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Fall 2012

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Prussian Engulfer Lisa Jakab

Oil on canvas

Mission Statement & Policy

American Literary, commonly known as AmLit, is the American University literary magazine and creative arts outlet. AmLit is a student-run organization that publishes twice a year at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters. Striving to publish the best student writing and visual art within the campus community, AmLit is comprised of poetry, short stories, photos and art submitted by the campus community, including undergrad and graduate students. AmLit selects content based on an anonymous review process, giving each staff member an equal vote for each piece submitted. Any discrepancies are decided by the Editors-in-Chief and genre editors. All copyrights revert to the artists upon publication, unless otherwise noted.

Acknowledgements

AmLit would like to first thank Adell Crowe of Student Activities for being our number one advocate and fan, and the best advisor an arts and literary magazine could ever ask for. We would also like to thank Jim Briggs of Printing Images for always being prompt, having a firm handshake, and publishing our beloved magazine once again. More thanks to our Best in Show judges Professors Juliet Bellow, Elise Levine, Jon Malis and Rachel Snyder. Most importantly, we want to acknowledge the immeasurable enthusiasm and dedication of our staffers, both new and old, for sustaining the energy to publish this beautiful magazine. And, last, but certainly not least, thank you every single person who submitted work; this magazine is for you.

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Editors’ Note Marlena: When you google search me (as we discovered in the wee hours prior to publication), the third picture that appears is not one of me, but one of Annie. Coincidence? Fate? The AmStars aligning? Or the sheer creepiness of the internet? Annie: When Marlena and I were sophomores we aspired to start a food blog together. That never happened, but now we follow each other on Pinterest and eat a lot of baked goods together in the office. Marlena: Obviously, we were meant to be AmLit co-Editors in Chief. What with the fact that our internet profiles seem to be oddly synced, and our shared affinity for food, aesthetics, and classic literature (we were in Professor Wenthe’s British Literature I class together sophomore year). Our predecessors seemed to know what they were doing. Annie: Of course, getting paired up as EICs was less than half the battle. It all looked so easy on paper, but after being apart for over 9 months (I was in Ireland and then home for the summer, while Marlena held down the fort in DC) the school year hit us like a speeding truck full of deadlines. Marlena: The submissions drive seemed to sneak up on us faster then fall in DC, and quickly after came the review sessions. And now, one superstorm later, we find ourselves on the brink of publication. Annie: It’s really hard to believe that a little over two months ago we were freaking out if anyone would even come to our meeting. But oh, come they did. Our new staff turned out to be pretty fantastic - always surprising us with how much they knew and how much they wanted to do. Shouts out to newbies! And of course, where would we be without the vets? They know the ways of AmLit and have more and more become my best/only friends at AU. Marlena: It never ceases to amaze us just how important collaboration is to the very joie de vivre of AmLit, and if not for all the brilliant literary and artistic minds that exist at American University—the untapped and raw talent that hides behind the sea of political discussions found in every nook and cranny of campus— we would be unable to present to you the phenomenal pages that you now hold in your hands, awaiting perusal. We’ve put countless hours into this magazine, watching it grow from “Oh my God, we broke the lit mag-- ” to giddiness with how pleased we are with the finished result. We truly hope that you all enjoy it as much as we do.

Annie Buller & Marlena Serviss Co-Editors-in-Chief

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Table of Contents 2 2 3 6 7 8 10 11 14 15 16 18 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

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Prussian Engulfer Lisa Jakab Mission Statement & Policy, Acknowledgements Editors’ Note October, 1987 Jessica Nesbitt Pyronimbus Pooja Patel | Best in Show Photography Jess’s Jacket Shelby Kay-Fantozzi Eggplants Brendan Williams-Childs Choux Hannah Henry Panic Savanna Rovira Edges Pamela Huber Windows Megan Fraedrich | Best in Show Prose Baby Shower Heather Ravenscroft | Best in Show Art Wooly Fracture Lisa Jakab Balconies Jack Chappen Beirut Alexander Brock The Children’s Table Sam Falewee San Francisco, High Tide Tasia Poinsatte Winter Solstice Tiffany Wong Aokigahara Mattea Falk Night Sam Falewee La Magia de la Bruja Pamela Huber

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31 32 33 34 36 37 38 30 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 50 51

Cemented Wisp Lisa Jakab Ennui Jessica Nesbitt | Best in Show Poetry Bed Matt Shor Kay Triptych Rachel Ternes Red, White, and Blue Matt Shor Faceted Fragility Lisa Jakab Well, This Is Awkward Pooja Patel Sestina for Eternal Love Alexander Brock cellar door Mattea Falk Escapes Alex Korba Lyric Compression Lisa Jakab Cancer Rachel Groat Ephemeral Tightening Lisa Jakab Pall Mall, Canto I. Christina Pierpaoli Test 1 Emily Zabaleta No Work at Work Jessica Nesbitt Biographies Basil Closes His Eyes Emily Zabaleta To the One I Met in a Museum Katie Guion Claire’s Gaze Rachel Ternes Staff

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October, 1987 Jessica Nesbitt

Adrienne Rich is dead. One hour, thirty-nine miles north, she has fainted on the back porch, each of her 659 muscles relinquishing rein over a body sewn together by dirt. Even irises sprout where her eyes once were. While Adrienne Rich was shaking, her brow punctuating her last conversation, we stood topless on the top floor, your eyelashes sinking into me, illustrating softly the ways you consume me. Cassiopeia is crashing all above us, watching the ebb and flow that is soon to be stitched to our skin. You’re whispering myths, tracing her skirt on my kneecaps, colored purple and peach, blue veins constellating my own endless spirals of stories. Stories that I trust you to tell as you consult Stein, and Woolf, tirelessly tapping away as I fall against your lips, or the notches in your carefully colored spine. Maybe Frida knew of you, of the language of your legs, those 60 bones shaping your strength, your simplicity. Adrienne Rich is dead. Each of her 659 muscles relinquishing rein to our inception, even she

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unable to calculate these quickened beats when you sketch stories on my thighs, or even the ephemeral shimmer, shiver of a moment where you slip beyond my grasp and into wonder.


Pyronimbus Pooja Patel Best in Show Photography

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Lightly, Upon the Chest Jonathon Koven

Snow diamonds spun in the placid air. “Sing, sing -- with eyes open and all night long,” I heard. Is this the color of redemption? Is this what it is to fall out of love? I let her hands travel my scalp. Her eyes were shut, but underneath pools were steaming hot dreams. A scent from her hair teased me; I gathered it in thick gulps under a gaping rosewood channel. Delicate, she was too delicate now. She sucked on my bottom lip like a baby. And so I felt it burst up within me. Your moment. Lifting in my chest. This is what you wanted. I parted her lips with my gathered stained history and shouted my spirit deep into her throat, triggered by my fleshy tongue lunging at hers. I hoped it seeded roots inside of her, a story written in permanent ink. I said without speaking, “I am different. I am good. I am somebody who is capable of loving, but this is not love. No -- know this is not love, but its shadow.” We played in a room adorned by snow diamonds, with invisible spirits lingering above, and on-and-on-and-onand… The morning simply came. And so much more was tangled in my bed than our bodies.

Jess’s Jacket Shelby Kay-Fantozzi Fall 2012

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Eggplants

Brendan Williams-childs

Eileen. Sitting in first year gen ed class, filling an arts and humanities requirement. The Body Revealed. Poetry and Prose. Sitting next to a boy, a Snow White boy. Black hair. White skin. Red lips, cracked, bleeding. If she focuses hard enough, she can see his heart beating. Can count pulse by the oozing of the blood. Knows he is the kind of boy who either imagines himself as poetry or was hoping the required books would have naked women on the cover. Probably the latter. Wears glasses, square frame. Large hands, short fingernails. She recognizes the signs of anxiety. She hopes hers are not as obvious. His nails have been chewed and then filed. Chewed and then filed. He has visibly red hangnails. Maybe he will be an ally, maybe a friend. Hopefully gay. Probably not. He asks, “Do you play tennis?” “Why?” “Your shoes,” he says, “I noticed.” She is wearing white and blue tennis shoes. Wearing sensible pants. Wearing a turtleneck. Odd assumption on his part. Lots of people wear tennis shoes. Must have seen her on the court before. He is trying to be clever, trying to pretend to be Sherlock Holmes. Finally, “I do.” “We should play sometime”. Not gay, forward. Snow White Boy. No name. Bleeding lips. Wide smile. So many teeth. Blood stained teeth and dead fish eyes. Great White Shark Boy. “No,” she says, “I don’t know you that well.” “My name is Paul,” he explains. And then he explains that he has a dead mother. Uncle in government. Two older siblings. Not brothers, not sisters. Siblings. Clinical. “Nice to meet you. What’s your name?” She considers lying. She doesn’t. “Eileen.” “Now we know each other.” He smiles. This line of logic, of “you know my name and now we know each other” is very third-grade. Eileen is bored. She pauses. It’s the second week. Make friends, she was told. Elder brother will disapprove. His voice is in the back of her head, between her ears: Can’t go around being afraid of men all your life. She could. It would be sensible. But this is only the second week. Try to find friends, said sister. “Okay, tennis. But I have a busy schedule.” “I’ll work around you.” “That’s nice.” “I think you’re scared.” Of Paul the Great White Shark Boy? Yes. “Of tennis?” she asks. “No.” “I think you’re scared of losing.” On a large scale? Is this a test? Is he a philosophy major? Or just a smart-ass? “In tennis?” she asks again. “No.” He grins. Great Whites have up to 50 teeth at any given moment. Learned that from Uncle Jacob. Eileen was a high school varsity tennis player. High school varsity track. Honors student all four years. High school junior varsity soccer for two years. Honor Society. Film Club. Debate. Model United Nations. On the track team now in college. Unafraid of a boy named Paul. She is aware of her panic as she lunges forward. Aware of his eyes. Blue. Staring. Staring at her. Tries to ignore it. Tries to ignore the ache. Tries to be here. Be here now. Get it tattooed, maybe, she thinks. Reminder on her wrists. No. They are on the tennis court and he is watching her across the net. Unblinking. A spring. A spring made of pure

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failure. She is 3 for 3. He is 0 for 3. She is less afraid now that she is in motion. Totally unconcerned. At least she looks it. Must look it. Swing, hit. Back, forth. 3 for 4. Finally. He will play to win. She is unimpressed. Match. She is 4 for 5. Good game. He laughs. Furious. As though he could hide it. As though it would matter what he felt. “Very good. When’s the next round?” he asks “You want a next round?” So he’s a sucker for punishment. Hopefully it means he’s docile. Week five. Women’s poems. Pregnancy. Miscarriage. Love. Fucking. Eating Disorder Girls. No bodies worth describing. Eileen learns. She will not compare herself to food. The poetry will. Eating Disorder Girls are not worthy of flowers. No violets. Their purpling bruises are compared to eggplants instead. No sunflowers. Butter. All of these poems, stuffed with food. Bodies are food. She won’t think of food. Authors instead will. How kind. Spins her rings. Small and silver. Hides the scars. Crooked and ugly. Wanted to be a diamond. Wanted to be hard. Cold. Beautiful. Is now corn. Now raspberries. Now in recovery. Seems insulting. Younger brother said, Don’t die at college. Older brother said, Can’t go around being afraid of men all your life. Sister said, Probably it’ll be okay. “Let’s get dinner,” Paul suggests. Everyone else will think of food. “No thank you,” she says. “Coffee, then.”

Choux

Hannah Henry

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“Maybe.” “Yes.” “Maybe,” I said. But he’s ignored the word “maybe” and replaced it with his feelings. This is a red flag. This is the second. She keeps count even though she has been told she knows better. No associating with the boys who have more than five. Probably too lenient. Eating Disorder Poetry. Exhausting. Too much mockery. Pleading. Oh, please eat. Oh, you’re doing so well. The poems aren’t real, don’t smell real. No poem can smell like the hospital. No poem catches father’s eyes, sister’s supposed benevolence. I’ll keep your secrets. You keep mine. No. No poem rings with mother’s sobbing. The clinic. The stink. “Yes,” she finally says to coffee, too tired to say no. Yes. She was sixteen. Waiting. Dozing. Sleeping lightly. Not sleeping. Everything rotten. Bile in her throat. She holds her breath. She waits. Saw her life once in an episode of SVU. Got told to turn it off. Don’t watch that trash. Listen to him. He has a law degree. He is bone. And blood. And booze. And bad decisions. She is his favorite. “Grow up to be president,” he says. “Make me proud.” A pause before he continues. “Do what the doctors want. Gain five pounds… but make sure it goes

“Flavorless, sharp, bitter. She considers that if she has to be a food, it might be okay to be coffee.” to your tits.” Sliding his hands, cold and for some reason wet, under her shirt. “If you tell,” he says, “Your mother will kill herself. Do you want to kill your mother? Is that what you want?” Wants to be a congresswoman. Wants to float out of this body. Wants to get perfect attendance. Wants to die. Too tired to say no. Sleeping behind her eyes. Now, at eighteen, it’s mostly the same. Can’t say no now. The boy is insistent. In a car, a 2004 BMW. A rich kid’s car with leather seats. Heated. Eileen feels her knees burning. Her elbow on fire. Wondering who invented heated seats. She is touching Paul. He is strangely… rubbery. Not polite to think that. Could take his pulse. Fast. Steady. She thinks about running. Her grip slips. “What are you doing?” “Sorry.” “Are you okay?” “Spacing out.” “Here. Don’t get lost.” He directs her. Like she couldn’t find him herself. He wraps her hand with his. His fingertips are callused. Plays guitar. Must have done this with countless other girls. She imagines that all of them are like her. Butter. Eggplants. Peppers. Cakes. He wants more. No. No. No. Finishes. Closes his eyes. Her, too. Getting coffee -- skim milk, no sugar. Flavorless, sharp, bitter. She considers that if she has to be a food, it might be okay to be coffee. He orders. “Dark as night, sweet as sin.” It’s a strange world he lives in: a world where it’s okay to order coffee the way he does. Sits down, spreads his legs. Pants rolled up to the ankle. Dark argyle socks. He has mass

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appeal: preppy without being too threatening. Professional without being too distant. Says to her, “Why don’t you put out?” “Stop asking me that.” Week before finals: “Stop. I have to study.” Leaning in the doorway again. Grinning. “That’s boring. Let’s go.” “I have to study.” “You’re a tease.” “I’m busy.” “Come on.” She looks back to her book. “Take care of yourself.” Closer now. He is over her. Slams her book. “Hey!” He closes the door. She meets his eyes. “No.” “I trust you,” he says. Takes off his shirt. Seven long scars. Eileen can spot attention seeking behavior. She remembers the other girls, her mother’s jagged crisscrossed breasts, her father’s arms’ perfect straight lines, like the kind Paul has. Her scars are burns. Everyone else demarcates with knives, straight-razors, X-actos, and all she has now are stomach-acid side effects, accidental. She keeps her rings on. “I love you,” he says. He said. “No.” “I’m pouring my heart out to you.” He says these words like they are things that matter. He doesn’t know she’s inured to words like “if you tell your mother I’ll kill your baby brother.” He can’t push her. Under enough pressure, girls turn into diamonds. “I need to study.” “Please.” She waits for him to lose his face. Any minute now. “No.” “Eileen.” “No.” Three. Two. One. “Don’t be a frigid, goddamn bitch.” Now. Sleep. Pinned to the bed. Can’t sleep. Cold hands. Floating. Think about anything else. Count down from two-thousand. Do the Fibonacci Sequence. Do it backwards. Finished? Finished? Finished? Finished. Sticky legs. His scars. Her cardigan. Next week: finals. Roommate: horrified. Paul, Great White Shark Boy, suspended. Confessed to the rape of another girl. The courtroom smells familiar. Nearly summer. Roommate goes home. Tells people her roommate was raped. Horrible. Freshman year, not supposed to be like that. Eileen agrees. In the wake of it all, Mother goes to therapy. Younger brother goes to Science Olympiad meets. Sister goes to support groups. Older brother goes to auditions. Eileen goes to the library. Eileen has always gone to the library. She was told to find books about girls like her and so she finds one. Blue and yellow cover. A butterfly. Gold lettering. She opens to the table of contents. Chapter 9. The Strength to Forgive. She cannot help herself. She begins laughing. Laughing until she is thrown out of the library. Be quiet on the quiet floor. Learn to read. Thought knowing English was a requirement for Yale. Silly girl. Hush, hush. Must be upset. Maybe drunk. Maybe high on whatever upper is popular for skinny girls who are double majoring and members of too many clubs. Eileen. Sitting on the steps. Laughing. Laughing. Laughing.

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Panic Savanna Rovira

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Edges Pamela Huber We picked through a bucket of sea glass Looking for the perfect shades. I enjoy the weight in my palm, The smooth edges Rounded by water And time. My edges are sharp And they draw blood at the first sign of contact. My fingertips are raw from rubbing my eyes As the pain Makes a playground of my body. I do not want its volatile despondency But I cannot keep it at bay. Please. Save me. We never used that sea glass. But he pushed me into the ocean and tumbled with me And he scraped my sides with sand Until they curved into his comfortably.

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Windows Megan Fraedrich Best in Show Prose

Crocus Mazurkiewicz was curled up under the bottom shelf of the linen closet, thinking about what a great princess she could have made if her name wasn’t Crocus Mazurkiewicz. ‘Crocus’ just didn’t float like other flower names— Lily, Rose, even Lotus. It made her think of a frog, and not a cute enchanted one that could turn into a handsome prince. The linen closet smelled like the inside of a mitten, maybe a glove, the kind that a grown-up woman might wear, along with hand lotion and nail polish. Her cheek thudded against the door with a jolt as someone pounded on the other side. “Dinner in twenty, Cro,” she heard her older brother call in his crackling voice. Link was fourteen and all unfinished-looking. Sometimes Crocus stared hard at him and tried to see the grown up Lincoln Mazurkiewicz, gangly limbs stronger, sparse blond fuzz on his upper lip thicker and darker, uncertain posture straighter and indecisive voice settled. But even her imagination couldn’t quite conjure that image. To her, Link would always be ten feet tall and an authority third only to God and Grandma, but he would never be a grown-up. “I’m not hungry,” she said. “You almost knocked one of my side teeth out! I want the loose one to come out first!” “Yeah, I know you’ve been trying to get that one out. Sorry,” Link agreed, his already garbled voice muffled through the door. Although she couldn’t see him, she knew he was fiddling around with his glasses, trying to find where they fit on his nose. “But Grandma says you’re not even supposed to be in here anyway.” “Grandma says lots of things,” said Crocus. “She says trolls live in the basement.” “Grandma’s like you. She likes to tell stories. Anyway, you need to come down, because she said you only had banana pudding for lunch.” Crocus slammed her Rapunzel book against the the door, just to see if she had the power to make her big brother’s hand jump on the other side. “Can’t you just bring a plate up here?” “No way, it’s tuna on Saltines. And peaches from a can. You’d get it all over the towels and stuff and Grandma would kill you. Then she’d kill me for letting you!” “She’d grind your bones to make her bread!” yelled Crocus, launching into a fit of giggles that echoed within the tiny closet. “Twenty minutes, goofball,” said Link, and she heard his feet dragging arhythmically down the hall. Once he was gone, Crocus opened up the Rapunzel book again, as though she was lifting the cover off of a brand new cake and smelling it. On the title page, a princess in a light blue gown leaned out of a window, all pale colors and sketchy lines. Her hair was light yellow, like the inside of a banana, and trapped in an intricate braid that looped around the title. Crocus touched the edges of her own hair, roughly cut around her chin with a few choppy strands sticking out around her forehead. A sticker covered up part of Rapunzel’s braid, fuzzy and peeling with age. In faded letters, it read, “Debbie Mazurkiewicz, grade 3.” Crocus ran her finger over the label and tried to remember the other version of the story. ***** Link’s favorite part of every day was the walk back from school, even if his stupid leg did put up a fuss the whole way. It was the only time he really got to spend outside, and he tried to see how slowly he could take it. With his leg the way it was, nobody ever asked him to hurry up, and Crocus didn’t seem to notice either way. She was just happy to walk with him. Adults said Cro was a little “young for her age,” whatever that meant, but Link suspected she knew more than she let on. Those dark eyes of hers always seemed to be looking into him. He liked that she expected so much of him, though. It gave him something to aim for. His number one goal at the moment was to be half as great as his sister

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thought he was. The rest of his goals were a tangled up pile inside his brain, and whenever he tugged the end of one, it would shorten the others and make the knot even worse. His leg was really a blessing, though, despite the annoying limp and the even more annoying pity. His leg meant Grandma didn’t ask too many questions. Even she had to realize that he wasn’t getting up to much trouble—not with the guys, and certainly not with the girls. It would be a little bit nice, though, to have a real conversation with a girl who wasn’t his sister. Maybe Grandma saw the way he’d been looking out the window lately, because she was getting stricter. And—he couldn’t deny—maybe she was getting worse again. Either way, people thought he was “old for his age.” No one had told him that, because they didn’t have to. Link paused midway down the hall on his journey toward the stairs. Twenty minutes, he thought. Why go down again so soon? Flattening his body against the wall like a secret agent, he reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out the envelope. It was already a crumpled mess, even though he’d only received it a few hours before. He couldn’t help taking it out of his pocket and studying it every time he was away from Grandma’s burning eyes. Mr.

“But he had to admit, he would rather have Crocus lift him off of the ground than bring her back down to earth.” Cardozo had kept him after class, asked him how he was doing in that much-too-casual voice that adults always used around him. Once Link had rushed through his usual litany of “fines” and “greats,” Mr. C. had produced the envelope, placing it in his hand with a special flourish. “I hope you don’t mind that I sent your robot on to the state science fair, Link,” he had said. “You’re the only freshman who qualified from the county. That’s something to be proud of. Just get these forms signed by tomorrow and bring in the seventy-five dollars.” His dark eyebrows contracted slightly. “Of course, we could get part of that fee waived, if necessary.” Link turned the envelope over in his hands, running his finger along the jagged edge where he had torn it open. This was it. All he had to do was ask Grandma. How could she dispute something as innocuous as a science fair? A bus trip and two nights in the dorms at whichever college was hosting the event, that was all. He had never asked for much, had he? He could hear Crocus warbling away in the linen closet, and tried to remember what it felt like to be her age. He couldn’t quite convince himself that he had ever been that small. Certainly, he had never been that carefree. He wasn’t sure he liked how fascinated she was by that old Rapunzel book, though. It reminded him too much of Grandma and her fairies and trolls and gnomes. It had been their mother’s favorite book as a little girl, and he wasn’t sure he liked that, either. But he had to admit, he would rather have Crocus lift him off of the ground than bring her back down to earth. When he walked home from school with her, he never had to pretend to be happy. On rainy days, he would catch sight of his own reflection in a puddle and see himself as Crocus did -- tall, brave, laughing and brilliant -- a knight armored in a green plastic raincoat. Don’t let Cro see her big brother defeated now, he told himself. Just ask Grandma. She knows how hard you’ve been working. You could win. The prize is a thousand dollars. Think of what this family could do with that kind of money. What is the worst that could happen? “Lincoln, are you going to leave me here alone?” Grandma’s voice blared through the floor. “I don’t like being downstairs on my own. They’re snickering in the walls again.” “Coming, Grandma,” Link said mechanically, and he rolled the envelope into his pocket. ***** Crocus had only heard Link talk about their mother once. Of course she’d asked him questions, and he’d always

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patiently answered them, but his answers were thin and empty, more cheerful than meaningful. It had been warm outside that day nine months before when he came to pick her up from school. The middle school was actually closer to their house than Crocus’ elementary school, but Link always gallantly walked the extra half-mile to escort her home. She thought of him as a kind of knight or footman, maybe even a bodyguard for a movie star. Shorts and t-shirt kind of weather that day, she remembered. Link wore a brace clamped around his skinny left calf, but Crocus always forgot about it when he had long pants on. He never seemed the least bit self-conscious about it, but she didn’t like it. Her brother’s halting walk was part of him, but the brace made him look like he was slowly turning into a machine. “Why are you taller than grandma if she’s older than you?” she’d asked. Link laughed, at her a little bit, but mostly just at everything. His laugh swelled outward and added some extra green to the trees. “Boys usually get taller than girls.” “Not you, I’m gonna be taller than you!” Crocus declared. She had been six years old then, her brother thirteen and starting to look like the last of a jar of jelly scraped across a piece of toast. “How long until you’re a grown-up?” She gripped his hand a little tighter, afraid it might soon be too high for her to reach. “I don’t know,” Link said, the laughter fading away from his face. “Our mom was only fourteen when I was born. I did the math. She was only a year older than I am now.”

BabyBestShower in Show Art

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Heather Ravenscroft Graphite on paper


Crocus thought about this for a minute, but she didn’t know what she was supposed to think about it, so she gave up. “You’re not going to leave me with Grandma, are you?” “No, of course not.” Now he didn’t look like he’d ever laughed in his life. “Don’t worry.” They walked in silence for awhile. “Do you miss Mommy?” asked Crocus. She picked her words carefully, knowing that he could close up again at any minute. “No,” said Link. “I didn’t know her that well.” He seemed to rummage through his brain for something to give his sister as a consolation prize. “She came back with you. Grandma once told me my hair was the same color as hers, but when she came back, it was brown.” “Brown like mine?” “Just about, maybe a little lighter. A lot of brown-haired grown-ups were blonde kids.” Crocus swung on his arm like a shopping basket. She loved Link’s pale, almost colorless hair. She imagined his eyelashes might work like prisms, shooting out rainbows through his glasses. But somehow, it just felt right to know that her mother’s hair had been like hers. She pictured her mother as a tall, pale column, with Link’s sad-beautiful eyes and Crocus’ quizzical eyebrows and pointed chin. Once in a while she thought maybe she could remember her. She looked up at her brother and couldn’t read his face at all. His glasses were blank white discs reflecting the sun, his eyes invisible. For a second, he scared her, and her fingers loosened from his. “I jumped off the swing today,” she said in a small voice. “I scraped my knee. But I told Mrs. Schonberg I tripped, and she gave me a Cookie Monster band-aid.” “Let me see that!” roared Link, all the life rushing back into his face. He scooped her up in his twig-like arms as though she weighed nothing and kissed the dirty band-aid on her knee. “You better watch out, Cookie Monster’s gonna eat your knee! Nom nom nom nom!” “Noooo!” shrieked Crocus, batting at her brother’s cheek, and now the rainbows were shooting out of his smile. ***** Crocus waited in the linen cupboard another minute, pressing her face into the soft blue washcloth in the corner. “Come on, Harry Potter, out of the cupboard!” Link hollered from downstairs. Grandma sometimes said he might turn out to be a good singer with lungs like his. “I haven’t read those books yet!” Crocus replied, though she knew he couldn’t hear her. “You said not until I turn eight!” She twisted the doorknob and stepped out into the narrow hallway, still stooping a little from hours crammed in the cupboard. The Rapunzel book stayed in the closet, behind the frayed towel with palm trees on it. By the time she got downstairs, Link and Grandma were sitting at the card table in the kitchen, munching on their tuna fish crackers. A popped balloon dangled pathetically from the ceiling fan above Crocus’ chair. Grandma didn’t even look up as Crocus sat down at the table and dished some peaches onto her plate. “Lincoln,” said Grandma, “where did you go after school today?” He flinched at his real name. “To pick up Cro, Grandma. Same as every day.” “You brought her home ten minutes later than usual. That means you were talking to someone on your way over. And you left your sister standing out in the cold, waiting.” “It wasn’t that cold out,” Crocus put in helpfully. “We had outdoor recess.” Grandma peered at Link from under her thick, heavy eyelids. She wasn’t old, but her skin didn’t seem to fit her the right way. Crocus thought maybe Grandma could cut off some of her extra and give it to Link so he wouldn’t be all bones and veins, but it wouldn’t match, like patches on old jeans. “Lincoln, tell me where you went. Who were you talking to? Was it a girl?” “No, Grandma, I swear. I just had to stay after and talk to my science teacher.” “Hmm.” “I—he gave me a— he liked my project, Grandma.” Link’s voice nearly squeaked, and Crocus could see the spark

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in his eyes go out. “The robot. You know.” Grandma’s eyes remained fixed on him as she gulped her strawberry Nesquik. “I don’t like how that thing looks at me, Lincoln. And I don’t see why you keep building those horrible things when I need so much help around the house. I can’t handle this place on my own.” Silence hung over the room, broken only by the whir of the ceiling fan and the feeble flopping of the balloon attached to it. It had been a week since Crocus’ birthday, the last of the cake growing stale on the countertop. Crocus sat shifting her crackers around on her plate, trying to escape the invading trickle of peach juice. She could think of very little worse than soggy crackers, though peachy tuna was a close second. “Hey, Grandma,” she said at last, “did we have another Rapunzel book when I was little? Not like the one where she has the blue dress and the yellow hair, a different version.” “No,” said Grandma. “We used to have more books, but they keep stealing them. Don’t think I don’t know about the gnomes. They live in the shed. They try to come in at night.” Link cleared his throat. “It’s okay, Grandma, I told you, I caught all the gnomes. They won’t take your things anymore.” He placed his hand on his grandmother’s shoulder, but she shrugged it off, letting it dangle in the air as limply as the balloon overhead. “Ah… right… does anyone want any cake?” Nobody said anything, so he cut himself a piece, even though Crocus knew he didn’t want any. The pink icing had turned hard and flaky, and Link bit into it like it was a challenge. ****** Coward. Link picked up the tuna-smeared paper plates and jammed them into the overflowing trash can. He’d really have to replace that trash bag soon, but the garbage man wasn’t coming until Tuesday. He rummaged through the fridge and found the last of the milk, to rinse the chalky taste of the cake from his mouth.

“Every now and then, Link thought he understood why his mother did what she’d done.” It was getting to be that time of year again—just after Crocus’ birthday. Every now and then, Link thought he understood why his mother did what she’d done. A year, that’s how long she had stayed. He remembered the day she’d come back, all the shouting and the crying and the different crying, and the new baby cocooned in a ragged blanket. He hadn’t gotten to see his mother much that year. She was barely allowed out of her room, and when she was allowed, she usually just sat on the bed and stared at the door. If she ever came downstairs, she drifted around like a ghost, and seemed to look right through him. When he talked to her, she looked at him as though she’d never seen him before, which was almost true. Mostly, he didn’t remember her. What he did remember was Grandma, furiously muttering to herself as she sliced the cheese for his sandwiches. In those days, he was still too young to be much help in the kitchen, so he just stood and watched when she sliced open her finger, the blood dripping through the paper towel, onto the cutting board, and all over the cheese. She would have put it on the sandwich anyway if Link hadn’t stopped her. She’d always been that way, as far as Link knew, and she was feverish in those days. He remembered her repeating over and over again, “seven years, not a word.” Once, she had grasped his childish cheeks in her hands, looked into his eyes with her raisin-dark ones, and said, “Lincoln, that woman upstairs is driving me around the bend. Around the bend and back again. Seven years she runs away with the fairy people, leaves me with her busted-up baby, comes back, not a word, there’s another baby on my hands. This time, she stays. You’ll make sure she won’t run off again, won’t you, little man?” “Yes, Grandma,” he’d said, but he was really wondering whether he could just open his window and fly a kite out of it without catching Grandma’s attention.

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American Literary


He and Grandma had been out grocery shopping the day it all happened. There was nobody home at the time— well, nobody except Crocus, and she’d been too young to remember anything, hardly a year old. As for Link, all he remembered was the crowd outside his house, all the blinking lights and loud noises, and a firm hand on his shoulder steering him away. The policeman had had a mustache that looked like eyebrows, and eyebrows that looked like tiny mustaches, and he gave Link a lime lollipop that looked like it had been sitting in the glove compartment for a long time. He couldn’t even bring himself to taste it. This wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t gone to the store. But Grandma couldn’t just go shopping by herself. Link wiped down the table and wrung out the rag over the teeming kitchen sink. He knew Crocus was old enough to help out now, but it just didn’t seem right to make her share in the household chores. Grandma always talked about how she couldn’t be alone, about how Link couldn’t leave her. He had spent all year trying to build something that would respond to commands and fulfill its duties; Grandma had spent longer doing the same with him. But Grandma wasn’t the only person in this house. There was Crocus, too. Even if Grandma somehow agreed to let him go to that science fair, he’d be gone three days. It would just be Cro and Grandma and this old wreck of a house. He yanked open the blinds with one mighty pull and looked out the window. It wasn’t the most picturesque view looking out on untended flower beds overrun with weeds, a lawn peppered with bald spots like bullet holes, and the big rotten tree stump. Crocus only sees the flowers, he thought. It’s my job to keep her that way. The envelope seemed to ease its way out of his pocket on its own. Link recited its contents in his head one last time, not even bothering to unfold the piece of paper inside. He already knew the letter by heart. With one last cockeyed look, he grasped the envelope in both hands and twisted it until the two halves fluttered to the ground like dead moths. I wouldn’t have won anyway, he told himself, and stalked out of the kitchen. He was back five minutes later to close the blinds and pick up the pieces. ****** When Crocus was finished with her dinner, she retreated upstairs to her room. It had once been her mother’s room, and she loved every inch of it -- the wooden bed with its pink quilt, the gauzy pink curtains, even the scrubby carpet worn down to the quick. She imagined her mother’s feet treading this carpet, standing right next to her. Her old crib still sat in the corner. Once upon a time, she’d been small enough to sleep there. Crocus could hear the familiar clomp-clomp of Link’s uneven gait downstairs, and she could picture him wandering around the kitchen the way he always did when he was deep in thought. “Whatcha thinkin’, Lincoln?” she said out loud, and giggled at her own brilliance. She pulled back the curtains and stood there between them and the windowpane. The light fabric flowed out behind her like a wedding veil, or like long, long hair. There was a heart drawn on the window frame with purple marker, and it had been scribbled out, but Crocus could still see that it said DM + DC. A second heart, this one bigger, had been carved just below it with some sort of jagged point, a rough, crooked heart that said DM + JE. This one, too, had been covered in black squiggles, but Crocus could still feel the letters beneath her fingertips. It was getting dark out, but it was still light enough to see the lawn outside the window. She saw the little shoots of daffodils popping up two floors below and, scattered among them, a few brave crocuses. She waved at them, one little flower to another. The room was hot and stuffy year round, packed tight with years and thoughts, and Crocus wished she could open the window and feel the cool night air on her face. But the window had been painted shut when she was a little girl. A long time ago, there had been a tree outside the window, too, a big one, Link had said, judging by the size of the stump outside. She wondered why it had been cut down, but Grandma wouldn’t say, only that there hadn’t been a tree there since Link was a baby. She went to bed early, something she almost never did without reading at least one story. But this time, she

Fall 2012

21


climbed right beneath that pink quilt and slipped into sleep almost at once. Nestled beside her ragged stuffed koala, Crocus dreamed about the other Rapunzel, the one that she’d seen in her dreams so many times. This version didn’t have a prince. It was just the princess sitting in her tower while the witch mixed potions downstairs. Slowly, the princess got up from her bed and stood in front of the window. Instead of a blue silk dress, she was wearing a red plaid nightgown with a pink bathrobe, and her hamburger-colored hair fell in tangled waves past her waist. Her eyes were the muddy grayish-green of the ocean on a cold day, and there were storms inside them. Almost trancelike, she drew back the pink curtains and stepped into the light. Her finger traced the heart carved onto the window sill while her other hand felt for the latch. She stared out the window at nothing in particular, at the shoots and buds in the flower bed below, perhaps. Then, she slid the window open and climbed up onto the ledge, first one foot, then the other, her hands clamped to either side. There she sat, hunched birdlike in the window. A light breeze stirred her long, long hair as weak February sunlight crept into the room. Suddenly, the princess bent her head downward and leaned over. She let go, flinging her arms out to either side. For a second, she looked like she was flying away, her clothes and her hair rippling in the wind. Then, there were only the curtains flapping by the open, empty window.

22

American Literary


Wooly Fracture

Lisa Jakab Ink and colored pencil on paper

Fall 2012

23


Balconies Jack Chappen

24

American Literary


Beirut Alexander Brock If you turn the music loud enough You can drain away the gunshots from outside. And in Beirut, We danced right through the war.

Fall 2012

25


The Children’s Table

Sam Falewee

I After the funeral, the girl and her boy-cousins gathered at the tiny circle table in front of the old TV, drawing up chairs and sitting uncomfortably in their clothes because they knew this is what they should do. The table des enfants was pale yellow wood, one of the older boy-cousins had dragged it next to the sofa to make room in the kitchen. But the mothers and aunts did not bump into each other by the kitchen sink, did not reach over one another’s hands and arms to cut and wash potatoes and boiled eggs. They were in the room across the hall, in black, milling by the chairs and drinking and talking. It was quiet so the boy-cousins tried to talk in murmurs, but one brother snapped at another and one leaned back in his chair and two shifted in a shared seat, but they were old enough now to know better and grew quiet again quickly. The girl sat and leaned her elbows on the table, watching and trying to look like she was not trying to understand the words she did not recognize. The table stood empty. The boy-cousins sat crowded around not knowing what to do and glad when they could argue futbol. Someone suggested pizza. This was a good idea and there was a scramble for the paper menu from the kitchen, spread out on the table and tugged in different directions. There was discussion for how much of each kind, how many pies to get, much hand raising of who wanted what. There was a subtle fight to be the ones to drive to the pizza parlor. By the time she jerked open the swollen front door, the car was pulling away. Her hands clenched and she was angry and claustrophobic in the little house and stream of garbled words. She stood on the hard cement steps, but there was nothing she could do and she went inside and waited with the others. The pizzas were very large and thin, there were two stacks of them steaming on the yellow wood. Plates were spread around. The cheese, anchovies and tomatoes were a spread of bubbling gold and red. An older boy-cousin could not find the pizza-cutter. The others called him nulle and two more stepped over the tangle of crowded chairs to pull open kitchen drawers, mussing through old steak knives and ladles and utensils she had never seen before. This was no good, one decided. He suggested they use a knife, but the others drowned this out as a ridiculous request. It will not cut correctly, they said. The cheese stretched and slid off the tomato sauce, and the knife was abandoned. She was interested now. All the boy-cousins were engaged. They were getting louder and beginning to yell. The pizzas were steaming, they were all hungry and suddenly her favorite boy-cousin got up for the first time and brought over a pair of scissors. The cousins grew quiet. No, they said. Absolutely not. We are not savages, we do not use scissors with food. But her favorite boy-cousin was quiet, and instead of arguing he began to cut the first pizza. The red-headed cousin shook his head in disgust. C’est ridicule. The scissors cut the cheese and anchovies and tomatoes like a razor. She picked off the anchovies and her favorite boy-cousin ate them for her. He smiled at her and talked in a caricatured northern accent to make her laugh. The pizzas were gone within minutes. Across the hall, the adults still sat, and many looked down at their hands. II “Un coca, deux cocas, trois, quatre, d’accord d’accord alors six cocas!” They were laughing, too warm from the heat inflamed just under their skin that’d burned all day, and then washed smooth with soap that smelled like caramel. They sat on rough wood with sopping hair in coarse cotton that scratched when they moved. The sky was growing grey; they were banished to the table des enfants and the dinners were always long, and they played a game of “La Restaurant”. They all ordered water and coke from the family-cousin,

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American Literary


but all he brought to the table was wine. They watched as the family-cousin flopped up and padded to the fridge in his faded straw shoes. He brought back another bottle of wine, leaning his hand under the table and serving their “cocas” as his white-blond curls caught the light from the house above. The women at the next table realized and told the fathers to shout at them. One father had a round face, pink from the sun and drinks. He was sweating on his forehead and behind his small circular glasses. He yelled sharply -the empty bottle clinked to the ground under the table. They sat, vision rolling pleasantly as they waited for the fruit and ice cream and when they could leave. These nights were good. Later they would walk down roads, push through knotted sand-trees and meet others slunk away from dull dinner tables. The bag of wine made a silver balloon in the dark. The family-cousin sucked the inside dry and blew it out like a pillow fit to burst. Later they murmured at the family-cousin’s drinking. He was angry and cocky, and went everyday in the tinmetal cart to buy wine and whiskey. It cannot be helped, some said. He played piano with black sunglasses, had been smoking cigarettes since he was 14. When you start that early, that is how you live, some said. Far away you could tell it was him walking up, flopping in straw shoes with an orange dot between his fingers, and if it was still early he loped on the twilight paths -- his white curls were the same -- and he looked like a young boy again.

San Francisco, High Tide Tasia Poinsatte Acrylic on canvas Fall 2012

27


Winter Solstice Tiffany Wong

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American Literary


Aokigahara Mattea Falk

You ask me where I’m going. I’m going to the sea. We are all islands. And the waves around us. And the salt on all our skin. Flow burble crash. Peak and trough and paths like crêpe paper spines, shiny under moons like backyard lanterns. Labyrinthine constructions to lead you to the surface, to plumb the dust in the depths that smells like the skin of ancestors. Burble crash ebb. Ocean of the lives we’ll never live. You ask me to come with you. But, the indecision of an abandoned car; the ghosts that wait around in parking lots, scuffing their shoes and tossing cigarette filters like bird seed. What have you left behind? What won’t you let me see? Your body is a mountain, but my hands are made of mud; I hold them to my eyes. The map in the passenger seat like a sail in storage. The signs you walk past like so many empty homes. The sea under your skin like a question that only salt can answer. We are all weak ankles, and waves collapsing. We are all the valley. And the salt on all our skin. The sea will swallow you like a titan would his son. And you let it. And you let it.

Fall 2012

29


Night

Sam Falewee

The fence around the pool sagged in the back, the bottom half bowing out from the hands and scrambling feet of summer nights. We would land on the pile of stacked stretching mats and sink in the cool water as our prize. We never saw the enormous bullfrog that dwelled in the filter – but you sat on the raised chair where the red LIFEGUARD float lay like a foamy phallic toy, and yelled into the dark, daring someone to see you naked and elevated and so desperately wanting some voice to scream back. We ran home, streams of chlorine striping our t-shirts, and hid our underwear in the neighbors’ bushes as a clever surprise for the lawn workers. I slept in my jeans those nights; what hot innocent bare skin and back, the contrast between golden hair on my arms and the white knees of the jeans worn through the seams, with loose belt loops and a hole under the zipper I didn’t understand. Shapeless men’s sweaters I pulled on for lazy mornings, thought my thick hair was so perfectly tangled and elegant, and I stretched on the white carpet with the fat cat in the window’s patch of sun. Now in my drawer silky nothings are pushed haplessly in; dark jeans are meant to be striding with long legs and the crisp clack of boots, with my head up and eyes forward and going, going, going. Twice I lay in a warm bed, pulled my jeans back on to your scolding. It’s uncomfortable. You hate it; such an alien roughness to what should be all skin. I forget why I slept in jeans. The old favorite pair are gone somewhere with bugs ruminating on denim threads like cows on milkweed. I hope they are still lying there soaked in loam, with rain and the tobacco leaves by the greenhouse that I said looked like a still lake in the morning. I saw a deer there at night, frozen in the field’s lines looking confused with too-big eyes. She was alone, she disappeared with the road’s hooked curve.

30

American Literary


La Magia de la Bruja Pamela Huber The secrets of the cold damp earth lie buried beneath a gravestone of white wood. I want to split the log open with an ice pick and watch fear crawl out with the sickening sound of thousands of insects scurrying from light, their legs pinpoints on the ground. If I reach my hands in, I can grasp the hair of the dead, pull, and hear a scream of relief more satisfying than sex or wine or poetry. I will taste the bitter and moist mystery of decaying death in my mouth and know the texture of terror. “Pour out,” I say, inviting the silence of the gravestones to sing to me, so they may reveal the cracking of bones and branches. “Sing to me before I am one of you.”

Cemented Wisp Lisa Jakab Oil on canvas Fall 2012

31


Ennui Jessica Nesbitt Best in Show Poetry

4:08 am 
 and I’m still not sleeping, not 
 even close! No, I am downtown, almonds 
filling the gaps between the pavement, between 
my aching mouth. I stood at the corner of
 17th and M, pacing my 8 cups of coffee, laughing
 at the moon drenched in this June heat. It’s
 time! I would say, to no one but myself and 
maybe a few Suits along
 the way. 

 4:13 am 
and I’m still alive, not
 quite but just enough, for now. Waiting for 
hour eight where you wake up, finally, and I am
 just crawling onto the waking bus, some man 
humming the tune to the dripping, sweating, 
dazzling Cinnamon Girl as a cinnamon girl
 climbs herself onto the bus! That hair, brighter
 than even mine, and eyes aglow at this hour? I 
 think, whose eyes are not still full of 
 dreams? I do not trust her. I trust

 my own eyes after a whole night of sleep, a 
 shower, maybe a crepe filled with six kinds of
 meat: chicken, sausage, Who Knows What Else, 
not even the workers, purple thumbs that they 
are, know what’s in a Caesar Crepe or 
 what’s in store for this next day full of 

grease sweat nods sniffs sighs clicks 
 and clicks and clicks of banalities, a sure 
sign of joy.
 4:45 am
 and watch! The poets soon start to talk back
 as I go for a brisk walk around the 
corner, just to Walgreens for a Coke, to 
 Get Out! but the moon has no interest in 
my madness, not at this hour. Not even when 
I, sweating Coke in hand, trip simply into morning.

32

American Literary


Bed

Matt Shor

Fall 2012

33


34

American Literary


Kay Triptych

Rachel Ternes Acrylic on canvas

Fall 2012

35


Red, White, and Blue Matt Shor

36

Red.

They say there’s something between us a bond that makes us kin Blood as red as blood is my medium the wavelength from body to body to body

White.

The spotlight on stage or running through the night with a kindred spirit escaping whatever is providing the chase whatever is in second place

Blue.

Like a baby’s eye, Sir, all babies have blue eyes . . . No, like my baby’s eye after work tripped her up and forgot to leave a tip

Red.

Raspberries, freshly picked up from cement and stuck onto the knee of a young child unsure whether or not the pain is coming like it’s supposed to

White.

Bare bones showing after the shot and cleaning of a deer Nice rack, they say staring in the direction of tomorrow’s mothers

Blue.

A soft rain, breaking marble, crushing a mother, a child before the blue streaks on their cheeks turn to stone, like the one before them

American Literary


Faceted Fragility

Lisa Jakab Ink and colored pencil on paper

Fall 2012

37


Well, This Is Awkward Pooja Patel

38

American Literary


Sestina for Eternal Love Alexander Brock

When I touched her skin it opened up. Her lips crinkled at my touch and scales peeled off Tumbled around her cheeks and gently floated down Her chest shuddered and caved in And her sternum splintered as her heart turned on She opened her mouth and her tongue fell out She cried when she opened the door and ran out Her fingers fell off one-by-one, her muscles tightened up When her feet shriveled up, we shared the bed she fell on She covered her eyes until they oozed onto the sheets and her hands fell off And I tried to hold her together and keep everything in But the mattress absorbed her and wouldn’t stop pulling her down The trees shook outside and leafless branches fell down And when the sky rumbled all of the blue seeped out The wind cracked our bedroom walls open and brought the cold in It tried to pull me from her and it pulled so hard the house gave up I covered her with my body and whispered into her ears until they fell off So then I yelled and prayed the lights would come back on When I opened my eyes all that was left was the bed we laid on I knew that she would be back to normal when I looked down But all that was left were silver glistening scales that had fallen off I tried to weep but my heart fell out I tried to scream but my lungs dried up I tried to die and an angel slithered in The angel set the edges of our bed on fire and the blaze circled in The fire boiled my blood and my sweat sizzled on the copper pan we now laid on Everything inside of me was gone once it evaporated through my skin leaking up My skin grew feathers that molted leaving nothing underneath as they fluttered down Only a mixture of white feathers and silver scales remained when the flames went out Everything was silent around us after the wind and the inferno was turned off She told me it felt much better with all her skin off She told me how happy she was when the angel slithered in She told me that we would figure this whole thing out I told her to pray for the lights to turn back on I told her it was too scary to look down I told her I cried when there was only darkness when I looked up The floor gave out and the blanket enveloped our remains when it slid off Our entangled souls rose up and the smell of lilacs breathed in Our souls turned on a violet flame burning the sheet and all its remains down

Fall 2012

39


cellar door Mattea Falk

The panic comes and suddenly my chest is a blank and mathematical plane, a mirror laid down to make space for a painting, a flat and quiet lake hovering above Michigan like a curse, and a cellar door. The cellar door will not open because the outside world is a tornado, and the wind is moving so quickly over the wood slats that only little chips and splinters rise in the updraft and the rest is forced down with a weight incongruent with your concept of air. The cellar door shut, not with lock, not with key, not with arms thick and sinewy as a Midwest scene demands, but with the wind howling like a memory, and here you are. Here you are, huddled among the canned peaches you imagined a grandmother (not yours) making, huddled among little mildewy figurines and antique farm tools you imagined yourself inheriting, huddled among sepia thoughts you imagined yourself catching like so many future colds, huddled among all the totems of your mundane life. The cellar is your chest is a prison is a reliquary: little amethyst gem, watch, lock of hair, garnet shard, rare coin, or letter from a dead relative. The things you fill your pockets with to keep you safe, to keep you anchored to this world. The crystals, especially. Amethyst and garnet. When you were a child, there was a place nearby, Moorefield Mines, which was a mining pit – more of a slope or a field, really. In the middle of a wooded area, a bit uneven, a muddy and slick slab of clay where people let loose their children to dig up any minerals or crystals they could find (little plastic shovel, little plastic bucket, little plastic smiles, overalls and muddy boots). You could expertly identify amethyst (purple, green and grey crust; big, abundant chunks), garnet (little port wine red seeds, tiny like baby teeth), mica (flaking, beautiful, impossible to clean), smoky quartz (boring, often tossed back), and anything else. You are sitting among the peaches and the crystals, and you are watching the cellar door shake. The cellar door is your chest is your body is your mind is the panic that makes you a plane, mathematical and blank. The cellar door will not open. There are reasons for this that you learned in eighth grade, when you pursed your lips (almost) against the edge of the big back lab table and blew gently across the top of a sheet of printer paper, but now you just accept it for what it is. It is enough to know that there are reasons (science, etc). Or perhaps there aren’t. You made a mistake, didn’t you? Let’s look at the problem, the wording, the number of apples for Sally, the number of apples for Jeff. If one ghost of panic leaves at 9:30 going west, and one leaves at 7:30 going east – well, you were never good at these problems. The facts, then. The math and the little bubble sheet for answers. The cellar door opens outward. You are inside. The panic has made your chest a plane, blank and mathematical. 3000 cubic centimeters, F5, 250 mph and 54 cans of peaches. The tornado is as fast as a freight train, so what time will you arrive in Boston? No, you were never good at word problems, here’s the answer: The faster the wind, the more the doors would spring open. They would rise up to meet the faster side, wouldn’t they? Don’t you see, in this scenario, the cellar door is open, the panic has gone home. Yes, it’s coming back now, the way the eighth-grade science teacher would shake her jowls while explaining wind resistance, the way you all got your own sheet of paper and returned to your stations, the way you bent your back to lean over to (almost) kiss the edge of the big black flame resistant lab table, but, above the rest, the way the clean white sheet fluttered up. You can see it, can’t you? The paper flying up like the hand of a virgin in an old movie, tossed into a volcano but caught on a ledge. So then, the tornado is inside with you (Q.E.D). And the doors are pressing down. The doors are my chest, my solar plexus, my collarbone, my ribs crowding to the front to see the spectacle. The doors will not open.

40

American Literary


Escapes

Alex Korba

Fall 2012

41


Lyric Compression

Lisa Jakab Ink and colored pencil on paper

42

American Literary


Cancer

Rachel Groat

I bought the shampoo without knowing it’s the same as the shampoo I used in that house where the bald woman was waiting. And then I used it again in that house when she wasn’t anymore. I try to forget but the shampoo won’t let me. I thought of pouring it out like it was rancid milk and buying a different kind but I’d rather carry the scent.

Fall 2012

43


Ephemeral Tightening

Lisa Jakab Ink and colored pencil on paper

44

American Literary


Pall Mall, Canto I. Christina Pierpaoli I’m en route to Tennessee to fall in love. Leave me there Let me. Your memory lingers like in sheets soiled with one thousand of your kisses, --impervious still to my mother’s calloused and labor-soaked hands-And even in this fresh, dewy air It’s stale With the ash of your Pall Malls And specter of cheap cologne He wears the same, smokes them too Combined with the night, the sin Santayana smiles with a prescient disdain Was it to get closer or further away History His story It’s yours-Summer All of her All of me, in the archives of those sweet, soft blades In that sweet air Recycled now sour and rancid In the heat of his carbon monoxide kiss I wish he could quit Would quit Not for the sake of his fucking lungs But for the sake of my fucking heart

Fall 2012

45


Test 1

Emily Zabaleta Watercolor and pen

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American Literary


No Work at Work Jessica Nesbitt

Guess 
I’ll spend another five hour shift 
in allegedly non-existent spaces but 
 David says they exist! even lays out articles to prove that when 
I’m sinking into prodigious abysses (read: 
FAQs: Figuring Yourself Out in Your 20s) 
I’m actually Engaging My Temporality
 speaking in wide and rounded generalities, 
so soon and listen 
 This is only my
 third cup of coffee, not nearly enough, I say, I
 bet there’s a girl at home waiting for me with a 
pot of coffee and pen in hand, 
ink following her forehead: 
wrinkled and necessary but
 patiently 
 she writes, 
leaning loops of handwritten notes 
and when I see her notebook I swoon, that 
penmanship’s so suggestive, 
even more so when she’s leaving me 
poems in the margins of a tea shop menu, 
illustrious and secretive and god, I don’t think I can write a single poem 
without mention of her, 
is this what I’ve spent four years missing? 
A love that will sabotage my writings 
with need, a hunger for her, I can’t 
concentrate for the wine in my hand 
that’s spilling on the floor in front of you, but Molly laughs 
till we all start to frown at my limitless demeanor that 
fills me up and leaves me reckless but
 These fucking op-eds have me 
reconsidering myself, and you, and friendship
 (whatever that is, am I right) but then again it’s early 
and I hate this weather and I just want to write all day
 beside you, not sleeping not awake, 
not sticking to the sides of the wall

Fall 2012

47


Biographies Jack Chappen says “I like parties. I like fun. I want to live in a hamburger bun.” Sam Falewee is rarely sure of precisely where she is, but at least she’s always moving. Mattea Falk thinks you look great in those jeans and totally wants to hang out with you. Megan Fraedrich is a junior literature major and temporary Londoner who enjoys falafel and singing the entire score of Les Miserables from memory. Despite the general weirdness of her prose, Megan had a wonderful childhood.

Kate Guion would cover herself in tattoos if she wasn’t secretly terrified of how they would look with her wedding dress.

Hannah Harry is a sweater weather enthusiast, speaker of broken French, and junior in SIS. Pamela Huber is a freshman studying literature and creative writing. She’s a romantic transcendentalist and believes that, when inspiration fails to strike, her best course of action is to head off into nature (and not forget the damn bug-spray again).

Lisa Jakab is a 2nd year MFA student who loves coffee, thinks dancing is fun, and believes that art makes every day better.

Shelby Kay-Fantozzi is a PDA (Published Displays of Affection) apologist. #SorryNotSorry JN, DWP. Alexandra Korba is a freshman at American University, majoring in Journalism and International Studies and hoping to minor in photography. She enjoys listening to NPR, watching Quentin Tarantino movies and reading Stephen King novels.

Jonathan Koven has his shirt off, the club too packed. Jess Nesbitt would like to thank Pritch et al for teaching her big words/How to Love Frank. Tasia Poinsatte is an SIS senior from Colorado. She likes to scramble on rocks and paint things. Pooja Patel is a freshman at Hogwarts University American University. Her fondest memory is the last time she slept before 4 a.m.

Heather Ravenscroft is from Hagerstown Maryland. She graduated with a BFA from Frostburg State

University in 2007, and is currently an MFA candidate at American University. Heather works for the Friends of the National Zoo at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, in Washington DC. Heather’s artwork focuses on human animal/relationships. She celebrates human ceremonies and special occasions for animals; she uses these ceremonies as a way to challenge the notion, of animal otherness.

Savanna Rovira is an aspiring CEO who dabbles in poetry, politics, and photography on the weekends. Matt Shor to describe himself in one word: reduced. - -… … ..-.-. -.. .-.. -.-Rachel Ternes is a sophomore psychology major who loves many, many things, including painting. Brendan Williams-Childs wants amazon.com to stop assuming he is a dad just because he buys a lot of stuffed animals.

Tiffany Wong hasn’t located herself yet. Emily Zabaleta is a retired circus clown and sophomore in SOC. Neither of these are a joke. 48

American Literary


Basil Closes His Eyes Emily Zabaleta

Ink and marker

Fall 2012

49


To the One I Met in a Museum Katie Guion

I met you at a museum, don’t you remember? you were mulling over the significance of a Monet, and I was captivated by your expression. I daresay you hardly noticed me, but I followed you around that rainy afternoon. (first through post-impressionism, the gift shop, and then finally straight out the front door to a little bookshop) a bit psychotic? no, just a commitment to love at first sight (it’s real, you know) Oh, you were lovely that day like seeing a moss carpet cloaked in dappled shade (does that even make sense?) as you perused great literary classics, I memorized our future. when you walked out of the shop, I would stay, watch you walk away like I would never see you again. but then, 5 years later (when I’m prettier) I would see you on a train, or something romantic like that and then, we could get along like a black and white movie (you know, the kind where we’d get together in the end) But, I’m sure you wouldn’t hear of such nonsense no, you are far too practical to fall in love

Claire’s Gaze Rachel Ternes

Oil on canvas

50

American Literary


Staff Editors-in-Chief Annie Buller & Marlena Serviss Design Editor Stephanie Fieseher Copy Editors Elice Rojas-Cruz & Kristin Wowk Assistant Copy Editors Iz Altman & Lindsey Newman Art Editor Mike Wang Assistant Art Editor Tiffany Wong Photo Editor Sam Falewee Assistant Photo Editor Matt Shor Poetry Editors Lorraine Holmes & Michelle Merica Prose Editors Elaina Hundley & Lilly McGee PR Representative Molly Friedman

General Staff Teta Alim, Alejandro Alvarez , Mattea Falk, Ford Fisher, Jessica Flores, Kirby Howell, Pamela Huber, Sara Lovett, Rhianna Mendez, Amanda Muscavage, Kaitlyn Quis, Marjie Ruby, Kevin Schlosser, James Schwabacher, Paige Smith, Rachel Ternes, Brendan Williams-Childs

Fall 2012

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American Literary

Profile for AmLit

AmLit Fall 2012  

American University's fall 2012 literary magazine

AmLit Fall 2012  

American University's fall 2012 literary magazine

Profile for amlit

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