american American Literary Magazine Spring 2010
Ghost Stories Felix Penzarella
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Editor’s Note As the bits and pieces of the Spring 2010 issue come together and graduation looms before us every time we step into the office, we know that as our time as the Editors-in-Chief of American Literary is coming to a rapid close. But the sadness of that realization is cut short by this semester, which wasn’t really about the two of us. This semester was about the staff, our hilarious, adorable, field-day participating, stay-in-the-office until 2AM if need be staff, and the remarkable creativity, dedication, and love each AmLitter poured into this magazine. Amidst our own distractions of thesis writing, job interviews, graduate school and the horrifying thought of paying our own rent, the AmLit community became an unstoppable force that wrapped us in a quilt of innovation and joined together to produce something truly beautiful. We weren’t really running the show anymore, and that is the way it should be—instead, every page of this magazine bears the handprints of each staff member. So we thought it would only be fitting that this Editor’s Note be a forum for their voices, to showcase what this community means to them. “AmLit is like coming home…my (and many others) niche at AU.” “AmLit has been my not-so-secret guilty please for the past four years. And (most) AmLitters accept me even though I don’t have black-rimmed glasses.” -Jessica Warren. “A / Magazine / Lively / In / Theory (and practice).” -Virginia Papke. “AmLit is the only hope left in this, our dystopian existence.” -Kennedy Nadler “Wednesday night.” “As a freshman, I came to this school quite alone. Not only that, I was alone on Tenley. On a whim, I went to the meeting at the at the beginning of the beginning of the semester with one of my (few) friends. Rachel thought we were roommates. We weren’t (at the time!) Anyway, AmLit quickly became the highlight of my week. It almost made me feel like a real AU student. I’d get these sunny little emails at my internship and it was like the light at the end of the tunnel. But yeah, basically AmLit helped me feel like a part of the campus community.” “AmLit gave me people to look up to and (hopefully) gave me a place to leave a bit of a legacy.” -Shea Cadrin “The firm grasp AmLit has clasped around the neck of the artist is not to be feared.” “To AmLit: Oh the best of all possible words will not adequately describe the ecstasy of behaving disgracefully in the name of letters.” This was a goal-oriented year for AmLit. We can proudly say that our staff has embraced our challenge and taken the publication even further than we expected: between Fall 2008 and Spring 2010, Prose submissions increased 525%, Poetry submissions increased 102%, and Photo submissions increased 129%. These numbers are stoic, but they, along with countless beautiful moments with our staff, are really the icing on our collective cupcake. We are profoundly grateful for this experience. Thank you. Rachel and Mike
Table of Contents i ii 1 2 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 13 14 14 16 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 26 30 31 32 33 36 37 37 38 39
Ghost Stories Felix Penzarella Editor’s Note Easter Earl Township Daniel Lincoln Congery Kennedy Nadler Lilting Mistresses David Pritchard Fascination Morgan Jordan Microscope Christina Farella Landscape Liz Calka A Giant With His Giantess Rachel Webb Mondrian Kennedy Nadler Husband and Wife Ali Goldstein No Planes/Skyscrapers Louise Brask South Hawthorne Kendall Jackson Woodstock Danielle Napolitano Dartboard David Feder Personal Poem Christina Farella Lunchtime Kennedy Nadler Gulls Morgan Jordan In Exile David Pritchard Plum Dana Reinert For Audrey Kaitie O’Hare Empathy Ryan Tanner-Read Death Is The Road To Awe Chris Marotta Madison Ave. Rebecca Prowler The Lift Chris Marotta Best in Show Photography In The Beanbag Corner Rachel Webb Tree of Shadows Shaun Flynn The Feeders Shaun Flynn Paper Trees Hellen Killeen District of Columbia Benjamin Walker Teatime Andrea Lum Lust Morgan Jordan Wake Up, Please Nora Tumas Best in Show Poetry Untitled Emily Reid
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
42 42 43 43 44 45 48 52
52 53 54 55 56 56 57 57 58 58 59 59 60 61 62 63
64 65 66 67 68 68 70 71
White Rhino Benjamin Walker Just For Expression Kyoko Takenaka Oceanography Andrea Lum Mt. Washington Shaun Flynn Boy Crazy Katherine Nolen Best in Show Prose Calculus David Feder Earthly Bound Felix Penzarella District of Columbia War Memorial, WWI Benjamin Walker City Upon A Hill Joe Rotondi Abuelito Elice Rojas Dragonfly At Night Shaun Flynn The Secret of Elephants Benjamin Walker Strangers Danielle Napolitano Best in Show Art What My Latte Ordered Michael Levy Thesis Monster Rachel Webb Driftwood Louise Brask The Only Words Kennedy Nadler Silent Observer Rachel Slattery The Identical Dream, Skewered Christina Farella The Power Plant Chris Marotta Woman on Bench Blaise Corso The Problem of the Place David Pritchard Dermis Rachel Webb Now I Know How It Feels To Love In A Snowglobe Kelly Barrett Oblivion: Mirror Iwan Bagus, Faculty Contributor Oblivion: Bed Iwan Bagus Oblivion: Chest Iwan Bagus Oblivion: Door Iwan Bagus Biographies
Look Up Every So Often Jessica Warren Acknowledgements and Submission Policy American Literary Staff
Easter Earl Township Daniel Lincoln
Kennedy Nadler I You were my beginning and my end. Your mother poured sugar into a bowl forged of our blood, blood that would harden and soften with the coming of the day and the night. Your grandfather’s pillow was clay, his bed the oven of his baker father, and his head churned with knowledge. You taught me the family secret for latkes, the trick of nicking your skin so blood would fall in. I ate and I ate, and as I ate I learned to taste the difference between dark and light. Everywhere I traveled, I could taste the rust, no matter how many wells I drank of. II You tried to stop, forgetting that a baker ought never look in the oven before the bread is done. The oven peeled to completion, and the rust entered my throat. I gargled and swallowed, and ripped out my gut, but the rust consumed my bones. My bones trickled down into the bowl, the bowl of you, my mother; and of my mother’s mother. The bowl of my grandfather. Your mother poured sugar into the bowl of my bones, and spelt, too, and cinnamon. III I knead the dough of my bones, the dough with blood, the dough with sugar. I press it into pans of skin, pans thick and thin and metal. Congery becomes symphony and the dark quiet of a baker’s gaze. I apologize, mother, for being mimetic, but I use your recipes all the same. Cinnamon skin, sugar eyes.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Lilting Mistresses David Pritchard
Tickets are a problem, to be sure, but I don’t foresee any other difficulty after the initial hurdle of conversation, perhaps sleep. Don’t spend all the warm days indoors, it’s been done! and written about, if you’d only listen more carefully. The neighbors don’t really like it, but nobody asked those papyrus harlots anyway. Let them drift away down the hall. There, trifling as it may be, the girls are safely locked away.
Fascination Morgan Jordan
Microscope Christina Farella
lemon water tilted in a trembled glass makes the lemon flecks light like gulls over the Baltic Sea where I met you last night, walking out among the snow reeds, knocking the blades of my shoulders like rocks to make sparks on dry hair. Tongue lame and tenuous wind of touch makes the alabaster stones ring outâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the French I never learned but always wanted to slip into your tea like a silver chain.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
A Giant With His Giantess Rachel Webb
The glass curtains whoosh open, the linoleum stage fluorescent. The radishes tucked in the corner are braiding their stems to pass the time, sitting in the orchestra seats, the grapes flutter green eyelashes at the deli meat jostling for the front row The salami winks at the girls. The ham puffs out his chest. Apples hide their bruises from the spotlights. The cornflakes hog the armrests, and the Pepsi bottles lace up their pointe shoes behind the plastic wings. Above, a caste system of milk huddles on the balcony, craning their long plastic necks. The skim sighing in the very back row. And I push my cart down the aisle towards the stage, find my seat next to an old woman I see on the cold morning bus. She fishes in the pocket of her old wool coat for dimes, and lint her hair knotted into steel wisps, tucked under a plastic bonnet, even in the summer. The orchestra begins warming up, the first chair spaghetti tightens his strings. She whispers to her cauliflower, the creamed corn in her basket, I flirt with my pineapple, the thorns too much for her fingers, arthritic cobwebs on thin bones.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Kennedy Nadler di ff ffffffffffffffffr er o the revolution will not en m revolve around your m ce f l a m i ngant i in i e zendik zendik curious bells te n i f this erupting ns g o r that then shell-toe steel-toe rebar io nic displacement ironic juxtaposition of ignorance and joy n: i r to t th s o el took me to fifty-second and market i tripped down the stairs ig a s we secret we substitute we glorious many in death throes ht l s sh immer shiver irridescent shimmer slimmer thinner frost iv o er ode a rose to rise to roads and crowns of succulent s& s fa blue through blue moon broke spoke bent spoon llolls allong the dismall fall the lleaves fall the s. FALL
Husband and Wife Ali Goldstein
Harold and his wife watched the shore get smaller and smaller as the ferry boat picked up speed. “I can see our hotel,” she said, pointing to a green smudge on the shore. She rested her elbows on the edge of the boat, holding up her head in the plate of her hands. Harold squinted. “You can see that?” She laughed as she slumped down into a nearby seat. “Guess you’re stuck with me all day,” she said. As he sat down in the cotton candy colored seat beside her, her face froze; lips paused like an actress who forgot her lines. She made fists with her fingers and shoved them into the sleeves of her teal sweatshirt. “The lake looks cold today,” she said, staring at the steel blue water. “Smells like dead fish.” Harold mumbled agreement, still staring at the ivory muscle of her hands poking out of her sweatshirt cuffs. “We can go below deck if you’re cold?” he asked. She shook her head. “You like it better up here.” As it picked up speed, icy droplets of water kept licking up against the boat. Harold watched the other passengers jump from seat to seat to avoid getting wet. Their collective happiness seemed almost aggressive. It was May, still too early and cold for the Michigan tourist season, and the enormity of the ferry boat seemed to mock its handful of passengers clumped together for warmth. They looked like they were all running away from something, and only an island in the middle of Lake Michigan without cars or electricity was far enough. “It looks like it’s about to snow,” Harold said, gesturing to the cloudless, grey sky. His wife didn’t take her eyes off the lake. “What did you expect? We’re in northern Michigan. It’s still winter here.” “That’s unfair,” he said. “I’d say it’s a cold spring.” She turned to face him, staring until he looked into his hands. She laughed; one short burst of laughter like a foghorn, telling him he’d lost sight of shore. “Well what do you want to do when we get to the island?” she asked. She noticed a thread on his shoulder and popped her fists out of her sweatshirt to retrieve it. “Make a wish,” she said, blowing the thread into the lake. He searched the wind for the hovering thread, but noticed instead that he could no longer see the shore, not even the smudge of its haze. He rubbed his palms alongside
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
It was May, still too early and cold for the Michigan tourist season, and the enormity of the ferry boat seemed almost to mock its handful of passengers, clumped together for warmth.
his pants. Up and down he rubbed, picking up speed as though trying to build a fire out of the friction. Wrapping her arms around her chest, she turned to look at him again. He wished he could look into her eyes and remember how beautiful they were. “I don’t know,” he said with a shrug. He wished she would stop staring at him. “Maybe a walk?” “You mean a cold walk?” “Why don’t you go get a hot chocolate? I don’t need this crap.” He pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and pulled out a dollar. “Here, it’s on me.” She brushed her fingers through her short brown hair. “You don’t need this?” she said with a shake of her head. “The concession stand’s over there,” he said, pointing to the middle of the boat where a sign with red letters spelled “Snacks.” “Do you want anything?” she asked, smoothing the wrinkles in her pink track pants. He outstretched his hand to help her stand up, but she used the armrest for support. “I already took an orange from the hotel.” One afternoon, reading the newspaper at the kitchen counter, he turned to watch his wife. She was lying on the couch watching Oprah. His throat tightened, and he unbuttoned his collar. He pushed aside the sports section and took a sip of coffee. “Honey?” he asked, and she moaned. “We’re going to take a trip. A honeymoon.” “We’re 62.” She pushed herself up to the edge of the couch. One piece of her hair stood up in the back, and he watched it slowly collapse as though it was taking a bow. “We need one.” “When?”
“Next week.” She rubbed potato chip crumbs off her lips with one sweep of her finger. “Harold, I don’t…” “You need air.” She pursed her lips together, and he grabbed the edge of the couch with both hands. “How about Mackinac Island?” She looked up. “Only if I can get fudge.”
He listened to the swish of her track pants as she walked away. If he closed his eyes, it almost sounded like waves crashing to shore. Turning to look at the lake, he saw only gray. He felt the familiar thud of his panicked heart, like a man buried alive, banging against the wall of his chest to be let out. Taking a deep breath, he realized his wife was right: the lake smelled like cold sweat. He’d remembered the lake smelling like saltwater taffy, but now he couldn’t escape the
No Planes/Skyscrapers Louise Brask
South Hawthorne Kendall Jackson
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
smell of dead fish washed to shore. He stared at the horizon, praying for the island to materialize. If only his wife would come back soon. A high-pitched screech made him bolt upright and squeeze his cold armrests. The boat jerked forward, and he rested his hand on the seatback in front of him. He immediately looked to the snack bar for his wife. She was not there. She was wearing bright pink pants: he should be able to spot her. Jumping out of his seat, he saw his wife lying on the ground next to the snack bar, with her right arm pinned beneath her. A younger man crouched beside her. “I’m her husband,” he told the man when he got to his wife. “She’s my wife.” The man nodded and started trying to explain what had happened. “Helen!” Harold shouted. “Helen!” He placed his arm beneath her head, comforted by the scratch of her hair against his skin. Eyes closed, her face was grayed the color of chewed spearmint gum. He kept shaking her shoulders, watching the rise and fall of her chest. She burst upright with a puff of air. “Harold.” She licked her lips in one, slow circle. “You fell.” “I was at the snack bar and the…” “Boat jerked?” She nodded, brown eyes wide. She gripped his hand so tight that his fingers purpled. He watched a wrinkle form between her eyebrows, and he wanted to smooth it down with his thumb. “I fell,” she whispered. “Tell me where it hurts,” he said. He massaged her ankle, then her calf, and then her knee. She winced. “Right there.” He pushed his fingers against both sides of her knee. Her skin was so soft. “There?” She bit her lip with a sharp inhale. “You must have twisted your knee.” Harold turned to the man crouched beside him and asked if he’d help carry his wife back to their seats. The young man nodded and cradled his arms beneath Helen’s knees and head. Harold squeezed her hand as the man hoisted her up off the ground with one quick jerk. He noticed the heft of the young man’s biceps and squeezed his own deflated muscles: he should be able to lift his own wife.
He felt the familiar thud of his panicked heart, like a man buried alive, banging against the wall of his chest to be let out. Harold sat down first and watched the young man ease his wife down onto the seat beside him. Grabbing his wife’s leg, Harold pulled it to his lap and started massaging her knee cap with his thumb. Moaning, she grabbed his hand again. “Your hands are like ice,” he said, and she shrugged. Harold nodded to the young man that he could go. “Thanks,” his wife said. “I’m not sure my husband could’ve lifted me.” Her knee felt so fragile in his hands. Like cheap furniture, hastily assembled: he was afraid that if he pressed too hard it would fall apart, sending screws flying across the boat deck. Fumbling in his pocket, he found the orange he’d grabbed at the hotel that morning. He stretched out his hand to offer it to his wife. Pimpled with green spots, she contemplated it. “Only if you peel it for me,” she said. He nodded and began to peel the orange, setting the fleshy scraps in a mountain beside him. As he tore a piece off the orange, zest squirted in his wife’s eye. She blinked. “Watch what you’re doing.” He rested a piece in his wife’s outstretched palm, and she shoved it into her mouth with a single gulp. A droplet of orange juice crawled down her chin, and he scooped it up in the crook of his pinkie finger. “Tart,” she said, reaching for another. Harold tore off another piece, careful to guard the rambunctious zest with his palm. “Your blood sugar must’ve been low,” he said, continuing to set orange chunks in her palm. “Who made you my doctor?” she asked. He was surprised by how heavy her body felt in his lap. She always looked so fragile. His thighs burned from the heat of her calves. He unbuttoned his shirt collar and stretched his left arm across the empty seat beside him. “We still haven’t moved,” he said, noticing the stillness of the lake. He kept drawing figure eights with his pinkie along his wife’s calf.
“We must be stuck,” she said. “Great.” Harold gulped and wished that he could stretch his legs. “I sprained my knee and now we’re stuck in the middle of the lake.” Harold gripped her ankle like a cuff, because he did not know what to say. All he could see was the steel of the lake stretching infinitely into the horizon ahead of him. “I hope they row us to shore,” she continued. “In those little inflatable boats. That would be a hoot.” He cupped his hand over her mouth. She shrieked, ripping the sweaty blister of his palm off her lips. “What are you doing?” she asked. “I’m your wife. You can’t shush me.” “I didn’t want to hear your voice anymore,” he said. “But clearly that’s a hopeless project.” She tried to kick her legs off his lap, but grimaced. “You need to keep your knee elevated.” “I don’t need you to take care of me.” She sandwiched her knee in her hands, slowly lifting her leg up and off her husband’s lap. “There. Now you can breathe.” He felt his fingers numb and realized he’d been squeezing the arm rest. “I can’t do this,” he said. He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m sorry, but I can’t.” She clasped her hands in her lap and stared straight ahead, brown eyes unblinking. “Fuck you,” she said. Harold wanted to brush away the bubble of spit that formed in the corner of her lips. “What makes you think you’re the one who gets to decide?” “I just want to get off this boat,” he whispered. Harold pulled brochures and a ballpoint pen out of his front pocket. He started circling attractions listed under Free and Easy. “Guess we can rule out horseback riding.” “At this point, I’m in it for the fudge,” she said. She laughed, more a hiss, the tea kettle ready on the stove. He
‘I don't need you to take care of me.’ She sandwiched her knee in her hands, slowly lifting her leg up and off her husband's lap. ‘There. Now you can breathe.’
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
looked up toward the horizon with hope, but still saw only water. He caught his wife’s eye. All he wanted to do was pull her close and kiss her. Tell her it was all a mistake: it was all one big fucking mistake. As he leaned in to kiss her, her eyes grew wide. They had cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and he could taste the icing on her breath. The sweetness of it made his stomach flip. He’d wanted eggs. “I hope we get off this boat,” he said. He squeezed his wife’s shoulder, and she nestled her head into his. He could feel his wife nod against his shoulder. “I just want to get off this boat,” she whispered. His wife fell asleep leaning against him. He scanned the boat, searching for signs of progress with the ship’s engine. Trying to turn to face the water, he realized that he could not move without waking his wife. He tasted the sour bile of panic in his throat like heartburn. If he could just turn his shoulder, just a little bit to see the water, that was all he wanted. That was all he wanted, damn it. He started to twist toward the water. But as he did, the boat jerked again, jolting his wife awake. She rolled her head off his shoulder and wiped her eyes open with the back of her hands. “We’re moving,” she said, blinking at him with astonishment. They felt the boat’s motion beneath them: turbulent, familiar, reassuring. “We’re moving,” he said.
Personal Poem Christina Farella
And these days are flavored by the smell of acrylic paint, slapped from the tubes onto the canvas but sometimes also onto my own skin, coating my body like a brined bird in the oven. It dries like sea-salt and falls through my lenses blurring the potted plants that I tend in your absence. This breath held in the lung is given to you in gratitude, thankfulness for your happiness and my face against your knees in a dream that I had before I even knew you.
Dartboard David Feder
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
I am happy as a scallop shell and I see you sleeping turned on your side always away from me, that form triangulated and gentle like the biscotti I made in November. Your breaths are true. The cotton sings beneath your ribs to prove it. In that month I asked you, Where is Italy? Where is the Rue de Montaigne? Where is our gravity? Where is the cutlass? Where is SoHo? Where is Cèzanne? Are you my benefactor? “Why are you asking?” “No reason, and I’ve got salt in my eyes. Pull over and let me think for awhile.” And darling then we put that sheet up and acted like we were in the Casbah. I asked you for the oil and you handed me dates instead. (I was furious but I still understood the importance of the maroon of their insides.) Others were not so gracious and I asked them to leave Morocco for awhile. The smell of that place stung our nostrils. Sometimes we wept but other times just sat by the door singing. I raise my hands above my head in sheer cottons to think about where you are —I hardly know anymore. I believe that you are in the sea. I dreamt that a lion covered in snow with purple flowers yawned. On his tongue was the sea and in that sea was you. It might have been the Mediterranean but I’ve never been so I couldn’t tell if the cliffs were in Greece or Edinburgh. And against that blue the gulls dove down black to catch the flakes of skin that fell from your knees to the sand. I was jealous. I scooped it all up and drank you. December felt like falling from any cliffs. The furniture walked out on us. Nothing but those walls and a mat on the floor and I behaved so badly but only out of sadness. The blood felt like crystals as my own knees were ravaged by our hideous drinking and those days I dreamt of nothing but spider snarls and bit the inside of my mouth with my sharp teeth. I became a wolf again. Then as a wolf I ran and ran to New York City to become something for sometime and I hoped that you would meet me there. We once spent a summer in a hot magenta room complete with teal kitchen. I painted the walls orange as sardines cannot be and we laughed down 1st Ave. to find cheap martinis. We found them and nothing, not even the Puerto Rican Day Parade could have disentangled us. A lovebird without its mate is more or less a maniac and you know that because once a lovebird bit you so hard that you fainted (I won’t tell) and I had to carry you home. Now I am facing this wide-open box and pouring in everything that might make sense for the months of February till May when I will pick up and move myself to a foreign country. You will not be there save for in my breath and in my skin because (and) you know that we are one. When you are in Miami, I will grab your arm in front of the Trevi Fountain and say, “the water is whorled as our bedsheets! How lovely and how naked can water be!”
Lunchtime Kennedy Nadler
It was my insatiable hunger for more and the realization that more could not be obtained in life that made me jump off the cliff. As I fell, I thought: “Will the cloud-vapor fill my lungs like frothy milk, creamy & sweet? “Will the cliff-face grate my skin like muenster, cheddar, gruyère? “Do bones breaking sound like the snapping of a rustic loaf? “Will my split-open head yield eggs poached, or fried? “When my hair is framed against my cold skin, will it resemble oregano, rosemary, & thyme?” If only I’d had time for lunch, I thought as I fell, and if only I’d realized that my hunger for more was really just hunger.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
David Pritchard I am a dragonfly in Siberia trapped beneath absurdityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s blue steel. Happenstance and canvas are too much to keep in a mug and sip like tea. I need dangerous insight. I need the guilt of mere fragments piling up like stink bugs in the basement. I need to watch the weather while quipping about capitalism. But most of all, I need to know if I cross the street at noon on Tuesday when the skies are slightly overcast I wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t run into you, at least not until I write a few decent poems.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
For Audrey Kaitie O’Hare
Sometimes, After I’ve cracked the spine of an old book, I inhale the dog-eared pages and think of you. I find myself on your reupholstered couch, The stiff green one with a dark, cherry-wood frame, Thinking of ways to make you laugh, And watching black birds stare at you from the windowsill. You beam in that tattered, crimson recliner, Caved in at the seat to hug you tightly. Still in your soft blue pajamas and white slippers, Your fragile feet struggle to free themselves from the oxygen cord, Which has become the leash on your life. Ignoring the morning news For a book you’ve read before, I notice your skin blends in with the paper. I fear you may rip just like the pages. “Is today Tuesday?” you ask. Close, same letter day. “Oh, so Saturday.” But you prove you’re still there With your 31 point words on the Scrabble board, And fresh advice to “just play it cool.” I almost forget that you’re sick, Until a raspy cough on the balcony spits in my face, And a praying mantis on the railing Snickers at my mental lapse, Knowing full well that I can’t kill him.
Ryan Tanner-Read MORNING DEVOTIONAL: September 20th, 2041 Adorote devote latens deítas.1 Remember today that God’s ways are hidden from us. He takes many forms to spread His Word. Even the inanimate machine is an instrument of our Savior. Please Note: We are now beginning to take reservations for Advent season Empathy Reconciliation. Do not forget. The Sacraments are important. *** Allen Taglitz eyed Christ cautiously from his position kneeling before the floating sea of candles that flanked the nave. The bleeding statue peered menacingly down from his perch, eyes searching the souls in line for empathic reconciliation. Allen crossed himself and turned back to the offertory candles, hundreds of tiny flames making mute witness to as many abhorrent sins. Behind him, the next penitent shuffled his feet and drew a dirty arm across his sweaty brow. The movement drew Allen’s attention to the incredible heat in the cathedral. He unbuckled his jacket and laid it in his lap before rolling up the gray sleeves of his ragged thermal. When he ran his cracked fingernails through the thick mop of blonde hair on his head, they came away wet with sweat and smelling of dank, dangerous life. He was next in line and an Inquisitor soon approached him. Allen fell to one knee, head low, and raised his hand in the air, palm up, with the required offering. He could just make out his outline, growth beard and all, in the polished shoes as the Inquisitor’s gloved hand pushed the coins around the penitent’s palm, counting them, and then pulled them away. “Beati pauperes spiritu,”2 intoned the man as he pulled Allen to his feet. Allen met the blank gaze of the opaque black mask that covered the Inquisitor’s face. The generalized features behind the thin cloth were impassive. “I have sins to confess.” “Di immortales virtutem approbare, non adhibere debent.”3 1 Latin tr. “Thee we adore, Oh hidden God thee.” (A hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas.) 2 Latin tr. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (The first Beatitude.) 3 Latin tr. “We may expect the gods to approve virtue but not endow us with it.”
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
The Inquisitor stepped aside and his robe made a flourish, almost like a magician’s cape as he extended a gloved finger to point toward the next open empathy chamber. Allen crossed himself and folded his hands, walking to the open curtain and pulling it shut behind him. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the low light. The darkness smelled of many human bodies. He scrambled around on the floor before his hands found the penitent’s bench and then he crawled forward, placing his knees in the proper place. In front of him, he found the low shelf that formed to arm rest. With his arms in place, he could feel the screen and the small slot at the base of it where his hands would slide through to the other side. Eventually Allen’s eyes adjusted and he could see the screen in front of his face and beyond, the vague shape of a woman seated in the empathy machine, broken up by the mesh of the confession screen, divided into so many component parts. Above the seat that formed the front of the machine rose a tower of electronics: flashing lights and exposed wires that made up the neural relays that would funnel his feelings to her mind. They no longer made any attempt to hide the machines. Somehow, it was revealed that the empathy of the priestesses was not a gift from God; nevertheless, science had not diminished the demand. “I have sins to confess,” Allen repeated, fitting his hands past the screen. Warm hands grabbed his fingers and held them tight. “Deus misereatur,”4 she intoned, mangling the pronunciation of the last syllable. As he always did, Allen felt as though he was about to speak. He opened his mouth and then the machine burst into action. The priestess’s hands became taut and the empathy machine poured its divine light in precious shafts through the mesh in front of him. Allen said nothing. Instead, he felt his shame pouring out of him. Every iniquity being washed away as the priestess felt what he felt, knew as he knew. They breathed in unison as the orgasmic feeling of freedom washed over him. He sobbed and the priestess sobbed. He was weak and she was weak. He was a sinner and she sinned with him. Slowly, though, he began to feel another sensation. As though a clawing, clammy hand were sliding up from his 4 Latin tr. “May God have mercy.”
Death is The Road to Awe Chris Marotta
Madison Ave. Rebecca Prowler
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
stomach, across his chest. The fingers brushed his Adam’s apple before slowly enclosing his throat. Allen could feel it now in his mind. A light touch. She had crossed into his mind instead. His eyes snapped open and he saw her face pressed against the confession screen, moaning with the agony of release. He screamed and her grip tightened on his fingers like a vise. Allen’s body thrashed against the screen, but try as he might, he could not pry his hands loose. The priestess was panting now, eyes wide. It was all streaming into him. He could feel the fear and anguish and hatred. Suddenly it was all his. His own sins and those he had never even conceived. Flooding him, filling him to overflowing and then some. He collapsed under the weight of it and sank to the floor, the priestess’ grip the only thing keeping him from going prone completely. Then, she let go. “Consummatum est.”5 She intoned the right words, but it had gone horribly wrong. The lights on the empathy machine winked out and Allen climbed to his feet, using a rough molding on the wall for support. He swayed for a moment in limbo between falling on the floor and turning toward the curtain behind him. His body made up its mind and he stumbled through the curtain, almost collapsing against the Inquisitor standing there. The blank face twisted into a strange imitation of a smile. “Deus tecum,”6 the Inquisitor offered in his maddeningly monotone voice, as he helped steady Allen’s uneven gait. Allen merely nodded and hurried toward the huge steel doors that marked his escape to the darkening streets. He clutched his stomach as though he might vomit. *** He heaved out the contents of his stomach in a trash barrel on the way back to his apartment. When he finally reached the three tiny rooms he shared with his girlfriend, he staggered through the immaculately organized living space and into the bedroom, where he collapsed on the bed without turning down the sheets. He was awoken by Amy’s thin fingers stroking the growing forest of stubble on his face. Allen blinked his eyes and grabbed her wrist, pushing her hand away from his face. 5 Latin tr. “It is finished.” (Christ’s final words, according to the Bible.) 6 Latin tr. “May God be with you.”
“Good morning.” She giggled. “Yeah. Dinner?” She shrugged. “I hadn’t really given it much thought. We could just nuke one of those frozen dinners.” “Mmm. Meatloaf.” “I’ll go get it started.” She smacked his ass playfully. “Get out of bed.”
Slowly, though, he began to feel another sensation. As though a clawing, clammy hand were sliding up from his stomach, across his chest.
He watched her saunter from the room, hips swinging ever so slightly, unconsciously. Allen groaned and scratched his blonde head. “What the fuck?” Allen slid off the bed and trudged into the bathroom where he flipped on the light and turned on the sink. It spat then steadied. Studying his face in the mirror, it seemed to his hyper-sensitive eye that it looked more sunken, pale. Allen reached into the bowl of the sink, cupping his hands, and let them fill with the lukewarm water. He splashed it on his face and watched the remnants drip off into the sink. Rubbing his eyes like he thought to push them back into his head, he reached for the towel and then dried his face. It didn’t matter. Everything was fine. He would go back for empathy tomorrow. It was a little more than he intended to spend this week, but they’d make ends meet. She smiled at him as he crossed into the kitchen. The small table tucked in the corner afforded barely enough room for both of them to sit. Allen packed himself tightly against the countertop and pulled the table against him, making room for Amy to sit. “Drink?” “Something stiff,” he said. The ice tinkled as she dropped it into the glass. Then,
Here she was: the sacred emerging into the profane world.
the satisfying sound of liquid pouring in on the ice, cracking it as it struck. She handed him the glass and he took a long sip of the amber liquid. The microwave pinged. Amy plopped the meatloaf on its half-melted plastic tray in front of him. *** They fucked, as they often did, on the couch after eating: their sweaty bodies intertwined. Allen was pressing her hard into the worn fabric, his hands running roughly through her chocolate-brown hair. Amy let out a heavy sigh with each thrust, arching her back to meet him. His teeth left pressure marks on her dark skin as he bit her neck. Through it all, Allen could not take his mind off the reconciliation he had experienced earlier that evening, the feeling of another person touching his mind. Here with Amy was a good feeling, but an old one. Sex had become stale. The pain he had felt at the touch of all those sins flooding his mind had been new, real, intense. He tried to throw all that violent energy into this moment, but he couldn’t keep his head in the here and now. Allen looked down and locked eyes with Amy, her face contorted with the exertion, but it quickly called to mind the face of the priestess, pressed against the mesh of the confession screen, tiny circles pressed into her skin, mouth open in complete, divine release. He looked away, scanning the room for something to distract himself. Their living area was extremely well kept. Shabby, but neat like the couch. Amy was pushing up against him now. He let himself move at her insistence and they rolled, teetering on the edge of the couch before tumbling off onto the floor. In doing so, Allen’s arm struck the table at the end of the couch, knocking the telephone onto the floor. Its wooden receiver followed.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Amy, on top of him now, laughed and kissed his neck. He smiled absent-mindedly as she got back into motion, his hands clutching her sweaty ass. She threw her head back, tossing her hair, looked down at him and then stopped. “What is it?” He glanced away from the cross on the wall, eyes unfocused. “Huh?” “Are you fucking kidding me, Allen?” She climbed off him. “Are you even here?” “Well, I…” he began. “Look.” A pause. She smiled, softening her hard gaze. “Fuck it. Let’s just go to bed.” “Wait.” She crossed back to the bedroom, shutting the door behind her. Allen went to the bathroom to wash himself, thinking the whole time of that moment in the empathy chamber, that divine contact. *** MORNING DEVOTIONAL: September 21st, 2041 Caelitus mihi vires, laborare est orare.7 Remember today to honor God and dedicate yourself whole-heartedly to all your appointed tasks. They shall know you are Christians by your work. Please Note: We are now beginning to take reservations for Advent season Empathy Reconciliation. Do not forget. The Sacraments are important. *** Allen did not take the morning devotional to heart. After Amy had dressed and left for work, he slipped on a gray sweatsuit. Allen went to the bathroom and got his gums bleeding with a toothbrush then went into the living room where he laced up his boots while sitting on the couch and headed for the door. He took the uptown line to the Cathedral stop and got off, pushing his way through the many penitents headed in for a weekly, or, for the poorest, monthly empathy fix. He did not want to be last in line. The Cathedral was, as always, dark and sweltering. Inquisitors, their sock-like masks unfathomable, crossed among the faithful praying in their pews, polished boots 7 Latin tr. “My strength is from heaven, labor is prayer.”
clicking precisely against the stone floor. Allen caught the furtive glances toward the line for the empathy chambers of the supplicants they observed. No doubt they envied their brethren who had the wherewithal to afford empathy today. When it was his turn, Allen lit his candle with shaking hands, afraid he might put out the match in his excitement and dropped to his knee with the proper offering raised as the Inquisitor approached him. “Beati pauperes spiritu.” “I have sins to confess.” “Di immortales virtutem approbare, non adhibere debent.” When his empathy chamber was indicated, he hurried over and shut the curtain behind him. Once again, he clambered through the darkness toward the penitent’s bench, like some rodent in its burrow, and positioned himself. His fingers felt the well-worn wood at the bottom of the confession screen and slid to the other side soundlessly. “I have sins to confess.” Hands grabbed his hands, but they were not her hands. “Deus misereatur,” came the rather husky reply. Once again, Allen opened his mouth as if to speak, but was seized by contact with the priestess’ mind as the empathy machine jolted online. Bright light filled the small space and he felt the pain and hurt streaming out of him. The old feeling of emptiness followed, but it no longer satisfied him. He no longer wanted to feel empty. He wanted to feel full. Allen pulled back the curtain and joined the stream of recent penitents toward the back of the church. As he reached the huge steel doors at the Cathedral’s entrance, thrown open to the sounds of the busy street at this time of day, he paused and looked back toward the altar. The figure of Christ on the cross hung above all of it, the dimly remembered supervisor of this whole operation. Allen fished in his pocket and took out his coin purse. He drew it open and counted the money inside. He could certainly afford to go around at least one more time. He’d just have to miss next week or something. He and Amy could work it out. Allen stuffed the coin purse back into his pocket and buried his hands in the pouch at the front of his sweatshirt before joining the line again behind a wizened old woman. Two more trips through the line produced no results. Allen had given up justifying his spending by the third trip. He merely produced the coins when the Inquisitor approached, consequences be damned. In the empathy chamber, Allen easily found the peni-
tent’s bench and slid his fingers past the confession screen. “I have sins to confess.” He dimly saw a familiar face approach the screen at the opposite side. His breath caught in his throat. “You,” her voice half rasped, half sang. He tried to pull his fingers back to address her. To ask her the questions that were burning up his mind. She grabbed him in her impossible grip. The empathy machine came to life like he’d never seen it. The light blinded him and her hands grew tighter around his own, impossibly smooth fingers constricting him. Then, there was a voice in his head. “HELP ME.” His body tried to jump, tried to do all the things a surprised person is supposed to do, but, instead, he did nothing. “HELP ME.” The scream was plaintive and beautiful in his mind, a stark contrast to the priestess’ actual speaking voice. She let go of him and the empathy machine wound down. He sat, rooted to the spot for a moment before springing into action. Without knowing exactly what he was doing, Allen stood, backed up toward the curtain, and rammed his shoulder into the screen that separated them. At first, it barely moved, but with a few more attempts, the wood which held the mesh in place began to give. Eventually, a loud crack filled the small space and the screen gave way. Not quite expecting it to give, he wasn’t able to stop himself in time and fell forward, head and shoulders, through the newly opened gap. After extricating himself, he yanked the rest of the supports away and the screen slid to the floor. From there it was an easy process to climb through the resulting window into the space beyond. Allen crossed himself and knelt before her as if before Christ himself. He reached out with trembling hands and touched her pale, porcelain face. “No.” He backed away, suddenly realizing the magnitude of what had just happened. He had profaned the sacred; an unimaginable sin had been commited. He imagined it floating as a candle out in the nave, alone, shunned by those sins for which a person could atone. Yet, on the other hand, it filled him with an intense new feeling not unlike that he had felt on their first meeting, this unforgivable transgression. “Get these off.” The priestess gestured toward a set of electrodes that clung to her forehead, long wires trailing
Chris Marotta Best in Show Photography
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
back into the chair behind her and from there into the bank of blinking lights that was the empathy machine itself. He reached up and grasped the wires that linked her mind to the machine and pulled gently, careful not to hurt her, but the electrodes wouldn’t come loose. He looked at her, frustration on his furrowed face. She smiled. Nodded. He pulled, hard this time, and the electrodes tore off, taking pieces of her skin with them. The two bloody patches were disgustingly bright against her almost colorless forehead. The priestess bent forward with a silent cry, her face screwed up in pain. “There’s a service corridor behind me.” Her arm lifted slowly to indicate a door behind the empathy machine. Allen leaned down and put his arm behind her shoulders, helping the priestess to her feet. She needed his support for a moment to get to the door, but then she seemed to regain herself. As they made their way down the corridor and toward the Sacristy, Allen expected to hear alarms, running footsteps, shouts of protest. They ran as if the devil himself were nipping at their heels, but no one gave chase. As they tumbled through into the Sacristy, even the Inquisitor looked up at them, interrupted in blessing the communion wine. The mask moved, but Allen didn’t have time to decipher the expression. They were already out the rear door and bolting down the adjacent alley and into the street. They made quite a pair emerging onto the street. Allen was panting, half in exhaustion and half in uncontained excitement. He felt an amazing euphoria, but a new longing which he knew must be quenched. Somehow though, it seemed that the fingers pointed in their direction were not because of his flushed complexion. Instead, the turning heads and whispered exclamations were in reaction to the priestess, her robes flowing as she ran, blood oozing slowly from her forehead. She was outside the cathedral. Here she was, the sacred emerging into the profane world. Priestesses could not leave the cathedral. They had made vows of solitude, vows to God and the Church. Suddenly very aware of all the eyes on them, Allen pushed the priestess toward a bus stop. As they stood waiting for the next bus to arrive, an old man eyed the priestess silently from the other end of the bus stop. He lit a cigarette and seemed to assess the pair. Allen thought perhaps the man had nodded. That slight head motion seemed to suggest everything to him.
The bus screeched to a halt, the door clanging open and the two of them climbed onboard, leaving the old man behind. They sat in the rear, several pale-orange bucket seats separating them from the next rider. Next to Allen, the Priestess was self-consciously pushing her short-cropped hair around, trying in vain to hide the
She shivered and her wonderful hands tensed, wrinkles spreading improbably at the joints with the pressure. raw, bloody circles that still marked her freedom from the empathy machine. It was the first chance he had to really look at her. Her skin was impossibly pale and smooth, which was to be expected, he supposed, since she must have spent most of her time inside the empathy chamber. Her hair was red-blonde and cut almost in a masculine style. Yet, it was alluring all the same. However, it wasn’t her face or hair that really caught his attention. Instead, it was her fingers. Long and slender, they tapered to perfect ends crowned with shining and clean fingernails. “Thank you,” she said, turning and putting a hand on his knee. The sensation was electric. The touch of each fingertip felt separate and alive to him in a way that no other touch had before. He said nothing and simply looked into her eyes. She took her hand away and a moment passed where he just looked at her; she alternately rumpled and smoothed the hair above her forehead. The next time the bus stopped, she tried to get off, but Allen stopped her. After all this, he had to help her. They were connected. It had been that way since the moment they had first been in contact. He couldn’t let her leave him yet. It took some convincing but she finally agreed she would go back to his apartment to get some clothes that weren’t so conspicuous. Her name was Sister Marie-Teresa, she said, but before the convent, it had simply been Marie. She didn’t know
exactly what had happened when he had first come to confess to her, but pathways had opened between them that she had never felt before. She could feel not only his emotions, but also his mind. She could touch his mind. Marie had given him all those sins, all that pain, by accident. She had never intended that, but it had been a feeling of emptiness she had forgotten. To carry only her own emotional weight
Her pale skin was a translucent sheet as it reflected the light from the lamp on the bedside table in front of her.
was a revelation. She had tried to perform the same act with other penitents but it had not worked. That night, Marie had told the Rector that she wanted to renounce her vows. She could no longer bear the constricting sense of other people’s guilt. Her life was little more than a constant nightmare. This was unacceptable. It was a grave and unforgivable sin to renounce one’s vows to the Church. “He told me it was impossible. I could never leave. The machines don’t work without the priestesses operating them. Women…” She paused, looking down at the floor and then seemed to find something very interesting at the front of the bus. “When you came back,” she continued, absently staring ahead, “I knew it was my best chance to get out of there.” There was a long pause and then she turned back toward him, grabbing his arm with those long, perfect fingers. “You understand me,” she said, “like no one else can.” “I don’t know.” Marie’s face darkened. She shivered and her wonderful hands tensed, wrinkles spreading improbably at the joints with the pressure. She wrapped them around each other in her lap. “Are you alright?” “Tremors.” She shook her head, the short red-blonde locks swaying slightly and catching his eye. “They come all the time when I’m not in the machine. None of those feelings ever really leave. I just, you know, try to ignore them. I can’t always do it.”
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
*** When they got to the apartment, Allen showed her Amy’s clothes where they hung in the cramped bedroom closet. Marie selected a baggy white shirt and a pair of stretchy black pants and asked that he wait in the living room while she changed. As he sat on the couch, he thought about calling Amy, but wondered what he would tell her. Instead, he just stared at the phone, thinking of Marie changing in the next room. Her body exposed, open to him perhaps as he had been open to her in the empathy chamber. He thought of the short hair and the painful wounds she could not hide. Without exactly thinking, he got up and went back to the bedroom door. Grasping the door-handle with a sweaty palm, he pushed it open and stepped into the room. Marie was standing next to the bed, in the pants she had chosen, with the shirt still in her left hand, dangling as though she had been about to put it on but had been distracted by a better idea instead. She looked rather different without the robe on. Her body was slim, rather boyish. There was almost no curve to her ass, unlike Amy. Her pale skin was a translucent sheet as it reflected the light from the lamp on the bedside table in front of her. She didn’t turn around when he came in, but just stood there. Absent of warning, Allen came up behind her and planted a kiss on her shoulder and then another on her neck, placing his hand on her arm and turning her around. “No.” She pushed him away with her amazing fingers. He just stood there, confused and embarrassed. Hadn’t this been what would always happen, the logical conclusion of their impossible intimacy of minds? He wanted to take her pain, be filled with it again. “No.” Marie backed away and sat on the bed, making no effort to cover her breasts. Her clean fingernails pointed toward the open drawer in the bedside table and the gun that he and Amy kept there. “I want to die.” “But, I love you,” he pleaded before he realized what he had said. “I want you to kill me. I can’t live with what I am, what I’ve become. It never goes away. I told you that. You felt it. You know what it feels like. That’s what I feel every waking hour.” He stood there, hand on his belt, stopped in the moment of unbuckling it and she looked up at him imploringly. She reached into the drawer and pulled the gun out, holding it toward him on her palm like the offering he had given so many times at the cathedral, the silver metal of the barrel almost matching those coins.
None of this had been what he thought. He had never seen this, never known this was what she felt. She said he knew her, but she was wrong. He didn’t really know anything about her. He hadn’t felt anything that was real from her. It had only been real in him. Just in him. He did nothing. “Kill me.” She looked at the floor and held the gun up higher. He touched it, fingering the trigger. A moment passed. Allen pushed the gun away and unbuckled his pants anyway. He would profane her. It was wrong, a sin, but that was why he wanted to do it. That was why he had to do it. It was real. *** MORNING DEVOTIONAL: September 22nd, 2041 Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, anathema sit.8 Remember today to always give glory to God and follow his commandments. The Church Militant is His divine representative on Earth and must be respected and obeyed. Do not forget the example of Allen Erasmus Taglitz who is, forthwith, excommunicated from the fold of God’s Church. Please Note: We are now beginning to take reservations for Advent season Empathy Reconciliation. Do not forget. The Sacraments are important. END
8 Latin tr. “For the greater glory of God, let him be anathema (i.e. excommunicated).”
In The Beanbag Corner Rachel Webb
I. My mother doesn’t believe in nannies. Or paying for anything, really, that a book can do for free. She packs me, all tie-dyed knees and thick glasses smudged with freckles into her Volkswagen Rabbit chipped, with the kind of pale blue that knows long ribbons of desert blacktop. II. On the way to work, we stop at Ziegfried’s. Spätzle and wurst to go for her lunch break, chocolates shaped like ladybugs. The sauerkraut pickles my braids, and the stout woman with plastic hair wipes her hands on an apron with blood leaking out of the pocket. III. I am to stay in the children’s department on the second floor during my mother’s shifts. Guarded by an aquamarine mural of Rapunzel, as if she had let down her hair and the long blond strands had dragged her into the sea. There, the bookshelves are low to the ground. A pair of gerbils caged in the corner, they have a tiny version of Runaway Ralph under their shredded newspaper and dream of motorcycles at midnight, when the library is dark. IV. At lunch, I wait for her next to the desk. She glances through the card catalog, her fingertips stained with ink as they flip through the manila cards. So quick, and so sure. Ordnung. Watching her, I always itch to push the heavy drawers over, just to see the cream colored squares flutter through the air with the dust and fan over the floor. Dewey-decimal lily pads.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Tree of Shadows Shaun Flynn
The Feeders Shaun Flynn
The man watched the feeders swaying on an old wire. He hid behind the brown woodshed, waiting for the sound. Thwat-thwat-thwat It came from the pine; the rapid-fire beat of a chickadee’s gray wings as it landed on the limb of a twisted pear tree. The man always thought the sound was too powerful for such a creature. He watched as the bird, no bigger than his thumb, neurotically twitched upon its perch. It looked up and down, back and forth, searching for something that might help make up its mind to leap. In a blur, the chickadee dove. It fell freely to the feeder, catching itself from falling farther by opening parachute wings and stopping gravity with a barricade of feathers. At its new perch, the bird jerked its head and stared briefly at its own black eyes in the metallic reflection of the feeder. Then it grabbed a seed in its beak and bobbed through the air into the pine. The man only saw gray. He could never tell if the first bird at his feeders was the dumbest, bravest, or hungriest of the birds. More would soon come. The chickadees—eyes hidden beneath their black caps— were the most frequent visitors at first, but soon the junco, red-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, cardinal, blue jay and golden finch joined in a song to the rising winter sun. The man rarely watched the birds once the feeders were filled. He knew their movements. He knew that in the morning the red body and beak of a cardinal would illuminate the shadows of an old house feeder. He knew that by midday, families of golden finch would flock to the high-rise feeders and argue over who would be the first to eat the red millet. He knew that by the early evening, blue jays would bully their way to a meal in a flash of azure feathers. By nightfall the birds would be gone. The nyak-nyak of the nuthatch, the peter-peter of the titmouse, the lonely fee-bee of a chickadee would
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
be replaced by the whisper of treetops and the occasional sepulchral screech of an owl celebrating a satisfying catch. The man knew these things; he no longer needed to see them. The man measured time by the feeder. Seed by seed, taken gingerly from six round holes, until the smooth hour glass contained only those seeds that could not be reached. A week after the man first provided seed he found the feeders empty. The sun had not yet risen, but the man knew the birds would be waiting. He carried the bags of millet and sunflower seeds to the feeders. As he felt the granular weight of the seed sift through his fingers he observed the chaotic painting of seed shells and claw prints left behind in the snow. A single, tiny, white feather shook in the soft morning wind as it hung to the bark of the old pear tree. The man finished and walked toward the shed. Before he even turned around to watch the first bird arrive, he heard the thwat-thwat-thwat of a chickadee’s wings. “He’s getting braver,” the man thought as he stomped snow from his boots and entered his home. Inside, the man heard the soft jingle of a pewter spoon against a ceramic bowl. The man’s son sat at the kitchen table. A rivulet of milk fell from his chin—his eyes fixed on the birds. “What are you doing up so early?” the man asked. The boy didn’t break his gaze. A nuthatch dangled by a
It fell freely to the feeder, catching itself from falling farther by opening parachute wings and stopping gravity with a barricade of feathers.
claw from the metal perch of one of the feeders. It thrust its needle beak into the feeder and removed a single gold seed, and then burst from the perch into the pine. “Watching,” the boy replied as his gaze shifted to a junco hopping through the snow. The man poured a cup of coffee and sat down to watch his son watch the birds. The birds paid no attention to their audience. The boy paid no attention to his. The man wondered how long they sat. The boy’s cereal was gone and the rivulet of milk on the boy’s chin had dried to a crusty white. And yet, the boy still stared. The sun was high enough now that the gray, early morning snow lost all its color and just glowed white. The man was amazed by his son’s unflinching curiosity. The movement of the birds mesmerized the boy. The stillness of the boy mesmerized the man. Thwack! The trance was broken. The man looked towards the window and saw four small, white feathers plastered to the glass. A blue jay sat high in the pear tree preparing to jump for its food, screeching, thieef-thieef. The rest of the birds were gone—hiding, watching from the pine. The boy was gone too. The man turned around to see the boy running out the door into the snow. The man did not follow. Instead, he watched. The boy entered the frame of the window, running in an awkwardly beautiful movement through the deep snow. A chickadee slouched, hidden in the mosaic of seed scattered below the feeders. The bird appeared like all the other chickadees that visited the yard. Its black cap hid its glassy eyes. The white band of feathers streaking from the beak to the back of the marble-sized head. The gray belly puffed in the winter air, shielding the thin frame from ice and snow. The wings seemed strange though. The right wing did not shoot back towards the tail in perfect black and white
Paper Trees Hellen Killeen
lines. It did not meet the left wing. It flared to the sun, feathers splayed in the open air. The boy approached. He knelt and began to reach his black gloves towards the bird, but as he did so, the bird began to shake. The boy quickly pulled his hands to his chest. The bird stopped. The boy, again, reached his gloves towards the bird The bird shook. The boy recoiled his hands. The man watched his son. The other birds moved closer to the feeder. The boy reached for the bird again, not stopping this time when the bird shook. His hands cupped the body and lifted it towards his chest. It took no effort from the boy. The bird continued to shake. The man watched as his son slowly stood. When he had nearly reached his full height—still two feet from the feeders hanging above his head—the bird shrieked. Per-chick-o-reeeeeee! The man could hear the sound through the glass window. It was an unnatural sound—shrill and angry like wanton death. Startled, the boy dropped the bird. His hands at his sides, the boy loomed over the bird. He stared at its broken body. The man wondered what his son thought of the stubborn bird. “He only wants to help the bird and it denies him?” the man thought. “The stupid bird wants to die?” The man watched as his son lifted his boot, turned and walked away through the snow. When the boy was out of view, the bird hopped to the mosaic of seed below the feeders. A junco joined in and soon a family of golden finch argued at the high-rise. The boy entered the kitchen, took off his boots, his jacket, his gloves. A small, white feather floated to the ground. The boy did not see it. The man did. The man did not know what to say to his son.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Darkness did not scare this bird, only the gloves of a little boy. The rest of the day, the boy went about his normal activities. He read his book; he went sledding with a neighborhood friend. Not once did he look at the feeders or talk about the birds. The man tried to chop wood for the fireplace, but he heard the tap-tap-tap of a woodpecker mocking him on the wood of the pear tree. The peter-peter of the titmouse breached the window and drew the man’s attention away from his work and towards the feeders. Each time the man became distracted by the movement of the birds, he peered through the window at the broken chickadee hopping through the snow. It pecked the discarded seed, indifferent to the crooked wing splayed on its back. The indifference angered the man. The man thought about going to the feeders and trying to help the bird, like his son. But the image of the bird shaking and the sound of its shriek stopped him. The man studied the bird. As the day progressed, it hopped around the snow with increasing vigor. The other birds had left, escaping nightfall in the insulated needles of the evergreen. And still the bird hopped and ate. Darkness did not scare this bird, only the gloves of a little boy. The man chuckled at the bird’s resilience. He went to tell his son. When he opened the bedroom door, the man was surprised to find his son staring intently, as he had that morning, out the window at the snow below. The man approached the boy and opened his bearded lips to tell him the hopeful news, but he was interrupted by a flash of red against the gray stonewall surrounding the feeders. A fox meandered through the mosaic of seeds. It approached the chickadee. Father and son watched without a word, while the fox loomed over the strange creature. With-
out hesitation, the fox gently picked up the bird and scampered into the woods. The bird did not shake or shriek. It succumbed, without fear. At last the man spoke: “I’m sorry, my son.” “Sorry for what?” A week had passed and the time had come to fill the feeders. The boy poured the seed. He liked feeling the granular weight fall through his fingers. When he finished, the boy handed the feeders to his father. The man lifted the feeders to their hooks and watched the old wire sag with the weight. The two walked back toward the brown shed. Before they could turn around to see the first bird land, they heard the thwatthwat-thwat of parachute wings. They did not look back.
District of Columbia Benjamin Walker
I applaud the Navy snipers on the rooftops— men standing guard with automatic weapons on unlit Metro cars and circling the House of Saud while the neckties on K Street and the brass buttons in the Pentagon outgun everyone I honor the Congressmen who get the last word without listening to ours— they say don’t hand out clean needles then slip away at night hugging their comforters in cool Virginia I sing praises for the 5-0 who understand why we left our IDs at home— who patrol Spring Valley and the National Cathedral at 3 AM— who sleep parked on Nebraska and Constitution while a Balkan melee rages across the Anacostia river I offer a toast to the CVS guy who locked up all the condoms in the Navy Yard and through the lower wards— as if this swamp isn’t muggy enough In this city— as long as it remains— men on the street come up to me cold as I leave theaters right out of Chinatown— one takes my offered cigarette but refuses my dollar then says I like you though, See? You look me right In the eyes
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
I scrubbed and scrubbed the kitchen sink â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;til Clorox bleached and took away the polish off my fingernails, the layers of guilt, (Marlboro) red rubbed off raisin thumbs, far too numb to feel. It was 3AM when I stopped â&#x20AC;&#x201C; no comfort in the weak fluorescence, no solace in the empty fridge breathing in those dark, deep intervals, humming into the barren charcoal night.
Pushing a pane open, my bare knees, shins press against the windowmesh; cedar October air rushing in; the tails of beat, battered rugs lifting off chairbacks and still yet, no goosebumps. Still yet, just the steam from violent, bubbling water, pressing against my chest. The ever expanding tea leaves, black, steeping and seeping and sinking to the very bottom of the mug.
Wake Up, Please Nora Tumas Best in Show Poetry
I often wonder how my double-O generations of plastic hapless America cleverly destroy their bodies in the evenings or why they don’t, why we always wake shaking and slump-tired from peripatetic earth and body sharing, from our cigarettes tracing ladders, the ladles and the dog-stars disguised by crepuscular mist, where we’d be smoking in lipless polka dot dresses as the sun crawls over fountains hemp scratching faces necks genitals arms feet and we ride piggyback through water jingle jangling and thought-aware, the Turkish scarves dragged in curbside puddles by newspaper fields of new corn and wheat and stem where I live upstairs in tapestries in nipple painted walls and wood and through you, where we pierce our noses and your noses and we survive the summer by throwing out our shoes and everything we own, where I follow everyone with Polaroids with oils dripping from my apothecary bottles and giant foolish murals preen some muscles citywide, when we dream of sliding back to New Jersey and hoboing the milkshake joints and lazy bars on the sides of highways, we’d pour milk and milkshakes on the hobos’ heads and help them jerk off on the overpasses of Route 130, where twelve-year-olds roll freshly plucked sassafras joints in Palmyra and pretend to dilate as absolutely nothing happened, where she contemplates quitting mountain school to hula-hoop in professor-less drum circles, where we overhear them in the circle of the cafeteria-mensa claiming that German is the only real language and what you say are made up words, you told me you maybe understood, but that giant marble buildings with wigs on them were not as interesting as elegant tourist cliffs and Harold revamping hearses in Arlington copycat cemeteries or California scarred steeples pointing towards San Francisco, surfing balls-high on fuzzy curves over sluggish seas, but more subtle and interesting was smoking in the tree with four angled trunks in the middle of the monuments, where we’d smoke in the tree and climb up the tree, drink under the tree and piss behind the tree and walk later drug-sprawled in the basin, stagnant fifty stars half a mile over, where four and five weeks later we had a ceremony in a white-walled hallway filled with doors and silence and we drank Kava root, mud root, toothpaste, bowl knee-high: I was an animal getting special K anesthesia, I was an ‘80s New York club kid and I was in the war cutting off the frozen limbs of soldiers like me, where Birsu—Turkish and scarved—would tell me 11 was the number of open doors, let them in and let them out, and carry numbers in your pockets for when you need them, but her boyfriend looks like my older brother and I wonder what the point of praying for three hours is, she prays for three hours every day, she wraps black skirts with scarves, evil eyes watching from the kitchen, copper sink, kneeling, begging for interesting children who were more like me, where five years ago hybrid J.M. and I listened only to glam rock and spoke only in tongues in Polari to varda the Omi Palone and to tart up music like a prostitute, like a Christmas tree, watching Haynes films in filthy basements and cuddling, glad all thirty close friends hated learning, yes, we hated it together, Anita! I wear all your clothing went to your grave and stole your stove and closet, racked up the sweaters and patent-leather shoe collections on top of my body so I smell like you and remember you until my Russian perfumes take over, smoke and mothering are lost, you’re lost, where you ask why I’ve become what I hate, a drugged drunken soul-searching soul searcher, when six-years-old we were searching souls, but before the last 19 years I teetotaled a rhythm of knit and purl and crisis criss-cross and walk in lines straight folded and paper can’t be folded more than seven times, don’t even bother trying origami,
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Untitled Emily Reid
where the geishas will tell you it was better long before the war when necks were sexy split peachy poems, wrists turned to pour tea and rice-wine, but we said we’d never be those kids, the drugged kids fail Uni and barely work, but always high as secretaries in firms that only three people care about, where we’ll instead open our own Kaffeehaus in Collingswood but really we’ll follow rape victims on TV and move to France and debate whether Alsace is German soil or French soil or just brown dirt that was there before and will still be there later, where back in Philadelphian suburbia, Russell pot-head person wants to fuck all day and cuddle all night and love only me, Italian food and bud weed dank stash Mary Jane’s small-shoed skirted stems, where in our cocoon only I vote and hate that you love ugliness you love punk rock noise cleverly disguised as theory chord-rope, where in the basements of 9:30 PM you do explain or argue or dream where punk was twice invented, leather-jacketed in the bed of U Street sewers dark renaissance paintings with white undershirt and rubber soles, listening stoned every night on Meridian’s front smoking porch saying life makes sense when you climb and if drugs were not a staple he’d be dead for sure,
Russ, please hitchhike from the sworn tobacco fields of Virginia to march on Washington, to come and fuck me in the shadows of a fallen moon, to smell like smoke and vanilla against my skin, throbbing and growing and giggling with the animal urges of this shared infancy, come greet me with your hairy body sweating from too much thrusting, from three months of separation from a warrior, but where will we protest now, unless waving flags and slowly ambling is a fucking protest but youth today wants and grabs and needs and is itself, iPod mine and dinner mine, go away, where they all scuff by skidding their shoes and order-in Chinese and get the latest phone subscription every mailed month, order up seventeen or nineteen magazines and polos are made in China not Japan and no one minds that commercials actually work, so why celebrate the down of sex and drugs when breathing suits some just dandelions, just lilies, just car parks in the middle of level-headed wide boulevard cities, not Paris but four thousand years later Washington stole from the island, where intravenous Venus sitting outside the café with some breasts covered tight but legs spread in triangular pants and pine needle injected into thighbones, she’ll be a busboy in a minute, just let her finish cleaning up her insides till they’re grocer fresh, where, oh boring, they make your house into a bookstore, books creeping up the stairways in the sink homemade kindergarten labeling with sharpie, fading and growing old in the South East diamond side by Eastern Market, burned by Adolf Cluss’s spirit since no one cared about honey crisp apple farmers’ existential book vendors or sari skirts really sewn in Jackie O’s backyard not Thailand streams not DC streams but streets, where we decided to drop the mod and drop the beat and garner hippie shit and ride in some ‘92 Subaru barely moving to folk festivals in Schwenksville farmland letting our bodies and ankle feet absorb endless mud, but we’re drugged enough not to care with brightly painted hash-ope-weed bowls and doses and Molly wearing dashiki and tie-dye, pants-less, where some fat man much younger than his voice named Tomato wears a hard hat and pours warm vodka into his orange juice carton, sharing his shit-on-a-shingle, sharing his papers with us and we wake up choking on screwdrivers and hammers in muddy straw-stirred fields of music, where people come to Fest to get fucked up and the underage condom-less screw in tents, forget the music, but no showers only shitting only creeks with aging hippies singing to the yellow boombox Build Me Up Buttercup naked and beards drowning, when on the last night our muddy feet spoon and our dreadlocks overlap diagonally in sticky midnight tent sleeping, where they’re so horny on the blue-stitched hammock laying in mutual filth, listening to fiddlers hung-over pizzicato still drunk, surrounded by more trees more hammocks but those two fuck anyway behind the children’s stage, overwhelmed by pheromones and weed breath tit sweat, only months later my people ride the sleepy orange plastic metro with top hats and walking sticks, reading Wilde sober sleeping, yet waking holding Ginsberg, hoping 2,149 words is a secret rhythm-beat number of poetry, why, we all know Canadians do it better and they name their guitars and cats after Leonard Cohen or after some bitch slutting herself on the Wildwood boardwalk with raspberry vodka lemonade with open skirts jammed with dick or finger or boot, where unwanted foursomes happen in black silken sheets under fake roses, under fake apartment buildings in antiques row on Pine Street, silver mohawked underlings who follow signs to South Street to anarchist bookshops and underground headshops disguised as churches, where they fail to recreate twenty years prior of Berlin curtain-hangings, where red-headed bisexuals fall in love with tripping women half-heartedly stoning roosting birds, in love with unwanted cemetery conversations with Masonic temples and with wind, where we geocache a heist, adult treasure hunters of the Irenic Council, as Hildegard von Bingen echoes catacombs laced with nutmeg visions, snowflake eye flutterings and Chinatown bus trips home, red-eye chillum hidden by pink-eye parading with the gays, where we frequent hookah bars and teahouses and disguise freckle-pink skin as Moroccan and act like our timeless parents did,
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
and since when did wearing bandanas and faking prescriptions create interesting people, Krishna knows just dying garners no respect from the Warhol factory sect, when all of my favorite teachers are dead the inspiration of useless artists rely on regular raspberry chai servers with severe facial hair and bullet wads of cash and dope, where our inspirations come from dead purists, from shrunken musicians stringing up banjos in their closets, growing old, where strangers once met and cleaned the Hudson River, shining in a Wonderland Restaurant where friends eat disgusting food and tell disgusting jokes because they can, where afterwards primped delinquents Harvest everything from suburban lawns under exhausted seventies lot lamps, screeching in princess jeeps to escape donut suited slugger-bat wielders, where a-line haircuts make California less obvious, carrying perfect bodies with sturdy 37-centimeter Icelandic shoes, so stop wearing scarves in summer, stop complaining about absent academia, stop vomiting into your cigarettes, stop licking your neighbor’s guitar and start living in a city, start washing in a brook, start reading anything and pause your breathing, they might find Dupont donator, but where is the art on cinderblock walls, where did New York move, where is the District’s own magnolia, where are the trees and where are the angel semen cupcakes, please sing “O Fortuna” with me, shuffle the horseshoe dinosaurs so they can mate in piles, pretend a job and writing poetry will matter, where driving in massive cars to random beaches listening to 80s hair metal isn’t so bad as sloppy Mexican food in and out, or stripping naked in a cape with only rings on, it’s forty degrees outside the water and we change in a pirate ship and drink a little, dripping slightly since we’re cod, we’re shrimp, when we strum our ukuleles and I sing “All My Trials” the new Baez in the Jefferson Memorial, hush says the guard, he’ll clap later when we flash him nip, where we suntanned in the snow drifts belly up, drinking on the roofs of American University, where we discover sparkling ciders and woolen sweaters and three coals and some voices and we’ll make it, where I see others aren’t as lucky as the bowing mermaids of this corporate city who dance red-headed gypsy dances of Bavarian upbringing, who grew peaches in their cupboards, who kicked goats and busked with the homeless and the braless and the Baltimore shit-eaters, who drove hours for specific cornfields of horses and Quaker gravestone Indian trails, who loved her inappropriately as his sister’s ears pressed against the walls, cunt wet with kismet, who leeched onto native language speakers knitting sorrows into jackets, where only drugs ever kept them together, when we’d climb the devil’s highway home to festivals in Jersey, to the tele-visions of the people I’d always sworn I hated, to my teachers dangling chimes for me to find them, to the hapless doodlers and migrants surrounding the evenings, we shut them out with bamboo doors and stairs and travel back to patchouli childhoods and with you, I will get high in some bland-named coffeehouse and throw away my cell phone and barely watch the leather jackets swirl their chais and chairs and never think again.
Just for Expression Kyoko Takenaka
White Rhino Benjamin Walker
Where he burned away his stomach he found ribs underneath. Pulling up his shirt, showing us, he asked for a glass of Shiraz to wash down the last of his thirty-five tabs. When I woke up hours later our coffee table post-game reported on the plastic bags of bud he pinched and the bottles of wine he drained. I found him sleeping with four boxes of Kraft Dinner emptied in the unfinished bowls at the foot of my couch. White Rhino and Xanax spilled. A strain curiously strong, the high creeps before it charges, growing beyond control, pulling a switchblade and tearing down the Bos-Wash corridor until it rests on a bed of broken pieces with acid on its tongue.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Oceanography Andrea Lum
The Atlantic ebbs; it does not flow. It leaps upon these sallowed shores and hits the sand with quick slick slaps, cymbals clashing, crashing then retreating, taking with it the lost hermit crabs, the sea glass, the us, too. I am foolish to think this ocean to be tender, to think it will keep me amidst two places at once, bobbing and waving as I float. Instead, it is aggressive. Like driftwood I am swept further and further into the current, then tossed away from this violent sea and far, too far, away from you.
Mt. Washington Shaun Flynn
Katherine Nolen Best in Show Prose
Brett is winded. I can tell by the way he’s running, or actually, by the way he isn’t running. Brett normally possesses a gazelle’s grace when he’s on the basketball court—there’s a smooth, loping ease about his legs as they carry him up and down the court. He tilts forward on a slight angle as he runs, but his shoulders don’t hunch. Most of the other boys on the team look like hulking beanpoles tripping to their positions, but not Brett. He moves with the slightness and poise of a ballerina. I would never tell him this, ever. He’d think it makes him less macho or whatever. It doesn’t though. I’m still trying to make Brett understand that beauty doesn’t always have to be feminine. Because that’s what Brett is when he plays basketball: he’s beautiful. Tonight, though, he looks like he’s in bad shape. His head keeps bobbing, which is a tell-tale sign he’s beat. Brett should ease up, relax a little. The rest of his teammates are. There’s only forty-three seconds left in the game, and we’re up by what I think is a pretty solid seven points. He can’t really need to sprint like that. Then again, that’s what I like about him. Brett always gives one hundred and ten percent of himself to whatever he’s doing. He’d never realized this until I told him. It was during our third date, right after our first real make-out session. “Why do you like me?” Brett asked while we lounged on my couch. “I mean, what is it about me that made you notice?” When I told him about the 110% thing, and how much I admire him for it, he just shrugged. “When I do something, I like to do it right. Why bother with it if you’re just gonna dick around?” It’s funny, because now whenever anyone compliments Brett on his drive, he smiles and says something like, “That’s me, Mr. 110%.” He’s half making fun of himself when he says it, but I think the other half of him is proud of it. And that makes me happy. Surprisingly, Brett doesn’t have the highest self-esteem. I like pointing out his good qualities and watching his face light up when he realizes maybe he’s not so lame after all. The opposing team manages to put up two more points, but that’s it. Their star player lobs a brick at the buzzer, and we win. Our bleachers go wild with happy parents, shrieking girlfriends, and football jocks nodding their heads in approval of the game’s outcome. I see Brett get in line with the rest of the team and shake hands with the losers. Some of the other guys are celebrating in a big way, pumping their fists and yelling to their buddies
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Our bleachers go wild with happy parents, shrieking girlfriends, and football jocks, nodding their heads in approval of the game’s outcome.
about getting smashed after this. They look like major tools. But not Brett. He moves down the line of players and quietly shakes hands with the other team. That’s another reason I like him: he’s classy. It’s only after he’s finished that he turns to scan the crowd. When his eyes fall on me a huge smile spreads across his face. He gives me a nod. I nod back and head out to the parking lot. Brett’ll celebrate with his teammates tonight and then call me late tomorrow morning. We’ll talk on the phone for a while and then head out of town to grab lunch and hang for the rest of the day. It’s our system. And, so far, it works. I still remember my first Brad Pitt movie—Legends of the Fall, with Anthony Hopkins and Aidan Quinn. It came out when I was fifteen, and I desperately wanted to see it. Eventually I managed to convince my older sister to take me. We sat towards the back of the theater, in the left bank of seats. At some point during those two hours I realized I was gay. I’d kinda known for a while, but that movie closed the deal. Hell, what guy wouldn’t be gay after watching Brad ride around on horses in that I’m-a-rugged-manly-man-who-hasn’tshowered-in-weeks-and-is-still-gorgeous way of his? Once I knew for sure, I told my parents. I’ve gone to several Gay and Lesbian Society meetings over the years (my mother’s decision, not mine), and I’ve heard enough comingout stories to make your head spin. Most spared the dramatics, but there were a couple doozies. One guy came out at his great-grandmother’s ninetieth birthday party, and the shock of his announcement gave the guest of honor a stroke. Another had been bedazzling his clothing for years and wore heels everywhere—his parents were still surprised. There was one girl who told her mother she was a lesbian and had been severely depressed for years. Her mother’s response: “Well maybe if you weren’t such a sourpuss all the
CALCULUS David Feder
time boys would want to date you. Hopefully you’ll have better luck with girls.” She patted her daughter on the head and walked away. My own announcement was unremarkable. I sat my parents down at the kitchen table the night after I saw Legends of the Fall and told them I was gay. Neither said anything while I spoke. When I finished, my mother told me she and my dad loved me so much and thanked me for having the courage to tell them. My dad didn’t say anything, he just took my hand and held it. That was the only time I’ve seen my father without words, and I don’t blame him, I guess. He’s always preached that the Carson family doesn’t judge, not on race or gender or sexuality or anything. But even so, it must have been hard for him to hear. I guess it’s worth mentioning that I’m not obviously gay. I do theater, but I’m not one of those guys who wear scarves or man-Uggs or anything like that. There are still some kids at school just discovering I’m into guys, and I came out nearly three years ago. You can probably attribute the discretion to the fact that I have some pretty awesome friends. They didn’t go blabbing to everyone or make a big deal out of it. I’m lucky, way luckier than some other gays I’ve met. I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t lose friends. And there were a few angry telephone calls; even living in the suburbs of New York, some people don’t want their sons or daughters exposed to behavior they deem “unchristian.” I could tell these people about their saintly Mollys and Mary Lous sleeping with half the wrestling team or their do-gooder Johns and Peters shooting up before school every day, but I don’t. It’s not worth it. I’m a senior; I’m off to college next year; I have a great support system; and I’m comfortable with my sexuality. Like I said, I’m lucky. Brett calls me the next morning around 11:30. “Hiya,” I say, balancing my phone between my shoulder and ear as I type on my laptop. “Hey,” Brett mumbles in reply. “Rough night?” I guess. “Mmmm…Coach kept us for an hour after the game to go over the tape, and then Meg and I went over to Ricky’s with some guys.” Ah yes, Meg, Brett’s girlfriend. Not something I’m okay with, but Brett assures me it’s just for appearances’ sake. Still, it’s something we’ll need to talk about. Eventually. “So what do you want to do today?” I ask. “You could
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
come over here if you want. We could watch the game, I know my dad would love to watch it with someone who knows basketball. Then maybe we can do something afterwards.” Unlike Brett’s parents, mine know about the two of us. They’re a little concerned about the fact that we’re hiding our relationship, but I’ve assured them it’s for the best. Brett isn’t ready for people to know. And I can wait for him. “That’s actually why I’m calling. I can’t hang out today. The old man is dragging me to some scouting thing for next year. I’ve told him it’s a waste of time; I’m not big enough to play in college, but he doesn’t give a shit. Let’s do something tomorrow, okay? Meet up at Raymond’s.” I roll my eyes. Raymond’s is this seedy little pub on the outskirts of town where they don’t card you. Normally when we go, Brett gets completely wasted and talks about how if his old man ever knew he were gay he’d destroy Brett. I don’t like when he drinks—he gets mean—but I’d rather have him drunk with me than drunk with some jackasses from his team. I want to tell Brett I don’t want to go to Raymond’s, but he sounds upset, and I don’t want to push him. Brett cries a lot. Like, a lot, and I’m afraid if I upset him he won’t want to get together at all.
I could tell these people about their saintly Mollys and Mary Lous sleeping with half the wrestling team or their their do-gooder Johns and Peters shooting up before school every day, but I don’t.
“Fine,” I sigh. “Let’s go to Raymond’s.” “Sweet, I’ll meet you there around 2. Have a good one, man.” I hang up and sigh again. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between myself and some guy from the basketball team Brett would enjoy having a beer with. Sometimes I wonder if there is a difference.
Brett is already nursing a Yuengling when I push through Raymond’s door and shoulder my way to the bar. “Hey man!” Brett’s face lights up as he makes out my features through the dim lights and smoke. “How you doing?” He runs his hand along my leg as I sit. “Fine,” I reply. “Listen, yesterday wasn’t as much of a shitshow as I thought it would be. I talked to this one guy who was real with me—told me I probably wouldn’t get recruited with my height, but I might have a shot as a walk-on. I figured, what, for Division III? But he said from the tapes he’s seen I could maybe swing Division II! If I start bulking up now, you know, I should be okay in the fall. I’m stoked!” I listen intently while the bartender asks me what I’ll have. “Pepsi,” I say. I’m not drinking; someone has to be responsible. “Man, Ryan, did you hear me?” Brett asks. “I’m gonna go out for college ball! You’ve been trying to convince me to do this for months.” I’m happy for Brett, more than happy. Ecstatic, really. But for some reason I can’t tell him that. Not here. Not in some grungy bar on I-90 where he’s started drinking at 2 in the afternoon. “I hate it here,” I say instead. Brett looks confused. “What?” “I hate it here,” I repeat. “This place is pathetic. I hate it.” “Ryan,” Brett says, “you okay? We’ve been here before and all…” “I know, and I didn’t like it those times either. Why can’t we go somewhere else? Somewhere closer to home?” “You know why.” Brett lowers his voice. “I wouldn’t know what to say if someone saw us.” “So what if someone sees us?” I retort. “We can’t just be friends? We can’t just be two guys out getting a bite to eat?” Brett spins his beer bottle around and around. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t look at me. The bartender brings me my Pepsi. “Fine,” I say. I’m halfway done my drink when Brett jumps up. “Let’s get out of here,” he says abruptly. “Let’s go.” “Where?” I ask. “My house. You can meet my old man and stuff. C’mon, let’s go.” Instinctively, he grabs my hand and pulls me towards the exit. An older man sitting by the window looks us over, his eyes squint, as if that will make it easier for him to pass judgment. I’m glad he looked. It’s time someone saw.
Brett began talking to me last February. He walked up to my desk in AP Economics one day and asked, “You’re gay, right?” I’d been expecting this question as soon as I saw he was beelining for me. I got this shit from the guys at school all the time: “You’re gay, right?” Yes, I’d reply. “Hehe. Faggot.” God I hate that word. I was used to it though. I was also used to in-school suspensions for beating the crap out of these guys after their hilarious comments. My mother protested these suspensions furiously, claiming I was simply taking action after being sexually harassed, but my vice principal would put up his hands and say, “I know, but there’s nothing I can do. Ryan swung first.” I answered “Yeah”to Brett’s question, casually pushing my textbook aside to clear the way for what I assumed would be an aggressive lunge on my part, but, to my surprise, Brett nodded and sat down. “Yeah, I knew that, I just wanted to hear it from you.” He settled back in his chair and looked at me. Completely nonplussed, I sat in silence. Was he expecting me to say something? “How did you know?” was Brett’s next question. I didn’t respond at first; years of bullying had taught me to be wary. Brett’s mouth curled into a smile, and he leaned closer to me: “C’mon,” he said, “I’m just curious, honestly. How did you know?” I met his gaze. “I just did,” I replied. “It’s something you just know.” Brett nodded again. “Yeah. I think I knew that too.” Brett’s questions continued from there—when did I know, who was the first person I told, did people treat me differently after the fact. I humored him, but all the while I was trying to figure out why he was so intrigued. I guess you could say I was slow on the uptake. It wasn’t until May that I finally got it. I was leaving a grad party, and Brett followed me to my car. He grabbed me, spun me around, and kissed me square on the mouth. Brett likes to joke that it’s a good thing I figured out his intentions then, because otherwise he doesn’t know what he would have done to get my attention. I think about that night a lot; it’s the only time Brett’s kissed me without first looking around to make sure no one’s watching. Brett’s house is big but not ostentatious: three stories, white siding, blue shutters, and a basketball hoop in the driveway. It is the picture of suburban normalcy. “I like your house,” I say to Brett. “Thanks,” he mumbles and gets out of the car. He’s
EARTHLY BOUND Felix Penzarella
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
nervous. As soon as Brett opens the door to the house we’re hit by the aroma of baked goods and a happy housewife: sugar, clean cotton, and hairspray. “Hi hon!” Brett’s mother calls from the kitchen. “Hey,” Brett responds. He leads me through a spotless living room complete with fireplace, flat screen T.V., and brown leather couches and into the kitchen. “This is Ryan. Ryan, my mom.” “Hello, Ryan, it’s nice to meet you,” says Brett’s mother. “Same here,” I reply. “What’s with all the food?” Brett asks as he surveys the kitchen. “I’m in charge of dessert for your brother’s wrestling banquet tonight,” Brett’s mom explains. Brett takes in the mounds of brownies and chocolate chip cookies. “Is the banquet for Joe’s wrestling team or all the wrestling teams in the Tri-State area?” Brett’s mother gives him a playful swat on the arm. “Haha, very funny. I suppose I did go a little overboard,” she admits. “But boys always eat so much! And besides, I knew your father would snag a bunch before I could wrap them all up.” As if on cue, Brett’s old man enters the kitchen. “Hey Brett, didn’t expect you home so soon.” He pops a brownie in his mouth. “Who’s this?” Brett’s father’s eyes land on me. “Dad, this is my friend Ryan,” Brett says. “Good to meet you Ryan!” Brett’s father booms. He claps me on the shoulder with one hand and shakes my entire arm with the other. “And how do you know my son?” Brett shoots me a look. “We go to school together,” I say firmly. “Of course you do!” Brett’s father continues. “And do you play any sports, Ryan?” “No, sir, I act,” I explain. “Huh.” Brett’s father scratches his head. “That’s funny. Well, I’ll be gettin’ ready for the banquet if anyone needs me.
Nice to meet you,” he adds as an afterthought. My answer to his last question seems to end his interest in me. “C’mon,” Brett mutters to me. “Let’s go upstairs.” Once we reach his room Brett closes the door and sprawls on his bed. “It’s freaky, right?” he asks. “What’s freaky?” I sit next to him. “My folks. My mom’s some kind of Stepford robot, and all my dad cares about is sports. They’re, like, caricatures of the All-American Parents.” “They seem nice enough, though.” Brett lets out a bark of laughter. “Yeah, as long as everything’s going the way they want it to go. Tell them their oldest son’s gay, though, and all hell will break loose.” “Brett,” I say, “you’re going to have to tell them eventually.” Silence. I lay down beside him so we’re at eye level. “Would it help if I were with you? You know, for moral…” “No.” Brett cuts me off. “No, I wouldn’t put you through that.” Neither of us says anything for a moment. Finally Brett sighs and turns so he’s on his side, facing me. “I have been thinking about what you said though, at the bar.” He takes a deep breath and continues. “You’re right, there’s no reason people shouldn’t know we’re hanging out. I like you. Even if we weren’t together, I’d still like you, and I want my friends to see that. It’s not fair to you to keep hiding this.” I catch my breath. “Are you saying…” “No,” Brett says. “No, I’m not. I’m not ready for that yet. But it is time for people to know we hang together. I’ll have people over next Saturday night, I’ve been thinking about having a party anyway.” I gaze at him. “Thank you,” I say. “Don’t thank me,” Brett starts. “Please don’t thank me. I should be the one thanking you. You…” Brett trails off and then looks me dead in the eye. “Aw hell, man. You’re the best thing I’ve got going.”
‘I’m just curious, honestly. How did you know?’ I met his gaze. ‘I just did,’ I replied. ‘It’s something you just know.’ Brett nodded again. ‘Yeah. I think I knew that too.’
My only link to this world is Brett, and he hasn’t come to claim me yet.
The day of the party I pace and pace and pace. I can’t help it—I’m excited. I know Brett said he isn’t going to tell anyone about us tonight, but maybe someone’ll see us and know. And that wouldn’t be so bad, right? If people were to figure it out on their own, then that would be that. It might even be better that way. I pull up to Brett’s house around nine, and the party looks like it’s in full swing. Cars are lined up and down the street, and I can hear music blasting from inside the house. It’s some rap song; I know for a fact Brett hates rap. I take a deep breath, shut off my car, and head up the stone walkway to the front door, passing several couples groping each other in the darkness. I enter the house and come face to face with High School Party: jocks chugging beer; girls standing in circles, trying to look desirable; tons of booze and no food in sight. I make my way into the living room—no Brett. I see several other people I know, though. Acquaintances who stop to greet me and then move on. I get some funny looks, from Brett’s teammates, mostly. I don’t belong here. My only link to this world is Brett, and he hasn’t come to claim me yet. I continue to mill around until I run into Brett’s girlfriend, Meg. “Hey Ryan!” She’s drunk. Totally and completely gone. “Hey Meg, have you seen Brett?” I ask. “I think he’s somewhere in the kitchen,” she slurs. “He’s with some of the guys.” Great. The Guys. “Thanks,” I say and start for the kitchen door. I can hear Brett before I see him. He sounds like he’s telling a story; his drunken voice is rising and falling in pitch, and most of his statements are being punctuated with laughter. I press my shoulder to the door and swing into the room. Everyone stops and looks. “Hey man,” I say to Brett. “I just wanted to …” “Not now, dude, I’m in the middle of a story. So then I look at the guy and I say…” Brett trails off as he sees me settle against the counter to catch the end of his anecdote.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
“What are you doing?” I look around in surprise. “What?” “Could you give us a minute, man? We’re kinda talking about something.” “Why can’t I stay and listen?” I ask. It comes out sounding much more childish than I intend. Brett looks at me, shrugs, and turns back to The Guys. “So I look at this guy and I’m like ‘What the fuck’s your problem, man?’ and he just keeps getting hotter and hotter…” Brett stops and turns to me. “Not hotter like, you know, the way you would think of a guy.” Snickers from the crowd. What the hell is Brett doing? Brett continues, his voice louder than before: “Look man, I can’t focus. Can you please just fuck off or something?” “Brett, what the hell are you doing?” I voice my thought out loud. “What do you mean ‘What am I doing?’ I’m enjoying my party.” “No,” I pull Brett aside. “I mean why are you acting like this?” Brett rips his arm from my grasp. “Get off of me, man! What the fuck’s your problem?” I lower my voice. “My problem is you told me you were throwing this party so your friends could see we hang out, and instead you’re acting like a jackass.” “I would never hang with a queer like you, man!” Brett’s voice is loud, almost shrill. The Guys, who had been pointedly ignoring our conversation can’t help but turn and look at us now. “You don’t mean that,” I say to him. “Brett…” I reach for his shoulder. The next moment I feel an explosion of pain in my jaw. I stagger against the kitchen counter and hear roars of laughter coming at me from all sides. It takes a second before my brain registers that Brett punched me. Brett, who’d told me that I was the best thing he had going. Who’d said he was having this party for us. Who I had been dating in secret for seven months to protect him from the torment his teammates heaped on me all the time. Who was now tormenting me along with them. And Brett hadn’t stopped with the punch. I can hear him shouting things at me, and, while I can’t make out what he’s saying, I know it’s nothing good. I try to make excuses for him—he’s drunk, he’s with his friends, he doesn’t know what he’s saying—but it
doesn’t matter. I can feel the word forming in my mouth even before I realize what I’m about to do. “Faggot.” There’s laughter until The Guys figure out I’m the one who said it. They stop and look at me. Brett speaks first. “What?” “You’re a faggot,” I repeat. I turn to look at his friends. “Brett’s a faggot.” Everyone’s staring at me. There’s silence, until I face Brett. “Go ahead. You can deny it if you want.” All the color has drained from Brett’s face. His breath is coming more heavily, and it looks like a thin layer of perspiration has broken out on his forehead. I know that look. Brett is winded.
District of Columbia War Memorial, WWI Benjamin Walker
The temple canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t clear the surrounding trees or capture my gaze confidently like its brothers across the yard. The trunks, moss and weeds threaten to shroud and reclaim the clearing. Not again. So we made it with marble â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a stone for building stale places choking from rope lines, revered by strangers. But these columns whimper and I hear you whispering not us, too. I lay my backpack on the concrete and eat my lunch. West Potomac Park holds its tongue. After you passed, the children forgot their grandfathers who fought for a new world and no tribute bands play in the marble gazebo we built for you. The tour busses march along the basin past this emptied quarter to Roosevelt and Jefferson. Dust creeps on my jeans. I brush it onto the steps with my sandwich crumbs and cross the heavy traffic on Independence, forgetting you again.
City Upon a Hill Joe Rotondi AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Abuelito Elice Rojas
I remember the first time you held my hand. I was six, and you were probably seventy-six. Maybe seventy-seven. Your hands were so much different than mine. I guess back then I had no concept of age, just like the only difference in gender was that girls wore pink and boys wore blue. Your hands were callused and wrinkled, but somehow still soft and gentle. Your hand became a mitten that engulfed my plump little fingers. You held onto my hands tight, and I never wanted you to let me go. I skipped all the way to the street fair with my hand in yours. The air was warm, but crisp, like a generous fall day back home. The air in Chile was different than the air in the States. It smelled of moist seashells and mussels on the coast, and in the cities it smelled of car exhaust and bodies packed on public transportation. But we were in the country, and in the country the air was comfortable and inviting. The roads, for the most part, were not paved yet and every chance I’d get I’d jump in a mud puddle from last night’s rainstorm. I don’t remember the walk to town being that long of a walk. The next thing I recall is being at the fair. I could smell strong spices like comino, different foods like empanadas and freshly baked bread. The smells, the colors, and all the people – it was like living inside of a kaleidoscope. The world spun round and round and I was in the middle of it. Your eyes were gleaming and all the colors of the fair reflected off of them. Red, blue, green and yellow bouncing off your crystalline hazel irises. *** That day is eternal in my mind. I still see your bright eyes and I can still hear my laughter rolling down the streets. But Chile, mi Chile isn’t the same anymore. You’re standing right in front of me, but you don’t see me. The other day you asked if I was your little Loriana, pretty little Loriana, and with a confused look in your gray eyes – you stumbled out the door. Your footing is off, your eyesight is gone, and your head is in the sky. Mi abuelito is no longer there; he’s just a body floating past the empty cold days and rainy nights. Chile is no longer beautiful to me anymore. The flowers don’t bloom and pop like they used to and the house is a duller shade of blue. Without all of you there, the love in the house is missing and our family is slipping away. Oh, if I could tell you what’s happened to the family! Our family is no longer a family, all of us in different places of the world quietly fighting and hating one another. You don’t know how lucky you are that you lived the sweet memories, while the rest of us carry around the pieces left of our family. We don’t talk about it, but we all know it’s there. It sits and picks apart our minds, almost like your illness picks at yours.
Dragonfly at Night Shaun Flynn
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
The Secrets of Elephants Benjamin Walker
- for James Wright
I am sitting contented and with her on the steps that line the hill above the seminary, thinking of the Salvador Dalí painting where two elephants face each other from either side of the canvas on stilted, arachnid legs. I tell her this. She responds that the artist captures how her dreams feel in the morning, as sleeping visions begin to lose the definition that made them seem real just moments before. We call out a few more of our dreams in the night when it’s coldest, and even our breaths take on the illusion of substance. I crack open a soda bottle and we ease our thirst. It fizzes. I think of Franco’s rule in Spain as I pass the bottle to her. I once read the letters Dalí sent praising him – or was it puffery, the tax he paid for the long years spent making nice in the darkness of Catalonia? Hear this. Now, if I had the plane fare I’d fly right now and wear green there, walking through Tehran screaming I am a man, where chanting voices beckon, be with me. She wants to stop running west, answer her texts and plant her feet someday, gently warming to the words, are you my woman? She laughs, sighs, laying her head on my shoulder. We finish lines together – it’s about having the courage, isn’t it? Almost surreal. I remember the elephants – how the loads they carried actually floated above their backs, on stilts that couldn’t possibly bear them across the desert. I want to speak to one more dream (that we’re supposed to be), but say nothing. The soda fizzles. We never finished it, but for a moment we seemed to be getting close.
Daniella Napolitano Best in Show Art
What My Latte Ordered Michael Levy
Hi— I’d like a tall, skinny, pseudo-intellectual and a white, no black, MacBook on the side with two open word documents, one with read-only poetry, aged—make it from high school, and the other sweet n’ salty venture capital budget projections. Please make sure you don’t forget to have it dusted with beard. I’ll send it back if it wasn’t trimmed on the second lowest setting, yet somehow still naturally haphazard looking. … No froth, but a dollop of top-shelf hair product. I’ll also take the special, but can you double dip it in semi-retarded partisan politics? Now I don’t want it talking to the others, so take out a single scoop of sociability and … I might take it to go, so please wrap it in an imitation vintage scarf, and I’ll be set. AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Wasatch Junior High burned down seven years ago, but I am gloved in its mustardtiled walls, halls, a giant is holding the Norton Anthology of English Literature in his left hand with calluses the size of motorcycles curved around his thumb. In his right, he places an ice cube tray of glass rooms down here, on the island, and I am wearing my glasses. Everyone has spectacle eyes, their heads bowed silhouettes illuminated by stuttering computer screens. We are holding leashes. Mine is squirming at the end, it has two heads, three, unctuous black salamander bodies that snap at my heels. My forearms are torn, shreds of veins fringe my fingertips, I let go of the leash it is goneâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; epistemologyallegorytropemetaphorâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;lost. He contacted me again this morning, from London: Silly girls should not write about what they cannot know.
Driftwood Louise Brask
Silent Observer Rachel Slattery
The Only Words Kennedy Nadler
My grandfather died. We called him Pa. Pa was sane to his last day, never stopped clutching at his past. At his funeral my uncle said the only words a mourning son can bear to say, “Pa!--”, before throwing in the dirt. My father knew the wooden hearses and quiet dismal Hebrew verses. Pa died sitting up and would flirt with the nurses so they would bring his pills on time. In the corner sat a table no oak, just dry timber, and candies withered sugar stalks in a sticking crystal bowl. The room was split in two by heavy curtains, a magician’s trick to hide the sight of death from the dying. I ripped the red thread from Pa’s eyes, and sewed mine up. My father knew the wooden hearses and quiet dismal Hebrew verses. I only knew the nurses.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
The Identical Dream, Skewered
You told me my hair was shorn off 1 inch at a time by hornets who entered the room looking for a bowl of beads no wider in circumference than your pupil. A terrible story— I don’t care for the details, I’m yellowing by the minute and must finish this painting before we oxidize. I won’t write you about the Roman waters, I will wait for you to breathe heat with me in New York June.
The Powerplant Chris Marotta
Woman on Bench Blaise Corso
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
The Problem of the Place David Pritchard
I could never walk out on the silent knives that doors swallow with relief, the colorful paintings have multiplied but still here I am in the same black chair clicking my tongue and scratching behind my left knee and wondering what Lorca would say if his executioners allowed him one last triumphant missile. Please allow for parapets and windowsills in the rhetoric between two styles or the way a poet writing a story tends to get lost and give up midway through because language is so insouciant and unlike narrative it takes another glass of vodka, thank you, until I can barely keep up with it for the sake of my health. That’s why words promise no sound structure at any given moment— the luxury of being surprised when there truly is time enough for heroes to leave death standing there at the top of the stairs, squawking about a few missing checkers. Radios are out of fashion and it’s clear no one can stand me now since I won’t relent and throw a tantrum in the orchard when my throat has been stepped on rather painfully by a steel toad. Even a windpipe, lacking proper diction, can hold its own when in exile. Chekhov wrote about it, why can’t I? The difference between Russian realism and these poems is the difference between John Ashbery and the soup I had for dinner. The telephone prevents us from falling in love again but this time I will be sure to smile a little more, hopefully, and to take my blows as would anyone in the same position, perched next to a few vultures whose incredible fortitude is more than anyone or I could ever ask for as a reminder of this immortal energy around sharp corners even without superlatives there to give them context or form. This is all just to say occasionally I don’t want to disappear.
Rachel Webb â&#x20AC;&#x153;Mrs. George Watson wears a daringly low cut gown of luscious satin.â&#x20AC;? -Placard description of portrait by John Singleton Copley That winter, the cobblestones in Boston flutter with stamps, edges rust with blood. When you greet me in the parlour, your skirt is stained with fuschia, drained from your feet. Inside your shoes, your toes are chalk, the heels are crumbling. Mrs. Watson, your skin is cracking. That emerald necklace rubs against your neck, and flecks of cream flesh mix with jeweled green chips. They rain into your corset, the steel bands grate against the white of your chest at night you unlace your ribs and they peel into your hands. In your left hand you hold a porcelain vase, tight. The shards flow into your fingernails and spread over the bark of your palm. Spiderfine black lines. When we drink tea together, your wrist brushes against mine and a chip of you falls into my saucer; my cup is cracked. I pour the cream. Rivulets pool in my dish through the china splinters. You spoon the sugar, and the granules sandpaper your fingers down to the bone.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Now I Know How It Feels to Live in A Snowglobe Kelly Barrett
Faculty Contributer: Iwan Bagus
Oblivion: Mirror AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Oblivion: Bed SPRING 2010
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Kelly Barrett: “Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy — your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself.” - Annie Leibovitz. Kelly wants to extend a big ol’ thanks to American Literary for providing a beautiful magazine in which to showcase some of her creative photo juices over the past 4 years. Louise Brask: Onse Vader wat in die hemele is, laat U naam geheilig word. Laat U koninkryk kom, laat U wil geskied, soos in die hemel net so ook op die aarde. Gee ons vandag ons daaglikse brood, en vergeef ons ons skulde, soos ons ook ons skuldenaars vergewe. En lei ons nie in versoeking nie, maar verlos ons van die bose. Want aan U behoort die Koninkryk en die krag en die heerlikheid, tot in ewigheid. Amen. Liz Calka doesn’t think there is anything wrong with white space. Blaise Corso is a hobbyist photographer, painter and song writer. Born in New York City, he currently resides in Washington, D.C. at American University studying sociology in hopes of becoming a psychologist. Christina Farella shuttering. Christina Farella dismembers dresses. Christina Farella bends Quaaludes. Christina Farella disdains doctors. Christina Farella so exciting to finally meet you! Christina Farella CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE IT!! David Feder: I’m a double major in graphic design and film and media arts. I hope to work in both a graphic design and photography profession.
Look Up Every So Often Jessica Warren
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Born and raised in a rural New Hampshire town, Shaun Flynn enjoys spending most of his time exploring and observing the outdoors. He is a junior studying biology and hopes to one day work as a science writer/ photographer.
Ali Goldstein dreams of owning a little cottage on the lake where she can write. Kendall Jackson is a freshman at AU and spends her time pretending to be a serious student, musician, photographer, and bicyclist. So far she thinks she has a lot of people fooled. Morgan Jordan’s bio isn’t nearly as entertaining as the one above hers. Helen Killeen is a freshman in SIS who likes spicy food, dancing, mountains, and her little brothers. She has little experience with photography, but thinks that the National Mall should be open to campers, and the arboretum should be metro accessible. Michael Levy enjoyed serving as American Literary Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief. He fondly remembers shyly working on the publication with throngs of women his freshman year. From every passionate scoop of cucumber gelato, spiteful hotdog, overwhelming pot of mussels, and self-absorbed latte, he has been honored to have his food-centric pieces featured in the publication. AmLit provided him with invaluable leadership skills and astounding relationships. Above all else, he is grateful for his friendship with a particular peppy, blonde Utahan that was rightfully sparked by their co-editorship. Daniel Lincoln takes pictures and sometimes they are good, sometimes they are not, but they are almost always developed at a CVS. He can also play the bassoon at a mediocre level. Is not Amish. Is not related to President Lincoln. Anything else? Andrea “Anj” Lum is dancing along the Tevere, writing beneath umbrella trees and catching drops of sunlight on her tongue. At sunset she crouches at the shore, sending poems and gelato kisses in origami sailboats, hoping they reach America someday.
Chris Marotta: Designer. Photographer. Musician. Geek. Star Wars Nerd. Apple Fan-Boy. Improv-er. Design Junkie. Ex-Hardcore Singer. Internet Troll. Action Movie Dude. Bad Basketball Player. Wanna-be Actor. Still Plays Magic Cards. Human. Kennedy Nadler wants to create art and destroy everything else. Daniella Napolitano is a studio art major and aspires to be the greatest Pokémon trainer in the world. With the help of Misty, Brock, and Pikachu, she constantly overcomes conflicts with team rocket and learns a valuable lesson on friendship. Katherine Nolen is a freshman communications major from Media, Pennsylvania. This is her first time being published in AmLit and she’s super excited! Kaitie O’Hare can often be found with knots in her hair. Felix Penzarella: On occasion trips and falls onto the shutter of his camera and gets something decent. David W. Pritchard is a senior literature and theatre double major at American University. His poetry has appeared in The Catalonian Review, Anastomoo, and in AmLit, though you knew that at this point. His first play, “Variations On An Umbrella,” recently premiered onstage at Gettysburg College. He is a horrible human being; thankfully, his writing follows suit. Rebecca Prowler loves summer but hates flipflop tan lines. Emily Reid is a Pepsi addict, a daydreamer, a ginger and a dyke. She loves Keen shoes and books about mythology. This semester she’s abroad in Florence, Italy, studying art.
Dana Reinert: I enjoy delicious summer vegetables, the store decor in Anthropologie, looking at the world out of an airplane window and placing type into InDesign. Today I spent my time in a comfortable chair with a coffee in hand, looking at the world, waiting for spring to come. Elice Rojas enjoys living in D.C., truly belongs in New York and will always have her love for writing lingering in Chile. Joe Rotondi is a senior studying Graphic Design who enjoys painting and writing on art and design issues in his spare time. Rachel Slattery: Hi! My name is Rachel Slattery and I like to take photos. My main tool of the trade is my Canon EOS Rebel XS. Ryan Tanner-Read is a senior double-major in History and Literature. He is deeply indebted to the insights of Glenn Moomau on his story as it appears here. Nora Tumas is that awkward 40-pound accordion that no one wants to play. Benjamin Walker is graduating and looking for valid alternatives to writing poetry out of his cardboard box off Dupont Circle. Jessica Warren: AmLove, four great years. Now to see what else awaits. Yikes. Here goes nothing. Rachel Webb is wrapped in a blue quilt of gratitude to the experience that AmLit gave her this year. For once, she can’t think of anything witty or poetic to express herself—just sheer gratitude. Thank you, Mike. Thank you, fluorescent office. Thank you, AmLit family.
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 for taking our digital file and turning it into boxes of beautiful magazines. We are indebted to our Best in Show faculty judges Adam Tamashasky, Amy Hendrick, Danielle Evans, and Tim Doud. This semester, we were privileged to host visiting professors in each genre, and we are grateful to them for increasing our understanding of the art we receive: Danielle Evans, Amy Hendrick and David Keplinger took time out of their busy schedules to teach our staff to critique fiction, photography and poetry. Lastly, we are thankful to Iwan Bagus, our faculty contributor.
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 Editor-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.
AMERICAN LITERARY MAGAZINE
American Literary Staff Editors-in-Chief Rachel Webb Michael Levy Creative Director Shea Cadrin Public Relations Director Jessica Warren Design Editor Morgan Jordan Assistant Design Editor Liz Calka Copy Editor Alex Burchfield Assistant Copy Editor Elice Rojas Archival Editor Danielle King Assistant Archival Editor Lindsay Inge Web Editor Amanda Osborn Outreach Editor Ali Goldstein Assistant Outreach Editor Kennedy Nadler Poetry Editor Emi Ruff-Wilkinson Assistant Poetry Editor Kennedy Nadler
Prose Editor Sarah Cough Assistant Prose Editor Matt Gasper Photo Editor Laura Gerlock Assistant Photo Editor Louise Brask Art Editor Mary Cutrali Assistant Art Editor Nora Tumas Staff Annie Buller Christopher Conway Carolina Cornejo Allison Fedele Molly Friedman Hannah Karl Gretchen Kast Josh Little Cat McCarthy Lindsay Moats Amanda Muscavage Kaitie Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Hare Virginia Papke Sarah Parnass David Pritchard Rebecca Prowler Lowell Rudorfer Allison Sennott Shailyn Tavella Denae Thibault Dan Vedensky Benjamin Walker Emma Wimmer
American Literary Magazine American University , MGC 248 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington, DC 20016 www.amlitmag.com