Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review Spring/Summer 2018

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Fredericksburg Literary & Art Review Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring & Summer 2018








FLAR logo by Elizabeth Seaver © 2013 Cover Art by Ana Rendich, Topography of What It Was II


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

Member Supporters Frank Fratoe

Ernie and Lynn Ackerman

Gregory Ashe

Sustaining Supporters 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.

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

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


EDITOR in CHIEF A.E. Bayne PUBLISHER Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review LITERARY PANEL Emily Barker Virginia B. Grogan Sandra Noel SPECIAL FEATURE EDITOR Govinda Giri Prerana ART PANEL Troy Howell Stacey Knouff Smith D.D. Lecky

CONTACT FOLLOW Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review @FredLitReview FLAR

Dear Lovers of a Luscious World, Recently, and for the first in a long time, I had the opportunity to visit an art museum. We stopped at the Greenville County Museum of Art on a trip through South Carolina and spent a few hours in the physical presence of master works. Nothing compares to it. As meticulous as we are here at FLAR in choosing an array of thought-provoking, visually evocative, and skillful pieces of art to share within our pages, this platform with its two-dimensional presentation doesn’t touch the experience of being in front of the actual work. There is a spirit and vitality to art that is witnessed in person, not to mention a history. The museum in Greenville displays an eclectic collection. They house a large number of Andrew Wyeth’s works and that of his grandson, Jamie Wyeth, two wildly different artists. They are currently showing a moving exhibit of Bryan Collier’s original paintings for the award-winning book, Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, which accompanies many of David Drake’s own pieces, made throughout the 1800s while he was enslaved in Edgefield, South Carolina. The museum currently has a room filled with Baroque paintings spanning the 16th Century. They also continuously display important artists from across the state. It was during my time in front of the museum’s exhibit of works by Sidney Dickinson (18901980) that I decided to use my experience as the topic for this letter. It was Dickinson’s painting The Alabama Studio that moved me so. The woman who is central to the painting, Emma, caused me catch my breath and tears welled in my eyes. It wasn’t her beauty, though she was beautiful. It wasn’t her circumstance, as the painting didn’t reveal anything beyond her status as a student in Dickinson’s art studio, which was also depicted in the painting. It might have been her eyes. I could feel her looking through the canvas at me. If you are a lover of a luscious world, as I am, perhaps you have had similar experiences when witnessing art’s living energy as it reaches across time and material barriers to touch us in the present. Here’s hoping you have the opportunity to visit some art museums this summer wherever you might be. Be a patron of your local galleries. Collect local art that moves you. Share your experience with others. As always, go forth and create something beautiful (or support those who do).

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. Bayne hosts a blog for educators called The Write Stuff - Virginia. She can be read monthly in Fredericksburg Front Porch Magazine, and her writing, photography and artwork can be viewed online at


Spring 2018 Literary Panel EMILY BARKER

Emily Barker is a Fredericksburg singer-songwriter and has participated in several local musical configurations including her current labor of love, Eyes Like Birds. She also works as an advocate for incapacitated adults and enjoys capturing candid moments with her phone camera. Emily lives just outside of town, in a little house in the woods with 2 cats, several autoharps, and numerous spiders. She one day hopes to perform at Bill and Elaine Mason’s new performance space with the Chromaharp she scored from the Billdom. Follow Eyes Like Birds on Facebook, and check them out for yourself on YouTube and BandCamp.


Virginia Bigenwald Grogan is the publisher of Front Porch Fredericksburg, a monthly community magazine started 22 years ago with her late husband, Rob. Born Northern, now Southern by choice, Virginia and her family have been FXBG residents for 27 years. Virginia celebrates all things local and enthusiastically shares all that is great about FXBG. Check out the local good news online at and on Facebook.


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 others; in three chapbooks entitled, The Gypsy in my Kitchen and Into the Green from Finishing Line Press, and The River from Kelsay Press; and in an anthology, Three Birds Dreaming from Three Birds Press. Find her online at


Govinda Giri Prerana is versatile writer. He has published 23 books of poems, short stories, essays, travelogues, novels, criticism, and drama . He currently lives in Falls Church, Virginia and he is founder and president of America Nepal Literature Academy.


Spring 2018 Art Panel TROY HOWELL

Author, illustrator, and fine artist, Troy is known for versatility in his creative accomplishments. As illustrator, he has produced all the Brian Jacques Redwall covers and collaborated with author Mary Pope Osborne for several books on mythology and legends. His debut novel, The Dragon of Cripple Creek, is an American Bookseller’s New Voices pick, and his picture book, Whale in a Fishbowl, has starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Bulletin. His short story “December’s Dream,” has been made into a film by local filmmaker Timothy Ryan Poe. His latest artwork includes a triptych, “The Ever-changing Cyberscape,” for the downtown branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, on display in the Gates Lab. He is currently working with paint and collage. Please visit him online at .


Stacey Knouff Smith, a native of Memphis, TN has been an art educator for over twenty years. She received her B.F.A. in Visual Art from UNC Charlotte and is a licensed K-12 art specialist. She has served on the board of the Tennessee Arts Commission as well as county curriculum committees. Stacey was also featured in the Tennessean, Nashville’s primary newspaper, for piloting the first elementary art program in Williamson County, TN. Recently relocating with her family to a cabin near the Tennessee river, Stacey is currently pursuing work as a free-lance illustrator and portrait artist. Her illustration work is inspired by her childhood love of fantasy, theatre and folk tales.


I am the co-owner of LibertyTown Arts Workshop with my husband Kenneth Lecky since 2013. Born and raised in Stafford I had a passion for art and mischief at an early age. My passion continued through school, though gifted programs in lower schools, an independent study in ceramics in high school and into college where I took art classes to escape from my Anthropology studies (or so I told myself). These escapes even included two semesters of voluntary art history which I loved and excelled at, putting me in a position to declare a minor in art, which I declined to do. Once graduating I drifted away from art formally, boxing it up and thinking of it as something only kids did. But at 31, following the death of a beloved pet, I came back to pottery as therapy. Within four years, I had left my corporate job, purchased LibertyTown and became a full-time artist and gallery owner. Now, I spend my days watching artist emerge. Some of them are young and gifted; others struggle but have a drive to create that pushes them through the pain. But I have also seen my story born over and over: Artists that were taught not to be artists, but to hide it away and get a “real” job. I hope through my existence as a woman who has made the choice to have art as a job, I can counter some of that belief and save someone the journey. But maybe the journey is the point?


Featured Profiles Ana Rendich

Larry Hinkle

Dan Finnegan

Pamdora Pam McLeod

Artist Fredericksburg, VA Page 16

Potter Fredericksburg, VA Page 34

Cheryl Clayton Artist Richmond, VA Page 50

Clay Jones

Editorial Cartoonist Fredericksburg, VA Page 66


Carpentry / Ukuleles Fredericksburg, VA Page 74

Artist / Gallery Owner Fredericksburg, VA Page 82

Paul Fuqua

Author / Photographer Arlington, VA Page 104

Nepali Writers of America

Special Feature Page 114

Featured Profiles Maiven McKnight

The Art of Recovery

Art First Gallery

Fredericksburg Photography Club Annual Show

Artist Washington, D.C. Page 136

Gallery Fredericksburg, VA Page 142

Lake Authors of the Wilderness

Writing Club Lake of the Woods, VA Page 222

James Noll Book Excerpt: The Hive

Fredericksburg, VA Page 242

PONSHOP Fredericksburg, VA Page 270

Fredericksburg, VA Page 282

Faith, Love & Artistry

The Work of Johnny Johnson Special Feature Fredericksburg, Virginia Page 286


Artists & Writers Page A1


Bee Side A.E. Bayne Mixed Media for PONSHOP’s Remixed 4 Vinyl Record Show (2016)


Cinders & Coal

Lyrics Dave Robinson & Emily Barker 2014 She’s got the heart of a child and a jackknife smile and we’re burning up a hazy highway mile scraping, bearing down the rails she's the light and all the reasons why that second chance you better look it in the eye damn the time, it’s on the table Burn down this desire to cinders and coal Light the shadows Light the fire And let me know the iron is hot but the steel runs cold and my fear is failing and courage takes hold she don’t know that truth is on the table She pulled me in and then she watched me drown and They all pass by, scared they’ll be dragged down Sometimes I think I'm just not able Burn down this desire to cinders and coal Light the shadows Light the fire And let me know she's the light and all the reasons why that second chance you better look it in the eye damn the time, it’s on the table 2


E M I L Y B A R K E R / P H O T O

ANGEL DUST Lyrics Emily Barker 2014

Furnace breath shakes the fringe on that old throw and the cobwebs on a dusty angel’s nose

Need to burn this place down but then what would we do, dear, with the pieces of souls that long to live here?

My house is haunted now by the things that used to be By the breath of you and me Seems like the veil is thinner these days

No, all I see are specks of blood Live and life and work so hard I can’t believe how willing you are

Pictures on the walls Ghosts roaming the halls mold, memories, and rust words spoken in anger and lust Blow the dust off that angel and wait and maybe three wishes I can make or God will finally shake you awake Seems like the veil is thinner these days

Lies and promises never kept Duck tape, nails, and cigarettes this is a risk you cannot assess So many times you’ve dug in your heels stopped me in my tracks Now you know how it feels Seems like the veil is thinner these days



Stacey Knouff Smith Colored Pencil



Stacey Knouff Smith Charcoal Pencil

E M I L Y B A R K E R / P H O T O

I Shall Not Want

Lyrics Emily Barker & Jenna Kole 2013

The Lord is my Shepherd The wolf's at the door My cup runneth over Pour me some more Surely goodness and mercy will follow me home and I shall not want I shall not want Drink with my enemies Restore all my soul Break up these still waters Cast the first stone Hounds on the righteous path This trail has gone cold Reward for the straight and narrow Hanging on the crossroads As I walk through the valley Of the shadow I know

Drink with my enemies Destroy all my soul Break up these still waters Cast the first stone Oh make me lie down In your pasture so blue Lead me astray When I look for you Yeah, me and mine enemies Will drink til there's none And I shall not want I shall not want Drink with my enemies Restore all my soul Break up these still waters Cast the first stone I shall not want I shall not want


Blue Crayon

Troy Howell Graphite and crayon on paper

Blue Haiku (opposite)

Troy Howell Collage and acrylic on canvas


Troy Howell

Sliptrailed and Leaf Pressed Stoneware D.D. Lecky


Sandra Noel from Into the Green

The wave of forever The cold feels clean my breath evident walking over the rise towards the valley of the firs. If I close my eyes the cold creeps into my bones asking for more but I am not ready to answer though somehow with your quiet passing it does not seem mysterious. We live and we die the deer carcass beside the road an old cedar stump. Through the crystalline fields diminutive marsh wrens rise like a shout disturbed from their cold retreats by my passing. We are a small ripple in the great wave of forever.

Crossing the Wallace Line A full moon spills her silver light over the bay Buton Beach is glittering with sea shells and plastic trash. Just offshore, brave fishermen in small outriggers bob like toy boats too fragile to survive the dark wave shadows rolling in from an off shore typhoon. I am just a visitor here without the necessity of bravery but trying to fit in, to be easy because I cannot think of another place on earth I would rather be than under these stars on this island where Wallace drew his imaginary line and creatures born in evolutionary isolation still struggle to survive until the next fire the next desire for hardwood or hard ons more land or bush meat. With palm frond pen I draw a line in the sand between perfect shell and plastic lighter as if I could stop what is coming– the great grinding wheel of greed rolling over forests, beaches, species. So many others have tried and failed the line is broken a thousand acres a day and so they leave, having done (almost) nothing learning only to love what they cannot save and living with that hard truth every day, every day but trying anyway.


Sliptrailed and Leaf Pressed Stoneware D.D. Lecky



Unraveling the endless knot Sandra Noel

Sulawesi flying foxes are returning to the forest in a river of night sky following the scent of eucalyptus and banksias on the warm winds blowing seaward towards their island reclaimed at least for the time being because a man is paid to put away his cruel snares but next year may be different. Â This year Coho salmon are returning to a small restored stream near Seattle renewing their natal journey broken for a hundred years yet somehow they return again following a genetic map of scent to source from a thousand miles of ocean silver to red fire up a river and home again, at least this year because a company is paid to leave its land undeveloped but next year, or the next may be different.

First published in Albatross #26


“Corals face ‘slow starvation’ from ingesting plastics pollution, experts find” ~ The Guardian A.E. Bayne Mixed media / collage for Ponshop’s Remixed 5 Vinyl Record Show (2017)


This marks the sixth season of print for Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, and as

with past issues we’re featuring a dynamic list of regional artists and writers in this edition. It’s never an easy task to choose our cover artists, but one thing that they all have in common is an ability to move us with color, concept, and imagery that compels us to look deeper and learn more. Ana Rendich is a painter whose work impacts us in that way, and much of her philosophy stems from a sense of reverence for master artists of the past and an equally sincere gratitude for the opportunities she has had, especially those that stem from her move to the United States.

Originally from Argentina, Rendich says the pastel colors in her paintings represent

hope. She explains, “I lost so many things, I lost a language, but I am on my knees thanking this country for what it has given me. I am so grateful. I haven’t met an immigrant who is not deeply grateful.”

Rendich worries that young artists developing their skills today do not have the same

exposure to techniques and knowledge of past masters. She notices a current trend in academia that is moving away from a well-rounded liberal arts background that enriches the fine artist’s well of inspirational knowledge.

She says, “A long time ago, we were obsessed about teaching artists to find resources

from deep areas to help their soul growth. That means working hard, being open to everything, to music that is different than yours, to cultures and authors that are different from the mainstream, to painters - to study the one’s who have left us centuries ago. Everything related to the liberal arts should be given generously. Professors should be saying, ‘I have this book, who wants it? You don't have homework; who wants to come with me to the National Gallery.’ I see this connection as vital. The poet Mary Oliver explains it beautifully when she says we should ‘…become best friends with the ones who have enriched our world so much.’”

Rendich believes visual intelligence requires patience, and everyone can learn this. She

compares studying paintings to studying poetry; there are parallels. The paintings, the books, the philosophy and essays are an artist’s best resources. “When you are young your artistic soul hasn’t developed yet. It develops through contact with these people who have come before.”

Her favorite artists remain the old masters, like Caravaggio, Giotto, Cézanne, van

Der Wyden. “Their works present profound imaginings of human the past as now. Their thoughts and feelings are not directly of today’s life, but they ask the same questions about humanity and being alive.”


Loss and Displacement Ana Rendich Oil

Circle Game Ana Rendich Oil


ANA SAYS: I have always been connected from the invisible and visible aspects of human drama, the local and the universal, and their paramount importance. My art is assembled from different elements. Even although my paintings are not separated from me or my being it is not intended to be about me. And if there is a subject matter, that subject is greater than my individual self. My palette is not set in color order, I find the colors as I go. I believe also that colors are like music notes,and like words in poetry, including its pauses and dissonances. They create a dialogue, a sensory experience and a spiritual connection. I think that critical thinking goes hand with hand with art, and my paintings are born from a thought coming from an accumulation of a life of experiences, felt and heard. I see the white surface of my canvasses as Absences and I go from there, woven into the uncounted, rather the mimetic approach or incorporating optical illusion. I start with simple lines and color allowing them to be, without resistance and judgment, until it starts to have life of its own and emerges. It is then that the composition takes Presence. There is always a constant connection and dialogue with my works. I can’t explain why I paint that way. What I can say is my paintings are created from a reflective point (or in a contemplative frame) of a lifetime of observations, experiences and powerful recollections about Humanity and Nature. I follow an state of mind- motion that wakes up what was in me in a dormant stage and evolves on the canvas spontaneously and creates a sense-Presence.

Visit her Online at


From the Battlefield that has Buried the Bullets Ana Rendich Oil


On Absurdity II Ana Rendich Oil


Amanda Carter I have always enjoyed working with color. My earlier artistic endeavors involved playing with textiles and quilting. I have been painting for eight years now and continue to love playing with colors using oils, acrylics or watercolors. I paint what makes me happy usually with bold and bright colors reminding me of my childhood in the Virgin Islands and time spent overseas with my husband. Banana Bread Acrylic

Amanda’s Apples Oil

I remain an active art student. In 2012-2013 I attended intensive oil painting classes in West Africa from an artist from Martinique, Monsieur Gensin. In 2016-2017, I attended art classes at LibertyTown, learning from local artists Paula Raudenbusch and Bill Harris. I occasionally participate in the Fredericksburg Figure Drawing sessions and the Urban Sketchers of Fredericksburg gatherings. Last summer I completed a workshop with recognized watercolorist Michael Houlton and more recently a workshop with intuitive artist Whitney Freya. I have entered numerous shows in the Fredericksburg area and have had my work exhibited at various businesses including most recently at Sammy T’s. I can usually be found painting in Studio 10 of LibertyTown Art Studio where I continue to learn and develop my art.


Sunset Over Mud Pond

Amanda Carter Oil


Douglas Cole

Cabin in the Darkness when I rise the world’s not yet invented I start a fire and make coffee feel rain in the air above the back porch gazing where not even a star is born in years eaten by a factory and time lost in traffic time lost in the corner bar with people I seem to know though I don’t know their names who come for the same reason I do not to be alone though alone is what I am now stripping the shingles from the house to burn through winter

The Road No One Goes Down A cabin under moss, half-buried in the hillside, smoke stream from a chimney, old world fog rolling through— it takes incredible patience to know how each drop of rain cuts away a layer of chains, and water can tell you how it took down mountains and now it liberates you— can you imagine it? This weight gone? To operate in the silence that is the heart of music, the sound of the unstrummed chord? Leaves tremble from the impact of invisible storms, tails whipping the empty air, and all the thought that brought you to a cabin that shimmers in the mist with something to escape from far behind you and a place you might call winter opens a heavy door to good warmth deep inside and an option on forever.


Teriyaki on the Golden Gate Gate William Crawford


Jimmy Pro runs a tight ship at OZQUEST. His mythical travel agency is more of an extension of his alter ego than a real organization. The Bay Area weather forecast said clearing with strong gusts. Jimmy pointedly announced our next photographic target would be The Golden Gate Bridge. The ferrous Red Lady demands good light. Any good shooter knows that. OZQUEST is built on public transport. Jimmy memorizes the applicable bus routes and then navigates the city by the seat of his pants. Streetcars rule in the City By The Bay. Jimmy loves the electric clanging not to mention the human potpourri who ride these well traveled rails. We would today have to settle for a boring gasoline powered bus for the final leg of our ride to Golden Gate Park. The Bridge was teeming with people and autos, fueled by the breaking weather. The red iron behemoth vibrated loudly with the frenetic action on her deck and her taut cables emitted a loud chorus of high tension pinging. We shot various structural angles hoping for that illusive money shot. Then we started across. Soon, I spied a Japanese nymph among the mayhem. Her friends were sampling her dreamy beauty with their cell cams. Jimmy and I thrive on the bland and mundane, but an angelic face like hers invited a spontaneous portrait even among the peripatetic foot traffic of the Bridge. From a distance, I locked on with my zoom lens. Suddenly, she noticed me with an icy glare that froze my photographer’s heart. Caught as the intruder I was! As I forage methodically through my viewfinder, I am sometimes blessed with the sound of unexpected popular music from my distant past. I can’t explain these episodes, but I have learned to just embrace them in my work. Suddenly, my cerebral self was serving up Kyu Sakamoto circa, 1963. His ethereal version of “Sukiyaki “ hit number 1 in the US in the summer of 1963. The lyrics were entirely in Japanese, but the words and melody were so powerful that the language barrier evaporated under the the emotion of this Nipponic hymn of hope. Japan was finally throwing off the defeat of WWII, her economy was on the mend, and the 1964 Summer Olympics were on the horizon. Sakamoto produced an anthem of national appeal that transcended language with its simple but beautiful melody. My favorite DJ, the peripatetic Dick Biondi, from clear channel WLS out of Chicago, played it relentlessly for the American heartland. He introduced the the song repeatedly with only a solemn, reverent repetition of the artist’s name. The nymph again twisted her beautiful countenance with obvious agitation in my viewfinder. My heart sank, but then I instinctively pulled my iPhone from my shirt pocket. I pecked out S-a-k-a-m-o-t-o, then hit You Tube. I cranked up the volume button and edged closer to the glaring young Tokyo tourists. Above the side walk din, “Sukiyaki” melted out onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Her friends seemed puzzled by my intervention, but my would-be subject fixed me with a gaze which will live for the ages. She became suddenly calm, and she folded her hands into a vertical pyramid position at her chest. Her face softened as she she bowed curtly to me in the traditional Japanese manner. I recovered just a bit as she lowered her hands and I snapped this smiling shot. I spun on my heel, and headed straight back toward Golden Gate Park. Did she recognize a Number 1 pop song from fifty years ago in her homeland? I think not. But Sakamoto’s poignant melody and words opened an emotional and cultural door which allowed me to get that illusive money shot.

Witches Once, when searching for my car in a strange neighborhood I felt a familiar calm. It slowed me down and drew me in, until I was at an old house, with a roof that curved to a point directly above the door. Paned windows and straight-backed beetroot walls loomed over. The lawn was golden-brown, impaling. A dandelion garden, waited to be wishes. Tiny metal ornaments hung from the door and tresses. The house was shadowed by trees that sprinkled the lawn and dusted the rooftops with crumbling leaves. As I watched the house, I thought, Ah… This is a witch’s neighborhood. I started back down the road and found that all of the houses were witch-houses. I walked slowly, was it reverently? Taking in the peeling shingles, the messy brick, and I remembered. I remembered the crumbling cement staircases, the broken Fords in the driveways. I remembered the large dogs chained to door-posts, who’d snap and growl as strangers walked past. This street was empty, but for a few dogs, who growled as I passed. But I imagine that in the evenings the street fills with hairy men in tank tops and women with half-dissolved teeth and yellowish, decaying skin, which pulls back at the cheeks and flakes until it’s nothing.

Ivie van Lent A Mixture of Rejection and Loss I hear the ocean in a yellow porcelain mug. I push it aside.

They’ll sit on their porches, smoking and drinking Bud Light or Dos Equis, chatting as the sun goes down. They’ll talk for hours about nothing, while their kids roll in the leaves, that crack beneath their backs and tangle in their hair. You could always tell a witch-house by the trees. Ignore the barbed-wire fences, rolling open on rusty wheels. Ignore the broken toys abandoned on the lawn. Instead, look for the spruce, the willow, maybe even an aspen, unrestricted roots spreading out beneath cement. Look for the plants— the dandelion gardens, the pumpkin patches, and the ivy, wrapping itself around the crooked walls, until the house is no longer rusted orange brick, but an earthly-green and red and brown. As I head back to my apartment, I remember picking dandelion after dandelion, in an endless line, which never seemed to run out. I’d blow, and blow, and blow, knowing that they only counted if you got all of the seeds at once. And when I’d managed it, I’d close my eyes, and focus all of my energy on that single wish. Then I’d lay down in the grass and feel the magic that resided there. 27

The Wolf's Heart Melissa Heidrick


lived a young wolf and his brother. They had no pack, and no family

path. This time he disguised himself as a rock. Sure enough, the

but one another. The other wolves had died during the long winter,

girl passed him again. She did not hit him with her stick this time,

and how two male pups survived alone, no one could say. But sur-

but paused to smile at him before continuing on her way. Each day

vive, they did, and grew into lean, scavenging adolescents.

he returned to watch the girl. Some days he was a bird, others a

They lacked the strength and numbers of the pack, so

log, or a rabbit. It made no difference what he was, or where he

they could not hunt in the usual way. After months of starvation, out

placed himself along the path. Every day she knew him, and every

of sheer necessity, they invented a new way to hunt. The young

day she smiled.

wolves found that if they were still enough, and quiet enough, and

focused enough, they could take their prey by surprise. They re-

er. The wolf had lost his taste for the hunt. He took no joy in rending

joiced in their skill and became proud. They practiced night after

warm flesh, and ate only half-heartedly to keep up his strength. He

night, and as time passed, their skills increased.

knew that his brother was worried, but he had no way to share his

secret, and truth be told, no desire to share it. He was beginning to

nce upon a time, and worlds away from here, there

They discovered that they could do more than simply

The next day, at the same hour, the wolf returned to the

A distance began to grow between the wolf and his broth-

blend in with the background; they could do more than remain un-

formulate a plan.

seen. They learned to change. The brothers could be rocks beside

the stream, or bushes along the game trail. They were rarely hun-

through branches as a bird, observing their behavior, learning their

gry now, and their coats shone with a dangerous glow. Power had

bodies, counting their differences. But he always rushed back to

woken inside them. Soon, no prey could withstand them, for they

the path to meet the girl. Many times, he was so out of breath that

could be rabbits, or squirrels, or mice, or stones.

he could scarcely disguise himself, but to him, it no longer mat-


Once, the wolf’s brother even managed to be a deer. The

He began wandering close to human villages, watching

wolf watched quietly in the form of a log while his brother experi-

mented with his new disguise. He watched his brother walk calmly

hard to hold on to, but he could take the form of a man. He ap-

toward a large buck, and when the animal dipped its head in greet-

proached the stream to look at his reflection and was amazed. He

ing, the calm scene shattered into teeth and hooves and blood

looked nothing like the human he was trying to impersonate. In-

scent. When the wolf trotted happily toward the carcass to claim

stead, he was simply him, a human version of himself. The dark

his share, pride and blood lust were upon his brother who bared his

brown of his fur was reflected in the locks of his hair, and he re-

teeth and growled. The wolf’s hackles rose and he snarled

tained the lean muscled look of his own body. In an instant, he lost

back at his brother before loping off to find prey of his own.

the trick of it, and was a wolf once more.

After a long and fruitless run, he came to a path. He lay

After many months, he managed it. It was difficult, and

But once was enough, he longed for that body, the hair,

down beside it, resigned to feeling disappointed and hungry when

the hands, the face. For through that body he had glimpsed a soul,

he heard human footsteps approaching. He quickly became a

and been surprised at its presence. He would wait no longer. The

bush and entertained the delicious idea of gorging himself on a

very next day he waited beside the path in his wolf form. The girl

human prize. He was as quiet as a plant, and let the breeze stir

seemed bemused as she paused to smile at him. He rose before

his boughs. He drank in the dappled sunlight, and let his leaves

her as a man, tall and naked. She blinked once before raising a

breathe air into the world. He could sense his prey coming closer,

hand to his cheek. He knew that his instinct should be to snarl, to

and was gathering his muscles to spring when he felt a sharp tap

snap, but he could only concentrate on holding on to his human

on the head. He was a wolf again, and face to face with a human

form. For the first time, the woman spoke.

girl holding a long, gnarled stick.

He was too astonished to lunge for her throat, but his

with her hand still on his cheek, and sensed his concentration.

hackles rose, and a low, dangerous sound rumbled in his chest.

“Here,” she said, and stood on her toes. She brought her mouth to

The girl simply smirked, shrugged a shoulder and continued her

his, and he found that he could hold his human form quite easily.

stroll down the path.

dressed him, taught him words, showed him how to read them on

The wolf was confused, he was amazed, and worst of all,

he was curious.

“I wondered,” she said softly. She looked into his eyes,

The next year was a miracle. Her name was Rose. She

paper, and he became her lover. He followed her everywhere, and she was enraptured with his devotion, for the sun did not rise, nor


did it set for him unless it was in her eyes. They spent that year in

trapped his brother, and finally her magic worked—three deaths to

a cottage, far from his brother and his own territory, but close to

pay for his return.

the path where they had met. Sometimes she would mutter over a

fire, or stir strange things into a kettle. The wolf did not understand

misery. He had abandoned not only his beloved brother, but his

these things, but since she did them, they must surely be good

true form. Everything inside him ached unbearably, and his new

things to do.

heartbeat was strange and uncomfortable. He searched himself

He sank to the floor of the cottage, covered in blood and

When thoughts of his brother threatened to mar his hap-

for his love for Rose; he would use that to push the pain out. He

piness, the wolf gladly pushed them aside to give his love for Rose

scoured his soul for the bottomless devotion he had felt, but it was

more room. It seemed that this bliss would endure forever, after all,

gone. He despised her.

why shouldn’t it? If he should die, let it be in her presence, and in

her arms.

would mourn, but he would not feel guilt. As a wolf, he would not

But, Rose had neglected to tell him about her mother.

She must have been on an exceedingly long journey, or perhaps the girl had given her up for dead. But, one afternoon an old woman burst through the cottage door, catching them unawares. Her anger was a wondrous force. Windows shattered, the cottage frame splintered, and Rose screamed. A word from the old woman kept the wolf conscious, and he was forced to watch, perfectly frozen, as the hag cut the heart from his chest. After what felt like an agonizing eternity, he was finally allowed to drift into the blackness while Rose watched in horror.

He knew nothing more of existence until a pounding be-

gan calling to him from outside the void. Slowly he began to remember himself, and slowly the pain of life began to creep back into his consciousness. When he had eyes to open at last, he looked for his love, and she was there, standing over him, covered in blood, and smiling triumphantly. She embraced him, but he felt no joy. Over her bloody shoulder he could see the lifeless body of his brother. His mind was a blur as he pushed Rose aside and rushed to the lifeless wolf.

His brother’s eyes were glazed, and his tongue rested

unnaturally on the wooden floor of the cottage. He reached out to shake the matted shoulder, and his hands came back bloody. There was a ragged gash across his brother’s chest. He looked down at his own chest; the skin had been sewn neatly together with coarse thread. He guessed then what she had done.

Rose was triumphant as she explained. She had watched

as her mother crushed his heart in her fist, but in that instant of hate and loss, Rose’s power had finally surpassed her mother’s. In a rage, she called on every ounce of her strength and reached directly into her mother’s chest to remove the old woman’s heart. She tried to place it in her lover’s breast, but he did not come back. That night she seduced a villager, luring him into their cottage, but the villager’s heart would not bring him back either. At last, she

He would flee from her, from everything. As a wolf, he

have to grapple with pain so complex that he could not begin to comprehend it. But, try as he might, he could not let go of his human form; he could not revert to the animal he had once been. Trapped, he turned to scowl at Rose. She returned his angry gaze with a shocked one.

“But you love me,” she said.

“No,” he answered simply, his voice full of disgust.

Her eyes were panicked now. “Yes, you do,” she insisted.

She started toward him.

He turned away and walked silently to the door. He could

feel anger seeping into the cottage, into her.

“Don’t you see what I have done for you?” She shout-

ed. “The powers I have tamed to keep you with me? To keep you alive? And now, you will abandon me?” Dark tension was gathering around her; the air began to spark.

“I don’t care.” He raised his voice over the noise that was

gathering around him like a storm wind. Her eyes widened into madness. He wondered if it had always been there, that unnatural danger that warped her expression now. When she spoke again, her voice was full of echoing electricity.

“I promise you now, that you will never love another.” She

raised her hands into the air, palms upward. “Your heart is not your own; you will be incapable of love.” As she finished speaking, he felt electricity course through his body, and he was jerked out of being. Darkness and light flashed through his vision, and he finally slammed into the ground of a completely unfamiliar world.

To kill him would have been better, but instead, she flung

him across the dimensions, far from her presence, stripping him of the ability to take solace in a simpler form. He lost all hope of finding love, so long as his brother’s stolen heart beat in his chest. Some say he carved it out of his own chest and died, some say he died of sorrow. But, all witches know that for a curse to work, there must be a path to ending it, and there are whispers of a dark figure stalking the woods near here, searching for a heart to call his own.


M. C. Danzinger A tribute to the best poem I ever wrote The best poem that I ever wrote was written on a Wednesday in a bar famous for vegan tacos, very strange but very conducive to scribbles on a page in a very cheap notebook,

Articulated Mannequin (Iwao Yamawaki, 1931) figureless figure frowning faceless face a half-shadow dream-man man mannequin

and it was a love poem about the moon and somebody who makes paintings in the dark, darker than the dim light of the bar and darker than the music was loud, darker than the moon in that poem and because of something darker still, the spill of the ink on that page was completely illegible and all that remains is this tribute to those stains.

posed in thought half-dark-dreams dreaming looking nowhere with eyeless eyes and the sound, oh, the silent sounds of shiftless shoulders shifting black and white and back and monochrome-man man mannequin faint fingers photographed moving moveless mouths thin genderless waist wasting weighted weightlessly tastes of dust and silver gelatine thin thicklessly finessing wood, a flavoured puppet peristalsis pulp and dim pudding rich despite the lack of visual vim unbland-man man mannequin background simple single piece of card outline of the simple head-that’s-not-a-head clearly out of focus, a facade what do you stand for? made in our own image, yetmeaningless man man mannequin


I bought myself some flowers I bought myself some flowers, yellow, purple, and proud red I bought myself some flowers and I left them by your bed I bought myself some flowers, but they really were for youthose flowers that I bought for me were cut before they grew I bought myself some flowers; their vase was web-cracked glass my always wilting flowers they were never meant to last

The English Student

Visiting The Others

I should not have had to read between the lines

Treading the graves of the dead, I feel

to prove you loved me –

the inertia of soil underfoot.

a student, ever providing

Granite here, marble there, moored in

textual evidence

clipped foliage, settled in catacomb order.

of a theory

Why is it that the chaos of those lives are

perhaps unintended

not reflected in this Atlantic field?

by the author.

The hammering, the leaving, the rows turned toxic. A surfeit of betrayals. All bitterness muted

You told me

now by death. Loathing encounters the acid of

that true love needs no confirmation

decay, dissolving to dust, its energy directed

no reassurance,

to the bedrock of the earth.

that those involved just know

In the privacy of cheek cutting visits, there must

they love

be whispered tête-à-têtes, of regret, of yet more

and are loved.

necessary odium. The only witness, once again, the white line of the shore, buoyed up by the faithful

I loved,


sent my warmth off into the void, the space between us increasingly unconquered

~ Marian Kilcoyne

by my words, so earnestly spelled and re-spelled, so faithfully released to bounce from tower to tower into your hand.


What I got in return were symbols and foreshadowing,

In the middle of the jungle, two bugs with really long legs

a litany of signs

and invisible wings were bouncing, up and down, up and

well-hidden in the text

down, chasing each other, I guess, beneath this big leaf

but open,

that had been lifted up by the broken tip of your old ma-


chete in an act of—feigned curiosity.

to interpretation. This was after the little serpent squiggled in the mud, after I want to tell the girl you love now,

the jaguar tracks, after the tumour was cut from the trunk

“He deserves a Pulitzer,

and miniscule termites poured out, even after the treefrog,

his works are complex,

but well before dusk when, Clarindo, you told us to turn on

the endings always take you

the light.

by surprise.” Clarindo, Clarindo, you bullshit artist, those tracks were just

~ Madeleine Stevens

a village dog's; it was your light that attracted the feared Cobra Grande, who rose from the shadows and fell on my back, pressed its fangs into my chest, listened to hear if I breathed, while all you could do was bang your machete on a Ceiba tree, which (as you knew) was more provocation than remedy in such darkness, one we all now knew had overtaken us.

~ Todd Hopkins

The Power of Education


nce, long ago, I stood on the lawn of Harvard Law School in the late afternoon sun and listened to two US Supreme Court Justices, Harry Blackmun and William Brennan, arms linked, tell a hungry crowd that the US Constitution is like a pendulum: it may sway to the right or to the left, but it comes to rest at center. Their reassurance came at a moment of fear about a political swing to the far right in our country and in response to a question about the resiliency of the living document that has guided our nation since its inception. I was grateful that my job at the time as News Director at Harvard Law School allowed me to hear their wisdom and words of hope. Many years later, more recently in my own personal development, I sat in another large crowd listening to a woman share the wisdom of French philosopher and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who said that one mind alight with truth may set the whole world on fire. These encounters, like seeds planted in my consciousness, have blossomed into shade trees especially important in the desert times. Russian dissident poet Anna Akmatova, once reflecting on her life under the Stalinist regime, said she could no longer recognize the banks of herself. Unlike Akhmatova, the forces that have shaped me are mostly benevolent, thanks to education and the cultivation of a free mind and critical thinking. I almost didn’t get there. And, if I had not had the loving support of strong women, I would not have done so. I want to give what I have been so generously given. What I have to give is a story. From the time I was six years old, I loved writing and dreamed of becoming a writer. Equally, I loved the world of my childhood, the farm my family owned and hundreds of acres of land to roam. Fields and rivers and thick forests with mossy floors and endangered plants that had not heard they were endangered. There was no time in nature, no restrictions placed on a wandering child or her freedom to dream. And nearly every dream revolved around words and stories. The words and stories took me to books and ideas of far away places. I wrote poems about ice encased trees and memorized poems such as “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Lord Tennyson and recited them to the cows and any member of my family who would listen. At the time I loved the rhythm of language, and if asked would have said that was why I needed to speak out loud. But the truth, more personal, I think I needed to hear my own voice. To know that it mattered. That I mattered. One year, for my birthday, my father bought me an electric typewriter. He was the one who always read my poems and commented on them. It is important that I say this up front, because two years later when I decided to apply for college it drove a stake between us. He would not fill out the financial aid forms and he would not give me money for the college applications. My mother, unhappy in her marriage, was absorbed with her own


struggles of relationship and did not have the inner resources to fight for my dreams. She was trying to get enough money from my father to buy groceries. A typewriter seemed like a luxury we didn’t need and she wasn’t for it. Perhaps there was not money to give for college applications and my father felt too ashamed to say so. But what he did say is “Why spend all that money on college when you’re just going to meet a guy, get married and have kids?” He had expressed his wish for us all to continue running the family farm, a small operation that relied on us, his four children, in order to run. My high school guidance counselor went to see my father. She was a former nun and she was a force to be reckoned with. I had not asked her to visit my home and did not know she was going to do so. I remember the day she arrived in the driveway. I looked out of the barn where I was doing chores, feeding the calves before it was time for milking, and I heard the dog bark. I looked out the barn window and saw her, serious faced, as she wrapped her blazer tight around her no nonsense body and marched right up to the front door of the little ranch where we all, the six of us lived in a three bedroom, five room house. My body sprouted sweat and my heart thumped in my chest. I felt that uneasy sensation that I was in trouble because this was not living with our heads down, as we had been taught to do. To get the attention of the school guidance counselor? I kept my lookout, standing in the cow’s feed trough, crouched so my head was not visible. And I waited. Fifteen minutes or so later, Ms. Morris came out of the house, not escorted to the door or the car. Alone. She got back in her car and drove away. When my father came out of the house a little bit later he said nothing to me. Nothing at all. I did not ask my father why Ms. Morris had been there. I knew why. My stomach twisted in fear. My father’s anger scared me. I thought he was angry. With years of perspective now, I think perhaps my father was not angry with me, but angry at the circumstances which were truly limiting. And perhaps afraid. With too much on his relatively young shoulders. A wife, four children, a dairy farm with a hundred cows and two hundred acres. He was only 38 years old and farms around the country were going into foreclosure. But at the time, I could not see the other forces on the horizon of our lives. I saw only my father bigger than life, telling me my dream of college was not to be. And yet, my dream stirred within me and the spark of that desire was being fanned by the formidable Ms. Morris and other teachers who encouraged my writing. The next day, Ms. Morris approached me and told me that she was taking a day to drive me to upstate NY to visit the college of my dreams, Bard College. The day I spent with her was enchanted. We drove the Merit Parkway under the span of the beautiful old trees lining the road in her perfume-scented car, so unlike the farm smells of

animals and manure and smoke from the woodstove. On the stately Bard campus, we stepped into a high ceiling room, all glass walls and gleaming marble floors. We sat on a velvet bench and I was called in to talk to one of the college officials. I don’t remember our conversation, but after we talked, Ms. Morris spoke privately with the official. Within a week, I had a letter of acceptance and a full fouryear scholarship. There was only one catch. My father would have to fill out the federal financial aid forms. He refused. Ms. Morris visited the farm a second time. My father’s answer was still no. Getting me to college became Ms. Morris’s personal mission. She got me a full scholarship to a Catholic college in eastern Connecticut and a free ride with no federal financial aid forms. But spring of my senior year in high school the college went bankrupt and closed its doors. Ms. Morris took another day off. This time we drove to a small women’s college, Hartford College for Women. It had started as a branch of Mount Holyoke and full time faculty from Mount Holyoke and Smith College came to teach there. My father stopped talking to me. He did not attend my high school graduation. Somehow, Ms. Morris worked her magic again, and got me a full scholarship to a two- year women’s college, but they did not have money to give me board, so they found me a wealthy couple to live with in West Hartford. The day after high school graduation, my best friend’s family took me in and I started working swing shift at a glass factory for the summer. Her mother, Dot Chabot, drove me to and from work every single day of my swing shift for two summers, because I had no driver’s license and no car. I knew how to drive tractors and dump trucks and corn choppers, but was not licensed to drive a car. Every week or so, she drove me the 40 minutes to my parents’ farm so I could visit my parents and my three younger siblings. At the end of the first summer, I had thousands of dollars in my bank account when the Chabots drove me to West Hartford and got me settled for the beginning of college. The wife of the West Hartford couple had had surgery on her wrist and needed help with light housework while she healed. I started school, navigated city buses, and helped prepare dinners for the couple in the evening. But I missed home—the animals and the fields and the fresh air. I planned to take a Greyhound bus to visit, but the couple told me that they needed my help to throw a dinner party. I was to polish the silver in preparation. More tasks followed, and after about 8 weeks, one night I answered the phone when their daughter called. “I can’t believe you’re still there,” she said. I had never met her. “My brother and I took bets on how long you’d last. My parents are impossible.” Her call gave me the validation I needed. The next day, I went to the college administration and told them about my experi

Susanne Davis / Memoir

ence and that weekend, they moved me to the college president’s house. She looked out for me the next two years and tried to encourage me to complete my bachelor’s degree at Mt. Holyoke, but I could not take such a big leap. I finished college at the stateuniversity and it was my female boss at Harvard Law School who one day asked me “What is your dream?” When I told her I wanted to write fiction, she gave me a computer and a five-week leave of absence to write the short stories that got me accepted into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. This time I said yes. I have long ago forgiven my father for not filling out the federal financial aid forms. He lives at a barely subsistence level, working the same farm. My parents divorced many years ago. One brother helps run the farm. I came from a humble lot and the message was strong that we should not lift our heads too high or think too much of ourselves. But dreams alive in a body want to live in the world. I wanted to be a writer. Which meant college. Now, I teach college. And I write. My dreams are still coming to fruition. I can look back and see how the long arm of justice has been at work in my own life through some of the people who have helped influence that arc. My guidance counselor Ms. Morris, my best friend’s mother Dot Chabot, Hartford College President Joan Davis (no relation), and my first boss at Harvard Law School, in a long line of women who were among the most benevolent forces in my early life. My first book of short stories, The Appointed Hour, was published by University of Wisconsin’s Cornerstone Press several months ago, and my high school has written to invite me to be inducted into their Career Hall of Fame. I can’t wait to share my story with the students as a way of giving back even a little of what I’ve been given. Numerous strong women helped me to realize my dream and, I tell this story for the young women coming to adulthood in this country. Our nation’s young women face the politics of the right working to take back women’s reproductive rights, and the growing gap between rich and poor makes it harder for a young woman from my background to get financial aid for college. How is a young woman from modest means to pursue higher education and a life of one’s dreams? It is in part up to those of us who have benefitted from the help of the strong and generous women who came before us to turn and offer help in the ways that we may be able to do so. What I have, my currency is the world of stories and I tell this story now, one I have not told in fiction or nonfiction before, to raise the alarm and my voice. Our time is out of joint. Our voices need a chorus. Our stories need to be told. Our freedoms have been won. But apparently, they need to be won and won again for the future generations.


It’s a bit of an expected question, but how did you get started with pottery?

Dan Finnegan

A Conversation


Origin stories are fascinating to me, and mine is not unique; a lot of my peers have a similar story. I knew very little about the world of craft or making things out of clay. I grew up in a working class family, and we didn’t have a lot of introduction to that. There also wasn’t that much about pottery out in the public. When I went to college, my roommate was taking a class, and he invited me one night to make a pot. It was fun; I can’t say I had any overwhelming need to be a potter, but for some reason I stood in drop/add lines the next semester and forced my way into a class. I quickly grew to really love the material, but it was years before I really considered it as a career. I was the first in my family to ever go to college, so there were heavy expectations, external and internal, to be successful. I quickly went off on my own and distanced myself from those expectations. I paid my own way through school, but ended up going to and dropping out of three different colleges. I got really into clay, but I really had no idea of what a career in it would look like. The only thing I was being shown in universities was how to be a teacher, and that was not interesting to me at all. So, in 1978, I was invited to go to Britain – I was sort of chasing my girlfriend at the time – and I went to work in an amazing craft center in the Cotswolds, which is a really picturesque part of England in the West Country. It was seven miles down the road from just about the oldest pottery in the Western world in a place called Winchcombe Pottery. There’s history of almost 200 years of working pottery at Winchcombe, and when I arrived there it was enormously respected. There was a team of potters under a master potter named Ray Finch, and they made a line of pots in what was like a little factory. They were simple pots, but beautifully crafted and fired in a wood-burning kilns like the one we’re sitting next to here. At the time, I was living down the road from there and became great friends with a bunch of the young people who worked there, and through great perseverance I was hired to be the lad. As the lad, I was on the bottom rung of the ladder, but I stayed there for a few years, hanging out and working there. I handled every pot made in there. I wasn’t a potter. I was a tea boy. I stacked the wood; I glazed the pots; I loaded the kilns; I did everything to support the four masters who threw and made the pots. I became deeply in love with that lifestyle. The moment I first walked through that door, I had my little epiphany. I can still remember the sound of that door and the smell in the throwing room. That was in 1978. It was an extraordinary education.

It sounds idyllic.

As a person working with pottery, where do you think the

line between the utility of the pottery and the artistry of the

It was in some ways, but it was all about the work. The

men showed up promptly at eight o’clock in the morning. They were paid a salary and it was a job, but they were sitting there making beautiful things all day long while having fascinating conversation, listening to great music, and being part of a unique community. It was the first time I’d been exposed to a group of people who had chosen a different way of life, and that appealed to me. So, you said you didn’t really have a chance at that point to have your hands on the clay, but what kind of education were you getting in the position you were in?

I did make some pots, and I had a wheel where I could

make some pots on my own time, but I was also really curious about that place (England) and I spent a lot of time traveling when I wasn’t working. In fact, I go back there almost every summer – I’m leaving in two weeks, actually. This is my 38th return. That must feel like going home. So, is it still a pottery community?

It’s a little more dissolute today. It was really at its height

when I apprenticed there. There was bit of a resurgence of crafts from the 1950s into the 1970s, with the end of the ‘70s being the heyday of the craft world. It was a really interesting time to be there. I learned everything from a work ethic, to how you can sit and make a lot of pots very similarly, which takes great craft. Medieval German pottery and 17th Century English slipware were the inspiration for the pots made at Winchcombe. They are very classic ideas about pottery. Those pots still inform my own work today. They’re the bones of almost everything I do, so that’s what I really learned from there.

pottery fall? Is it all about creating pieces that have utility, or does beauty surpass utility at times?

Well, those are good questions, because the answer is yes in both cases. I think it depends on what stage of my career we’re talking about. I’ve spent most of my life making pots I want people to use. That’s the pinnacle of what my life is about; if I can make a pot that I think is successful and someone else takes it home and wants to use it, there’s an intimate and perhaps subconscious conversation that occurs between that person and me. You know, when I go to my kitchen and pick out a mug, I’m picking out a Michael or a Matt or a Suzy; there are names attached to those things, so that’s an important part of what we do. Most of my life I have devoted to making things that satisfy that connection, but I started out as a sculptor making abstract works with clay. I’ve continued that body of work all my life. For instance, a few years ago I started making birds that are very loosely inspired by some 19th Century work from England, and they are most certainly not utilitarian. The other thing that’s happening is when I was younger it was really easy for people to come and buy my pots and use them, I made lots and lots of pots rather quickly and was able to sell them at very affordable prices. Today I work more slowly, I use very labor-intensive practices (firing with wood, being off the grid et al) and my skills have grown, consequently I charge more for my work. All that has to be in the price of the work. The losses have to be in the price of the work. Sometimes the money I need to charge for the pot, even though it’s enormously useful, may prohibit people from using it except on special occasions, which is still okay. Even when I make useful pots, I’m aware that people may not use them. In spite of that, I always try to make them absolutely useful within reason. Sometimes aesthetics trump that. I asked Ray one day, a man who made very simple, useful pots and was very humble, this


question about utility and aesthetics. I thought I knew the answer to the question, because I thought he was a Bauhaus guy, you know, form absolutely followed function. That’s a really classic idea in the arts, which means that the shape of the object is inspired by use rather than beauty. Form is most important to me still. But anyway, Ray said, no, sometimes function follows form. It was hard to see it in his work, but in his mind he felt like either thing could dominate. You probably have a lot more freedom at this point in your career as to the kinds of things you are going to make.

I have a lot, and that’s just based on 45 years of being at it. In fact, I used to make everything for the kitchen. Spoon rests and the like, a myriad of little things, mostly intended for the kitchen or the table. I loved making them. My skills grew and grew and grew and grew, because I made so many pots. In some ways, I feel like I’m a late bloomer. My early work was good, it was really solid. My work now is much more mature and it reflects who I am and some strong ideas I have about the work, but it took me a long time before I felt I could put together skill and idea. You know, inspiration is the magic of all of arts, mine included. Do you have examples of that?

Well, I can show you some finished pots, last year a new texture happened. I go crazy when I find something new that’s exciting, and I’m really prolific, so I make a lot of things. That texture I discovered seemed to want a different form. Almost all of my work is round, and it’s often about curves. So I made this whole series of really cylindrical pots with little ginger jar lids. Because I’m off the grid out here, I bring a big thermos with me every day, and I’m convinced that I was basically making my thermos. I took the shape of the pot straight from my thermos. So that’s an example of unintended magic. For many years I have admired a little vase in a book I have on Persian pottery. It is a completely different idea of form, very contrary to the ideas I brought back from England – in fact, more and more I’m trying to break free from that a little bit. I allowed myself to make some of these shapes and I loved them. I made bunches and bunches of them. The first couple were close to the photograph. Fairly quickly, though, I start asking questions: What if the proportions change here? What if I do this there? What if? “What if” is a big question in my working world. They started to evolve into something that was much more uniquely mine, but still you could see those references from the Persian pieces in my finished products. It seems like you use a lot of earth tones and muted colors. Is there any significance to those choices?

I’m a child of the ‘60s and ‘70s, so I think that’s part of it. Certainly, it also comes from England. We had a very quiet palette of colors with the idea, especially when making pots for food, that it’s not always a happy combination to have a busy plate pattern with a busy plate of food on top of it. Ray’s idea in England was to make very complementary shapes and colors so that the food was what really sang. The pots played a quiet role, and Ray was a quiet guy, and I embraced that idea. I will tell you that the pottery world and pottery buying world has changed entirely today.


How so?

Nowadays, people want something that really has a lot of uniqueness on its own. Something they can display maybe?

Yes. My friend Tony Clennell says that pottery in our lifetime has gone from the kitchen to the living room, and in many ways that’s true. I have responded to that, maybe slower than some of my peers, but I am dropping away some of that small kitchenware. At this point in my life I feel like I’m at my best, and I don’t want to make salt and pepper shakers anymore. I want to make things that are challenging to me and that maybe make a little more dramatic statement. I have a very different market now. I sold all my pots in Fredericksburg for twenty-some years. My retail shop was a very magical place that I ran for many years downtown. Now I rarely sell pots here. D.D. and Kenneth (Lecky) spoke a lot about you when I interviewed them for the feature piece on LibertyTown.

I feel bad for people who interview me for a short article now, because I have a book in me at this point. LibertyTown is a whole other section in it. In 2001 I borrowed money privately from investors in town to get it up and running. I can’t believe I did that. I’m not a very ambitious person, but I like building and creating things. Most recently, I was involved in creating the Sophia Street Pottery Throwdown with Trista (Chapman). I also curate a show in D.C. every year that’s very important. Are you happy with the results of the Throwdown? How many years have you had it now?

Oh, yes! This was the second year. It was great! Sales grew for many from the first year and I’m sure it will continue to grow. I think it’s going to be fantastic as the years go by. It’s lovely. It takes while to build things, and you have to hope the first year that you’re going to be solid. Trista and I meet every Friday with a bunch of our young progeny and fellow potters to mentor and chat over coffee, and out of that conversation Trista wanted to bring more attention to her space, Sophia Street Studio. We decided to hold a festival in front of the studio to do just that. The college has a lot of involvement in it. They have a booth for alumni of their arts program. About five years ago they hired this brilliant young guy, Jon McMillan, to teach there, and Jon also exhibits. This year, two or three exhibitors were students of Jon’s who are out there making pots in the world. It’s an exciting time for Fredericksburg potters. We had 20 exhibitors, and 15 or 16 of them were from our town. Show me around a bit?

Sure. This is this crazy kiln that uses wood for fuel. You can see some underneath it, and out there is a woodpile I’m slowly getting under cover for the fall. This is a big kiln; it takes about 400 pots to fill it. The wood is stoked into the firebox and the fire is drawn through the first chamber, into the second chamber and out the chimney. Then, when it gets really hot I throw salt into the kiln,

Photos on these pages are by Kenneth Lecky.


and that creates a glaze on the pots. The ash from the wood affects the pots and the salt vapor creates a glaze on the pots. What I’m doing is a collaboration between the fire and my work. Loading of the kiln is a very strategic thing. The flame is coming in one way, so where I want the flame to be strongest on every pot is another aesthetic decision. That’s only true in atmospheric kilns, of which this is one. If you fire with electricity or gas it doesn’t matter where you put the pots, because it’s uniform and is just heat. In my kiln, the ash and salt vapor create something beautiful, but they also attack the kiln. You can see how the bricks are starting to melt. I just did a huge repair and chiseled some of this out. I fire up to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit, and this has been fired 34 times to that temperature. The salt is really corrosive, so it takes some repairs. The shelves are made out of silicon carbide. It can take the heat and corrosiveness. The salt beads up on the shelf and I have to grind it all off. Then I coat them to protect them. Certain areas I pack denser than others, trying to control the path of the flame the whole time. What happens is really I’m firing the first chamber and the waste heat is preheating the second chamber. Then I stoke little bits of wood here and in just a few more hours I get twice as much work. The whole thing together can take up to 30 hours. So you have to be out here stoking the fire that whole time? Yes.

Oh, yes. It’s all about color and texture. The salt vapor I throw in hits all the edges and eats right through the slip and melts the silica in the clay. It highlights all those little marks. For instance this pot has a thin coating of slip made of iron cobalt and manganese. The more glass that builds up, which means more salt vapor has come into contact with the surface, the more cobalt dominates and the more blue comes out. It’s the variation that makes it interesting. You see on the back where it didn’t get the flame is more gunmetal colored, while the side that caught the flame is more glassy and the blue starts to peak out. If it went into any other kind of kiln, it wouldn’t be shiny without applying a glaze.

It sounds like you have a lot of fun figuring out the different textures want to try to achieve.

Texture is huge for me. I use this crackle slip a great deal, which is underneath the glaze. I don’t paint pretty pictures on my pots, but I love interesting surfaces, which I think is rich. I think a lot of my forms are kind of classic, but still there is a certain quietness. They’re not punching you in the face. I make a lot of teapots, but I don’t have many left after Minnesota. I just came back from a show in Minnesota that’s considered one of the best pottery show in America, both for money generated and prestige. It’s the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour. Teapots were very popular this year, which was fantastic. Talk about things I brought back from England! They are very English forms and it’s very much about how they work and how they pour, though it seems no one in America drinks tea but me. You brought that back from England too?

But you get a lot of pieces out of that.

Oh, yeah. It takes so much to fire that first chamber, so to have the second chamber and to be able to get twice as many pots for just a few more hours of work is a great fuel and time savings. If I had only the one chamber and had to start again from scratch, I’d burn a lot more wood to get this at temperature. There’s a lot of prep work and brute labor in this work. What does this kiln allow you to do that an electric kiln wouldn’t? You mentioned the sizable output of this large kiln.

Oh, absolutely!

It seems there’s always something new to keep things interesting.

Oh, lifetimes worth. Ray, died at 96; at 95 he was still firing pots and still putting tests into the kiln. It’s endless, and this is just one very narrow slice of the pottery world. It’s high temperature and wood fired. If you’d come yesterday you would have seen twenty different directions I went in clay. It’s probably the most flexible, diverse medium, because the possibilities are virtually endless.

Are there other perks?

Learn more at


Photo by Kenneth Lecky

"To whom?" I asked, and he said it didn't matter, that a greater necessity must be at work, or should be, or was, in his case, and that if it wasn't in me then I should ask myself what, exactly, I was really doing.


The breeze used to come in through the screened dormer window and flutter the scraps of paper on my desk.

Todd Hopkins

3. The rocket blasted off. A binary star rose. People were lonely in space. They tried to make friends, they really did. Of course they told stories, but it didn't matter because in space everything else mattered too much. Who would have guessed? You? Weightless too long, now you can barely lift a phaser to your temple. 2. He squeezed and nothing happened. Staring in mild perplexity down the crystalline barrel, he squeezed again but this time incinerated his left ear and opened the predictable hole in the hull of the vessel. He had been the last person on Earth to drink a beer by engulfing the top of the bottleneck in his mouth instead of pressing it gently onto pursed and thirsty lips. 1. Remember when Colonel Alexis Leonov left the capsule and floated in space for ten minutes at the end of a light line? The general public was greatly impressed by the spectacular and emotional aspect of this sortie into the void. From the loudspeaker his voice crackled: "The vast cosmos is visible to me in all its indescribable beauty; in the black sky the sun shines brilliantly, and I feel its warmth on my face through my helmet window." Go! And so when we open the lower panel, preparing to leave the capsule, drawing ourselves slowly through the airlock and with a light push moving away from the spacecraft, notice how the small thrust given as we leave imparts a slight angular motion to the capsule; see the vehicle rotating slowly below us; see the heavy door in the open position.

Nothing. Reassured by the hiss of oxygen, I began walking, bicycling my legs in the void, moving away. When the stars came to an end I said, "Ha! No more stars!" and bicycled onward. I should never have left, never slipped on the suit, never stared wide-eyed as the polycarbonate fishbowl was lowered over my freshly shaved head, never listened to the titanium neck ring slide and click into place. A fly on the wall of nowhere would perhaps say, squinting their eyes, that I appeared disoriented. Hemingway might recall one of those picador's horses, seen from the upper tiers of the bullring, entrails dragging along behind it on the crushed rock of the arena like a rocket plume.


My Swollen, Fearless Friend

Saige Cross

He said he had no room for fear of anything anymore. When he

spoke, his face lit up like a neon sign—it was as if he had communed with angels.

Now his face has no light to it, as the great mass of head bandages

hide everything but his blackened eyes. When the doctor comes in and explains the complications due to a bee allergy, he kindly nods, and I can tell from his swollen eye slits that he is hoping for the fear to return.


When the moths came, we were only waking. The coffee was burn-

ing, and we had left our beds with the unkempt scars of sleep. The shower’s running water was still warming, and I couldn’t find my left house shoe. We hugged and kissed each other through the blinding light of morning and shuffled into the bathroom to observe the wrinkles progressively gather on our foreign faces. Across the hall, silence reigned as the kids still slept.

When the moths came, our home wasn’t finished. The deck still cried

out when you walked over it; doors wouldn’t shut; the house sagged on its frame, conceding to the impossible demand of gravity. Pipes had burst under the home, and cracks appeared quickly in the ceilings, as if someone had painted over glass walls.

When the moths came, we were still in love. We fought for each

other in the filth and muck of quotidian life. There were trips we had planned without the kids; places we would go to watch people live differently than us. But we would nonetheless come back to our misshapen home, our impossible children, and make love clumsily, knowing that of all the possible worlds we could’ve been placed into, we fit best into this one.

When the moths came, we were helpless. The television spoke

of snow in July. Drones flew to the site of their descent, and the entire city watched the moths split through the clouds as they veiled the sunlight in their great number. The mass swelled and swallowed the steel buildings, erasing the towering statures from the skyline before us. Monuments that had taken years to erect, reduced to debris small enough for the wind to take hold of and scatter across the city, in a matter of minutes. We had no plan; no provisions set aside, no precautions implemented for any of it. The possible tragedy prepared for had taken another form completely and loomed over us without any semblance of concern. The awesome ebb and flow, washing over the city—a great cleansing that no one would wish on their worst of enemies.

When the moths came, we left.

But we’re not hard to find.


Music in Fredericksburg Jim Williams Photography Ashleigh Chevalier performing at Hard Times Cafe at 4 Mile Fork 42


er father was already waiting at the table when Veronica got there. The juvenile, kitschy decor of the restaurant made it look like he was sitting on doll furniture, his lanky legs barely fitting under the pastel table. The dichotomy would have been charming if not for the look on his face —awkward, hesitant, nose scrunched up and mouth twisted, perpetually unshaven and hungover. John gave her a crooked smile as the hostess led her to the table. She realized immediately that she was overdressed. She didn’t have time to change after work, and figured that rushing back to her apartment to change before last minute dinner plans wasn’t worth it. Now her heels clicked too loudly against the tiled ground, her skirt suddenly too constricting, her dark blazer feeling inappropriately formal. As if Veronica was begging him to notice her newfound maturity and growth, lipstick streaked across her mouth in an obnoxious declaration. Veronica sat down across from him, looking under the table for a place to tuck her umbrella. There was none— his legs took up the entire space. Resigned and irritated, she hung it on the back of the chair. Before she had the chance to open her mouth, a waitress rolled over to them, wobbling in her flowered roller skates. Butterfly-shaped menu delivered, she rattled through a list of specials before zooming off to serve a posse of prepubescent girls and their exhausted parents. He had already ordered her a frosty mason jar of root beer, her beverage of choice when she was six. “How long has it been since we were here?” he asked, overly satisfied with himself for somehow remembering her favorite childhood restaurant. As if it were an impressive feat for him to recall this very familiar tableau of the two of them sitting there with their drinks, making small talk as they tapped their feet to saccharine Top 40 pop. “I don’t know, it seems like forever,” Veronica said, forcing an obligatory smile. He shoved the sleeve of his jacket up before jerking his stubbly chin at the scar on his forearm. “I could never forget, you know, what happened.” A little dent in pale, dark haired flesh, looking like barely even a paper cut. He had slipped on a puddle of lemonade in the restaurant and slammed his forearm on the sharp bar counter. The days after the incident occurred she used to mock him for his clumsiness, pelting him with balled up straw wrappers, hurling insults in her squeaky, childish timbre. “Me neither.” Veronica kept her gaze on the menu, scanning the lists of sugary confections and meals attempting to replicate the familiar taste of Mom’s cooking, fried monstrosities that could easily feed a whole family for a month. “It still hurts sometimes.” John joked. “I get war flashbacks.” She could feel him continuing to look at her, as if he was hoping she might reply with a witty retort, a snarky quip. Instead, she waved the waitress over and asked for a salad. “Healthy,” he commented before ordering a burger and fries. The waitress walked off. “You like salad, huh?” She shrugged and took a sip of her root beer. It was so sweet she could feel it already giving her a cavity and pushed it aside. “I guess.” They sat there for a moment. She drummed her fingers against the table in uneven, sporadic thumps, glancing around the room for anything to look at but him. “How are you?” Veronica asked, deciding to break the silence. “Good. Great.” He told her. “Freelancing right now. Keeping things loose.” He fiddled with the lapel on his jacket, black leather, one

Storms Like These Zoe Nelms


that looked clearly too expensive for him to own. She could see the tag, still attached, peeking out from behind his neck. “That’s good,” she replied. “Yeah. You know how it is.” She didn’t. He stared at her ID badge hanging out of her bag. She hated that photo of her. She had worn a stupid blue and green striped sweater that the woman in the store convinced her to buy and her nervous sweat made her eye makeup run. “It’s for work,” She offered. “My new advertising company. Flux Worldwide.” “What happened to Backstage Industries?” John asked. “You did that commercial for Red Bull. With the dancing matador. I loved that one. Clever as hell.” The waitress came by with their food. He grinned a little too wide as she set the plate down. It was almost grotesque, the way he could contort his face like that. Before the divorce, Veronica’s mother used to call him Putty Man for the way he could twist his features at the drop of a hat. It was funny back then. “Thanks, sweetheart,” he called after the waitress. The way he said it in this fake Boston accent irked her. Sweethaht. They lived in New York. He must have gotten it from someone. “I’m a creative director now,” Veronica said. “Mostly pharmaceutical. Like drugs for rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis.” “That’s really big.” He arched his unkempt eyebrows and nodded in approval. “You must have worked hard.” “I did,” Veronica said, lifting her chin, a quiet display of dominance if there ever was one. But she didn’t feel like the alpha dog. She just felt stupid. They ate in silence, him devouring the burger, her stabbing pieces of arugula and baby carrots. Between each bite he dabbed his mouth delicately with his napkin—another new habit he seemed to have picked up since she was a child. It was as obnoxious as it was jarring. “You want one?” he asked, a limp fry dangling from his fingers, hand outstretched towards Veronica. The fries there, she remembered. When she was younger she ordered them with everything, no matter the time of day. Fries with waffles, pancakes, eggs. She probably inherited her affinity for them from him. “Come on, you have to balance out the salad with something a little greasier.” Too greasy, she thought, as she looked at the fry, then back up at his eyes. His waning attention span. The fry lost its delicious appeal and she cast her gaze back down to her salad. She could feel him still looking at her, but she poked a tomato until he got the message and looked away. “I know this is weird,” John said finally. “I know this is awkward. I wanted, well, needed to talk to you about something.” He cleared his throat. “I’m not going to die or anything, don’t worry. I don’t have cancer or something. God. None of that, none of that.” An uncomfortable laugh burbled from his lips. He was nervous. “Uh, do you remember Mindy?” Veronica did remember Mindy. She was a nurse from Boston, who had dated Veronica’s dad and come to her college graduation party with a gift—a bull filled with tequila. She wasn’t particularly notable with the exception of her constant drunken


proclamations that the Red Sox were far superior to the Yankees and giving Veronica a gift card to Bath and Body Works as “a little something on the side.” “Sure,” Veronica said. “Well, things have gotten pretty serious between me and her, I mean, we’ve been living together for a couple of years now, and, you know, I really like her.” He said. That surprised Veronica. She didn’t even know that they were still together. So that explained the grating accent. “She’s a really special woman. And, uh, I think I want to ask her to marry me.” He stared at Veronica expectantly. She looked away, waved the waitress over, and asked for coffee. Black. She could still feel the residue of the root beer on her gums, lingering like a sugary plague. “Veronica?” “What?” “Aren’t you going to...” His words trailed off. “I mean, are you okay with it?” “Yeah. I don’t care who you marry.” Veronica said, even though she obviously did. She was sweating underneath her overpriced pencil skirt, drops rolling down her ass and thighs. “Well, you don’t seem to happy.” “I really don’t care. I just don’t understand why you’re telling me this.” She fanned the back of her neck and smiled coldly, wondering if there was spinach wedged between her teeth. “Because you’re my daughter, Veronica.” “Okay.” “And I want you to be there. Because Mindy will be your stepmother.” “Okay.” “Jesus, Ronnie.” He leaned forward on the table, his breath smelling like cigarettes and ketchup. “You’re really not being very receptive.” “You haven’t seen or spoken to me for five years.” After a pause, he shrugged so nonchalantly it almost made Veronica’s blood boil. “That’s true.” “Five years. Ten if you don’t count half-assed, forced get-togethers after you and mom split.” Veronica reiterated in a deliberately condescending tone. “I’m just confused what your game plan is here.” “No game. No plan. I just want you at the wedding.” “You text me for the first time in forever. We meet up at my favorite childhood restaurant because you want to build some sort of connection or something we haven’t had since I was a child. And you spring this on me, and I’m supposed to be, I don’t know, shitting out rainbows?” “I thought you said you didn’t care.” “I don’t care,” Veronica smiled placidly. “I don’t. I’m just saying your expectations are absurd. I don’t care what you do.” The waitress came by with her coffee. She drank it so quickly it burned her tongue, but didn’t stop until she had drunk the whole thing. John was still looking at her. “Okay. Why did you come?” he asked. “I’m not holding you hostage or anything. I didn’t think that you would come—you are right, we didn’t talk for a long time. You are right. So why did you

come? Why did you even make the effort?” The table of girls next to them erupted in peals of squealing, scratchy laughter. The shortest one wearing a cheap plastictiara had shoved two french fries in her mouth so she looked like a pink, glitter-dusted walrus, and her friends were hysterical. The mother smiled apologetically at John, the kind of knowing smile reserved for some sort of secret parental understanding, and he smiled back. Everyone except Veronica seemed to think he was the father of the year. “I don’t know,” Veronica tore her gaze away from the sickening exchange. “Maybe I was bored.” “That’s not true.” He said so confidently that it almost made Veronica sick. A loud crack of lightning made them both jump. It started raining outside, the sky just shifting to an ominous gray. The table of girls scuttled out, plastic raincoats draped over frilly dresses, shielding their tiaras from possible damage. “How do you know that?” “I know you.” Veronica laughed joylessly into her empty coffee cup. She had half a mind to order another one, but her tongue was still singed. And, besides, she didn’t want to be in the restaurant for much longer. "You don’t know me at all.” “You’re my daughter, Ronnie.” “Not anymore,” Veronica said. John blanched. Veronica looked at him for a moment, with that scar on his bicep, his unshaven chin. Memories flitted through her brain—them sitting at that table with their beers (root for her, real for him), her too short legs dangling off of the seat, and them sharing a smile or a laugh, all with a hazy pink tint. These vignettes were as hard to digest as they were fleeting. It was a pretty harsh thing to say, and she knew that, but it still felt good. Normally she would keep dramatic proclamations like that bottled up inside her, deep down, until she until she was shaken too hard and exploded. This felt healthy. “And don’t call me that. I hate it.” “My daughter?” “No,” she said. That too. “Ronnie. I haven’t been Ronnie that since I was a little girl.” She could see him formulating a response in his mind, something sappy and sweet, like, you are still my little girl. But in her pencil skirt, heels, obnoxious lipstick and expensive purse that cost more than her rent, she wasn’t little, not all. He paused and she could tell that he finally understood that too. “Look, I should get going.” She scrounged around in her purse for some cash, something extra to give the waitress for suffering through all the melodrama. “I have work later.” “I’m sorry that this didn’t go better,” he said, pitifully. “I’m sorry too,” Veronica said, meaning it, and tossed a handful of dollar bills on the table. “Let me get you a cab,” he jumped up. “I can get one myself, it’s fine.” Wrapping her thin blazer around her, she headed to the door. Within seconds of stepping outside she could feel herself slowly getting soaked. The streets were chaotic as people fled into shops and buildings to escape the torrential downpour. She could hear John behind her, stomping boots squelching with each feverish step. “Ronnie-” “Don’t call me that!” Veronica turned around. She could feel her mascara running in thick, black rivulets down her cheeks. “I told

you not to call me that.” She saw a cab race by, then another one. At this rate she’d never get home. “You know I care about you a lot, right? Because I do. I care about you so much, and I know I was, I am, a shitty father. I am a shitty father. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” Veronica had always been able to tell when her father was being sincere. It was a skill that she had perfected over the years and had become remarkably astute about. And right then, she could tell that he was being entirely sincere. She wished that he wasn’t. It would have made things easier. “I messed up. Big time, I know.” He said, wiping his sopping cheeks. “And, I just really want to make things right with you. Because I act like a dick and I’ve acted like a dick for a long time, and it isn’t fair to you. So I want to make things right. I want to make things right, I want to make things okay between us.” “Things are okay,” Veronica said. “They aren’t okay.” “It’s okay. We’re okay.” Veronica said again with all the finality she could muster. “I want to be more than okay, Ron—I mean, Veronica—I want to fix things-” “What do you want me to say?” Veronica said. “You cut me out of your life when I was a child because of your issues with Mom. You made me feel alone—and I had Mom, but Jesus Christ, it was still pretty damn rough knowing that your dad was alive yet, by the way that he never called or visited you, it would be easy to assume that he was dead. John stood there, disheveled, his tag-still-on jacket ruined. His matted dark hair was plastered to his face, water dripping down his cheeks. “I’m sorry.” “It’s fine. It was a long time ago.” They stood there for a moment, gazing at each other. A cab pulled up next to her, and a bachelorette party stumbled out, drunk off their asses. She watched as they made their way down the sidewalk, protecting blow-outs from the rain with folded gossip magazines and fur coats. The last of the bridesmaids, lonesome in her path, had nothing to cover her head and ducked under store awnings as she made her way down the sidewalk, wobbling precariously in heels too high. The scene was too similar to what Veronica was sure would come. “I have to go,” Veronica got inside the cab and shut the door. John walked over to the window, and she rolled it down, a gust of cool air entering the warm car. “Will you come to the wedding?” He asked. The cabbie regarded the exchange with a cool, noncommittal gaze, and Veronica envied him terribly. “I don’t know,” she said truthfully. “That’s okay,” John said. “I know,” Veronica said. He smiled in a way so sad, Veronica almost wanted to get out of the car and embrace him. Press herself against him, let him cradle her like she was little again, let all of the pent up shit and anger and hurt wash away with the unrelenting rains and winds and cavity-inducing root beer she had discarded. Maybe if she did submit to that hug, wave her white flag, she wouldn’t hurt as much as she did. But Veronica knew clearly, that even if everything hurt less, it wouldn’t just wash away. Even with storms like these.


Quintessence Brienna Thompson Photography


The Cure at the Meeting of the Waters

When Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji was twenty, she left the west coast of Africa much like a Cape Verde hurricane, with gale and fury and one clear eye. The other eye had been blinded in a childhood accident in which she’d tripped and fallen upon a poker of hot steel, heated from the just stoked coals of a fire glowing molten and provoked, and covered in burnt cacao. On the Yoruba slave ship her grandmother fed her yams and prepared her tea with powdered eggshell and stolen cocoa until the day the old woman fell from the bow of the ship as it listed dangerously in a sea storm that passed as suddenly as it came, and there in the water somewhere east of Antilles, her grandmother shape shifted into a fresh water porpoise that traversed the ocean and swam up the black waters of the Rio Negro, surviving three weeks, communicating directions with the silver piranhas and bicudas and whiskered cichlids, until she washed up once again in human form amidst a funerary display of beige seaweed sepulchered in a floral spray.

For forty years Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji was enslaved in a village near the meeting of the waters near that same spot, where the Rio Negro coursed from its lofty Columbian source down the Andes and past the Precambrian rock formation of the Piedra de Cacouy, winding through jungle vicious and lofty, until its mouth became the silty Amazon near the town of Manaus. By this time, her other eye was clouded with cataract from the sun, and her near sightedness caused her such anxiety that she bit her fingernails down to dulled nubs, and her blood pressure could be felt bounding at her pulse points. In her youth she had tempest curls that bounced as freely as the sea she’d arrived on, and she moved with such fluidity that it was hard to tell where one task ended and the next began. She flitted about the matron’s kitchen, preparing cassava and cornmeal and steamed Paraiba she caught herself with jerk baits. But as she grew blind and old and her hair coarsened and her feet swelled, she began to trip over objects, and twice she spilled an entire pot of black beans, and the matron of the sugar plantation, Marguerite de la Rabasca Pietana, ordered her no supper for three nights. Since she’d arrived in Manaus, Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji had known how to break the neck of a black hen with peculiar efficiency, and the matron was aware that this was a sacrificial practice of the Santeras, so Atesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji was at once made to go to church at the Parish San Sebastian. Each day she prayed for a cure for her illnesses, the way her grandmother, a high Santera, had taught her. In her quarters she built an ornate altar of all the orishas that in her mind would one day rival the Casa de Santos of the priest, Father Ernesto Caldera de Manos Recart, who she had twice witnessed secretly casting Santeria love spells on his parishioner, Maria del Rosa Sacre Couer, hoping to make the young woman fall in love with him, but he had accidentally turned the woman into a brown goat with long fur and crooked horns. Each time the matron came to Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji’s quarters, the Yoruba would pretend she was praying, and the matron would look disapprovingly upon her, suspecting the intermingling of Catholicism and devil worship. Once, the matron said, “Adesanya, you do not wear the rosary around your neck, you ignorant woman.” “I’m praying to Saint Sebastian for my health.” “You are praying to the wrong saint, you fool.” As soon as the matron, Marguerite de la Rabasca Pietana, left her alone, Adesanya Atinuke


Melissa Crickard

D’Olatunji took out her colored Santeria beads, and she stood before her makeshift altar draped in indigo satin. She prayed to the orisha, Orunla, the doctor of herbal medicine, and she sacrificed a black hen. Her high blood pressure caused a throbbing of her pulse and a hum through her skull that rattled the tiniest bones of her inner ear. She developed a nervous tremor that caused her heel to bounce and her hands to tap rhythms so impatient and monotone that finally, Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji consulted the herbalist, Rosina de la Monde. Rosina de la Monde made herbal potions that smelled of corojo and cocoa butter, but all she said about Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji’s blood pressure was, “Your blood pressure is going to go down,” and when the potions did not work, Rosina de la Monde sighed, threw her hands to the sky and told the Yoruba to seek the high priestess. Just like Father Ernesto Caldera de Manos Recart and Rosina de la Monde, Abrega Camina Luega,

the high African Santera, insisted, “Your blood pressure will go down.” The only thing Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji had left to try was to imbue herself with the knowledge of the Santeria spells, hoping to form a communion between her spirituality and her existence. Abrega Camina Luega offered to initiate her as a priestess. On the evening of June 13th, the Feast Day of Saint Anthony of Padua, Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji’s Santeria beads were strung in a ritual pattern repeating in red and black to honor the orisha god, Eleggua, the god to remove all obstacles. There was an offering prepared with meticulous consideration of palm wine and a small bag of sea salt and manioc and cowpeas, laid beside a baby tortoise and a child’s kite. As Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji bent over the washtub in the garden, her beaded necklace fell to the ground. Before Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji’s eyes, the white curtain of her vision and the colored Santeria beads blurred. She groped fruitlessly on her rheumy knees, until finally she felt the necklace, and it had such power in that moment before her initiation that it hissed, tensed, as she picked it up, placed it around her neck where she could see at close range the magnificence of the beads as they moved in sinewy waves. They shifted so that they were ordered into a repeating string: yellow red yellow black yellow red yellow. A cure was certain. The Santera priestess, Abrega Camina Luega, screamed. “It’s a coral snake!” Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji at once tore the colored snake from her neck, but its fangs sunk into her flesh. An anaphylactic reaction pounded her vessels with frightening quickness that drained the brown hue from her skin to a ghastly pallor. Marguerite de la Rabasca Pietana was aroused by the hysterics from her afternoon siesta in the hammock. The matron ran into the garden and, with her usual capricious temper, ran out of it, screaming shrill complaints. Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji fell to the ground. Patches of blotched hives and flat wheals rose from her skin. Her throat tightened, wheezed a breathy whistle where she gripped her neck. Her vision faded hazier, and her blood pressure calmed her as it fell down, down, until it could not be palpated by Abrega Camina Luega at the point on Adesanya Atinuke D’Olatunji’s wrist where on most days, its waves could be seen rising beneath the skin.


Moonflower Cheryl Clayton Acrylic

Cheryl Clayton Capturing the Universality of Everyday Life

Cheryl Clayton is an RVA artist with a background in fashion illus-

Lounging Woman Watercolor

I love music. It is definitely a part of my everyday life. To me, it’s another universal language where. Just like sports, it gets people together. It doesn’t matter what language you’re speaking, music speaks to everybody. I love listening to all types of music. Music speaks to the soul.

tration from Virginia Commonwealth University. She began painting in her mid-twenties when some fellow artists suggested that she try using watercolor with her sketches, and she soon became enamored of acrylics as well. Since then, she has been perfecting a signature style that blends her design sensibilities with a nod to fine arts. Clayton says of her work, “A lot of my images are based on African Americans living their everyday lives. I incorporate the fashion figure into some of my sketches and paintings, and I highlight African American themes, like dancing, sports, and spiritual imagery. Music is a huge influence in my life. It’s a universal language that crosses barriers. Also, my paintings always incorporate some kind of movement; even if the figure is sitting still there is some kind of expression coming from it.” People living their lives inspire Clayton, and she pays close attention when she is out in public to the way people interact with one another. She says, “I do a lot of observation and people watching. My favorite places are in stores where people are living their lives free from inhibitions.” In addition to taking inspiration from daily life and her fashion background, Clayton says she is inspired by the artist Paul Goodnight., “He incredibly contrasts the light and dark values not only in color, but also in black and white on the human figure. He creates giving an image to fill in with your imagination.” The ideas flow easily for Clayton. She says she begins with light pencil sketches and then moves to color. She works in small sketches first, working on how the figure should move and look on the page and then applies the theme. She then determines if it is going to work as a larger piece. Clayton’s work shows a broad spectrum of color technique. Her choices are purposeful. “I do some research other artists’ work, paying particular attention to the tones and palettes they use when they’re painting. I might like one and be inspired by it. It often depends on the theme of the piece, too, and where I want to go with the colors.” Clayton shows her work locally in Richmond and exhibits in competitions around the city. She is currently preparing for a solo exhibit at The Colonial Center for the Performing Arts in South Hill, Virginia in September of 2019. Follow Cheryl Clayton @Art by Cheryl Clayton on Facebook.


4titude Cheryl Clayton Acrylic

This one is inspired by my personal life. My son and brother both played football, and I have been in that arena a lot, so I wanted to paint a portrait of my son when he played in high school. Sports have a universal element to them. We can all find commonality in our appreciation of different sports teams and players. His stance has that experience of endurance to reach his goal in scoring in his assignments. It reminds me of the stadiums I’ve attended where sports fans come together to watch their favorite players and teams.


I drew a head of a woman back in my school days, and as I was going through my portfolio I thought maybe I could paint a woman walking through the community. I’ve been doing community pieces lately. They’ve

Graffiti Girl Cheryl Clayton Acrylic

been coming together that way. I transferred the image to canvas and I started thinking about how colorful people are in all types of way. I realized that she is walking graffiti. She’s a walking mural, just like our community is like walking murals - the way we dress, the way we converse.


Our Red Scar Mandy Chen


Madge arches across dusk’s red glitter. Even when her fingers go frantic running below the pillow and quilts we laid there just this morning her breathing never falters. We look on steadily. The Ultimate Eye is there as it always has been, black against her own. We see her hands running, the pillow and quilts turned and her nails emptying seams sealed the way her lips are, even when she speaks. When she speaks it is soundless. “Have any of you,” she says, her fingers running below our faces. “Have any of you seen a book?” “One of your Little Red Books?” “No,” her face is racing below our eyes. “A notepad.” “A notepad?” Says Sebastian. “What for?” “Well, did you see it?” “What do you need a notepad for?” She glances back, meeting eyes with the Ultimate Eye. “Did you?” Sebastian doesn’t answer. His eyes trace her squirming hands. Madge storms past us into the living room, where furnitures dragged across the earth send rumbling vibrations up our knees.


Underneath was a hole of hollowness. Buried into my bed eyes of obsolete. I dug, my fingers groping without touching, the sharp hardness vain nonexistent. If it ever did exist. And then Sebastian was yelling at me, his eyes brimming with malice, yelling why do you have a diary what for. I crossed the living room, where nothingness took up space and words tumbled without forming pages. It didn’t come to me only the Eye did staring, and him too inquisitive. I said, Sebastian you took it didn’t you. You took it didn’t you. He was yelling his eyes silent with malice. His shoulder blades edged against my palms he had hid it somewhere, he had done it to me out of his last bit of malice he was born to torture me, Mother turned into a form of revenge. He had done it out of revenge. Yet when I see them books I know I’m not the only one. They lie within the square root of that only space which no Ultimate Eye scans in the dark of their room, the only room unopened to me or Sebastian or Garbo. Buried in the thick of their bed books—colorful, whispery, stacks of hurting names, a blank at the top where My Book is not, is stolen. They are not to be read. Yet when I see them books, I know I’m not alone. Then come the footsteps. Father puts a finger to his lips. “I didn’t know,” I say. “You aren’t allowed to.” Father’s eyes pierce past me. The lines of his face unite in solidarity, speaking more in unspeaking. “I didn’t expect.” I say, my fingertips brushing paper. “But now I know.” “You do?” “If you wish.” Father nods, the lines of his face one and unflinching. He is starting to walk out when he turns and says, “You wish it too, I suppose.” If only it wasn’t lost. “I follow you.” 54


We aren’t supposed to go in, not me nor Sebastian nor Madge. But he was cooking rice in the kitchen, and he said, “Go fetch me my coat, Garbo.” I was looking for the coat. It lay sleeping on a chair by the door of his room. When I picked it up I could see the yellow-wrapped pages underneath, neat and stern in a map of linen like the notes it contained that read I hope this is not what it is and Jun. 21 When will we ever breathe?? I was dropping it but the wind didn’t want to, and it flipped and flipped saying They killed Mother. Father went loud in

the kitchen, so I took the coat but I took the book for the coat so I went into Madge’s room and shoved it under the mat, over which her neck now bends soft beneath her head, her shadow cast long to the window like clip art. Her hands raise yellow covered pages mid-air, pages hanging not by the strength of her wrists but by her eyes’ projection. She looks up at us through a mask of immobility. “I found it.” Sebastian stares past the window. “What, your lunch box?” “No. My… my notepad.” For a moment we hear nothing but eyes. Then Sebastian steals it. “Your diary?” He spits. “Ohhh. I thought I stole it.” Madge winces against the bed. “Look, I’m sorry.” “Don’t be.” “It must’ve fallen through the seams. I’m sorry—” Sebastian turns and runs.


“I thought you went to work.” His eyes are downcast looking into the wash sink. When he speaks the dishes swirl in his hands. “You know I’ve been transferred.” “Well?” “Well… one does not want his windows cleaned these days.” His eyes are on me, deep and fixed in a single string pulled through mine. “No. It would be nonsensical.” “Why so? One would want it as a priority, wouldn’t one?” The windows are grumbling in a distance. We hear glass. “Not when one has another to worry over.” He falls unspeaking. The bowls twirl over his index finger. His breathing is elastic, taking up space. Then he says, “You know I’ll be burning, don’t you.” “But you can’t.” He’ll be burning. He’ll be burning the yellow smoke red as flame. “But you can’t, can you. They are the last.” Then he is on me, his whispers close and exclusive. “They’re watching me.” He is turned so It sees only the back of his head. I hold his eyes until I no longer hold them and push him away. “Give them to me.” “Madge, you know what’d happen if.” 55

The ashes clean gone with the wind. “I know where to burn.” The front door swings back banging. There is startled silence. Then Father makes his way out of the kitchen to catch Sebastian leaning framed by the door, the red kerchief around his neck heavy with sweat. “You’re late for dinner,” I say. Sebastian flops down on the chair. We bring dinner out to him. He digs his face at the bowl, leaving only his eyes visible, downcast unblinking above the clay. “Are you not loyal, Dad. That why you transferred.” His eyes catch mine. “What nonsense.” “Dad, you shouldn’t.” Father is standing. The chair scrapes back sharp against cement. “Go back to your room, Sebastian.” I say. “You too, Garbo.”

GARBO I say, “Mother is dead because of it.” He says, “What?” I say “She wrote” and he stares and covers my mouth, his back to the Eye. I speak through his fingers and he stares and I stop. “Why?” I say. He shakes his head and puts a finger to his lips. “Quit it,” he says. I say, “Why is Mother” and he pushes me out of the kitchen towards the window, where we can see yellow smoke of eating fires, amidst them Madge. He squeezes my shoulder. “Don’t talk of it.” The smoke is creeping in through the window. Father climbs to pull it shut. “What is Madge burning?” We look at Madge, intact around the fire. There is still smoke. “Why is it so hard to breathe?” Father looks at me. Then he is gone, his shadow drifting out of the window and into the smoke.

MADGE “Sebastian’s late again.” He sits squat on a stool, watching the potatoes rotate and swirl clean of mud. “He’s never been early.” Only I know. I know it’s never a problem of quantity, but quality. Then Garbo is speaking, saying “Sebastian says the Eye ought to catch and hang everyone of them rightists” and looking at me fixed, not even looking at the Eye. So Father and I can’t speak. We just look at each other and he finally says, “Well, I don’t reckon it is the Eye that sees.” The aloof and omnipresent clock is at this hour swaying soundfully to the telly, burping disconnection. We hold each other’s eyes, us two between Garbo until she says, What’s a rightist? and I am no longer squatting, I am standing a tower above them and “We need to talk.” I look at him like he’s one of me. “About Sebastian.” He tosses the potatoes into the basin. “Garbo, you go fetch my shovel from the basement.” “Wait.” He looks at me, his eyes a deep string pulled through the middle. I say, “Nothing.” GARBO I cross the living room to the other end, where stairs dig down to the basement, doused in a smell of candlelight. Moisture crawls along the stairs and ceiling to my feet and hair. My skin sees it without touching it like it sees the ceramics a creamy blank against the black in which hides the lockless box she’s inherited and my hands go automatic. I reckon they think they’ll find the shovel in it. But where the shovel should be there are blocks of dead wood carved into slices with words spelt, and I look through the blocks and no words read to me. Wood inside wood I snap the casket shut. When I’m above again Sebastian has already come, and they are sat eating by the table. “The shovel isn’t at the basement,” I say, and Father tells me to sit down. “Sebastian, where have you been?” He says. 56

“School.” Madge slaps the table. “You liar. School’s been closed weeks ago.” “Yours, not mine.” “Quit it, now.” Sebastian looks up from his bowl. His eyes shoot black hearted fireballs. “You have no right ” and Madge is standing, her face a tilted quadrilateral redness No right? No right? and he goes, I joined the Brotherhood, I joined the Brotherhood, more loyal than you’ve ever been you goddamn traitor, I joined the— “Enough!” Says Father. They both jump, peering at each other breathless, taking long to take their seats. Father’s face is out of shape. “Sebastian, apologize.” “No.” Father stares. We see red sweat drain from Sebastian’s forehead. A grunt. “Sorry.” Father is still looking at him, but his eyes are no longer steel. When he speaks his voice bounces. “So, what d’you do today? Did you have fun?” Sebastian sits slumped in his chair, barely meeting his eyes. “We went downtown to the theatre.”

“Really? What did you watch?” “A Hero’s Heart. About a war hero who poisoned his lover after knowing she was disloyal.” Madge glances at Father. “That’s…” “He made sure it didn’t hurt a lot,” says Sebastian. “I couldn’t have been so brave.” Sebastian takes me out to the porch. We sit down on the steps, the sun slanted gray above our heads. I ask him, “What’s the Brotherhood.” “Bands of us pioneers going around to check if everyone’s behaving. Whether they’re wearing right, if they’re owning banned books.” Sebastian looks into the dusk. “You must join the Brotherhood when you’re older. It’s swell.” “Are the books in the basement banned,” I say. “the books hid in the box down at the basement.” Sebastian looks at me, his eyes erect like his ears. “There are books in the house?” His hands go to my shoulders. “Where?” “At the basement,” I say. “Where the shovel should be.” Sebastian is on his feet. “Show me.” MADGE I have just finished her last button when we hear it. We race through the doors and catch them green by the kitchen, their arms red-sashed and outstretched for a grip on Father. Behind them we see Sebastian. “What is this?” My sound spills running. “What’s going on?” A man in high boots binds Father to his chest. “Find anything interesting?” He yells past us. We turn and see uniforms emerging from the hole, mounting the stairs, pieces of dead carved wood in their hands shredding. They yell back, their mouths forming holes as if a tunnel and not the living room lies in between. “The Escape, Secret of the Eye…the Bible…We’re playing big here, aren’t we?” The man in boots laughs. Father’s face is veiled under his body’s steadfast vibrations, faceless and whitely geometric but for the moving of his lips, falling slightly and fast sticking. Somewhere in the loud, we can hear the room breathing. Then a whisper. “Madge.” Louder, a hiss. “Madge.” His lips are jolting the wild dance of a python. We look at him our eyes obtuse. “What?” “Madge,” He says, his eyes a dilated purple. “She did it.” The man in high boots pats Father on the shoulder. “Now, now. Take him.” The men emerge from behind. Father’s limbs are folded black. We watch the red drain from his face. Him leaning lifeless against the man in boots, suddenly innocent, us listening with our breaths. Then all at once the red backfires. We see it 57

flood and turn and knock our eyes off-balance, and we plant our feet deep as he starts thrashing. “She got them from who-knows-where. Stole them perhaps. Hid them from me. I had no idea. My own daughter—” The words tumble like beads down a string of eyes and silence and uncleaned glasses. A hyphen elongated into a rest, but he wouldn’t let off. “—and to think my very daughter, the daughter my very self gave birth to, that has been so dear to me, that to think of it now may well be the cause of death of her very mother ” He stops sharp. There is abrupt remorse, silence out-of-place. Then air snaps and Sebastian is screaming. “I’m going to kill you,” he says. He comes at him but we hold him back. The man strikes Father and he shrinks. “How old are you, girl?” My lips are jolting the wild dance of a python. “Seventeen.” “Seventeen. You didn’t hide them books, did you?” I can see my eyes, deep and black and honest just like Sebastian’s behind them all. “No.” Behind them Father looks, eyes sharp and incongruent. We match and I burn. “Under the look of the Eye we could never be free.” “What?” “That’s what she wrote in her diary.” The man in high boots turns to look at me. He has shallow eyes two-dimensional and I die. “Well, I don’t reckon it is the Eye that sees,” says Garbo. We all look at her. She says, “He told me.” Father tries to speak again but they hold him back. Behind them we can see Sebastian. The green surges and swallows, an erosive bog of not-Father and not-being and all we can see now is Sebastian, looking back at us from the other side and looking away. GARBO We see Father out of the house and into the truck. We turn our eyes static as it toils down the horizon. Then Madge says, “How absurd. I’ve never had a diary.” Sebastian turns and looks at her for a while. Then he drops it. The kerchief around his neck waves a red scar against the wind.


Captured Somewhere between the velvet black of night And the golden hues of dawn Somewhere between the flicker of a smile and the stirrings of a yawn There was you. Sometime between the endless summer days of youth And the rapid autumn of old age Between the notes played in succession And the songs sung page by page There was you. Eyes locked between a vision of past and present gaze At a painting hung upon a wall, a window with no view Before the shadows get too long and the evening light it fades Take a photograph to trap the time And hold it here For you. ~ Robyn Roberts

Women in New York The sober truth: This wish that maybe hasn’t died, not completely, but which has suffered 100 deaths, most of them savage, sudden, some self-inflicted, still possessed of a power to be… To be. That’s it. To be for all eternity. It may be that that’s all a wish needs to be. But I wish it wouldn’t be so in Brooklyn.

Self-Portrait of the Author as a Paperclip I hold things together that people don’t think of as belonging together. I make it simple not to search too hard. I stack back-to-back for the ease of presenting. I’m pliant, wound up for the purpose of keeping. ~ Melanie Faith

One hour and 51 minutes later. I saw a post about a support group in Vegas, a gathering place for divorcees with diva ideals, a pay-what-you-wish coven for aspiring witches and wannabe widows who meet in the basement of a tired church more known for stained carpets than glass, but where you’re invited to pray (to the God of your choice, yourself included) for the willingness to change the things you cannot stand and the courage to accept the worst with indifference. ~ Drew Pisarra


Kersten Christianson

John Haines’ To-Do List Drive the long road north. Clear forest, cut trails. Build a tiny cabin, greenhouse, smoker. Carry the ramshackle pieces of an old trapper’s cabin from the shadows of Gasoline Creek to the homestead. Reconstruct. Hang from its walls the stove’s flues, birdhouses, traps. Make prayers to the snowy owl; the moonlight’s winnowing path.

Kluane Lake Oddly windless, a still cup of cooled tea stones six feet off the shore: distinct, earthy colorful. Green and lavender palm stones, flat skipping stones. Quartz. A solo loon pens the water's only wake, the toppled script across a blank page, its cry a language my heart translates in verbs: Stay. Begin. Live. At the border of sleep and wakefulness the winds return home, retune the lake's song, shake cottonwood seed from stout trees.

Shine When I wrote of women cradling his head in the raft of their arms, it was filtered, on their crag, arms raised, wailing, in protest, it was filtered; when I wrote of the flight of ravens, scree of winter sky winnowing through dark feathers, dredging love through fear, each breath closer to the final, it was me, Raku shattered in a million shards, an outcast from our life.


There is no crag, no familiar in the form of corvidae, just the memory of our shared text, torn and tattered, my makeshift raft beside me the nurses, their quiet words of support, their knowing.

Mary Panke

Grief Shows Up First you believe he’ll still be your husband, the best of both worlds. Then you realize he’s dying and find yourself married to a familiar stranger, like a wary soldier after a war, but you are the soldier, her body the war. You crave the sweet spice of his skin, and bask in the light of her thighs. You close your sleepy eyes to the sounds of his voice and wake in a parallel place where lines curve and nestle and tuck. And grief shows up, wearing dark allegiance to original form. You share space by the fire, tender cups of accord, lay down on your arms. And when you are ready, welcome yourself home.

Mirepoix, Mirepoix Even as crisis unfolds the boys will lose their father, and I my husband, there is still soup to be made. And still light streams into the kitchen showing finger streaks and the dog’s dark nose on the glass. And though my mother hates dirty windows

To The Transgender Activist

she sits silent, her worry thick as stew. And I continue to chop onions and carrots and celery

who did or did not once love a wife, who leans in too close to correct me, your husband is now Dee, your husband is now She, reminds me the Benjamin Standard palimpsest suggests

as my father advises, almost pleads, I divorce.

appendectomy, removal of redundancy, the wifely appendage ever a potential for infection. To you my presence belies truth, creates barriers to freedom, plays hostile witness to invented past.

She sits silent, her worry thick as stew. And though my mother hates dirty windows

My inconvenient incongruence gums the mascara and hogs unclaimed closet space. I am the pampered cisgender princess, no dysphoric pain in my labors and I’ll take custody of the kids if I want to. To you I’m a SOFFA, an uncomfortable couch that sags from the strain and you would drag me to the curb because in this transmogrification the wife is the natural enemy to the herd. Erasable I am not.

As my father advises, almost pleads I divorce I continue to chop onions and carrots and celery.

showing finger streaks and the dog’s dark nose on the glass, light still streams into the kitchen. My husband, there is still soup to be made. The boys will lose their father, and I, mine even as crisis unfolds.

I’m the nighttime holder of my lover’s hands, a child on each hip, a bulwark to all things bludgeoning. I’m the indelible proof that love does make a family and a heart takes time to turn.


James Grabill

Blooming in Bursts

Ongoing Drive

Raven Ingenuity

It’s as if exoplanetary stellar bursts

Say the long pitch of continuing

It must have been morning

centering within a bloom had been shot

reverberates within

when the uprising of leaves

out into early summer yards by the root,

the mammal torso. Say

was unable to stop in sunlight.

by the grip of roots as they’re squeezing

it resounds through circulation

It must have been endlessness

the trigger in cells, creating the next

of winds to the upper floors

in the green laboratories

terrific hammer blow smack on the anvil

of cells. Say wild air off the ocean

that reached between species

while the ear-drum harmonium resounds

blows in, scrubbing its face

to feed the hungry.

in cells, as petals push loose from the folds.

on live Pacific fir needles and moss,

It might have been the elevation

The hammer strikes and lightning splashes

the way it can be, wanting

in canopies of Pacific rain

out of the void, the void which holds elements

to persist, hoping to stay awake

that was moss-draped

of the periodic table while lightning splits

in the present, to just live

and planted with bird eggs

apart into bolts through blooming stamen.

and assume meaning exists

letting long hair grow openly

So the soft alarm goes off in the hive of bees,

in what happens, that this place is

far from strongholds of conformity.

as the revolver makes its report that echoes

embedded with meaning

Where ensconced inventions

back through the canyon carved out of rock

whatever anyone may be doing,

of ancestors became irrefutable

when the mammoth Ice Age dam melted

as the universe expands

as the principles around protean

shattering into the age-old tsunami flood.

in slow-enough motion we can’t say

minutia present in perpetuity

Big money rushes in a river headed west.

we can feel it rifling through

as in lift of a wild rose,

Primal wordlessness fires, terraforming

people’s effects in the solid and empty

it must have been light

with the sun in fire power, in flower-burst

continuum, thickening matters

in weight-bearing circulation,

blooming yes before this time’s forgotten.

at the fluid root, in the probable pitch

light softening bursts of feather.

It’s the starlight embedded in gunpowder

of continuing. Say mind is wind

Since it might have been time

that blows up in your face, not the pollen.

we’re breathing into this presence,

that unfolded from a bud,

It’s the break of day that cracks the egg

which turns out to be more

liquid petals spreading, wings

so the bird of stars knows the sun overhead.

than we expected. Say presence

opening through raven ingenuity,

If the gun’s speaking rather than green plants,

emerges from the collective sense

this chance happened in stages

it’s an eclipse where people here are headed.

of cells in the body at the scenic

of grief and cellular hope.

It’s green in working leaves that transforms

viewpoint where we’ve stood

It may have been quick, looking back

sun all night to feed being of yellow blooms.

silent before the future of moths

at stands of ancestral bearing

and people working, yet the more

when breakthroughs thrived with trees,

Celsius goes above normal,

with how much watching

the more unknown

from genetic ridges of succession,

the remote future is.

selecting the root, making the tongue as the wing took hold with its shape in the sky, when flying reached a long way and raised it up in grasses, and raised the pitch in matter.


A Klimt-Drawn Girl I dream a giant-sparkling Klimt-drawn girl Wearing her molten-golden-chocolate, The scene like delicate leaves cascading From a great, golden cloud to an abyss,

Bryan Nichols

Without end. Without reason. Then a swirl Of feelings—felt, unknown, bold, inchoate— Like swirling leaves. My eyes’ forward-thrusting Plunges down, lids shut, to a final kiss.

Pantoum for Middle Age When darkness crowns the dwindling life What’s left for us is lesser light. We pray for youth already gone As if a candle could unburn. What’s left for us is lesser light? Does a tall candle lose its worth (as if a candle could unburn) Because the candle’s half-consumed? Does a tall candle lose its worth Even though the flame brightly burns? Because the candle’s half-consumed We curse the light before our eyes? Even though the flame brightly burns We pray for youth already gone. We curse the light before our eyes When darkness crowns the dwindling life.

Tapestry A tapestry (enframed by swirling blue), With shades of brown and green, purple and red, Depicts some horses, men upon their reigns, In summer-long, oppressive days. I think The tapestry’s waves of red signify The rage of summer’s light against the sky, Against a land composed of green. I think The woven heat reveals the rider’s pains But also pleasures, loss and love, their dread But also courage. For great are pains through Which men obtain strong souls; for though pain stays, Happiness ends the long trail of dismay. The colors—mixing, clashing, mingling—send A revelation: that these thoughts ascend Because I now, within myself, descend. 63

Before Sunset Saeed Ordoubadi Photography 64


Clay Jones Politics in Pictures

Photo by Dave Ellis After following your blog, it’s obvious that politics and current events inspire your art. Can you speak more to that inspiration?

I subscribe to three newspapers, all digital, because they accumulate. I watch and read the news all day long. This inspires me to shine a light on people who are trying to do bad things to our country. Lately, it’s been primarily about one guy. I think about social justice, and fair and equal treatment. Sometimes, I’m inspired by events. I also think I’m inspired by things people react to. That’s the cool thing about what I do; my subject can change daily. What about other influences? How did you gravitate toward cartoon drawing as a career?

I was that kid the teacher would sit with other students to have them read to me when they couldn’t read. I wasn’t a shining star student in every subject, but I could read before I went to school. I’ve always been an avid reader, and I’m a better person for it. I always liked drawing, but I didn’t know what kind of cartoonist I would end up being. My first loves were Snoopy and Garfield, so I thought I’d do things like Peanuts and Garfield. I never had a true passion for drawing a comic strip, because it always seemed kind of like a bad marriage. You are married to the characters, and you might have to draw them for the rest of your life. I didn’t think I wanted to do that. Then I discovered Mad Magazine in my teens, and I wanted to make satire that was weird and strange and warped.

Then I discovered editorial cartooning. As a kid, I thought editorial cartoons were boring. They didn’t serve the same purpose as the comic strips I was used to reading, and I didn’t understand them. It wasn’t until I was older and started becoming interested in news and politics that editorial cartooning became a real possibility. When was that? Was your family into politics?

I lived in Chicago when I was very young, but we moved to Louisiana during elementary school. One of the things about growing up in Louisiana is that politics was kind of like football. We always followed it. The governor’s races were especially heated. It would always swap from Democrat to Republican every election. My family was never Republican or Democrat though. We were a family that voted on an issue-to-issue basis. I don’t remember us having loyalty to either side.

Growing up, I never thought about being liberal or conservative until I became a political cartoonist. For a long time I thought I was a conservative. Interestingly, my views haven’t really changed on many of the issues, but I don’t see myself as conservative right now. I am a liberal, even more so than most people, and I accept that. Even then, I didn’t see myself as a Republican, and I don’t see myself as a Democrat now. I’m registered Independent. When I discovered political cartooning, it was like a light shone on me. I believed I could really stand out in this career, that I could be one of the really good ones. I’m still striving for that. People do respond to your work. It’s evident in the feedback that it resonates with people.

The coolest thing about editorial cartooning is the quick feedback. Traditional cartooning takes a while before it can be published, at least in print. Before digital platforms, it used to take weeks before series cartoons were published, and an editorial cartoon could be published the next day. Now, with things Online as they are, either form of cartoon can be published fairly quickly once the project is ready. Technically speaking, do you pay close attention to any particular aspects of drawing when you’re considering the subject of your cartoons? Are there things in the image that you want to bring to the reader’s attention, and does color and structure of the frame come into consideration when you are making those choices? Or do you allow artistic inspiration to drive the image in the frame?


I think I use the same rules of design as a photographer would use. I used to be a photographer for a newspaper, and the basic rule is left to right, because that’s where the eye goes. I know that can be different for other cultures; for instance, the rule is right to left in Japanese cartooning (anime). It really depends on what I want the reader to see first, and that’s the speech bubble most of the time. You can’t control how people’s eyes move across the page too much – right to left, up to down. Another unstated rule I seem to follow is that I naturally work toward the center, maybe because I’ve been doing this for over 25 years. The center of the cartoon is always the focal point. It might be right where the reader’s eye needs to go. When I’m drawing a cartoon, I notice the subject is right in the center. It’s one of those geeky things, but it becomes like a magnet for the eye. What about color? So often, it has symbolic meaning in art. Do you find yourself using color symbolically?

People like color. Sometimes when I have an idea I think it will look great in color, and I can use the color to make a point, but color doesn’t always symbolize something in my cartoons. I look at color as just another element. Occasionally, I will think that some of my clients who don’t print in color won’t want to run something, because it won’t have the same impact in black and white at all. Because of that, I send three files to all my clients, a CMYK, an RGB, and a black and white / grayscale. Whether a client needs black and white or color, I work primarily in color. My thought is that if it’s in color, I can change it to black and white, but it doesn’t work going the other way. Sometimes the grayscale from color looks even better than the color. Have you always worked in color then?

I started coloring in 1997 when the Star-Bulletin in Honolulu hired me. They wanted me to do a cartoon for the front page every day on a different subject. I interviewed over the phone for a job that would last a year – that was back when newspapers had money. They asked if I knew how to color on a computer – this was 1997 when we were barely figuring out the Internet, and I told them I could color, because I was up against stiff competition. I got the job, and all I could think about during my layover in Dallas was how I was going to pull this off. I decided I would make a friend in the art department, and he would keep my secret – mind you, I was imagining that this guy would exist – and that’s exactly what happened. I learned how to color in about five minutes from a guy in the art department the first day I was there. I didn’t color again until 2010. I had been working for the Free Lance-Star here in Fredericksburg and they started using color inside their paper. That just broadened everything after we started using color. When I was laid off from FLS, I thought I have to keep coloring these cartoons. Some cartoonists ask me whether I think they should color every cartoon, and I always say yes. The color always offers more options for your client, and it’s easy to share on the Internet.

Most people in Fredericksburg do know you from your days with the Free Lance-Star. You worked there for quite a while. How has your career changed through syndication and freelancing?

There are pros and cons. I wanted more control. I did get laid off from FLS, but I was syndicated from a company in California. I worked so hard to become syndicated with one of these companies, and I finally did back in 2000 while I was still working at FLS. After I was laid off, I took nearly a year off to figure out what I wanted to do. I didn’t just want to work for the syndicate, because it wasn’t really paying the bills.

I’ve had to work a lot harder as a freelance cartoonist. When you’re syndicated, you just draw the cartoon, send it to your syndicate, and move on with your life. They take care of finding the clients and all of the correspondence. As a freelance cartoonist, I draw the cartoon and send it to my clients, but I’m also moving on to the next cartoon, and I am constantly looking for new clients and researching ways to find them. I send pictures out every day and look up new clients every day. I look for new publications that other cartoonists aren’t even thinking about getting into. You have to do so much more – the billing, the invoicing. If there’s a problem with anything, the editor comes to me; there’s no middleman. On a positive note, I do have a quicker response time with the editors. Some editors have told me that they prefer dealing with me over the syndicate, and that direct contact gives me more control over my work. I was lucky, because my syndicate has always been pretty cool about running things by me before putting my cartoons out to publications, alerting me to ones that might look a little sketchy or where I might not want my name. Even so, with freelancing I have almost full control, and that’s liberating. No one can tell me I can’t draw something. If the client doesn’t like what I do, they just don’t carry it. I usually give them a lot to choose from. If they don’t like today’s, they might like tomorrow’s. I have a lot of freedom, but there’s always a price to freedom.


The price to freedom is the intense hustle to have that free-

So, it’s more about reaching a wide audience for you?


Yes. And I’m not a prude. I like a dirty joke or an R-rated movie. The thing is, it’s easy to come up with a nasty idea. It’s easy to call someone an asshole, but it’s not creative.

Right. There’s no healthcare. There’s no dental. There’s no pension or 401K. I don’t have the resources of a newspaper to support me. But the interesting thing is I think I have a larger audience now, by myself, than I did with FLS. Maybe it’s because social media has picked up since 2012, but social media can be misleading too. How so? It doesn’t bring in as much profit as a full-time job?

That, and also around perception and numbers. I can draw a cartoon and it’s a huge hit Online, shared 10,000 times. People love it, but there’s no challenge in it. We’re not worshipping at the altars of newspapers, but Online I’m drawing for this one audience, and they are usually in agreement with what I’m doing. Because I want to make people who don’t agree with me think, I take care not to draw images that a wide audience would find vulgar. Newspapers wouldn’t want to work with me. For example, a cartoonist I know drew an image of Mike Pence giving Trump oral sex. He got rave reviews Online and asked me what I thought about that. I told him I wouldn’t have drawn it. He brought up his numbers from the Online shares and likes, and I asked him how many newspapers he had. Zero. So he’s basically preaching to the choir Online. People who really hate Donald Trump are going to share it and love it, but that’s your only audience. You want more than that. Social media can be very misleading. I want to get 10,000 shares on social media, but at the same time I want other people to see it too, and even if it’s not popular, for it to have an impact.


It doesn’t make people think.

Right, there’s not much cleverness for me to go out and drop an F-bomb, unless I throw it in with something else. Just to be crude or draw something cheap and quick. I love to point out things about a subject that other people don’t point out. With Trump it’s kind of easy; there are many little things that people don’t notice about him. For instance, reading is one of them. He’s literate, but he doesn’t read. So, for Barbara Bush’s memorial drawing, I brought that to focus, especially since Barbara was such an advocate for literacy. I worked directly with her foundation for literacy and she was a champion for literacy. Trump is not. I didn’t want to memorialize Barbara in the typical way, pearly gates in heaven and such. So my cartoon pays homage to Barbara’s work as a Republican first lady, while drawing attention to the fact that the people have given us an intellectual-bashing president in Trump, who cannot and doesn’t care to read, but who also claims to be Republican. There’s a dichotomy there that is jarring and it makes people think.

Clay Jones is online at, on Facebook and Twitter.



Chris McNally

Love like this warmed me on the shoulder When I walked beyond known shadows And risked that kiss at noontime This love escorts us into an eternal We could not enter alone Not the ascetic’s desert That cries to me from haunted nights His is another journey This love, too, must be journeyed toward This, too, lies past acts of faith and courage The vibratory “yes” that aches It, too, writes its own rules The world was waiting to have written Because the world was not built to remain the same The ascetic chants we’re born and die alone But for an earthless Heaven I declare it is no longer so I was born when she leaned into me And die with every tear my lover cries She is not an allegory Nor am I archetypal She’s the kind of gal a guy would build a Taj Mahal Or fight a ten-year war Or cross an ocean and a desert for They would not wait for certainty Their world was not made to remain the same Do I live for this love, or does love live for me? The question comes in the rapture of a curve Beauty is more beautiful when she’s in it She doubles my life with her witness And we become The vibratory ache But I see her quivering Like a haunted flame on the nightstand She lies so close to the now of me I would that I could reach across time’s fence Cutting its lot across our bed And touch her on the shoulder The scent of her I lean into May be the smoke of possibility grown cold I have not been found Love like this is tinged with the impossible Teacher, she showed me that And I was not built to remain the same We are at play within a world Containing every possible playing-out Call it the unfolding infinite, Fragrance of the sacred lotus I experience as this love It is there for the taking but must in boldness be taken And I quit the solitary journey


REFLECTIONS ON UNITY IN THE HOLIDAY SEASON, 2017 Who was it that thought of a United States of America, anyway? Did they know what they were getting us into? Was this a sentimental notion they saddled us moderns with? Was "Out of many, one" an elegant turn To upgrade into Latin and stick on flags and money? I think not. Hear the memories whispered in the ground we stand upon At Concord and Yorktown, where they chased a thieving king At Gettysburg and Appomattox, where they staunched the grievous tearing At Montgomery and Memphis, where a true King looked over the mountaintop to a yet more perfect union And bend the ear to refugee spirits wandering beneath a veil of tears from Plymouth to Wounded Knee, from Charleston to New Orleans Hear them all These whispers form our complex chorus Singing Lincoln's mystic chords of memory still Singing not of human surfaces, singing not in lockstep mindsets, Singing not of uniformity Singing the common strand The common stream has coursed through laboring veins And carved the gorgeous "must" Into granite cliffs of "impossible" And watered this American soil with love, strife and sacrifice So that an idea, an abstraction like United could take root, when divided was the easier path Yes, but were the old farms departed and parting kisses planted On gray haired heads bowed in grief, In favor of railings squeezed by soaking knuckles turning white in pitching seas And babies' backs patted by wild-eyed mothers looking sideways And life itself heaved into the betting pot With Unity at stake? I think not. No, the blazing prospect of Freedom was their navigable star Freedom to speak Freedom to plow Freedom to lay on your back and watch the clouds crawl by the seeded tip of grass bobbing in your teeth Freedom to pray, or not Freedom to reinvent Why not, then, call it the Freedom States of America? Why United? Here is why: Because if Freedom is the fire Unity is the torch Bearing it aloft Or it burns the house down Yes, they knew what they were getting us into Hard labor in a messy workshop Though eternal, these rights are not perpetual They must be hammered out By the weathered hand of humanity, Until we, too, are memories Singing from the ground new seekers stand upon And Unity, they knew, earns its name when it carves its circle around the Many So they named a country after it 71


Matthew Wade Thomas

The Black woman comes on visitation days. She talks with her son

and brings him small items we are allowed. She’s old and overweight and

looks like she’s carrying a massive burden. At first I barely notice her as I sweep the visitors room.

She visits regularly, and I begin to see more -- a beautiful smile,

gentle touch, sense of humor, loving concern -- qualities you want a mother to have… wish mine had. I don’t know why I’m drawn to her, but I catch myself watching her on visitation days. They catch me too. I see them turn

and look at me. She speaks to her son in a questioning manner. He says something I can’t hear, shakes his head in a negative way, and shrugs his shoulders. She smiles at me, and I turn away. “Damn,” I think. “How good a mother could you have been if your miserable little punk of a son is locked up in here.” And still there’s more… more to her… more to why he’s here.

Time passes and the woman doesn’t come anymore. Her son re-

I move on, no longer sweeping on visitation days. A change of di-

ceives no visitors.

rection gets me transferred to the Segregation Unit for my own safety. Not that I’m really safe. It’s not over; they’re not done, until… one way in, one way out. And yet I am out.

I look at the Christmas card the woman sent me awhile back. She

didn’t even know my name; it’s addressed to “the man who sweeps the visitors room,” but it managed to make its way to me. The first Christmas card I’ve received in a very long time. Setting it down, I pick up the Bible she

also sent -- paperback, cheap, but still. The inscription she wrote reads, “We shall overcome, some day.” I flip through it. Cultural myths, messianic

pipe dreams, fables, all for the weak; but maybe, just maybe, more… I don’t know, something. One way in though, and that I can damn sure understand.

Laying on my cot I think of the woman. I wonder if she got too old

to make the monthly visits or if she passed. I would like to see her again, talk to her a bit, maybe get to know her… that would be nice.

I see her one night. A dream, I guess… what else? She flashes

I feel a crushing blow to my head, and I’m floating above my cot

that smile as I thank her for the card and the book.

as a former friend slips out of my cell. It’s done…one way out. I open

my mouth to swear at him but have no curses left; instead I feel warmth,

release… and I am free. I begin to rise, and together she and I leave the darkness behind.



Saeed Ordoubadi Photography


Like fine art, woodcraft can take a lifetime to perfect. Wasn’t it Malcolm Gladwell that suggested it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill? Larry Hinkle, a local musician and woodcrafter, is has certainly surpassed that then. Not only has he been known in the Fredericksburg area for his fine craftsmanship in cabinetry and carpentry, but he is also the man behind Hinkle Ukulele, a resource for fine, handcrafted ukuleles that are widely recognized around Fredericksburg. With his lifetime of expertise on guitar and a talent for woodcraft and conservation, Hinkle’s one-time interest in a new instrument quickly evolved into a passion. Today, one can purchase one of his locally sourced, handcrafted ukuleles for an affordable $600.00. Ironically, Hinkle says he himself has never been to Hawaii, but it was a move by a portion of his family that prompted him to really play his first ukulele. He doesn’t consider himself an esoteric ukulele player who wears Hawaiian shirts and leis, opting instead to call upon his punk rock roots and practice what he calls “Virginia-style” ukulele. To him, it’s just a further evolution of the ukulele. Hinkle explains, “The ukulele is not native to Hawaii. It arrived there from Europe. Ukuleles evolved from the machete, a four-string guitar that Portuguese merchant ships picked up off their own coastline on the island of Madeira. They introduced the ukulele to the Hawaiians in the late 1800s, who adopted it as their national instrument.” Hinkle says his friends have suggested that he may have a touch of Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome. Not only does he build them, he owns quite a few. Hinkle claims it is purely a matter of convenience so that he doesn’t have to tote one around everywhere he goes. At this point he has one stashed at most places that he frequents around town. He even started a band with some friends called Colonial Seafood to feature the ukulele as a lead instrument. For many new owners, the ukulele is an accessible instrument that can be a non-threatening introduction to music that won’t thwart a novice player’s drive to learn. Hinkle says, “The ukulele makes it easy to become comfortable with playing music. You can learn a bunch of songs really quickly.”


Hinkle continually perfects his ukulele craft and playing. He follows other makers on Instagram, and reads about how other makers craft the instruments. He says, “I like to think I’m getting better, I have been taking old soundboards from pianos to make my ukuleles recently, a trick I learned master maker Tommy Rodriguez out of Stanton (Virginia). Tommy makes exquisite, high-end ukuleles. It’s a lot of work to break down old pianos, but the soundboards are like gold. Wood vibrates as the pianos are played, creating a standing wave, and the lignans in the wood will settle into the nodes where it doesn’t vibrate opening up the other parts of the wood. Wood that is older and has been vibrating its whole life is already broken in. When I’ve used fresh wood to make a ukulele, I have to break it in; it will sound better a year later. But with the piano wood ukuleles, they sound good straight off the bench.” The ukulele also doesn’t have to take a huge chunk out of your wallet, a detail Hinkle is keenly aware of since his reason for constructing his first ukulele was born of his desire to save money when times were tight. Rather than shelling out $500 for a new uke, Hinkle purchased a kit for half the price and put his considerable woodworking expertise to good use by making his first ever Hinkle Ukulele. He’s learned a lot since that first model, but he tries to keep his ukes affordable so that everyone can enjoy them. Hinkle uses locally sourced wood in his ukuleles, like walnut, cherry, and white oak. He says, “Walnut is my favorite material to work with, not necessarily because it grows here, but because the location of the tree its from can be historically significant. I can honestly say to buyers, ‘This tree grew across from Kenmore Plantation, and I have the whole tree.’ Lately, I’ve really enjoyed using white oak for the body. It’s beautiful and sounds really good. I use cherry for my necks. Excluding the piano wood, I’ve taken a lot of the materials in my ukuleles from the log all the way to the finished product. I do the milling, curing, and all of it. Over the past decade, the ukulele has gained legitimacy due to more musicians picking it up and using it in their sets. Hinkle says, “I hope I have had something to do with that. I got a little bit of ribbing about playing it at first, but this is my jam. Playing it makes me feel really good, so that’s why I’m drawn to it. I wish I’d started playing it a lot earlier.”

Check out more of Larry’s ukuleles at

Photo by Robert A. Martin


How We Become Who We Become Kacy Cunningham

Williams Bay, Wisconsin

I remember Dad’s Wisconsin jacket, his windbreaker. I remember how it was snug around the waist, with elastic bits around the wrists. I remember the zipper was a different color than the jacket, and the jacket was a beige, but it looked like it was plasticky, like it was somehow wet, even though I know it was supposed to keep him dry, and warm. It never kept me dry, or warm, because I was against the wet side, that cold plasticky side. I remember. I remember that he told me that I could go faster if I wanted, I could run ahead, that it was okay, that it was safe. I remember when I went down the slide. I looked back to see him, to let him know I heard him, and when I looked back, I flipped over the slide, and I fell, I fell hard, and I fell onto snow, and the snow was frozen on top and the ground was solid beneath the ice and snow; the snow was not quite white, but it was more like the color of that jacket, that windbreaker he always wore. It was snug around his waist. There were elastic bits around his wrists.

St. Petersburg, Florida

I remember how, in Florida, apple halves browned before I could eat them, and how the sun seeped through the cheap plastic blinds that waved as the cat passed the length of the sliding glass door that led to the deck. I remember Mom begging Dad to try the meat before he drenched it in Tabasco. I remember the silent dinners. I remember how Dad’s jaw popped, how he pinched the bridge of his nose before going to bed, alone. I remember. I remember the hum of the TV, so late, while Mom filled the living room with smoke, cleared her throat, struck match after match, wheezed into the throw. I remember climbing out from under the covers, going to the door and trying to block out the light with my stuffed animals, stop it from streaming in from under the door, that sliver of light from the kitchen. I remember thinking if I could just fill that crack between door and carpet, I wouldn’t hear, I wouldn’t see. I could sleep. Oh yes, I remember Florida: rotting fruit and escaping light.

Twin Lakes, Wisconsin

I remember fire zinging in an ink black sky, like bombs, the Fourth of July, like the metal burn of renovation next door, too close. I remember how my mother’s mother cried, leaning toward the staticky screen, saying to the TV that he was never the same, always hungry, too hungry: “No one should be that hungry.” I remember, as she peppered my eggs against my will, she said that the war stole her husband, even though Grandpy rocked in the creaking easy chair, mopping up his wet eggs with dry toast. I was eight, taught to celebrate, high on my father’s shoulders, too high, too close to the erupting stars, the fire zinging in an ink black sky, and he was laughing, my dad, and running as our cocker spaniel puppy barked at his ankles. Next door, our neighbor uses an electric saw in the still-black mornings. Like a high-pitched screaming prayer, it wakes us, but we don’t know our neighbor well enough to blame him so we wrestle the quilt back and forth, silent and frowning, in the dark again. And forks go on, scraping fluffy eggs from fine china plates in the morning.


Night Fall

Pamela Stemberg

The smooth skin of your arm flowed down to the tips of your fingers, ending at the ball you held as you drew back and waited for our son to stand still. The outline of your shoulder under the white shirt. “Daddy, wait! I’m going to run out.” Toby turned and dashed across the grass. “I can’t throw that far,” you told him, waving your arms, signaling for him to stop. Leaning my head on my hands, I watched as he ran towards you to catch the ball. You tossed it back and forth to each other, and I fell sleep until you sat on the blanket. Tired and sweaty, you leaned on one arm as you took a long pull on the can of beer. You tossed Toby, our lanky 12-year-old, a can of soda from the picnic basket. That’s the best memory I have of you. You are lying on the dirt surrounded by the collapsed house. The whole neighborhood is gone, crushed by something whose power I can’t understand. Even though it’s morning, it’s dusky out.You are surrounded by the pieces of our life: picture frames, smashed teacups, yesterday’s newspaper, remnants of a lantern. The fires burn around us, but the glow doesn’t reach you and you lie outlined by the grey twilight. My eyes adjust. You move your finger to indicate that you know I’m here. The buttons have made an impression in your chest, but the shirt they belonged to is gone. When I brush your shoulder with my fingertips, you wince. I pull back. “Toby?” Your voice, barely a whisper. “He’s fine,” I lie, looking towards the place where his body is buried under the rubble. “The ambulance took him.” No ambulance is coming. Staying at my mother’s house a few miles from here her thick walls protected me from the inferno’s blast. I walked past the stream of people shuffling toward more nothing. No one spoke. You told me to go, that you’d get Toby to school in the morning. Your job wasn’t so important that you couldn’t

go late. Especially now with all the air raids. My mother, alone without my father, needed me. She was scared. Everyone was anxious. Every night I kissed you and left to walk to her house. You make a low sound, a moan, and I look for something to make you comfortable, but there’s nothing. “Do you remember when Toby was born?” I ask you. “Oh, how much pain was I in? I thought he was going to rip me open. You said that he was a little cabbage and he was pickled. I told you to go to the store next time you wanted pickled cabbage. How silly of us!” I think I see a smile cross your face, but I’m not sure. Talking about the pain of birth seems quaint, but I want you to remember our son with his newness and promise. Your skin glistens, but it’s not sweat. You look like so many people, their bodies oozing. For a moment, I question if your body is actually you. A woman passed me on the road, her chest red with the flower patterns of her shirt. My eyes have adjusted to the darkness and I see that you too are red and blistered. To touch you will be to hurt you. I look for someplace not burned. “I’m cold,” you say. I stand up and look for anything that can cover you. Flattened, there is no house to go into and look for blankets. I don’t want to walk too far. I’m afraid you’ll die without me. I tell you not to worry, someone will be here soon. I take off my shirt, leaving me in just my bra. I cover you, but you don’t notice. I find a place on the back of your hand to touch. You begin to shiver. “Do you remember the first day we met?” I ask. Do you hear me? “In grade school?” “When we are older, after Toby is on his own, we will go visit the south,” I say to you. You look at me. “I love you,” I say. I touch the tips of your fingers, hold them as they get colder. Your eyes close. Night falls on us. 77

Louisiana Life Bruce Arlen Wasserman

I. This floor, this wood, this creaky little cypress swamp that used to be along backwaters of the Mississippi, now glazed full memory, glazed full dry-rotted into sagging panes of molecules, same glazing used in that history of time, that Creole cottage of mind and storm trotter skirting water shedded from Louisiana skies.

II. I thought I knew storms, thought I weathered them, weathered wood that grows into boards, varnished painted soaking sponge shedding water better than a sink, cypress think-tank of tomorrow’s sorrow shed today’s grief, yesterday’s memories, I thought I remembered them swamping up swamps inside moss, sweltering sun in all that moist. III. The marks of time, the fall of the cast-iron urn, rusty bolts broken through top and bottom no longer connected, underneath black paint, rust, underneath rusty, old stove bolts, handmade threads, underneath base, rusted nuts hand cut, blacksmith hands busy hands, blacksmith voice singing song beats beating iron, threading threads like there’s no tomorrow, yesterday’s dreams, day after memories and iron, its imprint rust. 78



When little droplets fall, big drops become streams, become rivers, become steam and rising to heaven, become prayers and the water stains and the peeled paint and the why did I bother and there ain’t another and that music, that beat, rain beat drum beat tapping little drops and droplets beat the years out of the windowpanes and they leak.

The ring of it, the hammer, the notice it sends to the community, the water, the rust after only one day, driven iron nails forged inside belly of time, recirculation of heaven and earth, drips and trickles and streams and fog and wet breath inside wringing of ringing, that sound built for every molecule of metal, regardless of nut or bolt, knife or screwdriver, axe-eye or eye-of-the-needle, that sound, that blacksmith sweating over coal-fire sound, the exchange of water for water and sizzle with the cooling of it sound, that sound—that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. That wrung out better drink-it-up sound downriver almost to the Gulf. That sound. That nails in the planking fit-‘em-as-you-can sound. That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.

V. That broken urn, that hit of wood, dented pride of the fall, that ‘nother dent, ‘nother touch, New Orleans cypress floated down the river wood, first growth wood, last life wood that wouldn’t still be if it was other wood, that bird in the mossy branch in the flats of logs and goods wood that made that board that made that floor wood, that is the wood I’m talklin’ bout, that wood. VI. If it was dead, he wouldn’t had to hammer it, if it was dead, that wood wouldn’t still feel like it was alive, if it was dead, there’d be no way it curled just that way, there’d be no way that shackles and chains would’ve stayed put in it to carry lives beyond the boat, beyond the river, beyond the swamp and cypress of it to the big house, to the masta and missus and slave soul and the memory of it, if it was dead. So it surely ain’t. VII. The planks of it, each one different, each one marked with a hundred fifty years of living, this house, this walkway into the past, these walls, well up, swell, they might’ve changed, the cicadas chirp, their roar, those high windows the only air could escape in summer, the hot dank come seven a.m. till wee hours and tossing and turning and no more creaking till the morning and the smell of sweat in light of the gas lamp and the stoop calling another sunrise and sometimes coffee but chicory for sure and rice and beans and no ice-house here and no ice there or anywhere and no need to feel cold at all.

IX. Every part of it, the gouges, big and little, the dents, the scrapes, the blood stains, those rusty nails black and just dark little halos, night angels telling tales, recitations of a century, not progress, not getting ahead, damaged lives damaging planks and walkways of time, those parts, the tacking down, the pulling up, the square and the round of it, the knots and the curl of it, the still-cypress of it, like Cypriot, but not, like not but knot, the short and long and why did they end that there and why is it still standing and still working and why does it give under weight and why does it not and just the why of it, recorded in gashes and grooves, dents and lines and lots and lots of lines. Lots. That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. X. Those little lines of life, those piquant parcels of pointed living, the mulled air breath of it, the peeled paint thought of it, the detritus and the death of it, but not really dead, even though bugs crawl through the cracks, even though dew’s few drips or droplets on the glass, memorized stains sitting atop that history, that imperfect grill, the work of it pieced through tips of fastidious fingers, maybe black, maybe white or just tanned in-between, the cracks, that cypress, running within memory. Memories. Every one of them. Every single one. Different. 79

Fever Code Heather Bartlett


he patient is too tall for his bed – his large gnarled feet hang off the edge and I am reminded of a childhood literary character, perhaps Roald Dahls’ Big Friendly Giant. “What seems to be the problem?” my partner asks the nurse standing in the room. Brice and I have been called to a nursing facility in the South Bay very late on a Saturday night. Late weekend hours probably mean there isn’t a doctor on site and something is up that couldn’t wait until morning. “He’s had a fever for three days,” she says. Bad, I think. “And he hasn’t had anything to eat or drink for two.” Shit. The patient is pale and unresponsive to our voices. Not good. Not good. Pulse is weak and somewhat thready and he has normal respirations but he’s too hot to the touch and I’m thinking dehydration might be the least of our worries. I’ve been surprised how deadly simple conditions can be – fever, diarrhea, dehydration. I’ve seen far more patients die from the three than I ever thought possible. “Why didn’t you call us earlier?” my partner asks. “He’s fine, he’s fine,” the nurse says, but there’s a subtle hesitancy to her voice as she looks over the patient’s still body. Brice has one last question. “How old is the patient?” “Hmm...he’s a hundred and one,” the nurse smiles. Brice gives me a look – this patient is unstable, we have a “load and go”. Time to book it. We initiate the moves we’ve done a thousand times before. Pull the bed from the wall, peel back the corners of the fitted sheet. Line up the gurney. Each of us takes a different side of the bed. Wrap the corners of the fitted sheet around our wrists. On the count of three, we use the sheet to lift, slip and slide the patient, as if weightless, onto our gurney. “You can’t take his blanket!” the nurse yells and snatches the elaborate knit blanket covering the patient. “It’s his favorite.” Brice looks at me like if we don’t get moving soon, he’s not gonna be alive to enjoy the damn blanket. “Thank you!” I say to the nurse as we start to move out. We steady the gurney rolling through the narrow facility halls and silently work in tandem to load the patient in the back of the rig. Solid partnership means that together we 80

navigate the patient and the gurney and the rig like water. Brice hops into the back of the ambulance and as I’m shutting the rear doors he looks me in the eye. “Get us there, NOW, Bartlett.” He’s been in the field for much longer than I have. I’ve never seen that look in his eye. We’re working on a BLS, or basic life support, rig. So despite his medic license, Brice can’t use IV fluids, meds or any other “advanced interventions” to help the patient. He’ll need to get creative. I hop into the driver’s seat and radio dispatch, “This is 510. We are code 3 en-route to San Mateo ER.” Headlights, emergency lights, siren, code 3. I pick out, flick and switch each button. Reaching around the steering wheel, I shift the rig into drive. We are go. The night is still, the full moon over us and highway 580 is deserted. Our rig tears down the middle lane, cresting small hills in the road. I push the line between a smooth ride for the patient, a safe ride for my partner, and getting there as fast as possible. I hear thrashing in the back. Brice is standing over the patient, moving fast, tugging at the sleeves of the patient’s shirt to remove it. When I look back again he’s furiously shaking ice packs to activate them, stuffing them into the patient’s groin and armpits, and around his neck. “We’ve gotta cool this guy down, or he’s toast,” Brice is muttering. I’m not sure if he’s talking to himself or to me. I speed up a little faster. It’s a perfect ride, uneventful. No drivers panic at the sound of ambulance sirens – no cars stop dead in the road. Intersections aren’t crowded and I pull into the ambulance bay thinking that’s how a code 3 is supposed to run. By the time we wheel the patient into the ER, Brice has got the man down to his skivvies - a thin white tank top and tighty whitey underwear. A nurse approaches us and Brice starts his report. He doesn’t get far before she barks, “Why is this patient still clothed?!” “Uhh…” Brice stammers and before he gets any words out, the patient is whisked into one of the ER bays and the curtain is drawn. There’s nothing left to do but fill out paperwork and take care of the gurney. After the call it’s all cleanup and comedown. Like the majority of patients that we meet, we’ll never know what happens to the patient or how his night ends.

Often while driving home over the Bay Bridge after shifts, I find myself weaving through lanes of traffic and thinking of patients. Remembering where I’d left them. Imagining everyone’s nightly routines. Wondering who survived. It can make my stomach sour, that lack of resolution. To be honest though, I am thankful that for the first time in my life, I have something more important to think about than myself. Feeling earnest, fortunate and small - it’s a relief. By the time we get back to station it’s going on 3 a.m.. Station is primarily made up of an extra tall, extra-large garage that we use an an ambulance bay, although it could easily be a mechanic’s shop or house a fleet of delivery vehicles. I pull the rig into its spot in the garage and scan the crew area to see if I recognize any of the guys lounging in the cluster of black leather couches. “I’m gonna try to get some sleep,” Brice says and he starts towards the bunk area. “Do you want to keep the radio?” The radio haunts me. On 24-hour shifts, I hear it beeping – loud! - through the wall of the bunk room, even with earplugs. As soon as dispatch radios, the clock starts, no matter the hour or day or night. If I’m in bed, I unzip my sleeping bag and, still fully clothed, whip my legs around, plunk my feet into my boots, grab my backpack and start hightailing it to the rig. Dispatch challenges us to make it in time - two pairs of asses in seats, in under 22 seconds. Some hybrid of Pavlovian response and traumatic stress, I start to anticipate phantom radio chimes where there are none. At four in the morning on my day off I’ll lie awake in bed wondering if I’ll ever sleep normally again. Off duty in Safeway, someone’s phone screams in a similar tone and my heartbeat immediately jacks up while my instinct is to run for the exit and jump into a rig that isn’t there. BEEP it hollers – keep moving. BEEP the radio goes at some godawful hour – I know you weren’t sleeping. Seriously, I fucking hate that thing. “Naw I’m good, you take it and just holler for me.” I need to decontaminate the gurney for our next call, which means going over it thoroughly with noxious medical-grade disinfecting wipes and changing the linens. I’m leaning over cleaning when a voice comes up behind me. Warm breath gets uncomfortably close.

“You’re like the unicorn of EMS, Bartlett.” It’s Alvarez, one of the senior medics I’ve seen around station. “What do you want, Alvarez.” The hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I’m intensely aware that the other crews nearby have stopped talking and are all watching us now. I keep my back turned, hoping that he’ll take a hint. Alvarez faces my direction but speaks too loudly so I’m not sure if he’s trying to impress me or his friends. “You’re like a unicorn, see? Cause your ass isn’t fat and you’ve got a nice face. Hard to find around here,” and before I can respond he reaches over and grabs a handful of my right butt cheek. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I do not think. I only know that I am threatened and that other wolves are near. Sex and power and show. Once again it all plays out. My body spins in Alvarez’s direction, gathering force and I smack him across the face as absolutely hard as I can. “Ohhhhh snap!!” screams one of the EMTs. “She showed you!” They’re hollering and laughing at the unexpected. Alvarez stands in front of me, eyes locked on mine, mouth open. We mirror each other in our shock. I’m horrified at my violence but pulsing with justification and sweet adrenaline. I hold my offending hand palm up between us, stinging. Without a word, Alvarez turns and walks out the door. The group of guys watching are still going at it. “This chick’s a unicorn!” “Naw, she didn’t like that shit!” “Watch out, bro, she’s a mean one…” “Dude, did you guys see his face?!” Later I won’t say I did right thing. I swear it crept up on me. But in terms of results. Of positive reinforcement? I was powerless until in some awful way I wasn’t. What more is there really? The taunting, propositions and innuendos never cease. But nobody put their hands on me again. The other crews think it’s hilarious. They shout and stare at me with some mix of surprise and condescension. All I can hear are their yelps of delight.


Building from the Bare Bones

We build life piece by piece, sometimes alone and other times in congress with friends and family. We do all the right

things, make all the right connections, and secure all the right pathways to success, but inevitably we will face challenges at times that destroy our well-constructed lives in one fell swoop. If we’re lucky, we find that our foundation is strong, that long buried dreams can be rekindled, and our roots are never as far away as we believe. Coming home can feel a little bit like salvation.

This is where artist Pam McLeod found herself six years ago after her beloved husband died and her children headed off

to college. As she contemplated retirement alone and moving away from the hoe she had made in Ellicott City, Maryland, McLeod says, “I realized wherever I moved had to have an active music scene. My husband was a bluegrass musician, and I didn’t want to give up that part of my life. Music is in my family’s blood. The place also had to have an active arts scene because of my pottery. It had to be scenic. I wanted there to be a college so there’d be people to engage with culturally and intellectually, and I wanted to be able to walk to really good restaurants. I realized I was describing my home town.”

McLeod turned to her family in Fredericksburg, a place vastly different now than when she had grown up. Gone were the

sketchy, struggling and empty storefronts along Caroline Street. Fredericksburg had experienced a citywide community revitalization effort. From the depths of devastation, McLeod felt she might have a hand to play in that effort as well.

McLeod noticed the sale sign in the shuddered Bazzanella Fur Shop at 1109 Caroline Street in 2011, so she sought more

information during an Online search. On a whim, McLeod approached the agent in charge of the sale, a former classmate from high school. The building was in a state of disrepair with termite damage and dry rot. It was a structural mess and much of it needed gutting. Like the city itself, the property required investments in elbow grease, money, and TLC. She decided to buy it in 2012 with plans to restore the space and open an art gallery and studio when she retired from the government.

The transformation of 1109 Caroline Street started with McLeod’s move to Fredericksburg. She began work on the build-

ing with an eye toward historical restoration, and her plan was to divide the quarters into an upstairs living space and a downstairs gallery, teaching, and music space.

The restoration forced McLeod to make choices both satisfying and heartbreaking. Would she be able to restore the

fireplaces? Yes. Should she stick with heart of pine on the floors? Of course. Would the historical fur vaults behind the house be salvageable? Sadly, no. More importantly, McLeod found herself answering difficult questions during the process about her own future. Would she be able to move past the monumental changes to her well-planned and cherished life? She still didn’t know, but she says, “There’s nothing like hitting a plaster wall with a sledgehammer to take care of any stress or angst you might have.”

McLeod officially opened Pamdora gallery ahead of schedule just before the holidays in 2017. She carries a variety of

two- and three-dimensional works of art and textiles, much of which is made regionally. Eventually, she would like to offer classes and hold house concerts in the large back room.

Today, Pam McLeod is excited about retirement. Just as she restored 1109 Caroline Street to its former structural beauty,

she says, “This project really saved me in many ways. The future is full of promise and I’m excited to spend it here in the place where I started, giving back and improving my hometown.” Visit Pamdora’s online @Pamdoras on Facebook.




All photos provided by Pam McLeod of Pamdora’s


It's hard to believe that I had refused to go fishing with my dad for years.

I didn't just make up excuses. I didn't try to let him down easy. I just told him. I just told him straight out, straight to his face, and I broke his heart. My dad had a spirit that went on for days, but each time I refused to go fishing with a him I knew that


David Joseph

I crushed it a little bit. It was harsh, but I was only seventeen. That's what boys do when they are seventeen. They push back. They stand their ground. Carve their own path. Try and prove that they are a man, that they are their own man, or damn close. And that's what I did. It's not like I didn't like going fishing with him. I did like fishing, and I liked fishing with my dad. But he loved it. He loved it more than any other activity in his life, and I knew that he felt this way. This made it simply impossible for me to wholeheartedly embrace it, at least if I was going to demonstrate the absolute individuality of my being. If I was going to differentiate myself from him, it was necessary to hold my ground, to exhibit some level of resistance. I know this sounds childish, and it was. It was childish and petty and hurtful, but it was only meant to be temporary. It was only meant to be imposed for a time. Then, after my strength had been asserted, we would spend many more hours together in the boat, casting out into the cold waters with the sun at our backs and the day just coming up and the fish unknowing of our formidable presence. I was still young, and I knew there were many more years to go fishing with him.

The winter was colder than expected, and the snow fell from the sky

and covered our property. Although it looked beautiful, it was an illusion, a mirage, something that makes a Christmas Eve look nice on television but is little more than a hassle in reality. And, make no mistake, a blanket of white snow was a hassle, a burden. It was work, and the work began as soon as the morning was upon us and with it the realization that the driveway and walkway were disguised, kept from view below inches of snow that needed to be relocated in order for us to effectively begin the day.

Dad liked to complain about the weather more than anyone, but he also

liked to prove that the elements were no match for him. Or perhaps a better way of saying it is that he liked to prove that the elements wouldn't get the best of him. He was in his fifties now, and he wasn't as young as he once was. But he liked to show me that he shouldn't be underestimated, that he was still powerful and resilient and able to complete physical tasks without the help of others. A blizzard gave him the opportunity to reestablish his presence and remind me of his air of invincibility like nothing else. So while he complained about the weather, he also welcomed it, almost taunted it, and made it clear he would be the last man standing in it. This wasn't merely an immature act of a man trying to recapture his youth. This was my father holding on for dear life, clasping to the things that make a man feel most like a man--the gripping strength in his hands, the ability to endure beyond all reason, and the need to lift weight as a sign that his muscles weren’t confined to the virility of youth, that they could sustain themselves over time, and that the world still had to take notice of him physically. All his wit and intellect and mental acuity meant nothing to him if he couldn't plunge his shovel into the wet snow, hoist it in the air, and toss it confidently to the side. He didn't just want to do it. He had to do it.

The winter had been mild, and by February it seemed we might actually

escape and emerge in the spring unscathed. But it was not to be, and we woke to find a snowfall unlike anything we had seen in a number of years. Schools were closed. Businesses let employees know they should work from home, and local government buildings shut down. But we were fine. It was warm inside and we


had plenty of food and supplies in the house. Although we were ef-

was finished, and I wondered why my dad hadn’t returned. Was

fectively snowed in, there was no reason to fight against it and no

he not feeling well in the bathroom? Had he looked out the win-

real benefit to all the work it would take to clear the snow. We were

dow and become intimidated upon seeing me conquering the

safe and warm, and it did look beautiful outside, particularly since we

elements? That seemed unlikely. Whatever the reason, I went

had nowhere to be or go.

in the house to find him.

But my dad didn't take on the elements for practical rea-

When I opened the door, I was just about to kick off

sons. He took them on for psychological ones - his physical produc-

my boots when I saw his inert body lying on the floor. Somehow

tivity being one or his keys to his psychological health. I sat there at

I knew he was gone, that his soul was no longer there in the

the breakfast table while my mother slept and he grabbed a cup of

room, from the first moment I saw him. Still, I rushed to him,

coffee and a small bite of food and peered out the window carefully.

called 911, and worked feverishly in an attempt to revive him.

He was analyzing the situation, sizing up precisely what he was up

Although I knew these efforts would amount to little, I continued

against, and determining the best way to attack the situation. All this

without letting up. My mother ran into the room, knelt to the floor,

while the snow continued to fall at a steady rate. The sun was just

and held my father's hand with tears streaming down her face.

coming up and it cast a warm glow across the white snow, giving the

illusion the frigid temperatures would be palatable. Although shovel-

left off before recognizing there was nothing left for them to do.

ing snow was the last thing I wanted to do, I couldn't watch him go

They took great care to cover my father and remove him from

out there alone. He would never have asked me to help him, but this

our house as respectfully as possible. They walked out the front

was the opposite of fishing. Here, I felt compelled to demonstrate

door with the gurney and wheeled my father's motionless body

that I was up to the challenge, that my arms were beginning to fill

down the path I had cleared so meticulously. It would still be

out, and that I could muscle the snow with every bit as much vigor as

another two months until the snow would completely disappear,

he approached the job. He certainly wasn't going to wait for me, so I

and I shoveled the path alone for the remainder of the season.

grabbed my hat and gloves and put on my boots quickly and tossed

my jacket over my pajamas to ensure I wasn't left behind even with

were no longer frozen, and the sound of birds returned to the

sleep still in my eyes.

trees. The air began to warm up, and the sun shined once again.

When he opened the door, a blast of cold air tunneled

Even so, the house felt empty. My mother said almost nothing

through the side door and seized our faces. The glare was bright and

and, on most days, could barely muster the energy to leave

we grabbed the handles of the shovels and began to dig our way out.

her room. The rooms hung there with an eerie quiet, the walls

I was working harder than usual in order to show my dad that I was

now silent where they once reverberated with the sound of my

his equal, that I was tougher than he thought, and that the lessons of

father's voice. Although his voice was not particularly distinctive,

his example hadn't been lost. He matched me with each plunge, lift,

there was a certainty to his tone that was uncommon. It simply

and toss as if to remind me that he hadn't lost a thing. We didn't say

never wavered.

a word. We were just two men, two generations, and something of a

silent mutual admiration society until I saw my dad stop. He stood up

went down to the kitchen and made sandwiches to take with

straight and looked around. I thought he was just admiring his work,

me. I packed up the supplies and made sure I had plenty of wa-

as his head turned on a swivel and his eyes seemed to sharpen.

ter. I had checked the reels the night before, and made sure that

Then he said he just needed to use the bathroom. He turned his

all of the the equipment was intact, and that I had everything I

back to me, and walked inside the house. I let him know that was no

needed for the day.

problem, and I kept shoveling away with the cold air blasting my face

and the sun ascending higher into the sky.

both hurt and hardened, the events of that morning embedded

When the ambulance arrived, they began where we

In the spring, the snow melted. The rivers and streams

On the second Saturday of the month, I woke up early,

Almost overnight, it seemed I had aged. Inside, I was

When my father went into the house, I began to work faster,

in my mind, playing over and over, unflinching. When I looked

more diligently, and with more urgency - not so much because he

in the mirror, it seemed that a decade had been tacked on with-

wasn’t there, but rather because I hoped I might finish before he

out consideration. And I now knew that the small space I had

returned. What a display of strength and productivity it would be for

maintained for so long with normal teenage rebellion would now

him to return from the bathroom only to see the driveway cement

be filled with regret. Needless, unnecessary, eternal regret. I no

now visible. This would be sure to impress him, force him to take

longer felt the need to prove myself to anyone, and so I did what

notice, real notice, of my arrival. He would see that I could get the job

men do, what men have always done. I went out alone in a boat,

done, that I could battle through, and that I was capable of working

with my thoughts pushed down deep, and cast my line into the

at a furious pace when life required it. There would be no mistaking

quiet, dark waters with the sun at my back, the day ahead, and

my capacity when he returned. And so I worked like crazy, attacking

the fish swimming for their lives beneath the surface.

the snow with uncommon zeal over and over and over, shoveling it aside, and clearing the walk impressively. It wasn’t long before I


Perspectives of Lost

Passage of Time Suzanne Cottrell

His eyes narrowed. He ran his fingers through his thinning hair. With a tone of uncertainty, “You seem lost.” Twisting a strand of silver hair between her arthritic fingers, tilting her head, she considered possibilities before responding. Was she lost

Silent Ivories Home place abandoned Steinway upright piano Left behind, too expensive to move Chipped, worn, missing ivory keys Dry, yellowed glue exposed First octave ebony B flat stuck Smooth dips where nimble fingers Practice daily scales in different keys Required piano lessons and recitals Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Liszt Out of tune, snapped strings Warped wood collecting dust Tattered song book opened to page 37 “Wayfaring Stranger,” Mother’s favorite Family members requested evening songs “Shenandoah,” “Red River Valley,” “Bicycle Built for Two” Mother’s slender, delicate fingers Manipulated eighty-eight keys Everyone sang ignoring mismatched harmonies Father’s deep, raspy baritone Mother’s pure soprano, classically trained Daughter’s alto Young son’s falsetto A few fading photographs resting atop The piano captured a simpler time Now abandoned piano beyond repair


in place? Disoriented by unfamiliar surroundings Off course, walking in circles Unable to gain her bearings in time? Flooded by past memories Living in the present moment Hesitant to move forward, fearful of change in grief? Tears and pain Failing to understand why Working through stages in defeat? Missed opportunities Succumbed to situation Ruined possessions, reputation in thought? Mind racing with words Oblivious to the world Pondering and debating in love? Warmth of touch Empathy in a glance Unconditional partnership Lowered her head, wringing her hands, “Not lost, just forgotten.”

Life’s Clock In my youth, time passed by too slowly. Now time passes by too quickly. Like living with Déjà vu, experiences consume me, never knowing how much time is left. Born with a sparse head of golden brown hair, Now delicately brushing my thin, ashen strands. As an infant, exploring and grasping my toes, Now thankful if I can reach my toes. Before my chubby cheeks and tummy drew admiring glances, Now my expansive middle raises health concerns. Once playfully shaking my toy rattle, Now rattling my pill bottles Organizing a week’s worth.

Puberty, reeling from fluctuating hormones, Now managing the decreasing production. Eager to obtain my learner’s permit, Now hoping to keep my driver’s license. Once too young to work, now too old to work. Then seeking to establish my independence, Now trying to maintain it. Living in the moment and creating memories, Now living in the past and cherishing them. Tick-tock, tick-tock Wishing, but unable to rewind life’s clock.

Then and now eating soft, bland food with a bib draped around my neck. Babbling leading to my first words, Now trying to recall the right words. As a toddler stumbling and taking those first, few, wobbly steps, Now my cane in hand, shuffling my feet carefully. Resilient as a child, I fell and got right back up. Now I fear falling, remaining on the floor, and calling out for help. Entertained by picture books and sight words, Now reading large print and listening to audio books. Hours of soccer practice and homework after school, Now playing nightly games of solitaire. 89

Feel the Blue

Sean Yang

What do you want to create and why? What purpose do you think? What do you care about? As an art producer and cultural transducer in my art practice, those questions are in my head when I create mixed media sculptures. All of us benefit from inheritances we did not choose and cannot change. Growing up involves deciding which part of the inheritance you want to claim as your own, and how much you have to pay for the rest of it. This is as true for nations as it is for individuals. The United States is a great country whose ideas and example have been transforming. Nevertheless, none of us have lived up to our ideals, and today too many Americans are divided. Division occurs because, as a country, people do not share a common history. Indeed, many people are in denial because of historical skeletons –including the worst aspects of inequality, discrimination and injustice based on race, gender, ethnicity, LGBT status, or other differences. Our divisions and denial mean we have no clear path to a better future as a more united country.


S. Vollie Osborn

Rabia, I’m sorry. Have a drink for me. - François

It was a curious suicide note. Were Rabia aware of the the phone ringing back in her apartment, or the knife-wielding danger creeping toward her, she would have put the note down somewhere on her desk for later pondering and headed out the door. Instead, she sat down at her desk, and, with no sense of urgency, decided she had no cause to refuse a last instruction from her former supervisor. She reached her finger down and pulled on the small latch that opened the secret compartment in the floor. It was at this point that Rabia realized she had been so engaged in clearing out François’s desk that she had totally forgotten to get drunk and had, instead, succeeded in working late into the night. Perhaps François had foreseen this and did not want his felo-de-se to interrupt her daily routine. Perhaps he thought it might ease the grief she would surely feel at his departure from the plane of the living. Perhaps he did not want someone else to find the bottle and have his reputation so tarnished. All of these possibilities drifted through Rabia’s mind as she opened the little compartment and discovered that none of them were anywhere near the truth, for in the small compartment hidden in the floor, next to the bottle of rakı, was a folder with large, insistent, crimson words written on it. They read:


And below that, in particularly manic letters:


Rabia stood still for a moment, glanced about. The room was silent. Everything was still. Rabia flipped open the folder. It was filled with a thick wad of papers: reports, spreadsheets, newspaper clippings, company and personnel bios. Each page had been underlined, annotated, highlighted, and lined. At the top of each page, Project Murat had been written in François’ distinctive cursive. Rabia had always thought François’ penmanship conveyed a very distinct, French condescension. Not knowing what to make of the note, annoyed by the patronizing loops of his L’s and P’s, and nowhere near interested in doing any more work than she had already done, Rabia closed the folder, and placed it back beside the rakı.


She thought briefly about leaving, and then thought about pulling out the bottle and getting drunk, and was about to do so, when she was stopped by the quiet, but audible, very un-cat like sound of footsteps creeping in from the hallway. Terror pumping through her veins, Rabia moved to the door and placed her hand on the doorknob. The footsteps, two discrete pairs of them, crept closer and closer and then stopped only inches away. Rabia took her hand off the doorknob and backed away. She told herself she was being silly. She lifted the stapler off her desk. She took a careful but determined practice swing. It both looked and felt silly. She tried unhinging the stapler and swinging it again. The effect was not much better, but, at that point, it no longer mattered, for the door burst open, and a large, knife-wielding, mustached man lunged into the office and directly at Rabia.

As a young boy, Samir Sabbag was often left in the care of his aging grandfather, Saif. Samir’s father, Salah, worked long hours, often through the night, and was rarely around. Samir’s mother had died when Samir was still an infant. Each night, before bed, Saif would regale little Samir with stories of their long and proud ancestry, of how, long ago, his family helped to establish the fort of Alamut with the great Hassan-i Sabbah, the first Old Man of the Mountain. Saif would tell Samir about the great armies of the Seljuk Empire, how Sabbah and the rest of his clan survived a siege in the walls of the fort while Nizam ul-Mulk, Grand Wazir of the Seljuk Empire surrounded them. How Hassan-i Sabbah knew he would never have a large enough army to defeat the Seljuks on the battlefield, but that Hassan-i Sabbah was smart, and knew you need not defeat the body if you can simply cut off the head. Samir grew up believing that his forebears were the very first of the fida’īs - the specially trained Nizārī warriors who infiltrated the most protected of places and killed the most protected of men. He was told from an early age that he was one in a great line of assassins, from the origin of the word itself. The names of these men were lost to history, but the tales of their deeds lived on. Many a night, little Samir would sit awake listening to how in the eleventh century one of the fida’ī – one of his line – was sent to the palace of Nizam ul-Mulk, of how the fida’ī posed as a sufi for months to gain the trust and confidence of the wazir until he was close enough to slit his throat.

Samir would sit up in bed, his grandfather lit by candlelight, and listen, wide-eyed and eager, to hear of how the blood in his veins was the same as the blood that ran through the great men who killed Djenah Eddaulah Hosein, the prince of Emessa; Raymond I, Count of Tripoli; and the crusading Marquis of Montferrat. Saif would tell Samir how Kings and Popes and Sultans and Emperors all across Europe and Asia feared the great leader Sinan. They feared him because he wielded the might of the fida’ī. Saif would tell Samir about the perfect training of each fida’ī: how each would learn the art of war and of deception; how each could perfectly pass as almost anyone from almost any-where, perfectly mimicking cultures, customs, languages, and dialects; how each fida’ī was fearless; how each one knew that he was destined for only one mission with no chance of return. These stories, like all histories, were filled with speculation, embellishment, misinformation, and pure fiction. The greatest of the fictions was that Samir’s family bore any relation to these first assassins. Saif had been crafting this lie for most his life, and he never strayed from it. In reality, Saif was not even Syrian. His given name was not even Saif. He had been orphaned at a young age when the Ottomans had marched his parents to death on the long road to Deir ez-Zor. Lost in the heat and dust of the desert, Saif was taken in by another fleeing Armenian, one who did not share the love and compassion of his parents. This man who took him in, claiming to be a distant uncle, abused Saif severely for months while the two lived in a small room in Damascus. The abuse stopped one night when Saif stabbed the man to death with a kitchen knife. It was his first assassination, the culmination of a childhood born in horror. When neighbors spotted Saif, covered in blood, standing in the street outside the shack, holding the murder weapon in his hand, they asked him if he had seen the man who did it. No one suspected the child. Saif was sent to an orphanage. On his first night there, he ran off. He lived in the quiet nooks and crannies of the city. Soon he learned he was not the only child in Damascus who had been suffering under an abusive adult. He also learned that he could gain food and temporary shelter by repeating his crime in service of others. In this way his name became popular among the beleaguered children of the city. In those years, he honed his craft, and he adopted a new identity. He learned of the history and the legends of the Shi’ite offshoot Nizārī Ismā‘īlī’s. He took their history and made it his own, filling in gaps where he could. He took what was useful and left out what was not. He discovered 93

his entrepreneurial side, and he began to make good money, taking any job for the right price. His adopted family history gave him brand recognition and brought him success. Eventually he moved to Aleppo, away from anyone who could recognize him from his youth. There he managed to keep a good distance between his work and his personal life. He became a prominent figure in his community. No one suspected the upstanding citizen and occasional civic leader made his money in blood. He found a wife and had a son, Salah, whom he raised in hopes of passing on the family business. Salah was a good son. He dutifully learned the family trade, but, after finishing university in Germany, he decided to stay in Europe; the long hours and total commitment of running a business never appealed to Salah. And he had found a good corporate job in Germany. The job provided health and dental insurance, a retirement fund, good vacation days, and his commitment to the assassination trade began at nine in the morning and ended promptly at five in the evening, Monday through Friday. Saif claimed he was happy that Salah had done well for himself, but really, he was heart broken. With no one to pass the business on to, he was forced to shutter its doors after he retired. A year after Saif left the working world, his wife had a stroke and died. Saif moved to Berlin to be close to his son. By that point Salah had fallen madly in love with a beautiful woman from Munich named Anna. The two were very happy together and planned to start a family. Towards the end of her pregnancy, Anna was diagnosed with latestage pancreatic cancer. She passed away a week after giving birth, never having left her hospital bed. Salah held her hand and watched his world fall apart. The economic boom of the late eighties did wonders for the company at which Salah worked, resulting in several promotions. Salah, never having fully recovered from the death of his wife, used his increased responsibility at work as a way to spend more and more hours at the office and on missions, hiding his grief from his son. Like the progeny of so many police officers and firefighters, Samir fell into the family trade. He was a good assassin, and showed plenty of promise, working side jobs during his schooling, later taking odd hit jobs to help pay for university, but just before Samir was to graduate, there was a market crash. Work became difficult to find. Salah offered to help Samir get an entry level position at his own company, but at that point their relationship had become strained, and Samir felt he needed to set out on his own. Several school friends were making plans to head south to look for better economic opportunities. Samir decided to go with them 94

The job market in the south didn’t turn out to be any better. Many of the companies across Europe were in a hiring freeze. In the assassin trade, the work that was on offer consisted of unpaid internships or required at least six years of experience at a private security firm, incorporated mercenary group, or headhunters’ conglomerate. Samir and his friends, struggling to get by, often talked about opening their own boutique agency - an organic, fair trade, environmentally friendly one that would operate without the use of poisons or firearms - but none of them had the capital nor the courage to make a go of it. Samir paid his bills as a freelancer for a murder-share app that confidentially connected contract killers and clients. The app was great for keeping identities secret, and payments were processed quickly and effectively, but the money wasn’t very good. The company kept 20% of each contract, and the customer rating system caused each contractor to offer more and more free services to maintain the all important five-star standing. Additionally, as the assassins were all considered independent contractors, the company wasn’t responsible for providing any kind of health insurance or legal assistance, so if Samir was hurt at work, or arrested, he would be forced to pay out of pocket. Really, Samir’s heart wasn’t in the assassination game anyway. In college he had discovered a great love for literature, maybe born from hearing so many stories from his grandfather as a child. He had written a few short stories as an undergraduate and his professors had told him they were quite good. Encouraged by his teacher’s positive reinforcement, Samir had written steadily since. He had even managed to get a few pieces published in some smaller magazines. In his free time, Samir was busy working on his third novel, the first two unpublished and gathering dust in his desk drawer. The newest work was what he, at this point, considered his masterpiece. The book retold the biblical story of Jonah, stripped of any godhead figure. In it, Jonah, rather than fleeing the Lord after being commanded to go to Nineveh, fled the depression that a total lack of direction from a higher power had been driving him deeper and deeper into. He found a boat in Tarshish filled with ruffians and scoundrels and signed up as a crewmember, hoping for a storm during the crossing. He felt that a boat, violently tossed about, with no land in sight, was the perfect metaphor for an uncaring, irrational, indifferent universe, and that somehow a direct confrontation with the void, in this form, would alleviate his existential crisis, or, if nothing else, make him feel less inert. Jonah was granted the storm he wanted but remained unmoved. The rest of the crew, disturbed by his apathy, threw Jonah overboard. Nearly im-

mediately, the storm cleared and the crew, highly uneducated and living several thousand years BCE, came to believe Jonah to have been cursed by a mighty god of the sea. They celebrated his destruction at their hands by drinking all the wine on board and so were too drunk to function properly once the eye of the storm passed and the roaring wind and rain and waves returned. The boat sank, and all the sailors drowned and disintegrated and were eaten by fish. Jonah, however, was eaten (or rather, swallowed), not by a fish, but by a whale - for which there is some precedent - before having the chance to drown or disintegrate. Here the book takes a metaphysical turn and Jonah, having been consumed by the whale, finds himself alternately riding it and residing in its stomach, never entirely certain whether he is about to be in or on the Great Beast. Through a psychic connection born of intimately sharing the rhythms of life, Jonah begins conversing with the whale, which in turn becomes, for the first time, aware of its own existence. As a result of these telepathic conversations, the whale begins to wonder more and more about its own purpose, why it hadn’t seen more of the ocean, whether or not its presence in the vast expanse of time and water even mattered. It obsesses over the idea that every breath it takes is just another step closer to an untimely demise, probably at the hands of a group of hungry harpoon-wielding Japanese. Jonah, on the other hand, drops deeper and deeper into the joys of simply swimming, breathing, and eating. Eventually the whale, overwrought, beaches itself. Jonah, released from the Great Beast, wanders out onto the sand where he discovers a group of other humans, who, having fled various Bronze Age metropoleis in search of cosmic insight, have also managed to pass their existential dread onto other large marine mammals. They have formed their own community in which no attempts have been made to bridge the gaps in language, where, in fact, no one has tried to communicate anything beside their urges to satisfy various physical wants and needs. Jonah joins the community. His first night there, the group covers themselves in whale’s blood, coats their genitals with whale blubber and has a prolonged orgy. Samir titled the manuscript Mobiüs Dick. Unfortunately, Mobiüs Dick would never be published. Partly because the manuscript was nearly eight hundred pages long - the description of the final orgy was a whopping two hundred fifty pages on its own - and partly because as he lunged through the door, knife extended, ready to slit Rabia’s throat, he tripped over an errant stack of papers and tumbled forward in just the right trajectory for the close-eyed, wild arc of the stapler Rabia was swinging to crash into his throat, crushing his trachea. Samir fell, grasping his neck with both hands, a pained wheezing escaping his mouth.

The second assassin behind Samir, Mahzun, wasn’t particularly trained, but owned a knife and needed to make some extra money on the side. This was only his third gig, and the poor performance he had given on his first two had earned him a two-star rating, which meant he garnished a much lower hourly than a more highly rated assassin like Samir. It wasn’t uncommon for a client, bent on the success of an endeavor, to hire lower cost individuals off the app as aids. Eager to improve his rating and therefore his rate, Mahzun, knife in hand, leapt through the door only moments after Samir, colliding directly with Rabia, who herself was jumping over Samir’s downed, thrashing body. Mahzun tumbled backwards into the hall, his head landing on the corner of a filing cabinet drawer that some clerk had neglected to close. Rabia fell on top of Mahzun, her full weight jerking his torso downward, away from his head, severing his spinal cord, paralyzing his respiratory muscles. Terrified, Rabia rolled off Mahzun and sprung to her feet. She shrieked several times and ran down the hall, startling many sleeping cats on her way. The two men, unknown to each other until that night, slowly suffocated while lying on top of one another on the sixth floor of the Sirket Inc. managerial offices.


Baker’s Store, Summer 1966

Gary Waugh

The heat settles itself down for a rest. Everything still, ‘cept tar bubblin’ in the road; And flies, lord, the flies. Me and Charles Henry, sitting on Coke crates. Me too young, he too old, to worry ‘bout not havin’ much to do. Both watchin’ cars and fields of cows. Seeing a world disappear so slowly we won’t Notice till years after it’s gone. Charles Henry never saw it. I do. Not sure who’s better off.

Quietude Snow on the boughs and cut of the road, with the 9 o’clock sun, form a grand nave incased in gold and white. The world is perfect-ly quiet and still. A brown and white dog with feathery tail and forelocks trots by on padded feet. Each step suggesting sound. Smoky puffs of breath lead the way. After a while he turns up the drive of an unseen house. A door opens, a radio song rolls out. And it’s over.

Sixty-three It’s not such a bad place, oh no. It’s smooth. It’s mellow. It’s full-bodied – except our hair. Minor aches and pains remind us we are alive. The greatest consumers – we eat, drink, read, listen, watch and watch, and watch. Play? Yes, but different games. Rules modified, expectations lowered. Minimal stakes. Insulated, we follow the movements of summer and winter. We observe the torrents of spring, the frenzy of fall. Far removed from their furies. We sleep side-by-side out of stubbornness. And deference. The bedding is beige, none purple with green rings. Love is gold and baby blue. Only sunsets are red. Oh no, it’s not such a bad place. Enjoy. It won’t be here long. 96

#dayone They find him at midnight, alone. A kiss and it is finished. As they drag him through the streets, a thin line of red rises above the frozen river…

heavy snow falls deep in the bowels of the city she cradles her son

Susan Beth Furst

The Princess and the Pearl: A Cautionary Haibun Lily’s father took her to the Oyster House every Saturday. They sat at the small tables, on wobbly chairs, and ordered oysters and buttermilk. Lily liked hers with hot sauce and vinegar. She liked her buttermilk with three shakes of black pepper. Vintage photos of Miss America contestants lined the wall behind them. Boozy old men sat at the bar drinking beer and shots of whiskey. funnel clouds on the horizon spinning shades of gray One Saturday, Lily had a feeling that something extraordinary was going to happen. “Perhaps this will be the day that I find my pearl,” she thought. When the waiter brought the oysters to the table, Lily couldn’t decide which one to choose. So, she closed her eyes, made a wish, and picked the fat one on the right. She sank her teeth into the vinegar-laced breading. As it melted on her tongue, she felt something hard scrape against her tooth. Holding her breath and being very careful not to swallow, she extracted a rather large oddly-shaped yellow pearl. “I found it! I found my pearl!” Lily squealed. free fall she steps into her red high heels Lily’s father let out a loud laugh and the boozy old men turned and stared. The Miss Americas stared back. The bartender came out from behind the bar, drying his hands on his dingy white apron. He looked at the pearl and held it up to inspect it. “I’ve never seen a pearl quite this color before,” he announced, as he buffed it with his dish rag. “And it’s so large and bumpy. I’m sure there’s not another one like it! You must have it made into a ring!” the wizard behind the curtain smoke and mirrors Suddenly the bar came alive. There were oohs and ahs from the old men. The bartender puffed out his chest. And everyone was talking about Lily and her pearl. She felt like a Princess. The Miss Americas continued to stare from the back wall. They knew what it was like to be a princess, to find your pearl and to lose it. But Lily was too young and too excited to notice them. She was too busy thinking about that ring and how she was going to find her Prince. still searching somewhere along the yellow brick road 97

Sorry Frank Tavares

It might have turned out differently if Peter had pulled the plug on Laura's life support when he'd

had the chance. He'd had the cord in hand. The nurses were away from their station. Who knows how long it would take for them to find their way back. The plug was loose in the wall. He'd been working it a good five minutes while he sat next to her bed pretending to read a magazine. Now all it needed was one more little tug as he left the room. Then he'd be free. But before he could make the move, he'd been distracted by Brittany-Anne Mackey, thirty-something, attractive, and distraught. "Where is he?" she asked. She was looking for her husband. He explained she had the wrong room, but the nurses would be able to point her in the right direction. "There's no one out there," she said, then draped her coat over the back of the chair across from him, sat down, and burst into tears. In a babble she explained her husband was older than she. Forty years. Felled by a massive heart attack while racing to make a train at Grand Central. Brittany-Anne thought he was in the room where Peter was sitting. "I'm sorry," Peter said and handed her a tissue. Brittany-Anne wiped her eyes. "They told me he wasn't doing well. That I should come as soon as I could. That maybe seeing me would help." "Then there's hope," Peter said. "Yeah. I guess." Peter thought she was about to add something, but she took a breath instead. He reached out his hand and introduced himself. She smiled, told him her name then apologized for being intrusive. "Intrusive?" "Yes. You know." She motioned toward the bed. "Your wife?" Peter tightened his lips. "Yes." Brittany-Anne gave a nervous shrug. "She going to be okay?" He shook his head. "No. She's not. Just a matter of time." "I'm so sorry." "Thanks." "How long?" “Don’t know,” he said. “Could be today. Next week. Next Month.” 98

“What is it?” "Heart." "Well," said Brittany-Anne. "We're members of the same club." He started to smile. "Wait," she said. "That didn't sound right." "It's okay. I know what you meant." She made no effort to move. She looked at Laura. "Does she sleep a lot?" "Actually," he said. "She's not asleep. She's in a coma." "Oh, I'm sorry," she said. "It's hard to tell the difference." She sighed. "Well, thanks for letting me collect my thoughts before resuming my search." He nodded as she stood. "Is there a cafeteria here? Some place to get a coffee?" "Downstairs," he said as he put the magazine on the bed. "You know, I could use one, too. I'll show you." She drank her coffee black. That surprised him. She struck him as the type who'd want to soften the edges. "I haven't seen him in three months," she said. "I'm spending the winter in The Bahamas. He bought me a condo there. But he doesn't like the beach." "That's a shame," Peter said, and took a sip. She looked at the empty tables around them then leaned toward him. "You know," she said, "We'll probably never see one another again." "Probably not." "So, may I confess something to you?" "Confess away." She took a deep breath. "I was hoping he'd die this time. I really wanted him to die. When I married him, I never thought it would take this long." The hair on his arms bristled. She pursed her lips. He thought she was going to cry again, but she took a sip from her cup, blotting her mouth with a napkin. "And I've had this fantasy," she said. "Being the grieving widow. Little black dress, black veil." She smiled at Peter. "I look really good in black." He cleared his throat. "I'm sure you do." "I'd cry at the cemetery. A heartfelt sob when they lowered him into the ground. I've even been practicing." "Were you practicing with me upstairs?" "A little," she smiled. "Yeah." “Well it was very good.” “I know.” She took another sip. “There’s another part to the fantasy.” “Okay.” “I meet some nice, pleasant, grieving widower type.

You know, like you.” She leaned closer, eyes exploring his. “And we share our grief. Help each other cope. Someplace far away from here. Someplace warm. With a beach." She leaned back. "Except our spouses aren't quite dead yet." A man in scrubs approached the table. "Mrs. Mackey?" "Yes?" He introduced himself as the doctor she'd spoken to on the phone. "I was hoping I'd find you here. I'm afraid I have some bad news." He glanced at Peter and looked back at her, waiting for permission to continue. "It's okay," said Brittany-Anne. "He's a friend." "I'm sorry. We did all we could. But your husband has, well, left us." "By 'left us' you mean 'died,' right?" "Yes, I'm afraid so. I'm so sorry." Brittany-Anne quivered her lip. She looked at Peter. Then closed her eyes in a sob. As she cried into her napkin, Peter reached across the table and took her hand. She squeezed it. The doctor hesitated then touched her shoulder. "When you're ready, you can see him," he said. "And there are some papers to sign. They'll be with the nurses." Brittany-Anne nodded, and asked him to remind her of the room number. He told her. "Again," he said, "I'm really sorry." "Thank you," she said. "Thank you." He patted her shoulder and left. Brittany-Anne took a big, cleansing breath then smiled. "So," she said. "That went well don't you think?" She dabbed her eyes then took another sip from her cup. "You know, I'm glad I wasn't with him. I'm glad I stumbled into your room instead." "My wife's room." "Oh. Yes." Brittany-Anne smiled again. "Your wife." She pushed back her chair. "Well, thank you for the company. I truly appreciate it. Sorry about your wife," she said as she stood. "I hope it all turns out as well as can be expected." "Thank you," Peter said standing opposite her. "You're nice," she said. "I'm sorry we met in this funny way. Terminal spouses and all." "I'm sorry for your loss," he said as he reached out his hand. She covered it with both of hers, giving him a most sincere look. "And I for yours." Then she picked up her coat, and with a little wave, Brittany-Anne Mackey disappeared into the hall.


Mind’s Eye Kerry Molina Mixed Media


Winter River

Bonnie Kennedy (For Sylvia Plath) Gushing from the womb In the water of universal truth That brought you here, The water became a river Flowing through you Sweeping down from mind to heart Pumping up from heart to mind Too fast to catch, to rough to swim And you with no boat. Until frigid grief calmed it To an icy sheet you walked upon, But still, the torrent rushed beneath your feet. You chipped a hole for reaching in, And pulled up liquid truth In the palm of your hand.

You watched it seep Between your fingers and drain back Into the hole. You could not hold it, You could not keep it, You could not stop the Writhing serpent rushing past. And in that last hard winter With no money and cold babies, The icy sheet melted. The water overwhelmed you, Dragged you back into the womb And carried you away Maybe to a place where you Could climb out, look up, And finally see where you had been.

You could not see the whole river End to end, while looking down, Lifting handful after handful,

THE SMALL REALMS OF LIGHT Each tooth a comma in the flower critic’s voice, his body condemned to one small word, even when there are words and sounds enough for all the cities of radiators and phone-drifters and plastic stairwells. Hide the food in the fourth syllable of the haiku closest to destruction. Remove, with a rice blade, every word you’ve dampened on the page until you uncover those four fears of clarity. Everyone devoured by millisecond-long cyber organisms in the continually shifting cyber autumns will have to endure the criticisms of people safe in their small realms of light. The book is not a stadium and its irises only sometimes carry each other beyond the hills and mountains of the beheaded voice as it falls. No one there will admit that the words bring disease and that, listening to the masters, one can hear the subtle churning of Yuri Mamleyev begging the flames to sleep with him on the unending surface of the sun. ~ Rob Cook


Transplant On that sacred day nineteen years ago, when the wires and tubes were pulled, the better to race me down a sea-foam hallway, I tried to trick the terror by counting boxes of fluorescent lights. I still remember: thirty-seven. Thirty-seven. My fear subsided when I saw tear-blurred hope nest in my parents’ eyes wide and moist as a surf-battered beach. We sang and listened to Weird Al songs as we waited for the man with the red-and-white Igloo to arrive. It wasn’t until later the doctors told us that whether I lasted depended upon making my new ingredient a lifelong friend. For weeks I dreamed of riding a coaster arm-in-arm, squeezed into one seat, careening over rickety slats. Ten thousand pills and six hundred million beats later, we sit together in a lime-green maternity ward, medicinal light washing away the pink beneath my skin. And while bent over to beg my maker, through squinted hands and fierce-clasped eyes, that my child be healthy and safe and strong, with every ounce of my strength and soul, I hear long-ago prayers and supplications drifting skyward like moths escaping an attic, in my parents’ voices pleading with God that I might survive. And finally seeing the dry-ice logic: that in order for my fragile heart to go on beating, someone else’s healthy child must die.

~ J.W. Heacock

The Silence Between Us once, the silence between us was space for our souls to speak I miss it like I’d miss the rain because rain is the sky loving the earth, and that’s why things grow I knew it was over when the silence between us Became a void and I lost us in it The silence— an absence Of words Because we had nothing left to say I miss when the brush of your lips was music, reassurance When you kissed my hair And your kiss was like rain The sky loving the earth Like you loved me Until the silence between us Overcame us ~ Jacinta Das 103

Man with Fish

Paul Fuqua Photography in Real Time


Needs Help

Havana Meat Market

Retired Diplomat

Paul Fuqua’s trajectory toward street photographer has taken many twists and turns over the years. From his background in biology, to an early career as a cop in Washington, D.C., to a second career as a scriptwriter at his own production company, Fuqua has had a multitude of opportunities to study the intersection of human nature, personality, and technology that enhances and reveals these for the an audience. He is best known for his books Light Science & Magic and Faces: Photography and the Art of Portraiture. Light Science & Magic (with Fil Hunter and Steven Biver; 5th Edition, Focal Press, 2015), one of the best-selling books about light in photography, is used in classrooms and on campuses around the world. Fuqua describes it as a tutorial to help novice photographers to learn to take successful pictures of difficult subjects, such as shiny things or people with darker skin tones. As a tutorial text, Fuqua says that the book is designed with college semesters in mind and is broken into thirteen chapters with a lesson in each about a certain aspect of lighting. He says, “We wrote the book to be useful to both students and the general publish. It gives photographers enough information so that they can take a difficult picture in a studio, the idea being that there is an over-arching principle about how light works. We show them how to handle different subjects, all going back to the same basic way of looking at light.”


Light Science & Magic is such a popular book that many of its illustrations can be found shared on the Internet without permission. Fuqua says it’s a problem that is often not worth pursuing because the people sharing the work illegally don’t have any money. He explains, “For instance, we’ve got a kid in Latvia who’s been publishing our book for years. It’s a very good pdf file of our $36.00 book and he turns around and sells it for $2.50. It’s very tricky. Honestly, I’m not sure that many physical textbooks will continue to exist in coming years. I think about half of our sales are in the eBook format now. Students like the eBook because they can rent the book for six months for $14.00, rather than buying the book at a higher price.” Faces: Photography and the Art of Portraiture (with Steven Biver; Focal Press, 2010) highlights photography and the art of portraiture. Fuqua says he was interested in a project that captured the intersection of personality and photographic technique. In Faces, he and Steven Biver show students how to accentuate personality in portraiture through lighting, posing, and composition. They deliver the finished image with detailed instructions on how to capture the result. Fuqua has a comprehensive and experienced perspective on publishing books that teach us to accomplish a skill, while at the same time practicing what he preaches through the pursuit of a personal enjoyment of photography. The photography that he currently practices involves new technologies most often found on digital platforms and cameras on phones. He says, “About two years ago, I locked up all my gear. Now, I work with nothing but a phone. Before that, I used a small Cannon camera. It had one big drawback; any time people saw you with the camera they were knew you were taking their picture. Because the phone has become so ubiquitous, I can walk around taking many pictures and no one knows it. I work solely with phones now, and they are fantastic. They do all the thinking. They get the exposure right, and you have the ability to do major editing right on your phone.” Fuqua doesn’t have a favorite phone camera, but he does hold fast to shooting everything in color. He says it gives him more options when he is deciding which direction he wants to take an image. Fuqua also prints his images, which he says sometimes helps him find pictures within pictures. He keeps the originals in large, untouched files with duplicate versions that allow him to get creative, and he advises everyone to save multiple back-ups of work they love on separate drives.


Man with Chicken

Soccer Player

All Smiles

Man with Dog


A whiz with filters and apps, Fuqua sees photography as a way to create a reality, just as in writing a novel. He uses technology to amplify connotation and mood in his images. He elaborates, “I was out in Arizona at the Navajo International Parade, shooting a lot of photos at the rodeo, and damn were they dull. If you’ve seen one horse kicking someone in the head, you’ve seen them all. So I decided to amplify them by creating a faux color. I must have shot 200 pictures that night, but one grabbed my attention. It’s now one of my very favorite photos. In the rodeo, there are these guys who ride out to remove the bronco once the rider has jumped off. They would pull the bronco away; it’s very dangerous work. So I decided that was hot, and I brought all the colors into a very hot range. I created an orange mood, a hot mood. Another example is a photo I took of a woman sitting at an intersection begging for money. I desaturated it, making it almost ghostlike, and she looks like hell. Well, the situation was almost out of hell, so I captured that mood with the manipulation of color.” When starting the written part of a project, Fuqua says he follows the advice of a professor he once knew, “Before you start writing anything, you must be able to explain it in one simple subject and verb sentence. One sentence tell them exactly what they will be able to do, not because it will be useful to them, but because you’ve thought it out.” Over time, Fuqua has learned to be open to changing his perception about projects he’s working on. He says, “Some things I thought were small turned out to be quite big, and some things I thought would take up a lot of space I found could be done in a relatively small amount of space. You really have to start writing before it all falls together.” Fuqua’s current project involves street photography taken on phone cameras. He hopes to finish it up within the next year, but he acknowledges the process is a long one. Whether starting with an outline or freeform from an idea, Fuqua says there are many steps from concept to publication, including the work of taking the photos, the digital artistry, the multiple drafts of the manuscript, the back-and-forth between multiple levels of editors and experts, and final copy reviews. With the current state of traditional publishing, Fuqua is toying with the idea of self-publishing, even as a means to market the book to more traditional publishers. His openness to try new technologies and approaches continues to make his work in photography relevant and accessible to us all.


T Goodbye, Blue Eyes J.W. Heacock Memoir

en years ago, I was a contestant on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, not the original one with Regis Philbin, but the syndicated version hosted by Meredith Viera. When I walked out, she exclaimed “you have such beautiful blue eyes,” which caught me completely off guard. An assistant prepped us in the green room on the topics Meredith would most likely bring up during in-game banter, and eye color wasn’t on the list. Plus, they aren’t even blue, they’re hazel, but the royal blue shirt I wore made them appear that color. In my shock, I made a stupid face—you can see it on the YouTube clip—as I stared back at her, literally slack-jawed. What really threw me is that my mother used to tell me growing up that as a baby, I had the loveliest blue eyes—so deep and startling a blue that strangers would stop on the street to comment on them. Usually a baby’s eyes change color around six months, but when mine changed as a two-year-old, my mother was furious, as if she’d been robbed. It’s funny how as a kid you remember the things your parents tell you about you, but ignore most of the rest, especially about them. I knew that my mother Pauline had come to America from England as a teenager, sometime in the 1950s—we assumed by boat, like in the movies. She was an orphan and an only child, so she had no family; we didn’t know anything about her family history, nor did we ask—it seemed like a sad, awkward subject. Both of my father’s parents, in contrast, were still alive, and he had tons of relatives in Baltimore. My mother’s lack of family made her a blank slate, someone’s whose life began with our birth—isn’t that how most kids think, that the world didn’t exist before we arrived? Everybody likes a story with a beginning, middle, and end, which progresses toward a big finish in strict chronological order. But life doesn’t always cooperate so easily. Sometimes you find the pieces one by one, collect them, and assemble them later until it all makes sense, as a story as well as a life. * * *


When we were growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was a big deal at school, but never at home. We’d be lucky if someone remembered to make sure we wore green so we didn’t get pinched. I was surprised that my mother was so nonchalant about it, because my father once mentioned that she had Irish blood as well as English. She was devoutly Roman Catholic, and I knew the stereotype that Irish pretty much equaled Catholic. She’d been raised by nuns at the orphanage, so she was very reserved: she didn’t curse, drink, and she never had an ill word to say about anyone. Her favorite saying was “if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” The only exception was that my mother would always say something nasty about Ireland when the topic came up, typically something like “those awful people are always drinking and fighting.” Seeing as my mother was English, and this was during the height of the violence between Britain and the IRA, I chalked it up to politics and nationalism.

About five years ago, when she was seventy-four, my mother started showing worsening signs of dementia. Luckily, it wasn’t the steep collapse of Alzheimer’s, but she could be unpredictable, and it wasn’t safe for her to live alone anymore. So, my older brother Joe and I sold her house in Maryland had her move in with us: six months in Florida with him, six months with me in Nashville. During this time, we learned things about her we never knew. Like when I was preparing to have her go back to Florida, I asked her if she was able to fly on a plane. “If you get scared or panic, you can’t yell that you want to get off and demand that the pilot turn it around.” She laughed and said indignantly “That’s ridiculous, I flew on a plane here from England when I was 17!” I asked her to tell me more, and she said “I had my hair cut short, which was very much in fashion then. I can still see the moment when I got off the plane, in my brand-new coat and stylish hair, and as soon as my Aunt Mary saw me, she said “Oh my God, you look like a boy.” On bad days, she’d become disoriented and have almost no short-term memory, but she would experience these vivid flashbacks to her childhood in Kent, England. One particularly intense memory was of the day she was adopted at six-years-old. The orphanage was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and my mother described in detail how a nun introduced to her to an older couple, and the woman bent down on one knee and asked her softly “Will you be my little girl?” Mother said it was the happiest day of her life when she went home with John and Lucy Cavanagh as their daughter. Lucy died only five years later, leaving only her father to care for her. John was in his fifties, and it was considered improper, if not scandalous, for a man his age to live alone with a teenage girl—times were different then—so she was sent to a nearby boarding school. The Cavanaghs had a much older son, George, who was a priest in a monastic order, but she only saw him the rare times he visited; her adoptive parents were very proud to have a priest in the family. There were no other children: Lucy Cavanagh had lost a daughter in infancy. I suppose in some fashion, Pauline had been adopted to fill the hole left in her heart; I never asked the baby’s name. A mere six years later, her father John died too. She always called John and Lucy her parents, and we never saw any reason to ask about her biological parents. After John’s funeral, her only remaining family was Father George, but he lived in a monastery and couldn’t take her in. He did sell their father’s house and liquidated the estate, which left Pauline a tidy sum, enough to support her for a year or so. When she told this story decades later, it sounded to me, an adult male in the twenty-first century, like an opportunity for adventure and re-invention, the lack of family ties freeing her to go anywhere. But surely that wasn’t what she saw as a teenage girl who had never had a home for more than six years or known her biological parents. When George told my mother that the Cavanaghs had cousins in Australia as well as an Aunt Mary in Baltimore, either of whom was willing to sponsor her to immigrate, Pauline knew she had to pick one. Because she had corresponded via letters with

Aunt Mary, mother bought a fancy new dress coat, put all her possessions into an expensive cedar chest, and prepared to fly to America. After buying her a plane ticket and securing her passport and visa, Father George told her one last thing: Aunt Mary was her birth mother. *** Pauline’s reappearance in 1955 must have torn open an old wound, and Mary took out her frustration out on the children. Especially when she drank. My mother tried to stick up for the younger children, but they soon blamed her for disrupting a life of abuse that they’d become accustomed to. She didn’t know where else to go, but when she came home one day to find that Mary had sold her trunk and her belongings—to defray the cost of her living there, she explained—she had to leave. She learned that nuns ran a nursing school at St. Joseph’s nearby, and associating the name with the nuns’ kindness from her youth, she interviewed with the hospital’s Mother Superior, Sister Pierre. They hit it right off, and Sister Pierre remained a mentor to her for the rest of her life. Once accepted to nursing school, she lived in the dorms and spent as little time at Mary’s as she could. Four years after arriving in the State, she met my father; a few years later, they were married, and in another two years later my brother Joe was born. These milestones required some contact with Mary: mother felt obligated to invite her to the wedding (and was terrified that she’d get drunk), and when we were born, she didn’t feel that it was right to keep a woman from seeing her grandkids. Mary continued to be invited to family events and holidays, but warily. I’m an Irish twin, meaning I was born less than a year after my brother—355 days, to be exact. My sister came a little later, roughly 16 months, but my mother went into labor early, before my parents had planned for a babysitter. Desperate, she reluctantly asked Mary if she could watch my brother and me for the few days she was in the hospital; she grudgingly agreed. When my parents came to pick us up, my brother and I were bawling our eyes out. Mary griped “they’ve been like this the whole time, absolutely miserable, crying and wailing, nothing makes them stop.” My mother pulled us to her, piled us in the car, and as she was wiping away my tears, saw my eyes had turned hazel. She interpreted this as a sign of divine providence and resolved to never let Mary near her children again. Mother never did. A few years later, when she was working her usual eleven-to-seven night shift at St. Joseph’s on the 7 East wing, a fellow nurse told her of a woman identifying herself as her mother had been admitted to 7 West. During her break, mother went to Mary’s room and found her barely conscious. Mother stood by the bed for several minutes, waiting, wanting to feel some kind of sorrow, but there was nothing. After a few more minutes of standing by Mary’s bedside in silence, my mother went back to work. Later that morning, Mary died. Mother never went to the funeral, an orphan once more.


Dr J.K. and Mr Hide

Marking Time

A volcano erupts

A thigh high hem on a short skirt flirts with the thin, skin-pale scar. Causing a gentle pressure, a rubbing, that recalls an Easter gift box.

in the kitchen at the slightest trifle. A key misplaced. A glass shattered. A text fucked up and sent astray. Objects slam with a tremble, and then,

Jennefer York Cole

the spewing forth of molten lava words strong enough to peel paint from walls,

The ‘Ahhing’ and ‘Ohhing’, little chirping calls pressed around in a circle - What have Poppy and Grammy sent? My hasty hand clasped the knife to cut it open, pressed down on the taped shut sides, but slipped and sliced through soft flesh like Jesus on the cross; touched to see if he lived.

melt ears like candle wax, and turn warm hearts cold. Passing through lips that encircle my nipples

The red silenced the cries and pressure held the wound closed, where you now place your hand, touching the mark, having no doubts.

in a holy vow. Over a tongue that traces


love letters across my skin, my body held in hands, so tenderly, for fear it might turn to ash and disappear in a breath of wind. I want to unlock your fingers with a touch and watch a fist become a hand again metamorphosis. Turn over the palm, angled so I can see clearly to read the lines intertwined. What is your story? Where does your rage reside? Come lay beside me. Let me dig down through your layers and find where your fire and brimestone hide.


Slipping into bed in broad daylight, under the sheets A DIY day

for a lay down I hide my head to better rest my eyes. break.

The thump of my heart keeps time with My tomblike the outside world is green tinted sheets of sea water. transformed,

in my eardrums pelting rain on glass. encasement, muffled, like covered in A bedroom my bed a boat.

That morning, her husband’s death. a more peaceful journey,” How very poetic the only escape? to me, the question

my neighbor spoke of “A casting off; she said. I thought. Is death From Hamlet still is to be.

Or not. Smells of fresh coriander, sun-ripe nectarines on my fingertips

paint and yellow mingle from the day.

How can one sleep smell of life? Pull the sheet tight.

with hands that Close the windows. Keep that feeling

from floating away.

In Our Midst To us kids, he was the kind, quiet one, but to outsiders he was hard to miss–our Uncle Dick, dark-skinned, Puerto Rican invited by marriage into this homogenous throng of pasty-skinned, fair-haired Norwegians who, like him, were not long enough off the boat to have left the old country fully behind. Yet there was little room for Uncle Dick to compete with our hyperbolic memories of Norway’s towns and fjords–names that blossomed with lilting and rounded vowels: Lysefjord, Tromso, Aasgastrand–faraway lands born again at the Sons of Norway dances where the adults stomped and sweated though polkas, whirled through hambos–the sturdy hips of strong-armed women held firm and swung hard by the rough hands of carpenters. And Uncle Dick, gamely moving along with my aunt, emerging at the edge of photos, the camera shying away from his slick black hair, his mysterious dark eyes hungry for ven y únete a nosotros, an invitation to come, tell us cold ones about the warm sea, the seductive scent of the Plumeria tree, or how the quick beat of the merengue might help unlock the Lutherans’ frozen hips, get the party going on downstairs. But mostly I imagine Uncle Dick longed to hear his true name: the lush syllabic run of Ricardo Morales, to recall warm nights under a net of stars, the hush of sea kissing sand, Ricardo not sipping a whiskey sour, but a tumbler of dark rum as he tells us about the sway of his own seaward journey from silky heat to northern chill, his tongue straining to clip along as rapidomente in English as in Spanish, dropping the unrythmical syllables, while hitting the consonants like jazz notes on the timbale as he names his mother’s food: arroz con dulce, asopao, mofongo, in the same way we openly longed for salted fish, lingonberry jam, Julekakke, all of us hungry, all of us proud to be from somewhere else, yet some not as welcome as others at this American table where our uncle remained, smiled at the children, us smiling back at him. ~ Guy Thorvaldsen


Nepali Writers of America Â

FLAR Nepal Connection

There is a interesting story. I was introduced to Amy Bayne, FLAR’s editor in chief,

by David Caprara during a meeting of the Fredricksburg Kathmandu Sister City Initiative. Amy then interviewed me for a feature article in the Spring 2016 edition. This past winter, I proposed a Nepali section for this edition of FLAR. She agreed.

Speaking of Nepali literature, there is a proud history of more than 200 years of

Nepali literary tradition. There were many ancient poets in Nepal, however Bhanubhakta Acharya is considered a pioneer poet (Aadi Kabi) who translated the epic Ramayan in Nepali language. Late Poet Laureate Mahakavi was a talented poet who wrote the epic Shakuntal in only three months and Sulochana, another epic, in just 10 Days. His selected poems have been translated and published by Columbia University under the UNESCO project. Muna Madan, Mahakavi’s small epic based on folklore, is the most sold book in the history of Nepali Literature.

Nepali poetry entered in Modern Era when Gopal Prasad Rimal wrote poems in

modern prose style. Bhupi Sherchan was the most popular poet in later time.

The most sold novel in Nepali is Basai, by Lil Bahadur Chhetry. This novel was

translated by Michael Hutt and was published by Columbia University in the United States.

Groups of Nepali Writers were involved in many literary movements., Third Dimen-

sion (Tesro Aayam), Ralpha Generation, Taraltabaad, and the Hungry Poem Movement to name a few.

Over the past couple of decades, the flow of Nepali people to different parts of

the world has been significant, bringing with it an increase in the amount of Nepali literature being created around the globe. There are many powerful poets and writers emerging these days. Here, we share a few.

Govinda Giri Prerana 7 May 2018 Falls Church, Virginia

All photos of Nepal that are shared within this artilce were provided by Sue Henderson and by the Fredericksburg-Kathmandu Sister City Initiative. The Fredericksburg-Kathmandu Sister City initiative grew out of the tremendous outpouring of good will of Virginians and Nepalis who joined together with Rise Nepal and other partners after the tragic 2015 Nepal earthquakes. A civic-led initiative, it includes current and future exchanges fostering cross cultural understanding and positive outcomes in community service and the environment, academic exchanges between the University of Mary Washington and Tribhuvan University in Nepal, arts and culture, business and tourism. The scope includes the broader Kathmandu Valley and Fredericksburg-Rappahannock region, and other Virginia-Nepal Exchange supporters.

Promethean Spirit in Siddicharan’s Mangalman Literary Essay Mohan Sitoula

Siddhicharan was a revolutionary poet. He was dissatis-

fied with all kinds of evils of his days. Many poetic expressions of him do bear a witness to this fact. In this discourse, the Promethean spirit of Siddhicharan is dissused with special reference to his short epic “Mangalman.”

Siddhicharan's short epic “Mangalman” is Promethean

in its spirit. But who is Prometheus? As a divine character in the Greek mythology, he was a minister of the creative aspect of fire, Hephistus being the destructive side of it. Enraging the divine king Zeus, who wanted to crush the 'feeble' and 'tiny' humans of the dark, Prometheus stole fire from heaven in a reed or a small bamboo and gave it to mankind for their overall betterment. As he stole light from the celestial kingdom of Olympia, ruled by the young and adolescent tyrant the divine king Zeus, and gave it to the humans, the latter became conscious, skillful, and prosperous. So he was chained and nailed in Mt. Caucasus for the crime he had committed to help the needy, but as a divine character he could not be killed. At last, when the king Zeus realized his mistakes through

Mohan Sitoula is a poet, critic and translator. His books in English were published back in Nepal. He was professor and campus chief in Nepal. He was a former president of the International Nepali Literary Society based in the US. He lives in Austin, Texas.

a wide range of experiences gained from many ups and downs, a reconciliation took place following the triumph of democracy and people-oriented welfare everywhere. In the known legendary history of the west, Prometheus, as a rebel, was the first one to have been crucified. For the first time in human history, he showed that the task of protest aimed at a good cause and against evils is a holy job. But this, too, demands its price. He became the example of such, which was later followed by many in the march of human civilization; Socrates, Christ, and many more martyrs came in the line of historical tradition of the west, the east, and elsewhere.

Prometheus - literally fore-thinker or wise , as a legend

and as a protagonist - is a symbol. Speaking in terms of Darwin, when man invented fire in the woods – especially in the reed and the bamboo – or when he discovered it in the burns of the thick did Prometheus steal it from heaven and give it to man. He is also a symbol, a metaphor of the spirit of martyrdom and the freedom fighters of the world. It is a universal struggling lamp of a rebel who fights for justice and change for betterment. It is also a message that every small or great achievement demands


sacrifices in terms of its price. In other words, Prometheus is a mythical, as well as symbolical, explanation and understanding of the spiritual awakening, mental progress and the material or physical development of mankind. It is the inextinguishable spark inherent in man that continuously illuminates the path of the march of human civilization.


The various European struggles and wars, the Amer-

ican War of Independence of 1765, The French Revolution of 1789, the Afro-Asian and the Latin American revolutions and wars, which were the compulsive outbursts of social as well as political kind, had the Promethean spirit in them all. The same are the stories of all the ancient and modern welfare societies and states. There have been rebels and revolutions following the achievements of the desired goals – prosperous peace and creative culture in a democratic society of the liberated and responsible individuals and communities or nations.

Nepal, of course, is not an exception. Many social and

political upheavals of the past and present history of Nepal have brought the Nepalese up to this day. In all those stirrings, many men of letters of Nepal have taken quite important parts. ‘Makai Parba’ was caused by a writer Krishna Lal. He was supported by the famous poet Kulchandra and others. Bishnucharan


next. Afterwards, hosts of revolutionary writers have made and are making their contributions to the sacred cause.

Siddhicharan appears here. In fact, he had been writing

“Mangalman,” the main character listens, looks, and him-

rebellious poems for a long time. They are not merely blindly re-

self experiences the rampant evils like injustice, inequalities, op-

bellious, but are, of course, for the sake of the betterment of the

pression, exploitation and torture. He moves against them in an

Nepalese in particular, and the universal human community in gen-

organized way, is sent to the jail seventeen times, is frequently

eral. As early as in 1997, he wrote a poem in Newari. ' “Kranti bina

beaten black and blue by the authorities and almost destroyed,

thana jui makhu swochchha shanti” (“No pure peace prevails here

but is never defeated. Indomitable as he is, like Prometheus and

without revolution”). All those poems are aimed against all kinds of

many other similar fighters of the world, he moves on with his pro-

disparities, inequalities, injustice, oppression, blackmails, bigotry,

test and organized movements. In the process of long and untiring

tortures and the like. He never gave up this fight even in the prison

movements at last, the Rana regime falls and democracy, the

and other adverse situations. He became a strong and unending

cherished goal, dawns, but the 'hard times' of the people are never

source of inspiration for the social consciousness and the force

changed or relieved and improved. Many of his friends are made

for protest. It is in this background that his longer poem “Mangal-

the ministers. But they all turn fake and traitor of the trust. And thus

man'”– a master piece – takes its noble place.

he condemns them:

“Mangalman,” as a revolutionary piece of literature is

something like a modern Geeta of the spirit of protest against all

You used to pretend to reform the country's bad feast

kinds of evils and crimes . It is the Bible of revolution, written in the

But being a Minister now, you have become a beast!

Bible-like simple Nepali diction. One of the most favorite musical

Fie! Fie! You shameless beast! Go away and eat the grass

notes of one of the Nepali folk songs–Sabai–is vibrant all through

A mean person like you cannot reconstruct the society! Alas!

the poem. It has a flavor of creative art in letters. As Dostoivskey, Chekhov and Gorkey and others are for Russia, Milton, Shelley,

He continues his own way and is again imprisoned. Inside the

Byron and Dickens for England, Lushun for China, Premchand,

bar, he listens that the parliament is dissolved and rampant ar-

Muktibodh, Kaifi Azmi and many others for India, Pablo Naruda for

rests are going on and confusion prevails. He cries in the jail

the Latin American countries, so is Siddhicharan for Nepal, espe-

and condemns the move, is inquired and beaten badly. He nears

cially in those days.

the brink of death, is released from the jail and dies of the deep

Many writers and artists of the world have been put into

wounds made by his own fellow humans–ironically, those that be-

prison. Siddhicharan and his father Bishnucharan (at the age of

long to the poor class for whom he had been fighting throughout

87), the writer of the first Nepali novel Sumati, are among them.

his life. He dies as a great soul, leaving behind the footprints of a

Theirs is another type of the variety of the contribution that father

freedom fighter. This is a tragedy, but Prometheus is not so . The

and the son are put in the same dungeon all at a time against the

latter is a victor and the former? Though tragic, “Mangalman” also

same crime of fighting for the cause of justice and freedom on

is a victor in spirit, which is the characteristic of any tragedy. His

behalf of the people. Is it not a unique example? Freedom for man,

ideal thought and struggling character of determination leaves an

as well as for all the living creatures of the world as a whole, has

optimistic vision of Nepal , Nepalese society, and the world:

been irrigated by the sacred blood of the martyrs. The fights and

the achievements have been made holy by the long confinement/s

Tomorrow golden days will dawn here

and made precious by the extreme tortures, not to mention the

They will wash away all the black unfair

noble deaths. Great!

“Mangalman,” as a short epic and as a protagonist in the

In fact, it did in the sense that democracy came again. Yes, it has

poem, on the one hand, is a poetic token of the poet’s revolutionary

come, and come with its own challenges.

zeal and, on the other, it is a comprehensively personified symbol

of the popular but suffocated sentiment of the nation and demo-

sage that like many spiritual or mental sons and daughters of the

cratic spirit as desired by the Nepalese. Like a Prometheus, the

great souls–many Mangalmans, the freedom fighters–will come

torch-bearer for many ancient Greek and later English, European

in their multitude to rescue the world from various falls.

Thus the short epic ends in tragedy with a universal mes-

and Nepali poets like Dewkota the great, and the goddess Saraswoti in the form of a ‘torch-bearing maiden’ (sancharini deepa-

Lakhs of Mangalman are being born here

sheekhev ratrou) of Kalidas, “Mangalman” is one for Siddhicharan

Through the war of life causing its changes dear!

and, it has turned out to be, of the Nepalese. But it does not stop there; it becomes a card against the various evils of power and for the good of any upheavals that occur in the future history of the

The End

world. Thus, it goes to say that it is a literary document that rages voices for the sake of Human Rights in their actual sense of the term and not as a mere show of words.

The poetic lines cited here are informal translation of the writer.


Dashain Upon the fig and gogun trees the buzzer-fly sings its chorus; in its youthful fragrance mugwort awaits being tucked on someone’s hair the white aksheta on the forehead is not just elders’ blessing; it’s forgiveness, as pure as the mountaintop something I receive every year

Deepa Rai Pun has written poems for many years. She has published two books of poems in the Nepali language. Born in Nepal, she now lives in Boston. She has recently released a audio cd album that consists her lyrics.

When Kainli and Antari arrive walking across seven hills I find in the tender leaves of banana more greenery of love than the little dakshina they have tendered. I fall on their feet and measure the peaks of reverence to the height of the skies. The pitcher-full of drinks a sister brings is not just a votive offer of the festival; it ís an invitation to her brother to wear wreathes of marigold and violet to break into pieces the hard walnut to be fenced within the lines of oil to be woven into an unbreakable bond with time as its witness. Let these rituals of self-respect practised by a unique identity be first comprehended, and then explained away; let the antique human, a worshipper of nature transform into a true human; let minor flaws be overlooked and Dashain bestow brotherhood to all in festive mood!

aksheta: votive rice seeds smeared in curd, put on the forehead by the Hindus as marks of blessing dakshina: monetary offering given to someone on a holy occasion

The sound of loneliness The sound of loneliness The sound more loneliness too It comes from outside near by Where stands a large people tree People say The people haunt the place The night People worship them Beneath the trees. But I don't believe in night I have no belief That Gods Exist beneath the trees The sound is unusual It's not either of people or Gods Sometimes, from inside Sometimes, from both sides Weeping and lulling At last one day I asked the poor man Whose sound is it? And why? He said a woman has just delivered a child I am a porter, The child is satisfied In breast feeding The nipples with no milk flow The sound is indeed a reaction Arising from the gap Between demand and supply Nowadays, The walls crack violently Some faint shapes of mine appear Life, I bow to you The sound becomes sweet As the poor man told, Though The sound was a struggle But sometimes Even the struggle tastes sweet. Even the Life struggle tastes sweet.

Kamala Budhathoki writes short stories, poems and articles on social issues and gender. She contributes her English language writings in different papers and portals. She lives in New Jersey.


A poem written in 1996 A.D. Four years earlier, before taking leave of you This poem of mine, O Century, is a gift to you. Together we spent a hundred years, years of sufferings joy of satisfaction, pleasure and happiness we had amid calamities and trials stood we together, time and time again we wept together with lumps at our throats. ah, time does pass unheeded just look behind, see how did we spend a hundred years, we two together.

Krishna Dharabasi is a famous writer of fiction, essays, travelogue and poems. He has received the Madan Award, a highly recognized award in Nepal. He lives in Virginia and frequently travels to Nepal. His awarded novel, Radha, has been translated in English and published in US.

Even the very beginning, for us, had been a difficult one besieged were the first two decades by war, severing had we been our own limbs and casting them away, filled with dreams of victory, we were defeated again and again and died scattered ourselves all over the world as festering wounds. The voyage of the Twentieth Century that we began together is floating on a pool of blood. By the flames of revolution, said to have begun in every home, men themselves are being swept away. We know not how from among ourselves like the eye of boil pressed out, a Hitler raised his head, once again a war he declared. At the explosion of Einstein alone in the beginning nobody knew a whole city could come to dust, only the beard of Einstein could drink so much blood. Innumerable people died we say as Israelites, as Palestinians, as Americans, as Vietnamese, as Chinese, as Japanese, as Englishmen, as Indians, all chanting the names of their enemies in the contest of saving their lives. Eh, how could we come so far together, we two together. The moon we reached, down we brought the sample soil, every particle of the Martian soil we surveyed, soared into space, roiled along the surface of the earth, for civilisation new attire we have woven, wiped out and drew anew many a line on the face of the earth, we linked together the conceptions of new kinds of states, but to the people of Amazon and the Congo Valley we failed to provide clothing, to the crying children in our neighbourhood we could give no bread.

But here again we into the Golden Temple enter, stand stubborn at the birthplace of Rama and the Baberi Mosque, at the gate of Pashupatinath Temple, we scrutinize who are Hindus and who are not, in Rwanda and Burundi we are the Hutus and the Tutus keen in exterminating each other, we are organised ourselves again in castes, races and linages he must not be let live but my life is inevitable, with such thoughts in our mind standing we are at the end of the precipice, Four years before bidding good-bye to you, O Century, a gift to you is this poem of mine. These awfully stinking and all detestable pages of history are all for you, for you. All that this century could offer the great and marvelous scientific achievements are all for you, you do sing yourself the songs and hymns of Tagore, I give to you, for you museum, even Picasso's paintings, keep carefully the pieces of bricks of the torn-down Berlin Wall, preserve the wounded story of the fragmented Russia, the sufferings underwent by small countries like Kuwait, iniquities committed against them by big countries like Iraq are all for you. I give to you the injustice and repressions perpetrated by despots and dictators, and you, you stay here as a year to be excavated long after, you stay here but like the vivid letters in a history book, bring with you the countless wounds and befried As-wat-tha-ma, who has been plodding since the days of the third age of this cycle of creation.

Govinda Giri Prerana is a versatile writer. He has published 23 books of poems, short stories, essays, travelogues, novels, criticism, and drama, all inked by him. He currently lives in Falls Church, Virginia and he is the founder president of the America Nepal Literature Academy.


On the one hand diarrhea was pressing me, while on the other there was an opportunity to go back to childhood and enjoy it once again. Forgetting the diarrhea, I chose the opportunity. Lap of the mountain. How long has such a neat and clean lap remained against the increasing city full of concrete! Near a city, which has become a rubbish container, there is a tiny place with a bit of the beauty of Nature, a bit reality of cleanliness, a little affection, a little memory—all were easy to access. Can one reach the realm of ignorance of infancy at whim? The nose was full of dirt. There were no shoes on feet, nor slippers. The sticky and thick mustard oil was rubbed on the head as hair oil—books, copies and pen in hand. The books were finely covered with the colored pages of China Pictorial. Life was then as it is now. But that life was different, incredible to be one’s own. This present life! Leave it; what to talk of a life polluted like a mess in a ditch. Yes, it was a day of freedom from such a ditch. A day of self-remembrance, a day of self-forgetfulness. I seem to forget the name, but the face is fresh in my eye. I remember even your Roll No. How many children have you now? Grown old. The son has turned 22 now, a matrimonial age— Hi...Hi... You have grown fat. You have grown feeble. A crowd within the thick crowds. In many crowds within the crowd we are moving in confusion, we are going back to infancy, to childhood . We used to write upon the slate. Used to rush and quarrel head-to-head to pick up the fallen pieces of chalk under the blackboard as soon as the teacher went out. The girls did not look towards the boys. A girl talking to a boy was like pearls falling down. There was a Madhese selling Chana Chatpate. An old Mother was there selling rice and curry. The old man making Ainthhi. A Madhese used to turn up time and again to show films in a small tin box-camera in five paisa: see the Hauda bridge, look at the city of Bombay... The free reels of old memoirs come before my eyes. But how do they come? Where were they assembled? Like layered rocks, they are coming up in planks, floating to the eyes. Licking the sweet Malai-ice on the Shal-leave with sustained care and greed, the wonderful sweet taste left long after it is finished and the leaf is empty!

Compensation for Eating the Harvest of Remembrance

Personal Essay

The eating of Mungfali (almond nuts) and the following eructation with the repeated taste of the same. When we were broke without money, we often gave copies of our writing to the Chatpatewala, and on knowing this at home we ate beaten rice (beaten flat or slapped) stuffed into our cheeks. Oh! How much can man remember things? How long can man remember the incidences? Which episodes will he continue to remember and which will he never forget? The hill of Manakamana! Not the one of the district of Gorkha. The hill situated in the north-eastern direction of Hetouda is called the Manakamana hill because there is the shrine of the Goddess Manakamana. What one should know then is that the real Manakamana is somewhere else in my own country – in Gorkha. The same hill seemed like the highest peak! To the north of it there is the Mahabharat range. Having known it, I now supposed it was the highest one. We could hear the name of the Sagarmatha (literally, the head of the sky, Mt. Everest) only after a long time. Looking out from the highest peak of ignorance, one can see highest peaks everywhere. Though not deserving to be the highest, the brain, mind and man will just suppose they are. Imagine the filmy scene that could be peeped through the sun rays that penetrated inside through the Madhese’s box camera through small holes! That was a unique sight and we used to look at it with much interest and wonder, but knowing nothing. Oh, the shortness of knowledge. We were ignorant! We used to play football, P.T (Physical Training). We used to enjoy the literary program every Friday. There were poetry recitations, followed by prize distributions. Things used to happen in the past do not happen now. Things happen now would not happen then. Wind. Storm. Rain. Everything came. There was a heavy rainfall. It poured down so heavily as if Nature would like to purge the whole earth. His son used to eat with left hand. Yes, I remembered – how beautiful were his hand-writings all over the class! Beautiful, round, so well-formed, neat and clean. Twenty five years ago. Yes, twenty five years ago, whether the silver jubilee of remembrance was observed or not. Of memoir. Of remembrance. This period of twenty five

Written by: Govinda Giri Prerana Translated by: Mohan Sitoula

years is spent not with nothing. Countless are the memoirs of this period, almost like the endless roads. – I recognized you in your voice. – I recognized your voice, but forgot your name. – I used to see you so many times, but could not speak. – From now on please call on me, even though I missed seeing you. Affection, a sense of belonging, friendship, laughter. The unveiling of past-covered inscriptions by memory. An attempt to reach rare and unique moment of life! - Doctor! - Engineer! - Pilot! - Writer of literature! - Administrator! - Manager! - Businessman - Industrialist! Some of the children who used to play wallowing with their dirty noses on the dusty meadow of the Bhutan Devi School, might now, when reaching this stage of life, commit to their memory how they used to eat their own nose-dirt by stealing under cover from others—and the salty taste of it. TIme runs on. How the teacher used to slap our cheeks! Used to prick our ears! Punished us by making us stand up and sit down. Taught by tuition. It became a history, a story. And now the image shines live before the history and story. - Spread open delicate hands. - Spread open blind hands. - Spread open disabled hands. - Spread open hungry hands. - Spread open satisfied hands. - Spread open crazy and greedy hands. The same usual scene. How will they live on begging! Is it shamelessness or a compulsion! A pleasantry or what? Very hard to understand! Life too is very difficult! It is still difficult to get life and very hard to save it. It is difficult to make it easy-going. How can one expect life to be like the music of the wind heard in the rising and whistling waves of the Phewa Lake! But IT is cherished to attempt to get back to the same. 123

If it was possible, it would be far better to go back to being the same tiny boy of the Bhutan Devi School with dirt in the nose. Would be better to quarrel and be at play in rolling sports. Would be better to lick the Malai ice and the leaf that is emptied. The scent of the dust while playing! Let it go; now it is beyond access. Nearly impossible! Nearly beyond fancy! Why wallow? I cannot. That is the point. Perhaps in school days we could never meet like this. No gossip. No exchanges of heart’s messages. No becoming highly excited. We could never become boundless. So motionless. Nothing, nothing. We could only be disciplined, laboriously studious children of our parents. That was only the destination, unworldly! We felt shame, but not now! Hesitation was felt, but not now! A kind of fear and nervousness, but not now! So many were such feelings, but not now. Now my mind is spinning.. Bread and tea. Dalmote, beaten-rice and water. The energy of gossip does not need additional fuel. The plenty in the midst of shortages has rendered both wonderful taste and temper. Speak, please. Nice. Nice to gossip. Asking about residential places. Exchanging of phone numbers. Nothing difficult, uneasy, hesitating. I have got an opportunity to swing on the unworldly rope of strange and


unique pleasure and intoxication. Got to loudly express myself in merry making. While swinging high, I got a chance to glimpse over the forgotten places. Got a chance to reach that very moment of life. Really, really unprecedented! Bygone days are in themselves unique! Under the rainy sky, what is the north, where south, east and west? All is the same plain, wide surface. It is flooded. Mud is being flown. Dirt is carried away. Leaves are flown. The fallen dry leaves are flown. Here is nothing but bitterness for us in the act of flowing and throwing! I reached the Rajpani paddy-field across the river of Karra. I used to go to show the paddy plants and got drenched all through. Used to do Bause-the leveling of the mud for planting. Used to do clean all sides of the planting beds of fields. Used to hear the jokes. But I had none of the age, power and capacity to cut jokes. The Karra creek used to be all flooded. During high flood I have crossed the Karra rivulet on the back of an ox. I have a dreadful memory of when I was carried away by the flood, stripped off all my clothes and planted inside the hole of a mighty rock. In all my naked plight, covered by darkness and playing hide and seek with light, I had reached home hiding here and there in the late evening! For a moment now I climb over a mansion of memory and slowly come down. Some of these are the same peers. What should they know of me, the dual acquaintance of the same studious straightforward child I was (myself), who used to graze the buffaloes? The eyes used to turn red like ripened tomatoes due to swimming all the day long in the polluted flood water. The cattle on graze went trespassing into the private cornfields and the owners came to quarrel, hand-to-hand and making claims for the compensation. Pretending the formidable personality of a father, I said that my eyes had turned red due to the smoke of the fireplace at home while blowing it with a bamboo pipe and not by the swimming in the flood. Now I remember those moments of my childhood when my own sons have grown to my equal. Songs are sung. The duets are on. But this duet is not that one. That duet is now left out there, in that very moment, this modern or even postmodern duet with the last letter. There is a gap of at least twenty five years. The then unborn ones reached now near twenty five—in their prime of youth. The already born ones became more mature. The early shoots have now become large trees with long leafy branches. So and so has gone on pilgrimage, I am told. The old age of pilgrimage has touched upon him. Such news is followed by a flood of laughter.

We were drenched. Drenched were all the moors and slopes. We started drying up. Dried up will be all these waste lands too. The leaves sitting with drops in their open hands. With a touch of the wind, they will fall down heavily like rain—a pseudo rainfall. The leaves bluff us. How fanciful is the illusion! Like small infants are supposed to be the the images of god. Are they? This is my quarry; no one yet has a scientific answer, on the other hand. So, perhaps I might be permitted to call it an illusion. Immediately after the meal, in a long queue, my stomach felt ill at ease. Diarrhea pressed me hard and I ran in a haste. Happiness and sadness, satisfaction and dissatisfaction, all these are the by-products of life. Diarrhea also is the same. This too is is a fact of life.

Promises of meeting again. A commitment of managing more meetings. The sky is open wide and clean. The face under the washed sky is bright. Likewise, bright are the faces of all. Now the time of smiling farewell! A promise to meet smilingly again. A promise to be in union with laughter. Gradually unseen from all old and new, known-unknown, even at the night of homecoming the same faces shone and twinkled like sun and moon in the sky. Because of the opportunity to be able to graze freely in the harvest of remembrance, I have paid the compensation for the same, now on such a golden day. But nobody as middleman, wise man, gentleman needs to settle this compensation. In the empty check of self-wish, I submitted the compensation with a sense of laughter! The diarrhea continued even the following day.


Livestock Lounge Mary Kamerer Oil


Nature Journaling Barbara Deal

Botanicals. Who knew I could draw these? So corny and trite, plants. And yet...


Now I have re-captured the child-wonder that so colored my early years spent within 10 miles of woods, watching for mosses, sticker-briars, ticks. Here is a juncture. I quit painting after 18 commercial companies rejected my work. I was only able to sell 2 paintings locally. Fifteen years after the strain of art school, and 44 years as a trauma-specialist/psychotherapist, and yet I return. Always quick with a cartoon and smart aleck remark, when the lines are good, it is easy. When not, I want to break my own knees. Look closely; my heart lies here.


Tomorrow I Bring You Love Sam Paul


arah watched the doorknob twitch. She savored the seconds before she would have to mime and interpret. Before and after work, at seven in the morning and seven at night, before Ben woke and before he came back home, she sat and smoked. Those minutes, if she managed to avoid interruption, were the only truly quiet ones she had. Presently, Alexei, the Russian or Ukrainian super who lived in the basement, was about to join her. He was kind; that much she knew. Though he spoke all of five words in English, she had developed a rapport with him over the few years they shared the yard. Mostly, they waved at one another, held doors, smiled. Sometimes they said “hello,” or “thank you,” or gestured to indicate “hot” or “cold” or “raining.” Recently, he had taken a liking to saying “super,” meaning good. She imagined he learned it in the context of his role in the world, in this building. He walked out, smiled, took his hands to his shoulders, moved them up and down, embracing himself. Cold. Sarah nodded. Her cigarette was about done, and she stood to move towards the door. He waved his hands, meaning wait. She paused, lit a new one. He grabbed his phone and used the translator. “Do you like fish?” the phone read. Sarah took the phone, unsure if its words mirrored his meaning. “Yes,” she said, nodding, forgoing the translator. He typed words, deleted them, typed again. The English produced was puzzling: “Tomorrow I bring you love.” She stared. Better than the time he asked, “where is the pussy,” she thought. That night, she had shrugged and laughed and


rushed back into the apartment, realizing he had meant “outside cat,” the fattest feral Sarah had ever seen, who also shared the yard. Sarah thought the cat was pregnant when she first moved in, but the swell never subsided. The cat was smart, fed by several different neighbors, but spent most of her time in that space, much of it with Alexei, who was among her enablers. What a lonely life, Sarah thought. His, hers, the cat’s. Once again, instead of pressing Alexei for his meaning, she nodded and smiled, put her cigarette out, and went inside. The next night, as she did dishes, there was a knock at the window. She walked out back to find Alexei standing outside and holding a bucket full of fish. He handed her one as long as her torso—head, scales and all. It threatened to slip through her fingers, and she felt its juices seeping into the sleeve of her sweater. She stared, smiled, pondering how one scales and beheads a fish, who she could call with such a question, and how she would manage to open the door. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” She tried to exclaim, but her words came out flat. He read her expression, and grabbed the fish, walked to a small compost pile in the corner of the yard, and took out his knife. He kneeled, passing over the fish with his blade as iridescent flecks fell to the ground. He cut below its head, and pulled out its guts, throwing them into the pile. His hands and the fish dripped blood as he stood and handed it back to her, indicating she should hook her finger into its mouth. She opened the door and walked through the apartment, dripping blood across the floor. She tilted sideways from the heft of it, wondering in what language fish is a synonym for love.

Keith Mark Gaboury



I slip into the sin box after I lied to my dentist through bleeding gums about my rigorous flossing regiment.

Her body speaks in canopied shadow. Stepping into starlight,

Inside the Father’s judgment, a spike of light crawls into my eyes like a rat looking for a home. Why am I infested with laziness? I either think but do not speak or speak but do not think. My thinking and speaking got divorced last spring. They’re now sequestered at opposite ends of my skull. I’m told my forgiveness is a breakfast plate to begin anew under an egg sun. Who am I kicking a pigeon at 16th and Church when I do not have a job to say hello and goodbye? A shell cracks like my tongue begging a police officer to show mercy on Good Friday.

her mind speaks before a crowd of leaves listening through green attention. Her body speaks against glossy beauty painted over rough happiness. Her mind speaks to bark vaulting into black. The skin gods roar back.

Townie Under a Massachusetts sun, I blink hard before an Atlantic sting not like a bee but a needle saving my blood with a cold punch Pa first taught me in our garage when my feet danced around a swinging bag on North Shore concrete. Waves crash like concrete in the town of my birth and future death.


Dream of Ginkgo Kerry Molina Mixed Media


At the Fringes of the Fields Michigan: First, there is water. You-can’t-see-the-other-side water on all sides but one. The lakes might mis-

take themselves for ocean except when the undertow takes someone down, what fills a mouth is not brackish, but fresh. Sweet even. There are barges waiting to be dredged up at the bottom. The bottom is visible twenty-five feet down. In December, ice freezes five miles out and you can punch your feet into the middle of the white water. Sand is pale and steep, bright in the dizzy flash of lighthouses. In August, dragonflies are thick at dusk when their bodies are darkly delicate in the humid air, and no matter on what shore you choose to stand in the state, the red sun can be seen smearing in some part of the water as it sets. Midwestern storms make the water thick and black as it rubbles break walls. Gravity is sopping wet and pulls cars down from bridges. There are garbled people drowning past the buoyed boundaries. Water fossils are found a hundred miles in where glacier-lake once thrusted over buried dirt, whittling as it went south, shaping the hand-shaped state attached only at the wrist. Then there is highway. It twists away from the water into the state like concrete estuaries. Past lighthouses that maybe still signal to the big ore boats lumbering in the dark. Maybe not. Past port towns, waterlogged at the edges and rusted through the middle. Past condemned factories and collapsed silos. Past Amish buggies clacking near the shoulder. There are signs that wish safe travels and thank you for driving through our town; if the highway could look back in a rearview mirror, it wouldn’t see a town, but one or two houses with plastic over the windows next to a boxy old-western-style store with nothing for sale in the windows and an American flag sticking out showing that someone claims this place for theirs. But the highway doesn’t look back; it only goes forward. Then there is gravel. Roads with rivets where people with snow-chained tires drive. From the road, you can see the eerie glow of torches jutting from the ground burning the sour smell of natural gas. Pathetic bridges over irrigation channels provide the only signs: we may be icy, we may be wet, please be careful. Framing the road, depending on the season: Queen Anne’s Lace and wild tiger lilies thriving in the ditches. Crab apples busted all over the road. Deer, with tuberculosis hacking through their lungs, pick at the remains of the harvest like wheezing vultures. White herons fish in the dirt. There are seasonal workers and middle-school kids working beneath minimum wage, tearing tassels off corn and collecting rocks from the furrows. There is so much dirt. Sometimes there are trees planted at the edges to break the wind, or one giant alone-for-miles oak, sloughing shade-rest for farmers during long days of harvest or planting. Under the dirt, there is an organic grid, a geometry of seeds, the careful mathematics that calculates the threat of frost, a farmer's promise to each plant that it won't be choked by the next. At the fringes of fields, barbed wire threads deep grass. Beyond the metal-sharp knots, some tawny thing yowls and stomps, auburn cows churn their mouths, pigs pile atop each other under metal-tin sheds. Rusted tractors prop barns with snow-sunk roofs and wind-splintered wood, red paint stripping at the edges. New barns aren't taking any chances—synthetic and fire truck-bright, mismatched with the hundred year-old farm houses built with quarry gathered stones by hand, cellars swelling with water. The people above the cellars are farming, but not making any money, savings depleted by John Deere combines with tall tires that overwhelm their bodies. Those who don't farm moved to the country to be closer to their factory jobs; now, they collect unemployment and wait for someone in town to die, a job to open up. Country people are idle in the winter, motors barely running. At Christmas, the local grocery store and Rotary Club are determined to Feed Everyone This Christmas Holiday; they drive the perfectly square paths and stop at most all houses: food, soap, and toys from Family Dollar stacked in green and red boxes. When you arrive, the FETCH people are chipping ice off propane tanks to melt for water, or they are feeding livestock. They nod at you when you pull into their long unplowed driveway, and you wait for them to finish. They invite you in because that’s what is done. You stand on their particle-board floor not saying anything until someone starts an uncomfortable version of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It is a terrible gesture, but a necessary 134

Manda Frederick

one in order to hand food to people who didn’t ask for it. One of the kids struggles to lift the ham and hand it to his dad. And before they can offer to make you some of the food you brought them, you leave. You say, Have a nice Christmas, and you really mean it. And then there is Charlie: You sit next to Charlie for all of second grade. When the noon whistle wails in town—not in succession, which means fire, and not for three minutes, which means tornado, but for a short time calling everyone to lunch—Mrs. McGee puts away the hermit crabs and leads everyone to the gymnasium, that echoing box with a high popcorn ceiling and dull duck-duck-goose circles painted on the wooden floor, the room that doubles as a cafeteria during lunch time. While you and most of the other kids eat hot lunch at a reduced price, Charlie crushes a brown sack in his fist behind you in line. Of all the kids in Campbell elementary, you do not want to sit next to Charlie. No one does. Because he is ugly and smells like a litter box. Because he is so white like his parents never let him outside to play. Because his limbs are long and thin, and he always wears the same too-short jeans, plaid shirt, and suspenders; the older kids call him “square boots” because he wears those too-big boxy, steel-toed boots that only grown ups wear. Because he hunches over when he walks—he is like one of those flimsy skeletons at Halloween with loose joints that your mom strings up by the breast bone. And like those, he scares you. At lunch, he only eats oranges and apples, opening his mouth around the sides and jerking his head left and right, tearing rind away from orange, apple away from core. And he eats the entire thing—even the parts your mom usually throws away. Charlie eats loudly, breathes loudly. When he breathes, Charlie he wheezes, loud and uncomfortable. And you almost feel bad for him, thinking he is helpless, except that he punches Mrs. McGee in the chest when she tries to pull him to the principal’s office after he goes to the bathroom in his pants during class. Charlie stabbed another student with a pencil in the thigh once during library day. And once, after lunch, at recess, he pushed you against the brick wall of the school, the one that the fourth graders use to play dodgeball, and choked you with both hands. His eyes were so big and angry, bulging over his cheek bones. He was choking you, his grimace folding up around his nose, which was so small—you remember thinking that his tiny nose was probably what made the wheezing sound, like a small hole in a beach ball you are trying to blow up. And his broad forehead slants up toward his hair. Charlie’s bleached hair looks thin and dangerous, like glass strands of angel hair that you put on a Christmas tree, like if you touched it, it would stick to your fingers and make you bleed. And you can't plead with him or talk to him because none of his words make sense. He grunts and screams, his bony body and ready fists tumbling at you, like somebody cut out his tongue and he is pissed about it. For the entire second grade, at lunch, Charlie grasps a wrinkled brown sack full of fruit in his fist, next to you, stinking in the same clothes every day. The next academic year, he'd be gone, or, at least, you wouldn't sit next to him. And then you. In ten years or so, you'll take a class in college and learn about the features of fetal alcohol syndrome and how if someone beats a kid long and hard enough you can make him mean and slow. And it will be ten years or so before you hear anything of Charlie. You will be home from college for Christmas break, eating lunch, reading the weekly town paper. It will report that Charlie is being charged for suffocating a baby--his nephew. You won't know what happens to him after that because, even though you come from the same place, you will lose track of him because he will stay and you will go. But you will think about the space you shared together, his stench, and they way he ate. And in your memory, somehow, he won't even look human, but a foreign body that had emerged from and ended in this town. And you’ll think how no one ever saw Charlie laugh or talk to anyone or trade one single apple for something from someone else's lunch tray, even though we all had something to trade.


M a i v e n M c K n i g h t Street Style 136

On her interest in art... I have always had a thing for colors and creativity. As a kid you could catch me in the paint section of Lowe’s or Home Depot just collecting those cards with different shades of every color in the store. I didn’t necessarily find appreciation in art, and didn’t have any serious artists in my family, so I never thought of my interest as something that would one day be half of my income. I don’t have an exact memory of when I first saw a spray paint artist in action, but I can tell you I fell in love with it the moment I did. On spray paint and street art... There is a deeper reason as to why I work with spray paint. Yes, seeing how street artists move, perform, and catch attention is the reason I initially began…but what keeps me going is something that can’t be physically seen. Just like every human, I get frustrated and I make mistakes…I also have serious ADHD and lack ALL things patience, but my cans are like those best friends that are down for anything. If I mess up, it takes one second to cover it up. I’m also big on efficiency, so being able to perfect a piece in less than an hour is pretty satisfactory. A lot of my acrylic work will never be seen because I get inspired (distracted) by something else and begin a whole new piece altogether. Confession: if I’m running low on canvases, I’ll grab an acrylic piece and just spray paint over it. No regrets. The people made me start and the freedom made me stay. On pop culture, planets, and fantasy... I’m a 23-year-old biracial artist in Washington, DC. Culture is a huge part of the district, and when I use acrylic to give popular cartoons black characteristics, it excites people. To see the black versions of cartoon characters from the old days (i.e. Hey Arnold, Dexter’s Laboratory, The Simpsons, Rugrats) is like discovering something you’ve always subconsciously wondered about. I started doing cartoons toward the end of 2017 when it became too cold to spray paint outdoors. As for spray paint, my all-time favorite pieces to paint are the planets. I start with an image in my head and run wild with it. I’ve always been interested in outer space, and typically anything that falls under “the unknown”. Creating nature scenes or city skylines with multiple planets and thousands of stars allows me to depict the images in my brain and make people think about this alternate universe that just laid itself out from thought to canvas. At the end of May 2018, I had this crazy idea to put my painted cartoons on my spray-painted backgrounds. I call it “spraycrylic” (also known as the GAMECHANGER). It is by far my most requested form of art—I can’t wait to introduce the other one million ideas my brain has stirred up. On inspiration... I’m going out on a limb to say I am my biggest inspiration. I set my goals higher than anyone ever expects from me, and I achieve them every time. I had never felt so filled with purpose until art came into my life, and it’s only been a year. As cliché as it sounds. I consider another origin of my inspiration to be the people and experiences that I have come across in this industry so far. As competitive and cutthroat as the artist world is, I always find myself in love with the fact that my biggest supporters are my fellow humble creatives.

On art and new opportunities.. Coming out of college with an Economics degree, I thought I was going to get a job immediately, lease an apartment, buy a car…no. Life had other plans for me. Although it was highly discouraging at first, if I had gotten a job right out of college, I wouldn’t be an artist right now. A 9-5 would have taken away my drive to try new things. To answer the question as accurately as possible, if I had not sat down and experimented with my spray paint on June 13th, 2017, none of what I have would exist. I’m eternally grateful for the story that art has given me, but what it saved me from is my favorite part. On her website, Fear of a Painted Planet... I wanted to throw in a taste of my entire personality, subtly include music and social/cultural equality, capture the main concept of my art, and of course, make it unique. After what had felt like weeks of trying to come up with my own brand name, I was sitting at home trying to incorporate some of my favorite old school artists, when my dad recommended “Fear of a Painted Planet”, which is a slight modification of Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet”. It didn’t get any more perfect than that—it tied in culture, mystery, music, AND my main crowd-pleaser, planets, which 90% of my spray paint art pieces have at least one of. On the intersection of art and atheleticism... The truest comparison I can make between softball and spray paint is my passion and dedication. I poured my heart and soul into softball for 17 years, including D1 collegiate level competition, and when it ended after graduation, I was broken. Softball was the only thing I knew I was good at for such a long time, so when I discovered this hidden talent in art, it didn’t take long for me to emotionally latch on. In their separate spaces, they are polar opposites, but their lessons feed into each other. They’ve paved one hell of a path for me, and that’s all I can ask for. On the life-changing aspects of art... I could speak for hours explaining how art has changed my life, but I’ve decided to consolidate it into one concept for the reader’s sake. Art has allowed me to experience unforced, stress-free growth. 1. Every decision is completely mine, 2. I actually progress when I make mistakes here, and 3. Every opportunity I come across molds me into someone bigger than I was yesterday. Each day I wake up ready to create, and I just don’t know where I would be without the happiness that my own two hands bring me.

M a i v e n M c K n i g h t 138


Everywhere-and-when, My Eunuch Sisters Sing Madison Seaver This poem requires some preface: it references the consumption of the urine of pregnant ewes, by analogy to the hypothesis due Timothy Taylor* that urine from mares in particular hormonal conditions may have been used by transfeminine members of some premodern cultures for its feminizing effect. Pregnant mares are known to secrete estrogens into their urine [the source for the estrogen Premarin (PREgnant MAre uRINe) most often used in the U.S. for menopause]; I don't know if the same is true of pregnant ewes.

Though I flinch still, sometimes, for the roughness of my body, I am apprenticed to the cunning-woman— she who wethered me, tended my healing, she who taught my brother to collect urine from his ewes before lambing, taught me the herbs to pick and steep in it for the bitter draught that makes my flesh soft— to learn the cunning-trade for my own; when she is gone (long may she live, I have no wish to rush), the cunning-woman of our town will be me. Though my barren belly will bear me no child to clothe, nor tears for my mending, my mother and aunts sit with the girls of my kin— my sisters, my sister-cousins, and me— and teach us to spin, dye, weave, sew, darn all manners of cloth; I have made glorious raiment to fit me, I am making swaddling for my sister-in-law who grows large with expectancy, I know the making of shrouds in white for my loved ones and veils in black for my grief (long may they live, long years, O! may I wait forever), to my siblings' unborn, my nieces and nephews, I stand as godmother. Though I am tallest and newest-practiced, I dance well the steps of ceremony with the other women in the square, cleared for holidays; then at dusk, we steal away, my love and me, to dance for one another— in finery, on skins, for no man— and one day, come Spring (soon, fleet Spring, for we grow frantic in our impatience), we will bind our right hands in linen, drink the wedding-cup in our left, kiss, and greet our cheering families as wives. Though the name I chose be forgotten to you, distant listeners, know that I laughed, hearth-warm, without restraint! O! while bards still sing joy, home, beauty, love, I promise, far-travelers: they sing, too, of mine!

The Prehistory of Sex (1996) p. 210-214, as cited in Helen Savage's 2006 thesis Changing sex?: transsexuality and Christian theology, p. 75 (


Madison Seaver

Straightened Out These nights, I need to dance alone, headfirst thrown against the backbeat, stamp feet on the dull kick. The discotheque is cramped and slick. My spine goes slack, then whips quick to hit the snare. I eye my arms — in the dim mirror — and a straight-laced boy with a zoogoer's stare. The sideshow act is my camp flair. I shouldn't have looked. I move away, set back in motion by the diva's hook. My sweat an ocean, my kelp-damp hair— back on my vibe. Her fingers crooked, the DJ glides a song on deck to turn the tides and tempo up. A careless bro's half-empty cup slides from his grasp. Baptismal beer, all down my ass. Abysmal, and how! I thread the crowd. Our DJ sets the needle down and jolts the dance floor up a notch while, in the girl's room, a minute later, to blot my legs, my butt, my crotch, I grab some sheets of cheap thin paper and soak up dregs of Carnivale. I've had enough, forgotten all my need to be here. I want to leave. I'll have to pay first. So, by the bar to close my tab, who should come up, my shoulder grab, and offer drink— strong, fruity, likely pink— but hetero gaper? I've seen this shot. I know its chaser: He hopes to score advantage later. Leave this dyke be! Choke on it, dunce! Fuck, wasn't this a gay bar once?


Art First Fredericksburg’s Member Owned Gallery

Fredericksburg gained a reputation in the region for its vibrant art scene,

with new galleries popping up every few months on side streets and in neighborhoods throughout town. Even before its creative burst, Fredericksburg had a dedicated pool of talented artists who established galleries with membership as a key component. Our featured gallery from the fall edition of FLAR, Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts, is one of them. Another space with some history behind it is Art First, which president Chris O’Kelley describes as a truly cooperative,

Current Members Click and Visit Online

Gloria Affenit Carolyn Cameron Jessica Cannon Sheryl Crowell Adam Desio Margeaux Ducoing Lisa Gillen Barbara Hall Tammy Hedge Cathy Herndon Sheila Jones Sandra Kennelly Ed King Elise King-Lynch David Lovegrove James Lyman Chris O'Kelley Sharon Osmon Wayne Russell Robyn Ryan Ken Searles Casey Shaw Linda Warshaw

Upcoming Exhibits 2018

member-owned gallery.

core group who has been active since its beginning in 1992. He says, “We’re all artist-owned and operated, and right now we have 24 member-owners. Everyone who shows their art here is part owner in the gallery, which causes everyone to be invested in the gallery and the business.”

That investment pays off, since every member-owner gets to show their

art every month in a flexible-spacing environment. O’Kelley explains, “Everyone gets an equal share of display space each month, and one artist gets the main floor to have a head-lining First Friday show each month. These headliners are chosen on a rotating schedule; when you join you are placed at the bottom of the list, so every member gets a show as long as they stay with the gallery for about two years.

Art First has an application process that requires samples of the artist’s

work and dues of $90 each month to cover operating cost. While they do well with their sales, O’Kelley says the dues give the gallery piece of mind and something to fall back on in slower months.

Once an artist is chosen for the gallery, O’Kelley says they are given the

rundown on responsibilities of membership. He says, “Membership requires each artist to have a professional presentation of their art every month. Since we are a cooperative, everyone pitches in to run the business as well. Not only do we show our art, but we take turns as docent at the front desk and taking care of the gallery, roughly once every 24 days or so, depending on the membership. We cycle through those jobs just like the shows.”

In true co-op fashion, even the decisions are made democratically. The

governing committee all hold elected positions. O’Kelley has just started his turn as president, moving into the position on a vote after Casey Shaw finished his two years at the helm. There are committees for every aspect of the gallery’s operation, from hanging shows, to maintenance, to promotions.

July: Lisa Gillen / Johnny Johnson August: Sharon Osmon September: Sheila Jones October: Robyn Ryan November: Elise King-Lynch December: Art First Annual All Member Holiday Show

O’Kelley says Art First has an ever-evolving membership centered on a

O’Kelley says he thinks that’s what sets Art First apart from other gal-

leries in town. He adds, “Currently, we still have two of the original members that started the gallery Linda Warshaw and Cathy. Johnny Johnson was also a founding member and remained a member through last year.”

While Art First has lived at a few locations in downtown Fredericksburg,

the move to 824 Caroline Street ten years ago has been the most lucrative by far. Centered on the busiest street, the location brings tourists and local foot traffic past their doors on a regular basis and makes the gallery a favorite for local artists to show their work.

CHRIS O’KELLEY has been making art consistently since he was a child. He received his Art degree from UMW and is now President of Art First Gallery.

CASEY ALLEN SHAW draws from more than thirty years experience as a graphic artist to create pen & inks, watercolors, oils, acrylics and digital paintings. His subject matter ranges from portraits to exploring different ways to depict Fredericksburg's iconic architecture. In addition to painting, Shaw also enjoys creating folk art inspired designs and is a national award-winning cartoonist. 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, the Print Regional Design Annual and American Graphic Design Awards from Graphic DesignUSA Magazine. He's also helped judge national design competitions, including contests for the City & Regional Magazine Assn., the American Jewish Press Assn. and the American VFW. Currently, Casey is a full-time designer with the Free Lance-Star and is also an adjunct art professor at Germanna Community College.

ELISE KING-LYNCH As an egg artist, I like to explore different methods from dying to etching or carving, and I prefer more contemporary themes over traditional folk designs.


DAVID LOVEGROVE All of my artworks are derived from my own observations, sketches, and photographs of the human-made or natural world around me and from ideas that enter my head at any time. Many of the objects and places they inhabit may be worn, broken, neglected, or under construction. I rarely sketch or take photographs of things that are beautiful or polished because I am not interested in making pretty pictures or in reproducing nature. I am more interested in the action and visual appearance of mark-making, layering, movement, and depth in my artworks, and also seeing these elements in other artists’ works. Further, I feel the need to create a complexity of marks and colors, in many instances to the point of abstraction; however, it is just as important for me to maintain some degree of realistic and skillful drawing in the work.

CATHY HERNDON My art comes from inspirations of everyday life. “We only go around once and I have a compulsion to capture my artistic feelings in my work.” Using different materials keeps up my interest.

SHEILA JONES Sheila is a Fredericksburg area native who started photography as a past time in retirement. She has not developed a specialty in photography, she just shoot life as it happens.

ADAM DeSIO My goal is to be creative… create a piece of art every day… find new ways of looking at things… capture the things i see and experience around me in a unique way.

LINDA WARSHAW Originally from N.J., I reside in south Stafford. I graduated from Douglas College (Rutgers U) in economics and sociology. Also, I am a graduate of MWC in studio art. In addition, I have done graduate work at VCU and UVA. I work mostly in acrylics, pen and ink, and mixed media. My favorite subjects are horses and nature. I have been known to dabble in sculpture. Several of my cartoons have been published. I have illustrated a book on canine search and rescue. Early mornings, I can be found on horseback.


Jim Trainer


end of September and I’m divining industrial parks on my way to work the night shift


the rays of sun at dusk can stretch out

you let yourself in while I was down at the bodega you sipped straight scotch & watched me prepare the table like an altar for us: fruit and tobacco, fresh flowers & black coffee I sat down to look at you into you, your long freckled legs crossed high in nylons you wore for me you said ‘the salt of sobriety hasn’t worn you, it’s made you sharp at the edges and round in the middle’ I agree, saying that it’s humility something we’ve never have any use for what we share is only proud, you’re svelte & strong, your brown Irish blood like the scotch I taste from your lips and later, with the rind of a moon reflecting macabre off Big Pont Mer it’s the hearty curve of your thigh against mine that reminds me of empire and resistance, my Father and the hills of a kind land beyond these jagged mercenary shores, and when I sidle behind you fitting in there, smelling you, biting the milk-soft patch ‘neath your elvish ear you’ll dream and prophesy, know what to make be and I’ll sink until I hit a thick heavy dark, draped over you borderless, cogent, imbuing.


to their conclusion the wide, jaunty conexes squat like cups as the night gets poured in On my days off I

this wide territory within

nurse cold coffee

that’s just shy of loneliness

by the cracked blinds

and not at all sane

letting in a grey and gritty light

it’s why I take to divining things

with the red dog curled in her

and writing it down

pea-green lounge head to tail

though my dysfunction rages and I rehearse a tired trauma

when I finish writing this

I can still get lit up inside

I’ll get the mail

language will still clear & forage

whether or not there is any

the words can still cut

and I’ll send some letters out and I know so these are my 40s

that even in suffering I’m

I’m satisfied, mostly, but

making way for the masters

if mid-life hadn’t of come

I know they’re coming

with this Wisdom

and that they’ve always been here

I might not be here at all in youth we have all the answers but in life we only find more questions sometimes in the dark won’t be a light and the blooms so heavy they circle back to the ground.

The Exile of Song Sorrow flowers in fading reds and yellows and fragile lilac– petals of brittle destiny

David Sam

that fall to remnant winds to play their fugues of dying fall. Love for you is oblivion because you are the song’s end and unforgetting: The music of your face, your smile, the notes of your laughter, the lingering silence of your perfume.

Driving Away In this bitter season of empty whys, I drive a night crazed in visions as dervished snow dances in headlights, the blinding swirls of cold premonition.

Your lips had turned blue with wanting still more chapters in your story, more words to cross unpuzzled. Your rosary had ceased its clacking supplications.

You lie behind under rough white sheets, waiting a reprieve we know will not come, as we know silence follows cold calendars in ministrations of manufactured time.

Now in my dark return home, every gust lurches the car to its will− my hands knuckle white in snow sympathy. Weak eyes seek sight through white blindness, finding no absolution.

A memory of sun had hugged the low horizon through a short, gray day. Last summer lay in brown grasses bent under snow banks, duned and glinting fractals of ice.

The sacrament of love the final book you wrote: as with our lips, and with our breaths and in gray mist, we beg the blessing of cold morning, praying more pain.

Patience Through bare branches, the tailoring clouds ravel a sunset hurrah. But spectral fog ghosts through vines where the blood wine was grown. The tangle of brown is woven in me, a pretty dream to drink between seasons. I bare my flesh like the moss on the blind side of the oak. You and I await our boredom here, fingers touching stems of glass, remembering dramatic summers when we saw the devil in dark trees after midnight in the arboretum. Less so many, and yet less alone, I near my dying with the long dead all around. We may have wasted seasons or surrendered to the hunger that sped us, open-veined, into the latest nightmares. Nothing now deludes me. Nature doesn’t hymn a church. Wisdom parents laughter, but I don’t want to laugh at memory. Freedom is our misfortune. after Rimbaud’s “Patience”


Midsummer Night, Isle of Skye

Ray Crafton

Phantasy on a Fayum Portrait Magnetic hypnotic those deep brown eyes soft and vulnerable yet unblinking drawing lovers downward to the fullness of your lips sinuous and sensuous beguiling as the Nile The calendar whispers you have had other lovers that I will not be your first nor will I be your last

Night gossamer-thin caught on jagged crags snared on hillside thorns threads entangled barely anchored Night of unworldly fabric threads spun from the tryst of the Future and the Past those two undivided unchaperoned at last the fabric of Time folded back upon itself Thin too the light from late-arriving stars landing softly on slopes pooling in footprints made when that light was a hatchling in a rookery of fire In night that is not night in sleep that is not sleep come dreams that are not dreams thousands of Thou-in-I’s swirling in this night on Skye aloft in the fold of Time a dancing murmuration swirling in the undark of the sky they no more asleep than I

In your eyes I see there was a husband the husband whose love brought forth a child, the child whose coming ended your life the life an unknown conjured with encaustic

Thousands collected lifetimes ago in homes, in classrooms on city streets – stolen by the sound of their footfalls by a furtive glance purloined I was a thief – I confess now stealing from one and all yet they not the less for it and I the more

I do not know your sorcerer’s name but certainly it was Pygmalion

Thousands deftly taken in crowded theatres before the ballet began before the lights went down tonight those thousands undulate in the undark of the sky to strains of silent music in solemn saraband in triple time to mock the absent Present and Time’s triune conceit of Future-Present-Past

~ Ray Crafton


Night comes the eleventh hour lying loosely on Skye like the black veils women once wore on Sunday mornings

College Days

Jack Harvey

Why hi, beautiful, hi again and again, don't you remember how much I loved you? How could you not know? I whistled after you in the street time after time, and you never even blinked, never even a wink to lure me on, encourage me to make some crazy affirmation. I gave up my braces and my teeth stayed crooked; who cared? I threw my studious life and future promise, no small thing, down the river when you rode off with some college-clad rower; who cared? I loved you, I loved who you were when you first tripped my heart and I fell like a bird from a bower. Here I am still, take me for what I am, no beast, no beauty, no captain of the crew, no quirky scholar; just a guy under the light at the end of the street, at the end of his tether spotlighted, eaten alive by his love for you, burning for beautiful you; by his love consumed.

A Goodbye Earlier in this book of my life one night I left her; some stupid fight, ruthless, important in my own mind my reasons seemed clear; so long ago, one moonlit white night, one Christmas so green, a foolish lad, more foolish mistake, a dunce, her tears fell, I remember the bells of a nearby church ringing, the singing of children; the door banged shut and I was gone. She remains in my heart, steady in place like a vessel's figurehead; a lovely girl with soft cheeks and white breasts standing there always before me; open for mourning her always I never return.

In plain sight take me for what I am and what you owe me. 149


Emotions Vladimir Marcu

My work aims to explore the variety and intensity of human emotions. I am interested in the human figure because it offers an easily recognizable template. I can communicate directly with the viewer through the manipulation of geometrical planes of the human face, and I use color and tone to emphasize the experience. Medical science may attempt to reveal the neural signs of an experience, but in my work I aim to reveal what that state really feels like. Guilt

For example Guilt, a self-directed emotion, feels uncomfortable and can prompt us to think about ourselves. Two deals with the subject of couple dynamics. The figure on the left is represented from the front and profile at the same time, reflecting a state of uncertainty. Ghostly explores the idea of different sides of the same self. While I work on a picture, I switch very frequently between the role of painter, and that of viewer. The viewer will always dictate to the painter what ends up on the support. In the process of finishing the picture, there is always a struggle between the painter who just wants to finish the painting, and the viewer who always sees something different.

Two 151

THE COMMON GOOD Jon Barlow Hudson 2017 Carved from a block of PA granite: 8 ft. hi. X 6.5 ft. w. x 16 in. d. The block is a granite surface plate obtained from nearby Wright Patt Air Force Base. It includes a differently carved seat in either side and allows the seated to talk with each other through the opening through the stone. There are 14 quotes about public service engraved around the block. One must walk round the block in order to read the quotes. It required about a year to do all the interventions with the stone. The Common Good is installed in Cooper Park, close to the central city library, Dayton, OH. Photography by Andy Snow, Dayton, OH


Fiddler’s Neck Los Angeles: 1962 The city was dark and wet, its streets slick like the hair of so many boys he knew in school. Occasional streetlamps cast an eerie glow that reflected off the wet blacktop. Banished by the ground, the light was rendered again skyward. When he looked in that direction, it did not look like any other night he remembered. Though it grew steadily darker, clouds glimmered from center to edge, unfurling in a jaundiced hue, a sulfuric yellow haze across the sky. For pocket change, you could ride the bus for hours, the whole day. He did this each weekend, starting the previous October, not long after classes began. This was also not long after it was clear he was unlikely to make many friends. When he woke on Saturday mornings, he made breakfast of a piece of fruit or a hard-boiled egg. Then he picked some part of the city to explore yet unmapped to him. Disembarking at any stop whose architecture caught his attention, he wandered up and down streets, noting distinctions between neighborhoods. Skid Row was burdened by the sweet, fetid smell of decomposing trash left rotting on street corners. Standing water with no obvious origin loitered near sewer grates. The F line skirted parts of downtown and extended into Boyle Heights, a neighborhood his father referred to as the Jewish ghetto. From what he could see, the neighborhood bore only external traces of a Jewish presence. It smelled of onions, garlic, and unnamable spices, of hot frying oil, and of Jacarandas, whose petals were unavoidable in autumn. Littering sidewalks and driveways, they plastered themselves to car hoods, trunks, and windshields. Their cloying scent once nearly made him sick to his stomach. Every weekend except the two he had been home over the winter holidays, he perused far corners of this city he grew up in but increasingly found he did not know. Searching for somewhere he felt at home, Saul arrived in South Central, having left it close to last. His father did not often refer to Negroes, but when he did, he rarely had complimentary things to say. Maybe his father’s prejudice left him fearful. Maybe he had not wanted to know his father was wrong about this as he was about so many other things. Anxious for what awaited, he alit from the bus. Saul was a tall young man, even in boyhood, standing at least a head higher than his father by the time he turned fourteen. Now eighteen, and in his first year at university, Saul’s hair, which was always dark but not thick, receded, running backwards from his forehead, in search of sanctuary at the pate of his head. By no means a clotheshorse, Saul’s parents had little spare income for new or fashionable togs, so Saul owned a single pair of pants suitable for cold weather. He was wearing them; walnut-brown wool slacks. Not well-lined, they itched, making him scratch at his upper 154

legs or adjust the pants so they fell against his skin in a less irritating way. Unsuccessful, this only served to draw attention to his behavior, which others judged as fidgety or lewd. Over a plain white t-shirt, he donned his warmest sweater; white, with bisecting cardinal stripes. Though ill-fitting, Saul let his mother pack his only coat following the holiday break, but he did not wear it. His scuffed, brown leather shoes shuffled down the street. It was a bad habit not to lift his feet all the way off the ground when he walked, a habit that gave birth to one of his high school nicknames, ‘Shufflin’ Saul.’ Often it was said with a lisp, like the animated cat. Sometimes they even called him Saulvester. Kicking a pebble, it echoed as it skipped ahead, the neighborhood seeming deserted. Perhaps the abnormally frigid weather kept everyone indoors. Coming to Central Avenue, which at least looked the part of a major thoroughfare, Saul turned left. Apartment buildings, shops selling ice, and some small and modest to moderately-sized homes lined the street in varying states of disrepair. Some had fences running the length of their front lawns. Some had comfortable porches that extended from their front doors, but some had broken windows that looked out onto the avenue like the bruised eye of a prizefighter, patched with the flat of a cardboard box and sturdy tape. Saul imagined the winter chill that rushed in past this weak seal, settling on main floors, and then stalking upstairs. Given the enveloping darkness, Saul decided to find the nearest bus stop and head back to campus when he heard music on the air. It came from an anonymous point ahead. With arms crossed and hands folded under his armpits for warmth, Saul lifted his head into the wind and inhaled, as though sound was something he could smell. Whatever music smelled like to him, it was linked in memory to his mother. He thought of her fiercely black hair which grew darker even as his father’s grayed, the ability of her chin and dimples to communicate with her son from across the room when her mouth could not. Especially, he thought of the fingers of her left hand, calloused from years of playing and teaching music. Before starting school, when he was three or four, Saul sat on her lap while she instructed from the kitchen table or living room couch. One afternoon, he noticed, for the first time, a blemish on the left side of her neck, under her jaw. Reaching to touch it, she brushed his hand away. It was not harsh or angry; she was always gentle, but the motion was firm. After the lesson concluded and the pupil departed, she pointed to the spot.

“See?” she asked. Saul toddled to her left side to view up close the placement of the fiddle against her skin. He saw that where the instrument rested was precisely the spot of the discoloration. Replacing the violin, she stood and rubbed the spot with the hardened skin of her fingers. “Your father doesn’t like it.” Though Saul waited to see if she would say more, she did not. He was left to wonder what upset his father; his mother’s mark, the fact of her playing the violin, or that she gave lessons to the neighborhood kids. Unsure, he wondered if his mother kept quiet because she did not know. In the kitchen she began to make dinner, leaving Saul unoccupied. He heard her humming a popular song. Hoisting the violin and bow from her case, he held them as he saw his mother do many times. Before he touched the bow to the strings, it seemed the wooden box vibrated, humming with anticipation at being played. Saul put his ear close to one of the f-holes to see if he could hear the air inside, could discern what the violin told him. Instead, he heard the sound of blood in his ears. He knew the instrument would play what he wanted and would respond to his touch, his unpracticed draw of the bow across its strings. Hearkening back to the times his mother gave him instruction at their upright piano, he plucked each violin string with his preschooler’s fingers, small but chubby, eager but unaccomplished. He lifted the bow and began to play. At first only he could hear the sound under his ear. As it grew louder, the sound drew his mother in from the kitchen. Eyes closed, he played the tune of the song she hummed. With her hands held at her side, she listened until Saul played through two verses and the bridge. At that point, she sailed across the room and gathered Saul, violin and all, into her arms. “Saulie! How did you do that?” she exclaimed. Her tone was so effusive that he looked frightened. She started again. “You didn’t do anything wrong.” His face relaxed. “What you did is very special.” Their eyes met and he scrunched up his petite nose in thought. “I heard you humming and then I heard the song in my head and then…” Pausing to describe his actions, he realized there was no way to explain it. “Then I played it. I knew how to make the violin play it.” Their house was not a big one. Lying awake in bed that night, Saul heard the rhythmic, monotonous sounds of his parents’ lovemaking, followed by the telltale flint strike of his mother lighting a cigarette. He pictured her taking deep drags as she worked up the nerve to begin a difficult conversation with his father. Saul found any conversation with his

Jess Epstein / Memoir

father difficult. Too young to take up smoking, Saul chewed at his fingernails, a habit that angered his father. His mother began. “Kish.” She spoke his father’s nickname in a hushed tone. “I think Saul has real talent. He has perfect pitch. It’s an incredibly rare gift.” Their voices went in and out of Saul’s hearing. “I’m not sending him to some fruit for music lessons. I work hard enough for the money we do have, which isn’t enough.” More muffled sounds, then his father’s voice again, harsher. “Mabel, it’s bad enough you worked while I was overseas and that you give these music lessons, but I’m not letting you go back to working full-time. I won’t have it.” The bedsprings whined as Saul’s father turned away from his mother. After a minute, the only sound was that of his mother stubbing out one cigarette and lighting another. Saul wondered if she might fall asleep smoking it. He imagined the cigarette igniting the varnished wood of the floor or his parents’ bedspread, and then the flimsy curtains on their windows. He saw how fire could envelop the room from the exterior in, trapping his parents inside. Certain his mother would call out for him first when the heat and smoke woke her, Saul would likely be asleep. The house would be consumed in a matter of minutes, along with the three of them, suffocating, but not quickly enough. He pictured the violin in its corner of the living room, each string melting while its spruce and maple woods incinerated. As each string popped, sizzled, and vanished, Saul imagined the instrument emitting a piercing sound like human voices that cried out and were extinguished. Horrified by what he conjured, especially the thought of his mother in pain, there would nevertheless be times, that night and others, when Saul prayed for fire.


Sophia Falco Photography


Haiku Morning Jake Buckholz

I would like to put into words the pleasantness of a lazy morning. Let’s say it’s early spring

and you are in the middle of a good book. There’s no hangover clouding your mind or twisting your stomach. There’s enough coffee in the cupboard for you to drink your fill and the sunlight is filtering through the prism of vegetation which shades your porch and warming the chair where you like to sit. There are potted cacti surrounding you and the smell of your neighbor’s jasmine floats subtly in the floral air.

Your bedmate, still sleeping, has twisted one leg out of the sheet and it looks beautiful,

bare and full of sweet life. It awakens something in you that’s not hornieness, but purity, a love for all things living.

As the chair accepts your weight, it creaks just slightly and faraway down the street comes

the nostalgic sound of a lawnmower, much like your father’s.

It is early spring and as you take your first sip of coffee, it does not burn your tongue. The

book in your lap is just the right size and well worn. This is not your first time to read it and it doesn’t matter if you finish nor really does it matter to what page you open it; in that way it is like the Holy Bible. A bee lands for a moment on your knee but you do not twitch. It flies away and you watch it until you lose it.

The cat rubs her cheek across your ankles. She lets you scratch her head before she curls

up in a pool of sunlight. You open the book and are met by a familiar sentence, a familiar character. The story is simple because there is no story, only a snippet of a time and a place and a people written in lucid lyrics. You put the book down after a while and realize you’ve finished your cup of coffee. You sit for a moment, reflecting on what you’ve read, and wonder if a single moment could fill a page, and, if it could, would it be of interest to anyone to read; stories require movement, but not all that is written is story. A full book could be written in description of a single room, frozen in time, you decide, but who would read it?

The cat stirs when you make your coffee run. Passing through the bedroom, you move qui-

etly, not wanting to wake your bedmate. Flashes of last night return and the smell of sex still lingers, though faintly, it could be only an imagined scent. The kitchen smells of coffee and you decide that later you will make it smell like bacon. What made you decide that? you wonder briefly. Hunger, of course, but who is hungry, me or my body and is there a difference? The question runs off you, but the wondering leaves your mind feeling inflated, and you decide to put Pet Sounds on the record player. Who decided that? you wonder, but it’s only a joke to yourself that you smile over as you change your mind about the record player and return to the porch.

The air is almost green and flying insects dart about in it. The cat has disappeared. The

lawnmower has stopped and the birds are audible. You’d like to know more about birds and plants and insects. You should extend your garden, you think. Being in the dirt is good for you. What a beautiful, beautiful world and how lucky one is to dip their conscious into the stream of time. Not for long, unfortunately, but you’ve come to terms with that, as much as one can. For a moment, it almost frightens you to feel so good and then it makes you sad and then that passes.

I’d like to put all of these things to words, but that might destroy it, just as a companion,

even a beloved companion, can dissolve perfect solitude. And if I did put these things to words, who would read them? And if I did put these things to words, would it be me or would it be my brain and is there a difference? And if I did put these things to words, it would be like bulldozing a haiku. Yes, some moments are haiku, and haiku are made of solitude and plants and dirt and sleeping cats and words are unwanted, beloved companions, joining you in your moment of perfect solitude.



Sweat begins to run down Elaine's face and neck before she's finished applying her makeup. Damn old house has its charms but they're seasonal. Every summer Elaine curses the realtor who convinced her to buy a house in Atlanta without central air conditioning. The heat wraps around her like a wet blanket, and Elaine runs a dry towel across her neck and chest to soak up the sweat. Her dress is damp too. "Shit!" Elaine declares, looking at the time. Roman will be there in ten minutes, and now she needs to reapply her make-up and change her clothes. She dreads the look on Roman's face if she's late again, especially after the conversation they'd had last night. Elaine pulls off her yellow shirtwaist - the only dress she has in Roman's favorite color that's clean- and replaces it with a black sleeveless mini-dress, hoping he won't find it too revealing. Their late-night phone conversation made Roman so tired he'd skipped church this morning. Elaine knows overly sexy probably isn't her best wardrobe option, but by the time she's re-applied her make-up she sees Roman drive up in front of her house. She puts on a pair of black pumps and tugs the hemline of her dress down before darting downstairs. When she gets in the car Roman frowns at her. "It's 6:35." He'd told her to be ready at 6:30. The show doesn't start until 8:00, but he wants to arrive at 7:00 to make sure everything is set. Roman produced the show, arranging everything from the cover charge to the choker the guitarist would wear. He never left anything to chance or the opinions of others. "Sorry," Elaine mumbles. As she sinks down in her seat Roman leans across as if to kiss her but stops before his lips touch hers and inhales. "No dressing drink tonight?" Roman asks derisively. Elaine's surprised that he knows about her habit of having a glass of wine while she dresses. She must have told him during last night's phone call. "I've decided to stop," Elaine declares, hoping the announcement will bring her back into favor with Roman. She wants to hear the sweet compliments and flirting that normally fill their time together, but she's afraid they've disappeared after last night's call. Roman had sounded so disgusted from the moment she answered the phone and revealed her state. "Sorry about last night," Elaine mumbles, sinking down a bit lower into the passenger seat. Roman keeps his eyes on the road. "Did you really think you were merely tipsy? You sounded flat out wasted to me." He doesn't sound upset, just disappointed in her. Elaine feels like a teenager being scolded by her parent, a feeling Elaine knows all too well. She tries to soften Roman's mood by running a finger lightly up his leg, a move that always makes him smile at the very least. But tonight he pushes her hand away. “We need to take a break from all that,� he declares.


"What?" Elaine's stomach starts to hurt. She tries to take a deep breath just as her therapist told her to do, hoping Roman won't notice. "I don't think you're ready to have sex with me, or anyone right now." "Not ready? But we had planned---" "I know what we had planned for after the show tonight, but that was before I knew about your drinking." "Why are you punishing me?" Elaine immediately regrets asking this, but she's starting to panic. Nothing changes on Roman's expression and he continues to stare at the road ahead. "I've struggled with this, Elaine. I really can't afford to have a girlfriend who might be drunk at any time." Elaine's stomach pain worsens. Since they met a few weeks ago, Roman and Elaine had often told each other how lucky they felt to have found each other and how special their budding relationship seemed. Was he really ending it because of one stupid phone call? "But there's such potential here, I'm willing to still give it a try." He smiles briefly and Elaine relaxes. "As long as we hold off on everything physical," Roman continues. "I think that gets you stirred up, and if you get too stirred up ‌well, I don't want to feel responsible for what you might do." Elaine starts to protest, but they've reached the bar and Roman shifts his focus completely to the show. "I can't discuss it anymore right now," he tells Elaine as they head inside. The guitar player is already setting up, and Roman directs Elaine to sit at the table closest to the stage while he makes sure the sound is set and the ticket collection is running smoothly. "I want to make sure nobody sneaks in without paying." When the waitress comes to take her order, Elaine hesitates. She considers tonic water with a twist and the smallest splash of vodka, but orders a Diet Coke instead, hoping Roman will notice. Once the show starts, Roman sits across from Elaine. He is intensely focused on the guitar player, a tall, slender woman with piercing grey-blue eyes and white blonde hair cropped close, almost a crew cut, the exact same style Elaine had chosen just two days earlier. For Roman, of course. He had hated Elaine's crazy curls. Boy cuts turned him on. The guitarist carries the boy cut better than Elaine does. It allows her high cheekbones and graceful neck to get the attention they deserve. On Elaine the cut exposes everything she despises about her face, its high forehead and pointed nose and round cheeks. Everyone called her Chubby Cheeks when she was a child. Roman drums his fingers to the beat, his lips moving as a hum escapes that echoes the sound on stage. "Her playing is flawless," he tells Elaine between sets. "Extraordinary." Elaine has started to hate the word. Extraordinary.

Roman seeks it in everything and everyone, especially her. Nothing less will satisfy him, he reminds Elaine over and over. It has to be extraordinary, thrilling, the best. If it isn't, why bother? What will really happen now that Roman knows Elaine isn't extraordinary? Best has eluded her since the day her eightyear old self realized she wasn't her father's best daughter. She could still see herself and her sister June, dressed in matching lime jumpsuits, waiting for their father to take them to his office for the day. Elaine had always loved going to work with her father, where she would twirl around in the giant chair behind her father's desk, burying her nose in the leather that carried his smoky scent. On the day she waited in her lime jumpsuit, she didn't get to inhale her father's scent in the leather chair. Her father took only June with him that day, and every day after that, always leaving Elaine behind with her stern mother. Elaine knew better than to ask why. Elaine sips on her Diet Coke, wishing it had a little rum in it. Roman taps his fingers to the beat of the guitar, eyes glued to the woman playing it. Watching his fingers, Elaine thinks about how they felt running across her body and how, until today, Roman couldn't be beside her without taking her hand. She reaches over now to take Roman's hand, hoping his eyes will move away from the hot guitarist to look at her for just a moment. But Roman keeps his eyes glued to the stage and pulls his hand away. Elaine starts to get up and leave, hurt by the rebuff, but Roman shakes his head at her and frowns so she sits down. It's probably better that she doesn't go. The solitude she'll find would spin her right back around. Elaine's hand tightens around her glass and with her fingernails she carves half-moons into the fatty flesh beneath her thumb. She feels herself disappearing into the image she has tried to create for Roman. The boy cut, the new pieces in her wardrobe all in Roman's favorite shade of yellow, the way she rushes her preparation for every date so she'll arrive ten minutes early and avoid Roman's "You're late again" look. And now the Diet Coke, filling up the entire glass, leaving no room for what Elaine really wants. Breathing suddenly becomes harder. "Shit," Elaine thinks. "Goddamn panic attack in the middle of his show." Elaine's heart is beating so wildly she's certain not only Roman but everyone else in the bar can hear it. Elaine leans into Roman. "Be right back," she whispers, and kisses the spot behind his ear she used to lick to drive him wild. She doesn't give a fuck if it bothers him. In the bathroom stall Elaine squats on the floor, her back to the locked door. Her breathing quickens even more and she clutches her stomach. The pain intensifies, but she doesn't know she's moaning until she hears the knock on the door. "You OK, sweetie?" Jesus, she needs to pull it together. "Yes, fine. Just a little too much, I guess." Always believable in a bar.

Christie Marra

On the way back to their table Elaine makes a stop at the bar, turning her back to the stage to down the shot of whiskey. Thanks to the whiskey the stomach pain subsides a little. She breathes deeply, sucks on a mint from her purse, and heads back to the table. Roman's chatting with the guitarist, but Elaine can't imagine he's interested in screwing her. Just to be sure the guitarist knows this too, Elaine walks over to Roman and kisses him quickly on the cheek. He keeps chatting with the guitarist, but looks sideways at Elaine with disgust when she bends down to put her guitar away. On the way to the car, Roman is full of his success. "So fucking hot," he says of everything that made up the night. Hot crowd. Hot setting. Fucking hot guitarist. "Hot little ass you have." Elaine's heart races in anticipation, but Roman doesn't touch her. Instead, he looks back at the guitarist, who has started to load her equipment into her van. Suddenly, Elaine can't tolerate it anymore. She moves towards him and reaches for the button on his shirt. Roman pulls away, then grabs Elaine's wrist and pulls her to him. For a second, Elaine thinks he's going to kiss her and she lifts her face and opens her mouth slightly in anticipation. But instead of bringing his mouth to Elaine's mouth, Roman brings his nose. After he sniffs, he shakes his head and turns away. Elaine follows Roman as he starts to walk toward the guitarist, rushing in front of him. The pressure in her chest is back and she feels as if she's drowning. She throws her arms around Roman's waist. "Let's just get in the back seat of your car for a bit, please?" It was where they had explored each other's bodies for the past few weeks. Elaine knows the feeling of Roman's skin on hers will lift her up out of the drowning feeling. But Roman shakes his head and untangles Elaine's arms from around him. "It's time to go home, Elaine." Her sinking sensation returns as she turns towards Roman's car. "No, Elaine," Roman says. "This way." He pulls on her arm and guides her like a child to the yellow cab waiting at the curb. After he settles her in the back seat Roman heads back toward the bar. Elaine rolls down the window to yell to him just as her phone buzzes. "Wednesday?" The text from Roman asks. She sees him touch the bare arm of the guitarist, the sick feeling in her stomach spreading through her limbs. God, she hopes there's some scotch left in her basement bar! As the cab pulls away, Elaine watches Roman laughing with the guitarist, his arm around her waist as they walk together back into the bar. "Yes," Elaine types into her phone, fighting down a sob as she presses the send button. It's Roman's show, after all.


I Hate Mondays

E.R. Tucker

It’s funny how you don’t remember really big moments. Like when my parents’ car flipped off the road I don’t remember being afraid or understanding that anything bad was happening, or hoping my family would be ok, or the pain. Instead, I clearly remember the Garfield Goes to Hollywood cartoon I was watching on my tablet. And the whole time in the hospital with the physical therapy and inching myself forward bit by bit on those parallel bars while my feet dangled behind me, I remembered the losing contestant in the Hollywood competition. The guy was a simple country guy and he sang a simple country song and then at the end of his song his dog howled once along with him in a mournful harmony. For months, that country guy/dog refrain they sang together went through my head over and over. And everyone said I did very well in my rehab and was cheerful and a model patient and that was true, but every night I would lay in bed thinking, why was that such a bad entry into an animal talent contest? It wasn’t that simple dog’s fault he couldn’t talk like Garfield or sing opera like the sexy competitor lady cat who was Garfield’s main competition. But even as an adult, when I finally had set my chair up with tricked-out blue rims and I found a personal attendant who was reliable and treated me like a human and I picked out my own clothing and played murderball so my arms were ripped and looked good and baristas flirted and not just in a pitying way, even then when I would park my chair at a coffee shop and read the comics, I would always look at the Garfield strip and think to myself, that arrogant fuck, he didn’t deserve to win that contest, and I would get really angry and it would take a minute for me to move on.

First Woman in Space It didn’t matter if Deana was drunk or not, she worked at Burger King, is what she told herself as she drank vodka in the bathroom, her headphones blasting about partying in the sun. The corner of a poopy diaper stuck out of the tampon receptacle, as if waving to her - “see you when you clean this bathroom!” She took another burning swallow and felt better for a second. But then some a-hole was pounding on the door and calling her name and Josue had invaded the stall and was pulling her over to the big TV by the Chicken Fries™ decal, and he was pointing. She laughed but he shook his head. “No, baby, it’s not good. Look!” On the TV was a meter counting downwards - 8:58 - and a picture of a blazing meteor flaming its way toward the earth. Deana got the message. “And they’re sure?” she asked Josue, and he nodded, the bleached tips of his hair quivering. “No cell service” he told her, and she knew what that meant - no goodbyes for him, his whole family in Jalisco, and she knew it was selfish but she’d always thought maybe she could go with him and meet his funny aunties there one day, and maybe he’d have a hot straight cousin. He was already holding her hand, and it felt nice. She looked over at him, a little shyly, and asked “J, I know you’re gay and stuff, but do you want to just, maybe, make out? If you’re not...?” He rolled his eyes. “I already asked Marcus but he said he was going to try to get home to his baby. He sure wasn’t worried about that for the last three months” They both scoffed. They’d clearly been right about a lot of things. “But I think I need to pray, Deens.” “Cool - can I just hang out?” she asked. “Sure, and I could probably make out and pray a little at the same time.” He squeezed her hand and they both walked outside, into the blindingly white light. Josue got on his knees in the grass by the parking lot and put his hands together. “Wait, I’m wrong. I can only pray, but still hang out with me?” He didn’t wait for an answer, just closed his eyes and started to mouth words. Deana looked around and saw a little robin trying to pull a stuck french fry out of a discarded bag. Very gently, she pulled a few fries out for the bird, and watched it fly away, circle back and peck at the potato mush. She watched Josue’s beautiful lips as he prayed, and took her final pulls of vodka as the parking lot got brighter and brighter and hotter and hotter.


As Though We Were Strangers

Kara Hendershot Oil, acrylic, black and white gesso on paper

Marfa, Texas 1974 What finally convinced Alexandra Boone to chop off her hair was the stupid girl with purple hair sitting next to her on the stupid, smelly school bus. They were headed back to Marfa after another spirit-crushing day at Alpine High and as Alexandra watched yet another craggy mountain roll by she took a chance and told the girl how much she hated living in west Texas. "I mean, it's bad enough that my stupid father had to move us from New York so he could reinvent art or whatever," she said, acting like they'd been friends since freshman year, "But then we find out Marfa's not even big enough for a high school. I mean, give me a break, ya know?" The girl smiled like she understood. She wore black eyeliner, which made it hard to know when was telling the truth. Feeling encouraged, Alexandra pressed on. "The only thing that numbs my pain is Exile One Main Street," she said. "I listen to it constantly." The girl fiddled with the notebook on her lap. "You've heard of Exile, right?" said Alexandra. "Not really, no," said the girl, twirling her purple hair. "Nevermind," said Alexandra. Screw it. Since nobody in Marfa knew anything she'd chop off her hair and become whoever she wanted. But that was the problem. She had no clue who she was anymore. In New York, she was Alex, a junior at Midwood High School and the girl least likely to worry when things didn't go according to plan, which was pretty much every day in high school. Alex dressed like she wanted to dress, talked to whoever seemed interesting and always knew critical information like when was the next train to Times Square and which clubs didn't check I.D.s Her friends depended on her and this made her brave. The world was never something to fear. But now, holy crap. This world was a whole other planet. Alex got up and found an empty seat near the back of the bus. She pressed her nose against the glass. West Texas was insane. So vast. So unyielding. Mountains were supposed to be snow-topped and charming but these were sunbaked and hideous and needed to go away. Impossible of course because of the Chihuahuan Desert, which, according to her father, was the second biggest desert in the world after the Sahara and stretched through Mexico all the way to the Pacific. Probably bullshit but still, there was a zero percent chance she was going camping under the stars anytime soon. And not because she didn't have anyone to go with. The bus rattled to a stop at Marfa's main square. She waited until she was sure the girl with the purple hair had exited then she made her way down the aisle. She passed the Mexican kids who still had one stop to go. God only knew where they lived. The bus driver said have a great weekend. She didn't even know it was Friday. She walked twenty paces and gazed up at the Presidio


County Courthouse, the one structure in Marfa that definitely didn't belong. For one thing, the whole thing was covered in pink stucco (weird even for New York). The architect obviously had a boner for Rome because the façade reminded her of a miniature version of St. Peter's only with windows instead of columns. It was even topped with a dome. But that wasn't the weirdest part. The weirdest part was the statue on top of that dome. A woman, wearing a blindfold and carrying a balance and sword. Her father said it was Lady Justice and she'd been placed there after a judge caught his wife in bed with a Mexican ranch hand. The judge wanted a daily reminder that actions have consequences. This was over a hundred years ago by the way. Welcome to Creepville USA. Alexandra turned back toward Highland Street and was thinking about walking to the Palace Theater to see if they planned on showing something besides Rocky any time this century when a red pickup almost ran her down. She leapt out of the way and tumbled onto the lawn under the courthouse. After checking to make sure all bones were intact, she brushed herself off and looked around for her backpack. "You all right," said a voice that belonged to the face of a boy she'd never seen before. Lanky and broad-shouldered with a west Texas tan that glowed through his white-T-shirt, he was unlike any creature she'd ever encountered. "You almost killed me," she said, trying to avoid his eyes. Paul Newman blue. "Real sorry," he said, "I was trying to get to the feed store 'fore they closed." Maybe it was the accent. Or the Wranglers that hugged his body in a way that made her afraid to keep looking. Or his mud-caked Cowboy boots. Whatever it was, she instantly forgave him for almost killing her. "It's okay," she said. "Nearest hospital's in Alpine," he said, "I could drive you." "I'm fine." But she so wasn’t fine. Her father was working on the adobe wall when she got home. Before moving them down, he'd purchased two abandoned airplane hangars on the south side of town. He thought art needed to be lived with and quickly set about ridding the hangars of airplane parts, scouring the floor-to-ceiling windows of fifty years of grime and converting the back office into a working kitchen and two bedrooms. He called it The Block. That the toilets hadn't flushed in decades was a problem that required him to master the basics of plumbing while she used the facilities at Mando's, the Mexican restaurant that was essentially a house (she was friendly with the owner's wife). His first sculpture was a square slab of concrete that he cast and assembled in the open work station between the two hangars. This was quite a spectacle for the local Marfans (or Martians as she called them) who often turned up to

ask basic questions like, “what ya up to there, mister?” After installing his stupid square slab of concrete into one of the hangars - creatively titled Untiled #1 by the way - he started construction on a six-foot adobe wall, thinking the privacy would do everyone some good. He was scraping excess mortar off a row of freshly-nestled adobe bricks when she walked up. "How was school," he said, stepping down from the ladder. He was wearing a blue denim work shirt, jeans and boots, pretty much what he always wore. His white hair made him look decades older. But he was in fine physical shape. The contrast was confusing for most. Part of his appeal. "Fine," she said, trying to hurry past. "Need to finish another row before dark," he said, handing her a trowel. "I have homework." "Nothing you can't knock out in twenty minutes," he said. She buttered an adobe brick then used the trowel to knock it into place. As they worked, the orangey blue drained out of the sky revealing a black curtain covered in tiny holes of light. She'd never seen this many stars in New York or anywhere else for that matter. It was honestly terrifying, especially the Milky Way which, as her father pointed out, was likely to contain a billion planets or more. He was always thinking cosmically like that and it annoyed her to no end. Why couldn't he be a doctor or a lawyer or even a bus driver for the Port Authority? Her mother said her father put art before family because he didn't know any another way. Said he was born that way, offering it up like some kind of excuse. When he announced the big move to Marfa she immediately filed for divorce then bought them all cowboy boots for good luck. Last time they spoke she was living with a tax attorney on the upper west side. Alexandra was supposed to spend Christmas back in New York but that seemed like a long shot at best. She knocked two more bricks into place then and went inside. Her bedroom was on the opposite side of the hangar which meant she had to cross that vast, open space. The floor to ceiling windows only made it worse. She walked as quickly as she could, ignoring stupid, creepy Untitled #1 that loomed like failure in the geographical center of the space. She flopped on her bed and stared at the photographs on her walls, each one framed and precisely hung. That was her father's rule, no taped posters or crummy looking calendars. He wanted everything clean, perfectly spaced and most of all framed. Minimalism, he called it. She called it oppression. She returned to the kitchen, pillaged the junk drawer, found an old pair of trimming scissors and ran her thumb along the edge. Dull but doable. On a hunch, she went to the fridge. Her father always kept a bottle of Smirnoff in the freezer and sure enough, there it was crammed behind a stack of butcher paper steaks and a bag of ice. Probably not many AA meetings in Marfa ha ha ha. The cold, crisp vodka trickled down her throat then magically warmed

Todd Connelley

her belly. She’d only been drunk once before, on the C train with her friend Molly who snuck on some Seagram’s then ended up making out with a black guy later that night at the Mudd Club. But whatever. That was a long time ago. She took the Smirnoff to her bathroom, bolted the door and stared at her reflection. Back in New York, she was famous for her long, blonde hair. Guys tended to freak out over it. When she was in ninth grade her weirdo history teacher made her stay after class then took out a brush and said he always wanted to be a hairdresser. Um, no. Girls tended to say things like, "your hair it so beautiful" leaving off what they really meant, "…and I hate you for it." Which she totally understood. Her hair was one hundred percent natural. No bleach. No highlights. To chop it all off was probably a sin. Though against who she wasn't sure. Her father was an atheist (shocker) and her mother couldn't be bothered to ever attend church. The second pull of Smirnoff wasn't nearly as smooth. She remembered she forgot to eat lunch in the gross out cafeteria. Her brain did back flips. Brow went cold. She grabbed a handful of hair and cut. Wow. Not that difficult. Didn't even hurt. She cut off another handful and before long, looked like Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby. Her father stood over the stove and flipped the steaks. He cranked open a can of Ranch Style beans, dumped them in the saucepan then stirred with a wooden spoon. This was his favorite meal and he assumed it was her favorite meal. She used the trick to silently spell the word, to assume is to make he make an ASS of U and ME because that's how it's spelled. "What made you chop it all off," he said, flipping the steaks one last time. He liked them bloody. On the counter next to the stove, jars sponge-painted red. Beside them, the meat slicer from hell. He liked everything bloody. "What made you care," she said then laughed out loud. Not giving a fuck came with the haircut apparently. He sighed then plated the steaks. "Where's my Smirnoff,' he said. "I thought you weren't drinking." "I'm not," he said, handing her a plate, "I just like having a bottle around." "Does it ward off the shakes?" "How much did you have?" "Not enough," she said than sat in one of the stupid zig zag chairs. The table was oak and covered in knife marks because, according to her father, a table should be a natural extension of a meal, something you'd treat like any other piece of meat. Okay then. She bore the knife against the grain in the shape of the letter A. He took and seat and began cutting his steak. They used metal plates so the sound was more annoying than when he


cleared his throat in the mornings, which was the most annoying sound in the world. “Space the letters evenly if you can,” he said. She raised the knife overhead then stuck it in the oak table. “Like that,” she said. He sighed then pushed his plate forward. “You have to give this time,” he said. “We’ve only been here what, a couple of months.” She glanced at the monochrome clock on the wall. “Five months, twenty-three days and twelve hours,” she said. “I thought living here would help you see life how it is instead of how you want it to be.” "That literally makes no sense." "Not yet anyway," he said. She cut a piece of steak. Tasted different down here. "This steak sucks," she said. "100 percent Texas Angus," he said. "Freshly slaughtered." "Everything down here sucks," she said. "It's hot, ugly and the kids are retarded." "Seems harsh." "This girl on the bus today didn't even know what Exile was." Her father chewed silently. Tremors under the jaws. "Oh my God neither do you." "Alex not everyone is you." "Alexandra." He stymied a smile. "Just give it a chance down here. "Like you gave me a chance?" He set his fork down. "What are you talking about?" Five months, twenty-three days and twelve hours or bottled up rage popped. "You never even asked me if I wanted to come down here. You just pulled me out of school like no big whoop." "Your mother and I talked about this and we thought-" "You mean the woman who filed for divorce the second you left town to run off with a tax attorney," she said, going for the jugular. "I'm sure she has my best interests at heart." He pushed his plate forward. "That's not fair," he said. "Life's not fair, remember," she said, repeating another one of his stupid maxim's. "Guess you got me there," he said. "I seriously hate you for this," she said. "Alex please." "MY NAME IS ALEXANDRA." "Okay, okay," he said. "And your statues are stupid," she said then stormed off to her room. The door slam shook the rafters. Monday was about making up reasons why she chopped off her hair. She decided to wear her Sticky Fingers T-shirt over holey jeans to make things worse. The first person she saw after the bus driver was the girl with purple hair who said wow over and over. Alex said short hair was all the rage, hadn't she seen the September Vogue. To the boy with the Buddy Holly glasses and red hair who always waited for after gym, "I just started chemo." To the chubby Mexican girl who once brought her corn tortillas as a gift,


“I’m lesbian.” And to the vice-principal, a scowling, former Marine who allegedly brought home an ear necklace from Vietnam, “I’m running for school president on a strictly feminist platform.” After school she hopped on the bus and headed straight for the back. The girl with the purple hair followed but Alex told her she wasn’t feeling well. Maybe that’s who she was now. A compulsive liar. Maybe that was the secret to happiness. She tried not to think about the boy with the Paul Newman eyes the whole ride back. She reviewed her history quiz, sketched out a drawing of a unicorn for some reason then stared at the desert outside her window. They passed a herd of cattle and she felt the slightest bit guilty about all the steak she’d been eating lately. Maybe she’d stop eating meat back in New York. That was a thing now apparently. The bus pulled into the Marfa main square like always and she walked down the aisle and nodded at the Mexicans like always but when her feet hit the ground she went the opposite way around the courthouse. She wasn't about to get run over again and besides, it wasn't like they had a relationship or anything. When she came around the other side the red truck was parked right in front. He stood there in the same white T-shirt, jeans, boots combo and oh my God don't run away. That was her first instinct. Run down Highland Avenue all the way to the adobe wall and hop right over thank you very much. Instead she walked right past him without so much as batting an eye. "You cut your hair," he said. "Oh look," she said, 'He has a brain, too." "Looks great," he said and she realized he was the first and only person to say that. "Thanks," she said. "What are you doing tomorrow," he said, taking a few steps her direction. His boots scraped the cement in a way she'd remember all her life, which honestly felt like it could end any second. "Tomorrow's Tuesday," she said. "So what?" "So don't you have school?" she said, wondering why she just now thought to ask. "Depends on ranch work," he said. "Been putting up so much fence lately I couldn't tell you the last time I seen the inside of a classroom." "What grade are you even in?" "Junior," he said. "What is that eleventh grade?" "Are you seventeen or eighteen?" "Nineteen," he said then tipped the brim of his Cowboy hat to block out the sun. Boys she knew back in New York spent lots of money and time trying to nail the whole Cowboy look and here he was sticking the landing. "What's your name," she said. "David Talbot," he said. "Okay," she said. His eyebrows raised. "Okay what?" "I'll play hooky with you tomorrow." She tried not to smile. Then he tried not to smile. And that's how they knew.

Second Chances Amy Soscia

“These are out of style. And those don’t fit you anymore. For God’s sake, get rid of them!” Alice mined deeper into Harold’s closet. A lime green leisure suit flew past his head and landed on the growing mountain of clothing. “Look at how much room we have now. Think of all the money we could’ve saved if I had stored my furs here instead of in the furrier’s vault.” Harold wilted as he packed up his favorite shirt. Why can’t she leave me and my stuff alone? As soon she left the room, he found her favorite cashmere sweater and stuffed it into the bag. “Even Steven,” he whispered. She returned moments later. “You’d better get those things to the thrift shop before they close. And come right back so we can start on the garage.” Harold bristled when she began picking lint, that only she could see, off his tee shirt. He didn’t have dandruff and he didn’t appreciate being groomed like a baboon. *** Second Chances was on Main Street between a methadone clinic and a pawn shop. Everywhere he looked he saw a different shade of dingy. A filthy man, clinging to a bottle in brown paper, was sleeping it off next to a defunct insurance agency. Harold moved his wallet to his front pocket and double-checked the locks on the car doors. Once inside, he held the bag out to the clerk, but hesitated to let go. “Donation.” The clerk cocked his head to the side. “Are you sure?” “My wife says the poor need this stuff more than I do.” “Lots of people shop here, not just the poor,” the clerk said. “Check it out.” Harold released the bag. “Maybe I will.” A sign for books hung from the ceiling near the back of the store. Maybe he wouldn’t rush home. He was entitled to some time to himself, wasn’t he? As he browsed, he tried to imagine how these things had found their way here. The men’s department was dark and reminded him of a graveyard. His leisure suit would soon rest among its skeletons. A table was covered

with hideous neck ties, likely Father’s Day gifts that had been tossed in the back of men’s closets until their wives had seen fit to thin the herd. The children’s section overflowed with drooledstained stuffed animals, outgrown onesies, and sour smelling baby blankets. He didn’t touch anything there. The women’s department was an explosion of color. Purses and matching blister-producing shoes, probably bought on a whim to go with designer dresses worn once to a Mexican destination wedding, spilled out into the aisles. He thought of Alice, about how time and temper had worn the glow right off of her, about how she was always trying to get rid of his things, and about how unbearably controlling she’d become… He didn’t want to justify why he wanted or needed to keep this or that. Hell, if she wanted a clean garage, she could clean it out herself! What he really wanted was a reprieve from her constant nagging. He tried to put these thoughts aside as he made his way to the books. To his surprise, he’d found a treasure trove. Harold felt almost giddy when he came upon shelf after shelf of murder mysteries. He pulled Marriage Is a Killer off the shelf. His body tingled as he inhaled its smell and caressed its pages. He sighed, realizing he’d found the perfect book. In the next aisle, a brightly colored notebook caught his attention. It reminded him of the pads of paper his mother had used to make her weekly grocery lists. As he held the book and notebook close to his heart, he allowed his thoughts to run free. I should make my own plan. Maybe Alice is right. Maybe it is time to clean house. He rushed to the cashier. Oh, he’d miss Alice from time to time. You don’t stay married for that many years without collecting a few heart-warming memories. “I see you found something.” The clerk winked. “Everyone does.” Harold paid for his books and waved away the change. When he reached the door, he turned to the clerk and said, “Do you take fur coats?” The clerk’s smile expanded. “Sure. We’ll take anything.” Harold felt like a kid who’d found the prize in the Cracker Jacks box. 165


/ Kayla Branstetter

When I was five and my brother Cody two, we arrived at Crowder Community College, wearing our Sunday best, impatiently sitting next to our Grandpa Tom, Grandma Vi, and my stepfather (my brother’s father). After what seemed like forever, a man announced the name, “Tammy Sue Priest” to the audience, and a slender young woman of twenty-one paraded across the stage beaming with a sense of accomplishment. My mother, Tammy, had decided to end her status as a high school dropout; a title she earned when she gave birth to me at the age of sixteen. My parents had married, but divorced less than a year-and-half later. My father vanished. My mother remarried an atrocious man who permanently blistered our souls. After we returned home to our two-bedroom single-wide home on my grandparents’ 100-acre farm in Pioneer, Missouri, my mother continued her interminable crawl to the summit of domestic abuse, with my brother and I staring from the base. ~ “Woman, when will my fuckin’ supper be done?” My stepfather had a vulgar mouth. Most days I felt the only words he knew were woman, fuck, bitch, pussy, boy, and “I’ll beat the shit outta ya’.” Once, my mother was not being obedient enough and the consequence almost cost her, her own life. I remembered sitting in the kitchen as I watched this monster grab my mother by the throat and nearly choked her to death. My mother gasped for air. I cried as I held onto my brother to shield him from witnessing this evil. They separated after that incident, but only briefly. He entered our lives once more, but this time, he brought reinforcements—alcohol, drugs, and guns. ~ “Boy, quit being such a fuckin’ pussy,” my stepfather regularly shouted toward my baby brother. By the time he was five, my brother shouted, “I hate you, dad” in return. Unlike my brother, I never attempted to fight back—fear paralyzed me. Instead, I became mute and escaped to foreign lands through the books, writing, and frequent walks through my grandparents’ fields. I normally walked after dinner, as the sun disappeared into the hills sketching silhouettes of walnut trees. I walked toward the sun; enjoying the warmth before the promise of a long night. Often, I sat on the banks of my grandparents’ many ponds. Bushes and various weeds embellished my favorite pond where bullfrogs serenaded me with their vibrant and joyous songs, and at dusk, owls joined in as the harmony. Lightning bugs twinkled above the water, and I escaped into the simplicity and awe of nature. ~ Years later my mother developed the courage to file for divorce. She kept it a secret from him, but she confided in me. I feared she would lose the courage and not ultimately divorce him. Our hell would continue—I was afraid he would murder her or all of us. She called in a personal day from work on that cold November day in 1997, and while he left for work and Cody and I went to school, she packed his belongings.



I knew about her plans, and during the school day I felt anxious. During my afternoon recess, I sat in the swing and stared at my shaking leg, fearing we may die from my mother’s boldness. Late afternoon, the sound of his diesel truck blared down our dirt road as my brother and I waited in my grandparents’ home. Since we lived on my mother’s parent’s land, my stepfather had to leave. Time suffocated my grandparents, brother, and myself as we succumbed to fear and worry for my mother. “Tom, should we go over there and check?” My Grandma Vi anxiously asked my Grandpa Tom as she rocked and crocheted. “I’ll give them a few more minutes and I’m gonna go over there,” my Grandpa Tom responded. He tried to mask his fear, but worry traced the wrinkles around his eyes. “He better not try nothin’. I’ll call the cops,” my Grandma Vi said. I could tell she felt helpless. Before my grandpa could respond, the phone echoed throughout the kitchen. My grandpa rushed over and picked up the phone. “You okay?” I sat behind my grandfather as I inched closer to hear my mother’s voice. “Alright. Are you sure?” I vaguely heard the sound of her voice, but the sound was all the assurance I needed. “I’ll send them that way. Do you want me to come?” My mother responded and seconds later, my grandfather hung-up, and turned to my brother and me. “You two can go back home, but if anything happens, you come straight back.” Cody and I, unsure of how to respond, walked into the unknown. We descended my grandparent’s concrete stairs, and rushed home. I rushed to check on my mother, and Cody rushed because despite the abuse, he was still his dad. My brother jumped into his father’s arms, cried, and yelled, “don’t go daddy.” I simply stood. I felt overwhelmed by the boxes crowding the already cramped living-room. One box in particular caught my eye. My stepfather was an avid NASCAR fan and a Jeff Gordon clock stuck out one of the boxes—a Christmas gift we gave him. My stepfather appeared remorseful, shocked, and cowardly. This man who forced his terror upon us appeared human with tears streaming down his sullen cheeks. Sadness suddenly hit me and I ran into our room (Cody and I shared a room). I collapsed on my mattress and cried. For years, I wanted this, and now I felt regret and guilt. My stepfather walked in and I wrapped my arms around his neck and cried. “Be good for your momma,” he whispered into my ear. “I will. I promise,” I whispered back. With that, he released me, turned and walked out. Tears fell down my cheeks as I heard his Diesel engine vibrate through the house, and within a few short moments, he was gone.


Kara Hendershot Oil on canvas

KARA HENDERSHOT I am drawn to the quiet, solitary, and widely misunderstood side of human existence. I am drawn to these shadows because I relate to them and I want to further understand them. We live in such blindness and haste. We put our past away in order to move away from hardship or anything reminiscent of pain. Creating narrative paintings is a chance for me to reflect, to live with ghosts for a while. It takes me to a place where time becomes still, so that I can revive the things that I'm taught to forget. I'm able to restore a sense of connectedness to a world outside of my own. My work is influenced by a personal experience of estrangement and a strong interest in the varied dimensions of human reality. My process begins in a raw and intuitive manner, blending the human figure with abstraction. I render certain details of the story while the early layers remain visible, quietly speaking through the painting. It is important to me to allow the viewer to have their own dialogue with my work. Fragments of my paintings are left abstract and unspoken to spark a continuous dynamic between reality and uncertainty, allowing the viewer to be receptive to possibility.


She Could No Longer See Home Kara Hendershot oil, acrylic, torn paper on canvas

The Life of a Lung Nodule Jessica Granger Memoir

It can all be gone with an x-ray. The initial test result is positive. My husband slides these findings into our routine Tuesday afternoon conversation. After some debate about making an appointment to register, he has finally done it eight years after returning from his last tour in Iraq, where he spent a year as a member of an Army unit exposed long-term to the burn pits near Camp Anaconda, Balad. He watches me tentatively as he recounts his appointment at the VA for the Burn Pit Registry evaluation and physical. I can picture it from the office in our home, the moment he wraps his arms tightly around the x-ray bucky on the wall, a stranger pressing the trigger behind a lead shield that sends the charge through his chest and into the film plate, our lives changing forever with the addition of a 4x4 lung nodule within his frame like a constant reminder of the sins of its host. I lower my gaze to his chest. He tells me I can’t see it, that it’s within the fibrous network of his delicate lung tissue, but it’s there. I see it glowing silver on his brown skin, lying over his breastbone in the rectangular shape of his dog tags. I glance past him to the neatly folded triangular flags and colorful medals in shadow boxes on the wall behind him and wonder if it was all worth it, our years of service, this intractable alien that lingers from that service like an angry private on latrine duty. I turn to anger. It slips onto my face in a frown that hides my fear of what the orb of cells is doing in this moment. I want to reach in his mouth, pull his jaw to its breaking point, and shout into the filament of his lungs. Beg for it to be a benign mold spore, plead with it to shrink and disappear, to leave him in the relative peace he’s had since the War on Terrorism has cooled and our country has switched focus. He’s calm as he soothes my fears with placating words of positive energy and hope, but I can hear the air as it struggles to get past the nodule, that saws in and out of his chest as he tries to hide his shortness of breath. He’s relieved to finally have a possible answer to the trouble he’s been having on his daily jogs, but I worry about a future we may not have for the decisions we once made in order for two relatively poor kids from the slums of New Jersey to go to college without the burden of debt.

The unfiltered words of these thoughts are spilling from my mouth, suffocating the space between us as we face off, his calm, my anger, the emotions bouncing between us like a tennis match, the ball lying near his alveoli. My husband gets up and reaches for me, draws me into his body, cuddles me along the territory of his possible demise. I want to make a fist and bang on his chest until it gives up the answers we need to move forward, the confidence we need in this broken system of healthcare for veterans to call us in a timely manner with a final read on the x-ray, an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, but I tell myself I won’t hold my breath even while I pray my husband’s won’t give up on him. I lay my ear over his chest and listen to the whooshing lullaby of his heart, the stuttering of his breath like the tinkling of bells at the close of the Civil War. I can feel a tear welling in my left eye as if of its own accord just to be closer to him. I feel it slip down my cheek to wet the old, gray Army t-shirt he wears when he’s lounging around the house. I’m jumping to conclusions, but he allows me that freedom in this moment of uncertainty. There isn’t much we can say to each other in the present that will impact the future and this pill is the hardest to swallow, it sitting in my throat while the acidic burn of it coats the inside of my esophagus. He lifts my face toward his. I’m ready to scream my frustrations to the world, to anyone who will listen, but he stops me with a hand over my lips. “Save it,” he tells me as a gentle finger swipes at my cheek, “you never know when we’ll need it most.” I nod in a subdued way, the soft hairs bouncing along my neck as I try not to linger in the pain. Our children are in the living room watching cartoons and laughing, crunching popcorn so loudly I can hear them from the office on the opposite side of the house. Our two-year-old son shouts for his father and comes barreling around the corner like a thirty-pound rhinoceros. Winded, he looks between us and asks to be picked up. My husband reaches down and scoops the boy up as if he’s weightless, looks down at him in a long lingering way, and then turns to join the children in the living room, his loud chewing joining the chorus as he settles down to watch TV. 169

who would still be there

Sarah HaBa Watercolor and gold on paper


Booklover Book in your palm, reader, you’ll know what to do. Push open to hear white waves inhaling. Pages like splitting water currents. Light slips smooth across pages from outsidein curving downward, tight binding— your impatient thumb spreads them apart. See how interior space is big enough for half-thoughts thought before the story begins. Tell me how the story unfolds. I figure your reliable narration should be enough. It’s up to you to reveal. Each page, hovering in space, pausing possibility, aim your words to my left earlobe. ~ Sarah HaBa

Psychosis in a Petri Dish There I go, floating away in burnt molecules, floating, pushed by constant wind. Iridescent algae bloom their bright beauty at lightning speed. On the ocean’s shined membrane, my thrashing arms grabbing at nothing. There is a symbol in the eye of every seagull, caws howling with voices in my ears Irregular orbits of unseen moons Slosh, pulling left, no right, no left— I triangulate spit-shined stars with busted instruments Insanity, insanity has won. Saltwater drips from my tongue. ~ Sarah HaBa


What is the Purpose of Desire Sarah HaBa Watercolor on paper

The Little Ones

Sarah HaBa Watercolor on paper


Dopamine Rush My heart blooms too fast. Velvet camellias cover my eyes, bluebells spill from my mouth with each attempted word. I want to say… I want to say… …the tip of my tongue is wet. ____ Let me have my crush; let me touch the air between us until it rifles with static. I’m a dopamine addict. Reader, you’re my pretend lover, OK? ____ The soft spot between collarbones mirrors the curve below my lower lip. Lavender sunsets press my forehead. I mean dove feathers endlessly fall from my fingertips. ____ Hovered in half-sleep, honeyed is the smell, I sleep on polka-dot pillows somewhere between dreams ____ My navel holds one uncurled white violet. My spine intertwines with scented jasmine vines. Their perfume drenches the balmy star-glossed sky ____ My soul levitates lushness in your body, I watch it hover. Sun glints off my sigh; Smile, smile. ~ Sarah HaBa 175

A Confession William Riley

My former self my past needs a confession If only I wasn’t afraid of the sacred booth and priestly Father. I guess I should be the one forgiving anyway So to my sins of youth I will confess and if allowed forgive. Pride - religious intellectual political to think I knew so little when I feigned much You are forgiven...go in peace. Anger - O’ great fool to be so peeved at so very little You are forgiven...go in peace. Cruelty - in all forms to this world and to those to me closest - I am most penitent But you are forgiven...go in peace. Iniquity and shame of the past begone. As for the present even the future may the God above if he hear if he exist - forgive And give strength to bring life rather than death to love rather than inflict.


Meditation Rock The tour carriage stops. “This is where Mary, George Washington’s Mother, Came to pray.” There is no church But a flat outcropping of rock Overlooking a shallow wooded valley. “I used to pray here too…” I Tell my boys on the tour. They Are tall rushes now, hollow and weedy, Already bending over and around me. “…when you were little.” There is a playground in view of Mary’s rock. One we used to frequent. My youngest babe, their sister, Strapped and flailing to my chest As I pushed one of her brothers in The swings, stealing glances at the other Insistent on the slide not the swings. The two boys, so close in age, My mental-twins, I dubbed them But not at the park They played like opposing magnets With me struggling to divide myself Never enough With three small children.

What I dreaded most was the Steep incline upon which Perched the flat rock Perfect for looking at Or hiding under Or around A draw For big kids When my gaze lingered too long Upon my baby’s giggle As we played grab brother’s shoe In the swings… Or that time I stared too long As bigger boys bossed mine From the tube slide… One boy always slipped away Precious milliseconds leaving me Scanning the park, clutching my heart, My babe still strapped to me Like a parasitic twin, sure as fuck I’d have to climb up that g.d. hill Breathless and sweating, praying All the while that I found him Before he hit the open road… …the same spot we’re stopped at now, Looking at the milky gray obelisk, Monument to a mother’s prayers. ~ Jenna Veazey


Lot’s Wife Omar Esparz


Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt. He tried deciphering the palette of expressions on her face. There was infinite terror in her eyes reflecting sulfur. He saw hints of infinite ecstasy at having witnessed total nihilation. He wanted to leave the pillar on the outskirts of Zoar. Dogs and winds would lick it for ages, and pigeons and old men would sit and commemorate it as a pagan goddess—the last remnant of the great twin cities. But the angel of God came to Lot in a dream and said: Do no such thing! Take your wife wherever you go, and she’ll be a blessing to your house. With nothing left but his daughters, the good man Lot chained himself to his stoned wife for good. He resettled with them in a cave in the mountains. His daughters were convinced there were no willing men left on the planet. Like Noah in the olden days, they had to start a new breed of men. They seduced their father, first the older, then the younger. Lot’s wife watched. A week later, a shepherd and his flock found Lot’s daughters. Lot’s daughters fell to their knees and cursed the wine they bade their father drink. Lot asked his daughters, Who impregnated you? They told him that a incubus came and spoiled their wombs. Lot raised his hand to smite them, but the voice of God spoke from his wife’s jagged lips, and the daughters were spared. Lot’s children or grandchildren were born soon after. There was little for Lot’s family to eat, and whatever they hunted spoiled quickly. Lot looked into his wife’s petrified eyes. What must he do? He then broke off morsels of her flesh and sprinkled it on the day’s game. The dead flesh survived for weeks. Lot kissed the pillar and thanked God. In death she was more useful than in life. From then on, they flavored and conserved their food and healed their wounds with the mother’s ever-dissolving body. Lot went down to Zohar and sold entire slabs carved from her flanks. With the money, they worked the earth and restored their former prosperity. When they ground her to dust, only the face remained. And God said to Lot in a dream: Do not consume your wife’s face, for it is holy. Lot then built a shrine and preserved the remains of his wife inside. He prayed to it every morning and every evening for the rest of his days. Lot’s days were excessively long. He was buried underneath the shrine he’d built. Before he parted, he ordered his wife’s face to cover his for all of eternity. And so the worms consumed Lot’s flesh, praising God because their meal was well-seasoned. When he passed, Lot commanded his children to venerate the altar where their parents were devoured and spread apart. God blessed the burial site, for a lush garden sprang from it. But no life grew where the delicate face of Lot’s wife had first been placed.

Daughters and Robots Scott Karambis

My daughters thought my boss was a robot when they first met him. Jo said he spoke in way that sounded both manic and impersonal, as if his sensors were overloaded by signals, unable to process the nuanced complexity of the human voice. “I think he’s on the spectrum,” I said. “That’s what you always say, Dad.” Phoebe, my younger daughter, jumped in: “Research shows that 65% of people can’t tell the difference between a robot and a human.” I raised my eyebrows--not because of the statistic but because Phoebe had agreed with her older sister. “What are the criteria?” I asked. Phoebe swiped her finger down her sister’s phone. We didn’t let the girls have their own phones until they were 13 and Phoebe was 11. Like most parents, we were trying to simultaneously prepare our children for a world of technology and protect them from it. This position created confusing inconsistencies which my daughters were eager to point out. “Does he respond quickly?” Phoebe read. “Yes” “Does he give the same answer to multiple questions?” “Yes” “Does he mention the company even when it doesn’t come up in natural conservation” “Of course.” Phoebe shook her head. “Sounds bad, Pops.” When I said everyone in the office was like that, both the girls looked at me with ominous expressions. We were only in the second hour of Bring-your-Daughter-toWork-Day and it appeared it was going to be a long event. Jessica, the HR representative in charge, had planned to teach the girls an introduction to social media without realizing that several of them had YouTube channels with thousands of followers. She was now on the verge of panic as she tried to wrangle two dozen 10-15 year old girls, currently sharing stories about her on their feeds. “Ok, what should we do?” I asked. Jo snatched her phone back from her sister and swiped around on the screen. “Robots have trouble with sarcasm and homonyms.” Phoebe thought for a second. “Ask him if he ate dinner last night around eight?”

Jo rolled her eyes. “That’s not gonna work.” Phoebe made a face. She suffered from anxiety which was exacerbated by her older sister’s merciless criticism. Many nights a week, Phoebe would walk into our room and say she felt anxious but didn’t know why. We began consulting experts. They said it was just her brain emitting errant signals, casting about for trouble. The trick, they explained, was to give your anxiety a name so you could diffuse the threat by externalizing it. Phoebe had decided to name her anxiety, Jared, after my boss, whom she had met at the company’s Summer party earlier in the year. “Sounds like Jared has showed up!” I said to her now with a smile. Phoebe’s face darkened. The real Jared had appeared behind me. He needed to talk. I told my daughters to follow the group. In his office, I had trouble listening to him. I noticed his eyes didn’t adjust quickly to light. I told myself this was the power of suggestion. Or I was about to be fired. As Jared detailed my recent lapses, Phoebe began to bang on the door. “Resist the program!” she shouted. “I had to get you out of there,” she said twenty minutes later as we walked home. “At least that nightmare is over,” Jo added. “Phew.” “Jared’s gone for the time being,” I agreed. I asked my daughters if they really thought the office was full of robots. “I don’t think Jessica is a robot,” Phoebe said. I asked how she could tell. “She’s got issues,” Phoebe said. “Bad dad,” confirmed Jo. “When did you talk to Jessica about her childhood?” “Robots,” said Jo, ignoring my question, “don’t let their childhoods hold them back.” We turned the corner onto our street. Even in the midst of chaos, it’s impossible not to feel some primitive sense of comfort--a bone-deep signal, sent from the ancients--as you approach your home, as yet undestroyed. “So, ladies,” I said, “what about me?” Phoebe took my hand. “What about you?” “Am I robot?” Phoebe squeezed my index finger as we walked up to the door. “Dad,” she said. “You didn’t have robots back then.” 179

Your Smile for the Day Denise Rentch Photography 180

The Gardens Blue and yellow flowers contrast beautifully like blue and green do as observed in the lake and on the fields in the Botanic Gardens Blue moods and blue skies contrast beautifully how much more beautiful would it be if I didn’t casually wonder what it would be like to jump off a rock or bridge How much better would it be if I didn’t casually think of sinking to the bottom of the waters of the Botanic Gardens I love life but still come the hypotheticals contrasting beautifully with blue and yellow flowers

~ Alison O’Connor

Family City Island Tradition They play pixel video games while we eat our huge fried shrimps with the thick tartar sauce, as I did in my childhood while my parents ate on the same bench table at Tony’s Pier in City Island. The water as usual, dark and it’s still jacket windy cold today. No one eats the fries, those are for the seagulls. My son and daughter, just as I did back then, shoot fries at them, while they glide up and down similar to puppets, until descending like the Space Invader game to catch them.

~ Moises Maldonado

The Sun that Rises

The raft navigated the gentle waters. He stood at the stern crumped, his son wedged between his legs. He watched as the blue

canvas was being marked white by the raft’s propeller. Shapes were conjured out of the foamy paint, each one pointed out by tiny little fingers. Dolphins trailed the raft, putting up a show for their unsuspected audience.

He stared at the rusty sun, delicately touching the salty horizon. The one and only. The same celestial body that lit the world.

Only it wasn’t the same. It didn’t set the same in Al Hasakah.

It wasn’t the same sun glistening on the river, when Quamar learned he would have a son. It wasn’t the one that rose the day

Said was born. Neither when he took his first steps on the bathroom. Not when they learned of the attacks or when they both stopped working. Not when Alaa decided to stay behind for her father. Or even when she kissed the both before they drove away.

No. A different sun emerged the day they got on the raft, followed by hundred others.

And different one will rise tomorrow when Quamar, kneeling on the sand, will be holding dead Said.

~ Dimitrios Alexopoulos Tsoras 181

Holding On

Anna Zetlin

John’s hair smelled of cigarettes from too many late-night jam sessions and trips on the road, but he was back home now, and that’s all that mattered. I slid over to his side of the bed and spooned him. His shoulders were perpetually stooped from playing the saxophone, and even when he was curled up like a question mark, the bed barely contained his height. John’s breathing was deep and labored, and I could feel the vibrations of his diaphragm as the air entered and rattled around before he exhaled, but he kept a steady beat, and I fell asleep as we synchronized. His frequent absences made our times together special, almost sacrosanct. After many decades, I still couldn’t get enough of him. The secret to a long, happy marriage: separations. It was brutal sometimes, not knowing exactly where he was or what he was doing. But when he returned, our passion was renewed. Today, as I caressed him, I slid my hand down, and he awakened enough to turn over and pull me towards him. It was best in the morning when the sun broke through the blinds and bathed us in warm, dappled light. “Good morning Katheryn,” Georgia chirped, peeking into the bedroom. “And how are we feeling today?” Georgia’s lilting Jamaican accent belied her strength. In addition to working as my home aide, she took care of her daughters, their children, and the children of at least one niece, a large extended family consisting of all women. No men. They were useless, according to Georgia – deadbeats and philanderers – but out of respect for me, she never bad-mouthed John. “Go away,” I said, sinking deeper into the covers. I already knew it was useless. Georgia dictated my daily routines. Even though her tone was often patronizing, I never doubted that my well-being was her priority. After my most recent fall last year, she had noticed bruises while helping me dress and scolded me for getting up on my own, but she never squealed to my daughter. Georgia and I finally had become co-conspirators. “Let’s get those drops in your eyes,” she said. I knew my eyes were getting worse. They were never great, even as a child. Thick glasses were supposed to have helped. Maybe they did, I don’t know. Time had clouded the lenses of my memory, and I could now laugh at the once painful image of the gawky, six-foot tall, thirteen-year-old girl, with black-framed glasses and red hair playing the piano for hours. “Plain” was the word I heard most often when someone described me. Not quite ugly but not nearly pretty enough. Thankfully, I had inherited my father’s easy manner and musical ability, and it was the piano playing, after all, that had brought John to me. “Ten more minutes,” I called to Georgia. She knew better than to interrupt my mornings with John. “I want to fuck you,” he whispered in a gravelly bass. John spared me the language he used on the road, which made it exciting when he used it in bed. I pitied the kids today. The media – pornography, the Internet, hook-ups – had cheapened the coinage of the language of love. Nothing was sacred; therefore, nothing was profane. “You need to get ready for your lesson,” said Georgia. “And I want to warm up a bit,” I said, grateful that I wasn’t entirely useless yet. My eyesight was failing, but my hearing had become acuter. The students, fewer than before, still came, though most, I had to admit, were children of my former students.

Georgia helped me out of bed. She guided me to the piano bench, making sure that it was precisely centered, so I could find middle C. I had difficulty reading the notes on the sheet music, but I didn’t need to, I played by heart. Allison arrived promptly with her mother, Carol. Carol had been one of my favorite students. She was talented and playful, but she married young, and within five years had three children, and abandoned her fledging career. Unfortunately, Allison lacked her mother’s spark, and her playing, while technically perfect was dull. She would always be a hack – a well-rehearsed, diligent hack. One day, she’ll become a piano teacher. Allison played her latest piece for me, and then we moved to the kitchen where we drank tea and caught up on family matters. After Carol and Allison left, Georgia helped me back to bed for a nap. “Remember, your daughter is arriving at 3.” Of course, I remembered. Two years ago, Casey’s husband, Bill had walked out on Casey, their two kids, and their house in Westchester. Armani suits and expensive musk cologne couldn’t mask his smarmy nature. He couldn’t keep his pants zipped. Casey forgave him after the first time, so, of course, there was a second time. And a third. He eventually left her for his latest mistress. Recently, Casey had been traveling to California for work. Georgia didn’t need to coax me into taking a nap; I wanted to rest for her visit. John was still sleeping when I returned to bed, so I didn’t rouse him. His gigs ended late, and he came home even later. The best time was after the band finished its last set. Then the band played, not for the audience, but for the only ones who counted – they played for each other. Warmed up and with no time restrictions, they jammed, fueled by alcohol, cigarettes, and their creative urges. I stuck to the perennials: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. The first time I met John, I had been practicing in one of our high school’s music rooms and felt his long gaze from the doorway. “Chopin’s Valse, Opus 69?” he had asked. Of course, I already knew who he was. Besides being the only boy in school who was taller than I, he was the cutest. And he dated many of the girls, even the older ones. “Try it this way,” he said, as he slid next to me on the piano bench. I played the left-hand accompaniment as written, while he improvised with his right-hand. John’s brilliance was blinding. How could anyone do an improv of a Chopin waltz, with its tightly wrapped melody and steady beat? John transformed it into a jazzy, syncopated, free-wheeling creation, while still paying homage to the original. Sometimes he meandered, sometimes he soared; but somehow, we landed on the same note at the end. The following week, John invited me to a performance of his band at our high school spring dance. I stood

in the back of the gym and worshiped his talent, trying to ignore the girls who swarmed all over him. When the keyboard player took a break, John asked me to sit in for him. “I don’t know what to do,” I had objected. “The key is A minor. You’ll figure it out.” And I did. We dated throughout our senior year of high school. The other students looked at me differently; I couldn’t be a nerd if I was dating the most popular boy in school. John added to my status by encouraging me to play keyboards with his band. After a show, girls still wrote their phone numbers on matchbooks and pieces of paper and stuffed them into his pocket, but now he tossed them out without a second glance. I was deliriously happy. This afternoon, sensing my presence in bed, John stirred. He stroked my long, red hair, then reached down and cupped my breast. After all these years, he knew this piece by heart. I closed my eyes, arched my back, and waited for him. “Now, look who’s here,” Georgia sang out from the living room. Damn. My daughter had arrived early. Later, I assured John. When I hugged Casey, I felt her tense, thin frame. She disengaged abruptly and joined Georgia in the kitchen, where they prepared tea and toasted slices of my favorite pound cake, releasing its sweet, vanilla aroma. Even though I couldn’t make out what they said, their hushed, conspiratorial tones betrayed them. We sat in the dining room and chatted about politics and the weather. When Georgia left the room, Casey revealed the real reason for the visit. “I want you to live with me,” Casey said, not for the first time, but with an unexpected sense of urgency. “I’m fine on my own. And Georgia’s here.” “Your eyesight is getting worse, and you’re falling more often.” I snapped my head in the direction of the kitchen. “Georgia?” “I didn’t need to be told by anyone,” Casey said, in the softest of tones. “What about my students? I can’t leave them,” I said. “You won’t have to work.” “I love my work. As long as I can find middle C, I will keep on working. And I’ve always lived in Manhattan. What will I do in the suburbs?” “I’ve met a man. I want you to meet him. It’s serious,” Casey said. She couldn’t hide the tremor in her voice. “What’s wrong, baby?” “He lives in California. He can’t relocate because 183

his practice is there. His wife died three years ago; his kids are still in school, and . . . ” I heard her breathing during the long pause. “And he doesn’t want a long-distance relationship.” “We’ll figure it out. We always do. You’ll become a Frequent Flier.” “I won’t go without you,” Casey said in a choked voice. I needed my sleeping pills that night. I had stopped taking them regularly and kept a sizeable stash in an envelope in my drawer for the times for the times John was away. The memory of his first European tour still pained me. John begged me to go with him, but Casey had just turned one. The two-month tour was extended to three months. Every time he called from the road his loneliness was palpable. He eventually succumbed. It took years for me to forgive him completely. Maybe I never did. Long-distance relationships are fragile when they’re new. Tonight, the sleeping pill didn’t work, and even John couldn’t comfort me. He seemed distant and ephemeral, but I still ached for him. I remembered the first time John and I made love. Casey would be shocked if she found out it was before we married, before the sexual revolution of the ‘60’s. John and I were artists, and we made up our own rules. He had already been with women, so for him, it was a natural part of a relationship. For me, it was all new, and when he aroused me for the first time, I was so overwhelmed by the intensity of my feelings that I cried. “What’s the matter? Why are you crying?” said Georgia, bursting into my room. “Bad dream?” “I can’t leave John, Casey has to understand that. It’s the one thing I can never do. John needs me to be here, at home, where I always am, waiting for him. In the same place, so he can find me.” Georgia heaved a heavy sigh. “Things have a way of working out.” The following week Casey returned with Frank. He was an imposing figure – tall, erect, with dark hair, and from what I could make out, strong, even features. “Mom, this is Frank,” Casey said. “Nice to meet you,” I said. Frank held my hand just a moment longer than necessary. He had the soft hands and firm grip of a surgeon. “You smell of chocolate,” I said. “Frank’s been making brownies all morning, practicing for his son’s bake-off at school next week,” Casey said. So, he was perfect. A successful, caring, surgeon-widower, brownie-baking dad. The warmth of Casey’s love beamed up from her face, and the joy in her voice was unmistakable. 184

I avoided John that night. This was one decision I needed to make on my own. Casey would never be happy unless I moved with her. Love. Guilt. Fear. It didn’t matter what her motivation was. I should move with her. I could teach California’s budding musicians. I would still be useful. I’ve had more than my share of happiness. Now, it was Casey’s turn. “What do you think?” I asked Georgia the next morning. “Women belong with their children and grandchildren,” she said, sounding pleased that I had broached the subject with her. “I’ll miss you, but I’ll manage. I’ve never had trouble finding a job.” I still had my doubts; blindness was the inevitable conclusion of my degenerative eye disease. Of what use would I be to Casey and her new blended family? It was already impossible for me to watch her kids because they darted around so quickly. I needed people to stay in one place. “Don’t worry, I’ll always be here to take care of you,” John had said when I first told him the diagnosis. But he didn’t touch me that night. It’s not contagious, I wanted to scream at him. He left the next morning for one of many tours that were becoming longer and more frequent, and we never really talked about it again. Casey suffered the most in John’s absences. To ease the pain, I regaled Casey with stories – some real, some imagined – about his trips on the road, and played Coltrane on the stereo. On her bedroom door, I hung a calendar and circled in red the day he was due to return. Casey crossed off each passing day with a thick black marker. Then one day, Casey was out with friends when John was scheduled to arrive and didn’t come back to greet him. Something had inexorably changed, but I still counted the days until John’s return. In John’s absence, Casey took me to my doctor’s appointments and seemed to relish being in charge. “Nothing’s been left on the floor. Why is Mom still falling?” She asked the doctor. “Losing eyesight also means losing balance,” the doctor said. “Stand on one foot. Now try it with your eyes closed. This is why your mother falls.” And to me, he said, “Make sure you use these eye drops twice a day. And no eye makeup.” I wondered if he was the blind one. I had never worn makeup of any kind. My only vanity was my long legs. John called them showgirl’s legs. At one of my piano recitals, John took a photo of me seated on the piano bench, my right leg extended, reaching for the pedals. Whenever I unpacked his tour bag, I saw that photo, nestled among his changes of underwear and tee shirts. To John, I was

beautiful. What I didn’t see in the mirror was reflected in John’s eyes. Now, I saw in broad, brush strokes. Boundaries blurred. Details dissolved. I saw with my other senses. The smooth velvet feel of red roses. The crisp, white sound of onions frying. The sweet smell of ozone before a thunderstorm. What was most important remained inside of me, where it couldn’t fade. The squirmy, sweaty hugs of my grandchildren. The top of Casey’s head when she was four, her hair smelling inexplicably of peanuts. The sound of John’s saxophone, sweeter in his absence, and more mellow in memory. The next day, Casey suggested that we all go out to dinner before Frank headed back to California. She selected my favorite restaurant, where we had celebrated my 75th birthday, and located only two blocks from my apartment. Georgia washed my short, white hair and set it tightly on pink, foam rollers. She helped me maneuver my walker out of the apartment and onto the street with slow, careful, deliberate steps. With chagrin, I realized that the seasons had changed since I had last gone outside. Savory, swirling clouds of dead, yellow leaves had replaced the perfumed lilacs of spring. I shivered from the unexpected coolness of the fall air, but it was a welcome change from the warm, sour air of my cloistered apartment. We were the first to reach the restaurant. Georgia made sure I was comfortable, and when Casey and Frank arrived, she got up to leave. “Stay. You’re like family,” I protested. “Not tonight,” she said. “I’ll pick you up later.” This was Frank’s first time seeing me outside my home, and I sensed his discomfort. His voice was tender when he spoke to Casey, but when she talked about my living with them, my finely tuned ear picked up discordant notes. I realized he didn’t want me. In weighing my options, I had not considered that possibility. Of course, I understood why. Casey had two kids, and he had two of his own. Full house. Right now, he wants to please Casey and convince her to move to California so he’ll agree to anything, but soon I would be the accelerant that fuels their arguments. Georgia joined us as we headed out of the restaurant. She positioned me at the walker and guided me by touching my shoulder. Casey and Frank were behind us, and I heard only snatches of their conversation. “There’ll come a point.” “She’s doing fine.” “Great facilities.” “I would never.” “Of course, for as long as possible.” So, it was happening already, even more quickly than I had predicted. “Frank doesn’t want me,” I said to Georgia. “He’s a doctor; he knows my future.” Georgia hugged me for a long time, and for a moment I thought I tasted the salt of her tears, but perhaps they were mine. That night, I reached for the envelope containing my sleeping pills. I need your counsel, John. What should I do? “Come home to me,” was all he said. I spooned him, pressing my head against the back of his stooped shoulders. I draped my leg over his and swaddled us both with layer upon layer of my long, red hair, weaving a cocoon, keeping him close by, where he belonged, where we both belonged and fell asleep.

Waterwords Martha Nance Photography


A Poem for Your Self

Heath Brougher

Encourage yourself in ways no one has ever thought of write secret hymns to yourself that you find by accident like poetic balloons filled with helium to raise you up like a rooster calling in the Day write catastrophes yet to happen and then stop them from happening write the future you want for yourself and then be the catalyst which brings it to fruition for all is connected— a human mind can change sugar into moss simply by its positive thought output.

The Eater of Shadows Your shadow doesn't have any hands. Something seems to have bitten them off in the blaring daylight. You felt it eek down your back for the briefest of seconds and painlessly yet perniciously sink its razor-teeth into the pitchy depth of your sunless spot laid out on the asphalt. Your pile of lightlessness seemingly conjured something incorporeal to attain livelihood and attack the black stain attached to your feet.

Something Else Forget about what you’ve been told of the village. Forget about the villagers themselves and the lives they lead, for you are not like them. You are equipped with the ability to become Vin Sano and taste even sweeter. For you know of that prolonged, perplexed perception, and you know better. Step out of the schoolyard’s bouncing balls. Step out of the cornucopia-mouthed girls of Tuscany throwing you smiles. Step onto the land, the gusts and gales, as they shape and frame you throughout decadal timeframes. You will come to find the Universe in a grain of sand, while the others will suffer the ravages of repetition. 188

He couldn’t remember why he had come here, so far into the old woods, where twisted oaks and maples created secret corridors between thorny brambles and impenetrable manzanita. Deep in his thoughts, It was as if this forest had grown up around him as he walked. Those thoughts now faded from his mind like the last wisps of fog in the morning sun. How far had he walked on his ancient legs? It was as if he had been transported. He didn’t know where he was. He stopped. At first everything was still. Then he heard birds calling across the treetops to each other. The breeze came up softly at first and then the canopy roared above as wind rushed past him. In a life of too many mistakes and more regrets, he had never experienced a moment like this. It felt like forgiveness. He found himself in front of a great oak, larger than any other and, he suspected, older than the others. It stood strong against the wind, its lower branches as thick as some trees. He was sheltered, he thought. He was safe. He lay himself carefully down at the foot of this ancient oak, his head resting on a half-buried stone, finding surprising comfort as he settled into the leaves. Tears rolled over his cheeks and tasted warm at the corners of his mouth. His life quietly passed, remembered in disappearing traces like fading perfume left behind. He did not move again. Flesh melted from his frame, what didn’t nourish nocturnal scavengers. Blood watered the trees. Grass, vines and dirt claimed his bones. Until, at last, it seemed there was nothing left but soil and the flat stone on which he had lain his head at the base of the oldest oak in the forest.

Crossroad John Warner

Some time later, another came, making his way through the wild growth. He wasn’t worried by not knowing where he was or how he got there because in his young life this man already felt lost. Unseen. Insubstantial. Something stopped him. He found himself in front of a massive oak, the largest tree he had ever seen. He didn’t listen to birds or notice the breeze that tousled his long hair. He stared at the oak a long time, trying to understand why he stopped. This oak seemed bigger and more real than anything in his life. He opened the knife he kept folded in his pocket, thinking maybe carving his initials into the tree would in some way make him visible in the world. He stepped forward. One foot connected with a half buried flat stone at the base of the tree. There was a sudden rush of wind and it was as if embers were fanned at the base of the oak. Smoky plumes no eye could see rose up around the young man and filled him. In the stillness when the wind died down, he could hear the birds singing. Thoughts and memories floated into his awareness. They weren’t his, but he embraced them. They felt fuller, deeper than his own. They occupied spaces that had previously been empty. He dropped the knife as if it were a token to be left in exchange and walked from the forest.


Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya

Wedge Tailed Eagle of the Desert dry nest of a desert eagle on a fork of dried branches of an ash blackened tree maybe not an eagle, do the desert eagles nest on tops of trees? but what other bird would build a nest in full view – of snakes, droughts, thunderstorms? nest on a thin leaves acacia grown on the sand and burned stones visible from the top of the hill from the slope from other tall trees who could hatch here? where did it come from? a fearsome bird with feathered white legs and a wide tail here it grew up and breathed when the branches squeaked green here it grew feathers, but first fluff a wisp of fluff on a tangle of branches and leaves white fluff covered with dust, yellow, gray, thick here the wind brought it petals of chimes and steppe peas here it got used to heights far away in the darkness sounds a cold song of wild dogs in the skies drunk with cold dogs sing at a golden egg even above its nests when the river dried up it took off lonely it was not afraid large birds do not cry when the grass burns and the sand melts before dawn the dead river bed is covered with frost a lonely sandy smoke crawls from one dune to another on the horizon, fire rumbles that connects the firmaments even at sunset crickets crunch ceaselessly, grass rustles even dried grass the grass is rustling again a long-tailed eagle already knows how to tell the distances and can by its telescopic eye see the type of prey amongst thousands of sandy hills rabbits kangaroo large lizards dingo feral cats other birds in excess


having changed the plumage, it learned to soar on ascending warm currents to cut the clouds with a sharp scream to stitch them with ascending turns far away from the nest huge wings open feathers darken circle by circle if one looks against the golden egg barely distinguishable are white legs claws and white beak it rises it rises higher it returns over a weightless valley over the blossomed lilac and blue glow of the sky dome over dense turquoise over triumphant greenery over the darkness over fogged diamond crumbs where did it come from? silently it rises it returns until it disappears from sight like its brothers between shiny shells leaving the nest empty ***

fisherman i wait for a crack in the clouds to fall with meandering light for a tree to split from the centre to the edges trembling with leaves and disappear in an instant the next morning it is only a sandlot no branches nor rubbles nor shadow on a cheek a flat plain from horizon to horizon just ripples on water and by the shore – reeds or sedge a flock of fat ducks emerges out of the depths when no one is looking a fisherman on a jetty stays still not turning at the sounds of splashes of the fog of wings over water at the sounds of steps at the sounds of breathing at the sounds of crying patience slips into his shoulders fingers holding the fishing rod firmly as a flagpole i raise my eyes to the clouds where the crack is running already from an edge to the centre and celestial eels tickle the heels of the storm

as I told her to hang up ~ Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya the linens outside the house along the fence under the tree as I repeated to her when I finished washing the linens as I sorted out the linens as I picked from the basket the linens as I dropped it as I repeated in my childhood she would tell me it was the time to hang up the linens I’d come back I’d play and gather mulberries since the childhood leaving the basket with the linens walking by the branch as I reached for the linens as I chose berries as I told her as I repeated under the mulberry tree it was time to hang up the linens as I noticed it as I gathered it as I noticed the linens in the front yard from the road when we rushed past a house as I have always repeated under the mulberry tree when dusk came it was time to hang up the linens outside the house as I repeated as I recognized the tree as mulberries fell from the tree as I noticed as I wished to hang up the linens repeated washed hang up the linens on ropes close to the house along the fence under the tree as I noticed it from the road as I repeated to tell myself it was time to hang up the linens 191

Seattle Portraits Minna Lee Acrylic on canvas



M.S. Dean

Two Stories Above, lies the weight of the world; Below, sits an empty room save the many Colored walls. An Architect unknown – Perhaps many. Under the early sun, a trio of passers-by take notice. What do you make of it? A dream. A mess. And with barren chins on soft palms, The thoughtful stir.

An Ancient Whisper It is no wonder that some recent version of you will survive these forward and backward times. Of course you are of my shell, For on my side your shoulders cave. Neither methodic principle nor ink stained oak has swayed my heart so deeply as your kiss. And so, with far more words than words can say, I hide my lips in yours.

Soon, more arrive. And with each claim, a new trial. In the ground upon which they stand, Lines are drawn the width of a finger. They cry of the walls – Tear down but a single shade! Paint them all to match and to please the eye! Then, comes through the heat of tongue and friction of teeth, a child. And with lesser skin and smaller eyes she speaks to shrinking ears. For no light enters the room, there are no shadows. Surely, without contrast we will skin our knees and bloody our noses. Withal, for upon each wall bears a load that is equal, so too seems each its purpose. With her words came the wind, Alas, her message fell on reddened ears. And as she died, The world was born; Because she died, That world was ours.

is a wave is a wave A new generation – Born beneath a canopy of sound, Cast into a sea of turmoil Gave soul to a movement. A place of noise and of lightning Strikes fear in the humble – Gives voice to the hearty. This is the new wave, And a wave is a wave.


The Meek Inherit

Kimberly Parish Davis

At the edge of the water hole, Doc whistled for everybody to come in as the radio announcer’s voice dissolved into crackle and hum. The emergency message had stopped, but the fifteen of them piled onto the bus in any case. It wouldn’t start, so they walked back to the house. As they straggled up the driveway, exhausted, they could see Chester hopping from one foot to the other on the porch, arms waving. “I stay right here I don’t run off,” he yelled. Eventually he stopped jumping. “Where the bus at?” “It broke down, Chester. There’s an emergency. Did you hear?” Doc asked. “Big noise like a fire truck!” The word fire broke in the middle with a squawk. “Let’s go turn on the TV, Chester,” Sue Nell tried to lead the lanky boy inside. “TV quit. No lights workin neither.” Doc grumbled something about end times and aliens. The first few days were more-or-less normal. The boys dug latrines and fixed up a hand crank on the water well. The girls cooked all the cold food before it went bad. Doc worried. He sent Ernest and Todd out to scout for news, but they never came back. On the third day, strangers came up the drive looking for food, but the dogs scared them off. “Chester, those strangers looked hungry—protect the chickens. Me and the boys are going to bring the goats in,” Doc said. Chester watched them leave with the dogs. “I gotta proteck them chickens. . . . I gotta proteck them chickens,” he chanted and stomped around the coop in his rubber boots and motorcycle helmet, his baseball bat on his shoulder like a soldier’s rifle. He whipped his head from side to side trying to watch the woods on one side and the road on the other. After thirty minutes, he sat down on a big rock next to the hen house. When he took off his helmet, something hit his head. Hard. At dusk, Chester woke up. He rubbed the knot on his head and looked around. “Nobody home—chickens all gone ‘cept Henny.” He gathered the scrawny red hen in his arms and crawled under the porch. The next day, Chester, his face tear and snot streaked, emerged still holding the chicken. “Henny, we gotta find’m. You stay right here with me, Henny. Imma proteck you.” He called at the kitchen door. No answer. He crouched and spun from door frame to door frame, the chicken poised in front of him like a weapon. The house had been ransacked. Furniture was broken and turned over, and nobody was home. Back in the kitchen, Chester said, “Henny, we ain’t got but one cracker,” and he broke the stale saltine in two and gave the chicken half. He waited smoothing Henny’s feathers till his adolescent metabolism made the hunger pains unbearable. “What we s’pose to do, Henny? We gotta eat something, but I don’t s’posed to go out on that road.” He stood just inside the fence. A strip of cloth flapped in the breeze where it had caught on the barbed wire beside the cattle guard—“Cain’t cross that cattle guard, Henny. Lookie here. . . . this off Sue Nell dress.” Henny struggled and flapped. Chester dropped her. “Okay. Catch you some bugs.” He was hiding in the empty pantry holding the gingham strip when he remembered Henny. “I gotta proteck Henny.” He found her in the hen house sitting on two eggs. “Henny, you a good girl.” “How I’m gonna fix them egg, Henny? I don’t s’pose to touch fire,” but he lit the stove like he’d seen the girls do and did a little dance. Eggs never tasted better, even if there was some shell in them. The next day, Chester closed Henny in the pantry and went out for water. Two strangers were in the house when he got back. He hid and watched them until he remembered Henny. He found his helmet and baseball bat and ran into the kitchen screaming, “I’m comin’ Henny!” One man was at the pantry door and Chester delivered a home run swing to his head. The other one bolted from the living room, but Chester ducked and headed up the stairs. He hid at the top in time to trip the stranger, and the man fell down the stairs. Too scared to touch either one of the strangers to see if they were dead, Chester hurried to the pantry and grabbed Henny. “Henny, we gotta go. Come on.” It took him a long time to cross the cattle guard, but he did it. On the road, he looked one way then the other. “It’s just us now, Henny.”

The #Me Too Movement, My Husband, and Me Lisa Braxton Memoir

Nestled in the back booth of a popular Cambridge, Massachusetts, bar and grill on a blustery January night, my date and I laughed over his stories about the characters he’d met during his career in journalism. I shared a few stories of my own since I’d worked in journalism too. As the hours went by we discovered other commonalities: our families’ roots in Virginia, our childhood love of reading, our dreams of writing books. We only got up to leave because it was close to midnight and the restaurant would be closing soon. I figured we’d have an awkward moment in front of the restaurant with him giving me a quick peck on the cheek and us going in separate directions– me to the subway entrance across the street, him to his car. My expectation was only partially correct. “Where are you parked?” he said as we carefully stepped over black ice on the sidewalk. I told him that I hadn’t driven in, but had left my car at the transit parking garage near my home 20 miles away. He stopped abruptly and gave me a stern look. “You’re taking the Red Line at this time of night? You can’t do that. It’s not safe. I’ll take you to your car.” He walked briskly toward a putty colored Toyota parked a few yards away at the curb. I didn’t follow him. I felt conflicted. It seemed that my date was being a gentleman, offering to drive miles out of his way to make sure I got home safely. But how did I know I could trust him? I thought about my mother’s warning to me when I was a little girl not to talk to strangers and by all means, not to get in the car with someone I didn’t know. I’d only met my date a few weeks earlier when he introduced himself to me after an adult Sunday School class we regularly attended. We exchanged some emails and then agreed to meet at the restaurant. Disturbing scenarios came to mind: me buckling in and him making suggestive remarks, me slapping his hands away as he’d try to touch me inappropriately, him trying to convince me to have sex with him or driving me to a secluded spot to assault me, or even kill me. The ice-cold wind slapped at my legs as I stood on the sidewalk watching him open the drivers’ side door. He looked back at me. “Come on!” He sounded mildly annoyed. I replayed in my mind the work-sponsored self-defense classes I’d taken about 25 years earlier when I was in my mid-20s. There had been several rapes and attempted rapes recently in the community where I lived at the time. Use the palm of your hand to strike him in the Adam’s apple” the karate instructor advised us. Give him a knee to the groin if you have to. Don’t be afraid to shout for help. I also recalled a magazine article I’d read that encouraged letting the car door fly open if the person was driving you in the wrong direction.


He pulled his car a few feet from the curb, giving me enough room to step over a mound of dirty snow to get in. I pushed aside my review of self-defense tips and thought about what my gut was telling me¬—that he was a decent person with good intentions. I decided to take a chance and go along with my instincts. Still, I reached into my purse and fingered the keypad on my cell phone as I got in the car. I had told my sister and a good friend about the date and had them on speed dial “just in case.” In the seven years since that night, my husband and I have reminisced about that first date many times. When we get to the part about the awkward moment on the sidewalk, he has told me that he thought it was strange that I hesitated. His eyes have narrowed when I’ve tried to explain to him my fears. He has responded that he was being protective of me and would never have exhibited any inappropriate behavior. Feeling frustrated, I’ve let the discussion trail off. But now because of the publicized sexual misconduct accusations against powerful men across a range of industries and the movement by women—many of them celebrities— to come forward to share their stories of sexual assault, harassment, and violence, the public has become enlightened about the pervasiveness of such damaging behavior. These women’s voices have helped my husband understand my hesitation. I am relieved that he now realizes why I considered taking my chances on a subway train late at night, where drunkenness, harassment, pick pocketing, and robberies sometimes happen, over riding to my car with him. The time we spent in his car on our way to pick up mine that night gave us more time to get to know each other. We rode past an Ethiopian restaurant. He suggested that we go there on our next date. When we got to the garage he waited for me to exit and followed me out, making sure I was safe. I couldn’t wait to call both my sister and my friend to tell them what a wonderful evening I’d had. Since the #MeToo movement, there’s been a shift in our conversation when we reminisce about that first date and get to the awkward moment on the sidewalk. We think of all the women for which a first date, an acting audition, or job interview, is a damage-inflicting encounter. The #MeToo movement has not only helped my husband understand me better, but has led to meaningful conversations between us as we try to grapple with the condition of our society. We talk about the ugliness and brutality of some men and all the ways women’s lives have been scarred as a result. We’ll likely continue having these kinds of discussions as details of more disturbing incidents become public.


Ella Hilsenrath Fiber



prayer bed Ella Hilsenrath Fiber


Death at the Paw Paw Tunnel Melanie Smith / Memoir

Few of us would deny that death is a loss. Sometimes, however, death is a welcome unburdening, and not just because it ends physical pain or infirmity. Death has the power to strip away inauthentic suffering and reveal compelling truths, if we are clear-eyed and brave enough to see them. Then, death is a gift. This is the lesson I learned the year I turned 35. It was the Sunday before President’s Day, the second day of alternating sleet and snow, and the third of single-digit cold. The front yard and driveway of the suburban home I sometimes shared with my boyfriend Kent and his sixth-grade son were a slab of frozen slush. Cabin fever had set in: impromptu wrestling had already toppled a table lamp, and bickering erupted over the suggestion that homework was a suitable way to pass the time. “Duh, Dad!” said the boy hotly. “Ith winter vacation.” I suppressed an affectionate smile at his lisp. “I couldn’t tell,” Kent observed then mocked, “ ‘Theems’ like school’s one continuous vacation for you.” The boy’s ears reddened. “Tomorrow is supposed to warm up,” I interjected to ward off the simmering conflict. “How about we go somewhere?” I found our street address on a creased road map, then penciled in a circle representing a two-hour drive in any direction. “What does this say?” I asked the boy, squinting over my eyeglasses at the fine print. “‘Paw Paw Tunnel’.” He frowned. “Ith that a real name?” A quick internet search revealed that it was indeed real: Paw Paw marked the place where the Potomac River’s historic C&O canal passes through the side of a mountain. “Paw-Paw, Paw-Paw,” the boy began to repeat nonsensically. “I like the way it thounth.” His guileless grin settled the matter. “Paw Paw it shall be.” I glanced at Kent, seeming to nap, his fingers interlaced over his belly. “Should we take a picnic lunch?” There was a long predictable pause. I knew he wasn’t really asleep. “I wish I were a dog,” Kent intoned without opening his eyes. “I could sleep in a sunny place all day, nibble a little food, and sleep some more. Wouldn’t have to do a lick of work.” “I was asking about tomorrow.” “Whatever you like, Sugar,” he drawled without opening his eyes. “I’m too comfortable to move.” Too comfortable to move: That seemed to be how he saw our relationship. Time was running out for me to become a mother, but Kent was adamant about not wanting another child. He had divorced his son’s mother when the boy was ten despite his own born-again-Christian mother’s wishes.


“I know I’m going to hell when I die,” he often joked wryly. “But I should’a never got married. I wasn’t in love.” It didn’t help that the boy resembled Kent’s ex-wife, right down to the prominent lisp, or that she traveled so much for her job that the boy had to live with Kent. Fatherhood seemed like an afterthought, one tinged with guilt and regret. In the beginning I thought I could fix that; perhaps a helpmate would ease the load and make room for contentment. But Kent didn’t need me, not the way his boy so obviously needed a mother. I didn’t know that at first. The unassuming man I met at a lonely-hearts dance had blushed at the softness of my flowered frock and pulled back from our first kiss in surprise, his hazel eyes fluid with light. “Your mouth is exactly the right taste and temperature,” he said with something akin to wonderment. I found his simplicity beguiling, even poetic. But the wonderment was fleeting. I had been thinking for some time about leaving my government job. The required travel was a real time-stealer and I hated the long hours in transit. One afternoon about six months later, I shared my unhappiness and speculated about what I might do if I quit. He sat with his right ankle on his left knee, nursing a beer bottle and staring vacantly out the window. I stopped. “Are you listening to me?” “Sugar, you know by now my brain ticks better when your clothes are off,” he joked. “C’mon over here and give me a little squeeze.” His laconic expressions sounded increasingly trashy, and the sweetness of “Sugar” had soured. But I had seen his tenderness. I knew it was there. For now I would ignore its absence. One Friday night I arrived to find Kent’s house cold and unlit, the refrigerator empty, and the boy holed up in his room. When I knocked he bounded out with a look of anticipation that quickly faded. “Ith my birthday,” he announced, clearly crestfallen. “I thought you were my dad.” My heart broke at the chocolate around his mouth. It was nearly seven o’clock, and he had not eaten dinner. “I guess that means I’m making your birthday meal,” I said lightly. “Wanna help?” When his father pulled up in his pickup truck an hour later, the boy and I were sitting under crepe-paper streamers over the remains of a taco dinner I had managed to scrape together with frozen meat, canned beans, and onions. “Traffic was hell,” Kent intoned emotionlessly. “What’s all this?”

“We’re celebrating that you remembered to come home,” I quipped, hoping the boy would laugh. “‘Ith my birthday?” the boy said pointedly. “Did you forget?” “Oh yeah, that reminds me.” Kent wrestled a twice-folded card from his jeans pocket and tossed it on the table. Inside was a twenty-dollar bill. “Don’t spend it all on candy,” he said. “Did your mother call?” “No,” said the boy. “I think she’s on a busineth trip.” Two hours later when his mother still hadn’t called, I was indignant—at both of them, I would have realized, had I the capacity for unflinching honesty. But it was easier to be angry at her. “I don’t get it,” I groused after the boy went to bed. “How does a mother forget her only child’s birthday?” “She’s not cut out for parenthood.” Kent’s sigh was melancholy. “For that matter, Sugar, neither am I.” I ignored the implications of his words. I still thought I could change him. President’s Day arrived in a blaze of sun, as promised. After two hours in the car and a picnic along the way, Kent, the boy, and I arrived at Paw Paw, a deserted place that seemed once to have been the point of several convergent railroads. A few miles out we found the entrance to the C&O canal’s footpath with only one other car in the lot. The ice in the canal was glass-hard along the banks and murky in the middle where it had melted and refrozen, and the trees along the frozen dirt path were bare and leafless. But the air was bright and clean. I started walking briskly toward the tunnel while the boy happily trotted ahead, his freckled cheeks round and red. As was usually the case, Kent trailed behind. As we got closer to the tunnel we could hear a dog’s echoing yelp. “Sometimes dogs bark when they’re afraid.” A furrow creased Kent’s brow. “It probably dudn’t like being in that tunnel. Or could be it’s cornered a muskrat or a squirrel.” “As long as it doesn’t bother us,” I said carelessly and began to chase the boy, howling playfully as we darted and ducked along the path. The tunnel opened into the side of the mountain under a craggy face of blackened granite. When we had walked several yards on the icy path, the boy and I stopped so Kent could catch up. He turned on the flashlight and paused to shine it on crumbly old bricks that oozed stalactites of yellow slime. At the tunnel’s other end the opening seemed to float like a silvery disk in a sea so black that I could not see my hand before my face and so still that I could feel the pulse in my head. The dog’s intermittent yelping was louder now, but the

narrow tunnel distorted the sound and darkness swallowed the flashlight’s weak rays at only a couple yards ahead. We continued to walk and soon heard garbled voices. The flashlight picked up first the legs and then torsos of a heavyset woman and an adolescent boy leaning over the splintered railing. A black German shepherd was straining against its leash, and in the gelid green water five feet beneath them a medium-sized collie was frantically flailing. “We didn’t even know she fell in,” the woman exclaimed, her tone apologetic. “She wasn’t on a leash.” Kent shone the flashlight on the water. Confused by the pitch-dark and the echoing voices, the dog had swum opposite the direction of the tunnel’s entrance and was fruitlessly pawing at the brick wall. When she saw the beam of light, she began to bark and paddle toward us, her ears flapping eagerly. Kent pointed the light toward the entrance to guide her out. I could not make out his face behind the blinding glare, but I heard him speak with a startling gentleness. “C’mon, girl.” Under cover of darkness his southern drawl was almost melodic. “You can do it.” My eyes grew hot with tears at the tenderness I had not heard in some time. The dog responded to the loving tone as well; almost miraculously, she began to swim in the right direction, her ears excitedly flapping. It worked that way for several minutes, with Kent murmuring encouragement and the dog paddling, and then Kent calling to her more firmly when she panicked and resumed pawing at the wall. But the lengthy immersion in ice-cold water was taking a toll. Increasingly disoriented, she began to shriek. “We’ve got to get her out!” the woman cried. “Do you think the water is too deep to stand up in?” We stared helplessly over the railing at the canal’s cloudy depths. The woman’s son broke the silence. “I know how to swim and I wanna go get her!” “Hold on a minute, son,” Kent said quietly, using a word he rarely employed with his own boy. “Maybe I can try to reach her.” I held the flashlight and gripped the back of Kent’s jacket while he squeezed under the railing. The collie’s plaintive yelping now mingled with the gurgling sound of her head slipping under the water. Kent whistled and strained to reach for the dog, but she did not respond. He pulled himself up over the railing, brushed off his jacket, and took back the flashlight. “I just cain’t see to get a foothold. It’s too dark and the bricks are loose.” The woman leaned farther over the railing and called to the dog, her voice now broken with sobs. “I don’t care,” her son shouted, “I’m going in after her!” I heard the swish of his parka and reached out reflexively to grab him. 201

“You can’t jump in,” I said, “you’ll drown too!” The boy wrestled free and scrambled into his mother’s arms. I searched fruitlessly for Kent’s own boy, invisible in the darkness. Kent had again turned to the dog, but it was too late. She could barely keep her head above water. Her soaked brown fur swayed like heavy seaweed and she rocked drunkenly from side to side, too weak even to yelp. “There’s nothing we can do,” he said somberly. “She’s nearly gone.” Then he again surprised me by unceremoniously clicking of the flashlight and immersing us, all five, in several minutes of total blackness. Nearby the woman and her son sobbed. The only other sounds were the lapping of the water and the agitated thumping of the German shepherd’s tail against my leg. As a child, I was not unfamiliar with the unbuffered tragedy of accidental death. One summer night when I was nine, a neighbor boy came to the front door and asked for my father. It was nearly bedtime, and we had been sitting crosslegged on the floor in the blue cast of the television. My mother held us back as the boy reported that a dog had been struck dead by a car and lay at the bottom of the hill. Roused from where he had been sleeping in his easy chair, my father slipped on unlaced work boots and hurried out the door. He returned a little while later, emerging from the black night cradling the corpse of his beloved hunting dog in a blood-soaked quilt. It was the first time I had seen my father cry. The next morning I and my sisters huddled at the window as he dug a backyard grave. “He was one hell of a dog,” my father said gruffly to no one in particular when he came in, and then, “You kids stay away from that grave.” The silence as he walked away was shattering. Now the woman and boys and I scrambled silently ahead of Kent’s flashlight beam to make our way out of the tunnel, emerging blindly into the sunlight. The woman covered her face with her hands and sobbed, fallen tears freezing like tiny beads in her long hair. Her son ran a few yards then dropped to his knees. He clawed handfuls of rocks from the frozen ground and flung them onto the icy canal. “I hate that tunnel! I’m never going in there again!” he screamed. “I hate it, I hate it!” I again looked around for Kent’s boy. He hung back, his hands stuffed in pockets and his face round and white. “We’re thorry,” he said in a high thin voice. I wanted to go to him, but I knew better. He would cry, and his father would tease him. The woman mumbled thanks and called after her son, who was now sprinting down the path. Kent had emerged from the tunnel grim-faced, silent, and covered with yellow dust. “Why’d you turn off the flashlight?” I asked softly. “There’s enough bad in the world,” he said without meet


ing my eyes. His voice was rough with suppressed emotion. “Kids shouldn’t have to watch a dog drown.” A routinely indifferent man had made compassion sound effortless, and I had glimpsed the longed-for softness. I put my arm through his elbow to hug him. “That’s a good father.” “Don’t get all sentimental on me,” he laughed uneasily, drawing his arm away to wipe his running eyes and nose. “I know what you’re thinking. But this doesn’t change a thing.” “What do you mean, change what?” asked Kent’s boy. My eyelids fluttered to shake off the tears that swelled suddenly, as much for the boy as myself. “Change what?” demanded the boy. “We have to go back through the tunnel to get to the car,” I said with forced resolve. “There’s no other way back.” It was a deft switch. The boy zipped the hood of his coat over his head to hide his tear-stained cheeks and threw himself at his father. “I can’t go back in there!” came the muffled words. “Well, you’re too big to carry,” Kent laughed. “I keep telling you to lay off the candy.” “Dad!” “Don’t start fussing,” he capitulated, “I’ll let you hold onto the edge of my coat.” They entered the tunnel in tandem, Kent holding the flashlight and the boy’s hood still zipped like a mask over all but his eyes. When we came to the spot where we had been standing minutes before, the boy broke free and ran ahead. The flashlight beam had picked up the bloated carcass of the drowned dog drifting like a water-logged carpet at the periphery our our vision. None of us looked at it directly, as if avoidance could somehow protect us from further anguish—the kind of magical thinking I had been practicing all along. We walked in silence for twenty minutes, slipping and sliding over the slushy ground. Then we stepped out of the tunnel—first me, then the boy, then his father, who looked back momentarily with no indication that he had noticed my tears. I wiped my eyes. It had become an impossibly blue day, the very evergreens seeming to pulse with life. The boy pulled back his hood and his cheeks pinked up. I drew his arm snugly through mine and nodded ahead, a gesture that said I was ready to put the tunnel behind us. But not just the tunnel. I had the sudden and certain realization that my relationship with his father must end. It wasn’t Kent who was stuck; it was me. Those glimpses of softness in our early days had seemed to hold the promise of more. But sometimes—for reasons that are both stunningly clear and unbearably opaque—there isn’t more. Sometimes a glimpse is all that is offered because there’s just not enough of a good thing. The boy whose arm I encircled knew that. Kent knew it too. And now, irrevocably, so did I.

Music in Fredericksburg Jim Williams Photography EP Jackson performing at The Colonial Tavern 203

Music in Fredericksburg Jim Williams Photography Drew Hutchinson performing with Smith Party of Three at Bistro Bethem Paintings on the wall are by local artist Bill Harris.


Five O’clock Thea Verdak

It is five O’clock, and he is pleasantly drunk. His tight jeans with a name remain on the floor. The world flickers news and views that no longer seduce. He is done being roasted, toasted, broiled, and simmered. The cook is gone and the clock lonely ticks. He is high in the sky. The cars below sliver slowly going everywhere possibly pleasantly sober. The distant sound of a shrieking ambulance will never burst the eardrums of the dying man on East 12th Street. Outside, it is rush hour. He always wanted the beginning of everything and began tall, but it is five O’clock and he feels small. The stubble on his chin used to make him feel like a dude, now he sees only rubble. When the sun shows, there is no reason to shave, no leftover lovers to crave. His tan is fading; he won’t buy a new one. His blue eyes are floating in their circular cages, UV protective. He had seen her walk to someone radiantly young, running her hand through thick, falling hair. His hair smells of yesterdays and the tight jeans with a name remain on the floor. It is five O’clock and he is pleasantly drunk.



Anda Marcu

When everyday hurts so much in its dullness You welcome tragedy as a distraction. It's like your inner life is suffering from cavities And needs to have root canals Performed without Pain-numbing-anything. You remember you're smitten with windows They help you catch a glimpse of Old, radiant thoughts and dreams Before you succumb back to Present dullness, Religiously hitting the inner snooze button. All of a sudden, it is Shadows at play through favorite windows And you know you’re short on time To spend with yourself.

Thoughts Renewed Remember that day by the river, The day when you thought you Have reached the end of your thoughts? The sun had finally come out after The longest of rains and The skies were sharp blue Above the tallest of trees. You were sitting there, Throwing rocks in the water, Paralyzed with fear Your thoughts have given up on you And stopped renewing themselves. You reached the end of your thoughts, you said, Because all you had left was the same old ones Circling back to you again and again. But when you flicked your hair to the side You looked up the river. The glimmer made you think of Cherry orchards in the rain, And you realized That was a new thought.


The Other Side

LILIANA ZAVALETA I was born in South America to European-Peruvian parents, moving to the US when I was a child. I’ve lived on several continents during my life and for the last 20 years have divided my time between South America and the US. Since childhood I have self-identified as an outsider - caught between worlds, an idea that has fueled the shifting realities that has become a main focus in my artistic landscape. Displacement, territoriality and relocation within space and nature are themes that personally affect and interest me. We are no longer confined to a limited geographical area or connected only to a specific group of people. We feel displaced or have relocated – moving, migrating either by choice or necessity. These themes have continually re-appeared in life and in my work, an inspiration which mirrors my own reality. My paintings and sculptures are dreamlike fabrications that have the effect of producing in us an uncertain relationship with the environment, an uncertainty with our own lives and what we had always thought was real. I want the viewer to question public and private space, their everyday living experiences, and even their own personal memory.



Entryway Entryway Liliana Zavaleta


Brief Memory

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.

~ Liliana Zavaleta


A Safe Place Sarah Fowler

I once purchased my own urn. It was the color of the earth. It was made of clay fired, set, and polished to a shine. It was simple and elegant. I believed it would be a good fit. It comforted me to choose the place where I would reside when I was finished and to familiarize myself with its weight, its contours, its body. Because soon it would be familiar with mine. I liked that its color reminded me of the ground: a memory of something solid to keep me company and to keep me safe. I breathed into it whispered my name into it, filling it with my life to prepare it to be filled in my death; I knew that the memory of my life held in its core would comfort the memory of my body when my ashes had settled there, perhaps stimulated in some small way by the condensation left over, like an imprint of my living lungs.


I wanted everything to be in order, everything to be ready: a streamlined process for whomever dealt with the details I was unable to take care of beforehand. Because I could do a lot, but I couldn’t put my own ashes into the urn. I was calm in the simplicity of it all-the exactness and the preparation and the certainty. Most of all, I was happy that my ashes had a familiar place to call home. I was ready. And that, it turned out, was enough. (I got rid of the urn.)

I feel indignant that my life was taken from me. Why would someone with so many lives take from me the only one I had? She puts hers on like shiny new masks of endless variety, letting her slip into whatever setting she pleases and fit in with whichever crowd is fashionable, while I wore mine like an old, threadbare, and coveted dress that hung alone in a wardrobe, the only article of clothing in my possession but nevertheless a trusty one that somehow covered and protected me in the depths of winter and the height of summer alike. It may not have been pretty, as lives go; maybe a bit dirty, maybe stained and probably fraying on the edges, with a hole or tear here or there. But it was mine and only mine and I cherished it like the ocean does the shore, the earth the sun, the birds the sky. But she took it from me, adding it to her collection not to be used, of course, because she has so many nicer lives already, but rather to be scavenged for its better attributes and then sit discarded in a rubbish heap, amounting in the end to nothing more than a worthless, moth-eaten trophy: a reminder of her conquest.

Identity Theft Sarah Fowler

What a life mine must have been in her eyes. so precious to me and yet to her so worthless. But perhaps it wasn’t as I remember it. Perhaps the holes were more prominent, the tears wider. Was it falling apart at the seams or had it already been ripped to shreds? Was it over before she claimed it or was it just so meaningless that it wasn’t worth the breath I breathed to begin with? I suppose it could have been, and if so, it’s probably for the best that it’s gone. We do have a tendency to cherish the things we own simply because they’re ours, don’t we? I valued my life because it was mine, and the only one I had, but who else would have seen value in it? It wasn’t new or shiny or fashionable. It wasn’t in season. It wasn’t pretty. But it also wasn’t hers to take.


American Dream / The United Stitches Dong Kyu Kim

Dong Kyu Kim I was born and raised in South Korea, and after achieving a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Fashion Design, I have worked as a fashion designer in Korea, USA, China, and Mexico for nearly 20 years. While mass productions and sales were the main focus when I was working as a fashion designer (from the early 2000s), I desired to express myself in any way possible. While seeking various opportunities involving creative art since migrating to the U.S. in 2007, I joined an Online art community. Members posted their artwork Online based on weekly topics, and our reviews and critiques would follow. We also shared art supply sources, and this led to us exhibiting our work together to the public in 2013. Early in my practice, my fundamental thinking was that the essential medium for art was paint, so I mainly used acrylic and watercolor in the early stages of my artwork. Slowly, I moved onto materials I was more familiar with from working as a fashion designer, such as fiber and textile. Presently, I have been expressing Korean aesthetics through hand stitching by administering the basic concept of the Korean traditional craft of JoGakBo with receipts from past 10 years of my life in the United States as the main medium. My artworks consist of receipts from past 10 years of my life here in the US with weft and warp of endless hand stitching. Unless it is a special circumstance, sewing is widely considered as an area for women in both Western and Eastern culture. The main inspiration of my work, JoGakBo (Korean traditional patchwork wrapping cloth), was also a household accessory created by women who had been restricted in their social activities in the strict Confucian society of the Chosun Dynasty called 'GyuBang (Boudoir) Crafts' in Korea. So my artworks retain hand stitching, which remain in the field of women, as a man. My physical body is in the Korean Community, yet my admiration is in the White American Culture, but in reality I design clothes for African-American consumers. So the one who remains as a stranger at the border of all these complications will recall all past memories, thus, it would be self-reliant to affirm all of those memories, and to prove myself my own existence. 217

American Dream / The Unanswered Questions Dong Kyu Kim



American Dream / Almost American Dong Kyu Kim

Buttress Tree: A Sequoia Mystery

Elizabeth Schneider

Look. Wide-spreading roots exposed and displayed; little good those did that red-brown beauty. Was human action or inaction or God's own wildfires what toppled the tree? Two millennia the trunk stood, a seedling born and weakened by mystery. Tragedy. Those mighty roots were shallow. There was no reason needed but nature itself. Now, the dead corpse is displayed. Remember.

Witness Tree Lightning leaves and thunder twigs in formation. Blood leaves fall and oaks— onward.


It is often said that writing is a solitary pursuit, but even the most introverted writers seek the camaraderie and feedback of a trusted group from time to time. The Fredericksburg area is rich with such literary talent who come together on the regular to inspire and motivate one another. Virginia Lake Writers is one such group of eclectic published writers who have been meeting since 2011 to support and educate members in polishing, promoting, and selling their work. Meeting programs are created and presented by member volunteers and cover a wide variety of subjects ranging from the process of writing and publishing to the business of marketing books. They also share news of literary festivals, conferences, editors and agents, and sometimes hold open readings, write to prompts, and complete other writing exercises. Members will give testimonials about the benefits of the group. Author Lois Griffin Powell says, “I love being around writers, because I feel there is always something new to be learned. Hearing what they're doing inspires me to keep writing and makes it exciting." Elaine Lewis gushes, "This group is amazing. I don't know how you are, but I'd be sitting in my studio with the blinds closed doing something, and this moves me out to other creative energies and the sharing of that is priceless." The club is organized and business is conducted by a Steering Committee currently consisting of Judy Hill, Allita Irby, Julie Phend, and Jean Young. Dues of $20.00 are collected annually in January of each membership year. Funds are used for club expenses, such as the offset of costs related to book sale opportunities, the production of an annual anthology, occasional purchase of presentation equipment and display materials for use of club membership. Carolyn Rowland was especially pleased when the group opened up to members who don't live in Lake of the Woods. She says, "I really like the community of the authors, but also what they are trying to do in terms of promotion and their devotion to that. There are always people who are expanding those boundaries, and there are always people who are doing interesting things, so I've learned a lot from that." Virginia Lake Authors meet the third Saturday of the month from 12:00 noon until 2:00 p.m. at the Lake of the Woods Community Center. For up-to-date news of Virginia Lake Authors events, member successes and activities, visit their Facebook page: @LakeAuthorsoftheWilderness.


ALLITA IRBY Born into a U. S. Army family with African American roots in Alabama and Georgia, Allita Irby grew up between Germany and Lawton/Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Bowie State University and a Masters of Administrative Science from Johns Hopkins University. Allita retired from Verizon after 20+ years in Maryland and Washington D.C, The last 10 years (2007-2017), she worked with the Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), Dept. of Parks & Recreation in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Since September 2017, Allita has lived in Locust Grove, VA pursuing her artistic interests and writing. A book lover and avid reader 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 Allita contributed poetry under her own name as Allita Irby to two anthologies in 2017---Holiday Musings and River Tides. All three books are available on Amazon. com. Professional memberships and volunteer services include: Member, Riverside Writers Chapter of the Virginia Writers; Member, Lake Authors Club of Lake of the Woods (VA); Member, Windmore Foundation for the Arts Pen-To-Paper Writers Group (VA); Member, Women Writers of Color (Washington DC). Allita was a past board member of The Zora Neale Hurston/ Richard Wright Foundation of Washington, D.C. (

ARLENE MICHEL RICH is a writer and practicing spiritual medium. Her published works include: Memoir of A Medium -

A Bridge to the Other Side; Awakening Your Psychic Power - A Medium's Guide; and Ancient Lovers Never Forget. Learn more about her and her work at

ELAINE GASPARI LEWIS is a proud mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Her family lives in five states across the country. As an interior design professional, now retired, she enjoys music, painting and writing. A native New Yorker, she now lives in the Piedmont region of Virginia where an actual occurrence prompted the writing of this story.


C.A. ROWLAND is an award-winning writer who has published short stories and non-fiction articles. She is currently finishing her first amateur sleuth paranormal mystery set in Savannah, Georgia. In addition, she is one of the authors on the Mostly Mystery blog which provides resources, interviews and personal experiences of writers. C.A. is a member of Lake Authors, Sisters-in- Crime Central Virginia, Virginia Writer’s Club and Riverside Writers.

Autumn’s Forgotten Dreams Coming Soon

MELINDA CROCKER Writing has always been a hobby and cathartic experience for me. Turning my passion into a fulfilling career as a professional author has been one of my greatest life achievements. Always an avid reader with a vivid imagination, I often had a library book hidden behind my textbooks: Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Sherlock Holmes, and any adventure, or mystery book I could find. I primarily write suspense novels and currently have two in print: Where Has Summer Gone? and Chasing Winter. My third novel in the seasons standalone series should be out in September and is titled Autumn’s Forgotten Dreams. I grew up in Texas, spent several years in the mountains of New Mexico, lived in Southern California, Northern California, and I now reside in a lake community in Virginia. My favorite quote and writing guideline: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader-not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” -E.L. Doctorow m. e. jackson is the pen name for Madalin Edwards Jackson Bickel. Madalin is a writer from Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is a native West Virginian who completed both her BA and MA at Marshall University. After completing 30 years of teaching in West Virginia, she moved to Virginia. She retired from teaching in Virginia in 2012. Her first collection of poems, Notes From a Failed World (dedicated to victims of autoimmune diseases) was released in September 2016. A second collection, Some Kind of Alternate Universe, was released in November 2016. It was dedicated to the 75 victims of the 1970 Marshall University plane crash. Madalin is a member of Riverside Writers, the Virginia Writers Club, Poetry Society of Virginia, West Virginia Writers, Lake Authors, and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems have been published in several anthologies including Scratching Against the Fabric, an anthology published by Bridgewater College from the 2013 Bridgewater International Poetry Festival and the Virginia Writers Club’s Centennial Anthology 1918-2018. She is an award-winning author who is currently working on her first cozy mystery.


jd young A displaced Bronx native, jd young is a writer and editor who has settled in a bucolic area of Virginia with her husband. She has edited nine books for publication and enjoys a good reputation with agents and clients. She is also a voracious writer. As a married mom, working full-time with two teenage daughters, her frequent letters to friends resulted in her two creative non-fiction books, Scarlett’s Letters and the Butter Pecan Diaries. Some have described them as Erma Bombeck meets Dave Barry. Veering to the darker side of the ether, she published The Woman on Pritchard Street, a political thriller set in DC with supernatural highlights, and a book of short stories, Dancing With Demons and other Bedtime Stories. It was given a five star review by the NY Journal of Books. Her current work, Evangeline de Mercy Sanctuary, takes place in a remote asylum in upstate New York where things that go bump in the night are the least of the asylum’s issues. She believes real life is far more intense than fiction and though some characters may initially appear … not like us … you come to realize given the same set of circumstances, you may well behave in the exact manner. A member of several writing groups in Virginia, she is also a member of ACES, Sisters-in-Crime and was a featured author in the Writer’s Digest Fall Author Spotlight, October 2014. She has taught writing classes for the Windmore Foundation for the Arts in Culpeper, Virginia, and is a judge for the 2018 Indie Book Awards. Her current work includes a book about NY cops working in the South Bronx. She feels comfortable in the genre having grown up in the area.

D-Day & Beyond A True Story of Escape and POW Survival

Julie M. Phend Stanley E. Edwards, Jr.

JULIE PHEND is the author of D-Day and Beyond: A True Story of Escape and POW Survival. Written with D-Day survivor Stanley Edwards, the book tells the story of Edwards’ experiences as a young pilot shot down on D-Day and his subsequent captures and escapes from Nazi soldiers before becoming a POW at Stalag Luft III in Germany. In addition, Julie has completed two novels for young people awaiting publication: Sculptor and Spy, based on true events during the American Revolution, and The Loser List, in which eighth grader Bella DiMarco battles disabilities and bullying at her new middle school.

JUDY HILL, writing as J. Allen Hill, lives in rural Virginia, inspired by its rich history. After years of writing all manner of business documentation to support a household of kids and dogs, retirement provides freedom to write for pleasure, a love of American history, theater and the English language. Judy has written two novels, The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae and The Cause, The Odyssey of Daniel Grant, as well as a collection of short stories, A Walk in the Park and Other Journeys. She is currently working on a third novel and a second collection. Her works are available on Amazon.


Under the Ginkgoes Mary Kamerer Oil



As an artist, I consider myself an abstract surrealist with a geometric twist. I love to blend these three art styles. Each of them fascinates me and they each bring a different characteristic style to my work. From the textures of Max Ernst, the imagery of Dali and Magritte and the mystery of de Chirico to the cubism of Braque, all of these giants have influenced my progress as an artist. I love design and I love to carve out space on the canvas. Then, I fill that space with imagery that excites and intrigues me. I’ve gathered a collection of visual items that I like to use in unusual ways. These items are universal – a clock, a window, a doorway, an empty house. Anyone can identify with these things. They may bring to mind memories of fears, memories of dreams, memories of transitions. In “…and then we lost our way,” the viewer is presented with a ruined landscape, shattered brick walls, darkness. But all is not lost, there is an open doorway leading to a sunny place - for those who can find it. If an idea is too large, I’ll make it a series. ‘Number 9’ is one of ten paintings from my ‘It’s All About Numbers’ series. Here I take a look at our obsession with numbers and counting things. Our modern civilization is bound up by numbers and we don’t even give it a thought. We count minutes, hours and days, weeks, months and years. We guard our Social Security number, credit card numbers, credit scores, and we listen as the daily news keeps a close watch on the Dow Jones. Telephone numbers link us to our work, friends and family. Our house has a number so GPS can find us. We measure things, size/dimensions in numbers. We count our money and our possessions. We count calories and worry about the number on the scale. This goes for our cholesterol and blood pressure numbers as well. We find our favorite radio station by tuning to a numbered frequency. From the need for critical accuracy, where mathematical calculations take us into space; to the frivolity of social media, where we count our Facebook friends, 'likes' and 'followers' too, it’s all about the numbers. In each painting, there is an abstract number (0-9 of the Arabic number system) and also some reference to jail like bars, as we can’t escape the number system. My work is not spontaneous. I don’t know how a piece look when it’s finished; but I will always start with an idea, a sketch, of what I want to do. During the painting process, things change and I don’t stop changing things until I’m happy with an image. It may take several weeks from my first sketch to a finished painting. There are usually some elements of that first sketch that make it into the painting and there may be some surprising new elements in the painting that were not in my sketch. Each piece works out to its own end. Edward Hopper coined my favorite artist quote. It sums up my feelings exactly: “If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”

Number 9 Cheryl Eggleston Alkyd


Fibonacci or GPS Cheryl Eggleston Alkyd


And Then We Lost Our Way Cheryl Eggleston Alkyd


It Hurts Too Much

Mary Singer

You know what would be nice She said as if the thought just arrived If you wrote something special Tell us what to feel You must have something to say A perspective that hasn’t been shared On this ritual that occurs every day Don’t let the words of others dance over her grave Those words become ambient noise Elevator music, expected and ignored Pulling from some shared human database People disappoint They speak required lines Of love Of lost Of wishing for more time She deserves something unique and you know it’s true She would have wanted you to tell her stories in that way you do Not the one where she slapped your face when you were 16 Because you said something unforgivable That day you caused her to cry That day you learned self-control That day should remain between the two of you Maybe the one after the accident When she climbed into the hotel bed And wrapped herself tight around your dad Whispering she was there Dabbing at the blood seeping through his bandages Oblivious to the rest in the room Certainly the one where she ran to your room when the baby cried And slid him next to your breast Before you had a chance to even open your eyes She never stopped taking care of you So why won’t you stand for her now Give those listening visions Of giggling new brides, one teaching the other how to drive Successful except for the one mishap Car wheels flying across a rocky Japanese field Chased down and replaced by charades-speaking fieldworkers Forever described as true heroes Of a young mother picking flowers for a beautiful centerpiece Only to find herself handcuffed by a young, eager officer Unwilling to believe she did not recognize the look of marijuana Of artfully sewed Halloween costumes That cause strangers on the street to ask how they can obtain them Of Girl Scout trips, beach trips, and shopping trips to Rehoboth Her stories Like her ashes You are allowing to drift away


Jacob When you turned and smiled back at me, my heart broke But I’m more concerned about hers I knew this day would come When I would release you to the world They say we live in a rape culture That’s not right Not unless they mean that we breed it, Propagate it, develop it We live in a rape tsunami to which people are purposefully ignorant Acting surprised by its inevitable destruction Saying that there was nothing to be done But those of us that know better Those of us that have been slammed, but survived - scathed Know that is not a good enough response Did I do my part - through you - to stand against it? Did I throw enough pebbles into the wind to turn the tide? Even minusculy? Her mother is trusting that I have When I look into your eyes, I feel hope. I tried to teach you that although called the weaker sex, Women are not weak That alcohol is a consent-taker, And requests for dates should not feel like threats, But instead of promises of mutual respect That trying to rack up numbers of women that you have known Will forever keep you a child. So know her soul before you know her body Only through the intermingling of ideas will you truly become a man

Stay Stay. Even though my body charges alive when you pass by, Even though my brain curses my pride, Even though I will hurt so much I won’t cry, I don’t say it. Had you looked at me, I would have broken. I would have begged. Does she wake up in the morning With the ability to call the feeling of your touch at will? Does the imprint of your hand, So casually placed on her thigh at night, (Because that is how you sleep. Touching the one next to you. Needing to feel their warmth.) Last all day? I don’t care. Stay.


Feeling Lucky? Kerry McAleer-Keeler Screenprint with Cyanotype and Chine CollĂŠ Materials


Boiling Point Kerry McAleer-Keeler Process color screenprint


In a Perfect World Kerry McAleer-Keeler Book Arts Object, 2017 9.75” X 4” X 12.75” One-of-a-kind Materials used: Bookboard, bookcloth, decorative paper, wood veneer, found photographic images from the late 1800 /early 1900’s, barbed wire, shell material, antique key, butterfly, compass, goose egg, feather, found sheet music, US stamp, used target and cyanotype small print. (See next page for open view.)


In a Perfect World

Kerry McAleer-Keeler

Book Excerpt The Hive A New Series from James Noll My name is Amanda. Amanda May Jett. My daddy and I live in Spotsylvania County, VA, where we enjoy the fresh air and a healthy farmer’s lifestyle. At least until an alien hive crashes to earth and kills our neighbors. It’s up to us to stop the invaders and save the world, no matter how many tentacles, body-snatchers, and brain-cracking fungi they send our way.

Seasons 1 & 2 of The Hive are out now! Season 1 is available on audiobook, and Season 2 is in production. Catch Season 3 of The Hive coming out Fall 2018. Visit

The Hive: Best dog I ever had When most people think of an alien invasion, they think of the dumb movies Hollywood pumps out every summer. Robots and spacesuits. Lasers and spaceships. What they don't think of is the thing that dropped onto our neighbor Mr. Gomez's farm and smashed his barn to smithereens, along with his horses, his pigs, his goats, and probably about a zillion rats. We didn't see it happen, Daddy and me, but we felt it. It was seven o'clock on a Wednesday morning, and I was laid up with a broken leg on the couch, dozing in and out while I watched sitcom reruns on the TV. Hogan's Heroes. Gilligan's Island. The Love Boat. The broken leg came courtesy of Ruth Grace Hogg, starting fullback for the Caroline Cavaliers' Varsity Girl's Field Hockey team. I played forward for the Spotsylvania Knights, and for good reason, too. I lived in Spotsy, for one, and I was fleet and fast and good with my stick. Unfortunately, I didn't weigh much more than a hundred pounds. Ruth Grace Hogg tipped the scales at about a buck ninety. I had legs like a colt. She had arms like a gorilla. When she saw little old me cutting up her team, she knew what she was about. She ran up to me, cocked them big hairy arms of hers, and whacked my leg like it was a piñata. Two hours later I was laid up at home on the couch, two pins in my femur and forty mgs of Vicodin in my head. "Ain't you going to do something about it, Daddy?" Daddy was in the kitchen, sipping a cup of coffee. "Like what?" "I don't know. Complain to the school board. Call the president." "I'll get on my personal line to him directly." "It's rude to tease an invalid. Can't you talk to her parents?" Daddy looked like someone had just asked him to solve a calculus problem with a fish. "Why'd I want to do something like that?" "Because I'm your daughter. And she broke my leg. On purpose." Daddy chuckled and shook his head. "'Manda, you know I love you, right?" "I'm starting to question the depths of that love." "Well I do. But let me ask you something. You do know how much Ruth Grace Hogg weighs, right?" "Who don't? The whole county shakes when she gets out of bed in the morning." "And you know how much you weigh, right?" I waited a long time before I answered. "Yeah." "I couldn't be more proud of you. You had you a job and you didn’t let nothing back you down. But you did try to

run down someone nearly twice your size, and you lost. So let that be a lesson to you." "I thought you said you were proud of me?" "I am." "So why're you telling me to back off the next time?" "I didn't say that." I ever tell you Daddy could be infuriating? I sighed, took a deep breath, and said, "You mind telling me what you are telling me, then?" "Next time," he said. "Run faster." So anyway, the invasion. It was late summer, and school hadn't even started yet. The August heat and humidity weighed down on everything like a wet blanket. Our house was built in 1921, as Daddy was fond of telling just about everybody who cared to listen. To him, that was an accomplishment. To me, it meant that nearly everything was broken or breaking down. The pipes froze every winter, the windows were like sieves, and in the summer we didn't have air conditioning. Oh, Daddy did his best. He planted a couple of recycled, wheezing window units in the windows, kept them alive with a healthy application of duct tape and freon, but all they did was make a racket while blowing not-really-cold air a few feet into the house. Daddy'd just come in from loading Sparkles up into his truck, Sparkles being an old dog of his he'd gotten stuffed. It was a sad day for the old girl. The years had been unkind, and she'd started to smell. Daddy brought her to his regular taxidermist to fix the issue, but she gave him some sorry news: old Sparkles was rotting. "Well no shit, she's rotting," Daddy said. "She's been dead fifteen years." Apparently pointing out the obvious didn’t improve Sparkles’ condition. It was finally time to lay her to rest, and Daddy was going to do it Spotsy style. He got himself ahold of a remote-controlled detonator and some explosives— cherry bombs and fertilizer and the like—and stuffed her full to the brim. The plan was simple. He and his friends were going to drive Sparkles out to the country, set her up in a field, get drunk, and blow her up. Daddy showed me the detonator as if seeing it would make me want to go. “You sure you don’t want to come?” “No thanks.” “Alright then.” He put it in his back pocket and went over to fill his thermos up with coffee. That’s when I felt this horrible pressure build in the air. It pushed down on me, like the atmosphere itself had gone feral and decided to attack. I held my hands 243

to my ears, but the pressure kept building and building. I opened my mouth to scream but couldn't hear anything at all. Then it released and I could hear again. A sonic boom thundered in the distance, and the house shook and rattled and nearly jumped off the foundation. I thought it was an earthquake. Or maybe Ruth Grace Hogg having a fit. I almost fell off the couch. Plates and cups clattered in the cabinets, and Daddy's ham radio fell over and cracked on the floor. Then it fell quiet and still. I pulled myself into sitting position. "What the hell was that?" Daddy was kind of squatting down, hands out, looking like he was waiting for another blast. His overalls were covered in coffee. "I dunno. And don't say hell." "You say it all the time." The phone rang and I gasped. I could tell he wanted to chew me out, but something big had just happened, and when the phone rang after something big had just happened, you answer it. "Aw hell," he said and snatched it off its cradle. "Yeah? Yeah, Gomez, I felt it." He covered the mouthpiece and mouthed "It's Gomez" to me like I couldn't hear. Gomer Gomez. Our nextdoor neighbor. (Out here a next-door neighbor could live ten miles away.) I turned my attention back to the TV. We didn't have a remote. Not that I minded. We was lucky to even get a signal at all. I struggled off the couch and hopped over to change the channels. I was looking to see if any of the local news stations were making a special broadcast. Channel 4, nothing. Channel 7, nothing. Channel 9, nothing. Daddy kept jawing away in the kitchen. "Calm down, Gomez. I can't understand a word you're . . . Uh-huh. Your whole barn? Uh-huh. You get a look at . . . no, I wouldn't go out there. It'd be best if you didn't. I can't, I got 'Manda here and she's got a—" Gomez screamed something and Daddy pulled the phone away from his ear with a grimace. "Gomez? You there? Damn." And he hung up the phone. "What's wrong with Mr. Gomez?" "Says a spaceship landed on his barn." Daddy went over to his gun safe and started dialing in the combination. "Spaceship?" "Uh-huh." "Out here?" "Uh-huh." "Damn." "Dammit, 'Manda." "He say what it looks like?" "Uh-huh." 244

“Said it looked like a big wasp’s nest.” The gun safe unlocked with a click, and he pulled it open and started grabbing boxes of ammo. Then he took out his favorite Remington .30 .06 and slung it over his shoulder and put a couple of .357's in a bag. "You gonna kill it?" "Gonna try." "Can I come?" "You're gonna stay right here, young lady." "Why?" "Because you're all busted up. And if there really is a spaceship out there that looks like a wasp's nest, there ain't much you'll be able to do." "I can shoot one of them .357s." "I know." "Aren't you the one who always said its better to have a man on your six?" "Yeah, I did say that." Daddy was already putting on his jacket and hat. He was halfway out the door. "You really think Mr. Gomez's gonna have yours?" That made him stop. Daddy wasn't that much of a thinker. I don't mean he was dumb because he wasn't. I mean that when a decision needed to be made, he liked to make it fast. Just like that, he said, "If you can get out to the car before I leave, you can come with me." Mr. Gomez's farm was down Brock Road a stretch, just past Todd's Tavern. Take a few turns back toward Locust Grove, a few back roads, and there it was. Fifty acres smack dab in the middle of Spotsylvania County Virginia, the northernmost southern county in the whole damn state. Daddy turned up the long gravel drive that led to the house, sending rocks clattering in the wheel wells and dust clouding in our wake. I bounced around in the front seat like a baby in a bucket, hoping the rifle on the rack didn't accidentally go off. Or the .357's in the bag, for that matter. "Slow down, Daddy! You wanna break my other leg?" He didn't reply. He had a way about him when he got set on something. He called it 'Enthusiastic Designation.' I called it 'Acting Like A Jerk'. I knew better than to bring it up. He just got cranky if I did. He ganked the wheel and skidded to the right, steering around the side of Gomez's worn out farmhouse. Gomez was the type who liked to keep all sorts of things in his yard. Old tires. Rusted out tractors. Landscape drags and farming tillers. Daddy slalomed through it all like he was an expert, tearing up the grass, finally slowing down when he made it to the pond a few hundred yards behind the house. Mr. Gomez's barn was just off to the side. Or it used

to be. Now it was scattered all over the field like it’d been blown to bits from the inside out. In its place was something that I don't even know how to begin to describe, but I'll say this: Either Mr. Gomez'd never seen a wasp's nest in his life, or he was the stupidest man on God's green earth. The thing that landed on his barn was round and greenish-brown with spikes sticking out all over the surface. Looked more like a sweet-gum ball than a wasp's nest. Steam or smoke or something poured off the top, and there was a crack at the bottom—an opening or a door or something—with a warm, orange light pulsing from deep inside and green stuff oozing out. And boy did it stink. Hit us full on even with the windows rolled up. I couldn't think of anything worse I'd ever smelled. Daddy, in his usual way, summed it up nicely. "Smells like roasted goat shit." Mr. Gomez's neighbors were already standing in the field between the barn and the house. Mr. Sokolov and his boy, Vlad, and old Mrs. Freeman, who looked as spry as ever in her work jeans and red flannel. Mr. Gomez's sons, Gomez and Gomer, Jr, were in the middle of trying to restrain their mother who kept pulling away from them. Daddy pulled up to Mr. Sokolov's truck and put it in park. "You stay here and watch Sparkles." "Seriously?" He got out without another word, leaving his door open and the keys in the ignition. I ain't one for whining, and I'm sure he was just trying to protect me, but the day I'm compared to a stuffed dog and come out equal will be the day I can fly and shoot bullets out of my nose. I wrenched the passenger side door open, hopped out, and grabbed my crutches. It was hard going, but Daddy didn't raise no bleater, and I caught him just as he tipped his hat at Mr. Sokolov. "Hey, Skip." (Mr. Sokolov's name was Viktor). "What's going on?" "That thing lands on Gomez barn. Gomez, he's sucked inside." "Sucked inside?" "Sucked inside." Mrs. Gomez, or should I say the Widow Mrs. Gomez, seen us, pulled herself free of her sons, and came galloping over. "Bill! Bill, please! You've got to do something! That thing has my Gomez!" She collapsed into Daddy's arms sobbing and carrying on, and I never saw Daddy so uncomfortable. He was not a man to show his emotions. I think they embarrassed him. And if he wasn't already embarrassed enough by his own emotions, he was damn well mortified by other people's. He patted Mrs. Gomez on the back a few times and

then peeled her off and held her at arm’s length. “Okay, Mrs. Gomez. I need to you calm down and tell me what happened.” She nodded and tried to get herself together, and after a few deep breaths, she was finally able to talk. "Gomez went about bonkers when that thing fell on our barn. After he made a couple of phone calls, he jumped in his truck and went speeding on down here, tearing up the lawn and my peonies." Her eyes wandered back to the house. "I told him not to go, that this was an issue for the president, but he wouldn't listen. You know how crazy he gets about the government." "Yes, ma'am, I do." "He wouldn't let me go with him, neither. Me or the boys. So we watched from the kitchen window. He drove his truck right up to that thing, got out with his hunting rifle, and started shooting." "Don't look like he did much damage." "None at all. And then as God as my witness, when he started to reload, that crack opened up, and a tentacle slithered out, wrapped him up, and dragged him in. I don't remember what happened after that. I was too busy screaming." Daddy looked around at everyone, seeing if he could muster them up to do something, but they toed the ground and refused to meet his gaze. Mrs. Gomez worried the front of her dress, her face reddening when she realized that nobody was going to do anything. "If you all ain't man enough to anything, I am!" And she marched off across the field, her sons right behind her, calling out "Momma! Momma, wait!" I tell you what, Mrs. Gomez'd worked herself up into a state. She was screaming and yelling (what exactly she was saying, I couldn't tell) tearing at her hair, jamming her finger into the air. None of us moved a muscle. She was going to do what she was going to do, whether it was good for her or not. Daddy said, "Y'all think we should call the president?" Mrs. Freeman spat on the ground. "I ain't too sure what Slick Willie'll be able to do about this." The Gomez boys did their best to stop her. Gomer jumped on his momma's back and Gomez, Jr. latched onto her legs, and they all got to screaming and yelling and clapperclawing. It might've gone on like that forever, but I guess that spiky ball'd had enough because three tentacles shot out of it, wrapped around each of the surviving members of the Family Gomez, and started reeling them in. That seemed to be enough for Daddy. "Aw hell," he said and marched right back to the 245

truck. He grabbed the .30 .06 off the rack and the .357’s out of his bag and started loading them. “Y’all bring yours?” He needn’t have asked. Mrs. Freeman already had her shotgun out, Mr. Sokolov had a .30 .30, and Vlad’d gotten himself a machete for some reason. Daddy, Mr. Sokolov, and Mrs. Freeman positioned themselves in a line facing the thing and started shooting. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Round after round. Bullets thunked into the thing's meat, but other than a little more smoke and what looked like green syrup pouring out of its side, they did about as much harm as a squirrel chewing on an elephant. When they were done, the air smelled like goat shit and gunpowder, but it didn't do a thing to stop the tentacles. All we could do was watch as Mrs. Gomez and her boys were sucked inside with a syrupy slurp. Daddy waited a tic before he made his final assessment of their work. "Well, crap." And that's when the tentacles shot out again. Four this time. The first one grabbed Mr. Sokolov and heaved him off his feet. Another one grabbed Mrs. Freeman. The third whipped out and snatched Daddy around the waist. The last one tried to get Vlad, but he sliced it off at the tip with his machete. The tentacle went wild, spraying purple gunk all over him that burned and sizzled. Vlad fell to the ground, screaming. Daddy fixed his eyes on mine. "'Manda," he said. "Sparkles." Oh yeah. Sparkles the stuffed dog. Stuffed with explosives. I don't know if any of you ever tried to run on crutches, but it ain't like pulling a string out of a cat's ass. Hurts your armpits, too. So I dropped one and hopped back to the truck, jumped in, and turned the key. The old thing cranked to life and I slammed it into gear and stepped on the gas, aiming straight for the hive. That old hive must've known something was up because it shot three more tentacles at me as I sped toward it. One crashed through the windshield. Another hit the grill. The third missed entirely, but swung back around and grabbed the truck by the rear bumper. It yanked sideways, and I realized I didn't even need to drive no more. The only thing I had to concentrate on was getting out before it pulled me into them slimy green and yellow guts. I forced the driver's side door open, but one of the tentacles slammed it closed again. Another swung at me through the busted windshield and I threw myself onto the bench seat. It smashed the driver's side window and wrapped around the frame, breaking off hunks of metal. Purple ooze splattered onto the dashboard and started to eat through it. I scrambled across the seat for the passenger side door and managed to get it open, and right when I was 246

going to dive out, praying I didn’t break my neck when I landed, my broken leg exploded with pain. It was another one of them tentacles. Damn thing’d wrapped itself around my cast and got to squeezing. If breaking my leg was the most excruciating thing I'd ever felt, squeezing it when it was already broke ran a close second. The vision in the corners of my eyes went black and I felt like I was going to vomit. The thing yanked again, and I felt something give in my knee. I was in so much agony that I couldn't even think straight. Another squeeze, another yank. I slapped around for something, anything I could use as a weapon, and happened upon a nice, long, hunk of the metal frame. My body was halfway out the door, and I could see the opening of the hive, pulsing and squelching as we drew near. With a scream, I sat up and stabbed that tentacle with that hunk of metal. It pulled back, ripping my cast off and sending me tumbling ass over elbows out of the truck. I flipped once and landed strange, and then I was laying on my back in Gomez's field. Next thing I heard was an explosion, and a ball of fire filled the air. One week later, both me and Daddy were sitting on the couch eating ice cream and watching M*A*S*H reruns. His arm was wrapped tight to his chest and he was wearing a neck brace. He didn't like it very much, and I didn't blame him. August in Virginia was hot enough in shorts and a t-shirt without adding a neck brace. I kept catching him in the middle of taking it off, saying it "cramped his style." "Daddy, you try to take that thing off again, I'm going to sprain your other neck." "I don't know what that means, but message received." My new cast was even bigger and thicker than the one before, and the itching drove me nuts, and since I wasn't allowed to take a shower, and since Daddy told me that under no circumstances was he going to give me a sponge bath, I was starting to get a little ripe. He would, though, spring for ice cream. "I personally like me some praline myself," he said, scooping a spoonful into his mouth. "Yuck." I took a bite of mine, trusty, dusty Neapolitan, and watched the TV. Hawkeye and Trapper John was in the middle of fixing a prank on that old stick-in-the-mud Frank Burns again. "Well one thing's for certain," I said. "I'm glad that old stuffed dog's finally out of the house." Daddy gave me a playful slap. "Don't you talk about Sparkles like that. Sparkles saved the world. Best dog I ever had."

Author James Noll

James Noll has worked as a sandwich maker, a yogurt dispenser, a day care provider, a video store clerk, a day care provider (again), a summer camp counselor, a waiter, a prep. cook, a sandwich maker (again), a line cook, a security guard, a line cook (again), a waiter (again), a bartender, a librarian, and a teacher. Somewhere in there he played drums in punk rock bands, recorded several albums, and wrote dozens of short stories and a handful of novels. Visit him online at His latest series, The Hive, is available now.

Cover Artist Grant Ervin

Grant Ervin has a passion for art and game development and has been working in Philadelphia’s independent game scene for over three years. He studied animation and game design at the Delaware College of Art and Design and the University of the Arts. Along with his full time job as a game developer at Biostream Technologies, he is also an adjunct animation instructor at DCAD. In his spare time he self publishes video games and table top games through his studio Honeycomb Interactive. He also occasionally has time for a freelance game art or illustration job here or there. See more of his work at

King Pork

Silas Plum Oil, Acrylic on Canvas

Blood Sisters Rebecca Walling


nce, I was a witch. It started in 4th grade with my best friend. I liked her because she was different. People always talked about her in whispers as she sat in a corner and pulled her hair out. She wore a small red bandana to cover the bald spots she made and brought a small pouch full of small trinkets and toys to school with her every day. Her psychiatrist told her parents and our teacher that she was allowed to play with them during class to keep her hands busy and away from clumps of her hair. Hair. The long, dark hair on her arms and legs. She was Italian. “That’s what happens to Italians,” my best friend would beam. She told me that she liked eating the end of her hair, the part that directly pulls out from the head. She worked endlessly to pull it out just right so there would be a jelly-like end and she could scrape it off with her teeth as if it was artichoke meat. “It tastes sweet! Try some of yours!” I did, but I never got the same satisfaction from it that she did. I once peed my pants sitting in my best friend’s plush, dining room chair because she wouldn’t get out of the bathroom. I wiggled around in the seat holding onto the two wooden arms and tried to focus on my book report on a book, which unfortunately took place on an inner tube in the middle of the ocean. Wave after fictional wave, my squirming couldn’t stop the warm wet spot from forming underneath me. She came out and held her nose as I yelped, “I SPILLED WATER ON YOUR CHAIR,” and tried hard to not let my face redden in shame. Her mom gave me some of my best friend’s old pants that sagged around my small frame and asked if I wanted to wash off in the shower but I said no. I said no because my best friend told me that her dad sat on the toilet while she showered and made her keep the curtain open. I asked her, “Is that weird? My papa never does that.” And she squished her face and said, “It’s weird that you call your dad ‘papa.’” She couldn’t really answer me because it was all she had known, but in the silence we both knew it was wrong. I stopped sleeping over her house because she liked to use me as a pillow. As an only child with overprotective parents all she wanted was a sister, someone to hide from the poking and prodding with. Her mom was almost completely disabled due to medical issues and rode around on an electric chair most of the time. Her father was a pervert. My best friend’s short, chubby arms and legs would pull me close to her breast as she pretended to sleep. I would lie completely still and stare up at the ceiling and the porcelain dolls covering her messy room. She had

so many things. So many things that were just hers and for a while it was nice to fall in and become another one of her belongings. When I escaped her grip she sighed loudly and rolled over throwing one of her arms across my face as if to say, “Okay, you can breathe for now, but don’t forget that you still belong to me.” Sometimes we checked out books on witchcraft from the library. Two preteens doing history boards on the Salem witch trials, innocent and bright eyed but never too far from suspicion. Her mother had to sign them out for us because we were under 13-years-old and I could never fool my mom into checking out the Devil’s books for me. We gathered candles with matches that burned the tips of our virgin fingers and went down into her small basement. It was full of old furniture and boxes all clumsily stacked, but her mom let us carve out a little space of our own. We told her it was part of our new club. Something about girls, something about archaeology. Because her mom’s body was constantly in pain, she went to lie down as soon as she picked us up from school and we got to spend the afternoon in the cool basement while she slept. Everything was always rushed and quiet. Grab the books, grab the scented candles from the bathroom, take that box of matches. The hardest part was opening the basement door and then shutting it behind us. For two whole minutes we had to endure complete darkness as we scrambled down the steep stairs and lit a match. Our club ended the day her dad put a padlock on the blue wooden door. When I stopped going to her house as often, we started meeting in the girl’s bathroom during recess to go over the books she still managed to have. These books were special because they had real spells from real witches, from the women that were burned at the stake. There was so much power in those books, so much energy and we feverishly read through them, skipping over the history and picking the spells we liked the best. We bought dried lavender and sage bundles from a local shop called ‘Mystic Sisters’ every Friday night. Everything inside was a wonder, a true magic shop full of everything my mom told me to stay away from. The two owners peered into eyes and saw souls, we could feel their fingers wiggling around in our brains and once saw what we knew for certain was a witch gathering in the back room with the door that said “EMPLOYEES ONLY” on it. We stuffed the lavender in our pillowcases and in small boxes wishing we were closer to the accused. 249

In 5th grade we pricked our fingers in the elementary school bathroom and pushed them together. Blood sisters. We now had a loyalty that could never be broken. We stopped spending time together when I went to a different middle school and became more me and she became more white. I kept doing spells and making blood sisters and reading tarot cards and writing poetry instead of going to class. She wanted to try out for drill team and cheerleading, and get fingered in a hot tub by a boy we used to take baths with. And then in high school we reunited and boys finally started to notice me and I forgot all about our club and our secret bathroom meet-ups. My blood sister left halfway through our freshman year and got her GED instead. Shortly after, a mutual friend of ours approached me and said, “Hey, I heard you’re a witch!” This was a remark I normally would have taken as a compliment, but something in the way he hissed “witch,” made me shiver. Eyes began to turn inward when I passed friends I had known since kindergarten. Someone had found our secret. During an argument my blood sister had with her mom about candles and incense, she ended up blaming all of her bad behavior and decisions on me. So her mom, being a good Christian woman that was friends with all of the other Christian moms, went to lunch with them and told them all that I was a witch and Beelzebub’s messenger. I had bewitched her daughter into kissing boys and sneaking out and traded spells and candles with her. I probably did drugs too, and was definitely not a virgin. One by one the moms that used to smile and wave to me began to quickly usher their children into their minivans trying their hardest to not make eye contact with me. No one was allowed to spend time with me outside of school. No one wanted their kids turning into a witch. To them, I was evil. I practiced black magic and was planning to curse everyone just like I cursed my blood sister, but the only spell we ever cast was to try to make it windy enough to get out of 5th grade P.E. The whole class laughed when the escaped parrots couldn’t hold onto the branches of the old oak tree on the field, and my blood sister and I paid for it later when our asthma was worse than normal. So one night I prayed to the moon and asked for guidance. It was a sliver and the air was hot, but I had never felt more like myself. Shrouded in the true feminine silver light I knew I was going to let them burn me. I wanted to dance wild in the dark with broken glow sticks and splatter all the walls and grass and I wanted to chop all of my hair off and dye it black like the long sleeved ratty sweaters I wore. I was going to stay different even if it terrified them. Even if I ended up alone. I once had a sister made in blood.


Sam Elliott

Silas Plum Oil, Acrylic on Canvas

Bad Hair Day

IF ONLY I HAD BEEN more interested in studying English in high school, I could have been a better writer today. So when I finally realized my passion for writing in the summer of 2004 when I was sixty-one-years old, I submitted a short piece I had written to a local writers conference at Cleveland State University (CSU). When my piece was accepted, I registered as a student in the five-day summer conference class, where I became inspired to write new material as a result of the experience I had gained in class while critiquing other writers’ work. In the fall of that year, I enrolled in an evening creative writing course at CSU, but struggled for fresh ideas— meaningful recollections to use as a basis for classroom writing assignments. I had hoped to arouse a new idea from a guest speaker—an English professor from Hiram College who visited our classroom one evening. “I once taught a writing class,” the professor began, “and asked the students this question: ‘What was the happiest moment in your life?’ When one of them answered, ‘When I got my law degree,’ I paused and asked, ‘Is it really?’” A neuron fired. The happiest moment in my life happened in 1983 when my five-year-old daughter, Corrin, told a Cuyahoga County Children & Family Services social worker that the little girl in the picture Corrin had just drawn for her—a sad little girl standing under a rain cloud next to a house—was not Corrin. I imagined Corrin was unsure of the woman’s presence in our kitchen that morning, asking questions about her mother and me. MY SOON TO BE EX-WIFE had been sitting across from me at the kitchen table, as the social worker explained the reason she was investigating our domestic case. I was already anxious, wondering what would happen to me when my wife got custody of our children when I moved out. My finances were overextended, and I was not good at budgeting. In addition, my insurance commission checks were smaller, suffering from the effect of competition, the plunging stock market and double-digit inflation. What the hell was happening now, I wondered. My wife had just gotten a job, the first in many years since giving birth to our two children. She needed to help support herself once our divorce was final, but her new job created new problems. We had to alternate babysitting our two-year-old son and five-year-old daughter, which was neither convenient for us nor practical for our work schedules. So we hired a seventeen-year-old babysitter to fill the gaps between schedules. Although the schedules got better, our marriage got worse; we’d been reported to the county children and family services department. When our telephone rang that fretful morning, a social worker in252

formed me that she wanted to make an in-home appointment right away. Surprised at what was happening, I asked her why she was concerned about my family. “There’s been a report made, concerning your children,” she said. “What do you mean? What kind of report?” Ignoring my questions, she repeated her purpose. “I need to set up an appointment with you, Mr. Richards.” “Who reported us?” I asked. “I’m not allowed to say,” she firmly said. It became clear to me at that moment that she meant business. Alarmed at the thought of our parenting being investigated, I was shocked—stunned silent. After a pregnant pause, she summed up her official business, set the appointment time for the following morning and concluded our conversation. Equally stunned by what she had just heard, my wife stood mute—tongue-tied, staring at me, slack-jawed and bewildered. After considerable thought when the phone call ended, my wife and I reasoned that the babysitter was the only one who had access to our children, and we suspected she had sensed our floundering marriage going bad. We also knew from past conversations with the sitter that she had a family friend who worked for the county children services department. So I telephoned the babysitter and asked, “Did you report us to the county?” “Yes,” she quietly said. “Then I’d like to stop by your house and talk to you about it. Can I come over now?” She had no objection, so I drove to her parents’ house, and while the sitter sat on the other side of the living room across from me, I questioned her intent. “Why did you report us?” I asked. “I got a little worried about the kids,” she explained. “A little worried about what?” With a look of plastered silence on her face, she shrugged, as she sat stiffly on the edge of a wingback chair. Her shielding parents stood like granite sentries—one on each side of her—each resting a hand on one of her shoulders. The sitter was not forthcoming with a reasonable explanation, I thought, so I scolded her with a wagging finger in front of her parents, who remained silent. Not satisfied and still peeved, I left her house, but in my car I thought about what might have happened at home, wondering what had motivated her to turn us in. I imagined for a moment that she had recently become concerned about my behavior when I came home from work to relieve her from babysitting. I had eaten out that evening—happy

hour bar food—and was animated by the effect of several adult beverages, which soothed my anxiety. I hadn’t been able to save my marriage. My wife was leaving me, and I couldn’t stop her. I must have looked worrisome to that teenager, I thought, as I came home in my three-piece suit with my tie pulled wide at the neck, talking loud, flopping down on the couch in front of the television set just when the Ginsu knife commercial came on. A smooth-talking actor picked up a long-bladed kitchen knife and sawed down a small tree. Even though I had seen that same commercial many times in the past, I still wondered if the knife could really do that. Then he battered the blade with a hammer and finished his demonstration by slicing through a ripe tomato with a series of swift strokes, the uniform slices cascading like dominos onto a cutting board. As I pumped my fist, I declared, “That’s it!” The Ginsu knife commercial had finally won me over. My intoxicated sense of buying power kicked in, and it seemed, in my exhilaration, that I had always wanted to buy those indestructible knives, but never did. So I got up off the couch and called the toll-free number displayed on the television screen, while the babysitter waited near me in the kitchen as I dialed the telephone. I imagined she might have thought I acted a bit unusual when I made—what I thought was—a cute remark to the customer service representative taking my Ginsu order. But perhaps the sitter imagined something different: Why was Mr. Richards, the estranged, distraught and intoxicated husband buying knives? FIVE-YEAR-OLD Corrin reentered the kitchen from the living room ten minutes after the social worker had handed her a blank sheet of paper and a box of crayons. She had asked Corrin to draw her a picture, a standard course of action, I thought, for domestic cases involving children. Little Corrin walked over and handed her drawing to the social worker, sitting next to me at the table. “Thank you, Corrin,” she said, with a gentle voice. “That was nice of you to draw me a picture.” A few moments of silence passed while she studied the drawing. I glanced over at the picture she was holding in her lap and then looked up at my wife, whose eyebrows had tensioned, wondering what Corrin had drawn. “What a nice picture,” the woman said, as she displayed it on the kitchen table in front of my wife and me. Then looking back at Corrin standing dutifully in front of her, the woman asked, “Did you draw this picture?” Silent and unblinking, Corrin pursed her lips. “Is that you in the picture?” she asked, with a warm smile, speaking softly as a loving mother might do, while pointing

Timothy Richards

to the picture of a frowning little girl under a rain cloud next to a house. Still silent, Corrin shook her head no. Pointing again to the picture, the woman said, “This looks like a sad little girl to me,” as she tapped on the little stick figure Corrin had drawn—a child-like figure in a triangular skirt and coil-spring ropey hair. “Is this you?” She asked. Silently, Corrin shook her head no again. “Who is it then?” “You,” Corrin quietly said, pointing her little finger directly at the woman. “Ohhh… I see,” said the social worker, dazed by Corrin’s surprising answer. As she paused to reflect on the meaning of the moment, the woman leaned back in her chair, astonished by Corrin’s spontaneity, unsure of her own response to Corrin’s remark. But her reflective mood quickly changed when she looked up at us. Now chuckling under her breath, she asked with a blooming smile, “How did she know I was having a bad hair day?” ALTHOUGH IT MIGHT seem that the joke was on her, it was not a happy moment. I was pleased, nonetheless, warmed in the afterglow of Corrin’s innocence, comforted by her remark. Today, however, the moment seems sad—the dissolution of a marriage involving two young children whose parents were under fire, being formally scrutinized by a county official in front of their five-year-old daughter. The social worker informed us that a follow up appointment was unwarranted, and the case closed on a pleasant note. There was no trumpeting we told you so, no bobbing heads and jutting chins or leering looks at the duty-bound social worker standing under a rain cloud. We shook hands, then she departed. We never heard from her again. Several days later, Corrin appeared in the doorway of her two-year-old brother’s bedroom where I was changing his diaper. “Daddy,” she said, as she entered the room. “Yes, Corrin,” I answered, looking back over my shoulder. “Don’t worry,” she reassured. “Mommy still loves you.” A lump grew in my throat, and my heart was filled with joy, thinking about how Corrin’s protective devotion and caring spirit comforted me.



Marieken Cochius Paper, mother of pearl, earth


Paper, wood

Tidal bore

Marieken Cochius Wood, metal, plaster

Ailey O'Toole

Summer Stasis


Today, I am daydreaming about how your body spins in the light. I am daydreaming about your sun-soaked smile, our bodies a tangle of warm limbs. You wrap yourself around me like sticky summer heat, and I find myself wondering if this is all we'll ever be. Swaddled in the bed I bought us, drunk on stasis and the things we gave each other. How can we move forward when we're so in love? How can we find each other when we're so busy with this humidity? Maybe I'm worried for nothing, but today, I am daydreaming of how we could both die here, unchanged, unimproved, static.

We eat peaches and bury the pits in my soft backyard soil, hoping to make something of ourselves. We are fifteen, juice dripping down our chins, and the world plays out exactly the way we expect it to. The pits never grow into anything, just like we knew they wouldn’t. We are fifteen and summer blisters its way through our bodies. I learn to swing a hatchet and wonder about the fecklessness of God. We use our hands to make melodies and slowly begin to belong in fewer places. The peach pits rot in the soil as my mother turns over in her bed. We are fifteen and the windows are down and we are drenched in being. Nothing ever grows, but we still search for meaning. There are no new trees but we are fifteen and passing laughter in secret. We will be this for as long as we can, until the rain comes, until the sky blooms, until we are sixteen and there are fresh peaches and we realize darkness does not mean there will never be light.

On Becoming The morning slipped herself over the edge of the world like an oil spill, beautiful and overwhelming and tragic. And I found myself wondering, "Is this it? Is this all I'll ever be?" Crushed by the unbearable weight of all the lives I wasn't living, I wished myself the sun, wished myself the power to destroy but instead, waking every morning and choosing illumination. Because who will be held responsible for all my could-have-been lives? How will I know which parts of myself deserve destruction and which parts just need more light? I watched as the sun continued to leak herself into the morning and I thought, "I wish I could so fearlessly become."



I push the buzzer and wait for the click that lets me know that I will be able to open this heavy-framed, locked door. The click is so faint, however, that I miss it (like usual) and I will have to try again. Not knowing what Force monitors this door, all I can do is turn subserviently toward the camera to reveal my badge, which reads “Probation Department, County of Fresno, Volunteer.” I picture someone watching me with a bit of malevolent, power-driven glee, making sure that I must try a second time. Even in the absence of an actual evil chortle I get a shivery surge of impatience and anxiety at this moment. This is the most daunting part of my bi-monthly visits to Unit H of Juvenile Hall. The clanking thud of locked doors is bad enough, but this anticipation of the nearly-imperceptible click makes me want to turn and run. It is only when I am through the door and on the ward with the boys that I can relax. It is 9 p.m. on a Wednesday night and I am here to read to the boys of Unit H. The boys in this unit are the youngest ones in Juvenile Hall. When I went for orientation, the activity director gave me a choice: girls, ages 13-18; boys, ages 13-18; or the youngest ward, the pre-teen boys. “Do you have many,” I asked, “who are younger than thirteen?” “Lots,” she laughed ruefully. “We’ve had them as young as seven.” While I absorbed this bit of information, she continued, “Some are in trouble. Others are here because their family tells us that their kid is out of control and they don’t know what else to do. Some are good kids who just need a little discipline. Others...” she paused and shuddered, “they’re just . . . evil!” My surprise must have been visible because she continued emphatically, “I mean it! Some are just bad kids. Like that movie . . . what’s it called? Bad Seed.” Thinking of my own son who spent time here, I wondered what training is required to work here. As I enter the visitation room of Unit H, I say hi to the three boys who are cleaning the common area. They smile and keep working at a breakneck speed. The rest of the boys are in bed. By the time I check in at the desk and I’m ready to read, these three boys will be finished mopping


and will bring their buckets to the ward, where they will mop between the beds and around me while I walk the floor, juggling my book and flashlight. Tonight, I’m reading from Call It Courage, a book that has held their attention. A night attendant greets me then hollers to the boys, “Reading Lady is here. Everyone quiet!” For better or worse, that’s how I’m known: Reading Lady. They have to be here; they have to be quiet while I read bedtime stories to these pre-teen boys whose temporary home is juvenile hall. I attempt a little interaction after I say hello. I ask about their days, and follow that with, “Who remembers what we were reading?” There is a chorus in response, which tells me that many of them have been here at least two weeks. One boy calls out, “Ma’am, last time I was here you were reading Holes. Why aren't you still reading Holes?” It has been a year since I finished Holes, which means this is at least his second round through juvenile hall. I tell him that we have moved to something else and he expresses his disappointment, finishing with, “I loved Holes.” I know. Even the attendants liked when I read Holes. I open Call It Courage, while their voices float out of the darkness with details. “Mafatu killed the wild boar just before it attacked him.” “Wasn’t he in the water?” This is the moment that I love, the reason I am here. Reading with my son Matthew was the part of parenting that I enjoyed most. Bedtime stories slowed our chaotic days to a contented crawl. In a way, that is part of the reason why I am here now reading to the boys of Unit H. Life with Matthew always has been an adventure. Right now, he is in prison over 1,000 miles away. His letters can be terse, information-oriented missives, or rambling with hopes. He reassures me, “It is okay in here, Mom. No one is raping or beating anyone.” Although that is not my greatest fear, it is how he thinks outsiders view prison life, based on scenes from the movies. In one pensive moment, he ruminated, “People aren’t meant to live this way, penned up and light-less.” His latest letter said, “Uncle Wendell wrote to me. He said I should visit when I get out. Why would he want me to visit? He knows what I’ve done. Why would he want me? I’ll never understand this about family.” Even at its best, family can be a fragile thing. Both of my children were in foster care many years, so “family” hangs by an even thinner thread for us. This process of parenting has made me acutely attuned to the minute nuances of family dynamics, to what it is that creates the differences that divide and the love that unites. Prior to foster care, our children spent years in a mix of abuse and neglect. They

have intimate knowledge of how easily family is damaged, how difficult to repair. My childhood on an Iowa farm in a Mennonite family did not prepare me for some parts of this, but I am grateful for the way my family has given me a foundation of hope that people can live together in a broken and hurting world. Over time, I have come to understand just how illogical it is for Matthew to believe that family will embrace him even in prison, but I hope that someday he will feel this reality for himself. With personal histories of pacifism, my husband Douglas and I intended to maintain a family structure that breathed nonviolence. Our emerging family, however, had a self-definition that included extreme turbulence; this was their story and now it was part of our own, too. We tried to live our beliefs without excessive preaching, but our kids (with their own brand of street-wisdom) doubted it, doggedly pointed out our flaws in living it, and (at times) were fascinated by it despite their skepticism. Life had demonstrated an impossibility of peace. They spent a tiring and unbelievable amount of energy in their attempts to recreate the familiarity of violence. Despite my best intentions, I acquiesced to my own inner violence more times than I care to admit, while we set out to demonstrate that “family lasts forever” and “nonviolence is possible.” With a family narrative rife with chaos, the intimacy of daily life counteracted our best efforts. So, in the colloquial language of our bumper-sticker culture, shit happened and love grew anyway, flying in the face of our efforts to prove anything. And that, ultimately, is the best definition I have for “nonviolence” or for “family.” It is within this framework of violence, nestled between bouts of our daily struggles caring for each other that bedtime stories became our keystone to peace, the moments when chaos subsided and we began to shape a new story of life together. We lost ourselves in this emerging family landscape, and although it resembled a Salvador Dali painting rather than a Rockwell family, it was good. While we read, Matthew morphed from an 8-yearold who could not sit through the reading of a picture book to a 10-year-old who loved the complexity of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. My son, this wiry little boy who nearly burned our house down and kicked out the porch posts, was the same child who thrived on farm stories and time travel and historical fiction and, really, almost anything. Books anchored us. So when I say that I believe in the power of story, in the possibility of nonviolence, and in the permanence of family, it is not just an idle cliché. It comes from a place deep within where I know that the impossible is within reach, if only for a few minutes at bedtime.


As I enter Unit H, I notice the nurse. A small boy leans on the medicine cart, shaking and crying. The nurse addresses him as Mr. Jackson. “Now Mr. Jackson,” he says gently, “I can’t give you sleeping pills. Here’s a Tylenol for your headache. Mr. Jackson . . . can you look at me?” The boy doesn’t look up and the nurse asks again, “Mr. Jackson?” Mr. Jackson finally lifts his tear-filled eyes. The nurse tries to get the boy to relax his body by wiggling his arms at his side, but the child remains stiff with fear. He sobs quietly, “I want to go home.” The night attendant asks me to wait while he quiets the boys. Evidently, it is not just “Mr. Jackson” who is agitated tonight. “Must be the full moon,” the attendant laughs, but his chuckle reflects no humor at all. I doubt the value of reading bedtime stories to Unit H. I volunteered, quite honestly, for my own pleasure. I don’t know that it will change lives. Most of the time, I’m not sure these young boys even want this story hour, that to them I am just one more thing inflicted on them by a world of adults in power. If I hoped to make a difference, there could be better options. This, however, is what I do two nights a month, forty minutes a night. I read bedtime stories to the boys of juvenile hall. I begin to read while I balance the book and the flashlight while I walk the length of the ward and back again. Projecting my all-too-quiet voice reminds me of my limitations. Some boys are not interested; this will not change their lives; many of them will return to juvenile hall more than once, perpetrators of crimes and blinded to possibilities in their worlds of violence. And too often, what we see are “bad seeds.” After I finish the next several chapters of Call It Courage, I make my usual final sweep of the ward, saying goodnight to any boy who is still awake. I promise to return with more of Mafatu’s story in a few weeks. I hear a few snores, some quiet “goodnight ma’ams,” a thank you or two. In this moment, as I round the ward I see, not troubled young boys, but children who need stability and hope, boys who enjoy a bedtime story. As I get to the door and begin to move into the light of the staff station, I hear a whisper near my head, “Thank you for reading to me tonight.” I turn to my right. On the top bunk beside me, I see the tear-streaked face of “Mr. Jackson.” Whispering goodnight, I tell him to sleep well. He repeats his thank you and lays his head back on the pillow. When I told Matthew that I am reading to Unit H,


he reminded me of other books we had shared. “Don’t forget Harris and Me,” he prompted. “It was one of the best.” As a child, Matthew struggled to read. Testing revealed no learning disabilities. Finally, one consultant ex -plained how external trauma can prohibit the transferal of learning from short-term to long-term memory. In essence, each time Matthew read, he was re-learning the process to read. Still, he loved to learn and to read. His ongoing aspiration has been to become a writer himself. He asked me to send books to the prison library. In the first months there, he had perused the entire prison collection, a bunch of National Geographic magazines and a few mystery and spy novels. I spent an afternoon at the bookstore, selecting a box of books to send. I took his suggestion (science fiction) and added some of my own: several by Orson Scott Card, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a novel on time flowing backward by Philip K. Dick, Stephen King’s On Writing, and an assortment of others. I thought of Matthew while I browsed but I also thought of other inmates, men I do not know, who would also have access to these books. Could a good book in a prison library point the way toward possibilities unimagined and unimaginable? I have no way of knowing. After the prison received the box, Matthew called to thank me. His cell-mate, Milky, sent his thanks also. As it turned out, Milky loved to read, too, and when Matt told him that he finds reading difficult, Milky offered to read to him. By the time he called me, they had worked their way through several books. I (personally) don’t know how to define and live words like “family” and “nonviolence.” Society (collectively) puzzles over “justice” and “equality.” The fluidity of life with variables of culture, ethnicity, class, and gender often render definitions inadequate. Life experiences have rearranged my hopes just as they have limited my children’s dreams. I see the (rotting) fruit of violence in their lives. I am convinced more than ever that nonviolence is necessary, whatever its limitations. Mostly, however, I picture Matthew and Milky in a Wyoming prison, reading out loud to each other. It will not change things to the degree that I might prefer just as my reading to the boys of Unit H will not alter their circumstances. Still it lulls me to sleep at night, this image of two boys who defy society’s stereotypes by one seemingly insignificant, yet remarkably radical act–they read to each other.

2 by Bo`d On the old It is raining on the old Dirty Worn to thin Skin of lackluster men and on the clear blue tears of the precious few beautiful women who once loved them

I have a Tape Recorder on my iPhone

My teeth they dream of apples, songs you'll never be able to listen to. Back before crack in orchards, the Sisseston Gas Station Casino Cafe. It used to be a Greyhound, now it's just a Jefferson Busted Depot.

Forensic Evidence William Crawford Photography


Losing Ghosts

Sven Heuchert

We sat on a bench at the pond drinking Serious drinking It wasn’t about becoming intoxicated It was about not feeling lonely We used to start by talking about the old days but the more we drank, the more we got to the point that was inevitable. I’m tired, he said. He opened another can of beer I could hear him swallow I’m tired, he repeated. We sat there until dusk.

Talking about something’s missing We were talking about Something that’s missing We lay in bed the lights turned off I could sense by the sound of her voice That it was serious That she meant it Love? Was it love that was missing? I couldn’t remember the last time I thought: I love her I couldn’t even remember the last time I said the words: I love you I felt ashamed We shared a life And after all the years Something was missing We couldn’t find an answer There were no answers Sometimes the only thing left Is the very moment before you fall asleep When all the dreams you’ve ever had seem reachable We lay there silently Staring at the darkness then I closed my eyes and vanished.


Ducks swam across the pond The smell of jackpine from the woods Something was different about the way he held his beer and drank his liquor, so precise and determined Later in the cabin he stood in the dark He looked out of the small window beneath the fridge We’re all made of stardust. Did you know that? No, I said. I was drunk but aware of his words. He shook his head and lay down on the bed. I woke up in the middle of the night I had dreamed about someone chasing me I didn’t move I let my eyes adjust to the dark The air thick and stale My throat was dry It was hard to breath I heard him mumble in his sleep I got up and drank water from the tap It tasted like rusty nails Wind swept through the beams His mumbling sounded like a mad prayer I listened for a while then went back to sleep When I woke up in the morning I still had that taste on my lips It reminded my of my father’s workshop Of quiet summer evenings and warm grass under my naked feet I could hear the creek in the distance A constant whisper I checked on him His blanket lay tattered on the mattress I opened the cabin door and felt the cold air coming in It had snowed that night And at first it looked like tracks from a deer the footprints lead away from the cabin I put on my shoes without socks

Majestic Skies Over Fruited Plains Mary Kamerer Mixed Media


Taking Stock My mother goes to Italy. Her last trip, she says. After the Badlands and Belize. After Europe in spring, Vancouver by sea. I organize the linen closet. Fold cloth napkins neatly, tie them with Chianti-colored ribbon. She calls on an intercontinental line, eerie with delay telling me of October light, crumbling churches, art. She emails from the internet caffé, where she smokes, laughs with strangers, feasts on pizza and her Fodor’s guide. I stack powder room towels in library rows, match bed sheets with cases, mist lavender spray. I wipe crumbs from the cutlery drawer. Wash knives and spoons, return them to their nesting bed. Restoring order seems a way not to think of destinations far away, desire and farewells.

I imagine her in lovely places, piazzas of Rome, Verona’s giardinis, Palermo cathedrals. Places where relics are treasured, ruin revered. Where a woman with wild gray hair, an inky blue atlas etched behind her knees, can stand planted, while leaves and pigeons swirl. Where she can shut eyes tight, vowing never to forget. I stack cans in the pantry, sweep cobwebs from the porch. My children blink, steer wide arcs. Taking stock is what I do now, I want to tell them, not to scare them. But the veil of dust I’ve stirred has done that. Taking stock is what my mother does now, too. Fare il punto. As she climbs cobbled streets, passport and Euros safe beneath her blouse. Memorizing names of saints, forgiving old sins. We know the rules of taking stock, she and I: Use it up, wear it out, make it do – all fairer alternatives to doing without. ~ Lucinda Trew


Tienanmen Square

Lucinda Trew

1989. But the BBC newsreel could be black and white, written on rice paper, ox scapula. Students in white shirts, dark suits. Black bicycles eloquent in disarray. Scattered in the street, a poignant script of halted wheels, valiant strokes. Tension, a jet drop, perilously balanced, ready to spill from the rat-hair tip of history’s pen. The monochrome crowd heaves, contracts. A tourniquet now, marked by cardinal blaze: Flag, Fire, Blood. Close shot of a boy, tender as new bamboo: With the heel of his hand he pushes aside ebony-rimmed glasses to wipe grieving eyes. Then, slow, slow as centuries, he raises a fist, clenched tight, bone white. Beijing.


Most of them are cousins to one another, slouching on the flat ocean beach sand where waves surrender and withdraw. Two are not cousins. They are school friends of the cousins. Florence is one of the school friends. Derek, one of the cousins, drives a long-handled spade into the sand nearby, heaving up and tossing aside one chunk of wet sand after another, on his own and determined, as if he owns this beach and may have his way with it. Some of the others lazily watch him, the way that first-, second- and third-graders watch their classmates struggle alone. One cousin calls to Derek, then others call to him, too. But he doesn’t hear them, or so they think. Derek just digs as hard as he can. “What do you get to if you keep digging?” says Lily, one of Derek’s cousins. Florence, as Lily’s school friend, watches from a distance, not sure if she should talk yet. “If you keep digging, you get more sand,” says a boy. “China,” says Mona. And they all laugh. Mona is Lily’s older sister. “I’m serious,” says Mona. And they all laugh again, including Mona. “How much sand d’you think is here?” says Mona, a third-grader. She’s round and pudgy and her head of brown hair is thick and curly. Her twopiece bathing suit, fringed with curled fabric, decorates her flesh. She sits on the sand, her legs and knees splayed out in front of her, her crotch open to the air and sea. She clutches sand in her hand, then watches the sand pour from her grip and says again, “How much sand is here?” Her cousin Luke looks over to Mona and asks for clarification: “How many pieces of sand?” “How many grains of sand, like salt?” says Mona. “Oh wow,” says Lily. “How many?” Mona insists. “Five hundred thousand billion,” Lily says. “Just here where we are.” As Florence watches her friend Lily, she agrees. “What about in the whole world?” says Mona. “No one knows,” says Luke. “That’s right,” says Mona. “No one knows.” “That’s what I said,” Luke says. Derek is still digging to China, chucking more sand to the side. “No one knows something like that,” Luke goes on. “No one can come down here and count all this sand. Each little piece. All these grains of sand. It’s impossible.” “Is there sand in the sky?” This comes suddenly from Florence, who is younger than the rest. No one replies. Florence says again, “Is there sand in the sky?” She is lying on the sand, facing the sky, a hand shielding her brow. No one says anything. “There’s sand in the ocean,” she says. And she rises to sit up and look to the water. The only one who knows her here is Lily. Florence and Lily are in the second grade together. Lily says nothing to any of this. Florence goes on: “If you look out there and think of how much sand is out there, and how it goes on out there to the end, all the way to wherever. On the bottom of the ocean. Way down to however far the ocean goes down.” Some of them look out there. Florence feels Lily looking at her and wonders if Lily is embarrassed by what this friend is saying. Florence shields her brow, looking out to sea. Two younger children frolic in the slough with the little waves as a mother hovers, hoping a tide doesn’t draw them out

Sand Michael E.C. Gery

farther, beyond where she can help them, beyond where anyone can help them. They would be out there struggling and churned by the merciless surf until they drown. They would be helpless, even as adults thrash after them and wail on the beach. No one says anything for a while. The young ones screech as they roll and scamper at the water’s edge. A hiss rises there as the sand sucks in the frothy water. Then Mona says, “When you die, you come back as something else. Not what you were, but something else.” “Like what?” says a boy. Mona says, “Like I would come back after I died as a flower, maybe.” “A flower?” the boy says. His name is Simeon. He’s in third grade, the brother of one of the young ones out in the water. “A flower,” says Mona, considering it. “You wouldn’t live very long,” says Simeon. “Maybe for the summer. Then you’d be dead.” “I would be dead again,” says Mona. “And then I would come back again as something else. Maybe this time as a kitten.” There’s no reply for a while, as they try making sense of it all. Simeon probably imagines Mona as a furry little squeaking kitten. Then Lily’s friend Florence says, looking seaward, “You could come back as a piece of sand.” A gust comes off the water. Mona sits still with her knees splayed and looks to the sea. “No,” she says. “You have to be something that’s alive. Sand is not alive. It’s dead.” While they all think for a moment, the boy Simeon wonders, “It doesn’t come back as something else?” “No,” says Mona. She has silken dark hair that she drags now behind her ears and it falls onto her bare back. She doesn’t turn to look at anyone but stares out to the ocean. Florence looks out there, too, then she looks onto the beach in front of her and sees prints of bare feet: five separated toes and a heel impressed into the sand, one footprint after another, proceeding down the beach. Then she says, “I see people in the sand.” Luke, a fourth-grader, pushes himself off the sand and stands above Florence and looks down at her as she stares at the footprints in the sand in front of her. He marches over to where Derek was shoveling. Derek now is not shoveling but has been standing and watching the clutch of kids talking, even though he has not heard what they said. Luke picks up a plastic pail that stands next to Derek’s hole and carries it down to the water, scoops water into it, and trudges back to Derek’s hole and pours the pail of water into the hole. Derek drops his shovel, places his hands on his waist and glares at Luke, who walks back into the group and settles down there. Derek looks harassed. He picks up the spade and resumes digging into the soggy sand. Luke grins nearby.

Mona says out to the sea, “People and sand are not the same thing. People are living. Sand is not. Sand is dead. Sand can’t talk.” “Maybe you could be one of them,” says Simeon, pointing to a small, skeletal ghost crab scampering into a hole in the sand. It seems to Simeon that no one else saw the pale ghost crab, slight as ash, scurry into the hole. But Florence saw it. “One of what?” says Mona. “You didn’t see him?” says Simeon. “See what?” “That crab.” “What crab?” “He ran into that hole.” They all look to where Simeon points. Then the little ghost crab juts out from the hole, its two black, pinhead eye antennae wobbling about, and it quickly retreats back into the sand hole. “That,” Simeon says, still pointing to it. No one says anything. They settle back into their positions. “You could be that,” Simeon says a little later, while the vision of the ghost crab remains in some of their minds. He says again, “You could be that. In that hole. Scared.” “He’s in there thinking about us,” Mona says. “Maybe about how long he’ll live and what he will be when he comes back as something else. He won’t live very long either, you know.” Florence keeps her eye on the hole in the sand, hoping the ghost crab will come out again. “I wonder if someone else is in there with him,” she says. But she might as well not say anything, because it seems to her – and to her friend Lily – that no one is listening to her anyway. So Florence casts her gaze to a bevy of sanderlings, small shorebirds racing in unison like schoolmates along the water’s edge. There’s no telling who’s leading them as they weave along at such high speed, turning together to and fro and halting suddenly to poke the sand frantically, as though they may not have another chance to poke there before the water comes to take away this one chance. A contingent of five sanderlings peels off from the rest, darting elsewhere for another chance to poke at the sand, poking repeatedly. As they search and run frantically and poke, Florence sees that one of this group is missing a foot. Instead of the delicate, black, three-pronged twig of a foot, this one has only a stick leg that makes it limp slightly, tilting to its side as it runs. When it stops short, it pulls the stump leg up into its belly feathers, hiding it, balanced on its one good foot. Florence believes the crippled bird feels everyone watching it, that everyone knows it has only one foot. Then some silent, unseen force raises the birds all at once. They become a swift spirit ascending into the air, flitting together, each as fast as the one next to it. They alight together farther down the beach. Florence watches them, hoping to see the one without its foot. 267

Gregory Ashe Memories of You

Don’t Forget This Time

Sitting on the sand,

It happens every time.

gazing at the full moon.

Like Proust’s madeleines,

The sea lit with the dull reflection of moonlight.

the opening bars of Simple Minds’ “Somewhere in Summertime”

A cool breeze.

transports me back in time.

The air heavy with ocean salt.

A simpler time.

The soft roar of waves crashing on the shore.

Another time. Another place.

I remember that night

The music transports me to that night

long ago

in your dorm room.

when you and I first kissed on the beach.

I am powerless to resist.

We sat in an empty lifeguard stand. The night still warm from the day’s summer heat.

I cannot remember your name.

I ran my fingers through your golden-brown hair glowing

I know who you are –

in the moonlight.

a friend of my fraternity little brother –

A magical night.

I just don’t remember your name. Nor when we first met.

I remember another night,

You swear we had at least one conversation before.

much longer ago,

You said it involved the Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink”

when a different you and I first kissed on the beach.

and whether John Hughes made a mockery of the song

We walked along the boardwalk.

in his film of the same name.

The winter air cold and clear,

This conversation, you confide,

and the moon cast a million diamonds

confirmed your desire to know me better.

sparkling on the sea. I ran my fingers through your jet-black hair shimmering

Right here,

in the moonlight.

right now,

A magical night.

in your room Saturday night,

Now I stare at the sea and moonlight

I, for the life of me,


cannot remember your name.

but still I smile. For I am not really alone,

You leave to use the bathroom.

because you,

I find your backpack.

and you

Rummage through it.

are here with me in my thoughts.

Find your University ID.

A magical night.

Read your name. Don’t forget this time I tell myself.


Actuarially yours We met at work before I went to law school. Both engaged to other people in long-distance relationships. Had we not been in those relationships, were we not committed to those relationships, would we have dated? We became close. Very close. Lunch daily. Dinner almost as often. Proxies for our absent loves. I remember one day at lunch, you told me how you’d gone to Humpback Rocks on a weekday. Empty parking lot, you hiked alone (a female could do that safely back then). From the summit, you could see the parking lot below, still empty. You described how you undressed and stood there. The mountain wind caressing your naked body. The bright sun kissing your naked skin. Even now, decades later, I close my eyes, imagine what you must have looked like. And I smile.

I remember one day in April, you came to my cubicle saying let’s sneak out and see the cherry blossoms. We crept out the back door, down the steps, and took Metro to the Mall. We spent the afternoon walking side by side, marveling at the pale pink petals, warm breeze, and cherry blossom aromas that surrounded us. Even now, decades later, whenever I see cherry blossoms, I think of that day and you. And I smile. I remember the day I left for law school. We said goodbye and embraced one last time. You looked into my eyes saying it was too bad we never spent the night together. (Indeed, we never even kissed.) I replied that our wanting to make love, in the end, was perhaps better than ever actually consummating the act. You kissed my cheek and I yours. We released from our embrace. But looking back now, decades later, I think maybe I was wrong. And I smile.


ART OF RECOVERY ANNUAL EXHIBIT at PONSHOP Recovery is messy, and it looks different to each person. When substance abuse and mental health therapists ask individuals to paint their journey to recovery, some use a bright palette to create a vision of hope. Others sketch their demons. For each, art offers a way to express the struggles that accompany mental illness. Each year, Rappahannock Area Community Services Board honors the role creativity plays in mental wellness by holding the Art of Recovery exhibit. The 14th annual art show opened on May 4, 201 at PONSHOP Studio and Gallery in Fredericksburg with a “First Friday” opening night event that included a reception featuring live music, poetry, and readings in the gallery’s courtyard. The show was organized by members of Kenmore Club, a psychosocial rehabilitation program operated by RACSB. The exhibit coincided with National Mental Health Month and was on display through throughout May. The show will featured 45 pieces from 40 artists. Artwork included original drawings, acrylic and oil paintings on canvas, as well as mixed media and ceramics. All of the pieces were available for purchase. Each year, The Art of Recovery provides a forum for artists living with mental illness to gain confidence in their abilities, address misconceptions surrounding mental illness, and experience community support. “Art can be so healing,” said John Butler, coordinator of RACSB’s crisis stabilization services. “Art is a method of journaling, to share life experiences. It provides a safe haven for expression of feelings, hopes and dreams. Although art can be judged, art doesn’t judge. The Art of Recovery helps society in general to look at people beyond their disability and for folks with disabilities to not be defined by those disabilities.” If you missed the show this past May, mark your calendary for the event in May of 2019.

Mary Kate Tosick, “Geishas” Acrylic on Canvas


Herman McDonald, “Flowers of Peace”, Oil on Canvas

Jimmy Clark, “Moose”, Acrylic on Canvas


Peaceful Moment

Van Anderson Acrylics and resin on canvas

The Prayer March Janice Wilberg

In the photo, the little boy is smiling and holding a big fish

with both hands. He is wearing a white t-shirt and a little boy’s fedora. He has dreadlocks. The newspaper says his name is Justin and he was six years old and about to go fishing with his stepfather when he was shot by someone firing from a passing car. He died on his grandmother’s porch. The next day, pastors call for a prayer march to be held in front of Justin’s grandmother’s house and my husband and I decide to go. It’s the picture of the little boy with the fish that moves us, that and the fact that we once had little boys of our own but they grew up. The crowd gathered in front of Justin’s grandmother’s house is mostly black. There are a few other white people but not many. Like us, the white people probably had to travel across town to this neighborhood behind an abandoned industrial park. Our city is segregated, neighborhoods are black or white but rarely both. A black man who looks like the prayer march organizer uses a loudspeaker to yell out, “Grandma wants to speak!” I wait for him to hand the loudspeaker to the black woman standing at his side but instead he threads his way through the crowd to where a thin white woman is standing, wringing her hands at her chest. Her gray hair is pulled back in a wispy ponytail and her bangs, long and uneven, fall sweaty across her forehead. She is wearing a red t-shirt, black basketball shorts, and white socks with no shoes. Her words are few and soft, evaporating before they hit the air. She steps back as if excusing herself from the table and then the man with the loudspeaker gives us instructions for the march. We will walk a mile and stop every few blocks where the pastors will lead us in prayer. We’ll end at Grandma’s house. I carry a flyer with a picture of Justin. When I look at it, I think of my own boys when they were six, when they ran fast and played rough like bigger boys but still liked to be carried. I remember their arms around my neck and my eyes fill with tears. I wish I could hold Justin right now. I’d carry him the whole way. A police car with revolving red and blue lights leads the march. News cameras pan the crowd. The man with the loudspeaker shouts our chants. Justice for Justin! We want justice! A woman holding a plate of food stands on her porch

watching us pass by. She looks stunned and confused as if she is deciding to put her plate down and join us. I want to yell to her, “Come walk with us!” but it isn’t my place. She isn’t my neighbor and this isn’t my neighborhood. We stop at the corner for prayers. It starts to rain the kind of big drops that fall in the summer when the sun is still shining. Overhead, a few darks clouds pass over, like dripping gray balloons. The pastor tells us to hold hands. A black man I don’t know grabs my left hand and my husband takes my right. We stand linked for long minutes while the pastor asks God to give us all strength. He remembers Justin as a boy who loved fishing and my eyes fill again, my nose drips, and I want to wipe my sleeve across my face but the men are holding my hands too tight. It feels like a blessing that they are, like they have somehow agreed to steady me. Justin’s grandmother stands alone just a few feet away. She is sucking on three fingers of her left hand and twirling her hair with her right. She shifts from one shoeless foot to the other. My husband reaches out to touch her shoulder but she doesn’t acknowledge him. At the end of the march, the pastors ask us to form a circle and invite Justin’s family to the center. Grandma and a black woman who didn’t march with us but might be Justin’s mother come forward along with two little boys who might be Justin’s brothers. The black woman holds her face in her hands. The little boys chase each other in small circles and sometimes play tug of war. A white man pushing a stroller joins them. The pastors announce their plan to go door to door to get information about who shot Justin. Grandma looks up at the sky and then down at the little boys. She seems even thinner now and grayer as if the walk had taken a lot out of her, sucked the life right out of her. I wish the crowd would close the circle and comfort her. Hug her and the mother and the little boys. But we keep our distance and watch them like they are on TV. I want to know why Grandma walked the whole mile of the prayer march in her socks. I want to give her my shoes. I wonder who will cook their supper and then I see my husband’s gesture to leave, it’s time to go, he is saying, and I join him, walking down the street past a group of young men fixing a car in their driveway. They don’t look up when we pass. 273

Chinese Dinner

Rosanne Ehrlich


City Primitives

You, the lion tamer, Could shoot me through the heart. I, by nature stronger, am made powerless by my nature and your gun. Force, threat of force, you turn your back on me, I think of attacking but the moment passes as I notice sequins lying in the dirt, a silver thread caught on splintered wood around the ring.

Imitating Rousseau we go Through damp city streets Strange as the rain forest beat That resounds off our bones And mingles with our words To make their meanings bow To our mating dance.

Gut-shot crack Of your whip brings me back. Reflexively I glide into position. We work in harmony. I behave. For now.

Deep leaves uncurl to luster As I uncurl to you To look through the steam Rising from a jungle lake And thickening in heavy clouds Just above this misting water. Summer’s heat seeps through To ease our passageway Down through leafy tunnels. And I, your equal animal, Move along in rhythm. Underwater motion through The sinuous path of our Gray-green jungle.

Chinese dinner making food tasting love 6,000 different ways, for as many years, from the first cook’s invention to the rice the youngest child prepares to meet his parents’ return from work. An intricate cuisine, It is far more varied than the French and even more refined. The soup is optional, duck’s yellow feet, the arches of my feet erogenous among the cloud’s ears when they brush the lashes on my eyes and ripen lily buds to hardening. We breathe in Ginseng root and eat water chestnuts, sweet water meat beneath gnarled and knotted skin. Spare ribs like bad jokes, doused with sauce; and oysters. Tea, an attempt to be responsible or beer, iced electricity and perfect partner -as Miles is when he tells us how he feels from a radio in the corner of the curtained room. Finishing up, we’ve used every part of everything, the sticky linen we leave behind. You know how it is with love, an hour later.


Frank Fratoe

Can’t We Change? Why is it unreasonalbe to prohibit the carnage done by scheming men who cannot subdue their vengeance and often convert hate into death? So predators continue aggresssion with an intolerance and barbarism which are the deeds of angry people never reconciled to what they have. First stop the endemic destruction from guns that give courage falsely then ban the slaughter of millions when nations ready armies to fight. On our earth where jungle morality has warped the behavior of mankind must genocide forever be with us if the innocent and best are lost?


It’s Complicated Lindsay A. Chudzik

Nothing shocked Sanderson more than receiving a handwritten invitation to his made-up girlfriend’s funeral. “No one meant more to Chrissy than you,” the familiar Catholic school cursive complimented. “There’s no one she would want more at her memorial.” Chrissy was born over a bowl of Buffalo chicken dip at the Trickett’s annual Super Bowl party. “Are you ever going to settle down,” the host, Everly, poked, anxious to discuss anything other than first downs. “Both you and Graham,” she added, shaking her head. She looked at Graham, the neighborhood handyman who somehow had worked his way into getting invited to everyone’s parties. As far as Sanderson could tell, Graham loved being single. Sanderson’s various dating profiles were evidence of the opposite for him, however. He was desperate to fall in love. “I already have,” Sanderson said, surprising himself. “Who’s the lucky girl?” Everly asked. He glanced towards her backyard, the frost settled in swoops on the kitchen’s window, the Pfrang’s kitten catwalking on the deck’s railing. He blurted its name: “Chrissy!” And just like that, Chrissy was a thing and the night moved on. Everly refilled the dwindling crock of Swedish meatballs. Tom Brady either cheated or didn’t cheat, depending on whom he talked to and whether or not that person had ever lived near Boston. Passers were roughed, concussions made. Lady Gaga shot out of a cannon. “Does Chrissy like Gaga?” Ronald asked. “Chrissy?” Sanderson asked, but he caught himself and bought some time, holding a finger to his lips to indicate he needed to finish chewing his pig in a blanket. Word of Sanderson’s love life had spread fast. “Sure! Chrissy also loves the Clash, the Cramps, Coldplay.” Alliteration had carried him away and he thought he blew it—no one with good taste liked Coldplay. Sanderson felt like Frankenstein creating his own monster and panicked—he was new to this whole playing both the sperm and the egg thing. But then Ronald said, “Chrissy sounds righteous,” pouring shots of Jameson to salute the potential end of his bachelorhood.


He didn’t think again about Chrissy until Ronald messaged him on Facebook Monday morning to invite the couple to dinner after work. Ronald’s wife, Chloe, was pregnant and craving the Tex-Mex eggrolls at Dead Presidents. Even though Sanderson was supposed to be investigating credit card fraud claims, he typed “punk rock girl” in his Google search bar, then clicked on images. Photos bombarded him of The Dead Milkmen and teenage girls dressed in pleather. He instead tried “gen x girls,” knowing Chrissy also should be around forty-two, but instead got pictures of girls in sexy flannel Halloween costumes. It wasn’t until he typed “chrissy,” crisp and clear, that he fell in love at first sight with a woman in the fifth row of his search results. A brunette, she had dyed the tips of her hair a silvery gray. She stood in front of Love Park. She wore a Ramones T-shirt. She wasn’t smiling. “That’s my Chrissy,” he said to the ficus on his desk. When he clicked on her image, he was directed to several more of the same woman. He saved them all. Moderation was a memory. In less than an hour he’d created a Facebook page for Chrissy Ramón, careful only to post photographs of her in silhouette, the specificity instead coming in the life she lived. Chrissy was from Bella Vista. Chrissy strictly wore Doc Marten’s with dresses. Chrissy was a badass. When he responded to Ronald, he wrote, “Chrissy’s a roadie and her band’s on tour.” And even though Ronald didn’t ask, he added, “That’s how we met. At one of their hometown shows at Johnny Brenda’s. She doesn’t live in Delaware, but we’re trying to make this long distance thing work.” “Philly’s not far,” Ronald wrote. Still, Sanderson didn’t take any chances. He made their relationship Facebook official before someone else on the internet claimed her, proud of how progressive social media had made them. He wished doctors’ charts and tax forms also could evolve instead of using “single” as the universal code for unmarried, no room for nuance. Sanderson wasn’t married and he wasn’t a widower, but he also no longer was lonely and he was thrilled he had the capacity to announce this to the world. *** Within two weeks, Chrissy had over two hundred Facebook friends. At first, the requests mainly were from men complimenting her breasts—she was wearing a parka in her profile picture—but soon people who claimed to know her started flooding her inbox and wall with messages. “It’s awesome to reconnect with my most talented music student.” “You haven’t aged a bit since the first time I saw you.” “Everyone’s been praying for you since your divorce.” Chrissy was in a lot of people’s thoughts and prayers, suggesting her divorce had been far worse than simply growing apart from someone she once grew towards. These comments touched Sanderson most. He decided he could be a better partner than Chrissy’s ex. He decided he had to be. Chrissy was invited to baby showers, weddings, retirement parties. Although Sanderson knew Chrissy loved so often being thought of, he also knew she was too busy to accept. He instead sent Ana Ortega a Ramones onesie

to welcome her new bundle of joy, signing on its card “XO, Chrissy & Sanderson.” He sent Markia Taylor a Dustbuster for the new home she had purchased with her new husband “Are we ever going to meet Chrissy?” Ronald asked one afternoon over beer pong in his garage. “Chloe adores her Facebook.” Ronald’s wife did like everything Chrissy posted- the radical political ideas Sanderson had only dreamt of articulating, her discerning tastes in music and art, her religious-like devotion to kicking ass and taking names whenever someone said or did something stupid. “Of course,” Sanderson said. “But you know how relationships are.” “Sure,” Ronald said, sinking his ping-pong ball in one of Sanderson’s cups of Dogfish. “You don’t want to introduce someone to your friends until you’re certain about them.” Even though Sanderson nodded as he tossed back the beer, he’d never been more certain about anything than Chrissy. *** By late February, Veronica Not Lodge whose profile picture was of a Labrador Retriever and whose settings didn’t allow anyone to post on her wall started posting on Chrissy’s every morning like clockwork. “I hope Evan Dando plays soon!” “Here’s a coupon for the best pizza ever!” “Kim Gordon’s book was smug. Thank god I’m here to say what you’re all thinking!” Each of Veronica’s posts overused exclamation points. Each ended with a string of five blue hearts. Some of Chrissy’s friends remarked excitedly about Veronica’s reemergence and he decided she must be her long-lost best friend. Just like she never nagged him about his guy time with Ronald, Sanderson knew he never would nag her about this. In fact, Sanderson telepathically thanked Veronica as he updated the favorites section of Chrissy’s profile: the Lemonheads, Santucci’s, definitely not Sonic Youth. Through her help, Chrissy became more Chrissy. He received a flurry of wishes on his birthday, though one rose to the top—“I had a wonderful time in the Poconos celebrating with you and Chrissy this weekend! Happy birthday!” Veronica’s signature five blue hearts punctuated the message, but so did a photograph of Sanderson and Chrissy hitting the slopes. Was that him? Was that Chrissy? They both wore snow goggles and he was sure he’d never make it off of the bunny slope, but there he was—no, there they were—traipsing down a black diamond, their courageousness documented and later tagged by their dear friend. He moved his legs back and forth underneath his desk, easily recreating the movements he surely made on the mountains. Muscle memory. Of course he’d been skiing. Of course he’d shared hot chocolate with Chrissy in the lodge by a fire. Of course they’d spent the evening in a hot tub, Sanderson pointing out all of the constellations he’d memorized for Science Olympiad in the sixth grade. He’d never been more pleased when his birthday gift arrived. His secretary placed the records on his desk, pushing aside piles of paper to make room for them. He read aloud the message written in sweeping Catholic school cursive: “For my Sanderson: Roses are red/ vinyl is black / 277

I skipped the bouquet/ and sent you a stack. XO, Chrissy.” Sanderson traced his fingers across the albums’ covers as he flipped: Joy Division, Nick Drake, Nirvana, Suicidal Tendencies. He couldn’t wait to get home to listen, anxious for the clues the music held. *** Soon Veronica was checking in with Chrissy at shows all over Philadelphia and tagging Sanderson in pictures with Chrissy all across the globe: the 9/11 memorial, Pompeii, Anne Frank’s annex. Her face initially was out of focus, but it became clearer with each post. At first Sanderson didn’t recognize the woman as Chrissy Ramón from the fifth row of his search results, but then he realized what was different. This woman was smiling, a smile that got warmer and brighter and more familiar each time he saw it. Sometimes he saw himself in some of the photos, too, a blurry face near her in the crowd. When he changed Chrissy’s profile picture to one of her posing in front of Dali’s childhood home in Figueres, a Dali mustache affixed to her upper-lip, it received ninety-eight likes before lunch and triggered new friend requests and comments. “You’re glowing!” “It’s good to see you checking off your bucket list!” “No matter what life throws your way, you manage to look more gorgeous!” Sanderson returned to that last comment. Chrissy was more beautiful than just last month. He barely could sleep, so anxious to hear from Veronica, so eager to see what he and Chrissy were out in the world doing while he sat at his desk or in his bed staring at his computer. Sometimes Veronica IMed him and they talked for hours like she was an old friend, the sort of friend everyone wants and searches for, the sort of friend anyone would be foolish to let go. When he worked up the nerve to ask about his girlfriend’s divorce, she wrote: “I get why she disappeared for a while.” “Why would someone disappear?” he wrote, though even before he finished typing he understood, so often drained by his friends’ and family’s scrutiny. for not meeting the milestones they’d set for him. “She was tired of everyone treating her like an egg that might crack. When I was diagnosed with cancer and my doctors gave me little chance of survival, I felt the same.” When he pointed out that she had survived or at least was surviving, she said that was part of the problem. She was and then she wasn’t. And even when she was, no one knew how to treat her when she no longer was cancer girl, but was Veronica who still could shred on guitar, Veronica who always believed more was more, Veronica completely unplain and tallish. “People also didn’t know how to treat Chrissy when she no longer was Mrs. Nate Natoli and they 278

especially didn’t know how to treat her when she stopped caring that she wasn’t.” “But you were there for each other?” “It’s nice talking to people like you who never had to negotiate those changes,” she wrote. He found Nate’s profile. Skinny and sweaty, screaming into a microphone. He liked hardcore bands. A woman tagged as Maria sat in his lap in his cover photo. She looked like underdeveloped film, a younger, less interesting version of Chrissy. Nate and Chrissy had mutual friends and Chrissy and Maria had mutual friends, people that hadn’t picked sides. Veronica had and for that Sanderson was grateful. He started canceling plans with Ronald, hoping he might instead talk more to Veronica. The fraud claims continued to accumulate on his desk because she often pulled him away from work to chat about an awesome show Chrissy would be interested in or to tell him to read a book or see a movie because Chrissy would want to talk about it. He invited Veronica to go to these shows and movies with him, but she always was too busy or tired and so instead he stayed up late doing these things alone, waiting to talk about them with her when she found the time. Paperbacks and records and dirty dishes circled his bed. His blue eyes turned bloodshot, bags punctuating them. “Are you and Chrissy okay,” Ronald asked one day, letting himself into Sanderson’s house using the spare key he knew he kept in an empty flowerpot. “It seems like you’re traveling the world, but it also seems like you never leave your house.” “Me and Chrissy are fine,” Sanderson said, snapping shut his laptop. “Chrissy is perfect. Chrissy is everything.” *** Veronica stopped responding to Sanderson’s IMs all at once. She stopped posting on Chrissy’s wall, too. No more late night talks. No more afternoon distractions. No more exclamation points or blue hearts all in a row. He called out of work for the rest of the week. He blared the records Chrissy had given him. He didn’t change out of his bathrobe. Each morning he made coffee, placed the pot on an oven mitt beside his bed, and drank from it throughout the day no matter how cold it grew. On the third day, he put on his slippers and wandered around the neighborhood, mumbling to himself. “Chrissy! Chrissy!” The Pfrang’s cat brushed against his leg. He shooed her away, then kept calling. The letter arrived the next morning. Chrissy was cremated and a service was held for her at Pep Bowl in South Philadelphia. She apparently

loved bowling and Sanderson both resented and loved this detail. He hated that she’d kept secrets from him, but was thrilled there remained new things about her to discover, almost as if she still were alive. The alley was in a basement and had just six lanes. It looked like nothing had been updated since the 1950s. The Ramones’ “I Just Want to Have Something to Do” crackled over the speakers. He spotted some of Chrissy’s Facebook friends and decided this must be what it was like to meet famous people, people he felt he knew because he’d read so much about them. But simple conversations were difficult without the time and space to craft cleverness and charm. Ana Ortega held her baby who she’d stuffed like a sausage into the Ramones onesie Chrissy and Sanderson had gifted him. “Thank you,” she whispered, squeezing Sanderson’s arm. “When Chrissy was diagnosed with cancer and then got divorced, she disappeared. I had her number, sure, but she deactivated all of her socials and made it clear she didn’t want to be reached. Then suddenly she created a new Facebook profile and seemed so happy even though her cancer was back. Poof. Just like that.” Ana snapped her fingers. When Sanderson didn’t reply, she kept talking the way people sometimes do when they don’t know what to say but feel like they have to say something. “I texted her the minute she showed up in my People You Might Know because I knew she was ready. It’s nice to finally meet you, but I understand why she kept you for herself. It’s like you brought her back to life for a while before she finally gave up.” “I brought her back to life for a while,” Sanderson repeated, thinking about how she’d made him feel like he was alive for the first time. Markia Taylor waved, fighting back tears as Chrissy’s friends started speaking—a woman who played volleyball with her in high school; the drummer from her first band, Far From Barbies; a man who detailed the threesome they’d had with Evan Dando or at least an Evan Dando lookalike while dropping acid in college. A man who either was Evan Dando or the Evan Dando lookalike sniffled. Just like Chrissy’s Facebook posts, these tributes were blunt and brave, possessing the same qualities that in a matter of seconds transformed one’s shock and discomfort to awe and admiration. Images of some of Chrissy’s firsts looped on a screen. Some Sanderson recognized—her first trip to Anne Frank’s annex and her first time skiing. Others he saw for the first time: her first swimming lesson; her first Communion; her first time appearing as her alter-ego, Veronica Not Lodge, on stage with her band Dancey Drew. Boxes of pizza arrived from Santucci’s. Evan Dando or Evan Dando’s lookalike smoked, blowing rings

through the emergency exit into the lion-like end of March. He wore a Dancey Drew t-shirt. Sanderson rushed towards the bathroom where he splashed cold water on his face, then planted his palms on the porcelain sink, trying to steady himself. The radiator hissed, spitting out more heat than he needed, and he sat on it as he took out his phone. Someone knocked on the door. “There’s another bathroom,” Sanderson shouted, unsure if that were true. The knocking stopped. He scrolled through Chrissy’s Facebook feed. There were dozens more RIP messages since the last time he’d checked. There were dozens more selfies people had snapped of themselves at her service, too, some bowling, some dancing, some stuffing pizza into their mouths, each one tagging her to commemorate their devotion. He kept scrolling, but couldn’t find any trace of Veronica. Her profile had been deactivated. He turned on the sink, letting the mirror fog as the steam rose and condensed. He sprawled “I love you, Chrissy Ramón” across the glass, then turned off the faucet. His legs gave out and, as he fell to the cool ceramic floor, he knew he’d have to change his Facebook relationship status to “It’s complicated” in the morning.


The Letter Robert Keelin

It rested on a magnificent mahogany desk decorated with mother-of-pearl marquetry and gilt bronze feet in the drawing room of a grand manor house in the late-18th century countryside north of Paris -- a sheet of fine paper on which had been scrawled a salutation followed by a poor, little, half-written sentence, lonely and waiting for the company of words unwritten late in the afternoon when the peasants had abandoned their fields and the shifting of the sun from East to West left slender shadows on the floor and wall as it peeked through shutters lightly slanted early in the day to shield the room from its brightness. Like the rest of the house, the drawing room was impressive with the desk, a sixteen-foot ceiling, gilt and wood paneling, rich tapestries, paintings, and upholstered furnishings. A pair of porcelain vases, deep blue and gold, with rose, purple and pink flowers greeted those who entered it. Chandeliers hung in each corner of the ceiling, with another in its center. Four intricately carved walnut armchairs with cabriole legs sat in a circle, their occupants the wild birds and foxes embroidered on the linen fabric in which they were covered. A card table was nearby and on one side of the room were two matching Louis XV couches covered with pale green and beige upholstery of silk and wool. A finer room in a finer house one could not wish for. Next to the letter lay a sleeping cat, a large gray-striped male, his tail twitching occasionally in the way that a cat's tail might twitch, providing a sense of comfort and warmth, notwithstanding the cold silence interrupted only by the ticking of an ornate grandfather clock counting the minutes and hours. A letter barely started, then stopped -- maybe forgotten, maybe ignored, maybe not important, perhaps inspired by obligations, thoughts joyful or unpleasant, promises broken or about to be broken by ink scratched onto paper with a quill pen by a hand hesitant or afraid or distracted on a day when the sky was blue and clear, allowing the warmth provided by the sun to lull a cat to sleep and leaving no want for candlelight to provide the illumination necessary to place facts or feelings and emotions on paper. The sun moved slowly as it traveled from one side of the room to the other, causing objects of glass and metal and the like to sparkle momentarily when blessed by its light. It fell on the face of the cat along the way, which stirred and stood slowly, arched its back, stretched, yawned and hopped first to a chair sitting just slightly away from the desk, then to the floor, too lazy or timid or foggy from sleep to make the move in a single motion before walking out of the room without hurry. The grandfather clock had swept its hands across a good portion of its face by the time the sun neared the end of its day-long trip from East to West, low to high to low again and the room's shadows, synchronized with the movement of the sun but in a counter-clockwise motion, ended their journey in its Northeast corner before disappearing as the sky turned a deeper blue and daylight was displaced by twilight. The cat returned, leapt onto the desk in the same two-step fashion that preceded its exit, sat on its haunches, licked a paw once or twice and stared out the window through the shutters at nothing in particular. Suddenly, the pen that had been used to put words on paper attracted his attention. He sniffed it, pawed at it a bit, knocked it to the floor, watching as it fell, then returned to staring out the window. Time seemed to slow as the ticking of the grandfather clocked slowed, then stopped. The house was quiet. The cat sighed, lay down on its belly, then sighed again. Day was now night, and new shadows birthed by faint moonlight had taken up residence in the room. There was the cat and the clock, the shadows, the exquisite furniture, tapestries, paintings and the objects that had sparkled in the afternoon sun, the paper with its salutation and half-written sentence. It read "Dearest sister, It is with great concern that I write to...." 280

Rochelle Loren

Divisive What exactly is wisdom? any Wise Man knows— It is not a thing other than Nobody knows; Blame it on barcodes, Blame it on heavy loads, Acidic collision, corrosion of human woes; Explosion of human souls, fireworks of the mind, Consumerism and demands on our precious time. Implosion of People’s goals, Monotheism; Blame universalist insight, Materialism. There is death in the crystal skulls, and life in the black holes, before you very well know it there is dread in your human roles. It is in tapestries, It is in fantasies, it is black, it is white, in the life expectancies; It is in north and south nodes, Eastern daylight time, western fronts unquiet, all but out of sight; outta mind, outta rhyme, the unrest, out of plight. Any wise man knows Nothing, any ignorant man knows it all— the douche bag inflates as the king stands atop the wall; any humble man jumps just before he succumbs to all. Someone please stop me... before I decipher me; Nothing’s worth knowing if in the knowing, We both fall.

Incarcerated Species What is the truest crime? Imposed systems of synchronized time. Is a house a home, A school a prison, A workplace Where no joy is written? True crime is tax on self, Expose the woes Of human’s wealth. Is a body a soul, The skin the bones, The life, Of one worth truly living?


Fredericksburg Photography Club Annual Show The Fredericksburg Photography Club has been serving area photographers for the past 32 years with monthly critique sessions, presentations, and an annual photography show. Established in 1986, the club has nearly 80 members and is growing every month. With their constructive critique, members find a supportive environment that builds confidence while instructing in areas of lighting, technique, and presentation. Norma Woodward, the club’s president, attributes the growth they’ve seen in recent years to the ease of applying for membership Online. Mike Fleckenstein, the group’s webmaster, echoes that endorsement of modernizing their approach to membership. The digital age has been friendly to the club. The annual show has become the event for which the club is best known. Once run by Fredericksburg Parks and Rec, the Fredericksburg Photography Club took the reins two years ago. With the generous contributions of space and presentation boards from Parks and Rec, the club hopes to continue expanding the possibilities of the show. With nearly 500 entries from 75 regional photographers this year, they are well on their way. The Fredericksburg Photography Club meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Dorothy Hart Community Center in downtown Fredericksburg. Visit them online for more information about the club and membership. No photo was available for the winner in the category of Portrait Photography.


Best in Show & First Place Junior Category, Backyard Buddy, Savannah Rounds Best in Show & First Place Landscape, Cypress Trees, Renee Martin

First Place Unclassified, Steam Train, Andy Sentipal

First Place Life in VA, Battle Line, Dan Jenkins

First Place Abstract, Breaking Dawn, Mary Lynne Wolfe

First Place Street Photography, Pure Concentration, Mary Jane Branscome

First Place Architecture, Potomac River Bridge, Renee Martin

First Place Monochrome, Last One Standing, Theresa Rassmussen

First Place Digital Art, Whilygig, Cliff Daleside

First Place Birds, I See You, Andy Sentipal First Place Animals, Where’s Mom, Andy Sentipal

First Place Plants, Looking Forward, Theresa Rasmussen

First Place Macro/Close Up, Battlefield Mantis, Dan Jenkins

First Place Abstract, Chandelier, Taylor Cullar


Faith, Love & Artistry The Work of Johnny Johnson On July 7, 2018, the City of Fredericksburg celebrated beloved artist Johnny P. Johnson with daylong ceremonies and accolades befiting a man of such humility, generosity of spirit, and talent. I had the oppoturnity to talk with Johnny about his life as an artist for a FLAR feature piece back in spring of 2016. He was also our cover artist for that edition. In honor of Johnny P. Johnson Day, I share it with you again. Wise words from an incredible human being. ~Amy Bayne

Photo by Saeed Ordoubadi

Johnny Johnson has the reputation of being a stellar educator and a dynamic and prolific artist with a career that spans six decades. From his earliest days in Fredericksburg when he moved here to become Walker-Grant High School’s first state-certified art teacher, Johnson has mentored and been a champion for the arts and art education for both young students and adults. During a retrospective of Johnson’s work at LibertyTown Arts Workshop in 2007, artists Dan Finnegan and Kathleen Walsh recognized Johnson as “a leader in social issues, long committed to finding common ground between black and white communitties.” They found him notable for being the ‘first Black man’ in several area institutions and organizations, including the first African American to teach at Mary Washington College (now UMW) and the first Black member of the Fredericksburg Jaycees (with Gilbert Coleman), saying “He brought grace, good humor, and commmon sense to the table. We have been touched by his presence and courage. We have learned from him. He has become one of the most beloved men in our community.” Finnegan and Walsh also recognized the remarkable affection his former students hold for him. Johnson, himself, revealed during this interview that two of his most cherished awards are his “Teacher of the Year” award from 1977, when he was the first art teacher in Virginia to receive the award, and the Unsung Virginian award. Johnson has built his life and career here in Fredericksburg, Virginia with his wife, Jean, their two grown sons, Shelton and John Patrick, and five grandchildren. This interview highlights


You taught children and young adults for many years. How has arts education changed since you were in school? Do you think sutdents today are more attuned to visual imagery? Are they more artistic in that sense?

Well, I grew up in small town Henderson, North Carolina. We didn’t have an arts program, and my white counterparts—this was during segregation times—didn’t have art taught to them either. So, it wasn’t a matter of discrimination in that way, it’s just that Henderson saw art as a frill more than something where the kids would be culturally enhanced. The studies I have looked at indicate that art actually helps with some of the other courses in elementary school. I know I had students who really found themselves in art—minority students, Caucasian students, any ethnic group—because it was something that they did and something that was reinforced. The goal of art education is not just to prepare artists, because less than two percent will go into art as a vocation, but 100 percent will be consumers.

So art education will teach them to know what they like.

That’s it. I remember when the Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts [FCCA] was the Fredericksburg Gallery of Modern Art, and I remember Mary Washington [College] would bring in famous artwork almost every year. They’d pull work out of New York and other places. They had a gentleman who was just a super artist over there, and he and some other influential people would set this up. Even though the college didn’t have any Black students when I first came here, we could go over there to see an exhibit. I would look forward to this exhibit and I would take my students to it. It sounds like a great way to expose them to art.

Right. I would have my students have a signed permission slip: “I will allow my son/daughter to go to any local exhibits during the school year.” I kept them in the file cabinet. We drove our cars to the exhibits at the college. Virginia was also one of the few states that had an art mobile sponsored by the art museum down in Richmond [VMFA]. They would pull art and drive it around on a bus going to different places around the state. Sometimes they’d park down by the FCCA and stay four days. It was fantastic. Then other times they’d park at the Park and Shop [Eagle Village]. That was just a hop, skip and a jump. One year, we had some of Francisco Goya’s etchings come on the bus. The Disasters of War—Goya did a series of etchings based on his disdain of war, like the one called Execution on the Third of May. That was exposure! One of the things that’s been consistently revealed when I’ve interviewed young people is that, as a group, they seem to have this openness with their work - a very sharing culture. They say, “See what you can do with this. I’ll take your piece and see what I can do with it.”

See, now that gets them out of the box. Kids now are getting art much earlier. They are so good with computers

that some of them are excellent at combining graphic arts with the fine arts. But you know, the group of adults that I work with at the community center each Thursday, they have gone beyond what the books say about us old folk. They seem to be uninhibited. A lot of things I provide for them to do are things I enjoy—the texture, using mixed media. Believe it or not, I’m eighty, most are in their mid-seventies and the youngest is probably around fifty. Everything I ask them to try, they try. I’m very happy with them. How long have they been with you?

Some of them have been with me fifteen years. Most of them have been a minimum of seven or eight. I first started at the community center [Dorothy Hart] in the early ninties, and I am so pleased with what they do. We have an exhibit in the library every January. There are usually around 70 pieces of work from twenty-some artists. Many of your own pieces of artwork deal with the subject of faith. Would you talk about your inspiration for them?

Well, I’m a believer, and I have done several pieces called I Surrender . I will continue to make those. The best religious painting I think I’ve done was bought by the dean of Nyack College, and I wish I had that painting. It was Christ on the cross. Honestly, my son John Patrick said, “Dad, you shouldn’t have sold that painting.”

Then there are some religious themes in my paintings. One, called Faith, shows a mother praying. The faith she has goes down to the child, because the mother has faith in God and the child has faith in the mother. I painted it for a religious art festival at St. George’s [Episocopal Church] over forty years ago. Another, called The Gift, showed the birth of the Messiah. Two ministers out of Richmond bought that. I’d like to know how that’s fairing after forty years.


I’ll tell you where you can see some. I did some religious paintings, and I was doing something for a group at Christ Lutheran Church. Somebody passed away, and these paintings were found in his home. The person left enough money to frame them beautifully and they are in the vestibule over there. I was surprised and pleased, because I had no idea that they were going to do this. When you are painting these faith-based paintings, what do they evoke in you? What are you tapping into?

I have always had strong feelings. People at my church say I’m a cry-baby. I’m deeply moved by music. It could be sacred music, or it could be the blues. The feelings that I get when I do the religious paintings are based primarily on what I remember as a child seeing people and hearing people testify, hearing people thank the Lord for things that didn’t seem like they were supposed to happen, things that that they were surprised had happened. We only had a small church in Henderson, and we didn’t have a whole lot of song books, so people sang the songs that they knew. That’s what I heard all the time. All of the Black kids went to Henderson Institute, which was a boarding school started by white Presbyterians in 1891. Our building was an old library and chemistry lab. It’s on the National Historic Registry now. Our music teacher, Ms. Abbott, was from Julliard. She’s in her late eighties now, and I called her a few years ago and thanked her for bringing culture to our school.

I fell in love with spirituals at Virginia State College in Petersburg where we had a full choir. The music department was one of the best on the campus, and even though it was a state supported school, the program was rigorous. We couldn’t miss more than three practices of Sunday morning worship, or we’d get into trouble. I see musicians in many of the pieces you have hanging here at your studio. You seem to have connected with the spirit of music throughout your career.


Oh, yes. I’ve always liked jazz, especially after I entered college, and I love the blues, blues singers, trumpet players, guitar players, all of it. I have a painting that has never been shown in Fredericksburg called Soul Session. It’s inspired by the idea of the Second Line from down in New Orleans; they play the funerals and parades, celebrations. I had seen a Saturday morning documentary on New Orleans, but I had never been there, though I have been there since. I went to Preservation Hall jazz, and they wouldn’t allow me to use my sketch pad, but they said I could take photographs, which I couldn’t understand. The finished painting is about forty-five years old and heavy because I used masonite. I textured it with sand and sawdust. You notice there are some abstract parts to it, too, with the arms and the trumpet that’s missing parts. Going back to your Ms. Abbott, though, what a gift to have a teacher coming out of Julliard! That seems unusual to have a teacher train at a prestigious school and come back to teach at a small high school?

That’s what I couldn’t understand. A Black person finishing Julliard at that time, probably with a B.S. degree, could get a job teaching in a small college. She said that she wanted the experience of working with Black children.

We had some very good teachers in Henderson. In fact, the teacher that caused me to go into art—although there were no jobs available for art teachers in small Henderson —was my homeroom teacher, Mrs. Avent, who was a biology teacher from Greensboro. While everyone else was saying I wouldn’t be able to find a job, she told me, “You will not be happy doing anything else.” I said I wanted to be a good teacher and a good artist. I guess I was young and stupid. And you ended up better for it, right?

Right! Mrs. Avent, God rest her soul. She was right, because I enjoy painting as much now as I did forty years ago.

And not many can say that!

That’s right. I grew up with my mother who was a dropout from school. Her father died when she was fourteen and her mother died when she was ten, so she had to go to work. She was a Christian and taught me so much. Like the subjects who inspired your paintings of people?

She is the inspiration behind paintings like that. She would tell me sometimes, “You know, when I’m on the job,”—she was a domestic—“sometimes I just stop in the middle of doing something and just thank God for such and such.” Her sister, who was also a domestic, was working for very wealthy people in Greenwich, Connecticut and sent her some money when she thought things were dire. My dad worked the textile mills, but his checks were very minimal. During the war, my parents farmed us out to my mother’s brother, and that’s when I got my baptism of fire in terms of working. Getting up at five o’clock in the morning...flue cured tobacco. I bought my first bicycle, the only one I ever got, after I planted an acre of cotton for Uncle George. I learned to plow. I learned to prime tobacco. When you planted the tobacco, the first plowing you had to hoe it so when you plowed, the dirt wouldn’t get on it. On a given day, he couldn’t take my cousins and me, because you can’t have all those people in the row with the mule. It would be my time to go. I was short enough to stoop and grab. Hard labor!

Oh, yeah! Helen, my sister, and I went out to be kept by them for a little over two years. There was no more sleeping late in the summer time. We were, let’s see, I was born in ‘36, so when we went out there I was about seven or eight.

How do you think your experiences as a young person, working hard and living in an era of segregation, have influenced your work today?

I think it shows most in my social commentaries. I sense that we’re living in a time when there is a sentiment to restrict or do away with some of rights that we’ve had since the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. As an African American artist, I felt, not pressured, but obliged to paint some things that were social in nature. In terms of justice, early on a lot of my paintings were social in nature. In fact, when I would show my work, I would have a combination of social commentaries and sweet, sentimental things. As issues of equality began to get better, so to speak, I continued making social commentaries.

Grandfather’s Love, a piece I did in 2011, is one where I try to highlight African Americans that are not PhDs, but share a lot of wisdom with the younger generation. I never knew either one of my grandfathers, but the way I love my grandchildren, I’m sure they loved me; I sense that they did. Another called Sage Advice respresents that old man or woman in the community who might split two verbs in the same sentence, but still was a sweetheart and had a lot of wisdom, a lot of advice. I remember a lady in my hometown who called me over to her house when I was graduating from high school and said, “Now you just keep your hands in God’s hands,” and I think she gave me fifty cents because that’s all she had. She cared enough to want to do that. I try to highlight these figures through the symbolism in these types of paintings. I’m very sentimental. Subjects like that come up. What comes to mind when you are working on your abstract landscapes?

Oh, just a lot of fun. I deal with texture and color. So, walk me through the process.

Usually my abstracts are far from using the local color. You


are not going to find the same color in the environment; you might find some leaves in the fall, but that’s not going to be a typical landscape. They have the elements of color and texture, and often I have to do a number of refinements, because the color needs to be dispersed in a different way. Generally speaking, you can make a commentary with something abstract. It depends on how abstracted the subject is, the presentation of the visual statement. Some of my figure paintings have abstract elements. How do you know when it’s finished?

You would ask a question like that! You’re not supposed to ask that, Amy. Some of the paintings that I’ve done, I have taken them off the wall twenty years later and touch them up. I like all the texture in these.

I’m crazy about using texture. Why do you like texture, do you think?

I don’t know. Someone once said I should be a sculptor. Have you ever tried?

No more than the snow woman that was in the Free LanceStar about forty-five years ago. Then I was criticized for doing a naked woman. I didn’t want to mess it up by putting clothes on it. If you looked at it from the standpoint of being naked, there were no nipples, just a figure. Free Lance-Star shot it. The doctor up on the corner thought my anatomy was great, but a lot of people thought driving by that it was a bit much. That was your one attempt at sculpting?


And FLS shot it. That’s pretty good. Do you think this area is conservative that way about nude art?

No. Let me tell you what I think has happened. I’ll give you an example of some of the backlash. Several years ago the Women’s Club had an exhibit at the community center. 290

They’ve had that every year for a couple of decades. It was rather conservative in terms of what was chosen to be in the exhibit. Someone had a nude. It wasn’t anything erotic, just a well-done nude. When the man came to judge the show, that painting that was set aside. It won an award, but then some people wanted to ban nudes. Because of that, some artists never came back to the show. I can tell you this, there are so many more artists than there were when I first came here. You could count the practicing artists, not including the college, on two hands back then. I think you still have some people who are very conservative about art, but by in large, because of the influx of new people, it’s opened up a lot. You can go to LibertyTown and see nudes. Bill Harris does a lot of them. I don’t think people give him a whole lot of flak. Some of the people who were most conservative about such things have gone on to rest. You must have seen broad changes in the city as a longtime resident. What are some of the most profound in terms of social climate and art edcuation?

Well, when I first came here in the late sixties it was still segregated. I was asked to go to Mary Washington College by the powers that be to teach an art education course. You had art majors and some of them got their degrees in art, but they were also certified to teach. Jobs weren’t that easy because you had art in the high school, but you didn’t have anybody in the elementary school. In Fredericksburg you had art, and when I came here to teach art I had one high school art class at Walker Grant.

I taught students in the lower grades, but it was not in an organized way, only when there was some availability. Even at the high school, in order for me to teach the high school class the students had to go to another teacher for math and something else. Then I would go into the classroom of a teacher who said, “Well, Johnny, I always want you to come in and help give my children a hand.” So I would go in, bring some supplies, and teach. It was better than over in Spotsylvania at the time, where you might have had one art teacher going to three or four different schools.

Some people say when John F. Kennedy became president it did so much, culturally speaking, to raise the level of arts awareness, because it was important to him and his wife. I began to see more interest in the arts around the ‘70s. Today, Fredericksburg has grown population-wise. It’s nestled into two of the fastest growing counties in Virginia, Stafford and Spotsylvania. Today, you might have an art teacher only on certain days, but you have an art program, which is great progress. I judged the [school art] exhibit for Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Stafford, and I was blown away. The work that many of these children do is amazing—throughout Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania and King George—I mean it’s just outstanding. Some of them will go on to become art majors. Did your experiences as a teacher also inspire you to paint social commentary pieces after working in a segregated climate?

Yes, I’ll tell you. Even today, I think about the young people I have [in the past] and do mentor. I was recently reading about Fanny Lou Hammer in Mississippi during the’50s or ‘60s. She was a high school drop out, but her family—her mother had 20 children—lived on a plantation. Fanny Lou Hammer went in to exercise her right to vote and the man asked her to interpret something in the Mississippi constitution and then stamped denied on her application. So, you didn’t have any Blacks voting there. You had no Black election clerks in the South. The owner of the plantation where her family lived kicked her off. If you worked for somebody you couldn’t go against their will, so to speak. If you did, you had to do it secretly, and with this system the way it was, it was difficult for people to do this. These are the people I admire. My club at church is giving a Black History program, and many of the Black kids know very little about African American History. I have a young lady who is interested in drama, and she is going to portray Fanny Lou Hammer. Many of the kids today say, “Oh, I wouldn’t have done

that. I wouldn’t have drunk water out of a fountain for Colored people.” You would do that. You had to. So it sounds as if there were a number of influences for your social commentary pieces.

Yes, and in terms of social commentary, some of my paintings will be obvious, while some will be subtle in nature. I used to get criticism from some of the undergrad students at Howard University about not making my social commentaries very plain, and I said, “Well, why is it that you don’t want Black people to look at something and decide whether it has some meaning relative to the subject? Why can’t they do that rather than just have everything simple so that even a four or five year old can tell you what it means?” I like to raise the level for everybody. I like to make them think about it. Why did he do it that way? Usually in my pieces called Man’s Constant Struggle, I have to get somebody to model doing something, pulling something that looks physical, but the struggle is really with society or with unfair labor practices. My dad was the inspiration for these, because in the late 1940s he did not get the same amount of money working at the textile mill as his white counterpart did doing the same things. Yet, when he went to the supermarket he had to pay the same price that his white counterpart paid. You follow me? People work and they’re laboring, and just because it’s not obvious to the audience doesn’t mean it won’t reveal itself to them. I’m not going to bow to that thinking; I’m going to leave it just like I have it. I understand what the Howard students were saying, but I’ve never wanted to condescend to people. I believe they will get the message as it relates to them. Even if they didn’t finish high school. These students had skepticism. I did a painting called The Skeptics. I painted faces and tried to make them filled with skepticism. When I talked about them in presentations, I would say that skepticism can be very good. You don’t have to be gullible and accept everything that comes down 291

the pike, especially, for instance, with politicians who only come into Black neighborhoods during election years. You see? But if skepticism keeps you from taking on something that is very positive in the long run, it’s not so good. You encourage active dialogue with your audience with these social commentaries.

Always. I feel an obligation to have that dialogue. Here’s an example. I have a painting at home called I’ve Been There and I’m Tired. It’s inspired by the people who have done all the right things. They’ve got the education; they’ve got a job; they volunteer and do all these things, but they are still discriminated against, mainly because of their race. Then someone from, say, a civil rights organization comes through town and gives a spiel about what they ought to be doing, and they reply, “Man, I’ve been there and I’m tired.” Now, I figure that you do not do all that you can do until you are unable to do it. You can’t pay dues and have ten or fifteen years in good health and not commit yourself to helping someone else. That’s what I feel. I feel there’s a moral obligation to continue to help people until you take your dying breath. A lot of people feel that way. I was impressed by the lady shown recently who was 107 and she met Obama. She had on her apron and she was volunteering. She’s been doing it for years. A lot of people have told me, “Well Johnny, you’ve paid your dues.” I say, “No, your dues are not paid until you die, really.” I just believe that there is some good that people can be doing. Even if it’s getting on the phone and talking to someone who is shut in. Even if you can’t walk, you can talk to someone. People would be surprised how much that means, that another human being cares.

Have you found yourself wanting to paint more of these commentaries in today’s social and politcal climate?


It does make me very apprehensive. My grandchildren were probably brought up to love everybody and not be suspicious of people. Now I’m sensing that they might be correcting themselves when we discuss how we relate to everybody. The eldest one is twenty-three, next is twenty, two sixteen year-olds and one is eight years old. Certainly, the eight year-old is very happy with life and probably she hasn’t been taught to look out for certain people. This teaching of love, it’s part of our faith. I run into teenagers at church, and when we bring up the subject they say, “You mean to tell me I have to love everybody!” I say, “Yes, you should love based on what we believe,” but they say, “Mr. Johnson, is it all right to love somebody, but just not like them?” I say,”Yes.” I think most people are like that. Loving someone means something much broader than liking them. The late Mrs. Francis Armstrong said, “Johnny, I can’t understand you. You seem to care for everybody.” I said, “Well why not?” I just don’t believe in having luggage. If I hated white people, or Hispanic people or Jews, it means that I have to struggle every time I have to interact with people from those groups. That’s an added burden. Why can’t I just deal with these people the way I deal with others? You follow what I’m saying? Why can’t I make those decisions as I get to know the person? Besides music, faith, and social commentary, your paintings also seem to evoke familial bonds, like your paitings of grandfathers and mothers. From what you’ve mentioned of your own family, I would imagine you have a certain image or images in mind when you paint families.

I’ve always wanted to express something about family. I’m thinking about love, and I have included people and have tried to include imagines of mothers of all ethnicities in my work. I feel very sure that the same love the white mother gives , the Jewish mother, the Muslim mother, and so forth,

give to their babies. You can’t say this person loves better than that person based on their race, or that baby is something else. So, it’s rare that you don’t find something related to mother and child in things that I’ve sketched. You’re a prolific painter. You have a lot of work out there, and I know quite a few people who have your work hanging on their walls. It must be like sending your children out into the world.

What happens, after I’m gone, there’s not going to be a mad dash to get Johnny Johnson’s work because so many people have them. I’ve painted over 5,000 pieces. Someone once said, “Well, you charge less than a lot of artists.” First of all, I didn’t choose my customers, but I’ve always wanted to make sure Black people could purchase the work. I’ve come up with all kinds of ways over the years to give discounts to anyone who loves a painting, but can’t afford it. I’ve even given them away in extreme circumstances. Someone will say they love it and they can’t afford it, and I say, “Well, when did you get married? Ten years ago? Well, this is wedding present.”

I think your philosophy and my philosophy line up really well. FLAR is a not-for-profit venture and I host it Online free of charge to my audience. I love art and writing, always have, and I want to help people promote their work and have their voices heard.

A lady up in Reston once told Jean, “You know, he’s never going to have anything.”

frustrating when I don’t get the results that I like, but it’s a non-stressful type of frustration. You’ve had some health issues over the past couple of years that have made it difficult to work. That must have been so frustrating for someone who enjoys his work as you do.

Yes, back issues made it hard to work in 2013 and 2015. I was rushed to the hospital on Christmas Day of 2014 with a disc that was out of place. I didn’t want surgery, so I had an epidural at the hospital and spent seven or eight days at Health South for rehab. I had to rest it most of 2015 to get back into shape. Painting is hard on the back. How long of a period of time are you able to work now?

Typiclally, a few hours. I’ll go out to my studio in the morning and try straightening up and see what I want to do. I have a stack of things I’ve started that would probably take less than half an hour to complete, just small paintings. I don’t because of the logistics of pulling them out. Yesterday, I started putting things that are similar in size together, interesting little things, very colorful. Some can be social commentaires, and some just plain paintings I wanted to experiment with in terms of color. And now that you are on the mend, what’s next for you? I’m a featured artist in an exhibit at Art First in June (2016) called Homage to Okra & More. There will definitely be a few social commentaries in the show.

It depends on what you’re wanting to have, I suppose.

That’s right. Jean’s been very good about that. She knows how I am, though she does have a little bit of trouble understanding how I can get so much joy out of my abstract work. I started abstracts because I like to experiment with mediums and subjects and so forth. It’s just a lot of fun for me. You may say, “Well, you’re just a big overgrown immature boy,” but I have a lot of fun with my work. Jean thinks I’m working too hard, but I tell her it’s not stressful. It’s

Johnny P. Johnson Day was celebrated in the City of Fredericksburg on July 7, 2018. Galleries all over Fredericksburg showed Johnny’s work on loan from his appreciative patrons. Bill Harris painted a new mural on Sophia Street in honor of the man. Johnny and his family were in attendance at the events throughout the day.


Index of Artists

VAN ANDERSON I have lived in Virginia all my life and have been creating art since the early ‘70s in junior high and high school. I have continued training on my own and always thinking outside the box with my art. Page 272 AMANDA CARTER I am an artist in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and I am an active artist in the community having studio space at LibertyTown Arts Workshop. I enjoy opportunities to share my art both individually and with fellow artists. I consider myself an active art student always looking for ways to develop my skills. I love working with fabric and currently work on quilt tops using West African fabric scraps which I then mount on canvas frames. I have quilted for close to thirty years. Painting came more recently as I started drawing and painting when my children left for college and have not looked back. Pages 22 - 24 MARIEKEN COCHIUS is a Dutch-born artist who has lived and worked 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 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 Ann Street Gallery, Newburgh, NY; LAB Space,Hillsdale, NY; Sideshow Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Ube Gallery, Berkeley, CA; Brick Gallery, Catskill, NY. Pages 254 - 256 WILLIAM C. CRAWFORD is a photographer based in Winston-Salem, NC. He invented Forensic Foraging, a throwback, minimalist technique for modern digital photographers. Page 265 BARBARA DEAL Sixty eight years old and counting. So many chapters in nearly seven decades. Nearly a fatherless child, and reared by a family rife with distress, Barbara identifies as overly sensitive. Presenting in public with a thin veneer of success and humor, she grasps experience with zest and terror across her South. She has sat with struggle and melancholy in patients and friends, a witness to the glory and pummeling of humankind. She is every woman. Nobody gets out of here safe or alive. Pages 128-129 CHERYL EGGLESTON My formal education is in Graphic Design/Visual Communications. I am basically self-taught in painting with alkyd, as it was only briefly introduced in art school. After a short time in advertising, I realized I wanted to be free to do something different with my creative desire. I find my design skills valuable as a jumping off point in the composition of my works. Imagination and color composition round out the effort. Pages 232-237 SOPHIA FALCO I am a second year student at Foothill College. I have studied English and Spanish extensively, and will graduate this June. I will then transfer to the University of Santa Cruz this summer. I am an avid gardener and yogi, Page 156 SARAH HaBa is an artist and writer living in San Francisco. Pages 172-177 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, MN. She is active in the Twin Cities arts community through the exhibition of her work, the development and promotion of local arts organizations, and project collaborations with fellow local artists. She has served on the Board of Directors at Saint Paul Art Collective, as a Board Member at Altered Esthetics Gallery in Minneapolis, and as a mentor for the youth organization Free Arts Minnesota. Hendershot’s work is included in numerous individual private collections locally and nationally. She has received an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Pages 163, 169-170 ELLA HILSENRATH Ella Hilsenrath is a New York based artist. Her artwork often surrounds themes of dependency, nurture, illness, and grief. Pages 197-199


Index of Artists

JON BARLOW HUDSON Since beginning my career I have focused on large scale public sculpture projects. To date I have sculptures in 27 other countries, with 22 throughout China. Many projects are in stainless steel, painted steel, water, glass, light stone & bronze. My sculpture may be seen as iconic, or symbolic, often referencing a center. Most sculptures are abstract, a few figurative. Pages 152-153 MARY KAMERER is a Pittsburgh native living in Charlotte, North Carolina. After 30 years in various creatives endeavors which included photography and goldsmithing, Mary has been an impressionist oil painter for the last 10 years. Her subjects are as varied as the landscapes of North Carolina--from mountains to the shore, with some still lifes in between. Her style is light and texture-driven, with liberal use of the palette knife. A recent mixed-media series, “Finding Your Homestead”, focuses on our disappearing farms and the isolation of American farm life. You can see more of her work Online. Pages 126, 226, & 263 DONGKYU KIM Born and raised in South Korea, after achieving a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Fashion Design, I am working as a fashion designer in Korea, USA, China, and Mexico for nearly 20 years. Pages 220-224 MINNA LEE is currently studying Creative Writing at the University of Washington and is known as the lead vocalist/drummer for a Seattle punk band called Anime Creek. Pages 192-193 VLADIMIR MARCU is a visual artist who lives in Canada and works with a variety of media, primarily acrylic and oil paints. He is interested in the human figure because it offers an easily recognizable template and his work aims to explore the variety and intensity of human emotions. Through the manipulation of geometrical planes of the human face, Marcu can communicate directly with the viewer, while using color and tone to emphasize the experience. Pages 150-151 KERRY MCALEER-KEELER’S work is in such collections as the Smithsonian’s American Art and National Portrait Gallery Library, Washington, DC, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections, Washington, DC, National Museum of Women In the Arts, Washington, DC, George Washington University, Washington, DC, Stafford Hospital Center, Stafford, VA, St. Mary’s College, St. Mary’s, MD, George Mason University, Fenwick Library, Fairfax, VA, Vanderbilt University, Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Nashville, TN, Jaffe Center for Book Arts, Florida Atlantic University Libraries, Wimberly Library, Boca Raton, FL and the Southern Graphics Council Archives. Her work has been selected for individual, group, and juried exhibitions nationally and internationally. She currently serves on the Board for the College Book Art Association. Her personal studio is part of the LibertyTown Arts Workshop in Fredericksburg, VA. She has taught printmaking and book arts at the Corcoran since 1998 and served as Program Head of the MA, Art and the Book graduate program from 2009 to 2016. Pages 240-245 KERRY MOLINA is an artist, writer, teacher and tutor through her business Yellow Brick Road Studio & Enrichment Workshops in Gainesville, VA. She believes that we all have gifts inside us—we just need opportunities to use them. She teaches classes to adults and to kids, giving them chances to find and bring out their creativity and other passions. Find out more about her and her endeavors at Pages 102-103 MARTHA NANCE is a physician in Minnesota who tries to find beauty in small or unexpected places. Pages 186-187 SAEED ORDOUBADI is retired Economist and Statistician. An amateur Photographer and pretending artist, he enjoys travel, painting and sketching, and capturing the images that resonate with him. Pages 64-65, 73 SILAS PLUM Through assemblages of defunct currency, discarded photographs, and long-forgotten illustrations, Silas Plum challenges the idea of objective vs subjective value. He believes strongly in the tired old maxim that the true value of an object is more than the sum of its parts, that the gut is a truth-teller, and that the Aristotelian notion of learning-by-doing is the best teacher around. Judge his worth at Page 252, 255


Index of Artists

DENISE RENTCH I work as a gardener. Everyday I find intimacy with nature. Working close to the ground, in shrubs, planting and even sometimes climbing trees, I see creatures of all kinds and am able to notice tiny, obscure details in anything of the natural world. It fascinates me and give me joy. Page 180 BRIENNA THOMPSON I am a self-taught photographer impassioned by the peculiar. My work explores the connection between Jungian archetypes and our deepest selves. Currently, located in Fredericksburg, VA, I gravitate toward abandoned places, landscapes, and compelling perspectives. Throughout my travels, I have learned to recognize the value of when to shoot in black & white, in addition to intensely colorful photography. Drawing from the brilliance of Ansel Adams, and Jay Maisel, I shoot with one lens in natural light to focus on the intricacies I see all around me. I try to capture the unusual in a way that fascinates, recognizing that even the smallest detail can have an unrelenting divergence of meaning. Pages 46-47 JIM WILLIAMS is a local software test engineer who spends most of his spare time taking photos of musicians. He also occasionally drops in on and sings at open mics. Page 42, 203-205 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 90-91 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 210-215


Index of Writers

DIMITRIOS 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. Page 181 GREGORY ASHE I am a father of three, husband to one, consumer protection lawyer, and observer of life. When not protecting consumers, I enjoy camping, reading, listening to music, and competing in marathons, ultramarathons, and triathlons. I live with my family in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Meanwhile, my poetry has been featured in Fredericksburg Literary & Art Review and Penultimate Peanut. Pre-orders for Explorations (available October 2018) have begun. Finishing Line Press is a small micropress and my first run printing is dependent on pre-orders. The poems are reflections and observations on nature and life. Bookended by the poems “Rotunda Dreams” and “Appalachian Dawn,” the poem “Western Explorations” is a series of poemettes in which the author’s journey through several National Parks in the American West parallels a spiritual journey of the soul. Pre-order at Pages 268-269 HEATHER BARTLETT I am a graduate of UC Santa Barbara’s College of Creative Studies program in creative writing. I am currently writing about the five years I spent working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in the San Francisco Bay Area. I now work with students at a graduate school in Berkeley where I live with my husband and two rambunctious rescue pups. Pages 80-81, 128-130 KAYLA BRANSTETTER I am a high school English teacher for Purdy High School in Purdy, Missouri, writer, and graduate student of the Master of Liberal Studies in Art, Literature, and Culture program at University of Denver. My writing and photography has been published in Ozark Hills and Hollows, a regional magazine focusing on local culture. In the past, my poetry has been published in bordertown, a literary journal for Missouri Southern State University. My art collection, Silent Spring Awakens, will be published in The Esthetic Apostle in May of 2018. I live in Purdy, Missouri with my husband, Chris, and daughter, Berlin. Page 186 LISA BRAXTON I earned my MFA in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University and am former president of the Women’s National Book Association Boston chapter. My stories and essays have been published in anthologies, magazines, and literary journals, including Vermont Literary Review, Clockhouse Review, Northwestern University Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and The Book of Hope. I received Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest magazine’s 86th annual writing contest in the inspirational essay category. Page 196 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. She is interested in mathematical forms in arts, in writing and creating art objects on formal language and literary restrictions. Pages 190-191 HEATH BROUGHER is the co-poetry editor of Into the Void Magazine, winner of the 2017 Saboteur Award for Best Magazine. He is a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Nominee. He published three chapbooks in 2016, two full-length collections About Consciousness (Alien Buddha Press, 2017) and To Burn in Torturous Algorithms (Weasel Press, 2018), and has three full-length collections forthcoming. He edited the anthology Luminous Echoes, the proceeds of which are donated to help with the prevention of suicide/self harm. He was the judge of Into the Void Magazine’s 2016 Inaugural Poetry Competition and his work has been translated into journals and anthologies in Albania and Kosovo. His work has also appeared in Taj Mahal Review, Chiron Review, MiPOesias, Main Street Rag, SLAB, Inscape Literary Journal, Riprap, and elsewhere. Page 188 JAKE BUCKHOLZ works on a cricket farm in Austin, Texas. His work has previously appeared in Allegory Ridge, Sybil Journal, Drunk Monkey, and The Bitchin’ Kitsch. Page 157 MANDY CHEN A young writer living in Shenzhen, China, my interests including reading and practicing Kung Fu. Pages 54-58 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) and recently published her first collection of poetry Something Yet to Be Named (Aldrich Press, 2017). Kersten is the poetry editor of the quarterly journal, Alaska Women Speak. Page 70 LINDSAY A. CHUDZIK received her MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. Lindsay’s short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Ghost Town, Haunted Waters Press, and Pembroke Magazine, among others. Her creative nonfiction has been anthologized and her short story, “Check Yes If You Like Us,” was a finalist for the 2015 Dogwood Prize. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Writing at VCU, a recent recipient of a Gulf-South Summit Award for excellence in community engaged teaching, and spends her free time brainstorming creative ways to work Courtney Love and Kathleen Hanna into her syllabi. Pages 276-279

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Index of Writers

DOUGLAS COLE has published four collections of poetry. His work is in anthologies and also appears or is forthcoming in journals such as The Chicago Quarterly Review, Owen Wister Review, Chiron, The Galway Review, and Slipstream. He has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net, and has received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry; the Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House; First Prize in the “Picture Worth 500 Words” from Tattoo Highway. Page 25 JENNEFER YORK COLE born and raised on the Eastern Shore of the US, I now live and work in Paris, France. I try to use a mix of my lives in the States and France and express the voice of women and their daily battles in today’s world. I have previously published works in The Broadkill Review, Delaware DE. Page 112 TODD CONNELLEY This story in this issue is the first chapter of a novel in progress. I got the idea in a flash after visiting Marfa then set about writing. I have a rough draft in the works but you know how that goes. Rough. Wish me luck. My stories have appeared in American Literary Review, Other Voices and Levitate. AND Twitter @tconn. Pages 162-164 ROB COOK lives in New York City’s East Village. He is the author of six collections, including Asking my Liver for Forgiveness (Rain Mountain Press, 2015), Undermining of the Democratic Club (Spuyten Duyvil, 2014), Blueprints for a Genocide (Spuyten Duyvil, 2012) and Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade (Bitter Oleander Press, 2013). His recently re-released Last Window in the Punk Hotel was a Julie Suk Award finalist. Work has appeared in Asheville Poetry Review, Caliban, Fence, A cappella Zoo, Zoland Poetry, Tampa Review, Minnesota Review, Aufgabe, Caketrain, Many Mountains Moving, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Colorado Review, Bomb (Online), Sugar House Review, Mudfish, Pleiades, Versal, Weave, Wisconsin Review, Ur Vox, Heavy Feather Review, Phantom Drift, Osiris, etc. Page 102 SUZANNE COTTRELL, an Ohio buckeye by birth, lives with her husband and three rescue dogs in rural Piedmont North Carolina. An outdoor enthusiast and retired teacher, she enjoys reading, hiking, Pilates, and yoga. She loves nature and its sensory stimuli and particularly enjoys writing and experimenting with poetry and flash fiction. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including North Carolina’s Best Emerging Poets, Avocet, Plum Tree Tavern, Poetry Quarterly, Naturewriting, and Burningword Literary Journal. Pages 88-89 RAY CRAFTON is a disciple of the disgraced American poet, Burma Shave, and does not live in Fredericksburg. Page 148 WILLIAM C. CRAWFORD is a writer & photographer based in Winston-Salem, NC. He travels America Foraging for images and story lines to combine into Flash Photo, an emerging literary motif. Page 26 MELISSA CRICKARD 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, 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. Pages 48-49 SAIGE CROSS is a writer living in Oklahoma City. His fiction has appeared in Fiction Southeast, GFT Press, Bridge, and The Paragon Press, among others. Page 41 KACY CUNNINGHAM is a recent graduate of the MFA program at San Francisco State University. Her stories have appeared in Euphony, Transfer, and PANK, among others. She currently lives in Boston. Page 76 JACINTA DAS I am studying biology and psychology at Northern Virginia Community College. I work as a mathematics lecture assistant and babysitter. In my spare time, I blog, read, and write. Page 103 M.C. DANZINGER just graduated with a B.A. in Japanese Language and Literature from the University of Alberta. They tutor high school English and work at a board game cafe. Page 30 KIMBERLY PARISH DAVIS I hold an MFA in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, and a BA from Columbia College-Chicago in Arts and Entertainment Media Management. I spent five years on the editorial staff of Texas Review Press, with two of those as acting director. I am currently the Production Manager at Goliad Review and Press, and the Director at Madville Publishing. I write fiction, nonfiction, and very occasionally, poetry. Page 195


Index of Writers

SUSANNE DAVIS I am the author of The Appointed Hour, recently released from University of Wisconsin’s Cornerstone Press. I teach creative writing at Trinity College and the University of Connecticut and I hold an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. My novel Gravity Hill is agent represented and out on submission. My short stories have been published in American Short Fiction, Notre Dame Review, descant, St. Petersburg Review, Zone 3, Carve and numerous others and have won awards and recognition. Pages 32-33 M.S. DEAN is a writer and a student. He has been writing poetry since he discovered the art in early 2017. Still in College, Dean has had multiple pieces published in his school’s creative arts journal. Currently, Dean is working towards becoming a counselor. He plans to focus on assisting ex convicts in their efforts to re-enter the society. His goal is to one day help lower recidivism rates by working with legislators towards legitimate prison reform. In his spare time, Dean writes poetry as it comes to him. M.S. Dean resides in Austin, Minnesota. Page 194 ROSANNE EHRLICH My novel, Attack, was published in 1980 by Ballantine Books under the pen name Collis Ehrlich. A poem, “The Raspberry Frango,” was published by the poetry anthology Barbeque Planet. I have written several television documentaries for The Great Ships series on The History Channel and “The Electric Earth” for the National Geographic channel. Recently my short piece, “Another Disney Fan Bites the Dust,” was published in Persimmon Tree and a second short piece, “The Dap” has been published in Panoplyzine. Page 284 JESS EPSTEIN A fifth-generation Pacific Northwesterner, Jess Epstein now lives in Atlanta with her family. She has degrees in English Literature and Library Science and works as an academic librarian. She is at work on her first novel. Pages 154-155 OMAR ESPARZA was born in Houston, TX. He earned a degree in philosophy at St. John’s College. He has won the Social Justice Contest in Issue #19 of Hot Metal Bridge, a publication sponsored by the University of Pittsburg, and has also been published in Issue #1 of Open Journal of Arts and Letters. He is currently an American History and Literature lecturer in Phoenix, Arizona and is working on his second novel, Paratexts. Page 178 MELANIE FAITH is an English professor, tutor, auntie, and photographer. She sometimes teaches online with a mug of tea and chocolate at the ready. She loves visiting the Butterfly Palace with her darling nieces. This spring, she’s teaching a dream class she created: photography for writers. Recent publications include a poetry collection, This Passing Fever (FutureCycle Press, September 2017), and two forthcoming craft books for writers called In a Flash and Poetry Power (both from Vine Leaves Press, 2018). Read more about her writing, photography, and publications online at Page 59 SARAH FOWLER holds a BA in International Relations from Richmond International University in London. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works at a publishing company in Manhattan. She writes poetry, fiction, and political commentary. Pages 214-215 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 285 MANDA FREDERICK hold an M.F.A in Creative Nonfiction from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers, and recently completed an MA in Literary Studies from Western Washington University. She has published nonfiction in the White Whale Review and Switchback magazine. Her essay “The Saw Tooth” was a finalist published for Adventum Magazine’s 2011 Ridge to River contest, and her essay “Relative Effort” was a finalist in the 2011 Press 53 Open Award for creative nonfiction. Her poems have appeared in: The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Wayne State UP, 2013), The Cancer Poetry Project, Sierra Nevada Review, Muse & Stone, Love Notes: An Anthology of Romantic Poetry (Vagabondage Press, 2012), Press 53 Open Awards Anthology (Press 53, 2011), Iron Horse Literary Review, and Stirring. She was the winner of the 2011 Press 53 Open Award for poetry, with three of her poems published in the winners’ anthology. Pages 140-141 SUSAN BETH FURST is a poet and author. She loves writing haiku, senryu, and especially haibun. Her poems have been published Online and in print. Her haibun, “57,” was chosen to appear in old song: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2017. Susan’s first haiku collection, souvenir shop: memories of the highland park zoo, published by buddha baby press, will be released in July 2018. Susan lives in Virginia with her husband Herb and a canary named Mozart. Page 97 MICHAEL E.C. GERY I am a freelance writer and editor, most recently employed for 24 years as editor of the monthly magazine Carolina Country. Now I concentrate on writing fiction. See more at Pages 266-267


Index of Writers

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 San Francisco, California. Page 131 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 62 JESSICA GRANGER received her MFA from The University of Texas El Paso. She is an Army veteran, divemaster, and mother to a band of misfits. Her work can be found in Ruminate, The Molotov Cocktail Magazine, and TheNewVerse.News. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, a soldier who has just surpassed 21 years of service. Page 169 SARA HaBa is an artist and writer living in San Francisco. Pages 171, 175 JACK D. HARVEY’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, The Antioch Review, The University of Texas Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal and a number of other on-line and in print poetry magazines over the years. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the ensuing years has been published in a few anthologies. The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, N.Y. He was born and worked in upstate New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired. Page 149 J.W. HEACOCK just completed his Masters in English at Belmont University with a thesis entitled “Life, Death, and Other Quantum Entanglements.” A combat veteran with two tours in Iraq, he recently ended a twenty-year legal career to focus on writing. He received the Belmont English Department Graduate Writing Award for 2014-15, was a finalist for the Iowa Review 2016 Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for his story “December Sand,” and has been a finalist for the Big Bend National Park Artist-in-Residence in 2016 and the Gettysburg National Military Park Artist-in-Residence for 2017 and 2018. He has attended the Rivendell Writer’s Colony Retreat, had an essay published in The Tennessean, has presented several non-fiction stories as part of Tennx9-Nashville storytellers program, and was a featured poet at the Lyrical Brew series in May 2017 and the featured writer at East Side Storytelling #127 in April 2018. Pages 103, 110-111 MELISSA HEIDRICK lives on a farm near Dallas, Texas. She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas at Austin, and a J.D. from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. She meets weekly with a local writing group, participates in SMU’s: The Writer’s Path, and is currently working on a fantasy novel. Pages 28-29 SVEN HEUCHERT Born 1977 in a small town in West Germany into a blue collar family. Odd jobs since 1994. First short story “Zinn 40” written while in highschool. Then love, travel, small defeats, big defeats. Two collections of stories. His first novel, Dunkels Gesetz, Germany’s first country noir, was published in 2017 and received the Bellmer Price for debut novels. Page 262 TODD HOPKINS lives and writes in Ottawa, Canada. His poetry has appeared in numerous Canadian literary magazines, including ARC Poetry Magazine, The Antogonish Review, The Glebe Report and stonestone. In collaboration with jazz drummer Matthias Von Imhoff, Todd has also produced two spoken word albums for Spool Records. Pages 31, 50 DAVID JOSHEPH’s writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, Doubletake Magazine, Rattle, and a fiction piece is forthcoming in The London Magazine. A recipient of the John Henry Hobart Fellowship for Ethics and Social Justice, he spent the past two decades as an educator and nonprofit executive in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of Hobart College and the University of Southern California’s Graduate Writing Program. At USC, he served as an Editor for the Southern California Anthology and was a recipient of the Kerr Fellowship. He has taught at Pepperdine University and at Harvard, where he was awarded a Derek Bok Award for Distinction in Teaching. He currently lives in San Roque, Spain with his wife Karen and their sons Jackson and Cassius. Pages 86-87 SCOTT KARAMBIS went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop a long time ago. There, he won a Teaching/Writing Fellowship and a Michener grant. Since then, he’s mainly worked in advertising with some teaching on the side. This story is inspired by his working life. His fiction has appeared in GQ, The Quarterly, The Beloit Fiction Journal and is forthcoming in Storyquarterly. He lives North of Boston with his family. Page 179


Index of Writers

BONNIE KENNEDY won the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers 2016 competition for best undergraduate poetry and presented her poem at their Conference in San Antonio. She has also presented her work at the Angelo State University Writer’s Conference and at the Langdon Review Week-end Conference in Granbury, TX in 2017. Ms. Kennedy lives in San Angelo, Texas. Her work has been published in Voices de la Luna, Writing Texas, Red River Review, Cold Creek Review, Visions with Voices, Dragon Poet Review and Amarillo Bay. Page 102 ROBERT KEELIN Robert, who grew up in Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia, relocated to Fredericksburg, Virginia in 2015. In addition to being a life-long avid reader, he is an accomplished singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His first CD of original songs, “Going Places,” was released in 2017. He’s nearing completion of his second CD, which is scheduled for release in late August/early September 2018. Robert’s website is Page 280 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 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. Page 31 ROCHELLE LOREN is a published poet, freelance writer, aspiring author living in Richmond, VA; she grew up in rural Hanover near Spotsylvania and studied Journalism / Mass Comm at VCU. She now works full time in the wellness industry. She has a passion for writing about important environmental and societal issues, and her themes include philosophy, sociology, and spirituality. Page 281 MOISES MALDONADO I recently reignited my writing passion. Aside of writing I love reading, cooking and learning to code. Page 181 ANDA MARCU is a visual artist with a deep love for the written word. Her projects include works in film photography, mixed media, short stories, and poetry. Page 207 CHRISTIE MARRA is a native New Yorker who once dreamed of writing for the NY Times but somehow ended up working as a legal aid lawyer in Richmond, VA. Although she cares deeply about social justice and loves her day job, writing has always been her passion. She returned to it once her two children left home to pursue their own dreams. Both children are following some of Christie’s footsteps, as her daughter studies English and writes poetry at Temple and her son is about to begin graduate studies in urban planning. Christie recently started pole dancing and spends a fair amount of her evenings hanging upside down on the pole. Pages 158-159 CHRIS MCNALLY’s first book of narrative poetry, FRAGMENTS OF AN AMERICA, was published by Eye of the Falcon Press in 2016. In 2012, he completed a long form essay entitled “Principles for a Profound Leadership” about the concurrent influences of Dr. King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X and John Kennedy on our country. He was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1960, and currently resides in New York City. Pages 70-81 ZOE NELMS is a seventeen year-old author and playwright. She has been previously published on Hypernova, Ellipsis, ParallelInk, and Paradox Magazine. Her dramatic work has been performed in the Writopia Lab Worldwide Plays Festival twice. She is currently writing her musical BFF for production in the Fall of 2018. Pages 53-55 BRYAN DAMIEN NICHOLS was born in Houma, Louisiana, on August 30, 1978. He earned a B.A., summa cum laude, in Philosophy from Baylor University, and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. He has practiced law both in Houston and in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Bryan currently lives in Los Fresnos, Texas, with his loving wife, Michelle. Bryan is best known for the poetry he writes through his two heteronyms: (1) Kjell Nykvist; and (2) Alexander Shacklebury. These two heteronyms were featured in Bryan’s debut poetry collection, Whispers From Within (Sarah Book Publishing, 2015). His writing has appeared in a variety of literary journals, including Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Writers of the Rio Grande, Trinacria, Jellyfish Whispers, The Deronda Review, The Writing Disorder, and Asinine Poetry, among many others. Page 63 HOPE NISLY is an academic librarian and a writer living in Reedley, California. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in DreamSeeker Magazine, Journal of Mennonite Writing, Mojave River Review, Esthetic Apostle, and others. Her stories have aired on Valley Writers Read, a program of the local NPR-affiliate station.. Pages 258-260


Index of Writers

ALISON O’CONNOR I am a poet and performer in the Chicago area, and a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a BA in poetry. Page 181 S. VOLLIE OSBORN is trying his best and often coming up short, though he maintains a pretty optimistic view about the whole affair. He has accidentally stumbled upon enough rare birds to gain an appreciation for those who appreciate them. He sailed across Bass Strait one time and saw many stars and the waves were glowing bright blue. He often tells people he’s taller than he is. One day he will be. He looks good in pearls. Pages 92-95 AILEY O’TOOLE is a 22 year old bartender and writer who writes about feminism, empathy, and pain. Her work has previously appeared in The Odyssey, The Broke Bohemian, and After the Pause. She hopes everyone who reads her poems can find a piece of themselves in them and feels a little less alone in their struggle. Page 257 MARY PANKE is an emerging poet and Pushcart Prize nominee with work published or forthcoming in several journals including Word Fountain, Poetry City, USA and Whale Road Review. She lives near Hartford, Connecticut with her family. Page 61 SAM PAUL is a Brooklyn-based writer, a graduate of The New School, and a student at New York University. She has been a bubble tea barista, ice cream shop girl, bookkeeper, personal assistant, bike messenger, and farmhand. She currently works at the Remarque Institute in New York. Page 130 DREW PISARRA As one half of the conceptual art duo Saint Flashlight, Drew Pisarra has been focused on getting poetry in unexpected public spaces. Recent projects include a seven-month takeover of a Brooklyn movie marquee with film-based haiku and a “lost poem” phone tree sponsored by the O, Miami Poetry Festival. Page 59 TIMOTHY 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, Tim 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, of which his included piece, Bad Hair Day, is featured in this publication; Buggy, A Fictional Account of Generational Family Abuse; and Afternoon Tomatoes, Accessible Poetry, a collection of reader-friendly, easy to read poems. Pages 252-253 WILLIAM RILEY is from central Florida and says he is fairly new at this poetry thing. Page 176 ROBYN ROBERTS Poetry, in my mind, needs an escape, and I find motivation in all aspects of life. Freeing the words into a poem is a bit like painting; the image emerges in stages, and at last the portrait is complete; the last sentence a final brush stroke. Inspiration comes from all areas of life. My farm provides material each day. Caring for animals provides great material. Page 59 BODIE RYAN (BO’D) Just a dude, just a cat, just some tunes and just his poems. Page 261 DAVID ANTHONY SAM Born in Pennsylvania, David Anthony Sam is the proud grandson of peasant immigrants from Poland and Syria. He lives now in Virginia with his wife and life partner, Linda, and in 2017 retired as president of Germanna Community College. Sam has four collections and was the featured poet in the Spring 2016 issue of The Hurricane Review and the Winter 2017 issue of Light: A Journal of Photography and Poetry. His poetry has appeared in over 80 journals and publications. Sam’s chapbook Finite to Fail: Poems after Dickinson was the 2016 Grand Prize winner of GFT Press Chapbook Contest and his collection All Night over Bones received an Honorable Mention for the 2016 Homebound Poetry Prize. In 2017, he began serving as Poetry Editor for GFT. In 2017, his poems were accepted by 50 Haikus; Aji Magazine; Allegro Poetry Magazine; Burningword Literary Journal; Chantwood Magazine; The Deadly Writers Patrol; Dual Coast Magazine; Foliate Oak Literary Magazine; Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review; GFT Press One in Four; Glass: A Journal of Poetry; Gravel: A Literary Journal; Heron Tree; The Hungry Chimera; Into the Void Magazine; Inwood Indiana; Literature Today; The Muse: An International Journal of Poetry; The Mystic Blue Review; Piedmont Virginian Magazine; Poetry Quarterly; The Ravens Perch; Red Earth Review; The Sea Letter; Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine; Summerset Review; Temenos Journal; Three Line Poetry; Two Cities Review; The Voices Project; The Wayfarer; and The Write Place at the Write Time. Page 147


Index of Writers

ELIZABETH SCHNEIDER is a current resident of Northern Virginia and a fairly recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Elizabeth is an occasional writer and an avid reader. Page 221 MADISON SEAVER is a transgender lesbian who entered the gravity well of Fredericksburg in 2000, got a bachelor’s degree from UMW in 2015, and continues to discover new ways to confuse and frighten strangers. She’s not sure what’s holding up her chapbook, either. MARY SINGER is a writer, teacher, and amateur apiarist in Austin, Texas. Pages 234-235 MELANIE SMITH is a writing instructor at Boston University, an intrepid hiker, and experienced bread-baker. She is currently enrolled in a yearlong memoir incubator at Boston’s GrubStreet, one of the nation’s leading creative writing centers. Pages 200-202 AMY SOSCIA earned her MFA in Writing from Albertus Magnus College. She has been published in Chicken Soup For The Soul: Recovering From Brain Injuries, 898 (literary journal), The Westie Imprint, Down In The Dirt Magazine, and One Hundred Voices Vol. II. She received an honorable mention in the 2015 Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Contest for her short story “Driven To Distraction.” Amy is currently working on her first novel entitled The Frozen Game. Visit her Online at Page 165 PAMELA STEMBERG’s memoir has appeared on the website, This Great Society. She has an MFA in creative non-fiction from CCNY and she currently teaches English Composition at several CUNY schools. Page 77 MADELEINE STEVENS is a PhD student in political science at the University of Chicago studying political violence. She has previously been published in The Haberdasher. Page 31 FRANK TAVARES is the author of The Man Who Built Boxes: and other stories, (Bacon Press Books, 2013). If you’re an NPR listener, then you already know Frank. For many years, he was called “The Most Heard Voice” on public radio. Until the winter of 2014, listeners across the country heard him dozens of times a day as the man who said, “Support for NPR comes from NPR member stations and from...,” then announcing the funding credits after every national news and information program. Frank has been writing his entire professional life. He started publishing fiction in the 2000s, and his short stories have appeared in a variety of literary journals including Louisiana Literature, Connecticut Review, Story Quarterly, The GW Review, and The Seventh Wave. Most recently he was Professor of Organizational Communication at Southern Connecticut State University. He was also one of the founding editors and a member of the editorial board of The Journal of Radio and Audio Media. He now lives in Florida, where you can find him most mornings writing before dawn. Pages 98-99 MATTHEW WADE THOMAS I live in Sparks, NV, graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno and am now retired. Page 72 GUY THORVALDSEN’s poetry has appeared in, among others, Alligator Juniper, Forge, Gulfstream, Magma 69, Zone 3, and Poet Lore. His first full-length book, Going to Miss Myself When I’m Gone came out in October 2017 through Aldrich Press. He received his MFA from Vermont College and teaches writing at Madison College in Madison, Wisconsin. When he’s not writing, Thorvaldsen is also a journeyman carpenter, husband, father, and contributing poet/essayist for community radio. Page 113 JIM TRAINER Singer-songwriter, journalist, and curator of Going For The Throat—a weekly publication of cynicism, outrage, correspondence and romance. Jim Trainer publishes one collection of poetry and prose every year through Yellow Lark Press. Please visit for Take To The Territory, his latest collection, and for music, film and appearances. Page 146 LUCINDA TREW lives and writes in North Carolina. She holds English and Journalism degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an award-winning speech writer but enjoys writing in her own voice and telling her own stories as well. Pages 264-256 E.R. TUCKER is an educator who lives in Maryland. They have a B.A. in English and creative writing from University of Maryland, College Park and a J.D. with a focus in public interest law from the University of California - Los Angeles School of Law. Their fiction is forthcoming in the summer 2018 edition of the Little Patuxent Review. Page 160


Index of Writers

IVIE van LENT has no credentials, other than an AA in Creative Writing. She lives in Alaska, where she sells books for the man, and writes poetry for herself. She has a beautiful dream that someone somewhere will respond to her writing. Page 27 JENNA VILLFORTH VEAZEY is a member of the Water Street Writers and the author of a chapbook of poetry, The Rise of Jennifer. She has been published in Belle Grace Magazine as well as previous issues of FLAR. Page 177 THEA VERDAK is British/German and lives in Virginia. She writes minimalist poetry about nature and the way we are connected to it. 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 travelled, walks while listening to language tapes, and reads profusely. Page 206 REBECCA WALLING was born in Los Angeles and currently lives in Iowa City, IA where she recently completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa. She has a thing about large bodies of water and moonlight, but will never be completely honest about the amount of trespassing she has undertaken to enjoy both at the same time. You can find more of her work at Pages 249-250 JOHN WARNER I am a program analyst nearing retirement who writes short and long fiction and poetry. I have lived in Fredericksburg since 2006, currently with my wife, a dog and a cat. Page 189 BRUCE ARLEN WASSERMAN assembled his first poetry manuscript at the age of seventeen and later farmed and worked as a blacksmith in his twenties. He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His poem, “The Wet on Milan Street,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His poem, “Elegy for My Father,” appears in the Proverse Poetry Prize Anthology, 2017, and his short story, “The Almost Living,” was selected as a semi-finalist for the 2017 Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers. Bruce is 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, he creates visual art as a potter, performs as a musician in a band, trains horses on occasion and is a dentist in clinical practice. Pages 78-79 GARY WAUGH I am a 63-year-old native of Raccoon Ford, Virginia. I recently retired after more than 30 years in the public relations profession, all spent in Richmond, Virginia. Upon retirement I began writing poetry and short stories after a 40-year hiatus. Page 96 JAN WILBERG is a community activist and writer living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her essays have been published in Newsweek, The New York Times, and two anthologies. Visit her at her blog Page 273 ANNA ZETLIN I am a former attorney who has taught writing and currently teaches math to disadvantaged adults. I live in New York City and hone my craft by attending writing courses and workshops. I am an emerging writer with no previous publications. Pages 182-185


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