Page 1


Dedication American River Review is entirely the production of American River College students, and much of the continued success results from the long-term commitment of individuals who devote multiple semesters in the editorial and design classes. Among these students, one has demonstrated an unparalleled passion and allegiance since her first semester of working on the magazine in spring of 2013. Elizabeth “Betsy” Harper has been a perennial and invaluable staff member of American River Review. She has not only been involved in every production aspect, from editing to art selection to design, but also has been published repeatedly in the magazine. The staff wants to acknowledge and celebrate her involvement, leadership, and friendship as she finishes her final available semester. With enthusiasm and gratitude, the 2019 American River Review is dedicated to Elizabeth “Betsy” Harper.

American River Review  I


All words, images, and designs appearing in this magazine; the production arrangements; and the editing of stories and poems are the products of American River College students. All ideas and opinions expressed in the magazine are those of student authors and artists and do not reflect the ideas or opinions of our staff, American River College, the Los Rios Community College District, its employees, or its trustees. All brands, corporations, product names, and other references contained herein are trademarks, registered trademarks, or trade names of their respective holders. All literature and image copyrights are held by their respective owners. American River College 4700 College Oak Drive Sacramento, CA, 95841 americanriverreview.com americanriverreview@gmail.com

II  American River Review


Acknowledgements

The staff of the 2019 American River Review would like to thank the following people, as without their support, assistance, and inspiration, this publication would not be possible: American River College President Thomas Greene and Vice President of Instruction Lisa Lawrenson; Former faculty advisors of the magazine Professors Connie Johnstone, Harold Schneider, David Merson, and Betty Nelson; Dean of English Doug Herndon; Interim Dean of Fine and Applied Arts Angela Milano and former Dean of Fine and Applied Arts Charles “Kale” Braden; Shane Lipscomb and Katia Skryagina of the English Area office; Chair of the Art New Media Department Matt Stoehr; English Department Chairs Denise Engler and Tom Logan and former English Department Chairs John Bell and Kathleen O’Brien; Kirsten DuBray and the American River College Foundation; Bruce Clark and Gene Kennedy for the art photography; Professor Patricia Wood, Director of the James Kaneko Gallery; The American River College Beaver Bookstore for display and sales; Art New Media Lab Technician Kevin Woodard; Don Reid and everyone at Print Services; Reyna Spurgeon, Heather Orr Martinez, and Lisa Rochford for their love and support; And most importantly, we thank all the students at American River College who have submitted their work and made American River Review what it is today.

American River Review  III


The Endowment for American River Review If you or your company would like to contribute to the continuing national success of American River College’s student artists and writers, please consider contributing to our endowment. Contact: Kirsten DuBray, Director of College Advancement The American River College Foundation 4700 College Oak Avenue Sacramento, CA 95841 DuBrayK@arc.losrios.edu (916) 484-8175

IV  American River Review


Patrons Nobel $1000 + Associated Student Body of American River College Student Senate Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation

Best Sellers $250 + Holden and Catherine Spurgeon Robert M. Frew

First Edition $100 + John and Chris Hess

First Chapter $50 + David Merson Gordon Roadcap

American River Review  V


Awards Associated Collegiate Press National Pacemaker Award

2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2010 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014

American Scholastic Press Association First Place with Special Merit 2007 First Place 2011 | 2015

College Media Advisers Best of Show (First Place)

National College Media Convention 2008 | 2009

Columbia Scholastic Press Association

First Place Overall Design, Literary for Magazines 2010 Gold Crown Award 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

Community College Humanities Association Literary Magazine Competition First Place

1990 | 1993 | 1995 | 1997 | 1999 | 2008 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014

Second Place 2017

Third Place 2018

VI  American River Review


Prologue Art of any medium is birthed through thick, hopeful skin, jolts of unease seeping outward between tightly gripped palms and wide, brimming eyes. The goal, often enough, is simply to be understood. Ironically, the human conundrum is to be understood by anyone who needs help understanding themselves—here arises the beauty of our work, comprising American River College’s 32nd edition of American River Review. Stories, photographs, poems, and illustrations, all that bind us as one, float through tides of pencil scratches and the clicks of our collective consciousness. These captured moments notched in time tie us together with wishes of ears and eyes to borrow. Those that need help understanding themselves seek art, seek a particular sort of feeling from a sculpture, an estranged mood they haven’t been able to recapture until this very moment, something outside of themselves that belonged within this whole time. -Kaycie Barr

In this magazine I hope we have instilled the love and need to create that drive us forward. That in these works of art, both visual and literary, you see not only the power which we as humans have granted these shapes, but the power and legacy they may grant us in return. May we smell the rain water on the red wheelbarrow for as long as we hear the havoc in Guernica, and may this magazine always be a beacon to writers and artists alike. -Marcie Mallory

American River Review  VII


Table of Contents 12 �������������� 1956 Julia Flippo

54 �������������� Heat Marcie Mallory

57 �������������� Old Wives’ Tales Marcie Mallory

13 �������������� Jacques Lacan Loved TV and was also kind of a Dick Kaycie Barr

14 �������������� Me, Myself, and I Jerome Brown 15 �������������� Langoliers and Knitting Needles

Isabel Geerer

56 �������������� Earthquake Insurance Mariya Donskova 58 �������������� Stitching Emma Harris

61 �������������� Reflections of an Ocean

Stephanie Parsons

16 �������������� BURNT Julian Arriaga

66 �������������� Safari Andrey Shamshurin

18 �������������� Bibliotheca Jennifer Snow

70 �������������� Equilibrium Diana Ormanzhi

17 �������������� Observations Betsy Harper 19 �������������� The Prophet of Taco Bell

Andrey Shamshurin

20 �������������� Sheep Andrey Shamshurin

21 �������������� Dead-heading African Daisies

Sophia Gray

22 �������������� Play-Doh to Whiskey Hannah Orlando

24 �������������� Storm Clouds and Sirens Marcie Mallory 27 �������������� The Thistle Dew Drop Rishikesh Vilash 28 �������������� No One Act Rishikesh Vilash

29 �������������� “Lettuce, tomato Rishikesh Vilash

30 �������������� Foodgasm Claudia Anna Stelmach 31 �������������� Go to a Place Deborah Dano

32 �������������� The Origins of Catfish Eric Orosco 38 �������������� Silly Putty Vagina? Betsy Harper 39 �������������� La Petite Mort Hannah Orlando

40 �������������� Andromeda Claudia Anna Stelmach 41 �������������� untitled Mariya Donskova

42 �������������� The Dead See Patti Santucci 49 �������������� the Door Deborah Dano

69 �������������� Grasp Andrey Shamshurin

71 �������������� Surely, This Poem is a Symbol

Andrey Shamshurin

72 �������������� Distinguished Author

Lois Ann Abraham

The Sixties

76 �������������� An Interview with Lois Abraham 79 �������������� Drawn David Nichols

80 �������������� Refreshed Christl Clinton

80 �������������� Almost Perfect Christl Clinton

81 �������������� Through the Window Christl Clinton 81 �������������� Beauty in Death Christl Clinton

82 �������������� Death in Nature Mariah Conner 82 �������������� Pactolus David Nichols 83 �������������� (Don’t) Rora Blue

84 �������������� untitled Philip Abasolo 84 �������������� untitled Philip Abasolo

85 �������������� Little Red Diana Ormanzhi

85 �������������� Destruction in the Passage of Time

Anastasia Golosna

50 �������������� Mulberry Leaves Deborah Dano

86 �������������� In The 1st Degree Javier Salcedo

52 �������������� Musician (A) Yassaman Vedad

87 �������������� Eyes On The Cliff Javier Salcedo

51 �������������� Akrasia Jennifer Snow

53 �������������� (Nihil Sub Sole Novum)

Evangeline Contreras

VIII  American River Review

86 �������������� Banshee Rising Tiffany LeBeau 88 �������������� Self Portrait Ryan Hall

88 �������������� Old Man #1 Julia Flippo


89 �������������� Kyle Jacqueline Luna

109 ������������ Pile-o-Masks Ian Perez-Anderson

90 �������������� The Student Jacqueline Luna

111 ������������ Puppy Glamour Shots Erika Gonzalez

89 �������������� Towards the End Jacqueline Luna 90 �������������� Portrait of Shannon Marina Epova 91 �������������� Pixel O’Me Anthony Barbaria 91 �������������� Me in Pieces Allison Wheaton

92 �������������� Abuelita Luisa Erika Gonzalez 92 �������������� Dead Eyes Ramtin Golanbooh

93 �������������� Abstract My Emotion Anthony Barbaria 94 �������������� Aged Beauty Mariah Connor

94 �������������� Bubble Boy Allison Wheaton 95 �������������� Envy Evans Degregorio

96 �������������� Thoughts & Prayers Brad Carps 98 �������������� Passion Jacqueline Luna

98 �������������� Natural Depiction Migue Miran 99 �������������� Broken Jerome Brown

99 �������������� Umbiquitous Sameer Nagra

100 ������������ Windy has Stormy Eyes Brian D. Ford 100 ������������ Bright Eyes Brian D. Ford

110 ������������ Waning Julia Flippo

111 ������������ Spots on a Stroll Erika Gonzalez 112 ������������ Trilogy Clare Korten

112 ������������ Rock Mountain Carolan Korten

113 ������������ Folsom #9 Crystal Dal Porto-Moore 114 ������������ #12 Iyaw Kis 114 ������������ #11 Iyaw Kis

115 ������������ Mother of Forest Cannabis Iyaw Kis 115 ������������ Lush Paula Lloyd

116 ������������ Puzzled Meschelle White

117 ������������ Woodfire Christopher Gingrich

117 ������������ Crawling Christopher Gingrich 118 ������������ Forest Christopher Gingrich

119 ������������ Blue Mask Rachel Cudmore

119 ������������ Purple Bowl Dita Lewis-Panter 120 ������������ Aliyah - Flesh & Bone

Manuel Marmolejos

101 ������������ Zyzzyx Brian D. Ford

121 ������������ Spiderman Sam Lawson

102 ������������ Hot Lips Brian D. Ford

122 ������������ Hunger Sam Lawson

101 ������������ White Light Brian D. Ford 103 ������������ The Band Played On Clare Korten 103 ������������ Looking for the Tiny Raincoat

Carolan Korten

104 ������������ Parthenon Paste Clare Korten 105 ������������ M83 Jerome Brown

106 ������������ Puzzle of Self Reflection Migue Miran

106 ������������ Radical Change 0° - 360° Migue Miran 107 ������������ Pan’s Offering Trent Duaine Woolley 107 ������������ Sustenance Trent Duaine Woolley 108 ������������ Roses Fariba Darvishi

108 ������������ Chains in Jewelry Box Fariba Darvishi

122 ������������ Strength Nicolette Diamond-Payne 123 ������������ Monster Book Ian Perez-Anderson 124 ������������ Dangerous Beauty Frankie Vanity 125 ������������ The Golden Fish Frankie Vanity

126 ������������ Mr. Kitty Trent Duaine Woolley

126 ������������ Man Eater Trent Duaine Woolley 127 ������������ August Crystal Dal Porto-Moore 127 ������������ Expect Violeta Moiseenco

128 ������������ Roadmap Sophe Bridget A. Engler 128 ������������ Dia De Los Muertos Chihuahua

Erika Gonzalez

129 ������������ Water Under the Bridge Carolan Korten

American River Review  IX


129 ������������ Octopus Map Ian Perez-Anderson 130 ������������ Waiting Jessica Coy-Rodriguez 132 ������������ Red Riding Hood Emmy Luna

133 ������������ Girl and Umbrella Leah Darlene 133 ������������ Orange Blues Clare Korten 134 ������������ The Mechanic S. Ward 134 ������������ Family Marina Epova

135 ������������ Homecoming Ryan Hall

135 ������������ Flower Alchemy Tiffany LeBeau

136 ������������ A Mother’s Undying Love Mari Todd 136 ������������ Flowers Victoria Arakelyan

137 ������������ Roses and Apples Andrey Arakelyan 137 ������������ Bronze Teapot Victoria Arakelyan

138 ������������ Morning in Astara Fariba Darvishi 138 ������������ Save Trees Fariba Darvishi

139 ������������ Children Coming Over Border

Marie Dixon

139 ������������ Tower Bridge Marie Dixon

140 ������������ Horizon Andrey Arakelyan 140 ������������ Sunset Victoria Arakelyan

141 ������������ Day is Done Diana Simeroth

141 ������������ Fresnel’s Reverie David Nichols 142 ������������ Julia Blanca Bastida

142 ������������ Forgotten Phone Booth .Catherine Ramsey 143 ������������ Upside Down Catherine Ramsey 143 ������������ Double Vision Julian Arriaga

144 ������������ On The Riverfront Javier Salcedo

X  American River Review


Literature Selection Process In an eighteen-month process, hundreds of pieces of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction are submitted to American River Review for consideration by the English class, College Literary Magazine. Every submission is read and the discussion of a single piece can last an entire class session. A final vote determines which works are selected, edited, and published. The staff and authors meet to discuss the work and possible edits, with the goal of helping each piece reach its highest potential. Current students of American River College and students who were last enrolled within the previous three semesters are eligible to submit their work.

American River Review  11


Julia Flippo 1956 charcoal & acrylic 26” × 25.25”

12  American River Review


Jacques Lacan Loved TV and was also kind of a Dick Kaycie Barr Slouching to obsolescence: Bumfuzzle, a word that hereby signifies fluster. Spongey collywobbles in you tousled, if words taste right, we have a blockbuster. Diphthong, the cantankerous sound of “ou” in out, or the “oy” in boy; words sure toy. Language can sustain great weight, not sure how the TV projects such avoirdupois. Flesh and blood on the screen gyrate to you, “That self-deluded irony you’ve found, we’ve opted for this tack, in lieu of the idea that we can’t inform abound.” A superior rotation of “The Real,” Lacan predicted this authentic world. A primordial and symbolic canapé to be snacked on in order of season. Rococo words plagued with asinine tawse, the sublime is found in your living room. Sitting on a couch, library found across, your den has now become a gorgeous tomb. You tap tap the remote until you breathe, eyes glaze over, sardonic minute quips— self-awareness allots one to teethe. A cynic is worthy if one has grip. What good may come of flimflam, razzmatazz, disconcerted, self-righteous, showy snobs, who wish to dismantle the pleasure jazz? TV nourishes inasmuch as Times. Read a dictionary and you still rot, watch a show, maggots will deem you a pepper pot.

American River Review  13


Jerome Brown Me, Myself, and I digital 20” × 16”

14  American River Review


Langoliers and Knitting Needles Isabel Geerer Langoliers are silver sparks at the edge of vision flitting here and there like standing up too fast consuming yesterday everything you ever loved like it never existed leave behind a buzzsaw whine like electricity in overhead wires Somewhere ahead, in a place you’ll never reach an old woman weaves a scarf-future with long flashing knitting needles the clack-clack sounds just like that young woman who tottered out of your life in towering stilettos knit one, purl two Trees pass in a blur of fringe on an embroidered highway type destinations into your GPS as if you’re in control The old woman measures out your share of wool shears poised behind you langoliers chew up the road like a cherry burning up a smoke

American River Review  15


Julian Arriaga BURNT black & white collage 5” × 8”

16  American River Review


Observations Betsy Harper

I have dementia Sorry if I repeat things I have dementia In my neighborhood Restraining orders are bold And often fatal Why do boys hit girls? It’s obvious, he replies They just don’t listen Diabetes sucks She says, as she picks up the Orange and syringe I wanted a sign God took my smoking finger My eye, and my leg I like getting old Arthritis and hot flashes Building character I have dementia Sorry if I repeat things I have dementia

American River Review  17


Bibliotheca Jennifer Snow

We are, each of us, the protagonists of our own meandering dramas. Our lives are a mass of inkblots stretched across the pages, like the muddied footsteps of children leading off into the snow. Worries and ambitions, triumphs and tragedies, are the chapters we earmark as we pen our lives. Our story introduces friends, family, and loved ones as the archetypal wise old men, the mentors, the love interests, and the sidekicks with whom we share select paragraphs, and who, on occasion, occupy entire chapters. They are the ensemble we allow to read our first draft as it is being written. They are the people for whom we redirect our chirography and line-edit the narrative. They are the companions walking beside us, under the clear skies of late-night hikes, along redwood-lined trails leading into thick forests. They are those who accompany us during our wanderlust–ducking under tired branches and treading new paths over crushed leaves laying beside repurposed oak hollows. They are the catalysts of nocturne journeys to remote campsites that overlook the visual infinity of the ocean to witness the gentle waves rising in prayer to Luna. They are the gel in the pen, the lead of the pencil, the ink on the quill, who outline the story within our pages. They are, within each chapter, the highlighted phrases—the majuscule characters dripping their own ink into our manuscript, penning their own framed story within our narrative. A best friend who moves away in chapter eight after helping to edit the prior five chapters, and who makes her triumphant return in chapter twentythree, jumping off the page like a camel cricket and overjoyed to become a recurring character, before fading into spaces between the words, as if a footnote to the first quarter of your novel. A teacher who pushes you to apply to Columbia in chapter twenty, guiding your hands just as their own fingers trample over your draft— retreading the ink with red strikeouts while inserting new descriptors and more concrete nouns. A cousin in chapter fourteen whose spark, having flickered between dim and luminous for multiple chapters, is suddenly extinguished, like the shuttering of a once bright, candle-lit window at dusk, and whose presence now remains as a wisp of smoke, trailing through each chapter that follows. Or a father, lowered into eternal darkness at the beginning of chapter sixteen, who becomes the oft-ignored subtext that now marks every page with his tragic sidenote.

18  American River Review

These superscripts, footnotes, and nuance add depth and substance to their stories, and by doing so, enhance our own. Annotations line the margins for the few we take note of: the cameos, the ones we remember fondly, the ones with whom we recall late nights filled with deep conversations, but not the content of those footnotes. The scribbles of laughter while stargazing on a midwinter night. The playful dance of punctuation marks bumping into each other on park paths. The bleeding ink of stinging tears outside your house as their car pulls away. They are the flashes of lightning—the single word or sentence that strikes at offending plots foreshadowing scents of petrichor and geosmin. They are the ones that appear throughout our epic, teaching a lesson and fading into the background once more, possibly never to resurface. Yet their presence remains transposed upon the lettering like coffee stains. Their influence pushes our pens to the parchment as we journey along unseen roads and across covered bridges leading to new forests for us to get lost in, just as they become lost among the whitespace. Punctuation holds hands with the faded cameos— the gasps for breath and second glances, the skipped heartbeats, the chance encounters. They are the ones in the background, never given for us to expend energy marking the page. They but live between the lines, invisible yet ever-present nonetheless; unseen forces that push one way or another, whose story you will never read—a part of your whitespace, just as you are a part of theirs: a woman crossing the street, brushing into you on her way by; the dull red shimmer of tail-lights fading out behind you on a back road; a late arrival to the subway as the doors close; a dark shadow passing in front of a curtained window at midnight, as you pull away from a stop sign. The world is a bibliotheca, an athenaeum that can never be filled to capacity. Books completed, partially written, penned in an unknown language, or empty and blank, line the shelves—each an autobiography opened only when we enter the writer’s life, yet we are never given the opportunity to read the events which occurred prior to our appearance—we are instead left waiting for them to drip their ink into our own story.


The Prophet of Taco Bell Andrey Shamshurin I kiss my wife, her eyes closed, my sperm stuck inside her, “Just chilling,” as she says every night, spraying a bottle of Febreze around me, repeating that it won’t work while I watch her stomach, searching for any hint of a curve, but today she doesn’t wake up and I just drive to work, the prophet not yet there when I park around the side, look for any sign of his cart, and walk into the store, its walls caved in around the cars and the freeway, the neon bell flashing across the street, lighting up a church, lean and tall with manicured lawns and scripture signs, but they are not neon and the church has no crunchwrap drowned in double cheese and double beef, and even though I sometimes watch the crosses in the headlights of cars, I find myself glued to the floor tiles smeared in oil, trying to scrub them clean while the other workers pass tortillas and sprinkle cheese, and every night one of them says, “I’m getting out of here soon,” but I never know if they do—for the past ten years, their faces blending together like their names, Jim, or John or June, stumbling through the kitchen line, switching off with clones of themselves who hide in the bathroom after the lobby closes and one by one get high, standing on the toilet, stretching up to the vent, then brushing off any traces of their soles left on the seat, the same routine each day until they are nothing but hats and nametags and belts with buckles, little bells etched into the steel—but I know the prophet’s face well, the hard edge of his nose, the long beard, the sunglasses always shimmering with white light, and when I see him in the parking lot, I let him into the lobby, his tongue already flapping, ranting about the end of the world and the fire coming any day now, the staff laughing and covering their noses when he pushes his cane forward, but to me his stench smells better than my own, better than the fried-oil fumes coating the walls and the dishes and even the sodas that have turned thick and oily, crawling up the plastic straws of customers who sit at the drive-through and wait for their food, which is not what they ordered, so they drive around and wait again and again, and I just keep cleaning, scrubbing the bleachsoaked brush across the floor, adding another layer to the grease, but I don’t stop—and when my break comes, I don’t check my phone, knowing the doctor has probably left another voicemail, instead thinking about my wife, who is sure she knows better, knows that the oil smell has somehow seeped into my skin, that my sperm are

fried and drifting in the flood, that maybe we should just stop trying—and every night I go to work and look for the prophet, now stumbling from the bathroom, grinning when I give him my Chalupa, which he shoves into his mouth, then climbs onto my table, clicks his cane, and proclaims the Chalupa shell the flesh of Jesse Christ, and even though I don’t know Jesse, I nod my head and the workers scream, “Amen” from the kitchen, the prophet’s hands spinning around the orange walls and his voice rising, stammering that God has ordained this building a haven of the Lord, that when the ground opens up, the sinners swallowed by the fire, I will be the shepherd that spawns a generation of men from this blessed rock, the prophet’s head tilted at the ceiling, his toes wiggling from the holes of his shoes, and for a second, the kitchen is full of faces and names, and a car actually drives out of the parking lot and disappears behind the church, and my wife’s face seems only a structure of bone and skin that fattens and drips, and my break is almost over, the prophet naming each of my twenty sons and daughters when I kiss the sweet heels of his boots.

American River Review  19


Sheep Andrey Shamshurin The sheep curl next to me. I pet their heads. I tell them they used to be delicious. I don’t lock their pens anymore. We walk the cliffs. I imagine waves beating against the rocks below, sediment streaks glowing in the light. They bleat at me when I near the edge, and I step back. I’m not sure who herds whom. When we pass my brothers’ caves, the sheep nip at my toes and push me toward them. My brothers are probably watching me, dots of light mingling behind the stone, nestling together in the dark. If they are there, they say nothing. They have stopped asking for lamb and cheese, and I suppose I should be glad. Maybe they feel guilty. Maybe it doesn’t matter. After a while, the sheep give up, and we head home. Sometimes, when I wake up to their wool brushing against my feet, I can almost see the way he stood in the center—his men huddled around the fire, blathering some last goodbye. Not him, his fingers pressing the bowl of wine into mine, blonde curls gleaming from the flames, tongue rising in flashes, talking about gods and freedom. I hear, smell the sour fumes seep into the walls, watch dark liquid swirl around the rim. When I drank it, it tasted like rotten meat. But I smiled and asked for more. “I don’t know if I can eat this man,” I thought, watching his skin glow until I fell asleep. Everything is black again, and I am surrounded by sheep. “Why can’t I eat you?” I ask their warm little bodies.

20  American River Review

They don’t answer. I roll the boulder to the side and sit on the ground. In the distance, my brothers’ voices rise and fall against themselves—for a second, I swear a coil of light pulses with every sound, each syllable. The sheep push at my back. I gulp down the last of the foul wine from the bowl. The sheep gather around me, and I curl next to one. I pin it down with my fingers. It doesn’t struggle when I wring its neck. The others don’t run. I sling the limp body over my shoulder and walk toward the voices.


Dead-heading African Daisies Sophia Gray Adele sees her mother crosslegged on the gray rock wall reaching, plucking off dried up blooms. Sees? –that’s what she’s looking at. Who knows what a one-year-old really sees. Her mother gives her a brown whatchamacallit. Adele’s pleased, holds it thumb and index, pinkie curled. Gone—stigma, style, egg-yolky pollen, she’s left with peduncle, sepals— the stem. That’s what she grasps. Later her mother gives her a mistake she’s made—a daisy whole, green-stemmed with yellow petals and a slender leaf, torn away too soon. Adele is pleased. “Old blooms have to go,” her mother explains, “so the new can flower.” Adele’s eyes search her mother’s face for clues. She hardly understands a word. She understands so much: Adele likes to pick flowers, knows she mustn’t; she does and doesn’t, following a logic not so different from the plan that runs the world.

American River Review  21


Play-Doh to Whiskey Hannah Orlando

The first scent I remember is salty Play-Doh and crayons, before days of rain and wet hay with a side of wet dog, grassfire smoke, and bird feather dust; Tabu, my mother’s perfume: vetiver, rose, orange blossom; in the winter near the heat of a wood-burning stove, cucidati, anginetti, and other cookies jived to Louis Prima with a fresh cut pine tree, clove oranges, and cinnamon-scented pinecones; there were days spent with girls wearing too much perfume and boys too little deodorant—I bought an almost floral-scented lipstick to go with a new bottle of Chantilly: musk, bergamot, lemon, sandalwood accompanying coarse cotton products wrapped in crinkling plastic for things kept out of polite conversation… but in class there was the bitter tang of cigarettes and marijuana on the clothing of minors; at days’ end were locker rooms filled with the bitterness of used pointe shoes and unwashed tights leading into clouds of faux-flower hairspray muddying the air burnt from hot stage lights, with calls for help with silken laces in the span of five-minute costume changes; and then, years later, crisp night air mingling with acidic tomatoes, garlic, sage, and thyme set beside an overheated pan with sudden thunder and damp clothing, gas station fumes, fresh ink on paper, and the humid air in the backseat of my car… the glamour of midnight stars in the absence of light, cigarette smoke plumes, spilled beer, crackling campfire, and petrichor leading to her peppery shampoo, sulfuric hot spring steam, dusty shadeless mountain days, the metallic ring of water on a parched tongue, uncontrollable inaudible laughter, the sting of sharp rocks on bare hands, the give of wet paper as it tears, the piercing burn of halfempty bottles of whiskey, briny temperate pine air at sunset, the lingering traces of sweat and sex on grey bed sheets….

22  American River Review


American River Review  23


Storm Clouds and Sirens

Marcie Mallory

I fidget with the hem of my blouse. I wish I had not said I’d wear the yellow one. I hadn’t expected everybody in the coffee shop to be wearing shades of black, with rain clouds over each head and brooding looks on everyone’s faces. I felt just as bleak about this impulsive life choice as they looked. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Wear something bright, something that stands out? The coffee shop is busy, crawling with young people, clinking coffee cups, whistling steam, a little too loud to be a good place to talk. I check my watch and slowly rise out of my seat, trying to decide whether I would abandon ship, when I see a flash of strawberry blonde. I sink back down before I realize it’s not her. I think she has dark hair now anyway, that’s how he’d always liked it. I can’t help but remember another time when against all my doubts, she convinced me to stay. “It’ll be quick,” she said. “Is that supposed to make me want to?”

24  American River Review

“Of course! You don’t even have to stress about it, it’s really no big deal.” I wanted to scoff at her. I wanted to hurl, if I’m being more honest, but I kept quiet, not sure how to respond to her nonchalance. “Then what are you worried about?” she always could read me better than anyone. “You! Us. Ugh, I don’t know, I just need you to be okay.” “We’ll always be okay, you know that. We’ve been best friends forever!” Her eyes were sparkling, pure and clear, as she said that. They always looked like honey in the golden hour light, like amber when she was angry. She was making me put down my defenses the way only she was able to. “Exactly. Won’t this complicate that?” “I would never let that happen, not with you.” “You can’t promise that.” “But I can, because I know I’ll always love you.” At the time, I believed her, I believed her the way


you have to believe in a life raft in the middle of a hurricane. “And I’ll always love you.” “I know. Because you’re not like them. You aren’t here to steal away parts of me for yourself.” “Can’t you forget about them?” I knew she’d sense the pleading in my voice. I felt ashamed. I was not the one who should be begging for anything. Her smile broke my heart. “You know I can’t. They’re like a bitter taste in my mouth. I need to cleanse my palate, replace it with something sweet, something that reminds me just how delicious something can taste.” Her eyes closed, soft lashes resting against her cheeks, the same smile she has when eating strawberry crepes for her birthday. “What if I can’t give that to you?” “Don’t be silly! You’re the most giving person I know!” “What if I don’t want to?” The question was a lie. “Please. I need you. You’re the only one I trust now.” At that point, we both knew that I would agree. The first time she had told me the story, I held her. Wiped away her tears while she told me about too rough hands and the too wet mouth. She told me that at first she tried to let him down easy, to play coy, but the only

game he played was the end game. I sat stone still as she whispered the atrocities, the words too harsh in the light of day. The only control she had over what happened was the retelling of the story. I brought her ice for her bruised wrists and hot chocolate for her bruised heart. She lay wrapped in all the blankets I owned, every inch of skin covered except her face, even in the stifling summer heat. When she finally fell asleep, I cried silently with everything I had. I sank ships with the storm inside my head, doomed every man to be lost at sea to pay for what he had done. Begged sirens to pull them to their watery graves, victims to the hands of women more ferocious than us. I know she can’t understand why this might mean so much to me. Why I would be giving her more of me than I had ever given anyone else. She believed that the boy who leaned in, mouth puckered tight, orange Gatorade clinging to his wisp of facial hair, was my first love. It was my first real kiss, if you could call it that. All I could think about in that dark room was how badly I wished I could brush my teeth, and wondered how long I could I hold my breath before I died. It took days for me to wash the scent of his cologne off of my clothes, weeks for me to push away the hurt I felt when he called me a whore for NOT letting his sweaty

American River Review  25


palms under my favorite sweater. The next day at school he told all his friends he had made it all the way and I had let him, for reasons I didn’t quite understand. But when your best friend squeals and grabs you and asks you how it was, eyes like honey, you say amazing just to see her smile. “You’re beautiful.” She whispered “Please stop.” “Don’t cover up, don’t hide. This is exactly what I need.” “Too make me feel uncomfortable? To be the one in power?” “Of course not, silly. To see the power in something so gentle.” I’ll never forget the smell of her sunscreen and vanilla chapstick, the scent soft and warm. Her face looked weak at moments, mighty at others, like sitting in a rowboat on a vast river bank, the tide ebbing and flowing, giving and taking, on the surface gentle, underneath the current all consuming. Like before, time was not to be trusted; some moments felt paused, like I had lived in this version of Eden always, and then others I begged for it to slow down, I wanted to live in this Eden forever. As with Eve, though, we both could not stay. As the end approached I heard her whisper his name. Someone had to bite the apple, and if this is how Adam felt, I might, for once, side with the man. We stayed close for a while, but I was changed, and she was not. I heard through old friends or maybe Facebook, what’s the difference these days, that she had married a businessman. I looked him up and he was all sharp edges, but I’m sure his hands were smooth from not being used. Their kids got his dark eyes, and that killed me inside. Since then all my flames have been candles instead of firecrackers. None have shined as warmly as hers. And as I look around this coffee shop I can’t imagine meeting anyone that makes me feel like summer around all these dark storm clouds, so I pay for my coffee and leave.

26  American River Review


The Thistle Dew Drop Rishikesh Vilash

The early ray holds as glimmer, the orbed frost on the thistle dew drop. I think fealty’s lost when olive winds sob sutras to Apollo. Now, I know Cupid created cry-willow as inter-rest, per sense, on a forgotten Vishnu borrow: but, dew drop’s misbegotten to prey the kiss-new wind since prayers, gilt-clad, often lack shadow. “It’s okay,” she had said, “willows droop lilacs black, you don’t have to love me back.” With that she had turned, sleeves darkened mauve— love’s caprice, time’s choice—so blew the thistle dew breeze. A rainbow debt, the Crimson Arc hope rescue: “It’s okay,” she had said, “willows droop lilacs black, I love you, but you don’t have to love me back.”

American River Review  27


No One Act Rishikesh Vilash

I pick lotuses late down by Saturn Lake. When the moon hangs low over hilltops beaten by hardened feet and, when the Orange Wake has long lost its afterglow, over-trodden, I pick lotuses late down by Saturn Lake. The blemished ones I prefer to proffer to Brahma, Buddha, and the Baha’u’llah. And I don’t care one mite whether I pray with pink, purple, yellow, or white. In fact, a multicolored one I’d like, a May bouquet, like Joseph’s coat on a rainy day, to abstract human suffering for those blemishes sake: that life is sacrifice and no one act—so, I pick lotuses late down by Saturn Lake.

28  American River Review


Rishikesh Vilash

“Lettuce, tomato and olives and avocado—shred, dice and chop and slice—perhaps some corn pluck too: what to oven in, what to plot out cold? . . . And, guacamole dip seems right for Boboli tip meaning serrano, onions . . . cilantro—a fine thin mince once, maybe twice—a curlicue perfume . . . tabletop tattoo: not yet tears, yet sorrow . . . ha’, ha’ i’s ‘ru’: ilu. ‘The metaphorical length of an onion is two pi over three,’ Munsami claims, ‘six times for . . . flip . . . the bipolar bolero: point-peel-rotate, point-peel-rotate.’ . . . A similar sesquiessence olives beneath a jagged edge: point-press-divide, front-to-back . . . re-roll, re-grip . . . point-press-divide, front-to-back. The recursive olive spider web sling is . . . a Sulphur crystal string; but, the second reverse sweatlet drop up-sob-shun . . . suck . . . sombersault spring is a bittersweet Montego Bay mucus mix, i.e., the browsweat, tearlash dual sep’ration is a ja’, ja’ i’s ‘ru’—ilu—convergence. But, the lacrimal epsilon engages best as onion bits ‘twixt cheddar strips oblongside roma bix: an omicron cuneiform . . . the Durban upsilon sim’le ‘vice churning three bean salads to two Julian stresses meaning something else . . . Ink rhymes with think, roma with romaine, ‘cause the opp’site of love is love . . . a Hellenic yeoman par’dise: Na’, na’ i’s ‘ru’, ilu; ya’, ya’ i’s ‘ru’, ilu . . . . . . ‘Harpreet’—Munsami—ouchie, the missing pinky!”

American River Review  29


Foodgasm Claudia Anna Stelmach A hunger starts to rumble deep inside. I feel the ache, my stomach twists in knots. Your skin sizzles and pops of love deep fried. My heart begins to pound like clamored pots. I bite and crunch the toasted rolls that steam and melt the oozing butter sliding off my knife that both tears open and slaps cream. But take it slow: let’s savor the pilaf that’s paired with rib eye: juicy, lean, and pink as long and red spaghetti twirled and sucked between those puckered lips, no time to think. Indulgence grows as buttons fly untucked! What’s left: regret, that gurgles like hot stew, No room is left for the tiramisu.

30 


Go to a Place Deborah Dano I went to a place of sauces and green pea pods wrapped with my teeth crisp and sweet. The sauces I tossed sizzling chicken and peppers with onions and guavas, tomatoes and real rice then; The tangy bed of them all my face rested in coming alive came an oh-yeah time giving me thought China is at home tonight scallops on leafy greens squeezed lemon on fried too wrapped wontons dipped in sweet and sour on yellow curry sauce I let drift my face into its cave and vision became coulis.

31


The Origins of Catfish

Eric Orosco

Inside the garage of his parent’s home, Manny Ortega poses in front of a beer pong table crafted out of a bedroom door and stacked milk crates. It’s New Year’s Eve and the garage is cold enough that Manny has pulled an oversized sweater over his celebratory button up. A pair of glasses rests low on the bridge of his nose and the stubble that frames his face is a week old. He sets the red Solo cups in a diamond shape and takes a swig of the open Pabst Blue Ribbon on his side of the table. The only friend that showed up to his party snaps a photo of him. Manny asks for a reshoot and this time poses with thumbs up for the camera. On his Tumblr, Manny states that his family is Italian and that he lives in New York. There are days when Manny likes the way he looks, the way his facial hair grows, and the way he smiles when taking a selfie. There are also days when his pictures upset him, when his beard is too long, or his eyes look crooked, or he notices another part of his body that is unfavorable.

The days where he gets upset are more frequent than the former and he makes sure to include his observations in the captions of his posts. His followers reassure him that he looks fine, that he looks sexy, that he is beautiful. Christina Jones receives Manny’s beer pong picture through a text message and smiles. She lives in Houston, Texas and knows that the distance between herself and this man is 1,628 miles. There is a bus that can take her there and it would only be 37 hours of transit time. Christina is beautiful. Her hair is long, black and falls into loose curls along her back. She sits down on the edge of her bed and allows her thumbs to hover over the keyboard while she thinks of a response. Manny and Christina have been best friends for two years, and she knows everything about him. When they would talk over the phone Christina would imagine them sitting together under the Texas stars, bodies wrapped in a thin blanket and a cool breeze blowing against bare feet. Once, when Manny was having an especially bad day, Christina imagined herself taking the bus out to see him. She wasn’t sure if it was solely for Manny’s benefit that she dreamed of visiting him, the miles between them lessening until it was her under the stars of New York and him right next to her. This was her best friend of two years and they had yet to meet in person.

32  American River Review


Manny was abused by his father. Mr. Ortega doesn’t appear in any of Manny’s pictures but the way Manny described the abuse gives Christina three clear understandings: Mr. Ortega is big, Mr. Ortega is traditional, Mr. Ortega is why Manny feels the need to be so hard on himself. The abuses start out light— there is a belt or there is a shoe— and then they begin to escalate into moments of knuckles against flesh. The reasons for punishment are never worth the crime. Manny doesn’t deserve this. Manny deserves better. Manny deserves love. I’m only a handful of weeks away from 21 when I decide to host my first and final underage party. My parents, for the first time in my 20 years of existence, have gone on a small vacation and left me to care for the house. I send out text messages to my friends and secure a thirty-rack of Pabst Blue Ribbon in exchange for driving a friend to work. As the night progresses the Can’t make it, have fun! and See you next year! texts flood my inbox. I stare at the mountain of cheap beer and remember that I am not the party type. Manny stares at the photo he has just uploaded to Tumblr. In the photo, he is smiling alongside another man. He looks good today. He looks happy. Manny titles the photo “best friend” and then sends a message to Mollie through his cellphone. Mollie is a girl who reached out to him through Tumblr and they have been hitting it off very well over the last month. She’s from a small town in Illinois and made it a point to tell him that she’s always wanted to see New York and that maybe this summer she can save up enough for a plane ride.

His inbox has several messages from Christina but he doesn’t reply. I’m drunk and leaning against the washing machine. The cold cement numbs my thighs and I roll my head to look at the only friend who showed up to the party. She’s sitting next to me smoking a cigarette and laughing at how quickly I got drunk. “Can I have a drag?” She looks at me and bites her bottom lip, thinking it over. “Please? I heard if you’re drunk and you smoke you don’t get addicted.” I’ve rolled my body onto her lap and am now looking up at her thin, pointed features. She hands the cigarette over with two fingers and I grasp it like a baby getting a bottle for the first time. The inhale causes me to cough and I hate myself. She laughs and takes the cigarette from my coughing body. “Come on, I think you need some more alcohol.” Her hands guide me up and lead me to the beer pong table I crafted out of my bedroom door. A month of being ignored has caused Christina to question her entire friendship with Manny and she finds me using a reverse image search. “After like...four years,” she types into Facebook messenger, “I was the one to figure it all out.” When I read her words I am on my bed with shaky hands. My fingers struggle to scroll through Manny Ortega’s Tumblr, my eyes scanning over the captions. Got high tonight to numb the pain. Feeling better. Reading these infuriates me. He’s lying. Christina continues to type. “He’s not even 100%

American River Review  33


Italian...he lied about that too.” The Tumblr is four years old and contains images that cover all four years of Manny Ortega’s life, except that it isn’t Manny Ortega’s life. It’s mine. It Was All A Dream… is the title of Manny’s Tumblr. The about section reads: I’m not amazing but my blog is alright. I post what I like and nothing else. Since his blog entirely pictures of me, he must like me. Perhaps someone else would find comfort in being deemed attractive enough to have pictures stolen and used on a fake profile. All I can find is a new sensation of being violated; a violation that makes me wish it were possible to erase my entire digital presence. My hands are still shaking but now a nauseous sensation is creeping through my torso. “He says he doesn’t know you,” she types, “but I think he’s still embarrassed about the whole thing. He wouldn’t say how he found your pictures.” I recall the documentary, Catfish, and the interview Yaniv “Nev” Shulman had with Angela, the woman who had been catfishing him. In the scene, he is sitting across from her while she paints a portrait of him. Downstairs her husband is taking care of the children, an occasional cry of laughter is heard faintly. “I could just take all of your photos and download them and make new profiles with totally different names and never make friends with people who knew you,” she keeps her eyes on her brushstrokes, “and just create a network of friends who are real-life friends.” Angela uses this as an explanation to why so many people were interacting with the fake profiles of Megan and Abby, her two fictionalized daughters. Essentially she created a community of fake profiles designed to mimic a normal social network.

34  American River Review

“Who’s the girl in the photos?” “It’s a family friend. I feel like I betrayed her.” They talk for a little longer while Angela finishes up the portrait. “A lot of the personalities that came out were just fragments of myself.” Nev sits there and takes this all in. Angela had admitted to the creation of six personalities, to using photos of her young daughter Abby as one of those personalities, and to having cancer. Light streams into the upstairs room they are sitting in and Angela smiles. “I think it’s someone you’re friends with on Facebook because he has SO MANY pictures of you.” Christina types this after revealing Manny Ortega has been catfishing other people since 2008. The number of photos is startling. “He has pictures I don’t even have anymore,” I respond. Most of the photos are from Tumblr but there are several that I know came from Facebook. When I get to Manny Ortega’s 2009 posts, the photos are from sources I can’t exactly pinpoint. Somewhere between scrolling through four appropriated years of my life and messaging Christina, I make a post to Facebook. Urgent: So, if any of you guys have seen Catfish, you’ll definitely want to check this out. Apparently, this guy has been using my photos and videos for three years. Emma Van Miles, Alex Nguyen, Megan Stevenson, Megan Orosco, Jo Jimenez, Justine Roe, Alejandro Moore you guys are all in some of the pictures he’s used. I’m kinda in shock right now. http://dannyspinelli.tumblr.com/tagged/myself Manny Ortega takes his Tumblr down that night and I spend some time editing the privacy settings of my


Facebook. It doesn’t feel over though. Four years of my alternate life gone in a single click, but he could still have them backed up on his computer. Without Christina, I would have never found the profile; I lived years without knowing a parasite had wormed its way into my life, who knows how many more years Manny Ortega could have existed without me knowing. Even worse, would I even notice if another profile popped up? “He recently sent me a picture of him doing a thumbs up by a beer pong table...did you post that one up on anything?” Christina mentions this because the two of us want answers. We want to know how deep this goes. I know the beer pong photo she is talking about. It was from New Year’s Eve and I had taken down my bedroom door and assembled a makeshift table in my garage. The thing is, I never posted that picture.

Shortly after Nev’s portrait session with Angela, they begin to interview her husband, Vince. Despite having strangers show up at his front door with video cameras he is calm and collected during this interview. He’s sitting in the front porch looking out at his front yard preparing himself for the monologue that is about to escape his lips. “Cod fish being sent to China,” he starts, “by the time the code went to China the flesh was mush and tasteless. These guys came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats and put some catfish in with them the catfish would keep the cod agile. There are those people who are catfish in life and they keep you on your toes, they keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh and uh, I thank God for the catfish because we’d be boring and dull if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our fin.”

Manny Ortega wasn’t just following me, he was following my friends. Emma posted that photo on her Instagram and Manny had snatched it up and sent it as a text to Christina.

“He admitted it,” Christina states after her phone call with Manny ends. “He said he was going to stop using your picture. He said to tell you he’s sorry and he didn’t mean for it to get this far.”

She sends me two phone numbers that Manny has used in the past, both have the area code 916.

I believe this. When his Tumblr started in 2008 it was only a few reblogs of things he found funny or thoughtprovoking. When the first photo of me pops up there are more likes than usual and maybe even a comment or two. The next time a photo of me is used the same thing happens and soon my pictures become frequent and soon my photos become Manny Ortega’s photos. At some point, these girls must have messaged him or vice versa and that is when I can see things getting out of hand and of the situation “getting this far.” Later on, Christina states that she is still talking to him, that she is trying to get to know the real him because they had been best friends for so long.

My area code. “He had told me he was from Sacramento,” she types, “that he moves to New York and never changed his phone number.” I remain silent with the possibility that this is someone I have run into at least once in my life. Christina is typing… I wait. “He called…”

American River Review  35


I spend a considerable amount of time looking through the messages between Christina and myself as I prepared to write this essay. She graduated with a degree in Psychology at the University of Houston in 2016 and when I asked her about the incident and if it was okay that I was writing about it she mentioned that she still thinks about it often but taking psychology classes has helped her understand Manny more. “The whole thing made me a stronger person so I guess it’s not too bad.” I want to tell her that I’m happy for her but I don’t. Aside from this Facebook chat, we are strangers. I can’t say that I’m a stronger person from this. It doesn’t feel like I am. In fact, after removing myself from social media for a month, I logged back on and continued doing the same things I did before I learned of Manny Ortega’s existence. If you were to ask me what my privacy settings are, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Even if I did keep my profile extremely private, I have no way of monitoring my friends’ privacy settings. Maybe the inevitability of it all has made me numb. Maybe I should care more. I don’t expect to ever find closure. Whereas Nev tracked down Angela and Christina heard Manny speak, I only have a collection of messages relaying second-hand information. What I feel now is similar to what I felt that night in 2013: I am an outsider looking in. But shouldn’t I be more? Shouldn’t I know the truth? Those were pictures of my face, my friends, my memories and yet, I feel so far removed from them. On his Tumblr, Manny had a section titled Facts About Me. Most of his facts are quirky tidbits that have

36  American River Review

nothing to do with my real life. Then there are some that are close to accurate. Fact About Me: I carry at least one book with me wherever I go. Fact About Me: Something that scares me the most is the unknown. It makes me feel extremely uneasy. For example, if I think about the ocean or the vastness of outer space, my stomach ties itself into knots. Fact About Me: In my spare time, I quite enjoy watching terrible horror films. Fact About Me: One of my worst habits is bitting/ pulling my bottom lip. I catch myself doing both numerous times a day. I’m biting my bottom lip as I write this and try to recall if it’s something I regularly do or if reading it as a Fact About Me planted the suggestion. Christina said Manny didn’t know me, but when a person’s entire existence is built on lies, can you really trust anything they say? Manny Ortega could have been a high school acquaintance or even a stranger that I crossed paths with. Perhaps they were in the same room with me once, watching me read a book or talk to a group of friends. Perhaps after four years of cyberstalking, they began to know me as a close friend would. Through writing, I had hoped to discover a clue I had missed or even uncover some bit of closure, but I’m left with the same unsettled feeling: Manny Ortega’s identity is unknown to me, and it always will be. Like Manny’s, my stomach ties itself into knots.


American River Review  37


Silly Putty Vagina? Betsy Harper

The woman’s voice carried beautifully Across the stone patio in front of the museum A moment of stunned silence sat in the crisp air Then we all laughed, our breath white and puffy Is that even a thing? your wife asked I’ll tell you later, you said And we all laughed again But as you wrapped your arm Around her shoulder Your eyes slid in my direction Only for a second—but I knew— That was what I was to you A cheap substitute for the real thing A toy, squatting on your full color Sunday morning comic strip Leaving nothing of myself Your imprint on me obvious Until you stretched me out Kneaded me pliable Used me again

38  American River Review


La Petite Mort Hannah Orlando

Bare breasts and hearts align on ships, unmanned. A hunger yearning for the tastes within bodies, encased amongst elation kin to death, remaining blinded by a brand. While blood pools far away from its homeland, blank canvas tears from eager nails on skin, where the line of need and desire draws thin. The outside world fades with each drop of sand, but carnal needs breed only malcontent, amid neglected echoes of past lives. Marred soul singed by red iron burns like oil, under perceived vice laid out to dement. Against words and brimstone, my strength survives, borne by each small death plated in gold foil.

39


Claudia Anna Stelmach Andromeda oil on canvas 14” × 18”

40  American River Review


Mariya Donskova To sparkle Like a metal spoon in a microwave I want to be loud

American River Review  41


The Dead See Patti Santucci

The bullet hits with such force, I take two steps back. Josh stares at me, all the anger drains from his face and is replaced with horror as his eyes find mine and then drop to my chest. My gaze shifts to the unnatural shreds of bloody tissue visible through the tear in my blouse. Shouldn’t I feel pain? My fingers find the hole and it is then that my knees begin to turn to water. I try to yell for help, but the volume of metallic sludge pools in the back of my throat and spills off my bottom lip. Each breath reminds me I am drowning. My knees hit the asphalt first. Josh brushes his hair back, that brown hair I once thought was so beautiful, and whispers, “Oh my God.” The burning begins first, like a white-hot knife thrusting and twisting inside my left breast. A sucking sound involuntarily escapes my mouth as if my lungs are trying to grip handfuls of oxygen. I think I am crying. Josh bends down telling me how sorry he is, my eyes pleading with his to save me. The air becomes still as the rest of my body folds onto the pavement. I watch an ant saunter along the white line that defines the parking space, watch it methodically negotiate the boulder-like gravel. Step by tiny step. The fire inside my chest, now extinguished. The sun bathes

me. I see Josh’s lips moving, watch him pace. I find the ant again and walk with it. No more pain. No more sound. Death is very still. I feel no part of the panic as I watch Josh scream, no sadness as I stare at my body awkwardly bent and bleeding. There is no wondering where I will go next, no fear that I don’t belong where I am. Only a detached stillness. Comforting. Peaceful really. Perhaps five minutes pass as I watch Josh go from sorrow to sociopath. He tucks the gun into the back of his Levis, the ones with the fraying inseam and the oil stain on the left back pocket that I never could get out. His wheels are turning now. I should have run sooner. He had been capable of this all along and from the outside looking in, we had always been a statistic. One of those couples destined to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Seems like a completely different man who once scoured the stores to find Necco wafers just because I once mentioned that some of my best childhood memories were of me and my sister sharing that candy on our front stoop.  A different man who laid four straight nights on the floor, next to my boxer, Cassius, because no one should ever die alone. A different man who showed up at my work, after our first break-up, dinner and candles in hand, singing along with a recorded version of Al Green’s, Let’s Stay Together. The rage, a quiet beast inside him, grew slowly at first, nibbling at his soft edges. I kept making excuse after excuse until one day I realized the monster in him had ripped all his kindnesses away, leaving only large chunks of inflamed gristle exposed. By then, his boot had been wedged at my throat for so long that I didn’t even know how I’d cope if he ever let up. Friends, family, they had all fallen away. Or did I push them? I had become too lost, too fragile, too alone to risk moving. He pops the trunk of his blue Nissan, the sound echoing through the empty lot, and pulls out a tarp, seven bungee cords, a roll of duct tape and several black garbage bags. He reaches underneath my shoulders and drags me onto the canvas.  I watch as he sweeps the hair from my face and places a bag over my head, handling me much more carefully in death than he ever did when I was alive. He duct-tapes my wrists and ankles and wraps several bags around my body, securing them with the bungee cords we

42  American River Review


bought together just six days ago at Home Depot. He rolls me, ragdoll like, in the tarp. While I can’t hear his angry words, the plopping sound the sweat makes as it drips off the end of his nose onto the canvas is deafening.

a bright red. I watch his memories unfold and see him standing outside my apartment door, excited for our third date, a bouquet of sunflowers in one hand and a giant box of Kleenex in the other.

He heaves my body into the trunk, slams the lid, leans over the car and curses. Somehow, I am once again causing him undue inconvenience. He opens the rear passenger’s side door and retrieves three bottles of bleach. As he pours each bottle over the blood stains, I realize how long he’s planned this and all that time spent this morning convincing me to go with him for “one, last drop” was just another lie.

However, that sense of warmth passes quickly as a darkness crosses his face, a storm cloud eclipsing the sun. I submerge myself into Josh’s memories, feel them as if they are my own. He fast forwards to his company picnic where Rick, his former coworker, oddly taller now and more muscular, is laughing with me at some forgotten joke. I peer through Josh’s eyes, feel his blood pressure rising, jealousy pumping through his veins, as he watches me lean forward, release a button on my blouse then slink provocatively away, willing Rick to watch me go. I feel Josh’s hands shake as he storms toward the bathroom. The primal rage building in him chokes me with every step and once inside, I panic, jumping out and away from his perspective as his fists punch the bathroom stall door. I stand in the memory, in that bathroom, so many years ago, and realize the intensity of his jealous delusions and touch the company T-shirt I wore to the picnic that day.

He begins undressing, throwing everything, from his underwear to his shoes, inside the remaining garbage bag and tosses it in the car, grabbing another set of clothes I had not seen from the backseat floor. He is working fast now. I crawl inside the car with him – sit in the passenger’s seat and watch him reach for a Kleenex as he searches his face in the rear-view mirror, wiping away a small splatter of blood from his left cheek. For a long second, he studies the tissue, and I can feel him reliving our second date, him spooning me chicken soup, insisting I’m beautiful as I shiver with fever, the skin under my nose chafed

Josh sneers as he twists his body, pawing for the black garbage bag that holds his clothes and tosses the Kleenex inside. He settles back behind the steering wheel so abruptly, the car rocks as he reaches into the glove box where he deposits the gun I now know too well and pulls out a cell phone I have never seen before. “It’s done. It’ll take me about an hour and fifteen to get to Pinto Lake. You know where we’re meeting right?” I watch Josh’s hands shake, taste the bile in the back of his throat. As we pull away, a small olive-skinned boy stares at me from behind the abandoned warehouse, dry weeds, the color of straw, shielding him from view. I shout, “Don’t be scared. Remember the license plate. Tell your parents.” But the voice of a dead person, I would come to learn, is seldom heard. Our drive is silent. No radio. No phone calls. Just the rhythm of the road beneath us. Josh is calm, taking the back roads slowly once we get closer to the lake. We drive through a county slum campground, one door of a dated RV hanging catawampus, another crudely spraypainted with “Fuck the Guvermet”. A middle-aged man, with a stained wife-beater tee stretched over his barrel gut, stares at me from his lawn chair. I pound on the car window, but once again, my efforts go unnoticed. Grasses grow taller, the paved road becomes dirt and narrows as we drive, even the sun is retreating. I crawl inside the trunk, inhabit my body, feel its weight shift and roll as we turn. The garbage bag sticks to my face and smells of gasoline and mold. My right elbow and knee are shattered and I listen, in the complete darkness, as pieces of bone shift beneath my skin.

American River Review  43


The engine exhales as we come to a stop. Keys jangle, feet hit the dirt, a car door slams and Josh says, “Let’s get this over with.” A voice I recognize replies, “I brought five of the bastards. Man, she ain’t goin’ anywhere but down.” I stand outside and watch Josh make his way toward the trunk and am only half surprised when I see Bruce standing next to his gray Dodge pick-up. The back tires partially in the lake. A small silver rowboat floats in the shadows as if maniacally eager to participate in my disposal. “Man, I don’t know about this,” Josh says. “How do we know some dumb-fuck fisherman isn’t going to hook a piece of the canvas?” “Josh, we’ve been over this a thousand times. She’s gonna sink to the bottom and, besides, ain’t nobody fishin’ around here. I mean, look at it.” Bruce is right. The water is a stagnant, murky brown, a film of greasy toxins floating on the top, circling a few dead fish whose scales are wiped away, their pale bluishpeach skin now similar to my own. Josh wipes the sweat off his forehead and heads to the back of the car, popping the trunk with the remote. “See. She ain’t even bled through the tarp,” Bruce says. He holds his hand up for a high five and Josh reluctantly complies. Together, they lift my body, much easier now that there are two of them, and lie me down on the wet dirt. Bruce kicks the lump that is my body so the tarp will unroll. “Easy, Bruce,” Josh says. “Really? You killed her and I’m the bad guy?” Bruce, for some insane reason, pulls the garbage bag off my head, the ends of my long hair, matted in blood, stick to the bag. “Jesus, Josh, you didn’t even close her eyes?” Bruce bends down to shut my eyelids but rigor mortis has begun to set in and while the rest of my body is still pliable, my eyelids will not close, my neck and jaw are stiffening, taking on a perverted form. “Amateur,” he says, replacing the garbage bag. Bruce is among a handful of Josh’s loser “clients”. The deeper Josh got into dealing drugs, the more deviant his clientele had become. After he met Bruce, Josh began an isolating path of paranoia to accompany his temper and I stayed riding shotgun as he closed in our world, turning our home into a bunker from which to fight his imaginary war. The red flags waved ridiculously but I was too scared and oddly too comfortable to leave. I sank with Josh and even prided myself in knowing how to negotiate his moods, treading skillfully so the eggshells wouldn’t crack beneath my feet. Staying quiet as he covered the windows

44  American River Review

with foil to prevent “them” from peering in, pretending not to notice as he drove different routes home, and most importantly, recognizing the subtle rigidity of his jaw and the twitch in his left eye that always preceded a violent explosion, commending myself when I could dodge his anger and alter the outcome. But I neglected to notice that while I was laser-focused, playing this dangerous game, the rest of my world was falling away. And for that I will become at best a Jane Doe, a dusty manila cold case folder. But, more likely, no one will even notice that I’m gone. Bruce wastes no time and begins to pile cement blocks on me, tossing some from the bed of his truck. I crawl inside my body, feeling the blows as punishment for not leaving Josh sooner. My ribs break and I hear the hiss from my right lung. One block slams into my nose, cartilage splintering like lightening followed by a fault line crack through my skull. Josh joins in and soon all five blocks lay across my broken frame. They pull the tarp around me and secure the canvas with rope, my body tugs as the knots are tightened. I am heavy. My back digs into the dirt as they drag me closer to the shoreline. Loud grunts fill the abandoned air as they slam me into the bottom of the boat. Sweat on canvas. Plop. Plop. Plop. The rocking is perversely comforting. “Shit! She’s heavier than I thought. This is gonna cost you Josh.” “It already has.” I float onto shore and stare at Josh, knee-jerk regret shadows his face, but I know from experience it will vanish before the sun rises.      “God Damnit Josh. You done the right thing. She would’ve killed you first and if she found out about Twinkle Tits, Melissa’d be dead too. After all this broad did to you, you’re really gonna question that this was the right move? The only move?” Bruce pauses, searching Josh’s face. ”Don’t get soft on me now.” Josh stares at his work boots. Bruce claps his hands, inches from Josh’s face. “Snap out of it! C’mon!” Josh nods and closes the trunk of his car, then backs it up about forty feet into a clearance. Bruce leaves me bobbing in the boat while he pulls his truck forward. I stare at the NRA bumper sticker until I can no longer make out the thick black letters. Both men return with oars and climb in the boat, digging their heels into me to gain traction as they row. The quiet nature provides at nightfall is a rare combination of calm and fear and I know both men wonder whose eyes are watching them tonight as they


slice the oars through the black water that will soon be my home. I watch as they gingerly stand, bracing each of their legs on either side of my floating coffin. They balance and lift. Josh winces and I know the high school football injury to his left collarbone is flaring. “Ok, on three. You got it?” Josh nods. “One - two - three, ” Bruce grunts. Bruce’s muscular upper body makes him top heavy and he holds on to my shoulders a moment too long. He falls in with me and together we cause a thunderous splash that echoes in the night. I watch Bruce flail like a trapped animal until I can no longer make out the tread on the bottom of his work boots. The water cradles me womblike, caresses me slowly as I sink to the silt floor. What does Bruce mean, I would have killed Josh? Who is he kidding? Didn’t he notice the purple bruise that covered half my face last October? Didn’t he question why I wore long-sleeved shirts in August? Did he think I magically stopped being pregnant? I lived a life making sure Josh’s dinner was on the table precisely between 5:15 and 5:25 every night. I showered when he told me to, woke up when he needed me to. I stopped calling friends, stopped even entertaining the thought of contacting my parents, pushed my sister away, left my phone in plain sight because that is what he wanted, that is what he demanded. Me? Hurt Josh? I was too busy making sure I didn’t make eye contact with a grocery clerk or laugh at a waiter’s joke. I accounted for every hour when drilled, every phone call placed or received. Once I spent two months in a cast because I smirked when he said the next-door neighbor’s fence was bob-wired. Josh will get away with this. It’s been two years since I’ve spoken to my parents and eight months since I last saw my sister, Beth. Both final conversations ended with me telling them to go to Hell while Josh stood smiling in the shadows with rescuing promises. I’m to blame really. I sat, side by side with him, and snorted my way through five years and became rather sloppy at keeping it all a secret. My sister told my parents that I had a problem. They came forward, as parents do, initially offering money then consistently offering rehab and when I finally managed to asphyxiate their efforts, when I finally managed to erase their vision of the little girl I once was and replace it with the stringy-haired addict I had become, they changed the lock on their front door for the last time. It wasn’t until later did Josh confess to me that he’d stolen money from both my parents and my sister but by then I was all in. I tell myself had I known what

Josh had done, I wouldn’t have slapped my mother when she threatened to call the police, would have known better than to tell Josh where she kept the good silver, wouldn’t have walked away and left my parents with the painful defeat, the unforgiving guilt, that will be their bedfellow for the rest of their lives. And not Melissa? The apple-faced, barely eighteen Pollyanna that volunteers at the animal shelter? The church going virgin whose eyes shine with such naïveté that anyone who looks at her hears children belly-giggle in a Norman Rockwell painting? The girl I used to be? I hope she can find all the comfort she needs staring into a shelter dog’s eyes because that will be all she has left soon. She will have to learn fast to disguise what she loves with invisible armor even when he lies next to her on a lazy Sunday morning telling her how beautiful she is, coaxing her to share her dreams, and more dangerously, her fears, cocooning her in a blanket of trust that he will strip from her later leaving her exposed pink vulnerability to quickly age into layers of twisted scar tissue. The cuffs of my jeans collect dirt from the shore as I watch the boys load and secure the boat into the bed of the pickup. Bruce grabs two brooms and two flashlights from the extended cab and tosses them along the water’s edge with a rehearsed accuracy and then slides behind the wheel as the truck engine growls. Josh removes his shoes and stuffs his socks inside while Bruce pulls the truck out of sight. Methodically, Josh ties the two sets of laces together and throws them around his neck, each muddy boot now dangling against his chest. Bruce returns with his boots fashioned similarly. “C’mon boy, start sweepin’. I don’t plan on being here when the sun comes up,” Bruce says. Both men begin a steady back and forth movement with the brooms, brushing hard to clear the muddy tire tracks and more softly as the dirt turns to dust, continually scanning the ground with their flashlights as they back their way into the bush toward their vehicles. I take a perverted delight in the pain I feel as blackberry thorns pierce the bottom of Josh’s tender feet. I settle in the bed of the pickup, feel the boat rock against me with every turn and pock mark in the road. Bruce lights a cigarette, takes a long pull and I stare at him, his eyes framed in the rear-view mirror as smoke fills the air between us. We enter Highway One following Josh and head, I realize, toward Moss Landing. The AG farms narrow Giberson Road but we continue on for about a two-mile stretch. Josh’s taillights bloody the dark night and Bruce cuts the engine.

American River Review  45


“What the fuck?” Josh yells nearly flying out of his car. “Shut up, boy!” Bruce replies as his feet hit the dirt. “Why are you following me? I thought the plan was to split up. You gave that big speech about not contacting each other. You were the one all freaked out telling me if I dared as much as even call you, you would slit my throat. You went on and on about how you can’t go back to prison, all that third strike bullshit. And now you’re the one following me?” “Look, I got involved because of a promise I made and…” “And I thanked you with an eight ball.” “You are one stupid motherfucker. Do you actually think I‘d help you for a frickin’ eight ball? Did you really think I would chance goin’ to prison for five hundred bucks? Look, I made a promise and now it’s done and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna trust some lame greener like you to get rid of the murder weapon.” “I’m here aren’t I? And anyway what do you have to worry about? You didn’t kill her.” Josh pauses and adds, “And what favor? What the fuck are you talking about?” “Do you think I walked into your life by accident, my friend?” Bruce says, drawing each word out as he steps closer to Josh. Josh shifts his weight and his trademark baby face reveals fear. “Relax asshole,” Bruce says, lighting another cigarette. “Melissa’s brother, Jackson, helped me out of a tough spot a while back and I promised him I’d keep an eye out for her. She really likes you, man. And that bitch you wasted was gonna kill you. Jackson wanted her de….” “Wait a minute. Melissa told me her brother was dead.” “That’s what her fucked-up family would like you to believe, all dressed up in their Sunday-church-goin’white-picket crap.” “Listen, he saved my ass once. In prison.” Bruce drops his cigarette, gingerly uses his big toe to extinguish it in the mud. “All he asked in return was that I watch out for his kid sister. Which I did. Made sure she had an apartment, food and shit,” a small grunt escapes as he bends down to retrieve the cigarette butt and stick it in his pocket. “Goddamn Jackson,” he continues, shaking his head, “that boy took a knife meant for me and now he ain’t never gettin’ out.” Bruce’s voice rises. “Crawled around on the floor like a fuckin’ snake for two weeks until the prick warden got him a wheelchair.” Bruce squints his eyes and stares off over the field. “Melissa said he died in a motorcycle accident. She’s got a goddamn urn in her apartment, for Christ’s sake,” Josh says, now suspicious.

46  American River Review

Bruce exhales in disgust. “That’s how fucked up their old man is. He wanted Melissa to believe Jackson was dead. Truth is, Jackson was banned from the family when she was like twelve or some shit, but the fact remains that he’s been watchin’ out for her for years. He just never made contact. Their step-father told Jackson to stay out of her life or he’d fuck with him.” “Melissa’s step-dad is the former chief of police.” “Exactly. You get what I’m sayin’?” Bruce places a hand on Josh’s shoulder. “And besides, you know that wife of yours was plannin’ on takin’ you out. The money she stole, the way she screwed with your job. Hell, the fuckin’ concussion. Melissa told me all about it. Man, if she’d been my wife, I would’ve offed her a long time ago. I mean you didn’t even have to hide her body, you practically had yourself a Gone Girl defense.” Bruce grins making the tattoo around his mouth fold in on itself. “Look, I ain’t here to bullshit. Let’s get rid of that piece and get outta here. Then you can go on with your life and I can go on with mine.” What the hell is Bruce talking about? What money? The money Josh stole from my family? “And as for his concussion, Bruce,” I say out loud. “I was the one who took him to the hospital, drunk off his ass. The split lip, the broken ribs, God knows who he got in a fight with. I changed the wrappings. I woke him every thirty minutes. I was the one who quietly returned the bowl to the kitchen counter when he’d say, ‘Look at my lip, you stupid bitch, you think I can drink hot soup?’” I glare at Josh, whip the blood-stained hair from my shoulders and scream, “Tell him Josh! Tell him that I was the one who convinced your boss to give you your job back. Tell him!” And that’s when it dawns on me. Josh is a better liar than I thought. I stand deep in the water and try to catch the gun as his quarterback arm propels it like a winning pass. I hold my hands up but, like the lies, the gun rips through me as if I never existed at all. The men slap their palms together in a gladiator grip handshake never breaking eye contact. “Take care of Melissa, Josh. She meant a lot to Jackson so she means a lot to me. You hear me?” Bruce says, stilling the rhythm of their handshake, pulling Josh closer. “Yeah. I got you,” says Josh with a tone that holds just enough deference to show respect and just enough annoyance to keep his dignity. Josh turns back toward the car, stops and turns around, strokes his chin with his thumb and forefinger. I can feel the rage brewing inside him. He feels disrespected, confused as he tries to make all the pieces fit. “Something doesn’t add up,” he says.


“What’s that, Einstein?” Bruce says, placing his hands on his hips, drawing in an exaggerated breath that whistles through his nose as he straightens his posture. “You’re telling me that you did all this, helped me get rid of Lisa’s body, became a co-conspirator to murder, for some goddamn cripple who’s never getting out of—” “Shut up! You shut the fuck up!” Bruce grabs Josh’s throat with both hands, his fingertips growing whiter with each word. “You don’t know Jackie. The only thing he ever wanted was for his sister to be hap—” Bruce seems to leave himself, the blood vessels in the whites of his eyes becoming visible. He let’s go, pushing Josh into the thick mud. “You ain’t worth it. Stay the fuck away from me.” He flexes both hands, trying to get feeling back and heads toward his truck. “And if anything happens to Melissa,” he continues as he opens the driver’s side door, a dead cold look in his black eyes, “I’ll kill you…and I’ll enjoy every goddamn minute of it.” For the next three months, I follow Josh and Bruce, watching their every move. Bruce, back at his catch-ascatch-can construction jobs, lives a solitary life of TV dinners, Miller Lights and Marlboros while Josh begins the process of eliminating every trace of my existence from our apartment. My make-up, flat iron, even a box of tampons he throws in a dumpster behind Save Mart late one night. As for my clothes, he donates those, dispersing them to several different bucket shops. He takes down curtains, removes the bedspread, throws out most of the kitchenware. Like a strung out ex-con with two cops and a warrant at his door, he stuffs garbage bags full, searching our apartment and our car, leaving nothing untouched. He burns pictures and scratches MOVED across any mail addressed to me. I sit across from him on the couch, drag my fingernail over the ribbing in the material, while he phones Melissa. “Hey Babe, listen, I’ve been thinking, I think it’s time I cooked you dinner.” I lean back and remember the last time, years ago, when he made me a meal. We had been doing pretty well then. And while I had been clean for two months, he had entered his second week of sobriety. It was one of those times when the phrase things will be different now still meant something. After dinner that night, he went to an NA meeting and I took the opportunity to visit my parents. When I picked him up from the meeting, he hugged me and that’s when I saw it. That twitch in his left eye and a dreadfully familiar chill walked up my spine. “You smell like smoke,” he said. I tried to be casual, patted his shoulder and laughed. “I went to see my dad, sure wish he’d stop but old habits die hard.”

“You told me your parents were on vacation.” That’s when I knew I had blown it. I had told him my folks were on vacation because he had wanted me to ask them for a loan. I quickly added, “Oh. They were. Last week. They’re back now.” On the way home that night, the drive was silent. I remember turning the radio on and gripping the arm of the seat as he wordlessly switched it off. He waited for probably twenty minutes after we got home before he began with the abusive foreplay. “You were either at a bar or you’re lying to me. Which is it?” his tone even and flat. “I – I must have got the vacation dates mixed up. You know how bad I am with dates, Josh. I was at my folks’. I swear. You can call them if you want. My mom, my mom said to tell you hi. I - I swear. Besides, no one smokes in bars anymore.” “Well if you weren’t at a bar, why the lipstick? And what’s that on your fuckin’ ankle?” “It’s just a tattoo. You know one of those fake rub-on ones. I, I thought you might like it.” I remember the way he came at me, his breath smelling like cold coffee and sour milk. “You smell like sex. Now, why is that?” he whispered. The open-handed slap spun me around, knocked me off balance, the pain, quick and hot that shot across the back of my eyes as I slammed into the corner of the footboard. “Josh, don’t.” I didn’t know then how many more times I would say those two words, how adept I would become at concealing bruises with the right combination of Almay’s natural sun-kissed foundation and Revlon’s light blonde concealer. Or that two Advil migraine pills with one and half shots of bourbon would be the magic combination to take the edge off just enough to sleep, without feeling drugged the next morning. These things take time to learn. He grabbed a handful of hair and pulled me to a standing position and screamed, “Tell me the truth. Where were you?” “I am telling you the truth Josh, I swear. I was at my parents’ house.” And as he yelled, “I don’t believe you,” he let go and pushed me hard. I fell against the dresser then touched my temple, flinching at the rapidly rising welt, the result of a half-opened drawer. Before I could reach the bathroom, he came at me and with one deliberate movement, smacked me square in the back with a wooden chair so hard part of the backing broke.

American River Review  47


I don’t remember when I woke up the next day but there he was, standing there with a breakfast tray, a yellow Gerber daisy springing from a glass vase, the smell of bacon and eggs making me nauseous. I smiled and said thank you as he fed me, then I folded him into my arms as he sobbed. I pushed down the vomit, the pain, the anger, the truth, swallowed all of it and fooled myself into believing I could mend this man. Dead me watches from the couch as Josh stands and smiles, loads our Al Green CD in the player, “Melissa, I just wanted you to be sufficiently…” “…dazzled by my charm,” I roll my eyes and repeat in tandem with Josh. “But you’re right, Missy. It’s about time you came to my place for a change. I haven’t brought many girls here, and well, I just want you to know it’s, how should I say, understated.” He leans against the window frame, holds the phone between his shoulder and cheek and smiles, shoving his hands into his front jean pockets. The sunshine pouring in casts a long lean shadow and he looks humiliatingly handsome. His dark hair falls across his face as he watches three small birds hop under an azalea bush. “How in the world did a guy like me get so lucky? Well, I tell you one thing. This place will look a lot better when you’re in it,” he says into the phone. Ah, forever the charmer. And so it went. The intense attraction consumes them both. She giggles when he has a house key made for her, squeals when he clears out two drawers and some closet space and brings home champagne when her lease is up. They move in her furniture, curtains go up, a matching bedspread and pillows blanket our bed, a juicer adorns the kitchen counter. She is making headway with him. He’s stopped dealing and started exercising, even started showing up to work on time. But he doesn’t have me fooled. I see the way his neck stiffens when her friends come over. I notice the twitch in his left eye when she comes home too late. I watch as he goes through her phone and her laundry while she sleeps, and I feel the trembling rage deep inside that rocks his cage. It won’t be long now I’m afraid. Not long at all. Too bad a dead woman’s warnings are seldom heard.

48  American River Review


Deborah Dano

the Door

a charcoal smudge sunset wasn’t

sweeping

a chocolate sauce sweet wasn’t

deserting

a chicken heart beats wasn’t

resenting

a chrysalid starts flight whiz gnat

leaping

a clown choking spat squeaking waisinets a curly coif crimped cascading winging it a champion raced feet walking whizzed not a clockwork orange sets watch it

meaning

a conceit sparks poets what not

writing

a cruising car ways in

driving

went

a child’s toy tweets was sent a continuousness dreamt WAIS ENT

following following

American River Review  49


Mulberry leaves dive an endless cerulean breadth water and earth drawn

into high minded to summers and falls then on floats pristine yellow

flipping cautions windward curling, soaring, gliding rioting in blue

arrows plunge yellow leaves as sycamine falling out of the Bible

empty and aimless scooped like koi schooled lots and netted smoothly

cadmium chrome boats sinking into pools become toys in playful drifting

Mulberry leaves cup seamless origami koi caught smoothly in nets

up and down blue mise lily lived turning top to bottom sun spin offs

Feathery slow leaves through sky blue to pool fishing among the willing diving mulberry aims at real reflected life real life living live

swan dive suspended rejoins the mirrored tree fools the eyes jeremiad Marilyn Monroe leaves her blonde shell to rot here now with all of our

Perse of mulberry color sky fished in green by mistake as koi

trees spent summer tide frittering their gold away until leaves are done

Mulberry leaves dove as if to fly away—caught sky as water

yellow leaves riding netting leaves my surprise in awe of my chore

Mulberry leaves dove through sky into water then wanted an ending

catching the sky swim netting leaves in blue demise in awe of flash lights

Mulberry leaves dove skimming pooled water wanting air to end

mulberry leaves dive in sky blue pool fishing the boats of yellow truce

Mulberry Leaves

colorful beauties Marilyn Monroe koi swim the wonder of days suns liquifying white airy dancing new to me blinds radiant moves supernal hangons skates radiant blobs upon live beats the skin as bobbing swimming pool sun seared eyes burning island fresh in a swimming pool swallowing ichorous sun above pooled iridescence between open ended blues in mystery leaves paper leaves flying bonny banks of lux lumen buzzing deserters

As shepherding leaves captivated eyes slipping cross its prize again

Deborah Dano 50  American River Review


Akrasia Jennifer Snow

Home alone, after unlocking and relocking the door again for the tenth time, he stands silent, spying on the world through the splintered ends of his broken window blinds as he ignores the painful grip of hunger in his stomach and crumples the week-old grocery list in his left hand, while letting the car keys in his right hand fall to the floor. Her hands shaking, she flicks an ember from her cigarette, and snuffs it out as she picks through the soot and cinders of an ashtray, looking for half-consumed stubs hidden by used filters or between spent matches, while ignoring the new box of nicotine patches and gasping for air, she holds the almost-discarded snub to her lips, and lights up. She leans over the bathroom sink staring at a reflection in the mirror she doesn’t recognize, and works to conceal the ruby smears and amethyst splatters, moves to hide the vesuvianite eruptions assaulting her freckled cheeks. Author of a forced smile, finishing her canvas-skin, she walks to the train stop hand-in-hand with her depraved painter. A huddled group ties stretched rubber to lay new tracks on their railroad-arms, digging at old wounds with jagged nails and blistered fingers, grabbing at spoons and hunting for needles among the tin foil and aluminum cans strewn about the counter. Half-buried is a sponsor’s cell number. Seen. Ignored, as they reach for the hollow skeleton of a plastic pen. Akrasia is knowledge bearing no witness to your actions. Akrasia is standing at a shuttered window, watching silently from the safety of your home as the world spins out of control. Akrasia is the knowledge of what is best for your health, your well-being, and lacking the strength or power to act. Akrasia is tasting blood on your fingers, feeling them throb with heat and pain, but you just keep biting your fingernails.

American River Review  51


Yassaman Vedad Musician (A) charcoal 25.5” × 20”

52  American River Review


Evangeline Contreras (Nihil Sub Sole Novum) Beside moonrise, as all light shines less, throughout every continent and region, secondhand names and features, dwelling in the unknown, live legion: Santilmo, Will o’ wisp, Hitodama dolorous fires burning at graves. Intentional to breed pandemonium or passed down innocent enough. A creature’s story is esoteric, the power from remarks made off the cuff. Of creatures unknown, reallocate fear. The monster resides in the mirror. (Lupus in Fabula)

American River Review  53


Heat

Marcie Mallory She was waiting for him when he pulled into the driveway; old diesel truck groaning, exhausted, billowing out white clouds of smoke, choking the already hazy sky. Standing behind the screen door, tucked into the shadows, she watched him stumble out as if gravity weighed on him more than it did others. “What’s up?” He called, the sickly perfumed smell of whiskey and Swisher Sweets wafting off his body so thick she felt as though she could see it. That combination of smells had once reminded her of ropey muscles and hard hands holding soft skin, wisps of love poems sighed in her ear, and lazy smiles. Now it heightens her senses to distinguish any signs of anger flashing. “You know,” her voice sharp, as if glinting in the sunlight. Two predators laying in the tall grass. “Oh, c’mon baby.” A smile growing on his face, not quite reaching his eyes—malicious— flexing his audacity, determining just how much he could push. Even as she spun away from him, she felt the weight of the heat intensified by her instincts of fight or flight, skin shining as little dew drops appeared across the bridge of her nose. She felt his hand close over her own, as if he could smell the sudden appearance of perspiration once

54  American River Review


inside the house, as if he knew she felt weakness just from his proximity and he twisted her toward him just hard enough for her to lose her footing and be pulled tight against his chest. “You can’t blame me, right?” Up close she could see every imperfection: every pore sweating out that justone-more drop, the scar that cut through his eyebrow, bone white against his flushed face, eyes cold and dead and accusing that screamed, it’s your fault I drink. His face etched like granite, markings that told a story of a lifetime of not being good enough. She remembered a softer time—air just as hot and still too poor for air conditioning—just like now, but full of love. Tracing wet washcloths over already damp skin, all elbows and knees and still little wild things. Like a beaten dog he’d cry at simple touches, cry for the moon that didn’t seem to rise, cry for the dark, cry to be taken out of the bright world, and she’d be his solace from the sun until he drifted off into his artificial night. “I was just out with the guys.” He growled through barred teeth. His touch, stained and calloused in more ways than one, almost made her feel more alone. He held glass bodies more tenderly, lips kissed to long necks that

were not hers, that didn’t ask why aren’t you home, that didn’t beg please, we need that money for a rent check. Jerking away, she clenched her hands into tight fists, felt the bone underneath the skin, felt the hate that was truly love and mostly fear. The fear of not being strong enough to run away and the need to fight, ending this once and for all the only way they knew how. Two caged beasts just trying to survive. She turned when she heard a low hum deep in his chest, almost like a purr. He’s sprawled out on the bed, face finally innocent as he reaches his favorite place to hide. The silver at his temples now seemingly misplaced, he held his age in the awareness of his mortality. Her overpowering demand to mother something brushed an eyelash off his face, pulled off his boots, and saved the battle for another day.

American River Review  55


EARTHQUAKE INSURANCE

I shiver shudder shake Unlike a vase I don’t need cement to break Cotton sheets Mop up the water With the flowers I don’t bother

56  American River Review

Mariya Donskova


Old Wives’ Tales Marcie Mallory

He’ll beckon you close, finger half-cocked like him, and you’ll come because there is no rush that beats the ass end of a gun. Lips better suited to kiss a bottle of Jack than the mouth of Jill, and you, a woman with long soft lashes holding a child, no longer mean an explosion of heat from love, but hate, and he hears a voice moaning his name, not in passion, but pain. But the world can’t see behind those hard eyes and Copenhagen smile to the child left behind. They told him he must fight for his country, and when he is done they’ll throw him away like the old parachutes tangled in the trees, after flying too close to the sun. And they used to sing to him “Gory, gory, what a helluva way to die,” but there was no medal given for someone going alone in the middle of the night, ‘TIL VALHALLA’ carved into his chest, and his rifle at his side.

American River Review  57


Stitching Emma Harris

Stitching a red-threaded seam through paper, over guidelines straight the needle traces, as the line zig-zags, begins to taper, flawed but following, my needle paces. At first, my mother kept a careful eye on me, delivered the odd correction. She’s taught me some how, wherefore and why— there remains but a final inspection. She trained me how to sew, to do all things with care in every deed. Yet even so, between me and her, there have been failings. My seams depart from the guideline. I know I am seen as a reflection of her; I strive to sew straight seams for my mother.

58  American River Review


American River Review  59


60  American River Review


Reflections of an Ocean Stephanie Parsons

“I don’t want to be here anymore, Jeffrey.” She tossed a handful of stones from the cliffside as a child would cast balls into a bucket: halfheartedly and without purpose. “Then don’t.” “There’s nowhere else to go.” As she sighed, Railey lifted her head back to view a tall space between them and the stars. “Do you ever wish that the world could always feel this big?” “What do you mean?” “When you’re able to see the stars, you realize how small you are, then morning comes and everything feels claustrophobic again.” “I guess that’s why they call it ‘mourning.’” Jeffrey smiled at his joke. “You know, ‘cause you miss the night?” Railey was still silent. “No?” Railey frowned. “I guess.” She closed her eyes and rested the back of her head against the rocks and listened to the ocean as it crashed against the cliff. The waves had called to her more than once. “How long do you think it would take you to drown?” “Stop it, Railey, I’m not talking about this with you.” Railey caught Jeffrey’s eyes with a glare. “Whatever.” “I’m going home.” “Fine.” “Your grandma’s probably worried about you. You should go home too.” Railey laughed. “Okay, well, your mom is at least. I’ll walk you back.” “I didn’t hear her car come home. I’m fine. I’ll wait.” Jeffrey paused. He watched Railey as her frown turned back into a smile. He often wondered what she was think-

American River Review  61


ing. Railey’s complexity often felt like a reflection of the night sky above them mixed with as much mystery as held by the ocean. She was still undressed, her skin turning red as the rocks dug into her. Yet, her beauty didn’t distract him from the time, which was growing heavier. “Railey, I have to go. Let me walk you back.” “Go. I’m staying here until my mom gets home.” Her eyes closed again, leaving a lingering smile spread across her face. After another moment of watching her chest rise and fall in time with the waves, Jeffrey went to leave. As he walked home, he stopped in front of Railey’s house. He heard the dialogue that blared from Railey’s grandmother’s television. Their house had become a time machine, with the knobs on the television being a reminder that time was not linear. Jeffrey looked back for a brief second toward the cliffs, to see if Railey was walking towards him, but was greeted by a blurred outline of trees and rocks. Jeffrey continued home to a place where the televisions had remotes, parents arrived home at five, and their house would be quiet by ten. The dishwasher would already be running, his father snoring, and his mother reading his sister a bedtime story. He would be able to quietly slip through the door unnoticed, without question, and would soon be dreaming of Railey’s dark hair brushing across his skin. ... Railey opened her eyes to find herself alone. She wasn’t aware of how long it had been since Jeffrey left. The waves, again, called to her their endless song. This particular one was her favorite. The crashing sounds told a story of a life where she was not considered a whore, where her mother was usually home, where her grandmother was mentally stable, and her life was one filled with unshattered hope. Her pulse quickened at the thought of letting the ocean’s story end. Then don’t. To Railey, the waves were becoming faint from the distortion of memories playing in her head. Railey remembered the first time she ever heard the sound of crashing tides. Her father took her to a lake. They had been attending a funeral for her father’s biological mother, who he only just recently met. On their way to a ceremony, filled with unfamiliar faces and uncomfortable conversations, the two stopped at a motel in the northern part of Lake Tahoe. They spent a few hours walking the sidewalks and shorelines, stopping every few minutes to stare at the strange landscape set before them. “This is where I’d want us to live,” Railey remembered her father whispering. He had wrapped his arms around

62  American River Review

her small body and brought her to stand in front of him. During the extravagant dinners, expensive jewelry exchanges, and nightly bedtime readings, Railey never felt comfortable around her father. Several years had passed, but she could still feel fingers tracing her waist as panic rose in her chest. His slow kiss on her lips, lingering more than normal. When she looked into the unending horizon, she was no longer standing on a shoreline. Railey sailed away to places unknown, where hands could not feel her and voices could not reach. As the memory brought tears, Railey rose to her feet, her body sore from laying bare on the ground. The distance between her and the ocean didn’t seem far anymore. Her depth perception had blurred in the darkness. Railey’s vague smile returned to her face. ... “Mom, I’m home!” The television was blaring loudly as it always was. “Mom!” “Oh, hello, dear. How was work?” “It was alright, the contracts with my clients are a mess though. Work never stops, does it?” “Well, that’s nice.” “Mom, can you turn that down please?” “What?” “The television: can you turn it down?” “The heater isn’t on, dear.” “No, Mom, the television.” “I’m sorry, I just can’t seem to understand what you’re saying.” Carol sighed and put the groceries down in the kitchen. She walked abruptly by her mother, who sat in a chair with a sun hat on top of her head. As Carol turned the volume down, her head started to clear a little more. There was a reason she hadn’t brought a television with them when she and her daughter moved. The sound jostled her nerves. Carol needed her senses in order to function. She was convinced that this is why her mother had lost all of hers so quickly. With her eyes still glued to the flashing screen, Carol’s mother remarked, “Oh good! I can hear you now!” Carol sighed. “When did Railey get home today?” “Who?”


“Railey!” “Oh! I thought you said Kiley. I don’t even think I’ve met Kiley before.” Carol’s mother started laughing enough for her large sun hat to fall sideways. “Mom, why are you wearing your sunhat?” “Oh, well, it got too bright in here this afternoon. I could barely see the TV! There was an important debate on today. You know, that McCain character thinks that he has it all in the bag. What a scum he is! He will be the death of this country if he’s elected.” “Okay. I’m going to go make dinner. Have you eaten?” “Oh yes! I had a nice lunch with Damien today. He came by and brought me some half-and-half for my coffee.” Carol paused. “You had Damien over?” “Yes, he showed me how to get my phone to work again too. He’s such a nice man you know. You wouldn’t like him though, he’s too young for you I think.” “Yes, Mom, I’ve met Damien. I was there when you met him. You know, you really shouldn’t invite him over here without letting me know first, especially if Railey’s home. You know men.” “Oh, well, he’s a fine gentleman.” Carol sighed, having been defeated before in explaining her fears to her mother. “Okay, well please let me know first next time, okay?” “Will you turn up the volume on the television dear? I can’t hear what these people are saying. I am just so tired of people gushing over John McCain. You know, your father would have had a heart attack if he saw what this country was coming to!” “I’m going to go check on Railey.” “That’s nice.” Carol headed down the stairs and knocked on Railey’s bedroom door. A noise of impassioned melodies played loudly. “Railey, are you awake?” Carol knocked again but there still wasn’t an answer. She decided that Railey was asleep. Carol checked her watch and saw that it was already after eleven. She made a mental note to check on her daughter in the morning. There had been a time when Carol would pick Railey up from school every afternoon. She missed her daughter’s smile. The grin that lighted her eyes was rare to see these days. After all the therapy sessions and hospital visits, Railey still showed an emptiness inside her that

would often break Carol’s heart. She didn’t want to work this hard anymore. Carol wanted be there to tuck Railey underneath the covers at night, to cook her daughter dinner and carry on a conversation lasting more than a few sentences, and to be the shoulder to cry on after a day of heartbreak. Maybe I’ll have enough vacation time soon, Carol thought. Railey could see her brothers on the mainland and get away from the island for a couple days. Her daughter hated Hawaii. Railey often said how much it made her feel trapped, that on the mainland, you would be able to drive for days and never get anywhere; in Hawaii you would drive for an hour and be back where you started. Carol felt safe with the large distance between them and her father, but Railey’s mind was unsettled. “I love you Railey,” Carol whispered, then slowly walked back upstairs to the kitchen. Their house had been built in the rainy part of the island, near the edge of lava rock cliffs. During the winter they would hear whales and during the summer they would hear the endless chatter of Coqui frogs. Never before had they seen a house with a kitchen that looked off into the ocean. They moved from the desert to a lush environment. “Carol, you forgot to turn up the volume dear!” “What, Mom? I’m in the kitchen.” “The television, Carol!” A sly glance spread across Carol’s face. “I’m sorry, Mom, I just don’t seem to understand what you’re saying.” ... The morning air was the only thing friendly about a school day to Jeffrey. He downed another energy drink, waiting for his friends to arrive before the first bell. “Jeffrey, you look like shit.” “Thanks.” David punched his shoulder and gave him a friendly laugh. “Seriously though, are you okay?” “Ya, I was just up late again last night.” “The bitch that goes to that Catholic school?” Jeffrey shot him a warning glance. “Sorry, dude, you just know she’s a whore right? Are you sure you don’t have the clap?” “Who has chlamydia?” Mackenzie joined them in the courtyard, her books firmly pressed against her chest.

American River Review  63


“Jeffrey.” Mackenzie looked at Jeffrey and laughed. “He’s too ugly to get laid.” Jeffrey choked and punched her lightly in the shoulder. “Says you.” “What took you so long?” “Sorry, guys, I had to ask Professor Netemeyer if I would be able to take one of our tests early.” “Why?” “I landed a job believe it or not! My training is on a school day though. Guess you guys might be seeing less of me.” Jeffrey’s mouth dropped. “Like at a real job?” “No, it’s a fake one. They actually sell cocaine and it’s just a front for money laundering purposes.” Jeffrey and David paused and watched as Mackenzie’s blank stare slowly formed to a smile. Jeffrey stared at her, thinking briefly about Railey’s pale body contrasted against the black rock. Jeffrey glanced at Mackenzie’s shirt wondering if she held the same beauty underneath. Mackenzie and Jeffrey had been friends since middle school with many talks about their dreams and goals throughout the years. As he glanced over the girl that was beginning to become a distant acquaintance, her expression was the same one she had worn on the night they had held any sort of meaningful conversation. She went with him to meet his biological father, and comforted him when the meeting ended with a clash of diner chairs and the slam of a car door. He could still feel his hands shaking with anger and the burning sensation of holding back tears. “I don’t know what I was fucking thinking, Mack. Why do I even care?” Mackenzie’s hair had frizzed from the heat of the car, makeup running from beads of sweat. She had still looked beautiful to him. “Because he’s what made you. Well, the physical part of you.” Mackenzie gave him a sly smile. “You can blame yourself for your personality.” Jeffrey scoffed, “Ya? At least I have a job.” “That’s just because my personality is too great for a minimum wage job.” “Nah, it means that not even a desperate corporation wants to put up with you.”

64  American River Review

“At least I’m pretty.” Jeffrey sighed, “You definitely got me beat there.” “Well, that’s a first.” Jeffrey tapped his fingers on the dashboard, then turned to look his head to meet her gaze. “Thank you, Mackenzie, for being here.” Mackenzie wrapped her arms around his shoulders and together they sat for what seemed like ages in what would normally be an unbearable warmth of an unconditioned car. “Hey, Mack?” “Ya?” “Did you like ever, I don’t know, think of what we’d be like together?” “Um, not really. You’re kind of like a brother I guess. I’ve just known you for too long.” “Oh. Okay.” Jeffrey started the nervous tapping of his fingers against the plastic panel. “Hey, we should get some burgers maybe.” Mackenzie nodded her head and turned the key of her car. Along with exhaust fumes, they had left behind the memory of a wasted day. The subject never resurfaced and they continued on with their monotonous lives. He buried the pain of rejection into his meetings with Railey, a girl young enough to not know any better. Now, in the early morning haze between students dragging their feet to classes, he stared at Mackenzie in remembrance, wishing that he had made a better move. Mackenzie caught his gaze, and they paused, locking eyes, before Mackenzie quickly looked away. “Look, I have a mechanics class starting soon. I’ll see you guys later. Bye, David.” She paused and locked eyes with Jeffrey again. “Bye, Jeff.” He glanced at the ground quickly before replying, “Bye, Mackenzie.” David rolled his eyes. “Forget that Catholic whore, that’s a girl to bring home to your parents.” “Whatever. Hey, my first class is Calc. Are we going to ditch or stand here debating whether or not I have chlamydia?” ... “Mom, did you see Railey leave this morning?” “What, dear? “Railey? Did you see her this morning?”


“I think so.”

“No, Mom.”

“You think so? Mom, she would have left an hour ago.”

“What about Railey? Does Railey like Fig Newtons?”

“Oh yes, she watched the debate with me for a minute when she got home yesterday.” “No, Mom, I’m asking about this morning. Did you see her this morning?” Without warning, her mom became defensive. “Don’t raise your voice at me! Just because I’m old doesn’t mean you get to treat me without any respect! I watch your daughter while you’re off working until late in the evening. I clean the house and help pay for your bills! You watch your tone, Carol.” “Mom, I’m only asking if you saw Railey before she left for school.” “Oh.” Carol sighed. Conversations before her mother’s instant coffee usually went nowhere, even before her brain started deteriorating. “It’s okay. I’ll call the school and make sure she got there okay.” “Oh, Railey! We’re talking about Railey?” “Yes, Mom, we’re talking about Railey.” “Oh, yes, I saw her this morning. She made me some coffee.” “You’ve already had coffee this morning?” “Yes. Nice Railey made me some.” Carol hesitated, not knowing whether her mom was lucid, but decided to brush it aside as she remembered the time. “Okay. Then I’m going to get to work. Remember to let me know before having anyone over to the house please.”

“No.” “Okay, well I like Fig Newtons. Let’s see, do we need more ice cream?” “I don’t know, Mom, but I have to go.” “Okay, what about Rocky Road ice cream? Do you like Rocky Road?” Carol left without answering, and sat in her car for a moment. No sound could be louder than her thoughts, and in the silence they were deafening. As she became paralyzed by memories, she started to cry, and dissociated from her emotions, too painful to conquer. As Carol tried to be strong for her daughter, she found herself yearning for her own mother to hold her the way she had held Railey. Tears fell harder at the realization that her mother had become someone else, and she would no longer receive solace in between her mother’s arms. Carol breathed deeply. Time was forcing her along. As she began to fix her tear stains in the rearview mirror, she reminded herself that everyone was safe, and they could make it through this. Damien would be gone by the time her daughter got home from school, and her ex husband was across an ocean, unaware of their location. Time would heal the pain, and someday she would be able to give her daughter more. Someday she would see Railey’s smile as frequently as the years that had passed. Carol pulled out of the driveway, and turned on the radio. In that moment, before hearing the news that her daughter had not arrived at school or watching as helicopters search the cliffside shore, Carol had hope for their future.

“Oh! That reminds me! Before you go, can you look through some of these coupons and let me know what groceries you need?” Carol stared blankly at her mother, who hadn’t been able to drive for over a decade. As Carol flipped through the coupons, she noticed they were all from the 80s. “Mom, how are you going to buy groceries? You can’t drive.” Carol’s voice sounded weak and small, powerless against her aging mother. “Yes, but Damien is picking me up for lunch today, so I thought he might take me to the grocery store before they expire.” Carol glanced at the clock; she didn’t have time for a debate with her mother. “Do you like Fig Newtons?”

American River Review  65


Safari

Andrey Shamshurin The clouds were shapeless and large, only a few patches of blue in the sky. The day was warm and the air was fresh, passing through the window slits of the car. The woman sat in the passenger seat, her chin tilted up, one hand holding her nose. The man’s hands rested on the wheel. The inside of the Prius was clean and smelled like pine, with two baby carriers fastened to the backseat. The man kept just above the speed limit and drove through downtown, past coffee shops and little restaurants, and the woman watched the sky through the clear glass. “The clouds look darker,” she said. “Hold your nose.” “They are changing shape.” “Uh-huh,” “I swear they are getting darker.” “Keep your head tilted, Mom.” “You like my English? I practiced.” “Sounds great. The hospital’s close,” he said. “It is just blood. I feel fine.” “Still, don’t talk.” “They probably wrote the dosage wrong,” she said. “Yeah. Probably.” They stopped at a light. The edges of the sky were obscured by tall buildings, their shadows blending into the sidewalk. The light turned green right away and the car jerked forward. The woman’s head hit against the seat rest. “I always said to your father, ‘you have to teach him to drive. You show and he repeat.”’ “Okay, Mom.” “‘Children are important,’ I said.” “Konechno.” “Talk English. I want to learn,” she said. “Don’t talk. The blood looks worse.” “I have not talked to you in so long.” “We’ll talk later.” She reached for a wad of napkins stuffed in a cup holder and wiped her face. “The clouds, do you think they are changing color?” “I don’t know.” “A bit. They are changing a bit.” “If you say so, Mom.” “You do not believe me.” The man didn’t move. “Please don’t talk.” “I should have sat in the back.” She pointed to the blue

66  American River Review


carriers strapped to the seats. A toy tiger rested on one of them. “I always sit in the back.” “There’s no space,” he said. “This is a nice—” “There’s no space.” “You can make space. You can always make space.” “Not for everything.” “For most things you can.” “So, what? You want me to stop the car?” he asked. “No.” “Good.” “I am just saying this. I could have sat in the middle, looked at the toy.” He turned to her. There was red on her hand. “The blood looks bad.” “If you are worried, I am worried,” she said. “Don’t talk. Hold your nose.” “You do not want to clean the seat.” “It’s not that.” “Your father would not let me bleed in the car.” “And?” “Nothing. I am just saying that you are a good son.” She smiled. “Sure. You’ll feel better in the hospital.” “I feel fine. It is only blood. Everything is fine.” “Wonderful,” he said. “What do you mean?” “Nothing. Hold your nose.” They stopped at another light. He sat straight and yawned, watching the streets, but in a few minutes, he turned his head away from the people in khakis and summer dresses and the noise and turned toward the small shape of her head. He grabbed the tiger and set it in her lap. “Great toy,” she said. “They love it.” She leaned away from the window. “You know, last week I saw a documentary on Africa.” The man didn’t say anything. “It was enlightening. Very enlightening. Is that the right word?” “Mom.” “I never knew African skulls were so similar to us. How resourceful they are.” “Fascinating.” “It was. The clouds made me think of it.” “Maybe just look at them and don’t talk.” “It really changed my life.” “Please.”

American River Review  67


“Your father would probably have a heart attack if he saw it.” “He did.” She turned back to the window. “I am dying in the car, and you say bad things. It is an expression.” “Not if it really happened.” The light turned green and the car drove through the intersection. She put one hand against the glass. A cumulus cloud drifted in the sky, a large clump melding into the smaller shapes. “Let’s just stay silent for the rest of the way,” he said. “And you disappear for another month?” “I’ll make sure you’re okay.” “The clouds look African. I am certain of it.” “They’re just blobs.” “I like the sky. The nature. Do you ever take them on a safari?” “No.” “You know what the documentary said about African children?” “That African children are born in Africa?” “No.” “Can we not?” “It said that African children are very playful. Are they?” “Who? The Africans?” “The boys.” “They’re not African. She’s not African.” “Well, I do not call myself Ukrainian American. You have to be proud of who you are.” “I’m sure Dad was very proud of you. Hold your nose, Mom.” “That is all you say.” “Hold your nose.” “But you cannot even send a picture.” He tapped on the wheel and laughed. “Oh don’t worry about the red color, I’ll say. That’s just your grandma bleeding out on the seat.” “I got a phone that is smart, and you never even sent a picture.” “Smartphone.” “I am dying and you make jokes.” “You’ll be fine. Just blood, right?” “I am speaking your language. I am trying.” “Yep. English, a semi-accidental overdose, and an African documentary will do it. Let’s hug. Come over for dinner, you can look at my kids’ tribal tattoos and watch them hunt lions.”

68  American River Review

“You are an evil person. There is a devil inside you.” “I thought I was a good son.” “I have changed my mind.” “What a surprise.” “The clouds look African. I know it.” “Just two more stoplights, Mom.” She rolled down the window all the way. The wind had no clear direction. Her hair lashed forward and back and to the sides. She took her hand away from her face and looked at the clouds. The toy was still in her lap. “If you bring them, I will not say a word to her,” she said. “I know.” “Then maybe I say whatever you want.” “I want the hospital to help you.” “I still have your swing in the yard.” “So?” “I made your father keep it.” “What a saint.” “They will love it.” He pushed the gas pedal, and the car went sixty past a green stoplight. “One more.” “I will let them swim in the pool. I will take a picture with her.” “I have a pool.” The next stoplight turned green as the car neared. “I will talk only English. I will cook only what you cook. I will learn. Just tell me. I will learn.” “You won’t like them.” “I will learn.” They turned into the parking lot. The car stopped. The seats were stained with streaks of red, but it did not look like blood. It was much darker. “I will learn.” “Hold your nose.” She pointed her head straight up and covered her face with both hands. “Like this?” He climbed out and opened the door for her, then grabbed her under the arm, and started walking toward the hospital. “Just like that, Mom. Perfect.”


Grasp

Andrey Shamshurin “Syphilis.” Syphilis. It is the only real word that slips from behind the fence, and you find that you have lost its meaning. You sit at the edge of your pool, a glass of whiskey in your hand. The water is green and ripples pinch the surface. Syphilis. The man’s screams are loud, a rough pitch of bourbon in his voice. You can smell it in the sound. Her voice seems soft, you think, but when you take a sip of whiskey, you cannot remember what soft is. Instead, her voice sounds like syphilis, the water like syphilis, the shape of your foot drifting, a net of light wrapped loose around your leg like syphilis. The drops of liquid fall into the pool, brown seeds dissolving in the green. And he is now screaming, “Get throat fucked,” and you can feel each syllable. And something breaks behind the fence, crashes like shards that crack and split until there is no glass left. You pour yourself another drink. You can’t decide if “throat fucked” is good or bad. You have lost its meaning too. It sounds vulgar, like bucolic hut, crepuscular phlegm. Not smooth like syphilis, smooth like your house lights dying in the night, their flicker fading till the green-lime lights are all that’s left, hidden in the water. Beautiful, you think, but beautiful is not a word for meaning anymore, the liquid swirling down your throat. That simple little sound, like syphilis. The bottle seems empty now, a green sheen trapped inside the glass. But just behind the fence, out past the leaves that drift, half-drowned, are sounds much more complex. “Whore,” “slut,” and “cunt.” And somehow “love,” which sounds like nothing floating in your pool.

American River Review  69


Diana Ormanzhi Equilibrium oil painting 14” × 18”

70  American River Review


Surely, This Poem is a Symbol Andrey Shamshurin The man sits on a patch of grass near the road and watches a blue heron doze off in a shallow pond, littered with wood crags, the bird’s legs half-drowned in the mud, its long neck drooping down and jerking up, eyes closed. Surely, he thinks, it must be a symbol, but he cannot tell what it is. Like the bird, the man is tired. He unslings his tie and throws it overhand at the water. The wind whips the checkered fabric back, and it lashes his forehead, which is surely a symbol for the inevitability of human suffering, or, he considers, for the suffering of foreheads by ties. He knows there is deeper meaning in the tie and the bird, below which a crowd of frogs now gathers. The frogs jump up to the bird’s tail feathers, a perfect ring of shivering green skins diving down and hurling up, the bird jerking its wings after every jump, then arching its back and freezing still in the cold water filled with frogs—who could be a symbol for courage, he thinks, until the bird gains consciousness and plucks a frog mid leap, gulps down the still quivering legs, closes its eyes, and falls asleep. Perhaps the bird is a symbol for the savagery of love, but then what about the wedding cake slumped on the road behind him, a tire mark wedged in between. Surely, the bird and the cake cannot both symbolize the split of a relationship. Especially since the Volvo to his left leans into the bark with its caved in bumper, cracked hood, and shattered glass beneath the smoke. And the heron, awake and devouring another frog, could now be a symbol for God, or the Devil, or maybe a bird. But what about the woman sprawled in the passenger seat, not moving. Perhaps she is a casualty of passion, which has been drained like the empty beer cans littering the backseat, while the unopened one rests in the man’s fingers, symbolizing anything at all as he opens and chugs it down. And the bird, its belly full and its body worn, dips its head into the muddy water, gurgles out a thick layer of froth, and drowns.

American River Review  71


Distinguished Author Lois Ann Abraham

Born in the Dust Bowl, Lois Ann Abraham grew up in Texas and Oklahoma, then New Mexico, where her heart still lives. She, however, lives in Sacramento where there are trees and bodies of water. She is enjoying retirement from American River College, where she served on the English faculty. Her first published collection of short fiction is Circus Girl & Other Stories, followed by her first novel, Tina Goes to Heaven (both Ad Lumen Press). She is finishing up the next novel, The Long Art, set in late 19th and early 20th centuries.

72  American River Review


The Sixties Lois Ann Abraham

The day I found out I had breast cancer, I ended up going to my mom’s house on the way home from the doctor. Mom said that getting cancer meant God wanted to teach me something. I said if He thought that was a good way to teach something, I would like to teach Him something right back. But for all I knew what He wanted to teach me is how to live without my right breast. Or how to die. Or how weird people act when you find out you have cancer. My sister Nancy was at Mom’s at the time. She works in a fundamentalist holistic health food store and was just dropping off some of the healthiest and godawfulest yogurt ever created by God or goat. Nancy feels qualified by virtue of her occupation to hand out medical advice to anyone who even clears their throat in her presence. “Gluten,” she would intone, and tactfully avert her eyes. Nancy informed me that cancer was caused by repressed anger. She tightened her lips and looked sideways, like she does, like repressed anger was a scandalous business and I should be ashamed of myself. She made me mad, so I responded by saying, “Screw you!” which is not something we do in this family, though if anyone was going to do it, it would be me. And I have to admit, it did make me feel better, so maybe she was right. Nancy was so offended, she said she was through talking to me and left in a huff. Mom immediately called her cell and told her to forgive me, I’m her sister, and it was probably the medication talking. This was funny to me because, whatever the future might hold in that department, I wasn’t on medication at the time. I also thought saying “Screw you” was pretty funny under the circumstances, but I was alone in that. That’s one of the problems with the female side of my family, which is all that’s left. They don’t think anything’s funny except jokes that start with a guy walking into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. For them it seems to be about pattern recognition more than anything else. They laugh when the parrot story is over,

even if it ends with the tragic death of the last member of an endangered species. When I told my husband Ron about the breast cancer, he said not to worry, honey, there’s no reason to borrow trouble, that he would be there for me. We’re okay today so let’s have a good one. And that things would work out. That’s what he usually says except sometimes when it’s his cholesterol that’s in question, his tit, if you will, in the wringer. But I have to agree. Things usually do work out, one way or the other. Either you survive or you don’t. Lose your hair or not. Lose your breast, or part of your breast, or just a little tiny bit you’ll never miss. And, as my mother likes to say to bereaved parents who have lost one of their children, at least you have another one at home. And I do. I have another one. So that’s the consolation I got from my nearest and dearest on the day I was told I had breast cancer. My friend Cindy, on the other hand, practically leaped over the block wall between our two yards to sit me down on a lawn chair and drain me of the meager information I brought home from the doctor. She wanted to know where the tumor was, how big, how long it had been there, what type it was, if it had spread, what stage it was at, how they intended to treat me, with chemo or radiation or surgery or all three. She wanted to know how many cancer patients this radiologist had seen and how many malignancies he had identified in his career and if any of them had been false positive for cancer. She wanted to know if I had researched Mexican cancer clinics or laetrile or Chinese herbs. She wanted to know when I would see the oncologist. And if she could come too. There I had definite answers: next Thursday and yes. Cindy can be a pain in the butt, frankly. But I appreciated her taking an interest, even if it threatened to tear a hole in the cocoon of denial I was sheltering in. She has an active mind and knowing lots of details makes her feel better. She calls herself a control freak, and she should know. I’m not sure what kind of freak I

American River Review  73


am. Chaos freak, maybe. I was thinking more about how well I liked the doctor’s personality, which is a piss-poor way of making medical decisions, as Cindy pointed out. Maybe I would just end up with a doctor with a parrot on his shoulder, one who laughs at my jokes and apologizes nicely for screwing up. “It’s probably just a cyst,” the radiologist had told me when he did a preliminary read of my mammogram. “The uneven fuzzy edges could just be debris.” It gave me a whole different sense of what breasts are made of. I pictured my characteristic gesture of brushing crumbs off my bosom after a meal, thinking for a second that a few sesame seeds or cracker crumbs could have fallen into my cleavage and become lodged behind my nipple, but that couldn’t be what he meant by debris. And then, turned out it wasn’t a cyst after all. I lay in bed that night next to Ron, cuddled up to his warm sleeping body, but then I had to push away. Ron says when I get a hot flash, I throw him across the room, but that’s an exaggeration. I might shove a little, but I can’t help it. That rising heat, starting in my chest and spreading out from there, feels like a conflagration to me. And the only cure for being too hot is cooling off, which you can’t do in close proximity to Ron, who is as warm as the inside of a polar bear. Nancy offered to get me on a hot flash prayer list once, but I declined. I think she put me on there anyway, hoping that God would overlook my disbelief and deliver me from the flames. Which was sweet but dumb. Maybe God wanted the hot flashes to teach me a lesson, like “Don’t get too comfortable.” Ron and I have been married for forty years, and as I lay there that night, it didn’t seem very long, not nearly long enough. We first met in 1967 at a laundromat near the university when I couldn’t make the change machine work and was doing a little whammy-dance on it to coerce it into releasing the magic coins. Ron had a sock full of quarters, a kind heart, and a deck of cards, so we did laundry and played gin rummy. I am a natural gin rummy player, which means it’s hard for me to find anyone to play with. Ron worked at it but he didn’t have the killer instinct. He wanted to win, but he was soft-hearted about wanting to see the other person lose. So he missed all the opportunities to deliberately thwart the other player (me), who was doing her best to frustrate his every option. Ron said it was proof that I was competitive. “It’s just gin rummy Oklahoma-style,” I tell him. “That’s the only way I know to play.” Ron was tall with fair hair falling into ringlets down his back, like an archangel, I thought, like a super-angel. I wasn’t great looking, myself, having brown hair, brown eyes, and freckles. Polka-dots, really. But I had enthusiasm going for me. I was so glad to be free of the waiting-by-phone kind of high school dating that I was in

74  American River Review

the process of turning into one of those duck-on-a-Junebug, ready-to-roll hippy chicks that made the hip world go around, made forty-year-old college professors quit shaving and let their hair grow out, made the music make sense. Rock me all night long, the songs said. We were young and wild then, so after the last clothes dryer had been emptied, we went back to Ron’s apartment to smoke a little dope and consummate the affair. I believe we called it balling. Or screwing. Or getting it on. Our clean clothes sat in their separate baskets at the foot of the bed in his little apartment like domestic witnesses to our debauchery. I lay in his arms in his sleeping-bag-covered bed and told him, in some sort of throwback to the ideal of virginity, which I have never understood, then or now, that he was my third guy. His face lit up and he said, “Today?” I wished I could have said yes, but no. Ever. Then we folded our laundry together, talking about the Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa, and then we consummated again, with our pristine clothes now primly folded like a greataunt’s lips. Ron and I were inseparable after that, except for the time he took off for Denver with exotic, black-haired, flashing-eyed Carmina. Two weeks later he came back alone, exhausted and broke, but not sorry. In the end, I had to forgive him, because in all honesty I would have done the same thing if it had been me she had beckoned with her patchouli-scented magic instead of him. We were back together then, but now, forty years later, we’re just still together. All night after the diagnosis I found my restless mind moving into horrifying fantasies about my medical future. It didn’t make me feel better, so I changed the channel, going back to the Sixties when right and wrong seemed to be more about affiliation than anything else, when all the boys had long hair and beards because it was the moral thing to do. I can’t remember why. Maybe because they looked like Jesus. Or maybe because it freaked out their parents for them to look daguerreotypes come to life. All the girls had long hair parted down the center and tucked behind their ears. It worked for me since I had always had straight hair, straight as a string, my mother used to say. Long hair. Long dresses or bell-bottom jeans. Colors everywhere. It’s hard to convey how uniform we were, how predictable in our shared eccentricity. The Sixties were great times, dirty, lost, and drugaddled as we were. The important thing was that we were freed from the constraints of the Fifties, the steel bands of conformity, dress codes and girdles and Sunday school, where they taught us to be as rigid and passionless as mom and dad. They had tried to mold us into nice little Fifties people as children, but when we stepped out the door into near-adulthood, they lost control and we found each other. It was glorious.


We saw it all so clearly then, and yet we were as blind as eyeless creatures resting on the ocean floor. We were willing to believe anything from anyone, as long as they were not stand-ins for our parents. So a louse-bitten yak herder’s advice on life, the insights of the schizophrenic, the health practices of tribes whose life expectancy was just over thirty years were all preferable to the ways of Eisenhower’s tidy little America. And many of us survived, especially those of us who still had enough sense to be afraid of the half-dead junkies and speed freaks who drifted in and out of our ragged clans. It’s all a blur, now. It was pretty much a blur then. I woke the morning after diagnosis with my hand on my breast and a dull headache, severely disappointed that my situation had not changed in the night. I could hear Ron clanking around in the kitchen and smelled something lovely in the air. I could hear Cindy’s voice, and I padded out to find my husband making sesame pancakes while Cindy occupied herself with a cup of coffee. Cindy had her eyes fixed on me, like she was waiting for some kind of signal and I was the mothership. Ron’s hands shook as he slid pancakes onto my plate, not meeting my eyes at all. I wondered if I looked as freaked out as the two of them. Ron sat down across from me and smoothed his pant legs over his thighs again and again. He seemed to be holding his breath. It was all so stiff and awkward, and I couldn’t think what to say either, which you will know by now is unusual for me. Ron raised his head and I saw that his eyes were red and wet with tears.

another rescue dog. If I died, Cindy would make all the arrangements for the memorial and Ron would play his guitar. Nancy would not be allowed to lead a prayer. Or sing. Or bring yogurt. “And if you want to sleep together, that’s okay,” I told them, “that’s if I die. Otherwise, not.” They stared at each other with identical expressions of shock and alarm. “No pressure,” I said, and we had the pleasure of laughing together. But still, the big-picture questions keep arising when I least expect them, when I’m doing something like putting toilet paper on the holder or feeding the cat. What’s it all about? Who am I? Leftover, unanswered questions from adolescence, no doubt, things I might have worked out if I hadn’t been so stoned. It seems like my life should add up to something cosmic or meaningful or spiritual, but maybe there isn’t a big picture. Maybe this quest for pattern, for meaning, is just a puzzle to keep us occupied until we die, a random wrinkle in the human brain next to the story-teller that narrates our lives. Maybe a man with a parrot on his shoulder walks into a bar, maybe not. The bits and pieces swirl in my head, drift away and back, fade in and out. I can imagine a kind of clarity emerging from this whole experience. They say that happens, the survivors do. I’m almost ready to embrace this possibility and look forward to getting the message. I don’t think it will be a lesson. I don’t think it will be a joke either. I think it will be about love.

“Tell me what to do,” he forced out. “I can’t lose you.” He reached across the table and petted my right breast in the kindest way. Then he dropped his head to the table and began to sob. “I’m…” he kept saying, “I’m…,” but he couldn’t choke out the rest of the sentence. I knocked over my chair to get around the table and press my hands onto his heaving shoulders, then wrap my arms around his neck. Cindy was tactfully edging out the door, but I caught her sleeve and held her back. “I need you, too,” I said. “You’re on the team.” She wrapped her arms around Ron and me, and she began to cry as well. That made three of us. When we finally pulled ourselves together, we could talk it over and it began to seem like an important project instead of a cruel practical joke. Plans were hatched and revised or discarded. Lists were made and amended, action items assigned, contingencies covered, all the way from triumph to utter defeat. If somehow the tumor turned out to be benign, we would finish the back patio and throw a big party with guacamole and dancing. If my hair fell out, Ron would shave his head in solidarity. Cindy wouldn’t, having long blonde hair none of us wanted to lose. If I managed to get into remission, we would adopt

American River Review  75


An Interview with Distiguished Author Lois Ann Abraham 1.  How do your female protagonists reflect your interpretation of the potentiality of women in the world? I am interested in opening up women’s real experiences to view, hopefully without prettification or apology. It seems like an unmined vein in literature to me. I write a lot about women because we are so interesting! 2.  Humor is often one of the most demanding kind of writing to not only convey, but to also convey thoughtfully. In your writing, specifically with this piece in the magazine, it often comes off as a natural inclination. Within that inclination, there are hints of tragedy as well. How do tragedy and comedy coexist within your work? Ha! Humor is a natural inclination to me, but it’s usually about how people are, and it’s an organic part of character development, not a farcical turn in the plot. In “The Sixties,” the humor, I realize now, is both natural to the protagonist and a shield she uses to defend herself from feelings she can’t handle alone. Plus she’s just funny. 3.  It is often a concern for female writers to not be received as intellectuals when they implement humor into their writing—how do you feel as a writer who blatantly stares at that presumption in the face? Was this concern one you ever shared? If so, how did you get past it? Particularly in the story, “The Sixties,” you are stripped of your comfort and naked within the confines of cancer—you allow such vulnerability to shine through the humor within. I want to be clear that this story is NOT autobiographical. I’ve never had this diagnosis or neighbor or husband or life. I am a good gin rummy player; all else is fiction. I do write close to the bone sometimes, but I don’t really worry about how I am perceived. If I’m read, that completes the circle and makes me happy.

76  American River Review

4.  There are many aspiring writers who wish to pursue a writing career, be it creative or not. As a former professor of English, what would you say to students who wish to follow a similar path to your own? Was there any particular turning point in your life at which you were uncertain of the future and what it would bring? I really just wandered into this, more or less accidentally. When Ad Lumen Publishing started up, I had a body of work in hand, written over years. So that’s luck, and being ready for luck. I suggest a lot of daydreaming about the story you want to tell and a lot of writing. And reading good stuff. I don’t think of writing as my career. Basically, I would advise people who like to write to spend no time at all wondering about ego concerns and lots of time creating.


5.  Did you have any other conception of what your future would be like, or have you always held the desire to write? I have always wanted to know what other people are really like. And I have always enjoyed making stuff up. My first creations were not on paper, but were stories I made up to tell my little sister. I got stalled out as a writer by trying to be a gritty beat poet in college, which I’m still not. I have written most of what I’ve written basically for fun. Sometimes I have an axe to grind, but I try to work it out with the characters and learn something in the process. 6.  At what point did you discover the power of language and what it could hold for you? Did that knowledge empower you in a positive manner or did you find yourself distanced from it because it felt so close to the heart? Hmm. One very early turning point for me was when I realized I was hurrying my stories, trying to get it all in there before the audience got bored and went away. I’m not saying that makes any sense, but it was a real belief in the back of my psyche somewhere. So I decided to just take my own sweet time in telling a story -- to say whatever I felt like saying -- in essence, to be my own reader. And today I still have the feeling that I’m reading at the same time I’m writing. Just one word behind, or maybe ahead of the flow.

ful, just intense. For me, the hardest part of the process of writing is to quit writing: letting it go and remembering to keep appointments, feed the cats, etc., in real life. It makes me spacey. The hardest kind of writing for me to read or write is nature writing. Trees and stuff. Some writers call them by name: chamisal, rabbit brush, coyote grass. But I mostly just call them trees, bushes, grass. I have to make myself write about setting in general. 8.  Did you find that publishing your first piece changed the way you looked at writing, or the field itself? Do you find that part of the process enjoyable or just a necessary evil? Once all is said and done, do you pay a lot of mind to your book reviews, and if so, how do you push through the negative ones? I think my first publication was in a homemade kind of booklet in junior high. And then in high school, I won 2nd place in fiction in a contest at a local community college. I enjoy being published, but I don’t like writing query letters at all. It makes me look for stereotypes and tropes to identify the work. Faugh! About reviews? I wish I had a lot more reviews! The most supportive thing a reader can do for an author is post a review on Amazon or Goodreads or both. I tend to enjoy my own writing, so it’s not crushing if someone doesn’t like my work. I just love to be read and understood. I focus on that bond.

7.  Do you find that writing is an escape or can it be as demanding as running a marathon? If there are times of it being a chore, does it have to do with the ability to set aside a time to write or is it more about the scene you’re working on? If it is the scenes, which ones do you find are the hardest scenes for you to write? If writing felt like a chore to me, I wouldn’t do it. I try to handle the time-crunch by thinking about the story, the scene, and the character in spare moments. I do very little pre-writing; I just dream it up. Then it’s easier to write it down, a process that presents its own revelations and discoveries. Some things are hard to face writing about -- sex, childbirth, grief -- mostly because of the physicality and interiority of those experiences. But I just grit my teeth and dive in, and go deeper instead of backing away. I call this “holding my feet to the fire.” But it’s not pain-

American River Review  77


Art Selection Process The Art Selection class meets every spring. Over the course of three days in February, hundreds of students submit work representing a variety of different media and styles. The art is photographed by professional photographers at American River College’s James Kaneko Gallery. The Art Selection class then discusses every piece extensively and debates its merit before putting it to a final vote. The selected pieces make up the gallery on these pages and featured pages throughout the magazine. The Art New Media College Magazine Design and Production class meets every fall. The class is organized into three teams: production, gallery, and design. The teams work together to prepare the art selections for print, lay out the art gallery, and design the overall magazine.

American River Review  78


David Nichols Drawn digital photography 8” × 12”

American River Review  79


Christl Clinton Refreshed macro photography 14” × 11”

Christl Clinton Almost Perfect macro photography 14” × 11”

80  American River Review


Christl Clinton Through the Window macro photography 14” × 11”

Christl Clinton Beauty in Death macro photography 11” × 14”

American River Review  81


Mariah Connor Death in Nature Photoshop

David Nichols Pactolus digital photography 12” × 8”

82  American River Review


Rora Blue (Don’t) embroidery on cloth

American River Review  83


Philip Abasolo untitled digital art

Philip Abasolo untitled digital art

84  American River Review


Diana Ormanzhi Little Red oil painting on paper 26” × 8”

Anastasia Golosna Destruction in the Passage of Time digital photography 20” × 13.3”

American River Review  85


Javier Salcedo In The 1st Degree digital photography 8” × 10”

86  American River Review

Tiffany LeBeau Banshee Rising Photoshop & digital photography


Javier Salcedo Eyes On The Cliff Photoshop 10” × 8”

American River Review  87


Ryan Hall Self Portrait MediBang paint

88  American River Review

Julia Flippo Old Man #1 watercolor 20” × 14.125”


Jacqueline Luna Kyle gouache 9” × 6”

Jacqueline Luna Towards the End gouache 7” × 4”

American River Review  89


Jacqueline Luna The Student charcoal 17” × 14”

90  American River Review

Marina Epova Portrait of Shannon ink pen 18” × 12”


Anthony Barbaria Pixel O’ Me ink 17” × 11”

Allison Wheaton Me in Pieces graphite on drawing paper 16” × 12”

American River Review  91


Erika Gonzalez Abuelita Luisa paper & ink wash on canvas 20” × 16”

92  American River Review

Ramtin Golanbooh Dead Eyes digital illustration 18” × 12”


Anthony Barbaria Abstract My Emotion illustration brushes on paper 14” × 11”

American River Review  93


Mariah Connor Aged Beauty Photoshop

Allison Wheaton Bubble Boy digital photography

94  American River Review


Evans Digregorio Envy gouache 13.5” × 9.5”

American River Review  95


96  American River Review

Brad Carps Thoughts & Prayers watercolor & ink 24” × 36” (24” × 18” each)


American River Review  97


Jacqueline Luna Passion gouache 11” × 14”

Migue Miran Natural Depiction silkscreen, print & watercolor

98  American River Review


Jerome Brown Broken digital 11.3” × 20”

Sameer Nagra Ubiquitous acrylic 12” × 12”

American River Review  99


Brian D. Ford Windy has Stormy Eyes digital

Brian D. Ford Bright Eyes digital

100  American River Review


Brian D. Ford Zyzzyx digital Brian D. Ford White Light digital

American River Review  101


Brian D. Ford Hot Lips digital

102  American River Review


Clare Korten The Band Played On colored pencil 17” × 14”

Carolan Korten Looking for the Tiny Raincoat chalk pastel, ink & graphite 8.5” × 20.25”

American River Review  103


Clare Korten Parthenon Paste ink, graphite, & chalk pastel 19.75” × 25.5”

104  American River Review


Jerome Brown M83 digital 20” × 13.3”

American River Review  105


Migue Miran Puzzle of Self Reflection mixed media

Migue Miran Radical Change 0° - 360° collage mixed media

106  American River Review


Trent Duaine Woolley Pan’s Offering relief cut print watercolor 24” × 18”

Trent Duaine Woolley Sustenance relief cut print watercolor 18” × 24”

American River Review  107


Fariba Darvishi Roses paper cutting 11.5” × 8.5”

Fariba Darvishi Chains in Jewelry Box pencil & ink 9” × 12”

108  American River Review


Ian Perez-Anderson Pile-o-Masks silver gelatin print 8” × 10”

American River Review  109


Julia Flippo Waning ink 9” × 12”

110  American River Review


Erika Gonzalez Puppy Glamour Shots linoleum print 12” × 18”

Erika Gonzalez Spots on a Stroll linoleum print 9” × 12”

111


Clare Korten Trilogy ink 14” × 17”

Carolan Korten Rock Mountain ink 14” × 17”

112  American River Review


Crystal Dal Porto-Moore Folsom #9 charcoal 12” × 9”

American River Review  113


Iyaw Kis #12 acrylic on paper 34” × 55”

114  American River Review

Iyaw Kis #11 acrylic on paper 34” × 55”


Iyaw Kis Mother Of Forest Cannabis acrylic on paper 55” × 108”

Paula Lloyd Lush oil on canvas 36” × 48”

American River Review  115


Meschelle White Puzzled ceramic 20” × 14”

116  American River Review


Christopher Gingrich Woodfire ceramic 16.5” × 13” × 7”

Christopher Gingrich Crawling ceramic 15” × 12” × 12”

American River Review  117


Christopher Gingrich Forest ceramic 21.5” × 19” × 9.5”

118  American River Review


Rachel Cudmore Blue Mask ceramic 10” × 6” × 4”

Dita Lewis-Panter Purple Bowl ceramic

American River Review  119


120  American River Review

Manuel Marmolejos Aliyah - Flesh & Bone clay


Sam Lawson Spiderman ceramic 3” × 5.5” × 7”

American River Review  121


Nicolette Diamond-Payne Strength copper wire, carpet tacks & glass beads 12” × 6” × 17.5”

Sam Lawson Hunger ceramic 11” × 10” × 9”

122  American River Review


Ian Perez-Anderson Monster Book Apoxie Sculpt, leather on book 9” x 6” × 2.5”

American River Review  123


Frankie Vanity Dangerous Beauty acrylic pour on canvas 20” × 10”

124  American River Review


Frankie Vanity The Golden Fish ceramic on wood 17” × 15” × 15”

American River Review  125


Trent Duaine Woolley Mr. Kitty high fired ceramic 12” × 6” × 7”

Trent Duaine Woolley Man Eater high fired ceramic 10” × 22” × 12”

126  American River Review


Crystal Dal Porto-Moore August graphite 12” × 9”

Violeta Moiseenco Expect ceramic 9” × 10” × 6”

American River Review  127


Bridget A. Engler Roadmap Sophe watercolor & collage 14” × 17”

Erika Gonzalez Dia De Los Muertos Chihuahua acrylic 20” × 16”

128  American River Review


Carolan Korten Water Under the Bridge oil pastel 12” × 18”

Ian Perez-Anderson Octopus Map map paper collage 15” x 11.5”

American River Review  129


130  American River Review


Jessica Coy-Rodriguez Waiting Illustrator

American River Review  131


Emmy Luna Red Riding Hood watercolor 14” × 10”

132  American River Review


Leah Darlene Girl and Umbrella watercolor & ink on paper 24” × 18”

Clare Korten Orange Blues oil pastel 12” × 18”

American River Review  133


S. Ward The Mechanic digital

Marina Epova Family acrylic painting 24” × 36”

134  American River Review


Ryan Hall Homecoming MediBang paint

Tiffany LeBeau Flower Alchemy acrylic paint, crystals, pictures & plants on canvas 12” × 24”

American River Review  135


Mari Todd A Mother’s Undying Love oil painting 14” × 11”

Victoria Arakelyan Flowers oil on canvas

136  American River Review


Andrey Arakelyan Roses and Apples oil on canvas

Victoria Arakelyan Bronze Teapot oil on canvas

American River Review  137


Fariba Darvishi Morning in Astara pastel on bristol paper 18” × 54”

138  American River Review

Fariba Darvishi Save Trees collage 9” × 11.5”


Marie Dixon Children Coming Over Border oil 40” × 36”

Marie Dixon Tower Bridge acrylic 36” × 60”

American River Review  139


Andrey Arakelyan Horizon oil on canvas

Victoria Arakelyan Sunset oil on canvas

140  American River Review


Diana Simeroth Day is Done watercolor 14.75” × 10.5”

David Nichols Fresnel’s Reverie film scan 6” × 6”

American River Review  141


Blanca Bastida Julia cyanotype 8” × 10”

142  American River Review

Catherine Ramsey Forgotten Phone Booth cyanotype 8” × 10”


Catherine Ramsey Upside Down inkjet 4” × 11.5” Julian Arriaga Double Vision 5” × 8”

American River Review  143


Javier Salcedo On The Riverfront digital photography 8” × 10”

144  American River Review


American River Review  145


Contributing Authors Kaycie Barr resides in Sacramento, California and is serving as one of the Editors-in-Chief of the 2019 American River Review. She is currently studying for her BA in English, in hopes of furthering beyond and obtaining her MFA in fiction, with the intent to study literature and theory. After college, she aims to teach future writers and passionate readers at the collegiate level, and to publish works of fiction and poetry where she can. Evangeline Contreras is a lifelong resident of Sacramento. In her contributions to American River Review, Evangeline writes horror stories that incorporate creatures and folklore for the general audience to ponder. She considers it her own personal victory to aid in the development of the reader’s interest in stories, history, or other cultures. Deborah Dano is a resident of Sacramento and has earned several degrees while attending American River College. Creative writing is a big part of developing her voice. She is thankful for all the superb instruction she has received that has helped her to achieve her creative goals. Mariya Donskova resides in Sacramento, California and is studying natural resources as well as psychology at American River College. She narrates her life through art and writing, and hopes to make something of it. She aspires to evoke strong emotion and relatability to the viewer. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but will continue to pursue her passions.

146  American River Review

Isabel Geerer lives and works in North Highlands, serving lowincome families in a before-and-after school program. She has earned an AA in child development as well as a Literary Publishing Certificate from American River College. She served on the staff of American River Review for two semesters. She has had the pleasure of volunteering for the non-profit organization 916 Ink. Her future hopes are to continue to develop her poetry and to teach a literary magazine class at a high school. Sophia Gray currently lives in Rancho Cordova, CA. She relishes the time she spends with her twoyear-old granddaughter and uses any remaining hours for reading and writing. Over the seventy-six years of her life, she has earned a PhD from Harvard, taught everything from preschool to college in nine countries, and has traveled to more than forty nations. She has rarely spent time out of school herself— studying languages, literature, and creative writing. She enjoys the process of writing, and is often surprised by what she learns. Betsy Harper is a writer and artist living in Sacramento, California. She is honored to be published in American River Review.

Emma Harris is a resident of Sacramento, both by birth and by choice. She enjoys the study and practice of dance, various textile arts, English, and languages among other things. She is pleased to be included as an author in American River Review after serving as one of its editors for four semesters. Marcie Mallory currently resides in Sacramento, California after a 2 year period of living in Vicenza, Italy. She is attending American River College and is one of the Editors-inChief of the 2019 American River Review. She hopes to pursue a career in photography and filmmaking. With her strong background in creative writing, she also hopes to create content that empowers people through art. Hannah Orlando lives in Sacramento and grew up in Vacaville. She has a Bachelor of Arts in earth science from Sacramento State and is attending American River College to reconnect with her love of writing. She is pleased to serve as Associate Editor-in-Chief to the 2019 American River Review. Her long-term writing goals are to publish fiction and poetry to share the queer stories she wishes existed in her childhood.


Eric Orosco is a queer, Sacramento-based poet whose writing has appeared in The Tiny, Jokes Review, The Laurel Review, and Fearsome Critters. He is the co-creator of Levee Magazine and a former Editor-in-Chief of American River Review. You can check out more of his work at evorosco.com. Stephanie Parsons is from Sutter Creek, California. Her goal is to transfer to Western Washington University to obtain a degree in early childhood education, but she has always had a passion for writing and literature. She uses writing as a way to inspire empathy and believes there is always room for more sympathy and kindness. She hopes to publish a collection of short stories about the people she has met throughout her life. Patti Santucci is a writer and painter from Fair Oaks, California. Her articles, poetry and short stories have been published in RePlay Magazine, American River Review, Piker Press and Literally Stories. Patti holds both an AA degree and a literary publishing certificate from American River College. Andrey Shamshurin is a resident of Antelope, California. He enjoys writing in all genres. Andrey is a former Editor-in-Chief of American River Review and is currently in the Peace Corps overseas.

Jennifer Snow is a native of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and moved to California in 2015, where her heart belonged. A former Managing Poetry Editor for American River Review, Jennifer is currently serving as a student editor for Ad Lumen Press, American River College Press, and as Poetry Editor for Sonoma State University’s literary magazine, Zaum. With her passion for writing rekindled through classes at American River College, Jennifer is now pursuing her BA in English with a creative writing concentration at Sonoma State University and plans to continue on to an MA/MFA in Creative Writing. Her ultimate goal is to continue to be published and teach others the craft of writing.

Rishikesh Vilash is a student at American River College.

Claudia Anna Stelmach is a first-generation Polish-American born in Sacramento and raised in Folsom, California. Growing up in a European household rich in culture, she started writing and illustrating at a young age. She pursued dance and theatre from high school, through college, and beyond, gaining an internship at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, before returning to college to get her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration at the Academy of Art University. She has also served as an editor of poetry for American River Review. She hopes to start a career as both a graphic novelist as well as an author and illustrator for children’s books.

American River Review  147


Contributing Artists Philip Abasolo is a photographer in the Sacramento area. He is a psychology major with hopes to enter the business branch of psychology. Philip utilizes art to express his creative side and hopes to inspire other photographers in the process. Andrey Arakelyan has always held an interest in art and is pursuing a degree in design. His creativity is displayed through his craftsmanship, primarily working with wood, wire, plastic, metal, and clay. Andrey also enjoys oil painting. Victoria Arakelyan has an appreciation for art that was fostered by her father, who taught her the basics of drawing and crafting illustrations for literature. As a mother herself, she enjoyed being able to pass on this knowledge to her own children. Victoria plans to be an art teacher. Julian Arriaga never touched a camera before 2010, but after a soccer injury prevented him from playing, he was given a 1989 Minolta X-700, and he found a new passion. Julian doesn’t know where or how far he will go with photography, but he is enjoying his experience. Anthony Barbaria is originally from San Jose, California. He enjoys creating works ranging from the strange and unusual to quickly drawn portraits. He works in a variety of mediums, primarily illustration pens, graphite, and acrylic paint. His work has been exhibited in Pennsylvania and throughout California, including in SLG Publishing Art Boutiki.

148  American River Review

Blanca Bastida loves photography. This has led to a path of experimenting with different techniques and subject matter. Rora Blue is a new media artist planning to transfer to Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. She produces conceptual and interactive artwork that is defined by striking colors. Her work merges the worlds of art and social media. Jerome Brown is a freelance photographer out of the Sacramento area. When he began, he focused primarily on fitting in and emulating others, but by embracing his unique style, his photography has grown stronger ever since. Brad Carps is a mixed media, charcoal, and conceptual artist from Sacramento. He specializes in portraiture and explores political and spiritual themes. Brad has regular solo shows at American River College and in Northern Sacramento. Christl Clinton is a photographer living in the Sacramento area. Inspired by nature, she strives to create powerful images that bring beauty and magic to the viewer. Her work has been exhibited at Crocker Art Museum, James Kaneko Gallery, and Viewpoint Photographic Art Center.

Mariah Connor is a first-year science major at American River College working toward her nursing degree, with a minor in photography. Mariah volunteered in India over the summer, which helped to strengthen her artistic passion. She is currently pursuing an interest in street photography with which she hopes to capture the vibrance of each culture she explores. Jessica Coy-Rodriguez is a graphic designer and writer. She collects academic degrees like postage stamps. Rachel Cudmore is an art student in her third year of college. She enjoys drawing, but her favorite medium is clay. She hopes to someday be an art instructor. Rachel admires the ocean and appreciates ocean and wildlife conservation efforts. She hopes to inspire people to be conscious of their environmental footprints. Crystal Dal Porto-Moore is a Sacramento native and is an art and computer science major at American River College. She is inspired by nature and her favorite media are charcoal, ink, acrylic, and watercolor. Crystal is graduating ARC in spring 2019 and plans on getting an MFA at Sac State. Leah Darlene moved to Sacramento from Hawaii in 2001, and began her college career at American River College. Soon after, she transferred to a four-year university. Leah first learned how to draw by copying illustrations from children’s books. Her love of drawing has since expanded into a desire to become an illustrator.


Fariba Darvishi was born in a small city in Iran. Fariba has a PhD in environmental science and worked as a teacher and environmentalist for many years. In 2011, Fariba immigrated to the US. Her work is influenced by nature and its beauty. She is presently an art student, creating works primarily from recycled items. Nicolette Diamond-Payne likes to work with her hands and create things. She loves the feeling of bringing something into being where there was nothing before. Currently, she is considering becoming an art teacher, which would allow her to pass on her love of creating and help young people grow their own passion. Evans Digregorio enjoys creating through art with a focus on depicting the mundane through abstraction as well as portraiture. Evans is majoring in art new media and advertising and continues to expand his learning in other mediums of art, including animation. Marie Dixon is a master painter and sculptor at Sacramento Fine Arts Center. She is a returning printmaking student at American River College. With an AA in art from ARC, Marie is preparing to apply for a master’s in art at Sacramento State. She works in all media and sees herself as a community artist trying to help others through her art.

Bridget A. Engler has been taking art classes at American River College for a decade. Before taking classes, she drew and painted, but since attending ARC, Bridget has experimented with ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, collage, and photography. She spends her time thinking about art and creating art. Marina Epova is an art major at American River College. Her work was exhibited at Folsom Lake College, and she was honored at the Kingsley Merit Awards Reception. Marina’s goals are to be an art teacher and to illustrate books. Her passion is in projects that combine working from observation with content from her imagination. Julia Flippo is a Sacramento artist working toward an AA in art. Julia received the Kingsley Art Scholarship in 2014. She works mainly in charcoal, watercolor, and ink, representing figures in a surrealist form while allowing the elements of each piece to be suspended in a limbo between process and completion. Brian D. Ford is a digital artist whose extensive exploration of photography and photo manipulation led to his success as a fine art Photoshop artist. Brian has worked on the staff of American River Review as an illustrator and designer, and he was the art director of the 2017 edition. He is currently working as a graphic designer.

Christopher Gingrich began working with ceramics after retirement, when he took his first class at American River College. His work has been exhibited at Kaneko Gallery, and he has won some awards. He builds coil ceramic pieces that are usually very large and some smaller pieces of near perfect symmetry. Ramtin Golanbooh started to draw when he was very young as a coping mechanism to pull him out of the real world and let him be himself, because when he lived in Iran there was a war going on, and the government was against his family’s religion. Anastasia Golosna is a fine art photographer based in Sacramento. Her passion for photography was sparked by her father, who was a photographer in Ukraine. She was inspired to pursue this passion through the support of her family. Anastasia’s work explores the harmony between nature and the human form. Erika Gonzalez is an artist based in Sacramento. She loves using a multitude of medias and likes working in different styles. She has been using her family and culture as a focus of her art as of late and enjoys mixing Hispanic and Western influences into her work. Erika’s work has been exhibited at Crocker Art Museum.

American River Review  149


Ryan Hall was born and raised in Sacramento and grew up with a big family who always supported her. She loves reading, drawing, and hanging out with her friends and family. She plans to earn an art degree at American River College and in the future would like to be an illustrator.

Tiffany LeBeau is pursuing an art new media major at ARC. She is a collage artist working primarily with organic materials found in nature. Tiffany also enjoys painting with acrylic. She hopes to be featured in upcoming art shows and looks forward to a career as a professional graphic designer.

Iyaw Kis is a pseudonym used by artist Thom Tuduc. This name reminds him of the preservation of public lands, the duality of existence, and the role of artists as bearers of myths and dreams of present and future. He won two awards at the 2018 California State Fair Fine Art Competition.

Dita Lewis-Panter enjoyed ceramics in high school, but after graduating in 1974, life occurred. After forty years, she decided to try her hand at it again. Now, after threeand-a-half years, Dita has exhibited her artwork in several galleries, including Allied Ceramics Art Institute in Fair Oaks, California.

Carolan Korten was awarded third place in the 2017 student show at Kaneko Gallery. Her work has also been exhibited in Crocker Art Museum and at the E Street Gallery. Carolan is working to complete her AA in art. She plans to study many mediums to help her record her world.

Paula Lloyd got her start as an artist at American River College, and has a supplemental teaching credential in art in addition to her California K-12 credential. She holds Master Painter standing with Nothern California Arts, Inc., and chaired the 50th Anniversary International Show at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center.

Clare Korten has been a student at American River College since 2016. She has studied studio art and art new media. Her artwork has been featured in Kaneko Gallery, the E Street Gallery, and Crocker Art Museum, where her piece “Parthenon Paste” received Best in Show.

Emmy Luna used to share her art only with friends and classmates. She has been studying more seriously only recently and would like to illustrate children’s books and graphic novels. Her favorite mediums are watercolor, ink, and colored pencils.

Sam Lawson is a sculptor born in the Southern United States, currently living and producing art in Sacramento. Sam’s work has been exhibited in Crocker Art Museum and Sacramento Fine Arts Center.

Jacqueline Luna has always loved art, and once she found that she could turn her passion into a career, she knew she couldn’t do anything else. Jacqueline wants to improve and to be able to express whatever it is that she feels or wants through her art, without limitations.

150  American River Review

Manuel Marmolejos came to American River College to major in art and art new media. After working with clay in figure sculpture and ceramics classes, he grew to love the medium. Manuel’s goal is to teach and to eventually have a center where art and creativity can be explored. Migue Miran is an art and art new media student, only a few classes away from earning AA degrees in both. He is a local artist hoping to share a fragment of a vision under construction. Migue’s main goal is not to deliver a direct message but to leave the interpretation open to the viewer to connect with different points of view. Violeta Moiseenco was born in the small country of Moldova. She always liked to draw but never had the chance to study art. Violeta immigrated four years ago and is excited to be taking art classes. She is very happy that she can turn her childhood dream into a reality. Sameer Nagra is a sophomore at ARC with plans to transfer to Southern California. He is a cool guy who also makes comics, animations, and illustrations. David Nichols is an aspiring portrait photographer living in Sacramento, California. He enjoys experimenting with film and alternative photographic processes. David is studying at American River College in hopes of incorporating these techniques into his professional practice. His work was shown at the Viewpoint Gallery exhibit at Crocker Art Museum.


Diana Ormanzhi creates artwork that is heavily influenced by the Surrealism movement. Inspiration lurks all around her, sometimes hiding in the pages of a classic science fiction book, sometimes bouncing off the walls of architecture. In every painting, Diana attempts to push realistic imagery beyond how it is perceived in daily life. Ian Perez-Anderson is a twentytwo-year-old artist and cartoonist from Sacramento, California. He uses many mediums, including ink, colored pencils, printmaking, ceramics, collage, and assemblage. Ian’s favorite medium is markers, but recently he is moving more towards digital work. His goal is to work as an animator/cartoonist and to publish his own graphic novel. Catherine Ramsey has been studying both photography and graphic arts at American River College since 2012. She works as a post production artist and graphic designer at a local photography studio. Her favorite subjects are landscape and urban decay photography. She’s currently studying alternative methods of processing digital photos. Javier Salcedo has been studying photography for five years. He likes to tell a story through his work.

Diana Simeroth is an art student at American River College. She enjoys creating across all media and is always intrigued by a new process. Her favorite media are watercolor and photography. Her long-term goal is to continue to perfect her watercolor skills and to paint beautiful images of her travels. Mari Todd is an artist who previously focused on creating threedimensional work, but has recently began to paint. The new experience and opportunities have been a pleasure. Frankie Vanity was a self-taught artist until returning to college five years ago. Although she has a visual impairment, that has not stopped her from learning new forms of art and adapting by creating new techniques. She has recently taken up ceramic sculpture and acrylic pouring and finds unique ways to combine media. Her pieces are filled with color and magic. Yassaman Vedad was born in Tehran, Iran. She formerly studied mathematics and physics, but always had a love of art. Her family encouraged her to study art, and she is now an art new media student at American River College. Art has helped Yassaman to find love and happiness, and she enjoys working on art with her young daughter.

S. Ward is a student studying art new media at American River College. She has won numerous art-related scholarships in her local area. Summer is especially inspired by the storytelling aspect of art. After getting her AA, Summer plans to transfer to Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Allison Wheaton has a passion for photography that is evident, especially in her portrait work. Many of her art pieces are influenced by American and Japanese pop culture. Meschelle White is an art student at ARC, working with ceramics. The longer she works with clay, the more she is at play. Meschelle has won several awards but finds that the thrill she gains every time she completes a clay construction is a reward in itself. Her work is also published in the 2017 edition of American River Review. Trent Duaine Woolley enjoys the bizarre. He also enjoys making art of the human form. Trent is an art major focusing on sculpture and printmaking.

American River Review  151


Author Index Creative Nonfiction Eric Orosco Jennifer Snow

The Origins of Catfish......................................................32 Bibliotheca.......................................................................18

Fiction Marcie Mallory Stephanie Parsons Patti Santucci Andrey Shamshurin

Poetry

Storm Clouds and Sirens..................................................24 Heat..................................................................................54 Reflections of an Ocean...................................................61 The Dead See...................................................................42 The Prophet of Taco Bell.................................................19 Safari................................................................................66

Kaycie Barr Jacque Lacan Loved TV and was also kind of a Dick..... 13 Evangeline Contreras (Nihil Sub Sole Novum)..................................................53 Deborah Dano Go to a Place....................................................................31 the Door...........................................................................49 Mulberry Leaves..............................................................50 Mariya Donskova untitled.............................................................................41 Earthquake Insurance.......................................................56 Isabel Geerer Langoliers and Knitting Needles.....................................15 Sophia Gray Dead-heading African Daisies.........................................21 Betsy Harper Observations....................................................................17 Silly Putty Vagina?...........................................................38 Emma Harris Stitching...........................................................................58 Marcie Mallory Old Wives’ Tales..............................................................57 Hannah Orlando Play-doh to Whiskey........................................................22 La Petite Mort..................................................................39 Andrey Shamshurin Sheep................................................................................20 Grasp................................................................................69 Surely, This Poem is a Symbol........................................71 Jennifer Snow Akrasia.............................................................................51 Claudia Anna Stelmach Foodgasm.........................................................................30 Rishikesh Vilash No One Act......................................................................28 “Lettuce, tomato...............................................................29

Distinguished Author Lois Ann Abraham

152  American River Review

The Sixties.......................................................................73 Interview with Lois Ann Abraham...................................76


Gallery Index untitled................................................................ 84 untitled................................................................ 84 Andrey Arakelyan Horizon............................................................. 140 Roses and Apples................................................ 137 Victoria Arakelyan Bronze Teapot.................................................... 137 Flowers.............................................................. 136 Sunset................................................................ 140 Julian Arriaga BURNT............................................................... 16 Double Vision.................................................... 143 Anthony Barbaria Abstract My Emotion............................................ 93 Pixel O’Me.......................................................... 91 Blanca Bastida Julia.................................................................. 142 Rora Blue (Don’t)................................................................. 83 Jerome Brown Broken................................................................. 99 M83.................................................................. 105 Me, Myself, and I................................................. 14 Brad Carps Thoughts & Prayers.............................................. 96 Christl Clinton Almost Perfect...................................................... 80 Beauty in Death.................................................... 81 Refreshed............................................................. 80 Through the Window............................................ 81 Mariah Connor Aged Beauty........................................................ 94 Death in Nature.................................................... 82 Jessica Coy-Rodriguez Waiting.............................................................. 130 Rachel Cudmore Blue Mask.......................................................... 119 Fariba Darvishi Chains in Jewelry Box......................................... 108 Morning in Astara............................................... 138 Roses................................................................. 108 Save Trees.......................................................... 138 Crystal Dal Porto-Moore Folsom #9.......................................................... 113 Leah Darlene Girl and Umbrella............................................... 133 Nicolette Diamond-Payne Strength............................................................. 122 Evans Digregorio Envy.................................................................... 95 Marie Dixon Children Coming Over Border............................. 139 Tower Bridge..................................................... 139 Bridget A. Engler Roadmap Sophe.................................................. 128 Marina Epova Family............................................................... 134 Portrait of Shannon............................................... 90 Julia Flippo 1956.................................................................... 12 Old Man #1.......................................................... 88 Waning.............................................................. 110 Philip Abasolo

American River Review  153


Brian D. Ford

Christopher Gingrich

Ramtin Golanbooh Anastasia Golosna Erika Gonzalez

Ryan Hall Iyaw Kis

Carolan Korten

Clare Korten

Sam Lawson Tiffany LeBeau Dita Lewis-Panter Paula Lloyd Emmy Luna Jacqueline Luna

Manuel Marmolejos Migue Miran

154  American River Review

Bright Eyes........................................................ 100 Hot Lips............................................................. 102 White Light........................................................ 101 Windy has Stormy Eyes....................................... 100 Zyzzyx.............................................................. 101 Crawling............................................................ 117 Forest................................................................ 118 Woodfire............................................................ 117 Dead Eyes............................................................ 92 Destruction in the Passage of Time......................... 85 Abuelita Luisa...................................................... 92 Dia De Los Muertos Chihuahua........................... 128 Puppy Glamour Shots......................................... 111 Spots on a Stroll................................................. 111 Homecoming...................................................... 135 Self Portrait.......................................................... 88 #11.................................................................... 114 #12.................................................................... 114 Mother of Forest Cannabis................................... 115 Looking for the Tiny Raincoat............................. 103 Rock Mountain................................................... 112 Water Under the Bridge....................................... 129 Orange Blues...................................................... 133 Parthenon Paste.................................................. 104 The Band Played On........................................... 103 Trilogy............................................................... 112 Hunger.............................................................. 122 Spiderman.......................................................... 121 Banshee Rising..................................................... 86 Flower Alchemy................................................. 135 Purple Bowl....................................................... 119 Lush.................................................................. 115 Red Riding Hood................................................ 132 Kyle.................................................................... 89 Passion................................................................ 98 The Student.......................................................... 90 Towards the End................................................... 89 Aliyah - Flesh & Bone........................................ 120 Natural Depiction................................................. 98 Puzzle of Self Reflection..................................... 106 Radical Change 0° - 360°.................................... 106


Violeta Moiseenco Sameer Nagra David Nichols

Diana Ormanzhi Ian Perez-Anderson

Catherine Ramsey Javier Salcedo

Diana Simeroth Claudia Anna Stelmach Mari Todd Frankie Vanity Yassaman Vedad S. Ward Allison Wheaton Meschelle White Trent Duaine Woolley

Expect............................................................... 127 Ubiquitous........................................................... 99 Drawn................................................................. 79 Fresnel’s Reverie................................................ 141 Pactolus............................................................... 82 Equilibrium.......................................................... 70 Little Red............................................................. 85 Monster Book..................................................... 123 Octopus Map...................................................... 129 Pile-o-Masks...................................................... 109 Forgotten Phone Booth........................................ 142 Upside Down..................................................... 143 Eyes On The Cliff................................................. 87 In The 1st Degree................................................. 86 On The Riverfront............................................... 144 Day is Done....................................................... 141 Andromeda.......................................................... 40 A Mother’s Undying Love................................... 136 Dangerous Beauty............................................... 124 The Golden Fish................................................. 125 Musician (A)........................................................ 52 The Mechanic..................................................... 134 Bubble Boy.......................................................... 94 Me in Pieces......................................................... 91 Puzzled.............................................................. 116 Man Eater.......................................................... 126 Mr. Kitty............................................................ 126 Pan’s Offering.................................................... 107 Sustenance......................................................... 107

American River Review  155


American River Review 2019 Staff Editorial Faculty Advisor Michael Spurgeon (F17, S18, F18)

Publisher

Eric Thompson (F18)

Editors

Editor-in-Chief

Kaycie Barr (F18) Marcella Mallory (F18) Tara Guido (S18) Emma Harris (S17, F18) Patti Santucci (F17)

Fiction Editor

Kenneth Bell (S18) Gabrielle Demorest (S18) Marcella Mallory (S18) Eric Thompson (S17, F18) Carla Carranza (F17) Colby Debach-Riley (F17) Kaylah Hickey (F17) Hannah Orlando (F17) Jennifer Snow (F17)

Managing Poetry Editor Jennifer Snow (S18)

Associate Editor-in-Chief

Associate Managing Poetry Editor

Managing CNF Editor

Poetry Editor

Hannah Orlando (F18) Carla Carranza (S18)

Associate Managing CNF Editor Evangeline Contreras (S18)

CNF Editor

Tulasi Albano (S18) Kaylah Hickey (S18) James Saling (S18) Valorie Castillo (F17) Alex Jacobs (F17) Anthony Principe Contreras (F17)

Managing Fiction Editor Hannah Orlando (S18)

Associate Managing Fiction Editor Kaycie Barr (S18)

156  American River Review

Claudia Anna Stelmach (S18) Krystyna Aaron (S18) Brooke Bailey (S18) Kendra Goodridge (S18) Rachel Heleva (S18) Leigh Snow (S18) Wendy Campbell (F17) Mariya Donskova (F17) Dante Giray (F17) Tara Guido (F17) Shani Zuberi (F17)

Front and Back Matter

Acknowledgements Editor Tulasi Albano (F18) Brent Ameneyro (F18) Breauna Jordan (F18)

Awards Page Editor Ruben Almaraz (F18) Li-Tuan Chan (F18)

Communications Coordinator

Austin Jude Aninzo (F18)

Contributors Page Editor Kelsie Clearie (F18) Nicole Gough (F18) Jacob Koss (F18) Myrenzo Whittaker (F18)

Copy Editor

Matthew Bowie (F18) Evangeline Contreras (F18)

Patrons Page Editor Jonathan Chagnon (F18) Deborah Dano (F18) Joshua Walton (F18)

Staff Page Editor Megan Barhorst (F18) Allan Dodge (F18)

Staff Photographer Anjelique Doty (F18)

Reading and Publicity Director

Benjamin Cleland (F18) Allan Dodge (F18)


Design and Production Faculty Advisers

Craig Martinez (S18, F18) Jeff Rochford (F18)

Art Director

Anthony Barbaria (F18)

Design Team

Kyle Binford (F18) Emily Madson (F18) Andrea Renardel de Lavalette (F18) Claudia Anna Stelmach (F18) Yassaman Vedad (F18) Allison Wheaton (F18)

Gallery

Layout Elizabeth “Betsy” Harper (F18) Captions Alexandra Bugarin (F18) Sabrina Flores (F18)

Art Selection

Anthony Barbaria (S18) Alexandra Bugarin (S18) Elizabeth “Betsy” Harper (S18) Tiffany LeBeau (S18) Abole Njenge (S18) Ruvim Noga (S18) Ian Perez-Anderson (S18) Javier Salcedo (S18) Sam Turner (S18)

Cover Design

Kyle Binford (F18)

Inside Cover

Claudia Anna Stelmach (F18)

Production Manager Alexandra Bugarin (F18)

Production Team

J. Apostle (F18) Kyle Binford (F18) Sabrina Flores (F18) Andrea Renardel de Lavalette (F18) Kelly Nagle (F18) Ruvim Noga (F18) Antonia Tapia (F18) Destinie Woody (F18)

American River Review  157


158  American River Review


Colophon For much of the time during the Fall 2018 semester, American River College has been in a state of flux. Buildings have been torn down to make way for new ones. Among those buildings are the rooms where American River Review has been created in past years, disrupting our editorial and design processes. On a larger and more tragic scale, there have been devastating wild fires throughout California. While these fires forced the closure of American River College and impacted our production schedule, the inconvenience we worked through is minimal compared with the suffering of our fellow Californians. A mix of old and new is reflected in our titles and bylines through the use of Averia Sans Libre and Helvetica. Averia Sans Libre was created by Dan Sayers and is an averaging of all the typefaces on his computer. I chose it because it looks like the contemplative ballpoint pen typography many people scribble in their notebooks. It is an amalgamation of chaos, boredom, and beauty. When contrasted with the clean and architectural lines of Helvetica, it creates a surreal feeling that reflects the world today. For the body type, I chose to use Helvetica for short poetry and Times for longer poetry and prose. This version of Times has a darker type, but, at 10/13, leaves enough negative space to be read comfortably. For most of the pieces using Helvetica, we also chose 10/13. A few very short pieces have been bumped up to 11.5 to avoid getting lost on their page. With the art direction, I was inspired by the underground zines and illustrations of the late 1970s and early 80s. I brought in a torn paper effect for much of the literature, sometimes combining it with knockedout type to give it the edge that it deserves. With a diverse and talented skeleton crew on our design team, we produced highly stylized literary treatments, ranging from raw illustrations to fine images.

Anthony Barbaria Art Director

American River Review  159


160  American River Review


Profile for Michael Angelone

American River Review volume 32  

An award-winning college literary magazine produced entirely by students.

American River Review volume 32  

An award-winning college literary magazine produced entirely by students.