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ABC 2 Bridges Review

In Memory of William Herman W Volume 3, Fall 2013 New York City College of Technology City University of New York 2BridgesReview.org


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

Cover Art: Michael Kellner


ABC 2 Bridges Review Kate Falvey Editor in Chief George Guida Poetry Editor Rita Ciresi Fiction Editor Stephen Soiffer Managing Editor Yue Chen Logo and Web Design: Art Director Krisdat Kutayiah Logo and Web Design: Designer Wing Sze Chiu Graphic Designer Cover design by Michael Kellner Monique Ferrell and Kate Falvey, co-founders


ABC Contents Poetry

The Cat, the Fiddle, 14 Paul Victor Winters the Cow, the Moon Ode 16 Meena Alexander Children of the House

17 Meena Alexander

Circles 18 William L. Alton

Damp Lazarus

Poem with the Virgin Mary

26 William Stobb

Green Apple

27 William Stobb

25 John. F. Buckley

Emoticon 28 William Stobb

A Cabicokon Dictionary

When He Leaves

A Tower of Morning Glories

My Neighbor Never Harvests 56 Jean Monahan His Concord Grapes

The Creature

42 Regie Cabico 43 Kelli Allen 55 Jean Monahan

57 Daniela Gioseffi

Rape: the male crime 72 Haki R. Madhubuti

The Siege of Träumen

73 Daniel King

To Wait in Bar Harbor

74 John Grey

Soapbox Opera

“The Clock”

76 Elaine Sexton

War Stories

79 Tony Gloeggler

June 11th

81 Tony Gloeggler

75 Elaine Sexton


Hello, Friend

89 Sean Neville

The Ha-Ha Place

91 Sean Neville

Poem for Our Mothers

92 Professor Arturo

Poem for Our Fathers 97 Professor Arturo Brooklyn Bridge 110 J.R. Solonche

Cityscape 111 J.R. Solonche

To Jumble 118 Patricia Polak Nighthawks/ 119 Patricia Polak Edward Hopper (1942) Icarus 120 Christopher Anthony Leibow Homecoming 122 Christopher Anthony Leibow

Processions 130 Dean Kostos

The Liver is the Cock’s Comb 131 Dean Kostos

Colossus of Rust 133 Dean Kostos

Classic TV 135 Joey Nicoletti

Facing It 136 George Held

Parallel Universe 142 Ellyn Maybe

The Party Mind 143 Ellyn Maybe

Another Blues in E Minor 144 Gerry LaFemina

Friday Night, First Avenue 145 Gerry LaFemina

Eve 148 Andrew Spencer Thanksgiving, 2011 149 Jacob M. Appel Pastoral 150 Brent House Florida Wetlands 152 Joy Gaines-Friedler Sixties Sestina: 154 Ellen Pickus After Seeing a Revival of Hair


Trinity 156 Lewis Turco Come To Our Table 159 Peggy Aylsworth

Isis in Astoria, N.Y.C. 160 Colette Inez

Still Life with Contrast Dye 162 Lisa Mangini

September at Dusk 163 Lindsay Hobbs

Between Hospital and Home 167 Michael Graves

The Diamond Merchant’s Wife 168 Milind Padki

Rama Reddy at Route 13 170 Milind Padki

Table to End 173 William Herman Fiction

Rabbit 20 Corey Mertes

French Doors

44 Talia Carner

The Great Barrier Reef

59 Tricia Cowen

Helpless 83 Brian Maxwell Secret Santa 103 Ray Morrison

I Kissed Eudora Welty 124 Sidney Thompson

The Mechanic’s Wife 138 Lou Gaglia

The Posted Limit 164 Zeke Jarvis Non Fiction

Interview with Stephen Dunn 30 Liv Lansdale with Gerry La Femina

The Frozen Sea 112 Patricia Horvath


Art and Photography

Anna Maria Fortune Teller

Storyteller’s Tent

15 Peter BovĂŠ 41 Leah Vinluan

Mangroves 71 Leah Vinluan Entwine 78 Eleanor Leonne Bennett Ghost Series # 4 117 Olivia Wise Kids with Guns 147 Eleanor Leone Bennett Breaks 161 Eleanor Leone Bennett Ghost Series # 9 172 Olivia Wise

ABC


Editor’s Note For the past week I’ve been waylaid by the opening lines from Denise Levertov’s “Pleasures” I like to find what’s not found at once, but lies within something of another nature, in repose, distinct. Like a lyrical earworm, the words loop and repeat, eerily coaxing me through my daily rounds, making trifling sights and encounters conspicuous with potential meaning. This sort of random inner display of lines for all occasions is like a poetic fortune cookie or a trick with mental mirrors: what do I need most to be reminded of ? What do I need reflected back to me? Last Fall, after the hurricane decimated our community, it was Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall,” incessantly, reminding me that, like it or not, all was Goldengrove, with leaves perpetually falling. “It is the blight man was born for, /It is Margaret you mourn for” pestered me while I mucked out my hoarded past from a ruined, mud-filled basement. “Tell me something I don’t know,” I razzed my poetic bellman. “Evanescence, evanescence. Always mortality and evanescence….Is this all you’ve got?” Somehow the overweening sadness of the lines challenged me to find some equilibrium and humor, even amidst the brokenness. So the lines that have emerged this past year in the aftermath of loss and disruption – like those from Levertov’s “Pleasures” — take me to task for missing out on what I think I already know but sometimes ignore or repress: “Goldengrove unleaving,” sure – but what about those surprising “pleasures” – like the squid bones or “gull feathers of glass” discovered inside “white pulp” in Levertov’s poem? Like a song from 1978 or some other ancient relic of a particular past, lines of literature bubble up from the depths and stir associative drifts. Hopkins’ young Margaret, reminds me of another Margaret, a memorable graduate school crony from many years ago, who cut a quietly disgusted swath through the pretensions of a seminar table by objecting to the conflating of criticism with complaint. If I recall, the students were


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dissing Melville, who was perhaps out of vogue with our professor that season, and sneering at a peer’s gushingly enthusiastic presentation. Maybe those students had been looking askance at something forlorn and haunting in Billy Budd or, more likely, at the hyperbolic delivery of the presenter -– and Margaret, a new mother, though by no means an emotional pushover, had had enough. “I’m sick” — her conviction hushed the table — “of all this negativity.” And now, a life-time later, my tenth grader brings home a story and a story from her “talented writer’s” class: a friend’s novel-in-the-making has been trounced and ridiculed, provoking tears in the author and indignation – and maybe a grudging unease — in my daughter. “Can you read it? What do you think?” And a conversation about the nuances of judgment becomes a kind of proving ground for my own untidy reckonings with subjective response and editorial valuations, but, mostly, lets me vent my impatience with “negativity.” Seemingly out of the blue, Wordsworth’s final lines from the “Immortality Ode” arrive and give weight to my words: Thanks to the human heart by which we live Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears, To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears. If pressed, I can figure out a kind of dreamy coherence, re-seeing the look in my daughter’s eyes that spurred Wordsworth into being: youthful innocence betrayed and human hearts beset, our continual loss of tenderness, the blaring harshness of our world….and all these young ones who won’t have Wordsworth or Hopkins or Levertov as the poetic soundtracks of their lives. It’s old news to worry about what Mark Twain called “sham sentimentality”: nosegays of the soppy supplanting the harder work of cultivating sentience. But worry I do when so many of my bright young students, lost and anxious, cannot find solace or guidance or beauty in the written word. Like Margaret, the graduate student, I worry we’ve become desensitized to the romance of language, sponsors of some joyless vogue of meanness. I prefer to believe that when I tear up while reading aloud those final lines of the “Immortality Ode,” it’s a kind of offering, a way of confirming how essential poetry really is, and how it’s ok to be roused by language, that sentiment is not, ipso facto, suspect.


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Poetry. Like Marianne Moore, I, too, often dislike it, yet I still thrill to the surprise of the poetically genuine – even when sometimes mystified by how some imaginary gardens seem alive with real toads and some just seem like aggravating botanical postcards from places I don’t care to visit. There’s room for the artless as well as the sly, even room for the stilted, perhaps, and, certainly for the heart-felt, and, anyway, so much depends upon our own ways of looking at that wheelbarrow or that blackbird with all their potential beauty, whether “beauty of inflections” or “beauty of innuendoes,” as Wallace Stevens writes in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” In his interview with poets Liv Lansdale and Gerry La Femina in this issue, Stephen Dunn reveals his admiration for Stevens’ essays on the imagination in The Necessary Angel: “the imagination…crystallizes the real, and makes things cohere….The real and the imagination fuse at some point.” As Stevens writes in “Angel Surrounded by Paysans,”: “I am the necessary angel of earth,/Since, in my sight, you see the earth again.” The necessary angel of poetry helps us, as Levertov writes, “find/ what’s not found/ at once” but is there for us, if we continue to care to look. Kate Falvey Editor in Chief


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The Cat, the Fiddle, the Cow, the Moon Paul Victor Winters The Cat, in his old age, became quite a storyteller. He’d uncurl himself in the afternoon, call his grandkittens to him, lick his paw, a twinkle in his one unclouded eye. In his heavy Siamese accent, he’d talk about his youth. But the Fiddle sat unplayed and resentful. A spider made its home in the hollow belly. The catgut strings became brittle and, either from shame or disappointment, grew mute. The kittens came to prefer more modern music anyway. There is no excusing the behavior of the Cow, gluttonous and lascivious, her lolling flank of tongue compromising the morals of our otherwise wholesome village. How the Cow lifted her tail and splattered her shit anywhere, and with such abandon! And the Moon? You already know. She simply gave up on us, climbed high and perched herself in the sky, where she grew colder and colder. Then the eclipses. And her forgetfulness and utter lack of regularity, her deaf ear and our desperate cries. w


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Anna Maria Fortune Teller Photograph by Peter BovĂŠ


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Ode Meena Alexander Adelia Prado How hot is heaven? How do snails grow? Once you dreamt of A mango tree In a black cloud I used to sleep Under a mango tree. It was taken from me. I summer in a town Of lobster pots and Clumps of salt-spray rose. A storm boils Bright water, I hear the angelus. I toss my skirts Over the balcony. A man with hennaed hands Is riding a bicycle, A red cross Tattooed on his throat. He catches my clothes. At Devon's teashop I stand in line.


Meena Alexander

How long shall I wait For the glories of English muffin And Eggs Benedict? Adelia Prado Where shall I go? Fish crawl on sand, By Cape Cod Bay, A gull the size of a Toy pistol, waddling. w

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Children of the House For Wayne Koestenbaum Meena Alexander Roman on your pink predella Visited by a woman With a fish in her throat. The tribes of Tribeca tramp Through violet plumage, Soft excrement. Yes, I woke so early. I was in a locked room, Walls painted white And there he was, The man himself Head swathed in silk, Torso incised (Bits of cerulean wire). Not fish, not fowl, Nor phoenix yet. He will not leave me. Nor she, the woman With long black hair Kneeling at the altar. Like them I must learn A new Kyrie, O Lamb of God Have mercy! w


William L. Alton

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Circles William L. Alton A broken window lets in a sharp wind. The walls here are thin, but the rain does not break through. In the bedroom, there is light and music. I dance alone by the bed, carving the air around me with my wild arms. This is the only way to keep warm this winter. The snows have all melted, but the wind drives the rain. Soon the sun will come with its heat, drying the garden enough to plant the seeds. I wait for summer now, for someone to bring me a blanket and a sandwich. I’ve not eaten in days. I’ve not slept. My dreams come into daylight now. They play through my mind until I call my shrink and my shrink calls a cab for me. The hospital is warm. They let me walk in circles. I stand in front of the window and wonder why the days seem so short here. w


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Rabbit Corey Mertes They live on opposite coasts now, the old man in a Victorian Shingle on Cape Cod with his third wife; the woman, alone, in a rundown bungalow just a few blocks from Santa Monica Beach. Many years earlier, when the woman was only a girl, they’d been neighbors. The man had lived next door to the girl and her family in an outer ring suburb of Chicago. The man had been a successful chef at that time, having trained and worked his way up at some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants. He had recently opened his own restaurant, his first, and the initial reviews had been favorable. Critics especially praised his inventiveness, most frequently noting the section of his tapas menu titled “For the Brave,” which included such exotic fare as pig ear salad, roasted marrow bones with shallots, and duck tongue tacos. The girl was a typical ten year old. She went to public school. Her father was an executive at a greeting card company, and her mother worked part-time for a non-profit agency while raising the girl and her two brothers. An incident occurred during that period involving a rabbit. It was the girl’s rabbit, a female American Chinchilla, which she kept in a cage in her backyard during the spring and summer. The girl’s family and the chef next door were all devoted pet owners. Her older brother had a leopard gecko, for example, and her younger brother kept fish in a large tank in their basement. The family also owned three cats. The chef, for his part, preferred dogs. He, along with the woman he was living with at that time, a performance artist (this was between the first and second wives and before he ever met the third, a sculptor), kept three dogs, each as exotic in its own way as the items on his menu: a Basenji, a Corgi puppy, and a very handsome, golden rust-colored Vizsla, the man’s pride and joy. It was primarily for the dogs’ sake, to provide them with fresh air and open space, that he lived such a long commute from his restaurant and the city life he so adored. On Mondays the restaurant was closed. Some Mondays his girlfriend cooked and they watched movies together and made love. As often as not the couple’s lovemaking incorporated toys they had purchased from a sex shop located in an adjacent suburb with less restrictive zoning. Once when his girlfriend was rehearsing in town, however, the man stayed home alone on a Monday night with the intention of catching up on his yard work, a


Corey Mertes

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set of chores he loathed and always put off as long as he could, sometimes even to the point where a neighbor would sneer at him or leave a nasty note in his mailbox. He put it off this night too, so long in fact that it was dark when he finally went outside. Every light in the development was already out. He balanced a glass of wine and a mini-flashlight in one hand as he watered the dried-out azaleas out front with a loosely gripped hose in the other. Standing there in the dark in wet sandals and robe, he began to second-guess his own reasoning for choosing to reside in such a sleepy outpost, when suddenly he was reminded why he did by the playful bounding of his golden Vizsla from around the side of the house. Only when he put down everything but the drink and was crouching over to rub the dog’s head did he notice that it held something in its mouth, something fat and furry. On closer examination he saw that it was the rabbit from next door, as dead as the neighborhood. “Jesus,” the man said as the dog dropped the rabbit at his feet. The wine glass slipped from his hand and shattered on a stone border. He had only spoken to the neighbor girl once or twice, exchanging the briefest of pleasantries, noting only that she looked tall for her age and wore skirts that didn’t fit right, but he knew immediately it was her rabbit because he had seen her tending to it in her yard and it had a distinctive circular patch of pure white fur on its back, like a sunlit glade in a pencil-grey forest. He shone the light on the white spot. Then he shone the light through a gap in the wood-slatted fence that separated the properties. Weeks earlier a storm had knocked down a section of the fence and it was agreed with the neighbor that it was the chef ’s responsibility to fix it. Like so many other home maintenance projects, he had put off the job. Now his neglect had apparently allowed his dog access to his neighbor’s yard and, somehow, the encaged rabbit. Though barely visible, the cage was clearly empty now, its door wide open confirming what the man already knew. His first instinct was to cover up the deed by burying the dead animal and keeping quiet. That impulse lasted longer than it might in many other men. While searching his garage for a shovel, however, conscience finally got the better of him and he decided the proper course was to take the rabbit next door and explain honestly to the girl’s father what had happened. At their doorstep he faltered. Like everywhere else the lights there were out. It occurred to him that it might add insult to injury to awaken the family from their safe suburban dreams with a cold nocturnal lesson in Darwin. Besides, despite a secure place in the hospitality industry, the man had never been entirely comfortable talking with people. The most difficult part of his new role as restaurateur was greeting the house, which


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reminded him always of his lifelong awkwardness around strangers. He certainly did not relish facing the father—or worse, confessing to the child that his own delinquency had contributed to the death of her precious ward. Might there not also be criminal charges, he wondered? Could they take away his dog? He was no expert on the law. In the end he decided that before taking any action he would store the rabbit in his garage and wait up to discuss the situation with his girlfriend, whose opinion he still respected. It was a good choice. His girlfriend had a practical suggestion. Noticing there were no visible marks on the rabbit, she said why not just replace it in its cage while everyone is sleeping? Sure, the neighbor girl would be distraught when she found the rabbit dead in the morning, but that could hardly be avoided; animals—and human beings, for that matter—are mortal, it’s a lesson every child has to learn. God knows the woman herself had had to learn it. Why confuse the girl’s emotional state by linking her loss to a seldom-seen neighbor instead of to the immutable fact that everything dies? The man was not mindless of the self-serving end to her idea, but found that it did not detract from her reasoning, which was sound. So, at three in the morning he slunk into the next yard, locked the dead rabbit in its enclosure, and hurried home to bed. “The strangest thing happened the other day,” the father next door was saying the following Saturday morning. He had just finished cutting his lawn, and his neighbor, the chef, was about to begin cutting his (finally), but was having trouble getting the mower started. The father came over with some helpful advice that segued into a friendly chat about machines and sports and how money makes the world go round. Eventually the talk took a more personal turn. “My daughter’s rabbit died.” “Oh, I’m sorry,” the man said. “No—well, thank you. That’s not the strange thing, of course. The rabbit was old. It died a week ago Friday. We buried it in the backyard.” Far in the distance a dog began to bark. The man caught himself counting the number of barks until they died away at eight. “The strange thing was, a few days later it reappeared in its cage. Still dead, naturally. The cage door locked. My daughter was the first to discover it.” Here the father lowered one eyebrow along with his voice, imparting upon his next words a tone of inquiry instead of goodwill.


Corey Mertes

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“We still don’t have an explanation for it. Maybe some kids playing a prank. My daughter was terrified, as you can imagine; she’s hardly left her room since.” With that, he tipped his head back and to his left. The chef looked over his neighbor’s shoulder just in time to see a girl yank the red curtains shut in a second-floor window. That’s the whole story. Not much to it, really. The man did not tell the father then, nor ever, that his dog had dug up the rabbit and that it was he, the man, who believing his dog the killer and afraid of the consequences, had covered it up by returning the animal to its cage. The girl snapped out of her self-imposed hermitage in a few days. And yet who can say how much a narrow but intimate drama affects the lives of its players? Even a seemingly inconsequential disturbance may leave an unseen trace, invisible forensic evidence of a crime of the subconscious. No measurement has been invented like a tablespoon or a carafe to calculate the impact on our hearts and minds of a compressed and finite human sequence. That the man soon took rabbit off his menu, previously a favorite of his braised with bacon, tomato, and olives, may be a subconscious reaction to his late-night deceit or simply a reflection of the incident’s most unremarkable truth: everything gets old. That he also had been known previously for his embracement of the farm-to-table movement, for using humanely raised, hormone-free rabbits and poultry, and that his emphasis on that movement began to wane shortly after the misfortune, may likewise be pointed to as a product of either the truth or the lie—or neither. In two other restaurants he subsequently owned, one in that same city, the other on the East Coast, he would periodically add a rabbit dish to his offerings, but was no longer so particular about the animal’s upbringing. These were invariably temporary experiments; the item was always removed within a week or two at the most regardless of its popularity, for reasons he could not explain to his customers or himself. The effect of the episode on the girl was more complicated and severe because she was so much younger. Living so close now to the earth’s largest ocean she will occasionally walk to the strand and skip stones at the incoming foam—forcefully, as if to disturb the natural mechanics of life’s repeating currents. She never married. Her father died in a car wreck when she was eighteen. In her youth she developed a lifelong sensitivity to evidence of hidden powers, to what individually are referred to as superstitions, astrology, the occult, magic, but which may, in their composite


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effect on her, be better described as a propensity to read into things. She has read into the whistle of a midnight wind, for example, the voice of a reappearing spirit. To her the stars and the planets foretell, the palm is a predictor, accidents are not accidents at all. Into a chance encounter with a recent acquaintance she will mistakenly read the inevitability of a mutual fate. The common thread is not fear of the unknown, but the unknowable. There were times in her teenage years when she would ask herself and God what portion of whom she is, if any, she could trace directly to the circumstances concerning, for instance, the rabbit. The same question put later became to what extent each wave transforms the timeless sea, or is altered by the skipping of a stone. The only answer she ever receives is the melancholy approach of an indivisible tide. And so it is with the old man but in reverse, a continent away. His wife, who is much younger than he is, cares for him now as his body diminishes—not a piece at a time, a process he could understand and explain, but in a gradual reduction of the whole, like a desiccating fruit. In his home on the Cape he will sit with a blanket on his lap and watch game shows or stare out the window. He is also experiencing the first flashes of dementia. His mind is like a game of Wheel of Fortune on slow rewind, in which one at a time the letters of his life are hidden from him rather than revealed. Outside he may see a young girl walking home with a boy from her middle school class. He has seen it. He has seen them stop and kiss at the corner from which they go their separate ways home, seen the boy caress a loose strand of her hair and run off, leaving the girl aglow with the magic of her own and the world’s potential. Once after just such a kiss she saw the old man watching from his bedroom window. She was not embarrassed; she put a finger to her lips as if to secure his confidence, and he nodded in agreement. Later, when the dementia was worse, he would see the girl on the street or in her yard when he went on his walks and she would smile at him and wink, reaffirming their little secret. He would wink too but did not remember what the secret was or even that they had one. Instead, he wondered if the girl, flirtatious as she was, was much older than he imagined, and why the sight of her seemed to arouse him from a deep sleep, and why it always made him think about rabbit.


John F. Buckley

Damp Lazarus John F. Buckley Nineteen years my body lay mummified in the invertebrate water, the world spun numb. The shroud was a vacuumpacked bag, preparing me sous vide for the journey. Out of the poached lad came pink and gray salmon, came a fishy man. Everyone doing your job to greater acclaim is younger than you, they whispered. The lake was a circulator of lessons. On the beach, lightning blew glass tubes to cut the feet of the children. They cried in my inside voice. I dreamt of spiced peroxide and plastic bandages. I was a medicine cabinet, a cedar wardrobe. During recovery, I wore a robe in the shower. You can soak your reused wrappings in salubrious liquids. You can swaddle your limbs in a cavern, sitting on a stone near a greater stone blocking the doorway, or leave through the gap to play flag football on the sand, until sweat prunes your fingertips. w

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Poem with the Virgin Mary William Stobb Today’s figures don’t add up: degrees below too high, flocks above too low fighting northerlies back to Kansas where one town has a cherry for a water-tower, and so the Virgin appears there in the pattern of birds entering February’s mistake. It’s like this now: time to time she appears—tears of blood trickle down one of her stone cheeks or a store clerk pulls back his burrito foil and she’s there in the cheese and cilantro. This morning’s frost etcha-sketched a convent window with her countenance. Last week a quarterback’s stat line went biblical. Everything now seems a curtain you pull back and ta da! the Virgin Mary. Just lately I’ve been trying to flood an ice rink in my back yard. The hundred billion covalent bonds, though, struggle against this winter’s fizzle to spin a transition around their appointed points of immeasurable gravity and transsubstantiate themselves from liquid into a surface frozen solid enough for a peewee to practice his wrister. And while I spray the slush I drift and dream the Virgin Mary, her hands like a hockey official’s clasped thoughtfully behind her back skating deliberate figures in the sky. w


William Stobb

Green Apple William Stobb After listening to the soft extended news and sports update troubling with rape and baseball I switch over to whatever’s in this car cd player so as I roll up to this farmhouse restored as bed and breakfast where the organic fair houses guests this year. I’m bobbing my head to the ninja in the robot world song—yes I am baffled and a little beside myself when the woman who lives in the north rooms greets me with the scripted story of white oak lumbered from family acreage bricks won from river clay and one green apple picked from the orchard beyond the corn. What a brinks job this life can be. The spring pond spawns streams of revenue and hewn beams bend to brace the arc of wedding dance rental. But the way her eyes plead for me to still believe when she sees me notice the sticky spot on the apple skin…. I’m happy to have this room and can imagine

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what history I need in this old wooden bed, maybe made on the wedding day after the long journey from Norway and halfway across this continent where we settle, my people, and view the flooded quarry shimmer late summer we require this suspension in gleam before the plunge down sometimes to strike rock and bleeding kick back to the surface or deep to enter the cool place of cousins beyond familiar trajectories to finally fully feel this world’s authentic desperation to be known. w


William Stobb

Emoticon William Stobb Amidst overlapping pressures beneath a ridge in the mesosphere never forget the sadness of time is yours as much as anyone’s, ever. While a day’s flurries ventilate your heart put triumphant music on your personal device and feel how life’s a word you might text with ellipses to a boy in the past distance. And no matter what tragi-comedy’s elapsed —others orbited while cast in fire images passed across the surface of his face, a lake inside and you the high tern scanning— he might reply with one small smile. w

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Interview With Stephen Dunn Liv Lansdale with Gerry LaFemina Poets Liv Lansdale and Gerry LaFemina interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Stephen Dunn in June of 2013, in Frostburg, Maryland, where both Dunn and LaFemina have lived for a number of years. LL: I understand you and Gerry have engaged in a dialogue recently about irony. It’s easy to talk about why metaphor, allegory, and other literary devices are useful, but what about irony? Why do you concern yourself with it? SD: I don’t think any of it is easy, but when irony is used well, you see and hear the world doubly; it can be an inclusive device. Bad irony keeps the world and our response to it away from us; it’s a safety device. Good irony, it seems to me, gives us a sense of tonal multiplicity. It opens us up to possibilities. LL: You, typically, tend to resist your subject as you try to lay claim to it. Is an ironic stance in any way related to that? SD: Perhaps. I’m not sure. All I can say is that I try to be as aware as I can of contextual resonance. I don’t want to be a wise-guy ironist. That is, to lapse into sarcasm. I’d like to aspire to lines like “The only fault my husband found in me/was I went to sleep before I went to bed,” which Frost has the wife say in “The Witch of Coos,” or almost any moment in Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” LL: What does that add to the poems? SD: Well, for one, it serves the complexity of the subject. It takes us beyond mere cleverness. LL: Are there any subjects that you’ve always wanted to write about but have never been able to get around? SD: No. No, and I guess I don’t think that way. If there is an answer to that question, it would be working on more subjects that require length, greater development. I’ve written maybe five long poems, and I’d like to write at least a few more. In writing long poems, you have to think symphonically


Liv Lansdale with Gerry LaFemina

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as opposed to fugue-like. You have to have lots of variations. You encounter many more crossroads, and I’ve liked wrestling with and making those decisions to go here rather than there, which those crossroads necessitate. LL: Do you have colleagues whom you rely on for your own work, whose taste, as expressed in their own writing, doesn’t match yours? SD: No, I mostly show my poems to Larry Raab, who’s a poet who teaches at Williams and has five or six books. We’ve known one another for twentyfive years. And to Barbara, my wife. And occasionally to Jill Allyn Rosser. Do you know her? She’s the editor of the New Ohio Review? And now and then to Gerry and a few other people. But mostly to Larry, because of our long relationship, plus he’s very smart, and I can tolerate his severity because I know he has my true interests at heart. LL: I wanted to ask about brevity. Sometimes I try to explain to people who don’t read poetry why it might be worthwhile. I guess I’m talking about compression. Could you talk about that? SD: It was some years ago when I looked at my poems and realized I was a page, page-and-a-half guy. Which means I always started thinking of closure at the same time. I tried to defy that. It was revision by expansion rather than by paring. So I’d get to that point maybe fifteen or eighteen lines in where I’d normally think of closure, and I’d try to introduce a detail that the poem could not easily accommodate, that the imagination had to reach for, make a home for. And then there’s a brevity within that length, too. We can imagine even Whitman or Ginsburg leaving a lot out in order to achieve an effect they desired. You want tension and you want precision. In composing, sometimes you compress big things into smaller things. Sometimes you reduce thirty-two line poems to two-line poems, as Pound did “In a Station of the Metro.” Sometimes it will depend whether you compose by phrase or image, or by the sentence. I tend to move my poems along by the sentence. LL: Do you ever know the ending first? SD: I rarely know the ending, and I doubt that it’s useful to know it beforehand. You would hope to surprise yourself enough in the course of writing the poem that if you knew the ending beforehand, you’d have to change it. If I don’t surprise or startle myself early on in a poem, I know I’m not in it


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yet. From then on, what you do is always a compromise between what you think is your intention and the language and rhythms you’ve employed. Your choices get narrower and narrower. There’s usually more than one ending available to you, but there aren’t fifty. If you end where you thought you would, it’s likely you’ve discovered nothing, which means you’ve written a lousy poem. LL: Do you have notebooks of failed poems? SD: I do. They’re very good to borrow from, though. I take from them fairly regularly. LL: Are there poems you regret publishing? SD: Oh yes. And poems I shouldn’t have published because they weren’t sufficiently transformed, were too naked, or dull. LL: Do you regret publishing them out of concern for the reader, or out of concern for people involved in the confession? SD: You know, sometimes you think a subject is important to you, and that assumed importance keeps you from handling the poem in unexpected ways. I worry when I haven’t transformed my material. So there are a lot of lesser poems from the past that I’d like to hide. My surreal past especially, from the Seventies, when I was trying to be a little surrealist. I could imitate a good surreal poem rather well. It had nothing to do with how I saw the world, I was just good at it. And I look at those and think, Geez, that’s embarrassing. So my answer is, I don’t want to bore anybody, the reader, myself, and I don’t want to reveal aspects of my life that affect others for the sake of having a new poem. Yet if I can make it sufficiently into a fiction, then I might try to publish it. LL: Do certain books lend themselves to good poetry? For example, books of fiction or philosophy? SD: I consider very valuable my background in philosophy and history, as well as teaching fiction writing for thirty-five years in addition to poetry. It helps to know as much as you can, which also means knowing what you don’t know, which is most things. One thing I feel I do know: Many poets could profit by obeying the strictures of fiction.


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LL: Which are? SD: Essentially, let the reader know where the hell he is. You read a first paragraph and you almost always know where you are in a story, psychologically and/or physically. With my students’ poems, you don’t know where you are, what’s happening. I like to be as clear as possible without sacrificing complexity, mystery. A lot of people seemingly love what’s obscure because either they have nothing to say, or they confuse obscurity with mystery. They must be thinking, I’ll make this big verbal smokescreen and I’ll fool everybody. I like to let the reader into the mystery. LL: Would you say you’re a laissez-faire poet? SD: I don’t know about that. I say let the reader into the foyer of the house, then take him into strange rooms after that. But the reader needs to know where he or she is. Too many poets think their feelings are enough. I’m a poet who likes boundaries, living within them, and surmounting them. LL: It reminds me of a Robert Walser quote. Something along the lines of a good piece of writing feeling like a house, but where something unknown and terrible has happened. SD: Aha. That’s nice. LL: As for your early life, you said in one interview you didn’t take yourself seriously as a writer until your late twenties. What gave you the confidence to do so? How do you reconcile being an ironist while taking yourself seriously? SD: Oh, I don’t think of myself as an ironist. I was more clever than ironic back then. I think my early gift was for cleverness, which I could always use to get someone interested in something. And the danger of that was a lack of depth. I’d send work to my teacher, Philip Booth, and he’d write in the margin, “Deepen your concerns!,” big exclamation point, and I understood that. He knew what was facile in my work, what I could do easily - a kind of cheap irony that I had to learn to transcend. The truth is I wanted to take myself seriously, but for a long time, with some exceptions, I was writing other people’s poems, poems out of my education. By the time I was in my late thirties, I began writing my own poems. I was writing more discursively than any of my teachers. Until my late thirties I wouldn’t even say I was a poet. I’d say I wrote poetry. It was easy for me to


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say I was a poet at around forty. Until then it felt like I was falsifying. Even though I had two or three books out in my thirties. GL: What changed? SD: I think it was the book Work And Love in particular, maybe a couple poems from the book that preceded it, A Circus Of Needs. They felt like real poems, sufficiently mine, and there was a sense that I could do it again, maybe. LL: Who are you reading right now? SD: The wonderful Szymborska. And do you know Elaine Terranova? I met her in 1975 in Breadloaf. She was a student then, I was a fellow. Nice woman. Her last book is especially terrific. She’s very good, and somehow became very good, and I can’t figure out what the change was. Something related to deepening of subject. Then of course the poets I go back to: Stevens, Frost, Roethke. I read them fairly frequently. Alicia Ostriker’s book, also, Book of Seventy, is one of the best books I’ve read about aging that I know. For some reason I’m interested. I don’t know why. (Joke.) She knocked me out. B.H. Fairchild, do you know him? He has a poem called “Beauty,” about growing up in the Midwest. His father owned a machine shop and he was surrounded by men who were experts, but not concerned with poetry at all. Fairchild writes about discovering beauty, and daring to use he word. Gorgeous poem. Tony Hoagland. Russell Edson. Mark Halladay. Poets like that who are marvelously funny and trip into seriousness in a flash. LL: A good goal for a writer, no? To make the mundane strange. SD: I think so. But better to be true to your sense of things, and not force the issue. Stevens says the great problem for the writer is the problem of the normal. It takes every bit of our imagination just to be barely equal to the normal. GL: May I interject a question? You mention Terranova’s becoming a poet of note somehow, and about recognizing when you were writing real poems. What makes a poet a poet? What makes a “real” poem? SD: That’s one of the great questions, and I think there are all kinds of answers to it, just as there are many ways to make real poems. For me, it’s writing toward what I don’t know, and finding a form for it, something to


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hold it in place. I find myself regularly in the act of revision, which is mostly in the act of problem-solving. When you’re writing your poem, starting out, everything is possible. Then you’re restricted by the language you use, and its sonics. So by the fifteenth or eighteenth line, you are really restricted, and all the things that were open to you, the whole world at the beginning, are now considerably narrowed. I like working within those confines, and finding the next thing after that. And it often occurs from being excited by and developing the language already inherent in the poem rather than anything I wanted to say in the beginning. Or probably the truth is, it’s a compromise between what I wanted to say and what the language will let me say. So that’s the kind of inspiration that interests me. And when everything is clicking, you may have yourself something authentic. LL: So imagination is an important element in poetry? I’m used to an assumption that fiction is the genre that requires the most imagination. SD: Really? I think not. I think Stevens’s essays on the imagination and its connection to the real are among the best that have ever been written, along with Coleridge’s. They’re just fabulous. And his poems are models of the melding of the two as well. I was happy to understand Stevens precognitively for a while. I didn’t need to know what his poems “meant.” I was pleased to be in the presence of those rhythms, those textures. But the essays on the imagination and the real are great. One of the claims which I hold dear from his book The Necessary Angel is that the imagination must adhere to the real. He uses Pegasus as one example as something fabulous that flies through the air, that doesn’t exist, but language allows you to entertain it as a possibility. He acknowledges that as a contribution to what can be, but says its maximum impact will occur upon first reading. Its equivalent is Coleridge’s notion of fancy. The imagination, on the other hand, is superior in that it crystallizes the real, and makes things cohere. It repays re-readings because of how it adheres to what’s real. The real and the imagination fuse at some point. I’ll read you a new poem, in fact. I don’t know if it’s about that, but let’s see. Do you know Spencer Reese? He worked for Brooks Brothers until he was 40 or so, and didn’t publish until a year or two later. A very interesting poet. We were at MacDowell together two years ago. One evening he showed me a long poem he was working on, which was about Hartford (where he grew up), his mother, and Wallace Stevens. In a few days, I’d be going home, and


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he’d be off to Spain, where he would be ordained as an Anglican priest. I liked Spencer a lot, and I liked his poem too, but I knew something about Stevens that he didn’t know, and knew, if I told him, it would further complicate his poem. It was Stevens’s declaration that “the poet should never yield to the priest.” It resulted in a few changes. I think his poem was the better for those changes. But his poem and that evening helped me, too. The result was perhaps the most ecumenical poem I’ve ever written, which I wrote the next day. IF THE POET If the poet doesn’t yield to the priest, as Stevens says he shouldn’t, and if both reside in the same village, and call on their powers to rectify or explain the latest disaster, does the priest become less persuasive because his ideas are likely not his own, and is the poet suspect for the same reason? Would a good priest find the right words, as the good poet would, in among the many words passed down for centuries on what to think, what to believe? Or would Stevens say reverence will always get in the way of the true, thus possibly giving the poet the edge? That is, if the poet mistrusts words, as he should, makes them pass hard tests, knows they must be arranged and shaped in order to convey even a smidgen of truth, wouldn’t he be more reliable, although self-ordained? But what if the villagers believed they were saved by a prayer the priest said one Sunday among the ruins? And all the poet could do was magnificently describe the ruins?


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Would the real and the imagined fuse as Stevens wished, become something new? And what if the poet and priest were one, each invoking the other as the crops grew and rain was steady in rainy season, or, just as confusing, things got worse and prayers proved useless, and poems merely decorated the debris where a house once was? Would it be time for the priest to admit he’d only read one book? For the poet to say he’d read many, and look, it hasn’t helped? Or has the issue from the start been a great need that can’t be fully met, only made bearable and sometimes served by those who try? I couldn’t have written that without my discussion with Spencer. I think the poem becomes a truer poem because of that discussion we had. GL: You start many poems with the conditional: “If a poet,” “If a clown.” It establishes the imaginative sensibility immediately; we have to follow the speaker’s imagination. But it creates, simultaneously, the limitations you were talking about with language by establishing that purely singular conditional moment. Can you talk about that gesture a little? SD: In the clown poem you’re talking about, I at first wrote it without any ifs, and it seemed only successful, by which I mean it told a pretty good story. But the ifs gave it more possibilities. If this, then maybe not this. The ifs opened up a whole area that would not otherwise be available. Here’s another, which along with “If the Poet” will be in my new book Lines Of Defense. FEATHERS If a lone feather fell from the sky, like a paper plane wafting down from a tree house where a quiet boy has been known to hide, you might think message or perhaps mischief, not just some mid-air


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molting of a bird. But what if many feathers fell from a place seemingly higher than any boy could ever climb, beyond the top of Savage Mountain and obscured by clouds, what might you think then? A flock of birds smithereened by hunters? By a jet? And let’s say the feathers were large and grayish, some of them bloody, with signs of tendon and muscle broken off, would you worry about a resurgence of enormous raptors only the Air Force knew about, and had decided to destroy? For years now you’d heard rumors of homeless gods in the vast emptiness. And if they’d appear in your dreams, as they sometimes did, begging to be believed in once again, you’d feel this icy refusal hardening in you. And when you woke you’d feel it, too. Your better self wished to believe the feathers signaled a parade, an occasion of a triumph, and what was falling might be a new kind of confetti, but what was there to celebrate? Was the world, as you knew it, simply over, no more rain or snow? Would there always be just this strange heaviness coming down, covering what used to be the ground? I think if I turn any of those ifs into statements, it becomes a little preachy, becomes another kind of poem. The ifs allow the claims to be provisional, tentative. They become propositions rather than certainties. Easier for me to entertain things that otherwise couldn’t be entertained, or keep me from sounding pedantic. But I don’t want to be a total if guy! It can become a schtick. It has to feel like a legitimate if.


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GL: There’s a whole movement recently of the book as project. James Harms’s Quarters, for instance, in which a quarter appears in every poem. I think of Marvin Bell’s Dead Man poems. The first book is interesting, but the second is just redundant. It’s a good temptation to avoid. SD: I have about four of these “if ” poems. But those are the two best, the ones I just read you. The one was in the last issue of The Paris Review and the other is in Parnassus, and, as I said, both will be in my new book. LL: Earlier you mentioned “deepening your concerns.” In a former interview you describe a bad poem as one lacking abstraction. When I think “deeper concerns,” I think of topics that are not abstract at all, and so I think of “shallow” poetry as poems that fool around with nothing but abstractions. So when you say you need a sense of abstraction, how do you define that? SD: Well, I wonder if I said it that way. But I’ve often tried to get away with abstract claims. One of the pleasures of abstraction for me was violating my education. You weren’t supposed to have abstraction, you know. It’s a bad word in the workshop world, and for good reason. When used by fledgling poets (who perhaps don’t know much about the history of ideas), to be abstract is often to be naïve. I’ve counseled many a student to avoid it. But what abstraction simply means to me is finding the essence of what you’re talking about and indicating it some way. LL: Counter-intuitive. SD: Yeah. Well in workshops, we learn to be imagists, to avoid abstraction, to work through the details of the physical world, and too many poems for me just stay in that realm. One of my faults, one of the reasons I couldn’t write the novel well that I went to Spain to write, was that I wanted essence before scene. I couldn’t write a scene without having it mean something. LL: The characters became Idea Pawns? SD: Well the main character was me, and I didn’t care about the other characters. Typical bad first novel. LL: Did it strengthen your poetry? SD: I couldn’t say because I had no idea what I was doing then.


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LL: In any genre? SD: I don’t know. In 1967 I quit my high-paying corporate job and went to Spain for a year to see if I could write. I was trying to save myself, really. I had a little ability and was testing just how little or big that was. LL: You were afraid of becoming like the men you were working with? SD: Yes. LL: Does that fear ever come back, among writers? Do you feel like your voice’s distinction is waning? SD: I haven’t worried about that in a long time, but I think I did worry about it early, probably when I didn’t have anything that resembled a voice. If anything, my sense of having a voice is gaining. Distinctive is another matter, for others, not you yourself to say. The poets that we remember are the poets who have individuated themselves in some special way. We always know what an Eliot poem sounds like, a Stevens poem, a Frost. The content almost is irrelevant; we’re reading them. One of the things I’ve learned is that if you live long enough, you’ve done everything, or imagined it, and it’s only the handling of subject matter that separates you from anybody else. Subject matter belongs to all of us.

“If the Poet” was previously published in Parnassus: Poetry in Review; 2013, Vol. 33 Issue 1/2 “Feathers” was previously published in The Paris Review No. 204, Spring 2013

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Storyteller’s Tent Photograph by Leah Vinluan


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A Cabicokon Dictionary After Joanna Hoffman Regie Cabico :) i just had a pot brownie. i got a gig teaching theater to 8th graders. guy @ bar said i was special. i bought new underwear. :( i’m so stoned, i stumbled to the metro. stared at the rat in the trash can. 8th graders are incapable of expressing an emotional state of being. guy did not text me. i’m out of clean underwear. ;) i’m into ass play too. i have 1 contact lens on. i’m wearing my expensive underwear. can you put me on the guest list? i'm not wearing underwear. :/ i’m patti lupone in gypsy. my check did not arrive. hot guy fell asleep with his finger up my asshole. he still hasn’t called. i’m not wearing underwear. . you just can’t play with my emotikons like that. this phone is shit. silent cyclops. i’m broke. i want to curl into a tiny pixel. w


Kelli Allen

When He Leaves Kelli Allen The stamp on the back of her hand has faded the same way a favorite tree stump stays against some remembrance of childhood we no longer attempt to name. When the ink was fresh, it was a simple possibility of a bluish shark, lines a-fuzz, teeth obscured, the cartoon bubbliness of a shape made to exorcise fear, to produce momentary joy. For her, the image marked time spent with her father after one morning chasing mottled geese, grey as January, through the only park she knows this well. She asks for balloons, a bouquet to affirm light, and she is gifted both the blossoms of thin color and a single pale stamp from a vendor charmed into stooping low and adoring her pale, pale skin. So, it tastes like something, this moment before I let the words leave my mouth. Not quite bitter, or pungent the way she and I both love dark olives, pits intact, hard reminders. No, it tastes like softness, as when bread goes beyond staleness into the waiting for greens and acceptance of being covered, lost completely, transformed. w

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French Doors Talia Carner The realtor leaned his elbows on the kitchen counter, seemingly more comfortable than she in this vacation home. “What’s the price you have in mind?” he asked. “You’re the Vermont expert.” She busied herself with the tea preparation, as if turning on the dial on the stovetop and setting a kettle of water to boil precluded speaking. “Tell me about the house,” he said. She glanced at the scratched blue Formica. How could she explain what the house had meant to her before her life was hurled into a spin— twice? Nine years had passed since she last visited this house in the ski resort. And it had been only sixteen months since Eddie was no more. Renée had resisted making the four-hour drive from New York, but she had to sell this house; the accident had left her with infinite loose ends— and mounting bills. Today, with the ski season nearing, she finally drove into town in a November drizzle. She slowed down to capture the old feel of the familiar. But the grocery store that used to smell of cinnamon-spiked hot cider and freshly baked buttery rolls now looked pathetic behind its dusty windows, battle worn from its struggle against the new supermarket just a block past it. The broker had sounded pleasant enough over the phone. Burt Reynolds, “not the actor,” he quipped, but his baritone voice carried a star quality. She hoped that in spite of tough economic times, he’d sell the house soon. Ever since her kids were old enough to prefer a once-in-a-season trip to Colorado over twice monthly drives to Vermont, she and Eddie rented out the house. The children’s choice had given her respite from the vision of that one night, nine years earlier. She shoved the thought away. Today would be her last visit there. Afterwards, the house would be the broker’s responsibility. Even the sweetest memories hurt. Renée glimpsed the strings of Christmas lights already crisscrossing the commercial street, promising a festive winter to come weeks before the snow season. She crossed the stone bridge straddling a creek whose name had never registered with her. The red barn converted to a restaurant overlooked the creek’s dancing cascades, now cheerless in the rain, but she remembered it jubilant in winter


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when the water broke through the ice crust. The restaurant had been run by a fat German beermeister and was Eddie’s favorite for romantic dinners. She was now startled to see the side of the barn gaping with a large new window under a flashing sign, Friendly’s. Life went on here without her. She drove on, not stopping in the town she used to love. Ten minutes later, at the foot of the ski mountain, she parked in front of the house. She turned off the ignition and put her head on the steering wheel, dreading the memories washing over her, yet nostalgic for her children’s happy days there. In the mud room, where her children once threw their snow boots and mittens and Eddie stomped his feet before dragging snow inside anyway, Renée hung her faux-fur coat over one of the few pegs that remained in the pinewood runner. She passed her fingers through her short hair to fluff her curls. Only the Scrabble game remained perched over a row of now-empty cubbyholes; its oversized square box never fitted into a cabinet. Eddie had been a fierce Scrabble competitor--even with the children, he played to win. She merely enjoyed the brain challenge. The living room smelled of cats, or perhaps something dead, surprising her. Eddie used to come up occasionally to check on the tenants, and a caretaker repaired whatever needed fixing. But then again, she couldn’t recall any invoices or hearing from the man these past sixteen months. What was his name? She had no idea how to contact him. Anyway, her todo list of new responsibilities lay on her shoulders like a lead cape. When the health and life of her young patients required all her attention, taking care of the mundane became even more superfluous. The realtor would be here soon. Renée checked the kitchen. Her old kettle was dented, but still on the stove. The mugs in the cabinet remained from the first set she and Eddie had bought when they got married—a blue print of an idyllic Swiss landscape. She fished in her purse for a teabag she always carried just in case a restaurant didn’t serve her preferred nocaffeine raspberry flavor. She walked over to the picture window to wait for the water to boil. This was the moment she had dreaded. Looking outside, she suppressed the unpleasant vision of herself crouching in the snow, looking into the spa room, now to her left. The turmoil of that night was about to seize her, and she forced herself to replace it with pictures of her then school-age children—a boy sandwiched by two


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girls—sledding down the hill toward her. Just in front of this deck, they’d hit a snowdrift and tumbled over in a heap, laughing. How many evenings, over the years, had she watched those happy faces, listened to the bell-like laughter, waited for them to come in and strip down to their long johns, then curl in front of the crackling fireplace to drink hot cocoa? How many times had Eddie stood here by her side, sharing the delight of observing their children, his arm around her waist, squeezing her closer, planting a kiss on her ear, nuzzling her neck, while she let herself melt into him with the promise of later? She was glad the realtor arrived early; she couldn’t bear walking through the rooms by herself. Burt Reynolds did not wear the toupee she long associated with the actor, though his brown hair, just full enough, barely covered his pate. She handed him her business card to let him know she was a pediatrician, that he should not be fooled by her small frame or think of her as a naïve homemaker he could swindle. His smile flashed a set of laminates. He wore a red flannel plaid shirt, as if vacillating between playing the actor or the hunter. Of course, this pessimism was all in her head. She anticipated that he’d find faults with the house, preparing her to unload the place cheaply. From the dining area side of the breakfast counter she watched him open the cabinet under the sink and root among only-God–knew-what accumulation. She would not defend the sorry state of the place. Damn Eddie. He’d promised that everything would be taken care of. Instead, he had let deteriorate the investment she so needed to liquidate. “My husband and I bought this house about twenty years ago. This was one of the first private-home condominiums around here—” She stopped. “But you know this area.” “Yes, ma’am. Did you make any improvements?” She pointed up at the open gallery two stories above. “We finished the loft for the children and their friends and even installed another full bathroom.” She regretted not knowing the condition of the rooms. “We also put more shelves in the closets, added a tub in the bathroom on the main floor—” He glanced out the kitchen window. “Get any flying balls?” “What?” She followed his gaze and caught the edge of a golf course. Why hadn’t her chatty Eddie mentioned a new golf course? She would have come up here in summer to play on her rare days off. “Of course not,” she managed to say.


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Burt Reynolds nodded toward the door to the left of the fireplace. “The spa room. Is that the original Jacuzzi?” The fine hairs on Renée's arms rose. She hugged herself. “I — I haven’t checked it yet. Maybe. I really don’t know—” He smiled. “Let’s take a look.” But she didn’t follow him in. His silhouette passed through the glass pane to the right of the fireplace, and beyond it, the double French doors that led out. When the children were still young enough to be sent to bed early, she and Eddie immersed in the hot tub and watched the mound of snow beyond the condensation on the glass. He liked to open the outside doors, and the steam crystallized into ice on the stubble he hadn’t shaved on the days he skied. But when his touches in the hot water became more urgent, demanding, she insisted he shut the door again. Hot and cold together unsettled her. Those damn French doors became the witnesses to the undoing of her marriage. “What do you say we give the rest of the place a walk-through?” Burt Reynolds said when he returned to the living room. She wrapped her palms around the tea mug she still nursed. “The house has been rented for years.” She noted the catch in her voice as she registered the fraying of the arms of the sofa. She lifted a rolled burgundy canvas off the carpet and shook it loose. It was an unfamiliar slipcover. Burt Reynolds caught its other side and helped her throw it on the couch. She didn’t remember that the carpet had flecks of burgundy until the slipcover now picked it up. “This shows better for prospective buyers,” he said. “Don’t you think?” She followed his gaze as he looked toward the skylights set in the paneled cathedral ceiling that gave the room its spaciousness, and she recalled brilliant days with the sun both beating from the ceiling and reflecting from the snow through the windows. Her glance returned to the burgundy sofa. Eddie had no clue about matching colors. Who was the renter? “We’ve had some great snow seasons the last few years,” Burt Reynolds said. She shrugged. Once her children had turned teenagers and expert skiers, they complained that the packed snow turned icy, that the longest moguled trails here were no match to the vast bowls of Vail’s valleys. Belittling Vermont skiing would be a personal affront to Burt Reynolds, but also to her; she still felt protective toward the mountain even if her own house caused her to shrink internally.


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She followed the man up the stairs. The old carpeting selected at a local store for its durability had held surprisingly well, but a large stain appeared on the wall in the middle landing. He looked up at the skylight, and, following his glance, she could see the water leak, sliding down the wall, and reappearing in the carpet as grayish mold. She also noticed as Reynolds’s gaze traveling to her family’s photo hung over the landing. The children already in their teens--her son taller than she--their ski parkas splashed with red, turquoise, orange and blue. All five family members choreographed a semi-circle, the tips of their skis touching. When the photo was taken, she already knew. She had seen Eddie in the Jacuzzi with a woman whose dripping hair brushed back by water shone with blond highlights. Eddie. Her Eddie! How could he? He was supposed to be on a business trip to San Diego. Or San Francisco. Or was it San Antonio? When Renée’s on-call duty changed unexpectedly, she left the children with her mother for the weekend and drove up to relax here. At the moment she smiled into the camera that took this photograph, the image of the laughing couple in the Jacuzzi pulsated in her head. The light from the dozen candles breaking through the steam imprinted a vision that popped behind Renée’s eyes during the countless family dinners and during days and weeks of vacationing together. The children basked in the comfort of a stable home life. Her last nine years with Eddie would have turned out differently had she had the courage that fateful night to come out of the shadows. Instead, she stole away like a thief, so belittled, so scared to face what it all meant, so hurt that she wished Eddie had stabbed her with a knife rather than inflict that unbearable pain. Never making her presence known, she had driven away, scheming to change the locks on him. But once back home, she became concerned about the effects of a scene in front of the children. How could she destroy their world as he’d just destroyed hers? Eddie must have regretted his single transgression. When he returned home two days later, eager and loving, he lifted her off the floor in his hug. She wriggled away while he, as energetic as ever, chattered about colleagues and gardening projects and football. She stared at him with incredulity, then turned away. She needed to steel herself for the confrontation—and its inevitable results. Divorce. She did not want to. Not for herself, not for the kids. She couldn’t live with him either. Ever. How could she divorce the man her soul craved to own?


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“What’s the matter?” he asked, and she explained her puffy face with the death of a patient. He had kissed her tears, cornered her in the kitchen, and lifted her on the counter, pressing against her— The realtor obviously sensed her cloud of grief and let out a soft sigh, his eyes still on the photograph. “Sad, isn’t it? Kids always grow up.” She inserted a light tone into her voice. “I’m sure you see the same picture in every house around here. They’re all interchangeable.” “You could say the same thing about these condos.” He walked up the last flight of steps and stopped at the top landing, eyeing her. “People—we all—are our stories, and they are never the same.” From below, the smell of ashes left in the fireplace for too long wafted up. She removed the photograph and leaned it against the wall to be picked up on her way down. They climbed to the loft. Mattresses removed, bed frames dismantled and stacked against the low wall under the pitched roof. In the center of the blue carpet gaped a big black stain. She crouched next to it. “What could that be?” “Fire.” “What!” “Cooking grill?” She noticed the soot on the ceiling. “What would a burning grill be doing up here?” “Hippies singing ‘Kumbaya’?” She flattened the curl behind her ear as Burt Reynolds rattled off cases of uninvited guests who made use of unoccupied homes during ski season. “Hotel rooms get expensive.” “But we hired a caretaker.” Renée’s tone grew heated. Hearing of Eddie’s accident, the handyman probably rented out her house to groupies—and kept her money. Burt Reynolds flipped the light switch; the overhead light came to life. The guest bedrooms matched the loft. The tangled cords of the blinds locked them forever lopsided; the carpet looked shabby under a coat of dust and unidentified stains. “Who were the renters? I never saw this property listed on the rental market.” “My husband mentioned it was the same family every year—” Renée clamped on her words. Her emotions reeled with new apprehensions. What had Eddie been up to? When Burt Reynolds entered the master bedroom, she stopped at the threshold. The whitewashed walls absorbed the hue of the bottle-green


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quilted bedspread and matching pillows—not the pastel one she had once purchased for this room. Valances of the same fabric hung over the windows. Some splashy abstract she never would have bought hung on the wall. The care given to this room was incongruous with the neglect of the other bedrooms. A family—even of renters—didn’t live this way. Renée took a tentative step toward the walk-in closet. Its door stood ajar. Both inside and outside their bedroom, Eddie had never stopped being affectionate. He often followed her into this closet and whispered loving words in her ears. At a restaurant, he’d hook his gaze into her shirt opening as if her cleavage was a revelation. No woman she knew was desired so; most lived a lifetime without knowing adoration like Eddie’s. That’s why, with every passing week filled with his attention softened Renée's resolve to pop the bubble of poison wrapping their marriage. She managed to go through the first month, then another, until the years dulled her ache. Eddie's love felt real. It was real. Yet— She swiveled on her heel so fast, the swoosh of air rushed through her cable-knit sweater. “I’ll wait downstairs.” Pain suddenly flooded her. Could her life have been just a lie? She pulled one of the dining room chairs to the back deck and sat curled up in her coat under the overhang. The rain gurgled in the leader and washed down in small rivulets that grooved the earth. She closed her eyes and let the new suspicions crystallize into a lump in her guts. Pulling over another chair, Burt Reynolds startled her. She jerked her head. “Sorry.” She swallowed hard. “I once saw two bear cubs climbing up there.” She pointed at one of the larger pines at the edge of the cut grass. “I ran inside before their mother arrived with wrong notions about my intention.” “Mothers are a breed apart.” Including protecting their young by pretending not to know. She rose to her feet. “Would you like tea?” “No thanks. I’m good listening to the rain.” She’d forgotten the silence that accompanied nature’s symphony. “I’ll reheat the kettle anyway.” “I checked the crawl space,” he called through the open door. “You’ve got a trove of goodies there.” She thought of the stench of a dead animal she had first suspected, but that smell had dissipated. Perhaps the house simply needed airing. “What kind of goodies?” She lit the stovetop before stepping back to the door.


Talia Carner

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“A magnificent set of ram’s horns, an antique sled, some great handblown glass vases, a boxed silver tea set—” “Weird.” She processed the information in her head, refusing to accept the conclusion. These were a decorator’s kind of tzatskes. “How long have you’ve lived here?” she asked, attempting to stall the inevitable. “Born and raised. Was a farm boy, but real estate’s better. No dawn milking, and there’s nice people like you.” “We just come and go.” “Some come often enough.” A perceptible shoulder shrug indicated his contentment. “Want me to haul up the stuff ?” She shook her head. Her mouth felt dry. The woman with Eddie in the car accident was the interior decorator he’d hired to redo his office ten years before. She was with him on Route 91 heading north when that truck hit Eddie’s car from the rear and sent it flying onto oncoming traffic. People guessed he was redoing their Vermont house. Renée suspected otherwise. For weeks, she took out the newspaper clipping of the woman’s obituary and stared at the smiling face framed by hair highlighted with blond streaks. Was she prettier? Though the woman in the picture resembled the woman imprinted on Renée’s mind since the night of the Jacuzzi, the wet hair left her forever skeptical. Now she knew for sure. For almost a decade, Eddie’s heart and time had been divided between two women. This affair wasn’t a single transgression. Eddie did not have two passing flings ten years apart. No, he had loved another woman all that time. She probably accompanied him on all his business travels when Renée was indisposed by obligations to their children and to her young patients. In his lively, profuse way, Eddie had chatted with that woman about his work and shared with her his awe of the world’s sights and sounds. His skin touched that other woman’s skin until it had become as familiar as his own. How was it possible? Yet the facts glared at Renée. “Are you in a rush to sell?” Burt Reynolds asked, shaking her out of her misery. “What?” “Is time a factor?” “What’s the going rate in this condominium complex?” She hated that her voice sounded suddenly feeble. “I want to sell as soon as possible.” “The house doesn’t show as well as it could. Needs to be stripped down, repainted. The only good stuff is in the master bedroom. But if you don’t need those antiques in the crawl space, they can pay to fix up the leak and replace the carpets.”


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“How do you know the value of that stuff ?” For all Renée knew, he’d just lure her to spend money she was unable to spare. “Helping at my wife’s antique store.” He paused and smiled. “But you shouldn’t take my word on things I may buy from you.” He could have removed them all without her knowledge, stealing from her like her Eddie had stolen her trust, her life, their shared memories. How could she ever trust anyone again? But she needed every extra dollar she could squeeze out. “How about an even exchange? You take all the stuff, and in turn, spruce up the place.” “Fair enough.” “Can you have it ready before the ski season?” “That’s four weeks away.” She nodded. “I can’t afford to wait.” Forever hospitalized, Eddie's smashed head would never be capable of processing language, thought or feeling. Diapered, tube-fed and massaged by private nurses, his keep fastdepleted Renée’s resources. “How much can we get?” Burt Reynolds looked at the rain. “Depends on snow fall.” Her stomach growled. She had missed lunch. “Tell you what,” he said. “You know Wayne’s Bistro? Best New England clam chowder in Vermont and beyond. Right next to my office. How about you come see me after you eat.” “Okay.” She managed a meek smile. She missed the feel of being cared for in little ways. How pathetic it was to accept kindness from a man who might undersell her most valuable asset in order to collect a fast commission. He dragged both chairs inside. She slid the door closed and bolted it. “Want me to carry in your suitcase?” “No, I’ll check into The Inn.” To hell with the cost. She and Eddie had frequented the restaurant at The Inn for special celebrations. To hell with him. If Eddie of today wasn’t the man she had known, neither was Eddie of yesterday. “Give me an hour.” Choking on tears, she almost pushed the realtor out the door, as if an hour was all she needed to grasp the finality of the facts. Renters! There had never been any; Eddie had lied to ensure that she‘d never come up and catch him. The house had been his love nest. His decorator lover made the bedroom her own and even stored her merchandise in the crawl space. She must have acquired clients in the area. Burt Reynolds must have known her—the accident was surely local news—but he hadn’t made the connection to this house, to Renée. Or maybe he had?


Talia Carner

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She stood watching the ski mountain, its still-brown trails like the wrinkles of a discarded woman. Tears streamed down her cheeks. What was the truth of her life, the truth of her marriage? How much of her children’s growing up happiness was true? No more fudging and self-deluding. Renée walked upstairs to the master bedroom, stepped to the closet, and threw open the door. Below the shelf with a few neatly folded sweaters hung a woman’s greenish robe, silk with a terrycloth lining. And Eddie’s old plaid one. He loved two women, perhaps equally, taking nothing from one to give to the other. Yet he stole from Renée the truth of who she was—with him and for him. He never presented her with the choice. What if she had confronted him? Would he have ended the affair, or might he have chosen the other woman? Renée kicked the door so hard, the frame cracked and dislodged. Damn you, Eddie. Locking the house behind her, she walked in the rain toward her car. She would sign the papers to sell the place, but not to pay for Eddie’s keep. She would never visit him again. The money would be for herself, a cruise perhaps. She would even divorce him to shelter her assets against whatever the state would provide Eddie. He would have to live--and eventually die-with the consequences of his betrayal, even if he never regained the mental capacity to grasp what he had brought upon himself. For a fleeting moment, thoughts of her children crossed her mind— and whether they’d pick up the slack of her neglect. But Eddie would not rope her any further. No more sacrifice. She had protected her children when it counted most. Back in town, Renée parked in front of what used to be her favorite bookstore with its array of locally grown health food interspersed with fine literature bound in no-frill, monochrome covers. She had enjoyed chatting with the owner, an old woman who avoided pseudo-spiritual New Age ideologies, often the staples of shops of this kind. Renée liked to leave with an unknown book, nursing the illusion of discovery. For the length of her reading, the intimate journey with the author would be hers alone. But the old woman was gone, and the charm stripped away as the quaint shop had become a run-of-the-mill bookstore. Renée picked off the front table a science fiction novel whose titillating cover offered a distraction into a world where stellar betrayal was not personal. Back outside, she scanned the street beneath the drizzle, the shimmering asphalt reflecting the strings of colored lights. It looked the same as it had two decades earlier, except that there was much more of everything:


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souvenir shops selling hand-crafted knits, wall hangings, ceramics, and wood carvings, and then more shops stocked with Vermont cheese, maple syrup, homemade preservatives and chocolate fudge. And the woman taking it all in was different from the one of twenty years before, or nine—or even sixteen months earlier. She entered Wayne’s Bistro for the best clam chowder in New England.


Jean Monahan

A Tower of Morning Glories Jean Monahan You have to save yourself. A blue face in every window looking out. Climb down the green dark. Let your blue skirt break your fall. Some dangle upside-down. Some wait for you on the ground. w

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My Neighbor Never Harvests His Concord Grapes Jean Monahan This is the sharp thirst some taste all their lives. This is the last sweetness. So Aesop’s Fox imagined perfection’s ripe shape would drop at Desire’s command. Regret and joy join on the vine, where we drink them in with nose and eye before something like a song begins on the tongue. w


Daniela Gioseffi

The Creature Daniela Gioseffi She was thrilled once in the beginning when she was the first to have a life come from her, but she has sulked ever since, because she can’t have the moon glowing in her pocket. He was surprised once in the beginning when his was the first life, but he’s sulked ever since, because he can’t have the sun burning in his palm. And, oh, how the birds sing to them each dawn, making exquisite promises that the day will be exquisite, but the day is never as exquisite as the birds’ songs. The tree of happiness blooms only once and the bloom doesn’t stay long, but the tree of knowledge gives out blossoms endlessly so that the complete sum of its essence can never be known. These two trees bloom side by side on the hilltop and never allow their branches to intertwine. They define nothing but their own silhouette against the evening’s calm. A language was perfected and once perfected was no longer understood. And so, the language was undone, shattered out of sense, because they never got anywhere by thinking, but only by emptying their minds could they love. This is the paradox they were left with just before the animals took over being better at living the kind of lives all their efforts at civilization, in vain pursuit of perfect happiness, had kept them from.

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The giraffes, peacocks, tigers, lambs, ducks, horses, pigs and geese on Noah’s Ark never worried about the two trees sinking on the hilltop. They just thrived aboard the ship that Noah forever pondered against the flood. w


Trisha Cowen

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The Great Barrier Reef Trisha Cowen “Come home,” my mother pleaded into the telephone. The urgency in her voice cut through both land and ocean. “It’s time you met your father.” I had stopped believing, many years ago, that this day would come. My mother had told me stories of my father, but they were always closer to myths or tall tales than anything I could hold on to. As an adult, I had come to the disappointing conclusion that my mother probably didn’t even know who my father was. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have had to make up fantastical stories about how my father was a medicine man, how he could speak to animals, how a kangaroo showed him where to find lost things in dreams, how he once jumped from a mountain and lived. My mother was the most unreliable narrator I knew, but she was my only connection, my only link, to the family that came before me. A whole history was lost in her misaligned synapses, a history that I wanted but knew to stop hoping for. When I was a child, I thought Xin, my mother’s husband, was my father. During year three at school, I learned that yellow and ivory couldn’t make brown. My friends held their white arms against mine and told me I looked a little blackfella, like the aboriginal children who lived in church missions close by. They were interested in them only because their parents told them to stay away from wild influences. Other classmates wanted to know why I didn’t have slanted eyes or a tiny nose or black, straight hair like Xin. When I asked my mother why I didn’t look like my father, she called me a silly, silly girl and bopped me on the head with an oven mitt. She went on cooking dinner, a poor fish with dead eyes still inside his head, while laughing. From the other room, I heard her chuckle, ‘Her father!’ Then, she broke down into hysterics, hiding her face in the train of her apron. She laughed and laughed until she cried. “It’s a bad time, Mum,” I said, holding the phone away from my ear to ignore the static, which reminded me just how far away I was. “I’ve just had the discovery of my career. National Geographic is coming to the lab to interview me and Zahi next week.” “Please, just get on a plane,” she said. I imagined her wrapping the long beige phone cord around her arm until her circulation slowed. Sometimes, after a phone conversation that agitated her, I would have to unwind the cord, this way and that, to set her free. I wondered who set her free now.


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“I can come next month.” “He’s sick, Roberta.” “This is a once in a lifetime thing.” “What he has to tell you can’t be unlocked by reading some DFA sequence, or whatever nonsense, after he’s gone.” “DNA. God, after all these years, I think you—” “I’m sorry, Roberta, but your father is dying. Come home.” She hung up the phone. I hadn’t considered Australia my home for over twenty years. After Xin died from skin cancer, I learned that I couldn’t live alone with my mother. She grew desperate to tell her wild stories, and even more desperate to make me listen, but I had long let go of any hope that her stories were real. Plus her collections of in-house animals, a clear manifestation of her insanity, were piling up. While she was interested in building her own live zoo, I was interested in museums, in dead things that needed their pasts unlocked. I was interested in puzzles that I could solve, and that would let me solve them. Studying my mother to find out my history was futile. There was nothing I could learn from the elaborate hyperboles of her past. Saying that her stories were simple exaggerations was probably giving her too much credit; whatever the stories signified, they were the only things she cared about. She collected the animals—birds, cats, chinchillas, neighbors’ dogs—for her audience, so her stories would never go unheard. Her animals took care of her. And although the home held entire food chains, Mum spent so much on food, the dogs were always too full to chase cats, the cats too lazy to go after the birds or chinchillas; yet they all had free reign over the house. When I was twenty-four years old, I moved to Egypt to attend university and never left. I was working in a grocery store, tending almost exclusively to my mother’s whims at night. I tried to go to the local university, but whenever I started my homework, a new crisis would inevitably be initiated and I would have to explain to my skeptical professors why I hadn’t finished my work. My excuses, though true, were never believed. They thought I was old enough not to make such implausible justifications, but they had no idea what type of monster I was dealing with. The conversations would go like this: Me: My mother dyed her hair the wrong color brown and she wouldn’t let me do my work until I got it back to the right color. Teacher: But why didn’t she wait until the morning? Go to the salon? Me: Because it’s my mother.


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Teacher: I don’t understand; who’s your mother? Me: [Deep sigh] My mother. There’s no explanation. OR Me: My mother thought her cat, Lucius Copernicus, ran away last night. I searched the entire neighborhood for the cat and when I got back, I had no time to start my work. Teacher: Where was the cat? Me: Well, when I got home from looking, Lucius was snuggled up against my mother in her bed. He was purring and she was sleeping. Teacher: So he wasn’t lost? Me: No, but… OR [The colossal ordeal that made me move out of the country— indefinitely.] Me: My mother ate my homework. Teacher: [Looking aghast and skeptical] What? Me: She thought I was spending too much time focused on my papers and textbooks, and not enough time on her. She was telling me a story and when I couldn’t repeat back what she said, she crumpled the paper, put it in her mouth, chewed, and then eventually swallowed. Teacher: But why would your mother do such a thing? Me: Because she’s my mother. Don’t you see? Egypt quickly became my sanctuary; a place where I could come alive again in my own way. I loved the dry, yellow desert, the history that walked the streets with the living, the heavenly love that overflowed from the Nile once a year and turned a hungry yellow to a happy green, and the golden mausoleums constructed for ancient deities. Egypt looked to the past to create a future. Australia, in my estimation, only looked forward, ignoring the blood that ran beneath the red soil and the slippery bones that would eventually climb to the surface and get caught in the cracks. Schools erased the memory of the Lost Generation of aboriginal children while we have forgotten that most of our ancestors were criminals. In Australia, there was no god. At least, not one that spoke to me. My love for Egypt started while playing with their bones. After graduating from the university, I worked for the Cairo Museum as a DNA consultant and archaeologist alongside the biggest names in the industry. We


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were the sorcerers of dark secrets hidden within hardened marrow and decaying molars. The Valley of the Kings is every archaeologist’s place of worship and I had, somehow, breached its doors. After doing tests on my first tiny mummy, a female fetus of seven months' gestation found previously in the KV62 tomb—the same tomb as Tutankhamun—I knew I’d never be able to call any other place home. She needed protecting. She needed a mother. I would be her surrogate. Most people don’t know it, but bones need love. Since she was too fragile to display in the museum, she was kept in the basement in a small wooden case beside thousands of other bone fragments and artifacts. The lab next door was where I spent both nights and days. Zahi, my mentor turned colleague, was the only person who spent more time in the lab than me; however, he pushed me to get out to meet real people, real Egyptian people of the twenty-first century. He claimed my view of Egypt was romanticized, that my notions about the Egyptian people didn’t move past three thousand year-old calcified remains. I set down the phone and went into the rest area of the Lab. I peeled off my browning lab coat, hair net, and face mask, disposing of them in a drawer lined in plastic. Zahi was reading the paper, drinking a cup of sahlab, and picking at his lunch. “You sick again?” I asked, taking a bowl of koushari from the refrigerator and placing it in the microwave. “Nervous,” he said, lowering the paper. His white hair was gathered in a triangle tuft atop his head. “The interview will be fine. We have our data ready.” “I’m worried about them,” he said, taking a large swig of the thick white liquid. “We’ll have to get a great number out for photographs. Anything could go wrong in the transportation.” “The mummies will be fine,” I said, sitting across from him. “They were designed to endure.” “You know they’ve requested exclusive pictures of Ankhese?” he said, studying my face. I dropped my fork. “Ankhese? Why would they want a picture of a fetus?” “Her face is perfectly preserved, Roberta. And she’s his daughter.” “She’s too fragile.” “It’s ten grand extra.” I swallowed. “Zahi, I know this is a bad time, but I have to go to Australia for a few days. My father is sick, dying it sounds like.” “I thought your father was dead.”


Trisha Cowen

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“He is. But this is my biological father. The one my mum’s kept hidden from me my entire life. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all a ploy.” “Isn’t she the one who tells all those crazy stories?” “I know what it looks like.” “You have to be back here before Friday. I can’t move all the mummies myself. We’re going to need everybody.” “I’ll only be gone a few days.” “The interview’s at six o’clock.” “I’ll be here, don’t worry.” “Roberta,” he said, pointing to my koushari. “You know that’s moldy, right?” I looked down at my bowl. Tiny green mounds were sprinkled across the bean paste, lentils, and chickpeas. I dropped my fork for the second time. On the flight from Cairo to Beijing, I thought only of Ankhese: her little nose, her large forehead, and her thin lips inherited from her great grandmother, Tiye. Flights directly from Cairo to Cairns don’t exist. The barrier between the two worlds is too vast; even the fish know to stay on their respective sides. As the plane descended over Beijing and penetrated the smog, thousands of tall ornate buildings came into view. It was a world of red and gold mazes, strong defensive walls, and forbidden secrets behind palaces fit for gods. It was a place with five thousand years of golden skeletons beneath blankets of silk and rice paddies. I wondered why Xin had ever left. He brought me to the Forbidden City as a little girl, very proud of his ancestry. He carried me on his shoulders as he raced through the great labyrinth, stopping to peer into refurbished rooms of concubines and temples dedicated to gods. He let me walk along the smooth white path where only the Emperor could walk. I was his little princess and he was my king. I longed to feel the ardor he felt for that place. Maybe if he hadn’t moved to Australia and soaked in the rays from an angry sun, he would have lived; he could have endured. As the plane looped around Australia’s Northeast coast before landing, the pilot told us to look out our windows. From that distance, we could see the dark curves of the Great Barrier Reef cradled between turquoise and jade pillows of saltwater. The hair on my arms stood tall. As we crossed over the barrier, I knew it was too late to turn back; I would have to face my mother and all her problems. It didn’t matter if they were real or not, something I always kept in the back of my mind when she told me about my father. For her, he was real. For me, he was a figment of my mother’s conjuring.


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Pulling the plastic shade down, I snuggled into the dark blue airplane blanket that wasn’t soft, but was thick enough to hide the bright blue sky and the green-blue sea and the sun that seemed to never darken. Closing my eyes into the nothingness behind my blanket, I hoped to find solace, but Ankhese’s angry face flashed behind my eyes. Her mouth was open in horror and a high-pitched scream resounded through my ears. I snapped my eyes open and the turbulence increased. I reached into the back pocket of the chair in front of me and reached for the vomit bag. After the plane landed, I went into the women’s restroom and called Zahi. The call went straight to his answering machine. “Zahi,” I said, after listening to his message in three different languages. “I need to talk to you about the find. Don’t say anything to anyone about it yet. Please. I just don’t know if I’m ready.” The bus ride from Cairns to Innisfail was unbearable. The humidity was at ninety-five percent and the fella next to me smelled like sunbaked seaweed. I could hardly breathe. Some houses and trees still sat in ruin from Tropical Cyclone Larry. The moldy boards and tin roof remnants were piled into the shapes of volcanoes and if I knew Innisfail well enough, the ruins would still be there the next time I visited. My mother met me in the driveway as the sun started to set. Crushed seashells cracked like glass under my sneakers in the driveway, getting caught in the rubber ridges. “He won’t be awake long,” she said. Her hair was teased and full, a big brown distorted crown. I wasn’t sure if it was like that out of her choosing, or if it had gotten like that out of neglect. Her roots, about an inch long, were pure white. “He’s not at a hospital?” “Of course not.” She shook her head at me like I was a child. “Charlie despises sterile places.” “Charlie?” She hurried me through the front doors, which closed with a sharp squeak. More than twenty cats were scattered across the living room. It was obvious that Mum had continued collecting animals after I left. She acquired at least two more a year; I heard about each of them in our weekly phone conversations. They stared at me with fluorescent yellow eyes. I thought of their regal mummy counterparts back in the lab. None of them had eyes. I could hear chirps and chatter from the bird room upstairs. It sounded like Mum’s aviary had doubled its inhabitants.


Trisha Cowen

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“I thought you were going to take it easy on the pet thing.” “Don’t start with your poison. And don’t just stand there. Take off your shoes.” I set my backpack of clothes in the doorway and slipped off my sneakers without untying them. I needed them ready in case the situation required a quick escape. I followed her through a maze of newspapers piled to the edge of the sofa, overflowing litter boxes, and clear wrappers of bonbons. Blue and white litter pebbled the floor, getting stuck to the bottom of my feet. My mother makes all of her guests take off their shoes, but I still don’t understand why. You can’t ignore the dirt and grime with your shoes off. You leave stained. It would take weeks to get the smell of cat piss, bird musk, and unidentified decay from my clothes. I longed to be back in my lab where everything was pristine and unpolluted. Each mummy has its own faint scent, but they never smell of decay. They smell of sweet dirt and rock and freshly shucked corn. “He’s in here,” she said, pushing open the door to my old bedroom. Before I saw him, I thought of Xin in the bed beneath layers of old quilts on a hundred-degree day. It was the best room for the sick, guarded by thick curtains from the sun. Xin died in that room. It was sacred. I glared at my mother as she shook a phantom shape beneath a thin quilt made from old baby clothes. “Hello, Daughter,” the figure said, sitting up as far as he could go. His dark chest was naked, covered only in thick white patches of bunched hair. “Your mother told me your totem was the parakeet. Now I can see why.” I flinched. The man looked like one of my mummies. He had less of a face than the fragile paper flesh of King Tut, but more of a face than Amenhotep III’s skeletal curves. I looked closer. His acid eaten face looked like the aftermath of an effective Egyptian booby-trap. What saltacid tomb did he open? What secret did he see? And then I looked at the beetle brown eyes, at the long detached earlobes, at the patch of hair on his chin that tried to grow even though his skin had long turned to plastic from the scars. “Charlie?” I asked, turning towards my mother. “My father is Charlie?” Charlie was Mum’s best childhood friend. I had heard many stories about him from my mother, but the stories she told about Charlie and my father were always different. Charlie seemed more real in her recollections, whereas stories that featured my father always had some factor of fantasy. What I knew about Charlie was this: Mum grew up with him for a short time—he lived with them for approximately two years before the government


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found out. My mother called him a bush larrikin. When he first came, he had nothing on but a pair of shorts and carried a small didgeridoo that he would blow into instead of talking. Her father brought him home after finding him scrounging around the hotel garbage site where he worked, but he was taken away from their family to attend the mission school for aboriginals at the age of seven. Mum didn’t see him again until she was seventeen, even though she was promised by her father that he could come visit during the summer. But he had run away from the mission school and once again found his people. It took her a long time to forgive him, but after he told her what the mission schools were like—how they made him wear a miniature tie and a white shirt, how they slapped him when he didn’t speak English, how they made him cut all his hair off every week so it could never grow out—she learned to forgive him. I met him a few times when I was child. Mum introduced him as her friend. He sang to me alongside Xin at birthdays and brought me to the beach. One day at the beach he whispered aboriginal secrets to me while I pretended to sleep in the sun above a mattress of sand. I can still hear his voice, feel the cool breath tickle my ears as I tried to remain still: “Are you a shark dreaming sister or a honey ant dreaming sister? Kangaroo dream’s a hop, hop, hoppin’ down. Oh, yes! Do you see her soft brown skin? Yes, yes, do you see the waterhole the hop made and the tree that sprung up in her wake? You a dreamin’ kangaroo.” His words were strange and exciting; he made me feel special, like I was a flake of gold he wanted to study. And many nights since, even now so many years later, I’ve dreamed of kangaroos making the earth, but it was only then, in meeting Charlie again, that I remembered. I remembered my dreams of Ankhese while the kangaroo hopped behind her in a place where she could walk. And then the kangaroo escaped into the black night, getting caught in a rift, in her own hole, one that she created decades ago and had forgotten. “Don’t blame her, Parakeet,” he said. “Come closer. Sit with me and I’ll tell you a story.” “I don’t want to hear stories. I want the truth. Why didn’t anyone tell me?” “Really, Roberta,” my mother said. “I thought you knew. With all the stories I told you and Charlie coming around. And your skin—” “He’s not the only blackfella in Australia.” “Xin thought we should sit you down and tell you when you were little, but you loved him so much that I— ” “Xin knew! When did you go?” I asked, turning to Charlie. “When she got pregnant?”


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“My father found out,” Mum said. “I was eighteen and Charlie wasn’t accepted by them. I wanted to go with him, but my parents stopped me.” “And the burns?” I asked, examining Charlie’s face again. “You didn’t have them before.” “It’s been a long, long time. And people still have a great hatred for people like me.” “But Mum’s crazy! Her stories about you can’t all be true. Why did you leave me? Why didn’t anyone tell me?” “Some stories have more truth in them than the exactness of events,” Charlie said. I could feel the tears coming, but I didn’t try to stop them. “I thought about you every day,” Charlie said. “And in dreams, I helped raise you and called you daughter, and watched you dream kangaroo. We dream kangaroo together.” “I don’t care for your kangaroo dreams. They don’t make sense. I can see why you and my mother got along.” Charlie began to cough. “Your mother said you just had a big discovery at work.” “Yes.” I took a deep breath. “What have you found?” “We…we just learned that King Tut was the product of an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister. In his tomb there were two female fetuses. We’ve finally proven that they were both Tut’s daughters. Tut and his wife couldn’t bring a child to term. Incest not only ended a family, it terminated a dynasty.” “So much for family secrets,” my mother said, picking a scab on her elbow. “You should know,” I said. She flicked the scab to the floor, and I watched it fall. The fact that she didn’t even look down to where the scab landed made me want to repress the bubbling remorse I suddenly felt towards her. I tried to imagine my mother as an abandoned lover, as a woman trying to protect her daughter. Yet there was a dark barrier that arched between the picture and my mind. Did she think hiding Charlie would make life easier for her, or for me? Now he was dying and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know him as my father, or turn and fly back to Egypt, a place I thought I knew, a place I called home, but that I understood only through the lens of a small speck of history. There were all these fragments of time, fragments I never attempted to put together. I just went to work in the morning, and sometimes didn’t even go to my apartment at


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night, just stayed inside the lab and ate prepared food in the cafeteria with other people who rarely left. I spent years decoding DNA to prove that Ankhese belonged to King Tut, but hadn’t noticed that my own father had been there all along. Charlie coughed. An echo could be heard in the hall. We all looked out the door and a green parrot strutted through the open crack. “That’s Kiki,” Mum said. “He thinks he owns the house.” Charlie coughed again and Kiki repeated the cadence. “Let’s let him sleep, Roberta. Come. You can sleep on the couch.” That night, I refused to go near Mum’s couch. At least six cats had already claimed the cushions and I didn’t want to imagine what my allergyprone face would look like in the morning stuck to all the cat dander and loose fur. I finally drifted off in Xin’s old mauve chair. I rocked the chair back and forth until the room started to change. I was in the desert. The sun was hot on my cheeks. I wasn’t sure if it was Egypt or Australia. I saw Ankhese. She was playing with a figure in the distance. She disappeared behind the figure and I could feel my heart start to pound. The dark figure turned and grew taller and taller as it hopped closer, closer. I took a step back and closed my eyes. When I opened them, a magnificent, giant kangaroo stood before me. She reached her short arm into her pouch and lifted out Ankhese by the arm. Ankhese had light brown skin, smooth black hair, and thin red lips formed in a frown. I reached out to her and as soon as I touched her skin, she turned to ash like a phoenix after going up in flames. When I looked up, the kangaroo evaporated and I felt a pounding on my chest. I looked down in my lap and instead of finding smoke and bits of ash like morbid confetti, I was back in Xin’s chair. A fluffy black cat had claimed my lap. She stuck her paws into my breast as if trying to pull milk. I threw the cat off onto the couch. Cats scattered, tipping over piles of newspapers. I tiptoed up the stairs. The house watched me. Yellow eyes stared from every corner, every nook. I closed the door to my room and sat in the chair by Charlie’s bed. The light pink quilt breathed up and down. Charlie’s eyes opened. They looked like giant phosphorescent orbs. “Charlie,” I whispered. “Why do I have kangaroo dreams?” “Do you see a kangaroo in any other place than Australia?” He cleared his throat. “No. Kangaroo dreams are different than the shark or the ant or the snake. They are wholly blackfella. Kangaroos in other countries live in cages.”


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He was quiet for a few minutes. It was a comfortable silence. “Do you dream kangaroo in Egypt, Roberta?” he asked. “I…I think so. But I can’t remember them.” “Does your lab have windows?” “No, the light would corrupt the mummies.” “Ahh,” he said. “A kangaroo in a cage. Your dreaming is all shadow-like, but that can change. Go to sleep now. See what the morning brings. It’s a g’day, Roberta. A g’day. We finally meet under blood terms. But even death couldn’t have stopped that.” He coughed until thick phlegm stuck to his red handkerchief. “Roberta, I bet your Egypt is a nice place, but you will learn nothing of yourself there. Australia is your home and you should try and understand it. Your mother has tried to teach you, tell you my story.” “But Australia has made it impossible for you to live. They stole you from your family and put you in schools to erase your culture.” “Every history holds things we don’t want to learn, but it’s part of who you are, who we are.” I held his hand until his raspy breathing leveled off to a comfortable hiss, and then let go. I looked at his scarred face, and cringed, feeling sorrow and shame. I felt betrayed by my past, by myself. I felt a history being forced upon me, one I wasn’t sure I wanted, one that I doubted my strength could carry. The dark barrier that I couldn’t cross was looming overhead and I was scared to open my eyes. I ran downstairs and located my cell phone between the couch cushions. I dialed Zahi’s number. He answered after the third ring. “We can’t break the story,” I said. “It doesn’t feel right.” “You’re all static. What are you talking about?” “The story,” I said. “I don’t think we should run our DNA results.” “I’m old, Roberta,” he said. “This is my last chance. We aren’t betraying anyone. We’re telling their story.” “No,” I said. “We’re telling one piece of their story. If we do this, people won’t remember Tut’s two-hundred-and-fifty-pound pure gold sarcophagus; they’re going to remember him as the clubbed-foot, cleft-palate king cursed by incest.” “If we don’t break the story someone else will. Roberta, this was years of work. You’re being irrational. Just come back here and everything will make sense.” “No, I can’t. I was wrong. Ankhese already knew the truth about herself. She must be with her father now, right? Now it’s not really about the story


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anymore. It’s about the money. You see? I was wrong the whole time. She didn’t need a mother.” “Roberta, National Geographic was your idea.” “I know. I’m sorry but…” “But…” “Ankhese wouldn’t like it.” My mother’s parrot stepped close to me in quick sly steps. “Roberta,” he said. “Are you all right? What’s happening down there?” “Ankhese wouldn’t like it,” I whispered. Kiki put one yellow foot out towards the middle of my arm and brought it back. When I didn’t swat him away, he brought his foot back and hopped on. His claws felt cold on my skin. “Roberta?” Zahi asked. “Roberta?” “Ankss wouldn’t like it,” the bird cried, staring at me with black scarabs. “Ankss wouldn’t like it. Ankss wouldn’t like it!” I hung up the phone and let the bird balance on my arm. He nibbled at lice dancing in his sea green feathers while I wondered if I would endure.


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MANGROVES Photograph by Leah Vinluan


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Rape: the male crime Haki R. Madhubuti there are mobs & strangers in us who scream of the women wanted and will get as if the women are ours for the taking. our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters ceased to be the women men want we think of them as loving family music & soul bright wonderments. they are not locker room talk not the hunted lust or dirty cunt burnin hoes. bright wonderments are excluded by association as blood & heart bone & memory & we will destroy a rapist's knee caps, & write early grave on his thoughts to protect them. it will do us large to recall when the animal in us rises that all women are someone's mother, sister, wife or daughter and are not fruit to be stolen when hungry. a significant few of their fathers, brothers, husbands, sons and growing strangers are willing to unleash harm on the earth and spill blood in the eyes of maggots in running shoes who do not know the sounds of birth or respect the privacy of the human form. w


Daniel King

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The Siege of Träumen Daniel King The Argives in the heart of Troy. So Odysseus had thought With every slaughter-pause to scan the ramparts In order to remember every object later smashed. And yet he missed the Folly of Ellipses That casts maroon reflections in the inky river, Because he missed the river too. Turning down the walk-ways of Trey he may have chanced upon a solitary tavern But failed to see a dozen; Kept his attention on the lighthouse slender as a pen and high as night Yet not perceived the triple towers, waterspouts of tourmaline, in tiers above the bluffs; Dreamed, in the streets of Träu, of his destroying, one by one, each dictionary- thick abutment, Of arrowing the rest of Priam's retinue, In an attempt to gain Achaean dominance by mathematical subtraction— Only then to discover that an arrow dominates just one point Whereas a limestone barricade protects an infinity of them; In irritation coned his hands at the inhabitants to follow Odysseus, Unaware of evolving vocal loci as he neared the unseen quays, His image splitting into planes of haze, And only one or two officials running to comply, among the passages of Try, With the desires of one whom some considered to be a malignant plotter But whom far more believed to be a simplistic construction Of a forever re-creating and shifting textuality That must evade every attempt at summary by spear or pen— While still more, simply and inevitably, had never heard of Odysseus. w


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To Wait In Bar Harbor John Grey What do I know of the sea? I've never fished in it, or sailed on it. At most, I've dipped my toes in it, let the salt spray tickle. Sure, I've sat up on the cliffs and looked out over her calm waters but strangers walk by, some even worth a long, long glance. But what do I know of them? They haven't even salt spray where I can dip my toes. Gale will be back soon. Now what do I know of Gale? Lived with her twenty years. But lived in her not a moment. Think I'll walk down to the beach, pass the time that way. Now time, that's another story. Having lived it, I'm an expert on time. The sand is soft and giving. I almost, but not quite, know sand. And the sea sends wavelets running up the beach like crabs. Off come the shoes. Time to dip the toes. Where's Gale? The sea is chilly. But what do I know of sea? Patience has its allies. Ignorance is one of them. w


Elaine Sexton

Soapbox Opera Elaine Sexton In the 59th Street Station the two of them bob and sway in a mock swoon, nose-to-nose, neck-to-neck, teenage-girl divas from the projects, weaving a song, high and sweet, a capella, tracked to the rattle of wheels on steel, don’t you know, don’t you know…. oblivious to me and the preening singer from Julliard who thumbs through a score in a thicket of notes making music in her head. I am drawing a song from the limp of a rat crossing the tracks, strands from an oncoming train as it opens its doors to the girls’ warble, the sulky soprano, eyes now shut, seated under the life-size poster of La Traviata’s Violetta, her eyes closed too, her face plastered to the subway wall designed to make my skin prickle with desire to taste drama, to know the inevitable end of everything. Again. I lick at dread on an epic scale as it dissolves, timeless as all love is when you risk it. w

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“The Clock” After Christian Marclay Elaine Sexton 10 a.m. I should be at work in my office. We meet to join dozens and dozens of strangers who wait in line to be here to sit in the dark. We stand on the street waiting to slouch on these couches, to stretch on this floor. We’ve come to watch time, pass time, watch watches, stop watches, two hands on the face of clock towers tick. It is 10:20 then 10:21 a.m. on film, in the movies, as well as on our wrists, on an underwater bomb, in digital/ analogue alarm time, in the tick of a Timex, a Rolex, a Patek Philippe. An E.R. clock’s second hand sweeps slowly, silently over 10:30. We sit in a funeral home, a bedroom, a kitchen, behind locked doors, on a cinematic back porch, in a state room, jury room, bathroom, among murderers, traitors, mothers, surgeons, sirens, and cads, babies, and amputees. We wade through dust, dirt, and seawater, through the airlessness of a morgue, watch birds


Elaine Sexton

nip the blonde hair of a starlet. We are in India. We trip, we fly over Africa, Kansas, Paris, Manhattan and Rome, walk a vacant lot in Los Angeles, a bridge over a nameless river, the central square of a New England town, and it is only 10:53, and, then, 10:54, and, now, 10:55 a.m here, in New York, and everywhere on the Eastern seaboard, and everywhere in the movies. More and more people wait to spend time watching time. They flood the sidewalks, the street, they clot the gallery hallway outside this room, waiting, watching each of us leave to make space. When I pass through double glass doors to daylight on West 21st Street it is 11 o’clock exactly, February 18, 2011. There is time. I feel it. I see it. I was alive then. You were still breathing inside in the dark where I left you. w

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Entwine Photograph by Eleanor Leonne Bennett


Tony Gloeggler

WAR STORIES Tony Gloeggler When we’re all waiting for the buses to pull up to the curb, drop the guys off from day program or waiting for the ten o’clock night shift to take our place, sometimes we talk about back in the day, the first time they came over for lunch, how Jimmy fit an entire Big Mac in his mouth, the special sauce spraying the table like a hydrant on the summer’s hottest day and Liz shaking her head whispering he’s gonna be a shit load of trouble. I smiled, knew he wasn’t assigned to me. That Sunday afternoon when Raphael the worker you’d least want to see walking toward you on a late night empty street, fell asleep and Jimmy spread his feces through his perfectly picked afro. Jose promising to take Jimmy to the hookers on Third Avenue for a half and half on his twenty-first birthday. The quiet summer afternoon Jean started screaming and I flew down the stairs, saw her leaning over Jimmy’s bed trying to wake him, yelling come on boy, breathe.

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She grabbed his legs, I took his head and we carried him to the floor, stretched him flat on his back. I tilted his chin, cleared his airway, covered his mouth with mine and blew, then compressed his chest and she counted until the paramedics clattered up the stairs. I stood in the doorway, tasting his vomit, sweat stinging my eyes, almost crying when the medics gave up on Jimmy, the one guy I never learned to like. w


Tony Gloeggler

JUNE 11th Tony Gloeggler It’s Sunday, a family barbecue ending with my niece holding her Rapunzel doll and leaning over, helping me blow out the candles on the Carvel cake celebrating my birthday. I ask for the biggest piece, eat around the crunchy middle part that gets bigger every year and save the vanilla ice cream for last. My mom brings up my father, the year he didn’t give me a gift when I wouldn’t cut my hair and he found out she slipped me fifty dollars for Beach Boys tickets, how he didn’t speak to either one of us until the month ended. I remember she treated him nicer while I pretended not to care. Now, nearly the same age as my father when he died, I appreciate how much he’s missed. He never met Helen or my step son, never had the chance to wonder what went wrong or blame me when they moved back to Vermont. He missed my brother’s marriage, his suburban success.

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He never got to see my brother’s daughter or her baby brother who’s sitting in a high chair across from me. Daniel keeps dropping his spoon and he doesn’t stop crying until he gets it back. I can almost see my father picking it up, taking it to the sink and saying “enough of this crap,” or maybe, softer now, he’ll make a loud, silly sound and fit the spoon into his grandson’s pudgy excited fingers. w


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Helpless Brian Maxwell I met Maggie Moss in the parking lot of a club where she danced and followed her home, which wasn’t such strange behavior for me in those days. She didn’t act surprised, though she did make it clear she’d have no problem murdering me in my sleep. The next night she told me about the boy tied to a cinderblock. I was still hanging around and we were drinking and following the hurricane news on the radio. Listening to it you’d have thought that thing was right down the street. But overhead the sky was clear and the stars were in their proper places. An empty bottle rolled around under the table and the one on the table was only half full. A breeze lit the tips of our cigarettes as a beach ball floated over the crab grass. I’d hoped we might be kissing by then but Maggie Moss could drink and not get drunk, and she’d suddenly found a serious subject. “There must be something wrong with him,” she said. “Or them. Who would treat a kid like that, anyhow?” We were out back and had the place to ourselves; most of the neighborhood had already packed and fled. But Maggie Moss wasn’t the kind to run and she refused to leave the cats. I was happy to stay, though I didn’t know whose house this was. I mean Maggie Moss lived there, but it wasn’t her place. I don’t think they were even her cats. “I bet he’s there right now,” she said. “All tied up in the rain. It’s so sad. Not even a diaper.” It wasn’t raining but there was still time. He was a big baby, or a small boy, and might have had a sunburn, she said. He’d at least gotten into some poison oak. And he was tied by his ankle to a cinderblock. There was room for him to crawl a decent-sized circle, but even that was no good since the yard was full of junk and overgrown with hollyhock. Maggie wanted me to do something. “How can we just sit here?” she said. “With that storm coming?” The hurricane was a class three, scary but unsteady. Probably it would slide by and bop the Carolinas. I still wanted to drink the rest of that bottle and curl up in the king bed I’d seen inside. I was tired of my car. But if that wasn’t happening I did want to get a look. I’d never seen anything like a kid tied up to a cinderblock and I was prepared to follow Maggie Moss anywhere. She had sharp, white teeth, hair that covered her eyes, and a body built for sex.


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“First thing is we rescue him,” she was saying. “And then nurse him back to health and adopt him out to some family who wouldn’t dream of leaving him tied up in the backyard.” So we finished the bottle and stumbled off through the yard and over the back fence since the cinderblock boy was two or three houses down. That meant more stumbling and climbing and I swear each time I lifted Maggie Moss in the night air and set her atop a fence I felt like ten men, like there was a storm inside of me, a breaking in my guts that made me want to weep with pleasure. Of course the yard was empty. But we spotted the cinderblock sure enough, resting in the moonlight under an oak tree. It was wrapped through the middle with a thick piece of rope, a small loop flopping innocently at the end. In the morning I woke up on the floor, clutching one of her shoes. My tooth felt loose and Maggie Moss was asleep behind a locked door. I could hear the single-unit air conditioner purring from where I lay and for a long while I didn’t dare move. By noon I went looking for something to drink but the fridge was full of food. The cats were lined up in the yard crying to be let in and I counted four and then five and lost track. The house was a tiny cinderblock structure with bare walls and cobwebs in the corners. An unplugged TV sat on the terrazzo floor. There was only one bathroom so Maggie Moss had to come out eventually. The street looked empty, no cars, no people. Thick clouds gathered across the river and the wretched humidity made it hard to breathe. I figured that I’d take a tour and see what sort of stuff people left behind when they were fleeing. I hoped it might include a gas can since my car was low and I didn’t want to be stuck if that storm did decide to come our way. But also I wanted to see the boy. So I headed down the street looking for some sort of a sign, trying the doorknobs as I went. The houses were one-story squats, yet these people had locked up against the unknown before running, which made me want to get inside even more. There were sandy yards and rusting mailboxes as far as I could see and just when I was about to turn back I found a house that looked worse than the rest. The front windows were boarded and a blue tarp covered part of the roof, waving lazily in the wind. A pair of oak trees stood dead or dying out front, flanked by a row of old tires and a few sheets of rotten plywood. But even on my tiptoes I couldn’t see much when I peered over the fence, until a woman appeared with a broom. It was impossible to tell her age. She wore a thin dress with holes along the hem and stood there praying, but maybe


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she was just watching the sky. The clouds were ringed and purpling, a bad sign, though they still looked far away. I strained to see beyond her, around the house and into the back yard. Finally she turned. I didn’t bother to hide and her expression didn’t change. Maybe she was used to people staring, watching. Or maybe she just didn’t care. When I got back, Maggie Moss was in the kitchen feeding cats. There seemed to be twice as many as before. Her eyes narrowed when she saw me but she couldn’t help but smile. I’d found a half case of beer next door and two bottles of Jim Beam, though I had to break a window and my hand was bleeding. “Well, what do we have here?” she said, as I staggered to the counter. Maggie eyed the whiskey as I opened a beer. There were open tuna cans strewn about the floor but she tiptoed through the mess and ran her hand across the label. “Hmm,” she said. “You’re bad. But kind of nice to have around.” We drank standing up while the cats slept at our feet. Maggie drank with her teeth, mostly. She swished the whiskey around her mouth and laughed, tilting her head back to display a beautiful throat. Somehow I guided us to the couch and for a moment we were touching, but not kissing, until she slipped out of my arms and plopped her feet in my lap, which was fine. I was thinking about the storm clouds and that house down the street, and suddenly I was very hungry. “Maggie,” I said. “Did you really see that boy? Did you see him?” I didn’t know if she’d even answer but I also felt content not to move. “I’m positive,” she said. “But I’m not sure.” The booze had taken over her voice and she sounded like someone else, like she was talking from behind a closed door. I prodded her to continue but she sighed. When she began to roll over, I got up. “Dip a duck,” she said. “I was just getting cozy.” But actually she was out, her eyes clamped tight. Her mouth was parted and the glass sat perched against her chest, sweating into her robe. I listened to the sound of her breathing and stared at her knees. They were scallop-shaped and not at all delicate and there were tiny hairs protruding where her legs disappeared under the fabric. When she started snoring I tucked her into the couch. Then I went to the fridge for cold chicken and flipped the radio on and ate outside under a drizzling rain. The sky had gone the color of a ripe plum. Sure enough, that hurricane was coming. The cats came around one by one and disappeared


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into the sea-grape bushes as I sat there on a plastic deck chair, gnawing on a chicken leg. The voice on the radio announced a mandatory evacuation the way a store might advertise a sale. It was definitely time to go. I could feel the power lines humming as I walked to my car. The engine turned over right away. The gas needle sat low in the red but it figured that I could maybe make it to the 7-11 if they hadn’t shuttered up yet. I could get a six-pack and drive west toward the gulf and ride this out under a bypass bridge. But in the end I closed the door and started down the street. As far as I could tell the only people left here were me and Maggie Moss and that old woman I’d seen. And the cinderblock boy, if he even existed. I decided to find out once and for all. When I found the house again the rain was falling harder and the stray bits of daylight had begun to disappear behind the heavy clouds. I walked through the dirt yard and the tires and kicked something across the cement porch that I realized was a turtle shell. Then I knocked on the door with the butt of my hand and stood waiting. The eaves were rotten overhead and I’d begun to sweat. I knocked once more, harder this time, and after a few moments I went around to the fence and climbed over, feet first. On the other side there was a pile of empty pop bottles and cans. I made my way through weeds and small mounds and took the corner as the yard opened up before me. There, sitting in a patch of dead grass beneath an oak tree, was the cinderblock, just as I remembered it. There was a row of blocks, actually, set up as a makeshift seat, but only one had a rope through the middle and I gathered it in my arms and turned to face the house. The back wall was black with mold and windowless, except for a door with a long glass pane. I was about to hoist that cinderblock over my head, but there she was, watching me, and I hesitated and dropped it in the dirt instead. Her expression hadn’t changed, though I could see something in her hand. It was the shape of a bottle but not the size and she held it as if it might protect her. “There’s a bad storm out there,” I shouted. “You need to leave.” My clothes were soaked through and my hand had begun to bleed again. I must have looked like a maniac but she didn’t move, so I stepped forward and reached for the handle. The smell hit me as I swung the door open but I didn’t give any ground. She had to know I meant business, and I wanted to get a glimpse of that boy if he was anywhere near. “Jesus,” I said. “Can’t you hear me out here?” Then I saw that she had a turtle. Behind her there were candles burning in the near dark and a blue light came from somewhere deep in the house. In her other hand she held


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a paring knife, but she didn’t brandish it or even lift her arm. It hung limp at her side. A dog sidled up and plopped down at her feet but he looked less interested than either of us. “Where’s the boy?” I said, but the words were wet out of my mouth. I couldn’t stop watching the turtle. Those little legs pumped and the head was out now that it could smell the rain and for a second I forgot about the boy. I forgot about the cinderblock at my feet and I even forgot about the storm and Maggie Moss and about how badly I wanted to be somewhere else, somewhere warm and safe and small and full of light. Somewhere dry. All around the saw palm bushes waved in warning as the wind pushed and pulled at the air. Behind that I heard a voice coming from inside the house and I took a step back. The woman hadn’t moved or said a word and before I knew it I was at the fence and over, back to the road, hoping that I knew the way back to Maggie. The street had gathered water and the trees were shaking by the time I found her in the kitchen, hunched against the oven on the floor, the empty tuna cans chattering at her feet. She held a cast iron pan in front of her like a shield, but there wasn’t time to talk and I reached for her, hoping she wouldn’t hit me. I brushed the hair from her eyes in a long, slow movement and she let go. Her mouth fell open but she didn’t say anything. There was no point. Then we were moving. I lifted her by the arms and we were through the house in a few steps as the windows rattled and the roof groaned above us. We made it to the bathroom and I tried to dump her in the tub but she dragged me in after her. “You left me,” she was saying. “You left me, you left me.” “Maggie,” I said, but she wouldn’t let go. I tried to pull my arm back but she’d wrapped herself into the shirtsleeve and buried her face into my neck. “I found him.” I was yelling but it felt like a whisper. “He’s safe,” I told her. “He’s free.” I spoke into her ear, hoping she’d loosen her grip. And when she did, when she moved to look up, I threw her in the tub and dashed for the bedroom. The window had already blown out and the rain came through in a fury. Outside I could see the palm trees bowed over, laying low for what was coming. Then I had the mattress. It was heavy and barely fit through the door but it was our only hope. I dragged it into the bathroom where Maggie Moss had curled up in a ball, the robe wrapped tight around her. If I’d had a moment, I would have admired her there. She’d grown so small, so tiny. It would have been perfect to scoop her up and carry her away, take her far from this mess, from all of it. But of course I dove in after her, pulling the mattress over top, hoping I wouldn’t


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crush her before I could save us. Immediately the light disappeared and the wind. Maggie re-formed around me, clinging with her nails this time, unwilling to let go. At first I couldn’t hear anything. Then I heard the sound of our breathing, followed by the roof again, peeling back perhaps. Maggie sobbed a little, but mostly she was quiet. Clutched there in the dark I felt surprisingly relaxed, even though we could be swept away at any minute. For some reason I began thinking about the time my friend Clevenger jumped off the causeway bridge. We’d met a girl at Big Al’s Bar and we were all walking to the beach to go swimming. We’d already stumbled to the top when the girl changed her mind. She wanted to turn back. I pleaded with her, begged probably. But Clevenger just climbed up onto the railing and took off his shirt and let it fall into the water below. The girl stopped dead in her tracks. I quit with my pleading. Clevenger said nothing. He didn’t even look our way. Then he kicked his shoes off and down they went, into the blackness. By the time I reached for him he’d inched up to the top rail and raised his arms in the air like an acrobat. When he jumped, the girl screamed, a quick note that punctured the night and was gone. When I saw him next it was a week or so later, at Al’s again. But he had no memory of that night. “If I’d have done that,” he told me, “I’d be dead, man.” Then he got paranoid. “Are you trying to put ideas in my head?” he said. “Are you trying to kill me?” I wanted to buy him a beer but he refused. He wouldn’t even listen when I tried to explain. Next to me, Maggie Moss was muttering something into my ear that sounded like gibberish. I could smell her perfume and her sweat, but mostly the heavy odor of whiskey. My arm had fallen asleep where she lay on it and my hand ached. “What?” I asked her. “Huh?” “Don’t you leave.” Her words were suddenly very clear. “Don’t you leave me again.” I told her not to worry. I didn’t say that we’d be OK, but I did tell her that I wasn’t going anywhere. “Do you promise?” she said, and of course I answered: “I do.” Looking back, we were probably thinking very different things. I had never known a girl like Maggie Moss, though by the time I’d get around to figuring that, she’d be long gone. I’d be left with the memory of this tub of course, the weight of her body against mine, the sound of her voice in the dark and the feel of us together. Good things, really, maybe great ones when you think about it. So if you were to ask me what I remember about that part of my life, what really stands out amidst all of those bruised and broken days, I guess I’d have to say Maggie Moss. I guess we could start there.


Sean Neville

Hello, Friend Sean Neville I’m crossing a moat filled with crocodiles. A crocodile tells a funny story: A long time ago a man named Crapper set up a plumbing shop and took charge of the Prince of Wales’s toilets and developed the floating ballcock, and that’s not all, he called toilet bowls wash-down pedestal closets and named one the Venerable. Which is not a big big deal to me because I’m a little teapot clarifying my commitment to you. But I am into getting down and I have no ballcock within for I am no toilet fixture. I’m getting down with old Jesus to discuss emerging economies. They have to grow faster than mature economies. They just have to, and Jesus says oh yeah then a proverb about a catfish farm. He pours me some tea from me and I say no thanks I’m only a teapot, just a vessel, and where did that tithe to future being come from? It’s your funeral and is this little thing making me the sport of death? I asked but Jesus had flitted away to an underground club, daubed with stories as told by Wanfran Dingdo. I’m totally tea tired but in my big book of lies the man does not die though I thought he was a gone-gonner for sure, that Wanfran Dingdo. I am trying to relate blasphemy nicely and with a smudge of gramercy. But what time did the persons of these ossuaries enter the nations of the dead? Was it before the disadvantaged businesses showcase?

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I just keep learning more about me. What else is there to do? I’ve mowed the lawn twice already and I dressed it and I watered it and fed it some steroids. If you have no memory we can be friends. We can go to a cremation and say what person these ashes made up were a question far above antiquarism, and not feel alone on Sundays. w


Sean Neville

The Ha-Ha Place Sean Neville The simpleton awoke and sprayed stars across the screen. My friend Ken Simpleton has suffered more than anyone. More than me, more than my friend Ciao-Ciao who has suffered a huge amount. And if she doesn’t like that she can lump it. She is lumping it. Lumping it into a bowling ball and rolling it down the street, her family following. I’m following, establishing horseplay. It’s my little street and there’s the house with the sign and the little girl with the syndrome. Now we’re resisting arrest and obstructing justice, we food fighters needled by the disqualifying stare. I’m flying through the air with a snake in my claws. I’m eating the snake on the Easter Bunny’s front porch. “Hi Easter Bunny, what you doing?” Teaching about life, sad Easter Bunny said. Our team leader fashions a prison culture. He or she names it Easter Bunny Claw Camp. w

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Poem for Our Mothers to the students of Xavier University Preparatory School Professor Arturo This poem is for our mothers This poem is for New Orleans mothers This poem is for New Orleans women -true believers and achievers (keepers of the faith) who nurtured, cradled, counseled and comforted… This poem is for the satin dolls, the yardbird suite tastes of honey, walkin’ (all by themselves) on Green Dolphin Street… or working in steamy, hot kitchens and air-conditioned boardrooms -on planes and trains, in banks and tanks -at computer terminals and behind the bar (ain’t nuthin’ wrong with that – she just raisin’ her chirrens) This poem is for the students of Xavier Prep (future educators, legislators, liberators and leaders) This poem is for Ruby Bridges, Oretha Castle Haley and Leah Chase This poem is for the church women and the street wimmin (Sometimes they both) -Oops! My ba-a-a-a-a-ad… This poem is for yo’momma (Yeah, I’m talkin’ ‘bout yo’ momma – and yo’ gran’ma, too) -yo’ momma who told you ‘bout sitting properly -yo’ momma who told you ‘bout how hard she work to send you to a quality school (no thugs allowed) -yo’ momma who told you how hard it was when she laid down there and had yo -mommas who git you up off yo’ offensive end so you can be on time for school -mommas who say “I done brought yo’ behind here – and I’ll take you away!” -mommas who say “I’ma put so mucha you on the flo’ – they gon’ think it’s the Blood Bank up in here!” (them kinda mommas)


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This poem is for the mothers who see their children slaughtered in the city’s mean streets -women who cry “My baby! My baby!” (when it’s too-oo-oo late ba-a-aby…) -women who say “They needs to stop all this killin’ – I thought we had done got way mo’ betta den nat!” -women who deny themselves so their children can get a good education -women who make beds to send their chirrens to school -women who “talk-too-much-and-worry-you-to-death” -women who sing “ba-a-aby, ba-a-a-by, ba-a-a-by…)” -women who run for office -women who run the office -women who run from the office… -women who fry chicken for a livin’ (ain’t nuthin wrong with that) -women who have you wear your clothes properly -women who know ‘bout “who shot the La-La”… -women who tell jokes -women who tell jokes like: “Why did the cow get a new house? -because it had to moo-oo-oove…” or jokes like: “Name three parts of speech – -‘My mouf, my lips, and my teefs’” or jokes like: “What kinda rice is brown on the outside and white on the inside? -- ‘Condoleezza Rice’” (You wro-o-o-ong for that) -women who represent -women who truly represent… -women like Mary McCleod Bethune and Sojourner Truth -women like the African mothers who cast their children overboard rather than have them raised in bondage


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-women who were sold at the market -women who shopped at the market -women who shopped at Schwegmann’s and D.H. Holmes -women who shopped at McKenzie’s and Maison Blanche -women who shopped at K-B and Krauss (but couldn’t try hats on) -women who shopped at the corner sto’ (mostly on creddick) -women who shop wherever they wan’ shop and work wherever they wan’ work (after “integration”) -women named “Elsie” (HOW NOW, BROWN COW?) -women who sing “That bo-o-o-o-o-oy went home to Jee-zuss!” (even though he was in that dope thang) -women who get into that graveyard love (insteada college) -women with sweet potato plants in their kitchen windows -women who call you everything but “a child o’ Gawd”… -women who say things -women who say things like: “Don’t be callin’ that man no ‘Dawg’ That man name ain’t ‘Dawg’ That man name’ Mr. Dawg’” (Woof-woof) or things like: “Hungry?!? – Ain’t no maids in here! You best git you summa that KARO Syrup and a piece o’ bread – and make like it’s a hamburger!” or things like: “That boy feet done growed so fast – he tired all the time.”

or things like: “Boy so dumb, if he was in a hurricane he’d say ‘Why is it so windy?’”

or things like: “Boy so slow, he cain’t even read his own name in BIG GIANT BOXCAR LETTERS!”

or things like: “Boy so dumb, he couldn’t find a drink on Bourbon Street…”


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Insteada “Arab” they say “A-rabb” Insteada “spanking” they say “whippin” Insteada “You’re a bit inebriated” they say “You tippin’” Insteada “You’re acting quite odd” they say “You trippin’” Insteada “You’re making quite a mistake” they say “You slippin’” This poem is for the seamstresses and the waitresses This poem is for the teachers and the preachers for the maids and college presidents for the wintertime women with the summertime blues… This is a hurricane poem… This poem is for Flora, Cora, Hilda, Isabelle and Betsy This poem is for Marilyn and Carolyn, Yolanda and Saronda for Zelda and Emelda, for Nina and Tina for the lovers of life and sages of their ages for women named Aunt Sweet for Big Momma, Gran’ma, Maw-Maw and Ma Dear for Short Fat Fanny, Wacky Jackie and BIG GREASY NEICY for their love hugs and Daniel Green slippers ( the original weapon of mass destruction) for Doreen’s Sweet Shop and Bertha’s Bon Ton for Big Shirley’s and Willa Mae’s Scotch House for Fannie Mae, Annie Mae, Ida Mae, Connie Mae, Johnnie Mae, Cora Mae, Dora Mae, Ora Mae, Ida Mae, Jessie Mae, Bessie Mae (Bessie Mae Mucho-o-o-o…) Bay-Bay, May-May, Nee-Nay, Noo-Nay, Shantay and Ray-Ray for Beaulah and Eulah, Nelly and Kelley for Linda, Lydia, Leona and Lorraine for Peola and Enola for Brenda and Zenda (I’m just a prisoner…) for the cedar robes and the chiffarobes for Caldonia, Caldonia (What-makes-yo’-big-haid-so-hard?) This poem is for Gizelle, Chanel, Creshell, Shantelle, Rochelle, Maybelle, Annabelle and Florabelle (DING-DONG)


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This poem is for Imani, Hope and Charity (where most o’ y’all was born-ded) for Khadijah and Jemima (much more than a picayune cartoon) for Hannah, Anna, and Old Suzannah (Don’t you cry for me – ‘cause I’m comin’ from the Ninth Ward with a six-pack on my knee)

for Betty, Bessy and Two-Ton Tessie for Sharine and Jeanine (Last Time, Last Time I Saw Jeanine…)

for our mothers, friends, aunts, sisters, and others -their pleasures and treasures -their madness and badness -their blessings and bereavement -their challenge and achievement -their silences and song -their faith, everstrong -their love like no others

This poem is for our mothers... w


Professor Arturo

Poem for Our Fathers Professor Arturo This poem is for our fathers This poem is for New Awlins fathers (Where they , girl?) This poem is for New Awlins men This poem is for Dooky and Dutch and Danny Barker This poem is for the Big Time Crip and Nick the Greek This poem is for Chopsley and Injun Red This poem is for the Coaches and the Roaches This poem is for the brother in the commercial be hollerin’ ‘bout “LET HER HAVE IT” This poem is for the English teachers and the midnight creatures This poem is for the strong men who keep a-comin’ on... This poem is for traditional men (men in the tradition) This poem is for the Kidds and the Professors This poem is for BIG-OLD men!!!!! This poem is for lil’ bitty men... This poem is for the Sensitive Men of the Nineties and the raging bulls of the Fifties: -men named Rattlesnake Dick -men named Chakula -men named Oglethorpe -men named Gooseberry -men named Greenhouse -men named Delahoosay -men named Hollywoo-oo-ood -men named Bu-Buttt -men named Bay-Bay -men named Pa-Pa -men named Nay-Nay Men named Pa-Dee -men named Tee-Tee Men who say “Habari Gani!?!!!” Men who say “Wha-sssssu-u-u-uup!?!!!” Men who dri-i-iive like Rodney King (and party at the drop of a Congress cap)

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GRUMBLIN’ MEN GRAMBLIN’ MEN ZOOT-SUITIN’ MEN dinky men SUPER MEN SUGAR MEN GODLY MEN

MUMBLIN’ MEN GAMBLIN’ MEN BULLSHOOTIN’ MEN STINKY MEN PSEUDO MEN BUGAR MEN DEVILISHED MEN

Men who tell jokes like: “Yo’ maw so fat, when she buy a ticket, she say ‘Two, please’”

or jokes like: “Yo’ maw like a roll o’ material— ten dollars a yard”!

or jokes like: “What did the monkey eat befo’ he ate the banana?— the cherry!”

or jokes like: “What’s yo’ maw favorite street?— Common St.!”

Straight-up men Signifyin’ men God-fearin’ men

Backslidin’ men Ignifyin’ men Disappearin’ men

Men who try to buy love (“Is it talkin’ to you, daddy?”) Men who ain’t never been east of East New Orleans... Project men and Penthouse men Poets, painters, printers, and publishers Bohemians and bankers (that yang money) Triangular offenders and EBONY squares... This poem is for our fathers -men who raised other men’s chirrens like they was they own...


Professor Arturo

-men who know ‘bout “ten minutes to two” -men who ain’t never put they lips there (so they say) -men who favorite record was “I’m a har-ar-ard fottin’ ma-an”… -men who was on “Poke” Chop Hill -men who say “Rockyfella” -men who say “Huh-why-yuh” (insteada “Hawaii”) -men who say “Terrybone” (insteada “Terrebonne”) -men who say “cornder” (insteada “corner”) -men who say “Congo drums” -men who say “trumpetier” -men who say “umble” (insteada “humble”) -men who say “flustrated” -men who say “chinees” insteada “marbles” -men who say “Punchatrain” insteada “Pontchartrain” -men who say “The House of Shock” Insteada “O.P.P.” (You know mee-ee-ee-ee-ee…) -men who say “San Gabriel” (insteada “Saint Gabriel”) -men who say “The Farm” (insteada “Angola”) -men who say “The Plantation” (insteada “SUNO”) -men who say “The Lil’ Plantation” (insteada “McDonogh 28”) -men who say “kinnygawdin” -men who say “Primmery School” -men who say “sweet shop” (insteada “candy store”) -men who say “Pell Mell” (insteada “Pall Mall”) -men who say “sitcheeashun” -men who say “physical year” -men who say “Mee-row” (insteada “Miro”) -men who say “BA-NAAAAAANAHS!!! WA-TAH-&ME-E-E-E-LU-U-U-UNNNNNNN!!!” Hard-workin’, pitty-pat playin’ men (Deep South men with they riverfront plates o’ food) Macdaddies and Shaq daddies Old daddies and New daddies First-time daddies (baker’s dozen daddies) Wunna them Richard Pryor daddies (“This Mister Gilmore’ property”) Wunna them “THIS MA HOUSE” daddies Wunna them “Git that gobbidge out this house right now” daddies Wunna them “If-you-don’t-do-it-with-yo’-hands (and sweat) it — ain’t — WORK” daddies

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Wunna them “Git-out-ma-life-woman— You-don’t-love-me-¬no-mo-o-o-o-o-o” daddies . . . -men who believed in THE BELT THE WHOLE BELT NOTHING BUT THE BELT… Insteada “sneakers” they say “tennis” Insteada “Mother Dear” they say “Ma Dear” Insteada “Hi, darling” they say “Hey ba-a-a-a-aby” Insteada “How are you?” they say “Where y’at!?!” Insteada “Dew-key Chase” they say “deh-key Chase” Insteada “My woman left me” they say “She kicked me to the curve” Insteada “cocktail” they say “highball” Insteada “frozen cups” they say “hucklebucks” Insteada “scooters” they say “skatemobiles” or “skatin’ trucks” Insteada “Rose-avelt” they say “Roozevelt” Insteada “fight” they say “humbug” lnsteada “tumblin’” they say “tumble-settin’” Insteada “robe” they say “housecoat” Insteada “Bo-yay” they say “BO-LEO” Insteada “bang-bang” they say “Pie-yah-ah-ah-ah…!” Insteada “retirement community” they say “old folks home” Insteada “electoral” they say “electorial” Insteada “subsidized housing” they say “project” Insteada “Brussels sprouts” they say “lil’ cabbages” Insteada “upset stomach” they say “loose bowels”… Insteada “Did you hear me?” they say “YA’ HEARD ME?!!??” Insteada “Bourbon Street” they say “Sweet Lorraine’s” (that’s a commercial) Insteada “Yes, you’re correct” they say “Yeah ya-right” Insteada “Sure, you’re correct” they say “Sho ya-right” Insteada “I know that’s Correct” they say “I know that’s right” Insteada “Who is that?” they say “Who dat?” They say Louis Armstrong insteada Herb Alpert They the Duke of Earl insteada David Duke They say Eddie Jefferson insteada George Jefferson They say Buster Crabbbe, Buster Brown, and James Arness (the real Matt Dillon)


Professor Arturo

They say Sidney Bechet insteada Kenny G. (Fatha, Fatha) -men like yo’ grampa and his paw and yo’ nanann’ parann and her paw and that no-good hooligan she was foolin’ with way uptown who was tellin’ that girl he was gon’ marry her (and never did) -men who git drunk at the picnic—every year (and think they Frankie Beverly) -men who still debate about which cowboy had the best hoss... -men who came home from World War II bragging of their antics and exploits (“I had so much fun in Paris I wish they ‘fight agin’”) Old School, Ancient School, Methoozalla School men Them “Yes-sir, No-sir, 1-gotta-listen-to-this-mess ‘cause-I-gotta-family-to-feed” men... The indispensables: bellhops and bus drivers porters and waiters contractors and cigar makers house painters and horse players longshoremen, merchant marines, preachers and pimps (“What a difference a cross makes...”) -men who played with they chirrens in warm Lake Pontchartrain waters... Bourbon Street bouncers Favorite uncles Brothers in the ‘Nam CHIEFS!! EXECUTIVES!!! OFFICERS!!! Transient residents of Tulane & Broad Woof men howling at the wayward wind...

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Fathers and lovers Nephews and brothers and husbands who love they oldladies and mens foolin’ ’round behind they backs (Ramblin’ Ro-o-o-o-ose…) and mens who done made the baby with that girl ‘round the way and ain’t even claimin’ that child... For our fathers… their riches and wishes black socks and their dishes their dreams and devotions their schemes and their potions their creams and their lotions and stories and glories love cries and lives legacies,

unending EVERLASTING…

This poem is for our fathers w


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Secret Santa Ray Morrison My elf flashes three fingers at me. Just three more snot-dripping brats and I can collect my fifty bucks and escape the jarring holiday cheer of this mall. Normally I’d take my cash straight to the liquor store for a half pint of Crown, but it’s Christmas Eve and I haven’t gotten my old lady a gift yet. Not that she deserves squat the way she’s on my case all the time, but if I don’t get her something, I’ll regret it in that way only married men can understand. Brittany leads a boy who looks to be about five toward me and I check the crotch of his pants for signs of urine staining, because, let’s face it, Santa doesn’t like getting his legs wet. I glance then at Brittany, a high school senior who works the camera part-time, and I smile. She’s just a kid and I hate myself—a little anyway—for thinking how hot she looks in that little elf costume. “Here you go, Devon,” Brittany says, “up onto Santa’s lap.” The boy looks up at me, both nervous and excited, and Brittany sticks her tongue out at him behind his back. I grin and try to get into character. As Brittany heads back to her station it’s all I can do to drag my eyes off her ass and focus on little Devon. “So, Devon, what do you want for Christmas?” I ask. “Wow, you know my name?” It happens dozens of times a day. The little farts are so excited about seeing Santa Claus that they don’t hear my elf say their name when they come up to my chair. “Of course I do, Devon. Santa knows the names of all the boys and girls in the world.” “Wow.” His excitement is real and I get a flutter of fear he’ll be a leaker. “So what do you want me to bring to your house this year?” I blink as Brittany flashes the camera. Devon’s whiny voice rattles off the useless crap he hopes I’ll bring him, but won’t. My mind wanders. For some dumbass reason, the mall management put Santa’s Workshop right next to the food court and a sickening odor wafts past us. Whoever thought it was a good idea to position a Chik-fil-A, a Jade Wok and a Sbarro’s next


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to each other should be duct taped to a very hard chair and forced to smell their combined aromas for four straight hours. Without the 12.50 an hour. I sense a silence and realize Devon has stopped talking. “Well, have you been a good boy this year?” I ask. Devon nods furiously, frantic enough to reveal he’s lying. Good thing I don’t give a shit. “Then I’ll see what I can do. You behave and do what your mom and dad say, okay?” Again he nods and this time I join him. That’s my signal for Brittany to come and rescue me. She strolls over and leads Devon back to his smiling, proud mother, who just shelled out $19.50 for a 5 x 7 glossy of Devon with dear ol’ Santa. After the last of the morning lot of kids, Brittany strings the velvet rope across our area and adjusts the sign dangling from it that announces that Santa has to go feed his reindeer. It should say that Santa has to go drain his weasel, but I don’t expect the mall manager would allow that. I wave bye to Brittany, sneaking one last peek at her ass. “See you tomorrow, Jolly Saint Dick,” she says and I laugh. I hurry toward the hallway that leads to the lockers, grinning at the idiots streaming past me in their quest to throw their money away. After turning in my scratchy costume and collecting my fifty bucks, I start thinking about a present to get my wife. Since I’m already here at the mall, I consider grabbing something quick. I debate a pair of shades at the Sunglasses Hut versus an airbrushed license plate made with her name, Della, which she could put on the front of her Saturn. In the end, though, I decide to get the hell out of the mall with its crazed shoppers and funky food smells and drive downtown. It’s cold and raining when I cross the packed parking lot to the staff area. I start my car and wait for the heater to kick in. My body heat steams up the windshield and I have to swipe it with my sleeve so I can see out. After a few minutes of shivering, I give up on the heat and pull away. There’s a variety store downtown, what we called a five-and-dime when I was a kid, just around the corner from the liquor store I usually go to, so I decide to head there. Traffic near the mall is a bitch, but once I go a few blocks it clears up. On the way, I ponder gifts for Della. Last year, she was on one of her frequent and futile diets, so I found her a nice, fancy scale that tells not only her weight, but her body mass index, her bone density, her heart rate, and more. I was trying to be encouraging and to show Della I cared, but she just started crying when she opened it, saying it meant I thought she was fat. This led to her informing me, as she does every year, that I’ve ruined Christmas again. Then the annual holiday bawling com-


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menced, followed by her ranting about how she hates this time of year because Christmas is for kids and we could never have kids and it always ends up somehow being my fault. Honestly, I don’t know why I try. Christmas wasn’t always so fucked up for us. The first few years we were married, we lived in a tiny efficiency apartment just across the railroad tracks east of town. In the winter, the radiator either didn’t work at all, making the joint so cold we could see our breath, or it wouldn’t shut off, making the place as hot as a sauna. Della and I would either sit on the couch in our coats, or walk around naked, unashamed of our bodies the way young people are. We never had extra money for the holiday, but somehow Della managed to pull together scraps of cloth and paper and decorate the place really nice. Christmas Eve, I’d come home from work and walk in and she’d have put on The Dean Martin Christmas Album—her favorite—the apartment smelling great from a chicken she was roasting. Della would be nowhere in sight, so I’d call her name and then she’d step out of the bathroom wearing nothing but a big ribbon angled across her body, a huge bow strategically arranged between her legs. Then she’d ask if I wanted to open my present right then, or wait until after dinner. Seems like we always ate burnt chicken on Christmas Eve. But the years passed, we moved into a bigger apartment, we both gained weight, and Christmas was never the same. I still have no idea what to get Della by the time I reach Liberty Street. I circle the block three times before I notice an SUV pulling away from the curb. I snag the spot and by the time I get out of the car the rain has picked up. It also feels like the temperature has dropped ten degrees since I left the mall. I check the parking meter and see there’s about twenty minutes left. At least one thing goes my way today. That ought to be plenty of time to find something. Surely, a quick pass up and down the aisles of Dingle’s Variety will reveal just the right gift for Della. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have enough dough left over so that I can run around the block to the liquor store. I step inside Dingle’s, letting the nice, heated air warm me, then check my watch to calculate my departure time to avoid a parking ticket. I amble up the aisle on the far right, but there’s nothing but cleaning supplies and pet food. Weaving up and down the rest of the aisles I pick up and consider several items—a bottle of something called “eau de toilette,” which I guess is some type of cologne because it’s with all the other perfumes, but I put it back because Della will just think I’m telling her she smells bad; some fancy soaps shaped like seashells, passed over for the same reason; a briefly considered T-shirt with the words “World’s Greatest Wife” written in large,


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glittery script, but she’d need an extra large and I didn’t have to think very long about the shit storm that would occur if I went home with that. In the end, I settle on a pair of thick, fuzzy socks she can wear around the house and the largest Chia pet they have, which is a bust of Elvis. The wind has picked up when I step outside, and the rain blows in my face. Since I managed to come in well below budget on Della’s gifts, I decide to head around the corner to reward myself with some Crown Royal. Halfway down the block I duck into a narrow alleyway to get out of the biting wind and to light a cigarette. I stuff the bag with Della’s presents under my arm and try to dig into my jeans pocket with cold, stiff fingers to retrieve my lighter. A slight movement to my right catches my eye. At first I don’t see anything. Just a row of garbage cans, so I figure it must’ve been a rat or a cat. I’m just about to look away, when I notice the lid of the nearest garbage can wiggle. Certain now it’s a rat, and being a little afraid of them, I decide to forget the cigarette and get on to the liquor store. But as I turn, I hear a high-pitched noise that stops me. I look back at the trashcan. The top is definitely jiggling and after a few seconds, I hear the sound again. I walk over and reach for the lid’s handle, ready to jump back in case an animal leaps out. I jerk the lid off and, even though nothing jumps out, I stumble back a step. The bag from Dingle’s slips from my armpit and I hear Elvis break, but my eyes are fixed on the trashcan. Wrapped in damp, dirty newspapers is a baby. The sudden exposure to cold air causes it to squirm and I watch its face turn deep red. It opens its mouth to cry but it doesn’t seem to have enough air. Dropping the can lid, I step toward it. I glance back toward the sidewalk, hoping someone will walk by to help me, but no one does. I’m staring at the infant, contemplating how the hell it got there, afraid to touch it, when it finds its lungs and lets out a piercing wail. Instinctively, I pick up the baby and press it against my soggy windbreaker and start to rock back and forth. It stops crying. I touch the back of its head. The skin there is like ice, so I unzip my jacket and slide the baby inside, newspaper and all. I wonder how comforting my rapid heartbeat could possibly be. I try to think of the fastest place to find a cop, and the old saw comes to mind about never seeing one when you need one and I realize how true it is. It occurs to me that the best place for this baby is the hospital, so I decide to take it there. When I start toward the sidewalk, I trip over the plastic bag I’d dropped and I nearly fall. I reach down to pick up Della’s scattered presents when the idea comes to me. Why not give Della something she has always wanted and be a hero at the same time?


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By the time I get back to the apartment, my nerves are shot. I’d wrapped the baby in an old sweater I found in the trunk of my car. It’s pretty filthy, but I figured it was more important for it to be warm than clean. I’d laid the baby on the passenger seat of the car and driven with one hand on top of it and one hand on the steering wheel. When I get to our street, I have to park the car a half block from the front door to our building. The rain has kept most people indoors, and I’m grateful. I check to see that no one is around and I tuck the baby into my jacket again. I grab the shopping bag from Dingle’s, figuring it’ll help me look more casual as I hurry into the apartment. I walk up the two flights of stairs to our floor, the whole time feeling the infant shaking against my chest. Since I’m pressing the baby against me with one arm and holding the bag in the other, I can’t get to my key. I kick the apartment door. After what seems forever I hear Della’s footsteps on the other side. “Who is it?” “It’s me, Della. Open up.” “For Christ’s sake, did you forget your key again?” “Come on, Della. Just open the door. It’s kind of an emergency.” I hear the deadbolt clunk and the door opens. Della is standing in her bathrobe with her hand on her hip, a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. “How many times are you going to forget—” I don’t wait for her to finish. I push past her and shove the door closed with the back of my foot. Della, who’d been leaning on the door, nearly falls. “You sonofabitch,” she says. I toss the Dingle’s bag on the sofa and I turn toward Della, who is looking at me with that all-too-familiar look of disgust. I can see she’s about to speak, but I hold my hand up to stop her. “Just listen to me, Della, okay?” “What’s going on?” I see her eyes look down to where my arm is pressed against my jacket. “What’s that under your coat?” “Hear me out,” I say, but just then the baby lets loose with another loud squall. Like a scene from a lousy comedy, Della’s mouth drops open and her cigarette falls onto the floor. For several moments, she doesn’t move, doesn’t even blink, so I walk over and stub out the butt. Then I unzip my jacket and hold the crying infant out to my wife. She reaches toward it and takes it from me. The baby is still crying, but Della cradles it in her arm and


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holds it against her breast. Just as I did earlier, she begins to rock and the baby quiets down but does not stop crying altogether. Della looks up at me and I can see the unspoken questions in her eyes. I roll out the story for her about how I found it. . . and maybe embellish a little about how long I looked for a cop or someone to help me with it. It seems Della is only half listening to me, anyway. She keeps looking at the small, exposed part of the baby’s head. “Is it a boy or girl, Lou?” “Shit. I don’t know. I never looked.” Della walks over to the couch and eases the baby onto a cushion. She unfolds the sweater and then throws me a dirty look. “Jesus Christ…you didn’t even take the poor thing out of these dirty newspapers?” Gingerly, she begins to unwrap the pages, but the damp newspaper just disintegrates. Della pulls it apart and the first thing I notice is not that the baby is a girl, but the surprisingly long bit of umbilical cord snaking from the baby’s belly. The cord and a good portion of the skin around it are discolored with brown, drying blood. I feel my pulse beating at my temples. “Oh, Lord,” Della says. “Lou, go call for an ambulance.” “But, Della, I thought we could—” “Right now, Lou!” I make the call and five minutes later I hear a siren approaching. While we wait, Della gets a blanket from the bedroom to wrap the little girl. She is sitting on the couch cooing to the infant when I hear the ambulance pull up outside. The paramedics trot up the steps and I call down the stairs to them to guide them to our apartment. When they come over to Della and take the baby so they can examine it, I see that my wife has tears in her eyes and it hits me that I’ve managed to keep my streak intact. I have fucked up yet another Christmas. Watching the EMTs stabilize the baby, I don’t notice that a police officer has entered the apartment. When he touches me on the shoulder I jump. He asks me some questions, but says I need to show him where I found her and then go to the station so he can fill out a full report. One of the paramedics picks up the girl and tells the officer he’s heading over to Baptist Hospital. The policeman asks Della a couple of quick questions—she doesn’t know anything anyhow—and tells me we got to go. I look at Della, who is sitting in the same spot on the couch, and see that she is looking at me,


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shaking her head. Tears are running down her cheeks, but she makes no move to wipe them away. “Listen, Della,” I say, “I just thought that. . . well. . . I know you always wanted us to have a baby and it never quite worked out for us and all. . . ” “You’re a jackass, Lou, you know that? A real damned jackass,” Della says, but there’s no meanness in her voice like I expect. “Go help the police officer and hurry home so we can have our Christmas.” I nod and turn to the cop. He indicates for me to go first and I start for the door. Before I head out, I turn and look once again at my wife. She is holding the blanket she’d wrapped the baby in against her face and crying soundlessly. She drops the blanket to her side and it covers most of the shopping bag from Dingle’s. “Hey,” I say. “Don’t go looking in that bag.” Della looks at me for a moment like she has no clue what I’m talking about, then glances at the Dingle’s bag jutting out from under the blanket. She picks up the blanket and points to the bag. “This bag?” she asks. “Yeah,” I say, “Your presents are in there.” She looks again at the bag, and then at the blanket clutched in her hands. Without looking up she smiles and says, “Don’t worry, Lou. Your secret is safe.” I nod, give the cop a thumbs up, then head out the door.


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BROOKLYN BRIDGE J.R. Solonche

How much smaller it looks in stone and steel than in its photographs. Even the least of buildings tower over it. But it was here first. It is like the old cemeteries cities let lie. Like the ones they fence off, and surround with the new because the prominent are buried there. There is something of the grave about it. There is the somber dark of the stones. There is the skeleton of the cables ossified against the sky. w


J. R. Solonche

CITYSCAPE J. R. Solonche I saw it at the end of the block. It was a piano in pieces. I saw the keyboard. I saw the harp. I saw the sound board. I saw the top. I saw the pedals. They were bundled in cord. It was homeless. It rested against the shins of the building. I crossed the street. I ran my hand over the strings. I ran my other hand over the strings. I ran both hands over the strings. I released the pain from the world. I released the pain of the world. I released all the world's pain into the air. Up it went into the air. It went up into the air over West 64th Street. Up, up, up into the darkening sky went all the pain of the world. w

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THE FROZEN SEA Patricia Horvath I no longer recall why I was in New York alone, that is without my brother. Always before we’d traveled together, meeting our father on one of the subterranean platforms at Grand Central then riding down the FDR Drive to the East River high-rise he shared with two other men. Perhaps on this particular Sunday my brother had Little League. A fussy eater, he might not have wanted to waste an afternoon on strange foods. It’s even possible that the occasion, a food festival in Central Park, was for me alone, a celebration of my newly acquired mobility. For much of the previous year, I had been unable to walk. The S-shaped curve that was my spine had grown so severe I’d needed surgery to hold it in place, this despite wearing a brace for three years. Scoliosis is common enough in adolescent girls, but mine, I’d been told, had become dangerous. If left untreated I could develop a stoop, my lungs compressing, weighing on my heart, shortening my life. My mother was adamant: I would be operated on. I fought back, threatened to run away. So what if my spine’s a little crooked, no big deal, who cares? Still, my fear of becoming paralyzed—a possibility remote yet real—did not change my mother’s mind. Shortly after I turned fifteen, my spine was fused with metal rods and bone grafts taken from my hip. For four months I lay in a chin-to-knee cast, able to move only my arms. I’d had to relearn how to walk, and for many months afterwards I wore first a fiberglass body cast then another brace. Now, finally free of braces and casts, I was about to enjoy my first summer as a “normal” teenaged girl, a girl unmarked by physical difference. Understandably, my mother was reluctant to let me take the train into the city alone. That summer the news from New York was not good. Arson, crime, graffiti. A gunman who preyed on young women and called himself Son of Sam. Vigilante groups, subway violence. The city was broken and broke. Fifth Avenue did not look broke. We rushed past Cartier’s, Tiffany’s, Saks, my father keeping up a steady patter: Jeez it’s hot, you hungry sweetheart? Where we’re going…every food in the world, you’ll see, what’re you now anyway, sixteen? Wow! My little girl, how’d you get so old? Each word a stone in the wall that had formed between us all those months he was too busy to visit, months I could visit no one. At 59th Street carriages lined the park’s edge, the horses blinkered and bridled. I felt sorry for them. Still, I was excited. It was my first time in Central Park. Once inside the park my father seemed to relax. He let his shoulders sag. Food stalls had been set up on the lawn and he bought handfuls of tickets so we could have as much as we wanted, anything we craved. We ate voraciously, indiscriminately: burritos with salsa verde, hummus, grilled sausages, Greek salads.


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I wanted everything, all the foods and smells and noises in the park. The grass was shiny, packed with people, late hippies and early punks and people like my father in suburban sportswear. A man in a ruffled yellow shirt played the steel drum. A dreadlocked man danced along, ecstatic, his hair streaming. I had the sense of being in a world apart, a bordered world, benign. At one stall a man was making banana daiquiris. My father bought two. We climbed a rock and sat in the sun, drinking the daiquiris which were cold and sweet and mild. My father asked if I wanted some pecan pie. Wait here, he said. I sipped my daiquiri and looked down at the people in the park. The sun was warm on my back and I felt drowsy and content. From an adjacent rock a man came clambering over, a hippie looking man with a brown scruffy beard. By now I’d outgrown my childhood fascination with hippies. To me the man looked dirty and dated, a relic. At first I didn’t entirely grasp what he was doing on this rock—my rock—why he was pestering me, asking my name and how I was enjoying myself. I was not yet used to men noticing me. A year earlier I’d been invisible, a girl in a brace. Only the old women had noticed me, pausing to ask questions or say how sad. I was used to the old women, not the young men. Partly I was flustered, partly annoyed, but mostly I felt apprehensive. Here I’d been enjoying myself when this man had appeared, demanding my attention, making me self-conscious. Should I flirt? Tell him to leave me alone? Flatly, tersely, I answered his questions. Yes I like the food, all the food, no I don’t live in New York. My name? It’s Patti. And then I saw him, my father, bounding up the rock, a plate of pie in each hand and a terrible look on his face. Seeing it too, the man scurried off to try his luck on some other rock. My father boomed, loud enough for the man to hear, For Chrissakes, I leave you alone for five minutes and look! Every weirdo in the park… Look at what? I wanted to answer because despite my discomfort I also knew that what had just occurred was ordinary enough, something I’d have to learn to navigate. And I was embarrassed in the way of a sixteen year old girl who had just been “rescued” by her father. We ate our pie and left the park. The street was hot, unshaded, pulsing with too many bright things—taxis, buses, blinking signs: Walk and Don’t Walk. The daiquiri had given me a buzz. A man in a wheelchair came pushing his way up Fifth Avenue, an obstacle course of pedestrians and vendors: pretzel and hot dog carts, sketch artists with easels, tourist groups, photographers hawking glossy skyline shots. People parted to let him pass. Slowly he guided his chair towards the park. I knew what he felt like, at least a little bit. The way your arms get tired, the way you’re forced to look up at people who won’t look back. A doctor had claimed that I might never walk again, but by the time I was using a wheelchair, post-surgery, I knew that was not true. Suddenly I had to stop myself from crying. Not because I was happy or sad— I was neither of these things—but because the sense of my own autonomy, my


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freedom to move about in the world, was still so new I had difficulty believing it would not be snatched away. For nearly a year I’d lacked all agency; things were done to me and for me but not by me. It was for others to decide whether there would be water to quench, food to sustain, pills to soothe, whether curtains would be open or drawn, sheets rumpled or tucked, pillows flat or plumped, whether, and how, my most basic needs were to be met. Now I was free to make my own decisions. Not just what I would eat or when, but how I would choose to live out the many remaining days that were mine. I had one year left of school. To the hippie in the park I had no back story. That was what I wanted, a blank slate. The year before had been something very different, and the following year would be different, too. Like Janus, Roman god of the new year, my gaze was fixed at once on the recent past and ahead towards the murky future. I longed to go unimpeded into that future, whatever it might prove to be, but I feared being pulled back. Many years later I am speaking as part of a conference panel on writing about disabilities. During the question and answer session a woman asks me about scarring. How has the notion of scarring influenced my work? Her question intrigues me. Unlike some of the other disabilities represented on this panel—blindness, polio, Parkinson’s Disease—my scoliosis is not immediately apparent. Yet my scar, though concealed, brands me as “other,” a member of some special non-elect. I do my best to answer her question, speaking about the reductive nature of disability, the dissonance inherent in hearing oneself described as a scar, a spine, how jarring this can be, especially for an adolescent, whose sense of identity has yet to jell. Only much later do I consider the question in terms of writing. A book, Franz Kafka said, should be an ice axe to break the frozen sea within us. Writing chips away at inauthenticity because for the work to matter it needs to get at what’s essential. It’s the thing that won’t let go that counts. My own urge to write stems from a sense of vexation and inquiry: something is bothering me and I need to grasp why. Time, we know, does not heal all wounds. That’s a fairy tale adage, something to see us through. Still, a certain amount of time needed to elapse before I felt able to write about any of this. The scar had to form, heal, fade. Until then I did not want to dwell. There are myths for this, cautionary tales for those tempted by the over-the-shoulder glance. Lot’s wife. Orpheus. Leave it alone. Don’t look back. A few days after I turned forty, my father called to wish me a happy birthday. We had never been close. My brother and I spent occasional Sundays with him, sometimes staying the weekend. My father and brother played games. They


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wrestled on the carpeted floor. They raced, roughhoused, watched Wide World of Sports. For Chipper there were love pinches, piggyback rides, Hungarian-sounding nonsense names. Ignatz. Butchie Shondoke. I was Sweetheart. I read and read. Sweetheart we’re going to toss the ball around, we’ll be back, make yourself at home. Sweetheart, you like skiing? Jean Claude Killy—watch this! Years later, when we were adults, Chipper—and only Chipper—was invited to my father’s house on the New Jersey shore, a house I have never seen. I was my mother’s daughter, my grandmother’s pet: female, fragile, foreign. No place for me in this world of men. Fathers naturally favored their sons, their progeny, the person to carry on their names. That, at least, is how I had rationalized my father’s preference. He’d disappear. Months at a time; later, years. Stop answering phone calls, sending cards. Not even Chipper would know. Then a call, out of the blue. I’m in town, business, your old man, he’s got something cooking, let’s have a drink. We stopped asking. This was normal, normal for us. He’d stay in touch. Long enough so we’d think it just might last. Birthdays remembered, Christmases remarked. Gifts, cards, phone calls, drinks. Before dinner cocktails, dinner drinks, night caps. One more night cap, one for the road. Who wants another round? Your mother… Here he would put down his highball glass, touch a knuckle to his eye. Your mother’s a fine woman. Terrific, the tops! But you need something, you call your old man. Got that? You Call Me! Then he’d disappear again, leaving us to guess. So when he phoned me I was only mildly surprised, less that he’d called than that he’d remembered. “Your birthday!” His tone was emphatic, his words slurred. “Two days ago.” “Happy Birthday, sweetheart! Forty years old—wow! My little girl, forty. I can remember when you were just an itty bitty baby…” Oh God, I thought. Oh my God. This will go on all night. “Dad, listen, I have to…” “…you were a little baby in your crib, so helpless, a little miracle just lying there. And I said ‘God, let this be pure. Please, God, don’t let this be corrupt.’” Well that stopped me. I didn’t know what to say. Who uses a word like “corrupt” to describe a newborn? Who invokes God, begging that an infant be “pure?” Somehow, instinctually, I understood that he was speaking not of me, but of Michael, his first child, the brother I’d never met. My father’s love, his paternity, had been “corrupted” by his son’s death, an event I’d never heard him mention. The next day I told my mother about our conversation. Two months after my brother had died, my mother was pregnant again—with me. A bittersweet pregnancy, one imagines, fraught with sorrow, filled with hope. My mother had not yet learned to drive, and for weeks she’d been after my father to bring home the photos he’d taken of Michael before he’d contracted spinal meningitis—a beautiful, healthy


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baby. My mother told me the story: how my father hadn’t wanted to develop the photos in the first place, how he demurred, making excuses, quarreling. God damn it, I told you, I’m busy. I’ll get to it! Never saying what needed to be said, that he could not stand to look at photos of his dead son. I can see them, my parents, married three years, still in their early twenties, yet feeling so much older than their peers. My mother in a print house dress, her auburn hair tied back with ribbon, dark crescents beneath her eyes. She’s not been sleeping well. A winter afternoon, she’s at the red linoleum table drinking Lipton’s tea. When she hears my father at the door does she rise? Does she bite her lip, smooth her hair? Earlier that day they'd quarreled again about the photos. She wants to see them, see her son, gone now three months. My father storms into the kitchen. A large man, physically imposing. Snow on his belted overcoat, in his cropped black hair. He pulls the packet from his pocket, tosses it on the table. “Here,” he says, “here are some photos of a dead baby!” Leave it alone. Don’t look back. Like my brother, who confuses “mastectomy” with “vasectomy”—Whatever, you know, I hate all those hospital words— like so many others, my father has no words for illness, loss or pain. He will not speak of it, not his father’s death to lung cancer, nor his infant son’s meningitis, nor, later, his mother’s fatal stroke. Pressured by my grandmother, he came once to see me in the hospital, left within an hour, and did not return. Language, of course, is not neutral. It fosters dichotomies, judgments. Sickness and health. Straight (straight arrow, straight and narrow path, straight shooter) and queer (queer duck, queer as a three dollar bill, queering the deal…). Black and white. Disabled and able-bodied (“…being of sound mind and body I do hereby…”) I was on one side of the equation, then on the other. But the boundaries are porous. Each one of us is potentially disabled. Looking too closely at the other becomes a vexed act. More than gender, it was illness that had always separated my father and me. Illness, frailty, death, loss. I was the replacement child, awkwardly formed, dangerous to love. Buffer between the son who had died and the robust boy, two years my junior, whom my father named for himself and whom my grandmother nicknamed Chipper because, she said, he was “a chip off the old block.” My existence made it safe for him to be loved. It’s taken me all of my life to understand this.


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PHOTO Olivia Wise — Ghost Series # 4 (note: one where girl is wrapped in wires)

GHOST SERIES #4 Photograph by Olivia Wise


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To Jumble Patricia Polak the ATM screen displays characters spelling twenty-five different languages to make a banking-friendly experience of a deposit for a Bengali just as well a withdrawal transacted in Serbo-Croat It is my repressed childhood that I don’t attempt to check my balance or make transfer to my money market in Russian For all I know, transliterating, I might be a ruble billionaire The parable of the city and its tower is that God’s anger grew so at the attempt to build up into the heavens God scattered the people of the city upon the Earth, and confused their languages “Balal ” in Hebrew is the word for “to jumble” This gives to English our word “babble”—to talk irrationally, crazy talk Peter Bruegel the Elder in 1568 did his famous painting of the Tower of Babel, based upon the Colosseum in Rome Two hundred years later, the master engraver, Gustav Doré gave another riveting image in, “The Confusion of Tongues” Go back, perchance, to that far distant past of 1965, a benchmark Boomer year Predict that it will be good customer P.R. that at your local Chase or Citi you should have Fukienese to work out your overdrafts babble on w


Patricia Polak

Nighthawks Edward Hopper (1942) Patricia Polak The four are reprised, and unasked, loneliness diner not much different but the snap-brims are only a distant memory trademark of the 40’s man she’s unchanged a redhead, in a red dress that shows a curve of milky skin then she looks expectant toward the paper-capped soda jerk for a word passed in the emptiness of the blackout city who is with her now, who then? stranger? co-worker? friend? lover? someone to make the night pass over a cup of coffee the solitary male figure hunkered on his diner stool— lost in thought, observer, jealous, or the other guy a fool? to imagine she’ll be as approachable come work-a-day sunrise that counterman who wouldn’t trade his job in the small hours when the stories he hears get long, and sometimes the tips big for a brew the only thing holding back the stygian gloom is proximity, the 4-square diner’s architecture, and joe w

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Icarus Christopher Anthony Leibow Your demise began early. as it does for some of us in this world and its repeated histories, the Braille of scars, wrong turns and cul-de sacs. From your perch, you watch a cold blue smoke rise on the other side of the river, from an abandoned field, from a thicket of sycamores where a stag’s plaintive moan runs up the hillside to your feet. You think that it will always be the same, bound as you are, to the weight – of things. and maybe in the end it is only the birds that understand what we are missing here on the ground. Or not even the birds but maybe the stars watching us from so far away and for so long, joyful when we simply take notice of them. You laugh at yourself, a second-hand angel, soul bare and drunk too drunk again. Standing, you pull hard on the leather straps holding the wood and wax wings to your back


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as the wind lifts up the smaller feathers frayed around the wing tips.

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HOMECOMING Christopher Anthony Leibow “I wasn’t going anywhere. I was myself, waiting on the shore for me to return.” — Murakamie It is a difficult time so you wait for yourself to come back-you wait on the pier, watch pelicans pirouette in the air; weightless for a moment and then diving. The sound of their splash reminding you of something you just can’t quite remember. You sit there eating fish after fish, wash them down with beer. You have started counting seagulls and giving them long Spanish names. You choreograph ballets, make architectural drawings of dreams and have started to build a home of sea shells. On the weekends people come just to see you waiting for yourself. “Where Did you go?” they ask. You just shrug. You make new friends, take up painting and paint self portraits your image repeated like the latitude and longitude lines on a map. Early every morning you lean against the railing. The seagulls have joined you; you’ve made them tiny red scarves that they all wear. All of you


Christopher Anthony Leibow

stare, being still as glass as if any movement might blur vision. All of you are staring out to sea, straining to see you coming back, straining to see the prow of the boat cutting the silver morning water. w

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I Kissed Eudora Welty Sidney Thompson After six months of aggressive radiation and chemotherapy, I was convinced my glioblastoma multiforme never would be operable and I would die by year’s end. The cerebral swelling appeared to shrink at first, but the tumor had simply hunkered down like a seed and stabilized before blossoming into one of those red camellias Nall explodes in paintings among floating cotton bolls and disembodied dolls. So the headaches persisted and intensified, the vision blurred, nausea pulsed throughout the day. But I don’t blame my tumor for my erratic behavior in 1995. Driving from Memphis to Jackson, from my birthplace to hers, and appearing unannounced at her door had occurred to me long before I ever began to develop symptoms. I’d been a devotee of hers ever since my high school English teacher had played a recording of Miss Welty reading “Why I Live at the P.O.” Her tender articulation of “breast of chicken” is something I’ll never forget, and “Why I Live at the P.O.” isn’t even my favorite of her stories. But if you want to blame a tumor, go ahead. Just be sure to blame the right one. Blame Anthony Burgess’s. In 1959, Anthony Burgess had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and also like me, he’d been given a year to live. And how did impending death inspire him to spend his time? Writing books that wouldn’t be his most memorable, that would have rendered him largely irrelevant if he’d actually died in 1960. Fortunately for Burgess, his doctors had miscalculated the tenacity of his tumor. He wouldn’t die until much later, in 1993, and not from a brain tumor but from lung cancer. But what if he had died in 1960? That was the point that haunted me, that drove me away from my solitary life. Dying at my desk writing mediocre stories pressure-cooked by time would not be an option. Instead, I sought stories better lived than written. Seventeen years later, with a wife and daughter I love, I have nothing left of my old life I wish to write about but this memory I once held close with pride. Miss Welty was ninety-two and very frail when I met her, and she would pass away a month later, as if in my place. This is my confession. ***


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After a thermos of coffee, two OxyContin, and several tokes off my one-hitter, I arrived at the Eudora Welty Public Library. Ten minutes later, I held a slip of paper bearing Miss Welty’s address, only a few blocks away. The librarian even helped with directions to the street. It was that easy. Miss Welty’s house wasn’t the white-washed antebellum home I’d expected. It was a two-story English Tudor, with a sky-blue Nissan pickup parked in the driveway. An elderly black man wearing a red baseball cap, faded blue dungarees, and a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves pushed an electric lawn mower through the yard. When he’d completed his row at the farther end of the lawn at the line of shrubs, he had to stop, back up the mower, and step over the orange cord before he could turn around. I parked in front of the house next door, then got out and waved at him. But the man plowing slowly through the weeds didn’t notice me on the sidewalk, so I walked up the driveway and stood under the wide netting of shade trees at the end of the old man’s path, waiting for him to raise his large, squarish face while I fought to breathe the bitter grass air. His shirt clung to his dark skin so that the shirt was still white but no longer white alone. I luv Grandpa, his cap declared. He had cut three-fourths of his row when he looked up and turned off the engine. He pulled out a bandanna from his pants pocket and mopped his face as he approached, slightly hunched, sweat dripping from his elbow. “Sorry to bother you,” I said, “but I was wondering if Eudora Welty was home. She lives here, right?” The yardman gave me a goggle-eyed look of bewilderment, as though he’d never heard the name, not even at the library, before conceding with a nod. “I’m a huge admirer of her work, a fellow author in fact,” I said. “I’d like to thank her for her genius and just say hi, if that wouldn’t be too inappropriate. If she’s feeling up to it.” The man shook his head and opened his mouth, but his words were slow coming. “She is very ill,” he said frogishly from an electronic voice box. “She don’t come out no more.” He pointed at Belhaven College across the street and explained in elliptical sentences that they checked on her, took care of loose ends, paid him to cut her grass. He said, “She in bad shape.” “All right, okay, thank you,” I said and retreated down the drive. When I reached the sidewalk, the mower was humming again. I turned and watched the yardman trudge toward the end of his row. The mower’s cord traveled across the yard, wrapped in loops on the porch, through the front door to an outlet somewhere in Eudora Welty’s house.


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I asked myself what Anthony Burgess asks in A Clockwork Orange: “What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness?” Words from a ghost, written when he was supposed to be dead, though now he was and had been for nearly two years. I walked in the direction I’d come, but only for a few steps, until I was both clear of the yardman’s view and certain of my own. Then after allowing enough time for the yardman to back up, step over his cord, and turn around, I turned around myself. The yardman, with his white-black back to me, again headed toward the hedges. So I made my move, the move of a young squirt seeking excitement, and darted for the porch. *** The oak door had been cracked just enough and opened without a sound, and I closed it back upon the cord. “Miss Welty?” I called into a warm, scented darkness I can only articulate as decades-old rose petals and barn wood. But no one sat on the settee or in the wing-back chairs to answer. I stepped forward from the hardwood floor to the Persian carpet and followed the cord through the shadows in the parlor to the outlet by the stairs. Not a light on anywhere. I gripped the banister and called out her name. I took the wooden steps one by one, past pictures along the wall I could not see beyond shape. There were four rooms on the second floor. I walked to the only one whose door was not all the way closed and peeked in. And there she lay: Miss Eudora Welty herself, in the four-poster bed, her head of white hair turned away from the white blinds, closed but still bright upon the room, upon the white drift of covers, rising, then falling with her breath. Hoping I was doing right, I asked myself, Would I want Eudora Welty breaking into my house to wake me up in order to compliment me if I were on my deathbed? I rapped the door with my knuckle. Then I gently pushed the door forward. My heart quickened as I took my first step into her room. “Miss Welty?” I said, approaching the bed. But she would not wake. On the night table a pitcher of ice water perspired on a silver tray. I shook the bed and again called her name, and her eyes rolled open, she groaned, and her eyes rolled shut. I sat down in the chair pulled close to the bed and poured water into the glass. I gulped it down, then crossed my legs, leaned back, and for a long time watched her sleep. Her face looking chiseled from limestone. The mower outside still hummed.


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“We have a lot in common, you and I,” I said, though I remember cringing with doubt. She’d lived years without writing. Maybe she’d wanted to live years without writers, too. Maybe all she’d ever wanted to see was the mower’s large, squarish face and no one else’s before she died. I remember standing then for no other reason but love for her and touching her cheek with the back of my hand, and I recall now, always will, how her cheek had chilled me. “You’re not in pain, are you, Miss Welty?” I said, and her eyes fluttered open and stayed—holding upon them a look of amazement, which would have looked like fear on anyone else. From the photos I’d seen of her, I knew that this was how she always faced the world. “I’m a friend, Miss Welty.” She continued to stare. Even in her condition, to absorb. “What do you need? Do you want some water?” I lifted the pitcher and rattled the ice. There was movement under the covers near her chest. A frail arm in a white cotton sleeve appeared and she pointed to the chair I’d been sitting in. Then she tucked her arm back under the covers. “Would you rather I keep quiet?” I sat down again. “Or keep you company?” She smiled and shut her eyes. “Would you like to be read to, Miss Welty?” I slipped off my shoes and propped my feet on the edge of her bed. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taught your stories and reread them for inspiration.” A cloud, slow as a drawn velvet curtain, passed over the sun, and the dusk in the room became night, and though I could still see the blanket of white on the bed and dimly the curls of her hair, I no longer could see Miss Welty’s face. Then the sun appeared again, and then her face. I took my feet off the bed and leaned in. “I’m thinking of Tom Harris of ‘The Hitch-Hikers,’ such an awesome story. ‘He was free; helpless.’ That semicolon practically gave birth to me, how it makes the sentence one-sided, Tom Harris one-sided. I get it, Miss Welty, I get it. StellaRondo accuses the narrator of ‘Why I Live at the P.O.’ of being ‘one-sided,’ ‘bigger on one side than the other,’ which is so funny and perfect, and that’s who I am, who Phoenix Jackson is, and who you are, am I wrong, Miss Welty? Who all of your best characters are? I get it, and I thank you.” She—so humbly, serenely resting—encouraged me. “Tell me, Miss Welty,” I said, “of all your stories, don’t you agree, isn’t ‘A Memory’ your very best?”


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Her eyes opened and she started to speak, but her lips clung together. Then they peeled apart and she licked them. “Columbus,” she said, the word crumbling from her mouth. I stood up so that I could see the blue of her eyes. “Columbus, Mississippi, ma’am? Or Christopher Columbus?” She smiled and nodded her head. “Which one, Miss Welty?” I knew she’d attended Mississippi State College for Women in Columbus, but perhaps she was offering a presentiment. She mouthed the word again, but this time without sound. The sublimity of her word reminded me of my own choices, my own one-sided direction. I could give her facts of old girlfriends, of an ex-wife, but I couldn’t provide one proof of who they were. I hardly remembered them. “Miss Welty, may I quote something to you? This has been nagging me: ‘Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?’ Do you have an answer for that, Miss Welty? It’s a powerful question for people in our position. Perhaps you remember it from A Clockwork Orange. Anthony Burgess—what was he like? I’m sure you met him along the way. How could you not be friends, right?” I repeated the passage, but if she heard anything I said, she didn’t show it. She lay perfectly still, as if she had no choice left at all. I wanted to do something for her. If possible, something profound. Something at least more memorable than having some stranger barge in on her and drink her water and cause confusion for her and nothing else. “Give me a minute, Miss Welty. I’ll be back in just a minute.” I stepped out of the room and entered the next one, a tiled bathroom, so I continued to the next, then to the next, until I found her study with all her books. In a barrister’s bookcase filled with her own first editions, I found a copy of A Curtain of Green, then returned to my chair and cleared my throat. I poured myself some water and took a sip. I cleared my throat again. “‘A Memory,’” I said, and smiled at her unflinching old glare of amazement. Remembering now, I easily hear the silence of her room and smell the sweet odor of milk and bamboo of yellowed pages. Until I’m enveloped as well by the park with the small lake and little pavilion, the young girl in love, the hot sand, the boy whose wrist she’d brushed on the stairs at school—an encounter that would bloom in her memory like a rose, but also like a tumor.


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Once I’d read the final words, solitary and unprotected, and shut the book, I looked up and watched her eyes close. She turned away, onto her back, and though I did not see the tear trek across her temple into her hair, I could see its mark—like a snail’s trail, a comet’s tail. I wondered then as I wonder now, if all her life, with her mere presence, she’d ushered into every house and every hall this silence of cathedrals. And then I realized the room was too quiet. That the lawn mower had stopped running. I slid the book on the table, rose quietly to my feet, and stepped to the window. I parted the blinds and saw down below that the yardman already had loaded the machine into the back of his truck, had raked the cuttings into piles, and was now at the sidewalk stuffing them into black bags. I released the blinds, walked back to her bed, and slipped my shoes back on. “Miss Welty,” I said, “it’s been a great pleasure meeting you.” I patted her arm through the covers and noticed her lips seemed proffered, zipped in a pucker I refuse to interpret as retreat. I considered meeting her lips with my cheek but remembered my unkind whiskers and puckered, too. I could have been kissing my own mother. But whom was she kissing? Who was I?


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PROCESSIONS The Gates, an installation in Central Park by Christo & Jeanne-Claude, February 2005

Dean Kostos Flaming ghosts slant through branches. Immaterial material shrouds a snowy graveyard. Are we mourners or mourned? Samurai banners whip through landscape. Shinto wraiths sing a ginger-colored god. Where goes his shape-shifting form? A Bulgarian march drones from the carousel. Cavalcade from Tartar encampments, guidons flickering by campfires. Where have the soldiers trudged? Art as elegy: steel bones, cloth flesh. People in mold-colored coats step through fire, arrive at Seurat’s Grande Jatte. Transported? Transmuted? Disembodied voices scatter like powdery snow. Branches stiffen into characters, imprint saffron robes: Feed yourself to Buddhist flames. w


Dean Kostos

THE LIVER IS THE COCK’S COMB after a painting by Arshile Gorky

Dean Kostos Sun-warmed apricots release their scent. A boy from Khorkom breathes deep & tastes their color with his eyes. War’s impasto of flame. Charred carrion: limbs & entrails. His famished mother dies in his arms. The boy draws a scorched landscape, vermilioned. That artist is now a man. He hangs his voice from a desiccated tear, dusts his knees, unpeels his face & name. Sails toward a new self in New York City. Night blooms inside a skyscraper. Petals wither. Flute-hollow skeletons exhale a satin sky, a coffin lining.

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The painter thumbs his mother’s embroidered apron—threads unraveling, an Armenian prayer. With paint-stained hands, he bends toward a deathbed, a flowerbed: every garden a cemetery. w


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COLOSSUS OF RUST —A Voyage of Growth and Discovery, by Mike Kelley and Michael Smith, Sculpture Center, LIC, September-November 2009 Dean Kostos Raising a torch to a mechanized cosmos, this colossal infant salutes burning sky. Amber spotlights gutter. Chatoyant rust glows into pollen. A makeshift heaven of discarded coils, carburetors, bedpans. A machine pumps piston-valves. Yellow pennants swag, celebrate a return no one can see. Curled into itself like a fetus, an inner ear cannot hear. A boy thwacks a bronze bong: baritone. Ancient voices expand into air. This statue’s smelted forefather straddled Rhodes’ Harbor. His verdigris mother ushered hoards toward Ellis Island. But this junkyard colossus rises above Long Island City,


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spreads diapered thighs. Transformed, transgendered, he gives birth to a phantom galleon. On its deck, another infant grasps a tablet gouged with an alphabet no one will speak. w


Joey Nicoletti

Classic TV Joey Nicoletti 8:00 pm. My cat stares me down from the apartment window as I get out of the car. The milky light pouring from the big dipper does not appear to have quenched his thirst: it took its time to get here, as opposed to me, a servant to routine; my stomach snarling its demand for dinner as I ran a red light, paying no mind to the cop on the corner; the station wagon pulling out of its driveway before I took my final turn home. I look into the sliding doors of the living room below mine: Mary Tyler Moore throws her hat in the dusty air of the TV screen. I hear wind chimes harmonize on porches. A pothole overflows with moonlight in the grass. I drop my keys. Satellite dishes rise from the soggy ground. w

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Facing It George Held A woman with a face transplant Rounds the southeast corner of 56th And Madison, and for an instant Our eyes meet. Does she think I’ll flinch? I don’t, and as she averts her gaze, I notice that ridge where stitches once spanned hairline and ear-line and reached beneath Her chin. Has her skin turned yellow, Or is that pancake? Her slotted eyes wear Mascara, and lines of kohl form eyebrows. I remember Mr. Waters, the war vet, Whose face burned off when his plane crashed, Years before face transplants. I can see The fleshless face he bore so stoically; I didn’t dare to look away as he said hello In a voice like a recording, and liplessly He no doubt tried to smile at little-boy me. Did that encounter put a slight smile On my own full lips when the woman With the new face, who might have served In Iraq, looked at me? I admit I blushed, Though maybe she had passed by then And missed me redden, embarrassed By my trespass on her thoughts, though


George Held

I hope, when she got home and looked In the mirror, the thought of my small smile Sent an impulse to her smile muscles, Or at least called up a memory of them. w

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The Mechanic’s Wife Lou Gaglia When I knocked on her fancy Official English Department Office Door this morning, she acted more like a bouncer than a welcoming fellow poet. Swinging the door open after my third knock in three minutes, she glared at me, took one weary step back, and closed it in my face. I didn’t even have the time to say, “Hi, uh, um…” I shoved my poem, “The Mechanic’s Wife,” back into my pocket and fumed my way to the library, away from the philosophy building where my class had already started. In the echoing lobby, and on the way upstairs to the stacks, I glared at anyone I passed. Maybe door slamming was one of the perks of being a guest professor poet at a college, I thought. Maybe when the door was installed in her office, she’d even asked that the hinges be oiled up special for smooth and precise door slamming. I sat at a table in the stacks, calling myself an idiot for trying. But listening to my friend Wilson in the first place was the bigger mistake. He’d met me in the morning for breakfast at the student union, and showed me his new poem, now published in the university magazine. I looked at it, impressed, and shook his hand over the scrambled eggs. Then outside I took out my own new poem, “The Mechanic’s Wife,” and showed it to him. He seemed to scan it while leaning his weight onto one foot. “You should go to readings on campus,” he said, handing it back to me. “You should network.” I nodded, looking up at the many feet that crossed the bridge into the student union. “Branch out, go meet other poets.” Then he backhanded me lightly on the shoulder, and I looked down at it. “Hey, go see Marybeth Kline. She’s on staff here. Maybe she can help you.” I smiled a little, slowly folding “The Mechanic’s Wife” with one hand and looking up again at those hurrying across the bridge. Wilson hesitated, laughed through his nose, then hurried off, and I drifted toward the English Department building, opening and reading through my poem ten or twelve times before winding up at Marybeth Kline’s door. It had been my visit to the family-owned auto shop (motor oil downstairs, olive oil upstairs, I thought) two days before that had given me the idea for the poem. On my way to my second softball game as a latecomer with the undefeated Thunderbirds, I dropped my car off for carburetor work.


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In my first game, the coach had put me in centerfield and batted me fifth, but I did lousy, throwing to the wrong base on one play and misjudging a fly ball into a triple on another. On top of that, I went 0-3 at bat, striking out once. Horrible game, but I’d been nervous, and the coach yelled at everyone about positioning and the situation and the count. He waved his arms wildly at me to move in, to move out, to shade left or right, to come in three steps, then another inch. And after my crappy game he didn’t say anything to me or shake hands—nothing but a turned back—even though we’d won. But ready for this second game, I dropped my car off at the mechanic’s and hurried to the field and into the dugout, only to see my name penciled into the scorebook batting ninth and playing right field. All game I heard but didn’t listen to the coach yell at me where to play; and if I had to move over three steps to the right or left, I only drifted over or in a step, or pounded my glove and peered into the infield, my feet set. I got two hits and drove in a run and stole second base. And to end the game I made a long running catch in foul territory and ran into the dugout to shake hands with the other guys. When the coach came towards me, though, I turned my back and headed across the field on my way back to the auto shop. I stood at the window in the mechanic’s office and watched him work on my car. After a while his wife came in with a tray that balanced a sandwich and a soda—and I even thought I saw a pickle—and she ducked under my lifted car. But the mechanic looked over at her before she could hold out the tray and hollered, “Just…wait!” She hurried away, her face red, like someone had slapped her (or slammed a door in her face). About twenty minutes later she came in with the same platter and called out again, as though it were life and death that he take the sandwich. He turned and held his greasy hands out to her. “You see my hands? Do you see them?” She stood there, her shoulders folded forward. The platter dipped heavily in her arms until she flipped it to the ground and hurried off again, weaving at first as though she didn’t know if she’d go out the back door or up the back steps or into the office where I stood. When I paid the mechanic I looked to the back stairway as if to say sorry. Sorry, lady, that it was my car you stood near while getting yelled at by your husband for daring to bring him food. Sorry, but my car wasn’t on his side: it didn’t blare its horn in unison with his shouting, and I didn’t smirk from the other side of the office glass. I sat at a table in the library stacks, looking through one of Marybeth Kline’s books. Her poems were good, even though I hated her. Some were


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angry, and I found myself angry along with her, copying my favorite line from one of them.

…this torrent of expectation, this hunger this grief—this my partial self…

I stopped, remembering the sonnet contest two years before in high school Shakespeare class. Mr. Cole either lectured all class or called on those who didn’t raise their hands, like me. And in the early spring he ran the sonnet contest. I knew my own sonnet was lousy but it was from the heart, all about Amy Amonte, who sat two seats to my right. She had no idea the poem was about her, I was sure. I was good at hiding my feelings, and she was good at ignoring me. Her sonnet, which had been about some cranberry bog, came in first. Wilson’s came in second but he made sure to congratulate Amy with a big smile on his face, the bastard. My love poem to her finished dead last. Mr. Cole even read out the number of everyone’s votes, hanging on to the “z” at “zero” when he said my name. Another bastard. I took out my notebook and started my own version of Marybeth Kline’s poem. …this torrent of last place sonnets this door slam, this z-z-ero… For the rest of the year, I flipped off Amy with my middle finger at the side of my leg every time she spoke in class or laughed at Mr. Cole’s Shakespearean jokes. Janet Duval, who sat next me, probably thought I was fingering her, and Amy probably never even looked over, but I didn’t care. And I did nothing much the rest of the year except look out the window and say, “I don’t know,” whenever Mr. Cole tried to scare me by calling on me. A girl appeared at my table in the stacks and asked if the seat across from me was taken. Stuck on the “z-z-ero” part of my poem, I looked up and hissed, “Yes!” and she hurried off. I shook my head at the “z-z-ero” and added my big hissing “YES-S-S” before crumpling the whole thing and resting my chin on my folded arms. Near the time philosophy class would have ended, I wandered outside toward the theater wing to the parking lot behind it. In my mind the Thunderbirds coach and the mechanic and Wilson and Mr. Cole marched toward me, and I pummeled each of them in turn. But when Marybeth Kline and her glare appeared before me, I only stepped carefully around her.


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Finally, as I passed the bus stop in front of the lot, the mechanic’s wife and the girl in the library came to my mind, and I closed my eyes against them and kicked at a rock. A guy around my age stepped out of the bus line and said hello, his face expectant. “Hi,” I said. “Don’t you know me?” he laughed. “Uh…” “You know…Denise.” I hesitated. “You’re Denise?” “No, no,” he laughed. “Ed, it’s Ed.” He was Ed, my sister’s best friend’s boyfriend. We talked for a while and got around to the subject of softball. He told me that his team had a spot open for a centerfielder—“like you,” he laughed—and he named some of the other guys on the team, none of whom I knew. “They’re a great bunch,” he said. “We’re like oh and ten, but we have a good time.” I imagined myself out in centerfield, just writing poems in my head that nobody would ever read. I thought of being out there in the field enjoying the game and then in the dugout around the other guys, having fun just playing ball—just playing ball: not caring how the game in the field or the poems in my head turned out; just playing, from first inning to last, from first line to last. “Yes.” I smiled and shook Ed’s hand. Driving home, I replayed in my mind—not Marybeth Kline’s “Slam!” or Wilson’s nose-laugh, or the coach’s turned back, or Mr. Cole’s “z-zero”, but the library girl’s, “Is this seat taken?” and her flustered face as she hurried away. After a while, though, each time she asked, the seat wasn’t taken, and each time that it wasn’t taken, I swung the door open wider for her, and the mechanic’s wife appeared at it too—Marybeth Kline being out at the time—and both were most welcome.


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PARALLEL UNIVERSE Ellyn Maybe Sometimes I wonder if there are one million people listening at the same time to the same Leonard Cohen song. the one that keeps people from killing themselves It’s a long playing record It’s a long song Where do people play each other the songs that will keep them standing when one foot in front of the other is more myth than practice? I once tried to play “Beware of Darkness” by George Harrison for a friend, cause its beauty and pain were singular at that moment and I wanted to share I wanted us to hear as close as we could the same thing and make of it what we would He said he heard that song when it first came out and ran out to smoke a cigarette We lost something in that moment I listen to music alone, but I imagine there are sharp notes bending the backs of the universe into more flexibility, more love, more tenderness, more a capella chiropractors Somebody is strumming 3 basic chords and somebody will live through the night. w


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THE PARTY MIND Ellyn Maybe There are childhood parties where people play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey trying to complete the physiology of the animal. There are parties every day where people play pin-the-logic-on-the- Universe. Whole countries get so drunk they can’t find their car. There are games of twister where natural disasters consist of people brought together only by chemistry, leaving their rocket scientist diplomas in a pile of dirty looks by the sink.

There are parties where the name tag is the only thing one is certain of doubt this doubt that cufflinks formal illusions required no casual banter Just enough panic to go around twice. w


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Another Blues in E Minor “For as you know, what we call nostalgia is for the life we didn’t live . . . –Gerald Stern

Gerry LaFemina An acoustic guitar case agape, a young man busking at St. Mark’s, crooning Johnny Thunders You can’t put your arms around a memory. Desperation bends each note, but he sings as if he’s had enough of melodrama, enough of being infatuated yet feckless, enough of being too cool for his own good. God, he moans at song’s end, then growls to conjure John Lee Hooker–another lovelorn blues in E minor. I know you realize this kid is really me– just another fib I’ve told . Between songs he says his heart’s offkilter & I nod my head. Desire like so many words he’s hoped to say. My problem, a friend once declared, is my determined relationship to nostalgia. The overcast sky, the gunmetal light of spring only make it worse. Ditto, the East Side pedestrians with their punch lines I almost recognize– queens, junkies, trendy post-grads. So much of Manhattan remains the same despite what’s changed: St. Mark’s Place still ends at the park, the punk women there get me to turn my head until I stumble & they laugh the way they do, a luscious velvety sound. Just that laughter is a dream date. I feel worse for it, but it’s too late to X out this poem, to erase the guy with the guitar, that young man I miss, that self. Let’s face it: Zen has taught me nothing. I still want. Still. w


Gerry LaFemina

Friday Night, First Avenue Gerry LaFemina So much laughter out of the open mouths of bars, so much music, too–juke box favorites & karaoke. So much talk. Street lamps & neon signs tug at night’s leash, & the way a woman’s head rests upon a man’s arm as they walk past into whatever narrative they’re writing limits his heartache. I can see it in the animated way his hands move as if doing origami with the air. Imagine a hundred invisible cranes made of night itself. In the school where I learned cellular mitosis & the rudiments of RNA, one of the custodians used to shape swans & boats from any scrap he found in his duties. He’d leave them on random desks for us to discover. How we’d unfold them to see old crib notes or love letters, the infrequent dirty caricature. What was inside didn’t matter: rather we liked the surprise of finding something simple yet ornate, there among the austere furnishings, the tired blackboards, the dull expressions of clocks while we to took custody of our lives, so that tonight we can rush onto First Avenue, rum pleasured, vocal with vodka, having left some intricately folded sadness beside a crumpled cocktail napkin.

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There’s so much joy after all, so much revelry, so many stories to be told, it’s easy to ignore the woman who weeps into her cell phone. She must turn to face the dark facade of the Coal Yard Bar. She is pleading Why? Why? in a voice I kind of recognize. Of course, there is no answer we can know, not on this fifty-degree Friday in February w


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Kids with Guns Photograph by Eleanor Leonne Bennett


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Eve Andrew Spencer I was ashamed, uncertain, the first time. He says I’m like a buttercup, she was an orchid. I’m sweet, she was pungent, alluring, always full of the smell of sex. I saw her moving through the trees like a leopard, flash of pink between the thighs, and he says he doesn’t want her anymore. I’m the mother of his children for all her false promise of fertility. Sweet, simple Eve, you are not like the angels, pursued by Evil from dawn to bloody fingered dusk. You are too young for evil to pursue. You are still pursuing it. w


Jacob M. Appel

Thanksgiving, 2011 Jacob M. Appel I. Beyond the glass door stands the smaller opaque door that protects the glass from eyes like ours.

II. Gulping down a meal: the latent serpent in my grandfather.

III. My sister's husband feet on the coffee table, his fly open. I am grandma's last hope.

IV. Chaos fills the tank of love, yet who dares bring fishing tackle to the aquarium? w

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Pastoral Brent House O fall down barn O Heav’n please stand just a little while longer remember how he poured his salt & blood into your veins remember your roots remember how longleaf stood transfixed by gulf water remember him through our drought offer abasht children a thin ring from your poles & throw down roots from your beams from the rods atop your rafters bring light & from your roistered vein point our direction true south O fall down barn let me lose every appendage of myself in your loft for I am prideful & my word is a hollow O hallowed barn rot into flesh engrain pores for your resin is a holy fire I will strike the lintelpost & you will humble for your promise is just as mortise & tenor & cannot be broken in high winds & scarce water I speak to the well & waters flow like a deluge for your promise is just & I must stand in awe & in hunger I offer my son & daughter to layunder the bright sky to lay under the wide gates we have hoisted to the beams to lay unheled & be pierced among the bright shafts of red nail light to carry the splinters of your truth so deep under their skin no blade will dig away their holy presence O fall down barn I pray blood into love of this timber & I cry out & you must hear O fall down barn how dare you lean down this hill when I cry out for I ain’t nothing & you hold all which is beautiful & wild & ain’t nothing gross nor domestic can lay under your wood hay of our beds dead & bound smells of field staves of feedtrough hold remnant of molasses O fall down barn red up your wall before your gray planks loam into soil in the hereness of water & air before my eyes you are rusticated through rust & ruth when once you sat in the square & lifted your gambrels into afternoon black as a red wingtip when once I slept in the heart of barnés as a child of royal gumption & comeuppance Had I known afore that I know now I fear I should not have had heart enough though you will no longer remember & somebody should & somebody should remember as water drains through a screen a mat of pulp even lays down in a press & dries on the brittle sound of just chapiters we lay in substantial exposure


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we lay & we wrinkle in the rain & we curl in the sun & when we ignite anointed as leaves as red checkered pride as purpled leaft resurrection we ignite to feed the soil as rich milled woven fibre laid down pressed & dried to feed hunger days dry of press & pulp & if you wrap my body in burlaps of sackcloth I will be your liveral fautor will be ground to dust & will ascend the way of rough earth & yellow-eyed to lofts of fairheaded whither & lofts of handworked mystery O fall down barn tin folded pine fallen into good ground & brought forth old tin of fruitfulness I hath forsaken brethren sistern father mother wife for son & daughter & our land for this persecution of inheritance an hundredfold some sixtyfold some thirtyfold & everlasting O fall down barn spring up & bare.


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Florida Wetlands Joy Gaines-Friedler From the boardwalk egrets and avocets busy with spring – feed their young the sloughs swell, the spadderdock bloom yellow such lovely work. Again, what I try to detach myself from I've let in even further – not the swell of nature that remains a kind of them and us but the way I care about it all. The way I return to challenge my mother's growing confusion – her daily losses – she can't manage her bills or remember who she's talked to. My mother's spent her life drowning. I've spent mine building boardwalks – walking away then returning to fish out the strangling weeds around her. Someone has formed nesting boxes for the wood ducks. Doing laundry today was strangely satisfying – load, dry, fold, load, dry, fold.


Joy Gaines-Friedler

And I think of the factories back home – the bars along Jefferson – once full at quitting time – of women grateful for the cravings of their men, their hands – the tangible routine that comes from work and settling-in at night under moonlit sawgrass or on the couch – hoping tomorrow may be the same. w

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Sixties Sestina: After Seeing a Revival of Hair Ellen Pickus When the kid asked me, Were you ever a hippie? she meant, Were your clothes gauzy and flowing freely as your hair spun out to the beat of a Hendrix guitar riff or Joplin scream, she meant, Did you smoke pot and have wild sex, and, only later, turn into your staid self. What part of the sixties helped form this self ? Products of our time, to tell the truth, I was no hippie, was shy around the opposite sex, although my hair was long and flowing and I did go to one concert where the scream of the bass marked a relentless beat. I hated it and left early. The beat of loud music obliterated my self, throbbed in my head till I wanted to scream. I didn’t understand the hippies. Why would anyone choose the flowing, drug-addled world view over stability, sex with many partners over sex with the one person who makes your heart beat because you want your life always flowing with his, joined together as one self ? What was so wonderful about the hippies that made this kid think the sixties were a scream?


Ellen Pickus

Did she know the sounds of the sixties included the scream of us young people of all sexes joined to protest a war? And here the hippies had it right. Who profited when our boys died to beat people in a far-off nation into replicas of ourselves? On the Mekong delta blood was flowing until it spilled onto our college campuses, flowing onto youngsters’ schoolbooks as they screamed. Youngsters here and in Nam never grew into themselves, never even got to experience sex. That sweet girl who faced the frightened guard tried to beat his gun with flowers, beautiful hippie. Idealistic hippies helped stop the flow of the beat of nightly body counts, the screams of a death culture countered by sex, the life force, our better selves. w

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TRINITY Lewis Turco I. The Big Bang •


Lewis Turco

II. The Big Blink Is it a butterfly or a wasp? No matter, catch it in our net – don’t let it get away: When life blinks out, that’s it: Nothing existed, ever. The Big Blink takes place. There’s nothing to regret, no one to regret it. There will be no darkness — darkness so deep we are of it, no silence so vast one can hear oneself think, nothing to wish for, nothing to want, no one to think or wish for, no darkness or silence so vast and deep that we are the silence, nor so deep and vast we are of it, nor in it, nothing to want, no self to wish or wish for, no being to become, to Be.

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III. The Big Blank


Peggy Aylsworth

COME TO OUR TABLE Peggy Aylsworth Breakfast on the balcony, though the coral tree is pruned. Unlike the insistent birds I wouldn’t interrupt your timbered voice, carrying its sex, filling the words with all I know and cannot know of you. What are these sounds, these syllables refined from ancient grunts? Our tongues enjoy their tastes, the honeydew ripened with memory, but as though the day were borrowed, the street explodes in a blast of angry rap, a boom-box rush, reminding, reminding, the DNA of any two humans is 99.9% identical. The air unites its pieces. .1% allows this morning’s touch, this shape on private shape, the angle of your leg, its sudden shift. w

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ISIS IN ASTORIA, N.Y.C Colette Inez When I see her on Broadway she tells me: “I put together what’s missing; arms, legs, brains. I’ve re-assembled my husband. Osiris is grateful.” She lingers on each word. War reports from P.C. Richards, rows and rows of TVs on sale. Later at Pathmark Frozen Foods I admire her small-boned body, the elaborate curls. “Dressed by a Caspian slave,” she answers my who does your hair? “I protect my son Horus against scorpions and snakes.” She hands me her card; GODDESS SERVICES. “We have followers in England, Egypt, Asia Minor. Tell your generals I’m ready to advise— your men will require elephants and horses.” At the checkout, I promise to contact Obama pronto. w


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BREAKS Photograph by Eleanor Leonne Bennett


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Still Life with Contrast Dye Lisa Mangini It is impossible, you think, to identify anything in this nearly all-black celluloid of your guts. You think back to tenth-grade biology, but can only recall the stench of formaldehyde, the serene look upon the piglet’s face. You think you recognize the white tines of ribcage, the twin kidneys, the long crinkled streamer of small intestine. But on a large slab of gray, you see the white mass, round and obvious as the moon, and somehow, whatever it is, know it can shift the tide inside of you, send everything swaying in its pull. w


Lindsay Hobbs

September at Dusk Lindsay Hobbs You came over the cattle guard, scrawny as half-dead branches groping for rain over our dusty heads. My skinny brier-scratched legs, stuck to the side yard’s propane tank, grew chilly while the others ran through the doorless garage to lick iced bottoms of birthday candles. Hidden in straight-shot berry hedges, I watched you make a bouquet of sun-dried weeds under the light post, followed you to the corner cemetery where we ran before the fresh dirt mound emptied us into the starless hide-and-seek night. w

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The Posted Limit Zeke Jarvis The father drums his fingers on the steering wheel. It had been the best day. The one they’d all remember as they tried to look past the bad ones. The father knew that he’d been going a little fast, feeling invincible and maybe wanting to enjoy that. Now he looks at the day as the day when the prick cop takes his time getting out of the car. The lights are flashing and all these other cars are whizzing by at indeterminate speeds. A blue sports car with flames on the side--that’s the car that should be pulled over. The father worries he has ruined his son’s perfect day. Today his son, bald from treatment, gave them a smile one full step beyond angelic. The cop car’s door is opening. He isn't fat, really, but the father sees that it takes him two or three tries before he can get himself out of the car. The father wants to curse, to let out a string of vile obscenities, but he is already too deep in karmic debt. He assumes, watching the cop walk, that this is not the type of guy to let him off with a warning. The father looks at his son in the rearview mirror. The son is thirteen years old. He should be starting to scream at his father, telling him that he doesn’t get it. Telling his friends that his father is lame. Instead, they’re too often silent together, having too much of weight to discuss and too little of levity to laugh about. The cop reaches the window, and the father rolls it down. This is the third time he’s been pulled over in all of his life. It’s been a long time. He has one of those awful moments where he knows exactly what’s going to happen before it comes. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” the cop asks. It’s a quiz where every answer is wrong. “I guess I was going too fast,” the father says. “You know how fast you were going?” the cop asks. The father hates this man. “To be honest,” he says, “I sort of lost track.” There’s little reaction from the cop. “I clocked you at 73. Do you know what the posted limit is?” Given where he was pulled over, the speed limit could be 65 or 55. The father tries to guess not the correct response, but the appropriate one. “I thought it was 65,” says the father. He’s heard that a cop won’t pull you over if you’re going seven miles or less over the speed limit, but he can’t place where he would’ve heard that information.


Zeke Jarvis

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“Can I see your license and proof of insurance, please?” The father assumes that his answer was correct, or he would’ve been corrected. As the father reaches back for his wallet, he wishes his son’s cancer upon the cop. He wishes the vomit, the waiting around in hospitals and the despair upon this man. He pulls at his wallet, but it catches on his pocket, having angled as he pulls. On the road, a black minivan goes past at what seems an incredible speed. The father is beginning to sweat. After getting out the wallet, he has to flip through a number of receipts and very few bills to find his license. He sets the wallet in the passenger seat, empty so that his wife can sit in the back with their child. His wife has said nothing this whole time. He can’t meet her eyes. Next, the father opens his glove box, moves aside a map and a flashlight to find his insurance card. Below it is the owner’s manual. He looks at it to make sure that it’s the most recent one before handing that and his license to the cop. The cop takes it and heads back to his car. With the cop back in his car, the father rolls up his window. He looks at his son. “Sorry,” says the father. The son shrugs. “73 isn’t that big of a deal.” In this moment, the father loves his child. He quickly looks to the mother, who shrugs. A kind non-commitment. “It is speeding,” says the father, turning back towards the windshield. The son says, “Yeah, but people are passing you by.” The father checks his rearview mirror again. The cop is still in his car. “Tell him where we were,” says the son. The father thinks about this. If he tells his son that it doesn’t matter where they were, it cuts into his son’s day. If he tells him that it does, then he’s drawing from his son’s illness. This event, this thing with the cop, is throwing off what they’d banked on learning about justice and power in the universe. The father looks at his wife’s eyes in the rearview mirror, but he cannot interpret her face. He considers this, too, but before he can say anything more, he sees that the cop is almost back at his window. He pushes the button to make the window go down. The cop leans against the frame of his car’s window. “There a reason why you were going so fast today?” The father shrugs. How can he communicate this day to the cop? How many days before would he have to include? The cop nods to the father’s shrug. He must’ve seen this before. As the father resigns himself to a ticket, the son speaks. “Sir,” he says, “there is a reason why my father was going so fast.”


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The cop peeks into the car. The father watches his face tighten as he really sees the son for the first time. A sickly, hairless boy slumped against his mother. He has to see the basics, the facts of the situation. But the father stares ahead, looking out the windshield. He sees the daylight just beginning to wane. “Today,” the son says, “I got a wish granted. Or I got told that I would get it granted. You might even see it on the news tonight.” The cop runs a hand over his mouth. “I have cancer,” says the son. “My dad just wanted to get home to celebrate.” The father watched the cars go by. Which one has the wealthy, asshole teen trying to impress his girlfriend? Which one has an alcoholic on his way to a bar? “You have cancer?” “Terminal,” he says back. The cop must feel trapped, locked in. In a different world, the father would laugh. “Terminal,” the cop mutters. His saying it eats away at something, but it doesn’t kill it. “Yep,” says the son. His voice is flat but strong. Maybe this still is about power. The cop turns his face towards the father again. “I’ll let you off with a warning, but take it easy, all right?” The father turns his face towards the cop slightly, but not his eyes. “Thank you, officer.” The cop turns back to the son. “I’m sorry,” he says, and the father hates him again. His politeness showing that this world is alien to him. The father doesn’t register his son’s response, but he expects that it’s kind and wisely noncommittal. The cop seems satisfied, anyway. The father waits for the cop to get back in his car and drive off. He leaves the window open, feeling the cool air coming in. As the cop drives by, the father holds up a hand, a gesture that the cop will read as good will. Which is fine. After the father rolls up his window, the son says, “What a prick.” The father doesn’t think it worth the time to correct his son. Today is precious. He isn’t wrong, either. “I agree,” the father says, making eye contact in the rearview mirror. The mother sighs. “You boys,” she says. This works like a joke, and the father and son smile. The father starts the car, signals, and gets back on the road. The family heads for home, carrying with them a different story than the cop later will tell his own family.


Michael Graves

Between Hospital and Home Michael Graves

In the parking lot, lights flashed, Swirled, in white, attendants hurried. A voice spoke in my head. I had no pills.

In the distance, sirens wailed, And the full moon shone coldly Beyond tall tenements Like a skull.

I was tired, tempted To confess to a crime I had not committed, Hesitant, avoiding looks.

I mustered courage, Entered, waited for a brusque shrink, Who scrawled a script, But would not admit.

There is garbage in the gutter. The night is hot and muggy, And I am heading home To violent accusations. w

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The Diamond Merchant’s Wife Milind Padki Of the fabled wives of Diamond merchants of India, it is Said that the perfect flair of their Hips and the carnal sponginess of their Skins sets off such a glare That their husbands hide them From the very Sun’s stare In lush, labyrinthine sanctums. There is lore that they have Affairs with their hirsute drivers. But such lore is neither here nor there. One such luminous creature of light Lays her head on my dashboard, cries, Her long story, a nasty, miserable plight, Is that upon landing on these shores, her Husband soon took off with a trashy Woman, a maid, whose “skanky ass” She should have kicked out long ago and likewise Ground her “shameless bust” into dust. But she didn’t, and here she was, alone With a daughter to feed with dry bread crust. She comes up for air, smiles at Me wanly, blots her eyelids with the proffered Tissue, says let’s go, Doctor Sahib, I am Wasting your time and you must be Hungry. I am her American employer. Tonight She will make chapattis for me, fold The laundry, clean the pantry Inform me that I am out of eggs.


Milind Padki

She brings out my cup of Tea, fragrant with ginger, cardamom, Nutmeg. As my cockles warm, I Slowly avert my gaze from All the wasted lavishness, puttering Around on my Spartan floor. w

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Rama Reddy at Route 13 Milind Padki Rama Reddy mans the shop. One pm in the night shift and Across the road a dozen princesses sit Kissing a dozen frogs at the Hungry Duck Where the night is young still. Cars whoosh by on the asphalt, puddles explode, Drops glitter in the Yellow fluorescent streetlights. Rama stares out at an unReddy world. UnReddy the moonlight, unReddy the Princesses in black leather, their pale White shoulder bones protruding From under the leather thongs, unReddy The deranged black person who just walked in Looking for change and whom, Striving for poetry, Rama has already dubbed A robber’s accomplice, just out of jail. This is semi-exciting but unReddy to Rama, Who will not give her change. Tall Black Man and Short White Man walk in. Their black truck parked outside still purring And this is evil and unReddy for Rama, Scared and happy that he does not have a gun. “Yes, Buddy!” Rama greets them loudly “Shut up and open the safe, quick!” Short White Man says, the black Gun just out of his coat pocket Its gleam and its heft is unReddy As is Tall Black Man holding the door semi-open as cars whoosh by on the asphalt, puddles explode, Drops glitter in the Yellow fluorescent streetlights.


Milind Padki

“Please don’t hurt me” the blurting-out is unReddy, as are The eight hundred three dollars and seventy five cents Duly insured, changing hands And the final yank at the telephone cord. All this Is unReddy as is the roar of the Big Black Truck and The sitting down quaking, wiping sweat from the forehead. O’ the cruel clutches of wild animals, O’ the terrible ocean of formidable foes. Lord Virabhadra, Save me, Destroy my enemies, with Thy trident! After the irate owner and the blasé’ policemen have left The wife arrives and the are you okay-jee in Telugu and The sambar rice slowly make for a Reddy world for a very short while, While across the road a dozen princesses Sit kissing a dozen frogs at the Hungry Duck Where the night is young still. w

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GHOST SERIES #9 Photograph by Olivia Wise


William Herman

Table to End William Herman A word flew in my window: table. I’m sitting in Aldo’s sipping chianti when a guy two tables away slaps his voluptuous girlfriend in the face. Everybody hears; the guy (black suspenders, white shirt) bends over his plate of vinegar peppers as if he were eating ice cream; can’t see the girlfriend’s face, only the sway of her upper body, just a glimpse of swelling tit Outside, a skilled crone (successful scavenger) now trips and falls over an iron railing and howls. Revolting. I could vomit, the way I scrumble from table through detestable hot peppers to a pulsing knee scrape, a pained end.

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Contributors Meena Alexander was born in India. She has published six volumes of poetry including Illiterate Heart (winner of the PEN Open Book Award). Birthplace with Buried Stones (TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press, 2013) will appear in the Fall. Her book of essays Poetics of Dislocation appeared in the Michigan Poets on Poetry Series. She is Distinguished Professor of English at CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College. www.meenaalexander.com Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. She served as Managing Editor of Natural Bridge and holds an MFA from the University of Missouri. She is currently a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lindenwood University. Allen gives readings and teaches workshops throughout the US. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, from John Gosslee Books (Sept. 2012) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. www.kelli-allen.com Jacob M. Appel is the author of the novel, The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up, and the forthcoming short story collection, Scouting for the Reaper. He teaches at the Gotham Writers' Workshop and practices medicine in New York City. More at www.jacobmappel.com. William L. Alton started writing while incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital in the 1980s. He wrote to impress girls and it worked for a while, but the girls have long since gone their own way and William has continued writing poetry and prose because it's become a part of how he sees himself. Since then, he has published two full length books of poetry, Heroes of Silence and An Eloquent Madness. His chapbook, Drowning is a Slow Business is due out in March. His work has appeared in Gertrude, Serving House Journal and Black Heart Magazine. He is currently working on a novel titled Flesh and Bone. Peggy Aylsworth is a retired psychotherapist living in Santa Monica, Ca with her poet/blogger husband, Norm Levine. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals throughout the U.S. and abroad, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Poetry, Salzburg Review, The MacGuffin. Her work was nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prize. Eleanor Leonne Bennett is an internationally award winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic,The World Photography Organisation, Nature's Best Photog-


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raphy, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in The Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United States and Canada. Her art is globally exhibited , having shown work in London, Paris, Indonesia, Los Angeles,Florida, Washington, Scotland,Wales, Ireland,Canada,Spain,Germany, Japan, Australia and twice exhibited with The CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the year Exhibition amongst many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run. See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010. NYC Native Peter Bové presently resides in Texas where he’s making a documentary about the Peyote Ceremony of the Native American Church as he works as a Story Producer for Texas 28. Although a writer/director/ producer of film television and documentary, including 2003 Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner: Capturing The Friedmans, he admits he is in actuality a raconteur poet adventurer. John F. Buckley has divided his life between California, where he spent most of his adulthood, and Michigan, where he was born and raised and where he now attends the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, working toward an MFA in poetry. His collections Sky Sandwiches and Poet's Guide to America (with Martin Ott) were released in Fall 2012, as was his second chapbook, Leading an Aquamarine Shoat by Its Tail. Regie Cabico recently co-edited Flicker and Spark:A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Poetry and Spoken Word with Brittany Fonte. His work appears in over 30 anthologies including Chorus & Spoken Word Revolution. He is a pioneer of the poetry slam having won the Nuyorican Poet Cafe's Grand slam in 1993. He has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and through Howard Zinn's Portraits Project at NYU, has performed with Academy Award nominees: Stanley Tucci, Jesse Eisenberg. He resides in Washington, DC and performs throughout North America and the UK. Talia Carner is formerly the publisher of Savvy Woman magazine and a lecturer at international women’s economic forums. Award-winning author of Jerusalem Maiden (HarperCollins, 2011) and numerous stories, essays and articles, she is a committed supporter of global human rights. Her previous suspense novels, Puppet Child and China Doll, were hailed for exposing society’s ills and were the platform for her groundbreaking research and projects centered on female plight and women’s activism.


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Trisha Cowen is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Creative Writing at Binghamton University. She is co-editor of Harpur Palate and a recipient of the Link Fellowship for the Advancement of Creative Writing. Her work has been published in Amoskeag, The Portland Review, Bitter Oleander Press, Gandy Dancer, Expressions Magazine, Interactive Grooves, and other journals. She is currently working on a novel about Comfort Women set in World War II Japan. Stephen Dunn is the author of seventeen books of poetry, including Different Hours, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Norton will bring out his new book Lines of Defense in January, and Syracuse University Press will publish The Room and the World: Essays about Stephen Dunn, edited by Laura McCullough, in December. He lives in Frostburg, Maryland. Joy Gaines-Friedler’s work is widely published in journals including, RATTLE, Margie, The New York Quarterly and others. Her first full-length book, Like Vapor, was published by Mayapple Press (2008). Her work has won numerous awards including first place in the Litchfield Review Series Contest for a series of poems based on the journal of her friend Jim who died from AIDS. Joy teaches poetry and creative writing for non-profits in the Detroit area, including workshops with homeless young adults and families of victims of homicide at Common Ground, a mental health care provider, and for Springfed Arts, a literary arts program in Detroit. Lou Gaglia’s short story collection, Poor Advice, is forthcoming from Aqueous Books (2014). His work has appeared in The Cortland Review, Eclectica, The Brooklyner, Prick of the Spindle, Breakwater Review, Untoward Magazine, JMWW, and other journals. He teaches in upstate New York after twenty years of living and teaching in New York City. Daniela Gioseffi is an American Book Award-winning author of 14 books of poetry and prose. Her latest books are: Wild Nights, Wild Nights: The Story of Emily Dickinson’s Master (2010) and Blood Autumn: New & Selected Poems (2007). Other books include: Women On War: International Writings (The Feminist Press: NY, 2003), and On Prejudice: A Global Perspective (Anchor/ Doubleday, 1993). She’s won 2 grant awards in poetry from the NY State Council for the Arts; a NY State OSIA Literary Award (2008); and The John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry (2007). She presented her work on NPR and the BBC as well as on innumerable campuses. Her verse was etched in marble on a wall of PENN Station, 2002. Daniela is editor of www.PoetsUSA.com. Her work appeared in The Paris Review, VIA, The Nation,


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Prairie Schooner,, Poetry East, etc., and in many major press anthologies, such as Kaleidoscope: Stories of the American Experience (Oxford U. Press, 1993.) She won a PEN Short Fiction Award in 1996 for her story, “Daffodil Dollars” which appeared on N.P.R.’s The Sound of Words, hosted by Alan Cheuse. She’s taught literature and creative writing at NYU, Brooklyn College, CUNY, Pace U. and The School of Visual Arts, as well as for Poets-in-the-Schools, Inc. for over thirty-five years. Tony Gloeggler is a native of NYC and currently manages group homes for developmentally disabled men in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in numerous journals including The New York Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Rattle, Washington Square, The Ledge, Poet Lore, Skidrow Penthouse, and Ted Kooser chose his poem “Five Years Later” from The Paterson Literary Review for his newspaper feed. His chapbook, One On One, received the 1998 Pearl Poetry Prize and One Wish Left, a full length collection initially published by Pavement Saw Press in 2000 went into a 2nd edition. Tony Gloeggler’s Greatest Hits came out on Pudding House Publications in 2009 and in 2010. The Last Lie, was published by NYQ Books. Michael Graves is the author of two full-length collection of poems, Adam and Cain (Black Buzzard, 2006) and In Fragility (Black Buzzard, 2011) and two chapbooks, Illegal Border Crosser (Cervana Barva, 2008) and Outside St. Jude’s (R. E. M. Press, 1990). In 2004 he was the recipient of a grant of from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation. John Grey is an Australian- born poet, who works as financial systems analyst. His work has recently been published in Big Muddy, Poem, Caveat Lector, Prism International, the horror anthology What Fear Becomes and Writer’s Journal. A six-time Pushcart Prize nominee, George Held publishes widely both in print and online, and one of his poems was read by Garrison Keillor on NPR. His most recent books (both 2011) are After Shakespeare: Selected Sonnets and Neighbors, animal poems for children, illustrated by Joung Un Kim. William Herman has published stories and poems in The Missouri Review, Inkwell, Word(s) and other journals. For a time, some of his screenwriting work saw production, e.g., The Wounds of Hunger. For another, he was a professor of English and Dean of Humanities and the Arts at City College, CUNY.


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Lindsay Hobbs is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith with a degree in Piano Performance. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Compass Rose, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Applause, and Inwood Indiana. She lives in Fort Smith where she teaches piano and writes poetry. Brent House, a contributing editor for The Tusculum Review, is a native of Hancock County, Mississippi, where he raised cattle and watermelons on his family’s farm. His first collection, The Saw Year Prophecies, was published by Slash Pine Press. Patricia Horvath’s work has appeared in literary journals including Shenandoah, Confrontation, The Laurel Review, and Cream City Review. She is a recipient of the Bellevue Literary Review's Goldenberg Prize for Fiction and a New York Foundation for the Arts Literature Fellowship. She lives in New York City and teaches at Hofstra University. Recent poems by Colette Inez have appeared in the American Literary Review, A Public Space, Hanging Loose, and MOBIUS (translations of Jacques Dupin). Her new collection, The Luba Poems, is due late 2014 with Red Hen Press. Zeke Jarvis is associate professor at Eureka College, where he edits Eureka Literary Magazine. His work has appeared in Bitter Oleander, Petrichor Machine, and Kestrel, among other journals. Michael Kellner is a book designer living in Los Angeles. Daniel King has had poetry published in a number of magazines and journals, most recently The London Magazine. Dean KostoS’ poems, personal essays, and reviews have appeared in Assaracus, Barrow Street, Boulevard, Chelsea, Cimarron Review, New Madrid, Southwest Review, Stand Magazine, Western Humanities Review, on Oprah Winfrey’s Web site Oxygen.com, the Harvard UP Web site, and elsewhere. He is the author of the following collections: Rivering; Last Supper of the Senses; The Sentence That Ends with a Comma (which was required reading for a course on alternative poetics at Duke University); and Celestial Rust. He is also the co-editor of Mama’s Boy: Gay Men Write about Their Mothers (A Lambda Book Award finalist) and the editor of Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of GreekAmerican Poetry. Kostos has taught poetry writing at the Gallatin School


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of New York University, The Columbia Scholastic Press Association, The City University of New York, and Wesleyan; has served as literary judge for Columbia University’s Gold Crown and Gold Circle awards; and has received a Yaddo fellowship. Gerry LaFemina’s latest books of poems are Vanishing Horizon (Anhinga, 2011) and Steam Punk (Smalls Books, 2012); in 2013 Mayapple Press will publish his third collection of prose poems, Notes for the Novice Ventriloquist, and Codorus Press will publish his first novel, Clamor. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Pushcart Prize, he directs the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing at Frostburg State University. Liv Lansdale has worked at Gotham Writers' Workshop, City Lit Press, and The Baltimore Review, and she studies creative writing and sustainable development at Columbia. Her work has appeared in PANK, 100 Word Story, Saudade Poetry, Sentence: the Journal of Prose Poetics, and The Poydras Review, among others. She divides her time between West Egg and Yawknapawpha. Christopher Leibow currently lives in Salt Lake City, with his cat, Mr. President. He has been published in numerous journals and online, including Burnt District, Interim, Barrow Street, and Cricket Online Review, with upcoming publications in Lyric, Helix and Lumina. He is a two time Pushcart Award nominee and a Utah Book Award Nominee and the winner of the Writers@Work Writers Advocate Award in 2008. Haki R. Madhubuti — poet, publisher, editor and educator—has published more than 30 books. He founded Third World Press in 1967 and is a founder of the Institute of Positive Education/New Concept School and a co-founder of three charter schools in Chicago. He is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, the American Book Award, and in 2010, was awarded the Hurston/Wright Legacy Poetry Prize for his book, Liberation Narratives. Madhubuti earned his MFA from the University of Iowa. His forty-three-year teaching career includes faculty positions at Columbia College of Chicago, Cornell University, Howard University, and Chicago State University. Prior to his retirement, Madhubuti was appointed the 2010-2011 Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor at DePaul University. Lisa Mangini holds an MFA from Southern Connecticut State University, where she also teaches occasionally. She is the Founding Editor of Paper Nautilus, and the recipient of the 2011 Connecticut Poetry Prize. Her


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work appears or is forthcoming in Knockout, Stone Highway Review, Louisiana Literature, and Off the Coast, among others. Brian Maxwell is a Floridian, recently returned from a long stay in North Dakota and a shorter one in Norway. His fiction has appeared in Fugue, Evansville Review, Louisville Review, Wisconsin Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, and elsewhere. Ellyn Maybe has performed her poetry all over the country, including Bumbershoot, the Poetry Project, the New School, Taos Poetry Circus, South by Southwest, Lollapalooza, Albuquerque Poetry Festival and Seattle Poetry Festival. She has also read in Europe at the Bristol Poetry Festival, on the BBC, and in poetry slams and readings in Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Stuttgart. She opened the MTV Spoken Word Tour in Los Angeles. In addition, she has also read at USC, UCLA, CSUN and Cal State Fullerton, among other colleges. Writer’s Digest named her one of ten poets to watch in the new millennium. Her work has been included in many anthologies, including Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution; Poetry Slam; Another City: Writing From Los Angeles; Poetry Nation; The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry; and American Poetry: The Next Generation. She was on the 1998 and 1999 Venice Beach Slam teams. She was seen reading her work in Michael Radford’s (Il Postino) film Dancing at the Blue Iguana. www.ellynmaybe.com Corey Mertes is a lawyer and short story writer with an MFA in Film and Television from the University of Southern California. His stories have appeared in Valparaiso Fiction Review, Poydras Review, Hawai'i Review, Write This, Scissors and Spackle, and elsewhere. Jean Monahan is the author of three books of poetry: Hands (chosen by Donald Hall to win the 1991 Anhinga Prize); and Believe It or Not and Mauled Illusionist, published by Orchises Press. She has received several awards, an artist residency, and has been published in many journals and magazines, including Poetry and the Atlantic Monthly. She is currently working on a fourth collection. She lives in Salem, MA. Ray Morrison's debut collection of short stories, In a World of Small Truths, was published in 2012 by Press 53. His stories have appeared in Ecotone, Fiction Southeast, Aethlon, Night Train, Carve Magazine, Word Riot, Foliate Oak, and anthologized in XX: Stories About the Eccentricities of Women (Main


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Street Rag Press), What Doesn’t Kill You (Press 53) and The Mix Tape flash fiction anthology from Fast Forward Press. Sean Neville is a writer, quasi-filmmaker (http://www.youtube.com/ user/seanRyanclips), developer and promoter of a genre, which for now he’s calling BLOGRAPHY (viz. http://hubofblog.tumblr.com/). He has published in Blaze-Vox, Folly, Spork,Kill Author, Swink, Lit Up, among others, and is currently affiliated with the University of California, San Diego. Joey Nicoletti is a graduate of the Sarah Lawrence College MFA program. The author of Cannoli Gangster, his work has appeared in Waccamaw, ThePotomac, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Aethlon, and elsewhere. He currently teaches at SUNY Buffalo State College. Milind Padki was born in India to a famous bohemian literary couple. For his education and PhD in the pharmaceutical sciences, he lived in the great city of Mumbai for 12 years, where Indian society was and still is, in constant churn. He observed Mumbai’s massive slums and slum dwellers up close and personal and closely observed many people’s movements. He has published small pieces in India’s national newspaper, The Times of India and has published poems and short stories in both English and Marathi, his mother tongue. He has lived on the US east Coast since 2002, where he has participated in many poetry readings. His main interest is in the interaction between the Indian immigrant and American culture. 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. Her first book of poems, Unbroken Promises, was sold to raise money for research for Alzheimer’s, a disease which affects her mother. 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. Patricia Polak has been published extensively in journals such as Ellipsis, The Lullwater Review, Poet Lore, The Southern Humanities Review, The South Carolina Review, and Voices in Italian Americana. She holds an M.A. in Writing from Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY, and is in their MFA program. A native New Yorker, she resides in Manhattan with her husband, a historian.


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Professor ARTURO (aka Arthur Pfister), poet and fiction writer from New Orleans, is a Spoken Word artist, educator, performer, editor and speechwriter. ARTURO, one of the original Broadside poets of the 1960s, has collaborated on a medley of projects with a melange of artists including painters, musicians, photographers, dancers, singers, fire eaters, waiters, cab drivers, and other members of the Great Miscellaneous. His work has appeared in such diverse publications as FAHARI; the American Poetry Review; the Shooting Star Review; the Minnesota Review; the Gallery Mirror; EBONY; From a Bend in the River; Mesechab;, Word Up; The Chicory Review; The New Laurel Review; The New Orleans Tribune; The New York Quarterly; Chickenbones; We Speak As Liberators; Black Spirits; A Broadside Treasury; and Swapping Stories: Folktales From Louisiana. He is presently teaching at Norwalk Community College in CT. He recently published a volume of his work entitled MY NAME IS NEW ORLEANS: 40 Years of Poetry & Other Jazz (w/ jazzoetry CD)…Available @ http://www.margaretmedia.com. Elaine Sexton is the author of two collections of poems, Sleuth and Causeway, both with New Issues (WMU). Her poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in numerous journals and sites including American Poetry Review, Art in America, Poetry, Poetry Daily, Pleiades, and O! the Oprah Magazine. She teaches at the Sarah Lawrence Writing Institute and in the graduate writing program at City College/CUNY. Four-time Pushcart Prize as well as Best of the Net nominee J.R. Solonche has been publishing in magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early ‘70s. He is coauthor of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books). Andrew Spencer lives and writes in the tiny town of Commerce, TX, where he is still in school (PhDs take a cuss of a long time) at Texas A&M University-Commerce. His poetry has appeared in New Plains Review, Chaffey Review, Coe Review, Black&White, and Cartographer. He is currently living proof that sometimes, despite rumors otherwise, writing poetry actually can attract girls. William Stobb is the author of five poetry collections, including the National Poetry Series selection, Nervous Systems (2007) and Absentia (2011), both from Penguin Books. He works on the editorial staff of Conduit, and on the English Department faculty at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. From 2005-2010, Stobb wrote and produced the “Hard to Say” podcast for miPOradio, and in 2010, co-wrote the script for Predator: The Musical, which


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ran for two sold-out seasons with Chicago’s Roundhouse Productions. Stobb is a graduate of the writing program at the University of North Dakota, and the Ph. D. program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Sidney Thompson is the author of the short story collection Sideshow. His poetry has recently appeared in RHINO Poetry, The Fertile Source, and The Fat City Review. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, he currently resides in Denton, Texas. Lewis Turco’s most recent books, all published in 2012, are The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics, Including Odd and Invented Forms (Revised and Expanded Fourth Edition), Hanover, NH: University Press of New England (www.UPNE.com); Wesli Court’s Epitaphs for the Poets, Baltimore, MD: BrickHouse Books, (www.BrickHouseBooks.com), and a new Kindle edition of SatansScourge-ebook/1, A Narrative of the Age of Witchcraft in England and New England 1580-1697, Scottsdale, AZ: www.StarCloudPress.com, winner of the Wild Card category of the 2009 New England Book Festival. Leah Vinluan’s photography focuses on peripheral places and their inherent and often overlooked beauty. Along with her work in magazine photo editing, she is constantly in pursuit of engaging imagery, and has traveled to many places in search of it. She presently finds her 2-year-old daughter to be her greatest muse. Paul-Victor Winters is a writer and teacher living in southern New Jersey. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in TLR: The Literary Review, The New York Quarterly, and Shot Glass Journal. Olivia Wise, originally from Lincoln Massachusetts, is a June 2013 graduate of Landmark High School in Prides Crossing, MA. Her favorite media is photography and Duane Michals, Francesca Woodman, and her photography teacher, Kara Healey, inspire her work. The photos printed in 2 Bridges are from her Ghost Series. She’s been awarded the grand prize in the 6th Congressional District Art Competition and her work was displayed at the Capitol in Washington D.C. She received numerous gold and silver keys at the Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards for photography as well as for printmaking and drawing. This year she was recognized with a gold key for her photography portfolio. She currently attends the Rhode Island School of Design.


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Acknowledgments The editors of the 2 Bridges Review wish to express their deep appreciation to the following people: Russell Hotzler, and the Administration of the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York for backing and encouragement. Stephen Soiffer, for technical, administrative, and intellectual support. Nina Bannett and the City Tech English Department faculty for continued advocacy and inspiration. Michael Kellner for donating professional services, offering critical attention, good faith, time, and the nosegay. Lily Lam for indispensible practical help and invariable good humor. Monique Ferrell for always shining a light.


<header>2 bridges review</header> <title>contributors</title> </section> <body> <ul>meena alexander <br/> kelli allen <br/> jacob m. appel <br/> william l. alton <br/> peggy aylsworth <br/> eleanor leonne bennett <br/> peter bovĂŠ <br/> john f. buckley <br/> regie cabico <br/> talia carner <br/> trisha cowen <br/> stephen dunn <br/> joy gainesfriedler <br/> lou gaglia <br/> daniela gioseffi <br/> tony gloeggler <br/> michael graves <br/> john grey <br/> george held <br/> william herman <br/> lindsay hobbs <br/> brent house <br/> patricia horvath <br/> colette inez <br/> zeke jarvis <br/> daniel king <br/> dean kostos <br/> gerry lafemina <br/> liv lansdale <br/> christopher leibow <br/> haki r. madhubuti <br/> lisa mangini <br/> brian maxwell <br/> ellyn maybe <br/> corey mertes <br/> jean monahan <br/> ray morrison <br/> sean neville <br/> joey nicoletti <br/> milind padki <br/> ellen pickus <br/> patricia polak <br/> professor arturo (aka arthur pfister) <br/> elaine sexton <br/> j.r. solonche <br/> andrew spencer <br/> william stobb <br/> sidney thompson <br/> lewis turco <br/> leah vinluan <br/> paul-victor winters <br/> olivia wise </ul> </body>

2 Bridges Review Vol.3  
2 Bridges Review Vol.3  

The celebrated East River Bridges (Two Bridges) – the Brooklyn and the Manhattan, connect downtown Brooklyn with downtown Manhattan.

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