american literary magazine Fall 2009
Mandhala // morgan jordan
american literary magazine
On the day of our first meeting, we went a bit overboard. We had coffee from the Dav to lure in new staff members, balloons bobbing eagerly at the top of the Mary Graydon Center staircase, and best of all, coordinated outfits in cobalt to enhance our eyes. All the flair masked the simple fact that we were terrified at the thought of managing the magazine we had loved for so long, especially considering that three years ago, on our first day of AmLit, the entire staff fit in our fluorescent shoebox of an office. So we emphasized the seriousness of our mission, the prestige of our forefathers, with a stern mantra of AmLit as a publication, not a club. However, as the semester went on and the office got more crowded, we realized our mantra still stood, yet it didn’t seem quite right. Sure, we have a new website, a staff of over fifty, a digital archive, not to mention a gleaming new Mac, but “publication, not a club” is actually an incomplete way to describe AmLit. AmLit is not, and will hopefully never be, a staff of stony-faced strangers. Instead, we all inevitably connect to each other because each member is a poet, whether with a pen, a brush, a lens or a mouse (admittedly, we have a bit of a soft spot for poets). Just like our favorite AmLit cover, organic tendrils of friendship grew out of the ambitious agenda we had collectively set for our organization. We found our heads snapping towards
the office door when it seemed like someone was attempting (usually unsuccessfully) to swipe in for a chat. In the beginning, the sounds we heard were mostly non-poets going into the bathroom across the hall, yet as we grew closer as a staff the door opened more frequently as the office became a watering hole for shared Subway lunches, homework avoidance (“but it’s so quiet in there!”), and absurdist debates about squirrels, SAT scores, and Sprite. We also realized, in the course of putting together a staff application, that two is better than one. Neither of us has the steely-eyed Texan precision of Anna Finn or the poetic dreaminess of Jamie, so this year AmLit needed a partnership. As we sat in our newly-inherited office and went about piecing together the application, we learned our leadership styles were quite different. After a good-natured squabble about an application question—“if you could be any animal, what would it be?”—Mike reluctantly agreed to allow the question (in the end, it proved to be a smashing success, and he publicly apologized) and it was smooth sailing and best buds from that point onward. We like to think (with a good helping of humility) that we provide AmLit with a harmonious recipe of professionalism and wit, good cop and bad cop, suaveness and cuteness. However, our schtick would be useless without some special people.
We would be up shit creek without the google-doc wielding duo of Shea and Anj, and their respective design and copy teams, who digitally quilted and engaged in flawless conveyor belt style copy-editing for countless hours to put together this issue. We also want to thank Jess and Danielle for keeping us sane during the submission weekend from hell, and our Student Activities gurus Alicia and Laura for bending over backwards to help us. Most of all, we are grateful for our bountiful, sassy staff, who molded our magazine through a grueling week of seven review sessions—without them, there would be nothing. We know our faith in an AmLit partnership (AmShip) stems from our freshman year under the indomitable leadership of Maria and Andrea. As starry-eyed freshman, we looked up to them immensely, and to this day invoke their names often as AmLit legend. A few days ago, we were sitting in the office with our own freshman (just as they did with us three years ago) looking through some old magazines. We noticed something in their own Editor’s Note from the Spring 2007 edition—“We have thought a bit about our legacy, wondering if future staffs would remember us…” Well, Maria and Andrea, to put it simply, we do. AmLit love, Mike and Rachel
Table of Contents i ii 1
Mandhala // Morgan Jordan Editor’s Note On Your Way // Erin Greenawald
2 2 3 4 5
A Bird’s Welfare // Yongjoo Shin Trouble // Andrea Lum // Best in Show Poetry Static Apnea // Alex Rudolph Gaskets // Christina Farella An Early Graduation Present // Michael Levy
5 6 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 21 22 23 24 24 25 26 27 27 28 28 29 30
The Open-Air Market // Kathleen O’Connell Full to Free // Sarah Sheya Fire Truck // Reese McArdle Let the Sun Shine // Rebecca Prowler Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam // Rachel Webb Flowing Over the Time // Yongjoo Shin Cast-on // Ali Goldstein Dash is a good dog // Erin Greenawald Czech Chic // Kathleen O’Connell Untitled // Sam Goldstein Untitled // Sam Goldstein Los Músicos de la Playa // Leah Fantle Feed These Animals // Louise Brask The Art of Bullshit // Rachel Webb Untitled // Matthew Shelley Untitled // Matthew Shelley Reduced to This // Matthew Shelley Stealing All The Heat // Alex Rudolph Luna Park // Kelly Barrett At a Train Station and a Sidewalk and Myself
// Best in Show Photography
// Christina Farella
Infini // Leah Fantle Mikulov // Kathleen O’Connell Portal // Haley Plotkin Untitled // Marri Stanback Theology. // Mary Cutrali The Death of Literature // Francesca Morizio Corridor // Hannah Karl Villa Barone // Christopher Conway Life in the Cretaceous (Do Sauropods Have Feelings?)
// Emily Reid
31 32 33 34 35 36
Life as the Milk // Reese McArdle Two Songs of Pamplona // Christina Farella Roma // Christina Fields The Body and Soul of Stephen Wiles // Matthew Makowski The End // Liz Calka Pop! Splatter! Splash! // Sara Ciarrochi
The Great Adventure of Bill and Ann // Louise Brask
// Best in Show Art
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39 40 41 42 43 44 44 45 45 46 47 48 49 49 50 50 51 52 52 53 54 54 55 55 56 57 58 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 69 70 71 72 73 74 74 75 75
Perique Blend // Louise Brask Plastic Bodies // Louise Brask Elves Chasm, Grand Canyon // Rachel Webb Meridians // Maria Pia Benosa Coolangatta Wedding // Kelly Barrett Girls’ Legs // Kathryn Bohri Untitled // Madeline Lynch Don’t Walk // Laura Vogler Grains // Jonathan Holin The Starry Night // Emi Ruff-Wilkinson Idle Ibex // Cody Steele Cadillac Ranch // Lina Schneider Depleted Uranium // William Corpstein What Would Eventually Happen // Matthew Shelley The Kindness of Strangers // Sarah Parnass A Warm Happiness // Yongjoo Shin 5Ptz // Jessica Warren Between the Walls // Matthew Shelley Guest Room // Nora Tumas Firewater // Kristen Bruch Have a Shiny Day // Yongjoo Shin Untitled // Sam Goldstein Seeds of Spring // Yongjoo Shin gloss // Emi Ruff-Wilkinson Horsepower // Ali Goldstein // Best in Show Prose Fox Glacier // Kelly Barrett Pangong Tso; a lake in the sky // Yongjoo Shin Mayan Voices // Hannah Kulakow Technicolor Dreams // Kristen McCown Untitled // Sam Goldstein Lake Seymour Fog // Katy Pitkin Over the Years // Matthew Shelley I Hate Paris // Michael Levy To Emily, Virginia and Sylvia // Rachel Webb Glassed Off Ghosts // Cody Steele Back Door // Franziska Kabelitz Jenny // David Keplinger // Faculty Contributer Big Fish // Jessica Warren Biographies El Arco in Antigua Guatemala // Yongjoo Shin Castle // Reese McArdle Coming of Age // Cat McCarthy The Kiwi Experience // Katy Pitkin Submission Policy American Literary Staff Acknowledgements
On Your Way // erin greenawald // Best in Show Photography fall 2009
Static Apnea // Alex Rudolph Halfway between the kitchen counter and the phone, you are twisting a thumbtack into the wallpaper over and over again. At first I thought that you were making a design, maybe a star map or a bullet-pointed autograph, but it’s been over two hours of this and it’s starting to become clear that you’re just trying to discretely tear the wall down. As you whip your hand against the air to calm the blisters on your fingers, I imagine what your first thought must have been this afternoon when you woke up on the backyard grass naked, your forehead covered in twisting trails of black bear ants and last night’s sweat, the chlorine of a stranger’s pool slowly eating your hair. I’ve started to become aware that you have a drinking problem.
A Bird’s Welfare // Yongjoo Shin
Trouble // Andrea Lum // Best in Show Poetry As always, it is summer. Somewhere, an ice cream truck calls for children who can’t go out. Our parents are not home. Stupid at six I sit at the kitchen island, feet kicking red dirt onto white plaster. My sister sets the knife beside the sink and I watch as it swivels towards the sterling silver, sunlight glaring from its edge. Flesh melts like ice on the roofs of our tongues. The juice drips from our palms to our elbows, lines drawn down our arms like Jesus blood. Triangles of summer pink fruit disappear into sweating faces. A seed slips by, falling too fast to retrieve and I swallow. You’re in trouble, my sister says, the seed will grow and grow. It will fill your belly until it explodes.
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The knowledge is a gift I gave to myself to calm down and stop worrying that I was the reason you had gone out and made love to the A through Qs in the Northern California phonebook. I remember waking up in our bed last April and not finding you— this would have been somewhere in the Bs— and thinking that maybe you were deep in the warm sheets, deeper than I could see or feel, where the sheets get tighter as they approach tucked in. I remember waking up on the couch this morning and looking through the window that we never wash to find your murky shape staggering into the yard, kneeling, laying down, and you looked back at me as I wondered if you would ever again reach the early Rs and find our last name.
An Early Graduation Present Mom ran away to Prague as my brother’s terrible twos made their way into his three and a half. This time, she took me with her, thinking that Brussels could mend our broken hearts— my first, her last.
// Christina Farella
1. in the dull oven clutch of August we sit on deck chairs inside a wooden ark you lean over and touch my eyes the doors of the ark yawn heat flushing in we tip wildly a vessel tossed high on waters that
O, we drive towards one of America’s inns and you will buy me a cola and there you are older than me your mouth forms the ‘O’ the yolk inside the egg of my name lips rotund a blob of peach
i am there: slimy muscle of mollusk licks my cheek i am seduced i am blind brow and lash wreathed in scallop
colored glass in shades of sea foam you are now illumined tulip crisp in the way we see carnations
we drive in a turquoise rusted machine we drive through desert to meet someone you knew i smell us mixing together in the wind skin falling to coalesce with desert dust
We, cracked, cracked, cracked, snapping fear at the joint— fear of drowning in our choices or dehydrating in their absence. And then not-so-full for not-so-little money, we’ll head to that ornate square and I’ll watch you sketch for the first time in what feels like two life times and I’ll write, for the first in one.
We threw aside the closed ones, accepting them as gastronomic failures and, for once, never looking back, as if they were unsure ex’s or subprime mortgages.
jump electric and alive with scallops they clamber up the deck ; they climb up bodies and fall asleep on passengers’ eyes
We sat, quietly, over a cauldron of mussels, using broken shells to viciously scoop up broth and any traces of security seductively oscillating in the olive oil.
// Michael Levy
change when turquoise is poured into bowls of water like the sound of a porcelain basin in a thick dream a waking eye clouded drowned squinting
The Open-Air Market // Kathleen O’Connell
american literary magazine
Full to Free
// Sarah Sheya
I could be. Overflowing like a giraffe’s grazing teeth Naked as a mango And my hubris would be vehement wild catalytic weak? You’d be the old me, a spirited memory a checker-printed tablecloth I never used now, a thrift store throw capriciously me Although our little moons kissed for an oceanic moment salty, thundering I must abandon the warmth of a heated log, whose sporadic flames turn pinecones jade For the hardness of a coconut and the emptiness of it’s milk.
Fire Truck // Reese McArdle american literary magazine
Let the Sun Shine // Rebecca Prowler fall 2009
Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam // Rachel Webb They say those who throw stones shouldn’t live in glass houses. Yet I tiptoe through the tulips with rocks in my pockets, pebbles tucked behind my ears and I would dwell within these glass walls, that North Sea sunlight filtered through the smudged ceiling the panes thin, and cracked. Old Man Archontophoenix alexandrae stands guard at the entrance, his swishing reedy beard hangs from the doorframe and his gnarled back hunches over the footpath, knotty brown eyes narrowed. I’ll take my coffee amongst the blushing lily pads, and gossip with the apple blossoms and stargazer lily, who fluffs her peacock feathers before passing me the cream, with the modest lavender bush pretending not to listen in the corner. I can sleep wrapped in a sling of banana leaves, mist beading down the translucent walls. When I am homesick, I’ll steal to the Southwest corner and whisper with the cholla and the Joshua trees, snack on prickly pears, tickle the fat belly of barrel cactus. We’ll reminisce about hot furnace winds, about redrock and squint to see the stars through the blurred glass ceiling.
Flowing Over the Time // Yongjoo Shin
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Cast-on // Ali Goldstein How to start an email to your old learn. But today, just before getting They laughed. Your dad talked therapist with whom you’ve fallen out on the metro escalator, you suddenly about how he bragged about you in of touch? What to put as the subject? could not breathe. You raised your the sauna at the athletic club. You “Hi,” seems too blunt, too ex-seekinghands above your head, coaxing back pictured a circle of bald, overweight reconciliation. “Hi!” seems too excited. your breath. People stared. men wrapped in towels like shiny Those who use superfluous exclama“Stop!” you whispered to yourself. Buddhas. They nodded, smiling at tion points don’t often seek out old “Fucking stop!” You could feel your your accomplishments. therapists. You settled on “Help Me”, heartbeat careen away from you. You could not talk about how you without punctuation. It was straightYou had your first panic attack at quarter your days at the office with forward, to the point. You could fill in fourteen one morning in the shower. coffee breaks, so as to distract yourself the details later. As if in prayer, you knelt on the floor of from their emptiness. You could not the shower. You beat your fists against talk about that worst moment first thing The first six months you lived alone the shower floor as hot water pelted in the morning, right after you turn off in the city you slept with a flashlight against your back. Please stop, please your flashlight, but before the automated spooned in your stomach. You figured stop, please stop. coffee maker percolates; when you feel if someone broke into your apartment You hadn’t had an attack in completely alone and cannot move. You you’d have both a weapon and a light years, but this time you reflexively could not talk about how you’d taken to source to illuminate the perpetrator. On remembered what to do. In through eating ice cream, mint chocolate chip, particularly lonely nights you even slept your nose, out through your mouth. straight from the carton for breakfast, with it on, your face jaundiced in its In through your nose, out through with a little bit of milk. glow, just to feel warmth beside you. your mouth. Finally, your breath You talked instead about city life came back with a fragile woosh. trends you read about in the Post. Every morning you walked the 343 But your throat still stung. You “Cupcakes,” you said. “Everyone’s steps to the Cleveland Park Metro could still feel the fingers with eating cupcakes! They’ve become chic!” stop to get to work at the publishing un-clipped nails wrapped greedily You could hear your mom slap her house downtown. You always passed around your windpipe. You stumbled knee with laughter. the homeless man sitting just outside into the nearest store. It was a yarn the metro, humming as he shook his shop. Seeing all the yarn colors like You lived in the city before. You went Dixie cup full of dimes. You always melted scoops of sherbet on the to college in Boston and studied in smiled at the woman with the electric shelves, you started to cry. Madrid. But never like this. Never red hair whose name you would never alone. You always had roommates, “How’s our cosmopolitan girl?” your long-distance boyfriends. You always parents crooned on the phone every had hobbies. You played the cello in Sunday night. You pictured them college. You loved its vibrations at your fighting over the phone in your childfingertips. But since moving to the city, hood kitchen with the grape wallpaper. you hadn’t opened its case. You always smiled wearily, as if You put an ad in Craigslist for they could see you, but thank God a roommate. But she was taking an they couldn’t. Indian cooking class and cooked curry “Oh, I love the city!” mustered the without opening the windows. She enthusiasm. “It’s so full of life!” kept Grey’s Anatomy on loud when
Seeing all the yarn colors like melted scoops of sherbet on the shelves, you started to cry.
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Dash is a good dog // Erin Greenawald her boyfriend came over after his residency on Thursday nights to have sex. She exasperated your loneliness. Made it feel sadder, yellowed. Made it reek like chicken vindaloo. You folded your head into your knees in a seat far from the window, the wheeze of your breathing ricocheting through the tiny yarn shop. “Excuse me, miss?” You looked up, inhaled. It was a man. “Are you okay?” He reached to pat you on the shoulder, but you raised both hands in exasperation. You collapsed again into your knees. You wiped snot on the back of your hand.
This man glanced to the back of the store, then to you. He ran his hand through his tumble of brown curls. “Would you like some pie?” You cried harder, deeper. “I’m not going to buy anything. I don’t knit.” “I don’t care.” “I’m sorry. I just couldn’t go into work today.” “I used to be in finance.” You looked up, eyes wide. You nodded. “Yes, I would love some pie.” While you waited, you glanced out the store window and remembered the life you’d left outside. Your empty desk, with its piles of coffee-stained memos. You imagined the people
outside rushing to work like paper dolls, stretched finger tip to finger tip down the city block. “Peach cobbler and lemon tea,” he said, hovering for a moment with a plate extended. You smiled, taking it from him. “My aunt wants to turn this into a pie shop and yarn store in one.” You didn’t know what to say. “This is hers, the store. I’m just temporary. Temporarily here.” He laughed, perhaps a little too loudly. “She bakes all day now trying to perfect her cobbler. My name’s Jeremy, by the way.” You hadn’t felt this cared for in weeks, but you weren’t sure that was
something you told strangers. You wanted to confess to this man. “Thanks, I’m Ellie.” You took a bite: warm and delicious, with a subtle tartness. “Oh my God.” You thought of telling your therapist about your day. I ran away from work, you would say, needing to hear it aloud, to a yarn shop. Oh yes, she would say, always speaking in enthusiastic, short sent ences, and how did that make you feel? “I should probably get going though,” you said. “I can still blame a Metro accident for being late.”
“Sure you don’t just want to take the day off?” You brushed the crumbs from your lap and shook your head. “Alright. But you should blame it on your roommate then. It’s unverifiable.” You smiled. “Is there a bathroom I can use? I’d like to splash some water on my face.” “Sure, upstairs on the right.” Walking up a wooden staircase, you side-stepped boxes you imagined full of brightly colored balls of yarn. Once in the bathroom, you sat down in the tub and pulled your knees to your
chest. The bath was full of products with sporty sounding names. Jeremy clearly lived in the upstairs apartment: Endurance! shampoo, Evergreen Spice body wash, refreshing mint aftershave. You picked up a bottle at a time, uncapping each slowly and then bringing them to your nose for a deep smell. You inhaled, exhaled. You smiled. You lived without a man for too long, and you’d almost forgotten how good they smelled. You stepped out of the tub and stood before the mirror above the sink. You’d always been wispy and
Czech Chic // Kathleen O’Connell
american literary magazine
pale, but today you looked translucent. The circles underneath your eyes had purpled. They looked almost like bruises, as though they would hurt if touched. You gasped, and because you could no longer cry, you laughed. Downstairs, he’d put on classical music. “It’s piano weather,” he said, seeing you come down the stairs. “I used to play the cello.” You hunched your shoulders as though apologizing. He looked up, nodded. You smiled, close-lipped, at each other. But then you lost courage and looked at your toes. “Sure you’re ok?” “Yeah. Getting there. The pie and tea helped.” You stared at each other from an arm’s length away. He offered his hand. But then you lost yourself for a moment in that brightly colored yarn shop, filled with the smell of pie and the hum of piano music. You grabbed ahold of his shoulders and pulled him close. His flannel shirt brushed against your cheek as you cried on his shoulder.
You hummed to yourself as you walked to work afterwards, buoyed by the heft of the plastic cases in your hands. That night, there was an email from your therapist when you got home. “Dear Ellie,” she wrote back, Subject: re: Help Me. “So good to hear from you again. It’s been what, a decade? I’d be happy to talk. I’ll call you Thursday at six. It’s ok to be scared.” You wished that you didn’t have to pay someone to tell you not to be scared. Wished that you could leave behind your graying, hippie therapist you’d had as a teenager in Wapokenneta, Ohio. You were supposed to be older, sophisticated, bilingual. You made yourself a cup of tea and sat in bed, knees hugged to your chest. You listened to the London Symphony play “Mahler’s Second.” You plodded along with the insistent basses; you soared and crescendoed with the violins. You forgot to turn on your flashlight before drifting to sleep. You spent your childhood in Wapokonetta reading travelogues at the musty local library. Neil Armstrong After leaving the shop, you stood grew up there too: Ohio claims the outside rolling up and down on the greatest number of famous astronauts. balls of your feet in the grey muck of You liked to think of yourself as part the morning. You thought of taking of this group of dreamers. Something the day off from work and going home. about your suburb always seemed But then you thought of your musty dusty and small, and you feared apartment with its stack of unwashed that if you stayed too long you’d cereal bowls in the sink. become Wapokonetta: soft in the You went instead to a nearby middle, apologetic, and loath to have music store and bought all of your an opinion. After school you’d drink favorite symphonies. mocktails with your best friend Eliza “We don’t get a lot for classical who wore all plaid and made you listen here,” the man behind the counter said to Frank Sinatra during the morning without making eye contact. You nodded, carpool. Your only sense of self was unsure if you were expected to apologize.
You’d always been wispy and pale, but today you looked translucent. that you didn’t belong. Your only dream was leaving. You paused for a moment in the rain the next morning outside the store. You could see him inside unpacking boxes. Hi, you mouthed, when he looked up and waved. “I’ve decided that I want to learn how to knit,” you said once inside the shop. He wore a bright red bandana like a sweatband around his curls. “I’ll go get my aunt,” he said, pleased. “It’s pretty early for customers.” He walked toward the back room then turned around. He squeezed your shoulders and smiled. “You look better.” You could hear guitars playing from the stereo in the backroom, and you wanted to hum along. “I hear you want to learn how to knit,” Aunt Tammy said. “How does starting with a scarf sound?” She was radiant, dressed in a bright blue African dress. You nodded, gulped. “What colors would you like to work with?” She glanced around the store. “I’m thinking a nice lilac would look pretty with your skin tone.” You sat down on the big yellow couch as she gathered the needles and yarn. Jeremy hovered. “See you make a gun with your right hand,” she said, teaching you how to cast-on. You pulled up and under, up and under, with the yarn
soft against your fingertips. Up and under, up and under: soon you had 18 stitches, your first row. Jeremy punched you lightly in the arm. “See, everyone can knit,” Aunt Tammy said. “You just have to make sure you count your stitches.” She put your yarn in a bright blue bag and smiled. “The first scarf is on us.” “Oh no...” “No, you’ll be back. Don’t worry.” As you left you caught Jeremy’s eye. He was changing the music, but he waved with his free hand. “See you soon,” he said. That night, you knit six rows. You held up the gem of your scarf before your face. Light rushed through its tiny holes, and you rubbed your fingers over its construction. Subject: Knitting, you wrote to Beth, your smiling, hippie therapist. I’ve learned how to knit, and I’m starting to feel ok. “Look!” you said, rushing into the shop the next morning. You pulled your scarf from your bag and held it up to your face. “And you said you couldn’t knit,” Jeremy said. “Tammy, come here! We’ve got ourselves a knitter.” She poked her head out of the store room with a small smile on her face. “Well done, Ellie,” she said, nodding. “I’m so pleased. How about some coffee?” You plopped down on the shop’s yellow couch and began to knit. “I just can’t stop,” you said with a laugh. Jeremy sat down next to you and watched you work.
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You looked up and brushed a hair from your face. “Just going to sit there and watch?” “No. No,” he said. “Tell me about finance?” “That I’m never going back?” “No, how did you know to leave?” He shrugged. “How did you just one day decide...” “One morning, I couldn’t go into work.”
You could picture your mom grabbing your brown poof of a dog in her arms. “I just wanted to talk.” “What’s new?” “I’ve learned how to knit.” “Really?” “Yeah, there’s this yarn store right outside my Metro stop.” Your mom had taken over the phone, and you could hear Snuffles lick the earpiece. “That’s wonderful, hon. Must be a good stress release.” “I’m almost done with a scarf. It’s lilac.” “You sound happy.” “Don’t I always?” “Well, yes. But you sound like you.” “Ok, well that’s really all my news. It’s same old, same old at work.” “It’s just good to hear your voice.” “And you wandered into a You smiled for a moment after yarn shop?” hanging up. It was the first conversa“Something like that.” tion you’d had with your parents since “What’s the plan now?” moving to the city in which you had “Well I’d like to see if you’d go to told the truth. the orchestra with me tomorrow night?” After, you found your old viola You looked up, startled. “I blew buried beneath clothes in your closet: my nose on my hand in front of you.” you unsnapped its case, wiping a spot “That’s true.” of dust from its cherry wood shell with You looked up and smiled. your finger. You started to play, and He bit his lip and grabbed a ball feeling that familiar, deep vibration of lime green yarn from the shelf at your fingertips, you could not stop. behind him. He began nervously All your favorite symphonies, like unraveling it. “23 rows!” you continued, pushing retracing wonderful memories: Mahler, Beethoven, Brahms. your scarf into his lap for admiration. “Can you keep it down?” your roommate shouted through the partition. Your parents were worried because you “I can’t concentrate on my cooking.” called on a Wednesday. “Everything all right?” your dad asked. You could hear your dog bark in Jeremy came to the door in a blue tie, carrying peach cobbler and wine. the background. “Shut up, Snuffles. I “Oh my,” you said, ushering him mean it! Leena, can you do something inside. “Sorry about the smell. My with the damn dog?” roommate was trying to make samosas.”
Your only sense of self was that you didn’t belong.
Untitled // Sam Goldstein fall 2009
Untitled // Sam Goldstein You stood for a moment without talking. “Are they watching Grey’s Anatomy?” “Yeah,” you said, looking at your feet, then up at him. “We should probably get going.” You finished your scarf at the office that afternoon, and you disappeared into your room to get it. “You’re done!” he said. “Wear it to the concert.” “Really?” But he’d already grabbed it from your hands and started to twist it around your neck. “There,” he said. You brushed a hair from his shoulder and smiled. “Ready?”
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You grabbed Jeremy’s hand in the darkness of the concert hall. Amid the crescendo of the orchestra, you missed the quiet vibration of your phone beneath the music. You watched a little girl in front of you whisper something in her dad’s ear, and you turned to Jeremy. You rested your head on his shoulder. He smelled like evergreen. He pulled your hand to his mouth and kissed the roof of your fist. Home alone after the concert, your apartment still smelled like samosas. You scanned the fridge for Jeremy’s pie and took it to your room with a fork and glass of milk.
“Hope everything’s alright,” your therapist said as you listened to her voice mail. “So glad to hear about the knitting.” You nodded, taking a bite of the cobbler straight from the box. You thought of Jeremy listening to piano music alone in the apartment above the yarn shop. Like a newfound amulet, you reached for your scarf at your neck and rubbed it between your fingers. You fumbled for your cello in the darkness. You brushed your fingers against its wood; you plucked two of its strings. You took another bite of pie and marveled at the tartness of the peach in your throat. And then you played.
Los Músicos de la Playa // Leah Fantle
The Art of Bullshit
// Rachel Webb
The gilded gold frame is replaced by 1-inch margins, and inkjet words, which push their Times New Roman glasses up their noses with earnest. Instead of neatly painted shrubs, dabbed faces, the crisp white sheets are dotted with tidy periods, and shy commas those overachieving semi-colons (who go to office hours every week). Bold paint strokes of words fill the frame, a violet streak of epistemology, the emerald daub of Freudian, copper tint of Dickensian, navy blobs of Nietzsche-esque, and orange quixotic, scarlet symbiosis, or dusting the corners with a golden spray of plethora. The paint covers drowsy eyelids, dizzy red spellcheck lines; the pinprick holes in the canvas, veiled by empty coffee cups. The painter applies a double-spaced gloss to the canvas, and hangs the painting on the white, blank wall with taut, wired footnotes.
Feed These Animals // Louise Brask
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Untitled // Matthew Shelley
Untitled // Matthew Shelley
american literary magazine
Reduced to This // Matthew Shelley
Stealing All The Heat
// Alex Rudolph
The lamp post outside umbrellas and illuminates some future fixture of a townie bar as he tries to take it down with a wrist rocket and a pocketful of marbles. Nine years of nail biting sharpened his teeth, and the kid’s fingers flicker shot after shot into the lamp’s light without a single look to the surrounding apartment windows to search for his neighbors’ disapproval, every ting and tang of metal meets marble acting as enough evidence of an upcoming shitstorm as any glaring piece of small town trash could ever deliver. As marble twenty-eight leaves the boy’s sling shot, he thinks “This piece will destroy the sun.”
Luna Park // Kelly Barrett
Nothing happens and as marble twenty-nine leaves the boy’s sling shot, he thinks “This has to be the piece that will destroy the sun.” Nothing happens the idea of shattered lights becomes as romantic as the thought that somebody is going to try to stop him, and a chase will ensue.
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But marble thirty hits the light in some sense of the word ‘perfect’ and beats a hardcore thunder out of the post, now a cannon shooting sparks and glass and nobody watches as the words “told you so” sparkle out of the boy’s mouth, and he picks a shard of the dead brightness out of his hair and uses it to score a line in his belt. There are four such lines now, and truth be told the process of notching up the belt is just an empty Hell Yes that whispers its own victories into the boy’s thumb, palm and fingers. But the lamp post archipelago that stretches across every street has watched another piece of itself sink into the pavement, and some day, after enough nights like this, there will only be a single island of light, and all of the narrators will convene at its location and hope that their subject is the kid who steals the last of the heat.
At a Train Station and a Sidewalk and Myself
// Christina Farella
The train cut and jerked forward and moved the bodies as it bumped over the tracks that were restless things. Passengers weaved their way down and back, up and down the aisles. The train made sounds like violins over the tracks, which were being restless as birds. Light struck through the train and the shadow of my shoulders and head was cast over the platform. The shadow trudged as did the train. Pulling past a cemetery, I remember that I should be visiting her, my dead wife. She is months dead, fresh in the ground. Last I was there the grass
Infini // american literary magazine
had not even finished growing in over the hewn and thrown dirt. It seemed to me that if the dirt had not been settled and the grass not even finished growing, then I had no business being there yet. I was too early, too eager. My shoes sank into the downy dirt as if she was pulling me towards her. I twitched and laid down, as I laid down a wind came and the wind pushed the bunch of morning glories I had brought her, their trumpets blaring inchoate, blue uvulae exposed and hot in the dirty sun. The fleshy tongue-blades of the baby grass were pathetically crushed beneath me, and I, worried about crushing them, sprung up and glanced at the ground. My body had sunk down, forming the outline of an anonymous man yet to be buried on that plot, that long spot of dirt the color of overripe and mashed cherries. I rode forward on the train, pulling away from the cemetery. It seemed so strange to me that every so often in our landscapes is a hillside or field that is filled and packed with corpses. I had never thought about it. Now, thinking about it, I turned away and refocused on the seat beneath me, which was hard and inhospitable. I had just walked the equivalent of Leah Fantle twelve miles through the
My shoes sank into the downy dirt as if she was pulling me towards her. streets of Philadelphia, restless through the night. The brandy in my paper-bagged bottle did nothing for me but make my footfalls heavier and more painful, and after all, I knew that it was dangerous to be drinking brandy as a young man with many words in my head. I knew I needed to see something, but nothing that I beheld satisfied me and I walked and as I walked I thought of all of the urine, saliva, dropped food and blood that had fallen on the pavement throughout the pavement’s lifetime. This thought made the soles of my feet arch with revulsion and I perspired, wiped my forehead with my sleeve and held my breath as I walked catlike and ghostly over the contaminated city blocks. I would go to New York. Down Market Street and up to 30th Street where the train station was, a heavy mausoleum whose high ceilings to me could never be justified. Getting out of the city that I knew and going to one that I didn’t might take my mind off of this need to see my wife’s face, I thought as I purchased a ticket to New York. In New York, I could see some Francis Bacon, perhaps, and meet an old friend for lunch. 30th St. Station smelled like exhaust, rubber and
Mikulov // Kathleen O’Connell bodies turning in the July heat. Sitting on a bench I looked at the book in my hands, looked at my hands and looked at the hands of those around me. The man sitting across from me was sitting on a bench and had used his hands to twist all of his hair into a greasy point. I watched him as his pale eyes and pale lids shifted over the entirety of the station and I wondered silently what it would be like to be schizophrenic and be in this station. His jowls were smooth and his stomach
sagged over the forbidding leather of his belted waist. He looked sane enough, but there was something about the slope of his neck and the way his lips always raced back and forth over his browned teeth to indicate that he was insane. Also, the now sagging cone of hair on top of his head. The track for my train was called and I got up and pressed my feet forward as I walked and my shoes made a noise like hardened soap on hollowed wood. I settled into my seat, slugged some
of my remaining brandy and pictured entering the hot womb of New York’s Penn Station. What New York would do for a sore and heavy heart, I was not sure. I did, however, see in the man with the pointed hair and restless mouth myself, or at least the potential for such behavior. I mumbled a brandy-slicked prayer to the angels of restoration to greet me at the tracks on 34th Street.
Untitled // Marri Stanback
Portal // Haley Plotkin
american literary magazine
// Mary Cutrali
It was not in the back of a church, slouching smugly In a pew, pearl rosary passing idly through laced fingers Reciting the Nicene Creed and signing the peace, accepting The holy host, a gaping mouth before the marble crucifix, But rather it was in a shadowy white-brick alleyway Kneeling languidly beside the Empress Ballroom, Cup of duty free whiskey raised, most precious blood, Tapping skeleton rhythms to old songs, On the hollowed body of your tawny Gibson, Desolate and dusty under the phosphorescent glow That I knew I had found Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s home.
The Death of Literature // Francesca Morizio Rome is burning. And will keep burning. But no one told us. They never told us as we continued to be whores and pimps and prostitutes, doing what we knew to be the right thing. There is no salvation left; those who came before us used it all up. There is nothing. We are not nothing. We are everything that used to be. So we continue to do what we do. We continue to whore ourselves out to whoever will take a second look at what we do, to anyone who will pick up a piece of paper and read it, reading out innermost thoughts and ideas, seeing into our minds, that most sacred place of a human being. That which does not exist on an anatomy map or in a science class, that which can only be seen in literature. The man came and told us that the new world would be easy and clear to live in. That there would be no more questioning, and everything would be right. There would be numbers and
facts and questions with answers. He did not tell us there would be no words. That there would be no beauty or poetry or prose. He did not tell us that instead of hurting our enemies with our mighty steel pens we would hurt them with mighty steel cannons. He did not tell us the truth. The sword may be mightier than the pen, but the pen is as mighty as the human spirit. The pen is the human spirit and words are the body. We few are the last lovers in the world. We are Casanovas. Words are our mistresses and toys and we pet and laden them with meaning.
We write because it is what we were created to do, but now we have a burden to bear. We must bring words back to the people oppressed. It is our burden, it is our gift. Rome is burning. And will keep burning. And will burn until there are no more of us left, and we have all been reduced to cinders and ash. And after we are long dead and long gone and no one who knew us is able to tell our story, our words will tell our story. They will tell it if anyone uses words anymore. And on that inevitable day that Rome is no longer burning, they will have won.
// Christopher Conway
It was on a quiet night, walking down a darkened street In Pelham Bay, under the bridge overpass and within the Glimmering halo of light that surrounds New York City That out of nowhere my spine started freezing badly And I couldn’t stop it. Though you were leagues away, and even hours away, And it was decades too late for anything that I could say to matter, And the passage of time had left me worn and greying; I still for a moment was shocked, then recovered By a memory of a faded song. It passed, leaving a vague evanescent memory of a dream And everything was normal again, from my exhausted mind To my vaulted senses, fragile and mortal, and the clothes I was wearing, and the rings on my thick fingers and ears and even This earth beneath me— From the quiet tombstone parkways of Crotona Park Down through the slums and East River across the island To the sandy and wind-battered lighthouse that stands as a guardian And all-seeing goddess, vision reaching twenty miles out From the beaches at Montauk. The earth stretched wide beneath me, and my footsteps Turned the wide sphere of the planet, and I made my way Back home, through the arc of the power plants, The dark of the alleyways, in my mind to the place and time When you believed in me.
Corridor // Hannah Karl
american literary magazine
Life in the Cretaceous (Do Sauropods Have Feelings?) // Emily Reid Once, when I was beautiful, I had the biggest collection of dinosaurs known to man. I had all the important ones, of course: T-rex and Triceratops and Stegosaurus, but I also had the B-listers: Coelophysis, Baryonyx, Ankylosaurus, and their ilk rounded out my collection. They came in varying sizes from different packages; this one from China, that one from Malaysia. They were whatever colors their designers thought they should be, since no one knows what colors the dinosaurs really were. Iguanadon, I remember distinctly, was yellow with green stripes. Parasauropholus was bright orange. They became my companions, as I sat outside in the tallest grass, reenacting life-and-death battles, epic romances, and UN-inspired peace talks between Brachiosaurus and the Utahraptors. Sometimes they were bloodthirsty killers looking for the next piece of meat, and other times they were Romeo and Juliet, starcrossed lovers from warring clans of carnivores and prey. No one else ever played with me and the dinosaurs; no one else understood. My human friends were okay too. With them, I played tag and jump rope and stuck in the mud over on Oliver Street where there weren’t any cars. At my house, though, it was usually just me, with my vast array of Littlest Pet Shops and pony sets, and then, of course, my dinosaurs. I only had a few
american literary magazine
Barbies and dolls, gifts no doubt, never asked for, and they inevitably became zookeepers or dinner. I liked to brush their hair, but better than Barbie was her horse, who had twice as much hair and half as much social responsibility. It wasn’t Barbie’s dresses I disliked; but her outfits and cars and parties didn’t interest me, either. I’d rather surround myself with plastic friends who didn’t mirror the real world, or at least not a world I was familiar with. People were fun to play with, but that didn’t stop me from imbuing the plastic knickknacks around me with personalities that I could love at least as much as my friends. We watched The Indian in the Cupboard when I was in third grade. I immediately went home and locked my Deinonychus keychain into a red velvet box I found, waiting for the day that the plastic would animate itself to become my loving pet, which I would watch over tenderly, feed daily, and take on pleasant walks. Every time I checked the box, Deinonychus, with his magic wound that only appeared under cold water, was still laying on his side, staring at the wall and disappointing me. I kept going with my “pets” long after other children would have been taken to a therapist, had their imaginary friends not been encased in physical forms and away from the eyes of skeptical parents. Despite the
advanced age at which I persisted in naming worms during recess and carrying them around as friends, I managed to fall into some group of “real” friends. There was Jen and Brittany and Jill and Samantha and Heidi and Robyn, among others. I wanted there to be Ian and Samuel and Andrew, too, but I couldn’t play with the boys. I wanted to talk to them about dinosaurs, since none of my girlfriends cared in the least, but tragically, I was full of girl-cooties. I tried to be myself, but that didn’t seem to be working, and I couldn’t understand the ways my friends interacted with them. I didn’t know how to play kickball, so I played hopscotch instead. Every summer, my family went camping in the southern tier of New York State, a few hours from home. It was rolling hills and blue lakes and playgrounds and geese to chase. We had a private site on a private resort: the kind of place where children can
I’d rather surround myself with plastic friends who didn’t mirror the real world, or at least not a world I was familiar with.
Life as the Milk // Reese McArdle play virtually unsupervised. I always made friends. They only lasted for a week or even just the weekend, but we had fun anyway. They were mostly girls, as were all my friends at home, but the advantage of being away was that no one knew me. Once in a while, I found the guts I thought were necessary to speak to boys. When I was seven, I found one who liked my dinosaurs. We played on the swingset, and I tried to impress him by swinging with no hands. My mom bandaged me up, but playtime was far from over. After we had exhausted the games we could play with our combined herds, we climbed into an empty trunk space in my cabin and French kissed, figuring that’s what girls and boys were supposed to do. Samantha slept over sometimes. I’m not sure what we talked about, but I am sure we never painted each other’s
nails or kissed pictures of celebrities. There’s only one sleepover with her I can remember; it was the night we stayed up very late (midnight, perhaps) and then decided to take a bath together. My mother, always a light sleeper, stormed in the bathroom and angrily chastised us, sending us back to bed immediately. I always imagined she was angry we were up so late. Titanic came out when I was in the fourth grade. Leonardo DiCaprio was the heartthrob of every girl while we waited in the line for lunch. At first I resisted, confused, because I had never seen Titanic. I remember the other girls “oohing” and “aahing” over him as we stood together in one of those famed girl circles. I remember saying how “hot” I thought he was, even as I spoke, wondering why I was saying it. I heard my own voice, which I always feared was deeper than the other girls’, speaking a blatant
lie. I didn’t even know what Leonardo DiCaprio looked like, or what Titanic was about. But it was time to grow up. Brontosaurus was not here for me. My little green long-neck dinosaur, which I tied to a string and brought to school every day, had been lost to the elements months before. I felt, without realizing it, that I didn’t want to be the odd one out anymore. I spoke the words without knowing I was saying them, and was surprised at how easy they were to say. If I had long hair, and if I giggled and liked Disney movies, I had to be a girl. But I also cheered with the boys when the lions went in for the kill, and the other girls all thought that was gross. Bless my mother for bestowing a terrible fashion sense on me. The kid that comes to school in a paisley jumpsuit with kittens on it —in seventh grade—is never suspect of anything but being fucking weird. Because I was bizarre, no one had any reason to think that the dinosaur cling-ons on my windows were a symptom of anything else. Even I had no reason to think that. I was perfectly content to live in a fantasy world of plastic and paper, rather than the real world, where there was no magic or adventure and where people thought it was strange for T-rex to fall in love.
Two Songs of Pamplona
// Christina Farella
Osiris // Andrea Lum
The Bull’s Song one flake after another, I peel my skin; it breaks like I am shallot thin-sharp (dry to the bite).
at the Vietnam Memorial, Washington, D.C. Waterlogged stars and faded stripes, mulched rose petals splattered by postwinter rain litter along the sunken walls. Red eyes glare down from the east, lamps from below cast an eerie clouded shimmer down the wall.
sticky milk and skin glues my dress to my hips unable to undress fooled into this humming dance fingers lancelike /a hummingbird’s pike/ hooked through crepe I sputter and spin sliding my fingers furiously down down my thighs – I show you my skin I am your worry, your simmered fear burned. I was slicing up the back, dress/ ripped
Jesus was resurrected from the dead, can I, too? I stare so hard at the ash mark smeared on my forehead in the reflection, my eyes begin to tear. My sister smoothes out the eyelets on my dress. Just wait and see, she says, They always play limbo in the afterlife.
, my skin fingered; poached. I knew it would be this way (!) I have fought this departure for so Long but now that a body can be displayed I hang here for you and all the examiners as I have been collected, pinned
Shadows slink along the extended V and our faces stare back – black, pale and chapped. Names of the dead stamped on our foreheads, we sift through capitalized letters engraved deep in the granite like petroglyphs.
skin teeth and hands. I turn this way and that to dazzle flash and show how much has been forgotten.
Hotel Montoya through this warped and cracked body pushing piles of luggage down the wooden floor that sheds strings of wood with each smack of my boot, I live lonely, hearing joys of lovers locked in rooms lost in fits of madness. I wheeze and wobble. the cart, sometimes, I think it pulls me step over step over step over step I know this place well, this land of magnificent bullfighting. but I wonder and again I sigh for all the bulls taken and sliced by glittering fops.
american literary magazine
Roma // Christina Fields fall 2009
The Body and Soul of Stephen Wiles // Matthew Makowski
and constricted airways. God’s face and screaming with the terror and is right in front of me, hiding below fury of a dying immortal. Inert and every sloping stride; never have I seen it motionless, but for the astounding defined so clearly. Never have I felt such physiological phenomenon of his divine awe. Probably I never will again. impossibly open, quavering mouth. Miracles only happen once, Shrieks like the crucifixion ravage whatever anyone tells you. Some are born mad. Some remain so. the whole of the store. Three or four -Samuel Beckett By now, I’m running almost plump fearful mothers come slowly faster than is possible and dreaming trotting over, faces blended with tender Feet: deeper than is safe with the angels concern, fear, and annoyance; only Nothing burns so righteously singing so loudly it throbs and the one trembles with recognition. Only as this moment, right now, with the black tinted road just as close to one kneels down, skirt tucked under sun burning perfect bright in the perfection as I ever deserve to stand; her kneecaps, already whispering sky, so high and impossibly straight the sun is orange and bleeding; to the child; the other women walk that the shadows hide beneath my heaven has never seemed so near as away. A sly surreptitious comment soles. My feet splash against the this moment. from one woman to another. They all pavement, against the soft plush lawns I can see God weeping inexplicably laugh. One looks back at the boy, guilty of suburbia. The rubber of my shoes overhead, struck by the beauty of the eyes blinking blandly. Still, the boy is shrieks rhythmically, like the beating revelation and salvation of his creatures. screaming catastrophe. heart of God. The heat, rising up from And so my feet carry me away Stroking the boy’s short the blackness under my tread. It burns. to somewhere unimagined and dirty-blonde hair, the mother speaks Everything burns. Nothing could unimaginable where religion is merely soothing words into his ear. Nothing feel so sweet. history and upon arrival God simply could be so natural. Pheromones I can’t help but think: this is how takes your sweat-soaked body in one of maternal instinct wash from the church should feel. Pure and powerful. massive omniscient hand and speaks: mother’s pores. But the boy’s shouts The freedom of the open road, of —Well done, my good and continue. Hands brutally squeezing choices, of a path that is anything but dedicated servant. his leg inches above the morbid kink. straight and narrow, of branching routes Redemption hides in the Flowing tears, small spherical droplets curving towards a destination that looks strangest places, and sometimes the of yellowed snot, face twisted like a something like infinity and I’ve never only thing one can do is slip into crumpled paper ball. Mother’s eyes been so alive as I am right now. comfortable shoes and chase after it. start shooting out bullets of apologetic Running, my body feels spiritual. embarrassment. Vague common Something in this, it just feels right. Legs: shoppers stare burning inquisitions We all find our God in different A boy in a store falls lazily from as they pass, their expected voiceless places. Or in different ways. Worship the summit of a cheap plastic swing peace broken. Small discomforts is an activity both unique and personal set. Crashes to the cold linoleum prompt vicious responses. Screams. and on this eternal macadam road floor. A thick organic crack. The Screaming. Soon, mother’s eyes are I’m singing hosannas through choked boy: clutching one leg suddenly looking up more than down, watching breath forced out dilated blood vessels transformed into a splintered twig the solemn parade of judgment pass
I’m telling you it’s cold inside the body that is not the body, lonesome behind the face that is certainly not the face of the person one meant to become. -Denis Johnson
her by (can’t she quiet that kid down? Jesus). Boy’s translucent tears fall unwiped. Fluids build up, filling the crevice between his chin and lower lip. Mother’s words become less soothing, more nervously frantic, saying —Stephen, you have to quiet down now Stephen, you have to stop screaming, I know it hurts bad, I know it does, but you have to be brave for mommy and stop this yelling now
please just quiet a little bit everything will be okay Stephen everything is fine we’ll get you to the doctor and he’ll fix it right away, but Stephen you have to stop crying because people are staring now Stephen and mommy knows it hurts but just stop screaming so everyone will just stop those awful looks they’re giving me Stephen you need to stop, you need to stop right now this is just too loud it’ll be fine
stop yelling act brave and be quiet now so we can get you out of here Stephen please Stephen just be quiet now just shut up. Suddenly, a clean hand tipped with green nail polish shoots out, almost acting independently of the arm pushing it. Palm-skin slaps against the wet flushed skin of the boy’s face; a bloody meatpacking sound resonates. The boy’s head
The End // Liz Calka american literary magazine
rotates slightly with the blunt force of impact. His twice-hurt eyes twist back towards his mother’s face, then towards the guilty hand. Again, tears begin to form, but stop prematurely with the foreknowledge of Pavlovian conditioning. Mother’s eyes stare down for short disconnected seconds, then look away towards the neutral rows of impartial dried dog food. The boy strays into silence. The whole store is silent, or seems to be to these two individuals. In this manner, the issue of the broken leg was resolved. However, the process of healing took some time.
Pop! Splatter! Splash! // Sara Ciarrochi // Best in Show Art american literary magazine
wiped across my face. She looked at me. Looked away, straight forward. —Fuck off. I looked at her. For too long. She didn’t look back. I walked away. Had a few more drinks. More than a few, if we’re being honest. Walked home. Jerked off sitting on the cheap ceramic toilet in my bathroom. Took a long shower, the water hotter than was bearable. Slept. We don’t deserve the women in this world.
First Interlude: The words become the characters, become the stories, become the Cock: memories, become the person, and This dark hellish bar, undereverything falls into its proper place. ground kind of place. Bad lighting, We are as we must be. We are made of smell of burned grease and piss. the things that we must be composed Everybody seemed to have beards. of. Indivisible. Shitty music, but nobody was listening. Perfectly unique. I sat down on a crippled stool. Shitty wooden chair, my lower back Liver: stabbed with cheap pain. Everything I do the things I do for the same was shitty. Just like us. That was the reason as so many other people: to attraction, probably. To each their own. forget all the bad memories. It only I ordered a drink, hard alcohol. ever works for a little bit. Then they The glass it came in was dirty, smeared come back, just as strong, just as with fingerprints and God-knows. I predatory and incapacitating. Biting drank it thoughtlessly, ordered another. at me like the starving mouths of five Getting myself started for the night. years of nightmares. Hurts like hell. I Then I look up from the deep do what I can to forget. To run away. desolation of my empty glass, across I’m a coward, yeah. But you put the bar, and see this woman. This. . . the right stuff in your body and you Looking back, I should have can forget cowardice too, just like known what would happen. I never anything else. had a chance. I was a piece of shit and Someday it’ll kill me. I’ll die looked like one, too. The arrogance of earlier than I would’ve, at a younger lesser men. Such is life. age than God created my body to die. I finished another drink and Death comes to us all. He just walked over. Asked if I could buy her a chases me a little bit faster, a little bit drink, this smile I thought was smooth harder. I’m having too much damn
fun with life, and Death can’t stand it. It’s my own fault. I gave Death too many reasons to be interested in me. Too many reasons to notice. We’re only allotted so much pleasure in this life. When we use up our allowance, we die. Simple as that. Ever wonder why all old people are miserable? Death comes for us. But I put the right things in my body. Fight off the fact. Forget. I feel a sharp pain in the left side of my stomach. Put some things in my body. Forget the pain. Forget. Stomach: Used to be, I cared about my health. Used to be, I worked out, ate right, went to church, had a respectable job, and generally cared about maintaining the reputation of an honorable man. Used to be. I’ve been hungry for the last seven months. Unhealthy. Decaying into pathetic chemical origins. My stomach feels like carbon-based origami. My liver hurts. Fingers itch, and joints slide shrieking. Don’t have the money. Just don’t have it. It all goes as soon as it comes (which isn’t often) to feed the pain. To fight it off as the walls squeeze in and the world collapses in a dark white scream. Can’t buy food with money I don’t have. Can’t do it if you don’t have it. I used to be sane. Used to be. I’m sane enough to know the truth. The real, utter, complete Truth. Beyond the power of the moment and
the crying of the innocent children every day as their mother’s doubt God (I used to be sane). Anymore, the things I say even I can’t understand. Here is the Truth (listen closely): I am dying. But wait! That’s not the Full Truth, or even the complete wholeness of the facts (now, I am saying only words, but even monkeys with typewriters will eventually stumble upon something genuine). I am dying, but so are you. I starve, and rot, and crumble away into my own mortality as the words tear away pieces of myself and I can’t eat, can’t eat, can’t eat because I spend all my money fighting off the pain of starvation and here it is the sadness of the Truth: you are no better than I. You are dying, I am dying. We are dying together. We are brothers and sisters, you and I. Because we die. Because we die. It bonds us with the force of reality life never possessed. I don’t think I’m sane. I think I can go another day without food. So far, the hunger hasn’t seemed to affect me. Heart: In this narrow, vivid hallway, there stands a man surrounded by the infinite folds of his elegant white coat. The male smiles sadly and looks impossible. Far off, a child cries piercingly, then falls silent. Here, in this hallway, Stephen Wiles sees his first angel. A few moments later, his mother will stop believing in God.
The Great Adventure of Bill and Ann // Louise Brask
These moments, when Death is all around, sometimes forgetting is all a person can do to chase after redemption. Hands: Once, I loved a woman. I remember the feeling distinctly, like the phantom twinges of an amputated limb. Something cut off and removed, disposed of. Once. But it was long ago. Memory distorts all things, and time is a trickster. I might not have loved her. But I think I did. I really do believe so. The feeling of her skin under my fingertips was the body electric, singing waves of current amplified blasted through nerves into brain cells flinching at the intensity. Beautiful and crippling. Lovely. Too perfect to last. Some gift mistakenly given to me, these dreams only stay for so long before reality catches its mistake. We’re only allotted so much happiness in this world.
I didn’t deserve this woman. Never did. It was a long time ago. Maybe I’m wrong about things. I remember she had beautiful hands. I would hold them scattered across the dim lights and flashing sirens of the night, palm up, tracing patterns across the plains of her palm as our eyes met and I forgot the supreme transience of the moment. Believing in the immortality of the present. Or wanting to believe. In the broken shadows and fragments of memory I sit in now, my hands are wrinkled and cracked, fingers shifted awkwardly and out-ofplace in the future of those nights that I never imagined would end. Age is a trickster, a deformer, a beast. He sits in the corner and stares patiently as my dying fingers trace patterns in the upturned palm of the past which
is nothing more than the dust fallen sadly on dressers and windows. I think how dust is mainly dead skin, maybe hers, and I pretend I’m back in those nights, tracing haikus on the fading image of her beautiful, impossible hands. This was so long ago. Those nights. What happened? Did anything happen? I thought I loved her. It was so long ago. Time. Memory. The trick of it all. She had beautiful hands. Didn’t she? I don’t think I’m sane. Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t. Remember. Remember. Beautiful hands. Second Interlude: As the image fades and the silhouette turns to black, the words are less true than the person and the story is the fiction hiding the madness.
Where has the story gone? I remember this being so much easier, the words flowing from a larger reserve. The reserve is gone. The images are gone. Fading to black. Eyes: Broken windows staring through dead souls. Whatever happens has already happened and nothing can be any different. Mind: Nothing is like I remember it. From when I used to be sane. Am I not sane now? I don’t think I’m sane. But I don’t think anymore, so I could be wrong. About everything. About the things that are only things in my mind, and the stories that have never been told anywhere except on the chemical
pages in my head. Or about the things that my eyes see and tell me are real even as I respectfully disagree. The things I remember are not things at all. Stories and words that comprise pages that form a person who is supposed to be me, but is not me. I am me. The words are only the words. Or the words are only the memories. Maybe they are both. But nothing is quite like I remember it. Nothing is like how it’s supposed to be. Except for the stories in my mind, which are also the words on the page, which are also the memories that never happened. Time. Memory. Remember. Remember! I don’t think I’m sane. But I don’t think anymore. Everything fades to black, and so it is written, and so the words come to their final purpose and the pages are turned over and the story ends. Used to be, I was a person. Once. The End: There are no words left to say and no stories left to tell. No memories left to be remembered. Everything is unreal. Everything is untrue. Everything fades to black and is lost. Who has told the tale? Who was this ever about? Maybe I just can’t remember. Redemption has stopped hiding, but there is nobody left to chase after it.
Perique Blend // Louise Brask american literary magazine
Elves Chasm, Grand Canyon
// Rachel Webb
“Dude, the way those three boulders sit in that waterfall…it’s pure poetry, man.” -Boatmen In the Berlin museum a continent away, there is a room of white marble statues, Greek gods. Persephone is tucked in a corner, the long lost cousin of the three stone sisters secreted in the winding grey side canyon The boulder sisters whisper together, silvered streams flowing between their bumping hips, their fluted obtuse angles while Persephone looks longingly out the window, looking west the German dust trickling down the rise of her carved belly. She misses her cousins. Persephone cups her ivory lips with one hand, her coquettish chiseled eyelashes (specifically ordered to be carved downturned) like the whispering jade ferns her cousins wear to cover their sandstone ankles. Zeus shares a beer, and a knowing look, with the Colorado river, his tawny chest bronzed and bare, both agreeing that dancing stone maidens, with damp cerulean eyes should stay tucked in dusty corners and winding side canyons.
Plastic Bodies // Louise Brask
american literary magazine
// Maria Pia Benosa
It was a Sunday when my mother first took me to a masseuse, the place almost empty save for us and the women who with kindly smiles asked us to strip, please, but being too little I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take my pants off without a ledge to hold on to, without stumbling down the mats, without a mother to help me remove my shirt and pants, and put on new white ones, without a mother telling me how I would jerk at the first sign of touchâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; of two fingers tracing the path of my spine and a whole hand holding me at the nape, of having someone hike the distance from my knee to hip, trying to balance my chi, stopping at my thighs every so often, so tickling and piercing that I could not speak and I had had to hold on to my own upper body or else risked losing all air as the hands drew inâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; without a mother to ask the hows, and whys, and when-can-we-go-agains, a mother gone as soon as I looked up from undressing, already with her limbs on the floor, as mothers do, tricking their children when about to leave at night, too scared of their own cowardice; now many, many years later I would spend Sundays carrying women on my back, finding protection in the heat of mattress and skin, in having my legs pulled until sound ensues, my back mapped out with kisses like a constellation of moles, my shoulders descended until the hands become a site for camping, for care, a place to spend the rest of the night in and not leave again.
Coolangatta Wedding // Kelly Barrett american literary magazine
// Kathryn Bohri
These girls I know they try to convince this guy to shave his legs bare, experience the kicking glee of smooth skin and summerfresh bedsheets while at the same time letting theirs grow into bears’ and complaining of hypermasculinized patriarchal cultures that force women to go this way, no go this way, and
Don’t Walk // Laura Vogler
I cannot tell if they want to control him or let him in on one of the small joys that dots a girl’s day, but
I suspect that this is why these girls I know they don’t know many guys.
Untitled // Madeline Lynch american literary magazine
// Jonathan Holin
The flowers are good to my eyes, but for only a second. They glow, sun-bright in the moon’s shadow, heaven’s open door where angels are the bees, the flower’s kin. Their petals softly beckon, everlasting joy in my heart’s sorrowful soul tonight, the wind a thing, a breath, a ghastly fright: for all this time my heart’s been ever fasting. You grasped the sun with your right hand, the moon in your left. I felt for it, but was not kept within the space that sang your lovely tune. When I fell, for loss of you, I wept. And so I walked, gentle flowers in my path, beauty absorbed, the footprints of my wrath.
The Starry Night It’s getting into that early part of autumn, when you leave your house in the morning with a sweater but abandon it somewhere when the temperature climbs into the 70s by midday. Somehow, you always forget it, and then you find yourself in a field at 11 pm when it’s frigid and all you’re wearing is a thin t-shirt. Thankfully, this is why God created men. Your own sweater might feel good in this big empty space, but nothing could feel as good as Jason’s sweater. It’s sort of a pretentious sweater when you think about it, complete with Faire Isle stripes, a shawl collar and toggles, but it’s perfect because it’s made to fit him. He’s the sort of guy who looks like he could pummel Rocky (except he wouldn’t even consider it), and you’re the sort of girl who can still fit into her camp t-shirts from elementary school. You pull your hands into his sleeves and smile to yourself, thinking of your first kiss in his mom’s basement, and how his hands were so big that they could hold your own hands and wrists down to the soft suede of the couch. You resisted for a moment, but then the tension in your arms started to feel thrilling, and it made you want him more. You hear a rustle in the high grass and turn your head, hoping that you recognize the trespasser. It’s Jason, carrying a blanket, cigarettes and a pretty glass bottle of apple cider. He can’t see your smile in the dark, but you flash it to him all the same. You
american literary magazine
// Emi Ruff-Wilkinson
waste no time joining him on the blanket, cozying up to him so that you don’t feel so bad about taking his sweater. He’s still warm; you press your face to his chest and you can feel it against your own cool skin. Jason flips open the top to his Marlboro Reds and offers you one. You hate the taste, but you’ve started smoking them out of habit, so you can take one anyway. Jason always tries to light both your cigarettes off the same flame, and it usually fails miserably. But tonight, you both start inhaling the raw, dry smoke with a single flick of his Zippo. He pulls the smoke into his lungs in a way you’ve never mastered; you always hold it in your mouth. You keep studying his actions, and get one of those funny feelings in your stomach that makes you question why you’re even here. Not “here” in the existential sense, just here in the meadow with him, Jason, the guy whose name you caught yourself writing in your notebooks in freshman English. Somehow, you scored yourself an invite to the upperclassmen’s welcome back party and found out that he thinks you’re “really cute, and not just for a sophomore.” You didn’t even know that seniors acknowledged sophomores, much less invited them over to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off while playing hooky. You pass the cider back and forth as if it was something harder. It tastes so crisp against the hot, smoky cigarette remainder lingering in your
It tastes so crisp against the hot, smoky cigarette remainder lingering in your mouth. mouth. Soon the bottle’s almost empty and you’ve neatly stubbed out your cigarette on your shoe (he flicked his into the grass; you’re not nearly brave enough for that). He gives you a look that could light up the whole field and you return with a sheepish grin. You settle into his kiss. Soft at first, but he gradually pushes further and harder until you’re on your back, hands pinned over your head. The heels of his hands rest on your forearms while his fingers intertwine with yours and dig into the dirt. You shudder and arch your back. Soon, his hands have left yours and are all over your body. Shoulders, breasts, stomach, sides, and coming to rest on the hem of your Camp Dagget t-shirt. It lifts for a moment and you feel a breeze come up under the worn cotton. But you allow him to remove it, and he tosses it into a heap with his discarded sweater and shirt. You’re terrified. You’ve never done this. You feel that same tension you did the first day, when your whole body was caged by his. Your skin against his, the way his hands have gotten braver, it’s all new and scary, but you think you might like it.
Idle Ibex // Cody Steele But those brave hands soon slip into the waistband of your jeans. Your stomach clenches and you sort of freeze, only your lips moving, and barely. Your terrified demeanor hardly changes, but you can feel your heart beat faster. Fuck. You want to do something, but you draw a blank. You feel a rush of cold air as your pants jerk down to your ankles and you hold onto the grass, eyes wide open and lungs perfectly still. Before you can process anything, he’s in and all you can do is lie there in your unflinching pose, staring at the starry sky. He kisses you a couple times before sitting back up and lighting
a cigarette. You slowly push yourself upright, ignoring the cold and nagging pain. That raw smoke is so good right now. You look at the jeans pooled around your ankles and try to keep from crying. Suddenly, you can think of a million things you could have done rather than lie there like a rag doll. You force yourself to stop thinking and focus on the way the paper burns away every time you inhale. “It’s getting late.” You’ve never had a harder time getting dressed. Getting your pants up over your hips is almost impossible; you stuff your bra into your purse
rather than fumble with the clasp; your shirt suddenly seems too tight. He gathers everything up, and the only thing left in the grass is his sweater. You stare at it for a moment and then slowly bend down to pick it up. The heavy wool feels so good against the wind that whips through the meadow. You slip it over your shoulders, burrow your hands in the sleeves and follow him back to the car.
Depleted Uranium // William Corpstein The holy state, patron of the divine, screams out for a blood spattered peace and an infectious, festering life. The fire of the devil scorches the earth where he does gaze and issue claim for his hope and the hope for his children. But, the ugly are green, rife with power. They do rear their head just out long enough, just out close enough for those with eyes to see. Yet only for a sad, lonely few is there but a window into the soul that can penetrate and be penetrated by the wreckage and carnage and the compassion and vigor. The living are sparse and the dead populate. We here cry claim to the nothingness up, way up, up to the brim with the bitter dark and slovenly cold. This, here, place is one where tears can not run and the tasty, sweet comfort of the pretty blue glow can retain our gaze. But cry and cry the once mothers and once fathers still do as their children meet their ends by newer and newer and ever expanding means. And laugh and laugh those of us do who never. really. knew.
Cadillac Ranch // Lina Schneider
What Would Eventually Happen // Matthew Shelley american literary magazine
The Kindness of Strangers The old woman on the bus has a voice like a chainsaw, but just the same, she has been singing under her breath for 20 blocks. “Blue skies, smilin’ at me,” she murmurs. “Nothin’ but blue skies do I see.” Beside her, Jacob offers up a small grin. He likes the song, but just the same, he sits as far over on the bench as he can. His balance lacks certainty and he nearly falls when the bus comes to a halt, but swiftly turns this to his advantage, straightens up and exits the bus.
// Sarah Parnass
He steps out and finds the sky She stops him. “It seems you’ve really is shining brightly in the sun. It dropped your umbrella,” she says. Jacob flashes like a diamond, blinding him, searches her face for signs of mockery. and now Jake falls completely. Heat “I’m sorry,” he says, “but I don’t creeps into his face, turning his cheeks have an umbrella.” crimson. He stands and brushes off “Well, that’s all right,” the woman his suit, looking around. replies. “You can have mine.” With The others on the sidewalk this, she pulls one out of her purse. avoid his gaze. They wear identical It is a marvelous shade of turquoise. suits, and they are interested in other “Take it. You may need it today.” things—all except for a woman with Jacob gapes at her outstretched curly black hair who smiles at him. It hand. He waits for her to put it away, is a soft smile, but it lingers on her but the woman remains frozen with lips longer than Jacob would like. He that smirk playing on her lips. He starts to walk off. sighs then snatches up the umbrella.
Its handle feels too small for his fist. “Thank you,” he says, and hurries in the direction of work. “I’m Betty,” the woman calls, as Jacob vanishes into the crowd of identical suits. *** That evening, Jacob steps out of the office just as the clock strikes five. Raindrops big as bullets pelt the ground and windows. They ping off of taxis and pummel those pedestrians who, fooled into complacency by the earlier clear skies, are traveling without umbrellas. Jacob is not one of them. He stops on the doorstep and gazes up at the sky. Angry clouds of gray, balled like fists, stare him down. Slowly, he reaches into his brief case and pulls out the blue umbrella. He feels his heart thrumming in his throat. Slowly, he opens the umbrella. It creates a wide, blue cover. Slowly, he lifts it over his head and walks to the bus stop. The pressure from the precipitation makes the umbrella’s handle hum. Jacob doesn’t wait long before the bus comes. It slices through the darkening street, slashing puddles and skidding to a halt in front of him. As he mounts the steps, Jacob folds the umbrella and pulls it to his side. He pays the fare and sits down, unseeing. How could that woman —what was her name?—have known about the rain? Why would she give up her umbrella?
5Ptz // Jessica Warren
The woman beside Jacob shifts in her seat and begins to sing. Her voice breaks through the silence of the bus like lightning through the clouds.
“Blue skies smilin’ at me,” she sings. “Nothin’ but blue skies do I see.”
A Warm Happiness // Yongjoo Shin american literary magazine
Between the Walls // Matthew Shelley
// Nora Tumas
I love the upstairs hallway in this light, Where the sun splinters onto teak Shattering its oily orange spray Onto fifties dresses and Sheets and Carpet,
Through the naked wedding-dress curtains, The filmy saffron light that steams up Daguerreotypes and mirror panels, Sunlight that can make a Vacuum look Beautiful.
american literary magazine
Firewater // Kristen Bruch
Have a Shiny Day // Yongjoo Shin
Seeds of Spring // Yongjoo Shin
// Emi Ruff-Wilkinson
left on your cheek, a shiny subtle reminder that i make you weak in the knees. you leave your reminder in a smoky mentholated haze on my dry clean-only sweater.
Untitled // Sam Goldstein
american literary magazine
we leave our tire treads in the fresh 2 am snow, a hansel and gretel trail to remind mother nature that weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be back. maybe.
// Ali Goldstein // Best in Show Prose
Adam folded the directions into a paper airplane as we sat waiting out front in his white Jeep. I looked at the house then back at him, tapping my plum-colored fingernails against the dashboard. The house was as I’d always imagined: small and square, painted the shade of tapioca pudding. Frost covered the lawn. He stared unblinkingly at the front door, right knee bouncing. I tried to catch his eye. I imagined her answering the door in faded jeans, hair dyed an unflattering blond. I pictured little lines around the corners of her mouth and mahogany furniture in the living room covered in ceramic figurines. She would have Adam’s eyes. She would be everything our mom is not. “Mom,” he would say in a whisper. Or maybe he wouldn’t say anything at all. Maybe the two of them would just stand in silence staring at each other. “So?” I asked, turning down the reggae and pursing my lips. The paper plane directions sat on the dashboard, waiting to fly.
Soothing cotton pirouette, careful not to poke my ear drum: I let my phone vibrate angrily until I was done. american literary magazine
I wondered if he had a sister. I was cleaning my ears in my college dorm room when he called. Soothing cotton pirouette, careful not to poke my ear drum: I let my phone vibrate angrily until I was done. “Hey?” I said. Adam is not the type of brother who calls to catch up. A raspy cough, followed by familiar silence stung in my newly cleaned ears. “What’s up?” I asked. “Emm?” “Yeah?” “Well, I want to drive to North Dakota?” “Who is in North Dakota?” He coughed again, and I could see him shifting his weight, drawing circles on a notepad near the phone. “Who is in North Dakota?” “Well, my mom,” he said. “You know, the other one.” I inhaled. “I figured you could meet me in Chicago over your President’s Day break.” “Yeah, I guess.” “I can drive us.” After he hung up, I stretched flat on my bed and lay there with the lights on until my roommate came home late from the library. “Oh my God,” she said, stumbling in. “So many tools on the quiet floor tonight. I couldn’t get any work done! How are you?” I remembered going back to college for the spring semester of my freshman year, knowing that my
grandfather was about to die. That constant dread, expecting every phone call to be The One, my dad breathless from the emergency room: “do you want to say goodbye?” I felt now that I’d been waiting for this phone call from my brother all along in much the same way. My brother’s adoption had always been the hair in my perfect soufflé: I knew that I couldn’t just pull it out without falling apart myself. I smiled at my roommate and shrugged. “Fine,” I said. “Nothing out of the ordinary.” These are the rules of our relationship: no hugging, no pointed questions, no unsolicited advice, no dating anyone of the other’s age. This is what we are not allowed to talk about: our parents, love, his parents, sex, relationships, religion, God, home. We talk instead about how both of us, now marathon runners, used to be fat kids. About how Adam used to come home from middle school and make himself an entire box of macaroni and cheese as an after school snack. About all the ways we have to fight to quiet the fat kid impulse. About how sometimes I walk through the grocery store bakery aisle just to imagine taking home an entire sheet cake to devour in the dark. “Eye on the tiger!” he yells at me when we’re home and running through the neighborhood.
“More horsepower!” I yell back. “More horsepower!” As I walked from the Lincoln Park EL station, I could see him sitting on the front stoop of his apartment complex waiting for me. Dressed in only a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, he was oblivious to the Chicago grey and cold as he tapped his fingers against the cement. Since he’d started his residency, he’d developed these deep under-eye circles that startled me. They made him look like a drug addict, exhausted with hurt. “Hey,” I said. I smiled, waiting for him to notice me. “Oh hey.” He continued to stare off into the distance. “So?” “Yeah,” he said. “My car’s parked around the corner. You ready?” “Are we going to talk about this?” “How’s your boyfriend?” “Shut up, fuck face.” He laughed, pulling himself off the stoop and tightening his backpack straps. We started to walk down the deserted block, a foot apart, counting our steps in silence. “I like your new scruff,” I said at last, motioning to his beard. “How does your lady friend like it?” “She doesn’t.” He laughed wryly, and I wanted to pry. Sometimes, I wanted desperately to break the rules. I wanted to ask about his girlfriend. I wanted to ask him when and to whom he lost his virginity. I wanted to tell him about all
Fox Glacier // Kelly Barrett
I folded my page in Madame “Sorry,” she wheezed. “Everyone’s blurred before me, and it skipped Bovary. “Can’t say the traffic’s a surprise.” home for the holidays.” with dramatic percussion across the He fumbled for his cell phone I kicked him hard in the shins, parking lot. and began texting his girlfriend. I so that I could order first. Fuck, he He lowered his gaze and took his was comforted by how his ferocious whispered, pretending to grimace. hand out of his pocket. tapping filled the silence, by how his “Short stack of blueberry pancakes, “I want you to be my brother, thoughts were elsewhere. please,” I said. like always.” “How’s Laura?” I asked. “Same, but honey wheat,” Adam “It’s hard, Emm.” “Same.” said “and more coffee, please.” “That’s good.” I rolled down The waitress slid her notepad into the window, swirling my hand in her apron, then looked from me to the icy wind. Adam. She smiled. “So do mom and dad know?” “How long have you guys “Not yet.” been dating?” she asked. “You’re “Ok.” cute together.” “When do you think I should Adam set his coffee down and I looked up, startled that he tell them?” looked out the window. was talking. “Are you going to tell them?” “Oh, we’re not,” I said, laughing “You know who you’re supposed to “I don’t know.” nervously. be, and I...” “How long have you known who “She’s my sister.” “Yeah?” she was?” “Oh,” the waitress laughed. “You “Do you remember that one time “Did I tell you that I’m doing the just look nothing alike, I assumed…” we got lost driving home from the Chicago marathon?” “Yeah,” I shrugged my shoulders. laundromat? When our dryer was Hurt, I looked out the window. I “She looks like our dad.” broken? How we drove the same loop picked my cell phone out of my pocket, “Ah, okay, sorry. Siblings? Really?” past the courthouse? Over and over but then remembered that I had no one We sipped our coffee in silence to call. Instead, I pulled my knees to my after she left. I hugged my knees close again?” “Yeah?” chest and hid my face in my hands. to my chest in the diner booth. And “I just don’t know how to get home. suddenly we were strangers staring at I don’t know where the fuck it is.” He took an exit just outside the city each other across the breakfast table, I should have hugged him or without talking. We drove loops wondering where in hell the other squeezed his hand. Instead, I lost through the side-of-the-highway town came from. Adam excused himself control of my breathing and started before he settled on Jim’s, a pancake from the table. to hyperventilate. house. They had the best short stack “I feel like I’m drowning!” I outside of Gary, the sign out front said. I found him smoking out front, left walked to the Jeep and lay down on After he turned off the ignition, he sat hand in his pocket. my back in the trunk as Adam silently for a moment, staring straight “I didn’t know you smoked.” finished his cigarette. ahead. Then, he folded his head into I don’t.” He breathed in deeply, “Breathe into your hands,” he said the makeshift pillow of his hands on and I hovered, hunched over with my when he finally got back into the car. the steering wheel. He breathed in and arms across my chest. “Otherwise you’ll get dizzy.” out, and then we both got out of the car. “I can’t handle this.” He shifted his weight. We sped through the flat Wisconsin By the time the waitress stopped “I feel like I’m going to throw countryside. The grey skies dissolved at our table, Adam had already drunk up. I’m fucking doing this for you!” into a deeper, more resolute blackness. two cups of coffee. I kicked a pebble as the sidewalk
This is how we’ve choreographed the chaos.
Pangong Tso; a lake in the sky // Yongjoo Shin
of my ex-boyfriend’s mix tapes sitting in my closet. I wanted him to ask me about my sadness. But these are the steps we count from the house to the Metro; these are the plastic silverware we bring with us to the restaurant. This is how we’ve choreographed the chaos. A punk walked by with enormous headphones, singing. We both stared, hungry for distraction. For days after he called, I stared at mothers on the Metro. His mom
american literary magazine
“You just want to make sure he doesn’t would have this one’s eyes and her wry smile, and that one’s no-nonsense have a sister who’s cooler than you.” I hunched over to catch my breath. style. Every once in awhile one of the “I’m never going to understand moms would catch my eye and smile, as though she thought I was expecting, my brother if I don’t.” She reached out and grabbed my or that I wished I were. hand, squeezing it once. “Why do you want to do this?” my best friend asked one morning as we Traffic inched along on the Chicago jogged. “I mean, fuck, how can you turnpike as usual, and Adam sighed see his mom?’ when we came to a stop. “I feel like I have to,” I said. “Like “Fuck,” he whispered, slamming he needs me.” his fist on the steering wheel. “I wanted “Oh bullshit. When has he ever to make good time.” needed you?” she said with a laugh.
And suddenly we were strangers staring at each other across the breakfast table, wondering where in hell the other came from. I drank one cup of watery gas station coffee after another, afraid to fall asleep. Eventually, we stopped at a side of the highway motel somewhere near the North Dakota border. It had cheap green carpet and smelled like cats. It reminded me of ex-boyfriends and filled me suddenly with loneliness. “Home for the night,” I said, and he laughed wryly. Later, Adam sorted his change on the nightstand—pennies in one pile, quarters in another—as I sat crosslegged on my bed. “What do you think she’ll be like?” He brushed his hand through the change, messing up the piles with tinny cacophony. “Because I imagine her having your eyes.” “You mean, blue?” “No, yours.” “I hope she looks like me.” I took a deep breath. “Do you think you’ll make sense when you see her? Like snap, everything will fall into place?” “Stop.” He folded his right hand into a fist and changed the channel. “That’s what I hope for,” I whispered. I turned away, crying into my hands.
american literary magazine
Starving, I slipped out of the hotel room once he was asleep. The 7/11 across the street was a sensory overload, with its fluorescent lights and ring of the door and hot dogs swirling in day-old grease. Keeping my eyes on the linoleum floor, I walked to the snack aisle and picked up two twelvepacks of chocolate glazed donuts. Adam pretended to keep sleeping when I tried to sneak back into the room. I sat at the hotel desk with one of the boxes of donuts hidden in my lap, devouring the rings one by one in the darkness. Crumbs slid down my shirt, and I could feel a comma of chocolate frosting on my nose. I could not even breathe between bites. I was too afraid that Adam would wake up and find me covered in chocolate. “Sheesh,” he would say, shaking his head in disgust.
I washed my hands twice in the bathroom when I was done. Resisting the urge to throw it all up, I laid in bed listening to the steady swoosh of late-night traffic on the interstate as I counted to 100 and back. “I never thought I’d see this day,” Adam said, when he found me smoking pot on the curb outside our hotel in the morning. I was watching the cars pass by on the freeway, trying to figure out where they were all going. He chuckled dryly. “I was nauseous,” I said. I passed him the cigarette, and he held in his breath to get a full, deep drag. “I haven’t done this in weeks,” he said, “Laura doesn’t like the way it smells.”
Mayan Voices // Hannah Kulakow
“Well, then, take a left on Potterhorn.” We drove past an intersection and took a right off of the traffic circle. “I think this is it,” I said, straining to read the number on a small, cream-colored house. “And you’re sure she’s home?” When I turned to ask the question again, I saw that he’d frozen. He stared at the front door, right knee bouncing. He opened his door, then banged it shut. “So?” I asked. I looked at him, then back at the house. He started the ignition, but I grabbed his hand and tried to twist the Technicolor Dreams // Kristen McCown keys free. “What are you doing?” “I’m not leaving,” I said. He switched to a high-pitched was wearing my favorite pink leggings “I can’t do it.” voice, I don’t want our kitchen to smell and had tangled hair down to my hips. “Well, I can. And I want to.” like a skate park. I sat between our mom and dad, “Fine,” he said. “You go in.” I laughed. turning the pages of my book between I looked up at him, disapp“God, I’m smoking with my little sips of hot chocolate. Adam played ointed. He stared straight through sister. In Wisconsin!” hockey below, but I was oblivious. the front window. “Sheesh.” A bell rang, and I looked up. “Pick me up in ten,” I said once “Do mom and dad know “What’s going on?” I asked our outside the car, leaning in through the you smoke?” parents. But they were both clapping, passenger window. I stood in the empty “I’m sure they’ve figured it out by raptly watching him skate across the street, watching him speed away in the now. My friends are all artists.” rink with his stick raised. Jeep. My right hand trembled. He took another drag and smiled. “That’s my boy!” my mom shouted. The moment I rang the bell, she “Man, this feels like home.” was at the door. I’d known that soon enough we would “Hi,” I said, barely above a whisper. And we were on the road again. I see the sign for Fargo, but it still made I rocked back and forth on the balls of rolled down the window even though me wince. my feet on the front porch. it was freezing, because the car already “We’re here,” Adam said, whistling. She scanned me from head to toe, smelled like stale french fries and “Yep.” I folded my hands in my lap. her face twisting. sweat. Adam hummed to himself with “Do you want me to start reading the “I’m his sister.” only one hand on the wheel. directions to the house?” She had porcelain skin and deep Passing through North Dakota, I “Yeah, I guess. One at a time.” brown eyes: she could have been remembered reading The Baby-sitters “She knows, right? That you’re anyone’s mom. Club on the cold bleachers at one of coming? And no, I don’t want to know “Come in,” she said with a small Adam’s many hockey games. I must if you’ve already talked.” smile. “Would you like some coffee?” have been seven or eight, because I “Yeah, she knows.”
The kitchen was modern and sparse, all granite counter tops and empty surfaces. She smiled nervously, almost apologetically as she handed me a mug of coffee. I could see the same mechanics in their smiles: they expressed the same flicker of uncertainty before switching to happiness. “He’s in med school,” I blurted. Her eyes sparked as she nodded. Was it relief? “What do you do?” I asked. “I’m a teacher, elementary.” “Our mom is too.” She looked out the window. “I’m sorry to seem disappointed. It’s just, once he contacted me...”
“I know.” “Lizzy,” she shouted. “Come here.” I could hear footsteps coming down the stairs, then a young woman, about my age, popped into the room. “Hi,” I said. “Hi.” For a moment, we stared. We disregarded politeness. She was slight and tan, but she had his eyes. I gulped. The same shade of blue, the same sparks of uncontrollable honesty. “You look like him,” I said. “The same eyes.” She walked across the kitchen and wrapped me tightly in a hug. “It’s so nice to finally meet you,” she said. “You’re just as I’d always imagined.”
I nodded into her shoulder. It was the first time I’d thought of myself as the piece someone else could never place. The other sister. The family four states over. “He just couldn’t come inside,” I whispered. His mom, the other one, cut me two slices of apple pie and wrapped them in aluminum foil. “For the road,” she said. She wrote down her phone number and e-mail address on a white card and slipped it into my palm. “Just in case.” We stood for a moment in silence just inside the front door. “Well, thanks,” I said, fumbling for their names. “I’m Emma.”
Lake Seymour Fog // Katy Pitkin His mom laughed. “Alice.” “Elizabeth.” “Tell him I said hi,” his mom said. “And congratulations.” Elizabeth, I whispered to myself walking down their driveway, just needing to hear it aloud. Lizzy.
Untitled // Sam Goldstein american literary magazine
“I don’t want to know,” he said as he opened the car door. He walked off with his hands in his pockets. I sat for a moment staring at a little girl in the distance swing higher and higher. “Here’s alright,” I said once I found him on top of a hill. Adam shrugged his shoulders, Adam was waiting in the Jeep three and I spread out sweatshirts so that we houses down and across the street. I wouldn’t have to sit in the snow. We sat looked back as he started the ignition, in a silence that hummed like the end and I thought I saw her, his sister, of a song, filled with the vibrations of the other one, waving from the front instruments neither of us could name. window. I looked from her to him, him I rested my hands on the ground, but to her as we drove away in silence. the ice stung my bare fingers. “I found the donuts,” he finally “I have to bare this alone,” I said. said. “They’re all gone.” “You fucking made me bare this alone.” We stopped at a nearby park, He looked up, and his blue eyes sitting in the parking lot without flashed candid. talking. I could smell the chocolate “Here,” I said, throwing him the frosting in the car’s stale air. white card with the phone number
and e-mail address. He glanced at it for a moment before thrusting it into his pocket. He got up and enveloped me in a hug. My arms froze for a moment in an expectant V before clasping around his back. “Thanks,” he whispered. Then again, louder. I patted him on the back once, and then eased myself from the hug. I did not want to hear him cry. Then, with the icy wind filling my lungs, I took off sprinting down the hill. I paused for a breath at the bottom, and then started back up. “More horsepower!” Adam shouted from the top. “More horsepower!” I cried.
I Hate Paris
// Michael Levy
The psychopharmacologist said Paris fucked up Dad’s circadian rhythm— he tumbled into clinical depression; it ended up killing my parent’s marriage. I knew I tasted lithium in those Parisian raindrops. I went back to Paris with my girlfriend, to do the whole ‘lovers’ thing— it made her feel married at twenty; she left me. Paris raped me twice. They let Haussmann widen Paris’ streets. Ever since it was destined to Champs-Elysses all over my life, placing wedges in between people that love each other and shoving a Juicy Couture in between. (Do we really need another one?) What a distasteful city. Paris is cursed. If its twisted lanes were left untouched… Manet would not paint beer bottles, my parents would be together, and I’d believe in high school sweethearts. So many people like Paris; it’s surrealist!
Over the Years // Matthew Shelley
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Rene Magritte hated Paris so much, he thought its repulsiveness would sicken him into barfing out a masterpiece. Shortly after he got there, he felt those sterilely straight boulevards tear into his marriage. Oh his Georgette! So like a man, he picked up their suitcases and caught the first train out of that godforsaken modernist wasteland.
To Emily, Virginia and Sylvia
// Rachel Webb
I see you, in a long black dress with a tuft of prudent lace feathering your white throat, touching the pen nib to your pale lips, making quick, urgent dashes that jump from the page, and out of the window, beyond the house in Amherst to act as your ambassadors, that deliver sonnets of praise for the humming world beyond your leafy enclave. And you, as a girl, padding across the sand towards the lighthouse, to look for your lost mother. Before growing up to sirens, and black curtains, amid piles of rubble, scribbling in streams of wispy thought, of matches struck unexpectedly in the dark. Then, finally, with pockets of stones wading into the murky, deep current. I catch glimpses of you last, wearing knee socks and plaid skirts within stone walls, that embrace smiling, pigtailed girls, while you dim the lamp, and write in the dark. Before quietly shutting the door, and twisting the gas knob. I curl into a ball of knees and flannel, and I, too, chew on the end of my pen, before pouring letters onto a page, that arrange themselves into caterpillars, of snaking meaning, and of hours spent on benches and trains, recording the fruits of my glances. The four of us tucking our hair behind our ears, with identical ink smudges on our palms.
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Glassed Off Ghosts // Cody Steele
Jenny // David Keplinger // Faculty Contributer
Aunt Jenny was called Lovey all her life and kept her hair, at age one hundred two, in combed out locks. A streak of blonde was in the widowâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s peak. Lovey, is that you, I caught her saying to the mirror one afternoon in April when I came to check. When she died the neighborhood she lived in since the 19th century closed like shop stalls on the street and took with it its constables and footmen, whipping sticks, its truncheons and perfumes. Then it exploded into disco radios-the first transistors tucked in pockets of the passersby. How did she manage to escape the world? Lovey with her silver brush in one hand, Piano music in the other. Lovey, telling
Back Door // Franziska Kabelitz
of the gentleman from Wein who took her on the Ferris Wheel. The house stood on a heap of yellow documents and purses, shoes, laundry bags, rancid cabinets and many boxes, each one had a hat, and heavy, heavy curtains that required a pole especially made for them in Wein and two strong men to bring them down.
Big Fish // Jessica Warren
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Biographies Kelly Barrett: I don't reckon I'll ever forget the place that made “oi!” “hey?,” or “bugger,” a part of my everyday language, but I'm glad in case I ever do, I'll have my thousands of photos to remind me. Cheers to that. Maria Pia Benosa is an Abroad at AU student from the Philippines. She is crazy about drinking milk and writing letters longhand. Kathryn Bohri considers any conversation she has to be a chooseyour-own adventure novel. Except because she's awkward, it's as if she always takes the adventure that goes horribly, horribly wrong. Louise Brask: I smell yellow tweetism. http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=yFPQbnraeVg Kristin Bruch prefers to purchase her art supplies from the hardware store. She recently bought her local store's entire supply of spackle. She apologizes for any inconvenience. Liz Calka has seen beyond herself to find peace of mind waiting there. Quirky, squeaky and never on time, Sara Ciarrochi hails from the suburbs of Philly and is a senior in the studio art program. Her obsessions revolve around food and music but her other favorite things are nature, traveling and all the wonderful people she loves. Someday Sara hopes to be an artist, a chef and to grow her own food.
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Christopher Conway walks around the darkest parts of the city at night, and feels the history under his feet and all around him. Tiocfaidh creidim ar lá, agus tréigeann óige riamh. William Corpstein: The CIA ships in the drugs. 9/11 was a self-inflicted wound. You were born and you will die a slave. Mary Elizabeth Cutrali is a terrible singer with pretty hair. Leah Fantle is an art loving, jazz singing, indifference battling, world saving, International Studies studying, freshman this year at AU. She embellishes the stereotypical, paints portraits with words, and generally dances through life. Christina Farella is so exciting. Happening to welcome you. Breathing comma hopefully. Quick! Christina Fields is a senior majoring in Public Communication and Psychology. Her true passions are for travel and photography. Ali Goldstein would like to thank all of her fourteen-year old campers from Interlochen Center for the Arts for inspiring her. My name is Sam Goldstein, I am a Senior at American University and an amateur photographer from New York City. In Washington, I shoot for Brightest Young Things, as well as for personal projects.
Erin Greenawald knows which birds are singin' and the names of the trees where they're performin' in the mornin'. Jonathan Holin is trapped in a hot air balloon with nothing but granola bars, an old dandelion and some Calvin & Hobbes books. He is happy. Morgan Jordan has 3 brothers, 3 dogs and can make a 3-leaf clover with her tongue. Franziska Kabelitz thanks her family and thinks that New York City isn't actually that far from her home. She is also looking forward to more tabuli. Hannah Karl, carnivore. Diet: cheddar bunnies, chocolatey cats, penguin gummies. Hannah Kulakow enjoys thinking about doing things and looking at seasonal decorations. When not serving as co editor-in-chief of AmLit, Michael Levy contemplates anarcho-libertarian, forth wave feminist method to liberate the American underclass. He dedicates all his hard work and late nights producing this issue to an equally hard worker, his mom. Andrea “Anj” Lum thanks her oh-so dominant right brain for retaining the memories and imagination that inspire her to write. She will be submitting to AmLit from Rome, Italy, next semester. Arrivederci!
El Arco in Antigua Guatemala // Yongjoo Shin fall 2009
73 surfaces and helped her discover her true love for painting. Kristen McCown: I grew up on an island in North Carolina and spent my summers battling waves. I enjoy sushi, backpacking, and queer theory. Francesca Morizio has been in love with words since before she can remember. Kathleen O'Connell, a DC socialite and celebrity, is a renowned photographer around the globe. On any given day she can be found in the Dav watching reruns of Glee and generally refusing to graduate. Sarah Parnass is a sophomore in the School of Communication, majoring in broadcast journalism and French. Someday she hopes to write a novel, visit Rwanda and own many cats. She believes in true love and seeing beauty in everything. Katy Pitkin is curious! Photography helps Katy remember all of the wonderful things she is encountering “along the way.”
Castle // Reese McArdle Madeline Lynch is a graduating senior from American University getting ready to travel and see the rest of the world. Matthew Makowski will be taking time off from his Biology major to study abroad at Hogwarts next September. Contact will be possible only by owl. Reese McArdle: Photography is about capturing life and beauty in even the most dull of circumstances. Beauty is everywhere, beauty is everything. It is my job to show that fact to others, this
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is my calling and my vision. Cat McCarthy: When given a box of markers as a young child, Cat would tend to draw on everything but the paper. The walls, the table, her face, her mouth—one could say she was a child who definitely thought outside the box. Countless time-outs and a few years of art classes have thankfully taught her more expectable drawing
Haley Plotkin is a freshman Honors student double-majoring in Business and International Relations who likes to write about herself in 3rd person. She enjoys sci-fi shows, musicals, and submitting awesome photos to lit mags. Her life goal is to find a way to make Pokémon real. Rebecca Prowler: graphic designer /
photographer / field hockey player / New Yorker / coffee drinker / musical theatre lover. Alex Rudolph just got here after spending two years in Seattle. He is made of blue sky and hard rock and he will live this way forever. Emi Ruff-Wilkinson enjoys kicking ass, taking names and napping in between. Lina Schneider never wears matching socks and would own several large dogs if pets were allowed in the dorms.
plans on doing something credible. Someday.
Jessica Warren secretly wishes she were a west coast hippie.
Nora Tumas rides the train until it turns around.
Rachel Webb would like to dedicate the hard work of this issue to her librarian parents, who think it is pretty cool to have a lit geek kid, and her little sister, who has already surpassed her. Rachel has been told she is embodies a shimmery pale blue exploding with words, which she likes. As an addendum, she is in love with yellow umbrellas, french fries, the walls of her apartment, and a boy named Dave.
Laura Vogler is a sophomore. She thinks taking pictures is fun but it's beginning to drive her friends crazy.
Matthew Shelley: My drawings and paintings explore time, recollection and the fallible nature of memory. My imagery is involved with location, how we intake experience and how time affects those experiences. My studio practice contemplates the subjective and investigates the role that exaggeration and invention play on our understanding of the past. Sarah Sheya is on her way to Egypt where she will, in Freire’s words, “name the world” with a handful of cameras and a group of kids living in Cairo’s garbage dump. Yongjoo Shin would not have come to AU if he knew that there were no Korean restaurants around AU, but he says Subway, Tavern and TDR are not so bad… My name is Marri Stanback. I’m a Visual Media major with a graphic design minor. Wandering through life and still have not found my niche— well, one that hasn’t kicked me out. Cody Steele is a SIS Sophomore, who
Coming of Age // Cat McCarthy
American Literary Staff Editors In Chief Michael Levy Rachel Webb Design Editor Shea Cadrin Assistant Design Editors Hannah Karl Rebecca Prowler Copy Editor Andrea Lum
The Kiwi Experience // katy pitkin
Photo Editor Jessica Warren Assistant Photo Editor Danielle King Art Editor Christina Farella Assistant Art Editor Emi Ruff-Wilkinson Archival Editor Ali Goldstein
Assistant Copy Editors Alex Burchfield Elice Rojas
Assistant Archival Editor Emma Wimmer
Poetry Editor Kennedy Nadler
Web Editor Morgan Jordan
Assistant Poetry Editor Jonathan Holin
Assistant Web Editor Amanda Osborn
Prose Editor Joshua Little
Events Editor Cody Steele
Assistant Prose Editor Sarah Cough
Assistant Events Editor Brittany Stewart
Submission Policy American Literary Magazine seeks to promote the artistic community at American University. All members of the AU community may submit work they deem qualified for review. All final acceptance decisions are made by the Editors-in-Chief and the genre editors. American Literary Magazine selects content based on a blind review process. While we attempt to preserve anonymity in all cases, perfectly blind submissions are impossible. Therefore professional discretion is upheld at all times. All copyrights revert to the artists upon publication, unless otherwise noted.
Staff Lara Aqel Annie Buller Louise Brask Liz Calka Christopher Conway Mary Cutrali Molly Friedman Laura Gerlock Wesley Haines Lindsay Inge Gretchen Kast Hannah Kulakow Andrew Lobel Cheyenne Logan Natalie Matthews Shannon McMahon Hayley Munn Zach Narva Kaitie Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Hare Virginia Papke Sarah Marie Parnass Emily Poor Chris Regacho Liz Rauh Lowell Rudorfer Kevin Steele Shailyn Tavella Denae Thibault Nora Tumas Bogdan Vitas Preeta William
Acknowledgements American Literary is grateful to the Student Activities staff, especially Alicia Rodriguez and Laura Matteo. We would also like to thank Jim Briggs at Printing Images. We are indebted to our Best-in-Show faculty judges Iwan Bagus, Kim Butler, David Keplinger and Michael Manson. Most of all, we are thankful to David Keplinger, our faculty contributor.
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