wooden spiral staircase like on the Titanic, but then you got up from the side of the bed and brought me a pen and a notebook from my desk and told me to write it all down while you made coffee the aroma of which has just replaced the faint memory of the once interesting dream about Hat Day. w


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Dress Code Billy Collins You used to fit me like a good hat or custom-made shoes or a glove that would cause people to notice how well you fit me whenever I waved or smoked a cigarette But now you fit me like one of those sports jackets they give you when you go to a restaurant that has a rule about jackets only you aren’t wearing one at the time so they hold a jacket out for you and you turn around and reach back as if you were about to dive into a pool, and the jacket is enormous, maybe a 46 long, because the other two smaller jackets that are kept in a closet for people like you are being worn by two other guys who had booked earlier tables and are now sharing desserts with their eye-catching dates. That is how you fit me now, or fail to fit me would have been a simpler way to say it. w


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Recollections from a Newfound Cousin (in a letter from Maurice) Colette Inez “Here is our supper,” I’d say to Tante Marie, my catch of blennies in a pail. Her cat alert when she boned the fish. That was in the country house when I was a boy after the Great War. My brothers, too young to serve, swapped off-color jokes, our one sister stubbing out her cigarette bolted upstairs. Your mother didn’t budge, spellbound by letters in tissue‑thin envelopes with foreign stamps. Another war and then another until you wrote from America to say who you were. Your mother, a mother, our dreamy cousin Marthe? When you come, take what you want from her room. My voice grows hoarse from a winter cold. The season takes small steps, a weakness in my legs, I feed the cat and the red fish. w


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Snowmelt Upcountry Flood Colette Inez Her twins belted in a car-seat. The woman frantic to save them. Our earth filling up with water. My body sometimes an old fish thrashes in the shallows. Departures wash away the filled up places. w


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Jubilate Marilyn Krysl Everything—every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate—is always changing, moment to moment. —Pema Chodron Each morning I wake and imagine I’m that monarch whose slave leans over his master’s shoulder and whispers: remember, one day you will die. Sprawl of Caribbean afternoon, shore sloping down. I entered the water that first day, and swam as though shouting to ocean: I’m back! When I was slaked, I rolled onto my back and gazed up. Sky was an arc I lay beneath, rocking, while sea rinsed the pulse of city out of me. Here in the water no one wanted to sell me something, and sea gave not a damn for who I imagined I was. My psyche’s yapping—oh I am superb, oh I have been shafted, oh I need a cookie—all that mind-dross fell away. Ocean’s profound refusal to speak was eloquent. Oh come off it, ocean seemed to say. You think you’re someone? Everything you’ve done is already gone— and you yourself are going. Just to swim that first afternoon, then roll over and float, all my molecules soothed, seemed enough. As a child on my grandparents’ Midwestern farmland, my ocean had been the wide water of sky and pasture, the sea of swaying wheat, the swirl of dust from the limestone gravel road. I communed with meadowlarks and hawks, the resident cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, cattle, horses. The body language of humans and animals is rich speech—speech which leaves mere human language in the dust. With chickens I was a chicken, with cows I was a cow. When coyotes howled, I howled back. I was sibling even with the quiet ooze of mud in the slough. I took for granted that animals would always be around, common and continuous as the air that breathed us and which we breathed. Then I was twelve and my family moved to the west coast, leaving every animal behind, even my grandmother’s favorite heifer. The ease of lolling amidst animal abundance disappeared. It felt as though we’d slaughtered the animals ourselves—and with them our joy. Now Caribbean sea’s abundance calls up my rapturous past. I loll beneath sky graced by pelicans and gulls, and listen to the heave of a wave, which breaks, then falls back into “gone.” This “body” of water is animate


Marilyn Krysl

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as I am, never staying, ever changing—as I am. I don a snorkel mask and float, looking down from the dome of water’s cathedral. Light plunges in vertical shafts to ocean’s bottom. Small grouper mosey over, and we nose each other. A parrot fish the size of a Thanksgiving turkey platter recognizes me as a fellow being, and hangs around, offering itself. Seeing and being seen: the rill of pleasure I feel in this visual union reminds me that nothing in this world is every “alone”—so how be lonely? The year before, I’d met six parrot fish swimming in a circle. In a circle all are equal, and I’d entered, making the circle seven. In medieval numerology the number six stands for the highest perfection possible on earth. But seven vaults this perfection into the realm of “heaven.” The fish swam at a pace I could keep, and joy’s adrenaline pumped through me, a rich, steady urgency, the urgency of joy. How long did we commune—ten minutes, twenty—high on each other’s energy? When the lead parrot fish swam off toward the reef and the others followed, I’d rested in slow, lazy joy. Today’s parrot fish noses me, then goes on. It’s four in the afternoon. In slowly lowering light I stroke forward, feeling the good, hard pull of muscle. How deep is it here near the reef ? A fathom? I glance at the bottom. Suddenly a dusky, gray-brown ray slides out from swaying coral fans onto bottom sand. I’ve seen small ones skittering away or burrowing, but this one is wide as the span of my spread arms. Its gray is overlain with an iridescent lavender sheen—ethereal, yet utterly of this world. The ray is free to ignore me, to flee. Instead its lavender iridescence pulses. It waits, offering itself, regarding me with its left eye. Then it lifts just enough to turn its right eye on me. Adrenaline shoots through me, millions of teeny blasts of light: I see this lavender being fully, as I am fully seen. To recognize another creature as kin, and then to give myself without reservation: this is my preferred consummation. I float, lifted by salt, light warming my back, no longer that imaginary, single creature, an “I.” This body instrument we call the self is connected to and entirely dependent on what surrounds it, and feeling lonely is an illusion: There is no way to be alone. Thought doesn’t enter into it. The way water fills a clay jug my body fills with yes! Somewhere turbines rev and human animals make money, but the lavender being and I have entered a temporal ecstasy. We do not do: we be, and we be one—one wholeness merged with water and with each other. Don’t tell me there are two worlds, one sacred, one profane. Stop dividing us into separate classes, races, genders. Matter and spirit are one, always have been, always will be, and the ray and I have merged. In this merger each


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is both giver and receiver, offering and accepting energy from the other. We fuel and are fueled by each other, and our encounter enlivens the surrounding water. A generosity I’d forgotten was in me appears, and I cede my “ground” to this beauty, just as this being cedes liquid ground to me. If the lavender being had perceived me as a predator, it would have zipped out of sight. Instead the ray lingers, offering itself, communing. Now its rises a little above the sand, glides slowly away from the reef, then pauses and turns, as if to say, are you coming? I am. We are one living system of circling, animal energy, a single loop of joy ramped up to jubilance. The word means rejoicing, as in triumph—triumph over the mistaken loneliness. I’ve been graced in a way that millions of human animals never experience. Think of us as an ongoing journey. Over and over the ray pauses, turns: am I still coming? Yes I’m coming, and I am all Yes. Or say it this way: the ray and I do nothing. Instead we are being done—done by the immense energy of jubilation. Before I saw the ray, sea had emptied and filled me with the pleasant clamor of pelican and gull. I’d rested and believed I needed nothing more. Now I’ve been given immeasurably more: the more of two animals become one jubilance. Jubilance is not overindulgence. It’s an excess of joy, and every living creature is entitled to a full pitcher of this excess, and another, and another. Here we come, wheeling though the communion of all things, swimming-flying. I imagine I will never want another margarita. I imagine I will never need to eat or drink again. Stroke by stroke, we go deeper, and the deeper we go, the darker the water. At intervals the ray turns and looks up at me, then on we go, one single loop of energy. But It’s harder to see my companion now. The ray skims slowly along near the bottom, and the bottom slopes gradually further and further down. How many times does this lavender being look back, then go on? No one’s counting. We’re completely busy being bodily company. “All the visible structures of the world—all things and beings,” Joseph Campbell said, “are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve.”[1] Then comes a moment when the ray turns, sees me, glides forward along the bottom—and goes all the way out of my sight. I hang in the water looking down longer, rocked by blue green water. But of course: there is here and now, and then there is gone. “The soul seeks nothing,” Simone Weil wrote, “so much as contact with the beauty of the world.”[2] That’s what animals give us: the beauty of their


Marilyn Krysl

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strangeness, and their likeness to us, we who are animals too. They not only befriend us, they confirm us to ourselves, just as our attention confirms them. The ray and I were an instance of the world’s beauty, but now comes the word over. Half of us has disappeared—but which half ? Saints have known ecstatic union and also its inevitable disappearance. They recount their piercing and declare afterward that ecstasy’s signature is incised on their flesh. I’m no saint, just your average human animal, graced and blessed, every neuron kissed. How long do I hang in the water, suspended, looking down at ocean’s invisible bottom as though it’s the shrine at Lourdes? Is the slave pleased? Sea is itself a gentle, wild animal, a sprawling aliveness, moving, sighing, rolling over, rolling on. I stroke toward shore, swathed in skin’s wet, sequined veil. Animals call up our lost Eden, that mythic time when flora and fauna lived in harmony before two-footed humans appeared. But that imagined Eden was neither heaven nor hell but both—extremes of comfort and discomfort follow each other, pain and ecstasy come go in endless looping time. Every day we experience small, quickly disappearing Edens, so many we can’t record them. An ecstatic experience is just that: a few moments of ecstasy which fade. I will prevail a while, then fail—that’s the story earth keeps telling us. I remind myself that now is all we ever have, and I’m here now, swimming stroke after stroke like a ticking clock, scrawling my name on water, water which immediately erases what I’ve written. Shore comes closer, and I touch down and stand in waist deep water. Three kids with shovels and a bucket look at me and stare. Does the reservoir of light inside me shoot all the way to the stars? Has the charge of jubilance made a permanent change in my animal body/psyche? But nothing is permanent—the word itself, as I write it, disappears. Bathers higher up the sand see my luminosity, and I would share this energy, for there is much of it and its glittering clothes me. As I walk up the slope, lit body spreading the word, I remind the slave that I spent this day being extremely alive. So alive that a woman heading down toward the water looks at me, startled, squinting as though my body is too bright to look at directly. She keeps staring, as though I’ve risen from ocean like a newborn wearing a caul of light. Though perhaps she also sees a woman like herself, coming slowly uphill, jubilant, into her dying. y This essay first appeared on the Sea Stories website in December, 2010. Sea Stories is the Blue Ocean Institute’s quarterly online journal of international ocean writing and art. [1] Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press, 1949, p. 257. [2] Simone Weil, Waiting for God, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1973, p. 174


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I want to know someone William Herman I want to know someone who looks like me someone with my smile you can’t see his teeth he won’t show them my cracks and folds my knees, my sense of doom— what he knows he can tell when it rains he’s always suppressing a sob that’s what he looks like the fat around the middle the flexibility of his joints you wouldn’t think it possible his nose runs at the oddest times. (See? There it goes…) I’d like there to be an intimacy between us. I have a thousand questions. w


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Spring Kwame Dawes For August Wilson

Locked up in Pittsburg in April the gutters are thawing. You know summer will stink like death, and the time will stretch. Sober now, you remember. In April the clouds are still heavy and there is so little light. A big-armed black man misses things when the month turns; the scent of mown grass, the sweet raw of hot dogs boiling, stale sweat cooking in humid changing rooms, the white of dogwoods against the sudden greening, the clogged up nose making whiskey a healer, the heavy scent of piping oil browning whiting, the sharpness of mustardsoaked pulled pork. These are the things that brought you here to do this time: a woman’s laughter, the feel of a man’s flesh giving to the thrust of steel. w


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The Things You Forget in Jail Kwame Dawes Mostly words that when spoken will soften your chest, make you think of other mornings ahead; you forget them slowly, but the dull pale wood panels, the rust in the hinges, the thick scent of old food, men’s crotches and heavy-duty cake soap, they fill the space where words you had were; all these new words become your music: foot, sore, rat, booze, crap, shank, cigarette, runs, anything to make you hard. Mostly the names of things that grow without you; words of an old woman in a gingham skirt catching dirt and the leeching of prickles and weeds; names she offered with a pointed finger, then talking the name in her fingers, she said, “smell,” and you did, and you traveled to a place that understands the sweet heave of stomach waking up with hope; gingko, magnolia, honeysuckle, camellia, azalea, wisteria, the music of mint, ginger root, garlic, sweet onion; the texture of soil steamed in crap, the sweet promise of good earth; you forget that you could walk through a forest and find meaty mushrooms, or the flower to fill your mouth with sweet petals. Mostly, you forget that you have forgotten until one day you look at the callus in your palms


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and ask yourself what you know, and you know that you have forgotten the curve of a woman’s belly, the iron funk scent of her thighs, the tiny lumps on her nipples; the light in her fingers, the taste of her skin, the slippery oil of her desire. And you know you knew nothing, and this is the truth of your hopelessness, now—how much you have forgotten, how much you must forget to find peace with the body’s need. w


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How my husband escapes Maria Mazziotti Gillan Yesterday you escaped, sneaking out the front door and down the ramp in your electric wheelchair, the one you can no longer drive in a straight line. You were headed out to the front sidewalk, after Loretta the Jamaican woman who takes care of you on the weekends, realized you had gotten out, chased you, shouting, Dennis, Dennis, where are you going? Come back. She brings you back inside, scolding you as though you were a child and you are upset and she is upset though you try to explain that you were looking for a box of his tapes that you’re sure I’ve thrown away. Loretta calls me, beside herself, saying you have to do something about Dennis, he won’t listen, though what she expects me to do from three hundred miles away I don’t know. She’s the kind of woman who never stops complaining and I think she’d like me to tie him to a chair to make it easier for her. We’ve had this argument before, the one where I say, he isn’t going to be tied down. He’s not in a public institution. Later I talk to you who try to explain why you needed to get out. I have a right to keep my tapes, you say and I think of the dining room that I emptied of its furniture and moved your bed and bureau and desk and TV downstairs to the dining room, think of the laundry basket full of papers that you tell me you are going to sort out and put in files though I already sorted them and put them in files, but you were sure I had taken some of your papers and insisted you had to start over, think of the boxes of tapes stashed in your room. “I have to go through them” you say. “I have a right to them,” you insist. I know you are trying to hang onto the things you can control, while each day you lose one more thing you can do, and I try to be kind but my voice rises and shakes. I am not a child, you say. How did it come to this? I want to superimpose the picture of you, young and fit, you who ran miles each day in all weather, you who swam forty laps in the pool, you who could give hours of information on Plato and Aristotle and John Dewey, over the picture in my head now of you sliding down in your chair, your skinny behind hanging off the edge, you resting on your neck, your head bent sideways, your face marked like the crucified Christ in Spanish paintings. Ah love, I


Maria Mazziotti Gillan

did not know it could come to this. I comfort you, say, “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to Loretta when I come home. Please don’t sneak out again.” “Promise,” you say. Though in five minutes you will have forgotten the promise. And I imagine you taking off, crooked, erratic, down the sidewalk, trying to get to a different life, while Loretta runs after you, shouting your name. w

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Wet Sponge Peter Bricklebank There’s a special soggy place in hell for people who don’t squeeze out the sponge. It’s a dank and disgusting sinkhole and it makes those damned to dwell in its inhospitable regions for all eternity aware of just how uncared for the other people in their corporeal life had felt every time they had picked up that squelching mass. Imagine a place the size of a leviathan aircraft hanger, a not-so-grand canyon, a sunken continental shelf; pace it out, and you will, and you’d think it a giant steel sink. The myriads of others with you will attest to the same notion, equally baffled as you. This hell place oozes grey murk, a welted morass of textures, pasty pasta, ghostly oatmeal, the faded green bits of shredded and boiled things, globs of the indefinable yet gross, parings and slivers of greasy gobbets strewn and threatening to touch the skin, the crude stringy detritus of those who left the shit work of life for others. And now those people who walked away from their domestic chores in life will have to press their bodies to it at every turn, that clammy texture that fingertips revile, in this place that is never dry. Think wet socks at work all day. Multiply that without pay for a time longer than you care to think about. This is the hell you didn’t think you’d chosen. There’s a strainer/plug, gargantuan and gloppy, in the vast expanse of this nether region. The inmates are occasionally prodded—pitchforks? guilt?— to drag it up like an old anchor and wade into the suppurating drain to hoist up particles of semi-chewed ick, splenetic strips of the sauces of the congealed, the splatter of platter swill. Should the drain clog, they are made to slither into the murk and claw the blockage clear. Presumably nauseated, one can only hope from this they grow clearer in their own mind as to why they of all people find themselves there. Imagine this repeated numerous times during the day—just as in life—their hands clutching moist greasy sponges whilst they wait, eternally, for the hot water that would cleanse their shiveringly-repulsed skin. Remember how much you loved a hot invigorating shower? Then remember too the tepid flaccidity of the slithy sponge. Welcome to the slough of Despond. It snows in this antechamber of Hell—a white powder. And those who are justly condemned there of course probably don’t know what it is at first. But they surely notice the cavernous steel about them is mustard-


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rust brown around the edges as far as they can see, a mirror into which they might have reflected were it not smothered in smear. And prodded— hot coals? remorse?—they roll in the rough, defoliating powder with their naked bodies—you will certainly not be the only one exposed in this vast place—not that that absolves you—and clean. Scouring and wiping, spicand spanning, rubbing their butts and body parts back and forth, all across the steely bottom, and yes, up around the sides too, as far as they can reach—never-ending busywork, like in life, not that they will remember it. They will climb on each other’s shoulders to reach the higher tidemarks, flensing with the tiny useless hand sponges they have been issued, bemused as to how steel can grow so grimy. And lapping around ankles, knees, thighs, the bilge of scummy water dammed (damned) by flotsam which, if they have been derelict in their duties has caught in the catch-all (the round silver thing that, unless washed and rinsed, remarkably isn’t shiny silver ever again, a thing which only some in the earthly life ever touched), which accounts for the swirl of swamp water pooling, always repellent to the touch of the one who follows the one who left it there. Remember that yellowish liquid that puddled beside the mounds of black bags during the strike that you called Garbage juice? Remember bug juice, the concoction for innumerable squashed insects in water that the gardening catalogues used to tout as an organic method of discouraging pests? This liquid is of similar vintage. But I digress from my task, and nothing there is like cleaning to focus the mind. So there they will be, those to whom a sponge is a technology too far, those whose hands were never previously sullied by the bleach in scouring powder or the stale tang of the domestic that attaches to fingers that unplug a strainer of drowned foodstuffs or drain-pluck in distaste but do it anyway. There they are now, bare naked souls, thighs wrapped around each others necks, tottering in towers of misery, flabby butts rubbing this way and that against the cold steel until it’s shiny again, all of it, until the walls are agleam and sanitized, and the trapped deliquescent mush is lifted from the drain and flung away with the vigor and wrist-snap of disgust, and all is dutifully dry-wiped again. Momentarily spotless and radiating optimism, always false it’s true, but nevertheless, the catch-all, the vast sink, shines with a misguidedly hopeful sense that the entropy of the universe has and can be beaten back, that order can reign, that cleanliness is next to if not godliness then at least next to the spot where vegetables are prepared, Gloria in Excelsis. If that is not a name for a scouring powder, what is? But this is hell (as it is on earth). For one brief moment imagine


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spatter falls, the antipathy of manna perhaps, more force than grace, and the scourers are sluiced. But not cleansed. For the sink is befouled in an instant. Goop, the fundamental element of the universe, covers everything again. It is then, exhausted with cleaning’s banality, with the brutalizing travail, the tiny sponges in their myriad puckered hands torn by labor and friction, the sullying glacial erasure that is grit and grime beneath their paths, the assembled look up. Spiraling down for everyone comes…another sponge. It’s sopping. And so the process repeats. Ad nauseum. Ad infinitum. Add bilge water. Hell’s a moral place, if you accept some revenge is just. Which is why it’s bigger than you’d think. There’s another vast nether space somewhere like a toilet bowl where similar events eternally repeat, scourge and cleanse the soul or befoul it, depending on your point of view and whether you’re doing the cleaning, but we won’t go there, that’s mostly for roommates anyway. And so now you see my dear love, a little, I hope, belatedly but without interlarding scrim, why, when you asked me to live with you, after calculating hesitation,… I said no. Give your not-so-old clothes and your precious time to the poor and needy, as you did, all that’s wonderful, as, I thought, were you. But share my life, and you share my sponge (and yours were always brand new and mine were ragged and stale, so no one is perfect here). Caring begins in the drear dishwater of dailiness. It’s at this level we all have to do better, because with something approximating kindness, the rest of life becomes bearable. What more can I give you of myself than to clean your crud. It’s more of a generous act than gifts you complained I never gave. But to then give short shrift to me, me who, you claimed, did not appreciate the depth of your true love, and I can only say,… On those future nights when you find yourself alone, and unbidden you think of me and all we could have had, step back from the open refrigerator where your hand curls around the remaining wine and look down into your soul. There in the sink you will find my heart. Squeeze it and we’ll be as close as we ever could be. y


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Cosmonauts! This Will Be Our Year! Sean Cissel I like to think that each of us is a neon-veined constellation and we orbit one another as the Big Dipper spills a galaxy of stars into the universe dancing in the glow of keyboards and electric guitars and clapping drum-machines and exquisite violins all playing on records so new and oil-pool black that you can see incandescent gulches of stardust spinning sky-reflected in the grooves, or sometimes I think that we are all living in a snowglobe depicting Monument Valley and are caught up in the middle of a soundless nighttime blizzard and the wet white flakes sift down chiaroscuro against the ink sky sweeping onto the cracked russet desert floor of the high plateau while we cling against the lee of some ghostly siltstone totem, but then the clouds drift apart and the silver parchment moon appears and the starlights wink on one by one like notes being tapped from a glockenspiel. w


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Clay Bowl Dorianne Laux It slipped from my fingers, the dust-blue bowl, brushed inside with a faint gold finish, small object I loved to gaze upon while brushing my hair— contrast of muted azure with that swirl of thin yellow glaze that seemed to float above the clay like the surface of a pond seems to float above the heavy depths. Its round blue world was perfect, private, silent as a planet, now in pieces at my feet, shattered on the black and white tiles, curved shells still rocking. I lifted each sharp petal, stacked them in my palm, careful not to cut myself, and when I stood caught my face in the mirror, a face I didn’t recognize— the sloped nose, thin brows, wide cheek bones all aspects of the human, ruddy lips, flushed flesh,


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though it was someone else who gazed back, a being whose blue eyes darkened, a soul I didn’t know but who seemed to know me and smiled with pity as if upon a creature whose secret this one, in her pale nakedness, promised always to keep. w


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After the Revolution of Roses L. S. Asekoff Emptiness is what we hate. The table is full, the wall painted, space Filled with voices. Our true religion is hospitality. With not a great deal to do & time to philosophize, We’re great company. Of course we miss our wives & are hungry for conversation. In the rear mirror, We can see men running out into the street, vainly waving bottles. We live on the spur of the moment, using the stranger As pretext to give & rejoice. Two ladies, leaning on their elbows & smiling into each other’s eyes, sing in harmony About love & loss. Sitting peacefully beside the fountains, We know everything beautiful is self-illuminated – Palms, oleanders, grove of eucalyptus trees Planted long ago to dry out the malarial marshes, Peacocks in the garden, a bank of wooly clouds, & in the distance, dazzling silver peaks. Banana palms flourish in perpetual rain. Years ago people read by natural light & spent much of the winter in bed. No gas, no electricity, the odd oil-lamp glimmer. So the nights of candlelight & sleeping in overcoats began. Taxonomy melted in the heat of new realities. Living on pails of Red Cross soup, tangerines & tobacco, Black market petrol, we watched the rival fleets Hoovering up the coastal fishing stocks. Our stroke of luck? The Golden Fleece! Now the lights are on, The heating works. A huge head of steam has been created. Yet the big hand which switches on can also switch off. The great museum is dark & very cold. Half-seen In a corner of the lobby, three watchmen in greatcoats Crouch over a brazier beside transparent plastic skulls – Almost perfect teeth, hostile black tunnels Of their eye-orbits funneling back into the unknown, Their double-barreled darkness trained on us.


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Having taken the scaffold down while others sleep, We’d love to serve, but are sickened by Servility! We support the opposition – from the moment They got into power. Meanwhile where are we going? Prisoners in our own country, guests of history Merrily kidnapped for a mystery tour, We observe our “Baby President” Squeezed between the claws of a red-hot pair of tongs. w


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S/C L.S. Asekoff (adapted in part from the correspondence of Nelly Sachs [S] with Paul Celan [C])

Cloud-thief, Invisible pen pal, Perhaps the night is over now & the watchman will start to blow reveille. It has been black for us so long Even the memory of gold has vanished. Still I see you rising from your restraints & in the dark radiance of your suffering Signaling through the flames. Here, at the arrow-tip of longing, Where all metaphors are wounds, Stones break into music & we fly with our bodies alone. The great armadas sail across the skies! During those hard winter months The tutors of death & darkness showed me The deep-eyed ones fished from the sea & a dark net closed over me. I could hear the whispering between walls, Hiss of nerve gas As the sisters of the Nazi Spiritual League Conspired once more against me. A key turned on itself Unlocking the polar crystal & I followed the crooked road inward – Its whiplash lightning under the lids – To the Amen of colors where In the veined double-black wings of enfolding & divided night The Great Terror glows.


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Now, convalescing In the white summers nights of Lidingo, I know fear is still anchored here, An undertow. But light undulates like water on walls, A gold shimmering. Out my window, I see the blessed harbor, The shining rocks, The boats going one by one to Finland. The good news is, my friend, Electro-shock behind me, My signature is valid again. Today the kind doctor & gentle nurses Witnessed the codicil To my will – “When we suffer, We cease to belong to anyone but God.” w


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Tagore on the Bookmobile Lorna Goodison “And if it is not my portion to meet thee in this my life; then let me ever feel that I have missed thy sight.” —Rabindranath Tagore

Belly full of books enough to sustain you on your journey; all of a hundred miles a day to far outposts of your father’s parish. To small school houses where belleng bellenged the handheld bell; when great giving bookmobile toiled into view, schoolchildren heralding its coming. Bookmobile come the bookmobile come. Gitanjali you found between a Child’s Garden of Verses and The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, lyrics that shivered your head top off. Watered your gaze on the clay red landscape. What hard love was this Rabindranath wrote of, pitiless force able to gouge unhealable gash in the heart like the mined-out bauxite quarries heaved past? Flesh could not sustain such feelings as this poet spawned, you would fall, but so see how every love echoed Friend’s name, all love, Beloved’s surrogate. At day’s end, wending home past the balm-yard flags you would feel yourself stream out towards Him. And all because of Tagore of Bengal. w


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I Said to the Wind Norman Stock I said to the wind be my friend and the wind said no go I said to the sun warm my heart and the sun said no go I said to the air comfort me and the air said no go I said to the earth bury me and the earth said yes, I will w


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With the Thousand Year Old Woman Norman Stock it’s an experience to be with her even for one night o speak about the past how much she remembers how little she has forgotten she draws me to her and I can smell the sweetness of the centuries in her hair it is at times like these that I realize how beautiful she is I will not let go of her even if we are together for only one night time is nothing when it comes to such things w


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Anniversary Richard Levine It is mourning that makes him observe the day he lost her to history. And like the twin beams that cleave the sky, reaching up out of sight to plumb the dark depth of collective absence, he sets out a votive candle to warm her face, framed on a porch step. Could anyone pass this house she called home without noticing their own good fortune? I enter the yard, as one approaching an open casket in a chapel. The gate hinge squeaks. Inside, a dog barks. Someone’s silhouette peers out from between parted blinds, draws back, and disappears. Knowing nothing of such grief, I wonder to where in that house and himself he has retreated. The face in the frame and emulsion is smiling, dimpled, the head turned up slightly, perhaps suddenly, as if in laughter, and the play of light on the curve of her throat and in her eyes is as clear and responsive as a bead of air in a carpenter’s level. To those who miss her, this must be her true reflection; even when she was at work or running errands, this is how they thought of her. I think of my wife, at home, with a book in bed, reading and dozing, maybe wanting and waiting for me, unwaveringly certain, even on this anniversary, of my return. w


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Envying the Birds Maria Terrone Of course, their flight. How long since I dreamed I was one of them, cruising the neighborhood, marveling at winged gargoyles on apartment building tops? Next time, there will be no learning to crawl, stumble, walk, fall, break, ache, there will be no x-rays, scans of my weightless, hollow bones. I’ll rise early without effort or the need to feel virtuous. There will be no gurgles, splutters, baby babble, back talk, wisecracks, black-tie speeches, or words that ricochet and fall like spent birdshot. w


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The Bath Maria Terrone The slippery promise of jasmine soap in the curve of my palm: I hush the roaring spigot and ease into water calm as dreamless sleep. The dregs of a day—banished from this purchased, perfumed hour. Tiny bubbles form and fizzle out, casting a violet sheen like the after-image of distant stars just visible through steaming nebula. How strange it feels to watch my mind, stripped clean, drift like a hollow barge until a thought tumbles out like a smudged note the broom missed: today she returned. Trailing a black-patched robe, she screamed Unclean to all who would hear her confession, warning, rebuke. Pedestrians clutched at their lapels, noses tucked within to breathe the scent of their own skin. When the wind tore at her newspaper wimple, she screamed again Unclean. The two red circles painted on her cheeks deepened to stains. w


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SHACK AND TREE Photograph by Christopher Woods


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HOUSE IN THE TREES Photograph by Christopher Woods


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THURSDAY, LATE SUN Photograph by Christopher Woods

THE ROAD THROUGH THE TREES Photograph by Christopher Woods


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Johannes-the-Goldsmith’s Bible —The Morgan Library, New York City, 2008

Elizabeth Haukaas Here, under glass, black columns equable as the Twin Towers’ mechanical perfection, and the illuminares, those manmade flourishes (red on the sills, the stairwells, in the lobbies) — those rubrications. Movable type and it’s a feast of letters. But what else could you have expected, Herr Gutenberg? Not the Kristallnacht— as if flame could stop the mind’s game to save itself from truth by writing it down. As the book ashes scatter Anne Frank thins to a page, though her remains survive: Dear Kitty, Shattering things are happening. Your bible’s worth gold, Johannes, even as history fades in its glow: echoes of the lectors, indulgences for sale for those on paths to hell; goose-stepping on the streets beneath the Annex—what must it be like to be scared to death of the story you race time to tell; even sixty years later as Wall Street’s goldsmiths


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dial cell phones to record what was as black-smoke columns eat the air, and thousands of pages flutter down with the buildings around them, words lost in the shattering. w


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The emergency-room imagist Dan Sociu The painful liver zoomed on the black-and-white monitor, her gleaming silver nails by chance brushing against my white pubic hair. I sweat, ashamed I’m sweating. Ashamed I’m so very skinny and sick. My obscene liver puts me to shame before the emergency-room imagist. My mother, who chitchats with her about wages and medical insurance, feels ashamed of my liver. She’s ashamed I have no job, no insurance, and only the name of my dead father prevents her from putting me out in the streets. Half this town has been my father’s pupil. My liver shames his name. Such expensive technology wasted on me. I’m nobody. Never will the blond emergency room imagist


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touch me as if I were a healthy man. w Translated from Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and the poet with Mihaela Nit창


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They were like family to me Helen Maryles Shankman There were two of them, standing and arguing in front of the oblong patch of grass between the decrepit buildings. They didn’t look like they belonged there; both of them wore new coats, made from fine fabric, well-cut and nicely designed, clearly made somewhere else, where they cared about such things. They were holding a map, staring at the clearing in puzzlement, chattering in a foreign language the old man didn’t recognize. One pointed at the map with a gloved hand, while the other shook his head in disagreement. “Excuse me,” said the older one in Polish as he passed by. “Perhaps you can help us out.” The old man was holding a small child’s hand. He was short and fat and out of breath; when he walked, he toddled, just like the little boy. “Are you Jewish?” he said. Though there were no Jews left in Sokal, he had heard that sometimes they came to small towns in Poland to explore their heritage, to reclaim the house their grandfather had lived in, to search for distant relatives in cemeteries. Both men smiled. “No. Not Jewish,” said the older of the two. The old man peered closer. Now he could see the white clerical collar, just visible over the lapels of his overcoat. His cheeks reddened with embarrassment. “I’m sorry, Father. It’s just…in this part of Poland, we don’t get many visitors. Usually, they’re Jews. I just assumed…” The priest waved it off. “Have you always lived here? In this town, I mean.” “Yes. My parents moved here when I was just a little boy. Where are you from? You speak Polish, but I heard you speaking another language with your friend.” “I grew up around here,” he said. “But I live in New York now.” “New York,” said the old man. “I’ve never been west of Warsaw.” The priest gestured towards the green patch of grass. “Perhaps you can tell me something about this place,” he suggested. “On my map, it says something happened here in 1942.” “Oh. Yes. Well…” the old man’s gaze wandered. “My grandson… nursery school…” he said vaguely. “Oh, I’m sorry. Please, don’t let me keep you.” It was a cold day. For


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warmth, the priest put his hands in his coat pockets. His eyebrows drew together, he fished around inside his pocket until he pulled out a chocolate bar. It had a yellow wrapper with a picture of a little girl on it. “May I?” he asked. The old man nodded. The priest squatted down until he was level with the little boy, who accepted the candy in his mittened hand. The priest smiled. The child looked back at him with grave, dark eyes. “You do this every day?” inquired the priest as he stood back up, brushing off his coat tails. The old man nodded. Under his hat, the skin was fragile and thin, like parchment, except for his cheeks and the tip of his nose, which were a startling pink. “You’re a good grandfather.” The old man shrugged. “My only grandchild,” he replied, by way of explanation. Now, nothing prevented him from leaving, but still, he lingered. There was something about the priest, his moist dark eyes rimmed with long black lashes. It was the face of a man who had heard many sad stories. Just now, he was gazing with curiosity at the green patch between the buildings. “It’s my own little project,” he explained, almost apologetically. “Well. Obsession, really. I’m traveling around Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, trying to collect stories of what the Nazis did. Before the people who witnessed them are gone. Things that didn’t make it into the history books.” The old man’s lips compressed into a thin line. “The history books,” he said contemptuously, dismissing the entire genre. “All they ever tell you is what happened to the Jews. Never what happened to the Poles.” He added hastily, “It’s not their fault, of course. What happened to them was terrible, I’m not saying it wasn’t. All I’m saying is you never hear anything else.” The priest nodded. Encouragingly, the old man thought. “The first thing the Nazis did when they got here was round up anyone with a brain. The mayor, Jablonski. The superintendent of the schools, Wygand. The judge, Wiesneski. Slipowitz, who was something important in industry, I don’t remember what. The Earl, Sobieski. Anyone who could think for themselves. They marched them all off to the forest and shot them. But do you see that in the history books?” The priest nodded sympathetically. “Terrible,” he agreed. “The Jews came later,” he continued morosely. “In 1942.” “How can you possibly remember?” said the priest. “You must have been very young. Six? Seven?” The old man’s thin lips curved upwards, and then he broke into a dry, shrunken laugh. “You are a flatterer, Father,” he said, shaking his head. “I was born in 1927. Eleven years old when the Nazis came.” He released his


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grandson’s hand so that he could wipe the end of his nose with a soiled handkerchief that he excavated from his coat pocket. Immediately, the little boy turned to the task of making snowballs. “I remember everything about that day. The sun was shining down on the wheat, turning everything to gold. A soldier came down that road on a motorcycle with a sidecar. He stopped at the pump for a drink of water.” The old man sighed moodily. He took off his hat, an old moth-eaten karakul with ear flaps, to run a gloved hand over his sparse white hair. “We lived at the edge of town, then, next to a Jewish family. The Singers. The parents, Moshe and Maryam. The children, Gabriel, Uriel, Reuven. Sender.” “You remember their names.” “Of course I remember their names, what do you think? I practically grew up in that house.” The priest tipped his head to one side, listening. The old man explained. “My mother died when I was very young. My father worked for the Earl, managing his forests. How could he know what to do with a little boy.” “A hard life,” suggested the priest. “Yes. A hard life, always.” he agreed emphatically. He plopped his hat back on his head with a flourish, meaning he had said everything he we going to say. “Were there a lot of Jews in this town?” the priest asked quickly. “No more than anywhere else.” He squinted out at the trees beyond the gray Soviet-era building blocs. “It wasn’t true, you know, what they used to say about them,” he said suddenly. “Not all Jews were rich. The Singers didn’t have much. But everything they did have, they shared with me. Sender, the youngest, we were in the same class at school. We used to play together. We were like this.” He twined the second and third fingers of his left hand together, the fingers thick like sausages. “They saw how things were at our house. Sender used to invite me for dinner. Maryam never said no. It got to be a regular thing.” The old man went on now, absorbed in the past, without further prompting. “The father, Moshe. He was a shoichet, a Jewish butcher, with a long black beard down to here. Times were hard. The Depression, you know. They didn’t pay him with money. He used to bring home the cuts nobody wanted; hearts, lungs, stomachs, brains. Someone else would have thrown them out. But by the time Maryam was finished with them, they were delicious, as fine as anything you’d get at the fanciest restaurant in… in Paris.” He looked at the priest defiantly, as if he expected an argument. Finding none, he went on.


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“We used to get in trouble all the time. My father was the keeper of the Earl’s lands, but it didn’t stop us from poaching fish from the stream, or picking apples from his orchards.” He smiled wryly with the memory, revealing a series of gaps and gold teeth in the wrinkled mouth. “The lands went on and on. See these buildings?” He waved his hands at the line of gray apartment blocks marching off into the distance down Wirka Street. “This was all forest back then, part of the Earl’s property.” The old man plunged on with his story, his pale eyes alight with pleasure. “We didn’t have fishing poles. We would take Maryam’s big wooden bowl, the one she used to knead bread. We’d set the bowl in the river and stand there with our pants legs rolled up, ready with bushel baskets. When the fish came to nibble on the crusts of dough, we’d scoop them up and bring them home.” “This one time, we had just finished filling a sack with apples. It was October, the year before the war started. The leaves were just beginning to turn yellow. In the fields, the hands were already done harvesting. You could see haystacks standing here and there, the tops pointed, like little huts. Anyway…Sender was climbing down from a tree in the Earl’s orchard. Suddenly, there was my father, running toward us down a long lane of apple trees, holding a big stick and shaking it at us. Oh, could he holler! I never saw anybody come down a tree that fast. Sender tossed me the bag, threw himself over the gate, and we ran like our behinds were on fire!” He was smiling again. The priest had the impression that he didn’t smile often. “I can still see my father behind the gate, shaking his fist at us and screaming curses. I really caught it when I finally had the courage to come home. He gave me a real licking. Beat me so hard I couldn’t sit down the next day. Sender got two lickings. Once for tearing his clothes, once for stealing apples.” He shook his head, muttered darkly. “Like the Earl would miss a few apples.” “Were many Polish boys friendly with Jewish children?” “Oh, no. There was a lot of hatred, even before the Nazis came. People were suspicious of the Jews, they said they were Christ killers, or spies for the Communists. I was always defending him. There were a lot of fights.” “What was it like when the Germans came?” said the priest. “Like I said. First they made a big show, got rid of the intelligentsia. Then they killed some Jews and passed a lot of anti-Jewish laws, just to show they were in charge.” “What kind of laws?” “Let me see…” he squinted hard into the sun, trying to remember.


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“Jews had to give up their businesses…couldn’t buy food…couldn’t take streetcars…had to wear an armband with a star on it…couldn’t kill animals the kosher way. Also, the Jewish kids couldn’t go to school anymore. That was the end of school for me, too. If Sender wasn’t going, neither was I.” He smiled, a lopsided, boyish grin. “For a while, it wasn’t so bad. The father, Moshe, now he had to sneak around to do his job, but he was still a butcher, they had what to eat. There were a lot of poor people. Maryam was always sending us over to someone’s house, someone with even less…with a pot of soup, some stew, a loaf of bread.” He glanced down at the snowy ground. “She was a saint, that woman. A saint.” “But Sender and me, we still had fun. We were never bored. Not like today’s kids. We’d spend hours building forts in the houses that were blown up when the Germans first came, and spend the rest of the day playing war, throwing chestnuts and rotten apples at the other kids. Some days it was the Americans against the Germans, some days it was the Russians against the Germans…some days the good guys won, some days the bad guys. There was always something to do. The day we went deep into the forest and came back with berries and mushrooms, they treated us like heroes. ” The priest smiled. “That was very brave of you.” The old man hunched his coat up around his face, his features almost disappearing behind the upturned collar. “I wasn’t so brave,” he muttered. Now his tone turned somber. “In 1941, all the Jews had to move to the ghetto, in the poorest, most run-down part of town. That was when the situation really started to go downhill. They were picking people up off the street and shooting them. I didn’t see the Singers so much after that. You could get into trouble for being too friendly with Jews.” He lapsed into silence. “What about you?” the priest prodded him, his forehead furrowing with concern. “You were just a kid. Who took care of you after that?” “That’s when I started hunting,” he said. “Rabbits, birds. When the Nazis came, they confiscated the Earl’s property. Now my father worked for the Germans. I had to be very careful; you could be killed for poaching on Reinhart’s land. I became an expert at being quiet, at being invisible, like I was a rock, or a stump.” “Sounds risky.” “Yes, well…I had to eat, right?” “Were you ever caught?” The old man turned his gaze towards the little boy, who was erecting


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a snowman in front of the plot of grass. He had already collected a large boulder of snow for the base, and was unsuccessfully trying to fit a smaller snowball on top of it. “He’s going to be a builder,” commented the priest. “Eric, why don’t you help him out?” he suggested to the young man accompanying him. Obediently, Eric got down on his knees in the snow. The priest was sunk in thought for a moment before he summoned up the next question. “Did you ever see the Singers again?” “They left,” the old man replied. “I passed by their house one day, looking for Sender, but they were gone, someone else was living there. Some people did that. They went to live with friends, or farmers, or they just vanished into the forests. Moshe knew his way around pretty well. He had to travel through the woods in his work, going from town to town. I was sad, because, you know, they were like family to me. But I knew it was for the best. One day, the war would be over, and I hoped they would be all right.” The little boy came over to the railing, looked dubiously at his grandfather. “I’m going to be late,” he said. “It’s going to be clean-up time.” “Go play in the snow,” said the old man. Obediently, the little boy returned to his snowman. “You asked if I ever got caught,” he said. His hands were thrust deep in his pockets, he was looking up at the sky. “The sky was blue, like today, and cold. There was snow on the ground. I was in a remote part of the woods, where I used to go with Sender, tracking grouse. No one should have been there. No one.” “Grouse,” repeated the priest. “A kind of game bird,” he said. “There were all these tracks in the snow. Hoofprints, from boar. Bird feet. Squirrel tracks. Deer, of course. A wolf. Even the pawprints of a large bear.” “Bear!” he exclaimed. “Here?” The old man nodded. “Yes. Not anymore. They were rare, even then. But that was when I saw the footprints. “There was a hummock, a kind of hill, with trees standing on top of it, and footprints in the snow all around it. Branches scattered near the front, disguised an opening. Right away, I knew that someone was living inside there, someone had made themselves a bunker inside this little hill.” “I was so distracted that I forgot to be careful until it was too late. Suddenly, there were voices behind me, shouting in German. I must have stumbled right into one of their patrols. They had me surrounded. Four soldiers were walking slowly towards me, their rifles pointed at my chest.


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“They told me to put down my gun, put my hands in the air. I thought, ‘This is it, they’re going to kill me,’ and I started to cry. I was only fifteen, you know. “They looked at my clothes, and the grouse I was carrying, and then they started to laugh. Except for the uniforms, they were just like me, young men, out for a hunt on a beautiful winter day. Until they saw the birds, they thought I was a partisan. They hated partisans.” “They gave me back my gun, offered me a cigarette, a chocolate bar. They wanted to know where I had found the grouse. I could speak a little German, it’s similar to the Yiddish I picked up from the Singers, and this made them even more excited. None of the Poles spoke German, except for the Jews.” “I was so relieved; and what was more, I had made new friends, important friends. Deep inside, I was thrilled. This could be the start of something big. I wanted to make myself useful to them. After all, weren’t they our new leaders? “That was what I was thinking when I showed them the footprints in the snow.” He pulled out the soiled handkerchief again. It was very cold. He had to keep wiping his nose. “One of the Germans kicked apart the branches covering the opening and shouted at whoever was in there to come out. Six people came crawling up out of that hole. They were like raccoons after hibernation, blinded by the light. As they climbed out, one by one, the soldiers kicked them sprawling into the snow. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t recognize them at first. They had wasted down to skin and bones. Their hair was long and matted, their clothes were tattered rags. They had been hiding there for almost a year, living on mushrooms and roots. The Singers.” “The soldiers clapped me on the back, congratulating me on my find. One said, ‘Let’s kill them right here.’ Another one said, ‘No. I have an idea.’ He said to me, ‘Why don’t you come with us, this will be fun.’” “So, we started walking. We walked and we walked and we walked. All the time, Sender was next to me, whispering in my ear. ‘Stefan, why did you tell them? Stefan, how could you give us away?’ Stefan, Stefan, Stefan, Stefan!’” He clapped his hands over his ears, as if he could still hear his friend’s voice. “I said, ‘How was I supposed to know it was you in there? It could have been anyone.’” The priest nodded, understanding.


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“After an hour of walking, we could hear voices, laughter, gunfire. We came to a clearing. There were trucks and motorcycles, horses, a dog. Important-looking men in shiny leather coats. Officers with medals and ribbons. Off to one side was also a big hole in the ground, and a group of Jews being guarded by soldiers, with more arriving all the time. People from neighboring villages were watching, standing behind a rope. It was like the circus came to town.” “Reinhart was there with his dog. He was the Commandant of the labor camp.” The priest’s eyelids were lowered; he looked as if he was sleeping. “He was standing with a couple of other officers. He looked very pale. He knew a lot of the people being killed, they worked for him. He had promised that he would protect them. Either he was lying, or his friends back in Berlin had other ideas.” Now the old man fell quiet. He looked over at his grandson. The little boy had found some scraps of coal. Eric had collected branches and a splayed broom they could use as arms. His knit cap was sitting rakishly upon the snowman’s round head. Quietly, the old man resumed his story. “There were a group of men from town, standing around smoking cigarettes, leaning on their rifles. One of the officers noticed my gun. He pointed at me, told me to get over there. The soldiers were laughing, because I was so young.” “My knees were like jelly, but I did what he said. A line of Jews trotted over, stopped in front of us. People I knew. Reiss, who used to sell candy and newspapers at a store around the corner from the market square. Professor Schulz, one of the teachers at the high school. Adler, who I used to play soccer with.” “The officer shouted a command,” he said. “When he gave the word, I pulled the trigger. The Jews fell down into the pit.” “My God,” said the priest’s companion reflexively. The priest bent him a sharp look. The old man noticed. His brows lowered in a frown. “What else could I do?” he said roughly. “You couldn’t just say no. I had to think about myself, my father’s position. What would you have done?” Agitated, he took off his hat and rubbed thick, stubby fingers over his pink scalp. Fearful that Eric’s outburst might have frightened the old man into silence, the priest scoured his brain for an innocuous question to get him talking again. But before he could think of anything to say, the old man went on in his dry, papery voice. “They weren’t all dead. Some of them were only wounded, moaning, trying to free themselves. It didn’t make a difference; someone scattered


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sand over them, the officer called for more Jews.” “The Singers were in this next group. Directly in front of me was Moshe, the father. They were ordered to strip. He was standing in front of me naked, holding his hands over his private parts. I lowered my rifle, I couldn’t do it. This man had been like a father to me. But then I saw my new friends, watching me. I raised my rifle to my shoulder. When the officer gave the command, I fired.” He was quiet for a long while after that, so long that the priest thought he was finished with his story. He was surprised when the old man’s voice stuttered querulously back to life, cracking in the frigid air. “Why did I look down into the pit? I didn’t want to see her dead. I wanted to remember her the way she used to be. Suddenly, a powerful fear came over me. What if she was only wounded? What if she was suffering?” “Her?” the priest was confused. “She? Who are you talking about?” But the old man didn’t seem to notice that he was there. “I stepped forward and looked down into the trench. The rest of them had died instantly, thank God. They lay in each others arms, close together, even in death. “Except for Celia. My darling Celia…” He broke down, began to weep. The sound was like the parts of a machine grinding together, rusted from disuse. “It was Celia who was my friend, Celia who invited me home, Celia I went fishing with, Celia who got spanked when we stole the apples. My sweet, beautiful Celia, with her long brown hair and laughing green eyes, the pink mouth I always wanted to kiss…when my father beat me, it was Celia who put her arm around me, Celia who teased me until I smiled again.” He was staring off into the distance, past the dull gray buildings, the black, leafless branches with their burden of ice. “She was sitting up, holding her stomach with both hands. A bad way to go. It takes a long time to die, and you are in pain the whole way. Even worse, maybe they would bury her alive.” He screwed his hands into fists, pressed them into his eyes. “How could he have missed?” he burst out bitterly. “He was five steps away from her.” For a moment, he stood there scowling and shaking his head, an angry old man remembering an ancient hurt. “They were already shoveling sand over them. I was looking down into the pit, into her eyes, and I saw pleading there. Help me, Stefan, she seemed to be saying. Help me.” “I am a hunter, I said to myself. I do not let even an animal suffer. So I raised my rifle to my cheek. I aimed carefully. I did not miss.”


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The priest was staring at him. He had abandoned all pretense of polite conversation. When the old man spoke again, he was calm, almost matterof-fact. “They brought Jews all that day, and the next day, and the day after that. On the third day, we were finished. There were no more Jews in Sokal. We were Judenrein.” The priest was finding it difficult to speak. “And where did it take place, all this killing?” The old man looked surprised. “Right here,” he said. The boy had finished his snowman. It sat at the frozen edge of an undeveloped patch of land between the buildings, the scarf Eric had contributed fluttering in the wind. What was unusual was the grass, a summery apple green even though the temperature was a steady 15 degrees Farenheit and the sidewalk was ridged with ice. The priest felt goosebumps rise along his arms. “Thank you for your help,” he said. “No, Father, thank you,” the old man replied, his smile a garish rictus of gratitude. “I’ve never told anyone that story, not even my daughter. It’s good to talk about it after all this time.” This time, the wizened cheeks crinkled up into a jovial grin, and the priest caught a glimpse of the boy he must have been once upon a time before history caught him up in its jaws and twisted him into something hideous, a boy who might have been the lover of a murdered girl named Celia. The old man wanted to linger, to talk some more, but the child was tugging at his sleeve. “Maybe there’s a reason that you came here today,” he suggested, with a satisfied sigh. “All these years, I haven’t been able to take Communion. Maybe God sent you to me.” “Yes, yes, of course,” the priest said automatically. He wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible, as he would from a bad smell. Only reluctantly did the old man toddle away after his grandson. Eric went to retrieve his scarf and cap from the snowman. When he straightened back up, he noticed that the priest was crying, tears falling from his red-rimmed eyes. “That was horrible,” he said. “Yes,” agreed the priest. “We should report him to someone. He’s a war criminal.” The priest, whose last name was Reinhart, wiped his eyes with the heels of his hand. “Yes. We should. But then, none of these people would ever talk to us again. We’d be defeating our own purpose.” They began to walk down Wirka Street towards their car, a battered


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green Soviet-era Skoda. “I think I have frostbite,” said Eric. “I can’t feel my fingers. I haven’t built a snowman since I was ten.” “Sorry about that.” “Father, I know this sounds crazy…but the story he was telling reminded me of something. You know that photograph? The one in the file?” They had reached the car. Gratefully, the priest slid behind the wheel. Despite the deceptively cheery presence of the sun, it was brutally cold, so cold that it hurt to breathe. He took off his gloves to open the manila file that lay on the cracked leather seat of the Skoda. Inside were a few xeroxed pages, accompanied by a grainy black and white photograph, taken by some anonymous bystander at a mass killing just like this one. The priest squinted at it, trying to imagine it imposed over the present landscape. There was his father, standing with a quartet of officers over to one side. A few soldiers penned in a blurry mass of human beings. In the forefront of the picture, a young man in civilian clothing stood at the jagged edge of a pit, a too-large jacket hanging awkwardly on his frame, aiming his rifle at a girl in the bottom of a trench that was already partially filled with bodies. She was naked; her hands were pressed against her stomach. The priest had seen all too many photos like this one, but he had to admit, Eric had a point. There was something in the way the gunman stood, a tenderness in the way he cradled the stock to his cheek, something more in the way the girl was looking up at him. The priest shivered. He hoped Eric was wrong. “Where are we going next?” said Eric, scribbling notes into a looseleaf notebook. Carefully, he spread out the map of Poland on the dashboard. It was dated 1943, the names of the towns printed in German. He had to be careful with it; the paper was yellowed and cracking at the folds. Here and there, in the far eastern quadrant of the map, it was dotted with tiny red X’s. “There are so many places like this,” said the priest wearily. “And these are just the ones my father knew about.” “How can you keep on doing this?” said the younger man. He had finished with his notes, he was closing the photo back into the file. “I have to. It’s the only way I can think of to atone for him.” “This guy–we didn’t even get his name–did he tell you anything new?” The priest heaved a sigh. He repeated the old man’s words. He looked very pale. He knew a lot of the people being killed, they worked for him. He had promised that he would protect them. Either he was lying, or his


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friends back in Berlin had other ideas. “That’s something,” said Eric. Sympathetically. “He couldn’t have been the monster they say he was.” “You should have noticed by now,” he said. “Sometimes a monster looks just like any other man.” He started up the car. After overcoming an initial reluctance, it came juddering to life.y


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And Now This for Edwidge

Mervyn Taylor Sometimes it must feel like your fight for independence will never end, that liberty will keep eluding you like a goat that runs into the sea. The preacher says it is your voodoo that is killing you, that keeps you scraping and digging and having to subdue the enemy in your own house. But who can deny you your home, where even in hunger your mouths sing and drums beat the sweetest ra-ra, eh? Where your soldiers once marched over the cliffs to their death in the sea. And now this, your roof ’s falling in while you were combing the children’s hair, sending them off to school, while you were opening your stall to sell the few grains that still manage to grow, here comes this rain of rocks upon your head, this shaking of the ground , as if


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God does not know his own strength, as if He were dancing carelessly in his house above the mountains where your cries did not reach before. Now from across the river help comes. They could not pretend not to hear such a breaking up of earth, such a split run all the way from Petionville to Jacmel, through the belly of Port au Prince, that where it ended it seemed it could never be joined again. A whole new island I tell you is what you need, new roof, new flooring, new everything, new hills, new flowers, new yard with no fence to say this is yours that is theirs, someone forever claiming what you work so hard for. A place you can bring all those Boat People back to and make a huge bonfire of all the bad memories, of Papa This and Papa That, the furry slippers of their madams. But never mind my wishes, this is where you are now. This is your sweet and sour, your grief on top of grief, your little girl


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dancing to show the amputation was a success. How you sing through your sorrow, how you still fling your behind in the Carnival when it comes, and say your prayers however you remember them, whatever sacrifice you must makechicken, goat, your own blood, to say Not me, not my Haiti, blood coming out of her pores, her mountains marching naked up and down beside the river dividing the island as you put it back together, piece by piece, the stones that moved the day the earth started shifting. w


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Mother Moon Mervyn Taylor It is after eleven. A child calls outside the door of a locked house, the clock ticking away the curfew hour. Eventually, the mother lets him in. But tomorrow she will hand in the keys of kindness, place the grater in the middle of the yard and make him kneel down, while the moon, hiding from her mischief, floats in the bath of a cloud, laughing at the brick the child holds aloft, the sister’s dress he’s wearing. w


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Poem of February Departures Gerry LaFemina The barometer drops as I drive home after seeing her. Thick air. Thick air. I’m sure if you cut me right now my blood would be gray like the horizon’s cumulonimbus, bloated, filled with a snow that never seems to fall.


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Recession Gerry LaFemina The sky today like one of those lesser 19th-century Russian novels–somber but ultimately forgettable as I have no desire for existentialism or vodka. This day isn’t making it to anyone’s top ten list– surely, not the blonde Brit’s; she complains in her incredibly sexy accent how she won’t get another account. In a different narrative, I might have fallen for her; but in this one a beggar chases George Washington down Broadway. I’m surprised by how spry he is & by the Soho squirrels, too. They hunt in a dispirited bunch, as if overwhelmed. In their gray uniforms they resemble Catholic students on a field trip, kids expecting something to go awry because the traffic is angry & the skyscrapers seem bleaker than the old nuns. I don’t recognize any of them–even their smiles seem alien. Therefore, I’ll buy an I  NY t-shirt to wear, as best I can, without irony. Maybe this says something about how I’ve loved. Earlier, I counted one vagrant more than last week. Number 27 reads Turgenev in the park. For a buck he’ll recite a favorite passage out loud. Who would want 100 dollars & time enough to listen to the whole book? Behind him a woman does tai-chi on the grass.


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At first glance I thought it might be but no. See, she moved with that familiar grace

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so it almost seemed as if she hoped to summon thunder from the assembled storm clouds. There were farmers once who would hire such dancers, hoping it might change their luck. w


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Footpath Nick Ripatrazone The boot print near Exit 1 is mine. I work for PennDOT during the summer, and one August we had to fix a cracked stretch of Route 84. After heavy rains the Delaware River bleeds across the highway, and over time hairline cracks become ruptures. Carson, our foreman, never let me do much besides rake extra asphalt onto the shoulder, then drag the mucky black piles into the gravelly grass. Heat plumed from beneath the paver’s screed, and I stretched the rake handle as far forward as I could before pulling it back, my face turned away. According to the full-time guys, Carson loved the paver like a son, or, depending on whom you asked, like a woman. He taped a sticker that read “Carson’s Baby” to the left side of the hopper and ate his lunch while atop the seat. He gave me shit for missing clumps of asphalt, even though Don would ease through with the twin drum roller a minute later. So I knew Carson was an asshole, but never realized the extent of his obsession until he stormed into our lunch break. While Carson and Don ate lunch atop their respective machines and bullshitted with the state troopers, us peons ate in the woods. Will was a forestry major at Penn State, and identified the surrounding trunks with ease, saying, between bites of a ham sandwich, that here was a Common Chottlecherry and there was Colliver Elm. Trevor, one of the full-time guys with a full-time wife, called him out one day and Will admitted he made up the names. Carson stomped through the matted leaves and stood in the center of our circle of stumps and logs. His John Deere suspenders were frayed near the beltline. “Let me see your boots.” He wasn’t talking to the full-timers, because they would have told him to fuck off; no, he was talking to us summer guys. That meant Will, me, and Panton, who constantly bragged about blazing Dutchmasters on the abandoned stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Will asked why, and Carson lifted his boots. “Somebody stepped on the goddamn asphalt yesterday and now there’s prints. It looks like hell.” Trevor later told me that one of the troopers ripped Carson for his shoddy craftsmanship, calling the paving machine a wobbly-kneed bitch. Carson measured the treads at the bottom of Will’s boots with his


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chapped fingers. He dropped Will’s boots down to the ground and moved on to Panton. “Can you massage my feet, boss?” Carson gave him the finger but that was the most reprimand he could offer. The son of a councilman, Panton was bullet-proof. But Carson did take extra time examining his treads, and even scraped a bit of black dirt from the tip, secretly hoping it was sticky tar. He finished with Panton and turned to me, but before he could discover my guilt a call from a bullhorn turned him around. The regional director was here, and that meant, all of a sudden, Carson had become one of us. It was only a misstep, a turn of the hip a bit too much to my left that caused the boot print, but I know how much it meant to Carson, and how little else he had: his wife, who was half his age, cheated on him with a guy from a local road department, and at the divorce hearing told him the past five years were a mistake. For the first few months after the divorce he must have told variations of the story a hundred times, but stopped when he noticed nobody was listening. I felt as if I’d helped steal the only face he had left, and I couldn’t deal with the consequences yet I told the department secretary a contrived story about food poisoning and she seemed understanding because her son had gotten diarrhea from one of those Western-themed chain restaurants. The truth was I knew Carson would check my boots the second I showed at work—the only reason he hadn’t the day before was that he was scared shitless whenever the regional director was on site—or he would interrogate me if I arrived with a new pair. I told Dad that my back hurt and I needed a day to rest: he accepted that excuse because me winning regionals at 189 next February was the only thing that mattered in his world. He even suggested that I go fish, which was his suggested therapy for nearly every possible ailment. Against all good judgment, I chose to fish the Delaware River. I imagined that skipping a day of summer job work wasn’t the same as missing a day of real work. I’ve only had two jobs in my life: PennDOT and a day of work with my father a few years back. He’s a carpenter and he put me on the roof of the McLellan house without explaining anything. I nearly slid off after 15 minutes and he made me go down the ladder and watch him for the next six hours from the front lawn. People must feel some sense of commitment to full-time jobs, and while I do owe some measure of gratitude toward PennDOT for paying for bottles of Rolling Rock downed beneath the Quemahoning Tunnel with


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Panton and his allegedly hot lacrosse girls, one day of leisure wouldn’t hurt. I followed a foot-stomped trail to the river and set my tackle box to the side. I casted into the even current and worked the line away from thatched branches along the bottom. The jelly worm spun while I reeled back. I looked to my right: the current was much softer upriver. It wasn’t until the water hit the rocks that it became agitated and frothy. The tough part was that the bass stayed near the rumbling area. I didn’t usually catch many fish. Before our drinking exploits Panton and I used to come to the river wearing waders and vests, with old-style creel baskets and visions of trout dominance. He had a surefire cast that landed his bait of choice—refried corn—to the right of submerged logs. He always took some trout, and in-between his catches I lamented: “I just like being out here.” “That’s what people say who can’t catch fish,” he said. Well, I was alone on this summer day and content to simply cast and weight. The high grass around me leaned forward from the recent rise of the river; even without the weight of water the blades remained hunched. After a half-hour of no catches or bites I walked along the makeshift shore trail. Upriver the ducks were loud coming off the water; only one remained in the river and the current sidled around its chest, waves vibrating downriver. I was going to try another spot until I heard voices. Familiar ones. The regional director had come to blow some fire under Carson’s ass: we were behind schedule. Considering the pace we usually worked at, I didn’t know that a schedule existed. But there was new management at the regional office, and Carson followed their rules: with the divorce proceedings and his last daughter enrolled at Franklin & Marshall, he couldn’t afford to lose his job. I was surprised to see how far they’d gotten during my day off: they couldn’t have been a half-mile away, though trees and brush stood between us. I left my tacklebox and rod beneath a low-hanging willow and hiked through the woods for a closer look. The guys looked like they were working pretty hard. Maybe that was how we always looked but I couldn’t notice when I was part of the crew. I didn’t want to think that things were better when I wasn’t around. It must have been killing Carson to not have time to fix the boot print. I watched him drive the paver forward, a more focused look on his eyes than even usual. He huffed at Will, who apparently took my place, and waved Don close behind him, while the steam still rose from the spread asphalt. I watched them work for a while and moved closer every few


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minutes without even meaning to, and when I nearly reached the treeline I decided I should turn back. I didn’t want Carson catching my blue shirt amongst the green and brown of the woods. I went down the trail a bit further in hopes of some better luck, but soon a stream blocked my route. The russet-colored sides of the stream bed were the consistency of wet clay, and I wasn’t able to gain foothold on rocks so I turned back. I guess somewhere the trail had to end. y


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You Took the Subway Train George Wallace history is buildings, you sd. your eyelids opened. your eyelids closed. let’s race through the tunnel you sd. fuck the subway train let’s walk out of bklyn. hey two hey two. laughing like coney island schoolgirls in love with night & the funhouse mirror -- you looked pretty sick in pink we screamed & scrambled we were the heat of the moment. our crazy mouths stretching out wide as spandex big as manhattan island. you were salt water taffy i kissed your lips -- we lit up old lady liberty smoked her like a J we danced the natives blind gave birth to columbus you fucked some tourist for twenty bucks & we spent it at a steakhouse in times square two strip steaks. anything left of that joint you sd i lost my high. you wanted to take some norwegians downtown where lenny bruce died hey lenny bruce hey lenny lenny lenny you sd -- lenny was dead as a fetus -- you spent your summer vacation in rikers island & learned how to hustle men right -- jail was good for you better than hs you sd -- what the fuck did you want? you knew what you wanted you took things hard -- some motherfucker has got to be responsible you sd -- i’m going to find that guy he’s going to pay -- you made those mother fuckers pay & pay every last sad son of a bitch until it was your turn to pay -- i remember you lying face down between two rails groundwater seeping into your lungs only twenty two you sd what the hell might as well put an end to it here as anywhere. life’s not much better than rats you sd & proving your point you poisoned yourself -- what did it get you it got you your wish -- beady eyes nosing around your dead innocent face -rats as big as parking meters gun metal grayskin rats like an air conditioner the window kind -- i loved you i don’t care if anyone knows i sd that -- my bird of paradise you flew through a hole in the sky & lit things up for me in my dark tunnel. you got lucky -- you figured it out. unlike me who never once figured anything out -- no no you sd can’t get out of that one & now what’s left of you? history. history. history? like you sd -- it’s buildings. w


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Scratch the Iceberg George Wallace i was sitting on the tip of the iceberg in the sun with the others sitting in the sun in our deck chairs -- pina coladas & bathing suits & tanning butter -- hell i bought my ticket i paid my price i was king of the world too -i was taking the long ride to nowhere with the other good people it was the big payday the grand ride the big idea the good ship lollipop & everyone happy i was happy too i was happy as eisenhower before sputnik happy as judy garland before she woke up to the fact that she wasn’t a cute little starlet anymore i was happy as the fonz & richie cunningham rolling around on the living room floor rolling around snug as a bug in a rug & everybody talking at the same time nobody sad nobody listening everyone laughing & drinking hoping to get laid just got laid tan tan tan-- nobody sunburnt nobody hung over no skin cancer no herpes everybody well hung -- it was perfect it was perfecter than perfect it was expensive & free squinting in the sun flirting with waiters staying cool not worrying about russians or arabs watching the horizon roll stupidly along watching for whales & cruise ships cruise ships & spouting whales but then jfk walked by in his perfect suit -- at least i thought it was jfk with his pretty hair & his crazy boston accent & i shifted a little in my deck chair that’s all -- i shifted a little to see jfk better & that’s when the shit went down -i didn’t mean to do it i didn’t plan to do it but i


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must’ve done it -i moved my deck chair i scratched the iceberg ‘don‘t do that’ the people shouted & the sea began to rush in the people began to scramble & shout & point their fingers at me & say ‘what did he do that for‘ & ‘i don’t understand these damn hippies they can’t leave well enough alone’ i did not mean to do it but i scratched the tip of the iceberg that’s what I did & the sea began to rush in -it was only a trickle at first but it was a big trickle then it got worse -- a big angry water spout a big hole in the middle of the known world -like a water main burst like a projector bulb burning through a black & white newsreel like james dean striking oil -- & we all got covered in it the iceberg began to shudder & shake it began to bust open & go down -we were jerking this way & that we were sinking -all the good people who had bought their tickets & paid their price covered in sea urchins life jackets jellyfish & sea stars getting ready to drown it was davy jones locker it was johnny depp for us all it was leonardo di caprio & kate winslet it was kate smith singing god bless america w


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Lee Minh Sloca LEE MINH SLOCA


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MRI Sonnet Sandra M. Gilbert Archimedes, Galileo, Newton, even Einstein–whaddya think of this? A hail of tiny hammers, mini Vulcan, flung at a single elderly meniscus! Percussion symphony, the pounding makes a pattern from what wants to talk, hug, snuggle or scold; the pitter patter takes echo for granted, sounding out my leg into a grosse fugue of knee & ankle set in presto staccato tempi, tempi that trace the flights of, Newton, smooth to wrinkle, falls of, Galileo, swift to limpy‌.. Noisier than the speed of light the measure, O Einstein, of the vanishing of pleasure. w


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Tooth Implant Sonnet Sandra M. Gilbert The head as furniture! A rounded board, perhaps, that holds another board in place, the head board of an odd old-fashioned bed on which the soul unrolls its lumpy mattress? Under a dental glare, I’m the creaking head of an old bedstead, & now some carpenter drives in a screw so hard the tired wood aches, groans, screams, begins to sliver. . . . But would anyone clap a rubber mask over the head of a bed, or pump in laughing gas? The sober soul sneers at the metaphor, & after all the head is stuffed with softness: a pillow, not a board? So what’s-his-name finishes up with one last stitch in time. w


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Bypass Sonnet Sandra M. Gilbert When they sawed you open & then laid bare that little squirming animal, your heart, & the you that’s you drifted into ether while your wine-dark blood swirled away & apart from the other you I also love–straight back, fuzzy chest, shy sexual beard– which one of the two you’s did they dissect, which did they restore to flesh & word? You came back stunned & silent, swallowing hard, like one who’s passed by places where the cold has claws that dip into throat & bone & blood. You came back chilled, but then forgot the cold, warmed up: the only sign of where you were the passing line where they sewed you back together. w


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Fibonacci Sonnet Sandra M. Gilbert Dental chair, laughing gas, & now fourteen months from your surprising death, I summon Fibonacci, sage signor, to ease my panic, calm & count my breath. “Just a stick in the gums.” “You will be kind of sore.” Zero plus one is one, plus two is three, then five, then eight. “You’ll feel a bit of pressure.” Thirteen, twenty-one. He rocks my jaw. Plus thirty-four, then fifty-five. You traced these signs on pineapple, pine cone, sun flower. Are they the lemmas of all life, all space? My tooth heaves from its hole in my skull. I wonder how Fibonacci’s series would explain why I still bleed when all your blood is gone. w


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Monday Danielle Ofri Excerpt from the novel Malignancy

Maybe it was simply human nature that no one wanted to be sick on weekends. Or admit to it. Or do something about it. Whatever the reason, Mondays were always the days of reckoning: weekend walls of denial came crashing down, weekend indiscretions faced their due, weekend warriors paid their price in blood. Admissions poured into the hospital. It was as though the map of Brooklyn had been curled up like a cone and all the human wreckage and misery funneled down to the tip where East Memorial Municipal Hospital sat, as it had for the past century since it opened, with its doors flung widely and indiscriminately open. On Mondays, Graham and his medical team didn’t even wait for the admissions to come up from the emergency room to the 16th floor medical ward—relying on the logistics of East Memorial’s admissions and transportation services was a sure-fire way to get stuck in the hospital all night. Instead, they trolled the ER, picking up the admissions as soon as they were assigned to the medical team. The doctors performed the history, physical, and initial work-up while the patient was still on the gurney, caught in the warren of interconnecting rooms, alleys, and converted broom closets that constituted the East Memorial ER. The ER had never been formally expanded; it simply usurped various corners of the hospital as it grew. The official titles of the various subdivisions often oversold the spaces they represented: The Triage Area was simply the line of gurneys in the hallway. The Satellite Observation Unit (the SOU) was a mass of stretchers huddled behind a curtain in a dingy open area, fronted at one end by the glass doors that opened to the incoming ambulances and at the other by a cramped desk from which nurses and doctors grabbed the accumulated charts. The Procedure Room was a dead-end alley off of the main observation unit. The Asthma Room was a poorly-lit corner by the elevators, where one beleaguered nurse offered up nebulizers and oxygen to the legions of Brooklyn’s asthmatics. The Emergency Ward—the supposed ICU in the ER—was an airless back-room, accessible by a single doorway. Through this impossibly narrow entranceway, critically ill patients surrounded by a bevy of interns supporting IV


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bags, oxygen pumps, portable defibrillators, and other accoutrements of the nearly demised would squeeze through. Team spirit was built by the communal exhalation required to overcome laws of physics that would normally prevent a gurney and four interns from wedging through a 36inch space. Only the GYN room was a true room, with an actual door that closed and even locked. However, it doubled as the optho room, since the closed doors and lights made it the only location in the entire ER dark enough to perform proper eye exams. Stirrups and slit-lamps competed for space in this tiny acreage of privacy. All the walls in the ER were painted some variant of green, based either on a philosophy of the healing properties of the green hues or on a discounted price that the Kings County Municipality had received on a pallet of mismatched green paint during the Depression. Whatever the case, everything everywhere was greenish, though scuff marks, scratches, stains, water marks, mold, graffiti, and time had lent a more mottled appearance to the walls. As the attending physician supervising his medical team, Graham was really supposed to examine the new patients on the following day. The interns and residents were supposed to do the initial evaluations upon admission, then present the case the next day during formal attending rounds. While that system worked well in the days of yore, it was an impossible anachronism in today’s world of high-volume admissions, decreased length-of-stay, rapid turnaround times, 24/7 diagnostic tests. If there were ten or twelve new admissions, the old orderly system in which the attending pontificated at leisure the next morning with the team was simply an academic pipe dream. So Graham rolled up his sleeves and divided up the work with the interns and residents to make the process most efficient. He didn’t care much about hierarchies in general, and since he’d finished his residency only five years ago, he didn’t feel particularly high and mighty. Nor did he particularly want to be one of those high and mighty attendings who were so removed from the fray that they forgot how to practice real medicine. Some of Graham’s colleagues donned Brooks Brothers’ suits the minute they surrendered their beepers to the residency program. But Graham still preferred the standard uniform of khaki pants and buttoned-down shirts—no tie of course, and sleeves usually cuffed to the elbow. He was still the same tall, rangy guy with the slight hunch in his shoulders that he’d been as an intern eight years ago. Why should he don fancy clothes or a


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fancy attitude just because he’d been bumped forward a notch in life? The medicine wasn’t much different, his responsibilities weren’t much different, and frankly his salary wasn’t much different. When he looked in the mirror he saw the same angular face, with the same long, narrow rampart of a nose. When he placed his hands on a patient’s chest he saw the same knobby joints connecting the same spindly, freckled fingers. He was the same guy, doing the same job, just with a couple extra years of experience under his belt and a couple extra crows’ feet stretching out from the corners of his lugubrious gray eyes Graham looked at his list of patient: “Cherry Milford: 34 y.o. F, skinpopper, fever, leg ulcer.” Graham was combing the ER boards for her name when he felt a booming thunk on the back. “Graham, my man! What’s happening?” It was Sammy Chen, one of his buddies from internship. Sammy once drank an entire bottle of ketchup on a dare when the interns had gone out to a local bar for ‘liver rounds.’ He followed it up with six shots of tequila and never vomited once. Nobody every figured he’d settle on a sedate, intellectual specialty like nephrology. But there he was, running the dialysis unit at their hospital, calculating urine/serum osmolality ratios. “Hunting for an admission for my team,” Graham said, elbowing Sammy’s muscled forearm off his shoulder. “What brings a kidney man like you down to the ER?” “Moonlighting,” he said, shoving away clump of hair that had tumbled onto his forehead. “I’m thinking of maybe getting a summer place. Gotta save some dough.” Sammy was wearing beat-up basketball sneakers and faded blue scrubs that said, “Property of Grady Hospital: Do Not Remove.” Sammy glanced over to Graham’s list. “Who are you looking for? Maybe I triaged him.” “Her,” Graham said. “Cherry Milford. 34. Skin-popper.” Sammy pulled his arms in and folded them over his chest. “A real piece of work,” he said. “I triaged her Milford all right, but Jesus…” Sammy sucked in his breath. “Wait’ll you see.” “What’s there to see?” Graham said. “She sticks a needle under her skin and now there’s a skin ulcer. Big deal.” “Hoo-boy, now that’s where you’re misguided,” Sammy said, falling into a boxing stance and throwing jabs at Graham. “Hey, you got to get yourself in shape, man. You’re just skin and bones.” Sammy sunk a mock uppercut to Graham’s jaw. “Anyway, I think your skin-popper’s over in the SOU. It would be my pleasure to edify you with the cutaneous clinical manifestations of skin-popping that Mademoiselle Milford presents with.”


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He threw one more jab to Graham’s right flank, then set off for the SOU. Graham followed one step behind. The ER was packed, as was usual on Mondays. The line of gurneys in the triage area stretched along the hallway. In the curtained slots of the examination area, intended for individual patients, there were two gurneys, sometimes three. Family members, clerks, interns, medical students, hospital police, X-ray techs, phlebotomists, admitting staff milled around the patients like shifting fields of meteors, clumping and unclumping, occasionally colliding. The general din was not dissimilar to the subway that rumbled underneath the hospital floorboards every few minutes. Metal instruments clattered, oxygen whooshed, IV machines beeped, blood tubes clinked. Competing shouts crisscrossed the vast room, and astute linguists could detect strands of Spanish, Bengali, Mandarin, Croatian, Cantonese, Tibetan, Arabic, Hindi, Tagalog, Fukienese woven through the predominant language of medical slang. “DKA in 3: start a drip.” “Altered mental status: needs CT/LP.” “Two rule-outs in the corner; first set of enzymes negative.” “4B needs a flat-plate and upright.” “Two units packed cells plus four of FFP, stat.” Sammy pulled the curtain back on the SOU with a grand gesture. “May I present Mademoiselle Cherry Milford.” Lying there was an emaciated addict whose drug use and street life had aged her a good two decades beyond her chronological age of 34. She lay on the stretcher, her face, lips and posture slack. Her afro stood up in matted clumps from the back of her head, and the white sheets around her were already smudged with dirt. The odor of homelessness was unmistakable. The interns called it toxic sock syndrome, and that was indeed what it was: a pungent blend of curdled sweat, unwashed socks, grime-encrusted feet, unshowered skin. Graham could feel his spirit deflating and he took a half-step back. Sammy raised his eyebrows and gave him an ‘I told you it was a doozy’ look. But it wasn’t the smell so much—though Graham wouldn’t deny that he was squeamish—it was the bare-knuckled pitiableness that got to him. Even though he had treated hundreds of drug addicts and street people during his medical career, the thoroughness with which the world could devitalize a human being always gave him a momentary sock in the gut. Graham bit his lip and tried to ignore the odor as he started the medical interview. Cherry Milford’s answers to Graham’s questions were slurred and incoherent. “Ms. Milford here is a little slow on the Aristotelian dialectics,” Sammy said. “I suggest you proceed to the physical exam, Dr. Brenfield. I’m sure


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the interns will gladly immerse themselves in the myriad minor details of Ms. Milford’s mannered life.” Despite Sammy’s bison-like lack of grace, his words really were true: as the attending, all Graham really needed to know was whether this ulcer needed surgical intervention or whether IV antibiotics would be sufficient. The interns could sort out the rest. “Where’s the ulcer?” Graham asked the patient. Cherry Milford’s index finger, with its dirt-encrusted, ragged nail, wove sluggishly in the air until it landed tentatively in the region of her left thigh. “Allow me,” Sammy said, grabbing the edge of the sheet. “This is the pièce de résistance.” Sammy slowly pulled the sheet back with exaggerated drama, and Graham grew impatient. He just wanted to eyeball the ulcer, and was expecting the usual quarter-sized wound that most of these skin-poppers inflicted on themselves. But when Sammy folded the sheet all the way back, Graham let out a low whistle. This wasn’t an ulcer; this was a crater. The entire length and breadth of Cherry Milford’s thigh, from the crease of her groin down to her kneecap, was a scooped-out mass of gravelly pink-white-gray tissue. If Cherry Milford had the strength or inclination to sit up and bend forward, she could probably nestle her entire forearm in there, elbow to fist. Over the years Graham had seen his share of cutaneous injuries from skin popping, but nothing held a candle to this. This was one for the record books, even by East Memorial standards. “How long have you had this?” he asked, incredulity overtaking jadedness. Even the caustic vinegary smell of it temporarily receded in his consciousness; he just couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Cherry Milford shrugged in slow motion. “Dunno. Sort of started a while back. I shot up there and it got a little craggy.” “A little craggy, eh?” Sammy asked. “Didn’t you notice that your entire thigh had practically disappeared?” “Ms. Milford,” Graham said, trying to focus the patient’s attention. “This is a serious ulcer. We’re going to start IV antibiotics, but we might need the surgeons to clean this out. Do you have allergies to any medications?” But the particulars of medical treatment were apparently beyond Cherry Milford in her current state. Her eyes were already closing and petite snores gave way to full-throated snorts and snuffles. The anodyne aspects of heroin worked in Ms. Milford’s favor, buffering Sammy Chen’s words as well as the rest of the world from her consciousness. “A little craggy, eh?” Sammy repeated, as he and Graham tugged the curtain shut behind them. “Jeez Louise—you could probably store a pair of sneakers and an order of take-out Chinese in that ulcer.” He shook his


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head in amazement. “You know, there are probably real-estate opportunities here. A little redecorating and it’s a perfect starter apartment. You can rent out anything in this city …” “I’ll get plastics to take a look at that ulcer,” Graham replied, feeling the need to sound as business-like as possible. “Maybe even ortho—there’ll probably be raw femur sitting in there once all the debris is removed.” “Like I said,” Sammy said, “the prom-queen.” “I see you’re in a mighty charitable mood today, Dr. Chen,” Graham said, folding up his list and pressing it into his pocket. “I’m telling you, man, we had a run of shooters-with-fevers last night. What are these guys mixing up their drugs with—toilet water? With my luck Ms. Milford will shoot her panoply of viruses straight to the kidneys and end up in my fucking dialysis unit. Another $500 dialysis catheter wasted on piss-poor protoplasm.” “Glad to know you’ve recommitted yourself to the care of the needy and the vulnerable in our city.” “Fuck off, Brenfield,” Sammy said, giving Graham a quick left-hook to the abdomen. “Gotta cover yourself, brother,” dropping the tenor of his voice. “Someone could pop your spleen if you’re not faster on the draw.” Graham knew that Sammy wasn’t a complete cynic—there were plenty of doctors who were unabashedly derisive about scumbags, assholes, and gomers who populated the East Memorial ER. Sammy actually cared about doing the right thing for his patients, but he had no patience for what he perceived as self-destructive behavior. Sammy Chen’s dialysis patients could count on superb clinical care, but they had probably learned to get their emotional succor elsewhere. Graham left Sammy and walked toward the ER nurses’ desk, tugging his fingers through his wiry brown hair. Sheila said that the parts that were graying made him look distinguished. Graham thought they made him look like a guy who was spinning headlong through his thirties with neither a handle on life nor a 401k. “It’s sexy,” Sheila told him. But all the men in her investment firm with that sexy, graying look were also pocketing millions of dollars in bonuses and sporting double-breasted Italian suits. Graham was still working for East Memorial Municipal Hospital, the same crummy inner-city hospital at which he’d done his residency, and his salary contribution to their marriage was only marginally more than when he was an intern. He just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm and business interest that was required to build a private practice. He’d applied for gastroenterology fel-


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lowships toward the end of residency, but didn’t get into any of the good programs. Sheila would have considered moving out of Manhattan if he’d gotten a spot at Mass General or UCSF, but not for the Kerrville VA in Texas. Staying on at East Memorial was just simpler—Graham knew the routine, and the interns did weekend coverage for his patients. Besides, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to be a gastroenterologist. It seemed that everyone in his residency class marched lock-step toward medical specialties like cardiology and GI, and Graham simply puttered along with the flow toward specialization for lack of a better plan. But did he really want to spend his life threading tubes into people’s intestines or coronary arteries? Sheila no doubt wanted to be married to a Park Avenue cardiologist, but now she was stuck with a general internist at a city hospital in a non-gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. The staff doctors at East Memorial were city employees like everyone else at the hospital, which meant decent benefits and lousy salaries. How many other women at Sheila’s firm, he wondered, had husbands who possessed union memberships instead of stock options? Sexy indeed. “Dr. Brenfield,” came a warbly, desperate voice. Graham turned around. It was Hamdi, one of the interns on his team. Everyone called him Hamdi, even the patients, because nobody could swing their mouth around Dr. Hamedian Avarhamian. Hamdi looked perpetually harried, even at 7 a.m. But by late afternoon, as it was now, he seemed on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Raggedy clumps of jet-black hair fell across Hamdi’s thick-rimmed glasses. His last haphazard shave three days ago and his hooded, droopy eyes made him appear like he was permanently ensconced in a shadow. Hamdi’s white coat was misbuttoned and the left side hung six inches lower than the right. His stethoscope was dangling out of the left pocket, scraping the floor as he walked. Hamdi never wore anything but scrubs, usually mismatched blues and greens. Hamdi was the type of intern who was petrified at the prospect of being caught unprepared, and thus lugged every possible portable medical paraphernalia, book, card, and cheat sheet with him to shield against the infinite number of challenges lurking in the wards. Despite the fact every nurses’ station on every floor was adequately equipped with supplies for IVs and blood draws, Hamdi’s pockets were crammed with blood tubes (red-tops, blue-tops, speckle-tops, purple-tops), alcohol swabs, iodine swabs, gauze pads (2x2s and 4x4s), tourniquets, IVs (22 gauge, 20 gauge, 18 gauge, 16 gauge, and even 14 gauge in case he happened upon someone who was exsanguinating and needed an IV the diameter of a Bic pen). Two


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needle-nose clamps were clipped onto the top two button-holes of his coat, sporting rolls of cloth tape and paper tape. The third buttonhole was home to a rubber-nosed reflex hammer. The other pockets bulged with EKG attachments, sputum cups, index cards, laminated cards of medical protocols, pocket books of formulas, rulers, calipers, stampers, and spare beeper batteries. However, three pockets-worth of medical paraphernalia were not enough to assuage his existential intern angst, and so Hamdi also carried in his hands an overstuffed, drug-company-dispensed clipboard advertising the second-costliest ulcer medication, an assiduously dog-eared copy of the Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics, a hot-pink three-ring binder (touting the latest broad-spectrum antibiotic) from which papers were spilling out at every angle, last-year’s hospital phonebook, and the takeout menu from Chi-Chi’s—the local Mexican fast food joint run by Koreans who’d developed an impressively efficient way of turning out the dirt-cheap, passably edible chicken fajitas that were Hamdi’s daily salvation from the unrelenting intern paranoia that he was just nanoseconds from inadvertently killing, maiming, or otherwise harming one of his patients. “What’s up, Hamdi?” Graham asked, seeing in Hamdi a little bit of himself when he was an intern. Hamdi shook his head heavily, panting, and the metal clamps and reflex hammer hanging from his coat jangled. It took him a minute to catch his breath. “Yalena told me to go see the skin-popper, but I’ve been with the fever guy for an hour trying to get an IV in.” Hamdi’s face tautened as he said this, as though this were just the latest in a long day of death and destruction. “Not to worry,” Graham said, suppressing a desire to pat Hamdi on the head like a wayward puppy. “I already saw Milford, already paged plastics. Why don’t you run along and take care of all the rectals on 16-West?” Hamdi pursed his lips grimly. “Nope, Yalena’s already paged me. Got to review all the admissions with her.” He consulted his scut list, then marched away. The slight limp of his right leg could sometimes be masked when Hamdi was calm and focused. But when he was stressed and overwhelmed—as he was now, and indeed most of his waking hours—the limp was more pronounced. His left leg took on the business of ambulating forward, and his right leg swung around like the free arm of a compass. This lent a rhythmic cadence to his stride, an accented downbeat followed by a more measured reply. After four of these syncopated couplets, Hamdi plunged into the ER cacophony, head bent down as though there would be no passage unless he rammed his way though.


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Graham jammed his hands in his pants pockets and then followed Hamdi back to the procedure room, where the team was conferring over the list of admissions with Yalena. Yalena was a reasonably competent second-year resident, with a placid demeanor that only partly obscured an iron resolve to get ahead. Selections for chief residents were made toward the middle of the second year of residency, and Yalena—though she wouldn’t say it aloud—was determined to be one of that select group of four. Yalena’s face was a pale orb with little in the way of contrasting features. Her eyes, lashes, and lips were nearly the identical color as the rest of her skin. That and the complete absence of wrinkles, freckles, smudges, scars, birthmarks or moles gave her face an egg-like smoothness that seemed almost unnatural. Her perfectly straight brown hair was always pulled back from her face in a tight ponytail. A wide black elastic headband was positioned exactly at the hairline at the edge of her forehead, so that her hair didn’t seem to “appear” until several inches back on her head. This added another element of odd featurelessness to her milky visage. Yalena’s head was always slightly cocked upward, as though she were trying to see upward over the horizon. When she walked, this gave the impression that she was leading with her nose. Her pale, close-lipped smile straddled the border of angelic and condescending, but her attitude on a call day—which Graham respected and appreciated—was all-business. “Okay,” she said, tapping her list with her trademark fountain pen, “there’s a chest pain, an altered mental status, a lupus flare, and a diarrhea guy. Rumor has it that there’s a GI bleeder in the works. I’ll send the medical students to check out the lupus case. Hamdi, you eyeball the diarrhea guy and make sure he’s stable. I’ll check on the altered mental status lady and see whether she needs a spinal tap. Dr. Brenfield, do you mind seeing the chest pain guy?” Graham nodded his head. He much preferred sharing the workload upfront with the team. He could skip the niceties of academic discussions and touchy-feely connections. Basically, there were X number of admissions to which he’d have to sign his name as the legally responsible physician, and he’d just as well get them over with as soon as possible. “Oh, and the guy from this morning with the possible pulmonary embolus…,” Yalena called out to Graham as he began to walk away, “his lung scan came back as “indeterminate.” I kept him on heparin anyway, just in case.” “You think he really has a blood clot” Graham asked, turning back to Yalena.


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Yalena shrugged. “Maybe. But better safe than sorry. I figured we’d leave on him the blood thinner for now, until we work up other possibilities.” “But there are side effects to heparin,” Graham said, feeling himself shift into educational mode. “He could bleed.” “Not if we monitor it correctly,” Yalena replied, snapping her fountain pen closed and sliding it neatly into her pocket. “A hundred thousand people die every year in this country from adverse medication reactions,” Graham said, looking from Yalena to Hamdi. “One hundred thousand. We kill patients all the time with our treatments. Just keep that in mind, guys, as you go about your business. Everything we do in medicine has the potential to do harm.” Hamdi looked faint. Graham and his team plowed through their roster of admissions for the day. By 10 pm, most of the patients were “tucked in,” as the expression went. The obese 76 year-old Puerto Rican man with crushing chest pain was in the CCU after the cardiologists stented open his clogged right coronary artery. The obtunded 91-year-old, transferred from a nursinghome with “altered mental status” had been found to have a urinary tract infection, and broad-spectrum antibiotics were already flowing through her spindly veins. The winsome, 24 year-old Honduran woman with a flare of lupus nephritis was leafing through Vanidades fashion magazine and chatting on her cell phone while the nurses set up her cyclo-phosphamide treatment. The 36 year-old white gay man with profuse AIDS-related diarrhea was still pouring out diarrhea, but was actually feeling better, thanks to the aggressive IV hydration. The 53 year-old guy with the possible blood clot turned out to have a pneumonia and was now getting antibiotics instead of blood thinners. The 64 year-old alcoholic with bleeding duodenal ulcers had just been scoped by the GI fellow, when a code was called down the hall from where Graham was sitting, writing an admission note, in the 16-North nurses’ station. Usually, Graham let the residents handle the codes—the residents being far nimbler in their recollection of ACLS protocols—but being so nearby he felt obliged to at least check it out until the rest of the team navigated East Memorial’s unreliable elevators to get to the sixteenth floor. “In the bathroom,” one of the nurses shouted to him, pointing the way. Graham barreled his way in, and there on the gray tile floor was Cherry Milford, crumpled under the sink, a syringe still poking out of her cavernous thigh ulcer. A respiratory technician was hunched near the commode, trying to stabilize Milford’s airway. “I can’t do it here,” he grunted. “Help me get her out.”


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Graham and the technician dragged Milford’s slack body out of the bathroom and heaped her onto a bed. “Shot up in that disgustingly infected ulcer,” the technician said, strapping the oxygen mask over the patient’s mouth as the code team arrived and sprang into action. “Pathetic.” The full code proceeded—chest compressions, electric shocks, breathing tube, central lines, blood gases, ampules of epinephrine, atropine, Narcan, bicarb—but it was clear that Cherry Milford was dead. She’d managed to OD in the bathroom of East Memorial just as she would have done in the hallway of the crack house or an unused subway entrance. The only difference was that she had been discovered by a nurse and so her corpse was subjected to a host of “life-saving” procedures. From the first time the Paris Academy of Sciences recommended, in 1740, that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation be administered to drowning victims, resuscitation protocols had been elaborated specifically for otherwise-healthy patients who experienced an acute insult to their well-being. The current Advanced Cardiac Life Saving algorithms on display at this moment had been developed for the cardiac patient who experienced a sudden arrhythmia that could be shocked back into normalcy. They had not been developed with the likes of Cherry Milford in mind. “Suicide,” the technician commented to Graham, who stood at his side watching the oxygen being forced into the breathing tube. “Self-inflicted death by needle. Pathetic.” It was pathetic, Graham thought. It was pathetic that a leg nearly eaten away to the bone was not a deterrent to snarfing up more drugs; it was merely a vehicle. It was pathetic that Cherry Milford’s body was so sapped of biological reserve that the thousands of dollars of equipment and medications being used in this code could never revive it. It was pathetic that the scaffolding of society was so porous that entire lives could slip through and self-destruct. It was pathetic that Graham’s dead patient was exactly the same age as he was. And what was most pathetic of all, was that despite all of these swirling thoughts in his head, what Graham was most agitated about was that he still had one more admission note to write before he could get out of the hospital. y


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Oil Folly Willie Perdomo That’s gas you’re talking. It’s like going into that small upstate town and blowing it up with big, mad crazy rocks. A Mazola beat down. Dios no se queda con nada de nadie. Vegetable dollars, slick backs, green tanks with Fedder cooling systems like the night Venus gassed Mars up into a jazz lust. The cooker fields and the gallon hats—brothers kept their costumes on. Slip, slide, they even pulled in the shake and residue when they told the story. High on a mountain sat an automatic rifle waiting for a prayer. Dios da y quita. What you do is tell the world that it’s about to blow up, you go in there, bum rush, take out the head, and boom, take over the gush. Poetry? Forget poetry. y


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Body Shots Willie Perdomo Just one. One for one. Fair exchange, no robbery. If you do, you ain’t. If you don’t, you are. Number 2 train gladiators are blood giveaways. Free initiation, costly exits. You’ll find one on every floor, ready to deal you a death blow. You want to cry for those who stay hit. Parades of punches, fruits hang more than passing strange. Ginger red, sweet, if you want to be down it has to happen. Too strong, high proof content. When you finish, you can have your colors. The learning curve spins blue kerchiefs, red bandanas, matching laces, throw them up. Step-by-step, one for one, there is no way to give forever a visual. Amor con amor se paga. y


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The Reindeer Sleigh Brad Barkley In the Mount Corner city garage, standing amongst the snow blowers emblazoned with the county seal (Sicut erat in principio), piles of dirty rock salt, and a rusting line marker for the baseball fields, Wilson Vogle yanked the tarp off a 1976 AMC Pacer, the roof long since chainsawed away. He watched his silhouette in the dusty red paint. This was a moment, he knew, the night outside appropriately dark and fog-touched. Wilson versus the car, Wilson versus Wilson, the way stories in tenth-grade English got explained by Mrs. Crowder. Man versus machine, Man versus himself. Thematic underpinnings suggested themselves. So did the possibility of projectile vomiting. He can’t do this. He can’t. Against the far wall leaned the set of nine plywood reindeer, appropriately tiny individually, but collectively abundant, strung out like oversize paper dolls, like diners at the Last Supper. They, like the car, were skillfully designed by Wilson’s own father, thirty years prior, built to attach to the Pacer’s front bumper with toggle bolts and a rigging system that involves leather straps and a twenty-fivefoot aluminum pole that had, in Wilson’s earliest childhood, held a rooftop TV antenna that always looked to him like fish bones propped against the sky. He’d been an imaginative and sensitive child. The reindeer were painted brown and white, gold glitter tossed over their backs like a bright mange, non-functional rope harnesses drooping, Rudolph with a light-bulb nose. No, he can’t. He needed Robin, his beautiful Robin Rachael Yoder, here to say, “Yes, you can!” the way she says it, not fake in the least, better than coaches in high school, better than that commercial for the credit union, better than the pamphlets his sponsor is always leaving stuck in Wilson’s screendoor. But Robin wasn’t there, because of four shots of really good vodka, and one really bad argument. He’d blown it. He was afraid of commitment, he figured out after being out of work for this month and watching several hours of daytime TV. That and maybe body image issues, but he hadn’t taken the online quiz to find out. But definitely commitment. And driving. And boa constrictors, but only because of that movie. He’d not actually seen one. Commitment and cars he’d seen. So no Robin, though the claddagh ring she’d given him still dangled from a chain on his neck. He fingered the ring now, through his wool shirt. But a ring was only a ring, and Robin had moved back to Manor Arms without him, and now


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he was stuck with the keys to the reindeer sleigh and no one but Jay Peters to help him. That was a little worse than no help at all. Jay walked into the garage, bragging about his parallel parking ability. Always the child, he grabbed the line marker and pushed it around the car, leaving a trail of lime like the chalk outline of some TV murder victim. “No, I can’t,” Wilson said, before the question got asked. “You do it.” “Your legacy,” Jay said, clapping dust from his hands. “Your birthright. Your daddy drove it what, ten years?” “Twenty-seven years.” This bit of news stopped him. “You’re shittin’ me.” He looked genuinely stricken, standing there in his feathered hair and Wallabees and flannel shirt and down vest, as if he’d been stuck in the pages of a Sears catalogue for two decades, a science experiment in arrested mediocrity. Wilson felt sorry for Jay just then, a nice break from his usual feeling of annoyance, and a positive one took his sponsor and Robin both said that he needed to learn a little empathy, for therein lies the path to understanding. He likes when Robin says “therein.” “Listen,” Jay said, “you can drive. I mean, you ain’t Dale Jr. but you do know how to.” “I drive a Saab. I have airbags, side and front, and even then….” He let the sentence trail off without explaining that even then, with all that, he had to drive a good ten clicks under the speed limit and keep his hands at ten and two, and avoid distractions like radios and cell phones and rain. And he’d bought the Saab after reading everything he could about rollover tests and watching news shows with crash dummies bouncing around in their slow-motion death throes, wondering in part of his brain why they were always so brightly colored for their grim job, why dressed like jesters in motley, only to be sent hurtling into brick walls. Then the phrase “hurtling into brick walls” would echo in his head, or once he said something like that out loud—maybe it was “catapults of doom,” hard to recall—and Robin looked up from making jewelry out of Monopoly pieces and said, “yes, hon?” and he shook his head and decided on the Saab, if he had to, had to drive. And so to make himself feel okay with it, to feel like he was in a good place, he invented a new phrase to supplant the frightening ones: “Nothing says safety like Sweden.” It became a mantra, one that carried him all the way to the dealership, to the bank for his first car loan, and the five miles to work every morning, clutching the wheel in his fists. But now the reindeer sleigh, with not even a lap belt, sits here rusting and unsteady, its structural integrity cut away with the roof. Santa Claus,


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who had always been and still was Ted Woodring from the insurance agency, whose wife Ingrid had nearly thirty years ago sewn the now vaguely leprous looking suits, sat on top of the back seat, not in it, and also made the constant and dangerous motion of tossing Jolly Ranchers and Tootsie Rolls out of a laundry bag, and all of this taking place on often icy streets with children running around and, and, as if all that weren’t enough, he would have to manage all those dire driving conditions while wearing a pair of curly shoes. The shoes and the suit, crafted by Ingrid Woodring, and the hat, the happy-looking pointy elfin hat. The shoes began life as a pair of leather moccasins, until Ingrid covered them in green and red felt stuffed and sewn so that the tips extend, if straight, a good foot beyond the end of the shoe. Only they were not straight they were curled up like the fingernails of some crazed recluse, adorned at the ends with bells. Two bells per shoe, which made the whole contraption look vaguely phallic, as Mrs. Crowder might have said, if the shoes had been featured in a short story. But as Wilson held one up now, pulled from the bottom of the old baseball locker in the corner of the garage where both suits were stored, and as he pictured trying to drive, trying to work the accelerator pedal, trying to work the clutch in these things (yes, dear God, the Pacer was a stickshift), he knew that the only story this particular pair of phallic footwear might be featured in would run on the front page of the Mount Corner Courier, above the fold, and would involve phrases like, “out of control” and “human tragedy.” Nothing says fatality like a twenty-seven-year-old reindeer sleigh. “You have to practice,” Jay says. He was now stacking up orange highway cones. “Rehearse, is more like it.” A dark chill passed through Wilson. “I can’t just go tooling around in the reindeer sleigh in broad daylight. It’s supposed to be magical, okay, Jay? It makes its yearly appearance and isn’t seen again.” “Who said anything about broad daylight?” He’d lifted one of the cones and spoke through it, his words both muffled and amplified. He looked like a cheerleader for a highway crew. “It’s dark, it’s late Tuesday night, the streets are empty. Let’s go. Listen, man, I do this kind of thing for a living, okay? Give me a little credit?” Wilson shook his head like a five-year-old. “They gave me keys to look the thing over, make sure it’s running, not to steal it.” He fingered his claddagh ring, then the phone in his pocket, and pined for a quick call to Robin, to just hear her voice. And he pined for a quick drink, too. He wasn’t an alcoholic, not by comparison, anyway, to the stories he listened to in the


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basement of the Methodist church while he drank his cup of bitter coffee. But he’d promised Robin after the argument and kept his promise after the argument that followed the argument, the supplemental argument, when she’d said just forget it, forget the whole thing and he never could, not her, and so he attended the meetings and he collected his first chip, and he tried to listen empathetically and not sit there poking holes in the Styrofoam and thinking man, these people are fucked up, and he tried to imagine a higher power who wasn’t cruel enough to not give him back his baby, his Robin, his one true everything. “Okay, fine,” Jay said. “Let Christmas eve be the first time you drive it. Big crowd, Santa in the back. Is that what you really want?” Fifteen minutes later, the reindeer sleigh was chugging in idle, missing on one cylinder, the garage door up, the radio in the car tuned loudly to WBIG, which in a week would be playing endless rounds of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and the Mitch Miller singers doing “Ave Maria,” but right now played Perry Como singing “Hot Diggity, Dog Ziggity, Boom.” The knob was missing, so they couldn’t turn it off. Jay backed the car up, stopped, jumped out. “Get the pole,” he said. “Get the toggle bolts.” “You can’t put the deer on the car, Jay. Don’t be crazy.” “Yeah, right, okay, sure,” he said, sweeping his fingers through the feathers of his hair, chewing his gum in a deliberate way. Jay did moral indignation as well as anyone, a necessary stance when your primary source of income was illegal. “And how about this one? don’t do things halfway. This is your dress rehearsal, Wilson. You need to wear the cap….I mean, hey, maybe it can fall down in your eyes. And the suit, it might restrict movement, and the shoes might tangle up the brake pedal ” “Actually, I thought of that.” Wilson nodded, and kept nodding as he moved to the baseball locker and slipped his arm into the velvet hole of the suit. Velvet was her favorite fabric, that’s how well he knew her. Pistachios her favorite nut. Mynah her favorite bird. No, no, don’t go there, he told himself, but touched the claddagh ring anyway. He was falling apart in sections, but he tried to stay what was it? located within himself. They had just talked about it yesterday on TV, and the doctor with the mustache said it was important. And then there was that commercial for shampoo where the girl pretends to have an orgasm while she showers, or maybe she does and that is some awfully damn good shampoo, but the point was it made him think of Robin and that maybe she was right about too much of them being sex and not enough of them being talking. They said talking was


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good too. Say what you want about daytime TV, say what you want about channel surfing, but really it was like reading five books at once, you could learn so much. He had. He’d learned to talk, to share. It had been Robin who had asked him to watch it in the first place, to listen to what the doctor with the mustache had to say, because he seemed to be talking about them, she said, like he was the Romper Room Lady seeing right through the screen, looking at them. That was before the argument, before she’d moved away, but he’d kept at it, every day, watching, listening, almost hoping the landscapers wouldn’t call him back to work, just so he could watch. And now he had no way to tell her…show her the new him. After the pole and the reindeer were all hooked up, after one toggle bolt stripped out and they had to use baling wire and a coat hanger they found to get everything attached, Jay backed out of the garage and onto the glistening asphalt, his knuckles, like Wilson’s, dirty and scraped. The wooden reindeer looked different from this angle, Wilson having only ever seen them from the side. And now that he thought of it, why hadn’t his father ever given him a ride in the sleigh, back when he was ten years old and would have wanted to? But no, he stood on the sidewalk and lunged for Jolly Ranchers like everyone else, progeny without privilege. He had parent issues, that was for sure. From this angle, sitting behind them, it was hard to see them as reindeer at all, only as some abstract plywood shaping, which bobbed and wobbled, rope harnesses swaying with the cold wind. They extended impossibly far out in front of the car, and Wilson couldn’t see how they would ever even turn a corner. It was like driving a stretch limo, made of wood, and trying to steer it from the trunk. His breathing grew shallow, his heart wobbly. The radio ran a commercial for Gold Bond Medicated Powder. The happy-looking pointy elfin hat made his hair sweaty. Jay plugged Rudolph’s nose cord into the cigarette lighter but it no longer worked. The headlights, yellowed and dimmed, were nearly useless. It was no one’s fault how they found the bottle. Jay drove to the end of the block and slowed at the stop sign, the reindeer cutting across Dickson street like a railroad crossing gate, then swung out wide and started to arc his way into the turn, getting them out onto Main Street, when Wilson felt his lungs push out a scream⎯more of a shout, really, though panic sent his voice up an octave halfway through. “Stop!” Two syllables, with the panic-induced glissando. Hands flying up to the dashboard, leg stomping the imaginary passenger brake pedal, he enacted the whole concept of stoppage. Jay did. He jammed the brakes so the reindeer swayed, the car clanked


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and groaned, a corner of wood broke away from Prancer’s hoof and skittered in the street. “What the fucking hell is your problem?” Jay said. “It’s a stop sign. Not yield, stop.” The rules of the road are designed with your safety in mind. Never had a truer state government pamphlet assertion been made. Jay chewed his bottom lip. “As far as I’m concerned, right at this minute, ‘Stop’ means ‘State Tax On Pussy,’ okay? It’s two-thirty in the fucking morning, Wilson. We’re in the reindeer sleigh.” It was then Wilson noticed the bottle, which had slid out, centrifugally, when the car jolted to its stop. An old four-fifths traveler’s quart bottle of Old Crow, the cartoon crow wearing his tophat, the label yellowed and peeling, the bottle half-empty (half-full, he heard Robin telling him). And when he picked it up off the floorboard, he found his own initials there, scratched in with a shaky hand in black ink and tiny rips. His initials, his father’s. W.S.V. Mrs. Crowder would call this a symbolic moment. The bottle looked to be as old as the car. Of course, he could see it now, his father, always so weepy over holidays, along with Ted Woodring, sipping from the bottle annually, before each ride, and probably no more than that, a tradition, twenty-seven sips each over the years, two old friends toasting the night and the cold and the blessed holiday. And so the new tradition was this: unscrew the black plastic top and drink a third of what remained in a gulp, accidentally spill some on the elf suit, then pass the bottle to Jay as the Old Crow burned its way down the gullet, tophat and all. And Jay drank, and stopped the car in the middle of Main Street with the one traffic light flashing yellow as it would until morning, the street wet with dew, the few storefront mannequins watching them through darkened glass. Later, for all the usual reasons, Wilson would know that this had been a bad choice. The Definitive You could be found only through good choices, one afternoon of TV would tell you that. But the night was cold, and his father seemed to beckon him, and he was scared, and he was dressed like an elf, and Robin was gone, and he drank. Their new tradition led to a number of decisions, as quick and liquid as the shots that inspired them. Jay offered to let Wilson take over right then, and when Wilson offered that he didn’t want to drive on the actual street, he could see the impatience in Jay’s face, though he tried to smooth it over with all the kindergarten-teacher cheer he could manage. “Now, you’re thinking like a real driver,” Jay said,. “Safety first. You’re in the groove.” The non-driving groove, yes. The procrastination groove. And so the decision was made to find a parking lot, some big, non-threat-


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ening expanse of asphalt, which, since the high school lot had recently sprouted portable classrooms, meant they were headed to Wal-Mart. Wilson let himself be taken there, decided to trust Jay in this. Jay knew cars and driving, in his backwards way, better than anyone else. His job, when he wasn’t stacking cartons of Redi-Maid sandwiches onto pallets, was to crash people’s cars for them. If someone needed, say, a new transmission, and still owed the bank a grand or two, and blue-book on the car was only $1500 or so, then they would pay him $250 to crash the car into a tree or guardrail, and he guaranteed them that the insurance company would total it. He did this about three times a week, all over southeastern North Carolina, wearing a bicycle helmet, knee and elbow pads. The worst had been a chipped tooth and a bruised stomach, that time in the Bronco. He said that ripping off the insurance companies was God’s work, and it was true he was not without a soul, not without an inner life. During the Olympics he’d written those poems about women’s volleyball and gotten them published on the sport’s page, and he had once built his own banjo from a kit. He was all right. Wilson took another drink as they slowed into Wal-Mart, and liked him even more. “Okay, then, bud,” Jay said. “Your moment is here.” And so it was. Yes. He looked at the wheel of the reindeer sleigh, breathed the fumes of its exhaust, felt the rumble of its revolutions, heard the ticking of the keyring against the steering column as the reindeer lightly quivered. His palms grew moist. Behind them was Carolina Tiny-Town Mini-Golf, closed for winter, the fake dog house and spewing gator and mechanical lion’s mouth and gorilla in a Hawaiian shirt all quiet and still. Out in front of them, across the lot, the gray expanse of Wal-Mart pavement was dotted with RV’s. “Did they open a campground?” Wilson asked. Questions were good, talk, good. Take your mind off things. Drink, yes, good. He drank. “Company policy,” Jay said. “Free overnights. My Uncle Clint is seeing America by way of Wal-marts.” He nodded thoughtfully, then took his gum from his mouth, stuck it inside the black cap from the Old Crow bottle, and stuck the cap on his nose. “What are you doing?” Wilson slid his cold and shaking hands into his pants pockets and found his cellphone nestled there. A badge, a charm. “You need to laugh. Every time, before I total a car? I tell myself a joke, make myself laugh. Best way I know to loosen up.” “But you don’t look funny.” It was true, he did look vaguely clownlike, the roundness and predominance of the nose, but it was black instead


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of some festive primary color, and flattened, and too functional looking. He looked dark, a Death Clown, maybe. A Man-Dog. He sighed, gripping the wheel. “For godsakes, Wilson, lighten up, okay? Switch places, and just drive in a straight line, get a feel.” And he grew tender for a moment, sorry for his own impatience. You could see it in his eyes, in the soft feathers of his hair, and he took the cap from his own nose and stuck it on Wilson’s, and Wilson breathed in the odor of watermelon gum, just like Robin’s shampoo, which made him think of her and which made him think of the shampoo commercial on TV, which made him think of the girl having the orgasm in the shower at the same time he thought of Robin and the Old Crow flew around and around his brain and it was all so much that he pulled out the cellphone and flipped it open. “Calling your life insurance agent?” Jay said. “Calling Robin.” Jay slid up and out of the reindeer sleigh without even opening the door. “Okay, that is it, man. I wash my hands of you, all right? I’m done.” “What the hell is your problem?” Wilson closed his eyes. Try again. “I mean,” he said, “tell me what you’re feeling.” “I’m feeling like walking over there,” Jay said. And he did, toward Carolina Tiny-Town mini golf, pausing long enough to toss back, “Let me know when you want to drive the freaking sleigh, okay? Maybe before daybreak?” Already, one or two cars drove by along the road, though none of them slowed. Wilson hit the speed dial and counted five rings before Robin answered. “Hi, honey,” he said. He slid over into the driver’s seat. Yes, Mrs. Crowder would note that, as metaphor. Wilson in the driver’s seat. The curly shoes jingled as he scooted. “It’s 3:10,” she said. “In the morning.” “Sweetie, do you know what I’m going to do?” “It’s 3:11.” “No, really, can you guess?” Let’s see.” She made shifting noises in the bed. Clicking-on-a-light noises. Tangle of brown hair, some 5k t-shirt or another, maybe the one with the blueberries on it. She was half a mile from where he now sat. He held his breath. “You’re going to hang up after realizing I have to work at the bank in four hours.” “I’m going to drive the reindeer sleigh. This year, Christmas eve.” “That’s real good, Wilson. Are you drinking?”


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“Not….well, no.” Truth is the first and last brick in the building called Trust. The doctor with the mustache said that, and the audience applauded, just before he cut to the cat food commercial. “Not no? I will take that to mean yes.” He can hear her putting on her little square glasses, that’s how much he loves her. “Only a little bit. It’s cold out here.” “A little bit, like four shots of vodka?” And so it is that the door to Big Arguments is always open, no matter how much time has elapsed. The door is open, your hand has been stamped, you can walk back in at will. The vodka comment beckons them in, and soon they are atop the whole heap again, and nearly two months have evaporated and it is three days before Halloween, when it had all started because of the goddamn Batman costume. Wilson had driven over into Winston-Salem to find it, to the real costume shop near the School for the Performing Arts. This was serious costuming, no screwing around. Not some rubbery hair-covered ghoul mask from that temporary shop in the mall that by now was the Christmas shop, not pulling out your acetate high school graduation gown so you could be plastic-teeth Dracula or cardboard-hat wizard. No no, this was the real thing, like from the movie, all black form-fitting latex with the built-in six pack abs and protruding nipples. He felt proud, heroic. His ears were pointy, his tool belt gadgety, his cape flowing. He was Batman. For two days he wore the costume, and kept saying that: “I’m Batman.” He said it after opening a jar of olives, after mounting a new hook on the bathroom door, after catching the sugar bowl before it toppled off the breakfast bar. The party was to be at the bank, the main branch downtown, with two of Robin’s coworkers on guitar and a punchbowl of liquor. He was set. Then he had his idea. “What does Batman need most?” he’d asked her, after the second shot of vodka. He was celebrating in advance his Best Costume award. He’d traded the suit for flannel pants since it was nearly bedtime, though he still wore the cowl. She put down her crossword. “Catwoman.” “No. The Boy Wonder, right? That can be your costume—Robin, Boy Wonder. But here’s the great part—” He held up his hands as if to clutch the greatness. “You go as a real robin, you know, the bird? We make a beak out of orange construction paper, and you wear that feathery chenille jacket thing you have—” “It’s black. Robins aren’t black.”


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“Yeah, but with the yellow hose, who’s going to notice? Some kind of red breast? It’s sexy.” She looked at him for four seconds. “Sexy.” “Yeah, I think so.” “God, honey…” She shook her head. “That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard.” “But.” “No, listen. If you want to be funny, then you go as Batman, and I go as me. I mean like wear my bank clothes. Batman and Robin, see? That’s the joke, I am Robin. My name is Robin. Not a bird costume.” “No, no, sorry, I don’t think so, because all night people will say, ‘what’s the matter, why didn’t you wear a costume?’ and you will have to explain the whole thing.” “I’ll only have to explain it to dumb people.” “You just don’t want to wear a costume. You’re just mad I had a good idea.” This last statement had been, in the analogies of argument, a turn down a muddy dirt road in the rain. Getting mired was guaranteed, and lost almost as certain, but in the re-going-over of the argument now, as he sat in the reindeer sleigh talking on the phone, Wilson detoured every wrong turn by interrupting her in mid-rant. “I love you,” he said. This should work. This was the sack of magic beans, as misunderstandings with women went. In his experience, you could answer a question as to why you were practicing with your crossbow in the living room with “I love you,” and all would be well five minutes out. “You don’t know anything about love,” she said. His breath blew out white streams, and the elf hat was making his scalp itch. In the rearview mirror he could see Jay, who must have found one of the colored balls in the grass and was now playing mini golf without a club, just rolling it with his hand, like miniature bowling. “Love is an active verb, Wilson,” she said. “Not a linking verb.” She had been watching daytime TV too. Or maybe Schoolhouse Rock. “But I’ve learned to share,” he said. “I’ve learned to listen.” “Good, then you can hear this,” she said, and she hung up the phone. Wilson breathed. Wilson shifted in the vinyl seat, all four of his footbells jingling. He drank the last of the Old Crow and sent the bottle with his father’s initials scrawled across it skittering across the parking lot. Beside him, the rows of RV’s slept, the windows dark gray, awnings rolled up tight. Wilson felt something—anger, that was it—roiling up inside him.


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Active verb…share…listen…a good place… He turned the key and started the Pacer. This is what they had come to, this is what had gone soft between them, talking about love as if they were in kindergarten, talking about classroom etiquette. Wrong, wrong, all wrong. I want to devour you, that was the language love needed. I crave you, I want to open your skin and live inside you. When had they forgotten to talk to each other that way? When had they ever? When had anyone? I want to capture your tongue as a pet in my mouth, I want to melt my heart into lava and wax to pour down your throat. He gunned the engine so it backfired. He forgot about the missing seatbelt. Then he remembered and said, “Fuck it.” He said it out loud. Above him, spangly tinsel stars, glowing as big as dining room tables, hung from the light poles and swayed in the breeze. A light or two came on in the RV’s and one man stood in paisley pajamas on his tiny folding steps, and Wilson watched his own hand shove the car into first gear and he revved the engine again until it redlined. Behind him Jay looked up from his game of clubless mini-golf and started moving toward him saying something, and Wilson let the weight of his foot lift from the clutch like he was letting the weight of everything lift off him, as if his foot might drift up past his thigh and into the night air and toward the tops of the trees, pulling him up behind and the car lurched and chugged and gave a few forward-ish spasms like some 60’s fad dance and then he was in motion, the reindeer bobbing, tires rolling, asphalt hissing by beneath him. He was doing it. He was, moving along, hurtling would really be the word, and he threw back his head and let out a whoop and a laugh, then it seemed like something he’d seen in a TV movie, some diamond thieves in a stolen car, maybe, and so he told himself to hush. He didn’t want to live by way of TV anymore, not when life could be like this, driven by drunkenness and legacy and the deep love of his own Boy Wonder. He would have called her that, if she’d gone along with it, if they hadn’t messed up so bad, and he didn’t care how weird it might sound. He was moving fast now and the wind snatched at his happy elfin hat but left it alone and the hood rattled and buzzed and hummed thorough his hands and up into the steering wheel and the shocks gave up tiny chirping squeaks and the balloon of his exhaust rose blue-gray and oblong on the cold air, and in deep ways this was better than sex, a bottomless breath-holding snatch at the balls by way of giving Death the finger, and just when he thought this, he realized he was going to have to steer. At some point, he would. Two things told him this—Jay, who had abandoned Tiny Town and was running up behind


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the car screaming turn the wheel, turn the wheel, catching up so quickly that some part of Wilson’s brain reconsidered the word hurtling, and the long and gleaming line of grocery carts he was quickly approaching, the sliver line of them curved out like some living, sleeping, scaly thing. They were coming up fast, like he’d been fated since birth to shopping carts, and the engine rumbled and he held his hands at ten and two and the radio was full of violins, but he could, he could steer, point and navigate, make his hands do the good work of getting the reindeer sleigh to veer from its course, he did so in his Saab every day. No problem. And then the headlights burned out. There wasn’t much to those thirty-year-old headlights, really, not held up against the arc lamps on the tall poles sprouted like palm trees all over the lot, casting oases of pinkish light beneath them, but all that Wilson knew was that suddenly a pool of darkness, a murky lagoon, a black hole, had opened like a mouth in front of him, and he kept driving straight into it maw. Things slowed down, details insisted themselves. The radio played Dean Martin singing “Powder Your Face With Sunshine,” and the front end of the line of carts lolled under a plastic canopy, the privileged few, and the RVs sat at angles to each other as though they’d been spilled then arranged, and the window of the liquor store looked like a neon art museum and all of this seemed to him his last moment before he fell if not into his demise at least into an extended panic, and behind him Jay had caught up to the car, puffing inside his down vest, and anyone who had seen him then (a night watchman, say, or the man in his paisley pajamas) might have thought he was ranting in French, but all he was really saying was, “It’s just a fuse! It’s just a fuse!” as if knowing the source of the trouble might mitigate the lack of light by which to see, and Wilson thought of all of this, considered it in the glacial brain-time of car wrecks, and then, in a moment of nearreligious insight, he thought, What Would Batman Do? and he whipped the wheel hard to the right, snapping off Vixen with a sickening wooden crack and sending him hurtling Frisbee-like into a rack of mums outside the garden center, the aluminum pole bending so that it looked as if the reindeer had in fact tugged him out of harm’s way, the Pacer fishtailing just enough to smack its back right quarterpanel against the last gleaming cart in the long row, sending a long swallow of movement along the row of carts and breaking through the plastic pole under the plastic awning, the pole that held them all in check falling to the pavement and rolling away, the sound hollow and percussive, the silver carts beginning to give slow chase, forty sluggish silvery greyhounds trailing the mechanical rabbit. And the carts


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were beautiful in a way, in his rear-view, rolling out and separating like those slow-motion films of space capsules, rolling left and right and straight on their bad wheels, parting and flashing like synchronized swimmers, rattling in the cold under the pink light down the slope of the parking lot. There was no ballet where the car was concerned, and Wilson had his foot to the floor, fearful in an unthinking way that stopping would snap the reindeer off at their odd angle, ruining his father’s handiwork, ruining Christmas, fearful that lifting his foot would mean discovering that somehow his curly shoes, the tiny bells, had become caught in the wiry dark beneath the dash, where things dangled and clanked. So he drove, parallel to the sidewalk, past Mattress World and the Armed Forces recruiter office and Wig Land and the Dollar Store and the Chinese restaurant, and the reindeer, bent now like the blade of some ditch mower, knocked over three trash cans, a newspaper rack, and a cardboard cutout of a Marine in full dress uniform before he steered again, superheroically, out into the wide expanse of black and, with his distrust of his feet, reached his now-frozen hand and turn off the key in the ignition. All but three of the deer had broken off, several of them splintered. The sidewalks looked as thought they’d been bombed, if one could imagine some foreign power that fought its wars with plywood animals. Finally, the car drifted to a slow and creaking stop. Jay leaned panting on the trunk. “Okay, all right,” he said. “All in all, not as bad as it seems.” By now people from the RVs stood around in their robes, arms crossed, watching all the commotion, watching them like a wreck, which, face it, they were. Wilson shook and sweated inside his cocoon of green velvet, his head buzzing and warm, and in that moment it all failed him. He knew this. All gesture and symbol, all ceremony, all myth, birth and death and religion, all hope and faith, everything for which this season stood. Everything Mrs. Crowder had taught him about how his own tragic story might go. The green velvet ripped at the arm holes as he pulled it off, the bells snapped off as he tugged the curly shoes from his feet. Jay, sweet Jay, the whole time saying, “Whoa, whoa, slow down, partner. Let’s just give her another go.” But there was no other go. “Your usual rate is $250, right?” he said to Jay, who nodded. He looked scared. “Listen,” Wilson continued, “I’ll give you $500. Right now.” It was all the money he had in the world, and he pulled out his wallet, counted out the twenties into Jay’s shaking hand, into Jay’s stunned vision. “But,” Jay said. “Now. Right now, before I change my mind.”


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And Jay nodded once then pocketed the money and jumped into the reindeer sleigh to fire the engine, to turn it around. To crash a car meant to crash it into something, and besides the glassy fronts of stores, all there was anywhere near them was Carolina Tiny Town mini-golf, and it was that at which Jay pointed the car, accelerating across the lot, the three remaining deer some sad outrigger, the last thing balancing the night. Wilson watched and then couldn’t, and when he pulled out his cell phone there were five missed messages, all from Robin, and he pitched the phone out across the lot into the dark, toward the clustered light of the RVs, toward the bright tinsel of Christmas decorations. So small, the phone made his voice. He wouldn’t let it be small again, and to test himself in this he put his head back, he found the waxy ball of the moon tangled high in a cluster of power lines, and he shouted her name, his Robin, his wonder, out into the frozen air with all the power he could muster. She was only half a mile away, he was on foot, dawn was coming. His voice would carry, it would carry. y


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Extracts from the Latterday Chronicle Lewis Turco #C9-0015-MAIN It doesn’t make any difference. There’s an old stained glass man behind that house. I hear the coffee in his veins. He knows about me. Well, if his eyes break we’ll both go and you can have our leftover colors. #G16-4413-SUB When I came by she was sitting at the door of her smoky hogan and it was either sand or wool she had in her hand and it was either a rug or the desert she was weaving. #G16-6792-SUB The widow lay sleeping under her the sheets tight over her an immense dream of a beard smothering her with the smell of rain moss on the north side and only a small scraping behind the baseboard reached to touch a thin wind easing at the sill.


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#G18-1462-SUB It’s not here behind the blackboard or here behind this burning village well it must be some where maybe a man with jowls ate it or hit it with a golf club or put it in a rifle or in jail or his pocket. #H16-3647-SUB Where the brook falls into its lower self the water breaks among stones, between oaks and junipers — I wonder how it will mend itself but it does and I never notice. #H16-5522-SUB Change places with me. Here, let me lie and look up at you through your monocle. It is like seeing into a trench. I note your concerned eye snaky with blood. #J45-9021-SUB There is no one standing on the rug in the center of the room. I know I can see where a shadow should fall there is sunlight breaking across a bar of dust.


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J51-0003-SUB It was a poppy made of bone that hung in the night and I picked it as the sky came down playing a black tune on the white keys. J51-5062-SUB If I were to smell the blue this morning and the color of the hour turned like the clock to other colors if I were to get inside the clock and feel yellow black whatever through the cogs and the tocks what shades would fall out of my face to stain daylight the white mantel the irises of your eyes? L12-0438-MAIN Matins, we said, matins and morningsides an alba even at evensong — whatever the stars recall, whatever they intend is the thing to consider, even if the world must come to not a lot more than it is. w


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Disposition Fred Dasig I went to Queens County Criminal Court to get a copy of the disposition from a criminal case I haven’t thought of in a long time going through security the cop tore through my backpack and found my old gym padlock he held it we looked at it while looking at each other as if we had been rehearsing this for months his other hand dropped to the butt of his gun he held the lock up to my face and said: “this is a deadly weapon” I blinked first like I wanted to get shot he opened up my bag dropped the lock and said: “if you take this lock out of your bag, I’ll put a bullet in you” I wondered why the officer was so happy for the chance to shoot me


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had it been a slow week at the metal detector was my padlock the first thing to set it off like the orgasm a neglected housewife gets from the utility man did the lock remind him of a time when he was locked up in the closet by his drunk stepfather locked out of scholastic opportunity and an easy mark to be locked into the NYPD promises at the recruitment table locked into serving and protecting only the ones he can identify with or was it the time that he locked eyes with a guy at the gym with an uncommonly large hillbilly cock whatever it was he was locked into our psychic stare-down behind his polished brass shield courtesy professionalism respect and he said: “do you understand what I just said… I will shoot you” I took back my bag without disrupting our bond and said: “I would expect you to” w


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The CEO’s Annual Report Ned Balbo Welcome! and greetings from the cutting edge. This past year we’ve made strides and great leaps forward, finalized commitments, forged a bridge between our old friends and our adversaries— (wisely, for who knows which is which these days?)— and having defined new goals worth striving toward, we’ve tossed out all the old ones, tattered selves cast off, vaguely distasteful with the whiff of yesterday’s now not-so-Great Ideas. And yet, there’s much to do. The world revolves upon an axis fit for re-invention every so many years. Do not be stiff, unyielding, or too slow when Change moves in to sweep the last, few cluttered areas clean. w


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A Minor Injury Ned Balbo Smithtown, Long Island, ca. 1966 For my mother Betty, 1916-1977

My mother cut her finger long ago, a deep slice that took off most of the nail. She cried out at the sight of so much blood, tomato-red, spilling beneath a window in the kitchen’s heat. I heard her yell, and rushed downstairs. Stranded alone, we stood astonished at the sight of so much blood, the dishrag soaked, hand wrapped, her face gone pale. My mother cut her finger long ago by chance, but so efficiently you could have praised her for the skill. I heard her yell, “Go out, get ’Nu!” (short for Enunzio, who lived next door). It wasn’t long ago, only a lifetime since I heard her call, cry out as numbness blossomed into blood and throbbing pain. Next door, against my will, I waited with ’Nu’s wife, thought of the nail cropped on our countertop with so much blood that proved my mother mortal long ago. w


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Falling Tomatoes Lisa Pacenza The summer I turned eleven, my mother and I were alone together for the first time. Our escape had been surprisingly easy; we crammed our belongings into two large suitcases and drove away in a taxi within an hour of my father leaving for work. I couldn’t fully appreciate how lucky we were, even as I snuck glances at the other women and children in the hallways of the shelter where we spent that first night. I had yet to recognize the dark knots of my parents’ relationship: the push and pull, the guilt and the terror. All I knew was that we were going somewhere where he couldn’t hit us any more. We were giddy, not just from our successful flight, but also from the feeling that we were suspended between two very different lives, the past we’d run from and the future we couldn’t yet clearly see. We settled into a small Brooklyn apartment and for a while, lived each day as if it were a holiday. We went to matinees in the old cinema across the street, sharing bags of greasy popcorn and oversized cups of sugary soda as we giggled in the dark like two schoolgirl friends. We dressed in our Sunday best and rode the subway into Manhattan, where I put on elaborate fashion shows in the dressing rooms of Saks and Lord & Taylor’s, while Mom sat outside with the haughty sales clerks and waved me away with her good arm and a straight-faced “No, that simply won’t do.” We ordered takeout pizza and ate it in bed while watching Dallas and Dynasty on a small black and white TV that we rolled from room to room on a rickety metal cart. At night, my mother curled away from me at the edge of our shared mattress and snored lightly, lulling me to sleep with the solidity of her presence. But the fun lasted just a few weeks, until Mom had her cast removed and found a job selling shoes at a downtown discount store. Her schedule fluctuated; mostly weekdays, some evenings, and sometimes she’d even go in on a Sunday, which was time and a half. Her manager had trouble filling the Sunday slots because most of the other sales women wouldn’t miss church. That wasn’t a problem for us. The Catholic Church didn’t want us any more, because my mother was filing for divorce, which was apparently a more egregious sin in the eyes of God than anything my father had done. Because school hadn’t started yet, I knew no other children in the neighborhood. My mother couldn’t afford a sitter and I had to promise


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not to leave the apartment while she was at work. I read books from the neighborhood library (carefully carted home on regular Saturday excursions with Mom at my side), ate bowl after bowl of cereal, and napped in front of the Young and the Restless. In the afternoons, I’d run down to the building lobby to gather up the pile of mail that the mailman had thrust through the single slot in the front door. Next I’d painstakingly sort it into the individual boxes in the foyer, working slowly, pausing to add each detail to my mental encyclopedia of the other tenants’ lives. We ourselves got very little mail, because nobody knew where we were. The few bills that came were in Mom’s maiden name, Ryan, and still looked odd and unfamiliar. I wondered if I’d remember to answer when teachers at my new school called out “Becky Ryan.” The Millers, who shared the second floor with us, received the most mail: stacks of puffy personal letters, neatly rectangular bills, thick glossy sports and fashion magazines. Upstairs from them lived Rosa Giordano, an opera singer whom we often heard practicing through the open windows. She was dark and exotic, with huge breasts that stretched the bright flowers on her sundresses into nearly unidentifiable masses of color. Her mail was slight: infrequent airmail letters from Italy, mimeographed postcards announcing musical events, the basic utilities bills. Once she got a large brown padded envelope from a lingerie company. I shuddered with excitement at what could be inside – something large and red and lacy – but the staples held fast despite my attempts to dislodge them by repeatedly tossing the package into the air. But it was Deanna’s mail that held the most interest for me. Deanna lived immediately above us, which brought an intimacy that I didn’t have with the others. I felt I knew Deanna - not the narrow dark face that would scurry past me on the stairs, but the rhythm of her footsteps across our ceiling, the nightly progression of her sharp-heeled shoes from kitchen to living room to bathroom to bedroom. I imagined her preparing dinner: a baked potato, a carefully trimmed pork chop, a spoonful of peas and a slender glass of wine. She’d eat in the living room, not in front of the TV like we did, but with a thick book propped up beside two long tapered candles and the radio playing something strange and exotic in the background. I imagined a pair of yellow baby-doll pajamas, straight from the summer issue of Vogue, hanging on the back of her bathroom door, waiting. The footsteps told me that she went to bed early, but I imagined her lying there with that book, or with a phone receiver clutched to her ear as she spoke to one of her many worldly friends.


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Deanna got several postcards a week, mostly with photographs of ornate churches and weathered statues. Thought you’d find this interesting, read one, Visited great grandfather’s grave today outside Vienna, read another. They were rarely more than a sentence long, all signed by “Bill”. In my fevered fantasy, Bill was her ex-fiancé, driven to Europe to recover from her rejection, but unable to completely cut off communication. On other days I decided he was her twin brother, roaming the continent looking for the mother who’d abandoned them in a French country orphanage. Every glossy mounted soldier was a clue; every bright stained glass window brought a hint as I painstakingly recorded Bill’s progress in the back of an old spiral notebook from school. Deanna also subscribed to a number of medical journals, which held the possibility of excitement at first, but quickly disappointed me with too much text and very few lurid color pictures. Still, I’d slip them (and Mrs. Miller’s Cosmopolitan and Vogue) to the side as I sorted, then sit on the bottom step of the long dusty stairway and read, careful not to wrinkle a single page. Long, narrow, and windowless, the building’s hallways and lobby stayed nicely cool in the summer, but I was forced to read by a dim overhead light even in the brightest afternoons. I longed to be outside, in the height of the sun, swinging contentedly at the corner playground, dusting my sneakers against the gravel yard. But I couldn’t disobey my mother. I had promised her I wouldn’t leave the building. However, it didn’t take me long to decide that my promise didn’t prohibit me from crawling out of our kitchen window and onto the back fire escape. It was perfectly within the rules, and Mom certainly wouldn’t object. Yet I still chose not to tell her. It was a betrayal, but a small one, one I could forgive myself for. The hot metal floor of the fire escape wasn’t very comfortable, yet I was afraid to bring a pillow for fear of dropping it to the inaccessible alleyway below. But it was blissfully quiet. Our building was on a commercial street and the front windows brought a constant barrage of rumbling trucks and screeching buses and honking cars. The back windows opened on to another world, a private enclave of narrow backyards buffeted by tall brick brownstones along all four sides of the block. I watched cats slip from one yard to another, disappearing under iron gates and behind thick hedges, making their way insolently from one garden to the next. Our own backyard was closed to all but the Luigis, the landlords and owners of the ground floor hardware store. A square of empty dirt, it housed rolls of wire fencing, a collection of aluminum ladders in different lengths, and


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several large mysterious metal barrels. I would lie on my back and stare up between the black iron slats at the blazing sun, imagining I was getting a zebra tan. I never did – the sun was too shrewd to bend to my will. Above me, just outside Deanna’s window, sat a large potted tomato plant, so close that I could smell the sweetly acidic burn of its leaves and watch its fruit bend closer as they warmed from green to yellow to gold to brilliant scarlet. They disappeared as fast as they ripened, though I never saw a hand reach from the unseen window to take one. My mouth would water as I lay there, longing to feel the warm juices drip down my chin like in the summer days of our old suburban garden. My father was quite a gardener, with rows of carefully staked tomato plants and clothesline networks of bean and sweet pea vines. Pie tins of beer were placed in strategic corners to lure leaf-chomping slugs and caterpillars to their deaths. A thick coil of green hose hung by the gate, plumped and ready to reach even the back row of succulent sunflowers. Every spring, my father would discover a new and exotic seedling at the farm store, and Mom taught herself to cook each of the unfamiliar vegetables in turn: long yellow zucchini squash, glowing white baby eggplants, purple stalks of curly dark green Swiss chard. By August there would be so many tomatoes that we couldn’t eat them all, so she learned to can them in clear Bell jars with glass dome lids, filling the hot humid kitchen with steam and acid smells for entire afternoons. I tried not to remember the nights my father would get angry because my mother had overcooked the zucchini or undercooked the eggplant, an anger that might immediately explode in a plate thrown at the wall behind her ducking head or fester into a late night screaming match in their bedroom as I lay with my head buried under my pillow, silently begging it to stop. Just once, before we left, my mother enacted a tiny but graceful revenge. He had just finished complimenting the brightness of the delicately steamed broccoli by first trashing every other time she’d overcooked it. “This,” he said, “is what broccoli should taste like.” I raised my eyes from my own plate to watch him left a long stalk to his mouth only to see a small light green caterpillar between two of the florets. I turned to my mother in horror but she just stared back at him soundlessly. After he’d chewed and swallowed she said, “Yes, David. It’s perfect.” But we’d left all that behind. We no longer had a garden, but we had the Italian market down Court Street with its upended wood crates displaying colorful vegetables in abundance, some of which I doubt my father could even name. And I had the fire escape, with its lone city tomato plant


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just within grasp. It was enough – or almost enough. One afternoon the temptation of staring at Deanna’s tomatoes became too much and I stood and tried to reach up through the slats for a particularly ripe and low-hanging fruit. I was too short, but I wiggled my fingers in the sun and swore I saw the tomato swing lightly from the vibration. Now, I had to have it. Stepping gingerly in my bare feet, I moved to the ladder that formed one end of the structure. The only way up was to climb, but I had a lot of jungle gym experience and knew I could scramble up like a monkey. I wouldn’t think about the nearly fifty-foot drop that would result if one sweaty foot slipped from a slender rung. I wouldn’t think about getting caught, about Deanna showing up at our apartment door hugging the newly stripped plant to her chest, evidence for my mother to see. Hot, hot, hot. My feet burned on the blistering iron. I ducked down to a seated position as soon as I reached the top, marveling at the difference in the view just from a 12-foot climb. On this, the top floor, there was no crisscross ceiling, but only the direct onslaught of the blazing sun. I sat for several minutes, savoring this new world. I was bigger, and the world was bigger, and yet the bright red tomato that had brought me up here seemed smaller than it had from below. I reached and gently brushed the dust from its surface. My fingers recognized that ripeness, the exuberant tenderness of a fruit whose flesh was seconds from splitting its skin. I swallowed hungrily and pulled. As the weight of the tomato dropped heavily into the cup of my hand, my eyes drifted upward, through the long green leaves directly into Deanna’s window and into her kitchen. It was almost a replica of our own kitchen downstairs, with the same honeycolored cabinets and stark white appliances, but with subtle differences that were disconcerting. Our bright yellow dish drainer stood between the sink and the refrigerator; hers, an avocado green, split the counter between sink and stove. She’d hung a row of white coffee mugs on hooks along the bottom of the cabinets above the sink. Our brand new double slice toaster was replaced with a large silver coffee pot. I tried peering forward, through the open kitchen doorway into her living room, hoping for a glimpse of carpet or chair or even a painting on the wall. But it was too bright outside and too dim inside and my nose brushed up against the screen. As I stared, a naked Deanna walked into the kitchen, filling my sight. She seemed not to notice me sitting there, and I held my breath, realizing that moving would shift the light in the room and alert her to my presence. I barely noticed her face; my eyes were frozen on the dark jungle of pubic


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hair and the sway of her long hanging breasts. She opened the refrigerator door and disappeared behind it and I seized the chance to scramble to my feet and back down the metal ladder. I sat on our kitchen floor, breathing heavily, listening to footsteps retreat above me. I hadn’t heard footsteps all morning, but maybe she had come in while I was outside. I had never seen a black woman naked. I didn’t really know any black people, but back home just about everybody was white, not like Brooklyn, where one subway car held more color variations than my old crayon box, with people as dark as my father’s morning black coffee or as pale as the weak tea my mother drank. Until we’d moved to Brooklyn I’d never seen a Puerto Rican and it surprised me how smoothly they slipped in with the black kids on the subways and outside the corner bodega. Soon I’d be going to school with them, and with other kids just like them. I wondered how I would fit in. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to capture every inch of bare flesh to memory. Truth was, I didn’t have much experience with naked white people, either. Despite sharing a small apartment and even a bed, my mother and I did not undress in front of each other. She wore long cotton nightgowns with hems that dragged along the floor on her petite frame, and sleeves that bunched at her wrists. When her arm was broken she’d had to slit the left sleeve of every gown to make room for the cast, but by now she’d carefully sewn them back together, discreetly hiding her thin pale limb from my sight. I wondered if her pubic hair was as full and curly as Deanna’s, and then felt instantly ashamed. It was then that I remembered the tomato. I uncurled my empty fists and imagined it smashed onto the Luigis’ concrete below. jj My birthday was getting closer, and I began to wonder if Mom would even have the day off. My birthdays had always been large-scale events in the old backyard, with neighborhood children and random cousins lined up for party games and cake. None of that could happen now, not when nobody from our old life was supposed to know our whereabouts. It suddenly hit me that I might not ever see my old girlfriends again – not Molly who’d lived next door, nor Jennifer from Girl Scouts, nor even the twins I’d stood between in fourth grade chorus. But if giving them up meant keeping Mom safe, I could do it. I felt guilty for even wishing we were back in our old life. There was something dirty and wrong about it, as if I actually was willing to trade our newfound


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safety for the familiar comfort of old friends and old furniture. As if the price of once more hearing the promising creak of the sliding patio doors would be Mom’s wail as my father threw her against the glass as punishment for not keeping them clean of my finger smudges. I would show Mom how grateful I was. I vowed never to climb out to the fire escape again. While she was at work, I concentrated on cleaning the apartment. I scrubbed the bathtub until it shone more brightly than it had when we’d moved in. I climbed on a chair and pulled long caterpillar rolls of dust from the ceiling fan blades and the tops of the kitchen cabinets. I emptied the refrigerator onto the kitchen floor and scrubbed every shelf and every crevice, including the hardened gunk on the bottom of the built-in eggcups. “What have I done to deserve this?” Mom asked one night. I was sitting on the floor in front of the sofa while she combed the tangles from my freshly washed hair. “Just felt like it,” I said, squirming as the comb caught on a large knot. “Thank you,” she whispered, and kissed the top of my head. She sounded tired, like she just didn’t have the energy to push any further. She’d begun working double shifts at the shoe store, to pay for the new school clothes I’d need in a couple of weeks. Despite my summer of indoor gloom, I’d sprouted almost an inch in height, and my toes were curling over the edge of my worn flip-flops. A few times I woke up during the night to feel her absence in the sudden coolness of the mattress beside me and I’d hear her moving about in the other room, the way she used to roam the downstairs of our old house in the weeks before she decided to leave. Knowing this was still hard for her made me even more determined to be the good, helpful daughter. jj Though I had stopped going out onto the fire escape, I wouldn’t give up the afternoon ritual of sitting on the hallway stairs reading the neighbors’ magazines. My mother wouldn’t like to see me holding the pages close to my eyes in the dim light, but she probably wouldn’t want me reading many of the Cosmopolitan articles, either. That summer I learned that sex wasn’t just something women had done to them, but something they happily participated in and wrote endlessly about. There were clothes to drive your man wild, perfumes to lure him to your bed, and quiz after quiz to determine if he were really “the one” to make your body quiver to its potential. I imagined Rosa in her new red lingerie, cleavage rising and fall-


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ing as she sang an aria to a besotted lover at her feet. I couldn’t imagine my parents in any of the intimate scenarios the magazine celebrated, although I had been witness to my father’s awkward attempts at tenderness that usually lasted a day or two after his rage had run its course. It had seemed wrong then and did so even more now that the magazines had given me a new understanding of the intensely physical nature of grown up love. One afternoon I was mentally transcribing my answers to a zodiac compatibility quiz (would a Leo satisfy my Virgo soul?) when the front door opened and in walked Deanna. I couldn’t help but notice how much more buoyant her breasts appeared under her clothing. She had recently cropped her tightly kinked hair and was showing off large gold hoop earrings, which swung heavily as she moved. “Oh, hi there,” she said, her voice deep and rich. “Hi,” I said, closing the magazine with shaking hands and laying it cover side down on my lap. “Hot out there, huh?” She rubbed a hand filled with rings over her fuzzy scalp. “Nice and cool in here.” I nodded, and shifted to the side of the step to let her pass. She was wearing wooden Dr. Scholl’s sandals that clacked against each stair. I held my breath as the sound trickled up to the fourth floor, and then stood and replaced the Cosmopolitan back in the Millers’ box. I wondered whether Deanna had a boyfriend, and whether they did any of the things the magazines talked about – or, even, the things that were whispered about on the hot asphalt of the sixth grade playground at my old school. It made me feel funny to think about it. Back in the apartment, I listened for footsteps above me but it was quiet. I imagined her lying naked on a long velvet sofa, a brightly colored paperback clutched in one hand. I went into the bathroom and took off my own clothes. Rotating in front of the mirror on the back of the door, I checked for new growth, but there was nothing, not one single hair, not under my arms nor between my legs. Nothing. With a late August birthday, I was usually one of the youngest girls in my class; moreover, I was short and slight like my mother and often mistaken for even younger than I was. I felt like a child next to the sixth grade girls in my Girl Scout troop, two of whom had already sprouted breasts and liked to show off the sanitary napkins they carried in the pockets of their knapsacks. But that, too, belonged to the world I’d left behind. Without a group of girl friends with whom to giggle my way through puberty I could convince myself it wasn’t going to happen to me. It had been put on hold,


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suspended, until my new life started and I had new friends with whom to share every agonizing detail. I couldn’t talk to my mother about it. It was one of the topics we never would discuss, as if any allusion to our bodies would collapse the careful wall of secrecy she’d built to protect us. We didn’t bleed, we didn’t bruise, and we didn’t break. We covered our scars and contusions with carefully chosen clothing and we stayed silent, not even mentioning them to each other. jj The night before my birthday, Mom and I went out for Chinese food, eating in the restaurant instead of bringing it back to the apartment as we always did. The restaurant was nearly empty and very quiet, and it felt weird to eat without the sound of the television and to have fried rice on real china instead of out of cardboard containers. “Only ten days until school starts,” I said, dipping an egg roll into a little bowl of duck sauce. “Back home you’d be starting junior high. I bet you’ll miss that, huh?” “No,” I said and stared down at my plate. I didn’t want her to feel any worse about our leaving. “No?” She looked slightly wounded, and I wondered if I’d said it too quickly. Maybe she didn’t believe me. “I think it will be cool to go to school here. And middle school is even better – seventh graders aren’t at the bottom of the pile.” That was something I really was grateful for, since being the new kid wouldn’t be so hard if there were a whole slew of younger new kids behind me. “I’m sorry you haven’t made any friends yet. I know you miss your old ones.” There was a dot of duck sauce on her chin but she was staring too closely at me and I didn’t point it out. “Yeah, but that’s okay. It will be pretty cool to have friends who aren’t all, you know, white.” She didn’t seem to react either way to this so I went on. “I think I’ll like meeting girls who aren’t all just like me.” And then I saw her, an eleven year old black girl, with skin as glossy as Deanna’s, leaning with me on the cement wall in front of the library, giggling as boys walked by. I suddenly wanted to meet her. Mom didn’t say anything, just leaned back in her seat as the waitress set the main dishes between us. When we got home, a small brown paper bag sat on the mat outside our apartment door. Mom opened it and a smile appeared. “Tomatoes,” she said. She handed me the bag, on which a note was scrawled in thick


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black ink: “Hope you can use these. Deanna.” “That was sweet of her,” said my mother. “I wish there was a way to thank her.” Her voice trailed off, but I was too focused on the smooth rolls of Deanna’s handwriting to notice. I took the tomatoes carefully from the bag and set them in the produce drawer at the bottom of the fridge. Folding the bag flat, I stuck it inside the atlas, on the page facing the map of Europe, where I’d been tracing Bill’s travels. jj Mom woke me up on the morning of my birthday with a candletopped pop tart. “Wake up, sleepy head,” she said, plopping down on the bed next to me. “I have a surprise for you.” “What?” I said, excited for the first time in days. “In the kitchen,” she whispered. “Do I have to get dressed?” I whispered back. Molly? I wondered. Could it be she’d figured out a way to have Molly visit? I felt bad now for considering replacing her with a new hip black friend. “No, Beck, you’re fine.” She stood and caught me in a hug as I tried to whisk past her. “Everything is going to be okay,” she murmured into my hair. “I promise, it’s going to be okay this time.” I pulled back nervously. Not Jennifer, I thought. Not Molly. The bedroom door was open and I could see through to the other end of the apartment, to the kitchen, to where he sat, grinning at me. “Dad,” I said quietly. “Yes, honey, surprise!” Mom answered. Her words began to fly faster and faster as we approached him, her arms still heavy on my shoulders. “He’s come to take us back home, baby, and it’s all going to be all right this time. He really loves us, and you really miss the old house, don’t you?” “Happy Birthday, sweetie,” he said as I stopped in the kitchen doorway. “Say, how about an omelet? I found some tomatoes in the fridge. Probably nothing like the ones I’ve got back home for you, but might as well give them a try.” He smiled. Deanna’s tomatoes. It seemed obscene somehow that my father had touched them, had sliced their delicate skin with one of the ragged edged kitchen knives. I thought of the one I’d dropped from the fire escape, the one that had gotten away from my grasp, that now lay dashed to nothing on the cement, just a few stuck seeds winking in the morning light. “No thanks,” I said. “I don’t like tomatoes much anymore.” y


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Glassworks Holly Posner Let’s begin with the French, who as everyone knows, are more obsessed with things like glass, especially the stained variety. Take Amiens, Chartres, Notre Dame, where illiterati with baguettes and brie could browse blockbusters from “The Life of Christ” as they strolled the grisaille of their 12th-century nothing much. Proust might have enjoyed stained glass had he not spent his entire childhood in bed waiting for Maman to kiss him goodnight. Luckily, someone sends him a magic lantern et voilà! Time melts forward and back: Merovingian heroes glide over the bric-a-brac of his bourgeois bedroom. (That this triggers melancholy so profound he weeps, then writes several thousand more pages on the subject from his cork-lined room is not the point.) You can’t predict what will happen when you look through glass someone’s monkeyed with. Jacques Cousteau understood this every time he spat into his mask, then back-dived off the Calypso in search of Spanish doubloons. This, too, a remembrance of things past. Closer to home: a friend taught me to stand back and squint when stringing tree lights—useful advice and not just at Christmas, if you fall for a taxidermist with ink-stained elbows and teeth like baby turnips. Consider the eyeball a gluier glass, no more/no less reliable a witness than any other lens. For example, I could swear I saw you cross Madison today with a child


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about the age your son would be. You were wearing the sweater I bought you for Christmas, 1979 — French cobalt, your favorite. Then I remember. Still, when someone asks if I need glasses, I’m likely to say, No, not yet. I don’t have trouble seeing things far away. w


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Stagnant Tongue Holly Posner Stagnant tongue, the Chinese doctor says. I’m not surprised. For weeks I’ve been pushing through a tangle of reeds toward open water. Something I cannot name urges, Go deeper. Let each object speak for you: milkweed, tea cup, sparrow’s bone, even the threadbare quilt and rusted latch will be your voice. Facedown on the table, I listen to the traffic on Mott Street, a muffled conversation through the wall. I think of a friend’s son drowned on a camping trip — a billow of green t-shirt directing his father and brothers to the body. His mother mute for almost a year. Dr. Ming twists two needles into my scalp. Pain? she asks. I shake my head, No, not pain — heat, a brief tingling and at the back of my throat, the unmistakable taste of salt. w


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Duskus Interruptus: Boulder, Colorado Bob Holman “If only the Whole World could be like this!� Writes my student In her notebook As we toss beer empties Into the dumpster At Varsity Townhouses And scan the horizon For Noncaucasians w


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PERFORM THE DIVISION silver gelatin print by Todd Behrendt


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SOLVE THE EQUATION silver gelatin print by Todd Behrendt


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Roger and Me, Too Jean Feraca There is no word in English to describe the special closeness that sometimes bonds a man and a woman who are never lovers, but are more than friends. Had Roger and I met decades earlier when we were both young and crazy, given half a chance, I would have jumped on the back of his Harley and ridden off with him without so much as a backward glance. As it was, what grew between us was something much more subtle, something that had shading, texture, and seasoning. But because there is no word for it, it stayed mysterious in my mind, to be brought to light, among so many other astonishing revelations, only in the course of my becoming Roger’s memoirist. Roger was my husband’s best friend, but I loved him too. Ours is a marriage fueled by the energy of opposites: Alan, the scientist; me, the poet; Alan, the atheist; me, the believer. We circled each other warily when we first met, careful not to trigger any minefields. But Roger and I needed no such delicate negotiations. Attraction between us was simple and spontaneous. We were roughly the same age and had both grown up in second generation immigrant families in twin boroughs of New York City, Roger in Brooklyn, and me in the Bronx, densely ethnic neighborhoods that stamped us for life. As soon as the way was clear, we each boarded the same freedom train bound for the West Coast and came of age on parallel tracks during the tumultuous sixties. While I went roaring around the Berkeley Hills with a hellcat, Roger was getting ready to stage his own motorcycle rampages through the evergreen highways of the Pacific Northwest. We were both children of William Blake, Aldous Huxley, and Walt Whitman; we shared the same wild streak. But beneath these several layers was something deeper, some invisible substrate. It was as if we were standing in the same stream, miles apart, with our feet on the same contiguous bedrock. “He adored you,” Kathy confided in her low, mellifluous voice when we met in Aspen to scatter Roger’s ashes. Coming from a wife of thirty-some years, that was pure gift. I suppose you might say that deep down I’m one of those Catholic school girls afflicted with a Biker Babe fantasy and a weakness for bad guys. Just as I was confronting my sixtieth birthday, a package arrived in the mail


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from San Diego. Inside the box, hidden under the crisp folds of pink tissue paper, was a silver belt with eagles that were strung on a double chain, and a skimpy sleeveless black t-shirt edged in lace. As I held it up, a piece of paper the size of a ticket stub fluttered out, landing in my lap. It was a tiny hand-lettered coupon. I picked it up and read, “Good for one ride on Highway 101.” I had to wait a few years before I finally got to claim that ride. It was during a visit to San Diego shortly before Roger died. I remember the unnatural crush and weight of my helmet as I hung on to Roger’s broad, black-leathered back, feeling the vibrations that came shuddering up through the thick padded seat as Roger gunned the engine and started tooling up the long winding drive to the road. Rounding the bend, we passed right in front of Alan standing there at the top, waiting to wave us on as we zoomed by. Glancing back, I noticed that he looked a little worried at the sight of his best friend riding off with his wife. Roger had a nose worthy of Cyrano and a big bushy moustache to match, massive shoulders and a barrel chest so heavy it seemed to tip him slightly forward with its weight. He was like a boulder, storing heat. He walked with a half-saunter, half- strut, his chest thrust out, head thrown back, butt tucked in so tight it looked almost concave. He had a habit of hooking his thumbs in his pockets and scuffing his penny loafers, which stuck out when he walked, with a little half-kick. When Roger’s daughter brought her boyfriend home for the first time, he took one look at Roger and said, “Kimmie, your Dad walks like a gangster.” Always bigger, stronger, and smarter than his twin brother, Roger was born first, but his mother favored Neal, the baby who took after her. She made up a game she called “The Perfect Kid of the Week Club.” Roger never won, not once. She often predicted that her big ox of a son would go bad and one day end up in prison, a prophecy that haunted Roger all his life, and which he only narrowly escaped. As a teenager, he hot wired cars and stole them for joy rides. In graduate school, he shared needles with black men just to prove he wasn’t prejudiced. He played pool for money, got into barroom scrapes, and occasionally came home to Kathy with his head split wide open. He rode a Harley all his life and even named his son after his bike. He even once picked a fight with a Swiss Guard at the Vatican and came close to kicking him in the shins. I always imagined Roger as a kind of half-man, half-bull, and was pleased with myself when I came up with a name for him. “Roger,” I said, “You’re The Bull in the China Shop of Life!” But he was hurt. “That’s what


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my mother used to call me, he winced, ‘You Big Lummox!’” “I had heard and read about men who were like that,” Kathy told me, “men who were fearless. He was the only one I ever knew.” So when his diagnosis came up and he was finally forced to face his own mortality, we wanted to believe that if anybody could lick prostate cancer, it would be Roger. Tough as he was, Roger had charm. “I’ll be the one wearing the Panama hat and the pink carnation,” he liked to say whenever we arranged a place to rendezvous. And there he’d be in front of O’Hare, looking stunning in his hounds’ tooth jacket and blue Hawaiian shirt, his aviator sunglasses and spectator shoes, and, of course, his Panama hat. He had such a fondness for women that it made me eager to please him, and it never took much. Show up in a ruffled blouse or a flouncy skirt, and it never went unnoticed. “Sella Bella!” he would exclaim, drawing out the syllables in his ardent faux Italian. I took special delight in cooking for him whenever he came to town and once prepared an Osso Bucco so tender it slid off the bone, rejoicing in watching him dig into the marrow with a Lilliputian-sized spoon. I even indulged a fetish he had for bright red toenail polish, and took pains to apply Candy Apple Red to my toes even after Roger died and we were on our way to scatter his ashes. If it hadn’t been for Roger, Alan and I might never have gotten together. Roger was big-hearted and wise. Right away he surmised that we were exactly suited to one another. But Alan needed encouragement. I was twice divorced and almost a dozen years his senior. Dominick, my younger son, didn’t help matters when he took Alan aside to whisper into his ear, “Are you sure you know what you’re getting yourself into?” Being a nurturer, Roger watched this budding romance from a distance and moved it along, sometimes not so gently. Not long after we met, acting on impulse, I presented Alan with a copy of Talk Dirty To Me on Valentine’s Day. The book had a picture of a deeply pleated peach perched provocatively on the cover. Alan was puzzled. “What do you think that means, Roger?” That was a question Roger didn’t have to ponder. “What do you think it means, you idiot?” A year later, just as matters were heating up and coming to a head between us, Alan got cold feet. “Alan,” Roger threatened, “if you don’t marry Jeannie, I will.” The first time we met, Roger greeted me as Aunt Julia. He was sitting in Alan’s living room. As I walked through the doorway he rose slowly from the couch. Dressed in jeans and a pale blue denim work shirt with his hands in his hip pockets, rocking slightly back and forth on his heels and nodding with his eyes half-closed, he took my measure. “A-a-a-unt


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J-u-u-lia,” he purred in a descending cadence after a moment or two, smiling his guru’s smile and pronouncing the name as if it were a benediction. There was no mystery about the name. At Alan’s urging, we had both been reading Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, a novel by Mario Vargas Llosa about a young man who falls in love with his aunt. If Roger dubbed me Aunt Julia, it was certain I had won his approval. jj We had barely settled into our hotel in Khania on the edge of the Aegean when the bad news arrived. Holding his laptop open in his arms, Alan burst into our room, crying, “Roger’s going to die on my birthday! What the hell does that mean?” There we were in Crete, thousands of miles from San Diego, marooned on the island of the Minotaur, and Roger had been bullish all his life, especially in battling his cancer. We slept fitfully that night. Waking in the half-light before dawn, we dressed hastily without uttering so much as a single word, and sped down the spiral staircase all the way to the basement where the Internet signal was strongest. Seated side-by-side in the gloom outside a conference room, we braced ourselves for the worst. Alan took a deep breath, lifted the lid on his laptop, clicked open his e-mail…and there it was. Roger had died overnight. They had met thirty years earlier, working in the same crowded lipoprotein lab at UC-San Diego. At twenty-one, Alan was lean and wiry, a Ph.D. student with a mass of wild, blue-black curls; Roger, ten years older, was a burly post-doc, red-headed and slightly balding. They talked incessantly about everything they cared about — science, of course, movies, books, and music — in passionate conversations that lasted long into the night, but the real gorilla glue that bonded them was mischief. Growing up in Venezuela, Alan had a cultivated contempt for authority based on his tussles with the small-minded teachers who ruled his early life and the corrupt cops he still insists on calling “criminals in uniform.” Roger was a complete anarchist with a wicked sense of humor who rode out the sixties like a cowboy, still wearing his vintage Mother Fuckers black leather jacket in 1976 when he growled up to the lab every morning on his Harley. They saw themselves as renegades and outliers and they hatched a friendship that lasted a lifetime. They got into each other’s heads and loved each other like brothers. They shared every dimension of their lives, and never stopped being bad boys together. Their careers as lipid protein biochemists developed along parallel


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tracks. They had overlapping research interests and conferred obsessively; they followed each other’s experiments and read each other’s grants; whenever one of them had a paper rejected or a grant turned down, the other was always there to buck him up. When Alan made a dramatic mid-career move, forsaking the field of lipid research to take up diabetes and become a geneticist, amazingly enough, it didn’t take long before Roger followed suit, so strong was his desire not to lose the conversation. When Alan’s marriage fell apart, it was Roger who guided him through his divorce, eventually becoming his best man at our wedding. During the last months of Roger’s life, the two best friends made time to talk together at the end of every day, using a videoconferencing system Alan set up in his office that allowed him to read Roger’s expressions and interpret his every mood. Cancer was Roger’s labyrinth. He paced it tirelessly, exhausting first one pathway and then another in his relentless quest to escape. When his doctor advised against successive bouts of chemotherapy, Roger came up with a cocktail he thought had a chance of working and talked his doctor into letting him try it. When a secondary tumor developed in his leg and was declared inoperable because of the nerve bundles and blood vessels that were wrapped around it, he persuaded another surgeon to cut it out anyway, and thus saved himself from becoming a cripple. When he learned about a promising experiment underway at UC-San Francisco’s Medical School that was designed to boost the immune system and kill tumor cells, he flew up to San Francisco, collared the researcher in charge, and bullied his way in even though enrollment was officially closed. These treatments were particularly grueling, involving the extraction of dendritic cells from his bloodstream to be incubated in vitro with PSA (prostate specific androgen: a protein produced by prostate cells that is elevated by cancer) and then re-injected after several days. In Roger’s case, this caused an extreme allergic response. His blood pressure plummeted; he went into shock and became so sick that he was hardly able to walk, hobbling out of the hospital bent in half to flag down a taxi to the airport. With each successive treatment, the effect became more painful and more debilitating but it worked, and he persisted. In the end, Roger had become the research subject with the most successful outcome. But he was cruel to himself. Cruel and unsparing. His PSA kept going down, only to creep back up again. Once, it went all the way down to zero and stayed there for awhile. Roger was elated. He discussed the possibility of writing a paper with his oncologist and publishing their results. He sent out a group e-mail declaring, “I will beat this


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disease!!!!!!!!!!! My future is so bright I have to wear sunglasses. Who knows, maybe I will become cured and will also be able to have enough data for a paper! Best of all worlds! He was so relentlessly upbeat that after awhile we came to believe him. Even Alan, as levelheaded as he is, came home one evening and announced, “Roger has decided he’s not going to die.” But privately, in iChats with Alan at the end of the day, Roger would let down his guard and allow himself to weep, not for himself, but for the family he was being forced to abandon. Meanwhile, he was consumed with preternatural energy. As death came closer, Roger speeded up. He started a biotech business, wrote two NIH grants which were funded, published a seminal scientific paper, managed his lab, and when he could no longer drive, met with students in his own home, conducting his last lab meeting just three days before he died, all while undergoing treatments, refusing pain medication, and entertaining a steady stream of house guests. “I’m going to go out swinging,” he told Kathy. A year and a half earlier, the four of us had met at Casa del Zorro, a resort in the Anza Borrego desert right after the first of the year to celebrate what we thought would likely be Roger’s last birthday. We ordered dinner to be delivered to our suite, and halfway through a bottle of cabernet and a platter of roast lamb, Alan presented Roger with his birthday gift, an album of photographs from their many escapades together. On the cover, above the words Roger and Me, was a photograph I had once taken of the two of them on a terrace in Greece gazing out over a nude beach. They looked like twins in that shot, Roger in a black t-shirt and baseball cap, Alan in white, each sporting the same moustache, the same sunglasses, the same wily smirk spreading like grease across their cheeks. Inside the album, the photographs Alan had selected ranged through every stage of their thirty long years together. On the first page of the album Alan had written, When I was a kid, I always had a “best friend.” We would have adventures, keep secrets, and talk about everything. Above all, we knew how to play and have a lot of fun. As a “grown up,” I have had the great good fortune of having a best friend in exactly the same way. Roger has been present during my best and worst moments. We have shared all parts of our lives together. We have traveled everywhere. And we know how to have a great time together. Reading the inscription, paging slowly through the album, Roger stopped suddenly with his mouth full, snorted, convulsed, and had to leave the table. I, too, had brought a birthday gift with me to Casa del Zorro. It was a copy of the manuscript of my memoir, due to be published the following


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year. I wanted Roger to read my book before he died. Although I had no way of knowing it at the time, this was a fortuitous choice. The gift would soon lead to an end- of- life adventure much more thrilling than any ride on a motorcycle. A few weeks after leaving the desert, an e-mail message from Roger popped up in my Inbox: Dear Jeannie, I devoured your book while I was traveling to give a talk… I particularly enjoyed reading about how you became a liberated American woman…and your chapter on becoming a poet reminded me of the first time I understood what science means. My only reservation was that after finishing your book, I felt as though I had just tasted a most wonderful and uniquely aged Sauterne, but I wanted MORE!!!!!!!!!! With love and best wishes for the success of your book! Roger I was completely thrilled with Roger’s wholehearted enthusiasm, although I had to admit to being baffled, at least initially, by the connection he had drawn between my poetry and his science. But his overall appreciation seemed so genuine that it suddenly dawned on me that here was a door I could walk through. “Alan,” I asked, “Do you think Roger would be interested in writing his memoirs and having me help him?” Alan thought for a moment. “Yes, I think he would like that.” Then I asked Roger. He thought it was a good idea too. So, just like that, I became Roger’s memoirist. There was no master plan in the way we worked together. Basically, Roger just talked, I listened, and Alan recorded. As I took notes over time, I began to discern the outlines of a story that was gathering power, weight, and resonance. It had an arc and a perceptible through line. It made sense. Roger’s story had integrity, and it rang true. Above all, it struck me as a quintessentially American story, full of tough guys, guns and outlaws, motorcycle gangs, hairpin turns, razor-thin escapes, and in the end, redemptive true love. I began to understand that this wasn’t just Roger’s story, but our story, the story of a whole generation that came of age in the sixties, a generation made up of idealists, hedonists and anarchists who, no matter how deluded, reckless, or narcissistic, managed to ignite a social revolution, launch the culture wars, and ultimately alter the course of American history. It was a story both shocking and edifying by turns, and I found myself deeply moved by the gift Roger had entrusted to me, and the reciprocal responsibility it carried. Was everyone’s life story as worthy of the telling, I wondered? And if I didn’t tell it, who would? Would anybody ever know that, in spite of his professed hatred for organized religion, that he actually


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had a deeply spiritual side? Roger was ‘one of the roughs.’ He needed an amanuensis.“What do you want me to do with all this, Rog?” I asked him after our final session. “Do you want me to write about it?” He thought for a long minute. “Yes,” he said. jj Flatbush, the Brooklyn neighborhood where Roger was born in 1945, looked and sounded exactly like an Eastern European shtetl. The signs were all written in Hebrew. Everyone spoke Hebrew or Yiddish. For Roger, it was insufferable. “It’s like going to Israel,” he ranted. “You go to Flatbush even to this day and you see these people walking around…they’re wearing their hats and their coats and their earlocks…it looks like the Western Wall! I mean, it’s a foreign country there!” “Ashkenazi Jews,” he went on, “It was always chicken soup and marzipan, chicken soup and marzipan - Watch out for the swartze! Stay away from the goyim! Your family was your whole world, and the messages were all about fear. And I wasn’t fearful. Pauline, my grandmother, she was five feet tall and weighed 300 pounds. She used to chase me around the house with a spoonful of egg, You gotta finish your egg! You gotta finish your egg! God, Ashkenazi Jews are so obsessed with food, and they don’t even know how to cook! I was starved for spices.” If it hadn’t been for Benjamin Yaeger, Roger’s grandfather and his first hero, he would have found nothing to praise in those first five years of his life in Flatbush. But Roger loved tough guys, and Benjamin “… was a tough guy, a real tough guy,” he told us. “He boxed when he was young. He was maybe 5’4” and he had big arms, big hands, he was like a muscle guy, really fit all his life until the day he died.” Benjamin walked everywhere, often with his grandson by his side. They walked together over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan and back again, making frequent stops to kibitz whenever Benjamin bumped into one of his cronies. “I can remember walking down on the Coney Island boardwalk with him. He used to love to tell me stories. And I remember asking him, ‘Who is Hitler?’ I had a thing about Hitler. And he told me that he was the most despicable person that had ever lived and that he killed our relatives and a lot of other innocent people all over Europe and I said, ‘Well, how did he kill them?’ And he said, ‘Well, he used to gas ‘em and burn ‘em to death.’ And I said, ‘Well, why didn’t they fight? I would fight, Grandpa.’ And he said, ‘You don’t know what you would have done. You don’t know. And I said, ‘I do know.’ And I made him a promise that I was always going to


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be a tough guy.” Benjamin had lived for a while in a cardboard box in a New York City street after being kicked out of his home near Berlin when his father died and his mother re-married. He had come over from Germany when he was only thirteen years old, making the arduous voyage in steerage all alone. He started out with nothing, learned the tailoring trade, and eventually made himself a fortune. Your handshake was your signature in those days and Benjamin had a really strong handshake, and a reputation to match. By the time Roger was born, his grandfather was running his own factories, a religious Jew whom everybody knew, well-respected and well-connected. Roger watched his grandfather get up every morning to greet the sun with the tefillin strapped to his forehead, praying in his prayer shawl, and some days Roger prayed right along with him. The one thing Roger didn’t like about his grandfather was that he never had any fun. Roger could never remember seeing him laugh. But Benjamin loved cowboys, Tex Ritter, Gene Autrey, and Hopalong Cassidy, and he used to like to watch cowboy shows on television with his grandson by his side. It was Benjamin, in fact, who drummed into Roger’s head the desire to go west. “I swear, my grandfather would have become a cowboy if he’d had the chance,” he told us. “And I wanted to go west because of that. I got expelled from school, thrown out of first grade for shooting my six shooters off. I used to love that smell. Even hitting the caps with a rock, I used to love it, those red caps, that was great.” The Davis family might never have escaped from Brooklyn if it hadn’t been for Roger’s mother. Carolyn Yaeger was the first woman in her family to go to college. She graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in education at a time when it was all male and had a Jewish quota to boot, but she got in anyway. “She was just so smart and so well read, you would have loved her,” Roger said. “My mother was a member of the Communist Party. My mother smoked dope. My mother had a boyfriend named Hugo, a goy who played the trumpet in the same band as Ozzie and Harriet. But she was so into herself, she didn’t even know she had kids. I can remember my mother losing me in downtown Manhattan when I was about four or five… little kids could ride the subway for free, so I just went under the turnstile and found my way back to Brooklyn. She was just so smart, but she didn’t know how to cook, and she was crazy as a loon, and mean…hooooh! mean, mean. She used to take me shopping, and one day we had just come home, and here I am, right on the stoop of our house, and I have to pee. And she just goes on yakking with our neighbor. I said,


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‘Mommy, I gotta pee.’ And she just keeps right on yakking. There was this little girl standing there watching the whole thing and she started teasing me. ‘Oh! you gotta pee! You gotta pee!’ So what do you think I did? I peed all over her.… My mother was so embarrassed. And so this neighbor lady, she had a basement, this dark basement, and she locked me in the basement! Crazy. Is that crazy? You think that’s the way you’re gonna break Roger?” In 1950, when Roger was five years old, the family moved from Brooklyn to Roslyn, a suburb on Long Island. Carolyn had already committed the ultimate transgression in marrying Robert Evan Davis, a goy if there ever was one, and was primed to become the first and only member of her tribe ever to move out of Brooklyn. “Well,” Roger explained, “we wanted to get out of the city. But if you want to know what was really going on, my father wanted to extract himself from that Jewish ghetto. And, you know, I can’t blame him for that. Because it wasn’t just Jewish, it was oppressively Jewish. So, as we extracted ourselves from Brooklyn,” Roger said, “we got more and more goyish. We went from being a Jewish family to being only half –Jewish, and what’s going to happen next? Are we going to become a Christian family? And not just a Christian family, but a family that fosters anti-Semitism.” As if in anticipation of this momentous metamorphosis that was about to overtake the Davis family, Roger’s Grandmother Bea showed up in their lives like some sort of evil fairy godmother just prior to their exodus from Brooklyn. Beatrice Davis was a suffragette who was active in the Republican Party and openly supported Joe McCarthy. “I got up early and she was sleeping in the living room,” Roger began, “…and she sits me down and tells me about her hero, Charles Lindbergh, the famous American aviator who was a Nazi sympathizer.” Bea must have been appalled at the idea of her son married to a Jewish girl and living in Flatbush in the ample bosom of the Yaeger family. “And she proceeds to introduce me to Christianity, and she tells me a whole different story of America. She made us watch Bishop Fulton Sheen on television - remember that guy? Life is Worth Living, that was the name of his program. You had to kiss his ring, a real extremist, and there would be my mother, the cardcarrying Communist, sitting on the other side of the room, gnarling…” Exposed to his goy grandmother’s alternate version of reality, however flawed, it dawned on Roger for the first time in his short life that the world was bigger than Flatbush. The wheels on the freedom train in his little head began to turn, spitting out new thoughts in a narrative that was ultimately subversive: I want to be an American. I don’t like this marzipan crap. I don’t like


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these people talking in this language I can’t understand… “My grandfather used to read The Forward.” he tells us. “You know what The Forward is? It’s a newspaper that goes backwards! What did I want? I wanted to play football. I wanted to go out west and be a cowboy. I wanted adventure. I didn’t want to stick around and be safe and worry about all these goyim who were going to punch you out, or kill you, or burn you, or whatever…forget it! I’m not going to do that. And I got out of Brooklyn, didn’t I, Alan, and so did you. We escaped!” Roger was nine years old when the Davis family moved to Glens Falls near Lake George in upstate New York where, instead of cowboys, he got Indians. Not just any Indians, but The Last of the Mohicans. Built during the time of the Indian Wars before the Revolution, Glens Falls was home to James Fenimore Cooper and the legendary Chief Chingachgook he memorialized, who had raided and scalped the British. When the Davis’s settled on West Mount, outside of town in the early fifties, Glens Falls was still largely a wilderness. Living around deer, coyotes, and bears, Roger began to develop a great appreciation for the natural world. He climbed to the top of the Falls with his little sister Leslie. He walked to school and learned how to shoot birds with a slingshot and a .22. But along with wilderness came a lot of prejudice. If the townspeople still harbored a two hundred year old hatred for the British in 1954, imagine how they felt about Blacks and Jews. The Davis’s lost no time in changing their stripes. “My Dad was a frustrated writer who was working as an ad man for Imperial Wallpaper and writing a column for Better Homes and Gardens and House Beautiful. He felt that in order to advance his career he needed to join the country club, which was restricted. So he took us to the Methodist Church on Sundays where my mother became a Sunday school teacher and I was confirmed. One day in tenth grade, my friend Stuart Lazarus asked me if I was Jewish. I said, ‘Well, my mother’s Jewish.’ I went home and told my mother, and she said, ‘You shouldn’t have said that..’ So, the next day I told Stewart, ‘I was just kidding.’ It was all phony baloney. We went from goyim haters to Jew haters, pretending to be a Methodist family, hiding the booze when the minister came to visit. It was like being forced to live a lie. When my grandparents came to visit, Pauline told me I was going to go to hell because I wasn’t growing up to be a true Jew, but my mother said, ‘Don’t worry about it, there’s no heaven or hell anyway’.” Living in Glens Falls surrounded by so much prejudice and hypocrisy taught Roger to despise all forms of dogma and organized religion with the one notable exception of the God and Country Badge he earned as a


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boy scout which, he claimed, always guided his life. He and his best friend Paul Ringwood made up their own religion. They called it Benigna. That was their name for God. They practiced Benigna by bowing down to the ground, intoning the sacred name three times, and praying for a miracle, victory in their football games, an upset against a rival, or good golf shots. Paul was raised Catholic and one Saturday afternoon he persuaded Roger to go to confession with him. When Roger’s turn came, he drew back the heavy curtain, stepped inside the confessional and knelt down in the dark, waiting with baited breath for his chance to tell the priest, “I murdered my mother.” But just as the screen slid back, he cracked up laughing and had to bolt, racing out of the church like a bandit. Roger grew up fast in Glens Falls. Joyce Trazilli, his first girlfriend, taught him how to kiss, but he paid dearly for it when her boyfriend, who was a senior on the football team, beat him up after football practice on the day he caught them making out. Roger learned about sex from Margie, a pregnant pre-teenager his mother rescued from a broken home. Roger liked Margie a lot. He learned how to drink beer and drive a Chevy stick shift from the boy who knocked her up, two things he relished doing at the same time. There was a family living next door to the Davis’s on West Mount that became a kind of second family to Roger, Neal, and Leslie. Roger said that if it hadn’t been for the Patricks, all his mother’s roots, every bit of Jewishness, would have been washed out of her. Bennett Patrick, Roger’s salvation and his role model, was “a real no bullshit guy” who had played baseball for the New York Giants and owned Honingsbaum, the town’s major department store. His wife Harriet, who was Jewish and had worked in vaudeville, had a best friend, a racy redhead named Lila Libowitz, who was still active in show business. When Lila came to town, the two showgirls kicked up their heels and belted out show tunes, bringing a little bit of bawdy and naughty into the lives of their straight-laced Methodist neighbors. But as much as Roger loved the Patricks, his affection never stopped him from stealing their cars. As dedicated as Roger was to delinquency, it was no wonder that he was dispatched to the Virginia Military Institute the year after the family moved from Glens Falls to Delaware. He was proud to find himself in the same lineage with Robert E. Lee and Andrew Jackson - “the toughest of the tough.” At VMI he learned to stand at attention for long stints at a time, march in the sweltering sun, run and swim laps loaded down with a heavy pack. Roger didn’t like taking orders, he didn’t


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follow the rules, and he didn’t last very long. After a year and a half, he transferred to the University of Delaware to study chemistry. But he never complained about his time at VMI. Kathy credited VMI for the discipline Roger acquired that saw him through his cancer. “It matured me,” he acknowledged. “It gave me a goal. I found out how tough I was, mentally and physically, and the confidence I gained put me on this path.” It was no accident that Roger chose to study chemistry. After the move to Delaware, his mother befriended their neighbor, Howard Simmons, a prominent organic chemist who later became the CEO of Dupont. Howard took a personal interest in Roger, taught him how to smoke cigars and drink scotch, and put him to work in a Dupont laboratory during the summer. What really drove Roger into science was his hatred for what he called “bullshit.” Roger remembered that when he was a kid and the family dog peed on the bed, his mother told him that an old lady had taken the dog to a new home. Roger knew right away that it “…was a lousy lie and a bunch of baloney.” He felt demeaned by it. With science, he didn’t have to rely on the interpretations of adults that, time and again, proved to be untrustworthy. He armed himself with reason, wit, and common sense, and resolved that the only orthodoxy he would ever steer by would be what science alone could provide - “absolute truth, incontrovertible, and experimentally provable.” Truth would be his Ithaca, the red thread that would guide him home. jj “In 1969 I wound up in Washington State University. I had always wanted to go west, and Washington State is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life … But by this time, some of my friends had gotten killed in Vietnam, others had come back seriously wounded, they couldn’t talk, or walk, and it was upsetting. I thought the war had no purpose and no end, and was fucking over a lot of people, including me. So, after I got to Pullman, I started hanging out at a local bar where I met a group of faculty members, drinking and shooting pool, and we became friends. Most of them were in the philosophy department, and we just hit it off… And they had this sort of philosophical motorcycle club they called The Up Against the Wall Mother Fuckers. It wasn’t really a gang. Originally, it was just a spoof, a bunch of intellectuals who wanted to ride motorcycles and act like tough guys. The Hell’s Angels had taken One Percent as their insignia, because, after Marlon Brando made The Wild Ones,


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somebody claimed that it was really only one percent of the motorcycle riding population in the U.S. who were outlaws. So, we took the Greek symbol for infinity as our insignia. It was like a boys’ club. We had them professionally made, and on the back of the jackets, it said, Up Against the Wall Mother Fuckers. So, we had these colors, these jackets, and we used to ride down the road all together and the cops would stop us and search us, and here we were just university people. That’s the way it started out. That’s not the way it ended, but that’s the way it started out. And along with that came a lot of drugs. And I was a chemist, okay? We started off with psilocybin… we would take it and go up into the mountains and spend the whole day in the wilderness just walking around and talking… I came to realize there was a whole world out there that I had been denied, and I wanted to catch up. This was 1969, remember? The civil rights movement was in full gear. I decided racism was going to be my advocacy. We needed to raise money, so I said, “Well, why don’t we throw some beer bashes? We can get bands to play for free, and charge people. We’ll call it the First Annual Gang Rape and Bludgeoning… okay? The Unitarian Church gave us their hall for free and a lot of bands wanted to play. We were expecting maybe two hundred people, but instead, maybe fifteen hundred people showed up at five dollars a head. So we raised all this money. We took half of it, I think it was five hundred dollars, and we rode in this column to the County Seat, and gave a check to the old people for new eyeglasses, ‘so that the blind could see the truth.’ Everything had a little twist to it, okay? We got stopped by the cops, of course, and searched, but then the newspapers were ready for us and took our picture…We made headlines in the Pullman newspaper: Mothers Give $500 to Senior Citizen Center. So, the second thing we did … We opened an account in the local bank with the rest of the money, and with that we started The Freedom Bank. To get a loan, all you had to do was sign up, say how much money you wanted, what you wanted it for, and when you were going to pay it back. There was no end point, no interest, we were not usurers, we were idealists. We were there as a service to the community. If you paid us back before you died, okay. We had maybe $1500 in the bank and we gave out maybe $300 in the first few weeks. People said they needed the money for tuition, or books, or clothes, or whatever. And then, when they realized that they didn’t really have to pay the bank back because that was part of our socialist philosophy, of course, nobody ever paid us back. No way. So, let me tell you what happened to The Freedom Bank. I had this re-


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ally wonderful friend by the name of William O. Ewing III. I had so many good times with Bill, I mean, we were so thick we were like blood brothers. And he protected me. Bill was the most amoral human being I ever met in my life. He wasn’t immoral, but he just didn’t give a shit, okay? So Bill, when he realized that there was nearly $1200 in the bank, he decided that he needed that money to have his Harley rebuilt. So, really, he stole the treasury. He had this real sweet side, but he was incredibly violent, too.” “So, he was the one who turned The Mothers into a real motorcycle gang?” “Yeah, he was the toughest, meanest son of a bitch I ever met in my life. He rode a real Harley chopper, he wore a chrome Nazi helmet, which was probably illegal, and he kept a pair of brass knuckles in his back pocket. So, slowly we developed into a real motorcycle gang. We went from magic mushrooms and psilocybin to peyote and LSD, and all of a sudden, speed became the drug of choice, because Bill knew a lot of real heavy dudes who used to come in every now and then from the East Coast. And the next thing you know, we had these real hard-core criminals in our motorcycle club, just because we weren’t going to be prejudiced. The one thing you had to have in order to get in was some kind of political principle, some cause that we considered worth fighting for. So, one of the people we let in was a guy by the name of Kerrigan Gray who had done six years for selling marijuana. And Kerrigan Gray would get on one of those big bullhorns and the next thing you know, we started organizing what we thought were important protests against the war. We marched against the war, and we marched against racism. That’s what I was big into. I helped organize a sit-in and shut down the university for three days so we could talk about racism, instead of chemistry or sociology or whatever, and within that mix were these real hard-core criminals. You know, with enough drugs, your mind gets a little twisted about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Pretty soon, if the cops can bash us over the head, maybe it’s okay to bash a cop over the head, right? They were our enemy! One of our people, Joe Schock, was a decorated marine and another great orator. He was so angry, he learned how to put together chemical bombs. So, one day he blew up the Lewiston Armory. Lewiston is a big city in Idaho about thirty miles from Pullman where the Idaho National Guard’s Armory was located. I don’t know how many bombs he blew up, it wasn’t accurately reported. He blew up tanks and artillery, he started a bunch of fires, and he got caught. I woke up one day and it was all over the newspapers. He did maybe over a hundred thousand dollars worth of


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damage. Somehow, he knew how to put together a bomb, can you imagine that? Can you imagine me doing anything like that, Jeannie? Apparently, there was a chemist in the motorcycle club who knew how to make bombs. Somehow, Joe Schock figured it out. And he was a real hero, this guy. Here was somebody who came home from Vietnam, saw the truth, and said, you know, we’ve got to stop this, and that was a very important turning point.” “Did he rat on you, Roger?” “This guy would rather die than rat on anybody. He saw his buddies killed in Vietnam and was trying to exact justice. He was a decorated marine, okay? In fact, the townspeople respected Joe Shock. He was one of them. As it turned out, they were going to put him on trial, and he escaped…and has never been heard from again. After Joe Schock got caught and went to jail and got sprung, well, then the motorcycle club started to break up. They fired all the professors. They couldn’t fire me, but, you know, when I went to defend my thesis, my committee never asked me a single question. They just wanted me out of there. We got purged eventually. But we went nuts, too. You know, apparently, there were people in the motorcycle club who were making this super pure speed and just handing it out. They called it the People’s Speed. Apparently, there was a chemist who was doing that, okay? And it was like, word got out and people started coming from all over the country looking for it. It got so hot, pretty soon this person came to his senses and decided it might lead to a lot of trouble and he got out. But not before he was offered millions and millions of dollars to continue doing it as a profession. This was methyl methedrine, a very dangerous drug with a criminal slant. There were guys who actually stole other people’s motorcycles. There was a time when I was half in and half out…I didn’t know if I was a real biker or if I was a Mother… people were carrying guns, and shooting guns…oh, yeah. I saw the handwriting on the wall. Jeannie, I used to shoot up both arms, jump on my Harley, and go weaving in an out of traffic at a hundred and ten miles an hour! I thought I was invincible. I used to shoot pool for money. Once, I got into a barroom brawl. In Pullman, after shooting up and jumping on my Harley, I went to this bar. I challenged the table and told this guy, ‘Let’s play for five bucks,’ and I was so focused, I ran the whole table. I stood up and said, ‘Game’s over. Pay up!’ Everybody was crowding around. And the guy said, ‘No, I’m not gonna pay up.’ And I said, ‘Whad’ya mean? We were playing for five bucks. That was the deal. You gotta pay up.’ And I turned to another guy who was watching the whole thing, and I said, ‘You remember that. We


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were playing for five bucks.’ And the guy I was playing with takes a swing at me, and I ducked. Then he picks up a pitcher of beer and hits me smack in the middle of my forehead, cracks my head open… Jeez, I was going to kill him…it was a real barroom brawl….” “Who won?” “I think it was pretty much a stand-off, but I came home with my head twice as big as normal, blood all over me, and Kathy said, ‘What happened to you?’ My God, it was crazy stuff like that, hard living, and I started asking myself, do I really want to be a biker? You could really get hurt, probably lose a lot of IQ, too.” Roger’s adventures took a serious turn when he started wearing a gun. It was legal to carry a gun in Washington in those days. “Packing” was considered a birthright in the west, so long as you didn’t hide it. He had suffered a serious pummeling in that barroom brawl, and he and Bill and Jack talked about taking revenge. That was when Kathy was getting ready to walk out. “I didn’t want to get caught in the middle of drugs and guns,” she said. Kathy was a good influence on Roger. She had grown up among loggers and trappers in Takoma, a true daughter of the Northwest, part Italian, part French Canadian, part Nez Pierce. Roger had always dreamt of a girl like her, someone with her feet planted firmly on American ground. He told her she was his Pocahontas and his Sakajawea all rolled into one. They met in the summer of ‘69, the year Kerrigan Gray had shoot-outs with the police and Joe Schock blew up the Armory. “I had been watching her. I was walking down campus one day, feeling pretty good, and I saw this woman with this shape. She had on these tight, black and white pin-striped pants that showed off the curve of her butt, and she had these long, lithe legs, and she was just prancing along. I turned to this guy I was with, and I said, ‘Did you see that woman? That is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.’ And I kept running into her. I’d wave to her, I’d smile at her. If I was on my motorcycle, I’d beep, or something. I’m not even sure she noticed me. This went on for maybe six months. One day, I walked into the student union and there she was, sitting all by herself, drinking coffee. She was the only one in the whole place. I saw my chance. It was still sort of summer, and I had on this straw hat. I went up to her, tipped my hat, and said, ‘Pardon me, Ma’am, is this seat taken?’ And she said, ‘Go ahead’.” “He was fair and freckled with red hair and a huge, thick, handlebar moustache. He was well-muscled with a huge upper body and six packs. He had big shoulders and arms, but his hands were soft. He wore a den-


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im vest studded with VMI brass pins and old boy scout patches”…and as Kathy remembered it, instead of a straw hat, Roger was wearing “a peaked leather cap with a big red star pinned on the front.” She took him to the Mushroom House that night, an art installation made out of chicken wire and stucco. They sat inside where there was only room for two, and smoked grass together and talked. Later on, they went to the Dairy Queen. Neither of them had any money, so they pooled their change and ordered a hot fudge sundae to share and five cents worth of extra fudge. “They really layered it on,” Kathy said. They slept together that night but they didn’t make love. In fact, Kathy strained their relationship to the breaking point by holding off for a month or more. When they finally did become lovers, it was as if a key had finally found the perfect lock. “It was the most incredible sex I’ve ever had with anyone in my entire life,” Roger said. “But it took me a long time, years, maybe ten years, before I could actually believe that someone that perfect would be my woman, would form a real lasting bond with me that I could trust.” Forgiveness had a lot to do with it, on both sides. That was the one thing Roger learned in Sunday School that stuck. He was big on forgiveness, just as he was big on love….. It was 1968, the year after the Summer of Love. Roger was living with one of the Mothers in Stu Thomas’s basement. He and Kathy used to crash there, listening to the Doors and the Rolling Stones. Kathy was afraid of The Mothers at first. They looked a lot like the Hell’s Angels and The Highwaymen, the two nasty gangs she went out of her way to avoid. “I could see that some of the Mothers were jerks and pathological liars, that they were into petty thievery and other drug related crime. Bill Ewing and Jack Bush moved in with Roger in the fall and talked Roger into shooting speed. People came over every night and that’s when I threatened to move out. I said to Roger, ‘You’re drinking and drugging every night. How do you ever expect to finish your Ph.D.?’” The turning point came when Roger got into the brawl at the bar. But by that time, Roger himself wanted out. It was a narrow escape, based on sheer luck: “There was this guy in the Ph.D. program who was a very conservative Vietnam vet. He and I used to vie with each other to see who was the best student. That’s why he respected me. Otherwise, he would have thought I was some hippie jerk, or something. One day, he let me know that his next door neighbor was the Chief of Police, and that they were investigating me. They were getting ready for a raid, and if I didn’t do something, I was going to wind up in prison. This was in 1970, I guess. So I went home and


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cleaned out everything I owned, and I buried it in the backyard. All sorts of stuff, a lot of drugs as well. And, sure enough, I got picked up! And they found a little teeny marijuana butt in the ashtray of my car, which I think was planted. They said, ‘You’re under arrest and you’re going to jail, but if you allow us to search your house, and you’re clean, we’ll let you off.’ I don’t think they had enough evidence for a search warrant. So, I was clean. I was prepared for this. The first thing they did was bust into the apartment, and there was Kathy. She was half naked and she got mad at me for that. They searched, and searched, and searched, and found nothing. I might even have had guns. I mean, I was doing all sorts of stuff in those days. And that’s when Kathy sort of put the hammer down. And she was right. She told me I had to change my ways, or she was out of there. But I knew I had to change my ways. I wasn’t completely crazy. I was only semi-crazy.” “So what did you learn from all this, Roger?” “What did I learn? I think it made me a much better person, and that it saved my soul. I learned I wanted to do something with my life. I was originally just going to work for Dupont and play golf. I could have been a really successful Duponter. That’s not what I chose… My advisor introduced me to a problem and let me have carte blanche. I worked and worked in the lab, and within three to five months, I made this compound that was so unstable it would change color, from white to blue to yellow. I was so dedicated to solving these problems, I became married to my work. I took LSD and climbed Kamiak Butte —” “What’s Kamiak Butte?” “…it’s one of the oldest geological formations in the west, a big butte in the middle of nowhere like an island…it goes up about a thousand feet and looks out over all these fields where there was once an ancient sea. When I reached the summit I sat there, looking out over those rolling wheat fields. It opened up my thinking. I knew within two weeks I had a solution, and it worked, and I published the paper. Once you learn how to solve a problem, it’s like learning how to write a poem … you revise and revise … and that’s the way you do science, the same way you write a poem. You have to be emotionally honest to write a good poem – you taught me that – to do science, you have to be intellectually honest. I look at it more in a spiritual sense – having respect for nature in all its capricious vagaries, the forces that cause all of us to be here. The world wasn’t created for man to understand. If humans can’t predict, it’s because we don’t have enough understanding. My hunch is that we never will. There will always be questions, but that’s what separates us from nature. I think


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if people could understand science more, and what drives scientists, they would appreciate what it means to be human. I look upon this as the highest form of endeavor that humans can evolve to, the great human enterprise. Love is unique to humans. I believe we’re all gods. That’s what God is. We are gods. We create the universe through our perception, through our understanding. Religion is human consciousness relating to the physical world…magnetic waves, radio waves, frequencies, whatever… I finished up this research and published some papers. At my oral, they said, ‘Roger, whatever you wrote, we’re sure it’s great… you’re a really good student…we don’t even need to go over it… you passed.’ Then I got a post-doc lecturer position in the chemistry department at the University of Colorado, so we packed up and moved to Denver, and that was the end of the Mothers. When we got to Denver, Kathy got sick. She had Grave’s disease, and I didn’t think I wanted to get married, so she went back to her mother and I spent the next three months, I mean, I was wild. I was screwing every woman I could get my hands on. I mean, like exotic dancers and strippers… After about three months of that, or four months, or six months, that’s when I decided that I really wanted to live with Kathy. I missed her. So I wanted to get all that out of my system. Right after my fling, I proposed to Kathy on the phone. We got married in June of ‘72 on a ferry boat in the Puget Sound and everyone, including the pilot of the boat, got so high on this super grass that a friend of mine brought, that the boat crashed into the pylons and tore out the dock. So that was the end of our wedding. We had a good time, and we lived happily ever after, with a few bumps along the road… ha! ha!…and the Mothers did show up for my wedding. That was the last time I ever saw them.” jj The irony in Roger’s life story was that it was idealism, however misguided, that led him astray. But before Roger told me his life story, I never thought of him as an idealist. To me, he was always a wise guy who loved to play the class clown. It wasn’t until we got lost together in Capri that I finally got a glimpse of the better angels of his nature. It was on a Sunday afternoon. The four of us were on our way along the Via Migliara to a restaurant that could only be accessed by foot. Kathy and Alan had sprinted out of sight while Roger and I sauntered along, enjoying the beauty of the sun-drenched afternoon. By the time we reached Gelsomina our spouses


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were nowhere to be found. Looking about, we happened to notice a sign on the opposite side of the path with the words Parco Filosofico printed in bold across the top. It appeared to be a map marked with colored trails going off in different directions. “Look, Roger,” I said, following with my finger the gold path that led to the right. “This path says Realismo, and this other one, the blue one that goes to the left, says Idealismo. Realism or Idealism. Which one shall we choose?” Kindred spirits that we were, we set off along the blue trail, the one marked Idealism. It was steep, leading diagonally up a grassy embankment. Scrambling up the ragged incline, it wasn’t long before we began to notice that there were tiles along the path, each bearing a quotation from the great western philosophers, beginning with Plato. We felt like kids on a treasure hunt, making our way from one tile to the next, seeking out each inscription. As we climbed higher, it soon became apparent that very few lovers of wisdom had ventured this far along the trail, judging from its state of neglect. Overgrown with thickets and thorns, the path was almost impossible to follow. Nearing the summit, we happened on a clearing with yet another sign at the entrance. “Campo Reale di Meditazione,” I read aloud. “ Roger, this is a place for realists to rest and meditate. There must be something like it somewhere around here for idealists like us. But I don’t see anything, do you?” Neither of us ever found it. In the maze, it was easy to become separated, and, we did, in fact, lose track of one another. Feeling oddly bereft, I wandered alone for a while, searching for Roger, wondering if we would ever be reunited. Although neither of us knew it, we were both, in our separate ways, approaching the highest point on Anacapri. When I finally reached the plateau at the summit where the trail opens up, I followed it, and found him. The scene was stunning. His back was turned and his hands were in his pockets. Plunged in a deep reverie, he was standing on the edge of a sheer precipice, gazing out over the sea while seabirds were wheeling and tumbling in great silent spirals all around him, veering off by mere inches from the cliff face. Beyond, the sky was a gauzy blue. Roger had found the way to his own Campo di Ideale Meditazione. I approached ever so gingerly, and peeked over the edge. There was no barrier. It would have been so easy to fall. It made me feel giddy just to glimpse the surf a thousand feet below as it thundered and crashed against the rocks, sending up a rainbow mist in the sunlight. And there on that precipice is where I intend to leave him, this man who repudiated all religion but who once professed to me, “I believe we are the gods…we bring


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the universe to consciousness…That’s what God is.” It was science that led Roger not just to the place of truth, but to the vanishing point where truth deposits us. Standing there on that headland jutting out into the Mediterranean, he was no longer the bull trapped in the labyrinth. He was Daedalus, the scientist, readying himself to test his fabulous hypothesis. jj Roger died on June 17, 2008. The following August, Alan and I flew to Aspen to meet Kathy, Kimmie, and Harley to scatter Roger’s ashes. It was already late in the day by the time we boarded the bus that would take us up to Maroon Bells. As we entered the clearing, the sun was beginning to sink behind the twin peaks that give the mountain its name, and I caught a flash in the corner of my eye which must have been the plume of a Whitetail, startled into hiding. There had been a lot of rain that summer and we could hear the distant roar of the White River as we started toward the lake. It might have been the slanting angle of the sun, or maybe the thin air, but whatever the cause, the scene that spread itself before us, electric and surreal, fairly screamed with color, it seemed so alive: the meadow at the end of summer was a riot of sunflower gold, fuchsia, and fireweed; the twin peaks, backlit by the setting sun, an almost shocking magenta; the lake, streaked with a mossy neon green, deepened to black in the inky shadows of the evergreens on the far side. As we gathered by the edge of the lake, I heard a faint crackle, and realized it was the sound of the parchment paper as Kathy opened, ever so carefully, the folds that held Roger’s ashes. As Kathy tossed the first handful high into the air above the lake, Kimmie sat down on a rock, covered her face and began to sob. Harley, standing on a bank a little farther off, said simply, “Goodbye, Papa....” Afterwards, we left the lake and followed the stream toward the mountains, drawn by the silvery music that grew louder and more insistent until, by the time we reached the footbridge over the river, it fairly thundered and broke up, tumbling and crashing over branches and boulders, sending up a powerful spray. I had once heard that the dead can hear us from the other side if only we shout loudly enough. So we stood on that bridge, all five of us, and yelled Rogerrrrrrrr…at the top of our lungs over the river’s roar as we flung the rest of the ashes over the railing, and watched, riveted, as the motes were briefly borne aloft in the updraft, drifted, fell apart, and were finally carried downstream, lost in the torrent. There was a chill in the air and dew was beginning to gather as we started back, walking Indian file in silence through the darkening valley, past


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the lake that was now becoming opaque, and the pines on the hill, more shadow than shape. Looking down at my feet, moving one after the other along the dirt path as I thought about Roger, a phrase from the end of Whitman’s great poem came back to me… look for me under your bootsoles… and then another… lacy jags… the vapor and the dusk … I depart as air… in the last scud of day… as slowly, bit by bit, in no necessary order, the poem began assembling itself out of the dim recesses of my memory…I too am not a bit tamed… I bequeath myself to the dirt… failing to fetch me…keep encouraged… missing me one place, search another… and on it went, gathering itself fragment by fragment, piecing itself into a whole. As we walked out onto the road, caught the last bus and wound our way back down the mountainside, it kept on singing to me, the song of Roger’s self. y


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Healing Cloud Douglas Collura If you lingered in the cloud hanging low in the lobby of the old Syosset theater, you were stoned. Having fallen into drugs like a son into the arms of his missing father, I had to be there: Woodstock, the movie, had opened. Hoards of ponytail’d boys with hemp belts, girls with frizzy haloes, mingled during intermission. All studied by the only grownup I could convince to liberate me in past the R rating, my Aunt Rose. “Why does it mean so much to you, dear?” “The music,” though the comfort in the cloud, the release of belonging to it, was even truer. Dark glasses and a turban wrapped my Aunt’s head so no one would recognize a fifth-grade teacher among the crazies. Cigarette in holder, she drank in the whole flowing circus. I wasn’t ashamed to be seen with her; not looking like anyone else, she fit into that world. I wanted her to accept its protective gift. We began to float. The hate on the lips of hardhats, the war in the machine, couldn’t stop her. The weight of her daughter’s vanished six-year life couldn’t grapple my Aunt to the ground. She didn’t understand the nature of her flight: proximity to sizzling hash pipes. Is altitude grace? I knew it was back then. And didn’t she slip off her glasses and smile at me with the cracks of her swollen eyes. w


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Some Men Strike Me

Maureen Seaton I Andy Goldsworthy

I was born in the back of a baby blue Chevrolet with fins and a mom. My father caught me, then took me to the hospital surrounded by police men. I was blue too, then pink, then hunkered down and on with life. A year later my brother was born in a birthing bed. His hair was gold, his eyes green with kilts. At six I died (for six minutes precisely) and my brother grew invisible, like the back of a stone. His little gold head became a wizard’s head in the morning, a swan’s egg at night. My father forgot him and my mother fed him sweet potatoes without looking. His name became Turtle, and when he grew up he built cairns and spires and long walls that wove silently through the glens of New York. They made a documentary about him starring Andy Goldsworthy. I watched it with my friend Steve, who looked at me and said, “Your brother Turtle is hot,” and I was happy for Turtle then, for finally getting the attention he deserved.

II Richard Grayson

The only way I might allow the accomplished healer Richard Grayson to enter me, and indeed the only way he might consider it, is through my sixth chakra. In this way he becomes a small triangle of indigo and extends himself outward and inward, a holisticist, mending my gray matter and my etheric brain at the same time. I would like to send him petals from my third eye, and if I have the opportunity, I will go to one of those trucks that park along the side roads by the beach in my town of Hollywood, Florida, and I will find an orchid for the honorable Richard Grayson, one for every time he ran for office and lost to anyone less worthy (everyone). In this way, I will stop the cycle of writing that has tortured me for the past twenty-five years and return to the fiction of my metalife before Richard Grayson, the hologram. I will write about myself in uncloaked terms, I will make up names that closely resemble the names of my family and a few ex-friends. Before I finish my life story I will appropriate memories from myself, and then I will tell everyone that, unlike his Holiness Richard Grayson, I am the great granddaughter to the tenth power of R.W. Emerson, and that when I die, I will join the Emersons at the banquet that awaits me in heaven. I will sit beside them and they will try unsuccessfully to make me say grace.


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III Ralph W. Emerson

I shared lunch with a friend who wore a nice jacket and a striped tie, which might make one think the meal itself was a dressy meal, one which one would dress up for. Or, since my friend was the head of English, the chair of Literature, I should say, rather, one for which one would dress up. Or one for which an up kind of dressing would be appropriate. To continue: I had my lunch backwards that day, which is typical of me under certain circumstances (funerals, ovulating), and when I went up to get my pudding first, I thought the word desert instead of dessert because that is a very common error in the English language which I particularly like to make, e.g. (for example), I wandered through the Mojave dessert is a particular favorite of mine, as is I’m ready for some desert now. But I did not mention this to the friend I was having lunch with or with whom I was lunching, even though we both love a good faux pas almost as much as we love a chocolate moose.

IV Saint Anthony (& The Miracle of the Speaking Infant)

I’m sure there must have been some exceptional creatures in my life, a miraculous moment, a miracle or two. My daughters walked early—does that count? Fat with grandiloquence, the infant in this old church floats from woman to centurion to saint, who pixilates gracefully and leads me to believe that Anthony did not cause this miracle but has humbly witnessed it. He hands the baby to or takes the baby from the woman, who is not herself a saint (no telltale light) but tall and smiling, perhaps a mother at peace with her child’s odd gift. The saint’s head is bowed, his halo a ring of certitude, his ears a-blush. The centurion looks puzzled, a little lost, a little gay. I’m with him, baffled. My dog Poe was a perfect listener. Whenever I was sad he made me feel better. Apart from Poe, I’ve never known a saint, at least not one who couldn’t abide heretics as much as Anthony. Poe himself hated milk trucks. It was his job to chase them daily, and he did. One finally killed him.


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Aurora Maureen Seaton and Neil de la Flor Two Collaborations from Sinéad O’Connor and Her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds

1 Aurora, a simple tree of a girl, once told me the story of the earth’s iono-

sphere, the way she held to her original spring and fall, always more nimble than northern life or the completely selfless ultraviolet of science fiction—in other words, the fascinating spectacle of a young female who is mostly red, occasionally ultraviolet, and America’s favorite hometown to boot. Aurora is normally open to space and the cause of electrons and protons evaporating off the surface of her limbs. She is predominantly female, a little goose of outer space, a permanent river feature that bends along the Kentucky and Indiana shoreline, but invisible, like the increase in atmospheric turbulence. E is for looking to the east, she once told me, a little shy. I’m a little refugee deflected by the vivid description of experience, she once told me, as she flew through the ozone. Aurora is lighter onWednesday.

2 Aurora is in the exciting blue oval space above Siberia and queenie in the

way she solicits dead maidens in mostly red knickers. She’s an incubator, a flexible sillblixt, an igniter of solar winds: Silver fish, silver fox, silver dollar and silver dollar fish: she is more nimble than a new generation of Oldsmobiles. Finally, she said, indicating a second Salome, whose sunlight reflects from the high atmosphere, who enjoys life with Aurora on Wednesdays and is normally open to space, but not always—finally you are ninety-three million miles closer than a spirit playing ball, dignified yet fast, like a (prose) poem.

3 Aurora is polymorphous. She’s an incubator, a scrump, a surf comber, a simple Sallie. The average Aurora is usually somewhere on some continent on planet earth, maybe Kentucky or Indiana, where she spends her time idly passing cars at low altitudes, yet she is always 60 degrees from every point in space. She is the largest cruise ship ever to fly the British flag, she is bizarrely decorated and fun. There are more morphous events connected to A. than barnacles on the whale shark. She lives in the ‘20s and in the ‘60s and now, on opposite coasts, naked and oval as a stage or the aluminum hood of a dear car which carries her lovers, her uniquely flexible and evaporating lovers, around and around. Around and around and around and around: heavenly bodies too full of gracias to appear above 60 degrees. They are, in all ways, Aurora’s bored umbrellas, her boring roaring fellas.


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Author Interview: “Aurora” Maureen Seaton and Neil de la Flor Q. If Aurora wears polka dots, can she automatically do the polka? A. Aurora is in the tub with Foxy, more or less. We know this, as her creators, and we support her. She is thinking of transitioning to another gender and will soon reveal the color of her decision, the shape, and therefore, the religious connotation or not, although something is going on here that she keeps hidden. We think she may be harboring stigmata. Sometimes we think she is a Glorious Mystery. Q. When is the right time to wean a small cyclone? A. I never thought about sleeping with him, but her, Aurora, she’s choice. If I had the chance, and I don’t think I ever will, then I would consider shaving my armpits for one night under the northern lights. Q. Can you capitalize Boy and Dog and change the meaning of boy and dog? A. Aurora slipped in the tub when smaller than a breadbox. We couldn’t hold on to her, slick as she was, a slick slip of a girl in a small nun’s costume. We waited for her nun phase to pass. We bought her a book called “Religious Orders of the World.” For a while she looked like an angel food cake curled on the sofa, reading until her eyelids turned blue, her intentions became clear, and God ordered her not to capitalize anything. Q. Is there an end to the suffering of girls? A. I don’t think Aurora is captain of the ship or even a sailor at heart. She’s a whipper and soup and nuts kind of gal, a gal who stands up to winos and sloppy joes, who knows the meaning of libel and rebel. Yes. I do think she has a certain je ne sais quoi about her but she isn’t crude or cruel or even tough as nails. Give her a shout and she’ll stamp out the Testifiers but she’ll never burn your toast. Q. Have you seen her shoes? A. Posthumously, Aurora will be remembered for creating TV comedy. The day she made up excuses to leave the convent was the day she thought of years of sitcoms to come and married a priest (really a woman disguised as a Jesuit). They lived, if not happily ever after, then at least amidst lots of different kinds of sin: mortal, venial, surreal, and Seinfeld.


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Nothing Gold Can Stay

Robert Frost

Crystal Williams We were exploding yellows, the day percussive in our mouths, the small politics of bodies, hierarchies on green vinyl seats. On the bus, the shy grew shyer, nobody sat next to Judy but Ralph. No one sat next to Ralph. & everyday we jostled for places, the full meaning of the day, the yellow of our lives sparkling & sheeny & leaning its great weight into our selves & our selves saying, Yes! & our selves saying, Yes, ours! Yes, more! Yes, yes! So when some bean-headed boys threw rocks & cracked the brilliant glass of our golden bus, Mr. Mack, our cooler than Billy Dee, stopped in a yellow screech, cranked the door & took off after them & their grim & spiteful No! We oooh’d & aaaah’d until he returned empty handed,


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tee shirt wet, legs hard from work, some sweet gone from his eyes, a blaze taking its place. “I’m sorry, y’all, I guess Mr. Mack’s just an old fool” he said, & cranked the door angrily shut. We were too young to understand that red crank, flare in his eyes, the way a man’s defeat is born of sweat, the way his muscles ache after that fight. So different than what we had found: The golden door of our worth. Mr. Mack, no. You were no fool, our Afro’d salvation. I see you still, chasing that grim darkness down on platform shoes, the bells of your pants whipping like wings.

w


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What The Memories Said Crystal Williams You, woman, bearing your losses, the dog’s leash once taut in your hand, how could you so blindly, so quickly pass by us on your morning walks? Haven’t you learned there are happenings on planes you do not see? The dog knew we are here & have news. When he stopped & pressed his warm muzzle to the morning air, couldn’t you see him sniffing at our feet? w


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Northerner

Bessemer, AL, 2010

Crystal Williams On the way to my father’s hometown where myth has been calling my name, kudzu has been set upon the tall, sad trees, their limbs & wise, old mouths, snakes green along the highway as if a fellow traveler, binds one tree’s limbs to another’s. I stop roadside, watch the impregnable wall, listen to the ravenous stranger weave a story about endings. The kudzu devours every bit of empty space between limbs & leaves, as if it is history, leaves only the refuge of its consumption, resplendent filler: vines & fronds as if fancy words on the sky’s blue page, coiled & choking what once might have sprouted from my father’s dead mouth: What’s left is only a rumor of limbs, of individuals’ gnarled brown hands, branches gagged beneath an aggressor’s, waving warnings. We are all bound, Babygirl. That is all. That is all. w


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Lilies Ellen Pickus My garden now sports orange lilies, six petals snapping awake each day, pistils shooting back at the sun. I planted perennials once, to last forever, knelt in dirt and broke my nails, then lifted myself to a lounge chair to enjoy the view. Of all the flowers that I’ve ever viewed, my favorite has always been the lily since I was small enough to be lifted by my mother one summer day. The grass that itched my ankles I’ll feel forever, emblazoned on my memory is the sunlight heating my face tilted to the sun. A photograph I own has captured the view, but I swear I’ve remembered this forever. That was the time I was introduced to lilies lining a country road one July day, hundreds of blossoms with their bright heads lifted toward the light. Here I am, being lifted away from discomfort, held close, while the sun lights my hair like a nimbus on the day my mother raised me for a fuller view and whispered in my ear the name of lilies, a new word, a gem I’d hold forever. The power of knowing is a gift forever, so even then I felt my spirits lifted by a word—not just flowers but lilies. Like a small gray cloud lit up by the sun, I’d been given a brightened view, turned on by the beauty of that day.


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Maybe I was three years old that day, but the joy has stayed with me forever, so I often summon the image for review. By knowledge and my mother’s arms I’m lifted to a place without a setting sun, tickled by a name shared by my mother—Lily. That’s why lilies always liven my day. I will love my sunny yard forever, my heart uplifted by this deeply planted view. w


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The News Excerpt from the novel Grand Isle

Sarah Van Arsdale They told me the way that you’re always afraid they’ll tell you, in the orchestrated little nightmare you keep tucked away for an insomniac’s worrying, until one night, the nightmare springs up to life, like the pop-up books I read to Damian when he was small, laughing with him in mock-surprise at the cardboard chipmunks springing up from between the covers’ folds. The policemen stood at the rickety porch door, ringing the bell, and I came grumbling out from my bedroom upstairs, my summer bedroom where the sound of the water hushes me to sleep like a lullaby. I pulled on my big corduroy shirt as I walked, thinking at first Damian had just forgotten his key when he went out to the party, thinking, damn him for waking me up when I’d finally gotten to sleep, thinking that his first year at college certainly hadn’t improved his ability to keep track of things, most notably keys and money, thinking I never should have gotten into the new habit of locking up at night. I looked into the darkened living room, and the moon was so bright that I could just make out the clock perched high on the bookcase. It was nearly 3 a.m. I switched on the porch light, and there they stood, two pop-up policemen in their tidy blue uniforms, holding their pointy hats, as if such neatness could keep all the messy stuff of life at bay. I was impressed with how crisp their uniforms were, as if up here at the island I’d expected something more casual, more relaxed than the sharply-creased officialdom of Boston. I unlocked the door, pulled my shirt tighter around me. Under it, I was just wearing the boxers and t-shirt I sleep in, a habit of dress I adopted from Leslie, in the first years she lived with us, and in that moment, as I opened the door with one hand, the other clutching at my shirt, I thought of Leslie, Leslie of whom I hadn’t thought in months, and I longed for her presence as I hadn’t since she left. I think that I even expected to hear her footfall following me down the stairs. But of course that didn’t happen. Instead, one of the policemen said, “Mrs. Weiseman?” and I didn’t correct him, didn’t say, “It’s Ms.,” didn’t say, “It’s Wiseman.” I just nodded. I knew what was coming, and I could hear a high-pitched whistle in my head, but I couldn’t speak. “Could we come in for a minute?” he said, and I held the door open


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and my shirt closed around me and I nodded again, and they walked into the miniature entryway of our little summer camp, filling it with their meaty blue presence. They were so big, these two men. “Maybe we should sit down in the living room?” the one who’d spoken before said, and I nodded again, and we paraded into the living room. I was so cold. I thought about turning the heat on, but then I thought, no, this isn’t real, this is only a bad dream, you don’t need to turn up the heat when it’s just a dream. Nightmare. I turned on the table lamp. Damian made it in high school. It’s an oblong of maple, with a shade with leaves pressed into the thick white paper. The older cop said, “Please, sit down,” as if we were in his living room, not mine, and gestured with his hand, and we all sat down, and now I could see that the one who hadn’t spoken yet was very young, maybe 24. A new recruit, is that what they call them? A little older than Damian, I guessed, and I thought Damian would know. I’ll ask Damian later, I thought, and the whistle in my head pitched higher. Mostly I wanted them to just leave, get out of there before they could say what it was they’d come to say. The spokesman said, “Are you alone, ma’am? Is your husband or somebody here?” “No,” I said, “Damian—my son—-is still out. It’s just us,” I said, even though I knew then that I’d just spoken about him in the present tense for the last time. There was now a blank swale of space, a cold air blowing right through me, and I couldn’t imagine how I’d keep sitting there, in the little wicker rocker with the blue and white cushions. “Is there a friend you could call?” the younger cop said, and sure enough, his voice still sounded like a boy’s voice. His voice hovered on the word, “friend,” and I thought how different his friendships must be from mine, and my brain hovered there for what seemed a very long time, wondering at how we could use the same word with such different meanings. I imagined him with other young men like himself, drinking a beer, clapping someone on the back. They looked so out of place sitting like that in my living room. The older one, I could see now, wasn’t much older. He had taken the club chair, and he looked too masculine against the pink and yellow chintz, much more masculine than Damian and his friends, lanky summer boys in their baggy shorts, everything about them loose and unevenly distributed, their hair brushing their shoulders like the hair of girls. Maybe it was the gun. The young skinny one was on the brown sofa. They were both perched on the edge of their seats. I wanted to tell the young cop to sit back, tell him I’d gotten this sofa in its soft sturdy canvas when Damian was about


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six, knowing I’d have to wait years before I could have the delicate, clean kind of furniture Robert and Tessa have. I guess it only seemed a long time I was just sitting there, looking around my living room, at the Oriental carpet Mom gave me when she moved into the retirement home, at the tangle of my plants clustered at the window. I could see that a few leaves of the hibiscus had dried and gone brown, and it took everything I had not to get up right then and cross the room and start fussing with them. Instead, I looked at the older one, then at the younger. I wanted to hurt them both, suddenly. “Damian’s dead,” I said. “Ma’am,” the younger one started, and then the older one cut in: “It was very quick. The car he was in went right off the road at Dead Man’s Beach. He died right away.” I looked at the clock on the bookshelf, and at all the books in their neat rows underneath the clock. The clock was from my parents’ house, too, a big old mantle-piece ticker they’d somehow taken with them from Austria. It was precisely three o’clock. How is it that I felt I’d been talking to those pop-up cops for an hour? Both at the time and now, it was as if they came in and I just stared and stared and barely spoke, and everything was so slow, as if I knew what was happening the moment I heard them at the door and I was trying to stall; it was as if I had to make an elaborate dance to get from point A to point L or M. But it was only about three minutes, the whole business of opening the door, bringing the cops inside, sitting down, switching on the table lamp, and hearing that my son was dead. Remarkable, that it only takes about three minutes to hear your son is dead. “Is there someone you could call? We need you to come down and identify the body. You shouldn’t be alone,” the older cop said again, and I thought of Leslie, but we hadn’t spoken in what, six months? and right on the heels of thinking of her, her solid presence beside me, not even really thinking of her as much as imagining her, seeing her, I didn’t even say anything, just got up, picked up the phone from the coffee table, and dialed Tessa and Robert’s number, almost to keep myself from calling Leslie. Tessa answered, her voice thick with sleep: “Yeah.” “Damian’s dead,” I said, for the second time. The whistle was starting up again in my head. “What? Franci? Oh Franci, no.” I imagined her suddenly awake, eyes popping wide like in an old t.v. show, the camera focusing on her bedside clock, its hands pointing to the three and the one, Dick van Dyke playing


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Robert in the bed beside her. “What do you mean?” Indeed. What did I mean? “There was an accident, I guess,” I said, and before I could even take in what I’d said, “I’m on my way over,” I heard her say and then there was just the hollow dead phone sound in my ear, and I thought about how the ear is shaped like a little shell, and I saw my finger tracing Damian’s perfectly formed seashell ear when he was a baby. The cops must have been horrified, that I would keep saying “Damian’s dead,” no euphemism, no dodging, no introduction for poor Tessa. “She’ll be here soon,” I told them, and they nodded, and then we all sat there in the still living room, the rain nibbling down the windows in long icy streams. I thought that I should probably call Herb, but I wasn’t even sure where he was. They must have told me the story then, my son’s death already sliding into a narrative that would trail after me, and that, in the end, would change so many times over in its particulars that I wouldn’t ever know what had really happened. But as I remember it now, it’s as if we were silent, as if now there was nothing to say, and still I was waiting for Damian’s step on the porch outside, heavy with his new weight, the weight of his becoming a man, and light, too, still light with his boyish grace. y


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Extreme Dysfunction Mark DeCarteret Another molar has gone, one I thought I’d lost ages ago. Outside a mockingbird’s delivering the briefest impersonation of dawn, a sound like something torn out from a pressure-packed sack. My neighbor’s daughter’s turning into a slut, even her shadow seemingly embarrassed for her, some nights nothing more than a release form haplessly authorized with mascara. Suddenly, the sky is so red it comes off on the bushes. Grandmother’s thumbing through an artillery magazine, her unchanging grimace this luxurious baleen. Word is half her friends have figured somehow in an unsubstantiated Nostradamus prophecy. I let the accusatory finger that I pocket be lowered toward the itch on my thigh. This failure to mean has me furious. The fact that we’re joined at the heart by indifference. Something my surrealist-Psychiatrist had me take out last session on this full-sized inflatable Dali doll. How is it that time has tailored all of my awe, my yahooing, into nothing but yawns (See— just by saying it you too are suckered into its abyss!) Mother’s telling a friend on the phone how the priest had brushed crumbs of the Host on his crotch. If a shrug can be heard I just heard it. Meanwhile I’ve recovered enough to blow pathetically on the pill I’ve picked up off the floor. Maybe Grandfather was right, all that’s needed to survive in this world and the next is a half-decent back. w


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My Fear Speaks Sally Bliumis-Dunn You have it all wrong: there was no single moment, or day, nothing like a door. You were very young, open as sky; anything could fall through you, and I was in the air, the turquoise walls – I’d been in that house so long before – in your grandfather’s worried fingers, pulling at the ends of his dark mustache; in your father’s noon martinis, and all those fits of anger. I was sad at how I changed you, your footsteps soft and frightened. Do you know how long I’ve waited for you to hear me? w This poem was first published in Second Skin (Wind Publications, 2010)


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se7en Britni Jackson

1.

this city is a knockoff Canal Street reality litters the sidewalk when the wind blows the truth lives with rats

2.

have you ever ridden the D seen a man with one shoe on his shoulder no socks two bags all bottles and cans invisible but that smell he asks for nothing refuses pity stares gives back a bottle all he owns jumbled somewhere behind his eyes

3.

possibility lives on the A rush hour bodies forced to touch his hand licks my thigh aimless sparks my knees buckle closed eyes pray it licks me again


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4.

I saw a magic show on the E late nights and weekends strange things are born a silk dove nested in an elderly woman’s wig no one blinked

5.

God sits on the tip of Manhattan to see the Q sauntering toward the Brooklyn shore she moves slowly tangos with the sun the water keeps time

6.

the 6 breakdances to the boogie down birthplace of the boom bap the train screams south Bronx, south south Bronx as it pop locks uptown I wonder if Zoro bombed this train psychedelic orange exploding from headphones and head spins under 4am stars

7.

and the truth lives with rats crawling along the rails the rest of us too busy w


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The Mystery Has Been Let Out: A Field Guide Jason Joyce Rope wound round her neck ing with possibility I’ll fall on your pistol, we’ll pretend it’s mine The combat solider holding his severed arm lost child in Wal-Mart on Black Friday clutching plush dinosaur and a sheet of gift tags could he read them everyone he knows has written in pen: “you’re alone, and hopeful” We are relevant like Zima convenient like apartment fires Tangled hair tumble a forest of friction transposed to canvas morning lingerie fall behind We are animals in sweaters, dressed to the occasion and still capable of pissing on the floor, breaking expensive crystal ware, learning obedience w


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Brooklyn Harvey Shapiro The lights of two bridges framed in my study window are more pleasant to me because more constant to me than the ornate lit cathedral across from my hotel in Barcelona. Let them be my memorial candles. when I am through with this world. w


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THE MANHATTAN BRIDGE Photograph by Robin Michals


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Contributors L.S. ASEKOFF, former coordinator of the M.F.A. Poetry Program at Brooklyn College, has published three books of poetry: Dreams of a Work (1994), North Star (1997), both with Orchises Press, and The Gate of Horn (2010) with TriQuarterly Books (Northwestern University Press). A fourth book, Freedom Hill, is due out with Northwestern in 2011. NED BALBO’s third book is The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems (Story Line Press/WCU Poetry Center, 2010 Donald Justice Prize). His second book, Lives of the Sleepers (U. of Notre Dame Press, 2005), received the Ernest Sandeen Prize and a ForeWord Book of the Year Award. His recent chapbook is Something Must Happen (Finishing Line Press, 2009). New poems are out or forthcoming in Able Muse, Cimarron Review, The Hopkins Review, Iowa Review, River Styx, Shenandoah, and elsewhere. He teaches at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore. North Carolina native BRAD BARKLEY’s novel, Money, Love (Norton), a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection and a “BookSense 76” choice., was named one of the best books of 2000 by the Washington Post and the Library Journal. Brad was named one of the “Breakthrough Writers You Need To Know” by Book Magazine. His novel Alison’s Automotive Repair Manual (St. Martin’s) and his YA novels, co-authored with Heather Hepler, Scrambled Eggs at Midnight and Dream Factory, were also “BookSense 76” selections. Dream Factory was also a Library Guild Book of the Month pick and was voted the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters Best Young Adult Book for 2007. Their most recent title, Jars of Glass, was published by Dutton-Penguin. Brad’s short fiction has appeared in nearly thirty magazines, including Southern Review, Georgia Review, the Oxford American, Glimmer Train, Book Magazine, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, which twice awarded him the Emily Balch Prize for Best Fiction. His work was anthologized in New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, 2002 and collected in Circle View (SMU) and Another Perfect Catastrophe (St. Martin’s). He has won four Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. TODD BEHRENDT lives in the Adirondacks with his wife. His house is built from trees he cut himself, then put together despite the rain and snow. He is hard at work on a new series of artwork concern-


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ing persuasive techniques in advertising. His previous work can be seen at www.trbehrendt.com. SALLY BLIUMIS-DUNN teaches Modern Poetry and Creative Writing at Manhattanville College. She received her B.A. in Russian language and literature from U.C. Berkeley and an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. In 2002 she was a finalist for the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize. Her poems have been published in The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry London, and the New York Times, among others. In 2008 she was asked to read in the Love Poems program at the Library of Congress. She lives in Armonk, New York with her husband, John. They share four children, Ben, Angie, Kaitlin and Fiona. Her first book, Talking Underwater, was published in 2007 by Wind Publications. A previous version of “Fear Speaks” appears in her second book, Second Skin, published by Wind Publications in 2010. PETER BRICKLEBANK has published fiction (The American Voice, Carolina Quarterly, Mid-American Review, Fiction, et al), nonfiction (The New York Times Book Review, the American Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, et al). He has received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship for his fiction, and in 2007 he was Nonfiction writer-in-residence at Central Connecticut State University. He currently teaches at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and in the online graduate program of National University and is open to interesting editorial, writing, or teaching gigs. Peterbricklebank@gmail.com. SEAN CISSEL was raised in West Virginia and Virginia. He currently lives in San Diego, California. BILLY COLLINS’ ninth collection of poetry, Horoscopes for the Dead, will be published in the spring of 2011. He is a distinguished professor of English at Lehman College, and he served as United States poet laureate 2001-2003. DOUGLAS COLLURA is a Manhattan-based writer. He was a Second Prize winner in the 1999 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, along with being an Editor’s Choice selection for the Paterson Literary Review, and was also the 2008 First Prize Winner of the Missouri Review Audio/Video Competition in Poetry. He is the author of Things I Can Fit My Whole Head Into, published by Jane Street Press, which was a finalist for the 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize. His work has been published in Coe Review, The Cynic, Dislocate,


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The Dos Passos Review, Eclipse, Paterson Literary Review, Lips Magazine, Sierra Nevada College Review, and other periodicals, Web sites and webzines. FRED DASIG is a graduate student at the City College of New York, where he studies childhood education. His first chapbook, Fresh From the Dryer was released in 2009 by City Mouse Books. Born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica, KWAME DAWES is the awardwinning author of fourteen books of poetry and many books of fiction, non-fiction, criticism and drama. His collection, Back of Mount Peace, appeared in 2010. He is Distinguished Poet in Residence at the University of South Carolina where he directs the SC Poetry Initiative. Kwame Dawes also teaches in the Pacific MFA Writing program in Oregon. NEIL DE LA FLOR’s publications include Almost Dorothy (Marsh Hawk Press, 2010), winner of the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize, Facial Geometry (NeoPepper Press, 2006), co-authored with Maureen Seaton and Kristine Snodgrass, and Sinéad O’Connor and her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds (Firewheel Editions, forthcoming 2011), co-authored with Maureen Seaton and winner of the Sentence Book Award. His work, both solo and collaborative, has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Barrow Street, TriQuarterly Review, Pank, Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Court Green, among other journals. He can be reached at www.neildelaflor.com and blogs at www.almostdorothy.wordpress.com. MARK DECARTERET’s work has appeared in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press), Brevity & Echo: Short Short Stories by Emerson College Alums (Rose Metal Press), New Pony: Collaborations & Responses (Horse Less Press), Places of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry (Story Line Press), Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader (Black Sparrow Press) and Under the Legislature of Stars—62 New Hampshire Poets (Oyster River Press) which he also co-edited. In 2009 he was selected as the seventh Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. You can check out his Postcard Project at pplp.org. JEAN FERACA is an award-winning poet, essayist, and journalist. A 30-year veteran of public radio, she is the host and executive producer of Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders, a global cultural affairs program heard on Wisconsin Public Radio and throughout the world. A winner of The Discovery Award, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and


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twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, she is the author of three books of poetry, South from Rome: Il Mezzogiorno, Crossing the Great Divide and the chapbook, Rendered into Paradise. Her memoir, I Hear Voices: A Memoir of Love, Death, and the Radio, won the 2007 Kingery/Derleth Nonfiction Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, and was named an Outstanding Book by the American Association of School Librarians, and one of the year’s Best Books for General Audiences by the Public Library Association. The complete essay “Roger and Me, Too” will appear in a new edition of I Hear Voices to be published by the University of Wisconsin Press in Fall 2011. Berkeley resident SANDRA M. GILBERT has published eight collections of poetry, including Kissing the Bread: New and Selected Poems. Belongings; and forthcoming in 2011 a new volume, Aftermath. Among her prose books are the memoir Wrongful Death, the cultural study, Death’s Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve; an essay collection, On Burning Ground, and forthcoming in 2011 Rereading Women: She is currently at work on a project examining “The Culinary Imagination.” With Susan Gubar, Gilbert has coauthored or co-edited The Madwoman in the Attic, No Man’s Land and The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. MARIA MAZZIOTTI GILLAN won the American Book Award for her latest book, All That Lies Between Us. She is the Founder /Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ. She is also Director of the Creative Writing Program and Professor of Poetry at Binghamton University-State University of New York. She has published eleven books of poetry, including The Weather of Old Seasons (Cross-Cultural Communications), Where I Come From, Things My Mother Told Me, and Italian Women in Black Dresses (Guernica Editions). She is co-editor with her daughter Jennifer of four anthologies: Unsettling America, Identity Lessons, and Growing Up Ethnic in America (Penguin/Putnam) and Italian-American Writers on New Jersey (Rutgers). She is the editor of the Paterson Literary Review. LORNA GOODISON was born in Jamaica, and has received much recognition and many awards for her writing in both poetry and prose, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Americas Region), the Musgrave Gold Medal from Jamaica, and most recently one of Canada’s largest literary prizes, the British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People. Her work has been included in the major anthologies and collections of contempo-


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rary poetry published in the United States, Europe and the West Indies over the past fifteen years, most recently in the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry (2003) as well as the HarperCollins World Reader, the Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, and the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Her work has also been translated into several languages, and published widely in magazines from the Hudson Review to MS Magazine. ELIZABETH HAUKAAS received the Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers in poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The New England Review, Crab Orchard Review, North American Poetry Review, William and Mary Review, New Millennium Writings, Agenda, and Tulane Review. Her work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. Her poetry collection, Leap, winner of the Walt McDonald First-book Award, was published in 2009 by Texas Tech University Press. She has three grown children who live all over the world; she lives in New York City, where, in her day job, she heads the corporate communications department of a financial services firm. WILLIAM HERMAN has published poems and short stories in the Missouri Review, Inkwell, Word(s) and other journals. His The Man Who Beat Life & Other Tales is being reviewed for publication. BOB HOLMAN lives and writes on the Bowery. COLETTE INEZ has published nine books of poetry and has won Guggenheim, Rockefeller, two NEA fellowships and two Pushcart Prizes. She is widely published and teaches in Columbia University’s Undergraduate Writing Program. Her memoir The Secret of M. Dulong was released by The University of Wisconsin Press in 2005. A new collection of poems, Horseplay, will be published by Word Press in 2011. BRITNI DANIELLE JACKSON lives, writes, and teaches in Los Angeles, California. She is the proud mama of the most beautiful brown boy in the world. Britni received her MFA from Brooklyn College and has been published by Other Rooms Press, Lorraine & James, Essence.com, and Clutch Magazine. She is presently at work on her first collection of poetry. JASON JOYCE recently graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s in Business Administration and a minor in Creative Writing and is now living in Los Angeles, working in event planning at Loyola Marymount University. He plays synth in the band The Rubbish Zoo, and


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is working on his first full-length collection of poems. You can find out more about his writing and published poetry on his blog at jasonrjoyce. tumblr.com. MICHAEL KELLNER is a book cover designer living in Los Angeles. MARILYN KRYSL’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation The New Republic, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best American Short Stories 2000, O. Henry Prize Stories, Sudden Fiction and Sudden Stories. How To Accommodate Men was published by Coffee House in 1998, and Dinner with Osama ( stories) won the Richard Sullivan Prize and Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Bronze Medal 2008. She has also published eight books of poetry. Swear the Burning Vow: Selected and New Poems is a finalist for the 2010 Colorado Book Award. See her on Facebook. Her website: marilynkrysl.com. GERRY LaFEMINA is the author of five collections of poems, two collections of prose poems, and a book of short stories. A new collection, The Vanishing Horizon (2011), is out from Anhinga Press. He directs the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing at Frostburg State University, where he also teaches. DORIANNE LAUX’s most recent collections are The Book of Men and Facts about the Moon, both from W.W. Norton. She teaches poetry at North Carolina State University. RICHARD LEVINE, runner-up for the 2010 William Stafford Award for Poetry, is the author of That Country’s Soul, A Language Full of Wars and Songs, and Snapshots from a Battle. ROBIN MICHALS is a photographer whose most recent project Toxi City: Brooklyn’s Brownfields was exhibited at the Brooklyn Lyceum in 2009. She teaches photography at New York City College of Technology. For more of Robin Michals’s work, see http://www.e-arcades.com. MIHAELA NITÂ is a friend of Dan Sociu’s who was a student in Bucharest when she participated in the translation of his 2005 volume, eXcessive songs. DANIELLE OFRI is the author of three books about medicine, most recently Medicine in Translation: Journeys with My Patients, about the experience of immigrants and Americans in the U.S. health care system. She is


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editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review and is an internist at Bellevue Hospital. www.danielleofri.com LISA PACENZA is a marketing communications professional and writer in New York City. She is currently completing a collection of short stories. WILLIE PERDOMO is the author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime and Smoking Lovely, which received a PEN America Open Book Award. He has also been published in The New York Times Magazine, Bomb, and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Woolrich Fellow in Creative Writing at Columbia University and is a 2009 Fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is founder/publisher of Cypher Books and is currently teaching at Fordham University. Visit www. willieperdomo.com. ELLEN PICKUS taught English and creative writing for thirty years on Long Island, where she lives with her husband and her son. Retired, she now conducts creative writing workshops for adults and does volunteer work at a local public school. The topics of her poems range from summers spent in the mountains to the joys and challenges of raising a special needs child. Her work has appeared in the Long Island Quarterly; PPA Review; Fan Magazine; Midwest Poetry Review; Candlelight and Toward Forgiveness, an anthology edited by Gayl Teller. HOLLY POSNER is the author of Explorations in American Culture and has taught at the New School, Hunter College, and NYU. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence, where she was editor of the graduate writing literary journal. She is currently editor of Line, a journal for the Hadar Foundation which sponsors scholarships for young people in the creative arts. Winner of the 2005 Greenburgh Poetry Competition, her work has appeared in Lumina, Rattapallax, The Laurel Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Westchester Review, The Same and the anthology, Let The Poets Speak. NICK RIPATRAZONE is the author of Oblations (Gold Wake Press 2011), a book of prose poems. His writing has appeared in Esquire, The Kenyon Review, West Branch, The Mississippi Review and Beloit Fiction Journal. MAUREEN SEATON’S publications include Sex Talks to Girls: A Memoir (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008), winner of the Lambda Literary Award; and Cave of the Yellow Volkswagen (Carnegie Mellon, 2009), her sixth solo poetry collection. Her collaboration with Neil de la Flor, Sinéad


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O’Connor and Her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds, recently won the Sentence Book Award. LEE MINH SLOCA was born in Vietnam, from which she escaped two weeks prior to its collapse. After college, she worked for 14 years with special needs children in various mental health and educational facilities. Seeking to expand her horizons, she shifted her focus to poetry and painting. She lives in Los Angeles, CA. DAN SOCIU (b. 1978) is the foremost representative of the movement of the new-millennium poets and fiction writers that Romanian critics call miserabilism, an anti-lyrical, quasi-biographical take on everyday life seen in terms of its most anti-heroic, banal qualities. He has published three volumes of poetry so far; his first book, jars with tight lids, money for another week, was awarded the 2003 Mihai Eminescu National Poetry Prize debut award; brother flea, 2004, reprinted in 2007; and eXcessive Songs, 2005, winner of the Romanian Writers’ Union Prize for best poetry book. He also published two novels in 2008, Special Needs and Urbancolia. HELEN MARYLES SHANKMAN was a James Scholar at University of Illinois, before moving to New York City to study art at Parsons School of Design. She was a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s Winter 2010 Story Contest, and earned an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s August 2010 Short Story Award for New Writers competition. Her work is currently appearing in Danse Macabre and JewishFiction.net. HARVEY SHAPIRO’s books include The Sights Along the Harbor: New and Collected Poems, The Light Holds, and How Charlie Shavers Died and Other Poems. A World War II veteran, he edited the American Poets Project anthology, Poets of World War II. He served as an editor for such renowned publications as Commentary, The New Yorker, and the New York Times Magazine and was the editor of The New York Times Book Review from 1975-1983. “Brooklyn” first appeared in the November, 1999 edition of The New Criterion and is reprinted here with the author’s permission. ADAM J. SORKIN recently published two books from the University of Plymouth Press (U.K.), Ioan Es. Pop’s No Way Out of Hadesburg (2010) and Mircea Ivânescu’s lines poems poetry (2009), both translated with Lidia Vianu, and he is the main translator (with the poet) of Carmen Firan’s Rock and Dew (Sheep Meadow Press, 2010).


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NORMAN STOCK is the author of two books of poetry: Pickled Dreams Naked (NYQ Books, 2010) and Buying Breakfast For My Kamikaze Pilot (Gibbs Smith, 1994, winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Contest). His poems have appeared in The New Republic, College English, New York Quarterly, Verse, and many other magazines, as well as in anthologies and textbooks. Formerly the Acquisitions Librarian at Montclair State University, from which he retired in 2005, he lives in Jackson Heights, New York. MERVYN TAYLOR is a Trinidad-born poet who divides his time between Brooklyn and his native island. He has taught at Bronx Community College, The New School, and in the New York City public school system. He is the author of four books of poetry, namely, An Island of His Own, The Goat and Gone Away, from Junction Press, and a new collection, No Back Door, from Shearsman Books. He can be heard reading his poems on an audio collection, Road Clear, accompanied by bassist David Williams. MARIA TERRONE is the author of two poetry collections: A Secret Room in Fall, co-winner of the McGovern Prize (Ashland Poetry Press) and The Bodies We Were Loaned, as well as a chapbook, American Gothic, Take 2. Her work has appeared in magazines including Poetry, Poetry International, Atlanta Review and The Hudson Review and in more than a dozen anthologies. She is Assistant VP for Communications at Queens College in NYC. Visit her at mariaterrone.com. TOOT TORNIERI, age 18, speaks and writes by tapping words or letters on a communication board. Some of his poetry will appear in a bookin-progress Diode’s Experiment, by Rosemary Douglas Lombard. A Westerner, he lists his two favorite bridges as suspension bridges:Golden Gate and Portland’s St. Johns. LEWIS TURCO is the author of The Book of Forms, A Handbook of Poetics, now in its third edition, and of forty-nine other books, chapbooks, and monographs, the most recent of which is The Gathering of the Elders and Other Poems, published in 2010 under his anagram pen-name “Wesli Court,” which he uses to compose his traditionally formal poems. GEORGE WALLACE has published nineteen collections of poetry. He is an adjunct professor of literature and writing at Pace University in Manhattan, and he has been an invited guest lecturer at St John’s, Hofstra, CW Post, Loyola-Chicago Rome, Univ Cardiff Wales, and the Univ Cumbria,


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UK. In addition to regular appearances in the New York area he tours internationally to give readings of his work and to conduct poetry workshops, and has recently appeared at the Robert Burns Centre (Dumfries, Scotland), the Dylan Thomas Centre (Swansea, Wales), the Ruskin Centre (Cumbria, UK), the John Steinbeck Center (Salinas, Ca), the Mabel Luhan Dodge House (Taos, NM), the Woody Guthrie Festival (Okemah, OK) and About: (Athens, Greece). In 2011 he was named Writer In Residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace in New York. NICHOLAS WILSON is a sixteen year old painter currently attending the St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights. He recently won a Scholastic Gold Key for his painting, Scout. You can see more of his work on his art blog www.nicholaswilsonart@tumblr.com. CRYSTAL WILLIAMS is the author of three collections of poems, most recently, Troubled Tongues, which won the Long Madgett Poetry Award and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Her work appears in APR, Ploughshares, 5AM, The Sun, Callaloo, and many other journals. She is a recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Arts Colony, The Oregon Arts Commission, and Literary Arts. She teaches at Reed College in Portland, OR. These poems are from a just-completed fourth collection of poems titled, Walking the Cemetery: Detroit Poems. CHRISTOPHER WOODS is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. His photo essays have appeared in Public Republic, Glasgow Review and Narrative Magazine. He recently completed a novel, Hearts in the Dark, about a radio talk-show host with mental problems. Woods shares a gallery with his wife, Linda, at Moonbird Hill Arts. www.moonbirdhill.exposuremanager.com SARAH VAN ARSDALE’s third novel, Grand Isle, will be published by SUNY Press in spring, 2012. She is also the author of Blue, winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel (University of Tennessee Press); Toward Amnesia; and the novella, Lesson for this Summer, a finalist in the 2006 Sol Books Prose Contest and a semi-finalist in the 2005 Miami University Novella Contest.She has taught creative writing at Sarah Lawrence , Hunter, and Vermont College and has received fellowships at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (2009), the JentelArtist Residency Program, (2008), the Ragdale Foundation, (2008) and the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences (2008). She is a member of the Association of Writers


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2 Bridges Review

and Writing Programs and PEN, and is co-chair of the Ferro-Grumley Award in Fiction. She currently teaches ESL at NYU and memoir writing at City College. She works as a private manuscript consultant; for details, visit her website sarahvanarsdale.com.


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Acknowledgments The editors of the 2 Bridges Review wish to express their deep appreciation to the following people: Monique Ferrell, who helped secure funds. Russell Hotzler, President of New York City College of Technology, for backing this project in a lean budget year. Stephen Soiffer, for technical, administrative, and intellectual support. Aaron Barlow, for giving us our name. Camille Goodison, for providing liaisons to some wonderful authors and continued inspiration. Charles Flynn Hirsch, for editorial assistance and sound advice. Nina Bannett, Carole Harris, Mark Noonan, Caroline Hellman, and the City Tech English Department faculty for gracious support and encouragement. Provost Bonne August, Dean Pamela Brown, Dean Sonja Jackson and the Administration of the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York


CONTRIBUTORS:

Kwame Dawes, Lorna Goodison, Billy Collins, Mervyn Taylor, Dorianne Laux, Sarah Van Arsdale, L.S. Asekoff, Sandra M. Gilbert, Danielle Ofri, Colette Inez, Marilyn Krysl, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, and George Wallace . . . and many others.

Profile for Kate Falvey

2 Bridges Review  

The 2 Bridges Review Journal – The celebrated East River Bridges (Two Bridges) – the Brooklyn and the Manhattan, connect downtown Brooklyn w...

2 Bridges Review  

The 2 Bridges Review Journal – The celebrated East River Bridges (Two Bridges) – the Brooklyn and the Manhattan, connect downtown Brooklyn w...

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