MAY 2013 ISSUE #1
the black rabbit
ISSUE 1. CONTENTS
dedication 5 staff editorial 8 poetry 14 memoir 25 fiction 41 where you are. now, 56 spoken word. 71 art. 76
THEBLACKRABBIT.US FACEBOOK.COM/THEBLACKRABBITMAGAZINE THEBLACKRABBITSUBMISSIONS@GMAIL.COM
ISSUE 1. TBR CREATIVE TEAM
Amy Bush & Cory Rice CSUS, CUNY
Art Section Submissions Manager
Cheyanne Barba CSUS
In House Illustrator
Jennifer Mones The Art Center
Film Feature Writer & Film Submissions Manager
Jordon Briggs CSUS
Skyler Brown Cal Arts
A LETTER TO
kathy acker. Dear Kathy, What do you look like? Some of us know. We watched you through a camera. Through a link. Through time. You were speaking. Words sliding around your cheeks. But we can’t see you here. On paper. None of us have a photograph of you. We never knew you except for now. And now. Where are you Kathy? There are brave words like yours that rage in our mouths. You’re on our skin. Blood throbbing through our fingers. Wanting. We want to look at you. Your face. Your back. Your hands. Belong to a copyright. So I am telling them this. Do this, pretty reader. Lay these words on your tongue. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Until your skin is on fire. Flip the page. Run your fingers across the box. Hear a woman catch honey words on her throat with tar syrup. Saying, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, too. But we can’t look at her. Not on here. Not on paper. Somewhere, on the Internet, she’s waiting there. On a bike, her chin tilted a bit to the left. Tattoo across her shoulder. That moment in time somebody can buy. Somebody can make you give them money for that. Money. Where are your hands? What is currency, Kathy? What currency do you speak in? Kathy, it makes me sick to tell my readers to go on the Internet. To type “Kathy Acker” in the Google Search bar under Images. To see what you look like. That you’re trapped there. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to tell them to look in the box. To close their eyes. Part their lips a little. Really breathe. Let their muscles go lax. Then say soft secrets. To scream the loud ones in words that have been tearing through their flesh. To claim with their own selves what you have given me. Courage. Burning hot down my elbows. Circling my knees. I will tell them this: Reader, press your fingers to the box. Run your thumb across the page. Cry on it. Rip it apart. Scream at it. Tremble against it. Let your eyes drop. This is a box. In this box, there is one of the most beautiful women in the world telling you this. Dig deeper. Life is beautiful. I will tell my readers this: When you are feeling little, put Kathy’s name in your mouth. Your mouth will light on fire. Your breath become a dedication. Your bones will become big. With Kathy, you can no longer feel small. Kathy, your name caught in my throat. You’ve bled my mouth dry ever since. SINCERELY, AMY BUSH
Swathed in petal smoke and lip-prints like pomegranate slugs, she rose from foam.
“Prince Charming Seems Like The Kinda Guy That Wouldn’t Finish a Girl Off” [On the Question Can You Miss Somebody You’ve Never Met? and Fidelity to the Body)
Last night I fell asleep with your words across my skin. Imagining your taste. The black screen, two inches wide, flashed against the shadows on the wall. Your palms pressed into my waist. What will we do without touch. We’re never without touch. We’ll be touched by other people, touch other people. Write. Read. Look. Take. Touch other people. Be touched by other people. Touch other people. Write. You can feel me on you. Read. Show me your wrist. Touch other people. Be touched by other people. Breathe me into your skin. Touch other people. Into your mouth. Around your lips. Place desire somewhere else. Be touched. Breathe me into your skin. Your lower lip, in fact. Pressed between my teeth. I am making you up inside my head. Visual space dominates our time, our seeing, our perception. We have forgotten what it is like to touch other people, to be touched by other people. The ecstasy of pain. The torments of pleasure. That they can even be mixed up. Our movement starts as liabilities at the school playgrounds. No running. We are developing relationships with one another based on non-physical identities, and non-physical skills. Engaging and connecting through visual space. Grow up. Kiss. Fuck. Slap labels on one another, laying claim on each other’s physicality without knowing what the body is. We harness fidelity to bodies we do not know how to use. At any rate, your words belong here. For you, I am almost a virgin again. You tell your friends, he longs to be an orange, to feel fingernails run a seam through them. They say, look at where your hands are. Now.
I don’t know where you are, but I can feel you around me. You say. There is no fidelity of seeing. You send me pictures of your train route. My lips spill out thoughts through my fingers. Pen. Black pen. Black ink bleeding through my elbows in my classes. The bark. Peeling away from the cherry trees. I walk by, rubbing my fist into the yellow chalk. You say, you can taste it. In the wars, in the prisons, in the military training camps, in the schools, they tell us to write to our men. Write them into our memory. Write them into our present. Make them into memory. Make them into our future. In the words made with the body. The men fuck local women. The women at home fall in love with men that can grab their hands. Come home. Hands up to our necks, we press into them. Saying, I am yours. Our hands, saying, what is home. Our physical space is a uniform. Keep this on your tongue. In Hindi there is a word we can keep in our mouths. There is no separate word for yesterday and tomorrow. Kal. Put this in your mouth. So we can both go mad together. You make everyone look blind. Say, it’s only you I’ve ever wanted. Are you an outspoken or repressed pervert. Are there any other kinds. In visual space. In visual space. Do we shed our bodies, or do we veil our skin with desire. In visual space. Dismember me. In visual space. Anyone can fuck.
In visual space. What is dismemberment. In visual space. I fuck you into me. According to Greek mythology, humans were created with 4 arms, 4 legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves. Plato says, Your bones throbbing together. So she could glitter. You can feel me on you. He violates her without touching her tongue. Breaking her spine. When you kiss her. She’ll say she’s reading. She’s really falling in love. The words soak through her skin. She will breathe their blood. Learn to let them come from the back of her throat. Craning her neck, her words will become thick. Your tongue will get to her. You’ll try to get in. You’re slipping over her mouth. She won’t feel you. And then, she’ll leave you from her lips. You were blind to her body, bound to her lips. She says, Today I heard your voice. You were moving through the city and in that way I was moving through it too. We push one another through different mediums. Sentiments scrawled out on a dissolving screen. The sugar on the peanuts slid through your throat. I whispered with my black tongue. Rolling against the structure of sight, your eyes become touch. What you see burns into my hands. There are things to do with you. ἅπτω. “I fasten onto, I touch”. It is in this way that feeling transcends stimulation and joins our body in being. Through movement, all of the actions of our soul involve our body.. Active participation in what is being seen. ἅπτω; “I kindle, set on fire, fasten fire into”. The transmission of soul by actions of the will. Sighttouch by movement. Seeing becoming contact. Pressure of skin on eyes. Sight altering our muscles. “Emotion” meaning little more than “motion”.
How weak is this electricity. To fuck you into me. I’ll have to sharpen everything. Before I show you my hands. My hands. You made me alive to them again. Who are you. Take me into your sleep. Or you into I. Is it the same thing. When you want to devour the other and then live inside her. Intimacy by consummation. Write words against my body. I can’t stop writing for you. Because I haven’t experienced you in space. I want to bite into you but I can’t, so I bite into myself to find what you already see. We are burning pages out of old books. One by one. I’m cutting myself on pages filled with your words. Sucking on my fingers. The ashes are falling onto your stomach. I lick them off. Kiss you. Dead words among us. I like the way they come out of your mouth. Only in violence. Move me in your space. Over the phone, your voice is warm. Throbbing metal. Over my skin your voice is warm. What is not in my head. I feel your hands on my face throughout the day. Good afternoon, mademoiselle. I gave you words. Don’t ever touch your thighs without thinking of me again. How long will I touch you. Before you bleed. In the creases of your clothes. I hope to wake up with you still here. --Feed me your words.
You say, write your words against my body. I want to take you in parts. You say, show me your wrists. I say, show me your knees. Show me your spine. You’re here already aren’t you. Today my tongue scrapes against your spine. I will fuck you into being. Chew on you through the night. You will wake up shivering. Doubting Thomas. Dirty knees. Do you know that I can taste you in me? Right now. Feed me your words. I can feel your hands on my face throughout the day. There is one story somewhere. The woman is eating chalk. She pulls broken pieces from a bag in her lap. Watching the little boys in detention. She puts the dusty pieces in her mouth. Pursing pink lips. She swallows. I think she is a nun. I don’t know who she belongs to. Maybe she is from Almodovar. She can’t be. I don’t know where she’s from. I’ve displaced her into Paz, into Godard, but she’s neither. She’s not mine. I just woke up with her in my head. Selfish. I want you to punish me. The screen goes grey. Where is it. In time. You haven’t moved your cup of coffee. In my head. Can you taste me inside your mouth. You push against my rib cages. The space between us. From the inside out. When you move your hands over me. I forgot to tell you. Warhol’s question. Is it possible to have a love affair that lasts forever. Selfish fuck. Where are you. You say, write your words against my body. I say, how can I speak when you have my lips in your fists.
Selfish fuck. I only want to fuck you because you are me.
Do You Come In Smoothies By Taylor Gordon I told my girl friend I would put her in a blender, So I could get every piece of her inside of me. She started to like when I said it, Until I tried it one day, And things got messy. But oh, it was so delicious, when the blade came to her lips, and chewy cheeks, I love the tastes of tongue, smooth feel of flesh, beautiful long hair, and a button nose. Even her wit had a zest, that lasted after the first pink gulp slid down tingling slowly. Truth is I would never want to eat her, just her humor, her flavor, Her being. We get lost in a deep sweet pool of each other as we
A Tanka Sequence By Louis Ofosky ***** writer, pour me a cup of sweet tea from your mouth this empty night ***** its light the moon's behind a cloud in tonight's quiet reflection and I watch the steady ***** all I saw was courage in your eyes when you wrote tanka ***** unable to embrace the words of my restless pen ***** I wake to know, know this sharing by hand is so finite, so small ! ***** feels like there's a storm in my head pouring day by day ***** by the dock this morning, the image I'm left with, one who failed to leap to plunge in and through
Afternoon By Juan Espinoza We couldn’t see the blue jays from the bed but we could see the cat on the window sill following their argument with his head and his claws like he was trying to sign the whole thing to us. The afternoon fog condensed on the window pane and left little ripples running down the glass. We rolled over and under our graying blankets and told the cat to sign the brawling of the blue jays to himself. According to the cat, they left to make up in some other tree. He kept busy by trying to translate the rustling of our feet so he could tell the blue jays when they came back.
Bacon By Amanda Threde My breakfast eats your breakfast for lunch, between parking tickets, lotto tickets, and counterfeit food stamps. My breakfast cuts in line at the D M V, loves lava lamps and watches your cable on my TV. My breakfast is served all-day, kept warm under heat lamps and your mother’s embrace. She got my breakfast tattooed on her ass in the summer of 87’ flapjacks forever defaced, cured by my breakfast’s Maplewood grace. You were eleven. You have seen my breakfast with thirty-six items in the express line dented cans, rotisserie chickens, four different kinds of hot sauce, applesauce and a bottle of sweet white wine. My breakfast is envied by champions, but is no better than yours, fresh squeezed and stove hot for all brothers of sunrise, mothers that realize their husbands are the fathers of whores, sisters of yours, and mine. My breakfast is your breakfast and do join me, because my breakfast is hungry.
The Love Song of Lil’ Tommy Blackson By Jamil Kochai See if God were on my lips, I’d touch Him to your chipped tooth, and guide your hands like prairie dogs, until they reached that spot in my gut. So stop it with that shrug, and that shiver and those dripping black rocks etched into your eyes like the shadows of moons upon the sun. What was it that we left? Back there in the alleys? Back there in the nighttime? If I could lay within your flesh. Now even now. As your hair spreads about the dirt, and your body touched the earth. The fields weeping without eyes. The suns somewhere sleeping. Now even now. But don’t you crumble in arms, don’t you shiver in my grasp, don’t you drip down my fingers like red clay in the grass. We’ll get married out here, these roads and these fields. And the sun will be our priest, and the buzzards our guests, and the river bed our honeymoon and the skin will be the dress. I’ll wipe the scum off my shirt and kiss the dust on your lips and every time we sleep we’ll die. And I swear to you girl, Love will someday bloom from the dirt, like black wild flowers.
Butcher Shop Romance By Derek Reighard A strong and secure man digests his experiences (deeds and misdeeds alike) just as he digests his meat, even when he has some bits to swallow. -Friedrich Nietzsche Werewolves wading in red river mud don’t think twice about its color. Michael and I have never been happier, tossing flank steaks and lamb shanks, silversides and sirloins, bleeding boldly in the current. We feed the musings of our god to these fur-lined men, praying appetites pique in the midday heat: Now catch these morsels with your teeth, and tear the meat to shreds. Now sing to God your claws stay sharp; tip the scales and pluck your harp. These commands offer comfort, distracting leaf-lovers from the collecting carnage. With our buckets half empty, wing bones remain in the mix, impatient as pistols, crooked as crime. Amassing armies here was never the plan, but as the wind wheezes and cadence quickens, local butchers sharpen knives, carve curses into carrion. This war is one for everyone, and an unassigned soldier sings: Now see yourselves inside your homes, and wash your fangs in white. Devour what you wouldn’t savor; promise not to fight. Michael and I sit alone on cobblestone streets, sows’ blood having rinsed our white shirts red, our redcoats lessened to yellow thread. We wrap our arms around rifles, fearing collapse through green-gray walls of smoke. I shield my eyes and choke. Miles ahead of the horizon, perfect pyres high-five the night sky, a final bungled battle cry. And though it’s trite as love, we wonder: Why, why, why, why, why. Michael and I have never been happier.
Stop Me if Youâ€™ve Heard this Before By Elison Alcovendaz You are driving a bus with 30 headless chickens only they do not run random as proverbial (and perhaps biological) wisdom insinuates but instead sit with their thoughtless bodies entranced in their laptops. They are very polite, the chickens. When the bus stops, half the chickens get off and 4 orangutans from the university hop on swinging like the monkeys they are as the polite chickens look on impassively. At the next stop only 2 chickens stay with the belching orangutans while 1 old elephant canes his way to the back, dropping peanuts on the rubber floor, spilling odor from the massive folds in his skin until even the polite chickens move to the front though being polite do not speak of the old elephant in the room who keeps muttering memories to himself. A few blocks later 6 peacocks prance up the steps and strut down the aisle with their blue gold green spread out like fans as though to cool off their own heat. All of the other passengers stay on (of course). At the next stop, 1 of the chickens reaches her stop while 21 parrots fly in, suitcases tucked under their wings and squawking on their cell phones and for a moment the orangutans see their future the elephant sees the past the peacocks see only their reflections in the windows. 2 hens limp on at the next station and cast judgment upon all the beasts on this bus, especially the peacocks who now share seats with the laughing orangutans, and the hens hold hands and sign the cross and pray for our final destination, though neither the hens nor the chicken nor the orangutans nor the elephant nor the peacocks nor the parrots have noticed the millions of ants who have crawled onto this vehicle with the worlds on their backs and will spend the whole ride living in the cracks of the bus. What animal is the driver?
25 The Maple Tree By Kathleen Uttinger
The power of suggestion is a slippery thing. We've been at it for hours—this small talk that slides and jolts from one rut to another until, before I know it, she feels sleepy. And I'm tired. Sleepy, Mom, I ask. She is. Well, I'm poor company just now, I say. Got to do some reading. I don't say, "Take a nap." The mere suggestion gives permission and she shuffles down the hall to her bed. I sigh: the house is quiet and I can think one solitary thought after another. Or, We need milk. I'll run to the store, I say. Would you like to come along, I ask. She is sleepy, once again, but I know this kind of sleep. It dreams a hazy streak of blueness long after she wakes up. I know she needs movement. Energy. Stimulation. Interaction. Interruption. A break in the clouds of forget. I wait a few minutes. Now, Let's run to the market, I say. Out of milk. I'll get your sweater. The hair on my neck and arms tingle as she rises to her feet, creeps for the door. I push away the thought of what else I could suggest. This kind of power scares me. Such little things—a nap, a walk. But what else? What if it were someone else? My father-in-law is gone now. We tried to make the drive up to see them as often as we could, but 300 round-trip miles, three kids, an 80-hour work week, and church responsibilities every Sunday made even a quick trip difficult. But once we saw how far my husband’s mother slipped in just the few short weeks after my father-in-law’s death, I knew she needed more than an overnight visit. She began sleeping. A lot. At first I thought she was exhausted from caregiving for so long. My father-in-law had been demanding, though he was never cruel about it. But I think there is a shade of cruelty in never letting a woman have moments to herself. I think our culture takes it for granted that men are often loners. They can escape, fishing off the side of a log, like Nick Adams, in a desolate Michigan wilderness while excoriating Chopin's Edna Pontellier for finding asylum in a tucked away cottage, a moment’s peace along the shore. I suppose, because, Virginia Woolf hadn't come along yet to take up residence in her own room. I understand my mother-in-law’s hunger for solitude. We noticed more funny little things. She would skip a meal. Not feel up to walking because it was too cold (70 degrees?). Leave dishes in the sink, leftovers to rot in the fridge. She kept repeating herself. I saw five deer in the yard today. Today, there were five deer in the back, looking as still as statues. One was a fawn. They had a little fawn with them, so cute. Five deer in the back today. That sort of thing. Over and over. We planned that I would stay the week, assess the situation. We knew it was bad, but we had to be sure. Actually, I was already sure. I knew that it was time for her to come live with us—she could afford no alternative. A month earlier, a friend called to tell me that Marion had driven herself uptown. She'd gotten lost in a place where she had lived for seventy years. She eventually found her destination. But her friend was worried, so she followed my mother-in-law home. Along the way, Marion swerved in front of two cars, ignored a stop sign, and putted through a red light. I called her doctor that day to ask for an exam. *
An enormous silver maple towers in the yard where my husband's mother lived. It is a big, glorious, fifty-foot silver maple with craggy bark and the most perfect, full rich crown of any tree I have ever seen. A tree so wide around that my husband and I can hug it from opposites sides and barely touch fingers. A tree upon whose twisted and exposed roots my daughters used to perch and pose for a picture every time we went to Grandma's house. A tree who was as surprised as we were to find that a blanket of milky, yellow daffodils had forced themselves between the roots, unexpected, but welcome. In my imagination, one of Marion's friends came early one grey November morning and
planted them while the street slept. She digs in with a well-worn trowel, in the rich loam of the an old Sacramento river flood plain, under the big maple whose silvery-green leaves have tarnished into a honey gold. Fifty years ago, when the stretch of street was bare but for a few modest homes and the only grown trees were a cluster of scrub oak along the rivers edge, Marion planted the maple. I saw its youth, in an old photo album, framed within the curled corners of a black and white Kodak print. A slip of a tree, spindly, bare, expectant. Today, it is tall and green and old, hemmed within a boxwood hedge. And sick. Sick unto death. I imagine that morning something like this: There's a knock at the door. Marion startles from her nap and moves to answer it. The workman tells her they need to trim her tree, it's a danger to the power lines. That okay? Why, yes. Yes, do whatever you need to. What the workman doesn't tell her is that one major branch of her maple is diseased. It looks fine, for the most part, the smaller branches still produce lush foliage, hand-sized leaves and sap-filled stems. But he can tell it might cause trouble, one day. A gritty, grainy pit pockmarks the juncture of trunk and limb. One good wind, and well... What the workman doesn't tell her is that she, as a homeowner, has a right to insist he maintain the visual integrity of the tree. Sure, he has to maintain the safety of the lines, but he doesn't necessarily have to scoop out too much of the crown. He can make it still look okay, take out just enough—though he may have to come back next season and do it again. He starts the job and cuts. And cuts a little more. Then just a bit more. Marion dozes, unfazed, in her chair, a half-read, all forgotten newspaper on her lap. Nah, just do this thing and be done with it. A week passes and still Marion has not noticed her maple tree: broken, bifurcated, bitched. It’s the first thing I see as I drive up the long, tree-lined street to spend the week with her. I am alone in the car and unapologetic for my verbal outburst. The power company has been busy, it seems. My eyes scan the trees along the power lines: shallow, imperceptible v’s notched in the neighbors' hazelnuts, sycamores, and ashes; delicate c’s sliced from maples, mulberries, mimosas. But Marion's maple... It was diseased, I reason, the next morning as I walk three miles to the coffee shop. All along the street, the naked trees exhale their hot, sweet breath into the stinging cold. I should be glad, I argue. Now Greg and I have saved some headache, some expense. A brown dog startles me. I do not see him at first, my eyes still consumed with the tree line. He is chained to a tree, but I do not see the chain right away, either. I stop in the middle of the street and we stare at each other. His muzzle is grizzled, and I think it’s too much trouble for him strain the length of the chain to come after me. I wonder if my scent smells scared. I walk faster. It wasn't that diseased, was it? How long had it been that way? How long had there been an earthy, dark hollow hiding where trunk and limb met? All the years I can remember. Still, velvety chartreuse leaves unfurl their fists every spring. Still, papery, winged seedpods spin in mad circles every fall. Still,
nuthatches nest in the crook of its arm, a shadowed depression safe with damp bark and sap. Still, my daughters heap up its seas of parchment-perfect leaves and jump and drift and repeat until dusk. Maple roots run strong, but shallow. Wilts and bugs with shiny black backs do more damage, but Marion's maple is beautiful. The sickness lingered somewhere other than the leaves, the roots. The disease might be vascular, I think. I read that maple trees can get sick from improper pruning, though it may take years for the damage to emerge. One bad slice and the veins and vessels choke with some microscopic fungus. Whole limbs must then be removed. Serious arborists recommend a kind of postmortem on the cuttings, a lab test to confirm the disease. * * * This morning, over the phone, a friend told me that I should never, ever say that I'm not patient. She's obviously on drugs. I haven't felt very patient lately. Everything’s the same, I suppose, but my soul feels thin. My mother-inlaw is still just as forgetful, still drained—and draining. I fear her illness is becoming mine. Not out of sympathy so much as proximity. I lose what I'm saying mid-sentence. I spill the same phrases, forcing a crack in the silence. I walk into rooms and might just as well have walked into a Siberian wilderness— alone and without human purpose. I am solitary, all day, with a woman who hates her life. A woman who can't remember when or where or why she is, and did I mention, she's forgetful? It wears on you. My friends do not understand. I rarely leave the house. If I do, I carry with me a dread that she might fall or forget where I am or go for a walk and lose her way home. Or worse, sit awake flailing in a wordless grief over things she can’t remember. The French call the mothers of their spouses ma belle mère. Ma belle mère—my beautiful mother. Compensating, if not for looks, then for a peaceful relationship. Positive name-calling? I call mine Mom. Marion. YOUR mother. It's scary to lose your mind. Last night, I noticed that Marion had left one of her many notebooks open on a bookshelf in the living room. I've watched her with these things: she rarely walks into a room without one. And she snaps them shut if we come close. Her memory is contained within those pages: like a tender newborn's neck, it must be protected. So I was startled to see one so exposed, so evident. I fought all night to stay away from it. I told myself, 'No, that's not for you. Respect her.' I heard my husband's voice as I said that, for he said the same thing to me when I agonized over my 13 year-old daughter's journaling—she whisks her lined notebook under her covers when I come in the room, her eyes accusing. I stifled a gasp when my husband picked up my mother-in-law's pocket-sized spiral-bound notebook. Actually, he didn't pick it up. He just stood there, leafing through a page at a time, squinting in the dim lamplight to make out her spidery hand. I'm still in Sacramento. I've got to find someone to take me home soon. Watched the cats play. They're getting along. Been so sleepy lately, took a knap. I don't know what gave him permission to look at the memory book, but a sliver of me exhaled the stinging sigh I'd been holding in for the last six months. Surely, now, he would see what I see every day. Not that he didn't believe me—or doesn't. He did, he has, he does.
But for him to see what I see, what things she thinks are important enough to remember, somehow validates my current existence. I tried to keep my eyes away from him as he stood there. I slowed my breathing down, kept my eyes fixed on the book in front of me: nothing must to interrupt him. I could hear the thick slice of page against spine as he flipped through the minutes of her empty days. I could sense that he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, tired but transfixed. Eventually, to my surprise, he swept up the book and sat down at the far end of the room. He read it cover to cover. I was jealous. "This is so sad," he said. "Hmm. What makes you say that?" I asked (though I knew—I remember the ticking moments of the washed out days, when she would sit across from me as I would read and she would write). "She keeps repeating herself in her book. And then, she notices when she's been repeating and it makes everything worse." "Hmm." "Listen to this: 'Please God, help me find someone to take me home! I've got to go home! Please, please!'" "Uh-hm." He turns another page and rearranges himself in the chair, as if to sit for a while. "Or this: 'My house is in escrow. It's hard to leave. Lived there for 50 years. But sometimes we have to do things we don't like.' And then she repeats it just a few lines later. Every few entries are like this—going home, selling the house, wondering who has her car, how bad her memory is. It's just sad." I know. It is sad. It is sad to resist gladness. It is sad to feel trapped in your own mind, captive to experiences that replay themselves over and over again, without context, without significance, except that they surely must have happened. I'm trying to make it better, really I am. But I've exhausted all the old stories. Used up all the old tropes. Prayed all the same prayers and heard all the same refrains, 'I've got to find somebody to take me home.' 'I wonder what's happened to my car.' 'Did you say the house was in escrow?' 'Where's Greg? What does he do again?' 'Oh, I thought everyone had gone off and left me!' 'What am I going to do? I won't have a home!' 'I'm not sure you can put up with me.' 'At home I... When I'm at home...When I get home...' I don't even answer her much anymore. Somehow that seems rude, but it's so hard to move my lips, make the heavy, unwelcome truth come out. I fear no end in sight. No peace. No acceptance. No contentment. No wholeness, ever, to return to her mind. Maybe that’s the saddest. The doctor in her hometown calls it Alzheimer’s-related dementia. No diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is ever sure until an autopsy. And no definitive cause is known, though the list of suspects is long. In my mother-law’s case, the doctor says that small strokes have shriveled up the blood vessels that feed her memory-centers. Spotty memories poke through, erupt randomly, then fizzle. Or, if it’s more like Alzheimer’s, we can blame plaques and tangles. Broken fragments of proteins clump together and form plaques, a festering growth which blocks signals from synapses, killing cells. The brain’s immune system devours the dead and dying—with no hope of resurrection. Tangles interrupt the brain’s food transport system. In a healthy brain, food, parts and pieces of cells, and other necessities, travel down neat little tracks to the next stop. But the tau-protein sometimes mysteriously twists, collapses, and tangles up the tracks that carry their cargo. The derailment leaves the brain cell-starved, glucose-starved, memorystarved. Memory is much more than electrical currents charging through the brain, more than the collected sparks of neurotransmitters and dendrites. To say memory is identity is too cliché. But right now, I can see no other way around it. And neither can ma bell mère. So for now I must hear again those things
that she can remember so that she can remember. I must take part in her mind, be another track, a limb of memory for her. She begins again and I close my eyes: I see the perfect teeth of a railroad line stretching miles before me. To one side blows a wash of waist-high prairie grasses, dotted here and there with pin oaks thirsty for deep water. To the other, curly-edged alfalfa. And in the middle, next to the tracks, stands a red house. It is square and neat. A long porch frames the front and a stack of firewood leans beneath a solitary window. No one is in sight. Except for a small girl. She is about five years old. Her neat, brown bobbed hair rests just at her chin; socks slouch down her shins. She is waiting. Her Daddy has been gone for hours now. An accident happened this morning in his section, just a bit up the road where the track meets the town. A coupe of boys and girls, sitting on one another's laps, picnic baskets and blankets stuffed in the empty spaces had been hit by an eastbound engine. Daddy forbade Marion from joining him on his morning check, as she usually did. Today was different and she had to stay home. In the front room of the red house she could hear her Daddy tell Mama that a car had been hit. Arms and legs and clothes scattered along a half a mile. It would take a week—maybe more—to collect it all. The trash, he called it. But Marion knew it wasn't that. People, it was. People. People who wanted a picnic, maybe. Like she and Francis had been wanting, but Mama said there wasn't enough. So Daddy had to go pick up people instead—and Marion had to wait. The rough clapboards beneath her feet felt dusty, but Marion had grown accustomed to the grit. A plate of stew cooled at Daddy's place, and here, she waited. It was important, what he was doing. Very important and secret and horrible and Marion resented that she could not be there: she was a big girl. But she could wait and be quiet. So she did. She does. Long life is a two-edged sword. Live long and see your children marry and have children of their own. Live long and watch the fruits of your labors come to full fruition. The maple in the front yard now scrapes the heavens with its silvery leaves. The valley oaks along the back canal expand to fill the whole panorama of the back sliding glass door. Figs hang like jewels on a tree that has finally come into her own. But decay crowds the corner of vision. Husbands die, friends leave, children fly from home. Accustomed deer, unafraid of fence and dog, pluck the figs with one graceful bite. Blackberry brambles choke the roots of the oak and spread like razor wire along the canal bank. And the maple... the maple.
31 Falling from Place By Carol Singleton
“By brooks too broad for leaping The lightfoot boys are laid; The rose-lipt girls are sleeping In fields where roses fade.” – A.E. Housman – Anthony Hillegas shot himself in the throat last year by the creek where we played as kids. Anthony was three years older than me and due to his position in the pecking order of childhood, I thought he knew everything, that somehow by having lived three more years he had been introduced to the mysteries of life that the rest of us hadn’t yet. Why Anthony chose to end his life at our creek, I can only guess, but I think it a fitting place, and it would be one of my top choices if I ever entered into that dark abyss of depression as he had. He had tried to get away from the town of our youth, but he returned like a prodigal son when his career went sideways during the Great Recession. When I heard the news of his suicide from my sister, an image of Anthony’s body lying on the familiar gray rocks, soiled now with his blood, emerged from the mud of memory, taking me back to the town I escaped from three decades ago—Pleasanton. Maybe “escape” seems like a harsh word, for Pleasanton today is considered prime real estate, a highly attractive place to live for young upwardly mobile professionals and their families. This predominately white suburb, 60 miles east of San Francisco, is considered a safe haven from the more urban communities of the Bay Area. P-town has a quaint downtown with Gold Rush facades and an old town with tidy bungalows that abut the Alameda County Fairgrounds and the racetrack. Old town used to be where the less affluent lived, including my high school love Mike Lopez. To the south lies a stretch of forested foothills that provide a sense of protection and exclusivity, and to top it off, this boomtown now comes fully loaded with a shopping mall, an expansive business park, and the recently renovated Santa Rita County Jail, where back in the 80s Mike spent six months of his young life for selling PCP, and where today my best friend’s brother, Steven Carlson, sits in a cell waiting to be tried for a murder he allegedly committed 27 years ago. He is accused of killing his high school classmate, 16-year-old Tina Faelz, as she took a short cut home from school through a field to avoid being bullied by a group of girls on the bus. The coroner said she had been stabbed 44 times. DNA evidence recently surfaced to link Steven to the crime, the cops explained to my best friend Tanya, who doesn’t believe her brother is guilty. I am not so sure, for I knew their mother. Mrs. Carlson was a flighty, bitchy woman who bullied and berated her children while she snorted coke and drank martinis until she could hardly stand. She was drunk on the New Year’s Eve she gave premature birth to Tanya, and Steven likely suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. In drunken fits, she would hurl ash trays, candles and stilettos at me from the top of the staircase and rave that I was a bad influence on her daughter and wasn’t welcome in their home. Tanya’s mom died last year while she was on the operating table; her heart disintegrated in the surgeon’s hands. Grief distorts memory. I’m watching this with Tanya, and I see it in myself. When Tanya talks about her mother now, she only reflects on sweet memories – the time her mom showed her how to put on mascara or took her shopping for a prom dress. Likewise, she defends her brother, wanting to believe that Tina Faelz was the victim of a serial killer, perhaps responsible for the disappearance of other young girls around this same time period including Michaela Garecht, who disappeared from Hayward in 1988, and Ilene Misheloff, who disappeared from Dublin a year later. When Tanya hears I am writing a memoir about Pleasanton, she tells me, “Well, we thought we were safe in Pleasanton…Steven’s private investigator says not so. In all her years as an investigator she has never seen a town where at least three and possibly four serial killers grew up.” But these facts emerged slowly over time and before panic set in, we had all the freedom we desired. We took off in the morning and didn’t return until after dark.
My family moved to Pleasanton in the summer of 1969, on the day that the Castlewood Country Club burned to the ground. As sirens blared in the distance, we steered our Pontiac station wagon toward our new home. The country club, nestled in the forested foothills surrounding the town, was the former mansion of William Randolph Hearst’s mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, who died there during the influenza epidemic of 1919. The Hearst mansion was one of Pleasanton’s most cherished landmarks. While the town’s elite mourned its loss, my siblings and I were busy getting to know our neighbors and exploring our new landscape. Del Valle Parkway was shaped like a crescent moon with our houses arranged along the inner perimeter. Across the street was an expansive alfalfa field that served as our outdoor amphitheater where we acted out our childhood dramas. Half of the year the field was filled with chunky dirt clods that we hurled at our unsuspecting siblings and playmates, and the other half it was covered in tall green stalks that provided cover for our mischievous games. Both ends of the street were punctuated by a church. The Trinity Lutheran Church, where I spent many Sundays memorizing the books of the Bible and reciting Luther’s 95 theses, sat on one end, and the Seventh Day Adventists Church sat on the other end behind a barrier announcing this was a dead end street. Just beyond the meadow the earth swelled upward forming a dusty levee and then dove steeply downward toward a bubbling creek. To be honest, it wasn’t always bubbling, but even in summer when the stream turned into a trickle and then a stagnant pool, it was still inviting, for it teemed with life and possibilities. I loved the creek and its inhabitants so much that I found ways to bring pieces of it home with me. The tadpoles held particular allure for me; watching their evolution was all I needed as proof of a god. I would drag big paint buckets down to the stream each spring and collect their tiny squirming bodies, the shape of commas, from the edges of the creek and lug them home. I would empty my catch into a metal tub that had multiple uses including washing our dogs Geraldine and Stromboli. I frequently caught these two lapping up my future frogs in their thirsty mouths instead of using their own water bowls. Each morning, I hurried out to the tub to add fresh water and see how my little wards were developing. I loved to watch their tails lengthen, their eyes begin to bulge and their tiny legs emerge. This was the kind of science I liked, the kind that you could observe with the naked eye, not the kind that involved calculations and contraptions. Not all of my tadpoles made it to adulthood, and those that did still had a precarious journey to make; they had to dash across our expanse of lawn where the slobbering jaws of Stromboli and Geraldine awaited them. What these little escapees didn’t know was that there were no safer pastures. Our yard like all the other yards in suburbia ended abruptly with the standard eight-foot wood fencing. They were trapped in our compound with two curious and hungry canines ever ready for a game of hop frog. The baby frogs would last for a few weeks outside of the safety of the metal tub, but I’d eventually find their dried up little bodies scattered throughout our vegetable garden. Many croaked under my mom’s big zucchini plants despite the ample shade the massive leaves provided and the daily watering my mother did. Fortunately, there were usually two or three that did survive and I would hear them croaking out a love song at night or I would catch a glimpse of them huddled at the base of my mother’s rose bushes. The field and the creek, which began as places of innocence, natural spaces where we learned about the seasons and the species in their natural environment, became places to conduct more dangerous experiments. One clear morning when I was around the age of 11, I skidded down the dirt path to my favorite spot by the creek and encountered a white bedsheet spread out on the gravel covered in blood. I scrambled back up the side of the hill, darted across the field, tripping over dusty dirt clods and wailed at my mother to come see what I had found. For several weeks we were not allowed to play at the creek. We had to confine our play to the length of my mother’s voice, a sound which could travel amazing distances. I think it was the first time she ever considered that it might not be safe to allow young
children such free reign, but eventually she forgot about the bloody sheet and we returned to our usual unfettered roaming. In addition to contributing to my spiritual development, the creek also contributed to my sexual awakening. Until about the age of 12, I was happy to not be concerned with my gender. I was a tomboy who loved the outdoors, didn’t mind getting dirty and tried to keep up with the daring exploits of the boys. But, of course, my mother occasionally intervened and I was forced to take ballet lessons, which required squeezing my pudgy body into a tight, pink leotard and being subjected to the criticism of Carol Jean, the grizzled, way-past-her-prime dance teacher with penciled eyebrows like the witch in Snow White and a head of hair the texture of cotton candy and the color of crude oil. My feet where not meant for dance slippers. I was pretty much happily androgynous up until the age of 12. Then an outing to the creek with my Bluebird group changed all that. My mom was leading us on a hike to the creek to teach us how to keep nature journals and to heighten our sense of observation about the natural world. The previous month we had spent building bird houses to help save the Western bluebird, whose numbers were dropping precipitously due to housing projects and malls encroaching on their tenuous habitat. We were on our way back from the creek with our journals tucked under our fat, little arms—well, at least my arms were fat. Before I figured out I was a girl, I liked to eat a lot. I would soon learn that girls weren’t supposed to eat much and if we did, it was right and proper to stick our fingers down our throats in the bathroom and purge out all the pleasure we had just consumed. The summer before I started high school I dropped 20 pounds this way. As we rounded the end of the path, to our left was a thick, squat oak tree and I spotted a book lying near the base. I broke free from the formation of marching Bluebirds, snatched up the text (I loved reading) and hurried back to the end of the line. The title of the tome read The Joy of Sex. I only had a vague idea about what sex was at the time, but this book would change all that. Fearing the consequences of possessing this forbidden fruit, I tried to hide it behind my back but Andrea Morrell, the tattletales of the group, announced to my mother what I had found and she immediately snatched away my prize. But knowing my mom wouldn’t keep the book in the house long for fear my father might enjoy its pages, I checked the garbage can that night and found it lying amongst the dead lettuce and empty toilet paper rolls. I reached in, wiped it off, glanced around to see if anyone was looking and carried my treasure into the garage. I knew I couldn’t hide the book in my room, so I opened up my grandpa’s old Army chest that held our collection of dress-up clothes and tore a large swath from one of the tattered gowns. I wrapped the book in the blue and white material and hid it at the bottom of the chest. The next day just after breakfast, I retrieved the book and headed off for the creek, remembering to bring my mother’s garden spade along with me. I didn’t go to the usual place by the creek where we waded in the grimy water and cast our homemade fishing poles. Instead, I went a little further upstream to a more secluded spot, and I proceeded to dislodged half a dozen fist-sized rocks, which were firmly embedded in the earth. Then I took my mother’s spade and dug a hole just deep enough to cover the book. The earth was damp and cool and I was worried what this would do to the pages filled with lurid sketches of Chinese men and women having sex. I hoped the material from the dress would preserve these exotic images from damage. Before I placed the book in its hiding place, I flipped through the pages, careful to ensure no one was watching, especially not my older brother or Anthony Hillegas. How mortifying it would be to be caught by older boys looking at dirty pictures of body parts I didn’t know I had. The Joy of Sex exposed my fragile mind to what women possessed between their legs, and I thought it was hideous. I didn’t want to have what those women had. It was undefined, squirmy, like those sea creatures at the bottom of the ocean that oceanographers discover in places where the light never reaches, places where man was never meant to go. But despite my repulsion, I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures. Perhaps it made it easier that the subjects were Chinese. I wasn’t Chinese, so perhaps my
stuff was different. I can’t remember now if there were photographs in addition to the Chinese drawings, but I just remember the lurid sketches and their hypnotic allure for a 12-year-old girl. Life was not the same after that. I would return to the spot every so often and dig up the book, but each time I retrieved the text from its hiding place, it had deteriorated a little bit more, with tiny gray slugs tunneling through the intricate drawings adding another element of surprise to the already complicated sexual scenarios. But before I surrendered The Joy of Sex for the last time, I read one final entry. It was called “The Rape Game.” I remember the disclaimer at the beginning of the passage explaining that rape in reality is a violent crime against women, but if you have a trusted partner, it can be a fun way to spice up your sex life. I don’t think I had entered Piaget’s abstract thinking stage yet, because my little mind had a hard time comprehending how these two opposing ideas were possible. How could rape be both evil and good at the same time? I remember having this same confusion the summer my family took a road trip to New Mexico and made a stop at Los Alamos National Lab to visit the science museum there. My mom was eager to show us the replicas of the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I couldn’t wrap my little brain around the idea that these two bombs, affectionately known as Fat Man and Little Boy, could be laying in front of me, intact white spheres, if they had been dropped from thousands of feet in the air to explode into a mushroom cloud of death and destruction. Our family ended up in Pleasanton because of its proximity to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a nuclear weapons facility where my father was hired to design bombs during the Cold War years. The lab was managed by the University of California Regents on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. Situating the nuclear lab under the auspices of DOE instead of the Department of Defense, where it more naturally belonged, was a clever deceit by the government. I suppose it made the community feel more secure to believe that the sprawling, concrete facility in their midst, which was wrapped in barbed wire and surrounded by armed guards, was focusing on energy research rather than on weapons of mass destruction. But I didn’t know all this at the time; my father wasn’t allowed to discuss his work. The government even went as far as to send men in dark suits into our neighborhood to interrogate our neighbors about any unusual activities that may be taking place, anything that may indicate a communist connection at the Singleton household. When I was in the third grade, I asked my father to come to my class and give a talk about his job as all the other fathers were doing throughout the year. He sat me down and gently explained that his work was top secret, and he couldn’t discuss it with anyone or he would go to jail. I wished he were a grocery store manager or an insurance salesman like the other dads. My mother also had an advanced degree in science, a master’s in chemistry from U.C. Berkeley, where she worked with Nobel Prize winning chemist Glen Seaborg, who conducted ground-breaking research on isotopes. But I can’t tell you much about what that means because I grew up hating science. The world of my parents was broken down into elements, molecules and atoms, but my world was broken down into oak trees, dirt clods, tadpoles and the slippery green rocks of the creek. Science took my parents away from me. My father, and eventually my mother, wore government-issued ID badges around their necks. On the back was fastened a powder blue tablet about the size of a Pepto Bismol chewable. This “dosemeter” supposedly told them how much radiation they were being exposed to. The tablet never registered any lethal levels, but my father died of pancreatic cancer at age 50, so I have reason to believe these tablets were about as effective as Pepto Bismol pills at detecting radioactive waves. I came to associate the world of adults with secrets. The older you got the more secrets you had to hold and my parents had quite a few. As long as I was oblivious, the world worked just fine and the earth continued to turn on its axis. But there came a day when the earth decided to break the rules, and on that day, the façade of the nuclear family began to disintegrate. It was 1980 and I was a freshman in high school. I had just gotten home from school and was starting to bake a pound cake for my grandpa’s 72nd birthday. My mother had taught me if you didn’t follow the family recipe precisely, you could end up
with a thick vein of batter running through the middle of the cake, a fault line implicating the chef and exposing her inexperience. I didn’t want this to happen, so I gingerly placed the pan into the oven, set the alarm and waited. About 15 minutes had passed when I felt a slight tremble under my chair. Then the linoleum lurched and the chandelier shook and I dove under the table for cover. When it seemed like the coast was clear, I ran outside to the front yard, tears streaming down my face in fear, wondering if our neighborhood was still standing. Minutes later my father drove up the driveway in his Honda motorcycle, his mid-life crisis gift to himself. As we stood out front consoling each other, a yellow Mazda drove up to the curb and my mother jumped out of the passenger side. The car sped away quickly, but not before my dad and I got a glimpse of the debonair driver at the wheel. My father’s face looked stern and he growled at my mother in a way I’d never seen him do. He was not one to raise his voice or show his temper. It was my mother’s hands who held the hangers that slashed our legs, never my father’s. But he was angry now and wanted to know who the man was that dropped her off. She dismissed his inquiry as foolish jealously and explained that he was simply a man from the lab who she was working with on an experiment at the time of the quake. My father clearly did not believe this story and within the year he would get his revenge. Meanwhile, my pound cake came out flawless. When things got tough in the house, we kids escaped to the creek for refuge. My father, on the other hand, escaped to the back roads on his motorcycle, and occasionally he would take me with him. Weaving through the rolling hills of Tassajara Road, passing cow pastures and vineyards, was a highlight of my childhood. But one of these windy adventures took an expected turn. It was a typical Sunday afternoon, and I returned from church to find my father tinkering in the garage as he usually did on weekends. He asked if I wanted to go for a ride and, of course, I did, so we started out on our usual route down Santa Rita Road, past the prison and up into the foothills. The cool air cleared my head of the morning sermon and momentarily dissipated my teenage angst, but on the ride home we started to meander through an unfamiliar residential area in Livermore. He came to a stop in front of a nondescript house and announced that he wanted me to meet someone. He proceeded to walk up to the door and knock. A petite, dark-haired woman answered and smiled broadly when she saw my father. She gestured him to come in and then she saw me standing in the background. She looked puzzled until my father introduced us, and explained that he was building bookshelves for Sonia, who was a secretary at the lab. She invited us in and for 15 agonizing minutes I endured their veiled chatter with awkward adolescent horror as it dawned on me that my father was having an affair with this woman and was drawing me into his web of deceit. Up to this point, I had been a good, little Puritan, who played by the rules and aspired to get into the Kingdom of Heaven through good works and faith. This world view ended that day. For the next three years, the “P” in P-town would come to mean police, parents, public school and pregnancy – all four of which I futilely attempted to avoid. As my parents’ marriage exploded so, too, did my grades, my morals and my self-worth. “Look what I found in the fireplace!” my mother rages, unfurling her bony fist to reveal five singed roaches, evidence of a crime she hopes will lead to my speedy incarceration in juvenile hall. We are sitting in a cold conference room at the Pleasanton Police Station, where my mom has called a meeting with the authorities. Two patient police officers peer into her palm, then look up, examining her red, distorted face, clear evidence of a mother at her wits end. They gently explain that though smoking marijuana is a crime, there’s just not enough evidence here to put me away. They suggest boarding school or counseling. She has tried all that, she moans. I am nonchalant. I’ve endured the raging before. I am past caring. I am past hope. I just want to get high or drunk. I want to be anywhere but here. My father sweeps into the room (they are divorced now) as my mother announces that if they won’t put me in juvenile hall, then she wants me declared an emancipated adult. I have no idea what this means. Having virtually dropped out of high school, I’ve missed a lot of vocabulary words. My knight-inshining-armor dad won’t allow it, and the meeting ends. I slip away, all stealth, back to Mike Lopez’s house in the older part of Pleasanton, where it’s darker and cooler and no one stands in judgment.
A few months pass. It’s my 18th birthday and I was out all night. Mike’s in jail now, but I am finding ways to fill the time. I drag myself up to my bedroom and start to flop down on the Egyptian bedspread, an artifact from my younger days when I had hopes of becoming an archeologist and spending my days dipping my hands into the warm earth. But on the bed rests a jagged note. Scrawled in my mother’s angry handwriting are two sentences, “Get all of your things and get out! Anything you leave behind will be disposed of.” I would spend the next six month living at the Motel 6, a foster home and then at my dad’s cramped apartment until I earned my diploma from an alternative high school and joined the U.S. Army, my ticket out of town. I wanted to get as far away from my childhood home as possible, for it reminded me too much of how far I had fallen. Unlike Anthony, whose blood will forever paint the creek in tragedy, I managed to get out of Pleasanton and start over. The U.S. Army would take me first to South Carolina and then on to Darmstadt, Germany, to new landscapes where my past could no longer haunt me. But it’s not that easy, just because you leave a place, doesn’t mean it leaves you. I carry every tadpole, dirt clod, motorcycle ride, jail visit and aborted child within me today. There’s no bulldozing the landscape of memory.
38 “Running Home” By Cuitlahuac Sanchez
There’s a bizarre feeling when a familiar face does not match a person’s voice. The sound seems distorted and made up. I’ve never really noticed my strange accent, but I hear people say I sound like my father. It’s only when I go back home I notice it. It’s not a Mexican accent, nor is it an American accent. It’s an alien accent. I’m not from here nor there (No soy ni de aqui ni de haya). I always figured I sounded normal. That might not be the case. If you asked me, my voice sounds stale, without bass or cadence. Any word brave enough to escape lingers into space like muffled laughs in darkness. When you understand that light travels faster than sound, everything begins to take shape. Time, space, and energy then dissolves into life like a couple ice cubes caressing an empty glass cup of tequila left the night before. It is at this moment when our inner voice rejects that exterior change (high entropy) in a system of change in entropy (∆S ) in proportion to the amount of heat (Q) applied at temperature (T, in absolute terms), and ∆S is positive when a system’s entropy increases: ∆S=Q/T At standard conditions it takes about 235 kj/mol to form H2O and about 911 kj/mol to synthesize C6H12O6 (sugar). In the morning these conditions are almost ideal for change. Change in the morning is inevitable. The abnormal transformations are too much to keep track. I tend to just notice the sun’s lazy walk out east aya donde esta todo. Todo esta Arriba, or esta abajo. There is no such thing as north, south, east or west. Yo soy de arriba, pero vivo in el Norte. I lived aya, pero now I’m here. I remember now. I remember the 85 earthquake, when it broke Mexicans down to their knees. I was a less than a year old. I remember my father holing me, yelling at me, telling me to grab him. I grabbed him and called Male. It was as if nothing had changed but everything changed. Mace got me. Male then appeared and she held me. My sister had not been born yet. It was just me. I remember time was non-existent. I heard nothing. I only remember the blue two story house dancing to Quetzalcoatl. Years later she did it again. She danced dipping her hips low to the ground holing them so she transformed to the eagle that appeared that night she ate the snake. She did it behind my back. I saw her do it. I noticed her behind the other nopales. What a bitch. How could she have lied if she knew the Sun will never forgive her? How could she have betrayed me? She fucked me. She fucked me. I wanted to fuck her first. I wanted to take her heart right there in front of everyone exposing her to the air and the heavens. She was my gift to the gods. She lied to me. She laid there. I can’t believe she lied to me. The climate in Jerahuaro, Michoacán is always a lie. Sometimes when the sun and the stars speak, the mountain people, los indios, the forgotten; the lost ones will appear before la Santa Muerte. I’ll trust death instead. She will reveal herself in many forms. I mean it’s easy to lose a body if you’re not careful. I tried to ask people what happened. I asked why my grandfather was murdered. He was murdered by mistake. Mace, was out in el Norte, but I’m not sure if he wants to remember. He told me, how they shot him point blank. They meant to shoot his brother Carlos, not him. He used to speak to me in the womb, Male told me. He always laughs when he retells the story just as I laugh when I watch horror films. It’s hard to remember he says. I think forgets he does. He remembers and he forgets. You remember wearing those Cortez? Now, los Eses wear them. Pero, aca compa we got it all. More than aya en el Norte. We Got NlKE shoes, t- shirts, cd’s , books, comics, firecrackers, chips, sugar, rice beans, dvd’s, fruit on a cup, corn on the comb with cheese, chile, mayonnaise; however you want it, it’s here. Everything is here if speak to the right people, or the wrong people. Get to know them. They’ll speak, in the morning. No listens at night. Remember, que todo esta arriba, o abajo. Either you walk down to the Plaza, or you walk up to the mountains. Ask for directions, and they might just shoot you. No seas pendejo. Or they might just ask about California. Pero ya sabes Paisa, everything is top to bottom.
Haya arriba, near the local grammar school de Benito Juarez, there’s a big blue House with roses in front. It had been built from the ground up before the earthquake, with windows just at earth and eye level, so that if it fell, the house would fall with style. Sometimes you could smell the roses from the top the roof, but most of the time, the smell dirt and dry dog shit perfumed the air. My neighbor and I shared our lawn which grew free and reeked of dog piss. Only a 6 foot brick wall separates the grass and the dirt field next to the field on campus. On that roof I sat watching the old ones play. In el Estadio I met the gods. I saw men play with goal-posts made out of shoes, backpacks, books, rocks, and anything they could grab and on to. If you had we’d spray the ground with the air and paint. In el Estadio all you need is a ball. No one keeps score. You play but you don’t lose. Some kids play barefoot and others play with boots. It’s played better in the summer when the air is warm and the nights are cool and the days are longer and there in more sun outside. The game ends when the night falls and the sun fades to the pacific. Time slows down then, during sunsets. Last goal wins! Last goal wins! Last goal wins! Everything seems the same. It is, but things are different now. In the Plaza, couples walk in circles like headless chickens. The garden is still groomed and green. The statue of the first indigenous president Benito Juarez sits observing the catholic cathedral. The local bands play at the Plaza on the weekends. It gets busy. People are moving. La reina de la Plaza, she used to live in the house. They murder her last year. Pepe, they killed him in the cemetery, aya bajo on the same day they kill that couple the year before. My grandfather, he was murdered two years me and the earthquake. The others like me leave to America like tortillas dipped in water too long.
41 Excerpted from In Search for Lost Memory: A Pittsburgh Novel By Doug Rice
Years back, before meeting Sula, in the years before marrying Sula, Clarence had fallen in love. It was the kind of love that keeps a man a prisoner of his own blindness. Holds him there. Clarence had gone deep inside his heart with loving this woman, Ai. Clarence was older than Ai. Much older. Years and years older. Years broken like dried out twigs of a dead tree separated Ai from Clarence. The years between those two were brittle like that. Twenty-some years. Odd years. Desperate years. Still, Ai let herself go and Clarence let himself go. They opened the wild kingdom of their hearts. They became reckless with loving each other, reckless with their words, reckless with throwing their bodies against each other, reckless with tying their wrists and ankles to bedposts. Wild, mad loving. Sweat-stained loving. Sheets torn to shreds with loving each other. Bodies covered in the marks of their desire. Bodies weak and exhausted every morning every night with loving in the ways that their love for each other pulled out of them. Those two pushed language out of the way, elbowed words into the forgotten places and let out their true breath from rivers, from mountains, from skies, from moons, from trees. Mud-promises to each other for each other, those kinds of promises brought out by the spring rains that then dried up in the summertime heat. A chaotic breath of wild longing. Ai pulled Clarence inside her, deep inside her, deeper and deeper, and it was not just Clarence’s body that Ai pulled into her, it was also Clarence’s life’s blood, his past, all of him. “I want to feel you breathing your breath out of me from inside of me. I want to feel your breath inside my lungs. There.” And Clarence did. He did what Ai asked of him. And Clarence asked Ai to ask for more, to ask for the moon, to ask for his name, to ask for what she was most afraid of asking for in all the world, to ask for what she wanted to ask for, not what she needed, but what she wanted. Clarence wanted Ai to want, and Clarence was willing to somehow disappear from all those places where he had been scarred and battered and to travel into the inside of Ai wanting, into her desire. To want and to be wanted in return. Simple as simple. Clarence told Ai that he wanted to know everything he did not know, but he wanted it all to stay a mystery to him after he came to know it. Clarence liked the mystery of knots. He liked being uncertain and lost with what he thought he knew. Clarence felt that kind of knowing held a mystery more true than what could be said in words. He believed all this mystery and knowing and not knowing and all of everything else that was needed to know to be living the life of a true man, all that he had forgotten or forsaken or lost along those three rivers surrounding and coming to a point in the city and all that he had come to know in the alleys on the North Side and off Liberty Avenue, he believed all of it was inside Ai. Everything. The life of life. Waiting inside Ai. Ai had strong blood. Stronger eyes. The eyes of a true woman. And Ai penetrated Clarence as much as he penetrated her. Got on the insides. Said his name over and over. Ai said Clarence’s name so often it began scarring her throat, drying out her mouth. Her lips started bleeding from the saying of Clarence’s sweet name. She wondered if it was possible to wear away her tonsils saying the same name over and over. And Ai wanted Clarence. Not only did she want him, Ai loved wanting Clarence. That act of wanting Clarence drove Ai mad with desire. His breath on her skin. His breath doing all that it did to her skin. Love, strong and true loving, like the way that Ai and Clarence loved each other, like all Ai felt when Clarence touched her, this kind of love, was fragile like an egg, but Clarence knew to touch Ai slow and patient, touch her careful the way rain touches skin, the way frost melts from tiny blades of grass, this baptism of touch, for Clarence to touch Ai in this way even with his roughened fingertips worn down by digging coal, callused from pulling out vegetables, blistered from tending to the earth, from redeeming the earth, fingertips worn to the bone with years of living a life in a city of dust and heat. In this way, Clarence carried Ai off, the way Ai carried Clarence off somewhere to some other place, a place she had never known before, a place he, too, had never known before. But Clarence knew how to take Ai there with the ease of his touching. Night always tender with its arrival when Ai looked into Clarence’s eyes.
All the blood and all the sorrows of all those yesterdays just washing away when Ai looked into Clarence’s deep old eyes. And she told Clarence that. Ai told Clarence straight what he did to her. How Clarence woke up what needed to be awake in her. All of it. And told him how she never wanted to ever go back to sleep. Not ever. That she was done with sleeping. Ai called Clarence some kind of eternal blessing and told him that she felt her name was safe inside his mouth. “The way you say it,” Ai said, “The way you release my name into the word. You keep my name warm. My name’s at home inside your mouth. The way you hold it.” Then Ai asked Clarence to say it, to say her name. The always of always. One wild night of spring rain and lightning and thunder, Ai said to Clarence: “I want your hand.” And that girl, she meant it. She wanted his hand. And she took his hand. That woman with those young eyes looking at Clarence’s old flesh taught Clarence more about touch in that one single night than a lifetime of women and of working in the mills and of playing in mud had ever come close to teaching him. Clarence touched Ai like there were no maps, no paths. Ai turned Clarence inside out that night. It was as if she made him a virgin again, made it seem to Clarence like he had never touched any other before woman in his life, then a moment later Ai unvirgined Clarence. She taught Clarence that you have to dismantle a heart to truly see what a heart can know. It is like opening your eyes in the morning and wondering where the night went, she said. And Clarence came to learn that you should never touch no woman the same way twice and never ever do you touch one woman like you touched some other woman. That just ain’t right, that’s downright careless. “How can you expect to see a woman’s true smile, her smile that is only possible when she sees you, if you touch her like you touched some other woman? How can you hear a woman’s soul laughing if you are asleep with your touch when you touch her?” Ai asked Clarence this. Then she took Clarence’s hand and guided it to the most fragile place of her body. Clarence touched her as if he were an infant, a boy without language, a boy without words, without a way for knowing what touch could do. Her lips quivered. And Ai’s moans that night would have broken the darkness inside any man. Clarence’s heart opened, the deep in him opened, the deep that went back to the beginnings of beginning. Ai taught Clarence to use his hands, the tips of his fingers, to flirt with the impossible. She did this to Clarence and as they slowed down, as their breathing became quiet and the rain fell against the window of Ai’s bedroom, Ai said, “Listen.” And when Ai wasn’t busy saying she wanted Clarence, she was busy saying other things to him, telling him all that she desired when she closed her eyes and stayed awake, more awake than she had ever been before in all her life. That kind of being awake that made the rust on her soul disappear. “Do that thing to my bone, there, that bone, do that thing that you do with your mouth, with your hands, with your teeth to that bone. There.” And, like he was finding a way to pray a true prayer, he did. And she would say, “Yes.” Her mouth wild with laughter. Her throat soul deep with the songs of ancient rivers. “My heart. My soul. My memory. My muscle. This blood. This flesh. This wanting that is more than love can say.” And then she would stop breathing for a while, not long enough to die, only long enough to come close to dying, long enough to see into some other life that no woman had ever given herself the right to see into before. A life that no man had ever given himself such a right to see into either. Ai told Clarence, in private, to do this, to do that. And he did. And her breath would get stuck in her throat and stay there. Stuck. Until. Until she remembered how to breathe. A quiet longing that took her down and deep into the memory of the time before she had bones and flesh, a time when she was pure of words. And then Ai would say, again, she would say, again and again and again, your teeth. Just that. She would say just that. Your teeth. And Ai’s skin would wait because Ai’s desire was so deep and Clarence’s touch would wait because their desire was so deep that waiting was as much like touching as touching was. And Ai began speaking in languages that had been left behind after the Tower of Babel had fallen, languages that scorched the earth around that apple tree in Paradise. Her voice, her body, her mouth discovered those languages and she opened herself to them, and she screamed them out, in private, near Clarence’s body. She bit so hard into his collarbone she drew blood. Ai scratched into his back, dug her
fingernails into his flesh. Left scars. Ruined him for any other woman. No woman could ever break into Clarence’s skin again. Not ever. She infected Clarence with her past, with all that she had done, all that had been done to her, all that she had taken on. Carried. She gave Clarence this fever of all she had ever known, all that had crossed her path, all that had torn into her skin. Ai pressed her mouth against Clarence’s ear and mumbled insane words into his dreams while he was sleeping. Mumbled words that Clarence never did quite understand. Words that did not have sounds, words that were more like a breeze across a desert lifting sand but making no sound, leaving behind no trace of a sound. Silent words that destroyed everything Clarence thought he knew about himself and changed him down in the very root of his knowing. Ai’s words, her breath, took Clarence back, all the way back, to the meaning of who he was, showed it to him, made him visible to himself in his own eyes. Ai satisfied Clarence’s soul as much as all his other desires.
45 “The Pool” By Kathleen Uttinger
Summer days, when the heat stuck to our skin and sweet sweat collected behind our knees, along our scalps, between the thick layers of our shorts and swimsuits, we went swimming. Fifty cents and we were in the pool all afternoon long. A wide, high changing room stretched itself in a chili-pepper red brick building with smooth, rounded corners. Cement floors cooled our hot feet when we slipped off our flip-flops. We held up old bath towels in front of doorless stalls and peeled off our clothes, then shimmied under them to another doorless room, bright with honeycombed tile and a sign that said, Please Shower Before Bathing. Two steps took us out to the pool, the biggest public pool in Sacramento, and the coldest. So cold that if the sky clouded up on a surprise afternoon in August, our teeth clattered like old tin cans and we swam to the pool's bottom and scratched our bellies on the pool's plaster floor just to get warm. But it was usually hot. We stretched our towels in a wild patchwork around the lip of the pool to dry in the valley sun. The boys sat like Turks in rows across from the diving board, whooping and calling to the other boys who flew like jackknives and cherry bombs and gangly swans. Black boys, brown boys, boys with burned red shoulders and trunks slung under protruding hip bones. Boys whose ribs were stacked like neat shelves and who took hungry swigs of a friend’s orange pop when he wasn’t looking. Boys wearing cut-off jeans and fat boys in dripping wet shirts—those were the ones who made mile high splashes when their soft, round bodies fell as leaves in the deep end. The girls sat on the far end of the pool. The place where once was a circulating fountain that sent sheets of aqua ribbons into the shallows, where we caught the spilling water in our cupped hands. We had tea parties in the pool, tipping imaginary pots and passing cups under the water. We opened our eyes, too, and plugged our noses and floated like mermaids and dolphins. When we tired of that, we laid on our bright towels and felt the pavement sizzle under our thighs and barely-there breasts. Chlorine and cola mingled in our noses and on our tongues; the younger girls stole licks of their salty, glistening arms. Mothers and their babies were along this side of the pool, and we came every day, so we got to know them all. Pool friends, summer friends, friends who we recognized only by the diagonal stripe on their suits or their swirls of patient cornrows laced with pink and orange beads. Pool friends who had no mothers or mothers who sat on blankets to bake their legs, their arms, and read novels with half-nude men on the covers. We swam until the sky turned pink and our bodies shriveled with water and salt and spent joy. We went home washed out, clean.
47 “:Sweet Morphose”
by Natalie DeFazio Off near the pier, the carrion girls come. Shrouded in gray, they glide in on ocean fog when the horizon disappears and the sun is a silver thread across the sand. Cackles erupt, silent, and they jostle the crabbers, clams, and cages. The old men, salt-bearded and yellow, stare out into the whiteness and marvel at the nothing that is there. The girls come slow, heave wordless on the wind, and smash with the surf on jagged cliffs. They push inward, past sleeping bucks and tender fucks, past lowing cows, through undergrowth and dead hills and new money. They are the kin of banshees. They are emptiness filled with dried-up marrow. Their dead city has forgotten them. Hungry, they come feasting up the empty highway. June has fallen ill, high and fevered, but twirls toward a warm home in the dark street. Stars, spilled from buckets of subatomic glitter, hide behind the coastal cloak, but she can see them grinning at her through dime pupils. The velvet of her tongue and the night sky are one in the same. A tiny owl sits on a phone line and shrieks like a child. The women with soft pants and sleek sedans are in their sheets. Wine-addled and tipsy hours passed long ago. Mother would have called her daughter home at dusk, if only she had remembered. The girl twirls into the main street of the sleeping wine city, its noses high and shades drawn. She dances for the winds that toy with her locks and the married men in their beds, her skirt besmirched with rough handprints and oily puddle murk. June smiles to one side of her mouth when she lies and takes rosy bubble baths at two in the morning. She washes away the boy-sweat and watches the asphalt grit fall off her thighs and turn the water grey. Tonight, she sees the glow of the bathroom window and thinks of hot water. She shivers. Tonight, she's dirtier than ever. She pops bubble gum to a song stuffed in her ears and siphons ugly poetry from it. The nymphs always know the call of fevered dance; they feed on it. Road nymphs feast on chaos, condom wrappers, and discarded gum. June is no different. The night is her real mother, watching her every move where her false mother does not. She sways to deafening melodies with her eyes shut. She straddles the road and her vision becomes white light. A rumbattered man in a luxury car swerves too far to the right and throws bubblegum June into a ditch. His headlights disappear far down the hill, flickering leather fireflies. The world is a dove’s feather in a speck of dust to June. Her pink chest quivers and the stars become cracked spotlights. The blonde rays of her sun splay behind her and coat the muddy gravel. Hot hurting breath forms a ghost above her cheeks. “It’s a perfect night to fly,” she says, roosting below the road with broken bones. The candy-stamped pills in her bra spill into the grass. The band of bird-sisters cries out in pleasure to the black moon, maws wide and full of saliva. Their breath stinks of sunken ships and alchemy. Sulfur fills their eyes and green copper rims their skin where the feathers are bare. They know the names of the battered whores, the eccentric widows, and the forsaken homeless. They spot a twisted leg, shaved smooth and bent in offering toward the street from a hole in the ground. Their summertime road doll is swollen with mandrakes and atropine, all babbles and moans. June coos at the girls and they laugh, all of them, each one drunk on seawater and magpie blood. She is beautiful and full of effervescent lust. She lies upon a threshold of tipsy marriages and comfortable white collars, and the door slams shut. Serpent fingers brush her thighs. Her cotton throat bellows. She says, “Let me go, let me go.” The carrion sisters echo. They say, “Let us go, let us go.”
Their talons push in. Their purple tongues sup at her whiteness and June feels champagne burst in her chest and numbness in her toes. Ichor trickles down her legs and the crow women carry her to her feet. No nymphs of Artemis run the hunt tonight. Tonight is the domain of Maenads and Lampades, bearing wine and torches. June’s buzzing phone slides from her shirt and she grabs for it, but a blackened hand stops her. “Get your hands off me! I’m not one of you. You’re all nightmares—you’re sick!” The crow women, annoyed, say, “We’re very particular about who we pick.” The corvid troupe sweeps her away, gliding past her home on the hill where light bulbs still burn and June’s mother chuckles with her husband over sweet drinks. The bitter hours of the morning have come, inky black and starved like the stomachs of the nymphs of blood and mist. Putrefying from the inside, June feels cravings, but cannot name her ambrosia. She asks, “Is there a feast? A party? Can I have a man’s touch?” The sisters say, “The things you seek will never be enough.” June weeps and tears at her hair. She notices that many of the girls have bald patches. She cries, “I hate you. I have nothing. Just bring me back home.” The carrion ones say, “You don’t have nothing—you know nothing; you’re doomed to roam.” They stop at the overgrown yard of an old woman who June never spoke to. The cloud of carrion women rests on the nest-infested porch, smelling decay on an off-white plate. A crow, killed yesterday with a trap and a knife lay with its wings open for an embrace. The smell of myrrh lingers from a crack in the front window. They take the plate and set it in their circle, ripping it bald and poking feathers in June’s hair. One girl devours its pathetic body, leaving only bones for the rest. June asks, “Why stop here? Why the plate? Why no shame?” The feasted girl says, “My mother lives here. Soon, yours will do the same.” Decades and centuries separate the girls, but all of them are sisters. They leave the porch and fly off to bathe in the oil-slick midnight puddles in parking lots. The men sleeping in alleyways watch the putrid peep show that the insomniacs cannot see through their windows. June feels no pain in her cracked limbs as she rolls in the murk. She marvels at how the black water brings out her glow. The sisters braid each other’s sodden hair with broken twigs and blackbird bones. “We are beautiful,” they tell one another. June scoffs. She flicks her tears away and splashes her face with asphalt water. They drip with dirty perfume and roam toward the heart of the city. The fog begins to thin, but the scavengers stay and loom. The dampened girls loiter in a lot overgrown with rosemary and rat nests. They refuse to share their stories with June, whose story is just as hushed. They speak a language known only by birds and sisters. Little happens after midnight these days with those northern coastal towns and their dead daughters. June counts the holes in the netting latched to one of their necks. She admires their sickly bodies covered in smut and sticky blood. Her chest becomes a leaden void, and she feels pangs of nausea. She knows she will be like them when she finally grows up.
They dance in a circle, linking broken arms and hooting curses on the wind. They scorn old lovers, they damn their dead and dying families, and they search for new mothers in the trenches of the ocean. They share visions of sweet old ladies with glowing eyes and needle teeth, bearing fins and venomous spit. Only a mother like the black ocean could comfort them. There’s a rumor being spread that the carrion girls are jealous of the Nereids and Sirens. At least those girls appear in history books and myth. Carrion daughters have no ships to wreck, no sailors to beguile. Their squawks and caws are unfit for song. Oil now stains the Sirens’ sea-rocks since the sisters took them over. They sigh and long for those sweet garbage-infested waters. June longs for them, too, forgetting her false home of lights, boyfriends,and hopelessness. Homesick, spying thinning mist, they unlink and leave cockroaches on the grass in their wake. June feels the cold permeate her marrow and drops to the ground. The sisters, veiled in lust, take their slow turns with her tarnished body. They peck out her tongue. June’s screams become a nightingale’s call. Tonight, the pavement of highway one is rough and sodden with roadkill near the Catholic graves. June has relatives stowed away in the walls by the eucalyptus trees, but she will never know their names. Beetles make their homes in the dirt beneath her feet. She feels dank feathers bud beneath her skin and tries to scream in ecstasy. The maenad parade in the street fights their way through decomposing fox tails and deer entrails, picking their teeth with gull ribs, smiling wide. The women flip their seaweed hair and whisper filth to one another, talking of trash pits and disrespecting the dead. One perches on a headstone and another pecks a vase of carnations into pieces. June sounds a throaty call heard only by fishermen at dusk. She falls upon her sisters and kisses them until the fog swallows her. She craves the taste of their feathered seawater flesh. They cackle, caw, and dart home toward the shore again. There are no carrion boys or men.
51 “Stranger on the Trail” By Jamil Kochai
Well at first look, it almost appeared as if that old nameless traveler might have been leading those two gunmen. As if the two masked assassins and their one blessed mule might have been following that old stranger, that lost wanderer, down that dark trail which carved through the heart of Logar. The gunmen trecked behind him at such an easy pace, and the old man had such a serene expression on his face, his hands gently folded at his back, his lips whispering the soft incantations of a holy verse, and were it not for the rifles and the masks and the silence, the gunmen looked like they might of been the old man’s students or his servants, maybe even his sons. But if you had watched them for long enough, watched them as they marched in the night through the outskirts of the village, you too would have realized that that poor old wanderer from deep in the white mountains was being pushed down that darkened road by the looming carnage of the flesh, the sweet sins of the gunmen, held as a heretic, the ends of their rifles were the beginnings of the journey. The old stranger looked about at the passing orchards, apple trees blooming in the summer night. He saw the tall fields of grain, the homes built of clay and thatch, and he watched the road with great attention but could not figure exactly which province he was in. A sharp drop in the road, caused him to stumble a bit, the dust of the trail lifted, settled on his white beard, his gray shawl. He steadied himself, and glanced back at the gunmen. They carried their rifles on their shoulders like shovels, pulling their mule by a rope. Both the same size, both of them draped in black, with scarves hiding their faces. Both with gray eyes, which cut through the darkness like moons drifting in the night. He wondered who they were, and why they held him. It was a time of war, of course, but when was it not? He tried to remember the faces of his many enemies, the names of the warring factions, but soon realized that he could not even remember his own name, nor the names of his wife and child, or mother and father. He stared out over the dark plains, his hands shaking. Panicking. When had he lost it? He closed his eyes and searched for an image, a remnant of his past, a reflection of himself, but he’d been wandering those White Mountains in search of God for so long that he’d forgotten who he was. What was the name his father had given him? What was the name he was to pass down? All that remained now was his vision of the mountains, the passing of blood through stone, the only faces that came to him were of the five men he’d shot, down in the valley. He looked to the east for the rising sun, soon Fajr would be upon them, and he wondered if these gunmen would let him have his final prayer. It was quiet in the country, and so the old man began to listen for answer. The leaves fell and he heard them falling, he heard a stream in the distance, the lapping of the water. He heard the wind cutting through the slits in the tips of the grain, and the soft trotting of the mule’s hooves. But the land told him nothing of his name, nor of his past. The trail loomed on. He glanced back at the two small gunmen, and their large black mule, and for a moment he looked into the animal’s eyes. They were dark and wet, and the animal almost seemed to pity him. “The mule has a name.” the old man thought to himself “the mule will die with a name”. *As time passed on that trail, and all around him the songs of Logar seemed to quiet, he’d grown to hate the gunmen. Not because of the rifles, or the marching, or the looming execution. No he hated them because they refused to speak. Came upon him earlier in the night, as he prayed at the edge of the white mountain, ambushed him without a word. Just a gesture of the rifle. A resounding click of the barrel. And if the gunmen had given him a single word, just one word, he might’ve asked them why? Why were they marching? And what were they marching too? And who was this man they were going to shoot? What was his name? But they had not spoken, and they would not. So they lead him down that dark trail, the faceless gunmen and the nameless victim, quiet as a dying pasture. Soon Fajr would be upon them. The traveler looked out onto the countryside and searched for the sun. He felt the swift rise of an updraft, and the black mountains to the west seemed to weep softly for him, in
the dark. The gunmen were still behind him, their footsteps muffled in the soft clay, they didn’t seem to breathe. The trail was leading toward the edge of the village, the outskirts of the badlands, northwest toward a line of black mountains, and as they walked, the road seemed to widen and the fields and the orchards and the homes began to fall off. In the distance he saw what they were coming to, what they had been marching to all along, he looked down at his feet and saw the small trickling of a dark black water, a thin stream which lead onto a deep pit of oil, and in the darkness, this black pit seemed almost a lake or an ocean. He glanced about himself and could not tell if the oil sprung from the earth or from some shattered tank. The time was coming near, and still he could not recall his name, nor his wife and child. He tried again to search within the passages of his mind, but all that came to him were the shrieks of white phosphorous, the pounding of gunfire, thunder in the heavens. He saw again the pale faces of his forgotten enemies. Why them? Why now? He looked into the gathering of oil, the blood of the earth. He watched the country bleed, without a plea, without a sound. He was afraid and so he asked the gunmen, “What was my name?” But they did not answer. So he turned to face them. Turned away from that black pit of oil, away from those dark mountains. Turned to face his assassins, the last gunmen. What was his name? But as he turned to look upon them, he saw only gunfire, flashes of light from the orchards, assassins sleeping in the trees, an ambush from the sky. The enemy of his enemy, a final killer, waiting for them all. They fired quick bursts of white light. The old man just stood and froze and watched. The mule had been dropped, so had one of the gunmen, his scarf too had fallen. His mask finally unveiled, his face torn from the shadows. His face revealed. The other had disappeared, maybe to meet the ambush, or else he might’ve faded into the mountains. So the stranger looked upon the one left behind and he felt like weeping. For he saw that the gunmen was but a child. A boy. Young enough to be his son. A sheep in wolf’s clothing. Both of them must have been children. Just two boys, lost on the trail, carrying rifles, pretending to be men. Puppets of the true assassins. Sons of the gunmen. Harbingers of the lineage of man. The child of man. And the boy is bleeding from his gut, crawling, pulling himself with one arm toward the stranger. The mule too was dying, it shrieked and called out in the dark, its eyes were open and black. And the child was still crawling, leaving his weapon behind. He looked up to the old man, his eyes dripping, his little hands quivering in the dark, and so the old stranger knelt down and gestured for the boy to come forward. The child reached the man and he pulled him into his arms. “Well this must be my son” , he thought to himself, smiling. “All along my son. Just my two sons following me on the trail. Leading me home. But where was the other boy, the brother. Lost. Lost to this country. This dying country of mine.” He looked into the child’s grey eyes and gently touched his face. The white fire flashed again from the dark patches of the orchard. The man and his son pulled themselves away from the gunfire, and the rubble, and the countryside. Toward the mountains, and the black ocean. No more strength left in their bodies they rested a moment before that dark pool of oil. Fajr was almost upon them, soon the sun would rise and they looked toward the mountains and waited silently for the azzan, for the final calling. “Were you the one who shot me?” he asked the boy, noticing the bullet holes which lay scattered across his chest like the markings of land. The blood dripping like rivers, and he the earth. “No,” the child replied, “They just told us to bring you down from the mountain.” The stranger nodded. Said that he believed him, although he didn’t, although he couldn’t be sure. But it didn’t matter now. They looked to the north, the child and the man, watching for the sun, and they heard the calling of the final prophet, ringing through the country and the wheat and the trail, echoing against the black surface of the oil. The light of the morning seemed to drape all over the earth in the tint of the sea. He looked down at the boy, this decaying child. This plague of love. The boy’s eyes were open, and he did not move, the old man pulled him into his lap and held him. He heard the calling and so the
motions and the scripture all flooded back to him. As if never lost. He looked down at his hands which were stained in blood, and dug his fingers deep into the red dirt, just at the edge of the pool, he sifted the earth in his hands and began to rub it into his palms and fingers, up along his arms, and into his face, deep into the skin, the flesh. He crouched onto his knees and recited the scripture. Called a Name. The only Name he could remember. The only Name there was. Then he began to bow and as did so he realized that that pit, that lake, that black ocean, had been waiting there for him his entire life, and every step he ever took, every motion he ever made was only in anticipation of that final act of prostration. So he allowed himself to fall, brought himself down to meet the earth, and as he fell, all around him the trees and the grain bloomed into ash, and the rivers evaporated into mist, the pastures shattered and broke open, and the great black mountains of Logar crumbled into dust. His forehead touched the blood of the land, his face dripped into the oil, he hesitated for a moment and then allowed himself to be swallowed by the black water. He shifted in the motion of shadows. A hollowed darkness filled his soul with a terrible and almost deafening lightness. He became but a wave in the black ocean of space. The sinewy waters of time. Time immortal. The time of God. His hands became light, and all around him there were songs. Sweet and everlasting songs. And so, finally, the earth embraced the man, as did time, as did blood, as did love. As did God. Â
where you are. now,
56 “Continuums of Appearance” By Jon Alston
It starts like this: you're twelve, you have way too many friends on Facebook, too many pictures on your phone, and no one gives a shit what you have to say. So now what? Get Instagram and take pictures of everything you can, make your $800 iPhone picture look like a 1970's porno mag, put it on the web, and BAM! Still, no one cares. This is our life. This is what we do. When we talk about photography, visions of poorly lit, black and white, out of focus photographs materialize. But here's the thing: everything we see, or do not see, are choices made by a photographer. These choices lead us to interpret the photograph through the photographer’s lens and allows us to enter the life shown, even if only for a moment. A camera is a magic box that converts light into frozen cells of the past. Through darkroom chemistry, photographs can be born and reproduced. Photography is the blending of fantasy and reality, the melding of old and new, where inhibitions are lost to chemical baths in darkrooms. The first time I picked up a camera, a real one you have to put actual celluloid film in, I was about five. My father was an avid picture taker. I say picture because I mean picture. He didn't photograph anything, not in the way I think of photographing; he took pictures of his kids: camping, hiking, Boy Scouts, birthdays, etc.; he was always behind the camera. Maybe we have a handful of pictures with my father and the whole family together when I was a kid. Maybe. But that's not the point. As long as I can remember, I've known about cameras. And film. And taking pictures. Waiting a week for film to get developed and printed, not knowing whether or not a single shot even made it through, let alone was in focus, or if the f/ or shutter speed set correctly. And after that week you'd take the photos home and feel the glossy finish on your skin, and know that you held the past, that you saw on paper a moment, somehow immortalized with magic. Because you tell yourself you understand, you totally get how the camera works, it's just light . . . and stuff. But you don't. All you know is that you see through that timebox of an eye piece, the autofocus does its job, and you pray the rest works. And when it does, you hold magic. So what do we hold now? Ask yourself, honestly, what do we hold? I can go on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or hundreds of other sites I know nothing about and see billions upon billions of images--not photographs, not even pictures, but images. I can see them, glowing on the computer screen or tablet or smart phone. A burning glow that I can't touch, I can't feel, I can't understand, because I don't know if it's real. I don't know what has been done in Photoshop to manipulate the pixels in just the right way to make me believe what I see is real. It's an image. No history, no background, no life. Only pixels. Then, we move along. Thousands of images pass through our brains this way daily. And not a single one leaves any sort of lasting impression: as soon as it appears, the pixels drift away and are replaced by the next image and its pixels, and we never really synergize with that image. Whatever is lost in cyberspace has no material, no tangibility, only viewability. Because of this, images online don't exist unless viewed. Whereas, photographs can be touched, almost ask to be touched. And when we put them away in albums or shoe boxes, hang them on walls or stuff them in our wallets, they are still there, taking up space, whether we view them or not. It's been over twenty years since I held my first camera. Now my collection spans over ten film cameras (35mm, 120mm, large format) and one digital (because let's face it, if you're going to make a business out of wedding photography, you can't afford film, it's impossible). Now, cameras (even of the digital variety) are a rarity. Seldom do you see anyone walking around with an SLR around their neck, snapping pictures of trees and friends and family, hoping to go home and make a slide show for neighbors and distant relations to share in the episodes from a long vacation. No, we have cell phones. And our cell phones have cameras. And apps. And the internet. Images go from cell phone to social sites in seconds, with no consideration for what the image truly is, what truth or reality the captured may portray. And
behind those cell phones are people hoping to get enough likes on Facebook, Retweets, and little hearts from Instagram. It's not about what is or is not in the image, what composes the image, not even about the mechanics of capturing the image (all choices made by the cell phone's automation). More importantly, no actual object is created. Megabits and pixels, information scattered to be consumed. No magic. We've been taught to believe that because images are eternally stored online, unscripted, they contain truth. Social media culture is shaping the way we view images (and ourselves), insinuating that all images represent reality. The internet asks nothing of us: no effort, no reading of these images. We are not expected to put in as much effort as the creators. Photographs, however, share real experiences with those who have not had the same experiences while trying to keep the actuality of the experience intact. "What about staged photographs?" you may ask. Perhaps a model wrapped in linen sitting by a tiger. Nothing real about the situation. Yet, the photograph itself exists, the recording of a time when a woman sat with a tiger existed. And the photograph proves such. Images cannot bring this type of reality to viewers. Images do not possess the quality of tangibility, which eliminates any possibility for truth, for representations of actuality. The same image could be several elements compiled together, the woman, the tiger, even the linen, never coming in physical contact with each other. It's difficult to see human existence in something like internet images when there's nothing tangible attached to it. Reality is the un-interpreted, pure existence of human kind without outside influences shaping our understanding of a person, idea, or object’s existence. Reality: that is truth; but whose truth? It is safe to say that in photographs it is the photographer’s truth; they are the ones framing the shots, choosing what subjects to shoot, and in turn taking the images that we are seeing. The body, or physicality, of our existence is how we can know, relate, feel and experience life. But what happens when this delicate and precise process is ignored, when each cell phone attached to a person steals hundreds of images a day, disassociates them by scattering them online, ignores the object for content, and leaves an invisible trail leading to only more invisible trails until there is nothing left? To answer that, let's talk about photographs for a moment. Photographs inherently have no language. By itself, a photo has no meaning other than light's impressions made on a piece of celluloid that has been chemically treated to represent an instant in time. But there is no meaning; there is no language in the image itself. However, everything we do is language. Or more directly, the way we understand the way we do everything is understood through language. When I see a chair, I know it’s a chair not because it has that innate physical property imbedded in its creation and existence, but because the language that I have in my brain interprets the shapes that my visual sensory perceive to be a chair. The same goes with photographs. When I examine, read, look at – whatever – a photograph, I only understand its existence through language: that's just how it works. It almost seems impossible to separate language from image, and image from language, because both enhance and enable each other. I read a book/description of something, it builds a picture for me in my mind; I look at a photograph, and immediately a story of words forms instead. The world is language. No matter what is reality, human actuality, real, nonfictitious, fiction: all of it language, and we cannot assume that photographs stand alone and are read without the inclusion of our own internal dialogue. When this happens, what the photograph represents, and what we understand it to represent differ, and drift apart. The more and more we allow language, i.e. life, to influence our understanding of a photograph, the farther this gap becomes. If this is the case, then we must assume that images online, too, are influenced by language and life. Here I have defined five general language barriers—or codes of resistance—that inhibit interpretation of photographs, and by relation, images: •
Indirect Language: language found in a photograph not directly related to the photograph; whether description in a book or online, it is incorporate language in the form of text which does not directly reference the presented photograph
Direct Language: language that is directly in collaboration with a photograph, whether through captions, analysis of the image (an author’s connotations), or mere discussion of the image’s presence within a text and its relation to other images Photographer’s Language: the reality of a photograph, whether the photographer is aware of it or not; with every photograph the photographer makes choices in subject, framing, lighting, exposure, etc.; all that we see in an image is a choice made by a human and because of that, the image intrinsically contains that person’s language Cultural Language: language that any given culture presses upon an individual living within it; this is the way in which a culture views the world and understands it Personal Language: language that stands outside of culture; experiences from an individual’s life that have shaped the way in which they view the world, or how they interpret forms of communication; personal language will project – consciously or subconsciously – personal views of a person upon the image which cause them to see what they want to, and not necessarily what actually is; cultural language and personal language intertwine constantly.
Regardless of any text accompanying a photograph, there are already three codes blurring the meaning of it: Photographer’s, Cultural, and Personal. With the addition of textual codes, readers are distanced even further from the original meaning or intention of the photograph, and because of this they forcefully (and subconsciously) resist photographs. At its most distant, a photograph can contain all five codes, when text surrounds an image, such as in essays and books. Imagine now how an image on the internet is distorted: first, we must accept that the image online inherently has all five of the codes of resistance, since all images inherently carry the Photographer's, Cultural, and Personal; all online experiences are also bombarded with incalculable amounts of text, whether comments or descriptions, or blog post, or whatever it may be. But there are other codes that the internet has that photographs do not: human interference. Some may say that in film human error can be considered interference, or choices made in the darkroom. To that I say: yes. To a point. But what I mean with human interference is the deliberate alteration of images to elicit specific, otherwise unachievable, reactions. We in this generation are all too familiar with Adobe Photoshop and its amazing ability to manipulate images into whatever we want to see: a great white shark jumping out of the water at man dangling from a helicopter. The problem: once an image is altered, in any way, it loses that Photographer's Language, and is replaced with a multiplicity of other languages that makes it near-impossible to know the reality of that image. Or to create a reality for it, since the modification now chooses that reality. Falsification of images is not the only form of human interference; another aspect is discontinuous image correlation. There is a sort of relational language between photographs, in that we find relationships in appearances of photographs, and that one photograph runs into another photograph, that we understand one because of the other. It is a sort of causality or a continuum of photographic relations facilitated by our memories of other photographs (whether in experience or other photographs because both are understood in the same manner – with our eyes interpreting light reflected from objects). The problem here is that with images, this continuum is facilitated not by experience, but by the choices of those uploading their content online. It could be argued that as viewers, we make the choices by deciding what websites we go to and how we choose to view those images. Unfortunately, this mentality presumes that the internet only wants its users to enjoy themselves, to bask in the free wonder of universal knowledge accessible to all, at all times, and in all places. That could not be further from the truth. Even on Facebook we want people to think we are better, or cooler, or more interesting than we are, it is the sole purpose for uploading any image or idea of post to the internet. The continuum stops; our sense of causality no longer exists; images don't sequence from one to the next as photographs and memories do, and our memories become disrupted. The problem with this is that we begin to forget where an image came from in the first place. And all of a sudden, the images we once knew become ambiguous; as well as the photographs, because they too are lost in our disrupted memories. We are left with millions of images sifting in our brains, attached to
nothing, unable to be recalled at will. I can only think of a quotation from a book. There is a body of language that makes up an idea or story, and when a singular line is taken from the text and read by itself, if we have no previous knowledge of the full text, we cannot have a complete understanding of the context from which this solitary line came from. Interestingly, we do find meaning in the quotation without the rest of the supporting text. It is a meaning that we create from our expectations of what images should mean, as well as from the experiences that we have in our lives. The meaning we see is the meaning we want and expect to see. This applies to both photographs and images. Unfortunately, images are not even given the opportunity for viewers to create this new meaning, because that meaning is given to them (whether by the original poster, a comment, other unassociated language, whatever). But unlike misinterpreting the intentions of a quote, when we are overloaded with images, bombarded by a constant barrage of pixels we become desensitized to images, to relating, to interpreting, and we no longer add meaning to what we see, but allow meaning to be given to us, as viewers no longer participating in the experience of seeing. What all this means when it comes down to it, is that we are fabricating a language by which we understand our surroundings; we are given a language on how to experience the world, a language that we did not choose, but we are given without knowing. Photographs are ambiguous at best. It's true. However, the little window of truth they capture, the tangibility of that truth, cannot be denied. And just as all objects can be destroyed, so can a photograph, but that does not retroactively eliminate its existence, does not erase its truth. Images do not possess these qualities. You cannot destroy what never was. You cannot find truth in something that in itself does not exist, does not hold to its physicality and representation of reality. Photographs, though limited in their own reality, are the only means by which we can preserve our realities, both in memory and in time. Images will only dilute our understanding of ourselves and the world.
60 Where Their Worlds End By Sean Ventura
Victorians line the wide, one-way streets, struggling to hold themselves up on pillars where the white paint has never known a second coat. These rotting houses, some a faded blue, others 70’s green atop crumbling porch steps, sit close upon the road as if waiting to topple over and engulf them. Every window is opaque with grime and the houses sway whenever someone fucks on the second floor; paint flakes off the exteriors in sheets, falling to the pavement to lay side-by-side with crisps of elm bark like used lunch bags. The sidewalk is rippled by the invasive roots of the elms that stretch upwards with veined green leaves to ceiling the passage of several cars; first one faded Volkswagen Beetle chugs by noisily, followed closely by a rusted BMW that struggles to keep up with both the Beetle and its own momentum. On top of the sidewalk, avoiding the cracks and bumps of growth, is a couple walking unhurriedly yet speaking with the borrowed speed of two venti mocha frappucinos with whip. They dress similarly, as that’s the fashion they all pray to over glossy magazines flashing idols they mold themselves after; their pants have holes in the knees, maybe one or two more placed casually in the thighs to allow the pocket’s inner lining to breathe and be seen. The grey denim is stretched tight around their scrawny legs and worn long to clasp itself around pale ankles; they almost touch the carefully frayed hem of second-hand, slip-on shoes that once knew price tags bearing triple digits. Their shirts are purples or lavenders or maybe maroon and the necks swoop low, despite the chill, to reveal chests equally smooth, but only a glimpse underneath knitted scarves that wrap unconcernedly around necks spanned by speaker wires ending looped over the backs of ears. One will tell the other that a band is playing around the corner; a band is playing around the corner and it’s so fresh that she could not have heard of it, but she has. They’ve all heard of it. She wants to go with him but can’t. She’s already planned on spending her night drinking long island iced teas and getting hit on by the heavy-set women at the gay bar; it’s two blocks further down at the end of their world. She has no intention of ending the night with these women, but the attention is a good chaser after a shot of cheap whiskey. At the show around the corner, he will slowly warm a Pabst in his hand and sip only half-heartedly. He doesn’t like the band. He doesn’t like even the style of music, but it’s expected and so he’s there. In his other hand he thumbs words into his phone and sends them to those of his friends that couldn’t make it out; he consoles them with somewhat pure sincerity, tells them that it really is fucked that their coffee shops kept them working late on a night like this. The two of them, this boy and that girl, weave home their separate ways. Their paths are straight, generally; one foot follows the next, at least, but they must wind back and forth across a grid of streets. The old, overarching trees stand witness as their paths meet at the foot of a muddy blue Victorian. They fall into each other. Falling onto each’s shoulders, the two A with a dry kiss. The boy tries to close the empty foot between them; he thinks of nothing more than his throbbing need, and yet she pulls away. The pale tan of his neck reddens as he accuses. He claims the texts he sent to her, unanswered. You were with a man. I know you were with him. And the truth is he’s afraid. He knows he’s no competition, and she knows this too. So she kisses him tighter than before, pressing her hips against him hard. She thinks of his unanswered answered texts, of his fumblings in the dark, but mostly of her; her with the golden hair, cut short and mussed; it reminded her of his, almost. Her shirt was tight and white, stretched thin and showing a black outline beneath. That kiss, so much less insistent, seeking so little. It sought no promises. So she allows his probing tongue into her mouth; lets him taste of dreams of her.
Other Shades of Grey His name was Christian. He was a fictional character. He made my wife, the prude, behave in ways she never had. I never complained. Not when she sighed his name in the middle of the night. Not when she stopped going to church. I liked Christian. I liked him until, one night, I found my wife spread out across the bed, bleeding, making love to the Holy Book. Whip me, she said. They say words don’t hurt, but they do.
Hunger Games. That’s what she thought about when her Mom said, Finish your food, there are starving children in Africa. As though with each devoured plate, she saved another of their fly-covered faces, another of their bellies that seemed so much fuller than his could ever be. Later, when the sun blazed and the rivers disappeared and the soil dried, and the government forced citizens to cannibalism, she stormed the streets with her axe, licking her lips, wondering about the sugary taste of African flesh.
Twilight This girl with untouched face and skin of swan, who waits for the immortal to touch her pink lips, to inflate her lungs, to inject saliva and mucus and marrow and bile and blood into the nativity of her body, watches the moon rise new, red, waxing, full, white, half, orange, crescent, waning, blue, while the beast in the suit hidden on the top floor watches her, laughing his dirty laugh.
-by Elison Alcovendaz
Harry When he was young, Harry saved the world. Those that knew never spoke about it. In rare moments, walking the peaceful aisles of the grocer’s, he thought a fellow shopper might’ve noticed the scar, might’ve offered a grateful nod, a knowing smile. Now, Harry sits on the edge of his rocker, pulling strips of holly from his wand. There it is, the phoenix feather. He holds it to his face, waiting for it to dissolve into ash. Maybe he will be necessary again.
63 on Rape Cultureby Imani Mitchell as told by The Black Rabbit
They say there’s that moment when your hands stop trembling and words spread even across your tongue like butterflies instead of clumping against your throat. What happened, however, was this. Black butterflies with oily heads. Squirming against my throat. Fists clenched. Small and wet. His house crouched low, squeezing me inside. Its breath. His breath against my head. We had fallen into an agreement. You’ve heard it before. Maybe its come from your mouth. No strings attached. Sometimes my phone would ring and I made my way to him. Sometimes my muscles in my throat, in my brain, wherever the place ideas come from, and we met on my urge. Together we both knew. A sexual relationship. Nowhere past that. Together we both knew. I had come to his house on a Sunday. Within fifteen minutes I could only see red. Entering his room. We were the only ones in the house. He locked the door behind him. Stripping off his clothes. Pushing me on his bed. All of his weight. Below him, fully clothed and not wanting intercourse, I was bewildered. I tried to push him off me. Whore. His voice flooded me ears. Whore. Bitch. Tease. I watched him shape the words in his mouth. Watching him insult me I heard the words become soothing. He apologized. Don’t worry pet. I couldn’t make sense of this. I did know. Everything was wrong. I needed to leave. Telling him I had to go to the restroom. He followed, closing the bathroom door behind us. Saying, use the bathroom in front of me. Saying, you are “mine” now. Saying, I had nothing to worry about. My face flushing and my mouth dry. Little and raw. Embarrassed and vulnerable. Who was this man. No limits to what he was possible of doing. His words in my ears. His words in my ears, saying secrets. He had told me he had hit his ex girlfriend. He wouldn’t do it to me. I wasn’t his. This was different. Just casual sex. His voice slid over my body. Bitch. His face contorting as he threw his words at me. Woman need to be put in their place, he spit. It was my time to learn. There I was, a supposed proud feminist, with my head lowered and my eyes cast on the floor. I reached for the door. He was filling up the room. My body, suffocating. He started barking. Where was I going. I made an excuse about calling my mom to check in. He let me leave. I grabbed my purse, ran out to the door to my car, and hands shaking I put the gear into drive. As soon as I learned of rape culture, I developed an innate fear of men. Unfortunately, this awareness coincided with the so-called “sexual liberation” that I decided to embark on. Picture this: a 20 year-old woman confident in herself and supposedly confident in her sexuality and yet afraid of sleeping with or trusting any man. I could have a known a guy for years and deemed him a good person, but if he were to ever express desires for me sexually, I would automatically think of him as a predator. In another experience, I was invited to the home of a guy I knew and I knew him to be kind, trusting, and thoughtful yet my paranoia of being raped or worse being killed kept me trapped and scared. This fear became a part of my life when I came to the sad realization that rape culture is alive and well, and women are constantly victims of violence. More than likely, if the crimes against us go reported, we are shamed and ridiculed. Society and patriarchy tells us that it’s our fault, that we she should have never worn our skirts so short, that we should have never drank that much, or that we should have never been so stupid to go over to some man’s house alone. And if we’re too weak and battered to report rape, we live forever in pain and regret. Because in this world it’s our entire fault. Rapists are exempt from scrutiny and young women continue to be taught the ideology “don’t get raped” as supposed to educating young men to “not rape.” The only solution that has worked for me is educating men and women and raising awareness. Some men don’t know that when they approach us in a dark alley, our guard automatically goes up, even if they don’t have bad intentions. Some don’t know that showing up unexpectedly to our door can be uncomfortable for us and perceived as creepy. Some don’t know that locking you in a room with them raises a red flag. But some do. And whether they’re ignorant to our fears or feed off our fears, they must all be held accountable.
They say there’s that moment when your hands stop trembling and words spread even across your tongue like butterflies instead of clumping against your throat. What happened, however, was this.
Cult of the Dead // Land of the Living By Cory Rice Society is concerned to tame the Photograph, to temper the madness which keeps threatening to explode in the face of whoever looks at it. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida Outmoded photographic practices are in vogue like never before. This phenomenon extends beyond the usual clubs of deep-pocketed specialists willing to risk exploding their studios to make a few pretty pictures. Amateurs, professionals, and art world celebrities alike are getting their hands wet again. Workshops dedicated to daguerreotypes, tintypes, and other antiquated processes are being offered around the country with increasing regularity. Major museums are allocating resources to fund projects aimed at determining the material provenance and chemical makeup of photographs in their collections. Five years ago, a group of former Polaroid employees bought the last of the dying company’s production plants in order to continue producing its infamous products. Film that was virtually non-existent ten years ago is readily available again, along with cameras to expose it. And don’t forget about conventional film. More and more calls for photography publications and exhibitions “favor analog submissions.” Wedding photographers are creating separate price lists for discerning couples that prefer to be memorialized on film. The fetishization of the photographic object can only partly be explained as nostalgia since it runs deep into a generation born in a post-film era of photography. As is often the case when the outmoded reappears, the trend is symptomatic of a larger cultural anxiety. It usually only takes a few words with advocates for these dated technologies to realize that the current situation is a direct reaction to the negativeless, paperless, digital era of photography. They renounce the digital screen. It neutralizes touch, disintegrates the photograph. What is a photograph? Less than a month after Daguerre unveiled his silver-plated marvels to the French Academy of Sciences in January of 1839, Talbot announced his paper-based process to the Royal Institution in London. Talbot’s calotypes introduced the photographic negative. Photographs could be printed on any surface provided it was properly coated by emulsion. Over a century and a half of changes, some subtle, some drastic, led to where we are today. Photography has never manifested in a singular form. The digital screen is one support among many. But the devil is in the details. What about tonal range, resolution? The digital image simply cannot compete with the beauty of the analog photograph. Silver idolatry. Words that accompany portfolios of landscapes, portraits, fine art nudes. A naïve or willful amnesia shrouds the past fifty years of photographic practice. The decorative, the de-politicized, the innocuous. A calendar of Mapplethorpe’s flowers in a Cincinnati workspace. The veracity of the photographic image is under siege. The truth-value, the indexicality, the that-hasbeen of the photograph has been compromised by the ease with which one can manipulate pixels. According to at least one outspoken critic, we live in a post-photographic era. Pixels are not silver salts. They cannot be trusted. This argument is as vacuous as Mumler’s ghosts. Humbugs abound the history of photography. Everybody knows that. Nobody cares. Did Abu Ghraib happen? Did Capa’s soldier fall?
There was a time when taking bad photographs had consequences. Fiscal consequences-- if nothing else. You figured out how to get an image in a few shots because you couldn’t afford not to. Today every asshole with a camera built into his phone thinks he’s an artist. Eastman Kodak introduced the Brownie camera in February of 1900, effectively handing over photographic agency from the specialist to the consumer. The snapshot was born. Photography became a vernacular practice. A new use. A new aesthetic. It would never be the same. Photographers reacted by turning inward. The darkroom became a refuge. Art photography was invented, again. In 1940 Beaumont Newhall became the first director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art. At last, photography was recognized as Art in an institutional context. If you visit MoMA today, you will find the collection first organized by Newhall on the third floor, safely buffered from the painting and sculpture collection occupying the fourth and fifth floors. There seems to be an unspoken anxiety that one day a photograph of someone’s brunch will creep upstairs and settle down next to a Picasso. Wouldn’t that be lovely? Barthes recognized that the force of the photograph arrives from outside of the image. It eludes language. What was Camera Lucida if not a beautifully orchestrated dance around an impossible subject? Reflections on photography. Avert your gaze. Fill in the rest. Who has never fallen in love with an image? I started taking photographs of the Internet two years ago. It’s easier to begin with what somebody else thinks is worth looking at. I search for photographs that are us. No pretense. Photographs have been tainted by metaphor for far too long. I want to hollow them out. Photographs that choke language. Images that are irreparably present.
69 Â trio fragments by Jordan Okumura
Kindling He looks through the eye of a photograph. Smells the sounds of his body collapsing, within walls far from family, his schizophrenic breath. Under the map of his skin she remembers a memory that never happened. He is swallowed by the dream of a door, the eye of a door, its dawn; a tear under the lid of light where his story keeps slipping through to shadow. 1952 Point Pleasant. Her Uncle reads the newspaper to his sister through the night. Thinking she has passed, gone to ground, down through the mud that surrounded their ankles on Papa's dairy, down past the bones of a buried box full of the scraps of whispers, down past the weather vein spinning a story of the loss of us. He can't remember which dream is hers, which road she took in Papa's beat up, baby blue Ford. His sister leaves through an open wound and his night becomes a single star that she hides behind. She dreams of the child burning with ash on his knees, watching his father wilt into flame. These memories that made him a distant brother, a desire for abandon, the vein that connects from finger to heart. She remembers the things he cannot and wishes them into breath and light. Hinge Between the floor and sky, we seek a space for our book of scars. This breath of leather, paper and skin. The ridge of a memory, taut like a suture, written on the body as stories are. Kisses against the spine. Walking from water to rock, that voice dancing like a metronome. Each word that was laid into us as children, as wild animals, as adults, rips through the lacuna on the page. They mark the ground, like bread crumbs, to lead us to each other. We share this book, this book or scars, you and I, our day and night. It sits like a promise between us to learn to be unafraid. Wild fire. Fracture. Reconciliation. Your voice on a dog-eared page at midnight, reflected by a thinning mirror, over the ink on the thin white fibers beneath my nails. I drink your stories, know their scent on your skin. Between each word you write in our book of scars is the one I write below it, to you, in breath and bone. With each tear that touches air, is the one reflected in our naked light. I hold you, in a hand, in the fold of a blanket, in the corner kicking against the night. Tasting Light
She waits for her dreams to become memories of her waking life. Sitting at the edge of the yard where the earth lifts, she listens to what fog does to sound. The lights coasting on water. The damp earth ripe like a whisper. Her eyes are filled with the day. She’ll leave her daughter to the dew, let the fold out of the paper, hang up the phone without an echo. Her hands are seamless in her lap. She smells the lavender creeping like a cat towards her. Feels it paint the skin of her teeth. She rides it, like the water currents she sank beneath as a child. Follows it towards her memories of home. Inside here, she searches with less than a grain of light, feels for the tattered blanket on Grandpa’s chest, these threads pressed head to tail, collapsing time. Inside of a ring of ice, she falls like the center of stone fruit, past the Kentucky Blue, her voice flattened into shadow. Here her marrow finds roots, replaces her girl clothes with layers of sound. Patsy Cline praying under turning stones. The belly of the pit breathing. The night coming in. Along the exposed skin, the fog wets her skin lavender. Her skin stitched like a crooked inseam. The light, a dripping ceiling. Her home comes like a ribbon of sand, pushed into shapes by the coming storm.
72 “First they told us we were so pretty.” by Aja Lenae Johnson
First they told us we were so pretty. So cute when we played with our dolls; Dressing them up like mom, cooking for them, cleaning, taking them on walks in their tiny strollers, Drawing pictures of butterflies and dandelions as we sat on sidewalks. Blowing dainty little bubbles, With our dainty little lips, And dainty little fingertips. But one day it all became a more sinister shade of innocence. One day our dolls turned on us; Suddenly becoming terrifying monsters that dropped bombs in our mind fields, Slicing out our tongues if spoke too much, or too loudly. They poked and prodded us. With tiny needles attempting to pierce past our skin And through to our chest cavities. They bound us with assumptions…. As we wrote out our own eulogies before we had even flowered. Wishing for saviors because We thought saviors were a part of the grand design; Because we thought saviors would sweep us up and lay us down In beds of sweet-scented petals. But we couldn’t be saved could we? Couldn’t be saved from iron cages with lost keys. And the dolls they taunted, And the bubbles they burst on our foreheads dripping, Stinging our eyes, Blurring our vision. We were discouraged, distraught. We spewed pleas ‘til we stood in pools of our own blood. Drenched, we searched. And finally bruised and near broken, Teetering on the edge of hopelessness we found metal hairpins That had been hidden between our thighs at birth. Shamed the locksmiths for their faulty work, Broke free and shamed ourselves for ourselves we’d compromised. And now we play with razorblades. They stay tucked under our tongues that grew back like tails, So they know we’re a force to be reckoned with. We play with fire now. To burn fortresses and preconceptions, To warm the pieces of ourselves left bare, To light our way through uncharted forests
Where no chalk-lined sidewalks exist To lead us down paths back to our dollhouses; Where things were oh so pretty. Where they always thought first to mention these masks, And not our minds. See I won’t be defined by the slope of my nose, of the size of my lips or breasts. No, I won’t be solely defined by the curve of my hips or length of my legs. I was born of the womb fresh eyes and crying just like any other fucking person walking this earth So, don’t tell me that the sun shines only to freckle my face. Don’t tell me that daisies bloom to be placed in my wedding bouquet And not under my microscope where I might find a cure for some obscure cancer. And yes, I’ll gladly sing you to sleep. But don’t for one second think that my voice was solely meant for lullabies and not for speaking words to sway the masses Because I think we know that’s really not true. So the next time they go to reinforce those iron bars; The next time they go to tell some impressionable child only how pretty she is, if only they’d reconsider.
“Misfit” by Claire White Asthmatic binge of fallow air, Choking on my lungs’ capable repair Scrambling to trample underestimations, uprooting traintracks to damageable locations Wooden planks sharpening my mind when I throw in the towel where’s the grand design I cant find this conundrum of chances when I strengthily decline what I should know I am When we’re kneelin figuratively, givin alms somewhat miserably money bound hands gropin for some wealth, but this currency’s consistency is not conducive to the health What kind of health is this? I cant decide how to take care of this misfit surviving in the onslaught of too much hesitation Roped to the abrasion that rubs my shallow tendencies to be less than what I’m meant to be Someone reevaluate, someone reevaluate, someone reevaluate what this health really is Someone reevaluate, someone reevaluate, someone reevaluate what this health really is
Afsaneh Dehbozorgi This painting evolved after exploring and painting different expressions of modern and contemporary art. Both form and patterns came to me through out the evolution of my paintings. I also experimented with color, charcoal and ink. Being a Persian woman who was exposed in Iranâ€™s society to many injustices and devaluing of women, then coming to American society and being in Sacramento State University in the Master program, gave me the opportunity to express my feelings and perspectives on being raised to the age of young adult in that country. In this painting the female figure is purposefully placed in a void. The figure represents my feelings of conflict, and struggle both on the mental and emotional levels, which still remain in my memories. The use of lines and Farsi words created the rhythm and mood of the painting. Also, I tried to depict how that part of the world stayed static in its philosophy while modernizing externally, while the rest of the world progressed into the future.
Melissa Shaw My work deals with themes of duality, specifically duality of the self and duality of people and nature. I use animal imagery to convey various human emotions, behaviors, and moods, and to hopefully present a new and interesting perspective on human nature. Also present in my work is the notion of interconnectivity between us and nature and how weâ€™re more similar than we often pretend.
Aires Adalim “Insanity”. I drew the Cheshire cat as my own representation of Insanity, because he is famous for the quote, “We’re all mad here”. I used the theme of a split personality because on his right side, he appears to be a calm and normal looking feline; this side represents his natural physical appearance with his trademark grin. His left side, however, portrays a twisted mad cat; this represents his true mental self, his real personality along with an eerie smile. I got this idea from the villain Two-Face from the Batman franchise, whose split face matches the corresponding sides of Cheshire. I wrote the word “Insanity” upside down because there is an invisible line down the middle of his face that splits it into “Sanity” on the right and “In” on the left. If the words are separated, it portrays his two different viewed sides; but when together, it unites as the one true concept of the drawing: the Cheshire cat’s real form.
86 “To My Lover, The Cinema;” by Megan Ortanez
Hollywood and the Director’s Struggle to represent the “Other” and why they need to stop: The Case of Django Unchained. By Jordon Briggs For an artist and the medium they work in, the idea of self expression, the idea that a work of art is and should be the voice of that artist showing through, seems to be more apparent and praised in American culture than ever before. This shouldn’t be surprising, since we live in America, where individualism is what’s important. What do I bring to the table? What do I have to say and how can I say it? You may think we are in some new age of the passive aggressive, overly narcissistic, borderline nihilistic, America (young and old), but to anyone paying attention to the disintegration of strong social movements and radical ideas, starting in the 1920’s and 30’s and slightly resurging in the 60’s; and to the movement towards a fearful, self-‐centered, “bee-‐hive”, “American dream” saturated culture; what you are seeing now is nothing new or surprising. The fact that artists don’t get paid when they upload music, films, art work, or writing to the internet is one reason why now, self expression is more tolerated and even praised, along with the DIY concept turning from something an artist had to do to something artists are pushed to do. Accessibility. Everyone needs to be able to get a hold of it, whatever it is. Why? Because it’s cool? Yes, on the surface, but why? Really? So everyone can feel better about himself or herself. So we can all be American and have way to say what we want to say, when we want to say it, however we want to say it, no matter who else is involved, no matter who else we may be disrespecting, hurting, manipulating, alienating, brainwashing, lying to, taking away a voice. As an artist, there is a question that will always arise: is it right for you to tell someone else’s story? The self-‐ expression fans would mostly likely say yes. They may argue freedom of speech. They may argue that an artwork is entertainment. They may argue that if it wasn’t for that artist, that person or those people’s stories would never been written, filmed, drawn, sang, or danced. But do when does the artist ever ask himself or herself if it is not only morally right, but necessary to express through an art work, another person or people’s struggles or triumphs? Wins and losses? One art medium that seems to be having a huge problem with this question, or more importantly, wrongfully addressing it, is Hollywood and it’s depicting of the “other” on –screen. Now, what is the “other”? Any group of people who live in a country, society, and culture who overall, have no political and social control over how they are treated by authority, represented in the media, and have been historically and presently demeaned, ostracized, terrorized, murdered, or even slaughtered during the time they have tried to live. A life long member of the “other” is the African American. The representation or misrepresentation of African Americans has been a lasting issue in America mainstream cinema. Mainly because their depictions are usually, if not always (even by black directors) stereotypical, one dimensional, extreme, and counter productive, leading to mass acceptance by Americans of all colors, that African Americans are and should be like, the African Americans portrayed on film. One subject that seems to be almost taboo, but yet continues to be explored on film is slavery. Last year, director Quentin Tarantino came out with probably one of the most memorable films (Django Unchained) portraying slavery, and the plight of black people during those times. If there is any artist in the 21st century, especially in the medium of film who is not only loved, and admired for their own brand of self expression and seemingly (but not really, other than the dialogue) originality, his love for film and genre is Tarantino. The director is known for his film’s violence, witty writing, amazing cinematography, and reviving actor’s careers. Essentially, Tarantino is a director who has complete control and does everything he does deliberately. Seemingly, a true artist. Although he is known to be a huge Blaxploitation cinema (which in my opinion did hardly anything for black people) fan, has worked with black actors, grew up around black people; the question of an artist’s expression and representation of the “other” and whether or not Hollywood should continue to try and represent the other should be asked: is it right for an artist to tell some one else’s story? In the case of Quentin Tarantino and Django Unchained, I firmly say no, it is not right. In film, when an artist sets out to make a his or her own voice visible using the history and the struggle of a group that the artist is not apart of; the artist becomes self-‐serving, and disrespectful. Essentially, in making
this film, Tarantino has appointed himself as the voice of black aggression about slavery, furthermore presenting his own voice about slavery as a white man. There are list offenses that Tarantino, artistically, signs his name to. I’ll only go through a few. Slavery is not a subject that can filmed in a linear narrative for two and half hours. Not only is this a problem of Tarantino, but also it is a problem of Hollywood’s, historically, when it comes to his subject (an exception may be Rosewood by John Singleton). American mainstream cinema should most likely never deal with this topic, at least in the ways that it has in past and present. When a film is linear and story like, and Hollywood-‐esc, there is no room to explore the subject on screen. This means that audiences at large will not engage with or question the images on screen, and most likely will not be confused for the sake of learning. Issues of relating to slavery are extremely hard to handle on screen (if you want to make any meaning out of it) because it is too long of a history and many Americans, including African-‐Americans have a poor education and understanding of slavery’s effects before, during, and after. Tarantino deals with issues during slavery barely. Mandingo fighting: exploitation of the black body. Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio’s character’s relationship: the “house nigger”, and the separation of black families which is only expressed through two main characters: Django and Broomhilda. Films about slavery, if ever made, should be a lead into an education about the history of it and it’s effects on a people, and not an apology, nor an excessive violent revenge movie. Another offense is that as an artist and filmmaker, Tarantino places this imagined slave narrative into multiple genres. Tarantino is known for his love of the kung fu genre, spaghetti westerns, Blaxploitation, and crime. This is where he asserts the most disrespect to African Americans and the history of slavery. By choosing to move through different genres with this very sensitive subject, Tarantino does two things: takes away from the seriousness of the topic, and theoretically inserts himself into the film. He also places himself in the film as a character. At first look, the film is Blaxploitation, and as some know, Tarantino got the inspiration for this film while writing about the earlier Blaxploitation film Django. Already, there is the seed of self-‐expression. What is worse is when the slave revolt narrative is put into a genre. That narrative then must conform to the codes and traditions that make up a genre lessening the original narrative’s impact and seriousness. What the audience gets is a playful, entertaining action movie, and not an education. Theoretically, since Tarantino purposely maneuvers through genres and slips in references to film history in his films in the past, he as an artist lets his self expression take the place of actually trying to educate the audience and create empathy for a group of people who are still terrorized, ostracized, and are victims of institutional racism in contemporary America and were the same in the past. His voice is blaring through the film and drowns out the voice of the “other” to create an exploitive, self-‐serving, piece of artwork. And to throw some more salt on the top, he appears in the film! EGOTISCTICAL?! Finally, Tarantino as artist and sole creator of expression in this film takes away from the plight of the “other” by his allowance of excessive violence. If he thought that showing a black man blow away racist white people with the help of a white man, would help the audience somehow relate to Django or feel the fear and anger of a slave, Tarantino was wrong. The excessiveness of it is counter productive because it comes off as comical and unrealistic, further drawing audience members into this dream world, and away from any emotional connection. Also, as a conscious filmmaker, Tarantino knows that he cannot show blacks killing whites in a more realistic looking revolt, for fear of, sadly, being labeled as “pro black”, a “reverse racist”, and most likely never having the film made. Instead, he overdoes the violence in the movie so much that people will find it unbelievable, and end up placing the possibility of a revolt by the “other” only in history or in fantasy. Tarantino makes slavery revolt look like a monumental joke, further destroying any type of challenge for the viewer to engage with, question, or take any thing from the experience, all due to the lust of artistic self expression.
We live in a culture that celebrates individual struggle and success. As Americans we are taught to idolize certain people “stories”, then compare ourselves to them, and say to ourselves “I can do it too” “I want to say something too.” What this country doesn’t promote and refuses to understand is the strength of a community and the voice of groups of people working together to improve their situation. There is no true help, no understanding, no acceptance, no giving, if the artist, if the person is only out to express what they have to say and that be it. There can be no community or fellowship of the people if we are out to only please ourselves, especially as an artist. There needs to be a movement away from Hollywood style films, and a movement into explorative, engaging, filmmaking. The institution of Hollywood will never care about true representation, especially of the other. Profit is goal. The “other” will always remain exactly that, if there is not radical change in the way Americans treat those who are different. Those who mass media, society, American culture deem as a threat, an infection, a monster. Artists help to question, to see, to confuse, in hopes to bring people into education about the self as well as all that is around us. The artist must remain invisible as much as he or she can so that the real expression may come through the work of art.
92 “Yo, if you’re gonna do it, then do it right!”: Hollywood’s version of history is so wrong, but looks so right.”-‐ Film Review on Lincoln By Asma Negash
Fresh off of award season, Hollywood is trading in their ball gowns for shorter dresses, as the days get warmer before those big, summertime Blockbusters films come crashing in. Currently, these are the awkward in-‐between months where Hollywood tries to milk the last of the award season high, cash cow with the DVD and Blu-‐ray releases of all the nominated and award-‐winning films before they become forgotten with the anticipated release of Iron Man 3. This past award season was no different and if you’ve been asleep under a rock let me bring you up to speed. Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep are the Michael Jordan’s of acting. When they come out to play a full season, you will NOT win. Don’t bother trying. Seriously, it’s pointless. It only took ten years, but Hollywood has finally forgiven Ben Affleck for that piece a (explicit) called a film, Gigli. However, I have not and probably never will (they’ve clearly forgotten about the whole Bennifer thing). Did you know you could name your film after another spaghetti western film and still win best original screenplay? Yeah, don’t ask me how because I’ve been told that’s called plagiarism. Surely there must be a reasonable explanation and I’m still waiting for it. If you are a Palestinian filmmaker nominated for the Oscars, Michael Moore’s number written with a black sharpie marker on your arm is a season’s must have. Why? Because you will be detained by customs and because no one can possibly fathom how a citizen from a “non-‐existent” country could possibly be nominated for an Oscar, unless Michael mutha flippin Moore comes to your rescue. Welcome to America! All that aside, Hollywood’s nostalgic sentiments for history this past season has led to the critical and commercial successes for films such as Lincoln, Django Unchained, and Argo. All of the films were touted as re-‐enactments of major American historical events, some openly admitting to more “creative” interpretations of the events while others were much more ambiguous. Of course, only if you weren’t paying attention in history class. Except, Hollywood is not a history teacher and these films are not history lessons, because nothing about slavery, the Civil War or the Iranian hostage crisis should ever be reduced to “this season’s best film” or “entertaining”. To dramatize what some consider “dry” while depicting slavery or the Iranian Hostage crisis is to devalue its significance, but wouldn’t that negate the point of your interest in telling the story in the first place? It is no surprise Hollywood is incapable of accurately retelling history due to their irrepressible need to entertain. And in the name of entertainment and artistic expression, films such as Django Unchained, Argo, and Lincoln have been praised as cinematic masterpieces based on American history. In an age where information is at our fingers tips, I find it difficult that anyone can believe Lincoln is historically accurate. And in light of recent news that Steven Spielberg is donating the film to schools all throughout the country as a “historical drama” about Abraham Lincoln, I find it distressing children will never learn the truth about the myth of the 16th president as “the great black liberator”. Yes, I will accept it is cinematically well made, but as an accurate portrayal of Abraham Lincoln? No, the film is ahistorical. The narrative leaves out prominent black players such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman who pushed, fought, and died to end slavery, racial inequality, and pass the 13th amendment. Their onscreen absence reduces their historical precedence and means you have denied everything your, Doris Kearns, Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis’ romanticized version of what President Lincoln stood for! The major argument for slavery during the time was that blacks were incapable of assimilating in to society because they were less than whites in well, EVERYTHING! Throughout the entire film, the man is “racing against time” in the name of racial equality and wouldn’t it have helped his case if there had been like, just a few, well integrated black men and women fighting with him to prove his point? Its a well documented fact blacks were active and essential to any political, economical and social changes during the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights. But according to the film, not only are blacks powerless and defenseless, they also must be saved by the white man aka President Lincoln. In fact, where are all the black people? There are only like, five in the
entire film, okay maybe six. Hypothetically speaking, if one were to make a film based on amending the constitution to end slavery, wouldn’t there be more than SIX black people in the entire film? How can you dedicated a film to abolishing slavery, yet not depict slavery? No, instead we get enough black people to count one on hand and why were they all the house help? By denying blacks agency within the narrative, the film underrates any and all black presence whether it is past, present or future. So basically, blacks have no authority historically and/or cinematically, even when the matters are explicit to them. Yep, ok, I got it. Thanks, ideology noted. All right, let’s forget that Frederick Douglass doesn’t a make guest appearance (maybe Jeffery Wright forgot to return Spielberg’s calls) or let alone wasn’t even name-‐dropped, but nowhere in the film do they show, speak or even whisper the name Harriet Beecher Stowe. SERIOUSLY?! She’s only that one woman responsible for that one best selling book of the 19th century, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. You know the book that sent southern slave owners in to full out conniptions over its anti-‐slavery views, and is said to be responsible for the Civil war (ok, for argument’s sake, I’m going to need you to forget that the book is really racist and responsible for cementing the negative stereotypes of blacks, that’s for another day). Instead, the film falsely paints Lincoln as a Messiah, who single-‐handedly just decided to free slaves, when in reality it is the abolitionist who aggressively forced slavery on to the collective American conscience. As a true man of his times, Abraham Lincoln like many of his white counterparts was racist. Again and I repeat, Abraham Lincoln was racist. Surprise!! The contemporary view of Lincoln’s legacy paints him as the mythical “Great Emancipator” when in fact, that little known document called the Emancipation of Proclamation was a devised military tactic to recruit black males to the union army and only freed slaves within the confederate states, where he had no jurisdiction (Gates). The document leaves out slaves in the union border states of Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri and West Virginia. So much for freedom. Lincoln went as far as proposing an amendment that would allocate money to create a colony of blacks located anywhere, but within the United States of America once slavery and the war were over (Gates). Although he was an opponent of slavery, his views on racial inequality go unmentioned throughout the film. He believed blacks were inferior to whites and the social hierarchy within society; “he used the N-‐word when referring to blacks, and enjoyed minstrel shows” (Gates). Like many others during that period of time, he did not support racial equality and even the fiercest of abolitionist were unable to escape the racist mentality that plagued the country. Hence why the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin is problematic despite its intention to depict slavery as immoral, but it was Stowe’s book that successfully forced slavery on to the national front. Not the president, he just jumped on board late in the game and got all the credit. Lincoln may have not liked slavery or supported the expansion of slavery, but he did not want to end it entirely. According to historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., his dislike for the institution of slavery stems from “the economic institution discriminating against poor white men unable to own and profit from slaves in the market”. His ambivalence of blacks as intelligent and capable of adapting to a post slavery society began to shift once he met Frederick Douglass and viewed him as an intellectual equal (Gates). Frankly, the Civil war and the end of slavery are far more complex and cannot be covered in simply a one hour and fifty minute film without suffering severe distortions and omitting key details. Cinematically, the importance of time is profound in terms of how it operates on the viewers’ perception of the events taking place within the narrative. Time in the 21st century and the 19th century differ drastically and the narrative fails to address how long the war lasted and how the war impacted the nation leading up to the passing of the amendment. Because the film weaves in historical references, the viewer must understand time and the nation’s mindset on slavery at the beginning of the war, the end of the war, and the “sudden” urge for Lincoln to push the amendment through the house. The Civil war did not happen in a year’s time, but happened over the course of years. The film makes it seem as if Lincoln woke up one morning and decided to propose the amendment on a Monday and got it through the house the following week Thursday. NO! And he certainly was not the first person to attempt to end slavery and amend the constitution, but viewers would not know unless they possessed that background information.
Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, and Steven Spielberg are not the first to sacrifice accuracy for entertainment; no all they’ve done is repeat and capitalize on the very tactic of culturally distorting and omitting information. It’s the same tactic all institutions uses. Consequently, it’s why we celebrate Abraham Lincoln, “forget” the founding fathers were slave owners, celebrate Martin Luther King Jr., but fear Malcolm X and know nothing about Angela Davis. It is the same reason Argo can depict the story of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and demonize Iranian people, but fail to fully highlight the political crap storm that eroded the Iran and US relationship. It is exactly why Django Unchained can depict the story of an escaped slave revolting against white people, but caricaturizes black people and the American holocaust, slavery. Too many Americans do not know their history regardless of whether one has taken a US history class in college or not, so films “based on” these historical moments fill in the void society and those history classes leave out. You can argue the films are only entertainment and yes, all of these filmmakers have stated, “it’s only a movie”, but it’s not only a movie. It’s media and media’s grip is far more powerful than we realize, especially when you least notice it. It alters how we see, how we construct and interpret the “other”. For way too many people, it’s all they’ll ever see and little else. Films are a visual vehicle to express ideologies, philosophies, and politics. It is a catalyst to question and explore the structures of society driven by ideologies masked and reinforced in the form of “entertainment”. Don’t believe me? Then why do NAACP awards, the ALMA Awards, BET, Oxygen, and all the other cultural based award, channels, and film festivals still exist? What messages, views, or politics on the “other” are they combating? In order to demand and promote true representation requires us to educate ourselves first. We must know our past or we will be too busy romanticizing (politicizing) our history and this country as once being the greatest nation on earth. Oh, wait. Work Cited 1. Gates, Henry L., Jr. "Was Lincoln a Racist?" The Root. The Slate Group, 12 Feb. 2009. <http://www.theroot.com/views/was-‐lincoln-‐racist>. 2. Gewen, Barry. "Abraham Lincoln, Racist." New York Times. The New York Times Company, 10 Dec. 2010. <http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/10/abraham-‐lincoln-‐racist/>. 3. White, Jack E. "Was Lincoln a Racist?" Time. Time, 15 May 2000. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,996904,00.html>
reading list 1. Suit Francaise-Nemirovsky 2. We- Zamyatin 3. Invisible Man- Ellison 4. Blind Owl-Hedayat 5. Les Enfants Terribles-Cocteau 6. Heartbreak House- Shaw 7. Skin Prayer-Rice 8. Jazz-Morrison 9. The Subterraneans-Kerouac 10. The Rumi Collection-Rumi 11. In the Lake of the Woods- O’Brien 12. The Stranger-Camus 13. Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit- Charles Bukowski 14. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter- McCullers 15. The Kreutzer Sonata- Tolstoy 16. The Death of Ivan Illych- Tolstoy 17. The Jungle- Sinclair 18. Self Reliance and Other Essays- Emerson 19. As She Climbed Across the Table- Lethem 20. The Quran 21. Madame Bovary-Flaubert 22. In The Penal Colony-Kafka 23. The August Sleepwalker- Bei Dao 24.The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures 25. Tender is the Night- Fitzgerald 26. Notes from Underground- Dostoyevsky 27. A Lover’s Discourse- Barthes 28. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao- Diaz 29. A Visit from the Goon Squad- Egan 30. Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death- Cullen 31. Crome Yellow- Huxley 32. Crime and Punishment- Dostoyevsky 33. Howl and Other Poems- Ginsberg 34. D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths-d’ Aulaire 35. The Invisible Man-Wells 36. Absalom, Abssalom- Faulkner 37. Giovanni’s Room- Baldwin 38. The Story of O-Reage 39. Lover’s Discourse-Barthes 40. Francesca Woodman- Sundell 41. Kiki Smith- Posner 42. Written on a Body- Sarduy 43.Seduction-Baudrillard 44. Asphodel, That Greeny, Leafy, Flower-Williams 45. The Use of Pleasure- Foucault 46. Discipline & Punish- Foucault 47. The Practice of Everyday Life- Decemyeau 48.Against Architecture- Hollier 49.Anti0 Eudipus-Deleuze and Guattari 50. Story of the Eye- Bataille
film list 1. Breathless- Godard 2. The Flower of My Secret-Almodovar 3. The Future- July 4. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not -Colombani 5. Sleeping Beauty –Leigh 6. Chloe –Egoyan 7. The Diving Bell & The Butterfly- Schnabel 8. Timer- Schaeffer 9. Talk to Her- Almodovar 10. Factory Girl- Hickenlooper 11. Full Metal Jacket- Kubrick 12. Sunshine- Boyle 13.New York, I Love You- Akin 14. Paris, Je T’Aime 15. Hiroshima, Mon Amour- Resnais 16. The Fourth Dimension- Trinh Minh-Ha 17. Sans Soleil-Marker 18. The Pillow Book-Greenaway 19. Holy Mountain –Jodorowsky 20. Blue Velvet-Lynch 21. Caravaggio- Jarman 22. The Seventh Seal-Bergman 23. Blow Up-Antonioni 24. All About My Mother –Almodovar 25. Videodrome- Cronenberg 26. Stendhal Syndrome- Argento 27. Them-Moreau 28. Pierrot le Fou- Godard 29. Shame- McQueen 30.Hunger- McQueen 31. Looking for Langston-Julian 32. Daughters of the Dust0-Dash 33. Killer of Sheep-Burnett 34. 400 Blows-Truffaut 35. Paradise Now- Hany Abu-Assad 36. Circumstance-Keshavarz 37. Waltz with Bashir-Folman 38. Do the Right Thing-Lee 39. Bamboozled –Lee 40. Meshes of the Afternoon-Deren 41. Tree of Life-Malick 42. No Country for Old Men-Joel & Ethan Coen 43. Fallen Angels-Kar Wai Wong 44. Edward II-Jarman 45. Orland0-Potter 46. Jules and Jim- Truffaut 47.Biutiful- Inarritu 48. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus- Gilliam 49. Broken Embraces- Almodovar 50. The Sweet Hereafter- Egoyan
credits cover design by Jennifer Mones captions: dedication page “Swathed in petal smoke/and lip-prints like/ pomegranate slugs,/she rose from foam”-from “Priestess de Milo” by Natalie DeFazio staff editorial “Prince Charming Seems Like the Kind of Guy That Wouldn’t Finish A Girl Off” – from a poem of the same title by Kevin Sweeney, Cal Maritime photography: AS: Arrow Selavy SB: Skyler Brown CR: Cory Rice CP: Cady Phillips, University of Minnesota AB: Amy Bush AS/AB: Image from AS, altered by AB AT: Akima Tahanee, Pratt Institute FI: Found Image. The girl with the cut up legs is an alteration from a J.Crew magazine. The girl with the boat on her head is an image from Tumblr from an runway couture show. The image with the pool and the nurse and the man are both from http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/nimue-smit-w-korea, all used without permission. The girl accompanying Kathleen Uttinger’s submission is also from an unknown Tumblr entry which was edited and the sourcing lost.