After the Pause Volume 4, Issue 4 Winter 2017
Are we alone? The following have an answer. Their answers follow. Emily Rebecca Aucoin is a poet that lives in South Louisiana. Christina Dalcher is a theoretical linguist from the Land of Styron and Barbecue, where she writes, teaches, and channels Shirley Jackson. Brian Drake is a husband, father, bibliophile, David Lynch fanboy, and lover of dog kisses whose interest in writing has been rekindled after over a decade of dormancy. Kathy Douglas is an empath/poet whose super power is finding (other people’s) typos. Kate Gehan is increasingly concerned. Rachel Joseph is an assistant professor of theatre at Trinity University. Eric W. Hill is a novice philosopher and a student-writer. Jenna Lyles is selfish and unstoppable. Arturo Magaña is a poet and he lives in Somerton, Arizona. Juliet Martin is not always funny, but she is always sincere. Ndubueze Okonkwo is a teenage artist who hopes to be able to touch others on a deep existential level with his art. Daniel Francis Olivieri is a writer, an umbrella owner, and a life-long mammal. Natalia Orlovsky is, probably, unless she isn’t. Ani Kayode Somtochukwu is a short story writer and poet who lives in Enugu, Nigeria. Hannah Suchor is a young (un)professional living in Nanjing, China, with her husband and her unnecessarily large collection of felt-tip pens. Andrew Reichard is a writer who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer. Andrew Szilvasy is not a T-Rex. Mark Vogel is currently Professor of English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. David Walker is constantly holding his breath. Richard Weaver is a volunteer with the Maryland Book Bank, and acts as the Archivist-at-large for a Jesuit college, when he is not other occupied as a seasonal snowflake counter (unofficially). Taryn White is a Seattle-based poet who received her MFA from the University of Florida.
Jeffrey Zable loves his wife, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, Afro-Cuban music and dance, meaningful conversations, professional basketball, lobster, fillet mignon, trees, flowers, sunny days and outdoor cafes in pretty much that order. . .
Ask Your Doctor if Your Heart is Healthy Enough for Sex
And, of course, if the river nearby rises over your head find out what kinds of breathing apparatuses are available and paid for through your individual health plan. Beyond that if conquistadors break into your home demanding beans and corn, give them at least half of whatever you’ve stored, because if their encounters with Indians are any indication of what they’re capable of, you know what I mean. What I really mean is that you can easily complicate your life by thinking too much. I do it almost every waking moment of the day. And when thoughts of suicide overrule everything else I just say to myself, “Well, hell, if I haven’t done it by now it’s probably just something that gives me comfort like my favorite stuffed animal or a hot fudge Sunday. What I’m really saying is that it all comes down to how many friends you’ve amassed in high places who will advance your career so that you not only look good on paper but with those who’ve heard of you though the grapevine, who will not only be there for your last breath, but be willing to help out with labeling and packing your personal possessions. . .
Thursday nights drive nails into our palms until our bones sing with the crucifixion. My sister at the kitchen sink, the water running red over her hands; my sister on the sofabed, knees drawn against the angle of her throat. I pack the holes with gauze, draw air into our lungs again, and watch her breathe it out in silent prayers: Forgive us, father, for we have sinned. Forgive us, mother, for we are still sinning. Our father who art driving home from Philadelphia, forgive us, for we have woken up at 3am in bodies we don't know. Later, when she is sleeping, I count the minutes slipping by like headlights over Elm Street seams stretching across asphalt and the almost holy faultlines of her skin. I tell myself: thereâ€™s only so much room inside a body. You cannot lose yourself too far.
the architect at daybreak
i. 6 a.m. and weâ€™re breathing along to the rasp of the air conditioner / your eyelashes cast shadows in the crisp grey light like wings ii. if I were building a city I would take your eyes & put them in the windows of the city hall, so that on sticky mornings the clock bells would go ringing through your bones iii. that year it snowed through january and the air hovered around us like a greying shroud I told myself: it is the water cycle and the way things sometimes freeze in tragic architectures iv. in another life I think our daughter comes home with the birds and the walls of the cathedrals come crumbling down around us like the dust of something holy /
like the mountains / like the waiting / like the tired breath of God
Ani Kayode Somtochukwu
Those the Fire Left
A Tree, a stool, a dark bar the things to find after the fire. A bird once told me, fires are used to burn men; to break boys into malleable shapes tiny imperfect things in the red embers left broken limbs learn again, to straighten themselves. And you ask me, what to do when the fire leaves? I first swallowed my name. I was Stan. I was Jake. I was indigo. You must morph into the trees and let the dying leaves cover your naked skin You must become one with country wind and let it blow you to whoever would love you in secret. In dark looming shadows. Then I said the dents on glass panes, the webs were a child's markings, a lovers calls. Not the balls of fire
that fell on the boys of Gomorrah. You must learn to live even in the darkness that warps you. This is how you survive fires. This is how you learn to walk again: by wobbling, by dancing, by singing lullabies to your own broken soul. And waiting for redemption for the first plant to push its way through Sodom's reddened soil.
I have fallen into the habit of sending the paper money I receive through the washing machine in the pockets of my jeans. I do this on purpose because a friend once told me that a high percentage of U.S. paper money has trace amounts of cocaine mingled with its fibers. These were his exact words: “a high percentage.” I find this piece of secondhand information completely convincing and authentic. If he had said 60% or even 77.5%, I wouldn’t have believed him at all, and the money that passes through my hands would never be systematically cleansed by vigorous motion and warm water. I won’t ever ask the Internet to verify this information for me, and I will likely believe it for the rest of my life. If I had a friend who was a cop, I might ask him or her, but I don’t have any friends on the force, and I doubt they care anyway. I happen to know that a cop was the previous owner of the house I live in now. One day I found a .308 Winchester rifle cartridge beneath the washing machine, and I know what kind of bullet this is because I looked it up, and I know it has become one of the most-used big-game hunting cartridges in the world. I know this because I looked it up. I found the serial number on the edge of the cartridge, and I typed it into the browser’s search bar, and there it was. Which is why I will never look up what percentage of U.S. bills contain trace amounts of cocaine.
El Otro Lado
The other side is colored in hope and future, but look at these walls: crumbling, painted over, the history, brick-by-brick, whitewashed, and a stretch of land scarred by the claws of men under a red sun in the dust.
Old coffee cups sit on the counter like days gone by on a calendar. The letters, most left un-read, because, you used to say, ‘If they need me, they’ll find me in my room.’ Somehow, you were right about so many things. It is not so much about letters, but of the people with their clamor.
The Left Hand of God
Light streams through stained glass, as familiar biblical tales of suffering wash over like the Mississippi River flooding for four hundred miles, from Minnesota to Missouri, to mix with family sagas long lodged, like floating islands, in the blood. With the left hand practicing to be my absent southpaw father I draft a lover’s message as a sermon gushes sacred advice, saying: The burden I give is light. But a burden, nonetheless, as my primitive scrawl curves like a second grader struggling to keep letters above the line, intuiting the right word as the minister restates the day’s designated theme: All of you who carry heavy burdens, I will give you rest. We shift and prepare to shuffle toward a secular world, which shorts out, then connects, intervenes like Billie Holliday’s love, a faucet turning off and on, layered alongside quiet lilies, the new spring gleam on spiff outfits. I meditate on father’s absence
even as the hand hurries with comic spirit, simultaneous with the loving liturgy promising that outside in the bright, finger tips will shoot forth a blessed message of joy. Then, in this chapel centered in a cleansed universe, trumpets echo and I am humbled, believing that the Lord works best in weakness, as I write a last line about white lilies that smell wonderful even from a distance with a beauty alive and concrete, until it is enough to move.
Sky Stage Draped spaces between I can start with I remember and bring it into the breaks slightly separating the curtains. These curtains are in the sky. I rested my chin on my arms that were folded just so on the couch. There I looked up and the dog (Shalom) stood watchful watch over the slight hill in front of the house. Up past the window (another frame, another curtain), clouds gathered above the pine trees that seemingly held them up, gray, heavy with precipitation, waiting for their cue to fall. Branches arch over the house across the street, pushing it back in the far reaches of some giant stage. Another frame, another curtain (pine cones, needles, sap). The branches lifted and fell with small helpless gusts taking their place center stage (at least to my narrowed and daydreamy eyes). Thereâ€™s a witch! See her broom! Look at her go! All framed by clouds framed by sky framed by lids, lashes, and little blind blinks framed by the distance between. Between you and me, Shalom and girl and tree and branch, and house, and cloud. Up, up, goes my eyes (Shalomâ€™s gaze steadily ahead as usual) and the gray drooping cloud almost could be a couch on which I folded my arms just so and rested a chin and looked down past the window, to the girl looking up. There was another fluffier cloud, almost pearl, that I could bounce and hop from one small ledge to another tumbling down like rolling down grass jutting out from a hill, thrusting towards a pond framed by weeping willows which are the curtains on the scene. Drifting by, I made stages in the trees and air. Remembering makes it so.
Ladybug Stage Another room offers another presence longing for present-ness. Nonetheless the small children watch the puppet show in the corner. They gasp as a ladybug assaults a fly. Nonetheless they watch the hands moving the eyes of
the insects. Eyes light up from fluid manipulations. The shadow of a flock of birds is cast upon one wall. Between the puppets and the shadows. One should watch. Hotel Stage There isn’t much to it. Just a hotel and the rooms stacked upon rooms. There is a camera that glides seamlessly between openings sometimes hovering by the entrance. Six months later it snows. Still the camera keeps gliding. Some figures are real and some are ghosts. They ignore one another while they can. A boy, frightened, can see them, but this isn’t The Sixth Sense. There is on one wing an elevator that stops between floors, boiling hot, until someone screams for mercy. Then it jolts on and on. Someone suggests that a movie be made and everyone is up for that, because film sets are said to be fun if not a little bit boring. The ghosts and the non-ghosts gather and wait for the roles to be doled out. They get to talking after all these many months. One tells about his dead mother. Another lights up, translucent, around the subject of butter and a little cousin that burned up in a fire, but not before she wore a flowered dress and then picked a flower and smelled it in the rain. The boy who is not from The Sixth Sense watches and finally relaxes the fine muscles around his lips. They all wait for instructions. When none comes they move from room to room, lifting sheets effortlessly as a signal for their newfound togetherness.
Sidewalk Stage A crack in the sidewalk parts enough to emit a pulsing light (disco-like). Twelve people gather at a time and crouch on the rough pavement. Each presses their eyes against the crack. They might resemble Norman Bates gaping at the room next door. The twelve aren’t, to my knowledge, planning a murder. They are however, agape. Peering down, a spectator sees a slew of actors strutting about an invisible stage (appearing much like Wonder Woman’s plane, if you recall). The curtains hang. They frame nothing. The careful footsteps of performers tread unseen boards that rake upwards. The woman running stage right appears to be levitating. She screams, but it
sounds like a murmur. Some muttering of thee and thou and flaming sky reach the sidewalk, but not much else. The curtains close then open, all bow. The audience hobbles to their feet and the next group pushes through, eyes to the ground peering hopefully through the crack with crazily blinking lights. Domestic Stage Oops, a slip of the tongue didnâ€™t come out elegant-like. Instead it pricked the listener like barbed wire. And then that unfortunate speaker tries again and can only see his mother leaning against the cutting board covered with hacked up celery. She is unfathomably tired again. And looking at the ceiling he doesnâ€™t apologize for the wiry remark. The listener recalls his own mother sharply cuffing him on the ear. In this way, they play endlessly upon the other. Some call this love.
Early one morning
a cat dreams it has been wrapped inside a ball of bright green yarn. Its claws are powerless to break free from the fibers, its mouth unable to open except to leak out a plaintive meow, not loud enough to be heard or pitiful enough to be believed. It’s one of those dreams in which things do happen, you do meow, you are trapped, and you just have to hope that a warm feeling doesn’t spread beneath you, and smells yellow. Transferal synesthesia is a cat trait. As natural as landing on four legs in a wind-tunnel. But no help in this damn darning dream. You are clewless. Might as well be clawless. Your ears twitch, For the all the good that will do. Perhaps it is an allergy. More likely it is a distraction, one of those misdirections dreams toss out, like a feather without a bird attached to it, or a neon pink mouse. A mouse that has no tail but runs in a straight line, mindless of the wall. And then can’t be bitten. Is either too hard, or Jello-like. You hate dreams Anyway. You are old enough to sleep most of any day. 20-22 hours if not disturbed by vacuum cleaners or someone rudely changing the bed. You get up to eat, on occasion. As it suits you. You visit the sandy box. You eat again. There’s little time for anything else. Especially dreams.
They are so exhausting. The greatest waste of time. If you could hate you would hate the torturous yarn dreams. They are the worst. Thereâ€™s no getting untangled from them, no escape and no hope of waking up. How can that be, you purr, reflectively. Youâ€™d rather share your house with a drooling, mannerless dog, than be trapped, caught up endlessly again in such a long spun-out iridescent yarn.
The morning condenses on my skin. In the cage of the window, a bird strangles itself on a wire. Another bursts its red heart like a Saturday cartoon. The shock of sunrise sparks between its feet and its brain. We begin, we carry on, we dig in.
Sherman’s March to the Sea
Of course these pictures are our faces— the bruises are greasepaint. I step into scenes like an extra. I burn whole cities as I come in, walking on with no tongue and no speaking parts. Of course these pictures are evidence— (Exhibit A) Scorched earth. (Exhibit B) My face in a line-up. My body wears none of those clothes. I taste of ashtrays and determination. These pictures are where we are going. The script promises nothing but greys and blues, and saltwater to press into the wounds.
Look at Me When I’m Talking to You
I’m talking to your pout. That stupid little protrusion of the lips. Open them up and let me hear it: I feel so unwanted. I’m talking to your morning gloom. The loveless night behind us is wrapped around your shoulders like a shawl, stoking your animus. And are you still pretending to read that book so you don’t have to speak to me? You are, aren’t you? I’m talking to the soft-lipped sprinkles I haven’t tasted since we moved in. Cold coffee has replaced your honey saliva for breakfast. I’m talking to the empty kiss you blasted at my cheek when you got in from work. I’m talking to your unfriendly eyes, rolling like alley dice because you can’t uncross my legs. I’m talking to the shifting weight of the bed. Then I’m talking to your back. Talk back. Talk, back.
I feel so unwanted, sometimes. I’m talking to your deep-voiced hunt for a way you know I don’t feel. I’m talking to your head loll, your low groan, your hip thrust. I’m talking to the hand on the back of my head. I’m talking about leaving you. Did you hear me? I said I’m talking about—
Shhh. Less teeth, baby.
Meditation on Birth
After the birth of my first child, I paced the shadowed walls of the hospital, like a housefly pinned between a windowpane and screen, while my son writhed like a beetle on its back, a sandbar of wrinkles on his forehead. Just days earlier, I uprooted turgid grubs from beneath my lawn and tossed them to the searing summer street. I wipe away the indelible image
of the grubs for now, but itâ€™s certain to reappear, like the doodles I scrawled in the condensation of car windows as a child.
Attempting to Square the Circle, Age 12
My eyes traverse the whorled patterns of the ceiling, as my present conviction that the best answer is there isnâ€™t one burns through me like piss through snow. I remember the forgotten tomatoes in the classroom cupboard, and how the remains spilled down the sides of the shelves when we discovered the source of the fetid odor suspended like bonfire smoke
in wintertime. So I pray, in case thereâ€™s more to my end than that of the tomatoes, slowly liquefying, vanishing like boot prints in a heavy snow. as time continues, ad infinitum, like the blades of the ceiling fan above my bed, rotating ceaselessly.
This man, freshly emerged from the ether to praise my writing in person now appears unimpressed as he regards the body that produced the words He asks, nonchalant
Have you thought about shaving your forearms? I examine the dark hair covering my pale skin and wince at the contrast, wishing for the refuge of a long-sleeved shirt
Lots of women do it. They’re afraid of looking…mannish My ex-girlfriend shaved everything below the neck I think what a waste of water
what a waste of time
but after I sever contact with this man—a clean cut I consider waxing, laser hair removal then decide to let this pelt serve as a repellant, the warning of a caterpillar’s stinging spines to creatures that would do it harm:
Don’t touch me
No Obit for Suicide dedicated to Lacey “Hotspur” Long
I flap the pinions of pages as light sheds itself through leaflet-leaves into the empty arbor; I read, treacly, eyes a bout of tears waiting in the wings of a theatre, soon to put on for a thankless nobody. My chest heaves in flame. I had heard the news, that you had now happened to be gone, a pilfering by your own hands; I wondered: what would the papers say, dyeing the pages with the news of your untimely demise? A grandmother, deceased; a father of two, stricken by a disease; a pastor, smitten by his God; even a dog, the victim of a driver’s poorly timed ingestion of a soporific. But your name was not mentioned, an insouciant lapse, I suppose, perhaps by a distracted editor, or a tired scrivener. Or perhaps they are afraid to say it, as I am, the phlogiston of burnt words on a page too much even for strangers. I place the paper on the bench and conclude that the only obit for a suicide is the gnawing impingement, grievous gouge, written right up the middle of me.
Questions for Those Who Light Torches for Charlottesville
Can you pinpoint the exact moment that love escaped from your soul like breath from lungs on a hot day? Have you ever hads to steady your hands striking the match, or could you cut a straight line through a crowd in your car with those hands? Are you still pulling up at the roots of your ancestors or are you being choked by them? How many mirrors have you put a fist through? What do you feel when you hold your hand up to your chest? Anything?
A Guide to Walking Away
Your Vivian is probably nothing like my Vivian. First of all, your Vivian is almost certainly not named Vivian. Perhaps your Vivian is named Sarah or Caroline or Henry. My Vivian works as a driving test administrator for the DMV. I have often wished I could retake my test just so I would have a chance of getting fifteen minutes of her rapt attention. Your Vivian probably has a different job. Maybe your Vivian is a doctor and you envy every one of her patients that she commands to open wide. Perhaps you’ve gone through her medical practice’s trash and stolen all the used tongue depressors. Perhaps your Vivian is famous, his newest relationship chronicled on the covers of a dozen different glossy check-out aisle magazines. Perhaps your Vivian is married. Maybe your Vivian lives three doors down and once came over to borrow baking soda, which you didn’t have, and now you always keep a box of it just in case. Or maybe your Vivian lives two continents away. As different as all our Vivians are, I feel they are all the same in one way. All Vivians are equal in that no one else could ever equal them. Your Vivian feels like a vital organ that is missing from your body. No transplant will do. It must be your Vivian. Things like walking to a bus stop and chewing your food don’t quite feel right because you are doing them without your Vivian. It is hard to live this way. The fact is though, that people live for years without their vital organs. It simply requires extensive medical procedures. This pamphlet is a guide to the procedures needed to live without your Vivian. Start by permitting yourself only twenty minutes of Vivian time a day. Set a timer and lie down on your bed. If you have pictures of him, take out the pictures. Let yourself stare. Let yourself hurt with how perfect your Vivian looks. If you do not have a picture, memories will suffice. Replay in your mind’s gramophone the time that he called you, “The sort of person I wish I’d dated.” Wonder what that means. Fantasize. Fantasize yourself through whole
conversations. Fill in Vivian’s lines yourself. As soon as the alarm goes off, stop. Put the pictures away. Pull your mind off the memories. Put the fantasies in a box for later. Then watch Netflix or call your girlfriend or knit or whatever it is you do. Eventually, move to fifteen minutes a day. Then ten. For the rest of the day do your best not to think about your Vivian. This means getting rid of the narrator in your head. The narrator is quite dangerous. It tells you that right now is act one of a romcom, page fifty of a romance, the first half of a story you’ll tell to your grandkids. It’s a reassuring voice. It reassures you that it’ll all work out if you just keep slipping letters under his door or showing up uninvited to her dental practice. Some part of you will always believe this. Do your best to ignore that part. You may have already learned the route she takes home from work, the brand of shampoo he prefers, or the password to her gmail account. Try to forget these things. Unfollow his instagram. Stop loitering around the comic book store she frequents. Instead of watching the baking show he hosts, watch the news. Instead of writing her another letter, write a letter to a friend. Instead of reading his blog, start your own. I am proud to say that I no longer know what street my Vivian lives on. I do not know what her telephone number is. I do not know of a single location that I could wait in order to “accidentally” run into her. Do not think this was easy. It has taken me years to get to this point. The only way I’ve been able to get to where I am now was by asking myself the most difficult question. Before this question I was checking her Facebook several times a day to see if she’d finally broken it off with that husband of hers. I was rehearsing lines I wanted to say to her. I was memorizing her route home from the DMV. And then I asked myself this question and I had to stop it all. The most difficult question to ask yourself is this: do you love your Vivian? The answer is obvious, right? Of course you love your Vivian. You love the way she eats brownies with a knife and fork. You love the way he wears outfits rather than clothes. You love the way dimples form in the sides of her butt when she stands up. Let me tell you what it took me a month of lying on
my bathroom floor to learn: you do not love your Vivian. You love only what your Vivian can provide you. You might protest. You might say that you’ve proven your love for her by giving her gifts. Perhaps you have given your Vivian gifts but if you’re reading this pamphlet, you haven’t given your Vivian the gift he really wants. The gift your Vivian really wants is the hardest one for you to give. It is not a signed copy of Blood Meridian, it is not your driver’s license cut in half, it is not a severed ear. The gift your Vivian really wants is the knowledge that you are not obsessed with him any longer. Do you love your Vivian enough to give her that?
Christina Villafana Dalcher
Schedule Also on Wednesdays, but only sometimes. The plastic tube, one of those freebies she brought home after buying face cream, its label worn away from the friction of a million forgotten brushes and bottles, still hides on her side of the vanity drawer. “Moonlight Mauve” it says, or used to say. Her shade, not mine. What lingers A comb, missing two teeth, useless anyway in those last weeks; the half-pack of cigarettes in the cupboard where she kept the rolling pin, thinking I wouldn’t find them; one last slice of a cherry tart growing green fur in the fridge. I couldn’t bear to eat it then; I can’t throw it out now. There are also several dying plants, unrevivable by leftover pain pills. Secrets No one ever sees me swipe the lipstick on. If they did, I wonder whether they would admire my technique, applaud me for nailing the detail, for getting the cupid’s bow just right, for blotting on a square of toilet paper. Those squares hold her kisses, and I pile them up, one on top of the next. My tongue runs lazy circles around my lips, tasting her. She’s still warm on Tuesdays. I know about the end of everything If you look inside a woman’s make-up drawer, you might think lipstick lasts forever, all those bullets of once-pointy color, a rainbow of glycerine and wax and oil, some rounded, some flattened, some concave. I know better, though. Schedule So Tuesday only for the lipstick, sometimes Wednesday.
But never Sunday. On Sundays I brush her bronzing powder on my cheeks so I can wake up the next morning and find golden sparks of her clinging to the other pillow, which I havenâ€™t gotten around to laundering yet.
1. We saw a show on the Discovery Channel and that night I dreamt of wolves with green-fire eyes tearing, ripping, feeding in the morning your back was bleeding 2. I want to rip up the pavement with my bare hands and feel the damp earth between my fingers I clench my hands into fists and try not to listen to the false sounds of my footsteps I think about recipes and grocery lists 3. We drink wine out of paper cups the vein in your forehead pulses I pulse with it our lips and teeth are stained red I wonder which one of us is the prey tonight 4. On the news we see that a man was attacked by a wild animal I am quiet you clear your throat we scrape the caked mud from the floor and wash our hands for dinner 5. I hear calls from the forest at night
taunting, summoning making shadows dance on our walls in the moonlight you are pretending to sleep but I can feel your body humming we chain each other to the bed with our arms until dawn 6. Do you still believe we are more than animal? We stand at the precipice and swallow our howl
Microplastics are Everywhere
“It’s nearly time,” her mother clapped. “Certainly earlier than when I was a girl.” She was only nine but these days it did not take long for some form of solidification. It couldn’t be helped when all the water and food was tainted. The moralizing was over; the well-funded activist campaigns toward legislative action lost. Once a week they visited the museum as encouragement. Her mother insisted visuals would help the girl determine the type of any internal shifting. “Maybe the snow inside the globe?” Her mother shook her head hopefully. The girl was wary of the tiny Rockefeller Center ice skating scene trapped beneath curved plastic. The ocean subsumed old cities like that long ago. A robot arm clutched the ancient keepsake from its pedestal and shook it every forty-five seconds. The whimsical polystyrene flakes, whirling around before settling, did not describe her indelicate insides. “This jacket is a lovely shade of purple, perhaps this is it?” Her mother reached out, wanting to touch the nubby fleece pullover pinned to the wall behind the case. The jacket’s arms invited them in to an impossible hug. Embroidered on the teal pocket was the name of a forgotten prep school’s sailing team. The microfiber’s cuddly fluff was antithetical to the sharpness in the girl’s chest. A child’s firetruck lined up along other ride-on toys sat behind a nylon rope and the girl’s heart stiffened in recognition. “More of a resin, then?” her mother’s searching eyes pinkened. The hard plastics were the most difficult to live with. The girl broke the rules and poked her foot past the rope to roll the truck back and forth on its hard black wheels. This was how it felt, the rigidity within her ribcage, smooth and unyielding. This formation, this accumulation of the world would be the constant inside of her.
â€œIâ€™ll shake myself every day! I can break it up!â€? the girl cried, and she dragged her mother back to the snow globe. On its relentless timer, the silver metal hand seized, shook, and released the globe. For hours, the mother and daughter stood and watched the micro synthetic snow cyclically swish to form quiet whorls on the tiny skating rink, until the water disturbed and suspended them again. In the gift shop, her mother bought a replica for the girl to keep in her pocket and palm like a worry stone. She would become less mobile as the years passed and unable to jump or throw herself at walls in the attempt to disrupt the inevitable. But even once bedridden, the girl could manage to vigorously unsettle the little world in her hand.
Journals for Victor: Interpretive Plagiarism
3/14/98 V-I haven’t seen you in days, but we both just can’t go back to being. V-Today has been a bad one. I think Fluharty is spying on me in here, drinking putrid liquor the whole night out of need for you. I dream I’m talking to you for hours. I listen to your every word, and I know you are becoming fantasy. V-I’m getting at the end of my rope, to the point where I wonder if I’m real. You did this to regain your identity, engrossed in small mirrors. I despise your blank face. V-I’m so tired but my thoughts keep me up, uncontrollable at best. I gave my life to desire and regret,
holding onto absolutely nothing. Itâ€™s gorgeous outside, but Iâ€™m choking on the air.1
1 Artistâ€™s Statement: "Journals for Victor" is a poem cobbled together from a decades-old diary I found in my college dormitory's basement. In the beginning, the writer records her college experiences, but there is a year-long hiatus and some kind of traumatic event off the page, and in 1998 she starts writing tortured letters to Victor (V). I was captivated by the atmosphere of these letters and wanted to capture the essence of that atmosphere.
The Final Diary Entry in the Journal of Emeritus Professor John X. Doodleberry2
Friday 10/6/17 Delivered by the United States Postal Service, one oddly wrapped, bright orange cardboard package tied together with string from top to bottom and side to side, and of misleading dimensions, for the package, which has been dutifully recycled and thus is not available for exact measurement, was about 29 cm. tall by 22.5 cm. wide, while the book, John Bolin’s Three Pioneers, which has not yet been recycled, and will not be, even when I have ploughed through its interminably humorous/humourous pages, although I must add that the humo/our is often dismayingly based on descriptions of consciencenumbing actions, for example: I had to stop there to disengage the muleteer, who appeared to be trying to murder Christian, who was clawing at Jackson’s face, while Jim head-butted him (Jackson) in his belly, which bounced merely. matched only by such hilarious news items as one reporting a UFC title bout in which, by one account: In the third, Jones landed kicks to the head, midsection and leg to send Cormier to the canvas, where Jones pounded the 38year-old with 18 unanswered blows to the head, causing a concussion. and by another:
2 While delightfully eccentric in its approach, this piece of creative/critical nonfiction is a review of Samuel Bolin’s Three Pioneers, published by a…p press in 2017.
The 30-year-old Jones (23-1) regained the light-heavyweight belt by landing a massive head kick that set up a pounding of 20 unanswered blows to the concussed Cormier on the canvas. Was it 18 or was it 20 unanswered blows to the head? This discrepancy matters to me, and to Mr. Cormier, and if we cannot trust our sports reporters to get it right, whom can we trust? (This digression interrupted my report on the dimensions of the book, which are exactly 15 cm. x 23 cm.) I have had to restrain myself from racing straight through the whole book, losing thereby the chance to savor each part in itself. Were my wife not a person of such delicate sensibilities, I would be reading out to her every other, if not every, sentence, but I am always careful not to shock those sensibilities, especially today when she is feeling pain in a molar which must be extracted tomorrow. After she recovers, I will leave the book lying where she will see it, and it will be her own choice to pick it up and devour it or not: a ‘no-fault’ decision such as I became accustomed to in the last three of my four divorces. Fortunately, reading my old student Sam’s prose has had no influence on my own, which remains crisp and, I dare compliment myself, ‘Hemingwayesque,’ in the simplicity and brevity of its sentence structures, admirably colloquial, down-to-earth diction, while being detained in an almost entirely firstperson-free zone. I mean I rarely say ‘I’ in even the most first-person-singular situations, like this explanatory sentence, for it carries a faint odor of the penultimate or even antepenultimate century’s prose style, which, when well carried out as it is in Three Pioneers, especially in the second, is the fragrant chicken broth in the bouillabaisse of pleasures which good old Sam throws into this pot. I trust my employment of the slang term for marijuana (why is it so? I have often wondered. Out of what sort of ‘pot’ has this usage grown? Keats’s of basil in ‘St. Agnes’ Eve’? Or the typical Australian male beer-drinker’s ‘pot belly’?) will not be taken as implying that either author or reader would have been indulging in that organic medication now legal in the State of California, opening a wide market for consumers who had hitherto been compelled to deal in illegal transactions in order to obtain their ‘hit.’
In fact, if I may ‘indulge’ myself in a lame pun (‘pleonasm’ I thought was the proper term, but the dictionary defines this as using more words than are necessary––this, I can affirm without contradiction, is never a fault of my own written compositions, in fact I am known by some readers as ‘short-winded John’)––I must, at about two-thirds of the way across the Winfield Desert of this novel proclaim it a ‘hit’––not only a Horatian ‘palpable hit’ but a ‘home run’ in baseball parlance or a ‘six’ in the language of cricket. I can only hope its author is taking the satisfaction in having written it that the present reader is enjoying in reading it. With one drawback. As he was unable to restrain himself for hours a day, reading and after reading, from chuckling, smiling, guffawing out loud, this reader noticed his wife withdrawing to another room, to the closed door of which he crept, stifling a snort of pleasure at Winfield’s sand-baths in the desert, and heard her dialing—or rather, punching—three numbers, the first very long, the other two minimally short. 9-1-1 without a doubt, although he cannot, with his very slight degree of hearing loss, and having left his hearing aids at the pool after immersing them for 800 yards, make out any of the words except the final ‘Please hurry!’ Three minutes later, the interval the ambulance service advertizes/ advertises, a siren comes wailing up our quiet road and two muscular young men and one muscular young woman in paramedic costumes are knocking at our glass front door and entering before my wife could open it, or I escape out the back door. Well, I reflected, if this is her idea of a little fun, I will play along, rolling my eyes and uttering meaningless squeaks and grunts as they approach me with a straitjacket. ‘See ya, honey!’ I call out to her with uncharacteristic ‘cool’, suitable to the role I am now determined to play, that of a cuckoo-bird or ‘nut case’, but now I realiz/se I cannot finish this account because they have taken the pen out of my * [Manuscript ends on this unfinished sentence. Its author’s insane laughter has subsided under sedation, and by denying him further access to the book which has brought on this ‘breakdown’, but his mental derangement is still
‘critical’ (clinically, not literarily), and the prognosis is not promising. –– Editorial note by Emeritus Professor J. Murray Ridland, AB, MA, PhD, MD (Psychiatry), who has deciphered the foregoing illegible manuscript, preserved in the Bolin Special Collections Library of CCH (College of Creative Horseplay), transcribed October 7, 2017.]
About After the Pause is an online literary journal based in Indianapolis, IN, featuring poetry, flash fiction, and artwork, published quarterly. We also publish a yearly print anthology whose proceeds go to charity. We look to feature the best creative arts from new, emerging, and veteran creators. We also run a small, nonprofit press called a…p press, which publishes titles of experimental poetry and fiction. Find us here: afterthepause.com or @afterthepause The managing/founding editor of After the Pause and its entire doings is Michael Prihoda.
Purpose We believe art is a product of life experiences, from the joyful to the heartbreaking to the absolutely mundane. Life throws pauses at us. Art follows the pause. We want to share the best art we can find and bring hope through those artworks.
Cover Art “Modern Angel” by Ndubueze Okonkwo
Departure Until next time.
Copyright 2017 All rights of the material within belong to the authors.
The winter issue features flash fiction, poetry, and visual art from 24 international contributors with a brilliant cover by Ndubueze Okonkw...
Published on Dec 2, 2017
The winter issue features flash fiction, poetry, and visual art from 24 international contributors with a brilliant cover by Ndubueze Okonkw...