AmLit Fall 2011

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SOON Jenna Mitchell Submission Policy

American Literary Magazine (AmLit) seeks to promote the artistic community at American University. All students of the AU community may submit work they deem qualified for review. AmLit selects content based on an anonymous review process, giving each staff member an equal vote for each piece submitted. Any discrepancies are decided by the Editors-in-Chief and genre editors. All copyrights revert to the artists upon publication, unless otherwise noted.


AmLit would like to first thank Adell Crowe and Karen Gerlach of Student Activities for patiently answering our hundreds of emails and requests. We would also like to thank Jim Briggs of Printing Images for being our AmDad and always delivering an impeccable magazine. Additional thanks go to our Best in Show judges: Professors Leena Jayaswal, Don Kimes, Richard Sha and Alison Thomas. Most importantly, we have to thank our staff for their excitement and dedication to seeing the magazine into fruition. Last, we would like to express gratitude to every single person who submitted work; this magazine is for you.


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EDITORS’ NOTE The first time Kaitie and Morgan met as Co-Editors was an uncanny foreshadowing for the rest of the year. Kaitie served Morgan horribly burned chicken and peppers. It was not, as first glance would indicate, a pile of ashes. Morgan assured her it had turned out fine, that she really enjoyed the cutting-edge flavor of cinders. The next dinner, Kaitie attempted something simpler: pizza. It was all running smoothly until Kaitie managed to relocate the pizza’s landing site to the living room floor. Once again, Morgan smiled and nodded her way through an exceptional plate of gourmet cuisine, letting Kaitie know it was all going to be okay. This semester, Kaitie has been cooking up a number of dilemmas for Morgan to assuage, including psychotic potters, star-crossed crushes and weekend mishaps, while at the same time, providing victuals to keep her going. Without Kaitie’s constant concoctions of plans and Morgan’s consistent ability to carry them out and calm her down, AmLit would be nowhere. After becoming our own bivalent unit, we realized we had to integrate an entire staff into our system. A few minutes before the first meeting began in September, we wondered if anyone would even show up. And if they did, would they see through our veneer of authority and notice we’re just as uncertain as they are? Luckily, our first meeting filled the room with over forty enthusiastic nugget balls who have now become our full-time staffers. We appreciate our staff for letting us pretend we have friends. Admittedly, we have held otherwise pointless meetings with the sole purpose of seeing you. And we’re glad when meetings run over by an hour because we need to discuss Halloween costumes, Urban Outfitters sales, and your double uvula. Having reached the point in the semester where we only consume Smartfood and Diet Coke, we are ever grateful to AmLit for giving our lives higher quality nourishment. While we have suffered through trips to Giant for too much candy, the ensuing stomach problems and a windowless office, we wouldn’t trade it for anything. Except maybe for rolling around in a pile of puppies. Yeah, sorry; we’d definitely trade AmLit for a pile of puppies. But jokes aside, what we really want to say is thank you. We are continually taken aback by the quality of work we receive each semester. Our admiration for the artistic community that exists on campus grows with each piece that we review, and we are forever grateful that students continue to let us do this. We’ve learned so much about art and literature just by being at review sessions and having heated, intelligent discussions about the work. We hope you’ll enjoy the magazine as much as we do, and look forward to one more rousing semester with many literary, artistic, and (most likely) culinary adventures to come! Last, but not least, we’d like to dedicate this magazine to Boo the dog. May we one day have as many fans as you.

Morgan Jordan & Kaitie O’Hare Co-Editors-in-Chief

Fall 2011


TABLE OF CONTENTS Soon 02 Jenna Mitchell Submission Poicy & Acknowledgements 02 Editors Note 03 Morgan Jordan & Kaitie O’Hare Trying Try 06 Lisa Jakab Dirt 07 Wesley Haines Philly to DC 08 Nora Tumas Conjoined 09 Daniella Napolitano We Were All Coming and Going 10 Evan Fowler Staying 11 Matt Shor Early As Late 14 Lisa Jakab / BEST IN SHOW ART The Myth 15 Rebecca Czochor Sinking Cities 16 Marisa Beahm Klein De Venise 16 Matt Shor What Giordano Sees 17 Rebecca Czochor Leonardo Di Ser Piero Da Vinci 17 Luke Ramsey It’s Cold Inside the Body That is Not the Body 18 Matthew Makowski Flour 19 Sylvan LaChance Dalliance 22 Julie Burian Spit 23 Nora Tumas Graceful in Life 24 Evan Fowler Snow Petals 25 Anna Elder Slave of Death 26 Megan Fraedrich Brink 27 Julie Burian Open Shutters 30 Morgan Jordan Insanity 32 Jessica Nesbitt Je T’en Souviens 33 Matt Shor Sestina for the Insects 34 Emily Crane / BEST IN SHOW POETRY Classicism 35 Louise Brask The Ambisinistrous 36 Jonathan Koven Puncher Flight 37 Lisa Jakab


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Down the Road 38 Brandon Robers Junkvault/Treasureyard 40 Luke Ramsey Green Lady Dreaming 43 Rachel Ternes Twilight on the Chesapeake 44 Brandon Robers Island 45 Allison Arlotta Untitled 47 Rebecca Grushkin Dive 48 Lisa Jakab Hummus 49 Nora Tumas Le Marche 50 Kathryn Schramm A Leap of Faith 51 Lorraine Holmes Looking In 52 Anna Elder / BEST IN SHOW PHOTOGRAPHY Staircase, Elmina 54 Franziska Kabelitz Dustland Fairytale 56 Rachel Ternes Ethnography of a College Kid 57 Jessica Nesbitt Shrapnel 58 Brendan Williams-Childs Do I Dare Eat a Peach? 59 Gretchen Kast Untitled 60 Allison Arlotta The Murmur of the Television 61 Cindy Zhang / BEST IN SHOW PROSE Untitled 63 Matt Shor Illumination 64 Emma Gray Rambling from a Bar 65 Jessica Nesbitt To Serve Man 66 Alejandro Neyra Mehndi 67 Morgan Jordan Nub Love 69 Krys Benyamein Thunder 70 Bianca Palmisano Tourist Season 72 Laura Gerlock Lush Arabesque 73 Lisa Jakab Biographies 74 Ganges Series 76 Leena Jayaswal / FACULTY CONTRIBUTOR Staff 78 Religion 79 Grechen Kast

Fall 2011



Ink, Charcoal, Gesso, and Acrylic on Paper 42 x 44 inches


American Literary

DIRT Wesley Haines You and I end up on milk cartons again Colliding like pendulums against traffic lights Built on the faceless decomposed flesh we lost those days We always turned a cheek and threw our white blood cells I speak in bullets with the safety off, my tongue rolling r’s You hose off dilated pupils with lighter fluid The fire resting beneath miles of dirt and black piano keysSay hello to my shovel You saw the ocean and folded the envelope with your funny bone inside Put the hammer to your knees and heard the cracks I shattered the windows on my way to pick up bread And the last will and testament Peel open the cereal box and grab the toy, I’ll get the spoons Let’s run to the end of the cliff to see who falls first And I can throw salt over my left shoulder To see our bones disintegrate before our eyes The dirt is warm and soft with you here Grit your teeth and put your tray table in the upright position Now blow into the safety vest and smoke your last red I will press the eject button down here The elephant is a beast tranquilized in a cage And the worms are feeling stronger now, here at number six You smell like a wet towel left in a sauna for years I am an extra in my own movie, dead in a cardboard box

Fall 2011


PHILLY TO DC Nora Tumas Sometimes I just want a milkshake to wash down all the blood I’ve been tasting lately. Sometimes I think about the woman in the hat shop on South Street who told us how racist Delaware is. Sometimes the bus wobbles my pen too much. Sometimes I get really high when I’m sleepy and look at pictures of myself. I get an extreme urge to be someone else fucking myself and it turns me on. I imagine it’s a kitchen fuck like always. He strokes my freckled arms, opens my legs whenever I sprinkle spices over the stove. I want to be the one sliding fingers between bicycle thighs. I want to see my face and be the darkest man who gets to turn me -Other times I get really high before school and imagine the brain in my table would just stop thinking already. (You have to understand, daughter, she was raised in post war 50s Germany and understands nothing about drugs. Heroin is some man’s marijuana to your mother. She’s clueless and in the freezer, searching in a nightgown for frozen bars of chocolate) Sometimes I wish I was every famous tagline. Today I know 101 ways to amaze myself. I amaze myself every morning (and twice in the evening and once before bed) I make sure to drink my coffee blackened. I put coffee in my tea to make it blacker. Sometimes I bus home and model gloves for my mother so I have enough money to pay for my expert coffees and boxes of wine. But not often enough. Sometimes I ride the bus and get off. But mostly I don’t. Mostly I long for semi-permanence. Some place to park my bum for more than half a month. (I wrap my cigarettes and toothbrush in a dishcloth and move on.) Sometimes poetry shouldn’t be accessible. Sometimes distant food smells mostly like bowel movements and I’m unsure if I should salivate or vomit again. Often I’m so angry I can’t handle myself. I’m told to mold my anger into music, fold it into melody. But it’s too loud and it won’t let me sleep. I knead it in the kitchen but it’s so spicy and it won’t let me eat. Mostly I just wake up feeling nauseous. I wonder if I had a sister, she’d tell me what it means to make her tick. We could be clocks together. Lucky me my brother’s far away in Germany, playing Jew’s harp weekdays, kazoo on weekends. The city is his forest.


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They say the only way to write is to start writing so I’m writing. Sometimes I miss those red pepper hummus sandwiches from childhood. But mostly I just pour curry on everything. If I cared I’d share but I don’t care so I won’t. I’m always more addicted to people than substances. I’m drunk and high every day, but I’m supposed to be. Often I don’t understand why real people smoke. I only smoke to hear the crackle and to know I’ll quit it later. Sometimes the old Chinaman in the seat in front of me has flaky scalp dandruff and it clumps and dangles with the chasséing of the bus. Sometimes it makes me feel so sick I end up writing. Mostly I just sit and wait till I get somewhere.

CONJOINED Daniella Napolitano Linocut

Fall 2011


WE WERE ALL COMING AND GOING Evan Fowler I jolted awake as my head rammed into the metal ceiling of the mutatu. I glared at the driver, who wasn’t phased; he continued talking animatedly to his conductor, who was seated behind him, over his left shoulder. The driver was using both of his hands to shape the air above the steering wheel. No wonder we had hit a pothole head-on. The mutatu smelled like rain and bodies. Thirteen of us were crammed into the van, sitting in rows of threes and fours, paying for the low fare with our physical discomfort. My neck was sore; there was no headrest and I had been sleeping with my chin touching my chest. I felt the top of my head—I would have a knot there in the morning. Outside, the rain was falling so thickly that you could barely see 50 meters, which was strange for Ugandan weather at that time of year. It was the dry season and the rain hit the packed red dirt like it would concrete, bouncing and forming muddy pools on the surface—not sinking in. I worried about the road, knowing that if the rain kept up and we didn’t make good time, there was a good chance that we wouldn’t be able to cross the river. I had seen the road disappear there before. The old woman next to me was taking up more than her share of the seat, and my feet were getting restless under my bag. My eyes started to well. I bit my lip, began counting my blessings, like Jaja, the grandmother who raised me, had always told me to do. I was healthy, had a good job, had four siblings who loved me. Choice’s face flashed in my mind. He had called me, begged me to come as quickly as I could. He was in jail, but had committed no crime. There was a man trying to set up a tea plantation who wanted to buy our land, and my brother had resisted, then been thrown in prison. My three younger siblings were alone at the house now, nine-yearold Martin taking care of the twins, who were seven. I had been the financial provider for a while now, but Choice was my older brother, the head of the family at twenty-one. Now that role was falling to me. Water was coming in a window that wouldn’t close all the way; cold droplets landed on my skin, silver against the deep brown. I was ashy; the water dried and caused dark patches. I had missed church this morning, for the first time in over a year. The last week’s sermon had been about taking up personal burdens and bearing them as crosses. Stella, the woman whose child I was raising and whose house I cleaned, was sitting next to me, nodding her head to the sermon, scrunching her face in approval. She was surely feeling righteous. As I watched her, I could feel anger rising


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in me; Stella thought she had crosses to bear. She worked a desk job, only played with her daughter when she felt like it, and had me to do all of the household chores. She did not know what a burden was. That moment of unchristian thought surely cost me, because it was soon after that when Choice called, desperate, asking me to come. The mutatu came to a halt, and I saw what I feared had come to be—the river was running over the road. A car was stuck in the middle, the water right below its mirrors. On the other side of the river, boda bodas stood waiting to take anyone who managed to cross the river further east on their motorbikes. “There’s no way I can get across. I’m going back to Kampala. You can either come with me or get off here,” our driver told us. I had to make it to Mbale. Clutching my bag, my eyes took in the water. I didn’t know how to swim; only children who went to expensive boarding schools in Kampala learned, and I had only had three years of school in my village. What if I just went back to Kampala? Didn’t cross? Sent some money home and left it at that? Choice’s voice came back into my head, begging me to come home. Going back wasn’t an option. What if I slipped on my way across, fell with my mouth and nose in the water and couldn’t get back up? I pushed the thought out of my head and stepped out of the mutatu and into the red of the road. After knotting my skirt around my knees, I balanced my bag on my head. The water was not more than a meter deep, but it was moving quickly. I bit the inside of my lip and walked into the rushing water. My feet sunk into the mud, and I leaned against the current, moving slowly toward the boda bodas on the other bank. As my right foot came up, I felt the water tugging at my sandal, taking it. The shoe bounced off of my left ankle and then bobbed to the surface downstream. I imagined it was my body. My knees ran into the slope of the bank, and I used my hands to scramble up and out of the river, praying in thanksgiving. A boda boda helped hold my bag while I wrung out my skirt and perched myself sidesaddle on the back of his bike. “To Mbale, please.” “I won’t go any further than that. You’ve heard about the mudslides just east of there, eh?” “Yes, God bless the people living there.” Thirteen people had been crushed to death in their sleep the week before. The rain of that day would cause more live burials in rock and dirt.

STAYING Matt Shor On the boda boda, we passed from flat marshes to rocky hills, with sheer vertical sheets of grey stone capped with lush foliage, turned all the greener by the rain. Even in this weather, many people were moving; young boys herded groups of long-horned cattle, children carried yellow jerry cans of water on their heads, and old men pushed bananaladen bicycles on the side of the road. We were all coming and going. I asked the boda boda to stop in front of the jail, which was more of a holding cell—a small shack with barred windows and a grated door. It was next to the sub-county office, which would be open in the morning.

“Grace?” “Choice.” Hearing his voice was so good. Stories circulated about police beatings, and I was glad to see as I approached that he was unhurt. His hand reached through the bars, and I grasped his fingers. They felt so dry and tough, nothing like the moist weight of his fingers when we used to do errands for Jaja together, hand in hand. “What happened? Tell me.” “A man came to the door one day, and asked if I wanted to sell our plot. I asked his price, and it was so low—not even enough to buy a comparable piece of land and replace the house. So I told him no. And then, about ten minutes

Fall 2011


later, the police came to arrest me for squatting on government property. Which isn’t true, I know we own our land. But Jaja had the deed. I don’t know where she put it.” “Were they bribed?” “Yes. I don’t know who the man is who wants to buy from us, but he is rich. I think he’s from the central region. Have you seen the children yet?” “No. I wanted to find out what happened to you first.” “I’m fine here. Go and see if they are okay. They’ve been on their own for two days now.” I left, my hand still warm from the touch of his fingers. It was hard, seeing my older brother so powerless. Although I was tired, my feet continued to carry me toward my home. I only had about a kilometer to walk, but it felt like much farther. The hut came into view, and I called out to my brothers. “Martin! Eugene! Robert!” They came running towards me and clung to me like they were much younger than they actually were. “Welcome, welcome. We missed you. We were scared.” Martin pulled himself together a bit. “Are you hungry? We have some rice.” I was hungry. I meant to stop on the side of the road and buy some maize or chicken, but I had forgotten. Martin ran to get the rice, and he picked an avocado and gave it to me to use as sauce. I began eating quickly, the rice and avocado sticking to my fingers as I talked to my brothers; I hadn’t seen them in four months. We didn’t talk about anything in particular; we simply enjoyed each other’s company. All of us knew what it was like to be left alone—my parents died of AIDS when I was five, and Martin, Eugene, and Robert’s parents, who were my auntie and uncle, passed in the same way ten years later. We all lived with Jaja, who was loving but old and too tired to raise so many children. Now we were all orphans without any family except for each other. I was as glad to be here, away from the loneliness of being in Kampala as a live-in maid, as they were to be rescued from living at home alone. That night as I slept on a reed mat next to Eugene, his body warm next to mine, my grandmother came to me in a dream. She looked as she did the last time we were together, old and white-haired, with milky eyes. She walked over to the shelf we had, and pulled out the illustrated bible a group of Anglican missionaries had given us years ago. Looking at me with her lips pursed and her eyebrows furrowed, she shook the book. Then, she turned and went out the door, down to her little shop that I had set up for her with the earnings from my first year as a maid. Children came to buy eggs and sodas. It started getting dark, and less people were around. Three young men approached her and asked for all of the money and the beers that she kept stocked. Jaja looked at them indignantly, shoulders square,


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demanding the respect she deserved due to her white hairs and her position in the community. Then, I saw the silver machete swinging towards her skull. I woke up, sweating. That dream came often now—I relived the moment of my grandmother’s death over and over again because I had caused it. If I had never given her the money to set up a shop, she would still be here. Eugene’s feet were curled into the nook of my knee and his arm was over me. Untangling myself quietly, I moved over to the shelf and picked up the Bible, wanting to look at the pictures my grandmother had shown me so many times. There, folded between the pages of the story of David and Goliath, was the deed to the house. I started crying, softly, but Martin heard me. “What’s wrong?” “Jaja’s watching over us. Look.” I unfolded the deed and held it like it was the most precious thing on earth. “Now I can get Choice out.” Martin squeezed my hand, sharing my moment of joy. He was so grown up. I wanted him to be able to attend more school, but I couldn’t afford it. I was glad that he had been around to watch Eugene and Robert while I was gone and Choice was locked up. We sat together and talked about tomorrow—how I would go about getting Choice out of prison. Martin wanted to come with me, but I told him he had to stay with the other two to make sure everything was all right at home.

I LEFT, MY HAND STILL WARM FROM THE TOUCH OF HIS FINGERS. Waiting until it was light was hard for me because I was so eager to get started on my mission. As soon as I thought people would be there, I set out for the sub-county office. When I arrived, there was a policeman standing in front of the jail. I approached him with my head down and eyes averted. “Excuse me ssebo, I would like to talk to you about releasing my brother from jail. I believe he is being held because of allegations of squatting, but I have the deed here to prove that we own the land we live on.” “Let me see it.” His hand reached out to grab it, and I kept firmly in my grasp, wishing that I had gotten a copy somehow before I came here. “Give it to me.”

I hesitated, unsure of what I should do. His boot swung sharply up and into my shin. I dropped the deed and shouted. My brother shook the door of the jail with all of his strength. He was cursing the policeman, using every name he could think of. Tears rolled down his cheeks. I refused to cry. The policeman picked up the deed and glanced at it. “It is obviously counterfeit. How dare you try to trick me.” A tear wove its way down the center of the document, and he threw the pieces on the ground. “Leave.” Holding my breath, I ducked down and picked up both pieces of the deed. Another kick was aimed at my head and missed. Barely. I ran away as fast as I could. Steeling myself, I resolved to ask villagers with political influence for help. Many of them had been Jaja’s friends, so surely they could do something. I approached a woman who was in charge of the district’s women’s and children’s affairs. Although she didn’t have much real power, I thought she would at least try to help me. When I explained what had happened, she said “I’m sorry, your brother was always a handful. He probably deserves to be locked up.” I went to the oldest man in the village. He had a lot of prestige, and was known for being helpful within the community. He told me “My dear, there is a time for coming and a time for going. Maybe your family should leave the land. There’s nothing I can do. Whoever did this is very powerful—they tried to take my land too.” I asked for help from our neighbors who were much richer than us, and who used to buy me pens when I went to school. The mother darted her eyes around my face, looking scared, and said “Our families have never been friends, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I stopped after I had talked to the local council chair, the grade school teacher, and the liturgist at the village’s small church. None of them would do anything—I suspected many of them had been bribed, although some were probably just too afraid. What was I supposed to do? Sitting on a large stump, I finally let the tears come. When I could control my voice again, I called Stella with the phone she had let me borrow. “I’ve heard of this land-grabbing. That tea company is trying to buy land all over the country. He kicked you? I wish I had been there with Stonia.” Stonia was Stella’s husband. He weighed 135 kg at least. “Well, I’ll just call them and pretend to be a lawyer from Kampala. Yes, I’ll do it now. I’ll tell them that if they don’t let him go they could get in serious legal trouble. If I have to I’ll name-drop. Don’t worry.” Stella was a force to be reckoned with, and I knew that she wanted me back in Kampala as soon as possible. She could barely stand to take care of her daughter for two

hours by herself. Two days must have felt like forever to her. Slowly, I walked back toward the sub-county office, counting off twenty minutes before I showed my face again. The thought of seeing that policeman scared me to death, but I couldn’t think of any other way to approach the situation. As I neared, I could hear the policeman shouting. “If you don’t tell your lawyer friend to back off it will be bad for you! I am going to let you go, but I expect you to pay each month for the protection I will be giving you and your family. 30,000 Shillings!” I have to work half a month to make 30,000 shillings. We couldn’t afford that. My brother nodded and kept his mouth shut. Having him locked up was costing us more than any money they could demand of us. Fishing his keys out of his pocket, the policeman unlocked the cell door and let my brother go, shoving him in the back as he left. “Choice!” He ran to me, touched my face, and squeezed my hand. As we walked back to the house, we discussed our plans. “We can’t stay here anymore. It has become a hostile place.” “We don’t have the money to move right now.” “As soon as we do, we need to leave.” We couldn’t decide where we would go. Land was cheap in the North, but drought and famine were causing so many deaths there. Moving the whole family to Kampala was not feasible—it would be too expensive in the long run. We wanted to stay in the East if we could. Martin, Eugene, and Robert came to greet us and tackled Choice to the ground, showing their love through a series of light punches and slaps. Choice didn’t resist their battering. I sent Robert down the street to buy chapatti with eggs so we could have something substantial for dinner. We ate, happy to be together. Robert and Eugene leaned against Choice’s legs as he sat on a bench, and Martin asked him questions about what jail had been like. Early the next morning, I left my house, for what could have been the last time. When I got back to Stella’s, I was met at the door with the baby being thrust into my arms and a huge pile of laundry to wash in the morning. Even though I was exhausted, I couldn’t complain. Stella had been my brother’s savior in the end. As I held Stella’s child to my chest, my mind went back to Eugene’s feet in the nook of my knee. I missed my brothers already, but at least they were together. I held on to that thought as I melted into the loneliness of being Stella’s maid.

Fall 2011



Oil on Canvas 16 x 20 inches


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THE MYTH Rebecca Czochor Jen and Grammy were in the kitchen When I was born and they threw a ball around, So says the myth. The earliest thing I remember is a red wagon That took me around and Into the operating room. They gave me a cast so I could Assail my parents As they changed my diapers. When I got tired of the sandbox I left them all To go pretend I was cats. The wheelchair was fun but I knocked over Racks in the department store. Grandpa lived in a bed in a room at the end Of the hall And he didn’t wear socks. Once I walked around a table Thinking about Chuck-E-Cheese And nothing else. At ten a lady told me why I pulled my hair out And walked around counting things. My parents never said what my Godfather Did But they talked around the table That night when I pretended to be Asleep in the next room We all got up and tiptoed around The subject.

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SINKING CITIES Marisa Beahm Klein Sinking cities don’t need our weight, but we come. Invading waves 94 million souls high to lean exfoliating backs against crumbling walls, stealing pieces beneath souvenir fingers. Abandoning maps in coral-reef streets, more forest than city, more ambrosial than sea. But Venice, even your groans are sirens. Smacking water against rubber boots a broom against an intruder. Feigned blithe of a gondolier’s song striped prisoners frozen in film. Cathedral clamor of flood alarms your sonorous rejections. Venice, we have come to court, as you descend from Hera to Amphitrite.


DE VENISE Matt Shor American Literary

WHAT GIORDANO SEES Rebecca Czochor I’ll reference Bruno now To get him out of the way And done with. Because at night the square Forgets he’s there and leans Against his base holding Peronis. Amidst competing sounds of beggars, Street musicians, whirligigs, clinking glasses, Conversations, splashing fountains. Two priests drink at a bar called Sloppy Sam’s; I don’t know what they ordered But I bet it isn’t wine. I snag the seat facing Campo dei Fiori Because I can not eat With my back to the revelers. I knock back beer When my pizza is gone and a peddler pushes Flowers at my face. And all this happens While Bruno stares down with a bird On his hooded head.

LEONARDO DI SER PIERO DA VINCI Luke Ramsey Acrylic on Canvas

Fall 2011


IT’S COLD INSIDE THE BODY THAT IS NOT THE BODY Matthew Makowski Scene 1 The lights flicker on and brighten like a sunrise, and a wide mirror, perfectly circular, sits in the middle of the stage like a deep pool of pewter. Flat on the ground, facing up, the reflected light casting the stage in a soft silver glow. There is nothing else. Then, without any sign or signal, there is a person standing on the middle of the mirror. Their reflection is cast in every direction; it depends only on angle and perception. This person is not particularly tall. Nor are they particularly short. They might be young, or old, but it is difficult to distinguish any one remarkable feature. If asked, You would offer a description only through comparison. They are You. Or Me. Or Anybody. “”: There is light enough to see. There is water enough for life to flow smoothly. There are flowers enough to keep the world beautiful. There is time enough for us to die tonight, all of us, or to live until tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. There are stories enough to tell for the rest of forever. There are people enough to know who we are, where we come from, what we can become. You must believe this. I am you are me am us. We are all the same. You must believe this for everything that follows to make sense. They walk from the stage, stepping on tentative feet across the surface of the mirrored glass, and the lights dim. And then the lights return, and the stage is empty. Another mirror has appeared, stretching panoramic across the back wall of the stage and facing the audience. As the lights brighten, the audience sees themselves cast in double across the stage, every movement, glance, and gesture reflected with unfailing precision. “”: (Seemingly from behind the mirror.) Say Something. (Pause.) “”: Say Anything. (Pause.) HOW CAN YOU SIT THERE AND NOT SAY ANYTHING?


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FLOUR Sylvan LaChance

Fall 2011


The mirrors begin to shake and tremble against the wall, as a sharp ringing sounds through the silence. Cracks begin to splinter across the surface of the mirrors, and the lights slowly fade to darkness. A great shattering of glass sounds out. Scene 2 They walk onto the stage. There is a single mirror standing tall in the middle, ornate and framed in intricately carved oak. The mirror faces the audience, and They face the mirror. The mirror shows Their reflection, and the audience is reflected back, and everybody is cast in a collage across the shining surface. All the faces begin to meld together. The mirror blurs and distorts. Clouds. The faces lose their distinction. Resolution wanes, and the mirror goes blank entirely. Everything smoothes over. “”: There was somebody I wanted to be, once. A person I wanted to become. It seemed so important. The face I expected to stare out from, that I expected to see staring back at me every time I looked in the mirror. The mirror clears, and everything is reflected perfectly on its surface once again. But I guess I’m exactly that person, after all. Aren’t I?

The lights begin to dim, and the mirror darkens. Darkness. Scene 3 A voice in the darkness:

“”: Where are you? I know you must be out there. I know you must be here. I can hear you. I really can. And I know. I can’t see you, but I know. But I’ll never find you, unless you say something. So why won’t you just say something? (Pause.) “”: WHY WON’T YOU JUST SAY SOMETHING? The lights brighten on the same framed mirror, still standing at the middle of the stage. It faces the audience, but They are no longer reflected on its surface. Cast against a pure black background, They stand locked behind the surface of the mirror, staring into the audience. Staring, but seemingly unable to see


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past the surface of the mirror itself and into the world beyond. They step towards the mirror, and it becomes obvious that They no longer have eyes. There is no blood, no indication of violence or damage. Their eyes are simply gone. They begin to pound against the surface of the mirror, and the beating resounds like deep church bells throughout the theater. (Desperately, a scream and a cry. Strangely in time with the pounding rhythm.) I would only see you, if I could. I would only see you. That is not so much. There is not so much between us. Not so much that separates us. I would only understand you, if I could, and understand who I am, who we are, what that means. The beating rhythm begins to deepen and amplify, changing in tone and frequency, morphing subtly, and suddenly, the rhythmic beating is no longer in time with the physical pounding against the glass. It has taken on a music of its own. The sound becomes quieter, musical, modestly beautiful. The sounds of a piano emerge from the chaos of noise, and the music resolves in “Moonlight Sonata”. The music fades, and the lights dim. The pounding against the glass becomes increasingly frantic until there is only darkness. And then there is silence, also. Scene 4 The stage floor is again covered in a perfectly circular mirror, bright and glowing in a shrouded red, colored like the setting sun. They stand in the middle of it, gazing towards the audience. “”: Everybody dies, right? Someday. Everybody. You and I. And in that moment, you will only be the person you have become, and there will be no more becoming at all. Does that scare you? (Pause.) Because it terrifies me. More than I can describe. More than I can ever speak or write. They tremble and fall backward into the surface of the mirror, drop into its shining surface and sink in a swelling of silver waves. As They sink below the surface, Their body ages and decays and falls into death, and finally, there is nothing left of Their body to be reflected. The light changes, and it becomes impossible to

Fall 2011


distinguish the mirror’s tone as that of the setting or rising sun. Scene 5 The lights rise. The stage is cleared by invisible hands. Everything is empty, and it is quiet. No mirrors, no reflections, no doubles. The audience begins to leave. And then a voice: “”: (As if from everywhere at the same time. Anybody in the theater could be speaking. Everybody could be. There is no source, only the words.) But you have been listening, haven’t you? You have been sitting here, witnessing this whole spectacle, all of these words and scenes, and hasn’t that meant anything to you? To any of you? (Pause.) Won’t this change anything? (Pause.) Won’t this change anything at all? Silence. The End.


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DALLIANCE Julie Burian

SPIT Nora Tumas I have to spit! I’ll sit and spit all day! I’ll spit and never stop the mucus greened with spring, the latte foam condensing in my lungs, the batteries, the charging phones that call from my throat: “oh Nora dear, spit!” Today I wore all red. I always feel like I am wearing all red. I’m a bloodsoaked dress. I am a blood-soaked summer dress heavy with the weight of wet, heart heavy with the weight of it. I guess I can go home to flipped sheets now that liver, lung, and feet need to fall asleep. I guess I’m not a pirate, just a thief. I burp champagne into burlap sacks. I burp up hearts for you to catch them with your teeth, and eat them.

Fall 2011


GRACEFUL IN LIFE Evan Fowler You fell in love with my mother’s mother after you saw her with her two children walking up the basement stairs of her sister’s house. And when you asked her to marry you after only a week of courting you asked quietly, in her ear, with no big fuss. You merged your families and your households— you had three types of flatware, two crock pots, six casserole dishes. By day you were an actuary serious, but you knew how to be a father—hold a child or toss a ball in the yard. And when we were born, the hoards of grandchildren who spilled orange juice on your oriental rugs and made you read us stories for hours, you embraced us and held us up to see birds’ nests. When I was small, we used to wash mushrooms for Grandmother’s salads. My fingers became as wrinkly as yours in that sink. As your mind decayed I could see you trapped, knowing you were becoming like a child, sorry to be a burden, saddened that you couldn’t read to your great-grandchildren.


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You slipped away more and more. That night I spent in the hospital among the smells of antiseptic and waste, you told the nurse to fuck off then almost cried because you realized you had been rude. You never forgot who I was. As you were graceful in life you were graceful in death, leaving at the right time. You sit now in my Grandmother’s closet inside a plastic bag, inside a cardboard box. You were always good at listening, and now when she sits in the closet on her step-stool, you always let her say as much as she needs. Grandmother has two birds to keep her company, but she tells them stories about you. When I make dinner for her and wash mushrooms for the salad, my hands still wrinkle in the sink.


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SLAVE OF DEATH Megan Fraedrich Are you wearing a button-up shirt? If not, go put one on now. I assure you, I will not peek. Excellent. Now that you’re wearing a button-up shirt, try taking the top button and putting it through the bottom buttonhole. Then take the second button and put it through the fourth button hole. Then put third button through the second buttonhole. And after that, keep going until all of the buttons and buttonholes are taken. Then take all of the buttons now snugly buttoned into the wrong holes and fit them through the right buttonholes at the same time. Understand? If you are a mortal, you shouldn’t. But that is essentially what I do with the fabric of space-time in a day’s honest work. While I’m sure you’ve heard of me, I prefer to be referred to by my official title, Chief Dehumanifier Mortimer XIV of the Underworld. ‘Grim Reaper’ has all of the suave subtlety of a fatal whack upside the head with a shovel, and besides, it comes nowhere near encompassing all of the duties of my profession. In fact, I’ve delegated most of my reaping responsibilities to interns these last several centuries. The death business has been expanding rapidly as the world population has done likewise, and a man has to move with the times. When one is responsible for organizing, arranging, choreographing, distributing, and synchronizing the ends of every creature on the planet, one must have some subordinates upon whom to fall back. In fact, it is on that matter that I wish to speak today. Although I normally make no distinction between individual days, today is nonetheless a special occasion. Seated at the desk from which I have hardly ever budged these past five hundred years, I survey my office, pristine as ever. There are some who would reproachfully cluck their tongues at its solid black wallpaper, carpeting, windowpanes, furniture, and accoutrements, but I’ve always thought it lent an air of morbid dignity. Others might point out a lack of homey touches, as though it is a criminal offense that I do not choose to decorate my workspace with Dilbert or Far Side cartoons, or framed photos of humans. However, I have made a few concessions—a skull-shaped paperweight, its eye sockets doubling as storage for my writing utensils, as well as a bowl of jelly beans


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(all black, naturally). Granted, no one is able to eat in the Underworld, but it is the thought that counts. I quickly rearrange the pens on my desk into a neat line as two figures enter the room and incline their heads respectfully. The taller and stouter by far of the two is just my personal servant and all-purpose drone, Edgar. The smaller and more interesting one is Alexander Whitt. It is on his frail shoulders that I intend to lay the mantle of Chief Minister of the Underworld.


Okay, I’m Alex, and let me get one thing straight. Before you start asking questions, no, I did not sign up for any of this. Yeah, I’m an intern with the Grim Reaper—and I know how much he just loves being called that—but no, I’m not a cold-blooded killer or a coward afraid of death or a power-hungry kook or anything like that. One minute, I was just another fourth grade kid, sitting on the roof my apartment building and reading comic books with my best friend. Next thing I knew, I was falling off the edge, hurtling slowly through the air like it was made of fudge or something. And just before I hit the ground, a bony hand closed around my ankle and I found myself standing on nothing and staring at someone. He wasn’t the sort of person that you’d look at twice—but if you did, you might notice a few slight peculiarities about the small, stooped guy in the black suit. His skin was just slightly too pale to belong to anyone alive, his teeth just slightly too sharp, and his black eyes nothing but hugely dilated pupils, eclipsing any shred of an iris. Even less noticeable but more unusual, he never blinked or breathed, and his heart sat silent and cold as a frog in a deep-freezer. His hair looked like the back end of a duck that had been caught in an oil slick. “Alexander Whitt,” said a soft, vaguely nasal voice with the sort of fancy British accent you only hear in old-fashioned movies that moms like to watch on PBS. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am the Chief Minister of the Underworld. As you see, I have briefly muzzled the ravenous jaws of death; in exchange for my mercy, I expect pay-

BRINK Julie Burian

Fall 2011


ment. Please come with me.” And that was that. It wasn’t so much that we went anywhere as it was that everywhere moved away from us. The world seemed to scoot over on a bench to make room for the Underworld’s giant bum, which promptly sat on top of me. I don’t really know if that metaphor made any sense, but bear with me. My education’s been spotty—not much opportunity for learning past the fourth grade level when I’m constantly retrieving souls of the dead and all that. Even ten years after that day, the Chief Minister’s face still made me feel a strange chill all over, which is saying something, because feeling anything at all shouldn’t happen in the Underworld. Stepping into his tiny, pantherblack office, I could not help but feel that something terrifying was waiting in every corner, waiting to spring for my jugular. Weird I’d worry about that, I guess, since death incarnate was looking me straight in the eye. “Ah, Alexander, Edgar. Do sit down,” the Chief Minister said, gesturing around him. I looked about for something to sit on that wasn’t a casket, failed, and chose instead to stand politely. “It’s very dim in here, isn’t it?” he remarked and snapped his fingers. Instantly, twenty black candles sitting on the table burst into flame, casting eerie shadows across his ferrety face. “There. That’s much better.” I knew he must have wanted to see me for something important if he was willing to tear away one of his most experienced interns from the booming death business. But even I was not expecting him to lean over his desk and whisper, “As you know, there is no specific law that requires Chief Minister of the Underworld to retire after five hundred years. But precedent… recommends it. Therefore, I am promoting you to full Assistant Reaper, Alexander. Edgar, I trust you will handle my finances and duties for the next ten years until Alexander is able to assume the official role of Chief Minister.” People don’t eat or drink in the Underworld. Any food would just pass right through us in a not-too-cute sort of way, and besides, legend has it that anything you eat in the Underworld is the surest ticket to having your soul bound here for eternity. But if I’d been drinking anything, I would have spat it out. “Wait, what?” “During your ten years as Assistant Reaper, you will be released into world of the living, appearing inconspicuous, aging and existing as an ordinary human,” continued the Chief Minister. “You will assume the duty of separating souls from bodies and give up your current position of escorting these severed souls to the appropriate afterlife.” “Okay, there must be some mistake,” I said. “When you kidnapped me, you told me I need to trade ten years of servitude in exchange for saving my life, and then I can go back to normal.” The Chief Minister’s eyes widened, an expression that


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might look innocent on anyone else. “Yes, yes, for ten years, as an Assistant Reaper. And after that you return here.” “That’s not what you told me then,” I whispered. “You said I’d be free.” His eyes widened even more. He looked like an owl about to swoop down from the sky and snatch up a mouse. “Oh dear, you must have misunderstood, Alexander. In fact, you have a choice. You may return to the world of the living and serve as an Assistant Reaper. Or you may choose death. Do you really think freedom exists, Alexander? All humans are slaves to death, forced to bend to its will as their lives run their puny course. You can be a slave to death, or you can be a slave to me, the arbiter of death. Doesn’t that sound rather more appealing?” I stared at him, his face gleaming fish belly white in the candlelight. “Let me go,” I said. “Back to the real world, I mean. No way in the Underworld I’m ever being Grim Reaper.” He stared at me for just a second too long, even for someone unable to blink. “Very well,” he replied crisply and got to his feet, picking up a black leather briefcase from the side of his desk. “I’ll let you go. Please come with me. Edgar, in the meantime, please think up an interesting death for that dictator fellow we’ve been discussing.” “Is he ill, sir?” asked Edgar, bowing his translucent gray head. “No, no, Edgar, he’s just been annoying to me for quite some time. Figured it was about time that life ended.” He got out a cigarette and put it to his lips, where it ignited on its own, then immediately stubbed it out. “Come up with something creative—amuse me. Falling pianos or vicious sting rays or an unfortunate accident involving mimes and a cement truck.” The office faded around us, and I suddenly found myself in the midst of what had to be a waiting room. What other kind of room is decorated in the lovely colour scheme of, “Oh dear, I think the cat’s ill again?” What other kind of room contains chairs with the apparent dual function of serving as both torture devices and eyesores. And above all, what other kind of room boasts a varied assortment of magazines including 19th Century Housewives Digest and Beet Farmers’ Monthly? “Oh, that’s just Limbo,” the Chief Minister said airily as he strolled past to what appears to be a fish tank. “Don’t make eye contact.” I was more than happy to follow his request. The wispy-looking people sitting in the waiting room all looked forlorn and battered, as though they’d been nibbled around the edges and then left to grow stale. The Chief Minister snapped open his briefcase and pulled out a collapsible scythe, cocking the blade at the perfect angle. Rather than standing on his toes to open the fish tank, he simply levitated about three inches off of the ground and flipped the top off, dipping the end

of his scythe into the murky blue-grey water. When he turned around, two limp, translucent forms dangled off the blade of the scythe like overcooked spinach. I know what those were. They were souls. A tiny trail of the filmy bluish matter stretched from my ankle to whatever was draped around the Chief Minister’s scythe, the same trails that connected everyone in the waiting room to the tank. “Right,” said the Chief Minister. “Eat this.” My eyebrows shot up to my hairline. “Excuse me?” “When I first recruited you as an intern, I, as you know, removed your soul from your body and deposited it in this tank for more remote usage. The quickest way to return it to the inside of your body is to eat it.” Feeling incredibly stupid, I gingerly lifted the soul from the end of the blade, weighing it in my hand. It was like cupping a shadow. I lifted my hands to my mouth and let the soul slither down my throat. Suddenly, the world went blue. The sun burst out of every pore in my body. I’d never liked amusement parks. One time, in the distant corner of my memory before all of this reaper business, my friend got me to ride some crazy machine called UNCLE GRAVITRON. Its aim was to make riders scream ‘Uncle! Uncle!’ as they spun around madly, pinned to the walls. Uncle Gravitron was extremely successful at this, at least in my case. I think I might have vomited up several feet of my intestines, but I won’t get into that. In any case, I felt like I was riding Uncle Gravitron again, as everything dissolved into a multicolored whirl and my body seemed to disappear in the maze of color. And when the spinning stopped and I collapsed onto the cold, hard ground… everything was different.


My knees buckle as I hit the ground. It is moist, cool, solid…I feel the impact racing across my body, the gentle sloshing of my organs inside of me, the weight of my body. I feel as though I’ve been buried inside something vast and mechanical. It is the first time I have felt anything in five hundred years as Chief Reaper. I haven’t the foggiest notion as to what I am doing. If only I had realized this before. I do not know what waits for me. I do not know if I will return to the world of the living, as Alexander will, if my plans succeed, or some sort of afterlife, or yawning black nothing. I know everything there is to be known about the deaths of ordinary mortals, how they are sorted and separated. But I know nothing about where the Grim Reaper goes when he retires. I get to my feet and find myself standing at the top of a patchy hill, most of its grass brown and wilted. Flashes of blue peek through the dull grey sky, and my neck prickles as the wind lifts the back of my hair.

There was a wind like that when the accident happened, I remember… and then I remember the rest… My name is John Duncombe. I am a barber and as much of a surgeon as it is possible to be in a small, muddy English hamlet. “Good with a blade, eh? That will be useful indeed,” I remember the then-Chief Reaper saying to me that day, as he looked me over in my bloodstained apron. The year is 1510. I am thirty-six years old. I have a wife named Agnes who has beautiful long reddish-brown hair, and I think she is lovely even though her skin is pockmarked and she’s missing half of her teeth. Our oldest son, named for me, is thirteen and learning my trade… our youngest, Robert, is four, and the three girls are somewhere in between, already looking forward to marriage, although the convent seems more likely for one or two of them. I love ale and old cheese, when I can get it. I love my two dogs and my chair. I love watching cockfights and festivals and dumbshows, on the rare occasion I have time. I hate


knights, and I secretly want to be one. I can read, better than the rest of my village, but not as well as they think I can. I don’t know a word of Latin, but they still call me John the Wise, sometimes with an earnest air of respect and sometimes in a jeering mockery. I hate the cold. I hate the fleas. I hate the smell. I hate the blood and the stench of death everywhere. I am drunk. I am walking down the road alone… a rich man’s carriage trundles down the road behind me. I do not hear it. I am singing a loud, bawdy song with the other men. I am pulled under it… my skull is about to be crushed… a bony hand closes around my ankle. “John Duncombe. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the Chief Minister of the Underworld. As you see, I have briefly muzzled the ravenous jaws of death; in exchange for my mercy, I expect payment. Please come with me.” Standing here on the hilltop, it is as clear as yesterday. In fact… it was yesterday. The time in between never passed.

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Looking down over the hill, I see my village, the muddy and desolate swamp covered in thatched huts that barely pass as houses. There is Roger, the blacksmith, just as he was. There, throwing frozen mud clots against the side of an old shed, are his children. There is his wife, fat and impatient, shouting upon his deaf ears as he hammers at whatever he’s making now. I stand and watch my village, just as it was but so different to me. Why didn’t I see how dirty and miserable it was? How could I have lived here for thirty-six years? How could anyone live like this? And how can I be expected to rejoin this after five hundred years of absolute omnipotence? I feel a strange sensation, a burning behind my eyes… something wet drops down onto my cheek, a raindrop of some sort. I touch it and realize that I am crying, I am shaking. Slowly,without thinking, I reach into my briefcase and pull out the scythe that I could not leave behind. Not made to cut worldly things—used on a field of corn, it would achieve nothing— its blade can only manage one thing. It splits souls from bodies. I plunge the scythe deep into my chest, feeling nothing and leaving no mark, and pull out the edge of my soul, leaving it exposed and raw in the harsh light of day. Raising my scythe high, I cut the thread. I pity humans, I think, staring wistfully at the world that used to be mine as it grows dimmer. Living is so messy, isn’t it? The blackness that catches me is much neater.

lurched along, trying to decide if Pizza Hut or Ben & Jerry’s was the best place to obtain my lunch. There were so many people, laughing, eating, talking, aging, moving forward with their lives… I didn’t know what on earth I was going to do, but I didn’t mind. I’m back, I thought, snapping my fingers in a fairly jaunty manner. At the instant of my snapping, a fly buzzing around my head suddenly dropped to the ground, stone dead. A coincidence. That was all, just another coincidence. I snapped my fingers again… and this time, a man sitting in the food court clutched his chest and slid out of his seat, his soul spilling out of his body like jelly out of a doughnut. I look down at my hands, trembling uncontrollably. Apparently, you can take the boy away from the Underworld, but you can’t take the Underworld away from the boy. The Chief Reaper tricked me. He tricked me, like he tricks everyone, and somehow I thought I was special. Now, here I was on planet Earth, no way of going back, as human as anyone else… except for the part where I wasn’t, not at all. Like it or not, I was in the death business for life.


It could be a lot worse, I thought as I stared into the grimy mirror. The ten years I’d spent in the Underworld, all came flooding into me as soon as I hit the cold tile of the Union Station bathroom stall. Without warning, I was nineteen years old. I looked… weird. How could I be this gangly creature, with a prominent Adam’s apple and patchy stubble and a few ugly zits on his face? I tried hard to believe that this new face was mine, the same shaggy brown hair, the dark blue eyes, the pale skin and pointed chin, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the notion. I couldn’t help but wonder if I might run into anyone I knew, and if I did, whether they’d recognize me. I doubted it. I didn’t recognize me. And everyone must have given me up for dead long ago. Where was I supposed to go from here? My family had lived in DC the day of the accident, but my dad was in the army, and we used to move around all the time. Should I call someone? Contact the news studio? Find a hotel? But all of that could wait. I was starving. Pushing open the bathroom door, I walked into the train station, cavernous, dark, and congested. Hmmm, just like the Underworld. I was at home already. Walking was strange in this new, towering body, and I felt like a drunken giraffe as I

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INSANITY Jessica Nesbitt Something crucial is peeled from the ever-thickening barrier that separates us from an intangible reality. We sit in a brilliantly-lit coffee shop that doubles as a Chiapanecan and Indian store where the Holy Bible spreads its shameless legs to reveal a tart, recycled Psalm. Words are heatedly tossed from the mouths of two brilliant and entirely atypical humans: free masons, cults and politicians, world domination, death row, mind control. A view of life that challenges anything supposedly sane. Ever since realizing that insanity isn’t the most strategic way to meander through life, I ache to pocket any bit of sanity I stumble upon. Sane people read books, and don’t share their meaningless stream of consciousness bits of writing that belie a sane exterior. They don’t hold tightly, feverishly to theories or conspiracies. They drink normal amounts of coffee, they read a propaganda-filled newspaper and nod their heads with distaste or pleasure while their Cheerios expand in their two-percent milk. They believe in the American dream. And yet the people I surround myself with are never this picturesque. They don’t censor their writing and


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they sure as hell don’t eat Cheerios. They chew on their fingernails and bitterly resent the United States of America. They live in ellipses, punctuation, in the corner of a ripped page, or never finish their sentences at all. They are full, whole people with more dimensions than the puzzle pieces of a theory can manage. And they laugh. Too loudly. Knowingly. During the scene where the husband leaves his wife for a younger, more desirable woman. They cry – heartbreaking, wrenching sobs in the least appropriate place imaginable. She wears seven rings on her fingers at all times; he cannot eat without taking a snapshot of his meal and cos prefers to mutilate a pre-packaged, gendered way of life. Insanity is abnormality; a deviation from a normal thought process and a subsequent way of life. Insanity is palpable naïveté that worms its way into a young, speckled body which is aching to intimately know every book in the universe. Insanity is forgoing a conclusion, and using the least amount of common sense. Insanity is the bright globe of gas in the sky that acts as a mirror and proudly watches you glow.


Fall 2011


SESTINA FOR THE INSECTS Emily Crane / BEST IN SHOW POETRY My unclean insect self makes a pattering sound as it scuttles through mind paths I know so well I could follow them blind, solely by touch. But I cannot flee the pervading, sickening smell of answers I would never dare to taste, so I choose not to feel the world against my skin. I unwrap myself from my skin, folding it slowly to relish the crinkling sound, and place it in the drawer where ants gather to steal a taste. I don’t let slip any announcements, but they always know— Perhaps, as I am cooked, they recognize my smell and prepare their stomachs for my touch. Every morning: more holes through which I must touch and more memories missing from my skin. Some say the strongest memories are smells, mine vanished without a sound. I turn to the ants, I’m sure they know, their mouths are full of my memories’ taste. I’ve heard ants have a lemony taste. If I eat them, will I re-feel their touch? I debate whether or not I should reconquer all that they know, reclaim the devoured shreds of my skin through their skin— The ants deliver my conclusion with no speech or sound by ushering in the rot with its knowledgeable smell. My nose may shrivel on my face at the smell, but my tongue quivers, longing for a taste. As the ants squish, there is a faint crunching sound— Unlike me, they have hard skin, more resilient to the touch. I stuff myself on all I know. I won’t admit how much I know, even though my proclamatory breath carries a lemony smell. Go ahead, try to interrogate me with your burning touch— But the lights are too bright for my taste and I don’t much care for the sizzle of cooking skin. It’s an overly self-conscious sound. You know how I taste, how I smell, how I touch, so I shrink to my insect skin with no protest sound.


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Fall 2011


THE AMBISINISTROUS Jonathan Koven May these words find Your ears among chapped lips and broken logs. May these words speak to You even as You swim in Your waves. May these words lick at Your insides as the flames eat up Your children’s skin. Should they feel rebirth, should they recover, but they have died at Your hand. Hear me well. The crisp red air opened up and died there. It died with the water and the buildings and the fifty-five thousand faces, arid and holding their breaths, in the air. The dried death of echoing air. I perished Seventeen-Fifty-Five. I, the city of Lisbon. I held Your hand up in the sky when the earth came rumbling for my heart as it pumped the oxygen through narrow streets like veins. I heard the opera singers in their churches and spectacles of over-arching balconies, soon to be rubble. My neck remained stiff. As my calloused fingers rose to touch the frozen bulging muscles in my throat, I felt the fall of my vanity. I was called Falter by family. Father hills danced its stomach to the sky, showing me distaste. Disappointment. I am sorry to my birthing geography. It is my fissured, I am its own. And I love it endlessly, but before I chose my grieving words, my side was empty. God, You promised me a filled palm. What is this You left me here? Horror is no term. It is no way of speech. It is no vocabulary of makers of fear. It is letters combined to form a single aimless sound that can in no way be described. I saw my baby, her hand pressed against my cold skin as it ripped for You. Her garments torn, palm printed into the concrete. She held me with tears in her wrinkled eyelids, as she shut them tighter than her body could hold. My Lord, she panicked and she looked in me in wonder with trembling pupils. Why was I betraying my own daughter? My skin cracked and opened up into the center of all creation, and she saw within me. “Baby,” I said, “know before you die that I never meant to let you down. I never meant to be the source of your own destruction. Know that


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I love you even as you breathe your last breath. Oh please, know this all. I am so sorry.” She could not hear me through her own cherished screams. I felt her convulsing bones in her fingers scratching at the pavement. Pebbles rushed beneath her nails, scraping at her bloodied wrists, cutting her angelic skin. Her feet would not stop moving, the contours of her figure shifting despite all worldly nature. She battled her tortured fists against my skin, screaming, telling me to stop, but I could not stop. I could not save her. She was feasted upon by rock and hole and all empty space. I could hear the opera singers in their dying breaths in their damned churches and bleeding spectacles. That is horror, You, You see, this is horror, it is no word, this is it. I am no killer. I am Your killer. I am the everything and the nothing now. From the center of the earth, a murmur touched me. I felt its call. It spoke to me. I’ve heard its call before and its answer spoke rhythms of pain to my children. They reverberated through four story buildings, knocking furniture, lapsing rotations of a planet seeking its end. Yet, it never sought to destroy itself. Yet is the word. I hear the punctures in the air; they teach me something that I cannot name. I have guarded Your face and fingertips. I have cut my skin upon Your hardened breath. Till Autumn November morning, Your lips kissed a story unlike anything I have ever known. It was a cycle of both pain and pleasure where misery and bliss were one in the same. You gave me such a broken love that was still love. You did this all to me. You did this to all of my children. If I should say I am sorry, that I have transgressed, that my city walls were too short, may it be all truthful. But no words will pass through my lips. The sea grew tall. The air was red. I heard Your heart so close to my ears that I could not hear anything else. You spoke to me so loudly that now I cannot listen to my own heart. It is gone. I – once the city of Lisbon, until Seventeen-Fifty-Five.

PUNCHER FLIGHT Lisa Jakab Ink, Charcoal, Gesso, and Acrylic on Paper 42 x 42 inches

Fall 2011


DOWN THE ROAD Brandon Robers Consciousness comes slowly, rising in waves like the morning tide inching back from a night spent banished and forgotten beyond a distant sand bar. The blackness is no longer complete, but a heavy fog remains. Awareness returns. His throat is raw and the brittle skin inside cracks as he tries to swallow. His lips stick firmly to one another, his tongue to the roof of his mouth. He struggles to open his eyes. They stick, lids glued with the saline remains of a night’s sweat. One breaks free, peels open haltingly like a zipper pried free without aide of its slider. The only light comes bleeding into the small room from around the edges of a vinyl shade covering the only window. The day creeps in like the glowing arc of a solar eclipse, and bathes the room in a muted, eerie grey. The single beam that finds a clear path catches in the heavy air and reaches across the darkness like the phosphorescent tentacle of some subaquatic horror. Both eyes open now, he can see into the gloom. Past the edge of his bare mattress lies an ashtray, stolen from a patio table at the Honduran restaurant downstairs and overflowing onto the grimy carpet of his room. In the corner, a haphazard pile of clothing left out as a reminder of who he had been only a few months before. Boots, a crumpled cap, his tan desert pants still stained and dirty. On top lay his Kevlar helmet, its cover torn to reveal its curved green surface. He had never bothered to clean any of it, just dropped it there. Every time he walks into the room he sees it sitting there in the corner and tells himself that it is time get rid of it, or at least put it away, though he never does. Hiding it would only let the memories it evoked grow more terrible, the way a child’s nighttime revenant feeds on the spectacles that imagination grows in the shadows and becomes more terrible than even the worst distortion of reality can justify. He can’t throw it away. Perhaps it’s worth something, at least to someone. Maybe someday he’ll sell it, but he’s not that desperate yet. He stretches. Joints pop and muscles groan. Everything appears to still work. He reaches up, a mild tremor already discernible in his movements, and rubs some of the remaining fog from his eyes. He pushes cautiously back onto his elbows and then sits upright. His eyes catch on a scrap of crumpled aluminum foil in the sheets between his legs, the wrappings of birria tacos he can’t recall eating the night before. He is nauseous. His stomach tightens and shifts inside him. He has felt it before, more times than he can count, and knows he won’t wretch. This wasn’t always true, there had been times when he had doubled over and spilled everything. He had wanted it then, welcomed the chance to


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push whatever evil had been revealed inside him out into the world. It hadn’t worked, if anything he’d left the better parts of his soul in a heap in the desert sand. But this morning was different, the stirring came from his stomach alone, and that he could handle like a hardened veteran. There is a crumpled pack of Camels on the floor; no smoke this morning. He doesn’t need to pick up the bottle next to the bed to know it is empty. He waits a minute, maybe two, for the battle raging in his abdomen to be decided. When the groans finally quiet, he pushes himself up to his feet and walks towards the apartment’s only other room without taking his eyes from the dingy carpet. He slaps the wall, once, twice, searching for the switch. When the light flickers to life it burns his eyes and sends a new wave of nausea through him. He stands motionless, holding the frame of the door to keep from falling. He turns to the sink, fills his cupped hands with cool water and drinks. The first sip burns as it spreads through the parched crevasses of his throat. There used to be a mirror above the faucet, but he took it down months ago. Now he places a hand on the bare wall in front of him for support, leans forward over the sink, and lets the water drip from his lips as he gathers the energy to cough up the refuse of the night before. The shower is next. His daily ritual — one of them anyway. He used to think there was some kind of symbolism in the whole process, like he was starting over each day, cleansing himself of whatever came before. He hasn’t thought that in a long time. Now he does it because he knows that if he doesn’t he might not get what he needs. If he walked in dirty, with the smell of the night before still one him, the clerk would see him for what he was and might suffer some temporary attack of concern for her fellow man. The thought of having to walk the three additional blocks to the J&H on Venice Avenue is more troubling than the work required to rinse the acetic sweat from his body, so he does it each morning. The fog has begun to lift and his mind will soon begin to clear. He must go before then. Already he can see the little girl’s face, glaring. He blinks, lets the water run through his eyes, and focuses on the pain radiating from the back of his head. He dresses quickly, in a rush now. A clear mind means a clear memory, and a clear memory means he’ll have to face the girl. It’s more than just that anyway, there is a need, a corporeal demand entirely apart from his desire to avoid her glares. He is anxious now, sweating. The tremors are maturing quickly and have crept down his arms, into his

fingers so that even when he is at rest he can’t really be still. Now comes the hardest part. He has to open the door, expose himself to the early afternoon and the haughty, superior looks of the rest of the neighborhood’s gloomy inhabitants. He’s not sure why he should care about them, or if he even really does. There is only one look that really matters, the terrified look of a young girl silently pleading with him. Today he turns to the left after gathering the courage to pull open the heavy oak door guarding his sanctuary. He had gone right yesterday. There are only two places in the immediate vicinity that could help him and he chose to alternate day to day. Everyone was always perfectly polite, gracious even, but he was always afraid that one trip too many would mean a condescending glance, or worse, an outright refusal. He walks slowly, hunched forward and focused on the cracked sidewalk underfoot. Less than a year ago he was a different man, a man who moved forcefully down any street he pleased, shoulders pulled back, confident in his abilities and resolute in his convictions. He crosses the street, barely glancing up as he steps off the curb. The midday sun warms the back of his neck as he shuffles past restaurants whose names he can’t understand or pronounce. When he eats he just looks for signs with familiar images – the foreign characters of the China Express, the grinning pig with its curly tail on the front of El Cochinito. The plate glass façade of the 99 Cents Only Store reflects an image of a young man obscured by a week of facial hair and slumped forward like a chastised hound wilting under his master’s glare. He’s never sure if that is the place’s name or an advertisement. Perhaps its promise of low value junk worked as much as a security measure as it did an enticement to the neighborhood’s impoverished residents; it is the only building on the block that doesn’t have every door and window cosseted with thick steel bars. A dark man wearing a cowboy hat and red windbreaker leans against a mature tree set into the sidewalk. He stands, smoking a cigarette and offering a menacing scowl to anyone willing to meet his eye. The neighborhood has its charms. For one, no one ever tries to talk to him. He doubts he could understand them if they did. This is a place for the frugal and the desperate, and there are far more of the latter. He isn’t really sure which category he falls into. His VA disability checks provide enough money to cover his basic needs, though he certainly doesn’t live in splendor. They used to try to contact him too. When he first moved to the area, a counselor from the VA Hospital in West L.A. called once a week, but he was tired of explaining that he didn’t want to come in anymore, didn’t want their help. Eventually he stopped answering, and now he doesn’t have a phone to answer even

if he should change his mind. He pushes through the barred door of the ABC. There is Mariachi floating in the air and the scratching sound of a soccer game that a black and white TV behind the counter can’t quite pick up. The store has the musty smell of stale hops and mold steaming from an old wooden floor that the yellowed linoleum no longer completely covers. A rough-skinned man sits at a table along the left wall, scratching an instant lottery ticket and sipping from a brown paper bag. The image and smell could just as easily have been from any ramshackle neighborhood in Baghdad as Los Angeles. He isn’t sure if this is comforting, or perhaps penitential, but it is familiar. He’d been standing with his team outside a store like this one nine months ago. They’d been there for the same reason too, but they’d never admit that to anyone. That’s


when he had seen the girl, when Jackson had done what he had done, and when he had made the choices that had brought him here, to this shitty apothecary to his adopted city’s fallen angels. He walks down the right-hand isle along the store’s far wall. He knows the route well. There, at the end of the isle, he sees the girl. She looks at him with terrified, accusing brown eyes. She is begging, leave us, please just leave us! He blinks hard, squeezes his eyes for a long moment and wills himself to focus on his task. When he looks again she is gone — only a dirty cooler and old cardboard cutout sale rack remain. He wraps his hand around the neck of a bottle. No need to look closely, he knows what it is, what it costs, what it

Fall 2011


JUNKVAULT/TREASUREYARD Luke Ramsey Watercolor and Hot Glue on Paper


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does. He walks to the front of the store, shuffling across the curled linoleum and staring into the light pouring in from the front window. The sun has blurred his vision, left a dark stain in the center of his view that covers the face of the women standing behind the counter. “Buenos días,” the women says, her tone betraying the lie. “¿Algo más hoy?” He doesn’t understand the second comment. It doesn’t matter, he knows what to do. He digs into the pocket of his jeans and pulls out a single, crumpled, ten-dollar bill. He puts it on the counter along with 13 cents he manages to grip between his trembling fingers. It’s always the same, every day in every store. The sun-spotted fog across his view is fading and he can see the pointed look she gives him as she slips his purchase into a tall paper sack. Not pity, not anger, perhaps disgust. She takes his money. He wants to ask for a pack of Camels but he can’t speak, the anxiety has begun to take hold. He is breathing faster. He knows things will get worse from here. Back out into the light. The girl is there, across the street, accusing him with her stare. This world and the one that haunts his dreams on any night he dares to sleep sober are moving closer together in his mind. The air, the light, the feel of this place is no longer much different from the world frozen in his mind. And the girl. He is near panic now, hyperventilating, and pushes himself to walk fast. Range walk! He knows what he needs to do, but not yet, he still has enough self respect to close himself inside before he begins. But until then, he can’t stop the flood. She is still there, and now, even through closed eyes and clouded mind, he is there too.


He stood at the front passenger’s side corner of the HMMWV, covering the far end of the street. Edmondson had the other corner. Two guys from the other team had taken positions at the rear corners of the trail vehicle. His gaze constantly swept, high to low, left to right. The two remaining members of their patrol were inside the shop, requisitioning supplies they said. Same as every week. They’d been here seven or eight times before and never had trouble. Still, they had to stay alert. The streets were busy this time of day. Women and girls moved quickly about, heads down, never looking at the men in uniform. Men sat on cheap sidewalk furniture smoking long bubbling pipes and sipping from tiny cups. His thoughts had wandered (how the fuck can you drink a cup of coffee in this heat) but not so far that he didn’t see the change. The street was slightly, but perceptibly, quieter. Not a calm quiet, but an unnatural stillness that settled in the air and crept slowly into his consciousness. It was

the looks. Now it was the few men that remained outside that looked away, and one tall, traditional looking women, locked hand in hand with a young girl in modern clothing, that stared at them from just past the corner of the block. “Eddie.” His voice carried only the slightest waver, but he was sure it gave up his rising panic. “I know, I see it,” said Edmondson. He stepped forward, focused his gaze for just an instant on each person in his lane of fire. He was probing, searching for the source of his fear. There was nothing that he could see, but he knew. It had to be the woman. She kept walking, moving slowly toward them, but still 50 yards distant. She never broke her stare. “Contact left!” Eddie’s words were half drowned in the sharp crack of his rifle. Three quick shots. He spun to his left, rifle raised to his shoulder and cheek pressed to its stock before he completed the movement. He saw a dark man finish a stumbling fall to the ground, cut down by Eddie’s burst. He scanned, both eyes open, high then low, left then right. Nothing. Two more shots to his left. Eddie was firing across him now. He saw it. On the second story roof top to his right, his side, a flash of movement. He brought his rifle up, but not before two men on the roof level theirs. He squeezed the trigger, once, twice, both eyes still open, not really aiming. It was louder than he had expected, he had stopped wearing his hearing protection weeks ago. The men above fired at almost the same time but their shots were high and only managed to shatter the glass window of the store across the street. Shouts from inside the shop. The others were coming out, running. “Mount, mount!” It was Sergeant Neal. He knew this was his cue. He stepped back, lowering his rifle as he moved. Fumbled once with the rear door latch, then pulled it open. The others continued firing while he climbed into the HMMWV, dropping his rifle into the footwell, barrel down, without bothering to engage the safety. He stood up into the turret, gripped the SAW, safety off. “Ready!” A second later his call was echoed from the turret of the rear vehicle. The others moved quickly, climbing in, Jackson behind the wheel and Sergeant Neal next to him. He tightened his grip and the SAW roared. He raked back and forth, short bursts, not shooting at anything in particular. Suppress, suppress. His ears rang, each concussion pushing deeper into his head like a chisel working deeper into a granite fissure. He watched concrete splinter and explode from the walls of the dirty brown buildings as he squeezed, only vaguely aware of the connection between the deteriorating stone work and his grip on his weapon.

Fall 2011


The engine roared to life and they were moving in almost the same instant. He kept squeezing. Short bursts, count it out, one-one-hundred. He heard the SAW in the truck behind him, mirroring his percussion. And then, a deeper base, a slower rhythm. “Contact right! Right!” Behind him, nothing he could do. He kept his eyes forward, scanning and squeezing. One-one-hundred. There was no obvious threat in front of him. They were moving now and the street before them was empty save a single man, crouching next to an overturned plastic table outside of a coffee shop, trembling and covering his ears with his hands. On the corner of the block, the woman and her girl remained, standing motionless now and still staring.


He remembers, he doesn’t want to, is desperate not to, but he remembers. He is walking as fast as his weary legs will carry him now. Past the 99 Cent Only Store, past the China Express. Still she glares at him, knowing what he is and torturing him with the knowledge. Soon he’ll be able to begin the process of stepping down from this nightmare.


The woman was still staring at him. Something was wrong. Why doesn’t she run? And the child, why would she stay with her child? He was jerked violently in the turret as the truck lurched to the right. They swerved away from the center of the road and toward the collection of cheap furniture outside the coffee shop, now vacated but for the man still cowering amongst the refuse of that afternoon’s gathering. The first chair spun away when the truck’s metal bumper caught its back. The next caught briefly on the grill before folding and cracking under a tire. Jackson angled directly at the man and his worthless covert. The man didn’t look up as the bumper struck his head and the table simultaneously. He too folded under the tire and the truck heaved and listed as it rolled forward. Had he turned toward them? Was there a weapon, maybe something that only Jackson saw? No, no, he would have seen from the turret, there was nothing. There was no time to think about it. They were picking up speed, approaching the corner where the woman and girl stood, staring, glaring. He had loosened his grip, quieted the SAW, but the turret behind him was still very much alive. He couldn’t think clearly, there was no time. There was something wrong and he had to decide. He leaned forward, pressing tightly against the weapon.


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He locked eyes with the woman. He was terrified, he could almost see his own fear reflected in her eyes, but there was none from her. She glared at him, not a trace of fear, no emotion at all. She was wrong. And the girl, was it confusion that spread across her face, or maybe a trace of fear? The only thing he could be sure of was that he didn’t want to die. He never made a decision, never made any conscious effort, but his grip tightened. One-one-hundred. The forward movement of the truck carried his line of fire with it, across the woman, and across the pleading face of her young companion. His eyes locked onto the girl in the last second. This time her expression was clear, pleading, begging, and at last, a flash of utter condemnation. He closed his eyes just an instant too late, and the images that those final few moments of light carried burned deep into his mind. They have stayed with him ever since, and so has she.


He has to get back to his room, only a few hundred feet now. He is desperate; his body is revolting, demanding to be soothed. She is there, on the corner, glaring at him, no longer begging but condemning. He knows what comes next. She still appears as she did before the end, her youthful beauty distorted with fear and rage, but her body still whole. Soon she will remind him of what he did, force him to see her as she was in the last instant before he had slammed his eyes shut. He makes it back, pushes through the unlocked door. It is mercifully dark inside. He has made it in time, before the worst of her torment. She won’t come in. Safely inside his drunkards dungeon, he will be free of her in all but his dreams. She is gone, but his panic is not. He lets himself lean back against the closed door and draws the bottle to his lips. Plastic may not have been enough to save a terrified man from Jackson’s impulse, but it is enough to stop him from getting what he needs. He brings up his other hand, grips, twists, breaks the seal to his deliverance. He pulls hard, swallows, and pulls again. It will be minutes before it begins to really work, but just the burn spreading down his throat and through his nose is enough to ease the worst of his anxiety. He is safe, and the calm will come soon enough. He finds it incredible that they say that he is the one who is sick. Perhaps not incredible; after all, he is sick, at least his body is. But what about their minds? What about Jackson? He’s home now with his fiancé, back in college like nothing ever happened. It would take a sick mind not to be tortured after everything that happened. Slowly the warmth spreads from his stomach, releasing him nerve by nerve. He walks to the bed and sits down. The rest of the day will be okay. In an hour he’ll be able

GREEN LADY DREAMING Rachel Ternes Acrylic on Canvas

to make it downstairs to the cigarette machine in the bar. Then, when it’s dark, he might be able to get some food. He knows he will be fine until tomorrow. He won’t forget, but the memories will dull, the shaking will pass. He will be able, at least until the fog becomes too heavy, to read his magazines, even rest. The only danger left is in his dreams, but he has learned how to avoid them. Before dawn he will have finished his $10.13 and will slip into complete blackness until his pounding heart forces him to open his eyes again. For the next few hours he will be calm, and as close to happy as he can imagine being. He explained this once to one of the doctors at the VA. The man had barely listened before launching into a monologue about the road to recovery and taking the ‘first step.’ This from a man that

had never taken step one down the road that lead to that woman and her girl. Recovery. Just work the steps. There is one major problem; you can’t make amends with the dead. That really leaves only one way out, but he isn’t ready for that. Maybe he never will be. He has sworn to himself that he would never kill again, even if keeping that promise meant another trip down the road, and another look at her each day.

Fall 2011


TWILIGHT ON THE CHESAPEAKE Brandon Robers Sometimes, when it’s really cold outside, my hands almost feel like they’re young again. A slight chill makes the pain worse, like a fitted glove a size too small gripping my swollen joints and curling my weary muscles in upon themselves. But when it’s really cold, like so many clear winter days on the Chesapeake, the grip of age seems to loosen and my fingers begin to move with a fluid dexterity they haven’t had in many summers. A long time ago a drill sergeant told me that ‘cold is a state of mind.’ I knew then that the phrase was nothing more than a shallow platitude, meant to shame me into working harder (though that understanding didn’t stop me from repeating it countless times to the young men passing through my care). But now, in the waning days of my last winter, I know that even if cold isn’t a state of mind, it can certainly shape the feelings that coalesce make one. Today it’s just cold enough for me to tie a perfect palomar knot on my first attempt. I cinch it tight to the eye of a metal lure that has accompanied me on more successful trips than I can count. Perhaps it has a few more in it. I cast out into the calm winter currents, my arms and shoulders moving easily in the February chill. The catch is always slow this time of year, but that doesn’t matter. I’m happy to drift and imagine a day of tight lines and trophy Stripers. Twenty years is a long time to do anything, other than live I suppose, but that’s how long it was for me. Twenty years of early morning formations, of long hours away from home, of deployments, and of clenched teeth and tight grins at the baffling inefficiency of huge organizations. They weren’t pleasant years. When I’m being completely honest with myself I have to admit that I didn’t entirely hate the experience. There were times that I even felt proud to have been a part of the work we did. But mostly they were unpleasant years. I stayed for a lot of reasons, some better than others. I had a family to support, but I could have done that in any of a million other ways. For the first few years I was afraid that if I quit my father would reach a boney gnarled hand up from six feet underground to remind me that we’re service men, Roland, every one of us, and don’t ever let them daytime fancies of yours convince you otherwise. The memory of the back of that hand, back when it was full and only a little gnarled, kept me going for a number of years. Once I was long enough removed from my father’s death to begin to feel confident in making my own way, it was my


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dreams of the Bay that kept me plodding forward. Twenty years doesn’t seem like such a long time when ten of them are already gone. I couldn’t tell you, even if it mattered, how many nights I spent telling myself how good it would feel to be out on this water. I could see it, clear as my best memories of the setting Chesapeake sun. Long days under the Delmarva sun, a cooler of National Bohemian on one side and Raymond James, my water loving Chesapeake Retriever, on the other. You see, after twenty years the checks keep on coming, just as long as you can keep on living. I was going to retire to the Eastern Shore, still a young man, and spend my days drifting on the Bay’s lazy tidal current. Maybe a charter now and then, but mostly just me and Raymond James, chasing Stripers through the day and settling in on the couch with Carol when the long twilight shadows led us home. The best laid schemes of mice and men, Go often askew. I suppose this holds for dogs as well. Raymond managed to follow me around most of the world. We spent many an evening wandern in the old oldenwald trails of southern Hessen, more than a few nights waiting for the bass fishing to pick up along the banks of the Chattahoochee, and one long cold night trying to find our way home from a misguided hike through the Wenatchee National Forest. He also spent more nights than I care to think about keeping my place on the couch next to Carol while I was away. He couldn’t make that last trip though, the one we had been waiting for. He’s been gone three years now, but I can still feel his tail quicken every time I set the hook. And Carol, I can hardly believe how great she’s been. She’s always shared the dream with me – at least she says she has. Even now, with me shuffling around the house on all the days my joints won’t let me out on the water, she seems happy. I’m afraid that won’t last much longer, not once she hears what I have to tell her. That can wait though, at least until the cold breaks and I’m forced back to my restless life indoors. It all weighs on me, I can’t pretend it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s all I can do to keep from shedding a tear or two, but of course I’d never let myself do that in eyeshot of Carol. But today the sky is clear and the cold air is working its magic on my state of mind. I am happy, I mean truly happy, to rest adrift on the bay, hoping for one more good Striper before I have to hang up my rod for good.

ISLAND Allison Arlotta Fall 2011


I feel a light tug, just a vibration really. It could easily be the hook catching in the drifting eelgrass as I wind it in, but I know it’s not. After a moment the line is quiet again. That may be the closest I come today. Fishing is slow in February as the Stripers begin to spawn and lose interest in feeding. The season doesn’t even open until April, when it will be much too warm for me to be on the water, but I have earned my pleasure and challenge any natural resources officer to stop my little boat. My dad and I used to work these waters all winter, before there was any talk of fishing seasons or catch limits. For all I know there wasn’t even a Department of Natural Resources in Annapolis back then. I always planned to come back, after my twenty, and pick up the wintertime tradition again. I had toyed with the idea of starting a charter business for years, but it wasn’t until Carol and I got Raymond James ten years ago that I really started to plan for it. We scrimped and saved, ate two meals a day in the chow hall instead of our modest government apartment, and took our vacations back in Maryland where we could stay with family. Eventually we had squirreled away enough for a 41’ Custom Bay Built Charter boat. Having the money in the bank had made it all seem so possible. Raymond and I, founders and proprietors of R&R Charters (the guys still working on their twenty would get a kick out of the name, maybe even pay to take their rest and relaxation with us because of it). We would ferry paying customers to the best fishing grounds when we could get them. When we couldn’t, Raymond and I would work the waters by ourselves and bring in what we could to supplement the monthly retirement checks. It was a dream, but it was also real to us. One day, maybe five years ago, I noticed a dull ache in my right hand as I brushed my teeth. In a few days both hands we sore most of the time. Just like that, no warning, no slow lead up. Three months later I could barely lace my boots. The doc said that rapid onset rheumatoid arthritis was extraordinarily rare in people my age, especially men. This remarkable little factoid was of very little practical help. He also said that, following such an accelerated presentation, the diseases progression generally plateaus and could be managed with medication. This encouraging little factoid turned out to be dead wrong. I accept now that the pain is just part of who I am, perhaps part of who everyone in my family has been. I’m sure my father felt it too. Could be that’s what killed him, or at least influenced whatever state of mind sent him to an early grave. When I look at the contorted shape my own hands I can see Dad’s boney knuckles fighting to show themselves. I never heard a word of complaint from him though, and I’ve never uttered one myself.


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Despite the pain I would have pressed on with the dream. I really believed I was going to until Raymond got sick. I knew as soon as he was gone, in fact I told Carol as we drove home from the vet’s, that whatever was left of our dream had left with him. I could have taken a medical retirement, but I finished my twenty, as all the service men of my family have, and Carol and I traded the dream of that 41’ Custom Bay Built Charter for a quaint little colonial and a bit more land than we otherwise might have been able to afford. There was just enough left over for the modest little runabout that carries me through the waves on the days the weather alows. The little boat has put in its twenty as well, but seems to have weathered them better than me. The vibration is back. Just a little flinch, barely enough to

I AM AS POOR AS JOB, MY LORD, BUT NOT SO PATIENT. register through the short graphite pole, but I feel it. I can feel the excitement start to creep through my weary joints, charging me for one more run in these ancient waters. Raymond would feel it too. I can almost see him stand, ears cocked, and walk to the bow to stand watch over the gentle waves. The tip flutters briefly, and falls still again. I spent the best years of my life working for this, and dreaming, and now that the time has come I can’t make my hands do what I need them to. Maybe they never shared the dream and have decided to register their protest with their refusal to participate in even the most ordinary of tasks. I suppose what my hands decide doesn’t much matter. Last month Dr. Edgar told me my days on the bay are numbered, cold or no cold. I haven’t worked up the courage to tell Carol yet – she deserves as many happy days as I can give her. But soon, once the cold has slipped back into its summer hibernation, she will have to know. The tingle returns. I can feel it in my bones before the pole even begins its timid dance. The tremors are stronger now, and a slight bow begins to distort the flexible shaft of the rod. I have to force restraint upon my eager muscles. I am as poor as Job, my lord, but not so patient. I wait only a moment longer before I let my body, set free by the mercifully frigid air, do what it knows so well. The hook is set, the rod bends double as I pull it back over my shoulder. This, abridged as it may be, is the dream. The fight is always too short. And, perhaps, ‘fight’ is not really the word for it. But in a minute’s time I bring in that

rare winter Striper, that amazing creature that has occupied my every waking dream for the last twenty years. Plans may go askew, I’ve always known that. I used to teach it – every plan is good until the first shot is fired – and there have been plenty of shots in the latter years of my life. But, plan or not, today is a wonderful blessing. The light is fading and the shadows tell me that it is past time to return. The falling western sun has cast the long shadows that mark my path to the east. They point, with a reliability

that my poor body has long since lost, toward the home I share with the woman I have loved since I first learned the meaning of that word. My hands permit me to start the engine with ease. I grip the wheel and point the bow towards home. Towards Carol and the place that I now keep in Raymond’s stead next to her.

UNTITLED Rebecca Grushkin Fall 2011


DIVE Lisa Jakab Oil on Canvas 26 x 40 inches


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HUMMUS Nora Tumas I. Every time I read a great poem I want to feed it to you. I want to open your mouth like a gift,
 wrap orange slices around your tongue and tie peppers to your arms.
 I always want to cook you poems
 or send you out and beg you to return with bags of limes,
 with bags of anything as long as you promise
 you’ll come back. II.
 It feels sacrilegious to see her eat the hummus that you made for me, I remembered watching you prepare the pan and roast the seeds, 
 your encyclopedic eyes defining mine.
 I’d watch you choose the perfect chickpeas,
 (Chicken peas but you said that wrong.)
 You squeezed in limes as I dried my hair on the radiator
 and I remember we were laughing. That night was very cold but you sent me down the street to fetch you coriander in a basket your Abuela weaved when you were just small enough to bounce on her knees.
 You sent me in the blizzard to offer coins to the Turkish grocer, and I returned with a bundle of herbs
in my skirt and some extra limes to thank you with. III. We shared the hummus on your carpet 
 with Mexican hot chocolate
 and Billie Holiday and two artfully rolled joints. Here, you said, scooping some in a glass jar. 
 The rest is yours. Let this feed you for a while.

Fall 2011


LE MARCHE Kathryn Schramm 50

American Literary

A LEAP OF FAITH Lorraine Holmes I joined Ron as he smoked a cigarette on the porch, one leg dangling languidly off the edge, the other propped up on a step. The crickets were chanting to the setting sun. This light made deep slices of shadow in the wrinkles of Ron’s face and he looked even older. The sound of the crickets seemed to swell as I gathered my courage. In the space between an inhale and exhale, the question burst from my mouth. “Sorry, what was that, Jason?” Ron rested his smoking hand on his knee and looked me in the eyes. The cricket song receded too, as if they were also listening. “I meant to ask, where is my real daddy now?” Ron took three whole drags from his cigarette before replying. “In Heaven. With Shelly.” Shelly was my pet turtle. She had died a week before, and Ron told me about the place where she would live, in paradise, forever. I didn’t know men like my father could go to Heaven too. We sat without speaking until fireflies began to spark throughout the yard. “My daddy wouldn’t try and hurt her, would he?” Ron closed his eyes for a little longer than a blink. “No, Jason. When you arrive in Heaven, you are no longer the same as you were on earth. It’s different. The things that made you bad just don’t exist anymore.” After he said this, Ron stared off into the distance for a long time, flicking ashes onto the worn steps. I bet everyone in Heaven is like Ron when they get there. We sat in silence until Ron tossed his nub of a cigarette to the dirt and stood to crush it beneath his work boot. He studied my seated form for a moment before squatting until we were eye-to-eye again. “Would you like me to find you a new pet, Jason?” I said I would, very much, like a new pet. “What kind would tickle your fancy?” The phrase made me laugh. I wanted another turtle; they’re my favorite. Ron went to the shed, which had drooping walls but managed to stay up year after year, to find a net. I went to the kitchen for snacks in case turtle-hunting made me hungry but I only found a package of crackers with three crumbled pieces, which I slipped into my pocket. It would have to do. We met back in front of the house and began walking to the pond. While I can’t remember any place I might have lived before this, I’m sure no place is better than here. The house is nestled away from any main roads, way back in the woods. There is an expansive field surrounding the house, which Ron has to cut with a tractor. He also built paths for me to explore behind the house and through the woods. We walked down one of these paths to reach the stale pond where turtles, fish, and bugs can always be found. My favorite path to walk along goes up and around a gigantic rock. Ron tells me to be careful around

there and, if I fell, he says, my neck would surely break and I’d have to leave him and travel to Heaven with Shelly and my daddy. When we arrived, Ron looked for turtles on all the logs he could see, but there weren’t any. “Maybe they moved,” I suggested. “They’re probably just having a swim. We might get lucky with something though.” Ron slipped the net into the water and ran it along the bottom for a few feet before pulling it up: nothing but swamp muck. He tried again because Ron always keeps his word. After several attempts, Ron had an idea. “Hey Jason, can I have one of those crackers you brought?” He put the cracker inside the net, and raked the water, just like before, only this time, when he pulled the net up, there was a great big fish in it and no cracker. Ron is a real smart man. “Well, I was hoping for a turtle. Want me to try again?” I looked the fish over. I couldn’t hold it like I could a turtle and it didn’t have a shell, but the way it writhed in the net made my stomach quiver. “No, no. Don’t let it go. I’ve never had a fish before. It looks nice.” So we took the fish back home with us. Ron found a tank holding extension chords and Christmas lights in the shed; it was so big that I could sit down cross legged in it. I went outside and found a little log to make the tank more like the pond. No fish ever had a better home, Ron said. I named the fish Gills. Right after I got Gills settled in his tank, there was a knock on the door. Ron checked the peep-hole and told me to go into my room. This happens about once a week. Ron says the people who come to the door are bad men, and he doesn’t want them to know he has me. When they come, I have to curl up in a ball underneath my bed and play the silent game. I heard one of the bad men say, “Nice fish.” Everyone laughed, even Ron. I hoped Ron wouldn’t let them hurt Gills; he only just got here. “Now Ron,” a different bad man said, “Let’s talk about--” “Wait,” Ron interrupted the man, “the living room is for talking. Let’s go in there.” I heard them shuffle to the other room, I heard the door close, but then I couldn’t hear anything. I waited under the bed for what must have been hours. I thought about Gills, mostly. He didn’t have any food. Next thing I knew, Ron’s deep voice called, “Wake up, little man. You can come out now.” I opened my eyes and saw Ron lying on his side, looking at me through one eye. The other one looked like an apple does when I leave it in the bottom of my backpack for too long. “What happened to your eye, Ron?”

Fall 2011





American Literary

“Nothing you have to worry about, Kiddo. You can come out from under the bed now, but I have to go out for a few hours.” “Why, Ron? It’s dark out.” “Don’t worry, Jason. I’ll be home before you wake up tomorrow.” I wiggled out from under the bed and Ron picked me up. He put me into my bed, tucked me in, and gave me a kiss on the forehead. “See you in the morning, little man,” and he left. I couldn’t sleep. I had already slept, and I was scared for Ron. He has left me alone before, but not at night and his eye looked like it really hurt. I left my bedroom and looked at Gills in his tank. He looked at me, I think. Poor Gills. He always looks scared with his big fish eyes. I told Gills everything was all right, and that made me cry. There’s nothing in the tank that could hurt Gills, but he still looks scared. Those men hurt Ron and he didn’t seem worried at all. I couldn’t breathe. I was crying too hard. I tried to remember the last time I cried like this, and I couldn’t. Ron was always here when I got hurt or had a nightmare. But now he wasn’t. I was alone except for Gills. I curled up on the floor around Gills’ tank. That felt better and I stopped crying. I lay there, looking at Gills until it was almost morning. Finally, I heard the piercing squeal from the breaks of Ron’s truck. He says that sound is caused by dust, but it was the nicest thing I ever heard and I jumped up to run outside. When I got to the doorway, I expected Ron to see me and run over to pick me up and throw me over his shoulder or toss me in the air, like he usually does but he didn’t see me. He was resting his head on the hood of his truck, crying. I felt like I should go back in the house. I had never seen Ron cry before, but then he pounded his fist on his truck before walking back to the truck’s bed. He came back carrying a bundle of some sort. I couldn’t see what it was because Ron had wrapped a blanket around it. I still thought it was a good idea for me to go back to the house, but that’s when Ron saw me. “Shit, Jason! What the hell are you doing up?” Ron never uses curses with me. He looked shocked with himself too, and swiveled around, trying to hide his bundle. “Fuck!” he yelled. When he turned back to face me, the blanket had fallen out of place and I saw the face of a woman, except she had blood all over her and bruises too. I gasped. “God Dammit! I’m so sorry, Jason.” He fell to his knees and began to cry again. I was crying too. I ran over to him. “Ron! What happened?” He was crying too hard to answer, but he put the woman down and held his arms out to hug me. I noticed he was covered with blood too. I pulled away, out of his reach. “Jason, I know. I know. I’m in a bad situation right now. I shouldn’t have left you. I need to get her in the house...” He mumbled further instructions to himself and began to

pull at the sparse black hair on his head. He stood up with the women in his arms and walked by me like I wasn’t even there, carrying her to the house. I followed, feeling like something was trying to claw out of my body through my chest. He had placed her on the kitchen table and was resting his head next to hers, holding her hand. The blanket was off of her, and I saw she was only wearing underpants. She had bruises all over her belly, and some cuts on her legs. I looked away and tried to focus because my eyes kept going all blurry.

WE WALKED AND WALKED AND HE TOLD ME MORE ABOUT HEAVEN. “What’s her name, Ron?” “Eden. Like in The Bible.” He started to sob again. I could only remember how to say a handful of words and I thought for a long time about how to put them together, “Did you like her, Ron?” “I loved her.” I’ve never heard Ron say that about anyone but me before. “Well, she’s in Heaven…right, Ron?” He nodded and put his head in his hands.”I bet she’s getting along quite well with Shelly.” “I bet she is too, Jason. But don’t you think she’d like someone she knows to be with her?” “Well, sure. I bet she’d l--” “Then I need your help, Jason.” I agreed and he told me to go get two shovels from the shed outside. By the time I got back, Ron had wrapped the woman in one of his nice suit jackets and was washing the blood off her face with a washcloth. He wasn’t crying any more. “I’ve got the shovels, Ron.” He picked the woman up again and asked me to follow him. I did. We walked and walked and he told me more about Heaven. “Dying isn’t something to be afraid of, Jason. It happens to absolutely everyone. No exceptions. And the beautiful thing about life is that sometimes we can choose when it ends. When the time is right. We don’t all have to be at the mercy of fate. Not all of us. Some people, like Eden, don’t get to choose when they die. But people like you and I can. And once you’ve done everything you want to do on earth, it’s all right to say goodbye and head for Heaven.” I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but just listening to Ron talk made some of the jitters go away. I knew whatever his plan was, it was a good one.

Fall 2011


STAIRCASE, ELMINA Franziska Kabelitz 54

American Literary

After we’d walked probably two miles, we got to a big willow tree, and Ron stopped, placed Eden on the ground, and started to dig. He dug a very deep hole. It was much bigger than a small woman like Eden would need. When he was done, he was sweaty and covered in dirt, but he climbed out of the hole with great effort. Then he picked Eden up, cradling her in his arms, and jumped back down into this hole. He laid her down again, pushing hair away from her face, and kissed her on the forehead. Then he walked over to the edge of the hole where I was sitting. He took my face between his hands and looked me right in the eyes and said, “I know what I’m about to ask you is going to be difficult for you, but you have to do it, okay? It’s the best way.” Ron is so sincere. I would have agreed to anything. I nodded. “Great, okay. I’m going to lay down next to Eden here, and I need you to cover us both up with this dirt here.” I couldn’t believe it. “But Ron, you’re not dead.” “I know, but I’m going to be after you cover me up. Don’t be scared, Jason. This is the best thing you could do. I’m not afraid of being dead, but I want to be buried next to Eden. If I died any other way, you wouldn’t be able to move my body. You said you’d help me, right?” “I did say that Ron, but I can’t . . . kill you.” “You’re just doing me a favor. Please, Jason? And when you’re ready, you can come to Heaven too. We can be together and you’ll be able to see Shelly and meet Eden. Please, Jason, just do this one thing for me.” “Okay, Ron.” But I was crying again. He kissed me and lay right next to Eden and grabbed her hand again. “I love you, Jason. Remember, we can be together again as soon as you want to.” I told Ron that I loved him too.

Then I started to refill the hole that he worked so hard to dig. Every shovelful of dirt that I dropped caused a shudder in my body like getting a shock. The hardest part was when there was nothing left to cover but Ron’s face. I was sure I was about to throw up but after I could no longer see him, I went away from my body. I went somewhere where this night had never happened and my arms didn’t ache. I hope Heaven will be something like that but less lonely. It’s been exactly five days since I’ve seen Ron. I’m starting to forget what his voice sounds like. Which is stupid because he has been gone for almost a week and I’m already forgetting one of the things I loved most about him. I would have joined him earlier, but there were a couple obstacles. Firstly, I had to figure out what to do about Gills. I couldn’t just leave him while he starved. It took me a day or two before I decided on how I could send Gills to Heaven. In the end, the best way I could think of was pouring the poison Ron uses for the mice in the basement into Gills’ tank. It only took him an hour or so to die, and I buried him. That’s another thing I’m worried about. Ron never mentioned if someone had to be buried in order to get to Heaven. Ron, Shelly, Eden and Gills were all buried and I don’t know about my daddy, but there is no one left to bury me. As for how I plan to get to Heaven, that was an easy choice. And now I’m finally ready to join everyone in Heaven. I’m going to go now, to the big rocks on my favorite path that Ron told me to be careful around. Only this time, I don’t have to be careful because there is no danger of having to leave Ron. All that can happen is that I can be with him and Shelly and Gills and Eden forever. That’s not scary at all.

Fall 2011


DUSTLAND FAIRYTALE Rachel Ternes Oil on Canvas


American Literary

ETHNOGRAPHY OF A COLLEGE KID Jessica Nesbitt I. Beginnings I meet you not enough to share small glances under moonlight so infinite, embellishing even your dirt-stained fingers and I wish for nothing more than to swallow the sun So we can explore the inner space and leave outside dark as the caverns in my chest. II. In theory Sun rays to moonlight, conversation of reflections and cloud vapors accumulating: sensations on fingertips traced to brain to that exploding synapse of sizzling mass, atomic, ironic, tiniest particles transforming into this particular conception of time. III. Evolution These nights we play child games triumphantly, lost somewhere in a playground; adolescent animals preoccupied with language, perception, conception and deception. IV. Humanity Sunshine rewritten into the molds of our minds, To replay again, again, again With unconscious mind alive and well for when we return to nights of bickering and misinterpretation, nights of irrelevance; Replacing empathy with apathy and burying our heads in the theories past and I can’t help but get lost, lost in the audacity of your hands.

Fall 2011


SHRAPNEL Brendan Williams-Childs Ira has learned to live with the scar, with the nightmares, with the mania, with the hallucinations. She has adapted to the new and uncomfortable sex drive and the inability to pronounce words at times when she speaks too quickly to be understandable. But she has not yet figured out how to come to terms with her hands. She shakes; her fingers spasm. Today she has spilled milk all over the kitchen floor and, overwhelmed by this and by the realization that all the photographs she took the previous night have turned out blurry, she sits, sobbing by the mess. “What are you doing?” Garret has come home. Ira wishes he hadn’t. She wishes he was out strangling cats or sleeping with hookers or whatever it is he does at night that keeps him out so long and brings him back relaxed and willing to let her cuddle him. She can’t respond now, she can only continue to cry before wailing what sounds almost like, “My hands slipped.” “Darling…” Garret gets this tone in his voice when she gets like this. It’s a tone she can’t quite understand. Is it pity? Disgust? Sadness? She knows it is because he knew her before she was like this. He knew her when her hands were perfectly steady and she didn’t cry or make noises when she didn’t want to make noises. They met when she was still a functional human being and she wishes she could be that again. She wonders if he gets tired of dating someone who can’t even clean up a puddle and who can’t stand the smell of fish and who has trouble with her shoes and who is so damn broken. He cleans up the milk with paper towels and wipes the floor with a rag and doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t want to try to console her or further shame her. He just lets her be. It’s been a learning process, since he found her again. If he could, he would open her scar and rearrange her brain to make her better, but that’s not his skill. And he has his reasons for not looking for someone to do this for them. “I’m sorry,” she says finally, wiping her face with her goddamn shaking hands. “I can’t. I can’t.” “It’s fine.” “I didn’t mean to.” “I know.” “I didn’t know what to do.” “Darling. It’s fine.” It would make Ira sick to her stomach to know that the tone that she cannot identify in Garret’s voice is pleasure. It has never occurred to her that, for him, seeing her so broken is reassuring. It fits into the boxes in his head. She can be compartmentalized as damaged, the same as him. It is nice for Garret to come home to this woman who


American Literary

sometimes cannot control herself and ends up curled up on the couch frantically twitching her legs or thrusting her hips or popping her knuckles until her little fingers break. All of these things remind Garret that he is superior to at least one person. Ira manages to stand up and wanders to the couch, where she wraps the blanket around herself and finishes drying her eyes. She really does have very pretty eyes, Garret thinks, watching her. They’re the same color as a cup of really good hot chocolate, like the kind he used to have at Mr. Pomeroy’s house made with milk instead of water. “I’m a mess,” she mutters. “Yes,” Garret agrees. “Fuck.” “It’s fine. I’m a mess, too.” “Not the way I am.” Garret forces a smile and half wishes he could tell her that her tics are no stranger than his murders, but he just shrugs. “No. But it’s fine.” “All my photos from the ribbon cutting at that restaurant downtown are blurry. Do you ever get tired of dating a loser?” Yes. “Never.” He sits next to her and she rests her head on his shoulder. Her thick, curly hair covers the gnarled flesh on her forehead for a moment and when she closes her eyes, it would be easy to think there was nothing wrong with her at all. “I love you,” she says weakly. “I love you, too.” He pauses for what he thinks is an appropriate amount of time before asking, “Do you think you’d like to go to Green Acre?” Green Acre is the insane asylum that Garret mentions at least once a month. Ira isn’t sure if he wants her to finish cutting up her brain or if he thinks there’s nothing wrong with her brain and somewhere along the line she just went crazy. She resents the latter theory because it simplifies the debate she has with herself about whether the hallucinations came before the explosion or the explosion created the hallucinations. “No,” she says. She always says this. “They probably have some pills…” “There’s nothing wrong with me that pills can fix, Garret.” “You shouldn’t be so stubborn.” “If I got pills, I might not feel like giving you quickies in the afternoon when you come home for lunch every other day.” “But you might learn to control your hands. And your thoughts.” Garret finds a great deal about Ira’s wounded state attractive, but the intermittent manic speech patterns have begun to annoy him. It matches his own thoughts

and he doesn’t appreciate being the slower thinker in the relationship. “Garret…” Ira pulls away from him and finds herself immensely overwhelmed again. She looks him in the eyes and realizes how stunning he is. He could be the Patron Saint of Medicine himself. He has a face that needs to be immortalized in stained glass, in oil paintings, in woodcarvings. When the world ends, she realizes, and they are the only people left to save the day, he will become a beacon. His eyes will be a light. People will marvel the way she does at his thin wrists and high forehead. Ira begins to

cry again because the thought of people flocking to Garret as they no doubt will makes her nervous. She isn’t sure, today, that she wants to be in charge of swarms of mortals. What if her hands shake when she’s trying to fire a gun? “Do you hate me because of all this?” “Because you have medical trauma?” He puts it so bluntly, so cleanly. Medical trauma does not begin to cover it, but this is how he has described it. To him, she is nothing more than a collection of symptoms and a root cause. She doesn’t realize that he is breaking her down in his head. She is unaware of how beautiful she is to him. How gorgeous a sturdy set of bones and muscles and organs is to this man. If she could know his mind, she would leave. She would not stay with a man who had sex with her and did not think about her skin or her breasts but about what is underneath. “Yes,” she mutters. “Because sometimes I can’t do anything right.” “Darling,” he says, and pulls her off the couch and into their bed, which has dark red sheets, and she lies there as he undresses her and she feels very small but looks beautifully tan. “Just think of it like a trade. Sometimes I’m the fuckup and some days it’s you.” Ira smiles slightly. She likes this theory. Someday, she reasons, she will come to terms with her hands. Garret does not tell her that he has a long-standing room on reserve at Green Acre. Where Ira has optimism about herself, Garret has been preparing for a long time to lock away the only person who makes him feel anything. Ira talks so quickly and so often that Garret has long begun to dream of silence and of blood in his own bathtub. He is waiting for this woman he loves, this tower of shaky hips and strong arms, to crumble.

DO I DARE EAT A PEACH? Gretchen Kast

Fall 2011


UNTITLED Allison Arlotta 60

American Literary


8 A.M. Silence. Of the 11 people residing in the house, nine worked everyday in a Chinese restaurant. The ups and downs of the Chinese restaurant dictated their lifestyle. Yet, even with eleven people, silence commonly occurred; in the wee hours of the morning, in the lulls of the afternoon, in the hours of the early evening twilight. Silence became even more profound in the winter season as if the piles of snow muted the quiet; the sound of clinking dishes, the soft murmur of everyday chatter, the occasional blare of an alarm clock or cell phone, the sounds of running water. The standard living room setup, geometrically arranged around the television with the coffee table in the middle, spoke of impatient, functional, practical and purposeful lifestyles. No time for indulgences or fancy decorations. No time to stray off the straight path. Connected to the living room was the dining room, crowded with an upright piano hidden by a mahogany cloth, a round wooden dinner table, a wine cabinet in the corner filled with bottles, both empty and full, and a makeshift bed constructed by amateur carpenters whose lifestyles dictated the need for functional DIY projects. The “mattress”, if it could be constituted as a mattress, consisted of a padded two inches of foam with egg crates on top. The sheets portrayed a childish cartoon of Snoopy dog, the popular Charles Schulz comic book character, with scribblings of English phrases, most of which contained grammatical and spelling errors. Nothing special, but functional. A necessity in an overcrowded two story house built with only three bedrooms. Rolled onto his side, an old petit man lay in the makeshift bed. His head popped out from beneath the covers. Hair balding on top, his black hair, weathered and lightened by the sun, had the color of an old black t-shirt that has been through too many washes and hung outside to dry. The bed covers were barely ruffled, only softly covering the old man, moving up and down with the sound of his breathing. Otherwise, the old man possessed an uncanny stillness. The soft morning light of summer filtering through closed window blinds served as a natural alarm. Soon, his eyelids fluttered open, awakened by the light inside the room. He blinked twice as if unaware of his surroundings. His eyebrows furrowed and the frown would remain on his weathered and tanned skin for the rest of the day at least. Slowly but deliberately, he sat upright on his bed and slipped into his house slippers. His slippers were more like sandals conformed to his foot through repeated

use. Everything from the bed to the sandals screamed of the common, practical lifestyle. No fancy comforts or furnishings, just the necessities. Standing, he revealed his short stature. With a slightly humped back and a small bone structure, the old man had no presence in a room where he was the only person. He shuffled to the bathroom to change into day clothes. Silence. The door of the bathroom opened. The old man wore a plain white t-shirt with high-waisted pants, belted and buckled at the waist. His clothes spoke of his age, sticking tight with the fashions back in the day of a working man, the breadwinner. He first walked to the TV and turned it on. He turned the volume all the way down until only soft murmurs escaped, breaking the silence of the morning. More shuffling, this time to the kitchen. The old man walked with a deliberateness, never changing routine, taking the same walk through the house every morning. No distractions, no changes. Only the routine. The old man silently prepared rice congee for lunch. The sound of running water provided the soundtrack. The pot rang occasionally when banged against the side of the stainless steel sink. The old man had his preparation routine down to a science. Within three minutes, the pot filled with rice and water sat on the heated stove. He sat forward on the edge of the blue suede sofa, legs crossed. Brows furrowed, he stared intently at the television. His legs occasionally moved up and down in a rapid motion as if itching to stand. Occasionally, he walked back to the kitchen to check on the rice congee before returning to the sofa, to the same position. Soon, the sound of doors opening, water running, and the ruffle of clothes broke the continuous murmur of the TV. The rest of the household had begun their morning. The old man continued to gaze intently at the television, rubbing his chin in thought. The last door on the right in the hallway opened. A girl groggily walked out, toothbrush in hand. She stumbled into the kitchen where she proceeded brushing her teeth in the kitchen sink. The old man moved from his position on the couch and walked into the kitchen. “It’s 9:55.” Swish. Swish. Swish. “You better hurry up. You’ll be late.” Gargle. Gargle. “It’s almost 10.” The sound of running water filled the kitchen. “I’ll pour a cup of warm water for you.”

Fall 2011


Nod. The girl walked back into her room and slowly closed the door. Moments later, doors opened in rapid procession as everyone exited their rooms to go to work. An older women exited from the master bedroom and three younger girls exited from the other bedroom, one of whom was the girl who had been brushing her teeth earlier in the kitchen.


The old man stood at the end of the hallway. “Are you coming home for lunch?” He asked to no one in particular. “I don’t know. Maybe.” They slipped their shoes on and the old man looked on. “What time are you coming home?” “I don’t know.” One of the girls walked into the kitchen and gulped down the water. “Don’t forget to call me before you come home. So I can have food ready for you. Ok? OK?” “OK!” Her sharp tone stung but the old man remained unfazed. “Ok. Don’t forget.” All four exited the house and shut the door. From within the house, the old man heard the sound of the car start and then the roll of the tires on the road before the whoosh of the car as it drove by. Silence again. Back to the sounds of the TV. The audience had broken into a clap. The old man sat back down and returned to staring at the screen, legs crossed and eyebrows furrowed. A third door opened in a hallway. A young boy lankily walked into the kitchen and brushed his teeth in the sink. “Little brother, the rice congee’s made. Hurry and get ready.” Silence. “Go get changed. Hurry! Hurry!” Grunt. When the young boy returned to his room, the old man set about placing chopsticks and sides on the table. He dished the rice congee out of the pot. He placed two bowls on the table and proceeded to sit down to eat. The young boy came out of his room and sat down at the table. The clink of dishes filled the room. Both boy and man chewed on their food and ate their brunch in silence. The young boy accidently dropped his food into the soy sauce disher. “Ai-yah! You’re too messy. Be more careful next time.”


American Literary

The old man talked while chewing his food. Silence. And the silence continued. The boy finished his meal. Without a word, he returned to his room and shut the door behind him. The old man cleaned up the table and washed the dishes before he returned to his position on the couch. The house returned to its silent state again. The silence of the afternoon lull had begun. Creak. The old man got up and walked to the boy’s door, paused, and then walked by. The door opened. The old man stood up from his position on his couch to take a look. The boy walked to the bathroom and returned again. The old man began to pace, back and forth in the hallway. He popped his head into the boy’s room. “What do you want to eat?” The boy stared intently at his computer screen, engrossed in a computer game. “Mantau? Or do you want noodles? Or your favorite?” “Mantau.” “Ok, I’ll make noodles then.” “Ok.” “You want mantau though right?” “Yeah.” “Ok. I’ll make some for you. You want mantau right?” No answer. The old man closed the door. The old man knew the boy’s favorite. The boy loved meat: pork, beef, or chicken. So he decided to prepare noodles with meat for the boy. The boy would appreciate it. He knew it. The phone never rang. No one came home for lunch. The old man prepared the noodles for the boy. He prepared the boys’ favorite soup base with lots of pork. The boy would appreciate it. He knew it. The old man walked back to the boy’s room and opened the door. “Time to eat.” The boy continued to stare at the screen. “Little brother, it’s time to eat! I made noodles for you! Time to eat, ok.” No movement but the movement of his fingers on the keyboard. “Come out in 5 minutes!” Just like brunch, the old man sat down at the table first. The boy’s door finally opened and he came to sit down at the table. “Look what I made for you! You like meat, right? I put lots of meat in your bowl for you.” The young boy sat expressionless but the corner of his mouth twitched.

“Yeah! See, I was right. You like meat. It’s good right? You want more? We have more in the kitchen! Eat as much meat as you want.” The boy’s face broke into a smile. He looked up at the grandfather and vigorously nodded his head up and down. The old man smiled. “Alright now. Eat lots of meat. You can dip it into the soy sauce. Here’s some soy sauce for you. It’s better with the soy sauce. Here, eat some more!” Clink. Clink. Clink. The rest of the meal passed in silence and then the

sound of the house returned. The engulfing silence. The boy headed back into his room, closed his door, and sat back in front of his computer screen. The old man cleaned up the table and washed the dishes. He walked from the kitchen and into the hallway. He stood in front of the boy’s door. Sigh. The old man returned back to his position on the couch and continued gazing at the television. The old man sat, with the sounds of the television for company as the television murmured in the background.

UNTITLED Matt Shor Fall 2011




American Literary

RAMBLING FROM A BAR Jessica Nesbitt Aunque sea por un momento... Between my own empty vacillations, from my index finger to your ringed ones, I spin hazel-eyed pirouettes until you spot me from the other side of the bar, or country laughter ringing in no one’s ears but my own from tiresome jokes that I spit in excess into empty hands While My gendered generation leaves marks on the barroom tables From drugs, sex, the whole pithy lot of clichÊs proclivities ranging from self-destruction to empty-headed fabrications whispered between thinning sheets that teach us nothing but how it feels to be of two minds cleaved by the bald blade of prowess. And yet, never defeated, I reach from beneath your lazy grasp to kiss your marbled fingers

Fall 2011


TO SERVE MAN Alejandro Neyra From above I can see them all. From above creatures look smaller and funnier than they are. From above diplomats are also recognizable as a peculiar and unique species. And I won’t tell about diplomats in meetings or cocktails their natural habitat. I mean generally. Manners. Jargon. Odour. Gazes. It is true that every single profession has its own characteristics and vocabulary, but in the case of diplomats, behavior precedes them. You can smell them. They recognize each other as well, and conduct themselves accordingly. If they would lose their diplomatic attitude in a distracted moment of normality; if they would just recover their humanity for a while, they would immediately recover their diplomatness at the simple observation of another of their kind. Diplomats are – worst, they feel like – legendary beings. Indeed, mythology considers Hermes, Zeus herald, as the first diplomat. Some dare to say that actually angels were the first diplomats since they were – ¿are? - God’s envoys. But it’s clear that since civilization started and peoples began to realize that cooperation was sometimes better than war, diplomacy started its own sacred history: Diplomacy started when first human societies decided that it was better to hear the message than to eat the messenger. From my privileged position – the interpretation booths above those meeting rooms where the corps(e) diplomatique takes shape - I see them all. And I am paid to interpret what they say. That is the correct word, yes. I have to interpret them, to rehearse and play their roles more than just changing the language in which they speak – even though that is what they believe. And they trust us. They don’t see us but they have faith on us. In that way we are also above them all. I cannot tell precisely why I started to do this. But I remember that I was still almost an adolescent when I saw for the first time something that looked like the United Nations. It was strange to find it out on my favorite TV series. I loved “The Twilight Zone” and it was strange to see aliens arriving to the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Probably you know that episode too. The Kanamits, a friendly alien’s race come to the earth. They make a presentation to the UN in order to deliver their message of peace offering their technology to help us. Representatives of Argentine, France, America and the Soviet Union (never knew why Argentina, when there are


American Literary

many other countries that speak a much better Spanish) speak to the Kanamit’s “Ambassador” and they got convinced of the good purposes and deeds promised by these extremely tall guys. They leave a book with what they offer but it is in their language and they leave the challenge to translate it. In the meantime, they transform arid lands into fertile fields, provide free food to the poor, and finally offer free tours to their planet. Probably then I realized the importance of translation and of the meaning of the words. Because the end of the story is that someone deciphers the name of the book “To serve man”. Everyone believed that it was a guide to assist the humankind, a book of knowledge… and by the end we acknowledge it is nothing else but…a cook book! In The Twilight Zone series everyone spoke English of course but in the background of that episode you could hear some other languages: Spanish, Russian, and French. I was young and even though I had already started my biology studies I suddenly realized that my future was about to be something different. I started with French and Spanish, and a few years later I was traveling to Geneva to start my internship as an interpreter in the International Labor Office. I did translation as well, of course, and many other small jobs, but afterwards I became one of the specialized interpreters on human rights and humanitarian issues. On those times I must confess that work was a little bit easier. Fewer meetings, fewer countries and fewer diplomats, you know. And it was simpler to predict the statements in a bipolar world, even with the creation of the Non Aligned Movement – the guys that supposedly were neither pro Americans nor pro Russians. But well, even then my task was the same. I am not used to interpret languages; I interpret a person…that is the great part of my job. How many people have walked these rooms? I would not even dare to guess. Many. Probably too many. Of course I remember some. Some leave and come back, sometimes with the same rank, sometimes with a higher rank, sometimes even like High authorities. This is Geneva, the city where everything seems to change but everything is just the same. From above I could see everything. I mean, I was very interested not only in the speeches, which of course is the main part of the job, but also in the paths and movements of the diplomats. Most of the negotiations occur behind the scenes. You could see Americans lobbying Latin-Americans or Russians talking to Cubans (I am talking about nice old Cold War times of course). They whisper and laugh, got serious and even shout. They behave interpreting the roles of their own countries. Tough

MEHNDI Morgan Jordan

Fall 2011


big powers have tough – and normally also big – diplomats. Other smaller countries have more humble guys, but they always behave like one of their species. To serve man, you know. Sometimes I could see diplomats flirting with others. That was the funniest part of my job, what I did in my breaks. Anyhow, in English, you know, this phrase is innocuous, but in French or Spanish I would have to write the gender, because of course diplomats flirted regardless of sexual orientation. I saw many hidden couples behaving like if no one else would notice… anyone else but us, the Argos of hundred eyes, the interpreters of myriad-eyes. We are the ones that serve men. Or at least the ones that serve diplomats – those who firmly believe that serve

MALLARMÉ I THINK WAS HIS PREFERRED POET. LITERARY GUY. mankind. For me that is crystal clear. But I won’t continue with diplomatic stories. Because afterwards diplomats - as peculiar as they are - are just another branch of the homo sapiens sapiens, not kanamits. Rara avis, yes, but they are all part the Animal Kingdom as everyone else. And I just wanted to tell you a small love story. A small diplomatic love story. I will tell you about that guy. Small – not only from above - and shy he was. Peruvian – dark and eagle(or condor)-nosed as those men you have probably seen in cards and pictures coming from that exotic country, just if you need more details. But just keep in mind that this is just a small tale and I am a diplomatic interpreter, a lier-teller in a world full of lies. The guy was always there in the meeting room, sitting, talking few times with some other colleagues (never when his Ambassador – another small although very old and grumpy guy- showed up, which occurred sporadically). Sometimes he talked to his Philippine, Portuguese and Paraguayan colleagues, and especially to his Dutch neighbors, but only if there wasn’t that particular pretty Dutch girl, because otherwise he would just remain quiet and silent, intrigued and defenseless. (Here probably I should just make a small explanation. Weird and bureaucratic United Nations rules – in


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French-speaking Geneva - make Pérou and Pays Bas sit together, otherwise they would be just slightly more far away Peru and Netherlands, which would have made this story impossible). Small and shy, remember. I observed him for long. I don’t recall now, but it was more than just some weeks or months; probably a couple of years watching at him trying to find an urgent sense of courage. I started following him. He took the tramway to his small apartment around Plainpalais. I don’t know whether it was luck or coincidence but it happened that I moved very close by so sometimes in the mornings I could keep an eye on him. He was always reading French Literature. Camus, Sartre, Gide, Mauriac, Jarry, but also more contemporary French writers like Vian and Perec –whom I suppose were among his favourites. Sometimes he read also poetry, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Verlaine. Mallarmé I think was his preferred poet. Literary guy. A vrais connaisseur. You can imagine. Observing from above was different than observing him in the tram. He seemed more relaxed there. A l’aise. Always quiet but never worried, unless a beautiful girl would sit next to him or nearby. I repeat it: small and shy. Extremely shy. And suddenly one day he appeared with a notebook in which he was writing something. I realized that it was not poetry. He was writing some ideas. October 1989 it was. The Berlin wall had gone down. Everybody talked about it. And here was my small friend scribbling some words over a typed page, just before going to the Palais des Nations where a special session of the Commission of Human Rights would be held to commemorate the historic moment. He never saw me even I sat just in front of him. Watching at him there, suddenly I thought that this guy had finally decided to take the floor and say something (and impress her platonic muse). I was worried for him. Probably he would make many mistakes. Probably too many quotings - something that is always unbearable. Probably he would just collapse while taking the floor. I needed to do something, so I started writing a speech. In English, of course, since it is the language most people hear and the basis for my other colleagues’ interpretations. I would do everything at hand to interpret him and if something went wrong I could just start with my own speech. No one cares. Spanish speakers hear always in their language and my colleagues would not notice. I wrote a magnificent speech, I have to admit without humbleness. Short and concise. There is no one better to prepare a diplomatic speech than an interpreter, I can assure you. So there I was, doing my own notes while the guy did his own. And so we came to the meeting. And I waited and waited for Peru to take the floor. I convinced

my colleagues that I was friend of the Peruvian guy in order to stay there just in case he would decide to talk about the wall. I was prepared. It was a matter of time…but it never happened. The meeting was long and exhausting. Many took the floor. But Peru was not in the list of speakers. I thought the guy was just frightened, or simply that he was waiting for his old Ambassador to arrive. At the end of the session I saw him approaching to his Dutch neighbors, while the blond girl just smiled at him. And there it came. The small sheet of paper passed to her hands and she just kept smiling, as beautifully as I have never seen again. In fact, she never came back again (he must have known). And he just stood there, with a face full of happiness and innocence. He never came back again either. It was in that historic moment. The wall, Berlin, History. Everything was just an anecdote. He was worried about his insignificant personal

History, to bring down his own wall, to find love…his own freedom. I always think about that moment. There he was the small guy, smaller than ever, smiling while she was holding the sheet of paper, without daring to gaze her lips – that tender face that only myself could see from above, where things than matter are observed and interpreted. Here where I am now watching the same old meeting room. I came again and again, even though I retired long ago; just to see diplomats in action, just to see them moving around flirting and plotting. Just to see if some day the small guy appears in order to know what happened next. Did the wall really fell down? How the History ends? And I would just ask him if I can still do anything to serve him… just to serve you, man.

NUB LOVE Krys Benyamein Fall 2011


THUNDER Bianca Palmisano I saw the softest hearts of my generation carved into warriors, black gaping scarred, burning their pasts in the brushes, starving for a flesh fight coffee-fisted babies flying from hempskirts and village fires toward the coal-light of vengeance who yucca-face and squalid nails bear down on ethereal poverty with smokestack judgment across the bara abandoning bloodlines, who gnawed their knuckles raw, red-eyed alert and two pounds of nicotine, cane alcohol, and grit in rotting teeth, who forgot algebra and graduated test tubes in the Western hemisphere like fourth grade artifacts in the escaping twilight, who bit into each hour with burnished Russian machetes, reciting Zulu war chants with hypnotic, heavy tongues, who ate their own blackness and spit it out in Nimba County, full of worms, and thorns, and abiding hate, blades and bullets and faultless steel who marched bloodshot and heaving their chests thrown forward, glistening in retaliatory exertion who sought redemption in the thrusting of scattered limbs who took women and mothers and communists with hands wedged by scarlet, crusted burns and left them wailing solitary broken in blinding midnight, pushed their seed past the gasps, teeth gnashing hound-like, faithless, eyes and cuming hard against the jawbones of former wives, neighbors, lover’s eyes blank and howling with indignity and false recognition, heeled and ran in a cough of gunsmoke, turning up two years later in Abidjan, broken dirty and bearded, naked in the dying grass, who journeyed to Monrovia, shot down Monrovia, killed and buried Monrovia in the clay streets with dirty shovels, with rusted shovels, who came back to Monrovia to claim their prizes, and who found Monrovia desolate and lonely without their war crimes, who cried sticky, black tar tears full of invisible salt and cradled their machetes, whispering fear and frustrated and ugly into the grass they thought was listening, who ate human testicles by morning and savored the pumping of puss and gore through broken hearts torn from still-mourning mud-blanket hulls by night,


American Literary

who slunk away into their lack of manifesto, their lack of direction, lack of shoes and considered the politics of slaughter visa jugular or slow vie, who held out their stained palms to receive the communion wine of familial purging, expectant of their screams washing sins into the Euphrates or Nile or Congo or mud puddle, who were re-saved and re-salvaged and rereturned to their old empty yuccaplantanomaizeandnofishsincelastharvest lives by the savior Westernish with bigger machine guns and no knives, and who dug new graves with shards of hospitable palm weave and charcoal kitchen spoons, demanding retribution for their incomparable night-soil madness, with the last war pain stripped from their blood and the holy ghost of manslaughter finally receded and the last blade bitten down into the last sturdy hamhock wall and the last toe oozing resentment and iron-smelling sorrow, and the last pretense of condemnation spat into the churning pit of lost chaos home, and even that a fallacy — a bit of eternal delusion — ah, Joseph, while you are foetid retiring, I am also, and you are never prepared to relent, you who, therefore, stirred the hurricane of distorted march-steps, mixed cyanide with ugali in our naïve digestive tracts, who slept in perpetual revulsion-revolution, commanding the sawdust Trinity to bow and calculate your girth, caked in sweat and salty captainship repellant of birds and mosquitoes and fallible men, the psychotic of malarial African certainty like a shaking traincar along Virunga and across the continent through the jungle of your own spiraling hate, fixing the carbines of your majestical swallowing, digesting, HIV and syphilis, breathing every morning the stagnant, molting air; gathering the small and dividing their minds in infinitesimal, viral worlds, until each man coughs out tetanus and sleeping sickness, ready to stride forward your intentions a thousand years.

Fall 2011




American Literary

LUSH ARABESQUE Lisa Jakab Oil on Canvas 30 inches x 40 inches

Fall 2011


BIOGRAPHIES Allison Arlotta is a junior majoring in Film and Media Wesley Haines hates AmLit. Peace kiddie kats. Arts. She’s a heavy drinker and a misanthrope.

Krys Benyamein is a senior in the School of Public

Lorraine Holmes procrastinates on everything, like

Affairs. He really loves taking photos.

submitting her bio, but makes up for it with vast amounts of love!

Louise Brask: I imagine a modern day Beethoven to

Morgan Jordan can’t remember the last time she’s had

Julie Burian: I am a recently established Irish citizen

Franziska Kabelitz loves Shenandoah National Park.

have a tongue pericing, gages in his ears.

trying unsuccessfully to keep my orchid alive.

Anna Elder is a freshman international relations major

who enjoys reading British mysteries and listening to Dvorak. She lives for snowy days and drinking coffee!

Evan Fowler is a mess in general, but often pretends to be a fully functioning member of society. Every once in a while, she fools someone.

Megan Fraedrich is a sophomore Lit major who likes

to make up absurd stories while riding the metro or zoning out in Anthropology. When she isn’t writing about things turning into other things, she usually can be found rewatching The Road to El Dorado or playing ‘Scooby-Doo and Thor Versus the German Werewolves’ with a gaggle of three-year-olds. She can also whip up a mean taco salad.

Emma Gray doesn’t have plans. Rebecca Grushkin is a freshman at AU. In her spare time she enjoys taking pictures and filmmaking.


American Literary

a grilled cheese sandwich.

Gretchen Kast has a 35mm camera and a tenuous grasp on reality.

Jonathan Koven is writting this at 6 am.

He is terribly tired and is planning on going to sleep immediately after writing this. He is confident that the 36 inch long Legend of Zelda poster will keep him safe during the night and he is delighted that some delicious Frosted Flakes await him in the morning.

Sylvan LaChance wants a colorful life. Matthew Makowski would be a meteor, just for tonight, just the once

Jenna Mitchell: I guess I am what I see and feel and hear.

Daniella Napolitano got into one little fight and her mom got scared. She said, “You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air.”

Jessica Nesbitt

ideally aspires to be the old dancing dude from the Six Flags commercials. Until then...

Kathryn Schramm misses the smell of fixer, but is excited about this brave new (digital) world.

Alejandro Neyra: Diplomat and writer. He is currently Matt Shor says “Fuck plastic cameras.” studying in the MIS program at the American University School of International Service. Author of short stories fiction books “Peruanos Ilustres” (Solar, 2005), “Peruvians do it better” (Sarita Cartonera, 2007) and “Peruanas Ilustres” (Solar, 2009), as well as articles and short stories published in specialized journals.

Bianca Palmisano is a senior with a mission: if you

chose to accept it, you may be astounded and frightened by the poetry that ensues. She likes writing without deadlines, chocolate chip cookies, and spontaneous cuddle piles.

Luke Ramsey is the delta bred son of a preacher man and a scientist.

Brandon Robers is a part-time student in the Mas-

ter of Public Administration Program in the School of Public Affairs. Before coming to American University he completed undergraduate study at George Washington University and a Juris Doctorate at Georgetown University Law Center. During the day he works as a Trial Attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice. While at Georgetown he served as an editor on the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. Brandon is a former Non-Commissioned Officer in the United States Army where he served in Germany and Iraq. In addition to the work contained in this fall’s edition of AmLit, he has several fiction and non-fiction credits in national journals and newspapers.

Rachel Ternes is a freshman who is interested in too

many things to list, and just enough to make it difficult to chose one to major in. She loves art in particular, and both of her paintings featured here are inspired by her little sisters.

Nora Tumas’ atoms write her poetry for her. Brendan Williams-Childs is a freshman in SOC

whose favorite TV shows, as you can probably tell by reading his piece, are Mad Men and Dexter. He also likes kittens.

Cindy Zhang loves friends, details, and portraits. Eat-

ing, reading, and sleeping. Variety, time, and the sun. Most of all, she loves living in the moment, in the now.

Fall 2011




American Literary

Fall 2011


STAFF Editors-in-Chief Morgan Jordan & Kaitie O’Hare Design Editors

Emma Gray Marlena Serviss Copy Editors Iz Altman Sam Falewee Art Editors Lindsay Inge Caroline Marsh Photography Editors Annie Buller Michelle Merica Poetry Editors Christopher Conway Lilly McGee Prose Editors Gretchen Kast Josh Little Outreach Director Lorraine Holmes Web Editor Cash Nelson

Design Staff Christina Bui, Lindsay Inge, Alex Jansen, Matt Shor

General Staff Brittany Armesto, Christina Bui, Alex Chavers, Michael Creedon, Ana DiCroce, Stephanie Fieseher, Caitlin Friess, Leah Hawes, Helen Hu, Elaina Hundley, Peter Hsieh Chun Hung, Alex Jansen, Laura S. Kauer, Jess Keane, Valerie Kiebala, Maya Kosover, Jonathan Koven, Peter Leach, Aja’ Mallory, Julie Morrocco, Rachael Mulligan, Lindsey Newman, Sarah Pachter, Zachary Planto, Marie Rabusa, James Schwabacher, Mariel Stratford, Airica Thomas, Jackie Toth, Mike Wang, Brendan Williams-Childs, Kristin Wowk


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RELIGION Gretchen Kast

Fall 2011


American Literary Magazine American University, MGC 248 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20016

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