amlit. spring 2012
Spring 2012 American Literary
Untitled Lisa Jakab
Ink, acrylic & gesso on tracing paper
Mission Statement & Policy
American Literary, commonly known as AmLit, is the American University literary magazine and creative arts outlet. AmLit is a student-run organization that publishes twice a year at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters. Striving to publish the best student writing and visual art within the campus community, AmLit is comprised of poetry, short stories, photos and art submitted by the campus community, including undergrad and graduate students. AmLit selects content based on an anonymous review process, giving each staff member an equal vote for each piece submitted. Any discrepancies are decided by the Editors-in-Chief and genre editors. All copyrights revert to the artists upon publication, unless otherwise noted.
AmLit would like to first thank Adell Crowe of Student Activities for being our number one fan, mama bear, and great negotiator. We would also like to thank Jim Briggs of Printing Images for being our AmDad and always working with us to meet our crazy requests. More thanks to our Best in Show judges Professors Leena Jayaswal, Don Kimes, and Adam Tamashasky. Additional gratitude to Professor Kyle Dargan for not only judging Best in Show poetry, but for also allowing us to publish his wonderful poetry as a faculty contributor as well. Most importantly, we want to acknowledge the tremendous spirit and dedication of our staffers for sustaining the energy to publish this beautiful magazine. Last, but certainly not least, thank you every single person who submitted work; this magazine is for you.
Editors’ Note Alas, we must write this Editors’ Note once more. Of all the tasks that come with managing a magazine, summarizing the experience of it all into one single page is the most challenging. As such, we write this note with a photograph of Easter Boo hanging beside us. Dog, give us strength. From the moment we finalized the Fall issue, we knew it was going to be a hard act to follow, but we think we’ve finally outdone ourselves this time. How could we not? Between a gal with a knack for design and art, a broad with nothing but metaphors and disjointed sentences, and a staff and editorial board that holds all the glue together, we knew we could take on the challenge. We received nearly 600 submissions for this issue, more than we’ve ever had before, and our hearts are overflowing with gratitude for all the submitters who entrusted us with their unbelievable works of art, and for our staff that diligently reviewed each and every piece with exceptional thought.
We want to start a new tradition that we hope will live on after we depart this wonderful university: A Senior Will. Adell Crowe, the best student media adviser ever: We leave you amazing Thai food at Spice in NYC. May you eat well forever for believing in us and pushing us through every step. None of our successes would mean as much as they do without our proud Mama cheering us on! Incredibly talented and surprisingly young staff: We leave you all the fake laughter money can buy for suffering through bad jokes at weekly meetings. You are the reason we get so much joy from this masochistic Editor position thing. Editorial Board: We leave you all the puppies in the world, including Boo the dog (the world’s #1 treasure), for giving us some of the best memories of our time here. If only we could remember them all. Now that we’ve sufficiently emptied our hearts and tear ducts onto this page, we’d like to end this Editor’s Note the same way we start—with Boo the dog. Once again, we dedicate this issue to you. Thank you for being so cute and fluffy, yet shaved, all at the same time. We still don’t have as many friends as you on Facebook. Maybe one day!
Morgan Jordan & Kaitie O’Hare Co-Editors-in-Chief
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As we get ready to step out of this (new) door (from our new office) and cross the graduation stage, we know that we are leaving the magazine behind in goods hands, and with many accomplishments under our belts. AmLit recently won second place for Best Literary Magazine at the 2012 Apple Awards; had poems, art and photography published in Bennington College’s national anthology of best undergraduate writing plain china; and will host an official arts festival release party in American University’s beautiful arts building, the Katzen Arts Center. We feel so honored to have helped make these giant leaps for AmLit, and can only say that the sky is the limit when it comes to the future of this magazine.
However, it’s not without struggle that we present this beautiful magazine to you. Just the opposite, in fact. There was AmDigestion, an office relocation (Thank you to the Talon for welcoming us to their home—we love you!), whirlwind adventures in New York City, and encounters with our dear friend Carlo along the way. We want to take a moment here to thank all these struggles, these mishaps, these absurd, ridiculous, and amazing experiences and people that we’ve been so fortunate to come by. Our time at AmLit would not have been nearly as wonderful without you.
Table of Contents
2 Untitled Lisa Jakab 2 Mission Statement, Policy & Acknowledgements 3 Editors’ Note Morgan Jordan & Kaitie O’Hare
6 the summer house inside of you Mattea Falk 7 Oravsky Hrad Matthew Stefanski | BEST IN SHOW PHOTOGRAPHY 8 About Ashes Anna Skorodumova 9 Untitled Lisa Jakab 10 Untitled Laura Materna 11 Second Kill Lilly McGee 12 The Lonesome West Christopher Conway 13 Flowers Michelle Merica 15 City and Trees Sophia Miyoshi 17 Wires Christopher Conway 18 Hungary Montage Diana Bowen 19 Cha Cha Cha Michelle Merica 20 Ancient Man Benjamin Patz 21 Soft Target Michele Colburn 24 Untitled Savanna Rovira 26 A whole decade Kathryn Gillon 27 What Happened to Ellie? Emi Ruff-Wilkinson 28 Undressing the Alligator Wood Kaitie O’Hare | BEST IN SHOW POETRY 29 Beauty Erin Adams 30 rind Mattea Falk 31 I Do Dare Morgan Jordan 32 Sur La Table Mariel Kirschen 33 A Visiting Jonathan Koven 34 They Will Tell You These Feelings are Normal, Eventually Brendan Williams-Child BEST IN SHOW PROSE 35 Israeli Diversity Robert Pines 36 Carolyn Lorraine Holmes 37 Mary Kathyrn Gillon 38 Northern Shores Erin Adams 40 Sand Kristen Velit 41 Seaweed Kristen Velit 42 The Things You Gain From Smoking Emi Ruff-Wilkinson 43 Records Kendall Jackson 45 Thai Waters Rachel Ternes | BEST IN SHOW ART
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46 Edo Woman Print Carolyn Becker 47 Delilah Kaitie Oâ€™Hare 48 Calembour on toast. Gretchen Kast 49 Stand Up Lysette Urus 50 Mona and the Monster Katrina Beitz 51 Family, Mother, Nude Mother Khristian Vega 53 A Beta Fish Elise Polentes 54 Arrested Frame 2 Temme Barkin-Leeds 55 The Hotel Vela Bar, Costa Rica Matthew Makowski 56 How to Haunt a House Megan Fraedrich 57 They Never Fit Carolyn Becker 60 Along With Emily Zabaleta 61 Skolios Kaitie Oâ€™Hare 62 Under the Stars Megan Fraedrich 63 Nebulous Morgan Jordan 64 From the Many Deaths of Eurithia May Jonathan Holin 65 Church in the Ghetto Matthew Stefanski 66 Canvas Morgan Jordan 67 Juvenilia Matthew Morgan Shor 68 No Harm Done Eric Langlois 69 Serenity Bailey Edelstein 70 Freudian Slip Jessica Nesbitt 71 Self Portrait as Pablo Salvador Luke Ramsey 72 Venice Side Street Kathryn Gillon 73 Hymns Gretchen Kast 74 Boiler Room Mattea Falk 75 Rusting Anna Elder 76 PTSD Genna Bellezza 76 Platoons Michele Colburn 77 Dylan Pratt Robbie Boccelli 78 Untitled Gretchen Kast 79 To My Sister, Who Never Was Matthew Morgan Shor 80 Biographies 81 Untitled Daniella Napolitano 82 STATE OF THE UNION Kyle Dargan | FACULTY CONTRIBUTOR 83 Staff
the summer house inside of you Mattea Falk
This posturing, these contrivances, this artificial topography, all crepe paper mountains and streams that never end:
Look down, Look up, Purse your lips the way they do in ads and there is your face in the mirror â€“ There is the absence of your face in the mirror â€“ There is the back of the mirror, the blank silver no one ever sees.
Tucked into the corner of the frame, a photo of you and your sister, as children, jumping on a bed that belonged to a summer home. Mid-jump and your faces covered in the flock of your hair, the sheets rustling, the feet dangling like those of hanged men. Look down, Look up, Remember the pattern of your skin on your ribs, like light through blinds falling softly on a cold hardwood floor. You feel something small and strange and alive under the vertical pattern of that light: Those bones, the unwavering straight sturdiness of them that refuses to sway. You feel your summer house memories inside, lined up like soda bottles in the back of a convenience store, halogen-flavored and buzzing, so bright they seem lit from within. The doors to the summer house inside of you only get smaller and smaller as they go, like a joke in a childrenâ€™s book, except the punch line forgets to arrive.
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BEST IN SHOW PHOTOGRAPHY
Oravsky Hrad Matthew Stefanski Digital
About Ashes Anna Skorodumova
There would be no tomb for her; no hallowed real estate where her bones would rest for eternity. That would be too long a time. She would not have worms instead of a cat for pets. No one should bring her flowers; the time for that had passed. She would hear no confessions of regret or love when she was powerless to console or condemn. She would be no corpse. There would be no urn on the mantelpiece – to be repositioned at will. She would not be confined to one room and forced to hear arguments she couldn’t fight, family dinners she couldn’t taste, and hushed conversations not meant for dead ears. She would have peace. At dawn, her body would be laid to rest on a pyre overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Her hair would be untamed and her body clad in white. She would leave the world a bride of the wind, leaving behind no belongings, no children, no will. Only words. Words of folly and wisdom; lust and loneliness. At dusk, the fire would be lit to drain the sun of its light and echo it back into the heavens. Her clothes would become singed first. The hair would burn: an undeserved halo. The dress would catch fire and disintegrate. The flames would caress her skin, consoling the sting of many whippings by the
northern winds. She would be warm and content. The skin would then begin to darken and peel. Soon it would be blackened and flames would begin to massage the muscle. The smell of cooking meat would drift towards the mourners. Uncomfortable, most of them would begin to disperse. The muscle would take a while to burn through, being so moist and still holding on to the remaining life. Then the bones would start to burn and crack, but their sound would be indistinguishable from the wood. After hours, only her closest would remain by the pyre, their aching hearts gladdened by the warmth. The fire would slowly cool, only ashes and bones would remain. In the years to come, some would become part of the fertile earth. Others would blow into the sea and be carried to countries she hadn’t had enough time to visit. Some would return to her homeland; some be blown in the wind to the grave of her favorite lover. But the ashes of her heart would find their way to trees condemned to death and be captured into paper. Upon it, scientists would write their discoveries; young writers, their rhymes; and publishers would print the works of Voltaire. And she would be glad.
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Untitled Lisa Jakab
Oil on canvas / 36 x 48 in.
Spring 2012 American Literary
Untitled Laura Materna Cut paper, digital alterations
Second Kill Lilly McGee Cain’s kiss: the drowned. Family submerged. A photo blurred by stillwater. Three merfolk asphyxiate on the lawn, the shadows draping them at dawn.
The only figure out of water: plait-hair, pleat-dress, former (twin) (daughter).
Small palms, cupped, hold (like a plum) a spider, crawling towards her thumb. And if she were not trapped in place, she’d hold him up beside her face, coo between puckered lips, and smash his frail body ‘tween her hands. With every kill she has one rule: wash its remains out in the pool.
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[Gazing at the smeared space. Family sunk in chlorine, and the kill’s erased.]
Mother’s face drips down like wax. Father, son, hold streaked hands clasped.
The Lonesome West Christopher Conway
If it hadn’t been for a detour sign, my life would be different. If it wasn’t for that small orange sign out in the middle of nowhere, off a dark and desolate New Jersey highway, then I would have been sitting on the grass along with the rest of the drunks, police shining a light into my face, ugly crop-headed guinea cops shouting at us, calling us every kind of fuck-up, leveling the emptiest of empty threats to terrify a bunch of teenagers. But as it was, I cursed my luck as I got lost on Sandy Spring Road outside Bernardsville, and I god-damned the darkness and the hateful forests that so impeded my getting drunk after a long and tiring day at work. I pulled off onto a rocky road next to a field, and got out of the car. The sky was dark blue and the air was dark blue. The moon showered white down on the meadow, which was fenced off and pocked with bales of hay, the dark green of the woods surrounding on all sides, the stars shimmering brightly out here in the lonesome west of New Jersey, far removed from the lights of New York City. My phone lit up with a text from Diana that said two words: Police here. The phone went dead and I let stream a flow of invective at the useless sonofabitching thing, wanting to hurl it right into the field. There wasn’t a way in hell I could get the right address now, and now Diana was going to be left to the devices of bored rural cops. As if by fate, another car pulled onto the path, and stopped right behind mine – two young women emerged shakily, Natty Lights in hand, looking too young to even drive. I approached one to ask if she might be going to the party at the abandoned house, but she was already hiking up her dress and squatting to expunge the pints of cheap American lager, so I turned to her friend – “Say, are you heading to the party on Sandy Spring Road?” I asked her. She tipsily leaned on the car, heavy-lidded eyes batting weirdly at me, saying “Yeah, we’re headed there now. And you?” “I was,” I replied. “But apparently the fuckin’ cops beat us to it. I’m sober, and I’m going to go rescue a friend of mine.” “It’s right down that road,” said the blond girl, pointing vaguely down the path. “Follow us. Michael Fuccile and Christopher Benvenutti are throwing it, so you know it’s gonna be good. Where are you from?” “Hudson County,” said I. “I just got off delivering pizza down in North Bergen; I’m coming out here to meet a friend.” “Ew, that’s so ghetto. I’m from Morristown.” Taken slightly aback, I followed her. I’d rather the dense apartments of Palisade Avenue and the high-rises along the Hudson River than your forests and valleys, I thought. To hell with your fields. All I want is to sit on the cliffs and look over at Manhattan, and find pockets of abandoned civilization near the turnpike, and live
in these places where people have lived for hundreds of years, but instead I shortly found myself parked and walking on the car-crowded lawn of a house with a large frightened clique of teenagers in varying states of sobriety who are being corralled onto a patch of dark grass by thicknecked policemen. As I gingerly entered the foray and looked for the face of Diana among the crowd, I heard one particularly vindictive-looking man saying “Name…name…” over again. “Lynette Nunez,” one scared girl said, standing up in the crowd upon the policeman’s order. I was outside the shaky blue line, joined by a few other outsiders and sober and late party-comers, and I saw that the vicious police were too focused on bullying the individual youths rather than concerning themselves with a mass breakout – terrified drunk teenagers being incapable of collective organization and riot, in their minds. “Name?” I heard a kinder cop inquire. “Diana fucking Lightsey. I want a lawyer, I’m not going anywhere or saying anthing.” It was her, and I instantly saw her dark hair and crystalline eyes, and the lips that were dripping sarcasm on the police, barely holding back her anger. It was she, Diana fucking Lightsey from the streets of Clifton, Diana whose radiance made the darkness take flight, light of my life, and who caught my eye with a look of utter surprise. “Take a seat,” the cop said, listlessly moving to the next girl. “If you have no one to claim you, you’ll remain detained…” “I claim her,” I said, ducking through people and grabbing Diana’s wrist, pulling her out of the morass, and she stumbled into me. Turning back to the police, she opened her mouth to say something probably profane, but I said “Fuck ‘em,” and holding hands, led her out of the crowd and into the rocky driveway leading back to the road. “I’m parked on the street.” “They crashed the party,” Diana breathed as we jogged out of the police ride. “Hate the police…so much…fuckers.” “It’s alright, I’ll drive you home,” I said, but Diana shook her head, saying “My parents are asleep…which is good because they can’t see me like this…but I can’t get into my house, I didn’t bring a key.” “It’s alright, my parents are with family in Queens. I had to work so I didn’t go with them. I can take the couch,” I added. Diana sighed, nodding assent. “Just…thank you. Let’s go home.” I drove her home, back up 287 and onto 46, towards New York. Her rage at the police and her belligerent complaints were fading into calm in the forty minutes it took to move from the forests to the fields, and up the hills into the stately and commanding monolith that was the urban blotch of Hudson County, New Jersey. She said again softly, “Thank you, for this. For still coming. The party was a mess.”
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Flowers Michelle Merica “It’s fine,” I did say. “I couldn’t leave you there. I’m glad I worked and came here, and I’m glad I’m not in New York with my parents. I still had fun rescuing you, party or not.” “I wasn’t that drunk, I promise,” Diana said. “I just wanted an excuse to curse at cops.” “I know the feeling. You shoulda bolted.” “They surrounded the house before we even realized. It seemed like such a good idea to have a party in an forsale house that no one lived in; who would get in trouble for that? I felt like I was in Rent, a bunch of squatters partying and doing drugs and fighting the cops.” I laughed, and we talked and talked until my beat-
up car took us home, on 78th Street, North Bergen, New Jersey, a grand avenue of middle-class homes and flat green lawns in a town of narrow streets, hills, and what some might call slums. I was nestled on this quiet street in between the hardware stores and “massage parlors” of Kennedy Boulevard to the west and the pupuserias and dance clubs of Bergenline Avenue to the east, far of course from the broken-down factories, housing projects, and industrial-level slime oozing into the Meadowlands down by Tonnelle Avenue; Diana was nestled into my side, and we walked into the house and shut the darkness away. There wasn’t much to say inside, in the dim light
Spring 2012 American Literary
on the couch. We sank wordlessly onto the cushions, and we looked at each other. She turned away coyly, then looked back up, my gaze unmoving. Recklessly I leaned in and kissed her on the mouth, and I could feel her jump in surprise, and then pleasantly slid her arm up my back and sank into me. She was still a little tipsy I think, and it made me cautious and slow, and she leaned on me while we kissed, pushing my legs into an awkward position. I pushed her off for a moment and rearranged myself, leaning her down on my parent’s couch and lying next to her as she wrapped a leg around mine. From whatever ecstatic angle I looked at her, she looked younger, happier, different. “Skinny jeans,” she said sheepishly as I pulled off her pants. We kissed more. Adrenaline made my heart race. I told her she was beautiful, and meant it. I slept with her in that bed that night, encased in the rosy smell of childhood, the memories of my boyhood and these newforged memories of the softest and most marble skin of Diana Lightsey merging with the scent of linen, and of her softest breath on my throat as I slept. In the seconds of conscious thought before I drifted to peacefulness, Diana whispered in my ear: “Are you going to tell your girlfriend about us?” “Of course. I had better. We’ll all be in the city tomorrow anyway.” *** Chelsea Vanwageningen from Jersey City, descendent of the Dutch settlers, light of my life, anamchara, pierced with the words “ad astra” and “ab imo pectore” tattooed on her breasts, had come over my house so I could drive all three of us into Hoboken, and then to train into the city and hopefully find our friend Adrian Rosario, who was with his cousin in their apartment in Alphabet City. “How was your night?” Chelsea had texted me at nine that morning. “Did you crash at the party?” I had disentangled my arms from around Diana’s midsection to reach for my phone and respond simply, that I had crashed at my house with Diana. “Nice.” Chelsea replied, with the neutrality and nonjudgment of the Carpenter of Nazareth. “Will it be awkward today with all of us?” “I hope not.” And it wasn’t. Chelsea came over, and me and Diana were dressed, and in full knowledge of what had happened and what the other knew, the two girls embraced as if they were sisters, and maybe felt their bond was stronger because of that last night. This was always the part that made me feel like my heart was going to fall through my ribcage, the stress and aftermath, and the uncertainty. But Chelsea and Diana were completely and utterly fine with one another, and I didn’t know either of them to be deceptive or fake, so I took it at face value – two sexually open women who viewed the other as no threat, and me in the middle questioning why I felt so powerless and so unsure. If intellectuals complicate simple things and artists
simplify complex things, then Chelsea was a Kandinsky, breezily talking the entire car ride and joking with Diana, and I was John Nash, my stomach boiling and dropping with every interaction the two girls had, a bittersweet sense of loss and doubt. Eyes on the road, I asked myself what the fuck was wrong with me, and almost felt too sick to be part of their conversation, gentle and knowing, more like an old married couple than two fresh lovers. Chelsea was describing some miserable party she had gone to the night before in Weehawken where some gross drunken scene boy had paused making out with her to ask “‘the next time I’m single, would you want to go on a date with me?’ Can you believe he said that? Christ. I’m sure my night last night was nowhere near as good as you two’s.”
“ I exhaled deeply, and all of a sudden aware of how the molecules of oxygen were flowing out of my nose and disappearing into the air, every particle dispersing into chaos.”
“Probably not,” replied Diana coolly, neutral as a glass of tap water. I grit my teeth. This should curious and distinct joy for a young man – to hook up with two best friends, and to have them fine with it, and to most likely be in a situation where they would grow closer if anything with minimal drama, but over and over I kept envisioning Chelsea and Diana bonding over more sinister things, of them agreeing what I loser I was, what a fucking douchebag, with no self-control, not worth a goddamn dime for all that self-loathing he had – but that’s all it was: projecting and self-loathing. Distracted by the outside scenes, Chelsea interjected “Let’s go to the hookah bar in Journal Square later!” and my dire and paranoid fantasies of both the girls uniting against me were as my rational mind knew they were – senseless. We were roaring down Kennedy Boulevard past the tenement hookah bar that was awash in graffiti from students at nearby Dickinson High School, as we flew down from the mostly-grimy neighborhoods of the Heights to the entirely-grimy hoods south of Montgomery, down towards Communipaw Avenue and south central Jersey City, with all the urban blight that came with it. Our plans were to stop for a moment at Liberty State Park – to look out on Upper New York Harbor, from where you look out across the choppy water to the Statue of Liberty and the imposing skylines of Manhattan, and the low-lying hills of Brooklyn far out across the bay, but it was foggy out. There was nothing
City and Trees Sophia Miyoshi Film
greetings to you all,” the gentleman said, clasping his hands before him as if he were a monk. “My name is Rocky and I’m from Brooklyn, and I smoke weed every day. Do you all like to smoke weed?” “I mean…yeah,” Chelsea replied for all of us, and me and Diana nodded, unsure of where this was heading. Rocky smiled. I was wary, but fuck it, it’s the Village, I thought. My stress over the two girls melted away and was replaced with a giggly feeling of adventure, of craving this mischief, of dying to break a law. “Well it just so happens I have a large joint of headies rolled up right here –” he patted his jacket pocket – “and I’m just about to go around the corner and blaze this if you care to come join me.” “That sounds wonderful,” I said. Rocky smiled even more broadly, and he beckoned us come with him, just a block north to Waverly Place, where he turned down the narrow street and we followed him until we came to a stop directly underneath a security camera, behind a row of parked cars. Rocky pulled the joint out of his pocket and produced a Bic in his other hand, lighting and taking his first puff before I even realized he had it out. The aforementioned feeling returned: the sense my
from the shore that we could see but distant city lights in the mist like stars in the sky. *** We parked on the street in Hoboken, and took the PATH into the West Village. Christopher Street stretched up from the docks that once were a safe space for queer youth, runaways, transpeople, but now were cleaned up and gentrified, sanitized into a safe space for the wealthy and privileged. We decided to go to the Stonewall Inn, where on a day almost exactly forty years earlier, between the Compton Cafeteria and the White Night riots, a mob of queer partiers-turnedactivists blasted their righteous anger on the police and the establishment, and began the discord between the camps of the movement regarding whether the use of violence was acceptable in bashing back against a society that hated them – and outside this crucible of anarchy and revolution, a man walked out of a park that once sheltered so many homeless teens, and yelled to us, “Hey fam! Yo, family!” We turned to him, and he approached us – he was a stocky black man in a red leather jacket and a few days of stubble, looking like a long-lost cousin of Prince. “Hi,
Spring 2012 American Literary
life was like a movie, either a cruel comedy or a wellmeaning tragedy. I hit the joint next, and inhaled what seemed like lemon-scented vapor, almost instantly making me feel like the pressure in my eyes dropped 1000 psi, and the wind took the smoke from my lips and into the brick-andmortar canyons of the city; I passed it to Diana, who put it to her lips, and then onwards to Chelsea. I exhaled deeply, and was all of a sudden aware of how the molecules of oxygen were flowing out of my nose and disappearing into the air, every particle dispersing into chaos. “Listen, you know what’s really good,” Rocky monologue as we smoked. “Shit is rough sometimes. Nearly set fire to my fuckin’ crib last night putting out some candles. I had been trying to get something romantic going…candles were gonna do the trick. Had to put them shits out with my t -shirt, and I got candle wax all over it.” What the fuck is he talking about, I thought, but already my mind was going and what Rocky was saying had begun to take on an air of otherworldliness. Rocky hit his joint, and then touched Diana’s arm lightly, moving his mouth in to shotgun her – my heart seized – Diana pulled away, blushing, and Rocky kissed her neck. It was too weird to react, and it had happened too fast to stop, and we were all of a sudden so stoned that all we could do was stare at this bizarre but handsome but sketchy gentleman with his lips on Diana’s throat. “Where in Brooklyn are you from?” I asked hazily, trying to draw his mouth’s attention to speech rather than seducing the unwilling. “I have some family in Greenpoint and Billyburg, got some other relatives in the Bronx…” my voice trailed off; I was babbling; or was I? I babbled. I laughed inwardly at how the word ‘babble’ sounded. Booble. “Yeah, I’m from Do-Or-Die,” quoth Rocky. “But you got family in that Bronx, whiteboy? Fuck is up with that, I ain’t even fuckin’ with the Bronx, except for business. South Bronx is that re-up central, you dig?” “I digs.” “That’s wusgood. So which one of these ladies is yours?” I sputtered and passed the joint, and avoided Diana and Chelsea’s gaze. A million thoughts burst into my head at once – not wanting to claim either, not wanting to deny either, thinking about what we were, who I was to anyone. Relationships are concepts of people. (You know your parent’s friends as a single unit, though they’re married; you call them Kim and Chris, or Rick and Toni Ann – a single unit that exists through the uniting of two people.) I thought that when I was with my ex, we existed as a concept, our names were said together and sat side by side. When I’m with Chelsea, our names similarly sit side by side. But does the original concept ever fade away? Do all relationships possess this concept of names? Was there a me and Diana? “He’s a pimp, he’s a straight dog,” Rocky laughed
during my reverie, as Diana inhaled the joint, his low laugh and the street traffic breaking the awkward pause. He set his gaze upon her next – “Girl, look at yourself,” Rocky said, narrowing his eyes at Diana. “Lookin’ out into space. Lookin’ like you’re in a fantasy world. I’ll make your fantasies come true.” “What?” “I’ll make all your fantasies come true.” I was too high for this. I am so out of order, I kept thinking to myself. I am so out of order I am thinking too many thousands of complex and disorganized thoughts and it’s extremely anxiety-causing that Rocky is hitting on Diana too hard, and now trying to shotgun Chelsea. My heart raced and my head began to go light, and I wavered where I stood (on Waverly Place, of all places,) and I thought I might have a panic attack. Then I thought that I was thinking the same thought for thousands of years, everything frozen and silent, unable to escape my pattern of thinking, the world halting with me. I thought that someone had put PCP on this weed, and I was so high Christ. But all these coursing thoughts, whatever their effects, were consolidated into the words that next escaped my tongue – to Rocky – “Hey, it’s time for us to be out. Thank you.” Feeling like I were in a movie, I seized both Diana and Chelsea by the hand, and with both in tow, we bid Rocky from Brooklyn who smokes weed every day a good afternoon and set out east towards Washington Square Park. I don’t know what I was afraid of, or what I was expecting – certainly not a bullet crashing through the back of my head, or for Rocky to seize one of the girls and go off with her, for we were on a crowded Manhattan street. It took us forever, but we finally made it to the East Village, near where Adrian’s cousin lived, but we stopped first in St. Marks to sit and breathe, and feel the cannabis overtake us, to feel heaven before we had to die. We sat down at the tables in a sidewalk café and I looked up and realized with a tingly coolness that there was a light mist-like rain blowing down the canyon streets, making my face damp, and the sun still shining made the raindrops glint and encircle Diana’s head like a halo; Diana Lightsey, the incandescent, the ineffable, light of my life. As Diana texted Adrian to come down from Avenue A and meet them, the shimmery droplets illumined so eerily by the clouded sun made their way over around Chelsea’s head – and she put her hand in mine just as Diana’s leg brushed mine under the table. From the combination of the weed and the touch and tension and the sheer beauty of the vaporous rain making wraiths of every New Yorker walking St. Marks, my heart sank, and I saw myself as a creature of vanity, worthy of nothing. How the fuck did this happen? I had these two women, beautiful in their own way, both staring at me as if I should love them fully (though I knew it was just my mind) and I couldn’t, and I could
not make the choice ever, and I didnâ€™t want to make the choice. For what was I to them, to anyone? I had both and deserved neither; I was a man of lust, a piece of Jersey street trash full of the most noxious self-loathing, maybe raised well, but nonetheless depressed beyond my wildest notions, and I could never do anyone an ounce of good. It was all so meaningless and so impermanent and unsatisfying that I laughed and looked up at the sky, craning my neck back into the rain, my skin on skin on wet skin with the three of us there, one body, one love. I wanted it to be this beautiful all the time, and I wanted to stay here on the brink of tears and laughter, my touch on both of theirs, their smiles on both my faces. I wanted to live in a world of constant fog and lightning storms.
Wires Christopher Conway Spring 2012
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Hungary Montage Diana Bowen 35mm film
Cha Cha Cha Michelle Merica Spring 2012
19 American Literary
Last night she showed me the “many years ago” bra it happened in. Delicate lace now wore the wears and tears of play. The virginal, sensible white sweats to yellow. My grandma said that if a date is fake then you fake other things in life, like the time she said I love you to the boy without money. Holding hands in cinema light brings love. My grandma told me about her first date. It wasn’t with the penniless boy or my grandpa, but with a sailor in training who wore his young age in his crooked teeth. I’ve yet to engage in Fleet Week, but I’m like my grandma with her casual hand holding and painted toes. The boys love very cherry polish. Peel away my parka, shirt, and even my skin too until I am nothing but a dancing skeleton doing the cha cha cha. Right now, you couldn’t tell the difference between movement, me and my grandma, except that she tangoed.
Ancient Man Benjamin Patz
Over the course of decades, silence has become the rule in the medical profession. First the doctors stopped talking to their patients, instead communicating with nanobots inserted into the patient’s bloodstream, reading all of their vital information and diagnosing any imperfections down to a molecular level. Then the doctors stopped talking to each other, as fewer and fewer doctors stood together in hospitals, on the front lines of disease, instead communicating and diagnosing remotely, using robotic assistants in increasingly empty hospitals. Then they stopped talking altogether, as robots began performing surgery and treating patients on their own, only being checked on intermittently by engineers or doctors in some rare cases. Silence hung heavily in hospitals across the United States, like Bethlehem Memorial Hospital. But in Bethlehem Memorial, there was one small exception. “Drill.” It was the first word spoken in this operating room in a long time. With imperfect humans replaced by precise robots capable of acting in the stead of doctors, all communication was replaced by invisible strings of ones and zeros flying through the air. This day was different, however, as one of the perfect machines was found flawed, having nearly cut open a patient during the last surgery it performed. The engineers said it would take days to fully diagnose and repair the machine, and recommended to the hospital staff that any surgeries this robot was scheduled to perform be removed from the schedule. The next patient, a wealthy lawyer from Texas, protested, saying he would take his business elsewhere if the hospital would not perform his scheduled surgery. There was only one other option available: a practice that had practically become taboo with the introduction of robotic surgeons. In a brightly lit operating room, surrounded by machines of all types, Doctor William Fairmont held out his gloved hand to a robotic arm standing to his side. The room was white and pristine, scarcely a mark of grime in the entire room. In the center lay the Texan lawyer’s puffy, heavy body naked on the operating table, save for a hospital gown. Machines that displayed the patient’s vitals were wheeled in for the unorthodox participant in the surgery to see the results of his work. Outside the room, behind a one-way mirror, a panel of doctors and engineers watched the surgery on the computer screens in front of them. In the operating room, beads of sweat started to soak through Doctor Fairmont’s paper mask as he held the drill in his hand. The robotic arm turned away after depositing the drill in the surgeon’s capable hands. Another robotic arm leaned in, marking the spot on the patient’s shaved head where the drill would puncture. Doctor Fairmont sighed and lowered the drill to the patient’s skull.
“Preparing to drill.” It was an old habit from the early days, before he had to deal with all of these robots silently doing their business. They didn’t respond. They just stood there. Applying just a little pressure to the trigger, the Doctor pushed the drill into the X and began cutting into the man’s head. Immediately the robots began crowding around him, cleaning up blood and fragments of bone that began to fly off the powerful drill. One of the robots began counting down to the time when the drill would pierce into the brain, an old program from the old days. The Doctor kept one eye on the screen and the other on his work, making sure the drill went through the skull quickly and cleanly. In the other room, the onlookers held their breath. The timer finished just as the Doctor felt the skull give way; he stopped the drill before it pushed into the patient’s spongy brain. He exhaled and placed the drill in the hand of the waiting robot. He turned, his eyes passing over the one-way glass, and reached for the biohazard box on the table. The drilling wasn’t the hard part, he had done it before doctors were barred from operations, but this was. His heart racing, he pulled open the container and watched as one of the robotic arms slipped in and pulled out a pink, fleshy mass. Neural Computers, even with all of the recent breakthroughs in technology, were still quite expensive. The process of cloning a person’s own neurons and arranging them in such a way that meshes with the brain and magnifies the brain’s storage and recall processes was still tricky; most of the time the neurons refused to bind together properly, or even at all, creating a useless mass of brain tissue that could hardly be fit to run a calculator, let alone be attached to a living, breathing human being. But this lawyer had money “coming out of his ass,” as he said to the Doctor days before the surgery, and insisted he modify himself with all of the latest technology out there, no matter the cost. And so, the Neural Computer was grown and now Doctor Fairmont was watching as the robot brought it over to the hole in the skull, where another had inserted a nearly invisible wire, providing the surgeon and the robots a clear view of the man’s brain. The Doctor’s heart continued to hammer away as he delicately took the tools from an assisting robot and reached out for the fragile mass of tissue. Slowly, patiently, Doctor Fairmont began to slide the Computer through the hole. On the screen in front of him, he could see the neurons being pushed towards the brain. “Give me a little more resolution on the left hemisphere.” The camera adjusted as the robot slid it carefully inside the head. The Doctor’s hands started to shake. He stopped, calming himself down and letting his mind go blank briefly. He allowed himself to relax, willed his heart to
Baby clothes & diapers / 30 in. diameter
slow down, took control of his rebelling body so he could focus on the task at hand. “Doctor Fairmont?” It was the first time one of the others in the room next-door spoke. Doctor Fairmont’s eyes snapped open as he was pulled from his reverie. He glanced over at the one-way mirror and raised his eyes slightly. There was no response from the other room. After a few seconds, he turned back to the task at hand and, hands steadied, pushed the Computer into the skull. The rest of the task was done in silence. Inch by inch, the Computer was pushed into the brain. Special receptors on the Computer itself began bonding automatically to the appropriate parts of the patient’s cranium, programming in the Computer’s structure, starting to take control of the bonding procedure. Carefully, Doctor Fairmont removed the tools from the man’s skull and stepped back as the robot manning the camera did the same. The other robots stepped forward and began dealing with the task of sealing up the patient’s skull again with a calcium paste enriched with the man’s own bone marrow.
“There.” Doctor Fairmont said simply, his shoulders relaxing, and in the room next door every human being exhaled. ... ... ... “It wasn’t that hard.” Doctor Fairmont replied after swallowing a spoonful of corn, “It’s a simple procedure, you just have to keep a steady hand for the first part of it. The rest of it is taken care of by the computer itself.” “I know but I mean,” Tina paused as she thought about what she was going to say, “surgery. Nobody’s done that in years.” “Don’t you trust me, woman?” The Doctor turned to his wife and raised an eyebrow mockingly. “Think I can’t do a simple surgery?” He turned back to his food and picked up another spoonful of corn. “It’s not that unheard of. There was a doctor who did a gastric bypass down in St. Claire just this past week. It’s not like people aren’t doing surgery any more because the robots have taken over.” “But that’s St. Claire.” Tina pressed. Doctor Fairmont just put the corn in his mouth and chewed. “It’s not like Bethlehem. They don’t have all that fancy technology yet. You did it even with all those robots at hand.”
Soft Target Michele Colburn
Spring 2012 American Literary
“I was filling in for one that broke down,” he replied, “And I’d do it again too, even without the robots. Hell, I don’t need to be metal just to do a good job, now do I? No sir.” He looked down the dining table at his two sons and asked again, “Do I?” In unison, George and Thomas said, “No sir.” “That’s right,” the doctor muttered and resumed eating his meal. This night, like every night, Doctor Fairmont sat with his family for dinner around the old wooden table in the kitchen. Most modern families had given up this tradition, as quick dinners in front of a TV or individual dinners were far more practical in the modern world of full schedules and constant connection to the internet, but Doctor Fairmont insisted on digging out his parent’s old table the moment his children were able to eat solid food for themselves. “I was raised that way and look at me.” The Doctor had said that day, grunting as he set up the family table. “I’m not going to let my children forget whose family they belong to.” And they did not forget, even if they didn’t agree with their father’s rules when it came to family dinners. As the Doctor looked up from his plate, he saw Thomas look down, trying to be sly as he pulled a small, thin phone out of his pocket and started texting his friends. Doctor Fairmont just shook his head and continued eating; it simply wasn’t worth the effort of confiscating their phones as they would find some other way to get on the internet. Besides, he remembered the old days when he would bug his parents by texting at the table. He figured as long as they still responded and weren’t too open with it, their secret texting could continue. George, on the other hand, didn’t need to be reminded of the rules. In fact, lately George had been staying away from his phone at the table, keeping his texting and chatting in his room with the door shut. Certainly he wasn’t very talkative even without his phone distracting him, most children nowadays weren’t, but he still contributed to the conversation and responded respectfully when asked a question. And so, Doctor Fairmont was happy with him too, but it was this night when he finally caught it. “So, George,” The Doctor looked up from his meal and at his eldest son, “Given any thought about the internship? Mr. Hardy’s waiting for an answer.” “I’m still thinking about it dad,” his son replied. But Doctor Fairmont finally realized. He had seen it before, but his mind would dismiss it before he could register what happened or what it meant. Other times he was simply too engrossed in his own meal to notice, but this time he caught it. George wasn’t looking at him. And he hated it. “Why don’t you look me in the eyes, boy?” The Doctor leaned across the table and stared directly at George. Thomas instinctively looked up, sliding the phone
back into his pocket and looking back at his father only to see that it was George their father was talking to. Tina froze with a fork-load of steak halfway to her mouth. She looked between her husband and her son expectantly. George just froze, almost caught off guard by his father’s accusation. “Look at me, George.” At his father’s order, George looked up and stared right back into his father’s eyes. They were shocked, not in a fearful way like when Thomas thought he was caught texting, but rather surprised at being confronted in such a manner by his father. The two stared into each other’s eyes for several tense moments. “Yes?” George asked, blinking for the first time since he looked at his father. After a few more tense moments, Doctor Fairmont looked back down at his plate and muttered, “Just look at me when I’m talking to you, understand?” George continued to look at his father as the latter starting putting spoonfuls of corn into his mouth. The table was quiet after the Doctor’s awkward outburst. Even Thomas didn’t return to his texting when his father turned back to his meal. Trying to diffuse the tension, Tina coughed and said, “George, you really should have come up with an answer now for Mr. Hardy. It’s been nearly a week since your father convinced him to offer you the job. After all, it’s quite a job working with Mr. Hardy, his new App --” “Dad, I need to talk to you.”
“ Doctor Fairmont looked up
at his son, who looked back with a calm and level stare, the kind of stare soldiers wear when marching into battle.” Doctor Fairmont looked up at his son, who looked back with a calm and level stare, the kind of stare soldiers wear when marching into battle. Chewing, the Doctor nodded and gestured with his spoon for George to continue. “I don’t want to work with Mr. Hardy,” George said coldly. “Oh,” Tina said in surprise, “Well, that’s no problem. I’m sure we can find something else for you to --” “Why not?” Doctor Fairmont asked, cutting off his wife. “I’ve been offered a job in Bethesda,” George responded, leaning back in his chair. “Bethesda?” Tina gasped. “All the way out there?” “The game company?” Thomas asked in shock. “What does Bethesda have to do with games?” Tina turned to her younger son. “Y’see --” “What job?” Doctor Fairmont cut through the conversation and asked his eldest son directly. The two
23 American Literary
earned three faces with disbelieving looks. Ashamed, he looked down at his plate and was silent. “Dad, I want to put my mind into a computer.” “Go to your room.” And without looking at each other, without even the slightest glance, they finished the conversation. George quickly stood up and walked out of the house, picking up his personal bag and striding out the door. The Doctor settled back in his chair and began to pick through his steak, quietly brooding. Nobody dared talk for the rest of the meal. ... ... ... The next day Doctor Fairmont arrived at the hospital to find two men sitting outside his office in the dingy plastic chairs near his office door. The two men wore identical black suits, something rarely seen, save for movie spies and federal agents. However, their pudgy and out-of-shape forms immediately ruled out any possibility that they were federal agents. The Doctor’s secretary stood up as he entered, eyeing the two men carefully. “Doctor Fairmont,” she said, “Misters Kay and Logan would like to speak with you.” “Doctor Fairmont, I presume?” One of the men stood up, a white man with his brown hair styled carefully. “David Kay, I work with Generation Biotechnologies Inc., and this is my associate, Kyle.” “How do you do?” asked the other man, a black man with blue hair, likely genetically altered rather than dyed. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Doctor Fairmont replied, “But you need to talk to Mrs. Jakkubisin about selling medical supplies --” “Doctor Fairmont,” Mr. Kay replied, chuckling to himself, “you misunderstand us. We’re not here to sell anything. Well, we hope to...” “...but not to the hospital.” Mr. Logan finished. “We’re here to speak to you personally. May we step in? We shouldn’t be too long.” Doctor Fairmont glanced over at his secretary who merely shrugged, signaling that the men hadn’t told her specifically what their business was. Quietly, he nodded and led the two men into his office and gestured for them to sit in front of his desk. “Haven’t seen a desk like this in a long time,” Mr. Kay said approvingly, settling down in one of the plush chairs, his bag in his lap. “You just don’t see many good-old wooden desks any more. Oak, is it?” “Yes.” Doctor Fairmont replied and sat down in his own chair on the other side. “Late night?” Mr. Logan asked as he sat down in his own chair. “What?” The Doctor furrowed his brow, only to realize that his voice did sound awfully tired and groggy. “No, just been very... what can I do for you?” “Well, you see Doctor Fairmont,” Mr. Kay began. He suddenly stopped and cocked his head to the side, “May I call you William? Will?” “Doctor Fairmont.” The Doctor insisted.
locked eyes as Tina and Thomas fell silent, waiting to hear George’s reply. “The Kurzweil Institute is hiring me as an assistant programmer.” And with that he turned back to his meal and resumed eating his corn, leaving the rest of the table quiet. “The Singularity Institute?” Tina asked, her face contorting in confusion. George just nodded at his plate and placed a spoonful of corn in his mouth. Doctor Fairmont looked at George as he chewed away, not making eye contact with anyone at the table. “All right.” The Doctor leaned back and stared at his son. “Will...” Tina began to interject. “It’s fine,” Doctor Fairmont interrupted, “I know I’ve made my feelings about Doctor Kurzweil very clear, but I have been pressuring you to take a job. Besides, a regular paid job is far better than an internship, isn’t it?” He turned to his wife, who didn’t answer, turning back to her meal instead. “Even if you’re working for those people, I’m perfectly fine.” “Why do you hate them so much, Dad?” George looked up from his meal, dropping the spoon on his plate. “George, we don’t need to talk about this.” The Doctor shook his head at his son. “No, Dad, I really want to.” Doctor Fairmont stared back at George, who stared back at his father with cold determination. Tina looked between the two, opening her mouth but finding no words to break up this confrontation. Thomas leaned over to his brother and whispered. “Dude, we shouldn’t talk about this.” “What’s your problem with Singularity research, Dad?” George folded his arms and leaned back in his chair, mirroring his father’s position as an unspoken challenge. “George, those men are unethical cowards that are willing to throw away everything that makes them human, everything,” he repeated as George opened his mouth to retort, “that makes them human, just for a possible shot at immortality. They’re suicidal, that’s what they are, and I can’t stand them.” “Dad, singularity research is the next stage of human development.” George leaned forward, his voice raised in anger and determination. “Don’t you raise your voice at me, boy,” Doctor Fairmont replied, his own voice rising. “Dad, just because someone isn’t flesh and bone, doesn’t mean they’re not human anymore! They have their mind, their memories --” “No, a robot has their memories.” The Doctor leaned forward as well. “Everything their god and their parents gave them, every cell in their body, is gone.” “Well I don’t think it’s the parents’ cells by the time someone’s ready to be put into a computer! Don’t you think that a person should be able to do what he wants with his body? Even if that means ‘destroying’ it?” “Mom, the corn is delicious!” Everyone at the table turned to Thomas, who had futilely tried to steer the heated conversation away and
Untitled Savanna Rovira
“Doctor Fairmont,” Mr. Kay continued without missing a beat, “as you know, we represent Generation Biotechnology. We specialize in genetic treatments, removing normal human genetics and polishing them up, as we like to say. Have you had any of our treatments?” “I’m quite happy with what I’ve been given.” The Doctor replied, holding out his hands. “I can see that.” Mr. Logan glanced down at the desk. “Mr. Kay, Mr. Logan --” Doctor Fairmont began, lowering his arms. “David is fine.” “Mr. Kay,” Doctor Fairmont continued, “I believe your company has better use of its personnel than door-todoor salesmen for its services, so please get to the point.” Mr. Logan coughed, “Yes, the point. The point is that you are guilty of patent infringement.” Doctor Fairmont blinked and stared into Mr. Logan’s eyes. Though the latter ran his fingers through his blue hair nervously, there was no hint that he was joking.
“Could you repeat that?” Doctor Fairmont asked slowly, incredulously. “What my associate means,” Mr. Kay said, “is that our company also owns several patents on genetic sequences that we purchased many decades ago, before you or I were born, Doctor Fairmont. And our company,” he reached into his bag and pulled out a tablet computer which he immediately began flipping through, “has recently come across a copy of your genetic profile.” “Legitimately, of course.” Mr. Logan assured the Doctor. “Our company has been hired by the hospital to file away the genetic profiles of all of its doctors for safekeeping. The blood test you took when you were hired and the contract you filled out afterwards, that was us.” “But one of our technicians has pointed out to us,” Mr. Kay handed the computer tablet over to Doctor Fairmont, where two documents glowed on-screen, “while processing your profile, that a certain section of your genetic profile has remarkable similarity to a sequence
25 American Literary
board meetings and... and...” He lifted his finger out the door. “Yesterday I drilled into a man’s head myself and installed a neural computer, and still I have no right to own any part of him, not even that computer. Do you know why? Because those were his cells, his DNA that made that computer, and there is no way any other person can claim any part of him as his own. And yet you... you claim that I am no more than a pile of meat that you can parcel off and sell? That’s mad!” Doctor Fairmont panted as Mr. Kay looked back at him, watching as the Doctor’s fury began to fade. He smirked. “Doctor Fairmont...” Mr. Kay said, chuckling in dark amusement. “You have a very fascinating philosophy, a wonderfully quaint way of looking at life. But as a doctor, you have to agree with us that you really are no more than a machine, a very complex machine, mind you, but one that is using unlicensed parts.” He raised his hand as the Doctor tried to start speaking again. “And there is no point in arguing the issue otherwise, it’s far too late for that. Even before you were born, even before you were conceived in whatever bed your parents lay down in, you lost your battle. Law and ethics are on our side, Doctor. Your argument is invalid. The only thing you can do now is decide whether you want to pay to be yourself, or make a slight modification to save some money. It’s your decision, Doctor. After all, it’s your body.” Doctor Fairmont, beaten and winded, fell back in his chair with a solid thump. Hunched over, he stared into the eyes of Mr. Kay, shocked and frightened. He looked down at the data slate in front of him, the birth certificate and patent clear on the screen. He sighed and leaned back, away from the two gentlemen, away from their stares. “Doctor Fairmont?” Mr. Kay asked. “We’re waiting for an answer.” In a room not far away, a robot carefully and silently began drilling into the head of a wealthy patient in order to insert a new neural computer, grown from the patient’s own neurons.
we have patented. You see there,” he tapped one of the documents, “a registry for the patent of gene sequence #1002-076 under the name ‘Robinson Sequence.’” “Not the name I would have chosen,” Mr. Logan said conspiratorially. “That is irrelevant,” Mr. Kay said, reprimanding his associate. “The point is that this patent was filed on August 11, 2011. The other document is your birth certificate, which we have also obtained legitimately, worry not. According to this, the date of your birth is...” “November 30, 2011,” Doctor Fairmont muttered, lost in the digital paperwork that filled the screen of the tablet. “Precisely. As you can see, you as a legal entity, as established by the 2019 Federal Identity Act, came into being after a certain section of your genetic structure was declared to be the property of Generation Biotechnology Inc. By this very definition, you are using patented genetic material without the express consent of the owner. Right now, we can sue you, but we have decided to settle this matter outside of court for both our sakes.” “Make no mistake,” Mr. Logan chimed in, brushing aside his blue hair again, “we can take you to court and we will win, but that would cost us so much time, money, and effort when the matter can be solved right now.” Doctor Fairmont looked between the two men. His mouth slightly agape, he gazed in confusion, unable to grasp what exactly they were telling him. The two men waited patiently for several moments, but Mr. Kay finally coughed and continued. “You have two options, Doctor Fairmont. First, you can lease the rights to use our DNA in your body; it’s a steep price, but it’s far quicker than option two, which is genetic surgery, replacing the offending sequence with one not expressly owned by anyone.” “It’s cheaper in the long run,” Mr. Logan explained cheerfully. “Certainly your insurance won’t cover it, but it will have less of a net impact on your disposable income. Not to mention you will be able to have the surgery right here in Bethlehem Memorial. I believe you have the appropriate setup to take care of the matter. However, the choice is up to you, Doctor.” Doctor Fairmont continued to stare at the two men in front of him. His face was frozen in shock and horror as he processed what they were telling him. Finally, after nearly ten seconds of silence, Doctor Fairmont spoke up. “You can’t possibly be serious!” he cried, leaping up from his chair. “Are you telling me... you’re telling me that you own a part of me? Me!” Mr. Logan shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Doctor Fairmont, we wouldn’t use such words like ‘owning you.’ The matter is quite simple.” “No, I don’t think it is!” Doctor Fairmont looked directly at Mr. Logan, who nervously sunk back into his chair. His associate continued to stare at Doctor Fairmont. “What you’re telling me is that my DNA, what makes up my flesh and blood, is free to be bought and sold by people like you! People like you who sit in chairs and hold
Spring 2012 American Literary
A whole decade Kathryn Gillon Digital
What Happened to Ellie? Emi Ruff-Wilkinson I was seven when you lost me. That Thanksgiving, you forgot how to cook a turkey and that ice cream belongs in the freezer. But you remembered my soft blonde hair. Ellie’s hair. That, you never forgot.
I held your hand as you died. Your favorite teddy bear was tucked under your frail arm as you gasped away. On your nightstand, Ellie smiled at you. You were stronger than I had ever really known you, holding her up on your hip as she handed you a smooth black rock with a slight streak of white running through it. Ellie was still there, somewhere. She slipped away right next to you.
27 American Literary
But Ellie was always clear. You saw her every day from silver frames on the piano. You would ask me, What happened to Ellie? That girl who sat with you on the couch, admiring your teddy bears. She was so proud to be able to read to you when she was four. She loved to sloppily cross the dough on top of your blueberry pie. In Maine, she’d collect the best patterned rocks to put on your windowsill. You thought I was my mother. In your last seven years, I was Marcia, Megan, Kristen, Milann, Gordon, Margaret, a stranger. Never Ellie anymore.
By the next year, Ellie disappeared. Her blonde deepened into my warm brunette. I outgrew her name and into Emily, then Emi, which slurred together with all the m’s you placed in your children’s names. Her front teeth grew back big and square, like every Ruff. We all faded into each other in your blurring vision.
BEST IN SHOW POETRY
Undressing the Alligator Wood Spring 2012
I pick where the bark scabs and itches, Search for sap inside the wounds I leave; She never moans about it, just Lets me go on, Collecting wood beneath my fingernails. I know she doesn’t like it, But I continue, Peeling away her clothes until She’s naked there in the yard with me. I skirt around the fruit she drops, Bleeding at the heels when I misstep and Plant my young feet down Hard on a terminal spike, Crucified from the soil up. This is how she tells me she doesn’t love me, That I make her rings wither inside. I know I will never see them shrink like she says Until I cut her down at her base, Dig up her roots and Hold them in my hands as proof.
29 American Literary
Beauty Erin Adams
35mm film, C41
rind Mattea Falk I sit mute, sucking the rind of a citrus fruit, while you blabber on about the order of things: corporate structure, ivy league degrees, all the should be’s and are’s that make you want to vomit and shake. My fingers are covered in pulp; the acid’s leaked into my bloodstream through a nick on my thumb. You barely pause to breathe.
I spit out a bitter seed, after letting it slither around behind my teeth.
Your voice is rising. It strains, not quite angry, but close. You’re caught up in the confusion of caring about something you can’t control, caring about too many things at once, caring in every direction. The nick on my thumb throbs in a quiet, unrelenting sting. You wonder aloud whether any of it matters. I wipe a bit of white stringy citrus onto the blue cushion framing my thighs. You look up, see me waving my thumb around like a child trying to shake off a bruise, ask what I think. I shrug, put down the used-up rind, and try to suck out the acid: I am breaking your heart, I know. I am pulling you under, filling up your insides with the weight of citrus fruit and disappointment, my apathy clinging to the air around you like the little oil bursts released by the white tip of my nail digging into the thick, waxy rind. You begin to cry, your voice desperate and ugly. I pop another orange slice in my mouth: juicy, sweet.
31 American Literary
I Do Dare Morgan Jordan Digital
Spring 2012 American Literary
Sur La Table Mariel Kirschen Digital
A Visiting Jonathan Koven
33 American Literary
screamed into the sky. I released ages of sufferings, tales written before my birth and into my code, mutilated worlds and entire galaxies into that scream. It was an anthem to me. If I destroy my throat screaming this one time, into the grey and bread sky, something will be fixed. That was so long ago; strange how it means nothing to me now. Simply an anecdote of a sad kid believing in something of fury. I only remember the story like it happened to someone else. The white paint of the deck is poisoned with overgrowth and it is reeling in anger. It makes sense now as I step outside. The spirits are yelling at me. They don’t understand why I left for so long. They don’t understand why no one came to hold them in comfortable lights. No one made noise, no one filled an empty space. Not for twenty years -- and this house became a sanctuary for the silent echo of time. It was absolutely and completely stilled. The wind roars and I feel the passage of time. Twenty years chokes me. The ghosts of this house rush in brief mirages of that same dull-yellow color. They want me to shut a door, to scream again, to do something, and they beg me. The wind is overpowering me. My skin is crawling over with events I’ve never had. I start to cry. I thought this home was a vessel for my feelings. I understand now that it’s the other way around. I don’t know why I left. I don’t know why this is the first time I am visiting. I especially don’t know why I feel compelled to leave again. But I feel I must - and the chandelier lightly swings as the door opens and I walk out for the last time. I like to think it crashes now.
The chandelier swings low. A hollow light shades itself over the room. It is warm, but fingers of mist tap at my shoulders and forearms. I push back the curtain of fog -- it’s colored milky pale-yellow like the dirtied corpse of a canary. It casts a dim nature about this place; the velvet seats on chairs, the silver glasses and tiny utensils, the long tablecloth designed with swirl patterns. I feel it’s something from a horror film. It is imperfect here in its perfection. Everything hasn’t been touched in twenty years. The chandelier keeps swinging. I hear its squeaks. It won’t fall though. I remember how it squeaked this way when I was young. At the top of the staircase, I would push my face between the railings and I stared at whoever entered through the front door. Every time the door opened, the chandelier swung slightly. It was my home’s way of greeting. It was a song colored in peace, where the visitors always knew that the ghosts were happily watching. It wasn’t scary, no. I always knew there were spirits lingering in plenty of spaces like these. The chandelier was only one of them. A moan calls at the end of the hallway. I realize that the dining room never understood me. I’ve always needed places with broken things. I need a haunted tree with crooked branches in the backyard. I need a thin sheet of dust on my window glass. I need misplaced items, and I need them tossed about the floor. There in the dining room, it was perfect. I was afraid of that. So I follow the moan to where the living room meets the deck. I remember this was the first place I ever felt desperation. Out on the deck, I cried against the rain. I
BEST IN SHOW PROSE
They Will Tell You These Feelings are Normal, Eventually Brendan Williams-Childs
You try to strive for normal, try to have normal conversations but normal is a language you forgot how to speak seven years ago, and now all the words are foreign. You are surprised by the sound of your own voice again and again, that you are producing these sounds that everyone around you understands and these sounds form sentences like “I think I’ll have a hamburger,” or “No, thirty dollars is too much for that,” or “How long do you think before the banks merge” and everybody is nodding when you speak like you had never forgotten anything at all. You are out in the twilight of Wilmington when everything is blue and you are very tired so you drive and drive and drive and drive until the sky is red because pollution spreads this far you know, and the radio in your car plays songs you didn’t even know existed because popular culture is not prison culture, but sweet Jesus how good does it feel to hear the voice of a woman singing about love again; how long has this been? And you drive and the drive feels like reality, like you are running, like the breaths you are taking are not circulated air but real freedom and you open the window and everything is loud and cool and alive and this is good; this is what you want. And you are driving driving driving driving until you are stopped and you are taking off your shoes and feeling sand between your toes the way you used to when you were a child, the way you did when you ran down the beach and dove headlong into the water after dinner and your mother yelled at you that you’d get a cramp and die and that
would have been alright with you. You are familiar with this southern beach town and this beach because it is yours, and the footprints you leave might have been there since you were sixteen and took your final swim or maybe they are there from when you were finishing law school but either way, they have been there for longer than anyone other than you can know. The house that was yours, where you lay at nights and watched the lights out on the ocean and listened to the sounds of the ships, is now somebody else’s and you can see her shape through the shades and the shape of another woman with her and you wonder if they are lovers or sisters or perhaps two sides to one person – it wouldn’t surprise you, nothing does anymore. This house was yours and now it is theirs and now there are the shapes of men and they sound young, all of them sound young and youth sounds very different now than it did when you were their age you are sure, and summers sound very different and you feel the sun differently, but the beach sounds the same and will always sound the same because you want it to sound the way it did when you were nine and the only defense against evil you had was to scrub your body until it was raw and dive into salt water until you were a scab, but that meant you were protected and now, for you consider fifty-something old, you are old but wish to do the same thing, but cannot imagine the young people with their beers and reality TV and money in trust funds would be very appreciative of you knocking on the door that is theirs that was once yours and asking if you can shed your skin and become something you used to be.
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Israeli Diversity Robert Pines Digital
Carolyn Lorraine Holmes
“No! You have to be shopping!” The nudge of a 5-year-old’s mightiest shove steered me to the edge of the yard. A jumble of wild plants grew there, shading creatures that Carolyn liked to have presented to her, but never touched. She ran back to the creaking rope swing hanging from the old maple tree in the yard while I “shopped.” Earlier today, she had instructed me to pick up a tiny frog. “Bring me my subject!” she ordered. “Your highness,” I replied, glad that this child did not yet have a grasp on the subtleties found in intonation, as my playing along couldn’t even be described as half-hearted. “This particular charge is much too quick for me. I am afraid he will outrun me.” “Off with your head, then!” she giggled. I wondered from what TV show or movie she had learned this particular phrase. For fifteen dollars an hour, I supposed I could make a decent attempt at catching a frog. I combed through the grass until I saw a flicker of copper streak across my peripheral vision. I watched it closely for a while before I was sure enough of its location to cup my hands over it. After some trial and error, I managed to pick up the gravely, tiny creature and present it to Her Majesty. Carolyn was captivated, but not so curious as to actually touch the frog herself. I placed it on a rock above the grass so she could get a good look before squealing as he leaped far away on his minuscule legs. Quickly regaining her composure, she soberly pronounced the frog’s sentence: “Exile!” -“Again! Again! Again!” Carolyn grasped my hands and prepared for lift off. Leaning back and holding her hands tightly, I began to spin fast enough for her little body to lift off the ground. She giggled wildly before I slowed the spin and landed her safely on the ground where she began to roll away like a log, still cackling. Chasing after her, I scooped her up in my arms, lifted her high in the sky and then threw myself down on the grass, holding her limbs in so I didn’t squish them. I was still holding Carolyn, her beautiful red curls spilling onto the freshly-cut grass when her face grew serious. “I’m having a baby,” she announced. “Oh, are you?” “Yes. It’s a baby girl and it will be this big,” she demonstrated an inch or two with her thumb and forefinger, squinting to get the measurement exact, “because that is how big babies are when kids have them.” “Oh, I see.” I tickled her and she laughed and flailed wildly. “But my baby will be a dead person.” “What?” I turned with exaggerated alarm to face her. “You know, when people die, they come back as babies.” I was very impressed. “Except my grandpa. He
was too old.” “Hmm, time for your nap now, I think!” She burst up and wildly ran into the house. By the time I caught up, she had vanished into some crevice. “Carolyn! Come out right now. You have to take a nap.” My voice reverberated throughout the old Colonial. She would get bored soon. I sat down on the couch and looked around. If I ever had a house like this, I would fill it with things. This house was too big to be so empty, decorated with sparse furnishings and kept so that not a single toy of Carolyn’s spilled out of its hiding place. There were no family pictures on the wall, no cards, none of Carolyn’s drawings on the fridge. You could not even tell that a little girl lived here. I began to feel the hollowness of the house well up into my throat when Carolyn peeped her head around the corner. She put her arms out, fists closed. “I am ready. Take me away, I will not fight.” -“Are you free this weekend?” Janice peered at me, her fingers still tapping at her iPhone. Her harsh eyeliner had begun to seep into the crevices around her eyes and there was nothing gentle to her countenance. I was waiting at the door, fidgeting with a loose thread peaking out of the seam of my purse. “Uh, yeah, I don’t do anything...I mean, this weekend I don’t have anything.” “Fabulous. We’re going to the beach house and Dave and I would like to have a break for once.” She laughed and started to write a check while I wondered why Carolyn’s mother did not consider eight hours of daily babysitting a break. I thought of this child, sinking into a dark place created by the void of her empty life. The floorboards of a loveless house can liquefy; she could be lost. I felt lost. “Melanie? Are you alright? What’s the matter with you?” Janice’s severe look pierced into my thoughts and I made eye contact with her. “Alright...Be here at seven in the morning, please. I’ll need help with Carolyn and all the stuffed animals God knows she’ll want to bring.” She handed me the check after I nodded. -- After three hours in the car, Carolyn wiggled free of her car seat and spilled out into the salty air as soon as the car was in park. I collected her belongings and followed her down the sand path to the beach house. The house connected to the path by an intricate stonework walkway. The natural gray shingling of the house looked out of place on this monumental structure. An expansive window revealed a delicate wooded spiral staircase winding up all three stories. Dave came up behind me and dropped his hands onto my shoulders, “When they built the house, they did the staircase first.” “I need a drink!” Janice announced, walking into the house. “Melanie, take Carolyn down to the beach, will you!” I entered the house and Carolyn began
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Mary Kathryn Gillon Digital
Northern Shores Erin Adams
35mm film, C41
peeling off her clothing while walking to her bedroom, and was already butt-naked before she even reached the spiral staircase. The inside of the house echoed with reflections from the metallic furniture, the dark wood of the staircase and the piercing glass. Everywhere, I felt haunted by my own face and the pattering of Carolyn’s feet on the staircase made my head light. By the time I arrived at her bedroom, carrying luggage and discarded clothes, she had remembered about modesty and pushed me from her room, telling me not to look at her private parts. She changed and we walked to the beach, she held my hand and told me about how you should shuffle your feet in the water to not bother the stingrays. I didn’t tell her that there aren’t any stingrays in Cape Cod. As we walked, the sound of surf gently rolling in and out grew louder and Carolyn began to race ahead. I realized something was wrong as I rounded the top of the sandy hill just in time to see Carolyn’s face slip from a joyous smile into horror before she screamed. I dropped the beach bag, pails and shovels spilling out into the sand, and ran to her. “Look!” she cried and pointed to the beach. I only then noticed that all along the shore hundreds of horseshoe crab shells littered the sand. The prehistoric armored shells and needle-like tails had been removed perfectly from the living crabs. On the ones
which had been flipped over by birds or surf, too many hollowed legs clawed up toward the sky. “Oh sweetie, they aren’t dead. They molt. That’s when they leave their shells behind because they are too big. It’s like when you take off your clothes, they just took off their clothes because they got too small.” I stroked her hair and she stopped screaming, but continued to whimper and look fearfully at the shells. I was filled with an intense need to make her smile again. “You know why they’re here, don’t you, my lady?” She shook her head. “Well, I meant to tell you of our new security measure. The sea monsters are after the precious pearls of your kingdom again! For the protection of you and your treasure, these crabs wait on the beach day and night!” The apples of her cheeks reappeared as she considered this. We played on the beach all day. Carolyn’s imagination astonished me, and I entered her world. When we arrived back at the beach house for dinner, Janice and Dave had left. It was just as well. Carolyn had me line up all of her stuffed animals on the steps of the staircase so she could make a royal announcement. She told the animals that the King and Queen had been kidnapped, but that she didn’t miss them much and would take over rule as Princess. I was to be her personal
assistant. In the early hours of the morning, I heard Janice and Dave arrive home. They were talking much too loudly and I ran to Carolyn’s room in case she woke up. The next morning, I packed Carolyn’s things and fed her breakfast without either of her parents saying a word to me before dropping me off outside the apartment. I gave Carolyn, who had fallen asleep, a kiss on the forehead before I left.
“ The enemies were sinewy
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The fantasy was not broken and grew more elaborate every day after the beach trip. The main task of our game was to defend the kingdom from evil forces. The enemies were sinewy creatures, more of a suggestion than an actual form. They writhed along the ground and had to be stomped on with all of our might so they didn’t overtake Carolyn’s body by attaching their worm-like limbs to her. She was terrified of those creatures, but I kept her safe from them. Whenever they attacked, she went onto her rope swing. I told her that she had to swing very high in order to evade the creatures while I fought them off with swords of milkweed stems and the help of her army of stuffed animals. She shouted encouragement and orders above the creaking of the tree’s branches from her wild swinging. We always won. One evening, I was hunched over my plans for the royal ball in my apartment. I was figuring out the elaborate celebration of Carolyn’s beauty and power. Carolyn did not know this yet, but our enemies were planning to attack us during the ball, to catch us off guard. When I left Carolyn, I made the creatures come with me. They frightened me, but I could never leave them with her. I could feel the creatures watching me from the shadowy areas of my apartment. They were testing me, seeing how I would react. Staying in the center of the room to avoid the creatures, I dragged myself to my bedroom. The creatures were leering at me. I pulled the covers over my head. -On the day of the royal ball, I arrived at babysitting almost 30 minutes early, and drove up and down the street to kill time and check that all of the subjects were in their proper places. When I finally approached the
creatures, more of a suggestion than an actual form. They writhed along the ground and had to be stomped on with all of our might so they didn’t overtake Carolyn’s body by attaching their worm-like limbs to her.”
palace, Carolyn ran out as her mother left for the day and jumped up into my arms. “Are you ready for the ball, Your Highness?” I said, with a kiss on the cheek. First, she insisted on doing my hair. She rinsed my long hair in the sink and wrapped the straight strands around pencils to form curls. She put on her Cinderella costume from last Halloween and we were ready for the grand appearance. As we walked down the palace deck’s stairs, a trumpet choir blared and subjects clapped wildly. The seasons had begun to shift and the air was cool and tints of orange appeared on the edges of the maple tree’s leaves. Before the festivities had even begun, we heard the scuttling of creatures descending upon us. I scooped Carolyn into my arms and placed her on the rope swing, giving her a big push before rushing to the bushes to grab a milkweed sword. The creatures surged more aggressively than I imagined they could. Terror swept through my limbs; Carolyn was not pumping her legs hard enough and every time the swing plummeted, her toes grazed the ground, bringing her so close to the creature’s grasping tendons. I rushed forward, so desperate to protect her, unthinking, I pushed into the small of Carolyn’s back with all of my might. For a moment, she flew above the creatures, above the danger and pain, above me and above the dark windows of her empty house. I thought I had finally saved her, but then she began to fall and the distress of her descent engulfed a last trace of laughter. Her body crumpled into the shattering ground, while the sides of the earth peeled away and the sky came crumbling down. The kingdom was forever abandoned, milk from the weeds left to weep down the stem.
Spring 2012 American Literary
Sand Kristen Velit 35mm film
Seaweed Kristen Velit
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The Things You Gain From Smoking Emi Ruff-Wilkinson
You light your first cigarette when you’re too young to know what that clicking lighter, singing tobacco, and rush of smoke in the back of your throat will really mean. Your friend, who always has the best bad ideas, has a pack of Marlboro Reds that her cousin bought her, and you hang out in a 7-11 parking lot to smoke them. They somehow taste both raw and burnt, but that doesn’t stop you. You split the pack and it’ll last you all week. In a few years, you’ll look back on that first pack and wonder how it lasted so long. You’ll keep it a secret from your parents with Febreeze and Listerine. At first, you’ll insist that no one smoke in your car. But you’ll get desperate one day and figure that if all four windows are down, then it can’t be that bad. Then it will rain, and you’ll sort of give up. Febreeze becomes your best friend. Your friend will switch to American Spirits, the kind in the yellow pack that she can buy at the fancy tobacco store downtown where they don’t card her, so you switch too. They’ll be much better than you expected, and you’ll consider that you may be turning into a real smoker. But not yet. You’ll always be that girl at parties with cigarettes and a lighter. Girls who never really gave a shit about you will half-assedly befriend you so they can bum without feeling too rude. You will spend the summer before your senior year around bonfires, drinking stolen beers and giving cigarettes to all your friends, throwing butts in the fire to eliminate the evidence. You will smoke your way through senior year. You’ll find the one coffee shop in the metro area that found a loophole in the smoking ban and sit there working on applications to colleges you didn’t even think you had a chance of getting into. When your mom asks why you always smell like smoke, you’ll tell her that it has the best coffee and that it’s a relaxing place, because you’ve really been freaking out about that Northwestern application. She’ll tell you everything will be okay, and you’ll hope she doesn’t inhale too deeply as she hugs you. You’ll turn 18 and buy your first pack, and one for your best friend whose birthday isn’t until next month. You’ll stare at the back wall of the gas station and feel overwhelmed by the selection, brands you never even knew existed. You’ll settle on Parliaments, because they’re cheap and you’ve heard of them. You won’t question this decision for several months. You’ll get letters back from colleges, and smoke to celebrate and commiserate. Your best friend will get into Northwestern and you’ll hide your jealousy by buying her a pack to congratulate her. You’ll sit in that 7-11 parking lot on an unseasonably warm March night
and chain smoke, realizing that, holy shit, you’re leaving soon. She’ll be in Chicago, and you’ll be in DC, but you promise yourselves that things won’t change too much. You look up flights from Reagan to Midway on your phone as your friend pulls the safety from her new lighter with her car keys. You’ll drive around all summer without ever putting up the windows. That guy that you always sort of had a thing with who finally asked you to prom will sit shotgun, smoking cloves because he “doesn’t really smoke,” and flipping through your CDs. He’ll make you a mix of 90s rap—Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott’s “The Rain,” a little bit of De La Soul—and you’ll leave it in the car even when he’s not there. You’ll light cigarette after cigarette, listening to “Me Myself and I,” driving around aimlessly on weeknights.
“ You’ll realize that you are A Smoker in October.” You’ll light a cigarette the moment your parents pull away from your dorm. Some random guy will come up to you and ask to borrow your lighter, and you’ll say yes and talk for a bit. You’ll see him around sometimes after that and always smile and nod, but you won’t really be friends. It’ll still make you feel better. You’ll realize how much you’ve been smoking when you look at your bank account. You’ll smoke one before and one after each class, and you’ll take smoke breaks every hour at night. At parties, you’ll go through half a pack on your own, and you’ll find yourself saying “yes” every time some frat guy or one of your new friends who “only smokes when she drinks” asks nicely for one. You’ll challenge yourself to find the cheapest brand possible, some shit called Wings, but they’ll be so unpleasant that you’ll just buy cheaper beer. You’ll see a guy smoking alone on a Tuesday night and ask to borrow a lighter, even though there are 10 in the bottom of your purse. You’ll start talking—he’s a freshman, too, and it turns out you’re in the same giant Econ lecture, and he has no idea what he’s doing in it, either—and end up smoking two more cigarettes together. You’re on the same cigarette schedule and see him outside the dorms every night, and soon you’re making plans to meet on the concrete benches. You’ll realize that you are A Smoker in October. You’ll find out that you have pneumonia and light a cigarette the moment you leave the Student Health Center. You will hear your breathing and feel your
43 American Literary
Records Kendall Jackson Film
Spring 2012 American Literary
bronchioles rattle in your chest as you take a drag, but you’ll keep going until it’s down to the filter. Your roommate will suggest that you quit, but you’ll just buy a pack of menthols instead. You’ll go home for Thanksgiving and remember how hard it is to hide from your parents. It’s almost too cold to keep the windows down, but you just drive with gloves on as you go to your best friend’s house. She’ll be almost the same, a little more polished, with little diamond earrings glittering on her lobes and wearing leggings tucked into brand new Ugg boots, but she’ll still be your best friend. You’ll go back to that 7-11 and buy Camel Blues, and when they don’t card you, you’ll feel cooler than you’d like to admit. You’ll find yourself spending all night in the library as finals week spins out of control. You’ll thank God that you didn’t get into your first choice schools, because if one of your safety schools is this hard, who knows what that would have been like. You’ll step away from studying for that Finite Math exam to have a cigarette alone outside the library and feel the sanity rushing back into your bloodstream. You’ll still get a C in the class, but at least you’ll have kept your mind. You’ll start making friends with the smokers in your classes second semester. Your friends that you made first semester will still be around, but they won’t be the same. They’ll be talking about rushing sororities and all the upperclassmen they’ve been dating. You’ll meet some 30-year-old guy who’s spent the last ten years ducking in and out of colleges across the country, and a sophomore girl who lets you in on all the secrets about not getting carded at bars, and another freshmen from Staten Island who’s much smarter than his accent suggests. You’ll start going out with them on weekends instead of those friends from your floor, and after a few weeks, you won’t feel so alone without your old friends. You’ll still keep in touch with that guy from the concrete benches last semester. By February, when you suddenly have papers due again and don’t know what the fuck you’re even doing in college because, clearly, you weren’t meant to be here, you’ll see him outside and he’ll pull you into a hug, and you’ll inhale the smoke of his Marlboro Reds that you’ve bummed more times that you can count, and everything will feel a bit better. You’ll see him at a party a couple weeks later and end up making out with him to a Katy Perry song that you don’t even like that much, except that, now, it seems like the best thing ever written. You’ll try not to question it too much, but in a few weeks, you’ll wonder how you ever slept without each other. You’ll wake up in his bed some morning in early March and see the hazy sky filled with thick white flakes. You won’t want to wake him up, but you’ll really need a cigarette. So you’ll slip on his big sneakers, grab his keys, and step outside. You’ll stand there, leaving the first tracks in the wet snow that probably won’t be around in an hour, and light a cigarette. The rush of smoke will mix with the cold, damp air in the back of your throat, and you’ll stand there, feeling at ease as the world falls into place with the snow.
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BEST IN SHOW ART
Thai Waters Rachel Ternes
Oil on canvas / 16 x 12 in.
Spring 2012 American Literary
Edo Woman Print Carolyn Becker
Linocut block print with acrylic ink on paper
Delilah Kaitie O’Hare Maybe it was the taste of honey Sweetening inside a carcass hive, Or the tang of lion’s blood Blending with bee nectar That could have kept sheers away.
One night she asked, How will I die? And watched while he Ripped the roots from his head, Cut the life from his scalp, and Knotted them into her hair. No one ever knows.
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But she planted silver coins In the hollows of her eyes, Just for the cool of metal Against her skin, Against burning fox tails, Against seven locks of hair.
True; She loved God’s son. Splitting flesh from the bone, Spilling blood for his bride, Shedding strength in his bed — A martyr for man.
Calembour on toast. Gretchen Kast They told me to watch out for men with dark eyes slouching by doors, grabbing wrists with leathered hands. « Une pièce, s’il vous plait? » I swallow my gaze and tug at my sleeves, smoothing the folds of clothes I can’t dry.
I feel the city cobble beneath me as I wander crooked streets under a white night sky.
« C’est gentil, la balade de nuit. » « Ah oui, j’aime beaucoup le baladin dénoué. » I try to be dignified, forget the Greek words I’ve learned, but French is tricky and I can’t buy yogurt without giving myself away. Too many vowels. Too many cigarettes. Fumer tue. Fumer tous. Smoking you. Smoking all. We manifest our longevity and misread the warnings. In the mornings, I drink thimbled coffee and search for empathy strands in lost seams. These days, I mumble even when I speak right. I am eaten by crowds who yell with mouths full. They think of love. Ils pensent à mort. “That doesn’t translate. You can’t eat me.” But he doesn’t understand. Je parle à droite and lose myself along the way.
Stand Up Lysette Urus
Mona and the Monster Katrina Beitz
There was a closet in the foyer, stuffed full with coats that were woefully unworn for most seasons. Behind the coats was a shelf filled with forgotten hats, mismatched gloves, and envelopes with photographs of foreign faces and boxes containing Christmas ornaments that hadn’t seen a tree in years. Directly above the shelf was a small, white door that had been ignored for over a decade. It had been so long since the door had been used that it had forgotten its meaning in life. One day there was howling in the hall and a little girl with wild black hair and amber eyes came catapulting into the closet. The melancholic door watched as she closed the entrance as quietly as possible. Soon, she was engulfed by the dark-colored coats and the sad door thought she was lost forever. Then out of the layers came a delicate hand, stretching and searching for somewhere to go. The hand felt along the length of the shelf, running across a discarded music box and a pile of schoolbooks. Another hand came, then a foot and a knee, then a head and a torso, until she was dancing around the nicks and the knacks littering the ledge. Outside, past the coats and past the door, something large stomped and called out a name. “Mona, where are you?” the creature spat. There was a bang on the wall that made the girl shudder and another growl came, “You are dead when I find you, you stupid brat!” The little girl, frightened of the beast outside, stretched her arms as high as they would go, hoping there would be another shelf to climb. As her fingers grazed it, the door cracked open in excitement. The girl looked up at the sliver of light and saw a door that was just her size. She gave a shove and the door swung open with delight as she perched herself upon a box labeled “Bo’s Trains.” Grabbing the opening by either side and giving a mighty pull for such a small girl, she lifted herself up through the hole and closed the door behind her. She crawled away from the entrance, squinting to see in the dim light that leaked through patches above. The attic was almost entirely bare. There were two boxes next to the door without any labels, soaked in dust. Fiberglass and red-rusted nails poked out at places. Mona had heard about places like these in the radio shows her brother listened to. These were the places where ghosts lived and monsters hid and secrets were stashed away. She sat very still, too tall to stand, and pulled her knees to her chest as she closed her eyes. Something fluttered and chirped; she peeked through her eyelids. There was another rustle but instead of a whistle there was a strange rumble that came from the darkest corner of the attic. The birds squawked and she heard a whine like a dog. Her heart
pattered in her chest and she did something very brave. With a deep breath and closed fists, she gave a snap, “I’m not afraid of you! My name is Mona and I’ve killed hundreds of monsters before!” A short cry scared her enough to continue. “I’ve killed monsters with fangs and monsters with claws and monsters with too many eyes and monsters with one eye and monsters with tails and monsters with beaks. So, I’m not afraid of you! I’m not afraid of you at all!” The cries stopped, but silence was replaced by a terrible wail that shook the whole place. That terrible sound followed her as she screamed, tumbling down through the door and onto the shelf and past the coats and out of the closet to face the monster waiting outside. It was nearly a week before Mona returned to the attic. She knew that running away had been cowardly and not courageous at all. She didn’t want to be like the girls at school that were afraid of the dark; she wanted to prove that she wasn’t scared of anything. So, with a new sense of resolve, she went back to the closet. She tucked her brother’s water-pistol into her sock (just in case) and packed a lunchbox with Munster cheese, a peanut-butter sandwich, a beet, and an apple. Mona went past the coats and up to the shelf and hoisted herself into the attic, brushing dust off of her dress as she closed the door. She took a deep breath and said in her nicest voice, “My name is Mona and I have some lunch here and I thought we could make a truce.” She waited. She waited through the whole time it took her to eat a sandwich and munch on an apple. Her heart sank; maybe she had only imagined the rumbling. She pulled out the cheese and, as she removed the cellophane, she heard the rumble once more. “Hello?” she called. The darkest corner rumbled. Mona swallowed the lump in her throat and asked, “Would you like some cheese?” It rumbled. “Well,” said Mona, “you’ll have to come here, then.” There was no response. She waited a few minutes, but nothing happened. “Fine,” she said, “if you don’t want it, then—“ A rumble came, accompanied by cautious footsteps. The creature that came from the darkest corner was not a bird at all. In fact, Mona wasn’t quite sure what to call it. It had silky blue hair from head-totoe and large green eyes and a long snout with a black nose. It had fangs that poked out over its jaw and claws at the end of its long arms. Hunched-over, it stood only three feet tall, but it was easily five at full-height. It had feet like a bear and ears like a dog and two corkscrewed horns. It was wide with a plump tummy and folded its
Khristian Vega Acrylic on canvas
Family, Mother, Nude Mother
Spring 2012 American Literary
hands as it approached. Although Mona was scared of whatever-it-was, she hid it well. With a toothy smile she gestured to the ground across from her to sit down and offered the slice of Munster cheese. “Are you a dog?” she asked. The thing shook its head, biting into the cheese with a grin. “Are you a bear?” Again, the answer was no as it took its time, chewing with its mouth closed and all. “Well, are you a cat?” Another shake of his head and the cheese was nearly gone. “Well, if you’re not a dog, a cat, or a bear…” she thought aloud. “Are you an alien?” It squinted at her and shook its head as it ate the last bite. The creature looked expectantly at Mona, opening its hand for more. The little girl looked down in her aluminum lunchbox and found all that was left was a red beet. She held up the vegetable. “This is all that’s left.” With a dainty reach, it took the beet and crunched, quite pleased. “Okay. Let’s try something else: are you a boy?” she asked. And the creature nodded in time with his chewing. “Do you have a name?” He cocked his head to one side, pausing as though he thought it might be a trick question. “My name is Mona,” she told him. “What do they call you?” He gave a rumble, punctuated by a smile. She stared. “I don’t think I can remember that,” she said. “How about I give you a nickname?” His ear twitched and he blinked imperceptibly. “David?” He shook his head. “Ernest?” That wouldn’t do. “Leonard?” He didn’t move. “Leonard, is that alright? If I call you Leonard?” She asked as he finished his beet and again held out his hand for more. “There’s nothing left,” and he stuck out his tongue. “I’ll bring more tomorrow, ok?” He sniffed and made his way back into the darkest corner of the attic. Mona was true to her word and she returned every day bearing lunch and tales from the playground. She told Leonard all about her friends Dorothy and Mary, about how mean her brother was, about her father being away for work so often, about her mother being tired all the time, about everything she was learning in school, and about how she was going to be a great pilot one day. Sometimes she would ask Leonard about his family or about his friends or about what he knew, but he never seemed interested in answering those things. He would
only stare at her or at the food in his paw, but never nod or shake his head. By the end of the first month of their visits, she had learned that Leonard really only liked beets and cheese (although he was willing to eat part of an ice cream cone). She found that he was terrified of birds and the shouting that sometimes came from downstairs. He spent most of his time in the corner but some days she would come up and find him poking his nose out of one of the holes in the ceiling. He didn’t like to play cards or other board games, but he did like to listen when she read from her books. He hated arithmetic and couldn’t stand the sound of music, but he loved crayons and drawing pictures.
“ The once-happy door above
the shelf of forgotten things forgot what it was supposed to do and became dismal once more.” For weeks they played like this in the safety of the attic until it was no longer enough for Mona, who wanted to show him the outdoors. She coaxed Leonard to leave with a trail of cheese all the way out the door. As soon as they stepped outside and there was no more cheese to follow, he panicked and fled back to the attic. Mona was so cross that she didn’t return to see him for several days after that. Finally, one Thursday evening, when it was slightly cloudy out, Leonard and Mona sat in the grass and waited for the fireflies to come out. From then on things had a particular order. Monday through Wednesday Mona would climb into the attic and they would eat lunch and talk about everything. Then Thursday evenings, Leonard would come down to meet her by the big sycamore tree. On Friday and Saturday Mona didn’t come up, although she never said why. Then, on Sunday, she would only poke her head in through the door to leave a piece of cheese or beet. There was an afternoon when Mona came up with tears running down her face. She was so upset that she’d only packed half a lunch, all of it for Leonard. She watched as he ate without saying a word. Once he had finished she said, “Leonard, we’re friends, right?” He stared without a nod or a shake of the head, which Mona knew to mean, “Of course, yes.” “And friends do favors for each other, right? Like the way I bring you lunch?” she said. Leonard gave the same response. “Would you do me a favor, Leonard? A really big favor?” she asked. He didn’t move, but she knew he was saying, “Anything.”
53 American Literary
A Beta Fish
She said, tears rolling down her cheeks, “I want you On the backside there was a picture of a monster on a to take your terrible claws and awful teeth and I want boat in the middle of a monstrous sea, going home to a you to go downstairs and eat my big brother.” monster island to be with his monster family. Leonard shook his head. Her heart pattered in her chest and Mona did Mona’s face flushed red. “Aren’t you my friend?” something very brave. The little girl took a deep breath He stared at her, but his eyes said, “Yes, I am.” and clenched her fists and climbed back down out of the She shouted, “Then why won’t you help me, closet. The terrible thing waiting outside growled at her, Leonard? I feed you, I play with you, I teach you new but Mona said: “I’m not afraid of you! I’ve befriended things, and I make you feel brave even when you’re hundreds of monsters before! I’m a friend of monsters a baby!” She stood as much as she could, shoulders with fangs and monsters with claws and monsters with hunched and head bobbing against the ceiling. “You too many eyes and monsters with one eye and monsters don’t have any family and you don’t have any friends with tails and monsters with beaks. So, I’m not afraid of except for me!” She started to scream, “I want you to eat you! I’m not afraid of you at all!” him, Leonard! Eat him all up!” And Leonard dropped his Mona marched right past the terrible thing and went beet and went into the darkest corner of the attic and outside under the sycamore tree and waited for the fireflies. buried his face in his terrible claws and began to cry. The little girl left her monster all alone. She left him for weeks and weeks that became months and months that became almost a year. The once-happy door above the shelf of forgotten things forgot what it was supposed to do and became dismal once more. Then, one day, there was a howl in the hallway and loud stomps and a little girl with wild black hair and amber eyes tumbled into the closet. She fought past the coats, climbed onto the shelf, and opened the overjoyed door and reached into the attic. She sat on the floor and, catching her breath, pulled a piece of Munster cheese from her pocket. She removed the cellophane and set it in front of her. She paused, looking to the cheese and then across the attic. Nothing happened, not even the smallest rumble. She said to the darkest corner in her nicest voice, “Please, come out.” But no one came. Mona waited and waited, until the sun was barely coming through the ceiling at all. A bird came in and landed on the cheese, nipping at it and fluttering its wings. It chirped to another bird outside of the hole, but there was no rumbling or wails of fear. There wasn’t even a peep as the bird took the slice of cheese and carried it off to its nest, sharing it with its family. A terrible feeling and an awful thought ate Mona all up. She took a deep breath and, with all of her courage, she crept around the rusty nails and the fiberglass into the darkest corner of the attic. “Leonard?” she whispered. She reached into the dark with a trembling hand but didn’t feel any silky blue hair or tiny horns or pointed fangs or sharp claws or wet nose. There was nothing there at all. She tried to reach further, stretching her fingers into Elise Polentes the air, the shadows swallowing her arm up so much that it made her afraid. There was no monster hiding there. Ink on paper / 12 x 8 in. So she pulled back her hand and all she found was a piece of paper. It had a drawing in crayon of a little girl and a monster sitting underneath a sycamore tree eating beets and cheese, waiting for the fireflies to come out.
Arrested Frame 2 Temme Barkin-Leeds
Acrylic on wood panel / 30 x 40 in.
The Hotel Vela Bar, Costa Rica Matthew Makowski Spring 2012
55 American Literary
With drooping green leaves like mounds Of impasto paint, and our single sheet Barely covers your pink painted toes. Our first night together in three Months, and when I say ‘love’ it resounds With six months of silence. The heat Streaks sweat like teardrops down your nose. In your lily green spiral notebook You write three times, like a promise ‘I don’t believe you really love me’ In letters crafted like a gravestone rubbing, Your final slashing underline so certain Even I begin to doubt.
How to Haunt a House Megan Fraedrich
There are a lot of different ways you could die. You could have a heart attack or a stroke. You could fall onto train tracks while drunk, or get eaten by lions on that safari trip you always dreamed of, or suffer a severe allergic reaction after eating a slice of your own wedding cake, which the baker swore was gluten-free. But don’t do any of these. Not if you want to be a really interesting ghost. No, you’d better die in the Civil War, or get stabbed by a jealous husband, or drown yourself after losing a child. These last two are only all right, though, if they occur during a time period in which women wear flowing white gowns and only let their long dark hair tumble down in times of intense grief. You must be vaguely important—that is, you haven’t accomplished anything yourself, but your family’s at least outwardly respectable, and can’t let a scandal like your death smear their name. Your funeral is small and brief and hasty. If there’s even a body to bury, it’s jammed haphazardly into the ground, with the kind of shortened ceremony Hamlet would rant about. Wait awhile. There’s no need to rush this. There’s all of eternity ahead of you. Maybe you can spend this time looking for a place to haunt. Contrary to popular belief, you’re not stuck where you died. Otherwise, hospitals would be crawling with ghosts. Some ghosts just aren’t creative enough to think outside the box… indeed, some dead people aren’t even creative enough to think outside the casket. But you have to find a really proper haunting house, a good creepy old run-down manor, preferably isolated on the top of a hill, or in the historical part of an old city. This shouldn’t be hard if you had the sense to die in the right time period. Test the doors. See how creaky they are. Test the stairs. Are they built for spooky gliding, or do you find yourself stubbing your ectoplasm along the way? Is the attic adequate? How about the spaces behind the walls? Any crawl spaces or secret passages to know about? You will be here for a few centuries at least, so do make yourself at home. Lie low. Weep about your shattered prospects and your too-swiftly-terminated life. Make sure you didn’t pick a house that someone else is haunting. And don’t pick a house that already has people living in it. That ruins the mystery of it all. What’s that poor occupant going to think when a ghost suddenly moves in? No, pick a house that’s been lying derelict for awhile. Let them think you’ve been there all along, or that you died there. They’ll come to think of you the same way they do about the ugly avocado-green refrigerator that came with the property. Families never stay for long. Most of them don’t
believe their house is really haunted, despite your best efforts. But they come up with other reasons for leaving—work, family issues, not enough room, too much room, bad plumbing. ‘Bad plumbing’ is what they call it when you bang on the pipes and moan at night, while they toss and turn in their beds and wonder why they’re having nightmares for the eighth night in a row. The family that stays longest has a father, a mother, two teenage children, a dog. They seem ordinary at first, and maybe they are. But you gradually get to know their… eccentricities, especially the father’s. He’s a scientist of some sort, you learn, and apparently an important one. He likes this house because it’s in a quiet neighborhood, because you don’t see this kind of house anymore, because it was surprisingly cheap. The scientist has an eye for a bargain. You know he makes enough money to afford better than that ratty brown suit he always wears, with that awful mustard yellow handkerchief in his breast pocket. He’s not home much, but when he is, he spends long nights alone in his study reading thick, dusty books that smell like Brussels sprouts and acid. He doesn’t even notice that you always leave them open to page 666 and underline words in blood red ink to create threatening messages. It’s insulting, really. Every now and then, the family dog wanders into the study, and they both get angry. The dog doesn’t trust the scientist, and that’s the one thing you have in common with the man of the house—the dog hates you, too, and he always knows where you are. His barking just irritates the scientist, who hates noise of any kind. When his children sing in the shower, he bangs on the door until they stop. He can’t do anything about your screaming, though. He thinks it’s just the wind, or the house settling, or something else totally implausible. A scientist should know better. The mother’s a bit of a puzzle. She stays home and doesn’t have any apparent occupation—but that isn’t the part that confuses you. What confuses you is the fact that the scientist seems to want to change this, maybe to get her to do something besides watching television programs meant for preteens all day. You agree, it might not be healthy to constantly watch Wizards of Waverly Place, but it’s just vulgar for a gentleman to expect his wife to work. You screech into the scientist’s ear and stroke your icy spectral fingers down his cheek when he repeats his suggestion, but he just twitches and adjusts his collar. The wife only laughs and kisses the scientist whenever he tries to offer advice. He stiffens and wipes his face with his shirtsleeve. For no clear reason, she seems to adore him, leaving misspelled and shockingly
57 American Literary
They Never Fit Carolyn Becker
Acrylic on pants / 1.5 x 3 ft.
Spring 2012 American Literary
inappropriate love notes around the house, often where the kids can plainly see them. She was once a beautiful woman, you assume, but her bleach blonde hair is starting to look like dried-out straw, and no matter how much makeup she packs into the cracks in her face, she can’t cover up the tell-tale blotchiness caused by her minor drinking problem. ‘Minor’ is the word she emphasizes when the scientist gets to questioning her. You do sometimes smash the bottles around the house, but more out of pity than malice. She does seem to be a decent cook, though, judging by the scientist’s lack of complaints at the dinner table. It’s miraculous that she can manage to do anything with the enormous fake pink nails protruding from the ends of her fingers. And other than her cooking, she mostly can’t. You can’t help but wonder how these two found each other, what could have possibly driven two such grotesquely different people to get married. In any case, the kids have turned out fine, so there must be something you’re missing. The daughter is fifteen and perfect and boring. You mostly leave her alone, although you sometimes can’t resist hiding her schoolbooks and watching frustration bloom pinkly across her face. It makes her look so much like her father, although without the bald spot. Her name constantly echoes through the halls. Amy made the honor roll again, Amy’s class president, Amy made the cheerleading squad, Amy got the lead in the school play, Amy’s on homecoming court. Regardless of the house you haunt and the family that moves in, the daughter’s name is always Amy. But you don’t care about Amy. She has enough people to do that for her. It’s the son who intrigues you. He’s eighteen, and gifted with the magical power of always having two days of stubble on his chin, no matter when he last shaved. He’s the only thing that can bring his family together—at least they can all agree on what a disappointment he is. You can’t imagine why. He’s brilliant. He plays four instruments by ear, and he’s the lead guitarist in his semi-horrible garage band. All of them look thoroughly shifty, but this boy is different. He has eyes like a bottle of cleaning fluid, the sort of electric blue that can’t possibly occur in nature. He’s unfailingly polite to his sister and never talks back when his parents shout at him. He just sits quietly, and every now and then makes a calm, logical remark. His mother once nearly smashed his head through a glass-fronted china cabinet when he said, after patiently listening to her lecture for over an hour, “I don’t know why you think it’s so important that I go to college if you never went yourself.” All he had to do was clear his throat while her pink talons were gripping his forehead, and she suddenly let go and muttered a few quick apologies before running downstairs to watch Hannah Montana. You have never broken anything of his. You sometimes steal small amounts of money from his parents and tuck them into the jeans he leaves scattered
haphazardly around the room. Every now and then, there’s a heart drawn in the frost on his bedroom window. But mostly, you just watch him, and he doesn’t do much, but somehow, you can’t stop. He’s complained about the permanent cold spot at the foot of his bed, the one that his family thinks he’s imagining, the one where you like to sit while he sleeps. Sometimes you sing him lullabies, and in the morning, he wakes up shaking and mutters something about terrible nightmares. He’s only a year or two younger than you were when you died. If only he’d been born in your time, maybe you’d have had something worth living for. His hair looks so soft, but even though you can move things, you can’t really feel them. So instead you imagine how soft his hair is, and you make sure there’s always plenty of hot water for his showers by mysteriously flipping the taps to ‘cold’ when it’s his sister’s turn. The boy believes in ghosts. He knows the rest of the family doesn’t hold with such nonsense, and he doesn’t tell anyone, but you can tell he believes. When you knock on the walls, he always knocks back. He doesn’t even look scared anymore when he’s all alone in his room and hears a disembodied voice whispering ‘I love you’. Sometimes, he leaves out a fresh sheet of paper and a few markers on his desk. He carefully saves all of the clumsy portraits of him that he finds in the morning, all of the pages of spidery, shaky handwriting that say things like ‘Don’t give up’ and ‘You’re not alone.’ He ties them together with red yarn and stacks them in his underwear drawer. But he still can’t feel anything when he walks right through you. And neither can you.
“ The mother’s strident alto
harmony joins in, insult layered upon insult like some kind of angry verbal lasagna, while the sister’s shrill soprano descant stands out above all the rest.” You tell yourself this is horribly wrong. You’re worse than the scientist’s wife, leaving embarrassing love notes around the house for someone who will never reach your level of blind adoration. At least the scientist actually married his wife. At least he can see her. You wail more than ever in the evenings now, and not just for dramatic effect. You want to tear the whole house apart. I don’t want to be a ghost anymore, you want to scream, but all that comes out is a gurgling moan. Can’t I be alive? Or maybe just a guardian angel? He could use one. He could use someone, and I’m perfectly willing to let him use me. Technically speaking, you are able to take on a
scientist is taking on a new job. Amy’s looking at Ivy League schools. She may only be a sophomore, but it’s never too early to think about the future. You’re alone now, just like before, as if nothing ever happened in the first place. You’ve kept one of the boy’s notes, a ragged card with ‘WHO ARE YOU?’ scrawled upon it. It’s hidden in a tiny crack inside the closet. Sometimes, you stare at it, just to prove to yourself that it was real, that for a few months, you had something sort of like a friend. You wish you could feel it. People seem just as unreal to you now as ghosts do to them. In a few years, when nobody moves into the house, they’ll tear it down. That old, magnificently eerie house you picked out yourself will be nothing more than a memory, even less real than the boy and his family. You will be free. You will be a breath on the wind again. But all you want to do right now is find your unmarked grave and settle down inside it, and get some rest for a century or two. Haunting takes more out of you than you’d imagined, especially when you’ve been ‘out of you’ all along.
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vaguely human-shaped form. But takes all of your energy and might, and, incredibly, for someone without a real body, it sort of aches. Mostly, you’re nothing more than breath on the wind, just a disembodied hormonal presence wafting through the house. Normally, you spend your strength moving objects around the house, but tonight, you hold off. Tonight, you rest and save yourself for tonight’s big event. There’s a full moon outside, just like you planned it, as you spill through the crack under the boy’s door. If you wanted, you could plow right on through the door, but that lacks elegance. He doesn’t notice anything at first as the mist gathers. He’s bent over his computer, probably on some website that his parents would not approve of. But as the chill grows into a howling gale inside his room and you start to pull together into a column of cloudy, pearlescent white, the boy freezes in shock. He doesn’t dare turn around, but he can see you out of the corner of his eye, and that’s enough to make every hair on his body leap to attention. “Hello,” you say quietly. Your long hair floats behind you in the artificial wind, your gleaming, gauzy body made brighter by the moonlight. Your bare feet don’t even skim the floor. Slowly, painfully, he forces himself to bring his head around. He stares at you, those Windex-blue eyes boring directly into yours. There is a moment of beautiful silence, like a cream pie pausing in the air before hitting its target’s face. Then that silence is over. He screams with all his strength, the first time you’ve ever heard him raise his voice. He runs out of the room, slams the door behind him, and races down the stairs with footsteps like gunshots ringing down the hallway. You slump in a dejected, formless heap as the calamity begins downstairs. Four voices shouting all together, the scientist playing the repetitive staccato bass line of ‘be quiet, settle down, stop this nonsense’, while the boy takes the wheedling tenor melody, insisting over and over again that he wasn’t dreaming and he wasn’t imagining it, and no, he’s not high right now. The mother’s strident alto harmony joins in, insult layered upon insult like some kind of angry verbal lasagna, while the sister’s shrill soprano descant stands out above all the rest. “He writes all of this stuff down in a blog! He posts it on the internet! People actually follow him, he says the house is haunted, and he makes up all this stuff! There’s something wrong with him, Mom, I swear!” It’s over. You blew your chance, your one and only chance. It’s too late. He thought this was a game, and it was a game, until you had to go and make it real. The family doesn’t move because the house is haunted. Not exactly. The boy’s shipped off to a special school for the second semester of his senior year. He won’t be coming back home again. The family doesn’t need quite so much space anymore. Besides, the
Spring 2012 American Literary
Along With Emily Zabaleta
Ink and watercolor / 8.75 x 12 in.
Skolios Kaitie O’Hare
What if we could rust? Argue that I am more, That I can’t corrode from the inside out. Bones are bones are bones, and I will be the first to brown. Or perhaps I will rot less in the ground When the roots of my grave begin to grow; Some of me will last in the soil, Flanked by worms in my natural shape.
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But it ends the same every time: I am naked on a steel table, Floundering in my new parts.
Another’s hands will mend the fumble, work the damage, Crack the curves with rods and screws; Render me Inorganic. How many times will I Swallow this ebbing light Before it finds its way back up my throat And I must spit it out again? I choke Over, and over, and over,
Under the Stars Megan Fraedrich
My mother has never seen the stars. Not in the way she wants to, at least. She tries every summer. We’ve camped on seemingly every square inch of the East Coast, sticky and sluggish in a Georgia swamp, freezing and soaked to the sinews during a stormy Vermont autumn. Every night, my mother peers out between the flaps of our battered tent, looking up at the sky. No matter how remote and brambly our patch of wilderness du jour, the sky is never clear enough. Light and smog and innocent clouds have polluted the perfect constellations that my mother sees in her head. We tear down the tent, build it back up, drive over mile after mile of pitted highways, chasing some dreamed-up sky that doesn’t exist. My mother has never left the country. One of my earliest memories is drawing with my mother, a brand new box of sixty-four virgin crayons strewn across the floor. In a tornado of artistic productivity, I scrawled dozens of pictures of nothing in particular, dedicated to no specific vision except the desire to use every color in the box. Except midnight blue. My mother had a monopoly on midnight blue. As I sped through terrible drawing after terrible drawing, I saw my mother meticulously filling in her picture, shading every detail just so. Her brow puckered tightly over her oversized glasses, dark bangs flopping across her field of view. “What are you drawing, Mommy?” “An airplane at night,” she said. It still hangs, warped and faded with time and spilled coffee, on our refrigerator door. It has been sixteen years, my own crayon masterpieces replaced with report cards, bills, and fliers for events that we’ve already missed. I must have spent months of my life inside the Air and Space Museum, hearing my tottering footsteps echo within its cavernous walls. I remember clean, white, gleaming, open. To me, it was overly sanitized, overly scientific. I haven’t been there for years. But every time I dragged my mother through the halls of the Natural History Museum, marveling at all of the amazing and bizarre things that make up our planet,
I saw the stars growing cloudy in her eyes, her mind taking off from this planet to somewhere less-traveled. “If you work hard, you can be anything you want to be,” my mother used to tell my brother and me. “Even an astronaut.” Even all those years ago, I never had the heart to tell her that to me, space seemed cold, distant, terrifying, empty, horribly huge. I was held back by the way her lips caressed the word, as though hesitant to let it leave her mouth. My brother is too tall to be an astronaut, too tall to reach the stars. The day he hit the six-foot-four mark, I saw the tears in my mother’s eyes. At the time, I thought she was simply amazed that he’d grown up so quickly. Now I’m not so sure. All I know is that come summer, we gave in with barely any cajoling when she wanted to visit the Kennedy Space Center before we hit Disney World. There was an unearthly spring in her step as we left. She was walking high above us. “Can we go to Disney World now?” I whined. “As long as we ride Space Mountain first,” she said. That was the same summer we ate Cap’n Crunch for breakfast every single day. My mother carefully cut off the cardboard box tops and saved them in a manila envelope in her room. She mailed them in with the anxiety of a child writing to Santa Claus. When the package finally arrived, Christmas came in July. It was a Star Trek uniform shirt, a blue one, like Spock’s. My mother has never seen an episode of Star Trek—she does not approve of television—but this didn’t seem to matter to her. “You better not wear that out in public,” my brother warned her. She never did, but she wore it to bed every night that summer. I watched her fingertips stretching in her sleep, reaching out into the stuffy air of the tent, trying to grasp at the stars that could never come any nearer. Those nights, I didn’t sleep much. I was afraid that if I did, she’d be gone when I woke up, beamed up into the sky and gone forever. Even then, I knew that a part of her was already up there, waiting for the rest.
Acrylic on glass, digitally altered / 3 x 9 in.
Nebulous Morgan Jordan
From the Many Deaths of Eurithia May Jonathan Holin
When she came back for the third time, Eurithia May began to remember. After it was all said and done, I’d lost track of how many times I had killed her, and I suppose it became sort of like a drug for both of us. On our twentyfourth try I was standing at the top of the stairs with her head pressed between my hands, and I had a funny feeling I should have told her that I cared, but I didn’t, and she knew that. She told me to do it, so I did. I dropped my arms to the brand new sledgehammer propped against the paisley green wallpapered wall, and it felt good as I lifted it, heavy and solid in my grasp. I watched her savor the moment as the metal head arced across my body, and as it came crashing against Eurithia’s skull her eyes bulged in exquisite bliss and her black hair parted for our need. She tumbled down the stairs and every thud sounded like an accomplishment until she landed crumpled beneath the flight, and it was done. I covered
her with a blanket, made sure the doors were locked before I stepped back over her body, turned off the lights and went to bed. In the morning the dust-flecked windows filled the room with a skewed and misty light. Eurithia crawled beneath the covers and curled herself next to me. I turned away from her and asked how it was. She tried to relate what she had seen, but it always sounded like bullshit to me and after a few broken sentences she gave up trying. She lay there staring at the ceiling and part of me hated her for always coming back, for her far away smile and how permanently clean she looked the next day. I thought maybe tonight would be the night that it ended. Maybe she wouldn’t keep coming back. I thought for a second how strange it was that this was even happening. She made a buzzing sound with her tongue. It’s always buzzing there, she told me, and I closed my eyes trying to imagine anything else.
65 American Literary
Church in the Ghetto Matthew Stefanski Digital
Spring 2012 American Literary
Canvas Morgan Jordan Digital
Juvenilia Matthew Morgan Shor I am a collection of things, myself Included, I’ve always had a youth That made me lie in bed awake– Watching the clock’s fickle motion I inwardly crossed off those days As if they just quietly laid down. To die right now, to be put down Beside those who’ve affected myself, Would be such a waste of fertile days; I have so many words and motions To learn before the end of my youth– These are the haunts that keep me awake.
In the heat of my own undying youth, Shared with few, in horizontal motion I collect physical contact, and lock it down Into the casket that I’ve carved awake– From yew and oak, from you and myself, Scores counting the newest yesterday. I am a collection of work, of days Upon days, stacked higher in bed, awake To the accumulation of repeated motion An embrace, a fist to face, faced down The barrel of a cold and steel spangled youth Wasted on time consumed, by myself. Gather ‘round days, For at the end of my youth, of my motion I find myself lying down; a wake.
67 American Literary
Outside the window, light’s nocturnal motions, You know the feeling, writhing down Into your belly, keeping you awake At night, as black falls through, myself An arbiter at the end of the day To study–did you lionize your youth?
Sprawling in my ken at night, awake To my mother’s worries of wasted youth Trickling from her velleities onto myself, A nursing I never thirsted for down In my throat, tasting the night for days On days, for life of constant commotion.
No Harm Done Eric Langlois
All was still. All was at peace. Marco was living on an island in the middle of the Adriatic: part of a tiny archipelago that flew out like oil flicked from a knife’s edge to land, bobbing, in the sea. Whether the land was claimed by Serbia or Italy, he didn’t know or care. The man who rode out each week aboard an again motor launch spoke Italian. The launch was old, with a sputtering two-stroke engine and faded green paint that peeled off in great strips, like the skin of an unripe banana. The man was missing an eye. That had been worrying, but he was much too old to have fought in the war. Marco paid him well, and the man never asked anything about him. He only carried the groceries to Marco’s cottage on the hill, then grunted a thank-you when Marco helped him back his boat off the narrow sandy beach, which was the only safe approach to his house. Each week, the food and drink came in a canvas sack. Marco gave back the sack from the previous week when he paid. Marco always paid in cash, but that was not suspicious out on the islands. No one would pay with a check.
“ From the door of his dugout,
he could see the firefly-blinks of rifles, snapping away at some flicker of light, some imagined movement.”
Marco opened the small, square kitchen window of his cottage and let the warm, salty breeze purify his house. He delved into the bag and came up with three bottles: two of Chianti, one of grappa. These he set on the table. The food—fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese, a rasher of smoked bacon, he placed in the cupboards. On the wooden stove, the kettle gave a low whistle, which began to rise in pitch until Marco plucked it from the hob and emptied it into the cracked brown teapot, which stood next to the bottles. While he waited for the tea to brew, he poured himself a small glass of grappa and stepped outside. Around the corner from his door was a bench, worn smooth by time and use, and Marco sat on it, staring out towards the sea. Marco had been a lieutenant once, the young kind with a photo in his pocket and righteous determination on his face. The photo was of Gabrielle, seated in a fake arbor the photographer had set up in his workshop. She had a quiet half-smile, as if she were keeping a joke to herself. No need -- Marco knew the punch line. Her hand on her stomach gave it away. On the back was a note: “Keep yourself safe, for me and little Angelina.”
Angelina. Gabriella had been so sure it would be a girl that she had started to call the baby by that name. What if it’s a boy after all? Then call him Angelo, mi amore, no harm done. Marco had been stationed on the front, at Caporetto, in the summer of ’17. From the door of his dugout, he could see the firefly-blinks of rifles, snapping away at some flicker of light, some imagined movement. He stood and watched. They never came near him. Marco shifted on the bench and reached into the pocket of his ragged corduroy jacket. In a paper sack were a few handfuls of salted pistachios. He chewed a couple to blunt the taste of the grappa, and put the sack back in his pocket. The early afternoon sun cleared the eaves of his cottage and began to creep up his body, warming him as it went. He had been standing in the trenches that night, in late September, when Corporal Arrighi had brought along the mail. He had pointed out to the corporal how pretty the battlefield was at night, how peaceful, and the corporal had shrugged, remembered who he was talking to, nodded unenthusiastically, and handed over two letters. The corporal continued on his rounds, and Marco went inside the dugout to read. The first was from Gabrielle. It would not be long now, she said, and she had made arrangements with their local doctor. Their neighbor, an old widow, was sleeping in the house at night, just in case. Everything would be fine, the doctor said. Marco smiled to himself and, for a moment, the glow of the oil lamp was the evening sun, setting over their village. He carefully folded the letter, slid it back into its envelope, and set it aside. The second letter was dated over a week ago, and the return address was that of the Doctor. Marco frowned, slit it open, and began to read. Then he stood up quickly, banging his head on the low ceiling and setting the oil lamp wobbling back and forth. His commander was in his own dugout, listening to an opera record—Caruso, maybe—and sharpening a wide-bladed knife. Marco flung aside the curtain in the doorway as he entered. His commander looked at him, then stood and carefully fixed the curtain so that no sliver of light shone out. What is wrong? He asked. Marco threw the letter at him, told him to read it. The commander smoothed the crumpled letter, began to read, sat down, continued to read. He wasn’t much older than Marco, but suddenly his face looked very old. Finally, he stood, set the letter down, and stared at Marco. I’m sorry. He said. I need to leave. Marco said. Of course, you must go home. But . . . Marco stiffened.
Gelatin wood transfer / 6 x 3.3 in.
. . . not yet. They have something planned. Every day we are told: more Austrians, Germans even, moving up. But I must go now. Marco said. I wish I could let you. The commander looked even older, if that were possible. But I canâ€™t. Not yet. Now. Marco felt his hand stray to the butt of his revolver. The muscles of his arms felt as if there was fire coursing through his veins. He carefully moved it to the edge of the table. Iâ€™m sorry, Marco. I truly am. The record reached its end. The commander turned away to lift the needle. Marco looked down and saw the knife next to his hand. As he left, Marco made sure that no light escaped from the doorway. Three days later, Marco stood in the village graveyard. Slowly, he knelt down, the knees of his uniform smearing themselves with the freshly turned earth. It had just rained, and everything smelled fresh and new. For over an hour, he stared at the two names carved into the stone. All he could think was: she was right. That night, he slept in an armchair, afraid to go near his bed. In the morning, he went to the bank, negotiated the
sale of the house, and took out all the money he had. He stuffed some clothes into a Gladstone bag, along with the money, and burned his uniform in the stove. By lunchtime, he was on a charter boat, headed out into the Adriatic. He knew of the islands, but had never been there. Marco poured the last drops of grappa into his mouth, sighed, and carefully set the bottle down. As he did, the wind shifted, and he heard the sound of a two-stroke motor. He shielded his eyes and stared out to the West. The motor launch was coming back. Marco watched it come, waiting for it to draw near. As it did, he saw that the man with the motor launch was not alone. There were two men with him. Marco stood, stretched, and went inside. In the bedroom, in the top drawer of his night table, there was an irregular package, wrapped in muslin. Marco lifted it out, walked back outside, and sat on the bench. He unwrapped the package and felt the familiar weight of his revolver in his hand. He looked out, past the men, past the launch, out to where the sun spilled into the sea in a trail of molten gold. All was still. All was at peace.
Serenity Bailey Edelstein
Freudian Slip Jessica Nesbitt I want to tell you something but my lips don’t know what it’s like to break this pattern of swallowed silhouettes that have been lying on my windowsill for days and days and days.
one particular kind of nothingness that just won’t let me be these days.
I want to reach out and brush my thumb against your lips, but instead I watch you crawling towards the door of this shitty, gritty, meaningless (if only) mistake of a café.
I wanted to tell you this, but you got up, furious and dizzy – so dizzy I could see the particles of your forehead mixing with the curious slope of your bangs to form this
And speaking of café, [this time I mean the silly brown malignant addiction in the porcelain mugs that I often imagine will circulate from finger to toe tips ‘til the end of our time] I wanted to tell you, show you that I know the depths of your insanity like the depths of this cold molded clay. And despite this, and to myself I admit you must have been born without any logic, any real sense of time or gravity, because even as you bound away an artist somewhere is trying to capture that slight sway of your hips or the way your black curls leave me breathless or how they let you slip into an empty kind of world, or fall prey to this pervasive kind of nothingness.
I am so mesmerized, still, by the angry shake of your freckled face that all the declarations, proclamations, exclamations, revelations I’ve watched build up ‘til now … Now -Now! will not cross the creases I’ve made myself make in my mumbling lips. And so instead I howl into the wind as you howl across town into the arms of this quiet solace of sin A sin that replaces this inevitable funk that happens every single god-damned time regardless of efforts, desires, bonfires or the little empires of coffee creamers that we used to build once upon a time in a coffee shop that actually meant something to us. [I think here of when you would tell me about how writers too are doomed to repeat the mistake of Frost or of Every One because they think only in past tenses and smoke too much and drink too much and never dream of sleep] And yet here we sit (except it’s only me anymore) quietly jabbering and admittedly admitting the little nuanced tones of your being I have so fallen love with til now
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Self Portrait as Pablo Salvador Luke Ramsey
Oil pastel / 2 x 1.5 ft.
Spring 2012 American Literary
Venice Side Street Kathryn Gillon Digital
I listened to rasped voices when I was young, echoed allusions whispering prophesies. My skin, unfreckled, indigo veins: eighth-notes, electric current shocks to the spine. I was unformed then and thought you could breathe my frigid hands warm. But I spent years trying to pick up the pieces juggle the consonants refigure the lines. I found myself split, atoms spilt bare skin tangled in the chorus.
I am home and we are here now, oaken limbed, listening to red bodied birds call out to the trees. I, still unsure, you, still aloof, transcribe meaning to the notes but the key is wrong. Iâ€™m older now and can whittle fingers to line my eyelids with sharpened nails. I can ring dampened hair and let the ocean pool on bare shoulders. I can pretend to bury my heels in rootless soil, collect expectations and swallow something empty. Turn the dial, catch the silence. Ears cupped, I have forgotten your tune. Pastoral calls are nothing but false identities.
73 American Literary
Planes took me away once. I followed the piper, catching my tongue in ragged teeth. I mouthed the prayers and gathered the blood in spider cracks of my lips.
I watched you, hunched and hooded at the foot of my bed. Confessional poses, learned in youth: finger to finger palm to palm conspiring for the masses.
Boiler Room Mattea Falk I am looking for purpose. Fortune cookies and people with 401(k)s tell me this is a challenge I am meant to rise to: I climb the mountain, and, at the top, a ghost-fog with hands like Sistine chapels tells me the reasons for wanting reason–
I am losing focus. I am trying to gaze along the curve of the ocean from within the middle of it, trying to cup my hand ever so slightly along the watery scoliosis of the globe.
I am getting discouraged; There is only so much space between molecules. Some days, I am eighteen and my tongue is light: the skin of my words tastes like spring. Some days, the vaulted ceiling of my mouth feels taut, thin: the bloody cathedral heaves. Some days, the sighs inside me wobble to and fro, holding hands with golden-eyed prophets.
When I am dead, when my eyes are blank as chalk-dry slate, when my hands, ballerinas in rigor mortis, twirling along the edge of the steak knife dancing inside my universe-empty belly, are removed, pried off the red-rust-crust of the knife handle and laid on the cold steel table– When they butterfly me along the rose compass of sternum and clavicle, they will not find inside sighs that wander on watery legs, or myopic prophets, molecular chapels, or a spinning, shimmering universe, but a rotten, fleshy mass that pumps blood backwards through a looping ironworks, and a cage, just below, in which a canary sings and paces, huffs glue and whines to its mother, falls out of focus and keels over four hundred times a day, only to wake again to the hot ironworks pumping somewhere far above, the oily smog drifting down into its yellow diamond eyes. We’ve been looking for purpose, and what have we found?
I am stuck in the fog of it, and I can’t get out. I am starting to look inward: I dream of taking a knife to my belly and finding a universe inside.
(This is where you hold your breath. This is where you clench your jaw. This is where you fumble for a hand to hold, say what you hope the answer is.)
A waiting room taste, elastic and sterile white, stretches a hand down into my throat, hospital-cool fingers freezing the branches of my alveoli, telling me to cough and cough again.
What have we found?
The taste climbs into my mouth and slides up to my ear, whispering its stomach-pit-revulsion, its skin-smell diagnosis: that there is an animal crouching inside of me, melting languidly into the gorge of my belly; not a universe, nothing so pretty, nothing that spins, nothing that shimmers , nothing to welcome you in.
A boiler room autopsy. A bird who sings, but doesn’t fly. Precious-metal cataracts. Necrotic hearts. Palpitations of personality. (I am still looking.)
Rusting Anna Elder
PTSD Genna Bellezza Itâ€™s been so long from that July that the swollen moon reflecting on the nape of a neck hardly seems like anything to matter, anymore.
But the crescent of this evening (that stands still in the night while everything else around it keeps pace with the wind) brings me backward and I see it, lighting up everything Iâ€™ve been, ever since.
Platoons Michele Colburn Acrylic on diapers / 6 x 12 ft.
77 American Literary
Dylan Pratt Robbie Boccelli Digital
Spring 2012 American Literary
Untitled Gretchen Kast Screenprint / 1.8 x 1.3 ft.
To My Sister, Who Never Was Matthew Morgan Shor
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I was sent here to be an example I was born with these fragmentary wings my lovely lies, I’m so childish at times I’ll sit here in my mourning routine, don’t care, jowls stained white with streams of chlorine haggard, in my own eyes, I’ve lost my way I’ve written many times over, more times not our mother said, once, she knows me knows I know better but i’m still a little infantile that little insolent bed wetter chapped lips, and a dead river bed throat really my thoughts lack strength I’m a bulging empty stomach, full of acid eaten actions naked now on my sole chair, i’m resigned our father doesn’t write the letters he once reveled in, and our brothers still speak to me, and maybe that’s the worst I’m blue and I’m black and I’m colorless and I’m dolorous I’m a mind faced with a torpor unrequited in inaction never recalcitrant, always irreconcilable on a bed of beached bones, unsalvageable whales of regret against the great needle cold current of pine in my dreams in vain I save others this fate, it’s not hate, not loathing, not fear, not nothing You’d have never seen such a crushed self You’d have met me by now You’d have said I was a gift and I’d’ve told you my name is Sadness.
Biographies Erin Adams is a senior in the School of Public
Affairs. Upon graduating, she hopes to become a Professional Child; always wanting to grow up, but never actually getting there ... and playing with puppies.
Temme Barkin-Leeds is a chronic student who will have received her fourth college degree this year. She looks forward to receiving her Master of Fine Arts degree from American University this May.
Carolyn Becker is a junior that enjoys long walks
in the cement jungle of DC, painting and making art in the studio, and going to punk shows. To see more of her art go to her website: cargocollective.com/CBecker.
Katrina Beitz is a junior majoring in fisticuffs and balderdash.
Genna Bellezza does not look good in hats, but secretly owns a Fedora that she wears when no one is around.
Robbie Boccelli is from Arizona. 6’1”, black hair, thin.
Michele Colburn is a 2012 MFA candidate. She is
a rare breed—a native Washingtonian that still lives in DC. Michele likes ponies, sunsets, and long walks in the park.
Ronan Conway is a graduating senior who will soon be missing the people and city he has come to know and love. Much love for everyone involved in AmLit over the years.
Bailey Edelstein is studying print journalism, photography and Spanish language. Her dream job is to work for National Geographic as a writer/ photographer. To view more work, go to flickr.com/ photos/baileyedelstein.
Mattea Falk wishes her teeth were a little bit straighter.
Megan Fraedrich is a sophomore literature
major and pirate captain. Her favorite things about herself are her ideas and her eyebrows, both of which are dark, unruly, and prone to jumping around bizarrely when she gets excited.
Kathryn Gillon would like to just quote Jerri Blank in saying: “Pizza pizza pizza!” Jonathan Holin is a dog chasing a ball, a cactus pricking your finger, a tree in the fall, and likes a good non sequitur.
Lorraine Holmes loves children even though
horrible things always happen to them in her stories.
Kendall Jackson is originally from Portland and
is currently abroad in Paris. Her favorite things to do include: riding her bike everywhere (and pretending she knows how to fix it), thrifting for old records, going on picnics, and gaycations with her girlfriend.
Lisa Jakab is a first year MFA student at American University who cannot live without art!!
Morgan Jordan does not know where she’ll be in the next year, but she’s ever grateful to have had AmLit with her for the last four. Much love, nuggets!
Gretchen Kast is a literature major who will soon have to stop defining herself by what she studies and instead by what she does (amateur identity theorist, professional microwavable burrito eater?).
Mariel Kirschen likes to borrow babies and give them back at the end of the day. During naptime, she dreams of red and white flags and bike lanes.
Jonathan Koven is The Last Airbender. Eric Langlois is known as Mad Carew by the subs at Katmandu, and he’s hotter than they feel inclined to tell.
Matthew Makowski has only this to give. Laura Materna is an American University Dirty Lady who enjoys Latin American boy bands, dark chocolate, and bad puns.
Lilly McGee stole Roonil Wazlib’s quill and drew a VFD tattoo on her ankle.
Daniella Napolitano Woodblock print
to be a marine biologist.
She believes in free love. It’d be a shame to miss out on all the other fun things in life due to monogamy.
Daniella Napolitano was born through stellar nucleosynthesis from several supernova explosions.
Kaitie O’Hare is graduating with the heart of a
dictionary and spirit of Manifest Destiny. All of her love belongs to AmLit.
Benjamin Patz is a History major who hopes to translate what he’s learning into a successful writing career. He wished to ask everyone: if science fiction influences the future and the author shapes science fiction, does that make sci-fi authors prophets?
Robert Pines is a junior at American University
who just happened to take one exceptional photograph (out of 3,750 total) during his time abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Israeli Diversity” also won second place in the Fall 2011 AU Abroad Photo Contest.
Luke Ramsey is not imaginary. Savanna Rovira is trying to find her Great Perhaps.
series of ridiculous attempts at being alive.
Matthew Morgan Shor: A winner according to
Matthew Stefanski, 19, encourages everyone to visit Poland and Slovakia, where he shot his pictures. You won’t be disappointed.
Rachel Ternes is a freshman psychology major who loves many, many things, including painting.
Khristian Vega is a freshman studying
Undecided. Whenever he’s stressed out or has some downtime, he sits and sketches for a while; then, when he has a complete idea, he starts to paint it.
Kristen Velit told her parents that she was going to
be a photographer for National Geographic after she got her first Polaroid camera for her 10th birthday. She still has that camera and big dreams.
Brendan Williams-Childs is a freshman in
SOC who writes in second person because it makes him feel like Leonard Cohen.
Emily Zabaleta is a freshman in SOC who loves art, chocolate, elephants, cuddling, and probably you.
Sophia Miyoshi is a non-committal photographer.
Emi Ruff-Wilkinson firmly believes that life is a
Michelle Doree Diane Dickerson Merica enjoys sex and was born in 1991. She aspires
STATE OF THE UNION Kyle Dargan
I live in a land called East of the River —five miles from the U.S. Capitol
where, still, air space must be controlled. No-fly zones. So, tonight, a helicopter freezes into shallow a star blinking over my house
while our government is herded inside the Senate chambers— our Commander-in-Chief and all his cabinet save one, traditionally one, who is charged with exclusion, tasked with resurrecting our country should Russia, China, Iran or what’s left of Iraq try to bowl an atomic six-ten split, toppling the Capitol’s hollow pin. Tonight, it is the agriculture secretary who will save us. It should always be our agriculture secretary. In times of crisis, a country needs— before commerce or war or law—to eat, and if we’ve allowed to be appointed a Secretary of Agriculture who can’t grow a pea, then might we not deserve oblivion? But I prefer to think of the agriculture secretary hunkered in his undisclosed location, listening to the speech on battery-powered radio, sifting seed through his dusty palms, deciding what must grow first in the aftermath of fire.
Staff Editors-in-Chief Morgan Jordan & Kaitie Oâ€™Hare
General Staff Brendan Agnew , Mattea Falk, Stephanie Fieseher, Molly Friedman, Molly Harbage, Elaina Hundley, Lindsay Inge, Sarah Jacques, Maya Kosover, Jonathan Koven, Sara Lovett, Julie Morocco, Jessica Nesbitt, Lindsey Newman, Amy Noakes, Savanna Rovira, James Schwabacher, Sean Segalla, Jackie Toth, Brendan Williams-Childs, Tiffany Wong
83 American Literary
Emma Gray Marlena Serviss Samantha Falewee Elice Rojas-Cruz Iz Altman Alex Chavers Caroline Marsh Marlena Serviss Michelle Merica Matthew Morgan Shor Lorraine Holmes Gretchen Kast Lilly McGee Mike Wang Jess Keane Amanda Muscavage
Design Editors Copy Editors Assistant Copy Editors Art Editors Photography Editors Poetry Editors Prose Editors PR Representative Web Editor
American Literary Magazine American University, MGC 250 4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW Washington, DC 20016 www.amlitmag.com
American University's spring 2012 literary magazine