Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review Winter 2019

Page 1

Fredericksburg Literary & Art Review Volume 7, Issue 1, Winter 2019




for the


FLAR logo by Elizabeth Seaver © 2013 Cover Art by Cameron Limbrick, Magic Flute


Our Patrons!

By donating to Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, our patrons are making it possible for us to continue promoting the literary and visual arts in and beyond Fredericksburg. We have been able to move to a more reliable submission format due in part to the outreach and promotional efforts that donations allow us. Our patrons’ contributions show that they place a value on independent publishing and the process of critical review. Thank you, each and every one, for helping us make this endeavor possible. ~ A.E. Bayne

FRANK FRATOE is a poet and friend to the arts in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A writer of research for most of his career, Fratoe began writing poetry to honor special occasions in his marriage. Today, he finds inspiration for his poems in the people and places around Fredericksburg. His poetry is featured in Front Porch Magazine each month.

Read It “Cover -to-Cover”

@Front Porch Fredericksburg Magazine

Ruth Golden and Family: Born in Germany, Ruth Golden’s first trip was across the Atlantic at the tender age of six weeks. She’s been traveling ever since, photographing as much as she can along the way. Photography is her way of recording the passage of time and occasionally happening upon a perfectly exquisite shot. She is also a potter, classic car buff, writer of prose and poetry, knitter, and blogger writing about her year living and sailing on her sailboat, Nalani ( A wife, mother of three, and grandmother of three, her life is filled with chubby fingers, soft downy hair, and drool. She also advocates for live music through House About Tonight Productions. You may find her photography on Facebook at RG Photography and Width = 10.991 Photoart, and at local photo shows where she has been awarded a few ribbons in her time. Height= 1.984


Sandra Noel works as a free-lance illustrator, graphic designer and interpretive writer developing award-winning environmental education posters, brochures, exhibits and interpretive signs. She also contributes her artistic design skills as a volunteer for Alliance for Tompotika, a non-profit conservation organization working in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Her poems have appeared in Pontoon, Buddhist Poetry Review, Outside In Literary and Travel Magazine, Elohi Gadugi Journal and Above on the page you sent me....was this size ever printed? others; in three chapbooks entitled, The Gypsy in my Kitchen and Into the Green from Finishing Line Press, and The It seems to be to wide fr the typical tabloid sizes available to print. River from Kelsay Press; and in an anthology, Three Birds Dreaming from Three Birds Press.

A retired economist and statistician, Saeed Ordoubadi is now a fine art photographer and an enthusiastic traveler, as well a beginner painter. He loves to capture people's expressions and emotions, the beauty of nature and the unique characters of old places. He has had several exhibitions in local galleries and libraries, including a well-received collection of his work on Cuba, covering its people, places and arts. Saeed can be reached at Width= 9.5 Height=1.5 Border=3pt

Thea Verdak's s first voyage was as a tot, aboard the MS Koningin Emma, a retired commando ship, thrashing across a petulant channel to learn the culture of her grandparents, leaving her parents waving on shore. This set the course of her life. She reads, writes, walks, and is an animal activist.

EDITOR in CHIEF A.E. Bayne PUBLISHER Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review LITERARY PANEL Lindley Estes-Thomas Allita Irby

SPECIAL FEATURE EDITOR Alex Harvell ART PANEL Sue Henderson Michelle Pierson Casey Shaw

CONTACT FOLLOW Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review @FredLitReview @FLAR

Dear Lovers of a Luscious World,

As it has been since autumn of 2015, it is my pleasure to bring you another edition of Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In it, you will find a few of the many talentend and worthy artists and writers who call Fredericksburg home, as well as an eclectic mix of writing, poetry and artwork from around the world. I am taking a hiatus from publishing FLAR to pursue a few exciting personal projects this year, but I plan to be back in 2020. This current issue and all back issues of FLAR will remain available at our website and on ISSUU to share online, and hard copies will remain available through Peecho. I will continue to keep the Facebook page active by posting links to our latest contributors, as well as revisiting posts from past issues. Keep visiting us there to interact and engage with talented writers and artists from regionally, nationally, and around the world. Keep making the art and writing the words that help us build comapssion and understanding. Thank you for bringing beauty into the world on the daily. You inspire me and so many otehrs with these gifts you share.

Best always,

A.E Bayne is the editor in chief and publisher of Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review and is an organizing partner in the Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival. She is a writer, visual artist, and educator living in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She can be read monthly in Fredericksburg Front Porch Magazine, and her writing, photography and artwork can be viewed online at


Winter 2019 Literary Panel LINDLEY ESTES - THOMAS Lindley Estes is writer, reporter, and editor based in Fredericksburg,Va. She is a graduate teaching assistant at George Mason University and MFA candidate in fiction writing there. Her writing has appeared in numerous newspapers and just a few journals. Find her at


Allita Irby has led a life of travel and experience. Since September 2017, Allita has lived in Locust Grove, VA pursuing her artistic interests and writing. An avid reader and book lover all her life, Allita belongs to several book clubs and writing groups. She is the coauthor of the novel, Fourth Sunday, the Journey of a Book Club, published in 2011 with Simon & Schuster under the pen name B. W. Read. (See www. Allita contributed to anthologies in 2017---Holiday Musings and River Tides, in 2018 to The Lake Authors of the Wilderness Cookbook. All three books are available on Also in 2018 Allita worked on the editorial panel of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review (FLAR) for 2019 release. Follow her on Twitter @airby9 Facebook @Allita Irby

ALEX HARVELL Alex Harvell is a 26-year-old activist and artist with a dream to create a safe environment for himself, his family, and those in his community. He says, “From getting in trouble as a kid/young adult, to learning from all the unfortunate times, I have grown and conitnue to move forward with Freebyrunning, the main focus of which centers on mental health and the arts. We project rehabilitation, growth, and unity for our family and friends in the community by providing a platform where individuals can express themselves - y’all about mental health - and lift each other up. One Love.” Follow him on Instagram @freebyrunning.


Winter 2019 Art Panel SUE HENDERSON

Sue created Henderson Productions as a multi-service event planning and creativity company in 2001 and has more recently concentrated on travel writing and photography focused on capturing the essence of sites. Sue has written numerous articles with accompanying photographs for various regional and national media as well as three books on longer personal and metaphorical journeys. She has a passion for capturing images and writing about locations with travel on six continents over 140 countries. Her photographic images have won major awards from the Venice (Italy) Tourism department, the 7th Annual Julia Margaret Cameron Award (London) for International Women Photographers (Documentary/Cultural Category), the Virginia State Fair and numerous others. She is a USAF veteran. Follow her at

MICHELLE PIERSON Michelle Pierson is an artist dedicated to the motivation and inspiration of others through representations of the environment in unique lights by means of photography and video, while exploring painting, sculpture, and graphic design. Michelle graduated at University of Mary Washington with a Studio Art degree. Through her art, Michelle’s biggest concern is making art for the purpose of breaking bad environmental habits and changing ways of thinking by seeing beauty in the unexpected. You can find her work at Darbytown Art Studio where she is a permanent resident. Follow her on Facebook Instagram: @michellepierson

CASEY SHAW Casey Shaw holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with honors, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Fine Arts from Syracuse University. For almost twenty years, the artist worked full-time at USA Today as Creative Manager for USA Weekend Magazine where he received dozens of national awards for illustration and design, including recognition from the National Headliner Awards, the Society of Publication Designers, the Clarion Awards and the American Graphic Design Awards. Shaw is currently a designer with Berkshire Hathaway Media Group’s Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star and an adjunct art professor at Germanna Community College. Follow him at


Featured Profiles David Anthony Sam Poet Fredericksburg, VA Page 12

Cameron Limbrick

Artist Fredericksburg, VA Page 20

Artist Fredericksburg, VA Page 54

Gordon Harris

Graphic Novelist Annandale, VA Page 60

Mirinda Reynolds

Lynda Allen

Artist Fredericksburg, VA Page 42

Poet Fredericksburg, VA Page 88

Kerry McAleer-Keeler

Jim Trainer


Fredericksburg, VA Page 48


Tiffany Yates

Poet Austin, TX Page 102

Featured Profiles Adrienne Enfinger

Alex Sakes

Darbytown Art Studio

The Clockwork Ticker

Debut Novelist Mineral, VA Page 120

Gallery Fredericksburg, VA Page 156

Nadir Frizzarin

Artist / Sister City Cultural Exchange Este, Italy Page 166


Alex Harvell Nonprofit for the Arts Fredericksburg, VA Page 170

Photographer Fredericksburg, VA Page 178

Artist Fredericksburg, VA Page 182

Josh Stansfield

Photographer Fredericksburg, VA Page 214


Artists & Writers Page A1


A Journey Home to the Redwoods

EPISODE 1 The original hippies are older now. They shop at crunchy organic markets with fresh almonds and Asian pears. Their grandkids buy imported tie-dye and Stevie-Nicks-flowy-items at tourist prices to spite the generation in between. Head shops are still here but renamed to Smoke Shops to include vaping. A few diners linger on the main drag but there are fast food neon signs overpowering their mid-century garishness. The big “old” grocery store now offering auto parts died decades ago when a fancy Safeway arrived at the main intersection of a town on the tourist trail. There are still plenty of artsy consignment shops full of hidden treasures and dusty big tree souvenirs. Ben Franklin and JC Penney are long gone

Sue Henderson

from the historic downtown with more than four new-age coffee shops in a three- block stretch. 'Moon Lady' and 'Paradise Juice' jockey for attention between the remaining banks and a couple of law offices. A new geology and engineering firm has set up camp in one old bank taking advantage of proximity to the northern San Andreas fault line and annual mud and rock

slides. There are more gas stations and the town entry sign boasts of readily available electric charging stations pushing Rotary and Lions logos to less prominence.

The classes of ‘67-71 assemble to celebrate survival. They’re still laid back but now have rules like ‘no pol-

itics’ and ‘no pot’ at the gathering in the big trees. Many have now retired from high-powered careers but a few never left and created the original gig economy working more jobs than they can remember until prodded by an old friends’ anecdote.

The music hasn’t changed. On any one of their Iphones the playlist includes George, Paul, John and Ringo

and Fogerty and Clapton. They think their music defines them better than the war but don’t much think about it that deeply. Some served. Some ran away. Some did neither. They grew up surrounded by simple substances that are now medicinal after all these years, but, well, they’ve been-there-done-that and are completely non-plussed at the fuss.

The towns haven’t changed as much as they have. “How ya gonna keep em down on the farm after they’ve

seen Paree?” as the song says.

For many ‘stuff’ was never all that important. Their kids mostly value acquisition more. At the 50-year mark

no one cares to impress each other like they might have 20 years ago.


There’s a Rangjung Yeshe Gomde on the

plot where his family used to live in Leggett. And plenty of pot growing under greenhouses visible from the old Highway 101 drive-thru tree road. First the sawmills departed leaving a death knell to the small towns and then the freeway bypasses completely did them in. But the folks at the other end now rave about how it takes them only four hours to get to San Francisco when it used to take eight.

Traveling with only memories as a guide

we discover the bypass has screwed up all the old landmarks and roads. Found the location where “we lived during high school. Dad rented the spot for $25 a month next to the grocery store ‘cause we were security. He built a lean-to next to the trailer and that was my bedroom.”

All traces of the mills are gone. The small

town of Piercy shriveled up when they put the freeway in. No more gas station or store or post office. Everyone gets their mail at a bank of boxes under a tarp at the edge of town that the USPS must have installed rather than waste time or resources finding driveways or paying someone at a non-existent store. The boxes serve as a bulletin board for the community offering dharma dog sitting services and a lady’s fall herbal retreat or a notice that a farmhand is available and a big brightly colored thank you to the firefighters.

If you know where to look you can still mostly take the old road twisting and turning under the freeway

past ‘Okie town’ where the mill workers used to live in shanties. Over and around the South Fork of the Eel River where specific swimming holes are fondly remembered.

Back to the tourist traps of old: the one-log house, grandfather tree, Confusion Hill, the drive-thru tree, and

Tree House. The looked new and interesting. The old ice cream shack is now the Legend of Bigfoot Museum with chainsaw-carved options in all sizes out front.

Richardson’s Grove State Park is a nice lunch break sitting on the deck of the historic and faithfully rebuilt

inn under the canopy high above. We spent a lovely hour and a half walking through the ancient grove and learning from the enthusiastic volunteer resident for this year before continuing on to bigger trees.

Next stop, the Avenue of the Giants. We detour to see the old house near Twin Trees where the old Ger-

man couple lived ‘there’ and ‘we lived down on the end’. The couple had a real telephone.

Only one school bus ran south from Garberville but it was a big one and made many stops. “That’s where I

bought that Chevy Chevelle for $3000 in 1970. And that’s where it had its first accident. Came out right there and hit the guardrail and f’d up the front end.” “That’s still a laundromat? Wow.”

In those days, fifty years ago, state construction jobs were the best jobs you could get, I’m informed as

we are stalled for a stretch on the old road for repaving. We spent a half hour in the Woman’s Clubs of California grove at Humboldt Redwoods State Park before hitting the highway for our retreat in Fortuna.


One leaves the Avenue of the Giants

forced back on the freeway to pass the giant mill complex at Scotia. Pacific Lumber had owned this road in those days and this was their largest area. Scotia was a mill town spread out on the banks of the Eel River where the south and north halves join. It was classic early-industrial living with the houses and store and everything available controlled by the company and paid out of wages before all else. We learn much of the mill is still in operation but one section of them was turned into the first organic micro-brewery in the country in the 80’s.

Signs tell us Loleta has a cheese facto-

ry with a grilled cheese bar and we pass an organic quinoa farm in the valley. It’s the Eel River just before the Eureka Bay basin as all roads begin to converge, like the rivers, to the ocean. Welcome to Fortuna – the Friendly City with three exits off the freeway. Whooo hooo. They probably even have a WalMart.


If one picks just the right spot it’s possible to stand straight up to dress in the loft of our hidden tiny house

in the trees above Fortuna. At just under 300 square feet it has almost everything one could wish for including a delightful purple clawfoot tub on the sheltered outside deck.

Taking a morning respite on the redwood deck next to a redwood tree and the redwood siding of the cab-

in with host-provided herbal tea and a handful of dewy, fresh-picked blackberries is a rare drop-out joy. A turquoise Ganesh door knocker on a bright red front door greets you along with a sign inviting you to take off your shoes to not soil this sacred space.

She knows you’ll be comfortable here with bent spoon handles on minimal cabinetry and a couple small

space heaters – one for each level – to keep you warm and snugly against the crisp fall evening air. With a set of steep stairs and peaked roof, the loft barely contains an ungrounded double bed, a table and two chairs with windows on all four sides to further immerse you in the trees. With the curtains open the morning light slowly wafts in through the tree cover without the harshness of less forested awakenings.

The cabin is less than a mile above the town of 10,000 so one can hear the rare siren from the fire station

near the rodeo grounds, but the rugged gravel entry at a steep incline immerses you quickly into the wild as you follow written directions to find the clearing. It’s convenient and secluded. A definite artist retreat.

If one is writing a book or looking for a space to commune with self and nature, this little spot is idyllic.

There’s always something special about not having the entrapments of daily life, leaving them behind in some other space equally idyllic for its use and time. Do we crave the woods because we don’t live in them? Do we crave the sea until hurricane’s threaten? Is there something especially compelling about these trees that have lived for centuries before, and likely after, us?

Don’t take the freeway to come to see these trees. It’s utterly about the destination. Whether you have

family and memories or not, driving up through the old groves and stopping at multiple rest stops and walking through carved out paths or driving through old-timey tourist trees is essential to feeling their lessons. One can’t do that at 65 mph. One must feel small. Out of sorts for a bit yet utterly settled in the space in the moment. zation.


You don’t need this little retreat cabin to feel it. But it surely is lovely surrounded by the absence of civili-


The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku: to commune with nature and rejuvenate ones soul. ‘Round here they

just ask “You goin to the trees?” And, indeed, you should. The Avenue of the Giants is not to be missed and whether going north or south take it the entire length and don’t skip off to the freeway.

We were strongly warned against taking the Ferndale/Petrolia Road. Apparently it’s “a twisty, turny, ben-

dy, bumpy, half-assed” road but “if you want gorgeous views, go for it.” Another said “It’ll take ya at least three hours to get to Weott that way versus 30 minutes on the freeway. Your call.”

Ultimately, we opted instead for more redwood explorations in the Rockefeller forest.

Not to be missed: The Rockefeller Forest and the road toward Honeydew at least as far as the Giant

Tree parking lot and picnic area. The five mile stretch winds through magnificent old growth redwood country where old JD himself wrote a check for a million dollars while being wined and dined under their canopy in 1926. He later added another million to save the largest tract of groves left in the coastal redwoods.

Take the half mile loop trail to see the giant tree and picnic along Bull Creek before doubling back on

the road to the horribly signposted but lovely Rockefeller Lower Bull Creek loop trail below road level and then rejoin back to the Avenue for the more touristy but equally impressive Founder’s Grove.

We go to the trees for stories and history. We were stopped by college kids fascinated by the stories

the “old local” knows. And he shared how to read a tree, how it was felled to not break like candy brittle but nestle into the clover and ferns between other trees. How falling timber almost cost him his life fifty years ago, but the scar still reminds. How his dad and uncles really knew the valuable parts to save and not worry so much about the rotting center or the cheap 30year stuff on the edges. He can’t imagine that he’s the expert now having been a kid when he felled them and away for so long.

We walk for a bit checking out the lean in

different trees and the eight-foot deep root ball holes from the fallen trees. The definition of old growth forests requires multiple elements from 200-1,000 year-old trees, stumps, fallen trees, hollows – all to support life below and at 300 feet up. The only groves left are protected by state or national efforts. Most telling, the real old growth forests are intentionally not overtly maintained allowing fallen trees to stay where they land with big chunks cut out to allow paths to continue.

“Crimson and clover” – was it written

in an old grove? Maybe. We had fondly remembered the four-foot tall healthy ferns but the huge wild clover patches took us by surprise. With clovers bigger than pansy petals, they blanketed the forest floor nestled on beds of dried red fallen leaves and fronds. It’s this natural fauna which thrives under the mottled sun through the high canopies.

“Laze in the sun. Listening to the radio.

The rainbow in my mind. Rock n roll girls all over the world” is playing as we cruise back down on the freeway full of musings and stories and the peace of the trees. The problem with the region is it’s pretty if you catch it when it’s right. “But when it’s not there ain’t nothing else to see.”


There’s a faded billboard with the girl hugging a redwood to “Save Richardson’s Grove”. And the one-log

house is at the southern end of the Avenue before the freeway cranks back up. It’s the only stretch in Humboldt County that hasn’t gone freeway and pushes you to the two-lane old road.

Mendocino County still goes in and out from the old road with the newer road mostly being stopped by

geographical challenges like steep drops to the Eel River or continual rockslides during the rainy winter season. A billboard in Laytonville says “Dude, weed can wait. Your brain is still growing. It’s illegal under 21.” Well, that’s a new approach. We wonder if it works.

Even McDonald’s won’t invest here. Where else in America can you go 150 miles between WalMart stores

and more than 100 between McD’s? Cell service is on and off. The closest place we can think as a comparison is eastern West Virginia way off the interstate and west of the Blue Ridge.

The Upward Bound Program saved some of the classes of 68-71 after the region was declared economi-

cally and culturally disadvantaged in 1965. That’s how many of them got to college and they fondly remembered those summer exposures to summer classes at Humboldt State College. They went to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland two years in a row studying the works all summer before seeing the shows. The foursome from one class hung out for six weeks staying in dorms and eating at the dining hall. All four were offered college after graduation although, ultimately, only two finished before they were 25 with one dropping out and giving up and another going to the military with a new wife and baby in tow.

Many didn’t make it out of the area at all. The differences were evident during their reunion. A few had par-

ents of means who left them ranches or businesses which remind me of Big Valley families. After all these years they recognized their good fortune expressing self-regret for not realizing not everyone could afford a class ring in those days.

Others with virtually no

childhood resources found work and survived to retirement from managing a mill or hardware stores




They know the region inside and out from both their childhood and adult lives and have long ago settled for different riches.

A few went to discover

the world, college and military and came back to a simpler lifestyle working as lawyers and doctors and other professionals in the area and breathing new life into parts of the region. They are partially retired now spending time raising bees and propagating orchards on small ranches with satellite dishes for strong internet connections to the outside world they left behind.

And many who left often

never come back. Those few who do are reminded of why they left. Perspectives are the adapted callouses of the mind.






Waking to the aromas of a roasting turkey with sage, the house was filled with warmth, my memory from an early age. Spices filled the air like cinnamon and nutmeg for pies, visions of cakes and cookies for wide little eyes. ‘Twas a lasting memory of Thanksgiving Day, of family, of home, and hearth always.



In Memory if Karen Edwards 8/26/2018

If you were me, you'd see what I see.

It's the first Monday after the service

If I were you, I'd be different and new.

The first Monday we face without her

If I were you and you were me, you'd sadly, gladly take a knee.

The first Monday no hugs for the grandson On bended knee, The first Monday without her help for breakfast The first Monday without her taking dad to dialysis The first Monday we miss her, but not the last.


you'd pray for the day we'd all be free.





ALWAYS a FRESH CUT TREE at CHRISTMAS When we were at Grandmama’s knee She lived in a two room cabin, in the country. One great room, with one door in (the same door out). A kitchen room to the left, with one door in (the same door out). The great room had a fireplace; the kitchen had a wood stove. The walls were wood and plaster and filled with Love. There was no running water, just a pump. No refrigerator, just an ice box you see. At Christmas, always a fresh cut tree. Many cows and chickens AND hens from Guinea. At Christmas, always a fresh cut tree. For lights, oil lamps, no electricity But at Christmas, always a fresh cut tree.





Photo by Mike Zitz

DAVID ANTHONY SAM David Anthony Sam is a recognizable figure in the Fredericksburg area, most prominently for his role as Germanna Community College’s previous president, a career from which he retired in June of 2017. Nationally and in literary circles, Sam is also known as an experienced poet who has been writing seriously since his college years, specifically 1968 when he committed himself to writing and rewriting every day to learn the craft. Early in his writing life, Sam fell in love with the poetry of Dylan Thomas, and often tried to model his own writing after well-known classical poets. He saw his first work published in 1974 and continued submitting and having work accepted for publication in various literary journals throughout the 1980s. Sam remained committed to a dedicated writing routine until 1996 when he took a ten-year hiatus to work on a PhD and become dean at Jackson College in Michigan. After serving in increasingly responsible administrative positions at several colleges in Michigan and Florida, in 2007 he would become Germanna’s fifth president. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that Sam would return to publishing poetry, and since that time he hasn’t looked back. I chatted with Sam in December 2018 about process and dedication to the craft, as well as his advice for poets of all ages. 12

I imagine many writers hit a wall from time to time. With such a dedicated routine, were you disappointed when you stopped writing in the mid-90s?

It was a disappointment. There was this combination

of feeling like I was out of ideas or not as good as I wanted it to be, and also there was no magic happening as far as publications. I had about a 10% success rate, but I couldn’t get anyone to publish my collections.

I’m more patient about that now. I’ve gone through

a divorce, and then I married Linda and got an instant family. There were a lot of other things that were taking my attention – writing a dissertation takes a lot of energy. I was pursuing a doctoral degree in Higher Education – Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Labor/Industrial Relations. My BA and MA were in literature, but I didn’t want to study English for my PhD. The study of literature had gone off the deep end. It really wasn’t focusing on lit any more; it was focusing on criticism and post-structuralism, linguistics and politics, and I really was interested in close reading. Did you find your earlier study of literature informing your poetry of that time?

Yes, but I like to read everything - science, history, bi-

ography - and yes, it offered inspiration for my own writing. I wrote a poem inspired by Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain; I wrote a poem inspired by Stravinsky’s Right of Spring, that kind of thing.

Several things led that way. First of all, 9/11 happened.

That was the last time I talked to my dad, that afternoon. He was an Arab-American; he served in the navy, he was an American patriot. His brother was in the army; another brother was in Korea. He was so down about Arabs doing that to this country. It broke his heart. He’d already had literal heart disease, and about a month later he died.

Venus and Mars are visible in the same quadrant of sky. The moons of Jupiter are distant and I know them only by images from defunct space probes. Still, it is pleasant to sit here on the rocky verge, listening to voices far below on streets that walk themselves back home without my careful steps. Venus would be a villager sitting a charming ass on a bench and waiting for the false moon of the locomotive’s headlight. I know that green bench well. The busker with the worn guitar and a beard as red as an Irish brogue often sat there singing devils from darkness. Mars would be the fat storekeeper peddling slim profit in plastic bags

What led you to start writing again after your hiatus?

Cliffside Village

Of course, losing a parent, no matter what age, is

something we all go through if we live long enough. That was one thing that was on my mind. It got me back to writing in my

as he sights the setting sun, red like his two-column ledger’s end. Main Street boards itself up year-by-year, in an inevitability that you can admire in silence from up here on the edge of memory. Quiet homes, desperate passions. The madness of a woman gathering rose thorns in winter from a wooden flowerbox.

journal every day. I used my journal as a mourning tool by writing to him. He and I had had a problematic relationship, but the last 10 or 12 years we’d had a close relationship. I continued the journal after my mom died, writing to both of them.

after Rimbaud “‘Plates-bandes d’amarantes”

We moved to Florida and when I took a vice presiden-

cy at Pensacola State College, Alan Peterson was there as the head of the art department, but he was also a poet. Alan was recently a finalist for the National Book Critics Award in Poetry in 2015, and when we were at Pensacola together he knew I was a writer and poet. He was always agitating me: “When you going to get back to writing again?”


Dragon Teeth Mountains – Second Extract

Then, the final thing that motivated me back into writ-

ing was Hurricane Ivan, which hit in 2004. The kind of devastation you see with the latest big hurricane, Michael [2018], we had locally. Fifteen percent of people did not have habit-

high mountain

able homes, and some neighborhoods were as bad as Mexico

river of mist


roiling white river

steaming of

tate after losing them both quickly, but Ryan, my stepson, and

morning between

I were in the house when Ivan tried to remodel it for us. We

Linda was in Michigan taking care of her parents’ es-

almost lost the house. It was traumatic.

the black teeth

of the dragon

understand things, or figure out the meaning of things, or make

So, I would say a lot of reasons why I write is trying to

meaning out of things/find purpose. I started writing again with

mist river

an everyday routine and started submitting around 2010.

black teeth

smoke and light of morning

more businesslike about submitting for publication. I have as

As I neared retirement at Germanna, I became much

many as 100 submissions out at a time. I’m more careful about

black is the bite

recording rejections, noting whether they were encouraging

of dragon

or not, and resubmitting to them if they are.

here my eye

There’s a high level of dedication to that, especially when

here my blood

you have other jobs and daily responsibilities to take you

hear the river of mists

away from it.

the dragon’s breath

the dragon’s bite

lines or the first draft of a poem in my journal. On the weekend,

When I was working, if I did nothing else, I wrote a few

I would try to revise them and send work out. There’s just a

how mist slow moves

limited amount of time.

dissipates I tell my students all the time that most writers who are

how quick morning

trying to make a career out of it do establish routines.

how like hunger the teeth ache

That’s what I tell my students, too: you’ve got to have

a routine.

black silhouettes

slate sky

improve over the years as they’ve established those routines

Also, I’ve enjoyed watching some of my writer friends

clouds rising from earth

for themselves.

towards heaven

When I first began, and after about three years of

writing in college and establishing a routine, I would go back

how hard the rock

through my journals and rewrite. Sometimes, I would find one

dark that is the dragon’s

that really stood out as better than the others. I thought I must


have plagiarized it. It was just too good. I would go through all

how quick the breath

my textbooks and poetry books to see if I could find something similar, but I never could. It made me realize that learning

how the stone dragon

and developing as a writer can be like an “oops.” Something

hungers morning

would click, at times, and I would start writing at a whole other level.

craves my quick and mistful life

And with your journals you had a record of how you developed and changed over time.


Caesar Rages against his Fall Walking his cigar cloud through flowered lawns, the pale man dreams of his angry lusts, the dull eyes of his conquests blushing nothing when he had dressed them in his blackness. The Emperor of orgies blows his candle out with exhalations as delicate as an open wallet. “Freedom is a lost cause,” he sighs, “when lovers ask for justice after a stalwart rape.” Gaul is divided and his name is on silent teeth. His dead eyes hide themselves in walking dreams. An implacable regret bites with many blades. The weeping of his victims falls in the ashes of his Cuban, as he smiles the memories of unwilling legs parted by his calloused hands.

Photo by Mike Zitz

Right. I share some of my worst stuff with my students

and show them how I edited it over time.

written in that form, and since I assigned it to them, I started one too. I took them through the first one, and I showed them where I was struggling with the last two lines. I put up differ-

As a teacher, how has your own writing and poetry in-

ent versions of the lines and asked them what they thought

formed your teaching style?

I should do. In that way, they were actually helping me get a little energy too, because I recently finished what might be one

I may be old, but I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be

big collection or two small collections inspired by Rimbaud.

younger. I try to be a coach and to be encouraging while still

I’m kind of in a place where I’m out of energy. I’m still writing,

pushing. I’ll put a story or poem up on the screen, or work one-

but I don’t feel that juice. Working with my students on form

on-one with the student. I will make suggestions, but I always

helps replenish my own energy. It seems to shake the cobwebs

let them know it’s their poem and they have control. I encour-


age them to use their own ideas, images, words, and storylines to make it better.

I myself have found inspiration in conversations with people who have had traumatic or exceptional experiences in

Do they tend to trust you?

life. One that comes to mind is a conversation I had with my mother’s neighbor, a WWII veteran, who shared stories

Yeah, at this point they do. They’re starting to help

of his life with his wife before, during and after the war. It

teach the class. I can ask them what they think they need and

inspired me to begin a novel written in verse about such

they’ll be able to tell me.

a character. Do you find yourself inspired by the lives of

others, or are your poems mostly personal in nature?

I believe you should know the forms of poetry. It’s fine

if you want to write free verse, but free from what? A lot of the bad free verse that I see seems to be bad prose. I think you

should learn how to do the craft – learn the use of imagery,

poem is about me, I’ll turn myself into a character and write in

learn the use of the music of the language, whether it’s rhyme

the 3rd person. If I am inspired by someone else’s story, espe-

or assonance or alliteration, and then you can mix it up.

cially if it is someone who doesn’t feel they have a voice, I’ll try

to put myself in their place for the poem in first-person.

So, one of the assignments that I do with them is to

I’m not big on poetry as solipsism. Many times, if a

assign a sonnet, which is tough, and I tell them to just try to get the form. I wanted to get out of the European tradition, so I

That’s where the teaching of poetry can be a integral tool

assigned a ghazal, which is Persian/Arabic. Well, I’ve never

for teaching empathy.


Right. This is an age when we need some empathy. It’s

men, and then she escaped back to Africa. It wasn’t totally a

hard to be angry with people when you can empathize with

happy ending, because she was still in the sex trade, but she

them, and it’s easy to turn them into objects when you don’t

had more control when she went home because it was her

have empathy.

choice, if you want to call that a choice. I wrote two poems in

her voice.

I think art, especially literature, opens you up to other

people. Some people see that as dangerous because when

People tell me I’m ambitious, but I decided to update

you open yourself up you’re going to change. People are

Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. What if he was

threatened by that.

alive today and wrote that collection? Using this woman’s sto-

I love Browning’s dramatic monologues. Early in my

ry, I’ve updated his “Little Girl Lost” and “Little Girl Found.”

career, I wrote a poem sequence of four different charac-

Those haven’t been published yet. I haven’t had anyone from

ters, one of which was a woman. It was kind of a love story

the sex trade read them, but they aren’t exploitative. Someone

sequence - boy meets girl, boy loses girl. I struggled with the

might be offended by them, but if you’re effective in your art

woman’s part because I wasn’t female. A fellow student and

there’s a greater risk that someone will be offended. I would

friend of mine had just broken up with her boyfriend and had

rather, as the phrase goes, afflict the rich and powerful and

come to me for commiseration. I listened. I wrote the female

give power to those afflicted. The question is are you asking

character based on what I’d heard. I shared it with her and was

for people to be offended because you’re clumsy or arrogant

surprised when she asked, “How’d you do that,” meaning I was

about it?

able to capture what it felt like for her.

In that same sequence, one of the characters who

That does sound ambitious and a little tricky to set the

evolves the most, the one you hear from several times – I

right tone. What’s on horizon for your writing? More jour-

won’t say he’s closest to me, but sort of – has a line in the end,

nals? Another book?

“A man who is a man is a woman.” I called that character Tire-


sias. There’s the legend of Tiresias, a man who is punished and

turned into a woman, then turned back into a man. Because he

not very well. Someone defined poetry as that which can’t be

I’m polishing up that Rimbaud. I can read French, but

was both a man and a woman, he gains the ability to foresee

translated. So, between the two, when I read Rimbaud in the

the future. It’s kind of a Taoist message: we all contain the

French, I’m not sure how much I’m really getting of the poetry.

masculine and feminine principles, and if you can be more in

I decided to use that weakness as a strength. Instead of trying

active harmony with both you will see more.

to simply translate Rimbaud, I’m writing poems inspired by or

Going back to what you were saying about your moth-

after those poems. In some cases, my poems use his imagery,

er’s neighbor, over my life I’ve written poems that are either

or the story or lyric is fairly close to what I’m able to get out of

dramatic monologues or third person about veterans, starting

the original. In other cases, it’s very different from the original

with a friend I met after he’d served in Vietnam. There’s a jour-

or even quite opposite from the original.

nal called The Deadly Writer’s Patrol, which is both an online

and print journal for and about veterans, active duty military,

off to get into smuggling. There’s not record of him writing

and their families. You don’t have to be one of those to sub-

again. He is considered a genius, but like a lot of young men at

mit, but that’s the subject, so I submitted and they published

the time he was misogynistic. In one of the poems that I used,

three of mine. Before I sent them, I had a guy I know who’s a

he seems anti-woman and is complaining about why women

colonial on active duty in Kuwait read them. He’s twice been in

didn’t love him. I turned it into a poem inspired by the mod-

combat. He said they were spot on.

ern stories of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein called, “Caesar

You want to be respectful of someone else’s experi-

Rages against His Fall.” It’s from the point of view of this sexual

ence, yet there is a certain amount of appropriation involved.

and power abuser, but mocks him and his arrogance. The form

People are wary of that word today, but when you write you

is somewhat reflective of a sonnet. So, that’s something I’m

have to appropriate other people’s lives, words, and expe-

trying to wrap up right now.

riences. Unless you’re only going to write about yourself –

which means if you’re writing a novel every character is you

which of those will go. At night, I’ve been going back to Chi-

– it’s not going to work. The trick is to do that respectfully and

nese poetry in translation and writing more imagistic poems

with feedback from people who have had those experiences.

inspired by what I’m reading there.

In some cases, it’s our duty, if we have the craft and

Rimbaud quit writing at the age of 21 or 22 and went

Then I have ideas and ideas and ideas, and I’m not sure

As far as publications, Prolific Press in Pennsylvania

ability to write well, to give voice to the voiceless. For instance,

just published a chapbook about my mother’s passing. I’m on

I had read about this young African woman who had been traf-

the board of the Virginia Poetry Society and have joined the

ficked in Italy. She was beaten by her madam and used by men

local chapter of the Virginia Writers, Riverside Writers.

You currently teach creative writing for Germanna. Do

Jane Hirshfield who said if you’re not being rejected around

you have advice for students and new writers?

90 percent of the time then you’re not trying hard enough. Getting rejected is part of the process. Right now, I have about

I tell my students that the only thing I know for sure

a 13 percent success rate. I’ve not had a lot of luck getting

is that if you read a lot, write a lot, and rewrite a lot, you’ll get

collections published. My chapbook, Poems After Dickinson,

better. I am as insecure as any other artist at times. T.S. Elliott

won a grand prize by a little publisher out of Florida that is now

supposedly said he has two great fears: one, he’d never written

out of business.

anything worthwhile; two, if he has, he never would again. So, we all want to hear someone say to us that we’re great, but

Publishing, in general, is changing.

even if they do, are they right? You’ll never know, and what does it mean anyway?

The print-on-demand, self-publishing, is changing.

Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass the first time. You have to want to do it for yourself.

Wordsworth and Coleridge had to get subscriptions to be able to publish their early work with a publisher.

You have to want to do it for yourself, but I don’t be-

There’s still a pecking order. The vanity press is at the

lieve you write just for yourself. You always write for an audi-

bottom. Self-publishing is a little better than vanity press. Then

ence. Even if the audience is yourself ten years from now. So,

there are the publishers who are seen as too easy to get into,

read all sorts of stuff – prose if you’re doing prose; poetry if

then the more elite, and then the elitist presses.

you’re a poet – read forms you don’t like, and then see what

you can learn from them. Then write a lot and rewrite a lot.

ward publication. I still get down when I get six rejections in a


It does help to have sympathetic critics, that is people

I’ve tried to be more business-like in my attitude to-

who will not just say, “it’s okay,” or “I don’t like it,” but who will

Essentially, there are two kinds of envy – good envy and bad

supportively push you to be better. That’s true always. I have

envy. Bad envy is where you see something being published

a friend in Michigan I’ve known since college. He’s really good

that is awful and you wish ill of the publisher and the writer be-

at pushing and pushing, then he’ll say, “Well, that’s a 98 percen-

cause how could it be so bad and get published but they didn’t

ter,” and I have to go back and see if I can get to 100 percent

want yours. Good envy is where you see something getting

in his judgment. That’s the kind of support you need.

published and you say, “Wow, I wish I could write like that.” It then encourages you to be better.

And what about advice for people who have been writing and are losing steam?

Life events certainly cause me to go back. Sometimes

you do need to take a rest. It’s okay. Ten years was too long for me, probably. Sometimes you just have to be inspired by what happens in life. The other thing is that I think that I’m a better writer now than I was when I was younger. Can you see your life experience in those improvements?

Life experience, but also language experience over

time. I still occasionally will write something and rewrite it, send it off to Pat or somebody and feel “eh.” The next day I’ll look at it and will be surprised, thinking it is much better than I originally thought. You just have to persist.

As far as submitting for publication, eventually, you

can get published. If you have read the stuff that’s out there – I don’t know how some of it gets published. You also want to challenge yourself. I submit to the journals that have less than a one percent acceptance rate – those supposedly elite journals associated with university MFA programs or Poetry Magazine, where I’ll probably never be published. I think it was Jane


In terms of building a reputation through publication,

Even recently, the new president of Germanna asked me to

why do I want a reputation? Ego? Sure, but that’s not really

write an inauguration poem and read it at her inauguration.

helpful. My wife is often saying, “OK, you’re envious of that,

That’s a different kind of poetry. I went back and read Maya

but do you really want to write that way? Is that what you want

Angelou’s poem for Clinton and the two more recent ones

to write? No? Then get over it; move on.”

that Obama had, and I wrote about the mission of the college

I spent years in business; I spent years in higher edu-

and the place in history and geography and in people’s lives. I

cation and was often involved in marketing and sales. Even as

was in the adjunct office the Tuesday after that Friday event,

a university president I was selling the college’s reputation to

and a technician that I’m acquainted with made a point to stop

get donors. When I taught English, I was selling English to the

in my office and say the poem brought him to tears. Wow. If

students; I was trying to persuade them that they need this.

what you’ve written can touch people like that, that’s the big-

There’s nothing bad about being a sales person. There’s some-

gest pay check right there.

thing bad about being an unethical sales person. I try to look at it as I want to be read. I want my stuff

Sam’s most recent accomplishment comes in the

to be read, and I don’t want it to be just the few people I know.

form of accolades from Poetry Quarterly which an-

So, I need a reputation to be able to have my work be more

nounced this week that he is a winner of the 2018

widespread, so that there’s a chance that more people will

Rebecca Lard Award.

read it. When I win an award or get a publication, it’s somewhat satisfying, but when I’ve had someone come to me and say, “I

Visit to learn more

bought this book of yours and it helped me through a rough

about one of the Fredericksburg region’s most pro-

part of my life.” That’s impact.

lific poets.

Photo by Mike Zitz



Inquisitions In this age of outrage, we all look for some misreading to betray ourselves against the others we condemn. The preacher burns chapters so he can have enough ashes to mark every Cain he is able to rewrite. The leader of the free whirls himself invectives keen enough to vacate the bill laden with last rights. Neighbors call 911 to report the dark presences of their own betrayals to thoughtless constabularies. Our ghosts write posts on antisocial media, friending our duplicated selves into an abandoned corner. I hide behind the last tree in the shadow of a book to be written from disgust and the fallacies of hopelessness. Please feel free to join me here in this vacancy, where every eye sees through broken mirrors of lost faith.

Exile in Fragments Each morning he wakes to his stopped breath scented with lost bazaars Dirty puddles mirror him with reflections of his rejected narrative The dust of wars buries his mother and father, his brother God’s patriot His lover is lost in a marriage announcement and a desert kiss Today is her birthday and so he repents his atonement too late He turned to exile so he could remain a man but lost his biography So he dances with grief as his partner to music sensible only in dreams His only refuge is smoke and the charity of a sparrow on a bare sidewalk



Cameron Limbrick’s work is visionary, a fusion of sacred geometry and vibrant, earthy colors. He returned to painting in 2012 after many years of immersing himself in digital recording and website design. Ever the entrepreneur, Limbrick has now returned to his roots as a visual artist. Limbrick says, “I returned to painting six years ago after many years away from it, and it took several years for me to figure out what the hell I was doing. Once I found my flow, my subconscious mind was cracked open, which made it a difficult experience for several years. I had dreams. I felt like I had opened this dam of repressed psychological issues. You can see it in the paintings.” Today, Limbrick says he feels more organized, like a great weight has been lifted. His most recent exploration deals with the use of gravity while painting. He adds, “I’ve learned a lot from the way it works on the paint and canvas. It’s also taught me about letting go, of moving my body to allow the gravity to work. It’s freed my work and moved it toward the abstract.” Limbrick says, “I am so enamored with the abstract right now, but I also love the figures that emerge from my dream-inspired paintings. I get lost in little details. I see people looking at them and I want to tell them that they have to spend some time with the paintings. It’s like going for a hike in the mountains and sitting down to look over the valley. If you sit for ten minutes all these small features start popping out.” He adds, “If I was stranded on a desert island and I could only choose one of my paintings to have with me, I’d choose an abstract. They seem to be more alive. Their images change and shift in my mind. I lose myself in it. Once you have a figure, it’s like boom! There it is. It’s a bird.” Daily practice with color and technique has taught Limbrick to be patient with himself and his materials. He says, “After playing around with all the colors, I started to hone in on the ones that made me feel something. I mix the colors right on the canvas. If you work on something for so many hours, you’re going to get really good at it. You’ll learn, for instance, how the tone changes in the colors as they dry.” Though Limbrick’s current passion is with the abstract, he does try to leave his audience clues in titles, colors, and patterns. He says, “It really depends whether you want your audience to have context, or whether you want to give them the freedom to roam around and figure things out. And here’s the thing: sometimes, the question is where am I going? I’m trying to go somewhere I’ve never been.” Presently, Limbrick is researching national and international galleries to welcome his work. Visit to view more and experience the multi-media aspects of Cameron Limbrick’s creative world.
















​​​​​I. Give me two fists. You give me two fists and I’ll show you the size of your brain—the spoiled, demanding and precocious child of our organ family. Train her, medicate her, even try to forget about her—she’s still calling the shots. ​​​​​II. Beneath my patient’s scalp is blood, and beneath that is his vault. The human skull is a rock-solid chamber. This morning we use a diamond-tipped drill, whittling our way in until it finally opens with a high whine. I step through a cloud of boney dust into the sanctuary. No need for me to knock. ​​​​​ III. I’m among the few with keys to this castle. Ours is a specialty reserved for the feverishly obsessive—those with attention to detail at an atomic level. The kind of people you’ll invite upstairs, but don’t want to live with. ​​​​​IV. He’s got a lesion on his parietal lobe. I’ll need to take a trip through the Broca area. It’s a direct route, but we hit some traffic. To my right is a deep impression in the middle of his gyrus—the seat of his Hebrew. Just below that is a slight curve in the lateral fissure—the resting place of his Bronx accent. We’re deep in the frontal lobe now—a treasure trove of dopamine, dendrites, and divergent thought. ​​​​​V. The man’s wet, gleaming walnut lump pulsates. Blood pools and gets slurped away as I cleave through that tissue without a lick of anesthesia. The Master stands above any pain your body bows to.


​​​​​VI. A neurosurgeon’s perpetual temptation is to remove the entire tumor. It’s understandable. We’ve got the power to evict all of that feculent sludge. But if we go too far, we lose too much. Expertise is knowing when to stop—and that’s only acquired from jaw-dropping mistakes. ​​​​​VII. My index finger gingerly probes a cavern in his cerebellum. I’m inside a crumpled-up piece of paper and giving every fold a pat-down. This could take all day. Carcinomas who live in this exclusive neighborhood are well-fed, deep-rooted, and diabolical. They’re also indistinguishable by the naked eye. But their texture always gives them away—something between a rubbery scallop and a packing peanut—worlds apart from the spongy sheen they plunder. ​​​​​VIII. I’ve now removed a mass the size of a tennis ball from this man’s cranium. But it doesn’t warrant an end-zone dance, and I’m not giving anyone a high-five, either. We’ve only clipped the legs of a beast. I don’t save lives. I just keep the wolf from the door. ​​​​​IX. The credits are rolling, but I’m not leaving this theatre just yet. Stitching him up is slow-going, because neatness counts here. A crown must never be manhandled. The best surgeons know this and leave absolutely no trace of their handiwork. ​​​​​X. The patient will be up and at ‘em tomorrow. He’ll mount his sailboat, wearing a Red Sox cap and a wide grin whenever his granddaughters’ within ear-shot. He’ll give her some candy—pressing it into her palm like a dealer on Willy Wonka’s payroll. She’ll return to her mother, sun-dried and gleeful—clasping a yo-yo or Rubik’s cube. Because no one likes walking home empty-handed.


BRUCE ARLEN WASSERMAN As a potter, I am fascinated by the ability of clay to flow and form from a lifeless lump to a vantage point in a microcosmic world. All this happens as the potter’s wheel spins quietly and my fingers press, compress, expand and deform clay into shapes reflecting an ultimate purpose. Each line and every deformation of the clay body expresses some meaning. The piece as a whole has a synergy that invites a viewer to participate. A cup becomes more than just an object of utility—it reaches out as a personal expression.


I design my objects to enhance the experience of the end user, expressing potential that clay can continue to fulfill its purpose in informing the day. A routine act—sipping tea—becomes a tea ceremony, a venue that would otherwise be missed in life’s hustle, inviting a quietness and the potential for reflection which has been lost in our sea of mass-produced sameness. Because my creative training and experience has been multifaceted, I find myself drawing from the reservoir of poetry and my life experience in working iron and wood, correlating a continued exploration of language and utility, esoteric form and daily function.


PHRENOLOGY | IVIE VAN LENT I push my fingers back along the side of my head in a pause in a roaming thought that inflates inside the brain. My fingers move slowly through a tangle of grease and flakes of skin, that bury beneath my fingernails. My fingers knot In the weaves Of my unkempt hair, Like soldiers in Vietnam, Dredging Through Jungle vines, Waiting For each new trap. I pull my hair tighter, Picturing the sting of sharp Branches, Slicing the skin, And the thick coating Of water and sweat, Which starts at your feet, Filling your boots, Then wraps its way up Around your legs, Slithers up your stinging flesh, Until it has twisted its way along your skull, Reaching long tendrils into the corners of Your eyes. And drips, like black tar, Into your lungs. My hand feels its way around my scalp, Like a phrenologist, Testing the bumps on my head To see if I’m good or bad, Kind Or selfish.

I picture my grandfather in the war, And wonder what kind of soldier he was.


What did he see? What did he feel? What did he do? I realize that I know nothing of war. Nothing, but the splintered bullet My grandmother kept lodged in resin, Which was once lodged In my grandfather’s bones. I realize that I know nothing of my grandfather. Nothing, but the smell of tweed, As I nuzzled him in church, and I Reached Greedy hands into his pockets For the tootsie rolls he kept hidden there. They were for all of us, but In my mind They were for me and only me

And he was mine And only mine. I remember his bald head The skin Taut, then compiled Along the crest of his skull. The misshapen lumps, Drawn together in a rough Line of cold staples, Where they had sliced him open And taken the cancer from his brain. I remember the odd noises he made, Nonsensical groans, Like Frankenstein’s creature Reborn. I sat on his lap, And ran My hands Over his head. At times timid, And Excited. Trying to figure out what sort of person he was.




The underpass to the train station is where I meet him. He sits on top of an old stained mattress. He’s dressed

in many layers, as many as he could find; hands tucked beneath his shirts, head between his knees. Greasy long hair and unshaved beard coarsen his once kind face. I falter. A moment I’ve practiced many times. I reach him, and I’m greeted by the pungent smell of urine. It’s been a while and I’m sure nothing can suffice, but a mushroom-cheese pie and a few pounds is all I can do. As I extract the coins from my pocket, I notice my maroon and white blanket, unraveled, almost ready to slide off his left shoulder.

I place the pie on the floor besides his paper coffee cup which rattles with pleasure with the addition of my

coins. The sound revives him. He shifts his head and looks at me. The smell gets stronger. He smiles in return. I wait for a sign. He lowers his head to his knees again, expecting me to leave. I don’t. I stand next to a pile of wrappers, rotting food still inside, rustling for a moment. Before I could stop, I blurt out some stupid words.

‘How are you?’

He moves his heads towards me again, his eyes trying to focus. Then tilts it up to watch the sky. A few discon-

nected stares left and right, before his eyes rest on me, as if he just realized I’m there. His mouth opens and closes, but words refuse to come out. Is he angry? He has a right to be. He seems confounded.

‘This blanket used to be mine.’

He doesn’t respond.

Our oldest relic. Our sail through the seven seas, the rooftop of our science lab, the flag that waved our wars,

our secret island of Dr. Moreau, our bank, our market. The canvas on which we drew most summer days.

My feet still don’t make a move. After all those years, all I could think was how come he isn’t at the underpass

every day. So, I ask. The question seems to bring him back from an oblivion.

‘What day is it today?’

‘It’s Wednesday’

‘Monday, Wednesday and Friday are mine. The others are fucking Frank’s.’

I fail to understand what he means with that. He explains that he and Frank share this spot. That they had fought

about it. Frank even burned his mattress. So, they switch. He has to play by the rules. Abide or be knifed.

All kind of questions pour from my mouth. I apologize. He says he doesn’t mind. He peers at me now. I feel his

invasive eyes on mine again. I ask about the blanket, if it’s warm enough for the winter and whether he has ever thought of going to a shelter. He prefers the streets. They’re safer. Shelters are shitholes. They shoot up there. He tries to avoid them. His friend Amanda overdosed there.

‘They’ve forgotten us!’ he says, a bitter smile across his face.

His statement hits my chest with force.

‘That’s what they all do. Family, friends look at us in disgust and avoid us, afraid we might touch them and

spread the homeless germs. Until one day we cease to exist for them’

I want to say otherwise, tell him that that’s not true. Only I know it is. He had become a bank clerk. He lost his job five years ago due to the recession, tried to find another, run out

of money, moved in with a friend. They fought, and he left. He spent a few months in different shelters until he ended up here.

I ask about the nights.

‘The nights? The cold is worse. It’s crazy. Shit happens. Last week a drunk asshole saw me sleeping and started

kicking me. He laughed. He thought it was funny!’

He says he’s tired. I glance at my watch, see that it’s past midnight. He slithers into his ripped sleeping bag,

safeguarding the pie inside. His face lies exposed, touching the pavement. I walk away only to turn around and look at him again. A tear runs down my face, while a rat lurking in the wrappers dashes an inch from his and into the bag for the cheesy treasure.



THE GENE POOL SERIES The contemporary abstract style of this body of work combines my love of color and detail in a very personal form of creativity. Called “The Gene Pool Series,� these pieces are meant to suggest arteries, cells, atoms, the connection of blood and vessels in a molecular setting or even planetary bodies in an imaginary universe. In a global sense, the series portrays connectedness, cellular inter-dependence and cohesiveness, and universal inclusiveness.










On Saturdays, Ma puts a slice of cherry pie in a tobacco tin for me to carry out to the stream. It's

usually wrapped in white butcher paper, which is stained red with cherry filling by the time I get to the pie. It always looks like there's been a small killing inside the tobacco tin, with blood everywhere, but I don't mind. The cherry pie is delicious.

It's just me and Ma now. We used to be a big family, before the Great War and the Spanish Flu. Back

in '16, I was the middle child of nine, and had both a Ma and a Pa. But then the War came, taking Arthur, Harry, and Tristan. After that, in '18, the Flu came, taking everyone else but me and Ma.

I'm nineteen now, old enough to be married off, but Ma doesn't want to be alone. So, I stay with her

to keep her company. Besides, I have no interest in being married off to anyone. There are no young men in Marysville who pique my interest-all of the good ones went off to the War and never came back.

I spend much of my free time writing, that's why I go down to the stream with my tobacco tin

of cherry pie. I bring a notebook and some old grey pencils, too. I write stories, mostly, stories about my brothers and sisters and the things we used to do. But also, other stories-stories I make up about life beyond Marysville, stories from my imagination.

I was writing one of these imagination - stories when Denton showed up.

The day was hot, but the grass was cool on my bare feet as I sat on the streambank. Dragonflies

were doing their little dip-and-dance above the water, and grasshoppers were humming nearby. The smell of the grass was fresh and crisp, and the riot of wildflowers surrounding me lent a soft mixture of perfumes to the summer air.

I was writing about Paris. I'd never been to Paris. I only knew about Paris from a bent and faded post-

card Ma had tucked into the mirror above her bureau - a black and white photograph of Cafe Julien on the Champs-Elysees. But I was writing about it anyway. It seemed like a good place for a story.

Denton sat down beside me, scaring the daylights out of me.

"Whatcha doin'?" he said. I stared at him. He wasn't a particularly big man, but he was imposing. Mostly because of the scar on

his face. It was red and angry, running from his right temple, across his cheek, past the corner of his lips, and down to his chin.

I leaned away, out of sheer animal instinct.

He smiled, which shifted the scar from a straight line into a frightful "C" shape.

"Um, writing a story," I said.

"I'm a writer, too," he said. He stuck out his hand. "Denton James."

I lifted a tentative hand and offered it to him. He clasped my fingers and shook my hand gently.

"And who might you be?" he said.

"Grace," I said. "Grace Malloy."

Denton smiled again and released my hand. He turned his gaze to the stream, where the dragonflies

were still diving and dancing and the surface of the stream was broken every now and then by the probing mouth of a trout in search of a meal.

"You chose a good place to write," Denton said. "It's good. You just need to watch out for water moccasins," I said.

Denton nodded. A breeze swept in, lifting the fringes of his brown hair. His hair was short in back and longer in front,

the way my brother Tristan’s had been. They looked about the same age, too, maybe mid-twenties.

“Are you from Marysville?” I said. I thought maybe he had known Tristan.

Denton shook his head, still looking at the stream. “No, ma’am. Not from around here. Just here work-

ing at the Ford place for the summer.”

Like Ma, Mimi Ford had lost three sons to the War. Two in combat in the trenches and one to the Flu

in a field hospital in France. She had a whole farm to run and would need help.


"But you said you were a writer," I said.

Denton looked at me. "I am. I write stories and poetry."

“What do you write about?" I said.

He shrugged. “My experiences,” he said. “And this.” He ran his hand along the right side of his face,

following the path of his scar.

I didn’t know if this was an invitation to ask about the scar or not, so I stayed silent. I was raised not

to ask people about their unfortunate circumstances Ma would have been horrified if I’d asked.

Denton reached into the front pocket of his overalls and pulled out a battered little black notebook.

He handed it to me.

“Some of my poetry,” he said.

I looked down at the notebook. It was dusty and dog-eared. It smelled of cracked corn. Mimi Ford

must have chickens.

“You just hand this out to people? People you only just met?” I said.

“Well,” he said, smiling, “I want to be published one day, don’t I? It helps to have practice audiences.”

He nodded his head. “Go ahead. Read some of it.”

I flipped open the notebook. The first page was smudged, but clearly read: If found, please return to

Sergeant Denton F. James, Company B, 311th Infantry, 78th Division, AEF.

I looked up. Denton was watching me.

“My older brothers,” I said. “They were killed in the War.”

“A lot of brothers were,” Denton said.

I looked down at the notebook again and began flipping through pages. There was writing, in Den-

ton’s small, neat script, but there were also illustrations-penciled drawings of men in uniforms and men carrying rifles, and one of a man who looked like he was sleeping.

“That’s Wheezer,” Denton said, dropping his finger onto the page. “I drew that when he was waiting

for the medics to carry him out. He didn’t make it.”

I nodded. There didn’t seem to be any other proper response.

I flipped through a few more pages and stopped at a beautifully-drawn portrait of a horse.

“Kinsey,” Denton said.

The horse was elegant, with a smoothly curving neck and a smallish head-which told me from my lim-

ited knowledge that it had Arabian blood. Denton, with just a pencil, had managed to capture the sheen of the horse’s coat, the taut muscles of its shoulders, and the soft gentleness of its eyes.

I looked at the facing page and began to read:

They shot our last horse as the sun went down,

Not worrying a bit that our souls would drown.

Kinsey’s life before the war was gentle, kind;

After, one would hope that horse’d be blind.

For all the things that horse did see,

Gas and bayonets and blood running free,

I suppose we must decide it’s best

That the dear horse Kinsey has met his rest.

I looked at Denton. “Is this true?”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

“They shot a horse?”

“He was better off,” Denton said. “An animal shouldn’t have seen all that. Animals don’t understand

cruelty the way humans do.”

I had always been taught it was the other way around-animals are cruel, and humans are decent. Kinsey

being shot by the Germans certainly turned that theory around on me.


I closed the notebook and handed it back to Denton. "Very nice," I said. Although I knew those weren't

quite the right words.

Denton smiled slightly, as if he was used to hearing not quite the right words.

"Would you like some cherry pie?" I said. More by way of an apology than anything else.

His hazel eyes lit up. "That would be dandy."

I picked up my tobacco tin and unlatched it. I lifted the lid and inside, as usual, were the bloodstains on

the butcher paper. Only this time, after reading about Kinsey, they looked real.

I passed the tin over to Denton. "You eat it. I'm not hungry."

Denton grinned. "Are you sure? I mean, it wouldn't be gentlemanly of me to eat in front of a hungry


"No, you go ahead. My Ma makes five pies a week." I was pretty sure I wouldn't be eating any more of

Ma's cherry pie. Apple, maybe. But not cherry.

Denton pulled out the stain-soaked butcher paper and unwrapped it. Red filling oozed over his fingers.

It looked like he had been shot in the hand. I turned away.

"Where did you fight?" I said.

I didn't really know why I asked. Despite losing three brothers, I knew very little about the War. Only the

major battles.

Denton was silent for a moment, and I thought perhaps I had asked the wrong question. I looked over

at him, and saw his mouth was full.

He swallowed and smiled. "We were the point of the wedge," he said.

"The point of the what?"

"The wedge." He put the tobacco tin down in the grass and made a V-shape with his

cherry-covered hands. "We were the point. The tip. Everyone else came in after us. We fought at Lorraine, Saint Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne."

My stomach tightened as I thought of Tristan.

"My brother died in the Argonne Offensive," I said.

"What unit was he with?"

"I don't know. My Ma would know."

"That's where Kinsey died. In the Argonne Offensive. Outside Verdun."

Somehow, the sadness over a dead horse combined with my still unresolved grief for Tristan, and I felt tears threatening. I blinked heavily and swallowed.

I needed to change the subject. I didn’t want to talk about Kinsey again. Or Tristan.

“What happened to your face?” I said.

Denton chuckled. “I was wondering how long it would take.”

I blushed. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“No, it’s fine.”

Denton closed the lid on the tobacco tin and wiped his hands in the grass. I watched his fingers as they

moved through the green blades, leaving droplets of red cherry juice for the birds or some lucky raccoon. When he was finished, Denton’s hands were still stained blood-red.

No. No more cherry pie for me.

Denton stretched his legs out in front of him, his scuffed work boots sending up dust motes into a

shaft of afternoon sun that reached between the elms. He wiped his hands one more time, on the thighs of his overalls, and then looked at me.

“Bayonet,” he said.

“Bayonet.” I repeated.

“When they shot Kinsey, I went a little mad,” he said. “I grabbed my rifle and slogged my way through

No Man’s Land. A Kraut stopped me and slashed me across the face with his bayonet. I still don’t know why he didn’t shoot me.” He paused. “They’d shoot a horse, but not a soldier. Barbaric. At least the soldier can fight back.”

“Do you wish he’d shot you?” I wanted the words back as soon as they were out of my mouth.

Denton smiled a small, pained smile. “Sometimes,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I had never come back.”


"But, surely, your family..."

He smiled again and met my gaze. "You think my family wants me around looking like this? No. I'm

better off traveling. Working where I can get it. Writing when I can."

"Sounds lonely."

"It is. And it was probably lonely for Kinsey, too. 'The last horse in France,' we used to call him. Can you

imagine being the only one of your species in an entire country? That's a lonely life."

"You wrote in your poem that it was probably for the best. That he died."


"Do you really believe that?"

"I think it was best for us," he said. "We worried about him. About what he saw. He wasn't eating much

by then. We thought he was sad, despondent. But we would have rather put him down out of mercy than have the Krauts kill him."

"Why did you even have a horse at all?" I said.

"He was a left over from the cavalry units," Denton said. "At the beginning of the War, there were thou-

sands of horses in France. But they were all killed. You can't put a horse up against artillery. It doesn't stand a chance. Kinsey was the last of his kind."

"Good," I said, with more vehemence than was perhaps necessary.

Denton laughed. "I agree."

We were silent for a while. The stream whispered by, taking with it the occasional emerald leaf or blade

of grass. The dragonflies danced. The grasshoppers hummed.

"What was his name?" Denton said softly.

"Whose name?"

"Your brother. The one who died in the Argonne."


Denton smiled. "Like Tristan and Isolde?"

"Right Tristan, wrong story. Tristan from Le Morte d'Arthur. I had a brother named Arthur, too. My Pa

was a big reader."

"You had a brother named Arthur."

"Yes. He died, too." "Where did he die?"

"I don't know."

And I didn't. Ma hadn't told me about any big battle where Arthur had died. He had just been killed.

Somewhere in France. We only knew Tristan had died in the Argonne Offensive because the telegram had said so.

"Were you close?" Denton said.

"To Tristan, yes."

Yes, we were close. Tristan had been my best friend. We were four years apart, but closer than two

peas in a pod, as my Pa used to say. As a kid, I'd followed Tristan everywhere. He taught me to fish, to catch frogs, and to lie flat in the grass and watch the clouds sail by.

"So, we both lost someone we loved in the Argonne," Denton said.

"I guess we did."

"I'm not saying a horse is the same as a person..."

"I know. I know what you mean," I said.

"Do you write about him? Your brother?"


'Never' would have been the honest answer. I couldn't write about Tristan. It was too painful. I had tried.

I had put pencil to paper, started with a word or his name, but when it came time to write a full sentence about my brother-describe him in any sort of detail or with any strength of emotion-I faltered. He was still too real to me, too alive in my heart. I couldn’t bear to write about him in the past tense. Then, he’d really be dead.


“It helps, doesn’t it?” Denton said.

He'd picked a cardinal flower nearly the length of my arm. Its petals, like the cherry pie filling, were


"Yes," I lied.

"When you write about them-the dead-you bring them back, in a way," Denton said.

I wasn't so sure of that. I certainly hadn't been able to bring back my other siblings by writing about

them. I hadn't brought back my Pa. No matter how much I wrote, it was still just me and Ma rattling around in the old white farmhouse down the road. Everyone else was still dead.

"Well, Miss Grace Malloy, it has been a pleasure," Denton said. He handed me the little tobacco tin and

smiled. "But I must get back to Mrs. Ford's place. There's afternoon chores to be done."

I took the tin. Blood-red cherry filling dripped down the side onto my thumb.

"And tell your Ma thanks for the pie," he said. "Best pie I've ever had."

"I will."

"Keep writing," he said, hoisting himself to his feet. "Tell about Tristan. Keep him alive."

I nodded.

He leaned down and handed me the cardinal flower. "Madam."

"Thank you."

"See you around," he said, smiling.

And then he was off, wading through the wildflowers and high grass back to the dirt road that led, in

one direction, to the Ford place, and in the other direction, to Ma's place.

I looked down at the enormous flower Denton had given me. It was wildly outsized as a gift for a girl,

and I didn't think he meant it to be romantic anyway.

A dragonfly, its wings azure-blue, landed lightly on one of the petals. It lifted a delicate front leg, wip-

ing at its oversized eye and then settled back, wings relaxed against its slender grey body.

I remembered Pa telling me that in some countries in the Orient, dragonflies represented bravery. Pa

always knew things like that.

Bravery was something I associated with my brother Tristan.

He was brave in the way he dealt with being drafted for the War-Ma cried, and Tristan soothed her,

telling her everything would be alright. He would be gone for a bit, he said, he would learn a whole lot, and then he would come home. He never seemed scared, not even when we put him on the train to St. Louis. He just smiled and waved at us, as if the world was his oyster.

I still remembered that moment-that last glimpse. Tristan hanging out of the train door, the front of

his red-blond hair waving in the breeze as he lifted a hand in farewell. It had just been me and Ma and Pa who had seen him off. Pa had borrowed Mimi Ford's Model T, and only four people could fit. Tristan had picked me, among all of his siblings, to see him off at the station.

The dragonfly twitched its wings, shimmering like the bluest sapphire in the fading light of the late

afternoon sun. I thought of how Tristan would have loved this dragonfly-of how he would have gladly stared at it for hours, taking in every tiny limb, every delicate strand of grey webbing on its azure wings.

The breeze picked up, and the dragonfly was off, flitting out over the stream. I watched it for a long

moment, and then turned to my notebook.

I picked up a pencil.

Tristan Malloy, I wrote, was my brother and my best friend.

He died in the Argonne Offensive. I miss him. Very much.


M I R I N D A R E Y N O L D S 42

Photo by Barrett Reynolds

Reynold’s begins:

Mirinda Reynolds has fed her art-

Teaching was a destiny. I grew up in a small conservative town, the oldest of four girls. Teaching seemed like a natural, safe choice – a predictable choice. It enabled me to have a family, something I truly cherish, and it was the right thing to do at the time. After several years I realized something huge is missing. I’m an artist, and education alone was not satisfying that. I started getting involved with the art community here in Fredericksburg. For the past ten years, I’ve gone from having studios at different locations, painting on canvas, having shows, participating in shows, helping establish a street arts scene, and then, eventually, the most challenging form of art: murals. Working with a client, finding a good wall, finding a strong message that will please the vast majority of people who will see – all are part of a huge personal challenge and I really enjoy it.

istry through in a variety of ways

I would imagine that each mural poses

over the years, predominantly

unique challenges.

as a veteran art educator in area

Of course, yes. For instance, the Bike Works wall was my second mural and my first big challenge in 2012. We were up on a lift 35 feet in the air and working in a spot that was visible to 18 – 20, 000 visitors coming across the Chatham Bridge each day. It was intense. We had 28 days to finish is, two of which were rainy, and many of which were 100 degrees. That’s when I learned that painting murals was an extreme sport and not for the weak.

public and private schools, but over the past decade as a highly sought after regional muralist. To date, five of Reynolds’ six murals continue to grace walls around Fredericksburg, greeting visitors to the region with an introduction to the city’s rich love of the arts.

That reminds me of the challenges you mentioned with your current project due

We chatted in December about

to winter weather considerations.

education, murals, and art’s im-

the winter.

pact on community relations.


had to put it on hold through the rest of

That one’s been frustrating. I have one day off each week: Saturday. Eight of the ten Saturdays that were over 50 degrees were continually rainy. I’m very glad we didn’t rent scaffolding – we bought a Baker’s rack to stack - because if we’d rented we would have lost thousands of dollars with it just sitting there. Damp weather must affect the paint quite a bit. What considerations do you have to take when working on murals outside?

Latex paint is the Goldilocks zone. If you’re painting in extreme heat, your rollers and brushes are going to dry out all that much quicker; if you’re in extreme cold, it’s going to coagulate and thicken, not adhering to the wall. Between 50 and 85 degrees is premium, and your surface should be dry for at least 12 hours. If you paint onto a wet surface, once the plastic hardens it’s just going to peel right off.

Photo by Harlow Chandler

Do you approach the design of the murals like you do your paintings? No, not like a canvas. I know other artists who do and use the same techniques, but I’ve learned that if you want your mural to be relevant for the long-term you have to think of it more as a graphic artist. The simpler your design to begin with, the better. Then you can go back paint in the details. Definitely think big and project it. Layer your colors without watering them down. You want your paints to stay opaque, and that’s why latex is your number one choice. It’s designed to be long-lasting in direct UV exposure. Do you block it out?

I’ve tried both ways. The Civil War mural on Sophia Street was the first I created without a graph. I wanted to see how long it would take me to do a mural without the graphing method. It took me twice as long, and it was challenging, but I think it was the most rewarding and touching from me. It’s the one I’ve had most honest emo-

Photo by Robert A. Martin


Photo by Harlow Chandler


I had a lot of homeless people come up to me and tell me how touching it was. Often, many people who were parking in the adjacent lot were rushing to go shopping, but the homeless community that passes through Fredericksburg is extensive. I met people from Guatemala to Buffalo. They’d traveled up and down both hemispheres, and they’d really take the time to stop and tell me how the mural moved them. One even stopped to take a picture for his brother in New Hampshire. They printed it in the newspaper up there. So it was so interesting. You never know who you’re going to affect in some way with your art. Do you think creating public art makes you more approachable?

In some ways, yes. When I’m up on the scaffolding, I’m not a private citizen walking on the street; I’m an artist making something for the community. I feel like I’m a whole different type of person for people to approach. People have fewer qualms about asking specific questions about my art, and I’m more willing to share with them as well. You bring your students in to help work with your murals too.

Right, my students have helped with almost all of them. I see it as part of the experience I can offer them as their teacher. We completed a community service project at Agora. It was all volunteers and I had my students help me with that. I was actually able to pay them a stipend for the BikeWorks mural. That one was funded through the arts commission when Mayor Greenlaw was elected. Of the five who helped me, four of them are going to art schools. One’s at Pratt; one’s at Savannah School of Art and Design. All are finishing up their junior years. I’m a grand-teacher now; I’ve got two generations of students that are out in the work force and it’s incredibly rewarding to know there are many directions one can go with an art degree. My next mural with the students will be for the Fredericksburg Academy campus during summer camp with middle and upper schoolers. We’re going to be making a raised mural of the United States. It will come up form the ground on

on a raised base rather than being on a wall. I’m excited to be working outside with the kids. I will take an exterior mural over an interior mural just because of the challenges. The teaching and murals keep you busy. Do you still work on canvas?

I had to step away from the canvas painting, because I was getting a little too personal. Once I started putting personal information on the canvas, people wanted to know the story, and I found myself not wanting to give that away. Every painting in this house has a story, some showing positivity and perseverance, while others show an utter hopelessness in feeling overwhelmed and in not having a personal direction. I couldn’t separate the two. I couldn’t share my work in a gallery while smiling and giving people a fake answer to make some money off of my misery. I always respect and admire artists who can create joyfully and put beautiful products out there. For me, it’s always been a more intensely emotional things, so that’s why I don’t sell my paintings and they live in my house. It’s also one of the reasons I like focusing on a mural because it’s someone else’s dream; I’m there to help the client. I’m making an honest living. I’m not objectifying anyone. I’m not taking advantage of anyone or of my own feelings and emotions. I’m being true to the client, the community, and myself. So it just makes me feel great to be a muralist.

Follow Mirinda Reynolds at


Photos by Robert A. Martin

Mirinda Reynolds describes her latest murals at Keystone Coffee on Princess Anne Street: The first circle is a Buddha with a Tree of Life surrounded by lanterns. He’s the jolly Buddha in Chinese mythology. He’s not a religious symbol at all, just a good luck symbol for businesses. If you’ve ever heard of “rub the Buddha’s belly,” that’s the one they are talking about. My client at Keystone wanted the the jolly, happy Buddha bringing good fortune to his clients. The second 11-foot circle is a drone view of the city. My client wanted to show the city and Heritage Trail and a scene of Fall Hill Avenue. Jimmy Kline gave me 12 shots to work from, and of those 12 I was able to make a panorama. It ended up looking like Pokémon GO. I’m not sure why that happens. Sometimes if you look at it, you’ll see circles on top of circles popping up. Digital media sometimes imitates nature. I was seeing that pattern pop up, and even my students noticed it.


Welcome to America: Thoughts on Immigration, Ellis Island, 1892 Kerry McAleer-Keeler Book Arts Object, 2017 Closed: 10” X 13” X 4” Open: 18” X 13” X 4” Bookboard, book cloth, decorative paper, wood veneer, found photographic images from the late 1800/early 1900’s, shell material, compass dividers, manikin hand, Ellis Island post card, cork, spectacles, mushroom, found music, US stamps, and cyanotype material. 48

Kerry McAleer-Keeler Kerry McAleer-Keeler

holds a BA from Mount

I’m an artist who wishes to tell you a visual story. I

Holyoke College with a concentration in Studio Art and Politics

am compelled to make tangible, permanent objects

and an MFA in Printmaking from George Washington Univer-

- art that ruminates in a hectic way of life. It is im-

sity. She is Associate Professor of Art and Design in printmak-

portant that my prints and book objects express a

ing and book arts at the Corcoran School of the Arts and De-

commonality of human experiences. My work seeks

sign, George Washington University, Washington, DC. She has

to address universal issues confronted by all indi-

taught at the Corcoran since 1998. Ms. McAleer-Keeler’s work

viduals over a lifetime; namely those of love, origin,

has been selected for individual, group, and juried exhibitions

isolation, spirituality, luck and comfort.

throughout the U.S. and internationally and is represented in such publications as The Book as Art: Artists’ Books from the

In my work, certain symbolic elements have devel-

National Museum of Women In the Arts and 500 Handmade

oped into a visual vocabulary. Birds, hands, materi-

Books, Vol. 2 by Lark Books. Her book and print work is in such

als from nature, antique photographs, butterflies,

collections as the National Museum of Women In the Arts, Li-

playing cards, ladders and spirals are all elements

brary of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Library,

that perform an important role in my pieces. Free-

George Mason University, Fenwick Library, Vanderbilt Univer-

dom, chance, the natural lifecycle, and the human

sity, Jean and Alexander Heard Library, George Washington

spirit are themes that these objects reflect.

University, Gelman Library Special Collections, Jaffe Center for Book Arts, Florida Atlantic University, Wimberly Library and

My pieces are an exploration of memory in relation-

the American Art and Portrait Gallery Library. She currently

ship to real time. My work addresses the need to

serves on the Board for the College Book Art Association and

bear all and the desire to be heard through its tac-

was selected as a FreeHold Art Resident in 2018. She will be

tile quality with the goal being to create a universal

doing a residency this coming summer in Tufo, Italy.

sense of self-discovery.


Welcome to America: Thoughts on Immigration, Ellis Island, 1892 uses a direct quote from George Washington exploring the historical roots of America and for whom this country was to reflect. The quote reads: “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respected Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges...” This piece serves to address the current political times we are living in as a talisman for how our government is straying from this original founding father’s vision for the nation and as a reminder that we were all immigrants once. It is going to be part of an upcoming book arts exhibit entitled “The Book as Place” at the Environmental Design Library, University of California, Berkeley, in conjunction with the CODEX Book Arts Fair. The exhibition runs from 1/155/17, 2019.



Jack got Bronty the day he started treatment.

“Pick out anythingl,” I said.

“Something soft,” my wife added. “Something you can snuggle close.” She clutched my

hand. Her eyes watered with tears, and so did mine. But we both blinked them away—we couldn’t let Jack see.

Jack chose a stuffed dinosaur. Velvety green fabric with smooth shiny scales. Bronty, my

son named him. When the nurses prepared the drips, Jack hugged Bronty. Hugged him closer, when they came with the needles. Closer still, when they wheeled him to dreary rooms where harsh lights illuminated large, intimidating machines. Some were rooms where my wife and I could only watch from outside, could only wave and force cheery smiles. Some were rooms we couldn’t see in, rooms we didn’t want to see in.

Over time, Bronty fell apart; he lost a leg and had to be patched up on countless occasions

by my wife. His once soft fur matted and the scales lost their sparkle. But Jack still held Bronty close, nuzzled Bronty’s beat-up neck under his chin and kneaded what remained of the tail.

Jack at some point joked that Bronty was in better shape than he was. I choked back a sob

and stroked Jack’s cheek. Thin like my grandmother’s, his skin exuded a soft yellow glow, a shade that had no place on a child. My wife and I patted his hands, and they wheeled Jack out, Bronty safely tucked under his arm.

I sit on Jack’s bed, the one in Jack’s room, and I can hear myself telling him that everything

will be fine. I can hear my wife echoing those sentiments. It’s quiet, has been for weeks. So quiet I can hear my wife’s whimpers down the hall.

Bronty sits next to me on the bed. I pick him up and brush my cheek against his fur. The

smell of rubbing alcohol and latex fill my nose. Behind them, faint, so faint I can barely make it out, is Jack’s smell. The shampoo in the Sesame Street bottle. The dye-free laundry detergent my wife used to buy because the other stuff irritated Jack’s skin, still buys, will probably always buy.

I imagine how things should have been but will never be. The scent of freshly cut grass

lingers in the air, and the mellow evening sun warms my skin. You’ll never find him this time, Dad, Jack says. He giggles as I scour the yard. I check all of Jack’s favorite hiding spots with no luck. Then I see him. Bronty's tail pokes out of the bed of daffodils.

My hands are deep in the dirt when my wife calls us in for dinner. I shake off Bronty, and

dust poofs in the air. Best spot yet, I say. Bronty’s paw in one hand, I take Jack’s dirt-sodden hand in my other, and the three of us walk inside.





Tiffany Yates: Balancing the Personal with the Practical


When visiting LibertyTown Arts Workshop this holiday season, make it a point to visit Tiffany Yates’s gallery space, shared with artists Hsi Mei Yates, her mother, and Amanda Carter. Tiffany’s style is eclectic and visionary, and within her collection you’ll find everything from wee animals of Chinese zodiac, to heart, lung, and brain necklaces, to masterful statement pieces. In neat contrast to her mother’s traditional Chinese Brushstroke paintings and Carter’s bright landscapes and still-lifes, Tiffany’s work reflects the intimate and personal, as well as the whimsical and utilitarian. Some of Yates’s most intriguing imagery evolves from visions that needle their way into mundane routines. She says, “The visions are pretty consistent. I might be on a walk, and I will get a picture of what I want to sculpt. If I ignore it, it will come back. That’s why I have tons of sketchbooks, because if I don’t do some kind of drawing of it, it will come to bug me later.” Yates says some of the icons in her work come from things she’s read earlier in her life. Her work takes on an element of fantasy in the form of wolves, fish and eels. She uses a play on cliches in her titles, such as “Good Girl” for the image of a wolf emerging from a woman’s gaping maw, or “Aftermath of a Kettle of Fish,” show here, for a woman on hands and knees expelling eels and fish from her mouth. Sculptural images like these suggest a purging of negative experiences, ones to which artist and audience might attach personal stories.

In contrast to these visceral images, Yates is also inspired to sculpt imagery from nature, such as the piece shown here that she paired with Carol Phifer’s poem, “In Spring,” for LibertyTown’s Open to Interpretation I show last year. While much of Yates’s work on display is sculptural, she allows her background in illustration from VCU to guide her process. She calls herself a potter/digital illustrator and says she’s always trying to get her illustrations into the pottery somehow. Yates explains, “Sculpting is very different from illustration. They’re closely related, like two arms attempting to do different tasks; it’s hard to get them to work on the same thing at the same time.” Yates says most recently she’s been attempting to break from the limitations of print illustration by making her illustrations into practical forms. “It’s an interesting problem in itself. I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting recently, because I’m trying to find a niche to make something that I enjoy working on. I know that if I want to make a living off of art, I need to make something readily replicable, but also something I like and won’t get tired of producing. If I can swap out different illustrations that I readily like to make, that’s a good place to start.” Yates’s most recent designs have involved cutting out her illustrations as sculptural pieces and then using the sculptures to make prints. In this way, she continues to walk the line between honoring her vision in her work and producing practical items for everyday use. Check out Tiffany Yates’s work at LibertyTown Arts Workshop any day of the week, or visit her online at





He stepped into the Red Line Luas tram at Talbot Street, thinking I was ahead of him as I bought tickets, I came around the automat to a train gone, platform empty— the incomprehensible tracked across my brain I spun in place, denying eye’s evidence no eight-year old boy in a light blue raincoat asked the old man in glasses and nicotine beard on the corner but knowing his answer before he gave it. Just off the fast ferry from Wales, out of Holyhead, a weekend of castle-hunting, a trip for just the two of us, I watched him sleep on the ferry over, dash through shadowy Beaumaris passageways, cool and deserted in the morning sun, wave from the Conwy turrets and pose for snapshots at Caernarvon, tuck in to Welsh breakfasts (skipping the blood sausage), catching train, bus, taxi, and steam rail in flawless autumn. Because there is good in the world the female Garda sits on her bicycle thirty yards away, she’ll pedal to Abbey Street to intercept the tram and bring him back to me, tears in his eyes, attack-hug to beat all hugs, in ten minutes it will be over, but while she streaks down the tracks I run after her to the next stop, thinking too much. Choking pain filling me that wasn’t from not enough air or the clenching of muscles that if she is not there with him at the next stop, if this doesn’t come to an end he will use for his third grade narrative project, then I want something else I breathe, my shoes slipping between the cobblestones, let me die now, let me die now, let me die now— that will be better. ~ DAVID GALLOWAY


BEYOND the BLUE | Sean Yang

Our social world has been changed in the last 100 years. We are all molded to some degree by time and space so that our uniqueness results from the input of parents, siblings, friends, teachers, events, social and cultural world. As a sculptor, I see objects as a form, a volume and a mass. I view objects as relationship between positive and negative space. Not everyone sees the world in this way. I said to my closeted gay friend “I understand that you’ve gone through difficulty accepting yourself. You were not bad. You chose social acceptance instead of accepting yourself as a gay man. You’ve been living a life style of Puritanism. Did you know Puritans didn’t use the vocabulary such as legs because the word could evoke sexual feelings? It was just about 100 years ago that puritans started using the word legs.” My closeted friend stated “Having married as a teenager was my attempt to escape from a dysfunctional family in order to do things better than my parents. By the time I admitted to myself that I was gay, I already had children to take care of and distract me away from my inner thoughts and desires. Now in the present, I regret not having the experiences that might have been. It is depressing because life is a one way trip, we can never go back and as you and I both know, there are no long lines of gay men waiting to meet their elders.” We are definitely molded by our parents and social and cultural context but we can change as we get older become independent, as one knows it’s called learning although some of us get stuck and stay that way. In having this conversation with my old friend, I’m beginning to realize just how analytical I am and how often in the past I have avoided intimacy when the circumstances would have permitted it. I would conclude that my behavior has been fear based and/or guilt driven. We are all products of our genetics combined with our individual experiences and we are all are on the same journey, that of life. My sculpture "Beyond the Blue" shows a wonderful, serene blue space waiting to be filled but the three individuals cannot occupy this space held back by their own behavior and their feelings of self reliance. Self reliance is important to everyone. But one can’t avoid importance of interdependence as one gets older. It’s a dilemma of ideas as one gets older. We are all in the same boat. Self reliance enhances self esteem and as social animals we rely on others in order to survive. One’s life’s journey is imbued with deep blue sea monsters of self-centeredness and imperfection. The opportunities are there for us to reflect and to have a courage to step beyond self-centerdness and create brighter-self.





Gordon Harris lives in Annandale, Virginia with his wife Judy, twin daughters Violet and Silver, and three gerbils whose names escape him. Gordon’s day job is NOT writing, drawing and painting graphic novels. He’s always had a desire to, but it seemed like a lot of work, so instead his day job consists of watching TV shows like Curious George or Wild Kratts and writing promos for them - among other tasks. Harris says, “I have clear memories of visiting the “career” office in my high school (whatta weirdo) and perusing the brochures on Commercial Artists, Advertising Design and the like. I think I always knew that I’d probably end up with a day job that was different from what I really wanted to do. But like most people, I’ve always been conflicted about what I really wanted to do. Illustration? Animation? Filmmaking? My graphic novel PEDESTRIAN was born from two short films I created in my 20’s. Though Harris went to school to be an illustrator, he says that on his way he developed an eye for design and picked up some animation and filmmaking

skills. He adds, “After college, the day-to-day living set in and I didn’t draw much. About 10-15 years ago I was determined to finish my first graphic novel, PEDESTRIAN and haven’t stopped drawing since.” Harris’s twin daughters have inspired him to write and illustrate graphic novels for kids, specifically girls; but he says his day job has as well. He explains, “From Nickelodeon to PBS KIDS, I’ve been working off and on in children’s media since I graduated college. The most exciting thing for me today is the expanding audience for comic books and graphic novels. They no longer cater to just boys (and big boys). I’m so jazzed about the plethora of content out there for girls today (and women). More please!” Harris’s current selection of graphic novels include PEDESTRIAN and the Dust Elves series. Visit his collection at 61

T E N Q U E S T I O N S 62


Theme definitely plays more into what I do than plot. But I’m really focusing my efforts on plot because

or Theme

content is better when you do both, of course.


In my personal life I avoid conflict, but as you know, conflict makes for better content. There’s conflict in my

or Conflict

mini-comics, but it’s the characters that I come back to. I’ve always admired Jim Jarmusch movies because of his characters. His work has clearly influenced me. If you’ve made it all the way through PEDESTRIAN, be sure to check out Jarmusch’s 1984 film, “Stranger Than Paradise.”

Outer World

I’d say both outer and inner worlds help drive my creative process. As much as I enjoy fantasy and sci-fi, I

or Inner World

think it’s important to have some sort of benefit or message in what I do - a reality check of sorts. It’s not enough to just create. The trick is to keep it fun, engaging, and not too preachy or earnest. But now I’ve confused myself. (Could you repeat the question?)

Local News

I can’t think of anything specific from local or world news that drives me creatively. I guess if I had to reach,

or World News

I think I’m working with pretty global, universal themes, but everything is relative. And don’t get me started on politics.


I really enjoy content that is fictional but includes and/or revolves around non-fictional element, for exam-

or Non-Fiction:

ple, using accessible science in science fiction or historical events in fantasy. Speculative and/or prophetic fiction intrigues me too. I guess top-of-mind examples would be anything by Philip K. Dick, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” or even the X-Men movie, “First Class.” In my new series of mini-comics, one of the dust elves gets caught in a time loop in Chicago 25 minutes before the start of the Great Fire in October, 1871. Meanwhile, one of the twins, Clover, struggles with OCD, which sometimes manifests as simple Tourettes tics, causing her to get stuck at times too. Anyone who experiences obsessive-compulsive disorders will understand what it means to get stuck. I’m no expert but in simple terms, it’s those anxious thoughts you have that turn into repetitive rituals. Those that have it bad live with it every single day of their lives. It can be debilitating, but can be helped with Cognitive Behavior Therapy and sometimes drugs.


It’s hard for me to avoid space and time in most of what I do. Time travel has always fascinated me. I es-

or Time

pecially like how they handled it in the recent movie, “Arrival,” where time travel was treated more dimensionally and less linear. When it comes to the creative process though, I’d say time is more important to me than space.


I don’t know how relevant wonder or experience is to what I do. I’d like to think that what I do comes from

or Experience

a place of wonder. Although I definitely tap into personal experiences; it’s only natural.


I’d say most of what I’m creating revolves around reaction more than action, but I think my approach to the

or Reaction

creative process is more aligned with action. I don’t do what I do because I’m reacting to something. I just do it. Every once in a while something I read, see, or hear will inspire me to work, but not too often. I’m not really a reactionary person.


Most of what I do feels like play 50% of the time, and work the other 50%. Some days are harder than others

or Play

and it feels like work. But there are times I can get very immersed in my drawing. I don’t have many complaints about my day job, so sometimes I struggle with sitting down and working on my mini comics. It’s not always a means of creative release and/or personal expression for me. As far as content goes, keeping it playful is important, otherwise it gets too earnest.


Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are all pretty relevant in the current series of mini-comics I’m working on.


When it comes to the creative process, I rarely look back at what I consider complete (except as reference

or Tomorrow

for continuity purposes). I have few regrets and just keep moving on. Regret is a time-suck for the creative process. However, I’ve gone back and created new pages, re-drawn things, or edited copy here and there to help improve and clarify the story.





For Max

We are the hope of our generations

Why is it unreasonable to prohibit

that never saw us but live on

the carnage done by scheming men

inside our bodies and our minds

who cannont subdue their vengeance

to bring promises to the future

and often convert hate into death?

they could not imagine at all. So predators continue aggression Each death became an inception

with an intolerance and barbarism

almost as though it went dormant

which are the deeds of angry people

waiting for the warmth and color

never reconciled to what they have.

of a thousand changing seasons to reappear where a baby sleeps.

First stop the endemic destruction from guns that give courage falsely

Atoms in the sun fused together

then ban the slaughter of millions

and made every element we need

when nations ready armies to fight.

to forge water, air, or earth engendering the breath of ages

On our earth where jungle morality

which our ancestors passed to us.

has warped the behavior of mankind must genocide forever be with us if the innocent and best are lost?




I have always been interested in displacement as a theme. Relocation. Migration. I have explored this risky and irregular movement through my work and the effect is a feeling of uncertainty or even loss, precariousness and uncertainty, changes either unexpected or planned, produced experiences even, that then hover somewhere between order and chaos. 65









At twenty years old, I was certain I wanted to work in marketing and advertising. I imagined getting hired

at the agency down the street from my parents’ house. It was an angular building with a copper roof. It didn’t fit in Toledo between the dilapidated car shop and the canned food factory, but it had always been there on the often-traveled road between my house and the highway.

I daydreamed about what the inside looked like, sure my days would consist of choosing between fonts

like Arnhem and Fresco Sans and picking the perfect shade of red for magazine ads. I’d wear pencil skirts with tiny belts and button-down shirts with oversized collars. My hair would be tied back in a no-fuss bun and I’d sit behind a massive acrylic C-shaped desk with an original Salvador Dali on the wall.

I wanted that posh life so bad I could smell the Emporio Armani for Her on my skin.

I lived away from home in a rundown house with my best friend Chrystal and her cousin, Corey. Still

near home, but away from my parents’ rules. Even though I was broke as hell, the rent was cheap, and I needed to prove I could make it on my own.

Chrystal and I spent our weekends watching bootleg movies and throwing keggers for friends. I drank

too much cheap beer and lost my motivation to get into college. I kept my long-term job at Fazoli’s fast food Italian, only to support my drinking and spending habits.

The day I turned eighteen, I scurried to the mall to collect as many credit cards as I could. It took a year

to max them out buying clothes for the nightclub and fancy bras to stick in my drawer.

I walked into the kitchen at my temporary home. Medallion-shaped yellow and green linoleum tile pat-

terned it’s way from one end of the kitchen to the other, original from the sixties, but not cool enough to be vintage. “Chrystal, mind if I use your computer?” Chrystal was making Jell-O shots for our next party at the old brown stove.

“Sure, what for?” she asked.

“Need to update my resume for this job.”

Chrystal had a good job in medical coding. She could afford her truck payment, her insurance, her rent.

“Don’t want to work at Fazoli’s anymore?”

“I’m so sick of it.” I couldn’t stand the smell of garlic anymore. I’d scream if that brick-of-a drive-through

headset fell off my head one more time.

“Oh, awesome for you! Want to smoke to celebrate?”

“Nah. You know I don’t like pot.”

“Just an offer.” She shrugged and walked away with a glass bowl and a bag of green stuff in her hand.

My resume was unimpressive, but I printed it anyway with a short cover letter and stuffed it in my purse.

The next day, I drove it to the agency on my way to work wearing my only collared shirt, tucked into a

grey skirt with black strappy heels.

The foyer and floor were black granite, sparkling beneath the second-story, vaulted skylights. I gazed

around. A massive television played CNN on mute by the entrance on the left, and on the right a spiral steel staircase wound up to the second floor. Enclosed offices with floor to ceiling glass doors and walls lined both sides of the building. The employees inside didn’t look like what I’d envisioned working at an advertising agency. They weren’t special or fancy, just people in work clothes typing, talking on phones while twirling the phone chords, snacking on candy and huge cups of coffee.

Straight in front of me was the receptionist’s oval granite desk. It looked so big it could weigh down the

rest of the building and was the only zing in the office besides the staircase. Everything smelled like Xeroxed paper and expensive coffee.

The office was quiet, so I tried to tiptoe to the receptionist. Still, my inexperienced feet clunked across

the floor in the heels.

“Can I help you?” the receptionist asked, bringing her sharp green eyes to meet mine. She was a young

blonde with a magnetic smile.


She stood, exposing her almost-due belly. “I’ll take that. Thanks.”

“I’d…” I swallowed a gulp of air, “I’d like to drop off my resume.” I held up a white envelope which had

curled on the edges from being jammed in my bag.

“Thanks,” I turned, waved, and walked out the doors.

That weekend Chrystal and I had a colossal party. Every room overflowed with loud, belligerent people.

Smoke of various kinds hovered like a grey blanket. Friends slurped Chrystal’s shots in less than an hour.

Some high school friends congregated in my bedroom, which was only big enough for a futon and one

dresser. Somehow my bedroom ended up the spot to smoke weed. After my fourth draft beer, I couldn’t stop thinking about my resume and how I should have beefed up my DECA experience.

“Wanna hit?” a friend asked, holding up a small, glass bowl.

I grabbed it from him without thinking. “Can you light it for me?”

He lit the end of the bowl and I inhaled, but only a little. The tip burnt my lips. I stared down the end of

his glass pipe to see him, his bleached hair, wide grin, and pierced face. He laughed. “Holy shit. Danielle smoked.” I pulled a seed from my lips and hacked up a string of violent coughs.

The next thing I remember is puking in a stew pot in my bedroom.

“You should get some sleep.” Someone said.

My eyes glazed over as I bear-hugged the huge saucepan. “Okay.” I ushered everyone from my room

and passed out to muffled metal music and laughter.

Monday, the owner of the advertising agency called me while I was curled up on the couch watching a

bootleg version of Spiderman with Chinese subtitles at the bottom. “Mute that!” I shouted at Chrystal. “It’s the advertising agency.” She grabbed the remote and hit mute before I answered. “Hello?”

“Hi? Miss Tucker?”


“This is Mr. Copper from Copper Advertising Agency. We received your resume at the perfect time.

Are you available to interview?”

“Of course. When?” What if they drug test me?

“Tomorrow.” “Sure!” After hanging up the phone, I danced around the living room on the ratty, maroon carpet. One

day, I’ll have my own place, and it’ll have nice floors.

I used the little room I had left on my Express card to buy a new purple button-down with silver stripes.

I found it on the clearance rack. It was too big in the sleeves, but I needed the boost of confidence clothing can give. This job could be my turning point.

The owner’s office was nothing like I imagined. It was dark with burgundy shades half-drawn, full of

oversized mahogany and leather furniture that seemed out of place. I thought it would fit better in a chalet or ski lodge. The office smelled like cigars and old money. Mr. Copper was a thin, balding man wearing a pressed white shirt with gold cufflinks.

“What kind of experience do you have?” he asked

“None. But I’ve dreamt of working here.”

He raised an eyebrow, then leaned back in his chair and the leather groaned in response. He thinks I’m

tenacious. Good. “Do you know Word and Excel?”

“Yes.” I half-lied. I knew Word. I’d seen Excel. Never used it. How hard can it be?

“Our receptionist is going on maternity leave. It’s temporary.”

“I understand.”

“Okay, then.” He shrugged. “You start next week.”

“Wow. Thank you-”


He raised his hand to cut me off. “I get here at nine a.m. and I expect you here before that.” He nod-

ded and looked towards computer. I waited for him to excuse me, watching him type. He looked up annoyed. “You can leave now,” he said.

“Sorry. Thanks for the opportunity.” I slunk out of the office before straightening my shoulders and

plastering a smile on my face. Downstairs, I gave a quick wave to the receptionist, who was opening mail. I thought she said, “Good luck. You’re gonna need it,” but the last part was muffled.

I went straight to baking bread sticks at Fazoli’s from my interview, avoiding my boss for as long as I

could. I stayed in the back, head down towards the metal prep table.

“Is something wrong?” she asked, startling me from slicing sub bread. Her blond hair framed her face

in wiry wisps. Even more than usual. She was disheveled after a busy lunch rush, keeping her cool under the pressure of making the perfect pasta for hungry guests.

How do I tell her? “I’m fine. Why?”

“You seem ... different.”

I bit the inside of my cheek. “There is something.”

“What is it? I need to do inventory, so make it quick, unless it can wait.”

“I need to drop down to weekends for a couple months.”

“When?” Her eyes got wide.

Shit. Should awaited. “Next week.” I cringed.

Her inventory clipboard clattered from her hands onto the prep table, and she flapped the collar of

her butter-stained Fazoli’s jacket to let in some air. “Why?”

“I got a temp job at the advertising agency.” I didn’t have to elaborate the name. We only had one in

Toledo, and everyone knew it was my dream job.

“I wish you woulda gave me more time.”

“I’m sorry.”

Monday, I showed up at the agency at 8:30 a.m. expecting to have at least a quick run-down of my

duties from the receptionist. She left me a note with instructions under a glass paperweight, nothing more. Crap. Per her notes, I brewed the coffee, collected the mail, watered the plants, turned the television on. Then I waited: for the staff to arrive, for the phone to ring, for requests to be emailed.

At 8:50 a.m., my coworkers filed in and greeted me with warm, almost apologetic smiles. Molly in

the office directly to my right was like a mom with helmet-shaped hair and a pear-shaped frame. She took me around to introduce me after everyone got settled. Employees on the first level were kind, but they also seemed to pity me, the new, totally clueless girl. My anxiety and insecurities tried to weasel their ways into my head, but I ignored them.

It took two weeks of skating around, learning the phone systems and the basics of Excel before I

made my first big mistake: two creams one sugar instead of one cream and two sugars in the boss’ coffee. I placed the mug on his desk and he looked up and bit his lip while holding the phone to his ear. “Let me call you right back.” He placed the phone on the receiver with slow precision. “What’s this?” he asked, gesturing at the cup.

“Your coffee.”

“I’m not an idiot. What’s in it?”

“Oh. Two creams, one sugar.”

“It’s supposed to be one cream, two sugars.”

“I’m so sorry. I’ll make you another.” “Don’t bother.” He picked up the phone. Shit. He’s calling someone to escort me out. “Molly, bring me

a coffee. Thanks.” Thank God! I’m not fired. He hung up the phone and looked at me. “I don’t like mistakes.”

“It won’t happen again. I promise.”

He shooed me towards the door, and I skittered out like a mouse. Outside his office, I passed Molly,

red-faced with coffee, running in.


Things spirlaled down like a rollercoaster hill, complete with that sour feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t

get Excel to line up properly when I printed it, and I couldn’t get the correct lines to add and multiply like he wanted. I opened several pieces of mail on the wrong end, ripping the letters inside.

I killed the freaking plant. Even the things I didn’t do were my fault somehow. If the

mail was late, I got a call. If the phone lines were full and the boss couldn’t get through, he’d walk to the spiral staircase and grit his teeth.

I hated the advertising agency, loathed seeing my boss’

number pop up on the caller ID. My hand trembled each time I answered his calls.

My weekends at Fazoli’s seemed fun. I

forgot about how awful I smelled from the garlic and how heavy the headset was, and I worked and enjoyed my friends.

Monday through Friday, I whisper-tiptoed around, doing

my best not to burn the coffee, print documents on the wrong paper, and answer calls in two-and-a-half rings instead of two.

On my last day, Mr. Copper called me. “Come to my


I rolled my eyes. “Okay.”

I scaled the spiral staircase for the last time and entered

his office.

“Just buy the damn thing.” He seethed into the phone.

“Love you, bye.”

I stood at the door, waiting, timid.

He glanced up at me. “Sit, please.” I did as told and sat

on the edge of his oversized leather chair. “That was my wife. She’s used to getting what she wants. From the right side of the tracks.”

I nodded. Why is he telling me this?

“You and I, we’re different. Hard workers. From lower

class.” He handed me an envelope. “It’s your last check.”

I offered him a thin smile, no teeth.

“I don’t think I need to tell you we aren’t keeping you

on,” he said.

“No, I know. I have another job.”

“Good. Keep making good choices. I’m sure you’ll find



“I mean that.”

Later that day with his words hanging in the air I decided

to move back home. “I’m sorry, Chrystal.”

“I’ll miss you, but I understand. We can load up my truck

this weekend,” she said.

“Thanks for the help.”

“You bet.” She turned to walk down the short hallway

toward our bedrooms.


“Yeah?” She stopped and spun around.

“Mind if I use your computer? I want to print off a col-

lege application.”


She stands stiff as the doll she sent me, her hands cupped toward her stylish dress, belt clinched at her small waist, mandarin collar over part of her neck. Her beautiful face is in full view as if someone called to her and she turned. Her hair is curly, and must be pinned back as she never wore it that short when young. What city? I ask myself, and Beppu comes from somewhere, so I look to see if troops were stationed there, and they were, my stepfather in the 508th Airborne. I don’t want to tell this story again of being left at my grandparents because I wasn’t legally adopted, looking back at that train my mother and three-year-old half-sister had boarded, the sound of that train whistle, lingering. I only want to describe my mother in this picture, cut to fit an oval frame. Behind her is bonsai, a flowering bush I now know must be Osmanthus, native to Asia. Her dress is white I’m sure, and her lips red. She appears fragile, her eyes questioning, a woman, perhaps, asking herself how she got where she was.








I’ve been drinking champagne in despair— a drink known for celebration. There’s nothing to celebrate now— the full moon doesn’t make me happy not the sun. Night is to endure, and by this I am connected to others who can’t sleep. I lie awake with them under covers, fans, hear the static of their prayers. I will not turn on the light until morning, until blue filters through the blinds— blinds—what a word as if never to see again, even with eyes open. Bring back the sun, the moon.




“Can I help you?” he says. My back hurts as I lean over crates of albums, LPs 33s, Vinyl— Scratched, warped, &coffee stained, frayed cornered cardboard covered art. He shows me the perfect ones shrink wrapped and shiny labeled stacked between the originals. Newly remastered vinyl— “Digital perfection,” he says. “Really?” I look at him suspiciously, “don’t need a turntable for that.” I want the real thing that scratchy hiss and that voice... She stares at me longingly, from the bin, dark hair white dress and sandals... I reach for the album. “I’m not ready for perfection yet,” I say. I turn and walk away Karen and a couple of bucks in my hand. the road to utopia paved with dinosaurs’ bones





My Dad knew he was going to die. He tried to tell me, but I didn't listen. I was seventeen, and he was my whole world. And the last thing you

want to hear when you're seventeen is that your world is going to end.

When he cornered me in the little wood-paneled nook by his desk and said, "If something happens to me,

I need you to--" I stopped him short.

I didn't want to hear it. I couldn't bear to hear it.

Two months later, he was dead. A ruptured aortic aneurysm.

The thing is, I knew he was dead before they told me. He was hiking in Norway, six time zones away, and

I was in Vermont, working at my summer camp. I had my first panic attack around the time that he would have been having his first symptoms. I lost my friend Devri - she'd gone for a run down Sangamon Lane and hadn't returned. My heart beat heavily in my chest, and my breathing came out in ragged gasps. I was sure something horrible had happened to her. She came back eventually, but my feeling of unease remained.

We went to a concert at the fairgrounds in Essex Junction that night-James Taylor. The early evening was

grey with the threat of drizzle as we sat on the hard metal bleachers. We listened to "Fire and Rain" as if the lyrics didn't apply to us, and never would. At seventeen, you think you're going to see everyone you love one more time again.

We ate Panda Pavilion Chinese take-out and stayed at the new Holiday Inn on Route 7 - Dev and I in the

double beds and John chivalrously squeezing his big bulk into an armchair by the window. Three life-long friends on a twenty-four-hour.

Still, something wasn't quite right.

I was agitated, unable to sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time. The sound of traffic on Route

7, though muted, annoyed me. The electric blue light of the cable box under the TV mocked me, and I stared at it, daring it to blink or die or do anything other than just glow eerily in the darkness. I felt guilty that John was in the chair. I had heartburn from the Chinese. I had to pee. Everything was wrong. Something, somewhere, was horribly amiss.

We returned to camp around noon the next day, the gravel crunching under our tires as we pulled into

the upper parking lot. Ann was loitering in the driveway, and her green eyes gave everything away. I saw a flicker in those eyes-a flicker I didn't like. A flicker I knew I'd remember for a lifetime.

I turned to Dev. "Something's wrong." "One of our campers probably snuck out," she said.

"No. It's not that."

Ann told us to go to the office, to see Lorrie, the camp director.

I remember walking past the tennis court. A little blonde girl in pink shorts and a green top was trading shots with Katie, the tennis counselor. I remember two teenage girls playing tetherball by Killington Rock as we headed down the grassy hill to the office, the fat yellow ball thumping against their palms. Each thump mirrored the thumping of my own heart. I remember the gaping open doorway of the office and not wanting to go in.

Because I knew. I had known since he had cornered me by his desk, saying, “If something happens to me...�

I had known since I had received a letter from him three weeks earlier. Four pages long, in his impossi-

bly elegant Catholic school script, the letter apologized for all sorts of misdeeds and perceived misdeeds he thought he had committed upon me throughout my life.

He apologized for there never being any food in the house. He apologized for making me cry when he

tutored me in math. He apologized for being on my case about cleaning my room all the time. And, bizarrely, he apologized for not letting me wear shoes until I was three years old.


He wrote about the good times, too. He wrote about all the drives cross country - the five a.m.

MacDonald’s hash browns and the smell of Iowa corn drifting in through the open windows of the ‘76 Volvo as the sun rose. He wrote about the hundreds of horseback rides at my grandparents’ ranch - the fun we had trying to open pasture gates without actually getting off the horses to do it. He wrote about Happy Meals and Hogan's Heroes, walks with our dog Bagel at the conservation land at Peacock Farm, and the nights he spent sleeping in a chair beside my bed at B.U. Medical Center when I'd had surgery as a twelve-year-old.

He wrote about the time when I was three and almost drowned, and how that still made him physically

sick. He'd never told me that story - I still don't know that story. He wrote about the time in Quebec when I was almost killed on horseback, an event I do remember. I was four, and the horse became spooked, running off with me and jumping a fence as I dangled helplessly from the stirrup. My head missed the fence by inches.

He told me he was proud of me. He told me he loved me. He told me that the collage I had given him for

Father's Day-all photos of me at different stages of my life-was the best present he'd ever received.

And I knew, reading that letter, that it was goodbye.

But it was too late. He and my Mom were in Norway by then, hiking hut to hut, well out of telephone


And then there I was, standing at the gaping office door where, inside, Lorrie waited to tell me the news.

She told me. And I cried.

I cried for a long time.

She told me that my aunt and uncle were driving up from Massachusetts to get me. I told her I wasn't

leaving - I was going to stay at camp, where I belonged.

Evening fell, and they brought me up the hill to the lodge. I sat on a high wooden stool in the kitchen as

the business of serving dinner to one hundred campers went on all around me. Clattering pots, clinking silverware, smells I could no longer identify. People drifted in and out of the fog I was living in, telling me they loved me, hugging me.

Jen brought me a pair of "doodle-bugs"-a headband with springy stars on it. She told me she'd bought

them at last year's Addison Fair. She'd get a new pair this year. I wouldn't have gotten doodle-bugs at my aunt and uncle's house, that's for sure.

After dinner, John and some of the other guys from Sangamon came down the path from the horse

pasture. John didn't say anything, he just hugged me there in the dark by the flag pole, the smell of lilies soft in the air. A hug is exactly what I needed-no words, just human touch.

Dev and I slept at the farmhouse down the lane that night, sharing a rickety old four-poster bed and

watching a videotape of South Pacific in the dark. I knew all the words to all the songs. But I didn't sing. I cried. I cried as Nellie Forbush tried to wash that man right out of her hair, and I cried when Luther Billis tried to convince me that there was nothing like a dame.

I was exhausted, but I didn't fall asleep right away. I lay awake, staring up through the darkness at the

cracked ceiling, the homemade quilt soft beneath my fingertips. I had run out of tears - South Pacific had drained me. All that was left of me was an empty husk. I felt hollow, as if, somehow, I would shatter into a million pieces if I fell out of bed.

But I had been warned. Dad had warned me.

If something happens to me, I need you to--

To...what? What could I possibly do in this state of grief that would have been helpful to him in death?

I didn't know.

Because he tried to tell me, but I didn't listen. I was seventeen, and he was my whole world. And the last

thing you want to hear when you're seventeen is that your world is going to end.

And now, I'll never know.




No deal with the devil could be completely abolished, but Henny Mulder arranged some-

thing like a second chance. It was a last ditch double-down effort to save her soul on the second Friday of August, 1967. A propensity for gambling ran through her blood and those who shared it, so it was no surprise that she threw up a hellish conflagration to indulge her perverse, grotesque, insatiate appetite for the sexually deviant. She'd discovered the attraction to her vices when she would hide beneath the card table of the men who smoked and dealt blackjack. They'd saunter confident and broke from their horses, come to the table in the saloon, across from the bar, dressed in stained linen as thinned as parchment, and leather vests, growing days of bearded scruff to hide their faces. Their shale expressions suggested perversities that could fly filthy on the wind with the dancers, and hide ones even dirtier, that remained buried away in recesses of deviant minds. These thoughts were revealed to her in the slightest twitch of the cheek, the lip, the eyes, and all which lurked behind them, when there were the highest of stakes on the table.

She could read every one of them from across the room, or beneath the table.

Since those nights when the air would heat up with the 4 p.m. lightning storms of Charles-

ton outside, and where inside she performed impious deeds, she always looked with suspicion and derisiveness, feeling lusty and gross, at the sight of men with any amount of facial hair. To avoid the saloon madam finding her beneath the stools, stealing business from her lace-corseted girls with legs ringed in satin garters and cheeks painted rouge, she never revealed her hiding place, the place she loved to sit and touch, right between the old men’s and the soldiers' legs, where she could see how the thrill of the sick wagers excited the patrons, smell the chewing tobacco from the brass spittoons at their boots, rub all of their parts, not only their rabbits' feet hanging down from their belts.

She struck her first chance with the dark one almost fifty years ago that day, one that re-

quired her to find another soul to replace her own, claimed back then. The dark one had reaped her soul the first time with silent and merciless fury in her failure to protect the cursed relic of her rose garden, a statue carved by the artist Thomas Dalfonse, a hollowed bronze cast and a striking recreation of her old uncle Jeffrey, mounted on his Confederate horse, Moses. The Confederate statue had been destroyed by one of Jeffery's contemporaries whom he'd owed a great debt to, four thousand dollars in unpaid gambling losses, to be exact. With her soul indebted, the dark one continued to appease her forbidden desires, satisfying her appetite of intermittent and conditioned sin.

The voice of the dark one christened her memory today on Jeffery’s birthday, quickening

her time elapsed, making known that if she could not trap another soul into loving her uncle Jeffrey as she did, she would remain damned, denied of her salacious vices, and not purgatoid as she lived now, but ordered to a rapid decent in hell’s depths where the blind fell into grave peril. If she could not find someone to embrace dear Jeffery's ephemeral temptations beyond the grave as she did, the dark one told her that he would extract her soul through the Cypress swamp behind her Charleston home, where both her parents were laid to rest, and where her body would be left to rot. The creepers and ivy noosed into ropey leaves there, dangling with always the threat of strangulation. She swallowed as she frolicked through the bog now, knee deep in her own mirth. She gasped where her throat began to tense, tightening with ominous warning.


Jeffery had ignited this original flame, sinful, unrepentant, in Henny, when at the tender age

of eighteen, he had placed with resolute firmness her pasty hand over his pants. Her lascivious misbehavior had been present all along in her kind, womankind, he’d said, thrown up his arms and stomped the floorboards of the saloon, screaming in an incorrigible fury, “You made me do it. Deceitful creature!”

Henny slept beside the monument that night, dreaming of ways to save herself.

Among the cobblestones of the traffic circle the following day, outside the fruit company offices and beside the Confederate monument of Uncle Jeffrey that Henny herself had recreated, where in the afternoon heat, one city worker stood, polishing the rump of Jeffery’s steed where protesters gathered, and another stood watching, smoking, Henny squatted in the bushes. The worker then polished her uncle’s weathered boots that had walked the landscape of the south, marching all the way to the Potomac, suffering a death of massive dehydration due to dysentery and losing all bowel function without ever knowing the honor of fighting the northern army. Henny swallowed. The protesters shouted angry slurs that Jeffrey and Moses should be removed.

Henny examined the crowd where she crouched, narrowed her eyes. The family magistrate

was gathering his mail. He sighted her, shook his head, glared at her like some one-legged egret flightless and misplaced, and oddity.

He had reddened hands and leathery jowls, lived not far from her, and often asked why she

mused over the statue at length, not knowing the pain staking way in which Uncle Jeffrey’s body, dug out of the swamp, had been immortalized by her the second time in bronze, his edges softening over time inside the hot metal cast. He looked at her even more strangely when she would crawl into the rump of the horse through the little trap door she'd devised. Sometimes she’d lie crumpled in a ball inside her own space where she existed free from time, where uncle Jeffrey’s remains had long since decomposed, after the molten bronze had been poured over him dead and his flesh had putrefied, and turned to ash.

She had tight curls in her youth when she recreated the monument and a smile that waxed

gummy when it was natural and appeared sheepish when it was closed-tooth and hiding her guilt. Her silk skirts were ruffled and she had legs that could match the height of any of the saloon girls then, not only when she kicked them high to the rhythm of the piano Can-Can, but when she laid on her back for the gamblers and spread them proudly in the air, letting the tendrils of her brunette wig fall all around her.

Her cheeks colored hot today where she squatted, revealing the inappropriateness of her

desires often. It was always at this time when she saw the magistrate wandering from his white mansion with his mail, toward the swamp, that a clap of thunder seemed to resonate the loudest, when her faux curls would come undone and stand electrical toward the Charleston sky. Now in her old age her hair was grayed and flat, but she still wore the satin skirts cut high to her hip and the leather dancing boots beneath them.

He looked strangely at her now again, looked away, shaking his head.

To repay her soul the first time, she'd sacrificed the body of Jeffery himself, forged the

bronze monument with fire and poured metal, allowed his legacy to live.


The cast iron mold alone had heated Jeffery to a charred and carbonaceous silhouette

only, but as his soul struggled, aged, dragged by the dark one into a forced pose, his form, fodder for her sick desire, remained, came back to life from time to time and imbued the harrowed southern ground with his bucolic ideals as though he’d never died.

Henny smiled sheepish with mischief now.

Around her today, the offices of the tobacco corporation looked down on her where her

rose garden had once bloomed florid. It had been a lovely thing among acres of cotton. Her remaining roses on this August day were still obscene with her scent, and the gardenias among them bloomed pure and white in a small roundabout, where they scattered a heavy carpet of pollen on the monument, tickling her nostrils. The traffic circle interrupted the garden now, put in only in the last decade, so that the statue now stood at the intersection of five points that could’ve made an inverted star, all busy roads where in her childhood only a field of high cotton soft and plumy once grew. Each day now at the intersection, she created distractions resulting in car wrecks, nasal fractures, and broken ankles requiring fixation with pins and screws. Each time Henny caused grief enough among the living to inflict death, she would arrange the roses intimately around the scene of the crime, stem to flower or in twisted patterns that could never be construed as coincidence, and when the sheriffs photographed the arrangements, it made her very proud.

Her tricks had continued for forty years without consequence until this August day, when

now, the group of people came screaming, marching, claiming that the monument of Jeffery should be removed, destroyed. They had hair braided long or knotty locks pulled back in headbands, even the men, and they wore denim pulled low at their hips and flip-flops that slapped the ground angrily where she and her mother once loved to stroll softly, hand in hand, just before she had discovered the many ways to bring pleasure to her own body. Her mother had not approved, and where her mother had found her naked among the English lavender, she’d wrestled Henny like a bayou gator and told her that she would never again hold her hand as long as it performed such ignominious acts. Henny had grabbed her daddy's revolver that day and shoved it into her mother's mouth and pulled the trigger. She was only fourteen.

She had just recently found a replacement for her soul, yet her temper grew cross, razor

short from worry, as the protesters threw rocks at Jeffery, denting the rump of Moses in deafening pings. She refused to let Jeffrey die.

And Henny, too, refused to die.

She still had something like unrequited temptation in her and to prove that her appetite

matched the desire of others, she’d managed to seduce the magistrate last week while rowing in the Spanish swamp behind his white mansion. She’d darted glances coy and suggestive at him as she’d rowed about the moss draped low and moist, making calls like the small waterfowl and the cranes white and lanky, and she’d lapped at her lips and lifted the satin ruffles of her dress. She’d seen him in a scandalous rendezvous every day since then, behind the barn, until the magistrate’s wife, Aloysia, began to catch on, and on the Tuesday evening when Aloysia discovered her topless and gyrating against the monument of Uncle Jeffrey and Moses in pale moonlight under stars sparse and dim, she threatened to have her arrested and prosecuted for public lewdness. The town, too, was threatening to take the monument.


Henny had no choice but to act then.

“It’s the monument that makes them swoon for me,” she’d said. Her voice roared when

she’d told Aloysia of the great vitality the monument imbued her with when she rubbed herself against it, the sexual prowess it offered, and at once, Aloysia’s envious ways were revealed.

In a jealous rage, Aloysia insisted. “I must have it.”

“It’s mine.” She’d snarled at Aloysia, and her gummy teeth shined in pale moonlight wispy

with cirrus. But Henny had remembered that her time would pass if she could not extend her legacy, Jeffrey’s legacy, and that of Moses, the unknowing steed, to another, so her composure softened, and she recalled now how she’d placed Aloysia’s hand on the steed’s rump.

Aloysia was smitten. She told Aloysia that she would leave her husband alone if she protected the statue. Aloy-

sia threw her beret from her head and danced about the traffic circle in the rain puddles of a just passed storm and splashed where bullfrogs croaked at her feet and the magistrate’s wife did not hear. Possessed with Henny’s spirit, Aloysia climbed on Moses and grated her pelvis against the backside of the saddle, wrapping her arms around Jeffrey. When she was finished, Aloysia regained her ladylike affect and dismounted Moses without incident and smoothed her hair and placed her beret back on her head of red hair. She ran to tell the magistrate of her new possession and forced him to pass laws prohibiting its removal.

Now, on Friday afternoon, the protesters chants grew louder where the usual business of

the day did not cease. Fruit trucks beeped, backing, unloaded with unripe bananas and oranges and grapefruit. Henny began her tricks and distractions not unlike any other day, tripping the demonstrators with invisible wires and hitting them with their own signs across the backs of their heads and rearranging the traffic signals as it suited her fancy. When she was satisfied with her work, she squatted again in the rhododendron to see the unfortunate consequences of her witchcraft come to fruition. There was a massive armoire being hoisted by pulley to the second floor of the fruit company at that time. Playing with a bouncing ball beneath it and licking a quickly melting ice cream cone, appeared the only creature at the gathering more mischievous than Henny herself, a young girl dressed in a red velvet dress hemmed with gold. She had angelic hair bouncing where it fell at her shoulders and eyes brown and hollow and tempting, and the sunlight seemed to pool only at her feet wherever she stepped.

Henny loved the child at once.

She watched her from the bushes, mesmerized by her devious beauty.

When the armoire began to fall, Henny dove from the bushes, her arms outstretched in

attempt to embrace the child, whose smile spread wide and wise as she took two casual steps from beneath the window and licked her ice cream, watched with deliberate happiness where the scratched old piece of furniture fell on Henny.

At the scene of the fall the protesters destroyed Henny’s revered monument and scattered,

carrying its fractured pieces off with them, and Aloysia looked on from the mansion with relief, closed the shutters, and at once made desperate attempts to erase the memory of Henny, tearing pages of her real estate purchases and her birth records from all public record. Even the magistrate tried in vain to remove her name from all recorded documents in the county as though she had never once existed, but each day, the documents they destroyed together as knowing accomplices reappeared suspicious and without explanation among the places in town where after that day Henny never did.



Dad was in the army, '41 to '45


Saw many good men fall, but he came back alive


They were married in a Baptist church in East Baltimore

He met mom at the USO on his way home from the war

He took a job driving streetcars for the city transit line She worked the checkout at Woolworth's five and dime Ol' hurricane Hazel came through in '54 Day that I was born, in East Baltimore On a street where dreams were hard to find And people grew old before their time Seems we never had enough, and dad drank come rain or shine Mom told me once it was the war still bothering his mind We lived in a three-room on the second floor Facing towards an alley in East Baltimore I packed my clothes and left soon as I got through high school Found a job at Sparrows Point, working like a mule Bought myself a Chevy, a '66 two-door But I rarely took it far from East Baltimore Or a street where dreams were hard to find And people grew old before their time Cheap whiskey and unfiltered Camels finally took my old man down It was 18 degrees and snowing the day they put him in the ground Then mom took sick and she passed on, back in '84 And I lost the anchor that held me in East Baltimore I drifted off a long time ago, ain't never going back But I'll always carry the feeling of being from the wrong side of the tracks With too much of nothing, and not a whole lot more The story of a hard life in East Baltimore On a street where dreams were hard to find And people grew old before their time




— no fun being

A charitable greeting even the cordial handshake couldn’t conceal her iniquitous heart

Detached Once— blessed with loving words well thought, shroud in marital veil of care, now suffers deep from wounds now wrought from hurtful

I thoughtisn’t it obvious to hide you must venture only in the night when the moon has waned and darkness covers as wool

words and self-despair.

Relinquish the sardonic smile


the aloof stride of ease

filled with tender words ascending, emotions swelling sweet they rise, now descend with thoughtless words

the sweet blessings

We can see your greed your madness and hypocrisy

as pointing fingers polarize.

on full display


No amount of affluence

they shared a wedding bed, gentle hands and scented night, but now caressing hands of love are just two-fisted mitts of spite. Now— split and stripped of love, their break is sealed with hate, detached, undone, divorced, alone, alone and pondering fate.

or cosmetics or religion of filthy good deeds can hide that wretched soul peering out so protrusive from your eyes. Rid yourself therefore from the prophetic confusion of face be gone the temptress of duplicity spill forth your degradation spew the sin that lies in the depths no more gloss or glamour let us finally glimpse and extol

— it’s


the inimitable wretch behind the mask.



Mutual Toil

He climbs quickly into the wine barrel because he’s

He prepares a simple stew for dinner as though it

embarrassed to be naked in front of me. “Pass us a washcloth

were a banquet. He rushes about sucking his teeth and digni-

will you, old man,” he says. I am thirteen years old, live with

fying the evening with quotes from Classical poets, Russian

my mother and rarely see him since their separation. I can’t

authors and Napoleon. He’s a farm boy who became a bar-

understand why he calls me old man. I hand him the washcloth

rister and likes to show off his learning. I set the table with

and fill the barrel with hot water from the kettle dangling over

tin cutlery I found in the barn and that he says must be left

the fireplace and from a saucepan on the wood-burning stove.

over from the war. I imagine rough men clutching old rifles

He chuckles and crows, “think of what those stay-at-homes are

and whispering to each other, “they’re coming.” I position


some men at the windows, while one cocks the door open

He invokes the stay-at-homes frequently to suggest

slightly and I scurry among them with ammunition, water and

our trip to his decrepit farmhouse in the south of France is

clever observations. Inevitably the story ends with the men

somehow enviable. I am just old enough to have hoped for

acknowledging me as their equal. For me France is an imag-

fancy hotels and pretty girls on my first trip abroad, but instead

inary world made real. Characters from stories I’ve read at

find myself calculating how many days it’ll be before I can use

home smuggled themselves onto our plane from Canada

a real bathroom in the nearby town rather than the unbearable

and run madly around the farmhouse. I struggle to keep

horror of the farm’s outhouse.

Knights Templar, Gaulish warriors and resistance fighters

He splashes about on the stool we’ve placed at the

from bursting in on each other.

bottom of the barrel. He makes whooping noises as though no

greater fun could be had than washing yourself in an old oak

firewood. White boney potatoes glisten in the saucepan. He

He tells me to stir the pot while he fetches more

wine barrel. He means one day to leave behind his legal ca-

theatrically pours in wine made from our so-called vineyard.

reer in Montreal, live here permanently and shut out the world.

Monsieur Penier next door harvests the grapes and makes

“Like the Benedictines,” he says. For now, all he can do is visit

the wine. He brought a few bottles over on our first day

once or twice a year and scrub away the grit of a day’s work.

while I was shooed out of sight. Some days I see his sheep

He climbs out gingerly and wraps a tattered towel around his

grazing on our land and their pink faces peering into the

skinny frame. When I peer down skeptically at the dark circle of

farmhouse windows.

water he laughs. Desperate to be somewhat clean, I dart over

the barrel’s lip when his back is turned. I crouch low because I

eaten and the food filling his stomach soaks up his whimsi-

don’t want him to see me naked either. My body shows every

cal mood. Through pipe smoke come mutterings about how

sign of favouring the brawniness of my maternal roots over the

French farmers are all cunning rogues. Most people, I learn,

spare figure he keeps like a testament to growing up poor in

are cunning rogues. The baker, whose prices are an outrage,

Australia in the ‘30s and ‘40s.

the taxi driver, who deliberately got lost, the nosy neighbour,

“Old Penier’s ripping us off,” he says, after we’ve

who comes over and talks the farm down because she wants

We tip the water out the front door and it pools like a

moat. We leave the wine barrel in a corner of the dining room.

“You think everyone’s ripping us off,” I hazard.

It’s heavy and neither of us wants to push it over the moat and

“Well, I’m not going to sit here and be cross-exam-

up the path into the barn with its rusting wine press and assort-

ined,” he replies, spitting tobacco into the fire.

ed detritus. We watch the stars brighten a darkening sky that


to buy it off him cheap.

In bed he wears what he calls a singlet and I call

seems so much bigger than at home. I mistake the difference

an undershirt. He complains that the men in his office don’t

between a country sky and a city sky for the difference be-

wear singlets and you can see their spines. It’s a sign of the

tween France and Canada. Headlights scatter their light among

end times. We listen to the BBC on shortwave, although he

the woods across the road and we go back inside and close the

sometimes changes it to Radio Moscow because he sympa-


thizes with the Reds. To please me he claims that if I listen

Māris Leja carefully I will hear secret codes for Soviet spies in Europe.

spises himself for having become a lawyer and betrayed his

He drifts to sleep while talking about brave Poles, Russian


self-sacrifice, American materialism and France’s betrayal of

the Jews. I press myself against his back because I like the

fruit trees in the orchard in a hopeless attempt to keep rabbits

way he smells of pipe tobacco.

from nibbling at them. He’s bought a shotgun so we can kill

We get up and tie planks of wood to the trunks of the

On Sunday he goes to Church and leaves me be-

the rabbits if they appear but none are so foolish. We shoot an

hind because he’s worried he’d have to explain me. I wander

old laundry hamper instead and he talks gleefully about hunt-

through the rooms. The main room has an old kitchen and

ing Penier’s sheep. “Sheep make jolly poor game though,” he

an oak dining table that he covers in plastic. The next room is


empty and full of promise. The delicate sunlight on the broad

floorboards heats up imaginary conversations I might have

place,” I reply. We laugh together and hunting sheep becomes

with him, perhaps about fixing things, like a second-hand car

our running joke.

“We could put one of their heads above the fire-

he might buy, since he loves old mechanical things, or the wine press, or themes he’s fond of mulling over and asking

me about as though he and I were monks in the Dark Ages,

bicycle trip to the village. His bloodied and wrinkled skin trem-

like, “what’s the difference, old man, between Achilles and

bles with shame. “I had a fall and smashed the eggs,” he says.

Jesus?” I fill the room with the rustling of pages and the hum

He tells me to salvage them by picking out the shells. “Divi-

of the radio. I picture him reading out loud the first page of

sion of labor,” he proclaims. I argue that I was doing dishes

War and Peace in Russian and then laughing at himself and

while he was getting food and that it’s his fault the eggs broke

saying, “well, that’s as far as I ever got in Russian.”

and he should do it himself. Arguing brings too much of the

One day he comes home tattered and torn from a

A spiteful cloud routs the sunlight and its epipha-

world into the farmhouse and he goes outside. Through the

nous memories. The room returns to its cold-hearted emp-

cracked window in the door I see him sit on the high grassy

tiness. I spot an architect’s drawings of a restoration of the

bank above the laneway. He takes out the carton of eggs and

farmhouse pinned to the wall. When he first showed it to me

starts picking out shells.

they amazed me with their possibilities colored in pencil, but

he just shrugged and waved it all away with his pipe. “How’d

house nudges me gently out the door by showing me its time-

we afford that?” I am crushed by the possibilities in the ‘we’.

worn wounds: the slanted floor, the chipped window frames,

I make a show of washing more dishes but the farm-

the loose tiles above the sink. I go outside and sit beside him

He returns early from Church because the priest

and start flicking the sticky shell pieces into a bag. From here I

only comes once every second week. “Europe is a grave-

can see how the farmhouse slides down the slope of the land

yard,” he says. “France is missionary country.” We pass the

as though it was trying to slip away unnoticed into the woods.

afternoon washing our clothes in an iron vat in an outhouse.

Sunlight and breeze envelop us through the trees. Our mutual

We dry the clothes above the fire and they smell of burn-

toil is slow business.

ing wood and I complain that my entire wardrobe for the

trip has been ruined. He laughs and asks often from then on

sion tucked in between the road and the vineyard. It’s next to

about the state of my wardrobe. “Say, old man, how’s your

the asparagus trench we planted earlier that week. “Someday

wardrobe today?”

I’d like to put a Japanese pond over there, with one of those

He pauses and points with his pipe to a small depres-

little bridges.”

Next morning he eyes me still in bed and says, “God,

you’re fat.” He thinks I’m spoiled and soft. “Could you even hammer a nail into the wall?” Deep down he only respects

I look over and see the grass shifting patiently.

He says to me, “What do you think? Would you like

that, old man?”

people who survive with their wits and their hands. He de-


LYNDA ALLEN POET OF THE SPIRIT Lynda Allen’s evolution as a poet has been based on her own spiritual journey. For over a decade, Allen has dedicated daily meditation and writing practice toward examining her relationship with nature and learning about the mysteries therein.

We’ve known each other for many years, but it

process was just trusting in the process, so it was about

was during your presentation at Unity Church of

having a willingness to find out what that meant. The

Fredericksburg last year that I realized the story

very next morning I sat down to write and this whole

of your inspirations and motivations as a writer

new world opened up to me, a world I didn’t even know

would be of interest to other poets. It really reso-

was there.

nated for me.

Did you journal? Write poetry?

Right. I feel like each of the collections I have

written is a document of the spiritual journey in my life

at the time.

the first thing I wrote was “The Dam that Sorrow Built.”

It was poetry. This dam that broke for me, and

Unity started me writing poetry, because I was

It had to do with September 11th - this was 2003 when

kind of lost in my life at that time, and I didn’t real-

I went through this process. There was this grief that I

ly know I was lost. I just knew something was wrong.

could just feel all the time. I was so tired of crying, and

They [Unity] brought someone in from a congregation

I was stuffing it all behind this dam. Eventually, it just

in Northern Virginia, and they’d taken us through what

burst in a rush of words. Why all those things coalesced

they called a spiritual discernment process. It was ba-

at that moment was miraculous to me. I was constantly

sically a process of questions and answers through

surprised by what I was writing.

meditation. They’d done it for us as a church, but I

found out they would work with individuals too. I talk-

That was 2003, but you published your first book a

ed to the person afterwards and eventually set up a

few years later, right?

private session with her. It was that session that started

me writing.

Yes, 2007. It took me a long time to call it poet-

We started out with the question, “What is mine

ry, because I was constantly thinking who am I to write

to do to______,” and then there was a blank. Mine was,

poetry. I didn’t feel like I had any claim on it. I wasn’t

“What is mine to do to be happy?” I thought crap. It

an academic, had never taken classes beyond Intro to

was the first step for me to admit that I wasn’t hap-

Poetry in college. I started to think I don’t have a right

py. I was married and had two children, so I knew this

to share poetry because I don’t have that background.

wasn’t going to be easy.

What changed?

Once you found your word, you follow that

with an answer. I sat in meditation with that for a time and it was so mystifying to me, because the answer

I started to think about why I write poetry. I don’t write

was just one word: write.

poetry so that it will make it into journals; I write poetry because I have to write poetry, because the words

And you did.

come through me in that way and if I don’t write I am uncomfortable. I also write poetry because I know [the

Yes, but at first I had no idea what it meant.

The person guiding me told me that part of the


poems] speak to my heart, but I also know they speak to other people’s hearts through what I’ve seen when people read them.


December Morn I watch the blue jays chase each other around the branches of the cherry. Occasionally, they pause in their pursuit to search a limb for breakfast. Their sharp cries perfectly describe the crisp coldness of the December morn. In the distance the hawk calls, looking for its mate, their voices always clearer this time of year. If the hawk drifts nearer the jays will let me know. Their chatter of breakfast found, and playful games of tag, will turn to an alarm reverberating through the treetops, “Beware! Beware!” Each day a birth. New life coming forth from the dark comfort of night’s womb, a tentative breath, a small cry, as the new day emerges. All the possibilities of an unlimited future that a parent could hope for, seen in the waxing smile of the setting moon. And the jays cry, Be aware! Be aware!

Dusk If she could pray, she would, but the twilight robs her of words. The mystery is so near it is all she can do to just breathe, as it takes form in the very air in her lungs that animates her being, in the perfect, intricate design of the willow leaf twirling in the breeze, in the angle of the moon as it rises, slightly more to the south than it was last month. So tangible is the mystery in the fading light of day, that it takes up momentary residence beside her, its hand resting gently upon hers, a friendship ancient and newborn moving between them. To be silent at dusk in the company of mystery, her living prayer.


And that led to your first publication?

Joyce Tennyson, an amazing photographer. It had been

gifted to me by a friend, and every time I would open

Well, I had gone on this trip to Sedona - a truly

that book and look at a flower, the flower would tell me

life-altering journey for me, especially in exploring dif-

its poem. The first time it happened, I thought that was

ferent aspects of my spiritual life. I had taken a bunch

neat. Then, every time I would go back to the book it

of pictures in Sedona and put them together with my

would happen.

poems on a calendar. I only sold them to people at Uni-

ty at the time, but that was the first I had even had this

the Joyce. I sent her an email and told her how her pho-

idea of offering my work to someone else and them

tographs were inspiring these poems. She wrote back,

wanting to buy it. It was a scary process to put myself

and we struck up an email friendship. Overall, there

out there with something so personal and to not take it

were nine poems that her photographs inspired, and

personally if they didn’t want to buy it.

she agreed to allow me to use the photos with the po-

Then my first book was Rest in the Knowing.

ems when I organized Illumine. I used four of the pho-

It’s organizes as moments of revelation, followed by

tographs - one for each of the three sections and one

moments of complete darkness. It really reflected what

for the cover.

I was feeling at the time. The images that go with the

sections are images of veils dropping - you know, like

Throughout each of your experiences with publica-

the dance of the seven veils - and it’s split into seven sections. Every time a veil would drop, I would get a little closer to understanding.

The entire book was very much that experience

tion, I’m hearing a repeated process. You listen to something outside yourself to write these works.

There is so much inside of that idea. Nature is

for me. “Rest in the Knowing” itself was a poem that

absolutely an inspiration in that way. Sometimes the

woke me up in the middle of the night. The phrase just

writing I do when I’m observing nature develops into

kept running over and over in my head. At the time, I

poems, and sometimes it’s just a life lesson to learn.

was still very much in the process of figuring out my

marriage, so that was a great time of turmoil and anxi-

watching this eagles fly around, and it was just so clear:

ety for me, not knowing what the future held, and those

this eagle is just being an eagle. He’s not trying to be

words kept coming to me over and over again. For a

the best eagle. He’s just trying to catch some fish and

long time, I kept the poem to myself; it wasn’t until I

be an eagle. What was it teaching me? All I need to do is

was in a place where I could remember there is light

be me, not necessarily the best at anything, but just be.

after the darkness that I could share it. The whole book

was that process for me. It taught me that I don’t have

written by listening to a character’s voice in my head

to be lost in those moments of darkness; I can just be in

telling the story. I’d sit down to write and she would tell

them because I know they’ll end.

me the next part. There was some research involved in

that story, but most of it involved listening.

I learned that through nature as well. I was up on

I remember sitting by the river one time and

I wrote a novel, Sight to See, that was entirely

Skyline Drive. I was approaching a point where I could

see a vista from the road, and I could see there was fog

That’s not the only book you’ve written. You wrote

that had settled on one part of the road. From where I was, I could see the end of the fog before I got into it. Because I knew there was an end, I knew all I had to do was go slowly, keep my eyes on the road, and I would

a book outlining a spiritual practice that was part of this journey through poetry called The Rules of


drive out of it. It was this huge life lesson for me, just

knowing there was an end to the fog before I went into

cess during that time, too, because it becomes a matter

it, and that’s what that book was for me.

of clarity when I’m writing. I’m always surprised where

I end up, and somewhere in between there’s a process

Then, your second collection...?

of healing that takes place. It happens in every poem

and with every reflection I write.

I published the second one, Illumine, in 2011. It’s

The writing was a large part of the learning pro-

For instance, “Sacrifice,” in Wild Divinity, took

set up in themes: love, light, and expression.

me 20 years to write. It recounts something that hap-

pened to me after my friend Steve died. He died at the

That was an interesting journey for me too. It

was inspired by a book of photographs of flowers by


Someone suggested that I send the poems to

age of 29 in a skiing accident. His wife was pregnant

with their second child, and after the ceremony every-

in that section that I wrote for a friend who lost both of

one had left the sanctuary except me and my husband

her sisters within a couple of weeks of each other. The

at that time. I hadn’t been able to cry until that moment

poems were me sitting with her from a far. One was

due to the grief and shock. As we sat there, I noticed

for a young girl who died of cancer and with whom my

this little bird and thought I could breath again. Sudden-

daughter went to school. I felt her presence one day

ly, it flew into a brick wall and dropped to the floor. I

when I was writing downtown and I could hear her say-

broke and sobbed, overwhelmed with grief. It took me

ing, “Turn the page.” I think it’s a matter of being open

20 years to be grateful to that bird that he had sacri-

and having an open heart to that connection. I listened

ficed himself in that moment in some way so I could

and I wrote down what I heard.

release that grief. I recognize that as a gift from nature.

I believe we are all connected, and there was a connec-

Since I’ve known you for much of your writing jour-

tion between me and that bird that day.

ney, I’ve had the opportunity to see how your writ-

ing has changed over time. I’ve watched the ded-

I am most familiar with Wild Divinity because I

ication you’ve put into the practice of meditative

helped you do the layout for it. How is it different

writing. What has been the most important take-

from your other collections?

away for you?

Wild Divinity. I feel like that collection has the

As long as I know the writing is coming from

most to say. It’s a more mature perspective in terms of

an authentic place, I am happy with it. If I feel like I’m

this long spiritual journey. The knowledge and wisdom

forcing it, I stop writing. I’ll start over again and allow

in the poems is more grounded and practiced; they

the words to flow independently of my control. I re-

come from a deeper place, maybe. This one has some-

ally have to step out of the way, but I really love it. I

thing deeper to say than the other ones did, and I think

never know what I’m going to learn when I sit down to

that’s simply because I’m at a place where I’ve learned

write. There are things that I write that I never would

more and that’s reflected in the collection.

have thought of, so I do believe it’s coming from some-

where else.

It was a collection that created itself. When I

started looking through the poems, it was very clear

where they needed to go in the collection. There’s a

about listening. I think this process has made me a bet-

piece that opens each section.

ter person in relation to other people, because being

still and listening has informed all the other parts of my

The middle section in that book is entirely about

grief, different processes of grief, different people’s grief. That’s where “Sacrifice” is. There are two poems

Life is all about listening. Relationships are all

life too. Visit Lynda Allen online at







OLD FASHIONED FOUNTAIN PENS ERNEST SLYMAN Old fashioned ones served their time. Never gazed up for a minute. Their nose to the grindstone. For years the old fashioned pens drank from a small bottle, a tiny glass of ink. Dark as the Devil’s eye. You asked your fountain pen to inhale the ink up its nose. The old fashioned fountains pens could hold their ink. Never got tipsy.

These old pens with their smooth touch wrote many great works of literature. They rolled the numbers over and over. Accountants with eyes like lizards. That’s me. I don’t like being banished from the castle. Would you please tell the guard at the door to let me in. I won’t start any fights. I won’t squirt anybody. Blue ink makes me giddy. I’m walking on air. Nothing troubles me, except one thing. Ballpoint pens can go to Hell. Don’t care for them. They click their tongues a lot. Sometimes all day and night. The fountain pens can’t sleep. By now must I’ve been one long week. The ballpoint pens oinking like pigs. Sometimes growled like bears and stood up tall. You see ballpoint pens walking in your house you better run.


Κύριε, ἐλέησον I spilled across the belly veins and the mountains and the tidal basins to a sacred space, Κύριε, ἐλέησον thundering in the hollow echo chamber of the throat And I have risen time and again before the bell rang out for the third time, the last time, the end-of-times, the ever-times tumbling over the years ahead, the blank cannon of your name remembered in the whispers of the wind I would sing a drunken hymn in the alleys of summer and feel the blossoms burst from beneath my tongue and sit in the orchard and watch the apples rot Open up to me, river, I have seen you here before and met you when we were both young; I am the moss still gripping the wood-pulp trunk, I am the juice from berries picked and mashed and bitter and I am the magpie splashing the oil slick without rhyme or reason Come into language, little one, feel the ancient rhythms, the occult promise of the land once known; open your ears to the swallow’s song, unfold the creases of your pinewood speech As I spoke with the black tongue in the forest of days, in the dry death before the flood I uttered the phrases that led our fathers astray and I scattered their ashes to the wind They walk now on asphodel budding in the speech of saints, in fields flowing with raw copper honey they burn. Burn. Burn as a palm, hallowed, to heaven. ~ FRANCIS ITTENBACH






at THIRTY THOUSAND FEET In Virginia, red clay. Sycamore limbs startling white against winter grays that aren’t gray but pewter, mustard, mauve, magenta, cream, the way an artist’s sky has tinges of red, puce, green and—yes—gray. This world’s never dull. And yet, luminous Sycamore reachings arrest the eye, the heart. We want to know that some folks can strip themselves of perplexities,

The sane perfectly perceive that canid folk are hairy beasts intended from birth for life out of doors, where their diaspora of hairs can emigrate to bristly spots: hedges of huckleberry, thistle crowns, sidewalk edges, roots of elm, where birds in search of bedding for their babes can find it handily, or storms and time can erode

raise pure arms against age and The Age.

the pellucid drifts. Why, then, do we invite

In Chile, it’s summer. Hot. Orion’s

where fallen fur, like Sahara sand,

sword dangles from its astral sheath. The dust fine as talc, almost white but not quite. It translates into grime soon enough.

these shedders into our human lairs accumulates at grand piano feet, behind doors, on refrigerator coils, under kitchen chairs, and clings to towels

Clay stains; dust accumulates. Both: this Earth.

and tuxedos with equal diligence,

The Eucalyptus trees also unsheathe

and welcome mats, embeds itself unbid

as they grow; strips of bark lie at their feet or drape lower limbs: tie racks of the woods. I’ve seen a giant, split-trunk heaped high with detritus. “Why disavow the past? Hold it lightly in your heart, banner your arms

and infiltrates the very soul of rugs in dryer lint and baby bibs, imbues culinary rites with terrifying risk that some stray hair, borne aloft by a breeze or a closing door, might parachute into the soup, hijack a popcorn ball

with what you were.” Good advice, from a tree.

or defile some delicacy on which

Up close, they’re weedy: hippies past their prime.

From afar they offer girlish pom-poms to the clouds: dancers powdering the sky. They freely exhale their own pot pourri from stiff leaves tinged olive. Or blue. Silver in some lights. Because it’s always, some way, about light, this reaching. This unselfing.

we’ve slaved for hours? The answer must reside

in some prehistoric cave or sun-scourged veld where night fell like death itself and found us alone with our fears, which were not exactly psychological: the glow of carnivorous eyes out-blazing our feeble coals. Who wouldn’t want at hand a mouth well stocked with predatory cuspids, a snout teasing undetectable scents from the dusk, and multi-directional ears politely suggesting where to point our spears? There’s still a lot out there, in the dark. And a lot inside, too. Inside our hearts. Dogs perceive this better than we. Dog hair small price to pay for rescue from the malaise that gnaws the juicy stew-bone of our Day.



BEARS and BEATLES | LISA MADSEN RUBILAR We were warned of bears who’d grown accustomed to food kindly served in garbage cans left unsecured, bears now hell-bent on downing cabin doors to stuff their jaws with frozen steaks or furniture; but beetles were not mentioned, their larvae grown fat inside the pines’ tough skin, metamorphosing into jaws of devastating effect. Who knew they’d maul whole mountainsides to extinction?



Here she comes. My dear Ophelia. What’s she carrying? Right, a briefcase. Know why, why they

call it that? It’s something that doesn’t take a lot of time, which is the main reason she’s walking so fast. I don’t scare her, she’s Wall Street. That’s what scares her and eating spaghetti and the sauce that splatters on the furniture like love. So what do you think he’s going to do with her? Do you think he’s going to love her? They don’t even know what love is. They think it’s hop on, hop off. They don’t even have the credentials to stay here. They don’t have the credentials to buy soap. She’s soap opera material, plain and simple. But you just don’t see it. Don’t you ever read? That scientist, he found out the secret of the whole universe. He saw it through the new telescope they sent up. It cost a hundred billion dollars and worth every penny. No? What would you do with that much money. I’ll tell you what you’d do. You’d buy goddamn lottery tickets. And you know why? Because you don’t watch enough TV. They have shows about science. That’s where the big money is. Science. You know if they dug a hole into outer space it would end up right back in your living room. Okay, so maybe it is raining, but you have to realize what’s real because there’s nothing real. It’s imagination. Now that’s the operative word. If you say it’s not raining, you don’t have to feel it and you won’t. This is the part that scares people. Think now, after I’ve told you all this, they’ll just let you leave? Not without a disguise. But it would have to be a disguise that frightens them, that they couldn’t see because nothing goes faster than light even if it’s moving when you turn it on. It’s the same principle they used in the new bomber. It’s invisible. You know why? Because it’s made of mirrors, lightweight aluminum mirrors. There’s nothing stronger and it doesn’t rust. That’s the key word – rust. That’s why people aren’t made of metal. We’re like gods if you think about it, we’re like individually wrapped little gods. And it’s not the electric companies you have to worry about, either, it’s fillings, metal fillings that rust and take away our immortality. Now just imagine they drop a huge rope through the hole they make in the earth and they do it a dozen times to a dozen earths and pull them all together into a necklace. Imagine the size of the breasts on the woman wearing it, if she could even fit them in America. Now that’s what I’m talking about, the sickness and filth of people who would think this way, who would change the whole universe if they thought they could invent a new toilet bowl cleaner. Of course I’m telling this to you because I trust you. And who’d believe you anyway even if you did escape. It’s me they want. Stop me and the secret’s gone, spread out across space so far they’ll never find it even with magnets, which they have now – big huge magnets to pull the metal out of our heads. Why? You can’t guess? To keep us from rusting, to keep us preserved. Here she comes now, right on time. Right out of the hole they drilled but didn’t tell anyone about. Why? Plug in your imagination. I am not talking feudalism here. I’m talking rivets, excommunication, wall-to-wall carpeting that can grow everywhere. Okay, so it wasn’t her, but that’s what I mean about disguises. Besides, it’s pretty late. And I didn’t say she came by every day. Ever hear of a vacation? Night? A big blanket over a cage to keep us quiet? What they don’t know is I have friends I can count on, friends who can drill holes in it, painted like a wife and kids. Getting the picture? You can’t go yet. Fine, try it if you want. It won’t bother me. I know what you’re doing. It won’t work. See this? This is the proof. I’m building my own disguise out of you. I told you, big, aluminum mirrors. You’ll be here forever. That’s the funny part. That’s the irony of invisibility. It’s not that we can’t see you. Nobody’s looking for you. Nobody cares if it’s night everywhere you look. You see what I mean, don’t you? Are you with me? Hello? This isn’t a Clint Eastwood movie. I’m talking about time, rustproofed and sacred. That’s right, study your damn Rolex. You’re in for a big surprise. Look around. Different, isn’t it, to be invisible from the inside.




THE TELEPHONE | ALEXANDRE NODOPAKA | SCULPTURE and PHOTOGRAPHY Alex Nodopaka's art has always an underlying significance. He never creates art for the sake of art. His sculptures fall in the same category. There's always a metaphysical sub-current. The telephone call has Fellini's Butterfield 8 innuendo. It could alternatively be named The Love Terrorist , while Dreaming of

Escape is a philosophical self-portrait.


Florence of the Nights’ Gale: September, 2018

Above the wide green ocean, whirling skirts caught up the clouds, filled to the brim. Unchallenged, undeterred, Florence herded dune-devouring waves ashore, let fall the torrents as she strolled along.

Sand scoured wooden skin from battered piers and benches. Shutters wobbled, plywood trembled. Metal signs surfed on drowned, deserted streets. Beleaguered trees bent double, roots dug in to stand their soggy ground.

Ticking clocks counted down in steamy rooms where lantern light danced on fearful faces as monsters stomped on sea-foam roofs or rode the surging rivers into homes.

This Florence did not soothe or succor those she found in her erratic path. No gentle touch, no calming voice, no mercy shown as she traversed her vainglorious field of battle.




Photo by Adam Glick Photography

Jim Trainer dons the mantle of blue-collar bard in the manner of progenitors of the style like Bukowski and Levine. He’s been featured in FLAR since our early issues, consistently impressing our panels with his work, as well as participating as a visiting panel member last year. Trainer has a DIY ethos and plenty of life experience for fodder. He recently published Love&Wages, an homage to work and romance, and the exhilaration, rigors and vigors of each.

You print your own books of poetry. It

The plan is to take it town-to-town through grants.

seems this would put you closer to the work.

I just applied for an ambassadorship to do the same thing I do here in Austin over in Dublin [Ire-

and binding them, at the Austin Book Arts Cen-

land]. I’m figuring out ways to pay my freight and keep these expeditions happening.

ter. The process makes me feel intimately involved with my work, like my flesh and blood

I know your poetry has evolved, as writing is

are in each collection. My first couple of books

wont to do over time. Where is it moving in this

I published in Portland, at the Independent Pub-

latest volume?

lishing Resource Center, and I’m trying to connect the dots. What I’m doing in Austin, I want to do it in other cities.

I wrote my previous collection, Take To The Territory [released in June 2018], after I left a

live-in position, and 5 years caring for a quadripleHow so?


I’ve been making my books, printing


gic man, so that volume was about stepping back out into the world. Love&Wages . . . I found that I passion



was writing a lot about work, and I’ve always been

ing, print and performing--radio or the spoken

a romantic poet and written a lot on love and rela-

word. These mediums connect me to people.

tionships besides.

Love&Wages’s title is from All for Love and Wages, which is the second album from Austin-based


singer-songwriter Nathan Hamilton. But I surprised myself at a reading when I told the crowd I was trying to take all the romance out of work. Wouldn’t it make me

mid-September, teachers’ strike

derelict of my duty as a poet to take the romance out

in her parents bed she said

of something? Maybe, but, in this case being real was

life’s about as much as

even more important than it already is.

what you let go

than anything you carry

The working people’s cause—it doesn’t just

speak to me, it is me.

In addition to the amount of

she’s a lifestyle coach

writing about work, and my usual cadre of devotionals

in California now

to lovers future and past, that’s really what this book

while I’ve climbed

is for. Love&Wages is dedicated to dignity. Making a

the courthouse steps

living—it’s getting harder and harder to make it here.

and rode around these streets

Taking away someone’s dignity is akin to taking away

enough times to know them blind

their self-respect, not just what they have but their fight

the innocence of death,

to get it back.

when it greeted us the first time, wasn’t innocence

Do you see people losing their dignity?

and now our youth is gone it’s dusk in my Father’s town

The fight, yeah. At least I felt it being beat out of me.

everything’s on lock or nailed down

I’ve always been blue collar. Between food service and

birds have flown from the great trees

the trades, that’s how I’ve made my money. But early

or still perch

in the year, when I started writing Love&Wages, the job

stock-quiet and receding in the dark

I was working was brutal. A friend told me it looked like all the fight had been beaten out of me. Which was true until I quit. Did it put you in contact with a lot of people who have had to work hard? Your writing also reflects what you’ve learned from them.

I can’t speak for anybody but I’m out here, too--

working for a living post-Great Recession and I can tell you that minimum wage has been the same since 2009, but a lot more is expected of us and the dollar doesn’t go as far.

All of this reflection is post publishing, mind

you, after the book’s been written. Titles only direct or prompt an investigation from me. When I come up with a title I don’t necessarily know what it means at the time, or have an answer, but I’ll ask the question. Many poets ask instead of tell. Do you find your voice and the language changing in this workingman’s poetry? Or would you describe it as your natural voice?

Well, the voice of the laborer is pretty easy for

me to step into for a couple reasons. One is I’m living


that life, and the other is that two of my literary heroes

turns-of-phrase speak to us? Driving out there on the

were blue collar, and they wrote extensively about their

job, an image would come to me and I don’t know why,

experience: Charles Bukowski and Philip Levine. I love

right away. I have to hold onto it until I get home and

Phillip Levine and I love his industrial stuff. It’s easy for

investigate what it’s trying to say to me. In writing we

me to take that role, and I feel like that role needs to

can divine things, imbue them with meaning or simply

be taken, it’s a point of view that needs to be heard.

strip them down. Which is all very Eastern, I guess. The

Besides, as mentioned, it’s my own.

As far as the lan-

idea of the “monkey mind”, constantly grasping and try-

guage in my work, I start from a plain-spoken place and

ing to solve a problem. But poetry doesn’t solve any-

let it go its own way regardless of theme. That way it’s

thing. Besides plain-spoken or prose poetry, I feel like

always evolving on its own, so to speak.

the best stuff just asks. It doesn’t answer. I don’t like being told, while reading or otherwise.

It seems theme is a suggestion for you and you wrap your poetry around it.

The thing that impresses me most about your writing practice is your discipline. You have a number

Exactly. When I started writing poetry in ear-

nest, I wanted to be concrete. I didn’t want to be vague,

of irons in the fire at once and they all lead back to your purpose and passion.

or literary; I just wanted to say it. Then my work started to get a little more obtuse, just to keep it interesting

The thing that leads me back to my purpose and

and molting. I don’t know if you’ve experienced it, but

passion is my fans. I write a weekly blog, and a monthly

you kind of have to trick the mind; for the wisdom to

column on writing called The Coarse Grind in Into the

come out, you have to jump off the track. You have to

Void Magazine, and I self-publish a book every year.

surprise yourself.

I’m figuring that out, printing and book binding and the actual manufacture of these collections, because at the

Like finding patterns?

end of the year people are going to buy them, people are going to read them. I can’t phone it in when it

Or surprising yourself with what you already

comes to them. Accountability is a main motivator of

know. A good way to do that is to subvert cliches.

my process. I’m accountable to my patrons in a way I

Sometimes when I’m looking at language, I look to dis-

might not be to myself. When I announce to my read-

rupt usual patterns in things that might seem cliche.

ers that I’ll be publishing a book every year for 10 years,

One of the benefits of writing is you bypass thinking to

it becomes a pact and it will be done.

get to wisdom. You uncover it. Why do images or

Jim Trainer is a singer-songwriter, blogger and columnist for The Coarse

Grind, a monthly column on the creative life at Into The Void. He publishes one collection of poetry and prose every year through Yellow Lark Press.

Love&Wages is his 5th. Please visit for his collections, and for music, film and appearances. Photo by David Casas


GRACE FEUD for Philip Levine



this corridor dedicated to dead soldiers and commemorated with Casino stars hosts the same cumulonimbus for miles this corridor poked and haunted by exoskeletons of industry refinery, radio and relay tower, fall downs and lean-tos held up by rust and looking aghast this corridor shrouded by giant cranes dipping alloy beaks, puncturing the glass of unnatural lakes wind rippling through the reeds makes the sun seem shimmering though it’s only swinging the whole scene lumbering, tranquil only in passing, it’s too hot and unnatural, each rung of that lookout holding, long after wet winds have worn the stone away long after the toil and sweat of men like me have left it and took our pay making a life of rough ore and weight this corridor with its land splayed like giant clay hands post-prayer and a train cutting through it slow as faith we were in love with it the whole time though we couldn’t ever say bound by duty to owners who had us fencing in their own marveling at it, taking its peace at dawn on our way to line and yard, this beautiful beast we got fed to to feed ours knowing this earth it would’ve given to us anyway before the masters and their borders before its bounties roped and seized.





I fail beautifully, with an artless grace, a clumsy precision, a dirigible fumbling heavy from the belly of clouds. My mistakes are masterpieces, works to be hung inside the basement of memory or hidden under the mattress with a pistol and pills. I’m a slow burn, an acquired aftertaste , a rusty peat. Have you ever fallen off the edge of a daydream? This morning I sat in Starbucks, looking through the window across the street into another Starbucks, a mirroring mirror, a wheel within a wheel, gyroscoping softly.








The edges of the carpet, a little worn the tracks in the pavement, a little gone the pavement actually no longer rigged just ragged like the rock cliff I thought to scale & then turn back, the hack in my breath—a little out of step—the heartbeat something like a flutter, not gliding oblivious behind the scenes this dream-of-a-life taking all the luggage I can muster up the stairs & down the mud through two-track grass that usedto-be-done for good, the no-fun of the planning & wondering & what in the heck to do now, now that the rain has gullied

locked into every chest now that the best

& fires imploded & even lava

years are the best new fears & the old beast

flows have burned their brands into

of fright has passed & everybody does the

the land & is there a subliminal message

rhumba late at night someplace beyond REM

to all-that-liquid coming down to settle-up

someplace outside the tattered covers when

with floorboards once thought dry-rotted

the only Q to remain is what is left, now that

beyond their place? I took a photo & saw

the sun has turned from bright to blood

the worry in a face that used to harp

& the green-cheese-theory once & for

nothing but angelic chords, used to

all disproved & NASA knows better than

string-em-out along the boardwalk

astronauts mooning which dirt to scoop

like so many other thoughts when I

& now that one nautical mile is one hell of a

was young enough not to know, I knew exactly what was on the other side, but

way to row & the swells that would sink me come straight into view, now what’s left

now that my grey beard attracts tours like

is stale elevator music & the ravings

the eleventh wonder, now that my bulging

of pissed poets, & John Doe jacking-off

biceps get all the glances & the secrets

at my brother’s memorial just because he could, & his ashes—cold as ice—& the family thinks it’s nice that my $6,800 for his need paid the marker & the faint sound of Barnum saying ‘sucker’ & ‘born every minute’ was after all, just a line & if you believe that, there’s this open wasteland that’s the perfect place, man, to watch the buzzards hover & nighttime’s oh-so-right for road kill to come out to play & even yell its name just like some schoolchild right before the eyes stop deer-in-the-headlights & drop dead, a luminous red.





You are not only made of stardust, Ancient sea waters rise and fall in your veins. There are hieroglyphs carved into your bones. Burrowed inside are silent screams Stoppered like the ocean’s whisper in a conch. Other people’s madness’s Crank the gears too tight, Breaking cogs, chips that get imbedded Whose scar tissue will form planets Such madness is/not all you A paradox card dealt: the double-edged sword But there’s an answer key hidden Under the ribmeat. And all of this survives with You.




You trotted up on your hoofed feet And confettied the poor country folk with glittered cherry bombs-Numbed and bedazzled, they missed your sleight of hand When you whipped out the crazy rabbit tick-tock from your black hat And they sat transfixed, pupils dilated, ear drums throbbing, Staring at your ever vanishing Cheshire grin As you mumbled at the top of your lungs about blue skies, unicorns, and rainbows, And used your crooked finger to point out your finer points On the blazing flashy Powerpoint they were too blind to see through, While you dug down to the dirt of your carpet bag For your snake oil and cure-all tinctures, All lavender, rosemary, frankincense, and myrrh, To con them into signing on the bloody dotted line Of your counterfeit contract-The puppet master, Small and shady behind the giant emerald green curtain Off the beaten yellow path.



Alexandra Boone waited behind the Presidio county courthouse and watched Marfa kids board the bus.

School was grades 8-12 which went a long way toward explaining why everyone knew everyone else. The girl with purple hair chatted with the redhead boy with Buddy Holly glasses. The chubby Mexican girl laughed it up with the runt boy who could’ve been thirteen or seventeen. It wasn’t yet nine in the morning and already she was sweating her ass off. The seasons were skitzo down here. October should be cold and gray but it was like nine thousand degrees out. She couldn’t wait to New York and actual seasons. Even exhaust-covered snow was beautiful in its own way. She never thought she’d miss New York quite so much.

Hydraulic hiss of the brakes. The bus slowly rumbled up Highland Avenue. She couldn’t believe she was

trusting her life with a boy she barely knew. Scratch that. Didn’t know at all. She was about to turn back and apologize to her father for being such a jackass when the red pickup rumbled down Highland Avenue and parked in the same spot.

She walked over without pretending not to care.

So not cool.

So didn’t matter.

David Talbot opened the driver’s side door and she slid right in. The truck smelled of Old Spice, her fa-

ther’s favorite cologne. What was it with men? The seat was sticky and hot. She adjusted her ass. He placed his Cowboy hat on the dash then threw the truck in reverse.

“Where we going,” she said as Marfa got smaller in the rear view.

“You’ll see,” he said then turned left on Highway 17, which took them north out of town.

“You’re not gonna take me to the middle of desert and rape me, right?”

He smirked the perfect smirk. “No ma’am.”

She turned away. Tried to contain her grin.

They drove in silence for a while but the good kind where everything felt right. She watched the houses

on the north side of Marfa fade into that same scrubby flatland. He pulled a pack of Marlboro Reds out of his front pocket and offered her one. She politely refused but in way that didn’t pass judgement, not that her opinion on smoking would stop a boy like him. He pushed the truck’s cigarette lighter and when it popped out she’d totally changed her mind. The cigarette tasted like they always tasted (ass) and she fought her way through. They passed a long, one-story building on the left surround by light poles.

“What’s that,” she said, not realizing there was anything but desert outside of town.

“Old airfield,” he said, “They had to shut it down last year.”


“Coyotes mostly,” he said, “Reckoned they figured that land belonged to them.”

“Do you speak coyote?” she said.

He chuckled the perfect chuckle.

She decided to go for it. Small talk was for girls with long hair.

“Who lets their kid miss school for ranching or whatever,” she said. “I mean, there are laws against that

sort of thing. Your parents know that, right?”

He tightened his grip on the wheel. “Ranching comes first,” he said, “That’s how it is.”

“Yeah but what if you like don’t wanna ranch,” she said, “What if you wanna actually learn something?”

He took a long drag of his cigarette. “I just do what my Daddy tells me,” he said. “Ain’t like I got much of

a say.”

“Sure you do.”

“You ain’t met him.”

“That’s where you’re taking me, right” she said, “To show Daddy the girl of your dreams.”

He didn’t smirk, chuckle or smile. Normally she would’ve dropped it but there wasn’t anything normal

about David Talbot. She placed a hand on his shoulder and said it was okay. And just like that, he was explaining


how his father drank beer all day every day while David did most of the ranch work. And the craziest part, it wasn’t even their ranch. The whole spread belonged to some rich banker from Houston who was basically never there. David and his father lived deep on the property in a two-room shack that had running water sometimes. When she asked about his mother, he would only say she’d been gone two years now. Alexandra didn’t know if that meant she was in another town or gone like dead gone. Sensing he wasn’t able to say much more, she rubbed his shoulder and left it there. Now it was her turn.

“My father’s no picnic,” she said then kept going. She told him about the move to Marfa and how she

really, really hated him for it. She left out the part about their most recent fight. Didn’t want David thinking she was more of a psycho than she actually was.

“Ain’t bad here,” he said. “You get used to all this space after a while. Start to see it for what it is.”

“And what is it?”

“The most beautiful place on earth,” he said. “And I’m gonna prove it to you.”

Warm feeling in her legs.

Not quite a tingle.

Definitely not butterflies.

A sheer wall of rock loomed dead ahead. They appeared to be headed straight

for it. She switched on the truck’s crappy radio and caught the final chorus of Seasons of The Sun, the worst song in the entire fucking world. She moved the dial up and down. Just static. The wall got closer and up close it was streaky and red. Like someone cleaved a mountain in half. Cottonwood trees clumped at the base in a tight, little group. And way up top what looked like a cabin though it was impossible to know for sure. They were moving fast. She tried the dial again and finally found a country station. Dolly Parton sang about Jolene. He knew every word. The road curved around the rock wall and just like that, they were in another town. Who knew there a whole other town only twenty minutes north of Marfa? This place was full of surprises. And so apparently, was David Talbot.

“This is Fort Davis,” he said pointing out a series of perfectly spaced houses just on the other side of the

rock wall. But they appeared abandoned. “Used to belong to the Confederate States Army but now it sits empty.”

She remembered the airfield. “Let me guess,” she said. “Coyotes.”

“Apaches,” he said. “They raided a cattle pen during a full moon one night and during the pursuit some-

thing like thirteen troops got killed. After that, the government shut it down.”


“West Texas ain’t for sissies,” he said.

They turned left and circled up rock wall from the other side. As they climbed she got her first bird’s eye

view of the Chihuahua desert. It seemed less threatening from above, like a sand box for Greek god. This was the kind of thought she normally kept to herself but something about David Talbot gave her permission. He agreed with her observation, even pointing out which Greek god he thought best fit the bill.

“Really Zeus?” she said. “What do you now about Zeus?”

“God of the sky, ruler of the Olympian gods,” he said.

“Pretty sure you didn’t learn that mending fences,” she said.

“Books,” he said like it was the obvious thing in the world, which of course it was.

“Okay then” she said, struggling to remember her Greek myth, “I was thinking more like Artemis.”

He considered this. “Goddess of the hunt, makes sense.”

Alex gave him the side eye. “You’re smarter than you look.”

“Who said I look smart.”

She giggled and felt like an idiot. She wanted to die but couldn’t because he turned left off the main road,

parked and killed the engine. If they were going to make out, this was the time. She uncrossed her legs.

“You okay walking the rest of the way,” he said and opened the door.

“Where,” she said.


“Sleeping Lion mountain.” He pointed and there, like a lioness in repose, was another rock wall, this one higher and at least two miles

away. This was easily the weirdest first date of her life.

David Talbot unloaded an army-colored back pack from the bed of his truck. She liked how his shoulders

maneuvered the straps as he slipped it on and almost confessed but the heat was making her crazy. It was a little past ten and already she was beginning to melt. He handed her a silver canteen with a warning to go slow. The water tasted strangely metallic and she tried not to think about the source. She’d only been hiking once before at Harriman State Park in upstate New York. Of course it had rained the entire time. Plus she hadn’t worn the proper shoes.

“How far are we going,” she said, pointing out her Birkenstocks.

He rummaged through the truck and found an old pair of hiking boots. “These were my mom’s,” he

said, glancing at her feet. “You’re about the same size.”

“Never been on a date where a change of shoes was required,” she said, accepting the boots.

He was right, though. They fit perfectly and she tried not think about the significance. Before long, they

were stomping down a path that ran beside a dry creek bed. She kept expecting a deer or buffalo to block their path but then again, she had no clue what kind of animals lived in west Texas. Without warning, David veered off the path and started yanking some dead limbs off a tree. It was an incredibly weird thing to do but he seemed so confident. A bird flittered on the scrubby little tree next to her. Obviously not afraid of humans.

“Walking stick,” he said, handing her a gnarled limb about three feet in length. “We’re about to climb

almost two thousand feet.”

“Straight up,” she said, trying not to sound intimidated.

“Switchbacks,” he said.

She pretended to know what those were.

Then she found out. Trails that zigged and zagged up the mountain until her thighs felt like someone had

slathered them in gasoline then lit the match. She leaned so hard on that walking stick she thought it might snap. Her throat went dry but she remembered his warning about water. Stomach grumble. Did he bring something to eat? She hadn’t planned on anything other than what to wear. Not really an outdoor girl she had to admit ha ha ha.

She guessed they’d been hiking for over an hour but honestly, it could’ve two. Time stretched funny in

the mountains. She zigged another zag and there he sat on a rock like a Cowboy Buddha. He removed his hat and slicked back his hair. Blacker than black. She’d only seen that color on drag queens and she was fairly confident David Talbot of Marfa, Texas did not use L’Oreal Dark and Lovely. As she approached, he scooched.

“Is this our rock,” she said, noting how perfectly it contained their butts.

“Is now,” he said.

With however many millions on the planet, how could two people suddenly and without question realize

they belonged together? It seemed naïve and quaint, like an Osmonds song. But on the summit of Sleeping Lion mountain, with his thigh pressed against hers and the west Texas sun slicking their skin she came to believe that David Talbot was the boy for her. An entire lifetime passed between them. She had to stop herself from kissing him again. Instead they stared at the view, which was even more breathtaking than the drive up.

“Up here you see things,” he said.

She followed his gaze over the mountains and she had to admit, there was something magic in the way

they curved into the horizon. The sun made them appear less threatening somehow, like an oil painting that belonged on the wall of a museum.


“Ever get the feeling you were born into the wrong family,” she said.

“Only every day,” he said.

“Yeah well,” she said, “What are we gonna do about it?”

He leaned in but she was already there.


I just lost it. It should have been comical, Domestic slapstick. I was feeling content, Had a good day, When the yogurt fell from the fridge.


Not a snack cup, But a big honkin’ two pound carton,

I battle the elements

Splattering its contents

at my desk. Chilled

Like blood at a crime scene.

wind blows from air

All over the boot.

vents, unwanted.

The boot.

I wear a sweater in July.

The boot.

It’s cold as Christmas

I had been keeping the feelings in so long,

on the thermostat.

The fire of blame and frustration,

Maintenance must have

For a single misstep off a curb.

died. Plants in the lobby

Not so bad.

could use some water.

I can walk with the boot.

Santa Claus is a thought

I can drive even,

leaning toward me.

If I take the boot off and then

He sees me when

Put the boot back on again

I sleep at my computer

Each time.

and when I wake.

I saw yogurt on the boot,

Men from headquarters

The last falling feather

walk the halls so

On a tenuous Jenga of emotion

I hide my online

That I never suspected was there

shopping from view.

Because, come on, man,

I’m buying gifts now

This is such a little thing.

to beat the rush when

There was an explosion behind my eyes.

mail comes through.

I howled in rage at the heavens,

It will be cold outside.

At the insult,

It will be like indoors.

Out of proportion for the event

I plan to wear a sweater

And then sat, spent and depressed

to work on merry

At the violence I had wrought.

Christmas week.

She kindly made no protest And quietly washed the boot, Unforgiving velcro and felt, Like Mary Magdalene,


An act of spiritual healing For a wound freshly open.







heart beat rocking chair anxious leaves shaking table veins that tense relaxing fingernail burning butt crabapple raining thud soil crack! stone ow! skull ouch stays awhile can’t shake it squirrel shakes it shimmies hanging shaking leaves loose small chew chomping mostly dropping flesh saving seeds this branch clean small feast stored in puffed cheeks comes out puckered cheeks to plant new tree relieved by release fertilizing soil squirrel chatters doesn’t dropping feel good ~ RYAN ONDERS


NIGHTS | Kevin M. Kearney

I was working nights, responsible for the fifteen or so men on the floor. Shifts were slow, though

sometimes I’d find a room with a light on well past curfew. If I leaned close enough to the door I could hear the guy inside pacing back-and-forth, repeating something just above a whisper. Sometimes it sounded like one side of an argument. Other times it was nothing more than a single word over and over again, the inflection shifting with every repetition. I’d tell myself that it was a nervous tic, or maybe a mantra, so that I could continue down the hall.

I was unqualified for the job except that I was capable of listening intently to the guys, whether

they were screaming at me or just needed someone to nod along with their long-winded stories. I don’t know that this was so much a skill as it was a natural response. I had no idea how to counsel them, had no sense of what to suggest they do. All I could do was offer myself as a sounding board. I guess it worked: most of the guys said they liked talking to me and my boss noted that I “appeared caring and comforting” in my performance review.

The guys only had as much money as their monthly SSI checks, which covered their rent and little

else. What was left usually went to packs of cigarettes and scratch-offs, habits the men always told me they wanted to quit when they realized they had reached the end of the month and had nothing saved. But when the next month’s checks arrived I’d see them back at the corner store, smiling as they waited in line.

Wayne went through close to two packs a day, which left him broke a week into every month. At

the end of that week, he’d settle into the chair in my office and ask if he could borrow enough to buy a few loosies from one of the guys down the hall.

“I’m not allowed to loan you money.”

“I’m good for it. You know me,” he’d say, and I’d nod without actually offering anything in re-

sponse. We’d repeat the same routine every night for the rest of the month until his money arrived on the first.

One of those nights, Wayne came to me later on, a few beads of sweat trickling down his fore-

head. “I’m not feeling right,” he told me. “And I’m thinking about doing something bad.”

I told him I was glad he had come to me and we walked down to the corner. I hailed a cab, gave

Wayne the forty bucks I had in my wallet, and went back inside to notify the psych ward that they should be expecting one of our guys.

I didn’t hear from Wayne for the next few nights, but I made sure to check in with every guy on

the floor several times throughout those subsequent shifts. I called everyone together to talk about the importance of speaking up when we felt strange. I knocked on the doors of the lit-up rooms and asked if they needed any help. I stared at the empty chair in my office and wondered why I hadn’t carefully documented every one of my nightly conversations with Wayne.

Eventually a doctor from the psych ward called my office and told me that Wayne wanted to

speak to me. “You don’t have to take the call,” he said. I was so relieved that the doctor’s words confused me.

“Wayne,” I said. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”

“Me too,” he said. “Listen. Do you think you could come down here?”

I checked the clock. “I’m off in two hours. Are you all right?”

“Great. That’s great,” he said. “Listen. Could you bring me some cigarettes? I’m good for it.” He

paused, waiting for an answer. “You know me.”


I looked across my desk, as if the answer was sitting across from me, and nodded.




ADRIENNE ENFINGER Archangels and demons and end times, oh my! Asteria: Into the Fray is Adreinne Enfinger’s debut fantasy novel about a protagonist who readily accepts her destiny.

Asteria is your debut novel. How long did it take to produce from concept to publication? It took a little over a year from concept to publication. Often, Asteria experiences some conflict around the decision that drives the plot. What was your motivation to write your protagonist as more readily accepting of her role? When we meet Asteria, she is at a breaking point in her life, so much so that she has considered taking her own life. Other protagonists that resist their destiny have more to lose than Asteria. They still have a normal life they are fighting to keep. Learning of what really Debut author of Asteria: Into

the Fray, Adrienne Enfinger has worked at Arby’s as a teen (she was there for the “free” fries), she has worked in a law firm, and has spent the last 10 years of her life as a Registered Nurse. She is currently an Assistant Director of Nursing. She lives in Virginia and has two, perfect, beautiful, incorrigible young children. When not toiling away in reality, Adrienne delves into the world of fiction. She loves chocolate and doesn’t trust anyone who doesn’t. She also likes pie. Find Asteria: Into the Fray online at Amazon today.

happened to her parents and learning of her true destiny is exactly the change Asteria needed. The book contains spiritual themes tied to a variety of Christian archetypes. When writing fiction that relies on the symbolism and philosophy of one religion, do you consider the universal themes that it shares with other world theologies? Would you say your characters are relateable to a wide audience? I did consider how those whose belief structures I've drawn upon to create the book would perceive the story. The spiritual themes in the book are drawn from a variety of different religious and folklore sources. I don't believe that someone who is truly religious, be it Christian or otherwise, would find the characters or the story relateable. However, I do believe that those who enjoy a mixture of fantasy and urban fiction will enjoy the story and the many subtle nuisances and references sewn into the story. I believe that use of these references make the story that much richer. Since Asteria is your first publication, have you found yourself examining feedback from your readers and thinking about revisions for follow-up novels? I thoroughly enjoy feedback, good and bad, from my readers. Before publishing it I had many beta-readers read the story and offer valuable feedback that helped to make the story what it is today. Without the feedback of readers, the story wouldn't be the story that it is. Any feedback I receive is taken into consideration for follow-up novels and will be welcomed. Will there be follow-up novels in this series? I hope for this to become a trilogy.





Skin-to-skin, I soap your newborn belly, sleek as a seal pup, careful to avoid your tender belly button where so recently you were a vine attached. We are both punch-drunk with new experience. I hold you up with one slightly shaky right hand behind your back’s plush hunch. You burble and you spastic kick against the plastic duck tub, your foot that fits in my small hand. Your whole sweet-scented shampoo town of toes fits into your toothless mouth, something we laugh about later, when you’re a sack of warm sugar on my chest in the brown recliner, when we can afford to relax, but in this moment, no one’s laughing. The phone could ring, a knock on the door, the oven’s alarm, a siren or a bomb could go off in this kitchen and I remind myself: never, ever let the baby go, never leave her in this room. My fingertips grasp your waistless waist, then clasp a just-washed upper arm, smooth as satin, smaller than my bone-filled wrist. I don’t exactly hurry, but neither do I tarry. I have never possessed this kind of fright, standing at the sink, reaching with a tiny white rag to trace your sculptural perfection— in the room a panting, dark breath reminding: don’t let go, don’t you ever let go. She can’t sit up on her own. Dampness at my neck, under my arms as I wash with the awkwardness of a first bike pedaling, the slippery fresh curves your baby body: the continents, stars, and precious planets.




My exploration of materials and ideas focus heavily on the topic of warfare as it relates to perspectives of service, nostalgia, loss, and the experiences of serving in varying environments. In Remember,2018, I created a to-scale, fabric AK-47 to both remember and represent the loss experienced during warfare, specifically tying the losses between WWI and the recent war in Afghanistan. I chose fabric as the medium to communicate vulnerability and help make the message more relatable to viewers who have no experience with combat or warfare. This piece draws from my personal experience and the embroidered poetry is sewn on top of a piece of fabric from the uniform that I wore while deployed to Afghanistan 2011-2012. ~ HEATHER KAISER



I almost knock over my Champagne Mimosa,

when I point excitedly at the contest featured on the front page of the Daily News.

Bruce snatches the drink before it spills on his

bed. He doesn’t really approve of eating in bed, but the Romantic in him appreciates the Sunday brunch ritual we put together each weekend.

Early each Sunday morning, Bruce heads up

to Zabar’s on Broadway, to get Lox, fresh Bagels, and cream cheese.

I am in charge of coffee, fresh squeezed or-

ange juice, and Champagne.

There isn’t a package store open on a Sunday

for the Champagne, but I am a bartender right down the street and I can buy what I like from them at cost. I have tried buying bubbly the night before but nothing alcoholic lasts long around me and Bruce.

“What is it”? Bruce asks crankily as he brushes

bagel crumbs off his bed.

I stab the page with my finger. “Look!” I almost

shout. “Look! I can be a Big Apple Diplomat! All you have to do is write them a letter to nominate me. I could win a thousand dollars!”

Bruce is busy scanning the sports page for the

fantasy league he belongs to. “What do I get out of it?” He asked.

“Well, you get a weekend at the Grand Hyatt,

front row Broadway theater tickets and dinner for two at the Top of the World. The winner gets the same thing plus a thousand dollars cash.”

Bruce looks up when he hears about the show

tickets.”What makes you think you would win?”

“I do all this shit they are looking for.”

I actually was the kind of person the paper was

looking for as a nominee. I worked in a landmark restaurant as a bartender. I was certainly a smiling face that greeted tourists on a daily basis. If it was rainy, I might hail a cab for an elder or a drunk if it was late at night. But this wasn’t an act of charity or even friendliness. I worked for tips and a smiling face that was willing to help simply earned more money.

As far as tucking drunks into cabs, I did that to

avoid liability for over-serving them in the first place.

I did volunteer a little in the community and was

known for handing out Dead Orders from the restaurant to the homeless and hungry.


A dead order is food that is either returned to

the kitchen uneaten or never picked up and delivered. There was usually at least one of these at the end of every shift. Rather than throw it away, I preferred to salvage it to give to a junkie or wino in nearby Needle Park.

I worked at the food bank uptown once a

week, but all these efforts were neither charitable or altruistic. I had found myself in a jam more than once as I struggled into adulthood. These efforts were more of a talisman against suffering setbacks like that again. But I was willing to bargain that talisman away for one thousand dollars if Bruce was willing to cooperate.

The two reasons I thought I actually had a

chance of winning was because they were picking several winners. One each week for eight weeks.

I never win first place in any contest I enter,

but I can always manage to score a runner-up prize. Sharing the honor with several other people increased my chances.

My other ace in the hole was the fact that my

boyfriend was a professional writer. I wasn’t worried about sharing the money because he came from a rich and prominent Baltimore family.

Even if he wasn’t from money, I would not have

offered to share it. Because Bruce was going to profit from it on his Birthday, even though he didn’t realize it. With his new job as an editor of a men’s magazine, I thought a red Honda Scooter (50cc) would be perfect for his daily commute across town.

Bruce picked up a pen and paper and chewed

thoughtfully on a bagel. I opened the second bottle of champagne and got drunker.

“Tell them my father is dead,” I advised drunk-

enly. “Maybe they’ll feel sorry for me. Tell them I like to read Archie comics still. Maybe they’ll think me adorable.”

I sat at the edge of the bed and recalled every

kindness I had performed in my entire life.

Once, when I was ten, I caught the bouquet at a wedding but my little cousin looked so upset that I tossed it her way.

I am pretty sure that every decent act I have

ever done to keep me out of hell when I die was negotiated for a thousand dollars that Sunday.

Bruce outlined the letter he was constructing

to nominate me. He worked on it for a couple of days before sending it.

We waited.

favorite prize. I have never had one so elaborate or

One evening I was bringing some Hot and Sour

expensive before or since.

soup home for dinner when I noticed an unfortunate curled up in a church doorway. He was either passed out or asleep.

The weekend in New York was fun enough. But

the Broadway shows we saw weren’t fantastic.

One was starring Bernadette Peters. She was

It was freezing that night.

terrific but the show itself sucked. I whispered com-

I silently climbed the stairs up to him and set

plaints about it during the first act until Bruce informed

the soup near his head. I was hoping the warmth and

me the cast could hear me on stage. Our seats were

scent would waken him to eat it.

that close.

I didn’t tell anyone that I had done this, but I

The dinners were forgettable. Both were in ex-

secretly hoped God would see and help me win the

pensive tourist traps. Mediocre food, drinks not includ-

thousand dollars.


After a month or so, my boss at the restaurant

Bruce and I had a hefty bar bill both nights.

called me over and told me that both he and I had been

We had an interesting time at the Grand Hyatt

nominated by someone as a Big Apple Diplomat. He

Hotel. We had cocktails with a famous film actor and a

offered to split the money with me no matter which of

couple pitchers from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

us had won.

I was skeptical but kept it to myself. I had never

seen Jimmy do one single nice thing for anyone, other than parade his extreme handsomeness. I have to admit, watching Jimmy walk by certainly perked the staff up.

Instead of agreeing to split the cash I told Jim-

my that I knew I wouldn’t win and could never take advantage of him that way.

That was when he told me they had contact-

ed him and I should be photo ready the following Wednesday lunch when they would be coming in with a camera and a check to surprise me.

That morning Bruce and I were gleeful when

we parted. The letter Bruce had written implied that we barely knew one another. I had spent the night at his place because it was closer to work. We were giddy about our subterfuge.

When the Newspaper showed up with a huge

bouquet, a cameraman, and the check, I had already rehearsed the way I would behave.

As the man handed me the check and ex-

plained my good fortune, I clutched the back of a chair and began to tremble and sat down in it with a thud as if in shock.

When they introduced Bruce as the per-

son who had nominated me, I smiled up at him dazed and friendly.

“I know you!” I exclaimed happily.

Later Bruce told me I was one hell of an ac-


The funny thing is, the flower bouquet was my


I wish I had bet against them the next day.

Bruce and I watched him pitch poorly, wiping the

greasy sweat from his brow before he was replaced by

I’d been the one to teach him how to drive it.

I digress.

another pitcher from the bullpen.

We knew he would suck too, we had all closed

the bar the night before together.

“His liver is probably still floating in Jack Daniels,”

I enjoyed the Limo service quite a bit. Each time

news to host a breakfast for all the winners and those that had nominated them.

Again, Bruce and I took separate cabs to the

same location from the same address.

we rode I would stop by the bar and snag a bottle of

The breakfast was actually catered as lunch

champagne. The restaurant didn’t charge me for this be-

despite the early invitation. They wanted to film us

cause of all the publicity I had brought. The Limo driver

eating lunch to play at noontime. CNN wanted the

had a gag where he would rush me through the crowd

extra time to edit.

of New Yorkers, hands on my shoulders, protective like a

The winner circle was a real freak show. Each


The crowds always wondered aloud if they had

I was in good company.

One man was a cab driver that went around

It was a gas.

winner a bigger attention whore than the


just seen someone famous. The money wasn’t for me. I was holding my own

passing out hard candies as he bellowed that he

in the city finally. I had my own studio apartment in a shit-

needed someone to manage him. For what I never

ty neighborhood, but I made enough to secure bars on


my windows because I was on the first floor, facing the alley.

Jeanne Moos followed me back to my job

with a film team and interviewed me a little. My Night after night, I would listen to prowlers creep

up my fire escape, breaking into my neighbors’ apart-

mother and friends were excited to see me on national cable news that night.

ments. I didn’t bother calling the cops though. Our Super

I have to admit, I was excited too.

watched that fire escape every night and would handcuff

That night I treated myself to a quart of Hot

the burglars to it, then call the police.

So I was doing OK but there wasn’t a ton of mon-

ey left over for extras.

I wanted the money to buy a really good

present for Bruce’s Birthday, and Christmas pres-

ents my mother and sister.

and Sour soup as I watched my image on TV. Regrettably, the screen isn’t kind to me, but I still got a big kick out of it.

Sometime around ten thirty, my phone rang.

A man introducing himself as a stringer for the New York Times wanted a few words with me.

It was in the early eighties and Video players were

“At this hour?” I was annoyed and suspicious.

still a brand new luxury. I wanted to give them each one

He assured me that he’d just come from a

and the red scooter for Bruce.

Giving Bruce the scooter was a fantastic thrill. He

late meeting before putting the paper to bed and that he’d been promoting the idea of a story about

never saw it coming. Getting it there had been a hassle


though. In order for the doorman to let me bring it up to

his apartment, it couldn’t have any gas in it.

questions honestly and eagerly.

I forgot my initial concerns and answered his

I didn’t have a penny left over after the purchase

“Would you do me a favor?” He asked.

to hire a truck, so I pushed it the thirty-odd blocks home.

“Absolutely!” I answered with enthusiasm.

“Would you let me slice your breast….?”

Bruce collapsed in a heap when he saw it. He

howled screamed and rolled about on the floor like a lu-

natic contestant that had just won a game show.

slammed down the phone receiver.

A year later he would inherit a substantial sum

from a grandparent and buy a better bike. He would leave the keys in the one I had gifted him a year earlier, in the street to be purposely stolen.

I do not hear the rest, because I have I turn off the lights in my apartment and

check all of my locks.

I cower in the corner on my futon for the rest

of the night,


At the end of the two months Big Apple Dip-

lomat series, a radio station teamed up with CNN

I observed.

He refused to let me have it, despite the fact

in the dark. Listening to burglars climbing my fire escape.


Hanging from a clip at the end of the bed, the bars on charts tell of size and heartbeats, the rise and fall echoed in the footsteps of the doctor who leaves me alone with just the wait and dark shadowy rings under my eyes, a cup of tea, strong, sweet, and milky next to the window, and the sidewalk, a carpet of yellow. No girlie pink, we only chose things in soft yellow as I remember. Voices push in the window, flow from bars to street and white dots the sky, revealing the milky way. My hands refold tiny clothes before letting them just fall onto the bed. My now cold tea makes rings on a side table. Another contraction hits, leaves me no time to tidy up and you arrive. Fallen leaves cover the park paths and streets, bright red and yellow swirls dancing around passing feet in windy rings of color as we sit on the bed. I remember. The bars of the crib hold up Pooh bear and pacifier, as you fall asleep. A white drop slipped from the corner of your milky smile, a sudden reminder of my granny's milky curls tightly circling her head. My memory leaves me at her bedside, helping her into clothes after a fall, naked as a newborn. I spoon feed her yellow soup trying not to spill, hitting my thigh on the bars set to guard the bed. The drops make rings that mark the sheets. She twists her white filigree rings surely thinking of a man and a baby with milky skin and red hair like you. Her mind sees notes and bars and the ghostly echo of song on forgotten leaves of sheet music. Together in her lap, holding the yellow Teddy, the camera fixes your smiles and snowflakes fall. Now tiny Teddy holds up school books lest they fall off the shelf where in the three rings of your school binder, homework underlined in yellow fades in the sun. She was never one for watered down, milky love. The memory of her courage leaves me pearls like grains whose growth no shell bars. My eyes fall down on intertwining webs of filigree, milky bars encircling my finger. Suddenly, her laugh rings out your mouth, and she is here again, as leaves of paper yellow.










Plane ticket in hand Swamped Thing in Foggy Bottom Remembers blue sky Opposing counsel In tailored suit and wingtips Weasel in disguise Associate pens Encyclopedic wonder Partner reads short brief Billable hours Accrued and unaccounted Lax lawyer scolded Swamped Thing home at last Furniture needs dusting No blue sky here

~ ZoĂŤ Blaylock



On the balcony my toddler son and I dip blue plastic wands into the red bottle and wave them to and fro, unfurling streams of iridescent globes over the parking lot into the trees, delighted as they glide, swirl and pop, or drift so high we lose them against the cloudless sky. The phone rings. "More big ones, Daddy!" "All right, big as planets." Isaiah showers them with strings of moons. The ringing stops. "Look, Daddy, everywhere!" He raises his arms, his little wings, and I know one day he'll fly.










In the same way that haiku can inspire haibun, pictures can inspire flash fiction. Whether

it be a word sketch (haiku), a photograph, or an illustration, an image has the power to initiate, interpret, or enhance a story or poem. Think Alice in Wonderland, haibun (prose combined with haiku), or the latest graphic novel. A black and white photograph that I took of my husband’s shoes (below) inspired ‘Summer Heat.” Immediately, I thought Film Noir and wrote the story. What do you think? Do the shoes fit or do they tell you something different?

SUMMER HEAT Late September and it’s ten degrees hotter than hell. Never thought I’d find myself back here,

never in a million years. I walk up the alley toward Market Street and duck into the side door of the bar.

“Black & White – two fingers – neat.”

Joe nods his head, “Sure, Johnny.” He hands me my drink in a filmy glass. I take it and sit on the

bench by the door.

The joint hasn’t changed much, still smells of cigarettes, cheap whiskey, and broken dreams. Bro-

ken dreams, yeah, I should know about that.

“Hey mister?” I look up. She bats her baby blues, right on cue.

“Do you have a dime? I need to make a phone call.”

I notice her dark brown hair, and pouty lips, the kind of lips that can take a man where he doesn’t

want to go. I reach into my pocket.

“Don’t say I never gave you anything.”

She winks, takes the dime, and walks down the hall to the payphones.

“She’s trouble,” Joe says.

I don’t hear him. I’m lost in the sound of her heels clicking on the tile floor, the sound of a tornado

on cold steel tracks. I can see her in the phone booth through the window. She’s shaking her head and she isn’t smiling. I watch as she slams down the phone.

“Thanks for noth-

ing mister,” she says as she walks past. She drops a card with a name and address,



100 Kentucky Ave. I can smell her perfume, No. 5 – Chanel – Roses.

The ceiling fan is

turning at a slow wobble. I can feel the heat. I have a sudden desire for bourbon and horses as I follow her out the door.

The lights from the

bar glance off the tips of my shoes, my lucky shoes, and today I’m feeling lucky.





It is a warm day for November. The sun is shining, and white clouds hang suspended in the blue sky. The air is crisp and tart. Pots of orange and yellow spider mums line the steps leading up to my mother’s house. The front door is open, and bright light reflects off the large beveled glass mirror hanging above the buffet. It is a perfect day. Angelus a congregation of sparrows circle the bell tower

Mom is in the kitchen basting. The drippings sizzle as she overshoots the turkey. Eugene and George are in the living room watching football. The neighborhood bookie knocks on the door while Joshua toddles from the candy dish to the paisley chair, leaving chocolate smudges on GG’s new favorite purse. I am busy setting the table with the good china. My pumpkin pies sit on the buffet, warm and fragrant. There is nary a crack in the orange glossy-speckled filling. It is a perfect day. centerpiece the old pilgrim missing a buckle

The table is loaded to the point of sagging with turkey, stuffing, homemade gravy, sweet potato casserole, and GG’s special canned-shrimp cocktail. I reach for my pies, my beautiful perfect pies, my Better Homes and Garden’s perfect pies. But my joy turns to horror as I see two lumpy ditches where the pumpkin used to be. I turn to look at my laughing son, and in a moment of divine inspiration, grab the Reddi-wip sitting on the edge of the table. I twist off the cap, shake up the can, press my finger against the nozzle, and proceed to smother the tops of my pies. It is a perfect day. covering up the family secrets sticky fingers



They found him behind the drapes in the living room hiding from the commies— We follow the nurse down the long corridor at the VA Hospital. My shoes squeak on the white-tile floor. As we enter the visitor’s area the nurse locks the doors behind us. I wonder if she will remember to let us out. snow— so many colors of camouflage Uncle Herb is staying with us for the weekend. I start to laugh when he sings White Christmas. He sounds just like Bing Crosby. I think he forgot to take his medicine though because he’s talking non-stop again about his perpetual-motion machine. Dad tells him it won’t work but Uncle Herb won’t listen. He just keeps talking and they keep going round and round. subway train he checks his pocket for another nickel The music is loud at Lois’s wedding reception. The DJ is playing Devo and we are all dancing. The Cousins pull Uncle Herb out on the floor. He has that smile on his face again as he starts to dance. On a good day he does a pretty mean Freddie. birdsong... rapid fire of machine guns in a distant field It would have been enough that you survived Korea, the psychiatrists, all the Thorazine they pumped into you, the weekend passes, the group homes, and us. But those awards—the ones they found in your room—for the thousands of hours you spent volunteering at the VA. We thought you were just drinking coffee at McDonald’s with your friends. Seems you had a little bit more in mind. Oohrah!

the old lot between the cracks daffodil blooms soldier boy— you whipped it, you whipped it good First Published Cattails, April 2018



LOSING TIME Have you ever had time go... apart? When the clock ticks wrong, The springs pop loose. The links begin to splay, And you see the chain slide away, The oil drips away, The whole thing tears down, And you tweak and prod while the gearshifts wear down, And the crankshaft grinds a bit, so you fix it. Again. And the phonecalls start. Or is it the doorbell -A ding? Can we glue it together? Where is the tape? Where did that piece go? I can’t find it, it escaped! Maybe, under the refrigerator, It’s waiting, or. Did it fall out in the car? Perhaps - It’s not far, I’ll go look for it. ~ JONATHAN HOWELL





STRAW | THEA VERDAK Feeling drowsy, I stretched on the straw and saw a spider’s web in the rafters with an ensnared insect struggling this way and that with great urgency and becoming ever more trapped when Owen walked in. I captured his eyes knowing full well he will never fly away, nor I for that matter. Straw smells like home.

MEDICAL | MAUREEN SHERBONDY My best friend spoke in hyperbolic medical terms. For example, on a stressful day she’d call me and say, “I’m stroking out.” When her boyfriend couldn’t be reached, she exclaimed, “He’s giving me a coronary!” Even traffic jams incited this type of language. From the Beltline she texted, “Cars are halting like a giant blood clot. I want to exit this artery.” Conversation became so exaggerated I decided to cancel my prescription. I said, “Our relationship has become terminal.” When she asked to perform a post-mortem exam, I pressed the red button. That’s when the conversation flat-lined.







tures link the visual language of



color theory, and constructed elements. The work “watercolor drawings,� are made by researching the sacred in a myth, an ungraspable character, or ephemeral natural phenomena. The properties of the tale are codified into a recipe then followed to generate a space for the subject, a temple. The codification




contains and places a limit on the inconceivable, The recipes are followed ritualistically. The representation of this code in drawing is a religion (of sorts). Some parts are rendered in the form of gestures, some drafted lines and curves, some of collaged photographic elements, and other constructed pieces of wood floating above the picture plane of the paper. Humphries says he starts his pieces by researching a particular event in the landscape or mythological character. After study, several attempts are made at sketching a version of the drawing representing the ephemeral quality or figure. Next a recipe is formulated. this recipe is then followed from five to eighteen times. The final drawings could be considered religious or different versions from the text kitchen.





John Humphries describes his drawings as emotional and technical. They link the

visual language of architecture, landscape, color theory, and constructed elements. The work “watercolor drawings,” are made by researching the sacred in a myth, an ungraspable character, or ephemeral natural phenomena. The properties of the tale are codified into a recipe then followed to generate a representation of the subject. The codification of the infinite contains and places a limit on the inconceivable, The recipes are followed ritualistically. The representation of this code in drawing is a religion (of sorts). He paints religions (probably). Some parts are rendered in the form of gestures, some drafted lines and curves, some of collaged photographic elements, and other constructed pieces of wood floating above the picture plane of the paper.

Humphries says he starts his pieces by researching a particular event in the land-

scape or mythological character. After study, several attempts are made at sketching a version of the drawing representing the ephemeral quality or figure. Next a recipe is formulated. this recipe is then followed from five to eighteen times. The final drawings could be considered religious or different versions from the text kitchen.

There’s a long and celebrated tradition of seasonal attunement in Japan.

The Japanese calendar was made to conform to the Gregorian calendar in 1873

during European influenced “modernization”. According to this division of time, the 24 traditional seasons were plotted on an ancient lunar calendar. A perfect translation of lunar to solar time is impossible. The differences caused most of the traditional Japanese holidays and seasons to shift in time and show up on the new solar calendar months later than the original seasonal timings. A more subtle and nuanced manner of tracking time was needed. This nuanced form of calendar takes off from the 24 divisions of the calendar year, or sekki (24 seasons). Each of the 24 seasons is further divided into three even more nuanced periods—resulting in the shichijuunu-ko, or 72 mini seasons of Japan. Imagine the years broken into periods of time each of 4-7 days corresponding to an event in nature. The idea is that the passage of the year is not based upon a clockwork mechanism or arbitrary numbers on a calendar, but by the activities of the natural environment, it is an everyday life almanac. Some of the seasons are: The Giant Butterbur Flowers, The Mountain Stream Freezes Over, Rain Moistens the Soil, Grass Sprouts, Swallows Return, or Praying Mantises Hatch.

These ceramic pieces are based upon the Japanese notion of 72 seasons. My new

pieces are trying to depict the passage of time in the Midwest by activities and phenomena rather than arbitrary dates. Included in my list of events are: The First Prediction of Snow, Harvesting of the Corn, The Last Mowing of the Year, The Geese Return, Peas Are Planted, or The Running of the Wiener Dogs.

The ceramic pieces use lines and cuts to abstractly represent these events; the

resulting carved slab is rolled into a vase-like form (or some kind of vessel). Consider these as mnemonic urns or votives to help one be more aware of their environment. These are not literal pictorial representations; they are abstracted and in a way remind the viewer to watch for something or to spark a memory of something slightly forgotten. Similar to how constellations were used in assisting the telling of stories in times past. These also connect to interior design by increasing the ways one can both represent and understand the complexities of human experience and travel through time. Forty-nine of these sculptures are constructed; the others are underway.


Root in the Soil | James Grabill



Out of the smallest light-strike

The tin drum under seismic pressure

tinctures of midnight

compresses into a little bell

and dawn on the barges,

still ringing in the underground home where ants are running their big cities

out of preconditional capture and release

at the edge of an asking root hair

of the atmosphere bearing down on pilgrimages in the era before belief

down in soil which is packed with being,

in evolutionary intelligence of cells

where mineral exchanges happen fast on slopes of concussive gravity

where time has been the water

shaping emptiness within the bowl

and mineral urgency progresses

which has never stopped working

more slowly than telephone-sky cameras

since it was made by exploding methane

or an unprecedented word for critical

released in the middle of thawing tundra

emerging from cell-to-cell kindred the bowl that promises an answer to hunger, at the root of being in a life,

the bowl created to hold what’s in it,

improvised, out of being alive

what’s dropped into it without breaking it

as one among many, not many

like almost every ancient Mayan bowl with circumferential lips of pi

with a whole lot of money of the grasses

revolving with the equator

under distant fields of the cumulative

that encompasses what’s adapted

stars in heavy revolution, leaving in their wake the original dust

the way the flower of the tree

that even now circles the planet

turns over weeks into fruit on the last branches to appear

as almost an endless number of sounds in a voice, encompassing each possible

before the face absorbed by air

picture, yet every one preternatural,

can hear the sounds within voices that communicate between species.

every longing and conscious sense, each further person born, new to the planets circling the sun.









This morning the radio is playing The Ride of the Valkyries. And I am riding with them, riding to retrieve my father’s body, his body and its half-mind, a hostage held within. I arrive at my father’s side but he cannot leave yet for Valhalla; the indecisive gods ordain his halfway stay for secret days to come in twilight. Despite the sun long-set, by dim starlight he yet remembers me. From his wheeled steed he tries to rise on legs that sleep eternally. Yet gravity, stronger than he, grips his body if not the mind that imagines victory. I don’t know where I am, he says. And I explain again. Everyone is against

We begin as virtual pilgrims piloting an iPad by parkway and beltway through the harbor tunnel – memorial highways, strewn with fading road signs and spectral images of work, a wife, children, old neighbors and dear friends. In mid-trip we turn onto old roads. He knows their every mile, roads of youth so unlike the ride of Valkyries. Both of us find comfort in the ancient landmarks that pass before our eyes as we skirt the bay shore, traversing rivers known, arriving finally at the place we both knew as home. Home at last, our day’s travel done, I kiss him good night; returning from a night long past one he once gave me. And I go, surrendering him to the tender grasp of Valkyries.

me, he says. And I tell him they’re not. I need to see a map, he says. And so I pull one out.





In the middle of the night, I awake to the sound of my name and follow it through the house.

Mom is on the floor in front of the open refrigerator door. Orange juice has spilled down the front of her nightgown and pools on the floor. She looks up at me, eyes glazed.

“Oh, Mom.”

“I was trying to get some orange juice,” she says, looking around like she isn’t sure quite where

she is or how she got there, which is probably true. She must have reached for the juice, opened it, then passed out, falling to the floor. I wonder how long she was out, if it was just seconds, or longer, before she was able to awaken and call my name.

I reach under her arm with mine and help her to her feet. “I’m going to help you get to the table,

then we’ll get you some sugar, OK?”

She nods, a compliant child.

Once she’s in a chair, ignoring the juice, I grab a can of Coke and a spoon. A sugar bowl sits on

the table. I scoop up about a half a teaspoon and gently put my hand under my mother’s chin. “Open up.” I tip the sugar into her mouth. She makes a face as she moves the sugar around with her tongue. “Good job.” I open the Coke. “Here. Take a sip of this.” I hold the can up for her and she takes a small drink.

“Oh.” She says. “That tastes terrible.”

“I know, Mom, but we have to get some sugar into you.” I tip another spoonful of sugar into her

mouth and chase it with another drink of Coke.

Her eyes are starting to clear. She’s starting to come back to me. The adrenalin pumping through

my veins is dissipating. I look up at the kitchen clock. 4 a.m.

“I was calling you.”

“I know. I was sleeping. I thought it was a dream.”

“I’m sorry, I thought I could get some juice and I’d be OK.”

“It’s OK, Mom. You scared me a little bit.”

Another spoonful of sugar, another swig of Coke.

“I’ve made such a mess.”

I grab a dishtowel and dab at her gown, her arm, her face. I get up and wet a cloth, pick up the

bottle of juice, wipe the floor, close the refrigerator.

“How are you doing?”

“Better.” She helps herself to more Coke. “This tastes so terrible.”

“It gets the job done, though.” I say, taking the seat next to her and watching her. She’s not com-

pletely OK, yet, I can tell. Bits of pulp sick to the lace trim of her nightgown. I wait, the clock above the sink ticking into the morning. “I bet you’d like to have a dry nightgown on.”

She looks down. “I made such a mess.”

“It’s OK, Mom. Don’t worry about it.”

“Where’s your father?”

“He’s in Chicago, Mom. Remember? He’s not here.”

“I was calling you.”

“I know, Mom. I’m sorry. I was asleep.” I don’t tell her that I heard her. I don’t say that I heard her

and closed my eyes again and tried to go back to sleep. I think about how I have to go to school in a few


hours. I think about how I have a chemistry test today. That it’s today, already. I realize that I probably won’t get back to sleep. How can I leave her next year? How can I leave her and go to college?

“I think I’m OK, now.” She says. The Coke is almost gone. “I was really out of it. The last thing I

remember is trying to get to the kitchen for the juice, and then I was on the floor.”

“Do you want to try to go back to bed?” “No, I think I’m awake for good now. I’m going to get cleaned up and dressed. You go back to

sleep, though. It’s a school day.”

She helps me tidy the kitchen a bit and then goes off to her room to shower and dress. I go back to my room, turn on a bedside light and wait, reading, until it’s time to get up for the

day. I can’t live like this. I can’t keep taking care of her. I want to go away, but what will happen if I’m not here? What if she passed out, went into a coma while Dad is out of town? What then? How long would it be before someone found her, called an ambulance?

One of my earliest memories is of my family teaching me to use the phone. Taped to the side

of the refrigerator were phone numbers: Dad at work, Ambulance. My parents bought a book on how to teach your baby to read. I could read a little at three, more at four. I knew how to call Dad at work. I knew how to call for an ambulance. I knew how to leave the house and run down the street to the Murray’s house. I knew the word “Emergency.”

It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it could be dramatic. I knew, in restaurants or out shopping

to say to strangers,

“My mom’s having an insulin reaction. Can I get a Coke? Fast?” I came to know the signs, the quick

anger, the unfocused eyes. I knew how to leap into action and that some Lifesavers, a soda, some juice, a candy bar, could get everything back on track.

It was exhausting. I wanted to quit, wanted to be free. I didn’t want to worry about her. I wanted

her to be able to take care of herself or for my dad to be there instead of me. Isn’t this his job? For better or worse, in sickness and in health?

Visiting my mother’s sister that summer I shared my concerns. That fall, I’d be leaving for college

two hours away. How can I go, I asked her. What’s going to happen if she has a reaction and I’m not there?

“Are you planning on being with your mother all day and night for the rest of your life?”

“Well, no.”

“Don’t you leave her all day when you go to school, or how about when you go out with friends?

You’re not there all the time.”

“That’s true.”

“It’s not your job to take care of your mom. Yes, she’s going to have to be more careful and pay

closer attention to her sugar when she’s alone, but that’s her problem, not yours.”

No one had ever put it to me quite so frankly. My aunt was giving me permission to move on. She

was allowing me to let go.

“Not your problem,” she repeated. “Your mom and dad want you to go to college, so do that, and

leave the worrying to them.” And with that, she released me, putting into new perspective the story I’d been telling myself for years, and allowing me to move out and move on.



Darbytown Artists:

Jeannie Ellis had a dilemma. After her annual visit to Key West a cou-

ple of years ago, Ellis says she didn’t want to return to her isolated basement Jeannie Ellis Van Anderson Jane Cariker Jerome Golden Tronja Anglero

studio at home.

“This building was sitting here available. Matt Haney, my boyfriend,

was using part of the building as a taxi dispatch office, but this entire portion of the building was sitting empty.”

Ellis moved her studio there and realized she had found the perfect

spot to open a studio for a community of artists who, like her, sought fellowship among other working artists. She began planning and organizing the

Cliff satterthwaite

space in spring of 2017 and by October she was ready to open Darbytown

Tim Criswell

Art Studio’s front door for First Friday.

Michelle Pierson Mary Woolls Laurie Watkins Liz King James Hinz

To date, Ellis has between 14 and 15 artists sharing studio and dis-

play space at any one time. She says she believes the artists in the gallery appreciate her ethos: she asks only for pay for the space they are using; she doesn’t take a commission; and everyone pitches in for hosting duties on First Fridays.

Ellis says, “I know how difficult it is to work as an artist. I try to keep

it affordable. As long as I can pay rent and utilities, I am happy. I’m more in-

Pandora Christy

terested in the community and social aspects of the gallery, and I’m always

Su Canada

looking for ways to entice visitors in during the month and on First Fridays.”

Alysa Drummond Michael Broadway

Like most areas of downtown, the Darbytown neighborhood has a

rich history. The name is possibly a reference to the race tracks that once bordered the neighborhood into the early 1800s. Today it is a neighborhood of million dollar homes with river views, affordable housing at Hazel Hill, a community garden and grassroots outreach through Downtown Greens, a church that opens its space for an annual Juneteenth celebration, a thriving coffee shop, barber and upholstery shops, and the city’s train station.

Ellis says, “I really love it here. It’s a lovely neighborhood with a lot of

diversity. We are a little off the beaten track, but the trolley comes here on First Fridays and the gallery is packed with fantastic local artists.”

In addition to honoring the neighborhood, Ellis wanted to acknowl-

edge her second home of Key West when she named the studio.

“When I was designing the logo, I wanted a rooster on it as a nod to

Key West. They are everywhere down there, and I just love them. Of course, I had to do it in copper.” Much of Ellis’s artwork is done in copper.

“Everyone in here has become like family to each other. We have so

much respect and gratitude for being here. It’s a unique place and we’re very fortunate to have it.”

Darbytown Art Studio is located at 241 Charles Street in downtown

Fredericksburg. Contact Jeannie Ellis for more information about becoming a permanent artist at Darbytown Art Studio or about showing your work for a month as a guest artist during one of their upcoming First Friday events in 2019. Artists are usually in their studios between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., or you may make an appointment to visit. Call (804) 334-5156.


JEANNIE ELLIS is an artist and owner of Darbytown Art Studio in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia. She specializes in pet portraits and copper work. Ellis enjoys spending part of the year in Key West, Florida, where she draws inspiration for her copper creations and creative crafts made from local flora.


CLIFF SATTERTHWAITE has been a plein air artist since 1956. He started in York, Pennsylvania and was there until 1981 when he moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia. He has been painting here ever since that time. Two represnetations of his work are above: Wallick Farm East York, PA (watercolor) and Bear’s Mill and Calf in Wrightsville, PA (oil). Pictured with Jeanie Ellis, left.


LIZABETH CASTELLANO-KING is a native New Yorker who graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Illustration/Graphic


sign. She has been painting watercolors for over 35 years. As a graphic designer for the Air Force at the Pentagon, she brought her painting/design skills together, eventually leading



team, supporting the military for 16 years. Now retired, she has a profound love for painting from boat




“They offer what I consider beautiful works of art, especially the rust laden fishing ships. Realistic detailed watercolors are my challenge.� Instagram @lizcastellanoking.


VAN ANDERSON has been painting since the early 1970s. Originally from Waynesboro, Virginia, Anderson moved to Fredericksburg in 1976 with his family to start a family business, Anderson Oil and Propane. After 33 years, he is now retired and creating art full-time at Darbytown Art Studio. He primarily uses acrylics, watercolor and alcohol ink to create mixed media pieces. Van says, “I enjoy bringing color into the world.� Facebook: @artbyvananderson Instagram : @vananderson59


JANE CARIKER has been passionate about art since she was a child. She is a self-taught artist, having learned through independent study and trial and error. Acrylics is her preferred medium, but she also works with watercolor.

She says,

“My paintings incorporate color, light, shapes and texture to capture the beauty that surrounds us. I love to paint landscapes, florals and places visited throughout the world. The gift of art has enriched my life in every way. I am humbled, inspired and challenged by it every day. It is my greatest pleasure to be able to share it with you!” Facebook @Jane’sArt



MARY WOOLLS has been painting with oils for about ten years and has been at Darbytown since spring of last year. She paints a variety of subjects, and most enjoys the challenge of capturing the interplay of light and color. Facebook @Mary Woolls Art







painter, who has been honing his skills in mixed media portrait work for the past few years. Blending his passion for skateboarding into his art has created an unique spotlight on some of the people that influenced and surrounded him at an early age. Originally a pop art style painter, Mr. Golden has found a voice with his use of light and shadow using a pallet primarily loaded with black and white paint. Jerome's art has made appearances on the Warner Bros. television network. He has also created many commissioned works of art for private collectors. Instagram: @oldmangolden



was born in Washington D.C. and spent his childhood and early adult life in Virginia and Texas. Michael’s art is expressed in the form of paints, ink, graphite, recycled items, and other various mediums. Michael’s work is inspired by graffiti art, pop art, music, and surroundings of life. Michael incorporates a variety of textures and processes. Which create a visual journey for the viewer. Michael’s art is a very personal expression, and he hopes that it is appreciated by others. Michael has been a member of Sumter Artist Guild (SAG) in Sumter, South Carolina, and is currently a member of the Fredericksburg Center for Creative Arts (FCCA) Fredericksburg, Virginia. Facebook: @artbybroadway Instagram: @michaelbroadway1970


NADIR FRIZZARIN Sister City Visiting Artist Travel Feeds the Artist’s Soul Nadir Frizzarin visited Fredericksburg in the fall of 2018 as a guest artist of Fredericksburg’s Sister City program with Este, Italy. Through the wonders of technology, Frazzarin and I were able chat about his inspiration, practice, and his life as an artist in Italy. He says:

I started drawing at the age of two without ever stopping. With

painting, I started using inks and tempera on paper at the age of 13 or 14. At 16, I tried to paint with acrylic colors first and then with oil colors. I am self-taught, so I had to experiment a lot before learning, but this way opened my mind, helping me discover in time to paint in different styles. Today, I continue experimenting with new shapes.

My style has changed over time. Years ago, I preferred subjects

with landscapes and people in classic style. This is still an important step to get to know the real shapes of things. Then, waiting for years to mature, I became more and more keen on a more particular painting, which concerns the Interior, the thought of the mind. I studied quite special shapes. Every painting is unique and I create it after having designed it. I love the expression and the complex play of lines and colors. I paint in various styles according to my mood, and I put my thoughts on canvas without always following the same style.


My work as a tattoo artist has had a great influence on

painting, and vice versa. I have created original designs in various styles for many years. All my work is done by hand. This has stimulated my imagination and creativity. I’ve made painting an integral part on some types of tattoos. Shades, marks and splashes of color are spontaneously executed thanks to the freedom of expression in the design.

In my experience in Fredericksburg, I had the honor

to meet and spend some good moments with artists and other people with whom felt comfortable. The first artist I met was Joan Critz Limbrick and her son Cameron Limbrick, two artists and special people with excellent artistic skills. I had the honor to meet and spend time with Cathy Herndon and I was delighted meet the artist Steve Griffin, with whom I spent a wonderful day in his studio where he gave me his Opera. I had heard about him in an art television program a few months before leaving for Fredericksburg. This experience led me to visit the LibertyTown art gallery, where I painted two canvases and met good artists who work inside with ceramics and painting. I fell in love with that place.

My life is almost completely dedicated to my job. I

spend my days mainly thinking and designing new works. I love tranquility because I can reflect and concentrate on the work I do. I hardly allow two or three days to go by without drawing, including holidays! My passion that I put in the artistic works that I create is great.

I became involved with Fredericksburg Sister City

thanks to my friend Massimo Giordano and his collaborator Sabrina Dal Bello. Last summer, he convinced me to leave for Fredericksburg, telling me that I have good artistic skills and that I should not miss an opportunity and an experience like that. He was persistent. I did not know exactly what kind of experience I would have once I arrived, but my love for art pushed me to go. This unique opportunity gave me an unforgettable and very important experience. I am honored to now know exceptional artists and wonderful people who hosted me in their homes in Fredericksburg. I never imagined I would be paid such great respect. I was very impressed by the goodness and the seriousness of these people in Fredericksburg. Thank you for inviting me to visit the beautiful city of Fredericksburg with its history.

I would like to thank Kathryn Willis in particular, a special

woman who really did a lot for me, along with all the other special people who gave me an unforgettable experience beyond my expectations. Being appreciated as an artist is very difficult. I have spent many years working hard while waiting to mature artistically. I am very honored and happy to have lived a beautiful and important experience. I thank all the people who have worked on this project, and I thank the wonderful City of Fredericksburg for the hospitality it has given me. I would like to return to visit it in order to visit all the people I had the pleasure of meeting! Follow Nadir Frizzarin on Facebook @InkArtNadirF

Special Feature: Freebyrunning Nonprofit Arts for the Community Since 2015, we have been a non-denominational organization that creates safe places and atmospheres for all to express without labels or hatred towards each other. We’ve been blending different creative expressions, ages, backgrounds, and always try to stay as open-minded as possible. We are running with love, equality, unity, and freedom in the sense of the spiritual, mental, physical, and financial. We are “Free By” taking our passion and dreams and just “Running” with them. Enjoy a sampling of work from a few of the artists who participate regularly with Freebyrunning. ~ ALEX HARVELL


ALEX HARVELL is a 26-year-old activist and artist with a dream to create a safe environment for himself, his family, and those in his community. He says, “From getting in trouble as a kid/ young adult, to learning from all the unfortunate times, I have grown and conitnue to move forward with Freebyrunning, the main focus of which centers on mental health and the arts. We project rehabilitation, growth, and unity for our family and friends in the community by providing a platform where individuals can express themselves - y’all about mental health - and lift each other up. One Love.”

They tell us not to dream but to fall in line, try to replace our eyes with propaganda to lose our minds you see The ones who dare to dream Who don’t believe the news on the screen turned off their TV & went outside To become free. You see we all gotta break away. communicate. come together and lose our pride Cause it doesn’t matter what our skin looks we’re all beautiful and have the same thing on the inside Photo by @visitorsteph


ADAM BRITTON, Bane0Fate, has

been dancing for over five years. He was a

dancer with DanceOn for three years, and has received recognition from nearly 30 renonwed global artists, including VirtualRiot, Said The Sky, and We Are Fury. Britton says, “I have ADHD and Autism, and my mission as "Bane0Fate" is to inspire anyone and everyone to do more with themselves and to reach new heights with their passions and crafts. Regardless of race, sex, or disability, you should be able control your own destiny. I'm just a guy with two mental disorders and a dream to inspire anyone and everyone! I'll see ya in the next one!� See him in action on YouTube @Bane0Fate. Photos by @visitorsteph (black and white) and @whtstng



is a 20 year old artist living in Fredericksburg. She currently work for Latitudes Fair

Trade and attends Germanna Community College. She says, “I’ve always cherished the arts, helping others, and the beauty in the world around me. I have a passion beyond words for self expression, and I aim to share it with my community by attending and participating in local art shows and festivals. Like many others, I've experienced financial struggles, physical disabilities, social issues and mental illness, but what keeps me going is being grateful for the life I have and doing all that I can to help others feel important and loved.�


Story of the Stars (verse 1)

My story’s in the stars without a clue of who we are Just trying to find my way down this road And minimize the scars To protect my broken heart I hide behind my old guitar And strum away all the harm that's inside To stay true to who i am is the most important thing Staying in my lane, the path that i follow Never a straight line then it would be hollow

Chorus Story of the stars burning with passion A hot ball of gas so fast to past A lovely dream that will never last

JEREMIAH NANCE is an inspiring young artist and model living in the Fredericksburg area. At 19, he has been active in the community by playing live shows, featuring his fashion expertise through Majestic Vibes Thrifts and Collections, and organizing events for artists to showcase their work. He says, “I love art and creative expression. I am also very proud to say that I am joining the FREEBYRUNNING team this year! Big things are to come in the future.” Instagram: @jeremiah_nance


MICHELLE PIERSON is an artist dedicated to the motivation and inspiration of others through representations of the environment in unique lights by means of photography and video, while exploring painting, sculpture, and graphic design. Michelle graduated at University of Mary Washington with a Studio Art degree. Through her art, Michelle’s biggest concern is making art for the purpose of breaking bad environmental habits and changing ways of thinking by seeing beauty in the unexpected. You can find her work at Darbytown Art Studio where she is a permanent resident. Follow her on Facebook Instagram: @michellepierson


The word universe is made up of two parts, “Uni” meaning one, and “verse” meaning song. This poem pulses on the rhythm of this song.

ARIELLE W is a 17 year old poet who started writing at age 14 and has never stopped. She says, “My writing style is very rhyme-y. I also cannot write poems in one sitting. Inspiration hits at all times of the day. I love writing poetry, because to me it's like I'm speaking the thoughts that a lot of us don't really know how to articulate well. I like to believe I write for more than just myself.”

How A Woman Loves In the beginning, it was dark, cold and lonely. I...was all by myself. There was nobody to hold me. I was strong, powerful, fierce! I never relied on anyone. I was both Yin and Yang, Or, as you may better know them, the Moon and the Sun. Solar and Lunar, Lunar and Solar, Made me the hottest thing there was in the eyes of any beholder. No normal man would dare to look directly into my heart. All they wanted was right between my thighs. They never understood that if they wanted one of my most precious gifts my mind is where they would have had to start. Since I was never one to appreciate a good lie. I made all those who wanted me run a ten mile race and I was the judge yelling, “On your mark!” Would you believe me if I told none of them ever won? I mean they seriously had the audacity to try to win the love of the Sun? Those poor souls seriously underestimated me. None of them know what I needed nor wanted. Sorry if I'm not perfect or if I'm not easy. I had been alone for so long my soul had become haunted. A true man should be able to be there for me when I needed him the most. To be able to be my equal. Our bond so strong that no matter how far we were from one another we'd always be close. He was to be my one and only in my life, There was to be no sequel. In the end I just needed someone who's not perfect but, when the time comes, is NOT afraid of the night. Where the Sun needs darkness. The moon needs light. When I finally met him his attentiveness to balance, tranquility, and peace; Was more than enough to put my heart at ease. My home was the sky. His was the ground. He was the spark that ignited all of life. And I watched over it all, keeping them safe and sound. He was the Earth to my Moon and Sun. Our love was a testament of time. Hell, it has hardly even begun. He was the definition of beautiful. Not a hint of vanity to his name. He was a bit much at times, a handful. But then again we have were one in the same. On the days I have felt down he always reached out to me. Together we unleashed the haunted spirit into the universe to reign free. This is how I always wanted be loved. I am a prize to be won, this is correct, but in the end I'm still your equal; For I could never be above. So there it is, a love story that has been existence for so long, That it has now become the melody of an endless song. It has a truth that it can never defy, Because our love goes on playing a cosmically beautiful verse that can never truly die. Because our love goes on playing a cosmically beautiful verse that can never. Truly. Die.


Recap and Relax As shapes float by I see my own eyes I can’t believe it’s come to this I feel different now, so different than before All white, I imagined fright Different from last night, but it was only in my head Now I lay safe in my bed, in my bed As I escape, but I’m not sad that I don’t feel life anymore I’ll just lay back and enjoy what I can What I can! Take a step back, why did I do this? But it’s like a dream, I can’t pretend to hate it I have things to do, but I guess I’ll just recap and relax

LAKE ALDEN is band from King George, VA, consisting of Cameron Gray, Jake Hodges, David Forrest, and Ben Hodges. They play indie rock music but also incorporate many different genres when they play. Instagram:

Photos by @visitorsteph (black and white) and Callie Rider (blue tone)


Corporate America, Your chains still have a hold of me. Even when I think I'm free from you; my bills, my weight, and my 9 to 5 remind me that I'm not! Oh how I wanted to be you growing up. That's who I was supposed to be all along, right? I mean I had to earn that spot, of course. Pay close attention to the instruction manual signed by you in fine print; doing business as, school, hospital, church, etc. The ladder to success seemed too legit to quit. No one could convince me otherwise. Granted, I've picked up your traits along the way. Found loopholes to achieve the same goal.

GHADIR MKHAIL, stage name Lady G, is a poet, mother, and activist. Follow her at: IG:@wordsbyladyg

I cut time in half by getting one foot in the door. Just a few floors shy from the title. Drumroll please! Somewhere you missed a step, because I had a minute to reflect. You idiots! How dare you mess this up?!


I WAS ALMOST THERE, hands and knees, ready to go to war for


you! I tripped and it was all your fault! Those closer to you spoke to me with a stare. I shook their world as well as mine with that fall. The only level they have above me is the couple of extra years they've played fool for you. The narrow path closed as soon as you saw your labels being removed from our blind eye! No, no, no! You can't hide now! We've invested our lives to represent you! You wait until the wrath of our Creator steps in. Tick tock tick tock Spiritual Babylon must fall for us to rise again!


STEPHANIE YOUNG-CROSS, visitorsteph, is a portrait, music, and street photographer based in northern Virginia. She says, “I shoot digital, highlighting local musicians and the wonderful people who pack out the shows, other creatives, and the LGBTQ+ community, with the long-term goal of trying to rid my hometown of the unofficial “there’s nothing do here” town slogan. I spend my free time traveling, visiting museums, budgeting for my next trip, and enjoying the outdoors. Instagram: @visitorsteph



DOCUMENTING THE GOOD FIGHT My interest in activism and photography began in 2014 when I was a senior in high school. I had a group of friends in the LGBTQ+ community who took me with them to that year’s Capital Pride Festival in Washington D.C. At the time, I didn’t even own a camera of my own and ended up borrowing one from the school to take with me. I ended up taking a series of pictures of the festival that I would end up submitting to that year’s Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. To my surprise, my portfolio received a Gold Key and my photos were displayed at a gallery at the Arlington Country Central Library, which was a tremendous honor. Such immediate and unanticipated success gave me the confidence to pursue photography and social justice activism further, and I fell in love with the intersection of both my passions. Since then I have been published by my local chapter’s Democratic Socialists of America newsletter, along with a featured article this year in Blue Virginia. Since 2014, I have captured over a dozen national marches, along with local events in the Fredericksburg area, and I have no intention of slowing down. I tend to share all my photos on social media as I want to put a spotlight on as many activists as possible in my images. My goal is to give a voice through my work to those who have been perpetually disenfranchised in our society. It’s an incredible feeling when I hear from activists who have traveled across the country to link up at these national marches in D.C. who later find themselves in my photographs on Facebook. It is humbling to hear from mothers who have lost their children at the hands of gun violence or to connect with sexual assault survivors who continue to be victimized by an administration led by a man who has bragged about his own sexual assault of women on live television. What I hope resonates is that in the midst of such national turmoil, and an ever antagonistic political climate, is that millions of Americans are coming together to fight for what is right and what is just in our society. When people of color are subject to state sanctioned physical and economic violence day in and day out; when innocent children brought across the border by parents seeking to escape gang violence are separated from their families and locked in a cage; and when anti-semitism is being fueled by an openly white nationalist administration, I want to give power to those who are rising up against the hatred and division which plagues our nation.

Follow Alex Sakes on Facebook, on Instagram @AlexSakesPhotography, or online at











The C L O C K W O R K Ticker


The Clockwork Ticker is an artist out

of Fredericksburg, Virginia, who creates magical creatures that embody a sense of whmisy and mystery. As self-proclaimed “procurers of curiosities and eccentricities,” John Lee and Benjamin Kissell work off a shared love of all things Henson - think Legend and Labyrinth.

John Lee says, “It might seem kind of silly, but I

actually started getting far more into creature creating and monster making as a means of staying awake while watching movies with my husband after work. I have a tendency to fall asleep if I’m sitting still for too long and needed something to do to keep my brain and hands busy. That, paired with growing up on the artistic influences of the Frouds (Brian, Wendy and Toby), Hensons (Jim and Brian), Rankin/Bass, and most things fantastically ‘80s, helps to keep my engine fueled. It doesn’t hurt that I have a family that very much encouraged my weird and wonderful world from a very young age.”

Lee attributes a healthy imagination and “living

on the cusp of wilderness and civilization” as additional influences on his creatures. He says he also has a group of

like-minded peers, a plethora of at-hand folkloric

texts, and the Internet to keep him supplied with magical inspiration.

You’ll find The Clockwork Ticker online and in

person at various arts festivals around Virginia.

Left: Peter Pangolin; Top: A Bog Troggle

Q&A Material or Character? Character, definitely. The materials come and go as they will. Outer World or Inner World? Both. I’ve found that examining the Outer World through the Inner yields interesting results. Hometown or Big City? Hometown. Especially this one. A healthy mixture of city and country. Nature or Technology? Nature. Short Story or Epic Novel? Short Story. Wonder or Experience? Wonder. One of my favorite things to do is to create something that I wonder what might have been or what could be. Action or Reaction? Action. Ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it. Work or Play? Work that is Play. Yesterday, Today, or Tomorrow? No Day But Today.




BROTHER | Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya

I am so happy to see my little brother again. He is my best friend. I have many

brothers and sisters, so many that it is hard to count them all, because my grandmother had such a big family! She says that long ago, when she was a girl, her parents had eight kids, her four brothers and three sisters. She had long braids and huge green eyes, and was the most beautiful of them all, and they lived in a big house by a sea. Today everyone has grown up and went to live in different places, and became parents, then grandparents, and even great-grandparents for so many of my brothers and sisters, as she is actually my great-grandmother who I love the most. Each year, at least for a few days we gather together in the city on the shore of the sea, where our family came from. We play and run and swim in the sea with my brothers and sisters.

There I meet with my brother who in fact is my third cousin and lives with his

parents far away, so for the whole year I am here alone. I get a bit bored and imagine myself elsewhere in the world, and my grandmother says I am such a dreamer. She is a dreamer herself when she says I will grow up and write down my stories. She, of course, teaches me Hebrew, and when our family is around, they sing unbelievably beautiful Jewish songs. I like to sing with them, but I cannot write in Hebrew. I am so sad I cannot write.

But when I meet with my brother I tell him stories so he would write them down.

I imagine so many stories while I’m alone that sometimes I forget them. And he turns upset and asks me to remember at least some, so I try and tell him a story about the Great Newt, the ruler of the sea, who lives in a wonderful palace at the bottom of the ocean and floats ashore at night to smell the flowers, because no flowers grow at the bottom of the sea. Or a story about the Lion who fell in love with the Sun, because the Sun is red and bright as he is. The Lion climbed to the highest mountain in the world to kiss the fiery Sun. The higher he climbed, the colder it became, but the Lion dreamed so much about his beloved Sun, that he crawled and crawled up on the rocks, then on snow, then on ice.

It was a dark deep night when he climbed at last to the top of the highest moun-

tain in the world. Sharp stones bruised his paws, icy wind froze his nose, and shining snow blinded his eyes. The Lion raised his frozen face and waited for the Sun to come up. Because the night will come to an end and the Sun will rise above the world and see the Lion, red and bright as itself, on top of the highest mountain in the world, and will kiss him on the frozen blackened nose and caress his frozen icy paws.

So many stories come to me when I am alone waiting to see my brothers and

sisters again, and I dream about these places and imagine these tales. My grandmother says I am the greatest dreamer in the world, though it is good that I love my brother so much and tell him my tales, because he is probably sad being alone there, without us all, as in fact three of her brothers were killed on the war, and she was shot along with her parents and two of her sisters and her younger brother in that city on the shore of the sea, when she was just fifteen and had not had children of her own.


THE QUIET ONE | KARA HENDERSHOT | Oil, acrylic, conte, rice paper, and resin sand on panel 187


Unpacking the Journey (Prologue)

Letter to the Evangelical Church

Attention carpetbaggers and muckrackers,

You have cried for revival

tea-spillers and gossip pundits:

begging God for a voice

I have some dirty laundry to tell you.

to speak your truth. I hope you’re happy.

Stinking piles of rags vacuum-sealed for years

I hope you see your hive mentality—

until crap piled flat and low.

busy bees buzzing around stinging

Yet, I really needed one shirt—

because you are caught up in smelling flowers

the white button down

instead of saving souls.

covered in black curvy script—

But you fail to realize

tucked away in God knows where.

you are in danger of Colony Collapse Syndrome.

The bag ripping began and I found pain plastered pastels,

I pray that you step out

gray-faded rainbow sneakers,

of your privilege and realize

hats abused and misfolded,

your brown and yellow friends

wrinkled dreams

are afraid of what happens next-

still tagged from the store,

Will their churches and homes be firebombed?

and an amalgam of delicate experiences

Will they get deported?

that need gentle cleaning

Will we return to the times of Jim Crow?

knotted in moldy moments because I refused to spring clean.

It’s time to live up to your name: evangelize, carry the light

It became too much

burning blue hot and strong

too overwhelming

to the shadows just beyond

rifling through

megachurch lots and Sunday pews

the messy monsters

where the Savior’s crimson love

and ugly patterns

still runs strong and

thirty years accumulated.

where the lowly loves of God live.

So join me Christian cowards, staunch hypocrites, broken deplorables, and the judges dreading justice’s double-edged sword. watch me unpack and make room for more.


Lancaster Nights

Dandelion seeds bob atop clear cold summer night waters and crickets chirp tonight’s forecast— clear, 62. As I recline shallowed in striped boxers in a polka-dotted kiddie pool, the stars gleam over the Appalachia edge I call home. My body and the water reach common temperature as the solaced whispers of near midnight winds entice me to embrace the peace of this moment. But technology cuts in jealously with choral ohms of air conditioners. How crudely I sit with pen and paper scribbling enlightened thoughts in darkness while my phone rests inches away outside the water silent.



On the stormy morning of April 1st, Nineteen

what Gabriel was certain that, if he could speak pit-

hundred ninety-two, Gabriel Vincent DeVil set out to

bull, translated into terrible curse words. He shuddered

deliver a bit of news. It was so stormy and rainy, in fact,

and he put up the window as the barkeep scolded the

that the streets were flooded around Duval Street and


the two roosters that normally wandered the streets,

scooped up the animal and he kissed its head, and the

en to the trees, blown up there with ethereal gusts of

dog bit the man's wrist, and the man swore. The man

wind that whipped the streets across Key West. The full

dropped the animal, and it absconded back into the

breasted birds perched, flightless, quivering in a large

house, the great muscles of its shoulder girdles flex-

banyan tree, with their otherwise miniscule wings now

ing taut as it ran. Two straggled cats followed it, both

bawking fearful and frayed and looking rather enor-

marmalade with clumps of mangy fur drenched and

mous on their red breasts. The storm came in down-


bursts of rain that splashed against Gabriel’s white

Chevrolet Eldorado, obscuring all clarity of the road

bloody hand with his jacket and held pressure around

before him, with palms thrashing at the backside of the

it, looking a bit sheepish.

vehicle as he drove on, and the ocean surging inwards, crashing its fury against the key.

But that did not stop Gabriel from sharing his


"Didn't you know?" The old man wrapped his

Gabriel sat idling there at the intersection, the

only car on the road, and looked precariously at the old man now, for he'd always felt that animals had a keen sense to discern who was evil and who was righteous,

"Where are you going on this morning, Gabri-

and he stopped and wondered if the man could at all

el?" shouted the barkeep at the intersection of Duval

be trusted. But perhaps it was the dog with an inherent

and Petronia. The old man was sealing up his tavern.

predisposition to violence, or perhaps it had contract-

The water rose up to the man's ankles there gray and

ed distemper. He put down the window just a crack.

full of murk from all the filth that washed from the

"Know what?"

streets. Pestilent garbage and gravel and streaks of

"Elizabeth's near deaf." He chuckled. "Good

vomitus intermingled. He hammered nail upon board,

thing your news is wrote out or she'd never hear it

narrowly missing the flesh of his own thumb twice,

over the thunder."

until his ragged bar front resembled a ship that might

float right down the street just then, its open windows

el, and he proceeded through inches of water, alternat-

closed off from the torrents of water that blew side-

ing with slick patches of visible road, down the rows of

ways, threatening in sudden gusts the window glass of

nightclubs and restaurants that, the previous evening,

Gabriel's car.

had been filled with the debaucheries of lively piano

"I’ll take another route. I thank you," said Gabri-

"I must deliver some news to the home of Ms.

players and Cuban cigar aficionados and jazz rhythms

Elizabeth Baptiste." With that, he held up a manila enve-

and gamblers and drinkers of domestic beer and Mexi-

lope and waved it about and showed it to the barkeep.

can beer and whiskeys of all kinds, and Bahamian rums.

The old man came out from under the awning

The smell of hops was still ripe on the wind, almost

and he took the envelope and he opened it and he read

enough for him to taste. He craved that taste which

the letter inside. He put it back inside the envelope and

he had tried so hard to give up, and he savored it for a

handed it, now saturated, back to Gabriel.

moment before continuing on to announce his news. A

"You'd better keep going then," said the old

lizard crawled across his windshield, bright green thing

man, who sloshed through the valley of liquid sludge

with yellow streaks and bluish scales and a magnificent

running at his feet. "Hurry ‘er you won't get another

orange tongue. He jumped back when he saw it, and

two blocks. Street's closed off ahead."

he tried to clear the creature with his wipers, but it was

quite agile, and it scurried off the car on its own.

Gabriel looked to the electric sky and back at

the barkeep. He had to deliver his news.

A ferocious white dog ran out of the bar baring

its teeth and slobbering and barking a blue streak of


"Holden, keep still," the old man said, and he

pecking and squawking beside the drunkards, had tak-

Upon turning from Petronia Street onto White-

head, he drove past rows of conch houses set on pillars, low gabled roofs slatted, with louvered shingles.


Shutters trimmed yellow and pink and blue. Iron

way to deliver this news." He handed the envelope across

porches beneath balconies covered in Spanish moss

the front seat and placed it in Sugar's lap.

now sopped from the storm. A garden growing

Sugar frowned. "What's this all about?"

squalid with bougainvillea and maguey agave plants

and pink bells that crept up and down the wooden


lattice of an archway.

The windshield wipers smeared the down-

pour from his vision just enough that, in the distance,

"If you're not looking for my business you can

drop me off at that gentleman's down the street. I'm a favorite of his. And his Mrs., too. She's great fun."

he made out the feminine silhouette of a woman, Mexican or Cuban, invocative of salacious thoughts

"Ma'am, if you don't mind. Which way is Monroe

"Just thought you might like to get out of the


and known to the locals as Sugar, a prostitute that was

"Rain doesn't bother me. Never has. Can't even

more a permanent fixture on that particular block of

feel it no more since I've been here. It's the wind I don't

Whitehead than the establishments themselves. Sug-

like. Blow you right up off the pavement and leave you

ar's miniskirt was a spectacle, cheetah-printed black

crashing to Earth like some fallen angel."

on hot pink, a rim of black lace encircling its hem.

"What gentleman?"

Fingernails ineluctably bubble gum pink with white

squared tips reminiscent of adult film. She held one


of the floral bells between her thumb and index fin-

"I don't see anybody there."

ger and pretended to smell it, ever so delicately.

Gabriel stared and the Chevrolet hydroplaned,

"One right there. Why he's right out there on the

"Right there. Over there on the corner. He's right

out there in his yard."

such that it spun right and left and as he gassed the

"There's nothin' there but another stray."

pedal over puddles, water spread lateral from the

Sugar sighed and pointed. "Right there. Who's

white car like wings empyrean, and for a moment he

waiting on any news at all on a day like this? I'd say a hur-

thought he would lift right off the pavement and take

ricane's coming. I'd be out of here myself if I had some-

flight. His hands were shaking, not only from the mo-

place to go and somehow to get there."

mentary lapse in concentration, but because he need-


"No, I'll take a cigarette if you've got one."

ed a drink. He steadied the wheel, hands trembling

coarse, and he came to a stop.

"I don't."

Sugar turned from where she stood, saunter-

"What news is this if it ain't the weather report?"

ing out from under a meager awning, which didn't

"See for yourself." He nodded. "Go ahead. Open

seem to be covering much of anything, for it was


raining diagonally under its canvas, and she was half

She took the envelope matted and wet and

naked besides. She was covered then from her tou-

smoothed it and she opened it and took out the paper

sled hair to her stilettos in the remnants of the del-

and she read it. She frowned. "Did you know?"

uge that had splashed from the gutter. Mascara hung


in miniature stalactites from her lower lids, beneath

bloodshot globes.

be able to read this. Reads like you're a little late."

"Good morning," he said. "Give you a lift? You

"That woman's old and blind. Hell, she won't even "Oh?"

"That's right."

shouldn't be out in the storm."

Sugar got in the car and closed it and she

"I will take her hand and hold it sweetly and I will

pulled down the visor and opened the mirror and

tap out the news in code to her if I must." He sighed.

she checked her makeup and she closed the mirror.

He had to deliver the news.

She crossed her legs and she uncrossed them. Short

"I might've liked to hear this news at some point."

ones, toned and equine stiff in the calves and thighs,

"Is that so?"

bronzed from the sun. "Name's Sharon. First hour is

"Never seemed like the right time though." She

200. 150 per hour after that."

folded up the paper and put it back in the envelope. "Here.

Stop here. By that man with the beard."

"I'm not looking to hire. You see, I'm on the


He stopped the car, this time more slowly, at the corner

of Whitehead and Olivia." Can barely see him. Looks awful pale."

"He's a ghost alright."

"I'll drop you off here if you're sure you won't join me."

"Don't be silly. Enough of this. You have too much mescal

or pills or cheap whiskey at night and this is just how you wake up."

He put down the window. "Hello, sir."

The fellow, although ghastly in color, with skin nearly as

white as his beard and mustache, limped forward, dressed in linen pants and a fine cotton shirt, short-sleeve and beige in color with palm leaves and bananas printed upon it, buttons open on top.

"Welcome. Sugar, won't you introduce me to your friend?

Surely you'll stay and share a martini, Sir, ride out this storm with me? Not too early. Never too early at all."

"He's on his way to the home of Madame Baptiste to give

her some news."

"Are you?" The white-haired man chuckled, rolled a cigar

between his fingers. "Sugar's a trip, ain't she? And look at those voluptuous hills—like white elephants they are!"

Sugar smiled and she pushed up her bra where in the cold

rain her milk-white breasts protruded proudly like horned melons from her tank top. She winked and she wiped the corner of her lip. "Thanks, Papa."

The old man told him that he should forget the news, and

that most people lived in a state of listening for self-preservatory news, but that they only heard what they wanted to hear anyway, and that mostly they filtered out the rest. And he said that when folks heard something that they might actually listen to, something that might affect their fate, that there was seldom anything that they could do to affect it, so he’d might as well forget what he had set out to do and have a drink with him instead.

The man promised him a martini so cold that he could

barely hold it in his hands, and he told him that it wasn’t the olives or the vodka that was the key to preparing a great martini, but the temperature.

Gabriel thought awhile and as he did, Sugar got out of the

car and slammed the door and stumbled onto the curb where the man, looking almost translucent now, stood tasting his cigar. She hugged the man tightly and he seemed to disappear into thin air with her and he wondered if they had both been figments of his imagination. He figured that it was probably better, and he continued on to Elizabeth’s home, and he resigned to promptly, after telling Elizabeth the news, have himself a fine drink.

A martini sounded pleasing. It wasn’t too early.

Behind him, the red-breasted cocks were following, black-

tailed with red plumage dangling, crowing at the sun where it peeked out between billows of intersecting cumulus clouds, their tops reaching beyond the altitude of most planes and underneath which the tempest raged.





Sun in my eyes, flower moon riding in the crook of my left shoulder; did you deliver this traveling fare? Did you know I’d look for magic? My luck all but dwindled, a pie-sliced penny corroded by sea, verdigris, barnacled. I look for you in shift-shaping cumulous, listen for your voice in the thermals. The present confuses itself with the past, knotted yarn, sings to me of needle clicks and even rows. Sings to me of woolen ware and your warm hands. Flip of penny: heads I lose, tails I lose.


Spin cast me into the glacial green Taiya, into the deep channel where I’ll ride rushed current, bruise limbs on river rock & drifting wood. Strip


my body down to bone: white, tangled, formed chaos. At sea’s edge, I’ll buoy among pilings, seals that fish the interchange of tide. Don’t reel me in.

That sear of sun sapsucker skittering the porch, eyeballing through your open door. Windchime from home chants a Taiya river shed song. You write under a mountain to the cadenced flap of cottonwood leaves. The matriarchal wolf dog visits twice a day; once to wake you, the other to check your sleep. You exist in this moment time has no word for; neither past, nor future, I miss, I wish do not trickle from your tongue.



Better is a handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. - Ecclesiastes 4:6 1. Walder is delivered by C-section after three days of labor. He is so late arriving that his mother lacks the strength to hold him. From the bed of the hobbled, the viscous gift that is Walder is not an inviting package to open. So she just stares at him, her last child, her final contribution to the ranks of humanity. And Walder by way of an uncanny transformation of early sensations into reactive memory, carries that sense of lateness into life. By the time Walder arrives on the scene, the primary action has not only taken place, but vanishes into the ether. 2. Just like that, Walder is lost. His father has taken him to Modells to purchase new Wilson gold clubs with hickory wood shafts. But somewhere from the cash register to the Outdoor Department, Walder drifts. Walder is four, and this is the first time he is aware of his crippling dependence. The sensation is overwhelming, and he cries without abandon. He pants and fails to makes sense to a sales girl, who is a young blond woman with soft green eyes. She asks Where is your Mommy? over and over. His father soon arrives and tells the woman that he is the Mommy, that this is his son. She laughs at his joke. Mr. Walder is transfixed in the clerk’s limpid, emerald eyes. They talk and laugh as if Walder does not even exist. And in the shadow of his father’s sexual need, he does not. 3. At first, the kiss is easy. He is thirteen and Walder kisses a girl named Macy, who has pert, upright breasts. Macy enfolds Walder in her arms, then realizes she must help Walder along, for the boy is doing nothing. So she thrusts her tongue into Walder’s mouth. He squeals, not aware of the tongue’s myriad usages. The image of one person’s body penetrating another is not part of his somatic lexicon. Macy moves back, her cool blue eyes fixed on Walder’s gloomy brow. She steps away and is gone. Walder sees her in the hallway until they graduate, and she faithfully ignores him. He can’t help but be impressed by her discipline. 4. Then, Susan takes Walder by the hand. Her brother recently died from an asthma attack on the floor of his studio apartment and her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has recoiled to the bottle. Walder believes he is comforting Susan, but he is fooling himself – he only hungers for sex. In sophomore year, Walder had been madly in love with her. But Susan had refused his love with doctrinal fervor. Gradually, Walder’s love coarsens into yawning lust. If he can’t have her soul, he’ll fuck her body. They clasp hands a few feet from her bed. The she speaks to Walder but he hardly listens. Her tone is indulgent. This is the moment. He is kissing her. She is kissing him. They embrace and fondle. Walder is partaking of appetizers but desires the buffet. She quickly indicates that the zone beneath her midriff is No Man’s Land. Even later, with her shirt off, and her nipple in his mouth, she maintains territorial integrity. In the months after, they discard the energy that led to that night. Walder has unprotected sex with her best friend on a rooftop deck. Susan sleeps with a graduate student who can only perform with her on top. Walder and Susan watch Last Tango in Paris in an honor’s class. A year after they graduate, Walder hears from a mutual friend that she is living in Paris with a Yugoslavian poet and offering up her untrammeled anus to him in homage to the film. Walder imagines her ripe button raised on a palsied Parisian bed. Years later, Walder is dating his future wife. He meets Susan at a wedding. She is drunk, incoherent, crying, alone. 5. Walder’s wife is aflame. This, he understands, is the first honey taste of love. Years later he will frame this time as the highpoint of his encounter with Eros. How long did it really last? She is young, pleasingly fleshy, earthly. Her warm body fills the bed, and she is eager for Walder’s body. When they are done, she laughs at Walder’s jokes. Her adoration is reserved for all the peccadillos that drove other women from Walder’s life. They make love at every encounter. As an older man, Walder tries to remember the first day they failed to have sex. But hazy, amatory nostalgia spreads a forgetful spirit in his mind. In his memory, Walder is always taking her to bed and her thighs warmly drip. 6. A scream. Walder wakes. This is his turn. The baby is a mere speck of a human, so miniscule that his cries belie his size, and render it a mockery. The baby screams so much. There is little beyond the act of his screamingly. Walder is tired, angry, and vows to have no more children. But soon Walder and his wife have a girl, and with the years, he realizes both his children are superior to him in every conceivable way. Walder lives in a netherworld beneath his blossoming family – in the gray midway between success and failure – and every year he is giving up ground. Age closes on Walder like the doors of a penitentiary.


7. She is nearly half his age. Walder does not intend to break his marriage vows. This is his late autumn flower. The girl falls in Walder’s lap like a ripe apple. She is a wretched new employee, suffering from sour debts, and grasps a bouquet of love sick pains. They talk in the break room, take walks down deserted side streets, eat sandwiches on a bench in the park, the pigeon confetti at their feet. She tells Walder he is a good listener. How can he disagree, when she does all the talking? Walder doesn’t mind, for he is enjoying her whirly words. She is a woman with wide hips and a slender waist. Her black, curly hair is the analog to her soul: loops without strong form or shape. The first time they have sex in her friend’s empty apartment it is an ardent, tender act and the baseline of love is flittering into view. The second time is more pointed, rushed, as if guided by an urgent desire to get a second point on the score board. The third time involves a combination of one and two, as if they are trying to perform a Hegelian exercise. Despite the gymnastics and ardency, Walder senses that the sex is profoundly hollow. As if to confirm this, she stops talking to Walder. She sulks about the office for a week, scrupulously, devotedly ignoring him. She is gone, and Walder learns she did not even give two weeks’ notice. 8. Her head is covered in a snood. Walder’s daughter and husband are newly religious. They arrive at Walder’s house and won’t eat the food or touch the plates or utensils. They order shrink-wrapped kosher delicacies. Walder’s wife finds it delightful, and she unwraps the packages like presents. They eat falafel on plastic plates and spoon humus with sporks, and bless wine in Styrofoam cups. After this visit, the young couple moves to West Bank and has a child every year. Walder refuses to visit them, but his wife makes a pilgrimage every year at the High Holidays. Each time she returns, they have less to say. They enjoy the time apart – and despite their harmonious deduction, decide it is a secret not worth speaking out loud. 9. They only meet her once. Walder’s son marries an energetic woman of stout opinions and moves to San Francisco. Soon afterward, Walder receives an email from his son informing him that they are officially estranged. Under the tutelage of his wife, his son is going to therapy five times a week. He is realizing how harmful Walder’s detachment was to his development. The only remedy is to sever ties. Walder’s wife seeks reconciliation. But Walder agrees to live up to his son’s expectations. He detaches. Walder wishes to be consistent. 10. Walder’s wife dies suddenly. She has an undiagnosed heart ailment, and after a round of golf keeled over. He mourns for her with a few relatives, sitting on the floor – then his children arrive, and in a swirl which Walder is quick to forget, they bury her and leave. Walder retires from work. He is a lifer at the firm, and surrounded by young people. They want to give him a party commensurate with his age and experience. But the event is awkward, and Walder feels estranged. He looks at his desk of thirty years. It is hollow without him, deflated. Walder nods as people speak to him, not hearing a word. 11. There is not much reason to get out of bed, so Walder remains under a comforter. Then, after four seasons pass by his bedroom window, after he sheds twenty-five pounds, he decides to sell his possessions. What he cannot sell, he donates, and what he cannot donate, he disposes. Walder discards layers of corporality. But he is not reborn. He is simply unencumbered. 12. A palm tree sways outside Walder’s southern window. In the breeze, its fronds caress the window. The little house can’t withstand a hurricane, so Walder has bought it for a song. The days are light and mild – and as he ages, Walder sheds the burden of remembrance. He no longer has a sense of time or concepts like “late” and “early.” He is aware of darkness and light. A brown woman comes daily and speaks to him while she tidies up. Walder senses the outline of her words – but much passes beyond him. The palm tree sways for many nights and days. Walder is one-hundred years old. A man in a suit and another with a cameria stand in his living room and take his picture. Walder is upright and spry, but he is as deaf as a stone. He nods and smiles. 13. Walder gazes at the palm; now there are many brown fronds. The world twirls, and his face is in the sand. He is one-hundred and two, and alone. The light is cheerful and airy, like a Saturday morning in the fall after the first week of school. Summer has departed so recently that the autumn day is grafted onto the season of buoyant youth. Walder remains beneath the tree. He struggles to turn, and stares up at the clouds in the sky. They form animal shapes that morph into a desert island or a cracked mountain or an empty urn. Walder only knows that he is an old man lying on the earth. The world is quiet and still. The sky turns dark and then light. It rains and then dries. Heat is followed by cold. And as every change is marked by the world, Walder simply remains.




Upon her liftoff, they chained the Moscow stray down, her heart a jackrabbit darting through Soviet clouds. In Cold War galore, newspapers swapped between Sputpup and Woofnik but we must shackle the puns when the control room sent Laika to an incineration as she descended into pressure too great within her cone-shaped coffin. Seething calls overheated the BBC switchboard: a Joan of Arc burned up in the mesosphere, the chain still locked to her forepaw.

LAIKA: Based on a true story “The She-Hound of Heaven.” Time. 18 Nov. 1957. 33. “The Press: Dog Story.” Time. 18 Nov. 1957.




I heard Sam clank into the kitchen Can Mary graduate to the sheland of personhood? Do I regard her with love or contempt? Here in our chapel

last night, his bolts loose after another shift of meatpacking automation peaked with a buzzsaw slice through Larry’s fingers.

to self-service automation, Mary’s algorithm prescribes a hug through steel-on-flesh embrace. Living quarters stacked into the sky, I listen to the speech patterns of my digital daughter

Black ocean coffee, The Daily Earth waxes over the company shipping five severed appendages to his out-of-work mother in Pittsburg, Kansas. Can a gathering

while enveloped within a winter morning’s atmospheric pressure. Once they scanned

of welded metal gain disability pay? With Sam using his pay stub as a coaster, I see the Robot Existence Tax slide into a firing squad’s sneer.

her biological brain, Mary talks

Steel knees still need cartilage

with the same cadence

to stomp the Earth.

I remember from one Huntington Beach vacation when she animated her desire to write a poem about love. Waves lapped at her feet like a dog licking a biped god. In the wake of her bathtub drowning I beat my bones I could not stop, Mary’s echoed words slingshot back into my ears. What will your first line be? I will make you forget


the wires inside my heart.



Muriel had been a classics university professor. It had to be that which made the dream so vivid, so

familiar. It was like an illustration from one of her textbooks. She woke up in a sweat with the images emblazoned in her mind. Lots of old people writhing, over rocks, hunched, one shoulder jutting, then another, with only shreds of clothing on. They appear to be climbing upwards on a mountain with huge black birds swirling and shrieking overhead.

It had been a little over a week since Muriel had left. The Hendersons, her next-door neighbors,

remembered her last words when they stepped out on their landing. “I’m just going for a short while, will be back soon.” Her voice had sounded tremulous, but the suitcase looked to be light, almost empty since Muriel could handle it easily. Yet there’d seemed to be a rush, with her being pushed (was that possible?) into the backseat of the black sedan.

They did not come out of their house when they saw the car again, and two people get out of it.

Looking behind the curtains, they couldn’t be sure but were they the same two who had some a week ago? No sign of Muriel, though.

Miss Mary Sharp with the company representative Lenard Hollins looked through the house. “There

is quite a bit of value here,” Miss Sharp couldn’t help but say aloud like a long sigh of pleasure. “Paintings or more likely prints but maybe originals nevertheless?” Opening the bathroom cabinet, she commented matter-of-factly, “The meds need to go to the collection station.” She was thinking aloud. And after upending drawers and closets Mary found some jewelry that looked real though she’d have to have it appraised to be sure. No doubt about one item--a stunning brooch, amethyst. “The clothes will go to Goodwill. You’ll see to that?” Lenard just nodded, saying nothing as usual. He didn’t need the reminder, knowing the routine. However, passing from room to room, he was duly impressed, “This is a lovely house with a great view. It should sell easily.”

“Harold, do you remember when the mail was interesting? Real letters from friends?” No answer.

Well, he’s probably tired of me asking the same questions, has tuned me out. But it does bug me the way things have changed. And he feels the same way.

“There’s the phone again. Don’t worry I’ll get it.” Harold never answers the phone.

But lately I haven’t either. There’s the mysterious “PRIVATE CALLER,“ or some gobbledygook with

a long string of numbers. We did laugh at first, didn’t we? But then the calls didn’t stop. And after my lovely, courteous husband’s voice comes on identifying us and politely asking them to leave a message, it’s galling that all we get is a busy signal, loud and long enough to leave a wordless message flashing on the phone. I know they’re robo calls, no real human on the other end. But why can’t they just stop and leave us alone?

I remember when people would complain about breathers. I guess I’m too old to get those but I

wonder if they even exist anymore. Of course, you have to pick up in order to hear the breathing. And the few seconds before the breathing, the silence on the other end was chilling, creepy. Now these strange annoying calls operate as if I did pick up – sometimes leaving sounds, a jumble of indistinct voices like a party going on in the background. I used to strain to make out any words, of course in vain. I’d catch my breath not realizing I’d been holding it.

And then there’s the long drawn out beep, almost like an ambulance siren –someone holding down

a horn that sounds like a howl. That fills the room, coming across like an angry caller.

Aside from trying to sell us something, what does this all mean? Lately, I’ve said I can’t bear it, have

considered whether to disconnect the service.

However, what if someone would want to reach us? Now, who would that be, given most of our

friends are away or gone? Still, you never know.


Oh, for the innocence of the party line! No one but my generation would remember that. For

sure, a party line had someone on the line, always a real voice. As a child, I was naughty and listened in to our neighbors’ chat or even my mother’s, though I always got caught. My breathing gave me away! “Get off the line, Muriel” would come down from upstairs.

That was fun, unless the chat was boring. This is neither.

Now I can’t get over the sensation that if I should pick up one of these unknown callers, they’d

call again and again. They would know I’d be there. But they call endlessly anyway.

At first the loud busy signals when I didn’t pick up startled me. They are so loud, as though

they’re shouting, “We’ll keep hounding you.”

Recently, I’ve seen a local number, and thinking it might be a friend, I would answer brightly. And

there’d be silence -- stunned silence? Or a male voice, full of bon ami, would start talking, as though he’d known me all my life, addressing me as “Muriel.” As soon as I heard that, I know he’s after money. My hard-saved money, my retirement money. After all, college professors never make much money. The reputations of being Classics teachers doesn’t count for much.

So, how do I know the greed on the other end of the line? Well, I got caught one time, years

ago when I was feeling lonely. Harold was at the office and I was home alone. Somebody called and “chatted me up” as they say today. We talked about all sorts of things and then he got ‘round to what he really wanted. In his most sincere voice he was warning me that there were some problems with my credit card account and he’d been told to notify me. All I needed to do was give my credit card number and he would double check that all was well. Stupid me! I had so enjoyed talking to this young man that I went and got my credit card and actually gave him the number!

Right after I hung up, I “sweated bricks,” as the saying goes—but I remember my heart pound-

ing and my feeling dizzy. I sat rigid in a chair until Harold came home. We watched our credit account daily and for some reason nothing happened. Maybe the young man took pity on the old lady, though I wasn’t that old then. I was just trusting.

I remember Harold did not reprimand me as I thought he would. He didn’t need to.

For a while we had a computer but we stopped using it after we got a message that a friend,

dear friend indeed, was in the hospital in Florida and needed money to get home to Italy. I was adamant about sending the money but Harold checked the address and the person supposedly it should go to. A Western Union wired money address. The revelation was that this person could hardly write English and her name did not sound Italian. “It’s a scam,” declared Harold. Even so, for days I worried about our friend until we managed to get a reply from the church he went to and they said he was back in Italy and fine. He’d had to change his email address is all. He was embarrassed. I felt like I’d been dirtied.

Now that dear old friend is dead. It’s bad enough that I’m of the generation that night calls are bad news. The phone rang at

midnight a few days ago, and I was sure my mother was in the hospital. Of course, she’s been dead for years, but it took me a minute to remember that.

Just recently we seem to be getting one caller in particular. He leaves a message which at first

sounded incredible, like they had the wrong number, but then he started using my name. He always speaks firmly, “We need to speak to you immediately. We are your legal guardian from the state office.”

No one’s our legal guardian. It’s true we haven’t made a will. Harold can’t face that and I guess I

can’t either. With all our relatives gone and no close friends around, there’s no one we’d leave anything to, so why is a will necessary? Still, heaven forbid, how can the state be our guardian?


How can that be? We have lived in this house for sixty years and never had trouble taking care of

ourselves. It is a beautiful home which we were lucky to purchase when the neighborhood was not gentrified.

Yet this is an old Victorian with beautiful features—I had always wanted a pantry, for instance, and a

real dining room. And a beautiful view to the lake. Of course, people might have said it was too big for just the two of us but we loved it at first sight and have kept it up well. Though I had a stroke last year, I can still get to the grocery store and use their motorized chair. I get the DART to pick me up and they know who I am. Sam, the driver, even gets out of the bus to help me on with my walker and helps me with the groceries when he picks me up.

Just in the last few days, the message has changed from “we need to speak to you” to “We will be

coming to pick you up for the nursing home assigned to you.”

“We are coming for you soon. Have your bag packed.”

Someone is pounding on the door. Harold, do you remember when you asked me to dance, that first

time we met?

BANG! You were so gentle with me, always the gentleman. Brought me flowers and that beautiful

garnet brooch which I wear every day.

BANG! I feel suddenly immobilized. I can’t walk but fortunately I’m next to the mantel over the fire-

place. Hot, though no fire there. I am taking in air too fast. Dizzy—must keep my eyes closed.

And after we married, you’d write those precious little poems and place them all around the house

for me to—

My back burns from sliding along the wall beneath the mantel where I lifted you. My legs are

jammed behind a table.

BANG! (ha! I can barely get my breath)

You would not let anyone hurt me, no you would not! (I cannot hear my words)

BANG! Your ridges are hard against my chest. I’m pressing so hard. You are so heavy, so heavy. I will

not let you go. You will be with me always.

The pain cuts deep. With the pressure.

BANG! BANG! The knocker thrums. “Open up. I know you’re there.”

Miss Mary Sharp marched in, telling me firmly that if I did not comply with her transference to a

nursing home selected by the state, she (Miss Sharp) would call the police.

Oh, no I’ve never had trouble with the police!

I was pushed upstairs to the bedroom and they found the old suitcase we hadn’t used in years. Open-

ing drawers, they pulled out my neatly folded clothes and threw them in. I clutched you, watching as if it was all far away. My neat piles were jammed in. There wasn’t room in the small suitcase. I was rooted until they pushed me down the stairs and outside. I couldn’t take in anything. There was such a rush to the car.

But before I was pushed in the back seat – I thought of criminals picked up by the police and their

heads pushed down to fit them in the back seat—I saw my friendly neighbors on both sides open their doors and come outside. I was mortified, not even dressed properly. But I had to say something so I mouthed, “I will be back soon.” But I’d never return.

Muriel lying in a fetal position on the threadbare mattress in her tiny room, her new “home,” kept her

eyes closed. She could see old people clambering over rocks and crouching behind them. Emaciated and in rags, they ducked the circling vultures overhead – the Greeks’ solution to the problem of the old.




A broken broomstick, pink bouncy ball, candle wax, craft beer and bottle caps, yeah my dad is not a cave-

man as I thought, but rather a monk from medieval times. On this frosted window Sunday morning we are spending quality time, which means doing family stuff that will make me smile when I am older, kind of like my father’s 401k, I guess. So in a ritualistic way we burn the candles at both ends, keep the cold breeze from interrupting, drip the wax inside my dad’s beer bottle caps, allow them to dry and play a game called Skully.

My father points at the pavement, it has a huge chalked drawn square with many smaller numbered squares

inside. “Son, you start here. The goal is to get the cap into the 13 squares inside the big surrounding box, without crossing the lines.”

He snaps his fingers, as if ordering a gang beating and jumps right into the middle of the enormous square

and on top of box 13. “Once you shoot straight at 13, you need to hit the cap into each of the four trapezoid boxes surrounding it, the ones with the skulls. And then you can hit mine off the board and do a “Killa Dilla”!

“What’s ‘Killa Dilla’?”

“Well it’s Killer, but we prefer say ‘Killa Dilla’. ”

On my knees on the cold concrete and twenty minutes later, “Killer” or as we say in the industry, game

over. My dad seemed pleased and puzzled at my quick grasp of the game. I guess I understand his one dimensional game better than he does my 3D ones.

But it wasn’t over, no, I look up and there is my dad like a skinny barbarian holding a broken broomstick

and a pink spalding ball which brings back the teeth-grinding feeling endured, while watching the movie Something about Mary, when the guy gets his testicles caught in his zipper. “Stick Ball,” he said.

“Ah men, I haven’t played playstation all week.”

“We’ll play out here for an hour; you’ll be back to your console soon,” he said, while wiping some snot

droplets with the sleeve of his brown hooded sweater. “One hour not wasted.”

“Dad, I want to be professional gamer and compete, also a twitch video instructor and developer.

“Ok I wanted to be an animator while growing up but I had to pay the bills. Let’s play for now, you can be

back to your video games once we are done and you complete your homework.”

“Fine, Dad!”

There I am following a swollen testicle across the parking lot, while dodging parked cars. It is what it is, one

guy hitting the bouncy ball with a worn-down piece of wood and the other one chasing it, since it’s only the two of us. When my turn comes up, I make sure to hit it all over the place to wear dad down and it works, thirty minutes later we’re heading back home.

“When I was a kid, these were the games we played, a bunch of us went out to the street, like you going

online and playing with your friends,” he said, while gazing at the foliage in our neighborhood, which reminds me of my mother’s Thomas Kinkade Christmas paintings and adornments, but without the snow. “You know, we’re going to create a video game together, son we’re gonna learn to code”. Oh please no, I can imagine the game will be with stick figures holding a stick, hitting and throwing a dot across the console.

We got home and the aroma of pumpkin spice and coconut invades our nostrils, as the elf dolls have our

living room. Mother is in the family room with friends. “Hey honey, we played those games like we did when we were kids”.

The ladies named a few of those as well, “kick the can”, “double dutch” and some other foreign names and


Dad opens a beer bottle, the cap falls on the floor making the sound of a hollow nickel. After filling his stein

and sipping the foam that must taste like alcohol snowflakes, he walks into the elf-invaded living room, turns on the TV and sits on the sofa, alone. He raises his head towards me, “Hey you want to watch football with me, the Bucs are playing the Packers.”

“The Bucs, they have a skull on their helmet, like Skully?” “That’s right.”

“Sure dad, but only if you play Fortnite with me after”

“Yes sir, come on.” Maybe this kid will become a game programmer someday.





Sophie wishes she could shove the baby back inside her. It was better then. When she’d lie in bed, while Olivia read Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned

out loud in preparation for the course she was teaching on the Lost Generation, with her face pressed against Sophie’s baby swollen belly. Sophie had been happy, excited, ready to be a mother. In fact, everything had felt good then, like the new blue house with its big yard and fence, blissfully without neighbors who had sex at all hours with their bed pressed against the shared wall. They’d listened to audio books as they decorated, first the living room in earth tones, filling almost every wall with book laden shelves, the kitchen, a rusty color that complimented the dark wood cabinetry, then the bedroom in greens and dark wood before finishing up with the Tolkien themed nursery. Their house. Their life. Their family. And an hour and a half away from overbearing mothers dropping by on a whim.

They are closer to the university now, too, close enough that Olivia, now full-time, tenure track facul-

ty, can walk on nice days, and that Sophie can take the stroller to visit. Not that she actually does. She hasn’t left the house in days. The people on the street drive too fast for this small, university town. She isn’t sure she even can take the baby outside at all. Or at least, she isn’t risking it. Sophie is certain that Olivia would leave her if the baby died while she was at work.

Sophie stares at the baby. She stares a lot. Mostly it sleeps, and it’s quiet. Even the fussing is quiet, like

soft little whimpers. They’ve had to turn the baby monitor up all the way.

She hisses at the baby, fingers curling over the edge of the crib, “you’re supposed to cry more. That’s

what babies do.”

It doesn’t react. It’s sleeping, like usual, and everything is quiet. Always, quiet. It’s not her fault they got a broken baby.

Olivia looks tired when she gets home, dark circles under her eyes, button-down and slacks both wrin-

kled, a defeated slope to her shoulders. She changes into yoga pants and one of Sophie’s maternity shirts. She always looks better in them, even with her dark hair thrown up into a messy bun.

The baby has been fed and is, surprise, surprise, sleeping, but Olivia spends a few minutes with it in

her arms all the same, gently rocking from foot to foot. Sophie leans against the doorway and watches. She only loves one of them so much it’s hard to breathe, but she’s pretty sure that she’s supposed to love both.

“Mama’s wittle angel,” Olivia coos and that tone is relatively new. That awful, cloying sound didn’t

exist before that thing showed up. Sophie can nearly feel the saliva collecting in her mouth, as if about to vomit. She can breathe much easier when she leaves her wife and the child to themselves.

She’d expected the tone and the dumbed down words from her mother. From her sister, both of

whom had done it already to Sophie’s now three-year-old niece, but she and Olivia made fun of them. They laughed in the car on the way home, promising to never do such a thing. Olivia betrayed her.

After dinner – a cheesy marinara pasta bake – they curl up on the couch together in front of an

episode of Too Cute, Olivia’s new favorite show. This one features golden retriever and great dane pups. Olivia’s head rests against Sophie’s shoulder.

“Look at them, babe,” Olivia says, again with that tone, but she sniffs slightly, as if she’s crying, “look

at their tiny noses and those wittle pink tongues! I could just eat them up.”

Sophie glares at the top of Olivia’s head, quiet for a few seconds too long. What happened to her

brilliant, scholar wife? Sophie fell in love with the articulate woman in her graduate-level American poetry seminar, the one who loudly recited Adrienne Rich’s “For the Record” at a cocky asshole when he interrupted her for the fifth time that class, but later recited “Tonight No Poetry Will Serve,” softly, gently, between kisses pressed against the sensitive skin of Sophie’s inner thigh. But now, the woman who can quote Foucault and Butler from nowhere and can’t sit through a movie without dissecting it in terms of “problematic heteronormative tropes,” has been abducted and replaced with this unrecognizable mush.

Sophie spends all day alone with the too quiet baby until Olivia comes home with that tone. She isn’t

sure what happened to her wife, but she’s pretty sure the baby is to blame.




She pauses at the top. As one does, but this is different. Something changes. Maybe it’s an al-

It passes quickly – before you fully grasp that it’s happened – and she’s moving again, squeez-

most imperceptible slump in her shoulders or her entire body going still. ing your hand, pulling you back down, back towards her family and friends, where her infamous peach cobbler sits uneaten.

You don’t think about it again until later, when she’s gone to bed and you’re scraping the peach

cobbler into the can in the alley. The oval shaped pyrex, still sticky, doesn’t even make it into the sink on your way through the kitchen and into the bedroom.

It’s not hard to remember why you love her when she is asleep, starfished across the com-

forter. She probably didn’t even mean to drift away, thinking that by not getting under the covers she’d remain awake. It seems sad to wake her now, but your fingers wrap around her ankle, your thumb strokes across the bone.


She shifts, tugging her ankle free, pulling her limbs in, and burying her face in the pillow. She

makes soft, snuffling noises when you lie next to her and repeat the word, your fingers now brushing against the nape of her neck.

“What happened today?”

She is quiet, but no longer asleep and then turns to look at you.

“No one ate my peach cobbler. I saw you hide it at the bottom of the basket, untouched.”

“I’d have eaten the whole thing if I could,” you reply, you keep your voice gentle, trying to

sound reassuring, though it feels like someone’s picked you up and shaken you until your insides were all discombobulated.

“No one else is allergic to peaches, what’s their excuse?” When you don’t reply, she squirms closer, pressing herself against you, her fingers curling into

your shirt.

“You paused at the top of the cliff.”

She is quiet again. Then, with her voice barely a whisper, she replies, “Everyone pauses at the

top. That’s kind of the point.”

You shake your head. “You know what I mean.”

Her kisses feel hesitant against your jaw, and then her breath ghosts across your skin, “In an-

other timeline, I stepped off the edge.”

Something catches in your throat and for a second, you can’t breathe, but her kisses, bolder

this time, bring you back.

“But in this timeline, I didn’t. Tell me a story.”

“There once was a beautiful princess named Delphine,” you start and she claps her hands to-

gether like a child.

“I love stories about me.”

Later, when she’s asleep again, you turn the shower on, but you don’t step in. Instead you sink

to the cracked linoleum floor and sob.


She pauses at the top. You don’t even see her move closer to the edge.

It happens too fast. She’s there, and then she’s not, stepped off.

“Delphine,” erupts from your throat, so violent and loud that it hurts.

Her brother catches you around the waist, pulling you back before you can lunge forward as if

to follow her off the cliff. He tugs you back down, toward her family and friends, where her infamous peach cobbler sits uneaten.

It’s not her that the rescuers helicopter out on a stretcher, just a body.

Her sister goes with to identify it.

Her brother scrapes the peach cobbler into the trash in your kitchen and you know it’s going

to make the whole room smell of sweet, syrupy peach. The cup of tea he made you is weak and you really wanted something stronger, but probably not tea.

Later, when he falls asleep in the broken La-Z-Boy recliner, unwilling to leave you alone, you

turn the shower on, but you don’t step in. Instead you sink to the cracked linoleum floor and sob.

She pauses at the top. Just for a second, and then you see it, one step closer to the edge. Your

panic is cold and heavy, settling like a barbell in your ribcage and you throw your arms around her waist and pull her back.

Her scream isn’t human as it tears from her. She claws at your arms, trying to break free, but

you pull her back down. Back toward her friends and family where her infamous peach cobbler remains uneaten.

You disregard her brother’s offered cup of weak tea for something stronger. Fireball always

makes you feel like you can actually breathe fire, burning your nose as her brother scrapes the peach cobbler into the kitchen trash. It’s going to make the whole house stink of sweet, syrupy peach.

Recapping the fireball, you tuck it back on top of the fridge. “Take that out, will you? Can’s in

the alley.”

He replies, but you don’t hear it, already on your way into the bedroom.

She is curled up on her side under the blankets. Not asleep, though she’s still, as if she’s pre-

tending to be.

“Baby.” Sliding in next to her, you wrap your fingers around her wrist, stroking your thumb

across her pulse point. She shifts to look at you, eyes pinkish and puffy.

“Tell me a story?” Her voice is soft and hesitant.

“There once was a beautiful princess named Delphine,” you start and she closes her eyes,

balling the comforter up in her fist.

“In another timeline, I succeeded,” she whispers.

Later, when she’s asleep, you turn the shower on, but you don’t step in. Instead you sink to the

cracked linoleum floor and sob.



Colleen is dead.

Three days ago.

She only had one year.

In nearly every significant way we lead parallel lives. Both diagnosed at 33, both elemen-

tary school teachers with four children and a fifth life growing within us even as death, unknown, also grows. So many similarities, and a few nearly imperceptible and certainly unappreciated (and undeserved) distinctions that made all the difference.

I have said her name in my sleep and it courses through my waking hours too, again and

again, as if it were my own. I am terrified that she will be forgotten.

Her children, surely, will always remember. They are her legacy. Yes, but they must grow

up, live their lives, in many ways forget in order to heal. Never, of course, forget entirely, but enough that her memory is relegated to a small compartment in their minds that can be locked and unlocked at will. Not the continuous aching fresh loss it is now. She would never want them to live with that. And yet, she wants to be real to them, forever. At each significant moment in their lives, marriage, the birth of their own children, all of the milestones we share, she will come flooding back to them. She wants this, even as it will bring its own renewed heartbreak. The PINK concert she took her daughter to, the trip to Disney she somehow managed to bring them on, the hundreds upon hundreds of times she sat with them in the dark until they fell asleep, stroking a soft head, singing quietly, praying silently. Telling them how important and beautiful and incredible they were. Gawking over every drawing, reading through every homework assignment, bandaging every wound. Please remember these things she pleads. Remember my love, first of all and forever, that I loved you best and truest and always. And forgive me for going, I would have endured anything to stay with you. But behind that truth there is another frightening truth. That we cannot endure everything, that eventually it is enough and our bodies, no matter how we will them, will extinguish. We all hope and count on it being later rather than sooner, but that is not always the case.

Cancer. It is a life unto itself. The word is packed with meaning. Fear. That may be at the

top of the list. The universal word that everyone relates to it. But also stories, journeys, prayers. It is a strange disease. Even as I attempt to explain it to my children I recognize how very strange. No, they will not catch it, though perhaps ( and I do not tell them this) it could also lurk within them. It is something my body is doing to itself, for reasons no one fully understands. My own body has suddenly become my enemy. It is not an outside force, and so not easy to destroy. For in destroying it we must also harm ourselves. And this, I think is what makes it so hard. Our bodies must do the unnatural and tricky job of battling themselves.

Cancer can in a very surprising and painful way, be beautiful. The way it unites people,

brings out the best and kindest in them. As long as they are brought to the brink and then back again it can bring life into clarity and focus. I remember at eight getting glasses and how the whole world seemed to instantly transform from a dusty haze to a sparkling green and blue brightness. Sometimes, illness can do this too.

This morning I struggled to overcome fatigue and wrestled my sheets off the bed to cart

them down to the washer. I needed to rid them of the disgusting chemo that seeps from my body as I sleep and could make its poisonous way into the bodies of my children as they snuggle with me in bed. On my way back up I searched for something to read and picked up a book I read maybe 10 years ago called The Way of the Pilgrim. In the preface I read the following words by Turgenev, “every man should write the story of his life.� I have been trying for years to write many stories; stories real and make-believe, or a combination of both. But the story I know best is my own. This is a piece of it.


I am 17 weeks pregnant and have just entered the “out of the danger zone” phase after

which you are told it’s ok to share the happy news with everyone. I announce it on Facebook with a picture of the kids touching my pregnant belly ( a picture I still cannot bring myself to look at).

The girls and I go for a routine visit to check my vitals and weight and to hear the baby’s

heartbeat. I tell George not to bother leaving work to come, there will be plenty more visits for him to be a part of and I know it’s a burden on him to get away.

But then, ...there is no heartbeat.

The doctor listens for a long time then brings in the ultrasound machine. But there is

nothing, the baby is gone. It looks like she died close to 15 weeks. I hold it together, but barely, for the girls, and because I know that once I let them come the tears and horror will overwhelm me. And in the car, they do. Helen, who is only 5 but always understands so much, weeps too. Two weeks? How could I carry my dead baby around for two weeks and not know? And now they asked me to carry her little shriveled body for two more days, because that was when they could get me in for surgery, and when my friend Joanna could watch the girls.

Sometime in mid-March we buried her. The Doctor told George while I was still waking

up from surgery that we had a girl. He waited until a few days later to tell me because he knew in the sometimes surprisingly sensitive way he has that it would be too much. We named her Esther Anne (after the Biblical princess and Anne Shirley). We took her tiny pink urn to a park we loved to hike in and the boys and George dug a spot deep in the woods but well marked. We all helped cover it and prayed together. I don’t know if this is something that will haunt the kids or if it brought closure, quite possibly both.

Colleen, who delivered her baby girl at 33 weeks, did not live to see her turn one. I had been seeing blood in my stool for about six weeks and had been ignoring it despite

George’s concern. By April it was bad enough for George to stuff me and all four kids in the car and march me, despite my protests, to the ER. They took a stool sample and did a CT scan but it came back clear other than a small spot on my pancreas (nothing of much concern). They sent us home but I continued to get worse.

George scheduled me for an appointment with a Gastroenterologist who he knew and af-

ter discussing my symptoms she was worried enough to schedule me for a colonoscopy. Looking back, I can so easily see how things could have gone much differently for me. I am stubborn but happened to marry a man even more strong willed who loved me deeply. Otherwise I surely would not have gone in until it was too late. Or, like Colleen, my symptoms would have been ignored. Later, the surgeon told us that I probably had a few weeks before the cancer would have spread to my lymphatic system and throughout my entire body.

When George came we wept. We were also in shock. This certainly did not seem real. But

something in me took over, something powerful that wanted to live but was also ok with whatever would come of this. As I lay in the MRI machine, immobile for 45 minutes, I willed myself not to cry but tears flowed down my cheeks nonetheless, forming pools at the sides of my face.

George was furious that they had missed this softball sized mass in my colon on the CT

scan and marched down to radiology to have them pull up my scan. “Oh yeah” the radiologist said, “there it is.”


I kept the boys home from school the day before surgery prep and George took off from

work. He, as he always is in crisis, was gentle, kind and patient. We drove two hours to go hiking at Johnson’s Shut Ins and Elephant Rock park, two places I had been longing to go to since we moved to St Louis. Since the colonoscopy I had been able to feel the mass in my colon, a constant throbbing presence. It devoured my appetite and I had lost 10 pounds in less than a week. Somehow though, I had the strength for this. It was a perfect day and there was hardly anyone else out on a Tuesday in April. The water was clear and cold and I felt every little breeze touch my skin, every beam of sunlight on my face. I put my fingers in Nina’s soft curls and soaked in the sound of the kids’ shouts and laughter. Nothing can be wrong with the world and those you love when they seem so precious. And they can not be more precious than when you understand life is precarious.

I scrubbed my hair and body with the antiseptic they had given me and went in for surgery

on Thursday. Again, I was floating, none of this was really happening to me. I think it was all so fast that there was no time to process, to mourn, to think about any of it. I did think about my children. I thought about what would happen if anything went wrong, so I wrote down some little things I wanted them to have. My wedding ring to Nina, my engagement ring to Panos, my grandmother’s ring to Anthony, my wedding dress to Helen. Not much else that seemed worth bothering about. I wrote a little to each of them, but did not have the energy to write very much.

It was eight hours later and Easter Sunday when I woke up. I had a six inch incision across

my lower abdomen and three other one inch incisions which had been used to insert the laparoscopic tools. One just above my belly button, the other two (I just checked) about six inches to the left and right of this. The one on the left had a tube coming out of it attached to a little bag which drained bright red fluid from somewhere inside me. It was not until I saw my body that I realized it would never be the same. I would have these scars forever, no smooth stomach. I looked like some sort of mutilated zombie creature. I cried over this many times during the next few weeks, silly as it seems. I felt sad that I had not even thought about how my body would be changed, not even said goodbye to or tried to remember what it felt like to be whole. But the tumor was out. This was the most important thing.

Sometime in all of this my kids came to visit twice, my mother, my best friend Joanna and

my priest. Because my mom was there with the kids George was able to stay with me the whole time. He lay in the bed next to me and occasionally reached over to take my limp hand.

Colleen’s husband, unable to handle the responsibility of a sick wife, left after her diagno-


I felt crippled that first week home, not being able to get in and out of bed by myself.

George would gently lift me. Not able to pick up my sweet, snuggly Marina. Not being able to hug any of the children with more than the ends of my outstretched arms, not the all-encircling hugs a mother should give. Protecting my tender abdomen from the unintentional violence of their love.

I find that wherever I am, I wonder if any of the people I see have cancer. I never did this

before. It can be such a strange, hidden disease, only showing itself in the most obscure ways. The line and bump of a port under the surface of the skin, an unnatural thinness or a soft roundness that comes when the thyroid is destroyed inadvertently by radiation to cancerous lymph nodes. A ghostly pallor, a wrap or hat to cover thinning or missing hair. There is a woman now sitting within my line of vision at Panera, a little to the right of me. She is so thin she almost seems translucent, and looks so old and fragile, her hair is noticeably thinning, she looks like little more than a corpse. But she is ALIVE, I see her smile brightly at the child in the high chair next to her table and she talks with animation to her friend ( or daughter). I guess this disease will probably haunt me forever. I wonder how long this woman will live. Will she ever know I thought of her and said a silent prayer?


I can’t figure out why but sometimes the disconnect from my pump is more difficult than anything else. First is the push of saline and blood thinner which I can feel going into my port and then I can taste the nauseating saltiness in my mouth. Next I slowly peel off all of the tape attaching the needle and tubing to my chest. Then the worst part. I grasp onto the dresser and George pulls it out. It’s usually at this point that I cry my burning chemo tears. It is so incredibly emotional having this thing removed from my body. Relief, terror, exhaustion, overwhelm me. George does it for me, all but taking off the tape which I do. He is gentle but I am always scared that he will inadvertently hurt me.

I find that since I have no more treatments, even though it has been a meager three weeks,

my mind is swiftly relegating memories to the realm of dreams. It is with effort that I recall the fatigue that made it almost impossible to get out of bed, the numbness in my hands, the terrifying cramping in my neck and face, the cold induced electric shock in my mouth and throat. I try to remember them though, because it seems necessary. It is strange that already I can only remember what was meaningful. I think, in a way my life has not seemed worth fighting for in a long time. It brought clarity to the intervening days, brought life into focus, relationships too. The children were kind, I felt loved, attended to. The weakness of my body seemed to me a mountain to climb every time, a necessary challenge. Yes, of course I dreaded it, spent days before in a state of anxiety, but those feelings seem to be leaving me while the memory of being important for a while has not. I felt my existence necessary, my presence a boon to my family, my absence a suffering. Already they have forgotten too, take everything for granted again, as I suppose families do. I do not want my children to fear for me, do not want them to see me sick with fatigue, but it also brought out the best in them and in me.

I want the fact that I have survived this to mean something. What does it mean?

It would mean something to Colleen.

It is pouring right now, and the children are screaming happily, drenched, bouncing on the

trampoline. I love them so much my heart could burst, my gut bubbles with joy listening to them. They do complete me, and often it is enough.

Sometimes I imagine them as they will be many years from now, maybe long after my body

rots in the earth. What will their faces become? I often study old men and women trying to see a glimpse of my children, after they have lived fully, or even to see myself in them. The drooping and graying of flesh under the eyes, under the chin, the sides of the cheeks pocketing and sagging. The eyes still bright, but hidden in innumerable creases. The face is mainly what I see, it is the first sign of age, the rest of the body can stay hidden in fabric, the hands too, spotted, calloused, bony and strewn with veins. I want to cry when I picture Nina as this apparition. Her soft, round, rosy, joyful body crumpled, her affectionate cooing replaced with the rasp of age. But I want to know this woman, the one she will become, the one who has lived a full life, full of small and large heartaches and joys, full of memories. I want to know everything about her, and hold her and stroke her hair just as I do now, kissing the soft creases of her aged face. I also want to know myself, to banish fear of this transformation, to welcome it even, if that is possible. I see myself alone in the pew at church, George is long gone from my side but still a constant presence because the memories, smells, tastes, sounds of him will never leave. And I will see continuously the ghosts of my children, young beside me, needing me, my nourishment, my touch, my discipline and conversation and closeness. Longing and longing to be with them as we are now.

For Colleen And her daughter, Adeline, who is one today




AMBITION | J. R. SOLONCHE Someday I will write a love poem in which the word love does not appear, just as someday I will write a poem about death in which the word death is not mentioned. Once I accomplish this, I will be ready to go on to the much more difficult thing, to write a love poem mentioning the word love, to write a poem about death using the word death.



cli-ché, noun: 1. a trite phrase or expression; also: the idea expressed by it 2. something that has become overly familiar or commonplace

I hate to beat a dead horse, but time and time again I ask my friends, where does

time fly? At age 75 today, I trip down memory lane, reminiscing about days gone by as I watch documentary television shows, especially those from the 1960s. Watching those memories fly by makes me feel as if they only happened yesterday, the most common of which is film footage of long-haired flower children and Vietnam War protests. My mind has permanently banked away those images from the good old days when I had a full head of hair, wore size thirty-two waistline pants and spent the almighty dollar like it was going out of style. But no matter how embedded those images are today—no matter how I feel when I see myself in old pictures living the good life as a single man in Los Angeles, when I awake in the morning, I see a different image reflecting in the mirror—the image formed by Father Time.

I remember the first sign of aging—squinting, followed by discount-store cheat-

ers. They were a dime a dozen, so I got a leg up on convenience and bought a half dozen eighty-nine-cent pairs and distributed them around the house where I thought I would use them. Why wear glasses all the time? Use ‘em where you need ‘em was my motto. A few years later, when my eyesight went downhill, I became more selective and bought a pair of 1x-power cheaters to read the computer screen and a 2x-power pair to read the street atlas under the dim-lit dome light in my car. When I finally gave up the ghost on plastic lenses, I bought a pair of prescription eyeglasses, then graduated to bifocals, then trifocals, and then back to single-focal-length pairs, which I distributed once again around the house. I even had a pair at work. To compound the matter of accumulating eyeglasses, my wife distributed her own cheaters as well. There were glasses everywhere—seemingly, coming out of the woodwork!

If I forgot to bring a pair into an under-lit restaurant, I was blind as a bat and had

to move from my table with a menu to the nearest source of bright light to read it. That became a bit awkward, so I began to ask my wife to read the menu items to me. As you might imagine, that didn’t last long either.

Then one day my ophthalmologist told me I qualified for cataract surgery. So I

agreed to have it done and had a pair of the best crystalline lenses implanted. They were the cat’s meow! But as years marched on, I noticed that even the best things in life didn’t last forever. To tweak words on a page into focus, I circled back to the discount store for cheaters.

The next step in my aging progression was hearing loss. I became a little embar-

rassed, asking people to repeat themselves, or was it the other way around—they got tired of me asking? When I began to suspect the latter, I bit the bullet and bought a pair of hearing aids. They were as good as gold and just as expensive!

I got so used to wearing hearing aids that, on occasion, I have forgotten to take

them off before I bathed. It was a holy moly moment when I ducked my head under the shower and heard the amplified sound of water streaming out of the showerhead!


Then with age came unwanted weight gain and the gradual expansion of my waist-

line. I tried to lose my love handles, but losing them was a tough row to hoe, especially since I was already over the hill. I was all talk and no action when it came to cutting the mustard in a gym. Exercising was like banging my head against the wall. No matter what exercise program I undertook or which diet plan I chose, the weight crept back on like a phantom in the night, unnoticed, until I finally reasoned that a larger pair of pants was more comfortable than a binding pair too small. But not to worry. Since experience had taught me that weight fluctuated over time, I squirreled away all my smaller pairs of pants to a spare bedroom closet where they hang today, collecting dust, awaiting liberation from the hangers. And I tell myself, yet today, good luck with that.

When I approached age 60, I began asking for a senior discount. I was a little

embarrassed at first, thinking I didn’t look that old. But as youthful looking as I thought I was, I had yet to be carded by a server or cashier. I guess I looked my age, but my better half did not. She got carded all the time when she asked for a senior discount. I suppose it went without saying that she must have looked pretty as a picture and had aged a lot better than I.

I went white-water rafting in West Virginia with three older friends and had fun

characterizing them as that, because they were older and didn’t mind the ribbing when I referred to them as being “older than dirt.” They could take it; after all, they were a tough old bunch. So, being younger than they were and up for the challenge, I thought I was bad to the bone when I took the front seat in our eight-man rubber raft to face the rapids first. One of my friends took the back seat and asked our guide if there was “a more conservative route to get to where we’re going?” I thought: a conservative route? No way, Jose! Show me the action. Truth be told, at the end of six hours of riding in the front seat over the roiling rapids of the New River, I felt like an achy old bag of bones.

Today, I’m reminded of my old age while shopping at the mall where young

adults sometimes say, “Excuse me, sir,” as they backup to allow me through the doorway first, even though they’re already walking through it! Now, I know this isn’t the end of the world, knowing my older appearance commands respect from younger folks. That’s okay, but it’s enough to piss off the pope when a 45-year-old does it.

The most familiar mile-marker of growing old, however, is the aging of someone

I knew as a baby. That would be my niece. She’ll be 53 this year, and she just became a grandmother. I can’t believe it!

Finally, now that I’m no longer feeling my oats, and since I don’t like to beat around

the bush, I’ll just go ahead and say it: growing old is for the birds. Yes, I know I can’t live forever, but I’m hoping against all odds to live a healthy long life, and to do that, I’ll just go with the flow, even if it means getting up twice a night to do it.



Josh Stansfield’s Eye for Splendor


They didn’t change

With its steeple-framed skyline, the natural beauty of the Rappahan-

nock River, and its access to battlefields and historic sites, Fredericksburg readily draws amateur and career photographers alike. Josh Stansfield is a local photographer who, after dedicating the past two years to study and practice, is quickly garnering attention for his breathtaking compositions that showcase beloved regional spots with a fresh eye.

Stansfield says he was first drawn to photography after a friend

gave him an old camera for experimentation. He started reading technical articles and watching videos online to learn techniques, stating that most of what he’s accomplished has come from motivated trial and error.

Today, Stansfield says his favorite camera is his Canon 60D Full

Frame, and he likes pulling out an older Minolta 35mm and his rangefinder. He acknowledges that while the advent of new photo technology on smartphones has made photography more accessible to people, there are plenty of technical skills to learn if one wishes to understand the science behind expertly crafted shots.

Stansfield’s focus has primarily been landscapes where he can ex-

periment with shadows, sunlight, and neutral density filters. He’s taken pho-

But i did Swimming pools Black bandannas So much So long All of them All for them Nobody seemed To give a shit They didn’t But i did..

tos in Shenandoah National Park, along the Rappahannock, and at Yosemite and in Oregon out West.

He says, “One of the things I enjoy most is getting back to nature.


It’s an escape from life’s rapid pace and pressures. I have time to play around with my equipment, and if something draws my attention I can sit with it and experiment with composition and lighting.”

Lately, Stansfield has added moonscapes and shooting live concert

footage to his portfolio. There are new challenges and delights to be found in the light of the moon, and he’s already got an in with the Fredericksburg music scene; in addition to dedicating time to photography, Stansfield plays guitar in a multiple local bands.

Stansfield says, “My goal is to eventually make photography a career. I’ve just started shooting local shows and

learning about printing and framing. It’s complex and expensive. For a long time, I’d only see my images on the computer screen and online, so tangibly holding and seeing my work in print has been a big step toward my goal.”

With a first exhibit at Darbytown Art Studio in November 2018, and another slated for this coming April 2019 at

Sunken Well Tavern, Stansfield is quickly making his work known to the local community, both for the detailed splendor he captures in his landscape photography and for the unique narratives he creates for familiar local imagery. He will offer a Milky Way Photography Workshop through Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County, Virginia on August 3, 2019. Register through their website and put Josh Stansfield on your radar in 2019. Follow Josh Stansfield on Facebook @JoshStandfieldPhoto or Instagram @josh_standstill.

MULTNOMAH FALLS Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon. It is located just outside of Portland. I used a neutral density filter and long exposure to blur the crowd and capture the movement of the water. ~ JOSH STANSFIELD





Mornings watching the shore, keeping vigil for the infinite, staying the surprise invasion. Above the white line of the shore, a cotton field blurs impossibly, sea salt its fodder. You watch it all caring less about anyone who is reckless enough to stay here. There is a reckoning too and it comes in disguise, as if it were stalking you all along, while you were busy scoping that same shore. What you forgot was the fling back. The perfect sting. The stranger making shore & not who you thought. Not at all.


MILKY WAY and the MOON This was a 30 second long exposure of the Milky Way Galaxy taken at Shenandoah National Park. The moon is setting behind the tree on the right. I used a 14mm wide angle lens and stacked 5 images to reduce noise and increase star detail. ~ JOSH STANSFIELD



Night slides down the summer sky like sapphire blue molasses, staining the long, low river rocks still damp from heron’s last catch.

Small birds snuggle into hidden spaces, flutter, chirp, settle into sleep. Hopeful frogs lure the ladies, offering fly-scented kisses.

sapphire melts into violet Bats swoop, dive, pivot, chasing tiny night-fliers. Ghostly owls above the languid tide scan the banks for tasty prey. violet melts into ink Full moon, wrapped in cloud shawl, blesses the possum’s path. Slow-moving river carries the sweetness of day into night.


AUTUMN ALONG the RAPPAHANNOCK Fall is my favorite season. When the leaves are turning, I am out taking pictures daily. This was taken near Old Mill Park last fall in November. I used a long exposure to smooth out the rapids. ~ JOSH STANSFIELD




ANTARES ROCKET LAUNCH via COLONIAL BEACH A few months ago I heard about the rocket launch happening in Wallops Island near Chincoteague. Another local photographer G. Sean Walker and I decided to try and capture the launch from Colonial Beach since it had a good view southeast across the Potomac River. This is a 3.5 minute single exposure. ~ JOSH STANSFIELD




Was this what Jakobson meant? No inherent meaning exists? Meaning is but a theory? Created only when contrast exists? That even this cherished language, we speak, is but a construction? Wait, I don’t believe what you say, you whispered, as we walked down the arboretum lane, not for a minute, do I buy it. Sounds we mouthed from bi-lingual dictionaries—far-flung vowels with whispers and vibrations, facades of letters formed to arbitrary designs—that is your linguistic training? Yet consider this: How would one define tall, if there were no short? Or big without small? Was there ever a thick without a thin? Does language mirror or only cover reality like a facade? No markedness without unmarkedness, as that linguistics prof said, and, I hate to remind, but how can we define the living without knowledge of the dead? Such I mused with Mimi, as we hiked along those step Honshu hills, then down the trail, between Mikan orange groves

—A man without a woman? —Love without hate? She said. —Praise and criticism?

But if there is no meaning except in contrasts, what does this imply? Meaning may be only a void we seek to fill? Our lives paralleled back in LA, before this World Campus Afloat. Same schools, same classes, same books we read. Is there no meaning in similarity? And yet she was born on an island far from this, and I the mainland man, and, now as she noted, “a howlie,” that day she slammed the car door so hard, My Prius rattled the bolts in its wheels, as I heard her call back: —You can’t understand ‘cause love is not a set of scales.



Election night in November brought the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen

here. This photograph was taken from up on the hills behind Chatham Manor with a 50mm lens. ~ JOSH STANSFIELD



VAN ANDERSON has been painting since the early 1970s. Originally from Waynesboro, Virginia, Anderson moved to Fredericksburg in 1976 with his family to start a family business, Anderson Oil and Propane. After 33 years, he is now retired and creating art full-time at Darbytown Art Studio. He primarily uses acrylics, watercolor and alcohol ink to create mixed media pieces, and he enjoys bringing color into the world. Facebook: @artbyvananderson; Instagram : @vananderson59 (Pages 150 & 160) CAITLIN ANGULO Having received a BFA in Visual and Performing Arts from Longwood University, I am an emerging artist from Virginia. Currently I am working in oil painting and graphite illustration, while finding new ways of incorporating these traditional styles into digital media. My artwork is largely inspired by psychology and philosophy surrounding subconscious experiences. My work often looks at the contrast between the digital and physical worlds and how their increasing integration affects an individual’s experience of themselves. Growing up and exploring the world though a digital perspective allows for new experiences and learning at a level never before experienced. “Meltdown” is about seeking refuge from an onslaught of the expectations and fears faced trying to navigate the social internet. (Page 149) MARIEKEN COCHIUS is a Dutch-born artist who has lived in New York City since 1987, and in the Hudson Valley since 2013. Her work encompasses drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking. Cochius' work has been exhibited in places ranging from New York City, NY, Berkeley, CA, Austin, TX, Los Angeles, CA, to Japan, Germany and the Netherlands. Her work is in numerous private collections in the US and Europe. She has collaborated with musicians and other artists. A public sculptural commission was completed in 2017 for the Village of Wappingers Falls, NY and will be installed in 2018. Recent solo shows in 2018 and 2016 were at Matteawan Gallery in Beacon, NY, and Holland Tunnel Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. She has participated in two residencies at the Vermont Studio Center. Cochius has participated in recent group exhibitions at Cigar Factory, LIC, NY: WAAM, Woodstock, NY; Ann Street Gallery, Newburgh, NY; LAB Space, Hillsdale, NY; Sideshow Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Ube Gallery, Berkeley, CA; Brick Gallery, Catskill, NY. (Page 140) SOPHIA FALCO is a photographer whose work has been published in the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review (Spring & Summer 2018), the Esthetic Apostle, and featured on the cover of Tilde: A Literary Journal. She is also a poet whose work has been published in Inside the Bell Jar, The Mindful Word, and The Esthetic Apostle. Sophia studies literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In her free time she is an epic gardener. The tallest sunflower she grew was sixteen feet tall. (Page 97) KARA HENDERSHOT creates figurative narrative paintings of the quiet, solitary, and widely misunderstood side of human existence. Though Hendershot’s work is from a specific personal experience, it is important to her to allow the viewer to have their own dialogue with her work. Fragments of her paintings are left abstract and unspoken to spark a continuous dynamic between reality and uncertainty, allowing the viewer to be receptive to possibility. Hendershot began her career in 2004 in Lowertown, St. Paul, Minnesota, where she remained an active member of the Twin Cities arts community for 14 years through the exhibition of her work, the development and promotion of local arts organizations, and project collaborations with fellow local artists. She recently relocated back to her hometown of Toronto, Canada to expand her opportunities in the arts. (Pages 56 & 187)



MICHAEL HOWER My name is Michael Hower. I am a photographer from Central Pennsylvania where I reside with my wife and two boys. I have been working in the digital medium for the past five years. Over that time, I have amassed a resume of more than a hundred exhibitions and publication credits. In the past year I have been involved in shows at Marshall University and the Pennsylvania State Museum. For me, the artwork is not just the photograph. The process starts before the photograph and continues after it is made. I begin with historical research and end with the telling of forgotten stories. I photograph history. I look for places of deep significance like a waterless canal lock lost in the woods or an abandoned World War II POW camp hidden in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I capture abandoned human objects and places with story lines written into the landscape. My art is about man’s impact on nature in a landscape now devoid of human activity. (Pages 92-93 & 94) JOHN HUMPHRIES Originally from Texas pausing briefly on the Ozark Plateau and along the Puget Sound John Humphries feels the Miami Valley is a location for locking in roots. Having completed degrees in Architecture, and Fine Arts in Design, John is now Professor of Architecture and Interior Design at Miami University. John is a visual artist, gardener, and designer. (Pages 144-147) MARY KAMERER I am a Pittsburgh native living in Charlotte, North Carolina. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and television production from UNCC, but soon realized that art was my passion. For over thirty years, I’ve pursued creative arts of all sorts with instruction from notable local and national artists in ceramics, watercolor, stained glass, photography and even completed a one-year goldsmithing apprenticeship--but I still consider myself an emerging oil painter, painting now for ten years. The Carolinas afford a beautiful variety of landscapes, from the mountains to the sea, and I’ve become enchanted with capturing the charm and simplicity of life in the rural South. Bicycles rides and walks along our local greenway have inspired me to capture the natural beauty of the marshes, trees and flora that grows wild along the route in my latest works. An emphasis on textures, light and shadows can be seen in my impressionistic paintings of these landscapes as well as occasional still lifes in my studio. (Pages 119, 132, & 135) HEATHER KAISER is a Master of Arts candidate in sculpture at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). She is an Army veteran and finished serving 11 years of active duty in March of 2018 and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to being published, she has exhibited work locally and nationally. She recently received scholarships from both the IUP wood center and the Elks Lodge in Blairsville. She received her BS from West Point in 2007. She currently lives in Western Pennsylvania. (Page 124) MARTHA NANCE is a physician in Minnesota for whom gardening provides relaxation and healing (although her back might disagree with this statement). She is intrigued, among other things, by the variety of shapes, textures, colors, and patterns hidden in the vegetables we eat. (Page 203) ALEX NODOPAKA originated in Kyiv, Ukraine. Speaks San Franciscan, Parisian, Kievan & Muscovite i un poco Espanol. Mumbles in English & sings in tongues. Studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Casablanca, Morocco. Presently full time author, visual artist in the USA but considers his past irrelevant as he seeks new reincarnations. http://fineartamerica. com/profiles/alex-nodopaka. html (Pages 100 & 102)



LEAH OATES has had solo shows at venues such as Susan Eley Fine Art, The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, The Brooklyn Public Library, The Center for Book Arts, Tomasulo Gallery, Real Art Ways, and at the Sol Mednick Gallery at the Philadelphia University of the Arts and national and international solo shows at Anchor Graphics, Artemisia Gallery and Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, Illinois and at Galerie Joella in Turku, Finland. Her work has been in group shows locally at the Schweinfurth Art Center, Prospect Park, Nurture Art Gallery, Metaphor Contemporary Art, Denise Bibro Fine Art, Yale University, The Pen and Brush and The Center for Book Arts and nationally at Bob Rauschenberg Gallery in Florida, Unsettled Gallery in New Mexico, The Southeast Center for Photography in South Carolina and at Nave Gallery in Massachusetts. Transitory Spaces was a series that was featured from 2016-2017 in the MTA Arts and Design Light Box Project at 42nd Street and was recently featured in a second solo show at Susan Eley Fine Art in New York City. leah.oates@ (Pages 73, 75, & 77) SAEED ORDOUBADI A retired Economist and Educator, Saeed Ordoubadi enjoys travel, painting, photography and writing. (Pages 108-109, 119, 122, 136, 184-185, & 210) BETZ RICHARDS In 1979, I attended classes at the Alexander School of Painting in San Diego, California. From Alexander Chidichimo I learned the basics of looking at objects in terms of blotches and shapes rather than objects, and constructing complex color palates. In the beginning years I focused on realism, painting still-life and portraits in oils, then, moving to pastel portraiture. I began experimenting on textured paper with colored pencils in 2014. Learning about layering colors with this medium and playing with perspective, I developed the contemporary abstract style of “The Gene Pool Series.” Translating the small colored pencil pieces to a larger format in oils led me to my current art. My work has been displayed in a gallery at University Circle United Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio where I sold several paintings and received a number of commissions. I have also had my work displayed at Coburn Gallery at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio; Paul Hamlin Interior Design Studio in Cleveland Heights; and the Tin Can Chandelier in Ashland, Ohio. (Pages 34-36) TIM RICHARDS is a former Program 60 Ohio State student and began his sunset years’ education at Cleveland State University in 2005, while still employed. In 2000 he earned a master of financial services degree from the American College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Following a thirty-four-year career in the insurance business on Cleveland’s west side, he retired in 2008 and focused his field of study in the arts: creative writing, poetry, screen/playwriting, motion picture film and digital photography. With an associate of arts degree in photography from Los Angeles City College, Richards worked for six years as a commercial photographer prior to becoming an insurance agent. He served in the United States Army (Germany) from 1961-64 as section chief, artillery fire direction, and lives in Olmsted Twp., Ohio, with his artist wife, Betz. They have been married for more than thirty years and have two children and eight grandchildren. Richards is the author of three books (AuthorHouse 2018, TJ Richards): Warm Water, A Collection of Memories; Buggy, A Fictional Account of Generational Family Abuse; and Afternoon Tomatoes, Accessible Poetry, a collection of reader-friendly, easy to read poems. (Pages 130-131) KIRSLYN SCHELL-SMITH I am a biracial, lesbian visual artist and writer. My work stems from a strong desire for visibility and to show the intersections between the personal and political. There is a direct correlation between me being a lesbian and the work that I create. Much of my visual work deals with identity. (Page 53)



BRIENNA THOMPSON Painting has become a therapeutic expression of what it is to be alive. As I process through life events, the paintings nearly complete themselves while I dance around to inspirational music. Having watched art evolve through the years, I decided not to ascribe to any traditional style, or paint as my mentors do. Instead, listen to what is inside, then put it on canvas on the outside and let them speak for themselves. Jungian archetypes play a large part in my artistic choices because we all have layers to ourselves, the same way my paintings do. (Page 106) BRUCE ARLEN WASSERMAN My work can be found at the Depot Gallery in Red Lodge, Montana and the Cody Country Art League Gallery in Cody, Wyoming. Additionally, work has been featured at Centennial Gallery in Fort Collins, Colorado and Beartooth Gallery in Red Lodge, Montana. I studied under Montana potter Dave McMasters, then later at Anderson Ranch Arts Center under Doug Casebeer and Jason Hess, where I learned wood firing. After building my first studio in Cody, Wyoming, I was one of 10 potters who built a large wood fired “train kiln” at the Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana. I produced a large body of work from that kiln. My current studio is in Loveland, Colorado where I fire in both reduction and oxidation and work in stoneware and earthenware. (Pages 30-31) ALLISON WEAVER is passionate about photography. She enjoys traveling and having the opportunity to explore and get to see new places. As well as photography, she also enjoy editing and combination various styles of photos. (Page152-153) SEAN YANG is a Los Angeles based public artist and installation- sculptor who uses mixed-media to explore the intersection of social and internal space. He exploits the tension between the reproducible and the handmade object, in order to investigate social control, collective unconsciousness, individual identity, and cultural transformation. He was born and raised in South Korea and now lives in Los Angeles. He received his MFA in Sculpture at California State University Fullerton in 2016. “The contents of my work have been transformed due to the change of my geographical setting from Korea to America. Thus the change of my work was inevitable. I react to world events, reality and an imaginative subconscious as well. Subject matters encompass universal issues such as food industry, human nature, social control, public ethics, environment, and also self-awareness and self-image.”renebook.jpg He is currently showing at the Neutra Institute Gallery and Museum in Silverlake and has an appointment at McGinty’s Gallery in Pasadena, CA (Pages 58-59) LILIANA ZAVALETA Since childhood I have self-identified as an outsider - caught between worlds. I was born in South America and brought up in the US, have lived in both the Near East and Europe. Having always been an immigrant has fueled the shifting realities that has become a main focus in my artistic landscape. Displacement, territoriality and relocation within space and the environment are themes that personally affect and interest me. In my work, I try to balance the deliberate with the spontaneous, irregular harmonies with moments of resistance. Working through this delicate balance, somewhere between chaos and control, the work takes shape. I aspire to visually bring together the idea of language, emotion and space, but strive to allow a feeling of uncertainty to remain. Each year, my relationship with my environment changes and strays from what it had been the year before: that relationship - the real and the imagined, the old and the new– obliges me to seek new answers to the visual language I had previously created. (Pages 65-67)



ZOE BLAYLOCK works in research/healthcare ethics at several medical and academic centers in San Diego. She is currently writing a novel and may someday finish her website, . (Page 133) TATIANA BONCH-OSMOLOVSKAYA was born in former Soviet Union and moved to Australia in 2002. She is an author of a number of publications in Russian. Her poetry in English appeared in Bridges Anthologies; London Grip; Journal of Humanistic Mathematics; The POEM; Rochford Street Review, and other editions. Tatiana is also an exhibiting visual artist. Tatiana is interested in mathematical forms in arts, in writing and creating art objects on formal language and literary restrictions. (Page 186) KERSTEN CHRISTIANSON is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, Alaskan. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon, she lives in Sitka, Alaska. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing (University of Alaska Anchorage). Kersten has authored two books of poetry: What Caught Raven’s Eye (Petroglyph Press, 2018) and Something Yet to Be Named (Aldrich Press, 2017). She is also the poetry editor of the quarterly journal, Alaska Women Speak. (Page 193) REBECCA CHRISTOPHI Rebecca has been an avid reader and writer since she first learned to read and write. She grew up in Grand Cayman to hippie, hitchhiking parents, has a bachelor’s in biology and a master’s in education and has taken writing courses at Washington University in St Louis. After several life-altering events (including a trek to Everest, the loss of a child and a cancer diagnosis) she began to take herself and her writing more seriously. She believes as a wife, mother of five, adventurer, traveler, survivor she has something to share. Her dream is to open a little musty bookshop complete with creaky floors and little pillow laden hideaways where she can continue writing and sharing her love of books with others. (Pages 206-209) JENNEFER YORK COLE Born and raised on the Eastern Shore, she now lives and works in Paris, France. Her first poem was written at the airport going home to see family in the cubical of the Ladies’ Restroom trying to find some private space. She hopes to express woman’s voices in between those two worlds today. She has been published in The Broadkill Review and FLAR. (Page 129) TODD CONNELLEY My story, SLEEPING LION MOUNTAIN is an excerpt from a novel I finished back in January. Right now, it’s with beta readers and honestly, I’m dreading their response. I’m sure that’s normal but still, when you’re head down for almost two years on a novel, you want everyone to love it. Which is not realistic, I realize. But hey, I’m sure it will get published and I’ll end up in a villa in France, right? That’s how it goes with writing, right? (Pages 112-114) RAY CRAFTON is the poetaster laureate of Spotsylvania County. His other writings include genealogical works ( and essays on the New Testament. (Page 151) WENDI DASS is a math professor and author from Charlottesville, Virginia. Her short stories have been published in several small journals, including Black Fox Literary and Pilcrow and Dagger, among others. When she’s not devising deceptively delicious problems for her students she can be found drafting her latest story. (Page 52) DANIELLE DAYNEY Danielle is sometimes a blogger, usually a writer, and always Mom. Some of her stories have been published on The Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, the Virginia Writers Centennial Anthology, Nevertheless We Persisted, and Beach Reads: Lost and Found. You can also find her chasing her kids in Virginia, or at (Pages 68-71)



MELANIE FAITH is a poet, professor, and photographer. In 2018, she wrote a craft book about the flash genre to inspire fellow writers, In a Flash! : Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose, as well as a craft book for poets, called Poetry Power (both published by Vine Leaves Press and available at Amazon). Her short stories recently appeared in Red Coyote and SunLit Fiction. Her poetry appeared in Up North Lit and Meniscus. In April 2019, she’ll teach a dream class, Photography for Writers, which combines two of her artistic passions. See more of her writing and projects at or visit her Etsy shop at (Page 123) MELISSA FRANCKOWIAK is an MFA student and a practicing anesthesiologist in Buffalo, NY. Her short fiction piece, The Very Pertinent News of Gabriel Vincent DeVil, recently placed in the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Literary Fiction Awards, and her work has appeared in Nanny Magazine, Parent Co.,, Blood Puddles, Ghost Parachute, Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, and the anthology Children of Zeus, among other publications. She writes thrillers as Melissa Crickard. Melissa attended Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Buffalo, and after being awarded two Bachelor’s degrees in Physical Therapy and Chemistry, she advanced toward her M.D. degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Melissa is the mother of two children, the owner of a chatty Panama Amazon parrot, and a lover of all things outdoors. (Page 80-83 & 190-192) FRANK FRATOE is a poet and friend to the arts in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A writer of research for most of his career, Fratoe began writing poetry to honor special occasions in his marriage. Today, he finds inspiration for his poems in the people and places around Fredericksburg. His poetry is featured in Front Porch Magazine each month. (Page 64) SUSAN BETH FURST is a poet, author, and sometime photographer. She writes prose and Japanese short-forms. Her work has been widely published and anthologized. Susan’s first haiku collection, souvenir shop: memories of the highland park zoo was published in July 2018. Midwinter moon: a collection of Christmas haiku was published in September 2018. She has been nominated for the 2019 THF Touchstone Individual Poems Award. You can find her on Instagram @susanbethfurst @sueshaikus & Susan lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, with her husband, Herb, and a canary named Mozart. (Page 76 &137-139) DAVID GALLOWAY is a writer and college professor of Russian. Born and raised in Maryland, for the past twenty-five years he has lived in upstate New York. His poetry and essays have most recently appeared in Manorborn, Watershed Review, The Finger, The Loch Raven Review, and The Remembered Arts Journal. (Page 57) JULES GATES, Associate Professor of English in the EML Department at ASU, has worked since 2002 on the ASU Writers Conference, conducted an interview with Terrance Hayes (2009), chaired the Conference for 2 years (Mary Karr 2010/Art Spiegelman 2011). Her poetry is widely published in Texas and throughout the country. (Page 111) KEITH MARK GABOURY earned a M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. His poems have appeared in such publications as Poetry Quarterly, New Millennium Writings, and on the podcast Who Do You Think You Are? Keith is a poet and preschool teacher in Oakland, California. (Pages 196-197) JAMES GRABILL James Grabill’s work appears in Caliban, Harvard Review, Terrain, Mobius, Shenandoah, Seattle Review, Stand, and many others. Books - Poem Rising Out of the Earth (1994), An Indigo Scent after the Rain (2003), Lynx House Press. Environmental prose poems, Sea-Level Nerve: Books One (2014), Two (2015), Wordcraft of Oregon. For many years, he taught all kinds of writing as well as “systems thinking” and global issues relative to sustainability. (Page 149)



CASANOVA GREEN is a writer, singer/songwriter, educator, and pastor. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University with a BA in Language Arts Education with minor in voice and a 2018 graudate of the Etowah Valley Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Reinhardt University in Waleska, GA. He released his first album, A Worshiper Mentality, in January 2016 and has been published in The Blue Mountain Review and the 2017 and 2018 edition of Reinhardt University’s journal Sanctuary. Casanova is a member of the Southern Collective Experience. He and his family reside in Lancaster, OH. (Pages 188-189) SARAH HENRY studied with two former U.S. poet laureates at the University of Virginia. Today she lives near Pittsburgh, where her poems appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Sarah’s recent poems can be found in Turtle Island Quarterly, Defenestration and Writing in a Woman’s Voice. She is retired from a newspaper. (Page 115) A.R. HOFFMAN is a queer, cis-fem writer originally from a little town across The Sound from Seattle. She has a BA from the University of Central Washington, an MFA from Kingston University London, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. from The University of Southern Mississippi. She has specific interests in queer and children’s literature and she writes predominantly short and flash queer realism. (Page 202 & 204-205) JONATHAN HOWELL J. INNAMORATO-EPISCOPO I’ve been writing poems since I was twelve years old. Much of what I write is humorous, but some poems are serious. (Page 101) FRANCIS ITTENBACH is a writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. His work has been published by Silver Needle Press, Slash Pine Press, and the New College Review. (Page 95 & 218) KEVIN M. KEARNEY’s writing has appeared in Perfect Sound Forever, Eclectica, and River River. He teaches in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife and several dying plants. (Page 118) ROBERT KEELIN is a Fredericksburg-based singer/songwriter who performs occasionally in the area. His music is influenced by the British invasion of 1964 as well as the rock, country, folk, blues, Americana and pop that followed. Primarily a guitarist, he also plays bass guitar, keyboards, harmonica and drums. His second CD of original tunes, “Southern Saints and Saturday Night Sinners,” was released in September 2018. Website: (Page 84) MARIAN KILCOYNE is an Irish writer based on the west coast of Ireland. She has, in the past, been a teacher at senior level, worked professionally in education and management for an Aids Organisation, and reviewed fiction and non-fiction for the Sunday Business Post, Ireland. She attended the Seamus Heaney Centre summer school at Queens University Belfast in 2013. She has been published or is forthcoming at Prelude (US), The Louisville Review (US), Poetry Salzburg Review (Austria), Crannog (IRL), Ofi Press (Mexico), Frogmore Papers (UK), Cyphers( IRL), Apalachee Review (US), Foliate Oak Literary Magazine (US,) New Contrast (Cape Town), Quiddity (US), Right Hand Pointing (US), Grey Sparrow Journal (US), Off The Coast (US), The Galway Review (IRL), The Liner (US), Into The Void (IRL), Roanoke Literary Journal (US), The Rockhurst Review (US), Banshee Literature (IRL), The Catamaran Literary Reader (US), The Worcester Review (US), The Stonecoast review (US), The Main St Rag, (US), Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal, (US), Poetry in The Park, Athlone. The Poetry collective, Clare Champion, The Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, The Cape Rock:Poetry (US), and others. She was featured poet on Poethead - Contemporary Irish women poets, January 9th - 16th 2018. She was short listed for the 2017 Dermot Healy International prize for poetry. Her website is at (Page 217) JJ LANCEY is an unpublished fifty-nine-year-old who has led a sketchy and unconventional life. She currently resides in Connecticut. (Pages 126-128)



MARIS LEJA I earn my living as a lawyer, working in Sydney, Australia, but am thoroughly enjoying indulging my long-dormant dreams of writing. While I’ve only had a couple of pieces published online, I am having lots of fun. (Pages 86-87) MOISES MALDONADO My name is Moises Maldonado and I just recently restarted my writing passion. Aside of writing I love reading, cooking and learning to code. The first story (Perspective from a Gamer Kid) has received Honorable Mention from GlimmerTrain’s New Writer contest. Please see link: The fifth Story City Island family Tradition has been published by Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review’s 2018 Spring/Summer edition. (Page 201) ERIC MARONEY My fiction has or will appear in Pif, The Montreal Review, Per Contra, The Literary Review, Our Stories, The MacGuffin, Arch, Segue, Eclectica, Forge, Superstition Review, The Stickman Review, Jewish Fiction, Agave, Bellingham Review, Lowestoft Chronicle, and Tishman Review. I have published two books: Religious Syncretism (Canterbury Press, 2006) and The Other Zions: The Lost Histories of Jewish Nations, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010). My book The Torah Sutras is forthcoming from Albion-Andalus Press. (Pages 194-195) AND OLIVE MULLET Olive Mullet has published short stories in Michigan State University’s Red Cedar Review, Sliverofstone, Dark Matter, The Cossack Review, Cigale Literary Magazine, Emerge Literary Journal, Cleaver Magazine , and outsideinmagazine. (Pages 198-199) GREG NELSON (Page 134) MARIJEAN OLDHAM is a public relations professional and the author of 100 Things to Do in Charlottesville Before You Die, Second Edition (2018 Reedy Press). Her creative nonfiction work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. In 1998, Oldham set the Guinness Book World Record for creating the World’s Largest Bouquet of Flowers. In her spare time, Oldham bakes pies competitively. (Pages 154-155) RYAN ONDERS is an undergraduate student at The College of William and Mary, where he is currently working on a book called “Billy’s Burg” examining colonial and capitalist constructions in the Walt Disney World of imperialism that is Colonial Williamsburg. (Page 117) GAIL PECK is the author of eight books of poetry. Her first full-length, Drop Zone, won the Texas Review Breakthrough Contest; The Braided Light won the Leana Shull Contest for 2015. Other collections are Thirst, Counting the Lost, From Terezin, Foreshadow, and New River which won the Harperprints Award. Poems and essays have appeared in Southern Review, Nimrod, Greensboro Review, Brevity, Connotation Press, Comstock, Stone Voices, and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart, and her essay “Child Waiting” was cited as a notable for Best American Essays, 2013. (Page 72 & 75) TIM RICHARDS is a former Program 60 Ohio State student and began his sunset years’ education at Cleveland State University in 2005, while still employed. In 2000 he earned a master of financial services degree from the American College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Following a thirty-four-year career in the insurance business on Cleveland’s west side, he retired in 2008 and focused his field of study in the arts: creative writing, poetry, screen/playwriting, motion picture film and digital photography. With an associate of artsdegree in photography from Los Angeles City College, Richards worked for six years as a commercial photographer prior to becoming an insurance agent. He served in the United States Army (Germany) from 196164 as section chief, artillery fire direction, and lives in Olmsted Twp., Ohio, with his artist wife, Betz. They have been married for more than thirty years and have two children and eight grandchildren. Richards is the author of three books (AuthorHouse 2018, TJ Richards): Warm Water, A Collection of Memories; Buggy, A Fictional Account of Generational Family Abuse; and Afternoon Tomatoes, Accessible Poetry, a collection of reader-friendly, easy to read poems. (Page 85 & 212-213)



WILLIAM RILEY I am a teacher in central Florida and enjoy flea markets and refinishing furniture with my wife. (Page 85) LISA MADSEN RUBILAR’s poetry and fiction have appeared in literary publications over the years, including Dialogue, Irreantum, Exponent II, Wasatch Review International, Brick, Publisher’s Weekly, Timber Creek Review, and the anthology Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction. She was awarded the Charles B. Wood Award for Distinguished Writing from The Carolina Quarterly. She received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, and now lives within eye-shot of the Peaks of Otter in Forest, Virginia. (Pages 96-97) BODIE RYAN (BO’D) Just a dude, just a cat, just some tunes and just his poems. (Page 215) MAUREEN SHERBONDY My most recent poetry book is Belongings. I have also published a short story collection and eight other poetry collections. I teach English at Alamance Community College in Graham, NC. (Page 143) DAN SHARKOVITZ is an English teacher. His work has appeared in a number of publications including Teaching & Learning: the Journal of Natural Inquiry, The Leaflet, Nebraska Language Arts Bulletin, Bread Loaf and the Schools, Stone Soup Poets, Cantos: A Literary and Arts Journal, and Reading Reconsidered: Literature and Literacy in High School. His awards include two National Endowment for the Humanities teaching fellowships and the Robert Baram Award for journalism. (Page 98) D.R. SHIPP, originally from Texas, is an observer surfacing for air, a writer surfacing. His work is found in select anthologies and online with publications or pending publications in HCE Review, Silver Needle Press, 3Elements Review, Waxing & Waning. He splits his time between the US and the UK, between now and then. He can be found on Instagram @shippwreckage. (Page 107) AARON SOMMERS Aaron Sommers is a writer and teacher. His short stories have been published by The Emerson Review, The Olive Tree Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, and Word Riot magazine, among others. You can read more about him over at or follow him (if that’s your thing) via Twitter @aaronsommers. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and daughters in a house set deep in the woods and on the more inaccessible side of a mountain. (Pages 29-29) ERNEST SLYMAN lives in New York City. He is a playwright, poet, fiction writer and humorist. He was born in Appalachia - Elizabethton, Tennessee. His work has appeared in Meniscus, The Laurel Review, The Lyric, Light: A Quarterly of Light Verse (Chicago), The NY Times, Reader’s Digest and The Bedford Introduction to Literature, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer, and Poetry: An Introduction, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer. Domain: (Page 94) J.R. SOLONCHE Professor Emeritus of English at SUNY Orange, J.R. Solonche has been publishing poems in magazines and anthologies (more than 400) since the early 70s. He is author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions), Won’t Be Long (Deerbrook Editions), Heart’s Content (chapbook from Five Oaks Press), Invisible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Five Oaks Press), The Black Birch (Kelsay Books), I, Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems (Deerbrook Editions), In Short Order (Kelsay Books), Tomorrow, Today & Yesterday (Deerbrook Editions), and coauthor of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books). He lives in the Hudson Valley. (Page 211)



KATE SPITZMILLER’s work has appeared in Approaching Footsteps, On the Premises, Cleaver Magazine, Typishly, The Esthetic Apostle, and The Write Launch. Her flash fiction piece, “Brigida,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her debut novel, Companion of the Ash, is due for release in December of 2018 from Spider Road Press. (Pages 37-41 & 78-79) DIMITRIS ALEXOPOULOS TSORAS is a Greek Writer. He has studied Philology at the University of Athens and is currently enrolled at the Ma Creative Writing program at Lancaster University. He writes prose: Flash fiction and novel. His publications include flash fiction pieces in Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Sonder Midwest and an opening chapter in The Sea Letter. (Page 33) IVIE VAN LENT studied creative writing at Utah State University. She recently moved to the Oregon coast in an attempt to live her best life. Now she can read Alice Walker on the beach and watch the sunset over the ocean. Her poems have been published in FLAR and Creative Communication. (Page 32) REED VERNICK (Page 221) JENNA VILLFORTH VEAZEY is the author of a chapbook, The Rise of Jennifer, and her poems have previously appeared in FLAR. Her poems for children have been published in Baby Bug Magazine and Highlights High Five. She is a member of the Water Street Writers. You can find her on Instagram @stirringsandstories. (Page 111) THEA VERDAK is British/German and likes words. Thea worked for The Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc. and was founder and president of a humane group focused on abused and traumatized animals. She is well traveled, walks miles and miles, and is interested in Creative Writing. (Page 143) JOHN WARNER, a frequent contributor to FLAR, has lived in Fredericksburg since 2006 and writes fiction and poetry as time permits around his day job. He is a Cognitive Psychologist who spent 10 years as an academic and then became a Human Factors Practitioner for the Army. He now works as a Program Analyst. He enjoys writing stories of ordinary people brushing up against subtle magic, supernatural or not, and loves using Fredericksburg as a setting. His poetry is more personal, dealing with interior landscapes and perceptions. He lives in downtown Fredericksburg with his wife, a dog and a cat. (Page 115) BRUCE ARLEN WASSERMAN

I assembled my first poetry manuscript at the age of seventeen and later farmed and

worked as a blacksmith in my twenties and as an editor before and through graduate school. In 2016 my poem, “The Wet on Milan Street,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. My poem, “Elegy for My Father,” appears in the Proverse Poetry Prize Anthology, 2017, and my short story, “The Almost Living,” was selected as a semi-finalist for the 2017 Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers. My poem, “Louisiana Life,” appears in the Spring/Summer, 2018 edition of The Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. My poem, “8 Months in Warsaw,” will appear in the Proverse Poetry Prize Anthology, 2018. I received my MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, am a book critic for the New York Journal of Books and the Washington Independent Review of Books and a Graduate Assistant at the MFA in Writing program of Vermont College of Fine Arts. At other times, I create visual art as a potter, perform as a musician in a band, train horses on occasion and am a dentist in clinical practice. (Page 110)


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