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ABC 2 Bridges Review
Volume 4, Winter 2015 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 Louisa Balhaus Assistant Editor Michael Youmans Assistant 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
Ode I. 5. 14 Horace (Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa) Translated by John J. Trause Statue of the Emaciated Buddha
15 Dante Di Stefano
What Singing Left We Wrote 16 Sean Thomas Dougherty Was What We Sung
Sassafras 22 Amy Gerstler
Thoughts of Trees at Twilight
18 Sean Thomas Dougherty 23 Amy Gerstler
Pausing 32 James Valvis The Patio of the House on 33 Jaime Manrique Ardila 58th Street Translated by Alfred Corn
Still Life 35 Saadi Youssef Translated by Alfred Corn
When My Daughter Joins 36 Al Maginnes the Circus
We Lived by the River
37 Al Maginnes
New Yorkers in Miami
47 Maureen Seaton
In Defense of Puppets
48 Anthony DiMatteo
Now That Yakovâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gone
50 Art Heifetz 52 Celeste Lipkes
Bryant Park 65 Madeleine Beckman
The Art of Waving
As a Man Walks Down
66 Tim Suermondt 67 Beth Bretl
Tragedy at Amusement Park
Return to Indiana
74 Anna Lowe Weber
After Having Spent the Summer Watching All Seven Seasons of The Sopranos
76 Anna Lowe Weber
Harry Dean Stanton is Dying
77 Virgil Suárez
The Scene Stealer
79 R. S. Stewart
69 Marjorie Maddox 71 Lucy Simpson 72 Rob Talbert
Scheherazade 82 Lyn Lifshin A Child’s Mouth 84 Emily Vogel
Nightfall (after Goethe) 86 Nathaniel Hunt
Gypsies 87 William Heyen
Alaska 88 Herbert Englehardt Maria Luna
89 Herbert Englehardt
Pictures in a Small Café 103 Kathleen Hellen
She’ll Fall in Love 110 Mary Ann Honaker (from the eponymous series)
Three Poems (from Hours) 112 Fernand Ouellette Translated by Antonio D’Alfonso
The Road to Sainthood 114 Jennifer Zilm
Cantilena for Barstow 126 Jeffrey Alfier
Survival 127 Susana H. Case My Antonio 128 Susana H. Case
Erased from the 129 Maria Terrone Permanent Record
Drizzling in Macau 135 Pui Ying Wong
Psalm 146 Peycho Kanev
White 147 Jay Chollick
Dogs 149 Jay Chollick
Cowboys and 164 Dan Brodnitz Investment Bankers
Eggs and Feathers 165 Dan Brodnitz
Feathered 166 Pam Riley Prime Meridian 167 Connie Post The Bridge 168 Austin Alexis Inside the Art 181 Claudia Serea
A Husband Makes Coffee 182 Matt Pasca
Twigs Into Birdnest 183 Matt Pasca
The Song of Osama 185 Charles Fishman
Finding Hitler’s Head 186 Charles Fishman
In Other Words 197 Nicole Santalucia Are You Sure That You’ve 198 Elizabeth May Young Done All You Can? In the Pineta 199 Gil Fagiani
There was a time I was not here, 200 William Stephenson that time will come again. FICTION
The Elephant 19 Hugh Burkhart Ice 28 Gwen Strauss
Take the Spaceship
30 Gwen Strauss
Something Akin to Kindness
54 Roland Goity
The Important Thing
90 Dan Leach
The Mensch 115 Z. Z. Boone
The Window 140 Christie Grimes
The American Dream On Mars 169 P.J. Gannon
Barbecue 187 Mary Jo Melone NON FICTION
Down 39 Michael Winter
How We Talk About Ophelia 108 Alexa Derman
The Hole in the Wall 130 Juliana Lillehei
Waiting for Walsh 151 Bill Teitelbaum ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY
Bat’s Belfry 24 Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Young Wings Torn
25 Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Shades of Cool
26 Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Wood Blocked 27 Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Glimpses from a New York 64 Walter Brand City Taxi, Series 1
Four from the Italian Series 104 Olivia Wise
Glimpses from a New York 136 Walter Brand City Taxi, Series 2
Mapping 201 Olivia Wise
Editor’s Note My sixteen year old daughter emails me from the Dodge Poetry Festival this Fall, effusively high on the words of Yusef Komunyakaa, Marie Howe, Alice Oswald, Billy Collins, Sean Thomas Dougherty and the fizzy language play their words inspire. “Mom, let’s write a poem together: Lila grafts her early namesake.” I shoot back: “to a wild rootstock from an heirloom apple tree…” and we’re off, making a little world together, filled with earthy fragrances. “soar-sudden wings,” “dust and fallen apple seeds,” and “new-made growing things.” My daughter’s writing is imaginatively unrestrained—with a lack of self-consciousness and near-feverish joy in the pulsing musicality of sound. When I read her poetry, I think of Galway Kinnell’s felicitous line, much-quoted after his death in late October of last year: “To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.” These idiosyncratic moments stream into a tidal flow of voices—the conversational murmurs and outcries of our ardent, fragile lives. Kinnell required his students to memorize and recite poems for each class session. As one of those hundreds of students, substantial selections of Wordsworth, Dickinson, Hopkins, Yeats, Stevens, Bishop and many others remain part of my own inner world and assert themselves as needed. “It is Margaret you mourn for,” the final lines in Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall,” are so multipurpose as to have become a kind of quasi-ironic mantra or capsule reminder of metaphysical coalescence—a softly urgent message to take comfort in just being alive. A dear friend, suddenly widowed, reported “still haven’t cried” in email updates. I offered the final lines of Wordsworth’s “Immortality Ode” and Dickinson’s ”After great pain” to remind her that tears can be depthless and that shock can cause tearless “Quartz contentment.” And Bishop’s lines, “[t]he art of losing isn’t hard to master” from “One Art,” have wended their way through the mundane lost umbrellas of life through the trickier thickets of a lost marriage, buckets of flood-destroyed photos, and the strange surprise of lost youth. Many of Kinnell’s lines surface in his memorably resonant voice. “Little Sleep’s-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight” from his 1971 The Book of Nightmares always moved me, but it wasn’t until I had my own daughter that that the beauty, pathos, and gorgeous desperation of his words fully registered:
we will go out together, we will walk out together among the ten thousand things, each scratched too late with such knowledge,Â the wages of dying is love. In tribute to Kinnell, to whom we have dedicated this issue, we include here the voices of gifted young people, writers Alexa Derman and Juliana Lillehei and, for the second time, photographers Eleanor Leonne Bennett and Olivia Wise. We will continue to invite conversations across generations â&#x20AC;&#x201C; across time -- and to honor individual consequence as we walk out with our writers, attending to the ten thousand things... Kate Falvey Editor in Chief
In Memory of Galway Kinnell (February 1, 1927-October 28, 2014)
Blackberry Eating Galway Kinnell I love to go out in late September among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries to eat blackberries for breakfast, the stalks very prickly, a penalty they earn for knowing the black art of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries fall almost unbidden to my tongue, as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words like strengths and squinched, many-lettered, on-syllabled lumps, which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well in the silent, startled, icy, black language of blackberry-eating in late September. w “Blackberry Eating” is from Mortal Acts, Mortal Words by Galway Kinnell. Copyright © 1980. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing.
2 Bridges Review
Ode I. 5. (Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa) Horace Translated by John J. Trause What slender boy, O Pyrrha, bathed in scents Free-flowing, in the midst of many a rose Beneath a pleasant grotto holds you close?. For whom do you bind back your golden hair Simply exquisite in your sense of class? How often will this one lament, alas, Your infidelity and altered fate? How often will he in his innocence Be so amazed at your rough temperamentsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; So rough with darker blastsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;this one who now Enjoys you and believes you golden-fine, Expects you to be always clear and kind, Unmindful so of your deceitful airs? O miserable are they to whom you shine Untried. The sacred wall of this my shrine. With votive tablet indicates that I Have also hung my garments ocean-steeped To that almighty godhead of the deep. w
Dante Di Stefano
Statue of the Emaciated Buddha Dante Di Stefano The cloth that drapes his loins is like a bow a hunter might draw back against a buck in a Pennsylvania boondock woods. His veins trace turnpikes over jutting bones and lids remain closed as if the cosmos had become an obsidian speck wormed beneath the almond blossoms of his eyes. From the center of this black stony mass the whole world plummets like a meteor of curses and wishes the wind casts off in the moments before enlightenment. A billion starlings go spinning out into the night. Doves donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t murmur inside the temple. Bullshit. Forget your life. Fast. w
2 Bridges Review
What Singing Left We Wrote Was What We Sung Sean Thomas Dougherty Stories over dinners, told by grandfather lining the banks of a river we never swam in, could only imagine the deep current where weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d drown like a lost cousin after interrogation, the erased town. And afterwards only the ghost music remained. They would have become a circus they were so funny, dzia dzia said, lifting his glass of brandy and nearly tumbling to the tile, how young you were, this is your story, the faint trace of paragraphs, obstructing the view of Baba peering around the corner from the kitchen shaking her head and scolding in Polish. Who has a grandma or a mamo to hold her hand as one sweats fever through the long night or using the highlighter as you bend pouring over the sentences to learn? To turn to each other defining each word, the height of far away objects is hard to discern. For this is for you itself a kind of story and there is no width like a river to measure to any border crossing, if you are on the other side, in the part unsaid, for each other we are is that part we cannot see, and that is good. The need for not knowing is good. The middle of a theater inside us on the anniversary of a death. What I am offering is to show you your unflown grace like Audrey Hepburn in that movie we watched with him in the home, she was a bird in the sky of the screen he said as if he remembered all the lost syllables, smells like addresses the faint numbers on a clock, shoe, robin, spoon, all the lost nouns, the names made of the faint smell of children and rain, and so I said come to the park I said, we can feed the pigeons they will eat from our hands, as we can share and break the bread. Come to the hidden room where we can collaborate with our limbs. We can become double agents in the war against the obvious said. Swing open the wrought iron gate around the embassies. Welcome the refugees we are between you and I there is a recurring chorus titled we, everything and everything not remembered becomes reassembled in those moments of clarity he held I knew every article was some of his last I would hear. We are immigrating from the nations of our never-leaving. Our breath paused like commas and the synchronized lights as we sat after waiting in the car at a red light and
Sean Thomas Dougherty
you are about to say anything just before It changes to green, an unsigned treaty the sudden knowledge like wind chimes that eventually everyone will leave you, no I say no I feel our dead traveling on with us as we travel towards them so no one leaves never but we return like that moment when your grandfather returned he never left see and here everything and you and I is moving forward minute by minute back to where we came from, back towards when we held our ancestors when we arrive we will drink brandy we will sing our choruses we will embrace our lost cousins and you and I will turn to tenderly brush from our faces the last traces of the black earth.
2 Bridges Review
A Weight Sean Thomas Dougherty I have so much slept so far in the neighborhood of my bodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fate where I grew with your phantom, jubilant midnight unfolds the absence of verbs poplars bend crab apple blossoms my voice is finding me tall weed in late summer with nothing much but a labyrinthine unhappiness dusty night sky the old phone numbers are revived by the sound like my voice falsettoing decades younger the gnarled oaks bend with foliage the scraps of punk flyers and posters palimpsest the sidewalk the sound of a voice is a black flag flapping who comes to me chromatic a sobbing the wind that rises from my chest, my tongue the lake waves lapping O Luna moth smoke of cigarettes haloing at the corner bar over glasses of whiskey the men who bend like birches in winter w
The Elephant Hugh Burkhart “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” — Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to the Washington Press Club, 1969 The day after our wedding, my wife and I were driven by her drunken brother from their parents’ lake house back to the family home in middle-of-fucking-nowhere Massachusetts. Ten minutes later, Darrin was fixing himself a snack in the kitchen with a loaded gun strapped to his chest. I thought of Chekhov. Darrin asked us if we minded if he carried. Owing to the wedding festivities, he’d not been able to have his gun on him for the past three days, and it was starting to make him nervous. I knew the feeling. I had shot exactly three guns in my lifetime – the shotgun of one of my sister’s high school boyfriends and a couple of handguns belonging to a co-worker who, when he was later laid off, caused me no small amount of anxiety. They scared the shit out of me. At the time of our nuptials, I was prohibited from owning a firearm in California, where we lived, for reasons I will address later. Anyway, Darrin is now strutting about the room with this gun of his and asking Jess and me if we mind. And what the hell can you say to that? A fucking loaded weapon in the kitchen and you’re supposed to tell the guy who yesterday was just some loser living with his parents but is now your brother-in-law that, yes, you do indeed mind his roaming the premises with a gun, especially after he announced his intention to go out to the garage to smoke a bowl? It’s not that I was afraid of the guy before, but now he’s flashing us this hangdog smile as if he’s ashamed in advance for something he’s about to do. Like fill with hollow point bullets the bodies of his sister and her new husband, who three days ago told the brother-in-lawto-be unequivocally that he didn’t see the need for one to carry a handgun through the mean streets of middle-of-fucking-nowhere Massachusetts. I know they’re hollow points, by the way, because Darrin presently removes the clip from his Ruger 9mm – first revealing there is no round in the chamber – and lays the stockpile of tiny missiles hollow point up on the island counter in the center of the kitchen my mother-in-law had remodeled for
2 Bridges Review
our rehearsal party. He’s sweating as he tells me about the stopping power of hollow points, of which I’ve been acutely aware since learning at age six how they so effectively stopped John Lennon from living past forty. I’m nearly forty myself as all this unfolds before my eyes like one of those terrible movies made in that stupidest of cities in the state I call home. Darrin is a mere quarter century, two years younger than Jess, but with his pallid, puffy face and dark-ringed eyes he looks much older, like an addlepated Elvis around the time he finally said fuck it and gave in completely to the demons he’d danced with his entire career. Hands trembling slightly, not with rage or fear but, I suspect, with a kind of ecstasy, Darrin demonstrates how to retract the Ruger’s slide. He uses the mnemonic “red you’re dead” to explain how you can tell the safety is off. Then click. And what can you say to that? The kid who told me, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” is, I believe, making an attempt to put me at ease, patiently showing me how to press the last round into the stuffed clip, perhaps making amends for the sidelong glances and conspiratorial winks he shot at like-minded friends and relatives during the wedding reception whenever he heard his sister or new brother-in-law utter opinions that smacked of “liberal bullshit.” This in a state I’d never been to before I met Jess, one I just assumed was populated solely by bullshit-spouting liberals who strolled through leaf-strewn cobblestone streets in L.L. Bean chinos on perfect fall days sipping cider pressed from organically grown apples. Back in California, other than the gun-toting outlier I used to work with, Jess and I surrounded ourselves with progressives who believed in gun control, government, and global citizenship. In Canada, where I was born, gun control is taken by most as a given. Even the government there serves, albeit grudgingly, the vulnerable as well as the rich, and multiculturalism is celebrated over the melting pot. That’s the grand narrative at any rate. But I grew up on the border of Southeast Michigan, where guns are probably worn more casually in kitchens and children are routinely killed by the stray bullets from pistols fired by angry young men at other angry young men in an endless street-level social Darwinism inspired by the country’s brutal capitalist ethos. Long before reality television brought everyday American degeneracy into homes across the globe, Canadians in Southwestern Ontario could tune in to the nightly news for their regular dose of urban decay courtesy of Detroit’s spiral into oblivion. Apparently knowing such dangers existed put rural Massachusettsians on edge, Mattapan being their closest equivalent to Detroit. How else to explain my brother-in-law’s reckless exercise of his second amendment rights?
On the plane from San Diego to Boston, Jess had prepared me for her brother’s newfound enthusiasm for firearms and simpleminded libertarian politics. Under the calming influence of Xanax, however, and without anything other than anecdotal evidence provided by her mother to go on, I didn’t fret unduly. Instead, I tried as best as I could in my muzzy state to finish Moby Dick. Ahab had finally tracked down his whale, and the Pequod was in the middle of its first day of the chase, making all those digressions and meditations worth it. It was like Jaws would be if between the first attacks off Amity Island and the Orca’s final pursuit Robert Shaw had discoursed for an hour on the evils of men and Richard Dreyfuss had buttonholed Roy Scheider with a speech about the teeth of the great white. I enjoyed Melville immeasurably. I should have given equal consideration to Jess’s concerns. But only a month before I had survived the mother of all panic attacks after the defense company that sponsored my work visa downsized nearly everyone but me. This was the event that ultimately led to my firearms ban after I answered an emergency room doctor’s question about whether I thought I could harm myself or others like any reasonable person would: I couldn’t rule it out. I wasn’t keen on adding to my worry. So here we are with a sweating, intoxicated young man who in all likelihood poses a far greater risk than ever I did, and he’s asking us do we mind if he carries. Here we are in my adoptive country, the one I so feared during childhood when it was ruled by the Bob’s Big Boy lookalike who thought the best defense was an offense that considered mutually assured destruction a viable option. Here we are and what the hell can you say to that? You guys don’t mind if I carry, do you? No, I said. We don’t mind at all.
2 Bridges Review
Sassafras Amy Gerstler Believing that all lakes are handsome the Sassafras basks in fiberous silence. Wrung from her brief hours and weeks, sap weeps from graffiti incised in the Sassafras tree. Sassafras leaves cure gonorrhea. The Sassafras aspires to a lightly psychedelic, heavily ethical mind. Will the Sassafras one day rustle up her spiritual autobiography, complete with confessions of blue fruit flung too far afield? Tall and spreading, dependent on rainfall variations, the Sassafras grieves felled cousins and extinct loves. Let me complete my years in happiness, the Sassafras pleads. The Sassafras, with her three distinct leaf patterns, lives at peace with the deer and the bees. Be not sad, Sassafras tree, though less impressive than redwoods, less gaudy than jacarandas, less exotic than palms. Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wooden saints wait patiently in a cold rain, not the least of these being his meek, admittedly superstitious, high on disquiet Sassafras tree. w
Thoughts of Trees at Twilight Amy Gerstler Distant trees are first to blacken, still as druids or gulped-down vows. Back at the house, pillars dimly mimic them. Some trunks glow copper, posed like girlsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; arms in balletic gestures, which brings a lump to the throat. How long will the girls these trees worship (and by whom they are worshipped in turn) be this vulnerable, this pitiless, amidst symphonies of orchard, the yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s last windfall apples heaped in bruised tribute at their feet? w
2 Bridges Review
BATS BELFRY Photograph by Eleanor Leonne Bennett
YOUNG WINGS TORN Photograph by Eleanor Leonne Bennett
2 Bridges Review
SHADES OF COOL Photograph by Eleanor Leonne Bennett
WOOD BLOCKED Photograph by Eleanor Leonne Bennett
2 Bridges Review
Ice Gwen Strauss He said he had burned all my letters, poems, gifts, everything. He hated seeing them. And he didn’t want someone else to find them since it didn’t matter anymore. We hadn’t spoken in years. He wanted to get rid of the evidence. I hadn’t burned the things he gave me, but in my own way I had effaced the meanings. I had been willfully careless with them. There were cards and notes. Photos that fell into haphazard boxes through several moves so that now sometimes one would just show up. Maybe I would be sitting next to my older daughter and she’d see his picture tucked into a random book, and she’d ask, “Who’s he?” “The love of my life,” I would not say. There was an album, guitar music, that we had made love to one whole afternoon. For some time I couldn’t play it, but then I did play it when vacuuming the house. I didn’t tell him this, but I thought of it when he told me how he had burned everything. On the phone, he told me he was getting divorced. Even though he had gotten rid of the evidence of me, his wife had found out. About me and others. And his children were grown. And I was married at that point, with small children. The roles were reversed and we laughed at our astonishingly bad timing. A few phone calls later he told me he had prostate cancer, and added, “Karma.” And we laughed about this too. I told him I had fallen in love and I didn’t know what I would do about it. But how strange it was to realize I was saying the same things he had said to me, only I was saying them to this new man. Things like, “Can you wait for me?” and “I can’t leave my husband because of my children.” When my husband found out, he said that his therapist told him that affairs had nothing to do with love because they are just about the narcissistic yearning for intense flattery. My husband’s therapist was a Buddhist. Buddhists therapists are like Puritans. They go for that hard-work Protestant slogging it out. Love is work. Stick with it. The misery is all coming from you. No one else will make you any happier, that’s an illusion. Let go of your passions. Self-sacrifice is the sign you have achieved insight.
I go for the Freudian, more Catholic approach. You blame your mother or father. You recognize the man you love is your father, or not. You can swim in the dark waters of the unconscious, throw coins of insight down deep wells. Like a Catholic going to confession, all is forgiven. Because we are all broken. Just go back out there and do your best to live to the fullest. I explain this to him on the phone. “I am still needy, messy, and passionate. I love the train wrecks. All those things we didn’t mean to say or do.” When I say this I know that we are remembering exactly the same thing. Once when I was still in the throes of my old love I wrote an enraged tell-all letter to his wife. I never meant for anyone to see it. I was just purging myself, but by accident, by unconscious longing and impulse, I guess, the letter slipped in with other papers I was mailing to my editor, who was also his editor. She called him up and told him what I had mailed to her by mistake. I tell people this story about myself when I want to illustrate my deepest moment of shame, or how I have made some really stupid mistakes. Or how I learned to double-check before I sealed any envelope. Our editor was discreet. Never mentioned it to me. Told him the letter was in the trash bin. But I am sure this is a story she tells to this day, at parties, to girlfriends. It is entertaining. The nasty letter from the young mistress to the wife, a classic really. And sending my rage to an editor. Maybe she didn’t throw the letter out. Maybe I remain anonymous, but I am sure she tells people about the letter. It was well-written. I was a volcano. He must have felt the danger. And maybe I wanted him to know how dangerous I was, how close I was to destroying everything. Soon after the letter, he ended it with me. And soon after that, I got married. I vacuumed the house to guitar music. I put that part of my heart in cold storage and just moved on. When he called me out of the blue after all those years, I heard his voice and it all came back, all rushing towards me. Just with the timbre of his voice. Later, I was putting my daughter to sleep. I was singing to her. But I could not stop crying. Endess grief. I knew then what I would do, must do, eventually, when I had the courage. My younger daughter was just learning the words for the parts of the body and we would sing them out together when we pointed to our heads, our mouths, our noses, our eyes. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. She, with her small delicate finger, reached up to me, touched one, “Ice,” she said, “Mommy’s ice.”
2 Bridges Review
Take the Spaceship Gwen Strauss I have boy and girl twins. They are so close that sometimes they act like an old couple who have been together, literally, forever. When they were about six years old, Sophie started to understand the terrible concept of death. She hated the whole idea and thought it was God’s big design flaw. “But why do we have to die?” she would whine. I tried to provide answers, but of course, we all know, there are none. I told Sophie and her twin brother Noah about ghosts, reincarnation, energy that is neither lost nor gained. I told them about heaven, how some people believe we can meet up there after we die. Noah wanted to know where it was precisely, like those specific meeting places we would give them in case we were separated in a crowd. I told him heaven was not really in a place, more just up there in space. “Is it farther away than the moon?” Noah wanted to know. “Yes, it is farther,” I said. They asked if anyone knew for sure where heaven was. “No one really knows,” I said, “but some people really believe in it.” This was lame. They could tell I was not convinced. One morning Sophie cried about the fact that I would die, and she would die, and even the dog whom she loved would die. How could this be? “I just don’t want to die!” she said, sobbing. The two children were eating their Cheerios. Noah was watching her existential crisis and moved by her grief, he offered this solution: “Sophie, you won’t have to die. Because when you die I will find a spaceship and I will come and get you in heaven and save you.” She looked disdainfully at him. “I am being serious, Noah!” she blurted out in a sob. He was crushed, because he also was being perfectly serious. He had valiantly offered the best solution, certainly better than any of mine and she could not even enter the reality he was offering long enough to thank him for saving her life. It was just like so many things that happen between men and women. It’s a wonder that we manage to love at all. When I was very young I went to live on a sailboat with my first true love. The boat was small. We were young. We had ambitious dramatic plans for our lives together. Needless to say, those plans did not work out. Still we managed for almost two years to live and travel across oceans together.
All during that time I kept a journal. I wrote passionately and obsessively about him. I was in love. I was heartbroken. I was astonished that love could hurt so much. I wrote and wrote about his smallest gestures, the things he did or did not say. I tried to figure out if he loved me, if he no longer loved me, if he had changed and why and what exactly could that enigmatic man be feeling? All the time we were living and sailing together on a very small boat with barely room to stand, no head, no engine, 26 feet, living in close quarters for two years. My journal is very boring. When the relationship and the journey ended, I put it away. I found it only years later when I thought, I should write about our experience. He kindly sent me his log from that time—the ship’s log that he had kept meticulously. The log had entries for almost every day, just as my journal did. But his was all about the outside world. The wind direction and strength, how many nautical miles logged, how deep the water, how sound the anchorage. He recorded the changing of sails and headings, the cleaning of the hull, the repair of blocks and tackle. I appear almost nowhere in his log. One sentence in the smack middle, when comparing dates I am in the throes of my worst emotional hurricane, he writes, “Why does she write poetry anyway?” When he sent me his log and I compared it to mine, I laughed. It was years later and I could laugh. I forgave that silly girl who was so caught up in her interior drama she lost sight of the ocean. All those years later, he threw me a life ring. I called him up—he was living in the South Pacific building a boat, so when I reached him it was another day in his world, it was morning where I was in the night before. But it didn’t matter, we were together across all that distance. For the brief phone call, we fell in love all over again, but with no expectations, no plans, and no hope. Part of the drama of motherhood is letting go. First you release them from your body, then from your breast, then with each milestone they move further away. They need you less and less. The mother is always waving goodbye. There is only so much you can help them with. They learn to spot your failures. You are often helpless. How do you teach them that life is short, so they should take the heart when it is offered? The only antidote for death is love, and grief its child. It’s taken me all these years to learn to be grateful for the impossible solutions love has to offer, to learn not to take myself too seriously. I could not help when Noah offered the spaceship. But I wished for a way to tell Sophie, “Take it! When someone offers, take the spaceship!”
2 Bridges Review
Pausing James Valvis Sudden, steady snow falling on our stroll, I looked behind us and saw our footsteps. The furthest downhill were already erased, and the most recent were filling in also. By morning this snow will become a shroud leaving no evidence we ever walked here. Come spring the snow itself will be forgotten, melted into the mud. Finally even the hill will erode to a mound before fading to flat. This is just to tell you why I turned and paused, why I stood like a stone in the burgeoning blizzard, why I let you walk on a time without me. w
Jaime Manrique Ardila
The Patio of the House on 58th Street Jaime Manrique Ardila Translated by Alfred Corn In my mother’s room one window looked out over the alley where we raised ducks. The other opened on the patio, with its plantain trees and yuccas, where chickens, doves and rabbits were being fattened for our table. At the back of the patio above the high wall clumps of branches spilled over from mango and orange trees belonging to our neighbors on 57th Street. I remember my mother propped in the window, looking at the patio’s black sand, like some Tahitian woman Gauguin had painted, her glowing eyes hypnotized by the dark jungle where the jaguar from her childhood roamed during the night. She rested her hands on the window frame so that breezes could dry the pink enamel she’d just applied to her nails. It would be around four o’clock, a dead hour halfway between daylight and the approaching darkness.
2 Bridges Review
It’s a dark and freezing night In New York. I sit myself down facing the window of time in order to see what my mother can no longer see. Before me opens the long road of our lives, the stations and stops of trains and buses where we’d get out at the houses where we lived, other patios with different fruit trees and animals. And I contemplate with weakened eyes my mother’s final destination— hers, not mine, because my eyes can only see the past, not the dark current of time as it swallows us up. w
Still Life Saadi Youssef Translated by Alfred Corn A house plant Sags under the air’s weight. On the desk, Between a full ashtray and a tobacco pouch, Gas & electricity bills. A ship is sailing on the wall, A bird pecking at the singer’s head (a CD cover). I’ve disturbed my study. It is shrinking. The ship has disappeared. Night crouches in the corner Swathed in the thick air. w
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When My Daughter Joins the Circus Al Maginnes I will not know. She will be vapor, fog vanishing on the path circuses have entranced children to follow since the first ox-pulled wagon of jugglers and lame tumblers lurched over the shoulder of a hill that, until that morning, was the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s border for at least one restless boy. And a cycle will be done: my journey from star-addled drunken wanderer to the worried keeper of locks, the man who leaves lights afire, who leaps for each pealing phone. When she burns through the spotlight, all surface and dazzle, no shadow I can claim will be visible on her skin or buried in her performerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s smile. She will balance on the pebbled spine of a horse trained from birth for exactly this task, and I will pray her exempt from injuries and age, the same prayer I say now while she sleeps, unaware of the gravity that will hold her steady against the inconstant speeds of glory and flesh. w
We Lived By the River Al Maginnes Amazing how tame it sounds now that it is history, no longer mired in the chaos of becoming. When punk moved into the house we rented by the river, each silence meant a new clash over the turntable. The record with pink and green letters blazed over a black and white of man swinging a guitar like an axe made the sound of old palaces becoming dance halls. “Balloon rock,” I’d sneer. “Radio static” and Mark would bounce “The Guns of Brixton” a notch higher. Mosquitoes rose from the dark water in blood-sniffing clouds. There was little to believe in that summer but the constant mosquitoes. I’d argued my way out of faith in God, politics, or classrooms. Even the soft boundaries of books seemed to crumble. The dirt crusted under my nails, the blood-moons my pliers bit into my hands, my angry pride in working a ten-hour day sustained me. Rock was dying or dead and I would not trust musicians younger than me to deliver what the junkie millionaires of my childhood never could. It was the last year my nights were slow enough to spend hours arguing with Mark about our record collections.
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Time fills time. Mark and his records moved at the end of summer. A few years later, he was reviewing records in New York City; I was writing poems. And a few weeks ago, I stood under a tree to watch Mark marry. One summer night, years after our summer by the river, I found a black cassette marked “London Calling,” on the floor of a closet, a forgotten piece of my wife’s past. I pushed “play” and my arguments with time vanished in the jab and pull of the guitars, the stop-march cadence of drums. That guitar swinging downward still holds in the moment before breaking as though the river, for a second, could cease its muddy flow and allow us time to know what is worth saving and what is not. w
Down Michael Winter In my tenth summer an army of city workers invaded our neighborhood. They came with bulldozers and dump trucks and road graders and hydraulic breakers with huge metal fingertips capable of poking holes through six feet of bedrock. The men were armed with jackhammers, with shovels and picks, and together man and machine waged war on the street outside my house. They approached in a slow tide, creeping up from the south, each day a dozen yards, two dozen yards closer. I could gage their proximity by the cloud of grit and pulverized concrete rising from their ranks in a brown haze. The thrum of jackhammers and the grumble of big engines combined in a thunderstorm din, sometimes sulking and subdued, sometimes sharp as gunfire. They advanced toward my house and laid waste to the road, pulverizing its surface, yanking up the old trolley tracks and leaving them twisted in the gutters until the gutters themselves disintegrated under their assault. After the first wave had passed but before the second phalanx of resurfacers arrived, the demolished street resembled a dry riverbed scattered with the debris of a flashflood, rocks everywhere, gravel everywhere, fragments of asphalt black as old lava, everything coated with mud and clay. One afternoon I stepped outside my front door and edged up to the rubble, excited by this peek beneath the ordinary, like a glimpse under a long skirt. I reached down and plucked up a round, gray stone lying at my feet. It fit my palm in a pleasant way, the perfect size to curl my fingers around so that it disappeared entirely in my grip. It was cool, rough like fine-grit sandpaper, minutely pitted. But it was just a rock. I was about to toss it away when something made me turn it over. No. Way. There, indented in the center of the stone was the imprint of a seashell. A fossil. I had discovered a fossil! Right outside my front door. Without even trying. A prehistoric shell on a demolished street in Pittsburgh, a city as far from the ocean as the moon is from the earth, or so I envisioned at the time. How had it gotten here? What process of locomotion had carried it from the distant waters of the Atlantic to my doorstep? What kind of creature had left this imprint and how long ago had it lived? Mysteries all.
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That rock stayed on my dresser for years. Every so often I would pick it up and press a fingertip into the indentation, feel the ridges and grooves left by the shell, the atoms of my finger displacing a few of the atoms from the stone, continuing the process of erosion that would someday erase all evidence of this ancient life. Invulnerability is an illusion. Even the petrified diminish under the tender abrasives of a world in constant motion. I had never looked at the ground before I found the fossil. Not really. It was simply there, down there, the place where dropped ice cream cones landed with a sad plop, where change scattered in every direction, where kickballs bounced and rebounded and rolled into the grass. I had never thought of it as anything more than a surface. After my discovery I began to see the ground for what it was, a medium like water, like air, like space itself, holding the potential for endless discoveries. Sometimes, while standing at the bus stop or sitting on a park bench, I would imagine what it would be like to descend through the ground below me, boring deeper and deeper into the earth, a subterranean explorer. What was down there? Dirt. Roots. Bugs. Worms. Just the beginning. Deeper: gas lines and sewer pipes, the city’s underground arteries flowing with the bile and black blood of a metabolizing metropolis. Deeper still: ancient garbage turning back into soil, granite boulders rolled from Canada by glaciers advancing south, blue hearts relentless. And below that? Indian tombs. Dinosaur bones. Caverns so vast they could harbor a cruise liner. When I imagined the underworld, I envisioned passageways to new realities. There was water down there somewhere, carving and shaping, running below the heels of the Appalachians to the ocean a million miles away. Maybe that was how the fossil got to my doorstep, riding subterranean currents until it was washed up and out, a pebble on the shore of a Pittsburgh roadbed, the memory of water still cool on its surface. I was on the edge of something vast and enigmatic, but not impenetrable. There are ways to get to the bottom of things. Sometime it takes hydraulics and diamond-tipped drill bits, sometimes plastic shovels and sand buckets. And sometimes the earth yields without being prompted, erasing the exclusivity of “above” and “below,” reminding us we stand upon a porous foundation and there are voids beneath our feet. Jeffrey Bush went to bed well before midnight on the evening of Feb. 28, 2013. He had been living in his brother’s house in Seffner, Florida, for three months. Before that, he’d been staying in a motel until his money
ran out. When he told his brother Jeremy he was going to live under a bridge, his brother insisted he move in with him and his girlfriend and their young daughter. The girlfriend’s father also lived in the house, as did the girlfriend’s aunt. The strata of the family was already crimped and folded. Maybe the addition of one more wrinkle caused stress fractures. Maybe the aunt felt uncomfortable around him, a thirty-seven-year-old man, unemployed. He claimed he was looking for work, but who knew what he did when he left the house? Maybe the girlfriend resented the way her two-year-old called him “Uncle Eff ” and insisted on showing him her dolls, insisted on filling his ears with little nonsense songs. But family is family and Jeremy wasn’t about to let his big brother sleep under a bridge. Jeff was in his room at the back of the house before eleven p.m. If he was still awake he would have heard the murmur of familiar voices through his closed door: Jeremy and his girlfriend returning from a late dinner. Perhaps he had fallen asleep watching television, reading a book, rifling through the “help wanted” section of the classifieds, his fingers stained with news print, a pen in one hand. Or was he on the very cusp of sleep, that place between consciousness and slumber when the mind can sometimes plummet, producing the unnerving sensation of falling, falling, until we spring back to wakefulness with a start? If so, Jeff Bush might have thought he was dreaming as his bed suddenly lurched downward, descending through the floor, descending through the earth below the floor, the bed tilting, the mattress sliding, tossing him out and down, sandy soil all around, walls of sand, and sand in his hair, his eyes, his mouth, his feet sinking into cold, damp, sandy soil, up to his knees, up to his thighs, and the television dangling into the hole still attached to its cable, something to reach for desperately as the ground continued to open under him, the betraying ground, the traitorous ground, swallowing him whole. Jeff Bush had discovered one of the voids beneath the everyday. A sinkhole had opened below his bedroom floor and everything he knew or would ever know collapsed inside. What is dirt? What is this substance we can scoop and mold, furrow, sift, compress, refine, smear over us, mix with straw to make bricks, mix with water and seeds to produce the diet of civilizations? Dirt is comprised of four ingredients: sand, stones, clays and humus. Of these, only humus is unique to our world. Sand? Mars is drowning in red sand, littered with rusting stones, the soil rich in iron oxide and volcanic basalt. Mercury is essentially an enormous stone, baked by the sun, chilled by its own shadow, simultaneously the hottest and coldest planet in the solar system.
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On Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, clays are formed as liquid ethane and methane percolate through soil composed of water ice and hydrocarbons. Only the dirt of Earth contains humus. Humus is life devouring former life. It is the decay of plants and animals by dentrivores, those tiny links in the carbon cycle that release nutrients and nitrates back into the organic soup, allowing them to be reabsorbed by the next generation of life. Bacteria, funguses, insects, worms, mites, the unsavory engineers of perpetual renewal. This is dirt. Of course the composition of soil varies widely depending on location. In western Pennsylvania the dirt is rich in silt loam, the clay mildly acidic, the tiny stones pulverized sandstone rather than the more common limestone debris. It makes for a dark confection when churned with a shovel, the clay providing just enough adhesive to encourage clumping rather than crumbling. One spring I captured half a dozen winged ants and placed them in a gallon Mason jar filled with moist Pennsylvania dirt. Every day I came home and examined the jar, hoping to see the beginnings of a new colony. On the third day I did: little mounds springing up in volcano puckers, the ants—queens all—busy with the industry of tunnel excavation, a few of which snaked against the glass of the jar, allowing me a window into their descending sprawl. For the rest of the week I watched as chambers began to appear, some the terminus of passageways, some merely way stations, knuckles in a route continuing another finger’s length before curving in toward the mysterious center of the jar. The ants seemed tireless, never resting, never slowing, pausing only to sip the drops of sugar water I left for them on squares of wax paper. They were miniature conveyor belts, six-legged dynamos, and I was enthralled by the complexity of the nascent society they were carving through the dirt, following no plan but the one genetically programmed into their speck-sized brains. On the seventh day, a Sunday, I came home from Mass and headed straight out the kitchen door to the patio, eager to see what the ants had accomplished while I slept. I rounded the corner and took two, maybe three steps. No. Way. For a week the Mason jar had stood undisturbed in the middle of a wrought-iron table, sheltered beneath a gazebo. No more. The table was empty. Heaped near one of its feet was a dark mound of dirt and broken
glass. Muddy paw prints led away from the ruins, looped around a planter and disappeared into the laundry room. While we were at church, my mother’s cat had pushed my homemade ant farm over the edge and taken a dump in the center of it, three turds, only halfheartedly buried, poking up like tree stumps. There was nothing to do but sweep away the mess. I couldn’t start again. The flying ants were gone for the season. I would have to wait until next spring if I wanted more queens. I found no sign of my tiny colonists. They did not know theirs was a precarious existence, poised for disaster, that their world was nothing more than a display model. A litter box. For six days they worked ceaselessly to create something permanent, but permanence is an illusion. Fossils erode. Glaciers shape landscapes for ten thousand years and then disappear in less than a hundred. The ground moves beneath our feet and we move with it as the continents slide over the mantel, fracturing and colliding in a perpetual process of breakups and reunions. On his descent from the surface, Jeff Bush passed through life, more varieties than scientists have names for. If he had reached out and clawed at the walls in an attempt to stop his plunge, he would have held 10 billion bacteria, most of them unknown species. He would also have held 1 million yeasts, 200,000 molds, 10,000 protozoa, various rotifers and nematodes. Most life inhabits the topsoil, where plant roots and earthworms aerate the ground. It is the realm of burrowing creatures, voles and snakes, millipedes and crickets. It is rich in fungi and woven through with lichens, algae, tubers. Below this is the subsoil, a less hospitable habitat where oxygen consuming organisms relinquish the stage to their hardier microbial cousins, bacteria who make do with less: less air, less phosphorous, less magnesium. Deeper than sixty feet, oxygen levels drop beyond the threshold of all but the most tenacious organisms, extremeophiles capable of eking out a meager existence by metabolizing rock and hydrogen sulfide. Microbial life has been found as far as two miles below the surface, eating the byproducts of uranium ores in a South African gold mine. Jeff never reached such depths. His descent ended in the subsoil, thirty or forty feet from where it began. It’s unclear how long he survived, but Jeremy insisted he heard his brother scream for help. When first-responders arrived on scene, they had to pull Jeff ’s brother from the chasm. He was neck-deep in dirt and the sinkhole was continuing to grow. It was too dangerous for even professionals to attempt an extraction. But before they yanked him back from the brink, Jeremy dug. He dug with his hands. He dug with a shovel. He reached as far into the pit as he could, teetering
2 Bridges Review
on the verge of his own downfall, calling out to his brother. And through all those awful moments of frantic digging, all he could think was that it was his fault. His fault. It was all his fault. He had insisted Jeff move in with them because he couldn’t bear the thought of his big brother living under a bridge. Not the kid who had once taught him how pop a wheelie on his Huffy, to whistle with his thumb and index finger wedged in the corners of his mouth, to shotgun a beer. And now look where his insistence had gotten him. Jeremy kept digging. He wasn’t going to stop until he found his brother. Let the world come tumbling down around him, he wasn’t going to stop until they dragged him away. Our language reveals the love/hate relationship we have with the ground. We encourage those looking for answers to dig a little deeper into the matter, to look below the surface of things. We seek common ground with our adversaries and hope to break new ground in our negotiations with them. But if talks turn sour, we’re prepared to dig in our heels and stand our ground. After all, no one wants to be treated like dirt. To appreciate something is to dig it. But who can resist taking a dig at something we find absurd? Sensible, pragmatic people tend to be grounded and have their feet on the ground. But if you’re a teen with a rebellious streak or a traveler waiting to board a flight out of O’Hare International, the last thing you want is to be grounded. It’s a hard life when you’re dirt poor, but a lucky few may hit pay dirt and rebuild their lives from the ground up. The ground supports and sustains us, even as it limits our potential. We feel safer when we’re close to it, and yet perpetually strive to rise as far above it as possible. Dirt is cheap, but fertile soil is priceless. Wars have been fought over the right to lay claim to plots of land that have the proper pH content, the ideal mix of humus and salts, for crops to flourish. Ancient Greece, for example, a country poor in cultivatable lands, waged war with its more fertile neighbors to the east and north to expand its agricultural interests. Today, we tend to take the ground for granted, but only because we believe we’ve earned the right to do so after a long history of blood and toil. It is our ground, and because we eat the food grown in it, drink the water pulled from it, because we breathe the microscopic particles rising off it, the soil marks us in subtle ways. Nestled in the folds of our skin are spores unique to our geographical location. Hair and nail chemistry vary depending on region. In Oklahoma, where the bluffs seem to bleed after rainstorms, fingernails contain more chromium. In Florida, hair follicles
are a few parts-per-million higher in sulfur than in other regions. The ground plays its role in making us who we are. We can soar above it from time to time, sail far from any shore, but we can never leave it entirely behind. We carry it with us in our pores. Despite robotic probes and cameras lowered on the end of long poles, Jeff Bush’s body was never recovered. It’s still down there, buried under tons of myakka, the fine gray sand that comprises the bulk of Florida soil. The house is gone, razed after the expanding sinkhole claimed the rear third of the structure. The homes on either side of the sinkhole were also condemned. If you drive slowly down the street today, you will see a large, empty plot of high weeds enclosed behind three layers of fencing. Red and black signs warn the curious to keep out, there is danger here, but little remains to indicate what that danger might be. The physical void was plugged with gravel and dirt. Other voids, harder to fill, remain. What is obvious is that this is hallowed ground. Festooned between the chain links of the fence are plastic flowers, faded pinwheels, wooden crosses, so like the makeshift memorials that spring up along the side of highways where flesh and speeding metal meet. And there is a gravestone: Jeffrey Bush Born 7-21-75 Died 2-28-13 His death was sudden, bizarre, and horrific, but Jeff ’s fate isn’t all that different from what most of us will eventually face. We prefer to bury our dead, cover them over with dirt, mark the place with a stone pulled from the earth, polished and inscribed with names and dates. There are, of course, practical reasons to do this, but there is also something about placing our deceased under the ground that feels right. Maybe it’s the suggestion of eventual renewal inherent in soil, the act of burial and planting being so similar. Like bulbs awaiting the spring thaw, we lie dormant, our essence intact. Maybe it’s the sense of safekeeping that comes with being nestled in the solid embrace of hard-packed earth, the belief that the volatile resides above ground, the fixed and unchanging below. Or maybe it’s something too subtle to capture with words. Some women develop geophagy during pregnancy, an intense craving for dirt. Researchers aren’t sure why, but most speculate it has something to do with providing vital minerals during gestation while protecting against harmful toxins and pathogens. Even before birth, the soil nurtures our developing potential. Burial, then, might simply be an attempt to return what was borrowed all those years ago.
2 Bridges Review
I no longer have the seashell fossil. I lost it. Or maybe I left it behind when I moved to Florida. I know I considered it one of my treasures for a long time, and then I didn’t. Over the years, however, I would occasionally wonder at the odds of making such a discovery outside my front door. Was it as astronomically slim as I had assumed? Maybe if I had turned over every rock along the roadbed I would have found five more, ten more, a hundred just like it. There are remarkable things lying just beneath the surface, awaiting discovery. Spelunkers know this. Paleontologists and archeologists as well. As do the casual seekers who sweep the ground with metal detectors, looking for value in the things we leave behind. The shell fossil is gone, but I’ve collected new treasures since: a cup of coarse black sand from Punalu’u Beach, a grapefruit-sized geode, bland exterior cloaking an extraordinary mineral heart crystallized mid-beat, a trilobite fossil purchased from a store specializing in precious things pulled from the earth. Sometimes I’ll run my thumb over the contours of its segmented carapace, polishing the stone and erasing, ever-so-slightly, the complication of ridges and groves that give testimony to its former existence. Erosion is a perpetual smoothing away of distinctions. Without it, there would be no silt, no sand, nothing for life to sink its roots into or burrow through or build upon. Erosion is the process through which new soil is created. It un-makes what is and lays the foundation for what comes next. Jeff Bush’s existence on the surface was undermined by erosion— rainwater seeped through the soil and slowly dissolved the limestone below. It took thirty years or more to open a void large enough to swallow a bedroom. The first fissures might have formed while Jeremy was popping wheelies under his brother’s approving supervision. The final collapse, however, occurred in seconds. Jeff was up here with us for a time, then suddenly he was below everything. And now he’s a part of the thing that claimed his life. Newspaper stories used the term “final resting place” to describe the now-empty plot his brother’s modest track house once stood upon. This is a misnomer. The ground does not rest. It drifts on slow, relentless currents and we drift with it, sometimes descending, sometimes rising, but always moving, always progressing toward one horizon or the other. Stillness is an illusion. We are always going someplace new.
New Yorkers in Miami Maureen Seaton First I’ll make a stack of banana pancakes with bananas from our own banana tree, then I’ll ask you if a dip in the sea sounds good, because we live near the sea now, and when we get home we’ll make sandy love and lie like raisins with kelpy hair in our hammocks between gumbo limbo trees, come on, let’s go to the ocean, look! it’s right there, I can see it out the fucking window. And you look at me like you’ve been born a wise-ass, my own special live-in wise-ass, all set to wise-ass me. People who live in Brooklyn don’t go to Coney Island, you say, and people who live in…wherever the Grand Canyon is…don’t go to the Grand Canyon either. And when you think about it, you add, getting caught up in your own riff as if you’re Walt Whitman or someone alive good at making lists, all those people who live near mountains don’t ski! What mountains, I ask, in mild debunk mode, though I agree in theory with your theory. Then our clothes come flying off and our flip-flops flip and we’re running wild together into the winter sea, goosebumped and screaming like indisputable almost Floridians. w
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In Defense of Puppets Anthony DiMatteo They are as pure as any dream. Who takes fault with the moon? Or kicks a stone for being in the way? But what of werewolves and lovers who blame their change on the moon and the rage that turns man into beast never seen before in a cage? They are the pure among us, children who mimic our words not yet knowing the meaning, or forests and streams, mountains and deserts that echo all before. Who pretends to silence them? Their secret has no word. They are the pure beyond us, the murdered and betrayed knife or breech cannot reach, innocent as leaves of their fall or waves and wind in a storm. Who blames a scarf for a strangerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s scent? What ant deserves the random step? They are the pure whose loss defiles the stainer. Their would-be master cannot make them love or sleight of hand make them wrong. A tree snaps too tightly staked. A beaten dog acts out its ownerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rage. A broken boy kills with his fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hand.
They are the pure in trust, goat led to slaughter, unborn waiting to be born, beggar uplifted by a crumb, lover whose neck must be bent. Their blood spills without thought the way rain appears to weep. w
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Now That Yakov’s Gone Art Heifetz The world wakes up a sadder place now that Yakov’s gone. The firehouse where he staged his shows is boarded up, the red brick turret where he slept, above Steamer Number Five, is empty. Now that Yakov’s gone, you can no longer hear the squeals of laughter and delight which met his puppets as they swayed across the stage, bowing to the muffled applause of little hands. They’re sealed up now in cardboard boxes, a jumbled mass of sticks and styrofoam, unable to say a mourner’s prayer for their beloved Yakov. They found him in an alley crumpled up like one of his creations, his delicate head posed on one shoulder, his slender legs spread out, as if one jerk of a string would spring him back to life. Floating down like an autumn leaf, was he pushed by Russian gangsters whom he’d mimicked in his funny puppet voice. or reaching for a star, did he leap too high?
Now that Yakovâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gone, what shall we tell the children waiting for Fasha the dog to blow them a goodnight kiss? That Yakovâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s looking down at them in their untroubled sleep, plucking his strings so that the constellations dance across the sky? w
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Put Down Celeste Lipkes “It’s true,” Nathaniel says. “I saw Coach cry.” I shut the tumor-ridden puppy’s styswelled eyes. Ted circles cancer of the bone as Final Cause Of Death and scrawls unknown beside Pet’s Name. “You’re full of bull,” I say. “He’s not the type.” I prep the surgeon’s tray with forceps, clamps, drills, pins, and rolls of gauze. Nathaniel tucks the puppy’s limp back paws into the body bag. “This job’s the shits,” Ted says, and it begins—the bitching blitz of burnt-out vet technicians: “Yesterday this owner burst in halfway through a spay and yelled: ‘Hold on! I changed my mind!’” “I’ll beat that easy—Pomeranian in heat comes in last week and bleeds so fucking much I have to get a mop.” “Yeah? You can’t touch this, man: I found a sign-in sheet that said, Describe Your Pet: a bitch with jowls.” “Hey, Ted— A bitch with jowls. You sure that’s not your mom?” We whisper insults while our fingers—calm, deliberate—sew up kittens, scrape dog skin across dark, pre-stained slides, and spin blood thin. “It’s true,” Nathaniel starts again. “Coach bawled. They euthanized his Chow and when I hauled the body off, he lost it.” “Nah,” I say, “no chance—Coach didn’t even cry the day his daughter died. No way he’d go soft now.”
“He did,” Nathaniel said. “That goddamn Chow was all he had.” The centrifuges hum. The putting down of things becomes too tiresome. And still these people leave their shit behind— stray dogs, spilled blood, a contract still unsigned. I get a call to post-op room thirteen. A cranky, shaven beagle pup sans spleen is sitting on the countertop. I grab peroxide rub and clean his stitched-up scab. I clip the thread that gates his broken bones, and quietly undo the stitches that I’ve sewn. w
2 Bridges Review
Something Akin to Kindness Roland Goity It’s a ritual. I’m a serial entrepreneur, and before every meeting with Angels Landing, one of Silicon Valley’s leading early-stage investor groups, I stroll the dirty trails of the Baylands Nature Preserve along the outskirts of its office complex. On hot days I take in the sweet licorice smell of anise; on foggy days I watch snowy egrets fly to the soundtrack of unseen planes just overhead. No matter the weather, though, I settle my mind, contemplate my pitch, and then envision the hundreds of thousands dollars that inevitably come pouring in. Today my enterprising idea involves a social network for diehard sports fans—an online community where true aficionados can swap info, analysis, and opinion concerning their favorite teams without having to be subjected to the incessant trolls that infiltrate sports-related news sites and message boards. Think about it: the marketing and advertising opportunities are endless. This one feels like a real winner, like it could be Facebook-big. I can already sense the ka-ching ka-ching of investors lining up at multiple rounds. I’ll maintain a significant equity stake until another bigger tech company up the food chain buys it out. Then I’ll move onto the next big thing. This is my fifth Web venture so far. All but the second were considered moderately to wildly successful, so I have a good track record. My belief in this one is ratcheted up by the fact that Henry L. Stevens, a tech-savvy Dallas investor nonpareil, is flying out to meet me. In just over an hour we’ll be shaking hands. A prop plane zooms overhead and descends onto the airstrip at the small airport just past my line of sight. Perhaps that’s Stevens now, all the way from north-central Texas. Most of my wealth still waits in the future, is tied up in percentage points. Even so, I’ve cashed out a few million bucks in the past two years alone, all before my thirty-fifth birthday. I once was more interested in the work itself and all the money was just a pleasant byproduct of the value it provided. Over time, however, I’ve found the ROI part somewhat addicting. And I’ve learned how to flip things quickly. Much of what I do involves simply convincing big-pockets people I’m a fountain of brilliant ideas; I avoid all the grunt stuff and nitpicky particulars. My role is hectic, challenging, and draining, but also ridiculously lucrative. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My smartphone vibrates in my front pocket constantly. I pause a moment and take a seat on a bench dedicated to the memory of a man who developed a breakthrough semiconductor chip. A warm breeze passes, and I can hear mice, voles, and other little creatures scurrying in the tule reeds along the shoreline below. I check my phone. A number of texts have rolled in: Show em Derek! from Kellen Smith, a collaborator in this new business proposition we’re calling somewhat cheekily “Sports on Rye”; Hear Abu Dhabi folks on board from Melissa Money, the apt-named managing director of Angels Landing; Fresh snow for skiing from Mario, an old buddy from our undergrad days at Pomona. He’s an enterprising businessman too, although his recreational wares are strictly verboten. There are other texts, too, and many phone messages I’ll listen to later. Some will be friendly, some antagonistic and semi-threatening, but most will be entirely irrelevant. While taking five on the bench, a number of people pass. First, there’s a weathered but smiling older lady with a leashed dog, a springer spaniel if I’m not mistaken. Later, a trio of bike riders in spandex zooms by. Although the trail is dirt, it’s wide and hard-packed, suitable for their shiny racing bikes with ultra-thin tires. Then a shapely young jogger approaches. She’s wearing designer sunglasses that shade the October sun, and her cinnamon hair is pulled back in a ponytail, wagging back and forth with every step. I’m reminded of my ex-fiancée Emily, now one year gone. Emily’s hair was shorter and a bit darker but she bore a similar runner’s physique. No surprise, since she ran almost to the point of addiction. Healthier than abusing cocaine or alcohol, I guess. Those are still trouble areas of mine, but useful for gaining an edge or taking an edge off, as applicable. Emily wasn’t happy about my reliance on such substances. What’s more, she accused me of being selfish, arrogant, and—what hurt the most, and what I don’t necessarily agree with—unable to enjoy the moment. When she left she told me I was already married—to my work. She was right. Now I can dedicate myself to my true love—take meetings at any and all hours, write business plans during meals, and spend my vacation time at executive conferences. Although from time to time I do see Ginger. She’s a petite woman, hair dyed a rosy red, who still carries the accent she brought with her from Tokyo. She’s a lot of fun, but knows that I need my distance. As a professional escort catering to high tech executives doing business in the valley, she needs her distance too. Good thing I’m not the
2 Bridges Review
jealous type. Our relationship is essentially on an ongoing retainer. The phone in my hand buzzes and another text comes in: Derek c u @ 3? Another from Melissa Money of Angels Landing. She hopes I’ll arrive a half-hour before the Texan Stevens is scheduled and things get exciting. Yep I type. It’s nearly 2:30 and I need to return to the car now to make it on time. I rise from the bench and begin to retrace my steps when I notice a scruffy, shaggy-bearded fellow around my age rocking his weight back and forth at the end of a short pier that’s just off the trail and not far from the park’s visitor center. I keep striding in the direction of the parking lot, when I hear grunts and groans, tormented moans. I glance back again and see the man starting to climb the pier’s railing. I don’t know why, but I get the same uneasy feeling I typically do when some venture of mine is about to head south. I stop. The groans escalate, like a calling. The fellow’s standing now on the top rail, stretching out his arms and amplifying his voice in agony. He literally appears to be taking a long walk off a short pier. I start to jog over, but when he swings his arms back and forth and flexes at the knees I break out in a sprint. “Hold on, over there!” I shout. The guy goes still as I start to close in. By the time he turns I’m within a few dozen yards. The seawater smell of the bay is pronounced as I draw in deep breaths, sweat gliding down my sideburns and the base of my neck, as I reach the pier. Not long ago it was a rickety one of wood, not far from rotting. It stands on concrete pylons now and I stand on its asphalt paving. It’s robust and sturdy, unlike the bearded stranger perched on its metal railing across from me. The rail is for leaning your elbows upon, about eighteen inches wide. Still, it’s possible for someone to stand on safely. And the pier only goes about thirty feet out, the water below isn’t very deep, and the wake and tow of the tides are negligible. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that if the fellow goes over he isn’t coming back to shore. Not alive, anyway. “Hey there,” I say gently. “How about coming down?” He smacks his lips, and mutters a hum. His long hair is a mess of greasy tangles, and now that I’m within a few steps of him, he looks older than I first thought. “I just want to go for a swim,” he says—although he’s dressed in a drab-grey cotton hoodie and oversize jeans that smother the tops of his dirty sneakers. “It’s not a diving board. The bay isn’t a public pool,” I tell him. It may, in fact, be legal to swim here but the water is shockingly cold and pretty
polluted. Closer to San Francisco, near windy SFO, kite surfers in wetsuits brave the water but no one ever gets in down here. He narrows his sunken eyes, sucks in his sunburned cheeks, and gives me a look that says: Not you too. I suppose he’s used to and fed up with people treating him like he’s someone who doesn’t know better. When he turns away and gazes back down at the seawater swirling around the pylon, I try again. “Come on down. Let’s chat. Tell me a story.” To my surprise he pivots around into a crouch, sighs, and then hops down onto the pier. He lands somewhat clumsily before stepping my way a pace or two, and I can see that he’s favoring an ankle. “Are you okay?” I ask. “Shit, yeah. I’ll survive.” That’s what I’m hoping, I think to myself. He staggers over to a kiosk panel in the middle of the pier. I join him there. On the panel display are colored illustrations of shorebirds with push buttons below each. The fellow presses the one for a Western sandpiper and a super high-pitched whistle pierces the air. He pushes another button and out comes the squeaky cry of an American kestrel, which could double for the sound made by a squeegee across a soapy windshield. “What about that one?” I ask, pointing at the illustration of a great blue heron, probably my favorite bird. “That one’s a real trip,” he says. His index finger lands on the button and the heron’s deep croaking call sounds more like a bullfrog than a shorebird. My big meeting nears by the minute, but I find myself strangely unconcerned with it, despite the stakes. “You come here a lot?” I say. “I have lately.” “Me too, although I don’t remember seeing you before.” I offer my hand to shake. “Derek.” He looks over my shoulder, past me, and I can hear a bunch of kids screaming and laughing and then the harried yells of a trailing mother, telling them to wait up! As their voices fade further into the background, he extends his own hand. “I’m Jeremy, but people used to call me Lucky.” I’m intrigued. “Used to...?” “Uh huh,” he says. “You really want to hear a story, dude?” “Of course,” I say, then immediately start to worry about my impending meeting. I need to get back to the car soon to change. Perhaps this guy is one of those people who starts at the beginning of the beginning and
2 Bridges Review
fills in every unnecessary detail as he goes. “Story of my life,” he says. “When I was young and dumb—in high school—I was a passenger in a friend’s pickup that careened off Skyline Boulevard and down a ravine. Three of my buddies died, and I was the sole survivor. Broke an ankle, cracked some ribs, but that was the extent of it. Everyone said I was so lucky, and before long they began calling me that and the name just stuck…Lucky.” “Sounds like it,” I say. He shakes his head. “I’m not so sure.” I nod, as big cumulous clouds begin to pass between us and the sun, dropping the temperature and shading the pier. “I was a good athlete,” he continues. “I might have been able to get a football or baseball scholarship, but I got all fucked up in the accident and that was that.” “Did you still go to college?” “Not long enough to get a degree,” he says.”I’ve always carried a heavy load of survivor’s guilt. It’s cost me job opportunities, ruined two marriages. It lingers with me and never leaves.” “You weren’t planning on swimming, were you?” “Not exactly. I’ve stood on that rail more than a few times. I think today was as close as I’ve come to taking the plunge.” I regard him in new light. His eyes and nose have a perfect symmetry, are exquisitely aligned. Underneath those shaggy locks and behind that kudzu-vines beard somewhere is a handsome man. He could lose a few pounds to be sure, but you can see that he’s got a strong and solid frame that will never go entirely soft. Something akin to kindness wells inside me, allowing me to ignore the incoming texts and phone messages vibrating in my pocket and the fact that I need to be in a mission-critical meeting soon. “You played the games, but do you follow professional sports? The NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball?” He looks at me as if I’ve just discovered a profound secret of his. “Giants, Niners, Warriors--I’m a diehard fan, bro. And, yes, I know what’s going on in the leagues, who the good teams and players are.” “Single-season home-run record?” “That’s easy,” he says. “73, Barry Bonds, 2001. A small but needed diversion post-9/11.” “Most Super Bowl titles?” “Pittsburgh Steelers with six.”
“First five picks of the 2005 NBA draft?” He chuckles. “Lebron James went number one, of course. But the second pick—before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade— was the supreme bust, Darko Milicic. Called the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, he was anything but.” “You’re good,” I admit. “Really good.” Sunlight shines upon his face as the last of the string of clouds has blown past. I let his disheveled, deathbed visage morph into that of what I can see behind the depression and doldrums: a dapper-looking former athlete and sports pundit whose knowledge could serve Sports on Rye. My pocket’s become a pinball machine with my phone vibrating constantly. I nab it and ignore the string of text and phone messages but latch onto the time: 2:53. I’m already gonna be way late for the preliminary small-talk with Melissa, and if I don’t bust my ass I could potentially fuck things up with the investors I’m courting, most notably the bigwig Stevens from Texas, who I know will be all over my idea if I just get a chance to present it. My new friend, though, looks antsy. It’s as if he can’t decide whether to go back to from where he came or climb back on the railing and get things over and done with, once and for all. But a wonderful surprise is coming his way. “So, Jeremy,” I say, “I have a proposition for you—totally serious—I’m seeking advisers for a new company that revolves around sports fan interaction. I’m picturing you as a content guru of sorts for the advising team. How does that sound?” “Huh?” “I have a meeting in a matter of minutes. Money will rain down,” I tell him. “I can include you in on the founding package, giving you valuable warrants and/or stock options that can be exercised once the company goes public, or gets bought out, or when others are simply interested in purchasing your share. For your sports knowledge and input—over the occasional drinks and dinner and walks up and down these baylands—you might walk away with tens of thousands, or maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars! What say you?” He shifts his torso around and sticks his neck to and fro, afraid perhaps he’s being “punked,” and looks around for a “candid camera” or something. “I’m in!” he eventually says with gusto. “Fantastic!” “But how do I even know any of this is real,” he says, as he backs up a bit and casts his gaze downward. “I mean, you don’t look dressed for success or anything.”
2 Bridges Review
True enough, but only for the time being. “My power threads are in the Land Cruiser, pressed and waiting. After a quick change I’ll be walking over to that silver spiral-looking building over there. See it?” I say, while pointing. “And tell you what, you know The Sports Section?” It’s a ridiculously popular sports bar at the end of a business park a half-mile away, and the question is simply a rhetorical one. Still, he nods. “When the meeting’s over I’ll see you there. Here’s some cash to get the party started.” I finger through a quintet of bills, handing over a hundred, and he looks baffled to find Ben Franklin’s face in its middle. “Go get a pitcher or a few drinks if you like, and I’ll be there before you know it.” “You ain’t shitting me, dude?” “Not at all, Jeremy,” I say. Excitement ripples through my veins. Earlier I had a good feeling about my pitch at the bottom of the hour, but that pales in comparison to my confidence now. “Mark my words, when I return you’ll have your old name back. You’ll once again be Lucky!” Although many people might remain skeptical, and consider my offer too good to be true, Jeremy breaks out into such a big smile it pulls his beard halfway around his face. He swings around and begins his venture to the bar, even allowing himself a skip or two. High on the warm rush of generosity, I head for the parking lot as Clark Kent, where I’ll emerge from my vehicle as some sort of Silicon Valley Superman. I haven’t traveled far, just a little ways during which I’ve already recalibrated my focus to the meeting ahead, when I get a strange feeling. I hear footsteps coming up from behind—a jogger?—before a long shadow stretches out for mine. And then my neurons go haywire and a searing pain strikes from the blow to my head, the forceful kind a former athlete can deliver. Before hitting the dirt in a face plant where everything will go fuzzy, I realize one thing: someone’s luck has run completely dry.
GLIMPSES FROM A N.Y. CITY TAXI Photograph by Walter Brand
2 Bridges Review
GLIMPSES FROM A N.Y. CITY TAXI Photograph by Walter Brand
GLIMPSES FROM A N.Y. CITY TAXI Photograph by Walter Brand
2 Bridges Review
GLIMPSES FROM A N.Y. CITY TAXI Photograph by Walter Brand
Bryant Park Madeleine Beckman One day I just let go. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know how it happened, but seeing a broken park chair a leg undone from a missing screw I realized I too was no longer tightly fastened. Parts had not fallen off into a heap, something jell-like, cohesive like the netting covering the brain filmy and delicate yet tight and strong enough to hold such a thing together was still in place. . But, I was disassembling; structure existed, still, I wondered what if I really came apart pieces clunking on the ground an arm here a foot there a breast over there? And the other? I needed five even seven minutes to sit on a park bench as people do without penalty. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d contemplate the scrubby vines curling up the trees even in winter pushing forward without hesitation. w
2 Bridges Review
The Art of Waving Tim Suermondt Across the expanse of 4th Avenue I wave to a man waving— a man I haven’t seen before and a man who hasn’t seen me before. We don’t call out to each other, just wave—our arms moving briskly in the air like flags on top of the headquarters of a victorious army. We wave for five minutes then go on our way, north for me, south for him— I don’t wave to anyone else the entire day, once being all I can bear. w
As a Man Walks Down Beth Bretl Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an easy slope, lawn to beach, and a cardinal dips into a near pine. The man steps through the shade of a cottonwood to a waiting chair and a wife. His mind may yet linger as beach sand curves cool against his arch in the shade and warm where his wife sits waiting in the sunlight for the martinis he carries. And he isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t thinking if he is or isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t content but notes how easily his body moves toward his wife and the lake is calm and the light dramatic as it often is on such evenings. The man sets his own glass in the sand and there is some satisfaction in the pull of sand to glass. He steps into the water slips his waist shoulders under and there is something familiar in the moment his head lifts through still water in the moment of tidied beaches and the silence of children heeding the call to dinner. The man swims out past a raft feels the tips of weeds against his thighs and the pulse of his heart. When he stops turns to look at his wife in her chair on the beach
2 Bridges Review
holding her martini next to his chair and glass in the sand
the water is lit by the dramatic light of such evenings and he wants to weep across the distance for something the light recalls a thing he thinks he may have known or thought to imagine but can no longer conjure. And the man thinks there is an urgency in his nostalgia or thinks he is nostalgic for an urgency so he calls to his wife. She waves as she lifts her martini to her lips and it comes to him violently swift as the red wing lost in the dark boughs he is too far out to tell her. w
Tragedy at Amusement Park Marjorie Maddox Worried about her grandson, she double-checked the buckle—you never know about these rides— brushing his too-long bangs from his eyes—her daughter should clip those—when the ride lurched, spun, the next metal cage colliding with the just-coiffed covering of her brains. And then another with a stranger’s kid, his toddler eyes helpless questions. You can’t rush such pain fast enough into emergency, into fun-gone-fireworks-haywire, but you can try to climb away from it, the man with Down Syndrome in Elysburg skinned-the-cat on the giant beams of a Knoebel’s roller coaster, afraid of the jungle-gym cage trapping him high above the amusement-park lights of most children’s dreams. It took hours to get him down to his other life, the one before terror, where cotton candy tasted like the joy his seventy-year-old mother held out to him like a ticket. Like others, we send our children off on rickety rides carted from one county fairgrounds to another. We watch them rise up into air thick with the stench of greasy fries and apple fritters, and we wait for that first explosion of laughter or cries cascading over the metal spokes that bring them back, then away, then back while we question what we have done, what we were thinking--which was, of course, about us at that size, at Hershey Park
2 Bridges Review
or Dutch Wonderland, terrified or ecstatic, leaping out to a world of glorious risk so strange we screamed to recognize ourselves and our parents, far below, just one gaping mouth really, unable to save or stop us. w
Alien Possession Lucy Simpson (Italicized lines from Etiquette for Every Day by Mrs. Humphrey, 1904, pg 76, The Hatless Man by Sarah Kortum) A man with a trivial nose should not wear a large moustache if the nose be small as a tiny thread bobbin, forget it entirely. Persisting in this facial hair folly will increase the insignificance of his insignificant nose His nose will spite him, refusing to smell the smoke of fires or the ham roasting in the oven. Sometimes the ends of a manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s moustache are visible to persons walking behind him like two boot-black chevrons peeking out, pointing in opposite directions, especially if he be thin as a darkened lamp post. This imports to him a belligerent, aggressive air. If he ties a young lady to the train tracks, he will always say his moustache is to blame. The moustache is really the tentacles of an alien dwelling on his upper lip. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not his fault. w
2 Bridges Review
Course Correction Rob Talbert It matters how you were made, not where you were born. The hospital rooms and bathtubs are universally dull and false starts. It’s whether the April breeze carried the scent of oranges into the Buick, washing over the backseat sweat of your mother. Or if the swimming pool caught enough of the sunlight to burn your father’s back as he worked. Knowing these details would probably explain some things about you. How you feel about elevators, music, long showers, whether snow pressed against your lower back is comforting. I’m told it was a blue couch, vinyl and corduroy from a yard sale on a bad side of town (bad because of crime) tied to the top of a Ford Pinto and driven home to a bad side of town (bad because of poverty). I’m told it was New Year’s Eve and on that couch, under the midnight slamming roar of the sky. Because of this I know to pull back a little at parties. I know I’ll consume like the sky eats color. The moment you’re in the world the world has you, and pours itself into the body so that a body can be there. Welcomed with a kind of brand. An affliction. A curse. A gravity that is yours alone. Another word for how is shape.
Formed by two people insane with touch. So insane that even today, your parents, whatever they mean to you, would surely climb the trees, the steps, the carnival fence all over again just to remake you, and remake you again. w
2 Bridges Review
Return to Indiana Anna Lowe Weber Going back means remembering the trail that curled along the cola-brown Wabash, a wealth of rot and brambled green life and river stench. Walked and ran on that trail— how many times? Enough to see the men who gathered each Sunday to fly their model airplanes. Enough to hear their whoops as the planes glided over the wheat field like massive dragonflies, pops of color against Indiana sky, a sky that could teach anyone the meaning of the word expanse. Going back means remembering the way that word could settle in the throat like a hot, yellow evening. Remembering the walk home, the televisions that burned blue from behind the windows of nearly every house you’d pass. And your neighbors— the shithead you shared a duplex with. The fights you could hear through the walls. Cunt this and cunt that. The cry of the dog. The icy rose-dawn in December when he opened the backdoor to his side of the house and threw the dog across the frozen lawn. You want a dog? You got her. The December before that, the woman who lived next door was murdered— stabbed to death by a boyfriend. A hoard of red sirens greeted you as you opened the front door that morning, their blinks reflected in the snow. You stepped out onto the white streets with your jerk boyfriend. Five blocks away, men and women dressed as Dickens characters
Anna Lowe Weber
lined the main street of the town. They serenaded you with fa’s and la’s, handed off steaming cups of cider as you made your way—where? Somewhere away from the murdered woman, the body you couldn’t keep from picturing. Weeks earlier, she’d locked him out of the house after an argument half the world could hear. Late in the evening, he’d knocked on her door pretending to be the police. You’d heard it. After the murder, one night at the bar, a townie friend will tell you that the rumor among locals was that he’d fucked her after he killed her. Your beer will taste like piss and metal. Your boyfriend is about to call you boring. The relationship will last another month. Outside, through the orange-tinted windows of the bar, you can see the snow as it falls, flakes suspended like millions of spiraling white planets. It’s going to make it hard to get home. It’s going to make it hard to get anywhere. w
2 Bridges Review
After Having Spent the Summer Watching All Seven Seasons of The Sopranos* (*no spoilers are included in the body of this poem)
Anna Lowe Weber I have to fight the urge to call anyone who displeases me a cocksucker. My husband. My mother. My daughter, approaching two and testing every limit, refusing to sit in her chair during lunchtime. Preferring, instead, to stand. Preferring to wag her ass in the air like a defiant pop star. Sit on your bottom, I say. What I want to say: sit on your bottom, cocksucker. Sit on your bottom, you piece of shit. Who am I? What do you know about violence, you cunt? I ask myself as I try to count down from ten, ask once, twice, three times more: sit on your bottom. She has to be removed from the chair. What do I know about anger? What do I know about capos and soldiers, about getting made? RICO, shakedown, goomahs. We’re vacationing in Michigan, halfway through season 3 when James Gandolfini dies of a heart attack. Sad clown, Tony calls himself. It’s a piece of shit move to leave the world so soon, you cunt. We’ve bought a pie from the Cherry Hut in Beulah. Supposedly it’s the best pie in America. Red juice escapes, runs down our mouths as we listen to Tony wax poetic about Gary Cooper before he offs one of his own men. Whatever happened to the strong silent type, he wants to know. Whatever happened to any of us. w
Harry Dean Stanton Is Dying Virgil Suárez “The sun is dying out.”—HDS (from PARTLY FICTION) See it in the crow-black eyes, the stubble And the way his lids sag as he belts out The next sad song. Jack Nicholson’s gone For good, an empty husk at the bottom Of the push cart. My daughter Skypes From the Cancer Ward in a Guatemalan Childrens’ Hospital, something about a boy Named Lester who has no parents, no relatives Lester in a cancer-riddled body, only a matter Of time before the next Mexican ranchera comes on. Lester who misses his roommate who’s gone For specialized treatment in the United States, Lester of the non-sequiturs: a man walking Out of a soccer stadium in the middle of the jungle In Manaus, takes off his clothes and plunges Into the moonlit river only to become the fish Who forgot the upstream way home. Lester who Is dying and who’s become the ticking in my clock. Harry Dean says Rebecca De Mornay broke His heart. Now Lester has mine in his mouth And when he yawns, you can see the black moths Stuck to the cavernous palate. Who will save
2 Bridges Review
Harry Dean from dying? Who will save Lester From erasure and the fact that only my daughter And I (now) will speak his name out of the shadows. Come, Lester, the sun is dying, but not so soon. Look out the window at the silvering river and the man swimming upstream who glistens and shimmers and takes his next deep breath, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop singing. w
R. S. Stewart
The Scene Stealer R. S. Stewart When caught and questioned by the police He said that he stole scenes to keep from stealing The entire stage, all of its props and lights And curtains, make-up trays, and costumes, The whole heave of the world, the exit Along with the entrance. The province of place was his necessity: To be in the theatre when darkness became his domain, Becoming braver with the breath of a candle. Then he was left in his own light. Stealing a scene, however brief, was done more ably In veils of shadow. He felt his way around, as in life. He was surprised he was caught, moving quietly Within an artifice created for the one opening movement Of getting seated, then rising with no reluctance To another prized position anywhere but there. He was not an actor but a thief And took directions from no one but his own thieving self. It was the property beneath the scene He wanted most to steal. A lamp, for example: What good was a lamp with its artificial switch Triggered by an off-stage trick? What the lamp left behind when dimmed, What dialogue floated around it, aimlessly unheard, Is what he strained to hear as he stole the scene, Pocketing the words. The care he took To ensure the safety of each stolen scene Was the envy of actors rehearsing a scene They were dramatized to dream was a scene. He took most of his cues from Chekhov. All that yearning brought profuse tears to his eyes. The scenes then swam together
2 Bridges Review
And he struggled to make them separate again. And there they were, perfected in their change, And his alone to steal. Had he had the time he would have stolen The scenes of the seven ages, From the mewling infant to the last scene of mere oblivion. But does anyone have such time? Least of all does a thief Who must be quick about his business. Although he did not dart about in the dark, Like one young, growing more unsure In scene after scene of his lightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s path, He took what time he had. He studied a scene before he stole it. Some scenes were complex and not easily lifted Into a new life. Some were fastened hard As if by bolts and would only stubbornly budge From release. Never discouraged, he rehearsed at home How he would steal the scenes he left behind, Knowing he could not steal them all. The old reliable realism hit him hard. He would not have space enough for all the scenes He plotted endlessly to steal. Already his house was showing signs of unsorted excess, Bulging on every side, the attic and basement Changing shape and seeming to tilt. In the end the police expressed an empathy. One said he understood the need to reach beneath, That what was buried there was the prize To put in place more than the thing on top. In blazing lights the police surveyed the stage, The costume rack, the dressing rooms, the balcony, Every corner where theft was possible. They shined a fiercer, kindly light into his face And saw the water drops that hid his yearning eyes. They mistook them for remorse.
R. S. Stewart
Since the theatre was not harmed Except for a broken latch, Since they could find nothing missing, He was charged with breaking and entering. In his jail cell he sat with his head in his hands, Unmoved and unmoving, like a man waiting in theatre wings For his call to go on. w
2 Bridges Review
Scheherazade Lyn Lifshin Naturally, she’ll be in blue, not the wild bullfight, flame color that drives men wild as the story goes but calm, hypnotic, a frozen lake spell that swirls men into her words, a tornado spinning, about to touch down. She knows the ritual. Her voice, a lasso, a swirl a lariat. Her eyes, words, voice hog tie your breath. She is a wild magnet everything in you is iron filings, unable to resist. She will tell you the dream where you feel your skin pulled past deserts in Tripoli, flung into an emerald studded tent where whatever you lusted for is pulled from the lake behind her eyes and the new moon of her whispers turns darkness wild as overflowing rivers in a tsunami. It gets late, later and no one can sleep. Night’s glistening onyx. She is cunning, cat like. She is the horses running until they forget they are horses. Just as you think maybe you’ve got her for good, have her body where you want it, light slices the room in two. If you weren’t so drunk on
her, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d see her slight sneer, how she catches her breath: alive for one more day. How she sees your longing, prays you will never get used to it w
2 Bridges Review
A Childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Mouth Emily Vogel You might attribute it to winter, the cavernous architecture of all longing. Though today, there is no snow. Though today, no rare bird comes to rest its wings in the yard. We are moving, moving, filling the increments that time has proffered. We are futurity, in theory. A child wonders what existed before the night. A child tries to identify the sound of a cicada. A child grows love like a deformed limb. I must be death, because I am a motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bosom. And I am rocking my child, to and fro, against my body. She sleeps to a solemn verse. She sleeps to the chaos of noise. A blessing drifts in, and it is dismissed in lieu of darkness. I hate you. I love you; I hate you. The world is a murder victim. There are overtures and arousals, a soft radio, an intimate embrace in a dirty kitchen. I hate you. I love you. There are overtures. There are four eggs left in the carton for tomorrow morning. There is dusk; a vanishing of light. The distance is an ancient flute. Let us go there, love, and be reacquainted. Let us be nothing but tongues, all language left for death, spring forthcoming like a strange mania.
On my way to the liquor store this afternoon, I thought deeply about deep things. I was terse with the cashier. It was bad for business. I look at my child now, helpless as something that begins, and does not know the implication of its ending. She is beautiful: a preface to all language. Her hand is resting gently on my breast, as her exhausted mouth falls open, and then open, like something that extends: a duration, an instant, errant, nearly eternal. w
2 Bridges Review
Nightfall (After Goethe) Nathaniel Hunt Nothing interesting happened today, and let me tell you all about it: the half sky wet its feathers in the afternoon ocean, one leaf fell and many hung for one more sunset, the wind was undressing, forgetting the day. Silent as an apple core. Just wait. Perhaps someday one of us will be allowed to be this boring. w
Gypsies William Heyen Fifty years later a former SS doctor says Mengele changed viewpoints several times, for example regarding gypsies who all, as not worthy to live, must be gassed. Nein, save them, they’re so artistically gifted. Let us create in our minds a gypsy painting— horses with flowered bridles & saddles in a forest clearing under a full moon: you can almost hear violins. Surely, a beautiful full-skirted young woman will soon part branches & approach the horses … but I am so sick of this that I can’t stomach myself, or you: the way we concoct a scene, a painting; the way we imagine something that might make horror melodic, … but I am so glad for this that I can’t not praise myself, or you: the way we choose to hear violins & see that woman; the way we change our demented minds not for the better, pretending to spare the gifted ones. w
2 Bridges Review
Alaska Herbert Englehardt Back from duty in the Aleutians First Sergeant Austen said You arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really fucking Until you are in Attu In an unheated cabin Six-foot drifts outside Sweat rolls down her nose Into your eyes You want more of her salty taste You can see by her tight smile You are involved In serious business w
Maria Luna Herbert Englehardt Spent and mauled from combat Americans arrived on Panay And spray paint soon appeared Calling Iloilo beauty Maria Luna â&#x20AC;&#x153;Putaâ&#x20AC;? Because she had consorted with Japanese For food and drink Maria learned English rapidly Insisted she preferred scotch to sake Americans adored her long straight hair She soon rode to the Officers Club for lunch Teams of sweating privates Painted over the graffiti w
2 Bridges Review
The Important Thing Dan Leach When she showed up on my doorstep with one arm in a sling and a suitcase at her feet, I almost didn’t recognize her. For one thing, she must have gained about sixty pounds. The slim, determined jaw line–in my memory incessantly flexing itself over two sticks of Juicy Fruit—was buried beneath a roll of wrinkled flesh and her cheeks, each one bearing a subtle touch of rouge, sagged like certain plastic grocery bags that get over-loaded with heavy cans and threaten to burst. She had gone gray too in the seven years since I had last seen her. The ash that had dotted her temples was now sprawled out across her scalp, leaving only a couple of rogue strands of brown to swim in a tangled mess of hairspray and sweat. Her floral-scented perfume was losing out to the menthol aftermath of her last cigarette, which itself was being eclipsed by the unmistakably sour presence of sweat that has yet to dry. I held my breath as I leaned in for a hug. “Hi, mom.” If any of my neighbors had looked over long enough to observe the scene, they would have noticed how nonchalant she was when she scooped up her suitcase and slipped past me into the house. They would have no choice but to assume that this was something we did, that her being my mother and all, I had seen her for brunch just last Tuesday when we had arranged this little meeting while eating salads and talking about traffic. Not so. But who would see something like that and guess that I had not seen my mother in seven years, that the duration of our last phone call was about five minutes—just enough time for her to apologize for missing my dad’s funeral and ask if she had been mentioned in the will. Who on earth would guess such a thing? Once inside, I took her suitcase and, out of habit, nearly delivered it to the guest room before deciding that the hallway would be a more appropriate place. She mumbled something about the humidity and ducked into the kitchen where I had an oscillating fan propped up on the counter. When I heard the muffled suck of the refrigerator door, I realized it would not be necessary for me to offer her a drink. I took a seat at the kitchen table and watched as my mother—her bloated smile wreathed by frosty vapors— pried the tinfoil off two separate dishes and peeked inside each
before grabbing a bottle of water and two slices of American cheese. She joined me at the table and, since it was her right and good arm that was confined in the sling, used her left hand to grab a slice of cheese by the corner of its cellophane wrapper and attempted to shake it free. “What happened to your arm?” I asked, not able to imagine a better way to begin the conversation. “Antoine,” she replied and rolled her eyes. “Antoine?” I said and waited for elaboration I knew would never come. “Yep,” she mumbled and, having failed to free the cheese, handed it to me. “Get that for me, would you?” I peeled back the cellophane and attempted to pry the slice off by its corner, but somehow it split into floppy yellow thirds: one third pinched between my thumb and index finger, one third clinging to the wrapper, and the final third falling flat against to the table. I quickly gathered the three pieces and placed them in my mother’s hand, which was outstretched and waiting. She formed a fist, compressing the thirds into a single hardened pellet, and, after tossing it into her mouth, flicked the second slice across the table. The pellet had become a yellowish cream stuck to her teeth and gums and I cringed to see it when she mumbled, “That one too.” She left when I was eight, moved to Atlanta with a black man named Cliff whom she met, I would later learn, playing Bingo. When I was twelve though, I did not know about the Bingo—only that she was gone, that she was not coming back, and that, whatever my dad and I had done, it was not enough to compete with the possibilities that Cliff apparently offered down in Atlanta. We only talked about her twice. The first time was three days after she left. My dad was in the garage, working on the motor to our dishwasher, which, incidentally, gave up on the same night as my mother. “Is she coming back?” I asked. When my dad did not answer, did not, in fact, even look up from the motor, I grabbed a red and rusted monkey-wrench and fit my thumb beneath the hook jaw. For reasons I could not have explained, I did not want to hear his answer empty-handed. I wanted to arm myself against what I sensed would be the first in a string of disappointments. “Not unless we go get her,” my dad replied. I did not ask the next question, not even when I felt it hanging there in the space between us, suspended in musty air of that garage with the heady scent of metal and the trill of the crickets outside. I did not say a thing. I laid down the monkey-wrench and stood beside my dad. He put
2 Bridges Review
his arm around me and kissed me on my cowlick, but did not say a word. The second time we talked about her was the time he used his famous words, the ones that I had heard so many times before, but, on some level, had feared would not work on something like this. “It’s behind us now,” he said, like he always did, as if that precise combination of words contained a power that could relegate any tragedy to a shrinking form in the rearview of our lives. His losing two grand on his first night in Vegas, his brother, my uncle, burning to death after the meth lab in his friend’s kitchen exploded, and now, my mother leaving: all of it, behind us. And, because they could not help us anymore that they could hurt us, we did not talk about things that were behind us. Hated is too strong, but maybe bothered or simply disappointed comes closer to describing how I felt whenever I heard my dad use that phrase, whenever I watched him celebrate his victory over the past by shrugging his shoulders, sipping his beer, and changing the subject. He always did it the same way and I always struggled to understand that kind of willful amnesia. On more than one occasion, I was tempted to corner him and demand some kind of an answer, to press for some detail I half-believed would help make sense of things. Even in the face of my dad’s quiet strength, his seemingly endless supply of dignity, I knew that a thing would not stay behind you just because you told it to. Moreover, I suspected that a thing could follow you, could even, in fact, get ahead of you and meet you when you least expected. Still, I never tested my dad. No matter how badly I wanted to ask about my mother, I never did. I learned to duck my curiosities and, by the time I was a teenager, found I had ditched them altogether. Had my mom been more of a presence, maybe some of her memories would have fought for their survival, but, as she was, she was easy to forget. I too developed a talent for forgetting, but forgetting—and the freedom it may or may not deliver–was not the important thing. What mattered to me, what still matters to me, is the fact that whenever my dad took aim at the past and fired off his famous phrase, he never said me. Us, he said. Things were behind us. It was that pronoun, and all that it signified--that was, for me, the important thing. The second slice of cheese came off in one piece and my mother folded it in half so that it would fit into her mouth. When she had finished chewing, my mother nodded toward the bottle of water. I caught her meaning and unscrewed the cap. She took several long sips and then slumped down in her chair, smiling each time the fan passed over her face.
She crossed her arms in a way that smashed her breasts together and I could not help but notice the tiny gold cross that seemed to float atop all the beads of sweat that had collected in leathery hollow of her cleavage. The fan’s hum filled the kitchen. Somewhere else in the neighborhood, a car alarm was sounding. Aside from the obvious question of why, after all these years, she was sitting in my kitchen, stuffing slices of cheese into her mouth, and not elaborating on Antoine the arm-breaker, I could not think of a single thing to say. Lucky for me, she started a new thread of conversation. “Must be one hundred and five up here,” she said, plucking a napkin from the stack in the center of the table and using it to dab her forehead. When the first napkin was damp with sweat and foundation, she grabbed a new one and began to wipe the folds between her neck and what used to be her jaw. “Ninety-eight,” I replied. “But with the humidity, it might as well be.” “It was eighty-two in Greensboro yesterday,” she said and tried to sling a balled-up napkin onto the table for emphasis, but she missed the table altogether and it hit the floor. “Oops,” she whispered and grabbed another napkin for the back of her neck. “Is that where you’ve been?” I said. “Greensboro?” “Since two thousand six,” she replied. “No wait. Two thousand and five. Yes, two thousand and five, I think.” It took me a moment to process this, to blend Antoine and Greensboro into the context I had created for my mother, a context that, until my doorbell rang a couple of minutes ago, consisted solely of a black man named Cliff and Atlanta. But two names and two cities spread out over twenty-three years means more gaps than facts. “So Antoine came after Cliff ?” I asked, trying, for some stupid reason, to shorten the space between the gaps. “I’m sorry?” she said and shook her head. “Antoine,” I said, nodding toward the sling. “He came after Cliff ?” She blinked hard several times and scrunched her forehead. “Cliff ?” she said. “Sweetheart, what are you talking about?” I eased my head into my hands and used my thumbs to massage the spots on my temples where a dull pain had begun to throb. I was sorry I had asked and scrambled for some topic that would transcend all the names and places of my mother’s past. “Oh,” she said, stretching it out into two syllables. “That Cliff.” I was not aware of any gaps in my dad’s life. He was born and raised
2 Bridges Review
in Greer, his father a cop, his mother a mother. He was the youngest of three boys, all of whom liked football almost as much as they hated school. At some point, a guidance counselor probably described him as somebody who liked to work with his hands. Out of respect for his mother, he gave formal education almost a decade to prove its relevance, but by sophomore year, he was getting restless and it was clear that the restlessness at work inside of him was not going to be eased by any textbook. It took him two tries, but he earned his G.E.D. and got a job at a local garage where he worked—with the exception of his tour in Vietnam--for the rest of his life. On nights and weekends, he liked to drive the back roads in his Challenger with a six-pack of Old Milwaukee riding shotgun. Once, while driving, he met my mother at the roadside ice-cream stand where she worked. The ice-cream stand only had two flavors and was built beside of a peach orchard on a road that people didn’t drive on anymore. She was wearing a sundress. He used to order vanilla and talk about her eyes. They got married in a courthouse when she was four months pregnant with the first of three babies that she would miscarry before having me. After she left, my dad poured himself into his work. He worked all day, started drinking whiskey in the evenings as soon as he came home, and worked even when he wasn’t working. My dad always found something to put his hands on. The garage became his sanctuary and, as it was directly beneath my room, I would hear him down there working, late into the night. Even though I had no idea what he was doing, I would lie awake and listen for the sporadic muffled clinks that, inexplicably, came to signify my dad’s happiness. I think that guidance counselor was right. His hands made him happier than my mother ever did. Growing up there were things I did--probably out of intention, but maybe just out of convenience--to try to emulate him. I begged for my own toolset, built a few model planes, played football in the winter and baseball in the spring. I remember him teaching me to change the oil, flush out the radiator, and replace the fan belt among other things on his battered blue Chevy. Like most American boys, I tried my best to make him proud and, even now, I recall that brief period where our interests overlapped as a time in my life when I was content, if not altogether happy. But by the time I was in high school we had both recognized that a different kind of restlessness was working on me, one satisfied with pencils and paintbrushes, canvasses and sketchbooks, all the colors I never tired of trying to capture. I told him I wanted to be an artist and, even
though, relative to his outlook, this calling must have seemed strange and impractical, he smiled and said, “Go for it.” So I did and there was no more bitter disappointment on his end than there was crippling inadequacy on mine. Unlike so many of my friends, I could have done anything and my old man would have supported me. So whenever they started in complaining about their oppressive fathers, I would try to offer thoughtful advice, but all the while realizing that I could only understand their dilemma in a distant, objective kind of way, the way a perfectly healthy person understands a cancer patient. “So what made you decide to become an artist?” he asked one night while we walking down the cereal aisle. It was the fall semester of my senior year of high school and I had been accepted into three different art schools. Although I feigned indecision in front of my friends, I had already decided to attend a school in Seattle that was offering me a full ride. A recruiter from there had called my portfolio “resplendent” and I started thinking about Seattle shortly after looking it up the dictionary. After mom left, grocery shopping—like visiting Uncle Dennis on Tuesdays or going to church on Easter and Christmas--became one of our rituals. My sister, eighteen and apparently all-knowing, had dismissed my dad as “the one worth leaving” and moved in with her boyfriend. For a while we didn’t buy groceries. We would order something different every night—pizza, wings, Chinese—always ordering extras so that leftovers could serve as tomorrow’s lunch. I’ve often wondered if that was his way of holding out hope that mom would come back. Whatever it was, it lasted about a month. Then, one day, he told me that we were going to the grocery store and asked me to make a list of everything we needed. I was twelve and struggled to develop a list that included anything more than milk, eggs, and bread (which seemed, to my thinking, three very adult commodities). I wanted oatmeal cream pies and Doritos (which, in Mom’s absence, could conceivably stand in for certain vegetables that she liked to use as side items). I tried to think of what Mom would buy, but other than the dried pineapple chunks that she used to snack on while watching TV, I couldn’t think of a single thing. We just kind of guessed that first time, but for some reason that I can’t explain, I bought a pineapple—a real one. We got the hang of it soon enough. “It’s kind of like this,” I said, grabbing the Cheerios and turning the cart left towards the aisle with the honey-roasted peanuts that we both liked. “Do you remember Mr. Grills?” “He was your art teacher in eighth grade, right?”
2 Bridges Review
“Ninth, actually. But anyways, he had this quote hanging above his desk that I would always stare at when I couldn’t get started. It kind of explains what I love so much about art.” “What was the quote?” he said. “Art is the lie that tells the truth.” He didn’t say anything. After a moment, he gave a grunt and nodded his head. We grabbed the peanuts, took another left towards the frozen pizza section, and never talked about it again. My mother would call every couple of weeks, but we didn’t talk about stuff like college. I took the scholarship in Seattle and that August, a few weeks before the fall semester started, my old man drove me to the airport and told me to “give-em-hell.” I didn’t—not in any sense of the expression--but we never spoke more than once or twice a week and it wasn’t in his nature to ask about grades. The truth was that three separate times during my sixyear stint I was threatened with academic probation and strongly urged to develop a work ethic more fitting for someone like myself, someone with what they liked to refer to as “potential.” I would be surprised to learn that any of my former professors remembered me. Moreover, I would be downright shocked if anyone who knew anything about art could look at my work from that time and honestly encourage me to try to make it as a studio artist--which is precisely what I did, void of such encouragement, of course. I suppose, on some level, I too believed in my own potential. On some level, I suppose I still believed I was resplendent. College wasn’t a total bust though. The girls there that didn’t care how well you could throw a football or what kind of khakis you wore to class, which meant that, for the first time in my life, I could talk to them and feel slightly less than utterly insignificant. It took me the better half of my freshman year, but, before coming home that summer, I had honed a new persona—a cross between a bright-eyed, devil-may-care flirt and a little-brother type who could somehow be reckless and delicate in the same conversation. I can’t say this persona worked with all of the girls I met, but it worked with enough of them and, by senior year, it had made a believer out of one in particular, a graphic design major with greeneyes and a lip-ring. I—which is to say, my persona--had inspired certain feelings in her and, admittedly, I felt something too. Back then we called it love and used it to justify moving to New York with a rucksack full of clothes, two hundred dollars, and a plan to live out the hand-to-mouth bohemian existence that all young artists, at some point in their career, dream of.
We left the day after graduation, our robes bunched up beneath the seats that we slept on four out of the seven days it took us to drive across the country. Using the five hundred dollars that her dad faithfully wired every month, we moved into a cramped one bedroom just outside of Greenwich Village. That was in May. By Christmas, I had lost the girl, sold one painting, and more or less stripped the myth of the starving artist down to its bare and ugly bones. My options became abundantly clear: get a job or go home. Not particularly impressed by the variety of ways that New York offers its residents to make $6.75 an hour, I called my old man and he took off work to meet me at a Greyhound station in Virginia, the farthest South I could get on what was left in my savings account. If I did not speak to my dad more than once a month while I was in New York, it was for lack of things to say, or, more accurately, a lack of anything worth reporting on my end. Still, I took him out for a beer my second night back with the intention of catching up. We went to AC’s— his place, not mine—because I didn’t particularly relish the thought of explaining myself to someone I used to know in high school. Three beers in, he asked me, “So what was it like up there?” “Good, I guess,” I said. “Different, but good.” “You get a chance to do some art?” he said. “Sure,” I said. “Not that I sold a whole lot though.” “No?” he said. “No,” I said. “The whole scene up there is pretty intense. They don’t care about talent. It’s all about who you know. I only sold one painting the whole time I was up there.” “You tried though, right?” he said. “I guess so,” I said. I took a sip of beer and braced for it because I knew—before ever walking into AC’s—that it was coming. He squeezed me on the shoulder and said it just like I remember—same tone, same inflection, same everything. “Well it’s behind us now,” he said and ordered us another round. A couple of weeks later I was back at AC’s taking my time with a Scotch when Courtney Kosa, a friend of mine from middle school and the first girl who ever let me put my tongue in her mouth, sat down beside me and fired up an especially sappy variation of the it’s-been-forever conversation. I told her about New York—how it had flopped and how I was staying with my dad and considering my options. Turned out she had stuck around, taken some business management courses at the community
2 Bridges Review
college, but dropped out when, as she said, the work got too hard. She said the tips at Denny’s were better than you would think and that, for now, she was happy. I couldn’t help but look at her chest and, when I did, noticed that the name Brian had been inked in black cursive over some stretch marks on the side of her left breast. Seeing that depressed the hell out of me and I wanted to slam what was left of my Scotch and make a beeline for the door, but I stuck around for some reason and listened to her for another twenty minutes. I tried not to think about the Brians I knew in high school and when she suggested that we move it back to her place, I told her I was just getting over strep throat. We were walking out when she told me that Mr. Grills was retiring and that the high school might be looking for a new art teacher. Later that night, I asked my dad if he thought I would make a good teacher. He was in the garage working on a small engine that looked like it came from a go-cart or something. I did not need him to look up from the engine to know that he was listening, that he was, as sincerely as he always had, considering my question. He set down the screwdriver in his hand and retrieved a socket wrench from the same red stack-on tool box that he had used since I was a child. He said, “You could do anything, son,” and meant it in a way that the teachers and coaches and guidance counselors never did. The following morning I set up an interview. I sometimes wonder who exactly made up the pool of applicants for that position, but, based on the fact that the principal offered me the job on the spot, I think it’s safe to assume they were not what you would call highly qualified professionals. I voiced concerns about my lack of teaching experience only once and, since it did not seem to bother the principal, decided not to let it bother me either. My mother laughed when I told her, but then apologized and said that I’d be great. My dad said he wish that he had had a teacher like me when he was in school because when he was in school teachers beat kids with paddles. I assured him I had no intention of beating any of my students. I took the job and found a snug two-room about ten minutes away from the high school. It had exposed brick that reminded me of my place in New York and a canary yellow stove with gas burners. I moved in, converted the second bedroom into a studio, and resigned myself to life as an educator. As far as paychecks go, teaching wasn’t half bad. I was twenty-seven years old and for the first time in my life, I had benefits, which meant I could descend unfamiliar staircases with a hefty buzz and not fret
like a neurotic mom about rolling my ankle. It was also the first time I had ever been on salary, the significance of which became clear once when reaching for a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, I suddenly stopped, hesitated, and realized that I could now afford better—much better, in fact. My principal bothered me only when his superiors bothered him and my students recognized me as a reasonable, if not relevant, man and behaved accordingly. I got off work every day at 3:00 and had weekends free to peddle my paintings at the farmer’s market. In addition to the holidays, I got together with my old man every Thursday night to drink a few beers and talk about the Braves or the weather or something one of us had heard at work. I even met someone, a yoga instructor who occasionally substituted at the high school, who didn’t seem to need a persona to enjoy my company. For a while there, it was good to be home. *** I had just turned thirty when it started and, like most of the stories about that kind of thing, it started with the small things, things so insignificant that I chalked it up to typical forgetfulness. He was, after all, sixty-five. For instance, we would be discussing Braves pitching and he would have trouble remembering the name of a reliever. Several times I found unopened bills and reminded him to pay them. Once, on my way to a PTA meeting, I cut through his neighborhood and spotted his truck parked in front of a neighbor’s house. Stuff like that. I would ask him about these things and he would blame it on sleeplessness or skipping his morning cup of coffee. Sixty-five, I would reassure myself. Sixty-five. Then one day Bill, the manager at his garage called and asked if I could drop in for a word. I had, on some level, known this call was coming and for the better half of the drive beat myself up for not making it on my own terms. Bill had run the garage for a couple of years ever since his dad, Grady passed away a few years ago. In high school, Bill and I had worked at the same movie theatre and, since then, we had always exchanged pleasantries when we saw each other. Bill saw me pull up and came out of the office to meet me in the parking lot, wiping the grease off his hands with a rag that didn’t look much cleaner. “Mike,” Bill said, shaking my hand. He brought a water bottle that was half-full of pulpy brown liquid to his mouth and spit, a gesture I imagine he would have refrained from in front of a less familiar customer. “Thanks for coming in.” “Not a problem, Bill,” I said. “You know I’m right around the corner.”
2 Bridges Review
It got quiet for minute and the way Bill was flexing his jaw confirmed my suspicion. He spit one more time into the bottle and then, using his index finger, plucked the dip from its spot and slung it on the ground. He wiped his fingers on his jeans. His face scrunched up like a remedial kid struggling to do long division and he just kind of stood there, making that face and shaking his head from side to side. I hated to see him struggle like that, so I interjected. “It’s his memory, isn’t it?” Bill nodded solemnly and reached into his back pocket to retrieve his can of Skoal. He packed it down the same way we used to in high school when we were trying to impress freshman girls, pinching the can between his thumb and middle finger and snapping his wrist so that his index finger thwacked down on the top. I didn’t know people still did that. Old habits, I supposed. “I knew it,” I said. “He’s been slipping for a while now.” “Some days are better than others, you know?” Bill said, pinching off a good-size dip and stuffing it down in his gums. “I know,” I whispered. “I’ve got to do something with him. Go and see a doctor or something. I don’t know.” “Listen, man,” Bill said, clapping a hand on my shoulder, “I wish I could help you, but you know, with my dad it was his heart. I just don’t know about this kind of thing. Sure the doctors could tell you something though.” “Yeah,” I mumbled. “He’s got to see somebody. The sooner the better I guess. Where is he now?” “He’s up under that blue Ford over there,” Bill said, pointing at a pickup on the far end of the garage. My face must have framed my concern because Bill started laughing before I could ask. “Don’t worry,” he said. “That one’s mine. Bought it for scrap parts. Figured it would keep him occupied till you got here.” “Damn,” I said, surprised that Bill was capable of that kind of tact. Then, just out of curiosity, I had to ask. “So how long has he been working on it?” Bill’s self-congratulatory smile vanished and something like embarrassment rose up to take its place. “Not more than a week or so,” he said, wincing as he raised the bottle to his lips and spit. I looked over at my dad, the way his legs jutted out from beneath the truck and lay still on the sunlit pavement, the rest of his body immersed in the darkness beneath the truck. I could just barely hear the sound of his hands, those old famil-
iar clinks, and I thought to myself that, one day, I really ought to paint a scene like that. We saw the doctors that Wednesday. I wish I could say that they told me something I didn’t already know. They didn’t--just gave me some bigger words to put with what anybody could plainly see. “Early onset,” they said. “Genetic,” they said. “Ten years,” they said. They were wrong about that last one. Dad was gone in four, but, for a man so practiced in letting things go, I must say it was a fitting way to leave. Just one more thing behind him. My mother did not come to the funeral. A card arrived a couple weeks afterwards that sandwiched a couple of condolences in between some complaints about her new job and her busted radiator. She apologized again when she called to ask about the will. She asked about it in an offhand way, as if a mild curiosity had all of the sudden seized her. But I knew her reasons so I told her all about it, even offered to fax her copy. “That won’t be necessary,” she said, laughing a little as she did. “Just thought I’d check. That’s all.” *** She took her sweet tea, flopped down on the couch, and started commenting on the weather. I conceded to the pretense and chimed in with comment about last summer and then, the one before that. It went on like that for almost an hour—first, the weather; then, the stores that had changed since she had last been here; finally, something vague about my art. She needed that hour to arrive at her point, a point I had inferred after seeing the suitcase. When she finally summoned the nerve to ask, I sat back and let her talk. “Just for a few months,” she said, raising her right hand as if taking an oath. “Just until I can find some work and get back on my feet.” When I did not immediately answer, she read concern into the silence. She set her drink down on the coffee table and began scooting over to close the distance between us on the couch. She did not stop until she was right beside me, our thighs pressed flush against each other. She started to put her arm around me, but, apparently reconsidering, scooped up my hand and pressed it between her soft and clammy palms. “I know that I haven’t been the perfect mother,” she said in a cracked and unsteady tone. “Believe me when I say that, if I could go back, there are things that I would. . . ” The first tear snaked down her cheek and suddenly I felt I had to get
2 Bridges Review
away, had to stand up, had to tear my hand free from her sweaty grip that seemed to be tightening by the second. Revulsion bloomed in my gut and flooded my veins until I felt righteousness sparking in my fingertips. Every syllable that trickled out of her mouth enriched and amplified my anger. And she kept sobbing. Kept talking. A hunk of quartz that I used for a paperweight was sitting on the coffee table and, when I closed my eyes, I envisioned what it would be like to grab it and smash her skull to a pulp. My body became so taut that cramps tore across my abdomen and I actually saw white hot spots flashing on the edges of my vision. It had come—my moment, the one that had taken a quarter of a century to arrive, the one I had, on more than one occasion, rehearsed for in front of a bathroom mirror. But when it came, I just sat there and listened as she explained everything my dad’s silence had eclipsed, all of the things that we never talked about after she left us. Pausing only to wipe away a tear or blow her nose into a tissue, she told me about Cliff and moving to Atlanta, told me about Jimmy who came after Cliff, and Antoine who came after Jimmy. When she started talking about my old man, I stopped her. “Please,” she insisted, getting to her feet. “You need to understand that this is as much for me as it is for you.” “Stop,” I repeated, standing up. The four inches I had on her felt like a foot and when her shoulders slumped, her swollen face went with them. I extended a single finger and said it again. “Stop.” She lowered her eyes, but continued anyway. “You don’t understand, son,” she said, struggling to catch her breath through the sobs. “I did things. Things that no person should ever--” “I. Said. Stop.” My voice had taken on a new quality, one soaked with strength, but somehow stripped of anger. It was a voice my mother would listen to and when I said it one more time, she sat back down on the couch and, so soft I could barely hear it, she whispered, “Okay.” That was when I said it—not because I believed it—but because, finally, after so many years, I understood its use, understood why my dad needed it to survive. “Whatever it was. Whatever it is,” I said and wrapped my arms around my mother. “It’s behind us now.” I said it just like he used to. Same tone, same inflection, same everything.
Pictures in a Small Café Kathleen Hellen “I do not create a woman, I make a picture.” —Henri Matisse Wives, sisters—shopping, perhaps, in scarves and slacks, in flats—one talking and the other laughing, her elbow on the table—sharing bread and jam, a cup of black. The handsome doctor walking by doesn’t see them, nor the man sweeping floors before the darling reprints in décor—the odalisque, the modeled Moor in trousers, crayoned better than the extant, lesser featured. The feminine as fiction: fabric, screen, furnishings recalling the exotic, the Orient in red. Wives, sisters—not reflected in the public lens, not archived in the consciousness—drab in local habitat, in ordinary harems. w
2 Bridges Review
FOUR FROM THE ITALIAN SERIES Photograph by Olivia Wise
FOUR FROM THE ITALIAN SERIES Photograph by Olivia Wise
2 Bridges Review
FOUR FROM THE ITALIAN SERIES Photograph by Olivia Wise
FOUR FROM THE ITALIAN SERIES Photograph by Olivia Wise
2 Bridges Review
How We Talk About Ophelia Alexa Derman This is how we talk about Ophelia: Botanically: as a hybrid tea rose, which was named for her. We consider her faux-etymologically: O as a symbol of longing, “phelia” as a clear phonetic link to the Latin “filia,” or daughter – the intersection of romance and childhood, desire and innocence. We discuss her while utilizing Yahoo Answers: “you know, Hamlet’s girlf or whatever.” Talk about her as a mascot for teenage girls who’ve lost their sense of self (see: Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls and the ensuing film adaptation, plus Surviving Ophelia: Mothers Share Their Wisdom in Navigating the Tumultuous Teenage Years). Scholars of Shakespeare make a continuum for their undergrads and place her somewhere between Juliet and an inanimate object. 77% of full-time professors are male. And then we talk about her medicinally: the herb she designates for herself in the mad scene is an abortant. (Earlier in the play, Hamlet quips, “Conception is a blessing, but, as your daughter may conceive—Friend, look to ’t.”) We consider her as a member of the Viola genus: a shrinking violet. Canonically, as a symbol of female hysteria and/or weakness. Her favorite author is probably Nicholas Sparks. When she writes a novel, we slap a high heel on the cover. Chick lit. We go at it as Freudians: her superego was in conflict with her id over its overwhelming sexual attraction to Hamlet – hence the inevitably of her suicide. Or as optimists: if only she’d had proper swimming lessons! In reference to Daisy Buchanan – “that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world. A beautiful little fool.” Like gossips, when we see her in the hallway – one ear bud in, Taylor Swift humming around those diamond studs, flaxen flyaways caught in gloss. Eying her glitter toenail polish and the Facebook pictures of her hand gripping the red solo cup. We sing along to top hits – I know you want it is on repeat. My Lit class makes a graphic organizer and assigns her the word vapid as a personality trait. We leave it at that, move on; for the boyfriend we will fill the whiteboard with SAT words. We talk about her anthroponomastically: why does she get a first name and not Lady Macbeth? Naively, calling her immaculate. The way you talk about a fawn. She is the name of my best friend’s ukulele. She lives in the seashell curve of my ear during
AP Physics, where the four girls in the class sit in a clump and struggle to raise our hands, and at Youth and Government retreats where only a third of my fellow officers are women. In the plays Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) she does a lot of running across the stage weeping, and little else. We consider her in paintings, captured pre-mortem in a flimsy dress with baby curls and looking surprisingly content for someone about to experience hypoxia, because her suffering has to be lovely. We contemplate the validity of her virginity – if it’s intact she’s a symbol; if it’s not she’s a slut. We hand her a button for “Young Feminists of Medieval Denmark” and then criticize her short skirts, the tuft of wisteria tucked behind her ear, that hot pink binder. We discuss her while insisting Lean in! without ever showing her the way her back can arch forward, the power of her vocal cords, the worthiness of her own words, words, words. I freeze up and feel Ophelia huddling in my chest when my eleventh grade English teacher tells me I will not relate to Into the Wild because “girls don’t have that same instinct for adventure” or the boy in my History class says a woman can’t be president because “what if PMS made her start a war,” or when my health class comes to the consensus that the girl who was date-raped in a Lifetime movie was basically a tease. Online I see a poll about her and other “Shakespearean hotties” – which would you “marry, bury, or do?” Beside it, someone is trying to sell me a fantasy game using big-breasted women; for a small fee, I can “make them my queen.” Friend, look to ’t – the entirety of her being is being made quieter, toned down, blurred with sfumato, from the Italian “to evaporate like smoke.” She said, “I do not know, my lord, what I should think.” I say, emancipate this princess of the tragedians from the burden of “should.”
2 Bridges Review
She’ll Fall In Love (From The Eponymous Series) Mary Ann Honaker It will happen like this: one day, she’ll fall in love with a painting. The painting will be of koi in a pond, seen from above, cees and esses of orange-gold and cloud-white. Like a sunset swimming underneath, all of them twisted to the pond’s geometry, for it is a concocted thing their sleek longnesses weren’t built for. Yet here they remain, trapped, lodged in this lapse when the sky is blue with summer and white with gathering water, and the water is looking back at it, mocking, repeating, learning to speak the atmosphere’s structure. Also the reeds lean over and the pond mouths back their greennesses like a child trying the flavor of each new syllable. Ah, bah, mah, the pool says, the stone-cut pool, the artificial littleness. The price is high but she will pay it, willingly pay it, for the lie, the lie that golden and white are fine when twisted into cees and esses and not allowed to learn out their lean long frames into whatever it is they are,
Mary Ann Honaker
fine swimming circles inside a childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s syllables, learning the same curves again and again, and fed by a hand, crumbs from a mysterious descending hand. w
2 Bridges Review
Three Poems (from Hours) Fernand Ouellette Translated by Antonio Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Alfonso Entity was treated toughly for its lack of form. Neither his voice nor his face were recognizable. He did not move when scared, and when he felt dizzy he would string words together. His eyes contained a music that was precise and vivid, bound to silence, as feet are bound to the path taken, without torpor or forgetfulness. This was when we noticed that he was breathing in the promise of space. * His breathing attracted the wind and frolicking wings, like a bush bending to the earth. The world circled around his mouth, which was unable to hold back
life escaping. We should have been rejoicing, like seagulls in the sun. His life was fulfilling itself. Solemnly. But we did not see any of this. * He did not have enough presence to handle noise. Massive, he sat under an impenetrable net. Hanging onto a breathing going up and down. The moon was powerless against his abandonment. There was no wakefulness in the morning, as though he were asleep beside his own body. We walked to and fro in his room, hoping to see a ladder rising from his mouth. What if we had stretched him on a mirror, so that the dead could finally notice him and call out his name? w
2 Bridges Review
The Road to Sainthood Jennifer Zilm I have just finished a semester in southern townships of Quebec so believe me when I tell you that fragment is an adjective that translates, roughly, into English as fragilely or delicately. There is a certain way you are supposed to hold old photographs in covered fingers. Cloth gloves—latex is allergenic to borders and matte surfaces. Take this photograph, for instance, our lady of the lowered lids, hands in her taffeta lap, that soft brown sickness, as though a sparrow has slipped from her blanketing palms and all the other birds are diving to its tainted human scent with their beaks cracked open. All those Frenchmen refuse praise the helpful label. St. OCD or Our Lady of Perpetual Anxiety of Borderline Features. All of this time I have been waiting for you —patiently— to change my name into a diagnosis. Our Lady of the Lowered Lids has at least been seen. The photographer has paid attention and christened her a possible case of. She is sick in her noticing. But the physician attends his camera toward her- a photo divining this careful naming possible. He pays attention. w
The Mensch Z.Z. Boone Forty-two hours before she’s scheduled to marry Tommy Vertucci, Leah Cross tells Eric she wishes it were him. This is typical Leah. When she wants to, she can play Eric like a concertina. It’s 9:00 p.m. Leah and Eric are at the Hopewell Inn, sitting at the bar. They finished dinner a couple of hours ago, and since then it’s just been drinking. For a twenty-three-year old, Leah knows how to hit it pretty good. Two vodka and tonics with her ravioli and nothing but vodka and tonics since. Eric, who’s never liked the astringent bite of alcohol, sticks with Pellegrino. “Tommy is really sexy,” Leah says. “A regular Baron von Studmuffin. But there’s something that’s not there.” She takes the lemon wedge from the rim of her drink, bites into it, squints. “I just wish I could roll the two of you together into one guy.” “You’re drunk,” Eric tells her. “A drunk chick speaks a sober chick’s mind,” she says. The bar is packed. It’s a sweltering Friday night in mid-July, and working people are greeting the weekend like ancient civilizations greeted the sun. Tommy Vertucci, the fiancé, is at a bachelor party thrown by a co-worker at the Dutchess County Department of Health. Eric wasn’t invited, which is fine with Eric, who finds bachelor parties gross. Eric has nothing against Tommy—he actually likes the guy—a man who has had no problem with Eric and Leah’s close, continuing friendship. His tolerance, according to Leah, is due to Tommy’s opinion that Eric is gay. “We should run away,” Leah says. “And go where?” “Canada.” Canada is where Leah is from. She’s worked in the U.S. for the past year as a high school nutritionist on a NAFTA TN-1 visa. “What about work?” Eric asks. Leah laughs. “You don’t get this whole ‘running away’ thing,” she tells him. “Running away mean work no longer exists.” Eric thinks, if only. Two years ago he completed his B.A. in American History, now he works as a teller at Mid-Hudson Savings Bank. His branch manager, Andy Eberhardt, recognizes Eric as somebody just passing through, and tries to make his life even crappier than it already is.
2 Bridges Review
Last month when Eric’s cousin was visiting from Buffalo, they both walked out of Pizza Warehouse without paying their $24 lunch tab. A state trooper, cruiser lights flashing, pulled up behind Eric’s car as he dropped his cousin off at the train station, and a report was filed. News of the incident reached Eberhardt and he called Eric in for an explanation. “I thought he’d paid and he thought I had,” Eric said. “It wasn’t exactly the Brinks Robbery.” “What it was,” Eberhardt lectured, “was fraud. One more misstep like that and I’ll be forced to terminate your employment.” Eric and Leah have agreed many times that neither of them is cut out to do the work they do, and this is one of the things that binds them together. They met at a New Year’s Eve party thrown by Carl Aldermann, a teacher at the high school and a customer at the bank. Eric showed up with a date—a recently divorced secretary named Colette. Leah came alone. Eric was immediately and helplessly drawn to her. Leah was bold and flirtatious and a little drunk—not qualities Eric would have sought out—but she was also blond and fair-skinned and solid looking. Eric especially liked the way she stood, one foot in front of the other, knees slightly bent, back straight. A person who could roll with things, he thought when he first spotted her. He listened in on the discussion she was having with another young woman, an argument about using animals for medical experimentation. Leah believed that any procedure performed on a living creature could be performed just as easily by using computer models. When Leah made her way to the kitchen for another drink, Eric followed her. She was drinking red wine, and as she poured Eric told her he’d overheard some of the conversation and, as a former cat owner, he agreed. “What happened to your cat?” she asked. “I accidentally ran him over,” Eric admitted. Leah laughed—a loud, unbridled hoot that momentarily got the attention of the room—then apologized. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that.” “Probably the same thing the cat was thinking,” Eric said, and this time they both laughed. *** They’ve taken Leah’s powder blue Camry to the Hopewell Inn. It’s become almost a tradition. Leah picks Eric up at his place, then hands him her keys. He’s become part designated driver, part chauffeur. Eric’s own
car, an eleven-year-old Civic, barely gets him to work and back, and smells like a moldy shower curtain liner. “If we leave right now,” Leah says, “we could be in Pembroke in like eight hours.” “What’s in Pembroke?” “Freedom,” she says. “And Tim Horton’s. With the best doughnuts you’ve ever eaten.” “You’re just nervous,” Eric tells her. “Wedding jitters.” “I don’t want to get married.” “Then don’t.” “I also don’t want the confrontation,” Leah says. Eric turns the key in the ignition. “So what do you need me for?” he asks. “I just thought you’d like to come along, that’s all.” Leah is insulted now, and Eric feels stupid. They sit in the car for a minute, and then Leah says, “We should go. I’ve got packing.” Eric is certain that Leah will do what Leah always does. All intention, little follow through. A few weeks ago, following a similar dinner, she wanted Eric to drive them to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play. But before they even reached the Hutchinson River Parkway, the drinks started to wear off and Leah said she had a headache and they should turn back. * * * Leah’s apartment complex is within walking distance of where Eric lives. Her second floor unit is as clean and sparse as an operating room, and Eric would be content to just stay here, talk to her as she sobers up, hope that maybe this is the night she’ll finally hook into him. But now Leah acts as if she’s being chased. Eric sits on her bed and watches as she pulls a couple of changes of clothes from drawers and packs them carelessly in an overnight bag. She goes into the bathroom and returns with a large cosmetics bag. Finally, she goes to her closet and takes a thin, leather portfolio from the overhead shelf. Eric notices it’s labeled IMPORTANT STUFF. “Come on,” she says. “I’ll run you by your place.” “You can’t drive,” Eric tells her. “Some trooper pulls you over, you’ll be DUI.” “I’ll chance it,” she says. Eric follows her into the kitchen where Leah opens the cabinet under the kitchen sink and comes up with a bottle of vodka, less than a quarter full. She takes a glass from the drain board, pours herself what she refers to as a “see-through,” throws it back.
2 Bridges Review
“Nice drinking problem,” Eric says. “Where are my keys?” Eric sees the looming automobile accident, followed by the inevitable question: You knew how she was, how could you let her go? “Come on,” he says. “I’ll drive.” *** Eric rents the rooms on the top floor of a one-family house. Kitchenette, living room, bath. He sleeps on a foldout sofa with inadequate lumbar support and washes his clothes in the basement. His landlady, an elderly widow with no kids of her own, would treat him like a son if Eric allowed it, which he too often does. Leah claims that Eric’s place gives her the creeps and that his landlady doesn’t like her, both of which are true. So she waits in the Camry as he goes inside and grabs a change of underwear and socks, a pair of jeans cleaner than the ones he’s wearing, and a polo shirt. From the bathroom, he takes toothbrush and paste along with a deodorant stick. Eric has no luggage, so he puts everything into a white garbage bag. For a second he thinks about texting Tommy and leaving a message. Leah is with me. Everything is all right. She got a little blitzed. Outside, Leah blasts the horn and Tommy hears his landlady scurrying around downstairs like a rat in a shoebox. *** Leah and Eric have only had one real date. It wasn’t long after they’d met, and Eric got her phone number from Carl Aldermann. “Careful,” Carl told him. “She’s a carnivore.” “Meaning?” “Meaning she’s banged about half the guys I know.” “I doubt that,” Eric said. “I can name names,” Carl told him. Leah readily agreed to a date, but an hour before he was scheduled to pick her up, Eric found himself with a flat tire and no spare. He called to beg for a rain check, which Leah said was unnecessary. She’d pick him up. They watched a Laurel and Hardy film at a revival movie theater in Rhinebeck then went for drinks and ceviche at a tapas bar across the street. Things between them clicked; their chemistry was pitch-perfect. When Leah put back what Eric considered one margarita too many, he insisted on doing the driving and she gladly consented.
Unfortunately, Leah’s Camry had a manual transition that Eric wasn’t familiar with, and when he put it into first gear the car lurched forward. Leah, who seldom wore a seatbelt, lurched along with it and hit her forehead on the windshield. Eric apologized as many times as he could and Leah accepted those apologies an equal number of times. When they got to her apartment, he offered to park the car and walk the mile-or-so home, but Leah insisted he come in for coffee. Under the track lights in Leah’s tiny living room, Eric noticed the area directly over her right eye was red and beginning to swell. Despite protests, Eric had her sit on the sofa while he went into the kitchen and wrapped ice cubes in a dishtowel. When he returned, Leah had taken off her shoes and was now seated on the floor using the front of the sofa as a backrest. She smiled and patted the rug beside her. Eric dropped to a knee and gently pressed the icepack to her forehead. She didn’t resist when he kissed her, but she didn’t react either. When he tried a second time, Leah said, “Eric, don’t.” She reached up and took control of the icepack. Eric got to his feet and said maybe she should rest and he should go. “I was going to make coffee,” Leah said. “After that I can drop you home.” Eric shook his head. “I could use the fresh air,” he told her. After that, it was Leah who called Eric. She was going to the library and would he like to come? (He would.) She was playing basketball with some other women in the high school gymnasium, was he busy? (He wasn’t.) She’d made too much pasta and had he eaten dinner? (He had, but said he hadn’t.) He didn’t try and move in on her again; he figured that move was hers. But one night, while he was helping paint her bedroom ceiling, he asked what it was about him that she found so distasteful. “What are you talking about?” she said. “You’re like my best friend.” “I don’t mean that,” he said. “You mean how come I’ve never slept with you?” It was exactly what he meant. “Come on, Eric,” she laughed as she poured more paint into her roller pan. “That would be almost incestuous.” ***
2 Bridges Review
Leah has punched in a destination on her GPS—her old address, Eric figures—and by 9:30 they’re on the New York Thruway driving north toward Albany. Leah sleeps in the passenger seat and when Eric glances over at her, even on a moonless night lit only by other people’s headlights, he is overwhelmed by her beauty. He pulls into a rest stop, clicks her seatbelt around her, gets out and locks the car door. Inside the men’s room, he anticipates what will happen when Leah wakes up. What he hopes will happen is this: Leah, sobering up, will realize the craziness of this entire Canada idea and insist on turning back. It’s too far, Eric will tell her, and Leah will say, Then let’s just grab a motel somewhere. They’ll find a Marriott or a Best Western or a Motel 6, and wind up in the same room. It will be here that Leah realizes what she’s managed to suppress: that she wants Eric as much as she wants oxygen. In the morning, they’ll drive home, her hand on his thigh the entire way, and they’ll explain to everyone—as a couple— that they’re sorry, but these things happen. When he gets back to the Camry, Leah is awake. She’s released her seatbelt, and Eric thinks she may have been crying. “I thought you left me here,” she says. “Why would I do that?” “I don’t know. I just thought.” Back on the road, Leah relaxes, stretches like a cat, looks over at Eric with eyes still slightly closed, smiles and says, “My mouth feels like a farm.” She asks where they are, and when Eric tells her, she turns her head and looks out into the darkness. “I’m surprised Tommy hasn’t tried to get a hold of you,” Eric says. “Maybe he has,” Leah says without looking over. “I wouldn’t know. I ditched my phone.” Eric asks when this happened, and she tells him it was while he was getting his clothes together. She suggests he get rid of his as well. “People can find us by tracing our phones,” she says. Eric ignores this. He’s got the iPhone 5 which he paid almost $300 for and isn’t about to lose. “I’m beat,” he tells her when they pass the exit to Utica. But instead of suggesting they stop for the night, Leah volunteers to take over the driving. “You’re still serious about this,” he says. “Aren’t you?” Eric continues to drive. They make small talk, and Leah puts on a Green Day CD. And then, at around 3:30 AM, as they near Watertown, he comes out with it.
“I love you,” he says. “I love you, too,” Leah tells him, but they may as well be speaking different languages. When Eric sees the first sign indicating that the Canadian boarder is little more than twenty miles away, he realizes they won’t be turning back. “I don’t have a passport,” he admits. “You’re kidding me,” Leah says. She’s sober now, clearheaded. “I didn’t think about it until now,” he lies. “Maybe we should stop somewhere for the night and regroup.” “Take the next exit,” she tells him. The next exit sends them in the direction of some place called La Fargeville. It’s so desolate that it makes Eric uneasy, and when Eric’s uneasy he tends to think in clichés. We are in the middle of nowhere. We are totally off the beaten track. “Pull over,” Leah says. “Turn off the car.” Eric does, and they are in blackness so intense that he wonders if this could possibly be the place where his life ends. Eric hears the sound of car keys being removed from the ignition, then sees the car’s dome light come on as Leah opens her door. “Come on,” she says. Eric takes his time getting out, and when he does, he follows another light. It’s coming from the back of the Camry where Leah has opened the trunk. When Eric looks inside, he’s not surprised to see that it’s immaculate and empty. “Give me your phone,” she says. “Why?” She holds out her hand. “Your phone. Trust me on this.” Eric slides the iPhone from his front pocket, hands it to her. She steps back, plants her feet, lets it fly. Leah is athletic, and Eric hears the phone hit the soft, marshy ground far beyond the shoulder of the road. “What are you doing?” Leah indicates the trunk. “Hop in,” she tells him. “Do what?” “We’re about ten minutes from the border,” she says. “I’ll let you out after we cross.” “No! We need to go back!” Leah stares at him, then reaches up and lowers the truck lid. The light goes out and they stand in the night, blind. “Okay, Eric,” she says, and he can feel her moving closer, her somewhat sour breath inches from his face, her hand on his forearm. “Let me
2 Bridges Review
be clear. You want to know why I’ve never slept with you? This is why.” Eric has never wanted her more than now, the two of them hidden in the early morning darkness not far from the off-ramp leading to La Fargeville, their bodies touching. “Open the trunk,” he finally says. *** Eric remembers reading that a person cannot suffocate in the trunk of a car. If they die in there, it’s likely due to starvation or thirst. What the article failed to note is how intensely stuffy, even now during the morning hours, it becomes. The air outside is probably in the high seventies; in Leah’s latched trunk, Eric estimates it’s at least ten degrees hotter. He’s curled up on his left side, pillowing his head with his clasped hands like a baby waiting to be born. If Leah is correct, if they’re no more than ten minutes away, the passage of time has become tantamount to having your teeth drilled. He feels every bump on the highway and wonders if Leah, with that sense of humor she has, is purposely aiming for them. Finally the car slows, then comes to a complete stop. Eric waits, his heart beating hard enough that he worries it can be heard. Suddenly the car moves slightly forward, then stops again. We’re in line, Eric figures. Four o’clock in the morning, and we’re in a goddamn line. He begins to grow uneasy, and then he begins to get frightened. He pictures Leah sitting up front, air conditioner and CD player going, a woman in no rush. He fights the temptation to call out, to pound on that thin partition that separates him from the car’s back seats. The car rolls up, the car stops. Eric remembers a college course he took that dealt with Native American tribes. “Indigenous People After Columbus,” it was called. One nation—the Ojibwa, maybe—he should have paid closer attention— would enter sweat lodges in order to be purified. The lodges varied in size, but some were probably no bigger than the trunk of Leah’s Camry. Adolescent males would perform this ceremony before embarking on a vision quest in which they would find a spirit guide, some supernatural speaker of truth, who would lead them into adulthood. Eric hears the car door open, feels it slam. This is not good. Someone—Leah, he prays—knocks a couple of times on the trunk lid. He hears voices but can’t make out words. A man chuckles, and then there’s the unmistakable timbre of Leah’s laugh. They’re close, and the rear end
of the car sinks as if someone is leaning against it. This seems to last forever, then the car door again opens, again bangs closed. The car rolls up, the car stops. Eric recognizes a second male voice. He still can’t discern the words being spoken, but he does pick up on the inflection of questions being asked and answers being given. He hears Leah saying what sounds like, Just the weekend. Just to see my parents. Her voice is more serious now and Eric prepares himself for what he worries will come next. The lifting of the trunk lid, the bright light of the border crossing guard, the trouble that will follow. He pictures Leah standing next to the uniformed officer, sees her shrug her shoulders, watches her mouth the words I don’t know how he got there. I do not love Leah Cross, Eric thinks for the first time. I have never loved her. I like her and I want to fuck her. I do not mind being part of that long line of men standing outside her bedroom. But I do not want to be the one that finally makes it inside, only to hear her say, “Wait. Not you.” There’s silence, the car moves forward again, the car picks up speed. Some time passes. She was supposed to let me out, he thinks, and then he worries that perhaps they’re being escorted someplace for a more intense search. Finally what Eric fears happens. The sound of the trunk being unlocked followed by a light so strong he has to cover his eyes with one hand. When he peeks through his splayed fingers, it isn’t a border guard he sees, it’s Leah, and the light is the one that goes on whenever the trunk lid is lifted. Leah smiles down at him. “Welcome to the People’s Republic of Canuckistan,” she says. Eric, with Leah’s support, climbs out. He’s soaked with sweat and as rigid as a sixty-five year old. “Now I know how luggage feels,” he says, and Leah laughs. They’re parked in some gravel lot, and the sun has started coming up. Everything appears beautiful to him, the early morning sky, the small one-lane road, the highway in the distance, the yet-to-be-opened plywood shack a few yards off with its hand lettered sign reading: FISH & CHIPS—HOT DOGS—POUTINE. Inside the Camry it’s cool and it smells like Leah. She maneuvers the car back onto Canadian Highway 401, and Eric can’t remember a time when he’s ever seen her happier. “We’re here, Eric,” she says proudly. “Can you believe it?”
2 Bridges Review
“How’d it go at the border?” Leah looks over at him and grins. “Like Oil of Olay,” she says. A short time later she sees an elevated neon sign off the highway and points it out. TIM HORTON’S, it says, 24-HOUR SERVICE. “Is that Pembroke?” Eric asks. “Pembroke is still a couple more hours,” she tells him. “Tim Horton’s is a chain.” Leah takes the exit, and a few minutes later they’re in the huge, already crowded parking area. In the more remote part of the lot, trucks are lined up and Eric imagines most of their drivers asleep somewhere inside. “What would you think about hanging out here for a few hours?” Leah asks. “I don’t even know where we are.” “Gananoque,” she says. “Gateway to the Thousand Islands.” “We should grab a motel room. Get some sleep.” Leah nods. “I’ll drop you off. Come back and meet you for lunch.” “Why would you do that?” Eric asks. Leah hesitates. “I’m meeting somebody for breakfast,” she says. “Chuck.” “Who?” “This guy who was behind us in line. He’s going to swing by in about a half-hour.” Eric stares at Leah who doesn’t seem to notice. Instead, she digs out her wallet, searches through, finds ten dollars Canadian. “But first. . .” she says. “When I promise the world’s best doughnut, I deliver the world’s best doughnut.” Leah leans across and gives him a sisterly kiss on the cheek. “You’re such a mensch,” she says. Eric watches her disappear into Tim Horton’s. He sits for a minute, than reaches into the back and finds the plastic garbage bag with his clothes. He gets out of the Camry and walks over to a trucker just about to climb inside the cab of the biggest flatbed truck Eric has ever seen. “I was wondering if you could give me a ride,” Eric says. The trucker looks him over, taps his stubbly chin with an ancient-looking index finger. “Only going as far as Quadeville,” the trucker says, and Eric—having no idea where Quadeville is—tells him that will be fine. “Running from the missus?” the trucker asks once they’re on 401 heading north.
“Yeah,” Eric says, and the trucker smiles and shakes his head as if to say, Ain’t we all. “Got some dunkers in here,” the trucker says indicating a Tim Horton’s cardboard box on the seat between them. “Help yourself.” Eric is starved. He takes out a powdered doughnut, breaks it in half, bites. Leah was right. It’s the best doughnut he’s ever eaten.
2 Bridges Review
Cantilena for Barstow Jeffrey Alfier I’m never sure why I come to these deserts. Last night in another floundering bar, one more man called one more woman a soulless bitch, sparking a backslap of flying alcohol that made men look away. Today a white butterfly fell into my coffee while a radio voice sang there’d be lightning in her fists for a man fool enough to show at her door. I was sufficiently blue inside to believe it meant the end of grace. The motel room I took tonight was so quiet I heard a young couple through walls thin as the lace she wore for him, while all I have is the musk of faded wildflowers ghosting a cracked vase, Venice painted badly on the wall. The couple’s whispers turn to passion. Radio Zion flutters in static on my nightstand. Spanish praises God for numbering all the hairs on all our heads. We creatures strayed from Heaven, who, at mindless hours, waken and shut our eyes. w
Susana H. Case
Survival Susana H. Case I’ll always associate peaches with cheap jug wine, sickly wet on my tongue and riding around in cars with groups of reckless boys, with you, your sweet tongue reaching to squirm in my mouth, your hand working the zipper of my jeans, my smile encouraging, my eyelids drugstore blue. The time the speedometer passed ninety, I discovered I wasn’t hooked on risk-taking after all, and maybe that pullback saved me from being another quiet Helen, science genius we called her, who never wore makeup to cover her freckles, who shot too much smack and died one night, the rain unrelenting—. Like the rain the afternoon I dug up the grave of the bird I buried to see if it had flown to heaven. Maggots were busy at work on the corpse in the puddling mud and I ran screaming. When I saw you years after high school, drooping outside a grocery, I wanted to rip at the ravage: drug-rumpled clothes, your unfocused eyes. You’re better off without me, I remember you cautioning; I was, though your words came out watery. All I could think of was Helen, carried off by the same wave. Young love for me meant fogged windows, fog everywhere, everything wet with wine, grief, or yearning. Old love means every now and then I check the school’s dead list. It keeps getting longer, you must be on it, —you’re never there. w
2 Bridges Review
My Antonio Susana H. Case Groovy granny Greene, drag queen, Texas real estate promoter, stops throwing dollars off airplanes, turns into Father Benedict with a new company, Ecumenical Monks Inc., in San Antonio, the Fritos corn chip city; San Antonio, where you should have told me flirting was illegal. When I accidentally meet you on the street there, facing the restored Aztec on the River theater, you’ve cleaned up too, your Jesus act is gone: head shaved now, good dark suit, no more no in your silence. Why, when we’ve both grown older, do I still want to lick you everywhere it matters? I’m so far from my New York home, so far from Saint Anthony, for whom you and the city are named. Sickly Saint Anthony spurned his wealth and nobility in the Olivais hermitage, yearning for martyrdom. Long after he died, it’s claimed, his tongue continued to glisten. Now it’s in his basilica’s reliquary surrounded by gold in Padua. Devotees and tourists line up to pray, then cross the street to Gelato Pretto. ...change your life and take it all, Little Mix exhorts and the song did hit big enough to matter. I want to know how old becomes new. I want to know how change becomes possible. w
Erased From the Permanent Record Maria Terrone The music skipped when we hit a bump in the road. I’d been talking but we both stopped in the stunning silence— me mid-sentence, she mid-song. You kept driving, so the wheels (and earth) must have continued to spin, and I fell back to the instant at the chemical plant that meltdown of a summer when light like no other—sudden, atomic—pierced the high, grimy windows, struck the chrome carriage and metal desk where I sat, typing—a millisecond’s blinding. And deafening, too, as if a dome had descended over me quick as a guillotine, snuffing out the secretaries’ chatter, footfall, even the other factories’ drone. Then clatter and motion resumed (snap of a hidden switch) as if what had happened didn’t matter, and so was struck from time’s record. w
2 Bridges Review
The Hole in the Wall Juliana Lillehei There was a hole in the wall. In the place where the thermostat used to be, a yellow-handled sledgehammer smashed through the drywall, and several wires suspended the temperature dial a few feet above the floor. White dust and cardboard-like chunks of insulation littered the wood below. Beyond was a sea of broken glass: green, blue and crystal clear shards, equally eager for a soft, fleshy heel to slip into. It looked sort of like modern art, the questionable sort you see at the museum and offer an appreciative nod, saying things like “Look at the lines!” and “What a provocative use of geometry.” An example of such art still resides on Highway Eleven, either a symbol of small town genius or a citywide inside joke, depending on who you ask. Three concrete pillars and a few small boulders are arranged haphazardly, jumbled as a clump of stone mushrooms. This is somewhat contested; some say the builder was too cheap to rent a Bobcat for more than an hour and had to return it after depositing the components in a heap. Others readjust their slouchy knit hats and sneer that the arrangement “clearly reflected the randomized nature of life.” The city council agrees and comments that awe can be derived from the “hurried” nature of the piece. I consider myself an expert on these matters because I sent the mayor an urgent email when the sculpture first appeared. It was strewn across the rolling hill parallel to the Peppermint Twist on Highway Eleven, and I was concerned by the detrimental effect it would surely impose on our community’s reputation. You could do that sort of thing in a threechurch-and-a-bar town like Delano. Mayor McDonald said that this was part of a process to beautify the area, adding that he was disappointed by my irreverence for art. The last part made me laugh, and I emailed him back saying that I had suddenly seen the light (it was hanging on a shoelace from the tallest pillar) and had come to recognize that The Thing on Eleven was worthy of the Met. Perhaps it is. My favorite part of the whole ensemble is, by far, the ladder. It offsets the fat grey pillars and rocky rubble as it leans, rusted and abandoned, against the column on the far right. A set of wind chimes and a pair of leather gloves hanging by a frayed string complete the image.
My biology teacher dubbed it “Dorothy’s Bad Dream,” which I find to be uncommonly clever. Foul as it is, “Dorothy’s Bad Dream” has managed to wheedle its way into my perception of the town at large. It is an icon of my childhood. Without the Thing on Eleven, there would have been no landmark to remind people where to turn off for the liquor store. My father would have gotten lost numerous times. Because the hole in the wall reminded me of The Thing on Eleven, there was very little I could find threatening about it. It was irritating that we could no longer control the temperature of the house, but the sixty-six degrees it was set at was manageable, at least in comparison to the erly spring gale outside. Overall, the Hole seemed innocuous. I suppose it was unattractive if I were to really be honest with myself, but isn’t the whole point of modern and abstract art to deceive your mind, cunningly convince yourself that a pile of rocks or a jumble of wires constitutes cutting-edge beauty? If I were assembling The Hole at the Walker Art Institute up in the City, I’d probably title it “Thermostatic Suicide” on the little white plaque beside the masterpiece. My name would be embossed underneath in capital grey letters, and to the side a tiny note in neat italics: The commonplace will always grow weary of a humdrum existence. And of course as they strode by, viewers, with their Prada frames and vintage pearls, would stop behind the velvet ropes and exclaim “Such use of color!” and “The blue wire is so evocative.” They’d have absolutely no idea that what they were praising was just a reconstruction of a single scene from a squat red brick home, a still life from my existence in which my father, the hemoglobin in his blood replaced with fermented grape, brought a sledge hammer crashing down into our living room wall. In his psychosis, he began to feed most of our sitting room furniture to a hungry orange fire beneath the mantle. To some, the representation of one of the most erratic times of my life could just be another ridiculous display of upstart artistic ability from some virtually talentless lush. I take great refuge in this idea. It’s a stretch, but whenever I can label anything as black humor I will cling to it like gum to a shoe, fur to a cat, my father to his wine. My mother died barely three years ago. It’s still odd to experience the unearthly power those words can exhibit over a group. I told exactly three people at my school when my mother died, all of them grouped with me for a class project. I sent a quick text explaining that I wouldn’t be in for a few days. I told them not to worry; I would still write the necessary essay and email it to Ms. Soderberg. In reply I was slapped with this super weird,
2 Bridges Review
jumbo-sized sympathy card from most of my classmates, and though my eyes bugged with horror as they skimmed over dozens of foreign signatures, I was grateful to have been spared the burden of telling my friends directly. Very few of them even knew she had brain cancer, and to this day I estimate that several of the people I regularly hang out with, those who swim in the wider ripples of my social pond, are oblivious to my one-guardian household status. It wouldn’t matter save for that peculiar silence that follows when everyone complains about overbearing parents and I carefully avoid the plural. Having a dead mother, I’ve realized, is just the slightest, tiniest bit like having an illness myself. Lots of people feel an uncomfortable, obligatory pity, but no one will say anything directly. It’s one of those situations helplessly devoid of a basic social guideline. Our cultural code of conduct does not stretch past last breaths and final neuron firings. Death is just a little too real for the living people I know. I’m a secretive person, but I don’t purposely keep my secrets. Just as there was no appropriate way to mention, “Oh, by the by, I can’t make next week’s student council meeting because I’m going with my sisters to pick out my mom’s urn,” there was no reason for me to announce my father’s alcoholism. I just carefully deflected whenever it seemed as if the next group meeting place might have been my house. “It’s too far away,” I said. Or, if desperate, I used the old standby, “It’s just such a mess.” My friends and I talked GPAs, unfair teachers, and inedible lunchroom options. We did not talk about death, disease, or addiction. I vaguely wonder if anyone at school could detect peculiarities in me during my father’s first freak-out: a too-taut smile or a renewed appetite for my fingernails. It happened about six months before my mom died, and it rattled our family in a strangely revealing way. It stripped my grandmother of her shell pink lipstick and caused my uncles to lose their smooth, intellectual aura. It was like a coming out party for the entire family. We were no longer able to meet a few times a year and chitchat warmly over Christmas ham. Suddenly we were talking interventions and rehab, and as my uncles wrung their hands and my prep school cousins pretended not to hear in the next room, I fazed out and stared across the counter at a pair of wrinkled hands. I was fixated on Granny’s bare, unpolished nails. Part of me had figured that she had a hidden exoskeleton made of red acrylic. It was disturbing to witness them all as real people, but I thought that when my father suddenly got dressed one morning and scrubbed the vomit out from beneath the armoire it was safe for all of us to don our costumes. The revelatory sequence was over, done, ready to
be sucked under the portion of my grandmother’s antique Oriental that folklore told me was reserved for shameful family secrets. I wanted that cherry pink ham back. Silly of me, really. When it happened again it felt like that ridiculous rerun that was abhorrent the first time it interrupted your usual program. We came home from school to discover two windows were smashed out of our kitchen and my cardboard cutout of Severus Snape became an offering to satiate the gluttonous flames. I was absolutely livid, more so when I noticed ashy crinkles of aluminum among the char, remnants of tiny chocolate Easter eggs that were apparently not long for this earth. The bottle of Kahlua I had used to make tiramisu earlier that month was on its side underneath the table, and I stared at the Hole in the Wall with great interest as my sister sucked in her cheeks and said “J, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can live here anymore.” “Have you seen that new sculpture on Highway Eleven?” I asked. I kept thinking about all those hideous concrete pillars as I tiptoed around broken vases and a smashed pot of rosemary, then sidled up the stairs and into my room. Dispassionate and distant, I hummed the soundtrack to Next to Normal and began throwing everything into a duffel. In that moment I was delighted with myself. I was extraordinarily pleased that I could be so systematic, so removed. I was utterly unfazed as Marina and I pulled out of the driveway, but a sudden stab of guilt pounced on me as the tires crunched down our gravel road. The cats were wailing in their carriers and in the backseat the dog reeked eerily of burnt fabric. I was allowed to be distant, allowed to wrap myself in my alternate life while at school, laughing over a plastic tray of dyed pink applesauce. The bulk of responsibility fell on Marina, my twenty-year-old sister. She was the one who called the police when he first started burning our furniture, and she was the one he screamed curses at as he was hauled to the psych ward at Abbott Northwestern. We weren’t sure when they will be forced to release him, and we weren’t sure if we can legally compel him into a rehabilitation center. My sisters and I were escaping to live at my uncle’s second home on Lake Minnetonka until this was this all figured out, but I knew the “we” in that sentence was a lie. It was Marina, it was all on Marina, who was always on the phone talking desperately to my dad’s brother, Ted, trying to work out a plan, trying to keep us all sane. “At times like these,” I commented over Wolfgang’s incessant barking, “It’s good to have a rich doctor side of the family, isn’t it?” I was beginning
2 Bridges Review
to find this all very hilarious. I used to think there was nothing like a funeral to summon inappropriate humor, but this situation gave my grandpa’s wake a run for its money. I dissolved into tears of mirthless laughter until Marina dissolved into actual tears. The dog started to howl which caused the cats to screech. “Look!” I shrieked. As we traveled up the last hill on Highway Eleven, it appeared, grey, concrete, hideous. “It looks like a miniature tornado touched down in one spot,” Marina observed chokingly. “It looks like the Parthenon did meth for about four centuries.” “It looks like a gravesite for the Wicked Witch of the East.” “It…sort of reminds of that hole in our wall,” I said. She fell silent for a second then craned her neck for a fleeting glance as the Peppermint Twist flashed in our mirror and we strummed on along Eleven. “Destruction as art, huh?” she said. “I always thought they were definitive opposites.”
Pui Ying Wong
Drizzling in Macau Pui Ying Wong The evening damp as a bat’s cave, the Ruin of St. Paul’s dissolves in the dark, the priest takes a holiday. Idle vendors pace, a round of gin rummy slouches in a dingy storefront. Mists descend from the South China Sea, salty as shrimp paste. Pedicabs race down the hill. Casino lights explode in the fog. Fleets of limousines await as if the mob boss’s funeral has finally happened. Another ferry arrives. A man with an assured look, like someone who never believes he could lose it all, hops off. w
2 Bridges Review
GLIMPSES FROM A N.Y. CITY TAXI Photograph by Walter Brand
GLIMPSES FROM A N.Y. CITY TAXI Photograph by Walter Brand
2 Bridges Review
GLIMPSES FROM A N.Y. CITY TAXI Photograph by Walter Brand
GLIMPSES FROM A N.Y. CITY TAXI Photograph by Walter Brand
2 Bridges Review
The Window Christie Grimes Today I clock in at 8:40 at the Gornitos corn chip factory. Most days, I clock in at 8:00 but last night my friend Judy turned thirty-five and we had a birthday party at Gilbert’s Beer & Pool, where you can bring your own liquor until 9:00. So, I flirted with this beer drinking, pool playing, divorced guy, Eddie, who made eyes at me while I played darts. His shaggy brown hair hung in his eyes and when he laughed, his shoulders shook. I maneuvered over to the bar, where he asked my name, then said Gloria sounded pretty. By the end of my darts game, his buddies showed up. I went over to his table to buy him a beer and one of his friends snickered and elbowed him. Couldn’t appreciate the good lovin’ a big woman can offer. Eddie just shook his head and said no thanks. I left the beer there anyway. I took a couple shots with Judy, stayed on her scratchy old couch, and overslept. So this morning, I borrowed her largest sweat pants and threw on my dirty shirt before driving like an idiot to get to work. When I walk in Clyde busts me. Arms crossed, right foot tapping, completely unaware that his comb-over has fallen flat. He makes a mark on his clipboard in case he forgets to dock my pay. “Gloria, the factory doesn’t wait.” He screws up one corner of his mouth. “If you have to leave two hours early to get here, so be it.” His voice grates in my ears, making my hangover worse. I roll my eyes and blow some air out without thinking about it. I glance up. I don’t need trouble. “It looks like you could use the extra time to get ready.” Now he’s really smirking. I run my fingers through my hair, mad at him and gritty in my day-old work shirt and borrowed pants that cut me in two. “I’ve talked with the head-honchos and they’ve given approval on the Gornitos’s Factory Tour,” he announces. If he thinks this is turning into some tourist destination, he’s got another think coming. Twenty minutes of free samples. Help the people of Texas get fatter. The only people that come through this damn town are trying to shortcut through to wherever they’re going. People drive right by. Maybe a family that can’t afford one of those DVD players in the back of the car will stop, or some poor college kids looking for a snack.
Instead, of listening to Clyde, I think about when I make it as a gourmet reviewer—when I walk into any Houston restaurant and people fall over each other, watch me taste each bite. The maitre d’ will seat me next to the window. Then he will run into the back, warning the chefs Gloria is here. Gloria. They will shudder and prepare while I note the ambience. I’ll try seared tuna topped with mustard vinaigrette and waterchesnuts, linguine with slices of mushrooms and peppers, a touch of rosemary and thyme, and grilled chicken and artichoke hearts over penne pasta. They’ll ask for my preference and furnish wine no matter the price. I’ll ask for both red and white. I’ll start with a small Caesar. Then, I’ll taste a bit of tuna, chewing slowly, savoring each new flavor, and start jotting my notes. Light. Moist. Mustard vinaigrette perhaps too harsh. Water chestnuts add a nice finish. Then, I’ll take a small sip of wine before trying the pasta, noting the noodles’ characteristics. Rosemary and thyme evenly dispersed, although there could be a few more peppers. Mushrooms are succulent and the Romano flavor blends. Finally, I’ll move onto the chicken. Too tart. Artichokes overcooked. Dish needs modifications. The patrons eating near me will approach for an autograph, recognizing me from my picture in the paper. I’ll sign their scraps of paper, Hope your life is full of flavor, Gloria. They’ll wish they could have such a perfect career. In the meantime, I’ve already wasted six years here. Everyone went to the factory out of high school. This town’s like quicksand. First your feet are stuck, then you start sinking so slowly that you keep thinking you’ll be able to move on. I can taste individual grains in the chips, more flavors and subtleties than Clyde has me record. I mark them anyway. He wouldn’t know the difference between slightly oily, oil coating, greasy to tongue, or sustained crunch. He just wants oily-not oily, salty-not salty, fresh-stale, on a scale of 1-3. I realize that Clyde’s been quiet for a minute. “So what do you want me to do?” I ask him. “Hand out some samples, answer questions?” I give him my squinty I’m-not-being-a-smartass-so-get-out-of-my-face-right-now look. The smell here is making me nauseous. Corn flour, oil, and sweat. My skin is covered in a thin film. You get used to it but not with tequila floating in your stomach. “I’ve decided to make some modifications. You’re going to be on the tour.” He’s grinning ear to ear now and I think not a chance in hell I’m going to like this.
2 Bridges Review
“You’ll get to show off your skills. Not just anybody could do what you do.” His voice is sing-songing up and down and even though I’ve known Clyde for a while, I don’t know how to take what he’s saying. He plays with his tie and nods. He starts to turn, his shoes squeaking on the tile. Then he stops, “Oh, finish by 11:00. I expect a full day’s work before the first tour. I’m putting banners out and they’re doing a spot on the radio.” “There’s no way I can finish in two hours!” “If you’d been on time, you’d have had three. Once we get adjusted to the tour, you’ll be able to do your normal work within the tour. But, for today.” He chuckles. “You’ll have to eat a little faster. Pretend you’re at an Astros game.” Asshole. I watch him walk off. That man has no butt at all. He also has no sense of taste or smell. He lost it when he was sixteen in some weird car accident. Hemorrhaging, brain damage. Now he’s semi-normal. He walks, talks, eats a lot of raw veggies and granola because he likes textures. A health nut running a Gornitos factory. He wouldn’t recognize talent if it bit him in his skinny ass. So I go right to the line. The noise jars my brain. All those conveyor belts, foil bags, people yelling you see that show? or man, I can’t wait for vacation. I wave to the girls and pull a bag off every hundred or so. Sometimes I choose the crumply bags, other times I get the ones that don’t have a crease. Equal opportunity. I once opened eighty bags in a day, but usually it’s ten, and I eat the whole bag. You have to note every bite. Superb crunch, tiny crumbs, some separation of salt, slight lime flavor – stale oil. Second bite moderately less salty. I compile all my daily notes into a spreadsheet and give him weekly reports. Sometimes the consistency varies by twelve percent! No skin off my teeth. I’m glad that my cubicle is inside, quiet. I’ve hung up some Garfield cartoons and keep all my notes on a desk. Since I’ve only got two hours, I’m going to fake it. Some days, I do more than I have to and just keep the notes. I’ve got so much tequila coating my tongue, I probably wouldn’t even be able to do his 1-3 scale anyway. At 10:30 Clyde waltzes in and tells me he’s ready. I act like I’m making last minute notes. He tells me to follow him and we head out to the far wall. He’s laid bright blue electrical tape on the floor in arrows. “They’ll walk through like this.” He points towards the ovens and the conveyor belts, then in the direction of the bagging machine and boxers.
“Eventually, we’ll put in Plexiglas for safety but for today everyone will sign waivers.” “In case they try to pick up a chip and their hand gets mangled?” I can’t help myself. I’ve gone to Brenham for the Bluebell ice cream tour and I’ve even been to the Shiner Bock brewery. Of course people will go there. Who cares how it’s made when it’s free samples of ice cream and beer? Clyde’s moving across the floor to the packaging area and I follow him. “Here’s your new office,” he says. The filing room has been converted and the blinds are up. Inside there’s four empty gray walls, twenty boxes of chips, and a long table. To my right is the end of the conveyor belt, where the chips are bagged and boxed. Me, eating, is the final stop. “Eat, sample, smile.” He walks in and pats the hard metal seat. “You’ll be famous. The Gornitos Lady.” He stands up straight, adjusting his tie. “In five minutes Marcy’s going to the tour guide. Better get ready.” I hate him. This Gornitos Lady tag will ruin me. I brush past him and plop down in the chair and start setting up the boxes like I’m pushing Girl Scout cookies outside Wal-mart. I’ve barely settled in when a geriatric old man riding one of those Rascals zips past the window. Maybe he gums the chips. Clyde must have raided the nursing home. I start my schtick. Open a bag of Gornitos. Pull out a chip and examine it with a thoughtful eye. Take a bite. Chew thoughtfully. Nod. Make a note. Repeat. Now two old ladies who’ve had their hair done this morning come up. One’s dolled up in a blue flowery dress with her hair swept back, pinned, and sprayed. The other is in a pants suit with costume jewelry and thin, teased hair. Then, a twenty-something with a volunteer badge comes trotting up to the window and Marcy slips past all of them and waves. Clyde’s standing at the back grinning. Marcy’s stretching her mouth out really long, yelling. Clyde starts screwing his fingers into his cheeks, urging me to smile. I keep eating and throw in a grin. I guess I can handle it. I fiddle with the bags setting them up for the afternoon tour, trying to decide if I dare leave to get McDonald’s for lunch when Clyde storms in. “Didn’t I tell you to smile? You looked constipated!” “Maybe I am.” Clyde frowns.
2 Bridges Review
If you ever get constipated from eating Gornitos, let me know. There’s so much oil in them that if you ever need to make a survival fire, you can light a bag of chips. They even burn wet. Corn, corn oil, salt—heart attack. They are, however, high in quality. I see to that. “You have to smile.” His voice is straining and his cheeks are getting all splotchy. “Sit, eat, smile. I don’t need a ten page report or any silly ideas!” Damn if he’s going to make me cry. I walk back to my real office and slam the door. I pull open my file draw and dig out a chocolate bar. There’s a ton of crap at the bottom of that drawer: tampons, Rolaids, Imodium, Pop Rocks, and gum. Clyde always brings the same lunch: a green salad, raw veggies, trail mix, and soup and leaves it in the office kitchen. While he’s showboating about the tour, I slip into the kitchen, pour some coffee, and chat until it clears out. After everyone’s gone, I pull his container of soup out of the fridge and set it on the counter. Then, I pull out six Imodium tabs and crush them under my coffee cup, then slide the powder off the counter into his bowl of creamy soup. I’ll show him constipated. I grab his baggie of trail mix and pour in my Pop Rocks, shaking the bag to mix it all up. It actually blends with the peanuts and M&Ms. I pick a spot at the back lunch table and grab a seat so I can see. Lunch is almost over when he walks in talking to a guy. He opens the bag while talking and grabs a big handful, popping it all in his mouth with a flat palm. He starts crunching away and nodding to keep up with the conversation. Clyde gets a funny look on his face and sucks in his cheeks like someone’s sucker-punched him. He starts coughing and drops the trail mix on the floor. The other guy steps back and swipes his face as Clyde doubles over. Clyde’s pulling at his checkered tie, tugging to get the knot away from his neck. The other guy starts banging on his back and Marcy the tour guide runs for some water. Okay, so maybe Pop Rocks weren’t a great idea. I hope he doesn’t keel over and die. I choked once on one of those extra large jet-puffed marshmallows. I might have died, but at least there was no one to watch me hacking and drooling like Clyde. Finally, Clyde stands back up, drinks some water, coughs a bit again, and seems okay. The other guy laughs it off and they have a seat while Marcy cleans up the floor. Now, the idea of him sitting stopped up on the potty all day makes me feel bad. After lunch I head back to my fake office and plop down on the hard aluminum chair, determined to request one that rolls. Maybe an oak table too instead of this cheap metal. I head back into the kitchen and grab the
blue and white plastic tablecloth with little Gornitos symbols. Then I get a few of the posters from the storage room and head back to my tasting cell. The tablecloth adds color and I tack up the posters. The second tour starts with a young boy pressed up to the window, his parents standing behind. I smile widely, take a chip and throw it into the air, catching it in my mouth. He claps his palms together and tugs at his Dad’s pants. Marcy’s doing her spiel when a thirty-something couple walks through staring at me. The woman wrinkles her nose and shakes her head as I pop a Gornito in my mouth, forcing a smile while I chew. I squirm a little thinking: What’s she got to wrinkle her nose at? Just ‘cause Judy’s sweat pants are stretched and my butt hangs off the seat? Being fat is one of the side effects of being a food taster. I’d like to see her sit here and eat all day and not gain weight. Those silk slacks would split right down the middle. I start making a grocery list, even though it looks like I’m evaluating chips, when I hear someone smack the glass. Three young boys, eighteen or nineteen, are cutting up. All three have messed up hair that looks like they just got out of bed. One of them is probably a football player, another one is skinny, his wrinkly t-shirt hanging off his frame, and the last one is good-looking but he has a crooked nose. The skinny one walks up to the football player and rubs his buddy’s large belly with both hands, looking at me as he makes the circles. Then the football player turns around rubbing his butt. Fat jokes–real original. The football player punches the skinny guy and they saunter off. I eat another chip and want to look down but Crooked Nose catches my attention. He’s still standing there, staring. His face has a little smile. We make eye contact. He gets me. Maybe he’s interested, maybe impressed, maybe he likes Gornitos. I showboat a little and chew slowly, rubbing the grains against my palate and swallow. The chip’s a little stale, too oily. When I open my mouth for another taste, Crooked Nose unzips his pants and pulls out his limp dick, waving it at me. He sticks out his tongue and licks the glass before he walks out. I drop the chip. The glass is streaked where he swiped his tongue across its surface, where perhaps he tasted a hint of glass cleaner. The cloudy smear shrinks as the impression from his hot breath fades until the window is clear. There’s no one there. And, for that, I’m grateful.
2 Bridges Review
Psalm Peycho Kanev The Universe with all of its atomic tidiness is a bit incomprehensible. Metaphysics too. But I like physics more than the physicists. The world is full of geniuses and some others. The world is strange, like a movie shot in Technicolor, but there is too much red in it. Imagine the Crusades, imagine the Inquisition, imagine all of it until now. What if, like the fiction writers like to say, time starts to flow in the other direction? Imagine Galileo working with hexa-core processor, Henry VIII on Viagra, Einstein sweating in a Chinese fireworks factory. That’s why I keep myself close to the agnosticism. This world was screwed up before time was time, even before emptiness gave any hints of vacuum. That’s why I like the simple things. For example, in a gas station in Arizona, in some foreign language the American Indian at the counter tried to explain to me how to pay for the gasoline. I asked him in perfect Bulgarian whether he had read about the life of Ambroise Vollard. At the end we understood each other perfectly well in universal slang, and I continued west. Like I said, I like the simple things. Now, I think about the grass outside. About each leaf thirsty for a few drops of water in this dried world, painted in blood. I think of the world as an accordion, but I don’t know how to dance tarantella or polka. I think about all this pain for which there is no vaccine. I have been in Silver City, New Mexico. The city still scratches the memories of a gold rush. I’ve been in the ghettos of New York. That’s why I say that if we didn’t die we wouldn’t care about the time. That’s why I love words. Everything is simple with words. But is there anything worse than a creature who lives only to write poetry? Where are Ovid, Boileau, Dante? Is it still alive, Gilgamesh’s aspiration to achieve immortality? Listen, we live and die. Listen, into the light of this cigarette you can find more life than the whole universe. That is enough. w
White Jay Chollick No rainbow’s arc or Joseph coat, the ruby’s blood or honey’s suavest pouring. No parrot, peacock, chickadee, no scarecrow’s thatch or muddy brackish waters—or even coal, the bluest eye, the blur of dreams or bougainvillaea spilling; no, none of these, not one is white or whitish, thank G For that. For I am surfeited with pink and brown and tannish; or that purple-gray—just dump it, dittoing the yellow range. And green—please, no more green—just purity that’s whiteness, color in absentia The endless white Antarctic and the polar bear—and whiting— a swimming yes! The sheen of pearls and ivory tusks and bloodless, drained and white it is the ghost of empty and devoid, the absent dazzle Whites of pale cream and polished—wizened white,
2 Bridges Review
the aged face, soft wrinkled century; the flashing teeth the eyeball and the cirrus cloud, and sumptuous the bride in white and Anastasia’s ermine. Severity Severity is next, now white’s rectangular: a tiny canvas, stretched to its linen limit, it takes the brush one jabbing stroke to sully purity with stink, it is relentless life that’s scumbled in The armpit and the crotch and flung confetti; the stench of cooking and the brilliant light of bliss—O try, my holy messenger, come into it, but you cannot—celestial’s ripped! and flat the angel is, the body opened By a bomb I say, smear whitewash on—punish the curving globe for it. For only white can deaden the bitter outline; shroud its sinew; placate its sting I say paint over it, a brushstroke blizzard conjured up whitewhite; and falling like a curse, the gravest snow w
Dogs Jay Chollick The architecture, an affront to memory—still bobbing featureless, I cannot, at all, remember it. But why, for was I blind that day?: to windows, wood, the sloping of the roof, the weather—even the grass!—only noise took hold, it was Those dogs—filtered through the mind like little barking ghosts, their sound still keeping its teeth in me, I knew they slavered, straining at the leash—but why? Why did only canine Smell, the odor deepening with time? Was it the fang involved, ancestral pogrom memory that only we, scarred to our tribal marrow, understood—we Jews. Terrorized by Europe and the dogs; cut down by sabers so blood-congealed the edge was lost; herded bulging into barns, by dogs And burned, screaming the useless prayers, the unheard schma that never ever saved a single one—that’s why The dogs, those little barking ghosts, will always stay
2 Bridges Review
surrounding us. Although, in my present plush, where Holocausts dare not enter, I keep in their deep fur—despite the past, my darling dogs: walked; tended; fed to excess—a boundless love—though due to ancient fears my hand still trembles Petting them w
Waiting for Walsh Bill Teitelbaum As a painter Jack Walsh contended with all those middling impediments of time and space that, for all their banality, eventually exhaust even artists of immense native resourcefulness. His age, for example, had already overtaken him. By the time we met— waiting for the elevator one evening in the lobby of our apartment building, and then discovering to our embarrassment that we occupied the same floor —Jack was at least a decade past the point at which painters are still considered promising and closer to that anxious maturity when many are chancing alien techniques in order to shake the thrall of their early and relatively effortless successes. Jack, however, a late bloomer if ever there was one, had only recently begun to draw with his colors, and with a dayjob that consumed his freshest hours and a flat barely large enough to accommodate his family, Jack, by casual arrangement with our janitor, was obliged to make what he could of nights and weekends in a vacant storage locker opposite the bicycle room in the building’s labyrinthine basement. Yet suddenly he was backing into his forms with a stealth that slowed your breathing, evoking them the way hanging fruit seems to coalesce from leaf shadow and humidity, and most of these striking compositions had a cheerful so-what quality that made you wonder what would happen if he simply wound up and unloaded. I should mention, too, I suppose, there was also a disturbing rigidity about some of this work, a tendency to over-manage the tensions in ways that drained the canvases of vitality, but these, I felt certain, were Jack’s exceptions, those inevitable lapses that came with working on borrowed time, and all he really needed was a continuity of effort. Certainly he was willing to do the work. Mornings, running into Jack at the elevator, he would look shredded, as if something had seized him in its jaws and shaken him. But after dismissing my concern for him with an impatient gesture, he would tell me what he could about the prior evening’s engagement. That is, in his excitement these reports would be more allusive than conventionally descriptive. “Something’s there,” he would say, “It’s pushing back,” or, “It’s missing — I need to work the greens.” You’d have thought the unfinished piece was hanging there in front of us, or that we shared a secret jargon in which common words had private and esoteric meanings. But the intimacy of these
2 Bridges Review
exchanges would make me feel— I don’t know. Privileged? For whether I wholly understood him or not, he was asking me to trust his intentions, to go with him, to do my part — and the news, therefore, that the Walshes would be moving at the end of June from their apartment down the hall to some post-colonial backwater north of Lake Placid was flatly unacceptable. He seemed unable to understand that Montreal was in Canada. “Jack, you can’t do this,” I said. Understand, I was barely twenty-five at the time, a teacher in the public school system of the City of New York, and by virtue of the vow of poverty this represented, morally secure in the superiority of my position. New York was his right — he belonged here, I said. The venues were here, the reviewers were here — God knew, I reminded him, the buyers were here. Surely there were alternatives he could pursue. Imagining what I would have tried in his place, I asked if there might be the odd stipend he could apply for, as if Jack, too, had only his student loans to worry about. Maybe there were fellowships for people in his situation. Foundation grants? Assistantships? Galleries that might invest in him? His gratitude was an education. “Ah, buddy,” he sighed, settling his long fingers on my shoulder, and there were worlds unknown to me in that sigh, worlds of summer camps and orthodontics, of tuition statements from the diocese. Still, Art would not be denied, and each evening or so I would march to his door with another appeal, convinced that if only I selflessly persisted, then eventually Jack would come to his senses — that is, to my senses. We forebear rudeness in New York. Rudeness here, heartfelt, is a form of endearment. This evening the futilities had been moved to the storage locker. “You’ll regret this,” I told him, “You’ll want it back.” Upstairs, Millie and the children were packing the kitchen and according to Millie, Jack should have been packing too, but instead he splashed a gooseneck in my eyes and after sourly examining my sour face he began sketching with the squeezings of some wrung-out tubes. Between smacks at me in salvaged ochres, he jabbed backward at his dependents, depending from the wall behind, accurately drawn if rather vaguely rendered in diluted watercolors. The translucence of the hues was impressive, however. Cezanne would thin his pigments that way merely to see how far he could stretch them. “Count them, count his blessings,” Jack said, the boy, age eight, mugged daily for his lunch money, and the girl, a precocious twelve, apparently determined to make him a grandfather before she entered high school. Didn’t I realize how degrading it was to live in fear for them that
way? In Montreal at least he would have some peace of mind. With the money from the flat they would live in comfort for a change. He would walk upright again. His children might survive their childhoods. Maybe he would even paint, Jack said. “And kindly sit still, please. I was about to capture that sympathetic curl of lip.” He was disappointed himself, he was saying. He felt entitled to my encouragement. It was only a commuter flight. A decent friend would have endorsed his initiative. What would I have him do then, Jack asked, live for Sundays? Juried art shows in the Hamptons? There were skills he had yet to develop, he said. To apply certain principles of landscape painting to portraiture, to treat the body as terrain. To understand motion better. To dispense with line. How could he be expected to do this work if his mind was mush by the end of the day? Fatigue didn’t prevent him from generating ideas, but what would I have him use for judgment? Yet watching as he pushed at the sketch I could see the weight of those burdens fall from him. All his stylish negativity disappeared. His eyes jumped. His jaw muscles flexed with a boyish eagerness. It was only when he stopped painting that suddenly he looked his age. “You shouldn’t be so selfish,” he said. “You should be happy for me.” He turned the sketch to show me my face, as if my own obstinacy might move me where all of Jack’s tender arguments had failed, but all I saw was the loss for me that his departure represented. It was inspired, an assemblage of sheer, rectilinear slabs as blankly impassive as an Easter Island moai. Would he find encouragement for work like this in Canada? “Why do you think they’re called provinces?” I asked. *** I have to admit, though, for a while Jack was actually happy in Montreal. Quebecois politics could be annoying, that was true, but with the kids shared out between the Ursulines and Jesuits, suddenly, Jack said, there was time for him. Unlike his life in New York, he seemed not to need the second half of each day to recover from the first half. It was like having a siege lifted, he said, he felt sunny again. Their home in Westmount down the hill from McGill was one of those “gray ladies” replete with corner bays and plaster reliefs that made you wonder if empire might not have been the right idea, and on the weekends while Millie dashed about with the decorator, “anglicizing the parlors and gallicizing the johns,” Jack, weather permitting, painted in the yard.
2 Bridges Review
Citizenship was not that unthinkable, he insisted. His agency’s principal account was the government railway, which also operated a national hotel system, and the other half of the job consisted of gelding American TV campaigns for the Canadian censors. It was barely work, Jack said. Except for the travel he had no complaints, and even the travel had its compensations. Next week he would be shooting two spots in Toronto, but the week after that he expected to be on the coast, that is, in Vancouver, to produce some animation, and if that panned out he would disappear into the Rockies for a few days with a camera and sketchbook. Maybe it was the skies, Jack said. Quotidian cares seemed ludicrous against backdrops like these. He could feel his mind dilating to accept mountain watersheds and ice fields, glacial moraines, forested plateaus, and steppes like the Ukraine’s that defied the frame. I had to see the Saguenay Gorge, he said. The colors were Wagnerian this time of year. As soon as he had a few canvases done he would send a folder of snaps. Predictably enough Jack’s output during this Acadian honeymoon consisted of a handful of schmaltzy Gilded Age landscapes with a palette straight out of Maxfield Parrish, the sort of work you might buy for the frames at an estate sale — Hudson River kitsch, Thomas Moran panoramas, Jacob van Ruisdael degraded to Albert Bierstadt — but a few weeks later he came around and apologized for being cranky with me. He wasn’t painting, that was most of it. He had four campaigns due in January, a total of eighteen TV commercials, and the prospect of producing them in a country where electricians determined the lighting and directors learned their craft by covering hockey games had him chewing his elbows. Everything without exception needed to be managed by him personally, yet every decision provoked endless argument. “I’m at the fuck-it point. I cope by postponement. I don’t even enjoy the depressions.” The frustration of not painting could be a help, though, Jack said, for when he did paint these days he seemed to invest more care in his palette and mixed with a more patient eye. Right now he was working on a prairie scene — grain elevators, a sea of grass, and an immense, mountainous, almost fanciful sprawl of cloud across a sky that seemed to challenge all conventional notions of perspective. The skies excited him in ways he could not explain. Blue-grays, yellow-grays, red-grays. Getting the grays to sing had been a problem for some time, Jack said, but finally he was learning to keep the mud out and a show no longer seemed implausible. Despite his work schedule or, who knows, maybe because of it, he seemed to be painting with great energy
and clarity, and the super-realistic, almost photographic technique he was using these days did not accommodate the sentimentality he was prone to. The landscapes were less beckoning, less dreamlike. The mountains and prairies were simply there, alive with light but cleansed of inflection. “There are times when the canvas itself seems to develop a voice, but you have to be especially cautious when this happens. It’s like that stopyes-no that women give you. They don’t know what they’re saying to you — they’re shit out of their heads when they babble like that. Work gets ruined the same way if you listen.” He expected to have several new pieces in a few weeks, he said, including a hillside in Manitoba in which the undersides of the clouds would be tinted with the delicate gray-green of the heather beneath them, say, the way distant water mirrors the sky, but when I called in a few weeks to see how the work was progressing, he no longer knew when it might be ready. It was a tortoise-paced style, Jack explained. The work was good and he was still enthused about the possibility of a show, but the important thing was getting it right — that, he said, and keeping Millie out of his studio. Along with cooking classes and an irritating insistence on a social life, Millie recently had taken up furniture restoration and thought it fun to keep him company. His voice dropped an ominous half-octave. “Ugly scenes have developed. I stay calm by reminding myself, ‘This too shall pass,’ but then I remember, so will I.” He was also teaching at Loyola by then, just one night a week, ten sessions a quarter, but the administration had asked him to put a proper course together and Jack thought it might be good for him, a way to sharpen his eye and revive his imagination, although I felt certain it had more to do with supplementing his income. He was complaining about money pretty frequently by then, and it seemed to be the reason for almost everything he did. *** Although I had wanted to visit that summer or fall, it wasn’t until our mid-February Presidents’ Day weekend that I was able to get away. But that was fine, Jack said. Since it would be our last opportunity that winter to enjoy any decent skiing, he had taken the liberty of booking two days of cross-country for us at a lodge near Notre Dame de Laurentides, a few miles north of Quebec City. The narrow skis felt perilous compared to the fat, heavy downhill boards I was accustomed to, but the action was more like skating than
2 Bridges Review
sledding, and after Jack showed me how to glide and use the poles, we took off down a trail through the woods above the town. The weather was brilliant, the temperature both days hovering near ten, and the sunshine through the hemlocks threw a splintered blue light across the snow. Once you had a stride going the movement was almost effortless. This was what it was about, Jack said. This was everything. It was odd, he told me over lunch that day. Lately his most tranquil moments came in subzero weather, dashing through woods, bumbling half-mad with fright down some hill. He loved it. Awkward as he was, he loved the motion, that sensation of flight. He only wished he could abandon himself to the paint that way, to wield the brush like a dowser’s wand. That was when the magic happened, if it happened, in realms of light, in immensities of sky. He would just have to be there for it. All he would have to do was show up. We went out again after lunch and traversed the mountain, rising steadily until we reached a ridge overlooking a timbered valley with a hamlet at its mouth that straddled a pewter-colored river. It was nearly four by then, the wind had dropped, and the brown warmth of the dinner loaves rose through the pines. I had to meet him in Vancouver, Jack said. Vancouver averaged about 225 days of rain a year and was the suicide capital of the continent, but when the sun was shining it was prettier than San Francisco. We would ski Whistler Mountain. It was North America’s Zermat. The drive up from Vancouver was worth your life, seventy miles of terraced two-lane behind grinding caravans of campers and logging trucks, but the views on the way were Japanese water colors. Crystalline fog, steep mountains capped in snow, glimpses through the cedars of the Howe Sound fjord. I really ought to think about it, he said. It might cheer me up. *** Early that spring the Quebec assembly passed a French-only language bill, followed soon after by a great drum-flourish of separatist activity, forecasts of doom from Ottawa and Toronto, miffed English, smug French, with the postal workers celebrating by calling a strike, yet to all this Jack was splendidly indifferent. His own French “pour le plus” was progressing satisfactorily, and they were planning their first vacation in three years, an auto tour of the Canadian Rockies. They would fly to Calgary, then drive to Vancouver, with stops in between at Lake Louise in Banff and a ranch in British Columbia. At work he was busy of course, forcing
him to paint on a tighter schedule, but to compensate he was painting smaller, making it easier to walk away from ideas that didn’t pan out. He had a few still-lifes he could show me but mostly it was sketchwork, just studies really, details, close-ups. Mostly a way to cope with the boredom. Photorealism could be pretty boring, Jack said. It wasn’t like abstraction, where you just spilled your guts and set fire to them. A big photorealistic painting could be a great opportunity to wonder why you bothered. Then the summer was over and they had never left Montreal. Three years, four canceled vacations. He was in New York for the day and I met him for dinner. Part of it was the job, Jack said, but it was also the money. After paying their taxes, there was nothing left for a holiday. He was all right though. For a few days he had wrapped himself in self-pity but then awoke one morning to realize that he didn’t enjoy traveling with Millie anyway that much. Perhaps the worst of it, he said, was the inability to complain. He wondered if the isolation might be getting to him finally. He was an American, that was one thing, but he was also an executive. “It’s pretty bad when you can’t need people, you know. You wonder if it’s you.” He squirmed, struggling to craft his disenchantment into entertaining phrases, but the phrases wouldn’t materialize, and even changing the subject seemed to fail him. To really appreciate a Wyeth or an Eakins, he began, one at some point had to examine the brushwork under a glass. It was a revelation to discover why objects glittered. The surface was nibbled at, savored, as if painted with an eyelash. Maybe he should work that way himself, he said. It wouldn’t even be painting. It would be engraving. Well, he admitted, he was in a shitty state of mind. But he planned to do something about it. Oceans were hard to come by but prairies abounded, and he seemed to have developed a great love lately for the endless vista. A moment later he was sketching a landscape for me on a scrap of notepaper. The perspective was John Constable, the horizon scarcely an eighth of the picture’s height, columns of cumulus falling down the sky and grain elevators barely visible in the distance throwing shadows ten miles across the wheat. *** I think I remember every stalk of grain in that painting. The grand continental sweep of Jack’s themes suggested simple geological forms and
2 Bridges Review
mile-wide falling curtains of light, but somehow instead he became preoccupied with minutiae, with blades of grass, with the pebbles paving the beds of streams, objects interesting enough in small doses, but edge to edge they filled the frames much as painting them must have filled the time. His ecstasy at the time was tempera, however, a medium that lends itself to mania rather handily, so perhaps in those instances the medium was the message. His surfaces were flawless, he said. He was grinding his own colors and skinning his own egg yolks, a process similar to ophthalmic surgery. “Then,” he said, “if I ever get to it, I paint.” The mixing and remixing came easily to him now, though, Jack said, and the results could be deeply gratifying, particularly a small group of photo-realistic landscapes he was working on, using a Josef Albers palette. At the moment he had six, maybe seven of these pieces, very uneven in quality, but viewed collectively, he felt certain that he was on to something. He described the piece he liked best, a wheel-rutted, Wyeth-like mountain road, black trees and midnight blue snow under a brilliant cerulean sky filled with yellow clouds, and lying like a low spot in the middle of the trail, a slice of whole-wheat toast the size of a double mattress. Yeah, he knew it sounded contrived, but I had to appreciate the scale. He was working four-by-four or larger sometimes, and the sheer precision of the painted forms gave the canvases an almost sinister power. “I guess I’d have to see it,” I said. Not that I doubted the quality of the work, but to my mind’s eye the toast seemed a rather arbitrary imposition. “Is that so?” Jack said. “Maybe while you’re at it you could tell me what it means to paint a picture.” “All I said was that I’d have to see them.” “That’s right,” he said. “So send me some snaps.” “Who are you,” Jack asked, “Leo Castelli?” The day after Christmas I took a shuttle to Montreal. The paintings were in Jack’s cellar studio, a floodlit alcove adjacent to the oil tanks. I sat in a lawn chair opposite his workbench and he slid the canvases from racks suspended from the joists, first the toast, which was actually rather persuasive, in the sense that for a moment it seemed almost to belong there, and then a meticulous rendering of a British Columbian stream in which a boulder the size of an automobile in the mid-ground had been replaced by an immense sliced orange spilling droplets of yellow light into the shallows. The boulder, too, would have thrown yellow light into the shallows—it was the same light radiating from the aspens and piping the reeds.
Those were the strongest, I think, but there was also an aerial view of a sprawling Great Plains farm, where the geometric severities of the fields, buildings, barns, and silos were neutralized by the speckled yellow crescent in their midst of a monumental banana; followed by a huge and sadly over-ripe, anthropomorphic pear sitting forever at a kitchen table; and finally a sunset somewhere in the Rockies with the dusk-stained rubble of an avalanche morphing gradually into a bunch of humongous purple Concord grapes. Well, I thought, nobody ever said Jack couldn’t paint. I stood up for a moment to massage the backs of my legs. There was a radiant heater going beneath Jack’s workbench for our feet, but it was cold in the cellar, at least twenty degrees colder than the high-ceilinged rooms upstairs, and without ventilation the alcove puddled with the burnt-metal stink of a collision shop. “Can we get out for a while,” I asked. “Let’s take a walk.” The night was damp with a gusting wind that froze the mist. You could see the ice crystals forming in the glow of the sodium lamps. We walked for a block along the Westmount Plaisance, then stopped a cab and drove downtown to a cafe near the Place du Ville. They had another vacation planned, a compromise, Jack said. Mountains for him, France for Millie. Au fond, they were going to France, first Paris, then the Loire Valley, then the Alps, then south to Nice by car and back to Paris by train. The woman was crazy, he sighed. She spent eight months of the year knotted with arthritis but early this morning she’d had to plow downtown to Ste. Catherine Street for the half-price sales on Christmas cards. “She was rebuking me,” he explained. “That’s how she rebukes me.” *** I didn’t see Jack again until a month or two after he returned from France. He was in New York for two days of casting and utterly determined to have a show. The job, the kids, the work, the wife? Yeah yeah, fine fine. The weather was good though, Jack said, he felt hopeful again. The question was whether any of the Sherbrooke Street galleries would take his stuff. The problem though was that they didn’t promote. The dealers he meant. They gave you the walls but they didn’t print catalogs, they didn’t advertise, they didn’t cultivate the local reviewers. Not that there were reviewers to cultivate. He could host his own shows for all the good a
2 Bridges Review
dealer might do him. Then he wouldn’t have to split with someone. God knew he had the walls for it. What then, bang his head against them? If only he had something to show. But the day-to-day grind of nine-to-five had dulled him to the point where he was thinking seriously of attending an oil class once a week to recover his spontaneity. He seemed to have forgotten how visceral painting needed to be. The response of the paint could be almost sexual. It was a dialogue. The thrill was in permitting the painting to occur. But he was thwarted by his facility, by the petit bourgeois in his brain who ran the studio. He had to apply his technical abilities in different ways, to stop using them as a substitute for invention. But he couldn’t seem to help himself. Vigor out of control felt frivolous to him. He lost his openness, the willingness to be surprised. “You want to think there’s some gland you can squeeze,” he sighed, then settled back heavily in his chair. “I can’t quite describe it really,” he said. He kept working at it through dinner however and by the time the coffee came I couldn’t listen anymore, as if everything in Jack that seemed substantial at one time had declined to the grind of a carousel tune. “Did I tell you about the flood? Snowmelt no less, slap down the cellar. Some of the nicest work I’d ever done. I tried to rationalize it you know. I mean it was finished work after all. But I have to say something happened to me down there. Those Masonite panels chipping apart…” I was a problem now, too, I discovered. Apparently I had become one of his obstacles. “What’s gotten into you?” he wanted to know the next day over the phone. Conversations became oppressive. Phone calls had the tension of parent conferences. It wasn’t just the loss of ease but the constraint of rules. The thoughts we exchanged had a tone of preparation. Sentences were carefully concluded. Silences felt evasive. Simple exchanges were still possible but it was difficult now to express excitement. Passion by its nature was imprecise and we had lost the right to that. I would call wondering what it might be all right to ask, and feel an inexpressible relief when Millie would offer to take a message. I could barely listen when I heard those sheetmetal chimes. It was the wheeze of the carousel cranking up. “Now listen,” he would say, “now you have to be honest with me.” Strangely, though, I was no longer angry at Jack. I’d felt betrayed at first, but whose problem was that, and as the months went by and our exchanges resolved to a kind of painterly white-noise, I found this state of passive, blindered acceptance was probably appropriate for us, bad faith perhaps but good form, and by expecting less I could permit him more.
He was having a show. No, he was not having a show. He was sketching, he was kvetching, he was potchking with his palette, with charcoal dust and vegetable oils, automotive enamels, decorative beads. Though scattered he was productive, though disgusted he was happy. Was he making sense, Jack asked. Why not, I laughed. Dishonestly of course, but it was neat being polite. Courtesy was efficient. You could get away with murder being polite. Certainly it was satisfactory to Jack. He would call every few weeks and we would have drinks or a meal when he came to town, and whenever I felt enough time had passed I would stay in the guest-suite of their Westmount greystone, a rosepaper bed-sitter redolent of Kensington. The important thing was that we were friends. I was his friend in New York and he was my friend in Montreal. “These neighbors of ours are moving to Colorado.” “Oh yes?” “We haven’t been skiing in a while.” When he told me that he was leaving his job I thought I might be hallucinating. More likely, I thought, the job had left Jack, given his casual relationship with time. Excuse me, a show? Why of course! Why not? Let me summon the press. At first even Jack thought his optimism might be no more than a mood, but the elation persisted, with a rhythm to the days that felt increasingly legitimate. It was better than relief, he said. He felt right finally, he was centered now. He was not as nice these days, more focused and less charming, more ruthless perhaps but less needful of sympathy, less dependent on approval—so maybe a better man? No, don’t tell him. Forget he asked. He was done with approvals. He was done with all that. Instead, he was surprising himself, for rather than puttering and analyzing and thinking out his strokes, he was letting things happen with a wholesome recklessness. His framing bills were ruinous, he protested happily. “Buy stock in Winsor & Newton!” Soon he was referring to his work by location, front hall, parlor and dining room pieces, sunroom pieces—“Mantel pieces?” I was warned though. Judgment Day was in his tone. This was not the dithering Jack Walsh of squandered years. He was cooking now. He would do it right this time. “Right,” I said. Not to Jack though. I was minding my manners. ***
2 Bridges Review
All right, let’s wrap this up. He had his show, and though it wasn’t good, it wasn’t that bad. It was skillful. Thirty pieces, four hundred invitations. Quite the impresario really. Acrylics, drawings, oil sketches, watercolors. Nothing you had not seen before and plenty of sightgags, but wellmade stuff, the forms constructed rapidly from loose, opulently rounded strokes, and each stroke finished carefully with a snapping swirl of bristle. A woman without features applying makeup to her mirror. Whistler Mountain, its snowy peak garnished with a gargantuan maraschino cherry. Miss Liberty en déshabillé, an erect bronze nipple pertly nosing the harbor winds. Sea lions sunbathing voluptuously on the turrets of sand-sunk tanks. He’d even managed to salvage his fanciful landscapes, transforming them into a politicized tour of the Canadian outback by replacing his whimsical, over-sized incongruities with discarded appliances and rust-eaten junkers blanketed in brier like topiary confections. Guests began arriving promptly at 2 p.m. Chip and Trish Wheaton were there—they had the old Newcombe-Gillie place up the block. There were the Perillos—from New York, too, originally. “Well, really Bayside,” Doris Perillo admitted. “Millie says you’re a teacher there—isn’t that dangerous?” I took a book into the yard and four hours later the only paintings left on the walls were the biggest of the acrylics and two medium oils. Millie was in the kitchen posting the checks, and Jack was perched on the bullnose at the base of the front hall stairs, hugging his shins, his knees hiked above his ears like a gargoyle’s wings, and his eyes embracing the emptiness in a state of slackjawed exalted paralysis. Every sketch and drawing was gone, all the medium acrylics were gone, the water-colors and small oils were gone, and he had three commissions, two from couples who wanted Jack to immortalize their yards and one from a mortgage broker who needed a Walsh for his reception area. I sat down next to Jack on the staircase. Everywhere you looked were empty hooks. It was nice though. It was that relief you felt when the drunks were shown out. Jack’s eyes were moist. “You’ve been very patient with me, haven’t you,” he said. *** Jack was tremendously encouraged by this debut, and though I wondered how he expected to find refuge in painting now with nothing but painting to oppress him, nevertheless within a month of the show he was back at his easel, turning out canvases much the way he had cranked out Canadian travel brochures and passionately determined to mount anoth-
er show as quickly as possible. Naturally, dispensing with the sight-gags was proving difficult because of the acceptance they had received—in Montreal, Jack sheepishly confessed, they were considered something of a trademark—but he also assured me that he was moving past that rapidly and felt ready finally to take some chances. It was only by leaving the drudgery of nine-to-five, he said, that he was able to see how commercial inanities had dulled his mind. He felt sunny now, his curiosity was awakening, and despite the absence of a regular paycheck, he felt free of an enormous burden, better rested, clearer in the head, and with hands more responsive to his will. He wasted less time now in idle thought and mixed color with less hesitation. He was also working smaller now, and a recent get-away week in Bimini had filled his notebook with startling images. An immense sliced pineapple awash in the surf like a collapsed drilling platform. Ten acres of cars like a quilt of enamel. Yes, seemingly familiar themes, but there were important differences—an eye less concerned with jigsaw puzzle construction; a luscious, electrified tropical palette like pastel neon. Things would have been perfect, he said, except for Millie, but there was no reversing that matronly distrust of an uncertain providence and whatever happy future the show might have suggested, their only conversations these days were about Jack’s reluctance to seek regular employment. True, at the moment they were flush, Millie conceded, but it wasn’t as though it comprised an income, and whenever Jack brought up the possibility of couples-counseling she became upset that he would propose another expense for them. It was a struggle to stay focused in these circumstances, Jack said. “I’d like to plant one on her jaw for the vitamins in it, but I’m afraid it would change the rhythm and I don’t feel that I can do that just now. I mean she is a toothache, but just now the painting is really going very well.”
2 Bridges Review
Cowboys and Investment Bankers Dan Brodnitz The cowboys understood the rules. They wore certain clothes. And in exchange, the bankers would make modest investments. There were nine of them, so it was a win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win situation. Until Hector, the head cowboy, opted out. Hector was good with the horses. He had a natural sense for things like feeding time and time to let them walk. But he’d become uncomfortable with their arrangement. “Listen, I am a real-life cowboy,” he said. “I will not play the part of a cowboy.” “That’s a really subtle distinction,” one of the other cowboys called, as Hector walked away. There was some confusion at first. People walked around in circles. Sloppy even bumped into the fence! Finally Ernst offered to play cowboy in Hector’s stead. Ernst knew nothing about cowboy work, but he was a team player. He wore a big hat and an easy smile. He roped the ponies. And if someone asked him a question about interest rates, he’d tip his big cowboy hat back to shade his angular face, and he’d say: “Well sheee-it, podna. You gotta compound it.” w
Eggs and Feathers Dan Brodnitz I’ll admit that I was a little surprised this past weekend by the flurry of emails I received in response to the (arguably tepid) stand I took against eggs and feathers. Or rather, against the “egg and feather” craze that’s been blighting hipster shacks like Zack’s Breakfastery in Detroit and The Most Important Meal in Kansas City. Josh from Hoboken writes: “Dear Dan: you are a big jerk. Eggs and feathers wrawk! Stop saying bad things about eggs and feathers!” Doug in Chicago writes: “Mr. Brodnix (sic): you and everyone else over the age of twenty-five can eat your eggs the way you like. I’ll have mine with feathers!” Perhaps the authors of these missives think I can be scared into silence. If anything, the result has been the obverse. With each new assault that stumbles its way into my bulging inbox, I find myself emboldened to take up the battle cry against this repulsive phenomenon with plus vigor (“more vigor”)! Dishes like “Eggs Benedict (and Feathers)” or “Eggs Over Medium (and Feathers)” or even “(Feathers and) Soft Boiled Egg” are just the latest step in la grande decline (“the grand decline”). And I for one will not sit quietly by, tuning my viola while Rome cooks egg dishes decorated with feathers! w
2 Bridges Review
Feathered Pam Riley What in this sky unites us lets us make wings from fragile stuff, a chrysalis our only bed twigs to hold our house aloft and the wind to stop us from falling? Maybe we were gulls once, circling the sand diving for crusts, and pebbles we mistook for food; or robins sporting red, waiting for December to move in another direction. You say we were feathered, shoulders cleft and rising into blue our feet left behind to search the paths and sidewalks and make a promise that we would not come down again. w
Prime Meridian Connie Post Step upon the earth as if it is melting fold the continents as if the borders were already singed at the edges hold a container and let all of the oceans run inside of it drink the salt until it is all thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s left of us succumb to the talons of the last orphaned eagle let it pull you up by your shirt collar and sail you across the life you were supposed to have look down and watch the glaciers fall the oceans rise the inlets of every river drown inside themselves listen for the sound of your own voice falling backwards listen for the sound of the ocean turning itself under as if the earth were a womb and you the child passing through w
2 Bridges Review
The Bridge Austin Alexis From my hospital window I see my longing to escape this place in the long limb of the G.W. Bridge. Taking greedy steps it strides westward without peeking back. Busy ant-sized Hondas and Toyotas outline its weathered contour, echo its energy. Like an arrow tense in its bow that bridge is ravenous for freedom. I witness its glinting steeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; a smile in sunlight. Its elegance unfolds, uncompromised, elongated as if by the practiced hand of a painter. The bridge proves the river, spanned, is no obstacle. It shows me a powwow at a point of conclusion: healthy progress, victory over what seemed daunting, over waves and torrents of issues. It illustrates peace. w
P. J. Gannon
The American Dream on Mars P. J. Gannon Tonight’s the launch of Lookspeak.com, and, if the company does well, and my cousin Hank says it will, by the end of next year I’ll be rich, like in I-drive-a-red-Lamborghini rich, and when that happens I’m going to buy a three-bedroom, preferably on the West Side. I’m tired of renting, and I’m sick of living in Sunset Park. I want to be in Manhattan, in the 70s, between Columbus and Amsterdam; that way, I’ll be close to the park, but not too close, where I’d have to smell the horse crap 24 and seven. I’ll live part of the year in New York and, the other, with my back in the sand, in, say, Costa Rica or Aruba. I’ll hire a financial advisor. He’ll set up an annuity or trust. Whatever he does, he’ll make sure I’m taken care of. I’ll give all my friends 20K. My best friend, Jimmy, well, he’ll get 50. And if he stops drinking, I may even buy him a vineyard. Every time we go out he talks about quitting his job as an inventory manager for a garage door company and buying a winery near the Finger Lakes, though he’s never been up that way. Other than visiting his mother twice a year in Boca Raton, he never goes anywhere. He says his job has turned his insides to stone, and maybe that’s why he’s stopped saying, “George! Who’s better than us?” But he knows wines, and the last time we went out he drank three bottles of expensive, award-winning Australian shiraz that he described as “dense, burly, and deep-colored.” It got him fall-down drunk. (No one’s better than us, Jimmy.) And the people who don’t respect me, like my lazy sisters and their know-it-all husbands, who, I’m told, say things behind my back like, “He can’t even afford an air conditioner,” before they get a dime from me, they’ll have to do penance. Serious penance. *** I get to the party twenty minutes early. I was hoping to get there even earlier, but, because of signal trouble, the C got delayed. I’m wearing the only suit I own: a double-breasted, navy blue pinstripe that I got at a factory warehouse in Jersey. It’s a hot summer night, hazy too. The place is on the corner of 51st and Broadway, below street level, so I walk down steps to a wide plaza. Already, there’s a line. Geez.
2 Bridges Review
And it’s invitation-only, and, though I’m invited—hey, I designed the company logo—I realize that I don’t have the small, square “passport” that all the other folks in line have. The passport has my logo on it: Earth with planetary rings. The bouncer is checking for passports, and, if folks don’t have one, he’s turning them away. I look for Hank; he’s not around, and I’m wondering why he didn’t mention the passport. I walk to the front of the line. The bouncer is wearing a Secret Service earpiece, and he’s guarding the door like the president of the United States’ life depends on it. “Excuse me,” I say to him. “Don’t cut the line!” someone yells. “My cousin owns this company,” I say in a low voice. “He’s cutting the line!” someone else yells. “Where’s your passport?” the bouncer asks. “I don’t have one.” “Then you’re not getting in.” I walk back across the plaza and run up the steps. On the street, there’s no sign of Hank. I look at my watch. I got fifteen minutes. I call him on my cell. He doesn’t pick up, so I leave a voice message. What’s going on? *** Six months ago, I put down 5K and, for ten cents a share, bought fifty thousand shares of Lookspeak.com Preferred Series A stock. I had 3K saved, so I got the other two from an advance on my credit card. Last week, Hank told me that the shares are now worth a buck each. I don’t know how he came up with that number because the company isn’t public and maybe I should have asked but that means my shares are worth 50K. Not bad on a 5K investment. And to me 50K is a ton of money. I’m a self-employed graphic designer who, if I’m lucky, makes 25K a year. My last job was designing business cards for a pet shop in Flushing that, I’m told, is a front for illegal animal-trading. The downside is that I can’t sell the shares. Hank says that an SEC rule bars it. But I’m in no great hurry, and 50K is not enough for a down payment on the kind of two-bedroom I want. Not on the West Side anyway. At any rate, Hank says that I’d be crazy to sell because the shares are going to split, the company is going to go public, and on the first day of trading, when the closing bell rings, the share price will be near 100 bucks. That means my stake will be worth five million. Do the math. ***
P. J. Gannon
While I’m waiting for Hank to call me, a cab pulls up to the curb. Its billboard is my logo. Last week, Hank and his business partner Jordan spent 10K so that a bunch of New York City cabs would have it. Out of the cab steps Jordan. He’s a big dude and he’s got dark-hair. He’s wearing a white polo shirt, and on the shirt’s breast is, once again, my logo. I call out his name. He eyes me but doesn’t recognize me. “I’m George,” I say to him. “Hank’s cousin.” Still no recognition. “We met at the Javits Center.” His face looks like he’s working on a quantum physics problem. “The tech convention. I designed the logo.” “Oh, yes!” The butt of his hand strikes his forehead. “George. I’m sorry.” He doesn’t look directly at me. Hank says he can’t. His left eye is glass. When he was a kid, he lost his real one in a BB gun accident. “I don’t have the passport,” I say. “The bouncer says we need passports?” “It won’t be a problem.” We walk down the steps. Ignoring the line in the plaza, we head for the door. I walk ahead, and, when I get there, I say to mister-high-andmighty bouncer, “I’m with the guy behind me. He’s the CEO.” Jordan catches up and he tugs at his shirt to draw attention to the logo. “Hey, they’re cutting the line!” someone yells. “Passports?” high-and-mighty asks. He adjusts his earpiece. “Passports!” “We don’t have them,” I reply. “This is his party.” And I point to Jordan. “Step back. Out of the way!” Now I’m thinking the guy’s a real dumbass. “Don’t you get it?” “No one gets in without a passport!” Jordan’s cell phone rings. He pulls it from his holster like a cowboy drawing a gun. “I just got here,” he says into the phone. He’s got his finger in his other ear. “No, I’m outside. Put the computer stage right. Hold on.” Jordan offers the phone to high-and-mighty, and the guy’s face turns to worry. After some hesitation, he grabs it and puts it to his ear. “Hello.” “If he doesn’t let us in,” I say to Jordan in a low voice, “they’ll fire his ass.” A few moments pass and high-and-mighty hands the phone back to Jordan. “To your right, sir. To your right.” *** We walk through the door and make our way across a powder-blue vestibule. With Hank and Jordan knowing very little about New York, Hank had asked me to recommend a place for the launch. I’d been thinking the Sound Factory or Spy, or perhaps even Webster Hall, but he never
2 Bridges Review
got back to me. “We’ve been busy,” Jordan explains. “Last week we were at the Internet Expo in Seattle.” “What’s this place like?” I ask him. “You’ve never been?” “No. Never even heard of it.” “One of our institutional investors recommended it.” A woman in a shimmery, white dress is coming our way. Her face is painted orange, and her lips are green. “Hi, I’m Empress Orion,” she says and she points to a red door. “The intergalactic shuttle will be leaving shortly.” “Ever been to Mars?” Jordan asks me. We enter and the shuttle, a shiny, metal oval with red blinking lights, looks like a giant clam. The doors are open and a ramp leads the way. “Let’s take the stairs,” I say, pointing to an exit sign. “No, no. Let’s take the shuttle. It’ll be fun.” Inside the shuttle, a guy in a black spandex spacesuit says, “Good evening, I’m Captain Light-Year. I’m here to make sure you have a safe flight. It can be a bumpy ride to the fourth planet from the sun. And remember it has no oxygen and little water. The average temperature is eighty degrees below freezing, so it will be a nice break from this oppressive New York heat.” There is a semi-circle of low seats. We grab two and strap on our seat belts. A green light burns overhead and above the doors is a video screen. “What do you think?” Jordan asks. “Honestly . . . it’s not my thing.” “Goddamn New Yorkers. You’re too cool for your own good.” Jordan waves to another passenger, some guy in a motorcycle jacket. The guy waves back. “Where is everyone from?” Captain Light-Year asks. “Phoenix,” Jordan replies. “I’m from Raleigh,” another passenger with blond hair and buckteeth says. “San Fran,” the guy in the motorcycle jacket says. From an intercom, a robotic voice announces, “We will be departing shortly.” Then Captain Light-Year says, “Have a safe flight,” and he steps out. The doors close, the shuttle jerks, and we’re off. On the videoscreen, the Empire State Building appears, and it’s as if we’re scaling it. Soon, we pass its point, and we’re headed toward the stars. But then, despite what’s on the screen, the intergalactic shuttle drops. Now we’re going down. Fast. Suddenly, a bounce. “We’ve landed!” the guy in the motorcycle jacket yells.
P. J. Gannon
The shuttle rocks back and forth and the doors open. “Check out those rock formations,” Jordan says. Another guy, dressed in a blue spandex spacesuit, steps into the shuttle and says, “Welcome to Mars, I’m Captain Space Dust. Disembark, one at a time, please.” The guy in the motorcycle jacket is the first off, and Jordan whispers, “He’s financially substantial. Owns a semiconductor company in Silicon Valley. He dumped two million dollars into us.” Outside, we’re surrounded by red rock that’s dripping with blue ooze. On the ceiling, stars twinkle; comets race back and forth. With trays filled with food and drink, Martians move through the crowd of about three hundred. Captain Space Dust leads us down The Rock Fissure Corridor, a bridge through molten lava. Hank is on the other side, and he’s waving to us. He’s wearing the same white polo shirt as Jordan. He grabs my hand. “George! So glad to see you!” He tugs on his shirt. “Your logo. Can you believe it? Did I tell you?” “Very cool,” I say. “Very cool.” With his recent nose job, waxed eyebrows, and earlobe-level sideburns, he is, without a doubt, the leading man in this sci-fi adventure. “I just got your message,” he says. “I was going to call or take the intergalactic shuttle back to Earth to get you.” He laughs and holds up his glass. “I’m drinking a Cosmos-politan.” *** About a year ago, Hank and Jordan started Lookspeak.com. By 2001, they say, it will provide folks all over the world with online, videophone servicing, which means you and I will be able to see the folks we dial up, and they us. I had heard about this kind of thing before. One day, in the third grade, I read an article in The Weekly Reader about future inventions and a videophone was one of them. A transformer was another. It would scramble your body’s atoms and whisk them off to another place for regrouping. There was also a protective force field that, when you stepped into it, nothing, and I mean nothing, could harm you. There was also a flying car, a time machine, a battery-operated butler. “You never did tell me how you guys met,” I say. Staring at the molten lava, Hank says, “One day, I was in some guy’s office in St. Louis, trying to close another deal, when the guy’s computer started making weird noises. The guy says to me, ‘Hey, Hank, check this out.’ I put down my brochures. I think I was selling test contactors. I rush
2 Bridges Review
behind the guy’s desk. And, with his two index fingers, he’s banging on the keyboard and, just like that—voila—Jordan’s face appears on the screen. He’s pulling pretzel nuggets from a bag and popping them into his mouth. Anyway, he says to the guy, ‘Hey, right now the Cubbies are crushing your Cards eight to one.’” Jordan leans in and says, “Your cousin and I are two of the first people ever to meet through telephony, but in the future, there’ll be billions. Who knows, some day, most people might meet this way.” A girl with a yellow bouffant and purple face is crossing The Rock Fissure Corridor. “Can I get you guys anything?” she asks. “You want a Cosmos-politan?” Hank asks me. “No, just a beer.” “Okay, one beer. And a Mars-tini for my partner, Jordan.” “Let’s get the sub-space sampler too,” Jordan says. “Okay, the sub-space sampler.” And the girl leaves. “I downloaded the software,” I say to them, “but I haven’t gotten it to work.” “Did you sign up for a PTN?” Jordan asks. “No.” “Well, you’ll need that,” Hank adds. “That’s your virtual phone number.” “You’ll be able to dial up to any other computer.” “We have users in over one hundred countries.” There’s silence and Hank suddenly looks confused. Eyeballing Jordan, he says, “I thought ninety-five.” “Last week, we assigned numbers in Algeria, Peru, New Guinea, and a few others.” There’s more silence. This time for so long that it gets downright uncomfortable and then Hank tenses and says in a pissy voice. “Well, someone could have told me.” *** Later, under thick, orange tentacles, Ronnie, another small potatoes investor like myself, says, “I sold my Cisco and AOL to get on this train.” He’s got a big pumpkin head, and his eyes, nose, and mouth, all tiny, are bunched together in the middle of his face. His shirt, a fancy French blue with short sleeves, is buttoned to his neck. “I’ve missed enough trains in my life,” he continues, “so I wasn’t going to miss this one.” I nod because I know exactly where he’s coming from. “My brother’s best friend from
P. J. Gannon
high school, this guy named Frank,” he says. “Well, he knows this other guy, K.C., a managing partner at EMGF, a venture capitalist firm, and EMGF threw a ton of money at this thing, and they don’t throw a ton of money at anything if it’s not taking off. So, my brother got in and then my sister, and now me. As a matter of fact, that’s my sister over there in the navy polka-dot dress.” He points over my shoulder. “Next to the alien with the light saber.” “So how is it?” I ask. “What?” “The technology?” “Oh. I haven’t used it yet, but Margaret has.” He points again to his sister. “She says it’s good, but last week I got a PTN.” “I had trouble with the download.” “Let’s see…” Creases appear on his forehead. It looks like he’s having a major migraine. “0-9-3-8-5-7-2-9-3-8-4-0-4-6. Wow, not bad! And after three of these Mars-tinis. But I need a camera, because without a camera, it’s just like the phone.” “Yeah, but it’s free.” “I know, but you have to have a camera, you know what I mean?” A smoking-hot girl in a red dress is coming our way. She’s got hoop earrings, the size of bracelets. Ronnie taps her on the shoulder. “Excuse me. Lillian, right?” he says. She stops and smiles like a big flirt. “We spoke briefly outside,” he goes on. “On the line.” “It took forever to get in,” she says. “Did I overhear you say you had a camera?” “Uh-huh.” She bites a strand of her brown hair. “Well . . . how is it?” “Unbelievable! My brother’s in Cleveland, so I talk to him all the time now and I get to see my little nieces.” “I’m getting a camera next week,” Ronnie says like he’s got the whole world figured out, his eyes on her—and she’s got some pair—and, as they fall into a conversation, I become invisible. And though he’s not much to look at, he’s a smooth talker, wearing her down with compliments like: “You remind me a little of that news anchor.” “Your teeth are like white diamonds.” “Your ex didn’t appreciate what he had, darling.” After a while, she holds out her hand and with goo-goo eyes says, “Well, let me give you my PTN.” It’s written on her palm in black ink. To help Ronnie out, I reach for the pen in my shirt pocket, but he’s already pulled out a Mont Blanc.
2 Bridges Review
*** Star Trek’s theme song is playing, and we gather in the crater room. On a stage is a movie screen. The lights dim and a spotlight dances through the crowd. Hank’s on the stage in the mouth of a giant, orange cave. He’s holding a microphone and standing beside a computer. On the other side is Jordan. Behind them is a huge banner that reads: “Lookspeak.com— The Way the World Communicates.” The banner has my logo on it, and I’m proud, very proud, and I’m thinking that I should have charged them a lot more for it. The music stops and Hank speaks: “I want to thank everyone for traveling here tonight. You’ve come a long way to be here on Mars. And, of course, I want to thank you all for believing in Lookspeak. com. About a year ago, I started this company with Jordan Whitehurst, the guy beside me, my partner, a true pioneer in telephony, and already we have users in over a hundred countries, and eighty-five employees, most of whom are here tonight, the people in the white shirts. Let’s give Jordan and the other white shirts a big hand.” There’s loud applause. “Thank you. Well, there’s a lot of exciting things going on. For one, we just bought a building in downtown Phoenix. We had to come up with a name for it, so this week we decided to call it Lookspeak.com Tower. What do you think of that?” There’s more applause. “I thought so. Sounds good, right? If you’re familiar with Phoenix, our building’s on North Seventh Avenue, and it has breathtaking views. It will be our global headquarters. “And right now we’re in discussions with the Arizona Cardinals. No, we can’t help them on the field, but they want to build a new stadium, and they think that Lookspeak.com Stadium would be an awesome name for it.” There’s more applause. “Already, in only a year’s time, we’ve raised thirty million dollars. And last week, thanks to Vicki Steuben of Remington Shaw, we raised another million. Vicki is here tonight too. There she is, by the ice canals. Let’s give her a hand.” More applause. “What can I say, the future burns bright here on Mars, and it’s all because of you, our investors. What we thought we’d do tonight is show you how our service works and how it will change not just the way we communicate, but the way the world communicates.” He points to the ban-
P. J. Gannon
ner. “I’m going to make a telephony call. And because, for the past year or so, I’ve been running around the country raising capital, I haven’t been home much. Yes, I feel a little guilty. I’m going to call my nine-year-old daughter, Katie Anne. She’s home in Phoenix. In her bedroom. In fact, it’s close to her bedtime, so I better get moving.” From his pocket, he pulls out a slip of paper. He begins typing on the computer’s keyboard. “Right now, I’m typing my fourteen-digit Permanent Telephony Number, my PTN. No, I haven’t committed it to memory.” There’s nervous laughter, and Katie Anne’s black-and-white image appears on the screen. “How are you doing, baby girl?” She doesn’t respond. She’s tugging on her pigtails. Then turning to the crowd, he says, “The image is a little unfocused, a little grainy. Can we fix it, Jordan?” Jordan leans over the computer and starts banging on the keys. Then Hank says, “Can you hear me, honey?” Katie Anne’s mouth moves, but Mars’s speakers are silent. Looking up from Hank’s computer, Jordan says in a low voice, “I think this is as good as we’re going to get.” Then from Mars’s speakers, we hear: “I’m fine, Daddy, and I love you.” And there is a collective sigh. Then more applause. “Say hello, Katie Anne!” “I think we are on Mars,” a guy behind me says. He’s tall, maybe the tallest guy in the place, and he’s got a flat nose like someone punched it in. We hear Katie’s voice again. “I can hear you, Daddy.” “Her bedroom must be one hundred and fifty trillion-billion miles away,” the guy adds and then spits an ice cube into his glass. “I’d rather use a pay phone.” “Hey, buddy, relax,” I say to him. “How much do you think Daddy paid for that baby grand?” Then Katie Anne says, “Hello, everyone!” “The reception sucks!” And now I’m ready to kill the guy. After a few more exchanges between Hank and Katie Anne, and a few more wisecracks from dickhead, Hank turns to the crowd and says, “Any questions?” “Yeah, can I get my money back?” dickhead mumbles. “Someone out of all these people must have a question.” By the stage, an alien with ram-like horns raises her hand. “What grade is Katie Anne in?” There’s laughter. “I meant about the product,” Hank says. “But she’s in the fourth.”
2 Bridges Review
“The image, as you said, is a little grainy, jumpy too,” the guy in the motorcycle jacket says. “And the delay . . .” “We’re experiencing a lot of traffic,” Hank says. “Will that be fixed?” a woman asks. “With the increase in bandwidth, the communication will be instantaneous.” “How soon?” From Mars’s speakers, we hear: “I’m in the fourth grade.” *** I’m moving through the crowd, making my way out of the crater room. People are excited. I overhear one middle-aged woman say to a teenager in a wheelchair, “I just wish I’d gotten in sooner.” Walking down the Rock Fissure Corridor on my way to take a leak, I pass the guy from Raleigh. He says to a man in a dark suit, “You can open a Ranch I franchise with an initial outlay of fifty thousand dollars.” With a heavy lisp, the man says, “That’s certainly along the lines of what I said to Sammy.” In the bathroom, a guy at a urinal says, “I took out a home equity.” He’s in a T shirt and jeans, and he’s facing another guy, who’s at the next urinal. “I know it’s on paper, but give it time.” He zips up his fly and punches the flush handle and then puts his arm around the other guy, who’s now zipping up his own fly. “We’ll buy a case of Viagra and head to Rio!” Afterward, I’m getting another beer, and Ronnie asks me, “What’s bandwidth?” He’s dragging on a cigarette. I shrug. Margaret is standing next to him. She’s got seductive eyes. Her blue polka-dot dress is tight and showing off her hips. “Data-transfer capacity,” she says. Minutes pass, and I overhear someone behind me say, “My mailman will buy my shares and I’ll still make money. It’s the business model that scares me.” On the bar is a passport. I pick it up and stare at the logo. The rings symbolize the interconnectivity of the planet. Then, someone bumps into me. It’s Captain Space Dust. “Excuse me. Pardon.” He’s got the Lookspeak.com banner folded over his arms, and he’s hurrying to the other side of the bar, where he hands the banner to a white shirt. I throw down the passport. If I could do it over again, I’d include more planetary rings. ***
P. J. Gannon
Later, after most people have left and I’m thinking about bolting myself, I spot Hank and Jordan huddled at a table near the ice canals. Hank is leaning in, whispering to Jordan. Jordan leans back and raises his arms, and I wonder what guys like that talk about when no one else is around. Then, pulling his phone from his holster, Jordan gets up and puts it to his ear. For a while, he’s walking in circles; one of his shoes is untied. Then he wanders off. Meanwhile, Hank is spinning a coaster on the table like it’s a top. I decide to see what’s going on. On my way over, I pass Jordan. He’s still on the phone. I nod but he doesn’t acknowledge me. At the table, Hank’s still spinning the coaster. Looking up at me, he says, “So, what’s the consensus? What are people saying?” “They’re excited,” I reply. “Good.” “But some have questions.” “And you?” “I’m excited.” And I sit down next to him. There’s a splash of orange on the white tablecloth. It looks like someone spilled a Cosmos-politan. “They’ll have to be patient. They need to understand we’re moving toward something big. Real big.” The coaster wobbles and falls flat on the table. “It’s probably bigger than most can imagine.” “Where’s Jordan?” I ask, looking around. “He leave or something?” “I don’t know. He’s acting weird lately. Not telling me stuff. I’m starting to wonder if I can trust him, George.” “Why?” “I don’t know. Supposedly, he’s flying to Morocco tomorrow. Some sheiks out there want to invest.” He shrugs. “Don’t ask me.” “You got the million.” “Yeah, but it was harder this time. And it should’ve been two.” He laughs, and I punch him lightly on the shoulder. “I haven’t seen you in a while, George.” “Yeah, I know.” “We’re under pressure. We’re going to start charging for the service. I was on a conference call this morning, no more of this free stuff. This month, our advertising revenue was off, and if our investment income dries . . .” He smiles. “It’ll work out.” A furry green alien appears. “Can I get you guys anything?” “Try a Mars-tini, George. I’m serious. They’re delicious.” ***
2 Bridges Review
Outside, I run up the steps. The intergalactic shuttle has gotten me safely back to Earth. In my hand is a twenty dollar bill. After telling Hank I was taking the subway home, he insisted I take the twenty. I try hailing a cab, but they’re all filled. Finally, one with my logo turns the corner and I get in, but soon I’m stuck in traffic. We inch across town, and I catch myself wishing I were in a flying car, one that could lift me over the Williamsburg Bridge. At home, I flip the switches to my circular fans and collapse on the couch. I pick up my remote and turn on the television. During a commercial break, I fantasize that a battery-operated butler is serving me a glass of iced tea. My renewal lease is on the coffee table; it’s for two years. My landlord wants two or he wants me out. The phone rings. Jimmy’s calling from a loud bar in Elmhurst. “How did it go?” “Fine,” I say. “Just fine?” “Yeah…you know.” “When they going public?” On my television, I imagine Jimmy’s fat, flush face hovering over a glass of expensive, award-winning Australian shiraz. “They need to raise more money.” “How much?” “Not sure, but it’s getting harder.” He mumbles something. “I can barely hear you, Jimmy. Go home. You have that big shipment of cable drums in the morning. We’ll talk in a few days.” Hanging up, I’m glad I couldn’t see his face. I walk into the bathroom. There’s mildew at the bottom of the shower curtain. I open the medicine cabinet and grab the aspirin. I pop two in my mouth and chew them like they’re candy. I want to be in Manhattan, between Columbus and Amsterdam, near the Natural History Museum, The Beacon Theatre, Isabella’s. In the living room, I stick my head out the window. On the street, everything seems too real—the adult video store, the cars on the BQE overpass, the mysterious warehouses, the teenagers leaning against the bordered-up bicycle shop. A cab rolls by. Its billboard is a dermatologist’s ad, and I hear Hank’s voice: “I’m starting to wonder if I can trust him, George.” And I pull my pen from my shirt pocket, walk over to the coffee table, and sign the lease
Inside the art Claudia Serea after Yin Xiuzhenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sculpture Collective Subconscious at MoMA We hop in and sit inside the art, a seventiesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Chinese van with an accordion belly made of shirts, skirts, pants, parkas, button holes, zippers, rolled sleeves, pockets sewn shut. There is music in the back and the vinyl cushions are broken. We giggle and crawl and sit on diminutive chairs inside this caterpillar on wheels carrying the ghosts of the people who shed their clothes and vanished and I expect the entire contraption to shake and move any moment now. w
2 Bridges Review
A Husband Makes Coffee Matt Pasca Water right above the line for a just-you-kind-of-pot, imaginary contest of who comes closest, dump the excess and I’m an 80s waitress, bent elbow nixing spillage, sloshing down the shaft. A button’s green light says go, go live your morning elsewhere while I turn liquid to gas, powder to coffee, beans to life surging through the blood. This alchemy wasn’t mine till 32, when parenthood called for Olympic presence in the unwinding hours. Carafe up, black stream steams into your mug, two teaspoons of organic raw then a bit more because I like the honesty of fractions. Add cream, mix, wipe the counter, unplug. Push back. Step away. Truth is, I love to get you going. For you, I want to be the heat, the water, the steam and the brew. I want even to be the little green light telling you to go, go live your day elsewhere while I turn night into sunshine, trash into sprouts—a green light signaling that all the roads to come are clear. w
Twigs Into Birdnest Matt Pasca Everywhere is war. – Bob Marley Tricolor whip in Roman archway. Sandswept dinner rug, bullet-pocked van sleeping off night’s attack. Cilantro and pepper-filled wheelbarrows will paint the Libyan square. It has always been the people: medical students, engineers carpet salesmen, mothers, bakers who have risen, wound like ivy around rust, barbed hate from its silky throne. Metal arms swing most violently when pushed, efforts fleck gold and steel and stalks cut down, deities in a field where blossoms burst. On every coast, the sea comes in, goes out, grinds shells into sand, rock into ash. Everywhere darkness unraveled by light; everywhere heat bows its neck to cold’s sword. And each July, Russian sage throws up its purple hands as if conducting Tchaikovsky, tiger swallows stagger in pairs of delight and leopard slugs find the right streetlit sidewalk to slime.
2 Bridges Review
Sometimes we help it along. Some women are free; some men know better; some children can eat and read books and some tortured finally rest. Mostly we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, our static drowned in a riverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s homecoming to the base of a cliff, the place it spent a million straight years carving down to size. w
The Song of Osama Charles Fishman for the Journalists You were in Sana’a before the storm blew west. Shibam! Shibam! beat your hearts. Soon you would fly into the sun of Islam. Soon you would discover the will to murder and burst into flames. Shibam! sang your hearts as shots rang out. “There is no law in Yemen!” swore your guide, a sheik of great rank whose word was law. Shibam! beat your hearts west of Oman yet east of the Red Sea east of Ma’rib and Shabwah and north of Aden. Light was fading in the red stone province, but sun poured down like melted gold like seething anger and hatred like forbidden oil. Shabwa! you said, as the star of Islam rose in the desert night — star of ruthlessness and charm of Saleh and Selah of beggars and mujahedeen. You were in Yemen, where Shibam and Sheeba shared a vision and the Lord shook Ma’rib. Yes, Allah shook Ma’rib and the Salafists shook Ma’rib and Shibam! Shibam! shook your hearts. You were driving in the desert east of Sana’a and the red sun was rising and you were in Aden where the Cole collapsed under the jihadis’ bombs’ concussive power and you were in the Rafadh Valley you were nearing Osama’s final outpost in the scarred body of Pakistan. Shabwah! wailed your hearts w
2 Bridges Review
Finding Hitler’s Head Charles Fishman Darker than you, it says, without speaking, “Darker than you,” nor will it blink first or shift its gaze, no matter how long you stare. As far as the head’s concerned, you aren’t there and will not be; it disregards your sudden burst of speed and the creaking gears of eternity’s ship suddenly breaking. w
Mary Jo Melone
Barbecue Mary Jo Melone They said it was sad about fat girls; they had the prettiest faces. Like everybody else who looked at her, however, Angela Brennan had a hard time picturing herself like that. Even her eyes were fat. Her droopy lids had turned them into half-slits, and a stranger could not tell their color. Her cheeks were so full that they obscured her nose. Fat wrapped round her neck like a wool scarf in winter. Her extra layers concealed even her age. She was forty, old enough that life’s bright chances were receding like a child walking towards the horizon. Angela could not remember a time when she was thin. The idea of trying to live on cauliflower and plain yogurt or walking rapidly down the street, her fat jiggling before the world, made her want to lower her head to the kitchen table and cry. Even the thought took unimaginable effort, like taking apart the Great Wall of China brick by brick. Like the Great Wall, however, Angela’s fat stood between her and the invasion of any number of threats. Being fat was a safe place, and interesting. Those who disapproved failed to understand the rich contradiction of being fat; the bigger Angela got, the less of her people saw. Some of them saw her not at all. Angela was what banks liked to call a customer service representative, but she wasn’t serving customers. It was her job to terrify them at the dinner hour. Angela would call some schlemiel who had lost his job two months before and ask him in her best school principal’s voice, did he know how to spell foreclosure? She did not fight with the argumentative ones or respond in kind to the ones who got obscene. She did not offer comfort to those who cried and seemed to her weak. They couldn’t take the bad news in a stand up way. Life was life. Angela could tell them a thing or two about that. She lived with her mother in an apartment complex that seemed to have been built inside out. The complex, painted a gentle gray and white, stood in the shadow of a deep and rich green canopy of oaks, draped with Spanish moss that filtered the summer’s hard light and left the grounds cool and breezy, the Florida air surprisingly mild. The apartments, on the other hand, were dark and small, with a gloom that perpetuated itself even in the bedrooms during the day. The most light came from the sliding glass doors that opened onto each apartment’s tiny rectangular patio,
2 Bridges Review
and at midnight, when she came home from work, Angela sat on the patio and smoked to relax, or at least try. The dark set off anxiety buzzing in her chest, but it did not trouble her mother, Miranda, who had Alzheimer’s and was already in the dark that would one day swallow her completely. That morning her mother had rushed to her bedside and had shaken Angela so hard she thought she had been slapped. “Elephants, elephants, they’re in the parking lot,” her mother said, “They’re in the parking lot. Call your father. Tell him we’re in danger.” Angela rolled over in her sleep and didn’t awaken until her neighbor banged on the door to say her mother was in the parking lot in her nightgown talking about elephants and her husband Phil, who had stood up to get one more beer during the Super Bowl and promptly dropped dead at forty-seven. Angela threw on a robe and saw her mother, with her stalks of white hair, standing in the parking lot with her hands up in the air in supplication to some god only she knew. Angela reached out and grabbed Miranda, dragging her like a like a dog that refused to mind. “The elephants are gone, Mama,” Angela said. “There’s nothing to worry about. The circus man came by and took them away.” Her mother’s eyes were pale green with a rim of circling darkness. “How can you be sure?” “Because I’m smart, Mama. You always said I was smart.” That was not all her mother said. She was the first person to berate Angela over her weight. When Angela was small, Miranda told her how many calories even a single Saltine contained. She bragged that she, at least, had never gotten bigger than a size six. What her mother started, other girls finished. Certain names still floated up in her memory. Alison Wells. Becca Roberts. Angela could not fathom them. They had everything they might want. Nice bodies. Boyfriends. Futures that would be filled with sorority sisters and wedding gowns. Still, their happiness was not complete without whispering “fat bitch” at her as she passed in the halls. They giggled at her when she collapsed in PE trying to do a push-up. Once, after gym, she opened her locker to find her underwear gone and a teeny thong in its place. She found her cotton briefs stuffed in Alison’s flowered purse. Angela understood why her mother liked Alison and Becca. She had the same soul, enjoyed the same pleasure. Every year, at Halloween, Miranda sent out Angela with a pillowcase. It was nice and big. It would not tear. That was what she said. When Angela came home, her mother
Mary Jo Melone
put three small pieces of candy into plastic bags and told Angela she could have one bag each day for the following week. Everything else, she threw out. The process repeated itself at Easter. The whole routine permanently flattened Angela’s enthusiasm for the holidays. She became a secret eater. Every afternoon, she stopped at a drug store and bought candy bars— Almond Joys, red licorice, Reese’s Cups. Even though the chocolate gave her the runs, Angela ate every bite by the time she reached home. At 22, Angela married Charlie Sherman. He had been raised in the country, and he was not unfamiliar with heavy women who worked hard first and worried about their appearance second. He said that he liked that there was so much of Angela to put his arms around. Charlie was smart—he did incomprehensible work with computers—and often silent. It was hard to figure what he would take without complaint and what he would not. He started complaining when she reached a size 26. She came home from work one night and found his clothes, computers, fishing rods, golf clubs, and his high school yearbook gone. Charlie had taken up with a recently widowed neighbor, whom Angela guessed to be a size 12. It was the oldest story in the world. She couldn’t bear to stay in the house that she had shared with Charlie, and her mother was losing it, so she moved into that dark little apartment. Alzheimer’s had its upside. While it was true that Angela had to change her mother’s diaper and spoon-feed her oatmeal most days because she wouldn’t eat anything else, Miranda did not least criticize her when Angela scarfed down pints of pistachio ice cream for dinner or left a trail of potato chips from the living room sofa to the kitchen trashcan after a night on the sofa watching TV. Angela did not sweep the floor much, but Miranda, who had been a Nazi about keeping a clean house, did not make even a peep when ants showed up in their tiny battalions. Angela had one other pleasure, at work. There, fat women were not freaks. The entire office was populated by women who were Angela’s size, more or less. Some had happy lives with stories about overcooked Thanksgiving turkeys and grandchildren who brought them homemade potholders on Mother’s Day. These women did not dilly-dally. They talked straight. “You are the loneliest person in the world,” one of them, Rosie Allen, said all the time. The word made Angela cringe; she managed against the cold fact of it, hadn’t she? Still, she was glad for the movies. She went every time the girls—they called themselves that, even though they were fortyish, like her, or even a bit older, like Rosie—invited her. They were
2 Bridges Review
into movies full of exploding trucks and muscled boys with too much hair goo. Angela spent most of her time watching with one hand over her eyes and the other in the popcorn. She was the ideal movie fan. When it came to violence, her buttons were easily pushed. Angela and Rosie became good friends. Angela even let her into her life’s most shuttered territory—the department store dressing room, lit bright as a truck stop at midnight, where Angela tried on bra after bra one Sunday afternoon. Nearly a magic act was required to reshape and pour Angela’s drooping breasts into those lacy cups. What were the bra makers thinking of with all that filmy business? Since when was she going to seduce anybody? “You just pull up the straps, honey,” Rosie said, as she stood behind her. “That will, oh, do you remember the old commercial, about the bra that would lift and separate you, cross your heart, I think. Yes, that’s right.” She said her last words in a formal voice like that of a TV anchorman but then ended in a giggle. Angela looked in the mirror, and her eyes got watery. “Oh, stop it,” Rosie said. “Pick your head up. Straighten your shoulders. The world has a lot more women in it like us than the itty bitty ones behind the counter. Don’t you ever forget that. And you know what, Angie? Screw Charlie. Really, screw Charlie. There’s a man out there for you. Leo has a friend at the garage. Quentin. Fancy name for a mechanic—the guys just call him Q. It’s just him and a collie. He’s at our house every weekend.” “But I can’t.” “Yes, you can. You never saw his first wife.” “I’ll think about it.” “He’s as lonesome as you are.” There was that word again. Angela wished Rosie would drop it. Rosie led her to the women’s department. It was in a corner of the second floor of the department store, sandwiched between the mattresses and the freight elevator; clearly this was a fashion-backwards, hopeless place that had to be hidden, a fact that Angela was sure bothered every woman who entered—every woman but Rosie. She strode in with her head up and one hand clamped on Angela’s forearm, as though she suspected her friend would escape. Rosie reached into the first rectangular rack of dresses she came to, one shapeless shift after another, one covered with red hibiscus, another with lilies of the valley, a third dotted with tiny palm trees. One by one, Rosie held the dresses up to Angela. “Perfect,”
Mary Jo Melone
Rosie said. “The one with the lilies suits you. Sweet, and a little on the quiet side.” Angela didn’t know who Rosie was talking about: Angela was a woman who wanted to murder her mother. That was who Angela was. A killer in a muu-muu, stuck at the age of twelve, at the high end already of the junior sizes. Friday night in bed, she mostly watched the clock. What would she do with her hair? In the morning, she managed the only style he could summon up; she put her hair it in a ponytail and tied a green ribbon in it to match the lilies of the valley. It was girlish, but Angela thought any hint of girlishness was good. She put on a little lipstick. That was the end of it. Who knew what Q would look like? She drove to Rosie’s house with her hands tight to the wheel. At every intersection, Angela feared she would drive through the light and cause some terrible crash. This was what happened when she got nervous: calamity always hovered. Angela showed up at Rosie’s house with a bowlful of her coleslaw and, although she did not drink, a six-pack of beer. The kitchen was empty. Out the window, a bit to the right, she saw Rosie’s husband, Leo, nursing the coals of the grill on the patio. There was Rosie, unapologetic in teal-colored Bermuda shorts. Next to her was a tall, skinny man with a pock-marked face. Angela wanted to leave the coleslaw on the table and run. She tried to remember what Rosie said about keeping her head up and her shoulders straight. She gingerly opened the door to the deck, and Rosie ran towards her. “Don’t die on me, girl,” Rosie said. “I’d have a lot of explaining to do.” Q’s smile revealed bad teeth, but it hardly mattered. Angela had never mastered the skill of small talk with a man, and whatever confidence she had was blown the day Charley cleared out. “You look like you need a beer,” Leo said. “I don’t—” “Take it,” Rosie ordered. Q sat on his side of the picnic table pulling at a napkin. He raised his eyes to glance at her but did not otherwise move his face or make any other gesture. He asked if she had any children. She fretted that her answer would make her seem unnatural. “No. And you?” “Two boys and a girl, but my ex managed to turn every one of them against me so I don’t see them much.”
2 Bridges Review
“Ain’t life a bitch?” Leo said, as he dropped a plate of ribs on the table. Angela looked away. Before long, she would be wearing barbecue sauce on those pretty lilies of the valley. She was like that. She always ate as though someone were about to take the plate away, and inevitably, she embarrassed herself. “Do you have anything else?” she said. “Other than ribs, Angie?” Rosie said. “Leo makes the very best.” The four of them sat at the table that was covered in a plastic tablecloth, gingham checked and orange, a color she knew Rosie could not resist. Everybody else had ribs, a beer and a small stack of napkins. Her plate was empty. Miranda would be proud. Angela was passing up one of those nasty, fat-filled things. She took a sip of beer. The taste made her gag, but she might not be so nervous once she choked it down. It was always the woman’s job to keep the conversation going, and the fact filled her with an annoyance that kept her silent even longer. Leo jumped in. “You need to have your car fixed? Q can work miracles, I swear. When I have some car problem I can’t figure out, I always go to Q. He never fails.” “Do you have any salad?” Angela asked. Rosie shot her a look. “Be right back,” she said. She returned with a bowl of lettuce and tomatoes swimming in blue cheese dressing. At least a drip would be white, not the dried blood of the barbecue sauce. Angela put some of the salad on her plate and tried, with every bite, to shake off the dressing before she put her fork into her mouth. “Q has a motorcycle. He’s quite the hog,” Leo said. “Angie has never been on a motorcycle,” Rosie said. “Right, Angie?” “Yes, yes, now that’s something I would like to do,” she said, trying her best to be bright. Her mind was full of her mother’s noise and Charlie’s absence. She wondered whether she could throw a leg over Q’s bike without tipping it over. Q and Leo got up for more ribs. “You sure, Angie?” he said. “Just one,” she said, surrendering. “You two have a lot in common,” Rosie said. “I’ve two damn Yankees sitting at my table. Q’s from Ohio, you’re from Massachusetts. Here’s the kind of guy he is. He gave up everything he had in Ohio to follow his kids. He couldn’t bear to be away from them.” “Rosie, do you have to bring that up?” Leo said. “You’re embarrassing the guy.”
Mary Jo Melone
Angela scraped all the sauce she could from the rib with a napkin, which she then dropped in a sticky wad on the plastic tablecloth. Bits of white clung to the rib like snow. She picked the rib up and moved forward over her plate, so it would catch the drippings. Q’s eyes were on her. She was sure. She dropped the rib and pushed away the plate. “It turned out okay, though,” Q said. “I can wait a long time for my kids to turn around. In the meantime, no more shoveling my way out of the driveway in January.” Here was a man of a strange sort. Q put love and its responsibilities first. If he could do it for his kids, maybe he could do it for a woman. “Where are your children now?” Angela asked. “Last I knew, one boy is in the Navy in Pensacola, the other is running a fish camp on the St. John’s River, and my daughter is in Orlando. She’s got a little girl. Haven’t seen her either. She’s the one I really want. If I saw my grandchild, even once, I’d be a happy man.” “You can have faith in the future if you have a grandchild,” Angela said. “Some.” He lit a Camel and looked away from the table. Angela saw a tattoo of a lightning bolt on his neck. His skin was copper-colored. He had been around too much grease, too much sun. She lifted the rib, carefully picked off a fleck of the white paper stuck to it, bit down and chewed, felt the meat, the vinegary tang of sauce, and an uneven bubble of fat slide down her throat. She bit reflexively, and felt that tang again, the delight of it. No wonder Charlie left you. She dropped the rib. It bounced off the rim of the plate and tumbled once, then twice, across her lap before dropping onto the deck. Angela looked down. A trail of red dots crossed her dress, like animal tracks in mud, from one thigh to the other. She thought of counting them, as if that might calm her, but she stunk at math. Everybody said so. But everybody had barbecue stains on their clothes at least once in the century, hadn’t they? Rosie would march right through such a silly accident. “Could you excuse me?” she said and rose with a napkin covering the animal tracks. Really. Rosie would laugh. She slid swiftly into the kitchen. Rosie followed behind her. “Shit, Angie, what the hell have you done?” “You know how it goes,” Angela said in her brightest Rosie voice. “You can dress her up, but you can’t take her out.” “And you can’t wear that again. Not even club soda would take that out, and I don’t have any, anyway.”
2 Bridges Review
Angela felt suddenly bereft, like a child left alone at a corner and afraid to cross the street on her own. “Don’t you tell me that, Rosie. Don’t you tell me that.” “What the hell do you want me to say? Happy birthday?” Rosie was on her knees, dabbing the stains with a soggy paper towel. They spread out in the shape of balloons lifting into the sky. “I give up,” Rosie said. She rose and took a beer from the refrigerator and a dishtowel decorated with roosters from the counter. She handed Angela the towel. It might as well have been solid white, that signal of defeat. Angela pushed the screen door open, the towel against her lap. Leo and Q were talking about their bowling league, which team was up, down, and why their own team could never break from the pack. “We were just doing the dishes,” Rosie said. “We’re eating on paper plates, for Christ’s sake,” Leo said. “I just go to watch them play,” Rosie said. She reached into the cooler for another beer. It occurred to Angela that her friend might get drunk. “You could come sometimes. I’d like the company. Don’t you think so, guys?” Rosie said. She took a long swallow the beer. Angela could not bear the idea of her friend drunk and unable to protect her in the presence of two men. “I better be going.” Rosie had deposited herself in a deck chair. She was sucking down her beer and gestured at Angela with her free hand. “Make sure you call in sick that night.” Angela couldn’t tell whether Rosie was saying good-bye or dismissing her. Monday night at work, Rosie was her sunny self again. She told Angela she had given Q her number. “I’m sure, honey. Don’t worry about that little accident. He’ll be teaching you a lot more than how to toss a bowling ball.” He did not call Tuesday. He left no messages Wednesday. On Thursday, Rosie called and said Q had come down with a bug and couldn’t make it, but that she and Leo would love to have her come along. It was good to get out of the house, Rosie said. Angela did not go bowling Thursday night. She told her mother’s aide to take the night off. She made her mother oatmeal, gray as death. When she sat down at the kitchen table, Angela tied a large cotton napkin around her neck and placed another on her lap. She did in fact share a trait with her mother. They both tended to wear their food.
Mary Jo Melone
The kitchen window was open, and Angela smelled the night air that promised rain. “Let’s go, Mom,” she said in the same voice that Rosie had used with her. “Let’s go for a walk.” She took her mother by one flabby arm and guided her around the maze of walks that led from one building to another. It was the least she could do. She worked very hard to keep her dark thoughts about her mother at bay. For every one of them, Angela felt the need for penance. The walk was penance. “A cloud and a stick,” her mother started sing-songing. “A cloud and a stick.” Angela swatted at mosquitoes making their little racket in front of her face. “What are you talking about?” “A cloud and a stick.” As the night deepened, Angela looked at the buildings, the patios, for that bit of light from lonely smokers. She saw only two, from a building where she knew no one, and led her mother home along a winding, concrete path, the only sound around them the whirring of air conditioners that enabled her nameless neighbors to keep their windows shut to the world, if they wanted. She led her mother to the bathroom, unbuttoned her dress, pulled down her diaper, yellow and soaked. Every part of her mother, her smooth, slender body, had collapsed on itself. Somehow, the years had carved out her core, and the skin that remained draped over her bones was all wrinkles and sag. The woman Angela remembered, who she had despised and admired and so wanted to please, the woman in the narrow knit dresses, in high heels that were never scuffed, in stockings that never ran, who absolutely never spilled food on her lap, where was she? Her touch had never been gentle, but when she entered a room, heads turned, and in those moments, Angela’s resentment mingled with an uneasy pride. Now only the resentment remained. “Come here,” she said, in a voice Angela recognized, suddenly clear and focused. Angela took her place before the mirror next to her. While her mother stared straight ahead, Angela looked down. “Up,” her mother commanded. “Up.” “A cloud and a stick, a cloud and a stick,” she said. “How big you are,” she said, waving her arms wide, like a cloud. She ran her misshapen hands down her loose sides. “Me,” she said, “I’m the stick.”
2 Bridges Review
The familiar shot of anger passed through Angela. This time, she pushed her mother to the floor, and her head struck the side of the bathtub. She moaned wordlessly. Angela picked her up and felt the back of her head for blood, and another rush—this one of disappointment—passed through her. Miranda continued to moan. Angela moved towards her and grabbed her by both arms. Her head flopped back. “Don’t do this to me,” Angela said. She pulled her mother to her feet. Then Angela knelt before her. She picked up one of Miranda’s feet and slipped it back into the leg hole of the diaper, then the other. She rose slowly, as she yanked the heavy diaper up her mother’s legs. She was out of breath, the way she always was, by the time she was standing again. She was supposed to brush Miranda’s teeth but her mother had a tendency to bite. Angela was in no mood for that. She got behind her mother and pushed her into her bedroom, turned her around, and once she had pulled the spread back, had her sit on the bed and then lie down. It occurred to her that she could easily suffocate Miranda with a pillow but the thought passed like that cloud that she had rambled about. She turned out her mother’s light and went out onto the patio and sat in the kitchen chair she always kept there—she was too big in the hips to fit into one of those plastic lawn chairs. Even Rosie would find caring for Miranda hard. Even Q’s love would be tested. Angela looked out across the flat surface of the grass, the drainage ditches that masqueraded as ponds, and spotted a half dozen cigarettes glowing in the dark. She struck a match and lit her own. In this way, she was not invisible.
In Other Words Nicole Santalucia The words I didn’t say are locked in the metal box on a shelf next to a pile of folded crewneck sweaters in my father’s closet. These words are the dollar signs my mother says she sees in my eyes when we talk on the phone years after I’ve stolen my brother’s ski mask, hid in the beer aisle at the corner store on Ackley Ave, my finger pointing like a gun under my sweatshirt. The old lady working the register was scared of the 16 year old girl drowning in words she couldn’t say: sorry, thank you, help. The words Big Bear, Old English, and Colt 45 lined the roof of my parents’ white Volvo station wagon. The police pressed me against the window, pressed the words out of my bladder. The words I didn’t say the first time I got arrested are warm and yellow; they are the pants I peed in. The words are in un-harvested wheat fields with other words. The words that made my fake gun real are in songs. “Luck Be a Lady” is what I hear when I pretend I’m the hit man that my grandfather was meant to be. The getaway car didn’t drive over the words that escaped the metal lock box when my father opened it, re-wrote his will, then closed it again. In other words, I probably won’t inherit my father’s shirts. w
2 Bridges Review
Are You Sure That You’ve Done All You Can Elizabeth May Young My sister extinguishes a match on her tongue tosses it into a heap of dry brush at our feet and tells me that she was born knowing how to die like it’s less of a sickness than something she chooses for herself Because it’s not the pills she swallows or the cigarettes she tends to knock back when she thinks that no one is watching It’s not even the needles she drills into her skin to destroy the parts of herself her fingernails can’t reach It’s the way her bones clatter together because there’s nothing between them How her eyes remind me of our dog’s eyes the night before we put her down I want to snap my fingers, sigh, click my tongue so she’ll look at me But instead I glance at the match’s resting place and when I ask Aren’t you afraid of fire? she shakes her head, staring, and offers her wrist Turns out she douses herself in gasoline each morning when she rises whispering a prayer to herself that by the evening she will be in flames w
In The Pineta Gil Fagiani (Abruzzo, Italy) In a pinewoods in Pescara I look at the open window of an old church tower imagining a white dove fluttering out into the sunshine. Instead, I see the chalky stripe of a gazzaâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a magpie, as it spreads its wings among the earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shadows. w
2 Bridges Review
There was a time I was not here, that time will come again. William Stephenson I remembered that afternoon, cloudless, no one in sight. You, so beautiful, joking then, suddenly shouted, “Not even if you were the last man on earth!” There was a time I was not here, that time will come again. I closed my eyes so I could see the contrail letters, Sky-written by a plane you flew. One day or night the hypnic jerk will startle. Now the sensation of falling will never end. Not even a second to say, “This was life.” w
MAPPING Photograph by Olivia Wise
Contributors AUSTIN ALEXIS has published in Paterson Literary Review, Barrow Street, The Journal, Lips and elsewhere. He received a Mobius Editor-in-Chief Choice Award, a Small Press Review “Pick of the Month” citation and a Pushcart Prize nomination. He has taught in an NEA-funded program for the Jamaica, Queens Center for Arts and Learning and at Hunter College (School of Continuing Education). JEFFREY ALFIER is author of The Wolf Yearling (Silver Birch Press, 2013) and Idyll for a Vanishing River (Glass Lyre Press, forthcoming). In 2013, he was a finalist in the Press 53 Poetry Contest, and short-listed for the Fermoy International Poetry Festival, Ireland. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in New York Quarterly, Louisville Review and Tulane Review. JAIME MANRIQUE ARDILA was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, in 1949. Later, he moved to the Unites States, became a citizen, and earned a B.A. from the University of South Florida. His first poetry volume won Colombia’s National Poetry Award. Additionally, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write his memoirs. Primaaeily known as a fiction writer, his most recent novels are Cervantes Street (2012) and Our Lives Are the Rivers (2006), both composed in English. He has contributed to Shade (1996), a gay, black fiction anthology. He has also produced the non-fictional book, Eminent Maricones which explores the works of Reinaldo Arenas, Manuel Puig, and Federico García Lorca. In 1999 he was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. He has taught creative writing at Mount Holyoke College, New York University, The New School for Social Research and Columbia University. He is currently a Distinguished Lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at the City College of New York. MADELEINE BECKMAN is a poet, fiction, and nonfiction writer. She is Nonfiction Editor for IthacaLit, a literary journal, and a Contributing Editor to The Literary Review. Her work has been published in books, journals, and anthologies, and she is the recipient of awards and grants, from among other places, the Poetry Society of America, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Irish Arts Council of Ireland. Her poetry collection, Dead Boyfriends, was recently reissued by Limoges Press and she has two books forthcoming in 2015: No Roadmap, No Brakes (Red Bird chapbooks) and Hyacinths from the Wreckage (Serving House Books). Madeleine teaches in the Medicine & Humanism Program/NYU Medical School and privately.
ELEANOR LEONNE BENNETT is an internationally award winning photographer and visual artist. She is the CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of The Year 2013 and has also won first places with National Geographic, The World Photography Organization, Nature’s Best Photography and The National Trust to name but a few. Z.Z. BOONE lives in Connecticut with novelist Tricia Bauer and their daughter, Lia. His fiction has appeared in New Ohio Review, Potomac Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, and other fine pubs. He teaches writing at Western Connecticut State University. WALTER BRAND is an Associate Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Social Science at New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Graduate Center of The City University of New York and a Master of Fine Arts from Brooklyn College, CUNY, focusing on drawing, printmaking, and black and white photography. He is a generalist in the history of philosophy with a concentration in eighteenth century modern moral philosophy and specifically, the philosophy of David Hume. His interests range from philosophy, history, literature, and the fine arts. Recently, he has turned his attention to philosophical fiction, and is currently working on a volume of mixed media, photographs of New York City at night together with stories about his experiences driving the night shift in a New York City Taxi. He has published a book and numerous articles on the moral philosophy of Dave Hume, and has more recently published a number of works of philosophical fiction. BETH BRETL’s poetry and fiction have appeared in several journals, including The Southern Review, Aufgabe, and The North American Review. DAN BRODNITZ is a Bay Area poet and piano-playing fool, as well as interviewer-in-chief for about-creativity.com. HUGH BURKHART was born in Windsor, Ontario and lives with his wife in San Diego, California. His stories have appeared in Work Literary Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, and Glimmer Train. He is currently completing a short fiction collection. SUSANA H. CASE’s newest poetry collection is 4 Rms w Vu (Mayapple Press). She is also the author of three other books of poetry and a number of chapbooks, one of which, The Scottish Café (Slapering Hol Press) was
re-released in a Polish-English version, Kawiarnia Szkocka, by Opole University Press in Poland. Case is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology. Recent poems can be found in: The Cortland Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Tar River Poetry, and dozens of other magazines and anthologies. Please visit her online at: http://iris.nyit.edu/~shcase/. JAY CHOLLICK: The word’s most harmless terrorist; shadowy at the open mic; insufferable in print; bookish in slim volumes; (p&a) prizes & awards but not the bluest ribbons; big mouth on the radio; a tv pipsqueak, for which only his one hand claps. ALFRED CORN’s eleventh book of poems, titled Unions, appeared in 2014. He has published a novel, titled Part of His Story; two collections of essays; and a study of prosody. Prizes for his work as a poet include the Guggenheim fellowship, the NEA, an Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and one from the Academy of American Poets. He has taught creative writing at Yale, Columbia, and UCLA. In 2011 Pentameters Theatre in London staged his play Lowell’s Bedlam, and in 2013 he was made a Life Fellow of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, where he worked on a translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. In 2014 Eyewear will publish his second novel, titled Miranda’s Book. ANTONIO D’ALFONSO’s poetry, prose and essays have been published widely. Many of his translations of French-language poets of Quebec have appeared at Guernica. His novel, Un vendredi du mois d’août, won the Trillium Award in 2005. ALEXA DERMAN is a freshman at Yale University, studying English and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her work is featured in Word Riot, The Sierra Nevada Review, Hanging Loose, Dramatics, and Thespian Playworks 2014 (Samuel French, 2015) and has been produced by Young Playwrights Inc., The Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, The Blank Theatre YPF, and others. Her one-woman play “Hamlet & Ophelia” will open with the Semicolon Theatre Company in May 2015.
ANTHONY DIMATTEO’s poems, essays and reviews regularly appear in scholarly and literary journals. His new book Beautiful Problems: Poems (David Robert Books, 2014) worries over how we do beauty today and what it does unto us, pushing away or towards us, always free of anyone’s grasp. Other recent work has appeared in Avatar Poetry Review, College Literature, Front Porch, Renaissance Quarterly, Smartish Pace, Tar River Poetry, and Waccamaw. Former group home supervisor and a professor of English, DiMatteo is delighted to teach writing as well as the critique of the political economy of signs at the New York Institute of Technology. Often a solo-hiker not by choice and an allegedly competent sailor, he lives on the Great South Bay of Long Island with his wife, the designer and pianist Kathleen O’Sullivan, their ten-year old son Michael, two dogs and a canary. DANTE DI STEFANO’s poetry and essays have appeared recently in The Writer’s Chronicle, Shenandoah, Brilliant Corners, and elsewhere. He was the winner of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, The Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, The Phyllis Smart-Young Prize in Poetry, The Bea Gonzalez Prize in Poetry, and an Academy of American Poets College Prize. He currently serves as a poetry editor for Harpur Palate and he was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. SEAN THOMAS DOUGHERTY is the author or editor of 13 books including the forthcoming All I Ask for is Longing: New and Selected (2014 BOA Editions). He lives in Erie, works in a pool hall, and does readings and teaches when he can get it, which isn’t often. But he survives, as we all must do. Sometimes that’s the best we can do. HERBERT ENGLEHARDT served in the Pacific Theater from 1944 through the end of WWII. After a career in business, he has spent the last eleven years writing poetry. GIL FAGIANI is a translator, essayist, short story writer, and poet. His books include, Serfs of Psychiatry (Finishing Line Press), and most recently, Stone Walls (Bordighera Press, 2014). Gil curates the Italian American Writers’ Association’s readings at the Cornelia Street Café, and is an associate editor of Feile-Festa. CHARLES FISHMAN is poetry editor of Prism: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators. His books include The Death Mazurka (1989), a 1990 Pulitzer Prize nominee; Chopin’s Piano (2006), In the Language of Women
(2011), and In the Path of Lightning: Selected Poems (2012), all recipients of the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; and Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (2007). With Smita Sahay (Mumbai, India), he is currently editing Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women. His poem, “Snow is the Poem Without Flags” won the 2014 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award in Poetry. P.J. GANNON lives in NYC and is a graduate of Columbia University. His work has appeared or will appear in The Alembic, Slow Trains, Gadfly Online, Amarillo Bay Literary Journal, Agave Magazine, The Ledge Poetry & Fiction Magazine, and others. AMY GERSTLER‘s most recent books of poetry include Dearest Creature, Ghost Girl, Medicine, and Crown of Weeds. She teaches at University of California at Irvine. ROLAND GOITY lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he writes in the shadows of planes coming and going from SFO. He edits WIPs: Works (of Fiction) in Progress, and his stories appear in many fine publications, including Fiction International, Talking River, Raleigh Review, Eclectica, The MacGuffin, PANK, Bryant Literary Review, and Word Riot. CHRISTIE GRIMES has had stories published in journals such as Harpur Palate, Cutthroat and Passages North, as well as stories named as finalists in competitions held by Glimmer Train, Gulf Coast, and The Cincinnati Review. Her short fiction collection was a finalist in a Black Lawrence Press competition. She is the author of Exit Waxahachie, a novel, and is currently at work on an apocalyptic novel about family. More information can be found at christiegrimes.com. ART HEIFETZ teaches ESL to refugees in Richmond, Va. He has had over 170 poems published in 12 countries. In 2013 he won second place in the Reuben Rose international competition in Israel. See polishedbrasspoems.com for more of his work. KATHLEEN HELLEN’s collection Umberto’s Night won the 2012 Washington Writers’ Publishing House poetry prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary; Barrow Street; Drunken Boat; New Letters; Prairie Schooner; and Witness. Her chapbook The Girl Who Loved Mothra was published in 2010. Awards include two Pushcart nominations in 2013.
WILLIAM HEYEN’s work has appeared in hundreds of anthologies and in magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, The Southern Review. He is the editor or author of more than thirty books including Noise in the Trees, an American Library Association Notable Book for 1975; Crazy Horse in Stillness, winner of 1997’s Small Press Book Award for Poetry; Shoah Train: Poems, a Finalist for the 2004 National Book Award; and A Poetics of Hiroshima, a Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle selection in 2010. Three new books of poetry (Straight’s Suite for Craig Cotter & Frank O’Hara, The Football Corporations, and Hiroshima Suite) and the first two volume of his massive journal (The Cabin and Hannelore), appeared in 2012 and 2013. MARY ANN HONAKER holds a B.A. in philosophy from West Virginia University and a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. She is currently a student in the Creative Writing MFA program at Lesley University. She has previously published poetry in many online and print journals, including The Dudley Review, Euphony, Caveat Lector, Off the Coast, The Penmen Review,and Van Gogh’s Ear. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts. HORACE (QUINTUS HORATIUS FLACCUS— 8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC) was a Roman lyric poet and critic, author of the Odes, Epodes, Epistles, and Ars Poetica. NATHANIEL HUNT lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is working toward an MFA at UMass-Boston. He also works as a freelance writer, editor, and tutor. His poems have been featured in Iconoclast, Mayo Review, Poetry Quarterly, and Santa Clara Review, among others. PEYCHO KANEV is the Editor-In-Chief of Kanev Books. His poetry collection Bone Silence was released in September 2010 by Desperanto Publishing Group. A new collection of his poetry, Requiem for One Night will be published by Desperanto Publishing Group in 2012. His poems have appeared in more than 600 literary magazines, such as: Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Hawaii Review, Cordite Poetry Review, The Monarch Review, The Coachella Review, Two Thirds North, DMQ Review, The Cleveland Review, Mascara Literary Review and many others. Peycho Kanev has won several European awards for his poetry and he’s nominated for the Pushcart Award and Best of the Net.
MICHAEL KELLNER is a book designer living in Los Angeles. www. kellnerbookdesign.com DAN LEACH was born and raised in South Carolina, but currently lives and works in Nebraska. His short stories have appeared in The New Madrid Review, Deep South Magazine, drafthorse, and elsewhere. He is currently at work on his first novel. LYN LIFSHIN’s Another Woman Who Looks Like Me was published by Black Sparrow at David Godine October, 2006.. (Also out in 2006 is her prize winning book about the famous, short-lived beautiful race horse, Ruffian: The Licorice Daughter: My Year With Ruffian from Texas Review Press. Lifshin’s other recent books include Before it’s Light, published winter 19992000, by Black Sparrow Press. In Spring 2012, NYQ books published A Girl Goes into The Woods. Also recently published: For the Roses: Poems after Joni Mitchell. Forthcoming books include Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle, and The Malala Poems, The Tangled Alphabet: Istanbul Poems. A dvd of her film Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass is now available. For other books, bio, photographs see her web site: www.lynlifshin.com. JULIANA LILLEHEI is an early literacy tutor at the Folwell Performing Arts Magnet in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is a recent graduate of the Perpich Center for Arts Education and the recipient of the New York Life Award. She dedicates her work to her late mother, Kathleen. CELESTE LIPKES’ poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rattle, Smartish Pace, The Bellevue Literary Review, Blackbird, Iron Horse Review, Unsplendid, Measure, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing an MD from Virginia Commonwealth University and received an MFA in poetry from the University of Virginia. Recently while in residency at Atlantic Center for the Arts, she completed her first poetry manuscript and began work on a series of essays about medical education. More of her work can be found at www.celestelipkes.com. Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Lock Haven University, MARJORIE MADDOX has published Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award); Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); Weeknights at the Cathedral (WordTech Editions); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf & Stock); When the Wood Clacks Out Your Name: Baseball Poems (Redgreene Press); five chapbooks, and over 450 poems, stories, and
essays in journals and anthologies. She is the co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (PSU Press 2005) and author of two children’s books from Boyds Mills Press: A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (2008) and Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems (2009). The recipient of numerous awards, including Cornell University’s Sage Graduate Fellowship for her MFA and Pushcart Prize nominations in both poetry and fiction, Marjorie lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, PA. For more info and reviews, please see http://www.lhup.edu/mmaddoxh/biography.htm. For more information and reviews, please see www. marjoriemaddox.com AL MAGINNES is the author of five full length collections and four chapbooks of poetry, most recently Inventing Constellations (Cherry Grove Edition, 2012) and Ghost Alphabet (White Pine Press, 2008), winner of the White Pine Poetry Prize. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in Tar River Poetry, Solo Café, Arkansas Review, Bookends Review, and Southern Humanities Review. He lives with his family in Raleigh NC and teaches composition, literature and creative writing at Wake Technical Community College. His 2014 collection, Music from Small Towns, won the Jacar Press competition. MARY JO MELONE is a writer and tutor in Tampa. She has an MFA from the University of South Florida. For several years, she was a newspaper columnist, and her non-fiction has appeared in Tampa Review. Her fiction has appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review and in 15 Views of Tampa Bay, a linked collection of stories published by Burrow Press. In 2013, she received a grant from the Hillsborough County Arts Council to attend the Yale Writers Conference. FERNAND OUELLETTE was born in Montreal on 24 September 1930. A prolific writer, he also works for the National Film Board and Radio-Canada. His works have been translated into over a dozen languages. In 2008, his poetry earned him, in Paris, the Grand Prix international de poésie de langue française Léopold Sédar Senghor, and in 2009, in Benin, the Grand Prix du Salon international des Poètes francophones. In 2010, Fernand Ouellette was given the Medal of Excellence by the Académie des lettres du Québec. MATT PASCA’s poetry has appeared in nine print anthologies and more than a dozen journals, including The Paterson Literary Review, Georgetown Review and Pedestal Magazine. His first book, A Thousand Doors, was nominated
for the 2012 Pushcart Prize in Poetry. A 2003 New York State Teacher of Excellence, Pasca has been excavating literature and igniting creativity with students since 1997 and advises his school’s literary-art magazine, The Writers’ Block. Matt maintains a steady performance/workshop/keynote itinerary and serves as a reviewer and workshop coordinator for the Long Island Authors Group. www.mattpasca.come CONNIE POST served as Poet Laureate of Livermore, California (2005 to 2009). Her work has appeared in Calyx, Kalliope, Cold Mountain Review, Crab Creek Review, Comstock Review, Slipstream, Pirene’s Fountain, The Pedestal Magazine and Valparaiso Poetry Review. She won the 2009 Caesura Poetry Award. Her chapbook And When the Sun Drops won the Aurorean Fall 2012 Editor’s Choice award. Her first full length manuscript, Floodwater, was released in 2014 by Glass Lyre Press and won that year’s Lyrebird Award. PAM RILEY is a native New Yorker, who still misses the Big Apple. She likes to spend her free time going to the theatre, museums and traveling. She has been writing for years and enjoys working in both poetry and prose. The little quirks and imperfections of life are her inspiration. NICOLE SANTALUCIA received her MFA from The New School University and her PhD in English from Binghamton University. Her non-fiction and poetry appear in The Cincinnati Review, Paterson Literary Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Bayou Magazine, Gertrude, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, and others. She won the 2013 Ruby Irene Chapbook Prize from Arcadia Magazine Inc. for Driving Yourself to Jail in July — published in January 2014. Nicole teaches at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. MAUREEN SEATON has authored numerous poetry collections, both solo and collaborative—most recently, Fibonacci Batman: New & Selected Poems (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2013) Her awards include the Iowa Poetry Prize, The Society of Midland Authors Award, the Audre Lorde Award, the Lambda Literary Award, an NEA fellowship, and the Pushcart Prize. She is Professor of English/Creative Writing at the University of Miami. CLAUDIA SEREA is a Romanian-born poet who immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. Her poems and translations have appeared in New Letters, 5 a.m., Meridian, Word Riot, Apple Valley Review, and many others. A four-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of Angels &
Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada, 2012), The System (Cold Hub Press, New Zealand, 2012), A Dirt Road Hangs From the Sky (8th House Publishing, Canada, 2013) and To Part Is to Die a Little (Cervena Barva Press, forthcoming). Her poem My Father’s Quiets Friends in Prison, 1958-1962 received the New Letters Readers Award in 2013. She co-hosts The Williams Readings poetry series in Rutherford, NJ, and she edits The National Translation Month blog. More at cserea.tumblr.com LUCY SIMPSON’s poetry has appeared in Poetry Bone, Gargoyle and Natural Bridge, among other journals. I currently have a work of fiction in 69 Flavors of Paranoia. In the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, is where I raise my children, write and create art WILLIAM STEPHENSON lives in Atlanta. R. S. STEWART has poems most recently in Canary, The Raintown Review, and Poetry Salzburg. Earlier work has appeared in San Jose Studies, Blue Unicorn, and Able Muse. GWEN STRAUSS is the author of two children’s books, The Night Shimmy and Ruth and the Greenbook, which received numerous awards, including the ALA 2011 Most Notable Middle Grade Reader. Her poems, short stories, and essays have appeared in The New Republic, New England Review, Kenyon Review, Antioch Review, and Sou’wester. Poems from her collection, Trail of Stones, have been widely anthologized and recently adapted for theater. She lives in France with her three children. VIRGIL SUÁREZ is the author of eight books of poems including the recent collection 90 Miles: Selected And New published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. He is also an editor, translator, and fiction writer. His most recent published collection of stories is The Soviet Circus Visits Havana. Mr. Suárez is also a mixed media artist and photographer and when he is not writing, he is out riding his Yamaha V-Star 1100 Classic motorcycle up and down the Blue Highways of the United States. He lives and works in Florida. TIM SUERMONDT is the author of two full-length collections: Trying To Help The Elephant Man Dance ( The Backwaters Press, 2007 ) and Just Beautiful from New York Quarterly Books, 2010. He has published poems in Poetry, The Georgia Review, Blackbird, Able Muse, Prairie Schooner, PANK, Bellevue Literary Review and Stand Magazine (U.K.) and has poems forthcoming in Gargoyle, A Narrow Fellow and DMQ Review among others.
After many years in Queens and Brooklyn, he has moved to Cambridge with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong. ROB TALBERT’s first collection of poems, Jagged Tune, is due out soon from Mad Hat Press. His poetry has appeared in publications such as Alaska Quarterly, The American Poetry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and others. Recently, he attended the New Harmony Writers Conference before beginning the creative writing Ph.D. program at Florida State University. BILL TEITELBAUM’s plays and short fiction have appeared in journals such as Bayou, Crab Creek, Louisville Review, Montreal Review, and Rhino, in anthologies such as Western Michigan University’s Art of the One-Act, and most recently in Audition Art, Jewish Fiction, Milo Review, P.Q. Leer, and Great Weather for Media’s 2014 anthology. His current projects include I-Trouble, a suite of single-character plays based on the premise that our most decisive struggles are internal, and a story-collection called Are You Seeing Anyone? MARIA TERRONE is the author of Eye to Eye (spring 2014, Bordighera Press); A Secret Room in Fall(McGovern Award, Ashland Poetry Press) and The Bodies We Were Loaned (The Word Works), as well as a chapbook, American Gothic, Take 2 (Finishing Line Press). Her work, which has been published in French and Farsi and nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize, has appeared in magazines including Poetry, Ploughshares, Hudson Review, and Poetry International and in 20 anthologies. She was one of 10 Queens-based authors commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum to write an essay for its 2012 performance project, “sillspotting nyc.” www. mariaterrone.com JOHN J.TRAUSE, the Director of Oradell Public Library, is the author of Eye Candy for Andy (13 Most Beautiful… Poems for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, Finishing Line Press, 2013); Inside Out, Upside Down, and Round and Round (Nirala Publications, 2012); the chapbook Seriously Serial (Poets Wear Prada, 2007; rev. ed. 2014); and Latter-Day Litany (Éditions élastiques, 1996), the latter staged Off-Off Broadway. His translations, poetry, and visual work appear internationally in many journals and anthologies, including the artists’ periodical Crossings, the Dada journal Maintenant, the journal Offerta Speciale, the Uphook Press anthologies Hell Strung and Crooked and -gapeseed, and the Great Weather for Media anthology, It’s Animal but Merciful. It is forthcoming in Rabbit Ears (Poets Wear Prada, 2015), an anthology of
television poetry. He has shared the stage with Steven Van Zandt, Anne Waldman, Karen Finley, and Jerome Rothenberg and the page with Lita Hornick, William Carlos Williams, Woody Allen, Ted Kooser, and Pope John Paul II. He is a founder of the William Carlos Williams Poetry Cooperative in Rutherford, N. J., and the former host and curator of its monthly reading series. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2009-2011; 2013). JAMES VALVIS is the author of HOW TO SAY GOODBYE (Aortic Books, 2011). His poems or stories have appeared in journals such as Anderbo, Arts & Letters,Barrow Street, Baltimore Review, Confrontation, LA Review, Nimrod, River Styx, Strange Horizons, Vestal Review, and many others. His poetry has been featured in Verse Daily and the Best American Poetry website. His fiction was chosen for the 2013 Sundress Best of the Net. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle. EMILY VOGEL’s poetry has been published widely, most recently in Lyrelyre, Maggy, The Comstock Review, The Paterson Literary Review, and The Journal of New Jersey Poets. She has published five chapbooks: Footnotes for a Love Letter (Foothills, 2008), An Intimate Acquaintance (Pudding House, 2009), and Elucidation Through Darkness (Split Oak Press, 2010), Still Life With Man, (Finishing Line Press, 2012), and Digressions on God (Main Street Rag, author’s choice series, 2012). The Philosopher’s Wife, a full-length collection, was published in 2011 (Chester River Press). She is the poetry editor of the online journal Ragazine, and teaches expository and creative writing at SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College. She finds solace at home with her husband, the poet and essayist, Joe Weil, and their daughter, Clare. ANNA LOWE WEBER’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Rattle, and the Florida Review, among other journals. Originally from Louisiana, she currently lives and teaches in Huntsville, Alabama. MICHAEL WINTER is currently working toward his MFA in creative writing at the University of South Florida and will complete his degree in the spring of 2015. He has worked for The Tampa Tribune for the past 26 years as a copy editor, page designer and columnist. His fiction has been published in the Fiction Quarterly section of The Tampa Tribune, Modern Short Stories, The Tampa Review, Other Voices, and Fourteen Hills. His non-fiction has appeared in both The Tampa Tribune and the Private Lives section of the St. Petersburg Times.
OLIVIA WISE is originally from Lincoln, MA. Currently she is studying at RISD, RI, where she is majoring in painting. Her photography is strongly influenced by Francesca Woodman and the photos printed are from her Italy series. She has been awarded grand prize in the 6th congressional district art awards and her work has been displayed in the Capitol, in Washington, D.C. She has received numerous gold awards in the Boston Globe art awards for photography as well as painting, print making and drawing. PUI YING WONG was born in Hong Kong. She is the author of a full length book of poetry Yellow Plum Season (New York Quarterly Books, 2010), two chapbooks: Mementos (Finishing Line Press, 2007), Sonnet for a New Country (Pudding House Press, 2008) and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Angle Poetry, Crannog (Ireland), Gargoyle, Narrow Fellow, Prairie Schooner, The Southampton Review, Ucity Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review among others. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Web and was a finalist of the 2011 Sundress Best of the Net editions. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, the poet Tim Suermondt. ELIZABETH MAY YOUNG (soon to be Elizabeth Jahns) is a twenty-two year old student living in Columbia, Missouri. Her poetry has also appeared in the Eunoia Review. SAADI YOUSSEF was born in 1934 in Iraq and is considered one of the most important contemporary poets in the Arab world, a pioneer for Modernist poetry in Arabic. He was a political prisoner in Iraq, after which he spent most of his life in exile, working as a journalist throughout North Africa and the Middle East. He now lives in London, and is known as a leading translator of English literature into Arabic. In 2004, the Al Owais Prize for poetry was given to Yousef, only to be withdrawn after he criticized UAE ruler Sheikh Zayed bin al-Nahiyan. In 2007 Yousef participated in the PEN World Voices festival. English language versions of his poems, translated by Khaled Mattawa, appeared in 2002 under the title Without an Alphabet, Without a Face: Selected Poems (Graywolf). JENNIFER ZILM lives in East Vancouver and has been published in many Canadian journals. She the author of two forthcoming manuscripts and a chapbook,Â The Whole and Broken YellowsÂ (2013).
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, time, and critical attention. Lily Lam for indispensible practical help and invariable good humor. Monique Ferrell, for providing light â&#x20AC;&#x201C; now and forthcoming.
CONTR IBUTORS LIST Austin Alexis
Jaime Manrique Ardila
Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Mary Jo Melone
Susana H. Case
Dante Di Stefano
Sean Thomas Dougherty
’ Virgil Suarez
John J. Trause
Anna Lowe Weber
Mary Ann Honaker
Pui Ying Wong
Elizabeth May Young