Issue 3: Zeitgeist
5x5 is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization and literary magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and photography. We publish twice a year, and each issue is theme-based. Submissions are accepted year-round. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, though we do ask that you notify us and/or withdraw your work should it be accepted elsewhere. Visit 5x5litmag.wordpress.com for information on submission guidelines. ÂŠ2015 in the names of the individual authors. Subsequent rights revert to the author upon publication with the provision that 5x5 receives publication credit. Issue designed by S.J. Dunning Cover photo by Tyrah Dunning
Co-Editors-in-Chief Jory Mickelson & S.J. Dunning Poetry Editor Jory Mickelson Fiction Editor Kristin Blanton Nonfiction Editor S.J. Dunning Photography Editor Tyrah Dunning
5x5 Contributors Letter from the Editor Jory Mickelson
Melancholy In Boardroom and Bedrooms Emma Bolden
Expectations Julia K. Samwer
Return Jennifer Adams
The Working Poor Ronald Steiner
VENI, VIDI, VICI Kelly Fordon
Fiction Qualified Joshua Bohnsack
Mother Night Thomas Kearnes
High School Boys Mel Goldberg
The Lonliest Space
Misha Pettman I Am Here Chelsea Ruxer
Seed Stories Geri Lipschultz
Fortune, Stalk Me Anneli Matheson
Excerpts from "Notes from the Land of the Crystal Sky" Abriana Jette
Letter from the Editor Dear Readers, If the tumultuous American 1960s had a symbol, it was the ubiquitous peace sign, calling for revolt against social institutions and cultural attitudes. The 1980s proffered a shining dollar sign plated in gold. It proclaimed that money was the highest achievement, the only virtue one should strive for. This fall I traveled to the Middle Eastâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Palestine and Israelâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and learned a good deal about the political and social realities of life in a region where the land, resources, and even political identities are contested. The sign of the times moved beyond a blue six-pointed star on a white field, or a green, white and black flag. There was a nearly tangible, dynamic tension that thrummed through the air, seeped into the lungs, and harnessed itself to the blood in your veins. At a distance, and in retrospect, it is easy to decipher larger cultural
themes. But what of our immediate and fractious present where even fifteen minutes of fame is reduced to a few-second sound bite or an ephemeral Snapchat selfie? What symbol is there for us? It is my hope that the selections for this issue serve as some kind of sign for our own times, or at least pose moments for us to reflect on where we find ourselves within our own digital and realworld geographies. Yours, Jory Mickelson 5x5 Co-Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor
Melancholy In Boardroom and Bedrooms Emma Bolden Stationary and shirts share a vernacular: crisp, white, linen. There are contingency plans in safe places: maps and condoms, bedside carafes, bedside manners. Here are the drawers of Bic pens and prophylactics. Here are the rubber erasers. Here is the false bottom drawer and under it, sleeping, that fifth of Gilbyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gin. You will need a good character reference. You will need a costume to boost interest. Hello Mr. Policeman. Hello Mrs. Robinson. Hello mâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;am or mister, I am here to fix 9
your coffee. I am here to brew the copier. I am here with this package, ready as a sign. Here is a briefcase of boxer shorts. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s breathing and room in this bed. We keep documents in folders, pillows in the shams we make of our promises every night. Every morning: alarm, clock, one clean sock and one dirty sock, pavement that tastes like coffee. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re missing the means to track the miles you snore through in sleep. You can launder the money in the same machine as sheets.
Expectations Julia K. Samwer Other women sang tunes to their swollen wombs. My mother recognized the nose of my father during ultrasound. I saw an alien hovering in the dark, spidery arms outstretched. My lover worried about the doughy ass that came with the belly. Breathless after watching a skull split open a vagina on YouTube. “I heard you can have an orgasm giving birth!” my bachelorette friends giggled. Birth wasn’t an orgasm. The baby’s cheeks were mottled, ochre hair and thick lips. The nurse inserted my nipples into his waxen mouth and he disappeared under damp breasts. Later, as I stood on the linoleum in my room I thought how easily he could slid through my fingers and everything would stay the same. It would be an accident. I would lower my eyes in grief. I felt so sorry for the baby, because I was the only mother he had. 11
So I hugged him and listened to his hot heart pounding till morning.
Return Jennifer Adams Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the end of winter, which is cruel to say because the end of winter is still just winter. And while the sun is shining, there are no buds on the trees, no crocus creeping from the ground, no thawed earth, no mud, no colorful thing. And yet. From my office window I can see the return of the geese. Their wings spanned and pumping, their ancient horn voices a round bray. 13
There they stretch: certain of a spring that only assumes the memory of green.
The Working Poor Ronald Steiner Some parents raised me too. Before graduation, new glasses, new teeth, no bad breath, interviews. Welcome to economy. I feel so cuffed today in eighty degrees, humidity, no muffler on the car. On the way to work, sun smiling on the fool thinking it can't get worse. Watch for police, it could get worse, watch for bosses, watch for informers, listen to I-Ching, don't believe everything in books. Should we all work 15
at resort towns? While father buys stolen air conditioners and shifts the heat wave into low gear.
VENI, VIDI, VICI Kelly Fordon "I came, I saw, I conquered." Julius Caesar The girls snap selfies. Every possible permutation. Pleasing puckers, sour pusses, piquant, coy, personhood on parade. Perfect packaging. Selfies on the beach, on the lawn, in the kayak, 17
in the car. Prancing, preening, posting: Do you really think Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m pretty? Pop that hip, Petite Kardashian. Snap, snap, snap. Please, look at me. What will I do other wise?
Qualified Joshua Bohnsack There was the time I skipped a job interview, because I panicked that I was under-qualified, but also because my car wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t start, so I went back to our house and drank a beer in the kitchen at nine in the morning, while I emailed the company to inform them I had received a position elsewhere, when, really, I was drinking a beer in the kitchen at nine in the morning, wearing the suit her dad got me.
Mother Night Thomas Kearnes Not long before third grade, Mom and I were having a quiet dinner at Luby’s. She never liked cooking. The friendly man appeared at our table, asking Mom how she’d been, inquiring why my father wasn’t with us, and I didn’t know how to act. Mom and Dad’s main rules for interactions with their friends were to be polite, don’t intrude and always mention my stellar grades. I thought my father was invincible. Each time he left town to protect a judge or jurors, I pictured him pulling his piece on some husky-voiced bad guy. I thought it was noble wanting to save the day. Not realistic, but still noble. The friendly man, Mom called him Bill and he joined us for dinner, paid for the dinner. Mom smiled throughout the meal, but it became more pained as we ate. More pauses in conversation, the scrape of utensils against plates the only noise in the dining room. Mom smiled whenever Bill made a joke, but she wouldn’t look at him, at least not when I was looking at her. I can’t remember how he talked her into letting him follow us home. All I knew was that we were under attack, and there was no guarantee she could save 21
us. As I played with my LEGOs in the living room, Mom and Bill sat in two facing recliners. Mom was adept with others. People always thought she liked them, but most were wrong. That night, however, I sensed her panic. When Bill stepped out to make a call, she whispered that I should announce in front of him that it was time for my bath, followed by bed. Leave her alone with him? Dumbly splashing in the tub, I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know how long to wait. I was terrified of what I might see if I left too soon. Finally, I heard tires screech, a vehicle speeding down our street. Mom slipped inside the bathroom. She tried to breathe, had to try harder. She said I was a good boy. I needed to hear that. Was that man her friend? She insisted I never mention him again. I sat useless in my lukewarm bath.
High School Boys Mel Goldberg We were only high school boys, crazy teenagers with fiery eyes. We wore engineer boots with thick soles. Our hair touched our shoulders and we made our own tattoos. We saw our futures as bleak and had clubs like the Aces and Devil Dogs and Kingsmen. We called them SAC, Social Athletic Clubs although we didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t play any sports. We had jackets with our colors and we did get into a fights with other SACs. Today we would be called thugs and our SACs would be called gangs. We painted our colors and club logos on subway platforms, walls, and street signs.We put pennies and bullets on streetcar tracks, stole hubcaps from expensive cars at stoplights, and held rolls of pennies in our fists for fights. We rolled our belts with heavy buckles around our hands swinging the buckles to threaten others. Our parents had no idea how we felt. It was 1953 and we were high school boys who could not admit we were terrified of going to war.
The Lonliest Space Misha Pettman I shiver at the edge of the Olympic-sized pool, my body tensing against the wind. A giant fountain shaped like a pirate ship sprays water in all directions off to the side of me in the darkness. I take off all my clothes. The shock of the cold raises goosebumps on my flesh. Steam rises up from the water, where it divides itself from the night air. I dip my toe and walk towards the deep end. The palms frantically wave their many-fingered hands. I can hear the ocean crashing in the distance. This complex was built for vacationers, for flocks of snowbirds escaping the cold north. But now, every window is dark, the bars and arcades deserted, the restaurants and shops all silent. Only a faint light comes from the moon above and the dim pool lights below, submerged, the water distorting what is there. I keep thinking of a carnival when all the people have gone, but the rides havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been dismantled yet: the Ferris Wheel is still turning, the Tilt-o-Whirl is still whirling. Empty. Palm leaves rustle across the concrete, filling my mind with fantastic alligators lurking in the darkness, creeping into the shallows with me. I think if I 25
died here, drowned, and dragged off, no one would ever know. How well the lonely dark lends itself to wild imaginings. I float on my back, and the moon glares down disinterestedly at my nakedness through the passing clouds. I try to think of who I wish was with me, to call up the comfort of memories to keep me company, but I am too far for them to reach. With every rustle, suspicious shapes join and separate, appear and disappear, the muffled sound of my heart in my ears. I close my eyes and let the blankness carry me, sever me from realityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hold. I am owner of all the world, I am the last of all human existence. How terrifyingly empty this space is, this place carved out for the familiar, happy crowds, when only one strange heart is beating.
I am Here Chelsea Ruxer The first State Fairs of the Executive Inn East were loud. There are stories of multi-suite parties on the upper floors of the tower that lasted until dawn and photographs of pale blue and pink sport coats packed into the Empire Room. The Strolling Strings who serenaded the diners were old then, and the lava lamp was new. It started out of time, a Tudor Masterpiece in 1963. Through 2008, all 470 rooms were full the third week of August for the World Championship Horse Show. The East’s first Fair was the year the Beatles released “I Wanna Hold your Hand,” Oswald killed Kennedy, and My-My won the five-gaited World Grand Championship, the beginning of a streak that would last until 1968 and be remembered as the best years of the American Saddlebred Horse Industry. Many of the rooms’ original inhabitants have passed away, and the upper floors are boarded up, but, even though it’s December, a handful of lights shine on the courtyard tonight. As the East got older, the horse show got smaller, and the sport coats disappeared. Open suites with Beatles music were 27
replaced by a packed bar with a pianist singing Elton John and smaller gatherings in rooms with cheeses and derby pies. Tonight, several of us came back to claim our rooms, Mariah Carey’s Christmas music greeting us from a holiday party in the old breakfast room. The Tudor Room stopped breakfast service in the nineties, but the giant swordfish over the entrance is still there. I sat under it the morning after my first ride in Freedom Hall, at a little table overlooking the mossy water wheel. The hallway outside still smells a little like sizzling bacon, a trace of the evening’s cigar smoke overpowered by the stench of black coffee. I watch another light come on in my hallway. I started in 111 and later inherited 109, Mr. Mueller’s old room, just at the top of the ramp that curls around the pink stained glass windows of the hair salon. I claim this spot, though, the crumbling stone balcony over the breakfast room. I spent some good nights here, my belly full of chocolate milk and pot roast from the midnight buffet, listening to the music of the East drown out the rest of Louisville and watching planes from Standiford Field take off over the South wing until I could see the sun rise in the pool. Helen, who’s made me around 230 glasses of chocolate milk since perfecting her own recipe sometime in the late eighties, gave 28
me a to-go cup tonight. There are no champagne toasts, and we’ll all go in different directions in the morning. We’ll check out around noon, and they’ll start clearing out rooms by mid-afternoon for demolition after the New Year. There will be another hotel in time for State Fair, a convention center in the middle of the fairgrounds. Day guests will park on top of the pool, or under the Southern Magnolias, or over the fountain outside the Tudor Room. But tonight, I am here.
Seed Stories Geri Lipschultz My uncle helped me understand the nature of addiction. He was in his sixties when he told me that he couldn’t bring himself to date women because he didn’t think he could satisfy them. I was in my forties. I didn’t ask him to explain. What I knew was that he’d given up heroin, he’d given up alcohol, he’d given up cigarettes, he’d given up pot, and he drank his coffee in shots. I found out that last thing when I went to visit him. Four shots, lined up on the kitchen counter. He was still eating candy, but he wasn’t smoking. In my mid-thirties, I performed in a one-woman show. “Once upon the Present Time,” I called it. The producer, Woodie King, Jr., was one of the first people who had faith in my work. When I couldn’t find a director, or actors, he suggested that I do it all, myself. I pranced around a tiny stage reciting poems that once were prose, gleaned from three novels. It ran for three weeks, and a few months after that, I became pregnant. Woodie found me the amazing conductor, Lawrence “Butch” Morris, who provided the music—he, along with pianist Wayne Horvitz, and John Dean, who played the trombone. Butch told me that cigarettes were the 30
hardest addiction to kick. He still smoked. I know that he recently died. He died of cancer. This was a great loss. My uncle also died of cancer. By the time I became pregnant, I’d given up cigarettes, I’d made my peace with alcohol, I’d sworn off pot. I still drank coffee. Coffee was my friend, although I didn’t drink it in shots. My uncle died when he was sixty-nine. By then, I’d had my daughter. She was seven when he died. My son was in his first year in college. This was around the time my marriage began to unravel. I stopped sleeping with my husband. I was in my early fifties. I was angry at him for reasons that have nothing to do with this essay, and probably less to do with him. When I watch a group of young musicians play a quartet, I know I can’t make a judgment until the end, because the beginning is almost always good. The beginning of this essay was easy to write. It emerged, fell down the page, teetered, became a stem. There’s no promise of fruit. The seed is a given. The bloom is not.
Some seeds get what they need. Others die out. Some hibernate, and some wait. And then spring.
Fortune, Stalk Me Anneli Matheson Like most denizens of Hong Kong, you’re not a girl who can live on skylines alone. To live in Hong Kong is to taste something in the air, a flavor that inhabits the alleys, streets and corridors of the Central Business District. It’s the desire for more—not just enough, or what is adequate—but the most to be had. This is a city famous for its rapid acquisition of wealth and influence, as if Fortune herself shot it from a slingshot out of its fishing village genesis and into the forefront of history. Lady Fortune is beckoned still. Light your prayer stick, your incense. Seek out the geomancer’s advice on the best arrangement for your furniture—her fee is well worth the prosperity that will surely follow. The stakes are high here, and they move at the speed of light. In Happy Valley, horses race, and bets are made; try to pick the winner, the one who looks strong and fast, as a champion should. Inhabit this moment when anything is possible, when your life 33
could change because you just happened to lasso your wagon to a one thousand two hundred pound animal galloping down a brightly lit track in the valley of happiness. In five seconds, it will all be over. There will be winners and losers or hecklers cackling at both. In three seconds, your life could change. Or not. And isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t that just like life? Those high stakes could be a stake through your heart.
Excerpts from "Notes from the Land of Crystal Sky" Abriana Jette I. (sketch) 13.07.12 In the quiet town of Tharros, acrylic beaded curtains clink together like poetry. They are the sound of a moment mattering, the unexpected touch of another. The thermometer reads 34 degrees Celsius, but each breath tastes like fire. I am standing on a cliff near an ancient churchâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wooden door, staring at the Roman ruins, the Dorics, and the sacred baths. I listen to the past crash against the granite, and wait for a breeze that will not come. Wind never visits this part of the Peninsula di Sinis. A thought: suppose I never knew New York. Who would I be if Alghero were my home? Who would I be if I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to return to the gray hustle and bustle of train doors opening and closing, if my life were not a race to beat the clock, to find the next job, gig, story? An architect friend once told me to know about ancient Sardinia is to know about your soul. To get to this place on the 35
Peninsula di Sinis, I had to pass through Oristano, where men still wander into town on horseback for milk or eggs. Bulls graze along the side of the road, leaving the horses and the crows to their business. Scents of basil and roasted suckling pig fill the alleys. Then, the alleys disappear. Open road for miles. Finally, the peninsula not even the breeze will stir. My mind keeps returning its focus to the swift reversal of water, the eddy I passed before I reached the untouched cliffside. Smooth ripples in the mist of the calm sea distracted me, made me take notice. How did it get there? Why? I am here to write. I am here because something within me always whispered Sardinia. Why has that water bubbled here? What about it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t belong? Far past the hieroglyphics etched on the sidewalk and the Corinthian columns, perhaps a mile away from and above the sea, I stumble upon a world of copper colored stones, Su Muru Mannu, a nuraghi village, the first of the bronze-age. Remnants of such villages are scattered throughout the island, distinguished by their beehive stone form. Its civilians seared by raging fires or 36
overpowered by pirates, Su Muru Mannuâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s copper imprint molds the ground. A stone throne sits sturdily in the middle of archaic rocks. Under every other square foot on this island, centuries are buried. This place is beyond my understanding, so far from what I know survival to be, and yet the desire to feel its energy is more intense than I can bear. The only bull roaming the streets of my city is the focal point of many a tourist snapshot, and she is bronzed and copper and hooked securely into the concrete. The reason an eddy forms is because fluid has reached an obstacle. The water whooshes and curls, bubbles and froths. And because it can go nowhere else, it overflows. It bursts. II. (dispiace) 22.07.12 Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve just come in from sitting on my bedroom balcony over via di Vittorio, watching the black and white spotted kitten that I tend to cross safely to the other side, and because I do not know what else to do, I sit down on the top step of my wooden spiral staircase, place my head in my hands, and cry. I spent the last few minutes breathing in the cool breeze from off the mountain, the 37
star studded sky, the fresh scent of evening lime. I have been brought here to write. Yet all I do is walk around or cry. I would almost always rather be near the limestone beaches, the cascades of tamarisk and juniper trees that pop sporadically from cliffs. I would almost always prefer the choppy coast, the cobblestone bastion over New York: home. I’ve promised to switch lives with a dozen store clerks or servers here. “New York,” they say. “I love New York.” “My god,” I think. “New York gives me migraines.” Placed sporadically about the apartment are black and white three-dimensional photographs of New York: Times Square, the Towers. I can feel her pulse through the miles. In two weeks, I will resume my life as a New Yorker. It has been over a year since I could say this was so. Fourteen marble stairs lead to my front door. I have three balconies, two in the back, one in the front. There is a fireplace, also, inserted into the wall, resting a foot or so above the white leather wrap-around couch. This is Italy, after all. Except, of course, it is everything but. From my apartment, it is a fifteen minute walk to the sea. There is no WiFi, no hair-dryer, and no air conditioner if the radio or water heater is on, but there is fresh 38
basil, and lemon trees, and lilacs galore. The tomatoes are ripe, the cheese is sharp, and, at night, there is always a purple sky. Last week, the plan was to walk to Bosa, the next town over from Alghero. “How far could it be?” I reasoned to Nick. Exactly how far? 28.7 miles. We turned around after an hour of scaling the cliffside, right after a surfer’s eyebrows raised like curtains at the prospect of us reaching Bosa by sunset. “Un giro in macchina?” “No,” Nick answered, we’d go another day. On the way home, we are two exhausted lovers holding hands to hold the other up. Inside the apartment, we make love for thirteen minutes. Leftover pasta and a glass of wine in bed. We sleep, legs wrapped around hips and arms tangled, for an hour or so. Then, a long stretch, two quick showers, and the lilac and lime scented walk down to the sea. Thin slices of speck and warm pane caresou to start the meal. Always, this is how it should be.
Jennifer Adams is a graduate of the University of Missouriâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;St. Louis in English. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and has two chapbooks: Prayer, Like a Pilgrimage and Matter and Form. When she is not writing she works as a development professional for Great Circle, a not for profit dedicated to empowering under served and at-risk children who face challenges associated trauma and developmental disorders. Joshua Bohnsack is a musician, printmaker, and prose writer. A graduate of The University of Iowa, Bohnsack is the founding editor of Long Day Press, a hand bound literary publication and cooperates an ice cream shop in rural Illinois. He resides in Iowa City. Emma Bolden is the author of Malificae (GenPop Books, 2013) and medi(t)ations, forthcoming from Noctuary Press. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner,
Conduit, the Indiana Review, the Greensboro Review, Feminist Studies, and Copper Nickel. Kelly Fordon has work published in The Florida Review, Flashquake, The Kenyon Review (KRO), The Montreal Review, and Rattle, among others. A collection of linked stories, "Garden for the Blind" will be published by Wayne State University Press in 2015. You can visit her at www.kellyfordon.com Mel Goldberg, after earning an MA in English, taught literature and writing in California, Illinois, Arizona, and Cambridgeshire, England as an exchange teacher. For seven years, he and his artist wife traveled in a small motorhome throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. They moved to Ajijic, Mexico, joined the artists’ and writers’ community, and live on a small income. See www.goldmiel.wix.com/authormel (website), or http://melgoldbergs.blogspot.mx (blog) for more about Mel. Abriana Jetté is an internationally published poet, essayist, and educator, and the editor of the #1 best-selling anthology in women's poetry, 50 Whispers: Poems by Extraordinary Women. She
teaches for St. John's University and for the City University of New York. Thomas Kearnes is studying to become a chemical dependency counselor in Houston. His work has recently appeared in Sundog Lit, Five Quarterly, Gadfly, Adroit Journal, and Necessary Fiction. This flash was culled from a longer story still awaiting publication. Geri Lipschultz has a Ph.D. from Ohio University and an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, among them the New York Times, College English, Kalliope, Black Warrior Review, The Toast, Helen Literary, the recent Pearson anthology Literature: Introduction to Reading and Writing, Spuyten Duyvilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s The Wreckage of Reason II, and Up, Do (Spider Road Press). She was awarded a Creative Artists in Public Service (CAPS) grant from New York State, and she won the fiction 2012 award from So to Speak. Her one-woman show was produced in NYC by Woodie King, Jr. Anneli Matheson is an Associate Editor with Black Lawrence Press, and is currently co-editing a poetry anthology cookbook titled
Feast: Poetry and Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner to be released in April 2015. She recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at City University in Hong Kong. Misha Pettman is a writer and decent bassist in Nowhere, NM. She has published work in Anthem Journal, Just Tell Us A Story & Creative Nonfiction Online. Chelsea Ruxer is an MFA student at the Bluegrass Writers Studio. She holds a BFA from the University of Evansville and an MA from the University of Connecticut. Her work has been published by the Ohio River Review and the Southeast Philosophy Society. Julia K. Samwer studied English literature at Wesleyan University, Connecticut. She holds a Ph.D. in German literature from University of Bonn. Her work and translations appear in various journals including Piper Verlag, Circumference Magazine, auĂ&#x;er.dem, Lyrikline and Passa Porta. Her novel Liebe Kann Man Nicht Googeln is published by Gmeiner Verlag in Germany. Ronald Steiner has poems published in Short, Fast, and Deadly,
Workliterarymagazine, and, most recently, in SLAB.
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